Monday, July 28, 2014

SOTC 110/365

Poppy Head (SOTC 110/365)

Poppy Head, a photo on Flickr by Gina Blank.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

SOTC 109/365

You Almost Can't Tell He's Eating (SOTC 109/365)
You Almost Can't Tell He's Eating, a photo on Flickr by Gina Blank.

A Year With Tom

Dear Tom,

It's been an interesting year, hasn't it? We didn't exactly choose each other, did we. We were matched a bit more through necessity than choice, and it's been an interesting year getting to know you.

When you arrived, I was still grieving a vehicle who had given me so many good years and memories. I had been treated poorly by the ones who made you, the ones who released you to me, and other vehicles similar to yourself. So by the time we met, I was both relieved to finally have you and yet wary of you at the same time. For a long time, all I could think was,

You are not Aubergine.

You are noisier than she was.
You are just a bit slower to get everything going in the morning.
Sometimes you're glitchy, and it's annoying.
Your oil changes are more expensive.
And your mileage isn't all that much better.

So I made you prove yourself to me. Over the course of the year, I've put you through the paces a bit to show you how we do things around here, and to see if you could keep up. I've filled your trunk with all manner of things needing to go all manner of places. I've plunked a variety of small, unpredictable people into your back seat. I left you at the airport for five days. I've dragged you all over the city at all times of day. Together, you and I have traipsed through prairies, foothills, mountains. Sunshine, rain, and snow. Keep up; and, you did.

I still find myself thinking,

You are not Aubergine.

Because I can finally listen to my iPod and iPhone through your speakers.
And all your speakers work.
And because your wheels may have had a hard time this winter, but you certainly did not.
You still have a bit of that new car smell.
You have six gears--totally fun.
You have cruise control!

...You're actually a pretty decent little car.

There are still parts of you that are unpredictable. And noisy. But we are starting to create some memories, you and I. And I think I find myself enjoying you.

Friday, July 18, 2014

On the Validation of my Being by Facebook

This summer has me working my way through both the reading list stacked by my bed, as well as a reading list of websites saved in my browser. Recently, I spent quite a bit of time exploring one particular site--an interactive article on The Guardian about The Seven Digital Deadly Sins. Same seven sins you're likely familiar with, dropped into the 21st century. Those interviewed, in the videos especially, made some very thought-provoking remarks.

It has been interesting to consider how social media has changed since it started to become popular several years ago.

I know that my social media practices have evolved over time too. I am connected to several social media platforms, all with slightly different purposes. Nevertheless, the biggest one still remains to be Facebook. As I reflect back, I know that I have changed the way I use Facebook since I joined in 2007. For example, if I don't know you overly well, I've altered my settings such that there is limited material you can see on my profile. And while admittedly, it feels wrong to 'unfriend' people whose behaviour hasn't warranted it, I've stopped 'following' the feed of many acquaintances that I wouldn't normally keep track of outside of Facebook. I say "Happy Birthday!" to less people because there's a cohort of individuals to whom I'm close enough that I'd rather text or e-mail directly; and another cohort that I haven't talked to since I wished them a happy birthday last year, so I'm guessing they probably won't miss me. I update my status less, because it bugs me when people write pointless statuses, so I'd better follow my own example (what constitutes 'pointless' is subjective, I know). I post less pictures of what I'm doing, partly because I'm too busy enjoying whatever it is I'm doing to take pictures and partly because some things get redundant. And, less of my Flickr photos are shared in my Facebook albums, because anyone can download those images (even if they are compressed within an inch of their life).

The reason I have enjoyed Facebook is because, as an introvert, it gives me a low-energy platform in which to socialize. I can read and post on my time, in my own way. It reduces the need to engage in meaningless small talk the next time I see someone in real life--I can ditch the, "lovely weather this morning, hey?" for a, "looks like you got the fire pit up and running last night!", which is probably a topic my conversation partner and I both care much more about.

As much as I utilize Facebook, mind you, I feel like I have been scrolling through more chaff than wheat sometimes as I review the newsfeed. I have become increasingly annoyed with the way that Facebook has become a breeding ground for a): Useless stuff, b): proving oneself and c): feeding any insecurity anyone might have about anything.

Exhibit A:

Okay, admittedly, I am guilty of doing some of these quizzes--heck, I used to do them all the time in magazines. But since I got a degree in [actual] psychology and said goodbye to my 20's, the frequency has gone down to once-in-a-blue-moon-because-that's-how-often-I-get-THAT-bored. I mean occasionally, they can be a little bit fun. That being said, it strikes me as odd how frequently they pop up in certain peoples' FB feeds. My first thought is, "how can ten questions reliably tell you anything about yourself that you didn't already know!?" Also… if I could be associated with a certain font, celebrity, fictional character, etc., do I want Buzzfeed to be the one to determine that for me? Or would I rather a friend tell me, "hey, you totally remind me of..."? Not because that would be any less weird, but because what they say has meaning. Buzzfeed, not so much.

The same goes for the less-frequent-but-still-seen-with-too-much-regularity personality quizzes. The ones that ask you to answer fifty questions about yourself and then tag ten people to do the same. I used to think these were fun, and--as an introvert--a great way to share a little bit about myself in a fun way. But when I started thinking about it, I realized I was giving the internet a fair bit of personal details about my life that could probably be horribly misused by some computer hacker or sociopath. YES, I know the chances of having my identity hacked are low, and YES, my Facebook security levels are high, but hackers know how to get around that stuff. I have pulled back on how much personal information is readily accessible on FB, in the off chance that it could be used inappropriately.

And I understand that someone may perceive my hilarious video of animals to be Facebook fodder. But I would argue that there's still a purpose behind posts like that. I have started to watch many videos, only to realize that I don't find it as funny as the person who posted it did, but I don't consider it a useless post. Why? Because it's meant to make people laugh. Laughter is good for us--science would even tell us as much. But when it comes to quizzes... like I said... what can ten questions answer for you that you didn't really already know?

Exhibit B:

Now, I believe wholeheartedly with the first two sentences. But images like these bug me. Especially when they finish off with, "let's see who cares enough to repost," or, "post this for at least an hour," or something along those lines. I have the same reaction as I do when I'm at a concert, and the lead singer asks people to stand up or start clapping or waving their hands around. It makes me want to do the exact opposite. Not because I'm not enjoying myself, but because now you're making me do it your way, and it becomes artificial. I don't have to defend my preference to take in the music sitting down. I get the same feeling with these kinds of images. It's not that I don't care about autism, Jesus, world hunger, or global warming. But don't make me share how I feel about those things so artificially. I don't have to defend my beliefs and expressions of such to Facebook. And why should you?

By all means, share what you're passionate about on social media--there is a diversity of thought out there, and it can be so rich. But consider, which speaks more loudly to your audience? Sharing the above graphic? Or sharing a photo of you and an individual with special needs doing something fun together? I would argue that if you truly believe in something, or care about something, you won't have to justify it with a graphic like this. It will come out in the educational articles you share; it will come out in the real-event photos that were taken; it will come out in TED talk you posted so excitedly. Your passions shouldn't be spread along like a chain letter.

Exhibit C:

We all use the internet to glean advice and resources. If we're researching a topic, we will likely start with the World Wide Web. But it seems that over the last couple of years, we have taken this advice, and flung it at each other the way monkeys do with their faeces. The parent who lets their child co-sleep with them flings out a blog post about the evils of letting your child sleep alone or cry it out. The parent who lets their child cry it out posts an article on the [perceived] lack of independence in the child who co-sleeps. The vegetarian flings out an article on all the reasons red meat is bad for your health. And then the farmer flings back his retort about the dying out of farms because people won't eat meat.

Good grief.

Co-sleeping is not wrong. Cry it out is not wrong. Vegetarianism is not wrong. Eating meat is not wrong. And even when we are throwing out ethical articles and resources that touch on values with actual significant moral and social consequences--we are still just flinging faeces. We can't change people by instilling fear in them. Or ramming morals down their throats. Or claiming I'm-right-you're-wrong by the way we post or the tone of the article. Social media, best used, is a place to start a conversation. And when there is actual solid evidence for a given practice--parenting, education, lifestyle, or otherwise--there are still tactful, respectful ways to share that information. Yes, I would LOVE to know why you've chosen a gluten-free diet for your family. I just don't want to feel like I have to do the same because you are, or that I am lesser than because I use whole grain bread for my sandwiches.

There's so much information out there. I'm starting to understand what Thomas Edison meant when he said, "we don't know a millionth of one percent about anything." And this declaration was made well before we had access to the World Wide Web in our back pocket.

I will admit, too, it is easy to get sucked into shouting my opinions out as gospel truth for the world to hear; or defending my values when they feel threatened, even by people in my Facebook feed that I hardly ever talk to. Sometimes I have to pause, and consciously move on up my newsfeed while resisting the urge to fight back against some article that someone's posted that makes my eyes roll. And every now and then, I get fed up. I rant, I get sarcastic. I'm not claiming that I have immunity against using poor social media etiquette on occasion. 

And sometimes it takes me effort to remember that I don't have to validate who I am through Facebook. That's not what social media is for. It will be interesting to see how social media continues to evolve. I keep hoping for increased intentionality in what people post, but some days...

As I mentioned previously, I can't change anyone's beliefs by ramming words down their throats. So what is your reason for using social media? What trips you up? What makes you roll your eyes? And do the answers to those questions guide your own posts online?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

SOTC 108/365

Sun (SOTC 108/365)

"...the sunset, His signature."

-- Unknown

Sunday, July 13, 2014

SOTC 107/365

Thistle Bud (SOTC 107/365)
Thistle Bud, a photo on Flickr by Gina Blank

Friday, July 11, 2014

SOTC 106/365


Quack (SOTC 106/365)

Quack, a photo on Flickr by Gina Blank.

Her Morning Walk

I'd almost forgotten about her. On a route I don't often take anymore, and a little later in the morning than I travel most of the year, our paths just don't cross. But there she was again. Just like last summer.

If I leave on time so that I pass along the avenue at 8:45 a.m., it's pretty much a guarantee she'll be there. She walks with the wide, semi-shuffling gait of the elderly, and yet, she walks with purpose; marching along in her floral blouse and floppy hat.

As I sail past her on my morning commute, I look at her and wonder:

Where do you come from?

How far do you go?

When did you start walking?

Do you walk year-round?

I wonder if any of the other drivers notice her. Does she notice us? Do any of the 'regular' vehicles stand out to her, as she stands out to me?

I respect this routine she's established for herself. I admire her commitment. I have never been one to stick to a consistent physical activity routine. My physical activity is more sprinkled throughout my week, and often disguised as other activities (i.e. gardening). And especially when it comes to mornings, the only thing I'm intentional about is my coffee.

But there has always been something I've respected about these elderly--the mall walkers, the aquasizers, the summer strollers. Moving regularly in whatever way they can. Keeping their bodies and their brains active. I can only presume that they have realized that if they are still on this earth, they have a purpose, and it likely does not involve sitting around on a couch somewhere watching daytime TV.

So I raise my travel mug and nod to the lady in the floppy hat.

It's good to see you again this morning.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Alberta Lovely (SOTC 105/365)

Alberta Lovely (SOTC 105/365)
Alberta Lovely, a photo on Flickr by Gina Blank.