Living a Double (Facebook) Life

A couple of months ago, I got my fingers smacked for a comment I made on Facebook about a sizable local event that receives a significant amount of national attention. The comment I made was a personal observation and not a negative remark with regards to this event, and it was a comment I posted from my private account onto the wall of someone else’s private account in response to their status update. Regardless, someone attending the event saw my post and called my boss to tell her that the magazine should not be making comments of a questionable nature but should, rather, be supporting the event with positive remarks.

To ensure that no other phone calls were made to my boss, I deleted the comment. And then I wished I had left it, because the more I thought about it, the more I felt that I had been bullied into removing my personal opinion from my personal account. This made me angry, and I stewed for several days over the idea of being told what I could and could not post on my own Facebook page.

I was in the gym one morning, thinking about how someone else did not have the right to attack my personal freedom of speech, and I decided that I would passive-aggressively exact revenge by creating a new Facebook account. My plan was to have a personal account (one where only my close friends, family members, and those who shared my political and religious opinions could see my personal posts and photos) and a professional account (one where my personal information and photos would be limited, my posts would only be related to the magazine, and I could feel safe in accepting friend requests from any of the strangers that friend me on a daily basis). It seemed like a perfect solution, despite warnings that it was not a good idea.

I should have listened.

I will be the first to admit that there is a lot about social media I do not know or understand. I’m still trying to figure out Twitter, in fact. Every day it seems I learn something knew about how to post a comment, build a new profile, or share information with the public, all the while learning about the etiquette of social media. Creating and trying to manage two Facebook accounts proved to be an extensive lesson for me on several fronts.

The first thing I tasked myself with after creating the new account was handling the friend list. I had hundreds of friends, many of which I didn’t know and many of which I had found that I didn’t really have interest in being friends with after ignoring their distasteful comments and photos for so long. There are a lot of people who friend me because they recognize my name from the magazine, and I have always felt bad about declining because I don’t want anyone to be offended. This is a prime example of putting my own wants aside to make others happy, and I was sure that the second account would solve this problem for me. With a professional account that had limited personal information and photos, I would be happy to accept friend requests. What I didn’t expect was that people would continue to friend my old account instead of the new one. It got to the point where every day I was writing down the names of those that sent friend requests, logging into my new account, and searching for them to send them a new friend request before deleting the old requests off of the private account. Eventually I gave up. I just couldn’t keep up with living this double Facebook life.

My first real clue that creating a second account might have been a bad idea, however, came when I had each account open in a separate IE window. I thought that I was finding friends on the old list, friending them through the new account, and deleting them off of the old account. What I was actually doing was friending them on the new account and then trying to delete them from the new account. Why? Because you cannot (to my knowledge) log into two different Facebook accounts on the same computer at the same time. While I thought I was working from both, I actually was only signed into one account.

The next problem I came across was the fact that some of the people I was friends with through the old account were well-known in the community and had maxed out their friend list capacity, and when I tried to friend them on my new account, I was told instead to subscribe to their posts. I could not delete them from the old account and lose the access I had to them through my friends list, which meant that my plan to have all professional contacts on one list and all private contacts on another had failed. It also meant that I would have to continue to watch the political and religious comics and comments that I shared on what was supposed to be my private account.

The final straw that convinced me that I had made a mistake in thinking I would outsmart everyone else through a second account was that I had to continuously log in and out of each account in order to post things to each account. Sometimes I got confused and posted the wrong thing to the wrong account, which then caused me to constantly second-guess myself. More than all of that headache, though, was the headache that came with the magazine group page that I manage through my old account. As an admin, I had set up my new account as a new admin. In the process, I deleted myself as a manager and got locked out of the account. I had also discovered that when I would try to share things from the group page to my new account, it would inform me that the group was not friends with my new account, even though it was. I would then have to share things through my private account and then share with my new account from my private account to post news items. At the end of the day, my private account was simply a non-private vehicle for posting magazine-related news items to my new account.

Having considered the many ways that this went terribly wrong, I began to think of Katy Brown and Emily Bennington and other media women in the community who use their Facebook accounts to post every day. I believe my actual thoughts went along the lines of “I bet this never happens to Katy!” When I sat back and considered why that would be, I realized it’s because Katy doesn’t abuse Facebook with her personal opinion. She shares comic family and pet moments and promotes her newly published book (http://www.amazon.com/Kat-Tales-house-broken-Kathryn-Brown/dp/1468556886). I have never seen her post anything about politics, religion, or anything else of a questionable nature. She knows that Facebook is a promotional tool and she uses it wisely to promote her career and not to discuss how tired she is of hearing Obama vs. Romney commentaries.

I never wanted to be a journalist. From what I remember, I fought it tooth and nail, and one day it beat me down and I surrendered. I often think of what Spider-Man’s uncle once told him–“With great power comes great responsibility”–and it seems even more appropriate in the instance of journalists, their personal opinions, and social media. We don’t get paid to offer our personal opinions–we get paid to provide the truth. And while I don’t like being told that I did something wrong and I don’t like being told not to do something, I have to respect the great power of social media and the fact that I am merely a hammer in the great toolbox of journalism.

Besides, it’s probably better to have my personal opinion silenced than risk discouraging those many strangers out their from friending me. After all, isn’t the size of your friend list what’s most important on Facebook?

Which Came First: The Beginning or The End?

Every beginning is a consequence – every beginning ends some thing.  ~Paul Valery

For a people reluctant to change, it’s ironic that we are inclined to celebrate new beginnings. Celebrating high school graduation, adulthood and freedom is ending a 13-year educational journey governed by parents with high expectations. Celebrating a marriage is leaving your parents’ house and giving up the name you’ve had your whole life. Celebrating the birth of a child is sacrificing spontaneity and a good night’s rest.

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.  ~Anatole France

When I was going through my divorce 2+ years ago, I came across this quote–I’m not sure if I found it online first or heard it on a re-run of “Criminal Minds” but I wrote it down, taped it to my desk at work and have looked at every day ever since. It’s amazing how a change–an end–can give you tunnel vision one minute and clarity the next. With every change–every move to a new house, every new job, every year older–we leave a piece of us behind. “We must die to one life before we can enter another.” The pain makes more sense when you think of goodbye as a piece of yourself dying.

I’m certainly not the same person I was two years ago, or even five years ago. With age and experience we grow and we learn. We become more certain and more uncertain at the same time; we learn more about the nature of people all the while realizing that we will never fully understand what makes any one person tick; we trust and are let down, we desire to trust again and try, though under the shadow of a doubt born from past consequence. This is true in love, friendship, career–any aspect of your life that is worth anything.

I found that divorce is more than just ending a commitment between two people. It’s about losing family members and friends. It’s about losing the home you loved. It’s about being robbed of certainty and stability. It’s also something that no matter how hard they try, the actors and directors in Hollywood will never be able to prepare you through any cinematic project for what divorce really means.

My divorce, or the end of my marriage, was the beginning of a new chapter, one that held an opportunity for a rare insight that I could not appreciate at the time. In the new chapter, I found a strength I didn’t know I had. I have found a determination to take care of myself. I have practiced the act of putting myself in someone else’s shoes, even that person that hurt me the most, and I have found forgiveness.

I have not seen the last “final” chapter in my life–the last ending. There will be more painful changes, resistant goodbyes and even instances where I will have to dig deep to be able to forgive. But if history repeats itself–and it always does–every end will precede a beginning. Every time we change, we leave a piece of ourselves behind. Maybe the question isn’t so much what are you sacrificing to grow or evolve but what part of yourself are you leaving behind and what kind of impact is it going to have on those that come behind you?

Pinned Under the Limbo Stick

When you hear the word limbo, you probably think of a luau on the sand, a bonfire, and the infamous bamboo stick that begs the question “how low can you go?” Every trip under the stick in which you are successful in not touching the stick with your body ignites a sense of accomplishment; every trip also means that the next time around is going to be more challenging. The stick is lowered, the pressure to succeed mounts, and you find yourself having to bend further and further backwards until, eventually, you lose your balance and you fall.

When I hear the word limbo, I think of being perpetually stuck in a motionless state where I strongly desire for change so that I can move forward but feel helpless in knowing that I am waiting for some other action by someone else or for the stars to align or for God to open a window. I’m the type of person that if something needs done, I want a plan yesterday so that I can make it happen today. When there are so many questions and uncertainties that keep me from simply doing, it drives me mad. God has blessed me in a lot of ways, but patience is not my strong suit. I remember asking God to make me a patient person, and now seeing the things going on around me that are testing me, I think to myself, “You asked for this.”

How does someone who thrives on doing, who can’t sit still without having a smartphone with which to multitask, and who loses sleep from not being able to shut her brain down at night find patience? How does someone who lives in a world and period of history in which doing is constant accept that she doesn’t have to be doing something all the time? How does she learn to enjoy a quiet moment or return to that time in her childhood where she could lose herself in a book? How does she free herself from the constraints of too much responsibility at work (self-assigned responsibilities because she’s a control freak and needs to make sure that the job is complete) so that she can once again enjoy her weekends and find time to work on that novel, whose vampire protagonist must be getting pretty ticked from being ignored for so long? I’m pretty sure you don’t want to piss of a vampire, which means that if I don’t find the answers to free myself from the bonds of a controlling, work-driven nature, my mortality could be in jeoprardy.

At Leadership Kanawha Valley’s session last Thursday, we took the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment. My five main strength areas were responsibilty (having a psychological ownership of what I say I will do and being committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty), harmony (looking for a consensus; not enjoying conflict/seeks areas of agreement), empathy (being able to sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others’ lives  or others’ situations), achiever (having a great deal of stamina and working hard; taking great satisfaction from being busy and productive), and connectedness (having faith in the links between all things and believing that there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason). By being responsible and an achiever, it seems that I’m somewhat doomed. The upside is that my peers can trust that I will follow through on a task; the down side for me is that some people can take advantage of that.

When we were in breakout groups, my peers and I discussed how we could avoid the downsides of these traits. We agreed that we should take on less responsiblity (don’t be the first to volunteer, don’t feel pressured to have to take ownership of a project and don’t feel like you have to shadow others to make sure the ball doesn’t get dropped). Realize the cost of the personal sacrifice of taking on additional responsibilities, i.e., my mortality at the hands of an irked and misunderstood vampire. It’s okay to take on new tasks, but don’t be the control freak that wants to take on and be involved in every new task. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

So, the next time you fall and find yourself pinned under that limbo stick, don’t be afraid to call out for help. It’s a lot easier to get back up on your feet when you have a reliable support system to pull you up when you’re down.

Have you seen this girl?

It sounds like I should be on the back of a milk carton, and after the Leadership Kanawha Valley class today, in which the topic was success through self-awareness, maybe I should be. One of the many themes of the curriculum was to point out that if you are unhappy in your job, you may just be in the wrong place at the wrong time. How do you find where you belong? Return to your childhood. What did you enjoy when you were young and free from worry and responsibility? What did you want to be when you grew up?

I haven’t crawled far from my natural-born niche. Always a bookworm, poet and author, I wrote my first novel at the age of 12. Today, I am a writer, editor and magazine owner. I fought my destiny for a while, but when it came after me with a vengeance a few years ago, I threw up the white flag, conceded defeat and let the little girl who dreamed of writing for a living have her way.

When I was 12, though, the only pressures I had when it came to my writing was making sure I had a pen with purple ink with which to hand write the novel. If a deficit of purple ink was my only challenge today, I would be doing pretty good. If you think about it, though, a lack of purple ink pens then would have been the end of the world much like all the challenges on any given day as an adult seem like the end of the world.

Dante once said (if you know me, you should be impressed that I’m quoting Dante): “In the middle of the road of my life, I awoke in a dark wood where the true way was wholly lost.” I think this is the “dark wood” in which I found myself at some point in the last year. As is the norm, I was unprepared–not unprepared to handle the small details but unprepared to face the curve balls. The proverbial flashlight, map and walking stick that I had gathered for the proverbial journey had, much like my cell phone or the bill that needed to be mailed, been left by the door on my way out of the house as I went over and over in my head all of the small details that needed to be covered, like where would the journey begin, where would it end and how long would it take to complete. It was the things that I couldn’t plan for–the things I couldn’t control–that drove me into the darkness.

Life is about surprises. Success is determined by how well you respond to those surprises. As someone who responds emotionally and jumps to conclusions, I can honestly say I don’t always embrace God’s little gifts meant to keep us on our feet. I can also say with all sincerity that these aren’t little gifts He’s been throwing at me lately; these are tests of the most challenging nature. The events that have unfolded have tested my faith in people, my natural naivity, my friendships and my fear for/respect of karma. How is it that so many people can do wrong to so many others and karma doesn’t strike out? I know, I know–just because I don’t see it doesn’t mean she hasn’t sought her revenge. But sometimes it would sure justify my trying so hard to do the right thing if I could see some consequence for those around me.

In class today, the speaker encouraged us to start a journal so that we can better understand ourselves and our emotions, which will in turn make us more successful professionals and leaders. I figure a blog is just as good as any notebook. My hope is that this blog will allow me to vent my frustrations, seeing as how it was founded tonight on the basis of my not being able to sleep because there’s too much on my mind. My hope is that it will help me to better understand myself and maybe, just maybe, give someone else some insight. The path directly through the middle of the thorn patch is painful, but it can be justified if it helps at least one other person.