10 Things I Learned From a Year Without Social Media

1. Social media isn’t bad.

Being without Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, SnapChat, Tumblr, this blog, and other forms of social media has not left me any worse for wear. However, there were times during my year-long hiatus when I missed feeling informed about friends, family, and acquaintances I have not bothered to actually reach out to. I also missed seeing local business events and finding cool things to do on the weekend.

2. Social media isn’t good either.

Twitter’s new feed hasn’t made me a better person and looking at pictures of famous athletes on Instagram hasn’t helped my body image. Aside from business use, it seems to me social media exists for two things: bragging and complaining.

3. Almost no one missed me.

In a world of constant flux and short attention spans, we are just not as important as we think we are… to everyone else. And here I thought America was hinging on my latest movie review or insightful philosophical introspection. I mean, it’s not like with me absent on FaceBook to challenge bad ideas America went to… hell… in… a handbasket… is it?

4. I didn’t miss you, either.

No offense. I love my friends and family–well, in a mostly congenial way, at least. I did not miss seeing pictures of drunken stupidity, incomprehensible political opinions, fake news, click bait, Bible quotes, chain letters, obscure rants, and pleas for random charities I’ve never heard of. In fact, I found that fewer things annoyed me while I was away from social media. No politics; no Idiocracy. (Know politics; know Idiocracy–sorry, couldn’t resist.)

5. Social media is great for finding stuff to do.

This is the thing I missed most, actually. Facebook is probably the number one way Nicole and I find interesting things to do on the weekend. Better than friends is subscribing to all of your favorite local businesses and restaurants! (Sorry friends. I didn’t not mean that. I love you guys.)

6. Standing in line without social media is still boring.

I thought without being able to scroll through my feeds while waiting at the checkout, I would think about important work matters or contemplate life, or engage with people in line, or just be present in the world. Instead, I found there is not enough time and attention to become lost in thought or solve problems in line. People around me are avoiding eye contact by scrolling through their phones. Instead of being present, I just waited more impatiently, reading celebrity headlines. Social media is actually more fun than not talking to anyone.

7. I understand why parents find watching kids play with their phones so annoying.

Sometimes, while on my social media hiatus, Nicole or one of my friends would scroll through their feed while I sat there doing nothing. It is super annoying but not because it is socially impolite like old people rant about. It is 100% FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I am just bored in those moments and I don’t want to be bored alone. It feels like the other person is doing something more important and fun than being bored alone with me. How dare they?

8. I don’t feel less connected to the world.

Turns out, there are many outlets and ways to find information outside of the Twitters. I used Google news to stay depressed and cynical. I sometimes checked into Meetup to ensure I didn’t lose any FOMO opportunities. I hung out with friends when I wanted to see people make bad decisions that I could laugh about later. My life felt no less connected without social media.

9. I am less angry over fewer things.

I love my friends, coworkers, and family–that’s why they are in my life–but I found I actually like people more when I know less about them. I guess I’m an optimist but in my mind I see the best version of people I can muster. My friends are rational, reasonable, respectful, sane people… and then I see their tweets.

10. I spend more time “in the moment”.

Being present is good when the present is beautiful or miraculous. It’s just that most moments suck. Most moments are boring and unremarkable. Think about the insane percentage of your life spent waiting… in line, for pages to load, for the bathroom, for commercials to end, at red lights, looking in the fridge, pooping… It’s great to be more present, but some presents are with skipping. Even endlessly scrolling through Facebook is better than sitting at the DMV with nothing else to do.

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Why I Left Social Media Behind

I am dropping off Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, and most other social media platforms.

I know many people will not only relate to my reasons, but they might even applaud my decision (if only silently). I hope this experiment gives you some thought to the impact of social media and what value it brings to your life.

I am calling out Facebook here because it is easier than listing every platform, and it is the one I use most, as well as the biggest, easiest target. Think of “Facebook” as any social media service, though. I am talking about all of them.

Around 2005, I left cable television (hold on–this relates to the social media thing, I promise).

Watching TV stole months from my life. Time slipped away while I sat and watched it go each day. TV became my way of turning my brain off instead of engaging with the world. I found myself sitting to watch a show, and then channel surfing between shows, and then, before I knew it, half a day was gone. I didn’t even watch anything all the way through. That time was wasted. I learned nothing. I thought nothing. I did nothing. I might as well have been nothing, invisible to the world for the time spent staring mindlessly at a screen.

Dropping cable in favor of curated content from the internet or no content at all was a great decision. When I watch TV now, it is only when I actively choose to do so and I am engaged in the content. TV is no longer background noise to all my conversations. Instead, I listen to the person speaking rather than divide my attention between the person and commercials designed to steal my attention.

Facebook has slowly filled the gap cable television left. It has become the thing I do to avoid thinking when I am bored, scrolling mindlessly through my feed.

There are 5 real reasons I use Facebook and other social media and, except for one, they are all reasons I should reconsider…

1. Distribute my blog. This is the main reason I am on social media. Most of my readers find this blog and A Couple Vegans (which I write with Nicole) through Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Moving away from social media means damaging my audience size and reach. That is scary. I have built this blog over roughly 10 years to amass around 4,000 subscribers. Admittedly, not much compared to bigger brands or names, but I never chased an audience or marketed this blog. Still, only about 200 readers consistently visit MichaelSalamey.com (maybe the rest are subscribed via email but–how many email subscriptions do you actually read each week?). A Couple Vegans is only a few months old and only has a handful of subscribers itself (about a hundred so far–also with no marketing other than word of mouth).

So… for you 300 or so people consistently visiting my blog(s), you might be the only people I am writing to in the future. Thanks for subscribing, by the way, and for sharing the posts you like. You are my only advertising.

2. I use social media to have meaningless relationships with people I do not want to have actual contact with in real life. That sounds bad but it is not a bad thing. Facebook allows me to exist on the periphery of the lives of people I almost care about… but not enough to actually engage with face-to-face. For someone like me, this is of great benefit.

As a slightly sociopathic but high-functioning ambivert, I am friendly to everybody… but, to be honest, I do not relate to most people. I am not even sure I like most people. In fact, only one or two people have open access to my time. Other than Nicole, nobody hangs out with me regularly.

Socially speaking, maybe that is pathetic. It is not you, though. It’s me.

At the risk of sounding (more) egotistical, perhaps I am that rare thing everyone believes themselves to be, but almost no one is… a man who thinks for himself.

My values, philosophy, beliefs, moral code, and system of ethics rarely integrate with those of others. Actually… never, so far. But I suspect that is why people read my blog–you can expect a unique view of things. In my personal life, I have been told no one can live up to my standards. So maybe it is not that I do not like most people. Maybe it is that I have yet to meet people who are more like me.

Living a life where the common ground I have with most people amounts to polite tolerance of each other, honestly, is lonely for me. I wish I could be dumber or smarter, instead of in this middle ground between average and almost-greatness… floating in some purgatory, unable to feel part of either mass popularity or eccentric genius.

Woe is me. First World problems. The point is, Facebook is a great way for some people to feel involved in the world without actually having to BE involved in the world. That is a mostly good thing but it is something I can use less of.

3. I stalk people and popular news stories. The same curiosity that drives people to the zoo drives me to keep up on news and social circles. We visit the zoo expecting to see elephants in their natural habitat, but instead see morbidly depressed animals slowly pacing or pooping. Part of us yearns to hear the elephant’s trumpet or watch a lion charge across the plains. Similarly, Facebook delivers less on its promise and more on the mundanity of our lives.

Social media updates are about what someone ate, aspirational quotes the posters have never incorporated into their lives, open displays of the obscure relationship some people have with their faith and binge-drinking. People check-in from whenever they are standing in line, or spout the bizarrely irrational political or dogmatic views they have. Some people insist on sharing their ignorance with the world. It’s confounding, but I am also probably one of them.

Still, I am too often disappointed when I see someone’s Facebook feed. I liked them before knowing their goofball endorsements of products or illogical values. It was better when I could assume they were, on most levels, rational.

4. To learn about local events. Social media is helpful for this. Nicole and I do a lot of cool things because of events posted on Facebook. Another plus of leaving it behind, though, is I might save money by not knowing about most events.

5. I use social media to pass time and avoid human interaction. It is easier–preferable, even–to avoid engaging strangers while standing in line or waiting for food. Instead, I can pretend that scanning short, mostly irrelevant articles or updates is extraordinarily important right at that moment. While waiting to have my groceries scanned, I stare at my phone like I am reading my secret agent mission dossier or studying up on quantum physics. I’m actually just looking at Caturday memes.

We like to think that “catching up on Facebook” is the same as “catching up with friends” but it is not the same. I must have an investment in someone’s life to “catch up” on their life. People share superficial thoughts, vague requests for prayers about problems I don’t understand for people I do not know (I love the term for this: “Vaguebooking”). We share memes and sensationalized news stories. That is not catching up with friends. That is walking through conversations at a dinner party… except without dinner or a party, or anywhere to go.

 

What will I do when I am bored now?

Those 5 things are not contributing enough to me, so I am leaving social media behind. My phrasing is important, by the way. I did not say “I am leaving social media”. I am saying, “I am leaving social media behind.” I am moving on, not away. I am going to find something better. However, I do not know what that is yet, exactly.

I guess I will write, think, speak to people, and read more books. Maybe I will just be present, observing and appreciating the world around me. Maybe I will engage my creative side and take time to daydream. Whatever I do to fill the time Facebook sucked away, I doubt I will look back and think, “I wish I spent less time enjoying the breeze on my face and more time staring at my phone, scrolling through dumb articles and avoiding my life.”

That being said, this is still an experiment. I am not deleting my accounts. I might change my mind on all of this, or I might want to try again with a different approach. What I plan to do is log out of my accounts and uninstall the apps from my phone.

That means my blog will still post on my social media streams for now, but nothing else will, and I won’t be sharing my posts on my personal Facebook feed, where most people see them.

Some people actually might miss me on social media. Well, at least I like to think that, but I suspect most people will never know I left. It’s like quietly slipping away from a party. Maybe one or two people will notice they have not seen me in a while, but they will move on in a few minutes.

The fact is, I am not as important as I like to think I am.

If you want to know what I am up to or how I am doing, though, then you will have to do something scary. You will have to choose if you want me in your life, how much time you would like me to spend there, and then connect with me directly. I might reject you. You might reject me. Or we might build a real, legitimate friendship in the real world. I know. Scary, right?

There are some apps I am keeping, at least for now. I will stay on WhatsApp because I can create specific social circles with people I care about (like my brothers and parents) where we can have conversations in small groups that matter, where every word counts. I am keeping Hangouts for texting–again, direct one-to-one conversations, and I plan to stay on other direct message platforms like GroupMe and Slack.

Of course, you will be able to text me, instant message me on Hangouts, email me (MichaelSalamey@gmail.com) or reach me through one of my blogs.

Honestly, you probably won’t know I’m gone, but if you miss me, don’t be a stranger… or at least no stranger than me. Hopefully, not seeing me on Facebook will help you wonder what I am up to, and what you could be up to if you were not on Facebook.

Good luck either way. Maybe I’ll see you later… in the real world!

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You Are What You Seek

Today’s Lesson: You are like gravity. You attract the people, situations, feelings, and life surrounding you. If you see nothing but despair, inequality, and suffering everywhere you look, consider looking for better people, situations, feelings, and lives to surround yourself with. 

*****

Scrolling through social media posts is something I find myself limiting more and more. I like to see what friends and family are up to but I can only take it in small doses. The overwhelming majority of posts, in my opinion, are really just complaints (including mine, including this one!).

Some of us are on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, Instagram, etc… to find and share everything we think is wrong with the world. Articles on people we never met who died, links to rants about politics, racism, sexism, posts challenging people who do not agree with our religion (or non-religion), pictures of the stupid people we saw or dumb things we did today, stories of abuse to people, pets, or the environment… the list is endless.

It is all like a cloud of poison, spreading and permeating gossip and negativity into the world. I get it. The world is not perfect and some people want to change it (most of us just want to complain about it, though, because actually changing it is hard and we are busy coming up with new complaints). Consider, however, how much of your life is spent seeking out what is wrong with everyone else’s lives.

Some people just seem miserable all the time. I feel for them. My life is not perfect by any means. I am always working to improve something, but generally, I do not seek or mostly ignore hate, bad parenting, tasteless humor, and anything that ends with -ism (racism, feminism, sexism, theism, environmentalism, etc.). Because I avoid these things and actively work to keep them out of my life, they are not part of my world (much).

I am not advocating living with rose-tinted lenses. I know there are real problems in the world, but unless we are individually actively and actually addressing them (which means doing more than sharing articles or sending what is essentially hate-mail to everyone, which means sending it to no one), I recommend taking the timeless advice grandmothers have given for generations: if you can’t say anything nice, then do not say anything at all.

It is okay to either not have an opinion or to keep one to yourself.

In the modern world, that may mean using a simple guideline to structure your world more positively. A good start for many is to simply un-friend or un-follow the people, organizations, or brands who are not making your life better. If they are not contributing to your life, then consider what they are contributing to.

You are what you seek. What world will you choose to live in today? 

 

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“Sooo… I’m About 75% Vegan After All!”

Veganism is not a weird religion or cult philosophy. It is just choosing what to eat at the next meal.

*****

The title of this post was a kind-hearted comment to a FaceBook post. I shared a list of 100 Easy Vegan Foods to help people eat (a little) better (hat tip to Vegan.com for the list).

The crazy vegan fare listed included “bagels, margarine, oatmeal, Pillsbury Original Crescents, guacamole, ketchup, and Nutter Butters”–basically, a list of typical vegan items you can find most anywhere.

Remember, “vegan” just means “no animal products”. Vegan does not mean “crazy hippie soybean burgers”. My friend’s comment was good-natured but also a legitimate fact. Most of us are 50-75% vegan. That number would be naturally higher if more people understood how many products (food and other) sneak animal waste and by-products into our diet and lifestyles. Either way, though, vegetarian is our default diet, not meat and dairy.

You do not have to take my word for it. Think about this… a good, home-cooked American dinner might be a T-bone steak, steamed carrots with a dollop of butter on them, skillet-fried red potatoes, and a side salad, right? Guess what? Replace the butter with a little olive oil or margarine and everything but the steak is vegan–more than 75% there!

A vegan meal is just a normal meal with an extra helping of vegetables instead of meat, butter, or cheese.

Being vegan really is not radical. It is just healthier (usually) and does not involve killing or torturing anything to fill your belly. That seems like a good deal to me. Now, I am not a bleeding-heart vegan who will guilt you into making a healthier choice. I do not care what you eat or how you die. I am only responsible for my life but for people who are vegan-curious or just want to eat a little healthier, think about what it really means to be vegan (or a little more vegan). No dramatic life-changes are required. Just eat more plants when you have the choice.

One last thing to consider for those who believe or insist on forwarding misinformation about meat and dairy eating being natural… this is not true or even logical. Biologically speaking, we are much closer to vegetarianism or veganism than to being carnivores. If you think about it, catching and killing animals throughout most of human history was extraordinarily difficult. We did not always have guns, crossbows, or even machine-balanced and sharpened spears. Most animals are faster and better at camouflage than we are.

Even with all the tools and technology at our disposal today, most of us could not catch, let alone kill, skin, and properly prepare the meat of any animal. As a society, we are much smarter and better killers than our ancestors who first had to come up with the idea of a spear before actually figuring out how to use one.

Through most of human history, we only caged animals for dairy or killed them for meat out of necessity. Most of the time trees, berries, roots, and nuts were far easier to obtain. We simply are not meat-centric creatures and never have been.

I so loved the comment, “I am about 75% vegan after all!” Yep! Most of us really are close to 75% vegan. Do not buy into the idea that vegan is special or out of the ordinary. Vegans just do not have the marketing machine the big meat and dairy industries have (but we are getting better and you are seeing the word pop up a lot more than you used to… I think that is a good thing).

By the way, 75% is great but it is still just a “C” grade. Can we make the world just a bit better for us and the creatures we share it with by nudging that to a “B”? Maybe consider going for the extra helping of carrots or potatoes tonight instead of the extra helping of steak. It won’t kill you… and I mean that.

 

Today’s Lesson: Sometimes we are doing the right thing or heading the right direction and don’t even know it.

 

(A side note: I will never forget the morning my dad explained to me that he could never be vegan, not realizing we just happened to be eating a 100% vegan breakfast at that moment! I could not help but smile inside.)

 

 

 

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Follow the Red Brick Road… Or Not.

Open letter to a good business making a dumb decision… and a Marketing strategy any business can use to win!

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Since many of this blog’s subscribers seem to live outside of Michigan, I try not to focus too much on local businesses around me but sometimes I like to call out especially great businesses. I almost never identify businesses that have mis-stepped with their customer promise, though. I understand when dealing with the public, you will never be able to make everyone happy. I’m making an exception, today, though, to call out the first local business I visited when I moved to Grand Rapids and one of my favorites until recently.

Brick Road Pizza’s FaceBook page. offers amazing vegan food (they have non-vegan food, too, making them a great place to visit with a group of finicky eaters) but they have been building an equally amazingly bad reputation for poor customer service. Unbeknownst to them, I have defended them on multiple occasions, but I am swaying the other direction now, particularly when it comes to their terrible use of social media. I chastised them on FaceBook for being unresponsive to questions and comments from current and potential customers. The response was:

I don’t have time check facebook. I may miss a few things. If you really want to speak to someone here the phone number is 616-719-2409. We will be more than happy to address your questions or needs.  

Irked, not so much by the brazen ambivalence and complete miss at winning a customer over but more so by knowing one of my favorite restaurants was probably jeopardizing business from other customers with their lackadaisical attitude, I offered a blunt, but honest (and slightly snarky), rebuttal:

Thanks. I would challenge you to make time for your fans, or let some of your staff admin the page if you struggle with time management, or just turn comments off. Social media is a powerful tool in both directions. Not letting people have a say is less damaging than not responding to fans and potential customers but giving them the ability to interact, and then ignoring them (but thanks for not ignoring my comment). Just “food” for thought…

I must have hit a nerve. A few weeks later, I got this response:

Thanks for the education on social media!

I suppose they might have been serious but I am guessing the response was the polite equivalent of telling me what I could do with my food for thought. I resisted responding for a day but a couple vegan friends were chiming in from the sidelines, mostly praising me for saying something, but also I suppose, enjoying the back and forth. Here is where Brick Road Pizza’s website is missing the ball:

Thank you for the education on customer service.

They had a solid opportunity to win a fan or customer for life but instead alienated several. Of course, when I choose not to eat at Brick Road, neither does Nicole. Neither do her work friends when she picks where they go to lunch. Neither do my vegan friends who are watching them implode on FaceBook. Neither do the friends they share this story with. Neither do the fence-sitters who have already had a bad experience there and were just waiting for further confirmation they were not alone in their experience.

Only five years ago, Brick Road was one of only a handful of vegan options available. While they have been sleeping, though, competition has been sprouting up all around them, especially for a niche crowd like vegans (who talk to each other often). Now, I can choose to eat at The Mitten, Cvlt Pizza, Harmony Brewing, Rezervoir, Nantucket, DiPiazzas… and these are just places that offer vegan pizza, off the top of my head. The list for other vegan restaurants in the area is amazing! I could go out to lunch or dinner once a week for every week through next year and never have to visit the same place twice, and never have to include Brick Road.

When you are no longer the big dog in town, it is in your best interest to take every opportunity to win a customer, especially when it is such low-hanging fruit. It would not have cost Brick Road a penny to have crafted a good response. But it has cost them hundreds of dollars already, from my business alone, to be jerks. When it costs them enough to be painful, it may be too late, and that would be a shame. Their food is really good, even though there was a dead cricket in my salad one time, which I never complained to anyone about until now (the waitress can validate the story, though). That is the kind of mistake I can forgive and forget. Assuming your customers are a waste of your time is not.

 

Today’s Lesson: Social Media is powerful (and by the way, Brick Road, so is a well-read blog; you never know which customer you think you are taking to task–a better option might be to assume every customer can reach a wide audience quickly–for good or bad). Take the easy opportunities to create, or win back, fans. If you are not good at managing your social media, hire someone who is, or choose not to use it. And remember, in a global, 24/7 economy, waiting 24 hours to craft a thoughtful, compassionate response, is like waiting 24 years… which might be how long a post like this could be around.  

 

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10 Ways to Get People to Read Your Blog!

If you live your life hinging on the approval or popularity given by others, you will quickly find yourself at the bottom of the ladder you thought you were climbing.


I am not a big fan of titles like the one I used for this post. One of the choices I consciously make for this blog is to avoid “click-bait”, a term used by marketers to describe headlines that are purposefully designed to get you to click on them.

Here are a few from my Facebook feed today (I am not posting the links because I do not want to promote their content; these are just the titles of articles–they are probably in your feed, too):

7 Delicious Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving Without the Turkey

7 Photography Tricks You Didn’t Know Your Smartphone Could Do

What This Dad Caught His Daughter Doing in the Car May Be the Cutest Thing Ever

29 Passive-Aggressive Windshield Notes That Forgot How to Passive

3 Best-Ever Discipline Practices That Parents of Teenagers Need to Know

Men Learned to Explore the World to Get Laid


You get the idea. They usually try to draw you in with a number, “10 Ways to…” and then a hot or trending topic, “…tell if your boyfriend is cheating”, often to do with sex. Celebrity and sex always work… celebrity sex might be even better. They use vague but compelling lines so you will click… and usually find the story itself is either mostly unrelated to the headline or at least a lot less sensational.

Anyway, today’s lesson is this: if you want more people to read your blog, just write great content, and repeat that process often. You don’t have to pull in masses to be a success anymore. The internet makes the world smaller and a blog that delivers amazing results and great content to five people is more powerful, in my opinion, than one that delivers recycled click bait and social media fodder to five million.

Or, put another way: you define your success as much as your success defines you.

 

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Today’s Lesson: Let’s Talk About It

How much time are you wasting trying to be perfect instead of trying to produce results?

 

This post is geared more toward fellow blogger (or blogger-curious) friends. If writing on-line is not your thing, you might want to skip this one (but there is a great lesson at the end!). We will get back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow…

I am dropping the comments section from my blog and (this part is more for other bloggers) no longer using meta keywords to draw traffic.

There are a few things I have done, or stopped doing, to make my blog more efficient and less burdensome on me. Since I have taken on posting a daily life lesson, I have begun to start thinking about blogging differently. I stopped adding dates to the blog title to keep it more “timeless” and less “timely“.

Now I am turning off comments. Have I lost my mind? Debatable, but not relevant to the blog. I am dropping comments for a few reasons. The main reason is simple… most of my readers do not comment on the posts. They comment or reply to my social media updates linking to the blog. Some people email me directly and my contact information will remain available in the “More/ About Me” section. One reader even called me at three in the morning one night and we chatted about a post until I had to get ready for work.

The other reason is I have found that most comments are made by people who, honestly, either did not read the actual article or did not understand the main content of it. Better to have those people talking to me on Facebook instead of cluttering the blog itself with comments. Finally, my blog is almost entirely editorial. I am not providing, in most cases, fact-checked peer-reviewed articles to debate. It is just me sharing lessons I learn each day or ranting about an injustice I perceive in the world. I love having open communication and hearing from readers but it does not have to be on the post page itself. That is what Facebook, Google+, and Twitter are for.

For those of you that do not blog, after you type each post, you can enter in certain words to help readers find that particular post if they search on Google or other sites. So, for today’s post I might add meta keywords like, “comments, social media, blog, michael salamey” to help raise my ranking in search engines for this post.

However, it turns out that meta key words have almost zero impact on search rankings now and can sometimes put you in Google’s potential “spam” category if you flood your keywords to try to appeal to their rankings regardless of your actual content.

I sometimes spend five minutes trying to tie the right keywords for each post. I would rather spend the five minutes creating better content. If I have compelling content that people share often, I will not need the help of keyword shortcuts. Google and Facebook are far more interested in a blog that gets distribution than one that has a lot of hidden words behind each post!

All of that brings us to today’s lesson: don’t carry unnecessary burdens. Remove the obstacles that make your passion a chore. Remember, it does not have to be perfect anyway. I blog for fun and to help others, but even if I was doing it to drive income, the time spent on the parts with the least amount of value will provide greater return if I let them go than if I keep carrying their weight.

…And, besides blogging, how many other areas of our lives can we look into for the same lesson?

 

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The Lesson I Learned Today… How Can I Get Away With It? (140718)

I read an interesting debate between a few vegans and one non-vegan via FaceBook (so not a real debate). Reading the back-and-forth, I was reminded of 2 things:

1. You can not argue with a zealot. Watching these two sides trying to one-up each other was like watching a two-headed llama decide which way to run from a lion. Neither side could agree on any point. Both cited questionable statistics and both sides found a study, book, movie, or article that negated a popular media claim (not a peer-reviewed literature claim) from the other side.

The thing is, when someone has decided to hold their opinion no matter what, then there is no longer a debate to be had. If I am unwilling to budge on my viewpoint regardless of any evidence, logic, reasoning, or fact you present, then there is nothing to argue. You are only wasting your time and energy.

2. When you are wrong, the only question you are really defending is, “How can I get away with it?”. When there is unequivocal proof or insurmountable logic weighing against you, the debate has stopped and only bickering and subterfuge has begun. For example, if I know it is morally and ethically wrong to steal from Mahatma Gandhi, but I still insist on finding ways to justify it, then we are not debating anything. I am just trying to find a rationalization to steal. I might say, “But stealing is okay if no one realizes the item is missing!” That is not debating whether it is okay to steal. Instead, I am answering the question How can I get away with it? How can I convince myself it is okay to keep doing what I want to do? I may even find a report or study that shows some people have to steal to survive. I might point out statistics about Robin Hood. I will follow any desperate path to keep getting away with it. Maybe I will even go so far as to refuse to acknowledge that somewhere, deep inside, I am aware I am wrong but it is less painful to justify my ill intent than it is to change my habits or traditions.

The lesson here is simple: two wrongs do not make a right.

If you find yourself taking a viewpoint no matter what, just end the argument. Admit you are willing to be 100% wrong to keep your viewpoint and acknowledge it no longer matters what anyone else says or thinks about it. You will save everyone time and might make the world a little better by freeing others to consider more important issues instead of helping you get away with it.

 

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“Love Me For… Me?”

I have seen this meme a few times on Facebook. I am saddened and angered by what the originator is promoting here, and it is ironic the iconic Betty Boop is used to depict everything opposite of what the character stood for.

 

Betty Boop Doesn't Get It.

 

The last line is a prompt to be proud of who you are, which is fine, except the line comes after describing an obese, lazy, unattractive lady with an unapologetically difficult personality. Really? Do you want to herald that? Do you want to post that on your Facebook wall to celebrate your own mediocrity?

“You should just love me for who I am”; “This is just who I am–take it or leave it…”

Any variation of “be proud to be below average” is a moral cop-out. Before subscribing to popular sentiment, be careful of what you are supporting. Think first and think a lot. The sentiment on that post is that you should be proud of who you are and what you have accomplished in life without comparing yourself to others–that you are perfect just how you are.

Truly? Is there no reason to grow or further who you are as a human being? If you do not compare yourself to others, particularly to others who are more successful than you, then how will you measure your success? Imagine if no basketball player ever compared themselves to Michael Jordan, what would the median success of all basketball players be? In such a world, the greatness of being human would only be in reaching the average and then celebrating the mediocre.

You do not have to accept that you are lazy and unattractive by default, and that is the best you can do, therefore people must lower their standards to love YOU. I hope you think you are better than that or at least recognize you have the potential to be better.

Perhaps the most depressing part of this Betty Boop meme, to me, is the vague proposition from this Zero of a person that IF she loves you back, she will do it with all her (mediocre) heart.

Consider this instead (and it is too bad it will never be popular enough to become a meme):

Be proud of yourself and what you have accomplished, but do not celebrate the parts of you that are average at best. Work to improve them. If you want love, then know who the hero of your love will be.

And know a hero will never want to love you for who you are… he will love you for who you strive to be.

Rather than settle for average, strive to be the person YOU want to fall in love with.

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It’s Supposed To Hurt: The Healing Power of Pain

Sometimes friends or family who know me as someone with great emotional self-control ask for advice on how to get through trying times. For me, there are 3 key elements to dealing with loss, heartache, or pain. If I am good at dealing with such things, it is only because I have been through enough that I have grown wiser and more durable along the way. Here is what I know about hurt and what helps me through the worst of times:

1. Remember it is supposed to hurt. Of course, no one likes emotional pain, like the end of a long relationship or the loss of a loved one, and we want the pain to be over as quickly as possible so we can move on. The trouble is we forget we are supposed to feel pain when we are hurt. If you accidentally put your hand on a hot stove, it burns your skin. After you take your hand away, the pain does not immediately disappear. It throbs for minutes, days, or sometimes weeks.

Pain is your body’s way of alerting you something is wrong.

The depth of the pain we feel is usually commensurate to the time it will take to heal. If it hurts deep, it is going to take a long time to repair. It is too bad but it is also okay. It is the way we are intended to work. Rather than trying to ignore the pain (which is like trying to ignore a crying baby), listen to it. You do not have to agree with it; you do not have to accept it as an absolute; you definitely do not have to accept it as a permanent state. That is the beauty of emotional pain–it is 100% repairable. It might feel like losing a limb but it is not the same. Emotions heal. Emotional pain is your body and spirit crying out for care and attention because something has gone awry.

2. Treat the wound. What happens to a cut left unattended? It becomes infected and the increases the damage. Emotional pain is no different. If left untreated, it will grow worse and leave scars (and scars are okay, by the way–they are only reminders of hard-won victories you survived to tell about). When you are going through a heartbreak or emotionally challenging time, do what is necessary to care for your Self.

It is so important to treat yourself well when you are feeling down. Pamper yourself. Go for long walks and get a little exercise. If you like movies, go to a movie–treat yourself to a date with you. Reacquaint yourself with what you like about being you. Write. Draw. Take-up yoga. Go to a cafe and enjoy a latte if that is what you need. Take a relaxing bath. Be among people if it makes you feel better.

Hint: if you like attention when you are sick with the flu, then you probably want attention when you are sick with a heartache; it will make you feel better to be in public. On the other hand, if you normally like to lock yourself away, sleep, and be left alone when you have the flu, then you will probably benefit from living a quieter life and staying in but still taking care of yourself over a heartache. Either way is fine; do what works for you. Remember you are healing and do things that affirm your body and spirit; this is like dressing your wounds and changing the bandages as necessary.

Healing takes time. While you are taking time to heal, take advantage of the process to learn new things about yourself and explore new parts of your personality. Healing has to happen no matter what, but the hurting and repairing of damage does not have to suck.

3. Hurt, but only to the point you choose. I say it is important to hurt and acknowledge that pain requires healing, but you do not have to give everything over to the pain. When I have a headache, I often forget about it if I become lost in work or in a good story, until someone or something reminds me I have a headache and I feel it again. I can choose to suffer with the headache the whole time or I can choose to be in control and live normally with or without a headache.

Inevitably, because my entire attention is not focused on the pain, the pain slips into the background. It does not disappear (it is not supposed to) but it does not have to take center stage. Sometimes I even set aside time to feel the pain–for 10 minutes at home alone after dinner, for example. I use the time to really explore the pain, go into it and feel it all, but once I find that point where I know it is going to turn to despair or rage, I stop. I mentally choose to be in control, breathe, and turn my attention back to healing or something else. I might do this a few times during the healing process. It is good to know how deeply I am hurt so I can recognize the warning signs of big pain in the future and hopefully avoid repeating mistakes.

 

There is no way to avoid pain or emotional risk, but I have learned that I am in the driver’s seat of my life and my life goes how I decide it goes. There are many ways to deal with trying times (learning from your mistakes, seeking help from friends or therapy, practicing not being attached to outcomes, etc.) but the three principles I listed are the primary tools I use to pull through rough spots.

I hope they help you. Feel free to leave other suggestions or ask about specific situations in the comments or on Facebook.

The only pain we can not heal is death. Everything else is survivable.

 

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