I’m happy I joined the flock

I’ve resisted the lure of the little blue bird for years. I was not going to tweet. At first it was easy. I heard the rumors–people were simply listing what they ate and when they used the restroom. I wanted no part in that. I am not that self-absorbed. I recently changed my mind and joined the flock. It started slowly with trouble in my neighborhood.

The anarchists started attacking Seattle again, and I was able to find updates through the Seattle police Twitter stream. I didn’t realize this, but you don’t generally have to be on Twitter to read the posts. It was very helpful to see the up-to-the-minute info. I looked around a little. I got intrigued. I also decided I should be on there to promote my businesses and so that I’d have experience if someone wanted me to tweet for them–I do some promotional writing. I took the leap.

I’m actually loving it. I’m getting all kinds of fun tidbits about Shakespeare and other geeky subjects I love by following the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sir Patrick Stewart, and others. I’m also following a lot of stand-up comedians. Laughter truly is the best medicine. I also love to share helpful information with others, and this gives me a platform (along with my public Facebook page) to share short things in a timely manner. All this is good, but it’s not my favorite part. I am loving Twitter because of the games.

These aren’t your average time-wasting games. If those are on Twitter I haven’t found them and I wouldn’t indulge. I’ve been on Facebook for years and I’ve never had a farm or tried Candy Crush Saga. I know myself too well and I don’t want to spend my time that way. These are word games. Twitter has a number of fun ways to learn new vocabulary and play with words (and play with others who are doing the same). I am having fun and gaining new vocabulary by engaging with altwiculate and artwiculate. Their websites have a daily word with a definition and then people tweet sentences that use them (trying to be clever, if possible).

My favorite game on Twitter is called the Hashtag Game. Hashtags are the little phrases prefaced with a #. You’ve most likely seen them, even if you’ve been avoiding the Twitter as long as I have. The whole point of the game is to make up something clever to say about the subject that they are talking about. These quips get posted at a fast and furious pace. Here’s one of my examples from yesterday: “A week-old turkey dinner inside a bus station locker. #ThingsYouWouldn’tClaim”

I love to play with words. If you make words your friends you’ll be a better writer, and if you’ve got to write something quickly without overthinking it your brain will be primed to spout ideas and vocabulary at a moment’s notice. This is fun, and it’s fun that’s good for me. I get the added benefit of interacting with the other people playing and connecting further with online writing friends. Sometimes my posts are better than others. This is also okay. Writers need to write lots. We need to write well and to write poorly. This is how we learn. This is how we learn to experiment. This is how we have fun. I like fun, don’t you?

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
260. Check out the vocabulary and word games on Twitter and play a few on paper even if you aren’t on Twitter yourself. You can see the stream of my posts on my main personal website or follow me @CathyTenzo. If you’re not on Twitter and it seems like fun, give it a try. If you do join or if you’re already on there, leave your info in the comments and I’ll check out your tweets. Even if the whole thing just seems bizarre, it can be fun to explore a foreign culture.

Seeking the Goldilocks solution

Like many of you, I am a modern busy person with a smart phone and a lot of online connections and responsibilities. I finally conceded to friends a few years ago and joined Facebook, and I love being able to reconnect with people who are far away and keep in touch with people I rarely see. I enjoy the shared experiences we have on the virtual walls of the program. I’ve got some frustrations, but I find it enriches my life. I haven’t yet joined other social networks because I don’t want to spend all my time online, although I may start tweeting because I think it would be a helpful skill to have for some of my business writing.

Of course I’ve got email, and I maintain several blogs. I engage in an online writing community of haiku poets called Carpe Diem. I look forward to the time I spend writing the prompts and reading what others have written. We comment back and forth on each other’s posts, and get to know each other as writers and people (since so much writing is personal).

Why am I giving you a laundry list of my digital life? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I carefully pick and choose my online presence, but even so sometimes things get to be too much. When we are always connected to everything we lose connection to ourselves. I find myself looking down at my phone far too often to check out the online world when I could be looking up and looking around me. I compulsively read certain blogs and sometimes scroll through others I don’t even care about just to be staring at a screen. I probably have far too many games on my phone. It becomes addictive.

I’m not planning to give any of this up, but I am thinking about how I can create more balance in my life. I am asking myself what adds and what detracts. Blogging is definitely an energizer for me, and the more I write, the better I write. On the other hand, do I really need to read and respond to every cute cat item on Facebook? Can I check my email a little less frequently? Do I need to play computer games on my phone when I have five spare minutes, or should I take a deep breath and appreciate the lull?

I am also finding that I sleep better when I turn of the computer a few hours before bed and stop looking at things online or on the phone. Unless I am under deadline, most things can wait for tomorrow. If they can’t, someone will give me a call. I can slow my brain down a little before I drift off to sleep instead of trying to slam on the brakes and go right to bed. It is good. Sometimes you cannot find an answer until you realize you have questions. It’s a place to start.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
251. Ask yourself some questions about your digital life. Are your online interactions satisfying? Why or why not? What is really working for you and what isn’t? Try implementing some changes and see how you feel.

Let’s all play nice

I’ll admit it—I love Facebook. I like being able to keep in touch with friends from far away, and I enjoy the intellectual discussions that occur in many of the comment threads. I even love all the cute cat pictures—what’s not to love about cute cat pictures? What I don’t love is the unkindness that filters in to so many of the posts and discussions. It hampers my pursuit of joy.

This is a common problem on the internet. If you read any online news story you’ll often see vicious remarks below the story itself. People say some of the most awful things behind the cloak of anonymity, but on Facebook, everyone is posting under their own account. It still happens. It always surprises me that the same people who preach love and tolerance will post terribly hateful things.

I could give you many examples, but I’m sure you’ve seen this yourself. What I’d rather give you is a solution—a very simple one. I think we should all refer back to the Golden Rule, and treat others as we would wish to be treated. Disagree and have discussion, but do so kindly and without malice. We only hurt ourselves when we indulge in mean behavior or making sweeping generalizations about people.

Sometimes even this is not enough. I try to follow this rule when I post, and I’m sure I’m not perfect, but I find that I often encounter deep veins of negativity amongst some people who post to Facebook. For example, I am very frustrated with people who post that all people who are religious are unthinking idiots. I know a lot of people have had negative experiences with religion—I certainly have and so I’ve chosen what to believe very carefully, as have others. You can disagree with the policies of a religion without mocking a whole belief system. Let’s all listen to Aretha Franklin, and show everyone some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Not everyone will. I feel like I’m better off knowing that certain people make hateful comments on a regular basis, because I don’t want those people in my life, virtual or otherwise. I was concerned about deleting these people from my page, but I have a very good friend who makes an excellent point—no one deserves to be your friend. Friendship should come from mutual respect and trust. If it isn’t there, delete delete delete! You can’t control others, but you can control what you see and expose yourself to. I’m feeling a lot better already.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:
238. Are toxic people draining your energy? What can you do to limit your exposure? Also, take a few minutes to consider your own behavior—do you follow the Golden Rule? We all have times when our own experiences bias us. If this topic really interests you, you may also want to read the excellent book Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P.M. Forni.