America, Social Media, and Me – Part 3

A lot of times I begin writing and have a plan how something is supposed to go, but then part of the way through, decide to shift course and take it somewhere else. Therefore, what you’re reading 99% of the time is directly from the heart and not always something planned out. What was originally supposed to be a five-part series, I am going to conclude it today in the third segment.

In the second part of this series, I threw some statistics at you, both here in the United States and also internationally. Statistics regarding social media, numbers of users, active users, and time spent on social media. I concluded the segment by saying I would be the last person to tell you to spend less time on social media, although according to Apple, my screen time was down 23% this past week compared to the previous week. Not sure how that happened, but I am now under five hours a day staring at my screen. The majority of my time spent on my phone, computer, or iPad, is spent on social media. Facebook is my number one go to for social media, followed by Instagram, and then various other platforms I’m a member of. One of the main reasons for this is because my passion for photography. I spend the majority of my time, not necessarily scrolling through my newsfeed and seeing what everyone else is up to, but posting photos, looking at different analytics, and posting what I hope to be something encouraging for others to see. Which leads me to my next point and the point of this entire series.

Out of all the time we spend on social media, staring at a screen, scrolling, clicking the “like” button, or shaking our heads at some of the ridiculousness that is placed before our eyes, how much is spent with the intent of lifting others up? I am sure my newsfeed is no different than anyone else’s, not only here in America but around the world. We all have those acquaintances who feel it is their duty to mankind to voice their opinions. We all have those who, by the looks of it, are never wrong and make it a point to comment and contradict whatever it is they see. Maybe you fall into one of those categories. I know at one point in my life, I spent a lot of time on social media, airing my opinions and how I felt about different things going on here in America. It’s easy to do! It’s so incredibly easy to get on your phone at any given point throughout the day, and vent about what is frustrating you in that moment. Seriously, it takes little to no effort. I did it daily! After a couple years of doing that, I noticed a couple of things. You may have too if you fit into the above category. Your friends begin to dwindle. No, I am not talking about those who think exactly like you do. Rather, people as a whole. Furthermore, nobody really cares what my opinion is. I’m not an expert when it comes to religion, politics, finances, social skills, etc. Whenever you post on social media, regardless of who you are and how many friends or followers you have, there will always be someone who sees your post and can disagree or argue with you. Most find it almost impossible to keep scrolling without doing just that, and letting you know you’re wrong according to them.

Social media, while creating some avenues for us to be more social and intertwined than ever before, has really allowed us to be more narrow-minded, closed off, and more isolated than ever before. Think about it. Don’t like the way someone responds to your post? Delete their comment and block them. Want to find a group that caters to your way of thinking and your mindset? You can find hundreds of thousands of like-minded individuals to applaud everything you utter out of your mouth! Social media, while it gives us the ability to interact with people throughout the world, has limited and deteriorated our interpersonal skills along with the ability to communicate and compromise with people who don’t think, believe, and see things the same way we do. Social media has contributed to destroying our social skills. And we allow it to happen multiple times throughout the day. Every. Single. Day.

I decided to change my approach to social media. I actually had to retrain my social media habits and it took over two years, and I still have the occasional urge to fall back into some old negative behaviors. I decided I wanted/want my social media experience to be different. Instead of contributing to the arguments, looking for the next post to contradict, and isolating myself or others, I decided to make social media my platform to lift others up, to improve not only my life, but also the lives of others. I wanted my social media to be less about me and more about others. Rather than giving viewers something to argue about, to shake their head and scroll past, I wanted my social media platforms to be an avenue to reach people. I wanted people to see my post and it give them something to think about that day. Rather than incite fear and anger, I want to inspire hope and impact. Each time we open up our social media, whether we are scrolling through or posting something, we have that ability. We can go either direction and it’s an amazing thing to realize and take advantage of in a positive way.

I end this series today with a challenge. You have some on your social media platforms that view things differently than you. If you live in America, you know that our current political climate is a cause for extreme division; not only on social media, but within families and circles of friends. There are things that divide us. But thankfully, there are more things that unite us as people. My challenge to whoever reads this, is take a moment today on social media to build someone up other than yourself. Take a moment to set aside how knowledgeable you are, what degrees you have, or what you may think you’re an expert on, and just be a person who has the passion to see someone else be better. Make today about someone else besides yourself.

Alone at the Finish Line

It may be true that he travels farthest who travels alone, but the goal thus reached is not worth reaching.

President Theodore Roosevelt

I planned on writing the third segment in the series, America, Social Media, and Me, but I saw this quote yesterday and it really got me thinking about a lot of things. I haven’t done any research on the quote, I’m not sure if this blog post will even interpret correctly what Roosevelt meant when he said it, but it spoke to me in my own way. I have titled this post accordingly.

Imagine you woke up this morning, for those who play, and found out you won the jackpot in a lottery. Millions of dollars are coming your way! Like most of us would do, you begin planning on how to spend that money. Your dreams can now come true and finances is no object. There’s zero limitations! That car you’ve always wanted? DONE! For me it would probably be a full line of cameras and lenses.

Fast forward to a year after you first saw that large deposit into your bank account. The fancy sports car or SUV you bought now has 10,000 miles, all your friends have seen it and you were the envy of your social circle, and you’ve already begun looking around for your next one. You probably even picked up friends and family members you never knew existed! You built this magnificent monster of a home, equipped with all the state of the art electronics you can control right from your smartphone, an olympic sized swimming pool in the backyard, and enough bedrooms fully furnished for a large family reunion. It’s full of artwork and decor; so much that visitors leave salivating and praising you on your interior design. You’ve put so much time and money into your castle that there’s nothing more money could buy that would make it any better than what it is right now.

You laid down last night, exhausted after hosting a large gathering, and realized one thing that left you troubled. You tossed and turned, trying to shake this haunting feeling. For the past year you’ve had so many people come into your home. You’ve catered, cooked, and hosted some of the best social gatherings within a hundred mile radius. You’ve been praised and applauded for your donations to the local school and charities. You’re the reason the varsity football team is running onto the field in new uniforms. It’s because of you that a family who was facing financial troubles and needing a new car, can now make it to their doctor appointments. Their daughter may not have survived without your generosity and thoughtful giving!

Imagine again if you will. You are running a marathon tomorrow. Months and months of training, miles upon miles, blister after blister, will all come to a head tomorrow morning. From the moment you watched your first marathon, this has been something you’ve wanted to accomplish. You began training a year ago, you ran the soles out on a few pairs of running shoes, and here you are on the eve of one of the greatest accomplishments in your life.

The next day comes, the pop of the pistol goes off, and your feet begin to move. Here you go! After a long and painful twenty-six miles, you finally see the finish line. It’s one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen. Within the next few moments, your feet will cross that line, and through tears you’ll be able to say you conquered what only a few percentage of people on earth can say they have done. You have fought through the agony of muscle aches, shin splints, physical exhaustion, mental and emotional fatigue, and now here you are. Well done!

Your feet cross the line and you’re immediately filled with this intense rush of excitement. You run a little further and lean forward, your hands resting on your knees as you begin to weep. You’re weeping not because your body is screaming in exhaustion. No, you’ve trained for this! The tears, mixing with sweat and streaming down the side of your face, are because you’ve accomplished what you set out to do.

As you begin to regain your composure and your heart rate returns to normal, you’re filled with a different emotion. You look around, other racers are coming in, and you’re struck with a panic. You begin to sweat again, your heart begins to race, and your breathing becomes short and rapid. What is happening? You’re thinking to yourself, “Oh God, please don’t let this be a heart attack! Not now! Please God!”

You’ve spent your entire life working for this company. Years of college, working long hours, taking work home, working weekends, and exhaustion have finally paid off. You strived to get to this point. You pushed yourself more than you ever thought you would or even possibly could, and now here you are. You seized every opportunity for promotion and were rewarded almost every single time. Even in those few rare instances when you were passed up, you didn’t allow it deter you. It motivated you to strive harder. No matter the cost.

You walked into work this morning, past the hustle and bustle of a Monday morning at the office, and past the desk you sat at just a few days ago. It was already occupied by someone else; a young man in his mid-twenties, shuffling through papers with a panicked look on his face. You remember those days. Not today however and definitely not tomorrow. A new day has dawned and you push open the door to your new home! There’s even a shiny nameplate on the outside. You sit down at your desk, the air in the cushion of your plush leather chair escaping as you let out a sigh of relief. You sit there, elbows on your desk, fingers interlaced, and chin resting on your hands as you take a moment to absorb it all. You breathe in and can smell the fresh shampoo in the carpet and smell of Simple Green. The janitorial staff did a great job getting everything ready for you. A couple of chairs face you. You chuckle at the irony of it all. A couple decades ago you sat in that same spot facing where you are now. The chairs are different but the spot is the same. You left that spot on numerous occasions thinking your time here was up. How many evenings did you go home and update your resume?

Your eyes move past the chairs to the leather couch along the wall. A small table sits in front with various magazines you helped publish over the years. They’re fanned out neatly for whoever it is that has the privilege to sit there. You lean back, glancing out the windows for the first time, and smile. You’ve made it to the top my friend. Congrats!

You spend the day glancing between your computer screen, tapping on the keyboard and hitting backspace to erase the garble you just typed, and looking out the partial glass wall. The minions are hard at work out there. You sat there for over twenty years. You see the young man you saw earlier, rearranging items on his desk, and making it his own. If he makes it that long, he will spend most of his adult life at that desk.

The day is ending. Another day in the office. As you turn off your computer and get up from the high-back, black leather chair, you realize you’re the only one still at work. You don’t recall anyone coming in and asking if you needed anything. You don’t recall the faces of those you’ve known for years, poking their heads in, and saying goodbye. As a matter of fact, besides yourself this morning, nobody has opened that beautiful glass door.

So what? A millionaire, an athlete, and an executive, with different stories and completely separate lives, have each finished their day the same. Throughout the years, especially during my time in the military, I hiked a lot of mountains. I’ve always enjoyed reaching the top and taking in the spectacular views. But I never hiked alone. Sure, Roosevelt’s quote is 100% accurate; you will get further if you go at it alone. You’ll probably even make it faster. But the destination leaves a lot to be desired. Hiking up a mountain is an amazing experience. You reach the end and have a sense of accomplishment. You persevered and conquered. But how great is the journey if you’re left at the finish line alone?

You can spend millions of dollars building the house of your dreams, but what if it is never quite a home? Sure, you’re busy planning the next social event for everyone to enjoy, but you know the desolate feeling you’ll be left with when the last person leaves and you close the door. You’re praised by many but inside these walls it’s quiet.

You can spend hours training for a marathon. You can train for months building yourself up for it. You can show up the morning of the race, lace up your shoes, and you can even finish with the fastest time. But what if you get to the finish line, surrounded by spectators and athletes, and realize you’re alone?

You can spend a lifetime working for a company, dedicate your heart and soul, and shed blood, sweat, and tears to make it successful. You can spend years shuffling paperwork, getting promoted, and finally make it to the top of the corporate ladder. Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s lonely at the top?” What if you make it and, which is often the case, you find that you’re the only one there? What if you forgot everyone that propelled you to success? Where is everyone that’s supposed to be patting you on the back and saying, “WELL DONE BOSS!” They held the ladder the entire time you climbed, watching as you disappeared into clouds of success, only to be forgotten when you pulled yourself over the last rung. You did beyond well but you’re now alone at the top. No fanfare, no party, and no parade. Just a lonely space.

Yes, we can often get to the top or go the distance if we are alone. It’s easy to do things alone a lot of times, isn’t it? Nobody to account to, nobody to have to wait for, and nobody to have to share the glory with. But how many people have you ever heard say, “When I die, I hope nobody comes to my funeral!” Or how about, “He/she had a beautiful funeral. There wasn’t anyone there!”

Don’t forget where you came from. Don’t forget the people who make your house, regardless of how big or small it is, a home. Don’t forget the voices and the people who motivate you to reach your goal. Dream big and allow others to help you along the way soar to new heights. Climb that ladder, reach for the stars, prosper, and reach the pinnacle of your definition of successful. BUT…don’t forget those who held the ladder, who lifted you to the next rung, and who pulled out of the moments of despair.

Don’t be left alone at the finish line.

America, Social Media, and Me – Part 2 of 5

Worldwide, there are currently 3.5 billion active social media users. Given that the world population is roughly 7.8 billion, that means almost half of the population worldwide is connected in some way through a social media network. On average, people have 7.6 social media accounts. I told you yesterday I had eight, and for me, I thought that was excessive. Nope, I guess it’s just average. The average person spends approximately 142 minutes on social media per day. Facebook and WhatsApp handle sixty million messages a day on average. Facebook and Snapchat both have an average of eight billion daily views. Adults in the United States spend an average of one hour and sixteen minutes each day watching videos on digital devices. Even here on WordPress where you’re reading this from, there’s approximately 70 million blog posts published each month! Here are some more astonishing statistics from SocialPilot: Social Media Marketing Blog (www.socialpilot.co).

  • 69% of Americans are on Facebook
  • 74% of Facebook users check it daily
  • The average user spends 35 minutes on Facebook a day
  • Women make up for 52% of Facebook users; men make up for 48%
  • 90 million access their Facebook accounts daily
  • More than 100 million hours of video are watched per day on Facebook
  • The average number of friends each Facebook user has is 155
  • 500 million people visit Twitter each month
  • Twitter has 1.3 billion accounts w/317 million monthly active users
  • The average Twitter user has 707 followers
  • There are 6,000 Tweets every second
  • 22% of Americans use Twitter
  • 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube…every single minute
  • People watch 1 billion hours of YouTube videos every day
  • The average person watches forty minutes of YouTube content a day
  • YouTube sees approximately 1,148,000,000 video views per day
  • Covering 95% of the internet population, YouTube can be navigated in 76 different languages
  • Instagram has 1 billion active users monthly
  • 95+ million photos are uploaded onto Instagram daily
  • There are 4.2 billion likes on Instagram daily
  • 37% of Americans use Instagram
  • Pinterest has 200 million users each month
  • 28% of American citizens use Pinterest
  • LinkedIn has 500 million members
  • 27% of American adults use LinkedIn
  • Snapchat has 187 million active users daily
  • 60% of Snapchat users are under the age of 25
  • 24% of adults in America use Snapchat
  • The average user spends twenty-five minutes a day on Snapchat

Phew!!! That’s a ton of statistics and don’t worry, there won’t be a test on any of them at the end of the week. The numbers are important however because it’s all leading into what I’m going to be talking about the rest of the week. While some of the numbers might be scary, I’m not going to say they’re negative. I’m not going to suggest any of them should be any less. I’m not even going to go so far as to say you and I should spend less time per day on a particular social media platform. What am I suggesting? Well, I guess you’ll have to come back tomorrow!

America, Social Media, and Me – Part 1 of 5

A very broad title. Although America is mentioned, this five part series can easily be relatable to any nation and people. I know that I have readers in other countries, so please don’t think the principles in this series only apply to us here in North America.

Social media is a wonderful thing. Think of all the platforms you can become a member of. How many do you personally have? For me, I am currently a member at least eight different social media platforms, each for their own uniqueness they provide both personally and professionally. You have platforms for just local neighborhoods, those for photos, professionals and businesses, those for sending out quick messages to users worldwide, and of course we have the largest, Facebook, which can be used for just about any type of communication.

Within a matter of seconds, you and I have the power to show millions of people what we are having for dinner before we even take the first bite. Want to get suggestions of a great place to take your family on vacation? Post it on social media and allow people to give you their recommendations. Are you looking to rekindle a long lost love? Social media makes it easy to find someone and instantly connect after years of being apart.

Remember the days of pen pals? I remember in fourth grade, I had a pen pal in Mwanza, Tanzania. We were supposed to get married! Well, at least she said we would. I remember waiting weeks to receive a letter back; the news from the letter already well surpassed by something else far more exciting in the lives of us children. I wonder if there’s an app or social media platform for pen pals nowadays. Is there a way to slow things down so you can have the anticipation of waiting. Does anyone send a letter anymore? I haven’t purchased postage stamps in years and I don’t even know if I have envelopes in our house.

We live in an exciting and technologically advanced time. As soon as I hit “Publish,” this post has the potential to reach every single person across the planet who has internet access. And I’m writing this from my smartphone. Mind blowing!

This week I’m going to talk a lot more about social media, society, and myself. I hope you will join me. Please comment and let me know what you think. I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts. If you enjoy reading, subscribe and follow me on this site and you’ll be notified each time I post. Thank you again for taking the time to read.

Making It Count, Part II

If you read the first chapter of a book, then skip forward and read the last chapter, everything that happens in between is just filler “stuff.” Ever heard the saying that it doesn’t matter the date you’re born or the date you die; everything happens in that little space in between? The hyphen is the most important part on a tombstone? Let’s talk about that.

We know the first chapter and we definitely know how our book of life will end. No matter what we do to try and change it, facts are facts and our last page will end like everyone else’s. But what about all those chapters in between? That’s where the truth is. That’s where our legacy, our dreams, and our impact is. Imagine a book with the first and last chapters written. All the pages in between are blank and just waiting to be written. That’s what we have folks.

All the people I walked amongst in the cemetery the other day filled their pages. Some didn’t have enough time to complete their story the way they would have liked to, while others had an ample amount of time to write a series of books. We can’t choose how much time we have to write our pages. That’s not up to us. But what we can decide is how those pages are filled.

What’s in your pages right now? Are we still trying to rewrite the first couple chapters? Are we trying to cheat our way out of the last chapter? Are we allowing someone or something else to write all the meat in the middle for us? Or…are we picking up the pen and choosing our own story? Are the pages filled with stories of courage, resilience, and impact? Or are they filled with fear, doubt, and isolation?

As I wrote yesterday and the day before, we have one chance to make it count. Nobody can force us and only we can allow someone the ability to steal it from us. Don’t waste an opportunity that is fleeting each day. Don’t abandon what many wish they could go back and rewrite, only to reach the last page and it was too late. Go ahead. Pick up your pen and begin writing.

And as for the ducks, yes, I was able to sit and get some shots of them while the sun was setting.

I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this. I would love to hear from you and if this small series encouraged you. If you can, please leave me a comment below. Also, make sure to hit the SUBSCRIBE button so my posts are delivered right to you! Thank you again.