Social Media isn’t Social at all

In case you may not have noticed, Facebook is the #1 Social Networking site in the world. According to their own number s, they now tout 1.8-Billion people now have a Facebook account, nearly a quarter of the world’s population.  The US users makes up 10% of that total, or 180-Million, which is just over half our population.  That number isn’t expected to change much over the next several years – most of the growth in the social space will occur on other/new networks.  It seems as though Facebook may have reached critical mass and some are now predicting that there has been blowback from the amount of political postings which could negatively impact any future growth.

social [soh-shuh l] adjective
1. pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations
2. seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendlygregarious.
3. of, pertaining to, connected with, or suited to polite or fashionable society
4. living or disposed to live in companionship with others or in community, rather than in isolation
5. of or relating to human society, especially as a body divided into classes according to status
6. of or relating to the life, welfare, and relations of human beings in community

Disgusted with the animosity and outcome of the election, I am one of those people who deactivated their Facebook accounts in November.  It’s not the first time I’ve done this, mind you, but in the past few months I haven’t felt like I was “missing something” like I had in the past.  In fact, I recently re-activated my account with nearly instantaneous regret.  Looking through the vitriolic nature of the posts in my news feed, the continual spread of dipshit stories and fake news, and liberal outrage over micro-aggressions while missing the bigger picture issues, affirmed that I truly hadn’t missed anything.  Maybe it has to do with age…but I think it has more to do with how ANTI-social the network has become over the past few years.

It’s deeply troubling that more people will share their most intimate thoughts, feelings and photos with near strangers, but can’t carry on a meaningful conversation with their significant other.  So much so, that the network has amassed data on the age, gender, income, employment, interests, travel habits, behaviors, likes, dislikes, food preferences, workout routines, and anything else you can imagine.  In the wrong hands, this data could be used by governments for more nefarious reasons and many users have begun to realize that they are allowing their privacy to be willingly violated with one click of a button.  The EU sees this level of tracking as a clear breach of their Safe Harbor laws, as to do I, but the rest of the US hasn’t caught on yet.  More than that, I no longer want to participate in the denigration of society by dividing ourselves into these “all-or-nothing” viewpoints and classes, according to our status updates.

From a 2014 Op-Ed on Media Post:

10 Times Social Media Made The World Worse In 2014

1. ISIS Recruitment. Social media plays a “huge role” in recruiting aspiring jihadists from Europe to fight in Syria, according to Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s counterterrorism coordinator. ISIS, giving the Nazis a run for their money as “worst group of people/ideology ever,” also likes to distribute horrifying images of its atrocities via social media.

2. Facebook experimented on people to make them depressedThe study, titled “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” tinkered with the emotional content of news feeds for 689,003 Facebook users to see if moods can spread via social connections. Turns out they can — thanks Facebook! Oh, also, OKCupid deliberately set people up on bad dates.

3. Robin Williams’ daughter, Zelda Dae Williams, quit social media after an outpouring of abuse following her father’s suicide. Gross.

4. Social media fuels negative body image issues in women, according to multiple studiesOne researcher observed: “The biggest thing that stands out is social media. In the 2014 survey, a huge number of women — 64 percent — report that looking at pictures on sites like Facebook and Instagram makes them feel bad about their body.”

5. Social media also makes new mothers feel insecure, according to a survey of 1,100 women by BabyCenter. 60% of moms surveyed said they feel pressure to appear well-to-do on social media, as well as feeling envy and embarrassment because of their own situation compared with others; one in four millennial moms said she feels “significant” pressure to look well-off on social media. Another survey by Current Lifestyle Marketing and Impulse Research also found that many mothers feel social media creates unrealistic expectations and puts pressure on them to craft an idealized image of their lives.

6. The Fire Challenge. Read it and weep. ‘Nuff said.

7. Speaking of kids setting fire to themselves, parents believe the risks associated with social media outweigh its benefits for children. That’s according to a survey of UK and U.S. parents with children ages 6-17 who use the Internet, conducted for the UK’s Family Online Safety Institute. Overall 43% of parents surveyed said they though the negative impacts of social media outweighed the positive impacts, compared to 26% who believe the positive impacts were greater.

8. That massive leak of celebrity nude photos. Gross.

9. Social media undermines trust and makes us unhappy. A study titled “Online Networks and Subjective Well-Being” focused on measures of “social trust,” referring to the individual’s tendency to assume — or not assume — that strangers, as proxies for society in general, are benign and trustworthy, in the sense that they will “observe the rules of the game” in basic social interactions. According to the authors: “Internet-mediated interaction often violates well-established face-to-face social norms for the polite expression of opposing views. In online discussions with unknown others, individuals more easily indulge in aggressive and disrespectful behaviors… In online interactions, dealing with strangers who advance opposite views in an aggressive and insulting way seems to be a widespread practice, whatever the topic of discussion is.”

10. Social media use contributes to divorceA study, titled “Social network sites, marriage well-being, and divorce: Survey and state-level evidence from the United States” and published in Computers in Human Behavior, found that Facebook use is a “positive, significant predictor of divorce rate and spousal troubles,” according to researchers at Boston University and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile’s School of Communications. Specifically: “Results show that using SNS is negatively correlated with marriage quality and happiness, and positively correlated with experiencing a troubled relationship and thinking about divorce.”

This anxiety producing experience with Instagram is more veiled.  It’s owned by Facebook, so it has all of the same drawbacks of traceability and self-loathing.  Since the platform only allows users to post pictures and short videos, it’s easy to get caught up scrolling through the imagery and feel like you are connecting to the outside world.  Many users, however, quickly find themselves caught comparison game, they lose track of their self-esteem and no longer find they are relating to those around them.  Fortunately, I haven’t had that experience, mine has been more pleasant, but I do find that I’ve become engrossed in scrolling through pretty pictures of places and food, only to realize that 45-minutes has gone by without me hardly noticing.  That, my dears, was by design.  Most social platforms employ the psychology of gambling when coding their sites.  There is a reason that little notification button has a red bubble with numbers on it.

Once the platform for broadcasting news alerts and updates quickly, thanks to our new Cheeto-in-Chief, and King of Online Bullies, Twitter has thrown the idea of a polite and fashionable society into the garbage can.  Fortunately, the number of users is dwindling, as more and more people tire of its ability to amplify hate speech in a matter of seconds, but the death of the platform can’t come fast enough.  It is the platform for reporting on what is happening on the ground, in live time, in the moment, frequently used by law enforcement to track protestors and quell free speech.  Since it is conversational in nature, it is also the platform for gossip and unsubstantiated claims, causing frequent meltdowns over the smallest of slights, further isolating us from ourselves.

Sadly, the number of social networking sites continues to grow, as does the amount of time we spend on them.  In 2012, eMarketer estimated that most US adults spent an average of 4-minutes a day on social media.  Just five years later, that amount of time has grown to close to an hour.  Every day, we choose to spend 50-minutes fighting, coveting, longing, and freely acting like guinea pigs, while giving away our privacy so that these companies can resell our data to advertisers, to earn themselves billions in revenue….BILLIONS.  In 2017 alone, Facebook’s ad revenueis estimated at $16.5-Billion,  This does not take into account Instagram, or any of the other dozens of social networks profiting from the same practice.  This is your time, your privacy, and your sweetness of mind, but you will not be compensated for what you willingly gave away.

Instead, think about what would you do with an extra 50-minutes a day?  If you could shut off the “social” network, how would you relate to your life again?  For me, I have revived my account to get updates from a women’s group and writer’s group that I am part of, along with the occasional update on how friends of mine are, and what their children are up to.  I suppose these are the reasons that we all glommed onto the idea of social networks to begin with.  Now that more of my news feed is filled primarily with negative and often times violent language, I think it’s time to disconnect the “social” network and reconnect with my fellow humans, most likely this time for good.

News Flash: Hypocrisy knows no bounds

“The most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls…largely caused by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts and a growing tolerance of violence and warfare, unfortunately following the example set during my lifetime by the United States.” — Jimmy Carter in A Call to Action

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired….I’m tired of being degraded for being strong, I’m tired of girls who are smart being ostracized, I’m tired of being told I’m hysterical/crazy/a bitch when I have feelings or express my views, I’m tired of being talked down to in board rooms, I’m tired of experiencing unwelcome advances from men who think they are in a position of power over me, I’m tired of men who act like they are in a position of power over anyone, I’m tired of how people shame sexual assault victims, and I’m really tired of people enabling the rape culture in our country to continue with dumbass statements like “boys with be boys” and “locker room banter”.

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Women have been living with this double standard, with this hypocrisy, with the idea that we must be perfect saints, be twice as smart and work twice as hard as our male counterparts before we are taken seriously, for centuries (of course, that’s only when the mens “allowed” us to go to work). Then, at that critical moment when we rise up, the moment we break through that glass ceiling, the message comes through loud and clear that “you can’t be here” – and the message sadly comes from both men and women, alike.  We are torn down and told we can’t lead, based on superficial shit like our looks, or that we must have cheated to get here, or lied, or stole our way in, because we aren’t “allowed” to have ambition, or be smart, or strong-willed.  By GAWD, who would ever believe that a WOMAN could be better than a man as CEO…or President?!

hy·poc·ri·sy [həˈpäkrəsē/] noun the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense

Hypocrisy = claiming that the news reports of this man’s sexually predatory behavior is some form of “cheating” so that Clinton can win the election, because they were uncovered 3-weeks before the election, while the GOP has been enacting voter suppression laws and gerrymandering districts for decades.  Oh and now his supporters want to win by asking that we Repeal the 19th Amendment…..

Hypocrisy = After working tirelessly to convince the public that we need to enact discriminatory bathroom laws, because you are worried about male sexual predators dressing up as women and assaulting other women, possibly children, in bathrooms, you say you will vote for a man who boasts about actually sexually assaulting women.

Hypocrisy = Voting for a man with two failed marriages, due to infidelity, then boasting of being unfaithful in his third, all while claiming you want to “strengthen the family and respect the sanctity of marriage”, and same-sex marriage needs to be outlawed.
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Hypocrisy = well….I’ll let Donald speak for himself on this….
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Hypocrisy = Voting for a man with two failed marriages, due to infidelity, then boasting of being unfaithful in his third, then turning around and criticizing a woman who chose to remain in her marriage through her husband’s infidelity because she promised “for better or worse”.

Hypocrisy = claiming that a woman who deleted 33,000 emails is a “crook” and a “liar” and “needs to be in jail”, even though an 18-months investigation has produced no evidence that a crime was committed, yet allowing 22-million emails “lost” by the second Bush Administration (via a private email server run through the RNC) to go unsolved and unpunished. Not to mention, the emails were supposedly found, but have yet to be made public and no one bangs down the doors of justice demanding to read them.

Hypocrisy = I suppose it’s okay because Trump boasted about it….
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Hypocrisy = investigating the Benghazi attach on 8 different occasions, to finally determine that there were failures by the administration, as though this is a new phenomenon to the Obama administration or to the Defense Department.  Listening to people whine and bitch and call a woman “Killary”, without considering the historical context of Ronald Reagan’s own Benghazi, which was far more devastating.  During the span of 18-months, there series of attacks on US military and the Embassy in Beirut in 1983.  330 people (262 Americans) were killed and there was one congressional investigation conducted – ONE.  There was no talk of impeaching Reagan and no subpoenas for cabinet staff.  Instead, Congress released a report detailing the failures, and offered suggestions for improvement in the future.

Hypocrisy = And this all happened before Reagan got away scot-free from the Iran-Contra Affair, for simply refusing to declassify certain documents, something that the female candidate for President is apparently not allowed to do, according to the GOP.

Hypocrisy = Voting for a man with two failed marriages, due to infidelity, then boasting of being unfaithful in his third, then turning around and criticizing a woman who chose to remain in her marriage through her husband’s infidelity, yet not criticizing this man’s third wife because she chose to stand by this same man, although he has admittedly been unfaithful to her.

Hypocrisy = Anger over what’s being called a shell game by the Clinton Foundation, a public charity with IRS oversight, which was given an A-rating by Charity Watch and a 4-star (highest) rating by Charity Navigator, while not once ever paying attention to the Trump Foundation’s, a private foundation allowed to operate somewhat in the shadows, has made illegal political campaign contributions and been told to cease all fundraising by the NY Attorney General.

Hypocrisy = insinuating that Hillary Clinton hates America, a woman who has committed her life to serving the public, then showing up at your local Trump campaign rally and listen to a man who boasts about shirking the tax code, not contributing one damn dime to the people or infrastructure that have supported his shitty businesses along the way.

Enough is enough.  Come November 8th (or November 28th if you are a Trump voter), the hypocrisy must end.  Like it or not, we must look at the bigger picture and vote for her.  It is the only adult thing to do.

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Less Pomp and Circumstance

My employer has an on-site gym that I have a membership to and, as part of the membership, they offer a few yoga classes on the schedule.  Knowing that “gym yoga” is usually more focused on stretching, rather than philosophy, I decided it should be a safe entry point back into my yoga practice.  I won’t lie to myself, or anyone else, working for Core Power destroyed my love for yoga.  The whole idea of commercializing anything spiritual, in general, makes my skin crawl.  So much so every time I have stepped on my mat, since I started working for the chain in 2008, I have never been able to achieve a blissful state during my yoga practice.  Rather, I had a running dialogue in my head about everything the teacher was doing wrong.  That was my job, you see, to analyze instructors and coach them on the improvements they “needed” to make to their sequencing, music selection, tonality, inflection, projection, vocabulary, and on and on and on, in order to help them grow their classes (and teaching style) into a contrived product that fit in with the notion of the ‘Core Power’ brand.

Even after parting ways in 2010, because they canned my ass when I started to challenge this notion of what their classes should be, rather than me just walking away from their dysfunctional management community – especially since most of the leadership is high on something (like cocaine, opiates, or alcohol to name just a few) nor did they really exemplify the idea of the state of yoga being free from all attachment/distraction – I still struggled to let go of the critical voices that would chime in each and every time I would attempt to take a yoga class.  No matter how much I tried to separate the toxicity of Core Power from my actual yoga practice and move beyond the brainwashing, the ‘critic’ never shut up.  Being on my mat brought more anger than it did relief from suffering, so in 2012, I decided it was time to break up with my practice until I could completely mend my mind.

I’d had a decent relationship with yoga for nearly a decade, but thought a little break was probably necessary.  For the past several years, I had built up more injuries caused by my yoga practice than I found relief from any of the physical or emotional ailments I had had prior to when I began my yoga practice.   Some time off might be good for healing both my body and my soul.  With the exception of losing the strength and flexibility to do arm balances, I have to say, it has been really nice to be off my mat.  I didn’t realize how out of balance I had become while striving for extreme balance in my life.  I do, however, realize why someone came up with the saying, “everything in moderation, including moderation.”  Leaving my career in 2008 to go teach yoga full-time and ‘live an extraordinary life’ was actually one of the worst mistakes I had ever made – unless by ‘extraordinary’, Core Power actually means strange, bizarre, or going completely, fucking nuts, then why yes, I did have one hell of an extraordinary experience managing two of their largest studios in the country for a group of greedy corporatists – yay me!

Recently though, my hamstrings had made several requests for a little bit of tenderness.  So, after over a year hiatus, I finally took a yoga class at my gym this week.  With trepidation, I stepped onto my yoga mat and quietly lowered into Child’s Pose, all the while reminding myself that this practice did not require any critique of the instructor or evaluation of the music or overall environment.  It only required that I breathe and stretch my sore, tired-ass muscles.  As though preparing for a game, I coached myself through the next 45-minutes of my yoga practice to constantly remind my mind to focus on nothing external (sort of like what you’re supposed to be doing during meditation…such a novel concept, huh?). Luckily, there were too many other distractions I could focus on – like the people walking back and forth through the studio to get to the basketball court on the other side, or the guy banging his mop into the wall adjacent to the studio while he cleaned the floors in the main equipment area.  Normally, these types of distractions would have sent my former yoga-snob-self into a tizzy, but today they made me realize just how much expectation I placed on having the environment absolutely “perfect” for the full yoga-bliss-experience.  As an instructor, I spent countless hours trying to replicate this for my students, striving to find just the right music to illicit an intended response, cultivating a sequence of postures that would guarantee muscular fatigue, and choosing themes to discuss that were threaded throughout the class that were most likely too preachy for even me to tolerate for too long.

Here I was in a class with terrible music, bad acoustics, a myriad of distractions, taught by an instructor who had no insecurities and led us through basic sequencing which she inevitably forgot between the right side to the left side and it dawned on me – I really enjoyed practicing without all of the Core Power/Baptiste Yoga Inspired pageantry.  Although, I would be remise if I didn’t point out that Bikram and Anusara Yoga instructors are equally guilty of supplementing their classes with an equal amount of grandeur.  While all of these styles espouse authenticity, connection and simplicity in our everyday lives, each seems limited in their scope and ability to actually see what’s happening with the students they have in their classes.  They are too focused on using a particular set of cues, or language (like ‘radiate out’ – WTF does that mean anyway?!), that coincides their particular ‘brand’ of yoga, rather than to their students’ needs.  Strip away all of the pomp and circumstance and all you have left is the instructor’s ability to teach (or not).  What I realized is that I need from yoga than teachers want to give.  I need less ego, less music, less talking, less filler – we all do, really, because we all get enough of these distractions in our everyday lives.  What we need from yoga, from our yoga teachers, is for them to shut the f**k up, unless they have something meaningful to say.  And please, don’t say ‘radiate out’ anymore – I am getting older now and my ass radiates out all on its own, thank you.

Thought for the Day: Yoga Bubble

Within us all exists a balance of dark and light.  If the pendulum swings too hard one way, it will repeal backwards with equal and opposite force.  I found myself swinging towards glory when the pendulum swung back and hit me so hard it knocked me over.  By seeing things as they are, rather than how we think they ought to be, we can strengthen our spirits during times of trauma and dis-ease.  In order to discover your Sweetness of Mind, you have to wade through the depths of your soul, have your heart ripped out understanding suffering.  Without doing the work, you may be living in a yoga bubble.