Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Truth About Facebook Profiles

Facebook shows me the good times. The milestones. Which, at this point in my life means one thing: weddings (Be honest: who hasn’t been sidetracked by perusing a friend’s album of wedding photos?).  Wedding photos document a beautiful day: smiles, pretty dresses. A wedding day is just one example of an event that paints an incomplete picture of a person’s life – if only viewed from Facebook. 

However, Facebook does not reflect the complexities of human life. I have never seen a photo album of a funeral. Nor have I ever read a post describing a friend’s struggle with bulimia. It is only through deeper, shall we say “3D”, relationships that I learn about those darker details of human life.

Lately, I’ve been catching up with some college friends over the phone. Since I moved away from my hometown and my college town, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to stay in touch. But one thing is for sure: Friendships that last do so because involved persons communicate beyond the web.

One of my best high school friends is not on Facebook.

That’s right. You heard me correctly. She is not on Facebook. But you know what? Lisa and I talk on the phone at least once a week (or email if she’s busy with grad school stuff). Sometimes it feels old-fashioned, but I would argue that the absence of Facebook has forced our relationship to be stronger. Social media is not a crutch to sustain our friendship.

I’m not perfect at keeping in touch with every friend. In fact, I fail a lot in this area. I know I'm also not the first person to have this epiphany, but maybe writing it here will reinforce this in my own life. 

C.S. Lewis talks about how we create “shadows” of other people. In his satire “The Screwtape Letters”, a demon writes to his tempter-in-training. The demon encourages his pupil to manipulate humans to pray for the idea of a person, rather than the reality of that person. There's some truth to it, though; it’s easier to imagine a person as we wish them to, rather than to see them for what they are. This concept is easily transferred to Facebook – it’s so easy to see that newly married friend as swimming in bliss because every photo contains a beautiful dress, perfect makeup and smiles all around. 

For many, Facebook will be a placeholder until the 10-year reunion. Yet if left on its own, Facebook is sure to offer a limited picture of someone. And if you let it, Facebook can dilute a friendship until there is nothing left. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tragedy at the Indiana State Fair

You can also read this post over at The Bluevine Collective

Saturday’s tragedy at the Indiana State Fair has given me pause. Like so many people across the country, my heart goes out to the families of those who died when the stage collapsed at the fairgrounds this weekend. One thing I didn’t expect — how difficult it is to hear the news from across the country.

On Saturday night, I spotted tweets from fellow Blueviner Matt Peyton. The tweets came in rapid succession – something about “victims sent to Wishard and Methodist hospitals.” Immediately, I knew something was wrong back in Indiana.

Later that evening, I watched live web coverage from one of Indianapolis’ TV stations. The journalist in me searched for details everywhere, including my social networks (which has a strong Indiana influence due to my four years at Butler University). Several college classmates posted statuses alerting everyone they were safe.

DC is not a typical lens from which to learn about current events. Politicos and other newsmakers “inside the beltway” saturate the media market. But since The Washington Post is also a national newspaper, there’s still some room to read headlines from beyond the capital. It pained me to see this piece of news treated like just a drop in the bucket of current events. Just another headline, another news brief – sometimes contained to a single sentence – and eventually archived.

I remember the thrill of seeing the Post cover Butler’s riveting basketball season this year. In DC, its always a conversation starter – a way to feel proud of my Midwestern roots even though I’m far away (“Yes, that MY school on the front of the sports section!”). But in today’s Sunday edition, I dreaded what I would find. I flipped to “national digest” and found the horrific photo of the stage collapse, and a 1-sentence caption.

The majority of DC’s population is transient and young. Conversations here always begin with “What do you do?” and eventually follow with, “Where are you from?” As I like to tell people about the DC crowd, “everyone is from everywhere.” In that sense, roots take on significance in DC because its one of the easiest ways to differentiate people one twenty-something from another.

The tragedy was another reminder that we are not guaranteed tomorrow.  A reminder of the importance of roots. Cities and towns help remind you of who you are, and how you’ve changed. I like to think Midwestern roots are stronger than most geographic ties.

Most impressive was the video footage of the Hoosiers who ran to lift the stage rigging off the trapped victims. Gov. Daniels said they “ran to the trouble, not from the trouble. That’s the character that we associate with our state.”

I may be in DC, but I’m proud to call myself a pseudo-Hoosier.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Growing Up With Harry

[Editor’s Note: Yes, this is my requisite nostalgic Harry Potter blog post.]

The final Harry Potter movie  this weekend marks the end of era. I am part of the demographic the news is talking about this week -- the “Harry Potter generation”. I’ve devoured the books with each publication, and hurried to the theaters with each new movie. The movies painted a fantastic illustration of a world I’d imagined in my head, thanks to the captive words of J.K. Rowling.

But when I think of Harry Potter, I don’t think of Warner Brothers, or the theme park, or a multi-billion-dollar franchise. What I love most about the Harry Potter books is that it reminds me of my love of reading. 

Ready for the final film!
How I Met Harry
One summer during my awkward “tween” years, I spent a week with my aunts in Michigan. One of the aunts told me about a book that had been on the bestseller’s list for weeks. “A boy named Harry,” she explained. “He’s a wizard.” I was intrigued.

That fall in Mrs. Carlson’s sixth grade literature class. I couldn’t wait for the first monthly Scholastic Reader, a paper-thin catalog showing the latest young adult books (I’d frequently circle my favorites books, and hope Mom would take the hint). It wasn’t long before Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone appeared in the pages of the Reader. I rushed home to ask Mom if I could order it. I guess you could say I was an “early adopter”.

At the end of the school year, Mrs. Carlson asked us to record our life goals. I - unabashedly - proclaimed I would read and collect the entire Harry Potter book series - I didn’t know how long it would take for all seven books to come out... An ambitious and scholarly goal for an eleven-year-old, I like to think. 

Through The Wardrobe And Beyond
Today - more than 10 years later - I am an adult (depending on your definition, of course). I have grown up with Harry, Ron and Hermione. I’m happy to say I have not grown out of my imagination. Still, it’s bittersweet to see the torrent of books and movies come to an end.

I recently started re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia. Like the children in those books, a world like Narnia (or Hogwarts) can be re-visited even when the reader has “grown up.” Books make it possible for characters and worlds to keep living in the present, even when we have moved on. 

Further reading:

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Web Finds: Summer Reads, N.T. Wright and Don Miller

Time for another roundup of assorted links!

Doris Nhan from the SmartBlog on Social Media writes about how Discovery's Gayle Weiswasser manages multiple social media accounts. The key point here - and also from my professional work experience - is that each account is unique and must be managed accordingly.

If God told you everything was going to turn out awesome, do you think you'll have to go through a lot of hard times? That's how Don Miller starts his talk at Catalyst.

Rob Bell earned a whole lot of press back in March with the release of his latest book, "Love Wins". Everyone - from pastors to atheists - seemed to be talking about it. Out of all the coverage, N.T. Wright makes a solid point: why focus so much on Hell, when we should be more focused on Heaven? If we're going to "cause a stir," let's do it in a way that glorifies God.

This came out of left field -- I had no idea that Butler Basketball Coach Stevens attended St. Luke's UMC in Indianapolis. (It's the same church that runs The Bluevine Collective blog). The Indianapolis Star wrote a really wonderful profile of Stevens that talks about his quiet faith. 

I've been cleaning up my Google Reader, and in the process found two neat nonprofit association blogs, The Glamorous Life and The Hourglass Blog.

I think Beth Kanter posted this - it's the Security In-a-Box, a website to help you clean up your digital files (a really great resource for NGOs).

NPR Books has come out with a red-hot list for some cool summer reading. I've already added a few to my GoodReads

Commencement addresses are wrapping up. I found an intriguing speech from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg ("The Women Of My Generation Blew It, So Equality Is Up To You"). She spoke to the women of Barnard College on May 17. 

Web Finds: Dirty makeup 
Web Finds: iPhone's big announcement

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

One Year Anniversary of Fighting Crime

One year ago today, I started my first day at Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. In some ways, I know this is just the beginning. The world of nonprofit communications has been quite the adventure. Reflecting on the past year, here are a few lessons learned while “Fighting Crime”:
  • Take risks, even ones that take you thousands of miles from home. It is as scary as it is rewarding - and that makes it worth the risk.
  • You don’t know the meaning of “flooded inbox” until you receive 50+ daily Google Alerts.
  • Office culture is a balancing act.
  • It IS possible to do much with few resources. Thanks to social media, this is more possible for nonprofits than ever before.
  • Working for a small organization allows for greater opportunities - hiring interns, leading workshops -- but it also allows more opportunities to be humbled.
  • Mistakes happen. Forgiving and flexible supervisors create employees who will be forgiving and flexible in their careers.
  • Working with passionate people may mean longer hours; but at the end of the day, you’re working with passionate people - not robots.
Fighting Crime With (My) Words (April 18, 2010) via Digital Disciple
A Speedy Return (May 25, 2010) via Capital Comment

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is Jesus Worth A "Follow"?

I posted the digital story of the nativity back in December. Ready for another? Yep, this one's Easter-themed. The folks at Worship House Media make clever use of pop culture to challenge us in our faith walk.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Web Finds: Dirty Makeup, Annoying Email Signatures, and Do-It-Yourself Penance

Do you know how many chemicals are in your makeup? I’ve been fascinated with this video from The Story of Stuff, an advocacy video series that exposes some of America’s inner-workings in an effort to improve our daily lives. If you’ve ever needed convincing to throw out that old crusty makeup, this will do the trick. And maybe you will demand healthier products for your skin.  

Email signatures: You can love ‘em and hate ‘em. This post from Gigaom goes back to the basics. What do people really need to know every time they receive an email from you? Bottom line: less is more. You don’t need to brag about every social network you signed up for.

Moderating online comments have come a long way – even since I moderated comments for a year ago as an intern (NPR has since outsourced this task). Disqus is one solution I've read about that tracks a person’s comments across the web, which I think is vital to transparency and holds netizens responsible for their words.

While we’re talking about transparency, you need to know @DigiDave, the creator of crowd-funded news model, In his blog post and slideshare presentation, Dave argues for the ethics of journalism transparency. He says we need transparency in order for journalism to become more participatory. 

In college, Cassie Dull and I wrote for Dawgnet News, the online news site (which later merged with the print paper, The Butler Collegian). She now leads online communications for a private school in Indianapolis. In her post for Ed Social Media, Cassie explains how students, parents, and the community can be the “unofficial” voice of the school. But the first step is for the traditional messengers is to be okay with it. Yes, this means turning PR on its head (sorry, traditionalists...).

I’m obsessed with how technology is impacting one of the oldest institutions: religion. But what about an app for do-it-yourself confessions? The blogosphere’s been blowing up about these latest apps: Penance, Confessions, Bible Shaker, or the Ultimate Buddhist Library. The Mercury News, and the Religion Dispatches report on the growing trend of religion apps. It raises questions about the need for clergy - or even God - in the equation. (UPDATE 3/6/11 at 10 PM: I should underscore that an anonymous commenter, who is likely connected to the Confessions app, clarified that this app in no way replaces Reconciliation, but merely prepares a person for confession.)

By the way, the Pope is on Facebook. He wants to be your friend. (Maybe he’ll forgive you for not going to Ash Wednesday this week…)