September 25, 2013

Pop Rocks & Social Media Are All the Rage.

Nostalgia beckoned me to dance with Facebook seven years ago.

My initial two-month twirl-a-thon was joyous. I viewed family photos of long lost friends and was grateful for the connection. The virtual high led to Facebook messaging and memorable phone calls reminiscing about rad times.

Once I’d found those who had influenced my life the most, I felt fulfilled and complete.

The music stopped and I took a seat.

Three years later, I published my first children’s book. I wrote it because in my heart, I had to. Until I committed myself to its creation, the story cheered for my attention like tin cans strung to the back of a newlywed limo.

Once the book was complete, I had to face the daunting reality that I was responsible for its upbringing. Nowadays, even if you are with a traditional publisher, most authors are made accountable for marketing their own book.

Hummm, I thought writing the book was hard…

So I began the marketing education process, all the while gritting my teeth and readjusting my stance. Self-promotion disturbed me and yet there I was, facing the fact that in order for people to know my book existed, I had to share it with them.

What’s an author to do these days if they don’t engage social media?

In fact, I distinctly remember meeting with a friend of a friend who was a social media consultant. Since I was clear I would not pay for advertising, he graciously, in no uncertain terms, declared I must create a social presence for myself. He made a good point. How else was I going to promote the book without a marketing budget?

My initial response to using social media was, “No way! I’m not going to minister about my book to my friends.”

At that moment, I looked directly into the eyes of resistance, and frankly, entered a state I find oddly invigorating.

Sniffing out internal road blocks is one of my gifts. It’s like I become a Warrior, one who senses deathly restriction and deftly conquers its suffocation with discernible force. And it wasn’t too long before I realized it was up to me to find a way to share my writing with authenticity.

So I stood up and beckoned Facebook and Twitter to the dance floor. Techno music pulsed and my partners threw their hands up in the air, so I did too. We jumped side by side to the beat, blending in, becoming one with the Rave.

Today, I dance on a regular basis with these virtual partners. Yet, I’ve had to wave my finger in their faces, cut the trance, walk across the club, place both hands on the DJ table and command a slower, more grounded beat  I’ve had to test the vibe, trip over my feet, and courageously return to the music man requesting a more intimate tone.

Because you see, Facebook and Twitter have a gigantic presence that comes with hypnotic rhythm. It’s like, if we go beyond the initial nostalgia and engage connectivity daily, there are currents that can unconsciously draw us in, exposing us not only to inspiring ideas and beautiful photos of loved ones, but to powerful agendas, trivial complaints and media ministry.

For example, a couple of years ago I remember going through a phase where I was somewhere experiencing something clever, and then I’d catch myself thinking, this would be a good social media post…

Before indulging the urge to share pieces of my life with the world, I went through an internal check-list. Should I post it? It is funny. People could probably relate, laugh and connect virtually to me with a “like”…

Then I’d hear a faint familiar voice in the distance. “Oh, hi honey. What did you say?”

My daughter had to repeat her question because I’d gone blank, caught in a social media haze. And let’s not forget the time taken to acknowledge comments from loving friends. If I did decide to post, there were the minutes I stole away from precious human interaction to read and respond.

These unconscious episodes were red flags for me. I’m one who deeply values awareness. I feel passionate about being present and practice this way of living daily. To realize I’d checked out of a cool personal event to contemplate whether I should display it to the public seemed hypocritical. I also had to ask myself why I felt compelled to share the event in the first place. Was my ego taking over? I never felt driven to publicly share my vacation photos and aging milestones when I wasn’t on FB. Why now?

I’m not saying I’ve never done it or that I won’t share touching times in the future, but I needed to be honest with myself. Using social media on a regular basis had an effect on me. I was beginning to see its power of distraction and egocentric appeal.

In full disclosure, social media had greater access to my personal moments because I had chosen to download the FB and T apps to my iPhone. Now that I had immediate access to social media, I realized it too had more access to me. The impulse to share was greater and so too was the curiosity to check-in to the sites and review posts.

For example, I have a FB page for my book. When I posted on that page, I was curious to see if others could relate, so I checked the site throughout the day. If I saw a “like,” I felt good. If no one liked my post, I felt perplexed, my mind a dissonant flurry questioning how I could have better conveyed my thoughts to the audience.

Once again, I surrendered to the current and left whatever moment I was in to create a new one, a social media moment, invaded with discomfort, uncertainty and the fear of dis-like.

This leads me to the “like” button.

I didn’t even know what it was three years ago. The social media consultant had to draw my attention to its home on the page. Once I shook its hand, I played with it for a while. As I “liked” more pages and “liked” the content of the posts, I was “liking” all the time. I saw how the “like” was acknowledgement, and I felt good letting someone know I saw their post. Facebook in particular became my personal newspaper, a source where every page appealed to my favorite topics. I appreciated reading the quotes and connecting with other like-minded people.


I was sitting at my daughter’s violin lesson one day. In times past, I’d enjoyed watching her interact with her teacher and navigate sharp learning curves. But since I was conveniently connected to my accounts via my phone, I replaced observing my daughter with observing FB and T feeds, reading the posts and re-tweeting and liking my favorite ones. In the beginning, I told myself this was valuable time spent for my book, but there came a point when I gave too much of myself away and unconsciously hooked into FB and T’s hypnotic moves.

That day it hit me: Although I appreciated all the posts I had “liked,” I chose to connect virtually rather than humanly. I chose other people’s vantage points rather than my own.

And why? Yes I “liked” the posts, but why? I hadn’t even taken a moment to ask myself what struck me about what I saw and read. And because of that, I don’t think I gave myself a full and complete meal. I snacked on FB and T with my non-committal “likes,” and while I munched throughout the day, I never felt satiated.

And so…is that the main agenda sought after by the creators of social media? Do these sites thrive on frequent and impulsive visits and post? Of course! The more we pop on and off throughout the day, the more revenue their ads reap, the more posts from sites we might “like” appear in our feed trying to get us to buy that shirt we were just viewing on a merchandise website via Google moments ago…

Face to face with my ravenous habit and the force that is social media, I stopped “liking” posts. In fact, I even posted on FB that the “like” button ought to hit the road! I mean really. How necessary is this button? More importantly, what aspect of the self is this button promoting?

Yes I love all of it. I love the validation and love knowing someone in this big wide world sees me and gets me.  But most of the time, that’s my ego ghoulishly grabbing for more, and the more validation it gets, the more it craves to be seen, and the more “likely” it is that I’ll share with impulsivity rather than with discernment.

“The ‘like’ button… candy for my ego… ’cause the high just feels good.”


How… disturbing…

So during heated back and forth comments in response to my “get rid of the like button” post, I made a commitment. That day I promised to no longer use the like button in response to posts. I do, however, use the like button to acknowledge friends who have commented on my status. Hypocritical? Not from my eyes, but feel free to state your case in a comment below.

Outside of my marriage, that no “like” commitment seemed like the first promise I’d ever made public. What the heck was I thinking?

Anyhoo, a promise is a promise and I take my instincts and commitments seriously.

Now when I review posts, I comment on ones that pull my senses out wide. And because I’m committed to comment, quick on/off social media viewing is not fun anymore. Yes, some days my comment is a smile, because that’s exactly what happened when I saw the photo or read the post. I feel good offering up a glimpse of my experience while reading my friend’s display, and in return, I get to fully digest why their public expression struck my fancy in the first place.

I admit, not all my comments are profound and reflective, but I appreciate making time to open more fully to what social media has to offer. Of course, one could argue that a smile comment is a “like.” And while there may be some truth to that, what I experience while considering my remark feels like a virtual connection that last longer than the second it takes to hit a button. In fact, at times, I allow the day to pass, collecting words to string for my response.

Committing to “comment only” quelled my impulsivity, and for that I am grateful. It also showed me how hooked I was not only on giving out “likes” like candy, but on the candy itself.

Choosing to live awake and aware often means seeing crap you’d rather not see. Realizing I’d given up inner-connectivity to dance sultry techno beats with virtual partners whose pockets were filled with Pop Rocks and Gobstoppers wasn’t a feel-good moment.

Do I think social media feeds the Rave candy with the hopes we’ll all get hooked? Yes. Have I eaten the candy?  Yes. Do I continue to eat the candy? Sometimes… especially when I’m tired and lonely.

And then I ask myself, “Who is social media?”

Well…we are, right?

We’re the active dancers keeping the club open 24/7?

My body stiffens.

Nausea screams from dark and deep.

Haunting truth gropes my tremble.

“ZOINKS,” shrieks my inner Shaggy.  “Scoob, let’s get outta here!”


Alone and exposed with nowhere to hide, I grabbed my ghost and stuffed it back into all that is me.

Whole and complete, I commanded to myself, if I make up the content that is social media, then I must remember that I’m in charge of when I enter the club, when I dance, how I dance, with whom I dance, whether I’m going to take a sugary hand off from FB and T, and what music I request to compliment my finest moves.

Yes.  It is me who must walk in my power to the DJ table and command a run of R&B slow jams, grounding the hallow house with Luther Vandross and Jodeci.

Maybe that’s why I appreciate sharing of myself on social media after all.

Although some may feel inundated with cheese puff blogs, hyper-inflated declarations of awesome times, and ego-driven agendas, there is a space on the dance floor for the pondering mystic. Diving deep, teetering from the peak, befriending the elephant in the room, and sharing the funkiness of these experiences is fulfilling, and I’m grateful for all those who take their valuable time to experience the read.

I’m sure there are many who react negatively to my music choice and dance moves. And at the same time, I know they too get to choose when they enter the club, how often they dance, how they shake it on the floor, and when and if they decide to switch the tunes.

I bow to my fellow dancers. As we groove alongside social media, I see our unique styles. Some sit hidden in a booth, contained and repulsed, acting like it wasn’t their idea to enter the club in the first place, leaving without a post, comment or like. Others continuously snap their finger to the beat, posting their every moment for the world to see. Some kick a leg in here or there, liking various posts and sharing the occasional picture displaying love and growth. Others do the wave and pulse their hips, posting and liking about their favorite topics. Some goof-off, using humor and admission of quirky family events to crack the crowd from their serious poses.

Then there are others who do what all the others are doing because that’s how they become one with the Rave, get the most candy, and oblige to the highs and lows of club life.

So now when I choose to interact with social media, I slow it down for me and all the lovers out there and ask myself, “Am I mindful, compassionate, respectful, courageous and honest? If how I move and what I display doesn’t fall into all of these categories, I’ve gone off course, once again clear that I’m not perfect.

But I must say, at least I’m aware enough to realize I didn’t meet my own potential.

In the meantime, my new iPhone doesn’t house the FB and T apps. Even if I wanted to impulsively get up and dance, I’ve decided to save my energy for slower and more thought out expression. All this made possible thanks to healthy meals replacing Bit-O-Honey binges.

Social media is most-everyone these days, and my short story shows how an ever awakening 41-year old woman can be hypnotized by this virtual connectivity. Confident I’m not the only adult rising above the haze, I can’t help but wince watching young ones join the club. Do they realize their dance moves matter, and the energy they use to express themselves publicly affects the health of the living?

Do you think most eighth graders see their arms hung out before them, caught in the current of dis-“likes” and cyber-bullying?

Do teenagers know, I mean really know, that they have a choice, and choice is known when one sees all the options?

We chose how, when, where and with whom.

Better yet, if Journey’s Open Arms sings out at the Middle School dance and a 13-year old girl pulls FB to the center, do they know to be fearless, disconnect from their partner’s shoulders and grab the wondering hands?

Next, will they have the courage to change the vibe, walk solo to the DJ table, and request a run of Bluegrass? Will they dare to be the only one leading FB to the beat of the banjo while most of their “friends” glare with their backs against the wall, huffing pop rocks from soggy pouches?

I reveal my virtual hang ups, my love of 90s slow-jams, and my current rules of engagement with FB and T because believe it or not, I value social media.

But if anyone asked my opinion on the matter I’d say, let’s slow it down, ponder before we post, and share and comment from the highest expression of ourselves. Collectively, let’s break the trance and give social media a soul.

We can dance with FB and T like this.

That way, in our cybernetic giving and receiving, we are evolving the world, not stunting its growth.

Update on author’s current use of FB here 

Contract Complete: A Tribute to Maya Angelou.



Like the mindful life on Facebook.

Ed: Sara Crolick

 {photos: via Sara on Pinterest, pixoto}



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