Getting my math right

I deleted my Facebook account yesterday — the account that I opened in 2007 when the social media juggernaut was just starting to roll out of its college-only birthplace. It was a place where I posted more than 9,900 times — more than twice a day for over 11 years. It was a place where I met countless friends and shared so much of myself that I often ended up feeling exposed and empty. It was a place where I could be my best self, but often opened doors to my worst.

In the end it had to go because it was the place where I went to for the affirmation that I needed the most. I lived for the likes — and let their pulse become one with my own.

Today, I ran across this post on Instagram (where I’m still moderately active in a healthier way). It summed up what changed in me.

View this post on Instagram

I love this truth 🌻 #beingisbeautiful

A post shared by Kylie 🌻 McBeath (@beingisbeautiful) on

I will have to work harder to maintain my relationships with distant friends and family. Daily Facebook crossings give the illusion of depth. Now, those connections will require more intention than scrolling through a feed. In the end, I hope it gives them more meaning.

I think I finally have my math right as I open the next season of life.

Dear Facebook, here are some new rules

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Dear Facebook,

We’ve had this love-hate relationship for a while now. Just last week, I threatened to break up with you for good. I’ve tried so many ways of quitting you, only to return, IV needle in hand. It’s those bite-sized bits of information and affirmation you’ve got at your disposal, just enough of a hit to make me think I can’t live without you.

I’ve spent so much of my last 11 years plugged into your feed, much of it mindless scrolling. I’ve let you simultaneously command my attention and destroy my attention span. There is always something going on with you, never a breather to pay attention to anything or anyone else. I have trouble reading more than 20 pages in a book without you popping up in the back of my mind. I can’t get through a 30-minute sitcom with my son without wondering if you’ve doled out another like or comment.

That’s where the problem lives. I want my attention back — and you don’t have any intention of letting it go. Your sole purpose is to make it all about you.

2019 is going to be different. I’m reclaiming the intention in my attention.

You probably already know this, but I removed you from my phone. I’m sure it was a bit of a shock to know that you were no longer living at my fingertips, but I have to say it feels better. In just a few weeks, the urge for instant gratification is starting to wane. I’ve checked in once or twice a day via the web, so the withdrawls wouldn’t entice me into reinstalling you. I’ll consider this first step towards a healthier relationship with you a success.

Yes, that means I’m not going to completely break up with you. I’ve been sorely tempted, believe me, but then I’m reminded of the good things we’ve shared. The friends I’ve made through you. The networks you’ve helped me create. There’s still real value in our connection.

But we’re going to have some new rules (yes, just like Dua Lipa).

  • One: You will not return to my phone. We need our space. No more mindless interactions. Period.
  • Two: You’re no longer going to be the chronology of my life. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve found myself in conversation and realize I have nothing to share. I’ve shared it all already with you, and you’ve broadcast it out to the world. The world doesn’t need to hear from me umpteen times a day.
  • Three: You’re not going to be there with me in the moment. I’m going to start living for the experience, not the share.
  • Four: We’re going to spend quality time when we are together. I’m going to use the tools you’ve already provided to see what I need to see and avoid the rabbit holes — and I’m only going to share things I’ve had time to intentionally construct.
  • Five: We’re going to be a positive in the world. At our best, we’ve brought a positive light into the world. The things I share with you will carry that compassion and intent.

I know you’re likely snickering, Good luck, buddy. But here’s the deal. I’m done blindly giving you my attention. I know where the deactive button is and I’m no longer afraid to use it.

 

 

 

 

 

The power of a vote

Since the 2016 election, there’s been increasing talk about the voting power of the states being disproportional to state population — both through the electoral college electing the president (proportional + 2) and in the Senate (2 votes each). This system was created when there were 16 states, 5 of which (VA, PA, MA, NY, NC) comprised 58% of the country’s population. The system prevents the larger states from drowning out the voice of the smaller states.

Fast forward to 2018. Should this still apply? We now have 50 states. Taking approximately the same proportion (16 states – CA, TX, FL, NY, PA, IL, OH, GA, NC, MI, NJ, VA, WA, AZ, MA, TN), the population of this “top third” now comprises 68% of the population, so we’ve gotten more concentrated as a nation.

So, if we still want the protection of the little state, the system makes sense. The chances of changing it are nearly impossible, because it would take a constitutional amendment that would require the vote of the bottom 2/3 to pass.

We’re stuck with this folks, so it’s likely time to stop complaining about it and figure out how to work within the system. The Republicans have their strategy — focus on the presidency and the Senate. Dems? Well, it looks like they need to rebuild a base in states like PA and MI to flip the imbalance of power in their favor.

Changing attitudes

We are the largest experiment in multiethnic democracy the world has ever seen — just approaching 250 years old. We’re 150 years removed from a civil war whose wounds still bleed. The Civil Rights Act — banning discrimination in professional and public life — was passed 54 years ago. Great public movements, many that have required protest and civil disobedience, have resulted in progressive legislation that has defined and made us a better nation.

But laws aren’t always successful in changing attitudes and beliefs of individuals. They often result in retrenchment of the very ideas they aim to codify out of society.

Individuals and attitudes change as a result of real human interaction. When we get to know our neighbor whose culture is different than ours. When our kids play on the same soccer team. When we take a moment to listen to our colleagues who come from different backgrounds. When we get fresh air outside of our echo chambers.

Elections, policy, and legislation are still critical, but we can’t stop there. We need to do the hard work every day, in our own hearts and minds, and in our daily interactions with others. If we want a truly inclusive, progressive nation, it’s much more than politics. It’s the hard work of engaging people, day in and day out, to create opportunities for understanding.

Voter #1

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I wanted to be first in line at my polling place this morning. There was something symbolic in that notion. I arrived 25 minutes early to a parking lot devoid of activity, the only cars those of the poll workers inside. Some news story captured my attention and when I looked up, there was a person standing first in line at the doors. My plan up in smoke. As I approached, I saw it was a young African-American woman and smiled. I thought to myself, that’s what it’s all about. I don’t have to be first, I just have to be a part of the solution. I was proud to stand behind her as she approached the table as Voter #1.

Vote for hope over fear

Ten years ago today, we elected the first person of color as our president — but what mattered more than the color of his skin was the way he made so many of us feel … hopeful. No matter where you stand on the political continuum today, there doesn’t seem to be much hope.

This afternoon, I attended a lecture by an entrepreneur alumnus whose family came to the US as asylum seekers from Uzbekistan when he was eight. He’s created thousands of jobs in the US economy. Then I read this story about an immigrant couple whose community is taking care of them in a time of need. This is who we are America, not the fearmongering racism of the president’s rallies and TV ads.

When you vote tomorrow, let’s see if we can find some of that hope and rekindle the American Dream for all of our citizens, and, yes, the world. Let’s find a way back to being that beacon of hope.

When you vote, remember who we are and aspire to be. Your vote does matter. It always matters.

Hope needs our help

The news has been nauseating. It’s like we’ve opened Pandora’s box and released all our worst inclinations into the public square. I reminded myself of one part of the Pandora myth this morning — hope remained in the jar (box) after the evil was released into the world. Hope needs our help right now. We have to find the goodness, beauty, and progress that still abound in the world, shadowed by the specter of these unleashed demons. We have to help hope regain her rightful place at the front of our lives, our communities, and our nation. That means lifting up the good we find. That means respecting *all* of our neighbors. That means being active in civil life, exercising our obligation to vote for hope not division. And it means challenging Pandora’s minions when they cross our daily paths.

Finding the way out of no man’s land

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while now. It’s been swirling in my brain, heart, and gut for quite a while, but every time I feel like I’m close to putting fingers to keyboard, I shy away, worried of the reaction from all sides.

It’s a sensitive topic, you see. A white guy writing to other white guys about being a white guy in today’s society and culture.

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This choice called love

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My son is in his first real relationship at 16. It’s wonderful to witness how he smiles and laughs around her, how they just seem comfortable around each other. What impresses me the most is how he gives of himself for her. There’s a quiet ease in which he cares for her, so natural it seems innate.

I don’t know what their future holds, but I do know this: For their relationship to last, to thrive, they will both need to understand that love is not a feeling.

Love is a choice. Love is an action. 

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Presence over time

IMG_9271It’s interesting how those of us in four-season climates talk about the plants in our gardens — in terms of how long they’ll last. Annuals come and go in one growing season. Perennials come back every year, but mostly lie dormant below the ground in winter. Trees and shrubs — we think of them as the bones, the stalwart foundation, that last for years, perhaps a lifetime. We cherish them for their presence over time, rather than their value in the moment.

We do the same for people, don’t we? Read More