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.

 

 

 

 

 

Choose kindness

My mind is still churning from last night’s scout meeting where we discussed bullying and personal protection. My scouts are all sixth graders. It’s hard to wrap my brain around how complex these kids’ lives are compared to my sixth grade experience. Cyber bullying wasn’t even possible. Active shooter drills unfathomable.

I left them with one simple entreaty.

“It’s really easy as a human being to let yourself be unkind. It comes naturally to us for some reason … but so does kindness. Choose kindness.”

A note of gratitude

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I am so thankful for the life I have right now. No buts. No conditionals. I am simply thankful. In less than an hour, the kid and I will be on the way to spend Thanksgiving with family in Connecticut. In a year where I learned that nothing is guaranteed or permanent, I will disconnect and wade through that imperfectly beautiful chaos that family often is, so that I can cherish those moments of perfection that only family can be.

I encourage each of you to do the same. Put down your phones and be present where you are. We’ll all be here to enjoy your photos and stories on the flip side.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. Know that I am thankful for the unique perspective each of you brings into my pretty amazing life.

Being an ally in the workplace

Working in technology, a field where men significantly outnumber women, these issues are particularly acute. This article about Sheryl Sandberg is a good primer on what men can do to be allies in the workplace.

“I know there’s pressure not to be a dorky, try-hard male feminist stereotype; there’s always a looming implication that you could lose your spot in the club; if you seem opportunistic or performative in your support, if you suck up too much oxygen and demand praise, women will yell at you for that too. But I need you to absorb that risk. I need you to get yelled at and made fun of, a lot, and if you get kicked out of the club, I need you to be relieved, and I need you to help build a new one.” — Sheryl Sandberg

Software doesn’t solve problems

Part of my job is to help identify those systems and tools that will increase efficiency and effectiveness in our organization. So many times, we’ll hear the refrain, “it’s not working” and throw the system or tool out in favor of the next best thing. What we often miss, though, is the question, “Why is it not working?”

A lot of the time, it’s because the tool doesn’t fit in the culture or work ethic of those using it.

As I said to a colleague recently, “Software doesn’t solve problems. Software helps YOU solve problems.”

Making a new high tide

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If you’ve ever been to Bar Harbor, Maine, you’ve likely heard about Bar Island, the tree-covered sanctuary that sits isolated in the harbor for most of the day. When the tide drops, however, a wide sandbar emerges as a walking path between Mt. Desert Island and Bar Island. For about 90 minutes, twice a day, Bar Island becomes a bustling thoroughfare of tourists, giggling like children at the idea of walking across the harbor on foot, collecting rocks and shells on the way. Read More

Focusing through the social media noise

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I sat in a small dark room. My ears were covered, creating an unnerving silence almost too loud to bear. A little bit of claustrophobia crept in, broken only by the sound of her voice. The contralto of Cruella de Vil, sliding into my ears.

I glanced at her from the corner of my eye, as beautiful as her voice is smooth. She sat behind a pane of glass, with a warm but distant smile.

“If you can hear the tone, please raise your hand.” Read More

Sharing of the little moments

We’ve had a string of nice sunrises and sunsets lately, but none of the drop everything and grab the camera variety.

I sat drinking coffee on Friday morning, enjoying the calm before I woke my son for school and I prepared for a day at work. Bright orange sun streamed through my apartment kitchen window, silhouetting the coleus cuttings I’m rooting in a water goblet.

Even from a distance, I could see the sky reflected in the bowl and stem of the glass, despite the windows being fogged with condensation. Read More

Sixth sense

Earlier this week, a friend’s status questioned how far away we are from having artificial devices think for us. I’m wondering if he had just seen the Sixth Sense demo by Pattie Maes at TED.com.

I can most certainly see myself using a device like this once they hit the mass market. Short of the heads up display, the iPhone serves many of the same purposes for me already. I’ve always been an information sponge and often incredulous towards people who settle for ignorance when answers and information are easily accessible. While there will always be unknowns in life, why settle for not-knowing when the answers are often right in front of us?