None for me, thanks

A woman in my office today was making chit-chat during lunch. “What do you do here, how old are you, are you married, do you want to be, do you want kids?” She damn-near fell off the chair when I decidedly told her, “No, I don’t want children. I don’t like them.”

“Well, why not?” she asked, as if my gender means I am predisposed to the motherhood gene. I gathered my thoughts for a moment and told her “I’m just not sure that a future filled with diapers, late nights, PTA meetings, scraped knees, children’s homework, and play dates really appeal to me.” She promptly turned back to her iced tea and salad.

Does being a woman automatically make me a mother? I’m already a mother to a 2-year-old Maine Coon cat. Isn’t that enough? Later on, I started thinking about what might happen if my boyfriend and I do get our act together and settle down. I don’t know that I have the wife gene either. What if settling isn’t actually what I want? What if that’s just the lie I have been telling myself because it’s expected of me?

Even if the ring is never on the table, how do you know when you’re ready to trade in girlfriend for wife and mother?

 

Social Media Brand Management: Public or Private?

Many of us who use social media are hesitant to create an account with public access. It is very common to use the “Request Access Only” privacy settings, whether this is on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or even here on WordPress. This is because protecting your brand is of the utmost importance in this never-ending age of the internet footprint. You might not consider yourself as a brand, but anyone who has applied to college, internships, jobs, etc, should be hyper-aware of who you share your information with, what you are putting out into the world, and considering how it could be perceived by future educators, employers, or even a future a spouse.

When I post things online, sure – I do not always make the best judgment calls when voicing a strongly worded opinion or when I tweet angrily at the MTA. More often than not, I use more swear words than a sailor. At this point, my past posts are what they are and I cannot change them, rather I make them a part of my life journey on the internet. This is why taking control of the information, its viewers, and what you follow is so so important!

1.  Setting up your privacy

I have different settings across the many platforms that I utilize as a modern-age twenty-something. Facebook and Instagram are my more secured profiles. You must request access to be my friend before viewing any section of my profile. This feature allows me to select exactly who has the full access pass to my online life. I don’t just hand out this pass to anyone. There is a lot of digging that goes on before I press the “Accept” button, and even then I can still go back and “Un-friend” or “Un-follow” if I see something I am not sure I want to be associated with.

My Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and WordPress are all a part of the more public online version of myself. Some days, my Twitter follows are flooded with the weirdest of accounts, but I make sure to review these thoroughly in efforts to protect who and what my brand is associated with. For example, there seems to be an inundation of porn-based Twitter accounts lately. This week alone, I have seen 15-20 requests from accounts like this. There is no reason they follow me other than to gain more followers. As soon as I see one of these accounts has followed my account I do two things: Block and Report.

I block and report these accounts for a few reasons. First, because I really do not want them looking at my account. Who knows who this person is? Normally, the name is a bunch of nonsense, the profile is full of links to porn sites, and the pictures are of breasts, vaginas, and butts. I don’t want my timeline full of that. The second reason is that I fear that these accounts could be hackers attempting to gain access to my personal information. Finally, I report these accounts because sexually explicit accounts such as these should not be on Twitter. I feel like Twitter accounts with erotic content need to have some substance to them or a real purpose other than spamming users with pictures of pussy.

2. Managing your followers and who you follow

It is really important to closely monitor some of the people who try to engage with you on social media. I make it my business to follow accounts and accept requests from users that reflect my values as a person in society and the working world. If you are a conservative Catholic with Pro-Life values, you are probably not going to want to follow Southern New England Planned Parenthood or any of the women’s pro-choice movement accounts. However, you might follow and friend other folks online who believe in the same things you do as a way of building your own personal network and breeding a safe online environment for yourself.

Personally, I choose to avoid most accounts that conflict with my liberal, left-wing, pro-choice, BLM, Clinton supporting beliefs. I also try to follow as many accounts that have to do with my interests in the publishing industry, creative writing, and becoming a published author. When a new account follows me or requests to follow me, the first thing I do is check to see what content is viewable to me. If I can see pictures they have posted or articles they share, then I click through and see if their values align with mine. As long as there is nothing hateful, discriminatory, or Donald Trump-related, then I will often allow this account to follow mine. I do not always follow back, but I will, 99% of the time, allow you to view my account.

Being pickier when accepting follower requests gives you the power over your content. You would not want some Muslim-hate group to take an article you wrote about inclusivity, twist the words around, and use your name in something awful. As a life rule, I do not give access to anyone whom I have no association with if they make crude jokes about women or post pictures or articles about guns/gun violence.

Part of managing who you follow, in a less extreme way, is just thinking before friending all of your co-workers or associates. Do you manage people at work? Maybe think before friending them and posting pictures of your boozy Christmas parties or that kegger that you went to last week. What is the company culture? What is your position within the company? If you work in customer service, perhaps try not to bash your customers on your page because you never know who will find you and see it, even with privacy settings.

3. Controlling the information

The final piece of online brand management is just always remaining true to yourself. Post the things that you see value in and speak from the heart. Share articles that have accurate information, are from reliable sources, and will actually contribute to the conversation. Always write eloquently, check spelling and grammar, and check your facts. When I write anything, I use Grammarly. You can download it as an extension on your browser and it will underline anything that needs a correction. It is an incredibly handy little tool when you are writing online! The next time you are just sitting and playing around on your laptop, go to incognito mode on Google Chrome and just search your name. See what comes up and look at it through someone else’s eyes. Have a friend or family member do this as well as a way of checking yourself. It is always better to monitor your online image from the start rather than have a stranger approach you and dredge up content that might be embarrassing or better-off-buried.

Brand management is not something I talk about professionally, but my hope is that others can use my suggestions and lessons as a way of better monitoring their online presence.

Walking with my head toward the sky

When you walk through the streets of Manhattan, do you ever notice the people around you? Do we ever take the time to lift our heads and our noses up from our phones and just really see the people or the buildings?

I will admit that on days when I am stressed out or feeling insecure, I will walk with my eyes glued to the screen of my phone, but I do my best to keep foot traffic flowing and avoid bumping into strangers. No one is perfect.

During my brief walk from Bryant Park on 42nd to the Fred E. French Building on 45th, I noticed that everyone walking next to or in front of me was staring down at the screen of their cell phone or behind the viewfinder of a camera. A young girl was moving at such a pace that she tripped into a woman because she never looked up – not once. She never thought to take her eyes off the screen and stop texting to check to see if someone was in front of her.

Texting while walking really grinds my gears. I cannot stand being stuck behind someone who is moving at a snails pace because she has her nose in her phone. In this digital age, it is so important that you look up and take in the sights once in a while. Not only is it rude, but it is actually dangerous! The New York Times, the Washington Post, Fortune Magazine, USA Today... the list goes on. These major journalistic outlets have studied this exact topic and have shown just how dangerous this nasty habit is. Take a look at this video:

NYT Texting & Walking

In Gait & Posture, Eric Lambert found that texting while walking produces navigational errors and that gait velocity is reduced when using a cell phone to text or talk. (2012) When you are looking down, you are limiting what can be seen around your person. You develop multiple blind spots, whereas there would only be one if you walked with your head up and watching for danger. Basically, walking and texting is like you are wearing a blindfold and you are prone to serious injuries. According to the NSC (National Safety Council), between 2000 and 2011, walking while using your cell phone accounted for 11,100 injuries.

There is also the courtesy factor.

It is completely inconsiderate of texters to come to a complete stop in the middle of a busy NYC sidewalk, staircase, or entry-way. Blocking foot traffic in Manhattan is a dangerous all by itself, but then you factor in that people are not even noticing that bodies are moving towards them!

What’s the considerate or proper technique you may ask. Well, you should really pull over to the side of the sidewalk, complete your text, Google searches or whatever you need to look down and view and then proceed down the street. Practicing pedestrian etiquette will allow for others to continue walking without obstruction and will lower pedestrian accident rates.

“Petextrian” accidents have risen to more than 3.5 percent, according to a report by the GHSA (Governors Highway Safety Association). Teenagers make up more than 40% of these accidents because they cross streets while texting and cannot detect the oncoming dangers while being distracted by mobile devices. Of course, driving while distracted or impaired will ALWAYS be the number one cause for accidents, texting while walking is a menace to pedestrians just trying to make it to the end of the next block.

Please, next time you are out, do me a favor – pick your head up and notice the world around you. Notice the world outside of the cell phone!

When I play Grand Theft Auto…

When I play Grand Theft Auto, I remember three things:

  1. Remain calm; it’s only a game
  2. No, the drug dealers will not be able to come and find your whole family for blowing up their warehouses
  3. Try to avoid, unnecessarily, killing civilians…they did not do anything wrong, and unless it is part of a level requirement (when would that happen?), then leave them alone.

I have been playing games inside the Grand Theft Auto series, since 2007 (Freshman year of high school). I won the old, original computer games in a raffle. Then, for the first and only God-Daughter’s Day, I was given the Grand Theft Auto 3-pack (GTA 3, GTA: Vice City, GTA: San Andreas). I have yet to beat Vice City and San Andreas, but my cousin and I play GTA 3 all the time. I remember the first time I ever watched someone play Grand Theft Auto. It was the summer right before my uncle’s wedding. We were in my grandmother’s basement; he turned the game on, and I was promptly asked to leave the basement. I remember thinking, “What is so bad about these video games? I watch television and movies…so, why can I not watch them play this game?”

I screamed at my mother…I remember. I was 9 years old, at the time. Children have no business seeing that level of violence and debauchery.

The game is marked MA (Mature Audiences), but how do we know when exactly we are a mature enough audience? I know some older men and women who still do not enjoy seeing movies with violence or sexual content. Are they not mature? Does maturity mean that we have developed the thick skin you need to play these games? Does it say we are numb to the violence of Grand Theft Auto? Are we numb to the fact that these men are violent gangsters that run around stealing cars, drugs, money, and shooting people, at the request of others?

The Grand Theft Auto franchise has been blamed for many mass shootings, in the past. Now…not so much, which is good, because as violently disturbing as these games are, it is not Rockstars fault that the Columbine boys became obsessed with the game. Rockstar did not set out to develop a game that would awaken a mighty beast inside individuals. Anger, rage, violence…those things build inside you after a long list of incidents. The game does not create the darkness inside someone, but I do wonder if maybe it opens the gate to absolute darkness. That’s crazy…right?

Take me, for example. I am a perfectly reasonable, non-violent 22-year-old college graduate who just plays this game because it is just that…a game. It is meant to be entertaining – a way for me to pass the time.

When I play the game itself, I play music (Justin Bieber’s new album, Purpose is this weeks playlist). The music helps. 99% of the time, when I play Grand Theft Auto, the death and mayhem start to get to me. I begin to think to myself, “Why am I killing this person?”

Is it wrong to listen to music like Justin Bieber’s, while playing a game like Grand Theft Auto IV? I mean, surely he must play it himself. He is 21 years old, but – what if he is like the older folks I know that avoid violence and sex in media? I doubt it, but then again, I do not really know Justin Bieber, do I? Not even that, but kids listen to his music. So is listening to Purpose while holding a virtual sniper rifle, while over-seeing a drug deal, a dirty thing? Does it taint the innocence of the music?

So how do we know when we are mature enough for this game? What is the correct age at which we can allow our kids to be in the same room as this game? Is it based on personal preferences, of the kids, or the parents? Do we just follow the game rating association and at 17 we say, “Okay. You’re old enough. Your choice.” When does the flip switch and we say “Let’s go buy Grand Theft Auto today”?

Fifteen minutes and it is 3 a.m.

My poor boy is sick. I feel just awful that I am all the way in New York, when I am clearly needed in Connecticut. Poor Zachary. I really hope that he gets well soon because nothing is worse than being sick, except for being sick in the summer.

The reason I am writing is because as my insomniac brain struggles to fight its arch nemesis “Sleep”. I am sitting, on my bed, writing small lines of wanna-be poetry, in my head.

Here goes everything:

“Summer”

The window sweats as it rests its weary body

in the sauna called Earth.

The water bottle nervously wipes its brow

as a wet ring grows underneath it.

Just wait until the A.C. gets turned on,

then it will be comfortable.

Please, please, please send me comments and opinions about that piece. As a writer, I must welcome criticisms, of all shapes and sizes, with open arms. And, I do. Please, it can only help me, in the long run.