Sunday, January 27, 2013

Facebook—A Source Of Envy?

I read a recent article about two German universities that conducted a joint study of Facebook (a report titled Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat To Users' Life Satisfaction?) which produced some very interesting conclusions.

And what are those conclusions, you might be asking?

The study found that the world's largest social network with over one billion users has provided a huge platform for comparisons of all kinds resulting in rampant envy. The researchers found that one in three Facebook users felt more dissatisfied with their lives after browsing the site. And apparently those who normally lurk without contributing were affected the most.

Their negative Facebook experience with envy left them feeling lonely, frustrated, or angry resulting in some of them leaving Facebook or, at the least, drastically reducing their use. This conclusion contributed to speculation that Facebook might be reaching a saturation point in some markets.

Researchers found that vacation photos were the largest cause of resentment, comprising more than half of the envy incidents. Social interaction was the second largest cause of envy, resulting from how many birthday greetings a friend received or how many Likes or comments were attached to photos or postings.

They found that users in their mid 30s were most likely to envy family happiness. Men were shown to post more self-promotional items to let everyone know about their accomplishments while women were more apt to stress their good looks and social lives.

The researchers said their study respondents were German but they expected the findings to apply internationally since envy is a universal feeling.

Have any of you ever had a twinge of envy when seeing vacation photos posted, read about work accomplishments, or seen the lifestyle portrayed by those on your Facebook Friends list? Wishing you could travel to those places? Or afford one of those luxury cars? Live in those elaborate surroundings? Or, for those Friends that you don't really know personally, have you ever wondered if everything they post is true?

I can say, in all honesty, that I've been envious of other people's lives (sometimes material things and at other times personal interactions). But I have had people tell me they envy some of the things I've done and accomplished, both of my long term careers over the years and personally—things that I'm seeing from a different perspective. They are outside looking in while I'm inside the reality looking out.

So…to put it in writer's terminology—it's Point Of View!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fighting A Writer's Self-doubts

Motivation…and the kinds of doubts unique to writers.  I know exactly what you're up against to make it as a writer.  Writers work alone.  There's no one to give us attagirls or attaboys on the days when the words won't come.  There's no rule book to tell us if we have enough talent, if our writing is good enough, if we have what it takes to make it.  Worse than that, no matter how good we are we face repeated rejections of our efforts.  Rejection is a part of life, but it's still different for a writer.  When we submit a manuscript, we're sending in part of our heart and soul…our blood, sweat and tears.  When a story is rejected, it's like a kick in our heart, a direct and personal blow—and everyone is vulnerable to that kind of hurt.

That's intrinsic to the job of writing, but it's also easy to get sidetracked by the wrong things.  When we're working on our first book, we're afraid we'll never finish it.  Then we're afraid it's not good enough to be published.  Once we get it published, we're afraid that first sale is a fluke and we'll never publish a second one.  Along the way, maybe John Doe got a better review than we did.  Maybe Jane Doe got a higher advance than we did.  Then there's Suzy Smith who used to be such a close friend, and she just sold a hardback mainstream novel to a major New York print publisher.  We can't even talk to her—we feel left in the shade because we write ebook short stories.  And then there's Mary Jones who we feel is a much better writer than we are.  We'll never be that good and we know it.  And Polly Perfect…she just sold the first manuscript she wrote and we're on our fourth one after having the first three rejected by every publisher we submitted to.

Possibly if we didn't work alone we wouldn't be so susceptible to letting those kinds of doubts affect our confidence.  But we DO work alone. And that makes it extraordinarily easy to lose sight of what motivated us to start with.  There is a reason we started writing, and for most of us it's because we love doing it.  That's the strongest tool we have to beat the nasty dragon of doubt.  All those other things that can sabotage our confidence—some of them are real and some of them are doubts we lay on ourselves—are not strong enough to beat us if we keep what matters on the front line.

No flower has the chance to grow if it's getting choked out at the root level by weeds.  When we sit down to write, we have to get the irrelevant stuff out of the way.  We need to give ourselves the right—the freedom—to concentrate on one thing only.  Write the type of book we love.  The first magic we found…when we first discovered the wonder of characters coming alive for us, the joy of watching a story take life on a page…that magic is not something we use up.  It's not something we can lose, like a pair of socks.  It's not something we can forget like a memory we can't get back.  It's still there, the same place it's always been, inside us.

Confidence is like a suntan.  It comes and goes.  There's nothing we can buy in a bottle to eternally keep that tan.  There is no cure for the doubts we go through.  There's no magic elixir that will make us feel better after a rejection, or guarantee that we'll never suffer writers' block, or help us not worry during a rough stretch.  All I can tell you is that I've been there, as has every writer I know.  Doubts detract from what matters and trick us into focusing on things that don't matter.  The next time we sit down at the keyboard we just need to remember to keep what counts in front of us and not allow those doubts to sway us from the task at hand. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

January's Historical Events

As with every month, there are events of historical significance that occurred almost every day in January over the last few centuries. Some of these we celebrate today, others are merely noted in passing.

Here is a partial listing of some of those January events.

January 1   Paul Revere was born (1735)
January 1   Emma M. Nutt became the first woman telephone operator (1878)
January 1   The New Year's ball was first dropped at Times Square in New York City (1908)

January 3   Construction began on the Brooklyn Bridge (1870)

January 6   Samuel Morse demonstrated the telegraph (1838)

January 7   Astronomer Galileo discovered four of Jupiter's moons (1610)

January 9   The United Nations opened its headquarters in New York City

January 10 World's first underground passenger railway system opened in London, England (1863)

January 11 American League baseball adopted the designated hitter rule (1973)

January 12 The campy Batman television series debuted as a midseason replacement (1966)

January 14 The United States of America ratified a treaty with England ending the Revolutionary War (1784)
January 14 The Miami Dolphins football team defeated the Washington Redskins in Superbowl VII, becoming the first undefeated team in National Football League history (1973)
January 14 The animated television series The Simpsons debuted as a midseason replacement (1990)

January 15 The Pentagon opened (1943)
January 15 The television series Happy Days debuted as a midseason replacement (1974)

January 16 Operation Desert Storm began to oust Saddam Hussein's Iraqi forces from Kuwait (1991)

January 17 The United States Supreme Court ruled that taping on home VCRs did not violate copyright laws (1984)

January 20 Ronald Reagan became the oldest person sworn in as President of the United States at 69 years 349 days of age.

January 21 Edward Jenner introduced the smallpox vaccine (1799)
January 21 Science fiction writer George Orwell died (1950)

January 23 The deadliest earthquake in history struck Shansi, China, killing 830,000 people (1556)

January 24 Beer was first sold in cans (1935)

January 25 The first Winter Olympic games began in Chamonix, France (1924)
January 25 The first Emmy awards were given out (1949)

January 26 The dental drill was patented (1875)

January 28 U.S. space shuttle Challenger exploded 72 seconds after liftoff, killing the 7 crew members including school teacher Christa McAuliffe (1986)

January 31 The Confederacy appointed Robert E. Lee as their Commander-In-Chief for the Civil War.

This certainly isn't a complete list, but a cross-section of January events from history.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

January's Bizarre and Weird Holidays

Every month has its share of bizarre and weird holidays, some official and others that won't get you a paid day off at work.  And it's those unofficial holidays that are the most fun.

January offers a month long celebration for the following:  National Bath Safety Month, National Blood Donor Month, National Braille Literacy Month, National Hobby Month, Hot Tea Month, National Oatmeal Month and National Soup Month.

And there is a week long celebration for Letter Writing Week that occurs the second week of January.

So…let's move on to the daily holidays of dubious origin.

January 1   New Year's Day starts out the year with parades and football games

January 2   Run Up The Flagpole And See If Anyone Salutes Day

January 3   Festival of Sleep Day
January 3   Fruitcake Toss Day: This is your opportunity to throw away the old fruitcakes from years gone past.  Caution—do not toss the fruitcake at anyone.  This weighty steel-like mass of sugar, flour and fruits could truly insure someone if they were hit by it.
January 3   Humiliation Day

January 4   Trivia Day: Trivia Day is a fun day.  It's an opportunity to share those little tidbits of knowledge.  No matter how big or how small, dazzle your friends and family with your knowledge.

January 5   National Bird Day

January 6   Bean Day
January 6   Cuddle Up Day

January 7   Old Rock Day

January 8   Bubble Bath Day
January 8   Male Watcher's Day:  This is the day for all the ladies out there to watch the guys.  You can perform your male watching anywhere that suits your fancy, such as the following—at work where tight shirts cover bulging muscles, at a singles bar or sports bar, at the mall (your turn to do the leering at a place where the guys usually do it), whether discreetly or blatantly it's the day for it.

January 9   Play God Day

January 10 Houseplant Appreciation Day
January 10 Peculiar People Day:  This is the day to look for the good in your peculiar friends or it's the day to be honored and appreciated if you are the one who is peculiar.

January 11 Step In A Puddle And Splash Your Friend's Day

January 12 Feast Of Fabulous Wild Men Day:  If you're a fabulous wild man this is your day to be ogled by women and if you're a woman this is your day to ogle all those fabulous wild men…a definite link to January 8 Male Watcher's Day.

January 13 International Skeptics Day
January 13 Make Your Dreams Come True Day:  Dreams don't usually come true on their own, so today is the time to do something about it.

January 14 Dress Up Your Pet Day

January 15 National Hat Day

January 16 National Nothing Day

January 17 Ditch New Year's Resolutions Day:  There's a day to make resolutions and a day to ditch them.  If you're still keeping some of those resolutions, you're doing better than most of us.

January 18 Thesaurus Day
January 18 Winnie The Pooh Day (the birthday of author A.A. Milne)

January 19 National Popcorn Day

January 20 National Buttercrunch Day
January 20 National Penguin Awareness Day

January 21 National Hugging Day
January 21 Squirrel Appreciation Day

January 22 National Blonde Brownie Day

January 23 National Pie Day
January 23 National Handwriting Day
January 23 Measure Your Feet Day:  The first question is, of course, why?  Oh, well…celebrate the day and enjoy it.

January 24 Beer Can Appreciation Day
January 24 Compliment Day

January 25 Opposite Day

January 26 Spouse's Day

January 27 Chocolate Cake Day
January 27 Punch The Clock Day

January 28 Fun At Work Day
January 28 National Kazoo Day:  Kazoo Day celebrates the joy of this musical instrument.  They're easy to play and can be played solo or in groups.

January 29 National Puzzle Day
January 29 National Cornchip Day

January 30 National Inane Answering Machine Day

January 31 Backward Day
January 31 Inspire Your Heart With Art Day

And that's January's offering of the bizarre and weird when it comes to celebrations.