To Share or Not to Share

I deleted the Facebook app. Again. 

This on again/off again relationship with social media has been going on since I first signed up years ago. I once completely deleted my account for a while. This time, I decided to keep the account (it's used to sign in to so many different things) and stop scrolling the feed.

I don't like the way it makes me feel.

A study conducted in 2016 called "Use of multiple social media platforms and symptoms of depression and anxiety: A nationally-representative study among U.S. young adults" involved 1,700 people and found a threefold risk of depression and anxiety among people who used the most social media platforms. Reasons for this, they suggested, include cyber-bullying, having a distorted view of other people’s lives, and feeling like time spent on social media is a waste. -from BBC Future, "Is Social Media Bad for You? The Evidence and the Unkowns"

A neighbor posts "UNFRIEND ME IF YOU DON'T AGREE" followed by a very specific, very extreme political rant. Dozens of girls from my high school class post regular reminders of their constant and unwavering friendship for the twenty years since graduation. People argue and vent and complain.

I don't know what I want to see on social media. I just know it's none of the above.

We had a brief conversation about the topic in Sunday School a while back. I'm teaching a high school class that currently averages two students per week. It's usually the same two students. Our lesson asked a question about posting status updates when you're feeling bad.

"I don't like to see stuff like that," the two students agreed.

The lesson then asked about posting status updates when you're feeling really good.

"I don't like to see that either," they said. "We'll show you the kind of stuff we post."

Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya recently told an audience that he feels guilty for helping develop Facebook when he knew deep down that “something bad could happen.” He said he now believes Facebook and other social media services provide tools that are “ripping apart” the way humans interact in society.
He said the problems are being fueled by the basic need of people to seek ongoing feedback from others. Such feedback can actually lead to the pleasure chemical dopamine being released in the brain, he added. - from Learning English, "Facebook Admits Social Media Can Harm Mental Health"

One of the boys pulled out his phone and proceeded to show a video of the sink in the men's bathroom at Buffalo Wildwings. 

"The sink was acting funny," he explained.

This video was a closeup shot of the sink. The boys turned the water on and the pipes made a knocking sound which caused the water pressure to rise and fall. You could hear the boys laughing in the background.

My first thought was to make fun of them. (I'm not a very good Sunday School teacher.) Then I thought back to the last thing I'd posted on Facebook, a picture of a used Sizzex Big Shot my mom gave me. "Wild Saturday night with my new Sizzex," I wrote mostly as a way of thanking my mom for giving me a new toy.

Is that a more worthy post than the Buffalo Wildwings sink?

It's not.

The truly awful bit was that out of the few comments on my Sizzex post, one "friend" wrote, "that's nice, but Cricut is way better."

And though I'm sure she didn't mean it like that, I still spent too much brain power thinking about how rude she was taking a shot at my Sizzix. I happen to enjoy my Sizzix. She can take her Cricut and shove it!

So Facebook isn't for me. Giving it up has caused me to be less interested in Twitter. Overall, the experience has been akin to giving up chocolate. I missed it for the first few days, but now I'm quite comfortable with the decision. Mental health experts are beginning to issue warnings about social media consumption. They think people that interact online are happier than those of us that tend to read and lurk without sharing or commenting. That may be the case, but it's a good policy to be mindful of time spent online or off. If it's not helping, it has to go.

#IWSG Celebration

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Visit IWSG to sign up.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

The question for March: How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?

Here it is March. Winter is *mostly* kicked. Daffodils are emerging. Spring is on its way. That alone is reason to celebrate, but I’m pretty bad at taking the time to commemorate happenings in my life. For the past 13 years, I’ve “specialed” every major holiday and birthday. It’s what you do when you have a kid. We used to decorate and leave notes for leprechauns, so maybe it wasn’t just major holidays. All those traditions have left me pretty tapped out. So, the typical writing goal celebration consists of the following:

  1. Have dinner in a restaurant or eat something special at home or have dessert on an arbitrary weeknight
  2. Claim that the above consumption of food is happening in honor of some accomplishment
  3. Ignore the fact that #1 would have happened with or without said accomplishment
This three step process is also used when someone had a “rough” day and sometimes just because we’re hungry. 

So I could get better about celebrating. Perhaps this week’s #IWSG will give me some ideas for when I finish my next novel. 

We Need Commonsense Gun Laws

Two weeks ago, there was a mass school shooting in Florida. This one was different though, even from the first press conference. I watched the school superintendent tell the media that his community wanted to talk about gun laws. The time is now.

It was a total reversal from the national discourse that follows most shootings. We’re not taking a break for thoughts and prayers. We can think, pray, and act. We can march and contact elected officials. We can make a change.

One week ago, a child in my daughter’s seventh-grade class went to school and made some sort of threat against the whole school or certain students. Details are hard to come by, but the child’s threat involved a gun. Some say it’s supposed to happen March 6th. Our school superintendent sent a formal letter via email. It indicated that parents weren’t notified on the day the threat happened because police and school personnel were “investigating.” The letter sounded like the threat was thought to be a comment made in jest. It was suggested that we talk to our kids about inappropriate comments. The school promised to do what’s necessary to keep students safe. We’re supposed to contact local police if we have any questions.

A few months ago, we got a similar letter about a bullet found in the school parking lot. It hadn’t been fired so, you know, no big deal. Just somebody dropped their kid off at school and some ammo rolled out of the car. Let’s not make a thing out of it. Remember, the letter said, it is illegal to bring a gun onto school grounds.

Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence Gun Law State Scorecard (

These things are a big deal. There are too many guns in my community. There are too many in yours too. The kid with his strangely specific “joke” threat most definitely has guns in his neighborhood. Very likely, he has guns in his house.

Enough is enough. This is the moment when we need to enact commonsense safe gun laws. Our society can no longer tolerate the disaster and resulting constant fear caused by automatic and semi-automatic weapons in our community. We need to restrict the purchase of ammunition. We need to ban assault weapons.

Last weekend, after many days researching gun laws and the corresponding rates of violent gun deaths in various states, I passed by one of our local fire halls. The parking lot was overflowing with cars. The VFD sign said, “Gun Bash, Saturday, February 24.”

I don’t really know what kind of gun you can “win” at a gun bash. I just know that my little girl felt sick when she thought about going to school Monday because some kid said he was going to shoot people. And even just for that, I think it’s time to dream up a different fundraiser.

Check out these resources to join the crusade for safe schools and communities:

We can do better. Take action now. #neveragain

(Not Really) a Review of "Big Little Lies"

Really "good" books are elusive. Perhaps its because storytelling is so personal. A novel resonates with one person and strikes the next as complete drivel. Everyone gets something different from each story and the takeaways might be completely different than what the author intended. And so, I start a fair number of books that I don't finish. I browse reviews and suggestions. I choose carefully and hope against hope to avoid disappointment. Sometimes I go a full year without reading anything I'd recommend. The stories are too easy to put down and consequently take weeks to finish.

A couple of weeks back, friend gave me a copy of Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies.

"This is a really good book," she said. "I want it back when you're done. Take your time though."

My heart sank a little. I watched about two and a half episodes of the TV show. I might have kept going, but my husband, my evening television buddy, pulled the plug.

"These people are horrible and miserable," he said. 

A copy of Big Little Lies on loan from a friend. "Stephen King says this book is 'scary,'" my
daughter told me when she saw the cover. "Do you really think you should be reading it?"
I couldn't argue. There were some abrasive characters. We strive to avoid watching people argue for our entertainment. So my friend said, "the book is just like the TV show." Not a huge endorsement, I thought.

But I finally sort of forced myself to sit down and open this very comfortable paperback. I haven't read a physical book in ages and thought having to turn on a light and use a bookmark might be the end of me. I finished it in three days. Because it was that good.

Big Little Lies was riveting and funny. The story centers around domestic violence, but it somehow manages to treat the subject with appropriate levels of sincerity and levity. It's by far the best book I've read in a really long time. The characters were more likeable in print and the author didn't delve into graphic descriptions of abuse or explicit sex scenes. I still got the point. It even had a satisfying conclusion.

In the excitement of breaking a long streak of blah books, I went right to my local library (online, don't think I actually left the house!) and checked out another of Moriarty's books on my Kindle. It's just okay. I'm forced to realize once again that there are no guarantees, just vast shelves of books with virtually no way to predict if they're for me. Recommendations from Goodreads, Oprah's book club, and other people on Amazon have been hit and miss.

So I wait now for the next great read. One that captures my attention entirely so I can't even make my grocery list while I'm reading. One that keeps me up past bedtime. Have you read anything like that lately?