Strengthening Community Relationships in Hard Times

Community relationships pose challenges at even the best of times. I was excited to read recently that California Governor Jerry Brown has declared California’s drought state over for now. Within days of reading that article, I read that Central Florida’s wildfires are being exacerbated by dry conditions. While Florida’s situation is different from California’s, it still occurred to me that the “for now” part of California’s governor’s declaration is something we should all remember. Crises can occur at any time, and as we learned in Tallahassee last year during Hurricane Hermine, community relationships do better in crisis with a plan.

I am re-sharing a post I wrote in 2015, inspired by my horror at the #DroughtShaming I learned about among California neighbors. It’s an important reminder that community relationships are fragile and it is in our ability to nurture them.

Community Relationships

PR Lessons from DroughtShaming

I have a confession to make.

I used to be an anonymous “PoorlyProofed” contributor on Twitter.

Eventually, I started feeling guilty for anonymously calling people out.

I hate typos as much as the next person, but I started to feel that the negativity behind my tweets was weighing me down.

(It doesn’t stop at PoorlyProofed, admittedly. I even blogged about someone who misspelled “angel” on a luminaria MEMORIALIZING THEIR LOVED ONE WHO DIED OF CANCER.)

But it’s a new day, a new year, and perhaps I have evolved.

I have evolved to the point that I have reached a critical mass in my tolerance for anonymous finger-pointing on Twitter.

DroughtShaming

When I was listening to a recent radio story about DroughtShaming, I couldn’t help but feel that this effort was not going to end well.

The drought conditions in California, and the civic actions that have been taken to try to mitigate the effects of the drought, have resulted in the birth of the DroughtShaming hashtag (#droughtshaming).

There’s even an app.

The citizen reporter stands at the offending area, and GPS knows where they are, so the report already includes the address along with the alleged infraction.

Most people will agree that measures need to be taken to deal with the drought conditions in California.

When I see the glee with which some people use DroughtShaming, though, I have to wonder if their motives are altruistic.

I mean, what are the homeowners’ association meetings going to be like for these neighbors in the future?

Distrust Does Not Build Community Relationships

My husband and I were on the receiving end of a summons three years ago for “high grass.”

We deserved the summons. I won’t argue that. 

Our lawnmower had broken, my husband was out of a job, and we did not have the money to fix the lawnmower.

Because the report was made anonymously, there was no way of knowing who had filed it.

I kept wishing whoever had filed the report had offered to let us use their lawnmower instead.

It wasn’t that we WANTED our yard to be an eyesore.

Admittedly, my feelings probably would have been hurt if I had been approached directly by a neighbor, even if they were offering a lawnmower, but after the summons incident, I have always been asking myself  “was it YOU?” when interacting with my neighbors.

Distrust among neighbors does not build a caring community.

Positively Solve Problems

As communicators, we can play a role in more positively solving problems such as the drought-measure compliance.

  1. Connecting: One of the first pieces of strategy has to be to foster a “we’re all in this together” vibe. California is not going to be in drought conditions forever. The day will come when it will not be news that someone is watering their lawn. We need to help people realize a mutual goal of creating a pleasant community is bigger than the issue of sprinklers.
  2. Acknowledge the Issue: I don’t mean to flit around rejoicing that drought is front and center as a problem. Some events are inevitable in the life of a community. If it wasn’t drought, maybe it would be a proliferation of invasive plants, too much rain, or a strike by municipal workers such as the waste management staff. Be clear that drought is a true issue. Don’t gloss over it.
  3. Encouraging Constructive Action: Getting your neighbors fined or using civic resources to write up tickets has little probability of bringing rain down from the sky or of preserving what little water you do have. As a community, you may be at half time of your water management game, but you can still win if you have the right plays.

How can we, as communicators, help keep the civility reservoir full rather than drain it dry?

This blog post was originally published at Spin Sucks as PR Lessons from DroughtShaming.

Community Relationships

Currently Happening In My Facebook World

I often laughingly tell people that Facebook highlights have become a steady stream of “isn’t my new grandchild beautiful?” (they always are) and “so sorry to announce that Fluffly has crossed the rainbow bridge” (always sad). We Facebook users are older and grayer than many other social media channels, and it frequently shows.

Prompted by Mama Kat, though, a look at six hot topics in my Facebook world proves there’s more to my Facebook family than birth announcements and goodbyes to beloved pets.

Our Embattled Health Care

While I recognize that the Affordable Care Act is flawed, I also firmly believe The American Health Care Act was in no way a suitable replacement.

Having worked for Florida Healthy Kids for almost 20 years, I became a diehard believer in the power of preventive care, in the potential that can be unlocked if someone thinks out of the box and people with the patience to slog through the mind-numbing details of crafting federal policy and budgets follow up.

This is one of the graphics I received via my fellow advocates at I Stand with Planned Parenthood yesterday and posted to my wall prior to the failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act:

Facebook Highlights

#StandWithPP is (quoting from them): “A group of social media influencers across platforms – from Twitter to YouTube to blogs – saying together #StandWithPP to ensure that women have access to health care services that range from cancer screenings to birth control.” To join, complete this form.

The Emergence of Female Political Candidates, Especially at the Local Level

When I pulled up the Emerge America site while looking for a stat to use about the number of women entering the political arena (especially local) in the wake of the presidential election, I wanted to act on every single action point of the #WhySheRuns effort to increase the number of women running for office (with the exception of running myself), such as sharing the graphic below immediately.

Facebook Highlights

My belief in the power of women to make a difference locally, at the state level, and nationally (as well as internationally) drove me to donate to my friend Nicolette’s campaign for a seat on the Orange County Commission.

While there are traditional still photos of Nicolette and her awesome family on her campaign Facebook page, this picture, to me, best represents what women can do these days to make a difference: talk to people. Explain how to be a part of government. Overcome fears, objections, inertia. Talk. To people.

Facebook Highlights

Nicolette hosts an advocacy training for the Lake Nona Democrats.

If Our Kids Become Our Parents

Alexandra Samuel posted this to Facebook the other day.

If you knew your kids were actually time travelers who will eventually go back in time and become your parents, how would that change your parenting?

Aaaaaaaaaand I freaked out. I have always said that I imagine I overcompensated in my parenting for the issues that I took to the therapist’s couch, and I imagine that overcompensation in itself will give my kids plenty of material for their own therapeutic relationships.

It’s probably unfair to my kids to delve too deeply into this. For starters, I suspect Tenley would create a much more orderly, clean, environment in which I as a daughter would wear  more monograms and less “wow! doesn’t this quirky piece from Goodwill make you feel unique?” items. With Wayne Kevin as a parent, no one would get all worked up about the thousand and one administrative details of life; we would be too glued to YouTube.

Why Neal’s Mom Should Pay $120 For Great Tennis Shoes

My Facebook friend Neil Kramer asked Facebook Nation for help convincing his mom to indulge in proper footwear:

Please tell my mother that she deserves $120 New Balance sneakers if they are good for her feet.

Sounds like Neil’s mom is has a vein of the same self-sacrificing, frugal constitution that my parents have. $120 is, sadly, run of the mill for proper walking shoes these days. Honestly, if I had $120 I would have shipped them to her the minute I saw the post. I suspect the issue isn’t having the $120 to spend but her aversion to spending it “gasp!” ON SHOES.

Just do it, Neil’s Mom. I am sure you deserve it. As I told Neil, go to RoadrunnerSports.Com, and get a special deal on day one of visiting the website ($25 off a $75 or more order) as well as the option of their 90-day return policy, where you can return shoes no matter how worn within 90 days if they don’t work out (for credit toward another pair of shoes). We have tested this feature out and they mean it!

Editor’s Note: Neil’s mom got shoes! She got Nikes instead of New Balance but all reports say she is pleased with her purchase. In other news, Neil has now gone down the podiatry rabbit hole and “plantar fasciitis” is in his vocabulary (as well as words like “pronation“). He may never be the same! 

Why Everything About Everything Bagels is Awesome

In addition to his plea for help convincing his mom to take care of her feet, Neil posted this (titled “remains of everything bagel”):

Facebook Highlights

Which brought out ALL the “everything bagel” lovers on Facebook (me included). In addition to the wonders of the everything bagel (they’re best eaten in one of the five boroughs, to be specific, but those of us not currently in NYC have to do the best we can), we discussed:

And guess what I had for breakfast today?

Disney

Since I wrote about Disney last Sunday, am still coming down from the high of spending a few days there last week, have lots of young friends doing the Disney College Program, and in general have many friends going to Disney right now (maybe spring break has something to do with it), there’s a lot of Disney on my Facebook feed and I’m okay with that!

Facebook Highlights

How about you? How is Facebook edifying (or annoying) you lately?

Facebook Highlights

Introducing the Modern Blogging Masterclass With a #Giveaway!

Blogging Education

Do you sometimes feel like this guy when trying to achieve your social media goals? Your vision is obscured and you aren’t even sure where to aim.

I know I do!

I have been blogging since 2009, and still have so much to learn.

It was one thing when it was just me, blogging to flex my writing muscle, but now blogging is one of my major responsibilities at the Lead Change Group (LCG). Other people are depending on me to handle their content.

Weaving Influence, which owns LCG, is counting on me to maximize the ability of each post to reach a broad audience, to achieve SEO goals, and to expand our digital footprint.

More importantly than a large audience is the fact that these posts reach the right audience, people who will remain part of our community for longer than the five minutes they took to peruse one post.

Last year, I participated in a piloted online course that changed the way I approach blogging. The course equipped me to improve the LCG blog from a search perspective, and it’s positioning me to prove the work I’m doing is driving real results.

That course was The Modern Blogging MasterclassI’m excited to be among the first to tell you that it’s now available to the public (but the cart closes on September 15).

I’ll let the experts at Spin Sucks give you all of the information about it, but I can tell you this: You don’t want to miss it. It will give you a huge advantage over your competitors and it will help you plan your entire communications program for 2017.

Click here to check it out…you won’t regret it!

With the Modern Blogging Masterclass, your blindfold will be HISTORY and you will be much more likely to hit your target!

Blogging Education

To encourage people to learn more about the Modern Blogging Masterclass, I gave away an Amazon Giftcard to one of the people who helped me spread the word! Congratulations to that Phase One winner, Jenny S.

TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE LEARNS ABOUT THIS INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY BEFORE IT CLOSES ON SEPTEMBER 15, I HAVE ADDED A PHASE TWO TO THE GIVEAWAY.

To be entered into a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card, please visit this link, then leave a comment below telling me something you learned about the Modern Blogging Masterclass.

Please also feel free to tweet by clicking here. Leave the url of your tweet in the comments for an additional entry.

Update: Congrats to Sara L. for winning the gift card!

NOTE: I am a Modern Blogging Masterclass affiliate. Because I am a former student, I have the opportunity to win a prize if you sign up.

Photo Credit for Blindfolded Archer: Sira Anamwong, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Credit for Dartboard: Pixabay

Facebook and Politics: Is There Anything to Like?

Social Media Politics

This week, Kat of Mama’s Losin’ It encouraged us to write to this prompt: 10 things you have learned about politics from Facebook.

ONE: Zero Minds have Ever Been Changed Because of a Facebook Share

Social Media Politics

There have been many opinions and information pieces shared on Facebook which did change my mind or at least inform me. I’ve learned about the intensely stressful emotional, financial, and physical price of invisible illnesses. I’ve learned about laudable causes to support, inspirational athletes to encourage, great recipes. I’ve read nothing that, by itself, reversed how I felt about an issue or candidate (especially a Presidential candidate).

TWO: Private Messaging Has the Potential to Change My Mind And Is Appreciated

Our primary is August 30 (I voted early (hooray!)). A few days ago, a good friend sent me a private message in which she shared her support of a candidate for a local race and why she felt that way. I am sure it was cut and pasted; it wasn’t composed exclusively for me. However, since she took the time to choose me rather than throwing the message out to the universe and hoping it would stick, I did take notice and thank her, sincerely.

THREE: It Matters When Candidates Interact Directly

I know this is a bit of a hypothetical. I don’t expect national or statewide candidates to interact directly. Again, staying with the “wouldn’t it be nice,” when I think about how much I love it when authors interact with me directly via social media, it strikes me how much it would matter if a candidate responded directly to me on social media.

FOUR: You Learn A Lot About Each Other

Have you ever seen a friend post their support for a candidate on social media and been shocked because their post seemed so incongruous with what you know about them? Me too. My choice in that situation is typically to file that piece of knowledge away rather than fire a volley across the tennis court of social media discourse (See Number One).

FIVE: Facebook Live Gives Us Access We Wouldn’t Otherwise Have

I have found it useful that the Tallahassee Democrat has provided access to their candidate forums via Facebook Live. Doing so makes it more possible for potential voters who can’t attend a rally or forum in person to hear where the candidates stand on various issues.

Six: Your “Friend” Count Is Likely to Fluctuate In Correlation to Your Politics

I don’t post much political material on Facebook. The main candidate I post frequently about is someone I can’t even vote for (DeeDee Rasmussen, candidate for School Board District 4). Otherwise, Rule Number 1 frequently compels me not to even waste the keystrokes. This may be keeping my friend count on an even keel, but I know Facebook friendships have been lost and gained this election season.

SEVEN: Every Vote Matters

I suppose this isn’t exactly a lesson learned from Facebook, but it is one that is reinforced. I may disagree with you, I may scroll past your diatribe, I may “like” your post because I agree. I may privately shake my head and wonder how you can believe that individual will make America great again or I may privately rejoice that you, like me, are #WithHer. What I will NOT do is be sad that you plan to vote. It’s so fundamental. In the most divisive of times I will still give you a ride to the poll or do what it takes to get you there. People in some countries have given their lives for the same privilege.

Eight: There ARE Some Trustworthy Experts Out There, And Facebook Gives You Access to Them

Case in point: Steve Schale. Although I usually pick him up on Facebook, you can also find him on Twitter here.

Second example: Nicholas Kristof.  One reader’s sentiment echoed mine: Thank God for your passionate journalism. Sometimes I don’t agree with you but I always respect you. Never stop doing what you do. It SO matters.

If I could think of others, I would share them. But I can’t. That’s how rare it is to find a trustworthy political expert on Facebook.

Nine: Facebook is Woefully Inadequate as a Source of Political Information

Earlier this month, I had an opportunity to be a part of a candidates’ forum at WFSU sponsored by the League of Women Voters. I am happy I got to hear so many candidates, even if they each only had two minutes. I saw such a broad array of this county’s candidates. Even the ones I could not vote for or disagreed with I gained a new respect for. Even if I had watched something like that on Facebook Live, nothing would have equaled the electricity in the room or the very American sensation of knowing that everyone who had qualified to run and accepted the invitation was getting an opportunity to put themselves out there.

Ten: Personal Action on Issues Matters

A few weeks ago, I learned from a Facebook (and real life) friend of a September opportunity that she was not going to be able to pursue, that might interest me. I quickly researched the opportunity, applied, and was accepted to be part of the Moms Rising contingent at We Won’t Wait 2016, a gathering where 1,000 community leaders and organizers from around the country will elevate the voices of women of color and low-income women and call for a comprehensive women’s economic agenda that will advance the lives of working women and families across the country.

I’m so excited to hear these women’s stories and be a part of making our nation better and more equitable for working women and families.

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Given Rule #1 (above), you can bet I’ll be sharing about what I learn other places in addition to Facebook!

How about you? Has your mind ever been changed about something political by a Facebook post?

Social Media Politics

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Talking About Children on Social Media

Sometimes, I find it impossible to make my point in a succession of 140-character tweets. This recent tweet about an article titled Why I Decided to Stop Writing About My Children

…led to an exchange that got me thinking and also resulted in me feeling like I hadn’t really articulated my thoughts on the subject thoroughly.

Social Media Choices

The exchange led to two thoughts:

  1. Honestly, my first impulse was a knee-jerk reaction to the term “mommy blogger” rather than an urge to delve into the article the tweet linked to. I don’t love the term. Or, to be specific I don’t love the term as it applies to me. I’ve always incorporated MANY topics into my blog in addition to the fact that I’m a parent. I enjoy blogging in leadership and public relations circles, and I recoiled the first time a “leadership blogger” acquaintance referred to me as a “mommy blogger.” Had he NOT READ my blogs about customer service, supervision, and corporate culture?
  2. A desire to dig a bit deeper into the topics the article addressed.

NOTE: Christine wrote a post related to this topic on August 15. Click here to read it.

Blogging About Our Children

I am glad I didn’t start blogging when my kids were little. 

I published my first-ever blog post on May 17, 2008. It was a whopping four sentences long and did not contain any images but it did contain a reference to my son, who was 8 at the time. On June 28, 2009, I declared my intention to blog weekly (and I have, missing maybe five weeks in the seven years between now and then). At first, I intended for every blog to be about running (although the blog declaring my intention to post weekly contained a picture of my son too!).

As time progressed, I branched out from running. In the 700+ posts I’ve published since then, I’ve discussed my sock drawer, people and companies that provide incredible customer service, running (in prison and elsewhere), a convenience store bathroom, causes I love such as Shot at Life, and many other topics.

am glad I didn’t start blogging until my kids were 7 and 10. I am pretty sure I would have been an oversharer if I had been blogging through my pregnancies and childbirth, as well as my children’s early years. I have read quite a few blogs where I thought “holy crap this blogger is sharing a LOT of personal info” and “I’m not sure that kid is going to be glad his mom shared that picture of him at eighteen months wearing his sister’s tutu on his head and his superhero underoos on his butt when he is 18 years old.” But that’s up to that blogger, and I can always move on and read something else.

Does an alias name protect a blogger’s children?

Some bloggers use aliases to protect their children’s identities. They may call “Susan” a name like “Ann” or they may call “Susan” an amusing moniker like “Doodlebug.” Frankly, one of the reasons I don’t do that is I could not pull it off consistently. It’s a lot of work to a) remember and b) implement.

My incredible friend Jess (Diary of a Mom) explained her rationale for using alternate names here, to give you one parent’s thoughts.

One of my earliest lessons.

Back in 2009, I thought it was HILARIOUS when I tagged my son’s stuffed animal in a picture. I just happened to show him, and he (at 10 years old) didn’t laugh – he immediately burst into tears. This incident was one of my first lessons in “what you find hilarious as a blogger, something you think your readers/Facebook friends will laugh at, will embarrass your child.” Hmmm.

Here’s what I wrote after that incident:

If I had not offhandedly mentioned to Wayne the “tagging,” he never would have known. However, it was something I did for me and not at all for him. I learned a lesson that a certain set of parents of 8 children [I was referring to Jon & Kate + 8] is completely missing right now (in my opinion): our children have to be able to trust that we as parents will think before taking liberties with their images, identities, and hearts. I may have 572 friends on Facebook who would get a chuckle out of something like this, but I only have two children counting on me to give them an emotional safe haven.

Nothing is Temporary on the Internet

I mean, nothing is temporary on the internet (even Snapchat). On the one hand, my blogs create a better “virtual baby book” than the paper baby books I’ve managed cobble together for my two children. On the other hand, what on earth is going to pop up 20/30/40 years from now when they google themselves?

So many opinions

I asked the smartest, savviest people I know (my friends!) their thoughts on the NYT article. Here are a few:

I wonder what it will be like for her [referring to her daughter] to read something at 10, 11, 12, 13. She’s very sensitive so I try to be mindful. But I think it’s a matter of personal choice and temperament. – Sili of @mymamihood

I think that we have a tendency to overshare on social media. When it comes to your own life, that’s up to you as an adult to decide if your trials, tribulations, joys and secrets should be shared with the world. Writing about your children – especially about topics they might find embarrassing – should be tread on lightly. – Kim F.

This really speaks to me. I had a blog a few years ago about parenting my son with autism. I stopped writing that particular blog for the same reason this writer discusses: He is a person and deserves his privacy. Both my kids still find their way into my work, but now they are carefully disguised as some kind of talking animal in a children’s play or the lyrics to a song. – Amanda B. of Making Light Productions

I share my failures in mothering because blogging is a virtual water-cooler of sorts.  I reveal *my downfalls* not her shortcomings. – Carla Birnberg of Unapologetically Myself (read her full post on the topic here)

I am very careful to not over share on social media. I feel strongly that it is their story to tell. – LeeAnn K.

I have been burned by over sharing in real life and online. I say things that are not ugly but brutally honest. That’s the way I was raised, but I always thought it was a southern bell thing. At some point I realized that it’s not the way my kids developed. They are quite opposite from me. – Kathy D.

There is a balance that is needed and each writer has to find it. – Velva K. of Tomatoes on the Vine.

My kids are old enough now that they actually ask me not to post certain things, not to take pictures of them, not to share stuff. It has become an issue of trust, and I pray I never violate theirs. – Rebecca B.

With all the problems we have in this world, we focus on things that are byproducts of overthinking. – Will L.

I stopped posting pics of my children online and talking about them is limited – when I was working on research project and learned how often pics of children are stolen and used on child porn sites. They take what would be innocent pics and pervert them. – Kora R.

For Me, It Boils Down to This

If I were to scrub references to my children, my parenting, and my family life from my blog and social media presence, that would be as much a misrepresentation of who I really am than it would be to share every moment, even those with the potential to embarrass or humiliate my children either now or decades down the road.

When I began blogging, it was “to exercise my writing muscle,” but it has become much more. It is part diary, large part therapy, part family documentation … it is many things which bring me joy and hopefully educate/inspire others along the way.

What I don’t want it to be is an ill-considered instrument of destruction. To repeat what I said back in 2009: “our children have to be able to trust that we as parents will think before taking liberties with their images, identities, and hearts.”

I suppose with seven years of blogging experience behind me, from the perspective of a parent of a 17-year old and a 20-year old, I would change the “think before taking liberties” phrase to something different:

Our children have to be able to trust that we as parents will think before taking not knowingly take liberties with their images, identities, and hearts.

What are your thoughts on parents who blog about their children?

Social Media Choices

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One Simple Conversation at a Time: #StopHIVTogether

This post is made possible by support from the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. All opinions are my own.

In the late 1980s, I explained how to use a condom to hundreds of men I didn’t know who had called the Florida AIDS Hotline as they tried to figure out what to do about the new challenge threatening their health. I had been volunteering and acting as an on-call supervisor at a local crisis hotline, and it was awarded the contract for the AIDS Hotline. I was not an ally yet; I was just doing a job.

Over on the west coast, Mark S. King was also volunteering for an AIDS-related project. When he chose to volunteer for AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) in 1986, he was doing more than “just a job.” Having been diagnosed as HIV positive in 1985, he needed to do something, and coordinating the APLA speaker’s bureau was his outlet. He thought he would be dead soon and craved immediate gratification.

As it turns out, Mark did not die in 1986 (thankfully). Although he lived in “three year increments” for quite some time after his initial diagnosis (hear more about that in this video with his friend, Lynne), he has now been living with HIV for 31 years and the virus is undetectable in his blood stream due to treatment (although the antibodies which result in an HIV+ test result will always be there).

HIV Prevention

Lynne and Mark

When I had an opportunity to interview Mark recently, I learned that many facts about living with HIV have changed. Specifically, the definition of “prevention” is much broader than it was back in the late 80s. For me in 1988, it meant telling strangers “don’t have sex” or “use a condom.” Mark says the most powerful preventative among his community at the time was: funerals.

In 2016, Prevention and Living with HIV Are Different

In addition to condoms, there are now more options for prevention:

  • PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) – people at high risk for HIV can now take a medication that lowers their chances of getting infected. Learn more here.
  • PEP (Post-exposure Prophylaxis) – People who have been potentially exposed to HIV can take antiretroviral medicines (ART) after being potentially exposed to prevent becoming infected. Learn more here.

For people who have tested HIV+ but are on treatment, remaining on treatment in order to keep the virus undetectable is an option. Partners who go this route should know that:

  • · Everyone’s “undetectable” status is only as good as their most recent test.
  • · This choice clearly requires a level of trust between partners.

HIV Prevention

Simple Conversations Can Dispel Misinformation

Ironically, having not batted an eyelash throughout Mark’s book, which chronicles his experiences owning a phone sex hotline and frequent cocaine consumption in the 80s, I found myself hesitating to ask what he meant when he said several times, “I am able to have sex safely with my husband because I am on treatment.” Finally, I just admitted I needed to know more about what exactly he meant.

That’s when he clarified that an HIV+ person on successful treatment can’t transmit HIV. This has been the case for five years.

If I hadn’t asked or he hadn’t been willing to share, I would not have known. The solution to clearing up my confusion was a simple conversation.

“At Risk” Can Mean Anyone

To be perfectly honest, I am not sure if a single person I know and interact with here in Tallahassee is HIV positive.

Even though I don’t currently have someone in my circle who is HIV+, my circle has gotten a heck of a lot bigger since I have gotten involved in (some say addicted to!) social media.

Is there someone among my 2500 Facebook Friends, 9500 Twitter Followers, 3000 Instagram Followers, or 225 Snapchat Friends for whom I can make a difference?
I can’t be sure, but I know that doing nothing is not an option when:

  • Youth aged 13 to 24 accounted for more than 1 in 5 new HIV diagnoses in 2014.
  • Young gay and bisexual males accounted for 8 in 10 HIV diagnoses among youth in 2014.
  • At the end of 2012, 44% of youth ages 18 to 24 years living with HIV did not know they had HIV.
  • My peers are re-entering the dating world as decades-old marriages end and/or discovering that their partners were not monogamous and may have put them at risk.

Will someone identified in one of the above bullet points see something I post and feel less alone, more fortified to proceed with testing, more confident in engaging in a simple conversation?

Even if the people in the populations mentioned above don’t see one of my posts, maybe you will (and I know you’ve read this far, so you are equipped to help!). Stigma is eliminated one chat at a time, and I am asking you to help make a difference.

HIV Prevention

A Year Can Change Everything

I love the fact that this post is going live on June 26. Last year at this time, rainbows proliferated as same sex marriage was legitimized. However, the year has brought with it the flip side of the coin: those who spread hate.

I was so very excited to speak to Mark. We both sort of threw out the pre-written interview questions and just …. talked. The only moment of silence was when our conversation wandered to the tragedy that occurred at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. Mark told me how he, at 55, an award-winning activist in a happy marriage having overcome so many hurdles, was shaken to the core, immediately transported back to feeling like an unsafe sissy at risk of daily beatings. I stumbled for words, failing to respond adequately but empathizing at the same time.

What does that have to do with HIV?

It has to do with HIV because it’s hard enough for some people to come to terms with their own sexuality, much less the strategies they have to employ in order to protect themselves and others from HIV infection. Feelings of being unworthy can be the most difficult barriers to self care. As Mark says, the enemy is a virus, not our humanity.

What Can One Person Do?

If you still don’t understand HIV, ask.

You can get the facts.

If you are ready to help, click here for tons of resources.

You can get tested or help someone who needs to get tested figure out how.

You can get involved and share a story.

You can get materials to share.

And to learn more about Mark, visit his site, follow him on Twitter at @myfabdisease, like his Facebook page by clicking here, or buy his book here.

Lastly

My journey to being an ally was, in retrospect, pre-ordained. I am grateful every single day that I was put in that little room talking to all those strangers about condom usage. I heard their fears. I went myself for an HIV test (never mind the fact that the behaviors I thought put me at risk were, um, hardly risky). For the long version of my ally story, Not About Me, click here.

Yes, Mark is HIV+ but the part that came through to me was our commonalities. We laughed about the fact that we both have “old fashioned” AOL accounts. We shared some fun word play as we exchanged messages. We talked about how each of us goes about life trying to live with joy and humor.

I don’t know about you, but I’m all for more joy and humor, and a lot less stigma.

HIV Prevention

Ten Thoughts on 100,000 Tweets

As I compose this post, I am 26 tweets away from my 100,000th tweet.

Ten Thoughts on 100,000 Tweets

Although Twitter says I have had an account since September 2008, apparently I didn’t tweet until April 2009. And boy howdy was it a profound one. The program “First Tweet” says my first tweet was this:

Ten Thoughts on 100,000 Tweets

In the six years and eight months since April 2009, I have amassed almost 100,000 more tweets. Hopefully, on balance, some of them were more profound than “going to bed!” (although I am a BIG FAN of sleep, don’t get me wrong).

To do some rough math …

If each of 100,000 tweets were a full 140 characters, that would be 14 MILLION characters (if my words averaged six characters each that would be 2,333,333 words!).

I just timed myself composing a tweet, and it took 27 seconds. For ease of math, let’s say each one takes 25 seconds, that’s 694 HOURS (an average month has 730 hours).

All those characters and seconds add up!

In preparation for hitting 100,000, I am trying to manipulate things so that I can have control over that 100,000th tweet. It isn’t as easy as it sounds! I’ve stopped sharing from Triberr for a few days. I have deactivated my Revive Old Posts plugin. I’ve realized that tweeting has become a reflex for me and for the first time in years have found myself thinking, “do you really want to spend a tweet on that?” (perhaps it is not a bad thing to think before tweeting, honestly……). Keeping this post family friendly, I’ll just say it feels a little bit like foreplay, because I am having a lot of fun but want the big moment to be really special.

Ten Thoughts As the Big Tweet Approaches

WRITING

Ultimately, Twitter is just another way to write. Hence, as a lover of writing, I love Twitter.

GREAT PEOPLE

I have connected with incredible people on Twitter who I would not have met otherwise. They have entertained me, consoled me, informed me, inspired me. They (especially the running community) have shared my passions and given me a sense of community.

AWFUL PEOPLE

Fortunately, this is a much shorter list than the “Great People” list but there are some bad actors on Twitter. YUCK. Specifically, the guy whose bio says he is in the top 2000 of Twitter accounts. The guy who told me to “EFF OFF YOU C*NT” (this is a sanitized paraphrase). Yes, I do find it humorous, profane guy, that you blocked my main account but haven’t figured out I have a second Twitter account that you have not blocked. All I can say is meanspiritedness is never ever ever in style.

VENTING

There’s no place like Twitter for safely getting something off of your chest. When I say that, I mean things like “holy cow this traffic stinks.” I don’t mean being obnoxious to a business without giving them time to rectify the issue. After all, I wrote this and need to practice what I preach.

THE SWAG!

When you’re a frequent tweeter, you never know what goodies are going to show up on your doorstep. I think my favorite was the fact that I ended up in the Pretzel of the Month club for a year. All of a sudden, a huge variety box of pretzels showed up on my doorstep one day. The same thing happened the next month. And monthly for the following 10 months! Thanks, Snyders!

HELPING CAUSES

I love using social media to promote worthy causes. Twitter has changed the landscape for getting information out, fundraising, and catalyzing action! Favorite causes I have tweeted about include Shot at Life, Unbound, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Linda Freeman’s efforts to help children in Cambodia get The Shoe That Grows, all the Donate a Photo causes, and all the Charity Miles causes.

NO WORRIES ABOUT GETTING NAMES AND FACES WRONG

As a faceblind individual, every in person interaction carries with it the likelihood that I will fail to recognize someone I should recognize or, if I take the risk of using the name I think is correct, of making a social gaffe. Thanks, Twitter, for telling me exactly who I am dealing with and eliminating that whole social awkwardness potential!

TWITTER BRINGS OUT MY EXTROVERT

My extrovert/introvert tendencies are pretty much 50/50 but I know in my heart of hearts I am an introvert. Not on Twitter, though! I love connecting on Twitter. Maybe because I can disengage at any time and go recharge.

TWITTER IS NOT THE BEST FOR FAMILY RELATIONS

I’ve come a long way since social media was younger. Of course my children were younger when I first got involved with social media. Five years ago, I was hurt and floored when my daughter unfriended me on Facebook. Now I am glad we are Facebook friends but that connection doesn’t carry the same emotional weight for me. I sure as heck don’t follow her on Twitter anymore after the one tweet I saw where she was venting about my crappy parenting. (Guess that “it’s good to vent on Twitter” thing goes two ways, no?)

THE BIG GREEN PEN GETS AROUND

Nothing makes me happier than meeting a twitter acquaintance in real life for the first time and having them say, “oh YOU’RE the big green pen!” A handle that was born of my intense and meticulous editing has ended up allowing me to compose some fun life adventures, 140 characters at a time.

Those ten things in mind, I do know that Twitter is just one piece of the human relationship puzzle. Nothing replaces looking someone in the eye, and I do regret time I have lost interacting with my family because I was fixated on a screen, as well as the role my intrigue with social media had in the degree to which I lost interest in my previous job and failed to do the quality work I owed my employer.

In addition, all that tweeting undoubtedly led to the fact that I now get to tweet for a living as part of my responsibilities with Weaving Influence and Lead Change. I still love to tweet, and it is icing on the cake to get compensated for it.

I do have a specific tweet planned for number 100,000, if all my machinations to make it happen work. I will post it here after it tweets!

Ten Thoughts on 100,000 Tweets

UPDATE: I hit the big 100K mark just after midnight on Christmas Day 2015! With heartfelt gratitude to Lou Kellenberger for permission to use his image, here’s the tweet!

Official Tweet 100K

GRATEFUL CHALLENGE 2015

It’s year two of my taking the Grateful Challenge! (For last year’s post, click here.) Inspired by Spin Sucks, the goal is to set a timer for 10 minutes and try to list 99 things you’re grateful for.

GRATEFUL CHALLENGE 2015

This year’s installment:

  1. My parents
  2. A spouse who understands why it is so important to me that my spouse be my friend as well as my lover (Wayne)
  3. My daughter (Tenley)
  4. My son (Wayne Kevin)
  5. Our cat Alice Cooper
  6. Our cat Bella
  7. My father-in-law (also a Wayne!)
  8. The memory of my mother-in-law (Barb)
  9. A roof over my head
  10. A house with a great running route right outside
  11. Running
  12. Running friends
  13. Fitness
  14. My fitness friends
  15. My Fitfluential relationships
  16. Blogging
  17. My #ChevyPlayMiami experience
  18. Having my son with me in Miami Beach while I was doing #ChevyPlayMiami
  19. My NASA Social experience
  20. My Social Good Summit experience
  21. Being a Shot at Life Champion Leader
  22. Toastmasters
  23. That one special friend
  24. Lunch at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel with that one special friend while the crowds streamed in to see Pope Francis in Central Park
  25. My friend Mary Jane
  26. My friend Audrey
  27. My friends’ children
  28. Tenley’s oportunity to do the Disney College Program starting in January 2016
  29. Dairy Queen Blizzards
  30. Reading
  31. Audiobooks
  32. The perpetual influence of The Diary a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  33. Tallahassee
  34. New York City memories
  35. New York City memories to be made
  36. The play Wicked
  37. My son’s new (to him) car
  38. My son teaching me how to drive his new car
  39. A bus option in Florida that gets me from point A to point B affordably, with wi fi
  40. The Spin Sucks community
  41. My work with Weaving Influence
  42. The leaders I work with through the Lead Change Group, a division of Weaving Influence
  43. Chocolate
  44. A nice glass of wine at the end of each day
  45. My Coach, Kristie Cranford
  46. My KR Endurance team
  47. The child I run for via I Run for Michael, Gareth, and his family
  48. Friends who help with my father-in-law
  49. My sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law
  50. My nieces and nephews
  51. My goddaughters
  52. Being free to worship how I want to
  53. The Twitter community (except the jerks!)
  54. People who teach me about WordPress and help me climb other technical learning curves
  55. Patient people
  56. Smiles
  57. The beauty all around us
  58. Sunrises & Sunsets
  59. Learning about weather from people who are more than “forecasters”
  60. A great set of crepuscular rays in the sky
  61. My coworkers at Weaving Influence
  62. Being paid to do social media
  63. Scott Ginsberg (The Nametag Guy) who encouraged me to “make a date with the page”
  64. The potential of the Global Goals
  65. My role as a Florida Prepaid Blogger Believer
  66. Every opportunity I have had to get paid for blogging
  67. Other blogging opportunities which I did not get paid for or paid my own way for which which have paid off in other ways, most notably in the incredible people I’ve met
  68. The two people I have mentored in Toastmasters
  69. Being able to practice my Spanish
  70. The drivers/staff in Miami and Orlando who just start speaking Spanish to me and expect me to follow along
  71. My half brothers
  72. The trails in Tallahassee
  73. My electrophysiologist
  74. Being able to run still (so I guess thanks for beta blockers and that “running through mud feeling”!)
  75. That one friend who said “talks with you are my sanity”
  76. A sense of humor
  77. That my FIL’s cancer appears to have been obliterated
  78. Doing the zoo run in Tampa in August with my friend Diane
  79. Margaritas!
  80. The ability to read
  81. The ability to write
  82. The ability to speak
  83. The HAMP program
  84. Tenley’s employer, Chicken Salad Chick of Valdosta
  85. Everyone in Valdosta who has helped Tenley the last 1.5 years
  86. The teachers who give Wayne Kevin a chance
  87. The teachers who give Wayne Kevin more than worksheets
  88. The freedom of speech fo expres myself during the “Curious Incident” kerfuffle
  89. The ability to see Curious Incident on Broadway the month after the kerfuffle (which reinforced the fact that the kerfuffle was worth making a fuss about)
  90. Journalists here in Tally who have intelligent dialogues with readers
  91. TV journalists here in Tally who support me in giving voice to important issues like World Immunization Week
  92. My involvement with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
  93. My NYC Half Marathon in March 2015
  94. The Light the Night Walk last month
  95. Silvia, the first child we sponsored in Guatemala via Unbound
  96. Estela, the second child we sponsored in Guatemala via Unbound
  97. Stanley, the child we sponsor in  El Salvador via Unbound
  98. Coming home tonight to find the bah humbug spouse had put the lights on the Christmas tree
  99. My Faith

Want to Join?

It’s never too late to spend ten minutes focusing on gratitude! Let me know if you do the challenge!

Photo Credit: Gratisography

MedalGate

I ran the Springtime 10K race here in Tallahassee yesterday. It was my fourth time running the 10K race. It was also my slowest time running this race, not because I am inadequately trained but because I am in the middle of figuring out what is going on with my cardiac health.

After my friend Betty and I crossed the finish line, we walked past a lady standing there with a box of medals. Frankly, I had forgotten that there were medals for the 10K race finishers. When we saw her, I kind of said “oh yeah, medals,” and she explained that those were last year’s medals, that there were no more 2015 medals. I started not to take one, but since I often send my race medal to Gareth, who I run for, I went ahead and took one. Betty followed up on the woman’s admonition to “ask someone” about getting a 2015 medal and through Betty’s inquiries, we figured out that there were no more medals.

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I didn’t really think too much about the medal situation. I was happy to enjoy a gorgeous day, to be wearing the TeamRWB emblem as part of RunAs1, to find a compromise between the all-out runner I really want to be and the “keep things moderate” runner I have to be right now.

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TeamRWBTally

 

I did jokingly post a picture of my 2014 medal on my Facebook page, jesting that “And if you time things JUST RIGHT and finish toward the end you get to get on the race time machine and retrieve yourself a medal from the 2014 race from the special time traveler box.”

As it turns out, another runner who finished later than me along with her son was very unhappy about the 2014 medal situation, because she had paid race fees for four people, and it was her child’s first 10K. She posted that concern on our track club’s Facebook page, and what I deemed “medalgate” ensued. The entire thread has now been deleted but the categories of comments were roughly:

70%: people offering their medals to her and reassuring her that it would get handled

20%: people telling her to be grateful for the beautiful day and gracious to an all-volunteer operation

8%: combinations of the above

1%: responses from the race directors providing a brief explanation and instructions for how to pursue a resolution privately

0.5%: a response from the original complainant sharing a screen shot of a negative private message from someone who, to put it politely, disagreed with her stance

0.5% a meme

Our track club still has a members only Yahoo list (remember those?). After reading some of the chatter on there, I drafted a lengthy response. I am sharing it here.

Everyone, I have read every single word of the Facebook conversation started when [name] commented about being given a 2014 medal when there were no 2015 medals left today at the Springtime 10K. Some thoughts …

First of all, I think it is incredible (but very typical) of our club that so many people offered to donate their medals (and someone offered to refund her family’s entry fee).

Social media does make it possible to fire off a concern rapidly and publicly without giving an issue time to be resolved more privately. That pattern is here to stay, and I am writing to encourage you to remember that these situations present opportunities to bring someone into our fold.

I can absolutely understand the logic behind responses in the thread encouraging her to appreciate what a beautiful day it was, to cut volunteers a break (amen!), to use this as a teachable moment for her child, to focus on the positive. I agree with all of those statements.

But by the same token I encourage you to remember a time when you were a running outsider. If you are a back of the packer, the time(s) you wondered if you would be the last person finishing a race and therefore wondered if you should even show up at all. It may not be a medal but I am positive for all of us there have been days when we had to incentivize ourselves to get our butts out the door … maybe it was the thought of a glass of wine, the knowledge that we had to report in to our coach, or the hope that we would PR an upcoming race.

I am not a person who really cares about medals that much. I have kept a few from the races that are most special to me. Most of my others I give to the child I run for or donate. BUT for some people it really is “the thing.” For some parents (rightly or wrongly) they may have spent the last few weeks talking excitedly with their child about the anticipation of getting a medal. Adults, too, may  have seen the medal in their mind’s eye when they forced themselves to push one more mile, lift one more weight, pass up the second slice of pizza.

I do understand the challenges of an all volunteer operation, and how a plan which seemed failproof re: medal quantity didn’t work out that way. This year can help us better plan for next year.

I do think if we advertised the fact that every 10K runner would get a medal, we should try our best to make that happen (and I know the many offers to donate will undoubtedly take care of that). In the same way you wouldn’t ask for filet mignon at the grocery store and say “sure” if they said “you’re getting ground beef instead” it is reasonable for people to expect to get a 2015 medal.

I commend the directors on a FABULOUS and well-managed event. I haven’t ever directed a race but by now I am pretty familiar with the moving parts. As a volunteer, I have been chewed out by people when I didn’t have their tshirt size even though they pre-registered (it happens!).

I have been that obnoxious parent advocating too aggressively for my child. I have been the runner sending single spaced two page emails of “feedback” to race directors. Over time I got a broader perspective and learned a) how to give more succinct feedback b) when to give feedback and c) to remember to say thank you.

Do I wish [name] had held off on her negative post until she had tried to get a private resolution? I think it would have been in everyone’s best interests. For all I know, she is one of those people in the world who approaches everything from the negative, and no amount of offers to donate medals, refund her fees, or prove our goodwill can change things.

But I walked away from yesterday’s incident wishing that it had gone differently.

I want [name] and her family to come back to a track club sponsored event. The purpose of this lengthy reply is to remind us all that we can have a role in making that happen, via our words AND our actions.

Happy Running!

Is It Crazy To Think An Online Community Can Succeed?

One of my tasks with Weaving Influence is helping to manage the Lead Change Group community. This is a fairly new role for me, and taking it on has me thinking almost constantly about what makes an online community work.

Although in my opinion the success of an online community boils down to a handful of characteristics that sound very simple, there is something intangible that has to take place between assembling the right “ingredients,” following a trustworthy “recipe,” and “cooking” everything to result in a tasty product. These include:

A Cyber Welcome Mat

Although I believe it is important that there be a cadre of “regulars” who contribute to the community, there should be plenty of acceptance and respect to make someone who is visiting for the first time feel welcome. (Many people probably read your posts frequently before venturing to comment.) I have been active in one of my favorite online communities (more on that later) long enough to know many of the “inside jokes” that would mystify a newcomer. The inside jokes are part of what makes the community fun, but there’s a fine line between inside jokes that make you want to keep coming back in order to “get them” and inside jokes that are so plentiful, pointed, or cryptic that a newbie can feel excluded.

People Keep Showing Up

This is the next part after the welcome mat. People like what they read, how they are treated, and how they feel after interacting with your community. You know you can count on seeing some of the same people week after week, and connections grow deeper roots that way.

Good Writing

This language freak has long ago given up on grammatical perfection in the online world, so I am not referring to a draconian management of spelling and grammar (although consistently sloppy use of language is a turn-off). I am referring to good writing. The kind that makes you laugh at your desk, that makes you stop mid-post and tweet the author saying “I haven’t even gotten through this post but thank you,” the kind of words that stay with you long after you click off of the post. Writing like this Spin Sucks guest post from Cindy King.

Connecting Across Other Channels

As a blogger, I will tell you I will love you forever if you will share my post via your other social media channels (unless you’re a creeper in which case of course I won’t love you forever). There are times when I read a  Spin Sucks post that is quite technical (such as this one) and I have nothing useful to contribute but I know I can trust the content enough to share it via Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and/or Linkedin. If I am going to keep the cooking analogy going, we’ll call the “connecting across other channels” the equivalent of allowing our product’s fragrance to waft into adjoining rooms and make everyone salivate over what we’ve made!

Knowing Your Place

It would be easy as a Spin Sucks Crazy to think that the blog is all that happens at Arment Dietrich. I say that because the activity stream is constant. That’s not because the blog is all they do, though; it’s because they make sure to delegate responsibility for reining in interacting with the community throughout the day to someone on staff. I have to remind myself that the blog is only a part of what they do and respect that, although they would point out that the blog is the entryway for many business leads (80% of new revenue, to be precise — details about that in this post).

Telling Me Specifically How To Get Involved

Tonight’s post is an example of what I mean. Back when Spin Sucks posted this, I said the following:

spin sucks post

(The pigeon is a story for a different post!)

This is not the first time I have commented about doing something, and been encouraged to follow through. The very first time was when Spin Sucks rescued me from weekly habit of #FollowFridaying a long list of people by publishing this post which in addition to convincing me to rethink how I was using Follow Friday, instilled in me a secret little goal to get featured (which I did, here).

Moderating Closely

It is no small task to moderate the comments section of a blog. There is no faster way to lose me as an online community member than to make me wade through a stream of trolls, spam, and other trash. An unadulterated comments section does not happen by accident; it takes work. And I appreciate that.

green pen two cropped

As a new community manager, I can tell you that I am hungry for the people in my community to blend their unique ingredients more thoroughly. There’s so much great content; staring at a comments section with a line of “0’s” on my dashboard makes me sad. There are many times during a week when I utter a little prayer that the Lead Change Group community will acquire some of the attributes that make Spin Sucks great: dynamic people, talking to one another, evolving into something more than a set of comments on a blog.

Want to help me out with whipping up something delectable at the Lead Change Group? Here’s a recent post that provided useful tips for helping people work to their fullest potential. Take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments?

And I would be remiss if I didn’t give a last “thank you” to Spin Sucks for being such a tremendous example of an online community that works. I would also be remiss if I didn’t try to earn some brownie points (because I love brownie points!) by asking you to tweet the following:

tweet

(Click here to tweet!)

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Yummm…….brownies!