Friday, July 25, 2008

Managing social media and multiple personalities

Problogger's 'social media love-in' has me thinking once again about what exactly I'm doing with all this social media stuff. I have a Twitter account, and I'm on, StumbleUpon and Facebook but I'm not very active on any of them. This is partly because I don't know very many other people who are actively using any of these sites, other than a couple who use Facebook a lot (among my friends, I'm definitely an early adopter). I also worry about what a huge time suck it could become if I actually started spending time finding new people to interact with. But mostly, I think it's that I'm simply not sure how to use these sites effectively to engage with people. That is, I just don't really get it - how does sharing my bookmarks or 160-character blurbs lead to real connection? In contrast, one of the things I love about blogging is that I feel like I can have conversations with people.

Still, I went ahead and added my info to Problogger's love-in*, figuring that maybe if I got to know more people who are on these sites, I could figure out what the appeal is and how to use social media more effectively. At the very least, I figured maybe I could get people to visit my blogs, which I feed through Twitter. But that raised a separate issue for me that I've been struggling with: how to manage my different 'identities'. I have two blogs, this one (obviously) and another that is closely related to my job as an economics professor, where I blog about teaching and economics. When I comment on other peoples' blogs, I usually identify myself with whichever blog fits the context. There isn't much overlap in the audiences for the two blogs and I actually have them set up under two different usernames, because I don't necessarily want my students to be reading my personal blog (I don't think it's a huge issue if they find it, I just don't really want to make it particularly obvious or easy for them).

But on my social media accounts, everything is jumbled together. My Twitter followers see my feeds from both blogs, my Facebook profile (which is the one account where I actually connect with my 'real world' friends) has a bunch of stuff that I don't necessarily want random other people seeing, and my Del.ici.ous account has all my bookmarks. Maybe it isn't that big an issue because people will use tags to find what they want and/or just skip over all the stuff that they find irrevelant. But does anyone else try to keep various aspects of their lives separate, even if those different aspects are all out in the Web somewhere? Any advice for a social media newbie?

* by the way, I don't make money off my blogging, I just really like reading Problogger for ideas about being a better blogger in general.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

OK, maybe I'm not so proud to be a Californian...

From the Sac Bee: Schwarzenegger plans to cut state worker pay to cope with late budget. As several of the comments on the story point out, why the hell isn't he suspending the pay of the legislators who are clearly not doing their jobs? Will someone please, please, please! start a drive for a ballot initiative to reduce the pay of legislators (withOUT it being paid back) for each day they go without signing a budget? This is f*ing ridiculous!!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Friendships with parents

It’s a bit of a cliché that parents, particularly new parents, can’t talk about anything but their kids. I feel truly fortunate that my closest friends all seem to recognize this and they make an effort not to fit the stereotype. On more than one occasion, someone has said to me, “OK, I’ve talked enough about the baby, tell me what’s going on with you.” Of course, part of the reason I'm friends with these people is precisely because they are the sort who would say this type of thing and ironically, that also means these are the people I'm most willing to listen to go on and on about their kids (or, if they really are going overboard, that I'm most comfortable telling them straight out that I'd like to change the subject).

But recently, it also occurred to me that there is a big difference between my friends talking about their kid, and them talking about being a parent. To be honest, I’ve only got so much patience for the former because, in many cases, I don’t actually know the kid very well and who wants to hear endless stories about someone they don’t know? It’s not like the stories most parents tell about their kids are all that interesting in their own right (unless, of course, you’re Bill Cosby). But I realized that when my friends talk more about what it’s like for them to be a parent – how they’re coping with the new schedule, whether she wants to go back to work full-time or not, how relieved he is that the kid isn’t a screamer – that means I’m actually finding out more about them.

I should say that, contrary to the common stereotype of women who choose not to have kids, I do actually like kids (I don't think I'm very good with them but that's sort of a different issue). So I may have a higher tolerance for kid-related talk than most single, child-free women. But even if I didn't like kids, I'd like to think that I'd still be interested in talking to my friends about what is going on in their lives. After all, I have certainly not liked some of the people my friends have chosen to date and I've still been willing to listen to them go on and on about those relationships for hours. But I think the key is focusing on my friends, encouraging them to talk about themselves, which will naturally include a lot of talk about being a parent, but doesn't necessarily have to be just about their kid.

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Baby boom

Friday, July 11, 2008

When do you become middle-aged?

A couple of posts over on Blogher have me thinking about the terms we use for people of various ages. Myrnatheminx is looking for BlogHers of a certain age who aren't "Mommies" and Msmeta asks Where are all the middle-aged women bloggers? The comments to Msmeta's post include a lot of people trying to define 'middle-aged', and actually evolved into a separate group blog for midlifers.

But at 37, it just doesn't feel right to call myself middle-aged. Yeah, I know, given average life expectancies, I could be technically quite close to the middle of my life (or with the way I've been avoiding exercise, well past it!), but I don't feel middle-aged. But I don't feel 'young' either. So what do you call people in the 30-ish to 40-ish age range? I usually just refer to myself as a '30-something' and leave it at that. But what happens when I turn 40? I guess I could call myself a Gen Xer (which, according to Wikipedia, includes anyone born from 1965 to 1982) but I'm not crazy about the connotations associated with that.

The thing is, all of those terms carry connotations, stereotypes, images in our heads that inform how we think about the person to whom we are referring. That's what labels do, for good or for bad. Calling myself 30-something is a shortcut for all the things I think that means, most of which I usually think are good (that is, when I hear '30-something', I picture someone who has grown past the immaturity of being 'young', who is somewhat more settled, who has some idea of who she and what she wants, though perhaps hasn't attained all of it yet). Actually, as I write this, it occurs to me that maybe the key is that when I start seeing the good things about the middle-aged label, that's when I'll know it fits. Right now, 'middle-aged' feels too old, too over the hill, but I can imagine a day in the future when it will feel more like it means wisdom, confidence, contentment. So I guess that's when I'll become middle-aged...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I know I'm not perfect, I just think I am

My sister, who works in human resources, was recently talking about some of the interview questions she asks prospective employees. One I thought particularly interesting was, "Tell us about a mistake you've made and how you handled that." As she talked about the answers she had gotten from a few recent interviewees, I found myself wondering how I would answer that particular question. It seems obvious that the 'right' answer is NOT, "Hmmm, I can't think of any", and yet, I honestly couldn't think of any example I might relate in a job interview (I'm the first to admit that I could go on for days about the mistakes I've made with guys I've dated but I'm assuming that's not the kind of mistake she was asking about). I'm not saying I'm perfect - I think it's more that I have a way of 're-writing history' in my head. And then I saw an article at GreaterGood about raising optimistic kids and it explained my way of seeing the world much better than I had ever seen it articulated before (I apologize for the somewhat long quote but I think it's worth it):
According to Seligman and other researchers, how optimistic or pessimistic we are amounts to how we explain life’s events, be they good or bad. There are three basic dimensions to an explanation: permanence, pervasiveness, and personalization. The OPTIMISTIC way of understanding why something GOOD happened would explain:

The cause of what just happened as Permanent (so it will reoccur);
And Pervasive (it will affect many other circumstances, too);
And Personal (I made it happen).

On the other hand, the PESSIMISTIC way of explaining why something GOOD just happened would illustrate that:

The cause of what just happened is Temporary (something short-lived caused it – probably won’t happen again);
And Specific (affecting only this situation);
And Impersonal (I didn’t have anything to do with what happened, other people or the circumstances did).

The reverse is also true when something bad happens. A kid trips on the sidewalk and skins her knee, dirtying her new dress. The pessimist thinks: “I’m so clumsy – I’m always tripping everywhere, and now I look stupid.” The cause of her fall is (1) permanent—she sees it as a personality trait, and therefore it is both (2) pervasive and (3) personal. On the other hand, the optimist thinks: “Dang! Someone oughtta fix that crack in the sidewalk!” She’s thinking that a flaw in the sidewalk, not her own inherent clumsiness, caused her to trip. That crack is (1) temporary; (2) specific to that moment; and (3) impersonal—she had nothing to do with it.

I am not sure how or why, but somewhere way back as a kid, I learned to be a complete optimist when it comes to school and work. When good things happen, I see them as the result of something I did, but when bad things happen, I don't (hence my inability to think of any real mistakes I've made). But what I find even more interesting is that while I think I've always been this way about school and work, it is only recently that I have been able to apply the same mindset to my personal life and social interactions. That is, for most of my life, when bad things have happened in my personal relationships, I have been all too willing to believe that there was something about me, some personality trait (and therefore something pervasive and personal), that was the cause of the problem. It's something I've done a lot of work on in the last few years, and I believe that today, it's probably safe for me to call myself an optimist about my personal life as well, but I just find it interesting that it took me this long to see that this attitude, which comes so naturally in some arenas, can apply just as equally to other areas of my life.

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