Recommended Reading: Why I Abandoned My Social Media Presence

A definite discussion to be had with the Gear Up students before engaging in the Summer 2015 Civics Project.

The Daily Post

Have you ever stopped to think about why you are on social media? For me, it has always been about connecting with people, learning from my community, and contributing to that community. Page views, subscribers, followers and fans were never a stand alone goal. They were a means to an end — the promise of a potential connection.

— Annie at Ethical Thinker

Note: The ideas here are targeted more to intermediate/advanced users and bloggers with established followings.

If you’re a new blogger, we can help you get started on social media: we publish resources on building your blog and online presence, and offer Blogging 201: Traffic and Growth, a guided course where you learn alongside other bloggers.

Annie at Ethical Thinker published an interesting read last month on why, after seven years of growing a popular parenting blog and social media presence, she abandoned her following, which…

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If only I had known…

If only I had known, I probably would not have bothered.

egg

If only I had known that running for township committee would require party leaders demanding that I see things their way (instead of asking me to consider the alternative), I would not have run for office.

If only I had known that another member of the fire company would be asked to run for a public office to represent the community, I would not have obligated myself.

If only I had known the outcome of my previous career endeavors would have resulted in me changing careers several times, I might have never embarked.

If only I had known that becoming the leader of my union would have resulted in management trying even harder to withhold our labor rights, I might have reconsidered.

things not seenIf only I had known that my marriage would end in divorce after nearly ten years, I might not have taken those vows.

If only I had known that I’d be leaving my home after twenty years of raising a family there, I might not have purchased it.

If only I had known that my pension wouldn’t be there for me when I retired, I might not have taken up a career in public service (or I would have at the very least invested differently).

If only I had known that the road that I travel now would not bring me to my destination unscathed, would I have chosen a different path?

I am not certain.  Had I not been elected to public office, I would not have recognized why our system is broken.  I wouldn’t have learned that just because we have only some similar beliefs, we still have vast differences.  I wouldn’t have learned that we must also look beyond our differences and engage in discussions about the many ways WE can meet our collective objectives.  I would not have learned that when they try to stifle me, I swell up with zest to overcome the barriers.   I would not have developed my voice!tied up  If it were not for the challenges that I’ve faced, there would have been no victory.

If I had known that they would pit someone LIKE me AGAINST me, I would have walked away because they created an unnecessary adversary.  I would not have realized that the goal was never to accomplish something, but instead to fuel the unrest that is destructive.  We were never on the same page.

My careers as a program coordinator, judicial assistant, probation officer, and family counselor all prompted my endeavors as an educator.  All of that experience fuelled my passion for advocacy.  My studies could have never prepared me for what was to come.  My entire life has been an internship that simple paid a little bit better than being a volunteer.

My stint as a union president was merely a foundation for a different kind of leadership—one where livelihoods were at stake.  The dues were small, but the rewards were great!  If managers had not suggested that I break the law, I’d have never realized how important it was to preserve the law, uphold the law, and defend the law.  Now I know how to change the law.

When I was young and naïve, I thought that all that was needed to have love was the opportunity.  If I wanted it bad enough (and if my heart was open to it), I could have what my heart desired.  Lost love and love lost?  I chose wisely, but next time I will be even wiser.  How my life will improve through such experience need not be said.

I purchased a home with the intention of sending my children to one the most diverse schools in the area, but by the time they were school-age the demographic had evolved and the ideas had changed.  Like-minds contributed to a population explosion and now there isn’t enough for everyone.  I won’t be the last to walk away, but I am certainly not the first.  As the trash litters the roadsides and the houses are either boarded up or burning down, I ask myself “what were you thinking?”

And now my life savings is being held hostage!  Any chance to have a fruitful life on the other side of retirement is in the hands of officials that we trusted to protect our interest and to preserve a promise that was made when we were hired.  Perhaps it was realized too late that the most efficient way to get the public service to function like the private sector was to treat them the same way (by robbing the public servants of their benefits).  But even my colleagues who’ve invested what was left of their budgets are dissatisfied with their returns.  Now I fight for my rights along side of people similar to me (and different from me) as we mumble, “if we had known…”

I’ve said all of that to say this:  Even if I had known then what I know now, things would not be much different.  Why?  Because my faith is the same!  As a matter of fact, a direct result of not knowing what the future holds makes my faith even stronger.  It’s not even a question of spiritual strength as much as it is the need to be patient, a need to hold on to those things that are important, and conversely the need to let go of those things that aren’t important anymore.  Being able to predict the future is actually counterproductive to being prepared for what is in store for us.  Although our walks are different, we are positioned to bring our knowledge, our experiences, and our passions to the table.  Absence of faith requires no work at all.  Absence of faith is absolute loss.  Faith without work is death.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Too late?

Protester Schools MSNBC Anchor About Media Coverage Of Baltimore Riots

A protester approached by MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts on Tuesday offered pointed criticism of the way Roberts’ network and other media have covered the unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray this month.

After admitting that looting and rioting were not the best ways to represent the community and to seek answers, protester Danielle Williams asked Roberts a question of her own.

“My question to you is, when we were out here protesting all last week for six days straight peacefully, there were no news cameras, there were no helicopters, there was no riot gear, and nobody heard us,” Williams said. “So now that we’ve burned down buildings and set businesses on fire and looted buildings, now all of the sudden everybody wants to hear us.”

Why does it take a catastrophe like this in order for America to hear our cry?” she continued. “I mean, enough is enough. We’ve had too many lives lost at the hands of police officers. Enough is enough.”

Gray was arrested in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore on April 12. It’s unclear why he was approached by police in the first place, but Gray reportedly fled and was later apprehended. Video of his arrest captured by bystanders appeared to show Gray injured but responsive as he was loaded into a police van. He was reportedly not buckled into a seat belt, a violation of the police department’s policy.

A short time after being taken into custody, Gray was rushed off to shock trauma at the hospital, where his spine was found to be nearly completely severed. After a week in a coma, he died on April 19.

Protests actually began in Baltimore the day before Gray’s death and continued for five days without violence. Over the weekend, some protesters clashed with police, although demonstrations remained largely nonviolent.

Police have still not revealed details about Gray’s arrest or the circumstances of his fatal injuries.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/28/baltimore-protester-media-coverage_n_7166018.html

Positively Negative

polarity

Why does it take a catastrophe like this in order for America to hear our cries?” –Danielle Williams, Baltimore protester.

If we knew 30 days ago where we would be today, would we have behaved differently? We’ve witnessed how other regions of our nation respond when public policy does not reflect the needs of the community. “Civil Unrest” is a term coined by those who are tired of the status quo. It is also feigned by those who resist it. Freedom has NEVER been offered without a struggle because those in power are already free to do what they want. We want to act in a positive manner? To do so is to takes action! 

Wait!  Thirty days ago?  We haven’t recovered from the last acts of social injustice!  Statistically there were in excess of 360 police-involved deaths last year alone.  With a wrongful death averaging almost one per day, how has this not become a national epidemic. Far more people are affected by injustice than Ebola and Mad Cow Disease combined!  But disease (no matter how limited or minimal) has everyone concerned because disease knows no ethnic, cultural, class, religious, gender, or age barrier.  There’s the rub!  Anyone can fall victim.  If it can happen to any one of us, we have a united concern!  Division dissolves. This is probably why zombie movies are so popular.

BUT THIS IS NOT SCIENCE FICTION.  THIS IS REALITY!!!

negativity

Only days ago I saw the news clip of Protester Danielle Williams explaining to the media that the frustration of the people is a direct result of a failure to act.  All Americans have witnessed and endured as much as they are willing to tolerate.  We have passed the breaking point (on countless occasions).The American people have tolerated inappropriate behavior since the American Revolution.  The government’s unwillingness to represent, promote, and provide for the needs of the people is what spawned the revolution. The Revolution ended a tyranny that lasted far longer than it should have.  The world will no longer be threatened by an “American Superpower” that fights for freedom abroad.  Instead the world is watching our nation implode.  Once a model of democracy, now a vision of division.  Us verses Them.  What we have here is either a revolution or an evolution.  What’s the difference?  One is violent.  The other is peaceful and natural.  I’d prefer the latter.

My prediction is that on the other side of the protests, the policy changes, and the police retraining;  there will be a shift in power that does not improve the overall status quo.  We, who’ve been mistreated, will rise up and claim a nation (for the first time) that was always ours.  But claiming what belongs to us and protecting what is ours are two very different acts.  When will we be any more protective of human rights?  Will we revise or REcreate systems in a manner that will lift up the rights of ALL living beings?  Or will we simply conclude in the knowledge that at least OUR people will no longer fall victim to brutality? Tough questions.

the decision makers

responsibility

Who makes the decisions?  We do, right?  We have systems that enable us to make decisions either by proxy or personally.  And yet we are a society that increasingly fails to take responsibility for our actions.  Even as you read this you may be thinking, “Not me!”  Yes you!

Me too.

In recent weeks I’ve been reminded to change my course of action by changing my demeanor.  “Take ownership!” “Follow your aspirations”, they say.  “Remain positive for positive energy.”  “Negative thoughts and criticisms lead to negative outcomes.”  They say.  They say.

How about what I say?  I am an educator.  What makes me good at my job is my ability to identify a deficiency and make a plan of action to reduce it.  I would not be good at my job if I did not seek improvement.  Therefore my approach may need to be refined (instead of distinguishing that fine line between being negative and being critical). I too must take responsibility.

As a matter of fact, my most notable trait is my incessant need to be self-critical.  I figure that if I reflect often, identifying my challenges will enable me to improve.  Not necessarily so, but it’s a theory.

Society on the other hand is not so reflective.  When things go wrong, we search beyond for blame.  “Not us?  Must be them?”

When I taught preschool, we used to play this game called “Who Stole the Cookie?” where children would sing along in a group to each other:  “Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?  Johnny (or the name of another student in the class) stole the cookie from the cookie jar!”  He would say, “Who me?”  And they’d say, “Yes you!”  He’d say, “Couldn’t be,” and they would respond, “then who?!?”   Johnny would call out the name of another student, and the class would say that student’s name.  The song would continue until every student’s name had been called.  Everyone sang along, and everyone eventually took the blame for the mysterious missing cookie.

Everyone took the blame?  Actually no.  No one took the blame.  In this early childhood example, a harmless game demonstrates where we are as a culture.  Everyone gets blamed for something at some point.  The innocent never accept the responsibility.  Why would they?  The guilty merely need to defer the blame to someone else.

Isn’t this precisely the reason that the justice system is not swift?  Amnesty is not justice.  Although prosecutors offer a reduced sentence for a guilty plea, the confident defendant knows that lack of proof requires no integrity. Read that sentence again.

Integrity.  What’s that?  So few people use it that it’s becoming a lost trait.  Outside the confines of a good home, we just don’t adhere to it much any more.  The schools teach it, and it eases the burdens of a classroom; but bad decisions (not “bad children”) are sent to the office less and less frequently. I’ve got an administrator that actually demands that we seek three alternate decisions before we refer ANY matter to him.  Imagine if the real world functioned that way.

Our students don’t take responsibility.  Their parents don’t take responsibility. The teachers don’t take responsibility. The administrators won’t.  The school board doesn’t. The voters who empowered the school board simply figured that the Board knows what they are doing (but they don’t).  As a matter of fact, most school boards are made up of non-educators who want to make a positive change in their community.  Business people, entrepreneurs, civic leaders in the making…

Parents usually direct their energy to the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), but that lasts about as long as their child’s enrollment.  Who can blame them?  And how long does that responsibility last?

We elect officials to take responsibility for our community problems.  Who takes responsibility beyond an official’s term?  No one.  Is there ever a transfer of responsibility?  The problems do not cease to exist.  The problems don’t expire.  Like week-old milk, the problems that our communities face stink; and if consumed too late, the problem is exponentially larger.

Think about any problem our society is currently facing.  The rapid rate of home foreclosures; the rising costs of gasoline; the in-affordability of college; delinquency in it’s many forms, etc.  These problems are the direct result of problems for which no one took responsibility long ago.

Lack of insight verses failure to acknowledge the warnings.

Boom!  Status Quo.  And yet we still look for someone to blame.  Not us.  Them.  Even when we recognize that the problems that we face today are magnificent, failure to act equals a deferment of a solution.  We leave these dilemmas in the hands of a generation that can no better resolve a problem than it can acknowledge that it exists.   It’s as if THIS is all the kids will ever know, and “where’s the problem in that?”

The rest of us look back at another time when things were better.  Why didn’t we act when things began to get worse?

Nuna

Ten years ago, I found myself in a new career, uncomfortable scenarios, and little hope.  With no idea what situations brought me to this place, and with very little hope for escape, I was lost.  One night at the Bridgeton Police Station I met an angel case managing a family in crisis.

Her unfamiliar confidence and passion to stabilize an unpleasant event was intriguing.  All I could offer was an old rap song to distract the children from the police interrogation.  That night she privately affirmed me and explained that she wouldn’t be there long because her marriage couldn’t endure it.  Although it made sense, I had come to work for the agency in hopes to restore my own marriage.

She told me that she was going to become a teacher.  It was an approach that I hadn’t considered for myself since my freshmen year in college.  Nonetheless, it sparked my interest.  She said that she wanted to work with children.  Sounded good to me. That’s what I wanted too.  I just hadn’t figured out how.

Before I knew it, she had resigned.  She’d been hired at a local elementary school teaching English-As-A-Second Language, Language Arts, Math, and Science.  This inspired me to spend the first two hours of every day looking a career in education.  I too needed an escape to a more fulfilling career–one that embraces hope, is heralded as a noble profession, and helps without hurt.

The years that followed found me in a classroom of my own.  Our paths would not have crossed again had it not been for social media.  On the rare occasion that her actual photo graced her profile was the day I connected with her online.  Nuna was her online handle.

MySpace, Yahoo IM, and eventually Facebook became the mediums through which we shared ideas and accomplishments.  She saved her relationship and introduced me to someone after my marriage collapsed.  Like good friends do, we partied, celebrated life, and enjoyed the company of our mutual friends.  Relationships dissolved and our professional lives took on new forms.  We supported each other’s endeavors from a far;  only commenting when asked for an opinion.

Although not an integral part of my career or my personal life, I’ve shared with her my most emotional experiences.  From her own perspective, she’s offered advice.  Younger but wiser, her advice was always valued.  Her own expertise has been recently recognized by higher authorities which has positioned her assent to a new level of achievement.  I’m so proud of her.  She continues to inspire me.

True friendships cannot always be defined by cliches.  In this case, no cliche can adequately define the value of my bond to Nuna.  Exciting times…