Tweeting a C-Section? Really?!?

I saw this headline today on Mashable:

Picture 1

Of course I clicked.

Then I thought, have we taken social media too far? Have we lost all sense of privacy in this age of over-sharing, insta-liking and screen-time addiction?

As someone who has gone through a C-Section, there is no way I would have been comfortable having the operation live tweeted, blogged about, videotaped or in any other way made public. I’m sure the woman who has allowed the hospital in Houston that plans to publicize #MHBaby via its Twitter feed had a lot of waivers and releases to sign, and maybe the medical team—or more likely the hospital’s marketing team—told her she’d be helping other women understand the surgery.

But when I was in that operating room and the doctors told me they needed to get my twins out fast, there was no way I would have been OK with publicizing the event. I don’t even want to look at the pictures a resident took during the surgery.

There is something to say about passing along information. Actually, there’s lots to say. Everyone has an opinion. But to me, this goes a little too far. Why does the public need to know the bloody details of a surgeon’s perspective during a C-Section? Beats me. All I’d want to see is a healthy, crying baby coming into a loving mother’s arms.

What do you think?

Birthdays in the age of Facebook

Yesterday was my birthday. {Pause} Thank you. It was a nice day. All my Facebook friends knew about it.ecard-2

Ever since Facebook came into my life, or, rather, I came into Facebook, birthdays have become a cyber event of obligatory well wishes and thank yous to people you probably would not even know if not for the largest social networking site in history of humankind.

Almost every day at least one of my Facebook friends celebrates a birthday. An alert pops up on the side of my Facebook screen, and I can easily type a few words into a box, press enter, and wish a far-flung acquaintance a happy birthday. If I know something about that person that goes beyond our passive sharing of random information and photos on Facebook, I might add a personal flair to my post, like: “I hope you have a great day with the family” or “Make sure you get enough rest after your debaucherous extravaganza birthday celebration so you can function properly at work tomorrow” or “I wish we could celebrate together, I miss you!”

As I get older, I have grown more fond of strong connections than loose bonds with people. I can count the number of people I talk to on the phone regularly on one hand. Even with the continuously growing forms in which we can connect with others and our ever-expanding social networks, I am finding that those close friends and family members are the most valuable relationships. They are even more precious now that I’m reminded how man loose ties I have out there with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube…you know, social media. I am proud that I can remember a good friend’s birthday without being reminded by Facebook. {Aleza, yours is March 3.}

Don’t get me wrong. It feels good to get dozens of people wishing me a happy birthday, and I enjoy sending a good wish their way when it’s their turn. But what feels even better is a phone call or a text from a good friend, a card in the mail or even a great night out with those who matter most.

So, happy birthday to me, and to you, and don’t forget to like my post.

2012 in review for BTWWTF?!?!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The most connected Thanksgiving

Am I the only one to gather turkey roasting secrets from Twitter? Or gleaning ideas for side dishes and methods of creating delectable Thanksgiving meal with a little help from my friends — Facebook friends, that is. And what about Instagram and Pinterest? All those mouth-watering photos and ideas for place settings and table decorations are hard to resist.

With the help of social media, this Thanksgiving, and probably every future holiday from here on out just got a little bit easier, and harder.

While we are increasingly attached to our devices from the moment we wake up to the minute our eyes close for the night, it is possible that while we gather more information than ever thought possible in remarkably little time, are we missing something from the equation?

Thanksgiving has its purpose in its name. Our day of thanks, of expressing gratitude, of remembering what we hold dear.

To some of us it could very well be that our gadgets—our phones and tablets and laptops—are what we are most thankful for, but if we were to take all that away…all the tweets, the status updates, the viral videos and memes du jour, what would we have left?

Ponder this thought. And then be thankful to have the time and space to think about it. Take a moment to breathe in, to exhale slowly and to pay attention.

Look out a nearby window and carefully observe all that is out there.  Hum a short tune. Feel the vibrations of your throat. Be thankful to be alive.

And now you can pick up your phone again, snap that photo of the squirrel chasing a rabbit up the tree outside your window. Share it to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. But remember to take those moments and give thanks to the simplicity of the here and now.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Politics and Facebook: How to survive an election and keep your friends

It’s been two weeks since the Nov. 6 election, and I have nearly overcome my feelings of defriending the people who disagreed with me politically.

My husband, bold and stalwart, removed those with vastly opposing viewpoints weeks ago with little hesitation. I struggled with it throughout the last three months of the election season. Why? I kept asking myself. Is it more important to hold on to a diverse set of people with varying points of view than to check my Facebook feed and not want to throw up or punch something (or someone)?

Early in the election cycle one of my Facebook friends announced that she would defriend anyone who posted a political post. I thought that was a bit extreme, but it entered my consciousness that I should be careful not to post anything that would deeply offend others who didn’t hold my views. Granted, the vast majority of my social circle off and online are similar in their political leanings to me, so it would only be a handful of friends (one of them an uncle) who would likely disagree with anything I had to say regarding the presidential race, Senate and Congressional races, ballot measures and the like, but I found myself holding back all the same.

During the first presidential debate, I left Facebook and turned to Twitter, where my network is less personal and more political. I felt free to rant and rave as much as I needed to in 140 characters or less. I did less screaming at the television and more poking at my smart phone. I felt part of a community as I read others’ tweets that made me laugh and shared my horror. And I was having so much fun on Twitter, that I posted to Facebook for those of my friends with Twitter accounts to join me on that site to discuss the debate.

Soon after, a Facebook friend whom I personally do not know very well, posted in acerbic language that people should keep their political opinions to themselves since not everyone agreed with them. I was taken aback by this post, not just because of the vitriol this friend exuded, but because she wanted to shut down people’s expression. I was much more offended by this post than my other friend’s post about defriending those with political ramblings, though the sentiments of the two posts were the same they were stated much differently. It started to scar my idea of her, and I wondered if I should defriend her.

We have grown quite polarized as a country. We can be divided into red and blue so easily, but what we sometimes forget is that red and blue make purple and that purple is our shared humanity. Facebook and other social networks bring us together in ways not imagined even 10 years ago. Yet, it seems we are more hesitant to share our views with each other and to find common ground. We are happier in our bubbles of like-minded people and the media that cater to our philosophies.

There’s a Facebook page called “No One Wants to Hear About Your Politics, Especially on Facebook.” It has more than 3,000 likes, which is not significant when compared to the millions who have liked political pages belonging to candidates or lobby groups. Yet, Mashable reported that 47 percent of those who took its poll defriended someone because of the recent election. That poll received nearly 3,000 responses.

CNN reported a study that showed one in five people on social media admit to blocking, defriending or hiding someone because of a political post. An author of that study was quoted saying that the findings were not surprising, as social mores dictate not discussing sensitive topics, such as politics, with certain people in the real world.

“We know not to bring up politics around certain friends or family members. We try to avoid people who are constantly looking for an argument or trying to sell us on their pet ideas,” said Aaron Smith, a Pew research associate.

“Since blocking, unfriending, hiding people is the closest social analogue to those real-world examples, it’s not necessarily surprising to see people taking these steps in the virtual space.”

I refrained from political posts until the final days of the election. Before that, I made a point to comment and “like” others’ posts that I found interesting or agreed with. But I was not interested in placing my views on others. That’s what Twitter was for. Facebook was for making nice, for sharing photos of the kids and congratulating a high school friend on the birth of a baby. Yet, my true self felt stunted, and I finally posted a few articles to Facebook that lined up with my political philosophies, and on Election Night, I showed my hand and changed my profile picture to a campaign sign.

It was met with a little hostility from the vitriolic friend, but otherwise I received a couple of positive comments and about a dozen likes. Even so, the next morning, happy and relieved the election was finally over, I changed my profile picture to an innocuous photo of me and my family. I got a lot more comments and three times as many likes on that one.

And I feel ready to go back to the simple, carefree world of baby and wedding photos. Looks like I won’t be defriending anyone after all. At least not until next the election.

Israel-Gaza battles light up the Internet

In this age, even war has gone social. As Israel Defense Forces bombs detonated in Gaza during the past few days and the Palestinian faction Hamas launched missiles toward Israel, those of us far from the skirmish kept watch online.

On Twitter, the official account of the IDF, @IDFspokesperson detailed in English and Hebrew their targets, links to YouTube videos explaining aspects of the fight, and a live blog posting updates on “Operation Pillar of Defense.”

Hamas, also on Twitter, has been posting tweets to its account in Arabic. Palestine News, an aggregate of news concerning Palestine—@Palestine—has not kept up quite the social media presence as IDF, but provides a contrary view to Israel’s PR machine.

Yet, there is no mistaking that Israel’s reliance on social media to spread the word far and wide about the conflict as the IDF sees it, has been strategic and well executed. The blog, http://www.idfblog.com/, has received so much traffic it crashed.

Consider that a recent tweet by @IDFspokesperson received 187 retweets and was favorited 36 times in about half an hour, while a tweet from @Palestine sent at about the same time received just 11 tweets and had not been favorited by other Twitter users. The IDF is getting mileage from its Twitter 160,000 followers—more than three times more than @Palestine has.

Likewise, Hamas’ Twitter account, while in Arabic, has nearly 20,000 followers. Its most recent tweet was sent two days ago and garnered 13 retweets and five favorites.

The conflict is not just a ground game between opposing military forces, it is a propaganda game. And the IDF is clearly winning on that front. Chalk it up to infrastructure, education levels, funding and the digital divide, but there are many instances throughout history where slick propaganda has figured prominently in a war. Think about World War II. Think about the Chinese Revolution in 1949.

War is a delicate subject, not to mention vicious, horrifying and life-altering. While the mechanics of war have evolved over time from spears and arrows and swords to cannons and rifles and machine guns and nuclear bombs and unmanned drones and ballistic missiles, so has the technology in which civilians receive information.

Think back to the 1991 bombing of Baghdad. CNN was there, earning its stripes as the live news network on the ground—a reporter frantically depicting the onslaught of the city by American bombers from a hotel. Or look into the history books at how the Civil War was the first to be recorded by photographers at battle sites.

Now we have social media. We have Facebook campaigns and YouTube videos. We have blogs and 140-character tweets to keep us informed about the battlefield. And with social media we have a plethora of new voices entering the convseration and providing details. We can hear from civilians witnessing the attacks as clearly and urgently as we receive media reports or information from government and military sources.

Israel and Palestine will continue to bombard each other with rockets, gunfire, bombs and propaganda, while the rest of us will be left to sift through the gobs of information thrown at us in all forms of media. Many voices and perspectives are good when collecting information. What is difficult is separating the truth from the fiction.

We sincerely hope for peace in the region, and will have our Twitter feeds to keep us in the loop.

Social Media 1.0

A few days ago, I had a profound experience in social media. My phone, dead from a swollen battery, sat in the hands of aVerizon Guy geeky Verizon Wireless tech guru who actually looked like the bespectacled dude from the company’s ads. I was cut off from my mobile versions of Twitter, Facebook, Words with Friends, RSS feeds, and even WordPress, not to mention the old-fashioned texting and phone functions of my smart phone. Needless to say, I was a little out of sorts.

The geek commented on my phone number, noting the area code and asking where it was from. San Francisco, I replied. And, like most Midwesterners do, he asked me why I was living in Ohio. Sometimes I dream about this conversation I have it so often, but after explaining to him my circumstances of being exiled from California for several years as my husband pursues his medical training, we started talking about how beautiful my home state is, how he has family living in Santa Cruz, and how much he’d like to move back there. We set up rapport. We laughed, joked about the cost of living differences between the two states, and then it was time for him to give me a diagnosis on my befallen battery.

I needed a new one, and there weren’t any in stock in the region. Not surprising, as this phone is notorious for having a poor battery. “I can order one for you,” he said. I agreed, and he offered me shipping options. This turned into even a more zig-zaggy conversation that meandered through the merits of choosing the USPS instead of UPS or FedEx.

Turns out, this guy loves to find old magazines and comic books that have ads in the back for the reader to cut out and mail in for a free offer. He gathers sometimes decades-old ads, mails them in and waits for a response.

He started telling me all about the many ads he’s cut out from the ’70s and ’80s and how most of them go unanswered. Some come back, Return to Sender, some come back with little notes saying the offer is no longer valid. He sends cash in these envelopes, and he usually gets the cash back, too.

What a fun, wild idea. I thought, and I was so happy to have had this conversation with a random person at the Verizon store that it made me think about all the chit-chat I do on social media—Twitter, Facebook and the like—that is so much less interesting and personal as what I encountered in a face-to-face handful of minutes with this guy.

While social media has its benefits of increasing someone’s network, finding other like-minded people, keeping friends and family members in one neat box where they can easily share photos and snippets from their lives and vice-versa, nothing beats real one-on-one face time with another person—social media 1.0.

Human contact will always be the number-one booster of social capital. It’s what sticks with you, what creates our humanity. And we will never be able to get that through any screen.