The Breakfast Club

6 cups coffee (2)The seat cushion of my office chair was not yet cold before I started reaching out to former co-workers who had also been let go that day. Social media is truly a godsend in times like these. On Facebook I was quickly connected to five other women from the company who had found themselves in the same boat. Some I knew well, others only slightly. But an amazing byproduct in times of crisis is that of people coming together.

A day after the smoke cleared, I got up, showered, dressed and put on make-up to meet the others for breakfast. Believe me it was best for everyone close to me that I had somewhere to be just then. Twenty-four hours of feeling sorry for myself, was definitely long enough. It was only a casual meal at a nearby restaurant, but once I went, I felt like a new person. We had some laughs, exchanged contacts and swapped war stories.

There is something about shared suffering that creates an incredible strength and sense of community. We are reminded that we’re not out there alone, floating aimlessly through an overwhelming sea of job postings and resume updates. We are not alone in the daily ponderings of hard questions about what the future holds. And I think it’s safe to say, that we’re certainly not alone in our enjoyment of a quick commute to the couch every morning.

One of the women appropriately named our group “The Breakfast Club,” and this morning, we got together again. I mean, we DO have time after all. We swapped more stories, had some more laughs and reported on our progress. Some of us are searching for new jobs and others are taking time to tend to family needs or personal business ventures, but no matter our unique circumstances in the aftermath of something unexpected and scary, two things are certain — I have five, amazingly-cool, new friends, and there is strength in numbers.

Thou Shalt Edit Thyself

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Thanks to our culture’s rampant use of social media to immediately convey our every thought, word, deed and bodily function, I am learning a new skill! I am learning the art of “editing” myself and what I post online. Be they posts, pictures or opinions in the forms of status updates or comments… I am developing some restraint.

Cruising through Instagram, Twitter or Facebook feeds, scrolling over photos of drooling babies, kids kicking soccer balls, hands formed in the shape of a heart hovering above bare baby bumps, a meme about the Obamacare website fail, mud or paint-covered friends posing at the finish line of the latest gimmicky 5K, endless selfies or acquaintances jetting off to exotic locales… I am thankful that my thoughts don’t come pouring instantly forth from my fingertips. If they did, I would be in serious trouble.

If they DID… Well, let’s just say that things could get ugly, fast. I’ll offer up a few “for examples” to help illustrate my point. A sort of “Top Ten List” if you will. Bear in mind, these are ONLY hypotheticals. I am in NO WAY admitting to actually thinking these things or letting them slip over casual dinner conversation with my husband… They’re just a few what-if scenarios.

  1. That is one ugly baby.
  2. Please post MORE drunken pictures of yourself.
  3. That is NOT a good look for you.
  4. Wow! Look how amazing you look now!! You were a total ________________ in high school. (I’ll let you fill in THAT blank yourselves, it’s more fun).
  5. Seriously? Another one? Have some more kids. Now that I think about it, the Duggars DO need some competition, after all.
  6. I see that you are headed to the Caribbean AGAIN… With another “new friend.” I guess that means the boob job’s all paid for then?
  7. How can YOU GUYS afford THAT house?
  8. But really, how do you HONESTLY feel about the 2nd Amendment, Obamacare or Miley Cyrus? I really, REALLY wanna know because I can’t tell from the rest of your posts.
  9. At exactly what point in your life did you forget how to spell or use the English language at all for that matter?
  10. I didn’t know that you were constipated. But now that I know… Well, that just changes everything!

Make no mistake, I don’t believe that I am exempt from annoying people by the things that I post. In fact, a friend once told me outright that they had “hidden” me from their news feed on Facebook because I posted too many pictures of my cat. And I totally respect them for their honesty. I really do.

We just don’t happen to be friends anymore.

You Look Richer / Prettier / Happier / More Interesting on Facebook

Wealthy Woman Served Champagne in Bubble BathWhile at a concert the other night I saw a balding, middle-aged man wearing a white t-shirt that simply read: “You look richer on Facebook.” My first instinct was to internally ridicule the man for wearing such a dumb shirt and elbow Lee who was sitting right next to me. Which I DID do… I know, I can be rather catty and shallow at times. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how true the statement on this guy’s shirt actually was.

We really do put our best digital foot forward when it comes to social media. ALL social media… This isn’t exclusive to Facebook. It extends to Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. etc. Why do we do this? Because we can. And thanks to the Orwellian world in which we now live, it has NEVER been easier. Most of us, I believe, use the platform of social media to carefully craft the image of ourselves that we wish to project to the outside world. Am I wrong?

The “Class Reunion” used to be the vehicle by which we attempted to show off our “best” selves for one night. We’d diet, buy a new figure-flattering outfit and color our hair. We’d fluff up our job titles and descriptions. Brush up on our awareness of current events or the latest juicy bits of gossip. And season our conversations with snippets from the family highlight reel. But now we need not limit our narcissistic indulgences to once every five or ten years.

Now we are out there 24/7, baby! And in tandem with the convenience of the “24/7 All Me, All the Time” channel comes the convenience of “hiding” behind glowing screens day and night. Sorting, cropping and color-correcting our photos until they show nothing but our best sides. Our darkest secrets now cloaked in our ability to choose whether or not to click that “Share” button. C’mon. Admit that you do it.

OK… I’ll go first with the confessions… As far as “negative” things go, I might post that I am getting a migraine or slammed with a sinus infection but that is all fairly innocuous “above the neck” stuff, if you will. Not to mention, there is some cyber sympathy that comes with that sort of suffering minus the need for embarrassment. But no one, I repeat NO ONE puts the crappy, nitty-gritty stuff of life that really goes on out there for the world to see.

For instance, we don’t mention the fight we had with our spouse or kids the day before. You know the one that ended with the slamming of doors and muttering of expletives? There is nary a word about the gas station burrito we gobbled in haste that later kept us up all night, chained to the bathroom fixtures, experiencing the sorts of digestive horrors nightmares are made of. We’re mums on the “mysterious rash” some new medication is giving us. And there isn’t a peep about what you suspect the weirdo next door may or may NOT be doing with a chainsaw in his garage at 3 a.m.

I mean, sure, there are always going to be a few of “those” people who are willing to hang ALL of their dirty laundry out there… Lamenting the choices they’ve made in life… Or the number of times they’ve been rejected, how much they hate their friends or social life, feel lonely or have suffered financial ruin. I, for one, stand in curious awe of these individuals. One can only assume that these perverse pixel people are sadists, masochists or hypochondriacs in search of some commiseration, pity or affirmation.

However, it is their right and freedom to do so. Personally, I would rather hide my shame. I prefer (as I suspect most people are likewise doing) to disguise the less-than-stellar-stuff-of-life in the fanciful façade of a funny picture or clever observation… My life… According to me… made up of millions of pixels… arranged precisely the way that I want YOU to see them.

Virtually Divided

brain-piechartIt’s difficult to remember a time when the only thing that could distract you from work or dinner or your favorite TV show was the phone. And I mean the kind that plugged into the wall and only made one sound. Ever. It didn’t play the theme from Django, or the latest from Kanye, Beyonce or LMFAO. It just rang. And the only way to determine who was calling was to pick it up.

Getting things done is much more complicated now that in addition to your antiquated landline phone, your mobile phone with its endless news alerts, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter notifications, email alerts, software updates and game requests acts as a HUGE distraction. Add that to your desktop computer (if you are chained to one like I am) with its email alerts, IMs, meeting requests, software updates, etc., etc. and you may start to feel the urge to reach for the Xanax. Or a hammer.

It’s cool that we are able to do SO many things at once now. It really is. I can today—sitting in the Eastern Standard Time Zone—work simultaneously on a project with someone on the Pacific coast. I can grab the laptop to attend a meeting or escape to anywhere where there is wireless internet and access network files from the office.

But with all of the good that it brings, I can’t help but wonder: What harm is it doing? Are our brains going in so many different directions that no ONE thing gets the full attention that it deserves? Are we multitasking so often that we are going to forget how to sit still for as long as it takes to see ONE thing through to completion? Or is everything destined to be divided and done in pixel parts from here to eternity? Because obviously the virtual world is not only here to stay… but to go… with US anywhere we wish to take it.

I don’t know about you, but my personal time has become severely fractured too. I no longer just watch TV or eat dinner or have a conversation or look at Facebook or write. In a typical evening I might do all of the above at once. If I have a favorite show, I might push everything else to the side… laundry, dishes, conversation… to block off that 30 minutes or an hour to “relax and focus” on the entertaining dialog between some beloved characters, only to discover that I can’t keep my hands off my iPhone.

I used to only pick it up at commercials to play a game, return an email or troll Facebook for juicy gossip. But I’ve noticed that increasingly so, I am fiddling with it during the very show that I once tried so religiously to protect. I cannot stop multitasking. Last night I must have gotten OUT of bed six times (I am not kidding) to do something just because it “occurred to me” to do so. Well, that, and I feared I might forget. That is a real fear now. That I’ll forget.

Gee, I wonder why the risk of forgetfulness is so much higher now. We all like to joke around and attribute it to aging… but I myself, think the more likely culprit is a divided mind. After sliding back INTO bed for the sixth time, I finally told myself to JUST STOP. Crawl under the covers and STAY there. Do not pick up the phone. Do not surf the channels. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Just freaking SLEEP! OK!?! That is at least ONE time when I am doing only ONE thing at a time.

Virtually Dumped

Due to the rise and surge of social media, our personal lives have changed so dramatically in the last five years that it is difficult to remember what life was like pre-Facebook, Twitter or in this instance, WordPress and the blogosphere. Ahh, the unique joys and sorrows of virtual friendships… So easy to make and even easier to break.

If you’re active at all in social media, you’ll know to what I referring when I mention getting dumped virtually. Although the one-sided, electronic break up is bound to happen from time to time—not unlike a real break up—it stings a bit when it does occur. You wake up one day without a care in the world, log on to your social media site of choice and voila! You realize you’ve one less “friend” or “follower” than you had the night before.

In the case of Facebook, I’ve learned to no longer care if and when this happens. I don’t tweet, so I can’t speak to the Twitterverse arena of the issue, but I DO blog and I think it is safe to say that in the world of blogging, losing a virtual follower can often leave a bit of virtual mark. It is especially ouchy if the ex-follower in question at one time featured you and your blog on their personal page.

Sad to say, I was dumped from a fellow writer’s blogroll a week ago. And being the neurotic, obsessive person that I am… I took to Google to see if there were any articles floating around in cyberspace devoted to the matter. There were not. Perhaps I, clearly the MOST neurotic, narcissistic, obsessive blogger IN THE WORLD, should be the one to write one, lest another pathetic dumpee similar to myself takes to Google in search of some e-comfort?

What I DID find, was a general article on “getting dumped” — you know, like in REAL LIFE. To be fair to the writer of that article and the inspiration for this post, here is the address: http://fearlessmen.com/getting-dumped/. After reading it, I realized that perhaps there are some similarities between the REAL and the VIRTUAL types of dumping. Thus, the following are the reasons given in the article for why a person may have been dumped in the real world, accompanied by a few “personal thoughts” pertaining to the cyber realm.

1. BoredomOK, so maybe my posts don’t scratch where you itch. I am who I am. Deal with it. Well, I guess you did. You dumped me. I’m sorry if I didn’t sufficiently entertain you.

2. Too Needy / Too ClingyUmmm… Perhaps my creation of this post is enough to illustrate this one? I hope you don’t mind that I wrote it. I really wish I knew how you felt about this one. Maybe I shouldn’t even post it? What do you think? I miss you.

3. Too JealousWhy do you always comment on THEIR stuff and not mine!? You NEVER comment on my stuff! You must think they are cooler/hipper/smarter/prettier/skinnier/wittier/more interesting than me! Why am I not good enough for you!?!?

4. Trying too hard too soon OR not trying hard enoughAre my comments and observations too lengthy or too short? Are there too many or too few? I soooo wish I knew so I could change and make this all better. Then again, sometimes I don’t really care what you think.

5. Lost Interest / Ran out of infatuation / Honeymoon is overPerhaps you’re tired of what you initially thought were extremely astute, brilliant and hilarious observations… and have now grown weary of repetitive entries about Spanx, wrinkles, alarm clocks, ill-fitting clothing, aggressive driving, rude people and a freakishly-abnormal fear of insects. Is that it? Was that the one that put you over the edge?

7. Chemistry / Different Directions / It isn’t what you or he/she thought it wasAlright, so maaaaybe I wasn’t what you expected me to be. But please don’t give me the “It’s not you, it’s me” bit because I know, baby, it was me. Otherwise I wouldn’t be the one sitting here in sweats and a dirty t-shirt with the remote and a wad of Kleenex in my lap, watching Beaches and putting my thighs in serious jeopardy with this quart of Ben and Jerry’s.

My Flag (Pin) is Bigger Than Yours

Not to worry. You can keep reading. I’m not going to go there. I’m not going to get political and my hope is that by the end of this post—aside from those who know me personally—many readers will not know which side I am casting my vote for three weeks from today.

I simply find it amazing how, in our 24-hour news cycle, there are so many little things that seem to matter an awful lot. While watching the first Presidential debate between Governor Romney and President Obama, I noted a rather curious difference between the two candidates… and I’m not talking about their stance on tax cuts.

Right out of the shoot as they shook hands and took to their respective podiums, I noticed that there was a significant difference in the size of the two men’s lapel pins. President Obama wore his standard pin that he can be seen wearing on most occasions while Governor Romney adorned his navy suit with a much larger one.

And I knew… I KNEW that this variance would make it into the news somehow. If you don’t believe me, a quick Google search on “Presidential Lapel Pin Size” will prove otherwise. Anyway, in addition to the actual issues at hand regarding the future direction of our nation… the implications of the flag pin differential were being dissected the following morning just as I suspected.

Now, I personally don’t care about pin size, hair thickness, eyebrow shape or tie color… but the media thinks that I might. So they tell me. Along with A LOT of other things that really won’t matter in the long run. However, I’m not blaming the media for this. They are merely delivering to us—the collective “We the People”—what we seem to enjoy celebrating so much these days… Division.

It is such an easy trap to fall into. In fact, it is a cinch what with all of the commercials, the scare tactics and the cleverly and strategically shrouded truth, to begin bickering amongst ourselves about who is right and who is wrong. All the while we keep forgetting that we share the real estate and overall status of what lies within the boundaries of this nation.

Recently, while at dinner with some friends I got into a somewhat heated discussion with one of the men about the issues, the candidates and our personal differences. And during one of the debates, I sunk to putting biased comments on Facebook about the candidate who I did not prefer. In doing so I got responses from friends who happened to disagree with me, and the conversation inevitably descended into petty, misguided frustration and anger.

It was then that it struck me how “not worth it” all of this political volleying really is. And I took my slanted comments down and replaced them with the following:

“Had a momentary lapse in judgment last night and began participating on here in “debate talk.” I forgot that the consequences of that lay not in discovering who disagrees with you but in learning what everyone else thinks. I don’t WANT to know what everyone else is thinking. No one is going to change my mind — a mind I’ve made up for myself. The only thing the participation in “debate discussion” invites is division between me and people I otherwise call friends. I’m going to try to hold my breath (and my opinion) for another month and then silently express that opinion in the polling booth — the most powerful and effective forum of all.”

The comment garnered a rather large and favorable response from both my Republican and Democratic friends and family, proving my theory that before we were political rivals, we were friends and family who, at the end of the day, stand beneath the SAME flag with the SAME colors and the SAME number of stars and stripes. And that’s what is getting lost in all of this bitter fighting over the details… the remembrance, above all, of our sameness.

Your Face Here

Remember when Kanye West so obnoxiously interrupted/ruined Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 Video Music Awards?

Overnight Kanye began popping up in all sorts of important moments throughout history… MLK Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech… President Obama’s most recent State of the Union address… Steve Bartman’s infamous oops! incident during a MLB playoff game between the Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins in 2003 (I’m not still bitter or anything)… Neil Armstrong stepping foot on the moon… You get the picture.

Anyway… all of this is to say that the “Kanye West Internet Meme” phenomenon came to mind this morning after a casual viewing of updates on Facebook.

I was cruising down through the various postings of photos, updates, news stories, etc. when I discovered on at least four separate occasions some individuals who, like Kanye, can’t seem to resist inserting themselves into every, single, solitary bit of drama that may be occuring in another person’s life.

They are the same people every time and I can count on them (with stunning regularity) to get “involved” whenever something noteworthy within their community occurs. Be it death, trajedy, illness, a terrible accident or a social injustice… they will be there—like Kanye—to grab their bit of someone else’s spotlight.

Now, you may be asking… “If you find their behavior to be so vexing, Joanna, why don’t you just unfriend them?” And you would be absolutely, understandably and undeniably reasonable in asking such a question.

But I hedge in cutting them loose because I’m not too certain who has the bigger problem here. Is it the individuals who feel the need to ride other people’s coattails of misfortune? Or is it me… the one who finds them so annoying, so perplexing, so psychologically flawed and fascinating that I felt the need to compile this post?

I don’t know the answer… yet. And I don’t know whether or not my friend list will become shorter by half a dozen or so by tomorrow. But while I am mulling that over, I’ll leave you with this as I simply could not resist…