It’s Complicated (with) Facebook

28 Feb

Did you ever think back in 2nd grade that the kid picking his nose in the corner would one day be asking you for help with the harvest on his virtual farm? That you’d find out exactly what he thinks of the 3D re-release of the Star Wars series or how excited he is that the Arrested Development movie is actually happening?

No?

Me neither. Facebook is a fascinating beast. I say beast because it turns out that the glossy picture our news feeds paint of each other’s lives might be making us depressed. Unfortunately, this hypothesis makes a lot of sense to me. Has it ever been easier to build a measuring stick for yourself against your hyper-extended peer network? What was once reserved for alumni magazines and the oft New York Times wedding announcement is now just a Facebook newsfeed refresh away.

We watch close and peripheral friends alike post life milestones, amazing travel pictures, instagram-ed images that make even their left thumb appear deeply remarkable. It’s like only watching the movie trailer and comparing that to the full-length film you’re stumbling through.

The implications for the reverse of this phenomenon are interesting as well: could the happy faces we’re cultivating on facebook prevent our friends from reaching out and checking in with us? By only sharing carefully filtered day-to-day information with each other are we cutting off opportunities for real intimacy? Does that potential sense of inferiority prevent us from reaching out to those we see as living “perfect” lives?

I don’t know. I’m not qualified to answer those questions in any kind of linkable, scientific way. I can say that I suspect that these things are happening to us to varying degrees.

If you’re sitting there thinking this sounds familiar but wondering what to do about it, I do have some advice for coming to terms with Facebook:

  • Don’t judge yourself: remember that all we’re seeing is the highlight reel
  • Revel in the moments when you learn something truly remarkable about someone you never would have discovered without this online connection
  • Check in with your friends, no matter how happy they appear to be
  • Laugh out loud at the shared hysteria of the latest cat memes and Daily Show clips
  • “Like” George Takei, seriously, he’s hysterical
  • Remember that we’re all closely curating our posts…and sometimes just making bad booze fueled decisions
  • Sign out, go outside, take a walk

And now I shall step down from my pulpit and see if that kid from 2nd grade got more birthday messages than me…

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My Dog Sees Imaginary Flies

16 Feb
Mattie staring at the ceiling, looking for imaginary flies.

I know those flies are out there...

There are moments in every person’s life that they will remember for all of their days: that sunrise/sunset in that amazing place you went, your wedding day (if Say Yes to the Dress is to believed), the birth of your kids etc etc. For me, I can now add a truly unique life event to that list: the day I found out that my dog is hallucinating. Mattie hunts and bites at imaginary flies. This is a real thing that happens to dogs.

Don’t take that’s vet’s word for it! Here’s a video:



Fear not, this is apparently not a life-threatening condition. It’s just a weird one. Then again, Mattie doing weird things is not new. Thanks to her I know that dogs can reverse sneeze. I know that it’s possible for canines to digest food while they have multiple socks in their gut. I know that it’s possible for man’s best friend to get lyme disease twice. I always chalked it up to her being a character, a fun-loving dog in the mold of Allie Brosh’s Simple Dog.

So, I didn’t think that much of it when about a month ago I noticed that she had an unprecedented level of focus, staring at the wall or ceiling for apparently no reason.

“She’s growing up!” I thought (ok, no, thanks to too much X-Files as a kid I really thought she was probably seeing ghosts). When she began biting at the air, I realized something weird was happening, even on her scale. Thanks to a quick google search (“dog thinks she sees flies”), I’ve learned that some truly special dogs, who may or may not be OCD, bite at imaginary flies.

It’s not a joke anymore: my dog is actually special. Happy Thursday everyone.

Image

Happy Day-People-Have-Conflicted-Feelings-About!

14 Feb

Happy Day-People-Have-Conflicted-Feelings-About!

These were consumed a short time after this photo was taken.

Living Socially

13 Feb

I was talking to a recent DC transplant a couple of weeks ago and when she asked me what it’s like to live in the District I replied without even thinking:

“It’s like living inside LinkedIn.”

And it is. The inevitable first question you get upon meeting someone here is: “So, what do you do?”

This question is so ubiquitous that it’s clichéd to even comment upon it’s preferred status. Professional networks are the gears that move the DC social scene. So, this fair city is the real living version of LinkedIn – also, people are most frequently seen in awkward professional wear, so there’s that too.

This realization got me thinking…what other cities do our favorite social networks match up with? Join me as we wander down a path of gross generalities and types de stereo.

New York City = Facebook

Large and crowded, everyone visits at least once.

Los Angeles = Flickr

So prettttttttttyyyyy.

Detroit = MySpace

Once booming and now empty. Always hankering for a comeback.

Seattle = Instagram

LA with hipster filters!

Nashville = Spotify

Where the music lives, except for Metallica, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin.

Boston = Google+

Everyone! Stay in your circles!

San Francisco = Pinterest

Have you seen this new cool thing on the Internet?

Chicago = Twitter

So much to say, but no one pays attention for very long.

Brooklyn = Yelp!

Everyone’s a critic.

What do you think? Did I miss any? Get any totally wrong?

**Update**
Austin = Foursquare (courtesy of Faye)

There are cool people everywhere if you know where to look.

The Pirate Ride

8 Feb
The Pirate Ride

Photo credit: Neal Jennings

Last week I read two articles that were trying to say something about life and how we should live it.  One was about the advice life experts (aka senior citizens) have for us young ‘uns. The other was about how my generation is stuck in a morass of confusion about what success means in these modern times.

The first article struck a chord with me in that it captured much of what I try to achieve in life: live in the moment, prioritize your relationships above overtime, travel as often and as far as you can. The second article struck a chord too, but more because it exemplified why it’s so damn hard to follow the advice in the first.

According to the second article, the path past generations have followed to mark and achieve conventional success, “college→good_job→marriage→house→ family→cushy retirement,” is no longer a guarantee. But do we even need a path? Do we need something to constantly judge ourselves against? Maybe letting go of this conventional approach is the best thing that could happen to us.

I think it’s the mentality and expectation of finding a clearly defined “success” that keeps us in a cycle of disappointment and frustration. Even when we reach some of these markers, after the glow wears off, we’re stuck with a feeling of emptiness and confusion. We’ve checked all those boxes, our parents are proud…why are we so unhappy?

I call it the pirate ride because it feels like that carnival ride where a boat swings like a pendulum. We feel a short high at the crest of each swing before our stomachs drop on the way back down.

Perhaps we feel that sense of dissatisfaction after we reach the next step because we’ve ignored the advice culled from the experience of generation after generation. By thinking about the next thing, we miss the beauty of the world around us. We are sacrificing vacation days and travel opportunities for that next promotion. We are so focused on achieving that next success that we’re ignoring the people we love.

So – let’s let it go.

Let’s choose to get off this ride, the tracks are getting rickety anyway.

Let’s remind each other that success is finding what makes us happy and pursuing it, prestigious or not.

Let’s encourage each other to get out of our bubbles and see the world.

Let’s be there for each other and for those we love.

Let’s be the generations with more fond memories than regrets.

“Your dog is beautiful!”

17 Jan

A defining fact about me, one that makes me stand out as a Katie/Kate amongst millions of Katies/Kates is that I have a dog. And she’s pretty.

Isn't she lovely (for a dog)

That’s Matterhorn (Mattie). She gets more catcalls than I do, which is not something I am complaining about. She’s a Bernese Mountain Dog rescue who is almost 4 now. She likes long walks, sniffing other dogs’ butts, and eating anything (ANYTHING) resembling food off the sidewalk.

Having a dog in a city is, among many other things, a lot like participating in a 10-18 year long social experiment. Dogs force you to go outside and interact with other people (mostly strangers). Constantly.  I’ve found that these strangers fall into a number of categories (this list is not intended to cover all categories):

1. Dog park people

  • a. People whose people names are known to you
  • b. People whose dog’s names are known to you
  • c. People who never speak but are visually familiar
  • d. People without dogs (?!?!)
  • e. People with children (subset: People with children who have toys that my dog will destroy)

2. Pedestrians

  • a. People who try to pet your dog
  • b. People who act like your dog has a force field of evil around it
  • c. Russian ladies who are scared to death of your dog
  • d. Fratty (drunk) guys who scare your dog to death
  • e. People who tell you “Your dog is beautiful!”

While each category has its own required script for interaction (“It’s finally warming up, huh?” “Awwww it looks like Eli’s gotten into the deer poop again” “I’m sorry, she’s just shy around tall drunk people!”). The last category (2e) is the one that represents a constant challenge to me. In my best moments, I mumble “Thanks!” and move on my way without doing anything awkward. In my worst I…

  1. Try to explain that I’m not actually responsible for how she looks, because, you know, though people like to call me her “dog mom” I’m not actually genetically related. The compulsion behind needing to explain this distinction is indicative of why I got called “weird” a lot in school. And sometimes still today. Moving on.
  2. Immediately compliment their dog. Even though it’s licking its butt. And has a snaggle tooth.
  3. Launch into a description of the proud Bernese breed, and how they actually all look the same, so Mattie is not that special.
  4. Offer to let them take her home. She just ate something weird off of the sidewalk and will probably have gastrointestinal issues all night. No one ever takes me up on this.
  5. Grunt and walk briskly away.

I like to think that facing the constant challenge of responding to this question is strengthening my character. It’s teaching me how to emote such feelings as bewildered humility, awkward gratitude and inappropriate eruditeness.

That, my friends, is all part of the fun and games of having a dog.

This is my bloggy thing

10 Jan

Everyone I know has a blog. Seriously.

They cook, they eat, they travel.
They drink, they analyze; they host parties.
They take pictures, they critique fashion, they raise children.
They analyze their travel while experimenting with cooking their kids’ favorite local recipes and making a martini with a super hipster shaker.

It’s all pretty damn amazing.

I’ve had a blog or two in my day. I always struggle with format, deadlines, and transitions…oh, and discipline. Writing these things is hard, which is why my peer group’s commitment to the medium is both inspiring and perplexing. So many of us are throwing our energy into creating an online identity for ourselves. Why?

I can’t speak for my friends, but I can tell you, oh people of the internet, what it is that brings me back to ye olde wordpress.* Let me enumerate the list with full honesty:

1) Writing is fun
2) Everyone should hear my thoughts because they are amazing
3) I need validation from the internet that my thoughts are amazing
4) I love a good conversation (or, if there are no comments, I love a soapbox)
5) I’m tired of living a half life on the internet — trying to convey my world wide web self via profile pictures, photo albums, status updates, shares, or clever 140 character phrases.**
6) Being in your 20’s can be lonely and directionless, blogs give us a creative outlet to share the energy and passion that may or may not be expressed in our professional lives

So, I will have this bloggy thing. On it I will observe, rant, ramble, and share more than I probably should with an online audience. Most of all, I will do it imperfectly, hypocritically, and with frequent bathroom breaks.

*both of my previous blogs were on blogger. Fine.
**my tweets are never clever.