Better Late than Never

After traveling to Nashville to visit my brother, ingesting some grass-fed beef at Burger Up, and spending some time downtown, I found myself observing those around me. It struck me that an overwhelming amount of people, many being tourists, were taking photos and using different social media platforms to share them. Though I hate to look like a tourist, I took a few photos at lunch, used PicStitch to make a collage, then tweeted the collage. Sharing photos has become a routine activity to me, especially when I am able to share something visually and in written form. I have been learning to be more concise in my writing, and I attribute that to Twitter. Yes, I give Twitter the credit for helping me improve my writing! I love photography, and when I can share a photo of something that is meaningful to me, or even just something that catches my eye, it is a challenge to describe it in less than 140 characters (because the link to the photo uses up some of those precious characters that Twitter allows).

Blogging has also allowed me to explore my writing skills. I have never been much of an eloquent speaker in person, but when I can write out my thoughts it seems to ease the difficulty of expressing exactly what I want to say. I wish I had begun blogging and tweeting earlier in life, but as they say, better late than never!

In honor of my visit to see my brother in this great city of music, I will share this great song:


Just 30 Words

Who are you? Or perhaps more importantly, who do you want to be, and how do you express that through your blog? Today I read an article via Twitter called “30 Words Every Blog Needs” by Jon Acuff, a writer and speaker. Jon’s inspiration came from a blog called “Pocket-Sized Stories.” This blog features a statement at the top that, in 30 words, explains exactly who the author is and what the blog is about. This is such an important part of a blog! “Short”, “quick”, and “easy” is what readers want. If it does not grab someone’s attention, they probably will not keep reading.

Here is the Pocket-Sized Stories identifying statement:

So, how do you accomplish this? You should have a theme for your blog. This can be a loose theme, like social media, or it can be very specific like the “Pocket-Sized Stories” blog (he writes about the things that are in his pockets at the end of the day as a kindergarten teacher). Take a look at Jon’s blog as well. He has written two best-selling books, but he admits that he could not identify his blog in 30 words or less. Jon has a great variety of topics on his blog, and he uses humor in a way that still informs his readers.

I think it is ok to stray from your blog’s theme every once and while, but for the most part it is important to give your readers a consistent theme with your posts. I am definitely working on keeping my posts consistent, so if you have any feedback about how I can do that, leave a comment below!

I will leave you with one of my favorite songs (no, it’s not about blogging!)

Purely Preferences

As I start my day, I pick up my iPhone 4s to stop my alarm and check my messages and emails. I get out of bed to get ready for the day, and I check the weather. As I wait for my coffee to brew, I check Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. And on and on the day goes…

I could bore you with details of how I use my phone, but I think you get the picture. Instead I will say that I use my iPhone constantly, and for just about anything. I love Apple products because they have never let me down (and because they are pretty). Recently, the iPhone 5 was released, and has taken some pretty heavy criticism. I looked to to tell me about this new product when it was released. Since then, articles like “iPhone 5 Compared with Competitors” have been published. These articles do not make the iPhone 5 look like the wonderful creation that it is, but instead they point out what is not good enough about it. To all those skeptics out there who are disappointed with the iPhone 5, I would just like to say that an iPhone can do a lot for you that other smart phones cannot.

When I find a product that is more of a help to me than a hassle, I stick with it. The iPhone is such a great help to me that I would never go back to any other brand. This is purely my opinion, but none of my Apple products have let me down, and I do not intend to use any other brand to access my daily needs like social media, my alarm, reminders, weather, phone, email, and even games. Today I choose reliability over everything else. It is purely preferences that make me want to defend this product over and over again.

No Regrets

A couple weeks ago, I made a post called “Death, and the Life of Social Media”. Little did I know how close to home this would hit me just eleven days later. On September 16, 2012 around 7:30pm, my nineteen year old cousin, Chandler, passed away in a car accident. He was driving down a road he had driven a thousand times before. He lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a power pole. He was pronounced dead on the scene when help arrived.

When I decided to blog about this, I was not sure how to approach it. When I began thinking about what I loved most about my cousin it became clear; I had to write about my cousin’s love of life. Not even two months ago, he tweeted this:

Chandler was constantly spending time with friends and family, and doing whatever he could to have fun and make the most of the day. He played sports, loved being on the water, riding dirt bikes, and other crazy and fun things. It touched my heart to see him play with his little niece and nephew who loved him so much. He loved people, and loved life. He tried to live without regrets. This might be cliche, but it is true – you never know when your last day will be, so live today like it is your last. It is easy to slip into the thinking that “this is not fair”, or “his life was cut too short”, but I cannot let myself dwell on those ideas. I believe that God has a reason for everything. He did not cause this to happen, but He allowed it. I do not understand the reason, but that has to be ok because He sees the big picture and I can only see a small part of this world that my life is embedded in.

Chandler turned nineteen a week before he passed away. This is a tweet from the day before his birthday:

In some ways it is wonderful to be able to visit this trail of memories that he has left behind, both on Twitter and Facebook, but in some ways it is hard to revisit them. In another way though, it is almost like a little part of him is still with us, making us laugh and reminding us of this young man who we miss so much.

One of my favorite artists, Lecrae, says it best:

“And when it’s over then something else starts. The only thing that’s really gonna matter is that hope inside your heart.” -Lecrae

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? A charity called WaterAid thinks so. Yesterday, Mashable tweeted an article from its website about the nonprofit. WaterAid is based in the UK, and is currently working in Malawi to dig over 40 wells and to train over 2,000 hygiene educators. One in eight kids in this East African country dies before their fifth birthday, and many of these deaths are caused by water-related diseases. WaterAid has taken on the challenge of not only providing clean water, but also of educating the people there about germs and important hygiene information.

So what does all this have to do with pictures? Well, WaterAid and their Big Dig campaign have decided to use Instagram (@thebigdig) to document the work being done in Malawi. The UK government has promised to match each donation given to this project, so the organization wants to show, instead of tell, the world about the amazing things that clean water can do.

I typically think of Instagram as a place for people to connect through images, but I had never thought of using it as a platform for making the world aware of important events such as The Big Dig. Be a part of the conversation on Instagram @thebigdig, or on Twitter at  #thebigdig. I think this could be an effective new way to connect with people about more than our personal lives, but also about different causes like WaterAid. What an incredible, easy, and interesting way to “show and tell” the world without the traditional body of text!

Everything Around is Breaking Down to Chaos

Today, in my social media class, we had a guest speaker who is also a recent graduate of the advertising program at UT. She told us the exciting story about how her blog basically got her a job at a top ad agency in Nashville. She said that it took about three months after she applied for jobs for her current agency to contact her about coming in for an interview. My immediate thought: STRESS! GRADUATION IN 3 MONTHS! MUST APPLY FOR JOBS NOW! After I calmed down and realized that it would not be wise to skip my last class of the day to job search, I decided to make a plan (and yes, this plan involved applying for jobs immediately).

At this point in the day, after having my advertising campaigns class (which is “the most real world experience” that UT can give us of the advertising world) and my freak out, I was feeling much like these guys from Mutemath…

Now, typically I am a very organized and punctual person, but perhaps a little bit of senioritis has set in. Perhaps all the different things I am involved in have taken over the “you actually need to graduate” part of my brain. So, I did what I always try to do when I feel stressed out: I began two lists (I am a chronic list maker). The first list was of people and things that I am thankful for, and the second list was of practical ways that I can tackle job searching. The “thankful” list is something that I have gotten into the habit of doing recently so that I keep the right perspective about life and what really matters.

A friend of mine gave me this wise piece of advice: If you take a penny and put it right in front of your eye, it looks like the biggest thing in the world to you. BUT, if you pull that penny away from your eye and hold it at arm’s length, it does not look very significant anymore.

After thinking (and blogging) about the stressful parts of today, I am now holding them at arm’s length with the proper perspective that I can handle the things that life is throwing at me.

Crazy Love in NYC

You might have heard of a little place called New York City. To me, this place is magical. It is so magical that I constantly think about it even though I live hundreds of miles away. What do I love about it? The hustle and bustle of the city, the countless different kinds of people you encounter on a daily basis, the subway, the different areas of the city that are so close to each other, yet so different, and the escape of Central Park are a few things I love, but most of all, it is the people. I fell in love with the people of this city on my first visit there five years ago. I returned a couple years later with a group of teenagers (the ones I mentioned in my first post) to serve at a place called The Bowery.

The Bowery is the largest homeless mission in New York City. It has been serving the homeless since 1879! We not only served at the Bowery, we stayed there as well. It became like home. And it has remained our home every time we have visited the city since then. The men there are so passionate about helping those in need, and most of them are in need themselves! They do everything they can to help those who are in the same position they were in a short time ago. Their love astounded me, and reminded me of a book I had read previously.

Crazy Love by Francis Chan is an incredible read about just that- crazy love! Francis says that love changes everything- and it does! Whether you are in love with your soulmate, or you show love to a stranger in need, love changes the way you think and act. Serving the homeless at the Bowery is not limited to serving them food. We were encouraged by the men who work at the mission to sit down and get to the know the men who are going through the residential recovery program, and we did. These men have taken a step towards recovery by enrolling themselves in the program at the Bowery. Not only listening to their stories, but listening to them rave about how much it means to them to see young people helping at the mission was life changing. It was not about the food we served them. It was about our willingness to sit and talk with them. They were amazed by our love, but I was even more amazed at their love for us and the homeless who still live on the streets of the city. That is something I brought back home with me, that someone who has nothing can love people who do not love them back. I have a lot, and after my time at the Bowery, I will always be more willing to give it away for the sake of someone else.

When I get updates like this, it encourages me that loving people, even those I do not know, will have a great impact in the future.

Death, and the Life of Social Media

Today I came upon a tweet from Ad Age that led me to an article titled “Why Twitter Makes Us Care When Minor Celebrities Die”. I was a bit offended at the lightness this title seemed to take on death, but after reading the article by David Berkowitz, I understood what he meant. Berkowitz writes about the fact that we might not remember what we said to people about Princess Di when she passed away, but that we now have a record of what we have said about those who have passed since we have been on social media, and we seem to comment on these deaths even if the celebrity is not very famous. I took a look back at my tweets around the time that Steve Jobs passed away, and this is what I found:

Something I realize more and more each time I get on one of my social media platforms is that people are obsessed with information! We have to document everything. From what we ate for dinner, to how we feel about a celebrity dying. We put ourselves out there, and by “there” I mean the internet, for everyone to see. This might not be a bad thing. Practically speaking, we have much better records of everything than any other point in history, but personally speaking, it can be frightening to see how much personal information of mine is on the internet for anyone to see.

Well now that I have gone from Ad Age to death to Steve Jobs to information to online privacy, I will make my point. Social media and the internet have allowed the entire population of the world to connect in an immediate way. Today’s example was Twitter’s ability to feed people information instantly. No matter what platform you are using, think about how you are connecting with people the next time you use social media.