Sunday, 21 August 2011

My Big Social Media Lesson

My Big Social Media Lesson

Facebook. Twitter. Linked In. Google Plus. Email. MSN. BBM…. Seriously, if I didn’t know any better, I could walk around with a seriously swelled head at how “connected” I am!

Now, if you’re one of those people who eat, sleep & breathe social media and can’t get enough of it, you may want to stop reading here. Go ahead……. I’ll wait………

For the rest of you, I have a confession to make…. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the world of social media. And truthfully, even once I was immersed in the world of the never-ending posts, updates, tweets, pings, nudges, and whatnot, I still trudged through it with a raised eyebrow and a grain of salt (sadly, not always around the rim of a margarita glass!).

To me the majority of these platforms took me back to all of the negative aspects of high school that I had hoped time – and therapy – had allowed me to forget. The showiness of people oversharing every last detail of their lives; the ‘cliquey-ness’ of people and groups who never seem to have time for anyone else; the acne… (Oh wait, wrong rant!). The majority of it all seemed like something that I “should” be doing, rather than something I really “wanted” to do.

All of that changed for me this past week.

Unfortunately my family was forced to deal with an incredibly sad and traumatic ordeal recently. I needed to get some information out in a hurry and decided to send it to some of my online “friends” in the hopes that one or two people might help out and spread the message.

To say I was overwhelmed would be a huge understatement.  Within minutes over 50 people had sent out the information; within an hour the number rose to over 100. Many of these were people I’ve never even met or spoken to IRL* (*IRL = In Real Life) yet they all took the time to help out a relative stranger. In fact, many of them sent me personal emails and messages with words of support and encouragement – and have followed up to check up on me as days have passed.

Truly amazed, humbled and grateful.

In today’s online world it’s easy to sometimes feel like just another random “friend”, “follower” or “fan” – another miscellaneous profile on various lists, groups or pages. It’s hard to believe that a person can feel isolated or alone in a time where we’re all more connected than we’ve ever been – but it can happen. The good news is that – just like high school – there are some truly amazing people who are there for you when you really need them.

So to all of those wonderful people who let me sit at the “cool kids’ table” this week and helped me through this tough time, my sincerest thanks. Thanks for the support… and thanks for helping me understand and appreciate the true value of the social circles that I am privileged to be part of.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Birthday Parties: Bonanza or Bust?

I’ve been thinking about the whole party planning process lately, and I’ve come to kind of a sad realization – by today’s standards, my parties just wouldn’t have cut it.

Today’s birthday parties aren’t just parties… they’re “experiences”. Experiences with tightly packed agendas, themes, entertainment, and more.

Today there are party planners dedicated to ensuring that every last detail is planned and in line with the birthday’s “theme”. Hmm… epic fail on my end, as I’m pretty sure that growing up my parties’ ‘themes’ were “Birthday Party”!

Ponies? Only if Barbie happened to get one to add to her Dream House.

Themed costumes? Do the cardboard party hats count?

Indoor playlands, beauty salons, craft centres, sports extravaganzas…? Nope. How about our living room? Or perhaps our backyard, if the weather cooperated. Actually, I do remember one particularly rousing party held within the confines of the McDonalds’ train caboose one year… Ah, good times…

Masterpiece cakes? Nope. Big thanks to the various grocery store offerings, or the few “homemade” efforts (thanks, Betty Crocker!). I do remember one year my mom cobbled together a particularly impressive Raggedy Ann cake, complete with licorice hair, etc., but the creativity was killed by my “pre-party sampling” that wholeheartedly destroyed her efforts! (Sorry, mom!)

And don’t even get me started on the “money cakes”… They were awesome! Random coins baked into a cake – and you got to keep whatever you could find. Sweet! If you choked on one or cracked a tooth, the general consensus was that you should have been more careful. Can you imagine the lawsuits and social media chaos that would erupt today?

And those tightly packed agendas jammed with swimming/laser tag/craft-building/circus events/and more? Can they really compete with musical chairs, hot potato and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey?

And speaking of games, there were those who won, and those who lost. And if you lost, it sucked. But you sucked it up and got over it. EVERYONE didn’t win, but everyone had fun.

Let’s face it – times have changed. The infamous bar has been raised and we all have the choice to keep up with the proverbial “Joneses” or blaze a new trail. Rest assured, whichever path you choose, your kids will most likely never remember if their napkins matched their loot bags. But they’ll remember that you were there and took the time to make their day special… with whatever that entails.

Now, where did I order those amazing Batman-themed cupcakes last year…? ;)

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