Showing posts with label identity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label identity. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Compassion and Fatigue in a Social Media World

Of late, I'm feeling a bit wiped.  I know this has a bit to do with the good ole work-life balance, but I'm also struggling with how I continue to engage with the world and the things that I fundamentally know and believe about the world and I would be curious to hear how others grapple meaningfully with these challenges.


Horrific Event Cycle

Breaking News!

Much of this happens as a result of the hyper-narrative of events.  What I mean by this is that for several years I've noticed there is a series of cycles around any major news story--especially those which are controversial or horrific that goes something like this:
  1. Horrible event happens.
  2. Immediately responses to horrific response that mix empathy, anger, and shock.
  3. Quickly followed by responses criticizing those people and how they responded, which often invoke shame, hypocrisy, and ignorance coupled with bigotry (knowing and caring about this group, but being ignorant of other groups--especially marginalized groups).
  4. Shortly followed by responses criticizing the critics and damning their insensitivity to the "real tragedy."
  5. A response by the critics about the insincere responses of the previous responders.  
  6. All of this then gets rolled into critics who provide a meta-commentary, which allows them to comment on larger issues.
  7. The meta-commentary then is reacted to by all the other critics as twisting words, reductive thinking or some other problem.
  8. These continue to spiral until another horrible thing happens at which point said commentaries, meta-commentaries, etc are folded into, evoked, or mocked because of the seriousness of the new thing.
Meanwhile, there is a never-ending round of "gotcha" and "told you so" memes that are generated and circulating are meant to purposely incite or offend various people, all in the name of freedom of expression and minimalizing complex and nuanced issues that require substantial thought and consideration.  All of this unfolds sometimes within hours, though usually days of the original event.

It's hard for me not to engage in various levels of commentary because they are often infused with ideologies or are clearly evoking similar past events.  Whether it's another terrorist attack, a mass-shooting in a public space, or even a manufactured story purposely meant to rile the dominant culture about a supposed threat to their power and prestige, they all come at us in series of articles, news clips, and memes that beg a response; that beg a need to identify inconsistencies, hypocrisies, and misinformation.  


Just Ignore It

IWISH I HAD

This cycle is exhausting to witness and partake in.  The media only enhances it with the outrage cycle to produce stories that aren't stories but still suck us in to discussing it (e.g. the Starbucks cup).    And it is hard to avoid engaging in it to some degree.  To remove one's self from social media doesn't work because it is still likely to be present in news stories, on the television news, and on one's news feeds.  To attempt any level of awareness in the world and to not be blasted by it, seems all but impossible.

I often hear people say, "Just ignore it."  In fact, I've lost several "Facebook friends" due to my failure to ignore the nature of their posts.  But I generally can't ignore it.  If I see something wrong--something that alienates or marginalizes already vulnerable populations, then I am compelled to say something.  I have trouble letting it slide as to me that seems to be a sign of my own bigotry.  That is, if I fundamentally believe in the humanity of all people, regardless of race, color, creed, gender, sex, sexuality, religion, etc, then to chose to only speak up for groups that I more closely identify with seems to reject that idea outright.  I can't pick and choose; I'm either vigilant in supporting all groups to the best that I can, or I'm just playing favorites and that means reinforcing or refusing to confront my own innate bigotry.

There's also something about ignoring that I find disconcerting and impossible for me.  I know some of the nicest people can happily and purposely ignore something.  They will even say, "don't tell me about that" so that they can avoid cognitive dissonance around something in their lives (e.g. the horrific and unsanitary conditions of the animals we eat, the environmental and human degradation of the coffee we drink, the human abuse and exploitation of children and adults for other commodity items like clothes, diamonds, and chocolate).  It's very hard to turn off that switch for me and I don't want to turn of the switch per se.  I don't want to numb myself or allow myself to ignore it because so much harm is done in the world by our ability to ignore those things which we are not directly affected by.  


Ignoring Is a Privilege

Racism: The Elephant in the room

If I'm not African American, then I don't have to think about what it means to be black, the inherent inequalities at every step of the criminal justice system for African Americans, the numerous other social and cultural inequalities, and how that will impact me.  Therefore, when people on Facebook, especially police officers, openly mock, blame, or disregard often with inherent racist posts about #BlackLivesMatter, I get the privilege to ignore it, on the assumption that it is not my problem or it doesn't directly effect me.

If I'm not transgender, then I can ignore the various memes posted by typically hereotsexual men and women that mock Caitlyn Jenner or any transperson of any variety for that matter.  I can enjoy the mockery taking place.  I don't have to think about what it means to be trans in a culture that regularly kills people because they don't fit into a simplistic gender, sex, or sexuality system.  I get to laugh at the post; it doesn't increase my internalized fear for my safety every time I use a public bathroom.

If I'm not Muslim, I don't have to think about what it means to belong to a world religion that like so many other religions, have people who are practicing some bastardized form of it and committing horrific acts in its name.  I don't have to constantly walk a line between faith but also communicating that "I'm not 'them', I swear" because people and news media's reductive thinking can't or chooses not to distinguish between terrorist organization and world religion.   I don't have to tattoo the American flag on my forehead to avoid questions being raised about whether I should be here, what kind of threat I represent, or what am I doing personally to prevent other Muslims from becoming terrorists, like I'm personally responsible and representative of all Muslims.   Instead, I can talk about deporting "them," torturing "them," or even nuking "them" like they are an infestation because I belong to a culture and government that has committed genocide on other peoples, so what's one more. 

Ignoring is a privilege afforded to those whose lives are not directly effected by whatever is being ignored (In truth, it does effect all of us as bigotry, injustice, and violence perpetrated upon one group opens up the opportunity for it to happen to all of us).  I don't sit well with knowing I have privilege based upon factors that society has deemed more valuable despite such privileges being entirely a matter of birth (e.g. race, ethnicity, class, gender, sex, sexuality, etc) and therefore, when there are ways I can address my own innate privilege, I do my best to do so.

But How to Engage?


That is the question I grapple with.  I don't want to dissent into a Bug's Bunny "Rabbit Season/Duck Season" debate but of course, it so often does happen.  I see a post or comment that is troubling, inaccurate, or misrepresents peoples or beliefs and I find it important to respond.  In truth, I'm trying to respond to the person, but often the nature of the post makes it clear, they are being purposefully incendiary; it's their American right, of course (insert commentary about who and when "Americans" get to assert such a right).  

I often respond often knowing the person who posted it will not listen, respond, or hear what I have to say and if they do, it's from a position of snark or just disregard.  I often try to be respectful in my tone (though I do fail at this).  Sometimes, I am met with the same respect or the person can identify with the concerns I raise.  However, even if this never happened, I'm still compelled to do it because others need to see it. 

I provide whatever response I do because I see the need for others who see that post to know that there is a different way; that there are alternatives.  I know it's important to voice a counter-view because, it has helped others seeing the same post better understand their own issues with the post or just to know there is an ally out there.  I regularly hear from people that appreciate me speaking up to something they were afraid to or unable to comment upon.  That this happens by being networked to the person posting the offensive content makes it all the more important because it means that post, regardless of its problematic content has actually helped others become more understanding and aware.  


There's Always Housekeeping


Friend Options on Facebook
The desire to delete "friends" or unfollow people who post such content is strong and I know many will do this or simply unfollow or block posts.  I am often tempted with these options, but I feel it is just another form of ignoring.  I don't have to see the bad stuff--I can block the content and not the person so I don't have to engage with it.  Inevitably, I will know it's still there, but I can continue with my blissful feed of posts filled with health advice, pop culture interests, and cute cat pics.  That just doesn't sit well with me.  It seems to me that if I don't have the tolerance to hear what they have to say at all, then I need to consider why be friends with them at all and why do I expect tolerance but do not give tolerance.

Deleting friends doesn't seem like an option either and it's not because I don't want to offend those people or fear that I will eventually end up with no friends.  Rather it's that I make conscious decisions to be "friends" with people and I recognize that they will definitely not like everything I post, I should not expect any less from them.  More important, these are good people.  Yes, they may post things that are problematic, but on the whole they are good people with family and friends, often doing many good things in the world (caring for loved ones, donating to charity, volunteering, etc).  That is, the issue I have with them is singular but they are multi-faceted.  Deleting them seems to be another form of reductive thinking that I don't want to participate in.  


Butttt....How Do YOU Deal?  

suggestion box

I've shared the above to give people a sense of what I'm doing and why, because I'm hoping there are others out there who have similar views and approaches.  I'm curious to hear about your tactics, ideas, and ways of negotiating being a compassionate human in all its forms while being challenged by the problematic and often vitriolic rhetoric in the form of posts, memes, and articles on your social networks. 

I certainly will continue to engage in the ways I find are best to do so.  I will also find a means of reconciling the need for breaks for mental care with the concern of my privilege to be able to break away from it.  But I am curious to know how others negotiate these challenges.  What tactics do you employ?  How do you often do you engage with content that you find problematic?  How do you engage with it?  How do you avoid burnout?  How do you survive burnout?  



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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How To Be a Good Friend on Social Media Part 2 (or 2)

So if the first part of this series was about things you can do, these recommendations can best be understood as caveats and considerations about how you use social media with friends.


Assume Everything You Say Is or Can Be Public

Public Domain Image - Source: https://openclipart.org/image/300px/svg_to_png/191202/public-domain-logo-slightly-nicer.png
There are a variety of safety settings on many social media platforms.  But just assume that it can all somehow, planned or unplanned, become made public.  Assume what you post to your wall, to other people's walls, and even in "private messages" is as likely to remain private as it is to end up on the cover of Time.  Just plan for that and post accordingly.  That means you probably don't want to bash your work, your friends, your enemies, your in-laws or any other person or persons that you're at odds with unless you're prepared for potential exposure and confrontation.  


Think Before Posting

This is of course connected with the previous post but it's worth repeating.  The average person that is one social media has between 100 and 200 connections on their network.  That's a lot of individuals to keep in mind when you are posting.  However, that means you should take a moment to think before posting.  It's easy to take a shot at a particular group of people, business, political viewpoint, etc.  We do it all the time, but it's worth taking a moment and asking yourself if there is a better way of presenting it or expressing your frustrations without targeting, generalizing, or misrepresenting a group of people.  


You May Know Your Friend, But You Don't Know Your Friend's Friends

People Network - Image Source: http://pixabay.com/p-63769/?no_redirect
This follows along the lines of the previous two but it's worth more directly thinking about.  You have a sense of who you are connected with but not necessarily who your friends are connected with.  When interacting with your friends via social media, remember that there is a chance their friends are likely to see the conversation (particularly if it occurs on your friend's wall instead of yours).  Recognize that they have a variety of different views that are as likely to be similar as they are different.  Be respectful as you engage with them as you don't fully know where they are coming from.  Have dialogue but avoid getting nasty with them no matter what happens.  Be civil and don't assume that whatever happens between the two of you will be considered "OK" by your mutual friend.  


Write Longer Posts in Outside of the Post Box

I can often get into debates with people online.  I rather enjoy this in terms of the different ideas and thoughts that are presented.  However, if I'm typing longer posts--ones that are more than 1-2 sentences, then I'm likely to move to a different platform than the textbox provided.  This helps with a few things.  It helps me see everything that I am writing, rather than having to scroll up and down the tiny box.  It also helps me spell and grammar check--after all, if I'm trying to make an important point and my spelling and grammar are all over the place, my thoughts will be taken less seriously by some.  Also, depending on the textbox's protocols, I don't want to hit "Enter" (which i'm trained to do automatically) to start a new paragraph and all of a sudden, find that it has been submitted.  Last, but not least, is that by writing it in another environment gives me pause.  There's one extra step I have to do before posting it and this is important.  It helps me think about if I really want to post it.  This has led me on a number of occasions to delete it instead and choose not to engage in the debate.  Altogether, it allows me to better and more respectfully engage in discussion with people on my social networks.  


Strategically Correct/Critique

So this one is one of the trickiest in the lot.  I'm going to recommend what is probably the most civil thing to do, but then I'm also going to talk about what I do and why.  The most civil thing to when you find something that someone has posted is wrong, has mistakes in it, or is personally offensive for some reason is to contact that person privately and respectfully explain your concerns.  You will need to recognize and accept that sharing your opinion won't necessarily change the post but you will have clearly acknowledged your concerns.  The goal is to inform and explain your position if you find it offensive or to clarify how or why the post might be inaccurate if there is misinformation on it.  

However, that's where I deviate from my advice.  My approach (and I have lost Facebook connections because of this mind you and am ok with that) is that I'm likely to speak up on a person's wall when I find something offensive or factually inaccurate.  I do this because I'm personally a firm believer of dialogue.  When I find something that is offensive or disagreeable, I move into the conversation, not by attacking the other person (usually) but by critically considering what has been posted and commenting as such.  It's something I do regularly.  


If You Have to Block, Then You Should Boot

Muting image - Source http://pixabay.com/p-98510/?no_redirect
This more firmly applies to connection-based (where both people agree to be connected) than follow-based social media (where agreement to follow is singularly made and not mutual).  I'm a firm believer that if you have to block someone's posts, then you should not be connected to them on social media.  My reasoning for this is that if you are connected to someone on a social network, you're making a public endorsement and that is a mutually beneficial statement.  Each person says, "I publicly recognize this person as friend-worthy."  In such instances, if you are choosing to block the person's posts while still being connected them, then you are still benefiting from the connection while silencing the person.  That feels problematic to me and disingenuous.  If you cannot tolerate what someone is saying or doing on their social media, then maybe, you shouldn't be connected to them.  At this point, someone will usually say, "yeah but I see this person regularly and it would be awkward if I de-friended the person."  Absolutely.  But that means it's time to have adult conversations about your friendship or their questionable social media posts.  

What is some advice you would offer for better social media exchanges with friends, families, and colleagues?



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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, June 27, 2014

How To Be a Good Friend on Social Media Part 1 (or 2)

Social media has changed some of the ways we interact with friends and family for good or for bad.  This new space of engagement changes much of how we interact and to what degree we see our friends' larger picture.  We no longer see friends in as limited lens as we might have before but have a larger context of other friends, acquaintances, and family.  Because of the nature of these environments, it's as likely for one person to having meaningful dialogue with their friend on social media as it is one of their friends' friend whom the person has never met.  It means many of us are trying to navigate unclear waters and I thought post might help people better understand how to renegotiate friendship online.  

They are a mixture of Do's and Don'ts to help navigate this tricky new space that many of us find ourselves in.  We're often good at figuring out what to do in the face-to-face environment, but online isn't always as clear as it would seem.  


Identify What Your Social Media Approach Is

This sounds weird, but it's a useful personal exercise and one that can help you decide what it is that you are using these platforms for.  I have my take on social media and place it here on my blog.  It identifies why I use social media and what I want to get out of it.  I hear a lot of people who get frustrated or unclear about the purpose of social media or don't really think about using social media.  Giving yourself some time to clearly identify what it is that you want to get out of social media can help you better decide how you want to interact on social media.  Are you using it solely for finding different information via your social networks or are you looking to use it as a way of interacting with friends when unable to meet face-to-face?  Do you want to engage in debate or just relax in this space?  Determining what you want to do helps you determine where to focus your attention.    

Congratulate in Public

Paper Note with "Good Job" on It:  Image Source: https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4038/4294686346_fa10e0e9c7_z.jpg?zz=1
Give friends credit!  Thank them for doing things for you or with you, on their achievements, and just for being awesome people.  You'd be surprised how a simple comment can light up a person's day and doing so on social media means it's public.  That can be a great way to provide a bit of cheer and excitement for someone since by thanking them, you're also bringing attention to them in both of your social networks.  Remember that this also extends to businesses, organizations, public figures, etc.  


Promote and Share Statuses and Links (Give Credit)

As you come across great content that you find through your networks be sure to give credit.  You may find a link on Twitter but repost it on Facebook.  If that is the case, be sure to tag or acknowledge who helped you find the source. Being acknowledged for contributions to our friends and connections experiences is in part a major piece of what drives social media--knowing that what we share, has an impact.  


Help Promote Social Media Efforts and Campaigns by Friends

"Always pay it forward and never forget to pay it back.  It's how you got here and it defines where you're going... @briansolis" Image Source: https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7178/6904613521_cec81f5a96_z.jpg
I think this is an important and underused element of being a good friend on social media.  Many of us want to support and help people in our networks.  If we are taking the time to post some cause that a friend is pushing for, the hope is that our friends will if not directly contribute to it, then help out by sharing it onward.  When we advocate or promote on their behalf, we help them in ways that are still useful.  Many of us have hundreds (if not more) of people in our social network.  When we share someone else's post for support, aid, etc, we're leveraging our network to help spread their message and potentially expanding the reach exponentially..  That's valuable and powerful for helping out friends.  


Tag With Relevance

Whether tagging in these environments be sure to tag people that are relevant to content of the post.  To follow up on the previous recommendation (Congratulate in Public), when talking about companies, organizations, etc., be sure to tag them as well.  I do my best to include tags when trying to say something good or even critical (more about that below) of a public entity.  Regardless, don't tag unless there's clear reason for it.  Also, be aware as best as possible of your friends and family members' preferences for tagging.  Don't tag people who don't want to be tagged.


Like Statuses That Are Meant to Be Liked 


Dislike Button - Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/21/Not_facebook_dislike_thumbs_down.png
Or as I like to put it, "Don't like RIP statuses."  It's clear that some statuses are meant to indicate positive messages.  "I got a great new job!!!".  Perfect--like that a bajillion times.  But more vague messages, you'll want to stay clear from liking.  "I lost my job, today."  Use your words for these types of status.  "I'm sorry to here."  "Can I help?".  Liking such statuses can be confusing for the person who posted and it's even unclear to the people doing the liking.  Because usually the words used for positive credit are words or icons representing liking, hearting, or favoriting, to like questionable updates sends a mix message even though you are sometimes just trying to show support.  



This is the first half.  The second half will be posted next week.  What is some of the advice you offer for better social media exchanges with friends?



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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

10 Ways Running Reminds Me of Learning

Let's set the scene.

Here's me on Sunday, September 16, 2012.  I'm in the midst of running my first 30K Race.  That's right, I decided that what better way to spend the weekend just after my 33rd birthday, chugging over 18 miles on a warm Sunday afternoon.


Keep in mind:

  • There were no zombies chasing me.
  • There was no grand prize for coming in among the last 1/3 of the herd.
  • I had plenty of other things to do that Sunday.
  • I paid to be here.
Now, let's go back 15 months to June, 2011.  There are no pictures of me running.  Because up to that point, that is, the first 31 years and 9 months of my life, I did not run.  Let me rephrase that I ran only when ultimately forced to.  You know, like at gun point.  The fact is for 31 years, 9 months I had a HATE-HATE MORE relationship with running.  It didn't like me and I sure as hell didn't like it.  Like the student in class I repeated to myself and everyone that would listen, "I'm just not meant to be run.  I'll stick with other things."

But that clearly changed.  Indeed, last year, I ran a marathon and this year, I'll run several more.  Along the many miles I've run over the last few years, I learned to love running a whole lot to the point that I've spent thousands of hours running and thousands of words writing about running.  


In this evolution from non-runner to enthusiastic (almost obsessive, I'll admit) runner, I realized that there is a lot that I've drawn from running that helps me think about learning because somewhere along the line, I learned to run in a way that worked for me.  Here are the 10 ways that running reminds me of the challenges of learning.  

1.  I started slow and I am still slow and that's ok.

I have to run at a pace that works for me.  I can't worry about how fast other people are running.  Sure, I can sometimes look at it as motivation to speed up a little but the focus must be on me and what my body and mind are telling me.  This rings true for learning.  We are often disenchanted with our progress because someone else gets a subject matter much better than we do because it's not our forte or we don't have the right background to approach it as skillfully as others.  

2.  I had to figure out what worked for me.

There's lots of different methods to approach running out there.  Prior to my experience, people told me all sorts of ways to do it.  But I had to figure out what worked and what didn't work for me.  This meant a lot of trial and error.  In fact, this is where many people will abandon running because they can't seem to find the right way to approach it that works for them personally.  In this vein, I think learning is quite similar particularly around certain subject matter.  How some people learn a subject matter is going to be dependent on trying and finding different ways to approach the subject.  

3.  I set a range of goals to indicate levels of success.

Run!  Or even "run a marathon" are way to big for me to tackle.  I had to chunk them it all into manageable pieces.  When I started out and just wanted to get to be able to run, I found a place I could run at (Lake Quannapowitt) and set markers for running such as
  • Run for 10 minutes.
  • Run until you make it to this marker.
  • Run as far around the lake as you did yesterday and 100 feet further.
As I made progress, I set new goals and made sure to have a range.  That might include having a range within a race (my low goal is 30 minutes, my high goal is 25 minutes) or a range over a particular season (run at least 6 half-marathons or longer and 1 full marathon).  The goal was to make sure I had different ways to measure success.  This was helpful because it connected with #2 in that, I needed to see what goals were more motivating for me.  Similarly with learning, if you set to task, "I'm going to learn math."  You're setting up a massive goal.  So why do that or at least consider it a large goal with a long-term plan composed of smaller goals and objectives.  What are the smaller goals that can be stacked to get you to the larger goal?

4.  I set time aside to both think about (write) and do it (run).  

It goes without saying that you need to set time aside to achieve the goal.  That was obvious--though not without its challenges.  Eventually, I went the route of buying a treadmill so that in the harder weather I didn't have to rely on going to the gym and such.  It saved time to have easy and unlimited access to it.  Besides setting aside time to do it, I also made sure to think a lot about the running.  Visualizing myself running the race at top speed in perfect form has contributed to some great breakthroughs in my performance.  For learning, this means you have to set time aside and that time can't be the very last minute.  You have to incorporate it in some clear ways into your life's routine and you also need to think about it.  You shouldn't be thinking about "I need to do it" but you should be engaging with the content in your head--even when you don't have to.  This is where learning can take place through reinforcement.  

5.  I kept track of my progress because nobody else would.

I initially kept track of my runs on my Fitbit monitor but then moved into DailyMile, which has been fun and adds a nice social element to it as well.  I also continued to keep track of progress on this blog of course.  Keeping track is important because so often, we are looking forward and seeing the end goal still rather far away, but we need to look back and appreciate how far we have made it.  It's also important because if I'm trying to get somewhere, I have to know where I am within the big picture, right?  With learning, looking back is also important because it can provide you with a means of reflecting and appreciating where you are within the subject matter and how much progress on the subject that you've made.  

6.  I hit walls; I asked for help.

I most definitely hit some walls and places where I needed help.  I asked for help.  I had no shame in asking for help and encouragement from my friends and social-networks.  My friends and family want me to succeed and want to help me if they can.  The same holds for learning.  When you hit walls (and you will hit walls), reach out for help from friends, family, or people more versed in the subject matter.  Largely, people like helping others--especially if it is something they are vested in.  

7.  I was overwhelmed at times by it all; I wrote about it.

There will always be times when I think about running and am overwhelmed by it.  Overwhelmed by what I've done, overwhelmed by what I'm trying to do, overwhelmed by the mere idea that I am doing it.  Hell, I could even brim with tears at times.  That's all good!  That's a reflection of investment.  If you're so vested in learning something that you're emotionally moved; that's not a bad thing.  It shows how important it is to you.  For me, writing about it helped a lot because it allowed me to sort things out and to stay on focus.  Writing may not work for you (especially, if you're trying to learn writing), but find an outlet to channel the emotions and ideas about the subject matter.

8.  I talked about my running (sometimes, quite excessively).

If running was important to me, then I should be talking about it just like other things that are important to me.  This served two purposes.  
  • It had me talking about running--which is something runners do.  Talking about running reinforced the fact that I ran and was continuing to run.  I had never thought of myself as a "runner" but sure enough, I found that I was.
  • By sharing with other people in my life, it became a point of conversation.  We would talk about running or friends would ask me about my most recent race.  The most amazing moment of talking about running came when people started asking me for advice or told me that my actions were inspiring them to run.
When it comes to learning, the more you talk about and engage in the topic, the more likely you are to think about the subject matter and even gain mastery over it.

9.  I owned my accomplishments and gave room for others to acknowledge them too.

I took pride in what I was able to do.  I won no races, but I had victories at all of my races.  Every time I had a personal best or was just damn happy I showed up, I made note of it.  I blogged about it, I posted in FB and Twitter about it.  I celebrated my progress.  In sharing my victories, many others also provided congratulations which added to the positive feelings I had about running.  I also made sure to give thanks to those who helped.  You need to celebrate the victories that you make--regardless of where others are in their learning.

10.  I valued the experience for the internal value; not just the external benefits (though they were nice).  

I came to recognize that running provided me with many internal benefits that were useful.  The mental health benefits of running are many to count.  The better health reports I get from my doctor are also important.  The respect and admiration I get from friends, family, and colleagues--that's nice too.  I run for me--but that respect and admiration has proven a powerful tool to get me to that point.  For learning, this is the big challenge: the crossover.  That is, the moment when learning the subject is internally valued (you want to learn because it helps you understand your life more) more than extrinsically valued (you want to learn because you want an A on the examine).  

Those are my top 10 ways that running reminds me of learning.  What about you?  How else does running remind you of learning?


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Monday, December 9, 2013

Recommendations on Social Media Books

I do a lot of reading as we all know and I'm quite interested in social media and its relevance to modern society.  I regularly get asked for recommendations for books to help get a grasp on social media.  I often find it hard to recommend just one book.  It's like asking who is your favorite pet or child.  Well, here is my list of books on social media that I've read and found useful.  It's a list of books I both like (Jeff Jarvis, I'm looking at you) and dislike (Nicholas Carr, this one's for you), but all of which are relevant in the discussion.  This list was composed in November, 2013.  I anticipate that I will need to update it again in another year as I continue to devour books on the subject.  All that being said, if there's any that strike your fancy, that you've read, or that you're interested in knowing more about, don't hesitate to let me know.

The cumulative knowledge that I have culled from reading all of these has been that social media may be a new format of interaction for us but is not entirely in terms of how we excahnge and have dialogue among humans.  There is ample meaningless communications that go on day-to-day ("Hi, how are you?") and there's also deep and profound communications that occur.  Social media is no different--except that unlike ever before, it can be captured and quantified.  So while some may think Twitter is a sign of the end-times and full of irrelevant material, they miss how much of our day-to-day is full of irrelevance and meaningless banter ("It's a nice day.").    And like many things in our culture, it's easy to point to simplicity (ignorant tweets) than to point to complexity (because that requires context and nuance).  But there is more value to be gained than problems when as we move into social media.

Recommended Books for Social Media

Book Cover:  The Digital Divide ed by Mark Bauerlein Image Source: http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6048/6261457608_1794643d37_o.jpg
  • Anderson, Chris. Free: The Future of a Radical Price. New York: Hyperion, 2009. Print.
  • Anderson, Chris. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. New York: Hyperion, 2006. Print.
  • Anderson, Chris. Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. New York: Crown Business, 2012. Print.
  • Andrews, Lori B. I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy. New York: Free Press, 2012. Print.
  • Ariely, Dan. The (honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone-Especially Ourselves. , 2012. Print.
  • Bauerlein, Mark. The Digital Divide: Arguments for and against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2011. Print.
  • Berger, Jonah. Contagious: Why Things Catch on. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013. Print.
  • Bilton, Nick. I Live in the Future and Here's How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted. New York: Crown Business, 2010. Print.
  • Blascovich, Jim, and Jeremy Bailenson. Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution. New York: William Morrow, 2011. Print.
  • Botsman, Rachel, and Roo Rogers. What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. New York: Harper Business, 2010. Print.
  • Boyle, James. The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 2008. Print.
  • Brown, BrenĂ©. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Center City, Minn: Hazelden, 2010. Print.
  • Carr, Nicholas G. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010. Print.
  • Chatfield, Tom. 50 Digital Ideas: You Really Need to Know. London: Quercus, 2011. Print.
  • Chatfield, Tom. Fun Inc: Why Games Are the 21st Century's Most Serious Business. London: Virgin, 2010. Print.
  • Chatfield, Tom. How to Thrive in the Digital Age. London: Macmillan, 2012. Print.
  • Christakis, Nicholas A, and James H. Fowler. Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. New York: Little, Brown and Co, 2009. Print.
  • Crawford, Matthew B. Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. New York: Penguin Press, 2009. Print.
  • Diaz-Ortiz, Claire. Twitter for Good: Change the World One Tweet at a Time. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.
  • Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York: Random House, 2012. Print.
  • Matthew, and Soumitra Dutta. Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World. Chichester, England: Wiley, 2008. Internet resource.
  • Forni, Pier M. Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002. Print. Fraser,
  • Gottschall, Jonathan. The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. Print.
  • Hadnagy, Christopher. Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley, 2011. Print.
  • Holiday, Ryan. Trust Me I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. New York: Portfolio, 2012. Print.
  • Howe, Jeff. Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business. New York: Crown Business, 2008. Print.
  • Jarvis, Jeff. Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print.
  • Johnson, Steven. Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter. New York: Riverhead Books, 2005. Print.
  • Johnson, Steven. Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age. New York: Riverhead Books, 2012. Print.
  • Lanier, Jaron. You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. Print.
  • Levine, Robert. Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back. New York: Doubleday, 2011. Print.
  • Li, Charlene. Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010. Print.
  • McRaney, David. You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself. , 2013. Print.
  • McGonigal, Jane. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. Print.
  • Mele, Nicco. The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath. , 2013. Print.
  • Mycoskie, Blake. Start Something That Matters. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2011. Print.
  • Pariser, Eli. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. Print.
  • Partnoy, Frank. Wait: The Art and Science of Delay. New York: PublicAffairs, 2012. Print.
  • Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Viking, 1985. Print.
  • Postman, Neil. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Knopf, 1992. Print.
  • Reese, Byron. Infinite Progress: How the Internet and Technology Will End Ignorance, Disease, Poverty, Hunger, and War. Austin, Tex: Greenleaf Book Group, 2013. Print.
  • Rifkin, Jeremy. The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print.
  • Rushkoff, Douglas, and Leland Purvis. Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press, 2011. Print.
  • Rushkoff, Douglas. Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. New York: Current, 2013. Print.
  • Shirky, Clay. Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators. New York: Penguin Books, 2011. Print.
  • Shirky, Clay. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. New York: Penguin Press, 2008. Print.
  • Sommers, Sam. Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World. New York: Riverhead Books, 2011. Print.
  • Steiner, Christopher. Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2012. Print.
  • Sunstein, Cass R. Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge. New York ;Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.

Book cover: Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott.  Image Source: http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4133/4946166454_28ca4b4420_z.jpg
  • Tapscott, Don. Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. Print.
  • Tavris, Carol, and Elliot Aronson. Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. Orlando, Fla: Harcourt, 2007. Print.
  • Thomas, Douglas, and John S. Brown. A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace?, 2011. Print.
  • Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Print.
  • Waal, F B. M. The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society. New York: Harmony Books, 2009. Print.
  • Wasik, Bill. And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture. New York: Viking, 2009. Print.
  • Weinberger, David. Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Print.
  • Williams, Juan. Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate. New York: Crown Publishers, 2011. Print.




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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks and Being Fabulous

I wouldn't say that I'm in the habit of giving thanks on this blog, but I do often try to acknowledge thanks where appropriate.  Last year, around Thanksgiving, I wrote a post on giving thanks and since then, I've written two other public thank you notes.  One was a letter to the editor and the  other was a dedication on this blog of people who have been so helpful in getting me to finish my first marathon.

Those who know me, know that I am generally a positive person with a very sunny disposition.  I am rarely in a bad mood and if I do find myself in a darker mood without an extremely good reason, I can pretty quickly transcend it.  But what does the sunny disposition have to do with being thankful?  The sunny disposition comes from being thankful on a very deep level.

Whenever people ask the obligatory question, "How are you?"  I often answer with a "Fantastic!" or "Fabulous!"  That isn't just the automatic response that we all have to the question that nearly everyone asks but no one actually thinks about or even considers before answering and asking in return.  (How many times have you witnessed this circulate conversation?  Person 1:  "Hi, how are you?"  Person 2: "I'm fine.  How are you?"  Person 1:  "I'm good.  How are you?").  When I say "fabulous," I genuinely feel it and I feel it because I am thankful.

Thankful For Everything

Image:  Thank you.  Image Source: http://farm1.staticflickr.com/2/2086641_23234fb0f8_o.jpg
So what am I so thankful about that I can so easily and so often answer the question with such exuberance?  The basic answer is EVERYTHING.  But clearly, that needs some unpacking.  If we look at the world, it is an extremely random and chaotic place.  Never mind, that over 7 billion individual human agents are interacting among one another with exponential random results.  There are myriads more germs and other micro-organisms also travelling from human to human, animal to human, etc.  That is coupled with living on giant (and no so giant) land masses that float on plates that regularly knock into one another.  And I won't even mention weather and climate (except that I just did).  Then we throw into the mix all the ways in which modern society has created further hazards for humankind such as war, environmental degradation, and unexpected negative byproducts of "human progress" (e.g. the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and Great Pacific garbage patch).  None of this even touches upon the fact that we're essentially on a giant spaceship with a limited shield hurtling itself through space in a giant circle around a massive heating station always subject to whatever objects are hurtling through space in our direction.  All of this is to say, existence is extremely unstable.

Now, that seems to paint an awfully dark picture.  One would think amidst all this chaos, there is little to be so thankful for, but I would argue that this is a misapplication of the frame.  People view the myopic picture above and say, how can there be anything to be fabulous about?  I would flip that question and say, despite the reality of the things mentioned above, we are still a world full of people wherein the vast majority do the right thing more often than not. That is to say that things go right far more often than they go wrong.

The challenge is in recognizing all of the things that go right.

Here's a good example.  You are reading this post right now and if you've made it this far in the post, that probably means you're somewhat interested and are being provided with something that's engaging.  But can you name the millions of things that had to go right in order for this asynchronous exchange to happen?  Let's look at just 3 elements within this communication: me, you, and the blog.

In order for me to write this singular blog post, here is just a sample of the things that needed to go right:
  1. To be taught to read and write at a high school level or higher.
  2. To have access to enough food to keep me alive these past 34 years.
  3. To have access to enough shelter to not only keep me alive but to protect my body and mind.
  4. To have developed the self-awareness to be thankful in the ways that I am in order to write this post.
  5. To have access to electricity.
  6. To have access to a "computer" (in quotations because with mobile devices, the definition of this is changing).
  7. To have access to the Internet.
  8. To have access to a publishing web tool (Blogger).
  9. To have access to social media or other avenues for readers to find this blog.
In order for you to read this singular post, here is a just a sample of things that needed to go right for you:
  1. To be taught to read at a level of high school level or higher.
  2. To have access to enough food to keep you alive long enough to read this post.
  3. To have access to enough shelter to not only keep you alive but to keep your mind functioning well enough to read this.
  4. To have access to electricity.
  5. To have access to a "computer" (in quotations because with mobile devices, the definition of this is changing).
  6. To have access to the Internet.
  7. To have access to a publishing web tool (Blogger).
  8. To have access to social media or other avenues for readers to find this blog.
In order for both of us to be here on this blog (at different moments), here is just a sample of things that needed to go right:
  1. Written communication had to be created.
  2. Telecommunications had to be created.
  3. The internet had to be created.
  4. The Internet infrastructure had to be vastly developed which includes many many mainframes and connections.
  5. Computers had increase in productivity while decreasing significantly in cost.
  6. More interactive tools (Web 2.0) had to make interacting on the Internet more feasible (to the point of almost free).
  7. Blogger had to be created.
  8. Blogger had to be bought by Google.
  9. Google had to keep Blogger alive.
  10. Blogger had to maintain and hold onto all of the blog posts of all of its customers.  
That may not seem that much, but again, each item listed could be further broken down to highlight all of the things that had to go right.  For instance, consider all the things that could have interfered with either of us becoming literate?  That was rooted in millions of direct actions (our family, friends, and surrounding people affecting us from the womb to the present) and indirect actions (cultural decisions such as public education, what to do with children, etc).  When you try to tally it all up, you will come up with an almost infinite list of things that went right in order for just you and me to interact on this blog.

And that's the piece that many of us don't see.  We are more aware of bad things happening because of their rarity in our lives.  The fact is, that if you are waking up in a bed, are fairly certain where your next meals are coming from, and capable of reading this blog, you are far ahead of the game.  Your life in totality is good.  That's not to say that bad things won't happen and that real serious bad things shouldn't be acknowledged.  But to only acknowledge the bad and never take time to recognize all of the things that went right, is to wrongly stack the deck.

Something as simply as arriving to work carries with it a range of things to be thankful for.  First is that you arrived safely.  Consider all the things that could have gone wrong from slipping on ice on the walkway to your car malfunctioning to being hit by other drives to being mugged or suffering an illness on the way to work.  But no--you arrived safely and soundly.  There is the fact that you are employed and have a means of income.  That someone values you enough to pay you to do something.  (I recognize this is a harder nut to swallow but given competition for jobs and resources--there are after all amply people qualified to do any job that you are doing--regardless of whether you dislike your job or believe you are underpaid, you are being trusted and paid for services you are providing; not everyone is so lucky).

I do my best to stack the deck rightly so and acknowledge as much of the good in my life as possible but also recognizing that I'm probably only seeing a fraction of it all.  In that, I mean I recognize that for everyone 1 thing I can tangible recognize as going well for me, there are probably at least 5 things that went well that I didn't know about directly.  In truth, it is impossible for us to be fully aware of all the things that go right in a given moment, hour, day, etc.  There are just too many different things to account for.  Look at driving:  Each car is composed of hundreds of moving and interacting parts that allow you to drive.  Multiply this by the amount of cars on the road.  Throw in the road infrastructure (roads, signage, lights, guard rails, etc) and random pedestrians, cyclists, animals, etc.  It's nearly impossible to comprehend all the things going right and that's just driving.  What about when we sit in our homes or work-spaces?  But all of it goes well 99.999% of the time.  Yes, that's a statistic that I just made up but I wonder if it's not far off the mark when we consider all the factors surrounding us that could do us harm.

Which brings me back to why I feel fabulous so often.  There's much to be feel fabulous about.  So many things in our lives, goes extremely right and for me to be anything less than fabulous undervalues all those things that goes right and I don't want to do that.  Because in valuing all those things that go right--in being thankful to those myriad positives, it makes the negatives much less potent.

However, in the last few months, I been trying to take that thankfulness to a new level.  First, my partner and I introduced a new idea into our relationship.  Before bedtime each night, we share about what we're grateful about.   It's big and small things.  Sometimes, there are clearly important things to be grateful for.  Yet other things regularly make the nightly list (my kitties and partner being regularly acknowledgments). People who say their prayers at night are not new to this idea but one does not need to be religious to be thankful for the many good and great things that we have to be thankful.

But again, I find myself wanting to take this idea of thankfulness one step further.  In August, I had the pleasure of hearing Carrie Stack, from the Say Yes Institute speak at an event at North Shore Community College.  One thing she emphasized that has stuck with me is to reach out and to say thanks to people for the things they do and be willing to go the extra step to make that thanks public.  That is, make you publicly acknowledge when someone has done you a good service and especially, if it relates to someone else's work--be sure to not only let that person know but their employers.  As Stack emphasized in her presentation, giving such public thanks goes far for you, for the person you are thanking and equally important, for others who may be present.  We have plenty of examples of people griping and complaining, but maybe what we need is more examples of people saying thank you to people.

So what are you thankful for?

ADDENDUM

About 2 hours after finishing the post, this TED Talk showed up on my newsfeed and I feel in many ways, it sums up my experience.






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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tales of Running: The Two Demons I Run With

Whenever I take up a run, be it a 3 mile trot down the street or a marathon, I always have to face down a demon.  I call it, the Doubt Demon.  Even though I have now run over 550 miles this year and seen great improvement over the last two years as well as found an absolute love of running, I still have to face down the Doubt Demon every time I get ready to run.

Cthulhu - Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/62/Cthulhu_and_R'lyeh.jpg
This is probably what my
Doubt Demon looks like
So who is the Doubt Demon?  The Doubt Demon has been with me for decades.  I couldn't say exactly when the Doubt Demon first appeared but it was likely born around my later elementary and middle school years.  It was here that the physical differences between my peers and me became most evident.  Besides being overweight, I was also a "late-bloomer".  Historically, I had a record of coming in dead last with every run at practice I've ever attended (or close thereto).  Thus, when it came to athletics, there was little self-confidence and a whole lot of doubt and it was here that the Doubt Demon was born.  (The demon has shown its head in other walks of life, but there are different origin stories for those areas).

The Doubt Demon is a sneaky bastard.  It finds ways to disrupt and distort my view and at times, even convinces me that I shouldn't run.  The Doubt Demon has regularly interfered with my running.  It tells me that I don't have enough time to do the run I want to do (and thus shouldn't run at all) or that I'm not running as fast as others so why bother or that going to the race today is just a waste of time.  It tells me that I'm too slow or that because I didn't run the speed that I did last time that I should just give up, because clearly, I suck.  It tells me that it's too cold or too hot or too perfect weather to go for a run.

What sucks about the Doubt Demon is that it stays perched on your shoulder throughout a run.  It's often the Doubt Demon I'm battling with throughout the longer runs to keep a steady pace or just to finish.  It taunts and mocks me as others past me or I see my time is not where it is supposed to be.  It ignores that I've just run 10 miles and ridicules me for not running mile 11 at my best.  It's a pernicious bastard that feeds on insecurities and does everything it can do to convince me to stop.  When I turn the corner and see that hill that I wasn't expecting, it says that I'm too tired, too out of breath, or just too damn lazy to make it up there.  It finds those little aches within my body and exploits them in histrionic fashion to convince me that I should not go one step further.

So what do I do with this demon?  How do I fight off the barrage of negativity emanating from the Doubt Demon?  How do I keep going despite its preying on my weakness?   I invite in the Other Demon.

Who is the Other Demon?  I hesitate to call it the Rage Demon or the Anger Demon.  Maybe I should try the Tempered Demon?  The Other Demon is the focused and channeled energy that I feel coursing throughout my body.  It's fueled by both the good and the bad in my life.  It's a balanced energy, taking all that has been and is within me and channeling it into my running.  I know the power of fueling my runs with happy thoughts.  I also know that anger can be a great focus for channeling energy to.  Combined, these two make a powerful force to push myself to further heights and conquer the Doubt Demon.  The best way I can describe this is as I approached the finish line for the marathon, it was the Other Demon that drove me.  During this final push, my emotions ran the gamut from grunting and growling to weeping and laughing.  It blazed within me and despite the exhaustion, it drove me through the finish line.  

The Other Demon seems to be a bit of everything but its most valuable resource is the strength and power it feeds into me. Sometimes, it comes of its own volition and sometimes, I must summon it. However, it doesn't show up without a reason.  The Other Demon needs to confront or focus on something.  That something is usually the Doubt Demon.  

I know when the Other Demon is present.  I feel energy coursing through me, even if I'm far into the race and should be exhausted.  When it arrives, it often feels like a weight being lifted from my shoulders or the blinders have been removed.  On occasion, when it's through a rough patch, the Other Demon's presence is so palpable that I find myself grunting (almost growling) to make my way through it.  When the Other Demon is present, the Doubt Demon has no chance.  It shrivels up like a raisin and all but disappears.

But the nature of the Doubt Demon is never to entirely disappear and it is likely to veer its ugly head again (and again).  However, knowing that I have the Other Demon within me helps me defeat the Doubt Demons more times than not.  It won't always be there when I need it, but it continues to show up to squelch the Doubt Demon's attempts.    

To be clear, none of this is to suggest that I've got mounds of rage and anger within me to fuel my runs.  I'm not running on rage by any means and I think this is the part that not many people can get.   There is much in this world that we can find upsetting, frustrating, trying, etc.   Coupled with this is a culture that doesn't allow for easy express or outlets for such emotion.  So yes, I can see how people might read it as such.  But the Other Demon is a mixture of positive and negative elements of life.  And rather than let those negative things eat away at me as it does so many other people (and take away from my general sunny-disposition), I channel them into something positive.  I use them to squelch other negative things (That makes a certain sense, right?  A negative neutralizes another negative mathematically).

I imagine that many other people have their Doubt Demons.  How do you keep them at bay?  What tactics do you have in slaying the Demon?

Note:  This is metaphor.  Please spare me any communication questioning my grasp on reality.

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