Embrace Your Intensity for Growth and Meaning

The Excitable Ones

“While we may yearn for a life entirely free from self-doubt and inner conflict, Dabrowski argued that such a life precludes the more important lifelong journey toward meaning, which we also crave.” ~ Lisa Rivero, “The Excitable Ones”

Read my recent article from the March 2015 issue of Mensa Bulletin, “The Excitable Ones: Personal Growth Can Be Found in the Discovery of Intensity,” below (or click here). Note the beautiful accompanying artwork by Annette Hassell and Hilary Moore.

“Intensity is not always easy to live with or comfortable to watch, but it is also never boring. In the words of developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky, ‘People with great passions, people who accomplish great deeds, people who possess strong feelings, even people with great minds and a strong personality, rarely come out of good little boys and girls’.”

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Celebrate Shakespeare’s Birthday with Hip-Hop and Klingon

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“You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.” ~ Chancellor Gorkon

To celebrate the day traditionally marked as Shakespeare’s birthday, below are some informative, fun, and unusual websites on the Bard.

Start by enjoying rapper and poet Akala discuss the compelling connections between the Bard and hip-hop, and play the game “Hip-Hop? or Shakespeare?” (see how many you can get right):

Then watch Ian McKellen talk about how to read and perform the famous “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech from Macbeth (as one commenter wrote, “Ian McKellen could read Twilight and make it sound good”):

Listen to how the Bard really sounded. Visit the Talk Like Shakespeare page for elocution lessons, a printable poster with ten tips for sounding like Will, and Renaissance recipes.

Grand Avenue

From PBS, In Search of Shakespeare offers detailed information about their series by the same name, lesson plans (such as comparing film adaptations of Hamlet), using primary sources in the classroom, and a choose-your-own-adventure style Playwright Game. Also from PBS is the Which Words Are Will’s Words? Game. More recently, PBS’s series Shakespeare Uncovered is a wealth of online videos and lesson plans. The following excerpt features Jeremy Irons discussing the power of Shakespeare’s language:

If you are a glutton for punishment, take a look at the Shakespeare Insulter. The same site offers a Shakespeare Insult Kit for when you care enough to send the very best insults.

Take the Shakespeare biography quiz and learn Shakespeare in American Sign Language

Whether you teach in a classroom, homeschool, or just want to learn more about Shakespeare, take a look at Surfing with the Bard, “Your Shakespeare Classroom on the Internet.” Serious Shakespeare Geeks will appreciate the Folger Shakespeare Library (as well designed as it is informative). If this doesn’t satisfy your scholarly urges, check out the Horace Howard Furness Shakespeare Library, which houses scanned images of 38 rare Shakespeare texts.

Mel Ryane’s blog, Teaching Will: The Shakespeare Club is subtitled “What school kids give me that Hollywood can’t.” What a treat! As someone who once was co-leader of a Shakespeare group for middle-school children and teens, I was excited to read about Mel’s experience with teaching Shakespeare to even younger children. She writes, “As a volunteer, I created The Shakespeare Club, an after-school program for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. Together we grapple with the Bard, life and each other. These are the tales.”

TV Tropes shows Shakespeare’s continued influence in and on popular culture. Have you heard of Shakespeare’s lost play, The Tragedie of Frodo Baggins? Read an excerpt here.

And, from Brian Rivera, Klingon Hamlet (‘taH pagh taHbe’—To be or not to be):

You can even follow Will on Twitter. Finally, take a look at my post at Psychology Today, “Shakespeare for Everyone,” on poetry as an avenue to better self-understanding.

Fare thee well! What are your favorite Shakespeare resources?

Comic courtesy of http://comics.com/.

Start Now. Start Small. Battling the Evil P Twins.

As a long-time fan of Gretchen Rubin’s work and as someone who battles the evil P twins of procrastination and perfectionism, I am giving myself a belated (what else) birthday present: her latest book, Better Than Before, Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (Crown Publishing Group). Check out an excerpt below.

A Writer’s Quest for Authentic Social Media

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This post is a follow-up to my previous thoughts on Facebook. I’m a bit hesitant to write it, because, like many introverts, I am uncomfortable voicing ideas before I’m sure about them. However, others must find themselves asking similar questions, so perhaps these imperfect musings may be useful.

I am still figuring out how best to engage social media (mainly Facebook and Twitter) in ways that feel authentic, nurture relationships and connection, and don’t sap time and energy away from creative work. Why this is such an issue for me I don’t entirely know, but I got a bit more insight from Gretchen Rubin’s most recent blog post about why she doesn’t read reviews of her work or profiles of herself. These two lines in particular struck me (emphases added):

  • “I’ve found that I’m happier, and a better writer, when I don’t read these pieces.”
  • “For the kind of writing I do, I need to be honest and open-hearted.”

While her post isn’t about social media, her reasoning strikes a chord. I am happier and a better writer when I spend less time with social media. Also, when writing, I need a wide inner space to attend to and transcribe my inner voice without thinking too much about how my words will be received or “liked,” whether in general or by someone in particular (which is different from keeping readers in mind in terms of clarity and sound writing).

I am fortunate that my Facebook friends are diverse in terms of where they live, what is important to them, how they vote, what they believe, and how they spend their free time. Finding a way to participate in this enriching, invigorating virtual sitting room without allowing it so drain my emotional or creative energy is the goal.

How to do that is something I am still figuring out, but I have changed my mind about deleting my Facebook account and have instead, for now, deactivated it. I was convinced by too many friends that saying goodbye forever may be a decision I would regret. In a few weeks I plan to re-activate Facebook, but with, I hope, some clearer personal strategies, such as 1) using lists to tailor with whom I share more personal statuses and photos versus general resources and 2) setting aside and scheduling specific, finite times for social media engagement.

That’s not to say I do not continue to have misgivings about Facebook’s business model. All of us too easily forget that Facebook is a business driven first and foremost by internet marketing, not a public service, as Paul Levy, a senior researcher at University of Brighton, reminds us:

“The free service Facebook offers to its 1.2 billion users is free because of the advertising revenue the site generates from the time that users spend on the site. This model drives a need to keep users on the site as much as possible.”

“If you thought you were going to start your new year with a clean sheet, then, as a social media user, think again. Facebook’s new and revised terms and conditions will see it observe your behaviour, location and the sites you visit in even more detail. In order, no doubt, to create further features to keep you engaged. Inevitably, these will also throw up further issues of badly targeted content and intrusion into our personal lives – a double-edged sword that can bring pleasure, or pain.” Read more

I do not think that these concerns are hyperbole or sensational. Beyond how Facebook may use our information, there is also the fact that our friends-only posts can, of course, be shared or saved by any of those friends through screen shots or cutting and pasting, which is not a problem if our friends list is very small and intimate, but many people’s Facebook friends also include acquaintances from many areas of our lives.

Finally, news outlets can use social media photos and statuses in lieu of more solid reporting, such as after deaths of public figures or even non-public figures who are involved in newsworthy accidents. Consider this advice for reporters covering deaths, from the textbook Reporting for Journalists (2nd edition, by Chris Frost, Routledge, 2010), my emphases added:

“Often news desks will ask you to get photographs. Always ask permission to borrow photographs and ensure they are returned. Remember that official school photographs may well be copyright of the photographer, so make sure you take some home-produced snaps in case there is a problem later. You won’t want to go back again. Accessing their Facebook page is the best way around this problem as you will be able to get a photo that can easily be used on a website, paper or broadcast and that does not require you to return it (although it is still their copyright). If you are unable to access their Facebook page because of the privacy settings, ask a member of the family to e-mail you a picture either from a Facebook page or direct from their photo album.”

Note that anything that has a “public” Facebook privacy setting, including all cover images, could be used in this way, regardless of whether our Facebook friends (or friends of friends, if that is our default setting) agree to share their own copies.

For now, my quest for an authentic social media that feels right to me is ongoing and in progress. Please share your own experiences and ideas in the comments.

Header image credit: Sean MacEntee (CC BY 2.0)

Facebook Ambivalence: Should You Stay or Should You Go?

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Have you ever wondered if Facebook is worth it? Has it begun to feel a bit unreal, as though you are Alice falling down a rabbit hole?

This post is not for people who love Facebook and rarely doubt its role or value in their lives. In no way do I want to argue that everyone or anyone in particular should leave Facebook. I know plenty of people—many good friends—who have found ways to make Facebook work well for them, whether they interact with it several times a day or only occasionally.

Also, if you already know that you like your life better without Facebook—maybe you no longer have (or never had) an account or keep an old one around like that pair of jeans you might fit into someday, just in case—then you don’t feel the ambivalence I want to address here.

This post is for anyone who uses Facebook with ambivalence. To quote The Clash, “This indecision’s buggin’ me.”

Definition of Ambivalence

1 : simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action
2  a : continual fluctuation (as between one thing and its opposite)
b : uncertainty as to which approach to follow

Leaving Facebook, Part I: Deactivation and non-status living

During the winter holidays I deactivated my Facebook account for about a month. Our son and daughter-in-law were coming for an extended visit, I had a lot of work to do before they arrived, and I wanted to be able to focus on enjoying their company as fully as I could. When I returned to Facebook, I promised myself I would not lapse back into using it as a fallback activity whenever I didn’t know what else to do or as a transition between tasks. You can probably guess how well that worked out.

During deactivation, though, I didn’t think much about Facebook at all. Sure, the first few days brought gnawing regret for what I might be missing: holiday photos, links to interesting resources, newsy family items, the latest memes, the oh-so-easy sense of connection that comes from increasing a like button counter. It didn’t take long at all, however, to begin to experience life in pre-social media, non-status ways.

Without the crutch of Facebook, I found myself  (pause here to consider the full connotation of that phrase) thinking and reacting in ways that were only a few years ago normal. When meeting with friends in person, I had more to talk about and could ask to see vacation and other photos, no longer preempted by “I already saw that Facebook.” I read slowly to the end of provocative or funny or insightful articles without interrupting my own concentration after the first or second paragraph with the thought of sharing it on my wall. When working at home during the day, I switched from a Word document to checking research information on the web and back to my writing or indexing without the inevitable “Facebook check” interludes.

Leaving Facebook, Part II: Celebrity culture, voyeurism, and the icky factor

What brought me back to Facebook? I think it was wanting to see some photos of family members that I knew had been posted. Regardless of the reason, it didn’t take long for my old habits to return. While I never have spent hours on social media or felt addicted, it still took too much time and provided too little lasting enjoyment.

“It’s always tease tease tease”

So, several weeks after my initial winter hiatus, I began to ask the Facebook question with more urgency than before: Should I stay or should I go?

If I left, what would I miss (not “miss out on” but truly miss)? The ease of staying in touch with friends, especially friends from my youth or those who live far away. The sense of community that comes from being one of dozens of people to offer congratulations on an accomplishment or condolences on a loss. The reassurance that I am not one of the face(book)less, that I belong.

These are not minor considerations. On the other hand, my time on Facebook was feeling more and more like an Alice in Wonderland existence, a bit surreal and inauthentic. I couldn’t stop wondering about the strange fascination we have with peering into others’ lives. A book I indexed recently likened it to celebrity culture run amok, in the sense that scrolling through news feeds and profiles is like reading People magazine. I felt increasingly uneasy and even voyeuristic about the public nature of much that felt private. I found it harder and harder to justify the opportunity costs—what I could be doing or thinking or creating if I were not checking Facebook.

Harder to explain is the general “icky” factor in terms of how I felt about own reactions. I consider myself to be an open person in the Big Five personality sense and value tolerance, but can anyone really avoid the tiny, silent, often unconscious judgments we make about how “other people” use Facebook? Ick.

One extra consideration, though, that gave me some pause was that, as a writer, I sometimes used Facebook to share new blog posts and connect with readers. Writers and other creatives today are urged to have a strong social media presence as a part of their platforms. Would the trouble be double if I decided to stay—or to go? Would my website and newsletter and Twitter be enough?

You might say that I should just have the discipline to check Facebook once or twice a day for five minutes and leave it at that. I wish I could. I have tried. I know some people can. But I don’t want to lurk and not participate—it feels rude to post something then disappear while others respond—and five minutes are never five minutes once I start liking and commenting and sharing.

Pulling the Plug

In the end my decision to go rather than to stay had less to do with time and more to do with wanting to experience life and people differently. Before deactivating my account, I downloaded an archive of my content and made notes of a few birthdays that I wouldn’t otherwise remember. The archive includes a list of my friends, so I am going through that list to see who is on Twitter and Instagram (neither of which affects me negatively for some reason), what email addresses I have, and whose contact information I still need to obtain. I plan to email a lot of those friends individually in the coming weeks and months.

In December I posted a status that I would be in deactivation mode for awhile, but this time I decided to slip away quietly. There is the risk that a few people might wonder if I have unfriended them; however, anyone who knows me well would, I hope, not make that assumption too quickly, as I have never intentionally unfriended anyone.

This time around I have also gone beyond deactivating to deleting [see my April 14, 2015 update on un-deleting]. Why? Because my uncertainty about Facebook’s effects on our daily life, self-perceptions, attitudes towards others, empathy, and compassion reached a tipping point. Because I am 50 years old and feel an increasing pull toward creative generativity and a decreasing amount of energy to fritter away. Because I am confident that I will maintain contacts in other ways, maybe not right away, but in time. Because I want to exercise my freedom to make my own decisions based on what feels right to and for me.

Because I can.

Life somehow goes on.

If you feel ambivalent about Facebook, watch the video below and don’t be afraid to give yourself permission to deactivate, delete, or just decompress for awhile. Or, if Facebook is for you after all, skip ahead to enjoy The Clash singing “Should I Stay or Should I Go.”

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