Thursday, January 14, 2021

Taming the Social Media Monster

"When I first joined Facebook, I was so excited about being able to communicate with relatives, friends, and former coworkers scattered around the world. I enjoyed it so much that I also started using other programs, too. But social media has become more complex and is a real time-sucker. And instead of having fun, much of the stuff on there makes me frustrated, worried, and sometimes even angry. I’d cancel all my accounts, but I’d miss the good conversations I still have and some of the fun groups I’m in.”


Does this text I received from my friend Diana early last summer sound familiar? 


If so, you are not alone. Americans spent, on average, 2 hours 22 minutes on social media per day in 2019. And a majority of users admit that, despite its benefits, social media brings far less joy to their lives than it once did.


This past summer, I decided to address the social media problems I, like Diana, was experiencing. I talked to social media gurus and did extensive research into various social media platforms, how they work, and how to make them work for me. What I discovered is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the problems social media users encounter. 


There is, however, a simple process that can lead to solutions tailored to an individual's needs.  The steps aren’t very time-consuming, but it’s important to not rush through them.


1. It is imperative that you first identify what you hope to gain through the use of social media. In other words, why do you log on to any social media platform and engage with others? List your reasons. Then dig a little deeper.


For example, if you said “communicate with friends”, ask yourself what you     mean by “friends”. Do you mean people you have actually met and know? Or do you mean people you have actually met & know *and* folks out there with whom you share common interests but have never met? 


What do you mean by “communicate”? Do you want to engage in discussion of topics, controversial or otherwise? Or would you prefer to simply share what’s going on in your life and learn the same from your friends?

     

Once you’ve identified the specific benefits you hope to gain from social media 

use, write them down.


2.  Do some basic research into social media platforms, what they are intended to 

provide, and how they operate. You might find the interesting graphics provided 

here helpful.


3. Using the information gathered in step 2, determine which social media platform(s) will best provide the benefits you identified in step 1. 


If you don’t already use that social media platform, give it a try. If you’re like most people, you’ll find using it awkward, maybe even uncomfortable, so give yourself time to familiarize yourself with it.


4. Delete the accounts and apps for any platform(s) that don't fulfill your needs. 


5. As you use the platform(s) you’ve decided to use, pay attention to what steals your joy, takes more time than you’d like, etc. Make adjustments and research to discover more adjustments you can make to adapt that platform for your use.


For example, if you tend to log on “for just 10 minutes” only to look up after posting and reading and discover that 2 hours have passed, consider setting a kitchen timer or installing a tool or downloading an app that will help you control the amount of time you spend on social media. Or if you truly only want to chat with people you know personally, delete the 342 “friends” you've never met! 


In early Fall, Diana and I worked through this process together. As a result, I kept 2 accounts and deleted 2. I also changed more than a few settings and made significant changes to when, how often, and what I post as well as to what shows up on my newsfeed. I’ve cut my social media time by more than 50%, and I rarely find myself experiencing negative emotions when on social media. 


Diana sums up the changes she’s experienced: “Oh my gosh! Social media is fun again! I dropped everything but Facebook. So long, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat! I unfriended several people who were beyond rude, stopped following all but a few groups, and now limit myself to 15 minutes in the morning and evening. I also take a social media fast for over 24 hours every week, from Saturday night until Monday morning. I wish I’d done this a long time ago!”


If you have a love-hate, or even a love-dislike, relationship with social media, give the process a try. Feel free to share your thoughts, results, any questions you have, etc. via comment or by email (pattimiinch.com).

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Authenticity

The past few weeks have been incredibly hectic. My granddaughter’s first birthday (complete with birthday party), Christmas, two visits from my son and his family, and getting ready to move to a different community in early January, along with my normal tasks and responsibilities, have kept me very busy.


When I could find a few minutes here and there, I turned my attention to selecting my “one word” for 2021. 


As I explained in an earlier post (Just One Word), my “one word” represents what I hoped to develop or cultivate in my life in the coming year. The entire year. 


I had to choose just the right word.


I brainstormed a list Thanksgiving weekend and kept it close at hand in my bullet journal. Over the following weeks, I added some words and marked through others. I journaled and doodled and prayed. 


And finally, last Wednesday, I had my word. 


Authenticity


I was going to share my word here on the blog last Thursday, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. 


You see, every time someone I know or a character in a book I’m reading says that they realized one day when their children had grown that they no longer knew who they were, I cringe. I’m not very philosophical, and the whole “finding who I am" or "rediscovering who was before I was a wife/husband and parent” sounds so . . . well, cliched, that I felt somewhat hypocritical explaining why I chose authenticity as my focus in 2021.


I tried — quite hard, actually — to come up with another word. 


But I simply could not walk away from that word. Authenticity.


And then I realized something that made it crystal clear that this is the right word for me.


It’s not that I “don’t know who I am”.  I know exactly who I am. 


But all too often, my choices, actions, speech, activities, and so on do not reflect who or what I claim — and know myself — to be.


I haven't deliberately chosen to be inauthentic.

 

It’s just that for far too long I haven’t made the effort to be intentional in what I say, think, and do.


And that is something I want to rectify in 2021.


I don’t know where this journey toward intentional authenticity will lead me; I don’t know what the consequences of authenticity will be. 


But I’m excited at the prospect of finding out.

 

As you look ahead to 2021, what do you plan to focus on? What do you hope to have more of, to develop, in your life? What, if anything, do you hope to eliminate? Join in the discussion via a comment.


In 2021, my Wednesday Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter posts will focus on authenticity (#wednesdayword). Social media posts (Patti Miinch on all sites) on other days, as well as this blog, will continue to focus on various aspects of Prime Time Living. I hope you'll follow me at all three places and join in the conversation. 




Thursday, December 10, 2020

Just One Word

Words dominate our lives. We speak and sing them, read them, write them, hear them, and think them. The barrage of words — from both external sources and from our own internal dialogue — can be distracting, even overwhelming. 


It can be helpful, then, to step back from the barrage of words and focus on just one. 


Every year, people all over the world do just that. I first heard of the “one little word” movement in Spring 2009, when a friend told me about Ali Edwards, famous designer of everything scrapbooking, who had shared the “one little word” concept on her website.


In Edwards’ words, “one little word” involves “choosing one word for myself . . . a word to focus on, to live with, to investigate, to write about, to craft with, and to reflect upon as I go about my daily life.“


I’ve chosen a word 7 times in the 11 years since I first heard of “one little word”; I didn’t choose one for 2020. 


As the chaos of the past 10 months — personal life changes, the pandemic, violence in cities across America, and the election process — has swirled around me, I’ve felt scattered and unfocused. Perhaps that is why, for several weeks, I’ve felt compelled to chose a word for 2021.


Maybe you, too, have felt untethered, awash in the messiness and uncertainty of 2020. Perhaps, like me, you want to put all that behind you, regroup, and move into the new year with a fresh focus.


If so (or even if not), I invite you to join me in choosing one word for 2021. 


There are no “rules”. If you google “one little word ideas” or “word of the year ideas”, you’ll find that people have chosen words that range from the downright frivolous to extremely serious. The word can represent an aspiration, a dream, a character trait you wish to develop, a person . . . the options are endless. 


You can also choose from an endless array of ways to focus on your word. Some people share that they don’t *do* much; they are simply mindful of their focus in a way that is appropriate for the word and for them. For example, a friend who chose the word “pause” for 2020 shared on social media that she has been intentional about pausing before speaking and for at least 24 hours before making any decisions, including purchases outside of normal everyday/month ones.


Others take different approaches.


One etsy member creates and sells word-art featuring his one word every year; several participants have written books based on their word. The friend who first told me about “one little word” back in 2009 chooses a word with her husband (and their children, when they were still living at home). Each family member focuses on that word in their own way throughout the year; they also look for “their” word on signs, posters, etc., and take pictures of their finds. At the end of the year, they create a family photo collage and display it in the family room.


As 2020 draws to a close, consider choosing “one little word” for the new year. Think about it, pray about it if you feel so inclined;  don’t stress about finding the “perfect” word. Participants often share that while it may take a few weeks, perhaps even until a few days into the new year, the right word will simply become apparent.


I’ll be sharing my own word for 2021 at the end of the month and invite you to share your word then. I look forward to hearing what you choose!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Significant -- Six Ordinary Women, One Extraordinary God (Book Review)

Significant - A Study of Women in Jesus’ Genealogy: Six Ordinary Women, One Extraordinary God (Bonfire Books, 2020) is, as the cover states, a study of six women in Jesus’ genealogy. 

In the “Author’s Note”, author Rachel Risner, wife of a minister and mother of seven, stresses that her aim while writing this book was to stay true to God’s Word and, when necessary, to use only reliable commentaries. She also admits that she is a fallible human being and urges her readers to do two things: 1) hold “God’s word alone in the highest regard” and 2) know God’s Word for themselves. While it may seem that what she says here is a “given” and doesn’t need to be stated, readers of contemporary Christian nonfiction know otherwise. After studying the remainder of the book carefully, cross-referencing Risner’s study with the Bible and with credible and reliable reference materials, it is clear that the author has stayed true to her aim. 

Risner focuses on six Biblical women in Jesus’ lineage who are often overlooked: Sarah, Leah, Tamar (Judah’s wife, not King David’s daughter), Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba.  Each woman is the subject of one chapter, and the six chapters themselves are broken into five days of reading and activities. 

Relevant historical, cultural, and biographical background is provided in each chapter. This information is presented in a way that is concise and clear but at the same time interesting and engaging and makes more clear the women’s circumstances, options, and decisions. Risner goes into detail about each woman’s story, highlighting their weaknesses, strengths, and struggles. She shares how their stories are relevant in today’s culture and how they are mirrored in her own life, and she invites readers, through thought-provoking questions, to examine how they are mirrored in their own lives as well. She continually brings the focus back to God and to His Word, providing narrative and questions that lead readers to consider what God is both telling them and calling them to do. 

It is important to note that throughout the study of these six women’s lives, Risner shines a spotlight on evidence that, no matter what the circumstances, God was in clear and total control of these women’s stories. At the same time, she leads readers to see how He continues to be in complete control of their circumstances
today. 

While other Bible studies attempt to do the same thing — provide information about Biblical characters, show the parallels to life today, and ask the reader to make connections to their own life — Risner brings a fresh, and sometimes challenging, voice to the narrative. For example, she is candid (but respectful) about the life of Rahab, a liar and a prostitute. She asks the very important question, “Who are the Rahabs today?” and she brings into the discussion the very people — meth addicts, for example — that are (like the six subjects of the book) often ignored. 

Risner also provides other valuable resources through links to four add-ons: six (one per chapter) free video lessons with lesson notes; a free ebook on the effective use of social media by local women’s ministries; the authors blog, with encouraging posts, book giveaways, etc.; and promotional tools for use in sharing about a local Significant study group.  

Significant is an outstanding Bible study for both individual and group use. While it focuses on six women, men would also find this an impactful study, and it would be a thoughtful gift for anyone on a gift list. Never preachy, always engaging and relevant, this is a study that will bless the lives of those who participate in it. 



I received a free copy of this book and was not asked for anything — not even a review — in return. I have chosen to share this review only because I have found this study to be an excellent resource. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Tricks for Change

Ahhhh . . . retirement. A time of doing as much of the things we want to do and as little or none of what we don’t want to do.


That’s what I thought life beginning the first day my own retirement. I had made a list of things I wanted to do more of or add to my life, but exactly one year later, I looked it and realized I’d only done one of the many things I’d written down!


Shocked, I realized I had frittered away an entire year, hours and days at a time, puttering around the house and yard, reading, watching sports on TV, etc.


Sound familiar? If I asked if anyone else has done the same thing, would yo sheepishly raise your hand? 


I didn’t want to waste another day, so I did some research and learned a few tricks to help me out. If you need tips on how to add activities to your life so you are living your life, retired or not, more fully, perhaps one of these will work for you.


Kedging, a practice used by captains of ancient ships involves “setting a desperate goal and working like crazy to get there” (Chris Crowley, in ch. 9 of Younger Next Year* for Women). My friend Maribeth utilized kedging to motivate herself to take all-day bike trips on the weekend. Instead of making a commitment to herself to begin riding her bike every day, increasing the distance ridden every week — a commitment she feared she wouldn’t stick to — she signed up for week-long group bike trip across the state of Michigan. She knew she would have to take all-day rides on the weekends — her original objective — to prepare for that trip.


Talk about a desperate goal — she didn’t even own a bike! She studied the tour brochure and the itinerary; she even used a topographical map and YouTube videos the tour company posted to get an idea of what she’d be facing. One thing she knew for certain. She needed to buy a bike, so the day after she signed up for the tour, she visited a local, well-recommended bike shop.


That trip to the bike shop introduced Maribeth to three more tricks that might help you add new activities to your life.


First, Maribeth bought a bike. Not just any bike. She bought a fantastic long-distance touring bike with a sales price that was, for her, somewhat extravagant. She knew, though, that if she spent a significant amount of money, she’d be motivated to get her money’s worth. For her, the bike purchase was an investment.


When she told the bike store owner why she needed the bike, he was more than happy to help her draw up a 5-month training plan. 


The bike shop owner also invited Maribeth to join a local cycling group outing. He told her that since she needed a few days to have the bike rack she purchased (another investment) installed on her car, he would be glad to bring her bike to their next outing, 8 days away. She attended that outing, rode several hours that day and made friends. By the time the day had ended, she had committed to returning again the following week. Now, she had accountability partners


Eighteen months later, Maribeth rides with the local bicyciing group 3 or 4 times a month. And, yes, she completed the week-long bike trip across Michigan. She’s also completed week-long bike tours of California wine country and of Boston and Philadelphia, and when COVID restrictions are lifted, she’ll be heading to Europe for a 14-day biking tour of important WWII sites. 


Maybe you have no plan to add bicycling as a hobby. Whatever activities you do want to add or simply do more of, kedging, making a significant financial investment, committing a vague plan to a more specific plan with target dates, and/or establishing some means of accountability may be just the tricks that motivate you to do that. 


Please join in the conversation by sharing an activity or two that you’d like to start doing or do more of. What tricks sound like they would help motivate you to do that? What other tricks can you recommend?






Thursday, November 12, 2020

Are You Emotionally Hungover?

I occasionally experience what I call an “emotional hangover”. 

Before I go on, I want to stress that an emotional hangover is something that is temporary and, for want of better word, “mild”. If you are experiencing any of the emotions I’m about to talk about to the point that they impact your ability to function normally or if they impact your quality of life, I urge you to seek professional help. Talk to your pastor, a counselor, your doctor . . . a qualified professional you trust implicitly.


A person with an emotional hangover feels any number of negative emotions such as sadness, lethargy, hopelessness, confusion, anxiousness, grief, fearfulness, melancholy, weariness, and so on.


Sometimes I have an emotional hangover in response to my own actions. A couple of years ago, I overspent on vacation then faced the consequences when the credit card statement arrived the following month.  


Sometimes events outside my control have been the cause. My children have left after a visit from out of state, and my house is empty again.


If social media posts are any indication, many people are experiencing emotional hangovers right now. News of friends and loved ones battling COVID-19, extended periods of self-quarantine, and the unceasing divisiveness over masks and government officials’ responses (or lack of) to the pandemic has affected many of us. The months of political campaigns, social media vitriol, election-week drama, and the outcome of one or more of the specific races has also impacted those of us who live in the United States.


Fortunately, there is a cure for an emotional hangover, and it involves only two steps.

First, consider what has been effective in overcoming one in the past. 


Second, reflect on what trigger is triggering the one you’re experiencing. Then dig a little deeper. If, for example, your children leaving after an extended visit is a trigger, ask yourself what it is about their leaving that’s causing your emotional slump. Is it the emptiness of your home? Are you worried about the increased grocery bills and expenses from numerous, out-of-the-ordinary restaurant meals? 


Once you’ve determined what has worked before, you can of course, try that again. If you know what the trigger is, you can address that to the best of your ability. No doubt making positive steps, no matter how small, will help you feel more hopeful and in control.


Possible cures for an emotional hangover:


pray

take a break from social media  

physical exercise — something as simple as a walk around the block

volunteer — do something for someone else

participate/practice a favorite hobby or pastime — go fishing, knit socks

get adequate sleep (but not too much)

talk with a trusted friend

meditate

make changes to your normal routine 

watch a television show or movie that never fails to make you laugh

get a manicure or a massage

bake cookies and then enjoy them with a glass of ice-cold milk

do something creative

dance around your living room

put on music and sing along

take a drive to a place that lifts your spirits

go to the park and swing or go down the slide

treat yourself without breaking the bank — get an ice-cream cone, buy a

favorite magazine and relax with a cup of tea at your favorite 

beverage at a local coffee/tea house


It’s important, too, that you stop doing things that might worsen an emotional hangover or cause it to last longer. Too much sleep, for example, can be counterproductive, as can consuming alcohol. 


Remember, there’s no single cure, and what has worked before might not work every time. Try different strategies, and be patient and kind to yourself as you find the cure you need.


What strategies help you cure an emotional hangover? I hope you’ll share via a comment below.






 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Holiday Preparation, 2020–Style

Across the country, Americans are preparing for what are arguably our nation’s most-celebrated holidays — Thanksgiving, Chanukah (Hanukkah), Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve.


These holidays will, like those that have already been celebrated this year, no doubt look quite different from what many (most?) of us are used to.


Rather than lament what is not, it’s time now to think about what we can do so our holidays are the best — and safest — possible. That they are, as much as possible, days that are full of life and joy and love. 


A little planning can go a long way to making that a reality. In considering some steps you need to take as you plan, I’ll use Thanksgiving as an example. Of course, these same steps can be applied to any/all of the holidays you observe.


First, it’s important to consider how you want to celebrate the holidays. Be honest; it’s okay to think only of your own “wants” for a few minutes. Do you prefer a big meal with all the trimmings prepared by you in your own kitchen, or would a potluck or a buffet of meat & cheese trays, fruit & vegetables and dips, etc., be more to your liking? What about a zoom gathering instead? A socially-distanced family picnic at a nearby park? Remember, you’re thinking only of your own personal preferences at this point. 


Second, now consider the preferences of those with whom you hope to spend the holiday. As much as possible, have a candid discussion — preferably one on one — with the people whose plans are most enmeshed with your own. This would include a spouse/significant other, of course, and likely your children, and maybe your parents or other family or friends. Urge them to share their own feelings openly and honestly, and don’t judge, criticize, become defensive, etc., if what they share doesn’t sit well with you. Listen closely and be attentive to any fears they may be feeling. Some may be concerned about their own and their loved ones’ health; others may be fearful that if the traditional celebration isn’t held, they’ll be alone for the holiday. 


Third, consider your own preferences, those of your loved ones, and any practices you are committed to in order to safeguard your own health and the health of anyone who may take part. There is, of course, conflicting information and advice being offered by the news media, social media, etc. Do your research and look to credible and reliable sites for your information. Then determine the plan that you feel is best for you and any loved ones.



(The CDC has prepared some guidelines that you may find helpful: CDC "COVID-19 Holiday Celebrations"


Fourth, once you (and your spouse/significant other, you have one) have come up with the holiday plan that you feel is best for you, that will bring you the greatest possible joy, happiness and peace of mind, share your plans with those who need to be notified. Do so with love and patience, keeping in mind that your plans may significantly impact them, even when you can’t “see” that. Don’t argue, don’t become defensive, and don’t over-explain. A simple, “After much thought, I/we have decided that this year for Thanksgiving . . .” 


Five, now it’s time to lay the groundwork for whatever you’ve decided to do. Have fun with this! Make your celebration as low-key or as big as you want. 


Don’t just let the holidays pass you by. Instead, live them to their fullest!


I hope you'll take a few minutes to share your own ideas for holiday celebrations 2020-style via a comment below!!