Party of Two, My +1 is the Couch

“You will feel isolated. You’re not alone.”

That statement, spoken to the assembled students at the graduate orientation just weeks ago, didn’t really strike me until today. Today when I made the first of what I’m sure are many social sacrifices for the sake of couch riding with my textbook, my computer and my trusty ballpoint pen for notes.

I should clarify I’ve been moving away from the party life for the past almost four years. The thought of stumble bumbling around the club in four-inch heels, swaying to the bass and trying to one-eye drive my way back north of town just no longer has any appeal to me. Nowadays, give me two drinks for the night, some techno to jump around to and the enjoyment of being in bed by 2, not being in line to get my car at 2:30. Just the standard evolution of life I think; can’t be the party girl forever. You get a reputation, Dallas is kind of a small town that way.

So when I found myself texting my friend, pulling the “rain check” card and then getting comfortable with a plate of Soba Tofu takeout and Chapter 4 (The Communicator & Sociopsychological Tradition), I knew it got real. My two sources of knowledge on the grad school pledging, I mean education, process are my older sister and work associate turned confidant Armando. I distinctly remember my sister telling me to get all my fun-having out this past summer, because once classes start the graduate student guilt will prevent me from being able to enjoy a night out, knowing I have dozens of pages of reading waiting for me when I get back, all fuzzy-head and good times. But I didn’t want to believe fat meat was greasy (shout out to my mom for that useful phrase), thinking to myself “Bump that, I’ll be able to hang.” Fast forward to sleeping on the couch because it’s comfortable and a lifelong dislike of waking up early, leading to late  nights at work, and I’m rethinking my approach to how I spend free time.

I conquered part one of Chapter 4, which thankfully is a much more tolerable reading than last week’s brain drain. Tomorrow, the only outside time I get is the gym. Then it’s part two and three, as well as those lovely 20-page journal articles. Did I mention I’m an avid note-taker, making this process nearly twice as long as just reading?

Since we’re talking school, the first test is here and gone. Midterms in a month or so. All in all, I haven’t jumped off the roof yet but there’s more to come.

Even MORE Facebook updates

I’m kinda liking what the Zuckerman is presenting right now. Focusing in on what makes social media both personal and public. Reminds me quite a bit of the Google experience from some months ago, buy I’m sure that is quite purposeful.

This network situation being set up should also be good. Open graph is awesome, adding verbs is the way to go! I remember adding nouns was one of my favorite features.

I’ll add more thoughts once this presentation is done!

Romance Versus Realism – The “Carrie” Syndrome

I’ve somewhat prided myself on not being one of the “girlie girls.” You know, the “can’t go to the corner store without my face beat for the GAWDS” kind of woman, for whom spending time and money on hair, shoes and makeup is a requisite, and not a nice add-on, for personality. Included in my definition of “girlie girl” is an undying love of all things Carrie Bradshaw, she of “Sex and the City.” Now don’t get me wrong. I was tardy for the party but I have definitely enjoyed just about all six seasons’ worth of episodes of the show. I’m speaking of the women who subscribe to the “Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha or Miranda” character in their lives, using these limited ideas to shape their narratives in love and careers. The idea of forming my reactions to a dynamic, constantly shifting concept like relationship communication based on the static fictional characters was always a laugh.

Which is why when I came across “Mr. Big Syndrome Ruins Lives” from Luvvie Ajayi on Clutch this morning, I gave a huff and a shrug to the idea that seeking any kind of male character type from this show would be in good form. In her post, Luvvie addresses the likelihood that the successful but relationship-challenged Mr. Big types will leave you high, dry and broken-hearted. Personally, any woman past the age of say 24 that believes in a man that clearly has ulterior motives and back-burners you on a consistent basis needs to have her head examined.

The only person who I’ve known who could believe the best in a guy I would write off as a louse is my best friend from college, Chané. She was one of the most ever-cheerful people I’ve known, especially when it came to love. Despite the follies of relationships, and the inevitable disappointment of many of the men we dealt with as undergrad students and then wet-behind-the-ears 20-somethings, she never gave up her belief in that “can’t breathe it hurts so good” kind of love. I’ve never believed in that, being far more pragmatic about human relationships. But in instances like the dissolution of my first serious investment in the male species, she was the positive light in my den of negativity. And it didn’t  hurt that she had a squeal/scream (squeam?) just like Sarah Jessica Parker gave her legendary role.

Well, since I can’t be a Carrie Bradshaw, nor am I bitter enough for the Miranda, lustful enough for the Samantha or desperate enough for the Charlotte, I will continue to balance the desire for the damn near unattainable kind of passion from shows like Sex and the City and movies like The Notebook with the reality of the facts: sometimes men just don’t do passion. They do pragmatics, they do the tangible. But that concept (see, bringing in some of my research class terminology in this one!) of “soul mate” eludes them. So you must decide your strategy, and for the love of all things Carrie, stick to it!

Total Recall: Thoughts on Chapter 1 & 2

So I sat down with “Total Recall,” excited to learn about the rationale behind recording everything in life in the name of science. In chapter one, you gain an idea of the advances in technology that allow the scientists to even consider recording their lives on the scale with which Bell does. (As a note, the book is written by two people, Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell but is narrated by Bell.) Increasing available storage, both in devices and online, the decrease in size of phones, videocameras and other recorders and the ubiquity of PCs are all cited as ways that we’ve become normalized to the idea of connection.

I appreciate that they recognize that even the younger generation like me can find this a very frightening prospect, to live not only in a physical sense but an digital form. Who controls this information? More and more cases of one’s online identity having an effect on the physical realm are being discovered and the “delete” button doesn’t exist when you can cache information.

Chapter two finds Bell taking the first steps to digitize everything in his life. This process begins with correspondence and work files, leading to receipts, awards, transcribing conversations and the minutiae of life. In my own life, I am encountering this more and more. I went to the Apple store (s/o to Steve Jobs) to replace my iPod and had the cashier ask me if I wanted a printed copy of my receipt or if I wanted it emailed to me. Since I hate collecting loads of loose random papers, I said email. That immediacy, and the fact that I didn’t have to keep up with a physical paper, appealed to me. However, this wasn’t limited strictly to a tech company, which was my first thought. Just last week, while at a clothing store with my mom, they asked her the same question. She is more reticent to give out her information, so she chose the paper copy. But clearly this will become the norm for companies who recognize that their customers are increasingly online and would prefer the option of digital receipt. It’s also a great cost cutting idea; think of how many reams of receipt paper one store must go through. Sending emails not only eliminates that waste, it helps build a database of customer information. Of course, the issue becomes marketing to them; if I give you my email address is this an implicit “yes” to sending me your newsletters and offers? I would err on the side of no, but that’s because I hate most marketing emails (seriously, please stop 99 percent of companies, or do a better job of targeting your message).

But I digress! Bell goes into classification and hierarchical organization in the growing database that contains gigabytes of information. That’s all fairly interesting, if  a bit dry. I’m moving on to Chapters three and four, but I’m starting to give priority to necessary graduate reading. Thanks for patience while I took my good, sweet time to finish this post.

That First Step is a Doozy

OkayI know I said that the next post would be a review of my shiny new book; all I can say is that it’s in draft. And that book is data and fact filled. So I’m not rushing myself, I decided to veer a bit and talk about my first day of class! (Cue shifting of backpack straps and pushing up of glasses.)

The class of 2013, as I suppose we’re classified, is pretty small. About 13 people of various ages, experience and background. It’s a relief to meet new people and hear their stories and how they got into communication. Theory class on Monday gave a basic overview of what we will be doing during the semester. Based on the reading schedule, it has become very clear that the trope of “Grad school is not undegrad” holds very true. We’re talking on average three to four peer-reviewed articles per week. However, it came back to me that the reading, exploring theories and the application of those theories was what made me so excited about studying when I was 20, 21. At 26, I’m excited to get back to that love.

Now research, that’s going to be a challenge. I’m not the most analytical person and this course will challenge me. We are exploring qualitative and quantitative research, and I’m looking forward to the cumulative two or three-person project for the semester. Of course, now I have to scope out my classmates and, as I told my sister in the Bat Cave, “figure out who is smart but not so smart I have to manage their ego.” Folks in academia can live in ivory towers, as my theory professor said, and I don’t want to aid and abet this attitude.

So far, so good. Some reading to do, I have to get back in the studying frame of mind. More than anything I’m excited to get back to what it is I love…education.

I Believe in the Power of Positive

Light Bulb

The other day I was speaking with my sister, who also happens to be my only reader so far, and I told her that one topic I will not cover on here is my relationship. I’ve come to the conclusion that despite what popular culture tells us through shows like “Sex and the City” and books on relationships (and TV shows and “experts” and ad nauseum), talking about relationships, especially your own, becomes maddening after a while. It becomes a soul suck of “well did he mean this? maybe he feels like that…what do YOU think?” until it’s a vicious cycle where no one in the actual relationship is talking, just the woman and her friends. And let me tell you, one thing I’ve learned over the years (yes, I’m only 26 but I learn quickly), is that most of the time you (woman) are upset, your male counterpart either a) doesn’t know it because he’s inside his own head or b) doesn’t want to say anything and will wait for you to say something.

In college, I had a cork board that stayed with me through all four years with various photos, ticket stubs, pins and sticky notes. One of my notes said “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear,” which was especially true on a very small campus with a tendency toward gossip. But the note that resounds with me today was “Positive thinking brings about positive results.” The Mayo Clinic agrees with me, noting that:

“…some studies show that personality traits like optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of your health and well-being. The positive thinking that typically comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. And effective stress management is associated with many health benefits.”

Although I wouldn’t call myself the most cheery person in the world, I definitely find that my unique brand of positive self talk combined with faith has kept my  head above water over the past five years. I avoid negative cycles and negative people, never being one to understand that brand of “Woe is me, life is so terrible, don’t you agree?” that coworkers and associates can drag others into. Although every day isn’t always the best, since this isn’t promised to us, I’d rather focus on what is going right and plan for making other areas better than to wallow in it all like a pig in slop. And now this blog is another outlet for bringing the good vibes to my world, and possibly yours.

Next up, I review the first two chapters of my latest favorite read.

Defining My Limits With Social Media

Today I read two stories that brought to mind the self-placed limits on what I share and how I interact with digital content.

First up: Facebook has done away with Places…as we know it. When this feature, which at the time was mobile-only, debuted I immediately put the kibosh on it. I’m of the mind that if I wanted you to know where I was, you’d be there with me or you’d get an invitation. And the fact that other people could check you in, without your approval, was borderline creepy. As soon as I found out what privacy toggles needed to be changed to disable the feature, I jumped on it. Now you’ll be able to add location to photos (love that idea!) and status updates, like when you’re planning a vacation or running to brunch and want a friend to join you there.

The second story: Magazines are increasingly adding digital tags in their stories and ads to drive readers to supplementary online content (video, photos, coupons). I pretty much gave up on magazines as I saw the prices increase but the amount of pages with content relevant to me decrease. I mean, how many ways can I learn about how to put on mascara and how to please my man? Neither here nor there. According to the article, a study found that in a survey of 100 magazines on the newsstand this June, there were 373 digital codes compared to 88 in January. That’s quite an increase, and advertisers are paying attention and paying up.

However, I find that I’ve yet to scan these kinds of tags. At a recent conference I attended, we brought this technology for attendees and were recognized for it on the Microsoft Tags blog. As these kinds of add-ons become standard for magazines and events, I’m sure I will be part of that second wave of adopters, the ones that have to see that other folks are doing it and it’s worth my efforts. Until then, I’ll keep flipping physical pages only and limit my online sharing to the great salad I am enjoying for lunch, not where I’m at as I do just that.

What is memory when it’s not necessary?

Since I’m dead in the water (also known as sleep on the couch) right after my back-to-back-to-back news source (The Daily Show, Colbert Report and Rachel Maddow), the three shows provide me with the combination of comedy and news that I need for a balanced brain. Just recently Colbert gave me some food for thought during his “The Word” segment. The topic was transactive memory or “a system through which groups collectively encode, store and retrieve knowledge.” This is a great idea for someone like me who has a memory like a sieve. Seriously, I forgot the word campaign the other day, who does that?

Back on topic now, Colbert then brought up the idea of memory in the age of Google, based on a report from Betsy Sparrow, which showed that people are increasingly relying on technology for their memories. Well lo and behold, as I was picking up books for graduate school (one week and counting!) I saw this book on the discount table.

Can you believe I only paid 50 cents for this? I’m looking forward to sharing what I learn from the book on here. I love the reference to an awesome sci-fi, futuristic movie, which itself is based on the amazing Philip K. Dick story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.”

So if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to curl up with a good book.

Push (Compel) and Pull (Impulse)

The other day, as I slowly delighted in half of a homemade brownie, I immediately fought with my inner desire not to get the other half. I distracted myself with work and then began to think about impulse control and the lack of it. I managed to quash the “need” for baked goodie and started looking into the science of why it’s so hard to stop at just one chip, cookie, kiss, etc.

Apparently, impulse control is influenced by an imbalance in serotonin levels, which also affects anxiety, depression and panic. I’ve always thought it as more mind over matter and self-discipline but then again that’s why I’m not a scientist. I can almost get it. You know that ping you get when you walk down the snack aisle and you want to sweep your arm across the entire Lay’s display. You feel like you know better but there is a larger part of you that is charging you forward to the undue behavior.

At the opposite end, instead of trying to not do something, I often find myself struggling to find the compulsion to do things. Must-do items like write and exercise, things of that sort. Now that I no longer have the luxury of work-sponsored gym membership or apartment amenities, I joined the nearby 24 Hour Fitness. I know exercise is good for you and all that jazz, but I truly find balance when I’m active and physically expending my frustrations.

So the note I keep in my head: don’t be so hard on your impulses, even if they do involve cupcakes, and compel yourself to three times a week in the gym, especially when you’re paying for it!