The Longer I Look Online, The Worst I Feel

The Longer I Look Online, The Worst I Feel

I have been listening to “The Hidden Brain”, a podcast produced by NPR (National Public Radio). There are many thoughts and ideas I can take from these podcasts, but this week’s podcast was a startling, yet unsurprising, revelation.

The episode (#68), “Schadenfacebook”looks into how people react and feel when they use Facebook.

Does Facebook make us happier or sadder about our own lives, based on the Facebook posts of others? 

For the last two years, I have spent an inordinate time online. When you are homebound by a chronic illness/disease, and when you leave a city that you have spent the first part of your adulthood in, you pine for the established connections, the activities you were involved in, and an identity.

Most of my week are spent in dialysis (3 days/week multiply by 6 hours each visit = 18 hours a week). When I arrive home after treatment, I am physically and mentally drained. I am at home most of time, trying to recharge.

Before I was sick, if I got 6 hours of sleep in my bed, it was a miracle. I was doing something, or finding something to do: looking for work, volunteering, connecting with friends and acquaintances. I hated going home at the end of the day. It was a lonely feeling because I was returning to the reality of my “real” life as a struggling young professional without a compass to follow. My “online” and “social” life was my lifeline to be distracted from lamenting my own life and struggles.

As I spend time alone recuperating from dialysis, I check into Facebook to see what I missed. I’ll post something quirky, or informative (like the podcast in question), but I spend most of the time reading and seeing how the “grass is greener on the other side.”

facebook-thumbs-up

I have fallen into the all-too-common trap of comparing my life to those who appear to be living better lives online.

One acquaintance and his girlfriend spending a weekend in Europe, a party being planned at the local art center where I used to volunteer at. One friend on a business trip. Another one moving into a new house. Several are trying out the new restaurant on Ingersoll Avenue, Des Moines popular thoroughfare west of downtown.

When I read and see my friends’ posts, I don’t think about how I have survived major life challenges over the last ten years (unemployment, kidney failure, depression). I only think about the the activities and life events that I haven’t, or may never, achieve because everyone else is living or enjoying those moments.

The fear of missing out, or FOMO, as it is called today.

Trapped behind a keyboard, worrying about how life is passing us by through images and words.

The fear I am experiencing is that the people I knew in Des Moines have moved on. They have moved on with their own lives, which is what we should do, but they have moved on from me. I’m not there. What ever accomplishments or projects I have done is forgotten. If I’m not there, would anyone notice? Would they miss me?

Man walking alone

Studies show that the more we spend on Facebook, the less positive we feel about ourselves and our lives, the more depressed we are, and in turn, we post more on Facebook to receive validation from others.

I have stayed away from Facebook on occasion for various reasons (tragedies, politics, needing a mental break). However, I have realized that I go to Facebook to “feel good” because on most days, I’m not feeling so good about my status.

I have some friends who are on Facebook, but they do not post, comment, or take pictures everyday, or every week. In fact, some do not post for several weeks at a time.

Reframing how I view and use Facebook is something I need to consider . I need to learn that I do not need to post and publicize things on Facebook and Twitter. Do I need people to know what I think, what I do, and am I making people feel “bad” about themselves with the pictures and the posts I put up on sites like Facebook?

Life is not always pastels, bright colors, or syntax errors. Then again, that’s what we go to Facebook for…to feel better about ourselves.

 

“Off Center”

“We have a chair ready for you.” 

Those six words rung in my head as I started outpatient dialysis this week.

The mere notion of kidney dialysis would make a millennial grimace with visceral pain, shrug it off and go “well, at least it isn’t me.”

Well, since this is about me, being on dialysis has been a strange experience , not just for the obvious reasons.

Dialysis, be definition, is a process for removing waste and excess water from the blood, and is used primarily as an artificial replacement for lost kidney function in people with kidney failure. I had always carried a lot of fluid or excess water in my legs. It was that way for a long time, to which I had taken diuretics to flush the water out. There is so much water in my legs, that when dialysis is used, my legs cramp up. It can be crippling and yet effective.

But that’s not the only thing that has effected me physically when it comes to dialysis.

As a life-long clutterer/stutterer, I have always prided myself with how I speak. Since I’ve started, my brain and motor skills has been so disjointed it scares me. The process of dialysis is to restore equilibrium and to purge the toxins and excess out of your blood stream. As a result of that, my “balance” is way off. On Saturday when visited me at the hospital, I couldn’t spit out one consistent sentence without hitting a block. The more I listened to myself during my conversations with others, the frustrated I got in how I couldn’t say words that would normally come out.

I don’t know how to explain it, but it is weird on how my speech can be out of sorts as I begin dialysis I wonder if anyone has had any strange occurrences or have felt “off-kilter” while starting or have been going through any type of dialysis, “clean-living” or any type of body purge?

Life Changes in a Hurry

Cliches comes in a dime a dozen. We toss it around like baseballs, peppering the infield. So forgive me if I move off a beaten path to utter this phrase: Life moves around you very fast, but when you get to spend quiet time alone, looking at what has happened, it is a whole new world, and when alone, will forever endure.

I think of this tonight, as I sit alone in a room, wondering where this new chapter of my life will take me.

One week ago on a Friday, a buddy and I went to see the Iowa Cubs play at Principal Park. On Saturday, I came down with the flu. On Tuesday, I went to the hospital to shake off the flu, on Thursday, I learned that my kidneys no longer can work by themselves.

Here I am, Thursday night, alone at Broadlawns Medical Center, with a temporary catheter in my right chest and right neck, looking about as unrepentant as a good looking man should be, the body odor…let’s not go there.

This is a new chapter for me. Do not feel sorry for that it happened…you’re wasting time feeling sorry when you can learn about it.

I knew my kidneys were falling. I knew since last fall that time was of essence. My body gave no damn to time. I don’t blame my body. It has lived with diabetes for 20 years, diabetic retinopathy for three years, the battle of the bulge for 35 years. The kidneys were going to check out…only that it was sooner rather than later.

Many of you are learning about this for first time. A few of you, no most of you are shocked. Consider the case of last week, when I told a friend at a restaurant that the news wasn’t good for me…and it wasn’t about the Clippers. It went in and out of his ears. So I selectively told a few folks, knowing I would respect them for not broadcasting the news across America like the Kardashians did something dumb for the umpteenth time.

I’m not a famous columnist or a blogger. If I was, I would kindly suggest reading Des Moines Register’s Daniel Finney if you want to read about perspectives and personal struggles. He’s damn good at that.

I have written about my life with diabetes in the past. This is another chapter that I have to endure. Only that I’m going to ask my friends and acquaintances here in town for a favor. One that I’ve never asked. Please stop by. Send well wishes, crack a joke. Anything to keep me busy until
my mom and my sister’s family arrive here from the Quad Cities.

Lonely people shouldn’t dwell alone on what they are about to face. Don’t feel sorry about what has happened…learn about it and grow from it.

Super Bowl Observations…Not Entirely About the Game

Seattle Seahawks player revels in the confetti after the Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos, 43-8, to win Super Bowl XLVIII. (Reuters)

After hours of indulging in food, and staving off a carbohyrdate-induced coma, Super Bowl XLVIII was played, and to much surprise, it was a blowout. We haven’t had a blowout in about a decade or so, with Dallas vs. Buffalo being the most memorable one (52-17). Being a person who loves to observe things, I was taking a few mental notes about stuff and topics that was interesting to me (not that a majority of you care, but hey…).

Food: pizza bread, roasted cheesy potatoes, key lime cake, and chipotle wings were a nice change-up from the obvious staples of pizza, little smokies, fill-in-the-blank trays (veggie, fruit, etc), and cookies.

The Game: fans expected a great game. But, as the saying goes, the sun doesn’t shine on a dog’s behind everyday. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a blowout. Seattle was the better team. Speed kills and no matter how much the Broncos prepared for the Seahawks’ defensive onslaught, Seattle were like sharks in the water…smelling blood.

That’s why I have shied away from making predictions. It’s a crapshoot.

Commercials: the same feeling can be applied to the commercials when it comes to viewers’ expectations. It can be said that since 2002, the Super Bowl commercials have toned down the wild and sometimes raunchy big productions with an exception of a few. 

The commercials that stood out personally for me is the Radio Shack 80’s commercial, the Cheerios commercial, and American Family Insurance. Cheerios may not register high on anyone’s list, but I liked it because it was simple, direct, and easy to understand without the frills. Of course, as expected, there are some backlash against it as it was last year, because the family isn’t your stereotypical Beaver Cleaver nuclear family.

“U HAPPY BRO?” (USATSI)

*Mini-Rant here: Let me tell you something, if you are letting the silly vitriol towards the Cheerios commercial bother you, you are wasting your time. You’re only feeding the trolls. Arielle Scarcella has this brilliant take on intent vs. impact when it comes to words. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that families have evolved over the last six decades, from the prototypical Beaver Cleaver household to a wholly new interpretation of what a family looks like.

The American Family Insurance commercial, featuring Russell Wilson, was also simple, direct, and effective. To add, I am biased towards American Family. I’m not a customer, but their social media guru and their CEO are fellow alumni from my college and they are class acts. Everything they do, they make a great effort to do it right when it comes to branding and marketing.

Honorable mentions: Dannon Oikos yogurt reuniting the male cast from “Full House” (what? Bob Saget didn’t curse??); T-Mobile featuring Tim Tebow poking fun at himself (haters are going to hate, but I liked it); and Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, and Wayne Knight reprising their Seinfeld roles for a Comedian in Cars Getting Coffee series (“Hello, Newman.” “Hello, Jerry.”)

Highlight of the night: Opera soprano Renee Fleming who sang the National Anthem. I was surprised on how little comment was made on social media about Fleming. It’s probably because no one had a problem with how she performed it. It was one of the best renditions to date. And, it was two minutes (2:02 to be exact) long. That’s how you do it…old school.

Halftime: I’ve heard of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (I’m old. 38, but old enough to bump to “Give It Away” when it comes on), but I don’t know much about Bruno Mars. However, I have to tell you, that hairdo of his, resembles James Brown, and Jackie Wilson.

I like that. That was pretty cool.

No Room At The Workplace

People looking for work > jobs available. Despite the notion that the recession is slowly ending, the impact it has on people out of work continues to be alarming. (themoneyupdate.com)

Over the weekend, two New York Times (credit to SI’s Richard Deitsch for highlighting these links on his Media Matters column this week) articles about unemployment in Europe and here in the United States, reaffirms my belief that the middle class is extinct, or on the verge of it…and it is time to create a new identity and image that best represent what is left of the middle class and the unemployed.

In Spain, young aspiring workers in Spain are leaving their country for better opportunities for jobs elsewhere in Europe. Sadly, those opportunities never come to fruition. The unemployed here in America continue to fall through a downward spiral into parts unknown. Most are considered not hire-able due to being overqualified, unemployed/underemployed for a long period of time, and other various reasons.

It reminded me of the analogy in 2010 that Generation X is the “middle class”: they are in a precarious spot.

Writing from experience, I don’t foresee us returning to pre-recession days, because the culture has changed. Government isn’t creating a WPA and putting people to work, businesses are tightening their belt, or using more discriminatory practices to justify who to hire.

There are a few things I’ve gleaned from both articles and it relates to my personal experience with unemployment.

“Creating” jobs: during this recession, jobs and positions people had were either eliminated or was merged with another job or title. The promises of creating new jobs from elected officials is a silly notion. How can anyone create a job when there are more people out of work than there are jobs that in existence? After all, what is a “new” job?

Unintentional discouragement: phrases like “I hope you find something” or at worst, pat you on the head, feeling sorry for you are the biggest insults to the unemployed today. The unemployed want advice and opportunities, not hollow “feel-good” statements a la Stuart Smalley. They want a chance to feel like they are contributing and learning in the workforce.

This is the new world order we’re living in: it’s better to be in a dead-end job than to be unemployed and be told you’re not hire-able because you’re unemployed. That what it sounds like to me.

Thoughts on Boston, Hockey, and a Beautiful Bulldog

Big Papi sends a message…no one (bleeps) with Boston…or the United States. (New York Post)

A couple of thoughts from the week that was.

A friend tweeted upon the capture of the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing Friday evening:

Welcome relief & cheers at end of the day. Still a higher need to prevent more tragic weeks like this from happening.

My reply to him:

We can do everything possible to stop it, but something will happen, regardless how much we do to prevent or stop it. Take this into account: we’re not like most places where violence of this scale happens everyday and every minute.

These are the main acts of violence/war/terrorist attacks against the U.S. since it became a country in 1776: the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, September 11th, Oklahoma City, and Boston. These acts are large-scale in our view as Americans, but it has no comparison to what other countries and areas have endured for years, decades, and centuries…non-stop.

No one is afraid to take a run at the United States anymore. How we haven’t been under attack more often says a lot about how much we have to keep our heads on a swivel, keep up with new technology, and snuff out potential troubles before it escalates.

Over the weekend, Des Moines Register sports editor Chad Leistikow wrote that the Iowa Wild, the AHL minor league team of the Minnesota Wild that will relocated here, need to emulate the “gold standard” placed by the Iowa Cubs.

What is exactly this “gold standard” that the Wild have to achieve?

Des Moines has had semi-pro/minor league baseball here longer than basketball, hockey, or soccer. They have been “entrenched” in the fabric in Des Moines for a long time. No matter how bad the I-Cubs are, people are going to watch them play. The Wild, Energy, and the Barnstormers don’t necessarily need to emulate the I-Cubs “gold standard”. They need to be their own team, not a replica of the Cubs.

Remember, these are the Cubs. Look at their parent club in Chicago. Not exactly “gold standard”. Cardinals fans think it’s funny to tout “gold standard” when it comes to futility on a major league level.

The encouraging factors about the Wild’s decision to move their AHL team to Des Moines are the following:

  • Minnesota will be running the team. No middleman. Remember Howard Baldwin and Schlegel Sports?  Minnesota have professionals who know what they’re doing, not wannabe movie producers and hacks.
  • Vested interest: Dallas didn’t care about having a team here, or wanted to be part of the community. It was a stop-gap so that they could place an AHL team closer to Dallas. Minnesota is next door to Iowa. That should say something.
  • Let them do their job: I hope the Polk County Board of Supervisors learned a few lessons from the last time. They may have constructed the building, but they need to let the people who know how to run the building do their job, and the sports people operate the team.

This week is Relays Week as the 104th annual Drake Relays gets underway. A crazy, fun week, for sure, and of course, Mother Nature will have a say in all of this.  If the weather holds up, I might sneak out during the lunch hour to watch the Grand Blue Mile race downtown.

But there’s nothing like the annual Drake Relays Most Beautiful Bulldog Contest.

Congratulations to Huckleberry, the 2013 Drake Relays Most Beautiful Bulldog. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Twenty Years

(Courtesy: KCRG)

Today marks an anniversary many of us wished it would have never happened, nevertheless we observe, but in celebration of life, not in death.

This evening, the Iowa Hawkeyes will take the floor at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to take on Wisconsin.  The 7 pm tip-off will also mark the 20th anniversary of the tragic death of Hawkeyes Basketball stand out Chris Street.

I decided to re-post and update an entry I did in 2008 for Juice, but rather than put it on this main page, it is under a special section, you will see in the banner headline:  “Rediscovering Chris Street:  Twenty Years Later”.

I hope you have a chance to read my recollection of Street, as well as everyone else who were impacted by this anniversary.