This article ( posted on the discussion board today was very good timing. I have been thinking about Instagram a lot lately and the fact that I want to explore this medium more.

I have been using Instagram for quite some time but solely as a way to edit and store my own photos. I have only a few of my friends added and I rarely look at their photos. However, when I do, I love how the photos look and how this platform is set up.

When I moved overseas with my young children a few years ago, I was full of hope that I would write a blog as a way to track our experiences. I didn’t do that. I wrote a few blog posts after I returned. I do, however, have thousands of photos and actually over ten thousand photos of my travels that started in my early twenties.

I have had this idea brewing for years of writing a “then and now” post or series of posts, somehow bringing together my photos and stories across 2 decades of travels. It had all started with a trip to Portugal a few years ago while I was carrying my son around in an Ergo and I made a joke about trading in my backpack for a baby carrier. Later that day I posted on Facebook an update about how things had changed in my travel experiences. In particular, how it related to my time in Portugal over a decade ago. I was no longer sleeping in hostels or drinking wine out of cardboard milk cartons or hanging out with strangers (2 of whom became lifelong friends) on a beach at night. I was, however, getting to experience all these wonderful things through the eyes of my children. That is often, a really refreshing way to re-visit a place.

While this idea continues to brew in my head, maybe Instagram is my platform. Maybe a series of posts with then and now photos and captions?  I still have my travel journals from backpacking days.

Any ideas or advice?


As I was looking around my Facebook page thinking of different ideas for my blog this week, I came upon a page I hadn’t looked at in awhile. In my twenties, I lived and worked in Japan for three years. The first year was in Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture. It was a really great year. I still recall how the “honeymoon” period went on a really long time. I can actually still picture one day when I was walking along the cherry blossom trees on my way to work and feeling like skipping and whistling as I was so delighted with my new life. I can remember the feeling.  I was working an average job as an English teacher, in an OK company.  I lived in a tiny apartment and couldn’t really afford much.  And I lived on the other side of the world from all my family and friends.  Yet, I felt so grateful.  I loved everything I was seeing, I loved the students and I loved the friends I was making.

I am a member of a Facebook group of people from that year. I check in now and then and we share some laughs and photos from way back when. I still feel a connection with some of those people. I never see them and haven’t in years.  We live all over the world but we share a common experience captured in time.

I have friends on my Facebook that I met in my early twenties while backpacking in Europe. This was back when you had to find an internet café which was often sketchy in order to get online and the only thing I used was email. Times when someone would scribble an email address on a scrap of paper or you’d make a random plan to meet up in another country in a month or two.  I was able to reconnect with these people when I signed up for Facebook in my early thirties.

I stay in touch with people I met in the UK and Denmark when I was living there a few years ago.  Again, people who share a common experience.

While I have always been pretty good at keeping in touch, I don’t think I would have been able to maintain all these connections if it weren’t for social media. And don’t get me wrong, some of those connections are just skimming the surface of liking photos or comments. But many of them are genuine connections. These are people that I will see and spend time with when I have the chance to travel to their part of the world again or they head my way.

Our lives are so busy and that is something that I am always trying to work on….how to stay present, how to prioritize, how to not get lost in the shuffle of the every day. It is hard to stay connected on the genuine level that I would like to have with everyone in my life. Facebook gets me partly there. And has allowed me to hold on to shared experiences with people all over the world. For all of its flaws, this I am truly grateful for.

Goblins Are Faster Than Unicorns

Last week I saw a clip on Facebook from The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. It was addressing the fact that the media jumps all over every statement Donald Trump makes even those that are blatantly untrue. Unfortunately, I couldn’t copy the link but perhaps you have seen it or can search for it.

At one point he stated that it didn’t matter what Donald Trump tweeted. He could tweet that goblins are faster than unicorns and people would still jump all over it and public debate would break out.

I have watched this clip over and over. Partly because it makes me laugh out loud every time I watch it but also because he makes such great points. I don’t want to debate politics that’s not what this blog is about.   I want to discuss his points and how they apply to social media in general. These points also extend very well into the real world.

This quote from Trevor Noah especially rang true to me:

“Donald Trump has created his own universe and from within that universe he takes a made up idea throws it at us in the real world and whether we can prove him wrong or not, it doesn’t matter. We’ve lost because now we are in his universe.”

This is true about social media. So many people throw out a statement, others grasp onto the statement, whether it is true or not, and then viciously debate it. Not only that but they forward the false statements. The incorrect or inaccurate statement gets forwarded so many times that it seems to be true or it becomes our reality.  And as Noah suggests, it doesn’t even matter what that statement is. Someone will take it to be true or someone will claim it is true because it can’t necessarily be proven otherwise. It can be crazy-making but it can also be dangerous.

Trevor Noah addressed these points and they apply to our consideration of social media:

The facts aren’t the same anymore.

The rules have changed.

We need to adapt.

Don’t amplify the voice (of those spreading false claims).

Ask for elaboration.

Logic is the downfall (of false statements).

Information is being thrown at us at an unprecedented rate. We need to be smart and realize that what looks like a fact isn’t always a fact. We need to have the skills and abilities to wade through the information to find the actual truth and we need to teach our children this valuable ability as well.  It is true that the rules have changed.  Anyone can post just about anything.  This in itself can be very positive as many people now have a voice.  That voice can be used for good, for healthy debate and starting a conversation.  We can engage in speaking out about important issues like politics, gender issues, bullying, and racism. However, as we all know, this also means the opposite is true.

Do not give power to those who are spreading lies and untruths. Before jumping on a statement or comment, ask the person to elaborate to make sure you understand properly or to give them a chance to trip over their own “logic”, Or take a step back and give yourself a moment to contemplate the statement and apply your own logic.

Logic is the downfall of untrue statements. It is more important than ever to apply this logic in our day-to-day activities on social media.



Some Thoughts on Personal Branding

I have started to organize my thoughts on personal branding.  This is a bit of a process given I have never actually thought about this before.  It will continue to be an evolving situation as I figure out exactly how to brand myself and how to do it in a way that feels comfortable and safe.


There is a very big difference between the way a company needs to present itself and the way a person can present self-branding. Companies need to be transparent and genuine. Their brand needs to be recognizable from a design standpoint but also from a “personality” standpoint. This is not something that can be faked with social media. A company needs to decide on the image they wish to project and then consistently project and uphold this image. In a way this is very good protection for the consumer; you know what you are getting and you understand to a certain degree how the company will react if there is a problem with your purchase or experience or if you have any questions or concerns.

Personal brands, however, can be faked and maintained. In general, unless you are someone of high profile, people aren’t going to notice or care if what you are posting is actually in line with who you are. If you have ever had any experience with someone who has a personality disorder, this thought is frightening. It gives them complete freedom to create, manipulate and continue to live out fake personas. For the most part, this doesn’t matter. However, what happens if it becomes personal to you?


As it has been touched on in some other blog posts, it is easy for individuals to lie on social media. It gives them a platform and the ability to don any mask they choose. Sometimes this is created accidentally as we are all busy posting our best lives. This is fairly innocent. However, there are people who will create entire false images and lives. Sometimes this is for their own entertainment. Sometimes it is to prey on others. Sometimes it may be to continue a form of emotional abuse.


While companies will need to deal with complaints or negative reviews, both true and those invented, how do you protect your personal brand if it comes under attack? It is a lot more personal when someone comes after you than it is when a person makes a claim against a company. Companies should expect that they will need to deal with unhappy customers from time to time and they should have protocols in place to handle these situations.

To a certain extent constructive criticism on our personal brands may be helpful and provide us with the ability to strengthen our brands. It can be difficult to see what we actually project as opposed to what we think we are projecting.

However, what happens when there is someone in your life that you don’t want to have access to you?  I am , unfortunately, in this situation. I feel quite safe in the confines of Facebook with this person blocked and my privacy settings on high and on Instagram with a private account. At some point, I will want to extend my reach but I definitely worry about the access I am opening up.

It’s one thing to know that at some point you will likely need to deal with trolls if you are active on social media sites but how do you protect yourself from the bully you already know that may be lurking in the background?






Where Do You Even Begin?

This weekend I was at a girls weekend away with a group of friends, an event that was entirely organized through a Facebook event. A few times the conversation drifted to social media. Sometimes it was sharing information or news, other times it was expressing thoughts or opinions.

The group included 15 women of varying careers and interests, some with kids, some without, some married, some separated and some single. There was an age gap of about six years from the youngest to the oldest. However, the varying levels of comfort, knowledge and use of social media was really large.

I have been worrying that I am falling behind with social media, and I honestly am, which is the reason I am taking this course, however, in this sample of women, I found myself about average in use and skills. The range went from a women who is very active in many forms of social media both personally and professionally to a woman who had never heard of Etsy and until recently didn’t know what a hashtag was.

At one point one of my friends looked up a photo and asked us our impression. It was posted by someone she knew distantly. They had posted the photo with several hashtags to promote their business. The question was “does this photo make you want to use their services?”. The group was split from those who found the photo inappropriate and not professional to those who found it entertaining. The conversation then explored the idea that perhaps this business was targeting a certain kind of clientele and maybe these types of photos appeal to a smaller but like-minded sub-group. It was also considered that maybe they just didn’t have a clue as to the reaction their posts might be creating and potentially driving business away.

I couldn’t help but wonder “how do you determine what is the right photo or picture or piece of writing” to use to tap into the right market and if you inadvertently (or carelessly) aren’t appealing to those interested in your goods or services, how do you determine that and correct it in a timely way? I realize this is the path we are taking in this course but it seems so wide open to me.

I also can’t help but wonder, where do you even begin?

We are being warned about things not to post, most of which seems like common sense. We are aware of the privacy issues, potentially not the entire depth of this to be honest . We can understand that over-posting or under-posting can be an issue. I grasp the larger concepts. Potentially my blog next week will answer some of my own questions here but this weekend really got me thinking. I was literally in a ready -made test market of intelligent and well spoken women and one photo on social media used for one business provided an array of views and opinions on whether we were drawn to or turned away from this business.

We form opinions quickly. In some ways we have to because we are bombarded with information and access to services and businesses. This is great as a consumer when it comes to choice. However, isn’t it really scary for the businesses?

How Social Media Helped Me and Hurt Me as an Expat

The Good

  1. International Schools use social media as a way to quickly get information out and to connect expats with each other

This is a fabulous tool as a parent especially when it comes to meeting a lot of people very quickly. Seeing names and faces together over and over helped me learn who everyone was. It also gave me the resources to ask questions and figure out my new city, new neighbourhood and the new school that my children were entering in a much quicker timeframe than I would have on my own. It provided an immediate virtual support system.

  1. I made my first friend because she looked me up on Facebook and sent me a message

This friend moved to Denmark at the same time as I did and had heard of me through the company we moved with. She turned out to be my closest friend during that time. We may not have connected otherwise and I am so grateful she reached out.

  1. Facebook allowed my family back home to see what we were doing and this helped me feel less guilty at having moved so far away from them

This was an easy way to make sure that we were all still connected to each other. It helped to close the distance and I didn’t feel so far away. It also provided a quick way to keep up in emergency situations or when newsworthy events were happening in Canada sometimes as they were happening.

The Bad

     4.   Facebook portrays the best of everything and on bad days this made me feel like I was failing at my cool new life

People generally post only the good, me included. And while many of my photos were amazing this didn’t tell the whole story. I wasn’t living a 2 year vacation as a lot of my friends thought. I still did laundry and grocery shopping and cooking and cleaning. My kids still got sick…a lot. I often felt tired and like I was failing at being a parent. I was still doing all the same day-to-day stuff they were. Sometimes it was an amazing bonus that I was getting to do all of this while learning about a new country and meeting new people. Sometimes it was terrible that I was doing all of this on my own away from my support system. I didn’t generally post about that just as my friends and family didn’t post about their bad days. It was important to remember to check in beyond a post or photo or status update.

  1. When it was time to move back home, Facebook was a constant reminder that life went on and that my friends continued to have amazing experiences.

Facebook increased my homesickness when I left Canada and also when I returned. It helped to make the reverse culture shock worse as well. Instead of jumping into my new life in Canada, I kept one foot in the country I had left for a long time.


I am grateful for social media and the connections it has allowed me to have to many people I have met through my travels over the decades. I am able to keep in touch with people from many different countries. However, there are days that I have to remind myself that despite the idyllic posts, nobody’s life is fabulous all the time and without touching base I don’t know the whole story.  It is important to make actual contact and sometimes social media gives us a false sense of contact.

How has social media helped or hurt you in a specific situation?