6 Reasons to Feel GOOD about a Staycation for March Break

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More than ever, parents are feeling a lot of pressure to get away for March Break.  Talk on the playground of beach vacations, ski trips, Caribbean cruises and European adventures is enough to make anyone envious.

But is going away really the best choice?

A recent poll released by CIBC found that 12 % of Canadians were headed out for March Break. Considering that only half of the population has children at home, the number of parents of school aged children heading out of town increases dramatically.  Of the 12% surveyed, some 41 % say they will be vacationing in Canada while 36% say they will be heading south to the US. The poll found that on average, vacationers plan on spending $2,665 on their trip.

So……. what is the best choice for your family?

Here are 6 GOOD reasons to FEEL GREAT about staying home.

1. Everyone Needs A Break – Your kids have been working hard at school and at all their activities.  They are tired. You are tired.  We all look forward to those days when we can sleep in, stay in our pjs and just hang out.  Kids used to get to do more of that, but in the last 20 years or so Saturday mornings are often occupied with hockey, curling, swimming etc. During March Break these activities are usually cancelled so now is your family’s chance for some much needed down time. Your kids will thank you for it and they will be well prepared to head back to school and be productive.

graduate pic2. Save Money – The $2,665 you will save by not leaving town will cover the cost of 1 year of university tuition in 10 years. If you don’t have that amount of  money to save then you aren’t doing you or your family any favours by going into debt.  Not adding additional stress to your life is a true gift to your kids.

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3. Family Time – When is the last time you had the opportunity to sit down at the dining table and play Monopoly or Uno? Do you remember playing these games as kids? Some of the best family memories have been created over a board game.  Cost of the game $20, snacks $5, pictures and video, free — Memories, priceless.

4. Activities In Your City – Think of all of the things to do in your hometown that you and your family haven’t done.  There may be a museum that you haven’t visited in ages.  What about a University basketball game or a Junior A’ hockey game? How about a family swim at the local indoor pool.  Your kids just want you to all be together, having fun. They don’t really care where it takes place, just so long as it does.  If you are in Ottawa, check out the link below:

Top 10 things to do in Ottawa – Ottawa Tourism

www.ottawatourism.ca › Ottawa Insider

Chilli pic5. Get-togethers With Family and Friends – We all have family and friends that we don’t get to see enough of.  These days it can be so hard to find a date to get-together.  How about a chili or pizza night with old friends?  Kids love these types of gathering. Let them stay up late, and sleep in.  It is always a fun night for everyone and making new memories with old friends is  a must.  Try out one of the chilli recipes below.
15 Top Chili Recipes

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6. Last But Not Least, Gratitude – Nothing puts vacation envy into perspective quite so well as spending time helping those less fortunate.  If you plan ahead a little bit you can find a local food bank or another charity that would love your help for an afternoon. Food banks welcome kids to help stock shelves, do some clean up or hand out food.  Appreciating what we have instead of what we don’t is always a recipe for happiness and contentment.

So…… what are your plans for March Break? Did you feel pressured to get away?

Too ‘Friend’ or not to ‘Friend’ That is the Question!

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I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  More accurately it is a like/dislike relationship.

FT_Facebook-user-dislikesI remember when I first discovered Facebook. It was exciting and exhilarating to reconnect with friends and acquaintances from high school and university, that I hadn’t seen or talked to in years. In fact, Facebook connected me with two friends that I was very close to and had lost touch with.  Our friendship has been rekindled and I applaud Facebook for that.

But….. what about all my other ‘friends’. In the beginning, it was thrilling to get friend requests. I was so happy to hear from old friends and classmates that I accepted all friend requests. After the initial excitement of saying hello and catching up a little the excitement seemed to wear off.  I realized that there was probably a reason why we had lost touch.  We really didn’t have that much in common anymore.  Then began the endless status updates, pictures of someone’s lunch, arbitrary comments such as, ” Day 26 of 30″.

Then came my first posting of pictures of my kids. I guess I should have checked with my husband first.  They were promptly removed. According to his contacts at one of the world’s largest software companies, they do not have a Facebook account, never will and certainly will not allow their kids to have one.  Why?  Security!!

Fast forward…… I rarely, if ever use Facebook now. I am apprehensive about putting up a vacation album because I don’t want my ‘friends’ to think I am bragging. I don’t put pictures of my kids up because, well, I really don’t know anymore that person who I was really good friends with in high school and so I am not comfortable with them looking at pictures of my kids.  But, these are things I would like to share with my friends and family; vacation photos, kids ski races, soccer games etc.  And, I am genuinely interested in what is going on in their lives.  The problem is I have 339 friends, most of whom aren’t good friends and who I really don’t want to share info with. I did a quick calculation and there are only about 100 people that I really want to have as Facebook friends. And so, I pretty much stopped using Facebook.  I think that I got so overwhelmed with all the nonsense of Facebook and what it entails that I just threw in the towel and quit.

Recently, I have been thinking about what I am missing out on.  I don’t take the time to look at my good friends’ new posts or photos etc. because there is too much other information to wade through.  So my question is, “Do I continue to ignore Facebook or do I re-evaluate and start over?”.  Should I ‘de-friend’ some of my old high school and university friends, and old work colleagues? Will they know I did it? Will I regret it?

What I really want is fewer ‘friends’ but more in-depth communications with good friends. I wonder how many other people feel the same way?

I decided to ask my goddaughter who is in first year university what her opinion of Facebook is? Incidentally, the most-connected age group of Facebook users are between 18 and 24 years and they have an average of 649 friends (Pew Research, 2014). According to her, she has 600 friends.  (How do you even know 600 people when you are 18?) I had to laugh. Interestingly, she then went on to tell me that she and her friends don’t really use Facebook anymore for the same reasons I outlined. They only really use it to organize a group at school or an event.  Instead, she told me, they prefer Instagram and she has narrowed her friends down in an intimate, 300. I asked her how she viewed these two groups, the 600 and the 300. Did she view Facebook as a way of communicating with close friends or a way of sharing simple exchanges such as: what she did on the weekend or what her plans were that night.  She commented that she really didn’t even use Facebook for that anymore and that Instagram was really just a means of self-promotion.  “If I want to communicate with my friends, I just text them,” she said. Interesting. “How many people do you consider to be good friends that you would text or email,” I asked? “Oh, about 30,” she responded.  Funny thing…….. I guess we aren’t that different after all.

Here are some interesting stats about Facebook from Zephoria.com..

  1. Worldwide, there are over 1.39 billion monthly active Facebook users (MAUs) which is a 13 percent increase year over year. (Source: Facebook)
  2. 4.5 billion likes generated daily as of May 2013 which is a 67 percent increase from August 2012 (Source: Facebook)
  3. 890 million people log onto Facebook daily (DAU) for December 2014, which represents a 18% increase year over year. (Source: Facebook)
  4. There are 1.9 billion mobile active users (MAU) (Source: Facebook)
  5. In Europe, over 223 million people are on Facebook.(Source: Facebook)
  6. Age 25 to 34, at 29.7% of users, is the most common age demographic. (Source: Facebook)
  7. Five new profiles are created every second. (Source: Facebook)
  8. Facebook users are 53% female and 47% male. (Source: Facebook)
  9. Highest traffic occurs mid-week between 1 to 3 pm. (Source: Facebook)
  10. On Thursdays and Fridays, engagement is 18% higher. (Source: Facebook)
  11. There are 83 million fake profiles. (Source: Facebook)Role of Facebook in Internet Marketing
  12. Photo uploads total 300 million per day. (Source: Gizmodo)
  13. Average time spent per Facebook visit is 20 minutes. (Source: Infodocket)
  14. Every 60 seconds on Facebook: 510 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated, and 136,000 photos are uploaded. (Source: The Social Skinny)
  15. 4.75 billion pieces of content shared daily as of May 2013 which is a 94 percent increase from August 2012. (Source: Facebook)
  16. 50% of 18-24 year-olds go on Facebook when they wake up. (Source: The Social Skinny)
  17. One in five page views in the United States occurs on Facebook. (Source: Infodocket 2012)
  18. 42% of marketers report that Facebook is critical or important to their business. (Source: State of Inbound Marketing 2012)
  19. 16 Million local business pages have been created as of May 2013 which is a 100 percent increase from 8 million in June 2012. (Source: Facebook)
  20. 7.5 million promoted posts have been made from June 2012 to May 2013. (Source: Facebook)
 What has your experience been with Facebook? Should I go through a ‘un-friending’ or try something else less drastic?

Blog post #2 – Politics and Social Media – and Benjamin Netanyahu’s Babysitter Ad

Politics aside (and if you know anything about Netanyahu, this might be difficult for you) ….. this is a very funny ad that has been circulating in political circles. It has already been viewed on YouTube 152,000 times. I find it amazing that 30 years ago politicians wouldn’t appear on Johnny Carson or Letterman but now they are compelled to produce witty ads that run on social media.  I thought it would be interesting to explore this phenomenon.  As soon as I saw the ad I began to wonder how many political staffers were up late trying to reproduce a similar ad. Could Harper, Trudeau, Mulcair or May reproduce the sentiment of this ad? It gets you thinking and produces a few chuckles.

Social Media

Social media has completely changed the political landscape. Politicians are now “required”, like it or not, to communicate with their constituents over Twitter and Facebook. Barack Obama’s 2008 US presidential campaign has often been described as the first electoral campaign in which the use of social media had a decisive impact.The core of the web-based campaign was a well-designed, versatile and dynamic website.

At it evolved, social media also played a central role in the transition of power in Egypt during the so-called Arab Spring and in the Orange Revolution in Iran.

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Below is an article written in MinnPost 09/08/14, Briana Bierschbach. The article outlines just how candidates are using sites like Buzzfeed to promote their agenda. She wrote,

“Did you know that Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton writes for Buzzfeed?

The Democratic governor’s first post on the popular listicle site (sample article: “21 Adorable Turtles Who Cannot Win”) was “26 More Reasons To Love Minnesota.” Number five on the list was the fact that a guy also named Mark Dayton signed the bill to legalize same-sex marriage in 2013.

That was followed up with “9 Thoughts That Go Through Your Mind At The Minnesota State Fair,”which mostly consisted of jokes about being hungry, though it ended with a call for volunteers for the governor’s re-election campaign.

Like most of Buzzfeed’s clickable content, the lists were designed to be widely shared across social networking sites, usually by Minnesotans (or ex-Minnesotans) taking pride in their state. What many of those people might not know, however, is that Dayton’s post are part of the site’s Buzzfeed Community, “where anyone can post awesome lists and creations.”

“It’s been really fun and we found it can reach an audience we don’t typically interact with,” Dayton campaign manager Katharine Tinucci said. “Our supporters will see our messages on Facebook, but the Buzzfeed posts have been able to reach a little bit farther.”

Politicians and political parties have spent the last decade adjusting to the Internet era of campaigning, but the arsenal of digital tools to try and reach voters—especially always elusive younger voters—is constantly evolving. Today, sites like Facebook and Twitter are used for everything from instantaneous messaging to organizing activists, even while the more digitally savvy candidates are trying to leverage widely-read pop culture sites like Buzzfeed to create viral content that offers a level exposure that was once unimaginable.”

The power of social media to affect society is based on its social aspects: this means interaction and participation. In several different studies of citizen voting habits results have shown that voting decisions are not usually based on one-step communication. More noteworthy is two-step communication, which means conversation with opinion leaders, colleagues, friends and acquaintances who can either consolidate or weaken the voter’s opinion. (Laura Jerpi)

According to journalist Laura Jerpi, “Creating a social media strategy for use during political campaigns has become an essential part of every candidate’s plan to get into office. With social media sites often getting more traffic than an official campaign website, it’s important for candidates to get connected. The use of social media in today’s campaign is not only important — it is critical, millions of people are involved in using social networks daily. It is the opportunity to be in touch with large numbers of voters quickly, constantly and at a low cost.”

Chris Saad, chief strategy officer at Echo, compared the use of social media in the 2008 presidential election to the first televised campaign debate in 1960, between then-presidential candidates John Kennedy and Richard Nixon.“The candidate who learned how to put on makeup and smile is the one who won the debate, and the other won on radio, (because) he understood the language of TV,” Saad says.

How important do you think the use of social media is in today’s campaigns?

Blog post #1 – How Social Media has changed the announcement of a death

A good friend of mine’s husband died this week in his sleep at the age of 43 of a massive heart attack. For this blog I decided to reflect on how communication around this terrible event differs from what it would have been 10 years ago and how social attitudes have changed.

This week, I was notified by a friend on Facebook that Khiem had died. I quickly went to his wife Brenda’s page and found 30 posts. By the end of the day friends and family had posted over 150 messages of condolences and personal thoughts and photos. It was heartbreaking to read the messages and see the beautiful family pictures. I was struck by how personal many of the messages to Brenda were. Although the sentiments were lovely, I was surprised by the very personal thoughts that people were expressing for everyone to read. Within about 6 hours of Khiem’s death I received another message from a friend letting me know that a fundraising page had been set up on YouCaring.com. I went to the page directly and saw that $7,500 had already been raised. The site allows individuals to donate immediately using their credit cards. It then offers the donor the ability to leave a personal message or donate anonymously. You also have the ability to make public the amount of money you donated. It was wonderfully surprising to see how much money had been raised in such a short period of time. Seeing the messages from other friends certainly inspired and pressured me to donate as well. I was however surprised to see that people were willing to publicize the amount of their donation.

Ten years ago, I would have been notified of a death by telephone. I would have then called some other friends and we would have consoled each other. Except for family and her closest friends, Brenda would not have received condolences until she saw people at Khiem’s wake and those messages would have been relatively private, heard only by the person in the line behind you. It is unlikely that any formal fundraising would have taken place.

So which way is better? In this situation I think it really only matters how my friend would feel. Receiving all of the messages of support must provide some comfort to her and would help to make her feel less alone and isolated. One week after Khiem’s death over $35,000 has been raised. This would give her a sense of relief that at least she doesn’t have to worry about money for the next few months while she gathers herself. The negative I see in this situation is the need for some to publicize their grieving in way that (in my opinion) is motivated by less than selfless acts. I was raised in an era when it wasn’t appropriate to bear your soul in public and it was seen in many ways as a sign of weakness. A stiff upper lip showed class and dignity. (I am only 48 by the way). Publicizing the amount of a donation would have been unheard-of. But times and social norms have changed. People’s ideas of what is appropriate public discourse have changed and will continue to do so. I think as with any change you get the good and the bad. In the past there were those would could express very little sentiment and now there are those who express too much. Hopefully in the future we will find a better balance. I think a little privacy is still a good thing.