Story story story. It is all about the story

As I reflect on the past few months, I am reminded that once again good storytelling is at the core of all great digital content. We want to feel what we are reading, watching or listening to. And what hooks us on the feels is always going to be the story. Without a good story, no one will continue to read (especially on an exceedingly quick-to-judge platform). This does make me think of the six word story phenomenon, but I digress.

This does reinforce my own need to develop or tease out the good stories for my own content. And, I have to admit that this is not my forte. I want to be a great storyteller (I LOVE a good story), but I am not. Even with forced practice, like through a course, I struggle. I am in awe of those people who can pump out stories and engage their followers on a regular basis. I just don’t have the dedication or the skill. I suspect I could do it for a while, but I have no idea how I could maintain content that is worthy of my followers.

So many questions

So, for now, I will continue my Instagram content of cute things my kid does, or things I find amusing. That is what I do best. And it makes my few followers exceedingly happy – they keep coming back for more!

What challenges have I overcome to arrive at this point?

People look at me and see a normal, content, productive human being. I’m not going to lie: I am normal, often content and mostly productive, but I’ve been through some stuff.

And I’m still going through some stuff. The world pandemic has pushed to the fore all of my past personal anxieties and bad behaviours.

Really?

Yep, I know. Research has shown that many people are suffering during this time. Why am I any different? Well, I’ll talk about it. Not everyone will, and they don’t have to.

I’ve found the current situation has pushed me back into some bad behaviours. Things like a drive to perform to an extreme: you’ll find me working at 11 p.m. just trying to finish up a few things (is work that important? No.). This is the worst part of who I am – I spiral into a state where I cannot focus on the things that really matter, like my family.

I am feeling it: I’m exhausted, sad and generally not functioning. Yet, I get up every morning, put on a smile and pretend. I’m living the “fake it till you make it” big time.

Where did I learn this? Years and years of therapy. I didn’t have the easiest of childhoods, and I have spent years working through this. One of the things that helps is to remind yourself what you need to do to take care of yourself.

So what do I do to cope? Well here’s my list

  • Reading
  • My book gang (the best gang out there)
  • Walking in my neighbourhood and on the amazing NCC Trails
  • Getting a trainer!
  • Meditation (thank you Headspace!)
  • Rediscovering cross stitch

I would love to hear about what you’ve been through to get to where you are.

A few of the things that allow me to cope.

Personal branding isn’t healthy

I’m going to confess: The idea of personal branding makes my skin crawl. It makes me exceedingly uncomfortable to sell myself. Yes, I know deep down, it is not meant necessarily as a selling tactic, but it always feels like it is one. And I get that the more you know yourself, the more you can demonstrate how you stand out, the more likely you are to succeed in all aspects of your life. It still makes me uncomfortable. And I would argue it isn’t healthy.

I am known professionally as a very dedicated, thorough, compassionate, reliable person. I always come through; I always deliver even when the odds of getting a task done are slim. Since becoming a mother six years ago, that dedication has begun to hinder my own well-being. I am a poor work-life balance-er. I am well aware that I don’t necessarily take the time needed to focus on my family because I am so driven to demonstrate over, and over, that I am a reliable person. Everyone knows I am, except I still don’t feel like I am. So I am driven to continue to demonstrate it.

Along came a pandemic

How I feel most days

What little separation I have been able to manage in my life has gone out the window with the pandemic. Work – life balance? What’s that? My dining room is now my office. I struggle to keep a separation where there is no longer one. I have had to come to the realization that I matter more than my productivity. That is hard to say, but I have to remind myself.

I am at a cross-roads. Trying to relearn what my brand is. One where yes, I am still reliable – but for the right people and at the right time. We all need to be healthier and I am going to focus on this now: bringing the compassion to the fore and be a little less dedicated.

Smoking engagement

Engaging one’s clientele online is key to a successful, and often lucrative, social media presence. One of my favourite women’s clothing stores, Smoking Lily has done just that: created a community for their customers to engage with the clothing they love.  

Me in my Periodic table dress
(I may have a problem)

Based in Victoria, British Columbia, Smoking Lily embodies the Victoria lifestyle by creating comfortable and (mostly) affordable fashion. The store’s owner, Trish Tacoma, is very active on Instagram and also sporadically cross-promotes on Facebook. This year, during the pandemic, the company had the good fortune to have an enthusiast in the limelight: Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. Her wearing of their periodic table dress during a media conference caused quite the online stir (I, in turn, received many notes from friends as I have this same dress). This stir resulted in Smoking Lily bringing the dress back.  

Under the @smokinglily handle, Trish and her staff promote their new or upcoming made in-house fashion, empathizing with their customers on what they want to wear – clothing with a conscience. They listen to feedback (not only did the periodic table dress make a comeback, but the pattern seems to be back in high rotation on other products too). The company often focuses on giving back to the community and how their fashion has as little waste as possible – creating clothing for children out of scraps, and yarn from that layer of scraps. They promote these activities and people respond with comments and questions online.

Over the past few months I have noticed Smoking Lily is not always as responsive on Facebook, and I suspect this is because Trish is so active on Instagram that Facebook is an afterthought. Trish’s use of Instagram stories means that her followers aren’t aware of how much engagement is happening, though they are quick to share with their followers when customers tag them – most often about the joy of a package arriving by mail.

Do you have a favourite clothing store that just “gets” you?

Audience is key

I have an idea for a travel blog aimed at families. I know that knowing who your audience is can make, or break, the success of your blog’s following. I had to stop and think a bit about who my audience would be.

Travelling blogs are very common, so I dug a bit deeper into the characteristics of my intended readers. This is the only way I can ensure I am reaching the right people, at the right time, in the right way.

I had thought the family angle was a bit different, but discovered in my research, that family vacation blogs are equally common. Just google “family travel blog” and bam – so many blogs out there:

Adventures in New York City
Photo by Sarah Mitchell

Do you have a favourite travel blog?

Through research, I realized that most of these are for larger families. My niche is the small, three-people family; with no specific ethnic background; and a disposable income to put towards travel. Most of my readers would be the moms in the family. They will want to have the comforts of home while travelling, but also be open to some adventures.

Successful travel blogs tell a great story, use humour, and provide a value to their reader’s upcoming adventures. Moving forward I will need to ensure I also have eye-catching photos. To promote the blog I, like others, will harness Twitter to drive to my online content.

I best get researching (aka travelling)!

Storytelling: back to basics

This week I re-learned that storytelling is at the core of who we humans are: stories have guided and entertained since the dawn of time. But the telling of stories has evolved, from basic cave art as a story; to oral history being passed from generation to generation; to the written word; to eventually tales found in thick tomes. And now? We blog and use social media to share our stories.

Pages turning from giphy.com

I would argue that the beauty of storytelling is not as prevalent as it once was. We have come full circle: back to simple, easily understood communications. The complex artform of storytelling is no longer. Do you agree?

Tell me more

Once upon a time people wrote epic poems about human adventures – say Homer’s The Odyssey or Dante’s Divine Comedy. Sure, this writing evolved, or even devolved, as people sought easier ways to be understood. Perhaps the thick read has run its course? Sure, people still read to escape. But when it comes to telling your story, emojis and limited characters have become the norm. Very clear, concise writing is needed as most people aren’t reading beyond an introduction. When was the last time someone shared a “great” online read with you and your response was “TLDR”?  

B4 u go ☑ this

People seem happy to keep what they say to a 140-character count (or twice that). The magic of what was storytelling has lost its luster. But perhaps, like all things, what was old is now new. And we will return to what was old again. . . someday.

COM0014 – Blog #1: Vacationing during a pandemic

An oasis with mice

Not quite the summer vacation we had planned

This year, like so many others, my family didn’t travel far to get away from it all (I’m looking at YOU COVID-19 pandemic). By the time we had come to terms with not heading out west for our vacation, the pickings were slim.

Located in Ontario’s Central Frontenac, our high-end camping experience (or low-end cottage) included

Fire pit!
  • a very quiet, weedy, lake
  • an awesome fire pit
  • an indoor compost toilet we were discouraged from using
  • an outhouse with a lake view
  • a canoe, kayak and rowboat
  • mice

This was our vacation home for a full week at the end of August. And we took full advantage exploring the area.

In the rain

There aren’t many pictures of our time spent in the rain. But there are lots of memories!

Napanee

Avril’s hometown
  • Yes, we visited the childhood city of Avril Lavigne
  • We walked the main drag to stretch our legs and people watch
  • I was dazzled by the window display at the Sand ‘n” Sea boutique, where my wallet left empty. But I’m up two awesome bathing suits!

Tamworth

  • Lunch was at the only bakery that was open, and it was good. Just not the anticipated awesome.
  • However, we did find The Soap Shack nearby where my ear was literally talked off by the wonderfully eccentric owner. And my wallet was lighter when I left with a bag full of yummy smelling soap

Peterborough

  • Hey, I went to the University of Trent, what’s not to love!
  • We had a great brunch at The Speak Easy Café with its cool mobster décor
  • We visited all my former university homes. Some have not aged well
  • We stopped at Ricky Meadows Lavender where my wallet became even lighter as I left with more soap (you can never have enough)

In the sun

Row row!

When the sun came out we enjoy the cottage to its fullest.

  • Sitting on the dock
  • Taking the canoe out and exploring to the very end of the lake
  • Going for a ride in the rowboat
  • Playing Go Fish! and Monopoly
New bathing suit

As the water conditions made swimming not much fun, we did spend two full days at the Sharbot Lake’s public beach. My daughter loved playing in the sand and the shallow water. The nearby restaurant offered yummy takeout to enjoy by the water.

We also took the opportunity to explore the area with
a hike at the Kennebec Lake Parkland Trails, a hidden gem of a walk.

When was the last time you went on a “local” vacation and took full advantage of the area?

Be richer, smarter, sexier, and more . . .

. . . gullible to clickbait.

As a self-described pop-culture junky I do tend to read a variety of social media that targets an audience with a fondness for the sensational. However, over the past few years, I have noticed more and more clickbait articles that always leave me feeling a little bit not right.

So what does clickbait mean? According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary it is “something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.”

With that in mind, I think I can safely say we have all encountered headlines on our Facebook timelines. Look what I found today.

Sure, I am tempted to look at photos that prove being a woman these days is tough. Don’t I know it! And now I want that affirmation. Show me those pictures!

However, digging deeper and reading a great article entitled Clickbait Tactics Do More Harm Than Good, I learned that

  • humans are suckers for a tasty sounding headline
  • clickbait
    • really is a form of advertising
    • tactics are often used to increase engagement numbers

So yes, you are being used for advertising. When I follow the link, sure I get a chuckle but I am also bombarded with ad upon ad. Some may fit with me (I guess I could buy groceries from food basics?). Others not so much (Dell EMC: hum. You’ve lost me).

So, I guess it is just best to be aware. Don’t believe everything you see online. After all, fake news is another topic I just don’t even want to think about! The article above is from almost two years ago and indicated that Facebook was trying to put a stop to such advertising. But, it doesn’t seem to be quite working.

Tell me about some of your more memorable clickbait experiences!

Clickbait gulliable #richer #smarter #sexier http://bit.ly/2SN32dz

Clickbait gulliable: be richer, smarter . . . http://bit.ly/2SN32dz

Social media and the sincere apology

Over the past few weeks I had the experience of upsetting someone at work during a phone conversation. Yes, by phone. After the call, I realized that I had upset this person and tried numerous times to call and apologize.

Sadly, this person was too upset by my actions to respond. Eventually this person’s boss contacted me to let me know I had upset this person (please know: I am actually very fond of this person and I normally have a good relationship with them). My first instinct was a great big “Duh. I know. I have been trying to apologize”. But I was also terribly upset, and frankly ashamed, that I had upset this person. This is not who I thought I was. But it got me thinking.

In the age of social media: where has the sincere apology gone? A true, “I’m sorry I didn’t mean that”?

Sure, your package is mis-delivered or lost. You receive poor service. Someone cuts you off while you are biking. So you complain. But, if you get an apology, how sincere is the response? Businesses live in fear of poor reviews. But being sorry is flat out just being sorry. And in the world of social media, people are quick to vent their upset. Don’t get me wrong: sometimes organizations deserve it, but often this means we are more likely to do the same to regular human beings we know closely, somewhat, or only on social media. In any of those scenarios, they are still human beings.

I encourage you to read an article by Suzanne Alyssa Andrew in The Walrus on Social Media, Online Accountability, and the Meaning of an Apology (Follow her on Twitter). While interviewing Matt Cahill, a psychotherapist, he reflects on Sarah Schulman’s book Conflict is Not Abuse. In Schulman’s book, she maintains “… that people are increasingly conflating conflict with threats, so instead of listening, negotiation, and resolution, we get an enormous smokescreen under which people can feel justified in denying any wrongdoing. In other words, you start by calling out a misunderstanding or disagreement and wind up having to defend yourself from a terrible accusation.”

So, saying sorry doesn’t always come as easily as it does for Justin Bieber. And it also involves egos on both sides. And that’s just a bad place. Especially on social media.

Source: YouTube (https://youtu.be/6MXPCQt1eEA)

My response to my inappropriate behaviour was a bit shocking. I was initially sad I had upset someone, but when called on it: I was sick to my stomach that I had hurt someone, AND also upset that they were unable to speak up for themselves and open the door to an apology when someone is trying to give one.

Could it be possible that social media has made apologies not matter?

Did social media kill the sincere apology? http://bit.ly/38rzEPA

Social media: The end of the sincere apology http://bit.ly/38rzEPA

Meditate: Take a break from social media

Module 3 reminded us why social media matters. And the impact that it had on our society. For those of us of a certain age, we can remember when social media, the internet, and email wasn’t a thing. When you sent a letter (by mail!) and received mail that was not a bill. It does lead me to ponder the “good old days”, when you could disconnect and spend time doing nothing. And really doing nothing.

Is nothing a good thing? Why yes. Apparently their are surprising benefits of doing nothing. They include being more:

Meditation
  • creative
  • productive
  • kinder

(New Idea, 2018)

Image from Pexels.

All that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Apparently taking time out makes you an all-round better human being! But this is hard: We have all experienced that stress, for lack of a better word, when you feel like you cannot take time out and simply do nothing. I don’t think this should be how we live. Sure social media is a great tool, but it is also taking over our lives more each day. We all need time to step back, away from all our devices (and family) and simply breathe.

A mere 146 days ago I decided to take my own daily break and started meditating. Every day I take anywhere from 3 to 15 minutes for myself and simply breathe. It shocks me to write that 3 minute number. I wish I made more time, but I don’t always. Sure, on a good day I have 15 minutes, but sometimes I don’t. I have learned that it is okay: I am doing the best I can. And I am taking some time to make myself a calmer, more centered human being. I am a work in process, but I am doing it.

Image from the headspace app

With regular use, meditation brings you to a calmer, more relaxed place. It forces you to disconnect and take some time for yourself. I use Headspace, but there are lots of options out there. Some are free, some are not. Of course, Oprah Magazine (yes, from the queen of them all), offers up suggestions on the The Best Meditation Apps to Help With Anxiety. This is a great place to start.

This is where the social media’s tools and calmness converge. Go. Do it now.

Poll designed using crowdsignal.com

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New Idea. (2018, March 8). The surprising benefits of doing nothing: A little downtime can bring about many rewards. Retrieved from https://www.newidea.com.au/the-surprising-benefits-of-doing-nothing

Meditate: Take a break from social media http://bit.ly/2GPvgh6

Take a #break from #socialmedia w #meditation #calm http://bit.ly/2GPvgh6