I am an avid user of social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram are all social media platforms that I utilize for various reasons. For instance, I use Facebook to stay connected with family and friends around the world. It is also a way to help me promote my blog, which is why I use Twitter and Instagram. A little self promotion never hurts, or so I thought until today.
Instagram is a form of social media of which I am becoming increasingly wary. It is very difficult to distinguish between people who are genuine and those who are simply out to scam others. To illustrate my point let me relate an incident that happened this morning on Instagram. I often have people that request to follow me. After looking at their profile I usually accept their request. However, I think I will be more selective from this point forward.
This morning I accepted a “follow” request from a “young lady” whose profile looked “normal” to me. Just as soon as I accepted “her” request, “she” started sending me direct messages through the site. This is despite the fact that I have a statement on my profile which says, “I do not accept DM’s,” as these are usually from people wanting to sell me something. The messages I received this morning were about applying for government grants. I work for the federal government, so I knew what this “young lady” was trying to sell me on was a scam.
I asked “her” to stop texting me as “I do not accept direct messages on Instagram.” This person persisted so I let them know I’d be blocking them. This is when I was threatened. The individual that was messaging me stated, “If you block me, there is a doctor here that will bring harm to you!” I then said “that is fine” and proceeded to block this person. I’m not sure how I should feel about all of this. At first I was a little amused.
However, throughout the day I began to evaluate my use of social media. I do have a “love/hate” relationship with all of it. Seeing the bickering that goes on between people on Facebook just frustrates me. Getting messages from scammers on Instagram just annoys me.
I think it is time to cut back on my usage of both. No longer will I let these sites cast their spell upon me. Once baseball season gets underway again I’ll be back to posting my commentary on various happenings with my beloved Chicago Cubs. Until then, I think I’ll just maintain a low profile. That way the “witch doctor” will have a harder time finding me.
If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you probably have noticed that I am a Beatles fan. I’ve enjoyed their music for quite some time. My favorite Beatle was John Lennon. I have always appreciated his wit, and I can relate to his cynicism. These two things combined made his songwriting something that speak me on a very personal level.
I often have a very cynical view of the world. I believe that things will turn out all right in the end. However, sometimes I just need to convince myself of that fact. In order to deal with a world that can seem like a rather dark place at times, I try to use wit and humor to lighten the mood. Sometimes all that you can do when life throws your a curveball is laugh. I feel as if I have had my fair share of curveballs.
One thing that I have had trouble dealing with recently is a sense of isolation. This is something that most, if not all, can relate to as we look forward to the world once again hanging out its “Welcome-Come On In!” sign. I just want to go to a public place without wearing a mask. However, I must say the Chicago Cubs mask that Amanda made for me is pretty cool, but I digress.
With warmer temperatures and sunshine here now, it is even more difficult to “social distance.” I want to be in the bleachers at Wrigley Field with a hot dog in one hand, and a cold drink in another. I want to hear the sound of the pipe organ between innings. Most of all, I just want to be able to travel again to the places that I love.
This week I have been perusing my “Facebook Memories” quite a bit. I’ve been able to look back on trips I have taken together with family and friends. Nearly a year ago Amanda and I were in Washington D.C. enjoying Memorial Day weekend. Eight years ago we were in New York City visiting the Statue of Liberty. Finally, my brother Shannon and I were in Alaska twenty years ago this month. May apparently has been a great month to travel. I long to have more adventures and to make more memories.
Until then I will remain a “Nowhere Man.” The opening lines to this John Lennon penned Beatles tune sum things up for me perfectly for now:
He’s a real nowhere man Sitting in his nowhere land Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
I find scrolling through Facebook amusing at times. Despite the current state of affairs in the world today, there are posts that I read that truly make me laugh out loud. For example, I came across the the picture below and found it humorous. However, it also got me thinking just how different things would be if we were living without the technology that we have today.
In 2002, I had been out of college for just two years. I was volunteering as a reading tutor through the AmeriCorps Program, which is a domestic version of the Peace Corps. Instead of serving overseas, participants volunteer within their own communities, such as working in schools.
While serving in the AmeriCorps Program, I was living at my mother’s house. Much like the picture above, I had a Nokia cell phone and was limited to dial-up Internet. I can remember dialing in late at night and chatting with friends online. There was that audible dialing of the number to connect to your local Internet service provider, then if you were lucky enough to establish a connection you’d here a long, high-pitched squeal that seemed to drone on forever.
Usually, you could go fix yourself a sandwich, grab a Coke, and by the time you got back the squaling would be gone and you’d be connected to the Internet through your 56K modem. Then it was on to Yahoo to search any number of random topics. In those days, I was most likely looking up information on Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, or any other of my guitar heroes. Because, as you see, I had taught myself some basic HTML programming and I had created my own website that was hosted by a service called Geocities.
Geocities was a web-community that had various “neighborhoods” where you could create a website with a particular theme. My “neighborhood” was in the music section of “town,” as my website was called “Strat Cats.” It was all about my favorite guitar players who were known for playing a Fender Stratocaster. Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, and Buddy Guy were just a few of the featured musicians on my site. Each guitarist had their own section, complete with biographies, discographies, and current news.
I can remember staying up for hours researching the lives of these men. I needed to stay current on all of the latest news about each of them so that I could keep the visitors to my website informed. It was enjoyable learning about these people, who were legendary figures to me. Yes, I was a nerd and proud of it! I had a website, which did get noticed by some on various message boards. However, I was living at my mom’s house and when it got too late she’d yell at me to go to bed.
Fast forward now to 2020. Many of us are working from home using high-speed Internet that puts a world of information at our fingertips in a split second. This could not have been done in 2002. Likewise, I am typing this story that you are now reading using just my iPhone, while laying in bed.
I can do most things online from just my smartphone, whether it be paying bills, ordering takeout from a favorite restaurant, or just perusing Facebook when I am bored. Honestly, I cannot imagine life without this access to information.
I am thankful for the technology of 2020. It has kept me employed. However, it is often a hindrance to one’s peace of mind. It can be difficult to shut out the negativity that is so pervasive across much of social media, news sites, and other types of digital content.
I am still a nerd. I love to look up facts about things that interest me. It is also fun to be able to connect with others through Facebook, Zoom, and through various online games, such as Wordfeud. I have met some wonderful people online over the years. Some that I consider dear friends today.
Without the power to digitally connect with others, the world would be much different today. Amanda and I are able to stay connected with our church through Zoom. Likewise, there is FaceTime to see family and friends in far away places. It will be odd to spend Easter at home this year, while participating in a church service online. However, until we can all meet again face to face, this is the best we can do.
I don’t long for the days of dial-up Internet. However, our current situation has made me realize how much I take for granted. Just today I was at the grocery store. I was one of the few without a face mask. There were signs all over the floor reminding customers to “stay at least six feet apart” from one another. Many of the shelves were empty of items that are typically never out of stock.
Perhaps it would be simpler to go back to the days where I was still living at home. I might even go to bed if my mom yelled at me to do so. Now, I have a baby that just yells at me to get up and feed him. But doggone it I can stream any movie I want to watch day or night. I can even watch TV in the bathroom. That is a lifelong dream that has been realized thanks to the iPad.
I am signing off now, I need to go check if “Strat Cats” still exists somewhere out there in cyberspace. If it does it is going to need some updates.
Yesterday I met the love of my life. Well, it only seems like yesterday. However, it was actually 10 years ago yesterday. Amanda and I met for the first time on February 13, 2010. She was, and still is, a St. Louis girl. We were introduced through my cousin Brad, who was Amanda’s pastor at the time.
Our relationship began through late-night chats on Facebook, and then progressed to nightly phone calls that would last for several hours at a time. About a month after phone calls, texts, and Facebook messages we decided to meet face-to-face.
I decided I would travel to St. Louis from my home in Sterling, Illinois. It is approximately a 4-hour drive, so I had a long time to think about what our first meeting would be like. Would Amanda run and hide when she saw me for the first time? Would I be so nervous I would be unable to speak? These are some of the things that were racing through my mind as the miles began to melt away.
After a few hours I arrived at my cousin Brad’s house. This is where Amanda and I would meet for the first time. After settling in Amanda arrived at the door. Fortunately, she did not run away when she saw me. However, she thought about it as she heard me creak my way across the floor. I’ll never find work as a ninja, as my crutches squeak too much as I walk.
I think it helped that Amanda and I had spoken on the phone quite a bit before meeting for the first time, as it helped to make face-to-face conversation flow more effortlessly. Amanda and I had an easy time getting to know each other as we had lunch. We then went to the art museum, stopped for a cupcake at The Cup, a little shop that makes the best cupcakes ever! We then ended the night with The King’s Speech, a movie that we have since adopted as “our movie.” The next day we spent some time at the zoo. Simply put, it was a perfect weekend.
Amanda and I spent the next several months getting to know each other. I then asked her to marry me. Fortunately, she said yes, and we tied the knot on August 11, 2012. About a week later I started a new job in Northen Illinois and Amanda returned to St. Louis. For the first few months of our marriage Amanda and I only saw each other on the weekends. This was a very difficult situation, However, it only lasted until October when Amanda moved north to join me. In December 2012, we purchased our house and have added two cats to our lives since.
Amanda and I enjoyed being with each other that very first day, and we still enjoy being together. Today is Valentine’s Day, but we did not exchange gifts. However, we were together. That has been enough and will always be enough for each of us.
This morning we took a painting class together. We each painted a portrait of our cats, Dot and Cat. I chose Dot, and Amanda painted Cat. You can see the results below. I think I’ll hold on to my day job, as an artist I will never be.
Learning to live with another person was an adjustment for the both of us. I like organization. Amanda enjoys spreading her things throughout the house. This isn’t always easy for me. However, my stubborness is not something she always enjoys about me either. However, I can still say that Amanda is easy to be with. We laugh and we cry together. However, we are always together.
Being one has helped us adapt to our newest challenge, foster care. Since December 29th, we have been the proud foster parents of a sweet baby boy. He has transformed our lives. Sleep is hard to come by these days, but love is always there, even amongst the frustration of poopy diapers and midnight feedings.
We are now three, plus two cats. Love is never in short supply in our house. We are together and that is enough for all of us. Material things are good to have, and we have been blessed with far more than we deserve. However, time is the most important thing. Time is what allows us to create memories. Ten years of memories has made me a rich man. I am rich because I have a woman who loves me despite my faults.