Celebrating The Blog

The Jason Journals blog survived its first year, so now it’s time to review the past, preview the future, and do an overview of blogging in between. Why did I start this blog and why keep it going? Because…blogging!

I published my first post on March 31, 2017. And a few months later, my blog went silent due to “life happening”—anxiety. I got back to posting when I could, although it was sporadic. I still love blogging—even if it is old-school.

I’ve blogged off and on since 2006, starting with a family update type of blog. After that, I tinkered with several blogs focused on different niche subjects. None lasted. But Jason Journals endures despite the difficulties of the last year.

What can I say? I love to think and write! I’ve used a personal journal for a long time. So blogging just fits. That’s one reason why I started Jason Journals. And it’s a great way to exercise creativity.


Blogging Is Creative

Creating stuff–blogs, music, ice sculptures–is part of what makes us human. One of my favorite sayings these days is, Create more, consume less. Many people—myself included—are often caught up in “consuming content” instead of creating things. It’s too much input and not enough output.

Writing and blogging are great creative outlets; I get a rich satisfaction from writing that feels deeper than…reading books; the fulfillment is on another level. I still consume content: movies, internet, social media. But I consume less because its appeal is weaker. I’m too busy enjoying my blogging hobby! (Well, I probably read books as much as I write blogs.)

Blogging Is Independent

There is another aspect to blogging that is hard for me to find the right term for. It lingers from the early days of the web when blogs were more popular. I think “independent” is close, or maybe “open.”

Before the internet became sophisticated and commercialized, bloggers had their own simple sites that linked to other blogs and interesting places on the web–blogrolls! And their blogs each had a unique look and vibe to them, like hand-crafted quality stuff. An individual blog reflected a person’s uniqueness; it made the web adventurous and even serendipitous!

Compare that to now. Everyone just has a Facebook newsfeed, and they all look the same. It kind of works but it’s boring. Efficiency and consistency are good, but we also need individuality and variety. The sameness of social media has caused the web to lose its zest.

Blogging Is Lasting

I love finding others who share their own experience and opinions about blogging. I even check the state of the blogosphere at least once a year, hoping to find an article telling me that blogs are not going extinct. I would love to see a blogging renaissance! I think it would mean getting back to a more open internet.

On that note, I will share a few related posts I find interesting. Although some are dated, they’re still relevant. I recommend you give them a read.


Jason Journals Future

In the past few months, I’ve been practicing writing, and I plan to keep it up as Jason Journals heads into its second year. Hopefully the quality of my writing improves over time!

I think you can expect to see a mix of articles, aiming for at least one each week on Friday mornings–Lord willing. You might also find more pictures over time since I am not sure how much longer I will use Flickr and because I deleted my Instagram account.

One thing that surprises me is that I’ve stuck with the same blog theme for the past year! But I plan on using a new layout it to make it more readable for everyone. I hope the blog just keeps getting better in three key areas: what I write, how it’s written, and how it is presented on the blog.

Till Next Time

What are your thoughts about blogging? Do you hope for a renaissance or worry about its decline? What are your ideas about the open web? And do you prefer to go to Facebook or individual blogs?

Share in the comments!

Take care,

-Jason

The Matrix Of Social Media

Billions of people are going about their lives every day, oblivious to the truth: just like The Matrix, Social Media has them. We live in an online world of mindless scrolling, hooked on ‘likes’. Impulsively, we go to Facebook or Instagram to check our notifications. The ‘feeds’ beckon our minds to…keep checking–but for what? It seems Social Media Addiction is a thing, and it seems designed to be.

My usage of social media started in 2009 with Facebook and grew from there. In the past nine years, as I consumed more of its content, it consumed me further. So I’ve had to pull back and exercise moderation, exerting self-control. The social media matrix is all about control; it wants our attention at all times.

Two times in the past, I have deleted, not just deactivated, my Facebook account. Call it ‘nuke from orbit’. And because of the recent news that, once again, Facebook user data and privacy was exploited, I might press the big red button for a third nuke. I can quit Facebook anytime, I’m not addicted! Said the social junkie. The #DeleteFacebook trend on Twitter (irony alert) is compelling.

For some reason, even before the news of the current data exploit, I’ve been drawn to withdraw from social media. Well, maybe not Twitter. The fact that I’m concerned about adverse social media withdrawal and not getting my fix of notifications is evidence, I believe, that I’m addicted to it. But I can quit anytime!

Psychostimulants

Social media is like coffee. You wake up and you’ve got to have it, and you get jittery if you go too long without it. Plus it can keep you up late at night! That’s the way it goes with me. I’ll enjoy one or two cups of coffee per day. The next thing you know, I’m up to 4 cups a day–too much! So I step back from the coffee; just put the mug down!

That’s what moderation looks like. You still drink coffee or use social media, but you do it more mindfully; no more mindless scrolling and checking. You put healthy limits on your time on Twitter or Facebook. But if you find yourself getting sucked back in too far past the boundaries, you may have to resort to abstinence. Instead of a little Instagram or Snapchat here and there, for example, you “just say no” to the drug altogether. You might resort to the ‘nuke from orbit’ option. Go ballistic. Delete.

You can quit cold turkey, sure. Just pull the plug! But that might not be successful. Like Neo in The Matrix, you might pop because your mind can’t take the sudden absence of red circles with numbers in them. So you might try soft exits in a series of steps. I’ve done this before and it totally helps. Instead of deleting or deactivating Facebook, for example, you can detach.

Find The Nearest Exit

Last year, I posted an idea for gaining control over your Facebook Newsfeed: The End of Newsfeed Distraction. It wakes you up from the mindless scrolling so you don’t find yourself tumbling down the never-ending rabbit hole of social matrices.

Some other easy and helpful tips: on your smartphone, move all social media app icons into folders on a 3rd or later screen so they’re a bit harder to get to. And the next logical step–simply delete the apps from your phone or tablet. This let’s you keep your account intact (it’s there if you need it), but it saves you from instinctively tapping away at your screen to check your feeds.

These steps are simple. And if the thought of doing them makes you uncomfortable, then consider that social media has you. It’s important to take control, again like The Matrix. At the risk of a false dichotomy, either Facebook controls you, or you control Facebook. You consume it and then unwittingly discover that it consumes you! Social Media is insidious that way.

It may sound like I’m bashing all social networking, and I get that some people love to hate on these modern fruits of technology just out of sensationalism. I don’t mean to sound alarmist unless there is some danger. Some people do get great usage out of the tools of social media and it serves them well. And I am starting to wonder if Facebook itself, as big as it is, has become somewhat essential to modern life, just as the internet itself has become a utility like water and electricity. I would contend otherwise–but that’s a blog post for another time.

For now I’ll say social media, like fruit, can be good. But even fruit goes bad over time. Biting into a rotten apple is not fun. Scrolling a sour newsfeed is not fun either. But people do it out of habit. You’ve just got to decide to keep your good habits and toss your bad ones. You decide because you are in control. Don’t let The Matrix Of Social Media control you.

Rest Works

You don’t always know where your next good book is going to come from. You may search for one, but sometimes it will just appear in your life with surprise and delight.

That happened to me on Valentine’s Day this year. An email sales ad graced my inbox that morning. Among the many books, there was one that caught my attention. Moments later, I knew I’d found my next good read!

Written by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, the book is titled, “Rest.” Just one simple and short word. Of course, the subtitle is more informative, “Why you get more done when you work less.” After reading the synopsis on the back of the book, I was sold–especially at the low sale price of just four bucks!

Normally, I would download the free sample of a book and check out the author before committing time and money to a new chunk of reading, but this time I didn’t. I knew I wanted, maybe even needed, to read whatever was in between the digital covers. And I’m glad I got it.

Resisting A Rest

Rest” is appealing because we are so busy that we’re too busy to notice how busy we are! We know we need rest, yet we resist it.

In our culture, workaholism is like a badge of honor. Even if you’re not productive, as long as you’re busy, you must be doing something right. The idea is that if you’re not busy then you must be lazy. But there is a good difference between leisure and laziness.

I’m no workaholic, but I do get overworked and stressed. After I ‘clock-out’ from my full-time day job, I ‘clock-in’ at home. Anyone who has kids knows that parenting is a full-time job in itself; you’re ‘on-call’ 24/7. And since my family lives in an old country house on a few acres with farm animals, there’s always a project to work on.

Although life doesn’t take a break and wait for us, we need to take breaks to live. Being human, we could often use some rest. Even God rested after working on His project of creating the universe!

Rest Is For Work

Work is a necessary part of life, so it’s important to say that the book, “Rest,” is not necessarily against work; on the contrary, it’s for it. Since our society prizes being productive, note the subtitle again, “Why you get more done…” This book isn’t just about getting things done, it’s about getting more things done! And it specifically promotes both productivity and creativity. Just work less and you’ll achieve it.

A key idea within is that work and rest are two sides of the same coin. They go together like chocolate and peanut-butter. Both are good, and when put together they’re great!

It’s counter-intuitive and intriguing. We tend to reason that if we work hard, we’ll be accomplished, so if we work longer, then we will be more successful. Yet as many know from first-hand experience, there is a threshold where, once you cross it, your work output diminishes despite more hours worked. Been there, done that.

To the contrary, proper rest (demonstrated in the book) can help you work better so you can turn out more work in less time or turn out higher quality stuff. The mind and body need regular and intentional rest in order to work at their peak potential.

It’s not rocket-science, but there is a lot of neuroscience to it. Early in the book, the author talks about several specific areas of study in the field of neuroscience that shed informing light on how the brain functions with rest. And throughout the book, when citing how rest worked in the inspirational lives of very successful people (both creative and productive), specific facts from the brain-science are cited which serve as supporting evidence. What people have known for years anecdotally is now being understood scientifically. This makes the book both inspiring and encouraging.

Not Resting Doesn’t Work

What makes “Rest” stand out is that it demonstrates with clarity the counter-intuitiveness of the work-rest combo. We don’t so much need a book called “Work” in order to learn how to work better. To work well, you must rest well. And to rest well, you must work at resting. Proper rest is a lot of work because it takes practice. Despite the irony, I find it to be true in my own experience.

There have been times at my job where I worked on a problem and got to the point of beating my head against the wall trying to solve it. And seeing that I was gaining nothing, I would stop and walk away. And that’s when I would start to make progress. It’s like I was trying too hard. But when I stepped back from the problem, giving my brain a little break, my thinking was clearer and better focused.

Work To Live, Don’t Live To Work

Rest” has been a breath of fresh air for me because it brings some relief from the tendency to over-work. Yet it’s hard to find the balance between work and rest. And if you do find it, then it can be even harder to maintain. Rather than going too far in the other direction, “Rest” is work’s counter-weight to attain that elusive balance and stop the trend of diminishing productivity.

Despite the Industrial Revolution, we are not robots on an assembly line; we need breaks and rest. We don’t work like machines, but we can break down like them. We don’t multi-task like computers; we just have too many things going at once, and instead of concentrating on doing one job well to completion, we break our focus and jump between tasks. This is like putting the cart before the horse by emphasizing quantity over quality of work done. That doesn’t work!

So, “Rest.” We need it. We need to do it. We need to do it properly. And we need to do it regularly.

Update 3/17/18: I found a great review of “Rest” in the New York Times only after I’d written my post about it. Arianna Huffington wrote well; take a look!

The Online Photosphere

When it comes to photos: snap it, edit it, share it, repeat. But where do you share it online? If you’re a fickle photo shooter like me, you may bounce between multiple sites. Wouldn’t it be simpler to settle on just one?

A few months ago, I wrote a post about re-finding Flickr to be one of my favorite places, but I just don’t share consistently there. Recently, my interest in Instagram rekindled, but…then I remembered that hosting my photos on my blog might be best. Why not utilize all three of those sites? Because it’s a bit much; I’d be spread too thin. Focusing on one site may provide quality via depth versus breadth.

Then there’s the fact that different sites serve different purposes. So I’d have to figure out just what I would like to do with my photos. Here’s some factors to consider:

  • Do you prefer the social aspect of photo sharing?
  • Do you like editing photos?
  • Do you favor organizing your pictures?
  • Do you simply need an automatic backup solution?
  • Do you want feedback on your photography?
  • Do you value discovering new pictures for inspiration?

I should mention the sharing capabilities built-into Apple Photos and Google Photos. They both offer valuable service for all your basic snapshot needs. Plus, of course, I upload pictures to Facebook. But those are for family albums, not pursuing a hobby of photography. A great place for that is 500px, but I’ve never shared there because that’s for pros if you ask me; I am not that. And Snapchat doesn’t even appear on my radar.

I’m glad there’s plenty of options out there (maybe too many though). And for some folks, I understand it may be tough to pick the best place in the photosphere to post their camera creations. But for me personally, the fluctuation between sites is more a problem with me than with the online services.

Regardless of the site, one thing I love about photography is the creativity. That’s what first drew me into Instagram, for example. Originally, you were restricted to just square snapshots! Since limitation tends to breed creativity, the 1:1 ratio was an intriguing challenge to my photography. (This limitation factor is similar to the 140 character count Twitter once had; your posts must be pithy.)

What are some photo sites you prefer and why? Share in the comments or connect with me on Twitter!

One Bathroom Is Enough

In my house, seven people share a bathroom. My wife and I, with our five sons, made a big move last year, going from two bathrooms to just one. We had been accustomed to the higher standard of two with all its convenience. At first, my brain wouldn’t consider it feasible or even possible to lower our standard. How could we live with just one bathroom?! Yet over a year later, we learned that it’s enough.

A few week’s ago at dinner, we talked about some goals for the year. One that’s been on the back-burner is adding a second bathroom. In fact, it was a condition of our move. We had determined that we could make one bathroom work long enough until we added the 2nd bath. So we started discussing the details on how to make the addition.

I kept leaning into simplicity. My thoughts were on eliminating pipe work for the toilet and instead going with a composting commode. Keep it simple! Minimizing piping would save time, money, and hassle. Then we thought further, why not eliminate the shower? A half-bath addition would be simpler than a full-bath.

With this minimalist train of thought, we considered what we really needed versus what we wanted. This led us to a surprising yet logical conclusion: we could do away with the second bathroom altogether and…live with just one like we’d been doing for the past year! Talk about simplicity.

After proving to ourselves it was possible for 7 people to share 1 bathroom, we realized it was also feasible. It’s definitely easier to keep making one bathroom work than trying to build more bath space. As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Sure, it’d be more convenient to have two bathrooms, but it would also be more work in building and maintaining.

More is not always better.

We plan to stick with one bathroom for now because we’ve proven that it’s enough.

That’s the ideal. Enough.

It’s true that our one bathroom doesn’t always feel like enough. Sometimes one of us must wait in the hallway, doing that little squirming dance. My wife and I don’t get to enjoy having a Master Bath all to ourselves. Sometimes the shower runs out of hot water and you don’t want to be third in line. It might seem less than ideal in some ways, but it works well enough!

So this ‘lower standard’ is our ideal; we are learning that living with less is enough. Whether one bathroom or two (or many things versus few), maybe the right term is contentment, because in some ways, enough is immeasurable.