Welcome To December

Hello there, blogosphere. Been pretty quiet out there, at least for me, since November. My blog muscles may have atrophied a wee bit. I had dedicated my writing discipline and time to typing my story for NaNoWriMo2019. I didn’t reach my word-count goal (not surprised), but it went well. I plan to keep writing my story long-term, but the pace will slow so that I can blog more often.

November was a busy month. I had trips and vacations and holidays. Funny thing is, I had extra time both off from work and also on the job. And now we have arrived at the last month of the year. And of the decade!

Over Thanksgiving break, my family began decorating and preparing for Christmas, kicking off the holiday season in traditional fashion. It’s been fun! The mood has been festive and joyous. I think my favorite part so far was wrapping presents to put under the Christmas tree. The thought of making others happy when they open gifts from me, seeing their smiling faces in my mind, has already given me joy.

Lord willing, we will arrive at the anticipated dates later this month to celebrate blessings with family, most of all the gift of Christ at Christmas. I’m looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying the Holiday festivities sprinkled throughout this month. I hope to be blogging more often too. I know not everyone celebrates the holidays this time of year. If you do, I hope your Thanksgiving was good and that the rest of your year and decade will be great!


What’ya been up to lately? How will you finish the 20-teens? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

First Days Of Facebook

Liking Facebook

So…last week I re-friended Facebook. I’ve been back on for a few days now. And – surprise – I have some thoughts. Mostly good. [Like.]


Commenting On Facebook

Being off Facebook for six months was a long break. In Facebook’s absence, my web-social time was spent on Twitter and WordPress. So now there’s good competition for my time. More on that later.

I restarted my new Facebook account from scratch. That part is nice, having a squeaky clean fresh Newsfeed and Timeline. The app is now on my phone, and I sent out many Friend Requests and filled out my basic profile info – the metadata of me.

It’s great to be connected again to all my friends and family so I can see what they’re up to, how they’re doing, and easily share with them. It’s especially nice to stay in touch with the many people I know who live far away.

I rejoined just in time to catch some birthdays, and I caught up on a lot of good photos I had missed out on this past Summer! I also became an active member of a Group I had been absent from. So there are a lot of cool, fun, or useful things on Facebook that I’m enjoying.

Also, in 30 days or so, Facebook Marketplace will open up. To avoid scamming, the Marketplace is designed to wait a month before allowing new Facebook users access to it. That’s smart. And this is one reason why I like it. The people you buy or sell with are connected and vetted to some degree, which helps make the process safer. I have not used Craigslist in years!

In my short time being one of the billions of people on the social network, I was reminded of a few downsides to it. These are not surprising, but I’m going to need to work on them. The first one was mentioned above: time.

Facebook, like all social media, is designed to take up your time and attention. It can be addicting. I’ve received a ton of red notification numbers and banners on my phone and on the web browser. Granted, this is higher than usual activity since my account is new again. Once the honeymoon phase wears off, things will quiet down a bit. But I will likely need to adjust settings and moderate my behavior so I don’t get distracted by what can feel like the party on Facebook.

The other thing I will be proactive about is the Newsfeed. That thing is still a cacophony of posts! So many memes, posters, and silly pix and vidz! Facebook made it so you can friend yet not follow. In other words, you can connect with others to see their Timeline, Message them, or join a Group with them, but you don’t have to see their posts in your Newsfeed. This helps keep a good signal-to-noise ratio. Oh, and I’ll try to not contribute too much noise myself.


Checking Facebook

Overall, I’m enjoying my fresh friend-and-family-feed one week in! My goal is to be active but not too active. And when the shine grows dull, I’ll take a break if I need to – without deleting! For a time, I can be inactive yet not deactivate.

Let’s call this Social Media Moderation. Or Social Network/life Balance.

And I’ll leave you with a quote:

“…even if you don’t want to actively use Facebook, it’s one of those services that you basically have to sign up for. Like email.” – M.G. Siegler

That, I think, is more or less a truism these days. Facebook, like email, is a social utility. For better or worse. I’ll focus on the better!


Where do you stand on Facebook? Love to hate it? Hate to love it? Can’t live with or without it? Share below, or drop me a line here! Thanks for reading!

Refriending Facebook

Refriend Request

Alright, guess what? Six months after deleting my Facebook, I rejoined. Again. Resist no more; I’m gonna give this relationship another try. And next time I get moody and sour on The Social Network, I’ll deactivate instead of deleting. Because I always return. So why did I cave in once more?


Hello, Everyone

As I wrote last week about the social pressure getting to me, I had two options: Return-Rejoin-Refriend or Resist-Refuse-Retreat. The reasons for signing back up for Facebook are simple. My friends and family are networked together and benefit from the convenience of social utilities: Marketplace, Groups, Pages.

My Kyokushin Karate class has a Facebook Page; no other website exists. I missed out on some engagement there.

Our local Pokemon League has a Facebook Group. When not playing at league meet-ups, my wife enjoys info shared in the Group online. I’ve missed out on that.

And I love the Facebook Marketplace. I’m a sucker for value and amazing deals on gently used stuff that people I’m connected to are selling or buying. It totally replaces Craigslist for me.

Another draw is being able to stay in touch with family living overseas. We email, but not much. There’s more staying-in-touch on Facebook with photos and posts and such. I’ve missed that too.

Those are just a few examples; there are more! Practically, everyone is on Facebook. Most of all, my friends and family are there. It’s the easiest way to share photos with them.

I explain this more in my blog post from last October. It sums up why I am rejoining Facebook again.


To see how cyclical my Facebook relationship has been, first joining 10 years ago, here it is for the record, so far:

  1. First Account: Fall 2009 – Spring 2011
  2. Second Account: Summer 2011 – Fall 2015
  3. Third Account: Winter 2015 – Spring 2018
  4. Fourth Account: Summer 2018 – Spring 2019
  5. Fifth Account: Fall 2019 – ?

Each time I deleted my account (never just deactivated), I only stayed off Facebook for 3 to 6 months. Through all my back-and-forth, my wife has remained on Facebook for 10 years, despite all the privacy woes and the like. She’s never been hurt or hacked by it. Instead, I’ve seen her benefit and enjoy it overall.


Friend Request

I know Facebook is not without its flaws. I’ll focus on the positives and be careful to view the bad in the balanced light of the good. Granted, there will likely be more data breaches, security scandals, and privacy problems. And I’ll probably grow tired of the memes and melodrama. Cat videos, though, I could use more of.

Facebook has the market cornered on connecting online with people I care about. It has its upsides! So instead of beating Facebook, I’m joining.

Extra: Do you remember the movie The Social Network starring Jesse Eisenberg? I love that movie. I think I’ll watch it again to commemorate my return to Facebook. Is that cheesy or dumb? Well, I do that sort of thing sometimes. I’m one of those weird human persons, ya know?


Have you or anyone you know ever quit and rejoined Facebook? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

The Social Pressure Is Getting To Me

Socially Compelled

Alright, I’ve got a bit of a confession. After deleting my Facebook account almost 6 months ago, I started feeling drawn to rejoin. Perish the thought! I’ve already admitted to the cycle I have, like bouncing back and forth in an unhealthy relationship. So I think I need an intervention. Will the cycle ever end?


The Network Effect Of Everyone

I have not rejoined the world’s largest social network. Yet. I’m resisting the pull. But I can’t help wonder why this urge returned. It’s a little perplexing yet not surprising. Just, why?

I have good reasons to not be on Facebook. And I think some of them apply to everybody. But though I can articulate them in writing, as I did here, I find it harder to tell someone face to face why I’m against Facebook or why it’s so off-putting and should be avoided by all.

I feel like capitulating. Like, everyone is on Facebook. Not only that, there are some bonafide good uses of the platform simply because everyone you know is there. I’m talking about Groups and Pages and Marketplace. The network effect is real.

These three examples of Facebook’s utility are not unique. Elsewhere, the internet offers similar options that provide the same features. But honestly, I don’t know of any that are better or easier to use. And even if they are, they lack the greatest feature: everyone.

Even though everyone is on the web and therefore can connect, those connections are separated across various websites. So connecting requires juggling multiple accounts and log-ins (unless, of course, they provide the Facebook log-in). The point is, different websites that offer different Facebook-like utilities are separate. But Facebook easily connects everyone on the web in one central place.

The One Place To Rule Them All

Like an existential rule, it seems that there had to be that place: the one website online where all people could unite, connect, and network together (ironically, that union has also surfaced and reinforced much division). Social interaction defines humanity; relationships! Other websites (Friendster, MySpace, and more) were built on this fundamental trait. It’s just that Facebook was able to take off. Right place, right time I guess.

If the internet is a connected web of everyone spread across earth, then like a modern day digital Tower of Babel, Facebook is the defacto site for everyone online to come together, for better and for worse.

The network effect is what compels me to rejoin Facebook. Practically all my friends, family, and acquaintances are there. (Just this week, a co-worker asked me if I’m on Facebook – that never happens – what a coincidence!) And though I’ve lived totally without a Facebook account several times, the truth is I’m unable to escape it altogether. Like pumpkin spice in Autumn, Facebook is everywhere.

It’s in my house. My wife’s use of the social network remains stalwart. Through her, I am informed of daily life stuff via Facebook. Also, I see how it benefits her. And honestly, I don’t see much consequential detriment to her personal usage of Facebook (other than the negative drama that gets posted sometimes). As for sucking a lot of time, I can’t talk. I use Twitter as much as my wife uses Facebook. Guilty!

By nuking my Facebook account from orbit, have I cut off my nose to spite my face? Other questions have come to me: am I “too good” for Facebook? And is my personal boycott of the platform benefiting others or advancing a good cause? Am I just being a Facebook-hater? These are good questions that deserve good answers.

Sharing Online

Here’s a situation that affects my decision to rejoin Facebook or not. I have a vacation coming up with both immediate and extended family members. We’ll be taking a lot of pictures! Naturally, after the trip, we’ll want to share those photos with each other. So where will that happen? There are several good options, but the easiest and practically the best place to do that is on Facebook.

Another scenario that makes Facebook compelling is that I have a family member who lives overseas and is active on Facebook. We seldom email each other, so Facebook is the strongest way we can stay connected with text updates and photos. This is hard to resist sometimes.


Socially Awkward

There’s more weirdness. Since I have deleted and rejoined four times, what will my friends and family think if I rejoin again? Will they be glad to see me there? And will others keep me at a distance, expecting my cycle to spin around to deleting again? These questions spawn a meta-query: why am I wrestling with such social anxiety? It’s just a website! Right?

So what will come of this? Despite the pull to rejoin Facebook, I’m not totally comfortable with the idea of being tallied in the census of the world’s biggest digital country that is controlled by one idealistic man who is also trying to create a new global currency. The size and power of Facebook and its influence are disturbing, and the Libra initiative is foreboding. I’m wary of the whole thing.

But Facebook is, frustratingly, like a utility because of its network effect. I think my back and forth tug-of-war will continue. Maybe it will be a stalemate. Is resistance futile? Is rejoining and reestablishing a love-hate relationship with Facebook inevitable?

Resist or rejoin? I don’t know. I’m leaning toward the latter.


What are your thoughts? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Cost And Craze Of Pokemon

During the past holiday weekend, my family enjoyed lots of Pokemon trading card game action, among other things. We attended the weekly League meet-up for card trading and lots of head-to-head battles with everybody’s current decks. And as usual, I learned a few more things, had fun, and embraced challenges. But this Pokemon thing is a craze that sometimes has me a little concerned.


Pokecraze

I don’t know how long my family’s Pokecraze will last. There’s a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, especially from my five sons. My wife and I also have some serious fun with it. The makers of Pokemon release new cards over time, at a pace that reinvigorates the craze just when it might be dwindling. Well played!

Amidst all the card trading and playing buzz, I have two concerns: addiction and expense.

Addicting

No doubt you’ve heard the slogan of Pokemon, “Gotta catch’em all!” It’s that “gotta” part that’ll get’ya. But it’s not just about trying to collect all the Pokemon as I once thought. There are so many Pokemon cards, with new ones coming out all the time, I don’t think it’s feasible to catch them all.

It’s about playing the cards more than collecting them. With so many Pokemon cards and a plethora of abilities, the strategic possibilities are vast. There are several general types of play stratagem. Let’s say, for example, there are ten basic ways to win battles, and you definitely must think about both offense and defense.

Ten ways does not sound like too many, but the numerous cards and abilities combine in so many various ways that the possibilities are endless! So many angles of attack! You can’t help being drawn into the stratagem.

You’ve gotta try one more thing, one more card or combo of cards that lets you tweak your battle deck. And you then get to play it several times against multiple opponents with their decks to find your own strengths and weaknesses. The cycle repeats itself afterwards when you learn once again where you need to adjust your cards.

Next, as your brain tries to strategize, you think of what you want to accomplish and how you might achieve it. There must be a card somewhere that gives a specific ability you could use. So you go on the hunt to find such a card. And you might not notice that you’re being further drawn into the Pokecraze.

Expensive

Addiction comes with a cost. With various new cards, new abilities, and endless possibilities, you have more to buy, more to catch, and more money to spend. A few dollars here and there add up to a lot! In my household, with 7 people enjoying Pokemon, it doesn’t just add up, it multiplies.

There is the gambling type of addiction in buying single packs of cards off the store shelf. Called Booster packs, each one contains 10 random cards. You pay money for the chance to pull an extra rare and powerful card out. It’s like a slot machine, pulling the handle in hopes the three cherries line up and you score the big prize. And you do it over and over until you win or you’re almost broke.

Another way to throw cash at the cards is to buy in bulk. There are many types of boxes and promo sets of cards, each with their own special offerings. They typically contain several Booster packs inside along with a powerful rare card, a collector’s pin or coin, specially marked dice, card sleeves, or a pre-built battle deck – always something to entice. And the price per card in the bigger sets is a little less than individual packs, so you justify the spending.

Finally, there’s the number one place to go and buy cards, TCGPlayer. It’s a great website where you can buy any Pokemon card you want! If you want to collect certain cards or you’re on the hunt for the next few cards needed to tweak your battle deck strategy, then you simply type them in and Add to Cart! Days later, your cards are waiting in the mailbox.

TCGPlayer has all the cards, offered from different sellers across the country, so you can try to find the lowest priced card in the best condition. And instead of spending a lot of money on Booster packs, hoping to pull a good card, you spend a little money on the specific good card you need. But it adds up over time.


Craze Conclusion

I wonder when, like any fad, our Pokemon craze will conclude. Or is it here to stay; are we playing the long-game? Part of me wouldn’t mind if it dissipated because we’d be less inclined to throw cash at cards here and there. It tests our self-control and restraint. But it’s not all bad.

My whole family is sharing the enjoyment of Pokemon together, playing and trading and collecting with one another. There’s much value in that. “Family Game Night” happens a lot these days! And it is helping us to go out to the League and meet new people in our community, socializing face to face with others, geeking out on a common interest. Overall, we’re having a lot of fun!

The makers of Pokemon have been going at it for over 20 years now. They routinely put out new Expansions in each series of cards, so we’ll likely continue the Pokecraze for a while. In fact, there’s an entire new Series coming soon! It has teased new special card types.

Here’s my money; gimme the stuff.


What’s your expensive addiction? Ever try Pokemon? Leave feedback below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!