Tag Archives: positivity

What’s The Good News? Stories you wish the media covered

DSC_0015“The most valuable gift you can give to humanity is a good example.” –Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha

Hello friend,

I was at the gym early one morning this week, sweating and huffing on one of the cardio machines in the long rows in front of the televisions. I always bring an electronic book to read to survive the monotony, but I must admit that the televisions—even though they are silent and force me to read the closed captioning—conspire to distract me occasionally (and by that I mean often). At that awful hour of the morning—well before humans should be conscious, in my opinion—the programming is simple: news shows and more news shows. It is how I learned all about Fox News (and now I can understand the fascinating political views of my parents, who let the TVs in their house run all day–you think I am kidding, but I am not—on that channel). It is also how I learn about the stuff my local stations are covering.

Well, on this particular morning, I glanced up from my book as a story was just beginning on one of the local morning shows. There were high school students in a classroom, and a happy teacher was dancing. As I read the closed captioning along the bottom, it revealed a story about this teacher, who was winning an award for his outstanding work. He was a Spanish teacher, and he talked about using his class to bring cultures together and promoting greater understanding and cooperation. He seemed to truly love his work and his students. It all seemed very uplifting.

The story really struck me. Not because inspiring teachers are rare in the world—indeed, I believe stories like that could be found in any school—but because hearing about them in the news is rare. I couldn’t stop thinking to myself, “Yes! This is what I want my news stories to be about! Show me more!” Then, of course, the story ended, and they went back to the usual fodder of murders, drug busts, and political scandals. Slowly, that little fire that had ignited in me was snuffed out. Even a glance over to the headlines on the television showing Fox News couldn’t get me inspired again—big shock there, I know—and so my eyes drifted back to my book and my mind cocooned around itself again. That was enough news for me. I was sufficiently disheartened and disgusted by the stream of headlines and stories that flooded the screens.

Historically, I have a pretty rocky relationship with the news media, whether in print or on television. For many years now, I have mostly made it a habit of avoiding the evening news. If I do happen to be in the room when the television is on—such as when I am visiting my parents—I can get through the first few stories before my brain starts to withdraw and let me know it is time to move on. Almost invariably, it is something bloody—a murder, a war, a crash—or something scandalous and divisive. The old news adage “If it bleeds, it leads” has never gone out of style. So we get this onslaught of death, deception, and destruction right from the get-go. It is no wonder when we imagine reporters looking for stories, we picture them sitting around in front of a police scanner, listening for trouble.

At this point in my life, though, I just don’t want to listen to it. I have only so much time and so much attention span, and I don’t want either to be filled by negativity, violence, and discord. I have had people try to shame me into watching the news, like, “How will you ever know what is going on in the world?” They accuse me of burying my head in the sand, pretending the world and its people are much better than they really are. If only I would watch the news, they say, I would have a much more realistic view of life. Perhaps I would stop being so idealistic, so hopeful.

No, thanks. I’ll pass.

And anyway, it is not as though I don’t watch any news. I just pick and choose my sources and how much of my energy I want to devote to them. And I trust my intuition to know when I have had too much, even from the sources I respect. I know enough about what’s happening in the world. I just choose not to linger in the swampy part, the part that the news media seems to call “Home.”

But what if the inspiring story of the high school Spanish teacher was not so rare that its presence startled me? What if the big headlines were the positive ones? What if the in-depth, exposé-type features were not about mafia leaders or corporate scams, but rather about individuals in our communities who are shining examples of courage and kindness, or who go above and beyond in order to bring different groups together? These could be the front-page stories rather than the ones that barely make it into the back pages of a newspaper or only onto the super-early local morning show.

I am brainstorming now, so stick with me (and hopefully help me out with some responses). Let’s say I started a news outlet—we’ll say an online platform to begin with, using a website, maybe a YouTube channel, and social media—that covered all of the things I want to focus on in my community. I live in the suburbs of a pretty big city, so let’s say we are talking about the entire metropolitan area. That gives us a lot of territory to cover as reporters, but also lots of potential stories to tell and lives to touch. So, where should be start?

I am looking to profile the people who are the best examples of all the things that most of us feel are gravely lacking in our world today: kindness, empathy, courage, optimism, joy, open-mindedness, forgiveness, gratitude, and inclusion? I want to share how these people are not only wonderful examples for us to emulate in our own little corners of the world, but also how they might be joined by good people like us, who may have something to add to their efforts. I am also looking for community events that are designed to foster these same traits. I don’t want celebrities. I want regular humans like you and like me. We are the ones who are overwhelmed by the flood of negative news today, to the point of feeling helpless to make a difference. My news outlet is to show us that we can make a difference, that we have influence and we can use it to make our spheres of influence more open, cohesive, and joyous.

I imagine a story about that high school Spanish teacher. I imagine another story like the one this Summer in Wichita, Kansas, when what was originally planned as a protest against police violence toward communities of color became the First Steps Community Cookout, a barbecue where police and community members ate, talked, listened, and played basketball together. I imagine a story like the one I read recently about how the members of a Christian church and a neighboring Muslim mosque in Memphis have moved from a place of fear to one of community. I imagine profiles of volunteers at homeless shelters, food shelves, and senior centers. I see a calendar of events that bring people together across difference. I see a listing of opportunities to help others who could use your time and skills to better themselves and our community.

I like this vision! This is a news outlet I could actually watch every day. Sure, I know there will always be the other, more negative stuff going on in the world, and there will always be other reporters covering it. But maybe if you and I put our heads together, we could tell the stories that might turn the tide a little, maybe bring some light into our little corners of the world. I could go for that!

How about you? What kind of news do you want to hear about? Open up your journal and think about the stories that help you to feel the way you want to feel and know what you need to know. What are your primary news outlets right now: local television, cable news, newspapers, magazines, websites, Facebook shares and comments, Twitter, talk radio? Do you prefer to watch videos or to read stories? What type of stories do you end up gravitating toward most? Do you like the bloody stuff? Do scandals and scams satisfy you? How about celebrity gossip type of stories? Politics? What about the feel-good, uplifting type of stories that I am talking about? Does that stuff do anything for you? Does it deserve more air time, or is it not really newsworthy? Do you like the general way that televisions news seems to prioritize stories: leading and filling most of the time with the blood and the drama, and only occasionally having a special report on a person or event doing inspirational, difference-making work in the community? If you could join me in starting my news agency, what are the stories you would like told? Are there people that you are aware of in your community who deserve to be highlighted? Which of the positive characteristics I mentioned above– kindness, empathy, courage, optimism, joy, open-mindedness, forgiveness, gratitude, or inclusion—are they the best examples of? Which types of positive people or events in your community are the least publicized? Why is that? Tell me the truth: is there a place in our society—or at least in your community—for a type of positive news outlet like this? Would you be a regular reader or viewer if it existed? Is it the kind of organization you would like to work for? I am actually serious about this project, so I would appreciate your feedback. Leave me a reply and let me know: What stories do you want the media to cover more? 

Shine your light,

William

P.S. If this got you thinking more discerningly about your media habits and priorities, I would be grateful if you would pass it on. Let’s shine together!

Olympic Fever: What makes The Games so addictive?

IMG_2888“We are all a part of God’s great big family. And the truth, you know, love is all we need. We are the world….” —Michael Jackson/Lionel Richie, “We Are The World”

Hello friend,

Last Friday evening, I had to pull the Dad Card on my six-year-old son, forcing him to watch the Opening Ceremonies of The Olympics in favor of the usual Disney Junior or Mario Kart. I put on my serious voice and explained to him how special The Games are and how much I loved watching them with my family when I was a kid. He wasn’t totally buying it, but he reluctantly agreed to give it a shot.

By noon the next day, that same kid was screaming at the television, “GO PO-LAND! GO PO-LAND!” as the Bicycle Road Race came to its dramatic conclusion (the Polish guy ended up with the bronze). And by six o’clock Sunday morning, as I was getting ready to sneak out to the gym so I could be back before the house woke up, he—who usually sleeps the latest of all of us—came bounding down the stairs and announced, “I want to watch The Olympics!”

What can I say? The kid has inherited the gene! He has a certified case of Olympic Fever!

It’s not just he and I, though. My wife has it. My daughter, too. It is rampant throughout the house. And, from what I hear, the rest of my extended family and friends have contracted it as well. It seems quite clear that Olympic Fever has hit epidemic proportions.

I watched a video on the Internet this week from the President and First Lady to the American Olympians. In it, they were talking about how Olympic-crazy their families were when they were growing up, how everything in the neighborhood would stop for those two weeks while everyone hunkered down in front of their televisions to be a part of the magic that is The Games.

But why? What is the magic? What is it about The Olympic Games that transforms the vast majority of us—sports fans and non-sports fans alike—into wild patriots who stay up way past our bedtimes every single night until they are finished? (Seriously, you know how, nine months after huge blizzards, lots of babies are born? Well, there has to be a two-week period of time nine months after each Olympics when absolutely zero babies are born!) What is the drug that is so addictive? What is the charm?

On first blush, the easy answer seems to be patriotism. After all, it is so much fun to chant “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” as the last seconds of a close win tick down. And who doesn’t take special pride in our amazing swimming and women’s gymnastics teams and those piles of gold medals they racked up? It just seems more fun when the national anthem being played is our own.

Another thing that draws us all in are the heart-touching personal stories of the athletes. These are people who have sacrificed so much for this one moment in time, some of them against all odds. The stories of their families—who have often given up more than the athlete herself—are spellbinding. Sometimes, I think I would rather watch the profile stories than the actual competitions.

But the competitions, too, expose part of the answer to our addiction to The Olympics, too. Quite simply, we appreciate excellence and achievement at the highest levels. Watching a Simone Biles Floor Exercise routine is about as jaw-dropping as a human physical feat gets. But really, awesomeness is everywhere you turn in Rio these days.

The competition itself, too, is a big appeal, especially for folks like me who like to watch a sporting battle any time of the year. A soccer game decided by penalty kicks, or the third game in a beach volleyball match, these are completely engrossing. With the big personalities in some of the sports, too, the individual showdowns are must-see events: Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte, stone-faced Michael Phelps vs. shadow-boxing Chad LeClos, Michael Phelps’ s iron will vs. Michael Phelps’s aging body. It is edge-of-your-seat stuff. Very compelling, very addicting.

All of these elements—patriotism, dramatic personal stories, physical excellence, and nail-biting competition—combine to make The Olympics required viewing in most homes across the land. You can decide for yourself which of them compels you the most.

However, after living in the middle of this Olympic vortex all week—and through every Olympiad for the last forty-plus years–and wondering about this magical, drug-like addiction that it engenders, I have come to believe that the true magic of The Games might not be any of those things at all. I think the root of Olympic Fever lies beneath all of that. It is about a feeling.

Think about that feeling you get in your heart during the Opening Ceremonies, specifically during the Parade of Nations. All of these human souls coming together under one roof with smiles on their faces. The audience erupts in generous applause for all of the athletes, all of the countries. The athletes come in a spirit of fairness and to give their very best effort to the cause. They stand together in the middle of the stadium, all dancing to the same music and being cheered, both in the stadium and in front of televisions all over the world simultaneously. There is a magnificent unity and generosity about the entire experience. Good will flows like a river. The world feels together and at peace for a beautiful, isolated moment. It is downright utopian.

This beautiful spirit continues through the Closing Ceremonies, which is typically an even bigger global party than the Opening Ceremonies. The athletes flow freely across country lines and revel with their competitors in a spirit of fellowship and a celebration of the wonder which they all just created together on fields and courts and hearts.

The entire Olympic experience is oozing with ideals that we all quietly long for. It is a kind of goodness. Unity. Positivity. Winning with excellence rather than by belittling the opponents. Fair play. Sportsmanship. Good will toward all humankind.

I think we cling to these ideals so desperately during these two weeks because, consciously or not, they are what we are always supposed to exemplify. It is how we are meant to live as humans. Our hearts and souls know it, even when our heads do not. The feeling in our hearts during those ceremonies and over the course of The Games is our still, small voice telling us, “This is how Life is supposed to be.”

You know that feeling you have inside when you are doing something you absolutely love to do? You are buzzing. Your heart is dancing. Your mind is calm and focused. You feel energetic, alive. Happy. Everything just feels right. That is how you know you are doing what you are supposed to be doing! I think that, collectively, we feel a lot like that during The Olympics. Maybe we should take notice of that. Maybe our hearts are telling us something very, very important.

Think about what a welcome escape the Olympics are from the negative news of the day in our country. Instead of violence in the streets, strained race relations, and acrimonious politics, we get uplifting stories of courage, teamwork, perseverance, love, and triumph. It is a blessed coincidence that the Summer Olympics happen to fall on an election year every single time. Seriously, how great is it hear the names Michael Phelps and Simone Biles instead of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for a change? Phelps, Biles, and all of their teammates represent something in our hearts and minds that can’t be touched by the politicians. No wonder we don’t want to watch anything else for two weeks!

It is up to us to bring the spirit of The Games back into “real life” rather than let that old negativity and animosity creep back in and become the norm a few weeks from now. Maybe we should make that the new Olympic Oath? That is one vow I am ready to take!

How about you? Are you willing to keep the best of the Olympic spirit in your heart and in your actions even when The Games are complete? Open up your journal and explore what The Olympics mean to you and why. Do you have Olympic Fever? What are your favorite events to watch? How much does patriotism play a part for you in your investment in The Games? Do you only cheer for your country’s athletes? Do you get wrapped up in the athlete profile stories? Who’s story is particularly compelling for you? How much of why you watch is simply to see great performances from the best of the best? How much of it is the competition itself and the rivalries? What do you think is the factor that takes The Olympics from being something that is fun to casually follow, to something that so many people are completely addicted to? Is there something to my idea that there is a spirit that permeates The Games that is completely unique and compelling? Is there something in some other aspect of our society that approximates the global good will generated by The Olympics? Does my thought that Olympic Fever is our soul calling us to keep that sense of unity and peace in our lives resonate with you, or does it seem like a load of New Age nonsense? Are you better for your Olympic experience? What is the best lesson from The Olympics, the part of it that you can take with you into the world and the years before the next Olympiad comes around? Will you do that? Leave me a reply and let me know: How will you carry your Olympic flame?

Find reasons to be bigger,

William

P.S. If you have Olympic Fever, or if you know someone who might benefit from reading this, please pass it on. Our best qualities ought to be celebrated.

Energy Shots: The Little Things That Make Your Life Better

DSC_0381“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” –Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Hello friend,

It seems to me that the recurring theme of my mind, and therefore my life, is “How can I make this better?” I am constantly digging into all of the different ways I spend my time—at home, at work, at play—wondering what I can do to improve the situation and make my life the best it can possibly be. I do it with my thought processes, too. It is nonstop. How can I be more efficient with this? Is this serving my greater purpose? Could I be helping more people? Does this reflect who I want to be? How can I make this more fun? What can I do to reduce the stressful parts of this? Have I seen all sides of the issue? What is it about this that doesn’t feel quite right to me? What is the lesson here? Does this make my heart sing?

As a part of this routine of self-improvement, I find myself spending much of my focus on eliminating energy drainers from my life. I try to clean up all the little things that weigh on me and distract me from the things that matter most. I am trying to clear the path so that it is easier to deliver on my potential, to be my very best. These energy drainers take many forms. At work, it can be my psychological discomfort from not being in command of a certain system, technology issues, stress from being late on a project, an unorganized filing system, or a co-worker’s attitude. At home it can be things like my messy office, a family member’s negative attitude, my children’s maddeningly slow pace in just about every activity (it is the slow eating drives me the most crazy, I have to admit), lack of sleep, difficulty finding time in the schedule for my priorities, and so many more. In every area, it is often about a way of thinking that is not working for me: fear, a negative attitude about something or someone, self-doubt, envy, looking too far ahead, or a simple lack of focus and presence.

Most are little gnats. A few are closer to miseries on some days. But always there seems to be something to tidy up in my physical or mental space. The bottom line: there is certainly no shortage of energy drainers to address. And because I am so determined to clear my path to greatness, I seem to devote the bulk of my time and energy to defeating these drainers.

And then I was sorting through some notes a few days ago, and I came upon a page with some lists on it. These were lists I had made for a personal inventory exercise some months ago but had completely forgotten about. The top half of the page dealt with energy drainers, most of which I have spelled out for you above. My answers were all too familiar, and I kind of rolled my eyes at how I have not solved most of my issues in all this time. Just as I was chastising myself for my ineptitude at cleansing my life of these drainers, my eyes drifted to the bottom half of the page. What I saw there stopped me in my tracks.

There were two columns filled with my handwriting. The first was “Energy Gainers at Work.” The second: “Energy Gainers at Home.” The instructions were as follows: Now list the things that impact your life in a positive way (include activities, people, physical aspects of your environment). Before I even started reading through my lists, the impact had already been made. It was a total “A-Ha!” moment for me: “Of course! Energy GAINERS! Why have I been so focused on the Drainers?” It was like both of my eyes were finally open. I could see the full picture so much more clearly.

Yes, of course it is important to identify the areas of my life that suck my energy unnecessarily so I can try to minimize or eliminate those factors. That is still very important. But it is only half of the picture. And the dreary half at that! It is high time I turned my eyes toward the sunny side of my world.

So, I peeked down those lists of energy gainers and got a real boost. I realized that everything on those lists still exist in my life, and more. So much about my little world is conspiring to lift me up, to give me joy, to free me to be who I want to be!

In my working world, I am blessed with the opportunity to help people on their path to a healthier lifestyle, and I get a real kick out of that. It absolutely puts wind in my sails to watch someone walk away happy and excited to become better. I also have some time to work totally alone, and, as someone who skews toward the introverted side, that time also charges my battery. My schedule is amazingly family-friendly, too, so even on the days when crazy things happen, I never resent the job for the things it robs me of. That is important to me. Finally, and something that I have become more and more invested in, I get to use my skills to help my friends pursue their passion. Doing something for a cause adds life to it, and I feel that. For all of the little drainers that show up there, it is nice to remind myself that the tide is mostly rising.

Of course, life is so much more than work, and my world outside of work is, when I really look at it, a beautiful landscape dotted with springs of joy and inspiration. I am allowed—thanks again to my work—an abundance of time with my kids. When they are not at school, I get to be with them, and this means the entire world to me. They are the essence of the term “energy gainer.” But I have other delights, too, that I revel in when the kids sleep. Creating these letters to you each week in hopes of helping you to be your best—and getting responses from you—absolutely invigorates me. Working on my other writing–whether it is my daily journal entries or my larger work, The Journal Project—is like a meditation for me, putting my mind in exactly the right place of peace. And even though it comes in the wee hours of morning when sleeping would still be fantastic, I am revitalized by my daily exercise as well. Even the physical space of my home, especially having my own dedicated work space with lots of books nearby, is an energy boost for me. A few minutes of meditation work, too.  When all else fails, just going outside and being in the fresh air is an automatic revitalizer. I love that!

I find myself grinning from ear to ear as I write about these energy gainers. They are giving me life just thinking about them! The great realization is that they are here every single day, permeating my little corner of the world. How cool is that!

So, it seems the Universe is not, after all, conspiring against my progress with all of those little gnats that I see as perpetually slowing me down and weighing me down. There are, as it turns out, weights on the positive side of the scale, too. Big ones, and lots of them. My life is full of LIFE!

My task, as I can see more clearly now, is to keep those energy boosters front and center. I must be better at giving them my attention, at extracting all of the joy and inspiration I can from them. I must shine that light more brightly on them than on the energy drainers. And finally, I must be more grateful for them and for the way they allow me to be the very best me that I can be.

How about you? What are your energy gainers? Open up your journal and your mind, and shine a light on the aspects of your life that make your load a little easier to carry. Who are the people in your life that give you a boost just by being in their presence or trading messages with them? Do you spend more of your time with those people or with the people who drag you down? What can you do to spend more time around the lights? Okay, now look at your work situation. Which aspects of your job are meaningful to you and make you feel better? Is it your co-workers, the services you provide, seeing the difference you make, your schedule, or something else? Is it just your paycheck? With all of these things considered, is your work as a whole an energy gainer for you? Now think outside of work, to your home and hobbies. Is your actual space a positive one for you? Do you have a particular room or outside space that energizes you? Which activities make you feel better? Does exercise work for you? Being in nature? Do you do anything artistic? Does socializing energize you or deplete you, or some of each? Is there a musical artist or genre that makes you smile? An author? Where do the people in your home fit into the equation? Are you good at recognizing when you need a little pick-me-up? If so, what is your go-to energizer? Are you good at focusing on the positive aspects of your life, or do you spend most of your time and energy dealing with the negatives? All things considered, is your life well-stocked with energy gainers? More positive than negative? Leave me a reply and let me know: Where do you get your energy shots?

Find the good everywhere,

William

P.S. If this helped you see your life in a different light or reminded you of something you had forgotten, pass it along. Let’s help each other find the bright spots!

The Facebook ‘Friends’ You Wish Were Your Real Friends

IMG_1091“If you hang out with chickens, you’re going to cluck, and if you hang out with eagles, you’re going to fly.” –Steve Maraboli

Hello friend,

I don’t do a very good job of making friends. I am introverted, so I don’t seek out social situations. I am also a bit shy, so I am not very chatty and outgoing when I do meet new people. I would say I am courteous but not engaging. Some—or all—of that may be due to the fact that I have an inherent disgust for small-talk. It tends to make my skin crawl. It is, by its very nature, superficial. I don’t do superficial well at all. I prefer to either dive right into a meaningful interaction or be ignored altogether.

With all that, it should come as no surprise that I didn’t do high school very well when it came to reputation. I had my group of close friends, no doubt, but most people thought I was “stuck-up,” our word for arrogant and just generally thinking you are better than everyone else. I don’t deny that there was some of that in the mix, but, at this distance of almost 25 years, it is clear to me that most of my reputation stemmed from my innate repulsion to all things petty and superficial, most notably small-talk. Unfortunately, that encompasses the bulk of the high school experience outside of your closest friend group. I just didn’t have it in me to pretend to be everyone’s best friend. A small but true handful was all my nature could handle. It still is.

Sadly, in addition to not being a good maker of friends, I am also a very poor keeper of friends. Well, at least in the usual sense. I am terrible at staying in touch: making the call, sending the birthday card, getting to the class reunion, or setting up the boys weekend. As a result, I have basically lost touch with almost all of my best friends. That doesn’t feel so good. On the other side of it, I still consider all of my best high school buddies to be my best friends, contact or not. I still value them like I did when we were together every day and would still do anything for them. They are my boys, and that is that. In my head! Maybe they are like the ghosts I wrote to you about last time, their relationship with me existing perfectly in my head only. Maybe they have either forgotten about me or allowed the passage of time to lessen their love for me in a way that my heart simply doesn’t operate.

My heart and my head seem to be like vaults. What was once placed there is secure forever. Perhaps that is something of a curse, though, lulling me into thinking I do not have to work to maintain those relationships just because I feel the same way about my loved ones that I always have. It is probably the case that while I am silently moving on with these timeless feelings, the other side is moving on to new relationships that more clearly and consistently reveal themselves. I hold onto ghosts of friendships past and don’t seek out new ones, figuring I am all set in the best friend department. Like I said, for better or worse, it is my nature to have only a few of the best kind and almost none of the superficial.

With all that said, it will probably come as no surprise to you that I was one of the last, stubborn holdouts of the Facebook era. I heard people sing its praises for years and years and still had no interest in trying it. For one, it just sounded so time-consuming. I pictured everyone sitting around writing little notes about themselves all day and couldn’t imagine myself having the time or interest to do that. Granted, I had never actually seen a Facebook page, but this is how I imagined it. And second—and most important to our discussion today—was my complete distaste for the idea that people were writing and sharing these notes with people they weren’t really friends with. Why in the world would you become “friends” with someone who was never your true friend, who you just knew in the superficial high school way? This concept was absolutely beyond my comprehension and seemingly totally contrary to my nature. Facebook and I, it seemed, would never become friends.

So it went for years and years, until I finally created “Journal of You” and needed a way to tell people about my posts every week. My sister suggested I join Facebook and connect with some old friends and relatives to at least share it with them. So, I reluctantly signed up for an account. BOOM! Blast after blast came flooding from the past! Suddenly I was seeing the faces of my high school—even elementary school–classmates who had completely disappeared from my life more than 20 years before. Some were friends then, some barely acquaintances.

Initially, I told myself that I would just connect with them for the purpose of the blog, as the entire exercise seemed extremely awkward to me. Much to my surprise, however, instead of being repulsed by the idea of becoming “friends” with these characters from my past, I became quite tickled by discovering all about their new lives. As a voracious learner, I delighted in studying their posts to meet their families and friends, and also to learn about their pastimes and passions. My wife had many occasions to roll her eyes as I sounded like a great-grandpa musing, “This Facebook thing is REALLY COOL!”

It wasn’t long before I developed a minor addiction, making it a habit to catch up on my Newsfeed each night. It was during this time that I confirmed my long-held concern that Facebook could take up a lot of time. To counter that, though, were the warm feelings that stemmed from making the kind of modern-day connections that come from “likes” and comments on posts. It was so cool to get a like on a blog post from someone in my Advanced Algebra class or a happy comment from one of my pals from fifth grade. In the midst of my otherwise-unsocial existence, where I hardly speak to anyone outside of my house, here I was being touched with a little sense of community. I was simultaneously surprised and thrilled by it. Hence, “This Facebook thing is REALLY COOL!” 

Other than the simple delight of these little moments of cyber-connection, my big “A-HA!” from my year or so on Facebook is that, in following all of these “friends,” I have come to wish that some of them actually would be my friends. Real friends. Human ones, not electronic ones. In following people’s posts in my daily check of the Newsfeed, I feel like I have gotten a real sense of how some people are (or at least how I imagine them to be). Some of it is the articles, videos, or memes that they share. Some of it is what they write about their experience of the world. Some of it is their family photos and captions. Those things are very intriguing to me. The rest comes from what they like or comment on from my posts, as I am very sensitive to that.

The end result is that I have this handful of people that I feel a real affinity to, who I would very much like to be put in the same room with for a few days to see if we would save the world somehow, or at least become true friends. I am not talking about people that were my best friends before but we somehow lost touch along the way. No, I am talking about people who I either hardly knew at all, knew only when we were young kids, or were only somewhat friendly with but hardly thought of making the effort to keep tabs on. Now, however, through the magic of Facebook, I wish these “friends” were my friends. They are:

  • Stephanie—I honestly have no recollection of any level of friendship with her in high school–no specific memories at all—but now I find her an inspiration and a delight. I love all of the stuff she posts about, and she says nice things about my kids’ pictures (the easy way to get on this list!). She is thoroughly positive, which is endlessly appealing to me.
  • John—I think I last heard from him in seventh grade and were on okay terms before that, but I love the specific comments he has made on my posts, and I like the energy of his.
  • Susan—We were decent friends in high school, but I haven’t seen her since. She posts a lot about parenting her brood of kids, one who has special needs. I love the honesty with which she shares, and no matter how funny or self-deprecating the story is, I can feel the gratitude oozing from my screen. I can just tell that she is an awesome parent and role model.
  • Jillian—She is actually not a school friend but a second cousin and much younger than I, who I mostly knew when she was a little kid. She fits in here because I now love following her posts as a mother of a little one. It is so clear how much she appreciates her life and the gift of parenthood.
  • Kassie—This one is not a childhood acquaintance but rather someone who I crossed paths with a few times through work many years ago. Now, I absolutely LOVE following her story, which includes overcoming the deepest grief, battling to be healthy, and finding love and peace wherever you are. She is an amazing inspiration to me from afar. Then, once in a while, she sneaks me a little comment that never fails to lift me up.

There are others, of course, that make me very grateful that I finally joined the modern world and Facebook. The common themes that hook me and make me wish we could all get together in one room seem to be gratitude and positivity. These people are a wonderful reminder of what I need to be better at delivering to the people in my own world, both on Facebook and to the flesh-and-blood humans I meet and know. I want it to be clear from everything I say, write, and do. In the end, I just want to be the kind of guy that someone would want to be friends with.

How about you? Are there people in your world—real or cyber—that you would like to be real friends with? Open up your journal and make a list of them. From what part of your life do they come? High school? Work acquaintances? Relatives? What is it about each of them that you are drawn to? Is there a common theme—like my gratitude and positivity—or does each appeal to you for different reasons? How good of a job have you done at staying in touch with your friends from the different stages of your life? Have the relationships that have faded over the years done so for good reason? Are you like me and maintain the same feelings and faithfulness to people no matter how much time passes, or do your relationships fade in your heart with the passage of time? What role has Facebook played in rekindling your old relationships? Do you use it mostly as a voyeur, or do you post and comment often as well to share your story? Have you discovered people whose posts and comments you are very much drawn to, who you would like to become true friends with even though you never were before? How odd does that seem to you? How great? I love to discover something new and wonderful, especially in a person. How about you? Leave me a reply and let me know: Who are the Facebook “friends” you would like to become real friends with, and why?

Be unabashedly YOU,

William