Exhaustion is my worst best friend.
I call Exhaustion my worst best friend because, as worst friends go, he sucks all of my energy. He causes me pain. I feel him in my achy joints. My battles with his sidekick, plantar fasciitis, are legendary.
Exhaustion is my also my “bestie” because he’s constantly reminding me that I don’t really need to feel fatigued, that I can say “no” to things, that I can put off those nagging chores for another day.
It’s not Exhaustion’s fault. I constantly feed him with more reasons to stick around. I see a pesky task and say, “Oh, I should do that now.” Or I get a new opportunity at work and think, “Oh, I should definitely do that.”
All the while, there’s Exhaustion, hanging from my sore shoulder, with a stupid grin on his face, shaking his head.
We know each other well, and quite frankly, he takes advantage of me every day.
The only way to keep pace with Exhaustion is to maintain a running list of my professional and personal chores. It’s a to-do list to end all to-do lists.
Recently I’ve found that keeping a list holds Exhaustion’s daily visits to a minimum. This list also makes those around me a little happier.
Case in point: as my wife loves to do (when I’m vulnerable and Exhaustion is sipping a beer), she cracks off a list of things that must be accomplished around the home. Mostly she’s just making polite small talk. She’s trying to reconnect with me at the end of a busy day. But the responsible husband in me can’t escape the “honey-do” list and check-boxes that flash before my eyes.
Exhaustion has now gone from sipping his beer to chugging it. He’s got work to do.
I whip out my trusty, dusty smartphone and open Google’s “Keep” app. It has a prominent place next to Facebook and Twitter on my smartphone’s home screen. It makes my wife happy to see these items added to my important list.
Keep “keeps” me organized and quiets Exhaustion’s drunken laughter. I can open the app and create a new list or edit an old one. My favorite feature is the ability to archive completed lists (and on really good days, deleting them).
These lists also help at 3:00 AM, when I wake in a cold sweat, afraid I’ll forget what needs to be done the next day. Keep helps ease my mind and lull me back to sleep. This is because I can share those lists with co-workers, family and friends, and they can add to and edit the list as needed.
I’m not alone in my relationship with Exhaustion. Thanks to apps like Keep, I’m able to spend more time with my family and friends. At the end of the day, those are the only relationships that really matter.
Being in a bad mood is not a good look for me. I know this because my wife and kids call me “Shrek” when I get grumpy.
Imagine a comical, ogre-like guy stomping around the house, letting out the occasional “hrumpf” with a frown, smoke coming from his ears. Although my bad moods are rare, that’s what I look like on a bad day.
Maybe you know someone who resembles these features.
It used to be that if I wanted the rest of the world beyond my home to share in my gloom, I’d turn to social media. Misery loves company, and there’s lots of miserable company on social media.
Of course, those days are gone. I learned my lesson. Heeding the advice I’ve shared in past columns, I steer clear of social media on bad days.
It’s easy to understand the allure of social media for sharing angry thoughts. After all, no one really wants to be angry. It doesn’t feel good. So, some claim benefits to posting melancholy moments online. Some users claim they get a therapeutic-type release from publicly posting their rants.
If this is true—that posting rants provides relief—what was the outlet for our “relief” before social media? Certainly we had some other venue for sharing our dark days.
The truth is, when we wanted to vent pre-social media, we talked to our family. We called our friends. Some of us wrote in diaries or we penned letters to local papers or political leaders. We’ve also become a nation obsessed with winning the Online Outrage Olympics, or the OOOs as I like to call them (pronounced “ohhhs,” as in “Oh no! Not another rant!”).
Never heard of the OOOs? It’s a battle to see who can be the most ticked off on the hot-button, social-political issue of the day. There are no rules, but there are many judges. There are no visible boundary lines marking the social media court, but if you go outside of the lines, some will tell you.
There are no medals.
There are no ceremonies.
There are no winners.
Maybe some social media users will be outraged by my take on their bad moods. I suspect they’ll take to their favorite platform to express their displeasure.
I hope they don’t, but if they do, get ready for the next OOOs.
Rather than preparing for the next Outrage Olympics, we should remember take time to breath and cool down. Sharing our thoughts offline with those closest to us is probably a bit more therapeutic than sharing our rage on Facebook.
You might not look as silly as me (i.e., Shrek), but I challenge you to find anyone who looks good in a bad mood.
No one looks good in a bad mood.
We look worse when share those bad moods online.
Some technological innovations take a little longer than others to catch on. Some never do.
Our neighbors owned a Betamax in the mid-80s. I walked around with a minidisc player in the mid-90s. Both inventions still serve as sad punch lines to bad tech jokes.
The same cannot be said for the success of the podcast. As inventions go, this one is a head-scratcher.
Adam Curry and Dave Winer receive co-credit with the birth of podcasting. Winer created the software for syndicating audio feeds in the early-2000s. If you’ve heard the term “RSS feed,” that’s Winer’s work. Curry is credited with launching some of the first content for podcasts in 2004.
It was technology journalist Ben Hammersley who gave us the term “podcasting” in a 2004 article for The Guardian.
Then nothing; virtual crickets from the podcasting world for the better part of a decade.
Okay, that’s not entirely fair. We’ve had good podcasts available to us since the beginning. It’s just that most of us weren’t listening. Thanks to Apple’s iPod and the addition of podcast downloads to iTunes in 2005, entertaining audio content, rich with news and interviews, started to fill the store.
Downloading podcasts to iPods and computers was really the only way to listen in those early days. But we still weren’t listening. Not like we are today. So what changed?
Two things: 1) better content and 2) better devices.
First, there’s an argument to be made for This American Life’s now infamous 2014 season of Serial as the savior of a stagnate podcasting industry.
Sure, good podcasts were available before Serial. But according to a report published last week by the Pew Research Center on the State of the News Media, the podcasting industry saw a drop in listeners between 2012 and 2013 (about 2-percent).
After Serial, podcast listeners jumped 3-percent. Did Serial save podcasting? Maybe. The series had more than 68 million downloads in 2014 and won several media and entertainment industry awards.
Let’s face it, radio people know audio, and they know how to tell good stories. It probably helped that Serial’s producers had their connections to National Public Radio (NPR).
According to the report, “The average weekly unique users who download NPR podcasts, which include some of the most popular podcasts in the iTunes library, such as Up First and Planet Money, rose from 5.4 million in 2017 to 7.1 million in 2018.”
There’s more and more content made available to us everyday from people who know how to tell great stories.
Second, we have great devices and apps for streaming, downloading and listening to great audio content. If you’re new to podcasting, check out Stitcher, Overcast, SoundCloud to find your favorite content.
Podcasting has enjoyed a slow growth. Now that they have good content and we have the right tech to listen, podcasters have our attention.
I was obsessed with Bigfoot as a kid.
Maybe it was a 1976 episode of The Six Million Dollar Man when Steve Austin battled Bigfoot that got me started. Maybe it was Harry and Hendersons? Full disclosure, I still get sucked in to Animal Planet episodes of Finding Bigfoot.
Maybe I’m still obsessed. After all, I’ve got a lot in common with the big guy.
Like Bigfoot, I’m tall and hairy (well, except for my bald head). I leave large footprints in the ground, trudging through the woods on weekend afternoons looking for wildlife, berries and mushrooms.
At the risk of angering Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) members, I’m not buying it anymore. Chalk it up to too many hoaxes, but every bit of evidence – from pictures to footprints to “droppings” – has been debunked. Not to mention the fact that after 90 episodes of Finding Bigfoot, they’re really found nothing. Nada.
Just like the seemingly endless fascination with the search for Bigfoot, there are endless myths about social media that are easily debunked with just a few facts. And just like Bigfoot, I have two favorites.
Myth #1: Facebook is dying. Or my favorite, “Face-book is dead.” I realize it’s easy to pile on the beast of social media, and kicking them when they’re down seems to be the topic of many tech columns du jour.
“Around seven-in-ten U.S. adults (69 percent) use Facebook, according to a survey conducted in early 2019,” John Gramlich of the Pew Research Center wrote in May. “That’s unchanged since April 2016, but up from 54 percent of adults in August 2012.”
So if that many people are still using Facebook in light of all their many scandals, how is Facebook dead and dying?
They’re not. If those facts aren’t enough to make you a believer, look at the most download applications and you’ll find Facebook and related apps rise to the top in most social media categories.
“With the exception of YouTube... no other major social media platform comes close to Facebook in terms of usage,” Gramlich added.
Myth #2: Twitter is fake news. If this were true, it would stand to reason that fewer Twitter users would report using the microblogging platform to get news.
But as other platforms struggle to offer credible news (e.g., Facebook), Twitter actually has it figured out. Twitter has been proactive in banning and blocking known fake news offenders.
Tom Rosenstiel and his team of researchers at the American Press Institute found that “Three quarters of Twitter news users follow individual journalists, writers and commentators (73 percent) and nearly two thirds follow institutional accounts (62 percent).”
They also found that Twitter users discovered new journalists and writers and followed their work.
Just like Bigfoot, there will always be true believers in social media myths. Now we have some evidence to debunk those myths.
Social media managers are in high demand.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there’s projected growth nationwide in the fields of social media management.
Yes. Youngstown has social media jobs, too.
In our region (Youngstown, Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Columbus, Erie, Pittsburgh), the projected growth for social media managers for the next 10 years is up 17 percent.
That’s good news for those studying in fields such as communication, journalism, public relations and marketing.
If you’re studying social media management, there will be jobs when you graduate. You just need to have the right tools to manage social media accounts.
More on those tools in a minute.
Even with this demand, you’d be surprised how many people shy away from social media as a career opportunity, fearful that it’s a passing fad or that these jobs will dry up as companies make cuts in the wake of bad press, lawsuits and government regulation.
With all the hits Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms have absorbed, they still dominate many marketing discussions around the world.
In the realm of social media, Facebook is still king with its 2-billion-plus users. Twitter, Instagram and YouTube still have millions of MAUs (that’s social media lingo for “monthly active users”).
To reach those MAUs, you need to have the right tools or, at least, know where to access them. Once you access the tools, learning how to use them takes a little time and patience.
When we use the term “social media manager,” we’re referring to someone with the skills to effectively and efficiently manage a social media account.
Whether we’re members of a social media team in a large company or we’re managing social media for individual clients, we use these tools to build accounts and to collaborate with other social media managers all over the world.
Landing lucrative social media manager gigs requires knowledge of the field, and knowing how to use management tools.
“The best social media management tools meet a variety of needs, from marketing to customer service to social selling,” social media expert Christina Newberry recently posted to the Hootsuite blog.
“They allow different teams within an organization to use social media. They encourage collaboration and make social media efforts more effective and efficient.”
Newberry suggests managers know how to utilize message scheduling tools. This includes knowing when to schedule to reach the highest number of users.
We’re constantly refining what we believe students need to know to enter the workforce.
We focus on social media listening, when (and when not to) respond to customers, and how to interact appropriately.
We teach content curation, how to evaluate message effectiveness and how to build a library of content – all tools Newberry recommends.
Social media management jobs are out there. Having the right tools will make those jobs easier to land.
When I visited my grandma in the last few years of her life, we spent our time in front of a small TV watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. She loved those shows, shouting out answers, cursing as contestants who spewed “stupid” answers, gushing over funny quips from “Alex” (Trebek) and “Pat” (Sajak).
She referred to them by first names only: Alex and Pat. To her they were good friends.
Even as a teenager, I worried about all the TV she watched. Being strapped to an oxygen tank in a one-bedroom garage apartment didn’t allow for much mobility, so leisurely activities were limited. There wasn’t much to do but eat and watch TV when I visited.
It made her happy. Sure, she was happy I was there, but TV made her happy even when I wasn’t.
TV was a functional surrogate. She laughed at Alex, her brain fully-engaged, rifling off answers (in the form of questions, of course) on Jeopardy. I later realized that grandma’s legendary crossword skills were particularly useful during Wheel of Fortune.
This was the mid-80s. Grandma had one TV in the living room. There were no other screens. No iPads. No smartphones.
Now we live in a world dominated by screens. My mom, like my grandma (her mother), is now homebound with limited mobility. I doubt my mom would be happy with just one screen. She likes TV, but she loves her iPhone. It’s always in her hand or charging nearby.
That’s not a bad thing.
Gretchen Livingston of the Pew Research Center reported last week that Americans over the age of 60 are spending more time on screens than a decade ago.
“Screen time has increased for those in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond, and the rise is apparent across genders and education levels,” Livingston said.
Of course, the increase in screen time is linked to a willingness among older Americans to actually adopt new technologies. But technology adoption didn’t happen overnight for older Americans. In the mid-2000s, more families started purchasing computers and other screens for older family member as a means for staying better connected.
“In 2000, 14% of those ages 65 and older were internet users; now 73% are,” Livingston said. “And while smartphone ownership was uncommon at all ages around the turn of the 21st century, now about half of people 65 and older are smartphone owners.”
My mom is a wonderful grandma to our kids. But participating in all grandkid-related activities can’t happen anymore. So for her, screen time is a must. She’s a wiz with that iPhone. She loves to text our kids, sharing funny videos and memes.
TV made my grandma happy, but screen time makes my mom happy because she feels more connected to the world beyond the TV in her living room.
One of my favorite movies is James L. Brooks’ “Broadcast News.” It’s a treasure trove of wonderful quotes.
Some of best dialogue comes from a scene involving Jane Craig, the producer, and Paul Moore, the news director.
Moore says, “It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always think you’re the smartest person in the room.”
Craig confidently replies, “No. It’s awful.”
I was reminded of this quote as we wrapped our final social media essentials brown-bag session last week.
As I walked away from the room, I was surprised by the amount of “stuff” I don’t really know about social media.
There. I said it. There’s a lot I don’t know about social media. That’s probably a lot for our (wonderful, amazing) editors at The Vindicator to take in.
I can hear it now: Wait, we’ve been letting this guy write a social media column for five years?
Of course, there’s no reason for me to be even the slightest bit concerned by this revelation. Here’s why.
If I’m the smartest person in the room, then I’m in the wrong room.
Now, I realize that’s a quote that’s been attributed to everyone from Confucius to Steve Jobs. It really doesn’t matter who said it, or how or why they said it, so much as why it’s important when we’re learning or at least open to learning.
Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat – all platforms we covered in our first series – there’s just too much for us to know to think we’ll have more answers than anyone else in the room.
A good case study for this is Snapchat – the topic of our final session.
It was also the least attended of all sessions. I found this last part surprising: the least attended.
Snapchat is the one social media platform about which I hear the most hesitation.
Granted, most of those who attended our last session were not in Snapchat’s “heavy user” demographic of 13- to 18-year-olds. Most admitted they’ve never even used Snapchat.
They were there because they wanted to learn more.
Snapchat instructors, Ryan McNicholas and Matt O’Dell, skillfully guided us through the basics of Snapchat, how it works, what to expect from it in terms of a marketing advantage. But they fully admitted at the beginning, “We don’t have all the answers.”
A room full of 18-year-olds would have had just as tough of a time defining all the advantages and strategies for marketing on the social messaging platform.
Most of us who attended these sessions left with answers to help us feel a little smarter and a little more confident when using social media. We also left with a lot of questions.
Of course, the smartest people who were in the room with us are those out looking for those answers today.
A small creek runs along the border of our property. Most days, when the water is low and the sun is out, you’ll find our kids traipsing through the water, building dams, catching critters and skipping stones.
We’re fortunate to have a big backyard, and our kids know it.
Yes, it’s true. My tech-loving, game-obsessed, YouTube-crazed kids actually like to go outside and play once in a while. This is not to say they’re always eager to go out. It sometimes requires a little coaxing.
“If you go outside, I’ll bring popsicles,” my wife will offer as an enticing reward. We know the currency, and our kids will devour an entire box of frozen pops in one afternoon.
Recently, however, I’ve been luring them outside with tech. “Hey, you guys wanna walk around the yard to see if we can catch some Pokemon,” I ask, in reference to the PokemonGo game app.
They’re often up and looking for an iPad or asking their mom to borrow her smartphone before I can even finish the sentence (yes, I secretly downloaded PokemonGo to my wife’s phone to build my little PokemonGo army).
Lately, however, I’ve been turning to other apps to encourage outdoor fun. Some apps we’ve enjoyed for years, and others we’re just testing for the first time this summer. Below are two of my favorite (well, the second is more of a collection of apps):
Geocaching (Groundspeak Inc.). Geocaching is a free app (with a premium version) that turns all outdoor play into an expedition. Think of it as a massive, worldwide adventure, with small-to-large treasures for you and your team to find.
Some treasures are difficult to find. Some are easy, which is good news for the young “cachers” who just want the thrill of uncovering their first treasure). Some treasures are in local, easily accessible places such as parking lots and parks. Others are in more remote destinations, placed miles deep in the woods and only accessible by hiking trails or abandoned rail lines.
You’ll need to give permission to the app to use the location-based feature of your mobile device. This gives the app your precise location and makes the game much easier to play.
Stargazing. I’m a space geek. My kids insist I’m on a mission to get one of them to land a NASA job. Maybe I am, but for now, we simply enjoying stargazing apps to explore the sky together.
Sky Map is our favorite. It’s free and easy to use. They get a kick out of finding planets and identifying constellations.
Tech experts at Common Sense Media recommend The Night Sky, Redshift Astronomy, Star Chart, Star Walk and Starmap HD among the best apps for observing the night sky with your future astronauts.
I’d love to hear about apps you use for exploring the outdoors. Post a message or email me with your favorites.
There are a myriad of problems with trying to be an 18-year-old influencer. Here are three of the biggest.
Problem one: being 18 years old.
As a case study, I offer Ariana Renee. Ariana, better known as @Arii on Instragram, is an 18-year-old influencer. @Arii raised a few eyebrows last week for her out-of-touch post “about” her followers.
Yes, “about” her followers. We’ll get back to that in a second.
She’s amassed 2.6 million followers on Instagram, and 7 million on the video platform TikTok (formerly known as musical.ly).
@Arii appears to be an influencer, but appearances are a tricky business on social media.
When the young influencer couldn’t sell a few shirts to launch her own clothing line, you can imagine everyone’s surprise, @Arii included.
How is it that an influencer with that much clout couldn’t sell a few shirts?
She failed. Most influencers would pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and move on to the next project. Most smart influencers (like good business owners) would try to learn something about why a product launch didn’t work.
Not @Arii. Rather than try to learn what went wrong, she went to Instagram to complain about followers who didn’t buy her shirts.
Problem number two: @Arii was complaining about her millions of followers to her millions of followers (yes, this wreaks of entitlement; remember, she’s 18).
Replies to her post erupted. The social media mob mobilized, but not in the way she’d hoped. Although @Arii’s rant was quickly deleted, it was too late. The story of her seemingly detached complaint blew up on social and traditional media, with followers and critics blasting the teen.
Aside from the obvious problem of blaming followers for not buying “merch” (i.e., what the cool kids call “merchandise”), it would appear she might be more of an aggregator than an influencer. That is, she’s amassed a fan base, but she hasn’t really figured out how to activate them beyond clicking a heart icon.
Problem number three: she thinks her followers are her customers.
In the online world, customers will follow, but they want to be part of something bigger, part of a community. For @Arii and other influencers, it should never be about how many followers they have. It’s more about how loyal they are and how connected they feel to the community.
Good influencers are ambassadors of the online communities.
Truth be told, I didn’t know @Arii before this. I even asked my kids and they only kind of knew her. Yes, I watched her videos. She’s talented, but she has a lot to learn about business, communication and the world of social media.
She also has a lot to learn about failure.
It’s OK to fail, especially at her age.
It’s also time for @Arii to dust herself off, own it and apologize as a first step to reconnecting with her community.
I’m fascinated with the Youngstown subreddit.
Do a Google search of “Reddit Youngstown,” and the first result you’ll find is a link to a community interested in all-things-Youngstown, users who love reading stories and sharing information about our region.
A subreddit is merely a forum for a specific topic on Reddit.
You’ll know you’re in a subreddit when “/r/” is in the web address. So, for the Youngstown subreddit, the web address is www.reddit.com/r/Youngstown.
There are subreddits for just about any topic you can imagine. Health. Jobs. Trump. Top subreddits focus on topics such as “science,” “worldnews,” “todayilearned,” and the most popular forum, “funny.”
Youngstown’s subreddit has more than 1,400 members. Posts from visitors to the region ask about parks and hiking trails, shopping and restaurants, concert venues and other entertainment, and community members respond.
Some members share links to and comment on stories from local media, such as The Vindicator.
The first post you’ll find on most subreddits is from a forum moderator.
“This thread is meant to discuss events happening this week in the Youngstown area as well as any other general discussion topics regarding the city,” the Youngstown subreddit reads. “If you have an event you would like to promote, you are encouraged to comment about it on this thread. Make sure to include important details such as date, time and location.”
Moderators of Youngstown’s subreddit are also guides, ensuring the content we find fits the purpose of the forum.
Moderators help members, cautioning those who create posts with missing information. They might also remove content that inappropriate for the forum.
A word of caution for new Reddit users: Searching the word “Youngstown” in the Reddit search engine will provide you with a more eclectic collection of posts and forums, and some content you may not want to see.
When you create your account, set filters for your news feed. Otherwise you’re bound to see adult-related material. Reddit defines these kinds of posts as NSFW (not safe for work) content. Of course, Reddit could easily expand that definition to “not safe for home” or “not safe anywhere,” but I digress.
Want to shut off adult posts?
When you set up a Reddit account, click on your profile name and select user settings. From there, you’ll find a menu of options for managing your account, including “feed settings.” If you want to avoid the adult post, shut off “adult content.” This will eliminate some (but not all) of the seedy posts.
When I posted my own question about this column, it was a moderator who replied almost immediately, although plenty of community members posted their reasons for being active subreddit users.
Many of them simply encouraged readers to join.
Watching over an online community requires a good, patient moderator. In the case of a Reddit group, this often means the community needs more than one moderator.
When I posted a query to the Youngstown subreddit community about this column, two local moderators were the first to reply.
Meet Zach Perkins and Zack Ziegler, two of Youngstown subreddit’s dedicated moderators. They come from slightly different backgrounds, but the one thing they have in common is their passion for Youngstown.
I asked about what keeps him interested in the community. Perkins, a senior at Cardinal Mooney High School, noted that the subreddit is one of Youngstown’s largest online communities for discussions related to the area.
What really interests him is the positive nature of those discussions.
“Even if community members have different political beliefs, they usually don’t attack each other too harshly but have civil arguments instead,” Perkins said.
Ziegler, a freelance graphic designer and Austintown-Fitch graduate, believes subreddit members do a great job of posting information about the area from a variety of sources.
“There’s content from media outlets like CNBC, the Business Journal, and of course, The Vindicator,” Ziegler said. “There’s also plenty of original content in the form of photos, memories, questions and suggestions. All of these sources can be found in one simple spot. As we grow, so will the content from areas outside the Valley.”
Some subreddit members use the community to meet other people with interests similar to their own. “It’s a good way to meet new people,” Perkins said. “If your new to the area or just have a question, you’ll get a quick response to it on the Youngstown subreddit.”
Ziegler agrees. He also thinks it’s one of the best ways community members can help the network.
“We have plenty of residents and visitors asking for recommendations on housing, restaurants and the night life that usually result in a lot of responses,” Ziegler added. “From incoming YSU students to travelers stopping in Youngstown for the night, looking for a bite to eat, we do our best to answer their questions.”
Most moderators don’t know each other personally. They’re simply dedicated to cultivating a positive online community. So it surprised Ziegler to learn that his fellow moderator, Perkins, was a high-school senior.
“He’s very aware of the area around us and well educated on current events,” Ziegler added. “I think the rest of the [subreddit] could learn a thing or two from him.”
Zielger and Perkins want the community to grow and flourish.
“We have a weekly events post, and we encourage anyone to add to it, whether it’s a high-school play, a local band or even people looking for that extra card player,” Ziegler said.
To learn more, to join and contribute, or just read the posts, visit the Youngstown subreddit at www.reddit.com/r/youngstown.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.