Work is the curse of the reading class, or the virtue of reading

Work is the curse of the reading class.

How many books did you read last year? According to some reports, one in four Americans did not read a single book in the last twelve months. Three out of the four who did read in the last year read only one book. But the reports are even more dismal when a distinction is made between any books and books of literature. For example, books on business, cooking, gardening or self-help are in a different category from books of literature. Further, books on business and marketing by Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin or Simon Sinek are not considered literary works. Books by Dante, Plato and Shakespeare are works of high literature. Books of literature by American authors include Flannery O’Connor, Robert Frost and Thornton Wilder.

My own reading pattern shadows the national trend. This discourages me. Years ago I read more than 50 books a year. In addition to that, I used to read several literary journals, magazines and newspapers on the bus ride to the office each day. It was a delicious and robust period of time. But life interrupted this reading regimen. A dream job, mega commute, cross-country move, career change, new job at a legacy media organization, and more commuting disrupted my reading habits.

It is a struggle for me to completely read one single book from cover to cover. The desk in front of the window holds eight books. I may have to return all these to the public library partially read. Or renew them. The library must be weary of me renewing a copy of a theological book. I must have renewed it several times over the last few months. One report I read stated the reason people do not read books is due to their busy work/life balance.

Great disruption.

The interruption to the reading habit is due in part to the daily commute. 90 minutes a day spent traveling from home to work. Public transit would be nice. However, no public transit system services the rural communities surrounded by cultivated fields and farmland. Travel accounts for more than 15 days of my time each year. And then there are the long hours of production work. The job is mentally demanding. My fatigued mind only desires to turn on the record player and go to sleep when I return home.

Solution.

Most Americans spend more than two hours each day on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. That equals more than 40 days a year. From an economic stand point that seems like a lot of wasted productivity. What that means in practical terms is that my social media feeds are on life support. I do not spend time on Facebook or Twitter at all. LinkedIn occasionally. And I deleted my Instagram account. Eliminating social media activity allowed me to reclaim some of the time lost to commuting and work.

Great books.

A second action put into practice during the last few years included reading great books of literature. Mostly. Plato’s The Republic, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery, The Autobiographies of Frederick Douglas, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina are some of the books read during the last year and a half. The classical education curriculum of my children helped me form a list of great books to read. I added a few books to the list to include Asian and Near Eastern studies. I explored Basho’s The Narrow Road, an anthology of Rumi, Hafix and Lalla, and Ryokan’s Sky Above, Great Wind. Most recently I attempted to read and compare three different translations of Dante’s Divine Comedy. An ambitious task that I failed. Ended up focusing on selected cantos for comparison before the books were shuffled back to the public library.

The virtue of reading.

Why is reading books, especially, great books, important? The virtue of being well-read is the goal. Do not leave it up to the academics and professionals to read great books. C. S. Lewis wrote that “the simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism.” He continued by encouraging readers to acquire firsthand knowledge of the source material rather than to rely on secondhand commentary. Being a well-read individual has the potential to foster a civilized society. But you must be vigilant, designate time, pick up a book and read it cover to cover.

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[Podcast] Pageantry of vanity

NOV 2014 iTunes Image

What would you tell someone if they told you that your internet behavior was categorically a mental illness? How much time do you spend on Facebook, Tumblr? or other social media sites? How does this affect your real life relationships? Do you prefer e-books to physical pulp and ink books? These and other confessions are the topic of this episode of the Coffeehouse Junkie audio podcast.

Listen to the Coffeehouse Junkie on:
PodOmatic: coffeehousejunkie.podomatic.com
SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/coffeehousejunkie


Naomi MarieSpecial thanks to Naomi Marie for permission to use her song on the show. She is a born and bred Midwestern minstrel or sorts. Transplanted from the rich musical culture of the twin cities, she has discovered a fresh folk sound and form from the third coast of Lake Michigan. Having recently released her first full length, Primary Colors, in May of 2014, she sets to connect with friends, fans and artists in continued pursuit of her music’s authentic expressions.

Here are some links:
twitter: @naomimarieandco
website: naomimariemusic.org
facebook: /naomimariemusic
iTunes: Album – Primary Colors

Excited. Nervous.

Putting final touches on the upcoming Coffeehouse Junkie audio podcast.

The podcast is exciting, to me anyway, because it explores a topic that interests many — social media. As a teaser, here’s a question: would your internet behavior be considered a mental illness?

The podcast makes me nervous because it is part confession.

For readers of this blog, it will be available before the weekend.

Pageantry of vanity

It sort of overturns my apple cart when a script for an upcoming podcast — that I have worked on for months — seems to be summed up in under four minutes . . . on Youtube . . .

How much time do you spend on Facebook?

FB-Screen-shot-2014-08-22

In a GTD[1] effort to increase productivity, I studied my online activity this spring using time tracking software. Currently self-employed, I wanted to make sure time is not wasted but used wisely.

For the most part, social media is out. Same goes for video games and online audio and video streaming sites (not that I ever play video games online anyone, but I do allow myself to listen to music and audio podcasts while working).

A couple times during this period I noticed that the weekly report showed that I spent four hours on Facebook. I was shocked. Maybe I left the computer on while running an errand (which could take hours due to my current rural location) and left the internet browser window open during that whole time. I made immediate efforts to close that open loop of un-productivity.

Those reports intrigued me and I wanted to find out how many hours most Americans spend on Facebook per day. According to a 2011 source, the average American spends

“15.5 minutes … on Facebook every single day.”[2]

But, as you know, three years ago is a century ago in the digital world. A 2013 study reports that an

“average user spends 23 hours a week emailing, texting and using social media and other forms of online communication.”[3]

23 hours! That is a lot of online time. But that statistic does not surprise me. As a professional graphic designer, I spend at least 40 hours a week in front of a screen. And now, most design and communication applications are cloud based or at least supported online. So, as you can see by the screen shot at the beginning of this post, much of my time is designing books, book covers and other marketing and print materials while listening to podcasts or music.

A month ago a new report says

“the average American now spends 40 minutes a day checking a Facebook feed.”[4]

That is a huge increase from three years ago — 280 minutes a week spent on Facebook. 4.6 hours a week. 18 hours a month! I can layout a 240-page book in that time and maybe have time left over to design the book cover (of course, that depends on editor and author changes and corrections, but I digress).

I am sure there is a lot of news from family and friends that I miss by avoiding Facebook. But when you are self-employed those 18 hours can be used resourcefully and effectively to provide for your household — and to secure and maintain future clients. Or, at least, that is the strategy.

NOTES:
[1] GTD, or Getting Things Done. http://lifehacker.com/productivity-101-a-primer-to-the-getting-things-done-1551880955
[2] “You Spend 8 Hours Per Month on Facebook” by Ben Parr, September 30, 2011, accessed August 22, 2014, http://mashable.com/2011/09/30/wasting-time-on-facebook/
[3] “Americans Spend 23 Hours Per Week Online, Texting” by David Mielach, July 2, 2013, accessed August 22, 2014, http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/4718-weekly-online-social-media-time.html
[4] “Americans Now Spend More Time on Facebook Than They Do on Their Pets” by Joshua Brustein, July 23, 2014, accessed August 22, 2014, http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-07-23/heres-how-much-time-people-spend-on-facebook-daily

Quote: “No take-backs, no do-overs.”

In social media there are no take-backs, no do-overs.

—Ronnie, “Beware the Dark Side” (via Develop Socially)

Meformer, informer, which one are you?

Meformer or Informer

“Meformer” (vs “informer”) is not a new term,[1] but for some reason it is making its rounds on social media the last few[2] months.[3]

NOTES:
[1] Jennifer Van Grove, Mashable,  “STUDY: 80% of Twitter Users Are All About Me”, September 29, 2009, accessed July 15, 2014, http://mashable.com/2009/09/29/meformers/
[2] Patrick Allan, LifeHacker, “Be an Informer, Not a ‘Meformer’, To Get More Followers On Social Media”, May 29 2014, accessed July 15, 2014, http://lifehacker.com/be-an-informer-not-a-meformer-to-get-more-followers-1583508468
[3] Kirk Englehardt, LinkedIn, “Are you a Twitter ‘Informer’ or ‘Meformer’?”, June 03, 2014, accessed July 15, 2014,
https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140603184736-3091133-are-you-a-twitter-informer-or-meformer

Plan on- and offline activities

DSCN1707tiltshiftTheArtistLomoHow do you manage your online and offline activities? Okay, I am assuming you do manage your online and offline activities. For many people, time management is something that is not practiced–especially as it relates to blogging and social media. If you have an idea or thought, you post it on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook or blog it.

True confession: I was one of those who did not manage online and offline activities. When I finally purchased a smartphone, I immediately downloaded all the latest and greatest social media mobile apps to stay connected. Or, at least, that was the reasoning. It was difficult for me to understand why some of my friends (online and in-real-life) were not more engaged in social media. For the most part, I disregarded them off as neo-luddites. Yes, I was a social media snob.

That all changed when I joined the ranks of the mega-commuters.[1] With long commutes to the office, there is limited time to engage in blogging and social media with out planning. Or at least, not a safe way to do it while driving through city traffic and mountains roads. Additionally, with the weight of leadership decisions and somewhere between 50 to 75 tasks per week, I rarely check my personal email or check social networks until the weekend.

So, for the last year or so my blogging and social media posts and updates have been automated. More accurately, most blog posts are scheduled using a WordPress feature and social media posts and updates scheduled using Hootsuite.

Saturday mornings or Sunday nights tend to be the time when I write online posts/updates. However, that doesn’t seem the best time to engage people. A couple articles I read [2] [3] suggest when the best time to post content on blogs and social media. So, I preschedule the posts, tweets, and other social media updates on the weekend. Sometimes I preschedule posts and updates as much as 14 days to a month in advance.

The downside of automating posts and updates as the lack of engagement. Sure, the content gets out there on a regular basis, but there’s little or no conversation taking place. This also means I miss a lot of the activity and conversation that is taking place on blogs and social networks. Some Saturday mornings I will spend a whole hour replying to comments on social media sites from the previous week. The point of social media is sharing and interaction.

In a manner of speaking and due to my present circumstances, I’ve sort of become one of those neo-luddites I used to snarkily snicker at. It’s humbling to realize how much of an idiot I had been regarding social media snobbery. Not everyone has the luxury of being accessible to social media. And, quite honestly, terra will continue her daily rotation speed of 1070 miles per hour regardless of my social media activity (or lack thereof).

NOTES:
[1] Matt Stiles, “Interactive: Compare Your Commute To The Nation’s Longest,” NPR’s The Two-Way, March 5, 2013 accessed April 23, 2013 http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/03/05/173515882/interactive-compare-your-commute-to-nations-longest
[2] Daniel Zeevi, “STUDY: When is the Best Time to Publish a Blog Post?,” Dashburst.com, February 4, 2013 accessed April 23, 2013 http://dashburst.com/report/best-time-to-blog/
[3] Samantha Murphy, “The Best and Worst Times to Share on Facebook, Twitter,” Mashable.com, May 9, 2012 accessed April 23, 2013 http://mashable.com/2012/05/09/best-time-to-post-on-facebook/

Why share your work in social networks?

One of the book cover designs I promote on the social network Behance.

One of the book cover designs I promote on the social network Behance.

“Why share our work in social networks?” was a question recently asked on a professional forum. My reply: two reasons: 1) promotion and 2) personal brand. It was a Malcolm-Gladwell-Blink response and I clicked the “add comment” button without much thought (which is not my usual practice). My thoughts still linger on that question, “Why…?”

A few months ago I came across a few articles asking the question “Does social media promote or enable narcissism?” [1] [2] The article that impacted me most was from a source I never read. In the post, the author, Dodai Stewart, reflects on piece in The New Yorker and her comments are stinging and self-revelatory.

Just look around: Between Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest, the whole ME ME ME thing has swept the nation. Here are MY thoughts, MY pictures, MY shopping wish lists! We call it sharing, but it’s just egoistic self-indulgence, usually. LET ME TELL YOU WHAT I WANT. But wait: Enough about me… what do you think about me? [3]

Hm, narcissism and self-absorption. Herein rests the lingering thoughts of a week or so ago.

As a professional, promoting my goods, services and whatnot help to grease the gears of capitalism, right? Conventional wisdom (or at least American business wisdom), purports that if consumers are not aware of your product/service, customers will not purchase from ME. So, I am advised by business owners and other professionals to promote MY skills, services, products, etc. And not only that, I need to establish MY personal brand (so that consumers can be more emotionally and psychologically invested in the products/services I provide).

Maybe social networks are not promoting narcissism and self-absorption as much as one might think. There may be a greater systemic issue that only social networks magnify.

NOTE: [1] Tara Parker-Pope, “Does Facebook Turn People Into Narcissists?,” New York Times, May 17, 2012 accessed January 2, 2013 http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/does-facebook-turn-people-into-narcissists/ [2] Steve Tobak, “Social networks and the narcissism epidemic,” CBSNEWS Money Watch, August 29, 2012, accessed January 2, 2013 http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-57502035/social-networks-and-the-narcissism-epidemic/ [3] Dodai Stewart, “Self-Absorbed Is the New Normal,” Jezebel, June 26, 2012, accessed January 2, 2013 http://jezebel.com/5921468/self+absorbed-is-the-new-normal.

What does a goat and a mule have in common with social media?

There’s an old proverb that goes something like this: one should avoid the front of a goat, the back of a mule, and every side of a fool. If you don’t want a private message, comment or opinion printed in 60 point, bold type headlines on the front of The New York Time, you shouldn’t email it, tweet it, post it to Facebook or your blog. That’s what prompted the following advice to job seekers:

1.) Don’t post inappropriate pictures or make any comments on the web that could be offensive to anybody.  If they’re already up, delete them now!

2.) Mark all of your settings on any type of social media as private.  Don’t let people who aren’t connected to you view your pictures or read your comments.  If friends posted a ridiculous comments, delete them now!

3.) If you want to share your personal beliefs, call a friend.  Don’t share them through social media.

4.) Google yourself because future employers will.  If you find things that you don’t think a future employer would like, find a way to get rid of it!

5.) I’ve shared all of the negative things about social media but don’t forget that there are a lot of positive things too.  If you’re actively volunteering, fundraising, running a marathon, or writing a motivational blog these are all things that can help you get a job.  Make sure these are public to future employers.

Link

It’s just common sense and good business practice. Yet it seems missing from the American culture as people display their most private details and opinions. If you truly want to maintain private details avoid the internet entirely. But if you are using the internet for social media and emailing, remember that the internet is immediate, permanent, and global.