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The Grand Social Media Experiment. We learn by doing.


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7 Days of Blogging – #7 – To Learn

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So my 7 days of blogging turned into 7 days spread out over 10, but I finished my challenge! Here is my blog #7 entitled To Learn…

I spent most of the last year of my life learning. It started in December last year, when I heard from the MN Workforce Center of a social media class I could take at Takoda AIOIC – Institute of Higher Learning. I knew I wanted to up my skill set, so I signed up. In January, I took the class and through it, learned of the Public Relations Specialist Program they also offered.

I always thought that public relations was about having to be in front of a camera (I am absolutely a behind the camera kind of gal!), but soon realized I that had actually been doing public relations for the past 20+ years of my life in one capacity or another. I jumped at the chance to enter the program after hearing about the classes involved: Creative Writing, Writing for Public Relations, Public Speaking, Marketing, Graphic Design, Fundraising, Event-Planning, more Social Media to name a few.

It was a fun scavenger hunt and scramble to put together my past grades from high school to various universities, do some required testing and gather other required documentation to enter the program. I managed to get everything in by the deadline and finally started in March.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use the change the world.

 ~Nelson Mandela

 

We were a cohort of nine to start, and five of us who started together, ended the program together. Four of the original group left the program and two other lovely individuals had started before us but had to take a break for a block, and rejoined with us in the second block. We were the Super 7 throughout our second block, and part of the third. Unfortunately one of the seven, again had to leave. Still following? The six that made it through are from different personalities, races, cultures and walks of life, and each one is a creative, beautiful and extremely strong woman.

I cannot speak for the others, but now that the program is at conclusion, I am proud of what we all accomplished together and separately. There were some tough times and each of us had our individual struggles on top of accomplishing a 2-year program in 9 months, but I think we all learned about many topics that will bring us further in life. Plus we developed friendships in a unique experience that had us spending more time with each other than our own families in the past months.

I can also personally say that I learned a lot about myself as well. This has been such a positive experience for me in that I have learned many new skills, skills that I am already putting to use in my internship, my personal social media plan and building my website. More importantly, I rediscovered pieces of me that were “sleeping,” and I am very glad they woke up. I feel empowered and have the strength to “get out there.” I may have feelings of anticipation but I am not afraid. I am ready for new challenges.

Thank you to my fellow cohort, thank you to the instructors that taught me so much, and thank you to the wonderful staff of Takoda… I could not have done it without you.

~Christine Dietsche

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7 Days of Blogging – #6 – Social Emotion and Grief

deathI have been thinking a lot about how we deal with death and grief on social media, and this can be viewed as a kind of Part 2 to my 7 days of blogging #5, Five Equals Robin. A friend of mine just recently lost her husband. Within a year of discovery that he had inoperable brain cancer, he was gone. Gone. She decided early on to share their experience and her emotions, and now also her grief, very openly on Facebook. She gave the option to “unfriend her” if you felt it was too much. Too many posts, too much reality, too much emotion, too close to home, just too much. I opted to stay and experience her and her husband’s journey. It was raw and it was visceral and it was real… and it was a beautiful journey. It was (and is) never too much.

It taught me much about community coming together to help in time of need and about collective mourning. These were not our “best” friends, nor people we hung out with on a regular basis, but they needed us to come together as a community to help, and were brave enough to ask for that help. We helped as much as we could (I’m not sure it is ever enough, but I do know we will still be there in the months to come.) Utilizing various social media sites they set up a network of people to help wherever needed.

Caring Bridge is a site giving support to families when they are experiencing health issues and is a great place for information exchange on what is happening without the phone ringing off the hook. Another great site they utilized was Food Tidings, which is a place where they listed needed food items and preferred recipes. We could then schedule ourselves for whenever we could pick something up for them or bring them a warm meal. It may not seem like a big deal, but when going through this, feeding oneself can be a struggle.

These sites make things so much easier, but this is not a new concept. Meghan O’Rourke writes about how a century ago, we were more communal about our grief. The town or community of neighbors would come together to help in times of need, or of grief. This changed during World War 1,

“partly because the sheer numbers of dead made it hard to properly mourn all those who had passed, and partly because psychoanalysis was placing new emphasis on the internal aspects of grief… Americans came to view grief as a private and a psychological function rather than as a communal one. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ “stage theory” of grief, with its emphasis on tidily achieving “acceptance,” became our script for mourning. Death began to take place in the remote hospital, instead of at home; wakes were outsourced to funeral homes; and children lived longer, making sudden death more unusual.”

This man in his forties was blessed to have the option to pass away at home in the arms of his loving wife, and with his beloved pets. Sunlight streamed into the windows, and he could look out to view the garden they had grown together. He got to visit and commune with his loved ones and friends before he passed. Although we may not have been there in person, we were able to experience it with them online because of her ability to share those private moments in such a unique way. Perhaps some felt  the need to “unfriend,”  but for me personally it was (and still is) a privilege to share this reality with her. This is a prime example of how social media has helped to restore the concept of communal mourning.

After his memorial, my husband actually had a hard time with the fact that he’d never really gotten to hang out with this person whom he’d never met but was so similar to, and now he was gone. Luckily there are many stories online to keep his memory alive forever and others will get to know this man as so many of the rest of us have.

“I hope it is true that a man can die and yet not only live in others but give them life, and not only life, but that great consciousness of life.”   ~Jack Kerouac

 

Please remember, it may not “be for you”, but please respect that there may be others who need to grieve within an online community, and that it happens to be good healing for them.

 

~Christine Dietsche


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7 Days of Blogging – Five Equals Robin

Life is all about all kinds of emotions and recently, I have been thinking a lot about how we deal with death and grief on social media.

This blog is an updated and abbreviated version of something I wrote shortly after Robin William’s death, and this is why #5 = Robin.

Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poets Society

Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poets Society

The news of Robin Williams’ death on Monday August 11, 2014 shocked the world. That this news created an overwhelming sense of sadness at the loss of someone whom I had never personally met was at first a bit incomprehensible. Why did this loss affect me so? Then I wandered onto my Facebook page to the onslaught of commentary of Rest In Peace and video clips of this man who touched so many people on so many levels. I then realized that he had been a part of my social conscious for almost 40 years. I felt the need to honor this man. I also found it fascinating and somewhat frightening how social media reported and reacted to his death.

Social media will be changed forever due to bad behavior. Twitter quickly re-vamped its user protection policies after a few horrible people posted things to Robin’s daughter Zelda’s account. “We will not tolerate abuse of this nature on Twitter,” Del Harvey, Twitter’s vice president of trust and safety, said in a statement, “We have suspended a number of accounts related to this issue for violating our rules and we are in the process of evaluating how we can further improve our policies to better handle tragic situations like this one. This includes expanding our policies regarding self-harm and private information, and improving support for family members of deceased users.”

Zelda herself had the last word though, “To those he touched who are sending kind words, know that one of his favorite things in the world was to make you all laugh. As Screen shot 2014-11-24 at 1.42.59 AMfor those who are sending negativity, know that some small, giggling part of him is sending a flock of pigeons to your house to poop on your car. Right after you’ve had it washed. After all, he loved to laugh too.”

Robin starred as lead in numerous films, not all of them comedic roles. He won an Oscar for his portrayal of professor Sean Mcguire in Good Will Hunting. Of course it’s mainly the comedies that most remember, especially Mrs. Doubtfire. Robin got social media, always had a joke at the ready, and himself tweeted his photo as Mrs. Doubtfire in response to a certain someone showing up at the Met Gala one year wearing a dress that Robin claimed, he “wore it better!” As always, perfect timing.

Dead Poets Society (John Keating) – 1989
“Why do I stand up here? Anybody? I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.”

 

Dead Poets Society is one my favorite films and one I have watched too many times to count. Ironically, the deep roles Robin played often revolved around dealing with suicide. How strange and very sad that some of the funniest humans have the heaviest hearts.

The news, the tributes and internet chatter about Robin’s death not only allowed people to grieve openly together, it also allowed people to speak out about their own struggles with depression. The silence about mental illness and depression must end. We must have those difficult conversations about a topic that generations have tried to sweep under the rug. Everyone I know has in one way or another been affected by suicide and, unfortunately, many of us with more than one loss due to suicide throughout our lives.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 38,000 people die by suicide every year, and 750,000 more attempt suicide. More people die by suicide annually throughout the world than death by war, murder and natural disasters combined. These staggering numbers makes one reel. How can we prevent these numbers from continuing to increase?

Robin’s death prompted many people who had never spoken about their issues to open up, and more amazingly is that they have done so in a very public forum on the internet. The dialogue needs to continue. Everyone needs to understand that there is no shame in having depression. Start talking. Speak openly and honestly, reach out and talk with someone. Find someone to trust who can be there for support whenever you need it.

~Christine Dietsche


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7 Days of Blogging – The 4-letter Word

 

beachWow. As much as I am enjoying writing my 7 days of blogging, my self-imposed challenge is not going well, timing-wise. I have discovered quite quickly just how important it is to PLAN AHEAD! I thought for sure I’d have the time every day to write a blog. How hard can it be? Well, I discovered quickly that TIME is a huge factor in blogging. This is why blog #4, is about that new 4-letter word: blog.

I did some research, and I know that I am not the only one who struggles with finding the time to do it right. It is important to supply good content, not just writing about “nothing”. Yes, I know, Seinfeld made millions being a show about nothing, but little old me or others who are trying to carve their niche, are finding out quickly that there are millions blogging, but not everyone is being read.

“Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.” 

This Benjamin Franklin quote is spot on, and I’ve also heard that when you start your own blog, be prepared to have two months worth of writing done in advance. This is so that if you get into a time crunch (as I did) you have content ready to post. I truly thought, an hour or two of writing a day, “This will be fun!” But unfortunately I did not take life into account and sometimes other do priorities pop up. Unexpected asks that are just as, or more important than the timing of your blog post.

I am also struggling with what is my blog going to be about? Many claim that a streamlined process and a focused topic is the only way to go. But what if I prefer to muse on life? To tell stories about my pets or crazy travel experiences? To share a good recipe once in awhile? Or simply how I feel about something at that moment in time? Musing on everyday life is preferred by me for now, therefore that will be my start. That decision has been made at least. I want to brand myself and I would like to blog, but it has to be “me.” TBD (“To Be Determined” – I don’t always know acronyms or sometimes simply make them up, therefore don’t assume others know them!) there might be one or two versions of “me” in regards to branding myself!

Luckily there’s some great advice out there. Julie Deneen writes, “Developing an online presence is like building a sand castle at the water’s edge.” Having built a few sand castles in my time, I can relate to that statement! I perked up when I saw her advice about the six word brand. Hmmm, choosing six words to describe me? Then from those six come up with six more words for each that can be more specific descriptions and/or variations. This is how to build my brand? How do I pare it down to six? TBE (“To Be Explored” – now that’s an acronym I just made up, see how I am?) in the future because the wheels are turning as to how you can make things tie in better when you have base words to work from.

Of course this all smacks of planning and organization, but I’m discovering that is what is needed to get good at blogging. Some of you may scoff, “Pishposh! If one can truly write, it comes easy!”

PISHPOSH

Well, my future blog will have to be “me” and I state again, the biggest lesson learned for me this week was about timing and preparation. Therefore, before I launch, I will do some serious planning, writing, brainstorming, re-writing, scheduling, re-writing, and figuring out how to showcase different things in different ways across different platforms.

When you walk the right beach, you are always bound to find a few gems. So yes, the stories will come, but even if you have them, if they aren’t written and that deadline pops up, you may find yourself exclaiming another 4-letter word!

~Christine Dietsche

 

 


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7 Days of Blogging – #3 – Dog Blogging

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Zelda and Juno (Zelda on left)

Today I am going to blog about dogs and how they are everywhere on the internet and, most importantly, in our lives. This is my “#3” in the series because for a week we had three pets instead of two, since we fostered a little puppy named Jesse (now known as Juno.) In the past we have had more four-legged family members (up to 5 at one point) and in the future I certainly foresee more four-leggeds in our life. I won’t be the crazy cat lady today (but I’m sure I will be in the future!) since I am concentrating on Dog Blogging.

This past week we helped a wonderful puppy find her home through social media and many phone calls. I discovered that my family (my husband, myself, our dog Zelda and our cat Zaepfle) can be good foster parents. Not easy to not become a so-called “foster failure.” We learned we got to be a part of this special girl’s story, and help her find the right future.

As you can see, our family took in this little friend and adored her. We then made sure she found the right home. Through photos posted on social media, many stepped forward, and she found the right place to call home for life. We got extra lucky in that her new family is close to us and there will be play dates together!

Dog rescues have figured out in the past few years how important it is to tell the story of each individual animal. There are so many stories out there on social media, and videos, including news reports, of dogs found in desperate and near death situations and because of social media they become “miracle” stories.

There is much knowledge available regarding the No Kill Movement.  Our family member, the little ambassador dog, Zelda, was rescued from a kill shelter in Kentucky with nine (yes nine!) puppies in her belly. All ten of them found homes through the tireless efforts of a No Kill rescue called Safe Hands. It was her photo  and story that captured my heart!

We are so blessed to have Zelda in our lives. She has given us more joy than I can express in one blog post. Thanks to her rescuers’ efforts, she has even been able to connect with some of her pups and their families, and their stories will continue with the help of social media.

There are so many rescues out there and many have learned that a good photo will find the right home. There are many resources to explain the facts. This was not possible before the internet and social media. Families and individuals take the time to foster animals instead of animals being left in a cage to await their fate. We have a long way to go because so many only know of a place that has an ad on TV or because they have been around and their name is “known.”

I certainly encourage you  that when you are ready for a pet for life, to look into the local, “smaller” rescues. Check out their social media sites like Facebook, Twiitter and Instagram and see who they are posting about that needs a loving home. Learn and understand what the No Kill Movement is all about. Understand the importance of fostering. An animal in a foster home will most likely be healthier, more socialized, and you will be able to know more about their personality and special needs. Support, donate, volunteer and/or foster. You will make a difference in this world that is immeasurable and become a better human for it.

~Christine Dietsche

 

 

 


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7 Days of Blogging – Blogging for Two

 

lonely road crI  like to attempt to write stories and sometimes even poetry, or at least jot down memories of experience. I definitely write every time I travel. It seems to fit in as a must, and one always has more time to dream and envision when traveling. Since I haven’t been traveling much as of late, perhaps I should write someone else’s stories. Which brings me to my number “2” in my self-imposed 7 days of blogging, my mom and me.

My mom took a trip earlier this year and drove part of the original Route 66. Years ago, she took a Millennium Cruise, traveling for six months and going to every continent. This is when her “Gypsy Letters” started. She would send me an email whenever she had the chance, and I was the filter, fixing spelling and grammar, and “Ilse-isms”. I did additional research on the places she’d experienced and included links in the reports. There have been a few trips over the years since that first trip when the “Gypsy Letters” continued, and this RT 66 trip was one of them.

Before her trip she discovered a website, which had quite a few stories about Route 66. She was feeling adventurous that day because she sent a comment to the writer. He responded. She mentioned to me that the gentleman wanted to speak with her and would be calling her. She forwarded his note and her response:

“I’d like to do a small blog post over the weekend, would post Monday. I just love this story.”

“What does blog post mean and who will read it? I don’t want to be in the news and people follow me? And…what story? You don’t even have one yet.”

I had to laugh out loud. So very Ilse! It was definitely time I explained to my mom what a blog is!

I also told her I wanted to check out the website before he called her or wrote about her! And so I did. To my surprise, he turned out to be Dave Hoekstra, the former travel writer for the Chicago Sun Times. My Mom had once again made a new and interesting friend. Sometimes it’s a penguin, sometimes a real Eskimo without teeth, but this time she’d discovered a bona fide storyteller!Truck_last_shot_LR

She went off on her adventure, and I took on the task of documenting her adventure through her “Route 66 Gypsy Letters”. This basically entails getting her email of the day, having a fun read, editing for grammar and spelling, sometimes having to decipher meaning and sometimes providing continuity of thought. Again I researched for links to the places she was exploring. I love this part of it because I feel I am exploring the places with her. Then the “Gypsy Letters” were sent to the people on her list. Dave also received these stories from me, and he then wrote his own blog about her. My mom was published once again, this time for all the world to read with a click of the fingertips and she is now a part of the social media blogosphere.

~Christine Dietsche

BlueWhale_Gypsy_RT66_LRClick below if you’d like to read Dave’s blogs about my Mom:

Grandmother Tackles the Mother Road

86-year-old Roadie Lives the Dreams of Route 66

Safe Landing for Grandma of the Mother Road

 


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7 Days of Blogging – Self–imposed Challenge

Zaepfle my cat

Zaepfle my cat

I’m sure you’re thinking, “What??!” Who would impose 7 days of blogging in a row upon themselves?! And then subject the rest of the world to it?! That would be me, trying to put thought to paper, and in a meaningful way (and not just for my Social Media 101 class!) The class challenge is to write blogs about social media. My mini challenge adds 1-7, and this being the first, it entails “1”, therefore I write about myself, and the fear, but not loathing, of blog writing. As you can see, I’m using a photo of my cat for a blog about me. That might get me fans or you may have already stopped reading…

Being of an older demographic, I grew up “writing in my journal.” No wait, I actually had a little diary with a little “lock” on it first. I’m not sure when it started, but I believe either my mom or a friend of hers gave me that first diary. I was one of the lucky ones who never got her diary “broken into,” but I have heard many stories about this horrible breach of trust, which can lead to a lifelong suspicion of others in some cases (so just don’t do it!)

Anyway, I have a box of those journals somewhere in my basement. They will be read again at some point (I’m sure there are some gems in there) and then they will either turn into the great American novel (ha-ha) or succumb to a “ritual burn fire.” Writing all the time came easy back then. I continued to write, albeit not daily, until well into my thirties. For some reason I stopped at some point. I really do not know why. Maybe my life was just too wild to be documented? Maybe I wasn’t sure how to change the names to protect the guilty? Or maybe I just needed more sleep.

“There is creative reading as well as creative writing.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is the need to write like this? Ego? Confidence-building? Simply pure venting to prevent random acts of aggression? So one does not literally bite someone’s head off (I mean right off, no metaphor here whatsoever!) Or is it to inspire creativity? Clarity of thought? If the latter is it, I’d best start up again for real, because being over 50 one cannot keep too many thoughts in one’s head at the same time and certainly the memory is no longer what it used to be. Will my brain become more savvy by being challenged to write to the masses (or to an audience of one?)

I’m now at that age of starting to want to write stories. Maybe even write my own story, or at least short stories based upon those stranger than fiction moments and experiences we all have. However, writing in a journal and writing for a specific target audience is quite different, is it not? Is it easier to write to oneself or to others? And, oh my, who would those others be? People who are also discovering that technology and especially social media are now ingrained as a part of our daily lives and we’d better get with it? Or people who will understand my trepidation and might just take up the challenge with me? Or anyone who likes cats?

Check back over the next six days if I have managed to spark your interest and let’s see what evolves.

~Christine Dietsche