Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Importance of Being on Facebook...

Once upon a time, in an Internet-free world known as the early 1990's, a first love was born. A boy meets a girl, they flirt over double cocktails of Vodka made with a mere splash of cranberry juice. Boy makes girl laugh, and she takes him up on his offer to walk her home.

They kiss. They hug. They promise to call. They make plans to have dinner next weekend. Maybe, they reconsider their plans for spring break (Him: Cancun, Her: Las Vegas) to include one another in a makeshift frat/sorority encounter. He looks in her eyes, and says, "I have never met anyone like you." She blinks her eyelashes twice, and perfectly times her answer, "It is nice to meet someone totally real, you know?" He looks at her in the eyes, pausing a contrived moment, then kisses her on the cheek, hugs her, and leaves. She sighs as she opens the door to her apartment, beginning to plan for their imaginary wedding.

Fast forward a decade, and enter Facebook.

Years after inception, Facebook continues to grow in importance in terms of its relevance to society, particular in the generation of young people who use the social networking site not only to network, but to size up the person they met at the bar ("OMG - he wore a toga during Greek Week!"), to validating the truth of what they understood to be true about a person ("she told me she is single, so why does her relationship status say "It's Complicated?), or to go on a truth-seeking mission to vet friends, family, coworkers, and, of course, their significant others. Facebook offers a powerful tool in terms of finding answers, providing a clearer picture (or multiple pictures) of an individual, as well as communicating, via passive aggressive ("de-friending" someone) or subtly flirtatious actions ("poking" someone). In essence, it is a sort of parallel universe of our day to day existence, a cyber-reality.

In this reality, as in real-life, truth can be a person's best friend or worst enemy. In a recession, it behooves all to consider the latter. Facebook recently noted a 276% growth in the 35-54 year old sector, doubling ever month. This social networking site is quickly moving from collegiate ownership to a phenomenon of the masses, and those masses include employers, coworkers, and prospective clients. Expect to see more and more merging of the social and professional networks. Expect to have prospective employers search you on the Internet, including your profile on social networking sites. Expect that prospective clients will want to vet you in any way that Bing or Google allows.

Time for action. Review your profile on your social networking sites (those ridiculous pictures from your birthday three years ago are really NOT that funny anymore.) Remove anything that might be embarrassing, should it be published in the NY Times. Remove flagrant or off-color remarks, wall-postings, or photos, and limit security of those "friends" who contribute to the undoing of your career. No joke, photo, or one-liner is worth losing a professional opportunity. Finally, resist the urge to publish the state of your current Romancia (or lack thereof.) Though I personally follow the daily news feed updates of you two ("single", no, "it's complicated", no "in a relationship", wait no, "single"), professionally you might as well admit that the latest Danielle Steele novel is based on your life.

The Internet blurs past, present, and future, but the good news is that we all still own control over what cyber-scrapbooks we choose to share with the masses. If it was 1990, and our imaginary couple went through an immediate discussion on politics, religion, and exes that continue to flirt with them, a second date would be unlikely. Treat social-networking sites as such, and, remember, manners and discretion go a long way.

Monday, July 27, 2009

10 Things that are Not So Weird in a Recession

We all have our oddities, ah, idiosyncrasies. Difficult times can often accentuate personality quirks and neuroses. Don't be ashamed, but rather flaunt them! People are more forgiving of weirdness then ever in a bad economy, probably because each person has their own anxieties to deal with. Here are 10 things that are completely acceptable during the economic downturn.

1. Using the 2012 end of the Mayan calender/Armageddon to relieve anxiety about your current unemployment. Hey, the world will be ending soon anyway.

2. Turning down an evening out for "financial reasons", when you really just want to stay in to watch the newest round of the Real Housewives series. Further justification - you could learn a lot from the ladies of the OC/New Jersey/Atlanta/NYC.

3. Wearing your favorite "going out" ensemble, twice in one weekend. You don't have the extra moola to swing by Saks, and besides, that outfit makes you look really hot.

4. Justifying the purchase and consumption of a big slice of pizza with the need to be frugal. A $2.50 dinner? Who can go wrong?!

5. Dusting off the old Backstreet Boys/TLC/Busta Rhymes CDs and patting yourself on the back for remembering all of the lyrics. In this economy - Miley and Kanye who?

6. Buying the six pack of Miller Light instead of the more expensive foreign brew. Throwbacks to junior year of college are not only fun, but good for the wallet.

7. Making daily visits to Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com while imagining the perfect job and how you will kick butt at it. Now, go ahead and apply...see#1.

8. Openly reading the gossip magazines for a blatantly lengthy amount of time in the grocery store. Like you really are going to PAY to read about John and Kate Plus 8.

9. Openly reading Dostoevsky at Barnes and Noble for a blatantly lengthy amount of time to cruise for smart hotties. Better odds than the local dive bar!

10. Drinking that second martini with the justification "We're in a Recession." Just make sure you are only using this logic during Happy Hour, rather than late evening, when drink prices jump.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Free Inspiration: Consume Liberally

Although I recoil from the notion of adding one to my email signature, inspirational quotes from the sages of the ages often provide me a boost of, well, inspiration. Here are my Top Ten Inspirational quotes to capstone July with a boost of wisdom...feel free to use them to impress your friends.

1. "Nothing is worth more than this day." - Goethe

2. "A smile is the beginning of peace." - Mother Theresa

3. "The most wasted of all days is the one without laughter." - e.e. cummings

4. "Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground." Theodore Roosevelt

5. "Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. " - Henry David Thoreau

6. "The way to gain a good reputation, is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear. " - Socrates

7. "A man is not finished when he's defeated; he's finished when he quits" - Richard Nixon

8. "All men have a sweetness in their life. That is what helps them go on. It is towards that they turn when they feel too worn out." - Albert Camus

9. "If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change." - Buddha

10. "Tell me not, in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream! For the soul is dead that slumbers, and things are not what they seem. Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art; to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul." - H.D. Longfellow

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Top Five Ways to Be a Decent Human Being

In the midst of a recession, stress levels are raised, alcohol consumption increased, and morale is low. It can be easy to succumb to "Debbie Downer Syndrome", providing your friends with constant updates on negative things going on in your life and in the world.


Even if you "don't care what people think of you" or subscribe to the "I am who I am and nothing with change that", it behooves you during this economy (well, and in general) to re-examine yourself and look for areas of improvement. I don't advise this to be unnecessarily critical or harsh, but rather to assist. The job market is competitive, but even in achieving every day deals (discounted oil changes, unexpected sales, free babysitting), a kind-hearted, upbeat attitude goes a long way. Pardon any preachiness, but this is for your own good!

Here are my top five recommendations for Being a Decent Human Being:

1. Try to Avoid "Fade Out Syndrome." Whether you are in a mall, walking on the street or in a cab, it is easy to turn off the awareness button and cruise along, either talking on your cell phone or bopping along to the Jonas Brothers. The problem is you don't notice your cabbie's frustration that he can not find the vague address you provided, the mother in the mall with her child in hand trying to reach a toy dropped beyond her grasp, or the elderly woman on the street corner who is trying to ask for directions from anyone who will listen. Put down the misanthropic gadgets and tune in.

2. Perform at Least One Altruistic Gesture Daily. Whether you babysit your friend's child for a night while she goes to the spa or simply smile at a passerby though your mood is less than sunny, it is important to commit to doing something kind that does not benefit you in any way on a daily basis. Note: this is not about making you feel like a good person. This is about you committing to build awareness of those around you, in order to continue to build empathy and kindness.

3. Don't Play Games. Whether you are interviewing for a new job or starting a relationship, lies, embellishments, and all the razzle dazzle spin your jazz hands can offer may actually hurt you in the long run. I know a person who fibbed regarding his scope of responsibilities at his previous employer, and the prospective employer found out. He is now essentially black-balled in the industry. Try to subscribe to the Mark Twain school of hard truths (paraphrased) - Always tell the truth; that way, you don't have to remember anything.

4. Open Doors for People. Literally and figuratively. Helping others not only builds your awareness of those around you, but helps add to your Karmic bank account. You will be surprised how kindness and empathy will pay off in your life.

5. Never Burn, Well, You Know the Rest. Whether you find yourself in a seemingly irreparable fight with a friend, or feel the desire to tell off your soon-to-be ex-employee, I strongly advise against burning bridges. This advice is only for your own good. The desire and tempting instant gratification of responding or acting on emotion coupled with the strong influence of pride can be a difficult recipe to resist. Abstain! Such action or response will only serve to hurt you down the road, regardless of how immediately gratifying a good "Screw You" might feel.

During tough times, with pride bruised, emotions raw, and a general shared sense of anxiety, it is imperative we pull together and all do our very best to be decent human beings.