Where have my conversations gone?

I’ve been on Twitter since August 2008. (Wow. Where has the time gone?) I joined after being convinced by my husband (fiancé at the time) that it was new and different and would allow me to meet and have conversations with people all over the world.  He showed me examples of new friends he had made in places such as Hawaii, England, Florida and more. They’d developed a relationship and were constantly commenting on each others tweets and getting “involved” in each others lives, even though they lived so far apart and had never met.  I thought this sounded fantastic and would allow me to expand my networking list further than Lansing.

So I joined, started off with a few of his followers, and soon developed my own list of new friends in far off places. I was excited to share with them, and learn from them, and find out what was going on in their communities – be it breaking news, awesome events or just everyday life.  We chatted, exchanged links, shared our lives and felt like we knew each other, even if we didn’t. It was conversation at its finest, and I really enjoyed it.

But then something happened.

Oprah joined Twitter. And Ashton.  And Alicia Keys and Britney Spears and every politician, news anchor, sports star, company and organization.

And suddenly, if you weren’t on Twitter, you weren’t cool.

My list of followers/following exploded overnight. I went from a couple hundred to 1,000. (Now, I realize that’s chump change compared to those who are in the thousands, but for a small-town girl in Michigan, a thousand is quite a big deal to me.) I had to set up multiple lists in Tweetdeck in order to keep my sanity, stay organized, and try not to miss important tweets.

I was connecting with many more people, both in and around Lansing and all over the United States; I was seeing pictures and links and stories from places I’d never heard of; I was being bombarded with “I’m a social media guru, learn XYZ in one workshop”, “6 steps to XYZ , Free food for answering XYZ trivia”……but where were the conversations?

What I’ve discovered is everyone uses Twitter for a different purpose, which makes it complicated when I’m trying to organize my followers and figure out what they use Twitter for: networking, advertising, telling me what they ate last night, selling me their product or just having fun.   Many of them don’t even actually “talk” to you, they just send canned tweets.

However, what they’re not using it for are conversations. The only people I feel I truly have conversations with anymore are the same core group of people in Lansing and a few friends I have met at conferences. Gone are the real conversations and interactions with fellow Twitterers from around the world.

Why is this? Are we too busy? Do we have too many followers to keep up with? Are we oversaturated with social media? Have we gotten complacent? Is Twitter evolving?

Or is it just me?

I’m just one person, trying to keep up. Trying to network. Trying to expand my horizons. Trying to build my personal brand so I can move onwards and upwards (shameless plug: did you know I’m out of a job at the end of this year? Thanks Term Limits.)  I keep being told that social media is supposed to be the way to go, but I guess I’m feeling overwhelmed and wondering if others are feeling the same way. How do I connect, if the only people out there are only connecting to sell me something?

So, I’d like to have my conversations back please. If you know where I can find them, please let me know. I’ll be here, as @MiniJ, waiting.

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Ten women using social media in Lansing

Just wanted to publicly share this:
I was featured in the Greater Lansing Woman’s magazine in an article on ten women in Lansing to follow on Social Media.

You can read it here: http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/article/20100325/GLW/3250304/1132/glw

Do you write with your right?

Are you a righty or a lefty? And no, I don’t want to know if you side with the Elephants or Donkeys. I’m talking hands here. As in, which is your dominant one?

I read a short article today in a local paper discussing the findings of a study that indicated that “mixed-handed” or “cross-dominant” kids are more likely to have ADHD, language and learning problems and behavioral issues. This piqued my interest due to the fact that my 13-year-old step-daughter could be classified as mixed-handed and she exhibits none of those symptoms.  In fact, she’s about as 180 degrees from that as you could get: almost a straight-A student, prolific writer and all-around great kid. She just writes and eats with her left hand, but uses her right hand for sports, Wii, guitar, etc.

Naturally, I went straight to the source, the online Pediatrics Journal, to read the study for myself and find out why this is, and what the point was. Since I’m not a subscriber, I could only access a small snippet, but what I found was interesting.

Apparently, the point of the study was to find an early way to diagnose kids with potential behavioral issues. According to the study “our objective was to determine whether mixed-handedness, which is associated with atypical cerebral laterality, is associated with language, scholastic, and ADHD symptoms in childhood and adolescence.”

In layman’s terms, I took this to mean that kids who can’t pick a dominant hand must be scatterbrained, and therefore predisposed to acting out and not being able to learn properly. Again, being witness to the exact opposite of this at home, I was skeptical, but realize that this may be the “norm” and that our kid is an exception.

However, I found this line of the study interesting: “Mixed-handed children, relative to right-handed, had approximately a twofold increase in odds of having difficulties with language and scholastic performance at the age of 8 years.”  Did they really only compare this to ‘right-handed’ and not ‘left-handed’ kids? We all know right-handed is dominant, but doesn’t this skew the results? Or maybe I’m missing something since I don’t have access to the whole study.

The conclusion (again in layman’s terms) is that if your kid shows signs of mixed-handedness, it might be an early indicator of future problems. Then again, as the original newspaper article I read pointed out, it could be just another detail to make new parents worry about.

So, again I ask, are you a righty, lefty, or do you, too, tend to lean toward the middle? Based on personal experience, do you agree with this study?

Family Game Night – The Old-Fashioned Way

When you think of Family Game Night, what image comes to mind?

Possibly memories of sitting with your kids at the dining room table with a Scrabble Board and tiles scattered around? Or gathered in the living room by the fire playing Sorry, whacking your dad’s game piece back to Start? How about playing Jenga, trying to prevent the tower from toppling?

Now imagine playing all those games, not at the table, but on the Wii.  Yes, you heard me right, the Wii.

I was at BestBuy over the weekend and happened to wander through the aisle with all the Wii games. There on the shelf was “Hasbro Family Game Night,” consisting of Connect Four, Boggle, Sorry!, Battleship and Yahtzee. Next to it was a sign advertising “Hasbro Family Game Night 2” with Operation, Jenga, Bop-it and Pictureka, which arrives this weekend.

Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE games, and I LOVE my Wii, but really? The Classics on Wii? This is sacrilegious if you ask me.  Playing Sorry! or Battleship on the Wii just doesn’t have the same appeal. How do you slide down the arrow yelling “wheeee” or take any pleasure in carefully arranging your ships and plugging the holes each time your opponent misses? Or take Operation for cripes sake! It took years to master the steadying-of-the-hand in order to safely pluck the funny bone out without scaring yourself half-to-death when you make the buzzer go off!

I just don’t get it. Family game night has always been special, and we are told day after day that families don’t spend enough time together. While this may be getting the family together, it doesn’t seem the same as sitting around a board in the middle of the floor with game pieces to throw at one another when your brother knocks you out (or was that only in our house?!). Plus, all it’s contributing to is more hours in front of the television – another thing researchers have told us we spend too much time doing.

I’m sure this will be a best seller, but please, I implore you, if you’re going to have Family Game Night, be traditional. Go to the cupboard, pull out the boxes containing Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit or Hi-Ho-Cherry-O, sit at the kitchen table and have fun the old-fashioned way.

 

 

State vs Federal – do you know the difference?

I’ve worked for the Michigan state Legislature for more than six years now, and in that time I’ve discovered just how ignorant many Americans are when it comes to politics. This bothers me because we live in a nation where we have complete freedom to participate in whichever political party we desire, discuss our beliefs without fear of being sent to jail, protest on the steps of the Capitol, and vote privately — yet many people do not bother to take the time to find out exactly what they are protesting/calling/complaining/voting about.

This has become more evident as we continually get phone calls from constituents asking my boss to vote this way or that way on a particular issue.  This is their right to do so, and we encourage them to call us and voice their opinion. Unfortunately, they seem to be quite clueless about what they are calling about.  This is not a trend in just our district either, it seems to be statewide as I have talked to  colleagues about this and they have shared similar stories.

Here are a couple examples from this week:

A) One of our most frustrating issues is many people do not know the difference between state politics and federal politics. They don’t understand that legislation before Congress (such as the Health Care Reform package) cannot be voted on by their local state Representative or Senator. It just isn’t possible. What’s even more frustrating is when you try and explain that and give them the number to call their U.S. Senator or Congressman and they insist that it’s you.  This is just mind boggling.  No offense to anyone, but have they grown up under a rock? Did they not learn this in school?  Who’s to blame in this situation? The person themselves? Our education system? The media?

B) Another example is when a constituent sends us a letter or calls and says “due to XYZ issue, I will never vote for Sen. John Doe again and will tell all my friends not to either” OR “We need term limits because it is unacceptable that these people can serve until they die and I plan to vote for someone else next time.”

Let’s break that one down.

  1. We DO have term limits. The people of Michigan voted in favor of them in 1992 and they took effect in 1993.  It limits elected officials to six years in the House and eight in the Senate.  These people must really have been living under a rock if they don’t know that we’ve had term limits in place for almost 20 years. However, there are no term limits on the federal level and therefore, maybe they are confused? Refer to example A for more information on this one.
  2. Because we have term limits, my boss cannot run again. He has served his entire stint in the Legislature and will be “termed-out” at the end of next year. I know the years run together, and it may be an honest mistake that you didn’t remember how long he’d been in office, but if you’re going to shoot your mouth off, please get your facts straight before you call.  We cannot take you seriously if you choose to be ignorant and spout misinformation to us, your friends and the local paper.

I do realize that I’m in the thick of things here and know way more about politics and the inner-workings of government than I care to, however, there are basic facts that every American citizen should know.  Have we become to complacent a society? I bet more immigrants who have become American citizens could recite the Declaration or Preamble or tell you how many Congressional seats there are, or how a bill becomes law.  These people want to be here and have taken the time to learn and appreciate what America has to offer.  Why don’t we?

 

A not-so-simple oil change

JeepI apologize in advance if today’s post is more of a rant than a well-thought-out entry, even despite the fact that I’ve waited approximately 6 hours to cool down.

To begin my Monday morning saga, let’s go back to the beginning…

I used to have a credit card that would rack up points that I could cash in for Dealer Dollars – which I could use at the dealership for things like oil changes, service, parts, etc. Well, due to Chrysler declaring bankruptcy, one of the perks that fell victim was the rewards program. We got a letter saying any outstanding Dealer Dollars would expire on Oct 30, regardless of what the expiration date on them really was.

So, knowing that I was due for an oil change, I went ahead and scheduled one for 9 a.m. today, Monday, Oct. 26. This was to be a regular old oil change, nothing fancy, no bells and whistles, no extra maintenance (even though I know I’m due for some, but that’s another matter), just a plain old oil change.  I even forgot my coupon for $5 off + free car wash, so my only expectation was of getting new oil and a filter.

After waiting for what seemed like an extra long time (they didn’t even take my car back till almost 9:20), the service representative came to get me in the lobby. “I have some bad news,” she started off.  Bad news? About an oil change?   I gave her that quizzical, WTF do you mean, look.

She proceeded to tell me that the service technicians had gone ahead with the car wash anyway and had managed to break off my CB antenna mounted to the rear of my vehicle, because they “forgot to remove it, even though they know they don’t last in the car washes. But don’t worry, we’re going to reimburse you for having to buy a new one.”

Darn right you’re going to reimburse me. At this point I was not happy, and unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.

We go to inspect my antenna, and that’s when I discover that not only did they break it off, but in the process of it breaking, it took a nice gouge out of my hardtop. Now I wasn’t just unhappy, I was pissed. I talked to the service manager who didn’t know what to do about it, other than say “Well, you can bring it to the body shop and they can try and put some plastic filler in there and repaint it. Oh, and make sure you send in your receipt so we can reimburse you for the antenna.”

So, not only do I have a broken antenna and damaged hardtop, when all I went in for was an oil change, but now I have to waste even more of my time, by having to go purchase a new antenna, AND find a time to be without my Jeep while they try and fix it. It was all of 10 in the morning and I was ready to, well, cause severe bodily damage to someone.

At this point they were just ready to send me on my way, after I paid of course. That’s right. They really expected me to still pay for my oil change! What kind of customer service is this? I don’t care if you’re reimbursing me for my antenna and fixing my hardtop, they SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN BROKEN IN THE FIRST PLACE AND NOW I HAVE TO WASTE MY TIME BECAUSE OF YOUR INCOMPETENCE!  I complained to service rep, who said she had to go talk to the manager again, who, after a few minutes of discussion, decided to comp me for the oil change.

Sadly, my saga with the dealership still doesn’t end there…it just jumps to a new chapter. Remember those dealer dollars? Since I no longer needed them to pay for my oil change, I decided to use them to have a new spare key made. This took about 5 minutes, and then we went to test it.  It didn’t work. Well, it kinda did, but not good enough to use and pay money for. It’s a universal key to open all 3 doors plus start the car. It would start the car, kind of open the driver’s door with some effort, but wouldn’t budge the passenger door or tailgate. After three or four times of grinding it and adjusting it and still nothing, the technician’s best response was “You might want to try the Meijer or Sears key shops and see if theirs work differently. I don’t know what else to do unless we tear your doors apart and research it.”  OMG!  That was the best you can do? Did I mention these people are incompetent?

At that point, I’d had enough and gave up. It was 10:30, I had a damaged vehicle and I was super late to work.  I just left and said I’d be in touch. I still have those dealer dollars and am not sure what to do with them by the end of the week – unfortunately I feel they’ll just expire, and I guess that’s ok.

Oh, and that so called “carwash?”  Yeah, I think they just sprayed the Jeep with a garden hose, because I have streaks of dirt on my Jeep now, which looks a lot worse than it just being covered in dirt, meaning I have to go actually pay for a carwash myself now. So much for a simple oil change.

Defying Gravity

Dear whomever has stumbled upon this:

I read blogs and comment on blogs, but I don’t write a blog.  I’ve been too scared, too unsure, too confused, too much of a status quo person.  I didn’t understand all the fuss and didn’t understand why I should be writing one.

As of today, that’s going to change.  I’ve decided to be more proactive, bold and, as Elphaba said, “Close my eyes, and leap!”  I don’t know fully yet what I’ll be writing about, or how often, but that’s what I’m going to discover as I jump in and learn.  It will take time to discover my niche and my style, and I hope you bear with me as I begin that process.

I also plan to teach myself about WordPress, HTML, and more as I go, so there will be updates, style changes, new formatting and widgets along the way. All in the effort to better myself, learn new skills and find my place in the world.

Wish me luck as I begin my new journey.