Thursday, February 25, 2010

To email, text, talk, or see?

Thanks to the explosion of social networking and texting, the increasing availability of email on our cell phones, it's never been easier to reconnect with and stay in touch with current and former friends, acquaintances and colleagues. 

There are some people you may not communicate with as often as you used to but when you do, the connection and understanding still there.  You pick up right where you left off.  You're glad modern technology facilitates bringing them back and keeping them in your the college roommate who recently found me on FB.

However, it's also easier to communicate only online, and not actually speak to or see friends in person, to get sucked in to whittling away the hours on the FB game of seeing who can be the wittiest when commenting on comments to comments.  To creating the best Tweets.  It's also far easier to let Internet communication take over when you are out and about.  On the bus, more and more people are typing on their phones than reading or talking.  There are so many outlets you could spend hours each day just keeping up with them or carrying on "conversations" via text or online chats.

How much is too much?  Next time you're in a restaurant, look around to see how many people are more focused on their phones than their dining companions.  I read an article recently that said some people sleep with their BlackBerries!  Hmmm.  A growing pet peeve is being with someone who simply has to respond to every text that comes in, as though a random text is more important than what you're doing and where you are right now.  People who have to interrupt a conversation to take any call only to say, "I can't talk right now," when letting the call go to voice mail serves the same purpose.  People who try to continue a conversation while they're checking email or texting.  Do I say something or not?  Should I make a request like they do in theatres to turn off all cell phones and pagers?

On the other hand, as a freelancer, I often get messages or calls from clients and agents that say "respond ASAP."  These come in any time of day or night.  If I'm at a friend's watching a movie or we're out to dinner, do I keep my phone on and pay attention to incoming missives just in case so I don't lose a job?  When is staying in touch essential or important, or simply impolite? 

What do you think?  There are, of course, many articles on this issue.  Here are just a few:



Thursday, February 18, 2010

Too Much Change, Too Fast

Some say change is good.  For me, too much is changing too fast.  Just when you think you've got a handle on something, poof.  It changes again.  And finding help to adapt can be quite frustrating and time consuming.  My two undergrad and two graduate degrees and general intelligence prove useless against unrefined search engines and insufficiently detailed FAQs.  Worse, you can get different answers to your questions and not be sure which is right.

Examples include:

Health insurance: As if paying $461/month isn't enough, Aetna now says I'll have to pay $527 to keep my plan, a 14.3% increase.  The letter says if I switch to a higher deductible, the rates quoted aren't guaranteed.  But when I called the number listed, I was assured that the letter is merely a template and my new rate is guaranteed, and without reapplying.  Only if I switched to a plan that didn't exist when I first started with Aetna would I have to reapply.  But when you look at the plan descriptions, I can't find where it says when the plans began.  Hmmm.  And if/when the Obama plan/public healt insurance comes to fruition, will we be able to understand and use it?

Facebook:  The recent "upgrades" not only annoy me, it seems some of my friends' updates are displayed randomly instead of all the time.  And how do you get status updates to display as your default instead of the endless news feed? 

The publishing industry: aspiring authors now have a mind-boggling number of venues/options to choose from. Should we pursue the ever-shrinking market of traditional, NY print publishers?  Seek a small press?  Try an e-publisher, and if so, which one...especially when some come and go within months?  Self-publish...through whom?  With the explosion of social media and number of messages competing for our time and mental bandwith, how do you make any book stand out in a crowd?

Technology:  Windows XP on my PC, Vista on my laptop.  Who knows what great features these have I'm not using.  Now there's Windows 7.  Every time you get a new phone, the learning curve grows.  I was gifted with a nook, and it took 10 minutes to figure out just how to get the thing out of the packaging.  Figuring out non-intuitive the fact that you can't use your finger on the scroll bar but only on the actual list of options--was frustrating.

Job applications: Changed from mail to online is fine, and saves postage.  But every position, every site requires inputting different information; it's a lot harder to reuse cover letters or answers.  You don't even get rejection letters or e-mails anymore. Yesterday I got a text that read like spam about a job I'd applied for, plus for some reason it showed up in a list of unrelated texts.  Apparently it's from a legitmate applicant vetter, so I'm glad I called. 

Auditioning: Trending toward more online, which is easier.  It saves the time/expense of traveling and can be done at your leisure within a certain time frame, instead of exactly at your appointed 5 or 10 minute time slot.  But it's impersonal.  There's no opportunity for building relationships, because you don't get to meet those doing the casting or chat with your agent.  You don't get to network with others auditioning.  Nor do you get any feedback or direction on your submission; directing yourself is difficult.

What changes will today bring?

Some articles on dealing with change:


Qualified Life Coach

The Sideroad

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Helping Out

How far will you go to help a friend?  Are you so nice you get taken advantage of, or are you too needy/demanding/not nice enough?  Do you offer assistance to make others rely on you or insure you get something in return, or is your help a means for them to grow/make their lives easier?  Are you willing to ask when you need help or do you soldier on alone?

Everyone needs help at some point...whether you're a mom who hopes your neighbor can watch the kids in a pinch or a single GU whose car is in the shop and needs a ride to get it. 

I tend to prefer being the helper rather than the helpee.  What is the time/effort spent helping someone worth...the satisfaction of being useful?  Being taken to dinner?  Tit for tat?

IMO, it's best when you can exchange help: you find someone who needs something you really enjoy doing and aren't only doing because you were asked, and he/she can do the same for you.  But that kind of synergy can be hard to come by.  And sometimes you don't quite know what you're getting into when you offer or agree to pitch in.  Then do you back out or follow through? 

I agreed to housesit a friend's adorable and sweet not-yet-housetrained puppy.  At the time, the puppy was going to be an indoor dog, so I wouldn't have to walk him.  However, he has chosen to be an outdoor dog.  Who wants to go out at least 4 times a day, including 5:30am.  I can't just open my door to the outside...I have to take him down 5 flights of stairs (he's too small to do them himself), or walk a fairly long distance to the elevator (hoping he doesn't leak).  He also whines when he hears me moving around, because he wants to play (and I can't trust him to roam about and not chew on stuff while I work).  Which makes it hard to concentrate.

I'm going to LA.  My cousin offered to pick me up at the airport.  But for her do to that, then take me to the hotel and return home is more miles and time than I think is fair.  I don't like to pick up people when they come here or get a ride (unless it's 4am when there's no traffic), so why should I have her schlep me around?  Sure, I can take her to dinner/lunch in return, but is that enough reward for all of her time?  We'd definitely have time to catch up, though.

Perhaps the solution is to help as much as you'd feel comfortable asking for.  To know when you need it, and ask in a timely manner.  And when you say you'll to help, do what you agreed to do.

eHow-How to ask for help

Ask for help

Help for asking for help

Thursday, February 04, 2010

How far will you go?

When life presents an ethical challenge or choice, how far are you willing to go?

If you're handed an extra dollar in change, do you give the money back?  Does it depend on when you notice the discrepancy...if you don't realize you have the extra money until you get home, are you willing to return to the store? What if the amount was $10...or $100?  Do you roll through stop signs if you don't think anyone is watching?  Speed on the highway if everyone else is to stay with traffic?  Fudge your resume, cheat on a test or your significant other?

Does the reason for violating a rule or law matter?  Is there a difference if you embezzle from your employer because a) your kids need food or b) you think you deserve a diamond ring?  If you intend to pay the money back, does that make it ok?  Or if your chances of getting caught are very slim?

By nature I'm a goody two shoes, a stickler for the rules. Whether I agree with some of them or not, they're there for a reason...such as maintaining order or sustaining the common good.  But some people believe rules don't apply to them. 
Going by the book may also go against the grain.  Taking the impact of your actions on others into account isn't always easy. 

Garrett Hardin's tragedy of the commons theory resonates with me.  Simply put: if everyone who gets a new a cow puts it in the town pasture to join the cows already there, at some point the munching cows will deplete the grass.  Then all the cows will starve.