We’re More Complex than Our Facebook Posts Reveal

I am not a food blogger. I am not a chef. But I do like to cook and I appreciate a variety of tasty, well-prepared and interesting foods. I say this in response to a few of my friends and family who seem to believe me to be some sort of “foodie” based on the frequency of my food posts online. (I’d argue it’s not that many or that often but…)

I am not a “foodie” if the definition of that word equates to some sort of food snob. I enjoy my fair share of made at home grilled cheese sandwiches, bowls of cereal and coffee made from beans that were ground weeks ago someplace other than in my own kitchen. I do not own a coffee bean grinder. That should assure everyone that I’m not a foodie.

I don’t post food pics to imply anything other than “Look at this tasty treat I’m about to enjoy! I’m not going hungry today. Life at this moment is pretty darn good and I feel grateful and blessed.”

In this turbulent time of distasteful political discourse when people seem to have lost their collective minds when it comes to treating other human beings with any modicum or decency or attempt at understanding–I’m opting to instead post positive. Things that make me happy and that I hope make you happy too. Donuts, burgers, cocktails, recipes and the occasional funny pet video or quote from my kid. Because food seems to be the least divisive thing to share–at least when you’re simply sharing for the sake of sharing and not preaching about low sugar, low carb, all organic ingredients. Because, please… who really wants to hear anything more from the food Pharisees? I’m AWARE that the artificial coloring in those Little Debbie Christmas tree cakes is bad for me. Have you watched the news lately? Indulging in a snack with a little hydrogenated oil seems to be the least of the world’s worries at the moment.

But even so, we still can’t “win” if winning means not creating controversy online. Shortly after I posted a picture of my lunch at a fun new restaurant, someone said to me, “How does anyone afford to eat out so much?”

I just shrug. It seems even when it comes to food, we all see the world through our own experience specific lenses. So maybe the next time someone questions another person’s posts of any kind, these tiny edited bits and clips of life that can never capture the complexity of a whole person, it could be met with a shrug and an acceptance that we all see things just a bit differently. And that if you’d care to discuss any particular issue more in depth, maybe we could enjoy some food together and talk about it IRL.

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Improve Your Life by Contributing More Than You Consume

Photo: Sarah Dibbern

Photo: Sarah Dibbern

January has become a favorite time of year. These frozen, grey days on the tundra when the demands of the holiday season are behind me. Spring and summer remain far enough off with their taunts of being short-lived that send Northerners into a frenzy of lawn care, home improvement and patio dining bucket lists. This stretch of time seems to move more slowly–you know, like molasses in January. And slow time feels like more time. More time to create and contribute–a goal not just for January but for the entire year and hopefully, my entire life.

Photo: Sarah Dibbern

Photo: Sarah Dibbern

You see, here’s the thing. Sometimes I get down on myself. Maybe you do too. Like I should be accomplishing so much more with my life. I get up in the morning, pour a cup of coffee, sit in my favorite chair and scroll through my phone to see what’s happening in the world. I read news articles and send funny videos to my teenage kids in an attempt to make their morning crank faces crack a smile. But I also thumb through all the pretty pictures on social media. Maybe you do too.

I consume lots of ideas. Recipes I’ll probably never make. Exercises I’ll likely never do. Home décor trends I can’t replicate. Beauty secrets that remind me of my age. There’s lots of wonderfully curated inspiration in cyberspace. But whenever I consume more than I create or contribute to the world, this digital diet begins to weigh me down with negative self-talk. Why can’t I cook like that? Dress like that? Have a clean house like that?

Because I spend more time consuming ideas than I do creating or implementing ideas. Duh!

When scrolling through Twitter and Instagram become a spiritual discipline, it’s probably time to make a change.

Don’t misunderstand. I love Twitter and Instagram. I love all of the connectivity, inspiration and opportunities available right in the palm of my hand! But am I letting my consumption of content weigh me down rather than get me going? Am I balancing my consumption with contributing positively to a conversation, offering ideas or implementing any of the good ideas I see?

For many folks, January is a time to refocus on health and wellness. Well, a simple rule of healthy living (including our relational, financial, mental and spiritual health) applies to most aspects of daily life–including our digital life. Our contribution to the world should outweigh what we consume from the world.

That’s my mantra for 2017: Contribute & Create more than I Consume.

Contributions and creativity can look any number of ways. What’s your gift? How can you use your gifts to create something or contribute to the world? Writing. Cooking. Designing. Volunteering. Reorganizing. Donating. Entertaining. Scrapbooking. Teaching. Photography. Whatever.

For me, this mantra isn’t about any particular task or checklist of endeavors. It’s simply going to be about reminding myself to spend a little less time scrolling through other people’s worlds and more time contributing to or creating something good in my little corner of the world.

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How Social Media Can Be a Career Killer

social-media-exhaustionYou’ve surely heard about or most likely experienced the power of social media and its ability to lure us in with photos of an old flame’s wedding, a friend’s new baby, tips on creating a quixotic tabletop display, recipes for the latest gluten, sugar, fat, dairy, nut and taste free side dishes, as well as those hilariously quirky cat videos. But these time-sucking, productivity-killing banalities aren’t the only sinister mind traps of the 24-hour online world.

There is also a crap-ton of terrific, useful, inspirational and motivational art and information flying over those fiber optic freeways. As a writer and editor, I regularly wade through a torrent of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blog posts–mostly great stuff about what other people are doing to make the world a better and more interesting place. I want to be like them. Those people are “out there.” They’re moving and shaking and making things happen. They’re writing reams of content, noticing and photographing tiny seeds bursting forth in springtime, designing killer web pages and mixing Mad Men styled cocktails for their weekly poetry readings. It’s all so amazing and exhausting.

But here’s the thing… The thing is, we (and by “we,” I mean, “I”) too often tend to lump all that online action into one giant pile of competing ambitions and then attempt to ascent this impossible media-made mountain–or just sit immobilized along its foothills trying to discern our next best move. And then, if you’re anything like me, you eventually say, “Screw it,” and go watch The Voice while folding laundry and tweeting about whether Adam Levine’s shirt selection makes him look more or less sexy.

It’s kind of like what happens when kids go off to college and spend too much time checking the status of friends at other universities. The constant social media impression that students at other schools are having better parties, meeting more interesting people and receiving a better education experience can leave a kid feeling unsatisfied and questioning her choices.

I’m way beyond college, thank God. But I still find myself wondering if I’m in the right place. Maybe you do too. If so, let me share what a wise woman recently reminded me of. She noted that when your career and/or life is already in pretty good shape and on an acceptable trajectory, it makes little sense to burn out trying to go in a dozen different directions, especially if it prevents you from doing your best work at your current job. Stop. Self evaluate. Don’t confuse contentment with complacency.

Heck, even if your career and/or life are a hot mess, it makes little sense to attempt to plod a dozen different paths just as much as choosing no path at all.

Social media can help promote and even elevate your career. But it can also be a career stifling distraction. Focus more on being who you are and what you’re doing well right now. Concentrate less on trying to imitate or measure up to social media standards. Create more content than you consume. (This includes those crazy cat videos. I love those.)

Find your niche and plow into your future with purpose. Go ahead and leverage the inspiration and knowledge you discover online to help improve your writing, networking and creativity. But stop letting it distract or discourage you. (And by “you,” I mean “me.” But if this advice also helps you, then my work here is done. Godspeed.)

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