Archives for October, 2012
Okay. I've admitted that I'm nervous. When I think of the possibility of losing power for a few hours, I get butterflies (bad ones) in my belly. Especially if the power goes out at night. The thought of losing power for a day? Very stressful. Will my food be okay? How will I cook without my electric oven and stove? Losing power for two days? Extremely stressful. Will all of my food go bad? Will I be hungry? Will my apartment get too cold? I can surely bundle up and stay warm, but my pet parrot is, uh, a tropical bird. He likes warmth. I can't exactly cuddle with him under the down comforter. Three days? Ugh. Let's not even talk about it. This is a great time to discuss the concept of "what if" thinking. All too often, we get caught up in thoughts about future events or activities that haven't occurred yet -- and may not even occur. My therapist's motto? Focus on the "what is", not the "what if". But...but what about when you're in the direct path of a hurricane!?
It's like any normal Sunday evening at home, really. The clothes dryer is humming hypnotically. My husband is playing a video game and occasionally shouting stuff like "Get the sniper!" and "He's shooting an orb!" into the headset that he uses to talk to other players. My pet parrot is all fluffed up and happily beak-crunching beneath his electric heating lamp. And I'm putzing around on the internet, as usual, oscillating between Twitter and Facebook. But I'll admit it: I've got a little twinge of nervousness in my gut. After all, if Hurricane Sandy hits Central Pennsylvania hard, then I'm sure tomorrow evening in my apartment will look quite different from tonight. No internet. No heating lamp. No video games. No appliances.
Perhaps you've noticed my lack of posts during this past week. And even if you didn't, now you're aware of it. Because I mentioned it. Here's why I've been so quiet: I've been busy preparing to speak at TEDx Williamsport, an independently-organized TED event in my town. (If you haven't heard of TED, go here and watch a few talks.) Yes, that's right -- this panicky lady is going to stand on a stage and talk to people. About her anxiety. Believe it or not, this is a sort of a first for me. Does that sound strange? I mean, I've recorded anxiety-related videos for my blog, and I've lead online and telephone support group discussions in which I shared my panic-littered personal history. And I share my stumblings and my successes with you, weekly, via my blog. But...in real life? Not so much. I can't remember a time when I got up and spoke to a group of Real Live People about what it's like to have a panic attack. It's happening tomorrow. TOMORROW!
(Note: this is the final post in a four-part series about Facebook and death.) Social media adds an entirely new dimension to the mourning process. Facebook is a great social utility, but how does its utility change after a profile-owning friend passes away? Earlier in this series, we looked at both the good and the bad sides of using Facebook as a digital platform for mourning. I spoke about my friend Bubba, who died in a car fire a few years ago, and how his Facebook wall is still alive -- especially on his would-be birthday. However, it's slowly starting to fill up with digital litter ("I want you to join us on schoolFeed!") and, even though Facebook seems like they're in for the long haul, I wonder how long this social gravestone will last. And now, let's bring this series to a close, shall we? BENEDICTION My friend Bubba is dead, but his Facebook profile is (somewhat) living. His memories are digital and accessible, and so are the memories of your deceased Facebook friends. At any time, you can visit their page, reflect on their friendship, reminisce via old photos, and leave a message on his or her wall so that others know you've been thinking about your deceased friend. Not long after Bubba's death, I found myself perusing his Facebook profile and reading all of his most recent status updates. I grew a little sad that he and I had grown apart in recent years. We've both always been big into technology -- we hopped on the whole "blogging" train together, just one month apart, back in '01 -- and I began to wonder how he'd feel knowing that his Facebook page had become the epicenter of his mourning.
Ah, yes. It's World Mental Health Day. And what better way to celebrate than to have a full-fledged panic attack at 12:30 pm while driving home from the coffee shop? Sigh. I honestly didn't want my "Blog Party" post to be so, uh, negative -- but I need to accept each day honestly, authentically, and for what it is. I teach a marketing course at a local college. When I walked into the front lobby of the building where I teach, I was happy to see a nice display of mental health-related brochures and pamphlets in honor of Mental Health Awareness Week. I grabbed the "Panic Attacks" brochure (in part because the corny image of a frantic woman on the front really annoyed me) and headed off to class. Can I teach in front of a class full of students? Yes. Can I leave, grade papers at the local coffee shop, and chat with the other regulars? Yes. Can I drive home from the coffee shop? Apparently not. That's where the panic began. SOME DAYS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS It's not like I overloaded on caffeine or anything, but I do suspect my blood sugar was a little low. (Yes -- low blood sugar can trigger anxiety!) I knew I ought to eat, so I packed up my half-graded papers and walked out onto the sidewalk. Then, I saw the orange ticket on my windshield.
(Note: the is the third post in a four-part series about Facebook and death.) Back in March of this year, Technorati reported that there are already over 30 million dead people with Facebook profiles. Can you imagine how that number will skyrocket over the next 10 years? Social media adds an entirely new dimension to the mourning process. Facebook is a great social utility, but how does its utility change after a profile-owning friend passes away? THE BAD Now, we'll take a look at the negative side of having Facebook available as a mechanism for mourning. 1. Facebook extends the mourning process. Let's face it: Facebook is...well, permanent. As best we can tell right now in the year 2012, at least. It's a gigantic company with gigantic revenue, so I suspect it will be around for a long time in some iteration or another. And what does this mean for mourners? A dead friend with a Facebook profile will keep coming back to haunt you -- especially in the days and weeks immediately after their death. I can't even count how many times Facebook recommended that I "nudge" Bubba, a friend of mine who died in a car fire over two years ago, because he hadn't logged in for a few days. Then, for a few weeks. Then, for a few months. They mistook his death for a mere disinterest in social media. They thought, perhaps, that he'd taken up a new hobby. That he'd begun traveling more or interacting with people IRL. But no. He was dead, and Facebook made every effort to remind me daily. And even now, two and a half years after Bubba's death, I still receive updates on my timeline whenever someone tags his goofy smile in a photo or writes on his wall.
(Note: the is the second post in a four-part series about Facebook and death.) Back in March of this year, Technorati reported that there are already over 30 million dead people with Facebook profiles. Can you imagine how that number will skyrocket over the next 10 years? Social media adds an entirely new dimension to the mourning process. Facebook is a great social utility, but how does its utility change after a profile-owning friend passes away? THE GOOD First, we take a look at the positive side of Facebook as a mechanism for mourning. 1. Facebook gives us a new way to mourn. I hate wakes and funerals. I always have. The idea of viewing a dead body -- no matter how gracefully preserved -- creeps me out. When I do attend such services, I tend to avoid the body and just chat with other wake-goers. I look at pictures. I watch the now-common PowerPoint presentation about the deceased's life. I share memories with others in attendance. But they're still very uncomfortable events. Not everyone, especially us anxious-types, can handle a wake or funeral without a breakdown. At my friend Bubba's wake, I got in line to walk up to the closed casket and then greet his crying family members. As I neared the front of the line, I realized that I couldn't do it. My knees grew weak and I started shaking, so I booked it to the bathroom and plunged my face under cold running water in the sink.