An Open Letter to Selfie Nation

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Dear friends,

I have a complaint to lodge. This isn’t anything against you, but it’s against your actions. I’m afraid we’ve had a breach of social media etiquette, and I must address it tout suite. I’m seeing too many pictures of you. Just you. Taken up close or from a distance. Above your head or below. In the bathroom or on the street. So. Many. Pictures. That’s right. I’m complaining about your selfies.

“But Alex! Why do you care?! If I wanna post 10 pictures of myself per day, it doesn’t affect you at all!”  Oh no no, friends. You’re quite mistaken. If you’re takin’ selfies, they are most certainly affecting me. I’ve given you precious space in my Facebook or Instagram feed and that space is not to be violated with an overabundance of images of you. Sure, I could defriend you or unfollow you but I truly like you, dear friends. I do. In real life, I can barely tell you really love that ONE SIDE of your face so much because you seem completely normal in regular conversations!

I just don’t understand why you do this. Help me understand. Do the likes and comments pick you up after a bad day? Are you keeping a log of your aging, minute by minute? Are you pursuing a career in modeling? Have you been transported to a place where there are no other humans around? Is it because you think your friends, like me, really like it? Because if that’s the case, I’m gonna need you to stop.

Please don’t think it’s that I don’t like seeing pictures of you actually doing things or with your friends. Au contraire, I find them to be a relief – I started  thinking you were actually without fellow humans after all the pictures of just yourself. Please, bring on the pictures of your fun activities. I want to see more of your adventures. And a close-up picture of your face whilst on your adventure does not count. Maybe even some scenery in the background to illustrate where you actually are. Perhaps you and a nice tree. Even that would be better.

And it’s not that your looks are bad. Not at all. You are all quite beautiful, but I fear it might be becoming obvious just how much you think that about yourself, as well. And it’s not that I don’t like looking at your beauty, but I don’t need it in my feed every damn day, sometimes twice or three times (seriously, some days I feel like I see your faces more than I see my own). I just don’t. You don’t change. I could literally keep that one picture as a reminder of your beauty for at LEAST a week before I need to see another selfie.

That’s right! I’m not even saying please stop altogether, just stop the onslaught. You’re gonna give me a twitch. Do you really wanna give me a twitch? No. You don’t. So please, make it stop. I write this because I care and because friends don’t let friends overpost selfies.

xoxoxo

Alex

 

p.s. One last addition to my plea… Do you really wanna be in the same boat as Amanda Bynes, selfie-poster extraordinaire? I think we all know the answer to that question.

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Work-Life Balance and Social Media

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It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on here – apologies to you fine folks who became followers of mine after my last post about Social Media and Age. As you might imagine, my lack of contributing to this blog has inspired tonight’s topic. See, I work in social media for a living. My job consists of being on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and Instagram all day. And that’s just the social platforms — if you throw in all the analytics tools and monitoring platforms I’m also on, combined with the blogs and news sources I read to ensure our client is up-to-date on the newest things, we’re talking 8 long hours of being glued to a computer. Even more than that, it’s 8 hours of being highly connected. Not just to friends and family, but sometimes complete strangers.

Needless to say, it gets exhausting.

I’m not saying my job is particularly more exhausting than other jobs. I’m well aware that there are many other professions that are just as tiring if not way more tiring than mine. But the unique quality of my job is that interconnectedness I have with the outside world 8 hours a day. No, more than 8 hours a day. Almost every waking moment.

See, that’s the other thing about working in social media: it’s hard to get away from it. Think about how many emails you have to resist checking on your phone when you get home – a lot, right? Okay, so imagine that, then add the Facebook notifications, Twitter pushes, and Instagram alerts, each one needing to be read. And we’re not even talking about your personal notifications. Throw those in, and you start to spend nearly your entire day on the internet. And then you start looking a little bit like this:

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But let me be clear: I really do love my job. Given the nature of social media, it’s constantly changing and keeping me on my toes. There is always something to learn – always a new challenge to figure out. The nerdy part of me loves the analytical side of things – the fact that you can directly measure the affect your content is having on the world. I wouldn’t trade a minute of my job, but just because I love it doesn’t mean I should spend my every waking moment doing it. I love a lot of things that I shouldn’t spend my entire day doing: watching crappy reality TV, taking a hot shower, working out, eating golden Oreos… All of these things would obviously be detrimental to me if I did them all day, yet I have no problem stopping them when it’s time.

So why is it so hard to shut down the need to work long after it’s time to do so? Because my personal time activities and my work activities have become seemingly the same activity.

Please don’t get me wrong. I do plenty of things in my personal time that do not involve my computer. I play frisbee and go hiking and hang out with friends. But by the end of the day, if I’m being totally honest with myself, I’ve usually checked Facebook at least three times. It’s just natural, sometimes I don’t even think about it.

But two weekends ago I went down to the beach for Memorial Day weekend, where we camped on the sand. There were no electrical outlets so minimal interaction with my phone was important, in case an emergency occurred and I needed it. As a result, I had no idea what was happening in the outside world. I only knew about our little bubble on the beach with the wild horses. It was beautiful. The feeling of being totally oblivious was so liberating, I found that in just a matter of days, the constant feeling of needing to be connected to the outside world had sort of melted away. And as much as I love what I do, it was something I needed.

It’s hard to get away from the outside world. We have phones that ping us whenever we get a phone call, text message, email, Facebook comment, retweet, favorite, new follower, etc. Combine that with just the sheer amount of time we spend on our computers and you can never unplug. And, quite frankly, there are some days I relish that. Like I said, I truly do love what I do. But it doesn’t mean I should let it get in the way of other things I truly love to do, as well. If I hadn’t spent those days disconnected down at the beach, I would have never known just how burnt out I was and, some days, just how much I’m missing out on around me. And that’s why I haven’t been here, friends. I burnt myself out. It won’t happen again.

So take a step back from the computer and go do what you love – completely shut off from the world of the internet. Even if it’s just for an hour a day. I promise it’ll be here waiting when you get back.

Answering Your Questions & Welcome!

Wow. First, let me say that I’ve been incredibly overwhelmed by the amount of followers and comments I’ve received on my last article. All the comments have been so thoughtful and kind.

Secondly: Welcome! I think there’s few things that can make a person feel better than having people who actively want to read their material and you’ve inspired me to write more often.

Lastly, I want to respond to some of your questions and thoughts that you left on my last post. You took the time to write them, and I want to make every effort to take the time to respond to them.

“I am a marketing student at San Diego State University. Every professor has a different view on social media. I am convinced that you have to do what is best for your situation and follow your own metrics. What do you think?”

This is absolutely right. I’m currently putting together a report at my agency analyzing each platform and the metrics to look at when measuring your successes and failures on those platforms. What works on Facebook, won’t necessarily work on Tumblr. What’s good for Twitter sometimes isn’t the same choice to make on Instagram. This same line of reasoning can be applied on a brand by brand basis. Some brands are ripe for Facebook marketing, while they suffer on Twitter.

It all comes down to knowing your brand, identifying what goals are important to them, and measuring by those metrics — and if you’re really good at branding and knowing your brand markets, this will translate easily into social media if you have a steady handle on where the audiences you’re targeting live in those environments.

“I think fireandair makes a great point. If you’ve spent your life only hanging out with (and giving street creed to) people 2 or 3 years younger or older, it’s a hell of a shock to have to work with people (omg) who might even be your parents’ age — and who are not your parents. We’re just older, experienced, skilled people who expect professionalism in the workplace.”

Couldn’t agree more. I’m fortunate that I have a sister who is 9 years older than I am, and I’ve spent most of my life hanging out with her and her friends who are, in turn, sometimes 9 or 10 years older than her. I know I emerged from college with a much different mindset due to this (that, and I worked in an office nearly the entirety of my time in college). What I’m really trying to get at is that we can’t make blanket statements about entire age groups and we certainly can’t discount a younger or older candidate for their age if they have the skills and character for the job.

“I would like to add that it applies to other fields as well, experienced and drab has no meaning to Young, brilliant and Enthusiastic! Everybody should be judged according to an exam to test the applicant, whether young or old.”

It’s funny, when I first wrote this post I was so focused on social media and marketing (as that’s my field), but after speaking with someone who has started a few businesses, I realized that it truly does apply across the board. Good ideas and “chutzpah” know no age limit!

“Could asking an applicant what he/she has accomplished mitigate the age question?”

Yes and no. Credentials should matter more than age, for sure. But I think the right person with the right amount of drive can be the right candidate even if they don’t have a ton of accomplishments. However, in that case, I’d use a hypothetical in the interview. For example “We have this client, their goals are [x,y,z]. What would you do to help them reach those goals?” If they have some really outstanding recommendations that get you excited, then they could be even better than the person who has a laundry list of accomplishments!

“What I would like to add, based on my own person experiences is that many people tend to hire people that they feel will fit into their culture. Sometimes this means making presumptions based on their LinkedIn profile picture (read determining your age) and sadly this discounts all sorts of really qualified people that might actually fit into the culture. Age isn’t the only thing that determines the “culture:” of a company. Attitude is huge.”

So true! I used to work for a fairly laid back financial services firm (I know, is there even such a thing?) and assessing if a candidate would fit in the culture was definitely a mitigating factor of their employment offer. Conversely, it also stuck out like a sore thumb when they hired someone who just didn’t quite fit.

LinkedIn is simultaneously one of the greatest things to happen to the job market and one of the worst things to happen. While I think it’s a fantastic supplementary tool to do a little extra research on a candidate (or, if you’re weird like me, I like putting a face to people’s names), it should not be the determinant in hiring a person.

“Don’t underestimate the oldies, there are more coming into it every day so I say cater for everyone if you are in the know!”

Here, here!

 

 

Thanks again for all your input, everyone. And I’ll be back really soon with some new food for thought.

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Social Media: Age Doesn’t Matter

Okay, yes it does. Just like every marketing and advertising strategy, you need to know where your audience is. You need to know where you’re targeting and what age groups are where. Given a recent study from the Pew Research Center, it’s safe to assume that if you’re targeting millenials, you’re going to find them on social media (83% of social media users fall in the 18-29 age range).

So when it comes to social media, you need to know your market. However, when it comes to who is crafting your strategy, there have been a flurry of ageist attack blogs and articles in the social media community from both ends of the spectrum, a particularly vicious one coming from Cathryn Sloane  who argued that every Social Media Manager should be under the age of 25 in July of last year. Other articles argue that you shouldn’t hand your social media strategy to a 23-year-old, citing their inexperience and immature ways.

Look, I get it. Some out of college are inexperienced and immature. But conversely, some experienced professionals are out-of-touch and stubborn in their ways. Guess what? I wouldn’t hire either of them. I’d look at their accomplishments or fully listen to their ideas and choose from there. I think it’s so incredibly foolish to patently say, “You shouldn’t hire someone under or over x age, because their age group doesn’t know what it’s all about.”

I’m going to break down an article from Inc. written by Hollis Thomases that argues against hiring a 23-year-old as their social media manager, as well as Ms. Sloane’s article, picking out certain points and showing you why they just don’t hold up by using age as their argument.

1. “[A 23-year-old] may be focused on their own social-media activity. Because of the above, if you hire a young person to manage your social media, you may also need to need to worry about how he or she is actually spending his or her time. Will you need to be monitoring the person?” – Hollis Thomases

I’m sorry, this is a truly bizarre argument to base solely on age. Time management is an issue that knows no age limits. Certainly, your time management skills can get better with age, but there are plenty of people who never develop them. In my former job, I had 40-some year old coworkers watching ESPN at their desk, but I never heard HR say, “Oh, we can’t hire a 42 year old. They may be focused on the Sixers all day.” You know why? Because that’s a ridiculous argument.

Yes, 2o-somethings are active on social media. Yes, they’re more likely to focus on their presence. But the transitive property doesn’t apply here. Just because a 20-something is active on social media does not mean they are going to throw the rest of their work out the window so they can build up their presence. Besides, if you’re hiring a Social Media Manager for the right reasons, shouldn’t you want them to have an ear to the ground if they’re also getting their work done?

Employers worrying about their employees time management skills is always a concern among all employees. Not just their 20-something potential social media managers.

2. “After all, it is called social media; the seemingly obvious importance of incorporating comforting social aspects into professional usage seems to go over several companies’ heads. To many people in the generations above us, Facebook and Twitter are just the latest ways of getting messages out there to the public, that also happen to be the best.” – Cathryn Sloane

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Ugh. This made me cringe. Yes, there are a fair amount of companies out there who don’t totally “get” social media. Too many companies out there rely on “Like this if you like [insert something that everyone in the world likes, like puppies]!” to increase engagement. However, there are a lot of companies out there with brilliant social media strategies, and you can bet there are people “in the generations above us” who are either crafting or advising on those campaigns. Yes, sometimes really outstanding social media ideas and campaigns come from a twenty-something, or a group of twenty-somethings. But a lot of times, they also come from people older than 30. Or a mixed bag of ages.

3. Communication skills are critical. Communication is critical to solid social-media execution. Before you let a young hire take over your company blog posts, take stock of his or her writing skills. Also: Many young people have not yet learned the “art” of communicating. Make sure they know how to read between the lines, rather than taking things too literally.” – Hollis Thomases

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Please tell me that you wouldn’t let some 41 year old you hired just write and publish things willy-nilly before taking stock of his or her writing skills, simply because they’re over the age of 30. This is ridiculous. Yes, you should check what a 23-year-old writes before publishing it. You should also check anyone else’s writing. You should even have your writing checked. It’s called good publishing practices.

4. “You might argue that everyone, regardless of age, was along for the ride, or at least everyone under the age of 30. I’m not saying they weren’t, but we spent our adolescence growing up with social media. We were around long enough to see how life worked without it but had it thrown upon us at an age where the ways to make the best/correct use of it came most naturally to us. No one else will ever be able to have as clear an understanding of these services, no matter how much they may think they do.” – Cathryn Sloane

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That’s like saying that because everyone in the ’90s grew up with computers that no one older could ever learn how to use them well. I guess their old, decrepit brains just can’t handle the speedy technology.

5. “Social-media savvy is not the same as technical savvy. Good social media requires a combination of both. Successful social-media management involves production requirements, tools, analytics, and other aspects of work.” – Hollis Thomases

Yes. This is absolutely true. And it has nothing to do with your age. Couldn’t you see this short-sighted point being in both this article AND Cathryn Sloane’s?

6. “Yet, every time I see a job posting for a Social Media Manager/Associate/etc. and find the employer is looking for five to ten years of direct experience, I wonder why they don’t realize the candidates who are in fact best suited for the position actually aren’t old enough to have that much experience.” – Cathryn Sloane

Okay. I get the frustration here. I think there are a lot of people out there who are being unfairly disqualified because of ageist beliefs. However, to Ms. Sloane, I’d argue that she needs to find a reason to wow those employers with her own social media presence or her innovative social media ideas. If the employer is the kind of person you want to be working for, they won’t look at age as the determining factor for hiring. I also take issue with the fact that she thinks the candidates best suited for being Social Media Managers are those in their twenties. Yes, some of them are but not because they’re in their twenties. It’s because they have amazing ideas and incredible drive. And those 30-somethings who are kicking ass in those positions possess those same qualities.

 

Don’t hand over your strategy to a twenty-something OR a thirty-something OR a forty-something if they don’t have the results, character, and ideas to back it up. Do recognize good ideas and drive. If you wouldn’t hire that person to do your regular marketing strategy, don’t hire them for your social media strategy, either. Sometimes aging does grow a more valuable and experienced professional, but it’s not required for some people. Don’t miss out on a great candidate because they’re “too young” or, alternatively, because they’re “too old”.

And, on behalf of all twenty-something social media professionals out there, I’m really sorry about Cathryn Sloane.

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Things Sustainability Could Learn on Social Media from SEO

You may not know this about me, but I used to work in sustainability. I absolutely loved the field but my real passion is for social media. It only made sense when iSpring Associates, a sustainability consulting firm based in Philadelphia, came to me to write an article for their February Buzz to have the focus be on the disconnect between sustainability and social media.  So, with that, I give you a new blog post:

2,373,252. That’s how many times the word ‘finance’ has been mentioned on the Internet in the past 90 days.

1,934,289. That’s how many times the word ‘engineering’ has been mentioned on the Internet in the past 90 days.

376,043. That’s how many times the word ‘sustainability’ has been mentioned on the Internet in the past 90 days.

Sustainability’s impact can be seen in the numbers—increased profitability, decreased environmental impact, higher employee and customer engagement, lower risk. Compelling arguments for sustainability are also tied to the numbers. So why are the numbers on the Internet not making the case for sustainability?

Here are some more figures to consider:

1,229,807. The number of mentions ‘finance’ has received on Twitter in the past 90 days.

664,968. The number of times ‘engineering’ has appeared on Twitter in the same time period.

175,844. You got it. The number of times ‘sustainability’ has been talked about on Twitter in the last 90 days.

Yikes. So across Twitter, sustainability is getting roughly one-seventh the amount of chatter that finance is, even though a strong sustainability strategy has measurable financial benefits? And one-quarter the amount of engineering? Something’s not adding up here.

Last month, the Buzz contemplated sustainability’s branding problem. The article posited that the problem might be grounded in the way sustainability is communicated. Perhaps it’s an issue of sustainability being relegated to “add-on” status at many companies—complete with its own lingo. But what if it’s not just the fact that we don’t talk about sustainability as part of business as usual yet?  After all, plenty of popular, highly discussed new ideas that aren’t part of everyday business practice penetrate our collective consciousness. The problem is that sustainability has not capitalized on what could be its greatest source of promotion: social media.

Social media is an easy way to drive a dialogue and, if you’re savvy about it, a way to have your voice heard and reach those who may not typically seek out your message. A good example of an industry that rocks their social media presence is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This is relatively unsurprising, as the SEO industry’s goal is manipulating the Internet to drive high numbers of visitors to their clients’ websites. It makes sense that they’d know how to drive the numbers up for their own social media presence.  Sustainability could profit by taking a page out of their social media playbook.

While SEO’s mainstream news-mention numbers are relatively low (8,202 in the past 90 days), their Twitter-mention numbers are off the chart – 1,938,647 in the past 90 days. This blows sustainability’s mere 175,844 mentions out of the water.  SEO, a recently booming field, has many characteristics similar to sustainability. It’s a field jam-packed with confusing jargon, it’s relatively new, and it takes a lot of explanation to convince people they need it.

So with all those fundamental similarities, let’s ask the question:  Why is there such a huge difference? Is it that people on social media aren’t interested in sustainability? Or is it that sustainable organizations and sustainability professionals aren’t tuned into the value of social media? Research indicates that it’s definitely the latter.

Sustainability has been an important business trend for some time now.  So why aren’t more sustainability professionals and corporate leaders discussing and sharing what they know on social media with those who are eager to learn more and, more importantly, those who may not have bought fully into sustainability yet? The beauty in the SEO social model is that they never stop sharing what they’ve learned and, as a result, they bring new people into the fold. They’re never afraid to give away their secrets, and they delight in the other guy having another point of view. They communicate. They ask questions. They share.  At the same time, they’re creating a seriously interconnected community on which they can rely to advance their goals. SEO businesses are realizing success, and they’re doing it by communicating.

So here’s advice suggestion for sustainability professionals and corporations who really want to drive the conversation forward.  Forget about writing your white papers and hoping someone reads them. Engage with people where they are instead, and link to your white paper, or quote from it.  Ignore the typical business model. A sustainable business strategy isn’t typical. It’s innovative, world changing andaccessible.  Start communicating that message with others who can help you and vice versa.

In fact, why are you even still reading this article?

Get on social and start a conversation.

My Love Affair with ‘Girls’

I adore  the television show “Girls”. It’s easily one of my favorite shows… ever. Lena Dunham might be one of the most clever, intelligent young females in the entertainment world today and I have a gigantic crush on her. Mind you, I also have no preconceived notions that everyone in the world must love this show as passionately as I do. I’m totally the demographic they’re looking to hit with it. 24, young female, living in a city, making it on my own after college. Despite the many times I want to scream at the main character “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!” I can’t get too mad, because it was only days, weeks, months ago that I might have done something similar.

In my experience, the first years out of college and in the real world might be some of the most exciting years and also some of most heart-wrenching. And I’m not talking about any romantic relationships (though those can definitely cause you some elation and grief, too) but instead those first moments you get an inkling you can’t hide beneath the guise of being young anymore. Those moments that turn into a constant sea of responsibility and accountability. Suddenly, you are making it. On your own. And this is both exhilarating and terrifying.

In a world where girls have been painted as these transformed overly perky, sickeningly dependent cliches of themselves, Lena Dunham’s creation is a breath of fresh air. Where in other shows I find myself wondering where these women exist in the real world and if I should be more like them, I see bits of myself and my friends in ‘Girls’. A little raunchy, a lot snarky, imperfect, awkward, supportive, smart. In the characters’ personal successes I see my own, no matter how small. And in their insecurities, I see my own even clearer.

The feelings associated with being in that no man’s land between childhood and adulthood are portrayed in such definition that I can’t help but think in my head, ‘Yes. That’s exactly what it’s like.’ It is in Hannah’s constant subtle apologies for herself, her babbling stories, her constant struggle between her inner monologue and her perceived expectations of the outside world that I take comfort that I’m not the only one. Even for all of her intelligence and wit, she elects to just take up less space while she navigates the intellectual and social battlefield.

But there are those moments when it seems to all come together, even if they are fleeting. One of my favorite lines from the show is, “I have work, and then I have a dinner thing, and then I am busy, trying to become who I am.” There are these brief, triumphant moments in ‘Girls’ where those self-defining moments shine through for each of the characters, and, much like those on-screen personas, those personal moments are the most exhilarating for me as a 24 year old young female living in a city making it on my own. And soon enough, those moments will transition me into adulthood. Unapologetic, calm and certain.

Hopefully one day Hannah will, in the spirit of Mary Tyler Moore, throw her hat in the air and say good-bye to the forlorn world of the in-between. And if she can get there, I can too.

New Year’s Resolutions

Let me preface this post with this: I’m normally really bad at New Year’s resolutions. I work hard at them for awhile but then they tend to fizzle out. However, after my birthday this year, I decided I was going to start ditching the TV and the internet when I come home from work and start reading more because, truly, how many more episodes of Breaking Amish do I need to see? How many more tumblrs must I scroll through with eyes glazed over?

My goal was to read 1 book a month for the next year. So far, since November 16th, I’ve read 6 books. I was a voracious reader as a kid, and it’s been nice to get back into the swing of it. I don’t know if your school participated in any sort of book competitions, but mine participated in Book-It. The kids in the class who read the required number of books in a month won a gift certificate to Pizza Hut. As a child, I thought those breadsticks were THE BOMB so I was intent on making sure I attained that special, cheesy prize each month. To put it simply, I was a fuckin’ boss at getting it done and I dined like a king many a night at the local Pizza Hut.

I like to think that I’m now competing in my own personal Book-It, and the prize at the end of the road is feeling less horrible about how I spend my off-hours (this comes in at a close second to the breadsticks).

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Awwww yeeeeeeeeah.

But I digress.

Because I’ve been so successful in sticking to my birthday book resolution, I’ve decided I’m going to try out some New Year’s resolutions. And lucky for you, one of these resolutions is writing at least TWO blog posts a month! I feel bad I’ve been neglecting my little home on the internet, so resolution 1 is to open the doors back up and share my thoughts on a more regular basis with my faithful followers (of which, I believe, there are about 3).

After I determined my first resolution, I started thinking about what I want in any resolutions I make. After all, this blog was born out of a desire to express myself in a more creative way than I was able to at my job at the time. I wanted to use my mind in a more complex way. In other words, it was born out of a desire to feed my own soul and mind. And when I thought about it more, that’s what my birthday book resolution was born out of, as well.

In previous years, when I’ve made resolutions, it’s been for something more material: work out to be back at the size I was out of high school, get a job I hated to make more money, etc. Once I realized that, it became so extremely clear why those resolutions always failed: I wasn’t actually bettering myself. I wasn’t actually satisfying my mind or my body. I was merely making those empty (and sometimes unrealistic) resolutions because it seemed like those were the things demanded of me by everyone else (whether that was actually true or not).

Therefore, I found my theme for 2013: Challenging my mind and my body, resulting in the feeling I can really only achieve through my own actions: pure satisfaction.

All of that being said, my resolutions this year are for me and me alone, not to do things that will fit me into some societal norm. Aside from the resolution about posting on here more, I’m not going to share them with you. Perhaps they’ll come up in another post, perhaps they won’t. But, at least for now, I want to keep these for me.

I hope you have a happy and healthy 2013, and that you keep doing things that make you happy. And I’ll see y’all soon.