Health & Fitness

Finding Success with the Frenemy Known as Social Media

WHEN I FIRST SIGNED UP FOR FACEBOOK, back in 2008, I pecked away at the keyboard, trying to figure out what it was all about. I was immediately accosted by a guy named Elmore. He said we had gone to school together. He gave me some brief details of our friendship and wondered if I remembered him, and I said, sorry, no. He asked several more questions, none of which I could answer, and that was that. 

As time went on, I became more familiar with the platform and have found a few friends that I have welcomed with a smile, but mostly, I've made new online friends. An interesting side note: I've been way more successful with Twitter than I have Facebook.

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Socializing is important and takes on many forms in 2021.

 

Curious elders love social media

Maintaining meaningful social relationships is widely regarded by professionals who study such things as critical elements of aging well. Older folks do more socializing today than ever before, but much of it is on the Internet using social media platforms. Statistics tell us that most curious elders prefer Facebook. 

My own involvement with social media began back in the '80s with an Internet platform called CompuServe that included a variety of quasi-social media tools. I used a product called UseNet, and Internet relay chats known as IRCs. I began blogging in 2003. In more recent years, I've joined various social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook. I've also been a member of Pinterest, Google Plus, Instagram, Linkedin, Typepad, Flickr, etc. 

Social media has come a long way in the past 20-years, and more services pop up every day in an attempt to fill specific social networking niches. But these gathering spots live on the Internet (aka the wild west), which means most of us have a love/hate relationship with our social sites. 

The downside of a good thing

We love it when we find someone we can relate to, and we hate it when we're harassed by trolls or have our personal information stolen.

But our love affair with technology comes with risks and costs. The negative side of social Internet use includes ...

  • Data breaches (our information is stolen)
  • Email hacks (our emails are used by others for nefarious purposes)
  • Dissemination of fake news
  • Disinformation that's been weaponized against others
  • Outright lies and misleading statements
  • Advertising that tracks our every move
  • Spying by shadowy overseas organizations

Additionally, social media also has negative attributes that affect us on a personal level: 

  • Some become virtually addicted to it. We've all seen the person who (literally) can't put down their phone because they might miss something. (FOMO)
  • We allow ourselves to be harassed or denigrated by trolls. 
  • Many people relinquish too much personal information.
  • We waste way too much time cyberloafing, doomscrolling, and scanning nonsense. 

The upside of a good thing

Despite its inherent dangers, millions of older people continue to use the Internet and social media every day. Why? Because it offers so much enjoyment and valuable service, and it's often a great way to:

  • Communicate with healthcare professionals through their social platforms. 
  • Interact with friends and family across long distances. 
  • Provide or receive social support when confronted with a difficult life situation, regardless of geographical location or time. 
  • Create social relationships when in-person relationships are unattainable.
  • Learn all sorts of new things; academic, artistic, travel, exercise, political, and more.
  • Meet like-minded people and create friendships.
  • Consider new ideas, theories, fresh perspectives.
  • Overcome loneliness, relieve stress, discover a nurturing voice.
  • Share your thoughts, ideas, photos, and more.
  • Shop and pay for merchandise.
  • Operate a small business with minimal overhead.
  • Watch movies and listen to music.
  • Do your banking: checking, investments, loans, and credit cards.
  • And much more

Participation in social media can range from passive behavior such as reading posts and online discussions to the active involvement of posting, blogging, or uploading multimedia content.

Hello, Goodbye

In 1967 The Beatles recorded the song: Hello, Goodbye. It somehow resembles the feelings surrounding social media and the many inconsistencies of the Internet. 

I had a conversation with a small group a few nights ago during happy hour. (I always enjoy good conversation during that hour of the day.) The question was raised, "what do you think about social media." The answers were varied and went something like this:

  • I think it's just a bunch of rubbish. 
  • It's a place where youngsters get bullied, depressed, and worse.
  • I just want to be able to talk to my friends.
  • It's a vehicle businesses can use to create relationships that become profitable.
  • It's a creepy place that I don't like.
  • I like shopping in my living room.

All of these are true to some extent. It's up to us individually to use social media and the Internet in general with extreme care. We have to constantly remain vigilant of its dangers while employing common-sense practices like these: 

  • Follow and communicate with only those you find agreeable and polite.
  • Don't get emotional or defensive with trolls; simply block 'em and forget 'em!
  • Report obnoxious individuals to the platform's moderation team.
  • Block any person or company that makes you feel unsettled.
  • Never share personal information with anyone unless you know them and have a secure connection. 
  • Use a complex password (not your pet's name), and change it often.
  • Use Two-Factor Authentication when available. 
  • Remember: If someone or some interaction doesn't feel right, block them. 

The Internet was created to be a good and helpful thing. But, as good things go, get enough people involved, and the original purpose of the idea disintegrates. But we're fully involved now, and it ain't goin' away! But we can still fix it, and I hope we will. When the Internet and social media are used correctly, it's a beautiful thing. 


Regulation is coming!

CBS News video on deep fakes

Social media and mental health


I'm Getting My COVID-19 Vaccination Today!

THE EXCLAMATION POINT at the end of the title above does not indicate any excitement on my part. I'm just being facetious.

I'm somewhat ambivalent about the COVID vaccination. I don't care much for injections or medications of any kind, for that matter. I'm more inclined to live healthily and maintain a robust immune system naturally through good food and exercise. But I'm not naive. While the human body is capable of amazing things, it is also susceptible to medical mysteries and unclassified diseases. 

My wife and I have been virtually housebound since late March 2020. We've done everything suggested by medical experts, healthcare workers, and scientists. After all, masks, social distancing, and cleanliness is the natural way to protect ourselves from the disease.

I refuse to get stressed out about it

Frankly, it's been a bitch. We miss our family immensely. We miss friends. We miss going to restaurants and happy hour, which was one of our fun things to do.

MomBarry
My son Barry and my Mom. Photo © 2016 Lloyd Lemons

We moan and groan about our plight from time to time, but then we see other folks struggle with sickness and death and family tragedy. We see families with little food. We watch front-line workers being worn to a frazzle physically and emotionally by endless hours spent serving their communities, all while struggling with the soul-crushing defeat of losing multiple patients each day. 

Fifteen minutes of the evening news and our little problem of being housebound seems like the equivalent of a 10-year old whining about having to go to bed at eight o'clock on a school night. 

We soon looked upon our housebound status as our small contribution to saving lives. At the beginning of the pandemic, the mantra was: We're all in this together!

We took that to heart. 

And now, it's time for the vaccine

I have friends and family on the fence about taking the vaccine, and I know others who will refuse it. As I mentioned above, I'm ambivalent about it too. Is it worth it? Have I already had COVID-19 without any symptoms, and therefore already have my own antibodies? How long will this vaccine protect me? 

I'm over 65, so I've been eligible for weeks now, but I haven't been in a hurry. I was going to wait for my wife to become eligible so we could do it together. Plus, I wasn't eager to get in line for an hours-long wait with hundreds of irate, stressed-out older folks who took questionable measures to ensure they got the shot. (That kind of stress will weaken your immune system.) 

Good medicine

After encouragement from some family members, my wife called for an appointment for me. Less than two weeks later, the day is here. Today, February 14th, I'm scheduled at 3:30 p.m. to get my first shot. I expect it to be a no muss, no fuss experience. 

As I go into this experiment, I know there are dozens of questions about the tests and vaccines with no real answers. 

I very much admire and respect the healthcare workers, doctors, scientists, and specialists of every stripe, but the fact is, we've come into some unknown space. There are no rock-solid answers to all the questions that people have. It's an incredibly complex system of interrelated parts. The answers we are given are more like educated guesses.

The research goes on, and it will for years to come--it will likely never stop. 

Do doctors ever have a rock-solid answer to anything that ails us? Seldom. But the work they do is based on decades and even centuries of research. They have at their disposal a vast knowledge base, years of advanced training, and extensive specialized experience.

That's what we call good medicine. 

Trusting good medicine

How should we feel about this good medicine?

At some point, trust has to come into play, and we take action. Throughout our lives, we have to learn to trust things to survive. As the Russian playwright, Anton Chekhov once said, You must trust and believe in people, or life becomes impossible.

But at this moment in time, there is little trust in the world. We're skeptical, fearful, and filled with worry. Most of this uneasiness is born from a lack of leadership, racial inequities, and political divisiveness. But these things have little to do with our health as it relates to the pandemic. 

For me, I don't want my uneasiness with the zeitgeist to taint my faith in science, the medical community, and good medicine.

We all see a doctor when we're not feeling well, and we trust in his or her advice and the medications prescribed. Trust is built and maintained by many small actions over time. I think our medical community and front-line workers have more than proven themselves.

I trust good medicine. I will get my COVID-19 vaccination today. And I won't think twice about it.

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For further information check out these links.

How to protect yourself & others

Get the vaccine

Rebuilding trust in medicine