Monday, March 29, 2010

Take Time For Yourself

After a busy day at work—and a fun, yet not-so-restful weekend—it was nice to come home tonight and do nothing. Literally nothing—I just ate and watched TV.

I know you’ve come to expect long, detailed and essay-like blogs from me, but I’m not so long-winded all of the time. Tonight’s message is simple:

Love yourself first. Take time out for yourself that you can call your own. Don’t feel pressured to live a fast-paced lifestyle all of the time. It’s okay to turn your phone off for a night and just think.

Stop to enjoy life in its simplicity—happiness doesn’t require a whole lot; it truly is the little things that matter.

Are you paying enough attention to them—to yourself? Do it! It makes everything else so much more worthwhile.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Five Reasons You Must Be On Twitter

So, as most of you already know, I've literally made a career out of tweeting. Honestly, I never planned for things to be this way. Hell, I didn't even have a Twitter until April of 2009. (My Twitterversary is coming up, yay!)

But there are a lot of people out there who are skeptical of Twitter - and social media in general. In my conversations with others who aren't on Twitter, I inevitably have to ask, "So, why don't you tweet?"

You may or not be surprised at how predictable the responses are. There are three primary reasons:

1. I don't know what to tweet about!

2. I don't want to hear about what people are doing at every second of the day!

and/or

3. I already have Gmail, AIM, Facebook and LinkedIn. Do I really need another site to maintain?

Have you heard any other reasons? Please share them in the comments.

Here are my comebacks:
1. You do have something important to say! What are the random thoughts that pop into your head? What do you think about that new ad campaign? Did last night's episode of Lost really suck?

2. Don't follow people who just tweet "eating a sandwich" or "about to go grocery shopping" - follow people who share interesting stories, links and ideas, and be sure to avoid talking about the mundane as well. Feel free to talk about whatever's happening in your daily life, but put a humorous spin on it! Here's an example: instead of saying "worst commute ever!" say "Chris + hangover + screaming children + packed train = NOT HAPPY."

and

3. I agree--another site kinda sucks. BUT - the added value you'll receive by taking part in the Twitter community will far outweigh the time and energy you have to put in. Because as long as you are sharing relevant, interesting content, people will follow you and you will grow your personal "brand."

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you're an artist, architect or assassin, the truth is: you can't afford to NOT be on Twitter. Here are the 5 reasons:

1. Information
Twitter is an amazing resource for news and information. Links are shared, ideas spread and topics trend. Every major media outlet has a Twitter feed. Often, news breaks on Twitter before anywhere else. It's worth the investment to be connected, which leads me to my next point...

2. Connections
In the realm of "social networking," Twitter is the easiest and most open platform to network with others. Wanna find people who share similar interests with you? Just search for specific keywords or hashtags and follow them. Start a conversation with them and BOOM, you have a connection! But, at the end of the day, Twitter has so much more to offer. Unlike any other closed network (i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, Brazen Careerist, etc.), Twitter allows you to send a tweet to literally anyone - a celebrity, a newscaster and even the President. How is this relevant to you? Well, if you're a freelance photographer and really like that shot in V magazine, you can look up the photographer on Twitter and say, "I really admire your work" or "How can I be as good as you?" or "Are you looking for an intern?" You can literally apply this situation to any profession. Wanna message that editor but don't know his or her email or phone number? No problem - tweet them! Twitter has flattened our world more than any other social media platform - and that's an amazing resource. Are you really willing to pass that up?

3. Simplicity
Twitter is simple: you have 140 characters and that's it! Who would've thought that a character limit could spur creativity? Well, I guess the same principle applies to time crunches and deadlines, but I digress. The point is: Twitter is not a complex array of features like Facebook or LinkedIn. You share your thoughts, period. No frills, no overly-complicated platform.

4. Soundboard
Twitter, even more so than Facebook, has an amazing way of answering the questions it is asked. Want feedback on your project or blog? Ask your Twitter followers - they'll tell you! Want to ask what others thought of the big game? They'll tell you! What about ideas on an upcoming product or a controversial issue? Yup, you guessed it: they'll tell you! See what I mean? Ask and you shall receive! Can your LinkedIn do that?

5. Word-of-mouth
There's no doubt that Twitter is the best thing for spreading messages since email or Facebook. Twitter's inherent "re-tweet" nature has a viral quality to it that is unmatched by any other digital social resource - that's what'll help you get noticed! In this regard, Twitter has a "Wikipedia-like" aspect, where a common knowledge can only benefit you - i.e. the "water cooler" talk in the morning.

So - can you really afford to decline to take part in the conversation? Honestly, what do you have to lose? You do have important thoughts and ideas to share, I know it! You don't have to bore yourself with mundane topics - just don't follow those types of people! That's the beauty of Twitter - it really is what you make of it.

How much longer will you resist? If for nothing else, join so you can see what the fuss is about. You'll only make your personal brand more marketable in the process. Especially if you follow me.

Happy tweeting!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Soundtrack of Your Life

What are your favorite songs of all time? Seriously, what are they? Don’t gimme that whole spiel about “Oh, I couldn’t possibly pick one or even five!” – you have your favorites, just check your iTunes play counts! And if you change your mind all the time, what are the five songs that really pull at your heartstrings – and not just in a sad way?

When you hear those songs, do they take you back to a specific time period and place? Can you feel the same emotions now that you did then? I’d honestly be surprised if you answered “no” to those questions.

Music is such an integral and powerful part of our lives. All of our senses are unique in their own right, and all of them have a distinct impact on our memory, but our auditory sense has an especially acute ability to bring us back to particular moments in our lives.

Hell, whenever I hear “Achy-Breaky Heart” I’m instantly taken back to when I was four years old, dancing in a white t-shirt and tighty-whities around the living room while singing into the TV remote.

And then there’s Mariah, of course. As most of you already know, I have a slight obsession with Mimi – she’s my favorite musical artist. It only takes a short, two-second clip of any of her songs and I’m immediately feelin’ emotions higher than I ever dreamed of – pun intended.

My favorite song of all time is probably “Honey” by Mariah. Every time I listen to it, I get butterflies in the best way possible – and I become giddy and optimistic. Why? Who knows! Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’ve been dancing around to that song for over a decade. Or maybe it’s because I imagine myself back on the beach in Miami whenever I hear it. Whatever the reason, that song will forever have strange powers over me.

I’m a music freak. Some people grow out of it – my Dad sure as hell did – but I don’t think I ever will. I follow music blogs like Musicboxmix (shout out to Louie!), constantly download new music and never turn off my iPod. I’d rather have it this way.

So what are your favorite songs? Tell me in the comments! If I don’t already have the song, I’ll download it. Nothin’ like sharin’ a lil’ musical love, right? Mhm.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Let's Play A Love Game

I’m no love guru – hell, I’ve never even been in love, and my relationships have been far from rosy – but this Shecky’s blog by Kellene McCaffrey really got me in the mood to give amorous advice.

In the blog, Kellene discusses the classic “Disney deception” case – that, as children watching Disney movies, we are engrained with a faulty formula for finding love: boy and girl have a chance encounter, live completely different lives but fall madly in love and then somehow live, as they say, “happily ever after.”

Ironically, coming across this blog was perfect timing for me. Not only have I just recently passed a huge benchmark in my love life – I’ve been single for four years now – but yesterday was the first time I saw the romantic comedy The Holiday with Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black. Yes, I cried.

Back to the point – after the movie yesterday, I became deeply introspective about relationships and what makes them tick. Here’s what Disney taught us:

Our dream guys are:
1. Busy being “dreamy” – in other words, they have a job that keeps them out of trouble.
2. Ready to meet the right person for them.
3. Just as vulnerable and hurt as we are.
4. Active and in-shape, perhaps even part of a sports team or fitness organization.
5. Open and inviting.

Our dream guys are not:
1. Dancing with their shirts off and tweaking on cocaine and ecstasy at the club.
2. Shady and inattentive.
3. Vindictive, misogynistic assholes.
4. Lazy, unhealthy couch potatoes.
5. Judgmental or jaded.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Okay, those lists are great, but I could’ve made those myself.” And, if you did say that, you’d be perfectly right. But, let’s face it; you weren’t going to sit down and make those lists yourself, were you? Right, that’s what I thought.

Okay, moving on. There are some protective measures we must all keep in the back of our minds as we meet new people and explore our boundaries with them.

Protective measures:
1. He’s just not that into you – you’re not the exception and he won’t change for you. Quit tolerating his bullshit excuses and wake up!
2. Guys enjoy a pursuit, so let them chase you – don’t text him incessantly just to let him know you’re thinking about him.
3. Don’t tell your friends about him – the more you talk about him, the more you feed your “hope baby,” (a term coined by my dear friend Noel - do you have a blog so I can link back to it, boo?) the idea in your mind that this guy is Mr. Right.

So what’s the bottom line? Be nonchalant. Like Chuck Klosterman says in Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs, "Every relationship is fundamentally a power struggle, and the individual in power is whoever likes the other person less." So, be the one that cares less – at least in the beginning when the situation is unclear.

How do you care less? Enjoy being single! Think about the perks of being a bachelor or bachelorette:

Advantages of being single:
1. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want.
2. You can do whomever you want, whenever you want.
3. Your only obligation is to yourself, your friends and your family.
4. Time to learn and grow.

So, I bet you’re wondering: “If you know all of this, Chris, then why are you still single?” Well, I’m wondering the same thing. Hell, who doesn’t want companionship? Who would turn down a truly devoted boyfriend who will challenge you and from whom you can learn? It makes me wonder: does the above advice keep one guarded a little too much? Because, at the end of the day, love is being oneself and putting it all out there, right? Sort of.

Let’s take the gay world for example: 20% of heterosexual couples meet online, as opposed to 61% of homosexual couples who facilitated their relationship via the Internet. That’s a pretty staggering difference between sexual orientations, wouldn’t you say? Yeah.

On gay personals sites, nothing is left to the imagination anymore – the days of taking the time to get to know someone have been replaced with interview-like messages and scripts of conversations that detail stats and sexual positions. And don’t forget the sexting and x-rated photographs before you even meet that person on the other side of the wireless connection. It really is all put out there upfront.

Are we really naΓ―ve enough to think that complete and immediate self-disclosure will create an exciting and fruitful relationship? Connections take time to develop – spilling your guts and deepest, darkest secrets to someone that you just started messaging thirty minutes prior is probably not the best idea. Think about it!

And then I think about Sarah M. and Julie S., two friends from high school with whom I’ve recently reconnected via Twitter, and whose blogs I read all the time. Sarah M. is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate, an amazing artist and writer and a cute, active blonde. Julie S. is in seminary, remains true to her principles and is a charming, sophisticated young woman. Now, how is it that two intelligent and respectable young ladies have remained single for so long? Honestly, I don’t know. All I can say is that there’s something wrong with a world where people like us aren’t snatched off the market.

So, is the key to put yourself out there or to remain guarded? Honestly, like the blog I wrote about being yourself 100% of the time, I can’t say that you shouldn’t put yourself out there. Life is about taking risks and pushing the limits; however, at the same time, those risks must be calculated and, as such, we must calculate the amount of ourselves we should reveal at any given time. The point is: find your personal balance. What are you willing to tell someone that you’ve only known for thirty minutes? How about 30 hours? And 30 days?

Love takes time. I’ve tweeted this several times, but love doesn’t just come around like Keri Hilson says it does. It takes effort and commitment and mutual self-disclosure that is spread over time in a healthy, non-chat-room-like manner.

And, if none of that works, you know the relationship wasn’t meant to be. Because the person you’ll end up with – the guy with whom you will share your “happily ever after” – won’t lie to, cheat on or judge you. That doesn’t make them a prince; it makes them your faithful counterpart. Monarchies died hundreds of years ago – and so did horses as the primary means of transportation – so why are you still acting like Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella? Your desperation isn’t getting you anywhere – smarten and toughen up and play the game just as well as the guys do. Maybe then they’ll respect you enough to let you in.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Magazines Aren't Coffee - And That's A Good Thing

"Will the Internet Kill Magazines? Did Instant Coffee Kill Coffee?"

That’s one of the slogans about to be used in an ad campaign aimed at proving the worth of the magazine publishing industry.

Where are these ads to be placed, you ask? That’s right – in front-of-book magazine pages. If you don’t already know, those pages are prime real estate in the glossy publishing world – pages for which advertisers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get noticed.

So, just to make sure we’re all on the same page (no pun intended): magazines are about to forego millions of dollars in advertising in an effort to validate their own existence.

The campaign, work of powerhouse agency Young and Rubicam, is laughable at best. Yes, I’m extremely critical of these forthcoming ads – here’s why:

1. THE HEADLINE & COMPARISON ARE IRRELEVANT

The analogy made is a flawed one. I’ll give them credit – instant coffee and traditional bean brews have managed to coexist, and traditional coffee has even made a comeback…

But to compare instant coffee to the Internet is foolish.

The Internet has revolutionized our culture so completely – so thoroughly – that we’ll never be the same again. Digital integration and increasing connectivity are in no way comparable to instant coffee since coffee is such a miniscule part of our lives. When it comes to communication and personal relationships, the Internet has irrevocably changed our society, for better or for worse. The fact that if Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world, speaks volumes to the swift and irreversible changes we’ve undergone.

Not to mention a huge flaw in this comparison: while instant coffee is a much more convenient and budget-conscious option to the traditional kind, both cost money and are based on the same consumption model – that you go to Starbucks (or another coffee shop) and/or the grocery store and purchase your preference.

That’s not the case with the Internet, which provides information free-of-charge. I refresh my Twitter in the morning and I am instantly aware of what’s going on in the World. I visit the websites of my favorite publications and read full-length articles for free. What’s the point of me going out to buy the same material?

2. THIS ADDRESSES THE SYMPTOMS, NOT THE PROBLEM

These ads are merely patchwork – cover-up – for a much deeper problem: the fact that magazines reflect an outdated way of storytelling – one that, despite all the gimmicks in the print version, completely denies the ADD, time-compressed nature of our society.

When I talk to my friends – most of whom are recent college grads or still in school, and thus completely engrossed in social media – they all bring up the same point: why can’t we create an interactive magazine where photos come alive and designs flesh themselves out on our screens? Is this an impossible dream for the industry?

As the line between video and digital cameras becomes increasingly blurred, and as print and digital media merge into one, magazines need to adapt in order to survive. I firmly believe that magazines – as they stand right now – cannot and will not continue in the same form they have for decades.

3. THIS ENCOURAGES THE STATUS QUO

My biggest qualm with the campaign is that it so desperately seeks to stabilize the status quo instead of challenging the industry to reinvent itself. An industry should never have to prove its own worth – magazines should be working feverishly to provide top-notch, refreshing and engaging content in an interactive, succinct and social media-friendly format.

The main question upon which the industry should focus as it reorganizes and redefines itself is this: as our society and culture change, what do magazines offer in the digital realm? Do they really add value to our lives that cannot be gained elsewhere?

Right now, there’s little to no leadership in the effort to revive magazines as cutting-edge distributors of original content. The only major magazine that’s tried switching things up is Esquire. With their striking covers, Augmented Reality issue and continued use of code boxes to unlock content online, Esquire has at least attempted new and exciting endeavors. Can you think of any others? I can’t.

___________________________________________________

So, is the iPad the answer, or is it a magazine that comes to life online? And how do dwindling advertising numbers factor into all of this? Oh, and what about that new phenomenon… what’s it called? Oh, yeah – social media?! And how could we forget the dilemma of sweeping layoffs yet starved digital staffs?

All extremely important questions – and ones that must be answered quickly and utilized as driving factors in reshaping a glorious industry that has so much potential.

At the end of the day, though, we’re all human. And, who’s to say the magazines aren’t trying to stay relevant? If this campaign shows us nothing else, it’s that this is a desperate attempt to convince others that magazines still matter. Magazine journalists work tirelessly to do what they do – and long hours on deadline are never easy.

Serendipitously, I received an email today that really puts this entire blog into perspective. It was a message from Al Gore that was distributed to members of a “green” community called Repower America. The email started:

Dear Chris,

Winston Churchill said, "Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required."

Now is that time.


Although he was talking about climate change, the same quote is applicable to the current dilemma in restoring the magazine industry.

We should see the beauty and potential in the challenges we face, instead of denying the problems at hand. Self-criticism is such a powerful way to bring about change (a la Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”), so let’s do it!

Because if we’re going to make an absurd connection between magazines and coffee, we should burn our own brew to perfect it, right? Right.