Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Social Media and Our Collective Voice

This modern world can be tough to navigate. The internet has given us many blessings. However, It has also made our lives feel as though we are often living under a microscope.

It is easy to look at the social media posts of others and feel as though our lives are small in comparison. Facebook and Pinterest feeds of perfectly decorated and tidy homes, Instagram photos of lovely beach vacations and international travel and Twitter feeds full of witty quips, all of which often leave us feeling as though our lives aren’t quite living up to the lives of those around us. It is ever so easy to forget that these perfectly curated moments on social media never show the full and true picture of someone’s life.

The ever-present false perfection of social media tends to cause me to spiral into an unhealthy and unable to be won comparison game. My inner critic feeds off of this game and can always find more and more ways in which I lose- I’m not as thin as everyone else in their perfectly styled photos, my house doesn’t seem to be as clean as the photos of everyone else’s stylish and tidy abodes, my children’s birthday parties could be much more fanciful and full of handmade decorations and homemade gourmet food…It is never ending.

However, even beyond the comparison game, social media has a way of leaving me with a sadness hangover. There are so many that use their social media feeds as a way of venting all of their problems, worries and hate of the world. It is hard to scroll through Facebook or Twitter without a sickening feeling that the world is full of deep sadness and hate. I have taken to unfollowing those with a persistent doom and gloom but, if I know the person personally, end up feeling a bit sad about doing so.

I know that taking breaks from social media, attempting to control my feeds so that they are full of positivity, kindness and a willingness to make a change in the world and reminding myself constantly that no social media account shows a person’s life in it’s entirety is helpful to me.

Beyond the unhealthy comparisons that social media can encourage, as an introvert I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have a voice in this world even as my voice in person may fail me. I am grateful for the like-minded friends that I have met, whom I never would have known without social media. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a voice of kindness and encouragement, even when the collective voices on social media seem to be dreadfully discouraging.

If you add up the number of friends and followers on your social media accounts, how many people do you have collectively following you- Hundreds? Thousands?

Can you imagine standing on a platform with all of those people standing in front of you waiting for you to speak into a microphone- listening to the words you speak, the pictures you will share?

In this modern world, we each have a voice. How are you choosing to use yours?

If each of us was to vow to use our voices less for complaining and spreading hate and chose, instead, to be the collective voice of compassion and honesty, can you imagine the change in humanity? The human condition is one of contagion. It is not only illness that can spread-hate, love, shame, kindness…everything is contagious. As much as we like to stand in our individuality, the truth is that we are each connected. Social media has connected us as never before, without boundaries of location, time and space. The way that we use this massive connection, this massive opportunity to bring humanity together is completely up to us. I empower you think before you share.

“You are what you share.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My Nurse's Stethoscope and Why I Am Proud to Be a Nurse

The following was originally a post on my Facebook page, but many have requested that I place it here for a more permanent home. It is a response to the ladies of The View who made some hurtful and uneducated comments in regard to the monologue of Miss Colorado, who beautifully spoke of the importance of nurses.

I am saddened to browse my social media feeds and see The View co-hosts disparaging Miss Colorado, Kelley Johnson, for her monologue in which she proudly spoke of the importance of nurses. I am sorry for the uneducated view of nurses that these catty women have chosen to share with the world.

These women of The View have been given a massive audience to speak in front of. They sit, carefully made up and manicured in a comfortable chair in an air-conditioned studio, and use their voices to tear down and mock their fellow women.  We nurses do not often have such a wide-reaching voice. During our shifts we see only a handful of patients and their families, often in sweaty scrubs(which one host unkindly called a "costume") which are stained with the numerous bodily fluids of our patients, mentally and physically exhausted- and, yet, we choose to use our voices to educate, empower and to save the lives of our precious patients. We nurses, men and women alike, have chosen to be voices of kindness and compassion in a world that has often been cruel to our patients.

I am an educated, skilled, kind and compassionate nurse. In my nursing career my hands, often sore and dry from all of the hand washing between patients, have been the first to hold a baby new to this world and have been the last to comfort a patient who is leaving the world. I have made assessments and administered medicine and procedures which have both saved lives and improved them. I have used my stethoscope(not a 'doctor's stethoscope' as one host embarrassingly stated) so often that it feels like an extension of my body and have used that assessment tool to save lives.  I have witnessed humanity at it's absolute worst and it's redeeming best. I have given education to patients and their families that have led, in ways both big and small, to better lives for my patients and their families. I have done chest compressions for hours while allowing a family member to make it to the hospital while their loved ones' heart was still beating. I have held a mother for excruciating minutes in which she wailed an otherworldly scream and mourned for her dead child. I have held in my own emotions until the blissful moment when my shift is done and I can weep in my car until my eyes are raw, so much is my desire to save every patient.   I have borne witness to the very worst hours of the lives of many. I have spent overnights, weekends and holidays away from my own family,  ensuring that my patients get the care that they deserve even as I miss family dinners, my children's ballgames and birthday parties.  These hands will never be carefully manicured as the ladies on The View. Nor do I wish them to be, for the important work that is done by nurses cannot be done from a comfortable chair in a studio.

I hope for a day in which nurses are lauded for their great works. I have many co-workers and fellow nurses that are incredibly deserving of such recognition. Regardless of whether or not such a day comes, nurses will use their education, their hard-earned skills, their hearts, their compassion and their kindness to continue to make this world a better place. And, for that and many other reasons- I am damn proud to call myself a nurse.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Technology, Connection and Modern Day Prisons

The above picture showed up in my Facebook feed this morning. It is an older Twitter post by the artist Banksy(click photo to be taken to his original post). It is an iPhone depicted as a prison.

I was frozen by this image.

At the moment that I came upon the picture, I was sitting in my bed with my two girls while they watched a Disney movie- waking from their slumber slowly and cuddled around me. I wasn't present in the moment as I should have been. These moments of my children's childhood are fleeting and I have been painfully aware of how quickly they are growing lately. Yet, instead of basking in the warmth of their cuddles and laughing at the cartoon along with them I was... on my iPhone.

My morning tradition has become browsing through my social media feeds while my first cup of coffee swims into my veins. Usually, I do so before my children wake up. However, it's not unusual on weekend morning for me to do this with a sleepy child on my lap.

Has my smartphone become a prison for me?

The thought swam through my head with fervor after seeing the Banksy image. I believe that it has. Social media has allowed me to connect with many people, both personally and professionally. It has been a blessing in many ways. But there is another side, isn't there?

I wonder if I am losing the ability to be present in my life, to experience joy without sharing it with my myriad of friends and followers. I no longer appreciate the beauty around me without pulling out my phone to snap a picture, edit it and post it to Instagram. If I have a thought which seems to me to be profound, I share it on Twitter. If my children have a program or a ballgame or a dance recitals, the photos are loaded onto Facebook for all to see.

I find myself wondering...

When is the last time I stood in front of a sight of great beauty and kept the image only in my heart and mind, trusting memory to hold it for me?

When is the last time that my children had a great accomplishment and I  did not share it publicly but instead trusted that my fervent praise and pride would be enough for my children, without sharing it with the entire world for their praise to be added?

When was the last time I stayed off social media for an entire day and trusted that anything that I missed did not matter at all? After all, important news always found its way to me before Facebook and Twitter, didn't it?

I am losing myself and many precious moments in the time spent in front of my phone, mired in the harsh light streaming from my iPhone and missing the life that is happening beyond the screen in the moments of now. 

The photo that I posted on Instagram of a summer's day cannot replace the memory. My memory is complete with the feeling of the blades of green beneath my bare feet, of the smell of summer- hot sun and sunscreen, of my heart singing with the magic of the day. And, I cannot have that memory if I stand at the corner of the world and hide behind a camera screen.

The status that I posted on Facebook of my child's latest accomplishment will never light up my child's heart. The moment spent writing that status would likely be better spent hugging my child and telling them how much I love them, accomplishments or not.

Browsing trending Twitter hashtags will not help me to better understand the world. If I want to have a better understanding of the world and the people in it, I must be present.

Here's to a life of breaking out of our many prisons, Dear Ones. Life is too short to be trapped inside anything that does not serve you. A life trapped in the hypnotic trace of social media is little life at all. I demand of myself to be more present and less a slave of modern, shallow connections. I want deep connections, moments of wonder and a life lived to the fullest.

 Let us all live every moment of today.