Just Family

I hire social media to do all sorts of important jobs.

I started this blog because I had something to say, and wanted to find my voice. LinkedIn helps me be found professionally, Facebook helps me connect with people that I like but don't see very often; the images on Pinterest give me an emotional pick-up.  And, Twitter, and its wonderful farmer's market of ideas and conversation, is one of the first places I go each morning.

But about six months ago, when I learned about justfamily, I realized there was one job that social media wasn't doing for me. And in truth, it hadn't occurred to me that I wanted it done.

Here I was spending at least a half hour a day on social media platforms, expanding my circles of professional contacts, acquaintances, and close friends. But there was one circle that had little to no overlap in the Venn diagram that is my social media life:  my family circle. Or in the vernacular of Howard Schultz (founder and CEO of Starbucks), I've got the second and third place covered, but what of my first place, the family? Sure, I occasionally share something pithy my children have said, but in order to protect their privacy, there's so much I don't say… and in an odd way, they had become the undocumented citizens of my social net.

And what of how they view the world?

We have photographs of them, but how do we preserve what they are seeing through the lens of their teenage minds and hearts? Will I remember in a week's time, let alone a year or a decade, the conversation my son and I had on our back porch last Saturday? I learned then why he prefers Spotify over Pandora, and that he likes dubstep.

And is there a way to celebrate, with family, how well my daughter did on her standardized tests this year? Not only verbally, but by notifying each other — so that everyone, including her older brother, gets the status update? And, then of course, there are the more intimate moments: summer goal-setting, parental apologizing, and family blessings.

I think I will remember. But, I don't. I can't. My madding days, weeks, and years crowd the memories out. But as I've included JustFamily into my social media routine, placing our memories into this social keepsake jar, what was once forgotten, I am remembering.

And my children are learning just how much they are loved.


Are you collecting family memories?

Do your social media archives capture both your public and private life — especially your family life?

Have you noticed that when your children read what you've written about them in a public place — even if just among family — they believe it?

Disclosure:  I happily joined the Advisory Board of Just Family earlier this year.

If you decide you want to take JustFamily for a spin, you can log on here. If you want to learn more, you can ping the CEO and founder Nate Quigley nate@justfamily.com or tweet him at @njquigley. Nate is the husband of my dear friend Vanessa; as parents of seven children, they are no strangers to gathering these precious seashells of memories.

Becky Robinson | Because ___________ Followed You on Twitter Today

________ followed you on Twitter today.

It’s crazy, this digital world that connects us to so many.

We connect to people relationally, making friends of strangers. We find mentors, and cheerleaders, people who applaud our success and admire our achievements.  We find a community that seems true and unconditionally supportive.

All the while, we push to the corners of our mind the deep disappointment we carry about the relationships that should have been, but aren’t.

The people we’re estranged from – because – let’s be honest:  we all have those people.

Fathers. Mothers. Sisters. Brothers.

We try to forget about those relationships that seem broken and fragmented beyond repair.

We push aside the hurt; we focus on what’s right in our lives; we plow forward; we work hard; we love the people closest to us; we give what we can to others.

And then, the interlopers, the ones who abandoned us — they return, to sit on the sidelines of our lives. Still distant, but observing our success.

Online onlookers only, they show up unexpectedly, and lurk on the edges of our vision.

Is it better that they’re there, or worse?

We wonder: Are they watching? Are they listening? Does it matter?

What should we do? Engage them? Ignore them?

Because, really, we’ve lived apart from them for so long.

Because, really, we’ve learned to live without them.

It hurts, of course. It hurts more than we care to admit.

To see that familiar face, but know that the distance remains.

And really, what hope is there for repair?

Could they catch up on all those missed years by reading what we write online? Could they understand us by reading our tweets? Could they know who we are now by a few photos on Facebook?

Do they feel better knowing these details of our lives?

What separates us now is not the miles, though they are far. It is not the years, though they have been long.

It is outside of words really, and, beyond explanation, but I think that if you’ve experienced it, you know what I mean.

Where there was once nothing, there is now an artificial sense of closeness.  People who chose to leave us now stake a claim for connection.

Apart from healing, apart from a miracle, there is none.

* * *

Have you ever experienced this?

How do you manage awkward online connections?

This post is from Becky Robinson of Weaving Influence.

Susan McPherson | A Connector Before Connectivity Was In

Every 365 days, Mother's Day rolls around, and sadly, I look upon it with dread. I lost my beloved mom 25 years ago to a historic hotel fire that took place on New Year's Eve in Puerto Rico. My mom, loving to play slot machines, happened to stop at the hotel an hour before it was torched by an angry employee. Ninety-seven people perished on that horrific last day of 1986, a time before the Internet, personal computers, voicemail, email, smart phones and social media.

Fast forward to today. A day where every-breathing thought is shared millions of times per day, where Mother's Day is shouted at the top of mountains for all of us to drown in. Fortunately, as a particularly optimistic and spirited soul, I honor my dear friends who are mothers as well as their moms, sisters and aunts. This has always been my saving grace and helped me get through the noisy holiday.

But this year, I decided to be more soulful and look inward to see what my mother, a communicator in her own right, bestowed on me.

It’s no coincidence that I ended up in a similar field, helping corporations, NGOs and advocacy organizations communicate their messages. She was a career public relations professional, working for several public TV stations and had a stellar reputation as a PR person with a big heart.

Her career started in mid-50s when she became a PR manager at Boston's Deaconess Hospital. Following her marriage to my father, she supported him during his doctorate studies at Columbia University by managing PR at the beloved New York Public Library. (Years later after her death, my father would always comment on those famous lions gracing the entrance to the building, even during the Spiderman movie series). Once he landed his first professorship, she left her career to raise her three children.

Photo credit Saucy Salad

Unlike many moms in the 1970s, she went back to work before her youngest (me) was in college and left me to fend for myself after school. Little did I know what PR meant and nor did I care.

I was 9, then 11 and finally 16 before I had somewhat of a sense of the work she did each day. It wasn't until my university years, that I finally could appreciate her skills and a sense of awe given how well she could mastermind a press conference, a public opening, a party or a ribbon cutting.

Somehow, she orchestrated massive networks of media and friends bringing people together who could find some semblance of commonality just using the old-fashioned telephone, a typewriter, hand-written notes and an uncanny ability to really “know” people. She had a way of making even the utmost strangers feel at ease with one other.

Whenever she would travel, she would very thoughtfully and strategically return with special tokens for various news reporters and writers. For instance, during her regular NYC-visits (we lived in the suburbs of Albany), she would come home bearing Molinari sausages and the finest Russ & Daughters smoked salmon she could find, and then deliver them to the hungry souls at the Albany Times Union or Schenectady Gazette. It was no wonder that her memorial service, held during a blizzard in upstate New York, was standing room only.

What would she make of today's 24-hour news cycle, our rapid-fire communications exchanges, the rise of FB, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, and so many other networks? I know she would love and embrace them as they have become requirements in today's massive news and media worlds.

But somehow, and perhaps its just a fantasy of mine, she would probably put more emphasis on her old-fashioned people skills rather than shooting out tweets and pinning favorites. Perhaps, there is a lesson for all of us and one that I'm trying to deal with on a daily-basis. These tools are just that – simply tools. They won't ever replace the age-old and vital engagement that is a human discussion, a real phone conversation, a personal interaction, a touch or a hug.

Food for thought this weekend as we all start sending out our Mother's Day wishes over Twitter and Facebook and then quickly moving on to sharing our favorite NY Times articles, pictures of our kids playing soccer, and jokes that we heard on The Daily Show.

Susan McPherson, a serial connector, passionate do-gooder and corporate responsibility expert, is a SVP at Fenton, the firm that just helped launch the Half The Sky campaign. She spends any downtime volunteering in support of 6 NGOs, gardening on her roof deck, and still missing her mom.

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