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Originally established for times when I needed more than 140 characters to finish a thought on marketing or media.


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How to not totally suck at email

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Copyright 2013. Jacqui Barrineau.

You would think in 2013 that we as an evolved society wouldn’t have to have discussions about how to write an effective workplace email.

And you’d be wrong.

We get so many emails, IMs and other messages every day that we’re dying from technostress. “Technostress” is not a new term – it’s an old ailment. The theory is the more technology we humans are introduced to, the more we freak out. Perhaps not screaming-and-kicking freaking out, but as message after message pummels us, the stress builds and takes a toll on us mentally and physically. Crying when you get five IMs at EXACTLY the same time is a good example of this First-World problem.

Aw, c’mon, is it really that bad?

Well, think about how many messages we have to respond to in a day – and then think about how much information we have to process. In their 2009 study, UC-San Diego researchers Roger Bohn and James Short estimated in that 2008 that the average person consumes 100,500 words a day. 100,500 words. And that was in 2008. With the explosion of social media and mobile devices over the past five years, we have to wonder how many are we consuming in 2013?

The bad news is there seems to be no end in sight. Until society begins to place more value on calm, effective listening – and no, we have ZERO idea when that unicorn of a utopia will emerge – we’ll continue to suffer as we try to interpret and digest ineffective IMs and emails that fail to inform and only distract.

Ohmigod! I just realized I’m a terrible communicator! How can I change?

While the first step is admitting the problem — “My emails really suck!” — here are five tips to help you change your evil email ways:

  1.  Use the subject field! Indicate why this email is important. There is nothing helpful about no subject line or a subject line that says “Hi!” or “Tuesday.” Tell the reader what this is about, why they should care. Indicate the email’s purpose.
  2. Don’t write in huge chunks of texts. Your reader won’t have time to read it all. Think in bullets. Who, what, when, where, how. There’s a lot of power in brevity. We’re a nation of overstressed people who are skimmers – not careful readers. (If we were still careful readers, there wouldn’t be Twitter.)
  3. Find an effective email font. How about one that was created in the past 10-15 years? Sans serifs are good, but for the love of all that’s 21st century, stay away from Arial that’s larger than 11 points. The white space and lines blur together, making your huge chunks of type even more difficult to read.
  4. Don’t use email as a way to avoid someone. They’ll just find you anyway, and when they do, whatever conflict that’s between you two will only be worse.
  5. Think before you hit “forward” or “cc.”

 
Do you really need to tell us this?

Yes.

An exchange that may seem boring and innocuous between two participants may be interpreted differently by a third. Furthermore, the person you’re communicating with may not want you to share their communication!


To: Manager McButterPants
From: Sad Gal Sally

Subject: Wednesday – doc appt

Hi McButterPants,

I just wanted to let you know that I have a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday for that small insect that has burrowed itself into my left leg and threatens to give me flesh-eating disease. I should be in before noon.

Thanks,

Sad Gal Sally

* * *

 

To: Sad Gal Sally
From: Manager McButterPants
cc: Loser in Cube 3772
Subject: Wednesday – doc appt

Hi Sad Gal,

That sounds fine. Good luck with that insect removal from your leg! Hope you don’t get flesh-eating disease!

Loser in Cube 3772: Sad Gal won’t be in until noon Wednesday. You can follow up on your sales meeting then. FYI.

Thanks,

McButterPants

These five tips may seem silly, but there is serious advice here: If we don’t become more mindful of our messages and how we craft them, we’re just screaming into the hurricane of information — and we will never be heard.


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How to Leave Facebook 101: A Beginner’s Guide

Facebook has been the hugest time suck I’ve ever experienced. I haven’t even watched TV in months, I feel like I never have time to do the things I should be doing, and I get antsy if I can’t check it at least a few times a day.
~ Anonymous friend

Have you seen enough cat pictures? Tired of all the privacy leaks? Or do you just want to recoup the time that you lose captivated by people you don’t really even like?

You want to take a Facebook break, but you’re not sure how. A report published Feb. 5 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows 61% of Facebook users have taken a break from using the social networking site at some point. If so many people can take a Facebook break, then why not you?

But leaving Facebook?  Yes, it sounds insane. To hear some folks considering it, the idea of leaving Facebook is akin to leaving Earth. If you can’t bring yourself to deactivate your account right away, you can ease yourself into a Facebook break by limiting your interaction with the site.

A great starting point is the notifications. Do you really want to know when a friend-of-a-friend’s Aunt Lulu comments on a puppy photo you commented on in 2010? You don’t need a text message or email about that. If you look through the notifications, you’ll see that you can live without a lot of them.

FACEBOOKOBLIGATION

Of course, you’ll want to be notified about friend requests, but more important: you want to be notified when you’ve been tagged in a photo or a post. You don’t want the idiot friend who doesn’t follow the What-Stays-In-Vegas Rule to tag you in the pics of the fur bikini mechanical bull riding contest that you won in 2006.

If you want to further limit your Facebook interactions, delete the app from your phone. You’ll be amazed at how freeing this is. No badges, no buzzes. You’ll find your phone is plenty entertaining without it.

After you have limited the notifications and deleted the app, you’ll probably feel like something’s missing — like you’re not wearing pants. That will pass. You’ll soon find a sense of calm and quiet. At this point, you might find deactivating your account isn’t so hard. Try just one week.  At the end of that week, see how you feel. You may be surprised to find you feel relieved.

Why would I feel relieved?

Because you wouldn’t constantly be responding to a website.

Let’s face it: Social media carries an obligation. If we’re logged on, we are required to respond. It’s like if you’re at a party, you’re required to interact. Facebook is a 24/7/365 party. And sometimes you need to leave the party.

That’s not to say that you can never go back. But when you do, you’ll probably have a different perspective about what you share and with whom you’re sharing. This is healthy. We need to revisit how we interact on social media from time to time so that the sites — Facebook, Twitter, Google+ — don’t completely legislate what we share, how we share it and with whom we share. Taking a break from Facebook (or any social media) allows us to step back from the maddening crowd and think for ourselves — without the coercion of an unapologetic algorithm or the noise of a 24/7/365 party.

 

EARLIER: How Lady Gaga helped me get off Facebook

 


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What I know about being off Facebook

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is part of an ongoing series documenting my social experiment as a former Facebook user. The observations and opinions expressed here are mine and do not in any way reflect those of my employers.

I got an email from a friend the other day saying she missed me on Facebook. It’s not the first such email, and it won’t be the last. It has been more than two months since I deactivated my Facebook account — again. And although I don’t miss it —  I do like not being on the world’s largest social network — this time around confirms what I discovered last fall: Being off Facebook makes for some weird real-world situations.

Unlike last time, I just deactivated without a lot of fanfare. This time there were no pleas for me to stay. No questions why. This time I made a clean break: For 24 hours, my status said, “I’ll be back. Promise.” And then I was gone.

After eight-plus weeks, I’ve found plenty of ways to keep busy — and more real-world social weirdness. I told a friend that because I’m not on Facebook that it’s as if I’m persona non grata. I have gotten (what seems to be?) cold shoulders from co-workers and former co-workers because they (might?) think I’ve defriended them. Even worse, I’ve lost a meaningful connection with co-workers and former co-workers whom I actually like — not to mention re-formed bonds with the college friends whom I truly love. Case in point: I’m just now catching up on plans for a 20-year reunion — but I’m not blaming the organizers. Facebook definitely makes it easier to orchestrate such events. If I’m not on Facebook, I have to work that much harder to be included.

But I don’t mind.

When I logged on after the first break, I found that as much as things change, the more they stay the same: I was losing the same 20 minutes every day that I had been losing before I logged off. And it was a precious 20 minutes. I had not deactivated my account because I think I’m too cool for Facebook; I did it to find some lost time because I am too easily distracted by — well, everything. Facebook was a crippling diversion for me at home. Away from work, every minute counts for me. There aren’t enough hours in the day. I needed to eliminate distractions that ate up my free time. Facebook was one of those distractions.

“But do you miss it?” That’s the question I get when I mention I’m a former Facebook user. The answer is no, not really. There are just so many things about Facebook I don’t like, such as its creepy “sharing” initiative or the classic overshares from the Chardonnay Moms or the chain-prayer posts. I have to admit, though, there are some things I miss. As a journalist and marketing/ecommerce student, I miss seeing what the marketers are doing with the brand pages. As a friend, I miss seeing what my friends are doing, how their kids are growing up. I miss seeing what my teenage niece is up to or the beach photos from North Carolina that make me homesick. All of which is more reason for me to make a real-life effort to connect — and to stay logged off.

 

NEW: Thinking about logging off? Baby steps for the Undecided<

 

EARLIER: How Lady Gaga helped me get off Facebook

 

YOU NEED TO KNOW: Mashable on Facebook’s auto-sharing feature

 


Me in Calliope: ‘Epilogue – Unfinished’

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t just write about cool ads and personal tech. Sometimes I turn out a piece of poetry or short fiction that gets published. My poem “Epilogue – Unfinished” was published this past spring in the student journal Calliope, which has been released in PDF. There are some excellent student works throughout, including some artwork that will take your breath away. (Click the photo at right to open the PDF.)

“Epilogue” was originally a flash-fiction piece that appeared in October 2010 on Paragraph Planet, a creative writing website that features 75-word pieces that are changed daily. It was born from a prompt in class when I overheard a student ask the professor, “Can you give me a first sentence?” (She declined.) I later recast the 75 words as a poem and thought it worked, so I submitted it for consideration. I think it works better as a poem than flash, but I’ll take inspiration any way it hits me.

EARLIER:


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From YouTube: Facebook Nervous Breakdown

I did return to Facebook after deactivating my  account.

I do have more to write about logging off the site; however, I don’t have time right now because I need to ‘like’ some things on Facebook.

Right now, I want to share something I found on YouTube via Facebook: the Facebook Nervous Breakdown by tmusic406. At the time of this writing, the video had 194 views.

Enjoy.
 

 

EARLIER: How Lady Gaga helped me get off Facebook

 

YOU NEED TO KNOW: Mashable on Facebook’s auto-sharing feature

 


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‘First Light’: Me on Paragraph Planet

My super-short “First Light” is featured today on Paragraph Planet, a creative writing website that features 75-word pieces on one topic. This piece was completed a week or so in class during an exercise on mood and setting. I chose the mood loneliness; the setting a spring day. I picked the two because I believe, erroneously, that no one can feel lonely on a spring day.

Check out “First Light” while you can. The pieces change daily. If you’re a writer and feeling inspired, try your hand at it. There’s something so satisfying about writing just 75 of just-right words. If you’re a reader, click and click daily. There are some real gems there, and they make for a nice breather between phone calls, a shared human moment before another deadline. Writers may also write a sequel to the posted paragraphs using their own 75 words.

Freelance writer Richard Hearn, who pens the “Distracted Dad” column for Latest Homes and “Dad Sense” for Mumsense magazine, edits the site. You can follow him on Twitter @latestdad.
 

UPDATE – PUBLISHED NOV. 6, 2011:
First light. A slow, sweet revelation of the season’s goldest
greens, tender hues, a sign for some. A sparrow calls to a
friend, a welcome home (“I missed you. I really missed you.”) I
listen hard for your silvery rattle of pans, the crack of fresh
eggs, an iron skillet’s sizzle. There’s nothing but the birdsongs,
and I wonder if you can hear them, too. Your pillow is so cold;
perhaps you’ll warm it by summer.

 

EARLIER:

  • The story behind the “Lazy Cupid” shorts that were born on Paragraph Planet
  • Class” – Sometimes you feel creative after creative writing class
  • Opera in Private” – What do you sing when you’re all alone?
  • Grease Was the Word” – Really, who didn’t want some summer lovin’?


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One month off Facebook

It has been a month since I deactivated my Facebook account.

When I sat down to write this, I really believed I’d have more to say about it, and then I realized that I risk repeating what I wrote in my last post about logging off. However, I do have at least one observation to share.

But first I want to make clear that when I deactivated my account, I didn’t do it to because I think I’m too cool for Facebook; I did it to find some lost time because I am too easily distracted by — well, everything. Facebook was a crippling diversion for me at home. Away from work, every minute is precious to me. There aren’t enough hours in the day. I needed to eliminate distractions that ate up my free time. Thirty days later, I have found that time, but I’ve also found myself in a weird social space: People assume I know something simply because it was posted on Facebook.

“You didn’t read that? I linked it on my Facebook page.”

“Ohmigod! Funniest picture ever! Go see it on my Facebook page.”

“Did you see on Facebook that Joe changed his relationship status to single?”

Um, no. Why don’t you tell me about it?

My husband asked me recently if I miss it. The answer is still no, but I do miss people – just not Facebook and its creepy “sharing” initiative, although I do want to test drive the Timeline and the Gestures, just for my own edification, to see what all the fuss is about.

Maybe in November. Maybe never.
 

NEW: How to leave Facebook: A beginner’s guide

 

EARLIER: How Lady Gaga helped me get off Facebook

 

YOU NEED TO KNOW: Mashable on Facebook’s auto-sharing feature