Social Media is Killing Us! 

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Now that I have your attention, I want to tell you that I think that is a big fat lie.

Social media is not killing us. It’s merely changing us. Much like the printing press or the automobile, social media has opened the world to interactions and the spread of information that it has never seen before. And just like those inventions, social media comes with unintended consequences.

I see people all the time yelling that the sky is falling because kids these days do nothing but stare at screens. When I was a kid it was the TV, prior generations it was rock music and cars.  “They”  probably probably claimed books were killing kids at one point in time.

It doesn’t take much of a Google search to find conspiracy theory posts about Mark Zuckerberg trying to suck data out of us and control our minds with strategically placed advertisements.

I hate to tell you conspiracy theorists: Advertisements have been around forever, and in abundance.

 

 

Ancient Ad
“Come get your fish! I saw you looking at that river! You must be hungry!” Source

There is no conspriracy to steal your soul. Ad execs just want your money. And guess what? You volunteer it to them, in exchange for whatever good or service they are offering in their ads. There is a reason Facebook is free, it makes plenty of money from advertisers. If anything, you should be thanking them for the free service, since you never have to spend a dime on any of it. And guess what? You can leave it at any time.

I’ve gotten to the point where I see so many ads that I don’t even notice them anymore. It’s just background noise to me. Oddly enough, on the rare occasion I see a TV commercial I’m actually sucked in. Print ads just don’t work on me.

“It’s not the ads, it’s the lack of community.” Abundant are the complaints about people being sucked into screens. Most of the whiners claim that it’s robbing us of the ability to have community.

While it is annoying to have loved ones sucked into their phones all the time (they have a name for it: Pphubbing), I have actually found many communities with social media that I probably never would have had I been trapped in the homogeneity of my local neighborhood. Social media has allowed me to interact with people on the other side of the world. My impact on their world and their impact on mine is greatly magnified by this invention (not that my impact is much anyway, but I think you get the point). What other generation can claim as much actual interaction with international cultures as we can today?

Social media is just a tool. Tools are only as evil as their users. There are certainly evil people out there on the interwebs. But there are evil people in your grocery stores, your street corners, and even in your own family. Do you avoid all of these things? No, you just act with caution. You keep an eye on people and understand that sometimes they will hurt you. But most of the time they are just there to live their lives in peace.

Is social media killing us? I don’t think it is. Let me know what you think below.

 

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Why Join a Cult?

21 JUMP STREET
From Texas Monthly

One of the Facebook groups I am a part of was invaded last week by two cult members. At first it seemed like a troll, since the posts were almost too ridiculous to be believed. But as the posts piled up it became apparent that these people were serious. They sincerely believed what they said.

The question came up, “Why would anyone want to join a cult?”

Well, my answer was this: “Anxiety and depression mostly. Some of us are prone to believing that our horribleness requires penance in the form of self depreciation and asceticism. The Gospel is sweet, but the bitterness of the law is strong and guilt can be hard to shake. By doing something, like fleeing alcohol or anything pleasant, it feels like we are actually doing something towards our salvation. Being confirmed in our thinking is a comfort, and our ability to deny ourselves gives us assurance. It can be pretty ugly. I have to stop talking to people like that because it can be quite alluring. I have to flee and preach the true Gospel to myself.”

Basically, people join cults because they doubt the promises of the Gospel. They deny that the Mercy of God is a free gift, not something they have worked to earn. The want to have their salvation based on their works because it gives them a sense of assurance. And they frequently have a very negative view of the world.

Interestingly enough, the same week my wife sent me this video and asked “why don’t I like these people? You would figure it would be right up our alley.”

It is a great question. We are very much a part of the “unconventional” crowd. Why are these people so offensive? Why are cults so offensive?

Immediately I thought what makes these people so unfriendly is their attitudes of judgment and anger.

Conservatives and liberals have this in common: everyone should be like them. They want a homogeneous culture. The consistent ones go and cloister themselves into little communities in the woods or small towns.

They aren’t really living happy lives, despite their claims. They want to claim that they are untangled with the culture, however, they are completely engaged with it. But instead of helping it or changing it, they vomit all over it. They throw all their judgement at it and yell at it.

They are not making the world a better place with their opposition. They are just making it uglier. Those that sequester themselves into enclaves out in the boonies focus entirely on the bad of the world, never on the good things. They are pessimists. They constantly talk about “when the shit hits the fan”. They make plans to completely cut out of the world when it does. Frequently, they are already living in cardboard huts anticipating it.

I don’t care if you want to have the situational awareness that tells you it might hit the fan. There is always the possibility things in society could go south. But to live with the assumption that it will? Why does it have to? Why assume that the world will ultimately collapse and leave you as the lone group of nutcase survivors?

Why not take an optimistic view that the world will at least be a neutral place?

There is evil in the world, but there is also Common Grace. And if we are Christians, we should definitely be optimistic.

I’m not saying we all adopt a PostMil worldview and assume the world gets better and better and when we finally have a Christian State, Jesus will come rule it. Nor should we take the negative approach and assume it all just goes bad and worse before Christ finally returns and makes it all better again.

A neutral view is far more Biblical. In the end days there will certainly be wars and rumors of wars (bad stuff) but people will be marrying and giving in marriage (good stuff).

“Post”-apocalyptic is a funny term. Christians should understand that after the apocalypse comes the new heaven and the new earth. Why be pessimistic about that?

We are put into a box in this world. God drops us in to a specific place and time in the universe, we have to engage with what we are given, not wish that we were somewhere or sometime else. Many have tried the ascetic way of pulling completely out of the world, and all of them have failed at bringing about any positive change on the world.

Instead of denying Christ’s promise of deliverance from the Law, and hiding in fear from the world, let’s be in the world but not of it like Christ described us.

Why join a cult? I have no idea. Enjoy the world that God has placed you in. Engage it and make it a better place.

This Year’s Resolutions

The Track of Time?

I’m a little late this year in getting some resolutions out there. Last year I did “Birthday Resolutions” instead of New Years. This year I guess I am too late for Birthday Resolutions, so they will have to be New Years instead!

But first, I want to examine how well I did on last years:

“My biggest resolution this year is to learn contentment.” 

To be honest, I am probably about as content as I have ever been. I am exactly where God has me, and that is never a bad place to be. I have learned to accept every day as it comes for the most part. Anxiety still keeps me from doing this perfectly, but it is a bit easier every day

“For as long as I can remember my focus has been on the negatives of life. I have always seen all of the wrongs and never the rights. I apologize for enjoying anything and feel like I should be ashamed of good feelings. I push down all the good and instead focus on all of the “shoulds” of life. Far too often my response to a blessing is “This should be____” or “I wish this was more____”.” 

This pretty much sums up the definition of anxiety for me. I always assumed that I was just cursed to be a pessimist, but it was so much more serious than that. Thankfully this past year I was able to truly identify the problem and have been working towards fixing it. 

“This year I want to learn how to enjoy my blessings and be content with all that God has given me.” 

See above. 

“I resolve to play with my children more.” Still nowhere near as much as I would like. Exhaustion and busyness tend to get in the way of this. 

“I resolve to love my wife more passionately and with more abandon.” Again, improving but definitely not where I want to be.

“I resolve to take every day as a gift and work to glorify God in each one.” 

There have been whole weeks this past year where I blinked and it seemed the week was gone. This definitely demonstrates that I am not taking my days one at a time and making the best of them. 

“I resolve to live life according to what is, and not according to what I wish it was. I resolve not to take for granted my work, my talents, my family, my friends, or my days here on Earth. I intend to stop saying “I’m sorry” when I enjoy my blessings and instead say “thank you.”” 

I think all of those are good forever resolutions. I would be lying to say that I have vastly improved on any of them, though I feel all have been improved. Sanctification is a slow process. I do say Thank You quite a bit more than I used to. 

So how about 2018? What do I want to work on this year?

Well, in addition to continuing work on all of the above, this year is the year of focus and discipline. 

Focus because anxiety has wracked my brain to the point that it no longer stays on target very well. I get very distracted from simple things like cleaning up a mess or writing a blog post (seriously, I just spent ten minutes looking at the proper use of “wrack” VS “rack” even though I was confident in my usage. Then I went and check my Steemit blog to see if I got any upvotes. It’s bad…)

Discipline because it is very closely tied to focus. Focus is part biology, part discipline. One can have discipline without focus, but one definitely cannot have focus without discipline. I want to be more clear about my purpose. I want to determine priorities and stick to them. There are things in my life that should be givens but are not. I intend to make these things absolutely critical and shape my life around them, not let my life dictate whether or not I get to them. These types of wants take discipline to achieve.

This year will also be the year of listening before I speak. No. Actually listening. Not just thinking about my response the whole time the person blabbers on. No matter how much they blabber on. It’s hard, but I know I can do it. 

Likewise, I want to work on responding instead of reacting. Too often I get triggered and blow up. Or I sweep the feelings of others under a rug before they can fully express them. This is largely because I don’t want to have have feelings myself. It’s another offshoot of anxiety.

Seems like I blame anxiety a lot eh? Anxiety doesn’t make me do anything. I am still responsible for my actions stemming from it. But identifying the weakness and the sin spurring my actions has been immeasurably helpful in getting those sins killed in my life. So if you think you may have genuine anxiety, get help, you’ll be glad you did! 

Anywho. I’ll keep it simple with those. We’ll just assume that I intend to eat right and exercise (isn’t that the normal resolution?).

What are some of your resolutions? Comment below if you have any interesting ones. 

Fatherhood Perils

This is an old post I wrote years ago, I’m not sure I ever posted it anywhere, so here it is now, many years late but better than never!

Pulling a five year old off of my leg was a great start to my day. The tears, the whimpers, the “but I miss you”s. All are too much to handle. While I don’t agree to coddle every whim of my children, this is one anxiety that I will comfort. So what if I’m a little late? Work will wait, the growth of my children will not.

There are times when her professed love for me is nothing more than an attempt to stay awake a little longer, or to flatter me into giving her this, that, or the other. Children can be incredibly flattering when they want something. There is a genuine inborn unconditional love that children have for parents, and I don’t think it healthy to crush this love by constantly pushing them away. But there is also a natural inborn selfishness in every person that should be crushed with every opportunity. Distinguishing between these two is an art form every parent needs to practice.

Some days I feel incredibly guilty over my absence in the house. I wonder how good parenting (or at least good fathering) can be done in four hours a day. Somehow I doubt this was God’s intention for family life. One cannot adequately bring up a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord in so few hours. But alas, God has put me where I am, and I am to do what I can with the little bit of time I have.

Absent fatherhood is an epidemic in this country. The most obvious type of father-absenteeism is single motherhood; the child simply does not know his father because the father is not there. Other well documented cases are the work-a-holic father or the father who spends his non-working hours at the bar, clubs, or golf course.

A less obvious occurrence is the working father who comes home to roost in his recliner and watch football, play on his computer, or involve himself in myriad hobbies. This father is not absent in the traditional sense, but being male he is focused on other things. Women may be “present” with their children while reading something on a screen, but in my experience men are not this adept with multiple stimuli.

Physical and mental absenteeism plague me with guilt. My long term goal is to work from home so that I can minimize physical absence from both spouse and children. However, this kind of work can easily lead to mental absence. If I over-focus my work around the house, shooing the kids away and losing my temper over the slightest disturbance, it may be better for them if I were working in an office somewhere.

I used to think that “being there” for my children meant playing with them. If I was not playing with them, or at least focusing on them and nothing else, I was “not there.” I quickly realized that this simply isn’t true. There is a time for play, but the bulk of life should be spent in diligent labor. To play with them all day would leave my house and garden in shambles. It would also give them the false impression that fun and playing are all there is to life, and work is something that should be boxed into as few hours as possible (think 40 hour work weeks).

They need to see me joyfully working. They need to see me careful to plan and prepare my labor, work steadily, with temper, and not worry when the work is not accomplished in the time I’m given. God gives us enough time in the day to accomplish exactly what He wants us to accomplish. If they see me wasting time in laziness or in hasty sloppy work it will not benefit them.

It is not absenteeism to be an example to one’s children. In fact, I would say it’s the opposite of absenteeism. The entire point of spending time with and around your children is to be an example to them. They will grow up being imitators of you, whether they are drinking beer and watching the game every night, or overworking themselves in the garden, cursing the cold, the darkness, and the lack of rain, or whether they are being good stewards of their time. You are the example they will follow.

Lately our eldest (the above mentioned five-year-old) has taken to “helping” at every instance. This is the perfect opportunity to be an example to her, even if it is just an example of patience at her mistakes. I am thankful for this opportunity to teach her in the short time I have.

She has also toned down on the early morning tear session. Now she is content to pray with me and tell me to “be careful. Take care of your friends, don’t get burned up” and other such words of wisdom.

Take Your Compliments and Shove ‘Em

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Just an average picture of an average guy.

Compliments, what do we do with them? How constructively do we take criticism? What do we do when faced with cricket chirps at our hard work?

As I mentioned last time, I’m slowly learning to like, indeed, love myself. Part of this process is learning to accept compliments, second is learning to accept criticism without magnifying it out of proportion. Third and probably the most difficult is learning how to properly interpret silence.

A few months back I talked about how my anxiety has robbed me of contentment for many years. It has also given me a large sentiment of cynicism. I don’t trust people when they compliment me. I assume that they can’t really mean it. I’m not that great, am I? I’m certainly not worthy of the love of others.

I am though.

If an infinite and holy God can love me, then certainly other, not-so-holy, created beings can love me too. By virtue of being an image-bearer I am lovable. And I can accept compliments about my person, my actions, and my creations, without cynicism or disbelief. Sometimes, I really do good work. I should accept that, and love it about myself.

Also by virtue of being an image bearer can I accept criticism without believing that I am a worthless piece of rubbish. Yes, I am a sinner, and I am fallible, and nothing I can do is perfect, but that doesn’t make me worthless. By the Grace of God, I am not a piece of garbage. Critique should drive me towards better work, and make me strive after perfection, not run from it.

But what about silence? What about the times when no one seems to notice?

I put in effort, I strove for perfection, I did my best.

*Crickets*

That one is a bit more difficult for me. I think silence drives most creators mad. They want recognition, even bad attention is better than no attention.

I have to tell myself that sometimes silence is merely a sign that I am doing just fine. There is no need for critique, but I am not to the level of deserving a compliment. Average-ness is properly met with silence. And average is perfectly acceptable, if one is progressing smoothly within their level of experience. If I paint an average painting, or write an average prose, or take an average picture, or sing an average song, are they not still acceptable?

If I want accolades I should strive for better than average. I should work on jumping out of my level and into the next. And I shouldn’t take silence as critique.

If I am below average I should expect to be corrected; average, an approving silence; above average, resounding praise.

All should be equally acceptable to me.

Love Your Wife: Love Yourself

Simpson Selfie
Sometimes I see myself as a Simpson, apparently…

From stay-at-home moms being called bad moms for wanting an hour to themselves, to husbands and fathers who just want some time away in their “mancaves” being called irresponsible, self-care gets a bad rap.

In blogs and books and sermons, folks are told that they should give up everything and give themselves to everyone else’s needs far above their own. People are beaten to death with the line that true happiness is only found in complete and utter self-denial.

But the Bible implies something very different, especially to husbands, in Ephesians 5:28-30:

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

In order for a man to properly love his wife, he must first love himself.

But… This is not the selfish, narcissistic, self serving “love” that many men demonstrate through cruelty, waste, disrespect, slovenliness, and misplaced passions.

The self-love spoken of in these verses is informed by a proper perspective of self. The man who practices this self-love is enlightened by Gods own view of him. This man sees himself as God sees him, frail and sinful, fallen and weak, but loved, saved by grace, imperfect, but being sanctified daily and made more holy. God is pleased to see us as image bearers reflecting His glory back to Him. Instead of wretches clothed in rags He is pleased to see us in the robes of His Son.

A man who loves himself will care for himself, he will take pride in himself. He will understand that his value and loveliness is not in his success, his wealth, his looks, or his health, but simply in his createdness. Only when he understands this will he be able to take care of those things. When he properly loves himself he will be able to properly love those things and care for them.

And when he cares for those things he can care for his wife. Only when he cares for himself will be able to care for her. When he takes care of his health he is able to care for her. When he tends to his wealth he is able to care for her. When he is successful in any number of other areas, he will be able to care for her.

A man who eats too much, sits too long, and invests far too much time in pursuit of wealth and “security” is not a man who is able to care well for his wife. A man who hates himself and takes no pride in the fruits of his labors is most often married to a miserable woman.

Christ cared for Himself, He took time away from the crowds, the disciples, and from healing. He knew enough to rest, because His humanity was frail like ours. By taking the time to care for Himself, Christ was better able to care for His bride, the church.

About a week ago I was forcefully informed that my self-hatred was killing my marriage. My life to some degree has been falling apart because I have been refusing to take pride in my own life and worth, and refusing to care for my responsibilities (because what’s the point?). Even what I learned back in February seemed to be going by the wayside.

I tried to take care of everyone, tried to make everyone else better, but neglected myself.  I shut myself down, never expressing feelings thoughts or emotions. I never had an opinion that didn’t agree with someone else.

I became a nothing. And my wife despised it.

She wants a man who loves himself, who takes charge of himself, who disciplines himself, who prioritizes himself. She wants a man with a voice, opinions, thoughts, challenges to her daily life. not a lump of flesh. Certainly not the weak-willed mumble I was quickly becoming.

I am learning, slowly, to love myself. I’m figuring out how to to do the things I want, to make time for me, to refresh my soul and take care of my body. I’m making sure to take care of my appearance as well, as this is important.

And for the first time in my life I’m learning to take some pride in what I do, instead of loathing the silence from critics or friends, I’m taking it as a sign to improve and keep striving. Eventually I’ll get someone’s attention. At least I’ll know my capabilities.

It’s refreshing and terrifying all at the same time.

Making Money The Millennial Way: Lyft

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As I discussed previously, I’ve been doing Uber now for about 9 weeks. I’m super familiar with the app and its pros and cons, and I’ve had moderate success with making money with it.

What about its closest competitor, Lyft?

I was going to write a diatribe against it, because my first night with it was horrible, but after a few more nights I’ve moderated my view.

What it is:

Lyft is just like Uber, it’s a rideshare app that allows you to pick up and drop off passengers and make money doing it.

Getting Started:

Like Uber, Lyft has a long list of requirements for vehicle age and such, and these vary from place to place.

You will need a smart phone, obviously, and the app downloaded to said smartphone.

You will also need pictures of proof of insurance, registration, and your driver’s license. Lyft will conduct a background check, which can take 24 hours to a few days, and will let you know when you can start driving.

General Experience:

First impression: eek. The app feels like a knockoff brand of Uber, not quite generic, but different enough that it makes you uneasy. Like Tab. Lyft is the Tab of ridesharing.

The process for signup is a bit more tedious than Uber, but still not difficult. What made me cringe at first was the clunkiness of the app. There’s no other way to describe it, the app is just more clunky feeling than Uber. Everything is a tap, not a swipe, which can be tricky for accident prone folks like me.

Picking up passengers is an especially clunky process compared to Uber. Instead of automatically alerting the passenger that you have arrived and starting a timer like Uber does, you have to manually tell them you have arrived (two taps, one to say you’ve arrived, another to confirm it, like you messed up the first time). This is a bit of a distraction, especially if the area was crowded with people or cars.

Screenshot_2017-11-08-22-16-01
Tap to arrive, then tap again to confirm you’ve really arrived.

 

Unlike Uber’s two minutes, Lyft gives passengers five minutes to get to you. According to the countdown timer you do get paid for the wait. I have not found out if it cancels after the five minutes. Five minutes is an eternity when picking people up, especially in busy areas.

After picking up the passenger the app works exactly the same as Uber. Person gets in, you confirm the start of the trip, navigate to location, drop off person, end trip, rate passenger, get paid, everyone’s happy. This I liked. They will even find you the next passenger before you drop off your current one and add them to your navigation, just like Uber does, but unlike Uber, you don’t have to accept them, it’s all automatic.

One of the biggest things I noticed about Lyft: they love to send you text messages. When I first turned on the app, it sent me a text message telling me I was online, like I needed that. When someone canceled (more on that in a bit) Lyft would send you a text message. When you sign into Destination Mode, Lyft would send you a text message. It seemed like every few minutes I was getting another distracting text message telling me something the app could have easily told me itself.

How Much Money Are We Talking Here?

The Lyft rates can be a bit confusing. There is no breakdown in the app of per mile or per minute rates. Passengers can see how much they pay here, but I can’t personally find how this translates to drivers. I know for a fact I am not getting $4.25 as my minimum fare.

Lyft Rates

The only night I exclusively did Lyft was so filled with cancellations that it is impossible to tell you a good night from a bad. From what I can tell though, when the app runs smoothly the amount you make is comparable to Uber.

Screenshot_2017-11-08-23-36-23
And I got a text message for every one of those….

The rates are not spelled out as clearly on the trip pages. You just get a breakdown of “Ride Payments” and “Lyft Fees” and while it does spell out time and distance, who wants to do the algebra required to figure out exactly what each mile and minute pay?

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5.92X+18.4166Y=6.82 is too much math!

General Tips:

These are all pretty much the same as the Uber tips. Don’t drive around, watch your gas, and chat up your passengers.

I do think it may be good to chase “Power Zones” in Lyft. From what I can tell, they aren’t calculated the same way as Uber’s “surges” and don’t go away just because more drivers go into them.

Be prepared to turn around a lot. It seems Lyft likes to pair you up with a passenger, then pair you up with a different passenger once it determines someone else is closer to the original passenger. This may mean turning around at the next exit or making a quick u-turn on a residential street.

Be prepared to go the long haul. Uber on average sends me 4 miles to a passenger. Lyft has sent me 20 miles once, and 8-10 quite frequently. Sometimes these people are only going 2 miles down the road and for 10 miles of driving I only make $3.19. This may seem like a lot, but with my gas guzzler I end up only keeping 1.48 of that after gas. Depending on lights that trip could take 20 minutes total, giving me only $4.44/hr.

Bottom Line:

I hate to make this a comparison blog, but I honestly like Uber better. The only way to make Lyft better is to do both at the same time, which is what I will talk about in my next installment.

But. Still. Go get the app, go through the process, and start driving it as a filler when Uber is slow.

And again, hit me up for a referral code @ driptorchstudio@gmail.com or on my FB Page.