Friend?

You know when you write a word over and over and over and over...and eventually it starts to look somehow wrong?

Or when you use a word over and over and over and over, like "OMG, I love that sweater!", "I love that movie!", "I love that couch!", "I love these socks", "I love pomegranate lip gloss!" and eventually the word LOVE loses some of its true meaning and meaningfulness?

I think this is what has happened to the word and perhaps by extension, the concept of a FRIEND. Quite specifically in the realm of social media.

I write this after almost a month of not writing a whole lot because of personal issues and insecurities about myself and my place in this online world and with my friends within it.

Recently on Facebook, I was 'un-friended' and blocked from someones personal page. I did not think this was a big deal. We are not very close and have more of a professional relationship than a personal one. I read her status update before she removed me (and quite a few other people too) and I respected her decision to keep her page personal and for her close friends and family members.

Remember when that was what we used Facebook for? To keep our friends and family updated on our lives. Remember how fun it was to post pictures of the kids and our vacations for all our friends and family to oooh and ahhh over? When we could write personal messages on our pages and not worry about who was lurking about to see where we are and who we are with and who we are talking to? When no one was taking screen shots of our pages and forwarding them on in emails to other people for God knows what reasons? When every App on earth wasn't asking to 'GeoTag' you and announce to the world where you are "checking-in"?

Back then (a whole two years ago, if that even), you had maybe about 67 friends on your Facebook page and hadn't even heard of Twitter. And every one of those friends was either AT your wedding or at one of your birthday parties in the past 5 years!

So, {at least in my mind}, this begs the question....

Has the inescapable realm of Wifi, and unlimited data plans and Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and FourSquare and... and... and... completely wrecked our understanding, interpretation and definition of FRIENDSHIP?

Think about this for a minute.

How many of your {insert number here} Facebook friends would drop everything and come over to watch your kids if you were stuck in bed with the worst flu of your life? How many would dog-sit for you in an emergency? How many would buy you coffee and give you an ACTUAL hug if you were having a really bad day? How many would pick up the phone and call you....or even have your direct phone number for that matter?

What then constitutes a true friend? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of the word is this:

Definition of FRIEND

a: one attached to another by affection or esteem   
   b:acquaintance
a: one that is not hostile
   b: one that is of the same nation, party, or group
3  : one that favors or promotes something (as a charity)
4  : a favored companion

 

I do believe that there are levels of friendship and some friendships are closer than others. Some are deeper. Some are based on a long history together, some on mutual life experiences, some on similar belief systems and some on the simple foundation of a love of all things shoes. And these days, some are IRL and some are SOF (strictly online friend - I think I just made that up).

For the sake of full disclosure, I have ONE Best Friend. I have known her for over 20 years and she has seen me in all my good, bad, ugly, beautiful, sick, elated, sad-beyond-belief and so-excited-I-could-fly glory! And I hers. And we RARELY talk via social media.

On the other hand, I have 190 Facebook Friends. And if I sat down and set up some form of criteria for who and what I truly believe a friend is, I know that this number would decrease significantly. Or at least be divided into categories.

I found this post by Kristen Tennant about the four levels of friendship and I think she does a pretty good job of describing these levels or categories.

Category 4 friends are people you say hello to and maybe stop and chat for a while if you run into them at the cafe or bar. They’re probably friends of yours on Facebook, but if it weren’t for Facebook, they would have almost no clue what’s going on in your day-to-day life.

Category 3 friends encompass a lot of people like co-workers, members of your church or community, the parents of your kids’ friends, and others you see and talk to regularly but don’t necessarily go out of your way to get together with. Every once in a while, you might decide to call them up and see if they want to meet you for lunch, or you might invite them to a big party you’re having, but the expectations of your relationship are low and the interactions are casual.

Category 2 friends can get more complicated, because the relationship is deeper, but the expectations often aren’t clear. They’re your go-to friends when you feel like getting a group of people together on a Saturday night, or you want to go out to dinner to celebrate a birthday, or you feel like inviting someone over for dinner. These are the friends you spend time with once or twice a month, but I also think we keep ourselves (or our hearts?) at a bit of a distance, to protect ourselves from feeling left out, hurt, or disappointed when they don’t come through.

And Category 1 friends? I think I would describe them exactly the way my nine-year-old daughter would: They understand you—they get who you are at your core, which means you can completely be yourself around them, without worrying what they will think. Category 1 friends like to spend time doing the things that you like doing best. And they always want to see you. Whenever you feel the urge to see them, they’re ready and waiting, thrilled to see you if they can possibly make it happen.

Now, no, I am not about to go and categorize everyone on my Facebook page, but I will make the case for having Lists on Twitter and Facebook and deciding how much you want to interact or share with these lists. You can set these criteria in your account privacy and settings pages on both platforms and on Facebook, no one knows when they are added/removed from one of your lists and on Twitter you can make both private and public lists.

How you use social media is of course your prerogative. These are after all your pages and what you do with them is your choice. So if you want to remove me, un-friend me, un-follow or block me from your friend list or your feed because we really are not much more than acquaintances or we have more of a business relationship than a personal one, go ahead, it is OK.

I will not be offended and I will respect your wishes.

And if need be, I generally know how to get in touch with you outside of stalking ...uhm, I mean, social media.

Natasha~

P.S. And now for my favourite song about Facebook by the incredible Kate Miller-Heidke. (WARNING: EXPLICIT LYRICS-NOT FOR THE KIDDIES!!)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0FdR7dEAYU[/youtube]

P.P.S.  I'm BaaaAAAAACK!!!

Photo Credit: Wonderbra Print Ad. 2009. Reza Behnam-photographer.

Perspective

 The ability to perceive things in their actual interrelations or comparative importance.

I have been reluctant to write anything either here or on Mom Nation for the last few weeks. My last few posts brought out some strong emotions in a few people and some of the comments made either directly to me or indirectly and very passive aggressively on various social media platforms gave me my first taste of the dreaded 'trolls'.

And although I heeded the advice of many a blogger who has walked that bridge before me and did not feed the trolls, I would be lying if I said that the comments that got personal, the ones that questioned my integrity, my compassion and my right to say what I mean and mean what I say, well... they got to me.

Now don't get me wrong, I knew when I wrote that particular post that what I had to say might make some people uncomfortable. I am not a subtle woman, never have been, and never will be. I do not like to play games or mince words (I am way too old for that!). I did appreciate that my words made people think, that they did indeed illicit an emotional response and that perhaps they made some people look at themselves or others in a different light, be it good or bad.

I love a lively debate as much as the next person and these days, what better way is there to connect online and discourse than within the "blogosphere". A blog post is the starting point and the comments are the conversation. I truly do love that about this medium!

And also, it can totally suck! People can hide behind pseudonyms and anonymous comments. They can completely miss the point of a post and forget to click on the links to get the whole story or background information needed to understand what is being written and why. They can have knee-jerk reactions, spurred by their own feelings of resentment or guilt or regret or what-have-you THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH what was written by the blogger and they send out into the universe words, tweets or comments, that are personal attacks and that live on in perpetuity.

This whole aspect of blogging, and social media in general, the part where it gets ugly, really makes a person rethink why they are doing this, why they are putting themselves out there for all the world to see and read.

And then comes some perspective for (and from) the writer.  In this case, me.

If you had asked me two years ago if I considered myself a writer of anything, I would have given you a funny look and said, "Uh, no, NOT at all!" When the Natural Urban Mama blog was started in 2009 it was a struggle for me to write anything. And to be perfectly honest, I had not really written anything of substance since my university days in the late 1990's, and what I was writing then was mostly scientific in nature (yes, I once had aspirations of being a lab/research geek).

It wasn't until I was invited to participate in the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival of Blogging in the Summer of 2010 and had to write a post a day for 14 days about my nursing experiences and thoughts and advice about breastfeeding that I really started to find my writing 'voice'. I realized then what blogging is about.

It is about telling a story. My story.

And what I found was that my story resonated with others. People started commenting on my posts, asking me questions, thanking me for sharing and in turn sharing my posts with others. And that felt good.

Here is the thing...I became the parent I am and by extension the parenting advocate I am very organically . I did not 'plan' to do a lot of the parenting practices that I now think are very important and yes, even essential in our world and definitely in our household. I was not a cloth diapering mama, I did not have a ridiculous baby carrier collection, let alone a babywearing business. And I had planned on breastfeeding for 6 months max!! Oh, how these little beings we bring into the world change us...

And so I began telling my story and sharing my passions and my experiences and my learnings here on my blog.

And more and more, my story has evolved, as have I as a person...and a mother, a business owner and a writer.

I blog for me, to get my thoughts about life and parenting out of my head and onto the screen. To make these thoughts and ideas more clear to me and perhaps to others too. It is a very public journal of sorts!

I blog for my readers and customers. I want to share my experiences. I want others to learn from my mistakes and my triumphs. I want to share my expertise and educate others about the things that I am passionate about like babywearing and breastfeeding and natural childbirth and cloth diapering and elimination communication and gentle discipline. Parenting practices that, believe it or not, can be done without trading in your designer boots for a pair of Birkenstocks and signing up for your Hippie-Mom Card.

I blog for a cause. What is that cause you ask? I blog for women. For mothers, for girls, for daughters, for wives, for women of all colours, creeds and yes, parenting 'styles'. I write to empower others to find their own voices, to live their dreams, to own their choices in life and live without regret. To be the kind of people they want their children to be.

I don't believe in hiding behind a facade of perfection. I don't believe in striving for a life/work balance just to be constantly disappointed and exhausted. I don't believe in being a fake friend or pretending that we all must get along just for the sake of appearances. I don't believe in living with regret or allowing negativity to permeate my head space or my online space!

I was in Canmore this weekend for my sister-in-law's wedding. Canmore is my happy place, where I witness magic and majesty at every turn and where I can just stop and breath and appreciate all the beauty that is around me. We took the kids to our favourite tea shop for lunch and on our way out I saw this card.

And it hit me to my core....

It was as if the universe was speaking to me and about me.

THESE are the things that I strive for in my life. How I choose to live and how I want my children to live too.

This is perspective to me and what matters and why I will not let the noise of a mere handful of people, drown out my inner or my outer voice!

Natasha~

Not 'giving it up' for just anyone.....

Well, I did it everyone. I HAD too!

ALL the cool kids are doing it, so it was just a matter of time.

Yes, that's right...

I popped my blogging conference cherry this week!

I had the privilege of being one of 200 women from across Canada invited to this year's ShesConnected Conference. So I packed my laptop, iPhone and suitcase, hopped a {very} early morning flight and headed to Toronto. This two-day conference is all about connecting digital women and brands. BIG brands, brands that want and yes, even need our collective voices to compete in this digital, social media age of consumerism.

Why do they need us gals you ask? Well, as I learned from Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder of Blogher and one totally cool chickita, 78% of the online population use social media, and blogs are now a close second to internet searches when it comes to being influential about purchasing decisions.

Not only that, but 60% of the female population make buying decisions based on blogs. That is power people! And brands are starting to recognize this power and they want to harness it!

But....

With great power also comes great responsibility.

And this may be the biggest lesson that I learned this past week. Everyone wants to make more money. Brands are out to make money and increase their bottom line. Bloggers want to get paid for their time and efforts and are looking for more than a box of cereal as payment for a post. Or as Ann-Marie from Momstown.ca so succinctly put it to one of the panels, "I like chicken, but I can't pay my phone bills with chicken."

But the bigger question that emerged {even more} for me at the conference was, what do I WANT?  As a blogger, a writer, and a business woman. How do I marry the concept of writing with integrity and authenticity with the reality that is blogging as a business model? How do I maintain my responsibilities to you, my readers and use any power that I do have for good and not fall into the very transparent, "I am writing a review post and it is so blatant it is bad" scenario?

My biggest fear in the whole "monetizing' of the blog, is that I will lose my voice. My true voice, the voice and words and stories that I share with all of you. As you may know, I have pretty high standards and a firm belief system. I believe in and advocate for doing things a certain way and I want to make sure that any and all advertisers or sponsors that I deal with are in line with what it means to be a Natural Urban Mama.

I did connect well with at least one of the sponsors and brands at the conference and it was Ford Canada and their head of Social Media Marketing Ammar Khan. If you take a look at Ford over the past few years, they really are doing things right. They weathered the recession far better than the other domestic car-makers and this year Ford Canada was named the No. 1 auto maker in Canada. They also hire people like Sheryl Connelly. Sheryl is the Manager of Global Trends and Futuring for Ford Motor Company and she is one smart lady. She gave the opening keynote speech for the conference and taught us all about the way key trends are changing the face of consumerism globally. Things like an aging population, ethical consumption, careful consumption and safety & security are key drivers that impact how and why people make purchases these days. And companies like Ford are paying attention. And they are paying attention to the blogging and social media communities too and using this medium in their marketing strategies. I will not give away too much just yet, but let's just say that I am looking forward to working with Ford Canada in the near future! (And a little background for you, the very first car I owned was a Ford Taurus and that baby saved my life-for reals!)

I met some amazing women at the conference. I got some ridiculously awesome words of advice from a few of them. I got to go to a party at a shoe store (and I have the sweet new boots to prove it!) and because I am who I am and I do what I do, I even managed to get myself a brand new baby carrier {the much coveted Girasol Amitola woven wrap} and the chance to break it in with some babywearing with the sweetest little baby girl (and give her mama a little break)!! Oh, and did I mention the swag? Yes, there was a lot of that too!

So all in all, it was a good 'first time'. I have no regrets. There are definitely things that I would like to do better next time, more people I would like to hang out with and get to know and most certainly there is so much more to learn and bring home and share with all of you.

Good thing I have Blissdom Canada coming up in T-minus 10 Days!!

Cheers all,

Natasha~