Thankful

I was born in Mexico and migrated to the United States in 1996. Thanksgiving was not something we celebrated in my hometown. I wasn’t even aware of what it meant until much later. Eventually, I thought of it as the “turkey” holiday and a day when we had the opportunity to be thankful.

Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in the United States, Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia. I learned about this from a Wikipedia article. It began as a day of giving thanks for the harvest’s blessings and the preceding year.

It’s been twenty-six years since I immigrated to the United States, so I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving 26 times, and I can say that this holiday is truly extraordinary. I am very thankful for my life, my family, and our health and luck. Of course, not everything is perfect, but everything is far from horrible, and I am thankful for that.

Thanksgiving is now the perfect opportunity to take some time from our busy lives, pause for a moment, think of the things we can be grateful for, and enjoy a meal with family and friends – if possible.

I dearly hope you all have the same opportunity I have to celebrate this holiday, and please accept a virtual hug from me. I am also thankful for you and for your family. Finally, I am grateful that this world exists, the people, nature, and everything that makes it so special and unique.

Happy Thanksgiving, and cheers to you all!

Birds flying in Central Park - 2022

A strangely boring week

This is the title I wrote back on March 1, 2021. I remember opening my word editor and typing the title, a strangely boring week. Back then, we were still amid COVID-19 fears, regulations, etc. I remember thinking this has been a very boring week in the middle of the chaos.

A boring week meant to me, a good week, a very good one. Everyone around me was OK, with no stresses or fears about the things I could not change, and no pending projects I couldn’t finish. I had enough to be comfortable. I felt calm by blocking the outside noise.

One key element to my positive boredom was that I had picked up reading and writing (again), replacing the time I spent on social media sites and watching the news with reading books, writing, walking and watching my favorite movies. The activities above manifest the best version of myself, transforming my relationship with my family, myself, and everyone else around me.

I’ve had more boring weeks since then, and I can manifest them quite easily now. I understand that I have the privilege of not having to worry about basic needs such as food and shelter, and for that, I am grateful. But having the basic needs covered is often not enough for most people in the modern world. Many of us live with anxiety, spending many hours every day browsing social media, watching the news, and feeling like crap because of it. It’s like a drug, you know it will make you feel bad, but you can’t stop it. It’s stimulating, and it isn’t boring.

The younger version of myself was more like I am when I am bored. Growing up in Mexico, my worries were simple things for the most part. Of course, some things made me sad and worried, but at least these things were happening to me or around me, which meant that I could do something about it. The internet didn’t exists yet, at least not in the form that it does now, and I consider myself lucky for it. The internet is extraordinary and has helped me grow in my career and financially. But the reality is that it can potentially ruin lives, families, and even countries due to its reach and addictive attributes.

Boring is often seen as a negative thing. Constant stimulation is all around us. We can’t get enough of it. To break that habit of constantly looking at our phones, which is today the primary tool for the social media drug, you have to be aware and do what you can to avoid it. Finding a new habit that’s easy to do instead of looking at your phone is the best way to avoid social media. Having a book near me, or my journal and pen ready, makes this task much more manageable. Also, I do give myself time to use social media, but limit it to specific times of the day and only for a limited number of minutes.

Have you noticed what happens when you see someone yawn? Or when you yawn yourself? Well, the same mimicking behavior occurs when you see someone glancing at their phone, it makes you look at yours too. When people look at their mobile phones, around half the people nearby will start checking their phones within 30 seconds. This automatic response is due to people mimicking each other without realizing it – what scientists call the “chameleon effect.”

Boring is a good thing. Embrace boredom and don’t feel like you have to entertain yourself when you are feeling bored. My most focused reading and writing have been when I felt bored. Some of my best ideas have come from boredom. So seek boredom, embrace it, and allow it. When social media pulls you into the chaos of the “world,” remember that these mediums are programmed to incite fear, rage, fear of missing out (FoMO), and many other negative emotions.

It is normal to want to know what’s going on and to share a post with friends and the community. However, spending most of your time in a world beyond your reach is not OK. In social media, you absorb the negative stuff, and you rarely get to absorb the good. Boring is something that social media, the news, and the internet actively avoid. It’s not good for engagement, it doesn’t capture attention to sell their ads, so many resource to sensationalistic headlines, even when the facts aren’t all that sensational.

Stay away from social media as much as you can, seek news and articles that inform you if you have to. But make it a priority to read books and do other things that doesn’t require you to participate in social media and its continuous push to engage your emotions.

I hope you have a boring week. Cheers.

The internet is not what it promised.

Imagine seeing something wrong. It’s clear to you, and it’s there. It’s obvious. Yet, we can’t do anything about it due to all the noise and the magnetic attraction that people have towards public figures, even when some public figures are increasing the noise for even more attention and personal gain.

The internet didn’t democratize communication as it promised. It didn’t give everyone a voice. Instead, it gave a few selected people a direct way to communicate to their large number of fans or followers to help them continue growing their brands and influence. Ev Williams, one of Twitter’s founders said that everyone should have a voice on the Internet, but the problem today is that while most people have a voice, all the attention is given to those with a megaphone.

Most people are still on the sidelines, scraping for attention via comments, replies, and, if you are lucky, the random viral post. We are still on the bench, just watching the game and not playing. You can try playing, not one stops you, but most popular online sites and communities will make it very hard for your message to be visible. Unfortunately, the internet, or at least the modern internet, is designed to do just that.

There are indeed people who created a brand and accumulated a large number of followers on the internet, and that is great. But it is a challenging thing to do. Platforms prioritize the message and visibility of famous people, and their message is less important than their fame and the number of followers. But do they have the best content or the best message to share? Maybe, but not always, not by far. There are many people out there who are incredibly talented and don’t get any attention due to how these platforms are designed.

I understand that giving everyone attention is not possible. Still, it would be ideal if the internet helped relevant and good content to surface and be more visible to all, regardless of who’s sharing it or creating it.

Many public figures complain about a small percentage of humans having a ridiculous amount of wealth but fail to look at themselves in the mirror and realize that it is also just a tiny percentage of humans like them, having a ridiculous amount of attention and influence.

The first version of the internet was a good idea, but the current social media platforms are not. They are similar to a TV show. We are here watching, pretending that we have a voice or any meaningful participation in it, while we are being told by a tiny percentage of humans what’s good and bad, how we should feel, and increasingly causing just madness and conflict among all of us.

Paying $8 per month for Twitter Blue

I remember when I first heard about Twitter, it was already the way it is today, not just a short messaging system (SMS) to share quick updates as it was initially. So I joined late by geek standards. The name was already Twitter and not Twttr, as Noah Glass originally named it. The idea for the short messaging app to share updates was Jack Dorsey’s idea, an engineer at Odeo’s at the time. Ev Williams, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass founded Odeo in 2004, but along with Jack Dorsey, Ev and Biz bought out Odeo in 2006 and started Obvious Corp. to develop the idea behind Twttr further.

Below is an image of A sketch, c. 2006, by Jack Dorsey, envisioning an SMS-based social network

Jack Dorsey, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Twitter as we know it debuted in July 2006, and I joined Twitter on September 2008. I remember working at a small software consulting firm when I discovered Twitter, and my feeling about Twitter was very different at the time. It was fun, a lot smaller, but also a bit naive. The top users at the time were people who were inventing schemes to grow their number of followers. People will offer to follow you if you follow them. It was like a game.

Many years later, Twitter has become a news source and an important communication platform for journalists, writers, politicians, etc. However, the average Joe gets lost in a sea of messages, replies, retweets, and long threads, mostly from people with blue checkmarks, a verification badge given to journalists, people with a public identity, and a few others. The idea behind this verification badge is that it protects them from scammers trying to impersonate them.

My first Tweet!

The reality is the blue checkmark has become a status symbol. It is a fact. The idea that only people who are journalists, influencers, or public figures can have a verified identity by having a blue checkmark to confirm it makes no sense to me. If Twitter allows everyone to go through a verification process to verify that they are a human and not a bot or a fake account, that will help alleviate some of the issues around fake accounts, bots, etc. What it will not be anymore is a symbol of status, which might be why many people do not want to see that. There will be no symbol that separate them from the rest of us.

If you use Twitter, you know what I am talking about, and you probably are also aware of all the drama and upcoming changes due to Twitter’s change in ownership. However, I still need to find out whether or not what is being talked about on Twitter about the new changes is accurate.

What has been confirmed is that Twitter will start charging $8 per month for a feature called Twitter Blue, which already exists and currently costs $5 per month and includes advanced organizing features for your notifications, top articles discovery, and a better reading experience + the new verification option, it is not a bad deal. In addition, Twitter will likely continue adding new features for Twitter Blue subscribers.

With the new Twitter Blue pricing, this company will have a new revenue stream, or at least increases an existing one, while allowing more people to verify that they are real people and not bots.

If Twitter is an important application for you, then paying $8 per month is okay. However, some people pushing back on having to pay this amount every month are often the same people who have suggested that some of their success has been due to their presence in this app. Others have mentioned that they’ve found jobs and advanced in their careers because of Twitter, yet they push back on paying $8 per month. It’s hard to pay for something you were getting for free. I understand.

Twitter will evolve and be a better application in the future. But only time will tell. It does have a lot of potential.

Would you pay $8 for Twitter Blue + a verified blue checkmark?

Happy tweeting.

person holding many books

One book every week

It’s not about reading fast. It is about reading more often.

How many hours do we spend looking down at our phones or watching a show weekly? Ironically, the same technology that keeps us distracted can give us this valuable information. Unless you actively track how much time you spend on your phone, you’ll likely not realize how much it is. It is always more than you think, trust me.

To most people, reading one book every week sounds unattainable. And it can be unless you decide to cut off time from other activities, for example, looking down at your phone or streaming the latest show. I am reading one book a week not because I want to break a record but to get the habit and replace bad habits with it. If I can spend more than one hour looking at my phone every day, then I can spend that same hour every day reading a book.

The average reader snails through prose at a rate of about 250-300 words per minute, roughly equating to about one page per minute.

The Guardian

That means that if I read one hour every day, five days a week, I can easily read a book of about 300 pages, every week!

When wondering how many pages a book should be, it is notable that the average book length is between 200-400 pages. 

https://gatekeeperpress.com/how-many-pages-should-a-book-be-to-publish/te

It’s been almost five weeks since I started this, and I am about to finish reading the fifth book. Reading has always been something I enjoy, but I am not going to lie. Unfortunately, my book queue has been increasing in the past several years due to not having enough time to read. Imagine that!

I’ve come to understand that time is not something we lack. Most of us have it, and we can claim a lot of it back if we prioritize what we do with it. This reading project is a way for me to claim time away from other activities and spend more of it reading.

Reading one book a week is working for me now, and I want to apply the formula to other aspects of my life. Time I have, all I have to do is find a way to spend it wisely.