Sunday, January 30, 2011

Social Networking: here to stay, and a necessary evil

Social networking's a big part of our lives now. It started out seemingly as a fad, a way to pass the time. Now many businesses, social organizations, and of course, folks wanting to socialize, utilize one or more of the many social networking outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn, etc.

I've personally been part of the social networking craze since 1998. I started out with CollegeClub and BlackPlanet. I was slow to get into Myspace and Facebook, not getting accounts on either one of those until 2006. It's been a very positive, fun part of my life despite the negativity and evils that comes with it.

Being that I'm a big fan and advocate of the social networking concept, I believe I've learned from observing others, from my own trial and errors and mistakes, some tips in successful social networking. And this can apply to Facebook, Twitter, or whatever your social networking site of choice may be.

- Adjust your privacy settings as strict as possible. Make your tweets private so they cannot be easily googled. Set your Facebook photos so that a limited group of folks can see them (preferably friends only). Do not allow other folks to see your friend's lists. Many folks will add friends off of your list that they don't even know. Then you are receiving phone calls, texts, saying "Who is Jane Person? I don't know her, she's on your list?". Also, do not put your phone number on your pages. Be very careful with your email of course, but definitely leave your phone number off. Not everyone needs that info.

- Be careful what you say. Yes, we live in a free country with 1st Amendment rights, but there is also common sense and discretion. Don't talk and bash personal things such as your job or your family. Those types of things should stay within those particular networks, especially your job. Your employer can terminate you for bashing the place of employment. It's best not to talk about these types of things at all.

- Use discretion in which pictures you pose. I know this sounds strange, but I don't have a pic up of my current vehicle on my profile. Unless you've met me and know me well, I don't need for you to know what type of car I drive, where I live, etc. Also, it's ok to show yourself having fun and having a nice social life. However, pics of yourself overly inebriated and/or half-naked are not always favorable, unless you're an actor, model or both. As a man, I enjoy looking at the sexy photos many of my female friends post on their profiles. However, even I must admit that sometimes they are too much. You want to portray the proper image on your page. It doesn't have to be of a saint, but you should be willing to accept any potential fallout and consequences.

- Make sure every friend/follower has a purpose on your page. You are, for better or worse, showing some part of yourself to cyberspace. You don't want to just accept anyone's friend request. Preferably, if it's not friends, family, co-workers, or classmates, it should be at least someone you want to get to know. Yeah having 4,000 FB friends can look cool. But what if you only know AND talk to like 100 of them? I have quite a few myself and I'm proud to say I know more than half of them, and talk to most of them. Which brings me to,...

- Every few months, do a friend inventory. Discard and delete where you have to. If you have that belligerent friend that's always causing trouble on every update you make, is overly critical, or always poses an overall problem, then they should go. I like to call it "spring cleaning". I sometimes delete around 200 friends in a given year. It's nothing personal. It's just that if we're not at least conversing on FB or Twitter and you're NOT a big-time celebrity or a franchise, you're wasting space.

- Her are a couple of real brief tips for internet dating. If you're going to use social networking for this purpose, chat with this person extensively. Use your mutual friends to find out what you may/may not already know about this person. After that, if the chemistry's still right, agree to meet at a party, shopping mall or a park (a public place where both of your sets of friends will be present). Internet dating is still dangerous, but much more common. Therefore, use common sense and good judgment, just as you would when courting anyone else. All can turn out well.

- FINALLY, remember it's only social networking, it doesn't have to be your entire world. It's just an important component of your life now, like a supplement. Therefore, don't take anything on a social network too seriously. Use it for good and not for evil. Don't become co-depedent upon it either.

From the numerous horror stories about Facebook, MySpace, including the recent MSNBC special, it can make you want to delete every social networking profile. I say pump your brakes on that action first and take heed and caution. Many things and ideas, including the Internet itself, were feared and weren't rapidly accepted in the world. However, like the Internet, the automobile, electricity, cell phones, and the like, social networking is definitely a necessarily evil in our world. It's no longer a guilty pleasure, it's beneficial and a powerful part in the overall networking process. Many folks use it for mating, sharing information with their current friends, finding old friends, networking about jobs and upcoming events, promoting their various causes, and much more. If you haven't seen the Oscar nominated "The Social Network", I would highly recommend renting it. Mark Zuckerberg and crew were definitely on to something when they originally wanted to create a network where they could get to know their college classmates better, and the students at other colleges. Now it's a widespread concept.

Social networking is now a permanent fixture in our lives and world. It will be here in the good and the bad. It can only get better with folks being responsible and sensible with its usage.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Virgin: Is it still a dirty word?

Remember your first time having sex? Or have you yet to experience that first time, special moment in a person's life (rite of passage if you will for any adult, and some children unfortunately). It seems that remaining a virgin and waiting does not hold as much clout and importance as it once did. Now in our sex-crazed, Generation Z world, being a virgin does not seem good at all. It paints you as a Jesus-freak, a loser, and just as being inexperienced. Really???

There is increased pressure on folks to lose their virginity, especially once they become a teenager. Madonna even made a song about it in the 80s' "Like A Virgin" Never mind the dangers of STDs such as AIDS and herpes or early teenage pregnancy. For guys, it's a badge of honor, makes them look cool when they lose their virginity early on in life. For girls, it makes them appear trampy and whoreish in nature. However, many girls will give up their virginity early just so a certain guy (or guys) will like them and continue to date them. Both instances are ultimately self-esteem driven.

I just watched the teen movie "Easy A" starring Emma Stone who also played in the comedy classic "Superbad". The story is a spin on the timeless classic "The Scarlet Letter" where a young lady was chastised for losing her virginity, becoming pregnant, and forced to wear an "A" for "adulterer" stitched to her cllothing. Instead, the main character, Olive Penderghast (Stone), fakes that she loses her virginity to an older man during the weekend to avoid spending it with her best friend and her "free-spirited" parents. Anyways, they're in the girl's room talking about the fake sexual experience, and one person hears. From there, the entire school knows that Olive has lost her virginity. She then is immediately painted as a skank, especially by the Christian groups. Olive decides to keep the lie going when various guys (gays, foreigners, overweight losers, nerds) approach her with money and gift cards to say that they lost their virginity to her. Her popularity soars, but not in the right way. Basically, Olive embraced the rumors (unlike most teenage girls), and used her virginity as a weapon, rather than a burden. She evens embroiders the letter "A" on all of her clothing. It portrays how even sadder and Hellish it has become to be a teenager in these times.

Many folks don't wanna wait until marriage because they either don't plan on being married anytime soon (if at all) or they want to be more experienced sexually once they meet that "one". Another saying I've heard for years is the analogy to buying a car "You don't buy a car without test driving it first". Therefore, that statement alone prompts many people into having pre-marital coitus.

There's another school of thought on this matter, brought forth by one of my long-time classmates and friends who is currently in seminary. He proudly saved his virginity for marriage, and now has a wonderful marriage of 10 years with two wonderful young sons. Here are a couple of links he provided for me, building the case of how saving your virginity actually can make for lower divorce rates, higher satisfaction in their sexual life, and a stronger maritial union. and

However, another person brings a rebuttal here, stating that these studies are skewed and biased, and that saving your virginity for marriage doesn't guarantee marital success and bliss. Here are some links he also shared with me and

Here's my take on the entire topic. Pre-marital sex is indeed wrong according to the Holy Bible and considered fornication. If you're leading a strong Christian life, one should endeavor to hold on to virginity until marriage. Granted, God will still forgive you if you do not. However, that is not a license to be loose with it (or even to lie about losing it like Olive did in "Easy A"). Regardless, don't EVER be pressured into having sex. Everyone peaks at different times in their lives. I would tell anyone (especially the young folks) that sex is much beter and more satisfying when you actually love that person and it's not a random fling. You may end up regretting it if only lust is involved. Even for guys, one night of passion can often be overrated. Also, use, USE, USE protection. And I mean latex condoms. Birth control pills are not 100% effective, so be as safe as can be. Just take your time. It's really not a race to lose the label "virgin". Just be who you are and don't let others define you.

Sex is truly a beautiful thing, one of the single greatest acts of affection you can show towards a person. Virginity is special also. Whatever decision you make in your lives (or have made and continue to make), be responsible and stand by it 100%. There is no turning back that clock.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ted Williams: Golden voice tarnished and deterred by drug and alcohol addiction

Ted Williams (not the Hall Of Fame professional MLB player) but the viral YouTube sensation with the "golden voice" has become 2011's first feel-good story of the year. He was discovered late last year by a reporter in his hometown of Columbus, OH. He was a homeless man panhandling and the reporter took a video of him talking and put it on YouTube. Millions of hits later, Ted is famous. He's getting job offers left and right from Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, NFL Network, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and even from Oprah Winfrey for her new OWN network.

However, after accepting the Kraft offer, being reunited with his mother and 5 of his 9 offspring, he had a bigger obstacle to overcome: drug and alcohol addiction. He has fallen on hard times over the past few years due to these evil vices. They caused him to be penniless and homeless, living out of a homemade tent on the side of the road in Columbus. Once he received money and fame again, he immediately fell off the wagon. He started drinking Coronas, Grey Goose, and even fighting with one of his children, Jenay. This altercation landed him a night in jail. Now, after speaking with Dr. Phil on a couple of occasions, he's in rehab trying to beat this addiction before he entertains these numerous offers (the ones that will still be available, that is).

Addiction is something I'm all too familar with. I have had numerous alcoholic and drug addicts in my family. The most recent one was my brother, Adam. His drug addiction eventually ended his life. Next Friday, January 28th, will be 5 years since he passed from a drug overdose. ANY time of addiction is a lifelong battle, one that requires lots of willpower, therapy, and prayer. It is up to that person as to whether or not they want to be rehabillitated. They have to be willing to be helped, change their lifestyle, and avoid negative influences that will place them back into harm's way.

This is exactly what Ted Williams must do. He has a lot of folks in his corner, including even his family, whom he has hurt emotionally and physically. He has to make up his mind that he wants to take full advantage of this second chance he has at success in life. He has a special voice but it is currently tarnished by his substance abuse and the negligence to treat this disease. Once his health is in order, it must be maintained, like an automobile. He will need to stay in touch with professionals such as Dr. Phil, have the support of his loved ones, and avoid any and ALL temptations. One in particular is his girlfriend, who is supposedly a drug addict and a prostitute. Unless she changes, she will ONLY bring Ted back to where he was before. Poor, homeless, and forgotten.

I am personally loving this story (the good and the bad) of Ted Williams. It's inspiring how he has a shimmer of hope despite this recent setback. The beginning of the New Year is about starting anew and leaving the past behind. This story emulates all of that. It's the type of stuff you really can't script or write. I will be following this story as it continues to unfold, even while Ted is in rehab and out of the public eye.

Again, Ted can beat this addiction. The main factor in this situation is himself. He has to be strong enough to resist temptation and realize what is as stake, but smart enough to have the right people around him as "barometers" to gauge his progress and keep him on the straight and narrow.

I look forward to hearing that "golden voice" again and pray that Ted is just not another negative statistic, but an inspirational, comeback story that great movies and books are made of.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

SEC v. Big Ten: SEC still remains strongest in the nation in college football

This is my first blog entry for 2011 so I thought I would discuss college football since that's one of the first broadcasts (or sporting events) we see after the clock strikes midnight on January 1. There have been some criticisms against the Southeastern Conference (SEC), folks saying that the conference is down, and its quality of talent. They are also saying that the Big Ten is the top conference of this past season. Well I respectfully disagree and here is why.

Here's a little back story for you. The SEC has been dominant for the past decade. They have 6 BCS champions overall, and 4 straight (Florida, LSU, Florida again, and Alabama). They consistently have at least 2 teams playing in BCS bowls, and often up to 4 teams in the AP Top 5 poll. Also, the SEC consistently dominates in the other major bowls, ESPECIALLY when matched up against the Big Ten. When you have teams like Alabama, Auburn (the team playing for this year's BCS title), Arkansas, LSU, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and even Mississippi State, it's hard to deny the SEC of anything. Even this past season.

The 2010-2011 college football season was a bit different for the SEC. Georgia and Tennessee were basically doormats. South Carolina scored huge wins over Alabama and Florida to play for the SEC title against Auburn. Arkansas and LSU both finished 10-2 in the regular season, while Alabama finished 9-3. South Carolina finished 9-4 after Auburn dismantled them 56-17 in the SEC Championship game. And finally, Auburn is 12-0 and #1 in the country. Led by controversial Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton, the Auburn Tigers will play the also undefeated Oregon Ducks led by LeMichael James and their high-octane offense for the big prize. Doesn't sound like the SEC has skipped much of a beat.

Now consider this. EVERY school in the SEC except for Vanderbilt (a perennial cellar team) and Ole Miss were bowl eligible and played in bowls. Matter of fact, the SEC was undefeated during the New Year's Day bowls, and went 3-0 against the Big Ten head to head. Arkansas played Big Ten power Ohio State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. It was a great game, but in the end Ohio State prevailed, making it their first win in a BCS bowl game over the SEC. Name many (or any conference) that can boast of that success in any season.

OK now you have the Big Ten. This year, they had three 11-1 teams: Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State. Based on the BCS tiebreaker, Wisconsin was the conference winner and got the Big Ten BCS nod. Even as the "best" team coming out of the Big Ten, they fell to unbeaten TCU. Michigan State got their clock cleaned in their bowl game against Alabama. And we already know what happened with Ohio State. Overall, the Big Ten looked better record wise and even had overall more bowl wins than the SEC this year. However, with the exception of Ohio State this year, they still have the reputation of failing to deliver when it counts, in the BIGGEST games. The SEC has made a habit out of that.

This year, at least 4 (maybe even 5) SEC teams probably could have went into the Big Ten, Pac-10, or any other power conference and ran the table. They're just that talented. If you look at their schedule and records, the only teams that could really challenge them this year was each other.

The SEC has also been cranking out plenty of NFL Draft picks and stars. Minnesota's Sidney Rice is from South Carolina. Jason Campbell and Ronnie Brown are both from Auburn. Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin are from Florida, Darren McFadden is from Arkansas. Of course, Georgia, Tennessee, and even Ole Miss have several current NFL players on their rosters. You can't deny the talent, power, and dominance of this conference.

I was watching the Under Armour High School All-American All-Star game the other night. I noticed where well over half of the players on either squad have committed to SEC schools next year. The nation #1 prospect from nearby Rock Hill, SC, JaDaveon Clowney is strongly considering either South Carolina or Alabama. Doesn't appear that the SEC will experience much of a drop-off for a while.

Now one can safely say that certain teams (Georgia, Tennessee, and even Florida this year) were down. But to say the SEC as a whole is down? I think not. Even if Auburn loses to Oregon tomorrow night, the SEC still has maintained their overall power as a conference. They sent yet another representative to the national championship game, 5th year in a row. Let's see the Big Ten accomplish that.