Changing the way we communicate

There was a time when you’d call someone to wish them a happy birthday, offer condolences on the passing of a family member, or drop by to check in on them when they were feeling under the weather. Now, with modern technology, everything seems to be done on whatever ‘platform’ you prefer. The majority of the crowd seems to go with Facebook, although Twitter, Snapchat and so many others seem to be gaining ground.

A few things you’ll never see me do, and this is for my own personal reasons. I’m not judging others for how they deal with things, but just putting the thought out there.

  1. You’ll never find me posting my relationship status. Why? Because that is between the person I am seeing and myself. Anyone else who needs to know, should hear about it from me directly, or my partner. Others who are curious, I’m sure it’ll get to them through the usual gossip grapevine. The rest of the world, well to be honest, it’s really none of their business.
  2. You’ll never see me ‘share’ a post saying anything along the lines of “If you have the most beautiful/handsome daughter/son; if you love your daughter/son” or any of the other number of similar posts. The people who are important in my life hear that directly from me. They don’t need to see me sharing what milIMG_20160319_152409lions of others are. I share what I feel directly with them, and that has much more meaning and impact.
  3. While I understand the sharing of news of someone’s passing, sometimes it’s the only way to try to ensure all of those who cared for them, or their family members, find out; you will never (I hope) find me offering condolences on that post. Again, for me personally, if I am close enough to that person for me to know how this loss has affected them, I’ll contact them directly either via personal message, phone call, or card. Otherwise, I don’t feel it’s my place to say anything as I may express condolences on their loss, when really, they didn’t feel it was much of one and they were just posting the information for those who might care.
  4. You’ll never see me sharing pictures of abused women/children/animals; people in hospital beds or born with some sort of medical deformity with the comment to say “Amen” and share, or just share and either whatever deity you believe in will help them, or a large multi-national organization will donate money for their medical bills with each share. Wake up people! These are all scams! There are numerous ways to track the clicks and provide more crap in your feed. If you want to make a difference, make a donation directly to an organization that will help a person or animal in that situation. Make the donation yourself, don’t expect someone else to do it for you so that you can feel better.
  5. You’ll never see me share a contest to win a car, beautiful round chair for two, tickets for a cruise, unless I’ve done the research. Many of these contests are valid, but they are in the UK, Australia or some other country where they sure aren’t going to ship the prize to you. The majority of these contests, if you click through, are pages that were just created, specifically for the ‘contest’. Again, scam….lots of clicks and lots of data collected to fill your feed with more junk. Others are local businesses trying to get their name out to people in their area. Again, they probably aren’t going to pay the shipping cost to send the prize to you, no matter how much you ‘like’ and ‘share’ their information. There are a few who will, but take the time to check out where the contest originated. A grocery store in British Columbia is not going to ship me a 25 pound turkey, and if they don’t operate in Ontario as well, a gift card in lieu of the turkey is just a piece of paper to recycle.

I am going to clarify myself. Throughout this blog I’ve said, “You’ll never see me…..”, and I hope you never will see me do any of the above. However, no matter how diligent we are, we sometimes trust a post shared by a friend, or are caught by a headline (which is what they are suppose to do…draw us in), and we click through or share and then regret we did. I know I’m guilty of doing the ‘Happy Birthday’ post on Facebook. Those I’m close to also hear it in person or get a card, and those who only get the message through Facebook, I probably don’t have their address or phone number and it’s the only way I keep in touch with them. I may have to work at changing that.

For things like kids who are missing, suspicious vehicles, the death of a famous person; I generally Google the name of the star, or click through to the originator of the post for the missing person etc. They have sometimes updated information and the person was found a year ago, yet the post is still being passed around, or it helps you verify if it is a valid post or not. Another great site of confirming information is Snopes.

I guess what I’m saying is that we have to be careful in what we share, and be smart enough not to believe everything we hear, or read. Just because it’s on the internet, certainly does not mean it’s true. When it comes to celebrating an important milestone in someone’s life, pick up the phone, buy a card and a stamp. Let’s get back to a bit of the ‘personal’ in our personal interactions. It’s easy enough to click a button, but sometimes more difficult when you have to write the words down or say them in person.

In the words of Mark Twain, “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see and you’ll be right most of the time……of course now days I’m not sure you can believe half of what you see either.”

It’s all in how you put the words together

When I started my freelance writing business, I was doing mainly technical work for a local energy plant. I wanted the documents I provided to them to look professional, so I made sure I bought a quality laser printer that printed in colour. Sure, the toner cartridges were more expensive than the inkjet printers, but the resulting product spoke for itself.

I’ve used this printer for six or seven years, and never had a problem, until about a year ago. Looking to save some money, I purchased the printer brand name ‘high yield’ toner cartridges. All went well for a while, and then both the magenta and yellow toners started leaving ugly blotches along the side of the printed page. Definitely not professional!

Not only did it leave ugly blobs of toner on the sides of my pages, but it also leaked within the machine itself, making a complete mess.

So I picked up new toner cartridges, not high yield this time, and cleaned and replaced things. I then disposed of the cartridges, as they were leaking toner on my floors every time they were moved. I sat down and emailed the company to advise them of the issue, and received a courteous, yet ineffectual response. They wanted some numbers off of the cartridges, and were willing to offer me 25% off of any of their online products, for the next seven day. Wow!

Since I’d already disposed of the cartridges, I wrote this off as a bad experience until this fall. I’d forgotten that I’d also put a high yield black cartridge in the machine and…yup, you got it…it started to leak.

I decided to try a different tactic this time and called the local service centre for this brand of printer. Their representative came out, opened up the machine and advised me a toner cartridge was leaking. Really? They said the cartridge would have to be replaced, as well as the tray that held all four cartridges, and the transfer belt would have to be cleaned. A total estimate was around $400 in parts alone. I told them to just leave it as I was going to contact the Customer Service Centre again.

I started my email by apologizing to the employee who won the luck of the draw and got to deal with my complaint. My opening line, “I am going to start by saying I worked in a call centre/ customer service environment and this email is not directed at the employee who has the luck of the draw to receive it. I am extremely disappointed in the (company name) products and their response to issues.”

I proceeded to detail the steps of what had taken place, and the costs associated with the original issue, as well as anticipated costs for the new, or reoccurring issue. I advised that 25% off of their product, that was what was causing the problems with an otherwise suitable machine for my purposes, was not sufficientIMG_0206 to appease me. “I’m not going to spend my time printing, photographing, scanning and sending you information that is going to get me 25% off more product that will continue to ruin what was an adequate machine for my needs. I would hope to receive a more appropriate response than the one I received last time but you may want to contact your authorized service centre in Sarnia Ontario to get more details before responding.”

I was quite pleased to receive an email response, within 24 hours, from the escalations department. They apologized for the issues I was having, had contacted their service representative here in town, and were willing to have all repairs complete, at their expense. I just had to get it to the service centre. I’m very happy to say that, two weeks later, I have my printer back, and it’s working wonderfully again. When this machine eventually prints its last page, will I purchase the same brand? That has yet to be decided although the response to this issue has certainly earned the company some ‘brownie points’.

I guess it’s like writing a story of any type; you have to do the research,state the facts, put your words in a cohesive order with emphasis in the appropriate places for the most impact, and make sure your reader has all of the information they need to reach the outcome you are anticipating. If you are able to do that, your reader will return to continue to buy what you have to sell.

To write, or not to write

Well, the time really does seem to roll by quickly and while I’ve written a lot of notes on topics for upcoming blogs, I look at each of them and wonder, where do I start? Believe me, I’ve read my notes and there are some damn interesting topics but I have to decide what will be the topic when, and do I have a photo to go along with it? I much prefer adding pictures as I’m sure it’s quite boring to just read what I’ve typed without the break for a photo. It also makes it look like I did a lot more work than I really did. As for the ‘damn interesting topics’, don’t worry, they’ll make it here, eventually.

Throughout my life, in English classes, at writing workshops, retreats and seminars, I’ve always heard, “Write what you know.” It’s worked for me since I know a little about a lot, and I’ve always been happy to share (some may say I share too much). I’ve been fortunate to work with people throughout my life who enjoy my stories, and I have a story for pretty much every situation you can think of. These are the people who continue to encourage me to write what I know, to put my story down, and help others work through their own difficulties by seeing how I’ve done it.

I’ve staMississippirted to do that in that I’m researching missing pieces of my life. Well, they aren’t really missing, other people know what took place when I was either too young to remember, or for innumerable reasons, chose to block out. I’m in a more secure and confident point in my life now and able to face those periods of time I had no problem dealing with, but others may not have been as welling to talk about. I’m comfortable asking the questions, and doing the research that I’ve put on the back burner for many years. This is an ongoing project and I’m sure bits and pieces will show up here as I put the missing pieces in place to sort out the puzzle of who I am.

Going back to writing what you know. Does that mean murder mystery writers have personal knowledge on how to commit murder? Are science fiction fantasy writers all astrophysicists? No, I don’t believe that’s what it means at all. I think it means these writers have a truly remarkable interest in their topic of choice and are dedicated to doing the research needed to ensure every detail is accurate. Whether they delve into archives and technical volumes themselves, or make the connections needed with people who are trained in that specific topic, they do what they need to in order to provide the base for their story. This in turn allows their imagination to soar and, with any luck, they’ll bring their audience along with them.

This doesn’t mean we should only write or do what we know, or what we have a special interest in. Very much like other parts of our lives, we can run into a roadblock, or in this case a writer’s block, and simply not move forward. That’s when you have to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. For a writer, it may be attempting a style of writing you’ve never tried before; poetry or on-the-spot writing for example. For life in general, it may mean stepping out of your daily routine and trying something completely new. For me personally, it sometimes means getting behind the wheel of my car and driving down roads I’ve neveIMG_0034r traveled before. It means discovering places that are new to me and letting my thoughts roam. I do some of my best thinking while exploring roads and communities I’ve never been to before, and I’ve had some of my best adventures finding new ways to get where I want to be.  As my children are use to hearing, “I never get lost. I simply find new routes to where I am going, or new places to be.” MJM