Thoughts and Prayers

I’ve struggled with the best way to say this. Thoughts and prayers are not a diminutive statement from a Christian. Prayer is the most powerful tool for a Christian, filled with hope. Prayer for healing, prayer for understanding, prayer for peace, prayer for resolution. It is literally invoking God to help humanity deal with a situation. It is not a casual statement of weak acknowledgement and is not an intention to do nothing. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I understand how non Christians may think otherwise, thus I felt compelled to make this statement. It’s a beginning, to invoke the God of Abraham and Moses to help us fight and win battles against evil, to find a way to solutions in time.

As for “thoughts”, I can’t speak for all Christians, but for me it’s a nod of respect to those who don’t share my belief. If you don’t believe in the power of prayer, I want you to know I’m not excluding you.

In both cases, “thoughts and prayers” are the beginning, not the ending, and a foundation to fight evil. It starts there but never ends there. To be anything else is lazy. Anyway, I hope this helps, because I’ve seen too much of “thoughts and prayers” twisted into some position statement that simply isn’t true.

Additionally, we are divided, and taking sides and screaming talking points does nothing to solve problems. What does help solve problems is understanding all. My hope is this little rant helps you understand the Christian perspective. And to my brothers and sisters in Christ, if I have in any way erred in theology please call me out; I always want to know if I’ve made mistakes. Peace to all.

Coincidence or God?

Last week, as I do several times during the week, I left the office to get in a mid-afternoon workout at a local gym. I keep regular routines, with little variance. Some may think that could be boring, but it is what works for me. For example, my sleeping hours generally are 9:00 PM – 4:30 AM, and anything outside of that can make me irritable – the further from the norm, the crankier I get.

But little things I often do differently. On this trip, I had the sudden urge to call my wife. While I will often call her during the day, I never call her with driving to the gym, usually because I’m still processing work-related items while trying to get myself in the mode for the day’s programming from my coach. I hit the call button on the steering wheel.

“Hello?” I could tell from background traffic she wasn’t in the office. Plus, she sounded preoccupied. Maybe she had a late lunch that I forgot about?

“Hey, just calling to say hi.”

A pause, and then what no husband wants to hear.

“I need help!” She was starting to cry.

Everything stopped in that moment. Thoughts of work and programming exited my brain. “What happened?”

“I’m sick. I’m on the side of the road.”

“Where are you?” A gas station provided the easiest path to turn around.

“I just left work. I can’t drive home!”

As men do in these situations, I shifted into problem-solving mode. “Can you drive back to work?”

“I think so.”

“Okay, do that, that’s the safest thing to do. I’ll be there soon.”

I didn’t really know that, but my brain was scrambled and there was nothing I could do to help until I got to her office. At the very least, whatever her condition, she’d be around people who could help her if needed before I arrived (I was about 20 minutes away).

Funny that when you’re in a rush it often seems you end up behind every slow vehicle and hit every red light. But once I hit the interstate I flew. I may or may not have exceeded a couple traffic laws, and perhaps a law of physics.

When I arrived she was still in her vehicle in the parking lot, violently vomiting. A coworker was with her until I arrived. She couldn’t speak initially, but he told me she had said it came on suddenly. The early conclusion – food poisoning.

I took her into her office and stayed with her as her body continued to purge whatever had triggered the sickness. We hoped that eventually she would be able to drive, but after two hours she decided to go home with me, and we planned to pick up her car the next morning, if she was able.

As food poisoning cases usually go, she eventually stopped vomiting and was able to sleep. While weak the next day, she otherwise had recovered for the most part.

But none of that is the story I wanted to share, only necessary context information.

As I said before, I never call her on the way to the gym, but I had a sudden, strong urge to reach out to her. We realized that at the exact same moment she was calling out to God for help.

Coincidence? Or did God tap me on the shoulder and prompt me to call her, so I could help her, in response to her prayer?

I know what I believe.

A Podcast Hiatus

Over the past 20+ months I have been producing a podcast; first weekly then daily, where I shared my journey of reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in a year. For me, The Daily Bible Wrap Up podcast was an exercise in obedience; I felt led, perhaps even commanded to do so. And so I did just that.

Every morning I’d read, then go live around 7:15 AM Central. Later, I realized I could be more efficient and avoid possible sudden issues by recording and then broadcasting the episode later. That led to prerecording episodes days in advance to counter any possible longer disruption, such as a vacation or illness.

During this process, I learned a lot. And I’d like to think I did a pretty good job. When a flu-type illness hit me, knocking me out for a few days, I never missed a 7:15 broadcast, thanks to the prerecording habit. When we vacationed in Florida, I recorded from our condo, as I also did at other times when on the road. I had created a great routine, and I often patted myself on the back for how skilled I had become.

And during all of that self-praise, I lost the reason why I was doing this.

As I wrote above, I started this project in obedience to God. Somewhere along the line, my Type A and OCD traits took over.

The Daily Bible Wrap Up had become more something I did because I did it well. It would take a second flu-type illness in five weeks to make me realize that I had drifted away doing it for God to doing it for my obsessiveness. Which, as I thought about it further, I think was God’s plan. I hadn’t been sick with a flu-type bug since COVID in late 2020, a span of nearly three years. Getting sick with similar twice in five weeks could very well have been God’s way to force me to slow down. After all, I can be stubborn, and sometimes it takes a spiritual smack in the head to see clearly.

I fell ill at exactly the time I had let my recording buffer dwindle from five days to one. I simply did not have the strength to record while experiencing chills, fever, aches, and a completely stuffed head. I was angry at myself for slipping in recording.

Then the revelation. I had already received the message to put the podcast on hiatus at the end of the year, to refocus and determine what next steps would be. My plan was to finish Revelation, then reassess in 2024, with the idea of returning to the podcast in 2025. But God had other plans, He showed me that what was a response to his call had become a vanity exercise for me. I was trying to finish out the year not for God but for me.


I opted to end the podcast immediately. After missing one day, which prompted comments of concern as I had never missed a day, the following day, still ill but on the backside of the illness, I broadcasted live at 7:15 Central; you can catch the archive of the livestream at I know it was the right decision because after I finished the livestream, I felt immense relief. I had indeed finished well, because I had done what God had wanted me to do.

What did I learn? First, I now understand quite well how to create and produce a daily podcast. It is a lot of work, and is difficult at times for a small business owner (I own an information security consulting firm) to devote the time to the project. One day I plan to retire, though, and I know I will stay busy during retirement. I have little doubt that The Daily Bible Wrap Up podcast will be one of my retirement passions.

Another lesson surprised me somewhat. In September I was compelled (led) to share The Daily Bible Wrap Up livestream on my LinkedIn page and I explained so in a post. To summarize, being in the Word daily helped me in my professional life, and I thought it could benefit others.

The one thing I expected to happen did. I lost some followers. Whether they did not agree with the content or just got tired of seeing the daily notifications, for that or other reasons they dropped. But the purge was minimal; I estimated about 1%.

But what I didn’t expect was the level of support and encouragement I received. Even those who did not consume the podcast said that just seeing the notification encouraged them to be in the Word themselves on their reading or devotional plans. That convinced me that there is a significant need for such on LinkedIn. Therefore, when The Daily Bible Wrap Up returns, it will be livestreamed on my LinkedIn page again.

I have more thoughts but one thing this and other media endeavors have taught me is to not be too lengthy in the written or spoken word. I’d like to close by first thanking all who have supported me in this endeavor. Your words of encouragement mean more than you know.

While it seems obvious, try to be open to God and his plan in your life, and not let your desires overshadow what the Spirit is guiding you to. As for future plans, as I indicated The Daily Bible Wrap Up will return, but it will be in God’s time, not mine. God has prepped me for something through this experience, of that I’m sure. I’m excited to discover what that is as the years unfold.

The Daily Bible Wrap Up Podcast

I’m in year two of the Bible wrap up podcast, originally titled The Weekly Bible Wrap Up. I moved to the daily format this spring because of reasons I describe in the linked trailer; basically it made sense from practicality and spiritual angles.

In 2020, a few months into the COVID pandemic, I began to write down my thoughts from the daily Bible readings. I had followed a “read the Bible in a year” plan for several years, and this next step helped me to understand and retain more of what I was reading, as well as aiding in applying Biblical principles in today’s world.

In 2022, I thought that perhaps by sharing my notes, I could help others in two ways: first, perhaps my insights could help someone understand and/or follow the books, and second for those trying to read along in a year, it could help them “catch up” if they found themselves falling behind. Many who do start a year Bible reading plan don’t finish because they miss a few days which quickly becomes overwhelming to catch up.

Every year I choose a different plan and translation to follow. This year I am following the Nickey Gumbel Bible in a Year 2023 plan at

I share my insights from my notes on each reading, sometimes connecting to contemporary culture. If I am confused by a section, I am quite transparent about it! My notes help me to understand the Bible, and my hope is perhaps these short daily episodes can help others with their understanding as well.

Daily video episodes drop at 7:15 AM on Twitter @BibleWrapUp and @SecondChancePu1, YouTube at @dailybiblewrapup, and Spotify at Audio versions available on all major podcast platforms (Spotify, iTunes, etc.)

This has been and continues to be a very rewarding experience for me, and my hope is that you find value with it as well.

A Second Chance Publishing, LLC podcast.

Following God’s Command

Earlier this year I announced the launch of the Weekly Bible Wrap Up podcast, where I go over the previous week’s Bible readings following a one-year Bible reading plan. I wasn’t sure of my “why” for doing it, only that I got the message that God wanted me to do it. When God asks, the best response is “Yes”!

I had no expectations, only to follow what I was commanded to do. Thus, every week, usually on time but occasionally a day (or as in this week, three days) late, I basically read my notes from the readings. I am sure I miss the mark sometimes, and sometimes I am lost to the meaning of some verses. Reading King James doesn’t help the matter either. But I plug on. Here are a few lessons I have learned along the way:

  1. This is an exercise in faithfulness.
  2. Because of number 1, listener count is not a goal.
  3. However, for each listener I feel a sense of responsibility to continue.
  4. I have felt like quitting many times, but see numbers 1 and 3.
  5. Using Anchor by Spotify and my phone makes production easy.
  6. I have become a more intentional Bible reader.
  7. Because of number 6, I understand the Bible more.

Today I also had an epiphany. As I stated on the episode I recorded a few hours ago, I occasionally revisit my pain from my failed first marriage. Even though that happened 30 years ago, the pain never fades; I just learn to deal with it by submerging it in my being. But somewhat like the Vulcans and the imbalance caused by Ponn-Far, it seems that I periodically need to revisit that pain intensely to purge it. It reminds me of a saying from my college years – “you need to go crazy some of the time, otherwise you’ll go crazy all of the time”. Last night I intentionally revisited that pain, though I didn’t know why, only that I have the feeing that God leads me to a message or revelation when this happens.

I found the why this morning. I had to catch up on two days of readings before recording, which meant beginning Hosea. There I was reminded of the premise of God comparing His relationship with Israel to Hosea’s with his unfaithful wife Gomer, and therefore the reason last night of revisiting my pain. By doing so, I more acutely understood, even felt God’s pain with Israel’s unfaithfulness through Hosea.

Experiences like that continue to teach me to seek and follow God’s plan for me, not just long term but this day, this hour, and this minute. I hope you too constantly look for God’s plan for your life, and don’t save those thoughts only for Sunday.

Announcing the Weekly Bible Wrap Up Podcast

In my last post, I mentioned how podcasting is another form of indie publishing. That was a prelude to a calling that at that time I was just beginning to understand, and have since developed into a final product called The Weekly Bible Wrap Up at

I’ll start with context because I think it’s important with any story, interpretation, or opinion. Because this podcast is not just about summarizing the Bible, I think it’s important to have context behind that to try to understand the intent and the communication and the message of the person delivering that and that goes to when reading the Bible – understand the context when it was written.

I grew up Catholic, but non practicing, in that we didn’t go to church regularly. It was only when I was about 16 that I reached out to the Catholic Church to learn more, as a young adult on my own. My first Communion and my confirmation were later than those going through the faith I went through that as a young adult, and some might argue that that actually makes it more impactful because you’re making a decision as an adult.

As a practicing Catholic and was pretty good about maintaining attendance with church, but really didn’t connect well with the whole environment. I felt like I was doing something as an obligation, like I had to go to church because I wanted to get to heaven. That was the only reason why I was doing any of that. It’s like “Well, here I am, putting in my time so that when I die you can see the attendance sheet and yay Greg, you can go through, that’s great.

Not exactly the most fulfilling way to look at the entire Bible and the faith.

I drifted away from the Catholic Church. But through a rather spontaneous or perhaps planned (I don’t believe anything is a coincidence) circumstance, I was invited to attend an interdenominational church in Murfreesboro, TN called World Outreach Church, and this was about 13 or 14 years ago.

Now you must understand a little bit more about context too. I grew up in the north, New York. I was a Yankee obviously, moved down to the South about almost 30 years ago and have claimed Tennessee as my home. I love it in Tennessee. It’s just been very fulfilling for me here. There’s a whole host of reasons why I really feel that I’ve reached my own personal promised land.

And in the south, they call it the Bible Belt and there’s reasons for that, you know? In some cases, there are large, very large churches and World Outreach being one of them. I accepted the invitation and went, but in the beginning, I didn’t see it as “real” church.

I saw it more as like a Christian Community Center type thing gathering. I didn’t get the holding of hands in the air. I didn’t get any of that. But it was nice, and the people seemed nice, and so I stayed.

And I did resonate with the first sermon that I ever heard from Pastor Alan Jackson. In fact, my friend introduced me to him right after that first service and I told Pastor Allen him that I was floored by his message. If you’ve heard Pastor Jackson speak, you know he has an excellent and sometimes self-deprecating sense of humor and I think his response was somewhere along the lines of, “Well, sometimes when I preach people end up on the floor.” In other words, he puts them to sleep. That was my introduction to him personally.

I started to attend world outreach more and more and then around this time is when I met my wife. Before we got married her and I started to attend together. We were regular in our attendance off and on, off and on, and became slowly over time more on than off and something was happening within us. Several years ago, I think about six years ago we joined the choir and that certainly opened up more about the church.

What was happening to me was that I was understanding and growing in this concept of a personal relationship with Christ. I always thought that that was sort of like marketing mumbo jumbo from the extreme evangelicals. But it really, really resonated with me.

Every year the church does a weekly well daily rather Bible reading. The idea is that if you read the Bible for 10 or 15 minutes a day, you will get through. And I use those words on purpose because I’ll explain why I said that in just a moment you will get through the Bible within a year. I thought, well, I’ve never read the entire Bible. I probably should if I really want to get a better understanding about what it is that I believe. Plus, Pastor Jackson had kind of implanted in my mind that you can’t really understand the New Testament without really understanding the Old Testament. That makes sense, and makes more sense as you read the Bible.

I began listening on my commute. I would commute one day to a remote office about little more than two hours one way, and that would be my day that I would catch up on the Bible. During the commute, I would listen to a podcast called the Daily Audio Bible and it was my introduction into the regularity of the Bible. I was trying to catch up on all the daily readings for the week in one day. With all the Bible readings, because I’m a type A personality, I wanted to make sure I was staying on schedule, because I wanted to get through the Bible.

There’s a problem with those words – get through. It signifies an obligation, really, nothing different than what ended up turning me off from the Catholic Church.

But God was working through me, and after two years or three years of passively listening to the Bible, whether it be driving or then I got into a better habit of doing it daily. Sometimes I still had to catch up, but I would listen while I was working out. It was still in the list of priorities, a background thing, but at least it was on my list of priorities of things I was doing.

I think I’m into my 4th year now of reading (not listening to) the Bible. The first year I did it, it was the same methodology. I would read one day, and then I’d skip a few days and then I’d be like, “Oh gosh, I have to catch up and I go through it really fast and then yay, I could check that off and move on.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, I became a lot more intentional about this. I made two changes. First, every morning, first thing in the morning, I would read my Bible. I wouldn’t put it in some other place on my schedule whenever I had a chance to do it. I would make that the priority.

The second change is I began to write notes about it. Now sometimes I’d write down verses. Sometimes I write down feelings or opinions, or where I’ve seen things in relation to today’s modern culture. That was all just for me. It took two years, but I filled a 200-page composition book with daily notes. It helped me to focus on being more intentional when I was reading the Bible. I was reading and trying to absorb it.

Then I changed the translation. I don’t remember the first couple of iterations NIV was one of them. Maybe I read NIV twice in a row and then switched to Living Bible, which was a much easier read. After that I thought, well, I probably should go in the exact opposite direction and read King James. Old English that makes it for a very difficult reading, but I bought the Holman King James Version Study Bible. They do a wonderful job of explaining not only what some of the English means, but also what some of the Bible means, like what are they getting at here? Why are they doing this?

There’s so many elements in the Bible, so many rules. In Leviticus, for example, that when you’re reading Leviticus, talk about having to get through something, it seems like! It is a difficult read, but there is a reason, a structure, that makes perfect sense as to why these sacrifices were done as they were, given the context of when it was written.

During these years, in my day job in information security, I had started a few years ago a YouTube series called The Virtual CISO Moment (CISO stands for Chief Information Security Officer). The series began as a marketing strategy to try to get folks interested in the services we offer. Then that video series slowly. developed into more of an effort of giving back. I have more than 30 years of knowledge and experience in this field to share.

This year I put it up on Spotify and other platforms through a unique opportunity that came my way. Spotify was looking for amateur video content creators like me, those who have already demonstrated that they’ve done videos in the past that they wanted us to be the first wave of their new expanded video and audio podcast creation platform called Anchor.

The Virtual CISO Moment was accepted, and that accelerated my growth into the podcast space this year.

All of this was coming together for context as to why I’m doing this podcast. There are a few elements that have converged. First, I have learned and grown in reading and understanding the Bible, particularly through the intentionality of reading every morning and writing about it.

Second, I’ve learned about how to create a podcast efficiently. One of the first rules of podcasting I would say (I didn’t read this anywhere but may be common advice) is to be consistent about it, so I do this every week. That’s why a new episode drops every Sunday at 6 PM Central (US).

Third, I’ve gotten proficient at speaking into this big foam-covered microphone on a regular basis. I record three episodes per week of The Virtual CISO Moment. I don’t have microphone fear anymore.

I started to get the God-nudging beginning of May. “Hey, Greg. I think I want you to do something else.” That’s how I started in what I’m doing in my career now; five years ago, it was a God nudge, and you can learn more about that if you to the other podcast (first episode titled Genesis).

Here it was, another God message, the shoulder tap, a little whisper in the ear. “I’ve given you these talents. I’d like you to bring them together, for my purpose.”

And thus, The Weekly Bible Wrap Up was born. I don’t know how many people are going to listen to this, but if just one person listens, it’s worth it. I hope more will. I hope that this becomes for some people a vehicle to help bridge from that “I’ve got to get through the Bible” to “I’m living the Bible and I’m living the relationship.”

The one thing that I, nor any podcast, or preacher, or anybody (not even God) can give is the desire to begin. The desire comes from faith. You must believe, when reading the Bible, first and foremost that there is a God who created the universe and loves us.

If you go to the Bible looking immediately right out the gate for proof, chances are you won’t find it, because you’re reading it with the eye of its skeptic. But if you read it as a believer in God, it is amazing how it opens understanding.

I now look forward to reading my Bible every morning, it’s not something I have to get through because it seems like every day I gain more insight, I learn something new. I’m excited about it! I’m excited about this path that God has put me on. I hope it helps you.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. I’m certainly open to any feedback. I hope this podcast becomes a real blessing to you.

Post based on the transcript of the introductory episode of The Weekly Bible Wrap Up.

Podcasting – Another Form of Indie Publishing

I’d like to say that recently I have started podcasting, but that’s not exactly true.

I started an online video blog, in 2019, short vignettes (is that repetitive?) discussing information security issues for small and midsized businesses. The motive was purely entrepreneurial; I was less than two years into my experience as owner and principal of vCISO Services, LLC, and I was learning marketing skills.

I tried many approaches to marketing; some stuck, some didn’t. One example of the latter was cold-calling. After a few tries, I realized that I was not made for that.

Greg Schaffer, host of the Virtual CISO Moment

Neither was excessive social media interaction. In the writing world, one’s platform is considered important for landing that elusive publishing deal, so often people will intentionally follow thousands with the expectation they will follow back. That’s a great way to create an echo chamber, but the effectiveness to return ratio, to me, seems very low.

Yet video I enjoyed. Each video vignette has several views, some measured in the dozens, some on the (low) hundreds. I have zero metrics to show how effective they are in marketing, though I have had people approach me at conferences stating they enjoyed my product, so maybe it helped with word of mouth. I continued until losing steam during the COVID pandemic.

At the beginning of this year, I found myself reviewing some of the videos, and realizing that I had lost the urge to create them from a marketing standpoint, but I enjoyed sharing knowledge for small and midsized businesses. With the opportunity for Spotify to host, as I had a decent library of content, I decided to start the series up again with a short clip and a new mission: no frills, no glamour, no transparent whiteboard text, no complex graphics, and no script – just a few minutes every Tuesday discussing SMB information security risk issues. And no focus on marketing.

I also realized that limiting the videos to just me was, well, limiting. I have the privilege and honor to know hundreds in the information security and risk management fields, each who has knowledge and experience different and often beyond my own. I needed to add guests, and let them do the talking.

The first episode with a guest dropped March 1. The experience proved to be more informative and fun than I had anticipated, and I therefore contacted several more colleagues to join me. Most enthusiastically agreed, to the point in short order I found the weekly podcast booked through the end of May.

I’m excited about this new arena. Podcasting is another form of publishing, just a different media. Just as indie should strive for professionalism in their works, so I am pushing myself to bring professionalism to each 15-25 minute episode while expanding and enhancing my skill set. Check out the Virtual CISO Moment and let me know how I’m doing!


I’ve mentioned before that my writing activities have taken a back seat to my business as my day job continues to demand more time. Eventually I will return to fiction writing and more frequent blogging; that is my retirement career. For now, I near the fourth anniversary of creating vCISO Services, LLC (July 23, 2017). The business has exceeded my expectations.

But this post isn’t about the business, it’s on anniversaries. I have a “thing” about anniversaries.

For the most part, I recognize significant anniversaries with either pleasure or sadness. I gave an example of the former above, and one that gives many sadness is 9/11. I’d say I approach anniversaries similar to all, with one exception – wedding anniversaries.

I must emphasize this is my issue, my quirkiness, and my story. I’m not looking for fix suggestions or sympathy or disagreement. Unlike most, I don’t always externally recognize other’s wedding anniversaries; I never send cards. I’ve tried to explain why to some people, but I feel like I get a “deer in the headlights” reaction. For some reason, while relaxing in the sauna this morning and reflecting on nearly four years of vCISO Services, my mind wandered on this topic, taking hold all day (it’s late afternoon as I type this) to where the best way to shake it was to write about it.

Writing has been a way for me to cope with issues for many years. My first* novel began as a fantasy exercise of what if things had worked out differently in my first failed marriage, if only I could go back in time and reverse whatever happened. Eventually that morphed into something quite different, and while not many have read it, I received positive feedback from many who did. I of course include this paragraph because this is a writer’s blog, and I’d like to include some mention of writing in each post (though I don’t always hit that mark).

Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating my wedding anniversary. My wife and I will celebrate twelve wonderful years together next month. But receiving well-wishes from others for this wedding anniversary reminds me of my two previous marriages that I did not want to end. For during those relationships, there were happy congratulations of anniversaries; cards galore, and smiles and well-wishes from people that I lost contact with a long time ago.

Divorce is terrible. No one enters into marriage with divorce as the end game except for those with purely selfish motives (which does not apply to either of my failed marriages). Divorces create divisions. Families pick sides. And all of those who had congratulated us on another year suddenly separated to their own benches, assuming tribal behavior that prohibited all contact with the other side. That hurt me, more than I can express in words – people I genuinely loved, suddenly ripped away.

Why does it have to be that way? I understand some of the reasons; it’s difficult to maintain relationships like that, and the first responsibility is to your own family. But it doesn’t make the hurt any less intensive, at least not for me, years later. As illogical as it sounds, sometimes an external “happy anniversary” takes me back to those ripped relationships, even though there is no connection whatsoever. I feel the pain again, sometimes almost as intense as if it had happened just recently.

Because of this, I don’t send out anniversary cards either. I prefer to let the couple celebrate in private; it is their time, after all. I think one reason why I wanted to write this is to explain that – it’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I literally feel, to one degree or another, the pain of those ripped relationships caused by divorce. Those two dates that people used to send cards come and go every year, and not one has passed when I don’t feel some measure of the same pain of relationships that were family lost, never to be resurrected.

Like I said above, this is my issue, my problem to deal with. I want to close by emphasizing that I do appreciate those who reach out and wish us a happy anniversary. Perhaps with time and more well-wishes, the pain will subside more, but there will always be a hole in my heart for those who, a long, long time ago, held a special place in my life. I hope this explains what I mean when I say I have a “thing” about anniversaries.

*Technically second novel. I wrote a novel in high school that never progressed past the torn spiral notebook first draft stage. It sits somewhere in my basement.

The Social Media Trap

I haven’t blogged much since before COVID began; I’ve been heads down into my business during the pandemic. I’ve also continued to be heads down into social media, literally. I think that part of my self-diagnosed Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is related to the smartphone posture – you know what I mean.

As the United States’ presidential election heated up last fall and tensions continued to increase on all sides post-election, the toxicity of social media shined brightly in its ugly evilness. I’ll be quite honest and get to the point – I saw sides of a few people that I wish I had never seen. I thought about giving examples here, but I still care for those people I’ve had to let go on social media. While my perception of them has changed, maybe permanently, the underlying aspects that created our friendships are still there, I like to think.

I used to think that social media isn’t evil, that it’s like any other tool, and how the tool is used determines its goodness or evilness. But I’m not so sure. Social media is designed to fuel negative feelings more than positive feelings – there are several studies available that I’ll leave the reader to search for and consume as they wish, or not. The instant gratification and chemical effects are classic fuels for addiction, and any addiction is evil, in my opinion.

Social media’s dopamine hits of getting “likes” or validating opinions by insisting being on the right side of the argument depresses the ability, or desire, or some other aspect to actually engage in useful debate. They post things publicly that they would never say in a crowded bar. That’s essentially what social media is, a public platform where even if you’re posting a response to me, you’re shouting so loud that a room of hundreds can hear. How embarrassing is that to my other contacts, that here I am talking with someone who is so blatantly opinionated and, well, rude? Would you ever want to hang out with that person in a bar again? I wouldn’t.

That’s not to say that all are like that; actually it’s only a small percentage, from my experience. Most scroll on by; they may agree or disagree but choose not to engage in what could get them “slammed” – after all, they’ve seen the few but powerful, unreasonable responses on my wall and want to avoid being the next target for simply expressing their opinion. Trust me, I get that; I hold off often responding on others’ walls for the same reason, having seen the unreasonable hate that some of their contacts have generated.

I know what you’re thinking – why not just create groups and post to limited people accordingly? I’ve done that over ten years; it’s tough to manage and sometimes just doesn’t work. The most effective method to maintaining sanity, decorum, and respect is to defriend or, in extreme cases, block. I say most extreme because I had a “defriend” harass me on a mutual friend’s wall, and blocking was the only option to ensure that I would not be subjected to that cyber bullying again.

But defriending doesn’t mean I don’t still care for or have affection for those who no longer have the privilege in participating on my wall. My views of them inherently have not been shattered, except for the blocked harasser – I can never have a relationship with him again. There’s just no common ground there to connect, from what I can see.

But social media can be good as well, if used and managed properly. Some of that management is taking a break occasionally. I have deactivated my Facebook account for a week, after which it will automatically come back to life. At the end of that week trial, I will see how I feel. I may extend the deactivation, or I may go back to as I was before, or I may further manage my use. I don’t know.

I am convinced that social media use is a real problem. Look at how it perpetuates conspiracy theories. That’s not a political statement; while it’s in style to apply it to far-right extremists at the moment, there have been and will continue to be far-left conspiracy theories perpetrated by their extreme base as well. There are reasonable people who truly believe these extreme things because of social media. One can simply look at the events of 2020 and early 2021 to see that.

Why will the social media trap continue to ensnare some? Because tribal mentality, coupled with dopamine hits, form a powerful addiction. So long as it feels good to themselves, they will continue, without regard or even awareness of what overall effects their words have. To them, all that matters is they are right, and that satisfying feeling of crafting the perfect rebuttal post.

Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

The Daily Dog (or My Answer to my Facebook Conundrum)

Earlier I wrote about how Facebook has impacted me negatively. With the polarization of opinions on COVID, politics, rioting, and so on, I had to quit altogether for a short period of time.

underdog-2020-05-18_22-43-41I returned by rebooting, and my choices of profile picture and background reflected such. First, both were a Windows Blue Screen of Death (the classic Windows 95 type because I’m old school). I followed that with a random computer code background pic and HAL-9000 as my profile (as of today HAL is still my profile photo – something about that red camera just intrigues me).

My reboot completed, I had already decided what the next step was. All of my posts for the foreseeable future would be of dogs. I selected one each day from Unsplash, and always made sure to give props to the photographer, though not required. Named The Daily Dog, there were many ideas behind the series. It is a protest against polarizing posts. Just about everyone loves dogs (and I don’t know how much I can trust someone who doesn’t). This would hopefully eliminate hurtful comments. Plus, in the English language Dog is God backwards, sort of like a mirror reflection – and I think that a dog’s unconditional love is a reflection of Jesus’ love.

The Daily Dog morphed from Unsplash dogs to occasionally photos of mine and also to fictional canines. Live action examples included Toto from the Wizard of Oz and Muffit from the original (and best) Battlestar Galactica. Cartoon versions have included Underdog and Scooby Doo. I would like to keep The Daily Dog going until Election Day if I can find enough dogs (I am taking Sundays off). No, division won’t end then but at least with the presidential election in the rear view mirror maybe polarizing posts would diminish.

But what about sharing views about topics I want to discuss, something that I feel I have a right to do without bullying or harassment? I value friends’ respectful opinions and insights, especially in these times, but I refuse to further subject myself and my other Facebook friends to  hateful, argumentative, sarcastic comments. My solution? I have returned to posting current event topics but those who previously had a habit of leaving snarky comments have lost the privilege of participating, as I now use a group for most current event posts that excludes them. That’s too bad, as I would have valued rational exchange, but the thought of hateful responses is too much for me, honestly.

I’d say this approach has so far worked quite well and has preserved my physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, while securing my need to discuss such on Facebook, especially since in-person gatherings are still limited. But I guess anything can happen. I don’t want to permanently block anyone on Facebook (I’ve had to do that only once), but to preserve my right of free speech and to pursue happiness, that may be necessary. Only time will tell.

Featured Photo by Hannah Lim on Unsplash