Category Archives: Personal

Facebook, You Win

In March 2012 I left Facebook. Now I’m back.

In December 2012, I wrote about why I quit and what my thoughts about the decision were at the time. That post resonated with a number of people. I received emails strongly agreeing with main points, and it was even discussed for a few minutes on a popular podcast (54 minutes in).  I still agree with everything I wrote then, but I now have a bit more to add.

Quitting Facebook was always a bit of an experiment. I say that not because I planned to return after some amount of time, but because I was very interested in seeing the effects of the action on myself and others. For example, if I was wasn’t accessible via Facebook, would traffic via other channels increase? Would I discover better patterns of keeping in touch that were being ignored due to the convenience of Facebook? Most importantly, would I get to a point where choosing to not use Facebook would leave me feeling better than before?  The results: no, no, maybe.

It is no exaggeration when I say that communication with my “extended circle” (mainly family, a few friends) is through Facebook or not at all. I found that out right away. Writing emails might yield a response but was hardly a substitute for something intended to be a broadcast update of the, “Hey, look what our son did”, kind. This blog won’t be read by said people (though it continues to be, as always, an invaluable journal for me). And posts to Google+, Twitter, Instagram, etc.? I might as well save the pieces in /dev/null. The people I most want to share with are only going to be available on Facebook.

So, the communication lines are down, but maybe it’s not that bad, right? After 15+ months I can say it’s not that bad, but it’s not that good either. I’ve always been the solitary type and it hasn’t been particularly jarring to slowly lose track of what everyone else is doing. The problem becomes: what am I left with? For a few weeks the silence was refreshing, but I could have gotten that by simply not using Facebook for a while. Over the long term, an unhealthy apathy formed. Almost all of my family and friends are outside of my daily life, but they still exist! They want to know how I’m doing and I want to tell them. I care about their significant life events. I’ve realized—only after an extended period—that turning all that off to avoid some of the ill-effects of Facebook is a bad trade for me

To fix this, I’ve signed up for a shiny new Facebook account. (Having provided literally nothing more than my email address, it promptly identified and suggested I friend just about every person I’ve ever met. Privacy!)  I’ll probably be a little more judicious with my friending (or whatever it’s called now), but I’ll be a lot more quick to mute. I hope to regain some of the good of Facebook and less of the bad.

And I hope that’s all I have to say about Facebook.


Life post-Facebook, Nine Months On

As the end of 2012 draws near, I approach nearly nine months without Facebook. This past March I deleted my Facebook account. I wasn’t the earliest adopter, but I did have over three years of fairly regular use with the site. When I deleted the account, it was the real deal. People proclaim that they have deactivated their account, but this amounts to little more than logging out for a while. “Delete” is final and unrecoverable. All of your posts, photos and friend links are gone.

Now I want to review the decision and talk about the effects. A lot of posts are written about quitting Facebook by people who have just done so, and the tone of many indicate an intense anti-Facebook sentiment or general backlash against social networking. My decision to bow out was arrived at over quite some time and had nothing to do with some of the oft-listed reasons for quitting. I don’t think Facebook is evil, I wasn’t addicted to the service, I wasn’t worried about privacy and didn’t have any acute “bad” experiences on Facebook. And though I agree with a lot of the technical bitching about Facebook (site changes, annoying sharing and games, ads, etc.), that played no role in the decision. The reason I left: the benefits were outweighed by an unexpected mental tax created by following a bunch of people.

First, the good. Facebook was an excellent way to keep tabs on people. Our nearest relatives live over 1000 miles away, and much of the family is on the other side of Earth. Former colleagues are similarly dispersed. For staying ostensibly connected to these people, Facebook was great. Another useful feature was photo sharing. I’m a long-time Flickr user, but sharing non-public photos was most easily done on Facebook. I do miss these things. People have moved to Facebook and abandoned their old blogs and photo sites. Being off of Facebook has meant that I’ve had roughly no idea what has gone on with most of my family and colleagues for the better part of the year. All of the weddings, breakups, kid and vacation photos, amazing and funny accomplishments in 2012… I know not of them if my wife hasn’t mentioned it. (I do know of some job changes simply because of LinkedIn.) Likewise, people have had few updates about me or our family. We’re largely off the radar, except for those things that get passed along second-hand. Sounds bleak, and it is. Make no mistake about opting out of the Book: if your social network is anything like mine, you will have little idea what is going on with anyone, and they will lose all track of you.

So why the hell would I incur this cost? Well it shouldn’t be a surprise that all of the amazing connectedness that Facebook allows comes at a cost. But while the benefits are readily apparent, the costs sneak up over many months/years, and probably affect people very differently. The elements that caused problems for me:

  • Everyone projects a curated Facebook image.
  • For most of the people I follow, Facebook information is the only thing I regularly hear about them. The perception formed by reading Facebook becomes the reality.
  • Being exposed to real-time, semi-private details of many people at distance is abnormal and certainly not something I’m used to.

For me, this created stress. Reading Facebook was not like skimming the news. I didn’t just absorb a bunch of facts that I was curious in. Because I knew the subjects (people) well, I related to them. I’d be irritated with what I thought were poor decision by people I knew. When exciting, fortuitous things happened, I’ll admit that I was sometimes envious. Even a mundane post by someone might prompt me to spend time thinking of something pointless. (A prefect example would be time wasted contemplating some cute comment or rebuttal to an provocative post only to decide, “why bother?”, and moving on). I didn’t choose this mental response, it just happened. I didn’t hang out for hours on Facebook and didn’t get hooked on monitoring the goings-on of people, yet the constant feed managed to subtly eat at me. When I noticed that I’d get the a bit more tense while reading Facebook, I knew it was time to call it quits

Is my case particularly extreme? Was I overly sensitive to others’ lives and should I have been able to detach from all that and just use the utility of Facebook? Perhaps, but I highly doubt that most people can be exposed to their family and friend’s lives in great detail without some sort of empathy or reflection. This is obviously true of those “addicted” Facebook users. For me it a was just a bit stressful. I can hear Col. Jessup berating me: You can’t handle the Timeline (née Wall)!!! So be it.

Being outside of Facebook has its pros and cons. For a lot of people I think things balance out in Facebook’s favor. If you’re happy with the service, that’s great. If you think you want to quit, however, realize that the adrenaline rush a few minutes after deleting it all may be replaced with some regret later. But you’ll also start to appreciate the peace that comes from not knowing what is going on. You’ll rediscover email, phone calls, and maybe blogs. You might worry a bit less.

It’s a real paradox of choice. 20 years ago you couldn’t have this hyper-connectivity even if you wanted it, yet today you may struggle to with the choice to eschew the magic of Facebook. So it goes. I picked a path nine months ago that I’m sticking with.

Good luck, and have a great 2013!

PMP – Done – Checked

Late last year, I got the fine idea that during my maternity leave,  I was going to have time in my hands to prepare for my PMP (Project Management Professional) certification.  Yes… I know how ridiculous that sounds like now, no words can really describe the degree of “clueless”.  My only excuse is that it was my first pregnancy.   I thought if I normally work an average of 10 to 11 hour days,  not working with a baby seems like easy street!.  Again, “Yes” clueless.

So after Ben was born, and my maternity leave had expired, not a page from the PMBOK was ruffled.   Safe to say I was completely out of my league when it comes to juggling baby and lack of sleep.  The line “PMP Certication” did not enter my mind once in 3 months.  My PMP certification time limit was starting to countdown, there is only 1 year limit before you have to completely reapply and go through the process again.  Soon I realize that if I did not start preparing in earnest,  I might as well just quit the certification.  So I put myself down to the task,  starting in May one hour each night after Ben goes to sleep and half days over the weekend.  Skipped 1 family trip that I wished I had taken however it was just too risky and skipped a whole lot of gardening this summer.  Hubby helped out around the house more than usual so that I’ll have time to study on PMP.

July 9,  2012:  Drove myself to Prometric test center at 8am.  Sat down and started the exam.  I completed the exam in about 3 hours and 40 minutes.  Started doing  some review but did not complete and ran out of time.


I Passed :-). Proficient in all categories except for one.  WHOPPEEEEEEE!!!! Done!  Whewwwh…  what a relief!

Now to put the knowledge to practice in my day to day activities……  that should be easy right? Right…  😉


Taking leave

I just completed my first week as Mr. Mom!  Grade: B-

Some background: Our son Ben was born three months ago, and since then Angela has been home with him and we’ve had a few family members come to help for a while. It has been going fine, but the plan all along has been for Angela to return to work and Ben to enter daycare. But we didn’t want to put him in at three months, so the idea of paternity leave entered the picture.

My idea of paternity leave came from growing up in late 20th century midwestern USA. Here’s how it works: dad takes off 1-2 weeks after the baby is born and then goes back to work. That’s it. That’s what people do.  I mention this because even digesting the concept of an extended paternal leave was a bit tough to get my head around.  My friends outside the US are probably shaking their heads in frustration by now.  You’ve maybe heard how residents of other countries get more vacation time than those in the US, well the comparison of parental leave (especially paid) is even more imbalanced.

Only four countries have no national law mandating paid time off for new parents: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the United States.

OK, woe is me that I’m not from somewhere that would grant me a huge paid break.  I am, however, entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave thanks to FMLA.  All dads have had this right since 1993, but I honestly can’t remember any of my male colleagues taking an extended leave following the birth of a child.  (By “extended” I mean more than the perfunctory 1-2 weeks.)  It could be money, but it’s probably culture. The idea of doing so doesn’t even cross their minds since they don’t see anyone else doing it.  Even in some of the most leave-generous countries, dads are not taking much of the leave they’re entitled to.  Choosing to take leave may be a more difficult decision than one would think.

Angela and I discussed this early on, and I talked openly with my employer about it too, so they could plan accordingly.  I will be taking off at least the month of January to watch Ben, and I just completed the first week.  My initial impressions of full-time, all-day care without a live-in support crew:

  • Completely out of my comfort zone
  • Very time consuming (let go of the idea of getting “other” stuff done)
  • Frustrating at times
  • Often delightful

Though I may be all thumbs with certain baby things, and Ben doesn’t like the change and is protesting in various ways, even after a week I can say the experience is highly rewarding and shouldn’t be missed.  Ben has already picked up on the change in routine and we relate to each other a bit differently than at the start of the week.  I’m definitely looking forward to the upcoming weeks.

I recently listened to David Brooks discuss the many thousands of letters he’s received from seniors recounting their lives, life lessons learned, what they’d have done differently. One of the top themes was from men who regretted not spending enough time with their families. Though the nature of one’s job (e.g. travel, late meetings) may be a dominant factor, I believe not spending some time with children during their first months is significant too.

Dads in the US have the right to take time off.  I think more of them would do so if they’d only consider it.

Back to the Blog

In 2005, just before relocating to New Zealand, we started a blog.  It was the thing to do back then and everyone had a blog.  You did too, probably.  For the next couple of years we chronicled the exciting overseas adventure in reasonable detail and happened upon the occasional entertaining comment thread with interested readers.

In 2007, having completed our OE and returned to Peoria, the old NZ blog was decommissioned and a less active blog of Peoria goings-on was set up.  Though it wasn’t filled with photos and tales from a far away land, it provided a log of what we were up to as well as a platform for the occasional op-ed piece.  Even mundane things can be fun to describe.

In 2010 we quit our jobs at CAT and moved to Oregon. This was not to be just the next in an unending series of relocations, but rather, according to our plans, the final landing zone. We’d visited Oregon 10 years ago and had always wanted to live here.

With new jobs, a new adventure in a beautiful and interesting state, surely there would be a healthy series of posts by now, right?  Nope.  One post.  What happened? Facebook happened.  In 2009, we got sucked into the Facebook machine due to its novelty.  (All these old friends… amazing!  I didn’t realize she even knew what a computer was yet she’s on Facebook… exciting!)  And over the past 2 years, as we actually started posting on Facebook, the blog died.  Why bother?  Everyone is on Facebook, it’s easy to post something simple since there isn’t the commitment to write very much, and you’d get all those Likes and “I KNOW!!!!” comments to stroke your ego.

But abandoning the blog was a mistake.  Being a consumer and producer on Facebook is fun and perfectly fine, but I’ve come to realize that what you’re left with at the end of your efforts is:  nothing.  Facebook is merely a stock ticker for life.  It’s random data points from your “social network”.  It’s also a lot of noise, commercials, and time wasting activities.  But most importantly, it has not been the durable diary that our blogs were.  It’s a joke to compare previous blog posts to my timeline on Facebook.  And of course, 95% of the blame goes to me.  Facebook has just been an enabler for lazy behavior.

So I’m here to declare a return to blogging.  I make no promises of frequency, but I suspect I’ll do better than one post in 18 months.  I hope it will be quite a bit better.  The prospect of moving beyond quips and jokes on Facebook to longer more thoughtful contributions on a blog is quite appealing.  I hope it’s interesting to readers too, but it doesn’t matter.  I can derive a lot of pleasure by rereading our old blogs, whereas I get zero pleasure looking at my Facebook timeline.  I hope to continue the former.

(Note: in most cases “I” means “we”.  Angela and I are of similar opinion on this and she’s keen to get back to blogging too.)

(Content note: in this iteration of the blog, there may be some technical articles.  I mean really technical that will appeal to almost no one. Ignore them. I’ve considered many times the idea of creating a tech blog, but I don’t want to deal with the overhead and don’t really have enough material for one.  So instead they will stick out like a sore thumb on our personal blog.)


Beginnings of a new adventure

At last, we are in Salem, Oregon. It took each of us 4 days and 3 nights to drive from Peoria to Salem.   It was a nice long (very long) drive that served the purpose of “stress decompression”.  The drive was along I-80 about 3/4 of the way and then I-84,  nothing difficult about it especially with the assistance of GPS navigating the overnight stops.  I tried to take pictures with my cell phone which I posted on, the pictures did not do the drive justice at all.  I don’t think there is a better way of seeing the country other than driving through it.  There are no words to describe the drive through Wyoming and along the Columbia River in Oregon, it was just simply beautiful.

The day I reached Salem was Saturday, May 8th.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  It was lovely blue skies with a temperature around 78F.  That must be good omen for a city that is cloudy most days of the year.   Jim was already waiting in front of the apartment as I was driving into McNary Heights.  We left some really good friends behind in Peoria,  but we are ready to start anew in Salem Oregon.  So here we go…..   Adventure in the Northwest for the Kalafut’s.