Do You Know Your Neighbors? (Losing the Neighborhood)

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When we were young, a smiling Mr. Rogers asked us to be his neighbor. He taught me more than to put popcorn in my peanut butter and jelly. He taught me to believe in community, to smile and make friends. To be kind to strangers.

Does anyone in real life have neighbors like our friends on TV do?

Lucy and Ricky had Ethel and Fred. Fred and Wilma had Betty and Barney. Wilson was always available for a strange metaphorical lesson for the Taylor family on Home Improvement. George Feeney was always willing to lend an ear on Boy Meets World, Joey and Chandler were right across the hall whenever Monica and Rachel needed some friendly banter, and Winnie Cooper will always be the epitome of the girl next door. 

Although many of these TV friendships were created for easy plot conventions, I can’t help but think about how people treated their neighbors 40-50 years ago. When you could easily skip across the street to borrow a cup of milk or trust your kids to go knock on the neighbor’s door to ask their kids to play. When you could ask your neighbor to help you with some handy work or when bbqs and Friday night happy hours were shared events. 

I’ve never interacted with a neighbor that way and that makes me sad. 

A 2013 study by State Farm shows that only 25% of American know the names of their next door neighbors. 

What happened to our sense of community? And how is it hurting us?

We’re all too busy inside with our “social” media and Netflix binges. Our focus is on individualism and in turn our needs are more selfish and our sense of responsibility to community have gone way down. We are more alienated now then we have ever been. Also, we are all full of mistrust and weariness. We live in a world where we have every right to be scared of our neighbors.

Is our focus on individualism and our  mistrust of others linked? I certainly believe so.

Ryan and I live in a condo/townhome community, surrounded by hundreds of neighbors. We walk the walking trails and pass the same neighbors again and again, greeting with a slight nod of the head or a half-smile. Despite all of this, I know the names of only one couple that lives across the street. And it’s all because they made the effort.

They came over and greeted us when we moved in two years ago. They smiled big smiles and insisted that if we ever needed anything, they were there. It was comforting. Six months later they saw us moving in some new used furniture we bought off Craigslist and they very kindly gifted us a beautiful dresser and mirror they were trying to sell. Every morning they greet me with a bellowing “Hello, Katie!” Since then I’ve introduced myself to a few other neighbors and have been met with a little apprehension on their end. 

Sometimes when I take Maggie out at night, barefoot in my pajamas, I become overcome with anxiety that I’ve locked myself out of the house. My keys and cellphone safely locked inside while I’m abandoned out in the cold in my ugliest pajamas. Who’s door would I knock on to let me use their phone? Who should I trust? Who would trust me?

I try to hold the belief that most people are good at heart. But it’s hard for that hope to withstand when you read the news.

Our alienation and individualism is cutting down our civic duty. In this highly connected world we are very disconnected from those closest to us. Our neighbors. When shootings happen in schools and neighborhoods are threatened with homicides and robberies and community riots get out of hand are reaction is to hide and blockade ourselves rather than work together for a common good.

Isn’t putting aside our differences and working together for a common good what our nation was founded on? I can’t help but see that if we started to rebuild that connection with our community, if we started to bond together and help one another, our mistrust will also lessen. 

How do we put the “neighbor” back into the “hood”? So tell me, do you know your neighbors? Are you involved in your community? 

Where Do You Draw The Line with Social Media?

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I have a love hate relationship with social media. I don’t think I”m wrong in stating that this is the norm. At least once a week I have a Facebook friend who declares they are deactivating their account forever, and then they return a week later with a rant about Comcast and selfies with their dog.

We can’t stay away.

It’s simple enough to see that social media has changed our world drastically in a short matter of time. Now, we cannot imagine a world without it. We check it countless times a day, we share what we are eating, where we are going, what we are buying. We share our views on current events, complain about the jerk at Starbucks and humblebrag about our gym workouts. It’s what we do. And that is fine.

 But when does the net of the world-wide web become less of a way to reach out and grow and more of a trap. When does social media hinder us from actually being social?

Don’t mistake me, I love many things about Facebook and Instragram and Twitter. I enjoy seeing what close friends who live states away are up to every week. I’m the girl who will actually click-through all 122 pictures of your beach vacation. I enjoy browsing through the adorable photos of your kids and your pets. I like to see the life updates of acquaintances; new jobs, engagements, weddings, babies, new homes, graduations. I like seeing you do fun and happy things with your loved ones.

I enjoy celebrating and documenting my life and updating friends and family on outings, life updates, and fun photos. I support your choices and will validate them with likes galore.

But somewhere I have to draw a line.  Lately I’m becoming more and more angry with social media. Lately it feels like the rude uninvited party guest that crashes the party, eats the last of the nachos, brags about how awesome their life is, talks badly about every guest behind their backs, and makes you go home early feeling miserable about yourself. 

Social media has every characteristic of a toxic friend:

It’s Rude: Social media intrudes into every aspect of our lives. It’s there in between my husband and I in bed. In the morning we both reach for our phones rather than reaching for each other. On our commutes we bury our heads in our phones, scrolling through our Instagram and Twitter feeds instead of having some quiet contemplation time. We sit down to catch up with our spouse and refer constantly to “awesome” articles we read online, or a blog post that caught our attention, or the newest cat video. It’s hard to imagine a conversation that does not include at least one reference to something we saw online.

Are we even thinking for ourselves anymore? At get togethers with friends, Facebook is causing silence as we “check in” to restaurants and share pictures of our meals and post statuses saying what an awesome time we are having. But are we?

It’s Needy: Social media sucks us in. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost 30 minutes or more of my life just trolling through Facebook and Twitter. How many times I’ve back stalked someone on Facebook or looked through countless photo albums. Or when one link on twitter leads to reading 6 BuzzFeed articles. Social Media is that annoying friend that says you never spend enough time with them. They always want more. 

It makes us feel miserable: People only present their ideal lives on social media. You will never see people posting repeatedly about their colic baby, their vomiting dog, their annoying in-laws, their leaky roof, or how their spouse is driving them absolutely nuts. Social media bullies us into thinking our lives are miserable compared to what we see online. Similarly it also makes us feel like our lives aren’t worth living unless we have perfect things to share online. The comparison games leaves us feeling joyless and worthless. We think the things that makes us happy aren’t true unless someone validates them. 

It’s a Dictator: The other week I was catching up with a friend at her house when I witnessed her baby walk from one end of the room to the other. I let our a “woot!” and asked when this milestone happened. My friend responded, “oh last week, didn’t you see the video I posted on Facebook?”. Unless you are constantly checking your feed your are apt to miss out on people’s exciting news.I can’t tell you the last time I had a lengthy phone call with a friend or when news was spread personally rather than a big announcement on social media.

Facebook dictates social news. It has taken over as the way to learn about your friends lives, rather than actually, you know, be social with them on a one to one situation. 

It delivers false promises: Social media promises to make us feel connected to one another. In turn we feel the need to constantly check our news feeds, fearing that we may miss out on some fun story, news, or event. We want to be part of everything. But our FOMO (fear of missing out) makes us so disconnected from ourselves, our needs, that we eventually miss out on what is most important – what makes us happy as individuals.

We are promised community a place to share ourselves and find someone else that will say, “me too!” Instead we have turned into a society of people so desperate for a sense of connection that we sit with our eyes buried in social media blind to the fact that our loved one sits right next to us doing exactly the same. 

Has social media made us all socially awkward? Has it made us lose touch with our independence? In a world of selfies have we lost all sense of self? We declare that selfies are a way to show our uniqueness, our own special beauty. But if we are all so proud of our own beauty, why do we need to share it 5 times a day and constantly check to see how many likes we have received?

Where is the line drawn between sharing, documenting or celebrating your life and searching to one up your friends and acquaintances and prove that you live a worthy life?

I don’t know how to escape it when it’s all around us. We’re headed to Jamaica for a family vacation soon and even my mom was surprised when I said I wasn’t going to take advantage of the free wi-fi at the resort. Escape is hard to find when you live in a world where everyone around you is dependent on social media.

I find a time everyday where I simply put down the phone. We try to have a no phones allowed time each night and stay off of Facebook in bed. But when our cellphones are the only way for family and friends to reach us in times of emergency we can’t simply put down the phone and walk away for a long period of time. 

So I want to know. Where do you draw the line with social media?

xoxo Katie

Go Big or Go Home

just messy make up free me

Some people wonder why I blog…

I started this little blog about 3 months ago and it has already taken me to places I never knew I’d go – or even knew existed!

I started this blog because a colleague suggested I write about newlywed life. I was hesitate and put it off for a month or so. And then, I started writing. At first, it was strictly going to be about wedding planning and newlywed life and my colleague was going to sponsor me. Very quickly, and I mean very, as in 3 days, it turned into something completely different.

The more I wrote, the more I read.

Before starting this blog, I never knew there was such a thing as the blogging community. I knew nothing about blogging – nothing about sponsorships, guest posts, giveaways, or how to best use social media to connect. There are millions of bloggers out there, connecting with each other on a daily basis. I have about 200 blogs in my bloglovin feed and there are many out of that list that I look forward to reading on the daily.

I love hearing others people’s stories, reading their words, and connecting. I love how I feel like they are speaking to me. Three months ago I had no idea how welcoming this blogging community was – that in just a few short weeks I’d be swapping ideas and connecting with other women across the country.

The more I wrote, the more self-aware I became

As a lifestyle blogger, I force myself to look at my day-to-day activities with a very intimate lens. I have learned to appreciate the small things more. This blog allows me to think more about my past, my future, and my choices.  Writing 4-5 posts  a week  forces me to be more creative. It has certainly slowed down my life and has brought a new perspective.

The more I wrote, the more I realized that I wanted to share.

Writing allows me to express myself.  This little corner of the internet serves as an outlet for me to be true to myself. The more I wrote, the more this little part of the internet felt like home to me.

I like to share my story because I believe in the power of words to connect people. If one person can relate to my story and have it make her (there aren’t any men that read this blog are there? If yes, then I’m sorry, keep reading!)  feel not so alone – that is enough for me.

I was inspired to write this post after Sarah at Venus Trapped in Mars discuss being open on the blog and asking her readers which type of blog they would rather read – “A blog without a face, so to speak, or a blog all about the face?”

My opinion?

Go big or go home.

This is my space to share my story and I’m going to be as personal as I can be. I want to connect.  I’m sorry but I just don’t connect with those bloggers that always have the perfect outfit on, with perfect makeup and talk about how perfect their lives are on the daily.

I’m not perfect and my life is far from it.

Sometimes I’m messy. Sometimes I’m broken. Sometimes I’m selfish and immature. Sometimes I’m insecure. But, I am me and this is my story. I titled my blog “A Beautiful Little Adventure” because everyone’s life is an adventure-there are going to be bumps in the road and you are going to get lost. But in the end, it’s always more about the journey and those moments when life’s little bumps turn into something beautiful.

I wrote a very personal post yesterday. It was my most personal post yet and it was also my most read post yet. A few family and friends may not understand why I want to put so much personal information out their on the internet. They just don’t get it, and that’s a okay! But this is my story to tell, no one has to read it. But some people keep coming back each day and it makes me smile.

I’ve committed myself to this little lifestyle blog – so I’m going to give it my all. Why only give little snippets of the story or allude to what really happened? Why mask the truth?

My most personal posts are the most rewarding to write. They make this big scary world into a smaller place. They celebrate the little messy puzzle pieces of our lives and connect them into a beautiful thing.

I’m committed to go big, to share it all, and to continue to write my little heart out.

Thank you.

xoxo katie