Being Present on Social Media

You only get to live once. 

A lot of people say that. I don’t know if that is true or not but I feel like we get to exist more than once in this very life.

What I’m going to say may sound far-fetched but there’s some truth to it. Otherwise I wouldn’t be talking about it.

Right now at this very moment it’s estimated that 78% of North Americans are present on some form of social media.

It’s also estimated that 2.5 billion people are going to be on social media by 2018.

The numbers and the fact you’re reading this brings me to my exact point; there’s an us that’s breathing, having breakfast, walking down the street and then there’s the other us.

The one that gets to exist outside of the confines set by time and space. While you’re reading this, you and I are likely in a different city, different country, in a different time zone. Your physical self and mine are separated. Case in point; I don’t know what 99% of my readers look like.

I’ve been pondering on this other existence of mine for quite a while.

I was going to write “this other me” instead of other existence but I refrained.

I think that’s very telling of my relationship with social media so far. I’m probably not the only one to consider who I am in the virtual space as being somehow different than the me writing this right now on a crowded bus next to a screaming baby.

The fact that we can decide what to say, what to show and mold ourselves into a better (or totally different) version of ourselves has some people saying that social media isn’t real.

For me the issue was never about “to be or not to be” some version of myself I’d carefully craft but rather “to share or not to share”.

I’m sure most of you can relate to that.

Unless you’re a teenager with an identity crisis, the question of being present on social media is usually just that; how present should you be and  how?

I’ve been existing on social media for more than a decade and I’m still trying to answer those questions.

Some days I’m satisfied with merely existing in the physical world. It seems easier in many ways. There is no audience to contend with, I can retreat into myself as much as I want.

Then on other days, I want to share everything. Every thought and every little piece of me that I feel deserve to exist somewhere other than in my own mind.

All of us living in this generation have been given this gift; the ability to give our most authentic self an existence beyond what could have ever been possible before.

We get to connect with each other on a level that is unheard of in the history of humanity.

For the first time we can be there for each other, outside of space and time.

What you say or do can impact people you’ve never met or are not even born yet.

This used to be a privilege granted to only a few; inventors, writers, historical figures.

I realize now more than ever (with everything that’s happening in the world) that this opportunity we have to speak our truth and meet each other in our humanness without barriers is one that we shouldn’t pass up.

After all we’ve all learned that sharing is caring.

Maybe it’s time we listened.

*Picture Credit: susan flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Being a Barefaced Woman

In recent years, being a barefaced woman has become somewhat trendy. We’ve all seen the #nomakeupselfies become increasingly popular on Instagram. Heck, there’s even a National No Makeup Day.

Some celebrities like Alicia Keys have spoken eloquently on the topic and helped make the #nomakeup movement what it is today.

Like most (if not all) of the choices a woman can make about her body, putting on makeup or foregoing it is a source of debate and controversy.

Whether you’re on team #makeup or #nomakeup it doesn’t matter, someone somewhere will think you’re wrong.

I’m not here to be that person.

All I can talk about is my experience. The personal is political.

If there’s one thing I remember from feminist theory it’s exactly that.

There is no right or wrong choice but adding our voices to the collective discussion can help other women to be more confident in making the right decision for them.

When it comes to making decisions on how we want to present ourselves to society fear is sadly a major influence.

It was for me.

Even though I have been a barefaced woman for more than 3 years now I was never a barefaced girl.

From ages 12 to 18 the thought of going barefaced terrified me.

No, that’s not exactly right.

The thought of what would happen if I went barefaced terrified me.

Because let’s be real, there’s nothing scary about ditching the time-intensive routine of “prettyfication”.

What’s scary is the fact that we know all too well that for every action, there’s a reaction.

The first obvious one is our own.

I couldn’t bare looking at myself in the mirror if I didn’t like what I saw.

The second obvious reaction is other people’s reaction.

That’s usually where things go wrong.

I mean if you’re alone all day all you have to do is avoid mirrors. Going out into the world, other human eyes put mirrors to shame.

Going out into the world, inhumane eyes put you to shame.

That’s what I was afraid of.

I didn’t want to see that I was ugly. That reflection of me in other people’s eyes scared me and that fear informed my decision to put makeup on.

People often say that makeup is a mask. That women use it to hide themselves. As if it was an act of deceit.

I used it as a shield.

As a girl there was some battles I wasn’t ready for.

I wish being barefaced wasn’t seen as a courageous feat to be celebrated.

But in many ways it is.

I wish my decision to be a barefaced woman was just that, my decision, but I don’t think it is.

It’s a lot more.

I’m not a celebrity, I don’t have flawless skin, I don’t have a special glow or the kind of “natural beauty” that you find in usual #nomakeupselfies on social media.

I’m a one of a kind woman. I have a lot more to show than tired eyes and slightly dry skin.

I never see women like me on the bus or walking down the street.

But I don’t care.

Going without makeup shouldn’t be a privilege that only women with flawless skin get to enjoy.

That’s why I’m a barefaced woman.

Are you a barefaced woman too? What do you think of the #nomakeup movement?

I’d love to know your thoughts.

*Photo Credit: Larry flickr Creative Commons 2.0

17 Years Old Vegan Activist Rachel Wojciak- Feature Fridays

 If you had asked me a year ago if I thought I would be doing everything in my power to fight for those who are voiceless, I would have told you that you were insane. However, today I spread the vegan message through my two Instagram accounts, @hclfrachel and @rachelwojciak, and I make YouTube videos regarding veganism as well (the channel is also named Rachel Wojciak). I donate to animal sanctuaries that have rescued animals from farm factories and raise awareness about the cause through peaceful protesting, such as wearing shirts advertising veganism in public. My message is currently reaching around 2,700 people, and I wish I had a voice large enough so that the whole world could hear me. However, when I started my vegan Instagram back in September, I never thought I would gain over 100 followers, so there is hope!

I fell in love with nature when my father and I took hikes and went camping as a child. Those memories are still present in my mind today, and I am grateful to have had an upbringing where nature played such a profound role in my childhood development. I have loved animals for as long as I can remember, and I even wanted to be a veterinarian when I was 3. After discovering the vegan lifestyle via YouTube, it simply didn’t make sense to me anymore to continue on consuming meat and dairy. I loved the animals far too much to cause them any more suffering and pain, and I wanted to put a halt to the destruction our planet faces every day.

So, I made the switch over to veganism back in September! While there are endless health benefits to a vegan lifestyle, such as the 38 pounds I’ve lost, the decrease in migraines, my acne vanishing, never being sick, etcetera, the most rewarding benefit has been my life coming full circle. I now finally practice what I preach, regarding love and peace. I can say I love animals and truly live a lifestyle that proves it, not otherwise. The love that developed for Mother Nature as a child has matured greatly, and this lifestyle is a reminder of that every day. All of the lessons I learned as a child finally add up in an honest way living this lifestyle.

While I am a much happier person vegan, being vegan in a world filled with so many non-vegans can be quite discouraging. My parents are not vegan, my boyfriend is not vegan, no other individual in my high school is vegan. It can seem so overwhelming to be part of a minority that receives so much hate from those who don’t understand the lifestyle. With that said, my message to any other individual who is new to the vegan lifestyle or who is currently struggling with this problem is to stay positive. While there are so many heartbreaking atrocities to be depressed over, crying is not going to promote any change. Besides, there is so much to be hopeful for!

While the number of animals slaughtered every day for human consumption is staggering, it is important not to be discouraged by it. If you are reading this very article, you have already discovered veganism in some way shape or form! That in itself is progress. Us vegans know for a fact that millions of other individuals would not continue to consume meat and dairy if they knew what went on in terms of producing it, so all we can do is spread our knowledge regarding factory farming and the vegan lifestyle. Unfortunately, not everyone will transform into a vegan overnight, but that is to be expected. As long as you have brought up the topic of veganism with an individual, you have planted a seed of thought in their head. Odds are even if they don’t transition over to a vegan lifestyle, they will certainly look at meat and dairy products in a different light.

Other than staying hopeful, my other big pointer would be to spread the vegan lifestyle in a positive and loving manner. Lead by example! Some vegans struggle with turning away individuals from this lifestyle, simply because their method of spreading information is too aggressive. While your heart is in the right place, it is beneficial to check if you would appreciate somebody presenting this information to you in the way you are delivering it yourself. Be a positive example for veganism! Lead by love, positivity, patience, and kindness. While it may be frustrating at times, don’t be discouraged by others and their excuses not to transition over to a kinder lifestyle.

Overall, stay positive! While there is an overwhelming amount of information to be depressed about, just remember all of the new individuals who discover veganism every single day. The world certainly is changing, and the vegan message is spreading. The animals need us and the planets need us, which is why I will never stop fighting for this cause, and I encourage you to do the same! Veganism is not something to be ashamed about because it is not openly accepted by others. Do what you know in your heart is right, and don’t back down because this lifestyle isn’t the popular opinion. I am so blessed to have discovered this lifestyle, and I will continue to fight for it every single day. The animals and the planet desperately need us, and I will always make sure that I’m doing everything in my power to protect them and to put an end to the destruction of these beautiful souls and this beautiful planet.

*Photo Credit verkeorg Flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Social Responsibility

These days we teach kids in school to turn off the lights at home, not let the water run while they brush their teeth, to recycle and even compost.

I remember my first encounter with the idea that I, as little as I was, had a responsibility to protect the environment. That my actions had an impact on the world. When I was in 6th grade, the recycling movement was still a new thing and we had a lecture given to us about it. I remember feeling terrible that my parents didn’t make any effort to recycle. For months, I screamed at them for throwing away soda cans in the trash.

If you’re a millennial like me, you can probably relate.

We’ve been told all our lives that the world is fucked up and we are the ones that need to do something about it because our children’s future (if not our own) depends on it.

They say when there is a will, there is a way.

Few of us would ever say that they don’t care about the tragic destruction of our planet. Most young people (and a lot of old too!) have a tremendous will to do better than previous generations. Although the will is there, the way is as elusive as ever if you don’t look outside what the mainstream tells you.

I mean, what power do we have when multinational corporations and governments are bffs?

We’ve all read this on social media:

“The earth is 4.6 billion years old. Let´s scale that down to 46 years. Using this analogy, humans have been here on this planet just 4 hours. Our industrial revolution began just one minute ago. And in that meager 60 seconds, we have already destroyed more than 50% of the world´s forests.” (TrueActivist.com)

It looks so grim that it’s almost hopeless. What can one person do? Between our 9-5 jobs, kids, friends and what else, the little time we have would never be enough to make any difference, would it?

Better read gossip on Facebook and enjoy life if we’re all going to crumble soon.

It’s not our fault anyway, we can’t control what big corporations do.

We do our best, we vote, don’t we?

We aim to drive Teslas or take the bus, recycle and buy composting bins for our backyards.

The most zealous of us try a minimalist lifestyle with emphasis on “zero waste”.

The scope of our reach seems so limited that we get stuck in the status quo. Our lives are not directly impacted so why should we strive to do more and more importantly to find out how to do more.

Believing that we have no control, no power, is the number 1 reason so much wrong is happening in this world.

Apathy is the poison that is plaguing all of us.

I say, it’s time to bring back the concept of social responsibility to an individual level. It’s a term you may or may not be familiar with. It’s usually used in reference to corporations.

Here’s what it is in a nutshell:

“Social responsibility means eliminating corrupt, irresponsible or unethical behavior that might bring harm to the community, its people, or the environment before the behavior happens.” Naomi Enevoldson – Social Entrepreneur

So I’ve been on this journey of discovering my own desire to be more socially responsible for the past few years.

I still don’t have all the answers. I mean if I did, or if anyone did, then the world would already be saved.

My point is, we shouldn’t stop trying to find an answer. We need to start applying the concept of social responsibility to ourselves first and encourage others to do the same.

The world needs more activists.

Go be one. Day in and day out.

Who’s with me?

*Picture credit Dave Gingrich Creative Commons 2.0

Can you find true inspiration on social media?

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#Goals

As a writer, inspiration has always been something I chased after. Ever since I can remember I’ve been searching for it everywhere.

It started as a child with the usual people watching, which shouldn’t surprise you. People watching is an universally known trademark shared by all writers and philosophers. Deep thinker types. Not that I would describe myself as a deep thinker, but I wanted to be thought of as a deep thinker.

I was the quiet child, buried behind a pile of books, peeking over once in while to watch the commotion of life happening around me. My mind somewhere between these two worlds. I liked it that way. If my life was halfway into fiction, it couldn’t ever get so bad, could it?

Around the time everyone’s life gets a little more tumultuous, I found the most amazing thing ever. You could people watch without even leaving your bed. From then on, I was obsessed. In every way possible I wanted to catch a glimpse of other people’s stories.

I became part of a tight knit community of french bloggers. Everyone shared their lives openly, it was this great never ending story that I could read every day. It didn’t take long before I did the same. My life was a great never ending story too. It went on for a couple years before the site shut down.

At that time, social media wasn’t a thing yet. Facebook was barely on the map, it certainly wasn’t popular. (yes I’m that old)

When the time came to choose a path for my life, I naturally turned to psychology. I’d be a psychologist. I didn’t want to just see people’s lives unfold before me, I craved to be let in. I always wanted to help people but those who had the courage to bare their soul especially. I knew that’s where true inspiration had to be. In those instants of connection with another human being that is just doing that, being human.

Good stories are based on what happens when the masks come off, aren’t they?

It turns out, faced with the raw unedited life stories of people who suffered so much that they forgot they could be anything other than vulnerable, I couldn’t bare it.

Yes, I have a degree in psychology that I don’t use. I don’t want to see firsthand day in and day out that life is much worse than fiction. 

What then? Is there inspiration to be found elsewhere?

Have you ever searched for true inspiration?

These days, it seems that everyone is searching for it in the wrong places.

People watching has turned into going through facebook feeds, instagram posts, youtube vlogs.

The possibility to connect to each other as humans and get inspired is greater now than it has ever been.

The need for inspiration is also at an all time high it seems.

The infinite supply of people from all walks of life sharing their lives with the world, from gamers, food bloggers, artists, activists, nomads, fashionistas, fitness models (the list could go on forever) wouldn’t exist without a demand.

You and I, or any human really will always look up to those who are at the end of the road we are searching for.

As if connecting our own story to theirs will somehow get us there faster.

It could and it should but the line between inspiration and distraction is blurry. At least, it is for me.

I’m sure I’m not the only one stuck on a quest for inspiration, only to get caught up in having so many #goals that none of them are bound to happen.

Social media is great to feel inspired, not so much to actually, you know, do things.

Do you agree or disagree?

I’d love to know your thoughts on the topic.