Rethinking Infidelity and Vulnerability

The psychologist looks out from the brightly lit stage and asks the audience, “How many of you have been affected by infidelity? As a family member? As the one who is cheating? As the betrayed partner?” The truth is almost all of us have been affected and infidelity is, as many other transgressions, painful and disruptive.

However, the psychotherapist Esther Perel has tried to reconsider what infidelity means in her new book “State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity” (link to Perel’s webpage with the possibility of reading an excerpt). I haven’t read the book just yet as it only came out last month, but wanted to share the news of it with you, as I think it will be an interesting read for all interested in long-term relationships for a couple of reasons:

  1. If its half as good as her Podcast with the brilliant name “Where should we begin”, or the TED-video (see embedded below) on the same topic (the question she ends the talk with was mind-blowing!) and a worksheet that I think can be helpful to any couple struggling with the aftermath of infidelity. If just half as good, the book will be useful.
  2. I loved her earlier book. The ideas clearly are a continuation of Perel’s earlier book on relationships called “Mating in Captivity” and loved it! I think I loved this book because of its duality: merging practical, practitioner’s advice by generously sharing cases on the one hand, and theoretically thinking through what a monogamous relationship really is on the other. In this first book, Perel elegantly argues that a long-term love relationship really is about. Perel says it is about “reconciling the erotic and the domestic” and walks us through how impossible and paradoxical that is. I remember her asking a question in the book: Would you be more upset if your partner had cheated or if s/he never had? Here she is suggesting that a partner staying mysterious and secret to some degree ignites our interest in them, as one does not fall in love with a partner that is inseparable from oneself. Hence an affair or at least the possibility of it, on some level might be positive. On the other hand, and this is the paradox, a long-term relationship is by definition an institution we are supposed to trust. How can we rely on someone who lies about the most intimate aspect we share?
  3. Finally, the intercultural approach Perel takes to relationships makes sense to me. Not only is the world a global village these days with many couples looking something like the one I am in (Ghanaian -Swedish), on some level all couples are two cultures integrating, right? (not just two nationalities but also Engineer- Social scientist, Gen X – Millenial, working-class – middle-academic-class and so on). This New York Times article explains her intercultural approach (and as a bonus critiques her work effectively).

An excerpt from Perel’s new book asks some questions and suggest we should discuss them in a relationship before we are in “a storm” of infidelity. Among others, the questions are:

“Has monogamy outlived its usefulness? What is fidelity? Can we love more than one person at once?

For me, these conversations are part and parcel of any adult, intimate relationship. For most couples, unfortunately, the crisis of an affair is the first time they talk about any of this. Catastrophe has a way of propelling us into the essence of things. I encourage you not to wait for a storm, but to address these ideas in a quieter climate. Talking about what draws us outside our fences, and about the fear of loss that accompanies it, in an atmosphere of trust can actually promote intimacy and commitment. Our desires, even our most illicit ones, are a feature of our humanity.”

This suggestion of talking about difficult, but real things, reminds me of another favorite self-help writer of mine, sociology professor Brene Brown. Her new book on vulnerability says exactly this – by being vulnerable, imperfect, even failing (perhaps like dealing with infidelity as a couple?), we can connect with others. The book is “Braving the Wilderness” where the first word in the title is also a clever acronym on how to be brave in the wild…

Now, in the world we are not just rethinking infidelity and vulnerability, we are also rethinking what a book is. If you do not have time to read all the details, but still think the above sounds relevant, you have videos and other free online content there for you. I suggest you start with these two videos!

Photo above by CMEarnestOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link 

 

Three Weeks without Social Media: Was I Happier in the End?

To be able to have a completely restful vacation, I took three weeks off social media this summer. What I intended was to not read or post anything on my three favorite social media platforms: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. As a total social media freak (I am someone who often hails social media as the revolution of our time), I was interested in this hiatus also from an experimental point of view: would it be difficult to keep off? Would I miss my social media timelines? My ubiquitous scrolling? What would be the effects?

The first few days

The first few days I kept a diary, this is what I noted:

Day 1 – I have set up my blog post on my social media break to post automatically in the morning, later in the day I went into Instagram in the evening to post the same info on my break. By mistake, I clicked the Twitter app. Closed it quickly. I have already deleted the Facebook app from my phone, now I put the remaining apps in a “social” folder on my phone and put it on the last screen, not the first.  Regretted when I thought of the art exhibit I’ll attend tomorrow and the conference next week. Else felt happy. Baked, finished a book. Had a glass of wine. Watched a tv-program.

Day 2 –  I have had a packed day and at the art exhibits and food fair I went to I wanted to post, that’s how I usually take in an event. Instead talked to a friend. It was good, but very different from how I usually experience such a happening.

Facebook sent me an email saying I had memories with my family. It felt a little bad to not see the memory, but also what a cheap trick that is to bring you in!

Day 3 – Methodically canceled all remaining social media app notifications. Went to a book club meeting and was present throughout. Watched in amazement when others drift away from the conversation with real people to check their screens all the time. In the evening, I had a question I wanted to post to my social media network. Later googled the question instead and found an answer.

Day 4 – I got messages from Odekro from parliament straight to my locked screen. Scrolled thru. That’s not strictly checking one’s timeline, right? I think this is because I “follow posts” on Twitter and I do not want to turn that off. (But really why not?)

Day 5 –  I am spending more time on WhatsApp actually having conversations with people. At an outing, I took very few pics, because now that I can’t share them…I feel calm and cut off from reality.

Day 6 – I realize I have read no news since I stopped social media. I went to my blog to see if anyone had commented on my blog post about the social media break. But people rarely comment on blogs anymore. I was inspired to read my favorite Instagrammers’ blogs.

 

What I Learned

  1. Notifications are Mean

It is no surprise that notifications of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are engineered to draw us in, have us watch just a few more photos on our timeline and just see one more video, but how difficult it was to get signed off from everywhere surprised me.  If you want to dig deeper, I enjoyed this medium article: This is How or Fear and Outrage is Being Sold for Profit.

  1. I read most my news from links on Social Media

We sometimes talk about echo-chambers; this seems to certainly be true for me. Totally unconsciously, I have read or watched no news at all in the last weeks, but solely relied on my husband to tell me crucial headline stories. For a political scientist, this is major.

  1. I get most event information on Social Media

Few people called, I heard of few events, I saw few people these weeks. I realize I get most of my information about events and parties, art openings, and meetings thru social media. Perhaps not surprising, but also completely excluding, as one then have to be on social media to meet people offline.

  1. I take photos to share them.

When I was doing research on photo storage last year, I came across an article that said storage will be superfluous in the near future as what people want to do with pictures in to share them. This was true for me these weeks. When I saw something nice, I’d remember I would not get to share it for the next weeks, then I thought to myself, what is the point?

  1. I should have considered going off the Internet completely for a fuller rest.

I thought I still need to be on WhatsApp (but really why? I could have set an away message) and have access to the Internet (you know, to…Google stuff). But those opportunities were exploited by my synapses (a.k.a. me) and I read many, many blogs, even had one or two late night surf-binges, and that was not what I had intended for my social media break. I think that is how I filled the “scroll-void” or the habitual social media checks.

 

New Habits

I will now more consciously decide when and how much I will be using social media. To be honest, as I am easing my way back into social media, I am feeling a little bit disgusted by the whole speed of all timelines, beautiful photos, and heated opinions. It seems they all flash by only to be replaced by another. When I started work this week, I have the following habits in mind:

  • I will give myself some time during my commute to specifically follow what news is discussed and what events are on and then again during the evening commute.
  • I will give myself some time during my commute to specifically follow what news is discussed and what events are on and then again during the evening commute.
  • I will turn my phone off in the evening, after 9 pm and turn it on in the morning. I will continue to keep the gadgets outside the bedroom – they should be charged elsewhere! Listen to Arianna Huffington on this!
  • I need to do something about my news intake as well, but do not have a solution yet.
  • I will continue to have all push notifications turned off.
  • I will spend less time on Instagram and more on reading my fav blogs/listening to fav podcasts. This as I feel Instagram particularly makes me feel someway bi, and the blogs have many times the same photos, but with more context.
  • I did miss Twitter and the flashing by of all kinds of information. I will engage less in political debate…hm, no, that is not realistic, but I will compliment major conversation with some further action: petitions, small donations, offline engagement, and so on.
  • I will continuously take a yearly break from social media and the Internet.

 

Did Being Off Social Media Make Me Happier?

I did spend more time reading, sleeping, playing with my children, talking to my husband, but being off Social Media did maybe make me relax more, but not make me feel happier. I would have to say no, I actually felt sad!

Sad as I “couldn’t” share interesting things I experienced with the world, but at the same time the time off gave me some perspective on the way social media builds on human psychology and how, once the notifications come off, we can start using it for what we want again.

Have you ever taken a social media break? Do you limit your social media intake in some way? Let’s learn from each-other!

My talk at #iHav2017: Social Media and its Employment Opportunities

On Wed 26 July 2017, I was invited by the iHav Foundation to be a resource person at their training for youth leaders from the entire African continent.

I was invited to talk on the topic of:

SOCIAL MEDIA AND ITS EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES

and ended up interacting with a smaller group of social media enthusiasts at the conference from five different countries: Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Ghana.

We discussed how to control your social media presence and how to start a blog. This is the talk I had prepared:

————————————————————————————-

Have you ever asked your parents how they kept in touch with family and friends outside Ghana when they were your age? Let me tell you that you needed to take transport to the post office at Makola market around high street and order a call – for the next day!

10 years later, cell phone tech came to Ghana and a SIM card cost, guess how much? A monthly salary!

A monthly salary!

10 years later, Ghana had dial up Internet. Do you remember the sound of it? I think you are too young! Because today, 3/4 Ghanaians have mobile data subscription on their phone (NCA, 2017).

=revolution. Everything the World has access to online, we have access to as well. All opportunities. No excuses!

Three opportunities:

  1. Controlling your (and your country’s) social media presence

Google yourself. What happens?

For me, it’s

Wikipedia, YouTube, work website, my blog, Wikipedia, twitter, linked in – you can’t write about yourself in wiki (but everything else! join the Wikipedia community!) By the way, the coordinator for wiki libraries in the world(!) lives in Ghana and started up as a contributing writer for Wikipedia.

Most of these entries I have written/created myself! Then I have control over my online and social media presence.

Next level of controlling online presence is contributing to how your country and Africa is covered online. This is why I started BloggingGhana,   to share the stories from Ghana and encourage Ghanaians to share our world. Another example is the Ghanaian hair app, Tress.It creates a community around something very important in our context, great hair!

2. Learning something online (Or teaching others):

how dance salsa, how do braid hair, How to Cook nigerian jollof to impress a Nigerian, how to . How to set up a blog. Just google it, watch some videos and you are ready to go. Skills can lead to new opportunities to make a living.

3. Doing work online

Is the last level. Although much work these days is actually done online: PR, communications, marketing, writing, journalism, music, art, e-commerce, we also have people who work remotely.

Many of us also use social media to build ourselves up, collect the work we do in one place (like a blog) but also use social media to discuss societal issues in Tweet-ups and Facebook-live sessions, help others, perhaps more as a calling as a business opportunity (one does not exclude the other though!)

Every time you go online, vow to produce as much as you consume!

  • Set up profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Google, linked in, upload pictures, say something. Make sure pictures of you online represent the best you, if they do not, change them and the old one(s) will eventually be pushed down in search.
  • Follow me on social media channels @kajsaha (I was even wearing my @ellishaboie KAJSAHA top, see above!) as I tweet and instagram African content relevant for you. See for instance my blog post: “Why blogging is good for your career”.
  • Follow @bloggingghana, and/or social media organizations in your country (see my Twitter list!)

I said it again: Every time you go online, vow to produce as much as you consume!

We did not have so much time for Q&A, but one I remember was:

Q: How do I get more followers?

A (From both me and others in the group): Be useful, kind, promote others, share information, summarize events, ask questions, post photos.

 

Thanks again to Christabel Ofori and the team at iHAV Foundation for inviting me and creating such a useful platform for our future leaders.

Why Do So Many Blogs Fail? How To Sustain a Blog Successfully

You find a new blog and love the posts. But next time you check in, no new posts are there…

Why do many perfectly good blogs fail?

Today, fellow Ghanablogger Oluniyi David Ajao posts his answer to the question and adds:

I am wondering if the art of blogging is a calling for a special set of people who can afford to give it all the time it requires.

I am not sure it is a calling….Although I agree with him on the basic argument of what is needed for a successful blog: getting the principles of blogging, finding new ideas, and making the time to post regularly, I think two aspects that he do not touch upon are that successful blogs also are often “reborn” and linked to the rest of the Internet. Let me expand:
1. Virtually all successful amateur blogs (that is to say not company or pro-blogs) I follow have in one point or another revived its style, focus and sometimes even launched on a new URL. I think inherent in the format is a constant need for invention and novelty.

I am not sure my own blog is very successful (for instance reader numbers have been dwindling lately), but as an illustration I recently felt compelled to change the focus of my blog and at the same time moved from Blogger to WordPress and chose a new template. I both felt more inspired and got more readers.

2. Successful bloggers read other blogs! And comment on other people’s posts and mention not just blogs, but also other social media and links extensively to web resources in their own posts. For blogging to say fun and rewarding, I think being part of the blogging community is vital.

Afrigator and other aggregators is a good start. Every day commenting on at least one other blog is another step.

Are you a blogger? Join the discussion.

What do you do to keep your blog alive?

Why Blogging is Good for Your Career

KajsaHa's Blogging School

Had lunch with an old friend today and we came to talk about blogging.

My friend feels it could benefit her career to start a personal blog and, not very surprisingly for you my dear readers, I agreed. We had a very inspiring talk and I hope to send you to her blog in a few months time when she has gotten started properly. Of course this is no new topic, Fast Company wrote an article on how a blog can launch a new career a few years a go, for example. But my friend and I talked more about how a blog can improve the career path you are already on.

From our discussion: The seven top aspects of blogging that  could benefit your career are:

  1. Your blog becomes a log of your ideas for yourself. Keeping a blog means constant writing and having a log of what you have accomplished is inspirational. In addition, a blog is a record where you can keep track of your past events, thoughts, reads, projects and so on. (Inspiration and record keeping)
  2. Your blog is like an extended business card. When you promote yourself in person or on social media, you often so not have much space or time to expand on everything you do, but a blog is an almost limitless depository and can serve as an extension of you. I link to my blog on social media and tell people I am a blogger. (Personal branding)
  3. Looking for materials for posts makes listening and reading more active. I feel that I experience the world differently as a blogger: I must have the agenda of any meeting and I pay attention to details such as where all speakers work or what order they get to speak. When something annoying happens to me, I try to take it all in as well, all is content for the blog! (Focus)
  4. Researching for posts is educative. When I write a blog post I almost always have to look up additional details, spellings, websites, organizations, historical facts to make my post complete. This education that comes out of exploring topics both teach me about what is available online and expand my horizons. (Life long learning)
  5. Posts can be used to claim intellectual property rights. When I have written about something, I have logged my own idea online. While some people worry about ideas being stolen, I feel more protected as my ideas are out there with my name attached to them, with a (Intellectual property protection)
  6. Interaction with idols, readers and others. Writing about a personality, a book, a play, an event almost certainly will get someone close to the epicenter reading your words. I have had interactions with people I would never otherwise have come close to because of my blog. Readers input in my work has also made a major addition to my life. (Networking)
  7. A blog makes you visible online. When someone makes a search for me online, my blog and interactions around my blog makes search results that come up mostly be penned by myself. This means a blogger controls his or her web presence much more efficiently than many others, you should too! (Controlling web presence)

What aspect of blogging for your career would you add?

Comic strip made by myself with the help of Toonlet. Updated: Nov 11, 2016.

 

>On the Usefulness of Blogging and Tweeting: Earthquake in Haiti

>Feeling so sad as I read the live reports of the earthquake in Haiti, see for instance the continuously updated BBC report here.

This people that has been through so much, why? Today, I think of my colleague with Haitian roots, my college friend from Haiti and my UN-peacekeeper friend who used to live in Port-au-Prince. I think of their friends and their families.

As I was driving to work this morning, they said on the radio that communication with Haiti has collapsed and it will take time before we know the scale of the disaster. However, at that time, I had already read a number of tweets from Haiti.

Citizen media, including blogs, video reports and Twitter are becoming more influential as sources of information these days. See Global Voices‘ Georgia Popplewell’s early tweet-based report here , her colleague Janine Mendes-Franco later account here or problogger Dan Kennedy‘s extensive compilation of citizen media about the Haiti Earthquake here.

If anyone ever doubted that blogging and tweeting could go beyond navel gazing, I guess today we have evidence of the contrary.

Hopefully this access to on the ground information will also make a difference to the Haitian people.