Back to Basics: Blogging as a way of Dealing (with Crisis, with Life!)

WFH desk made from a ironing board
DIY WFH desk, made from an ironing board and a computer stand.

My blog has been quiet for a long time, more or less for a year with a few professional updates. I have gotten a few questions on this, and it is not due to lack of content! Actually more has happened in the last year than in previous years: I changed jobs, moved my family to a new (that’s how it felt, but it is my native) country. On top, I revisited everything I knew about relationships. Despite these upheavals (or maybe because of them?) I was no more sure about how to write on the blog or even what the point of it was. Every now and then, I’d read another blog and remember –  with a deep sigh –  my own was dormant, but still, I would not know how to return.

If last year was humbling and full of change and surprise, the Corona virus and ensuing world crisis add a whole new dimension of uncertainty and dread…but also new experiences and hope.

I cannot promise anything, but I will try to return to the blog. I think I can see now how having a presence online is helpful to my professional pursuits, maybe especially when the world – and with it, my career – is changing. It is a place to write about what I see, read, and do. It is a place to practice my writing – as I would say to my students, you can always get better! Writing about something is also a way to learn. And having a blog is a basic and practical way to approach life and its constant challenges. So, let see how it goes. For starters I updated the look and made it easier to read on your handheld device.

Now, what do you want to read about? Drop me a comment!

How Are You Managing Your Screen Time?

Because I love technology and social media, I feel like I have been quite conscious of my screen time. Since more than a year, all notifications are off my phone. I use the app “Focus” to turn off the internet on my phone (it also helps with working with the pomodoro technique). After reading Adriana Huffington’s book on sleep, I also parked my phone – turned off! –  in a different room during the night and am awoken by an old-fashioned alarm clock. All in the name of limiting my screen time and not being dragged down the rabbit-hole of smartphones.

Sadly, I also agree with Jim Kwik who suggest that smartphones make us less smart!

However, all of this seems to not be enough to manage my time in front of a screen. Indeed, Catherine Price who wrote a book about breaking up with your phone, and a New York Times article that sums it up, suggests it took her two years!  When I heard on the news Apple is including such a control mechanism for parents and individuals in their next OS, I thought to myself I NEED THIS NOW and started researching programs for both me and my 7-year-old. This is what I found.

 

FOR ME: Space. Free app, upgrade available USD 1.99 (but actually I am not sure what the upgrade does).

I liked the design and step-by-step idea that “diagnoses” your particular problem (I am a “boredom battler”) as well as the pop-ups and idea of dimming of the screen. It is also free! That is a pretty great feature when comparable apps charge a monthly cost.

 

FOR THE KID: Habyts. Free for 14 days and after that USD 3.29 or 7.99/month depending on services needed. The more expensive upgrade include chores that your kid can do for extra points or minutes.

Further, Habyts was the only app I could find that both allowed me to set daily time allowances, remote turn off her device, as well as included the option of adding tasks or chores for her to earn more time.

 

5 days in

We have tried a for a few days and I appreciate the professional help! In addition, what has helped is the idea to limit and track not just duration of each session, but also the number of times one reaches for one’s phone and unlocks it. However, despite warnings, limits and general awareness-raising, it has not been very impactful so far for me. I have not yet met my goals of 1,5 hours max on the smartphone/day (my average is more like the double!) or less than 30 unlocks during a day. Two nights since I started this phone detox, I have also unfortunately late-night-binged on my iPad (where I did not install the program).

My child shows withdrawal symptoms as well and has been angry and demanding. I had to change the lock codes on all my devices as she “jumped” to mine when her time was up! However, the remote shut-down function makes the process of limiting the time (right now the same 90 minutes a day) easier than earlier and I recognize that it helps for thinking of other things to do that I am also off my phone!

I will follow up again when some more time has passed to tell you how we are doing.

How do you limit screen time in your family?

My Week Following The @Sweden Curatorship Experience, #SMWiAccra

So last week, I had the honor of being the curator of the twitter account @Sweden. With a click, I increased my following by 10 and was the seven-day temporary face of my native Sweden. In a tropical setting. I thought I’d sum up my experience and also share what this week, following all the excitement, was like.

Monday, I woke up sick, with a swollen (!) nose. Had I been in a fist fight? The doctor said it was rather a sinusitis infection in my nose and I was on antibiotics before I knew it. I am not sure it was the curator experience that made me sick, but it was a day lost to pain and rest.

Tuesday, my children both started their new school. I accompanied and excited three-year-old to Nursery school and my husband took our six-year-old to Primary 1.

My school girls! ????? #maryjane #sisters #schooluniforms #mahjong #vamlingbolaget #233moments

A post shared by Kajsa Hallberg Adu (@kajsaha) on

On Wednesday, I was well enough to share some of my thoughts about the @Sweden experience on the Citi Breakfast Show on Ghanaian radio station Citi FM. IN an interview with the brilliant Bernard Avle, I talked about 

  • Traffic (I was late to the studio)
  • Knowing my audience
  • Missing my TL
  • Thinking about Swedishness
  • Wanting to be a Ghanaian citizen

Find the full program here, I come on around 9.40am.

In the afternoon, I met with a researcher, Hanne Geirbo from the interesting research project Learning Flexibility. We spoke about social media activism, solar energy adoption and strategies for infrastructure challenges.

Last, I attended the Social Media Week Accra, and was a speaker under the heading “Social Media: The Ghana Case”.

I tried to give a quick overview of how blogging has developed in Ghana since BloggingGhana started in 2008, but also to critique the use of social media as heavily entertainment, one way, consumeristic instead of appreciating the true revolution of social media and harnessing the promise of social change. I suggested we support each-other ventures more, create and use more hashtags to curate content and campaigns, we produce more content.

On Thursday, I met with my Ashesi students for the first time. Ambitious, fresh-faced future leaders make me so happy. I also finalized the contract with two final year students who I will supervise on their papers. Two very interesting projects, I will tell you more about later.

Today, Friday is for research and preparing for next week. I will also fit in some meetings. This evening, I’ll be seeing my friend to celebrate her birthday.

 

I feel like this week was as intense and interesting as last week, but I was back on my own social media accounts and I had missed the people I am following and learning from. The Sweden curatorship, made me rethink what I publish and how much I share my personal life. While I have a high sense of integrity, and usually post quite minimal “this was my day”, “this is my breakfast”- content, I now think there is also value to sharing more personal details and life circumstances as that goes to the heart of the prospects of social media: bringing people closer together by showing how diverse and how similar we all are.

Do you think it’s useful or interesting to read about other people’s daily lives?

The Week When I Increased My Twitter Following by x10

This week I have the honor of representing my native Sweden as the curator of the Twitter account @Sweden. It is every week run by a new Swede or person living in Sweden (this week a Swede outside Sweden). 

The initiative aims to showcase “the country of Sweden through the mix of skills, experiences and opinions it actually consists of. Through the stories of the various curators, not one Sweden is conveyed, but several.” Housed by the Swedish Institute, the project is a co-initiative with VisitSweden and you can read more about the project Curators of Sweden and see a list of more curators here.

I opened my curatorship with a tweet+video from our garden:

 

On my personal Twitter account @kajsaha, I have 12 000 followers, but this week I have 127 000! I hope to make good use of the exposure! During my week I will discuss

  • Swedishness,
  • my best online tips,
  • weather (that’s what Swedes like to talk about!),
  • identity politics,
  • why I chose to research migration in West Africa,
  • and of course, share some breakfast photos.

I also hope to use my social media skills to have a very interactive week!

See my posts on Twitter.com/Sweden

Welcome!

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!

Kajsa on “A Wonderful Podcast” #enunderbarpod

Just before xmas, I was on my way to work and as usual listened to one of my regular Swedish podcasts and heard them discussing if people across the world listened to them. So I wrote a message:

Är jag den första som lyssnar från Afrika? Jag lyssnar på väg till jobbet på tisdagmorgnar, jag kör bil från hamnstaden Tema i Ghana till jobbet på Ashesi University på andra sidan huvudstaden Accra. Älskar den kognitiva dissonansen som uppstår när ni babblar på om pepparkakshus medan jag ser ghananskt marknadsmyller utanför rutan med barn på ryggen, väskor och korgar som stolt bärs på huvuden, och försäljare som vill att jag köper papaya….eller att skratta åt rävar och grisar på en tvåfilig motorväg bland getter och nybyggda bostadsområden! Tack för en underbar pod!

Am I the first to tune in from Africa? I listen to you on my way to work on Tuesday mornings, I take my car from the harbour town of Tema in Ghana to my job at Ashesi University on the other side of the capital Accra. I love the cognitive dissonance which happens when you go one about gingerbread houses (Swedish concept?) while I see Ghanaian market crowds outside my car window with kids riding on backs, bags and baskets proudly carried on heads, and hawkers who want me to buy some papaya…or laughing at “foxes and pigs” on a two-lane motorway among goats and new dwellings! Thanks for a wonderful podcast!

And they contacted me for a short interview! It is live today on ONE OF SWEDEN’S BIGGEST PODCASTS En Underbar Pod (A wonderful Podcast) !

As a blogger, it was a dream come true to talk to Underbara Clara who is Sweden’s most successful and innovative blogger and her hilarious pod partner Erica. At the same time, the conversation felt very natural, like we had known each other for years – I guess in a way I do know Clara and Erica well after reading Clara’s blog for many years, and listening on the pod from the get go.

Today, the episode with me and three other listeners Malin, Miriam and Mikaela across the globe (photos above borrowed from UnderbaraClara) can be heard by following this link and clicking on “EUP International”.

If there are any new readers on my blog because of my exciting podcast appearance, please comment and say “hello” or “hej!” below!

My #2016bestnine on Instagram

Last year I increased my presence on Instagram and ended up with 244 posts which were liked a whopping 6971 times! Thank you!

(and if you are not part of the 800+ people who follow me yet, I am @KajsaHA there too!)

You apparently like:

  1. Me graduating with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in African Studies from University of Ghana
  2. Me taking a selfie with an umbrella and a yellow Ginko Biloba tree at the Mall in Washington DC (steps away from where people did NOT assemble for someone’s inauguration last week)
  3. My daughter Ellen zipping up my dress.
  4. Smiley husband and I on a night out at the National Theatre.
  5. An intimate sibling embrace.
  6. Girls being silly in new swim caps.
  7. Garden marvels (it is palm nut kernels!).
  8. Long shadows on one of the shortest days of the year.
  9. Live broadcast technology that allows my mother in Sweden to follow my graduation in Ghana (see #1)

Comment on what you want to see in 2017!

 

Mobex16 and some thoughts on how event organisers in Ghana can better engage with social media influencers

On Tuesday, I went to the tech fair Mobex16 in the Accra International Conference Center. I had only planned to swiftly stop by, but ended up staying all morning. Networking was great!

However, this blogpost is on some other observations I made in relation to Mobex16. I came with my phone, ready to tweet, and laughingly told a friend that I have been here for 8 min and already posted 3 tweets. I was on fire!

I tweeted about the registration and started taking photos for Instagram. I am a promoter of all things Ghana, especially tech stuff, and I was happy to share the experience with my now 9000+ followers on Twitter and 600+ followers on Instagram.

At this stage, I needed to charge my computer (as I really had plans of working out of an office) and with heavy tweeting during the opening and the president’s speech, my phone as well. Now there were no electrical sockets in the seminar room. I looked around and asked an usher. I tweeted about that.

After realising that no woman was to appear on the stage for the first two programs on the agenda or the entirety of my morning visit – the info I took from a information that was passed out to visitors, I tweeted about that.

Revisiting my Twitter timeline, I was likely inspired by Omojuwa (recently named Africa’s best Twitter profile) and his tweet on female leadership:

After I had left the seminar hall in search for power, I browsed the exhibit. Noticing that many Mobex16 stands did not really have a plan to engage with social media influencers, I talked to some exhibitors and tweeted about that.

You get my drift, I was engaging with the program, capturing both highlights and lowlights.  Tweeting and Instagramming. Now some did not like that:

…and my personal favorite:

I get it, I have been an event organiser and its not necessarily fun to hear about someone’s negative experience when you have been working 24/7 to even make the thing happen, but I do listen and think to myself “how can I improve?” I also try to be mindful of that whoever takes the time to write to complain, cares a whole lot more than the people that just “come to eat”. (Caveat: I am not sure what the relationship between the people behind the sour tweets above is to the event discussed).

A few months back, Poetra Asantewa  in an AccraWeDey-podcast said some very useful things about critique and how there is little room for it in the Ghanaian creative space. We just need to change that, so in the name of constructive critique, I’ll list some ideas for even better social media engagement for Ghanaian events below.

Tips for event organisers how to better engage with social media influencers:

  • Communicate a (usable, not too long, not too generic) hashtag and remind people in every room, space and on everything printed.
  • Create a physical space for social media influencers with sockets (most importantly, but perhaps also), coffee, desks with chairs and additional info on your program.
  • Think through what is in it for the (professional) social media influencer, can you pay for live-tweeting & blogging, or provide lunch, pay T&T, organise gifts from sponsors? Every post about your event is potentially valuable to you, how can you make the relationship with influencers sustainable?
  • Retweet/ share their praise. People on their way to the venue will want to see photos and reviews from the venue.
  • Corteusly respond to any critique as fast as possible. (Yes, that includes saying thank you to someone who is finding fault with your event!)

Something like this:

What would you add to the list?

A Good 24 hrs : Tortoise, Hairy Legs, and a Video on Pulse

In the last 24 hours, the following all happened to me:

  1. A tortoise crossed the road in front of my car, I slowed down and allowed it to safely get to the other side. There was a slight drizzle, it was after seven PM so completely dark except for my headlights lighting up the dense forest. It was a magical moment.
  2. At the salon, I was told the hair on my legs is nice and “never wax it!” I already knew it is not an issue in Ghana, (in Sweden it is almost a political/feminist statement these days to not remove your leg hair as it does not conform with our beauty standards), but receiving compliments for my hairy legs was a magical moment as well!
  3. I was featured on Pulse Ghana for their women’s month! Journalist Stacey Knott recently came to campus and did this interview in which I talk about being a woman in the Ghanaian academy (“wrestling my way top the top”), blogging and my love for Ghana.

Needless to say, it was a good day.

KajsaHA on AccraWeDey Podcast

A few weeks back, podcast AccraWeDey – Ghana’s only culture an entertainment podcast – was invited to speak at a BloggingGhana meeting. Out of that event, a friendship has developed between BloggingGhana and AccraWeDey that on Sunday resulted in me being invited to be the special guest in the podcast!

IMG_2774

I spoke and laughed with Pokuaa and Joey and towards the end Nii (who had trouble finding a taxi on a quiet Sunday night) about blogging, kelewele, colonization and many other things. I also got super inspired to start my own podcast…
IMG_2776 IMG_2781

 

 

 

The description of Season 2 Episode 7 goes:

Screenshot 2016-02-27 00.14.51

Why the episode is called “Are You Sure?” Well, if you listen, you will know!

>>> You can download or stream the episode here.

10 Years of Blogging, This Is What I Know for Sure…

Screenshot 2016-02-16 10.36.34Ten years ago, someone turned down an internship in an organization based in Paris,
 and I got a phone call: “Do you want to go live in Paris for five months? Position starts in two weeks!” In 2006, this set a few different balls rolling: I had to ask permission to leave my job, wave my boyfriend goodbye, book a trip to Paris with an open return, buy a beret, but maybe most importantly to me – it gave me a reason to start the blog I had been thinking about for some time, because now I had a subject matter worthy of some writing (and me getting out of my head): La vie en France or Life in France!

After ten years of blogging, and 870 something blog posts to my name, I know for sure, to paraphrase Oprah, that

…blogging is not a substitute for diary writing, although the years of keeping a diary prepared me well to “think by writing”. I in fact go back and forth on having a “paper diary” on the side.

Screenshot 2016-02-16 10.36.27…blogging is much more than writing, it is a lifestyle in which you take note of details and think when facing hardship: “this would make a great blogpost” (last time it happened was yesterday when I was shopping for a bra in Accra, but that’s a different story!)

…blogging is on the verge of becoming a livelihood for many in Ghana and I hope the organization I started in 2011 with a friend, BloggingGhana, can help many more live off of their content production and blogs.

…blogging is different from all other writing in that it is directly relational and – if you are lucky  –   leads to deep and meaningful connection with others.

Screenshot 2016-02-16 10.36.18But I also know, ten years down the line, I know that I want to do something more with this blog. I want to publish blog texts elsewhere, I want to branch out into other mediums, I want to be bigger and at the same time a bit more focused. Does it sound contradictory? I guess it is!

The good news is, I can develop my thoughts in a few blogposts to come! 

 

 

Best of Instagram – a dance, a lion and some kids

Here are my best Instagram posts from 2015!

kajsaha

  1. #dansaforStina body positive dancing
  2. Selfie with my daughters
  3. My husband and a lion
  4. Me at the Ghana Social Media Awards
  5. A selfie that later became a longtime profile pic
  6. Christmas greeting from our family
  7. New footbridge at Spana junction, Accra
  8. My daughter and her cloth
  9. At #DumsorMustStop vigil with friends.

What I take away from this is that people do too like other people’s photos of their kids! LOL!

Follow me on instagram.com/kajsaha. Make your own ‘best of’ on BestNine.