Trailing the Goodness In Facebook (T.G.I.F)

The weather is still good out here—between high 30s and mid 40s F. Still weather thanksgiving_Fotorsafe from “The Coming Anarchy” – white, cold, frozen and gloomy! But who knows how long it will last! After all, we are in the Northern Hemisphere, on the North East coast of the good US of A. Not too far from British weather!

In fact, child of mine assured me today that, the United States and Europe touch each other, some where; don’t ask me where he is learning his second grade geography! For what I know, tomorrow might snow, or rain, or sleet or fog, or whatever…it might just…

Dear winter, could you please wait a little longer? I thank you, in anticipation. But, as long as the snow comes before the month ends, we’ll be fine…or Santa’s sledge will have trouble getting to us!

Talking about “The Coming [winter] Anarchy,” I have learned the same about Facebook. Sometimes, it can be a mixed bag, of unintended anarchies!

See, I joined Facebook for the ease of connection with family and friends on Facebook, whenever I am unable to pick up a phone, send an email, text or snail mail [yeah, “snail mail” is so ‘90s!]. I enjoy the quick regular updates on family and friends scattered across the globe.

Through Facebook, I have reconnected with friends not seen or talked to in ages. I have added new Facebook friends, via friends, social networking, and other social media. Here, I make a distinction between “friends on Facebook” and “Facebook friends”. The latter are those I met and friended on Facebook, probably never met all in person. The former are/were my friends before Facebook.

Facebook also gives me a chance to ’smear’ the world with my opinions, my craziness, and my family life and routines. It allows me to participate in intellectualism, and to salvage the world from itself!

I call Facebook the real United Nations, besides HONY —Humans of New York. Facebook is the school of International Relations, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, equivalent to an IR class. Am I being overoptimistic, presumption or simplistic?

I tend to think that Facebook is a good representation of the real world we live in, with all its discomforts, disagreements, verbal fist-fights, verbal and visual artillery, along with inconvenient truths, facts, great love, laughter and enjoyment.

So, I have learned not to take postings from Facebook friends personal, unless they intentionally seek to denigrate me, character assassinate or ridicule me on a personal level. Even then, I make exceptions!

Like one of my Facebook friends, who has no decency to bite his tongue, even when interacting with me. He has called me scrambled egg brains, delusional, namby-pamby, befuddled, any name under the moon and stars, whenever my view do not please him. At times, he is outright impudent, callously attacking people who have not engaged him. Sometimes, he is plain evil, projecting his inflated sense of entitlement to opine at anything/one that crosses his eyes!

Yet, I have not unfriended him, nor will I. In fact, we have constant exchange of opinions, with plenty of disagreements, but lots of laughter, too. We engage each other’s FB posts, and tag each other in our posts. Beyond the disagreements, verbal fights and mutual disdain for some of opinions each posts, we enjoy learning from each other. We enjoy the unique outlook on life, each of us projects, and have places of mutual convergence, interests, concern for social issues, and love of knowledge.

cropped-img_6577-e14121594949072.jpgBut that is not a unique case. Some of my Facebook friends post pictures of white people, putting their bare naked ar$e against Obama’s face on TV! Or religious scriptures and writings lampooning the president, as America’s worst evil. Yet, I still have not unfriended, blocked or berated them. Others post excessively derogatory and generalizing remarks against muslims. I often counter them, by reminding them that I have muslim family and friends, whom I do not recognize from their character assassination. Most importantly, I remind them that we are all members of the same global society.

Still, I have not unfriended anyone on Facebook; “blocking” is the worst I have gone. And that is only four people —two for being a misogynist, another for called me names, and another for repeatedly calling all black folks indolent.

I do not have patience for folks posing as intellectuals, when they cannot cite an academic writing or socially researched piece of writing to justify their arguments. Perpetually pandering personal opinions as “observed facts,” grounded in popular stereotypes drawn from the media and society. I do not wish to entertain anyone who builds a clout by dispensing personal views as facts and truths!

I am absolutely fine with opinions at par with mine. My personal conviction is that, our views and knowledge are largely shaped by our personal experiences, social relations and life trajectories. I am comfortable with counter arguing, defending and justifying my position with evidence. I do not believe that any of us possess the penultimate argument nor hold monopoly over the truth.

On my part, my vested commitment to reading, learning, listening and social networking, have opened my mind to a wealth of knowledge, diverse views and experiences about life. I do not take personal, any back and forth exchanges we have on Facebook because in my opinion, they are responses to my views/opinions/arguments, not personal attacks against me.

So, I was caught off-guard when I learned, sometime last week, that a “Friend on Facebook” had unfriended me! I tried to tag her on a newspaper article published about her in the Uganda dailies, but her name did not come in my friend’s list. My initial reaction was, perhaps she was reorganizing her Facebook account or creating a new account, and forgot to add me back. So, I FB messaged her to ask, when she had unfriended me.

A few days later, she responded that she had unfriended me a year ago, to paraphrase:

“I could not stand the arguments we were having on FB."

Arguments? I was totally shocked, because I could not recall the arguments she was referring to. I did not even imagine, she could unfriend anyone whose views are contrary to her own!

She and I know each other from that not-so-square Cambridge, where we both attended school. As a celebrated “square” for scholarly rigor and intellectual stimulation, we both engaged in animated academic debates, not kissing up to each other. There were moments of discomfort, encountering strangers with opposing viewpoints, alien experience, hard talk and contradictions. Every engagement was not for the faint-hearted, but a battle ground for advancing one’s ideas. You had to be capable of taking in uncomfortable arguments, as well as stand by your own, similar to the everyday FB experience.

But, that’s life too! To each her/his own. No hard feelings toward her, nor anyone else “who got away” because they wanted to get out of the fire! For those who are still hanging out with me, I appreciate, knowing that we can still hangout together, probably for keeps. We will agree, disagree and agree to disagree; and that is how we roll in this world.

The only people surrounded by only their kind, or listening only to their type, are watching Faux News, listening to Lush Limbaugh Radio, breaking religious bread or fast together, and, as my mother told me, did not leave the hospital!

The rest of us will keep Trailing the Goodness of Facebook!

Happy Facebooking!

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014: The Day Facebook ceased being indispensable [to me]

Today is Monday, October 13, 2014. It’s been thirteen days since I last logged onto my Facebook page. That means I have not been on FB since the beginning of this month of October!

Yes! I bet you cannot believe me. Especially if you know my ‘Facebook addition’. You have probably been thinking that I was earning ‘Zuckerbergers’, given my indefatigable dedication to FB. Or that I earn my living via FB social networking. Maybe you were convinced that I cannot hold to myself all the sharing and commenting on posts via friend’s FB pages. I have surprised myself as well that I can live without FB!

Granted, I have not completely ceased all FB social networking. After all, my tweets, Instagram[s] and Pins [from Pinterest] are automatically linked to my FB account. Truth be told, I have sometimes ceded to temptation, and responded to a few urgent “Messenger”, all because my FB account is automatically log in on my iPad and iPhone, whether I am active or not. That’s pretty much it, though.

But do not think I am completely keeping out of social interaction. My buddies  who need me, know how and here to get hold of me outside FB. Options like voice, email, text, FaceTime, Viber and Hangout still exist outside FB. Please believe me, I have even returned to Skype a couple of times! Though the fact still remains that during these last thirteen days, I have learned that FB is and can be dispensable.

At least to me! I do not always have to suffocate to the addiction. I am stronger than I thought. I do not have to be ‘plugged into’ what’s hot off my global friends’ profiles or timelines, nor be the first to share ‘breaking news’. Yes, I might miss out on who hit the jackpot, moved, got a new hairdo, new wheels, trotted the world, got married, engaged or died. I do not get to see who commented on my posts, who visited my page and left a comment or re-shared my posting. But I am learning that is ok too.

There are plenty more avenues to find news and information and be ‘in-the-know”. I have read lots of newsletters, newspapers, books, watched TV and radio news and read people and twitter feeds. But there is so much one can tolerate or enjoy on these more ‘literate’ platforms, but no comparable match for the amusement readings about other people’s status updates, quarrels or surprise finds. And it all offers great infotainment!

You may be wondering how I am managing to cure my procrastination? Fortunately for me, there is Klondike, whenever I am stuck trying to patch together a thought or sentence. Two or three rounds of this entertaining gamble and poker card game unfreeze my brain. Then I head back to the hustle of my fingers, brain or feet. Lest we forget that Evernote allows me to note my thoughts to self, without having to blast to the world, until I am ready! Then the thought and longing for FB comes haunting me again!

Especially, when I want to share about my son’s fundraiser for his Cub Scout Pack. My largest social network is on FB, as well as my biggest cheerleaders. I have run a couple of fundraisers in the past via FB, reaching friends, family and loved ones across the globe. While they are all connected via other fundraising sites like Go Fund Me, FundRaizr, they all merge at FB.

Perhaps that is my admission that, indeed FB is a global force to reckon with! Bigger than so many alternative social networking platforms. In this case, it is right about time to break my “fb exile” and return to the home that has made me, introduced me to strangers, turned strangers into friends, and into frienemies. Some have exited, been blocked, unfollowed, or re-friendshiped as cordial mature disagreeing parties. East or West, Facebook might be indispensable, but only for a couple of days!

Maybe School, but Learning is Not All About the “Benjamins”

You have heard that song before, It’s all About the Benjamins, from Puff Daddy (P. Diddy aka Diddy aka….) No Way Out 1996 album, right? Ok, forget all about the lyrics and let’s focus on the title, “It’s All About the Benjamins”.

Often when we talk about going to school and attaining an education, they are correlated with having “The Benjamins”. Not just the $100, but enough to get you a quality and rewarding education and post-graduation experience. Granted there is public education in this country, where we do not have to pay to go to school, thanks to the taxes dollars paid by our parents, relatives, local community, state, and federal government. Even then, parents have to make a financial investment into their children, providing school meals, school uniform (if required) or regular clothes, scholastic material, transportation to school or school bus, and fees for participation in school activities. Let’s not forget though that, most public schools require proof of address of abode in the school district where one is applying for her/his children!  Private education has similar costs, in addition to tuition fees and other optional costs for educational trips organized by the school administration. For both private and public schooling, many parents incur costs related to after-school programs or extra-curricular activities like sports, art, music and drama, or give-back-to community. In essence, there is no “absolute free education”.

For plenty of potential learners, financial obligations constrain access and participation in formal schooling. Quite often from Education Research on “Improving Teaching and Learning” and “Curriculum Design” reveals that money makes a big impact on whether, how and what students learn. The “when” are students going to learn is  also a vital consideration and determinants of learning. While some parents have the luxury to make choices about “when” they are comfortable starting off their children in school or defer school for alternative “sources of gratification”, like a paying job, travel opportunities and personal growth and social commitments, it is not true for every learner or parent of a learner.

Some parents defer enrolling their children in pre-school, if it is not publicly-funded, until they are of age to start the publicly-funded kindergarten. Parents, as well as adult learners defer school to when they have the financial resources and time, then enroll or resume later at a later age, work-study students, mid-career students or lifelong learners. In countries like Uganda, most low-income parents send their children to publicly-funded schools, which provide “Universal Primary Education” and “Universal Secondary Education”, even when the education is substandard. Others enroll their children much older than the normal school-starting age, when financial resources become available or when it is economically viable to let them go for a few hours of the day, when they can exempt them from providing family labor.

Still, it is possible that “Learning is not all about the Benjamins”.  Schooling, we could agree requires more financial commitment than learning. Learning, defined herein as the active comprehension of education material and study opportunities in a study environment. The environment can be in the form of homeschooling, in a formal school classroom setting, informal arrangements, online or on study tour. The power of money could become secondary to the attainment of learning. Just as not all school-going children from high-income households learn or excel in their education, not all children from low-income households learn nothing or fail.

Here are a couple of illustrations that, sometimes learning is possible ‘without the money’, and that learning equalizes students across many socio-economic divides, including social status, school district, international origin, racial composition and family background. A friend from Inglewood, California, raised by a single mother in a low-income and socially broken-down neighborhood made it into a Harvard PhD in Sociology. We have heard of Khadijah from LA homeless shelters and Liz Murray from the Bronx streets, both of whom made it to Harvard, by ‘churning their miseries into reading books and revising for school testings from public libraries within their geographical locations. In former western colonies of Africa (and in the Caribbean), schools still largely operate on a western education curriculum but in under-resourced school environment. Yet, school children excel in learning and go on to compete with students at western universities. These illustrations speak volumes about the determination to learn and excel, beyond one’s economic status or conditions. The challenge is to broaden the scope of strategies for improving learning [and teaching], not giving up on those without high financial status or access to learning resources but incorporating them and meeting them “halfway”.

Making an investment in our learners should not necessarily require enrolling them into expensive schools, buying all the books, electronics, spending every weekend, school holiday and summer vacation on education trips, an after-school full schedule of extracurricular activities- music recitals, dance, fencing, harp practice. Though, all of these resources and opportunities are highly recommended and appreciated for enriching the learning experience. Learning may require spending more time with your school-going or school-age children, listening to their excitements, reading with them, encouraging and participating in their fantasies and exposing them to the world through family, friends, neighborhood activities. Or taking them to the public library to read and participate in children’s activities and signing them up for community children learning activities.

Parental involvement in their children’s learning is vita to augmenting their school experience, providing emotional support, connecting and following their learning progression. Learning starts before the child is born, through reading to the developing fetus inside the womb. By the time s/he is born, books, words and sounds are already a constant in her/his environment, and a ‘default’ enforcement of their curiosity to learn on their own and with their parents. While we all agree that “time is money”, “money makes the world go round”, let us not lose sight of the power in decentralizing “The Benjamins” as the driving force in the making of learning.

Amidst the Economic Hardship, Parents are Still Raising their Children on their Terms

Even amidst the economic hardship that has defined America’s workforce for nearly a decade, parents are still raising their children on their own terms. Many couples and single parents are finding ways of staying on top of their children’s learning, health, nutrition, wellness, sports and social engagement, while at the same time negotiate their economic survival above water.

It is also true, once again, that educated parents are more likely to take the drastic decisions that put their children at the center of their lives. Yet, single or married, parents are also trading in financial comfortable and higher paying jobs and taking on low paying less stressful jobs that allow them more time to lounge around, and avail them with more conveniency  and time with their children. It is not uncommon now for parents with graduate and post-graduate degrees to opt for elementary teaching jobs, work-from-home, start-up own business or volunteer with a local charity, church or coop, in the name of managing their time on their terms. Couples are either working together or ‘trading spaces’, dividing the time as “stay-at-home’ parent or the ‘main-parent-of-contact-at-home’ at a particularly time. Granted it is typically mothers taking on “CEO-of-Home Affair”, but fathers working from home or with more flexible professions, as academic professors, for instance, are  increasingly taking on more time at home with their children. Single parents (often mothers), without the support network of an extra parent are also finding ways of risking it for the sake of their children.

Among these parents, plenty are now homeschooling their children, for various reasons ranging from – concern about the quality of public education available to them, the constraint against their beliefs (often religious) and values absent in the public school system, the love to engage their children in ‘alternative education and learning’, and their sedentary work lives that do not allow them to settle in one geographical space all year-around. Once again, the economic choices such parents have embraced are also a huge determinant of how they are raising their children. I know a couple who quit their permanent habitat and employment, rented out their house, and took on a travel lifestyle with their two 4 year and 5 year old girl and boy respectively. Preferring a minimalist lifestyle without much material possession, and opting for chance to expose their children to the world, both parents took on a career in photography for a living,. They live in their car, on the road, camp out in open spaces, and occasionally spend a night or two at any of their friends for a chance to do laundry and enjoy a warm meal. I have married friends, where the mother opted to teach in Virtual School so she could stay at home with their growing children, while the father went out to work. Another mother-friend works from home, as director of programs at an organization with North American offices. Husband goes out to work in the office, a couple of days a week, then comes home early to spend some time with their daughter. Another professor friend, with a career in international politics, spends a larger part of the year traveling abroad for conferences, research and teaching. Her husband, who runs a home business has been more available to take care of the kids since their childhood and run the household.

I know you may be saying that I am talking about well-to-do parents or those who have made choices of convenience. Not the “real-world” struggling parents, whose life choices may not  put their children center-stage. The “real world” couples and single parents, who may not have the luxury to decide that being around their children transcends all other parental responsibilities. In most cases, these parents trust a “third party” with a larger part of their children’s upbringing, either a grandparent, a daycare/nightcare center, school or friend, while they are out to work. Yes, their children do matter very much to them, but they have to earn a living to afford to ’satisfy them’ and ’shower them with love’.

Yet even couples whose careers are “child-centric” can still attend to clients outside the home or out-of-town, take vacation alone or with their partner, go out to dinner and meet up with friends. They just have to call on the grandparents, some not living too far from them, or living with them. If not, CARE.com is an e-click away. I am also aware of single mothers, not receiving lavish child support from the absentee father, who have decided to run their careers and lifestyles around their children. It is a huge sacrifice, especially without the support, even if occasional, of a second partner or a family network. Like a friend, a single mother of two girls, with a full-time night-duty job but still on top of her children’s education. She enrolled them in the state online/cyber program, and hired a coach to oversee their study when she wants time off to run errands and take care of family business. She does not like to enroll them in public school, which she feel does not provide a respectful place for their religious beliefs nor a good learning environment, yet she cannot afford a private education. A single mother friend living in The City, quit her job at a huge private philanthropy with international travel opportunities to dedicate more time to her six-year old son and budding home business. Another mother chooses opportunities that fit within her single parenting lifestyle and resources availed to her, to allow her drop her son off at the bus everyday, pick him up from the school bus after school, and spend as much time venturing outside over the weekends. He professional career choices include taking up research fellowships abroad, home-based consultancies, work-from-home paid employment and building her social entrepreneurship. She also wants to ensure proper health and wellness, social skills, manner and a well-rounded development for her son.

Yes, there is a cost to pay, but life is a “cost-benefit analysis”! We all live by “opportunity cost”, choosing and picking from the ‘bountiful’ of menu availed but not always accessible to us. After all, teaching and learning continues across geographical spaces. One can attained a US education, while living on a military base in Germany or providing humanitarian assistance in a refugee camp in Nakivale. The opportunity to engage in one’s child[ren]’s learning is a highly courted luxury not affordable to many. Those opportunities are especially so lost on many parents without high education or financial independence. They work two to four jobs a day, just to make the next paycheck (or not), with no time left to sit down and immerse themselves in their children’s learning and development. Without much flexible to make it to their children’s next game or music concert, play, or the doctor’s appointment. They do not have plenty of time to read to their kids before they go to bed, sit down and do homework with them or play outside with them. Yet in the end, their lives might end as miserably as the Portuguese woman, who had four jobs, took a nap in the car, where she lost her life —and there ended her American dream!

The Trials and Tribulations of a “Strong Personality”

A strong personality is often admired in business, professional, personal and family relations. One is applauded for ‘keeping their head, when all others around are losing theirs”. There is no pride in being a wimpy child, a loose canon, or loose lips. Even as a parent, it is admirable to be strong for one’s child(ten) at all times to reassure them that “everything is gonna be alright”. Moreover, a mother is often expect to hold it down stronger than the father, as the key nurturer and builder of her children’s characters. So, we do not really have an ok to cry in front of our children (some psychologists might say otherwise), or go on a rant about our challenges and frustrations in marriage, parenting and relationships between co-parents. For the sake of our egos, even amidst torment and torture from life’s miseries or challenges, plenty of us often tend to keep a strong face to appear sane and happy. Thus the most common cliche, “I am fine, thank you” or “I am doing great, thanks”, even when one is dying inside. A strong personality is also a measure of good mental, psychological, emotional and personal health. What happens, then, when that “strong personality” is eating away at one’s heart, comfort, confidence and emotional stability?

strong personality

I am one of those [self-] identifying as having a strong personality, which I attribute to circumstances from my childhood that were not always beautiful and simplified. No! I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, even though I have tested food on ‘silver platters” many a times. I do not know if my strong personality has anything to do with the fact that I was the only child of my parents born outside my family home? Perhaps, maybe? But I know that as the second last child of my mother, I grew up observing the lifestyles and life choices of my older siblings, some of which I committed myself never to repeat. My family household was not all too beautiful, either, as do plenty of families I know with children from multiple maternal sources. Though I should add that, I grew up around family friends who got along so much easier than our family, without a glaring indication that they were from multiple mothers. I attribute this to their father, the source of the multiple mother, successfully ensuring that all children felt ‘equally’ loved and represented in the family.

Anyway, the other attribute that shaped my “strong personality” has to be growing up around children from very well-to-do or upper class families, while my family was pretty much “lower middle class”. The beauty about Uganda back then was that, one could afford to “rub shoulders with the rich and famous”, without coming from an upper class lifestyle. Children from peasant background made it to elite schools with children of the rich because of their good grades. Not exactly the same anymore, as money now dictates the kind of school one goes to, which are a strong determinant of one’s future life trajectories. Elite lifestyle is pretty much pre-determined for the rich, who can afford an ‘elite’ education from childhood, ultimately preparing their children for an elite higher education, and most certainly elite post-school employment.

Once again, the need for a “strong personality” seems more than necessary if anyone is to breakthrough the gutters to active belonging and participation in society. This implies that one has to withstand all sorts of humiliation, bullying, dirty talk and discrimination to become “a person”. To breakdown or cocoon under pressure and feeling of “a nobody” is not an option. In fact, it is a demand of “Survival for the fittest” in a cosmopolitizing global culture, as well as ‘successful’ parenting in mother-only households. A breakdown in front of one’s children is not a desirable option. In fact, sharing one’s frustration about an ‘absentee’ and disrespectful father with the children is scorned upon, lest they grow up damaged and not able to live normal lives in future. Even at job interviews and in personality tests, a strong personality is expected to reign supreme over any discomforts, trials and tribulations, which are considered ‘insignificant externalities’ in the pursuit of professional success. Moreover, it takes a strong personality to depart from ‘the established norm’, like women who revolutionized women’s dress code to include pants, and black people mainstreaming afro and natural hairstyles in white social and corporate culture. The introduction of non-white European cultural celebrations, foods, dresses, language, education, and languages in school systems of cosmopolitan settings  like New York, all demand a strong personality.

The question is who helps the helpers? Who helps the strong personalities when they need a little tender love, reassurance that everything is gonna be alright? When they have to put up with plenty of other beings who depend on their effort to remain strong? I was talking to a Muslim American woman the other day, who shared her discomfort that her husband was in the process of taking on another wife. Of course, she accepts that as part of her religious practices, and was well aware at marriage that time will tell. Though, acceptance of a norm is not agreeing to nor comfort with the practice. I could tell, she wished she did not have to welcome a “sister-wife” aka “Co-wife” into her marriage, but it is too late. She was born into this religion, and practices all its tenets sacrilegiously, including staying in a polygamous relationship. She has to put on her strong personality for the sake of her sanity, her family and her children. Yet, it is her strong personality that eats up her heart. Plus, she is a product of a double culture (may be more than a double); she is muslim and she is America. The latter preaches individual consent to a monogamous marriage, while the former involves family and religion in blessing the potentially polygamous marriage. I guess that same is true with African women who subscribe to polygamous family relations, not because they are happy ever after, but perhaps for the greater good. I have one such friend, and I have always thought I would be comfortable under such circumstances. Now I wonder! Perhaps it is not so easy and simple in practice. Perhaps my strong personality would fail me. For now, I believe that is pretty much all we got to hang onto and cherish for the sake of survival, acceptance and interaction within our social living. Over and above, a strong personality is what we need to get our next shelter, next meal and next paycheck; it is what is required of “belonging to society”.

Watching TV as Productivity!

I will be the first to admit that I used to beat down on people who “watch TV”. I was always big mouthing how “TV Rots Your Brain”. I succeeded in feeding that to my son, and he in turn repeated it to anyone who tried to lure him into watching TV. In my world, TV was unproductive, because adults sit at home with eyes glued on TV the entire day, vegetating and doing nothing, was my “turn off the TV” alarmist rant. Plus, kids getting exposed to all sundry on Nicky Nite, Disney Channels and so much more channels I am discovering now in other peoples living rooms! Especially in places (like Uganda) where TV is uncensured, kids are not protected from all sorts of nasty adult TV liberally broadcasting kissing adults on soap operas, war games, violent movies with murder, blood and vengeance. Yes! Sometimes even the Oscars, the Grammys and other celebrity award shows are  “R”! Interestingly, I have since come to agree that, TV does not always rot the brain, and maybe adults at home do not sit and watch TV all day! 

 
Believe you me, I did not own a TV set until after grad school, when my then boyfriend handed-me-down his TV, as he was preparing to move overseas for work. I took it but refused to sign up for cable TV, instead maintaining the basic channels. My TV served my basic interest in watching news and weather forecast in the morning before I went off to work, and in the evening when I came back home before bed. “That is all I needed,” I told myself. After all, it gave me a little bit of surreality, delivering me from news over-circulation, with shows like Survivor, the Amazing Race, America’s Next Top Model, Judge Mathis and Jay Leno
 
A while later, between waiting to move into my condo, I needed a short-term rental. So, I moved in with a roommate who already had cable TV included as part of the utilities, and I had to accept by default. Thereon began my life of ‘binging’ on Cable TV, watching plenty of reality shows – notably The Hills, The City, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Chopped, Project Runway, Say Yes To The Dress, and House Hunter International. And now there is OWN TV with plenty of Tyler Perry shows.
 
Recently, while watching Undercover Boss on OWN, it struck me that maybe watching TV can actually boost productivity at work, wherever one’s work is. My work is usually from home, where I feel most comfortable. I tend to prefer working in a noisy environment because my productivity is  lower in quiet places like a library; I often fall asleep or get distracted especially when I am reading. Then I either switch to social media or internet news. So, I prefer to work from a place burbly and busy. I feel guilty sitting in a coffee shop and not buying anything. Since I do not want to spend on teas and bites, I choose to stay at home where I have plenty to distract myself with including tea breaks, my email, social media, a stretch, and the gift of a TV remote! 
 
From Undercover Boss, which I have grown to like, plus a couple of other shows like Iyala Fix My Life, HGTV Home Improvement, Shark Tank, and my longest addiction to Judge Mathis, I learned about the power of TV in boosting personal and professional productivity. Talking about Undercover Boss, this is a show where CEOs or CFOs/COOs of Fortune-500s go on a ‘clandestine’ mission around the different locations of their companies, taking on the jobs of their “everyday employees”. Jobs that would otherwise be classified as bare-minimal wage jobs, like cleaning toilets, collecting trash, flipping burgers and picking lettuce on their farms. The CEOs spend a day with their employees, getting first-hand experience of how the real people who hold their companies down, who make the money that afford the big people private jets, are struggling to afford the next meal, to put their children in daycare, to afford medical treatment or physical therapy for their loved ones or a room over their heads. Stories about people who have slept in make-shift cardboard houses, along railways trucks, or on the streets, but wake up every morning to come to work with a smile. I heard the story of a woman raised by her grandmother, but was not able to afford her an education. Her grandmother tried homeschooling her and her two siblings the best she could, but did not go too far. She wanted to be a water technician, had the hands-on knowledge and experience but could not gain the confidence to raise her hand and speak in class. Imagine somebody born in America, with free elementary education, but could not afford a chance of going to school! Yet she serves all her clients diligently with a smile!, not imposing on them her life’s miseries!
 
Once I had wiped away my tears, I felt a sense of rejuvenation and optimism for my pursuit of the next big grant to support my social philanthropy. That story re-ignited in me the passion to keep trying and utilizing all the skills I have accumulated in my years to re-make my life and put myself back on the road to recovery. It reminded me that giving up, failing and despair is not an option. That even if circumstances seem bleak, I am more privileged than I might acknowledge sometimes. While I worry about student loans to pay off, I have a graduate education, international work experience, a sharp mind and eye, a huge social network and a fully-fuctioning body. I am also privilege to have 24-7 wireless internet connection, a laptop, iPad, iPhone all functioning so good, with electric, water and food. From Judge Mathis, I have become more “court smart”, gaining plenty of tips on court etiquette and how to present a case in a small claims court. Of course I also like Judge Mathis for his ‘unbarred’ and unabashed reproach of those who appear before him, while also dispensing free counseling to anyone who cares to listen.
 
Watching various TV programs has boosted my personal and professional productivity, with plenty of new ideas for survival and excellence. Shark Tank is another productive hour spent learning lessons in investment and business management. The show features kids 11 years of age, who are already running own businesses and seeking investors to grow higher. So, why not conquer my fears and regain the umph to succeed and put your ideas to work? Even the not-so-smart TV shows like the Kardarshians and Housewives teach us interesting skills in strategic planning and wealth creation, that we perhaps never gained in a graduate class. People with no or little education end up making billions out of those with an elite education, and in fact employ us to toil for peanuts! That is the American way! So, the script turns – TV does not entirely rot the brain; it boosts plenty of productivity.