— Why Would the Facebook Founder’s Sister Tell People To Stop Sharing?

November 7, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Posted in Online Ministry | Leave a comment

Answer to the question in the headline above: The young adults who founded facebook are starting families of their own and their babies don’t want them online. Pure and simple. Sound familiar? In REACH: A UU Digital Ministry, I discussed the effects of human/computer interaction in the last 30 years and cited kids who beg their parents to put down their phones and be with them.

Randi Zuckerberg, sister to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and a former Facebook exec herself, says she realized she shouldn’t be on her cell phone when with her baby.

In her new book, Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives, Zuckerberg unleashes her revelations that too much sharing online and too much time on Facebook with people we don’t really know well in our offline lives, is potentially very damaging.

Duh. Since sharing first began on the Internet, people have worked hard to protect privacy and meaningful connections through sharing. And oh, lest I forget to remind not only you dear readers but also myself: I have one of the first patents for Sharing Digital items ever to have been issued. It and three others are owned by Facebook. The name of one particular invention is “Sharing of Digital Items.” I have others that are related that created the ability for people to annotate with words or through manipulation of content what they are sharing — translation: comment on and/or edit. Plenty of other people have related patents but these are among the meaningful souvenirs of my career. (I’m an inventor but I don’t own the patents, AOL, Facebook and others do. I initially received $1,500 for each patent from my employers. I turned over two of those checks to UU Association Sundays.)

Back to Zuckerberg’s book. It’s all about Randi’s experience, right? (sarcasm intended) After all, her book’s written as if her revelations are earth shattering. Never mind the 30 years of research by Sherri Turkle, author of Alone Together. Never mind that the 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of  Mental Disorders, for the first time, includes a category on machine-human disorders and recommends that Internet Addiction Disorder be studied more.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing lots more from last decade’s 20 somethings who wanted to bare all, share all and stare at all, online. It was fine then because that’s what they wanted to do and they thought everyone else would want to as well. And the usage data of social media could be interpreted to support the claim.

I’m glad sister Zuckerberg wrote the book, for her name and accomplished credentials will draw readers. To me her book harkens a sea change I predicted in REACH. And the prediction appears to be right on schedule. The age of uncertain longing and yearning is now on Zuckerberg’s generation’s horizon, and it’s dawning in the faces of its children and  also in the hearts of these new parents.

And their kids are about 3-5 years away from being UU RE age. Some UU churches, in fact, are experiencing the beginning of this next wave. The UU Church of Arlington, VA, my former church, beefed up its nursery offerings to bring in this generation’s babies and parents now.

I’m hopeful that this generation may be the wave that propels UUism into a wholehearted way of living out of an aspirational stage in which it appears to be stagnating.

— Use this Kvetch Circle in Pastoral Care of Friends and Family

November 7, 2013 at 7:07 am | Posted in Online Ministry | Leave a comment

kvetch circle

Susanne Skubik Intriligator, the UUA’s newly hired social media strategist and friend, posted on Facebook a terrific LA Times story on what not to say to someone stricken with a serious illness.

I recently blogged about a friend who’s fighting the worst form of breast cancer and who shocked the sh*t outta me with racist banter.  I had to figure out the right time and way to tell her that her comments were unacceptable. But, I didn’t want her to think I would abandon her in her time of need because I was dismayed by her comments.

While the LA Times piece isn’t about racism or any other unacceptable comments by pastoral care recipients, it is about how friends and caregivers must consider carefully what and how to sympathize with the patient in that person’s presence. The use of a “kvetch” circle helps to draw the point home.

The LA Times article explains how the circle works:

“Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma,” it states. “Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma… Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order.”

The story continues: “Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, “Life is unfair” and “Why me?” That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring. Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.”

Thanks Susan for sharing the article.

— Snorkle Ticks, Tickle-Checks and Yearning at the Bus Stop

November 2, 2013 at 8:48 am | Posted in Online Ministry | Leave a comment

Long time Cape Codders, as in four-generation-local families, refer to newcomers like Heather and I as “wash-a-shores.”  Well, this wash-a-shore walks away from the shore and out into Cape Cod Bay  several times a week. Whenever low tide on Cape Cod Bay is during daylight hours, I pull up my wellies and off I  shuffle into the sea.

I ventured out recently after dropping Heather at a bus that took her to Logan Airport.  I rolled her luggage to the bus, tripping over my boots. She got on the bus and I looked up trying to see  which seat she was in through the windows. I traipsed back and forth along the length of the bus. No Heather.  A minute passes and a woman leaned out of the bus and said, “She’s five rows in from the back!” How nice was that? I found Heather, waved and off the bus went. Heather texted my phone and said, “That woman said you were ‘yearning’ for me!  Everybody on the bus was glad when you finally saw where I was!”

That lovely gesture stayed with me as I drove to the bay where I walk often.

Water communion is not a one-time ritual in September. It’s intimately part of my life now. Afterwords, I report on the day’s sightings out on the water and relay news from conversations with the oyster farmers.

“Whagya see today?” Heather asked later that same day.  Answer: “Snorkle Ticks.”   She laughed hysterically not believing a word of my tick tale.

A  New York Times story, however, recently proved that underwater  ticks exist.

On the Cape, ticks constitute a modern-day plague, or rather the Lyme and affiliated diseases they spread, are debilitating so many people that a tick costume on Halloween ain’t funny. They are just too horrible to consider donning as fancy dress. Everyday is “Tick or Trash” day for moi. On my walks, I take a plastic grocery bag to pick up litter along the major road where my home is. It’s often in the brush and I gotta think twice before throwing it into my plastic bag collection of debris and then check my hands, arms and legs to see if a few ticks have hopped a ride on me, a veritable gravy train for them.

It’s shocking how many people we know who have it now;  or are in remission;  or who have stricken loved ones with it; or who pick them off of their bodies regularly. Karen, for example, had two over the last two months and went on antibiotics both times. She was in hospital for three weeks a couple of years ago because of lyme. Meanwhile, Nancy, Walter, Dick, a neighbor and our arborist, have struggled with tick-borne diseases for years.

Last weekend, I hiked with another neighbor and two ticks climbed aboard her. She texted me a few hours later about it.

Heather and I  “tickle check” each other and our dog, Teddy, nearly every day and sometimes several times a day. We also treat some of our clothing with tick repellent. We’ve been checked for lime a few times in the last year.

So far all clear. And we hope to keep it that way.

But then came the snorkle ticks, othwise known as  urinor virga,  their  latin name.

I’m in no danger of catching them but Heather is. She’s a triathlete. She swims with locals in ponds and the bay for training. She runs through woods etc.  My wellies protect me.

I promised to bring Heather a sample back in a baggie next time I saw one. They swim just below the surface and have shiny tubular protrusions that siphon air to them.

I couldn’t withhold my giggles after I described to Heather what they look like.  None of it is true! I just couldn’t resist because we need jokes about lyme to lighten its  presence on the Cape and in New England. It’s hard, though, to be silly and playful when it comes to ticks.

But wait! I may have made it up but it appears to be true! Word now comes that some ticks have evolved to breathe while submerged in water — and not just for a few seconds. The most respected newspaper in the country cited “air-bubble” ticks as one reason why moose in New Hampshire are mysteriously dying. The  New York Times reported that ticks with aqua lung-like capabilities are feeding off moose much longer because the little buggers can breathe while immersed in water.

So dear UUs, when you’re drawing up water in future vacations for a September communion service, beware of Snorkle Ticks!

— What Does Post-DOMA Mean To You?

October 24, 2013 at 6:53 am | Posted in Online Ministry | Leave a comment

For UUs, the phrase “Welcoming Community” has been a euphemism of sorts for: LGBTQ welcome here. UUism was among the first, perhaps the first, of organized religions to embrace sexual and gender orientation. Then “welcoming community”  grew into a broader message of acceptance and activism with the Standing on the Side of Love ministry.

With celebrations over on the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, now the LGBTQ community, accountants, tax attorneys, HR professionals, social workers and activists are working on the implementation of  marital equality at the federal level of our lives.

What does post DOMA mean in a liberal faith community? Since LGBTQ has been at the UU table for a while, we all know that our LGBTQ sisters and brothers are no different than our heterosexual family and friends in creating heaven, hell or purgatory on earth.

LGBTQ individuals and families can contribute to beloved community and can also harm it – just like anyone else.

Since the federal gubment now appears to stand on the side of love, what’s next for UUs and LGBTQ issues?

It might be a natural tendency for many UUs to look at other states in the country and other countries to fight the good fight for LGBTQ equality.

But focusing on our own local LGBTQ communities would be a very good start.

Here are some thoughts on how to do this:

  1. Offer a panel discussion and workshop on: Insurance, taxes, social security and medicaid/medicare. Your church could bring together, before the end of the year, a panel of representatives from the legal, accounting, social services and other disciplines to help people understand what their rights are now and how to get employers and local agencies to respond to them. Lamda Legal Defence fund has published a good list of resources to start this process. For example, if you and your legally married spouse have filed taxes separately for the past three years, you may get more of a return on those years if you refile them as joint returns. If you’ve been paying taxes on employer-provided health insurance on your spouse, you may be able to get a credit on your 2014 returns. I’m not sure about that but there has been talk of this.
  2. Local activism: Work with other UU congregations in your state/district to train hospitals, health care professionals, school districts (employers of many same sex couple teachers and students of same sex families), municipalities, and prisons to train them on post-DOMA implementation.
  3. Same goes for local LGBTQ immigration, adoption and elder care issues
  4. International social justice: If you have a sister congregation abroad, consider initiating some kind of program on LGBTQ issues there. Learn about the particular challenges they have and work with them to make life better there.  And/or focus activism on countries, such as Uganda and Russia, where LGBTQ peoples are murdered and hate is nearly a government sponsored program.
  5. Interfaith work in local communities on these issues.
  6. Coming Out Issues: These will likely not go away in our life times. They are recurring. I do not personally know of anyone who doesn’t have coming-out related thoughts even after being out for 40 years. The stages of life we all pass through present challenges that trigger anxiety or fear when many of us feel vulnerable.  In particular, as LGBTQs age, the closet door can beckon people back and then swing shut. The end of DOMA won’t change that in our lifetimes.
  7. Marriage itself: Just ‘cuz we can do it legally doesn’t mean we should. Ministers, if you counsel newly engaged couples as part of the path to the alter, make sure you aren’t assuming that long-time couples should be getting married. Just like having kids is the wrong reason to keep a marriage going, getting married shouldn’t be done lightly. It shouldn’t be a political statement. It shouldn’t necessarily be done just because couples have been together for a long time. Many same-sex couples have lived for decades as a unit but still as independent individuals in other emotionally-laden ways. Once married, legal ties that weren’t there before may surprise newly married individuals with formal bonds that may become very threatening to them.
  8. Divorce: It’s gonna happen and has since the first gay marriages were legal. Divorce, may end up being an act of love, kindness and self-care, as it can be for heterosexual families.  But since many same-sex couples have never experienced the legal aspects of it, things can get very complicated – especially if you are living in a state that doesn’t recognize gay divorce. Here’s a new story on complications of LGBTQ divorce.
  9. Something to consider: Do you have LGBTQ multicultural couples in your congregation? They may have unique considerations. Like most issues in this country, there’s probably a white-footprint on post-DOMA issues.

What do you think? Has your congregation discussed these issues? Please comment on this blog to help others.

— Would You Defend, in Public, Victims of Hate That You Witness?

September 28, 2013 at 10:25 am | Posted in Online Ministry | Leave a comment

In the four years I’ve been a declared UU, I heard only one sermon in which the minister preached that we must act immediately when witnessing hate speech and inappropriate jokes told at the expense of others.

Have you ever done that? I have but my track record isn’t anywhere near as good at it as it should be. I keep trying, though. Being white, I’m not on alert the way my sisters and brothers of color are. So when a friend, with whom I’m in a pastoral care relationship, began to tell a joke using a highly stereotypical accent meant to convey African American culture, I was stunned. I wondered: How do I address this as it’s happening while still maintaining a pastoral, loving heart?

The friend is suffering from the worst form of breast cancer possible and going through chemo and radiation. The layers of skin on the bottoms of her feat burn constantly, peel and fall off. She’s in very bad shape.

And yet, the joke. To add insult to injury, the characters in it were stand-ins for this friend’s colleagues at work. This friend is white, a human resource professional, and a lesbian.

It took me about 5 minutes to figure it out. With the joke over, I said I was uncomfortable with it and also the way she told it. I asked her if she knew anything about the lives of her co-workers and their families. No, she didn’t. A few minutes passed. I asked her gently if she could understand why I might be uncomfortable with the joke.

She really couldn’t and then said that I just couldn’t take a joke. Couple more moments passed in silence. Gently, I told her that I care about her and would be there for her but under the condition she consider that it’s not okay to tell jokes that take pot shots at human dignity and inherent worth – regardless of race and also especially because of it. I chose to not say I’d withhold my support if she didn’t refrain from such jokes in the future. I chose to not say anything threatening to someone fighting for her life.

She said she would consider what I said. As she continues to heal, I will find an appropriate time to return to this subject with her. Maybe she’ll even bring it up the next time I see her.

Recent changes in laws, a black president and many other advances that work to even the chance for equal treatment in this country are all heartening. Nothing, however, says that things have really changed more … than average citizens speaking out in their daily haunts in the tangible world — and not just online, where people can hide behind anonymity.

There’s a contemporary version of the old TV show Candid Camera called “This Hidden Video.” It recently has created a number of episodes that explore human behavior in the face of ugly hate speech and behavior.

This show has told me more about how this country is changing for the better. Watch the below video of an incident in a Texas restaurant in which a waitress refuses to serve a lesbian couple and their kids and verbally abuses them. Other diners intercede. Meanwhile, while the ensuing scene is hopeful, watch what happens when the scenario is repeated with a gay male couple in the same restaurant. The differences between the two incidents show that biases against gay males can still run much deeper than those for lesbians.

— Which is More Important: The looks of your website or how it works for parishioners?

September 28, 2013 at 9:46 am | Posted in Online Ministry | Leave a comment

One of the most difficult concepts for congregants and ministers to understand is that website design is not just about how your online presence looks. In fact, visual design, aka graphical design, is one component. When graphical design is done well, it is in the service of user experience. Good graphical and industrial (physical product) design can bring obvious beauty to a device, such as the iPhone and nearly all Apple products. But the user experience of it goes way beyond it. It’s been my experience that most folks involved with bringing digital ministry to UUism not only undervalue the potential of user experience, they don’t recognize how essential it is to the longevity of any digital service. In this case, I’m talking about online churches, which are a “digital service.”

Here’s a good slideshare presentation on digital design. My friend and former AOL colleague Jason Cranford Teague, a veteran digital designer and Mac guru, created it. It’s not a how-to presentation. It’s a macro-view of concepts. Understanding the concepts and their import is a first step in developing the virtual presence of digital ministry successfully.

Design Is How It Works: Prototyping the User Experience from Jason CranfordTeague


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