6 months in 2020: The impossible becomes real
Six months ago today, I was told to pack the things I needed from the office and work from home. The virus we had all heard about was here. We knew very little about it besides that it spread easily. Would we be gone for a week? Two weeks? A month? It was impossible to think it would be any longer than that.
Then came the lockdowns. Storefronts darkened and windows in homes illuminated. Grocery shopping became a micro odyssey of caution and fear. We tried new hobbies, reconnected with old friends over video chats and went on walks. Overall, we became more attuned to what was happening, all while discussing the things we normally would be doing but couldn’t, each week deleting more events off our calendars.
And the entire time, the virus was there, far away but so close!
Six months later, we’re in a state where we can do almost anything we want, it just requires more time, thought and attention. Early on, I thought how this could affect other areas of our lives: will we focus more on major decisions that come our way or be so exhausted from the day to day that we just go with the flow?
Two months in, we had an answer.
When video of an unarmed black man being murdered by police was published, protests began in cities across the country and soon spread around the world. If actually dealing with racism in our society had previously seemed impossible, it no longer did. We had seen the impossible happen when society was paused to stop the spread of the virus. And we knew that if a virus threatening your community, you had to deal with it. Now. Distractions and busy schedules could not take us away from dealing with what we saw and the systemic problems in our society.
In the past six months, many realized the world and our country isn’t as they thought it. The government cannot protect you. Racism was not defeated in the 1960s. Institutions cannot solve our problems. We must care for each other and work on changing our actions and thoughts within. This has always been the way the world has operated, but many are now forced to live in it for the first time.
What will the next six months hold? Many look forward to a vaccine and imagine a time when we “return to normal” and life resumes from where it was paused in March. This is a dangerous fantasy. No matter how much we don’t want to face it, we have all been changed in the past six months. There is no going back, we will always have these memories and experiences with us.
For me, I’ve realized what it really means to slow down, to think about just not the small things, but the larger ones as well and how they build on one another. I’ve noticed so much more beauty in the natural world as well as the brokenness that results when we get involved. But there’s also the hope of us reclaiming that beauty, that harmony, and working together to help one another.
If anything, the last six months have showed us that impossible can become real. We’ve all learned again that no one can predict what comes next and how little control we have over our lives. Remember when we thought we would be working from home for just a couple of weeks? As we continue to see the world change outside our window in ways that are hard to comprehend, we should focus on what is happening within each one of us and do the work to grow in a positive direction. At least that’s something we can control.
Finding the best version of that tune
Sometimes, an old standard comes into my mind and I can’t get it out. I listen to the original, and then other versions, but it doesn’t scratch the itch. It’s the Sun Ra version that’s deep down in my soul… Rhapsody in Blue, ’S Wonderful, But Not For Me, Sophisticated Lady, ’Round Midnight, Smile… Sun Ra, the Arkestra and other players ingest the soul of a song and takes it to outer space…
Better audio for recorded Zoom calls
Quick tip today. I produce many videos and interviews for my day job, and with the current work from home world we’re in, a lot of those are happening on Zoom calls.
Lower quality audio and video have been accepted by viewers, since we’re consuming so much, but for business communications, you need to hear the people, and laptop microphones aren’t the best. It doesn’t need to be the best quality, but it does need to be comprehendible.
So, I ask folks who I’m recording to take out their iPhone and record with the Voice Memos app. When we’re done, they send it to me, I merge the Zoom recording with it, and presto, it sounds pretty amazing.
The only struggle with it is if the interviewee pauses the voice memo recording in-between segments, the app saves it as one long clip, so you have to cut up each segment in post. Not too big of a deal.
(As a side note, it’s great to still direct, ask follow-up questions, position people remotely over Zoom, even though I can’t be there in person to film).
Take the headphones out
Spending more time at home in the past few months, the only way of getting out of the house has been walking through neighborhood. Not only have my exercise goals been “crushed,” but I’ve been able to finally listen to all of those podcasts that have accumulated — and found more!
The other morning on a walk, I felt a strong urge to rip the buds out of my ear. For the remaining mile of my stroll, there was nothing to hear besides what was around me. The sidewalks I have frequented felt new and alive in a way they haven’t in a long time. And I felt a part of them.
As energizing as it is to get the latest information and insights as the day begins, the birds are pretty great at it too.
New manual exposure settings for iPhone in iOS 14 Beta 2
There’s a new manual exposure control in the Camera app in iOS 14 Beta 2.
I discovered this by accident while shooting video earlier today. The icon, a plus and minus sign within a circle, appears in the row of additional settings within the Camera app on iPhone 11 and 11 Pro.
When you select it, a familiar slider appears, similar to editing adjustments in Photos. There’s also small histogram also appears that reflects the exposure changes you make.
To get a manual exposure previously in iOS, you would press on the frame and a box would appear with a small sun on a line. You would have to press that line to adjust the exposure. It was always finicky and not really reliable.
In my first test of it, it does not appear to link with the square and sun exposure adjustment. In fact, it seems that you can use both simultaneously. I will play around more with this in the future.
Making manual exposure easier to use is an important addition to the iOS Camera app. While the auto exposure has gotten better and better each year, sometimes you want to accentuate a certain part of the image you are capturing.
A dedicated and easy to use manual exposure control is a welcome addition to the stock iOS Camera app. I often use other apps like Halide because of its ease to manually adjust exposure.
While there was a lot to get excited about in iOS 14, there wasn’t much for Photos or Camera apps, so this is exciting to find.
“Quitting” Facebook as a social media manager
TL;DR: Log out of Facebook on your main browser, delete the mobile app, use a plug in to block the news feed and don’t use a fake account.
A decade ago, I decided to quit Facebook.
I had been a user about five years and was fed up with the constantly updated index of social information, how it made me feel and the time I spent browsing it. My best friend had been off of it for years and I saw that you could continue to live without a profile. I set a date: Saturday night, I’ll pour a beer, sit down, post a goodbye to all of my friends and deactivate my account.
But that Friday, my plan took a sharp turn. I was sitting at my desk as an intern reporter at the Kalamazoo Gazette and an editor asked if I wanted to help manage the newspaper’s Facebook page. Of course, I replied, thinking this would be a huge opportunity.
And it was.
Over the years, I have spent a lot of my Internet time on Facebook, building pages, sharing updates, doing work. I would always be led back there whenever I had a pause in thought, there was always something new to check out. But five, ten, fifteen minutes would pass scrolling through the news feed and I had forgot what I was working on.
No matter how much I want to, I can’t quit Facebook. It’s part of my job. It’s how I make money, like many other social media managers out there. But over the past few months, I’ve found ways to not only severely limit my usage, but remove the ease to access it.
I’ve tried several different ways to limit my usage of the social network: time tracking apps, parental controls, and sheer willpower, but none of these really worked with something is so intertwined with personal, professional and entertainment. I could think it’s a good idea to only limit myself to 20 minutes of personal browsing on Facebook per day, but some days I spend four to five hours working on pages.
After years of tinkering, I think I’ve finally found a solution that balances the needs of a social media manager with someone who wants to (mostly) cut Facebook out of their life.
These suggestions aren’t really related to privacy, which is important to me, and I recommend reading this book, but how to reclaim time in your day and avoid the suck of the news feed.
Log out of Facebook on your main browser
The first thing I recommend doing is logging out of Facebook on your main browser. I use Safari for 98 percent of viewing webpages, so logging in requires one more additional step to access the news feed. I have found that I will subconsciously go to Facebook but stop once I see the log in page.
Use a separate Chrome-based browser for Facebook work with news feed plug in
I don’t use Chrome because of how it abuses computer resources and how Google tracks everything you do, but there are some benefits of the browser. Recently, I started using Brave as an alternative. Privacy focused, Brave is based on Chromium, allowing Chrome plug ins. I use News Feed Eradicator, which stops out the center of Facebook and replaces the news feed with a nice quote. Facebook is fully functional in every other way. The combo of having to open another application and not seeing the news feed has allowed me to quickly manage pages and look something up on a page or profile without being distracted.
Limit your phone
Because I manage social media accounts and have a personal life, I have two phones — one for work and one for personal use. There’s a lot I can say about having the separation, and may write about it later, but there are two key benefits:
I can do things on my personal phone without being distracted by work
there’s no chance I can accidentally post something personal on a work account. (I don’t think people who follow pages I manage really care about my baseball thoughts).
I’ve uninstalled Facebook from all of my personal devices, leaving it on my work phone. I really only use that device a few times a day, so the temptation of opening the app is slim to none. And if I ever need to look at the Facebook app, 9 times out of 10 work related.
There are circumstances where I need to use Facebook on my personal phone — business often make Facebook the main place to find information on them. If I need to do this, I simply log on through Safari, check what I need and log out. The mobile web experience is very nice, better in some ways than the app itself, and allows quick access when in a pinch.
I also keep Messenger installed because it’s one of the best ways to stay in contact with acquaintances and people use it a lot to reach out.
Now that we’ve covered some of the things I do to limit my use of Facebook, I think it’s important to highlight some of the things you shouldn’t do, especially as a social media manager.
Don’t make a fake account
I know some folks who have quit Facebook and manage all of their pages through a fake, obscure account. Sure, Facebook has more than 2.6 billion accounts, but there is always the possibility that the fake account could be found and deactivated. While the probability is not high, it’s something I don’t want to take a chance with. I don’t know what happens to pages if an admin gets banned from the platform, but I don’t want to find out.
Don’t totally disconnect
Part of being an effective social media manager and producer is knowing about each platform, trends and how people use it. If you totally disconnect, it will be difficult to stay relevant. I limit myself to browsing the news feed once or twice a day, partly to see how people I know are doing, but also to keep tabs on what features people are using and what kind of content is popular from pages in my industry. I am usually not on for more than 10 minutes and browse from my work phone, which doesn’t have a lot of the Bell’s and whistles of my personal phone, so that allows me to get in and get out.
Don’t become bitter
My last bit of advice: don’t become bitter about Facebook. It’s easy to really start hating a large company you don’t like. I don’t think that’s healthy for someone who is managing pages on the platform because it’s easy to turn that to the people who are on it. I say “Facebook isn’t for me, but I understand how it’s important for a lot of people to communicate with each other.”
I’ve been using this method above for a few months and am really happy with how it has changed my workflow and time management. If there’s anything you do to limit your time on Facebook and still manage pages, I’d love to hear about it. Shoot me a tweet at @fritzklug.