Sunday, January 19, 2014

5 Things I Learned as a Social Media Manager

Unless you're one of those people who avoid social media like a toothless hooker, you're probably on Facebook or Twitter everyday. You've probably even liked a few fan pages or followed some corporate accounts for one reason or another.

Most people don't realize that a lot of work goes behind managing these pages. Depending on the brand's influence, it can be anywhere from 1 person to an entire creative team. For the better part of last year up to now, I've been one of them.

In that short time, I've noticed a few things. Some of them are interesting, while others make me want to slap someone's parents for producing annoyingly ignorant offspring.

Here are 5 things I've learned as a social media manager.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Year That Was

It's hard to write my exact feelings on the year that transpired. 2013 was filled with both pleasant and heartbreaking surprises for me. If I can sum it up in a word, I'd say the past year was all about growth.

I'll remember this year for a long time, because in 2013, I...

...finally reached a wider audience with my writing.
Early this year, I took a bold leap with my writing career. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to see if I was good enough to join the insanely talented team at Pepper, the Philippines' best food blog (according to Google and anyone with good taste).

To my surprise, I got in. Prior to joining their team, I've only been writing mostly dull, predictable corporate bullshit in my former day job, and mean, sarcastic, "humor" posts in this blog. I finally had the chance to write funny stuff that wasn't just for me and my twisted friends. I was ecstatic with the opportunity, but also terrified with the responsibilities it entailed.

As expected, I made a few stumbles and cringe-worthy pieces, but overall I think I did well for my first year as a semi-pro comedy writer. I'm still going to need hard advice whenever I forget I'm not writing in my personal domain, but I'm learning to overcome that. I'm very optimistic about what 2014 could bring if I work even harder and explore other creative ventures.

...I got really sick
Health is probably the most under-appreciated asset in our busy lives. Last March, I got sick with a still unknown viral infection that had me worried about everything. I wrote about that horrid experience here. This year, I don't want something similar happening if I can avoid it. That's why I'm making a commitment to exercise more, and if I prove strong enough, quit smoking for good. 

What I can't promise is eating healthier. I have gained a deeper love and appreciation for food ever since I got into Pepper, and that won't change anytime soon. Or ever.

...I finally got a job I loved
Luck plays a bigger role in our lives than most people care to admit. And boy, was I lucky. I haven't even entertained other potential careers when opportunity came knocking. I was offered a job by one of the people I admired the most. I took it immediately, in spite of some personal concerns.

At the start, it wasn't so good. There'll always be a rather big gap between expectations and reality, and it became clear to me that it was part of my job to overcome that. Things got weird, painful and even ugly at times. But I soldiered on, with only one thought in my mind keeping me afloat.

These are all just growing pains. We will get better.

And soon enough, things changed. Everything improved, and I'm looking forward to being there for the long run. I will inevitably run into some similar challenges, but I'll be better prepared for them. Actually, I'm kind of looking forward to them. Nothing worth doing is ever easy or fast, so we must be doing something right. 

I just need to get better at bullying myself into giving it all I have. I'm not used to having a lot of freedom, and I'm still trying to find ways to improve my time management. I promised myself that the one resolution I can't break is to make the most out of this opportunity. I owe it to not just me, but to the people who've placed their trust in my abilities. And if I hate anything, it's disappointing people.

...I lost the person I loved the most in this world
Last August, my grandmother died. I cried more in that month than in the last 10 years before it. We weren't prepared for it at all. Sometimes, just remembering that she's gone forever tears me up. But that's life. Sooner or later, you'll lose people, for one reason or another.

I guess that experience was a wake up call to all of us about the shortness of life. Our busy schedules can make us forget what matters the most, and no amount of professional satisfaction can match the very human joy of being with people you love. Money isn't the most precious thing, time is. No one can buy it, and it's always running out. That's why I've become even more strict with how I spend my days. I simply can't afford to be as wasteful with it. Not anymore.

...I really felt like an adult
Work takes up a big part of your adult life. If you're not in the right place, you're essentially wasting your life. It's a tough pill to swallow. Life is the big bad bully armed with heavy hands called responsibilities and obstacles. If you're not prepared for it, your ass will get knocked the fuck out. 

This was the year I raised my own standards for what I should be doing. I became more mindful of the future. I worked harder than I ever did before, but I still felt that I fell short of my potential. You see, it's not enough to just work hard. I can actually work less, but what I really need to do is work smarter and be more efficient. I have to produce higher quality output in less time. And oh, meet deadlines, too. It's tough, but also satisfying to know you're earning your place in the world. 

This feeling was confirmed a few weeks ago, when I met some old friends I hadn't seen in years. They were surprised at how different I am now. I'm still every bit as loud and inappropriate, but they couldn't believe how "responsible"and "respectable" I've become. After all, I was the guy who used to cut classes to drink. I was the guy who got into a lot of trouble for gambling and other things. Now, I'm the guy who takes a time-out in a drinking session to borrow my friend's laptop so I can schedule fan page posts and tweets.

Seven years sure is a long time.

...I learned the joys of reading non-fiction
The fantasy genre turned me into a bookworm. There's so much wonder and splendor in those pages to make everyday life seem so boring. And for a very long time, I preferred to live in those fantastic, fictional worlds. 

After all, the mundanity of life was no match to the magic of dragons, wizards, and gods. But they do not exist in the real world, which is why people made them up. They're works of escapism. That's not a bad thing, but if you live more in the fantasy world, you might be missing out on the nice little quirks and stories of plain old life.

Since I no longer had enough time to sit back with a 600 page fantasy epic, my insatiable reading urges were unleashed on online articles and Seth Godin books. I used to only read a lot at Cracked.com, but I now have so many websites to visit daily for my regular information/entertainment binge. 

All this reading about the real world has given me a wider scope of how everything works. I learned the value of using a different tone to convey the same message. I learned why some businesses rise and fall. I even learned how incredible Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk were. Turns out real life can surprise and delight you beyond just memes like Doge and the Harlem Shake. 

The bad side to this is that it becomes a constant source of procrastination for what I really need to do. One great article often leads to another. Before I know it, a couple of hours have passed already and I'm still stuck with a blank word document. 

... constantly thought long and hard about who I am, and who, where, and what I want to be 
I spent a good part of my year contemplating the present and imagining where it fits in my future. As a result, I've had to be more mindful of what I'm doing with my life. I've always been very self-aware, but none more so than last year. 

Every major decision I made has been thought out in advance, weighed relentlessly against other options, and with a post completion analysis for comparison against my projected outcome. It sounds so clinical, but all I'm really saying is that I think, imagine and compare choices a lot. About everything.

Our mid-20's is such an exciting time. Depending on who you are, it can be exhilarating or terrifying. To me, it's both. I'm frequently optimistic about where I'm going, even if I'm not too sure just where it is yet. I try to enjoy the ride, even when the road is rocky and occasionally lined with the figurative horse crap. 

It's hard enough on its own, but it gets even tougher in these times. With the constant loom of social media displaying everyone's yearly highlight reel like some sort of publicly viewable trophy room, you can't help but feel like you have to compare yourself regularly against their achievements. 

You think you've done awfully good for yourself until you see a younger batchmate get on TV, or someone you didn't think highly of get promoted in a great company. Everyone's lives are on full display, and it's only natural that some would look brighter than yours.

But here's what I'm really curious about:

Are their lives really as peachy as they and their friends make it seem? And even if it is, why should I even care about the life that's not mine to live anyway?

I don't know. The way I'm wired makes me obsess about trivialities like this. It might be my way of subconsciously measuring my own worth against others. I'm probably just looking for some confirmation that I'm headed somewhere, but it makes me feel bad knowing I'm unintentionally using my peers as either goal posts to aspire to or cautionary tales to avoid. 

I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking this. The uncertainty of early adult life is intimidating. You never know what'll happen, as even the best laid plans can go awry. All you can do is work, dream and keep your focus. Because in the bigger scheme of things, no one will care more about your life than you.

That's why I can't wait to see where I'll eventually end up in 5, 10, or 20 years. I can only hope it's something I'll be satisfied with.

Happy New Year to you. Now go, make something.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Alone


I often wonder why our culture seems so shocked by the fact that some people prefer doing certain things alone. Whenever people hear that I often shop, eat and watch a movie by myself, the most common reaction is "why?"

I've given up trying to make people understand. I'm just wired that way, and no words can fully explain it. It's not that I'm antisocial. I simply enjoy the aforementioned activities with or without company.

Our culture is obviously quite extroverted. It's become somewhat of a social stigma to be alone in a public place, and God help you if people find out that you prefer it that way.

Is it really that hard to grasp the concept of some people needing more alone time than others? Since when has it been a taboo to enjoy spending time with yourself?

I've never asked an extrovert these questions. I do understand why they enjoy going out so much, because I enjoy it too. Just not on their level nor frequency. Prolonged social interactions tire me out, even when it's fun.

That's kind of a problem, because people often mistake me for an extrovert. When I'm with good friends, I'm loud and bustling with energy. I drop joke after joke while chugging down the booze like a hardened sailor. But I can't keep that up as long (or as consistently) as true social butterflies can.

That's when I get asked the somewhat annoying questions. "Bakit ang tahimik mo bigla?" "Uy, okay ka lang?" Relax, people. I just need a break. Or maybe I'm just bored with the direction we've taken with this night's topics.

When I'm with people, I need a good variety of talking points to stay focused. I don't mind discussing the newest pop trends or crass showbiz rumors, but those things get tiring after a while. I much prefer to have deep, meaningful conversations. I want to talk about topics that matter (to me, at least).

Unfortunately, not everyone knows or cares much about these things. Sometimes, it seems like I'm wasting my time trying to explain my perspective. And the sad part is, I'm not even trying to convince or sway them to my personal biases. I just want a have an impassioned conversation, one that's thought-provoking and honest. Is it really that weird? Isn't that what makes us socially intelligent beings?

If I can't get that from being with people, is it any wonder now why I prefer being alone?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

For the Woman I Loved the Most in the Whole World

Life begins and life ends. That's the way it is, and the way it always will be. But we don't often realize that until it's too late. We were reminded of that fact this morning, when my grandmother passed away with almost no warning. I was in the office when I got the news, and that single text message broke me down completely.

My first reaction was to curse in disbelief. I re-read the message again to make sure I had not misunderstood it. I didn't. She was gone forever, and I was unsure how to act. So I retreated into a corner and did the only thing I could: I cried my heart out.

In the middle of my uncontrolled weeping, I realized this was really happening. It sunk in like an anchor, dragging my optimism about her supposedly improved condition with it. I broke down knowing that I will never hear her voice again. I will never taste her cooking again. I will never hear her wonder aloud if I was gay again. All her quirks, mannerisms and expressions are just memories now.

I couldn't accept it. I still can't. Especially not after seeing (and feeling) her dead, cold body. I cried again after that. It seemed unfair that it should happen so soon. I had so many things left to say, and so many things I wanted to do. Her birthday was just 2 weeks away, and I was looking forward to buying her something really nice. Maybe treat her to a classic Spanish dinner. She was a simple woman, my lola. Food and company were all it really took to make her happy.

And we all loved making her smile. She became more child-like with old age, and despite it making her more impatient, stubborn, and a little insensitive, we all knew she was still our sweet old lola. She still loved us very much, and showed it every way she could. She'd bring home food for us whenever possible. She always worries sick whenever my sisters were out late. She'd constantly ask us about our careers, making sure we were happy with it. Hell, she would even troll us occasionally. She cared about us a lot, and so did we to her.

I think we all knew this was coming, but we just didn't want to acknowledge it. The signs were there. She was getting more forgetful, and had trouble with her normal body functions. She started eating a lot more than she usually did, despite her doctor telling her to limit her food intake. She would get mad when we tried to enforce her strict, doctor-ordered diet. It was a constant challenge getting her dressed and bathed, and sitting for long periods of time would give her difficulty standing up.

Still, I guess we all thought it would happen later rather than sooner. She was still very lucid and full of personality. I thought we'd still have at least one more Christmas with her; probably her favorite time of the year. I thought we could go on more food adventures to find her stuff she'd love eating. We all wanted her to come home safe so that she could get to know our sweet new puppy, Mochi. Even in her final hours, she was asking about the dog, since she loved animals like we did.

It's just so heartbreaking.

I have many regrets over everything. Our busy lives made it difficult to save time for her. We had our fair share of quality bonding moments, but in hindsight, they seem so inadequate now. I guess what really hurts is knowing I could have given her more. More of my time, more of my attention, and more of my love. She deserved it, after all. We'll always remember her as our defender, nourisher, and source of inspiration for living a simple but good life. She made us all better people.

Most of all, I'll remember her as my second mother, and the woman I loved the most in this world. We were raised in her house, but she made sure it was our home. She made me believe that the world is not always the evil place I know it could be. She reminded me that family was everything. She was my heroine.

And now she's gone. Just like that. I'm not sure when I'll be able to accept it completely. What I know for sure is that I will never forget her and everything she taught us.

Rest in peace, Lola. You'll live in our hearts forever.






Saturday, August 10, 2013

Guess

We're all familiar with that feeling. Depending on personalities and circumstances involved, it could result in anything from broken things or crooked smiles. Quick goodbyes and half-baked lies. We cope better every time we encounter it, but it never fails to suck. It gets stuck in our throats, choking us of words and logic, strangling our hearts, clouding our mood.

Maybe it's for the better, we say. But it's hard to think that way right now.

Not while it's fresh.

Has it sunk in yet? Did you attempt to cure it? Has it left a scar? Did it re-open?

Only time will tell.

For now, it stings like a fucker. We ask why it happened the way it happened, only making it worse. Sometimes, it's not our fault. But it can sure feel that way.

Was it selfishness? Boredom? Conceit? Malice? Pettiness? Paranoia?

Maybe it's just the same thing I'm feeling now, just magnified to horrific, reality-warping proportions.

What caused it? I can only guess. I promised not to go there. But I still did, as I just couldn't help it.

It's torture. Self-inflicted. Plain and simple. Looping on end.

It ends when I want it to end.

If only you thought the same.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Seductive Lives or Deceptive Lies?

I haven't been writing here too much. My day job plus my work at Pepper.ph  sort of makes my personal blog look like a juvenile effort now. I actually have the time to be more productive here, but my willingness to do so is lacking. Besides, even an introvert needs a social life, or what passes for it in my case.

Anyway, I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about delayed gratification. It's something that most people of my generation seem to have a problem with. While I definitely grew up at the start of the information age, I still remember the pre-online era. Fondly, I might add. Back then, I didn't have to worry about what others were doing to make themselves look cool. And happy. And stable.

But I admit, the online world's convenience of getting everything you need quickly has made our lives richer, busier, and more open than ever. I just wish it didn't also make us more shallow, vain, and impatient. We simply want everything now, and God help the person who stands in our way.

I guess it's just my cynical self at work here. While I'm no shining model of financial restraint, I do find myself scratching my head at people (my age) that are buried in debts. Or selling stuff to buy newer stuff. Or going out of town almost every month.

How are they affording this stuff? I suspect credit cards. Or overly generous parents (or boyfriends). Maybe both. Am I jealous? Partly. I'm the type of person who's not materialistic, but is easily seduced by the sheen of bling in all its forms.

I guess it's human nature to want more. But how much is enough? I don't know. Maybe there is no limit, especially when people like Henry Sy exist. As much as I want to believe that money isn't everything, it's pretty hard to deny its power.

Someday I just might find out how true or not this is. But until that day, I'll continue to not make it a bigger deal than it is. It's just a tool, and how you think of it and use it says a lot more about you than how much of it you have.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Starting Over... Again

I have now been working for a year and 5 months. Doesn't seem like too long, but it does. I think it's because in that short time, I've been employed thrice already. Not exactly the track record a regular boss would trust eh?

But then again, I'm no stranger to starting over. I spent a year in another course before entering art school, where I found out that I'm not really made for it. Hence, my 4 years spent honing my visual design skills have been essentially wasted. It now gets kind of annoying to remember that, especially when people point out that a copywriter shouldn't be critiquing design. (Even if I do have SOME idea of how the visuals should look.)

I guess I can't blame them. Society loves putting tags on us to make everything seem simpler. It rarely is.

What I do know to be simple enough (at least for me) is starting over. It's a luxury that not everyone has. To some, it's just something they're not willing to do. I find it disheartening at times, especially when I see talented people too afraid to leave their comfort zones.

"Don't you realize how much you're wasting your life here?" is one thing that I often think, but never say to these people. Because it is a) arrogant of me to do so, (b) not something I have to say if they really aspire to be more.

In a perfect world, we'd all have unlimited opportunities to be everything we wish to be. In there, I might finally be able to decide if I really want to be a novelist, a comic book writer, a movie critic, or a film director. Maybe even all of them, if I would be so lucky.

Too bad real life doesn't work that way. There's just not enough time to be indecisive. You either stick with something and learn to either love it or despise it, or you keep trying until you find it.

I believe I have been lucky lately. I've been getting nice breaks and seeing the changes that a different environment and radical (but likable) people bring. I think I've finally started walking towards the path I want, even if it's still not too clear to me yet.

I guess what they say is true, you do get luckier when you work harder. It seems like the universe isn't always a huge bitch, as she will occasionally recognize your efforts and throw you a bone if you work hard (and smart) enough.

That's why I never underestimate luck. It is something that most successful people downplay, because it kind of implies that they didn't totally deserve prosperity. I think that is not true. Everyone who's ever succeeded needed luck to do so. But the difference between them and the average person is that they do not rely on it. They just work hard, play it smart, and let luck take care of the rest. For them, good luck is only a welcome result, not a crucial ingredient.

I just hope I keep getting lucky. I wish to never get tired of starting over. It might be crazy for me to think like this, but the people who change the world are never completely sane. Now I have no delusions about being a game-changer, but I do know I have a good amount of crazy in me. And while it backfires on me occasionally, I've been slowly learning how to channel it into more productive means. And it is starting to pay off, I can feel it.

That's the beauty of starting over. You get to see things in a different light. You learn from your past mistakes. You realize that you still learned some fairly useful stuff from the suckiness of your former jobs. And you experience new things you otherwise wouldn't have if you had kept on going the same path.

So when you feel like you're not getting the most out of your life, or not living up to your potential, do consider starting over. You owe yourself that chance. Whether or not you believe that is entirely up to you.







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