New Year, New Site

Hello, all! Hope you have all stuck around whilst I’ve been taking some time away from posting every waking moment. If so, I truly appreciate you and your support for my content.

With that appreciation, I now ask for a huge favor in my next endeavor. I’ve hinted at it in the past, but only recently have I taken the plunge and have gone head-first into new territory.

Yes, I now have my own domain, a new self-running website, and new content to spring at you. I want to fully dedicate myself to the world of blogging, which means each post will involve more time and effort to hopefully better serve as a resource for my readers.

So what’s new with my site? alliemaelynn.com is still just me, the same ol’ person at the keyboard typing away about whatever I deem important and inspirational to discuss. I’ll still be discussing the same types of topics I already do, including mental health, spirituality, and sustainability. These are all still very important to me.

However, I really want to hone in on these topics into one overarching goal: to help others live a life prioritizing wellness. I’ve always considered the term “wellness” as one requiring a multi-faceted understanding of physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of ourselves.

By becoming more mindful and grounded in what makes us better selves, we can then translate that into wellness beyond ourselves. We are more aware of how our choices and actions affect others and the world around us. This is where my passions for sustainability, veganism, and advocacy come into play. We establish the foundation of wellness within ourselves, and then we can focus our intentions outward.

That’s all fine and dandy, but what else is new besides an actual domain name? Since I plan to take more time with each post I write to ensure they can be easily shared and helpful for you, I’m cutting back on how often I post each week. Let’s be honest, it was already crazy busting out 5 posts every week, but I still plan on sharing 3 different posts: one post for your own wellness, one for outward wellness, and one for me just to chat about whatever tickles my fancy. As always, you can find these posts shared across my social media platforms with a new emphasis on Pinterest.

These three posts each week will also include a new tidbit at the end of my long-form rambling, and that is a mindful meditation. In a few short sentences, I’m including a spiritually inclined devotion to provide a higher focus and purpose behind what I share, as well as start the day on a gracious, humble foot. A goal for myself this year is to become more open and involved in my faith rather than tiptoe around it in fear of offending others, but at the end of the day, this is my site, and if you’re here for my opinions and beliefs, then that’s a big part of it.

Besides all that jazz, I’m just going with the flow and seeing where this new step takes me. With greater flexibility and independence on my own website, I really have no clue what possibilities could come from this, but I’d really love to be able to make my blog a “side hustle,” as the kids call it, and put my heart and soul into my work. Not like I already did, but now I have a reason to be more focused and serious about what I do as an online creative.

Again, thank you all so much for being a part of this journey. I highly encourage you to join me on alliemaelynn.com and subscribe to my posts. Share my site and posts with others who might benefit from them, and please provide any feedback you have so I can make my site a resourcefor you to enjoy.

Change is scary, and so is going into an unknown where I could fall flat on my face, but I’m ready for the challenge.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Double the Characters

Typically when you’re scrolling through your social media feeds, it’s a pretty mindless activity. Not much changes. People share their food pictures and fast-paced recipe videos. They tweet with whatever trending hashtags are relevant at that given moment.

Only when there’s a new major update on a social media platform do people start to pay attention. Or, in most cases, we’re disoriented by a slightly different interface that really isn’t that big of a deal but still jaunts off from the norm.

As was the case last week when Twitter introduced a select number of users who will be testing out an expansion from the usual 140 character limit to 280. At first glance, that might not seem that groundbreaking of an upgrade, but it truly does make a difference for both parties, the “tweeters” and “tweetees,” if you will.

A New York Times article about the test-run says the goal was to eliminate constraints that have kept people from tweeting more frequently. Apparently, many people hesitate to post on Twitter because they must reluctantly shorten their thoughts. They previously made changes when they allowed people to add more characters even with photos and links, but this now constitutes anything.

So how much of a big deal is this, really? Probably not much. I know my personal experience being on Twitter won’t change, at least for now. I have only seen a few random retweets of people who are in the test group, and it’s joggling to the see the difference double the length makes, even if that length is still “brief.”

In a way, that seemingly insignificant change goes against the principles of first learning and using Twitter. Spending three years studying media and how much even in these short years it has changed, Twitter was always something toted as a “microblog.” It can be used as a means of online note-taking. It’s slick to use for those quick updates, forcing people to really keep their words thoughtful and concise.

In its current form, Twitter has been very innovative and helpful in teaching us (hopefully) to choose our words carefully. Every character matters. There is no room to dillydally and throw letters around for fun. Which you still can either way, but for those who want to post for a purpose, we must make the most of our limited space knowing we cannot ramble on forever or go back to edit. Honestly, of all the changes to make, Twitter, why don’t you trust let us edit posts we make a single spelling error in? That’s more of a pain than character limits.

Because are we really changing back into creatures with long-enough attention spans that want to both read and write longer excerpts? Even after over a year and a half of writing on my website, I still wonder: how many people actually read through the entire extent of my daily posts? After establishing a routine of around 800 words every weekday, it just seems natural to write this much any given post. Anything less seems like it’s missing content, that I’m ending it without putting in my full effort.

But we still gravitate toward the click-baity posts that are just random lists, or a bunch of gifs and photos, or pointless quizzes trying to determine our personalities based on astrology. Anybody who devotes time toward blogging, regardless of how often or what they post, has to compete with the content that probably took a couple of minutes to throw together.

Blogging how I do, as this very post demonstrates, allows me the freedom to take what is another headline down a sometimes very different train of thought, providing greater meaning to what is made brief. That is what distinguishes Twitter from traditional blogging: Twitter is not meant for this. I don’t visit the site to read long, tumbling thoughts. I allow simple thoughts and sentences, regardless of their brevity, to speak for themselves. Being short and limited with your words can make the greatest impact. (I say as I continue to keep writing.)

While I don’t have too strong of an opinion of what direction social media sites go since their focus is generally on staying in business, I do have an opinion on how we use our words on and off the internet. There is a time and place for baring your soul and writing a novel’s worth of ideas. There is also a time and place for not speaking at all, or only using the simplest of terms to emphasize the necessity to say less and allow greater room for personal interpretation. I mean, isn’t that the point of social media? To throw an idea out there and allow others to bounce their thoughts off of that and starting a conversation from it?

Make your words matter. Use them wisely. They have a greater impact than you might realize. I hope you speak with the best intentions, with a desire to grow and uplift others.

What are your thoughts on Twitter’s probable switch to 280 characters? Let me know down below.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Virtual Support

It is far into May already, and I have yet to observe this month as one for National Mental Health Awareness. Silly me. Luckily others have taken notice and have brought light to this important time.

Except…sometimes I don’t know how I feel about it. Of course, I appreciate any effort people take to bring attention to mental health. Earlier this week I even read an article in USA Today about mental health services on college campuses, an encouraging sign that it’s a growing issue we cannot help but discuss.

Another form of support and attention is actually just right at our fingertips. Instagram is trying to help users find more support on its platform by having certain hashtags dedicated to people and groups that help those in need. Apparently, searching for a hashtag like #HereforYou will bring up results that break through the expected facade of social media for more intimate, helpful posts.

It’s no secret that social media isn’t the healthiest pastime to depend upon. It can be depressing to look at photos of others out doing amazing, fun activities with others. Of course you’re happy for others just enjoying life, but it’s very easy to have this acknowledgement turn into comparison. Even when it’s normal to have “FOMO,” the fear of missing out, the phenomenon is extremely isolating.

And what is isolation known for leading to? Anxiety of not doing enough with your life. Feeling hopeless about it. Not to mention how mental illness is often portrayed on social media as “trendy” or “glamorous.” A sadness that isn’t crippling. A problem that is simultaneously tragic and beautiful. Sorry, but if you’re feeling especially depressed or anxious, you probably won’t feel like posting at all unless you’re mooching others for sympathy which won’t help anybody.

We’re still biased. We still use filters before sharing with others. Many other platforms besides Instagram have begun including tools that anonymously flag any content that appears emotionally troubling. By enabling users to project the highlights of their lives, while ignoring the lower moments, social media likely contributes to feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress, particularly in young teens still trying to understand themselves and their emotions. Trust me, if I had this much social media at my disposal throughout my high school years, I’d be asking for trouble.

I don’t want to sound too critical. I am beyond glad that social media is using its great potential for good causes. But I don’t think that it’s enough, at least in this case. I mean, Instagram isn’t exactly the leader in actual conversation, which I think is much more productive. A lot of what we’ve tried to do thus far in breaking the stigma is more passive, despite using social media to communicate it. 140 characters doesn’t fully get the point across. Watching one video probably won’t change your outlook on depression or anxiety.

But it’s certainly an opportunity to start a conversation, to spark an idea for more. It’s wonderful to find people physically out of reach who you can connect with on a vulnerable level. We’re in a different era than even ten years ago when talking to others online was a recipe for disaster. Now we don’t even question it. We are less hesitant opening up about our struggles for anybody with a wireless connection can see. My blog would be nothing that it is without me letting down my guard and openly discussing my most painful moments.

As a writer, I’m biased toward long-form prose to express myself. Others might gravitate toward music or art or whatever else floats their boats. But I do have to question how these other mediums might affect others. Since there is more individual interpretation involved, less words overtly said, do we fully realize what might be behind a song or painting? Even when I’m rambling on about my feelings, I cannot fully explain my thoughts. So I expect nothing less with an Instagram post, no matter how artistic or “raw.” We might feel something when looking at a photograph, but how often do we act on it? Rarely. We keep scrolling. And we still see a majority of content that is usually surface-level.

Social media, as I’ve said numerous times, is a double-edged sword. Perhaps it can provide the necessary connections for learning more and spreading a positive message, but it shouldn’t be relied upon as an end-all solution. It’s a noteworthy effort that, while with good intentions, ignores the explicit association between social media and mental illness. Real life is not always “worthy” of being on an Instagram story (do people even use those? And if so, why?) or sharing with lots of friends expecting to receive a flood of “like” notifications. It probably feels worse to take the time to post something and receive less like’s than expected. Or compare like and follower numbers to others. It really is a mess when you think about it.

The quicker we can amplify the mental health movement beyond hashtags into other forums for active change and acknowledgement, the better off we’ll be. Social media posts tend to end up in a hamster wheel, creating some conversation but always fading away and remaining stagnant. We cannot afford to let mental health fade away as if it’s a trendy topic. We need conversation and action. Once we take mental health stigma to our real lives, I’d say I would be truly #blessed.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie