Why Reaching Out to Your Friends Matters

In the age of instant communication and non-stop interactions, it is easy to minimize the importance of reaching out to friends and family. Whether it is a call, a short text, or a simple email, it is almost always a welcome, significant, and meaningful gesture—for both the recipient and the initiator.

Research conducted by The American Psychological Association found that casual “check-ins” to the people in our various social networks mean a great deal more than we usually think.

“Even sending a brief message reaching out to check in on someone, just to say ‘Hi,’ that you are thinking of them, and to ask how they’re doing, can be appreciated more than people think.”

Peggy Liu, associate professor of business administration with the University of Pittsburgh Katz Graduate School of Business

According to the findings, the number of actual phone conversations people initiate these days is dramatically lower than in the past. Calling people is perceived to be an imposition on their time; it can feel less awkward to reach out via text or social media. But regardless of how we are creating the connection, the quick and effortless check-in is deemed meaningful, enjoyable, and important by those on the receiving end. While we might feel bad about interrupting someone’s day or taking away time from their other responsibilities, this research suggests that reaching out “just to say hi” is a powerful and important gesture.

As people, we are ingrained with the counterintuitive (and often destructive) assumption that our family and loved ones are not as interested in connection as we are, or as we’d like to be. Dr. Marisa Franco, psychologist, author, and University of Maryland assistant clinical professor, points to a “liking gap,” as the primary hindrance to most people’s communications.

Another reason people might keep themselves from calling or texting is  the “beautiful mess effect.” We have a hard time inquiring about a friend or loved one for fear of having to show our own vulnerabilities and/ or being judged by that person.

To be functioning at our best, we need to be in a connected state. Just like you need to eat, like you need to drink, you need to be connected to be functioning well.

Dr. Marisa Franco

Another exploration of this issue, published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, indicates that older adults link their sense of purpose directly to the positive social interactions they have on a regular basis.

With more and more Americans reporting a heightened sense of loneliness (contributing to what some are reporting as a loneliness crisis) made complicated — and intense — by pandemic-related regulations and habits, these studies underscore what we have likely known all along: a little bit (of connection) can go a long way (to easing someone else’s hardship). These two studies- and several others- draw attention to the need to connect with others each and every day. We all need to view our familial ties and friendships as critical pieces of our well-being. Even if/when making those connections seems like a burden or feels awkward, it needs to be a part of our self-care routine, just like eating healthy and exercising.

How to Help an Unemployed Friend: Jayme Albin, Ph.D. Advises

Alongside all the restrictions and regulations set in place to curb the spread of corona, many people are looking for constructive ways to help and support those affected by the virus. As the economic fallout of the past few months unfolds, more and more people are facing unemployment (or underemployment). We spoke to Dr. Jayme Albin, a New York psychologist, to hear about how friends or family can support their jobless loved ones right now.

1) Be Present. True friends don’t shy away from awkward situations. It can be uncomfortable to reach out to an unemployed friend when your job is still in tact, but that is what you need to do. Even if you can’t be physically present, set a time to chat, share a good joke, and be their source of strength. You may not necessarily be able to help them with their job search, but you can help them with your positivity and friendship.

2) Offer Concrete Advice. Looking for a new job can be overwhelming. Albin cautions against extending platitudes and vague advice. Instead, she suggests, looking at their online profiles, (like LinkedIn) and making tangible suggestions. Offer assistance in professionalizing their digital presence; recommend employment websites you have tried.

3) Be a Connector. Unemployed friends don’t only need a job. They also need connections to the right people who can lead to the job interviews and network building. Think about the people in your immediate and extended circles who might be able to help your friend. Think about the skills and experience your friend has, Albin recommends, and then consult your contact list to see who might be able to help.

4) Don’t Judge or Blame. Nobody could have predicted the current economic turmoil; nobody should be blamed for being laid off or out of work. Avoid drudging up a friend’s past mistakes and stay focused on the future. Don’t worry or nag when it seems that your friend isn’t taking job searching seriously. Be consistently supportive by reminding them of all their good traits and skills and sending them relevant job opportunities.

Bringing a meal is a practical and easy way to help an unemployed friend, says Dr. Jayme Albin.

5) Do Them a Favor. The job search can seem like a full-time job itself. With all the worries your friend might be facing now, they can always use some help. You can make their lives easier be sending over dinner, taking their young children for a few hours, or stocking up their pantry with supplies. Dr. Albin says that most people find it hard to ask for help, even if they really need it, so just decide what you can do to help and do it.

Jayme Albin reminds us that this is a challenging time for everyone. The best way to show an unemployed friend or family member you care is to be a source of support, not a source of stress. Be the person who boosts confidence, stays positive, and follows through. This will not only help your friend right now, according to Dr. Albin, but it will also strengthen your friendship in the long run.

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Instagram Launches New Year’s Eve Photo Stream

instagram_nye_large_largeInstagram’s New Year’s Eve photo stream is the first of its kind. Featuring photos of confetti throwing, countdowns, romantic dinners and exciting parties, the gallery collects and organizes all New Year’s photos documented by users across the globe.

Instagram’s blog explained:

“We love seeing photos shared from all different parts of the world. At instagran.com/nye, you can see photos from every part of the world as the clock strikes midnight in a given time zone.”

The navigation button at the bottom of the page allows users to jump between time zones. The stream is available in desktop and mobile settings, though the desktop browser version has many additional features.

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Instagram has been working to expand their business by moving from a mobile-only app to a larger, broader platform. The desktop New Year’s Eve photo stream reveals a glimpse of what they have planned.


Rebecca Black’s “Friday”

If you have a teen/pre-teen child, you may have heard of the song “Friday” or the 13-year-old singer Rebecca Black. Your children may have had extremely varied reactions, ranging from obsession to utter ridicule.

The song was written by Clarence Jay and Patrice Wilson, and sung by Rebecca Black, a 13-year old from Anaheim Hills, California. It was produced by the ARK Music Factory, and released on March 14th. Within its first week, it jumped to spot #19 on the iTunes sales chart. The music video also became a major hit on YouTube, jumping from 3,000 views to 18 million in a single week. The sudden climb in views was a result of a Tosh.0 blog titled “Songwriting Isn’t for Everyone.” Forbes has explained that the popularity of the song is yet another example of the power of social media- specifically Facebook, Twitter and in this case, Tumblr.

The song and video make heavy use of Auto-Tune, the pitch-correcting software. Black’s mother, Georgina Kelly, was the one who made it all possible for Rebecca. After hearing of ARK Music Factory, Kelly paid $2,000 for a package that included a choice of two pre-written songs. Black chose the song “Friday” because “the other song was about adult love- and I haven’t experienced that yet,” she explained. “’Friday’ is about hanging out with friends, having fun. I felt like it was my personality in that song.”

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The reviews have been primarily negative, stating that it is “the worst song ever,” “bizarre,” “inept,” and “hilariously dreadful.” What do you think?