This is Life, Based on a True Story  

The Like-Me Generation

To “Like” or not to “Like,” that is indeed the question.

I’m talking about the Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat likes-and-views counter. These seemingly harmless numbers have become new measures by which kids — and adults — measure their popularity and in some cases, their worth.

A high number of likes must translate into many people actually liking me, right? That’s what some people think.

Kids are particularly at risk of falling into this trap. Most kids seem to get some form of social media account in the range of 10-13 years of age.

They soon realize the powerful feeling of posting a picture or status update and the heady rush one gets when you see you have dozens or hundreds of likes.

This has actually translated into some kids focusing their time and energy on becoming Internet and social media superstars.

For example, the latest and greatest is creating an Instagram account with tons of followers. For anyone who doesn’t know what Instagram is, it’s a picture-based social media platform.

You can post a picture and use a bunch of different filters to achieve a desired “edit” of the photo. Add a quick caption and a few hashtags, and you could be well on your way to achieving Insta-fame status.

Well, that’s the hope anyway. The reality though is that this type fame is usually reserved for an elite few. The same few who already have celebrity status – celebrities, sports stars and socialites.

So what’s the driving force behind kids (and adults) wanting to do this? It’s a combination of fame, money, and the chance to stand out from the crowd.

It’s hard not to want the perks-and-cash flow that come from getting a product endorsement. Look at any celebrity Instagram account and they’re littered with advertising from various sources.

The vendors know that to get their product to the forefront of people’s minds, they need someone perceived as successful to push it. They pay the celebrity to endorse it on their social media accounts because these people have millions of followers watching their every move, post and status update.

The most attractive thing about this set-up to a vulnerable kid is that you don’t need any special talent to do this. You just need to post a photo or funny one-liner and get enough people to share and like it.

But as with anything that seems to good to be true, this scheme has more than its fair share of negativity. The No. 1 being that anyone can follow you or your kid. And I mean anyone.

Now, I could go on about the dangers of the Internet at this point, but I’d rather take a different path and give you something else to think about.

To a kid, likes on a photo equates to likes in real life. It offers a false sense of popularity that these kids thrive on. Not getting likes on a post can create anxiety and an obsession with checking their post over and over to see if the like counter has increased.

Both my kids have told me many stories of people they know who will delete their post if they don’t get enough shares or likes. They don’t want the stigma or the embarrassment of being the person who wasn’t popular enough to generate more than a few measly likes.

The whole likes and comment counter thing has grown to a point where it’s directly impacting a kids self esteem. Everyone wants to feel heard and recognized, and for the upcoming generation today, it’s via social media that they’ll get this instant gratification.

And I get that, I really do. I too have fallen prey to this form of ego petting. Not only through things I might post on social media, but also through this column.

I get excited when I see have a few thousand views. In my head, that means a few thousand people are reading this column of mine. But as someone wisely pointed out to me, that too is a false sense of audience reach.

People may be clicking on my column link, but not necessarily reading it. Or they may just be reading the first few lines and backing out. Or they may have even clicked on it by accident.

The moral to this story is simple.

While likes and shares and comments are an indication of people taking a mild interest in your life at that moment, it’s not a measure of who your friends are, your popularity or your standing in this world.

It’s meant to be a form of entertainment and sharing tidbits of your life. Not the scale upon which you live your life. But for the record, I’m still going to continue to check my own column counts and Facebook stats too.

Thanks for reading.


Separation is sweet sorrow

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seem more people are getting separated and divorced now than ever before.

Why do I think this? Well for one, I’m part of that crowd. But then there are the facts and the stories we likely all hear about: yet another couple splits up … and there seems to be a lot.

This whole topic has been fodder for conversation between me and some of my friends. Not in a judgmental way – just more of a pondering as to why this seems to be happening more often than in the past.

I know so many people who have experienced this, are experiencing it or are about to experience it. So I did what I do best: I talked to them. I asked them what their thoughts are about separation and divorce, specifically their own.

First, I just want to note that everyone I chatted with has kids. Their kids are all self-sufficient and no longer require full-time, hands-on parenting that a young child or toddler does. The fact that all these people have kids this age is an important player in this.

There seems to be a disconnect that happens among couples once their kids are of a certain age. One person said you put so much time and energy into raising these little people to become good humans that you actually change who you are.

Meaning that values or morals you once held dear may no longer apply when it comes to rearing your own offspring. Or on the opposite end are values or morals that you never put much stock into pre-children, now become the guides for how you want to raise your kids.

These are big things that will affect your inner you and who you evolve into. The disconnect among the couple happens when the other person doesn’t change to match their partner’s evolution, when they don’t agree with their partner, or when they just don’t care.

One person said that prior to having children, she and her ex-spouse discussed whether church would play a big role in raising a family. When they were young and starry-eyed, neither felt much affinity to a church.

After they had kids, she realized she did want to raise the kids the way she was raised by her parents – “in the church.”

Her ex didn’t have a problem with it; he just didn’t care.

He never participated in the outings her and their kids would go to if it involved the church. She started to feel more loyalty toward her church friends because they shared the same values.

That’s when the breakdown in her marriage started. They no longer shared the same ideals when it came to raising a family. They tried mediation and counselling and fought for two years to get their marriage back on track, but they couldn’t overcome their differences.

They are now divorced and, much to her chagrin, her kids don’t have a lot to do with their dad as they prefer to be with her because their friends and other influences in their lives come from the church and environment they were raised in.

Raising children is hard. No one disputes that.

One guy I spoke to said that it becomes so apparent how much your relationship changes as kids are growing up. Between both parents working full-time just to barely make ends meet, then not sitting down at the end of the day for a family dinner.

As the kids get older, they want to spend more time with their friends, less time with the parents and so the family unit starts to disintegrate. 

One day, you look up, and you realize you don’t even know the person on the other couch. Despite attempts to reconnect, it feels like too much time and life has passed to be able to find common ground.

In some cases, you realize you don’t even really like the person sitting across from you. They’re different now and so are you.

After all the time you put into raising the kids and building a life for them, you now want to explore your own needs and dreams again. The ones you put on hold or forgot about so you could focus on family.

You rationalize the kids are old enough now and you’re not getting younger, so its now or never. Some attempts are made to resurrect the marriage, but there always seems to be one half of the couple who has already moved on in their mind and so you decide to end it.

Is it right? No. But it’s easy to do unfortunately. This guy goes on to say that he has three friends living this exact situation right now. And like him, they will soon be divorced.

Another couple is contemplating the separation thing right now. One wants to end things, the other doesn’t. When one of them questions the other about how long do they continue like this, the response was forever. They have to continue because they’re married and they have to figure things out.

I admire that commitment. It's what marriage is about. For their sake, I really hope they can work things out and hope they beat the rising divorce statistics.

Despite being one of the statistics, I’m pro-marriage. It is a lot of work, and hindsight shows you so much more. It’s sad that divorce is so easy to do nowadays and perhaps that plays a role in the number of divorces going up so rapidly.

Whatever a couple’s reason for divorce, it’s their life. I’m hopeful that if anything good comes out of this, it’s that my divorce-savvy generation can teach the upcoming generations the value of putting in the effort to make a relationship successful.

Thanks for reading.

The awkward goodbye

One of the hardest words to say is goodbye.

Like many people, saying goodbye is not something I’m good at. But what is there to be good at?

It’s one word. Yet, it can be so difficult to say. Maybe it’s the finality of what it represents. That goodbye means this is for a long time — sometimes forever as in the case of someone passing away.

I feel like I’ve had a lot of goodbyes to deal with lately, both directly and indirectly.

I recently moved departments at my job, so had to say goodbye to co-workers I’ve jived with for over two and a half years.

It was bittersweet in that it's hard to leave what you know and love, but I went to a new department full of new experiences and equally awesome colleagues.

Indirectly, I recently said goodbye to two people who passed away unexpectedly. I say indirectly because I didn’t participate in either of their life celebrations put on by their respective families.

However, as I knew the families, and in the case of one, was once a part of their lives; I both mourned and said goodbye to two lives that ended far too early.

This whole column though was triggered by a goodbye I had to say this morning.

A good friend and her family are moving for job reasons. It will turn out well for them and I’m happy for her opportunity. But it's still hard to see them go.

It was while saying the final goodbye and giving each other the last hug that I realized how inept I am at doing the whole goodbye thing.

My friend had previously asked me if I wanted the meat and a few other things from their freezer as everything would go bad during the move and she didn’t want to just throw stuff out.

Of course, I said yes and went to pick it up. After everything was packed into my car, my friend and I chatted for a bit and marvelled at how much our lives had changed in two years.

The time came for me to leave, so I gave her a final hug and said “goodbye, I’ll miss you and thanks for the meat.”

Thanks for the meat? That was my final send-off?

I’m afraid it was. But the reality behind that awkward moment is that I was trying not to cry.

What I really wanted to say to her was she means the world to me and I’m going to miss wine nights in her living room surrounded by her baby and husband and cats and good food.

You often hear people say this isn’t goodbye, just so long or till we meet again. And certainly this is also the case with my friend. I can go and visit her and her family and she can come back to visit me here too.

It still doesn’t take away the sting though of someone leaving your immediate, easily accessible world.

So to my friend: so long, I’ll see you soon. Drive safely to your new destination. Kick butt in your new position. Keep a bottle chilled for when I come to visit.

And most important, thanks for the meat.

Thanks for reading.


Depressing times

I’ve been struggling with bouts of depression.

Nothing specific really triggered it, although I like to blame it on the winter that never ends. I don’t feel sad all the time, but it’s definitely more prevalent than the odd blah day.

Ten years ago – heck even two years ago — I’d never have admitted this. It makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me.

So much has been brought to our attention lately about mental health not being a stigma with a negative connotation attached. And, yet, I still feel shy about bringing this out in the open. But the other side of me knows I’m not the only one and perhaps I’m speaking on behalf of you.

Here’s a bit of background. When I had my first child 17 years ago, I “got” post-partum depression. I didn’t know it at the time as I’d never experienced anything even remotely like it. I just assumed it was those good ol’ “baby blues” that didn’t end.

My doctor recognized the symptoms and took action. I recall being so embarrassed by it. I was given a prescription and required to go for weekly visits to my doctor for follow-up.

Lucky for me, my doctor and his nurse were amazing. They knew I needed a ton of support and they did what they could from their perspectives. I was so grateful, even now, I still feel grateful to them.

At one point, years after that experience, I sent them a letter of thanks.

Since then, I’ve been somewhat untouched by depression or other mental-health issues. Anything that’s presented itself has also been quick to resolve. I’ve never counted those periods as a time of depression.

So this took me by surprise. It took me awhile to admit to myself that depression had reared its jerk head in my life once again. It was the recent, unexpected passing of someone I knew that made me say to myself, “OK, you’re depressed. Time to deal with it. “

I look back over recent months and it’s now so obvious to me how it’s affected me. Everything from my wardrobe to my lifestyle reflects how I’ve been feeling.

Any clothes I’ve bought have been darker toned and kind of frumpy, and my lifestyle has been completely interrupted.

I loved going to my gym and would get up at 5 a.m. to go. Since depression kicked in, I miss more days than I make. This then leads me to feel guilty about spending so much money on something I’m not even using and it gives me another reason to feel crappy about myself. 

I see it as my failure.

I know this is all within my control and yet the motivation factor can’t be found. I’ve become quite reclusive. Whereas before, I’d go out with friends and make efforts to get together with them; now, I just go home every day so I can put on my sweats and do nothing and contact no one.

My personal relationships are suffering. Every single one of them — from my kids and family to my friends. I tend to be a bit of a loner, but when you throw in something like depression, the situation exasperates itself exponentially.

The other ways I’ve been affected are all textbook classic. I’m not sleeping well, which means I’m always tired and low on energy. Even when I do get a good sleep, I still feel tired.

I’ve been eating terribly – potato chips for supper. I have body aches and pains that never seem to go away. The scariest thing to me though was my alcohol intake increased.

I figured that one out quickly and took immediate steps to stop that in its tracks. Alcoholism runs in my family and I have no desire to walk that road or subject my kids to that. For that matter, mental-health issues also run in my family – another thing I don’t want the kids to have to live through me.

So I guess I should give myself credit for that; as well as for even writing this. Which brings me to my next point. Why did I write this and expose all?

Over the past few months, I’ve let very few people in on the fact that I wasn’t feeling myself. Each one said “call me sometime and we’ll talk.” Their intents were good and came from their hearts and were meant to help.

But when you’re talking to someone who may be or is experiencing depression, telling them to call you is futile. Most people who feel this way won’t and don’t reach out.

If you really want to help, you need to be the one to make the effort.

  • Call them.
  • Text them.
  • Facebook message them.
  • Drive to their place and pick them up for a walk.
  • Make the arrangements to go out for dinner or lunch.

When one is depressed, arranging details for plans are overwhelming. Trying to co-ordinate people and places and times requires a lot of effort for someone who just wants to go home and be by themselves anyway. So unless it's done for that person, they won’t make it happen.

But also respect their wishes if they want to stay more low-key or be left alone at times.

If you haven’t heard from someone you would normally have regular contact with — reach out. See if they’re ok. Again, it’s too much effort for someone who’s feeling blue to do so themselves. It’s very selfish sounding, but keep in mind that this person is just focusing on making it through each day as it is.

For the most part, you can’t look at someone and see they’re depressed. Most people mask it because we have to. We still have jobs to do and kids to raise, etc. We put all of our energies into doing that; to not let people see what’s going on behind closed doors.

In my case, I can still function normally on a daily basis because I have to — my mortgage and bills dictate that — and so do my obligations to my kids. And it’s with that in mind that I’m taking the reins to get back to being me.

I’ve started to force myself to go back to the gym. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for depression. I’m pushing myself beyond my comfort zones and making an effort to be social again. I’m spending less time online and more time meditating.

I know that this too shall pass and as I make changes to nourish myself, I’ll see more happy days than blah days; I already am in fact.

But it’s all about the baby steps in the beginning.

Thanks for reading.

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About the Author

Tanya Gunderson has been writing for the heck of it for many years. Her inspiration comes from her kids, their friends and the craziness of life. She takes great pleasure in exposing life for what it really is and has an open-book approach to her writing.

Her formal education and background include a blink-and-you miss-it stint in the radio and television industry, but it gave her an opportunity to write professionally on a few different occasions.

Email: [email protected]



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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