Social Media Apps Are Asking The Wrong Question: Why “likes” are so dangerous in today’s times!


I’m realizing that I’ve been conditioned to think “Do I like this _______?” Fill in the blank – it starts with “post,” or “idea,” or “belief,” and in some cases, the person! ¬†Whoa!

I think we’re asking ourselves the wrong question. “Likes” encourages us to see the world as black and white, right and wrong. “Likes” teaches us that agreeing or not agreeing is more important than listening. “Likes” wants us to judge first, instead of seeking to understand and be understood.

Life has taught me how dangerous this can be. And with the recognition of “social media bubbles,” it’s even more critical that we find ways to break out of our bubbles. Surrounding myself with ideas and people I “like” is one of the reasons we’re here as a society. President Trump isn’t the problem – he is the symptom. American society has become more and more divided over the years – and it’s that division that has helped lead to the “perfect storm” that got Trump elected. So, impeaching him or waiting until 2020 isn’t going to fix our underlying brokenness. He’s just a symptom or easy target – not the cause nor the solution.

In general, we’ve become too worried about self-preservation and taking sides that we’re shutting ourselves off from the very thing we are craving — connection, intimacy, community.

I can choose to be right, or I can choose to connect with others. I choose to connect.

How would our conversations change if, instead, we had the choice to mark “I hear you.” Or, as I learned from my friends Mike Mather and De’Amon Harges, what if the checkbox simply said “Sawubona” – I see you. (Google it ūüėČ

All of a sudden my focus is no longer on do I agree with this person or not. It’s not about judging them as “good” or “bad” – “conservative” or “liberal.” My focus instead becomes, did I pay attention to what this person has to say – or was I figuring out first how to counter their point? Did I hear their story, and ask questions to help deepen my understanding – instead of finding ways to challenge or prove them “wrong.” Did the other person feel heard, value, and listened to? If so, then I should be able to check the box “Sawubona” – and in response, they can respond with their own check – “Sawubona.”

What a different place Facebook would be, don’t you think!?

This all came about because I was talking to a friend about the current state of our world today – but particularly about Charlottesville and North Korea and Washington DC. I had seen another mutual friend’s post, commenting on white privilege in the aftermath of Charlottesville. I wandered if my friend had seen the post – but really was curious to hear what he thought about it. In other words, was it “good” or “bad” – was my discomfort and ill-ease because the opinion expressed was “right” or was it because the person was “wrong?”

My friendly gently pointed out that I was asking the wrong question.

I don’t have to agree with you to listen to what you have to say. And these days, I think this approach would encourage more conversation, more community and more healing.

Please don’t “like” or “not like” this post ;). Just listen…to the next person you hear speaking up. Listen – and ask questions. See what happens…

And if you know anyone at Facebook or Twitter and want to help start a cultural revolution, let’s see if social media apps would remove the “like” buttons and replace them with “Sawubona.”

Embracing Option B: A Fresh Perspective on Loss, Adversity & Change


Something clicked for me last month. It was a combination of conversations, experiences and ultimately, coming across a book in the airport. It’s all given me a fresh perspective on how I’m living life today – and facing the future. That fresh perspective is bringing about greater confidence, hope and inspiration.

A year ago, I made a decision and commitment to pursue my passion for photography as a business, with the goal of being profitable in 2-3 years. As I’ve shared before, that is a big step for me – and a big departure from the first half of my life, where I spent my working time in corporate America. But even with that decision, I’ve struggled to see this step as anything other than a step down – something less than – not as good as – my “first option” – the career path my education and early choices led me into.

It’s also been hard to fully embrace this path because it comes on the heals of a significant loss and setback in my life in 2010, when I lost everything I had been building, because of my addiction. Even though the loss came because I got into recovery and started dealing with the underlying issues that led to my addictive behavior, it has been hard at times to fully accept the loss and change as healthy and in a better direction overall for me. I know it sounds crazy. But in addition to losing a well-paying job, house, and friends – I lost much of my identity, because it was largely wrapped up in my career – and the material things and money!

This journey I’ve been on since 2010 has been about rediscovering who I am, what I believe and how and where I find my identity and purpose in life. And although it came from a dark time of great loss, I can already see that I’m not just getting by, or surviving in this new way of living – but I’m actually growing as a result. This became even more clear as I read Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy.

In her book, Sheryl Sandberg shares how she deals with the unexpected and sudden death of her husband. She “combines her personal insights…on finding strength in the face of adversity.” She shares the moment of truth she faced just weeks after losing Dave:

“Option A is not available. So let’s kick the shit out of Option B.” Live is never perfect. We all live some form of Option B. This book is to help us all kick the shout of of it.

She shares a lot of amazing research and studies, along with her personal insight. Some of the highlights for me are (with credit going to Option B, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant):

  • How people deal with setbacks: ¬†personalization (the belief that we are at fault), pervasivenss (the belief that an event will affect all areas of our lives) and permanence (the belief that the after shocks of the event will last forever.) ¬†from research by Martin Seligman
  • As psychologists have studied people who have endured all kinds of trauma, they most focused on two possible outcomes of trauma: those who struggle, developing PTSD, depression and anxiety or had difficulty functioning or those who are resilient, bouncing back to their state before the trauma. More recently, research has revealed a third possibility: those who are resilient, bouncing forward, finding post-traumatic growth. This manifests itself in five ways:
    • finding personal strength
    • gaining appreciation
    • forming deeper relationships
    • discovering more meaning in life
    • seeing new possibilities
  • Parents can build resilience in their children through opportunities and relationships – with a focus on four core beliefs:
    • we have some control over our lives
    • we can learn from failure
    • we matter as human beings
    • we have real strengths to rely on and share

As I reflect on my journey and how this concept of an “Option B” plays out, I can more confidently each of these elements at play.

I have been guilty of the “three P’s” as Sheryl calls them. Her insights and tips have helped me already reframe thoughts that come to mind about my situation.

I can also see where I’ve been stuck in PTSD mode – perhaps hoping to “get back to where I was.” But, I now see that where I was was still unhealthy, steeped in addiction, lack of connection or community, and unresolved loss back to my childhood. Now I see a third possibility – and know more clearly that this last year of so has been about taking steps towards “post-traumatic growth,” seeing possibilities in all the areas Sheryl mentioned.

I’ve also added these new “core beliefs” to my earlier post, where I’m collecting beliefs as I work through this journey of rediscovery.

So, this book not only gave me tools and insights I was missing before, it underscored the work¬†I’m already doing! and helped me frame where I am in a new, fresh light. So, thank you universe – and thank you Sheryl Sandberg! To learn more, I encourage you to read her book, and check out her Facebook Groups related to Option B (which is also the name of a non-profit she started, with all of the proceeds from her book being used to support this broader effort of finding post-traumatic growth.)

Finding My Core and Being Authentic


One of my joys – and one of my struggles – is learning into being a small business owner. Having worked in Corporate America for over 20 years, I’m now trying something totally out of my comfort zone – being my own boss. It’s exciting and scary.

It’s a joy because I’m pursuing things that I enjoy and am pretty good at – photography and web design. Part of that joy and excitement comes from being my own boss. I’m not at the whim and mercy of a corporation. I don’t have to put in work for primarily someone else’s gain.

It’s a struggle and sometimes scary because one has to wear about 26 hats, as they say. I’m my own boss, but at least for now, I’m also the only employee! I used to say that Corporate America encourages mediocrity and efficiency. There’s also so much redundancy, overlap and “shared responsibility” – which is a nice way of saying a lack of accountability and ownership. Now, the buck stops here!

As part of my startup growth, I’ve joined the Professional Photographers of America. Among one of the many benefits has been their Business Challenge – a 12-month online cohort where we study the business and operational side of being a professional photographer. So, we’ve learned and worked on our business model – everything from product strategy, to pricing, sales, marketing, managerial accounting, social media, etc. We have regular webinars and online discussions with mentors in the field – studio owners and photographers who graciously share their knowledge and experience. ¬†The Q&A is where I learn a lot – but the real life experience and various perspectives has been invaluable.

One of our exercises was around “Finding our Core and Being Authentic.” We did a powerful exercise with¬†Jonathan Main, a business coach and entrepreneur who has helped a lot of people and businesses reach their goals. ¬†Our focus was on better understanding our core belief systems – “finding clarity and an understanding of your core as you develop your authentic self.”

Personally, I got a lot our of the exercise because it mirrored what I’m working through for myself, including this blog series on “This I Believe.”¬†I’ve come to realize that as I solidify my brand as a photographer, I want to make sure it’s consistent with who I am as a person –my personal brand. In fact, for me to be as authentic as I can be, there is really just one brand – Todd Fuqua. How I act, react, and interact in the world should be the same, whether its for work, family, friends or community. This is especially true because I’ve often felt like I had to “become something else” in order to be successful in Corporate America. So, I’ve vowed never to do that again – never to have one “work persona” and “home persona.” I am who I am, I believe what I believe – and to be the best, most authentic me, I must shine out in all aspects of my life. I won’t go back into the closet again…on any level!

In this exercise, we did some pre-work, including writing down those beliefs we hold about life. So, I thought I’d create a placeholder post, where I capture these short expressions of belief. ¬†It’s like my online vision board! As I grow and learn, I can keep this updated or add other insights. So with that introduction, here’s where I’ve started:

Traits I Admire in Myself and Others: 

  • Empathetic listener¬†– in doing so, creates connections, community and healing
  • Lives authentically¬†– has found their own voice & stays true to that in life, and encourages others to do the same
  • Fights for the oppressed¬†– social justice minded, particularly for those whom society looks down upon
  • Trustworthy¬†– they do what they say, and are willing to own up to their mistakes or shortcomings
  • Playful¬†– knows the value of downtime, play, creativity, family & friends and taking time for self
  • Generous – shares time, talents and things with others as gifts, to be given freely without obligation

My beliefs about life

  • There are always three sides to every story
  • There is power in a question
  • People are inherently good
  • Seek to understand
  • Know when to observe without judgement
  • Check assumptions and hidden biases
  • That which bothers me in others is usually foremost my own personality trait
  • Never do for others what they can do themselves
  • I can’t fix, manage or control others
  • The serenity prayer works
  • It’s better to have a good memory than a bad picture – stay in the moment
  • I can choose to be right, or I can choose to be happy.
  • People change
  • Community is messy
  • It ain’t over until it’s over
  • Mother Nature is a bitch
  • We have some control over our lives, We can learn from failure, We matter as human beings, We all have real strengths to rely on and share (from Option B)