Five Cool Things Technology Has Done For Me

Being part of the #MySmarterCommerce campaign with IBM, I’ve been thinking more and more lately about all the ways the internet, technology, and probably more specifically, social media, has changed my life.  Sure, everyone’s life has changed with the invention of new technologies.  If we don’t know something, we just “Google it”, we use our smartphones for everything and connectivity is always at our fingertips. But for me, the coolest thing about social media is the random connections I’ve been able to make and the advancements for myself and my career.  Here’s my top five favorite things technology has done for me (so far!).

1) Saved my LDR (that’s long distance relationship for those not in the know). Living in NYC while my sig other was in Buffalo for nearly two years wasn’t easy. But thanks to Skype, Facebook, email, texting and even Seamless Web, we were able to connect in more ways than ever possible.  In the olden days, LDR’s didn’t stand a chance, with the lack of cell phones, painfully slow process of letter writing and non-existent internet even couples parting ways for the summer pretty much had a “see you in September” mentality.  Modern day LDR’s stand a lot better chance.  Don’t believe me?  Just watch Going The Distance.

2) Got me on CNN! About a year ago I was up late one night perusing Twitter when I received a tweet from a CNN producer asking if she could DM me.  Unsure whether it was spam I quickly checked her out and she seemed legit.  After a brief direct message exchange on Twitter and a few emails, I was confirmed as a guest the next morning on CNN as a social media expert.  I credit this to a winning combo of my Twitter presence and my personal blog presence.  I later found out that one of the writers was a big fan of The Allie Zog Blog, which surely helped my cause! 🙂

3) Got me most of jobs to date. When I first finished college, I distinctly remember spending several days stuffing envelopes to mail out to job prospects.  Yes I literally stuffed envelopes, sending my resume, best clips from the college newspaper and a lengthy cover letter to every magazine, newspaper and random publication I could think of.  I think I heard back from like 2.  Do journalism majors still do this?  I HOPE not!  That was the first and last time I ever MAILED anything to apply for a job.  The last few jobs I’ve had have been obtained by a combination of personal introduction, Twitter connections, online job boards and again, this blog.  To this I say, good riddance envelope stuffing!

4) Connected (and reconnected) me with friends old and new. As cliché as it sounds, I still love social media for the simple fact that it’s allowed me to stay connected to people from my past, often re-connecting me to them after years of silence.  If you’re like me and left your hometown at 18 with not many returns, you may not have been the best at keeping each touch with high school pals.  I doubt I even had any of their phone numbers or even email addresses after college ended but thanks to social media I’m able to find out  where they are and what they’re doing and in most cases we’ve been able to “catch up” without actually having to see each other or even speak on the phone.  In addition to re-connecting with old friends, I’ve had a lot easier time staying connected to new people I’ve met along the way.  In the past, if you met someone casually at an event or even through a friend, you probably wouldn’t stay in touch, but these days, after I meet someone new, I usually find a friend request or new follower in them a few days later.

5) Given me important information such as “where should I eat tonight” “how can I get Lumineers tickets” and “where can I buy a hot yoga towel.” You know – the burning questions that before Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc were just so much harder to answer!

These are just a sampling of the many ways in which I use one part iPhone, one part Twitter and two parts my imagination to make my life easier everyday.  I’d love to know what technology and social media has done for your life.  Share with me in the comments or on Twitter using #MySmarterCommerce.

#spon: I have been invited by IBM to share my honest thoughts and experiences around Smarter Commerce, and as part of this collaboration, IBM may provide me with product, access, content or other forms of remuneration. All opinions are expressly my own.

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The Blizzard of 2013: A Recap…

Photo Credit: The Newport Daily News Facebook page, photo by Dave Hansen

Photo Credit: The Newport Daily News Facebook page, photo by Dave Hansen

Turns out, I’m a wuss.  Also?  I’m not one of those people who could go on a digital detox or whatever the kids are calling it these days.  I have now confirmed that the internet (particularly social media) is my lifeline to the outside world and the way in which I get 99% of my news and information.  What confirmed it? 39 LONG HOURS WITHOUT POWER!

Snowstorm Nemo hit little Rhody hard and left the entire Aquidneck Island (Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth) without power starting Friday evening with some people going as long as four or more days without.  Hat’s off to those people, truly.

I’ll break it down for you with a rough timeline:

Approximately 10pm Fri night: Power goes out for 5 minutes, I freak out, power goes back on, I tweet about it.

Approximately 10:20 pm Fri night: Power goes back off…and stays off.  I tweet about it…and cry a little.

10:27pm: I text my mom frantically.  I check Twitter frantically.  I tweet to National Grid.

Sometime between 10:27 and 1am: – I fall asleep dreaming of waking up to the harsh light of my bedside lamp the TV blasting.

Photo Credit: Joanie Caffrey (I was too frantic to take pics!)

Photo Credit: Joanie Caffrey (I was too frantic to take pics!)

Saturday 5am-ish: I wake up…COLD.  My boyfriend rolls over and mumbles…”did the power go out?” (he’d slept through the whole thing, bless his soul)

Saturday – timeline hazy due to lack of heat, light, TV, hot coffee, etc: I find out through Facebook that one bar in town is open and serving food and possibly one hotel is serving free coffee.  We proceed to bundle up as there is no way in heck we are staying in our apartment where the thermostat has already reached 46 degrees.  We head out and head to the Hotel Viking, where they’re serving coffee and a “cold lunch”, there’s no heat.  We leave for greener pastures because at this point we are still hopeful there’s some magical oasis of heat, TV, coffee and bacon and eggs.  We head to Benjamins which, as per Facebook, IS in fact the only bar open in town at this point.  They’re PACKED and getting a table to be served food seems unlikely.  We decide to trek on, now hopeful there’s other places around.  We arrive at the Newport Marriott with high hopes.  Turns out they DID have a generator but it broke.  They’ve got bigger problems too because they’re hosting Reebok for some big wig type conference.  There’s no heat although it feels warmer than our apartment.  We spot some staff cleaning up and ask if their restaurant is open.  They say no and we must look pretty defeated because they sneak us behind some curtain and offer us what’s left from their morning buffet.  They tell us “everyone’s gotta eat today” and I understand in a miniscule way what it must feel like to be homeless or hungry and have to depend on people’s good will. I appreciate the gesture immensely and accept the coffee while my boyfriend, not one to turn down food, enjoys a sandwich, leftover salad and some sort of soup.  I again have an epiphany about myself realizing that I declined the food because I wasn’t  really in the mood for questionable looking deli meat, wilted salad greens and mystery soup but realize after the fact what the expression “beggars can’t be choosers” truly means.  If this was my reality every day (no warm home, limited food source) I’d have to be grateful for whatever I could get and not chose what I eat on my own freewill.

From here, the day seems like five and we go on to return home to warm up in our car, charge our cell phones, head to the local Stop & Shop (which is open, sorta, and resembles the zombie apocalypse) and add my friend and her pup to our tribe.  Eventually we found out that a friend’s parents on the other side of the island has power and another friend has gas heat and some food.  We are lucky, and we enjoy a warm meal and a toasty home then head to our friend’s parents for a warm bed.  By the time we return to our apartment early Sunday afternoon our power is back and I’ve learned about a hundred life lessons.  Here’s the highlights:

1) As the boy scouts said, always be prepared!  We were not, at all.  We thought that wine, ingredients for chili and homemade pizza, and a flashlight would get us through but we didn’t truly prepare for the reality of no heat, no cooking source or refrigeration, etc.

2) Cell phones (particularly iPhones) really are the greatest invention of our time and were literally my lifeline.  If I hadn’t been able to text friends and family, make quick calls and check social media sites for information on what was opened, when and where power would be restored, etc, I really don’t know where we’d have ended up. (I’m sure we would have made it through ONE night sleeping under a ton of blankets but damn, at the time, I really didn’t think I would.  It was COLD and we didn’t even have many extra blankets….which brings me back to lesson 1, always be prepared!)

3) Having people you can rely on is important.  I had a minor breakdown in which I realized that my closest family member was in Boston, which is pretty close but wasn’t nearly close enough at the time.  While I have some friends in town I was really very lucky to have somewhere to go and realized that although I’ve always been the type to move places and make new friends, there’s something to be said for having lots of family and friends and a close-knit support system nearby.

And now to bring it full circle…

When I was first asked to be part of IBM’s Social Influencer Think Tank and told that I’d be sharing my idea of smarter commerce, I had a million things in mind.  There are so many times that social media and technology tools have enriched my life, got me jobs, got me on TV, connected me with family and long distance loves, and so much more, but after experiencing the smallest taste of a crisis situation, my belief in the power of social media was reinforced 1000%.

Over the next month I’ll be sharing plenty more stories of how social media and the latest technology has bettered my life, from the big to the small. And now I ask you friends, how has it bettered YOUR life?  Please share your stories with me here in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #MYSMARTERCOMMERCE

PS, Special thanks to Frank, Joanie, Jedi, Heather, Steve, Allie, Kathleen, and the Hunt Family; the Newport Marriott for their hospitality; and What’s Up Newport and The Newport Patch for their great coverage and information for getting me through my first New England Blizzard.