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WHEN I FIRST SIGNED UP FOR FACEBOOK, back in 2008, I pecked away at the keyboard, trying to figure out what it was all about. I was immediately accosted by a guy named Elmore. He said we had gone to school together. He gave me some brief details of our friendship and wondered if I remembered him, and I said, sorry, no. He asked several more questions, none of which I could answer, and that was that.
As time went on, I became more familiar with the platform and have found a few friends that I have welcomed with a smile, but mostly, I've made new online friends. An interesting side note: I've been way more successful with Twitter than I have Facebook.
Curious elders love social media
Maintaining meaningful social relationships is widely regarded by professionals who study such things as critical elements of aging well. Older folks do more socializing today than ever before, but much of it is on the Internet using social media platforms. Statistics tell us that most curious elders prefer Facebook.
My own involvement with social media began back in the '80s with an Internet platform called CompuServe that included a variety of quasi-social media tools. I used a product called UseNet, and Internet relay chats known as IRCs. I began blogging in 2003. In more recent years, I've joined various social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook. I've also been a member of Pinterest, Google Plus, Instagram, Linkedin, Typepad, Flickr, etc.
Social media has come a long way in the past 20-years, and more services pop up every day in an attempt to fill specific social networking niches. But these gathering spots live on the Internet (aka the wild west), which means most of us have a love/hate relationship with our social sites.
The downside of a good thing
We love it when we find someone we can relate to, and we hate it when we're harassed by trolls or have our personal information stolen.
But our love affair with technology comes with risks and costs. The negative side of social Internet use includes ...
- Data breaches (our information is stolen)
- Email hacks (our emails are used by others for nefarious purposes)
- Dissemination of fake news
- Disinformation that's been weaponized against others
- Outright lies and misleading statements
- Advertising that tracks our every move
- Spying by shadowy overseas organizations
Additionally, social media also has negative attributes that affect us on a personal level:
- Some become virtually addicted to it. We've all seen the person who (literally) can't put down their phone because they might miss something. (FOMO)
- We allow ourselves to be harassed or denigrated by trolls.
- Many people relinquish too much personal information.
- We waste way too much time cyberloafing, doomscrolling, and scanning nonsense.
The upside of a good thing
Despite its inherent dangers, millions of older people continue to use the Internet and social media every day. Why? Because it offers so much enjoyment and valuable service, and it's often a great way to:
- Communicate with healthcare professionals through their social platforms.
- Interact with friends and family across long distances.
- Provide or receive social support when confronted with a difficult life situation, regardless of geographical location or time.
- Create social relationships when in-person relationships are unattainable.
- Learn all sorts of new things; academic, artistic, travel, exercise, political, and more.
- Meet like-minded people and create friendships.
- Consider new ideas, theories, fresh perspectives.
- Overcome loneliness, relieve stress, discover a nurturing voice.
- Share your thoughts, ideas, photos, and more.
- Shop and pay for merchandise.
- Operate a small business with minimal overhead.
- Watch movies and listen to music.
- Do your banking: checking, investments, loans, and credit cards.
- And much more
Participation in social media can range from passive behavior such as reading posts and online discussions to the active involvement of posting, blogging, or uploading multimedia content.
In 1967 The Beatles recorded the song: Hello, Goodbye. It somehow resembles the feelings surrounding social media and the many inconsistencies of the Internet.
I had a conversation with a small group a few nights ago during happy hour. (I always enjoy good conversation during that hour of the day.) The question was raised, "what do you think about social media." The answers were varied and went something like this:
- I think it's just a bunch of rubbish.
- It's a place where youngsters get bullied, depressed, and worse.
- I just want to be able to talk to my friends.
- It's a vehicle businesses can use to create relationships that become profitable.
- It's a creepy place that I don't like.
- I like shopping in my living room.
All of these are true to some extent. It's up to us individually to use social media and the Internet in general with extreme care. We have to constantly remain vigilant of its dangers while employing common-sense practices like these:
- Follow and communicate with only those you find agreeable and polite.
- Don't get emotional or defensive with trolls; simply block 'em and forget 'em!
- Report obnoxious individuals to the platform's moderation team.
- Block any person or company that makes you feel unsettled.
- Never share personal information with anyone unless you know them and have a secure connection.
- Use a complex password (not your pet's name), and change it often.
- Use Two-Factor Authentication when available.
- Remember: If someone or some interaction doesn't feel right, block them.
The Internet was created to be a good and helpful thing. But, as good things go, get enough people involved, and the original purpose of the idea disintegrates. But we're fully involved now, and it ain't goin' away! But we can still fix it, and I hope we will. When the Internet and social media are used correctly, it's a beautiful thing.
I’m no expert, but…
Many articles by experts offer deep science about body heat, fluids, and other stuff. And if all those numbers and matrices make you feel more confident, then, by all means, read the articles. As for me, I’m not an expert in physiology, but I’ve survived some pretty stupid stunts while in the saddle, and I'd like to share some wisdom from practical experience. I’ve ridden my bike in the 115+ degree heat of the parched Sonoran Desert of Arizona, as well as the 98 degrees, 96 percent humidity of the Gulf Coast states. And while everyone tolerates heat differently, the following pointers will give you some measure of safety when riding in the summer heat.
Listen to your body
The first and most important rule is: Use common sense. You can’t ride in the summer heat at the same intensity you ride in the 60 and 70-degree temps of spring and expect to stay well. Your body is highly adaptive, but you need to build up your heat coping mechanism gradually. Spend the first couple of weeks cycling in the summer heat by “working into it.” Listen when your body talks to you. If you’re feeling weak, dizzy, or chilled, when you should be feeling hot, your body is over-stressed, and you should stop and reevaluate your physical and mental condition.
Schedule your rides better
Avoid the heat of the day. Schedule your rides in the early morning or the early evening when the sun less intense. Or, scout out some new routes that provide more shade and places to stop that provide shelter from the sun.
Discover your best hydration practice
Learn how to drink. In other words, don’t ride hard for 45 minutes and then slam 20 ounces of water to catch up. Sip your fluids a couple of gulps every few minutes. When I’m out on a hot day, I drink approximately every 4-miles: a gulp of Gatorade with two gulps of water after it. But everyone is different. You’ll have to discover your own rate of hydration, but it should have consistency.
Learn what to drink
Water is a given, but you need more than water. You need a mineral and electrolyte replacement drink. Blood doesn’t work well if it gets too watered down; it’s a condition called hyponatremia. It can occur on a hot, sweaty day when you drink only water for an extended period. The main ingredients that help keep you stabilized are sodium, potassium, chloride, and magnesium. These are available in many sports drinks and water additives. I often drink Gatorade, but not all cyclists can tolerate Gatorade. Some of the other products available are NUUN, Clif Shots, and Accelerade, to name just a few. If you get too dehydrated or too “watered down,” your endurance wanes, recovery takes longer, or worse, you could put your body in a dangerous condition. Experiment with hydration to see what works best for you and what your stomach can tolerate.
Another way to maintain sodium in your blood on a hot, sweaty day is to try munching on salty foods along your ride. Salted peanuts, beef jerky, or similar prepared foods help you maintain your sodium levels. I know a few long-distance cyclists who buy one of those jumbo dill pickles at every convenience store stop.
Your drink bottles get warm on a hot day. Stop at a convenience store and put some ice in your drinks or buy a cold drink. Putting cool fluids into your system will help keep your core temperature down. Experimentation is in order here as well. Super cold water on a hot ride gives some riders stomach cramps, so go easy at first.
And finally, water is not just for drinking. If you have an ample supply and need a cool down, consider pouring water over your head, down your neck, or over your shoulders. It can provide some welcome relief in the heat of the day. The same is true for an ice sock. I’ve never used one, but I’m told it works well.
Reflect and dissipate heat
I love cotton fabric. But not for cycling on hot days. Cotton gets wet and stays wet. It can’t effectively wick the sweat from your body, and when it’s stuck to your skin with sweat, it won’t allow you to dissipate heat. There are many performance fabrics available that are better for summer cycling. Check out Boure’, or PEARL iZUMi. Read what they have to say about their clothing, and you’ll see the benefits.
Also, give some thought to light colors to reflect the sun and long sleeves to keep the sun off your arms. There’s a good reason desert dwellers cover-up, no matter how high the temperature. I wear a long-sleeved summer jersey, and it works very well to keep my skin surface from overheating.
Use a helmet with adequate ventilation. Here’s a look at the styles of helmets available; you’ll notice some are well vented, and some are not. On a hot summer day, you’re going to want some air circulating over the top of your head.
Common sense, acclimatization, and proper hydration will help you steer clear of over-heating while riding in high temps and humidity. The bottom line on all of this is to understand the messages your body sends and know its limitations. Everyone is unique, so experiment to see what works best for you and enjoy riding this summer. You might also consider joining the National Bike Challenge. It’s FREE, FUN, and you might even win a prize.
A new book: Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age
I’ve always taken an active interest in the many ways I can keep my brain functioning at peak performance. Aerobic activity is one way. As some of you may know cycling is my favorite form of aerobic activity. And I know it helps me think more clearly.
Science has proven that we can grow new brain cells, even as we age.
There are, of course, many things we can do to take care of our brains, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the CNN chief medical correspondent, tells us how in his new book: “Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age.”
Protect your mind from decline. Learn about 12 destructive myths and the 5 pillars that will rebuild you, and much more. Here’s a Washington Post review of the book.
We’re still working on the soul of America
This month we celebrated the contributions of African-Americans who’ve made our country and communities a richer, more vibrant place to live. Black History Month is over, but I hope the recognition and appreciation for Black Achievement will continue to grow.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel
The third vaccine from Johnson & Johnson was approved and will be administered beginning the first week of March. At least 3 other companies are still working on their versions of the vaccine.
- AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine
- Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine
- Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine
We’re on the mend, but a number of variants are on the loose. Let’s all work on this together and follow the safety protocols. With the enormous effort being focused on COVID-19, we may end up with a single vaccine that protects us against all Coronaviruses, including the common cold.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
Click these links for further information …
THE EXCLAMATION POINT at the end of the title above does not indicate any excitement on my part. I'm just being facetious.
I'm somewhat ambivalent about the COVID vaccination. I don't care much for injections or medications of any kind, for that matter. I'm more inclined to live healthily and maintain a robust immune system naturally through good food and exercise. But I'm not naive. While the human body is capable of amazing things, it is also susceptible to medical mysteries and unclassified diseases.
My wife and I have been virtually housebound since late March 2020. We've done everything suggested by medical experts, healthcare workers, and scientists. After all, masks, social distancing, and cleanliness is the natural way to protect ourselves from the disease.
I refuse to get stressed out about it
Frankly, it's been a bitch. We miss our family immensely. We miss friends. We miss going to restaurants and happy hour, which was one of our fun things to do.
We moan and groan about our plight from time to time, but then we see other folks struggle with sickness and death and family tragedy. We see families with little food. We watch front-line workers being worn to a frazzle physically and emotionally by endless hours spent serving their communities, all while struggling with the soul-crushing defeat of losing multiple patients each day.
Fifteen minutes of the evening news and our little problem of being housebound seems like the equivalent of a 10-year old whining about having to go to bed at eight o'clock on a school night.
We soon looked upon our housebound status as our small contribution to saving lives. At the beginning of the pandemic, the mantra was: We're all in this together!
We took that to heart.
And now, it's time for the vaccine
I have friends and family on the fence about taking the vaccine, and I know others who will refuse it. As I mentioned above, I'm ambivalent about it too. Is it worth it? Have I already had COVID-19 without any symptoms, and therefore already have my own antibodies? How long will this vaccine protect me?
I'm over 65, so I've been eligible for weeks now, but I haven't been in a hurry. I was going to wait for my wife to become eligible so we could do it together. Plus, I wasn't eager to get in line for an hours-long wait with hundreds of irate, stressed-out older folks who took questionable measures to ensure they got the shot. (That kind of stress will weaken your immune system.)
After encouragement from some family members, my wife called for an appointment for me. Less than two weeks later, the day is here. Today, February 14th, I'm scheduled at 3:30 p.m. to get my first shot. I expect it to be a no muss, no fuss experience.
As I go into this experiment, I know there are dozens of questions about the tests and vaccines with no real answers.
I very much admire and respect the healthcare workers, doctors, scientists, and specialists of every stripe, but the fact is, we've come into some unknown space. There are no rock-solid answers to all the questions that people have. It's an incredibly complex system of interrelated parts. The answers we are given are more like educated guesses.
The research goes on, and it will for years to come--it will likely never stop.
Do doctors ever have a rock-solid answer to anything that ails us? Seldom. But the work they do is based on decades and even centuries of research. They have at their disposal a vast knowledge base, years of advanced training, and extensive specialized experience.
That's what we call good medicine.
Trusting good medicine
How should we feel about this good medicine?
At some point, trust has to come into play, and we take action. Throughout our lives, we have to learn to trust things to survive. As the Russian playwright, Anton Chekhov once said, You must trust and believe in people, or life becomes impossible.
But at this moment in time, there is little trust in the world. We're skeptical, fearful, and filled with worry. Most of this uneasiness is born from a lack of leadership, racial inequities, and political divisiveness. But these things have little to do with our health as it relates to the pandemic.
For me, I don't want my uneasiness with the zeitgeist to taint my faith in science, the medical community, and good medicine.
We all see a doctor when we're not feeling well, and we trust in his or her advice and the medications prescribed. Trust is built and maintained by many small actions over time. I think our medical community and front-line workers have more than proven themselves.
I trust good medicine. I will get my COVID-19 vaccination today. And I won't think twice about it.