rolling with the haters, and begging for feedback or questions

on the road to Renée and Ken Fowler’s ranch outside of Llano, Texas right after the memorial for my mother Martha Frances with my wife Miriam and the #progeny off camera (mit Absicht)

While not getting too specific about who it was who irritated me the other day, while I was doing this roku account on twitter, I’d like talk about criticism and how I’ve chosen to use social media. To be clear, I’m neither a good American nor a well-integrated German visitor. Other expats or immigrants or whatever you want to call those of us who’ve moved to Germany and chosen to make a life here, seem to have accepted things about living here that still make me bristle.

Oh, and I see that one who offers unwarranted criticism, that’s offered as helpful or thoughtful, but is more likely a backwards and passive aggressive attempt at a Besserwisser (know-it-all) feeling better about one’s own situation and/or life, should perhaps look into therapy or grow a thicker skin before logging on.

They’re what the kids, or at least the Millennials, would call ‘haters‘, and I pay them as little mind as I can manage. It’s a good way to deal with criticism online. You’ll certainly face some, or a lot of it, the longer that you work or play in the digital realm.

The most important thing to know about me on this subject of using social media is that I think of myself as two Americans mixed up in one complicated ex-pat. My family moved from West Texas after my birth to Munich, which curiously makes Bavaria my second, or adopted, home.

Then we unfortunately went back to Texas, and this time in the southeast part of the state along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to the then fifth largest city in the United States. The City of Houston was still a cow town upon our arrival, and the annual Livestock Show and Rodeo was just one reminder that this place wasn’t like Munich or Zürich or even London, which were places I’d seen with my young, impressionable eyes.

My relationship with Germany wasn’t complicated then, as I was a mere child and all of my frustrations with mid 70s metropolitan Houston were easily written off by my thoughts that, ‘One day I can leave this humid, depressing place and go back to Germany‘, which was a sort of Garden of Eden. That was how I saw Munich or Bavaria in the early 70s, and that option of ‘going back home’ was always, or at least often, part of my fantasy.

What wasn’t to love, by the way? It was a colourful and beautiful city, my parents were casual drug users and drank a lot of beer. As a result, it was easier to live in the liberal, relatively open-minded capital of Bavaria than it had been to live in the dry (alcohol-free), desert-like metropolis of Lubbock. On the high prairie in the part of Texas that you think of if you’ve watched John Wayne movies, or that Rock Hudson/Elizabeth Taylor/James Dean film Giant, my family felt more free outside of the ‘Land of the Free’, which is still my perspective of when I think of West Texas.

I’ve got a complicated relationship with both the word ‘freedom’, as well as the whole concept of ‘The American Dream‘, but this isn’t therapy. I’ll just share this generally, and depending on what feedback I get from this post, I could imagine writing more about those things at some point in the future. If you want to read more about my perspective on either of these things, the proverbial ball’s in your court. You’ve got to get off of your arse and say so in the comments.

To wrap up my point here, though.

My writing always has my clients in mind. While I do it in quite an Anglo-American manner, it’s purposeful that I’ve chosen not to blog or use social media the ‘German Way‘. Again, I’ll go deeper into how different cultures use online platforms and the intercultural differences at a later date.

Interested? You know what to do.

Make a comment below, rather than on LinkedIn or Twitter. I’ve started the conversation and you, my readers, have more influence than you realise.

Say something.

What about this post or any other interests you?

More importantly what have I written that you want to know more about?

Show me you’re here and reading my scribblings, would you? I see the metrics, so I know you’re lurking.

Do me a favour and help me build an audience by saying what you’d like to see more of.


Pretty please.

Doing what I want, for a change…

Old Braunfels, my old band, on the streets of Munich

That headline was supposed to grab you, and I hope it worked. Having a small child, a relatively new marriage, grad school, clients and an active private life on top of all of that is utterly exhausting sometimes.

All the time, if I’m prepared to be open and candid. Which opens a whole can of worms when I deal with Germans and social media.

They don’t typically like it.

Sure, you can point to Susanne Plassmann or others who have taken to it like a duck to water, but most Germans I know? Privacy is much preferred to self promotion, and they are typically sceptical of such ego-driven tomfoolery.

What does that say about me and Susanne that we like it so much? I’m just not going to go there, but I’ll simply say that she and I are more alike than you’d think. We met when I was observing a Flirting auf Deutsch class, or at least I think that’s what it was.

It was a Mother’s Day about 7 or 8 years ago, and as a result, none of her students showed up. It’s not that my German’s perfect, so I could’ve just as easily had a private lesson. Instead we did something much more fascinating.

We talked about the birds and the bees and how German and English native speakers approach and date each other.

As I’ve often said, Susanne is my favourite actor in Munich. Does it help that I know her? Sure. We’ve got history, but that doesn’t change that I can be objective, despite my subjectivity (the friendship).

Back to what I want to do, though. Because my time is much more limited these days, there are literally weeks where I don’t even tough my guitar ’til the weekend. It’s inconceivable to me that my life has come to this, but there you have it.

I’ve resolved to focus most on the things which bring me the most rewards, and I don’t mean only financial ones. While I love my work, and my school work especially, it’s not the only thing. Even when it seems like it.

A little bit of music during the week is my new goal. Check back with me in a few weeks or months and see how I’m doing. As always, comments below are welcomed.

How do you balance the different responsibilities you’ve got in life with the things that bring you the most joy? That’s not a rhetorical question. I really want to know.

Hiding behind the curtain

photo (1)

A topic that I find myself thinking about when considering what to write about here has to do with the ‘Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain‘ line that I’ve had on this blog since I started it. See, I’ve talked with plenty of people about online privacy and blogging and how much of yourself you choose to show in general.

Since this isn’t an academic exercise and I needn’t support my ideas with credited sources, it means that most of what I write here is anecdotal. I tell stories without bothering to look up where I originally read or heard the kernel of knowledge that began me thinking about whatever topic I fancy.

Facebook seems to be a constant privacy concern for some Germans, partially because it seems like every other month there’s an article in the media here about how someone’s personal business has been displayed for everyone to see because of the big bad social media giant. I dealt with this a bit when I wrote Why do people take the wrong things about Facebook so seriously?

My position on all of this privacy stuff, though, is that you can determine how much of yourself you show online. If there’s something embarrassing out there about me, I tend to want to be the one to talk about it.

That’s probably why I share so little of my personal life here or on other forms of social media. I reshare ridiculous things and see most of social media as a place to curate the best things I find on the web. If I’m creating content with my name on it, I tend to be cautious. Probably too much so.

So, that’s where my thoughts are this Easter season. I see this blog as a kind of calling card for my personal writing and my hope is that my personality comes out in the writing even if I’m a bit reserved. The criticism I often hear is that I could show more of myself here and on social media in general.

If I were to do so, it seems like I’d have to come out from behind the curtain. Might even have to take that line down off the front of the blog. Hiding behind the curtain has had its advantages, so don’t expect too much right off. Many things still belong in one’s private sphere.

As with so many things, it’s simply a matter of balance.

Why do people take the wrong things about Facebook so seriously?

Getting some things off my chest


Ok, the first thing I want to say is that when it comes to Feckbook, people just need to settle down. It’s a platform that has changed not just the landscape of the Internet, but has altered the way many people live their lives. It’s not going anywhere in the foreseeable future, so either learn to deal with it or simply delete your account and move on with your life. Why do people take the wrong things about Facebook so seriously?

If you’re one of the seemingly limitless people still using the above-mentioned service, then you’ve no doubt recently seen the status updates that people have copied and pasted to defend themselves from content theft and privacy violations. It’s nothing new – these cookie cutter blurbs of non substance are not only a huge waste of your time, but they sadly show how gullible people continue to be. Take a quick gander at this if you’ve not already seen it:

Facebook Privacy Notice brought to you by the good people over at Snopes.

However, that’s not what made me want to write this post. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m doing more and more with social media and I’m looking at it from the perspective of my growing client base, rather than just as an individual writer amplifying his work.

Although I continue to build Macbeth Knowles Consulting for small and medium sized businesses here in Germany who want to better use social media to reach international markets, I’ve resolved to keep this lahikmajoe blog for the more informal stuff.

I’m offering  some behind the scenes material and some quick and dirty tips about how anybody can improve their social media with common sense approaches. My loyal readers have always appreciated my more whimsical side, and I have no intention of giving that up. Hiding my light under a bushel, as it were.

So, as I continue to take on new clients and cultivate the ones I’ve already got, I’m focused on what I see happening on the social media landscape. Much more important than those laughable status updates above is what Feckbook has done elsewhere. Let me link to it first, and then I’ll sum it up:

New Facebook Rules Will Sting Entrepreneurs

Here’s a bit of that text if you couldn’t be bothered to follow the link:

But small-business owners…will soon get less benefit from the unpaid marketing pitches they post on Facebook. That’s because, as of mid-January, the social network will intensify its efforts to filter out unpaid promotional material in user news feeds that businesses have posted as status updates.

The change will make it more difficult for entrepreneurs…to reach fans of their Facebook pages with marketing posts that aren’t paid advertising.

Businesses that post free marketing pitches or reuse content from existing ads will suffer “a significant decrease in distribution,” Facebook warned in a post earlier this month announcing the coming change.

Look, it’s their site. That small businesses have had the opportunity to use this platform for so long at little or no cost could definitely be seen as a kind of generosity on the part of the behemoth that is Feckbook. That’s not exactly how I see it, but I can certainly appreciate their perspective.

And on some level, I like that Facebook’s motives are becoming more transparent. That can only be a good thing, as most people are still a bit foggy on who the customer is in this business scenario. That’s the bit of wisdom I’ll leave you with as I head back to what’s left of the weekend:

If you’re not paying for the service, then you’re not the customer. A more accurate, albeit crass, assessment of this entire setup is that Feckbook’s true customers are the advertisers and marketers who specifically add to the company’s coffers. I don’t care how accustomed you are to using the platform and how convenient it is to connect with friends and family from far and wide: if you’re not paying for it or being paid, then you’re a glorified content provider.

If it’ll make you feel better, though, to post a status update putting the Man in his place, then by all means, go ahead and do so.

To each his own, as the kids are saying.

Social media strategies: what NOT to do



Have been doing more freelance work with social media recently, and this cartoon had me chuckling. How many times have you been stumbling round the web, and one of your friends, that you thought wasn’t so bad, made one of these blunders.

No emo status updates people. Truly – it’s just bad form. The Complainer’s Gambit fits into that category, if you ask me.

Want to ruin your chances of being hired for that job you really wanted? Try the second one in the cartoon above. If I scroll through your wall or stream on a given site, and you’re involved in any sort of debauchery, good luck to you and yours.

Now, I know there are exceptions. There are some rock and roll musicians and even a few criminally insane artists in my circle of acquaintances. They get a pass on this one. It’s almost as if they increase their street red by being a bit mental.

I’m not going to name check any of them, though. This isn’t that sort of blogpost.

Now, I’m going to have to make a confession when it comes to the third and final example in the cartoon above. If you know me on social media, you’re already aware that I can go into a sort of fugue state of sharing on occasion.

It’s not something I’m proud of, I assure you. Once I get started, I’m like the people they talk about in those potato crisps advertisements…I simply can’t have just one.





Getting the hang of hosting MunichLovesU


This week I was asked to do the twitter account at @MunichLovesU, and I’ve already done four of the seven days. I’ve tried to write most of the tweets in German, although I was told a mix of English and German would be fine.

So far, it’s been a little odd. I’m so accustomed to my twitter feed, and here’s an entirely new crowd of twitterfolk. Sometimes I’m incapable of even getting in on the conversation because I’m transfixed by all the shiny new people.

Also…irony’s easy in your mother tongue. No matter how well you speak/understand a second language, nuance can be tricky. Some Germans are more droll than you might expect.If this were some sort of performance, I’d say this was a tough room. Like I say, I’ve still got a few days left. Maybe by the end of the weekend I’ll have gotten the hang of it.

The people I know via social media seem to get me. However, it’s taken a significant amount of time and interaction to develop that. I’m not throwing in the towel. Far from it. More importantly, I’m not using the language barrier as an excuse. I read/write German rather well. If anything, this is challenging me to up my game.

The people at the site asked me a few questions at the outset and included my answers on their blog. As long as they’ve gone to the effort, I don’t see why I can’t send you over there. Take a gander, won’t you:

MunichLovesU and their 52 week

Oh, should I have warned you that it was all in German? Well, you probably wouldn’t have clicked over there then, would you?

Hopefully back to your regularly scheduled blogging soon. There’s certainly plenty going on to talk about. Till then.

when you’re gone spending ends, they don’t come no more

(not sure why they include the photo of Josephine Baker with this tune on You Tube, but I chose it for the performance not the picture)

Several different places the last several days, I’ve seen it mentioned and I didn’t want to let it go by without saying something myself. This is the time of the year when we see so much joy and familial togetherness all round. It’s not just the media. Everyone’s on social media talking about how lovely it is being with their family. Your neighbours are happy and it’s entirely possible that you are, too.

But the statistics show that many people are very alone. Not simply physically isolated, though there is certainly that, but completely at their wits’ end with the family that they might otherwise avoid the rest of the year. Again, I’m not talking about you. As a matter of fact, if you’ve had a wonderful holiday time and don’t want to be brought down with morose talk, then you should really move along now anyway.

I’ve seen a few helplines advertised that’re there for desperate people to call. If somebody feels helpless in these dark, short, cold days, he or she is encouraged to call the number and talk to an understanding voice at the other end of the line. I suppose if a person is truly down, one might call such a number. Despite all of that, the people I’ve known in such dark places would rarely reach out even to close friends much less a stranger on the telephone.

Don’t misunderstand me. I like the idea of emergency helplines for people in trouble. And I’m sure there’re plenty of instances where it was essential to help someone out in a difficult situation.

But what about that person who’s too proud to reach out? Or too desperate?

This is where Billie Holiday comes in. If you consider how depressing some of her songs are, you’ll probably wonder how on earth she might help. But that’s actually why I’ve turned to Lady Day in my life’s darkest moments. Possibly because you can hear the pain in her voice. Maybe because she’s somehow transmitting that inexplicable thing that makes one a survivor.

Whatever reason I might come up with to convince you that listening to her music somehow lightens your load, it doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter. I can skate around the edges, but that inexplicable thing that’s always under the surface with her is eerily buoyant.

The song I included above, which was actually written by the singer herself and Arthur Herzog, Jr, is actually a bit of tough love if you think about it. Your parents may have made something of themselves, but essentially in the grand scheme of things, you’re on your own. Not exactly optimistic, right? The song goes on to say that if you’re strong, you’ll have more. If you’re weak? Not so much. Oh, and money? Yes, you’re going to need money.

What a bummer of a song, you say? Oh, it gets worse. The bridge goes on to say,

‘Money, you’ve got lots of friends
Crowding round the door
When you’re gone, spending ends
They don’t come no more’

Once again, I’m not even going to try convincing you this song is cheerful. It’s anything but that. In a strange way, it might actually make things a bit worse before they can get better. From my perspective, it’s somehow more helpful not to sugarcoat things for someone when things are going poorly.

Other than listening to music that soothes you, there are plenty of other things one can do to get out of a foul mood. For some reason, simply standing up and going outside can sometimes make a world of difference.

The only other thing I’d say if you’re just not feeling yourself in these sometimes depressing days is that no matter how bad things might get, nothing lasts forever. Things always change.

In the meantime, I’m going to listen to some more Billie Holiday.