Three Reasons You Should Try Instagram

Recent images (as of July 29, 2012) from my Instagram activity. Compiled by

By now most of you have heard of Instagram. Not only did Facebook buy this fledgling company for a bazzillion dollars, but for many folks it has become the social media platform of choice. The reason that I too have gravitated to Instagram might be that my twitter and facebook feeds are getting more and more difficult to track or that I am more a visual person, but whatever the case, I have found myself thinking Instagram first in my social networking life.

I asked some people to share why they use Instagram here and offer three more reasons you might want to give Instagram a try.

ONE – We are given the power to unleash the artsy fartsy creative monster within. With all the basic Instagram app features EVERYONE can find the artist within. We each see beauty in different things whether it is architecture, food, nature or the city and now we can share those passions in a new way. Using the different editing tools: filters, focusing, brightness, etc. it does not take much to create a picture that looks very cool and better captures what we are trying to say through a particular image. Case in point, this is a picture I snapped during a recent coffee stop at Cup in the Glen Park area of San Francisco. It is just three drinks: a latte, a havana and a hot chocolate, but with a few edits . . . voila, artsy beyond my own true ability.

TWO – We see the world in new ways through the eyes and words of our friends.   One of the greatest surprises as I have gotten into Instagram has been being able to see another side of people I know. While Instagram allows us all to be artsy, people still have to decide what images to share. Many times a day, as I scroll through images of those I follow, I find myself thinking, “Wow, that is a really cool shot!”  or “Hmmm, I had no idea that he liked X.” The angles, objects and stories that people choose to capture can share a whole other side to a person’s personality and perspective that we don’t always see through words. For instance, if you had not known me before, you might not have known that our family is a big Oakland A’s family, now you do. Go A’s!

THREE – We create a scrapbook for ourselves and our families. As with Twitter and Facebook, I am most interested in the in-between moments of life that help me to see the complexity of humanity.  Through capturing images of children, pets, food, buildings, etc. we are given a glimpse into the ongoing journey of life that folks are living. As look back on my own photo feed, I am given a visual reminder of some of our memorable moments in life. Yep, that’s us fishing.

Of course none of these services come without some cautions to think about. Now that Instagram is owned by Facebook, some have raised concerns about privacy, photo ownership and other issues about the general usage if both services. You can read some of that here, here and here.

In future posts I’ll compile some tips/apps to enhance your Instagram experience, but until then, download the app for your iPhone of Android (Yes, it’s a smart phone-only app) and dive in. Here are a few folks who I would suggest you follow as you get started.

  • UPDATE: TOTALLY forgot to list another photographer and friend who takes some very cool shots. Give @mfphotog some love.
  • @denisekendall – For great architecture and landscape images from the Bay Area.
  • @leslieannrod – Lots of dogs, food and life captured with a photographers eye.
  • @edunny – Another photographer friend, captures some very cool shots.
  • @casacullen – Great food, a new baby boy and a cute little dog.
  • @philz_coffee – Um, because it’s the best coffee in San Francisco.
  • If you would like to follow me you can find me by searching for breyeschow

So, there you have it, just a few reasons you might want to give Instagram a try. If you have other reasons, please feel free to leave them here or on my I ♥ Instagram because . . . photo.

The Courage to Blog About Personal Struggles

[Photo By Ian Sane]

A few weeks ago, there was an a slight uproar in the football world. In response to the suicide of Junior Saeu and NFL concussion controversies some ex-NFL stars began sharing that they would prefer that their kids not play football. Now blogging is nowhere near as physically damaging to ones body as football, but I do know that there are emotional risks to putting oneself out there. There are blog trolls seeking their next target, others see it as their job to “keep and eye” on particular people and still others are just mean-spirited and abrasive.

I am not sure that I want my kids to blog . . . or keep blogging as the case may be.

Even knowing that 99% of interactions are positive, if you have ever been on the receiving end of caustic comments, they can sting and wear you down. After a while, you learn how to go with the flow, to not take comments personally, to reflect when necessary and to keep sharing your message. Now being able to hold this posture is one thing when blogging about politics, race or religion, but when one REALLY puts personal stuff out on display, that is quite another.

In comparison to some of my blogging friends, I share much more about myself that is personal. I share about my journey of call, the adventures of my family and my opinion about all things political, cultural and religious. I do this in the hopes that people get to know me, not as a one-dimensional characature, but as a complex person: a dad, a pastor, an Oakland A’s fan, a Philz Coffee addict and so on and so on and so on. But there are certainly things that I do not share. Sharing some parts of my life might compromise my family’s privacy, other experiences are not my stories to share and other things in life . . . I simply don’t have the courage to share with my larger reading community.

So when people share their struggles in life as part of their journey towards healing, I am always impressed. Some share out of a deep place of healing, others share as part of a process of moving towards healing and still others share as a cathartic release of emotions and thoughts. When people share their stories out of a place of genuine humanity, it is holy. It is also a privilege to be let into their lives in some small way.

This week I have been inspired by a few folks who have reminded me of the courage to publicly share struggles, not only for their own healing, but for the healing of others. Their words are powerful.

The first person was Erin Jerri Malonzo Pangilinan, who I have known via online interactions for a while. I am actually not sure if/when we have ever met in person, but we share some common passions around politics, race and justice. I stumbled upon her 8 Asians post, Breaking The Silence: Vagina Monologues and Domestic Violence.

Domestic violence is often portrayed only as physical violence, but violence comes in forms that aren’t always visible. I had emotional wounds after staying in emotionally abusive, unhealthy, unequal, and co-dependent relationship for years. When you constantly compromise yourself, it’s easy to stay stuck in a viscous cycle. [Read on…]

You should follow Erin on Twitter. Thanks Erin.

For a while know, my friend Deborah Matthews has been sharing with and leaning on her online community though sharing on her blog, Suddenly Bipolar: My Journey through Darkness to Wholeness. Deborah, a Presbyterian Pastor, has shared the impact of her bipolar disorder on all aspects of her life, she has leaned on her online community during times of struggle and has kept us aware of what is going on so folks can keep connected. She has invited us in as part of her healing and I, for one am grateful.

Recently she has begun giving away the books from her pastoral library and posted about the experience of giving away her last books:

For the rest of the day the grief consumed me, the emptiness opening into a deep crevasse, ice walls on each side spreading into my heart. I don’t have anything to replace what those books represented – 18 years of investment in one way of life, one life plan, one calling and vocation. I know something will show up eventually, yet day by day I search for something to rely upon just to make it through that day. One day at a time. [Read on…]

I would also encourage you to read her insightful post about why she blogs about bipolar disorder. And yes, you can follow Deborah on Twitter too. Thanks Deborah.

I was just introduced to the blog Mama Deak Speaks, written by Anne Deak. A new blogger, her reason for writing: “Inspired by my mother-in-law, father and sister and reeling from the loss of my husband to colon cancer I decided to jump in with both feet and start writing. Let’s see how this goes.” Not only does she write about the in-between celebrations of life, but she writes about some of the hardest parts of living after the loss of her husband.

In this post she reflects on the “So when are you having another?” question that comes so often as she raises her young son, Domani.

It’s a well meaning question and if my circumstances were different I would be more than happy to gush about how I would love to have another and how Domani would be a great big brother and how we are just waiting for the timing to be right. But there’s no ‘we’ and I’m in a very different place now than where I was just last year when I would have answered that way. Joe and I talked about having more kids. Even while he was sick we talked about it. Joe had stared amazed with me at that first ultrasound. He carefully picked our son’s name. His eyes filled up with tears when Domani was born. And every moment from then on we enjoyed our son, our hope for tomorrow. [Read on…]

Be sure to follow Anne on Twitter. Thanks Anne.

The final example that I will share with you is my baby sister, Lauren, as she shares about her recent struggles and bipolar diagnosis. Lauren is much like me, some think we over-share online, but it is and has been part of our personality to put ourselves out there, so I am not surprised that she has started sharing her story on her blog, Dearest Daughters.

Here is her post that shares the for the first time with extended family and friends about her diagnosis.

But, I knew I was crazy. I knew I wasn’t myself. That something else was in control, something that I couldn’t fight alone, something bigger than me, something caused by more than just a stressful vacation or baby blues or an intense five years of marriage and back-to-back child-bearing.

So, for now, I find comfort in my diagnosis. It’s like a doh!-hand-to-forehead-epiphany moment. So, that’s what you were doing all this time? You, Silly Brain, you! [Read on…]

When I asked Lauren if I could share her story more widely, her response was, “Yup. I put it on the Internet after all . . . I don’t mind, the point is transparency, honesty and support and de-stigmatization!” That’s my sister. While reading her post tears at my heart, I am also buoyed by the knowledge that things are getting better. And yes, you can follow Lauren on Twitter too. Thanks Lauren.

As I finish up this post, I am struck that all four that I have chosen are women. I am sure there is some reason for this that can be examined further, but for now, I end this post with a simple Thank You to Erin, Deborah, Anne and Lauren. Thank you for being willing to invite people into a part of your life that so many others experience in isolation. I hope we can offer you the same presence of hope and healing to you that you are so clearing offering to others. Thank you.