YouTube user testing and social media

I participated in a YouTube user testing session today. If I understand this correctly, they chose YouTube users who actively upload videos to YouTube and maintain channels, and so I guess I fit the bill with YmF. We talked through my social media habits, which platforms I use, how often I use them, and how the content I create varies or overlaps across them. As the YouTube employee was asking me all these questions, I realized that I probably need to spend more time focusing on how I want to create different content by platform. Obviously, I’m not uploading all my main videos to Instagram or TikTok, but I oftentimes take my TikTok videos and add them to Instagram. But people don’t use TikTok the way they use Instagram, so it may be a better idea to make content for each totally separate.

I’ve actually been trying to increase my following and social media presence a lot more than before. Since mid-August, I’ve been a bit more aggressive about it, whether it’s reaching out to people I know are following my personal accounts or through interacting with other accounts. It actually takes way more time than I’d originally anticipated, but it’s been a good challenge to have. If other people can do it, so can I… right? Since mid-August, I’ve increased my Instagram following by over 180 people. That may not be a lot for some people or for influencers, but for me, that’s a LOT!

This genuinely could be a full time job in itself. I just need to keep at it to try to keep the dream alive.

friends who make a difference in the world

I met a friend for yet another first-meeting since the pandemic began in Central Park today. It’s funny — we’ve keep in touch loosely in some form several times a month since we last saw each other in January, whether that’s been through Zoom, texts, Instagram, but it was our first time seeing each other. These meetings are always so strange now. In a non-COVID world, it would be normal to hug each other and be affectionate. In a COVID world, there’s the initial awkwardness of: do we elbow each other, hug, tap each other’s foot — what? Do we leave our masks on or not? These situations are the new normal.

We talked a lot about the virus, about how people in our lives have responded to it, as well as to the recent reawakening around racial injustice across the world. Since I first met her, I’ve known she’s always been politically active; she’s volunteered for a number of Senate and presidential elections, and she’s already volunteering to help out voter protection for the upcoming presidential election. It’s comforting to know that I actually have friends who are genuinely playing an active part in trying to make the world a better place and aren’t being complacent and expecting everyone else to make the change happen.

Eating through Brooklyn

Every Saturday since the city started opening up, we’ve been exploring other neighborhoods across, Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn, and it’s inevitably been a bit of a food crawl through the boroughs. Today, we went from eating focaccia to tacos to Colombian soup and empanada to Indian-inspired ice cream — all walking distance, all within 16,000 steps. It was a delicious and eclectic food crawl which even included quite a bit more street art for photos and videos.

Part of me wonders if the pandemic’s silver lining is that it’s forced us to explore our own backyard a bit more. I’m constantly reading and bookmarking new restaurants, cafes, and businesses to check out in neighborhoods across all five boroughs, yet we never feel like we have enough time to see them all. Now, we’re actually doing just that. And it’s been really enjoyable. Sure, it would be more fun if we could actually sit inside and really enjoy some of the restaurants’ decor, but we’ve been patronizing them and seeing these others areas we generally spend little to no time in, and I think it’s been a blessing in disguise to a degree.

The first facial since before the pandemic

The last time I had a facial was for a spa birthday get-together with two of my friends back in San Francisco in February. We met up for a birthday brunch and then went to enjoy jacuzzis, steam rooms, and saunas at an upscale spa in downtown, then I enjoyed a 75-minute facial. What I was not aware of while I was enjoying that entire spa experience then was that it would be the last time I’d have any kind of spa treatment for a while given that COVID-19 would ravage the world and invade the U.S. shortly after that.

So as soon as facial spas opened up at the beginning of September, I decided to book some time for Chris and me to get one. The spa we usually go to had shut down their second location that we normally went to, which actually worked out because the location that remains open is closer and walking distance to our apartment. The protocols were as expected; we couldn’t enter the facilities until just before our appointment time; we had our temperatures taken; we were asked to wash our hands right after our temperatures were taken. It was a good, cleansing, relaxing experience, as my face is always full of gross gunk (I have my genes to thank for that!), but I think what stood out the most for both of us was actually being indoors somewhere that is not our apartment where we did not have to keep our masks on; this actually felt very odd and novel. You can’t really get a facial with your mask on, right?

The esthetician who was working with me this afternoon said that I had more clogged pores around my nose and mouth, likely because of wearing a mask, which warranted more extractions. “This is what I’ve seen since we reopened earlier this month,” she lamented. “Every single person has more congestion on their face, more blemishes, from all the sweat and oil getting trapped in their masks!”

Hmmm — another negative side effect of the pandemic and mask wearing. Hey, maybe the anti-maskers will complain about more clogged pores on their face as yet ANOTHER stupid reason to not wear a mask!!

Mask-on catch-up

This afternoon, I met up with a friend and his wife for our first catchup since I’d last seen them in early March. For the first few months of the pandemic, no one felt comfortable meeting up, but now that it’s been a while and things are starting to open up, we finally decided to meet up at a park… with our masks on.

I really feel for people who have pre-existing conditions or who easily fall ill. My friend once suffered really extreme pneumonia when he was in college, and it was apparently so bad that he nearly developed a hole in his lung. Since then, he’s been scarred by the experience and takes extra precautions with everything, including COVID-19. His wife recently got diagnosed with asthma, and she gets sick very easily (and from what he said, pretty often), so they’ve been quite risk-averse since the virus took over the world. They refuse to take any form of public transport, and they won’t even go to the grocery store and are nearly completely relying on grocery delivery and food delivery for food. When we met up, he said he was more comfortable if we sat with our masks on, so I complied.

When will the world be “normal” again in the sense that friends can meet up without masks on?

Bensonhurst food crawl

Today, I took the subway out to Bensonhurst in Brooklyn to meet up with someone I became friends with over Instagram, the owner of Baraat Ice Cream. I initially just thought she’d be someone that I’d support as a small business owner and order ice cream from, but when we met and spoke for about 10 minutes outside my apartment building, we really hit it off; she’s obviously passionate about food. I am obsessed about food. What more could you ask for in a new friend? So we ended up suggesting to meet up sometime in the near future, and until today, we were texting and messaging over Instagram almost every other day and bonding over our mutual love of food and culture.

She’s way younger than I am, as I kind of expected given some of the slang she used, and I’m way older than she thought I was (she says I look more like her age — 26; I’d beg to differ!!). We talked about different food concepts, cuisines, travel in India, our families and friend groups, and what we’ve discovered in our roads to attempting to be entrepreneurial.

“I don’t know — I feel like my acquaintances have been more supportive of Baraat than my own friends,” she contemplated out loud while we shared takeout dishes at a local park from four different spots in the area. “Does that mean that my friends just suck? Maybe I need new friends.”

“It’s okay — I can relate to that,” I said to her. The funny thing is that I’ve gotten the most positive feedback and excitement about my YouTube channel, the whole idea of YmF, from colleagues and acquaintances, vs. the people I’m supposed to call my closest friends. I think I’ve always been clear about my intention and desire in this: I never thought I’d be some overnight YouTube star or influencer raking in six figures in months (and…. I’m not! Even close!). The real intent of all of this is to document and share my passion for food and culture through social media and video, and sure, if I could make money out of it at the same time, that would be amazing. But I do most of these things already (cook, eat, travel), so why not document it? I shared this with Chris’s brother at some point, telling him that I’d commented about my channel in group chats with some friends, who didn’t even comment in the chat, subscribe to the channel, or follow my social media accounts for months.

“Maybe they’re just jealous of your ambition,” he suggested. “That could be their subconscious way of showing it.”

I don’t even know if I’d call it ambition — I guess it is? It’s a hobby that I can share. I have scrapbooking as a hobby, but that’s more personal and you can’t really share that widely. I don’t even know if I’d call it jealousy — that seems to be getting a bit deep. I’d generally just say it’s a general lack of care… which actually, if you think about THAT, that REALLY sucks to think about the fact that your friends don’t care about your passions…

But that’s why I can relate to what my new Instagram friend says. It sucks when it feels like your own friends don’t care about your passions, especially when you know you’d support them enthusiastically with their entrepreneurial desires.

“You’re in the only country in the world who would think that way”

I was on a Zoom catch-up with a friend today, and we were talking about the upcoming American presidential election and how something as basic as wearing a mask during a global pandemic has become politicized. The CDC employee morale is at an all-time low; they never thought their work would be considered “left wing” or “democrat” — their work was simply about health and safety — or so they thought. Scientists are being accused of putting the public in danger because they won’t grant fast approval for a potential COVID-19 vaccine — umm, this is considered a bad thing? Vaccines typically take years and years to develop, yet a certain leader wants them to be approved and potentially distributed in October, which just happens to be right before the election; no conflict of interest, right?

I lamented these issues to my friend, and she said what I’ve been getting infuriated about all along: “You’re in the only country in the world who would think this way or succumb to a leader like that. And you know why, right? The people in your country do not even understand its own history, which is unlike any other country on earth. Therefore, if they are ignorant of their own history, they have no way of not repeating past mistakes and improving upon them. I’m so sorry.”

I’m sorry, too. Really, really sorry.

Doctor’s visit and “health maintenance”

I had my annual physical today with the doctor I enjoyed seeing for years, but had to stop given a change in health insurance. Now that I was back, we talked about all the usual things, plus life in the time of COVID-19. I told her that I was experiencing tightness and pains in my hands, and she confirmed that it was likely mild carpal tunnel symptoms, but suggested that seeing a physical therapist at this time may be too much given that usually physical therapy “is meant for people with far worser injuries than yours.” I don’t know – that didn’t really sit well with me. Far worser injuries – really? I really do not think we should all be fully out of use of our hands or on our death beds before we get physical treatments or exercises prescribed to us; aren’t we supposed to be taking care of our bodies every day instead of waiting until everything breaks? I thought this was supposed to be about health maintenance?

She suggested I start with a wrist split on one hand and see if it helped with morning numbness, and go from there. If it got better, I’d likely just continue with my exercises and wrist splints, but if it got worse, she’d refer me to a physical therapist. The odd part came when she suggested she draw blood to check if I had any early onset rheumatoid arthritis “just in case.” Arthritis for me – at age 34?????

Our medical system is so sad and broken. I was terrified just hearing this.

Trendy Vietnamese food in Bushwick

During our food crawl in Bushwick yesterday, we ate at two trendy, fusion Vietnamese spots and a taco spot. The first Vietnamese spot we ate at was Lucy’s, which was known for modern iterations on pho and banh mi. We ordered a brisket banh mi to share, and it was definitely an experience. While we visited District Saigon in Astoria about a month ago and were blown away by their smoked brisket pho, this banh mi was a bit more of a departure from the traditional banh mi in that the brisket had really little to no Vietnamese flavor at all; it really tasted like good Texan-style brisket stuffed into a French bread roll. The bread roll reminded me more of the bread used for po boy sandwiches, and the hint of the banh mi really was in the raw vegetable and mayonnaise fillings inside.

The second Vietnamese spot we visited was Bunker, which was also on my Yelp list. Everything was very sweet, from the cocktail we shared to the bowl of plain pho broth. I think it’s likely a regional difference since the owners may originally be from Southern Vietnam, and so they like their broths sweeter, but it was just too sweet for me. The aroma and flavor were good, but I think I prefer the northern style pho broth more since it’s more smokey and intensely savory. I did love the decor at Bunker, with all its wall murals and plants everywhere. The outdoor seating was really perfect for the outdoor dining setup during this pandemic; they really have the ideal situation already!

Bushwick street art

Twelve years ago when I first moved to New York and was looking for apartments, my then roommate and I went to see one Bushwick apartment. The apartment was bare bones, the building looked like it could have collapsed in the next week, and the owner was pretty much covered from neck to toes in tattoos. I didn’t really care about the tattoos, but my aunt insisted on coming to view the apartments with us, and she was absolutely terrified about everything. It didn’t help that the entire area was covered in graffiti and litter everywhere, not to mention all the people hanging out on the street and blaring their music like it was a Saturday… except it was a weekday. My roommate didn’t love the area or the apartment then, either, and so we passed on it. Just four years later, she ended up moving to Bushwick with her boyfriend, and the area had started changing. Today, most of that graffiti and litter has disappeared in favor of endless constantly changing street art, hipster cafes and bars, and delicious Asian restaurants that couldn’t afford the Manhattan rent.

We walked through the neighborhood and took videos and photos of all the street art. Unfortunately, everyone seems to want to make fun of Trump, so there were many iterations of his face and body everywhere. But there were also political messages, too, ranging from climate change, the upcoming election, #blacklivesmatter, and wearing a mask. Sadly, yes: it’s become political whether you wear a mask or not, just as I predicted back in the spring. This is our country. At least the art is good, though.