Ten Ways To Be More Presidential On Instagram

Barack Obama's Instagram Page White House Social Media

Let’s be honest.  You’d kill for over 2 million Instagram followers.  And wouldn’t it sort of feel nice if each time you uploaded a washed-out picture of you and your new hair it received 150,000 likes and 45,000 comments?

While it might take getting elected to the most powerful position in the world to become as popular as President Barack Obama on Instagram, there are still a few lessons we can learn from his Instagram page.

president barack obama eating pizza from instagram1. People don’t care what you ate, they care who you ate it with.

Stop taking those boring shots where you hover over your plate at a 90° angle. If we want to see the menu of that new Korean BBQ place, we’ll look at the menu for the new Korean BBQ place.  But since we’re looking at your Instagram page, what we’re looking to find are pictures of you and your life.  Your friends.  The ambiance of the place.  Tell us the story of your night, not the story of how many calories you ate.

President Barack Obama before an interview on Instagram2. Make your followers feel exclusive.

Don’t feel the need to share every Instagram shot with your Twitter followers and Facebook friends.  Having a bit of exclusive content just for the people that follow you on Instagram will make them feel…exclusive.

Plus, don’t most of your Instagram followers already follow you on every social network anyway?  Duplicating the content dilutes the number of “likes” your picture will get!

Barack Obama talking in Madison WI on Instagram3. Don’t be afraid to show us what you do at work.

I’m not suggesting that you take your cell phone into super-secretive meetings and start photographing all of the trade secrets your company holds.  But you spend a lot of your life at the office…why not show your followers this real part of your life?

president barack obama sitting at a table from instagram4. Sometimes the best shot cannot be done by you.

Every once in a while you’re going to need to hand your phone over to someone else and ask them to help you get a shot.  Selfies are great, and everything…but it’s sort of difficult to really capture how fabulous your shirt matches your pants without relinquishing control.

barack obama and michelle obama doing a throw back thursday on instagram #tbt5. Participate in #TBT…but not every damn Thursday.

We get it.  You were so skinny…back then.  You were so young…back then.  You were so whatever…back then.

Throwback Thursday (#TBT) is fun.  We all enjoy seeing old photos that you dig up.  But when we start to suspect that #TBT is a way for you to live in the past, we start to feel sorry for you.

We follow you on Instagram because we like to see what you’re up to.  Not what you were up to 20 years ago.  So if you’re going to post a #TBT, do it sparingly.

An Obama supporter from social media6. Don’t be afraid to use the Willow filter.

Some pictures look good all Kelvin-ed out…but don’t be afraid to use the simple black & white filter called “Willow.”

This filter works especially well when there are areas of both light and shadow in your image.

barack obama picture on instagram with no filter social media 10 things image7. Don’t be afraid to use no filter.

I know. I know.  Sharing a photo on Instagram without a filter is a lot like going to McDonalds and asking for no salt on your fries.

Trust me here.  Your Instagram feed will look okay without each image having shadowy corners and sepia tone centers.  Try it once.

michelle obama posing for pictures that were posted to instagram8. Take pictures of people posing…for different cameras.

This isn’t exactly a candid shot since the subjects in the photograph are posing.  But there’s something dynamic about photographs of posed people looking at other cameras.  This makes your Instagram follower feel like part of your action…watching on as the photo is taken instead of looking at just another contrived “Say Cheese!”

barack obama's back as he poses for a pictureThe Obamas do this one well (that’s why I’m including two examples).  Part of the reason they do it so well is because their Instagram is managed by a team of people that are taking photographs at their events.  But this technique is also one that really draws in the viewer and makes them feel like there are on the inside…which is on the list of objectives for the President’s social media campaigns.

obama's re election countdown on instagram9. Have an agenda.

Have something to say…and try to make sure your pictures tell that story.

Your “story” doesn’t have to be as grandiose as running for President of the United States of America.  Perhaps your story is simply “I am a wonderful woman that likes to knit.”  In which case when you see a big ball of knitting yarn and needles sitting next to your arm chair (I know NOTHING about knitting…do you use yarn? are they called needles?) you might feel inspired to snap a photo.

I feel like my Instagram agenda is to show how diabetes affects my life.  Therefore I find myself taking a lot of photos on Instagram of my glucometer and posting videos of diabetes paraphernalia.  Don’t let this “agenda” limit what you share, just allow it to inspire you.  As my friend Kerri said about diabetes, “Diabetes doesn’t define me, but it helps explain me.”

Hat trick: Sunny, Stanley, and Bo. #GoHawks stanley cup dogs10. Do not stop taking pictures of dogs.



RIP Barbara Bancroft

brian mike and barbara diabetes aade philly 2013

Left to right: Brain, Me and Barbara at AADE 2013 in Philly

The world lost a really great woman today.

Barbara Bancroft was known to many people as jrtpup on TuDiabetes. Barbara has been a wonderful volunteer for TuDiabetes and the Diabetes Hands Foundation (my employer) where she was part of the admin team.  She frequently complimented me on the art and design I have done for the site (including the cartooned version of her below) and has put in countless hours helping shape the content of the TuDiabetes Community.

Yesterday she lost her battle with cancer and passed away with her family around her.  I hope she knows that hundreds of us had her in our thoughts as well.

Barbara treated me like a son, and it wasn’t until I started reading all of the messages from the grieving community members that I have realized that many people also considered their bond with Barbara to be extra special.

Go to TuDiabetes and share your memories, thoughts on Barbara’s influence.
rip barbara bancroft diabetes tudiabetese

The conversation on the TuDiabetes thread I linked to above is really positive, so I’m going to avoid posting the negative thoughts that I’m having there.  But Barbara’s passing does remind me of something that I’ve been thinking of lately and I’ll share it here.  I feel that my bullshit reward for taking care of my diabetes, in the way that Barbara so diligently took care of her diabetes, is that I will get to die the “regular” way.  And that’s not encouraging at all.

Late last year when diabetes advocate Emilio Fernandez died in a car accident I had similar feelings.  While I didn’t know Emilio in the same way that I know and love Barbara, it’s just a startling reminder that life is short and fleeting despite how well you take care of your diabetes. Living with a chronic condition is relentless, and at times like this I feel that we never really win.

Sorry for the bleak post.  Now I’m going to go celebrate the awesomeness of @jrtpup with my TuDiabetes friends.

People With Diabetes and Flu Shots

text message about diabetes and flu shots

If you have diabetes you have certainly been nagged at by your doctor to get a flu shot.  We’ve all heard it a million times.  People with diabetes must get a flu-shot or the world will start spinning in the opposite direction.

But why?

According to this Canadian Study, people with diabetes are 6% more likely to get hospitalized for the flu.

“This increased risk [for hospitalization] is small, but nonetheless is justification for targeting adults with diabetes to get vaccinated,” said Johnson, director of the Alliance for Canadian Health Outcomes Research in Diabetes at the University of Alberta.

Is a tiny increased risk of hospitalization worth it to you?  And how effective is the flu-vaccine anyway?  According to the Center For Disease Control, it’s close to impossible to measure exactly how effective a vaccine is…but they do say this:

While determining how well a flu vaccine works is challenging, in general, recent studies have supported the conclusion that flu vaccination benefits public health, especially when the flu vaccine is well matched to circulating flu viruses.

Kelly Rawlings wrote an article for Diabetes Forecast that has some flu-fighting tips for people living with diabetes.  Kelly suggests getting the vaccine for much of the same reasons that the Canadian study pointed out.  It’s also well into flu-season and I still haven’t received the vaccination.  So I’m wondering if it’s too late.  According to Kelly’s article, however, getting the shot even after the beginning of flu season is better than going without.

I have a doctor’s appointment in February and I will ask for my doctor’s advice then…but I feel that if I haven’t had the flu by then, perhaps the vaccine won’t be worth it.

Late last week I sent a Tweet out asking people in the online community if they get a flu-shot and why or why not.  The responses were very varied.  Plenty of people believe in getting the flu-shot:

And other people expressed that they didn’t feel that the flu-shot did them any good:

Do you get the flu-shot?  Why or why not?

Diabetes Art Day 2014 is coming!

diabetes art day logo lee ann thill art therapyDiabetes Art Day is so close I can taste it!

I’m a huge fan of the work that Lee Ann Thill does.  She’s a diabetes advocate and art therapist that started Diabetes Art Day in 2010 to encourage people touched by diabetes to engage in creative visual expression to communicate their experience with diabetes, connect with others and to raise awareness.

Diabetes Art Day this year is February 3rd.  All you have to do is make a piece of art that reflects something about diabetes that you want to share.  Then submit it to DiabetesArtDay.com.

I have found the experience of creating diabetes-art to be very therapeutic.  In fact, in recent years I’ve been surprised at how emotional some of this has been for me.  A couple of years ago I made this video of my experience:

mike lawson diabetes art day art done with syringe for insulinIf you plan on taking part in Diabetes Art Day this year, you could also help out by taking this pre-survey which will help Lee Ann study the effects of Diabetes Art Day.

The survey is a PRE and POST survey…so you have to give your email address so there can be a follow-up.  But filling out the survey doesn’t mean a hard commitment to participating in the art day.  JUST DO IT!

Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Bicycling For Better Blood Sugar

It is a new year, but that has nothing to do with my new resolutions to do better for my body.



I’m serious.  But…since you brought it up, let me tell you about my new resolutions.

Bicycling my way to better blood sugar diabetesFor starters, I bought a new (to me) bike.  It’s an old Schwinn Traveler from the late 80s.  Baby blue.  Adorable.  All fixed up and ready to ride.

I live about 2 miles from the office and have started biking into work each morning.  I haven’t noticed tons of differences in my blood sugar just yet.  But the benefits are already starting to roll in.


  • I get here faster.
  • I don’t feel tired when I get home at night.
  • I’m helping others by staying off the crowded bus/BART.
  • I feel more focused in the mornings at the office (this could also do with the standing thing I talk about below).

I’m notorious for getting really excited about new things (exercise routines, diets, reality TV shows) and then ditching them in a few weeks after the shiny outer layer is worn off.  So far, however, I’m looking at this as a new part of my lifestyle instead of a passing thing.  Ask me in a week.

standing desk setup at office diabetesI have also been getting really excited about the standing desk setup that I’ve created at work.  I read somewhere on the internet (so it must be true) that SITTING IS THE NEW SMOKING.  So I threw a bookshelf on its side and now I stand all day at work.

I do sit down during my lunch break and sometimes during meetings.  I find myself zoning out significantly less than I used to when I was hunched over in my chair.  And the fatigue at the end of that day is really minimal.


  • My after-lunch slump is doesn’t bring me all the way down to near-coma levels.
  • My creativity levels are higher. I even draw while standing.
  • I can self-righteously leave the office every day feeling like I just did a workout.
  • I get more Fitbit steps in since I’m constantly dancing and walking in place.

So there are my two new lifestyle changes that I’ve made…coincidentally at the beginning of this new year.  My birthday is in March; check back then to see if I’m still with it.

I wish my Pebble Smartwatch Integrated With my Dexcom

the pebble smartwatchI’m a new Pebble Smartwatch user.

If you’re not familiar, the Pebble is a wristwatch that you wear that wirelessly communicates with your iPhone or Android phone and all of your phone’s alerts will pop-up on the watch.  The project started from a Kickstarter campaign and is slowly seeping it’s way into the techier corners of our world.

I know that Diabetes Wonderwoman Cherise has one too.

There are a dozen reasons I love this thing.  And I don’t want to bore you with all of them here (the short list includes being able to see my text messages without taking out my iPhone in sketchy neighborhoods or on the train; I can control the music that’s playing on my iPhone while it’s in my pocket; and I can pay attention to everything that is in front of me without getting distracted by incoming messages that aren’t worth my time).  There is one diabetes-related thing that I wish the Pebble would do, but it’s more of an iPhone/Dexcom integration issue.

Dexcom patent smartphone integrationDexcom, the maker of continuous glucose monitors, announced last week that they had filed a patent for a system that would integrate my smartphone and my Dexcom device.  This is good news for people that don’t love carrying around their CGM receivers.  My friend Donna can’t seem to take a taxi cab without leaving her receiver in it, so this technology will benefit these types of people immensely.

One of the images that was used in the patent application (to the left) also includes notifications that seem a bit smarter than the normal CGM.  Things like “you’re starting to go high” or “it looks like you are going to go low in 10 minutes.”

This is an exciting idea.  I do know, however, that the FDA “roadblocks to new technology” or “regulations to keep the public safe” depending on which camp you’re in, are big and really difficult to clear.  I wouldn’t guess that this technology is super close to market.  But it’s an exciting prospect nonetheless.

The additional benefit, in my opinion, is that as my phone is becoming an invisible technology that sits in my pocket and is checked up on using a secondary screen (in my case my Pebble Smartwatch), I will be able to also see the alerts coming from an integrated continuous glucose system.

Pebble smartwatch integrated with dexcom continuous glucose monitor

This is just a mock-up version of a Dexcom alert that could possible be part of an integrated system. Someday.

Right now I’m loving how the Pebble is allowing me to avoid looking at my iPhone.  When I’m biking, I can see what text messages come in.  When I’m sitting in meetings I hate being rude and pulling out my phone and the Pebble allows me to avoid that.  And I’m even seeing an improvement in my normal workflow…sitting at my desk I can (without ever taking my fingers off of my keyboard) see what emails come in and decide if it’s worth clicking over to my inbox to deal with them at the moment.

The benefits this new technology has brought me will be only magnified when (if?) Dexcom clears the FDA and can start bringing me my CGM alerts directly to my phone.

As people with diabetes, we frequently dream about technology that would make our lives better.  For different reasons (regulations, cost, disinterest from industry) we conclude that these dreams are just that…dreams.  With the Dexcom patent application, however, I feel like this one desire could be close.

Calloused Fingers Crossed!