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Golden Oldies: The Screen that Kills Connection, Friendship and Empathy

Monday, October 17th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back at more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

A couple of years ago I cited research that showed how the vagus nerve connects your brain to your heart and that, like muscles, it needs exercise to stay strong; screen time weakens that connection. I also predicted that the research would fall on deaf ears if it fell at all. Sometimes I hate when I’m right, so here it is again. Read it carefully, share it with all your friends and then plan your own vagus exercise routine.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitpedia/4882197805People’s preoccupation with their screens has been blamed for many things and if you’ve been around someone who kept sneaking peeks while talking you know how annoying that is.

But did you know it messes up not only your brain, but also your capacity for connection, friendship, empathy, as well as your actual physical health?

Texting even messes up your infant’s future!

New parents may need to worry less about genetic testing and more about how their own actions — like texting while breast-feeding or otherwise paying more attention to their phone than their child — leave life-limiting fingerprints on their and their children’s gene expression.

It’s not just a case of being distracted.

Your vagus nerve connects your brain to your heart and how you handle your social connections affects the vagal tone, which, like muscle tone, can improve with exercise and that, in turn, increases the capacity for connection, friendship and empathy.

In short, the more attuned to others you become, the healthier you become, and vice versa. This mutual influence also explains how a lack of positive social contact diminishes people. Your heart’s capacity for friendship also obeys the biological law of “use it or lose it.” If you don’t regularly exercise your ability to connect face to face, you’ll eventually find yourself lacking some of the basic biological capacity to do so.

Do I think this research will actually make a difference in people’s actions?

No!

Even if the information becomes widespread I don’t think people would give up the instant gratification of being mentioned or conquer their FOMO and focus instead on quality face time.

It doesn’t seem a big deal right now, but look into the future at a world that doesn’t just lack connection and empathy, but is filled with people who aren’t even capable of it.

I’m glad I won’t be around.

One last item; a short essay that says better than I have in the past exactly why I don’t carry a cell phone. Enjoy!

Flickr image credit: Digitpedia Com

Entrepreneurs: More About Naming

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

WhartonMy part of this post will be a brief, because I want to be sure you use the link I’m going to give you.

Have you ever noticed that when a subject, word or name comes up you suddenly start running into it from all sides.

Last week’s Entrepreneur post look at the challenge of naming a company or product and used CB Insights as a kind of case study.

Today I read an article from Knowledge @ Wharton (it’s worth subscribing) called How (Not) to Name a Company in the Digital Era.

“Name selection is more important now than ever before,” says Alexandra Watkins, founder of brand consulting agency Eat My Words. “Your name has to work harder than it did 20 years ago.”

Driving the charge are shifts in technology and consumer habits. The ubiquitous presence of internet domain names and web addresses, or URLs, social media and the prevalent use of smartphones and tablets with their smaller screens call for new rules on how a company, product or service should select its name, marketing experts say.

I thought it was very good and sent it to several serial entrepreneurs who have been through the naming fire multiple times.

They also thought it was excellent and said to share it.

So I am.

Now click the link.

Image credit:  Wharton

Mark Benioff’s Solution to Information Overload

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cambodia4kidsorg/5310317688/Everyone complains about information overload.

Playwright Richard Forman has a term for it.

“Pancake people – spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button”.

Psychologist and behavioral neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, author of the upcoming book The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, recommends retraining your brain.

“Our brains are equipped to deal with the world the way it was many thousands of years ago when we were hunter-gatherers. Back then the amount of information that was coming at us was much less and it came at us much more slowly.”

But Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff has a much simpler solution.

“I deleted my Facebook account completely. I found it was just overwhelming me. I’m only on Twitter, I’m on SalesforceOne, which is my internal one for work, I’m on email, and that’s it. And I’m limited to that. I’m trying not to take on more stuff. I was with a friend this weekend, he’s got his Twitter, his Facebook, he has his Snapchat, he’s got all these – too much.”

Of course, part of the overload is work-related, but it’s amazing how much is pure trivia driven by FoMO and/or the need to impress by sounding knowledgeable about a twist in Game of Thrones.

You are the only person who can evaluate just how necessary your various information streams are sooner rather than later.

Because even the smallest stream adds to the river in which it is oh, so easy to drown.

Then you need gather your courage, follow Benioff’s lead and shut down the unnecessary streams.

Your sanity will thank you.

Flickr image credit: Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter

Fighting Back: Google and You

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/lamerie/501994750/

Like porn, privacy evil seems to be in the eye of the beholder (me), but not in Google’s eye.

I’ve written in the past about the fluidity of evil and the privacy difference between Apple and the rest (Google, Facebook, etc.)

Now I see that Google is going above and beyond in the name of “user convenience.”

Google will need to convince people that having AI manage your life is more convenient than it is creepy.

I get that many of you like the idea and have no problem with suggestions and tracking, etc., so you may have no interest past this point.

But those of you who consider tracking more akin to stalking and are happily capable of managing your own life/world will find the following truly valuable.

In a truly informative and useful article Business Insider provides links so you can see what Google knows about you.

Better yet, it walks you through how to delete and control how Google uses it and what it sells to third parties.

It’s a long way from the privacy Europe enjoys, but it’s sure better than nothing.

Thanks, BI!

Image credit: Lamerie

Ducks in a Row: the Damage of an Overly Competitive Culture

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/acrylicartist/15321161786/

Last Friday we looked at the disturbing number of entrepreneurs who suffer from anxiety and depression, exacerbated by the pressures of founding a startup, and too often find their solace in suicide.

Mark Suster wrote how the same problems often haunt success.

Today’s New York Times had a complimentary article, Campus Suicide and the Pressure of Perfection.

There are several compelling points to consider;

  • almost all are young;
  • they are high achievers recognized for ‘crushing it’ — whatever ‘it’ happens to be;
  • they are driven to live up to outside expectations; and
  • they constantly compare themselves to others’ external images as depicted in social media.

The acts required to “keep up with the Joneses” have changed significantly from my under-35 days.

Back then it was your neighbors and school/social/professional circles that comprised the Joneses.

Now it is the no-holds-barred world.

The existential question “Why am I here?” is usually followed by the equally confounding “How am I doing?” In 1954, the social psychologist Leon Festinger put forward the social comparison theory, which posits that we try to determine our worth based on how we stack up against others.

Growing up and in the years since ‘how am I doing’ was never my focus, because I never fit in; never was part of any crowd and certainly never told I was special.

Fortunately, I wasn’t competitive; in fact, competitive has never been part of my personal vocabulary.

Somehow I’ve always known that no matter what I accomplished there would always be people who were richer/smarter/thinner/more popular/more whatever than I.

Unlike those described in the aforementioned articles.

And the pressures have increased exponentially for those susceptible.

In the era of social media, such comparisons take place on a screen with carefully curated depictions that don’t provide the full picture. Mobile devices escalate the comparisons from occasional to nearly constant.

“Curated” is the polite way to say that people lie — not only to convince the world, but probably to convince themselves.

Don’t get caught in this trap; teach yourself to talk about how you feel — to at least one real person, preferably more.

And take time to be there for others who are struggling.

Flickr image credit: Rodney Campbell

If the Shoe Fits: the Power of Working Alone

Friday, June 5th, 2015

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mMore and more research is showing that real creativity is a more solo function than a team effort.

Susan Cain spells this out in a thoughtful LinkedIn post that is well worth your time, especially if you are a young founder raised on social media, with a penchant for crowdsourcing and Yelp.

Consider the words of Steve Wozniak in his memoir iWoz.

Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me—they’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone where they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has been invented by committee. If you’re that rare engineer who’s an inventor and also an artist, I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team.

Then read, digest and tweak Cain’s ideas to fit your situation, then put the concepts to work in your company.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Before You Tweet…

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/topgold/3341034811/in/photolist-66eFft-oeFjnx-estP63-98Spsn-ru5yJv-free6U-7gCYKZ-dUtnoh-87FzcL-6bGRnQ-8UftWG-5ZTi6A-cHM9aY-7HyzfJ-69pMgP-8BmjRj-hqybdq-8vAtRc-62KiZQ-836Ttv-77r3c2-7graYC-6PeUJ5-7Tteqf-pxBYFB-mqJuuw-6nLBhu-57iHze-8WhEXp-6cfUZr-8hLZzr-6eTk17-btdg1c-9kttrt-61gnsk-5HoFdL-eePN4H-5UuWwg-agYDbQ-6rdmKH-cNL2w5-8MX6kS-c5CURy-8hVWKZ-5QqSYP-91471X-9pT4Ni-jLKyc6-5Fgqh1-6PaSaT

You know that old saying, ‘do not run mouth unless brain is engaged’?

These days there should be a rule about not posting to social media unless brain is engaged.

Better yet, some kind of hardware similar to the gadget that prevents a car from starting if the driver can’t pass a breathalyzer test.

Media is full of stories about people who were fired for what they tweeted.

The rationalization I hear from various people is that it won’t happen to them because “I’m different.” They say that “they (those fired) were nobodies, i.e., low-level workers or unemployed, while they are “professionals,” i.e., they have clout.

Once I stop laughing I remind them of all those with clout who sent stupid tweet that cost them their jobs.

Now I just send them a link listing 13 Twitter-savvy somebodys fired for their tweets.

Whether you’re a somebody or a nobody, read the list.

Then be sure your brain is engaged before you post a tweet — every time.

Flickr image credit: Bernard Goldbach

Internal Leadership

Monday, April 20th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/101181388@N07/14876534990

Do you equate leadership to influence?

Does being labeled an “influencer” by LinkedIn or other social media make you a leader?

Not really.

True leadership is internal.

It’s a function of your MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™).  

It starts by knowing both yourself and your MAP.

Knowing yourself refers to knowing what you’ve done.

Knowing your MAP means knowing why you did it.

Knowing both allows you to accurately evaluate where you are and where you’re going.

That knowledge is the rudder with which you can chart and achieve any course you choose.

Image credit: Jevgenijs Slihto

The Value of Validation

Monday, April 6th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/5790730182

Do you like hearing “you did good” or the appropriate equivalent when you accomplish something, whether large or small?

It’s safe to say that 99.9% of us do.

It’s called validation and it’s what takes our accomplishments out of our heads and gives them objective, real-world presence.

We measure our success based on our accomplishments, so outside validation has always been important.

Validation used to come came from our family, friends, bosses, colleagues — people we knew and who knew us.

Now people crave and seek validation from strangers they have never met and probably never will.

Society seems to have decided that recognition and approval from thousands via virtual communities and soulless apps have more value than the same from flesh and blood people.

Personally, I find it very weird, but I guess it’s just one more thing that makes me a digital dinosaur.

Image credit: DonkeyHotey 

Diversity, Silos and Trolls

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rotron/3655734558

Yesterday we looked at how our society moved from a culture of narrow connections to one of mobility and a broader acceptance of those totally unconnected to us to the current regression back to responding mainly (often only) to those to whom we are already connected — no matter how tenuous or irrelevant the connection.

In other words, we went from silos to free-range and back to silos.

Ola Joseph says, “Diversity is not about how we differ. Diversity is about embracing one another’s uniqueness.”

But today we reinforce our particular silos through social media.

Where once we were broadened, 21st Century media provides the means to assure ourselves that our opinions are shared by both followers and followed.

Trolls aren’t new, either; they are the modern version of poison pen letters.

According to Auden, “Civilizations should be measured by the degree of diversity attained and the degree of unity retained.”

However, the anonymity of online communications allows us to unleash our thoughts with no civilizing or cultural leavening.

And so we join the ranks of trolls in one area, while bemoaning their existence in another.

Image credit: Roshan Vyas

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