October 14, 2010
All thirty-three trapped Chilean miners were rescued faster than authorities thought possible yesterday. Their feat of endurance and the rescuers’ act of perseverance demonstrate how incredible human beings truly are.
In a strife-torn region (Bolivia has some beef with Chile), the miners’ story brought together not just the nation itself, but the entire world edged a little closer as we followed the story live. The term algeriá (Spanish for ‘joy’) could be found all over Twitter yesterday. U.S. President Obama, German Chancellor Merkel and even the Pope were rooting for the rescue workers and their charges.
This crisis moved me on another level, too. Families were staked out for almost 70 days as they followed the rescue efforts minute by minute. Anyone who has loved ones working in seriously dangerous jobs (miners, oil rig workers, police and firemen and women come to mind) knows the fear that accompanies it. One learns to live with that gnawing notion in the back of one’s head, but it never really goes away.
I may not be from Chile, but somehow, after watching those people agonize for that many days, we’ve all become a part of something much greater than ourselves.
I bow deeply to those who risk their lives every day for me. Thank you for your courage.
October 17, 2009
Retrevo, an online gadget shop, came up with a neat survey whose results are not that surprising. The 35 and under crowd is clearly in love with its PDAs. In fact, 36% of those surveyed said they updated their social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter immediately after sexual intercourse. A most upsetting 40% admitted to doing so while driving (updating, that is!).
Whether they are driving an automobile or their love life, clearly a large number of younger folks have shifted their focus from a hands-on approach to a more digital one. Virtual worlds are starting to trump their real ones.
I can’t help but think of Mae West who once offered up a great slow quote well before the days of digital devices in the boudoir.
“Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.”
The next headline might very well read: More people engaged in social media than to each other. But who needs an engagement when you’ve got post-coital tweets to keep you warm at night?
April 28, 2009
Last week in New York City, I sat down with Distracted author Maggie Jackson for a rare face-to-face interview. It was rare because most of the interviews I conduct are through the digital medium, either via phone, Skype or email. We enjoyed a cup of chamomille tea at a quaint Swedish cafe just off Columbus Circle where, during one of my previous visits, I had spotted Scarlett Johansson rushing by while chatting on her cell phone.
Once we got acquainted, our discussion quickly turned to one of the subjects in her book that is most pressing on my mind – the blending of man and machine. Digital devices are rapidly becoming extensions of ourselves. Quickly surveying the Manhattan landscape, you are guaranteed to see at least five people with a cell phone or BlackBerry pressed to their skull at any given moment. I had to ponder whether that man on the corner who was smiling into space was actually directing his humor at me or at the pinky-sized ear attachment that blinked periodically as he spoke.
“Our constant connectivity leaves little time for self-reflection,” Maggie aptly stated. She pointed to the surfeit of information we handle on a daily basis. “Virtuality [on some level] trumps ‘reality’.” We have built worlds based on digital data. And now it’s portable, too.
Cultivating our inner self comes when we give our thoughts time and space to unfold. Take the recent Miss USA debacle in which Miss California took a stand against gay marriage. It is said that Miss California felt she was the true winner of the Miss USA pagent because of the number of Facebook friend requests and tweets she received. If that is true, it does not bode well for our children’s generation. Internet ranking as the benchmark for morality? A scary prospect indeed.
“Twitter, by its nature, is very reductive. It accentuates the trivial,” Maggie suggested. She was quick to point out how Twitter exacerbates our love of the instantaneous. Instant gratification informs who we are as a nation. Don’t make me wait. Give me the answers now. Yet, at what cost?
I thought about this as I stepped off the plane at Munich’s International airport. The air was a blend of spring and serenity. People weren’t generally moving at the speed of a Tweet. I returned home to my non-existent couch that I had ordered seven weeks ago.
“You’ll receive it in the eighteenth calendar week,” the sales rep stated, not without a tinge of annoyance that I should expect it any sooner. I marveled at the cultural differences between the US and Germany for a moment. The power of slow shone through once again. Some things take time. We needn’t rush it. The furniture store hasn’t learned about citizen journalism or Twitter yet. Perhaps a new social media movement will provide the tipping point that will make the furniture industry in Europe self-adjust. Given the speed at which Germany moves, it may take decades before they catch up.
And that might not be such a bad thing, after all.