ARE YOU HEALTHY ENOUGH TO HANDLE FACEBOOK?

Facebook has woven its way into so many people’s lives and thinking it is taken for granted now. With over two billion monthly users, the behemoth continues to grow, steadily entrenching itself into the social routines of our daily existence. That phenomenon alone is not disturbing to me. What is disturbing to me is the number of people who continue to misuse Facebook to their own detriment. Tragically, much of Facebook’s misuse happens behind closed doors deep within the chasms of individual psyches.

In May 2012, the cover story of The Atlantic was, “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” by Stephen Marche (pp. 60–69). Marche, a novelist and an Esquire columnist, insightfully challenges us to explore those dynamics deep within the chasms of individual psyches. In Marche’s concluding thoughts about Facebook’s psychological and emotional influence, he accurately captures the essence of the struggle into which many people fall:

“Our omnipresent new technologies lure us toward increasingly superficial connections at exactly the same moment that they make avoiding the mess of human interaction easy. . . .

But the price of this smooth sociability is a constant compulsion to assert one’s own happiness, one’s own fulfillment. Not only must we contend with the social bounty of others; we must foster the appearance of our own social bounty. Being happy all the time, pretending to be happy, actually attempting to be happy—it’s exhausting.” (p. 68)

My contention is that the fundamental reason so many people succumb to this mindset is a lack of wholeness and personhood independent of social media. Facebook does not directly harm people—it is what people bring to Facebook that does. The proper and healthy use of social media presupposes that you are proper and healthy. With these thoughts in mind, these are my suggestions for all Facebook users:

1—Don’t expect Facebook to fill the voids in your life you should be filling yourself. Facebook is not a religion, philosophy, 12-step program, psychologist, counselor, mentor, spiritual advisor, spouse, lover, or God. It is up to you to seek those resources as you feel so led. Don’t let Facebook become their substitute.

2—Don’t fall into the trap that because other people look happy, they are and you are not. We all have our demons. They just don’t show on the outside. Life is not easy. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people including the person you and I meet in the mirror daily. Remember—pictures and posts capture happy moments in time that we memorialize and thereby artificially overemphasize. Pictures and posts don’t usually tell the whole story . . . and they certainly don’t tell the “hole” story.

3—Build your life on things that count for the long term: Faith, absolutes, family, relationships, values, serving, quality, nobility, virtue, and truth. Facebook can be just one small outlet and avenue for these things, but it is not the object upon which you build your life.

4—Facebook—like all social media—is merely a tool. How you choose to use that tool is your decision. Facebook can be a catalyst for growth in our relationships, professional lives, personal lives, and spiritual lives. Nevertheless, it is still just one tool in service to these endeavors. Don’t expect it to be more than that.

5—As our business world and our virtual world continue to evolve, you must remain authentic, optimistic, open, and alert. Social media isn’t disappearing. The best thing we can do is remain authentic, optimistic, open, and alert. That stance will ensure we maintain a balanced perspective. It will prevent us from prematurely accepting, condoning, rejecting, or condemning any new social media phenomenon.

Are you healthy enough to handle Facebook? I hope you are. But if not, then please don’t go there.


DOCTOR AI WILL SEE YOU NOW

Although I frequently make fun of artificial intelligence due to some of its inherent limitations for certain situations, the fact remains that when AI works well, it works extremely well. Additionally, as big data gets bigger, AI becomes stronger. This is proven by current trends in healthcare technology.

No one would deny that the screening colonoscopy is an invasive procedure. That is exactly why many people search for every opportunity to use some kind of a substitute process. Researchers have been attempting to satisfy this demand. An Israeli health-tech company, Medial EarlySign has created a blood test called ColonFlag that capitalizes on AI and big data to determine colon cancer risk. The blood test performs rather well as Paul Tullis reports (“Colonoscopy? I’ll Take a Blood Test” Bloomberg Businessweek. January 15, 2018, pp. 24–25):

ColonFlag . . . predicts colon cancer twice as well as the fecal exam that’s the industry-standard colonoscopy alternative. . . . ColonFlag compares new blood tests against a patient’s previous diagnostics, as well as Medial’s proprietary database of 20 million anonymized tests spanning three decades and three continents, to evaluate the patient’s likelihood of harboring cancer.” (p. 24)

Another excellent example of AI’s value in healthcare is mammogram interpretation. Houston Methodist Hospital is using AI software for this task with much more effectiveness compared to human doctors. Authors Frank Malcolm, Paul Roehrig, and Ben Pring summarize (What to Do When Machines Do Everything: How to Get Ahead in a World of AI, Algorithms, Bots, and Big Data. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2017):

AI software . . . interprets [mammogram results] 30 times faster than doctors and with 99% accuracy. By contrast, mammograms reviewed by humans result in unnecessary biopsies nearly 20% of the time.” (p. 2)

You’ve heard of safety in numbers. AI and big data are proving the concept in exciting new dimensions.


PREPARED FOR SUCCESS IN 2018

The brand new year of 2018 is upon us. How successful you or I will be in it is largely up to us. Much of that is further determined by how open we are to moving in new directions. Moving in new directions could mean a lot of different things depending on life circumstances.

Here are important points to ponder as you prepare for success in 2018:

Be Positive Regardless Of Your Problems. Yes, I realize you do not have to look far to find difficulties, roadblocks, and bad news. Nevertheless, carrying a negative attitude into those challenges never did any good, did it? On the other hand, by attacking every challenge with a positive attitude, you consciously and subconsciously unleash more resources. Those additional resources often make a significant difference in the outcome.

Face Your Failures. Sometimes it is easier to hide from your failures. Nevertheless, denial does not mean deletion. Worse yet, denial does you a disservice. Only by fully facing the things you messed up can you learn from them. You should be smarter entering 2018 than you were entering 2017.

If You Are A Business Owner. You might come to realize 2018 demands some new strategies and policies. Will you implement them, and if so, how will you implement them? Thinking those steps through ahead of time can make all the difference in the world. Change is not always easy, but by planning for it and embracing it with a positive attitude you can make it more enjoyable and exciting.

If You Are An Employee. Think about how you can add more value to your organization. Might you have some new approaches that will benefit your colleagues and customers? Do you have ideas or insights whose time has come? Look for new or unique ways to enhance collaboration and success for your team.

If You Are Unemployed. How might this be an opportunity to reinvent you? Could this be the time you search in some totally different directions for that dream job? Although searching for a new job is a fulltime job, remember to give yourself some downtime. Perhaps now is the perfect time to dive into some of those pie-in-the-sky projects you just never had time for in the past. How might you reorganize your life for better balance going forward?

Never Discount Your Experience. You are usually your worst critic. Take a fresh look at all your experience with an eye to capitalizing upon the hidden gold. Surely there are some lessons you have learned from which you can benefit. By taking stock of those lessons now, you can build toward more solid successes in 2018. You can bring a vibrant freshness to your future. Pay attention to what Mel Robbins affirms (The 5 Second Rule. United States: Savio Republic, 2017):

“There will always be someone who can’t see your worth. Don’t let it be you.” (p. 193)

Appreciate The Beauty Within Each Day. Sure, life is tough. But it’s a whole lot more than that. Life is an absolutely amazing gift! In spite of all the difficulties, your successful navigation day by day and moment by moment happens when you paradoxically see the intrinsic beauty that is transcendently present. L. R. Knost captures the sentiment well:

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”

Be Humble. I never met a person who thought he or she knew it all that learned something new. I enjoy learning new things . . . every single day. However, I will never learn something new if I already know it all.

Remember Your Resources. You have friends, mentors, and loved ones around you who genuinely care about you. You have a philosophy of life, and religious and spiritual convictions that sustain you. You have hidden opportunities just waiting to be discovered. You have time-tested strengths and abilities. Summon all those terrific resources because they are there to serve you.

This year could become the most successful year of your life. Make it so!


FOUR QUESTIONS I ASK MYSELF ABOUT 2017

Very soon, 2017 will be history. Now is a good time to assess how you did. If we never pause to assess our performance, we might forfeit valuable lessons. With that in mind, here are four questions I challenge you—as I challenge myself—to ask concerning 2017:

  • How did you do in your business performance? Reflecting upon all the professional roles you have held, how did you perform? Did you do your job with energy, accuracy, enthusiasm, and insight? By reflecting upon your business performance, you can bask in some well-deserved affirmation of the highlights. You can also reengineer your business approach where some fine tuning might be needed.
  • How did you do in your ethics performance? Did you stand tall and true to your ethics regardless of the cost? By reflecting upon those times when your ethical commitment was put to the test and it stood strong, you can rejoice in your victories. You can also rethink your approach to ethics if you found yourself coming up short for any reason.
  • How did you do in your leadership performance? Did you exercise strategic and sound leadership in every situation that demanded it? By reflecting upon your various leadership situations, you can affirm your leadership where it was tested and found to be solid. You can also identify those situations that may have revealed some leadership deficits and begin seeking ways to improve and refine.
  • How did you do in your personal performance? Did you exhibit maturity, passion, strength, and wisdom as you managed your attitude, money, opportunities, relationships, loved ones, spiritual or religious convictions, physical fitness, emotional and mental fitness, and overall wellness? By reflecting upon your personal performance in these areas, you can take comfort and joy where you know you brought your best self to the table. You can also take a hard look at any of those areas in which you know deep in your heart that improvement is needed.

These four questions are revealing. If you enjoy your answers, I am happy for you! On the other hand, if you are unhappy with the answers to any of these questions, then some thoughtful, soul-searching realignment is needed.

Now for the especially exciting news: you have the power to make the needed changes. Our failures are only meaningless if we do not learn from them. Let us learn from them so we can make 2018 the best year ever!


ANSWER THE PHONE

About a hundred years ago, if someone told you that a device would be placed in your home that would randomly sound an alarm at any time of the day or night and that you would drop whatever you were doing to devote your full attention to that device, you probably would have said “you’re crazy!” It would have been a relatively short time after that conversation that we all began to have telephones in our homes. But now, they are not just in our homes, we carry them with us constantly.

We’ve become addicted to our phones. Well, if you prefer, we’ve become dependent on our phones. Exactly when and how does dependence transform into addiction, or does it? How can you tell the difference? Is it necessarily a bad thing?

The advent of every new technology always brings both good and bad. Usually the good far outweighs the bad. Nevertheless, that does not excuse us from mitigating the bad. And that is a mission to which we should remain relentlessly committed.

One of the most important developments in this fight is with children’s access to smartphones. How old should a child be before he or she is granted the freedom to use a smartphone? Susan Dunaway is a cofounder of the Amend Neurocounseling clinic in Overland Park, Kansas. As reported by Rick Montgomery, Dunaway has some insightful observations to share about this issue (“A Movement Grows to Keep Kids from Smartphones Until the Eighth Grade”, The Kansas City Star, pp. 1A, 17A):

Years of online overstimulation ‘acts on the brain the way cocaine acts on the brain. . . .

Too much dopamine is released. . . . Those pleasure centers should be going off once in a while. With screen time they’re going off constantly.’

As developing brains are most vulnerable, Dunaway said smartphones may be producing a generation prone to inattention, restlessness and bursts of anger when desires aren’t quickly met.” (p. 17A)

I believe most of us have literally watched this occur. We owe it to our world to promote the positive use of technology among all ages, but especially among developing children. Technology is marvelous, but let’s use it correctly at every opportunity.

All this compounds exponentially when we recognize the constantly growing incorporation of artificial intelligence into technology. AI is already inserting itself into numerous human-to-machine and machine-to-human interactions, often without our awareness. This trend will only accelerate as Frank Malcolm, Paul Roehrig, and Ben Pring affirm in their recent book, What to Do When Machines Do Everything: How to Get Ahead in a World of AI, Algorithms, Bots, and Big Data (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2017):

Within the next few years, AI will be all around us, embedded in many higher-order pursuits. It will educate our children, heal our sick, and lower our energy bills. It will catch criminals, increase crop yields, and help us uncover new worlds of augmented and virtual reality.” (pp. ix–x)

The authors also make a forebodingly accurate statement about the ubiquity of AI within our daily devices:

Once we start using them we stop thinking about them.” (p. 1)

And therein lies the danger. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for the ongoing advancement, application, and use of our incredibly brilliant and powerful technologies on every front. However, let’s see if we can start using them while still thinking about them. That thinking about our overall interaction with smartphones, the Internet, and technology is what should raise many interesting questions that demand serious answers. Understand, I for one do not claim to have all the answers. Nevertheless, that should not stop us from engaging the questions. Here are some of those sobering questions to get you started:

  • Are we studying how we psychologically interact with technology as much as we study technology?
  • What are the short-term and long-term effects of technology?
  • What damage is being done by the bad effects of technology?
  • Is Google making us “brain stupid” or is it genuinely answering our questions faster and better thereby freeing our brains to attack more complex challenges?
  • How will we improve our ability to use the Internet to extract all its positive benefits while mitigating its negative effects?
  • Has the rate of technology development outpaced our human ability to adapt to it, and if so, what can we do about that?
  • Have you stopped thinking about them?

Your phone demands an answer and so do these questions.