Context is everything.  We know that is true in a novel, a journal article, or a personal conversation.  It is also true in how we use our technology.

Yesterday, I addressed the importance of being certain our social media life and the associated personal technologies always remain our servant as opposed to being our master.  Today I look at context.

Yes indeed—Context is everything.  “Under the knife,” means one thing when you wrestle your steak at the dinner table.  It means something very different when your doctor suggests you must go, “under the knife.”

As you aim to keep your technology in its servant role, never ignore your context.  Checking an email as you sit in a convention with 800 other participants is not the same as checking an email as you are delivering a PowerPoint presentation to your boss.

Multitasking can be a helpful and productive endeavor.  Sometimes, being able to have certain information in mind now makes a big difference in how efficient you are later.  Sometimes, a quick text or email to a key colleague now greatly improves your organization’s effectiveness with a key client.  No one can deny technology produces these kinds of benefits.

Simultaneously, we must aim to recognize the significance of context and the limits of multitasking.  Sometimes it is not smart to interrupt what you are doing offline with something your technology brings to you online.  Multitasking has limitations.  A person genuinely cannot give full attention to two or three tasks at once . . . effectively.

Context is everything.  Let’s consider it well.

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Much has been written lately about the insidious dangers of social media and the Internet.  Areas of concern are how we read, think, research, and how we relate to others both online and offline.  Some evidence exists to indicate Internet use fundamentally changes the way we read and think, perhaps even compromising our intellectual abilities.  People become overattached to their Facebook page and email at the expense of being engaged in the real world with the person sitting with them at the dinner table.

I have heard all these ominous prophetic warnings.  I have seen the shots fired across the bow.  I do not discount them.  They all raise valid concerns.  Nevertheless, I am one who affirms we must not fearfully run from our technology, but rather we must confidently control our technology.  We must understand the pros and cons of our technology.  That understanding should then inform our paradigm of technology.  We must intentionally manipulate our technology to serve us, while protecting ourselves from all its pitfalls and dangers.

Our technology should always be our servant and it should never be our master.  If your technology has become your master instead of your servant, then you have a problem.  If your technology has remained your servant, then you have no problem.

Think about how you read, think, and research.  Consider how you relate to others online and offline.  Assess the quality of your people skills.  Analyze your interpersonal relationships.  Ask yourself the question: Have I integrated technology into my personal and professional life in such a manner that everyone benefits?

For everyone’s sake, I genuinely hope you have.  HAL must not prevail.

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The old saying is true.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Another derivative is an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of momma.  Believe me—I know that one is true!

Among several other experts, Dr. Gregory Curfman, the executive editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, was recently interviewed by Bloomberg Businessweek about the current state of healthcare in America (RX for Reform: Fix This/ Health Care, 2/27/12–3/4/12, pp. 55-60).  At the end of the article, Curfman makes the statement, “We have to place much more emphasis and align incentives on preventative health care” (p. 60).

Although its evolution has been slow, increasingly, conventional medicine is warming up to the concepts of prevention, wellness, and alternative and complementary medicine.  Most major corporations now include some form of a wellness program as an integral part of their benefits package.  I am extremely excited about these trends.  We are definitely moving in the right direction.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the book, Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge:  “Aging is mandatory; decay is optional.”

As long as we live in the current space-time continuum, relentless aging is absolutely unavoidable.  Nevertheless, you largely control the level of growth or decay.  Exercising, eating healthy foods, managing stress, embracing an integrated spiritual worldview, and practicing preventive and holistic medical care all lead toward positive progress without decay.

Let’s go for prevention instead of cure!

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There was a time when I totally believed my next new car would be a hybrid.  How could I see it any other way?  A small fuel-efficient gasoline engine that synergistically charges a battery pack that powers the vehicle all engineered and tuned to maximize power while minimizing fuel consumption.  What a neat, new technological wonder!

But then I started seeing the red flags.

These massive vehicle battery packs are a relatively new and unproven technology and application.  They have not yet stood the test of time.  Being someone who loves to buy a brand new car, and then drive it at least 200,000 miles, I became concerned when I learned about the battery pack lifespans.  Having to replace a battery pack at less than a hundred thousand miles for several thousand dollars did not appeal to me.

Then you have to look at the supposed gas mileage advantage.  When you were talking 40 to 50 miles per gallon for a hybrid, versus 20 to 25 for a conventional vehicle, perhaps you had an argument.  The latest advances in internal combustion engines and overall automotive technology are improving conventional vehicle gas mileage easily into the 30s and more.  Factor in the thousands of dollars premium on the hybrid’s sticker price compared to a conventional vehicle, and the financial incentives begin to evaporate faster than the gasoline you accidentally spilled on the pavement while filling your tank last week.

American consumers are increasingly waking up to these realities.  In 2009, hybrids commanded a 2.8% market share.  In 2010 that number fell to 2.4%, and last year it was 2.2%.

One of the things a person sometimes forgets, but always benefits from, is that technology tends to improve everything.  These latest refined gasoline engines are definitely holding their own and continuously improving.  The hybrid approach has a long way to go if it is to become an economically viable option for the average consumer.  As for me, I think I will have to stick with a purebred for the time being.

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A new study indicates a job candidate’s Facebook page is a better predictor of job-fit than the traditional standardized screening tests.  In ten minutes, a trained reviewer can identify indicators of the candidate’s personality, character, and red flags.  The study will soon be published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.  I can’t wait to read that one!

In this economy, companies want to be even more careful about each hiring decision.  The convenient truth is social media allows them to do exactly that.

Of course, for the candidate who sets Facebook’s privacy settings to something other than public, the reviewer may come up with very little helpful information.  For the candidate who does set them to public, it is an open book.  Sadly, too many SM users do not recognize the gravity and the opportunity of this situation.

Virtual is reality.

For the “party hardy” candidate with many embarrassing or otherwise inappropriate postings, going all public will potentially hinder his or her job opportunities.  On the other hand, for the serious, professional candidate who has nothing to hide, going all public will potentially enhance his or her job opportunities.

Let the user beware!  (Or, perhaps more to the point, “Let the user grow up!”)



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