Is Tech Downgrading Your Life?

So I guess we all really have a choice here, or do we?   How much tech do we want and when do we really want to be “upgraded” to the latest technology?   Or maybe it’s just the age-old question of how we manage our time at work vs. time we have with family and friends.  But unfortunately, it just seems more difficult to make these distinctions when we are “connected” all the time.  Not an easy or simple answer for many “bread winners” in the twenty-first century.

One busy professional reflected on this in this Sunday’s NY Times:  “My personal mode of self-restraint (controlling her life) is to always carry my phone when I am not with my kids and always leave it in the other room when I am.  The kids themselves don’t get phones at all.   When my 12-year-old daughter walks home from school without one, I intentionally have no idea where she is, just like nobody knew where their kids were when I was growing up.  How rare it is these days not to be able to know something.”

And as I mentioned in an earlier blog, we can easily know more in any given moment than we have ever have before, but how much do we really retain in the longer term?   Technology can make it so, but it is really still only a tool to help us remember, and we have to do the rest to “upgrade” our lives.

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will take a late summer break this week, but will be back next Monday, August 28




Hate on the Internet

Talk about your unintended consequences!  At least I don’t think “social networking” on the Internet was envisioned as creating a platform for hate groups and terrorists in the U.S.  Unfortunately this has come to pass before our very eyes in the deadly confrontations in Charlottesville last weekend.   Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that such groups are also able to raise funds for their reprehensible intentions to spread hatred for blacks, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, feminist activists, etc., thanks, in some measure to “funding” sites that solicit contributions online.  The sites themselves are not the culprits, but the hate groups that use them for such purposes must be stopped.  PayPal, for example, has already agreed to remove at least 34 organizations that include companies that are selling gun accessories explicitly explicitly for killing Muslims!

Silicon Valley firms may be ill-prepared to manage such a large societal role.  These companies have limited experience handling these issues.  They must answer to share-holders and demonstrate growth in users and profits – weighing in on free speech matters risks alienating large groups of customers across the political spectrum.  These platforms are so massive – Facebook, for example, counts a third of the world’s population in its monthly user base:  GoDaddy hosts and registers 71 million websites – it may actually be impossible for them to enforce their policies consistently.  But tech companies are reportedly forging ahead.  At this point it appears to be an industry-lead initiative that has been decried by some “alt-right” leaders as intrusive censorship that could lead to increased government “”meddling.”

Spewing hatred on the Internet, to my mind, is not exercising free speech.  We are constantly being reminded that “words have consequences” in our daily political discourse.  Freedom of speech demands that we use words to ensure a freedom of expression that does not foment hatred.

Ray Myers



The Internet Knows Who You Are!

Who really were all those crazy white men who came to Charlottesville last weekend?  It seems like most of them were NOT from Charlottesville at all.  Thanks to the Internet they were able to spread their poisonous rhetoric far and near.  And thanks to the Internet we are also able to find out who they are, and hopefully never let this happen again.  But I am being overly optimistic, and as long as Trump is in the White House it looks like we are in for a lot more hatred and potentially violent episodes in the days ahead.

So it is not all about cable news stoking Trump’s bigotry and paranoia as I wrote earlier this week. The Internet also still seems a powerful force when used to coalesce and connect those who wish to do others harm.  Fortunately, it can also be used to call out those who are hate mongers.  “The mostly male crowd that participated in Friday night’s tiki-torch-lit rally did not cover their faces, and they were widely photographed.  A Twitter account, @YesYoureRacist, began posting photographs of participants and uncovering their identities.  .  .  The account would soon identify students enrolled at the University of Nevada and Washington State University, leading both of  the schools to issue statements condemning racism.(Washington Post, 8/15/17).”

Remember the days of “Make Love, Not War.” A distant memory for many of us who attended college in the sixties.  Many now seem to prefer Hate to Love.

Ray Myers

We Have All Been Trumped!

Cable news loves Trump.  He has been a boon to their ratings over the past two years, and they are not letting go any time soon.  So in many ways, we have become what we like to watch, and Trump is the character who has captured our imagination for the right or wrong reasons.  It’s all about the ratings, baby!

“The three leading cable news networks rarely discuss any other topic other than Trump during prime-time hours, their highest-rated period of the day.  Trump is the focus during daytime hours, too, when cable news actually tends to report some news, rather than merely talking about it .  .  . But cable’s reliance on Trump is as much a programming strategy as a reflection of the news of the moment.  Zucker (Cable News Network President) acknowledges that the audience’s response to all the Trump news on cable validates the approach.  Only a few years ago, ‘writers wrote that cable news was irrelevant, that it was being overtaken by the Internet’ he said.  ‘The fact is, cable news has never been more relevant or more successful than it has been for the last two years.'”

And I thought the Internet was going to change the world!  I guess that watching TV is just more entertaining, and maybe that is what most people want to do during “prime time.”  Cable news has become our latest national obsession.  Jeff Zucker is very happy!

Ray Myers

Forget about Trump – How about Internet Freedom!

Hopefully reality has set in.  Donald Trump seems to be coming more irrelevant with every passing days of angry tweets and political posturing.  He really doesn’t know how to play this game!  What has he really accomplished?  So November is slowly approaching and now he is talking about bombing North Korea?  Maybe this will save his presidency, but God help us all.  And now to world affairs and how squelching internet freedom from our friends in China and Russia will make us all better world citizens.

Let’s just talk about China as an example, but I know Trump has great friends in Russia as well, but that may evolve into a more continuing geopolitical saga (can’t get enough of that Vladimir Putin!).  “China’s great firewall, a massive system of Internet filters and blocking, has long had a crack in it.  The firewall prevents most users inside China from accessing platforms outside the country, such as Facebook, Google and Netflix.  In keeping with China’s desire to censor what can be seen and read.  But popular software known as virtual private networks, or VPNs permit a user within China to tunnel through the firewall.  Now the crack is gradually being cemented up.”

Unfortunately, I believe Trump wants to emulate these totalitarian laders, and make Internet freedom a nostalgic fantasy in the U.S.  Please don’t let this happen!

Ray Myers

Summer Rerun – Tweeting Away at the National Conventions in U.S.  (Originally posted on July 13, 2016)

You too can be commenting on the activities at the national conventions thie election year. Now people around the world can “experience democracy in action.” What a concept! And Twitter is making this all possible. Social media can now become political media. I guess we already have some of that on PBS when they broadcast the proceedings from the House and Senate floors. But let’s be honest, most of the time all we see are politicians milling around on their chambers’ floors while some random tweets are scrolling on the bottom half of the TV screen. I guess the conventions will be a lot livelier, but who knows?

Watching Donald Trump has been a lot more entertaining when compared to Republican candidates of prior campaigns, but I think the TV networks recognized his entertainment value to the detriment of his political rivals. “The Donald” probably knew this too, and now that he has succeeded in securing the nomination may decide not to run at all! What a country! What are we doing? We would rather be entertained than challenged to make a choice about what direction the country should go. And the most successful candidate may be the one who best panders to all our fears and prejudices. My biggest worry is that political intolerance will grow in this country, and tuhat our thirst for demagogary will increase at the expense of substantive debate (remember those Republican debates!)

In the meantime, let’s keep tweeting while “Rome burns.” Twitter may help us better follow the machinations at the upcoming political conventions, but realistically, they are currently treading water in an ocean of social media. Their stock price has fallen by over half in the last 12 months, and user growth has stagnated at roughly 310 million regular monthly visitors. Everybody wants to be on Facebook. Maybe Mark Zuckerberg can help us with the election process four years from now?

Ray Myers

Nose in Books, Eyes on the Screen

So what’s really wrong with walking around with your eyes on your mobile phones while passerbys navigate their way around you?  More dangerous is the practice of driving while texting in terms of disregard for your own safety and that of others.  In the past the only similar practice I can recall that was seen as more of an anti-social behavior than a hazard to your own safety and others was keeping your “nose in a book.”  But I don’t recall seeing many people driving while reading an old-fashioned “hardbound” or paperback text.  At least I don’t think there were many car collisions attributed to people reading paperbacks while driving.

More disconcerting or hazardous (at least to me) are the anti-social implications of keeping your head down at social gatherings and not meeting or conversing with old friends and new acquaintances.  Being online there are always friends and family you can chose to be connected with and never be “out of touch.”  While you may chose to never have your head “in the clouds” again, you may also find yourself trapped in the world of social media to the detriment of having a real time “social life.”  I know I am portraying the extremes of a social media obsession, and that my observations are not scientifically based, but please take a look at your own social media life.  There may also be a generational gap here, and a personal preference for what constitutes a broader social life.  It still remains your own personal choice in terms of what “worlds” we chose to habitate and to what degree.

So now let’s look up and smell and see the roses!

Ray Myers