Angry? Go Off(line)

The dream ended with a thought: one day even the Internet will be obsolete. One day everything will be.

The thought comforted me as I snapped on my phone in the middle of the night, unable to sleep as the turmoil of the past few weeks clouded my mind. It was most un-Slow of me to look to my phone for comfort instead of meditating or even doing one of those adult coloring books. But then, I thought, so what? In my recent efforts to be mindful, I have become too full of mind and less of the heart.

And so we return to the Source of All Things. That lovely energy that flows through us more strongly than any petulant, careless tweet from Orange Boy.

Love.

As I lay with my mind’s eye wide open, I tapped into that love flow. After a few deep breaths,  I caught the wave and harmonized with its intention.

We are here to make a positive difference. We are here to learn from one another. And to teach one another how we want to be treated.

Being a parent has helped me understand the value of being a role model in the world. How we behave truly matters. The Internet is not exactly the best place to be when trying to model good behavior on a bad day. It’s too tempting to engage in low-level anger. Flame wars and misinformation rage, especially in times of great distress. The term “information overload” has taken on a new meaning as we struggle to sort through the data and our own feelings about it.

Life offers us so many opportunities to show up greatly. We get to choose at any given moment how we wish to be. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it does not. But with every choice we make, we add a lesson to the overall curriculum of our lives.

And so when a friend, or someone you thought was a friend, turns his or her back on you, that person was meant to do so. Consider it sharpening the tools in your toolbox. You understand life is the greatest teacher. Perhaps that person was developing in a different way than you are. That’s okay. Let it go.

And when a client turns foul-mouthed, learn from it. His behavior speaks volumes. Walk away.

And when your family causes you great despair, know that it is a part of the great experiment called life. We cannot control other people’s actions or feelings, only our own.

Magic is everywhere if you have the eyes to see it. Believe it is so and it will be.

For the Love of Creation

Nature, that juicy piece of the world that teaches us so much.

A tree stands tall through storms and sunshine. A flower unfolds simply for the beauty of itself. A bird sings because it can.

Everything in Nature is precoded. A blade of grass doesn’t ask itself what it is doing here.

It seems only human beings, saddled with consciousness — or a lack thereof — spin in their orbits through it all without really knowing what they are doing at all.

We think we do. At least, some of the time. But how often do we get wrapped up in our own needs, expectations and yearnings without seeing the Big Picture? Time and again we forget what really governs our lives: natural law. We think we are masters of the Universe and yet it is the Universe that holds our existence in the palm of its hand.

Yielding to our own evolution can be scary because our minds are set on certain things. We have an image that is often in direct conflict with that broader universal vision. And we feel bereft, left to our own devices to carry on in the face of what’s really happening.

The woods are a place of solace and great wisdom. They remind us that our virtual world of digital devices is just that — virtual. What we call “the real world” isn’t that real at all.

Data transfer can’t replace real living, which can be most easily found in the thickness of the forest.

Welcome a piece of that creation into your life. It can be so very grounding. Hug a tree. Walk barefoot through the grass. Kiss the sky. And remember: we are all united no matter where we are in the world. The Internet has proven that.

Spending some of your precious time on this Earth outdoors can prove that too.

 

 

Not Without My Facebook…or The Next-Gen Workplace

According to a recent report by Cisco, one in three college students and young professionals ranked the Internet as important as food, air and water. These under-30 folks don’t have a working memory of Life Before. Like television, it’s just always been there.

But it goes deeper than that. Two-thirds of colleges students admitted they’d ask about a company’s social media policies during a job interview. The sticky question “What will this position pay?” has been replaced with “What are your thoughts on Facebook during work hours?” Fifty-six percent wouldn’t even consider a job offer that banned social media. Wow.

And it appears the next generation is willing to forgo a higher salary for more flexibility. One in three prefer mobility, social media freedom and device flexibility over more pay.

Give me Facebook. Or give me death.

Forty-one percent of those companies surveyed claimed they used attractive social media policies and device flexibility to attract new talent. Four in five college students want the freedom to choose the device they get to use.

Amazing.

As a freelancer, I work with several computers, an iPhone and even a GPS. I’m just as saddled with devices as the next person. And I’ve never considered the restrictions others may have who work in an office setting. It appears the next generation prefers a work-at-home solution. Three in five believe they have the right to work remotely.

Corporate learning and development professionals could benefit from this intelligence as they devise training programs for the next generation. These are exciting times full of possibility.

If given a choice, how would you prefer to work? Remotely? In an office setting? A combination of both?

Show me your digital face and I’ll show you mine

A tag cloud (a typical Web 2.0 phenomenon in i...
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“Never write anything down that you wouldn’t be proud to show a nun,” my mother once advised me. Curious advice for a then seven-year-old, but she saw the sparks of my word-smithing passion early.

To divulge or not to divulge. That is the question in our Web 2.0 lives.

Lately I have been fascinated with the concept of our digital selves as social media and the notion of transparency continue to shape the public relations industry (of which I am a part). We reveal what seem to be our deepest secrets (I prefer dark chocolate) and stay in touch with people via Facebook that we haven’t seen in twenty-five years. We create a false sense of familiarity, as if we really know what’s going on with the other person, only to be shocked when we see that person in the flesh to realize all is not well in the State of Denmark.

In truth, through our online self-branding management efforts, we develop a pseudo-reality for ourselves and, along with it, pseudo-selves.

Roaming about as the avatars of our own creation, we have reached a Brave New World of information exchange at the highest (and lowest) level. But much of what gets belched broadcast out onto the Internet has the life of a match. It fizzles out of existence as quickly as it was written. All the while we self-soothe, thinking someone might be listening or care what we write. We yearn for connection and get it in some way ~ oftentimes through people we don’t know. We meet on a virtual plane for a passing moment at a cross-section in time that can be instanteneous or time-controlled, should we choose not to respond just yet.

I have ambivalent feelings about the very medium that has granted me much of the freedom to pursue my life’s work. The Internet is more powerful than most of us realize.

Despite its influence (or perhaps because of it) transparency and authenticity are great challenges in today’s 24/7 world. As a human race, we may be more connected than ever before, but our digital existence is merely a part of our greater selves.

Will our children realize there is a parallel universe beyond the screen? I am optimistic that they will.

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Always On, But Not Really There – Why Cell Phones Incarcerate and How to Break Free

Cell phones are marvelous devices. They can unleash you from the harness of your land line, offer endless entertainment to cranky kids in the backseat and help track criminals who stupidly use a mobile phone to call home. The irony of the term cell phone itself is inescapable. Some days I too feel entrapped by my mobile like an inmate in a cell. If you feel incarcerated by yours, join the club. While the US has been slower to catch on to mobile device usage than, say, Asia, we are not far behind in the effects these devices have had on us.

With the invention of long-distance communications such as the telegraph, the telephone, satellite and even mobile phones, we have been able to connect the world with a few taps on a keypad. We can find each other at a crowded concert or call in case we get stuck alongside the road. The downside is we are always on or, at the very least, always available. For the non-criminals among us, it’s not always helpful to be that accessible.

Curious about the phenomenon of instant availability, I sat down for a Skype chat with Naomi Baron, American University professor of linguistics and author of the aptly titled book, Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World. While her book centers mostly around the evolution of language in the Digital Age, her most recent research points to the tenor of people’s thoughts around today’s mobile usage.

And it is surprising.

When asked to associate three words with the term mobile phone, the 18-24 age group Naomi surveyed said things like “annoying,” “addicted,” and “bondage”. When asked what they liked most and what they liked least about mobile phones, the number one answer was the same: contact. What they liked most was being able to call out if they wished (active). What they liked least was being the recipient of an unexpected call (reactive).

It takes two to text. But that is beside the point.

“People are feeling trapped by these devices,” Naomi relayed to me. Maybe being always on isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Whether in Sweden, Japan or Italy, Naomi found people to have a specific etiquette around mobile phone usage. It is considered rude to talk or even text in a movie theater in Sweden. Not surprisingly, Japan had the most uniform, formal etiquette. On the train, for instance, you are not to use it at all. Even text messaging is seen as disruptive. If someone does take a call, it is usually a business man who is then excused because, well, it was business. But things are changing. In 2001, 49% of those surveyed in Japan felt it was not okay to speak on their mobile phone on the street. By May 2008, Naomi found over 73% of those 18 to 24 years old said it was always or usual acceptable to do so.

In Sweden it is considered rude not to respond to a text message so many people feel obliged to text back within an hour. One Italian man revealed his strategy for dealing with the Always On phenomenon. “I put [my mobile phone] in a lead box to avoid being traced (so it does not signal that it is off, but not reachable).”

One American male revealed he is “too dependent” upon his mobile phone sometimes. An Italian female admitted she was much more tranquil when her cell phone was either broken or lost.

As we have seen, people have an ambivalent relationship with their mobile devices. We like the control, but prefer not to have to react to unwanted communication. In fact, as one Japanese person states, “Communication through [text messaging can] trick people’s minds as if they were engaged in real communication.” Texting a few jumbled phrases is not the same as having a face-to-face chat with a friend.

So how we can stop the madness of instant, unwanted availability and engage in the power of slow?

Create mobile-free zones. Seal your cell in the trunk of your car. Turn it off at meal times. Unplug for sixty minute increments. And, if you really have to, get a lead box like the Italian man in the survey. Regain the sense of control that instant communication once gave you so that you move towards a sometimes on, sometimes off, but always mindful life.

The Invisible Auxiliary Benefits of Slow

We all know the feeling of impatience when things take longer than they ‘should’. We tap our fingers, pace the floor, or shout unkind words in our heads or at the windshield, depending on the proximity of others or the level of their so-called offensive slowness.

But I ask you, what are we rushing toward? Why does the ‘is’ upset us so drastically? Because it often is not in alignment with our own personal ‘should’.

I was talking to a friend about some recent changes that were made after our server got updated. It took our six-person team about a week to adjust to the new system. Emails were ‘slower than usual’ and sometimes bounce-backs occurred (I remember when a bounce-back referred more to an immediate relationship after ending a long-term one. Being on the rebound meant you could bounce back to normal only after the fling had ended…)

“You know, Christine,” my friend sagely pondered outloud. “Maybe our Emails are supposed to take a little longer. I mean really ~ isn’t there power in slow?  I, for one, still own a rake. I’d rather plod along my yard to the scratching noise it makes than zip around, emitting sound and CO2 with a leaf blower.” Not to mention the fresh air and exercise. Moving at the speed of a rake sounds good to me.

Oftentimes we think there is no benefit to doing things slower. We tend to believe doing things faster is somehow better. But what about the auxiliary effects of going slowly?

  • Walking to the store instead of driving (exercise, light exposure, green, meditative)
  • Raking your yard instead of leaf-blowing it (exercise, light exposure, green, meditative)
  • Taking time to provide a thoughtful answer to an Email (you may remember to include more things, thereby reducing Email traffic considerably)
  • Managing expectations ahead of time (reduces upset, especially around the holidays)

If you doubt the power of this, try walking just one pace slower today. Notice how you feel as you bring yourself to move at a slower speed. Do you feel impatient and anxious? Or do you feel yourself opening up to new possibilities and ways of thinking? Along the path, toss a few ‘shoulds’ in the drink. Then tell me how it went!

Time-Saver for Less Surfing

internet-surfingI am no technophobe. In fact, I celebrate the revolutionary tool called the Internet. It has improved my quality of life in many ways, allowing me to pursue my life’s dream of writing and connecting with people all over the world from the comfort of my home PC. It has allowed me to raise my kids while raising my awareness. All in all, the Web is a cool thing.

Admittedly, however, it can be a vacuous, time-sucking space. Much like television, the Internet is a 24/7 affair. Just the other day, my sister called me to ask how to use PayPal.

“Oh the Internet!” she moaned. I agreed with her. Things change there in the speed of a tweet.

So I was thrilled to find out about RosieKnows.com, a new Web portal that offers video tutorials on over 200 of the Web’s most popular sites. From PayPal to Couponclippers.com, Rosie goes through these sites step-by-step in video format.

It is a quick reference guide for those things you don’t want to ask your sullen teen about. And it will save you time so you can spend more of it with that sullen teen who just wants your attention even as she says she does not!