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MIT professor and author Sherry Turkle gave this TED talk on being connected but alone in 2012. Think off the tech that has burst on the scene since she gave this. Virtual Reality was barely in our vocabulary. Now it soon will be in the hands of millions. Tech that supposedly connects us continues to march forward (how connected does that smart watch make you feel?).

I urge you to rewatch Turkle’s 4-year-old talk. Reflect on all that has occurred since 2012. Do you feel less connected to those you care about or more?

Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone?

The menu connection

Recently I visited two restaurants in San Francisco. One was a famous steak house, and the other was a top ranked Sushi Bar.

foodAt the sushi bar, my friends and I ordered a long list of items without any idea of how good they would be. We had come there because my experience said it would be great.

At the steak house, I scanned the menu frustrated because I had to choose.

With technology, our connectedness becomes often fragmented because we can easily choose which conversations to take part in as well as what parts of those conversations to involve our emotions, attention, and investment.

We miss out on the dives and turns a conversation can take when we only limit it to a text, tweet, blog comment or chat room. Facial expressions and subtle references are missed or ignored.

What would it look like if we risked more, allowed ourselves to be more vulnerable and even stuck within the tension of a conversation in real life more than we do through technology?

MIT Professor and author Sherry Turkle would argue that we are slowly isolating ourselves.

One way to combat that isolation is to be around each other more without technology.

Another way is to be with ourselves in solitude without it as well.

Like the sushi dinner, we open ourselves to a dynamic experience. We take the risk of real connection instead of choosing from the menu.

Oh, and the steak dinner I had was ok but predictable. The sushi dinner, in contrast, was thrilling, unexpected and so memorable.

Tech to connect or isolate

Social media has been revolutionizing how we connect with each other for the past 15 years (my own journey began with connecting with other fly-fishermen online in 1994)

tabletThe struggle between true connectedness and isolation marches on as well as tech betters the ways we are finding each other and deepening our virtual connectedness. As the advancement of the virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence, and location based abilities among other developments surface, all these tools must be balanced with the question; will they connect or isolate us? We run the risk of tech both falling prey to misuse (so well illustrated in this VR themed futuristic mini-film by Argentina’s Federico Heller called The Uncanny Valley).

UNCANNY VALLEY (2015) from 3DAR on Vimeo.

Continued delights exist even with all the sci-fi nightmares seemingly around the corner. One is the way simple tools allow portals into each others hearts and minds, asking questions way beyond Facebook’s probing questions of “How are you feeling?” or “What’s on your mind?. Take Nintindo’s bold foray this month into the mobile app space with Miitomo.

Through a series of questions the app takes the user and her friends through a series of missions based on answers to simple life questions. What results is a conversation both in and and hopefully out of meatspace.

Where will this take relationships though? We need to continue asking this as our lives not only become more connected but more technical.

Oh, I ordered my first VR device, Google Cardboard. I have plans to use it to share, connect and delight across thousands of miles. More on that in the coming weeks.

If you were paying attention

Here is a connection assignment.

Before your next meeting, date, coffee with a friend or family gathering, do one thing.

Take your phone and put it in your glove box. Don’t have a car? Place it in your purse, bag or backpack on silent mode. Then resist taking it out till you leave.

My wife recently pointed out how many of her students use their phones as a rescue device or a crutch in social settings.

Adults do it too.

“But it is how we communicate today” is the response I get all the time. Really? It is not the way you speak with the person right in front of you.

If you need to take notes, grab a notepad or journal.

Need to take a photo? Why? (seriously, I bet someone else there has a camera. Ask them to snap a pic.)

Will it be tough? I bet it will be. Stick it out. For some of you it will be the first time you have looked someone in the eyes and listened without the distraction of so many other inputs.

Need a refresher? Learn to listen all over again.

For a great refresher on how to have a good conversation watch Celeste Headlee:10 ways to have a better conversation

What will you do?

Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest. Mark Twain

Why do you think Twain mentioned the reactions of others when writing about doing the right thing?

I think it is because our actions have so much to do with our connection to others. Rarely do we act in a bubble.

Every day we have dozens if not hundreds of opportunities to practice Twains urging.

Every text, email, tweet, comment, like, transaction, and conversation is a testing ground. What will you do? And if we screwed up yesterday we get a do-over today.

Inputs re-visited

Every hour of every day we are bombarded with inputs. News, media, updates from friends and strangers, good news bad news.

We control two things; our inputs and our reactions.

Keeping a check on inputs helps to manage the flood that demands us to ask the first question. What is real?

Take for example the news. How violent is our daily world, really? How much do I need to be concerned about the stock market going up or down? These are all questions that rise to the top if we allow the inputs in the first place. Less inputs equals less to deal with.

Second is our reactions. When we have a healthy perspective we can choose what to react to and what to ignore. If you are spending your time reacting to comments and haters, maybe we need to reduce the inputs.

Most of all choose. Choose the inputs. Choose the reactions. Choose to have an honest conversation about how much time you have and how you want to spend it.

Straight to the heart

“What is your passion?”
I asked our driver this after he said he had no time for video games (he was driving us to The Game Developers Conference 2016).

“Oh I love to fish” was his reply.

He next explained how he and his father used to fish all the time on the local pier. Then in only a 10 minute drive we got to know him well.

“This is why I drive for Lyft” stated another driver right before dropping us off the next day. She is an entrepreneur who loves to connect and learn from those in business. She dreams of starting something soon.

How do you get beyond the usual pleasantries when meeting someone new? Focus on the heart.

Asking questions that get to the heart of someone quickly puts them at ease. People are used to small talk, being ignored or worse yet, used. You stand out when you stop and asks them a question about their life. It will catch them off guard.

You can learn from a master interviewer Cal Fussman of Esquire Magazine. He explains to Tim Ferriss just how he does it. It was a great refresher for me. Check it out here.

Sharing our hokmah

Hokmah is the Hebrew word for wisdom. Not just any wisdom, but that which is practical and used by those who know their craft and how to efficiently apply it. It was often used to describe what a master has gained over all their experience. We learn so much as we daily practice, fail and master.

Where are you sharing your hokmah? One reason one to one or one to few networks (think workshops, clinics and now social networks like Snapchat, Periscope, and other emerging daily) is that we get access to the experts. You have many who are waiting to learn from you.

I share about these daily blog posts and backstories here you care to follow along.


A news refresher

Are you informed?

And if you believe so, who delivered your news?

How well do you know them and how they make their living? (Hint: someone paid them.)

These are just a few question to ask before you read one more article in a newspaper, blog or watch one more pundit on TV, Youtube or your Snapchat Discovery.

Even more important, find out before you share any of it with others.

How do we find the answers? It is easy. For years sites like has worked to keep a very thorough list of media ownership and practices. Digest it. Look up your local paper. Find out.
Here is their latest summary: .

For a deeper look, I try to keep this post updated every quarter.

-All the news that’s tailored to read

Pulling over and letting them by

Having a 15 year old means you get to brush up on your driving laws. It also means they are watching your every habit behind the wheel. I learned again in the drivers manual that the the best choice when being tailgated by an impatient driver is to pull over and let them by. I tried this the other day. It worked. My stress went down, they drove on and the situation disappeared.

Really it is a good choice for any one coming at you with angst be it a troll on the internet or someone criticizing your work or picking a fight. Letting them go by defuses escalation. Not everything is your battle. Not everyone is worth engaging. Not every critic is worth listening to.

Here is a test. For one day choose to not read negative comments on FB or your blog. Let the angry person by. Choose your battles carefully. See if it makes a difference.

Endnote: A good resource for learning to be a good ignorer is Hugh MacLeod’s book Ignore Everybody. Check it out.

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