December 29, 2020

4 Norms of Society Worth Ignoring

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness." 

With a nod to Charles Dickens, many of us may believe his famous opening of A Tale of Two Cities is an apt description of today's world. 

Things we thought we could count on seem to be on shaky ground. The way people, governments, and technology interact with each other seems to be shifting beneath our feet. The rules of the game have changed.

I agree, but with one important qualifier: every time in history is a combination of wisdom and foolishness, threat and calm, stupidity, and brilliance. In the middle of the chaos and upending of longtime standards, I offer another quote as a reason to be optimistic: "this too shall pass."

That said, what are these "norms" I am referring to, some that we should reassess. What seems to be common wisdom, but maybe it isn't so?

1) No one makes phone calls anymore. Texting is quicker and easier. For many of us, texting has replaced making or receiving phone calls. Maybe it is because of all the spam calls we are receiving, or maybe just another step into a very private world, but calling someone is becoming increasingly rare. 

Almost 60 million robocalls were made to Americans last year. The "Do Not Call List" has been a joke almost since its inception in 2003. Technology has allowed spammers to call your phone and appear to be from a number close to yours.

Even worse, many now go directly to voice mail without ever giving you the chance to disconnect, thereby forcing you to check and delete the message. Sure, there are phone apps that help, but answering a phone is a risky business. That is part of why texting is more popular. Also, sending a text forces someone to be more concise in what they want to say.

Unfortunately, I suggest texting often harms communication rather than helps. It is very easy to misinterpret what appears on the smartphone screen. Words written in haste or anger can cause lasting damage. Sometimes I find I have to exchange multiple messages with someone just to ensure clarity. A voice call would be much quicker and eliminate all the back-and-forth.

Our Covid experience has helped us understand the importance of person-to-person communication. Being kept away from friends and family for month-after-month-after-month has sent many of us back to an actual phone (or Zoom) call. We long to hear the sound of a voice other than our own. We need to share and get or give affirmation. We long to share with another human, even if it is just electronically.

When this is finally over, my personal hope is we will have rediscovered the joy and importance of speaking, rather than just texting. Our voices can convey feelings, emotions, and preciseness. Texts can not. 


2) Get your news and information from services that think the way you do. Few will argue that too many of us are stuck in a closed loop. We find confirmation and validation by watching news channels, reading web sites, or listening to talk radio shows and podcasts that reflect our viewpoints. This behavior is physiologically satisfying; we are not alone in how we see things.

It is also behavior that makes integration into the real world much more difficult. When you confront an idea that varies from yours, the natural reaction is to reject it. After all, your usual sources pat you on the back. The one that presents an alternate interpretation must be wrong. 

I suggest that approach to knowledge, opinion, and dare I say, truth, is a large part of our society's problem at the moment. Too many of us are incapable of acknowledging that we may not have all the answers or that others may have a valid point to consider.

Confirming my old guy status, I remember when there were just three TV networks who went to great lengths to play things right down the middle. If a story presented a liberal view, the news programs were careful to balance the presentation. Of course, they didn't have to fill 24 hours a day with content, which may be part of the problem. 

As a society, and frankly, as better informed citizens, may I suggest we all broaden our informational input. It is important to know what others are seeing, hearing and learning. And, every once in a while, you may decide the idea or belief you hold so dear needs to be reexamined.

3) Technological Progress is good for you. Not always. Planned obsolesce is particularly insidious in this area of our lives. We are expected to upgrade to a new smartphone at least every two years. Most suppliers stop providing updates to a phone's operating system after a few years to encourage that behavior. 

Recently, I was notified by Google that the Android system on my 4-year-old phone would not work for many Internet searches after next fall. Since my phone cannot be updated to the operating system required, I will find myself forced to replace it, whether I want to or not.

Betty's printer was set up with the manufacturer's instant ink replacement program when she bought it four years ago. Once we decided that letting HP tap into our home wireless network to check on our ink usage was just a bit too intrusive for our tastes, the fun began.

Trying to delete the changes in the printer's ROM to stop the company from invading our privacy became a months-long battle of phone calls, factory resets and using an Ethernet cable instead of WiFi to hook up the printer. Still, the machine asks us to sign in to our (non-existent) account every time it is powered on.

I am not a Luddite. I love what technology allows me to do. I enjoy its benefits....when they benefit me. What irks me is when a machine, device, or company tries to force my hand. 

4) Walls make better neighbors. While lots of talk and emotion has centered on the barrier between the U.S. and our southern neighbor, that is not really the wall I am referring to, although that applies, too. I use "wall" as a metaphor for the barrier many of us erect to keep others away.

Where I live, walls around every suburban home are so common that finding a neighborhood without them seems odd. Those beige-colored walls allow us to drive into our garage, put down the door, and step into our home without encountering anyone else. We spend time in our walled-in backyard, isolated from even the people who live on either side of us. Knowing their names would be uncommon for most of us. Front porches? Not here.

If the discord of the last several years has proven anything (and it has proven quite a lot), it is important to maintain a dialogue between people. It is the absolute necessity of having some common ground between us and others to allow things as essential as virus control, economic progress, and a functioning country. 

We have become a nation of walls, literal and figurative, between groups of people, large and small, emphasizing the differences, not the similarities between us. And, how's that working out for us?


Society must have some shared beliefs, expectations, goals, and ways of living, or it shatters into factions constantly at war, usually figuratively but not always. Unfortunately, some of those points of agreement actually pull us apart.

I am interested in your thoughts on these (and other) ways we look at what is normal and what may need to be adjusted or abandoned as 2021 looms on the horizon.



46 comments:

  1. There's no call display on the landline phone in my house(WHAT??!!). Someone asked how I knew who was calling to which I replied - I answer the call. Technology needs to serve me not the other way around. Let's not forget the capacity for personal choice. We can choose how to communicate and with whom, what technology to adopt, what information to take in or not, what to say yes/no to.

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    1. A landline phone. There are a generations of people who have no idea what that is!

      I agree completely with the "technology needs to serve me and not the other way around" sentiment. Unfortunately, that puts you and me on the losing side (at least for now).

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    2. I'm not convinced that I'm losing.

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  2. Hmm..I'll have more later when I'm fully awake but in my experience texting has allowed for greater, and more instant, communication within my family. And with others but especially there.

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    1. It is great when the communication need is quick and simple, like "on my way." But, I find it troublesome when the message is more complex and interpretation is not a given. It is the back and forth of multiple texts to clarify something that drives me up a wall. At some point, I just call the person and discuss the issue. The constant ding of the text notification is maddening.

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    2. Agree, re: simple messages. One benefit of texting is that those around you (in a library, store, on a train, sidewalk, etc., no longer have to listen to people telling someone, I'm on the train, I'm getting off the train, etc. People can "talk" to others without forcing everyone w/10' to listen to their side of the conversation or w/skyping, facetime, etc., a somehow always quite loud conversation sometimes about trivialities, but I've been forced to overhear recitals of every relative's illness, flaws,etc., on an Amtrak trip--even if I've got earbuds or headphones on. Texting(or email) means others don't have to listen.

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  3. Technology has changed so much over our generation's life times it's a wonder any of us can keep up. And like so many things in life texting is two edged swords. It increases communication between generations because young people and multitask without getting involved with long-winded conversations with their elders but with fewer and fewer people are actually talking on their phones there are more opportunities for misunderstandings while texting. Punctuation would help, but young people seemed to be allergic to using it.

    As for having more news sources than when we had the three major outlets, well, I think that brings society more bad than good. Too much misinformation is being passed off as news and it levels the playing field so that a guy sitting in his basement making up conspiracy theories has as much access to the public as major news sources that at least try hard to vet their stories.

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    1. I read something last week that really made me understand the problem with 24/7 news and information services: there simply is not enough relevant, important, interesting, or factual stuff to fill all that time. So, stories are repeated ad nauseum, less-than-credible sources are used, and speculation about the meaning of something keeps the fire burning.

      Then, come the commentators who spend an hour voicing their own opinion about something, based not necessarily on facts, but on their own interpretation, and on what their target audience wants to hear. "Experts" are called upon to keep the discussion going and fill all that time.

      There was a report on Sunday about all the Fox news viewers who have switched to more conservative outlets. One older woman who used to be an avid Fox viewer, says she has switched to Newsmax and has it on from the moment she wakes up until she goes to bed. A steady stream of anything is not conducive to informed opinions.

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    2. And this is why we are going to always have a problem with incorrect and false information.

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  4. My husband and I have cell phones but they don't work at home. For the house we have landline service but no caller ID, so we screen all calls with the answering machine. We get maybe 2 calls a week we actually want. My cell number used to be assigned to some guy named Jose, who gets texts from young ladies in deshabille and hawkers of male enhancement products. There's no way to block these texts that I have found. My friend and my husband have texted me but not in the last year. Our usual mode of communication that works well and gets things done is email.

    The news we get, having no TV services, is on the Internet and yes, there are definite bubbles for various belief systems. We sort it out and enjoy finding the Russians in the mix, but know this is a lot harder for many and they enjoy being validated for going along with one thing or another. We avoid those topics when interacting with others as we have some minority opinions that. if we outed them. would do more harm than good.

    The walls aren't new. In the 1970s I lived in s North Tampa suburb, and we used draperies for that, and fences, and plants. Anything to not see other people or be seen. Before moving there we'd been in a front-porch-using neighborhood. What a change! I learned that it didn't pay to try to interact with neighbors who didn't want to be neighbors and now live comfortably with none at all, since apparently Americans don't know how to use a porch any more. I can get by without smelling someone else's dinner, and have gotten used to ATV noise and the occasional gunshot.

    The technological progress has some good points. I like my car because it can tell me which tire is low, whether I'm too close to the edge of the road, and tell texters trying to reach Jose that I am driving and won't talk back. Hooking up my cell phone, I can navigate onscreen and get voice directions. And this is the cheap model. But we had a stereo receiver die after only 45 years and had to replace it. The replacement cost $1000, is very complicated, and decided, in the middle of a streaming movie, that it had to update, shutting down the movie. After a couple of days of cussing my husband found out how to work around that basic need, but it wouldn't work with the computer for a while without trying to take it over. No manual came with this thing. It took a week of high stress to make it plug and play nice.

    What I miss, and I'm sure I'm not alone, is the sense that kids and domestic animals can circulate freely in a neighborhood. That doesn't exist any more. It makes the streets more predictable for driving through a neighborhood but dogs not socializing seems unnatural. And I rarely see kids out playing any more either. I guess they're inside on some gaming equipment. All in the name of safety. Cats are declawed to save the furniture. Seems we all have to be altered to get along and be safe.

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    1. We have been altered, restrained, and "declawed" to stay safely within our own bubble. No wonder we have such a hard time getting along; we are completely out of practice.

      Cell phone scam and sales calls are the worst. Some computer somewhere got ahold of the first three digits of my number. I average 8 calls a day asking me to sell a timeshare I sold 18 years ago, or take a vacation for a super low price. I hang up on each one when the familiar prefix number appears and then block that number for the future. But, there are thousands of possible combinations and these computers have them all.

      Personal plea to Microsoft: Windows 10 doesn't need an update with fancy new capabilities every month.

      Thanks, Laura, for an excellent overview of the subject from your point of view.

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  5. One could easily live with the technology of 50 years ago and not miss out on a whole lot. The biggest exception would be the folks that are alive due to medical technology advances. Almost all advances have a core improvement but are surrounded by massive amounts of useless fluff. Texts can be very useful. They are quick and get to the point. One would initially think they are an assist to better communication. The downside is just as you said. They replaced phone calls. The young will not even listen to a voice mail, I noticed this at work in my last years. If you do not engage them with a text forget it. Most suburbs are aimed at a very narrow demographic. They do not encourage the mixing of different economic classes. Remember our grandparents little towns? The banker might live two doors down from the plumber. Their children all played together and went to the same school. That has changed. You don't need walls around houses to isolate. Suburbanites typically drive into their garages and rarely see or interact with their neighbors. Losing front porches definitely did not improve society. We have resisted moving to an over 55 community. Our thought has been a neighborhood is better with a mix of ages. Perhaps we were wrong. With everyone sticking with their own age group perhaps we would be better off with a wall and only folks our age. Their are neighborhoods that are an exception to these issues. They are getting fewer and farther between. Perhaps the single biggest driver behind all of this is our single minded drive for the greatest profit. Corporations and people do it. Nothing else matters but increasing profits and market share. The greatest good is to maximize shareholder profits. I see a glimmer of hope though. We are starting to talk about changing society's focus. Maybe corporations hold too much sway. Perhaps the well being of employees, customers and communities is just as important as profits. This same conversation happened in the early 1900s. Let us hope we can do it this time with less violence.

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    1. I did want to make a comment about an over 55 community as I have lived in one for 17 years. I do miss children, but there are few teenagers who can be persuaded to play music for their ears only. I am extremely sensitive to loud noises and love the peace of the quiet here. In fact, I have noticed that even some people who are well into their forties will blast music with no thought for others.

      I just can't take it.

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    2. The debate about when to move to a 55+ community rages in our home. My wife wants to resist for as long as possible. The Covid lockout that isolated seniors from their families scared her quite a bit. On the other hand, she understands we do not want to burden our kids with our care when we are unable to take care of ourselves.

      The age sameness doesn't really bother us since we don't intermingle with the various ages who live in our present neighborhood. As Anne notes, the quiet and lack of loud backyard parties would be a plus for us.

      Your point, Fred, about medical advances is an important one to add to the discussion. Of course, this post isn't against technology, just technology that doesn't really make our lives better or easier. Electronics for electronics sake seems to be driving many of the gadgets on the marketplace today.

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    3. Point taken, Fred. I grew up in a small, mostly middle class city. My dad was a machine operator for the railroad and the neighbor on one side was a truck driver. The neighbor on the other side was a former mayor and the chief of police lived three doors down. A former nun lived on the corner. Across the street was a single mother living in a subsidized apartment. It was a great neighborhood in which to grow up with lots of front porch visiting happening every evening and everyone pitching in to help anyone who needed it. Now we live by choice in a rural area with properties of at least three acres and we're surrounded by mostly retired baby boomers like us. My husband and I enjoy our space and the peace and quiet that comes with it but I do admit that our neighborhood is nowhere near as connected as the one from my childhood.

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  6. Boy, Bob, you generated the longest reply posts I've seen from your blog with THIS topic. Maybe it's because it rings so true with us baby boomers and you certainly have the talent to write what so many of us are thinking. The "land line" is usually a misnomer since most home phones are now VOIP and provided through your internet service. I'm not sure you can even have old-style, copper wire service anymore unless you're in a rural area and I hear it's really expensive. People don't realize that if their internet fails, the home phone is likely useless which is not good for emergency needs. Happy New Year!

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    1. An actual landline phone is available in our area. It is immune to power failures, which is probably the biggest reason to own one if you live in an area that suffers from power outages. Cell phones and phones over the Internet are useless if the power is down.

      I am sure you have seen the video of teenagers trying to call a phone number using a telephone with a rotary dial. They haven't a clue. It is funny, but also kind of sad that pieces of our history are dropping away.

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    2. Coincidently, we just disconnected our landline after 39 years of service. The service in our area (yes, rural; no, not expensive) deteriorated to the point where the line quality was so bad that called ID no longer worked and voicemail messages were too garbled to understand. The phone company is not interested in spending mega bucks to replace the lines so now we have only our cell phones. When the power drops, our signal booster is useless and no calls can be made unless we stand in one particular spot on the patio and point our phones toward the southeast. In our case, our internet service through the local cable company is a lifesaver as it rarely drops, even during storms. And there's always the generator . . .

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  7. Love these lists Bob! Here are my thoughts:

    Texting vs calling - I almost never talk on the phone anymore. I love texting for relaying information as it is asymmetric. A phone call is intrusive and says "stop what you are doing and pay attention to me." A text can be dealt with when you have minute. When I want to have a conversation with a friend or family, the pandemic has shown that a phone call is a poor substitute for a video call :) So these days I either text or video chat.

    24 Hour News - I used to have news playing in the background all day and I found it made me miserable for no real purpose. I now get a little news each day from several sources and I'm much happier! My friends who watch Fox news all day seem miserable and angry all the time - not for me!

    Technology - Sorry, I'm all for technology. Bob, it seems like you have a couple of very specific product issues not a problem with tech in general. I worked at the edge of high-tech for decades and enjoy finding ways to let technology make my life better! Smart house, smart car, streaming entertainment, cord cutting, smart watch, VR... I love it all :)

    Walls - This must be a region specific thing. Here in the Southeast we have fences which we talk over :) Personally, I'd LOVE to have more separation from my neighbors! I live in a townhouse and my neighbor just left for Christmas and turned off his heat - of course he got a broken pipe and flooded house that threatened to damage MY house. A little more space would be great! I actually like how some homes are set up in Mexico where your entire lot is walled in and several walls of the house face a nice, private inner courtyard/pool. We have PLENTY of kids out playing in my neighborhood and I'd like like a quiet sanctuary when needed :)

    Happy New Year all :)

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    1. My 40-some year old daughters use texts for most of their communication. I agree it is handy and can cut down on interruptions; there are just times when the resistance to speaking seems silly.

      But, for the sake of full disclosure, I use texts much more than I use a phone to make or receive information. Your point about video calls is a good one: Zoom and others have changed how so many of us communicate. That isn't likely to change.

      The Southwest is known for its love of walls. Originally, I think they were designed to keep desert creatures from coming up to your home. Now, they are to keep neighbors at a distance. There are a few planned communities that have the "old-fashioned" front porches and no walls, but that isn't the norm.

      I love technology. My career was in radio. I am a ham radio operator. I stream music several hours a day. Without the Internet there would be no blogging. I love the freedom and choices streaming video services offer me.

      What I don't love is planned obsolesce, the inability to stop spam calls, and the situations like the HP printer. I paid good money for it. HP doesn't have the right to stick their nose into my home and my network to constantly try to sell me what I don't want.

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  8. I seem to be in the minority in this discussion-it happens sometimes, lol. I enjoy my privacy and have always chosen to live in someplace with a minimum of five feet fences all around the back yard at least. This doesn't mean I don't enjoy my neighbors, but I want to relax however I want in my own back yard without prying eyes and not have the neighbors talk if I take my dog out at six am in my robe or lounger, or even have my coffee there in the same outfit.

    As for texting, to expand, I am not one to not make phone calls. I speak to my son and sister for one long phone call once a week. But texting allows real time communication in the real world with people who are not retired and do not have all the time in the world. My son regularly texts me pictures of he and his dog on a daily basis, and I have brief conversations with all family members daily by text. As far as other issues like workmen and business dealings, texts are the best thing ever.It may depend on the people texting and responding but I find it has widen my communications especially during covid. And frankly, texting and zoom and face timing have increased the socialization of most of us during the pandemic. I haven't had a land line for years and honestly don't understand why my sister demands us, especially since, as Bruce mentioned above, if your internet goes out, you lose your phone but I still have the data on my cell phone. I am overall happy with advancing tech, even as I know there is some build in getting obsolet issues.

    I get my news from a variety of sources including the BBc and german news. Having said that, there is absolutely no educational value, or even current events value for me to watch, or read Fox news.......

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    1. I like the walls in my neighborhood. Recently we have had a few newer neighbors move in, with young children and barking dogs. As you say, having at least a visual barrier is nice.

      I probably use a phone for an actual telephone call once a week - usually for a doctor
      appointment or something similar. Of course, with virtually my whole family living with 15 minutes of us, personal interaction is the norm. If my family lived farther afield, I would make many more calls.

      When one of my daughters wants to contact all of us about a family dinner, then a group text is best. We can all see each other's answers and reactions.

      I do listen to the BBC when I want a different perspective on world news. I used to listen to a lot of shortwave radio broadcasters from all over the world for the same reason, but almost all of them have moved to the Internet. Today, shortwave is primarily the home of religious broadcasters.

      With their real reason for being soon to slip from a position if real power, I will be interested to see how Fox News adjusts. Of course, during the Obama years they kept up their drumbeat of sensationalism. With new, even more radical competitors, they may be left without an obvious niche to serve.

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  9. I would agree with you on all of your points in the blog today – but I would add one more thing. If you want to interact with your neighbors, get a dog – or at least get out and walk. Many of the people I have met in the last 6 years do not have dogs, but they are mostly the people I say good morning to and go along my own way. I see them, but I don’t know them.

    On the other hand – I have become friends with some people in our neighborhood because of Sammy. If they have a dog who is friendly, the dogs bring you together. Sam sees another dog, and stops and wags her talk and looks at me like – “well aren’t you going to say hello?” and 9 times out of 10, the other dog has the same reaction. So now I know Ella and Lena and Mitchell and Lily and Ruby and Barron and Ben and Brando and Rocky and Zoe and Rosie and Brady – and the list goes on – I might not know all the “parents names” but I know the dogs and we all have a connection. In this weird time we are living in, it is comforting to know that there are others in the neighborhood who are in the same boat that we are.

    As far as the texting – it drives me nuts that nobody calls anymore – but if you are going to be friends with others and keep in touch, I guess you just have to “roll with the flow” and text them. They don’t answer the phone, but they will answer the text��

    Hope that you and Betty had a good time in Flagstaff and that you are ready to have a rip roaring New Years Eve!!!

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    1. Our beloved dog, Bailey, left us just over two months ago. Actually, she had just the opposite effect: she kept people who she didn't know away from us. Due to a nervous nature, she believed her job was to keep other dogs or humans at bay. Social she was not.

      But, for most dogs, like your Sammy, your point is absolutely valid: dogs are great social initiators. They give us a reason to talk and establish some connection.

      So many people allow all calls to gov to voice mail. One of the very nice pluses of a cell is the Caller ID function. If someone is listed in my contacts I will answer. If not, I let it go to voice mail, or more likely, simply disconnect. If the caller needs to reach me, they will leave a message.

      We did have a tremendous family getaway, but I am really not a fan of very cold temperatures. The grandkids are coming here for New Year's Eve and have a sleepover. It will be rip roaring!

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  10. Hi Bob! I truly enjoy how you raise big questions and then offer a variety of "details" or examples that highlight your thoughts. Then I find it interesting about how so many of us (your commenters) seem to focus on those details without addressing the bigger question. My mind tends to operate in the reverse which likely says A LOT about me hahahaha. Anyway, I agree that time appears to be speeding up and that change is happening exponentially. So much of it has to do with the internet and how we as humans are creating, using and processing information (data) A quick google search shows that it will process 3.5 BILLION searches today alone. They also report that every single one of us around the world generates 1.7 megabites of data EVERY SECOND. And while that statistic is hard for me to get my head around, it is also reported that 90% of the data in the world was created in the last two years!!!! Anyway, my point is that you are so correct in calling out the fact that changes are happening so regularly that we all would be "smart" to be clear about our own personal values, needs and life goals as time goes by. The choices we make about whether to text or call, what news stations to watch and where we live will likely determine our future lives. Overall I think it is good to remember to hold on to our hats because more change is coming, ready or not! ~Kathy

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    1. Your point is vitally important. If we don't think about what is best for us, what fits our needs (and budget), and what were are comfortable surrounding ourselves with, the wave of change will just carry us along, much like a tsunami wave. If we don't think about were we want to fit into all this, we will be dumped onto a foreign shore by that wave and it will be too late to think about the precautions.

      720,000 hours of video are uploaded every day to YouTube. Not only is that volume hard to imagine, it says a lot about how humans are spending their most precious resource: time.

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  11. I think the “norms” in just about every area of life will be affected, and changed, by these Covid years.Education: Kids,sitting in a room together, “learning” or sitting at a desk at home in front of a computer screen? Maybe we’ll figure out people and kids learn better when it’s interactive, mobile, not stationary, and more relevant to the “real world.” Technology: I think the new norm will be MORE reliance on technology in just about every area of life. My scientific mind sort of likes the idea of such progress, but the emotional side of me worries about the ethics we will need to develop to manage such changes. (AI scares me.. but is happening.. so we better get a handle on it!) I enjoy progress and have rarely been one to wax nostalgic over what “used to be” or “how I grew up..” etc.. I think the new norms will be so dramatic and so different that it is hard,right now, to even predict.Travel: Will become too expensive for regular folks and so the new norm will be staying close to home... Restaurants: As many close and our economy changes (job loss! Loss of savings!) who will be eating out 5 nights a week? With Covid causing so many women to drop out of work to stay home and home school (yes, this is a fact, I don’t like it either..)— will the “nuclear family” make a return— or... multi-generational households?Intentional families (friends co housing and raining kids together..??) It will be a BRAVE NEW WORLD........

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    1. AS a previous post noted, Covid is going to change quite a lot of what we have considered to be "normal." I am quite conflicted about education. So much time in a classroom is wasted, or there are way too many children for one teacher to properly instruct. Yet, social interaction and getting along with others can't be learned from a computer. Our children must learn basic social skills and that only happens in the presence of others.

      The VRBO house we stayed in a week or so ago in Flagstaff had Nest thermostats. At first, I was unsure how they worked or what the point was. But, after a while I actually found it useful to see the outside temperature, have it light up for a few seconds when I walked past it, to see the time, and to have it predict how long it would take to warm or cool to a certain temperature.

      I hope one result of the changes we are experiencing is an increase in multi-generational homes. That may be the subject for another post, but there are just so many positives in having two or three (or more) generations living and learning together.

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    2. Both Ken and I benefitted from living in multi generational households.We received more love, learned how to help and listen to our “elders” and getting to know our grandparents on a day to day basis was such a gift that many kids today miss out on.. humans are not meant to be so isolated as we often find ourselves in this society!!

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  12. Sometimes I'm sad that I will miss out on all the changes that will happen after I'm gone (hopefully in many, many years) and sometimes I'm relieved. While I'm here, I want to stay as happy and fulfilled as possible, and try not to make myself crazy attempting to keep up with EVERYTHING.

    As far as current technology goes, I'm a big fan of texting. Maybe it's the introvert in me, but I just don't enjoy long phone conversations and what we need to say can often be taken care of with a few back and forth texts. Face-to-face, I'm good... just don't call me.

    You make a good point about our closed loop new sources. But, I don't think that necessarily means that one should balance, say, MSNBC with Fox. I don't think hearing the two extremes gets us to a center of understanding. Best to find several neutral (or, as balanced as possible) sources and do our best to question what doesn't sound right and use our critical thinking skills as much as possible.

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    1. Trying to find a neutral information source is not an easy task, but I agree listening to the two extremes doesn't really help except to show how far apart some of us are. Three of the major news networks (NBC, CBS, ABC) are probably about as neutral or centrist as you are likely to find. That is one of the reasons I like to hear world news from the BBC. They really don't have a particular slant.

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    2. Hi Bob,
      An excellent summary of some troubling trends. I am seeing the same issues from my perspective here on the west coast of Canada. It seems that we are trading "community" for "convenience". It is not a wise swap.

      The media (left and right bias) seek to hook us by generating non-stop controversy. Good for their ratings; terrible for our sense of cohesiveness as a society (all across North America). No wonder the USA is so bitterly divided (as is Canada). We are constantly being pushed apart. Controversy sells. Worse, we go from one outrageous news story to another with very few being resolved. End result; we are angry all the time and have an us/them world view. I personally have been restricting how much "news" I allow into my head for a few years now. I go for walks in the forest much more often. I feel much better. On a lighter note, my wife and I watch "The Waltons" fairly regularly. It is our happy place. Our culture needs more of what they had back then. Things such as extended family supporting one another, working and playing together, participating face to face within the community, balanced news from limited sources, shared values, respect for tradition and one another. We need to get these things back.

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    3. B. Steele, this comment said so well what I've been thinking about what we're swapping as a Society. I don't know if or when it will be turned around once it is realized this is no way to go as a Species. We recently moved to a wonderful Community that is established and close knit... it sure beat pretentious subdivision Hell! Even a Luxury Home feels like a Prison if it is surrounded by a community that is toxic. I came back to the Hood... and feel a level of contentment I was used to.

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  13. The country has developed a hyper individualistic culture. People are measured by how much they have individually achieved. This needs to change to a more communal culture where the focus is on community instead of self. 35% of Americans are chronically lonely and nobody talks to their neighbors anymore. You need to treat neighbors like family. Everyone helps everyone else. A shared sense of mutual trust, belonging and assistance in time of need. Hopefully the pandemic woke us up to the changes that need to be made.

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    1. We start very early in this culture by telling each child how special and unique he or she is. While I understand the need to bolster the developing ego, the end result is as you say, Mike: me, myself, and I. When every child receives a trophy or award, or is told they are always the best, that sense of separation between us and them is cemented.

      Tow of the things Betty and I enjoy about Europe are the café culture and the celebration of small town lifestyle. One example we will never forget took place in the small English town of Kirkby Stephens. Our rental car had developed a problem and we limped into town just as the only garage was closing. The mechanic immediately agreed to stay open to fix the problem, urged us to go to the local pub, and told us he'd bring the car to us when it was ready.

      As we entered the pub, several people came up to us and invited us to join them at a table for drinks and some food. They had been made aware of our car problem and made us feel comfortable. We all became friends within a few minutes, exchanging travel stories, and tremendously enjoyed each others company until the mechanic delivered our car to the pub parking lot.

      We will never forget that sense of community and caring for strangers.

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    2. I had the same experienced you shared when we were on vacation in Italy. I only wish we could start acting like that and caring for others back here at home. Something important to work towards. Happy New Year to you and your family Bob.

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  14. Bob, I'm hoping there's no penalty for multiple comments on one post . . . Since Alan and I are both introverts, I readily agree with Janis in reference to phone calls. I much prefer emails and texts to phone conversations, and my husband has actually been known to say bad words when his phone rings. In our family, the apple didn't fall far from the tree since our son is also an introvert. He and his long-time girlfriend recently bought a house on four acres in an area with one overly friendly neighbor. I'm sure some of your readers will find this horrifying but, at Christmas, we gifted him with a t-shirt that read "Like a good neighbor, stay over there." He loved it. I find it intriguing how our personalities impact, among other things, our communication preferences and lifestyle choices.

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    1. Actually, you get a gold star for staying engaged with the ongoing conversational thread!

      The preference for phone calls versus texts is quite personal, as these comments make clear. Betty and I are both loners so we don't call many people except family (or doctors!). I find texts annoying when the topic requires several back and fourths to resolve or clarify the issue. If it is a simple, "I'll be there at 4" then texts fit the bill.

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  15. I have a landline that has some service to weed out some robocalls. I have a cell phone, but I rarely use it. My addiction is my iPad. Ha.
    I prefer texting unless it’s someone I haven’t spoken to in a while and want to catch up with. People often want to talk too long.
    I like technology..the more is fine with me.
    I see what I want of news with 630 national news (real news, not Fox), a few email newsletters I get and some reliable sources on Facebook.
    I’m not in a 55+ neighborhood, but sometimes wish I were, although, so far, it’s quiet enough. They people I know that are in one, love it, especially if you are a social person.
    Walls? I think I prefer a natural hedge or open fence with vines of some sort. In a quiet community, you wouldn’t need one at all and a front porch would be ideal, if you had space on each side. Or a nice rear porch with a deck. Landscaping can make privacy easy. I love the old bungalow or craftman style homes.

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    1. I was a docent for several years at the Frank Lloyd Wright home at Taliesin West in Scottsdale. He believed in a strong integration between nature and living space, which is something I have always found fascinating. He had no walls between him and the desert, unless they were solid glass so he was not separated from the views in any room.

      MY parents were not very social, either, but found their 55+ community a nice fit. They did just enough to feed their interests, without feeling overwhelmed by parties and commitments.

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  16. These are thoughts I've considered as well, communication and diversity are sorely lacking and it has caused deep divisions and polarization, so many insulating in their Bubble and 'World' that they fail to realize everyone is not exactly like them in every way, but that doesn't make them necessarily an adversary. I do Hope that the tough year of 2020 made people more reflective about how important Socialization is with the Human Species and how Isolation isn't how we were meant to live.

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    1. You have highlighted the key to virtually all our problems at the moment: being different or holding varying views makes that person unacceptable to me. Circle the wagons and keep those dangerous people away from my protected life.

      NYTimes columnist Frank Bruni had an observation that caught my eye: He suggested that many of our social problems could be lessened if we focus on "where we intersect versus where we diverge." He is so right.

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  17. To a certain extent, the desire to live in walled off enclaves separate from one’s neighbours and others in the town arises from fear. When there are huge income disparities so that the things you own are desirable targets for thieves feeding an addiction, health care and mental health care are not funded for all, and systemic racism is not addressed so that people come to fear others who don’t look like them, and when people want to hoard wealth for their personal use rather than contributing to community wellbeing (aka pay taxes), and when elected officials refuse to address lax gun laws so that any stranger could potentially be armed and likely to shoot you — well then it is not surprising that people want to protect themselves by hiding away from others. And if we choose to not regulate the spam callers because corporate rights supersede human rights, then people will cease to answer their phones and one more means of human connection becomes broken. We have some big problems to address in society that have crept up on us and they work together synergistically, creating real challenges for positive change. Sorry for the “downer” response on the verge of a new year...

    Jude

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    1. Your comment reminds me of an old saying about "death by a thousand cuts." We don't notice each little slice against our dignity or freedom or social responsibility. Then, one day we wake up and notice we are slowly bleeding to death from all the cuts.

      Your comment may be a downer, but it is reality, and no problems were ever solved by pretending something isn't happening (sort of like the 2020 election!)

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