In the world of the internet, as Ferris Bueller once said, “Life Moves Pretty Fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” But because things do move so fast now, are we becoming more and more reactionary and less and less thoughtful in our responses to situations? This list is born out of that frustration- that in the rush to be first, we’re losing the ability to take a little time and be reflective- to be able to deal with a few moments of uninterrupted thought or information. Please add your own stuff to this list- I’d love to hear what drives you crazy as well.
1. Moment by Moment Political Commentary. There have been so many presidential debates, and so many candidates literally churned through the media on a daily basis, we’re seeing more people comment on the most inane, minor stuff, reminding me of this great Despair.Com poster- Never Before Have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few. We’re spending more and more time commenting on every action, decision, rumor and the like, very little of consequences is actually happening. While I appreciate commentary and insight, so much of it is not always based on all the facts, but just cherry-picked tidbits, that it’s virtually useless. It makes me ask whether or not the media circus is driving our political discourse with commentary that sounds more like sportscasters calling a baseball game. It certainly seems to rival the influence on decisions that are made as much as donations and special interests do.
2. Everything’s On Fire! There’s entirely too many emergencies going on demanding my attention daily. There are faux urgencies being injected into everything from the toothpaste I buy (If you don’t use this now, your teeth will discolor and fall out!) to Groupon and Living Social Deals (Now! Today Only! Act!!) to political fundraising (If we don’t get X dollars from you today, we’ll lose everything!). I don’t know about you, but this faux hype is wearing me out. It’s having one major effect- I’m getting really good at saying No, turning off these things, opting out of your newsletters, etc. It’s like the boy who cried wolf- if you don’t save the emergency speech for the true emergency, I’ll stop paying attention to you all together.
3. Decision Impairment. This is the opposite, but a direct result from the Emergency! Problem. Based on the huge options for research, choice, and the constant hope of a better deal, and rumors of that “perfect thing” being just around the corner, I see tons of people paralyzed from action, unsure of when to pull the trigger, afraid of making a mistake. Too much information paralyzes people from making decisions, and sometimes, more data is confounding rather than clarifying. This fear of making mistakes leads us to avoid making any decision at all, and it keeps us in a rut. My friend Julien Smith, is publishing a great book on this on December 7th. It’s called The Flinch, and it will be available for free in electronic format for the Kindle, Nook, iBooks- everywhere. We have to learn to take risks, to stretch, to even gamble with making mistakes- we learn a ton from them, and quite frankly, rarely do they turn out to be mistakes at all. But if you never make a decision and commit, you’ll never reap any benefit at all.
4. Privacy Issues. People have realistic concerns about how much of their stuff online is private. Basically, despite the appearance of privacy and firewalls online, I basically assume that anything I say or do online is on the public record. This means the aggregate of my ideas, things I share, pictures, etc. will make up my digital – and real life- reputation, so I need to be responsible for this. It also means that whatever anyone else says about me will also be part of that reputation. This means I have to live in such a way that I’m comfortable with people saying what they want, even if it’s not particularly nice- they are allowed to have their opinion, and maybe they are simply not my audience, and that’s fine. Bt it also means that if I want to share truly private information with someone else, I should be selective with that, just like you would be when you decide to share personal info with friends offline. I get that some things should be private- and I’m a big fan of the Constitution. But I also realize that I have some control over what is public and private- at least what I choose to add to the conversation- and I need to take a second to consider whether EVERYONE needs to know stuff or whether, maybe a phone call or email would be a better choice than a Facebook post. Privacy, like security, may be as much for the illusion of privacy or safety than for the real thing, especially online. If it’s important, know the difference.
5. Everybody’s An Expert. Google exists and we can have information at our fingertips at all times. But information is not experience, or knowledge or wisdom. Just because you went to school once, does not make you an education expert. Learning how to construct curriculum, meet the needs of a diverse set of learners, and perform in front of them successfully every day is a real art and should not be subjected to the same moment by moment assessment of performance that Basketball players get on the court. Likewise, just because I can go to Home Depot and buy cool tools does not make me a general contractor. Heck, there are some things I can teach myself to do, but I think we all have to be a little more wary of when we need to call in help from the field. Watching one video on sink installation does not make me a plumber, and I shouldn’t try to armchair quarterback a professional’s every move when they come to fix something. Let people with experience and expertise do what they do best. And know when you’re in over your head and ask for help.