Saturday, November 13, 2010

Blogging the Night Away

Well, considering the number of responses to my previous post, I figure that in my hiatus from blogging, I lost at least some of my following, so the move to a new domain became a no-brainer. I'll let you know once that's up and running, which should be by next week. To nobody's surprise, the domain will be and the title of the blog will still be Reality Overlaps.

I'll continue writing about the stuff I write about, which is community, online and off. I'm also going to write more about games than I did in the past, not because of the increasing interface between games and reality, but because I'm now in that industry. Yay! What could be cooler than having a job where playing games and watching youtube videos of people playing games is part of your job? I never have to worry about my boss coming in just as I am fiddling around playing a game again!

And, for a blogger, what could be better than having a job that is interesting enough to blog about?

But that's not what I came here to blog about today. I wanted to blog about blogging, or more specifically about my experience with GoDaddy. I decided to put my blog there, frankly speaking, because it was the easiest thing to do. My hosting is at GoDaddy, so whatever.

In the name of laziness, I also just picked out whatever their blogging package was, something called Quick Blogcast. Although I wasn't thinking about videos or podcasts, I thought cool, looks good enough. Unfortunately, it's really lame. I won't go into its lameness, because I didn't spend more than quarter of an hour fooling around with it. Why should I? I knew that in 10 minutes I could figure out Wordpress, so I wasn't willing to devote more than that to this thing.

But then I was stuck, because I had signed up for a year. So I called GoDaddy. They were great. They walked me through setting up Wordpress. They walked me through putting the domain name I wanted on the hosting. Twice, because I hastily pressed the wrong button. They refunded all the money from the lame blogging account and credited it to the new hosting account.

Then they asked me if there was anything else they could help me with today. They always do that, and I'm always stumped. I mean, if I had anything else, I probably would have mentioned it.

But looking at it now, I have to ask myself, why isn't this standard everywhere? Why doesn't every support call for every service I have always end with "Is there something else I can do for you today?" How many times have you hung up the phone and gone "Dang, I forgot..." It usually isn't with your hosting company, either.

GoDaddy offers really extraordinary service. It's unusual, considering what they sell and what it costs. I spend about $100-$150 a year on this kind of thing. In other words, I'm not a very big customer. I probably call them 3-4 times a year, and these are pretty low-cost people, so let's say that they are spending under $10 on service for me. Still, 10% of cost for customer service is money. And they know it's me, too, because I type in my customer name on the dialpad before they pick up, so they could relegate me to the inferior-service department if they wanted.

Bottom line, more power to you, GoDaddy. Ridiculous ads aside, the product is solid.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Back to Blogging

A combination of the following kept me from blogging over the past few months:
  • Being incredibly busy
  • Blogging twice weekly for the company blog (IOW, being burned out)
  • Not being able to figure out that Google has disconnected my blogger login from my mail/calendar login and that now I need yet more passwords.
I thought the whole idea was to have all my Google stuff in one login, but lo and behold, for some reason, Calendar, Mail and Sites are a separate login from everything else if you have a domain that is not I can't figure out the logic of this being different for mailboxes but not domain mailboxes.

Also, I can't figure out the logic of "Mail, Calendar and Sites". Mail and calendar, yes, but sites, why sites? Mail, Calendar and Docs, maybe. But Mail, Calendar and Sites? Do you know anyone who uses Sites?

Whatever. I'm back and now I am debating about whether to keep the account on now that I no longer have the convenience of 1 login for all Google stuff. I'm thinking about moving Reality Overlaps to my domain. I even started, but that's a whole new bunch of aggravating technical settings to deal with.

What do you think, keep it at blogger or put it on my personal domain?

Monday, May 17, 2010

We Respect Your Privacy

I love when I sign up for some free thing, and they make me put in my email address to get their junk mail, and the form says "We respect your privacy."


Maybe that's the wrong question. Maybe the question is:

What privacy?

Most people today have an email address for stuff they don't want to read. Those who don't have a filter or some other methodology to toss the garbage out. Or they have given in, as I have. I just ignore most of the mail I get.

I don't know what's worse. That you don't really respect my privacy or that I don't care.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Farmville Could Change our Eating Habits

I know this sounds truly asinine, but Farmville could to have more impact on our eating habits than Food, Inc. I'm sorry to have asked this question, but when I did, I found out that 63 million people are active Farmville users, and that Food, Inc.'s box office gross was under $5 million, and we all know seeing a movie costs more than a dollar.

Farmville isn't out to change our eating habits, but they do come up with all kinds of cool and interesting crops. I need to look some of them up. For some of the crops, like durian, I look them up and think "Oh, that's what it's called!" But just as often, it's like "Really? There is such a thing?"

So where could this change our eating habits. Well, if 30 million people suddenly decide they want to try a jackfruit, not much of a shift would occur. Fruit trees take years to grow, so you will either be able to get your hands on a jackfruit or not. Most people know this about fruits, and even if they wanted to try a new fruit, they aren't going to replace their apples.

But for amaranth, which is a grain, you could really create a shift. I don't think people will replace wheat and corn, but it's possible to imagine. I don't know about you, but corn is kind of wearing thin with me.

A while back I was talking to one of the largest grain importers in Israel, and he said the amount of grain imported annually doesn't change much, but the type of grain does. Right now, quinoa is "in". Grains take weeks or months, not years, to grow, and they can be stored and transported.

From what I read on amaranth, it's got a higher protein content than wheat, and it's easier to grow in various conditions. I bet I could find some in the health food store. With 63 million people already exposed to the product, this is an interesting marketing opportunity for someone.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Driving Out of Gas (TEDx Follow -up)

As a follow-up to TEDx Tel Aviv, I spent part of my afternoon in the BetterPlace electric car visitor center outside of Tel Aviv. The facility is in the last standing oil tank left at Pi Glilot, which was the storage area for gasoline in central Israel. Apparently someone figured out that having such a facility adjacent to your largest population center isn't terribly bright. The petrol was moved out. BetterPlace managed to salvage one tank and convert it into a beautiful visitor center.

We were hosted by founder and CEO Shai Agassi himself, who spent over an hour answering our questions. I was so late to my next meeting that I missed it, not just out of respect (Agassi was late to his next meeting too), but because I was completely blown away by Agassi's generosity and devotion. The answers to the questions were jaw-dropping beyond all expectation.

I took the time out for this, not just because I like to mix with smart people, but because I truly care about this issue. I have had visions of overhauling transportation since I was 11 years old. I've thought about transportation deeply and often, though I haven't taken the time to make it a central part of my life.

I had a lot of questions, but I didn't ask any. I still have them. I am concerned about what's next, what we do to stop paving our earth with parking lots and freeways, how we cure traffic, and stop bashing into one another. I have a lot of questions, but I didn't ask them because they became instantaneously irrelevant to the conversation.

The conversation took place in the context of the singular, compelling vision of eliminating gasoline. The conversation lived inside the clarity with which Agassi has considered, research and planned how to make that vision a reality.

I have to make a confession here. Often, when I see or meet someone doing great things, I think to myself "I could do that." Sometimes I even think "I could do that better." I know, you never think that to yourself. You also never think "How the heck did he get that job?" or "He might be famous, but he's kind of a jerk." I know you never think those things. But people like myself, with big egos or big jealousy syndromes, sometimes think those thoughts.

But today I found myself, really, truly in awe listening to Agassi. I mean, this guy, he has a vision. He is out to end oil dependence. He is out to replace the gasoline industry. But that's not the main thing. Lots of people have vision.

This guy truly has the leadership and business skills, the audacity and modesty to pull it off. That's impressive. Very, very impressive, and very, very rare. But even that's not not the main thing.

What's fundamentally unique about Agassi, is that, on top of all those things, he has the ability to think, plan and execute at the level of the entire ecosystem. I should say "ecosystems", because the more you ask, the more you hear that Shai Agassi has thoroughly researched, questioned, analyzed, and created ecosystems. Not just one ecosystem. Multiple ecosystems.

He has considered the economic ecosystem of how people purchase cars and the lifecycle of automobile value to consumers. He has considered the entire ecosystem of where we get our energy now, how it could potentially be garnered, and how it needs to be delivered. He understands the entire car industry from manufacturing to distribution. He understands the ecosystem of introducing new technology. He understands his competitive environment and has multiple potential scenarios played out in his head.

Agassi has thought deeply, researched thoroughly, and asked the right questions. Come to think of it, he's asked the wrong questions, too. He's thought about it all.

The result is that at BetterPlace, absolutely everything is thoroughly researched and planned. Everything is considered from how the price of oil is determined; how to avoid impacting the power grid; how to build an outdoor charging station that will never electrocute anyone in any kind of weather.

The group of TEDx refugees asked intelligent questions. Every question got a thorough answer that showed depth of thought from macro to micro , from economic to engineering, and from basic human behavior to basic physics.

No words can describe the thoroughness with which this one man has thought through all the aspects of his business. No less astounding is his ability to articulate all of this with clarity and purpose. Yet even more indescribable is Agassi's humility and humanness. You are in the presence of a human being, not an idol or a figurehead.

One of the final questions was about tension between Agassi and his investors. Here, again, he gave a thoughtful answer on multiple levels. On the micro level, Agassi shared personal stories of trust between himself and Idan Ofer. On the macro level he spoke about how our society vilifies public figures and seeks scandal rather than inspiration. Agassi spoke of the loss of our perception of our leaders as heroes and our loss of trust in the human spirit.

In short, he spoke like a hero, whether you choose to believe that such things still exist or not.

Monday, May 3, 2010

This Side of the Line

Mid-day Saturday, I remember that I don't have any hot-dog rolls. I recall that yesterday, when it was too late for me to do the shopping, my son had announced that we needed 15 of them for the Lag b'Omer bonfire.

Ok, I think. We'll just take a drive over to Jaljulia and get some. They must have bakeries there, and they don't close on Saturday. Tevel comes with me, and I'm vaguely aware that his dad might think that it's not a great idea to take the kids to an Arab village with me. Not that I don't buy my vegetables there all the time -- but that's on the edge of town and now we are going into town.

I ask at the petrol station where the bakery is, and they tell me that I need to go to Kfar Bara, another mile up the road. No biggie. Still, I experience a vague discomfort as I drive there, thinking, the discomfort is silly. It's an Israeli town, it's 5 miles from my house, I've never heard of any incidents, and yet, there's a vague discomfort.

The bakery owner sells me rolls and pita, tells me, yes, there's been quite a flow of people today and he had forgotten it was a Jewish holiday and the Sabbath, and he hadn't yet prepared for the potential demand.

As I drove out of town, there was a woman hitchhiking. When I see these ladies hitchhiking by the side of the road, it breaks my heart. We have them in my town too, because of the inconvenient bus schedule. When I seem them standing by the side of the road, I always stop, and usually go out of my way to take them to their destination.

Now I know I shouldn't stop in an Arab village and pick up a hitchhiker. But I just couldn't see her at the side of the road like that, so I stopped. I told her I could take her to the outskirts of the next town, but not into the town. She turned me down with body language, probably not because she couldn't speak Hebrew, but because she was in shock. She knows I'm not supposed to stop for Arabs and she knows she's not supposed to get in the car with a Jew. So that settled that.

It's weird, you know, or maybe it's not.

People live in their separate communities. I grew up in America, where the social norm says that pluralism and integrated towns are equivalent. After 200 years of failing to artificially integrate people, you'd think someone would have the thought that integration, in and of itself, may not be morally "good" (or "bad" for that matter). But Americans are stubborn, and the society refuses to accept that people, by and large, want to live with people like themselves. In fact, it's almost considered morally wrong to oppose artificial integration. It's as if there is something unethical about people wanting to live in a homogeneous environment.

In Israel, the social norm is that people want to live separately. Now, I'm not a fan of the "separate but equal" train of thought, because nobody is under the illusion that it's equal. Not in the US, not in Israel. It's not equal. But that's the end of the moral issue. Apart from problems of measuring equality, there is no reason why heterogeneous residential communities should be better than homogeneous ones. People have their tribes, they always have and they always will.

It's not necessarily a question of race. Sometimes "like themselves" means belonging to a socio-economic group, to an age group, or even to a particular profession. Sometimes it's just being someone who loves bar-hopping or a particular sport, or even a particular sports team. It's perfectly natural.

It's almost embarrassing for someone like me, that is, someone who believes in equality, who loves everyone, and who is something of a peacenik.

But when I look around at my friends, the people I hang with are pretty homogenous, socio-economically and culturally.

I was talking about this just last night with meezoog founder Tuvia Rosenthal. Meezoog is a technology that basically allows you to check out if someone is trustworthy or socially compatible. Right now it's a dating application, but clearly there are additional applications for this.

What I said was, indeed, when I meet a guy on Facebook, if we have no contacts in common, the chance of a first date being successful is very low. Tuvia pointed out that this is fairly true in Israel, that is, in a small population, if my social network on Facebook is well-developed and gives a good representation of my RL social chains. I can see that. The main communities in my RL are high-tech, roller-blading, synagogue, and Landmark (self-development). I have dozens of friends from each of those networks. If you don't know any of them, you might be a really kewl person, but we don't have a lot of interests in common, so we aren't going to have much to talk about on a date.

Obviously, an application like meezoog makes sense if you are in New York City or Paris, where the population is much, much bigger, and you need a better measure of trust than 1-degree of distance. 2 or 3 degrees of removal are helpful in this case for checking out whether someone is of dating caliber.

In other words, our compatibility and trust levels are directly correlated to how closely connected we are to the same people. Or to similar people.

Maybe it's the sad truth, or maybe it's just the truth.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Post-TEDx Thoughts: Next Generation Job Expectations

I attended TEDx Tel Aviv yesterday. Rather than reviewing or saying how awesome it was, I'm just going to use the vast and bubbling inspiration and allow my thoughts to take off in various directions for the next few posts.

Not only did I hear astounding lectures, I met astounding people doing astounding things. The audience selection was indeed impressive. And I got to thinking about career expectations.

Career expectations have undergone a revolution in the last generation. You've heard people say that it used to be that people worked in one place for their lives, yadda yadda yadda. I'm not going to talk about that because I'm not old enough to have the right to do so.

I'm old enough to talk about what my generation grew up expecting in a job. (I'm middle-aged, if you must know.) In essence, there were two main streams of thought. One stream of thought, but not the predominant one, was "I'm going to get really rich." If you went to law or biz school, that might have been predominant, but certainly, in most places, that wasn't the main drive and expectation of my generation. The majority stream of thought was "I'll get a decent job and have a decent career in something I'm good at and that I enjoy."

Truly, if you have a job that you enjoy and you make a good living, you are indeed among the fortunate of the earth.

And yet, unlike in the past, people move from job to job every couple of years. And unlike in the past, many people I know, at one point or another, have started their own business. It might just be freelancing for a couple of years while the kids are growing up, and it might be doing a full-blow startup, but it seems like a growing number of people are doing their own thing in one way or another.

At TED, you start to hear something else. You start to hear it at the most base level from people like Martin Rapaport who simply could no longer bear to be part of the human rights abuses that were part of the diamond industry. It runs the gamut through to people like Paul Holman, who is looking for the coolest solutions to mundane problems, like killing mosquitoes with lasers (and, btw, in fact, bugs are much, much cooler than lasers, but you do need to look very closely to notice).

What you hear is that our generation and the younger generation are increasingly not satisfied with a good, well-paying job that they love. Increasingly, people are saying, it's not enough to do good business. We want to do good while doing good business, or at least, do no harm. We don't want a good job, we want an inspiring job. Yes, we may work at good jobs for some or even most of our life. But that's not the goal. The goal is to have an inspiring job, a job that helps other people, a job that improves our world.

If you don't get this, what we have is a completely revolutionary way of looking at a career path. I grew up knowing you should work at what you are good at and enjoy. Work is a means to an end, the end being having money to live your life and do other stuff. Work is not an end. Yes, you would hear that you should do what you love, for sure. But there was never any question about the fundamental function of work. The fundamental function of work, in the generation I grew up in, was to make money to do things that weren't work, like raise a family and be entertained, and even to give to charity.

The basic functionality of work is changing. From being a means to allow us to live, work for an increasing number of people is equivalent to contribution. They don't want to work so they can make money so they can contribute to a cause. They want to be a cause. The cause could be using lasers to eliminate malaria, and it could make a lot of money as well as save a lot of lives. In fact, it should.

In a world where we are saying that you get paid for your value, no conflict exists between doing good business and simply doing good. If your value to the society is great, you should be compensated. The way the world is today is that contribution is poorly rewarded, from teachers to peace activists. Those are not well-paid positions, and yet their contribution is enormous.

The new way of thinking is saying, all this needs to be turned on its head. Society should pay for worth beyond just monetary worth. Society should and will pay more for clothes manufactured in a humane way and for foods grown naturally. As individuals, we will work at what we believe in, and we will be compensated.

Certainly, for many people, it will be beyond their reach to have a job that is more than a means for money-making. And certainly, there will always be causes that are not-for profit, and there will be philanthropy and volunteerism.

Yet, the time is here when people are aligning with their core values, not just their core talents. People are asking not only what they enjoy and do well, but what their inner calling is, adn where their skills can make the most impact towards a better world for all.

It is astounding to live in this time. Simply astounding.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Where have I been

Whoah! It's been literally months since I posted anything here! Where have I been?

I have to admit to being in the middle of a bit of a reset on my life. Not that anything major has changed. Same job, same kids, same home, same community life.

Sorry about that. Be back soon.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mommy, I've gotta go online!

Internet connectivity is essential. It’s as simple as that. You need to find Internet periodically, just like you need to eat and use the toilet periodically. You might be able to go without it for a day or two, but basically, let’s face it, Internet access has become a fundamental human need.

Unfortunately, with the spread of 3G and mobile Internet, it's getting harder to find Wifi, and even more difficult to find free WiFi in major cities worldwide. When you are traveling, roaming costs are too high to make that a practical option.

I lugged my laptop around London all day while there with my kids, because I couldn’t get wireless where I was staying, so I needed to get a fix during the day. The kids moaned and whined as the 4th cafĂ© in a row told us they don’t have Internet (WTF?). Finally, we found a Starbucks (sad but true), where I was only too happy to pay a few quid to get online. Despite their grumbling that we don’t need WiFi, once we had found it, the kids (ages 9 and 11) immediately asked when they would get their turn, because they need to send mail and Facebook their school friends.

I got 20 minutes, and they each got 5 or 10, and then we were back on our way. It was worth lugging the laptop for 8 hours just to get that hour online, and I did it again the next day, despite the sunk cost of connectivity and the anticipated cost of the massage to fix the damage done by dragging the laptop around town.

It’s sad, but true. Even though I didn’t have a lot to do online, there are enough issues that demand caring for at least once a day for me and my kids to consider Internet access to be a basic necessity. I’d say that on weekdays, twice a day is the basic minimum. On weekends I can get away without. I do start feeling a bit dizzy after more than 36 or so hours, though.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The State I Found You In

Outside Victoria Station in London, I met my friend AJ Pape. It was exciting, because this is the first time I've met someone from face to face, though I've been volunteering for almost a year now.

I am in communication with several people from the organization per week, by voice, video and email, but I've never met any of them in person. Neither I nor AJ lives in London or even in the UK, we just happened to incidentally be in the same city at the same time.

So it was just a genuine thrill to finally meet AJ.

And it was kind of chaotic, both the planning and the meeting itself.

Early on, I figured out that AJ communicates most easily by email and twitter, and that he has a good mobile data plan in the UK. I also found out early on that I was going to have trouble being online while in London, and that my mobile data plan is prohibitively expensive. Also, both of us had demanding schedules, so there was only a small window on Saturday morning where we could meet, and both of us had schedules that were in flux, not just up until the time we met, but actually all the way through our meeting.

Leading up to this meeting were a number of e-mails stretching back 2 weeks, most of which were probably superfluous, and none of which included a specific time and location. General time and date along with the assumption of immediate means of communication are enough to set a meeting these days. The day of the meeting were no fewer than 6 additional communications through e-mail and text, as well as 2 or 3 missed phone calls. In other words, no voice.

So meeting at the train station aligned with the already-established air of chaos and disorganization; an air of trying to fit in just one more thing, competing with the other things in our lives. There's a thrill about that, about living life to the fullest, pushing what is possible for yourself. There's the thrill of being on the edge of what is possible in this world of constant communication, frontier-less friendships, momentary meet-ups.

And yet.

We met just to talk, so it didn't matter where we were, and certainly both of us had had enough of coffee shops. So we walked around looking for the ticket office as one of us had to buy some bus (coach) tickets. Afterwards, we talked on the underground on the way to the tweetup, on our way to meet others on the edge of immediacy.

We consulted GPS and twitter to find out who and where we were meeting. We were late, we didn't find the others, we walked in the wrong direction. We were distracted by the noise of the trains, the incoming calls and tweets, and the hullabaloo of the marketplace. Being in the city, we were was never quite at rest: concerned about keeping our belongings safe, finding the right item in the marketplace, taking in the sounds and smells, never quite able to make contact for as long as the level of camaraderie would demand.

We had an hour together. We achieved what we had set out to do: had our piece on the next pieces of peace, exchanged numerous hugs, communicated genuinely, were human with one another, created something to take forward.

And yet.

Lack of presence was present. The hour went by with the feeling of constant distraction, of squishing another human being into too small a cubbyhole, of being in one place mentally while physically in another. It was all a blur and a rush. After we parted, it took 10 minutes for my heartbeat to return to normal.

I want to live my life this way. Knowing anything is possible. Getting every last drop out of the time I am here on earth. Making a difference. Touching many lives, frequently, without hesitation, with the urgency that we have only the present in which to live.

And yet.

I want to live my life this way. Having inner peace and calm. Being present and focusing on the moment. Genuinely being with others, hearing who they are and where they stand. Standing and steady. Knowing that steadfastness and ongoing commitment, integrity and presence of mind are what create our future.

Walking the balance.
Between present and future.
Between presence and velocity.
Between passion and peace.
With agility and harmony.

And yet.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

You've Got a Friend

It's our fourth night staying at Susie's home in London.

As we were on the bus coming here for the first time, my son asks "How far is it to your friend's house?"

"I don't know, I've never been there," I answer, suddenly thinking about the choice of words. I don't actually know Susie either, she isn't exactly my friend. I mean, I've seen her in class, and she's seen me, but is she my friend? I asked her to help me find a place to stay this week, to save on costs, as the Landmark Forum for Young People, plus the flights, was already quite a stretch financially. And she simply offered to have us in her home.

Still, I wondered, in real life, it's not like Facebook, you don't just "friend" someone. Or do you? Children do. When they meet someone they like in the playground, they say it's a new friend right then and there.

In fact, what do you call someone who, sight unseen, offers to put you and your two children up in their (immaculately clean and beautiful) home for a week? Yes, I think, "friend" will do. And "Yes," I think, "In real life, you actually can just 'friend' someone, just like that."

Monday, January 18, 2010

It's Nothing Personal

It was going to happen sooner or later. My personal e-mail address has gotten to the point where there is practically no truly personal mail in my inbox. We haven't migrated from dead-tree and ink letter-writing to electronic letter-writing. We have migrated to no letter-writing.

Why would you bother anyway? If someone wants to know what's going on with you, they can just check your status, online photo albums, and tweets.

That's not to say my inbox is empty. Far from it. I get updates from groups I belong to (several weekly inline-skating updates, 2 different religious organizations, team projects for my empowerment course, school updates for the kids, alumni association news and projects). I subscribe to plenty of stuff (word-a-day, LinkedIn groups, myriad of marketing gurus, health newsletters, daily click for TheHungerSite, my favorite charities). I get select Facebook updates, when someone comments on my status or sends me a direct inbox message. And then there's the odd mail where I'm not sure if I'm subscribed to that site or not. This week I found there is a single woman in New York who is interested in me. Wrong gender and wrong continent, but it's nice to know that somewhere, someone is interested in me.

In fact, my primary e-mail has become the place where I get stuff I know I should read as opposed to my RSS reader, which is the place for the stuff I wish I had time to read. I actually get one daily newspaper in my inbox, because I don't get to even read the news every day, and I don't want to be completely ignorant. Not that I could be if I wanted to be, because as long as I keep up with people's FB statuses, I have some idea of the major news events.

The emphasis, however, is on "should". I have a few hundred e-mails in there, over 100 of which are unopened. Just a few months ago, I always managed to keep it below 100 in my inbox total. Now, it's hopeless. I have separate e-mail for work, and for the main volunteer organization I am involved in, but other than that, the rest of the mails are lost in the pile. If I don't answer someone in a day or 2, forget it. That e-mail is lost in the pile. I try putting stars on the ones I really want to deal with but didn't get to yet, but it's only a week before any mail isn't even in the top 50 showing in the first page.

I've stopped feeling bad about it, though, because as I said, almost none of that mail is directed to me from a personal individual I know. It's almost all a blast of some kind, and when it's not, it's at the very least a group mail.

Now, don't get me wrong, I have a lot of real friends. A day doesn't go by where I don't talk to at least one person who is primarily a social rather than a business friend. But the medium is voice, not mail. It's as if e-mail has become a medium for action-oriented correspondence. We speak to someone by phone, and might send the exact address by e-mail or text, but mail isn't the primary personal form of communication. Personal communication is now by social networks for anything general, and by voice or F2F for intimate. E-mail, well, it's just something you don't take personally.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Consumption Reports

Facebook and twitter are constant reminders of what a loser I am. I know in real-time exactly what parties I'm missing, what fancy restaurants I'm not eating in, where I'm not vacationing, and the beautiful weather I'm missing by being inside.

At first, I felt pretty good about all the parties and events I was invited to, and all the friends that I can prove I have. After a while, though, it became clear that my friends were throwing and attending more parties than I am, eating fancier food than I am, and visiting places I wish I were visiting. To top it all off, a lot of my friends have more friends than I do.

For a while, I consoled myself in saying they were RSVPing for parties they weren't really attending and tripitting places they weren't really going. But the pictures say it all. Even when my friends don't brag, their friends post pictures of them, quite obviously having a better time than I am.

As a marketing person, it makes me wonder about the future of promotion. My friends are promoting parties, restaurants and travel destinations, not to mention consumer electronics and other items. Nobody is monetizing that, and, in fact, nobody really can.

Another result is that a natural escalation of consumption reporting. This morning I made myself eggs and toast, and I made sure to post that I had salmon omelet, whole-wheat walnut/pistachio toast, and homemade kumquat marmalade. Most days I have a piece of fruit, and it doesn't make it to my status report, not even if it's a mango or pomegranate. If I take a trip to London, I tell you, but I don't tell you it's on business or just so I can do a course, or if I took a loan to fund my wild vacation. I don't mention that I actually didn't spend any time sightseeing or even shopping and that I barely slept for 4 days running and took the red-eye both directions and went straight from the airport back to work (unless I feel like bragging about what a martyr I am, which is definitely what I am doing now).

There's nothing wrong with this kind of reporting, but it definitely feeds into the culture of consumption and consumerism. I have 600 friends and follow another couple of hundred people, and I've never seen anyone report on their meditation practice.

Most of the posts regarding time spent with family are either about expensive entertainment (travel, amusement parks) or frustrations with sick or cranky children. You don't see much "Just watching my kids in the playground with extreme satisfaction." or "Stayed home with the kids tonight just because they said they wanted me home."

If I have to be perfectly truthful, though, it's astonishingly gratifying knowing that my son doesn't want me to go out, even when he's asleep, just because he wants me "around". Or at least that's what I tell myself while reading what a great time everyone else had last night...

Wishing everyone a very healthy and happy new year, and may your life be as wonderful, fulfilling and exciting as your posts and tweets.