Technology doesn’t hate you

Friday the 13th in the middle of July officially counts as the nadir of the so-called dog days of summer. Therefore, dear readers, we will return briefly to the gospel according to Chuck Klosterman for another of his keen observations:

"I suspect that all of these dystopic ‘man versus machine’ scenarios are grounded in the fact that technology is legitimately alienating; the rise of computers (and robots, and iPods, and nanomachines who hope to turn the world into sentient ‘gray goo’) has certainly made life easier, but they’ve also accelerated depression. Case in point: if this were 1904, you would not be reading this essay; you would be chopping wood or churning butter or watching one of your thirteen children perish from crib death. Your life would be horrible, but your life would have purpose. It would have clarity. Machines allow humans the privilege of existential anxiety. Machines provide us with the extra time to worry about the status of our careers, and/or the context of our sexual relationships, and/or what it means to be alive. Unconsciously, we hate technology. We hate the way it replaces visceral experience with self-absorption. And the only way we can reconcile that hatred is by pretending machines hate us, too.’

Intention

Many people fail in life, not for the lack of ability or brains or even courage, but simply because they have never organized their energies around a goal.
Elbert Hubbard

It is critical to act deliberately within the field of feelings, thoughts, words and deeds. The clearer we are about our purpose, or where we want to go, the easier it is to get there and to actually know when we have arrived.
 

African proverb

I am not sure of the source of this proverb, but I have seen and heard it often, so I thought I would post it, in case you hadn’t.

If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together.

Thought on culture

One of my favorite essayists is Chuck Klosterman. If you’re a follower of pop culture trends and music and appreciate funny, elegantly articulated, if slightly sardonic, prose then Chuck is your man. His recent release entitled Chuck Klosterman IV has these observations about our culture:

Why, I wondered, do people so often feel let down by popular culture? Why do serious film fans feel disgusted when another stock Tom Hanks movie earns $200 million? Why do record store employees get angry when a band like Comets on Fire come to town and only twenty-two people pay to see them? Why do highly literate people get depressed when they look at the New York Times Best Sellers list, and why do anti-intellectuals feel contempt for critics who suggest The DaVinci Code is consciously targeted at dumb people? Why do nonreligious people think that the Christian Right shouldn’t have a voice in government? Why do conservatives get angry about the prospect of gay marriage, even if they’ve never met a gay person and never will? There’s always this peculiar disconnect between how people exist in the world and how the think the world is supposed to exist; it’s almost as if Americans can’t accept an important truth about being alive. And this is the truth to which I refer: culture can’t be wrong. That doesn’t mean it’s always “right,” nor does it mean that you always have to agree with it. But culture is never wrong. People can be wrong, and movements can be wrong. But culture-as a whole- cannot be wrong. Culture is just there.

Has good service become uncool?

I have had a couple of recent experiences that leave me disheartened and encouraged at the same time.

I grew up in New York City in the 1970s and 80s- not that long ago. One of the things that most impressed me as a kid was the way the store owners and retailers in my neighborhood knew me, my sister and my parents and provided attentive service. Now, granted, I grew up in New York, not Mayberry. But even at the Sloan’s on the corner (which was a long gone supermarket chain), the cashiers and other store employees knew me and my mother. The dry cleaner downstairs even gave me a battery powered car race track for Christmas one year. Even now, it seems like quite a length to go to in order to keep my parents bringing their clothes there, but experiences like that one stuck with me. I guess many of these smaller retailers were holdovers from an earlier time whose ethic remained unchanged. But times DO change and what is deemed to be OK changes with them.

As I grew up and worked in various service industries (waiter, radio sales, talent agency up to owning my own business), it just seemed like paying attention to your customers and trying to help them was what you did. You didn’t need to be TRAINED at it- it was how you treated people.

It comes down to empathy. Is it lacking in our society? I guess it depends on who you ask, where you live and a host of other factors. But it shouldn’t.

I have had a recent negative experience with a company that I like and support and have always had very positive dealings with in the past. It is unwitting suicide (now THERE’S an interesting idea) for a company to have its front line people present a poor impression of the company. We all deal with the people in the store or on the phone, not with the Senior VP of Marketing or Customer Service who probably really wants to take care of the customer and make sure that they are loyal and satsfied.

Where is the fault? Americans’ never ending quest for a deal and lack of loyalty? Indifferent sales people? Interchangeable products and our culture of disposability? Are all of these generalities unsupported by facts? It is for each of us to decide.

But back to the encouraging part: there is a yawning void to be filled by those who seek to help others, offer good service and try and understand what their customers want. The internet has done two conflicting things very well: it has served to separate and isolate us as never before, and it has brought like-minded people together as never before. But here is the key need that the internet has exposed: our basic human requirement to CONNECT with someone else.

Help people connect in a way large or small, and you help them to live. It is that simple.