Some Lessons Learned
Hey, how are y’all? This will likely be a short article. Make no mistake though, there are big chunks of meat in this. I had to deal with something this week and it bothered me. I had to help fire someone at my day job. It wasn’t anything new, I’ve done this kind of thing many times before. It, as they say, goes with the territory. The thing that bothered me about it was that it was the first truly undeserved firing I’d been involved with, ever. Let me give you some background and you’ll understand why I’m starting with this.
The person fired had been at the place for about five years. They were not only good at their job, they also developed an excellent rapport with our client. I will tell you, that is not an easy task. They were friendly, affable even, didn’t make excuses and were genuinely honest and hard working. To say I was surprised that they were being terminated would be an understatement. So, you may ask, what did they do? What sin did they commit? They spoke their mind on social media. It was reported anonymously and some corporate apparatchik determined that they were a racist and would be terminated. No argument, no appeal, out the door with no income. Now, I’ve known this person for a good five years. We have had a lot of conversation over a lot of topics. Anytime they were judgmental or disparaging about anyone it was always based on the individual’s actions. In other words, they judged based on the content of someone’s character and not the color of their skin. Their mistake was to get sucked in to a ‘conversation’ on social media during the riots while the city they lived in was being looted and burned. They told the ‘friend’ that they were communicating with that the looters lives didn’t matter. That ‘friend’ reported the conversation, again, anonymously. Was the comment harsh? Yes it was, but it was true. Was it racist? Hardly. Yet, they are now out on the street.
Many of you have probably realized that I am something of a Luddite. Oh, I can use technology, and I do. I am not, however, enamored with it. Why? Because I have seen it fail too many times. Technology, whether it comes in the form of a social media platform, a smart phone, GPS a red dot sight or a laser range finder, can be an amazing and useful tool. My issue, particularly with many of the more recent ‘innovations’ is that it has a poisoned core. It makes us stupid, weak and lazy. Many rely on the tech solely and have no alternate, let alone a contingency or emergency plan (see what I did there?) Many of us have forgotten how to think, how to research or even how to read a map. How many times have you been talking to someone, the weather comes up in conversation and they whip out a smart phone and tell you it’s raining. You look outside, sun is shining, birds are singing, huh ain’t that somethin’.
Make no mistake, this is a time of war. The violence in the streets is grabbing everyone’s attention at the moment. There are also actors who are using the cyberworld as a battlespace. You need to tread as carefully there as you do in the meat world.
There is something about social media that gives people a serious case of word vomit. I don’t understand it, but have seen it many times. People I know that are normally terse, close mouthed folks share thoughts with people on line, that they have never met, that they probably haven’t told their spouses.
Look, as much as I would like to go back and rob Messrs. Bezos, Gates and Zuckerburg of their fortunes, for the greater good mind you. It’s not going to happen. We are not putting that Jinn back in the bottle. We can, however, be smart about how we use it.
First, start thinking of technology as a tool, not a toy. You’re careful with fire, you don’t swing hammers around blindly and you follow the four rules of fireamrs safety religiously. Treat the ’net, and social media the same way.
Second, learn, or re-learn how to do things without technology. How do you research something with books? Not Google or Youtube, books. How to read a map and plan a route somewhere without GPS. Cook something without googling a recipe. Memorize important phone numbers and actually punch them into a phone when you make a call. Buy things from a local store, or if on line, go direct to the seller, not use Amazon as a middle man.
Third, take a break from tech. Once a week at least, shut off the phone, don’t go on line, watch TV etc. Go out and do something, read a real book, connect with people in the meat world. You will be amazed at the difference it makes in your life. The wife and I (she more than I) have been putting in a lot of hours at work. Midweek, we were both kind of done. I had gotten home first, took care of some things that needed taking care of. She got home, we had dinner and she looked at me and said “Can we just watch a movie?” Sounded good to me. During the start of the movie, the TV shut off. It was still daylight out, so it took a minute to realize the power had gone off. After checking on the neighbors we poured a libation each, opened a book and read and talked until it got dark and then went to bed. Best night of the week, let me tell you.
Friends, the world is changing, not necessarily for the better. If we are going to survive, and we have to do that first before we can thrive, we have to be smarter about using technology than we have been. We need to balance using the platforms that are out there against getting sucked in and dumbed down by them. Remember what Washington said about government and fire. They are useful servants and terrible masters. This is no different.