Loneliness for the sake of technology

Even though we have all these technologies available in our fingertips, people are more lonely than ever. It isn’t uncommon for folks to spend hours on social media and be highly depressed off-line. The indices of loneliness in America are so high that many are now looking for a minister of loneliness in order to help them to cope with this very sad reality we live these days. 

Listen to me. All these technologies are making you living a worse life. Lately, I’ve heard people in Cleveland saying the following: Having a child is too much work. I don’t want to spend time outside social media because it is so much more convenient to chat with people on-line than to engage in conversations off-line. Why would anybody waste their time building a family. It is too expensive! I couldn’t believe my ears. Am living in a nightmare or is this the society we live in these days? I am afraid that we are living in the second option, ladies and gentleman.

The smartphone is destroying us from within, literally. The amount of people who have thousands of “friends” on facebook yet are paying for others to cuddle with them on Friday evenings is increasing by the day. How ironic, isn’t it? The more social media we use, the less human contact we get and therefore the more human contact people need. In trueness, what I am writing in this article isn’t that surprising as lack of human contact will eventually drive people bananas. We were not made to live in isolation as a species. Only a madman or woman would allow him or herself to live a life with technology this way. The relational side effects that we are witnessing in social media nowadays are real. I am afraid that our society will grow smaller and colder in personality because of these absurd levels of technological use.

Wouldn’t it make way more sense to use technology less, meet more people off-line and grow a family so that when people get old, they have someone to care for them? Come on people. It isn’t that complicated, you know? Yet, people are complicating their own lives for the sake of technology everywhere, including in our small city. Social media is quickly turning into a cancer in our society. Why are we allowing cyberspace to consume our lives and make us less social?

I don’t know about you but to me, this is all non-sense. Have we gone mad or something? Maybe I am a bit too old school and believe in God, family, and good manners. There is just no way that in my household we are going to fold to the dangers of social media including this latest trend of loneliness. I may say A and you might reply with B sometimes but in the end, I argue, we better get along well and live in community advancing our innate need to procreate and live in harmony. Isn’t that what God has asked us to do anyways? 

Say no to technological isolation and the idea that social media connections are de facto close connections. Here is what I think. Live your life as if there is no tomorrow. Go meet people and expand your social capital off-line. Have an on-line presence and chat with people in social media in moderation. Go to church, meet a mate, work hard and smart and start a family. Glorify God and help others. By doing these common sense activities, you will help yourself in the process and I can almost guarantee that you won’t be lonely. Remember: You only live once, buddy. You might as well be reasonable and don’t assume that your facebook connections are really your friends.

Listen carefully: It ain’t worth the trouble to believe that all these technologies will make you more popular or together. Sherry Turkle, MIT professor coined the term, alone together for a reason. Just because something is permissible doesn’t make it beneficial. Go meet people offline and live your live to the fullest. As I always say, “use social media but in moderation.” You don’t deserve to be lonely for the sake of technology. Got it?    

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Technology Is Bankrupting Us

Technology is nickel and dime-ing us. Modern American living requires families to have three flat screen televisions, multiple smartphones, a laptop, maybe a tablet, fast internet, cable, appliances, along with services and more. Have you calculated how much money all this technology is costing you? No wonder why so many people now live with their parents after graduating from colleges and universities.

Let me make it simple for you to see what I am seeing. Three smart flat screen televisions on sale at Best Buy cost our family $2500. They were the middle of the line model Insigna Brand. We own our smartphones now but it cost us $750. All right, I am a media professor so my computer isn’t cheap as I literally use my MacBook pro 7 days a week multiple hours a day. Let’s add an additional $1600 to the bill. Let’s keep counting, ladies and gentleman.

I own an iPad. Cost? $500. We pay a monthly fee for internet access along with a basic television package and it costs us $115 each month totaling $1380 each year. If we multiple our cost of internet and cable alone by 10, in a decade, our family spent $13800 on cable and internet access alone! It isn’t over: Our appliances are also expensive. We have spend $1200 on a washer and dryer. After all, I am a son of God and deserve to have some technology to help me with cleaning my clothes while I am at work. Let’s not forget that cell service bill, we pay an extra $100 a month.

Holy cow! based on this quick yet accurate display of family debt I disclosed to people the main reason why it is so difficult for youngsters to start a living or for a middle aged man like me to save more money for retirement. See? Technology is so expensive! Nobody can deny the fact that we are spending what we earn on mostly useless machinery. Maybe I should turn into a monk, sell my tech gadgets, and move to a remote place near the mountains of Tibet.

Listen carefully: Modern American living, mostly due to technology, is negatively affecting our finances because we now are conditioned to use all of these devices and services. In addition, corporate supervisors have turned the superhero technology user into the ideal employee. With very few exceptions, most places of employment want to see its employees maximizing the use of technology in their work and consequently be connected to technology even when on vacation.

What a tragedy! We are spending too much money on technology and for what? To be able to waste our time on facebook, reply emails on our tablets, or watch television on a curved ultra HD TV? I don’t think it is worth it people. I am all for technology when it helps us to advance our life’s mission. The moment that technology starts invading my space and my friends start promoting the latest technology gadgets, I know that it is time to get away and think critically about how technology is invading my area.   

I don’t know exactly what people think about all these technologies we have today.  Camera apps, photo scanners, banks, you name it. I am critical of them especially when propaganda starts promoting tech toys that we simply don’t need. By the way, if people own an iPhone 6 today, people won’t need an iPhone 8 for a while. Just remember that, okay?    

Technology is bankrupting us. We must fight back against the technology obsession, put tech limits in our lives, and disdain all these advancements in workforce technology until we have an idea about what the innovation has to offer in the first place. Technology won’t solve all of your problems but it will increase your cost of living. That I am sure.

Public Schools Help Sustain Culture

This upcoming Fall, my daughter Sophia will be attending one of Cleveland Elementary schools. Why am I putting her in public school, you may be asking? The main reason why Sophia will be going to one of our county schools isn’t because she will have access to computers in the classroom. Although I believe that kids should use technology in moderation for learning, Sophia will attend a Bradley county public school in order to learn more about people. In life, people must be prepared to get along with other people in order to live in community, deal with adversity, learn how to behave in public and communicate, and fight injustice when required. Also, in order to be comfortable and stick for themselves when required.

Stop! Think! Reflect! Be a good father or mother. Before putting politics ahead of common sense and reasoning, think about what is best for your children. I am from the position that people who are prepared to deal with different types of people will eventually have the upper hand in life. I honestly don’t think that nurturing children to a point of protecting them from facing adversity is a good idea. Eventually these kids grow older and become clueless about how the world actually operate. Let me add a caveat for you, fellas. There is no technology that will solve your grandchildren’s problem when they are bullied later in life because the parents decided to protect them from the evil of this world. Kids who don’t experience interpersonal conflict tend to become severely handicapped in the workforce later in life unless they themselves realize that they are behind, read self help books extensively and are mentored by someone who actually understands how the world operates and is willing to share. 

My parents have always protected me. I was given every technology you could dream of back in the day. The problem is that technology doesn’t teach kids about people. What I got with technology, I lost in understanding verbal communication, facial cues and body language, and basic tenets of culture. I had no concept of privacy and space back in Brazil. So I question, how good is technology if you don’t gain the basics of your culture? Avoiding conflict isn’t the answer, either.

Going to a public elementary school helps kids to better understand the role of authority, and help them to learn how to deal with situations that kids dislike yet they have to learn how to act accordingly. Kids in public schools also learn how to face and handle conflict. Sometimes, saying something back or retaliating will quit the non-sense, even if the kid loses the battle. At least, this is what my dear old friend Kurt Dudt, a public educated former US marine who trained the South Vietnamese to fight the vietcong, once told me. There is honor in facing a bully even if you lose, he used to say. Look, allowing your grandchildren to hide behind a computer screen won’t protect them later in life. Very often, the former transforms great kids into cowards which in itself have some serious consequences. I woke up, came out of the shell, and now people think twice before making me mad. Your children deserve to know how to defend themselves when necessary against anyone, as well. Virtual Schools don’t teach your kids how to handle these things.

Technology is good for assisting kids to learn but it falls short to enabling children to develop themselves in society. We need to prepare our kids to be ready to respond appropriately in life so they can succeed. I am from the position that kids must be able to decipher between good and not so good people and find mechanisms to cope with them. We live in a diverse world, ladies and gentleman. Kids should be exposed to other ethnicities and realize that not every family raises their kids the same way. We can’t always rely on a computer to tell us how to think or advise us on what to do. Your grandkids need to know about people. Schools, not technology, are a playground for it. 

Bionic Eyes Coming To A Face Near You

I cannot imagine living life without having the ability to see the world. It is amazing how we all take for granted the many privileges we have including our ability to see. Unless you are blind or have a vision impairment, I bet that you don’t think too much about your eye sight capabilities. I have to admit that I don’t think too much about my eyes until I have to absolutely go to the eye doctor to change my prescription. Ladies and gentleman listen carefully to me because what I am going to tell you will make you think about your eyes and the future of your eyesight. We are very close to having access to what is called bionic contacts.

Can you imagine being 87 and having the eye sight of a 20 year old? I can’t, yet, but Dr. Webb, in a keynote delivered at the superhuman conference, stated that the bionic lens will be an actual lens that will replace your actual eye lens making wearing glasses or contacts a thing of the past, period. What if I told you that with the bionic lens, you will have the eye sight of a hawk or shall we say, you will have eye sight that is three times better than having 20/20 vision.   

We are going to have autofocus on steroids and be able to adjust our focus manually inside our eyes. Let me say this again — the bionic lens will allow you and me to adjust the resolution of our eyes as well as the sharpness of what they see! Why is the former so significant? Well, because future technology will now give you the capability to look at a world that was once only possible to see with an electronic microscope. Can you imagine being able to adjust your eyes and having the capacity to see the individual cells of your hand? I have to admit that I cannot imagine that.

According to Dr. Webb, whenever our eye lens gets old inside of our ocular structure, all of the other components of our eye go bad with it overtime making the case for the bionic eye a no-brainer. Citizens of Cleveland, Tennessee, we may be closer to science fiction than I thought. What does that mean you maybe asking! Let me try to explain Dr. Webb’s position on why the bionic lens will change the eye doctor industry forever. He explains that the biochemical assaults that our eyes experience because of the proteins and enzymes that are released by a defective lens end up compromising our ability to see well, along with the ultraviolet lights coming from the sun which causes eye degradation coming from the outside. He also states that the bionic lens will take virtual reality to its completion. There is some speculation that human studies have already started and that the product may be available as early as mid 2018.

Now, I like this, I must admit but I am skeptical about its potential long term side effects. My number one skepticism is grounded in the idea that no innovation is 100% perfect or 100% safe. I don’t know if I want to risk my ability to see in exchange for the possibility to be half robocop! Having the capability to fine-tune my vision is attractive to me but I really don’t feel comfortable having to do maintenance on my bionic eye! Let’s not forget that no technology is free of maintenance. I wonder how much this maintenance will cost and whether insurance companies will pay for them.

We live in a crazy world that is advancing faster than the blink of an eye. The bionic lens may revolutionize how many will experience life as we know it. I am skeptical about its long-term side effects but I have to admit that this one will help many along the way. One thing is certain, the future will be nothing like the past. The technological invasive phase has started, at least in beta mode. What the future holds is a mystery that will soon be revealed. We just have to wait and see.   

Intrapersonal Communication Trumps Technology

When I was young, I chose to engage in intrapersonal communication activities like playing competitive golf and chess because I’ve always felt better doing “my thing” alone. Like a typical introverted person, I didn’t need the attention of others to gain my daily energy then and I don’t need the attention of anybody today to be energized either. I wish that hundreds perhaps thousands of teenagers in Bradley County could experience what I have experienced early on in my life because working on your own forces people to get things done without having to abide by the approval of others. I bet that many of them would realize that what other people do or don’t do in social media is actually irrelevant to their lives. The same is also true for the opinions people form online based on what people share in social media networks. 

This is what I’m saying: If people focus on activities involving them only, they will build a stronger capacity to do things on their own and ignore the mad ideas people sometimes form about them.  There are way too many people these days caring too much about what other people say about them in social media. Who cares what people think of you if you are secure in yourself? I feel that your grandkids are growing up without that much needed resilience to face adversity which in itself may be causing them to be depressed sometimes suicidal. Listen carefully: Instead of using technology as a pacifier, teach them how to play chess young.  If you don’t know anything about chess, find them a tutor. If you cannot find anybody to teach chess theory to your child, give me a call. We can negotiate a reasonable fee so your grandkids can engage in deep thinking early on in their lives rather than growing weak with moods that are dependent on what others think of them online.   

If your grandkid doesn’t like chess, try golf. You won’t regret it. Let me reveal a secret to you that is related to what we are talking about. I used to play chess alone and loved it. Playing chess taught me that I didn’t need the approval of anybody to be happy. I know, I know… this is the pinnacle of individualism but hey, life is interesting. Your grandchild can benefit from doing things by him or herself and not depending on the goodwill of others to be happy in life.

We see so many kids today anxious and depressed about life because their “friends” didn’t like their posts on facebook. Others are partially depressed because not too many people like their posts in general. Some are suicidal because nobody liked their posts. Is this the kind of life that a kid should have? In fact, is this the kind of life that people should have? No.

This is precisely why I advance the idea of engaging in social media communication in moderation. Why should anybody allow others to make them sick for the sake of technology use? Give me a break. Nobody needs that crap. I most definitely don’t allow people’s opinions about me to taint my internal happiness.

I’m stunned by the number of people who admit to having a problem with anxiety and depression in social media networks today yet are doing little to nothing to solve their problem. Public admitting of a problem isn’t a viable solution to any problem. A systematic solution is. Go learn chess or golf! Spend time with yourself and God. You won’t regret it, trust me.   

There is hope. Your grandkids don’t need to grow up thinking that what others think of them defines them. What they really need is to have a couple of intrapersonal communication activities that force them to engage in deep introspection. They need to “converse” with their inner selves and realize that social media communication and interaction aren’t to be seen as the all in all in their lives. Everybody has an opinion. Fortunate are the kids who form an opinion by engaging in an activity that forces them to think critically about difficult situations and scenarios. Ladies and gents, chess and golf do just that. 

Digital Appearances Are Deceiving Too

Its virtually impossible to really know what people are up to based on what they post on twitter. In this article, I will explain to you why the former is true with a touch of Dr. A’s personality.

Ladies and gents, let’s get real. People use a mask in public and in cyberspace. If a person is sharing happy looking pictures on instagram all the time, chances are that they are de facto sad not happy most if not all the time. People often share the opposite of what they are really thinking. People may even compensate for being sad by posting happy content. Let me give you another example. If a person decides to engage in a rant conversation with a colleague or a friend online, chances are that this person is probably afraid to engage in a face-to-face conversation with somebody. As you, me and all the Tennessee Titans Fans know, most people put a mask when they behave in public. Do you think that facebook is any different? Please.

We all know that, don’t we? Why pretend then? Or assume one thing and ignore what we know about how we typically behave in public? Listen to Dr. A: Who cares what people think of you on facebook. You must live your life and make these social media networks be subordinated to you. You won’t gain anything by playing Nostradamus based on what people post on instagram. The only thing you will gain are the headaches of gossip which is an activity condemned by God.

  

Let’s get real here. How do you really know what people are feeling or thinking if intonations and variations in voice pitch, for example, aren’t being shared in social media posts anyways? See why it isn’t possible to guess who people really are online? Look, there are so many ways a person can misinterpret another person’s message on instagram that it isn’t even funny. Which body language is a person using when they “communicate” with you on linkedIn? Well, we don’t really know, do we? It is only by speaking face-to-face with somebody that you can be sure of what they are trying to communicate to you and others. I’m convinced of that.

There are so many people today investigating people’s facebook accounts these days and forming opinions about them based on what they post on a blog without having a clue about what their true intent for posting that piece of content was. It’s an epidemic. It is such a common practice that I have a micro system who checks who is actually looking at my profile on a daily basis. I’m watching you! 

It isn’t easy to “know” who people are simply by sneakily going to a person’s facebook page and analyze what they post. People may have an idea who the person is or may be but I’m doubtful that a person can really know who people truly are by doing a content analysis of what people share online.  People post content for different reasons.One of my buddies in Brazil shares jokes on a daily basis on his facebook. Does this behavior make him a social media clown? I don’t think so. Not to me. I know him better.

Remember: Not everything you see is what it seems. Social media isn’t any different. Just because a person posts too many times on facebook doesn’t mean that he or she is self centered. Maybe, they are sharing more content because their parents want to see more photos of their children on their wall. Perhaps, people don’t post as much because they hate technology. Maybe they made a vow to technomoderate that year. How can people really know, right?

Be careful with assumptions. They tend to backfire. I honestly don’t think that anybody can truly guess who people are online without knowing who they are offline. People can try but they will fall short. The complexities of communication and human behavior can’t be diminished to a level of perishable machinery.  We are humans! We are living systems! Knowing how people really are is dependent on other variables not found in cyberspace and that’s a fact.

The Future Of Savings.

Technology has helped our society in a number of different ways. We now drive more economical cars, have more economical house windows, and we can now speak across borders with our relatives in different states and many times in different countries. I still remember the time when we had to pay for long distance calls in order to speak with people living out of state. I have to admit that from this standpoint, I really like technological developments especially in telecommunications. There are other reasons for why I really am a geek with personality who enjoys what is modern and technological. Not sure about you but I actually enjoy my car’s backup camera and turbocharged engine. I can’t live without them. By now, after reading my provocative column here at the Banner, you can probably deduce what is coming next. You got it! Although we have seen so many advancements in technology that sometimes makes us take for granted what we have, there are a number of side effects that we experience, as well. Let me give you an example. Let’s talk about savings and handling cash.

When I was young, I used to get money from my parents to go shopping or to go to a local burger shop down in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where I come from. My parents used to give me something like 20 bucks to have fun every Friday evening at least four times a month. Despite the former, I have always been a frugal and calculated individual; therefore, I rarely spent all of my money at once which frequently resulted in me bringing some change home after my pinball adventures. I religiously put my coins and change in a piggy bank after coming home. Why? Because I wanted to have available cash more than four days a month! 

It didn’t take long before my piggy bank would get full which often resulted in me asking my parents to go to our local bank to cash in my money. I’ve learned a lot about handling cash savings with my piggy bank system, starting at age 11 to a point that when I was 12, I got this 6 foot talking “piggy bank” system which I felt was the coolest thing in the world. It was the best year of my teenage life, 1986. I was able to save the equivalent of 50 dollars with that massive piggy bank which back then made me feel like a billionaire.  What is the moral of the story? I have learned to manage my money by saving my change using piggy bank systems. Today some banks offer a change round up savings. They will round up your transaction amount and put the change into a savings. But how do we teach our children, who are too young for their own account, how to save? Let me start with the obvious. Do you own a piggy bank today? Are you showing your children the value of money by having them actually see “real life” currency?

All these innovations in the credit system has changed the way we now handle money. As a matter of fact, I wonder if kids today know how to handle cash at all. Look, I understand. We shouldn’t be saving our money in piggy banks all throughout our house as adults because we understand the value of interest. We must be able to own checking and savings accounts in order to build our personal financial empire. I am just skeptical that all this technology will teach our children how to handle cash and how to save money in the long run.

Let’s make this long story short. I know that my piggy bank system is outdated and old school but I trust what makes sense to me. We have lost a lot of life skills especially in cash handling and savings which is a shame. I love technology for what it is but when it comes to teaching someone to save money, I would much rather have that rudimentary piggy bank system that we all have used in the past versus all the plastic we carry now. 

We’re seeing generational shifts in technology use

A weird phenomenon is happening right at this moment in Cleveland, and beyond.

I’m seeing some of you on your smartphones more often than the students in my classes, especially the freshmen. No, I’m not kidding, and yes, you heard right.

I’m not saying, however, that students aren’t going to their iPads or laptops to surf the net … because they are, but some of you are really using your devices to unreasonable levels and are starting to be where they were about two years back: Approaching the Robotic Stage of the Human Robot Cycle Model.

How do I know this? I’m watching you! Well, let me explain.

First of all, most of you now have a smartphone, maybe two. What was old technology is now being adopted even by people like you, my dad and my mom. By the way, my parents are baby boomers and use their smartphones more often than a college student.

My mom, for example, posts five times a day on Facebook and comments on people’s posts multiple times a day, six days a week. Thank goodness she takes the sabbath off!

My dad has six smartphones, three tablets, four laptops, and wants to buy more electronics because, you know, it is the right thing to do these days. He is semi-retired as a corporate executive. I wonder what will happen when he “retires.” Well, I doubt he ever will.

“How can that happen?” you may be asking. “Why are older people getting so addicted to the same tools their grandkids are using these days?”

Hmmm.

See? When we produced propaganda campaigns to assist teenagers and young adults with using technology in moderation, we left you out! Why? Well, because you are baby boomers and baby boomers just don’t use technology. At least, that was the assumption.

Yeah, right. Of course you do, but you were much more reasonable than the kids back in 2015. Things are changing, though. Most of you aren’t addicted to technology, but I’ve seen a big increase in technology use among the baby boomers and beyond.

Is it a bad thing? I think it is a bit bad, yes. In the Human Robot Cycle, we know that the more a subject interacts with a computerized device, the more robotic they become without even realizing it. You were not made to be a robot in behavior! Therefore, using all these technologies excessively can be quite bad for you.

You know me. I’m not against technology. I like to use technology, but in moderation. That is, using technology isn’t a bad thing, as long as technology is used in moderation.

Listen to me: Technology can be addictive, and you aren’t free from its threats. Remember: We are what we do many times. If people choose to be on the computer all the time, even if that person is you, chances are very high that the user will suffer the consequences of technology overuse, no matter what.

We live in a weird world where advances in technology are making even the old young again.

Second, we do live in a technopoly. In the U.S. of A., we pride ourselves on being technologically savvy and for being innovators in everything we do. There’s some truth to that, but just don’t forget that we all pay a price for being connected all the time, even after retirement.

In a technopoly, where technology is seen as a god, people are living longer and consequently many are working until death, in part because of technology. Don’t believe me? Ask your neighbor if he is really retired! I bet he isn’t, completely. Technology extends our working days until we die – for the sake of technology.

You may agree or disagree with how I’m going to end this column, and that’s fine. But many baby boomers today are a byproduct of modern technologies because use among your age group has increased exponentially because the “no-tech use” propaganda wasn’t directed at you.

I’m concerned, I must add. What will happen if a critical mass of  55-plus year-olds start spending six hours a day on a smartphone, wasting time?

Look, our kids need you to help them to be better people. Please don’t lose track of what is important! Use technology but in moderation. Your grandkids will thank you.

——— (article previously published in the Cleveland Daily Banner)

(About the writer: Dr. Luis C. Almeida is an associate professor of communication at Lee University and a TEDx speaker. He is the author of the book “Becoming a Brand: The Rise of Technomoderation,” and a devoted Christian. He can be reached via his website at  luiscalmeida.info.)

Heart Attacks Could Be Next

Ladies and gentleman, I’m afraid that way too many people in our society will suffer heart attacks because of technology. What do I mean by that, you may be wondering. Well, let me explain. Screen time use in our society is at an all time high but listen to this: We are only at the beginning of this mess. We are going to be way more connected to the “screen” than many think.

Well, in reality we are already using computerized devices way too much as it is. How many hours of screen time are you using everyday? Do you know? How about your sons, daughters, and grandkids? Let me reveal something to you. If you have an iPhone these days, you can track how many hours you or your relatives are using on their smartphones everyday. In a recent keynote I gave for the Cleveland Media Association, I asked the audience who were iPhone users this question, “How many hours were you on your screen yesterday?” Those who had the function open — Screen time — answered on average, four and a half hours a day. That’s a part time job in smartphone!

By the way, what can you do with twenty extra hours each week? Let me see. Exercise, start a side photo business, play with your kids, watch ten 2 hour movies, play three full rounds of monopoly, or my favorite: play a game of chess with Dr. A for a full week! Hey, I do think deeply and always like to strategize my moves in everything I do in life. Don’t judge me. Anyways! You can do a lot with 20 extra hours on anything and let’s not forget: Twenty hours a week times fifty-two equals one thousand and forty hours a year. I’m coming to the conclusion that Americans don’t have a weight problem. Americans have a technology use problem.

Many of you won’t like to hear what I’m going to say next. I don’t even think that most people know that they are on their smartphones that much. The people at CMA were shocked when I asked the question to them. My friends on social networking sites always find the most absurd reasons to justify why they aren’t always connected. It’s shocking, even comical to read their comments sometimes on facebook. If you think that your kids and grandkids aren’t half robots in behavior, think again. I bet they are and frankly, I think they can’t see they are which can be quite scary. This lack of self awareness of computer use may cause your kid and grandkids to over stress, have hypertension and consequently have a heart attack.

This is really what I think. We are going to start seeing people having heart attacks on a large scale especially because of social media network use and tech productivity because what is being asked of us is literally impossible for a hearty person to attain. The social media network algorithms expect people to engage with others in order to grow their accounts. Bosses are expecting his or her employees to be on call 24/7 many times during vacations. The stress of not replying to an important email overnight in some, causes millions to be so stressed to a point of having to see a psychiatrist once maybe twice a month. Consumption of valium and opioids is at an all time high. Colleges and universities are clogged with kids suffering from anxiety and depression!  Heart attacks are next.

Human beings were not made to be slaves of technology. Use technology but in moderation! I don’t care which method you use to get away from these devices but please do. You don’t want to suffer a heart attack in order to wake up from all of this. I’m afraid that this petition is already happening a bit too late but hey — I’m a believer. Next time you see your family members so engaged with their iPhones, ask them: Did you check the screen time function on your iPhone in your settings lately? How many hours a day is it saying? Tell them that Dr. A is warning people in Cleveland about the dangers of heavy smartphone use and hearth attacks. I think they will understand. What do you think?   

Where Do You Stand In The Human Robot Cycle?

There has been a lot of talk about the side effects of technology and innovation in our society these days. Conversations relating to tech addiction, eye sight issues, stress and anxiety due to the excessive use of smartphones in our society are literally happening everywhere regardless of culture or town size. Human-machine conversations and concerns seem to be happening with frequency in the aisles of New York City to suburban Los Angeles and everywhere in between, including in our great town of Cleveland, Tennessee where we live. I have lost count on how many TV reports have been aired on this topic. What we haven’t talked about too much in the media is why are we so attached to smartphones.

What if I told you that the former is happening all over the world because the more people interact with smartphones, the more they become like one without noticing. People are becoming like a computer but are unable to “see it.” We are on our technological devices many hours on end and using sometimes unconsciously.

What if I told you that there is a brand new model of human behavior that explains why we are behaving this way. It is called the Human Robot Cycle. This model has four phases and operate in a cyclical and predictable fashion. The phases are: The State of Equilibrium, Obsessive Computer Use Phase, Burned Out Phase, and the Post-Burned Out Phase. Let me explain.

Every person is born in the state of equilibrium because human beings are not exposed to smartphones in the womb during gestation. As we get acquainted with technological innovations and are consequently given smartphone access in order to satisfy our contemporary technological needs, people unconsciously experience what I call a “process of transformation” which is the first transitory stage of the cycle. In this intermediary state, human beings aren’t in equilibrium but aren’t in the obsessive computer use phase either. I would argue that a person living in this state is engaging in true technomoderation since the person is using as much technology as they are putting technology away, for the most part.

The danger is to eventually develop an obsession with smartphones, pads and video games. With time, people eventually reach the Obsessive Computer Use phase which is the first deep level of human disequilibrium. As more technology is infused in our lives, we pass through what I call “the human robot syndrome” period where we become even more obsessed with computer use which leads us to behave literally like how a machine would. Examples of these behaviors include a tireless call for immediacy, multi-tasking, and production. People are always doing something — chatting with their friends on Facebook while at dinner, updating their Instagram accounts while in class, broadcasting their life events on youtube live while driving to work, you name it. 

Eventually, after more exposure and frequency of computer use, people reach the Burned Out phase or colloquially spoken the Robotic Stage. The moment you reach this second phase, technology is the least thing you want to see in front of you. An intervention then needs to take place in order for you to regain your humanity. I call the stage “the human reversal.” Eventually, you will reach the Post-Burned Out phase where computerized device use is minimal. The goal of the Post-Burned Out phase is to bring people back to the equilibrium (first phase) stage where things are just fine and dandy. Typically, individuals who are in this stage would purposely use technology minimally as a means to retrain one’s body to the dangers of technology. The cycle never stops and keeps repeating itself throughout the subjects whole life. 

The Human Robot Cycle isn’t sexist or ethnocentric. Gender and nationality seems to have little to no impact on how people interact with their machine. Regardless of cultural background or nationality, tech addiction is impacting your lives maybe for the worse.  It is only by better understanding the Human Robot cycle that we finally understand where we all belong in the continuum.

In the tech age, to err is still human

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I don’t know about you, but I am imperfect. This fellow here isn’t always right, has faults like anyone else, and is above all — human.

Have you heard the phrase, “To err is human.” I am that human.

Why am I saying this to you here in the Cleveland Daily Banner, a public outlet that is read by tens of thousands of readers? It is because I want you to know something. Machine thinking is so ingrained in us that even when a person makes a little tiny error, some are quick to point out, “Hey, you made a mistake!”

It’s much like when computer programmers misplace a semicolon in a system and get a syntax error.

Look, I get it. Not everybody points out other people’s faults or pitfalls out of jealously. Some do, but not all. The majority of people who can’t stand an incorrect comma on an essay or a person mispronouncing “let’s pray” in a public event probably say it out of pride and because of technology overuse. Some might actually be ignorant and socially inept, but they are a minority.

Read very carefully: We live in a technopoly. Machine thinking is a widespread phenomenon in America. The machine has, in a number of domains, achieved perfection.

Every time we use a calculator we get an exact and accurate response. We can now create a word cloud online perfectly based on word frequency. I play chess with a machine that knows the very best move among the many that are available.

No wonder people are so picky about making things so perfect. After all, this is how a computer behaves. We need to forgive them and help them to realize that only the Lord is perfect. We are imperfect.

Let me go a bit deeper about this topic. Let me see if I can convey a quite complex issue to you quickly using simple words. Here we go.

Since computerized devices are a human creation, it is only fair to assume that some machine functions will be performed in a very human way. I am not aware of a totally secure network out there. Even the most secure systems can be infiltrated by a back-door protocol. They have vulnerabilities! They are imperfect. No wonder. These systems were created by people.

Let’s not forget the fact that we created the machine, not the other way around. Of course, even computers have imperfections. Just because some people perceive the machine to be perfect doesn’t mean that machines are.

In 2018, there is a driving force to produce computerized systems that can think like humans, in order to replace us. Nobody is saying the upcoming American Fedora will be a perfect robot, though. Even in the realm of emerging technology, there is room for error and revision.

Don’t believe me? Have you installed an operating system patch lately? How about an update on your smartphone?

What we are experiencing right now is machine revenge. Since the machine is almost perfect in many areas, we are then asked to be like one and operate under similar standards of perfection.

How ironic, isn’t it? It is comical. Man created the machine and made microsystems work to perfection, like a calculator.  Man surrounded himself with machines. These machines made him more like one, yet he can’t be one. The perfect ideal isn’t attainable. What a tragedy, I must add.

Consequence: Some now judge the work of others based on an algorithm that is humanly unattainable. Are people going mad these days? I think people are going insane, actually.

Do this for me: Next time somebody comes and points out one of your many faults, tell them that life is imperfect — that you enjoy being imperfect because it makes you unique. I am boldly unique, but full of faults.

Dr. A is not God. He loves the Lord and believes that only through the blood of Jesus he will be clean from his imperfections.

To summarize, Dr. A believes that to err is human. What do you believe?

——— (Column published previously in the Cleveland Daily Banner)

(About the writer: Dr. Luis C. Almeida is an associate professor of communication at Lee University and a TEDx speaker. He is the author of the book “Becoming a Brand: The Rise of Technomoderation,” and a devoted Christian. He can be reached via his website at  luiscalmeida.info). 

Technology Is The New Pacifier

This is Sophia, my daughter. Every morning, she wakes up, immediately runs from her room to ours with her blanket in one hand and a doll in the other. She finds herself a way to crawl into our bed and snuggle for a little bit. Minutes after the snuggles, she approaches me and says, “Daddy, cabana? Let it go? You might not know exactly what these terms mean but I promise you that you won’t forget as soon as I finish writing this blog post. I bet you will tell this story to someone you know because chances as pretty high that one of your friends or family members might have experienced something very similar to what we had.

Cabana is an activity I created to bring Sophia to spend time with me at night and calm her down during her terrible twos’ year. During the early stages of “cabana,” Sophia would come close to me and we would talk below the bed’s sheets. Initially, this activity worked out great as Sophia would then come to see me in the evening, play cabana, get tired and eventually ask to go to her room for nighty night. She would sleep like an angel the whole night. Everyday, my wife appreciated the activity as we both slept like an angel for almost six months straight. For a good while, the word “cabana” meant rest and play at night with daddy in our household. Not anymore.

Daddy! Cabana, Let it go? These are the new words that Sophia uses around 3:30am almost every morning after waking up three times prior to that from insomnia.  She also uses these words at 6:15am, after she leaves for daycare at 7:15am and when we come to get her at daycare at 6:00pm. She asks to play in the cabana at 8:00pm, and of course around bed time. Why are all these activities happening now, you might be asking? Well, it started happening after I allowed Sophia to watch a video on the smartphone while we were in the cabana one day.

I was trying to be a TechnoModerator but technology has back fired on me as now my kid can’t wake up in the morning or go to sleep in the evening without asking to have a smartphone video being played. Of course that in our house, technology isn’t played all the time, regardless of whether Sophia asks for a video to be played or not. But the fact of the matter is that she is constantly asking for technology to serve as a pacifier! At least, this is what it seems to me.

Do you know anybody who has a kid who is constantly asking for technology in order to be entertained? How do they feel about the use of technology in their household? What do you think will happen to the new generation of toddlers being exposed to all these technologies?