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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How to deal with cyberbullying

An old U.S marine once told me that going to war is sometimes necessary. Despite all the advances in technology, we can say with certainty that human behavior is predictable and that cyberbullying will never be fully eradicated. If you love your child, you must train them to standup for themselves when a bully confronts them and tell them that facing a bully head on is okay. In the new age of information, we need to teach our kids more life skills than anything else.

Why so many parents are afraid to speak about serious matters with their kids is beyond me. Cyberbullying isn’t going to magically go away but teen suicide rates because of bullying can decrease. We need to help our kids to defend themselves face-to-face rather than making them believe that young and immature kids will stop bullying them especially behind the walls of a social media platform. Kids need to develop strong social skills at an early age and not doubt themselves by what others say on-line. Tell your child: You are so much more than what others say in these social media environments.

All this technology is handicapping our children socially and making talented young minds be scared for life because of cyberbullying. We need to do something about this issue in a meaningful way. Here is my solution. First, start communicating with your children early on about the importance of developing courage and the inevitable reality that they one day will face opposition in life. Explain to them that technology will never protect them from the dangers of cyberbullying or any other bullying. Make sure you tell them that in this world, what they do with technology, not technology itself, is what will help them to be somebody one day.

Second, develop a TechnoModeration strategy for your kids. Enable them to use technology for a few hours each day for educational purposes up to 5th grade. Don’t give your kid their own smartphone before they reach the age of 13 under any circumstances. Install and tell your kids that you have installed TeenSafe on their smartphones and that you will be checking on their smartphone activity once in a while because you are the parent, period. If they give you a hard time about it you tell them, “Ok. You won’t have a smartphone then because I am the parent.” Remember, you are not your kid’s buddy. You are their parent.

Third, when your kid reaches the age of 15, have a conversation with them about sex. Explain that in this life there are tons of predators who want to take advantage of them including those who will bully them for self gratification. Affirm to them that chances are high that one day, somebody inevitably will say something on-line that they won’t like. Give them the assurance that they can and probably should let you know when that happens. Make a vow with them! As long as they use technology moderately, you will pay for their smartphone bill. If you have a difficult time conveying your message to them when they reach puberty, ask someone you trust, a close adult friend, to intervene.

Lastly, before they turn 18 make a deal with them. If anyone attempts to cyberbully them, tell them to ignore the message and ask them to come home. Have a chat with them about the situation and remind them that sticking to themselves is okay. Help them if necessary. The goal is to train them that they, not technology or any other person, control their lives and that you are there for them if they need help. I bet that our indices of suicide in teens among those who experience cyberbullying would decrease exponentially.

Ladies and gents, we can make great strides in cyberbullying by being involved parents. Helping our kids with conquering these cyber challenges is part of our job descriptions as parents. Be ready to coach your son or daughter in this highly technological world we live in these days. Cyberbullying is a problem but we can fix it. All we have to do is to be a bit more involved and pay attention to the early signs of abuse.

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.)

Dark Side of Smartphones

I can only imagine how parents feel when their kid commits suicide. It must be a horrible feeling that nobody should ever experience in their lives. Yet, in the United States alone, there is a suicide every 12 minutes. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there are 121 suicides per day making suicide the second largest cause of death among people ages 44 or younger. According to a recent study published at the Atlantic Magazine, the suicide rates have doubled since 2007 and suicide among girls ages 15-19 increased by 40%. What is going on?

Nobody really knows as of yet because suicide is such a complex condition to study which often occurs after a number of things that could go wrong go wrong including lack of belonging to a caring church, finances, thinking that they are a burden to others, hopelessness and many other factors. I can’t comment on what makes good people take their own lives because I am not a psychologist. All that I can do is to speculate and provide potential insight based on what I know. Could it be that the rate of suicide is increasing at very high levels in America because of technology? Let me ask this question differently. Do you think that there is a positive correlation between smartphone communication and use and the increasing rate of suicide among teens in this country? Well, I think so! Let me explain.

Mediated communication, or the communication that uses information communication technology, is still communication. It isn’t categorized by communication scholars as face-to-face communication but it can be argued that it has the same qualities of traditional (face-to-face) communication at least from an operational standpoint. Communication works a little bit like this — Messages are sent from a sender to a receiver regardless if that message is sent through interpersonal means or via texting or a Facebook post. People tend to forget that just because technology has evolved, it doesn’t grant us to right to change years of solid communication theory and application tested and re-tested continuously by communication scholars. No matter which era we live in, people will feel goofy if the message has what communicators call “noise” or is decoded in a way that is detrimental to the receiver. Technology will never change the fact that we are humans and have feelings and these feelings play a role on how we act and react in life.

Let me be practical. When a girl in her teens decodes a message sent by someone, she will inevitably have her own perceptions about the message that she just received. If her “feelings” are good, she is likely to smile and feel great. If, however, her feelings aren’t good, problems are likely to start occurring. Problems are defined loosely in this case. If these “problems” occur frequently and daily, then one must wonder what will be the ramifications for such exposures. We are using smartphones an average of 6-8 hours a day. Statistically speaking, I would argue that the chance for “bad communication” to occur in a teens life is pretty high simply by association. Do you remember when you were a teenager and thought that if your boyfriend broke up with you it would be the end of the world? Well, technology makes these “feelings” a reality because our lives are now so public and visual. Look, there are people in my home country of Brazil who I haven’t communicated with interpersonally in years who knows more about my life than my dear 90 year old grandmother! Although the way communication occurs doesn’t change, the way we “experience” communication has changed dramatically.

The intersection between what is and what should be perceived by a teen on social media is what I think is causing this increase in suicide rates among them. About 75% of teens own a smartphone. They use these devices constantly everyday of the week. Communication is experienced differently but it has the same elements regardless of form. At 15, drama is high. When combined with other factors like loneliness, problems are more likely to occur. This is my take on it.

Poof: How About Hiding Apps So Your (Parent) Just Don’t Know?

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Poof is an interesting app as it hides apps from your phone. This app literally hides applications’ icons so users can’t find these hidden apps with ease. Hmmm, for an adult, I can see why they would use this app but note for children. I would be quite uncomfortable if I were to find out that my daughter was hiding apps from me. A youngster hiding content from their parents isn’t cool and can be a sign that something isn’t right, don’t you think? Be careful with this one.

PD Rating: Medium Risk

Tinder: Anonymous Hook-Up Tool… Parents, be Aware!

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Tinder is an app designed to connect people with other people in their vicinities.  However, Tinder has been associated with anonymous hook-ups and dating tool. Many people who use this app is looking for a one night stand in their region especially college students. Although the app is only to be used by 17+ users, there has been indication that younger kids have been using this tool. Parents, be ware of this app. If you find this tool in your kid’s smartphone, uninstall it immediately.

PD Rating: High Risk