A Short History of the Dawn of the Information Age by David Pollock

The early days of the Internet were particularly memorable.  No matter what service provider you used (Earthlink and AOL were the early favorites), there was a certain magical quality to the lovesick song of a dial-up modem calling out to its distant mate.  Then there was the strange thrill of hearing those three words, “you’ve got mail!”  The Internet was filled with endless possibilities.

David Pollock

It was hard not to think that humanity was witnessing the dawn of a new age of enlightenment.  No longer did you have to thumb through musty drawers of library index cards and wander up and down aisles of books, bewildered, trying to make sense of the Dewey Decimal System.  New services with strange names like Yahoo and Google would do all that work for you and place the world of knowledge literally at your fingertips.  It was awe-inspiring!

Finally, the masses would have unlimited access to information.  There was a multitude of opinions on every topic and the ability to converse with others you could never have connected with, let alone learn from.  And people almost everywhere started sharing what they know on bulletin board systems. 

I have to admit that there were some signs of concern even back then.  A good friend advised me never to use your real name on bulletin boards or chat rooms.  You don’t know who might be lurking there.  That made sense to a certain degree and I was careful, but the bigger concern for me was that anonymity seemed to allow people to be less civil.  Somehow knowing that there was no real-world consequence, you didn’t have to silence your darker thoughts or be polite.  It also turns out that there are a lot more cynics out there than I ever imagined.

Then social media took root, allowing everyone to share everything and anything from the morning’s breakfast to obscure mathematical formulas.  It almost seemed as if the earth was spinning faster.  It was the Internet on steroids.  You had control over who was your “friend” on social media, however exclusively or inclusively you wanted to define the word, but there was also a new game in town called “Likes.”

Noteworthy is that most everybody wanted to be popular, but never was there a way to quantify popularity like with social media.  I’m sure there will be many studies on the social and psychological implications of all this.  What is most concerning, however, is in the ether world of the Internet, popularity is so much more important than everything else, particularly facts and truth.  Being popular on social media is so addictive that it induces people to purposely promote ideas or assertions they know to be false.  In fact, the more outrageous the assertion, the more clicks, likes, comments and re-tweets you can garner.  The truth be damned!

It seems that my early hopes for the Internet were misplaced, or at the very least premature.  In retrospect, it makes sense.  Society and technology are evolving in tandem and always have.  The Internet didn’t magically enlighten people because people are still people with all their perspectives, beliefs and emotions.  Their need for affirmation is all-too-often stronger than their thirst for knowledge.

For someone like me who lives a very public life, social media presented exciting new ways to connect with the community.  Or I should really say communities since it turns out people have infinite interests.  Social media has allowed us to seek out and confer with like-minded people.  And it turns out, that is strongly appealing to our tribal instincts.  It is much more comfortable to have your existing beliefs affirmed than suffer the cognitive dissonance of other views.

I am still hopeful that technology will once again tip the scales to reason over passion, but it looks like that road will be a very bumpy one.

About the Author:

David Pollock is a city councilmember, an advocate for the environment and a frequent guest lecturer at the California State University at Channel Islands.  He serves on several governmental and non-profit boards.  He will soon be publishing his own blog based on his lectures to promote civic awareness about the instruments of democracy.


Twitter: https://twitter.com/DavidP805

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dbpollock/

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in guest blog posts do not reflect those of the host.

Do We No Longer Know How Much Is Enough? by James North

James North

As baby boomers, many of us were admonished throughout our adolescent years and then as adults to plan and save for the future in order to be able to stand on our own two feet. I translated this to mean, if you are able, you must work hard and provide for your own future—your own security. That advice seemed quite sanguine and occasionally proved its worth by the things that happened to people around me that left them struggling, without enough. Nevertheless, for many, if not most of us, these admonitions often went unheeded, particularly in our adolescent years and sometimes into early adult life. So if the words, “live like there is no tomorrow”, or “live life to the fullest” spring from the past and are echoing inside your head about now, you know what I mean.

Despite these epic and often short-lived “devil-may-care” episodic attitudes, most of us baby boomers, and no doubt a good many Generation Xers, can recall the excitement of our first job. It was an opportunity. The money was usually “small potatoes” and getting it was frequently the result of a newspaper route, a part-time job at a local market, yard work for a neighbor or a summer job that involved more physical, backbreaking stuff. Still, we earned it and the feeling of entitlement to things we wanted were inextricably linked to those earnings. Putting in our share or buying it outright were the only ways we got the things we wanted. We were content, at least until we were struck by the desire to have something else. For me, having money I earned in my pocket created a sense of pride. It was to some extent, freedom. I earned it, so I’ll do as I please with it!

I reflect on those things and make the following observations because today in the developed world the concepts of having enough and what I call excess surplus (hoarding) have merged and are now conjoined with unwarranted expectation and a sense of entitlement—the belief that the things we want can be acquired with minimal work and sacrifice, or no work at all. This disturbing phenomenon has been evolving and observably on the rise for several decades. It now appears to be growing at a quickening pace—spreading a toxic cloud that is raining poison on our values, threatening to condemn mankind to a moribund state.

As we watch, we see the abandonment of important concepts and the blurring of lines between that which we as human beings have long judged as good or evil, honorable or dishonorable. We can find many examples of this skewing of distinction, particularly if we look at the way in which opportunity and opportunism have become all but synonymous in their interpretation and acceptance. Frightfully, the latter is now tolerated behavior. In fact, it is not only accepted, it is expected. It is seen at nearly every level of human interaction—within families, schools, universities, social circles, in the work place and increasingly among countries.

The question is, how do we put human beings and humanity back on a safer track and stop the world from descending into an abysmal place—a heartless, uncaring, greed-filled, unsympathetic and egregious place, without empathy and where everyone is bent on pursuing opportunism instead of working to create opportunity? In other words, how do we determine when enough is truly enough? How do we create a more stable and less aggression-filled world? To answer these question, I suggest we start with the person we see daily in the mirror. But to sustain any effort toward progress in mitigating the effects of opportunism and greed we should ask, “What am I doing to prepare those who must continue to make these changes?”

The Great Communicator by Gilda Evans

Gilda EvansWhat makes a great communicator? President Ronald Reagan was known as “the great communicator.” Was it his skills as an actor or politician that afforded him this moniker? What are the qualities that help get your point across and make people take notice?

When people think about communicating, usually the first thing they think about is talking. In my opinion, talking comes second. The thing that really facilitates positive and productive communication is listening. Active listening, where you are truly paying attention to what the other person is saying. Also, listening with an open mind and keeping your ego in check go a long way towards creating a bridge rather than a moat. When you listen to someone you offer them a kind of validation, respect and consideration. And people who receive these things are more likely to give them in return. Even if you don’t agree with what the other person is saying, you can still respect their opinion and “agree to disagree” as the saying goes. Who knows? By the time the conversation ends you may find that your opinion has changed. But if you don’t hear what the other person is saying, how will you ever learn the things that change that opinion or, at the very least, be able to respond intelligently?

When the time does come to do the talking, remember that it’s not only what you say but also how you say it that often makes or breaks things. Your tone of voice, the words you choose and the way you couch them will make all the difference as to how they are received. Again, this is where keeping your ego out of the equation plays a vital role in the success of the conversation. Here are some guidelines that I feel make the communication process much easier:

  1. Never try to communicate in the heat of the moment. If you’ve just had an argument or if one of you is in a bad mood, continue the conversation at a later time. Unless it’s life or death, a few hours or even a day won’t matter.
  1. Never play the blame game. Pointing fingers never solved anything. Rather, seek solutions to the issue at hand.
  1. Be prepared to say, “I was wrong” and “I’m sorry”. There is no shame in that. On the contrary, it takes a very strong and confident person to make that kind of admission. And it’s amazing how much of a positive effect it has on the outcome of the situation.
  1. Offer opinions instead of judgments. Your way is not the only way. And someone else’s might be just as good or even better than yours.
  1. Express your feelings instead of your anger. If someone hurt you, tell him or her. Give them the chance to make amends. Giving them your anger will only make them defensive and shut all lines of communication down completely.
  1. Give advice if it’s asked for. Otherwise, inquire whether it’s wanted before you throw it out there. No one likes to feel bossed around.
  1. Use the words “please” and “thank you” a lot. Your mother always told you those were magic words. She was right.

That’s not to say you’ll never have an argument or that every conversation will go smoothly. But if you follow these few simple guidelines, I believe that your conversations will be more productive and positive, and arguments will be much fewer and further between.

About the Author:

Gilda Evans is an experienced wife, mother and bon vivant extraordinaire who started her first business while in college which she later sold to embark upon a career in entertainment. After nearly 15 years in the media, she willingly left behind her role as writer, producer and director at such venues as CBS, HBO Warner Brothers and Showtime in order to devote herself to her family. Later, while still in search of the ‘happily ever after’ that had eluded her, Gilda decided to share her experiences with followers on social media and the S’LIFE series was born. She is also working on the first installment of a Young Adult novel series.

Subscribe to Gilda’s Blog and Author Updates at www.gildaevans.com

Gilda is currently seeking high schools and organizations that are interested in participating in a pilot project for her book, S’LIFE, Slices of Life for Teens, prior to publication.


Official website: www.gildaevans.com

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in guest blog posts do not reflect those of the blog host.