Thinking Out Loud

November 15, 2018

This is For All the Lonely People

Lorne Anderson is a Canadian living in Germany. This appeared on his blog earlier today.

Lonely People

Guest post by Lorne Anderson

As an introvert, I try my best not to overload on people contact. I need space and solitude.

I’ve come to the realization that is one of the reasons why learning German is difficult for me. It is not just that the language is hard, but I was also thrown into a classroom with a bunch of people I didn’t know and expected to interact. Tough to withdraw into your shell in a such a situation.

Despite my preferences, I understand the need for human contact. Living a solitary life isn’t healthy, no matter how appealing it is. When my wife wants to invite someone over, I usually agree. And enjoy myself.

I am introverted, but not shy. I have no difficulty standing on a platform speaking to thousands of people at a concert, as I have had to do from time to time in my radio career. But that is something that comes with the job, not out of my desires.

Most people, I think, crave human interaction far more than I do. And with the social changes of the past 50 years or so, people are getting far less of that interaction than they want or need. As a result, many people are lonely.

I suppose it was inevitable that government would step in to deal with the loneliness problem. The United Kingdom now has a Minister of Loneliness. I seem to recall hearing that other jurisdictions are introducing similar positions. To say I have mixed feelings about that is an understatement.

I applaud that the problem has been recognized, while at the same time decrying the solution. I don’t believe government has the answers to our problems; nor do I believe government is my friend. I’ve worked in politics; if I was lonely it wouldn’t be politicians I was turning to for companionship.

Dealing with loneliness may become one of the central issues of our time. We live in a world where it is increasing possible to be always connected to others through social media. In theory people should not feel lonely, surrounded as we are by so many others.

Yet social media does not bring with it intimacy. It may indeed discourage it. Your posts are there for the world to see. It makes sense therefore to hold back some of yourself rather than let your personality show, warts and all. After all, others may be judging you. Better to put your best face forward. But is your best face your real face? Do you trust people with the real you? And if not, does that holding back take a toll, isolating you and increasing the chances of being lonely. Just because there are always people around doesn’t mean that you have anything deeper than a superficial relationship.

Which is why I doubt that having a Minister of Loneliness can have positive effects, aside from providing jobs for some otherwise unemployable social science graduates (full disclosure – I am a social science graduate.).  Government no matter how well-meaning, isn’t going to find friends for me, or anyone else who needs them. If it tries, I suspect it would fail – despite data mining, it doesn’t know me that well.

At this point I could make some theological observations about human nature and being created in God’s image, which would be relevant but would also make this post longer than it should be. So, I’ll hold back on that thought, maybe for another day.

One basic observation though. I wonder if the cure for loneliness starts with cutting back on or even eliminating electronic communications? Maybe we would be less lonely as a society if we spent more time fact to face and less time face to screen.

It couldn’t be that easy, could it?

 

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October 12, 2018

Another Blogger Lost to the World of 280 Characters?

Filed under: blogging, Christianity, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:03 am

A milestone last night!

Visit anytime at: https://twitter.com/PaulW1lk1nson

The nice thing about Twitter is that nobody there is ever angry.

[pauses for ironic moment]

In case you now find yourself wanting to hear the song, here it is:

September 7, 2018

Social Media: What It’s Doing to Us

Some of you may have seen this on Facebook.

That’s rather ironic; since it does not paint the social media platform favorably.

The timing on this is interesting, since I was planning to write about this topic anyway. I’m not opposed to technology, nor do I resent the application of social networking. Rather, I was going to write something like, “I just want to go back in time and use the internet as it was in 2003.” That’s right; 15 years ought to do it.

Anyway, see what you think. Someone put some thought into this, but it hasn’t had many views and no public comments as of yesterday. (Perhaps this isn’t the original post.)

August 20, 2017

Google Now Provides the Information instead of Referring

Like many of you, I couldn’t help but notice that increasingly, Google was giving me the answers I was looking for right on their results page, without my needing to make a second click. Appreciating the convenience I didn’t really pay much attention to this, until publishing and media watcher Tim Underwood linked to a piece at Mashable titled, Google is Eating the Open Internet.

The rather opened my eyes to the present situation: Instead of being a site which refers you to people who have the answers, Google is now seen as provider of those answers.

But the affect on the websites from which the information is culled — the creatives and researchers who do the actual work — is devastating. Example:

…Brian Warner, founder and CEO of CelebrityWorthNet.com, understands perhaps more than anybody the power of Google’s wall-building.

Warner started to notice the content from his site appearing directly on search results pages in 2012. Two years later, he got an email from Google asking to scrape all of his data, which he turned down. Another two years after that, Google did it anyway, and the impact was catastrophic.

“It was extremely painful, it was extremely devastating,” Warner said. “We got to a point where our traffic was down 85 percent from a year or two earlier.”

Search for the net worth of any celebrity at random today—let’s say, James Earl Jones—and you’ll get the number ($45 million) and a short biographical blurb pulled from CelebrityNetWorth.com with credit and a link…

And later, the broader application:

…There’s also a steady stream of more subtle indications of Google’s inward pull appearing every day—features like on-site hotel booking, restaurant menus, spa appointment tools, and dropdown recipes to name just a few.

These tweaks might sound minor, but Google’s position as the web’s central nervous system means they can have a big impact on smaller businesses that orbit it.

In the long run, though, there seems to be a pretty glaring hole in this plan. That is, as Google likes to reassure wary publishers, it’s not in the content business.

The company ultimately relies on reference sites like Wikipedia, IMDB, Fandango, and the CIA World Fact Book to compile and update the information it uses.

If Google continues to choke these sites out, what incentive will there be for new ones to come along? …   (emphasis added)

   Then early this morning I caught up with my Saturday print edition of The Toronto Star and columnist Heather Mallick was saying the exact same things about Facebook in a piece titled, Like it or not, Facebook Owns You. For her it gets personal:

…We donate to the Guardian to keep it free for everyone, but remember that we do this because former editor Alan Rusbridger made the numbers clear. In 2016, Facebook “sucked up $27 million (U.S.) of the newspaper’s projected ad revenue that year.”

Facebook was the interlocutor, the middleman who slipped between readers and journalists and siphoned off the money. When I step onto the thing for even a moment, I make money for Zuckerberg. I work for him, not the Toronto Star.

I wouldn’t mind being followed for weeks by ads for the hand vacuum (designed in England, made in Malaysia, which is why I despise Dyson) I ordered five minutes ago from an online retailer with no discernible connection to Facebook.

But I do mind that my salary was effectively lower this year because Facebook knew this, its targeting having destroyed the print and online ads on which the Star itself relied.

I take a dim view. With less money, I’ll buy fewer things advertised on Facebook, but it doesn’t care. It’s in the business of attention, not retailing. Its hands are clean.

Of course they’re not. They’re loaded with lucre, and they’re taunting people individually and en masse, damaging quality of life and eating freedom. You are owned…

For my Christian readership at this page, this is important. Obtaining the “answers” or “results” one is looking for without clicking through to see the full context of the page from which the mighty search engine derived them could be devastating, especially as the field of material offered grows to include things of religious or theological interest. At best, all of our online sites are somewhat subjective, including this one.

But I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.

 

August 1, 2017

The World of Online Discussion: An Apology

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:55 am

Missing the Point

The article resonated with me from the moment I saw the headline. It also reminded me of something else, a parallelism to the stated subject worth mentioning. Furthermore, I also had a source I could quote that would certainly make an impression.

So I left the comment.

Not even twelve hours later, I’m looking at the comments which followed mine and realized something: I had completely missed the main point of the original post. I had wandered into the land of the tangents.

The author of the blog is an author, an academic, a theologian. I tracked down his email address through the school where he was teaching at the time. I told him that I sincerely believed I had something to contribute to the discussion but now realized my comment simply didn’t belong and humbly asked him to please delete it.

Which thankfully he did…

The word nuance applies in more locations and situations than we realize. It’s possible to see the surface of something but not really grasp what’s going on. Like Asperger’s kids we can miss the sarcasm. Or perhaps we simply didn’t hear the latest development in an ongoing story and aren’t getting all the references.

On the surface of it, I can be a surface person. One girl described me as shallow. (She lost any chance of a date at that point.) But I also love to go deep. My other blog’s tag line is, “Digging a little deeper.” I love double entendre. I love it when someone writes a word or phrase which is a homage to an obscure book or song or movie. (I was going to write an homage, but it seemed pretentious.)

But there is a time to be Captain Obvious as well.

One of my constant criticisms of my wife’s social media posts is that they’re too cryptic. I get what she means because I was there when it happened, but others might not. I am constantly telling her to, “Put the cookies on the lower shelf.”

But then I will do the same thing, only I justify it in my case because I’m making concessions to certain readers or followers who are in on the thing vaguely cited.

In other words, when I do it it’s right and when she does it it’s wrong…

I’d like to think the theology professor appreciated my candor in requesting the comment’s deletion. It was a reminder that some things, while they may not be above your pay grade, are above your realm of experience and education.

 

 

 

February 11, 2017

Life in the Twitterverse

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:10 am

Occasionally I take a day to simply reproduce Tweets here for those who don’t use that platform. For those of you with slow loading times, we’re just doing text, but you’re encouraged to visit me at Twitter.com/PaulW1lk1nson (change the letter “i” to number “1”) or simply click here and bookmark.

  • Fun car game: Flip the radio to various Christian stations carrying preacher programs and see who can first guess what major Bible story they’re doing.
  • ♫ This ban is your ban |This ban is my ban |From the Syrian desert | To the streets of I-ran… | …This ban was made for you and me. ♫
  • Attn. Middle-aged worship team members: If you wanna do all those songs which come out of youth culture, simply let the youth worship team play ’em
  • [Drew Dyck] When it comes to end times prognosticating, the trick is to change up the antichrist candidates while keeping the 1980s designs & graphics.
  • Buffalo newscaster just said, “If you go out without your gloves, you’re going to have some cold hands on your hands.”
  • The people making Christian giftware do know there are other scripture verses besides Jeremiah 29:11, right?
  • Ever wonder what’s hot and what’s not in Christian publishing? This link takes you to a pdf of the full Top 50 list
  • What does it profit a man to gain the office of President of the United States and lose the entire populace? [Mark 8:36 amended]
  • How tattoos work: Once you chose Option #1, you’ve automatically eliminated Options #2 to 999,999.
  • [Youth Group Boy] Rather than build a wall Trump just needs to talk to my church – they’ve kept minorities and those who are different out for years.
  • Need to rethink the classic Neil Diamond song: ♫ On the boats and on the planes They’re coming to America… ♫  — not anymore!
  • [Diane Lindstrom] “Opportunity is missed by people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas Edison

 

January 20, 2017

A Theology of Non-Anger

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:20 am

For some time now, I’ve ended the day unwinding with a 20-minute podcast compiled from excerpts of The Brant Hansen Show. Brant‘s a long-time Christian radio guy who has served with Air-1 and WAY-FM. He’s joined daily by producer Sherri Lynn to whom God has apparently given the gift of laughter.

On the sidebar of Brant’s website I kept noticing a reference to Brant’s book, but I figured it to be some self-published project, after all, these days everybody has a book. Only a few days ago did I realize it had been released through Thomas Nelson, and decided it warranted further investigation.

unoffendableUnoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better was actually released in the spring of 2015, so we’re coming up to two years. (You’ll notice my blog hasn’t been reviewing new releases lately; I just share what I’m enjoying.) If you think that the people in Christian radio are somewhat shallow, you’re going to be pleasant surprised — perhaps amazed — at the substance in this book.

Basically, Unoffendable is a study of instances in scripture (and real life) where anger is a factor. You could call the book a treatise on the theology of anger, though I prefer to take a positive spin and emphasize non-anger. We can be so quick to assume, to lash out, and to hurt. Our knee-jerk reactions aren’t good for the people in our line of fire, and they’re not good for us.

The timing on this is significant as commentators are constantly reminding us that the hallmark of social media in particular and the internet in general seems to be our ability to be easily offended. At everything. We are an offended generation.

The book isn’t necessary a self-help title. You won’t find, for example, six steps to avoid getting angry. Rather, through personal anecdotes and lessons from scripture, proceeding through the book’s chapters instills a climate of non-offense as you read. There’s a sense in which the book has a calming effect.

In many respects, the book is an extension of and consistent with the radio show. There are sections where Brant quotes letters he received from listeners and in my head, I was hearing those as the phone calls he takes on air. Our ability with today’s technology to access spoken word content by authors means you can really allow your imagination to hear the author as you read. We found a station that streams the whole show — not the podcast — daily and listened in just to get the feel.

I encourage to get your hands on this. Read it for yourself, not just to give to so-and-so who gets mad so quickly. I think there is a sense in which we can all see ourselves within its pages; because we all have times where we’ve over-reacted.


Order Unoffendable through your favorite Christian bookseller; or get more info at Thomas Nelson.

Thanks to Mark at HarperCollins Canada for the review copy.

December 15, 2016

Young Single Adults Looking for a Context to Meet Other YSAs.

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:04 am

Three people came to my attention in the space of about 72 hours.

  • A young Christian girl from Canada spending a year in Australia
  • A young Christian girl from Australia spending a year in Canada
  • A young Christian guy in Canada returning post-graduation to his college city

They all have one thing in common; they’d like to connect with other people their age socially but find it tough finding the right context in which to do so.

Yes, I know the obvious: Weekend church services, midweek college and career church groups, doing volunteer work, or hanging out in the Lauren Daigle section of the Christian bookstore. But it’s easy to feel like a stranger in a strange land. It’s a matter of connecting with the right church, the right young adults group, the right volunteer project, etc.

bn234118Some are looking for “the one.” Others just want to connect with a Christian community. Either way, it’s like, “I know you’re out there, and I’d like to meet you, but I can’t find you.”

You wouldn’t want to try this in my town. Located about an hour east of Toronto, our little part of the world is a place where people stay until the end of high school and then they go off to college and never want to return, except for family gatherings. Our population of twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings is rather anemic. So moving to a busier, urban center is a given. But even there it can be bewildering.

It’s no wonder people turn to online sites to make a connection. A couple generations back, putting an advertisement in the personal section of the classified adverts was seen as an act of desperation. Now, posting a profile online is the norm. Further, it must be said, some great relationships have been forged in the transfer of those pixels, but it often involves a greater investment in travel, unless you set your geographic limit as ten miles or less.

So I know there are a few in that age bracket who read this blog. Or maybe you’re the parent of one such young adult. How can someone make a connection in 2017 with someone who shares their Christian values? What other not-online contexts exist for finding a Christian community of people in the same demographic?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 27, 2016

Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Podcasts and the Stewardship of Your Time

podcastsIt started about a month ago when my friend Martin pointed out to me that my new smartphone had a feature whereby I could bypass the keyboard and simply dictate messages and email responses. I quickly became aware that it’s easy to be verbose when you’re talking compared to finger-typing, which is often more concise.

But it also started several months before that when I realized how many of the bloggers I follow have simply switched over to doing podcasts. Why write it all out when you can simply press the record button and start rambling?

So for obvious reasons, today’s blog post here will be shorter.

I think we’re all really getting sucked down a giant hole where too much time is being spent on social media to the point where other things are not happening or getting done. The time it will take you to read this if much, much less than it would be if I decided to do this as a podcast. I know that because I’ve seen the comparative length of emails and texts that result from the speech feature on my phone.

As Christians, the stewardship of our time is important. In the old KJV, Ephesians 5:16 was rendered using the phrase, “Redeeming the time.” More recent translators went with:

  • Make every minute count (CEV, NASB, and others)
  • Make the best use of your time (J. B. Phillips)
  • Don’t waste your time on useless work (Eugene Peterson)
  • Make the most of every living and breathing moment (The Voice)

The time factor figures into social media, but even more into addictive online behavior such as porn-related and game-related activity.

But the podcast thing is important because many of these run 50 minutes to two hours and have become very trendy. So here are some podcast-specific suggestions:

  1. Be really discerning which ones you want to invest your time with
  2. Don’t do every episode, choose the one with guests and topics of interest
  3. Fast forward through banter and sections of lesser concern
  4. Limit daily or weekly consumption
  5. Keep a balance between spoken and written content you consume

…Keeping this short, as promised! Go make the most out of your day.


This discussion continues today at Christianity 201.

February 23, 2016

Deconstructing is Easy; Building Takes Skill and Time

Filed under: blogging, issues — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:39 am

Blog Birthday 8

This was actually the 4th item posted when I launched the blog eight years ago, not the first, but I think it reflects what online opinion writers should strive for, especially when it is so easy to write and post critique. The comments following the poem itself were on one of the websites where we located this version of it.


Builders and Wreckers

I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a ho, heave, ho and a lusty yell
They swung a beam and a wall fell.

I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled?
Like the men you’d hire if you had to build?”
He laughed as he replied, “No, indeed,
Just common labor is all I need.

I can easily wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken years to do.”
I asked myself as I went away
Which of these roles have I tried to play?

Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by rule and square?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?

Oh Lord, let my life and labors be
That which build for eternity.

Why do so many of us find it gratifying to be sideline cynics smothering ideas in a relentless barrage of “what ifs” and warnings? As the poem points out, it’s much easier to be a wrecker than a builder.

Of course it’s wise and necessary to challenge assumptions, test theories and predict problems, but that should be the beginning not an end. We should measure our value by the number of balloons we helped launch, not the number we deflated.

A builder sees problems as challenges and seeks solutions; a dismantler sees problems in every solution. A builder sees flaws and tries to fix them; a dismantler sees flaws in every fix.

 

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