Pokemon Go: Have We Finally Amused Ourselves to Death?

amusing

In 1985, a social critic named Neal Postman, in the introduction to his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, compared two famous dystopian visions: 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  He noted that though many people thought their visions were similar, Huxley and Orwell had very different theories about how people would eventually lose their freedoms.

Orwell thought it would be Big Brother, the all-watching, all-powerful state.  Now certainly, in the age of the NSA and TSA, it sounds like he may have been on to something.

But Postman thought Huxley was the one who got it right.  Here’s how he put it:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books.  What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, because there would be no one who wanted to read one.  Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information.  Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.  Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us.  Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.  Orwell feared we would become a captive culture.  Huxley feared we could become a trivial culture…As Huxley remarked in “Brave New World Revisited,” the civil libertarians and rationalists ever on the alert to oppose tyranny failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.”

In 1984, people are controlled by inflicting pain.  In Brave New World, they were controlled by inflicting pleasure.  In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us.  Huxley feared what we love will ruin us.  “My book,” Postman then concluded, “is about the possibility that Huxley was right, not Orwell.”  And perhaps nothing has so vindicated Postman’s take on American culture like Pokemon Go, a game in which users capture, battle, and train mythical creatures.  Already it has more users than Tindr and even Twitter.

The upside is that this game take users outdoors to look for Pokemon, around cities and town, even fields, using their phones’ GPS and camera.  The downside is that though outdoors, users are still staring at screens, oblivious to the world in which they’re searching, not to mention to other people.

As should have been imagined, there have been casualties.  A couple of weekends ago, hundreds of gamers fought off traffic heading into Central Park, when a particularly elusive Pokemon was spotted there.  A couple of weeks ago, two men fell off a cliff near San Diego playing the game.  Others have been stabbed, robbed, beaten up and shot at by those taking advantage of the unaware users.

As a San Diego Sheriff’s Department spokesman said, “People need to realize this is just a game.  It’s not worth your life.  No game is worth your life.”

Neil Postman’s warning in Amusing Ourselves to Death, however, went further than that.  He warned that we were becoming a silly culture, addicted to distraction, without the ability to prefer the good, the true, and the beautiful to the trivial, the meaningless, and the titillating.  Such a culture, he thought, would be easily taken captive by the inability to discern what’s truly important.

And in perhaps the ultimate indictment on our culture, the Arlington National Cemetery and the Holocaust Museum issued appeals two weeks ago that users not search for Pokemon at these hallowed sites of remembrance.  The fact that it even needed to be said only affirms Postman’s prophecy.

Look, I was a kid once, so I get it on one level.  Games are fun and Pokemon Go is pretty cool.  So if your kids are playing it, don’t panic.  But if they’re addicted to perpetual distraction, it’s time to intervene.  If you, as a parent see that it is becoming a problem, but don’t do anything to control it, you are ultimately responsible for whatever comes as a result of it.  I think it is time that parents take a stand and declare enough is enough.  I’m not saying that we need to ban our children from all technology, but the unlimited use of technology by our kids, without parental supervision is just asking for trouble.  I submit that the next generation could actually be dulling themselves to sleep from reality.  Perhaps they are even amusing themselves to death.

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Twenty Things We Should Say More Often (Part 15)

say 15

Today we are going to talk about #7 on our list of things we should say more often.

My sports team isn’t always the best sports team

Being a Cyclone fan in the state of Iowa, it can be very hard to admit when a Hawkeye team might be just plain better than my Cyclone team, but it does happen from time to time.  There is no doubt that sports are huge in our country.  It is also a fact that many people take their favorite teams very seriously.  Sometimes fights can even break out over whose team is the best.  We really shouldn’t take sports so seriously that we would ever actually resort to fighting someone over sports.

The deeper meaning here is that we need to realize that our way of doing things is not always the best way of doing things.  Other people may do things differently and that does not mean that their way is wrong, it just means they are different.  Just remember that there is sometimes more ways than one to skin a cat.  It could even be that their way of doing things might even be a better way of doing things than what you have been doing.  Maybe you should consider adopting their way of doing things.

To have a friendship or a relationship with someone, it takes some give and take on both people’s part.  There has to be compromise for it to last.

Maybe you should ask yourself this question: Is it more important for me to be right or is it more important to keep the friendship.  If you are a person who has to be right about everything, you may find that you are living a very lonely life.

Our assignment this week is to be willing to give a little the next time someone is questioning you or something you are doing.  Be willing to look at the situation from their point of view and maybe be willing to give in a little.  You may not win the battle on that day, but the relationship will last for another day.

In case anyone was interested, here are my favorite teams:

Iowa State Cyclones

Chicago Bears

St. Louis Rams

Chicago Bulls

Chicago White Sox

Chicago Blackhawks

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Twenty Things We Should Say More Often (Part 14)

say 14

Today we are going to talk about #8 on our list of things we should say more often.

Hello, person I’ve never met before!  Here’s a high-five!

Sometimes we need to put ourselves out there to meet new people.  We don’t know how it will go and that can be scary.  Choose to put yourself out there anyway.  When you do, just go for it.  Be friendly, be funny, be energetic.  Even give them a high-five or a fist bump.  Most people will love your courage to be outgoing.  Sometimes you will meet someone who is put off by that, but if they are, you are best off finding that out right away.  That person who takes offense to your friendly greeting is probably not a person you want to be friends with anyway.

God commands us to love our brothers and sisters here on earth.  That includes family and friends.  It also includes strangers.  That means people that we do not know.  Be willing to put yourself out there because you never know when you will meet someone who could become one of your best friends.  And if you do, you want your first encounter with that person to be memorable so that years from now, you both can look back on how you met and smile and maybe even laugh.  Those are the moments that make life worth living.

Our assignment this week is to approach at least one stranger and start a conversation with them.  Get to know a little bit about them.  If you feel really brave, go ahead and give them a high-five.  People are not as scary as they might seem at first.  Putting yourself out there can really lead to some great things down the road.  Who knows, you may even end up getting a corn dog out of the deal someday.  That would definitely make it worth it because everyone loves corn dogs.

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Twenty Things We Should Say More Often (Part 13)

say 13

Today we are going to talk about #9 on our list of things we should say more often.

You’re so awesome…I named my dog (boat) after you

                                    …I legally changed my name to yours

Just tell people they are awesome and mean it

Well, this seems a little silly doesn’t it?  No one really wants a dog or even a boat named after them.  The heart of the idea is the last statement.  We should tell people they are awesome and mean it.  Notice that there are two parts to this statement.

First, we should tell people that they are awesome.  You don’t have to use the actual word awesome, but make a point to tell people that you care about them and really appreciate them.  Tell them that you think that they are special.

The second part is to mean it.  People ask other people how they are doing, but do they really mean it?  Do they really want to know how that person is?  Most people just use this as a casual acknowledgement statement.  You ask how some one is doing and the other person says “fine” and you both keep going on your merry way.  But what if we really did care about how things were going?  What if we were willing to stop and spend 10 minutes out of our busy day to really let someone explain how they were really doing?  It would seem sort of strange wouldn’t it?

Make it a point to mean what you tell people.  If you give someone a compliment, mean it.  Most of our communication is done non-verbally.  If we say something and don’t mean it, people will know.  An insincere compliment is worse than no compliment at all.

Our assignment this week is to find at least two people that you care about and tell them that you care about them and appreciate them.  When you say it, mean it.  It could make their day.  Life is too short not to tell people how much you appreciate them.

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Twenty Things We Should Say More Often (Part 12)

say 12

Today we are going to talk about #10 on our list of things we should say more often.

I don’t know

The truth is that we don’t know everything.  We don’t have all the answer for people all the time.  That is Ok.  It is not important that we have the answer all the time.  What is important is that we show that we care about what they are asking.  We do this by actively listening to them.  This means that we stop what we are doing and we make eye contact with the person while they are asking us a question.

If you don’t know the answer, don’t make something up.  Don’t make a guess.  Tell them that you don’t know.  Then tell them that you will help them try to find an answer.  You can then work with that person to find an answer.  They will be very appreciative of your efforts.

The most important thing to that person is most-likely that you care about them and the question you are asking, not necessarily the answer.  When someone comes to you with a question, you have a great opportunity to show that person that you care about them and can really build a stronger relationship with them.  Don’t miss the opportunity to do this by making up an answer so you can feed your ego so you can think you are smarter than you really are.

Our assignment this week is to show genuine interest and sincerity when someone approaches you with a question.  Make them and their question your top priority at that moment.  Show them that you care.  If you know the answer, then by all means give them the answer.  If you don’t know the answer, then tell them you don’t know.  Then take it a step further and help them find the answer.  Sometimes there is even greater opportunity in not knowing the answer.

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Twenty Things We Should Say More Often (Part 10)

say 10

Today we are going to talk about #12 on our list of things we should say more often.

Everything is going to be OK

People like to feel comfortable.  People like it when life runs smoothly.  When life does not run smoothly and hard things come to us in life, we tend to feel uncomfortable and uneasy.  None of us like to feel that way.

When these times come, people want to be comforted by others and get reassurance that it will be OK.  That is where we can step in and be that comforting statement that can help pull another person out of their own pit.  We can provide reassurance where there was doubt.  We can be a rock for them to lean on as they are trying to get back on their feet again.

When bad things come, trouble seems to be magnified when you are in the middle of it.  It can seem like the trouble will never go away.  The truth is that all things do pass and life will become normal again.  There really will be better days ahead.  Sometimes it just takes a reminder from someone who is not in the middle of the stuff to keep that in perspective.

Our assignment this week is to find someone who seems to be struggling with something in their life.  Ask them how things are going and give them an opportunity to share with you about what is going on in their lives.  Don’t try to solve their problems, just listen to them.  Once they have shared what they wanted to share with you, empathize with them and tell them that everything is going to be OK.  If it is appropriate, give them a hug after you tell them this.  Doing this simple thing can make a huge difference in a person’s life.

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Twenty Things We Should Say More Often (Part 9)

say 9

Today we are going to talk about #13 on our list of things we should say more often.

Please

Please is one of the most powerful words we could ever say.  When you add please to what you are saying to someone, it turns the statement from a command to a request.  This word shows that you are submitting to the authority of the person you are making the request to.  Saying please to a request greatly increases the chances that the person you are talking to will grant your request.

Please does not just apply when we are speaking to someone.  We should also use the word please when we are making written requests to people.  That means we should be using please with written letters and notes, social media, and especially emails to each other.

People have a strong need to feel respected and telling someone please indicates to the person that you respect them.  This can go a long way with the other person.

Sometimes we get busy in our lives and we forget to say please.  We may even be thinking please in our heads, but we don’t actually say it.  We really need to stop doing that.  It is important that we remember to say please when we make a request to another person.

Our assignment this week is to make sure that we tell a person please whenever we make a request of a person.  It is the right thing to do and it will make those people feel appreciated and honored by us.  Be a person who says please to people.

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