Posts Tagged ‘Thoreau’

In his 1989 book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey made an important distinction about our culture. After studying over 200 years of success literature dating back to 1776, he determined that around 1920 a significant shift occurred in the United States. Covey observed that we went from a culture founded on a character ethic, to one based on a personality ethic.

Covey defined the character ethic as one focused on “integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty and the Golden Rule.” He then noted that the personality ethic was more about “personality, public image, attitudes, behaviors, skills and techniques that lubricate and manipulate the process of human interaction.”

It is easy to see the effect this shift had on society when we consider the rise to prominence of our movie stars, athletes and political leaders. These big personalities now dominate our culture. We all strive to be famous, act like they do, and make our mark on the world.

Our culture has continued to evolve . . . or perhaps devolve . . . since Covey made this distinction 30 years ago.

In 2004, I believe another dramatic shift occurred that has set us further adrift in America. We have become untethered from the character ethic and knowing who we are at our core and are perhaps one step closer to losing our way.

This latest shift ushered in a new era – the persona ethic, a culture based mainly on an image we try to portray and maintain on our social media sites as well as in real life. Sadly, we are no longer grounded in ourselves. Instead we strive to live our lives based on how we want to be perceived by others.

This new era was likely triggered by two key events – the start of Facebook in 2004, and the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. With those two inventions, selfie madness was born and being self-absorbed became an art form. Suddenly, life became about living from the outside in, rather than the inside out. We became more concerned about how the world perceives and judges us, than about who we are or want to be.

This is most evident in the meteoric rise of reality TV, YouTube stars, Instagram likes, our desire to go viral, our addiction to Facebook and our never-ending primping and posing for the next selfie.

It used to be that cameras always faced outward, taking a picture of the world or something we appreciated “out there.” Now all the cameras face inward, the world relegated to little more than a backdrop, with the camera lens centered upon us as we star of our own movie.

It is very hard to stop the advance of technology . . . or evolution . . . so there is little sense in trying or fighting against the current. But here is what I would advise – be ever more conscious and vigilant about your use of, and interaction with, technology. Technology is an amazing thing, and is very likely to be the thing that saves our species from extinction. Yet, I also believe it is the very thing that will ultimately steal from us the essence that makes us human. The more conscious we are about that, the more likely we are to maintain our humanness.

“Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.”

– Henry David Thoreau

We will never see or experience the true beauty of the world around us by looking down at our smartphone or plugging our head with earbuds. That only leads to isolation, the very thing everyone is trying to escape as they seek a “like” on their chosen social media platform.

We are all starved for connection and intimacy, and rather than picking our heads up, making eye contact and saying hello, we go on an endless search for recognition and validation on the Internet. And regardless of how many “likes” we garner, they will never fill that hole in our soul. The chase will only leave us feeling hollow and wanting more, hungry to take another hit on the “like” crack pipe.

So here is a truly radical idea about how to obtain what we all truly seek.

Try having a conversation. You know, actually stop and talk to someone. As in face to face with words coming out of your mouth. I have read that vocalization is the new, hottest technology. In fact, scientists aren’t yet sure how our voice is actually produced. They say it is a very complicated process involving no less than 25 major parts of our body. Some are even calling it a miracle. ūüôā

Why not give it a try and see what happens.



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About a month ago I had lunch with a friend and witnessed an unbelievable transformation occur before my very eyes.  For the most part, it was a delightful lunch filled with great conversation, laughter, an exploration of life and self, and some tasty food.  But then it happened.
She received a text message on her cell phone. 
Her attention was immediately drawn away from our connection and conversation and was now being split.  Ultimately, the cell phone won out as she proceeded to respond to the immediacy of the text.
Considering the possibility that perhaps this was an emergency, I allowed some space for her to respond.  In the meantime, however, I thought I would get myself some water.  And, being the kind person that I am, I asked if she would like a glass as well.
No response.  In that instantaneous moment, it was as if I was vaporized from the planet and disappeared. 
I actually found this amusing and decided to have a bit of fun with her distracted state.¬† I next asked, “I’m going to strip naked and grab some mustard.¬† Would you like me to pour it on you?”¬† Still no response.¬†
Now, before you judge this person, I ask you to examine your own life and behavior and see if you have ever found yourself torn away from those you are currently with to respond to your cell phone or hand-held device.
The irony of this situation is that one of the things my friend is working on is to be more present.  I proceeded to take out my own hand-held device Рa pen and a piece of paper Рand wrote a message for her.
“You cannot be present to the moment until you are in the moment.”
The more I thought about this, the more I realized how our current technology and multi-tasking tendencies rip us away from the beauty and peace of the moment.  They rip us from the gifts and connections to our loved ones.  They steal our opportunity to be present to the miracles of life.
With that in mind, I invite you to put down your cell phone and be more present with those you are with.  Rather than being with your machines, be with the people around you, nature, your thought or the moment.  Be fully present to all that is around you.   

Men have become the tools of their tools.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†–¬†¬†Henry David Thoreau¬†

I am continually amazed at how distracted we are in life.¬† It seems that with each passing year we are given more technological tools to stay connected.¬† Yet, the irony of that is the more “connected” we are, the less connected we seem to be.¬†¬†¬†


Leave a comment below sharing a story you experienced where a friend or loved one vaporized you from the planet as they became absorbed in their cell phone or hand-held device and became disconnected from you and life.


Photo Credit: Kristin Murphy/Desert News/AP

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