Have you ever noticed that the things that are supposed to make us more productive, more savvy and ahead of the curve also have some drawbacks that we can’t detect right away? We’re so busy picking up new skills and integrating them into our lives and we don’t see the old skills that are definitely not outdated, slipping away.
I’ve been noticing this big time for the past year or so, but it all hit close to home when we had some house guests recently for a long weekend who have never read my blog and don’t even know that I do one – so I can easily write about it.
This couple is family whom we haven’t seen in several years. They wanted to come visit us in our new home in Vermont, and why not? It’s fall and it’s gorgeous. Now, this couple is older than we are, so this is not a generational thing where younger folks just don’t know how to interact anymore.
So what did they do? Both of them had their heads buried in their cell phones the entire weekend. Texting, answering emails, making phone calls, googling, tweeting, and getting all sorts of alert messages mainly about news stories. At breakfast, lunch and dinner. Riding in the car. Walking around. Nothing was more fascinating than what was happening on their phones.
These are not kids. They are older than Bob and me and yet they were doing things I’ve mainly attributed to younger people who grew up with technology. And, don’t get me wrong – I LOVE technology and social media and being able to stay in touch, but I also value spending time with people and having real conversations.
After two days of this, Bob asked them to leave their cell phones at home when we went out to dinner one evening. Since they aren’t doctors on call and didn’t need to stay in touch with a babysitter or have any other emergency situation, was that too much to ask? Apparently so. That’s when I realized this behavior can be like an addiction.
Staying totally hooked into technology adds to our sickness of multitasking – something I, and many others, once considered a real asset. It’s something I’m convinced added to me missing out on so many things just because I was trying to stay connected to so many things. I know that might not make sense but I know some of you will get it.
What I am feeling is that we are losing our ability to have conversations and have empathy with others. A quick email or an even quicker text message that can often sound cryptic cuts away at relationships. How do you maintain a relationship if the only way you communicate is by texting and don’t hear the tone of the conversation or see the expression on a face?
Sherry Turkle, a professor in the program in Science, Technology and Society at M.I.T. and the author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, stated in a recent op-ed – Stop Googling. Let’s Talk – in the New York Times (09/27/15):
“Every technology asks us to confront human values. This is a good thing, because it causes us to reaffirm what they are. If we are now ready to make face-to-face conversation a priority, it is easier to see what the next steps should be…
One start toward reclaiming conversation is to reclaim solitude. Some of the most crucial conversations you will ever have will be with yourself. Slow down sufficiently to make this possible. And make a practice of doing one thing at a time. Think of unitasking as the next big thing. In every domain of life, it will increase performance and decrease stress.
But doing one thing at a time is hard, because it means asserting ourselves over what technology makes easy and what feels productive in the short term. Multitasking comes with its own high, but when we chase after this feeling, we pursue an illusion. Conversation is a human way to practice unitasking.”
I encourage you to read Sherry Turkle’s entire op-ed, Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.
And, in the meantime, I’m working more on practicing the art of conversation and connection and relationship building – not that I will ever lose my email and social media connections because they are wonderful and help me stay connected when distance is a factor. But, when possible and as often as I can, I am loving the extra special value of these face-to-face connections with people I love to be with or want to get to know better and the depth that these interactions bring. It’s something that a cryptic text message will never be able to match.
And what about our recent guests who may see this posting? I’m not counting on that happening to be perfectly honest, but what a great conversation starter it could be. Right?
What about you? How do you manage technology and how do you, if you do, keep connections alive?
For as much as 10% of the nation — and as many as 20% of women of childbearing age — October is the ideal time to seek help for the painful disorder that is often left undiagnosed and untreated.
October is Raynaud’s Awareness Month, proclaimed by the Raynaud’s Association just as chillier temperatures take hold. Raynaud’s disease (aka Raynaud’s phenomenon or syndrome) is a disorder of the small blood vessels of the extremities, reducing blood flow. When exposed to cold, the blood vessels go into spasms, causing pain, numbness, throbbing and tingling. Sometimes emotional distress triggers the response.
Besides the pain, most of us with Raynaud’s (Ray-NODES) also notice that their fingers and/or toes change colors, often turning blue or white or even red. It first happened to me over 35 years ago, when I was commuting to my job in New York City, standing in the cold waiting for a train. Although I was dressed for the winter, I felt excruciating pain in both my fingers and toes. Once I got on the train and took off my gloves, I saw that some of my fingers were a bluish color. It took about twenty minutes on the warm train until the pain abated.
The problem persisted, even occurring indoors in my office or in cold sections of the supermarket or when holding a cold drink. First I chalked it off as merely “poor circulation” until I read an article about Raynaud’s by a medical writer in The New York Times. I learned that Raynaud’s could be a sign of an underlying serious disease such as scleroderma or lupus. That’s when I went to my doctor.
He doused my hands in ice, confirming I had Raynaud’s, then referred me to a rheumatologist. There I had a simple blood test called an antinuclear antibody (ANA) test to determine whether I had another rheumatic disorder. The test was positive, but further tests were inconclusive. He said, “We’ll keep on eye on it,” then sent me off with the suggestion, “You may want to move to Florida.”
I was twenty-five years old, ensconced in my career as a public relations executive in New York. Moving south wasn’t in my plan.
I sought solutions for coping with the cold, poring through catalogs, ski shops and camping gear stores for gloves, socks and other gear. This was in the late 1970s, before computers and the Internet were in widespread use, so my resources were limited. I found battery-operated gloves and socks, with massive D batteries housed in bright orange-colored enclosures. I wore earmuffs under hooded coats (my ears were cold too). My friend told me I looked like the Michelin Man.
Seeking unobtrusive fixes, I found a butane-operated hand warmer that I could put under my gloves. When I tried to light it, the flame shot up and singed my hair. I used portable heaters in the office and turned up the heat at home. I slept in flannel pajamas while my husband couldn’t peel off enough clothes to get comfortable. People in my office and in social settings didn’t understand why I was wearing heavy sweaters and gloves indoors.
Ten years after my Raynaud’s diagnosis, soon after the birth of my second child, I was diagnosed with systemic sclerosis: scleroderma. This chronic, painful, often disfiguring and life-threatening disease affects the blood vessels (as does Raynaud’s), muscles, joints, lungs, GI tract, kidneys and joints. Symptoms vary from patient to patient, but virtually everyone with the systemic form of scleroderma has Raynaud’s — and it’s usually the first sign. (Most people with Raynaud’s, however, have “primary” Raynaud’s, i.e., with no underlying medical disorder.)
Scleroderma hit me with a wallop. I had to close up shop at my small public relations firm because of the intense pain and crushing fatigue. Few people had heard of scleroderma, but I was determined to educate myself and others. With my background and skills in publicity, I offered my help with local and national scleroderma charities, eventually becoming a board member of the Scleroderma Foundation. There I wrote articles, placed patients and physicians on radio and TV shows, and began the first Internet message board (on AOL) and live chatroom devoted to the disease.
During this work, I met Lynn Wunderman, who had just launched the Raynaud’s Association, the only national 501c3 charity devoted exclusively to Raynaud’s awareness. Her mission was, and is, enormous: spreading the word that 15-30 million people in the United States have Raynaud’s, risking long-term damage to their blood vessels if left untreated. Even more stunning is the fact that 80% of them are unaware they have it. There’s no formal test to diagnose it and no FDA-approved drugs to specifically treat it.
Always a publicist at heart, I joined the board of the Raynaud’s Association to help tackle the job. The RA has developed a host of tools to help “Frosties” cope with their disorder: a website (www.raynauds.org), video, blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, comprehensive guide (www.raynaudsguide.org), warm product reviews, a “what is Raynaud’s” information card and other materials.
Reaching the general public is indeed a monumental task, requiring huge resources to break through the social and conventional media. Those with the symptoms need to recognize that they have a bona fide medical condition, and to seek treatment. Pharmaceutical companies must recognize the huge market for drugs to target Raynaud’s — and to embark on clinical trials that will lead to FDA approval. This is no cure for Raynaud’s as yet, but there are drugs that lessen the severity of the attacks. Calcium channel blockers such as Procardia and Norvasc are commonly used. Erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra and Cialis also help many people, but they’re “off label” and expensive; and insurance companies often won’t cover them.
Viral videos can be very effective, as the ALS Foundation discovered (how apt the ice bucket challenge would have been for Raynaud’s!). Every charitable group, I’m certain, has tried to duplicate its success. Awareness, treatments and a cure have to come from the support of Frosties themselves. Donations to the all-volunteer Raynaud’s Association are crucial, but support comes in myriad ways (click on http://www.raynauds.org/donate-now/ or text SHIVERS to 88588 to make a donation).
If your doctor tells you to “move to Florida,” as mine did, let him or her know that it’s not a cure-all. I actually DID move to Florida eventually. The winter is a blessing here. But then there’s all that air conditioning…
Ronni Shulman, Vice Chair, Raynaud’s Association
Learn about the disorder that affects an estimated 5-10% of the population at www.raynauds.org