Durable Human (2 book series)

13 Ways Out of The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma logo

A new movie on Netflix exposes the outsized influence social media and invasive technology have on our psyches, culture, and political systems.

The Social Dilemma showcases a slew of disgruntled former tech executives who tell of impenetrable algorithms, persuasive design, and extractive economic models that many of them helped create.

We see in actual news footage how false or misleading Facebook ads have swayed voters and elections. A dramatization of a typical American family depicts how the teenage son, despite his mother’s efforts, is insidiously lured into jeopardy by the contents of his phone.   

The movie is directed by Jeff Orlowski, a Stanford classmate of Tristan Harris, whom I first reported on here in 2015. That’s when Harris began to pull back the curtain on Big Tech’s predatory practices, including by his then-employer, Google. Ever since, Harris has doggedly spread his message through TED talks, tech design meetups, and U.S. Congressional hearings.

Here at The Durable Human, we believe that products designed for people should always serve—and never impede or supersede—ourselves as human beings. Harris and his Center for Humane Technology hold the same tenet. 

The Social Dilemma is a call to action, especially for the Last Generation, B.C., whom I call in How to Be a Durable Human, “the vanishing cohort of humans who grew up Before Cellphones.” Or, as Harris says in the movie, “the last generation of people that are gonna know what [life] was like before this illusion took place.”

After you watch The Social Dilemma, consider using your wisdom and movie discussion guide to talk it over with friends and family.

Facebook is miffed by the movie’s portrayal, claiming in this 7-point rebuttal that it “gives a distorted view of how social media platforms work” and doesn’t convey the current reality.

While the movie was in production, for instance, the company says it gave users more control of their time spent and data collected on the platform. With new Facebook safeguards, the rebuttal reads, “we removed over 22 million pieces of hate speech in the second quarter of 2020, over 94% of which we found before someone reported it.”   

While some improvements are being made, here are 13 ways to take charge of your digital presence:     

1. Read posts and articles before sharing. 

By pausing to review the content, you’re less likely to inadvertently spread false or misleading information.   

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Relationship Book Answers Pandemic SOS

Family of two parents and two kids confront large icesicles

When the coronavirus shuttered the world, couples and families froze in place. For some, it was an unexpected opportunity to reconnect. Others felt trapped, especially those already in distress and thinking of splitting up. To help them, relationships experts from around the world rushed to create Living Together, Separating, and Divorcing: Surviving a Pandemic.

American family mediator Michael Lang and Irish book publisher Peter Nicholson wanted to “help families strained by forced confinement and shoved suddenly into reconfiguring their lives by the impact of COVID-19,” says Lang. So he put out the call. “It took about twenty minutes after he sent out a few emails before we got our answer,” according to Nicholson. “Leading mediators and related professionals stepped up to the challenge.”

After more than seventy experts quickly submitted their gratis advice, the book was compiled and published in only three weeks. The e-book is priced at $1.99, the lowest cost allowed by Amazon.

Cover and open book Living Together, Separating, and Divorcing: Surviving a Pandemic

Start with Yourself

Coping with the crisis begins with you. Above all, writes U.S. psychologist and mediator Arnie Sheinvold, “treat yourself kindly.”

To keep your mind, body, and relationships durable, you need the basics of good nutrition, physical activity, and solid sleep. “By taking care of your own needs, you can ensure that you are in the best possible place to take care of your family during this emotional time,” says U.K. parenting advisor and author, Sue Atkins.

Keep tabs, also, on your thoughts and actions. While you may not be able to control what’s happening around you, you can manage your own response. “Don’t be reactive,” writes U.S. psychologist and mediator, Arnie Sheinvold. If you take a breath and remain calm, it’s more likely the family ship won’t capsize in stormy seas.  

Canadian family mediator Mary-Anne Popescu finds inspiration from a refrigerator magnet with the words “Conflict is inevitable. Combat is optional.”

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Essential Ways to Live Better Together in the Time of Coronavirus

Two sisters have fun in a big cardboard box

This post is written with all due respect and the fervent hope for the ultimate wellbeing of all those directly fighting coronavirus. Those at home containing the threat must also summon strength from within.

This will require endurance and for us to be durable in body, mind, and our relationships.

Luckily, the intuition, generosity, humor and other human assets we possess shine brightly during difficult times. They’ll get us through—along with some good planning and design.  

To that end, here are some practical, empowering, mostly no-cost strategies so you, your children, or other members of your household can be durable, happier, and more hopeful managers of the day to day:

First, Reassure

Family members gather for a birthday celebration on Zoom

Before coronavirus, kids had complaints like “all my mom cares about is her phone” and “I can’t get my dad’s attention.” In these scary times, our loved ones need to know we’re there for them, no matter what.

  • When talking to a child—or anyone in the household—look in their eyes and listen closely to what they say. Your undivided attention helps them feel safe and secure.
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People Power plus Tech Support Enhance a Community: The NoVi Trail Network Story

Filled bike racks at Wolftrap Elementary in Vienna, Virginia

Many are puzzling over how digital technology can be designed to work more for us than against us. But countless such tools already exist to do thatit’s just a matter of how we use them. This is a personal example of how individuals orchestrated our public-serving governmental entities and digital creations to improve a community’s quality of life.

On a beautiful day in 1999, a few years after we moved to our newly-built suburban neighborhood near Washington, D.C., I got the urge to walk with my six-year-old son to a nearby park.

This was no ordinary destination, but the serene and meticulously cared-for Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, the only such facility in all of northern Virginia.

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

Though barely a mile long, the walk itself was tough. We fought through tall grass along winding Beulah Road—surely trespassing on other people’s yards. As we trudged ahead, we noticed a trampled area, replete with the fresh detritus of a car accident.

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