Durable Human (2 book series)

Durable is the New Resilient

To explain concept of a durable human being, image is of woman in business attire standing in front of a shadow of a superwoman

As the pandemic drags on, you need to be a durable human. Simply being resilient doesn’t cut it anymore. New findings point to why.  

White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci wants our response to the COVID vaccine to be as durable as possible.

Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema says only laws with bipartisan backing will be durable.  

On Joe Rogan’s podcast, New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt spoke of how “parents and teachers should be helping kids develop their innate abilities to grow and learn.” He used “antifragile.”

Lebanese-American essayist Nassim Nicholas says he coined that term because “there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile.”

But, actually—there is.

Durable: The Word We are Searching For

Endure and durable share the Latin root durare, which means to last. Meriam-Webster defines durable as “staying strong and in good condition over a long period of time.”

Resilience is “the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens.”

To be a durable human is not merely to bounce back from adversity, but to have the inner shock absorbers to withstand the constant bumps on the road of life. 

“When we think about being durable,” I told host Hillary Wilkinson on her Healthy Screen Habits podcast, “we have to think about what are we. What is our edge as a human being.”

That is, the powers we have as human beings that our “smart” devices don’t. Phones and sensors may be able to “see” and “hear” as they try to emulate our famous five senses. But it’s all the other senses that machines lack.

“They don’t have intuition. They don’t have compassion. They don’t have curiosity.” Those are only a few that I named for Hillary.

Our job is to keep our human senses durable and our human selves different.

If kids spend too much time caught up in others’ creations (video games and social media, especially), they can’t follow their own curiosity. They won’t come up with their own ideas. Eventually, humanity could become more like a herd of sheep. 

As I write in The Durable Human Manifesto,

“The danger is that when individuals are no longer diverse in outlook and action, they will contribute less as a group. With little to differentiate them or to offer society, humans could actually become irrelevant. At that point, it will be easier and cheaper to replace them with robots.”

Positives of the Pandemic

Parents used their human intuition to help their kids be more durable during the pandemic.

The American Academy of Pediatrics surveyed thousands of its members and learned that many families managed to create a loving, safe-feeling, and even hopeful home as the pandemic raged around them. Pediatricians dub that a “positive childhood experience.”

Other adults also played a big role in kids’ COVID-era lifestyle. According to the May 2021 report in the journal Pediatrics, “Children have felt the caring of grandparents, teachers, health providers, home visitors, and others who persistently connected by phone, text, and/or video chat.”

A PCE is the opposite of an ACE, or an “adverse childhood experience.” While an ACE damages a child’s mental or physical health, a PCE builds kids’ self-esteem and emotional durability.

Adversity pushes us to dig deep into our inner resources. As I write in The Manifesto

It’s often when we’re forced from the familiar that our durability will shine.  

The Pinch of Generosity

But even with so much human-to-human support both online and off, many kids have drifted into not-so-healthy digital habits that are interfering with their human assets.

Surveys show the way they used technology during the pandemic has damaged their social skills, confidence, attention spans, and vision.

Kids need their parents and other loving adults to help them get back on track. To do that, we need to fully see and hear them so we can help sort out their hurt and confusion. 

The term “continuous partial attention” means always having an eye (and most likely a hand) on your phone, even when you’re talking with someone face-to-face.

“It’s very damaging for children’s self esteem,” I said to Hillary. “It forces them away and, in fact, can force them into relying on their devices.” Instead of on you.

Admittedly, it’s hard not to always be In The Know. It can hurt to set aside your phone so you can give your child your full attention. But when you feel that pinch of generosity, know you’re laying another brick in the foundation of your child’s life success.

The Road to Durable

Book Cover How to Be a Durable HumanBook cover of How To Be a Durable Human Book cover of How To Be a Durable Human

How To Be a Durable Human is filled with easy, no-cost ways to create secure attachment with your child as you build their (and your) durability.  

You can also listen to the Healthy Screen Habits podcast.

Health Screen Habits Podcast photo Jenifer Joy Madden

About the author:

Jenifer Joy Madden is a certified digital wellness specialist, a Syracuse University broadcast and digital journalism adjunct professor, and founder of DurableHuman.com.

Protect Yourself Online: Know the Terminology

A surveillance camera appears in front of an American flagmerican flag

Cross-referencing you through your phone and online data has become so easy, it’s never a waste of time to do more to protect yourself online. 

Case in point is the riot that happened at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. It may be even easier now for authorities to track down suspects than the day it happened. If it’s not a geotagged photo, it’s through a Facebook post, facial recognition image, or trip on Waze.

Most people know they leave a digital breadcrumb trail. Yet, many are shocked by how easily the New York Times found riot participants through their smartphone data.  

It’s not enough to maintain the durability of our bodies and minds in the physical world. We need to actively manage our digital lives so our best interests there are also served.

A good place to start is knowing how your data is generated online and the ways it may be tracked.

The Netflix movie, The Social Dilemma, gives a good taste of how we’re all at risk. If you read no further, here are 13 ways out of the dilemma

Another real eye-opener is a new report compiled by data researchers at BroadbandSearch, Internet Censorship in 2021: Where the World Stands Today.

Highlights from the report:

Terminology Matters

In order to discuss data privacy and protection, it’s important to know the meaning of common terms. There are big differences, for instance, between the terms “Content Moderation,” “Censorship,” and the less familiar “Reverse Censorship.” Continue reading

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.   

Continue reading

12 Durable Tips for Better Distance Learning

Girl doing math on laptop

After a crushing disappointment, it became almost a miracle.

The broadcast journalism grad students from Syracuse University were supposed to spend the summer of 2020 in Washington, D.C. With media credentials dangling from their necks, they’d chase down interviews and comingle in our pop-up newsroom like network correspondents. Then, as for countless other students, their dreams were dashed. Because of the pandemic, the program would be all online.

But they rose to the challenge. Students pitched stories on Slack, did interviews on Zoom, and wrote scripts in Google Docs. We on the faculty fine-tuned the video and audio of their news reports with the powerful Frame.IO. We got the job done.  

Although I’ve been wary of digital fixes in the past, I’m the first to admit: our program was saved by technology.

As the world heads into the first full school year of the pandemic, digital teaching tools will be crucial, especially since more than half of U.S. K through 12 schools expect not to return to a physical classroom. “We have to demand that the internet is a public utility and that it is installed for families that don’t have access,” says Merrie Najimy, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Yet, last spring’s quick switch to online learning has largely been deemed a failure—and kids are still feeling the pain. Pediatricians across the U.S. report an unprecedented number of patients with anxiety and depression borne by disrupted school and home routines.  

So what’s a parent to do?

Luckily, we’ve learned from our mistakes. Based on the hard won experience served up on Zoom by boots-on-the-ground parents and education experts, here are 12 ways parents can help their kids do school better:

Continue reading

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