Content Filtering – Should We Restrain Ourselves?

think-before-speak

So the Rabbi today spoke about thinking before you speak, and not letting your emotions overcome your logic. 


He mentioned, for example, how some people have so much rage–road rage, email rage, etc.–and you can’t let your rage dictate your actions. 


People can certainly get under your skin–just look at the candidates for President doing that to each other.


But rather than just react and blurt out stupid or horrible things in a tit-for-tat, we need to stop and think.


The Rabbi recounted the old advice of counting to ten before saying or doing something rash that you will regret. 


The joke was about the one guy bullying another, and the victim counts to ten like he’s supposed to, but then rather than take things down a notch or two, he surprises the bully when he hits ten by punching him right in the nose! (lol)


Another cute idea the Rabbi put out there was for marriage counseling–that husbands and wives should drink this “special water” that they hold in their mouth–this way when they are fighting, they have to pause and can’t say anything provocative and aggressive to each other. 


The speak then turned high-tech to some of the new apps for content filtering that help you not to send emails or texts that you are sorry for afterwards. 


And I leaned over to my neighbor in synagogue and said that is so funny, because I just saw this 16-year Indian old girl on Shark Tank who developed this app called ReThink that does just that. 


When you write something negative like ugly or stupid etc., a pop up box comes up and ask whether you really want to say that–it gives you pause to rethink what you are saying and doing. 


She notes from her studies of adolescents that when given the opportunity from this pause, “93% of the time, [they] decide not to post an offensive message on social media.”


I remember one colleague at work used to recommend, “write what you want [with all your emotions], but then delete it, and write what will be constructive to the situation [with your logic].”


Getting back to the election, a lot of what the candidates are saying now and from decades ago is stupid or shameful–“locker room banter”–maybe we need to have a filter on our mouths even when we think other people aren’t listening. 


Realistically, we can’t and shouldn’t have to go around filtering every word we say and holding back on every deed we do–there is something to be said for simply following your moral compass in the moment and reacting naturally, talking and doing from the heart and based on instinct, inner belief, and passion. 


But if you are getting angry, then it is best to hit the pause button and filter yourself before someone else has to count to ten and pop you one in your big dumb coconut face. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

Feeling It All

Face

Feelings are one of those things that make us oh so human. 


We feel love and hate, joy and sadness, hopeful and anxious, peaceful and distraught, and countless more emotions. 


While some people come across as stoic, others seem to take it all in (maybe even right on the chin). 


Hence, the perennial stone-faced poker player verse the person who seems to show every emotion and just can’t hide it. 


According to the Wall Street Journal, about 20% of both men and women are what’s called highly sensitive people (HSPs).


HSPs simply feel everything more!


These are the people who are crying at the movies and so on. 


They can also be extremely empathetic and caring–because they just almost intuitively understand. 


I think they are also deep thinkers, they are watchers of people, taking in the stimuli and processing it in terms of their feelings. 


I remember as a kid sitting with my sister and her friends who were considerably older than me–8 years–and I would listen to their “mature” girl conversations go on and on, and then at the end, I would just sort of say my sensitive two cents, and I think more often then not, I got a lot of surprise looks at a young boy who seemed a lot older and wiser than his age. 


In retrospect, I think that I was always just very sensitive to people, their plights, their hurt, the injustices in the world, and sought to understand it and try to make it right. 


The flip side is that one schmuck of a manager years ago said to me, “You need to get a thicker skin!”


But you know what, I like feeling, being very human, and deeply experiencing the world.


I would imagine (having never tried drugs, true) that perhaps people who get high either are running away from some feelings or running to others–but as a HSP, you just feel it all straight up. 


Being very sensitive to the world can almost be like extrasensory perception…sometimes you can see what others don’t, but you also have to learn to cope with the firehose flood of feelings–sometimes even having to tune some of it out. 


Cut me and I bleed, caress me and I am comforted.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

From Stability Comes Instability

Buddha 3

I remember hearing the phrase (not sure from where), “everything and the opposite.”


I think it refers to how within each thing in life are elements of the exact contrary and opposing force. 


Similar to the interactions of ying and yang, the world is an interplay of opposites–males and females, black and white, fire and water, ebb and flow, good and bad, optimism and pessimism, and so on. 


Everything has a point and it’s counterpoint.


It was interesting to me to see this concept expressed in terms of the financial markets (Wall Street Journal), where bull and bear contend in terms of our finances.


But what was even more fascinating was the notion from the economist, Hyman Minsky, who noted that the very dynamic between stability and instability was inherent within itself.


So for example, Minsky posits that a stable economic market leads to it’s very opposite, instability.


This happens because stability “leads to optimism, optimism leads to excessive risk-taking, and excessive risk-taking leads to instability” (and I imagine this works in reverse as well with instability-pessimism, retrenchment and limiting risk to stability once again).


Thus, success and hubris breeds failure, and similarly failure and repetitive trial and error/hard work results in success.


It is the interflow between ying and yang, the cycle of life, life and death (and rebirth), the seasons come and go, boom and bust, and ever other swinging of the pendulum being polar opposites that we experience. 


The article in the Journal is called “Don’t Fear The Bear Market,” I suppose because we can take comfort that what follows the bear is another bull. 


But the title sort of minimizes the corollary–Don’t (overly) rejoice in the bull–because you know what comes next.


Go cautiously and humbly through life’s swings.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

You Can’t Hide Your Feelings


You can try to hide your feeling, but it won’t work…



Your emotions are now an open book to anyone with facial-recognition software, such as from Emotient, Affectiva, and Eyeris.



This video from Emotient shows examples of Dr. Marion Bartlett demonstrating very well how the system is able to pick up on her expressions of joy, sadness, surprise, anger, fear, disgust, and contempt. 



From broad displays of emotion to subtle spontaneous, natural displays, to micro, fast and involuntary expressions, the system detects and clearly displays it. 



Described in the Wall Street Journal, the software, in real time, successfully uses “algorithms to analyze people’s faces” and is based on the work of Dr. Paul Ekman, who pioneered the study of facial expressions creating a catalog in the 1970s with “more than 5,000 muscle movements” linked to how they reveal your emotions. 



A single frame of a person’s face can be used to extract 90,000 data points from “abstract patterns of light to tiny muscle movements, which get sorted by emotional categories.”



With databases of billions of expressions from millions of faces in scores of countries around the world, the software works across ethnically diverse groups. 

Emotion-detection has a myriad of applications from national security surveillance and interrogation to in-store product marketing and generally gauging advertising effectiveness, to helping professionals from teachers to motivational speakers, executives, and even politicians hold people’s attention and improve their messaging.



Then imagine very personal uses such as the software being used to evaluate job applicants or to tell if a spouse is lying about an affair…where does it end?



Of course, there are serious privacy issues in reading people’s faces unbeknownst to or unwanted by them as well as possibilities for false positives, so that people’s feelings are wrongly pegged or interpreted. 



In the end, unless you wear a physical mask or can spiritually transcend yourself above it all, we can see you and soon we will know not just what you are feeling, but also what you are thinking as well…it’s coming. 😉

Listening Beyond The Superficial

Listening Beyond The Superficial

“I know you hear me, but are you listening to me?”

That’s something one of my teachers used to say to the class back in yeshiva day school.

The New York Times reports on a company that is pioneering the study of “Emotional Analytics.”

Beyond Verbal is helping to “reach beyond the verbal” and listen for mood, attitude, and personality of the speaker.

The point is that if you listen carefully, you can decode a person’s mood–almost like a “human emotional genome.”

Beyond Verbal can already identify “400 variations” of emotions not based on the words chosen, but rather based on the tone and frequency of use.

For example, is the person telling you over and over again about a products problems–and are they getting annoyed that you aren’t getting it!

Through a speech analytics engine that examines patterns of verbal use, we can classify whether a person is dissatisfied, escalating, and so on.

This can be extremely useful, for example, in call centers that service (perhaps some irate) customers.

Also, speech analytics could help us with uncovering deception from terrorists or moles in the government by detecting threatening or nervous emotions that the subjects are trying to hide.

Potentially, this software could be helpful in our personal lives as well in terms of identifying the context and providing the E.I. (emotional intelligence) to understand what a person is r-e-a-l-l-y saying to us, rather than just perhaps the superficial words themselves.

If we can not only hear someone else, but listen better and perceive more precisely what they are trying to tell us and what they are feeling, then we can problem-solve and resolve situations better and more quickly.

Software like this could definitely help keep me out of the doghouse at home. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Feeling Groovy

Who_cares

It was interesting, I was reading about how humans have six universal emotions.

These emotions are considered largely involuntary responses to stimuli, and they are:

  • Anger
  • Happiness
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Disgust
  • Surprise

As I thought about these out of the six emotions, only happiness is the straight out good one. Hey, who doesn’t want to be happy (maybe only an ascetic, but that’s because they parodoxically get a type of happiness out of being unhappy)? 

Then, I thought about surprise and that is sort of a toss up–it can be a good surprise or a bad one. Most of the time, people don’t like surprises and would rather have an element of control over what is coming, when, and how. So I would throw surprises in the you can keep it pile. 

And while the other four emotions–anger, fear, sadness, and disgust–may be helpful at times (in protecting us physically and emotionally), they all have negative connotations and implications. 

Anger usually means someone has hurt or slighted us. Fear impies that that there is something dangerous or scary to be feared out there. Sadness is the opposite of happiness, so it’s a non-starter. And disgust is attributed to something vile or revolting and is usually something we want to get away from as quickly as possible. 

So, six primary human emotions and only one–happiness–makes us feel–happy!

Thinking about emotions as colors, we can feel blue (sad) or fiery red (anger), what about green (with envy)?  Uh, wonder why this emotion was missing from the list, but I would add it as number seven for universal emotions. 

Unfortunately, envy means we feel less than or jealous of the next person, so this is another one that doesn’t make us feel very good. 

Maybe then expectations for how much happiness in life we should or can have should be tempered knowling there are six others to keep us busy and feeling–other things. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Let People Feel

Dr. Ben Bissell has a terrific presentation on Managing Change and Transitions.

Basically Bissell explains that when we face Significant Emotional Events (SEEs)–major life changes (personally in our lives or professionally)–we go through 5 stages:

– Shock (i.e. Denial)–I Can’t Believe it!

– Emotions (e.g. Anger)–How could this happen to me?

– Bargaining–Do we have to do it today?

– Depression (i.e. grief)—I can’t take it anymore!

– Acceptance–1) Intellectual–If that’s what they want! 2) Emotional–Ride the train or be run over by it.

When we have major life change, we can experience loss in terms of control, influence, respect, freedom, security, identity, competence, direction, relationship and resources–in essence, we are forced out of our comfort zone and must transition.

Since according to Biseell “all change produces loss (and fear), and all loss must be grieved, it is understandable why these stages of transition track to the Kubler-Ross model of the 5 stages of grief.

Bissell explains that getting through these stages is not quick and takes a minimum of one and a half years to make it all the way through the 5 stages–during which time, it’s normal to feel abnormal.

The problem is when you get stuck in one of these five stages, then you either:

– Get burned out and quit

– Act out and get difficult

– Become sick, physically or emotionally (e.g. migraines, chronic depression, etc.)

Some ways we can help people get through changes is to:

– Recognize and accept that these stages are normal and necessary.

– Give people a safe place to vent their feelings (i.e. low morale = unresolved anger).

– Increase information flow–when people are undergoing severe life change, you need to counter the tendency for distorted perceptions and help them see where they are going and how they will get there.

– Maintain other elements of stability and familiarity in the person’s life–this gives comfort.

– Protect your health–your body, your breathing, your pace of eating and living, and your sleep.

– Give yourself time and space to play, be silly, be foolish, unwind (or else you will pop).

Bissell recognizes that the pace of change is continually increasing and “technology is seeing to that.”

Therefore, there is an increased urgency to help people deal with change in healthy ways–working through the stages of transition.

However, from my perspective, when people suffer huge losses in their lives, they never really get over it. The loss is always there, even if it’s just behind the scenes rather than out front like the first year or so.

When it comes to loss, people can experience enormous pain, which gets engraved in their consciousness and memories, and we should not expect them to just get over it.

In other words, it’s okay to incorporate feelings of loss and grief into who we are–it is part of us and that is nothing to run from or fear.

Just like good events can having lasting positive impacts in our lives, so do severe disruptions and grief.

People will progress and continue to heal, but they will always feel what they feel–good and bad–and we should never take that away from them.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to LiquidNight)

Beating Social Media Isolation

Lonely_with_social_media

There is a debate called the “Internet Paradox” about whether social media is actually connecting us or making us more feel more isolated.

I think it is actually a bit of both as we are connected to more people with time and space virtually no impediment any longer; however, those connections are often more shallow and less fulfilling.

There is an important article in The Atlantic (May 2012) called “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” that lends tremendous perspective on information technology, social media and our relationships.
The premise is that “for all this [new] connectivity, new research suggests that we have never been lonelier.”

The article is very absolute that despite all the technology and communication at our fingertips, we are experiencing unbelievable loneliness that is making people miserable, and the author calls out our almost incessant feelings of unprecedented alienation, an epidemic of loneliness, and social disintegration.

Of course, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that almost everyone can share, but there are also numerous studies supporting this, including:

1) Study on Confidants (2004)–showed that our average number of confidants shrunk by almost 50% from approximately 3 people in 1985 to 2 people in 2004; moreover, in 1985 only 10% of Americans said they had no one to talk to, but this number jumped 1.5 times to 25% by 2004.

2) AARP Study (2010)–that showed that the percentage of adults over 45 that were chronically lonely had almost doubled from 20% in 2000 to 35% in 2010.

Some important takeaways from the research:

Married people are less lonely than singles, if their spouses are confidants.

– “Active believers” in G-d were less lonely, but not for those “with mere belief in G-d.”

– People are going to mental professionals (psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, therapists, and counselors) as “replacement confidants.”

– Loneliness is “extremely bad for your health.

– Our appetite for independence, self-reliance, self-determination, and individualism can lead to the very loneliness that can makes people miserable.

– Using social media, we are compelled to assert our constant happiness and curate our exhibitionism of the self–“we are imprison[ed] in the business of self-presenting.”

Technology tools can lead to more integration or more isolation, depending on what we do with them–do we practice “passive consumption and broadcasting” or do we cultivate deeper personal interactions from our social networks?

Personally, I like social media and find it an important tool to connect, build and maintain relationships, share, and also relax and have fun online.

But I realize that technology is not a substitute for other forms of human interaction that can go much deeper such as when looking into someone’s eyes or holding their hand, sharing life events, laughing and crying together, and confiding in each other.

In January 2011, CNBC ran a special called “The Facebook Obsession,” the name of which represents the almost 1 billion people globally that use it. To me though, the real Facebook obsession is how preoccupied people get with it, practically forgetting that virtual reality, online, is not the same as physical, emotional, and spiritual reality that we experience offline.

At times, offline, real-world relationships can be particularly tough–challenging and painful to work out our differences–but also where we find some of the deepest meaning of anything we can do in this life.

Facebook and other social media’s biggest challenge is to break the trend of isolation that people are feeling and make the experience one that is truly satisfying and can be taken to many different levels online and off–so that we do not end up a society of social media zombies dying of loneliness.

Social media companies can do this not just for altruistic reasons, but because if they offer a more integrated solution for relationships, they will also be more profitable in the end.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to h.koppdelaney)

Sharing Some Laughter and Happiness

Cherry_blossom

There are some cool articles in Mental Floss (March/April 2012) on laughter and in Harvard Business Review (January 2012) on happiness–hopefully an auspicious sign for us all.

Some things to think about with laughter:

– “Babies laugh 300 times a day, while adults laugh only 20 times.” —  Maybe we all need to be a little more babyish?

– Laughter is “used as a social lubricant; we use it to bond with others.” — This reminds me of something my father always said: “when you are with those you love, the joy is twice the joy and the sorrow half the sorrow.”  In essence then, people help us deal with our emotions and our emotions help us deal with people–we all need one another.

– Laughter is contagious, truly. “Hearing laughter activates the brains premotor cortex. preparing the facial muscles to smile and laugh in kind.”  — What a blessing to laugh and help others laugh as well.

A brief history of happiness:

1776 — U.S. Declaration of Independence declares right to the “pursuit of happiness.”

1926 — “Happy Birthday” song composed.

1963 — Invention of smiley face. 🙂

1977 — Introduction of McDonald’s “Happy Meal”.

So it’s only March 14 (National Pi Day 3.14)–and it already warm outside, the beautiful cherry blossoms are in bloom, and there is plenty to feel happy about, laugh at, and be grateful for in this world.

Thank you G-d!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>Beyonce Moves Us

>

This video is funny and enjoyable to watch; only 20 million views on line…am I late to this one?

Leadership lesson: some things are just primal (like music, song, dance…) and we can reach people on many levels through intellect, emotion, spiritual, and so forth.

People are not just one sided, but complex and you never know when even a baby will just get down and move to Beyonce.

Thanks to a colleague for sending this to me.