Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek

The surest way for me to get anyone to read the things I write is to begin a story with:

“OK, this is going to be a little personal…” or some variation of that.

I don’t mind. I understand that it’s our human nature to be curious of others and to want to peer into their private lives. It has been a survival mechanism our ancestors began employing more than ten thousand years ago.

The Loyalty to Trump

After not writing for so long, I can’t believe my first blog post is about Donald Trump. I have been asked by several reporters over the past month why his followers are so loyal, so I figured it was probably time for me to add my two cents to the growing list of opinions that have already been offered. Maybe a brain science perspective on loyalty is appropriate given that we all need our head examined for even having this discussion.

Time and Money

My friend Dean is the best salesman I’ve ever known. He could sell anything and, in fact, pretty much has. Cars, Insurance, Software, Pharmaceuticals, Real Estate, you name it and Dean has sold it. I once asked him the secret to his success and he said, “That’s simple. Time. You can sell anything to anyone if you just convince them to give you their time.”

Dean knows what he’s talking about.

The loyalty to Steve Jobs

sj.jpg

On Friday, I received two emails - one from a reporter, the other from a friend - both asking the same question: “How could Steve Jobs create such a loyal following while being such an asshole most of his life?” They weren’t referring to the loyalty to Apple, to its products, or to its culture, but to Steve Jobs, the person. David and Susan, sorry for not getting back to you sooner, but here is my answer:

We have been conditioned to think of loyalty as a virtue. As some sort of selfless act of blind devotion we offer to one another. It’s a romantic idea, but not really the truth. Loyalty is a real human emotion, a selfish emotion, no different than love, or hate, or fear, that evolved in humans as a survival mechanism. A means of giving our brains a rest so that it didn’t have to be suspicious or protective of every relationship around us. When we knew who we could trust and who had our best interests at heart, we could be loyal to that person and let down our guard.

But loyalty evolved for reasons beyond mere trust. As creatures who possess an acute sense of self-awareness, we are constantly seeking fulfillment - physically, emotionally, intellectually, financially...you name it. So we also bind ourselves to those you can provide that fulfillment. Those who help make our lives about something more than survival. It think that is what Steve Jobs offered to his “followers.” A fulfillment that all of his screaming, berating, insulting and castigating couldn’t deter.

Like all of us, Steve Jobs was a flawed human being who spent his life fighting his own demons. But to so many of those who worked with him and for him, he offered an incredible sense of purpose. His vision and passion for “what could be” gave more meaning to the work of those engineers, programers, and designers than his personal wrath could ever take away.

In its own twisted way, SJ’s behavior also created an indelible sense of belonging between him and his co-workers. (At least those who chose to stick with him.) He was an unapologetic idealist who scrutinized everything from the font type used on contracts to the screen backgrounds of his keynote presentations. In a now famous story, Jobs once called the head of mobile applications at Google on a Sunday morning to tell him that he wasn’t happy with the way Google’s logo looked on the iPhone. “The yellow in the second ‘o‘ wasn’t quite the right shade.” That was the purist in Steve Jobs. He demanded perfection and abhorred mediocrity. Especially in his employees.

Imagine what it must have meant to be “chosen” to work for Steve Jobs. A guy who had no problem discarding anything and everything he believed fell short of his own lofty standards and expectations. Peel back the abrasive behavior and obnoxious antics and realize what those actions were saying to his employees every day. “You are here because you are the best there is and the only ones good enough for my perfect world.”

Now who wouldn’t be loyal to a boss who thought that?

You Don't Speak My Language

I was at a Home Depot recently and found myself in the plumbing aisle with a pretty unhappy customer. I went there looking for a 3/4” backflow preventer valve and ended up getting a lecture on “What’s wrong with America.”

What set my fellow shopper off was a package. Actually, several packages. And it wasn’t really the packages that bothered him so much as it was the writing on their fronts and sides. The Spanish writing, or as he would refer to it, “all the goddamn Hispanic words.”

(Hispanic words?)

His frustration...more like rage...was not only directed at the manufacturers who chose to include a non-English language on their packaging. He was angry at the reader. The people these words were meant to help.

I suppose I could end this story here knowing most of you have already formed an opinion about my Home Depot Guy (HDG). Tobacco-stained tee shirt, Skoal ring in the back pocket of his jeans, empty cans of Budweiser in the bed of his pickup, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, not at all. But that doesn’t stop our brain from summoning up a stereotype. Just as it didn’t stop HDG from stereotyping those who want “goddamn Hispanic words” included on packages.

Being prejudice is part of our human nature. That may be unsettling to hear, but it’s true. Today, we consider bias and bigotry and discrimination to be moral issues, moral wrongs, but they didn’t start out that way. They evolved in our brains as a protective mechanism. A means of sorting out the threats in our lives. When someone looked different, acted different, or communicated different than us, it told our brains to be careful and to not let them get too close.

Knowing that we all carry around some biases and prejudices towards others shouldn't surprise anyone. At least not if you are being honest. What is interesting, however, is the way our brains appear to “stack rank” our biases and formulate our bigotry. Our public discourse of the past 100+ years would lead us to believe that race would be at the top of our prejudicial tendencies. When, if fact, a number of studies have shown that it is language that triggers our greatest fears.

  1. Language
  2. Income
  3. Race/Ethnicity
  4. Sexual Orientation
  5. Disability
  6. Social Status
  7. Social and Spiritual Affiliation (politics, religion, membership, etc)
  8. Gender

Considering the history of racial, sexual and gender discrimiation, it may be hard to believe that our brain is more prejudicial of someone who speaks a different language. But if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Consider our ancient ancestors living in their tribes and communities hundreds and thousands of years ago.The most reliable information they had to distinguish their friends from their potential enemies was a common language and a familiar means of communicating. You could have a different skin color, be a different genger, or be inflicted with a disability and still be part of my clan. But not if you didn't speak my language. That was a tell-tale sign that you were an outsider and a potential threat. Our brains learned this lesson a long time ago, and as my trip to Home Depot reminded me, it hasn't unlearned it yet.

We communicate with others in so many ways. In person, in the way we speak and write, through our websites, our Facebook pages, our emails, and our packaging. Just keep in mind that the human brain has been conditioned to look and listen for what is familiar and is suspicious of the sights and sounds it doesn't recognize. So whether you are an Indian programmer looking to do work in the United States, a Chinese engineer offering your services to companies in Brazil, or a hip-hop artist trying to sell records to a mainstream audience, you will be judged more by the way you sound, the way you speak, and the way you communicate, than you will by the color of your skin, who you date, or whether you have a Y chromosome.

Prove It

My aunt Key was a die hard Democrat. For her, voting was a 30-second exercise that simply meant walking into the booth, pulling the lever on a  straight Democratic ticket, and going home. There was no need to investigate candidates or read platforms. If there was a D after their name they were getting her vote.

She was also a devout Catholic. Never missing Sunday mass, praying the rosary every night, and earnestly accepting the rules of the Church, even the ones that relegated women to second-class citizens.

She was a nurse. Full-time, whether on-duty or off. It wasn’t her job or occupation, but a life-long vocation that gave as much to her as she gave to it. She loved her hospital, her co-workers, and most of all her patients, almost as much as they loved her.

Finally, she was Irish, and proud of it. Embodying all of the qualities of a true green mick, including the inability to cook, to make a long story short, and to say goodbye in less than 45 minutes. She could laugh louder and longer than anyone in the room and was never afraid to show it.

This was my aunt Key. It was her identity. It is who she was.

We like to think we are complex creatures, having so many dimensions and affiliations that our own identities could not possibly be summed up in four, short paragraphs. But we are wrong, because usually they can. Especially the most meaningful parts.

So here’s the important question for you. After reading what I wrote above, do you know more about my aunt Key than you do about your own bosses, employees or coworkers? Do you know more about her than you do about your most important clients and customers, members and vendors, sponsors, donors, students, or patients? Did four paragraphs about a complete stranger give you more insight into who she was than the people who send you checks or allow you to make a living?

If so, you’ve got a problem. If not, you might want to prove it. This morning, pick the 3 most important relationships in your business lives and try writing four, short paragraphs about them. About who they are. I promise it will be time well spent. At worst, you will remind yourself of what you already know. At best, you will realize what you don’t, and hopefully do something about it.

I'm Not With Them

There is a huge difference between attracting someone to a cause and keeping them engaged. The attraction comes from a common interest. Caring about a specific ideal or being drawn to a particular mission. Being a loyal supporter, however, has less to do with an issue and more to do with the one’s own identity.

Do I identify with THIS group? Do they reflect who I am? Am I proud to be associated with THEM?

A cause may attract us, but it is our identity with the other supporters that will determine whether we stay. It is true of the religions we follow, the political parties we endorse, the sports teams we support, and the groups and associations we join. If there are not enough people similar to us in the room, we feel uncomfortable and leave. Even if we believe in the cause.

A perfect example of this can be seen in a video that was posted online over the weekend. An assembly of protestors gathered in Atlanta to support the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations rallying against corporate greed and social injustice. The cause generated a crowd. But as you will see, the crowd and their behavior determine who will stay.

In what can only be described as “bizarre,” the protestors established a set of rules for the attendees to ensure consensus and respect that included repeating everything a speaker would say and using hand signals instead of clapping. They come across as loons and will never establish a large, loyal following, even if they do find others who support their cause.

Loyalty comes from a sense of belonging. Make sure that the groups you form, the leaders you choose, the events you hold, and the rules you establish are attracting the people you want - because your cause or mission won’t do it alone.

Waiting For The Famine And Locusts To Arrive

This has been a pretty rough month for the northeastern United States. It started innocently enough with some minor aftershocks from (of all things) an earthquake, but turned much worse with the rain and winds of Hurricane Irene, and the devastating flooding that followed soon after. The people of Pennsylvania, New York, and Vermont thought they were prepared. As it turned out, they weren’t.

It’s hard to blame someone for an anomaly. Earthquakes happen in California, not Virginia. Hurricanes are a yearly occurrence in Florida and North Carolina, but not Philadelphia and New York City. And while flash flooding and rising river waters aren’t uncommon to your average northeasterner, the levels reached last week were higher than any that have been recorded in 100 years. But after spending the past several days helping friends clean up and repair what was left of their homes and offices, I couldn’t help but wonder if we prepare for the wrong things.

If you have never seen the effects of a natural disaster, consider yourself lucky. The destruction is indescribable. You look at what remains after the winds have died down, after the waters have receded, or after the fires have been put out and you wonder if the place could ever come back. And yet it does. Slowly, but surely, all the physical pieces get rebuilt and restored. Because that is what we are prepared for. We have contractors and construction equipment and home improvement stores that help us put everything back to the way it was. Well, almost everything.

When our world stops, we forget that others continue on. While we are busy shoveling mud out of our basements, our bosses have no choice but to find some other employee who could do our work in the interim. While we are pulling up carpet and drying out files and equipment, our customers, clients and patients are turning to our competitors for the products and services they would normally get from us. That is when our relationships get tested. When the people we count on start comparing us to an alternative and seeing if the grass is really greener somewhere else. Not being prepared for that can be the most devastating thing of all.

It doesn't take a natural disaster for your most important relationships to experience what life would be like without you. They do it every day or hour your business is closed and are forced to go elsewhere. They do it when you are on vacation, off sick, or at a conference and have to deal with your backup. They do it when you don't show up, don't return their calls, and aren't available when they need you.  

Keep in mind this one thing: there will always be some once-in-a-lifetime event that will cause your most important relationships to work with someone else. You won’t always know when it will happen and it may be completely out of your control.  Just be prepared.  Make sure that when someone needs to get along without you, the only thing they think about is when you will be back.

You Look Very Familiar To Me...

I was a freshman in college when I first became fascinated by psychology and human behavior. I even remember the day it happened. I was in a Psych 101 class when Professor Brock put an image of three married couples up on the screen in the front of the room. It was weird because the pairs looked exactly alike. More like brothers and sisters than husbands and wives. When she advanced to the next slide, she showed the same couples 30-40 years earlier. The similarities were gone, meaning they didn’t look so much alike when they first got married. She asked us what happened. What would cause two people to look so similar after decades of living together?

We all had our opinions. Most thinking the transformations must have something to do with eating the same foods or living a similar lifestyle. The truth never occurred to us. That, in a very subtle and indistinct manner, they actually did resemble one another all along.  In fact, it was those similarities that actually formed their initial attractions.

Even though we were stupid, 18 year-old college kids, we should have known better than to think living under the same roof with someone could alter your genetic makeup and physical appearance. Professor Brock had to point out the obvious to us. Because we are attracted to ourselves, we find anyone with features similar to ours equally attractive. The third slide presented on the screen that morning made the point even clearer when we saw pictures of people with their pets and how often they too look alike.

From the first moment we see our own reflection, our brain has a decision to make. Does it accept what it sees as its standard for beauty or does it reject it in horror? Since the latter can have some serious psychological and emotional consequences to one’s self image and self esteem, most of our brains adopt the former. That doesn’t mean we don’t spend the rest of our lives looking into mirrors wishing we could change something. But for the most part, we like what we see.

Liking ourselves is not limited to the way we look. It extends to our values and beliefs, to our heritage and culture, to our political and social views, to our interests, our associations, and our relationships. Everything that forms our identity and makes us who we are.

Just as we are drawn to the similarities we see in the faces of our spouses, partners, and pets, we are also attracted to the identities of others when they resemble our own. It’s one of the ways loyal relationships get built. We see something in others that looks familiar to us and a bond is formed. But that also means the reverse is true. When others see a part of their identity in you, they will feel more connected. Maybe you are both Italian, or grew up in the same state, or like canning tomatoes, or have the same kind of dog. Maybe those simple, subtle connections are just the tip of the identities you share. Like the married couples who started out not looking much alike. The similarities are there, and over time can become more pronounced as the differences fade away.

The point is don’t be afraid to show bits and pieces of who you are to the people who are important to your career. You never know which ones will form the connections that could last a lifetime.

Not Seeing The Forest For The Trees

I lost 8 trees during Hurricane Irene this weekend. None hit my house, but a few came down on my driveway and needed to be moved right away.

Now, I have to say that finding a tree cutter after a storm is no easy task, but I lucked out and convinced 3 guys to come take a look and give me a price.

Guy #1: “$150 a tree for me to cut them up and stack the logs on your property close to where they fell. Stump removal not included. The smaller branches and cleanup are your responsibility. I can get here maybe towards the end of next week.”

Guy #2: “$100 a tree. Stump grinding, small branch and debris removal not included. We have a few jobs ahead of you, so I can’t give you an exact day when we can get here.”

Guy#3: “$350 per tree. While I’m here right now, let me cut these trees that are blocking your driveway, enough for you to get your car out. We can come back and finish the job, including the others on your property, next Thursday. I noticed you had two chimneys on your house, Mr. Kane, and see that you have firewood stacked in the back corner of your property. My price includes cutting and splitting the logs down to firewood size and we will stack them with your others. Of course, we’ll grind up the stumps and shred the branches into mulch that you can spread in some of your landscaped areas. By the way, your homeowners insurance may cover the tree removal, as well as any damage they caused to your landscaping, so here’s a written estimate that you can submit.”

Now who do you think I hired? Guy #1 and Guy #2 thought I had a tree cutting problem and offered to solve that. Guy #3 knew I had a tree cutting problem, but more urgently, a driveway problem. He knew I would have a stump problem, a debris problem, a hauling problem, and a firewood problem this winter. He also knew I would have an insurance problem without a written quote.

Don't assume when someone asks you to do something they are telling you what their real problem is. Sometimes you need to step back and determine that yourself.

What's Your "Parenting" Style?

Today is Diana Baumrind’s birthday. She turns 84. I doubt many of you know who Diana Baumrind is, but you should. Especially if you are a parent, a coach, a manager, a teacher, or a leader of an organization.

In the late 1960’s, Diana became famous in the world of developmental psychology for her research on parenting styles and the impact they had on the development of children. For the first time, there was hard evidence of the cause-and-effect links between the actions of a parent and the future behavior of their children. Evidence that, over time, has continued to hold up under scrutiny with few modifications. Baumrind suggested that most parents exhibited one of three parenting styles:


Authoritarian - “My way or the highway”. Children are expected to follow strict rules set by the parent, without question and without resistance. Failure to do so usually results in punishment. Authoritarian parents almost never explain the reasons behind their rules and adopt a “Because I said so.” attitude. They are usually very rigid and harsh in their demands, and often unresponsive to the needs or questions of the children.


Permissive - Permissive parents make very few demands of their children or recant those demands when the child pushes back. Often considered indulgent or lenient, they rarely exhibit discipline and are typically responding to their child’s demands or behavior. Many permissive parents coddle their children, relieving them of their responsibilities.  A permissive parenting style often conveys an image that the child has more power than the parent.


Authoritative - Similar to Authoritarian parents in that they establish rules and guidelines and expect their children to follow them. But the similarities end there. These parents are responsive to their children’s needs and listen to their questions. There is more give and take. They are firm, but not rigid, explain the reasons behind their actions, and are flexible when the situation warrants it. Authoritative parents are more nurturing and supporting, rather than domineering and punishing.


A fourth parenting style was added in the 1980’s (Maccoby & Martin, 1983).


Neglectful- These parents have few to no requirements of their children, are not responsive, and have little to no communication with them. They provide basic needs, but nothing else and are generally detached from the child’s life.


Obviously, there are degrees to each of these behaviors that a parent may exhibit, but what was important about Diana Baumrind’s research was not just the identification of the various parenting styles, but the effect those styles had on the development of children.

  • Authoritarian parenting styles generally lead to children who are obedient and proficient, but rank lower in happiness, social competence and self-esteem.
  • Permissive parenting often results in children who rank low in happiness and self-regulation. These children are more likely to experience problems with authority, following social norms, and feeling like they “fit in.”
  • Authoritative parenting styles tend to result in children who are happy, capable, socially adept and successful.
  • Neglectful parenting styles rank lowest across all life domains. These children tend to lack self-control, have low self-esteem and are less competent than their peers.


There have been several studies recently showing that these styles and their outcomes are not limited to the interactions between actual parents and children, but apply to all of our “guardian” relationships, including teachers and students, coaches and players, as well as managers and employees. It seems that we are authoritarian, permissive, authoritative, and neglectful outside of our home, as well.


Today is Diana Baumrind’s birthday. A good day to think about the kind of “parent” you are, and an even better day to consider the kind of long-term impact your style is having on those in your care.  Making them feel happy and fulfilled or crushing their self-esteem and confidence. As you walk into your classroom, onto your field and gymnasium floor, or into your office, remind yourself of the power you have to change your “children’s” future - not only for the better, but perhaps for the worse.

Why we love going to meetings

Al Pittampalli has written a great book, “Read This Before Our Next Meeting”, that I would suggest you all run out and buy or download to your e-book reader today. He not only examines all that is wrong with our meeting culture and the way we meet, but recommends what every organization should do to fix it. Given the number of copies sold in the few weeks since it’s release, it it clear he has touched a nerve and tapped into the frustrations that we all feel about the bad meetings we are asked/forced to attend.

I will only offer this one bit of advice. Don’t be too surprised or disappointed if your meetings never change.

That’s not a slight against Al or his book. In fact, I agree with everything he has to say about the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of a typical meeting. They are too long, too unproductive, too unfocused, and too boring, often incapable of producing the results we hope for. The problem is we humans like them that way. (Well, maybe like is the wrong word. I’d say prefer.)

When our ancient ancestor Thor would call together his fellow hunters and plan out the next day’s expedition, I’m willing to bet he talked too long, had poor presentation skills, and let Gork and Zog sidetrack the meeting by arguing about who had the bigger spear. I’m sure it was an unproductive mess and a complete waste of time, but something they couldn’t live without. Literally.  You see, our early relative’s survival depended on cooperation and companionship. Living and hunting alone in the plains of Africa was a dangerous thing for a creature who had no fangs, no claws, and was not very big, strong, or fast. They needed some help. And if that meant sitting through one of Thor’s mind-numbing, stone age powerpoint presentations, well then so be it. Being invited and bored was a heck of a lot better than being excluded and dead.

We haven’t outgrown our primitive DNA. We still meet for reasons that have very little to do with efficiency or productivity. We meet because we are human and we don’t want to be left alone. That’s why meetings drag on too long and why they are often unproductive and lack focus. We feel a certain safety when we are together. When we meet we establish bonds, are made aware of the group’s plans, and ensure that no one is talking or plotting against us. Those are the subconscious priorities that were wired in our brains thousands of years ago and still exist today.

Meetings are not a creation of our modern society. They are an integral part of what makes us social animals and have been around ever since human beings started communicating with one another. You could argue that our desire to gather and meet is, in fact, what makes us human. They are a social construct with a purposeful goal, not the other way around. And that is where the problems lie. No matter how hard we try to make our meetings more efficient, more productive and less often, our need to simply be together is too strong.

Al Pittampalli’s book can absolutely help transform the meeting culture of your organization and I encourage you to give his methods a try. Just don’t get discouraged if it takes longer than you think. After all, we are only human.

 

"Poor" Decisions

It’s hard watching the riots in London and seeing those young people burn and loot their own neighborhoods without wondering what they are thinking. When two girls boasted to the BBC that they were “showing the rich that we do what we want” it may have provided an answer. Just not the one you think.

There are all kinds of socio-economic reasons that the uprisings in London, as well as many other parts of the world, have occurred in recent months. But the irrationality of destroying the very neighborhood you live in might be the result of scarcity. Being poor doesn’t just impact your wealth. It effects your decision-making.

Many studies have been done on the psychological condition of scarcity showing that when we are “poor” - lacking money, time, resources, even emotional connections - it skews our judgement and causes us to make bad decisions. Think about the mistakes you make when you are rushed for time, or the interest rates you're willing to pay on credit cards when you don’t have enough money. And who hasn’t witnessed the behavior of people who were emotionally needy. Not having enough creates an enormous stress in our brains and causes us to do very strange, and sometimes destructive, things.

There is an obvious lesson there for all you employers and managers: Be aware of the scarcities that exist in the people you depend upon. Decide whether not paying them more or providing them certain benefits is worth the stress-filled decisions they are likely to make when doing their job. Decide whether those tight schedules and accelerated deadlines are worth the errors or defects that will probably show up at some later date. And decide whether withholding those emotional connections, such as trust, recognition, insight, and inclusion is worth having your most important relationships walk out the door and never come back.

The Rumors of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

The past few days, I’ve been wondering what Lazarus said to all of his friends after he was raised from the dead. I mean, he had to say something, right? He couldn’t just show up in the old neighborhood one day in his tattered burial clothes and act like nothing happened - even though he probably wanted to avoid all those inevitable questions, like  “Hey Lazarus, how come you aren’t dead anymore?”

I wish I knew what he said because I might be able to steal a line or two to explain my own disappearance these past few months. Especially to everyone who may have wondered what happened. To everyone who sent emails that I never answered or left voice messages that I never returned. To those of you who are reading this right now and thinking, “Hey Lazarus, how come you aren’t dead anymore?”

This has been a pretty rough summer for me, especially physically. I haven’t been writing and cancelled all but one speaking event because I was busy learning about the US health care system - from the patient’s perspective. My days were spent in doctor’s office and hospital rooms getting poked and prodded and undressed in front of so many strangers that I felt like I was pledging a college fraternity, and now have more pictures of my pancreas and liver than most people have of their own children. The good news is that, like Lazarus, the things that were wrong with me are now gone and I’m no longer dead. (The better news for those who have seen/heard me speak is that I now have a whole lot of new material for the self-introduction I do at the beginning of my speeches. You thought I revealed some personal things before...!)

I did learn something important from my self-imposed exile that I think is worth sharing. It’s about our own relevance and how fragile it really is.

Before getting sick, when I would write something to this blog, I would get about two thousand visits to that page over the course of a few days. When I gave a speech, the number of visitors to my website would go even higher. I was relevant. At least to some people. I had followers and subscribers (and one or two stalkers) who, for reasons I still don’t always understand, found what I had to say interesting.

What I discovered when I stopped writing and stopped speaking was how quickly I could become irrelevant. When I would check the stats on my website and the visits to this blog, I didn’t see the gradual losses that I expected. The drop offs were exponential as each week passed and I was nowhere to be found. It didn’t surprise me that people stopped visiting - after all, there was nothing new to see and nothing new to read. What caught me off guard was just how quickly my “followers” moved on. Woody Allen was right when he said “80% of life is just showing up.” Google Analytics confirmed that for me.

My point to all of this is not whether I will find readers again or people who want to hear me speak. It is about the dangers of disappearing. We all have days when we want to be left alone. When we go into hiding to avoid those customers who want to complain, the members who want more attention, the patients who want more answers, our employers who want more results, and our employees who want more direction. Some people stay silent because they are shy or introverted or afraid of being wrong. Some  make themselves anonymous to avoid doing more work. While still others go missing through no fault of their own. The reasons don’t really matter. Breaking off contact may offer you some temporary peace and quiet. Just be aware that it may turn into a permanent condition when you return to find everyone you need is gone.

The End Is Near. Film at 11.

I was asked on a television show the other day why Facebook has been losing millions of users over the past few months and gave the worst possible answer. 

“I don’t know.”  

(Cable television hates talking heads who aren’t willing to give a decisive, matter-of-fact opinion whether they know what they are talking about or not.)

But I don’t know. Maybe people are growing tired of it, or find it less interesting. Maybe they feel it has become too commercial, too mainstream or too uncool for their cutting edge lifestyles. Or maybe they just ran out of time - time to constantly update their status, to take care of their Farmville crops, or to manage the hundreds of friends they don’t even know.

The simple truth is nothing lasts forever and perhaps Facebook is seeing the beginning of its end. Or maybe these past three months of losses in the US, UK and Canada are merely a blip in the growing FB Universe that will continue to dominate the world. Who knows? More importantly, who cares? If Facebook fades into the history books alongside the Slinky, Betamax video tape, and disco music we will barely even notice. 

I know that seems hard to believe given the force it has become, but it’s true. We fill the voids in our lives pretty quickly. Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or some other social media not even dreamed up yet will take its place in the blink of an eye and we won’t feel a thing. Mainly because these sorts of transitions don’t occur in the blink of an eye, but are rather slow, gradual transitions that often move at a glacial pace. We just wake up one day and realize that we haven’t checked our Facebook account in a week, or a month, or a year.

It makes good television to talk about the end of anything in apocalyptic terms. As if it will be accompanied by fire, flooding and swarms of locusts. The dullness of reality, however, never follows that script. The Roman Empire declined over hundreds of years, not overnight. Pan Am and Woolworths took decades. 

Facebook will cease to be a part of our lives one day, but when that will happen is anyone’s guess. My fellow guest on that cable news show is certain it will be 2014. That may not be accurate, but it sure does make for good television. Stay tuned.