One of the most amazing things about technology and the advances in communication is that we can impart messages and important information across our planet or even outside the planet (remember that we do speak with the people on the space station and get regular reports from that poor little rover on Mars that sings happy birthday to itself) in an almost unimaginable brief span of time. When you think about the fact that people used to have to deliver messages by carrying them by foot travel, equine travel, or other conveyance, this is an astounding evolution. One of the scariest things about technology… is the speed with which you can decimate relationships, reputations, and revenue with that same speed.

So, why is that speed and efficiency scary? Most of the time we, in the modern world, are consistently frustrated, irritable, and just plain pissy when we have to accommodate delays in any form or fashion. We’ve become very inured to instant gratification and immediate access to information. The pace at which we live our lives is breakneck and the tempo is constant without pause or quiet most of the time. However, I’m not discussing my displeasure with the way our society has ceased living in the present in this particular instance. Instead, I wish to go back to what I was saying about the speed with which we are able to send and receive communication via technology.

It is absolutely a miracle of modern contrivance, and it is more than useful to be able to stay in contact with people at long distances. However, the lack of pause and delay has shortened a particular gap between thought and action that previously gave opportunity for choice sandwiched somewhere in the middle. In this episode of Email Diseases, we are talking about what I will call “Sender’s Remorse.” Picture, if you will, employee Joe who is possibly having a rough day. He may have been cut off in traffic or spilled his coffee. Perhaps he has had a perfectly reasonable morning, but then upon reaching the office… [cue dramatic music]… he opens his email to perceive a particularly peevish request from Susan the boss. In this email, she is asking for the umpteenth time information that Joe has spent many hours collecting and collating, parsing and construing to Susan multiple times… but she either cannot lay hands upon said information, is too busy to look (especially when she has Joe that she can just ask again), or never read it the first time. Susan may suffer from a number of previous diseases covered in this series, and she may literally just not recall that he has sent this same information multiple times. But Joe does recall… He feels dismissed and that his hard work has been unappreciated and generally ignored. He is angry and irritable and has had a horrible morning already and is wearing the coffee to prove it, thereby increasing his lack of tolerance. Joe hits the Reply button before he has a moment to think. He types a scathing message in response to the request (possibly using inappropriate italics or SHOUTY CAPITAL LETTERS). He types with the speed and alacrity of a rapid firing machine gun. There! You clueless wonder, maybe now you will get the message through your remarkably impermeable cranium!!! and hits Send before any other impulse in his own cranium might have a chance to make other choices. This rash action may potentially set off a chain of email back and forth with unpleasant outcomes. If Susan the boss is so inclined and read negative attitude or tone into Joe’s response, there may be disciplinary action in poor Joe’s future. All because of hitting that Send button instantaneously.

The other aspects of an inadvertent, rashly Send could be incomplete information and failure to address all points of a request. This can also be linked to other email diseases such as skimming or non-reading. When we move with speed but lack of diligence and forethought, we can occasionally find that points are left unaddressed and certain communications can be misinterpreted, like poor Joe and his rash rapidity. With just a pause to think how his words might be received and perceived by his recipient, he might have elected to compose a different retort.

Victor Frankl, the founder of logotherapy, said “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Technology has shortened that gap to a mere fraction of what we used to have. It therefore becomes a conscious decision on the part of us in our daily lives to be more deliberate and to take the time to be conscious of our choices… even in something so simple as a phrase in an electronic message.

In a recent training conference, I heard a colleague talking about the “rule of three.” Now, I know there are several different rules of three out there, but the two most common of these with regards to electronic communication go like this:

  • Once the email chain goes back and forth three times, pick up the phone. It’s time to talk.
  • Read every email three times before hitting send: First for spellcheck and grammar; second for intent and content; and third for tone.

While it may seem to be picking nits and taking more time, it may save reputations, inbox from email jail, and good working relationships. So, the moral of the story would seem to be, in order to avoid sender’s remorse, pause before hitting Send to allow that intervening gap between the stimulus and our response for choice to be conscious, deliberate, and well thought.

Physical Fit: Dear parents…

Adult-Supervision-School-Sign-K-4120 A cautionary tale… please read to the end. I commend each and every parent that encourages a healthy lifestyle and physical activity for their children. I deplore the habit that has become more and more prevalent with kids found with alarming frequency sitting on their posterior while some form of electronic babysitter absorbs their attention and they develop the sedentary habits of their elders. I had the misfortune of observing the results of those habits in the last few months in more than one geographic area as I saw children… yes children… not teens or tweeners but actual children of no where close to puberty that I approximated as outweighing my own considerable bulk. I’ve gone back and forth on the obesity as child abuse argument, but in extreme cases, I can definitely see their point. I also observed in the same proximity that the parents probably weren’t going to find any concern with the pattern in question because they had already given up that particular battle themselves. And so it went with mom, dad, and two or more young ones who were huffing and puffing along with effort… in order to sit… yes sit upon the expanse of beach. No running up and down. No surf jumping or body surfing. No gleeful squeals as they built a creative castle or sand sculpture. Zero activity, until it was lunch or snack time when copious amounts of processed snack foods and sugary drinks were handed out. Honestly, I get it. It is vacation. Kids should be able to enjoy their life. I don’t watch these people 365 days a year, and this may be a treat… but I’m guessing not. If it were only one group of this general description, I could probably feel concern or sorrow, but this was literally every other family I observed over a recent patriotic holiday season at the seaside. I am by no means a svelte individual, willowy and ephemeral. I believe I have described my own physique more than once, but observing this sort of situation makes me twitch a bit. I’m trying to avoid being judgmental. I really don’t know any of the observed families, their genetics, their health histories, or their regular habits. I am making assumptions (like ya do) based on superficial observation. The problem is that I know that while I might question my own assumptions and try to look past to find answers and other attributes, the rest of the world does not. What are these parents setting their kids up for in the future. As I mentioned, children are more sedentary than when I was younger. There are a lot more electronic reasons to sit on one’s butt and be still. While many parents would call this some “@#$ @%$# peace and quiet!” it really isn’t the best or most natural thing for a child to do for so much of the time. Additionally, I’ve been made aware that children don’t have as much physical activity planned into their school schedules. If the child isn’t an athlete, they may not get more than an hour of physical movement in a day. Even when they return home, they are often from a young age given homework to keep them busy all evening, or if they do not, the electronic babysitters probably get hold of them until dinner. I’m making generalizations (before any of the parents out there start screaming at me that they aren’t like that). I know not everyone participates in this same pattern. I’ve got friends who literally make their kids go outside and do something active. And that sorta makes me scratch my head… Why?!? Why is this something a parent has to make them do? When I was a kid, they couldn’t get me to come inside (especially in the summer) until after dark on occasion. No one made me go run around outside or play. The only sedentary activity that might occur was reading, and sometimes even then, they couldn’t get me to do it inside, because if weather permitted, I would much rather do the reading out in the sun and air. I have to wonder what changed. When did playing outside become a chore? However, my “Dear Parents,” wasn’t only about my ponderings about what has happened to physical activity with children today. I come now to the other side of the argument. Again, I absolutely commend parents who encourage physical activity. I applaud them for setting examples and helping their children develop an interest in physical fitness and exercise. I think that it is wonderful when children express an interest in activity, exercise, and want to even “workout” (though, I still think that full body building activity doesn’t need to start before they’ve even hit puberty… seriously people). BUT… You totally heard that coming, didn’t you? Please … PLEASE do not let children around exercise equipment unattended. There. I have said it. I personally do not believe that children below a certain age belong in a gym. I happen to belong to a gym where the corporate policy is to not allow children. There is a reason, but they caught an enormous amount of flack for making that policy. There are, I know, people who would disagree with them and me. They would say that with supervision children can learn to use equipment and weights and develop healthy habits that will follow them for the rest of their lives… blah, blah, blah. And chances are, they would totally miss that part of their argument that is frequently… well… missing. Supervision. It is one thing for a parent who has a responsible, well-behaved child with them and is engaging them the whole time and supervising them at every step, but that is not what often occurs. As you might expect, incidents have come to my notice rather unpleasantly in recent history to prompt this particular post. I will share with you two of the most glaring. Both incidents occurred at a hotel fitness center. I travel quite a bit for work these days, and because I am not always where I can conveniently access a branch of my own gym, I try to book lodgings in hotels that do have fitness centers. The quality of the equipment can vary drastically, but it usually will suffice for my basic fitness requirements. The first “incident” occurred when I had gone down to the fitness center which, in this case, was more than adequate. They had relatively heavy duty cardio equipment, free weights, and some decent multifunction resistance machines. The problem was that there were three children between the ages of 8 and 12 years old in the center with no visible supervising adults. There were, as it happens, sufficient options in the center for me to have my workout with the children in there. It wasn’t my first choice, but I could do it. However, about the time I was entering the facility, the eldest of the three misused and caused a malfunction in one of the machines that took it out of commission (he broke it… yep, one of his younger siblings also managed to misplace one of the little metal bar doodads that allows you to adjust the weight on the machine, fun times). I chose not to have my workout in the fitness center at that time. Perhaps I should have immediately reported the incident, but I waited to give the miscreants time to get clear. I’m no snitch. The kids removed themselves post haste to avoid getting caught, and I was eventually able to use the fitness center without being blamed for any of the mishandling myself, though unable to use any of the resistance and weight training equipment since it was effectively disabled for the foreseeable future. In the second situation, the outcome was a bit more scary. Again, I went to the fitness center; this time a little less large, the equipment a bit more Spartan. Upon reaching the door, I see two young boys, perhaps 8 and 6 years. I groaned inwardly as again I saw no supervisory adult. I just wanted to get in my workout and go deal with some additional prep work before meetings in the morning. I decided this time to brave it. I started my own cardio on one of the elliptical machines. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw it. It was too fast to have done anything to prevent. The youngest was playing with the treadmill (without the little safety clip attached to him in any way). He had been just riding it back, walking up, and riding it to the end. At some point he must have touched the wrong button, and the spinning tread shot the kid back catching a small foot in the handrails where they attach to the base and I heard (or imagined I heard) a slight pop… and then the scream. My workout was done, but for the kid, there would be no activity of almost any sort for a while. I did the first aid thing and asked the older one… ok, I firmly told the older one to go get an adult. An annoyed, then frantic woman arrived, and off they went to the hospital. I had several thoughts cross my mind: 1) It was a card key access. Who gave these two not yet 10 year olds a card key and let them wander about the place (did I mention this place also had an indoor hot tub and lap pool? Think about that for a minute… also card key access)? 2) We live in a litigious society, would the “No Children without Adult Supervision” sign clearly posted on the door and walls actually protect the hotel? I think it is great to get kids interested in fitness. There are even gyms that are geared precisely for parents and children to workout together. But please… please… parents out there, supervise your children. Don’t let these kids put themselves in danger of injury or worse, or even damage equipment that the facility probably paid some decent sum to acquire and provide for guests. Dear parents, if you want your children to be healthy, happy, and active, take/make time to play or workout with them. They will likely appreciate that more in the long run anyway… and it will have the added bonus of getting you off your posterior as well. So, here endeth the lesson… it was a little harsh for the little dude and his parents, but perhaps not the worst that could have happened (remember that pool that was also card key accessible).

Of trolls, billy goats, and sheep…


So, I’ve spoken… well, written, typed, whatever… before about etiquette involved with the interwebs and more specifically about social media. I’ve even brushed the topic of trolls (Social Media trolling or screaming obscenities from the safety of a fortress). It has become readily apparent to anyone watching even peripherally that social media is 1) not going anywhere, and 2) boiling over with ridiculous amounts of trollery. Yep, trollery. What is trollery, you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

Most people define the trolling activity as that which trolls, like a ship for fish or crustaceans around in the seas of the internet looking for prey and stirring up the dregs. They lurk in forums, chat rooms, and news feeds looking for heightened emotional content. Whereupon they seize the opportunity to say/type whatever they feel will provoke a larger and more emotional response from the originator of the thread or their adjacent commentators. I imagine them reaching over and grabbing their popcorn and shoveling hands of it in their face while cackling maniacally and watching the show they created with opinions they probably never even held themselves.

The other source of trollery is that despicable and rather disgusting creature that makes their abode beneath bridges and accosts poor travelers just trying to make their way across to the other side. While the “innocent” billy goats are generally molested and munched upon like the aforementioned popcorn, the source and cause for this action seems to lack sufficient foundation to justify the hostility.

The common theme for both these definitions seems to be that the trolls in question have no real motivation in their interactions and contributions other than hurting people and stirring up their negative emotions by expressing outrageous, hyperbolic, or grossly antithetical opinions and statements to which they, the trolls, rarely adhere in their own philosophy. In other words, they’re just doing it to get a rise out of people.

Personally, I have occasionally found the observation of this practice to be entertaining; especially, when one troll happens to be trolled by another troll of equal or surpassing trolliness or snarkiness (This post is going to be full of my own new vocabulary, I think). That always makes for interesting developments and has resulted on rare instances in me being the one reaching for popcorn and cackling maniacally as they rev each other up in an incredibly inane and variably immature arms race of witticisms and false reporting. I’ve often wondered if I set up a side pool when I see these things happening with some of my other observers if we could turn it into a game. Trollery Deathmatch. I sense a reality show. It could happen. Seriously, you’ve seen some of the crap they put out there these days; don’t even tell me that people wouldn’t watch.

Now, one of the issues with trolls and their own evolution is that they don’t always ambush passing innocents or wade into the quagmires of other people’s conversations anymore. They post their wildly outrageous (and I do mean in the sense of creating outrage) diatribes and jibes upon their own pages, blogs, and feeds. They fill their metaphorical sewage lines with metric tons of garbage that assaults their followers and, dare I say it, friends, with hyperbole and blatantly polarized inappropriateness. They are frequently rewarded for their behaviors by gaining more followers… or losing friends. To them, this is a game of chicken or a stare-down contest where the hollow victory is declared when they manage to disenfranchise everyone they know.

I personally recognize the behaviors. I see it for what it is. I have developed the all time greatest ability to ignore their crap and scroll on with my life. Every once in a while, the level of @#$% that builds upon the feeds that assault my gaze get to a point that I cannot stomach any of it. At that point, I generally elect to ignore social media all together, putting the lot of them into a virtual timeout until they learn to act better… they never do really, but when the dust settles and the stench becomes less offensive, I will cautiously choose to participate once again. One of my biggest pet peeves with all the trollery in the internet, however, is that there are what I might term the collateral damage sheep or the unintentional trolls… maybe I’ll call them the treeple or the sholls. These are not the innocent billy goats that traipse along blithely and end up being outright attacked. These are the individuals who observe on the sidelines and are ignorant of the motivation and source for the spewed hyperbole and generally false information proliferated in the trollfeed. They see what is out there and assume “It’s on the internet, it must be true.” And so it goes…

The information gets passed along over and over as truth from on high. The general rule of thumb about seeing information in three or more reputable sources suddenly becomes moot. Nevermind that the origination of the data was not particularly reputable or might just be pure satire. The treeple (or sholls) have witnessed this thought, statement, story, or meme in three places that they trust and thus… it must be fact. Most of the time they have not checked the source at all, the agenda or foundation of said source, or the veracity of the sentiment. It agrees with their own philosophy or agenda and so it is as valid as they are willing to test. They post and re-post continuing to perpetuate the fraud… all the while I can hear the trolls cackling and smell burnt popcorn.

I know that in the grand scheme of things it really isn’t a drop in the ocean of what is out there posted, spoken, and written by the alleged safeguards of information (I’m talking about the media-media again). It has become harder and harder to judge what is reputable and what isn’t. News is no longer facts, but more editorializing based on the agenda of which ever viewpoint is financing their current lifestyle. The truth is no longer something you can rely upon from your tv, radio, or press. In fact, I dare say that many of the news icons today are bigger trolls that our usual trolls have ever considered becoming. However, there are still some sources you can trust.,,,,, and are some of the most reputable for checking the verity of your latest meme or repost before you hit “send”.

I personally am not going to say that people have to post the facts and only the facts, a joke is still a joke, and satire is still funny and poignant and makes you think… but before you pass something along or respond to the trolls in the world, take a moment to check your own agenda, facts, and purpose and whether it actually is worth your time and energy to contribute to the general nastiness that is the internet.