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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?

Social media—from Facebook to Twitter—have made us more densely networked than ever. Yet for all this connectivity, new research suggests that we have never been lonelier (or more narcissistic)—and that this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill. A report on what the epidemic of loneliness is doing to our souls and our society.

First Run 4-22-2012

By Stephen Marche
The Atlantic Magazine (click here to read the story online at the Atlantic).
Phillip Toledano

Yvette Vickers, a former Playboy playmate and B-movie star, best known for her role in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, would have been 83 last August, but nobody knows exactly how old she was when she died. According to the Los Angeles coroner’s report, she lay dead for the better part of a year before a neighbor and fellow actress, a woman named Susan Savage, noticed cobwebs and yellowing letters in her mailbox, reached through a broken window to unlock the door, and pushed her way through the piles of junk mail and mounds of clothing that barricaded the house. Upstairs, she found Vickers’s body, mummified, near a heater that was still running. Her computer was on too, its glow permeating the empty space.

The Los Angeles Times posted a story headlined “Mummified Body of Former Playboy Playmate Yvette Vickers Found in Her Benedict Canyon Home,” which quickly went viral. Within two weeks, by Technorati’s count, Vickers’s lonesome death was already the subject of 16,057 Facebook posts and 881 tweets. She had long been a horror-movie icon, a symbol of Hollywood’s capacity to exploit our most basic fears in the silliest ways; now she was an icon of a new and different kind of horror: our growing fear of loneliness. Certainly she received much more attention in death than she did in the final years of her life. With no children, no religious group, and no immediate social circle of any kind, she had begun, as an elderly woman, to look elsewhere for companionship. Savage later told Los Angeles magazine that she had searched Vickers’s phone bills for clues about the life that led to such an end. In the months before her grotesque death, Vickers had made calls not to friends or family but to distant fans who had found her through fan conventions and Internet sites.

Vickers’s web of connections had grown broader but shallower, as has happened for many of us. We are living in an isolation that would have been unimaginable to our ancestors, and yet we have never been more accessible. Over the past three decades, technology has delivered to us a world in which we need not be out of contact for a fraction of a moment. In 2010, at a cost of $300 million, 800 miles of fiber-optic cable was laid between the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange to shave three milliseconds off trading times. Yet within this world of instant and absolute communication, unbounded by limits of time or space, we suffer from unprecedented alienation. We have never been more detached from one another, or lonelier. In a world consumed by ever more novel modes of socializing, we have less and less actual society. We live in an accelerating contradiction: the more connected we become, the lonelier we are. We were promised a global village; instead we inhabit the drab cul-de-sacs and endless freeways of a vast suburb of information.

At the forefront of all this unexpectedly lonely interactivity is Facebook, with 845 million users and $3.7 billion in revenue last year. The company hopes to raise $5 billion in an initial public offering later this spring, which will make it by far the largest Internet IPO in history. Some recent estimates put the company’s potential value at $100 billion, which would make it larger than the global coffee industry—one addiction preparing to surpass the other. Facebook’s scale and reach are hard to comprehend: last summer, Facebook became, by some counts, the first Web site to receive 1 trillion page views in a month. In the last three months of 2011, users generated an average of 2.7 billion “likes” and comments every day. On whatever scale you care to judge Facebook—as a company, as a culture, as a country—it is vast beyond imagination.

Despite its immense popularity, or more likely because of it, Facebook has, from the beginning, been under something of a cloud of suspicion. The depiction of Mark Zuckerberg, in The Social Network, as a bastard with symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome, was nonsense. But it felt true. It felt true to Facebook, if not to Zuckerberg. The film’s most indelible scene, the one that may well have earned it an Oscar, was the final, silent shot of an anomic Zuckerberg sending out a friend request to his ex-girlfriend, then waiting and clicking and waiting and clicking—a moment of superconnected loneliness preserved in amber. We have all been in that scene: transfixed by the glare of a screen, hungering for response.

When you sign up for Google+ and set up your Friends circle, the program specifies that you should include only “your real friends, the ones you feel comfortable sharing private details with.” That one little phrase, Your real friends—so quaint, so charmingly mothering—perfectly encapsulates the anxieties that social media have produced: the fears that Facebook is interfering with our real friendships, distancing us from each other, making us lonelier; and that social networking might be spreading the very isolation it seemed designed to conquer.

Facebook arrived in the middle of a dramatic increase in the quantity and intensity of human loneliness, a rise that initially made the site’s promise of greater connection seem deeply attractive. Americans are more solitary than ever before. In 1950, less than 10 percent of American households contained only one person. By 2010, nearly 27 percent of households had just one person. Solitary living does not guarantee a life of unhappiness, of course. In his recent book about the trend toward living alone, Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at NYU, writes: “Reams of published research show that it’s the quality, not the quantity of social interaction, that best predicts loneliness.” True. But before we begin the fantasies of happily eccentric singledom, of divorcées dropping by their knitting circles after work for glasses of Drew Barrymore pinot grigio, or recent college graduates with perfectly articulated, Steampunk-themed, 300-square-foot apartments organizing croquet matches with their book clubs, we should recognize that it is not just isolation that is rising sharply. It’s loneliness, too. And loneliness makes us miserable.

Click "read more" below or click here to continue reading this much quoted story in the Atlantic.

Critical Thinking and How We See the World.

When we polarize the world, we are fixing our differing views to the point where no one sees what is really going on. Where there is no compromise, there can be no truth. Critical Thinking is a skill that seems lost as we would rather argue and hate, attack and misstrust than listen, look, research and be open to change or compromise. So how many logs are there, really?

Why learn to speak in public?

Why learn to speak in public?
Introduction to Public Speaking and Communication Model’
-Art Lynch

Click "read more" below for find out more:

Developing Your Purpose and Topic

Every speech you present has one overall goal or general purpose: to inform, to persuade, or to entertain. The general purpose determines the nature of your speech.

In brainstorming for topics, list all the topic ideas you can think of without evaluating them. Often brainstorming begins long before you finally write down your topic ideas. But setting aside some time to gather together all your topic ideas will help you consider your options more clearly.

Evaluate possible topics in terms of five areas: yourself, your audience, available resources, time, and setting. Choose a topic that is appropriate for yourself, the audience, and the situation. Also make sure you can find enough information to present a well-researched speech.

Your specific purpose--what you want to achieve--merges your general purpose and topic with the response you seek from your audience. As you work on choosing a topic, you'll frame the specific purpose.

Phrasing the thesis is a crucial step in topic development. Your thesis flows from your specific purpose and indicates how you will achieve the objective of your speech. Written as a single declarative sentence, the thesis captures the essence of your speech by incorporating the main points you plan to address.

Developing your topic starts with brainstorming for ideas associated with that topic. The next step is to identify themes and group them by category. These categories become the main points of your speech and suggest the thesis--the essence of what you'll cover.

Your topic, general purpose, specific purpose, thesis, and main points form the basis of your working outline. The working outline provides a tentative plan for your speech that may change as you learn more about your topic and audience. This early work gives you a solid foundation for analyzing your audience, researching your topic, identifying appropriate supporting materials, and determining the best way to organize your ideas.

New York Times (for topics):

Opposing Views (for topics):

AltaVista News
A useful resource for topic ideas, AltaVista News 
is organized by categories such as top stories, 
technology, society, international, and science.
Google Directory > Society > Issues
A directory of current issues in the news that 
can help you identify a topic for your speech. 
Click on a topic area for a list of more 
specific issues.
Speech Topics Help, Advice, and Ideas
Topic ideas and suggestions for informative, 
persuasive, and entertaining speeches.
Yahoo > Society and Culture > 
Issues and Causes
This part of the Yahoo! Directory provides 
a useful list of topics in the news that can 
help in the topic brainstorming process.


What is Critical Thinking? Asking Questions and Seeking Solutions?

What is Critical Thinking?

Nobody said it better than Francis Bacon, back in 1605:

For myself, I found that I was fitted for nothing so well as for the study of Truth; as having a mind nimble and versatile enough to catch the resemblances of things … and at the same time steady enough to fix and distinguish their subtler differences; as being gifted by nature with desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to consider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and as being a man that neither affects what is new nor admires what is old, and that hates every kind of imposture.

A shorter version is the art of being right.
Or, more prosaically: critical thinking is the skillful application of a repertoire of validated general techniques for deciding the level of confidence you should have in a proposition in the light of the available evidence.   

Critical Thinking does not mean arguing, or tossing quotes or statistics back and forth. It means being willing to listen to and understand the issues, opinions, interpretations of the facts and issues. It may require reading entire books, seeking out original writings and recordings that go beyond soundbites and quotes, talking to people on both sides and working toward compromise, or at least solutions that can work for both sides.

Being willing to listen, to understand and to see the value of the other side of the equation has long been a vital part of decision making, of reasoned discourse and of needed compromise for society to function and individuals to understand each other and other cultures or ideals.

Critical thinking refers to higher order thinking that questions assumptions, your own first and foremost, and those of opposing views or of generally accepted realities.

By questioning your own assumptions and beliefs, you open yourself to discovery of not just information or perceived "facts" that may contradict your beliefs, but also information that supports what you already believe. You will be less reliant on what you are told from above, or hear on the news, or hear from friends who often repeat things in different ways (think of the old game telegraph). You become a part of the solution and not the problem. 

Critical thinking is not about fighting, shouting heads, or openly confronting others. It is about challenging others, teaching and being open to learn in your own right.

Being open.