Disruptions create changes in life

Tina Haapala |

Last week I considered some things that might change our way of doing things so much that I called them disruptions. Although this is the sort of thing I think about often, I was inspired to write by a talk given by Peter Diamandis. For those of you not familiar with Peter, he’s the force behind such projects as the XPRIZE that is bringing spaceflight to the masses. If you are interested, he has an e-mail newsletter available at www.diamandis.com.

Today the disruptions I want to talk about are social in nature. I fought it a long time, but I am on Facebook (feel free to friend me). Eleven years ago Facebook didn’t exist. Since then, I mostly ignored it, yet as I write this somehow I have 774 Facebook-friends. And while a lot of those are just gratuitous, Facebook is also the way I’ve been able to link back up with high school friends, college classmates, and Navy buddies that I had lost track of for years.

Old folks like me remember a time when graduation or mustering out meant you’d never see most of those people again. It’s different for folks today. Graduating doesn’t mean “goodbye,” instead it’s “see you later”—at least virtually. That’s one Facebook distraction. And then there are the cat videos.

About 10 years ago the first video was uploaded to YouTube. No, it wasn’t a cat video, it was an elephant video. Actually it was a guy standing in front of the elephant enclosure at the San Diego Zoo telling you that elephants have long trunks. Not epic stuff. But now-a-days, you might find videos only hours old bringing you the Arab Spring, the Tsunami in Indonesia, or the earthquake in Nepal. Want something lighter? Then tips on how to play better in your favorite video game, swing a softball bat, or cook tilapia are all at your fingertips. People are no longer choosing what you are going to see via television. The eyes of the world are now democratized.

Then there is the Internet itself. When I am on a trip, I no longer have to wonder what’s going on back home. I can watch the local news, read the local paper, or listen to the local radio. If I’m wondering in what episode of Star Trek Spock had troubles involving a shuttle craft, I can find out instantly. If I’m watching TV and an actor reminds me of someone else I can check out the actors on the show, identify the one I’m watching, get a full bio of him including all the shows and movies he’s been in, when he was born, all the wives he’s had, whether he is dead, and pretty much anything else about him. There is virtually nothing you can’t find out within a few minutes.

Of course, at the same time, gossip, propaganda, rumors, and outright lies spread like wildfire (actually, a lot quicker than wildfire). Children are exposed to a lot more than most parents feel comfortable with. And a single guy can disseminate hundreds of thousands of highly classified documents to the entire world.

Yes, I think we’re in a disruptive time. How we manage it is how we manage our lives.

This article was published in the Times Record News "Your Money" column on August 16, 2015.