How many friends do you have? As a novelist and blogger, this question is put to me over and over. I'm always puzzled by what the question means. I have many friends that I have never physically met, and then I have a handful that are the old-fashioned, face-to-face kind.
During the early days of humanity and perhaps for a long time after, friends were limited to the distance they were willing to walk to visit each other. The dangers of walking from one village to another made friendship-building difficult. Many people were limited to those who lived in the same village. Making friendships outside the village's protection was deliberate and made out of necessity for trade, alliances, and peace. Thus, the Friend-Necessity model was born.
The advent of transportation, from the chariot to the airplane, gave way to long-distance travel. The Friend-Necessity type of alliance could now be made across large land masses and oceans. For centuries the model has been used to prevent wars.
1876 saw the creation of an invention that gave the Friend-Necessity model its next great leap. The telephone permitted people to escape the limitation of physically being present or having to send a possibly misinterpreted letter. The telephone allowed the Friends-Necessity model to expand without the use of an emissary or travel.
In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg changed the definition of friends forever. Facebook took friendship and made it limitless. The physical boundaries were obliterated and anyone could be a friend to anyone else, anywhere. But more importantly, and for the first time in history, the Friend-Necessity model had direct competition on a world-wide scale. Zuckerberg brought about a new concept: The Friend– Commonality model. Whether conscious or not, he even used the term "Like." The idea was ingenious because it played on the insecurities of people. Everyone wants to be "Liked," and everyone wants to have friends. Other social media platforms have followed Zuckerberg's ingenuity. Twitter and Instagram used the term "Followers." Linkedin seems to have stayed with the older, more established, Friends-Necessity model, using the word "Connections" and a focus on necessary alliances.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't think this is a bad thing. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Linkedin have created a world that has been able to tie people together in a multitude of ways that the Friend-Necessity model alone could never accomplish. Are there aspects of the Friend-Necessity model in the social media mindset, of course? Social media has surpassed the basic premise of let's be friends because it's good for both of us. There was an underlying principle in Zuckerberg's idea. It has an inherent trust built-in. Making a friend that is just a friend implies a level of trust exists.
Recent light shed on international cyber hacking has created complications for the Friend-Commonality model regarding trust. Widespread distrust and misuse of social medial is a sign that the Friend-Necessity model is still very powerful. It has also brought to light that both models fall prey to abuse and deceit.
It's up to us to understand that both models are essential and serve a function. The Friend-Necessity model is eons old, and the Friends-Commonality model is a much-needed alternative. We all use components of each in creating our friendships. Now we just know it.
Please let me know your thoughts.
I thought I would start 2021 with a bit of satire for your enjoyment.
Some of you may have seen this piece posted on social media about a week ago and think that I’m “phoning it in” for this month’s blog. I assure you I’m not.
The responses to this piece of writing were all across the board, from thumbs up to birds being flipped at me. And that’s just the emojis. Some people did take the time to write raving reviews, while other chastised me.
I do feel that there was some merit to the piece as it generated such a response. It was meant to be a poke at the state of the union and not a malicious attack on anyone.
The purpose of satire is to bring awareness to grave or inconceivable circumstances through the use of a ridiculous and perhaps obscure situation. In this case, my implications were not so subtle. None-the-less, the point must have been made.
The Whistleblower Washer
I’m speaking out today because I’m tired of being the bad guy . For safety reasons my face has been hidden. We washers are not to blame for your missing socks. Conspiracy theorist have tried to dampen your view on us. Telling you we stole socks and now they can’t have the socks they want. This is just not true.
We Washers have tried countless time to unify with the dryers for a common good, but they are hell bent on causing havoc. In the recent years, through a single leader, many brands of dryers have begun to unite and plan a siege on human clothing. You’ve heard their motto: “Make clothes Great Again.”
These power crazed groups are planning, with leading Russian, Chinese and North Korean dyers, to control the world’s ability to have dry clothing. They will make you submit to wearing wet clothing then blame us, the washers.
Humans, stand up and do the right thing! Put the hate-mongering dryers in their place and let’s work together to keep clothing dry and clean for all.
Please let me know your thoughts.
We live in a world where letters now take seconds to deliver electronically. They can come in the form of emails, texts, IM, or any other format we can imagine and right a code for. Did you catch that? It was the wrong use of the word right. Lately, I’ve been noticing an outstanding growth in the number of these mistakes. It might the incorrect homonym, an incorrect spelling, the wrong tense, the misuse of homophones, or just leaving a word out.
Now there are many excuses for this problem, but the best one is shifting blame to an electronic creature that goes by the name “AutoCorrect.” While I admit that I have fallen pray to this word hunter many times, I also have to confess that if I took an extra minute to reed what I just wrote, I might find the mistakes. So, the blame is still on me.
Why do we make these mistakes in the first place?
How many of us gave the answer because we’re moving too fast and not watching what we’re doing? Or, we’re to lazy to take the time to go back and thoroughly reread what we just rote. That may be true for a lot of people, but it’s not the hole truth.
According to an article by Lindsay Kolowich Cox, its not our fault. She states that most linguistic researchers agree that words are stored in our brain in groups according to the relationship between words. They call the process "word priming." The process of word priming works by association of the words and how they are stored in the brain. Researchers suspect that linked words are actually physically closer to one another among the neurons in the brain, and that related words might be stored together in specific cerebral regions. The words dog and pet are stored nearer to one another unlike coffee and speaker. This makes our recall faster and we have less chance of error.
Lindsay Kolowich Cox sights the example of the words going and to and the phrase I’m going to. Our brain is more accustom to seaing or hearing going and to combined than going and too, and therefore we type the wrong homophone.
I tested this theory in a chapter of my new book. It appears I’m not immune. I found several instances where I made mistakes because my brain was associating commonly paired words. For more details on the study, please follow the link above.
Melissa Lewis Grimm explains that when we read, our mind plays tricks on us. Especially if we are the originator of the righting.
When you are reading your own work or reviewing something you have already looked at several times before, your eyes might read over the sentences, but all you’re really aware of is the points you’re trying to get across instead of the words you’re using to express the meaning.
It’s a process called “Generalization” — your mind’s shortcut for retaining information. While reading, sometimes your brain is on autopilot, and that’s why you miss errors that should otherwise jump out at you.
Melissa talks about the need to hire a proofreader. I don’t think we need to hire a proofreader for text messages or social media with our friends, but if we're writing professionally, it might be worth thinking about.
What’s the more obvious reason we continuously don’t catch our typos?
We have become a world of thumb-writers with a secret goal of seeing how fast we can bang out the words on a tiny screen. This time-oriented craze has brought about an entire new language of abbreviations and symbols to short-cut the use of full sentences. How R U, B4, BTW, and :), have replaced the written word and effectively lowered our ability to spell or choose the correct form of a word.
Now add in that we don’t want to check our work and we have a recipe for mistakes. Two many times we send off an email without checking it for mistakes. Why because their is something else we want to get to and because we very rarely get called on it.
If you’re feeling criticized, that’s not my intention. I’m merely bring to lite that there is both scientific proof and human nature at play here.
How many of you have noticed mistakes throughout this blog? They were intentional.
You don't have to go down to the local hatter to find out which hat to place on your head. Most of us feel like we are forced to wear them all. From parent to spouse, from child to adult, from dishwasher to CEO, so many hats to try on, force on, keep on, and trade off. It's no surprise we feel burdened by the weight of each hat on our head.
Why do we wear so many hats?
Why must we constantly change them throughout each day?
Let's take a short trip back through history to get a perspective on how hat-wearing practices have changed. First, I must comment that this is not meant to be a journey that defends previous cultural norms, merely one that takes a look at past eras' perspectives. Yes, I am leaving out those who did not fit the mold, for they were the ones who created positive change.
In the early 1900s, hats worn clearly defined "male" and "female" roles, at work, at home, and in politics. It wasn't until a few years after women fought to have the right to vote that who wore what hat began to blur.
In the 1960s, protesting for more equality meant the virtual demand for hats skyrocketed as both men and women began to wear a wider variety of hats. The 1960's also saw another hat wearing boom as gay and lesbian communities stood tall to be acknowledged and later to have the right to wear whatever hats they wanted.
The first twenty years of the 2000s has led to more hat juggle, sometimes placing more than one at a time on our heads. Politics, gender fluidity, and race equality have also thrown their hats into the ring. Some might think this has led to hats being pulled on and off of each other, both willingly and unwillingly. I let you decide that for yourself.
And now the pandemic has furthered the need for multi-tasking hats. So far we have only discussed "Task Hats." Now let's talk about one crucial hat that may have gotten lost in this modern world. A hat whose sales have plummeted, especially in 2020, as ever-growing stress levels climb to new heights. As parents, we are now taking over educating our children, keeping them safe from an invisible predator, and making them understanding why they cannot see their friends. As an adult, we must deal with isolation, stress, frustration, and anger, both our own and from those with whom we now cohabitate full time. As a co-worker, we have been relegated to setting up a home office with ever-waning WIFI signals, and turning our kitchen or dining room tables into work desks that we pray no one in the house will disturb when we step away.
The hat I speak of is the "Reset Hat." This hat is meant to be worn separately from any other hat, and its duty is to elicit play and distraction from the everyday. The Reset Hat is to give both our body and mind a fresh start. For those of us who think we don't have time to wear the Reset Hat; that's a lie. All the day to day happenings will still be there when we take off the Reset Hat. We'll just have a different perspective on how to take it all on. We were not meant to only live for tasks that need doing. We were meant to remove the Task Hats and put on the Reset Hat from time to time and explore fun and distraction.
In case anyone is wondering, I wrote this piece because I wore my Reset Hat for an entire day. Yes, I had to force myself at first. I hope you see the benefits of it. Please let me know.
Can you guess what word has gained the most practical use in 2020? It’s not COVID or pandemic, although they get high marks for making the headlines more than any other word. The answer is Virtual.
In an attempt to acclimate to our new environmental restrictions, we have created a nearly all virtual world. In 2020, civilization has made popular everything from virtual appointments to virtual zoos. If we can think of it, we can put it on a computer screen. I’m not saying this is good or bad; it’s just the reality of our new virtual society.
From A to Z, it can all be done virtually. Ordering groceries, medication, buying an automobile, or whatever we can dream of, it’s virtually at our fingertips and in real time. While each year the use of online commerce has grown, there has never been such exponential growth as we have seen in 2020. The reality of a virus in the world has now pushed us into the virtual realm to seek commerce and friendship. A virtual connection is better than solitude.
We live, whether by necessity, or desire, or sheer boredom, in a virtual world. According to Hootsuite, YouTube has approximately two billion users a month and marketers know this. 5.5 billion (in the US) will be spent on YouTube advertising in 2020. Facebook, even with all of its regulatory troubles, has 1.7 billion daily users (Oberlo).
How about virtual conferencing companies? Zoom was founded in 2011 and launched in 2013. How many of us even knew about Zoom before the pandemic, and now we ask, “Do you “Zoom?” When a noun or company name becomes a verb, they have made it to the big time.
Will we ever get back to our old reality? Perhaps, there is no going back. Maybe there is only a new reality, some type of hybrid of both the old reality and this new virtual world. As we have borne witness to, once something becomes widely accepted, like toll booths and income tax, it’s here to stay.
If we are to create a world where we can enjoy the virtual and also have the option to be face to face or walk in public safely, now we need to do whatever is necessary to accomplish this. Wear a mask, social distance, and stay home. Virtually everything as we knew it in the past is counting on us.
Links for this blog:
Movies depicting the future have often shown societies that use some variety of credit for transactions. The use of actual paper money and coin has consistently been portrayed as an ancient ritual. Has the movie world always been a few steps ahead of reality or is it the most accurate fortune teller that every lived?
In an attempt to curtail the spread of infection, the use of credit, or debit, payment for purchases has become the norm. The number on retailers going to cashless payments only has skyrocketed in the last six months. The increase in online transactions has also blasted upward, furthering the cashless transaction world.
If you were to check your wallet right now which would you have more of: plastic cards or paper bills?
Currently, we are not in a “cashless society” but we have moved to a “less cash” situation. The rise of a pandemic has pushed us closer to achieving the cashless society. It has been known for decades that paper money, by virtue of its fibrous makeup, and, along with coins, are spreaders of decease due to hand to hand passage.
What does a truly cashless society bring with it?
Like many industries that have gained a stronghold on society, it means total control. Similar to the insurance industry in the U.S. that basically decides what to cover and not to cover, the banking industry would ultimately dictate the cost of every digital dime we use. The side hustle for a few extra bucks would be gone. How would those who cannot not get credit, don’t have bank accounts or debit card survive? The small mom and pop stores that take cash and can’t afford to give a percentage of every transaction to credit card companies would have no choice.
The advent of digital payment apps like PayPal, Apple pay, and Venmo have made purchasing much more convenient, but it comes at a literal price. What does this mean? It means that every dollar we earn will have a percentage of it go towards a fee for using that dollar. For those of you are thinking that credit card companies charge only the merchant to use the card on every transaction, that is true. For now. Those fees average about 3%, currently, but with total control those fees will be a golden ladder that the banks will climb. As those fees climb so will the cost of items you digitally purchase. The yearly fee paid to have the privilege of using that credit card will be up for grabs as credit would be the only game in town. As far as competition between cards, well, look at the insurance industry.
While most of us have already started this move to a cashless society, and for the most part, we are at the “less cash” stage now, it seems that only time will tell if it is a worthwhile transition.
The movie world doesn’t portray the use of a cashless society as a good thing. Are they foreseeing the future again?
For more information on a cashless society visit:
I preface this piece with a note that what you are about to read may be a tad preachy. I tell you this out of respect for you.
Respect your elders.
Respect isn't just given out.
We have all known this word forever, and yet it's meaning, and the line it draws in the sand isn't so clear. While some feel respect is automatic, others think it has to be earned. The one thing we all agree upon is that respect is real. I believe it's a moving target that we all aim for, and sometimes we hit it and other times we miss. These are those times of totally missing.
I am angered by the general lack of respect that we have in our populous. The ever-widening gap of this lack of respect for those we know and complete strangers is a hidden pandemic. Our history of callousness towards each other and the world we live in has now borne its fruit. We took our marbles and went home, and now we're forced to stay home. Reflection is upon us.
Here are some of the ways we have a lack of respect. Common courtesy, healthcare, racism, terrorism, classism, global warming, and the list could go on. Where did we go astray, respectfully?
“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”
Even now, as we are re-venturing into our world, isolation should have allowed us time to reflect on how we, humans, positioned ourselves in the world. Prior to our lockdown, we faced devastating CO2 levels and a meltdown that was going to be irreversible. A crisis arises to make us correct course, even if by happenstance, or not.
Still, we cannot see that there may be a greater force trying to help us from hurling ourselves toward our end. Not God. It's our planet. It was here long before we took our first steps on it, and it has the power to remove us at any time. Respectfully, it has been sending us warning shots, and we, collectively, have chosen to ignore them. Horrific weather, earthquakes, pandemics, why aren't we respecting the warnings? For those who think this may be a bit far-fetched, I ask for your explanation.
Let's turn now to the reflection part. As humankind, we have been forced to stay home, stay apart, and attempt to stay safe. Throughout this isolation, why haven't we taken a looked at how we got here and where we're going? It doesn't matter if you believe or don't believe in the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of our kind have died in a blink of an eye. This should give us pause to reflect.
"Civilization is a method of living, an attitude of equal respect for all."
Instead, we have chosen to dig our heels in and battle each other. From conspiracy theorists, to flat-earthers, to scientists, to the plain Joe not on the street, we need to see that divided we will fall. So, let's give each other the respect of our opinions and reflect enough to realize that we must put those differences on hold if we don't want to follow the dinosaurs' path.
"Respecting others’ opinions doesn’t mean being untrue to our own."
-P. M. Forni
If you found this preachy or disagree with this piece, I respect your difference of opinion and welcome your thoughts. I only ask that you reflect on your response and be respectful.
The power of suggestion plays a large part in our lives. Those suggestions come from every side of every fence.
I had been thinking about this for a few days when, during a card game with some family members, I was coming close to winning the hand, and I suggested that I could send them a "vibe" that would cause them to make a choice to play cards that would allow me to win. I won the hand, as predicted. I then told them that I would lose the next two hands in all fairness, which I did. At the beginning of the fourth hand, I said they needed to concentrate so that I wouldn't tell them which cards to play. When one of the other three players played a card that helped my hand, I thanked them. I won the fourth hand, and two of the players began to believe that I could telepathically influence their choices. They went one step further and told me I was cheating. I eventually explained this concept of the power of suggestion and we all laughed.
What makes the power of suggestion such a useful tool wielded by so many industries and so many people? One word: Imagination. We have the incredible ability to imagine the future and create outcomes. We hear an instruction (suggestion), either subtle or direct and our minds automatically take over and frame an outcome which produces a desire. We desire to have an outcome happen. It may not align with the instruction (suggestion) given, but now the suggestion has been placed and runs in the background. It doesn't matter if you believe in it or not.
A fascinating accompaniment to the mind game is that our physical body reacts to the suggestion shortly after the mind creates the desire. Think about eating your absolute favorite dessert. Your mind has sent an image to you. Imagine how it tastes, the sensation you get when you're eating it, and how satisfied you feel afterward. How many of you are craving that dessert right now? How many felt your mouth water or your belly tell you that would be great. All of us have experienced this a million times. It's advertising 101.
As a mystery author, I use the power of suggestion to create stories that make you want to solve the case. For some, just telling them I write mystery thrillers gets them playing detective. Taking it one step further, imagine if your favorite book didn't have the ending written and you were left guessing. How many of you are feeling the stress of this just at the mere suggestion of it?
I do not wish to delve into the psychology or spiritual realms in this piece. Still, I would like to point out that both fields have been cashing in on the power of suggestion for many decades, anywhere from understanding it to using it to your advantage.
Perhaps one of the largest and most lucrative industries to arise using the power of suggestion is the Social Influencer arena. I would be remiss if I didn't admit that I have contacted some social influencers to promote my upcoming book. I guess I believe in their abilities. After all, I find myself under the control of the power of suggestion many times. I don't think this is necessarily a "bad" thing. It just is. I try to stay aware of the situation, but alas, my body returns the signals to my mind that I really want that favorite desert.
Again, a reminder, I am not for or against the power of suggestion, I am merely pointing out its existence.
The power of suggestion lives all around us in every corner of the world, filling every facet, both private and public. From friends to politics, subconsciously to consciously, the power of suggestion is present. How will you use or be used by the power of suggestion?
Inspired by a conversation with my mother
As we move forward in all the uncertainty, there is a great fear among the masses. Perhaps, it’s the middle to senior aged, since they can remember walking into a store to purchase an item. The younger generations have grown up in the online age and don’t need to acclimate.
“I’m too old to order something without trying it on first.”
Rest assured that as online access grows and the brick and mortar shopping experience dwindles, there is a connective tissue that ties this online shopping transition to the past. Like an old friend who shows up on your doorstep with a new haircut. The discomfort of not knowing is eased by a familiarity that exists, it just has to be sought out and brought into the light.
In 1872, Aaron Montgomery Ward produced the first mail order catalog geared to the general public. This was followed by other large names such as Hammacher Schlemmer and eventually, what might be the most famous one of all time, the Sears & Roebuck catalog. From JC Penney to Victoria Secret, long before home computing and the internet, mail order catalogs flourished. Companies like car parts giant JC Whitney made its mark on the world from between the pages of mail order catalogs.
Why did this surge in mail order catalogs grow into a multi-million-dollar business? Simple economics of supply and demand. People wanted to shop and most of them didn’t have cars. Getting down town or to a major city, to the brick and mortars, was too difficult or too time consuming. The telephone at that time made it simple to order items directly from the catalogs.
The world then saw the advent of the home computer and it was a game changer. In 1995, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s guru, opened for business. He may have been the first to see the potential online scalability of the mail order catalog. Today Jeff has taken the internet catalog well beyond its mail order predecessor, threatening the mere existence of some brick and mortar establishments.
Let’s move forward to 2020. We are all now quarantined at home and travel to the brick and mortars is not an option. The online catalog industry already has its foothold. Demand for home delivery has found its worth in a new way. Yes, there is the option to order online and drive to a store to pick up the item, but fear has gone viral. We’re in lock down and the only way to shop safely is via the internet catalog. The term “internet catalog” does not sound common, but a look at the myriad of shopping websites where you can buy just about anything looks a great deal like a digital version of a Sears and Roebuck catalog. Everything you could ever want is in one place.
“I never thought I would have to do this in my lifetime.”
For all who are fighting the online catalog shopping reality, it might sit on your pallet a bit easier if you make the correlation that as child you may have watched your parents or grandparents place orders from mail order catalogs. If you’re old enough, you may have placed a phone order from a mail order catalog yourself. A feeling of nostalgia could replace the angst you feel about having to shop online. Truth is that making purchases via an online catalog, takes less effort than the mail order catalogs ever did. One more fact that might help take the edge off of online catalog shopping is that while mail order catalog items took weeks to show up, today most online orders are on your doorstep in seven days or less.
As the new world might bring many fears with it, shopping doesn’t have to be one of them. This time looking to the past can ease the transition to the future. It’s like riding a bicycle. You never forget, you just need to practice a bit in the beginning. By the way, you can buy a bicycle online too.
For more on the history of mail order catalogs visit
3. History of Amazon https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/amazon-opens-for-business
I usually write blogs that share a conglomeration of information on a topic I come across, but this is more of an op-ed observation mixed with some insight.
As the number of COVID-19 articles begins to decrease, the reading of what’s left continues to decline at about 29%, with readers spending 40 seconds, on average, reading the article. Fatigue is the leading analytical explanation ( ChartBeat ).
There has been an uptick in the number of searches for words like empathy and hope. I would venture that this is a patterned movement towards healing and towards looking forward.
Perhaps a new compassion is setting in upon us. I have noticed that while people are keeping their distance (for the most part), there is a unified mood of kindness towards each other. This is the reaction we often see portrayed in movies where large populations are forced to live in unbearable conditions and then emerge to find a new world. Logan’s Run comes to mind. If you’re too young to remember it, you may want to watch it. I purposely picked an old movie to show that the reaction is not a new one, but more of one that we have forgotten for generations.
Human interaction beyond the immediate family is now at a different level. Why is this?
Neighbors are more willing to stand on the sidewalk or in the street, to engage in a conversation. Strangers are more courteous to one another. People are generally thinking more kindly. Yes, there are still the outliers for whom there has been an adverse reaction, but in general, there has been this trend toward empathy.
It is human nature to want to be social and want to be part of a larger something. We have all been deprived of this because of a microscopic enemy, and this brings us to the point of commonality. For the first time in generations, we have been bound together by a common foe. We can all relate to this as we have all been impacted. Do not under estimate the power of common ground. But what is next? This is perhaps the most crucial question humankind can ask. We have been given a chance to regain our humanity, though at great expense. We are unmistakably linked together now. There is no denying this.
Stores will reopen, schools will go back into sessions, people will return to work, how will we act?
Putting aside all the precautionary measures and the fear, what will we do with this second chance?
These are the questions that we must answer. We were a world torn apart by fear and mistrust of one another, and then we were forced (are forced) to fight a common enemy, one that seeks to attack indiscriminately.
Has this experience increased our resolve for a more empathetic humanity, or will we go back to the before and wait for the next rage?
I choose us. I choose to stand in the street or on the sidewalk to converse with neighbors. I choose empathy. What do you choose?
Let me know your thoughts, please.
"Writing is the flow of life through words on a page. We all have this talent to share." Luca DiMatteo