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Are we becoming spectators in life rather than participants?

People today spend a lot of time in front of televisions, computers, and electronic devices just watching anything and everything. I think this may be creating a generation of spectators, voyeurs, and people that would rather watch life go by than jump in and do something, take a position or get involved with solving a problem. Have you ever seen people just stand around after an accident, someone obviously needs help, or when a little assistance might prevent a tragedy? This was not the case 50 years ago.

From my observation, the exception to this are folks with some emergency training, like military folks, Scouts, police and firemen, but how about the rest of us?

If you see a toddler walking around with no adult in sight, what do you do? I think every mother I know would get involved, but why not fathers or any adult?

If you see an accident, do you stop and try to help or go home an look for it on the news?

What did the prior generation do with the time we spend watching things? I think people playing instruments, group singing, card games, dinner parties, and social time was much more a daily occurrence. What will be the long term social effect of these changes?

Are we afraid to do the work, take the risk, or face the adversity required to change our dreams into reality, or would we rather go home and complain about how unfair life is for not granting our wishes?

We watch what happens on seedy reality television, internet bedrooms everywhere, and people misbehaving and acting like children or animals. If you watch enough of this behavior, this type of behavior will gain acceptance.

Has anyone else noticed this behavior change? If so, what have you noticed?

How do our behaviors compare with those of adults 50 years ago? Did they get more out of life?

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    Apr 19 2014: Robert, I think that people can indeed "watch" more than ever, but I think that those who are inclined by values or temperament to engage actively with others probably do every bit as much as they ever did. Some people find community online, and I would be very hesitant to attempt to evaluate the authenticity or depth of other people's online connections. Others of us are quite connected as participants and contributers to "live" communities.

    There are people who by virtue of their personalities or where they happen to live have a difficult time forming warm and mutually supportive and constructive bonds with neighbors. Many of these try, I believe, to see whether they can find better luck online. But there are others for whom connection is such a worthwhile thing that they are well connected to satisfying "live" communities but *also* seek community online in a "more the merrier" sort of way.

    In terms of reaching out to help strangers, taking risks, or facing adversity, I doubt this is any less common now than half a century ago. Further, improvement in communication has for many been a substantial blessing, particularly for families and friends that have a diaspora-type character of being distributed geographically. When I compare how often my parents as adults communicated with their parents, with how often I as an adult communicated with mine, and again with how frequently my adult children share their lives with me, there is an exponential progression at each stage.
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      Apr 20 2014: Well said Fritzie!

      I agree that the percentage of people who actively participate in their/our communities is probably the same. People reaching out to others, in my perception, may have increased, and our communication systems have helped with that.

      We now see that when there is a catastrophe, people from neighboring towns, states and countries are helping almost immediately. We had a big ice storm here around Christmastime, and electrical crews, tree cutting services, etc., from neighboring states were here for two or three weeks helping with the disaster. Many of them stayed here and missed the holiday with their families in order to restore power to homes. Crews from Vermont have traveled to other states and countries when disaster strikes, and it is our communication systems that initially help facilitate those connections.

      When I was an antique collector/dealer, I used to get lots of old magazines and newspapers (100 years old), and it was interesting to read them.....what's the matter with kids today....our world is changing....people don't care about others anymore.....politics is corrupt....etc. etc. etc. It was interesting to see some of the same concerns being discussed a hundred or more years ago!

      One thing is sure....things change....people change....our communication systems change....and it appears that people are still people, and often very engaged with other people on some level most of the time. I often point out in these types of conversations, that the communication devices have an on/off switch, and it is a choice how one uses them:>)
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        Apr 20 2014: I am inclined to think, Colleen, that being able to "see" others more readily has created greater sympathy on balance, though there is a counter effect when people are portrayed in a biased, negative way. I still think the balance is toward the greater sense of connection and mutual responsibility.

        But then I am always surprised and sad to hear (or read) people who seem to seek to inflate themselves in their own minds or that of others by labeling other people as idiots, sheep, and so forth. But arrogance and self-aggrandizement by putting down "rivals" has always existed, even if people do not recognize this in themselves. I hold out hope that greater interconnection across the world might reduce such unloving and unconstructive "them" and "us"-ing. Communities in which people are actually interested in knowing and appreciating others' strengths work so much better!
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          Apr 20 2014: I agree Fritzie, that we (humans) seem to be tipping toward a greater sense of connection and mutual responsibility, interconnectedness and recognition of interdependence.

          I believe that what we focus on expands, so my perception is not surprising to me!

          Yes, we still see people who want to inflate themselves and project their perception of superiority by labeling other people. What we focus on expands, and I perceive those folks as projecting their own insecurity. The practice has always existed, as you say, and it may continue, as long as there is insecurity in our world.

          I also believe in continuing with greater interconnections in our world, which might reduce unloving and unconstructive "them-ing" and "us-ing"! What we focus on expands.......oh.....did I say that already?
    • Apr 20 2014: Fritzie,

      I agree that the internet offers connections that are enables connections to be made that we previously not possible, and that many of these connections provide valuable communications, relationships, and a conduit for counselors, mentors, teachers and guides.

      The area concern that I wanted to discuss is the increasing fraction of time being spent choosing this form of communications over direct social contact and experiences, particularly in younger people. Interpersonal communication is a very important life skill, but it takes work to develop, involves some risk with being accepted, teaches appropriate social skills and behaviors, and requires dealing with all the good and bad aspects of the general public. On-line game playing, social networking, texting, etc. are very antiseptic forms of communication, require little work, and no direct interpersonal communication.

      People that have experienced the interpersonal communication forms and then found the electronic forms easier or more to their taste, have made an informed decision. Those that spend time using the electronic forms and defer learning the interpersonal forms in favor of the easier electronic forms are not really making an informed decision. I fear also that such a choice may may slow their entry into social adulthood, perhaps even becoming dysfunctional in interpersonal communications. That is the concern.
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        Apr 20 2014: I understand. In fact you might want to append this TED talk to your question: http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together

        I think you might also take interest in Clay Shirky's book Here Comes Everybody.

        I think that unless you are using these newer forms of interaction as young people are, it is hard to understand how the digital native is using them. Clay Shirky makes the case that in the days of our childhood, there was a lot of passive watching of television and social interactions often within a small sphere of community. Now the internet makes millions of people creative agents connecting more broadly. From another angle we had a thread recently in which a people were making the case that the forms of interaction through speech in online game communities builds communication and leadership skills that forms an effective training ground for human interactions.

        Reading fiction, of course, is a long-standing way of "watching" that can inform personal interactions in life but which can displace those if people spend all their time reading. People have long had ways of isolating themselves if that is their preference or of "watching."

        I think people's connections and ability to engage online often makes clear pathways for community participation that people would never have heard of otherwise, making people less insulated and facilitating community engagement.

        I cannot remember the age of your children, I am not seeing the children I have taught or raised less interconnected in daily life with other kids than kids were in my youth. Kids are spending most of their awake time at school and in after school activities. Most adults are still spending most of their waking hours at work. And school is even more an interactive social milieu than it was in our youth. Kids do so much work in ever changing groups, with and without mentoring from teachers and coaches that it is hard to believe they are going to be less socially adept than previous generations.
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      Apr 28 2014: Good points, but as William clegg is saying --- we are CONSUMERS.

      We are not trained to live sustainable life and support ourselves. Almost entirely, we are depending on huge industries which are "taking care" of us.

      No wonder that we are not idependent individuals, we have no special skills and no knowledge to be soundly PRODUCTIVE, missing meaningful everyday work to survive and improve our life. That very work has been only natural for the majority of people just about 100 years ago.

      Living in huge, fast growing crowds we feel more and more isolated, desperately lonely, and bored. We are emotionally starving - and the only way for many to revive their senses is to be spectators living on artificial superficial entertainment.. these days everything becomes entertainment for millions of mindless spectators..
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        Apr 28 2014: "We" is a big word. Any of us can probably speak with better knowledge about ourselves and perhaps those with whom we are intimately acquainted than we can about others. Assumptions people make about various aggregates of other people they do not actually know are often off the mark and often in a negatively biased direction.

        I am sorry if those with whom you are most acquainted are well described as "isolated, desperately lonely, bored" and "emotionally starving" rather than creative, engaged, loving, and leading lives of meaning. My experience of people I know and observe is different from yours.
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    Apr 17 2014: This is a consumer age. From birth citizens are indoctrinated with the practice of consuming items in order to "make their lives better", often electrically. More and more viewers are choosing reality shows over their own reality. The mantra seems to be "convenience over effort" to the point that more people are choosing fast food over making their own.

    Sure there are still people who are engaged in both their lives and the world around them. But before we had all our electronic distractions a much greater percentage of folks were actively engaged in the world around them than we see today. Primarily because they did not have the conveniences to distract them that we enjoy today.

    I am one of those who was actually there 50 years ago. I remember a childhood filled from morning till evening outside engaged in the community and my peers and the totality of the environment climbing trees, hills and even buildings; laughing, cycling, running and falling; sporting bruises, wounds and scabs as proof of that engagement. In fact, both adults and the kids generally knew everyone in the neighbourhood as well.

    I don't see much of that today, except in the "gangs" that develop where their is no neighbourhood consciousness and which is contributed to by high rise anonymity. .
    • Apr 18 2014: Your childhood and mine were very similar. Playing the sport 'de jour', fishing, biking, going where you wern't suppose to go, building forts, shooting bb guns, and pretty much figuring out how to keep yourself from being bored. Going to your parents and telling them you were bored was a sure fire way to get chores assigned.

      You were home in tie for dinner, had very limited time to watch TV, only rarely had soda or went out to eat and Waited for days to see the Sears Wishbook at Christmas time. There were S&H Green Stamps and Gold bond stamps, Savings bonds sold in school and...here is a biggy...you treated every adult with respect, because if you didn't, your parents knew before you got home and there was a price to be paid, well before there was any worry of having social service show up.

      It was a different time. I knew all the people on my block, and many on adjacent blocks, I knew where most of the kids in my class lived, and I knew where the limits of exploration around my neighborhood were. If I spent too much time on the phone or in front of the TV, I lost the privilege. They were not technological rights. If I didn't behave, the ever present threat was restriction or reform school, not a trip to the psychiatrist or therapy of some kind.
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    Apr 17 2014: I think there always were those that did something and other that were just spectators.
    Even back at the time of Roman gladiators, some were fighting in the arena while many more were watching.
    Somebody has to produce something to watch, otherwise there wouldn't be any spectators. In other words there always will be people that are more active and others that are more passive.
    Even sitting on the computer, not everything is being a spectator. For example while I'm writing this post I'm a participant. Even people spending hours online playing video games are participants (and spectators at the same time).
    Finally answering your question, no, I don't think that we become spectators in life.
    • Apr 18 2014: Thanks for your response.

      With electronics, we can record and playback prior events, so while there were producers at one time, the number of producers needed is being reduced by shared records. There is also a new generation of virtual producers, killing zombies, getting to the 50th level of some game,or just watching what others have posted.

      Are we trading real life experiences for new virtual ones? What will be the effect of this decision?
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        Apr 18 2014: The participation of virtual life experiences is probably increasing (a gut feeling because I have no data on that) vs. real life experiences. However, at some point, virtual life experiences just become a part of real life. It's just different from what we were used to 50 years ago.
        I also think the better virtual reality technology becomes the more this virtual reality will be part of our lives.
        Maybe, one day in the not so far future, instead traveling from point A to B to visit your mother you both just plug into a virtual reality enabled device and meet in a 3D virtual reality setting.
        I don't see anything negative in that per se. It's just that the way we interact with other people and even with our surrounding will be different from what it was in the past.
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        Apr 28 2014: Absolutely agree with Robert.
  • Apr 25 2014: No. We (if by "we" you mean the majority of humanity) are not becoming spectators instead of participants. We have always been spectators instead of participants.

    This is a vital distinction. If you think it's wrong for us to be spectators, you have to define the correct problem. The solution to the problem of "how to return us to being participants" would be quite different from the solution to "how to make us cease being what we have always been and become participants, instead".
    • Apr 25 2014: Thanks for the response. I agree we spend a lot of time watching and observing, but the percentage of this time spent learning vs just being entertained is a distinction I want to make here.

      There was time when human survival took full use and active participation in the present. Those that did not meet this challenge, or chose to spectate in life, were dealt with harshly by both men and nature.

      Enter civilization.

      Increasingly, the percentage of what a person can do in one day required for basic survival has been reduced. What is done with this extra time (self improvement, sports or exercise, help others, doing more to save for future use, or personal entertainment) is the subject of my observation. I believe the choice of entertainment is increasingly the choice, thus involving becoming spectators.

      Is it wrong to spectate, no.
      Is it wrong to spectate when you can participate? Maybe or Maybe not
      Is it wrong to spectate when you should participate? Yes.
      Is it important that you know and understand the difference between the 'can' circumstances and the 'should' circumstances? Yes.

      If you can stop a tragedy, prevent an injury or loss, or even help someone, it seems to me that you should have an ethical responsibility to try.

      If your choice to spectate rather than work comes while you are still dependent on someone else for your survival, then you have not achieved adulthood. I will caveat this by saying that there are special circumstances such as health issues, handicaps, or similar things that prevent you from being full participant.

      Correcting the problem identified would involve leaving your phone in your pocket when you are in the presence of other people and engaged in conversation; limiting your time spent gaming until you were an adult an providing for your own needs to an amount that enabled you to learn and experience what is needed for success in life; Including exercise in the balance of your entertainment; and taking action when appropriate.
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    Apr 21 2014: Hi Robert, Your question caught my eye, as I have times where I have felt many of the things that you spoke about. I started a conversation which had a slightly similar tone, and the responses also shared some similarities with regard to the idea of not turning a blind eye when we see a situation that we may be able to improve with a little effort. This was that conversation: http://www.ted.com/conversations/21706/why_is_it_that_other_people_s.html

    Anyway, what I had learned from all of the wonderful people that took time to give me their input, was that this world is changing whether we like it or not. And it is our choice as individuals to make the decisions that we can live with. I too was a kid in the 60's and it was common to to trust out neighbors. In fact I don't ever remember having a key, as our home was not locked. And I truly believe that it was a calmer, safer and more friendly place in time. But I also wonder if it only felt that way because we were somewhat unaware of the real world. As far as TV, we were exposed to what our parents allowed us to watch. I remember that on weekday mornings, there was lots of chat between people about what happened on M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore, Sony & Cher or Carol Burnett the night before. It brought people together through a common experience as most likely watched since there were only 5 other channels. On the contrary, there are so many channels today that the chance of connecting about what we saw last night is rather unlikely. But they were not perfect either...I specifically remember watching Friends, and hearing that the six cast members demanded a million each per episode, and while the show was cute, I often thought about how much good that money would do to help so many.

    But with regard to the seedy shows on today, I disagree with the risk of gaining acceptance. I have watched hoarders and Honey Boo Boo and Jerry Springer and the only reaction I get is to clean, read and appreciate my "normal" life.
    • Apr 25 2014: Amy, Thank you for the reply. We agree on the point that the world and its inhabitants are always changing. My question was intended to provoke some thought and hopefully follow-on conversations that considered my observation that we are becoming more watchers, observers, or audience members is some form, rather than people of independent thought and action.

      I have long held the belief that work ethic and intelligence need to be coupled in order a person to become successful, and that work ethic in general is on the decline in our country. I also think we have become paralyzed by fear of doing something wrong or taking on the risk of not being right. Vertical thinking seems to be so engrained in our culture that lateral thinkers are few and far between. Now back to the observation of being observers, if you couple the work ethic observation with the fear of doing something wrong or taking risk, with the tendency to observe rather than participate in real time events, then you start to see a disturbing passive shift in our culture. To me it is disturbing because I see the strength of the nation as being the willingness of its people to get involved, do, take on challenges, work through adversity, and make their own happiness.

      My last observation is this, many of the people I am describing are potentially the most brilliant people of their generation. When the best and brightest people choose to not get involved with people or events in front of them, then they have made a decision that the virtual world is more pleasant to live in than the real world, leaving what happens in the real world to those that choose to focus their time and energy in the real world.

      Both worlds are full of great opportunities and vast amounts of knowledge. Today's adults need to function in both worlds. My observation hopefully points to a potential imbalance that may carry some long-term consequences unless the imbalances is recognized and corrected.
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        Apr 25 2014: Robert, I could not agree more about work ethic being so important for success. I was told by my parents when I got my first job at the age of 15 (as a waitress) that I needed to go in, on time everyday whether or not I "felt like it". I also remember getting my first bank statement and sitting down with my mother and hearing her explain how to read it. She pointed to the balance and said "If you tell the boss you want to work more, this will go up, and if you don't it will go down." Pretty simple explanation, and yet it said so much. Other lessons included delayed gratification, saving for something I really wanted, and making sure there is an "emergency fund" so that I could feel both independent and proud of myself. I don't hear much of that today. I see kids living in their parents basements until they are thirty, waiting in line for the latest iphone the day it goes on sale, and spending more on sneakers than I paid for my first car, all the while complaining about their job - if they even have one. Of course, there is also the group that want something for nothing. This includes otherwise intelligent young ladies who live in section 8 housing, collect food stamps and receive benefits for their children who are on SSI after being labeled with some "disability" such as ADD. I was an active and sometimes unruly child, and nobody gave my mother a check because of it. But now, everybody is suddenly on SSI, and the lawyer commercials don't help. They are a new generation who work harder at not working and finding loopholes in the system than anyone I have ever met that did work. And I will probably get lots of negative feedback for picking on the poor babies, but, like other observations, if we see it and do nothing, we are no better than they are. There is an elephant in the room Robert, and it is spoiled, lazy and thinks that the world owes it something. So, what do we do? You've got drive and ideas so.....tell me.... what do we do?
        • Apr 25 2014: Amy, As you might guess, it took a while to get here and it will take a while to correct the issues. Here are a few ideas:

          1) Lead by example. Do all you can with your life, do not seek to get all you can from others.
          2) Teach young people how to enjoy work and take pride in work. Recognize good work, perhaps praise excellent work, but allow some of the reward for doing good work to be pride.
          3) Allow children to have failures and learn to pull themselves back up form the low ebbs in life. Be there to encourage, support, and guide, but make them do the work.
          4) Teach them to face adversity and unknowns with courage, commitment and character. There will be triumphs and failures, but either way they faced adversity.
          5) Be responsive to the personal best of children, relative to groups scores, high or low. Focus on improvement and teach them how to critic themselves, the quality of their own works, and care about the products.
          6) Do not be an enabler for idle behaviors like sloth and laziness. Remove the comforts that permit this to occur and see that they can meet their own basic survival needs.
          7) Encourage volunteering to help other people. You learn a great deal about yourself with every experience.
          8) Ask about dreams, goals and aspirations. Help lay out a path to achieve them with planning and talk. Encourage and motivate.
          9) Look for ways to connect with your kids. Communications links early in life help when the discussions are more serious and adult.
          10)Never give up on your kids, nor let them give up on themselves. Find the good, identify the good, nurture the good. It will grow.

          I am sure other folks and other posts will add to these.
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    Apr 20 2014: I know of someone who posted photos from google images on his facebook of places/foods/activities, feigning his own participation. He chose to hide behind the façade of his computer screen and find the "perfect" image in order to gain social approval, rather than go out and actually experience life. Although this saddens me, and frustrates me, I'm sure that he is not alone in this act.

    I work with children and it hurts me to see what their priorities are, even at 7 years old. "What are you going to do this weekend, young child?" " play minecraft on my ipad!" We cannot ignore or hide from the changing landscape of technology and media, but parents and teachers need to take a more active role in instilling more "old-fashioned" values in our children. Kids are naturally curious, creative, and excited about life. There seems to be a direct correlation between increasing in age and decreasing in the previously mentioned traits. The fact that things have not always been this way is proof that this is not an inherently human issue, but rather a sign of the times.
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    Apr 19 2014: Absolutely. As a wildlife biologist who has been fortunate to have visited and worked all over the U.S., Central America, South America, and the Southern Ocean, I am often disappointed with passive rather than proactive approach to life and solving life's problems. There seems to be a 'not my problem' complex these days, especially with college-aged generation, as I experienced leading a U.S. study-abroad program. A professor of mine once said, 'There are 'WE' people, and then there are 'I' people.'. We don't have enough 'WE'.

    If you'd like to help me get involved with a solving a problem, I've applied to win a spot aboard a marine debris research expedition with the 5 Gyres Institute. They are a tremendous group dedicating to resolving the issue of garbage in our oceans, and they work all over on marine debris issues. They are giving away a trip to assist with this research. If you'd like to help me out, please visit this site (below) and look for the video thumbnail that matches my profile image (sea lion on a beach). I've been looking for work for over a year, and I'm not about to give up on my passion to work on improving this planet! THANK YOU! I will definitely pay it forward...!

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    Apr 18 2014: it's a very simplified question but it kind of taps into the very thing that is being discussed - people have a very generic, simple view of the world.

    it's gotten worse because of network media presenting a very slim slice of reality but i think people have always had a selective view of the world.

    social interaction has a new facet but I don't think the basics have changed.

    for me, there is no cultural hierarchy so, just as classical music is no better than pop music, so it is with leisure choices.

    i think there are people that still believe that reading a book is a "higher" pursuit than TV, film or video gaming. of course, this assumes that all books are high quality, which is simply not true.

    although i personally think that most of the technology on sale these days is little more than technology of convenience, i don't think it's having an adverse affect on people any more than the printing press, radio and telephones did in their heyday.

    measuring the quality of an experience is best done by the person in question and people are going to have different opinions about what is valuable and what is not.
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    Apr 17 2014: There is more to life then accidents and tragedies, our reactions to those events are only a small part of life. Falling in love, being self-reliant, being an active parent, are just a few ways people participant in life.

    I do have to agree with you, many people do seem to be wasting much of their lives pointlessly.
    But maybe it only looks that way from my limited point of view.
    For example I went to a pro baseball game the other day, and all I could think was if the 30+ thousand fans there would done something productive with the time how much better the city would be. Imagine if 30+ thousand spent 6 hours cleaning-up a slum area or working a garden. But to them they likely saw it as participating in life.
    I can’t say I know for sure who is right, or who is wrong?
    • Apr 18 2014: I agree. My gut tells me that time spent in none productive activities will eventually reduce the rate at which mankind advances and solves the big problems of the day. The introvertedness, lethargy, and idle time will lead to a weaker nation, push starting a family further too the right, and create a generation fraught with substance abuse, mental health problems, and in physical decline to the extent life expectancy declines.

      There will be exceptions, but I am thinking the average will start to follow the trends I mentioned.

      I was hoping that if we discuss it and perhaps call attention to it, we can start changing the behavior and reduce the future impact some of these issues.
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    Apr 30 2014: .
    We are.

    We will lose our instinct of symbiosis soon.
    (Symbiosis let us survive)
  • Apr 27 2014: Depends on several factors:

    1. 50 years ago the only way to get your message out was to demonstrate and get the media to cover you. Today with social media, you can get the word out to a very large audience without a demonstration.
    2. we have gotten older, by that I mean the average age of people dying has increased. The greatest increase, imho, has occurred in the section of the population that was most socially active.
    3. I think the bad behavior is shown more in media and social media - was always there just not as visible.
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    Apr 25 2014: Robert, I am afraid that the people that need this wonderful advice the most are not likely on TED. Children lead by example. Here is a post from a while back that I wrote about this very subject.


    As you can see, I believe the same things that you do. I encouraged my son to do his best, and cheered him on with each effort. Here is my son today......


    But my concern is about getting this message to people that don't know these wonderful guidelines that you listed and can use this help. And I wish I knew what to do here and now and how to navigate a way be the change I want to see.

    I will keep an eye out for other posts on this subject. Thanks.
    • Apr 26 2014: I think if you surveyed many of the most successful people in the world you would find that work ethic was one of the things they would consider essential.

      Congrats to your family on the success of your son.

      I do not have an answer as to the best method to deliver the message. I can say my plan is to continue to offer advice in response to questions on TED as my free time allows, look for opportunities to help younger folks when they will accept it, mentor when asked, and try and continue to try and live by the values I believe will lead to success and happiness for me, my family, and our nation.
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    Apr 23 2014: There is dynamism in the 'becoming' of every human being. So far, some are 'spectators', some are 'participants'; some are becoming one or the other. Some live a purpose driven life, some are just mere tossed here and there by popular opinion/culture.

    Some are agents of change, some are overwhelmed by life and remain pitiful and helpless.

    It is also amusing that some are suffering in resignation and loving every bit of it.
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    Apr 21 2014: Robert, I wanted to add a little observation about your question. I find it ironic that you mentioned spending time in front of the computer, when we are all doing just that on TED. I can assume that we have all viewed some of the TED talks as well. Now, while TED was certainly not around in the 60's when you and I were out playing, I believe that this is one of many "sit and watch" venues that is both educational and interesting. And the conversations lead to contact with others who share, care, uplift, inspire and make us feel a connection on issues that are of interest and concern to us. It has a way of bringing people together with common ideas - on the spot - whever we have the desire to join in. This kind of experience was impossible before the internet. So, in some ways, while we lost that chit chat time with our neighbors, or other parents, communicating with others has its way of remaining a big part of our lives in other ways. I personally look out for certain names commenting within a conversation and know when I read their comment it will almost certainly be positive and encouraging. (like Fritzie and Collen) It feels like seeing an old friend. My point is that while I too long for the "good old days", the reality is that time moves on and things are ever changing, and we need to roll with the changes, in the best way we can find to do so, or they will roll over us!
    • Apr 25 2014: Again, agree that there has been change in communications types and that they are new and very powerful, exciting and seductive. I too look for some of the same names for interesting posts (including Winn).

      I enjoyed the simplicity of the good old days, but I do not long for them. I realize we have made some trade-offs by advancing our communications options giving us more power at our fingertips than we ever had in prior generations.

      As I mentioned below, the point of the question and the observation is to show what I believe to be a growing imbalance between the virtual and real world options as people choose the simplicity and linear expression of the virtual world over the multi-faceted and hard problems of the real world. I do not believe the virtual world is place where we should stick our heads like an ostrich putting his head in a hole, and believe everything is fine.

      Yes, there is a certain amount of irony in my post since we are exploiting on of the very good things about the virtual world with TED and the ability to converse with people from different parts of the world that we have never met.

      It sounds like we have both seen real world evolve from the 60's and the birth and growth of the virtual world.

      What a great time to be alive!

      However, I think it may be incumbent upon our generation to make sure those that have grown up substantially immersed in the virtual world realize the importance of balancing between the two worlds and being participants...not just spectators in BOTH worlds!
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    Apr 20 2014: Robert, I once read that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. That was some time ago .. its called Pareto's Principle. It was a economic observation that everyone tried to apply to all situations.

    I will not try to justify the numbers. However, see if you agree with the following: At church there are the same few who are always the organizers, arrangers, go getters. I call them the "go to group". .... At the school the same thing occurs. The same moms bake, help in class, read, donate, attend, etc ... the same dads volunteer to coach, drive, etc .... At town meetings there are the same core groups that we all depend on and seek their advice on civic and political events.

    Now if you accept the above ... you may note that about ten of the people from each of the groups are in attendance at each of the events mentioned ... Church, school, and town events. This lends credibility to the 20 / 80 thought. It does not credit the 10 or so people that these folks use behind the scenes. Each go to person has a group that they depend upon for support. We tend to discount them and accept the faces we "see" all the time.

    Kinda like a movie ... wasn't Handsome Harry and Lovely Lois great ... they get the credit and thousands did the work.

    What I do see as the major difference of 50 years ago and now is the willingness to evaluate and investigate issues. When we went to town on Saturday the men gathered and discussed crops, politics, and all the events that occured since last Saturday ... discussion today seem to be shallow and taken as fact. Want a "free cell phone" tell them this and you qualify .. want food stamps .. here is what they look for ... want "free" Health Care ... answer thgis way.

    I framed it like this on purpose. Groups 50 years ago .. what is good for the country and all of us. TODAY: It is about me ... what do I get from it and how will I be effected.

    Some lead, some follow, some along for the ride.

    • Apr 20 2014: Thanks Bob! Great post!

      Relative to your 20/80 thought, there is a subset in the 80 group that seems to be climbing. Somehow, if someone in the 80% group finds a flaw in something done by someone in the 20% group and chooses to point it out, then other members of the 80% group start to believe this person has some sort of control over the situation. A couple bad things happen. First, this person has never done the work and yet is looked to as a leader by others never having done the work. Second, it sets a precedent for others to find flaws rather than do work, as a means of becoming a leader. This weakens the group.

      I remember in economics there was a curve called a Laffer curve that described the motivation to earn the extra dollar as a function of taxation rate. Similarly, I think there might be some sort of relationship between doing the work to make something happen and standing around and criticizing what is done, what isn't done, and postulating what should be done, relative to ascending to positions of power and control. Dissension among a workforce is nothing new, but the tolerance for opinions and credence given to conjecture coming from those who are not in the 20% of people making things happen is far greater now than it was 50 years ago. It has become unfashionable and somehow cruel to expect everyone to work and perform before their opinions are counted for much. These may be good ideas, but they are not gospel or even proven true.

      The new electronic world has put the power of mass communication into the hands of anyone capable of learning how to use the technology. Correspondingly, the masses are being subjected to these opinions and philosophies, as well as those who are members of the 20%. The problem is that our ability to distinguish between the two opinions and apply appropriate value judgements to what is being bloviated is very limited by the sound bites and lack of supporting evidence given.

      Doing and experience can help fix this issue
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        Apr 20 2014: The Laffer Curve was updated and documented by the Romer's.

        Thanks for the reply. I am a big fan of learning. Bob.
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    Apr 19 2014: Something that benefits you.
    Something that benefits others.
    Something that does not involve money.
    Something that can be practiced at any age.
    Something that requires everyone involved to take full responsibility for their actions.
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    Apr 18 2014: Something else that is different from 50 yeas ago and is often missing from the entertainment industry. While we hear a constant barrage of "rights" these days, yet we seldom hear any mention of the responsibilities that came with those rights any more. 50 years ago the responsibilities took precedence a lot more often. Fast, there are no legislated "rights" that don't also come with responsibilities regarding the care and maintenance of those rights.
  • Apr 18 2014: Our environment and tools are changing, people are just as crazy as they always were. It has occurred to me that sometimes I expect way to much from humans, after all they are just animals. It is simply unrealistic to expect an animal (no matter how much training it has been exposed to) to not act like an animal at least some of the time and definitely under huge amount of stress. We all reap what we sow.
    "No one saves us but ourselves. We ourselves must walk the path"- Buddha
  • Apr 17 2014: As predicted we are moving to Brave New World.May be in thousand years we will not need bodies just brain box and still experience more than we ever did or experienced.

    We are just puppet in the scheme of the Universe where we think we do things of our own will but we do not have free wheel. It is illusion of DNA.
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    Apr 17 2014: well, people can play games and have social time on the internet, correct?
  • Apr 16 2014: Life expectancy has increased since 50 years ago so we have more life to lose, now, so we are more what's the word? Spectator-ish?