The Network We Need

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I can say with 99.99% certainty that if you are reading this, you may have a need for a new network, but it may not be a network service provider that you would normally consider. I’m not referring to ISPs for the fastest download connections, but rather the grid that brings you energy to power your laptop, tablet, or other mobile device. For such a technologically centered society, we rely on a tenuous network of wires to make sure all our energy needs are met. If we are to advance, we may need to consider some alternative networks and evaluate what makes an effective network for a vital utility.

After reading another article on the subject of smart grids from TechCrunch, I recall the necessity for a better system each time the lights flicker or go out for extended periods. We’re only two years on from a devastating hit during Hurricane Sandy, but I recall outages of all sizes, including in 2003 when the Eastern seaboard of Canada and the US went out because a tree limb overloaded a line. The strength of a network, as in a chain, is only as strong as the weakest link, and we need to consider how to add redundancies for increased effectiveness in a crisis. Some of the recommendations from this article include very sensible steps, but may not go far enough to cover what we need. Renewable energy and smart meters are only part of the solution as the network infrastructure must be responsive to unplanned events.

In the next stage of networked grids, a homeowner will have a multi-stage system to keep the lights on. Renewable energy collection from solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal sources will come into a home and power all needed consumption during normal operation. Smart meters will also direct the electricity to other areas around the local grid as demand rises and falls. One challenge today is that if there is an outage, solar panels and other energy collection sources shut down to prevent overloads and shock hazards. If there is excess energy, a future grid might benefit from enhanced battery capacities or other energy storage such as stored potential energy such as producing hydrogen through electrolysis. If one pocket of users goes down, a resilient network will be able to maintain itself while repairs are made to the smaller affected area much like today’s holiday lights with one burnt out bulb no longer affecting the entire string of lights.

From a technology perspective, as well as a communication or Millennial perspective, the need for and benefits of this system would work to bridge the gaps in the system. We may not see ourselves as constantly connected in a wider system, but it helps get a focus on the bigger picture. If I can make sure I have power, and my neighbors are safe in an outage, then my neighborhood is protected from a potential crisis. Technology of all kinds, especially social media, makes us feel we are in control and able to reach anyone. However, if that system goes down, we don’t have the redundancies to see us through a crisis. By building in redundancies now and helping connect us with others in our society, it may serve to keep the lights on as well as grow the world community we wish to have.


Share your thoughts on interconnected grids and communication. How do you share the power?

Image Is Everything

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and related phrases may be going out of vogue as a new app tries to change the market and change the way we think about communication and engagement. The app, Looksery, takes video chatting to a new level by promising a way to create a personal avatar that you can adjust to change physical characteristics. Do you want a different eye color? Care to slim your bone structure? Have a blemish that just won’t go away? The app may help change certain physical features for the moment, but there are far reaching concerns amid the promise of self design.

Some Millennials, and the cohort that followed us, have spent so much time growing up with screen time that they seem to lag behind others in their communication competencies and ease of face to face contact.  This does not mean we can’t communicate, but the various skills and cues one uses in face to face conversations in person are unique to that kind of contact as online phrases and meaning are unique to digital life. Adding one more way to curate our personal image would not be a negative thing save for the lack of focus on interpersonal communication and engaging with others.

This app reminds me of an episode of The Jetsons. Jane (the wife/mother) gets a phone call from a friend, but because this cartoon takes place in the future, it’s a video call rather than a standard telephone. During the conversation, each participant speaks to the other while holding up a mask as they did not have time earlier to apply makeup or style their hair. A comedic moment occurs as one of the masks falls, but it says something of our society when we are so afraid of showing our frailties, blemishes, or true self. The concern that this app will be that next step of concealing our true selves may be unfounded, but we should remain mindful of the possibility. The digital advances which connect us so easily, have widened the gaps in our real connections, and we must find ways to both protect and share our true selves with our desired contacts. Image may be important, but we should focus on the relationship connection over appearances that fade and change with time.

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Are you anxious to change your video persona? Share your thoughts and continue the conversation.

Where’s My 3am Friend?

Digital Alarm Clock

It’s 3 am. Do you need a friend?

It’s 3 am.

And for some reason you are awake.

Now unless you are shuffling between your bathroom and your bed or wrapping up a night shift on the job, this is somewhat of an inconvenient time to be awake for many people. Our society is focused on daytime systems, and those with insomnia or major problems in the wee hours have a hard time with it.

That is, unless you have someone to depend on at 3 in the morning. Those folks are what I like to refer to as 3 am friends. I’ve been fortunate to never need a kidney or bone marrow, but these folks whether blood relation or not, would probably step up to the plate because they value our friendship, and they are just good people.

Millennials don’t seem to have a lack of friends as our social media apps describe us, but we may be feeling the effects of fluid friendships all too well. I use the term “fluid friendships” because I happened to have many friends as I went through school. I would not have characterized myself as popular; I define popularity by the number of people that seek to be your friend. I had friendships based on my ability to work within different circles and connect positively; I had to make an effort and got friendship as the reward. These friendships may not have had the depth of other friendships I’ve maintained, but I had a wide circle of people who would include me as a friendly person. As other Millennials have experienced the same situation, what will happen when we need someone at 3 am?

Taking a page from our predecessors, we should cultivate friendships throughout our lifetimes. Boomers and X-ers had to do social networking before social networks, and the connections people share over small things helped to build a community of support when larger needs arose. You could call this a survival strategy, or you could call it a common goal, but here are some tips to assist in building and maintaining those rare 3 am friendships:

1. Connecting has more to do with real connections than internet connections. Take time to acknowledge your friends with phone calls, cards,  or gatherings. Social media isolates people, and the fun times are usually when you are hanging out together.

2. Learn to live in the now. Some friendships pick up right where they left off and others seem stuck in the past. Don’t hold onto past issues if a person seems ready to address things and move forward. Life feels much better when we have less emotional baggage to carry.

3. Be prepared for the unknown. Most times I reach out to folks, I can get through without too much issue or delay. For the times that someone is unreachable or plans change unexpectedly, take it in stride and plan for the future. Friendships should and can endure interruptions, and it’s up to all the people involved to make an effort. This is especially true when something comes up or a person is very busy; a little common courtesy in communicating will strengthen the friendship and help everyone stay on the same page.

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Millennials are changing the world with our ability to forge relationships, but it takes time and effort to maintain these relationships. If you find yourself without many or any 3 am friends, it might be good to work on this in case you ever find yourself in need. By trying to empathize, communicate, share, and reciprocate, we can become that 3 am friend for others and in turn draw more people around us. It doesn’t mean we sacrifice our personal time or space, we increase these things to cover the people in our hearts. If everyone opens their friend circle a little bigger, it may help everyone who needs someone in this world.

Share your thoughts on friendship and Millennials. Tell your stories of the best thing a friend has done for you or maybe you did for someone else.

In Conflict – There Is Room For Solutions

Millennials have gotten a reputation as a generation that fears conflict.

I disagree. Want to fight about it?

But honestly, is there really a person on this planet who would like nothing more than to sow the seeds of discord? (If you raised your hand for that one, consider this was a rhetorical question, and better things happen when people work together.)

As a Millennial, I believe it is not a fear of conflict, but an adaptive strategy that makes our generation move away from fighting.

Before I go any further, I’d like to differentiate between small/general conflicts and larger social conflicts. People of all backgrounds can get riled up and speak out on issues that are important to their world view. Millennials are just as susceptible to larger conflicts according to their perspectives, but I’d venture to say the avoidance/resolution trait is still present.

When it comes to solving conflicts, Millennials have been raised on television and helicopter parents instilling the idea of playing nicely together. Some parents might be shocked at how much their children listened as many Millennials approach conflicts with a goal of resolution rather than escalation. This does not mean that we lack emotions or are wimps; Generation Y has evolved to see that fights rarely lead to positive outcomes, for either side. By coming to the table and trying to address the different facets of an issue, it may be possible to convince another person of our point of view, or speak to our desired outcome in a way that strengthens the odds in our favor. There must be concessions on both sides, but learning to see the world from another person is a great step forward for this generation.

As scientists study the human mind and ponder how we developed our cognitive prowess, Millennials show strong aptitude within the Theory of Mind; this states that a person is aware that other individuals have their own mind, feelings, biases, etc. As children, we learn that our actions can affect other people and their emotional state. As adults, we understand that the perspective of each person is shaped by many factors and we must be mindful of these factors when attempting to find mutual solutions. In essence, we find that honoring the individuality of personal experience leads to a more positive and beneficial group experience when working on conflict resolution.

There will be more posts speaking on conflict in the larger social justice concerns, but here are a few helpful tips if you find yourself dealing with a conflict in your daily life.

1. Remember that both you and the person you are in conflict with are people and are susceptible to emotions, memory, and perceptions. While we may feel we are probably right, we should not let our sureness cloud the possibility that we lack information, have incorrect information, or have yet to see a different perspective. This will work to level the playing field for a fair discussion.

2. Remove expressive emotion from your statements and avoid the blame game. By stating facts and using “I statements” (I feel this, when this happens), you will move the conversation away from agitation and emotion and towards mutual understanding.

3. Allow for cooling off periods. Sometimes people need time to gather their thoughts in order to communicate effectively, and doing this allows a calm approach to any topic. It is acceptable to agree on a time to reconvene if a break is required.

4. Remember that no matter the desired outcome, you and the person/s you speak with probably want a solution without continual conflict. Things may take time to change even if an agreement is reached, but if you keep trying, you will meet your goal. Use the shared vision as a motivator and then try to find more common ground for the best results.

Millennials: Working together through conflict, effectively.