Ever since listening devices were found at Democratic Party HQ in Washington’s Watergate building, the suffix “gate” has been appended to high-level scandals. But it was not until 2013 that the conspiracy that brought down a US president was equated with see-through yoga pants. This week, pant designer Lululemon told latter-day Woodward and Bernsteins it had recovered from ‘Sheergate’. A cover-up that worked.
Selecting only 3 good reads this weekend has been a challenge. Given the plethora of sharing around the passing of Singapore’ Lee Kuan Yew, I could probably select 3 from that theme alone. But wanting to spread the wealth, here are 3 reads which I hope add some richness to your morning.
1. The Wise Man of the East. Economist has published what I believe is one of the more thoughtful remembrances of of Lee Kuan Yew. Given the caricature of Singapore so often found in western media and minds, this article offers good insight on what Singapore’s first Prime Minister has accomplished.
2. A better understanding of cybershaming. Jon Ronson has published a new book titled So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed and it appears to be a thoughtful work. In this interview, Ronson looks at folks like Monica Lewinsky, Justine Sacco, and Lindsey Stone whose behaviors have brought upon them tremendous public shane, scorn, and even death threats. Centerstage in Ronson’s inquiry you find the behaviors of everyday people–basically good people doing their part in society day in and day out–who heap tremendous hurt and pain onto those deemed guilty of some unspeakable crime.You all know what I mean. Look at your Facebook feed. Who are the people in that feed delivering daily posts telling us how wrong someone else’s choices are, how stupid someone else must be, or how ignorant some party is–all in the tone that the author is somehow superior, in the know, or better positioned to be judge and jury. I am sure you most likely have one of these people in your newsfeed.Now multiply that same basic behavior by hundreds of thousands of people across many continents, merge it all into a herd mentality, and try to imagine what it must be like to be on the receiving end.
Ronson makes what I believe is a fairly good point. Social media has enabled a certain behavior set similar to that practiced by the Stasi (neighbor watching neighbor then shaming). Given the speed with which we eagerly and with a smile screen capture someone’s less-than-finest moment and broadcast it beyond that person’s network makes me think Ronson offers a lesson we should be thinking about.
3. Exhaustion is not a Status Symbol. Last for this weekend, does overwork and exhaustion create a certain numbness that allows us conveniently overlook other parts of our lives? Do we then justify this numbness by wearing it as a badge of pride about how hard we work and the excesses of our accomplishment? A darned good question, and a final read worth your while.
Have a great weekend!
This week, upon the passing of Lee Kuan Yew, I share different views I gathered in obituaries from around the world, and the evolution of my own thoughts about Singapore’s founding father. In short, part of his brilliance and success was genuinely knowing what it took to read the context, govern in Singapore, and build the nation.
This item has been siting on my desktop for a couple days, but happy to finally share some of the latest Pew research insights. The Pew Research Center surveyed thousands of people across 32 emerging and developing nations about their technology use and how the rising influence of the internet affects their daily lives. But beyond the larger findings, we found some notable data points about specific countries that might have been lost in the fray.
1. Chinese internet users love to shop. About half of online Chinese (52%) have used the internet to buy products in the past 12 months. Given the size of the online Chinese marketplace, this goes a long way in explaining the meteoric rise of commerce giants such as Alibaba and Baidu.
2. Filipinos love social networking. Among adult internet users in the Philippines, 93% say that they use social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. This is the highest such percentage across the emerging and developing countries surveyed and greater than the 74% of internet users in the U.S. who use social networking sites. Roughly seven-in-ten of those Filipino social networkers use these platforms to share views about music and movies, while half talk about sports.
- What We Should Be Telling Children about College Admissions. College admissions madness. It’s the time of the year I am surrounded by eyesores telling me how many students get a job offer before graduation, how much money they earn, and more. This article finds a rare center of gravity that should help us all understand what is really important about getting our kids into college.
- My Friend’s Tragic Run of Depression. The author makes a personal and important point we all need to understand–depression is an illness, not a character flaw. The touching way in which he leads us to this point, however, is the real journey worth sharing. Take a few minutes to read this one.
- If an Algorithm Wrote This, How Would You even Know? I read recently that 47% of existing and well paying jobs will be subject to competitive pressure from computers using algorithms to do the same work (and cheaper). Here is an example of how writers are about to be subject to the pressure, and is worth a read too.
Their warning was directed at the influential heads of technology companies, such as the Silicon Valley giants, who were told they needed to recognise that self-regulation will not be sufficient to stave off mounting public alarm about issues such as privacy.
“Self-regulation, no matter what you do, is just not going to be good enough [for tech companies],” said Paul Achleitner, chairman of the supervisory board of Deutsche Bank. Addressing the Davos economic forum, he pointed out that a self-regulatory approach had been previously employed by banks — but notably failed to quell a political backlash against their over-reach.
The lessons in the following quote go far beyond the uses of social media. Food for thought on many levels.
The Story of Echo and Narcissus
“The challenge of advertising on social media now reminds me of the Greek myth of Echo and Narcissus. Echo was a nymph who had been cursed with an affliction: She couldn’t speak except to repeat what others said to her. One day, she fell in love with Narcissus and hid in the woods waiting for him to notice her. When he called out to some friends, she called back, and he asked her to show herself. Unfortunately for Echo, he rejected her immediately upon seeing her (at which point she ran off, gradually wasting away until only her voice remained—the mountain’s echo). Narcissus continued to attract other wood nymphs, all of whom he briefly entertained before scorning and rejecting them too. Nobody matched his beauty, and so he though no one was worthy of his affection. Eventually, though, Narcissus did fall in love—with his own reflection in a pool of water.
What is social media, really, if not a modern-day equivalent of the reflecting pool where Narcissus saw himself? When people share on social media, aren’t their posts specifically designed to demonstrate to others how wonderful they are and how much fun they are having—to show that they matter? Selfies are perhaps the most obvious example of this trend. As Echo mistook the call from Narcissus to be an indication of interest, marketers mistake “likes” as indications of meaningful interest. But they’ve found themselves similarly rejected as the “likes” fail to translate to more profits.”
Being the first full week of January, I am guessing many of us are making some effort to act on good intentions and follow through with our new year resolution(s). But, can we really change? Can we build new habits?
To begin answering this question, I turned to Science of Us and found some interesting articles. First, let’s look at personality. As we try to change, can our personality change? Here is what Science of Us wrote.
“[William] James is the groundbreaking Harvard psychologist whose 1890 text The Principles of Psychology is thought to be the first time modern psychology observed the idea that personality settles down, or stabilizes, in adulthood. “In most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster, and will never soften again,” reads one of its most quoted lines.
In the century since James wrote these words, a bulk of empirical evidence has proven him right — to a point. As Little likes to phrase it, it’s more like our personalities are “half-plastered” by the time we enter our fourth decade: Yes, much of the way we behave is influenced by our core personality traits, which, research has shown, have a rather strong genetic component and therefore are pretty stable throughout our lives. And most research, not to mention common sense, suggests that though we change a lot in adolescence and our early twenties, these changes slow down once we enter adulthood But, Little argues, we can also choose to act against our natures. Our basic personality traits don’t really change. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change and behave in ways that are opposite to our true selves, when the situation calls for it.”
OK, so the core of our personality does not really change, but we can manage our behaviors and even build new habits that may seem in some ways counter to our personality. So, how hard is it to build these new habits? Once again, over to Science of Us.
“In the spirit of the “New Year, New You” season, here is a gentle reminder about habit formation as it applies to resolutions: Contrary to the colloquial wisdom and despite what certain apps and books would have you believe, it does not really take 21 days to form a new habit. So that shiny new behavior you’re trying to adopt — eating breakfast every morning, going to the gym after work, or whatever — probably won’t have really set in by the 21st of January, and there’s no need to despair if it hasn’t. Instead, at least according to one interesting piece of recent research (which, by the way, I’ve written about before), it could be tough going until March: It takes 66 days, on average, to form a new habit.
Incidentally, the health behavior that was toughest for people to do automatically was exercise; that’s not entirely surprising, as it’s a more complex action than drinking water with a meal. Overall, these findings are a reminder to be a little patient with yourself if sticking to your New Year’s resolution is feeling a little harder than you initially thought it would.”
So, it’s going to take a little discipline. My resolution has a lot to do with running, and that will not be as easy as going to bed 30 minutes earlier each night. But on the bright side, at least the research suggests that such is possible if I can be disciplined and stick with it.
I was surprised to learn what a big role Asian markets are playing in the design, testing, and further development of EdTech. Upon reading the stats, which I share in this week’s podcast, the surprise faded away. The decision to test and develop EdTech makes perfect sense in these markets. Hit the play button, below, to find out why Asia offers the perfect test markets.