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The Hyperconnectivity Paradox: Why Reaching People is Harder Than Ever

The Hyperconnectivity Paradox: Why Reaching People is Harder Than Ever

When I text my brother, I can usually expect a response in 2-3 days. I’ve never asked him why he’s so bad at responding. I figure it’s none of my business. When I receive a text or miss a call from my friend who lives in San Francisco—I live in Kentucky—I know that I only have about a minute to respond. If I take any longer, he will have already moved on with his life and, for the sake of wasted time, I should probably abandon any attempt to continue the conversation.

According to Facebook, they averaged 1.18 billion active daily users in September 2016. Twitter’s website (at the time of writing this article—Nov. 2016) says they have 313 million active users. In 2014, 8.5 Billion texts were sent each day in the U.S. alone! By 2018, it’s expected that people will receive 97 business related emails per day.

Then there’s old fashioned phone calls, diminishing but still relevant—the NSA said that in 2013 there were about 3 billion phone calls being made in the U.S. each day.

We are living through a digital revolution—a time of ever increasing hyperconnectivity—but somehow it doesn’t always feel that way.

Maybe it’s because only 22% of emails are ever opened—or the fact that the number of phone calls that go unanswered is increasing. When those calls go unanswered, 72% of callers don’t leave voicemails, which is probably smart because 80% of people say they don’t listen to them.

Contacting People We Know

Our social habits, when it comes to communication, are also in a revolution.

While I expect one friend to respond to all of my social media messages, texts, or phone calls, I don’t have the same expectations for everyone. That may because there is no universally accepted primary form of communication anymore. My grandma doesn’t text, my brother doesn’t write letters, my wife isn’t on Twitter, and one of my friends isn’t on Facebook. I remember—when my wife and I were planning our wedding—trying to collect people’s addresses to send out invitations. Besides letter writing, I had to use each of the aforementioned forms of communication to complete our list—plus phone calls—and, for some people, it took multiple messages before they responded.

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I don’t know how often my uncle checks his social media accounts, I don’t know my old coworker’s email address, and I don’t know the new cell phone numbers for all of my old high school friends. This meant that the best process was trial and error. If nobody responded on Facebook, or an old email address bounced, then I had to track down friends and family through other people.

Who has a home phone anymore? My family hasn’t had one for over 8 years. Furthermore,I have friends that I haven’t called in years but we text on a regular basis. Communication has changed.

Contacting Businesses

When I call my bank, I know the exact moment that I can interrupt the robo-operator by pressing “0”. While that gets me a little closer to my goal of talking to a live person, I still have to make a couple more numerical selections before I finally get placed on hold—because they are always “experiencing higher than normal call volume”—and wait for an actual person to help me.

I called the manufacturer of my microwave because it needed repair—it was almost 20 minutes before I got to talk to someone.

The pre-recorded message suggested several times that I go to the website to make a service appointment but I didn’t have the warranty information needed to make an appointment via the website. I needed to talk to a person—a small request, I thought, since I was reaching out to a multi-billion dollar company.  But, this is the way things are now. We live in the world of online chat support, FAQ pages, and automated emails.

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There are even websites like GetHuman.com that try to address this issue. Get Human’s tagline is “Get painless customer service.” On their site, you can enter the name of a company with whom you have an issue and Get Human will give you the best phone numbers and web pages to get your problem solved—or you can pay them to get it solved for you since dealing with company’s customer service processes is often difficult and time-consuming.

Many companies, especially in the tech industry, are abandoning phone numbers altogether. Try entering Facebook or Twitter into Get Human’s system and, while it will provide you with a number, the number is only a recording that directs you back to a website. This is of course, understandable for a company like Facebook with over a billion customers.

Contacting Prominent People

How many emails do you think Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, gets each day? I’ve emailed him. I didn’t expect a response and I didn’t get one. But I was able to find his email address—or at least one of his email addresses—and while I know there’s a 99 percent chance that it’s not actually Sir Richard Branson managing the account but an administrative assistant, since it exists, I figured it must serve some purpose. So why not try.

But if I found the address by engaging only a moderate amount of search-engine sleuthing skills, then so can millions of other people, and that seems to be the problem with hyperconnectivity—when we are all connected, the people whose attention is most in demand are overwhelmed with requests. It’s like a thousand swarms of bees all vying for the nectar of a single flower.

For the uber-famous, it’s an impossible endeavor to try to respond to every request for attention. There simply isn’t enough nectar for all the bees.

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I remember writing a letter to Michael Jordan as a child. Months later, I actually got a signed letter back. I have no idea if it was actually signed by MJ, but I got a response. There may be celebrities left with impressively responsive fan clubs but I’d venture to guess that a vast majority of fans aren’t writing letters these days.* They’re tagging celebrities in tweets and taking a chance with an unsolicited email.**

*It’s important to point out there is likely a big difference between response rates with fans and response rates to business inquiries directed at celebrities. **While probably impossible for Richard Branson, I can think of a couple celebrities that claim to personally respond to every email.

Contacting prominent people becomes then one of two things—the cliched ideas of rising above the noise or “it’s who you know”.

Look at Sir Richard Branson again—right now he has 8.7 million Twitter followers. That’s a lot of noise to overcome, but at least one man did it. He got creative. While most people were sending emails and tweets followed by prayer or strategic follow up messages, Joe Tannorella built a website. DearSirRichard.com was a personal message to Branson, disguised as a website. On the site Joe asked Branson if he would be willing to record a short clip to be played during his best man speech at his brother’s wedding—Branson was his brother’s hero. In the end, with the help of a few Twitter advertisements, it worked—Branson sent a personal message to Joe and his brother and Virgin Mobile reached out too, asking Joe to email them directly.

It seems one cliche begets the other—you need other people to help you rise above the noise. That’s why Joe put his personal contact information on the website and asked anybody with a connection to Branson to please forward his info and his request.

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Counting People

Compare the following two web pages:

http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/

One shows a live counter tracking the number of people in the world. The other shows a live counter tracking the number of people that have access to the internet. You’ll see that the latter is rising much faster. One day those numbers could meet and there are lots of people working to make that happen.  Google company X has Project Loon, Facebook has Internet.org—both projects aiming to bring Internet access to the entire world. Independent projects like Connect the World are trying to bring people and companies together with the same objective.

We can only speculate on what technological advances await us down the road and with the sizable growth potential of Internet access, it would seem we are still in an early phase of person-to-person hyperconnectivity. This means that, as more people come online, the noise will only get louder. There are already 3.5 billion people with internet access worldwide and every day another aspect of our daily lives becomes digitally connected—simplified in an app. or swallowed by a new industry—each change creating new avenues for communication.

As one person said—their name appropriately lost in the noise–, “It has never been so easy and so hard to reach someone.” This is the paradox of hyperconnectivity.

Featured photo credit: Pavan Trikutum via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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