Social Recession

March 13, 2020

I went to the grocery store this afternoon. As I was walking in I heard a woman yell to me from her car. I walked over and found an elderly woman and her husband. She cracked her window open a bit more, and explained to me nearly in tears that they are afraid to go in the store.

Afraid to get sick as they are in their 80’s and hear that the novel coronavirus is affecting older people disproportionately. And that they don’t have family around to help them out. Through the crack in the window she handed me a $100 bill and a grocery list, and asked if I would be willing to buy her groceries.

 I bought the groceries and placed them in her trunk, and gave her back the change. She told me she had been sitting in the car for nearly 45 min before I had arrived, waiting to ask the right person for help.

I know it’s a time of hysteria and nerves, but offer to help anyone you can. Not everyone has people to turn to.

~Rebecca Mehra


by Ezra Klein

Social distancing is crucial to slow the coronavirus.

But it’s going to cause a “social recession”: a collapse in social contact that will hit the elderly and people with disabilities particularly hard.

Loneliness can be lethal. We need to help them.

Make no mistake: The rapid implementation of social distancing is necessary to flatten the coronavirus curve and prevent the current pandemic from worsening. But just as the coronavirus fallout threatens to cause an economic recession, it’s also going to cause what we might call a “social recession”: a collapse in social contact that is particularly hard on the populations most vulnerable to isolation and loneliness — older adults and people with disabilities or preexisting health conditions.

“We’re now officially in a pandemic,” says Eric Klinenberg, a New York University sociologist who has studied the way social isolation leaves older Americans vulnerable in emergencies. “But we’ve also entered a new period of social pain. There’s going to be a level of social suffering related to isolation and the cost of social distancing that very few people are discussing yet.”

Congress and the administration are, even now, debating the best tools to deploy in fighting the coronavirus’s economic effects. Washington is deep in a debate over payroll tax cuts, industry bailouts, and paid sick leave. But there are fewer policy tools to fight a social recession. What all the experts I spoke to agreed on was this: Just as it’s incumbent on those of us least affected by coronavirus to take precautions to limit its spread, it’s also important that we reach out to limit its social damage.

“The brunt of Covid-19 will be borne by the poor, elderly, and sick,” says former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, “and it is up to us to ensure they are not left behind.”

“Social isolation has been associated with a significantly increased risk of premature mortality from all causes,” the report found, including a “50 percent increased risk of developing dementia,” a “29 percent increased risk of incident coronary heart disease,” a “25 percent increased risk for cancer mortality,” a “59 percent increased risk of functional decline,” and a “32 percent increased risk of stroke.” The mental health risks are also profound. The researchers reviewed dozens of studies and found a consistent relationship between social isolation and depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.

“A lot of my work is premised on the idea that extreme situations like the one we’re in now allow us to see conditions that are always present but difficult to perceive,” Klinenberg says. “We’re going to learn a lot about who we are and what we value in the next few months.”


The Oregonian


10 ways to deal with coronavirus-related stress and anxiety


1. Practice self-awareness

According to Sydney Ey, a professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University, the first step to dealing with stress and the anxiety it causes is to be aware of how you are dealing with it.

When Ey works with people suffering from anxiety, she said, “I have them identify what’s a sign when they are feeling stressed, where do they feel it in their body.”

We all have habits that we engage in when we’re feeling stressed, she said. Maybe it’s hitting the fast-food drive-thru or disappearing into our phones. Be aware of your signs, Ey said. Notice when you fall back on them. Notice when you feel your body tensing. That is when you take action.

2. Focus on your body

Once you recognize that you are anxious, try to calm your body.

“If you can calm your body down, and release some of the stress hormones,” Ey said, “then your mind will follow.”

Her number one recommendation? Exercise.

“I really encourage people on a daily basis to find some way of moving,” Ey said, even if it’s just going for a walk.

Another way to help your body relax, Ey said, is by practicing it. “Maybe a couple times during the day,” she said, “take a couple moments to relax.”

She suggested taking 10 deep breaths or focusing on tense muscles and softening them. She said apps like Headspace and Calm can help people who need a little guidance.

3. Don’t forget to eat, sleep and drink water

It’s also incredibly important to not neglect your body’s basic needs, Ey said.

“It’s really important to continue prioritizing sleep,” she said. “Still eat and hydrate. If you’re not feeling well stay home and take a break.”

4. Stay connected

“The most important thing is for people to remain connected,” Rev. Bill Sinkford, the Senior Minister at Portland’s First Unitarian Church, told us. “The great danger here is isolation.”

Even though his church has opted to cancel Sunday services, they are looking for more ways to help people engage with one another. Social distancing may mean not meeting up in person, but he recommends email, Facebook groups and even the old fashion phone tree.

“The longer this crisis lasts, the more intense that sense of isolation is likely to be,” he said. “Connecting emotionally or spiritually is what we need to focus on most.”

5. Set meaningful, positive goals

Whether you are at work or at home, Ey suggests trying to do some meaningful, positive, productive things.

Moving towards goals, she said, is one way to stay present in the face of anxiety and unrest.

“Find ways to be effective,” Ey said. “Do things that are meaningful.”

6. Be informed, take precautions, but limit your exposure to the news

Neither Ey nor Sinkford recommends ignoring the news or pretending we aren’t in the middle of a crisis.

“Be informed,” Ey said, “but limit how much time you’re spending reading about this if it’s really causing you a lot of stress.”

“Anxiety is justified,” Sinkford said. “There is a real risk and real danger.”

But, he added, “There’s a whole series of things each of us can do to minimize the risks to ourselves and our families.”

Don’t forget those basic practices, he said, like washing hands and covering coughs. And employ bigger changes too, like no more handshakes and practice social distancing.

7. Find uplifting moments

“Pay attention to what is positive and uplifting,” Ey said. Flowers are blooming, babies are blissfully unaware of what’s happening, you are connected to your body and your community. Even in these chaotic moments, those beautiful things are still happening. Notice them.

8. Remember your strength

Almost every one of us has been through adversity before. Ey suggests remembering that, and focusing on the strengths you’ve used before.

“I often ask people to think about another difficult time in their life when they dealt with uncertainty,” she said. “What were the strengths they drew on? How can they learn from that and apply it now?”

9. Play it out

Another exercise Ey suggests is actually diving into your anxiety and playing out the worst-case scenario in your mind. What does that look like, and how would you overcome it? Remember that strength from number seven? How would you use it if the absolute worst thing were to happen? How would you survive?

Now turn it around. Ask yourself, what’s the best thing that could come out of this?

10. Seek help if you need it

There is no shame in asking for help.

“If people are finding they can’t stop worrying,” Ey said, “it might be helpful for them to talk to a counselor short term worries.”

— Lizzy Acker

Infections Diseases Show Societies Who They Really Are

‘Communicable disease has haunted humanity for all of history. As such, the responses to coronavirus in our midst have a grimly timeless quality. In fact, to one scholar, epidemics are a great lens for peering into the values, temperament, infrastructures and moral structures of the societies they attack. Frank M. Snowden is a professor emeritus of the history of medicine at Yale and author of Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present. An epidemic, he writes, “holds a mirror” to the civilization in which it occurs. He talks to Bob about what we can learn about ourselves from the infectious diseases we’ve faced, from the bubonic plague in the 14th century to the Ebola outbreak in 2014 to COVID-19 today.’

To listen to the podcast follow the link:


Message of hope spreading in Italy. Tour guide in Venice: ‘It’s human to be scared, but I don’t see panicking, nor acts of selfishness.’ Italian journalist: ‘After a moment of panic in the population, there is now a new solidarity.’


Flash Drives

November 29, 2016


Seth Godin

Fear, loneliness, anger, shame & hunger.

They drive us. They divide us. They take us away from our work, our mission, our ability to make a difference. And yet, sometimes, they fuel our motion, leading to growth and connection.

When a variety of FLASH shows up, it almost never calls itself by name. Instead, it lashes out. It criticizes what we’ve made or done. And mostly, it hides behind words, argument and actions, instead of revealing itself.

As you’ve guessed, correcting the false argument is futile. Logic doesn’t work either. You can’t reason with FLASH because it is, by definition, unreasonable.

Worth repeating that: We’re rarely reasonable. Most of the time, we’re afraid, lonely, angry, shameful or hungry.

Sometimes, we can address those emotions by seeing that reason can help our problem, but mostly, we start and end with the emotion.

Recognize it.

Pause to allow it be seen and heard.

And then, if we’re willing, we can dance with it. We can put the arguments aside, the demands and the expectations and sit with the emotion. Not get defensive, because the emotion isn’t about us or our work at all.

Then, maybe, we can begin to bring civilization back into the conversation, the story of us, the opportunity for growth and connection, and ultimately, the power of thought and reason and forward motion.

Computer Mediated Loneliness & Infidelity

September 26, 2016



Maybe it was when a facebook message was inadvertently sent to me, on my birthday, on my first night, in my new location, of Port Angeles, Washington. The message spoke of donuts, a road-trip, and love. The ‘love’ part was in Italian. I don’t speak or read Italian, but love in any language is love. In Italian, it is spelled a-m-o-r-e. The intended and I do not have similar names – – our names don’t even begin with the same letter. I think there were synchronous dialogues and one too many message windows open. And. Well. Happy birthday to me.

I picked up a book about five years ago to incorporate into my COMM classes when teaching to computer mediated communication. It’s titled, Infidelity on the Internet/Virtual Relationships and Real Betrayal, by Dr. Marlen Maheu, and Rona Subotnik. Being unfaithful to a partner has typically invoked the idea of a physical action between two people not married, or committed to each other – – a broken promise of fidelity then shrouded in secrecy and deception. With the rapid and ubiquitous development of virtual communications, infidelity, according to Maheu and Subotnik, is a behavior recognized on the Internet although there is no physical contact. For me it translates to an emotional infidelity – – equally devastating. Boundaries from platonic to romantic relationships are being blurred in what is being called “turbo-charged” exchanges where “feelings of intimacy” can develop in a flash. It may be virtual but impact on real-life relationships is real and dramatic. Yep. I concur.

I could swan dive here into thoughts and expressions of heartbreak and expectations, but I won’t (too sad). Instead, how about exploring the loneliness epidemic sweeping our nation, even though we are more connected than at any other time in history? Research reveals this epidemic of loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill. The Atlantic magazine published an on-line (of course) article in May 2012, “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?’”, by Stephen Marche. In short, yes. It is. We are living in isolation having never been more accessible. On facebook that birthday night, I had dozens of happy birthday messages from ‘friends’, yet I don’t remember feeling as lonely, or deeply hurt, as I did in that moment. Remember the final scene in the film, The Social Network, about fb founder Mark Zuckerberg? It shows Zuckerberg sitting at his computer, alone, it’s late, and he is continually refreshing the profile picture of his lost love, hoping she’ll ‘accept’ his friend request. It is haunting. And sad. And very real. A little light research reveals some 1.71 billion people on our planet are ‘active’ fb users – – active being those who have logged in within the last 30 days. For many, more likely ‘minutes.’ The basic premise of the article is that in a world of communication that is instant and absolute we suffer from unprecedented alienation. So, although consumed by socializing in virtual connection, we are becoming lonelier.

How many times have I deleted my account, only to return within the 14-day window of grace before complete disconnection? My reasons for returning are rationalized through need of academic and professional connection, yet I am concerned, and interested, in the psychological aspect of loneliness here. If loneliness indeed is a psychological state, not an external condition, then what is the connection between loneliness and our computer mediated communication? Why are Americans over the age of 45 almost three times more lonely then a decade earlier? Research has given us some perspective. Virtual communication lacks face-to-face communication and therefore is not truly considered ‘social.’ We meet fewer people, we gather less, and when we do gather, the interpersonal dynamic is “less meaningful”, and “less easy.” We have few friends, but more ‘friends.’ We’re becoming socially awkward when we meet and greet. It’s easier when we communicate via screens because feedback can be messy, and when communicating on-line, non-verbal communication is non-existent, and non-verbal communication is about 90% of the communications process.

Internet communication is having an effect on our feelings of isolation and loneliness. And our need for therapy. In the late ‘40’s, according to Marche, the US had about 2,500 clinical psychologists, and about 30,000 social workers. Today? 77,000 psychologists, and 192,000 social workers. And the psychological component affects the physical body with earlier aging, hormonal imbalances, inflammation issues, and memory loss. And then there’s depression and sleep deprivation, also increases in dementia and cognitive decline. Delete! Deactivate! But we don’t. Instead, we buy more and more gadgets so we can stay more and more ‘connected.’ We have the opportunity to connect, but with little human contact. The Internet paradox.

That night on my birthday, if I would have had those dozens and dozens of ‘friends’ hanging out with me in my hotel room eating birthday cake, and drinking champagne, that would have been a party. And a fun one. Instead, I felt the pain of Internet infidelity, profound isolation and loneliness. I also realized that I had become a partner in the virtual betrayal dance, because the one meant for the Italian love was in a physical face-to-face relationship with my love, as mine became virtual due to years of physical absence. It was a relationship, I thought, virtually exclusive, when in reality, it was exclusively virtual.

It isn’t the machine that makes us lonely. It’s how we use it. We shop online, we bank online, we take classes online, we can even attend concerts and spiritual services online, without ever being present with another sentient being. Human interactions can be messy, virtual connections are intensely mediated and created around our design of self. Sherry Turkle is a MIT professor of computer culture, who has written a number of books on Internet connection and interaction, explains it like this: “The problem with digital intimacy is that it is ultimately incomplete; the ties we form through the Internet are not, in the end, the ties that bind.” If we are “insecure in our relationships and anxious about intimacy,” Turkle adds, “we look to technology for ways to be in relationships and protect ourselves from them at the same time.”

Not to get off track here, but it’s interesting to note that personality profiles of the fb user are being studied and there appears to be a strong narcissism component. Yikes. Marche writes, “It could be argued that Facebook specifically gratifies the narcissistic individual’s need to engage in self-promoting and superficial behavior.” Definition refresher. Narcissism reveals patterns of grandiosity, craving for attention, and lack of empathy. This article was written pre-presidential candidate Trump. Anyone else make the connection?

Solitude is not loneliness. And being alone is not always lonely. But if we’re using computer mediated communication as an isolated means of staying connected, we’re stepping into a virtual world that could make us lonely, or lonelier, in our real world.

I have never connected to on-line dating sites, or found a platonic on-line relationship morphing into a romantic one. My friend, who revealed his infidelity on my birthday was once my real-life love. And when he moved to San Francisco, we moved our connection on-line. He was writing, I was teaching, on the radio and my kids were finishing up the last couple of years of high school. I re-located to Washington State arriving on my birthday, August 5th. I chose a beautiful place in this new chapter of my life, expecting my friend, my love, would soon be with me in the Pacific Northwest, a land he loves, too.

What’s that quote by William Shakespeare? ‘Expectation is the root of all heartache.’ And maybe, too, for loneliness. If we expect our virtual connections to fulfill our need for human, face-to-face interaction, and we expect those ties to bind, we will only be heartbroken to discover that they don’t. I did.

-Dayle Ohlau


The Age of Loneliness.

September 19, 2015


Harvard Business Review

“Loneliness is a feeling we’d all like to avoid. Research shows it’s terrible for our health; it diminishes cognitive performance and the immune system, increases the risk of heart disease and dementia and hastens early death. And the psychological effects are just as bad; studies show that people need strong social connections to feel happy and find meaning in their lives, and that many of us would actually rather receive mild electroshocks than be alone.

One might think that technological connectivity has or will soon save us from the blight of loneliness. But it seems that we feel more isolated today than ever. According to a report in The Atlantic, one in four Americans reports having no one with whom they can discuss important matters, compared with one in ten 30 years ago, and a 2013 survey conducted by Lifeboat found that the average American had only one real friend. The Guardian newspaper says we may have entered the “age of loneliness.”


6 possibilities for connectivity at work:

1. Walk your talk. In Nilofer Merchant’s TED Talk “Got a meeting? Take a walk,” she notes: “Nowadays, people are sitting 9.3 hours a day… Sitting has become the smoking of our generation.” Her solution to this health crisis is walking meetings, and I think they can help solve the loneliness epidemic too. When you get out of the office and get some exercise with a colleagues, you’ll immediately feel closer to them, particularly if the walk is one-on-one. You’ll also be more productive and innovative together. Neuroscientist John Medina, the author of Brain Rules says that 1.8 miles per hour is the the most productive meeting pace, while a recent Stanford study indicated that people were 60% more creative while walking. At design firm NBBJ, employees have taken these findings to heart. Instead of sit-down meetings with traditional agendas, they now have “meeting walks” complete with “itineraries.”

2. Play roulette. The idea of lunch roulette isn’t new but it remains a useful way to gain perspective by leaving one’s comfort zone, if only for a quick meal. After you’ve broken bread with a co-worker, it’s hard not to say hello in the hallway, and eventually the new relationship might turn into a fruitful collaboration. Companies may choose to match up employees randomly, or encourage people to seek out their own lunch dates. And there are apps to help: Spark Collaboration, a start-up in New York born out of the Randomised Coffee Trails (RCT) in the UK, just won the inaugural North American Employee Engagement Award for its platform that “brings people together by connecting them with people they would not normally meet.”

3. Instigate surprises. Surprises create the most authentic, intimate emotions because they catch us off guard. Companies such as Surprise Industries — founded on the idea that “life is richest when we shake up routine and embrace surprise”—offer tips, experiments, and even a “Surprise Academy” that teaches participants how to introduce more surprise into their lives. And the practice is gaining traction in the business world: Etsy, for example, runs a “Ministry of Unusual Business,” a secret society of employees tasked with injecting delightful surprises into everyday work.

4. Seek “thick presence.” Priya Parker, founder of Thrive Labs, and her author husband, the writer Anand Ghiridharadas, have a tradition they call “I Am Here” days. They invite about a dozen friends to put their smartphones away and spend a day exploring a part of New York City with them. The idea is to allow people to be “thickly present” rather than thinly distributed. Imagine applying this concept at work — instead of committing to a one-hour meeting to move forward on a project or provide an update, why not spend a full unscheduled day with colleagues working on that and anything else that comes up?

5. Host a dinner for 15. I co-founded a series of dinners called 15 Toasts with Parker and the World Economic Forum’s Council on Values, on which we both serve. These occasional gatherings, often held on the eve of Forum summits, bring together 15 global business leaders in intimate settings to discuss important issues. Each guest must provide one toast to the night’s theme (for example, “15 Toasts to Happiness” or “15 Toasts to Escapes”) over the course of the evening, and, as a special twist, the one who contributes last must perform his or her toast in song. “It’s the first dinner I’ve ever been to where I went in not knowing anyone and came out feeling connected with every single person,” the CEO of a Fortune 500 company told us after one such dinner. At the next day’s conference, he even hugged everyone he had met the night before. Team lunches or dinners can be spiced up in the same manner. Make the practice more regular, invite colleagues from outside your group or division and pick a specific topic for discussion.

6. Touch touchy issues. The inspiration for this advice comes from another dinner series Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death, which is based on the notion that talking about death typically leads to talking about life, including what makes us happy and what, if anything, we need to change about ourselves or our situations. The organizers say their goal is to create “an uplifting interactive adventure that transforms this seemingly difficult conversation into one of deep engagement, insight, and empowerment.” Addressing such heavy topics at work might seem like too much of a stretch, but consider getting your group together to talk about the “death” of a project, either mourning for one that got killed or one that simply ended and left people with a sense of loss.

People crave connection and intimacy in all realms of their lives, including at work. It’s a critical source of empathy and tolerance — the glue that keeps relationships, projects, and organizations together. Leaders should do more to encourage it.”


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