The Fine Line
“I have often thought if the minds of men were laid open, we should see but little difference between that of the wise man and that of the fool. There are infinite reveries, numberless extravagances, and a perpetual train of vanities, which pass through both. The great difference is, that the first knows how to pick and cull his thoughts for conversation, by suppressing some, and communicating others; whereas the other lets them all indifferently fly out in words” –Joseph Addison, the 17th Century English essayist, poet, and dramatist
When the Good Lord made us all in His own image, little would he have thought of putting distinct markers on our heads to identify the wise from the fools, the smart, and the cunning from those innocent and gullible, or the rich from the poor! If He did, the signs would be evident for all to see. There would be no more struggle in the world as those without the specific marking would easily stand out. Alas, we do not have this luxury.
For all practical purposes, our thoughts, actions, discourse, the art of respectful communication, and its precise timing are some of the major traits that help us identify each category of individuals. The above quote gives us a very precise insight that we can easily apply in our daily lives.
‘To pick and cull’ our conversations to meaningful end is the art that we all wish to master but not always succeed. The same holds true for suppressing the wayward thoughts, ideas, and actions. When it comes to communications though, we are in a different sphere, all its own.
Who can dispute the fact that our way of interaction with others determines how far we succeed in life? Those with a positive bent of mind are more anxious to solve problems than the rest. For them, each new challenge is an opportunity to excel afresh. By suppressing their negative thoughts, they bring out a stream of positivity that attracts others, even if out of curiosity. As the tide starts to turn and more onlookers watch them solve supposedly insurmountable problems, a few would certainly feel the connection and start to copy them too.
At times, we have seen even world-renowned figures put their own foot in the mouth by acting irresponsibly or saying things that would bring nothing but deep regret in return. There have been numerous instances where an off the cuff remark by a leading politician caused major global turmoil. No, I am not pointing the finger at anyone! Instances of these individuals’ true pictures continue to emerge in negligence, on live microphones, while they thought otherwise.
The above scenario reminds me of a time-tested quote my mother always told me: ‘measure twice and cut once.’ The lesson taught me to be wary of mistakes and only say things in right perspective. I am sure there are much wiser, learned, seasoned and articulate individuals out there that know the hidden advantages of proper communication. They have taken it to the level of ‘productive communication’ beyond belief.
As if we did not have enough challenges in our daily life already, there is the sweeping wave of Artificial Intelligence that empowers the experts to use each word we speak, each article we read, each meal we eat and all things that help us entertain. Each and every action we take helps them predict our future behavior. Coming under the realm of Big Data for marketing geniuses, the information we so obligingly generate helps them make millions by designing customer-specific campaigns.
Why did I shift from simple differentiation between a thoughtful and thoughtless action to new technology? I am afraid there is a direct connection between the two. Not only that, this connection has the power to change our entire lifestyle for the better or for the worse if left unnoticed.
Modern, software generated algorithm has the power to analyze not only our own lifestyle choices but also that of all our contacts from the ‘Connections’ list on both the Smart Phone and the Social Media.
One disturbing fact coming to light, across news channels across the world, points to the use of unbelievable amounts of detailed data collected by an agency to determine the outcome of elections in the United States of America. Just a few million Facebook users downloaded an app made by Cambridge Analytics. The app provider, in turn, used this gateway to access information on 100s times more individuals through the original users’ ‘contacts’ list. Reports (as yet unverified) indicate a specific political party exploited such unauthorized (or stolen?) information to target ads and influence voter preference before casting their votes.
I believe such a trend, if allowed to flourish unchecked, would decimate the capability of ordinary, less than tech-savvy individuals to live their lives the way they want to, without any outside interference and/or external pressures. The simple step we can take in the right direction, at the very minimum, will be to watch our interaction on the Social Media with a magnifying glass. We must think twice before posting our day-to-day activities, successes, and failures, celebrations, events, problems, challenges and/or oncoming events.
It is time we must wake up to the harsh reality of yet unknown enemies gaining ground in the use of technology. They are well-versed in various ways and means to prey upon the innocent and the gullible. These self-centered, often criminal minds exploit the information we proudly share with an unknown public.
If you do not believe me, please take a look at your own ‘contacts’ list on various Social Media. You will notice how few of the hundreds of thousands and/or millions of them have ever communicated with you on a productive subject where a mutual benefit is a goal and you will have the answer.
If the frequency of your mutual communication is restricted to a handful, where do you see the need and/or the urgency to gain bragging rights of a million followers? Are you capable of keeping in touch with each one of them, in a positive fashion, on a regular basis?
If the answer is yes, and you can support it with your own in-depth affirmation, well and good! If not, think again and make a difference. Restructure your communication strategy in light of the above quote:
“The great difference is that the first knows how to pick and cull his thoughts for conversation, by suppressing some, and communicating others; whereas the other lets them all indifferently fly out in words.”
Let us identify and redraw the fine line to protect our own interests as well that of all our loved ones, first and foremost. Let us spread the word and also assist our ‘Connections’ to take necessary action before it gets too late. This is how we can all apply the distinction between a wise man and a fool in our own lives.