Yin and Yang: in Chinese philosophy they represent the two opposite principles in nature. Yin is dark and negative and Yang is bright and positive. Yin and Yang is a philosophy that I really get behind. When people talk of a new invention, idea, or whatever in all positives believing nothing really problematic will come from it, I get concerned. Because Yin and Yang represents both sides of an idea; that ideas, behaviors, feelings live on continuum’s and have what appear to be polar opposite ideals at each end of those spectrum’s; love…hate, peace…war, good…evil, friends…enemies, etc.
The principle of Yin|Yang shows up everywhere. Recently I received this interesting piece about technology and asking whether technological tools are in charge of us or we are in charge of them. Back in the day (in my 20’s – ages ago), technology was supposed to change our lives for the better; making work easier, we’d all go home earlier, computers would make our jobs so much less stressful. Remember all those promises? (Well, if you’re older than 40 anyway.) The people I work with today are more stressed than ever and the famed 3 martini lunches of old have long disappeared into Prozac and painkiller prescriptions. Now we live in a world with expectations to work all the time whether at work, at home, weekends, ten at night…no matter. Immediate responses are expected and if you can’t respond immediately, well then….Computers didn’t make anyone’s lives easier – Yin. The internet offers vast resources to the world in unfathomable ways – there is just so much Yang in the capacity of technology.
Yet, the ways in which we choose to use the technological tools at our disposal also fall into the Yin|Yang dynamic. If you saw the recent movie “Chef” you sat through a cute story which was mostly a social media advertisement about how to use Twitter, Facebook, and Vine so that people crash your food truck and wait for hours to get something they’ve never eaten before while your sales go through the roof. Yang! The upside of social media is to take your business to the next level. Facebook, a huge social media tool where people mostly traffic in upbeat things going on in their lives has more and more people grumbling about it, how it is used and the ever-evolving tactics of the company itself. I have been wavering on FB for a while now but am poised to ditch FB altogether after experiencing first-hand how people seem to increasingly use it to replace real person to person interaction. Recently my family just went through a scary experience with a son caught in West Africa during the escalating Ebola outbreak. I posted when I thought he would be returning and the “likes” started piling up. Several people wrote comments. Some people contacted me through email. A few people picked up the phone to check in. One very kind friend messaged me that she’d wanted to call but thought my phone must be ringing off the hook and didn’t want to bother me. But my phone wasn’t ringing off the hook – not even close. It was a weird feeling, like being abandoned by people who you would think would be there for you in a really stressful situation. I also have little doubt that in the days before FB they would have. I think they thought they had engaged with me by hitting “like” or commenting. I would agree they had if I had posted some mindless thought or a picture that doesn’t deal with a serious family concern. But as we use these tools we need to differentiate between routine life and the moment when friends (and let me be clear – I am talking about people you are close to on a regular basis) need each other in a real way. I am sure that I must have done the same to other people in my interaction with social media. I get it now. I don’t want to be the person who replaces an act of friendship with a mindless act of ‘like’ nothingness. We either reach out to each other in a real way or we don’t. How social is social media if hitting “like” is all you think is required of you to maintain a relationship? Super Yin.
People are complicated and we each have Yin|Yang in us. I can be super happy and upbeat and I can also be super mad. I can also embody every other emotion in between. Depending on when you interact with me, you will judge me based on my behavior that you see before you at any given time. But then you are (or I am with you) judging based on one episode where a specific context has sparked a certain reaction. But it’s the pattern of a person’s behavior that engenders trust. If technology begins to erode our real interactions, then human to human trust will erode too.
People are Yin|Yang. They get caught up in picking sides in war; awful things ensue, and decades later people wonder who the evil people were who allowed such atrocities to happen. During World War II good people, too, allowed Hitler to try to take over Europe and eliminate whole groups of people from the world. Generations later, the bulk of Germans insist that their families either worked in the resistance or never knew what was happening. But millions and millions in Europe collaborated to make it all work out the way it did; they couldn’t all have been in the resistance, or didn’t know, or were evil monsters responsible for the savagery; rather the neighbor next door -the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker – became the collaborators. To one group they were monsters, but to another, they were beloved. Yin|Yang.
We constantly get to choose how we interact with others so we need to stay mindful of how we show up. The ways in which we choose to interact with our technology must take into account that we constantly nurture varying concentric circles of relationships in our lives. If we let technology take over that role more and more, we will all be the losers for it. There’s Yin and Yang in everything but the choices we make can be nuanced; not everything needs to be either|or.