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New Year Resolutions for the Modern Age

As we say goodbye to 2010 and begin the process of looking forward to what’s coming in 2011, the natural inclination for most of us is to take stock of our lives and to promise to fix certain things.  Obviously, the more common resolutions are to lose weight/get fit, return to/finish school and to travel.  To these, we can always add some that are more specific to our time, like finding a job in our current economy or getting one’s debt levels under control.

But what are some resolutions that we can make in today’s day?  What are some steps that we can make to improve our lives in 2011?  I got a few ideas.

Clear the “Friends List” on Facebook.

How many of us have a list of friends that goes over a hundred?  Two hundred?  A list that involves old high school friends, work colleagues, folks from church and other places?   Do you really have 547 friends?  Or are they just people who you knew once upon a time and who saw you there, friended you and you accepted with no further thought?

It’s often the case that while technology makes us more connected, it helps us to connect more to the random, nonsensical side of us.  Thoughts and ideas and jokes that we might have only shared with our immediate circle get shared around the globe thanks to the Internet and we don’t think about it because it’s a few keystrokes.  Not until later do we discover that we badmouthed a colleague we had let in back when we first joined the firm.  Or said something about a professor that other people took and ran with — until it led to you being labeled as the “bitch of her class.”

So take control over your digital circle.  Go through that “Friends List” and ask yourself this question: If this person called me and asked to go get a cup of coffee and talk about their problems, would I do it?  Or would I look for a way to avoid that?  If they fall on the first list, they’re a friend.  If they don’t, find that “Block this Person” button and hit it!  HARD!

Start a new blog

This is one I’ve chosen to embrace.  And while at first may seem incompatible with the previous resolution, it is not.

Let’s face the fact: most of us are writing now more than any other generation ever did.  The average person sends over 1,000 SMS/text messages a year (the average teenager triples that easily).  Add to that, comments we leave behind in our favorite blogs or news stories and it’s not beyond the realm of believability that we each write a small novel a year without thinking it.

Unfortunately, this has led to grammatical shortcuts being embraced as a way of saving our fingertips and keeping our character count low enough to send.  That would be bad enough if it remained in the text and Twitter realms, but it is now seeping into our everyday lives.  Ask all the job recruiters and Human Resources people who are tasked with reading cover letters about the writing abilities of modern Americans and you’ll get horror stories.

Blogging is a free exercise in keeping your mind sharp and your writing skills working.  It’s like working out for your brain.  So pick a topic of your choice — cooking, art, history, warfare, current events, sports, whatever — and hone your researching and writing skills.  The brain is like any other muscle: it needs exercise.

Adopt a pet

As I was saying earlier, technology has made it easier to connect and stay in touch with people.  But I’m sure I’m not the first to mention that it also serves to let people stay away from others.  While having the capacity to talk to anyone around the world is nice to have, that direct interaction that we all requires suffers.  Physicians will tell you that direct, physical contact with other living beings helps in keeping you healthy by lowering stress levels.

I’m not saying that you should go to your local shelter and adopt a whole batch of puppies or even just one kitten if you can’t — obviously financial capability has to be taken into account.  But what about caring for a rabbit?  A hamster?  Get a couple of goldfish and a classic bowl and put a pirate toy in there.  Find a way to interact with another living creature and help yourself to a healthier life.

Unplug

Depending on who you are, this might be the easiest or hardest resolution to attempt.  We live in an age where our phones have far more power than did the computers above the Apollo missions — both in Houston and aboard the spaceships!  We are interconnected and superwired — actually, now we are all wireless.  We’re on the Cloud.  We’re on the Grid.  We live 4G because 3G is for grandmas and Tom from Myspace.  At any moment, our bags carry our Kindle, iPad, netbook, laptop, wireless router, mobile hotspot-enabler phone, our new tablet and our old Gameboy.

So maybe, every now and again, promise yourself to unplug.  Go hiking.  Go to the park.  Work on your garden — or buy a plant if you don’t have or can’t have a garden.  Turn everything off and go do something.  Anything.  Most of us only unplug while we sleep.  And if there’s one thing we all need is less droning in our lives.

Have a Happy New Year’s and let’s hope 2011 is a far sight better than 2010 ever was!

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