Technology’s Assault On Relational Intimacy

By Ginger M. Sullivan, MA, LPC, CGP, FAGPA Individual and Group Psychotherapy

More Machine, Less Human

It had been too long. A sit-down with my friend was long overdue. We picked the date and the time and of course, the usual place–a Starbucks somewhere between his office and mine.

On entering the familiar coffee shop, my heart dropped. I realized that like the Starbucks closer to home, this location was also a victim of the “Starbucks Remodeling Venture” … more machine, less human. Gone were the cushy chairs, the tight seating arrangements that facilitated conversation, and the atmospheric incentives to sit in a coffee shop and actually relax and reflect upon one’s own thoughts or those of the person sitting across from you.

Instead, products being sold were displayed, well-directed paths indicated where I should queue and rows of tables available were those best suited for what has become the modern-day conversational partner – the laptop.

I asked my friend if he had found a place to sit. He shook his head in affirmation while grimacing with frustration. The only side-by-side seats unoccupied were two hard wooden chairs at what looked like a long table for studying in a college library. All the two-top tables were occupied by single people facing a screen. So, while my friend and I shared a long overdue moment of conversation squeezed shoulder to shoulder at a table also occupied by eight strangers, rows of chairs sat eerily empty and available opposite screen-watchers. This made eavesdropping very effortless and unchallenging.

The Death of Human Interaction

What has our world turned into? Even though we have more technology than ever to help us communicate, stay in touch and cross global barriers in a flash, we are witnessing the death of human connection. Face-to-face real time contact is becoming as extinct as the dinosaurs. And while this transformation in the way we live and relate with each other is concretely displayed at a place like Starbucks, I also experience and hear it daily in my psychotherapy office.

We text, sext, email, blog, tele-work in our pajamas, shop online and Facebook our many “friends” behind the safe confines of our homes with our eyes locked on a screen. Here, we are free to present the best versions of ourselves (or made-up ones) with no mess or spontaneity. But, when it comes to actual emotional intimacy, we are even lonelier and more clueless than ever.

I certainly don’t blame Starbucks for modernizing their décor. Or even Facebook, for that matter. They are businesses adapting their environment to fit technological demand.

The Realities of Intimacy and Affection

Nevertheless, one thing I am clear about – we can do away with the conversational chairs at Starbucks but good luck ridding the human heart of its need for genuine contact. Emotional connection is to the heart as oxygen is to the lungs. The creation of intimacy requires first, that I sit with my own thoughts and feelings as a learned curiosity. Such curiosity takes an investment of time and effort to construct the space for the profundities of our inner life to surface. And then as we risk exposing our cores to another and they with us, we each expand in the knowing, tolerating and appreciating of ours and their innermost worlds. True affection then takes root and grows … giving us the opportunity to know the fullness of the human experience.

Yet, more than ever before, human beings have to be taught how to be intimate with one another. Creating and sustaining true, authentic, verbal and emotional connection is a learned skill. I see this deficit every day in my office. After partners stop the behaviors that have caused the distance between them, they both look at each other and at me, and say with lost eyes, “now what?” “Is this it?” “Are we done?” I, thus, point the way toward facing the crucial task of learning how to build a genuine, messy, loving, hating and cherishing relationship with the human being sitting on the other side of my green couch.

Usually, I get stares as though I am speaking a foreign language. I am beginning to think I really am. With the predominance of social media as our primary form of human contact, we are fostering an epidemic of relationally challenged people. We are becoming so satiated with processed cookies at four o’clock that we can comfortably skip preparing, inviting and dining over real dinner with homemade food. The overabundance of manufactured contact at our fingertips 24/7 allows us to ignore both our hunger for live human touch and the blunt realization that most of us are lousy at it.

The Scholarly Bitter Truth

Such starkness leads me to appreciate my training in psychoanalysis. My scholarly teachers, poets of pontification, deepened my experience of the world. For our purposes, I will share two of their many valued ideas.

  •    Living Unconsciousness

First, Freud was right. The unconscious is alive and well. In other words, there are parts of who we are that exist in our blind spot. The evolution of a healthy human being towards his/her potential requires that he/she seeks clarity and light around the darkened rooms within. I just need to lay on the couch and say what comes to mind, what I am thinking and feeling, out loud at the moment.

  •    The Blurry Line between   Unconsciousness and Intimacy

Second, I need to lay on that couch multiple times per week to run out of things to say. Yup! You read that correctly. I can easily fill the space of 50 minutes with a report of all life’s happenings since last week. And by the time I am done catching up my analyst, the time buzzer has expired. See you next week when we will do the same thing over again. But in psychoanalysis, I must come back tomorrow or the next day. What the hell do I talk about now? Not much has occurred since the last time I was here. So, we sit in silence. And often we sit a long time. Space has been opened and thus far, nothing is rushing in to fill it. I can’t talk about the analyst’s personal life in that this is not a social setting. And God forbid, I pick up my phone. So, I am forced to sit with myself–all the good, the bad and the ugly. And eventually, because there is this creation of space, all the rich, concealed goodies deep inside me begin to surface. We drop, or fall, into a level of intimacy where the depth of my unconscious has the luxury to make an appearance. And then we get real meat, when all the deep-seated substance eventually becomes raw material for the progression of a human towards essence and vitality.

The Time-Inefficient Fight for Intimacy

Outside of the analyst’s consulting room, there is a parallel process in real life: If I do not fight for intimacy or intentionally and consciously create the time and the space for buried thoughts and feelings to crop up, then I am settling for a life of superficiality and shallow connections. I will become a victim to life’s overabundance of distractions which will crowd my capacity to dig deeper into the shiny gold lying extensively in you and in me. Couples tell me often that they don’t have the time to do what I am suggesting in order to build and sustain real intimacy. I tell them to make the time. Relationships are an investment and they are not time-efficient. Without carving out time to reveal one’s inner thoughts and feelings to one another, we are resigning ourselves to a life of boring logistics and parallel living. Thus, it’s a wonder that Facebook becomes the go-to for empty calories and watching television has replaced the dinner table.

Passing up on the Dinner Cookies

On that cold February morning, I could have easily taken my laptop into Starbucks and engrossed myself in electronic friendship. But instead, I sat across from my dear friend in an engagement of true relationship. And he became the human inspiration that got my emotional and intellectual juices flowing.

Cookies for dinner? I’ll pass, thank you. I would rather tolerate my temporary hunger in hopes that I will feast on a gourmet meal. For, intimacy is worth the fight, even when there is no longer a cushy chair to be had.

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Will you embrace self-driving cars?

Self-driving cars are coming. There’s no use debating about whether we should have them or not, because they’re coming regardless. In fact, they’re already here. It’s more important for us to explore the issues surrounding self-driving cars and what this may mean for our future.

Motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for age 10 and every age 16 through 23 in 2015.1
34,439 were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2016.2
When 94 percent of crashes are caused due to human error, it clear that the key benefit of self-driving cars will be safety.

Interestingly, this is the very thing that many people seem to struggle with the most. There is a sense among forums that humans don’t trust the robots. They’re worried about hacking, or malfunction. Companies who will be selling self-driving cars will have to comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and certify that each vehicle is clear of safety risks. Cybersecurity will indeed be a major focus for these companies to mitigate safety risks.

Although safety is the number one benefit there’s a lot of great things that the self-driving car will bring. Economic advances will also make a huge impact and the trickle effect will be extensive. Consider that transport costs for goods will go down, less insurance costs since insurance charges are based on risk, less injuries so lower medical costs and so on. You’ll no longer need to pay for parking because the cars will drive themselves home. It’s also expected that people will either only own one car, or use a system of ordering cars, so there’s less capital outlay for vehicles. That’s a huge saving!

Health Benefits All Round

Not only will you be less likely to receive any car related injuries there are a lot of other health benefits. Can you imagine what you will do with the extra 111 hours you spend in gridlock every year?3
You could go for walk, spend some time with your family or get some more work done. Gridlock will definitely be reduced. Cars will be able to talk to each other to ensure that the most efficient driving methods will be used.

Your environment will also improve. There’ll be less gas emissions since the cars will operate more efficiently and more electric cars will be on the roads. This won’t be inconvenient because they’ll be able to recharge themselves.

When are they coming?

We’re not totally sure. It’s a future technology that won’t be allowed on our roads until Government bodies are satisfied that the technology is safe. They also need to be aware of the impact self-driving cars will have on the economy and as such will likely make legislative decisions based on the overall benefits to society, we hope. So if they know that the self-driving car will displace x number of jobs then hopefully they’re putting into place new job avenues for these workers before giving the self-driving car clear run.

How many jobs are we potentially looking at?

  • Truck drivers (well, they’ve already been affected by self-driving trucks) = 1.6 million* jobs
  • Delivery truck operators = 800,000*
  • Taxi drivers = 180,000*
  • Uber drivers = 160,000*
  • School bus drivers = 500,000*
  • Transit bus drivers = 160,000*
  • Parking lot attendants, Street meter attendants, gas station attendants, rental car agencies = 220,000*

That’s roughly 4 million jobs affected. Furthermore, there’ll be less repairs needed, less gas stations, less injuries and so all of those industries that assist in those areas will lose out as well.

*approximate figures based on ABLS 2015.

The Fear of Change

Technology is progressing at a fast pace around us constantly. So why is it that the self-driving car is such a hot issue? We think it’s not just because there is a far-reaching impact of the change. It’s more that the impact is something like out of our dreams. When we saw Back To The Future, Minority Report and the like, we talked excitedly about their possible technology but always sensing that it wouldn’t happen in our lifetime. The type of world we’ll be living in with self-driving cars feel like something out of Back To The Future. As such there’s a real sense of lack of control over our destiny…almost like some kind of dream world we’re going to be thrown into before we know it. It’s curious, wonderful and scary.


The future is coming, and it’s coming quickly. Exactly when we can’t know for sure because it’s not just about the technology, but also the legislation. One thing is for sure, that our world will be a very different place from the one in which we live, and once the transformation occurs it will transform at pace. Cars were once a visual sign of families achieving the American Dream. For people who’ve grown up in that world, the new world vision is hard to get your head around. It’s possible that the dream world you see automated vehicles creating is not nearly as fantastic as it will be!

We’ve addressed some of the pros and cons in this article but we really want to hear your thoughts. Please download the app, if you haven’t already, and tell us what you think about the change driven by self-driving cars (pardon the pun ;).

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Paying It Forward and Getting Paid

Ben Wiener

@BeninJLM  Rare Medium posts, hopefully well done.

TL:DR — Being nice often pays tangible dividends when you least expect it, and sooner than you’d think

Raising my first venture capital fund was very hard. I had no track record, and was advancing an investment thesis and a geographic focus that were not obvious. Initially, prospective investors were hard to find and I was pressured to close any “fish” I could get onto a hook.

One such fish was Lou (not his real name). Lou was primarily a (very successful) real estate investor, but extremely knowledgeable about venture capital. He had invested in numerous startups as well as a number of VC funds. We met periodically over a few months and he really got into Jumpspeed’s unique opportunity and thesis.

Things seemed to be coming to a head when we had our third or fourth meeting. We’d covered everything. I was hoping for — expecting — a meaningful commitment.

“Ben, I like what you do. I get it. It’s really interesting.”


“But I’m not going to invest. I’ll tell you why. You’re too nice.” He paused.

“You can’t be a nice guy and succeed in this business.”123

I was quite upset. And I completely disagreed. First, I didn’t agree that I’m “too nice.” And I certainly didn’t agree with the argument that being nice precludes VC success. But he was firm, and our tango was over.

A bunch of funny things happened after that.

Later that year, one of my early picks, Breezometer, was named “Most Promising Startup in the World” by the White House as part of President Obama’s worldwide GEW initiative. I wrote a blog post describing how I’d only had the opportunity to invest because I’d been nice.

I’m now investing out of Jumpspeed’s second fund. A few months ago, I was looking over the list of LPs (limited partners, the investors in the fund), who’ve joined Fund II thus far. I was trying to identify patterns among the participating LPs to see where I was having success, and how I had initially connected with them in order to determine how I could find more LPs like them. I found that I could trace all of my LPs to no more than eight individual initial points of contact or referral.

Then I thought about how I had met or connected with those eight people. I realized that I had connected with all but two of them, through some act of kindness, non-business favor, or other “good deed” that was not an investment pitch. Being unintentional and nice had gotten me to 71% of Jumpspeed’s current LPs, representing close to 80% of the fund’s capital.

Some examples:

  • On one of my trips to the US I flew in a day early to make a condolence call to a relative, who’d lost his father. I knew how hard the loss was and just wanted to spend part of Sunday with him, before the US work week started, since we don’t get to see them that often and I hadn’t been at the funeral. While we were just sitting around he tried to deflect the conversation away from his grief. “What are you up to these days ?” he asked. “Investing in startups.” He paused for a minute. “You know, you should talk to my friend Mr. X. He might be interested.” “You know him? I’ve been trying to get to him for a year,” I said. “I’ll email him right now,” he said. Fast forward, and Mr. X is Jumpspeed’s largest individual investor.
  • Over 20 years ago when I was a law student, I talked my way into a Securities Analysis course across the street at the business school. I wanted to learn about stock picking though at the time I had no plans to become a professional investor. I developed a nice relationship with the professor, who’d had a successful Wall Street career. After I moved halfway around the world and got involved in startups, we didn’t keep up much, but once I started investing in startups I found myself drawing upon some of the wisdom and insights I had gleaned from him. Even though his lessons were in the context of public stocks I found some themes resonated in very early-stage, pre-product/market fit startup investing. I hadn’t spoken to him in around fifteen years, but I reached out to him prior to a US visit, just to get together and let him know how valuable those lessons now were to me, and how grateful I was to him for letting me into the course and spending time with me over two decades earlier. I know that many teachers never get that kind of feedback from former students and I thought it would be cool for him to hear that so long after, and so far away, and in such a different context, his lessons on evaluating risk were so valuable to me. I swear I had no intention of pitching him — to the best of my knowledge his sole focus was public market trading. He responded kindly to my note and said it would be a pleasure to catch up. We blocked an hour between my other meetings. An hour and a half into our meeting we were deep into Jumpspeed’s opportunity, thesis and portfolio. He was fascinated. We were both really late for our next meetings. He leaned forward and said: “Let me ask you something. How would you feel if I put some money into your fund?” Goosebumps. My professor and mentor investing in my fund? “I thought you don’t do this kind of thing,” I said. “And I promise that’s not why I wanted to meet with you.” “I know,” he said. “But if I do invest, it’s not to do you a favor. I like what you’re doing and I want to make money with you. Send me the documents.” A week later he become one of the largest investors in my fund.
  • I often speak to groups passing through Jerusalem. These can be student groups, elder hostels, business executives or others who are making their way through Israel to get a taste of the “Startup Nation” vibe. I’ll host them at my office for an hour to tell them the unique story of Jerusalem’s startup renaissance — it’s an inspirational, underdog story about resilience, entrepreneurship, diversity, opportunity and breaking stereotypes. I get asked to make this presentation often. I swear I do it just because I enjoy “evangelizing” about Jerusalem’s poorly-understood ecosystem. There’s no way I can expect any direct benefit for Jumpspeed from these presentations. Sure, every once in a while, as a group leaves our office on to their next stop to see the Western Wall or Yad Vashem, someone will ask me for my card, but I never hear from them again and don’t expect to. Until Brad showed up.
    Brad was in the corner of the room accompanying an MBA group from a Colorado university. As the group filed out after my presentation, Brad pulled me aside and asked me for my card. He introduced himself as an investor assisting with the MBA program and traveling with the group. “Your story and investment approach is interesting,” he said. I replied that I thought I had focused more on the ecosystem than my fund, but OK, I appreciated it. He was interested in my fund. “I want to check you out — if you’re for real I’d like to invest.” I figured he was probably caught up in the moment but sure enough he emailed me a week later from Colorado. He grilled me over the phone. He spoke to founders I’d invested in. He spoke to founders I’d rejected. He spoke to lots of people. I kept giving him anything he asked for. Finally he said: “I’m in, And I’m recommending you to all of my friends.” Turns out he has a lot of friends — Brad’s group represented almost half of my new fund’s initial close.

These people aren’t just investors in my fund. They are the largest investors in my fund. And there are more of these stories; these are just the most significant ones. I would not have a fund today, without these stories.

I would not have a fund today, if I hadn’t been nice.

I’m not saying that I’m always nice — though I try to be. But it’s pretty clear to me by now that when I have been nice, it has in many cases paid tangible dividends, often very quickly, and in all of those cases, specifically when I had no ulterior motive, or expectation of reward. It just happened. I “paid it forward” — and to my great surprise I got paid back.

As I thought further about these stories and the lesson learned, I dug up Lou’s contact information and emailed him. With the utmost and most sincere respect for his business experience and acumen, I wrote, I just wanted to remind him of me, and our final conversation, and update him about what had happened to me and Jumpspeed as a result of my being “nice.”

I just wanted to share the lesson with him, though I guessed that if he did respond to me at all, it most likely would be another off-putting dismissal. I was prepared for that, and resolved in advance to use it as further motivation.

I got a ping back right away. The fastest response I’d ever received from him.

Hey, he wrote, nice to hear from you. We’ve actually been following your progress from afar and have heard things are going well. We’d like to take another look at Jumpspeed towards the end of the year……

I swear I didn’t reach out to him in order to..… get the gist.

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Is Cyberbullying a Big Issue, Really?

Cyberbullying has become one of the major new issues affecting parenting of the decade, at least that’s what it feels like. Is the worrying really warranted? Many of the victims of cyberbullying are also victims of traditional bullying. Traditional bullying is something we’re all fully aware of and there are already ways in which these are being addressed in schools. However, one of the biggest issues around cyberbullying is that it mostly occurs outside of school.1
When it’s outside of school it’s out of the schools jurisdiction.

“Bullying occurs when an individual (or a group of people) repeatedly and intentionally cause harm to another person (or group of people), who is unable to avoid being targeted. Bullying can include:

  • Physical bullying (hitting, damaging property)
  • Verbal bullying (insults, teasing, intimidation)
  • Social bullying (lying, spreading rumors, excluding, damaging someone’s social reputation)
  • Cyberbullying (hurtful texts, posts, images or videos, imitating others online).”2

The Issue

Cyberbullying is unique in that the perpetrators have a level of anonymity about them. They can execute their bullying at any time of the day or night, and it’s usually outside of school hours. They can get to their victims in their own homes and cause more widespread public embarrassment. It tends to happen to slightly older children around 14 years of age or when they are given more access to electronic devices.

Cyberbullying is a problem for parents primarily because it’s new territory. There is no frame of reference to rely on because it isn’t something the older generations dealt with when they were growing up. Anything new is imminently more terrifying. What are the statistics? Are they really worth worrying about? What’s to be done about it?

Adults often think that there is an epidemic of cyberbullying and believe it is more common than data shows it to be. In fact, cyberbullying occurs much less frequently than traditional forms. Adults may also mistakenly believe that students are more upset by incidents of cyberbullying than students report being.3
Does this indicate that some of the education is getting through?

It is estimated that between 15% and 35% of young people have been victims of cyberbullying and between 10% and 20% of individuals admit to having cyber bullied others.4
Victims of cyberbullying are at greater risk of self-harm and suicidal behaviours than non-victims.

In the USA it is estimated that nearly 14.6 million youth may experience traditional bullying and 6.2 million may experience cyberbullying as either a victim or perpetrator. Both traditional bullying and cyberbullying have similar attributes and overlap considerably with as many as 88 % of victims (or perpetrators) of traditional bullying also being cyberbullying victims (or perpetrators).5

There’s a whole list of statistics around bullying in America here. The most encouraging statistics indicate that although bullying awareness is increasing there is a slight decline in the prevalence of bullying, but only slight. Many programs have been used within schools to prevent bullying but we really haven’t found ‘the cure’.

Why do kids bully?

Perhaps the best way to tackle this problem is to go directly to the source. Why do kids bully in the first place? Primarily it’s learned behavior. This may be learned behaviour from their parents, teachers or coaches, older siblings who were bullied themselves or other kids. Kids who bully are often craving attention and a feeling of empowerment. They may be feeling neglected at home or exposed to drug and alcohol problems on a regular basis. You can read more about why kids bully here.

The Symptoms

People who are involved in cyberbullying are over 85% more likely to be involved in traditional bullying.[noteJuvonen J, Gross EF. Extending the school grounds?–Bullying experiences in cyberspace. J Sch Health. 2008 Sep;78(9):496–505. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.2008.00335.x. [PubMed] [Cross Ref] [Ref list][/note]
]Bullying can result in emotional distress, depression, anxiety, social isolation, low self-esteem, school avoidance, decreased academic achievement and substance abuse for the victim and the bully. These issues may continue into adulthood.
A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.6

Telltale signs of bullying include:

  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns,
  • Frequent tears or anger
  • Feeling ill in the morning and not wanting to go to school
  • Changing friendship groups and
  • Unexplained bruises, cuts and scratches.

    What Should We Do About It?

The great thing about bullying, whether it be cyberbullying or traditional bullying, is that everyone can do something to help.


If you’re a bystander, you can be a friend to a victim. You can catch up with them after school, sit with them on the bus, ask them to join in your activity or whatever makes you comfortable. You can also stand up to the bully when you see it taking place. Let them know that what they’re doing is mean and should be stopped. You don’t need to do this publicly. Online you can direct message them. Be careful not to bully them back. If you’re worried about retaliation then tell an adult.

When you tell an adult you can include suspected bullying as well as the real thing but try to include as much detail as possible. Once you’ve told someone, if you think they haven’t done enough about it, follow up with another adult. Stamping out bullying is really important.

For the Victims

Preventive measures for potential victims include finding enjoyable activities that promote confidence and self-esteem, modeling how to treat others with kindness and respect, and encouraging people to seek positive friendships.

The Other Victims

We’ve talked about cyberbullying and bullying victims in schools throughout this article, however, bullying is an issue that may continue after school. It can happen in the workplace from co-workers as much as from bosses. It may also occur in other groups.

For the Parents

Parents can help by monitoring their children’s online and offline activities and social interactions, and encouraging their child to talk about any troubling experiences. If bullying has occurred, parents must be careful not to react with anger or take action without consulting their child. Young people often hide bullying from parents because they fear the parent will make things worse.7

It is helpful for parents to use the LATE strategy:

  1. Listen
  2. Acknowledge it hurts
  3. Talk about options
  4. End with encouragement.


It’s nice to know that cyberbullying may not be the epidemic that we thought it was, however, bullying is still an issue that has long-lasting effects for the victim, the bully, and friends and family. Cyberbullying is adding another layer of complexity to an already complex problem. The more troubling issue is that we don’t really know how to solve the problem. We have tried a number of school programs, but only moderate results have been achieved. We need you to help us solve this problem. Your voice matters.

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