iamtheinvisiblehand

Archive for November 2011

I went with my husband to the mall’s food court a few months ago to grab a quick bite before our movie started. There was nothing unusual for a Friday night at the mall, except for the fact that there were 4 teenagers at the table behind us just sitting there in silence.

Puzzled by the lack of any sign of movement or sound, we turned around to take a look. As it turns out, there were 2 girls and 2 boys (I’d say around age 16), the girls on one side, the boys on the other (it looked like some kind of blind date for one of the couples). Things were fine up to this point. What left us dumbstruck was the fact that they were – each of them – texting on their phones and that kept them from interacting with each other. It was the saddest thing I ever saw.

I know well that times have changed, me being part of the generation that learned to type on a typewriter and gradually made the transition to a PC; to print my first papers on the noisy dot matrix printer and end up with a petit laser printer; from having (and using) regular phones at home to not knowing how I ever managed before cordless phones appeared, and from using the huge devices that were the first cell phones to the minimalistic cell phones available today that have buttons you have to stick your nails into if you want to press them. Or even better: there were no cell phones in my childhood and early adolescence, so we had to use the regular phone (or payphone) to get in touch with our parents to let them know where we were and that were OK.

Oh yes, times have changed.

But does that mean that we now have to be 100% reliant on technology and forget that as human beings, we are social animals and as such have the physiological need to interact with others (even if sometimes we don’t particularly enjoy it)?

I mean, these kids were just a small example of something you see everyday: you’re at a meeting and one person in 3 is busy texting away while pretending to pay attention to what is being said; you’re in someone’s living room, or visiting a relative and there are at least two people (not necessarily teenagers) who have chosen a quiet corner in which they can text away at their leisure. Or even worse: there are two or more people at the same gathering who are texting each other and passing jokes and comments on their phones, not even bothering to speak to each other.

What is going on? Is this what we’re becoming?

I know that most people now have BBs and similar because they need them for work, or at least that’s what they’ll tell you. I wonder if they really do. Of course I admit that current technology has improved our lives in ways we never could have imagined, but I’m also certain that we have become dependent on our “gadgets” in a way that is almost dehumanizing.

I’m quite sure that our parents were just as good and effective employees back in their day as anyone who is currently a part of the workforce. The main difference is, they were able to “disconnect” themselves and do so much more for themselves and their family. Even though many of us had workaholic parents or parents who just had to work extra hard to support their household, at least in my case, when my mother was with us, she was with us heart, mind and soul, if even for a little while. Which is why I find it surprising how nowadays, in spite of the ever-growing array of working options and the greater freedom given by employers worldwide to make it easier for their employees to spend time with their family, people are just not taking advantage of it and are “not all there”. 

For although they can move around a lot more and share some time with their kids and spouses, people are always losing focus on things that matter and concentrating on more “urgent” stuff – a.k.a. everything else. Even when doing something they really enjoy (watching TV, eating out, etc.), people are unable to keep their mind on what they are doing, and instead are thinking of the other million things that are happening while they are “absent” or “disconnected”. It’s almost like things have been reversed: instead of thinking about what you’re missing when you’re not doing what you like the most (e.g. thinking about fishing while at work), we’re worried about what we’re missing while we are doing the things that at some point gave us immense pleasure.

Ever wondered why good TV shows get cancelled so soon? My guess is that, among others, people are not focused on what they’re watching and quickly lose interest in the plot if it requires their full attention and putting down their phone, no matter how good it is.

It’s like our generation and those behind us have lost their “lust for life” and have settled for being permanently hooked on our gadgets as if they were another appendage.

I guess we convince ourselves that what we are doing what must be done in order to live our lives the best we can and as such, every single personal life-related decision is valid. However, once we start losing sight of who we are, and unable of separating it from what we do and what we want, there is no turning back.

Our generation, I believe, is doomed, but there’s still time for the others to straighten their ideas and get it right before it’s too late and the cycle repeats itself: parents not paying attention to their kids, spouses ignoring each other, etc. and therefore the pattern repeating itself with each new generation.

I just hope I’m wrong.

I read this week an article (parentguidenews.com) on how you could know what your children would be capable of in life according to their birth order (first-born, last-born, middle).

Now, I know there are specialists all around the world who are 100% dedicated to observe and analyze these differences, but after reading some of the literature available on the net, I’m pretty sure people can’t be fit into categories just by their birth order, even though there are a few similarities.

Just so you know what I’m talking about, I’ll summarize the whole thing:

-first-born “…Common personalities of the first-born include perfectionism, reliability, conscientiousness, organized, list makers, critical, serious and goal oriented. As a result of having only adults as role models, first-born children tend to be considered more advanced or “little adults.” They can develop into two basic personality types, compliant and pleasing or strong-willed and aggressive. First born children commonly go on in life to be leaders and achievers”. 

-Second-born or middle child “…Birth order personalities develop in response to siblings, not parents. Therefore, the second born or middle child will develop traits opposite that of the first-born. Middle children have a tendency to feel left out of things at home or in the family. They have a hard time finding their place among first-born children and babies. Middle children can show up in a variety of places in the family depending on the number of children. No matter the size of the family, the middle children can develop the same personality traits that become known as the middle child syndrome. These children may feel displaced, lost and angry, and they may look for outside companionship to avoid the hurt feelings as if they don’t belong at home. They often have a strong dependence on outside peer groups”.

-Third-born “…the third born is often the baby of the family. Third born children are usually the charmers in the family. They become the class clown and are usually good manipulators. They are also affectionate and uncomplicated. Underneath all of that charm they can be rebellious, critical, temperamental, spoiled and slightly impatient”.

-Fourth-born “…Fourth born children often develop the ability to deal well with people. This is probably a result of having to deal with all of those personality types growing up. They may also be great thinkers and able to manage challenging situations. They may also become analytical, hard workers and they can be pushy or passive.”

According to the article, there are great similarities between the only child and the first-born, because a first-born was an only child, if even for a little while.

Now, considering my family history, this does not apply to any of us.  Of course, I know that circumstances may change according to the environment, on whether the family is complete or has been divided, location, etc. but honestly, I’m not that sure that the life we live is a result of our birth-order and that our success or failure is determined by the fact that we were the first or last-born.

My family, for instance, is composed of 4 girls. I’m number 3. My eldest is 8 years older than me, sister # 2 is six years older than me and I am 3 years older than my little sister. I am in my mid-thirties now, so you do the math.

Now, my eldest is none of the things mentioned above. If anything, she is both compliant and pleasing AND strong-willed and aggressive. Why? Because she was always outshone by sister # 2. The only thing that IS true about her is that “the second born or middle child will develop traits opposite that of the first-born”. Just as my eldest is shy, withdrawn and a conformist, resulting from an entire childhood and early adolescence of being put down, sister # 2 is driven, ambitious, outspoken and exudes a self-confidence that would be quite intimidating if ony it were real: deep down she is fragile, insecure and has little self-esteem.

As for me, well, living in sister #2’s shadow has never been easy, but I guess at some point you can decide to let it slide and go on with your own life, which is what I’ve done so far. And I don’t complain: I have a good life, and I’m living it on my terms, not depending on what gets thrown my way. But then, I never was considered the baby, and I certainly was never the clown, the manipulator or the charmer, although I do admit that I am critical, temperamental and slightly impatient.

The last-born, my little sister and daughter # 4, is indeed a hard worker and extremely pushy, but other than that, she doesn’t exactly possess the “people skills” mentioned. Quite the contrary: because she was the last of 4 children (which is already a lot), I’m guessing my mother was exhausted by the time she came along and so she let her get away with, well…pretty much everything (see more on sister #4 in a previous post).

My point being that if all the above were true, sisters #1 and #3 would be successful, independent, mature, leaders and/or good with people. I can tell you, they are none of those things. I mean, OK, they have done well to a certain extent professionally and rather late I may say (#1 has finally landed a stable job with an enormous MNC) , but their own personal issues have weighed down on them so hard that they are the exact opposite. If they had the strength implied in their descriptions, this wouldn’t be the case. Proof of this is that they both live with my mom.

Now, sister # 2 and I, as the middle children and supposedly the ones feeling displaced, lost and left out, we left the nest earlier: my sister at age 30 because she (finally) decided she wanted some privacy and could afford it (she makes the big bucks in the family), and I left at age 26 to get married (I left my mom’s earlier to get my BS in Europe but came back in my mid-twenties, so technically I had left a lot earlier).

Bear in mind that on this side of the American continent, children rarely leave their parents’ house, only doing so to get married or when they can afford being independent, so leaving the nest at age 30 isn’t that unusual, although far from ideal. But if you’ve done the math, you’ve figured out that my two sisters still at mom’s are both over age 30 right now, so it is now officially getting creepy. And although my mother seems ok with this because it allows her to retain some control, I still think it’s shocking.

As I said, I believe that you can always decide what to do with the things that have happened to you throughout your life, and it’s up to each one of us to deal with things as best we can, so we can either become our own person or let all these bad things that happen keep us down. And that’s the main difference here: sister #1 and #3 are content to blame their misfortunes on the injustice of having a difficult life (whose isn’t?), and are satisfied knowing that it will serve as an excuse for their failures -or lack of success, or even drive – forever. 

So no, I’d say your birth order says nothing about you. The way you decide to tackle every obstacle and opportunity given says a lot more about who you are and how you’ll do in life than any “category” or “classification” available out there. And since I greatly mistrust any kind of category created to classify human behaviors (knowing that each and every single one of us is unique, how can that even be conceivable?), I’m happy to set this subject aside for good, regretting only the time I wasted reading the darn article, but entirely positive that I’m not the only one who thinks this way.



  • None
  • Carrie Rubin: I don't always remember names well, but I remember circumstances. I especially remembered yours because it's such a rare cancer, and you were the firs
  • iamtheinvisiblehand: Thank you for your kind words, but also thank you for remembering it was me....it's amazing that you'd remember this considering the endless stream of
  • Carrie Rubin: I am so sorry to hear about your mother. After you commented on my blog yesterday, I remembered that your mother was the one who had cholangiocarcinom

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