GSG Edition #36 — let’s discuss:

Making Sense of the Week That Was: Social Connections — Changing Social Relationships, Mental Health, Technology and More…

Grey Swan Guild News Wrap Edition #36 of Volume 1 | 24 September 2021

Editors: This week’s editors are a gang of Grey Swan Guild “Newbies” — new as editors and new as connected friends… (Editorial comment: Be good to us, this has been an experiment having so many contributors and all of us new to the game… this may not be as tight as usual).

This week, and particularly with September being “Friendship Month”, we take a bite at the broad theme of Social Connections.

“It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter”. Marlene Dietrich

For many of us, the pandemic has had a slow and insidious effect on our sense of self which has, over time, translated into significant changes in our relationship behaviours… spanning family ties, dating, working interactions, pets, babies, education, school, technology use and more. At the same time, overall mental health has been affected by our changed relationships, and technology is becoming increasingly available to help us navigate relationships, improve our mental health and more. How is what we are currently experiencing different from the past and what are our expectations for the future? Have your relationships changed? What do you want more of? What do you want less of?

We’d love to hear your thoughts about Social Connections — how relationships have changed, how technology may or may not be supporting relationships and connections and what has happened to mental health.

Why not join us on Clubhouse this Sunday the 26th September 2021 at 8am PST | 11am EST | 4pm BST | 5pm SAST to make sense of it all, have your say and engage with your favourite and new Grey Swan Guild Wrap Editors: Esmee Wilcox, Geeta Dhir, Gina Clifford, Su McVey, Doyle Buehler, Sylvia Gallusser, Sean Moffitt, Agustín Borrazás, Rob Tyrie, Louise Mowbray, Ben Thurman, Antonia Nicols, with Clubhouse Captains Howard Fields, Scott Phares and Lindsay Fraser.

In the meantime….Let’s Wrap.

The Great 😇

Photo by Jed Villejo on Unsplash

1.The future is so bright😎…Futures Thinking can help schools and young people plan for the next pandemic. If educational institutions incorporated futures thinking, the system in place today may look dramatically different. The model could be designed for resilience in the face of the next pandemic, creating a system that ensures well-being for students and faculty, including food insecurity and mental health.

2.Look at all the lonely people. More wisdom may be what keeps the feeling of loneliness in check. Wisdom and loneliness travel in opposite directions. A new cognitive study from the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine, an objective neurobiological experiment on how lonelier or wiser people process information, shows that lonelier individuals paid more attention to threatening stimuli, such as angry faces. The study also found a significant positive relationship for response speeds when faces with happy emotions were shown, specifically individuals who displayed wiser traits, such as empathy, had speedier responses in the presence of happy stimuli.

The implications can be chicken and egg, and egg and chicken. Wise people can combat loneliness more effectively. Less lonely people can process information better. So jump on it, join that book club, bar trivia team or maybe even a Guild.. (Editor’s note: recent Facebook-shared health video suggests lonely people spend more time in shower/bath than others… time to get wise, get out of your tub and participate in our Clubhouse sessions fully clothed… feeling wiser already).

The Good 🤩

Photo by Gian Cescon on Unsplash

1.How much is that doggy in the window? Pets over babies…A boom in human babies was suggested in the early days of the pandemic (after watching all of the Tiger King, what was left to do?). Research suggests the initial prediction was not fulfilled in actuality with a population blip rather than a boom. However, a surge in the acquisition of furry friends took many by surprise, including the pet food and pet management sector. Although there have great predictions of pet abandonment when “things get back to normal” (a bad news story that is yet to come) there have been great and positive changes in the pet retail market.

From food and toys (which have been on an upturn throughout the pandemic), other services like grooming and daycare (temporarily closed or running on reduced capacity during lock-downs) are expecting upsurges in demand that may not be able to meet demand as people return to “post-pandemic ‘normal’ working behaviours.” How much do we love our furry companions? Will we abandon them as we move to a more “normal” future life? Or will our futures include more furry companions than ever before? And how, will their presence continue to improve our mental health — and impact our pocketbooks? (Millennials may not like cereal but they’d like pets. In this poll, it was found that 43% of pet adoption was by millennials. In cities, we predict there will be a high cost of pet ownership debate that occurs as it plays a part in inflation. Economists will have to add pet products to those cost of living shopping carts.

2.Old Love. Seniors are swiping right in big numbers. More than a quarter of people living alone in Canada are seniors. The pandemic has increased the isolation that can come from living alone. Seniors are combating this loneliness by looking online to find companions and maybe even a partner. Last month alone, 385,000 adults in Canada have used an online dating site. It seems entirely possible that seniors, who have been compelled to accelerate their online adoption to meet basic medical, financial and other needs during the pandemic, have now started moving to online environments to meet social needs. To great effect, we hope.

3. Call me maybe. We All Use Our Phones Differently — So General Measures Of “Screen Time” Are Not Very Useful. We may have it all wrong when it comes to classifying the increasing amounts of screen time as “bad”. This study shows that the ubiquitous nature of phone use is so varied that one label on its use is likely wrong and that in fact some applications and uses are leaving users feeling quite positive — particularly the social activities. This is good news as we all have likely spent more time on our phones during the last 18 months than we care to admit. See more…

The Bad 😬

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

1.The Greatest love of all. Children are the future. School children have missed key social development opportunities. New analysis from Nesta reveals that the average pupil in England missed more than a quarter of their early years of education due to the pandemic. What will this mean for young children that are just starting to learn empathy and all of those key aspects of relationship forming? See more…

2.Hey Teacher, don’t leave those kids alone. Students stressed at having achieved the “nirvana” of being back in classes. This back-to-school year was supposed to be a return to normal, where students once again sit in classrooms just like they did pre-COVID-19. But the New York Times asked students to share what it is really like to be back and the results are unsettling. The students are stressed, anxious, exhausted and are struggling to maintain academics. Many say the transition back to in-person learning is the cause. A mix of social anxiety and poor academic preparation due to ineffective online learning the previous year is largely mentioned. What could schools have done differently to make for a smoother transition? See more…

3.Mondo Bondo. The Age of Artificial Intimacy Is Already Upon Us. Is artificial intimacy good enough and easy enough to edge out real intimacy? Is this trend accelerated by the pandemic and remote work and socializing? How long will it be before we can’t tell the difference between old-world intimacy and that provided via our tools? See more…

​“Machines may never be able to do friendship, intimacy, or love as well as humans, but they need not be that good before they affect our lives.”

Love, Death and Robots. What about Artificial Friendship? The recent novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun, follows a humanoid robot who is tasked with providing companionship to a sickly child. In simple poetic language, the deeply observant Klara breaks emotion down into its constituent parts to understand others’ feelings and ultimately her own. Ishiguro questions the implications of life so intimately tied with technology. As artificial intelligence grows more prevalent, countless questions emerge, some ethical, some existential…

The Ugly 😱

Vice News — Emma Ockerman reports…

1.Murder Incorporated. Introducing “Don’t Murder Me Bags” (Twitter label). What has the world come to when relationships between the police and the people they “protect” require taking actions such as this? A clear plastic pouch to attach to the steering wheel that contains drivers license, insurance documents etc. so that, during a traffic stop, one can provide police-required documentation without “reaching” and causing an over-reactive response. While devised by well-meaning individuals and arguably being an approach with potentially positive outcomes, in Friendship Month this “nugget” can only fall into the ugly.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety has a new plan to keep drivers safe during traffic stops: clear, plastic holders called “not-reaching pouches” that put a person’s driver’s license and insurance information in plain view so a cop doesn’t think they’re grabbing something more nefarious. See more on this…

Oh honey, don't be that way. Vaccine Enmity.
One in seven people have ended friendships over their vaccine stance. Increasing social isolation of the anti-vaxxers and perhaps finding the tribe of less than 10% hardcore elements of the movement may be a consequence. It was bound to happen but… oh, the humanity…

3. Why Can’t We Be Friends? Is this one bad or ugly? It’s a tough call but we know it simply doesn’t feel good. France accused U.S. President Joe Biden of stabbing it in the back after Australia ditched a defence contract with Paris for the purchase of conventional submarines. Paris recalled its ambassadors from the United States and Australia. According to the Financial Times “The episode, however, is also a reminder of how careless and ruthless the US can be in its treatment of allies.” President Biden and President Emmanuel Macron of France took a tentative first step to repairing damaged relations on Wednesday and agreed to meet in Europe next month, most likely on the margins of the Group of 20 summit meeting in Italy. White House aides said it was also possible that the leaders would meet separately to underscore their resolve to mend their relationship.

The Grey Zone of Uncertainty 🧐

Photo by Paolo Nicolello on Unsplash

1.Break me, shake me, take me any way you know. In a Fast-Moving Pandemic, Daters Are Taking It Slow. Dating has seen some major changes over the course of the last 18 months. While moving to slow dating and focusing on date quality over quantity may seem positive to some (likely those who haven’t spent much time on dating sites where the biggest effort is the weeding of people and the most reliable method being the in person meeting) this article raises a particular notion that is fascinating and frightening… “People think they’re competing with other suitors when dating me, but really I’m comparing you to my own solitude”. Is this the voice of empowerment based on an understanding and comfort with self? Or is it the voice of fear that comes from isolation… “I am more comfortable alone because it has been so long since I have had to participate in normal society”?

2.Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto. Can Emotion AI help us read others’ emotional state? Apple is studying how to ascertain mood through iPhone usage, but emotion AI has a reputation for being pseudoscience. BetterUp, the inventor of virtual coaching and global leader in whole person transformation, has acquired Emotion AI leader Motive and people tech company Impraise. Facial recognition technology is taking one step further to recognize not only faces but also the emotions that those faces display. While this could be useful for a variety of industries, this technology also has some limitations. Researchers have to train the AI extensively and include subjects from a variety of cultures because not every culture expresses emotions in the same way.


The collection of images, videos and charts delivered by the zeitgeist that is the internet and the news cycle:

Dating in these Times — As slow as you want it.

From: How to date in the pandemic, according to a doctor.

The Unusual Pandemic Pets of South America

some more equal than others via AP.

The Lexicon

n. the condition of absence of mental health, characterized by ennui, apathy, listlessness, and loss of interest in life. It is not depression or anxiety. It is a grey area and may be a pre-cursor to depression if one does not seek to adjust for it.

Feeling Blah During the Pandemic? It’s Called Languishing

Podcast of the Week

Bellweather. This new podcast explores relations between humans and complex information systems through speculative fiction. Combining non-fiction journalism and future fiction, Bellweather promises to explore tough topics that need to be addressed. Launches Sept. 27. Interesting storytelling format if the teaser is any indication.

Meme of the Week:

Music of the Week

Charts of The Week:

The Pandemic giveth and taketh away.

Living Alone: Source: our World in Data

About Us:

This week is edition #36 of a compendium of stories and headlines we’re tracking in the Grey Swan Guild’s Global League of Sensemakers’ Newsroom. Imagine a newsroom that went deeper, had little bias and didn’t have to get their points across in 40-second sound bytes or linkbait headlines. That’s us.

You can make Submissions to The Wrap any time on The Grey Swan Guild’s LinkedIn page with the hashtag #TheWrap. Be pithy, be wry, be relaxed and make some sense of the news with us. It’s a place we hang out during the week too. Join the conversation there and share your ideas, hopes, and worries with us. We are in this together for a reason.

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This month our Feature Guild City of the month is Seattle. If you know of passionate leaders, thinkers or change agents from Emerald City, release the Kraken and have them join our Guild.

We have opened up another Medium and Clubhouse flank to the Grey Swan. Based on the pioneering successes of our Grey Swan News Wrap effort we have created “The Futures & Sensemaking” Series with an array of articles forthcoming about the why and how of making sense of the world. Next up Episode #2 is “Why Sensemaking & Critical Thinking Matter?” on Friday, September 24th. Join us as we peel back the curtain on how the best among us make sense of the world.

Join us September 24th:




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