Opinion: Outside In


Who Do You Trust?

By David Weinstein

“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” – Oscar Wilde

I have an Apple in my pocket that’s as compelling as the one that tempted Eve. It is only one of a suite of devices that have captured my attention. Yes, I am that person at the restaurant lost in my smartphone while at least some of the other patrons engage in friendly conversation. I seem to have forgotten the name of Warren Beatty’s sister (Shirley MacLaine), and it is suddenly of great importance that I retrieve this information at once. I am that person you see on your morning walk, wildly gesticulating while talking on my smartphone, deeply involved in a conversation and oblivious to the outside world. Before the advent of cellphones, you might have stopped and offered help believing I was suffering a psychotic breakdown. But today, I’m just another victim fallen prey to this addiction, so I am passed without notice. If this isn’t disturbing enough, it is predicted, going forward, that the average person will spend 44 years looking at some type of a screen. I know this because I just looked it up on my smartphone.

Along with the miracle of supplying the collective knowledge accumulated by humankind over millenniums and packing it into a device that fits into your pocket, we have also opened Pandora’s Box and put that in there too! With this we’ve given billions of unknown players, direct and immediate access to us and our personal information. So, I think the critical question now becomes—“who do you trust?”

I know who I don’t trust. I don’t trust political commentators masquerading as journalists spouting inflammatory narratives filled with fear and outrage to capture our attention in hopes that their advertisers can sell us more pills or pillows. I don’t trust conspiracy theories with no basis in fact, regardless of how often they are repeated on social media, especially if they refer to aliens from space, involve claims of pedophilia by government officials, or plots by international banking cabals. I don’t trust the big social media companies. By “big” I mean those that count their worldwide users in the billions. And while I love the ability to stay in touch with family and friends, I am concerned that the platforms these companies have created allow foreign bots, scammers, and identity thieves to spread disinformation and chaos around the globe and separate the unsuspecting from their money with few restrictions or guardrails put up by our governments. And isn’t it too bad that those identity thieves only take the best parts of your identity and always leave the receding hairline, the extra 15-pound paunch, and the wrinkles. You may put forth arguments about the virtue of free speech, and I do not entirely disagree. However, life is always reminding us that “nothing is free, and there is ultimately a price to be paid for everything.”

How do we navigate this Faustian bargain we have struck and break away from the spell these digital devices have cast? How do we regain control of our personal privacy and take back the uninterrupted access we have so freely granted to these monsters in our pockets?

For me, I’m going to check in with the sources I’ve used for guidance and advice in the past, and not because they come up at the top of a Google search. Sources I have a history with and that have earned my trust, and whose self-interests I understand. First, my wife because she’s maintained her idealism and is still the most practical person I know. Then Smitty, my 92-year-old former boss. He’s a storehouse of information on business and dogs. Maybe Ivers about questions on gear —from major household appliances to snow blowers. He is more reliable than Consumer Reports. Stan on horseracing, especially when I need a single to fill a Pick 5 bet at Santa Anita. My grandsons to help navigate this new digital world. And my childhood buddies, Brad and Stacy, on general life issues. They’ve made every conceivable mistake and still managed to somehow survive, and brilliantly. But

I won’t take their advice on marriage. They have enough wives and ex-wives to field a softball team, and I understand that Stacy is still scouting a few bench players.

I’ll end my diatribe by sharing some advice that I find as relevant as the day I heard it. It’s a response I heard early in my career from a prospect being pitched a particularly outrageous proposal—“my mother always told me keep an open mind, but not so open that my brains fall out.”

I hope you also have some trusted sources.

David lives in nearby Newport Beach and his column often appears in the Laguna Beach Independent.

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  1. It is rare to see a “golden sentence” in opinion pieces but David Weinstein really got my attention with his opening sentence “I have an Apple in my pocket that’s as compelling as the one that tempted Eve.” That sentence said it all.I agree! The rest of the article was interesting too but I just had to write to praise the lead sentence! Thank you!

  2. Thank you for your generous words. They are much appreciated. It’s nice to know someone is actually reading my scribblings.


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