Yesterday, the revelation that over 40 million people may have been hacked at Target over the last few weeks was stunning and terrifying. I suspect that Target wasn’t the only target. I would not be surprised to learn that other stores were also targeted. Certainly the holiday shopping season (the fifth season from Thanksgiving to just after New Year’s) is the perfect time to breach a retailer’s system. Of course, it’s not just the retailer who is ruined. Millions of lives are, at best, disrupted. For some, the impact may be horrific, especially at this time of year.
It is easy to feel paranoid these days. So much seems out of our control. To be up to speed (which is quite fast), one must surrender to more and more channels and networks, further and further removed from an original action, that through incredible technology, allows actions and transactions to occur instantaneously. We tend to forget that because so much of our transactions are instantaneous, that there is actually a network out there–wherever there is. It feels immediate and therefore gives us the sense of interaction. Or maybe we are just more willing to surrender to what seems so much easier than waiting. We feel like we can accomplish so much more than we used to. But, there are daily reminders of nefariousness. It is easy to feel like a target.
Like terrorism, cyber hacking seems to prey on obvious targets through innocent civilians who are merely living their lives. It is cruel and terrifying, and after each incident, we redouble our efforts to create better protection. But the fear and paranoia lingers as we increase safety measures. There is a sense that we are always targets.
When we are able to put aside the threats of terrorism and hacking, we worry that we are being targeted by the NSA, or advertisers, or even by political ideologues. It seems as though we are targeted by anyone and everyone. While some target us for our potential business or donations, others target us as “the other”, and therefore the problem: teachers; unions; single parents; poverty stricken; Wall Streeter; drug addicted; super wealthy; politician; left; right; religious; atheist; ……You are either with us or against us. Marketers seek their target audiences. We target others and get targeted by others all the time.
While it is easy to be concerned about nefarious targeting and the fear of being an innocent victim, I am actually more concerned about the prosaic targeting that is part of our culture and constantly exhibited by individuals regardless of beliefs or station in life. We live in echo chambers. It is tribal. We seem more focused on targeting frustrations at others than on working through problems, integrating different components. Yes, compromising. The holidays may be a time to reflect upon targets. We like New Year’s resolutions as they redirect our attention toward personal improvement (usually not at the affect of others). When we target others, we diminish them. They become one dimensional. When we include others–even differing opinions and ways–the target shifts toward building; toward more dimensions.
2013 was a year of many difficulties that became compounded by targeting individuals or agencies for blame, rather than acknowledging what (or who) was problematic and focusing on improvement. We had plenty of target practice this year, perfecting the aim with our weaponry, literally and figuratively. We can aim for much better–changing the old targets. There is so much that we can’t control–or rather–there is only so much that we can control. We can choose new targets that do not diminish. The narrow targets, those that are from a single point of view, diminish. This holiday season, when we try to take a break from our troubles and enjoy our families and some peace, we can redirect and begin a new target practice. Don’t target others. Aim positively. Happy Holidays!