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Well, you know me, she began, I always start with the literature--Robin Fox, David Schneider, Kath Weston, Helen Fisher. Over the years, Bell has been the source of some epic reading lists. From there, she continued, I would want to remind your client that relationships, kinship, marriage, and even love don't always work the same. Well, there are all different kinds of love, she answered. There's romantic love, love of family, love of God, love of country, even love of products and possessions. Smoke is still used today to signal the selection of a new pope by the Vatican, and the military uses smoke grenades to indicate positions and to signal for help. For even longer distances, messenger pigeons have been used for well over two thousand years. The Romans used them, and before that the Greeks used them to carry news of the winners of the ancient Olympics. In the nineteenth century Paul Julius Reuter, the founder of Reuters news agency, used pigeons to carry information about stock market prices. Pigeons were used in both world wars, and three individual messenger birds were awarded the Dickin Medal, given to animals that display particular courage in wartime. Known for their fantastic sense of direction and homing instincts, pigeons were trained to deliver messages reliably and over a considerable distance. It wasn't until 2002 that the police pigeon service in Orissa (now Odisha), northeast India, was finally disbanded. The earliest known written text artifact signaling the invention of a formal writing system dates back to around five thousand years. Writing brought with it the first means by which couriers would transport letters from one place to another by horse and carriage. Different countries had differing systems that evolved into what we know it as today: snail mail--so called due to its relative speed when compared to the speed of sending an email--the method by which we can send letters, parcels, and packages to anywhere in the world. One summer, my mother and father agreed to put me in camp. I do however remember feeling that maybe it wasn't such a bad thought. The idea of being surrounded by kids who didn't know me was as delightful as it was terrifying. I felt stained where I was, and that stain was reflected back onto me whenever I looked into the eyes of those around me. On the first day of summer camp, a school bus arrived to transport me there.

As I walked onto the bus, I remember feeling numb, and as if time had stopped. I stared out the window the entire ride to camp, and never uttered a single word to any of the other kids on the bus that day. Love, marriage, relationships, and sex are all on a sliding scale, meaning that people define them differently. Each is an individual concept, and so how you define it is uniquely individual. This is evident in the fluidity of gender and sexuality that's become more accepted in recent years. How each person defines their gender or their sexuality can be wildly different. This applies to relationships, love, marriage, and sex as well. For example, when I say the word sex to you or making love or sexual relationship, the image that will typically pop up into your head speaks to your sexual preference--the person you prefer to have sex with. You will see the type of person you are or want to be married to. Where prior forms of communication might take weeks or even months to reach the intended recipient, the invention of the telegraph in the early 1800s--the transmission of electrical signals using Morse code over telegraph lines--meant that not only could communication happen over long distances, but that it could do so much more easily and quickly. Alexander Graham Bell made the first-ever telephone call in 1876, and his new invention was considered in the same way we're now trying to come to grips with the internet and all that entails. The telephone was met with tremendous excitement as well as fears that it would threaten privacy, lead to more sophisticated crime, and destroy jobs. In 1973 Dr Martin Cooper, who worked at Motorola, made the first public phone call from a mobile device. The internet as we know it today, the World Wide Web, was born in 1989, and since then it's as if we've pressed fast-forward in how quickly the landscape has changed. It's been one hell of a roller-coaster ride from then to now. Communication has become as instantaneous as the internet connection is strong, largely due to the Simon Personal Communicator, invented by IBM in 1992--what you and I would now call a smartphone. Add social networking to the mix, and we end up where we are now, with communication turbocharged and us all in desperate need of a recharge. You see, all of this opportunity and widening of our horizons comes at a cost. Mentally I existed somewhere on the edge of a cliff, half hoping to fall to the ground below, and the other half hoping to be pulled back and rescued by someone -- anyone. I entered the program about a month after it had begun.

By the time I got to camp, the children had already settled into a routine and had made their friends. I could not help but notice how well they all seemed to get along. They stuck together in little packs and seemed to be so at ease in one another's company. I however, felt more like a giant infected red toe, terrified of being bumped into, but even more terrified that my infection would go ignored. Afraid of everything, I came off as cold, aloof, and perhaps even stuck-up. More broadly, when I say relationship, you can see a whole continuum of relationships. You might see a love relationship or a relationship with your parents or your children (if you have them). Or you might think about your relationship to your god or religion. Her understanding of love and marriage and relationships had been rocked by her messy breakup. As a result, she was reluctant to make the same mistake. But would she be unable to imagine a different kind of love, leading to a different kind of future? The point was that there isn't one type of love or relationship or sex. The future of love is less binary than what Ruth experienced the first time around. There's a dopamine hit we receive when our posts are liked, shared, and applauded. Movements can reach many more people, leading to substantial shifts in social change--for the better, and the worse. Trolling and cyberbullying are newly coined names for what is an increasingly troubling negative consequence of living so much of our lives online, enabling those with nefarious intentions to hide behind an online presence. The sheer quantity of information that enters our brains isn't something our biological makeup is prepared for, and the seemingly limitless input and noise and distraction can take a toll on our cognitive functions. Walking along our streets we're met with a sea of devices, and everyone is looking down at what's in their hands. When we're not online, we experience FOMO (fear of missing out), but what are we missing out on? That Michael likes to eat toasted English muffins for breakfast?

I am certain the other children perceived me as a big jerk. I found it difficult to talk back when I was spoken to, and found it painfully impossible to extend myself to anyone. To the contrary, I was plagued with insecurities that made me feel as significant as a single drop of water in an ocean. And how could I have known that the acceptance I craved would require me to drop the facade I carried? All they saw was a tomboyish-looking girl with a chip on her shoulder. They could never have known how deeply I wished I didn't feel the need to be so hard. I thought that might liberate her from her fears and allow her to imagine a different and better future for herself. She would need to examine who she was and the future she wanted. This can get messy when we're talking about love, relationships, and sex. People discover things about themselves that make them uncomfortable or that they're not ready to accept. But it's important to remember that there is no right answer. After a few days of keynotes and Q&As at the conference, I was ready to take this step with Ruth. Algorithms help to convince us that we're missing out on the lives of other people, when really, we're missing out on living our own lives. Socializing is played out through the screens of our phones and then swiftly edited and uploaded to our chosen social media platform. It's fascinating and frightening, liberating and suffocating, enlarging our world and shrinking it, too. It's important to recognize that these devices are not our enemy. We can use our phones to order in pizza, learn about any topic, open a bank account, watch a film, read a article, track our habits, listen to a podcast or music, and sign off on a contract--all from our handheld devices. We can create new jobs that didn't exist years ago and chat to people from all corners of the globe who we've never actually met, from wherever we are, as long as we have a reliable 4G or Wi-Fi connection. For those who might be isolated, social media acts as a window to the outside world; One of the reasons these digital boundaries can be challenging to figure out is that our devices and apps come from factories and creators who've put very few boundaries, if any, in place.

They could have never known how fiercely I wanted to fit in. At the lunch table on that first day, a chubby little girl with an Afro looked at me and said, You know, if you want people to be your friend, you should really try being nice. I was stunned, and felt my body get even more stiff. On a visceral level there was something rotten about me. I had to protect that truth, otherwise they wouldn't like me. We decided to meet at the hotel again for a late lunch. The dining room was empty, the throng of business people having migrated elsewhere. We had the room to ourselves, except for an elderly couple eating by the windows overlooking the pool. Kids splashed around while parents sunned themselves and chatted idly. The slumped shoulders had been replaced by an eager enthusiasm. Before we start, let me remind you, I said, pointing at my bald, bearded head. The crux of boundaries is that there are limits and space around and between us and everything else. With that in mind, the onus is on us to work our way through the endless settings to create boundaries that feel comfortable, safe, and supportive to our health and happiness. These devices could potentially infringe on almost all areas of our lives: For example, we take a bath and take our phones with us (we even take them to the bathroom). There are read receipts to contend with, and the boundaries surrounding when we can be contacted have been obliterated--this can all unduly influence our mental health. These factors make navigating the relatively new and convoluted landscape of digital boundaries something we need to address. As a comparatively recent concept, we're all wrapping our heads around how to get our digital devices to work for us, and not against us. When our devices start buzzing to alert us that our attention is demanded, we hop right to it, and when we're doing something like driving, we can't jump to it, but our focus is compromised. So my parents didn't wind up losing the money they spent on me to go to camp, my sister went in my place and had an amazing experience there. This did little more than solidify for my mother and father the idea that there was something wrong with me.