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Anti-Social Networks

To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, I’m sick of the damn emails. I’m also sick of Twitter wars. I’m sick of electronic solicitations for campaign contributions. And I’m sick of Facebook friends arguing politics. God, I’m sick of Facebook.

Technology was supposed to improve our communications, facilitate the free flow of information, raise the bar on discourse, and advance the ideals of education. Remember the early days of the Internet, when we were told that it would ultimately break down walls and bring the world closer together?

Instead, it is building more walls. Not big, classy, beautiful walls, but walls that keep in hatred and keep out reason.

I’m closing in on 50 and have never seen a country, or a world, more divided by ideology, and fear, and propaganda spread electronically, instantaneously, and without apology.

See, I’ve always been an optimist. I believe people are inherently good. I hold doors for strangers, drop coins in homeless people’s cups, volunteer my time coaching baseball and running Scout dens.

In the course of the day, I embrace technology: the calendar on my smartphone; the navigation unit in my car; the Words With Friends games with some of my favorite people who happen to now live in Charleston and Bentonville and Binghamtom. Technology has made my life richer, gave me a way to make a living, allowed me to avoid stepping into a mall.

But the social-media aspect of technology is rapidly becoming a burden. For every cute online photo of a friend’s kid, or new puppy, there is a subsequent attack on civility and honesty. We have become our imagined personas, not the actual people we wanted to become. It may be time for me to unplug a bit and enjoy the company of nearby friends, in the flesh, and really Like them, actually, in person.

The Giants of Retail

It is the end of the ranking season here at TWICE, and this issue combines all the previous retailing reports we published into one comprehensive view of the technology retail world.

Our annual Retailing Giants Report takes into account all CE and major appliance sales, ranking the top 100 retailers of technology. Best Buy is still the 1,000-pound gorilla, and the retail space is mirroring the income disparity of the country in general, with the top four retailers raking in more then $7 billion in gains while the other 96 ranked retailers mostly reporting shrinking bottom lines.

But the bright side of the numbers was in appliances, where the majority of retailers actually showed gains.

This trend will most likely continue as housing prices rise and consumers who look at a new 4K TV or wireless sound system as a luxury, see a higher end stove or dishwasher as an investment in the resale value of their houses. It’s easier to justify a big-ticket majap purchase. Ultimately, people are practical.

Senior editor Alan Wolf and our research partner, The Stevenson Group, did yeoman’s work on this year’s reports. I am confident these are the best, most accurate and well-researched numbers we’ve ever out put there. So thanks to them.

Very Important Products

Voting begins this week for TWICE’s annual VIP Awards. If you are a retailer or distributor and can trace your success over the past 12 months to any particularly well-conceived, useful and, of course, profitable, products, here is your chance to reward your vendor partners. Go to this month to vote!