More Time Checking Your Phone, Less Time for Prayer and Diminished Solitude

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/10/opinion/sunday/privacy-religion.html

Ray Myers

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Screen Time as a Stress Reducer

“Device addiction is as likely a symptom of anxiety as a cause.”  Every teenager seems to have a device that is at their disposal any time of night or day.  It can help you to always be connected on your own terms with whomever you want to be, and feel you have established your own independence.

“But this may really be only an uncertain independence, many having been raised under the whirring of helicopter parents, over-involved and trying to fix every problem for their children. This suffocates independence at a time when teenagers should be exploring autonomy, limits the development of self-reliance and grit and may even directly produce anxiety and depression . . .

Yes, we should devote resources to making smartphones less addictive, but we should devote even more resources to address the public health crisis of anxiety that is causing teenagers so much suffering and driving them to seek relief in the ultimate escape machines (NY Times, 7/15/18).”

Ray Myers

Tech to Deceive – Cambridge Analytica Misspeaks?

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” Well, those were the “good old days,” when conversations were basically two-way and people didn’t typically search for alternative facts to support their point of view. Now thanks to our vast array of technological tools we can express any or all “viewpoints” and not worry about fact-checking or verification of information. “I saw it online, baby!” And, of course, there are those who put anything online that will advance an alternative “reality.”

Let’s take, for example, our international political activists (antagonists?) from across the sea, Cambridge Analytica. At a recent hearing where British authorities had the first chance to question Mr. Nix, ex-Chief of Analytica, about harvesting personal information of tens of millions of Facebook users without their consent. Mr. Nix said Wednesday that he had misspoken in February when he told lawmakers in London that his company has not used information collected from the social network.

So where are we? Is it really about the technology or their masters who manipulate it?

Ray Myers

iPads and Bedtime Reading

Bedtime reading with a tablet or smartphone can interfere with a good night’s sleep, some studies and many anecdotal reports suggest. Now researchers have conducted a small experiment to test the idea. Volunteers in this study reported less sleepy in the evening , and less alert in the morning after using the electronic device.

One of the co-authors of this study concluded that these devices are not benign. They have biological effects on us. I recently blogged about the social (or antisocial) effects of these “handy” devices on our interpersonal relationships. Now we discover that we may be losing physiological energy as well. Our digital tools may be our new “best,” and most demanding friends.

Where would we be without them?

Ray Myers

Thumbs Up! Texting May be Hazardous to Your Health.

And I am not talking about Trump’s salutary greeting of his adoring throngs. I am offering some unsolicited, nonprofessional medical advice to all our consummate “texters” out there who use their thumbs to send messages all day. Take a break! Now here is some advice from an experienced acupuncturist, Michelle Kuroda.

“We’re not meant to just use our thumbs all the time, she says. We’re meant to use our fingers. That’s what our grip is for.” Now please don’t worry about Mr. Trump. He really does not do all of the actual texting on a little digital device (no pun intended). He is definitely the “idea man,” but one lucky presidential staff member sends it out there for all to enjoy or not. No fact-checking needed.

Maybe we should start talking on our smartphones more? 👍👍👍👍👍👍👍

Ray Myers

Inside Washington Tech Policy Stories – a Reporter’s View

I (Cecilia Kang) feel like everyone is hunched over their phones in Washington even more than other places. This is a news-obsessed town that is texting and e-mailing at all hours. There seems to be a bit of a generational divide on the use of communications apps. Younger staffers on Capitol Hill often use encrypted apps and direct messages on Twitter. But even some of my older sources (my peers, really) can sometimes text me at all hours. It feels totally appropriate to call, text or Signal late at night or on weekends. Many an interview is done with children heard in the background at a park.

The whole attitude toward the tech industry has changed in Washington, with every growing calls for privacy regulation and antitrust enforcement of giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. The biggest stories coming up will be the lawsuits to restore net neutrality, which should begin late this summer. The Trump administration and the F.C.C. have focused on the race for the 5G networks and have acted to thwart competition from China, citing national security concerns. And privacy is the big wild card. Even if stricter privacy rules aren’t introduced in the United States, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation set to take effect next month will most likely spill over in some way into American policy.

Faster is better?

Ray Myers

Social Media Wealthy, but Lonely at Home

The United States and other countries might have been successful at connecting young citizens to the wonders of the Internet but there also seems to have been a price to pay in terms of interpersonal relationships with their peers. Teenagers are suddenly less likely to date, less likely to leave home without their parents, more likely to put off the activities of adulthood. They are spending more time alone with their digital screens,and the greater the screen time, the greater their unhappiness. Eighth graders who are heavy users of social media are 27 percent more likely to be depressed.

“But the big issue around social media is not privacy alone. These companies are feeding the epidemic of loneliness and social isolation. It’s not that the heavy social media users are sadder. It’s not only that online life seems to heighten painful comparisons and both inflate and threaten the ego. It’s that heavy internet users are much less likely to have contact with their proximate neighbors to exchange favors and extend care. There’s something big happening to the social structures of neighborhoods (Brooks, NYTimes, 4/20/18).”

Many of us who are socially wealthy don’t really know how the other half lives.

Ray Myers

Too Much Screen Time in School?

Digital tools can enrich, but is there a downside to too much screen time? Some pediatricians and parents are now raising concerns about the classroom laptops, tablets and apps, partly because school districts are adopting digital tools in droves.

Last year, primary and secondary schools in the United States spent $5.4 billion on 12.4 million laptop and tablet computers, according to International Data Corporation, a market research firm known as IDC. “The concern is that many programs students use in school are entertainment and gamified,” said Dr. Scott Krugman, a pediatrician in Baltimore County, who supported recently proposed state legislation that would develop optimum health and safety practices for the use of digital devices in schools. “We felt these are things that should be tracked and monitored.”

Baltimore County Schools also recommended that students take activity breaks from computer tasks every 20 minutes and leave their devices inside during recess. They may even have to play and talk with each other. Hmmm, old school, I guess?

Ray Myers

Daydreaming While Driving – Not a Technological Problem

The biggest distraction in your car might not be the smartphone in your hand. It could be the biochemical circuitry between your ears. On Wednesday I know I talked about the dangers of too many technological diversions that lead to distracted driving and its often deadly consequences. Your brain, however, may be one more thing that you have to keep in check or under control. The brain’s habit of drifting off into daydreams is still the biggest cause of distracted driving crashes, according to an insurance company’s recent analysis of federal traffic safety data.

Yet one of the best ways to keep the mind on task is to find it something else to do that offers some stimulation — but just not too much, said Paul Atchley, a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Simple word games can help, and tuning into a radio program or a podcast is better than nothing — but both are much less distracting than a telephone conversation, even with a hands-free device, he said. Some researchers say the phone itself — all that entertainment and connectedness in a single tool in one’s fist — is to blame. Others wonder whether the ubiquitous cellphone and the Web have even shaped the way we think, making a whole generation intolerant of boredom and ever in search of distraction.

Talking with someone on a phone is much more distracting to a driver than even talking to someone in the car. When conversing inside the vehicle, a passenger will generally vary the conversation’s level of intensity and engagement in sync with traffic conditions the driver faces. Carpools, anyone?

Ray Myers

Texting While Walking – Living Dangerously

It will kill you! But just don’t take my word for it. I am not even going to get into pot-smoking or drunken-driving, but let’s just say that human judgements become flawed when drivers and pedestrians go around stoned. Let’s take a look at some recent statistics published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Perhaps most alarming is the dramatic rise in pedestrian deaths on our streets where you may have thought was the safest place to be.

The increase in pedestrian deaths, which account for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities, may be the most discouraging news of all. There were 5,987 of them in 2016 according to the NHTSA. Expectations are that 2017 will end up with a toll at least that high. That’s a rise of 22 percent from the 4,910 registered in 2014. Maybe it’s time for every municipality to get serious about distracted walking, as it is called, even though distracted driving is plainly a bigger concern.

Put away your mobile technology devices while walking (or driving). Heads up, everyone!

Ray Myers

The New Educational Technology – NRA Creates New Markets!

Just sell more guns and and school security equipment! Do you think our kids will be any safer in school, or even in their homes? I don’t. Please see below for some recent reporting on the surge in sales of school security equipment that is going to make a lot of Americans (outside investors?) richer at the expense of common sense vigilance. And you thought it was inconvenient going through airport security screening. This is the new educational technology. Judge for yourself!

“Security options are manifold: Palm scanners, mobile barricades, heat detectors, walkie-talkies, trauma kits, active shooter resistance training and more. In the fall, Florida Christian School in Miami began selling $120 ballistic panels for students to put in their backpacks. At a gun show in Tampa, Florida, last weekend, administrators and parents swarmed a booth offering similar panels for nearly $200 each. . . . Some campuses are starring to rely on outside help, taking donations from families, neighborhood businesses and local Rotary clubs. One company pledged to donate proceeds from its bulletproof backpacks to Parkland victims and families (NY Times, 3/5/2018).”

How about school bake sales for school security? Just like the old days. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

Ray Myers

Taking a Break from Social Media

Try being a monk for a month or two. Well, not exactly, but it almost seems like taking a vow of silence if you really want to minimize your digital output for a certain period of time. Are you really ready to take a break from texting, emailing or participating in social media? “A big part of being silent is being the recipient, not the broadcaster (John Francis, 2018).”

After not speaking for 17 years, Francis now reflects on his experiment in relative silence. Expect some measure of personal transformation. “It helped me find myself.” Within a few silent weeks he began to realize that previously he only ever listened to people long enough to start formulating what he was going to say next; but, he says, his mind didn’t need to be filled with endless chatter. An intricate, hitherto, undiscovered soundscape was all around him.

“You’re going to hear more if you are not talking.”

Ray Myers

The Artificial Audioscape

Bombastic, attention-grabbing inorganic noises are becoming the norm. No, I am not talking about the political debates in Washington, D.C. I am talking about the cacophony produced by today’s technology gadgets and “personal assistants” that everyone seems to have. We are now sufficiently habituated to these sound effects that their presence on TV shows is no longer a novelty; it is stranger to hear a landline ring in a contemporary show than to hear the default iPhone marimba beat.

Many digital sound effects, such as the camera shutter can be classified as “skeuo-morphs,” or imitation objects that unnecessarily use ornamental design features of the originals (such as false stitching on pleather seats). Their ubiquity suggests a postmodern aural backdrop in which the artificial is increasingly replacing the real. For people who grew up hearing only the real sounds, the new distinctions are likely clearer. “Someone who’s 80 and someone who’s 12 are going to have different responses to a sound (Mason, Oberlin University).”

Do you hear what I hear?

Ray Myers

The New Anti-social Media – #TechtoAbuse

Thanks to Maureen Dowd at The NY Times (2/11/18) we now have a litany of anti-social remarks and behavior by the current White House resident who has twisted his presidential prerogatives into weapons for use against his political enemies, real and imagined. And in many cases, for his own personal and private business profitability. Twitter attacks are just part of his arsenal. Below is a sampling of what she captured in her Sunday commentary.

“We don’t want a president who’s bends over backward to give the benefit of the doubt to neo-Nazis, wife beaters, pedophiles and sexual predators – or who is a sexual predator himself. We don’t want a president who thinks #me is more important than #metoo.”

“We don’t want a president who flips the ordinary equation, out of some puerile sense of grievance to honor Russia and dishonor the F.B.I.”

“We don’t want a president who is on a sugar high of ego, whose demented tweets about nukes and crowd size scare even Omarosa.”

“And finally, we surely don’t want a president who seeks advice on foreign affairs from Henry Kissinger. Ever. Again.”

Ray Myers

Gorging on Social Media

My apologies for not posting on Monday of this week. Let’s just say that I was “in transit” and had a “tech-free day” which leads me to the to the message of today’s post and the one that you will see on Friday as well. It’s all about limiting our daily digital diets. Or as those scholarly Jesuits used to teach us: “Moderation in all things.”

Social media’s “role in your life has grown without your permission. No one had that in mind when they signed up for Facebook to stay in touch with their college roommate . . . There is a lot of complexity and uncertainty in the role that these technologies should play in personal and professional life. We’re past the stage where they’re novel, but not to the point where they’re stable (Cal Newport, Georgetown University, 2018).” A common complaint seems to be that there is too much news: I need a break. And fewer tweets from the White House might help (maybe none, remember those days)!

We have gone from “TechtoExpress” (sound familiar?) to “TechtoConsume.”

Ray Myers