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

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Death by Twitter – a Cautionary Tale

The most popular show on ABC (American Broadcasting Company), Rosanne, was canceled last week because the star of the show, Roseanne Barr — known for saying and writing stuff that would get most of us fired — did exactly what she was known for doing and got fired. ABC now looks like it is run by idiots because, really, who didn’t see this coming?

The network now has to explain to its licensees, which deliver shows to you and me, why they no longer will be able to get the ad revenue that otherwise would have been coming to them. I guess Rosanne will still get paid, but I really don’t know, and truthfully, don’t care. Twitter has become our most popular and most abused form of social media. Oh yes, the current White House resident is very fond of using it as well.

Maybe he too will get fired some day?

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

Technology and Friendships – the New Social Network (continued)

“Your available social time is limited, and you can either spend it face to face or on the Internet. If it is spent with people who are ‘remote,’ whether geographically or just because they’re represented digitally, you don’t have time to invest in new relationships where you are.” As with many millennials, talking on the phone is not a big part of social interaction and is now reserved for the rarest of occasions.

“If a high school friend posts frequently about her life, it’s almost like celebrity gossip, or it’s akin to watching a reality show about her. Our brains get confused about whether we know celebrities; if we see someone a lot, our brain thinks we know them.” There are physiological benefits to face-to-face encounters, however, that do not accrue to digital interactions or the phone. “Your blood pressure goes down, you have synchrony, you mimic your friend’s posture posture unconsciously.”

Maybe we call them “cyber friends.”

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

Reclaiming Conversation – Time Out from Tech

Let’s talk! It appears that in our growing technologically interconnected world, we really do have to make time for face-to-face conversation. Sherry Turkle has written extensively about this subject, recently in her book, “Reclaiming Conversation” and shared some of her thoughts in a recent interview with Sean Iling of Vox.

“We grew up with the internet, so we think the internet is grown up, but it’s not. The internet is very young, and our ways of using it are very young. I think we’re starting to see a backlash. . . But there are certain kinds of communication that can’t be done via texting or video messages or whatever, and I think people are starting to see that. If you want to be a true friend or partner or lover or colleague and you want to really connect, then you have to look at the person you’re engaged with; you have to actually be with them. That’s how progress is made. I think enough people are beginning to understand this.”

Sean Illing: You’ve written a lot about empathy and how these technologies are making it harder for us to be empathic. I wonder if you think they’re encouraging us to treat other people as objects or as actors in our own personal drama. As you say, we’re always living through our screens, always performing, always projecting our image and our story.

“That’s an interesting way to put it — that we become actors in our own personal drama. I think, over time, the so-called “internet of things” emerges and then we sort of become things on the internet. We talk a lot about authenticity, but actually what we’re doing is curating the self, and that’s what I worry about in terms of empathy. Empathy requires that I get into your mental space, into your head, into your experience, and give you the comfort of knowing that I made that effort to listen and care, and that I’m taking responsibility for what I hear. It’s a commitment that we make to other people that involves us getting out of our own heads, and the constant self-curation online, the constant self-gratification of smartphones and social media, makes it harder for us to do this.We grew up with the internet, so we think the internet is grown up, but it’s not. The internet is very young, and our ways of using it are very young. I think we’re starting to see a backlash. Yes, there are many things about the internet that are amazing, like the fact that we’re having this (online) conversation right now. But there are certain kinds of communication that can’t be done via texting or video messages or whatever, and I think people are starting to see that. If you want to be a true friend or partner or lover or colleague and you want to really connect, then you have to look at the person you’re engaged with; you have to actually be with them. That’s how progress is made. I think enough people are beginning to understand this.

Empathy requires that I get into your mental space, into your head, into your experience, and give you the comfort of knowing that I made that effort to listen and care, and that I’m taking responsibility for what I hear. It’s a commitment that we make to other people that involves us getting out of our own heads, and the constant self-curation online, the constant self-gratification of smartphones and social media, makes it harder for us to do this.”

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

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

We Still Have Football!

As we all know, Trump and company have shut down the federal government, but we still have Super Bowl football and all its hype to entertain us over the next few weeks. I am not sure which is more entertaining over the long run, but we shall find out. But what can I say about all the technological tools involved in informing us about these “winter spectacles.”

Will we all be better informed this time around? Will Twitter be overloaded with barbs and updates about our political and football fanaticisms? I am afraid so. Depending on your personal or political view, are we now headed for a “winter of our discontent” or content for some?

I am sure there are parts of New England where there are many people happier to be watching Tom Brady on the football field than follow all the tweets from the so-called president in the Oval Office, when he is not in Mar-a-Lago.

Ray Myers

Expanding Power of Social Media #metoo

I know that the so-called President likes to use social media to advance his own agenda, but most of the time he is lying. Unfortunately, his true believers don’t really care. Other people can play this game as well and actually tell the truth. They are the women of #metoo. They are not hiding in the shadows tweeting out their grievances against powerful Hollywood magnates. They are famous, media-savvy and mostly white actors with collectively more star power than the accused. Now women from all walks of life are joining this crusade.

Maybe it’s reflective of a specific period in American history, in which working women of a new generation – those who had grown up with working mothers – decided that enough was enough. Certainly the endlessly expanding power of social media plays a role: The #metoo hashtag has been used in millions of post over the past few weeks; been translated into Italian (#Quella-Voltache, or “that time when”) and French (#BalanceTonPorc, or “out your pig”); and inspired a congressional spin-off.

Social media has now grown into a powerful politically liberating force.

Ray Myers

Trump Tweets While We Burn

I used to think that tweeting was just for fun.  You really don’t have to think too hard and if you can learn all the abbreviations and other Twitter short-cuts, you can really pack a lot of thoughts (?) in those 140/280 characters.  I never really thought you could become president of the United States by doing this?  Well I guess I am wrong again.  I suppose we have all been “trumped,” at least those of us who may have voted for another candidate in last year’s election.  You know who you are.

Trump has used his Twitter account since March 2009.  He has tweeted more than 36,000 times and has 41.7 million followers. Trump has credited his use of social media as among one of the main reasons he was elected.  “You have to keep people interested also.  You know, you have to keep people interested.”  Twitter also serves as one of Trump’s main tools for deflecting criticisms and attacks.  He has said, “When somebody says something about me, I am able to go bing, bing, bing, and I take care of it.”  Trump’s Twitter account was deactivated for 11 minutes Thursday night by a company employee on his last day on the job. Maybe he/she was just trying to exert some type of “executive privilege.”

Or perhaps he/she was just trying to fact check some of  Trump’s tweets, in which case the “fake facts” just overloaded the system.

Ray Myers

The Strong Silent Type – Even When Texting or Not?

Okay men, maybe it’s time to break some of those old male stereotypes in the digital age of the twenty first century.  Some women, you know who you are, may say it is a hopeless cause.  All men really want is someone to listen to them and go easy on the advice.  It seems like the most preferred female response is a simple, “Mm hmmm.”  But now that we are in the digital age, men may finally find that they can open up more freely through texting and other social media, expressing their most innermost thoughts.  Well, as they say, “good luck with that.”  Even in the case of the youngest social media users, sex may be be the key determinant in how they choose to express themselves (or not) online.

I am not sure that this online behavior has been scientifically documented, but there seems to be plenty of anecdotal data to suggest some behavioral differences in this regard.  Here is one writer’s experience:  “A few months ago . . . my nephew, now seven years old, got his first cellphone.  There was his number on our family group text, a long message chain that my sisters and I use as a place to deposit our complaints about the day and his puns.  So far, his contributions have been a string of plane and car emojis.  Excited though, to have this new way to talk to him, I sent him a message.  I saw the flickering bubbles that showed he was typing back.  Then nothing.  For the next twelve hours, his side of the conversation was blank.  Finally, a day later, a single response:  ‘Hey.'”

In defense of our seven year old “brother,” it may just be overwhelming to keep up with older aunts whether they are conversing online or in person.  Be strong, young man!  Maybe not so silent.

Ray Myers

Texting While NOT Driving

Whoever thought that the Internet would have such an impact that American teenagers would settle for less time driving in exchange for more time online? Fortunately, this phenomenon has also resulted in fewer deaths and injuries for teenagers involved in car crashes. The number of young people getting a driver’s license has also declined dramatically. Safety factors such as air bags may also be a factor, but the fact that many teenagers are no longer in a rush to get a license may also play a role.

The greatest decreases were among drivers in their late teens and early twenties. Near constant contact via devices may have reduced the need for young people to socialize face to face. Is this a case of something lost, yet something gained? More technology brings more opportunities to be “in touch” at the expense of more real time “in person” exchanges?

At the same time, the net effect of fewer deaths and injuries for American teenage driver and riders is some of the best news for us all. Stronger driver licensing laws in some states have also played a role. Some states have already reduced their rate of teen crash deaths by a half and they are to be commended: Montana North and South Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas and Idaho.

Ray Myers