What If It All Shuts Down?

Ever since we hit the era of Google and the information superhighway, we have become as spoiled as fattened swine on the plethora of technology which swarms around us constantly. It’s been an interesting study in contrasts for me, because I spent my childhood without any of the fancy technological bells and whistles which earmark the new millennium. I remember making and receiving phone calls on a beige rotary dial phone, and if I didn’t want to talk to someone, I just left the receiver off the cradle. Now THAT was call blocking! We didn’t even have the luxury of answering machines back in those days. And tooling around on personal computers wasn’t part of our daily routine either.

Now we have personal computers which are so handy that we carry them around in the form of laptops, tablets, and cell phones. We navigate via global satellite, search for factoids via Google or Bing, and pretty much have the world quite literally in the palms of our hands.

Yet what happens when a phone runs out of battery power, or if a power outage threatens to shut us down? The thought honestly makes me shudder, and is part of the reason why I will never take the advice of my sister and digitize all of the photos from my photo albums (I have 39 photo albums, mostly from my mother’s photo collection), then destroy the original photos to save space in my home. Yes, a fire could destroy those photos, but I am not too keen on the idea of storing images on a disk or hard drive and relying on a computer whenever I want to view those images.

Today’s society is so image-driven, yet who is bothering to save these captures in a precious archive? Though I have a habit of printing out images from important events (like birthdays and holidays), I’m sure I am in the minority. I have also noticed that there are some online searches I have conducted which are later deleted or moved, so the information is forever lost. Maybe I’m old school, but there’s something to be said about holding onto an item, whether it be a printed photo, a printout of a Google search, or financial documents.

Who Can Still Read A Map?

I am willing to bet that a fair portion of the millenial generation finds it difficult to read a plain map. Sure, they can look at a navigation screen which continues to re-center and process information to ensure that they will get to their desired destination, but what would happen if a paper map was unfolded in front of them, and they were put to task to find out how to go from point A to point B only by reading the map?

I remember using Thomas Guides, those large spiral bound collections of maps which yielded detailed geography within large metropolitan areas. I always had a Thomas Guide tucked away in my trunk at all times, so that I would be able to reference it in case I found myself in an unfamiliar part of town. However, without some sense of direction, some sense of where my home, or some recognizable geographic reference, was, a Thomas Guide would have just been a jumble of confusing roads. In stark contrast, with GPS navigation apps, all I have to do is select “HOME” on my trusty navigation system and allow it to guide me, without having any clue to where “home” is.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for the technology which GPS navigation affords, especially when it can factor in traffic flow and estimate time of arrival. But I think it’s tragic that an unavoidable dumbing down of our society has also occurred as a result of GPS technology. What should be an essential survival skill, namely, reading a map, has been largely lost. I still run into people who don’t have the slightest clue of north, south, east, west, and whose lack of spatial knowledge is being coddled by computer programs which do the thinking for them.

I do think that when it comes to short distances within an area, especially if one is walking from point A to point B versus driving, there is some spatial mapping and learning which occurs. However, longer distances with numerous circuitous navigation paths are best handled with forfeiting complete control to the navigation stream without really processing what turns have been made, etc. One prime example I have is a destination about 50 miles away from me which I must drive to each month, which also happens to be quite tricky to get to, because it is nestled deep in the next county, hidden from major highways. I rarely repeat a route to this destination, thanks to the fact that Waze factors in traffic flow, and puts me on the most complicated navigation paths. Waze wasn’t working on one of those days, and I honestly couldn’t think of how to get to my destination! I ended up plugging the address into my vehicle’s GPS, and was able to get to my destination. I had given in to Waze to show me the way, but hadn’t processed enough on my own to map out my route unassisted.

Our New Security Blanket

Think about the one thing which is constantly at your side, namely, your phone.

You rely on that small, handheld computer to keep your life in order, so much so that misplacing it sends you into an instant panic. Your LIFE is on that phone, dammit, and if you were to lose it, you would hate to imagine how much its loss would disrupt your life. I am willing to bet that you carry your cell phone everywhere, even into the restroom, which is why cell phones harbor some of the nastiest germs which are found on inanimate objects these days.

Your thumbs assert their special evolutionary spot in the animal kingdom by constantly texting, liking posts, scrolling, and sweeping to the left or right. Unfortunately, that also means gamekeeper’s thumb, an injury to a tendinitis in thumb ligaments is all to common now.

Your relationship with your phone is so tight that you will stare into it even while at dinner with friends, and it will tempt you to fuss with it while driving, despite the dangers associated with driving and texting.

I have a suggestion for you if you are so attached to your phone that it has become a security blanket. Why not leave it at home while you run to the gym? How about leaving it on your desk at work while you use the restroom? Leave it face down on the table when you are having dinner with friends. Avoid looking at it once you have crawled into bed. It won’t be the end of the world if you put your phone down every once in a while.

How Technology May Be Saving Aging Brains

Our brains are precious cargo which govern all that we do. One of the most mystifying things about these organic motherboards is that they are constantly changing and adapting to our environment, even as we continue to age. Of course, that also means that as we age, we can experience a decline in function.

Now that we are deeply immersed in a major technological age, our very sensitive noggins are also being shaped by the endless stimulation by iPhones, smartphones, computer interfaces, Mp3 players, Bluetooth, even self-driving vehicles. The speed at which technology is evolving is so rapid these days, that it is almost impossible to keep up, but somehow, our gray matter will be affected, either positively or negatively, by these advancements. Most scientists have begun to believe that the impact is mostly positive.

There is a new generation of young people who have little to no clue about what it might be like to play outside and to enjoy the fresh air, because they would much rather play video games, surf the internet, or dig around in the world of social media. The trade-off is that these millenials tend to have faster decision-making skills and can also navigate through the newer computer interfaces and platforms with great ease.

There’s actually a term coined for the generation which has been exposed to computers and cellular phones since birth: digital natives. Their brain circuitry actually differs from older individuals who haven’t had the same lifelong exposure to tech gadgets. There’s a possibility that older brains may get a similar benefit from using the high-tech devices which are so ubiquitous these days. Dr. Small from UCLA performed a study which examined older individuals who had some experience searching online, and discovered that those individuals did indeed have more activity in the decision making portions of the brain than subjects who had never searched online before. Since the brain alters its neural connections with each experience, it makes sense that our inner wiring will change, even as we age.

How Social Media Has Messed Us Up

The majority of us can’t even imagine being without our cell phones. The relatively tiny devices we carry around with us now function as GPS devices, marvelous computers which connect us to every part of the world, tie us into a massive information network which we have become entirely reliant on, and also happen to function as the basic communication aids which were originally invented by Italian inventor Antonio Meucci in 1849 (Alexander Graham Bell won the credit in 1876 as a result of winning the first U.S. patent).

Cell phones have become a necessity in modern society, but they have also caused us to develop compulsive behaviors which feed into the irresistible distraction which they present. Though you may deny it, I am willing to bet that you experience a certain level of anxiety if your cell phone battery power winds down, if you lose reception, if you lose a Wifi signal, or are somehow locked out of a website you need to access immediately. We have become so reliant on the immediate gratification which comes with doing a Google search on our Smartphones or iPhones that we have turned into petulant children when glitches occur. We are so dependent on our cellular devices that they have become security blankets.

Whether we like it or not, our reliance on cellular technology makes us less productive and less attentive to ordinary daily tasks. We could be sitting at work, cooking a meal, walking our dogs, or driving to work, while still concerned about what supposedly vital information we are missing by not staring at our phones. God forbid we miss our friends’ Facebook updates or allow our email inboxes to pile up as we try to navigate through a typical day! We are accustomed to having our phones close by at all times, and every time it makes a notification sound, we stop what we are doing to attend to our phones, which draws attention away from what we should really be focused on. Time ticks by, and suddenly, we are distracted from viewing a beautiful sunset. Even if we view that beautiful sunset, we tend to feel a compulsion to record the sunset by taking a picture of it with those confounded phones.

Even when we aren’t at work, our brains must sort through an enormous amount of information from our phones and computers. One 2011 study stated that we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information every single day. And since the brain’s ability to process information is limited, we often end up feeling overwhelmed and anxious as we try to power through all the information being thrown at us. Though the age of social media has enabled us to connect in novel and far-reaching ways, it also robs us of our attention and distracts us from other tasks.

It’s no wonder that the incidence of anxiety in our society has increased dramatically.

There should be a limit on the frequency with which we view social media sites. Be sure to set aside a brief designated time each day to check emails and peruse social media, then PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. Leave the bulk of each day to relaxing, sightseeing, engaging in outdoor activities, and enjoying life. Trust me, your brain needs a break from the constant influx of technology.

Another disturbing reality about our attachment to cell phones is the false sense of community we feel as a result of social media notifications and texts. The perception is that we are part of a vast network, but the ironic thing is that we tend to access our cell phones while alone. This isolation from actual interaction can actually trigger loneliness and depression. From the moment we wake up until we rest our heads to sleep, our cell phones are always on. They even serve as our alarm clocks now!

I Hate Taking Selfies

IMAG0894

Both of my parents used to put me in front of cameras all the time, which largely explains why I am so comfortable in front of them. I am very much at ease before a still camera, and am usually fine in front of a moving one, even if I have to improvise or read cold. I have never really shied away from the camera lens like some people tend to do, and am usually happy to join in a group picture when asked to do so.

All bets are off when I have to take a selfie. I have stubbornly remained on the Android boat and refuse to cross over to the iPhone world, and as a result I have to deal with a camera which, quite frankly, sucks, especially when in selfie mode. I have an oval face, but my phone camera wants to make me look like I have a long, weird horse face! My phone camera is also completely incapable of capturing ideal lighting conditions. Since I want people to see me in my natural, everyday state, and am very reluctant to use filters on my social media posts, I realize that many of my social media posts which feature a selfie don’t exactly make me look my best.

As if that wasn’t enough to discourage me from taking selfies, I also don’t enjoy the process of looking at myself and trying to line up a picture. When someone else is photographing or filming me, I allow myself to relax and trust the person who is capturing my likeness. When I take selfies with my phone, I become easily and quickly bored with the activity. It’s not like me to spend massive amounts of time in front of a mirror, fussing and primping, so I certainly don’t enjoy spending additional time taking pictures of myself.

Here’s my M.O. for taking selfies: I think of a good setup for the shot, then I take between two and eight selfies. I know you selfie experts are probably horrified by the paltry amount of selfies I take, and are ready to tell me, “No wonder you don’t get good selfies!” I know that the most dedicated Instagram selfie takers will often take over a hundred versions of a selfie and sift through them to find the most flattering images, but I don’t have that kind of time!

I have spoken with branding people who say that it is worth taking time to snap the perfect selfie, but I have careers and a life outside of social media, and in that real world, time is money. If I don’t get my work done, I don’t get paid. And no one will have sympathy for me if I tell them I need a couple of hours each day to take the perfect batch of selfies. Since I also apply a five-minute face each day (concealer, brow pencil, eyeliner, mascara, blush, translucent powder and lipstick…NO foundation, bronzer, eyeshadow, lipgloss for my daily look!), I am not prepping for selfies all the time.

Who else out there hates taking selfies? IMAG0893

Talk-To-Text Can REALLY Get You In Trouble!

texting periodic table

The marvels of modern technology have enabled us to put the spoken word into text form, saving us from texter’s thumb. However, talk-to-text is not the seamless, failsafe cell phone feature that we would hope that it would be, not by a long shot.

I will admit that I have become extremely lazy about writing short essays on my keypad, because it 1) takes forever, and 2) the tendinitis I already suffer from in my right thumb makes the whole process of texting extremely uncomfortable. Here’s the problem: if I am in a rush, I don’t always have time to check the text message before sending. That has led to some goofy, funny, and downright embarrassing text messages which have come from my phone! It doesn’t help that I listen to comedy when I am in my car, so if I fail to turn the radio volume down, my phone will at times pick up a raunchy phrase from the radio.

There is a particularly funny example which occurred recently which I will share with you. I had been in a text exchange with a friend, and wanted to ask about how my friend’s week was going. After activating Google Talk-To-Text, I said something along those lines and sent the text quickly without proofreading it, since I was in a rush to get to a meeting. This is what my phone ended up sending:

“You Masturbate I hope you have been enjoying your week and getting lots of work done.”

Holy crap. *%@&$*%!

Apparently the comic on the radio said those first two words which were dutifully picked up by my phone. I had to dig myself out of that one! I IMMEDIATELY texted my friend, “OMG my talk to text just picked up those two words. How embarrassing!”. Thankfully, my friend was understanding, and we had a good laugh.

There have been times when I have made a point of enunciating and speaking slowly into the phone, only to get some bizarre response which makes no sense. If it becomes that hard to get ONE word right, then I end up just using my thumbs to finish the text. Something like “I need to go to the store first but we can meet up later” can turn into “I knead to goat a duster first but we can meat up later”. Yeah, ummm, ok.

What I’d like to know is why my phone picked up the comic’s words so clearly that day, but has failed to pick up my words clearly when I am speaking slowly into the receiver. I think my smart phone may be on a mission to permanently infuriate me.

I would love to hear some of your funniest or most embarrassing text messages which resulted from talk-to-text mixups!