Tag Archives: phone

Unplugging Because. . .

Technology, like sex, has a love/scare relationship with most Americans.

Until relatively recently, sex has been something that you just did not speak about in anything remotely resembling polite company. Not only did Lucy and Ricky sleep in separate beds with a nightstand between them, but most of George Carlin’s seven words you can’t say on television have to do with sex.

The flip side to that, however, is that while sex might not have been a public subject, it was the thing most on the minds of American men and women. Porn thrived, especially with the arrival of the internet and the ability of people to buy it anonymously. You couldn’t talk about it, but it was used to sell everything from cars and toothpaste to fridges and massagers.*

Things haven’t changed all that much, but it has become a bit less of a taboo in public discussion. Or at least, my wife, known to one and all as She Who Must Be Talking About Sex, and her friends seem to have no trouble talking about this kind of thing anywhere and everywhere.

I’m thinking technology is beginning to occupy a similar place in the American psyche. Not so much its existence, but, rather its use.What's the point of things like the National Day of Unplugging? Are we that scared of what the internet, in particular, and technology, in general, can offer to us?

More and more people are joining movements like the National Day of Unplugging, which was held early last month. The point of it was to abjure technology from sundown March 7 to sundown March 8. Ironically, folks who participated took photos of themselves and posted them on the National Day of Unplugging website to talk about “I unplug to. . . ”

I’m assuming ironic-deafness is a prerequisite to becoming a Luddite.

This whole thing reminds me of people who used to say, “I never watch television, except maybe a few hours of Masterpiece Theater on PBS.” Mostly folks said that to make it look like they were too smart, too sophisticated to debase their minds with the common drivel the rest of us enjoyed.

I suspect these folks are probably the same ones who won’t use an e-reader because they only read “real” books.

So, really, what’s the point? It’s not like any of these people are going to unplug for the rest of their lives. It seems to me that the whole point of this unplugging is to plug back in and then broadcast to one and all how virtuous you were because you put down your smartphone for a while.

It might have something to do with the fact that people don’t trust themselves very much. They use programs that block the internet or blank their web browsers so they won’t fool around when they should be working. They keep checking their messages and e-mail during meals with other people.

Even if you have always-on connection, that doesn’t mean you have to use it, yeah?

Mostly, I think the attraction of these sorts of things lies in the fact that, for most people, the idea of change is scary. And technology is all about change, about doing things differently, more efficiently, on a wider scale than before, seeing new things in your lives that had always been there, but were never noticed.

Dudes and dudettes get caught up in the world and begin racing toward the future with eyes open, but stop every once in a while, stumble, and realize just how much change we’ve been through and still face.

The strong smile, assess and continue. The weak unplug.

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Dudes Kickstarting: XOWi, A SmartBadge

Wearable computing is all the rage these days.

Look at the FitBit and Nike+ gadgets that help you track your fitness levels and workouts. Google Glass is getting ready to hit the market soon, bringing computing to eye-level all the time. Smart watches like the Pebble are reimagining what it means to wear a watch, connecting the devices with your smartphones.

There’s a phrase for this sort of thing: ubiquitous computing. That means that computing and the devices that power that are found everywhere.

Which doesn’t mean that every single wearable device has been imagined or is in the pipeline. There’s still room for improvement and advancement.

Which brings me to XOWi: the world’s first smartbadge. It’s up for funding on Kickstarter, a crowd-funding organization that lets potential consumers help to fund the process of bringing a device to reality and then to market.

Here’s a little info about it.

Basically, this thing is the Star Trek communicator badge, but real. You can use it to control and interface with your phones, make calls, receive calls, control just about anything your phone does.

It is, right now, the very essence of Techool (can you tell I just made up that word? Techool, a combination of tech and cool? Well, I think it works.).

But it’s not going to become real unless you help out. There are fewer than 10 days left in this initial funding round and there’s still a long way to go. Why not go and check out the project and see if you can give it a little boost. Pick the right amount of giving and you could end up with one of these amazing devices.

You’ve got to hurry, though. There’s not much time left. Go on. Give it a try.

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To Sleep, Perchance To Text

I loves me some technology, dudes. I really does.

I still remember the thrill of connecting my first modem and actually seeing real-time words appear on the screen from someone all the way in California. (I was easily impressed in those days.) My first text was a thrill-a-word as well.

As the years have rolled into the past, I’ve kept up with the technology relatively well for an old(ish) dude. I use text when I can, know what most of the hip programs and apps are (even though I still use outdated words like hip) and, in general, am just about as connected as it’s a good idea to be.

Apparently, though, there are people who believe I’m a bit of a piker when it comes to the idea of an always-on connection.

The premed student sleeps with mittens on each night. Mittens, to protect herself from her phone. To render her fingers unable to send those unconscious messages that are as embarrassing as they are senseless.

Yup: She’s a sleep texter.

“It’s a phenomenon occurring with the younger generation,” says Elizabeth Dowdell, a nursing professor at Villanova University who shared the anecdote about the mitten-wearing student. “And it’s reflective of the significance of our smartphones — of these very powerful machines. Why would we turn them off?”

I know, right? I really thought it was a joke article in Business Insider, but then I remembered that this was published in Business Insider, which isn’t known for the hilarity of its content. Really I’m a bit astonished by this.

Most nights, I don’t sleep all that well. I’ll wake up from different things. Not that I’m saying anyone I sleep with every single night snores really, really loudly and causes me to wake up. Nope. I’m most sincerely not saying that. Very forcefully not saying that, in fact. Still, I don’t sleep all that well.

But the idea of waking up in the middle of the night, grabbing my phone and sending a tweet while still asleep? That’s astonishing. I mean, wouldn’t the bright light from the phone wake them up? Recent scientific studies have shown that bright lights during sleep time will actually wake people up. That is, if you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you’ll stay awake longer if you turn on the bathroom light, than you will if you simply grope your way to the toilet an then back.

These dudes and dudettes? Not really bothered by it as far as I can see. They’ll wake up, text or tweet, then go back to sleep, not remembering a thing about it in the morning. At least, not until they check their message history.

Dowdell initially learned about sleep texting when one of her students described her nighttime activities. After growing more intrigued, she surveyed 300 students, and learned that 25 to 35 percent had sent text messages while they were snoozing. And more than 50 percent admitted that their phone or other technology interfered with their sleep in some way.

That’s what’s worrisome, experts say. Sleep texting tends to occur during naps or about 90 minutes to two hours into the snoozing process, prior to entering a deep sleep. “Sleep is a very important restorative process,” says Josh Werber, a snoring specialist at EOS Sleep Centers in Long Island, N.Y. “And when we’re not fully engaged in it, and not getting the amount we need, we’re not having the same restorative effect on our brains. And that affects our cognitive ability the next day.”

For those worried they might be turning into a sleep texter, the best ideas to curb the behavior seem to be behavioral. Like the med student above, you could wear mittens to bed. Or you could simply move your phone somewhere it’s out of reach from your bed. Maybe a few weeks like that and you’ll have broken the habit.

As a parent, I’ve been pretty strict about making sure my young dudes don’t have their phones with them when they go to sleep. I’d not been worried about this, but, rather, them either talking or texting to someone until early in the morning or doing something else that prevents sleep. This just reinforces my thoughts that electronics like phones don’t belong in young kids’ bedrooms when they’re trying to sleep.

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