A phone-free day…

My near constant urge to throw my smartphone away resulted last night in me performing a factory reset in preparation for tossing it out of a train window. In the end, it just ended up being left on my desk at home as I decided to go mobile-free for the day in a fit of rebellious pique.

I did, however, have to deal with the consequences, but my reasons were righteous and manifold:

  1. I’m reading Jonathan Taplin’s Move Fast and Break Things, on the monopoly of businesses like Google, Facebook and Amazon, and their effect on both art and democracy. This has made me want to distance myself from these undeserving success stories.
  2. I have the deepening suspicion that my mind is atrophying at a fast rate, simply due to the fact that I no longer have to really remember anything when it’s all just a finger-press on a screen away from recall.
  3. My hatred of looking around to see every face buried in a smartphone. We are as atomised and polarised as a society can be at the moment, and I’m convinced that time away from this shackling technology would do us all nothing but good: we might talk to each other more, and we might be exposed to opinions outside of our usual news bubbles.

Of course, the first hurdle today was conquering the alien feeling of not actually having a phone in my pocket. As I leave the house, I habitually check my wrist for my watch, my right arse-pocket for my oyster card, and my left front pocket for said phone.This morning’s ritual check provoked an awkward pause as I went to venture forth into suburban commuter land.

And then, there was the wait for the train. I usually rely on a couple of apps to check on train and bus times and schedules, but these obviously no longer at my disposal. Oh well, I had to wait and put my trust in the notoriously untrustworthy dot-matrix indicator board. It roughly gets things right most of the time, but is often at odds with the announcements from station staff. Also, I didn’t have any news apps to peruse while waiting. I had a book to read for the journey, but again my habits were thwarted and it felt strange.

On arrival at the office, I experienced the novelty of booting up my computer to see my email inbox for the first time in the day. I usually received alerts to my phone and so know what’s going on. After checking this, I read the news on The Guardian and Independent websites over my first coffee of the day but still felt way behind the rest of the world – everyone else must have known about Donald Trump’s latest buffoonery hours before I did!

But the most severe pang of all came on my mid-morning visit to the loo, as sitting down for a bowel movement also comes with its own technological tic – that of reaching for my phone to browse the silliness on Reddit. Like most males, reading in the bog is just something you do. It used to be books, magazines and comics, but now we have smartphones to while away the time it takes to take care of business. And so, I had a shite in near silence, with nothing for my mind to focus upon but the toilet-roll holder and the back of the cubicle door.

It was hard, however, a the day wore on, I slowly adjusted to being disconnected and all was not as wrenching as I had initially feared. I was still able to function as a human being and I was still able to recall information – even if it felt initially like trying to start an old car that had been rusting in the garage for years.

The journey home too felt odd. Again, I couldn’t check train times, and when I popped into WHSmith to kill time at the station (after missing a train!), I couldn’t remember the name of the author of a book I was after – something I would usually have just googled from my phone without having to bother anyone.

The lesson
I kind of do need my smartphone. But I need to use it more sparingly and to change some of my providers and apps. I need to boot off the services that track my activity, invade my privacy, and delete apps that waste my time. I’d been hoping for an epiphany and a feeling of being unshackled, but really I just felt a bit discombobulated.

Perhaps I’m the problem and not my phone…

 

Thanks for the heads-up Yahoo!

Why is it that every time a major web-based service gets ‘hacked’, you only ever find out through the media?: Yahoo hack: Should I panic?

As I use Flickr, I have a Yahoo login, but neither company has so much as sent an email to warn me that I might want to update my password as a precaution.

This is the third or fourth time that a similar situation has occurred, and each time it’s been through Reddit or the BBC’s online news that I’ve become aware of it.

Guess who’s not getting their service subscription renewed next year?

Pokémon macht frei…

I thought that Boris Johnson’s appointment as foreign secretary was proof enough that the world is finally turned upside down. But then the Telegraph posted this:

pokemon-go-auschwitz-large_trans++GLLAPY3LddE1Qiv-bsIMYByIKtNjJh7hWUjtlFJIXz0

Police warnings, cheats, and Pornhub searches: the madness of Pokémon Go – in pictures.

I’ve not played the game but understand that the location of the creatures is all down to random GPS coordinates. Seeing one at the gates of Auschwitz though, just woke my lightly sleeping existential crisis. It may be a fake (and I kind of hope it is), but it seems to perfectly sum up the incongruity, infantilisation and general lack of sanity in this neck of the galaxy.

No comment…

There are few things worse as a reader than coming across the comments section on a website. With very few exceptions its a depressing experience which adds little or nothing to any reasoned debate around the topic being discussed. The petty bickering and point-scoring, one-upmanship, grammar corrections and sniping make me despair that ‘adults’ behave in such a way.

So it was interesting to read this morning about the way some Guardian journalists deal with trolling and abuse: The dark side of Guardian comments. Of course, women and minorities come in for the worst of it:

“We focused on gender in this research partly because we wanted to test the theory that women experience more abuse than men. But both writers and moderators observe that ethnic and religious minorities, and LGBT people also appear to experience a disproportionate amount of abuse.”

So it was heartening to hear Nesrine Malik’s attitude, where she dismisses the behaviour for what it is, but also defends the notion of commenting as something worthwhile.

Personally, I reckon that there’s enough uninformed opinion out there without giving people the chance to air more on the websites of national newspapers. Luckily there are technical ways to make sure that you don’t have to read them.

A USB typewriter anyone?

I remember writing with a mechanical typewriter. My mum had one when I was younger and I used to write my dodgy horror movie scripts on it.

None of them have survived to this day (I was only ten or eleven years-old), but what has stayed with me is the sheer unpleasantness of the  experience of bashing away on the stiff and unforgiving keys. So, why anyone would want to invent a USB interface for typewriters is beyond me. In fact, I thought that this was all an April Fool’s joke until I saw the amount of websites offering to sell them.

usb_typewriter

I suppose that these might appeal to the kind of people who see Steampunk as a lifestyle choice, rather than as a literary sub-genre, but otherwise I’m a bit befuddled by the concept.