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Smartphone dependency is a thing, but we’re not hopeless

As a society, phone dependency is increasingly an issue, but is that totally bad news?

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The mindless scrolling is real

I don’t need an app to tell me I’m highly dependent on my smartphone. I know it when I sense the feeling of my hand gravitating towards the device, programmed to drift through social media apps or refresh my inbox. Hours of mindless scrolling, out of years of habit.

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The Checky app offered an opportunity to collect data to confirm what I already dreaded: The daily number of times I check my phone. I was hopeful. Similar to apps that monitor quality of sleep, the underlying intention is that you absorb the realization that a lifestyle change is in order and you put forth effort to make it.

Questioning your dependency

It didn’t work. As in, the app itself wouldn’t track my activity.

Although I’ve tried to run it on my phone over several days for my mini experiment, it said I only looked at my phone an average of 11 times. I know that number’s – at minimum – 10 times too small.

However, making that realization on my own was enough to inspire a re-evaluation of my phone habits.
This isn’t a radical view of our relationship to our phones, and I know I’m not the only one that’s questioned mobile dependency. It’s not news, but it’s worthwhile to engage in a deep reflection about time spent on our phones and the true value of information being added.

Constant stream of easily digestible content

The majority of smartphone owners use their phones to follow breaking news and to share information about happenings in their community. On the surface, that seems like a positive attribute. It is, to an extent. I’m amazed by the immense accessibility of information at our fingertips and the power of revolution that social media holds.

However, it’s an oversaturated, messy place. Trying to keep up with the hoards of easily digestible content is not making us more informed.

Rather, the rat race of the information age is often distracting, stressful, and leads to a lot of misinformation.

Internet access causes people to think they’re smarter and more well-informed than they really are, according to a recent Yale study.

To nail the point home, the World Economic Forum lists “massive digital misinformation” as a main threat to society. When progress is dependent on an informed populace, of course misinformation is as dangerous as terrorism and cyberattacks. It’s the epicenter of all other risks.

Breaking the illusion

As someone who’s worked in the journalism and social media industries, I understand the nagging fear of missing out (FOMO) that accompanies the digital world. We may dream of tossing our phones aside and retreating to an unplugged paradise, and then that fantasy dwindles with each notification, email and article shared.

But being “plugged in” is an illusion: you’re not going to miss out on important news and no one, at least not the people that matter, is going to miss your 24/7 online presence that much.

The good news: It’s an illusion we can break. We hold the individual power to stand up to smartphone addiction. And we should, for the health of our minds and the way in which we process information.

The healing process

I’m not advocating any absolutes. You don’t have to suspend your social accounts. We can remain accessible to our networks but not be chained to them. We can practice the art of self-control, making it easier by deleting apps off of our phones (hello, desktops) and filtering our social media feeds as a preventative measure to not be exposed to so much recycled content.

A friend of mine, a social media manager for an online nonprofit media organization, decided to reduce the Facebook pages he followed from 85 to 6 because he was “tired of seeing the same thing repackaged 25 different ways.”

Let’s allow our minds to rewire and heal, so that we can begin to seek out information in a smart and meaningful way.

#PhoneDependency

Staff Writer Larisa Manescu cringes at the question "Where are you from?" because it's a long story, but it's one she loves to share if you ask her. Her interests include storytelling, social justice and choreographed group dance classes.

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Tech News

Artificial intelligence wants to improve your resume

(TECHNOLOGY) Artificial intelligence can do everything from drive a car to improve your resume – we’re movin’ on up!

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skillroads artificial intelligence resume builder

Remember the career service office in college, who gave you your first lesson on resume writing? Or maybe you remember the coaching company who helped you tweak your cover letter and professional story for a career change?

Now, imagine all those experiences automated by artificial intelligence (AI). Seems farfetched? It’s closer than you think.

Enter Skillroads, an “AI career service to help you land a dream job.” This tool acts as a new resume builder, a current resume evaluator, and a cover letter builder, to set you up with the most optimal job app documents.

The resume builder takes your desired position, and a questionnaire outlining your experience, and a list of your skills and turns it into a resume for you. Powered by “smart data sourcing and natural language,” Skillroads turns those inputs into “strengths and skills that suit you best,” likely by matching your skills with desirable keywords.

That same technology fuels the “smart resume check.” You can upload your current resume, and the tool will grade it on ATS (applicant tracking systems) compatibility, formatting, and sectioning, among other things. In addition to the quantitative scores, the tool offers steps to fix and improve the document.

Once your resume is ready, next up is the Cover Letter Builder. Using your resume details, Skillroads automatically identifies key competencies to address in the letter, then builds the language and story using best writing practices.

The tool itself wants to appeal to users targeting Fortune 500 Job Opportunities, as the tool also incorporates a search engine for jobs at those companies. The tool can match the documents it creates with open opportunities, to save people time during the job hunt.

So, how does it stack up to a resume writing service?

A human review can give you different perspectives from different people; unless all such perspectives are accounted for in an algorithm, you may not receive the most comprehensive audit possible. Furthermore, you can’t get feedback on things like in-person interview or phone screen performance from an algorithm. Not yet, anyways.

While a human review is still superior, this is a good first step to integrate artificial intelligence into a algorithm-oriented job application environment.

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Cope Notes: cheeky low-commitment mental health tool for all

(TECH NEWS) Mental health apps can be hard to find, harder to use, and even harder to remember without inundating, annoying alerts. Cope Notes is the perfect solution.

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I recently went searching for some mental health apps and it was a sea of garbage, if I’m being honest. I finally found a meditation app that was kind of cool, but after I figured out how it worked, I mostly spent time on videos of a gal cussing, but not for meditation value, but humor. I deleted the app.

I’m not in a dark place right now, but I work in a fast paced, high stress world, and maintaining focus and mental health is my competitive advantage, and one I take very seriously. But so many of the tools available are overpriced, overly complicated, or short on value.

About 12 hours after I had given up and decided to stick to my current regimen, without the help of any tech, a former Staff Writer reached out to update me on what he’s up to, and it was so timely… Cope Notes.

Put simply, it’s 20 randomly-timed text messages per month. You don’t know when they’re coming, but they’re exercises, encouragement, and witty advice. Finally, something that doesn’t put all of the work on me as a user.

And I’m not surprised – creator Johnny Crowder is young, but has long been a mental health advocate, and very sincere about it. He used to write here at AG in between tours and gigs as a famous straight-edge metal musician (I had no idea what that was prior to connecting with Crowder). He is a talented creative that has a lot of people looking up to him, so what better way to use that spotlight than for good?

“I just don’t want people to get so frustrated searching for solutions that they give up on healing altogether,” said Crowder. “It’s not clinical, it’s not complicated, it’s not confusing. It’s for people who feel great, people who feel rotten, and everyone in between.”

What we love about the creation of the app is that Crowder has suffered his own challenges, and instead of just complaining about an option he says he would have truly benefited from in his past, he took action.

Cope Notes is far different from any solution we’ve seen in that it speaks our language – cheeky, never condescending, and disarming, never douchey.

And because it’s done over text, it doesn’t require you to run an app in the background or remember to turn it back on, giving you a better chance at successfully using it (instead of forgetting which is my biggest fault).

“It took me years to find and hone the coping strategies that I rely on every day to keep me happy and healthy,” said Crowder. “Now that I finally figured out what works, I want to save people from the discouragement and disappointment of scrambling for solutions and fast-track their growth.” Every text is written by Crowder himself.

New users can enjoy a seven-day free trial by visiting copenotes.com/subscribe or texting COPE to 33222. After the trial period, subscribers pay $9.99 per month, with discounts applied to six-month and one-year subscriptions, and no set-up or cancellation fees.

The service also offers an option to purchase and personalize gift subscriptions for friends or family members in need, so check out Cope Notes today for you or a loved one.

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Tech News

Smartphone addiction is killing social norms, physically hurting us

(TECHNOLOGY) Smartphone addiction is increasingly common, and it’s not just manners that we worry about, it’s the physical impact and erosion of social norms that are also a result.

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Sorry, just checking something. Sorry, just need to quickly respond to this text. Sorry, just turning on low power mode. Sorry, just addicted to my phone and compulsively check it even when spending time with family and friends.

Have you ever experienced any of the following?

  • Eyes burning from staring at a screen for hours
  • Your attention span is totally shot and you find yourself in an endless loop checking apps, messages, and social media
  • Curled up in an uncomfortable ball on the bathroom floor for half an hour checking a dumb app, trying to decide if you want to be patient or spend real money
  • Asking your friends to tell you’re not allowed to spend real money on said stupid app

If you answered yes to any of these, you’re probably addicted to your phone.

If you answered yes to all of these, are you me?

I know it’s time for me to get rid of an app when I start making charts optimizing the game. Or when my arm starts to feel like I’m getting carpal tunnel syndrome twenty years too soon. My motivation to write my college thesis was to academically justify all the time I spent checking Snapchat while on family vacation.

Turns out, my phone addiction has more physical consequences than I was previously aware. On average, human heads weigh 10-12 pound. Our neck muscles are super tough since most of the time, we’re holding our heads upright.

Except when we bend our necks to check Instagram, or compose a text. When we bend down, the gravitational pull of our head increases pressure on our necks to nearly 60 pounds. Which, you know, isn’t great for our spines either.

Posture affects your mood, and can even impact behavior and memory. Frequently slouching alters your energy levels, bone development, and your oxygen intake, which can lead to depression. And if you’re already depressed, you were probably slouching anyways.

Add the negative impact overuse of phones can have on social interaction, and you’ve got a recipe for a lot of really unhappy people even more drawn to digital devices.

According to the Pew Research Center, 75 percent of Americans don’t think smartphone use hinders their attention in a group setting.

But as we stare more at screens instead of people, nonverbal cues get lost.

There’s a disengagement, even if you happen to be texting or playing virtual games with whoever is in the room with you. For children, loss of nonverbal cues due to constant phone use or competition for attention with their parents’ phone use can even stunt development.

As a writer, the lure of communicating with my phone is nearly irresistible since I can spend time working and reworking messages. However, social scientist Sherry Turkle’s decades of studies on family interactions and technology suggest that obsession with devices has created a generation afraid of spontaneity from organic interactions.

Receiving a phone call can spike anxiety, and forget about trying to interact with a stranger in the grocery store line. Knowing how much easier it is to type a message than deal with someone face to face can make analog interactions nerve-wracking.

Yet at the same time, the feeling of always being reachable and always “on” brings another kind of anxiety to the table.

According to a 2015 Pew Research center report, 24 percent of teens are “almost constantly” online, and a Nielsen report found adults spend around 10 hours per day consuming electronic media.

If someone doesn’t respond to your text and you know they always have their phone with them, does that mean they’re mad? If you forgot to respond to a message from someone, will they take it as a personal offense?

While smartphones and social media aren’t necessarily harbingers of evil, we’re all affected physically, emotionally, and socially by our use, particularly overuse.

Manner and etiquette experts point out the obvious: spend more time with people in the room than on your phone. However, that’s easier said than done. Especially considering Facebook’s recent admission that the platform was specifically designed to be as addicting as possible.

Even without confessions from other sites and apps, that’s kind of their goal: revving up your dopamine with an addicting platform. So it’s understandable that there’s a drive to check your phone every few minutes (or seconds.)

However, change comes in baby steps. Try to be more mindful of how often you’re checking your phone, and when you’re checking it.

Henry Alford, author of “Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That: A Modern Guide to Manners” suggests making a point to not be the first person in your group to pull out a device.

It’s a small thing, but can at least help delay the eventual waterfall of everyone else bringing out their phones once one person breaks the seal. If you’re really struggling with phone addiction, there are apps that track how often you unlock your phone and spend time on apps.

That may be a reality check, especially if you’re checking your phone hundreds of times a day in the absence of reason. Make an effort to have more face-to-face conversations, and if nothing else, at least keep your phone stashed while you’re driving.

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