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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

Social media giants are trying to operate without human controls but are failing

(TECH NEWS) Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over in fascinating ways, but this big experiment of replacing human tasks is failing. Good news / bad news.

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Let me tell you a story. In fact, let me tell you several.

A village in Macedonia had a small economic boom during the 2016 election, plagiarizing and stitching together pro-Trump messages on social media, then publishing the results as “news” in order to profit from Google ad revenue.

Back during the “Keep Calm and…” T-shirt fad, a shirt company went through a thoroughly justified PR apocalypse for selling products labeled “Keep Calm and Hit Her” and “Keep Calm and Rape a Lot.”

The 17th most popular website on Earth occasionally likes to tell women over 30 to freeze their ova.

So! That’s a parade of fail. What’s it got in common, beyond making any reasonable reader consider moving to an Amish community and trying to forget even the word “Internet”?

People. More accurately, their absence.

Veles, Macedonia churned out profitable nonsense about Trump slapping a protester (that didn’t happen) or getting the blessing of the Pope (Pope says nope) because Google ads are programmatic. There’s no QA component, no human eyes reviewing content and asking “is this worth advertising on?” or for that matter “is this blatantly false?”

Likewise the Evil T-Shirt Crisis. The company generated slogans by dropping memes into an algorithm, then throwing the result on Amazon. That ended… poorly.

We, and every other tech and business network in the digital cosmos, have written in depth about all the dang robots taking our jobs. Usually our primary concern is the economic fallout. We’re a business news organization. It’s our job to warn you about that stuff.

But there’s another problem, and it’s a huge problem, especially as media consumption in general continues to rise, and more and more of that media is moderated by algorithms rather than people.

Robots aren’t just taking our jobs. They suck at our jobs. Algorithms may play go, but they aren’t ready to make value judgments yet. A quick Google will yield a dozen more examples of AI failures just as repulsive and/or hilarious as the ones on my list. And the real punchline for all of that?

It’s good news.

For once, the robot apocalypse is cutting us puny humans a break. It’s creating jobs almost as fast as it’s gobbling them up, because at this point, it is excruciatingly clear that robots aren’t ready to produce work people can actually see. They’re not even ready to put ads on work people see, not without causing a PR catastrophe every other month.

AI isn’t a better widget. It also isn’t an employee that doesn’t want benefits or take long lunches.

It’s a product in permanent beta, desperately trying to catch up to the constantly changing nuance of human interaction. It doesn’t work without homo sapiens holding its robot hand.

Let’s call it Salter’s Law: For every application of AI to customer-facing work, you will need to hire at least one human for damage control when the AI screws up.

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Tech News

New stats behind mobile addiction and how people are coping

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Addiction to our screens is now accepted, and while younger generations are glued more tightly to them, many people are finding ways to fight back.

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I’d probably get this article done faster if I wasn’t checking my phone every couple of sentences. Even if I’m not expecting a message and know that everyone I was talking to is currently busy, it’s likely I’ll still neurotically check my phone every few minutes just in case.

Turns out I’m not alone in my mobile addiction.

A study from Deloitte of 2,000 U.S. internet users aged 18 to 75 found most people check their smartphone roughly 47 times a day.

Younger users nearly double this stat, checking their devices around 86 times a day, up from 82 times reported in the 2016 study.

The study also assessed which activities drove users to check their smartphones. Patterns of use compared to the previous year remain relatively unchanged except for self-reports of checking the phone while driving, which has fortunately decreased.

More than nine out of every ten respondents confess they use their phone while shopping or “spending leisure time.” Over eight out of ten reported checking on phones while watching TV, eating in a restaurant, and even while talking to family and friends.

When watching a show that’s longer than eleven minutes, I put my phone on the opposite side of the room if I want any hope of paying attention. I know if I keep my phone next to me, I’ll miss crucial chunks of episodes. This is a partial attempt to manage the addiction.

Likewise, around 47 percent of respondents said they’re trying to limit their usage, and are actively taking steps to reduce time spent on their phones. Some people report success by simply keeping their phones out of sight, turning it off during meals, or while spending time with friends.

A third of those surveyed turn off audio notifications, while around a quarter even went as far as putting some apps the chopping block. Another quarter could only part with their phones at bed time, turning their devices off at night.

Having a smartphone is fun (an addiction), but you don’t want to end up being that sad woman in the “Selfie” episode of High Maintenance only interacting with your phone.

Sometimes it can be much healthier to just put your phone away for a while. This can be a few hours of no phone time, or if you cans swing it, a few days of “business only” phone time.

Let people know if you’re going radio silent for a significant amount of time though, because otherwise your mom will think you’re dead if you stop responding to texts. Now please excuse me while I fail to follow my own advice and continue the technology loop of checking my Snaps, texts, and Instagram feed.

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Tech News

Turn your FAQ page into a chatbot without knowing how to code

(TECH NEWS) An easy way to add a chatbot to your site and automate some of your work is through this new simple tool that doesn’t require any tech know-how.

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Reduce your workload and personalize customer service engagement with Faqbot, the tool that turns your online FAQ into a customized chatbot.

Co-founded by Denny Wong and CEO Mathis André, Faqbot uses machine learning to streamline frequently asked questions into a handy chatbot pal.

Based on your existing FAQ content, Faqbot builds a database that learns from every conversation to improve responses. Faqbot can also be used to automate sales and lead generation.

You get to design the conversation flow, mapping out a custom path to guide users to a desired outcome. Set predefined choices or free text, customize the bot’s responses, and determine what leading questions the bot should ask.

For example, on the Faqbot site, I was given two pre-set choices to click after each response from the bot. Clicking “Thanks for helping” gets the polite response “You are welcome! ;-)” complete with an old-school emoji featuring a nose.

If you select “not my question,” Faqbot uses its general response to any unanswerable question: “Sorry, I’m a chatbot. I am constantly learning and have answers to frequently asked questions. Thank you for leaving your email and we will get back to you shortly.”

Choose your own responses based on already defined FAQ or come up with new messaging to better engage and inform your customers as needed. The free text option is also available if customers wish to continue asking questions.

Of course, I had to try out some less than frequently asked questions. When I asked Faqbot “are we friends?” it kindly replied, “Absolutely. You don’t have to ask.” So I’m smitten.

However, when I tried to take it to the next level by asking “Do you love me?,” which seems to be the internet’s favorite way to harass a bot, I got the “Sorry, I’m a chatbot” response.

That’s okay. I’ll recover. Faqbot isn’t here to love, it’s here to answer questions.

You can easily install the chatbot by either copy/pasting the snippet of codes directly into your webpage, or connect Faqbot to your company’s Facebook page. No coding skills required.

Pricing is based on number of users per month, but all levels include the same service offerings of FAQ database management, messaging interface, a ticketing system, and DIY guided conversation flow. You can try out Faqbot free for 7 days by signing up on their site.

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