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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

Facebook starts handing out merit badges like we’re Girl Scouts

(TECH NEWS) Facebook offers merit badges to users, and it’s pretty neat, but we’re also rolling our eyes.

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According to some Facebook Group administrators, Facebook has today rolled out merit badges. So far in the wild, we’ve spotted “Conversation Starter” which praises the admin (or user) for starting engaging posts that got the conversation going.

We have asked numerous users if they’ve seen these badges, and so far it appears that only one badge has been rolled out, potentially with more on the way. Upon logging into the group where you have earned a badge, you’ll see a notification at the top of the feed informing you of your new badge (get out your vest, it’s time to start collecting them all)!

The merit badge that you’ve earned shows up in your profile when other group members (where you’ve earned the merit badge) click on your face:

Currently, when an Admin posts in the group, it still only has their Admin badge next to their name, not the “Conversation Starter” or other badges lined up next to it, but if a regular group member has posted something engaging, the badge appears next to their name (it may be a one-badge-limit so far, maybe hold off on buying a Girl Scout vest for your badge collection):

Lastly, users apparently do have control over the display of whichever neato merit badges we eventually earn or collect:

There is no word on what the ultimate plan is or what merit badges will be awarded, and it appears to be limited to Facebook Groups at the present.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment and will update the story as we learn more. For now, if you want a badge, you can at least get a “Conversation Starter” badge in Facebook Groups, so go get ’em – we’ll soon know which other badges we can earn slash collect slash compete for slash game.

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Tech News

Slack video messaging tool for the ultra lazy (or productive) person

(TECHNOLOGY) Courtesy of a company called Standuply, Slack’s notable lack of video-messaging options is finally addressed.

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Slack — the popular chat and workflow app — is still going strong despite its numerous technical shortcomings, one of which is its notable lack of native video or audio chat. If you’re an avid Slack user, you might be interested in Standuply’s solution to this missing feature: video and audio messaging.

While it isn’t quite the Skype-esque experience for which one might hope when booting up Slack, Standuply’s video messages add-on gives you the ability to record and send a video or audio recording to any Slack channel. This makes things like multitasking a breeze; unless you’re a god among mortals, your talking speed is significantly faster than your typing, making video- or audio-messaging a viable productivity move.

The way you’ll record and send the video or audio message is a bit convoluted: using a web browser and a private Slack link, you can record up to five minutes of content, after which point the content is uploaded to YouTube as a private item. You can then use the item’s link to send the video or audio clip to your Skype channel.

While this is a fairly roundabout way of introducing video chat into Slack, the end result is still a visual conversation which is conducive to long-term use.

Sending video and audio messages may feel like an exercise in futility (why use a third-party tool when one could just type?) but the amount of time and energy you can save while simultaneously responding to feedback or beginning your next task adds up.

Similarly, having a video that your team can circle back to instead of requiring them to scroll through until they find your text post on a given topic is better for long-term productivity.

And, if all else falls short, it’s nice to see your remote team’s faces and hear their voices every once in a while—if for no other reason than to reassure yourself that they aren’t figments of your overly caffeinated imagination.

At the time of this writing, the video chat portion of the Slack bot is free; however, subsequent pricing tiers include advanced aspects such as integration with existing services, analytics, and unlimited respondents.

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Tech News

This phishing simulator tests your company’s (lack of) readiness

(TECHNOLOGY) Phishero is a tool which tests your organization’s resistance to phishing attacks. Pro tip: Most companies aren’t ready.

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In the wake of any round of cyberattacks, many organizations question whether they’re prepared to defend themselves against things like hacking or other forms of information theft. In reality, the bulk of workplace data thievery comes from a classic trick: phishing.

Phishing is a catch-all phrase for a specific type of information theft which involves emailing. Typically, a phishing email will include a request for sensitive data, such as a password, a copy of a W-4, or an account’s details (e.g., security questions); the email itself will often appear to come from someone within the organization.

Similar approaches include emailing a link which acts as a login page for a familiar site (e.g., Facebook) but actually stores your account information when you sign in.

Luckily, there’s a way for you to test your business’ phishing readiness.

Phishero, a tool designed to test employee resistance to phishing attacks, is a simple solution for any business looking to find any weak links in their cybersecurity.

The tool itself is designed to do four main things: identify potential targets, find a way to design a convincing phishing scheme, implement the phishing attack, and analyze the results.

Once Phishero has a list of your employees, it is able to create an email based on the same web design used for your company’s internal communications. This email is then sent to your selected recipient pool, from which point you’ll be able to monitor who opens the email.

Once you’ve concluded the test, you can use Phishero’s built-in analytics to give you an at-a-glance overview of your organization’s security.

The test results also include specific information such as which employees gave information, what information was given, and pain points in your current cybersecurity setup.

Phishing attacks are incredibly common, and employees – especially those who may not be as generationally skeptical of emails – are the only things standing between your company and catastrophic losses if they occur in your business. While training your employees on proper email protocol out of the gate is a must, Phishero provides an easy way to see how effective your policies actually are.

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