New year, new you! Or at least a slightly better version of you that occupies the digital spaces. We love technology just as you do, and we talk a lot about it, which makes it even more important to sometimes take a step back and think: How healthy are our relationships with the tech? And how healthy should they be? especially in the commonly believed way? Savor our 9 tips containing nutritious food for thought.
1. Mind your data
Raise a hand if you use one password for all of your accounts. No, different variations of the same word or numbers won’t do. Also, you lose points for storing passwords in your Notes app or on right on the desktop. It’s okay. We don't mean to embarrass you for neglecting your data safety. We all do that. But next time, you probably should think twice before logging into a new app using your Facebook account.
Websites have a lot of data on us. If the data-policy-change emails bombarding your inbox in 2018 haven’t proven this to you, consider the fact that spam distribution is the least hackers can do with your account. Just by accessing, let’s say, your Facebook profile, they can read your personal chats on Messenger, Whatsapp, Instagram, and all the accounts you give Facebook access to. Sometimes, even passwords can’t protect you, as is the case with Facebook’s Big Hack of 2018. But there’s still a thing or two you can do to make sure your precious data doesn’t get into the wrong hands.
First, use two-step authentication, meaning use more than just a password. TwoFactorAuth.org has a list of all websites supporting the system and links to instructions on setting it up. Spend your next Sunday afternoon clicking through those extra checkmarks.
Step two, don’t use your email for...anything. Literally. Use services like 10minutemail to create disposable ones when you need to sign up for another website you doubt you’ll actually end up using.
Third, keep your friends close, but your credit card number - closer. Meaning, don’t send your credit card number to a friend via messaging platforms. Use PayPal (which does require you to share your email, so act at your own risk) or attach your card to a digital wallet such as Apple Pay without allowing merchants to store your most precious data.
If you’re determined to protect yourself from all possible angles, there are at least 101 actions you can try to make sure your identity and data are safe. The fact is, this won’t help you disconnect from this connected world. Just as deleting your accounts altogether won't either. Focus on staying more data-conscious without complicating your digital life too much.
2. Get antisocial
No, we won’t try to persuade you that social media is a bad thing. In today’s world, not having at least a few social accounts is almost like not having an email address...or an actual address for that matter. And why would you willingly say no to the pictures of cute puppies on your feed, the latest memes, or even cool local businesses in your area? That’s of course considering that you’re being mindful about what you consume on Twitter or Instagram.
Time wasted liking and scrolling is not even the biggest issue here. Immoderate social media consumption has been linked to mental health problems, body image issues, and even our romantic relationships. But the biggest, most universal issue, the one all avid social media users personally fall prey to is the dreaded Fear Of Missing Out. It fuels our natural reward system, causing dopamine spikes in anticipation of more new content - more posts, and pictures, and likes… basically, anything new to feed our hunger for brain stimulation.
Luckily, people are complex creatures and the reality is far from another episode of Black Mirror. Social media has changed our lives and, honestly, not always for the worse: Artists and small businesses can access millions of people on these free and easily available platforms, gaining more recognition and creating communities around themselves. And regular consumers can easily come across content that’s relevant to their interests, share it, spike conversations, and educate. There’s nothing bad in keeping the positive parts in your life, especially if you sincerely enjoy it.
3. Waste not, want not
Did you know that the Apple headquarters houses one of the largest solar roofs on the planet? In April 2018, the company announced that it’s now completely powered by renewable energy - including retail stores, data centers, facilities, and offices all around the world. In September 2018, Apple also presented an iPhone XS - a device built using recycled tin and plastic. They also offered users the opportunity to recycle their gadgets for free, all in an effort to eventually stop mining Earth for new materials altogether.
We’re not praising Apple’s sustainable initiative to taunt devoted Android users. It’s just a fine example of how the world is slowly shifting towards eco-awareness and how all of us are starting to feel responsible for how we treat our natural resources and what ends up on our landfills. Different kinds of metals and materials from our electronics that can be easily salvaged and reused for further production, end up contaminating lands and groundwater. The result? Health issues, and acres of lands no longer suitable for cultivation.
Interestingly enough, to save the planet, you don’t have to turn into a hermit and grow your own greens. You don’t even need to replace your Huawei with an iPhone. Just try to apply the four Rs: Refuse cheap gadgets, Reduce and give your tech new life, Reuse and repair instead of buying anew, Recycle as intended.
However, the impact of one pair of earbuds appearing on the landfill is minimal compared to e-waste that huge corporations are producing and throwing away every day. Besides, being eco-conscious is a privilege - recycling infrastructures are unavailable to a quarter of Americans, so the problem should be treated from the top level, from providing budgets to municipal recycling plans, modernizing facilities, and punishing corporations with fines.
4. Choose to be unavailable
Having a communication device on us at all times makes us available to everyone and everything 24/7. Any person or system that has access to your phone number or a profile can push their message to you, and it’s rarely a message that you care about. A colleague posted something for the first time in months. A coupon for discounted teeth whitening, a new message in a group chat you haven’t had the nerve to leave. This is just trash cluttering our minds every day.
The fact is, people like to be distracted. Especially when this distraction is linked to the feeling of gratification: Someone is thinking about me! I am wanted! I am liked! The fact that 80 percent of all received notifications bring us no value doesn’t matter since our disappointment lasts less than the joy of receiving good news. The challenge is to persuade yourself that good news or alarming events don’t happen often enough to keep all your access channels open. And then simply eliminate the notifications that get you to look at your phone way more often than you should.
5. Know a lot and care more
In 2019, let’s treat our tech the way we treated it on the first day of purchase. We don’t mean regularly disinfecting your smartphone, digging into all dusty crevices of the laptop, and shake all food remains out the keyboard.
Did you know that there’s literally no harm in charging your phone overnight, or keeping the laptop plugged in after it’s been fully charged, or to start charging before the device is almost dead? Modern lithium-ion batteries are capable of retaining the same capacity for a long time, but they will wear down either way and it will most likely happen already after you upgrade.
The real battery enemy is the heat. So if you feel that your device is maybe getting too warm in your hands, pause the gaming or turn the navigation off. Other common recommendations include not leaving the phone under the blazing sun, running system updates, and keeping enough free disk space. And most importantly - research the maintenance tips recommended by tech manufacturers. Sometimes, reading an instruction manual is enough.
6. Take out digital trash
A messy desktop is a sign of genius. Or a sign of a lazy computer user who keeps saving every downloaded file in the same folder. Having moved our work to laptops, tablets, smartphones, and clouds, we now keep our desks almost mess-free, except for the collection of dirty coffee mugs, of course. Our devices, however, are considered an endless wellspring of information where we often aimlessly save every little thing that may be of some use in the future. But since we spend so much time in the digital world, perhaps we should take more care keeping it tidy?
Just like with real-life decluttering, get rid of the gigabytes of data that no longer have value to you: spam emails, Internet bookmarks, software, screenshots and so on. Unsubscribe from unwanted mailing lists, delete accounts that you no longer use, unfollow profiles that are not relevant to you.
Using the digital space, however, is often the only alternative to keeping our physical spaces clean. Scans of documents or old photographs, digital books, audio and video files all free us from having to keep the physical copy of on our shelves. So, on your road to minimalism, don’t accidentally get rid of your grandma’s specialty recipe or your own birth certificate.
7. Don’t blind yourself to sleep
Let’s be honest, we can’t convince you to stop using your phone at night. You already know that harsh blue light messes with your sleep patterns and harms the quality of sleep overall by suppressing melatonin secretion. That’s why thoughtful app developers keep introducing the night mode that automatically turns on after the sun sets. Apple went even further with the Night Shift option that colors your screen a yellow shade that becomes almost unnoticeable as soon as you get used to it.
The thing is… the blue light is not that bad for you. And avoiding it completely is not a good idea either. Bright light increases concentration and information perception abilities, especially when you need that extra boost in the evening. It’s also successfully used to treat a seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that’s tied to the lack of light during the winter. Besides, our inability to fall asleep fast isn’t always linked to bright screens. Before smartphones, kids were advised to read some calming bedtime stories but not exciting adventures. So, even if you put a yellow filter over your racing game, it won’t necessarily help you get those perfect 8 hours of sleep.
8. Work your way up
They say sitting is the new smoking. We spend a lot of time sitting - working, driving, watching TV, dining, socializing. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle today is expected but no less challenging. Even if you get those active juices flowing in a gym a few times a week, you may still spend hours sitting at your desk. And, no amount of cardio on weekends can compensate for that. When doctors sounded the alarm about the sedentary lifestyle, the standing desks arrived.
As the trend for only-stand desks has ceased (nobody said that people could endure several hours of leg strain), office workers started investing in adjustable options that allow you to change positions without interrupting your work. Sounds like a great solution. And it is - if you consider all drawbacks.
First, using laptops while standing is next to impossible. Unless you have a second screen or a keyboard to keep your eyes and hands on different levels, you simply can’t work on a laptop while standing. Second, the price. Health investments are smart investments, but there are cheaper ways to keep yourself active through work. Such as setting reminders to stand up once an hour or organizing short exercise breaks for all coworkers. And third, the rise in productivity is questionable as it hasn’t yet been proven or properly researched. Besides, being the only one overlooking the working space may be uncomfortable at least and distracting at most. So, perhaps, start changing your sitting habits a little less dramatically.
9. Enjoy your tech without a hassle
The reason why New Year’s resolutions and New Life Mondays fail is that we make way more commitments than we can humanly manage. According to the theory of limited willpower, it takes a lot of mental energy to resist an urge or start a new routine. Meaning that the more behavior change you're trying to accomplish, the less power you’ll be left with at the end of the day. If you started your week by going for a run, eating a healthy breakfast, reading an educational book, and finishing half of your work by noon, you may get that energy flowing on the first day. But you will get pretty exhausted by the end of the week, eventually skipping steps in your new routine.
The same goes for your healthier attitude toward tech. It’s about adjusting your life slowly and surely, establishing your own rules, and avoiding austere restrictions that guarantee failure. Technology is not our enemy after all, so be mindful, sensible, and draw your own informed conclusions.