Millennial Table Setting

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The changing configurations at the dining table, based on devices. I saw this diagram on this tweet:

“milennials don’t even know how to set a formal dinner table,” they said. well check out THIS DIAGRAM I MADE

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Why Grandma’s Sad (A Response to the Article on Screen Addiction)

Following up on yesterday’s post about Kids and Screen Addiction, the article excerpted below argues that “what’s happening on all these screens is not, as the writer suggests, an endless braindead Candy Crush session, but a rich social experience of its own” [link to the full write-up, and see also this post on Kottke on the debate]:

That screen is full of friends, and its distraction is no less valuable or valid than the distraction of a room full of buddies or a playground full of fellow students. Screen Addiction is, in this view, nonsensical: you can no more be addicted to a screen than to windows, sounds, or the written word.

This is an argument worth making, probably. But tell it to an anxious parent or an alienated grandparent and you will sense that it is inadequate. It is correct, yes, and it addresses their stated concerns. But those concerns—that the screens are poisoning families, that they’re making kids unhealthy and sedentary, that they’re destroying curiosity—were never really the issue. Screen Addiction is a generational complaint, and generational complaints, taken individually, are rarely what they claim to be. They are fresh expressions of horrible and timeless anxieties.

…The grandparent who is persuaded that screens are not destroying human interaction, but are instead new tools for enabling fresh and flawed and modes of human interaction, is left facing a grimmer reality. Your grandchildren don’t look up from their phones because the experiences and friendships they enjoy there seem more interesting than what’s in front of them (you). Those experiences, from the outside, seem insultingly lame: text notifications, Emoji, selfies of other bratty little kids you’ve never met. But they’re urgent and real. What’s different is that they’re also right here, always, even when you thought you had an attentional claim. The moments of social captivity that gave parents power, or that gave grandparents precious access, are now compromised.

All of this reminds me of a book that I read years ago, Everything Bad is Good For You, by Steven Johnson, who made a similar argument that parents were misguided in bemoaning the ways in which their kids were devoting rapt attention to TV and video games, i.e., what if a kid was spending hours sitting sedentary, reading a book? would they be as concerned?

Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children

Excerpt from this article:

Parents, grateful for ways to calm disruptive children and keep them from interrupting their own screen activities, seem to be unaware of the potential harm from so much time spent in the virtual world.

“We’re throwing screens at children all day long, giving them distractions rather than teaching them how to self-soothe, to calm themselves down,” said Catherine Steiner-Adair, a Harvard-affiliated clinical psychologist and author of the best-selling book “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.”

…Two of my grandsons, ages 10 and 13, seem destined to suffer some of the negative effects of video-game overuse. The 10-year-old gets up half an hour earlier on school days to play computer games, and he and his brother stay plugged into their hand-held devices on the ride to and from school. “There’s no conversation anymore,” said their grandfather, who often picks them up. When the family dines out, the boys use their devices before the meal arrives and as soon as they finish eating.

“If kids are allowed to play ‘Candy Crush’ on the way to school, the car ride will be quiet, but that’s not what kids need,” Dr. Steiner-Adair said in an interview. “They need time to daydream, deal with anxieties, process their thoughts and share them with parents, who can provide reassurance.”

Technology is a poor substitute for personal interaction.

Out in public, Dr. Steiner-Adair added, “children have to know that life is fine off the screen. It’s interesting and good to be curious about other people, to learn how to listen. It teaches them social and emotional intelligence, which is critical for success in life.”

Edit:  Be sure to see this follow-up post about articles that take the other side of the argument.

Why I’m Breaking Up With the Apple Watch

Photo by Earl Wilson, for the New York Times

Excerpt from this article:

I do not want to be defined by a talking point on my wrist… when I started wearing the Apple Watch (the 38-millimeter case with a Milanese Loop band, which is the smaller size with a flexible stainless steel bracelet), it became a subject of conversation no matter where I was: in meetings at work, at the bagel store, at my son’s track meet. It has been so everywhere, marketed to so many people, there was just no mistaking it.

First everyone wanted to know about it. Then they wanted to try it. Then they made certain assumptions about me.

…“Why is that more embarrassing than endlessly looking at a phone?” my friends said when I complained.

It’s a valid question, but after some contemplation I think the answer is simple: A phone is hand-held, and we are used to seeing people read things held in their hands. Like, say, books. But seeing somebody staring at her wrist (or merely sneaking a surreptitious glance at it) telegraphs something else entirely: (1) rudeness or (2) geekiness.

Love in the Time of Binge-Watching

Excerpt from this article:

The simple act of gathering around a TV set to share the experience of watching a program together feels increasingly quaint. Thanks to streaming services, on-demand access and the little devices we carry in our pockets and purses, we can watch what we want, when we want, where we want.

Yet with all those options, it can be tough to align the where-when-how of two busy people.

For Mr. Kolko, co-watching works well. But the high-tech fussiness required to produce an oldfangled enjoyment is not lost on him. “Neither the problem nor the solution would have existed a few years ago,” he said.

…In modern-day romance, resisting the impulse to binge so that you may watch with a lover is the new equivalent of meeting the parents or sharing a sober kiss. “You know you’ve found the one when they say they won’t watch the next episode of the series you’ve been binge-watching together without you”…

…[Another] couple likes to stockpile episodes of shows like “Top Chef” and then watch over a single weekend. To make sure that plots lines and suspense are not sacrificed in the name of finding time to see the show together, the couple enact filtering functions on Twitter.

For instance, Ms. Thomas will change her settings such that any mention of a “Top Chef” contestant is filtered from her feed, and she will mute the posts coming from Bravo, the network that presents “Top Chef,” as well as those from one of the program’s judges, Tom Colicchio. “You have to be really proactive,” Ms. Thomas said. “It’s really quite an undertaking.”

Why the modern world is bad for your brain

Daniel J Levitan

Excerpt from this article:

Our brains are busier than ever before. We’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, jibber-jabber, and rumour, all posing as information. Trying to figure out what you need to know and what you can ignore is exhausting. At the same time, we are all doing more…

 …Just having the opportunity to multitask is detrimental to cognitive performance. Glenn Wilson, former visiting professor of psychology at Gresham College, London, calls it info-mania. His research found that being in a situation where you are trying to concentrate on a task, and an email is sitting unread in your inbox, can reduce your effective IQ by 10 points.

 …Russ Poldrack, a neuroscientist at Stanford, found that learning information while multitasking causes the new information to go to the wrong part of the brain. If students study and watch TV at the same time, for example, the information from their schoolwork goes into the striatum, a region specialised for storing new procedures and skills, not facts and ideas. Without the distraction of TV, the information goes into the hippocampus, where it is organised and categorised in a variety of ways, making it easier to retrieve.

 …To make matters worse, lots of multitasking requires decision-making: Do I answer this text message or ignore it? How do I respond to this? How do I file this email? Do I continue what I’m working on now or take a break? It turns out that decision-making is also very hard on your neural resources and that little decisions appear to take up as much energy as big ones. One of the first things we lose is impulse control. This rapidly spirals into a depleted state in which, after making lots of insignificant decisions, we can end up making truly bad decisions about something important.

 …Each time we dispatch an email in one way or another, we feel a sense of accomplishment, and our brain gets a dollop of reward hormones telling us we accomplished something. Each time we check a Twitter feed or Facebook update, we encounter something novel and feel more connected socially (in a kind of weird, impersonal cyber way) and get another dollop of reward hormones. But remember, it is the dumb, novelty-seeking portion of the brain driving the limbic system that induces this feeling of pleasure, not the planning, scheduling, higher-level thought centres in the prefrontal cortex. Make no mistake: email-, Facebook- and Twitter-checking constitute a neural addiction.

Excellent Photoessay on Global Ubiquity of Mobile: “A World Transfixed by Screens”

World Transfixed Screens

Photo: Reuters/Lunae Parracho

Check out the whole photoessay here, full of images of mobile phone usage and behaviour around the world:

The continued massive growth of connected mobile devices is shaping not only how we communicate with each other, but how we look, behave, and experience the world around us. Smartphones and other handheld devices have become indispensable tools, appendages held at arm’s length to record a scene or to snap a selfie. Recent news photos show refugees fleeing war-torn regions holding up their phones as prized possessions to be saved, and relatives of victims lost to a disaster holding up their smartphones to show images of their loved ones to the press. Celebrity selfies, people alone in a crowd with their phones, events obscured by the very devices used to record that event, the brightly lit faces of those bent over their small screens, these are some of the scenes depicted below.