The Internet Thinks I’m Still Pregnant

Illustration by Brian Rea

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I hadn’t realized, however, that when I had entered my information into the pregnancy app, the company would then share it with marketing groups targeting new mothers. Although I logged my miscarriage into the app and stopped using it, that change in status apparently wasn’t passed along.

Seven months after my miscarriage, mere weeks before my due date, I came home from work to find a package on my welcome mat. It was a box of baby formula bearing the note: “We may all do it differently, but the joy of parenthood is something we all share.”

I took the box inside and read the congratulatory card that gently urged soon-to-be mothers toward formula feeding. I pulled out the various types of formula and wondered about the nutritional quality of a product that could sit in the sun for hours before being consumed by a brand new life-form.

After packing the formula back into the box, I snapped a picture and texted it to my best friend. “Well, the internet still thinks I’m pregnant,” I wrote. “Maybe the mailman now, too.”

 

 

Using the Web or an App Instead of Seeing a Doctor? Caution Is Advised

Illustration by Tobias Gutmann

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A few years ago, doctors from the Mayo Clinic tested the wisdom of online health advice. Their conclusion: It’s risky. According to their study, going online for health advice is more likely to result in getting no advice or incomplete advice than the right advice.

The doctors assessed the quality of advice on the top sites returned from Google, Yahoo and Bing for searches on common health complaints — like “chest pain” or “headache.”

No site they examined listed all the necessary symptoms so that a user could obtain an accurate triage — whether to rush to the emergency room, call the doctor or treat the condition at home. A third of the sites did not list any of the key symptoms. Among sites that checked any critical symptoms, four in 10 provided no triage advice.

We’re More Honest With Our Phones Than With Our Doctors

Illustration by Sally Thurer

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When my friends and I talk about our bodies, we compare feedback from physicians, all of which seems to be slightly different; we warn one another about conditions like uterine fibroids and share horror stories about different methods of contraception. There still seems to be a combination of prudishness and ignorance around the unique, and sometimes idiosyncratic, functions of the female body — which is shocking, considering half the world is born with one.

But in recent years, mobile technology has granted me and countless others the ability to collect an unprecedented amount of information about our habits and well-being. Our phones don’t just keep us in touch with the world; they’re also diaries, confessional booths, repositories for our deepest secrets. Which is why researchers are leaping at the chance to work with the oceans of data we are generating, hoping that within them might be the answers to questions medicine has overlooked or ignored.

…Most of us are willing to be much more honest with our phones than with professionals, or even with our spouses and partners. We look up weird symptoms and humiliating questions on Google with the same ease that we search for the name of a vaguely familiar character actor. For many of us, our smartphones have become extensions of our brains — we outsource essential cognitive functions, like memory, to them, which means they soak up much more information than we realize. When we hand over this information willingly, the effect is even greater.

The Internet Wants to Help You Take Care of Yourself

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The “self-care” tag on Tumblr is a really sweet place. It’s like if you were walking outside in a thunderstorm, umbrella-less, and you walked into a café filled with plush armchairs, wicker baskets full of flowers, and needlepoints on the walls that say things like “Be kind to yourself” and “You are enough.” It’s jarring, the change in scenery, but nice.  It also makes you realize that you’re soaked—you’d almost gotten used to it, out in the storm.

Taking care of yourself is not actually a new thing, nor is the idea that you may sometimes need to be reminded to do so. Just think of all the people on makeover-shows past who were told, “You spend so much time taking care of other people, it’s time to do something for yourself.”

But the word “self-care” has popped up a lot in my peripheral Internet vision lately, most recently in a deceptively simple game called You Feel Like Shit: An Interactive Self-Care Guide. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure story, but about your real life. (Although, truly, what is life but a high-stakes choose-your-own-adventure?)

“This is meant to be an interactive flow chart for people who struggle with self-care, executive dysfunction, and/or who have trouble reading internal signals. It’s designed to take as much of the weight off of you as possible, so each decision is very easy and doesn’t require much judgment,” the intro reads. Then the game walks you through an analysis of your physical and emotional state and offers suggestions on how to improve it. Have you eaten recently? No? You might need a snack. Are your surroundings unpleasant or gross? Go somewhere else, or clean up a little. Are you feeling anxious but don’t know why? Try some “grounding exercises” like deep breathing or going for a walk.

What Really Happens To Your Brain And Body During A Digital Detox

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Better Posture, Deeper Friendships
After three days without technology, people’s posture noticeably changed. They began to adapt to primarily looking forward into people’s eyes, rather than downward into their screens. This opened up the front of their bodies, pushing back their shoulders and realigning the back of their head with the spine…

Google Is A Conversation Killer
The content of conversations changed when people were without technology. In a connected world, when a general trivia question comes up, people immediately Google the answer, ending that particular line of questioning. However, without Google, people keep talking as they look for an answer, which often results in creative storytelling or hilarious guessing games that lead to new inside jokes…

More-Efficient Sleep
The guests on the trip said that they did not have to sleep as long, but felt even more rested and rejuvenated. The neuroscientists believe this is because the blue light from screens suppresses melatonin in the body, which makes us more alert as we are going to sleep. Studies show that people who check their phone before going to sleep—and, let’s face it, that’s most of us—don’t get particularly high-quality rest.

New Perspectives
One of the most powerful findings was that people tended to make significant changes to their lives when they were offline for a while. Some decided to make big changes in their career or relationships, while others decided to recommit to health and fitness. The lack of constant distraction appeared to free people’s minds to contemplate more important issues in their lives, and it also made them believe they had the willpower to sustain a transformation…

 

Compulsive Texting Takes Toll on Teenagers

Photo Jim Wilson/The New York Times

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…Youngsters who check their phones continually, snap if you interrupt them and are so preoccupied with texting that they skip sleep and don’t get their work done may be compulsive texters, a new study says. For girls, compulsive texting is more than just a distraction – it is also associated with lower academic performance.

The study of more than 400 eighth and 11th graders found that many teenage texters had a lot in common with compulsive gamblers, including losing sleep because of texting, problems cutting back on texting and lying to cover up the amount of time they spent texting.

“Compulsivity is more than just the number of texts teens are engaging in,” said Kelly M. Lister-Landman, the paper’s lead author and an assistant professor of psychology at Delaware County Community College in Media, Pa. “What is their relationship with phone use? Do they feel anxious when it’s not around them? When they sit down to eat dinner with their family, do they feel a need to check it? Do they feel compelled to look at it at all times, rather than just answering texts they get?