Recently the Internet decided it knew a few things about me.
The first was that I’m into Jewish news. Yahoo, a site I visit frequently to check my email, started personalizing the news stories it shows me. (And not just me; the company introduced increased personalization on the site several months ago.) What struck me was the bizarre focus of the customized news in my feed. Interspersed between the usual celebrity gossip and natural disaster coverage, there would be a story or two about Israel.
Now, I am interested in what goes on in Israel. But the headlines on my screen were not the sort I would usually click on — about Israeli tourism, say, or terror attacks, or for that matter Jewish life in America and around the world. Instead, they centered almost exclusively on obscure developments in the Knesset or nasty little tempest-in-a-teapot scandals. At first the stories came from Reuters and AP, but then it seemed any media outlet would do: RT.com, an English-language Russian news site; the Times of India; even the noxiously anti-Israel (many say flat-out anti-Semitic) mondoweiss.net. (The Yahoo newsfeed also now includes “relevant” tweets.)
While this was going on, the Internet suddenly decided that I wear, or at least want to shop for, plus-size clothes. I think I know how this happened.
This is the third post in a Sisterhood series by Nina Badzin on gadgets, family and work.
As I reported last month, I’ve made some progress in cutting my iPhone time in half. I started charging my phone in the kitchen instead of my bedroom, which eliminated any phone use in the early morning and during the last moments of the night. (And by “moments” I mean an hour, which is true for many late-night smartphone abusers.) I increased my iPhone-free time on Shabbat and stopped placing my phone on the table when I’m out with friends or family at restaurants and coffee shops.
Progress! Right? From the way I brag about my new habits you would think an awards reception was in order. Unfortunately, my progress has stalled since implementing the aforementioned measures. While I have not backtracked on the changes I made, what’s happening is something I like to call The Spanx Effect.
This is the second post in a Sisterhood series by Nina Badzin on gadgets, family and work.
Immediately after Passover, I announced my intention to cut the cord on technology — specifically, to reduce my iPhone use in half by next spring. Inspired by the themes of the holiday, I decided to stop acting like a slave to texts, emails, Facebook and Twitter. Instead, I looked for ways I could realistically shave off the time I spend with my eyes focused on that spellbinding screen.
“In half” is a nebulous figure, considering I’m not sure how much time I was connected to my phone before Passover. But I know I’m not alone in suffering from the fragmented, frazzled lifestyle that comes from the “convenience” of having smartphones around no matter where and when.
According to a study presented by University of Worcester psychologist Richard Balding, “the more you check your phone the edgier you feel.” Most fascinating was the fact that “personal interactions via email, text and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter” cause the most anxiety as opposed to work-related interactions on our phones.
The good news? My experiments so far have already proven fruitful and might help others, too. In little over a month I’m spending less time with my phone. The bad news? I still have a long way to go.
This is the first post in a Sisterhood series by Nina Badzin on gadgets, family and work.
On the Shabbat afternoon before Passover, I received a frantic voicemail from a friend who had texted me an important question earlier that morning. She was worried (and annoyed) when I had not texted back by noon.
Was I mad? she asked in her message. Was I injured? Was something wrong with one of the kids?
Sadly, I understood her exasperation. I usually text back quickly, on Shabbat or otherwise. It just so happened that on this particular morning, I was at the beginning of what I’m calling My Passover-Inspired Phone Experiment. Why put myself through such an experiment? I decided it was time to rescue myself from the stronghold of my iPhone.
The thing about youth web culture is that kids of every background will appropriate trends to fit their own lifestyles. It’s not so easy for fashion, music or even food. But a social media meme? It’ll tear across the Internet, equally amusing to young netizens regardless of gender, race or class. And if Internet access is allowed in the home, it will even find its way to the Orthodox.
Consider the animated GIF. It’s a retro image file type from way back in the early days of blogs — a low-resolution, quick burst of video. Though the technology was popular circa 1998, it’s making a comeback 15 years later. GIFs are usually used to comedic effect. The most popular sort is the “reaction GIF,” in which one posts a video snippet of a funny facial expression (usually a pop-culture reference) to convey an exaggerated form of one’s emotional response to news. The reaction GIF trend snowballed into a series of Tumblr “microblogs” that detail the joys, disappointments and idiosyncrasies of various youth sub-cultures and lifestyles: law school, fraternities, raves, summer camps and so on.
There has been recent news of a curious quirk of the Apple iPhone 4s. If you have one of these phones you can ask Siri, its anthropomorphized virtual assistant, a question and “she” will give you an answer in her robotic voice. Where’s the nearest Thai restaurant? Siri knows. What’s the weather today? Siri will tell you. Siri seems practically omniscient. The one question Siri seems not to comprehend is, “where is the nearest abortion clinic?” Siri couldn’t come up with an answer, leading some pro-choice organizations and bloggers to wonder if Siri (and her creators) intentionally bollixed it up for ideological reasons.
An Apple spokeswoman has since said, however, that it is a glitch in the iPhone 4s beta program rather than a deliberate omission, and one they are working to rectify.
As if us single ladies didn’t have enough pressure to deal with — no mom, I would not like to meet the emcee from the Goldenblatt’s Hanukkah party — we now have this to consider: It’s not only our biological clocks that are ferociously ticking before our female hardware is incapable of conceiving. That concern is so 1990s. Try this on for size: If we don’t have a child soon — as in now — we may be too old to technologically connect with our tot, who will be born twiddling an iPhone.
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