Category Archives: Psychology

Your Phubbing Habit Ruins Relationships (StandFor Shoes Review + Offer)

Phubbing = phone snubbing. It happens when we ignore the people around us because we’re paying attention to technology. Phubbing wrecks relationships. I’ve been concerned about this for years, as you know if you’ve listened to my podcast or read my blog or ever met me. I put my phone on airplane mode every night because it’s an important boundary for me – yes, I am unreachable for a few hours of precious serenity.

phubbing definition
Phubbing: you probably do it everyday.

With more and more people using the attention-siphoning devices — the typical American checks his or her smartphone once every 6.5 minutes, or roughly 150 times each day — phubbing has emerged as a real source of conflict. –CNN 

“Researchers James. A. Roberts and Meredith E. David identified eight types of phone snubbing behavior that have become common in today’s world. They are:

– During a typical mealtime that my partner and I spend together, my partner pulls out and checks his/her cellphone.

– My partner places his or her cellphone where they can see it when we are together.

– My partner keeps his or her cellphone in their hand when he or she is with me….”

Sound familiar? This stuff is disturbing.illustrated-people-on-phones-phubbing

Who’s really worse: fast food companies or tech companies?

It’s somewhat in vogue to believe companies like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola and R.J. Reynolds are the problem. They make us sick, fat or dead, they pollute our planet,  and they’re purely profit-driven. Yet all the while, we lionize tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple. But these companies are responsible for literally rewiring our brains.

We’re willing participants as users of social networks that contribute to the breakdown of real human interaction, just like people in the drive-thru know what a Big Mac does to their body.

I suppose the parallel is that we didn’t always really know how bad fast food was for us until Supersize Me etc. came to light, until we legislated publishing calories on menus. And we won’t really acknowledge the negative impact of dopamine addiction to text message chimes and Facebook Likes for years, if at all. It’s more than a negative impact, it’s the unrecognized public (mental) health crisis of modern times.

StandFor Initiative contacted me and asked if I’d like to try out their anti-phubbing shoes. I’d never seen shoes with such a neat mission. Go check out their site. Frankly, this mission is way cooler and more important than TOM’S. I don’t care if that offends anyone. The Stop Phubbing mission is something we should all embrace before we break our ankles falling into a mall fountain.

Emily wearing StandFor shoes
Me wearing StandFor shoes

I picked the LOVERS shoes – there are plenty of really neat designs with backstories and real life inspiration. Here’s the description from the designer for my chosen pair:

One of the members of our team said that there’s nothing like the real feel of his wife’s warm hand touching his. Everyone should probably feel like this. But when we go to restaurants, we are shocked by couples who hardly look at each other and would rather spend their meal time staring at their phones, phablets and tablets.

I’m happy to wear these #stopphubbing shoes and I hope they spark a conversation. They’re comfortable, well made, and pretty darn cool looking. If you’d like a pair, here’s a $30 off discount promo code (valid through July 30, 2017): Enter promo code RMEFt9MD at shop.standforinitiative.com and choose the shoes, ankle boots or boots you’d like.

standfor-initiative-shoes-blue-grey
Me wearing the LOVERS design, inspired by couples who ignore each other for their phones.

 

[Images: Stop Phubbing]

Miss USA… still?

Pausing to write about this, because I’d rather question than let programming wash over me:

I’m not going to comment on Miss USA Kara McCullough’s statement that healthcare is a privilege or feminism a bad word. I’m just talking big picture here.

We were watching Top of the Lake right before a channel flip landed us on Miss USA. In Top of the Lake, sexual violence against women and girls is a main character in the story, and the next show we saw perpetuates sadly outdated female objectification, a big contributor to rape culture. Unfortunately, many people refuse to acknowledge the connection, but it’s well-documented in sociology and psychology. And it’s obvious. Entertainment and common narratives ranging from Disney princesses to fashion magazines to most advertising typically favor the male gaze. This (heterosexual, masculine) gaze is problematic for women becoming agentic, being respected as leaders, and being unencumbered by self consciousness.

I would certainly support a contest judged purely on how much contestants have made the world a better place, not on their physical appearance. Though doing good should be reward enough. Perhaps beauty should be its own reward too – why the need for comparison? Comparison is a thief.
beauty pageant girls wearing boxing gloves
If we must compare people, isn’t it time we moved past the superficial and looked to character and contribution alone? McCullough has a solid background: she is an educated scientist, she played basketball and now coaches it. Good. She also happens to be beautiful.

I’m not saying Miss USA is directly tied to rape culture. Let’s say they’re unrelated. Even then, a beauty contest puts the focus on the wrong thing – we’re capable of so much more.

I just felt sad when we went from a fictional show featuring a raped, pregnant twelve-year old girl to a live broadcast of fifty “modern” women teetering around a stage in stilettos and little clothing. These women choose to compete, but the competition is a problem.

Beauty contests send such a limiting, divisive message to girls and boys, to women and men. We teach kids, “it’s what’s inside that counts” then televise (very gendered) vanity. I have zero interest in watching something so old hat – frankly, it’s laughable to me in 2017. The only good thing about the three minutes I could stomach was Minnesota’s sporty swimsuit. But a hot body and a fashionable swimsuit does not a great representative of US women make.

Six Lessons on Health and Happiness (Part 1)

2016 was a year that everyone (in my echo chamber) was happy to see end. I reflected for a month, and here are six takeaways regarding health, happiness, social life, and apps:

  1. There is usually no Ctrl+Shift+T for life, but you can always open a new tab.  Retweet.
    (Hasty clicker? This browser hotkey reopens the last closed tab. It’s Ctrl+Shift+T on Windows and Command+Shift+T on Mac OS X. Works in most browsers like Chrome and Firefox. Try Command+Z on Safari.)
  2. Deleting Facebook from my phone made me read more books and go to bed happier. You’ve read the studies, you know Facebook makes you sad. Why are you still spending hours on it? I’m not saying you should quit, and I know there are good reasons to use Facebook. But time is the most valuable thing you have. The ideas and stories you read/see influence your outlook and mood.
    Be discerning about what you let in. Add up all the hours you spent in 2016 letting Facebook wash over you with content chosen by its algorithm – not by you. Passive consumption can be dangerous (or at times, relaxing and perfectly okay). Bottom line: your time and attention are precious.
  3. Boxed wine is back/good. Black Box has a tasty Chilean cabernet and it’s an incredible value: you pay about $17 for the box, which contains four bottles. It’s award-winning wine that costs 40% less. It lasts six weeks in the fridge. You reduce your carbon footprint and the spigot harkens back to the jug of Gatorade at childhood soccer games. It’s hydration for adult sports that’s better for the planet and your wallet.

    Emily carrying boxed wine and groceries
    Arrive like this, get invited back.
  4. Track your steps and walk around more. I hit the goal of 10,000 steps a day only about twice a week, but tracking it with the Pedometer++ app does make me move around more.
    (Health tracking: I don’t do wearables because I don’t want a bluetooth device on my body 24/7. Here’s why. GMOs mess with your wiring; EMFs from tracking devices do the same. This app tracks steps while your phone is in your pocket or purse vs. a watch on your wrist. Those inches make a difference in exposure levels.)
  5. If you love a piece of art, buy it. Surround yourself with beauty. Go buy original art, whether it’s off the street or on Etsy or at a gallery (but don’t pay too much). Don’t buy mass-produced shit (unless you love it).
  6. See old friends whenever you can. Don’t trick yourself into believing that social media is a replacement for truly staying in touch. Make the drive, even if the visit is short. Schedule strategic layovers with enough time to grab lunch with a local friend. Bring a small gift (other than boxed wine). I recommend showing up with 99 cent bubbles on a spring day, like my college friend Shay.

Multitasking Rots Your Brains

Playing online chess is like trying to get Wii Tennis to suffice for real tennis. You simply can’t digitally recreate the palpable exchange of energy with a live opponent in chess or tennis, as much as a shared physical space only seems a requisite for the sport and not the Eternal Game. (Give it time though… complete virtual reality sports with remote opponents will be quotidian soon enough.)

Beautiful female robot with computer mouseThe simulacra of social interactions that we enjoy online are stunting real relational and conversational skills.

I touched on this in Episode 25 of The Digital Dive Podcast (see 12-minute mark). We thrive off social interaction. Each transaction — from exchanging a greeting in an elevator to chatting at a coffee shop to flipping the bird in a fit of road rage, is a little rally, a serve, a distracted miss. The physiological feedback we get from connecting through technology (social media in particular) creates an addictive dopamine reward system in the brain.

We are bathing in these transactions, but they’re not happening in proximity to our bodies. So exactly what true energy are we processing? Tech addiction (i.e., checking habits) can cause a host of problems, including a loss of normal socialization skills. Something is lost when relational transactions occur primarily digitally. We’re breathing ether. I’ve tried to tweet a smell, it’s getting so bad.

Multitasking is Just Stuff

We should not assume that the quantity of available matches, so to speak, makes up for lost quality. You can’t multitask while playing chess or tennis. Finishing a live game satisfies a deep need for connection, competition, and stimulation. In play, we’re exchanging raw energy, we’re focused and mindful. You cannot be in positive psychology’s beloved zone (feeling flow) while watching TV, eating, texting, and Candy Crushing.

business man and woman multitasking acrobaticsSure, you can multitask continually throughout the day and imagine you are adequately returning simultaneous serves, nailing forehands, and setting up tidy gambits with your network, coworkers, clients, family, and friends as you tap and click, fire off emails, Facebook updates, texts, reblogs and Likes. But it’s fragmented. You aren’t focused. As Lester Burnham said, “This isn’t life, it’s just stuff!”  (- American Beauty)

Since I doubt many of us are willing to give up our technology, whenever possible, let’s return to the simple purity of focusing on just one task at a time. Read more books and fewer articles. The end game will be a disappointment otherwise.

Chess quiz – White to move and mate in 2 moves:

chess problem

Alain White, American Chess Bulletin, November-December 1941. Solution

Original chess move challenge posted 8/23/10, post updated 1/28/17

Why We Hate Skyler White

Do you think Skyler White is a total buzzkill on Breaking Bad? Do you full out hate Skyler?  “…Male characters don’t seem to inspire this kind of public venting and vitriol.” In an 8/23/13 op-ed for the New York Times, Anna Gunn, who portrays Walter White’s wife, discussed what’s behind the vocal public contempt for Skyler, which has blurred into “loathing” and even death threats against the actress. Skyler White – I Have a Character Issue – NYT

Breaking Bad - Walter and Skyler White staring at piles of money in storage lockerAnna Gunn’s op-ed explores why viewers are so quick to hate TV wives like Skyler, Carmela Soprano, and Betty Draper while their husbands, the protagonists, commit crimes against humanity, cheat, lie, manipulate, and endanger their families, but rarely inspire such “homicidal rage” toward the Don Draper/Walter White types or the actors who play them. Anna Gunn’s article made me rethink why I used to see her character as a killjoy, annoying, or a nag as she’s been pegged.

Gunn makes an excellent point by complimenting Vince Gilligan and the Breaking Bad writers for painting an ever-evolving Walter White as complex and likable “despite his moral failings.” And yes, there is “a natural tendency to empathize with and root for [a show’s protagonist].” Still, the fact that everyone so loves the “deeply flawed yet charismatic genius” that is Walter speaks to the highly skilled storytelling that has earned Breaking Bad titles like “best show ever.” Maybe the writers of these top dramas aren’t making the wives likable enough. Maybe it’s a learned, default cultural interpretation of wives as automatically antagonistic to our beloved, flawed male protagonists. Regardless, this is an important conversation because our society is consumed with and influenced by media now more than ever:

  • “American teenagers spend 31 hours a week watching TV, 17 hours a week listening to music, 3 hours a week watching movies, 4 hours a week reading magazines, 10 hours a week online. That’s 10 hours and 45 minutes of media consumption a day.
  • Women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media (telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising).
  • 53% of 13 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies. That number increases to 78% by age 17.”

-statistics from Miss Representation with sources (2011-2012)

In the documentary Miss Representation (click to watch), filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom exposes disturbing realities about how women are portrayed by the media and “under-represented in positions of power and influence.” Newsom demonstrates the relationship between the lack of powerful women (characters or real ones) depicted by the media and entertainment industry and the lack of female leaders in politics, business, etc. In summary: “You can’t be what you can’t see.” -Marian Wright Edelman

Miss Representation Katie Couric media quote text

There are TV shows with strong, likable female leads, but nowhere near as many as those with male leads whose adoration by viewers exemplifies an obvious double standard given the wider range of character traits, flaws, age, and physical appearance in male leads. This is one reason I love shows like Lena Dunham’s Girls on HBO and Jenji Kohan’s Orange is the New Black on Netflix.

One aspect of Miss Representation that relates to television and marketing is the business of commercials. Essentially, brands want to advertise on content that mirrors their messaging. Marketing is about making consumers uncomfortable: if you instill in a consumer a sense of urgency that they need a product to make themselves better, happier, sexier, smarter, younger, prettier, richer, etc. then you’ve caught their attention. In general, TV shows are written to reflect their advertisers’ brand values and messaging so that they will keep advertising to an insecure consumer. Characters and storylines often perpetuate the beliefs that make viewers insecure, i.e., better consumers.

Media companies, networks, advertising conglomerates, and ad agencies are male-dominated financially, philosophically, and visually – pure numbers. While the Skyler White conversation has many variables, it’s important to keep the undeniable reality of our gendered media in mind when deciding whether you think Skyler hatred is a symptom of a larger cultural problem or is simply the result of storytelling in the modern age, where character-bashing is more public online.

Good follow-up reads:

  1. Laura Hudson’s Wired article posted after the 8/25/13 episode, Confessions: Breaking Bad Recap: Walter White Is An Abuser – Wired.com 8/26/13
  2. Hey, Anna Gunn: Not Everyone Hates Skyler White by Willa Paskin, 8/26/13