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:
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
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).
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.
LinkedIn’s methods for gathering data from its over 450 million* registered users are shrouded. Usually, they don’t ask permission, they just uncheck new Privacy Controls for you. It’s no wonder they’ve faced numerous lawsuits.
LinkedIn seems to know everyone you’ve ever emailed: The People You May Know feature seems to make predictions based on information you’ve never knowingly transmitted. Before I explain how this works, here’s a quick fix:
How to remove your imported contacts from LinkedIn:
Go to Connections -> Add Connections -> Manage imported contacts (top right of page) -> click “select all” and delete all
(This is easiest to do on desktop: forget performing half the functions you want to on the iPhone app.)
How LinkedIn is seemingly psychic about people you may know
Other users’ actions: This algorithm is their secret sauce. LinkedIn analyzes other users’ searches and viewing histories to make assumptions about people you may know. I.e., if Sheryl and Dean searched for both you and Tony, then you and Tony may know each other. Multiply this across many users. The result is an algorithm that predicts your likely contacts without ever accessing your actual contacts. You may see recommendations to connect with someone who has the same name as someone you know, but is a totally different person.
Your contacts: You may have granted LinkedIn access to your contacts, which often happens inadvertently by using the app. “Inadvertent” is the keyword for most privacy issues with LinkedIn, because its strategy hinges upon 1) the fact that most users don’t read fine print and 2) that its UI, especially on mobile, effectively shuffles users along a permission-granting bender.
Your login: When logged in, even if you close the tab, LinkedIn has access to any activity you take on a site with a LinkedIn plugin or authentication that you’ve granted. To avoid this tracking, log out of LinkedIn whenever you’re done with your business.
In the last 1-2 years we’ve seen a trend of complimenting brands who are “rocking” Snapchat and other relatively new one-to-one social messaging apps. (I prefer Allison Steele’s term: attention deficit content creation platforms.)
After 5-10 years of oversharing, narcissism, and selfie culture resulting in enough privacy backlashes, firings, and divorces, many users are crunching inwards toward more private communication. Brands automatically assuming they belong in this new crop of apps is a me-too mistake, the result of too much demand for rapid reaction.
Where is the data indicating that Taco Bell, McDonald’s, General Electric, Heineken, the New Orleans Saints, 16 Handles, etc. are successful on Snapchat?
Brands on Snapchat hope to reach Millennials (those born in roughly the early 1980s to the early 2000s). Targeting a demo whose childhoods were filled with every-loser-gets-a-trophy-for-showing-up has translated to brands showing up – without even keeping score – being considered winners.
You can’t measure engagement within Snapchat.
A snap can’t benefit from the interaction of a Like, retweet, favorite, or share. Brands get more buzz off the flowery Mashable campaign coverage written by AYSO trophy-saturated writers who continually fail to proofread (a symptom of “A for effort”? – this is too easy). I’ve personally seen brand impressions from articles lauding the “organic/intimate/forward-thinking/risk-taking” efforts of marketers and their agencies for experimentation with Snapchat, Vine, etc. worth more than any fleeting impact the disappearing content may have on consumers. Not only do the messages disappear, the attention span of their target user base is the shortest on the planet.
Resources devoted to Snapchat when your other social ducks are anemic makes good linkbait when we’re all tired of hearing about the reach woes of Facebook and ineffective YouTube pre-roll. Instead of fixing problems on platforms with better tracking, targeting, reach, and content longevity, it’s easier and more fun to make stop motion videos. Now, Snapchat’s 32.9% penetration among 18-34 year-olds should not be ignored. And if you want to reach 18-25 year-olds with exclusive content – things like limited time coupons, flash sales, and behind-the-scenes footage – I see the draw. But where is the yardstick?
Lastly, we all know what Snapchat is for. Do you really want a brand’s snap next to your sext? The proximity alone should cause a panic attack.
Andrew Cunningham at HUGE wrote a nice summary of considerations if you choose to market with Snapchat. I am not saying avoid it: I’m saying stop handing out trophies for showing up at try-outs.
It’s a mobile messaging app that allows users to share photos and videos that disappear after a short time once the recipient opens the message (after 1-10 seconds or 24 hours for Stories). As of July 2014, users were sending 700 million photo messages each day, up from 400 million in October 2013.
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.)
The 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.
Sure, 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:
Alain White, American Chess Bulletin, November-December 1941. Solution
Original chess move challenge posted 8/23/10, post updated 1/28/17
The average American adult sits 15.5 hours per day.1 I’ve had a standing desk for almost a year and half and I plan to keep it that way. Many people don’t realize that it’s not just how much physical activity you get, but also how much time you spend sitting that can affect your risk of premature death.
A 2010 study by the American Cancer Society found that women who sat more than six hours a day were 37% more likely to die prematurely than women who sat for less than three hours, while the early-death rate for men was 18% higher. 3
I could write pages about the frightening negative health outcomes associated with sedentary lifestyles. Just check out Lifehacker’s “How Sitting Is Killing You” Infographic. If Americans would cut their sitting time in half, their life expectancy would increase by roughly:
2 years (by reducing sitting to less than 3 hours a day)
1.4 years (by reducing TV time to less than 2 hours a day) 4
Many great thinkers throughout history stood at their desks, including Leonardo Da Vinci, Virginia Woolfe, and Ernest Hemingway.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably already aware of the myriad reasons why you should do everything in your power to get a standing desk, but maybe you haven’t taken the leap yet. I’ll make it simple and give you the top three reasons. Here are my favorite standing desk product reviews and recommendations. If sedentary office workers would stand up for a mere few hours more per day, I’d bet the farm that over several years, our entire country would be healthier and we would save billions on healthcare costs.
You may work at a progressive office where standing desks are an option (like Google, Facebook, AOL, many startups, etc.). Maybe you see coworkers standing all day and marvel at them, wondering why anyone would torture themselves with unnecessary physical exertion and not take the easy route of sitting on a plush Herman Miller (or a cheap Staples chair wreaking havoc on your spine) for 8+ hours in a row. Well, either you’ve never tried standing, or you’re lazy. It’s okay – most people in the modern world are pretty lazy.
Let Michael Caine playing Robert Spritzel in The Weather Man ask you something: “Do you know that the harder thing to do and the right thing to do are usually the same thing? Nothing that has meaning is easy. ‘Easy’ doesn’t enter into grown-up life.”
Three reasons a standing desk will save your life and make you more productive:
1. PREVENT CANCER: Prolonged sitting increases the risk for cancer. Exercise does not undo the deleterious physical effects of a sedentary lifestyle: working out does not erase the compounding of growing fat cells in your rear, the slowing of your metabolism, or the diabetic state that your blood glucose quickly transitions into when the body has been sitting for hours. “Researchers say that physical activity, even something as simple as standing up for a few minutes, releases an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which reduces the body’s levels of triglycerides and LDL (or bad) cholesterol. High triglyceride levels are linked to cancer, and LDL cholesterol is associated with vascular disease. Prolonged sitting precludes the flow of the enzyme.”2 Wait, let’s reiterate this part: “Pressure placed in the buttocks and hips from sitting down for too long can generate up to 50 percent more fat in those areas.”5
2. PREVENT WEIGHT GAIN, KEEP METABOLISM UP: “Right after you sit down, the electrical activity in your muscles slows down and your calorie-burning rate drops to one calorie per minute.” You will burn an additional average 50 calories per hour simply by standing instead of sitting. If you stand for just half the day, that’s 200 free calories burned. We can at least mollify the fact that many of us eat unnaturally and too many calories by keeping more muscles in the body engaged for more hours of the day.
Standing is a lot closer to walking than sitting is, plus you’ll be more likely to move around. Coworkers who are standing are perceived as more open and approachable, with a tendency to more actively share ideas. This is anecdotal, but I feel more awake, more productive, and more energized throughout the day, which many others standers report, too. Sitting allowed me to marinate in workday lethargy, but standing wakes me up. Sitting encourages poor posture. Our bodies were not made to sit.
Think about all the crutches we use to wake ourselves up or to focus: coffee, a cigarette break, a jaunt of web surfing or online shopping, constant phone checking habits… Stand up and wake up. Increased bloodflow throughout the body will make you more positive, productive, and focused.
Office Reality and Your DIY Trial Period:
Unfortunately, many offices haven’t made ergonomics a priority yet. If you want to try standing, opt for a trial period with a free/inexpensive DIY setup – stack some yellow page phone books, paper reams, and/or cardboard boxes, then put your keyboard (elbows bent at 90 degrees) and monitor (eye level, no neck craning up or down) on top. Hear The Digital Dive Podcast episode on the DIY standing desk when Melanie first planted the seed in my head. Get used to standing by starting out with a couple hours per day and adding 30-minute increments each day. If you like it and you make it two months, then invest in some furniture. I was pretty psyched when I rewarded myself with the real thing.
I am lucky to work in an environment where I have an office with a door, mitigating the self-consciousness or unwanted attention that some new standers may fear in a cubicle setting. Seeing you standing will make some people uncomfortable, nervous, or defensive because of what it implies about sitting. Just smile and link them to any article cited in this post. In Part 2, I share my top three ergonomic desk product recommendations, including my own Kangaroo standing desk, my anti-fatigue floor mat, and two types of compression socks to help prevent varicose veins (which can happen from standing OR sitting too long over time).
Read product reviews of my favorite standing desk products:
DISCLAIMER: I am not a trained healthcare professional. The information provided here is meant to educate and inform but is not official medical advice. Consult your physician before making any major lifestyle changes. The opinions shared here are mine and not those of my employer.