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.
02:00 – Instagram’s new video feature poses a challenge to Vine and has some IGers pretty annoyed. We review Vine and Instagram video in a side-by-side comparison. Word to the wise: put your phone on vibrate or silent if you’re going to peruse Instagram during a meeting.
12:30-15: 00 – Do investors even know what Vine is?
16:00 – The biggest market for Vine
II. Controversial “Yelp for Men” Lulu App Lets Women Rate Ex-Boyfriends
16:55 – We take on Lulu, an app that allows women (and only women) to anonymously create “reviews” of men they know. Profiles are pulled from app users’ male Facebook friends. This isn’t an opt-in app; profiles are automatically created without the man’s knowledge or permission, and any man on Facebook is fair game. Pictures and limited profile/public information from Facebook, combined with anonymous rankings from women who’ve dated them, hated them, or adored them, are used to create a man’s profile on Lulu– complete with a numeric ranking and a myriad of hashtags ranging from complimentary to cruel…
Arguments for and against the app are abundant. A few comments from around the web:
Creepy, non-consensual and harassing. Just an app for something that girls do anyway. This is the stuff [women] need to know when checking out a guy. Lulu puts the girls in control. The textual equivalent of leaking your ex’s naked pics to the Internet.
23:40 – Is there an upside to the app for men who otherwise wouldn’t get much attention, e.g. if a woman rates a shy guy friend nicely?
25:00 – Lulu heavily emphasizes user anonymity: what will this invite?
27:00 – Lulu is pretty heteronormative: does it discriminate against gay and lesbian users?
The Burn Book-esque app is geared toward college-aged adults for now (but then again, so was Facebook).
Tips on Tap
29:10-32:00 – I. Swackett – A weather app we actually like. Free and available oniOS, Android. Combines forecast and weather information with added features, such as “Dog Walking Index”, clothing suggestions, and an excellent mobile shopping tie-in (e.g., popular Warby Parker). Nice native advertising.
32:05-33:00 – II. Facetune – Photo beautifying tools are a dime a dozen, but this one has been making waves. Ranked #3 on the App Store’s top paid apps chart, Facetune is geared toward making photos of people more flattering.
33:00 – III. LinkedIn Privacy Tip – There is a LinkedIn profile setting under Settings -> Groups, Companies & Applications. Under Privacy Controls, you can turn on/off two things. One is whether you share data with third parties. Understand the associated risks and potential social benefits for a LinkedIn connected content experience vs. exposing one’s perusal of job-seeking content to one’s entire network.
“If you’re signed in to LinkedIn when you view any page that uses our professional plugins, we receive information that you’ve visited that page. This allows us to improve your LinkedIn experience and provide you with insights from your professional network, like how many of your connections have shared an article into LinkedIn using the Share on LinkedIn plugin.” -LinkedIn
News reports of major corporations falling victim to cyber attacks flood the media. What does this mean for us as individuals? As consumers? As a society? How serious a threat are we facing, and how much of it is media hype?
I. Boston Marathon Bombing media coverage: Twitter’s integral role. From helping runners notify their loved ones amid the chaos, to hospitals communicating occupancy information, to the Boston Police Department announcing the capture of the suspect — Twitter played an important role in the devastating event. To find out ways to help the victims, click here.
II. Spamhaus and other recent/notable cyber attacks. The list of companies that have fallen victim to cyber attacks reads like a Fortune 50 list — Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, The New York Times, Sony, and even government entities such as the US Federal Reserve, South Korea, North Korea, etc. have reported major security breaches linked to hackers. Recently, the infamous Spamhaus attack caused a global Internet slow-down by what some experts are calling the biggest cyber attack in history. Click here to see the Cyberbunker building image referenced.
III. Portrait of a Hacker. So, who are the men and women behind cyber attacks? Melanie and Emily discuss hacking history, a common type of attack (denial-of-service attack, or DDoS), and three types of hackers: ethical hackers, hacktavists, and organized cyber crime groups. Is there a such thing as a good hacker?
IV. What we’re doing about it. Governments and corporate executives are beginning to realize the severity of a potential cyber attack. We review the ways the EU, U.S., and others are taking protective initiatives.
Tips on Tap
I. FireMe! App – New app which tracks certain negative phrases about bosses and jobs in social media and rates how likely they are to get the poster fired.
II. Vine – My love/hate relationship with Vine, a sometimes bagbiter new Twitter-owned social media platform that allows users to create six-second looping video mash-ups. Less than three months after its January 2013 release, the video-sharing service topped the U.S. App Store’s list of free iPhone apps. I found one paragraph of John Constine’s 4/20/13 techcrunch article about Vine quite poignant about the general experience of using smartphones to memorialize moments in our lives:
It’s when Vines disintegrate that I get truly angry, though. It’s blatant violation of the implicit value exchange between a human and an app. Rather than live a moment, I recorded it. When I ended up with nothing to show for it, I feel cheated.
III. Shopping for Flights Online: When to Buy – Melanie offers tips on how and when to get the best deal on airfare online.
This week on the Digital Dive, we discuss the way technology has radically changed the world of dating and relationships – for better and for worse. Take a walk through the good, the bad, and the ugly ways that social media, online dating sites, search engines, and apps impact the experience of romance in modern culture. Is the level of transparency afforded by technology a good thing?
I. “Facebook me.” – When first meeting, how soon should you share your social profile? Is sharing a social profile more intimate than sharing a phone number? (I say yes.)
II. Online dating websites – The popularity of online dating sites has ballooned over the past few years, and the average age of users is dropping. Melanie and I discuss the advantages and disadvantages of meeting organically vs. meeting online. Is there still a stigma to online dating?
III. Breaking up digitally – “Out of sight, out of mind”is increasingly difficult as individual online presences grow. Avoiding an ex online can be almost impossible when you have mutual friends. Listen for websites and apps that can help ease the pain.
Tips on Tap:
I. Block Your Ex – Browser add on that blocks you from seeing your ex on social media, search engines, and blog networks. blockyourex.com
II. Never Liked it Anyway – Online marketplace to sell gifts from exes that are too hard to keep. neverlikeditanyway.com