Too Much Technology?

Short attention spans seem to prevail with me at times. The constant desire to see what’s new every few minutes becomes aggravating and I seem to be unable to break that cycle. What I am talking about is probably something many people experience each day with all of our technology and mobile devices connected to the Internet and social media.

When I’m at home sometimes I get bored and find myself going from the iPad to the iPhone to flipping channels on my DirecTV Now streaming service on the Apple TV to checking out Netflix, iTunes TV Shows and iTunes Movies as well as other TV network apps like HBO Go, or Start and AMC. There is so much content available at the tap of a screen or the click of a button that its overwhelming. It reminds me of a Jerry Seinfeld joke which I’ll try to paraphrase. “Men don’t want to see what’s on TV. Men want to see what else is on TV.” Which is why we constantly change channels all the time and never really stay on one for any length of time.

Add to that social media like Facebook, Twitter, various Internet discussion forums and blog sites, like this one, and there is even more to be digitally distracted by.

While I’m flipping channels on TV, I’m either playing a game on my iPad, checking Facebook and Twitter to see what is going on. It’s on an endless loop it seems and refreshing the feeds every few minutes doesn’t usually provide anything satisfying for the time given to seeing what may be interesting or not. But the desire to constantly be looking for something new, something interesting is always there.

Then there is the cell phone, at its most basic function; mobile communication. This is one of the things that bugs me the most. It’s the constant anticipation of the phone ringing and the social obligation to answer it. It’s common today that everyone has a mobile phone and because of the Internet and all the other things they can do, we all have them within arms reach for every waking moment – and even while sleeping. When someone calls you there is an unwritten rule, an obligation, to answer it because the calling party *knows* that you have your phone nearby. If you choose not to answer it because you don’t feel like talking, for any reason, the other person is going to be upset and wonder why you didn’t take their call. You knew it was them because of caller ID. That then adds a whole new social aspect to interacting with people. There is almost no way to disconnect, and if you find a way to do so, there can be negative consequences for doing so.

30 years ago as a young kid we didn’t have all this technological stuff to entertain us, keep us ultra connected and consume our time. When I grew up we had a telephone. It was this thing attached to a curly cord that was attached to a wall with another cord on it. Depending on how long that curly cord was, was only as far as you could take that phone. There were no cell phones to keep with us no matter where we’re at. We didn’t even have an answering machine. This was another device that hooked up to the phone with a cord that would answer a call for you and play a pre-recorded message to the caller to which would end with a beep. The beep indicated that the caller could now leave a message for you to listen to when you came home. But we didn’t have that. So if someone called and no one was there to answer it, the phone would ring for as long as they stayed on the line until they hung up. They’d just have to try again at a later time hoping we were home. Back then, if you were home and didn’t want to talk, you could just let it ring or unplug it. There was no reasonable expectation by anyone to assume you were dodging the phone when you didn’t answer it. It was very reasonable to believe you weren’t home, you were outside, you were mowing the lawn or doing any number of things.

We didn’t have computers and we certainly didn’t have the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, et al. If you wanted to communicate, you either used the phone, wrote a letter and mailed it, or you met up face to face somewhere.

Television for us consisted of over the air signals and only whatever your antenna could pick up from whichever direction you had it pointed toward. So only a handful of channels were available and if you wanted to change the channel, you had to get up and walk to the TV set and turn a knob.

Before my teenage years when the Nintendo came along and satellite TV was installed taking more of my time, my time was spent outdoors with friends or exploring on my own. Riding bicycles around and down to the corner store was a common thing. Swimming in ponds at friends houses was normal in the summer. Building snow forts in the winter, when it used to snow a lot before climate change started becoming noticeable.
Times were simpler then and I do miss it from time to time. As convenient as our technology has made our lives, it also has made my attention span very short. If I could make things to where I didn’t need a cell phone and could go back to a house phone, with no answering machine, I’d totally do it.

These days, in the past year or so, I’ve been fairly successful in limiting my screen time at home from the computers. I have a desktop PC and a laptop and they tucked away in my hobby room and I only turn them on during the weekends and sometimes I don’t at all or only for a short while in the morning. But having the iPad and iPhone at hand still keeps me connected and a digital screen in front of my face and I’m trying find a way to limit that too but the desire to see what’s new is strong still.
The times where I don’t have a screen jammed in my face are few. When I’m sleeping for sure. That’s my favorite time of all! Then when I’m at the gym is another time, although the iPhone is right there. But I’m not checking social media then, I’m exercising and I stay focus on that. The rest of the time there is a screen of some sort in front of me. At work, it’s a PC all day in front of me the whole time. That comes with the job being a tech guy in a technical job. When I’m home, if I happen to not be using my iDevices, there is still the good ol’ TV that’s possibly turned on. Surprisingly though, I don’t usually turn on the TV not the weekends until later in the day which make me feel good when I think of that.

Lastly, when I’m driving the only thing in front of my face is the roadway. I refuse to drive distracted; it’s far too dangerous and I see people every single day doing this. One nice thing about my car and having an iPhone is Apple’s CarPlay. When my phone is connected to the car, the iPhone takes over the infotainment center and shows very limited options including Messages, Maps, Music and Phone. Messages can be managed by voice control and text to speech so that you don’t have to take your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel. The same goes for the phone and the other apps. Other notifications from the phone such as email are muted and you don’t know they’re popping in at all until you stop and look at the phone. The forthcoming iOS 11 from Apple this year will have a new feature called “Do not disturb while driving” and I’m looking forward to that very much. It will suppress calls and messages while you’re driving and will send messages back on your behalf letting the person who texted you know that you’re driving and will see their message and get back to you when you’re done driving. The feature will turn on when it connects to a car, or if the car has no connection to an iPhone, it will enable itself when it senses you’re moving like in a car. If you’re a passenger, you can override the setting to use the phone normally.

With all of that said, I do miss the old days of less technology and interconnected communication with social media. I’m not saying that this stuff is not without its benefits because its not. I just wonder if its another one of those things that due to our obsessive human nature that we sometimes overuse it. What do you think?

It Wasn’t Faith That Kept Me Going to Church For 13 Years, It Was Loyalty.

This is a bonus chapter for my book that I hadn’t considered when I wrote it but after the fact I wanted to put this aspect of what happened down on paper, so to speak.

It’s about why I continued in the church, and religion, for as long as I did though I had been unhappy for several years. I suppose the reason is loyalty. I am a very loyal person by nature and quite possibly loyal to a fault it would seem. I’m not quite sure when the characteristic of loyalty started gaining a hold in me, whether it was growing up or after joining the US Marine Corps. If there is any doubt, I would bet on it coming about in the Marines over anything else. Loyalty in the Marines is a big deal as we have a long and very proud tradition of the Corps and the battles it fought through the centuries.

Loyalty being a strong feeling of support or allegiance toward someone or something is by definition one of my strong characteristics. Once I left active duty in the Marines and came back home, I joined the Baptist church at the behest of my friends, which you can read all about in my book. This was another organization to which I pledged my loyalty and which contained my friends and soon-to-be new friends including the pastor.

After some time of being involved in the church and becoming friends with many people there my loyalty grew strong toward the church, just as it had the Marine Corps. I think though that after enough time passes, obligations formed and that loyalty turned into a lasting expectation of my contributions and support of the church. After becoming involved in the sound room, running the microphones, the camera’s and the recordings, I had an obligation, a job even, in which I was expected to be there every time the doors were open for service. I wasn’t being paid for my duties, but I wasn’t expecting or asking for it either. But it did feel like a job I had to be at for sure. That in and of itself isn’t a bad thing per se. But if you’re unhappy or don’t believe in it anymore, it’s a problem.

I’m not so sure that it was faith that kept me going for much of the time I was involved with religion. I think at first it sufficed, maybe for 2 or 3 years, but after that it became a chore and expected which translated into loyalty. It didn’t take too long for me to see what was going on and how many things we did, or were expected to do and believe in were ridiculous. I couldn’t have faith in some of those things that defy logic or make no sense whatsoever. I have a real hard time believing in superstitions and irrational delusions and I find that pretty much all religions fall into that bucket. But I stuck with it not because of faith in it, but because of my loyalty to the people I was friends with. Some of the concepts of religions are so irrational that they might as well be Hollywood movies (and sometimes they are). In the end it’s more like entertainment. An escape from reality or what we call a suspension of disbelief in order to go along with the plot and enjoy the ride.

Religions in past times seem to me to have been a way to explain the unexplainable of the world around us. As we became more educated and learned what things really are, how they work and where they come from, we developed the sciences to explain things. Science explains things with fact based evidence and peer review. It questions everything and leaves nothing sacred. Religion to me is no longer needed to explain things that we don’t understand. Science doesn’t explain everything yet, and probably never will explain it all, but it’s come a long way to dispel a lot of erroneous beliefs. Didn’t humans once think the Earth was flat? It was loyalty to an idea that if you went too far in one direction, you’d fall off the Earth. That was based on our limited view of the Earth, stuck on the ground and unable to see the curvature of the planet and to realize that it’s a sphere and not flat – you won’t fall off. It was just a lack of facts and perspective that lead to that idea for so long. But we learned, we tested, we experimented and we questioned the sacred.

As the years passed, that job of running the sound room became very boring and I didn’t particularly enjoy doing it anymore. But I did it because I was expected to do it. I did it because I was loyal to the church and the pastor and it was what I was supposed to do. I was loyal to my friends as well who expected me to be there with them. Even when some of them left the church on their own, later came back or left to move to another location. I was the vanguard; always there, always doing the job even as others came and went. But the unhappiness settled in, not just in performing the sound room job, but in religion and church as a whole. Yet I persevered and kept going to church and kept performing my expected duties as well. I didn’t want to let down the people of the church, the pastor or my friends, even after most of them had all moved away for various reasons. They expected me to stay and to keep on doing what I was doing because it’s what God wanted. Of course, no God ever actually told me that is what he wanted. But that’s another story for another time.

I was expected to continue going to church because everyone else was and because God says you’re supposed to. But what happens when you don’t want to do that anymore? What happens when your faith waivers, or your belief in the supernatural wanes? Then there is no purpose to going for you. Why keep going? Why keep doing what makes you unhappy if there is no benefit to you and only a detriment?

I go to work to earn money to live and take care of myself and buy the things I need and want. While I enjoy the work that I do, I do it for the money. Like many people, if I were independently wealthy and had no need to work for money, I wouldn’t. I’d spend my time doing other things that I enjoy more, and would do them when it pleased me. After all, going to work is giving your time to an employer to do a job they need done, hence the expression ‘time is money’. We give our time to earn money to use as a tool for the rest of our time that we have on our own. If we have enough money to last a lifetime, we don’t need to give our time to someone else to do a job – unless we want to and it makes us happy of course.

I wasn’t happy at the church anymore and I certainly wasn’t being paid for my time. As I said earlier, there was no expectation of being paid for going to church and running the sound room. For a long time I gave of my time to do that because I liked it and enjoyed the work. But after a while that interest faded along with my faith in God. But why did I keep going? Again looking back over the time, it was loyalty. I kept going to church and doing the job because I was loyal to the people and the pastor of the church. I wasn’t being loyal to a God or the concept of Christianity anymore. While that stuff faded, I still had care and concern for the people there and didn’t want to leave them in a bind with the sound room either. There really wasn’t anyone else there that could do the work. Or those that could, had other duties in the church or due to work demands couldn’t always be there when church was in service. So I kept at it for years until I was able to train one of the teenagers to run everything. I believe I mentioned it in my book, but I’ll say it again here. When I trained the teen to run the sound room, my intention was to have someone as a backup in case I couldn’t be there and to give me a break once in a while and to allow me to sit in the congregation and enjoy the service, as it were.

That went on for many months and it wasn’t until the end of 2014 that I realized that I had to change something. I didn’t enjoy the experience of church, religion or God anymore and it was time to change things. I was glad that I had trained someone to do the sound room job so that I could leave and when I did I wouldn’t leave the church with a void in the sound room and scrambling to find someone to take it over. I would have felt much worse than I already did for leaving anyhow.

The loyalty that I have toward things and people in this situation kept me in a place of unhappiness for a long time. That’s where I say that I am, or can be, loyal to a fault. I should have ended things there several years earlier than I did. Once I became unhappy, the misery and sour attitudes I carried around grew every week. Every Sunday and Wednesday, especially Wednesday evenings, I dreaded driving the 40 minutes or so one way to church, sitting through the preaching that I didn’t really believe in anymore and then driving back home and getting in late. Why was I torturing myself like this for so long? It was loyalty.

What I have learned through this experience is that I need to be more cognizant of how far my loyalty takes me. I’m still very loyal to the Marine Corps and I’m loyal to the county that I work for. I’m loyal to my friends as well. But I need to be careful sometimes where too much loyalty can take me. It can make me unhappy, such as with church and religion, or it could take me to a dangerous place that I don’t need to be in.

My advice is to evaluate where you are, where you want to be and to ensure that whatever it is you’re doing, that you’re happy or as happy as you can be in doing it. We only have this one life on planet Earth and then that’s it (I don’t believe in the irrational notion of an afterlife). Make the best of the years that you have available to you and try to be happy while you can. If your loyalty to someone or something is getting in the way of happiness, then perhaps it’s time to sever or cut back ties to whatever negative thing that might be.

Life, to me anyhow, is always changing and evolving with each passing day. There is no reason not to evaluate things and make adjustments where needed to keep you on track to your life’s goals. Life isn’t black and white and it’s not always a case of right or wrong. Life is what we make it for ourselves and each day, each situation is different and needs to be observed objectively with your goals in mind. Life isn’t a one size fits all baseball cap either. What’s right and what’s important for me may not necessarily be what’s right and important for the next person. It’s up to them to determine those things for themselves.

I’m pleased to say that I am very happy with my decision to leave the church and religion behind at the end of 2014 and that since the start of 2015, now two and a half years later, I am in a better place all around. I’m not letting my strong sense of loyalty take me too far down the wrong path any more.

Apple Watch Series 2 Review

About two and a half weeks ago I went to the Apple Store and bought an Apple Watch. I bought it with the full intention of using it on a trial basis during the two week return window allowed. If I didn’t like it I was going to return it.

After trying it out for the two weeks I decided that I like it enough to keep it. In the past I always considered the AW but declined to pursue it for two reasons. Most of what it can do I can do on the iPhone and aesthetically, I didn’t like it nearly as much as I do the round face watches, like my Skagens. Point number two still stands however. I still do like the round faces on watches over the square ones, but it’s a minor thing overall.

I went with a series 2, aluminum in space gray. I also bought an extra band, the Nike green and black one. I didn’t buy the Nike edition watch however as I’m not a runner and didn’t need the subscription that came with it; I just liked the band design.

After a while of figuring out the settings and how I wanted them to work between notifications and other functions, I think I have it all settled.

Some of the things I do enjoy, and enjoy more than I had previously thought I would, are the text and email notifications. With the AW I can easily see what is coming in and decide to or decide not to pick up the phone to look at it, or can get a preview of it on the AW. It is rather convenient.

I find that I use Siri a little more than I used to, and it’s mostly to set timers when I’m cooking or doing laundry and for use with my Philips Hue lighting system and HomeKit. I often feel like David Hasslehoff as Michael Knight in Knight Rider from the 1980’s when I hold my arm up with the AW to “hey Siri..” with it.

I’ve used the native workout app for outdoor walking and outdoor cycling and it’s pretty easy to use and works well. My gym also recently came out with a new app that has a lot of workouts and pre-built programs to choose from and it’s very well done and elegantly designed. It also has an AW app and I’ve been using that at the gym to track things and see what’s up next. I can do my whole session without having to pickup and unlock my phone like I used to do after each exercise and set.

Regarding the Activity app, Apple takes a very different approach to goals than Fitbit does. Fitbit makes steps per day the main focus of activity and for achieving personal goals. Apple’s approach is totally different with the idea of closing the rings of stand, move and exercise. Your steps are still tracked and shown at the very bottom of the app, but they’re not a focus of anything in particular. It seems as if they’re philosophy is more about just being active regardless of what you’re doing. With the Move ring its dynamic and adjusts each weeks active calorie goals based on the previous week’s numbers and will try to keep it attainable and challenging at the same time. My gym app integrates with Activity so all of that gets logged automatically. I like how the AW will remind me to stand at 50 minutes past the hour if I haven’t been up yet; this is something neither of my Fitbit’s had, although I think some of their newer models now have it.

One thing the AW doesn’t do is track floors climbed and relies on the iPhone to track that. I find this to be a bit odd that Apple didn’t incorporate this feature into it. With all the things it can do, up to and including swimming, why can’t it sense air pressure so it can measure floors climbed like a Fitbit? But at the same time, steps taken and floors climbed aren’t considered a focus of the Activity app and it’s goals.

The Breath app is nice too and I use that as well. It’s helpful to calm down at times and reset the mind when needed.

I like the integration with the Health app as well and my gym’s app also integrates with it so I can track a lot of health data in one spot. I still have and use the Fitbit Aria smart scale which measures weight and body fat percentage. That integrates with the Fitbit app obviously, but not with Apple’s Health or Activity apps. So I downloaded the third-party Workflow app and set up a workflow on the iPhone and AW app so I can punch in those two metrics on the AW and log them into the Health app quickly as I’m standing on the scale looking at the day’s measurements.

The comfort of the AW and band is superb, especially compared to the FitBit Surge. I get up at 4am each day and put the AW on and wear it all day until about 9pm, save for a few minutes in the shower when I take it off. (I know, it’s water resistant and could wear it in the shower, but I don’t). With the Fitbit Surge by the time I’d get home from work, maybe wearing it for 10 to 12 hours, I couldn’t wait to take it off as it was irritating me something awful. The LED sensors for measuring the heart rate protrude from the Surge in a more abrupt and narrow fashion which digs into my arm throughout the day. The LED’s on the AW are more spread out and tapered which do not dig into me at all and I have no problem wearing it for up to 17 or 18 hours.

So far at the end of each day I’ve been averaging 30% battery usage which is better than I was expecting. Of course it all depends on personal habits and usage too. I could probably get two days out of a charge but I’ve not tried to yet. The Fitbit Surge would give me 5 to 7 days on a charge, but it doesn’t do a quarter of what the AW does, nor does it have a nice display. That’s just some of the tradeoffs you have to consider between the devices.

So I suppose I like the AW better than I thought I would, but I still do love my traditional Skagen watches design a lot better.

The Life & Technology Blog

%d bloggers like this: