On being in the moment

There’s this idea that technology takes us away from the present. Our phones and the internet make it easy to avoid really experiencing what’s around you.

There was a story in the news recently about a man who almost walked right into a bear. When you look at the video, you see the man was staring at his phone and walking down the street without looking up for a long period of time. This is one of those instances where staring at your phone too much can have really dire consequences.

Other news stories and studies on the topic of how our phones and social media affect us tend to point out that we’re interacting less, talking less, and experiencing less of what’s actually around us.

There’s another idea that gruesome images can have a negative effect on people’s moods. For example, if you see a photo of a decapitated puppy every time you browse your phone, you’re probably going to have a bad time. For many of us, simply reading the words describing dead puppies is enough to put a damper on our day.

Things that can have a negative effect on our moods don’t necessarily need to be gruesome. Facebook taught us that when they used us as human guinea pigs in order to see if people who were shown sadder things on their feeds would in fact be sadder. It turns out, Facebook has more of an effect on your mood than you would probably like.

I’m not advocating against phones or the internet or even time-sucking apps like Facebook. Sometimes you’re in a situation you need to take your mind off of. Maybe you’re on public transportation and everyone is coughing or sneezing around you and instead of having a panic attack about all the germs you’re breathing in you scroll through Buzzfeed’s 17 Dogs Hanging Out The Passenger Side Of Their Best Friend’s Ride And Trying To Holler At You article to feel better. Our phones, social media, and the internet in general get a bad rap for being distracting and taking us away from what we should be experiencing. But it’s not social media’s fault.

What we forget about the internet is we can create our own experience. And we can turn it off. If looking at Facebook makes you feel like everyone has their shit together and you don’t and you go home and cry while eating a tub of cookie dough, stop looking at it. Switch that out for something that doesn’t make you feel that way. Google pictures of cute mini pigs instead.

We all need to take a minute after we’re done staring at our screens to evaluate how we feel. We need to actively assess our emotions. I realize this sounds suspiciously like work and doing some thinking which is totally counter to what we’re looking for when we just want to waste time on social media.

But if we’re not stopping to look at the negative and positive effects of our actions and letting those facts change our behaviors, we’re basically addicts.

I want to be clear. I’m not saying you need to be in the moment all the time and trade your phone in for a carrier pigeon. Sometimes the moment can be stressful and unpleasant which can make you feel bad too. I’m suggesting we all take some time to just check up on ourselves. Like a friend would.

A little introspection can go a long way.

People, Pop Culture, Technology

What it’s like when all your friends are on the internet

When you only communicate with most of your friends through the internet, you feel like what happened to Joaquin in Her is totally plausible.

Your writing skills are impeccable and you can translate the hieroglyphics coined emojis like an expert.

You think you’re more interesting because you can have long, thought out discussions but really you’re just reading Wikipedia faster than the other person.

There’s this unwritten rule about greeting each other after a certain amount of time. It’s like when you see someone in person again after 6 hours, you say hi again. But since you can always say hi to each other over the internet, when people ask you how you are, they really want to know.

Your significant other is always surprised at how many messages you receive. But they only know how many messages you receive because you don’t have any local friends and you don’t leave the house often.

Instead of inside jokes you have inside gifs.

You only share the parts of your lives you want to. But you get to see people’s lives through their eyes sometimes and that perspective can be really insightful.

Happy hour can be anywhere if you text a friend to have a drink too. Even if they’re in Sweden.

You can’t really introduce your friends to other friends by bringing them along. Instead, you reply all on group emails where you don’t know everyone. All it takes is one solid link to forge the beginnings of an internet friendship.

Internet friendships can make you more empathetic. It takes keen perception to notice when someone is being different through text.

When all of your friends are on the internet, you wish you could see them in person all the time. But you still go through things with them as if they were because they can always be there for you. They are literally in your pocket.

One day people will be collecting our emails and making them into a book as if they were letters from Socrates, Neruda or Virginia Woolf. A poem, a love letter, a touching note is still itself when it’s typed. Shakespeare asked if a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

I ask, would a word by another medium have such meaning?

And that’s what it’s like having all your friends on the internet.


Obama does IAmA on Reddit, Romney makes Myspace page in retaliation

Okay, not really.  Mitt clearly made his page  a while ago since he has 21,782 friends already. Yes, Tom is in his top 12, but sadly Paul Ryan doesn’t have a Myspace, so Gary Sato gets his spot. I think it’s because of his profile picture, but that’s just me.

Unfortunately, Mitt hasn’t updated his playlist but he does have one featured song, Elvis Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation.”

I wonder if he added that after Todd Akin’s speech.

Anyway, if you still haven’t discovered the awesome sauce that is Reddit, you may not have heard President Obama did an IAmA (Ask Me Anything) yesterday and crashed the website. Surprise, surprise.

For those of you who don’t want to leaf through comment after comment of cat questions, I’ll summarize for you.

Hi, I’m Barack Obama, President of the United States. Ask me anything. I’ll be taking your questions for half an hour starting at about 4:30 ET.

Obligatory photo to prove it was him. He also tweeted about it.

Questions he answers:

What are you going to do to end the corrupting influence of money in politics during your second term? –suzmerk

Money has always been a factor in politics, but we are seeing something new in the no-holds barred flow of seven and eight figure checks, most undisclosed, into super-PACs; they fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens. We need to start with passing the Disclose Act that is already written and been sponsored in Congress – to at least force disclosure of who is giving to who. We should also pass legislation prohibiting the bundling of campaign contributions from lobbyists. Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t revisit it). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.

What was the most difficult decision that you had to make during this term? –FifthSurprise

The decision to surge our forces in afghanistan. Any time you send our brave men and women into battle, you know that not everyone will come home safely, and that necessarily weighs heavily on you. The decision did help us blunt the taliban’s momentum, and is allowing us to transition to afghan lead – so we will have recovered that surge at the end of this month, and will end the war at the end of 2014. But knowing of the heroes that have fallen is something you never forget.

We know how Republicans feel about protecting Internet Freedom. Is Internet Freedom an issue you’d push to add to the Democratic Party’s 2012 platform? –SharkGirl

Internet freedom is something I know you all care passionately about; I do too. We will fight hard to make sure that the internet remains the open forum for everybody – from those who are expressing an idea to those to want to start a business. And although there will be occasional disagreements on the details of various legislative proposals, I won’t stray from that principle – and it will be reflected in the platform.

What is the first thing you’ll do on November 7th, win or lose? –daveforamerica

Win or lose, I’ll be thanking everybody who is working so hard – especially all the volunteers in field offices all across the country, and the amazing young people in our campaign offices.

Are you considering increasing funds to the space program? –ormirian

Making sure we stay at the forefront of space exploration is a big priority for my administration. The passing of Neil Armstrong this week is a reminder of the inspiration and wonder that our space program has provided in the past; the curiosity probe on mars is a reminder of what remains to be discovered. The key is to make sure that we invest in cutting edge research that can take us to the next level – so even as we continue work with the international space station, we are focused on a potential mission to a asteroid as a prelude to a manned Mars flight.

I am recent law school graduate. Despite graduating from a top school, I find myself unemployed with a large student loan debt burden. While I’m sure my immediate prospects will improve in time, it’s difficult to be optimistic about the future knowing that my ability to live a productive life — to have a fulfilling career, to buy a house, to someday raise a family — is hampered by my debt and the bleak economic outlook for young people. I know that I’m not alone in feeling this way. Many of us are demoralized. Your 2008 campaign was successful in large part due to the efforts of younger demographics. We worked for you, we campaigned for you, and we turned out in record numbers to vote for you. What can I say to encourage those in similar situations as I am to show up again in November? What hope can you offer us for your second term? –hmlee

I understand how tough it is out there for recent grads. You’re right – your long term prospects are great, but that doesn’t help in the short term. Obviously some of the steps we have taken already help young people at the start of their careers. Because of the health care bill, you can stay on your parent’s plan until you’re twenty six. Because of our student loan bill, we are lowering the debt burdens that young people have to carry. But the key for your future, and all our futures, is an economy that is growing and creating solid middle class jobs – and that’s why the choice in this election is so important. The other party has two ideas for growth – more taxs cuts for the wealthy (paid for by raising tax burdens on the middle class and gutting investments like education) and getting rid of regulations we’ve put in place to control the excesses on wall street and help consumers. These ideas have been tried, they didnt work, and will make the economy worse. I want to keep promoting advanced manufacturing that will bring jobs back to America, promote all-American energy sources (including wind and solar), keep investing in education and make college more affordable, rebuild our infrastructure, invest in science, and reduce our deficit in a balanced way with prudent spending cuts and higher taxes on folks making more than $250,000/year. I don’t promise that this will solve all our immediate economic challenges, but my plans will lay the foundation for long term growth for your generation, and for generations to follow. So don’t be discouraged – we didn’t get into this fix overnight, and we won’t get out overnight, but we are making progress and with your help will make more.

Who’s your favourite Basketball player? –karlfranks

Jordan – I’m a Bulls guy.

What’s the recipe for the White House’s beer? –silent1mezzo

It will be out soon! I can tell from first hand experience, it is tasty.

How are you going help small businesses in 2013 and 2014? and what if any bills are you going to implement for small businesses, in 2013, and 2014?

We’ve really focused on this since I came into office – 18 tax cuts for small business, easier funding from the SBA. Going forward, I want to keep taxes low for the 98 percent of small businesses that have $250,000 or less in income, make it easier for small business to access financing, and expand their opportunities to export. And we will be implementing the Jobs Act bill that I signed that will make it easier for startups to access crowd-funding and reduce their tax burden at the start-up stage.

How do you balance family life and hobbies with, well, being the POTUS? –gobearss

It’s hard – truthfully the main thing other than work is just making sure that I’m spending enough time with michelle and the girls. The big advantage I have is that I live above the store – so I have no commute! So we make sure that when I’m in DC I never miss dinner with them at 6:30 pm – even if I have to go back down to the Oval for work later in the evening. I do work out every morning as well, and try to get a basketball or golf game in on the weekends just to get out of the bubble. Speaking of balance, though, I need to get going so I’m back in DC in time for dinner. But I want to thank everybody at reddit for participating – this is an example of how technology and the internet can empower the sorts of conversations that strengthen our democracy over the long run. AND REMEMBER TO VOTE IN NOVEMBER – if you need to know how to register, go to By the way, if you want to know what I think about this whole reddit experience – NOT BAD!

If you don’t know the NOT BAD meme. Get it together.

I was happy to see that a lot of users responded to each other’s questions that Obama did not answer.

President Obama, why didn’t you close Guantanamo Bay as you promised you would? –sheabd01

He signed an order closing it, and Congress denied funding to put it into effect. –aggie1391

Maybe I romanticize education too much. But it’s literally the reason I am the person I am today. Maybe it’s why I love Reddit so much. Because it tells me things I don’t know and should know.

Anyway, I hope this was informative and interesting for you.

Side note: Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian (kn0thing) and possibly love of my life was lurking as well.

How the hell did you guys pull this one off? –TheAtomicPlayboy

This is reddit. You all pulled this off by becoming the front page of the internet.

edit: I’m also hoping the administration was so responsive because secretly they’re all redditors. –kn0thing


Have you checked your “Other” Facebook messages?

I feel like Facebook is turning into that awkward cousin that never outgrew the awkward and now has more body hair, so it isn’t even cute awkward anymore.

That being said, I haven’t jumped on the “I’m too cool for Facebook” bandwagon and I don’t plan on it.

But some days I’m just surprised by little things I find to dislike about it.

Like when you send people you may not actually know or who you haven’t friended yet a message. I’m a journalist so let’s pretend I’m not just stalking random people and sending them messages.

This past week I was actually trying to contact sources through Facebook messages because that’s all I had to go on.

Sometimes people are quick to get back to you because they are so connected. But you don’t always hear back and you’re left wondering why.

  • Are they just really busy and haven’t gotten to it?
  • Do they not care to respond to me?
  • Did they take too long to respond and now they feel it would be weird to?
  • Did I creep them out? (psh, of course not.)
  • Did Facebook not send my message?

Or maybe…it was sent to their “other” Facebook messages so they haven’t seen it.

Yes, if you haven’t seen it yet, there is a section under messages for messages from people who aren’t your friends.

I had missed a lot of things. Messages from readers thanking us on coverage. Messages from old friends. A lot of spam, yes. But some messages were really touching and I’m sorry I missed them.

I debated answering people. Some messages were from 2008.

I’m idealistic about the internet. I feel that social media gives us the opportunity to connect more with more people. I don’t think these connections are lessened. This may be because I’m a sharer and writer by nature. It’s probably best that I write you a really long email than stand , fidgeting in front of you for 30 minutes and never manage to spit out what I’m trying to say.

But finding this made wonder what other things were being lost in the abyss of the Internet.

Some people will be quick to call for Facebook’s end because this is another thing we’re not pleased about. But it’s a learning experience for developers just as using Facebook is a learning experience for users. In my opinion, it would be unrealistic to expect a platform to give me something so great without it costing me anything at all.

Facebook is free, and according to Mark it will always be free. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to think about how it works and play around with it a bit to really reap all of it’s benefits.

Time and time again, I hear people say they don’t use a certain website or social media platform or app because it isn’t easy and they don’t have the time to sit and figure it out. Well then don’t expect any of the benefits.

I’m not saying Facebook is this social media king, because it isn’t. We don’t know what will happen to it next year or in five years or 10. But right now it is the best way for me to talk to my family members living in other countries. It’s a search engine when Google is giving me way too much information. It’s a tool for finding entertainment and sharing content.

It’s not perfect. But neither are the developers that built it and neither am I and neither are you.

So I hope this bit helps if you’re still on The Facebook.