Unplug for Happiness

goneoffline

How many times a day do you look at your phone? Start counting and the number may depress you. According to Time magazine, the average person looks at his or her phone 46 times a day. (Full article here.)

As a Technology Coordinator, it might surprise you that I strongly support limiting screen time. Study after study shows that time spent in front of devices like smartphones and tablets directly impacts your happiness. In summary, more time spent on Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, text messaging, and other online forms of communication makes you feel sadder, less satisfied with your life, and interestingly, more lonely.

Even more alarming, The Atlantic just published an article, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” which underscores the detrimental impact screens have taken on post-millennials. This generation doesn’t date, doesn’t hang out in person, doesn’t care about getting a driver’s license or a part-time job or going to the mall alone with their friends.

What do they care about? “It sometimes bugs me when I don’t get a certain amount of likes on a picture” says 13-year-old Athena. “I’ve been on my phone more than I’ve been with actual people,” she said. “My bed has, like, an imprint of my body.” The article strongly concludes that “There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness” and here we have a generation more plugged in than ever. (Full article here.)

So, how do you unplug for happiness? How do you ignore the siren’s song of likes, loves, and comments, the photos of your friend’s latest micro brewery trip, the constant churn of political news? It’s easier than you think.

  1. Get an alarm clock. First of all, if you rely on your smartphone to wake you up each morning, STOP! Get yourself a traditional alarm clock. A study from the Braun Research Center and Bank of America shows more people think about their phones than their significant others when they first wake up. If you’re guilty of browsing Facebook right before bed and checking your messages the moment you wake up, keep your phone out of reach. Better yet? Keep it out of the bedroom.
  2. Give your phone a home. Quit carrying your phone in your pocket and keeping your tablet within arm’s reach. Designate a basket or drawer for your devices when you’re at home, and leave them there. Without the temptation of your phone buzzing in your pocket or your tablet lighting up on the coffee table, you’ll find it much easier to unplug.
  3. Start small. Set achievable goals for yourself. No one can go from phone junky to unplugged zen master overnight. Start off with a small amount of time for unplugging, perhaps an hour a day. The next week, increase to two hours. Leave your phone in the car when you’re out shopping. Go for a long walk each day and leave your phone at home. Be as kind to yourself as possible, and reward good behavior. You won’t enjoy long-term success if you make unplugging a punishment. Did you get through dinner without looking at your phone? Treat yourself! Buy a book. Go out for an ice cream.
  4. Have a plan. So your phone is in the other room… Now what? If you sit there counting the cracks in the ceiling, you’ll never stop thinking about what’s going on in the online world. Fear of Missing Out is a real thing (Hey, it has a Wikipedia entry!). If you don’t keep yourself busy, the temptation to check your phone will be unbearable. Make a list of things to do while unplugged and use it.

You can also take a look at The Power of Off: The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in a Virtual World by Nancy Colier or The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iyer.

Happy unplugging! 🙂

Technology Help – Need device advice? Come to Drop-in Tech Help. No appointment necessary. We provide help with smartphones, laptops, tablets, ereaders, email, Facebook, social media, and more! Check out the calendar for our next session.

How to Cut the Cord

Say “Goodbye!” to the Cable Guy!

What does it mean to “cut the cord” and why is everyone doing it? Should you cut your cord, too, assuming you know what it means?

The answer depends.

Cutting the cord means dropping traditional cable television subscriptions in favor of inexpensive streaming services. With cable bills rising to over $100 per month on many providers, more people are choosing to say goodbye to cable.

What do you need to cut the cord?

1.  Wifi
Wifi is wireless high-speed internet access. Most streaming devices connect with wifi, although some may still have a traditional ethernet port for plugging in a cord. You will need high-speed internet access to play streaming content, and it will probably need to be wireless unless you have a cable modem and an ethernet cord close to your streaming device.

2.  A streaming content device
Streaming content devices vary widely in price, size, and functionality. The most popular streaming content devices are Roku, AppleTV, and the Amazon Fire Stick. Smart TVs also have the ability to stream from a variety of content providers, but their interfaces are not as user-friendly, so I recommend getting a dedicated streaming device. Many video gaming systems like Xbox and Playstation can also play streaming content. You don’t have to spend much money to get started: the base model Roku retails for only $30.

3.  A streaming content Service Provider
There are a variety of streaming content service providers. Here are the most popular:

Netflix
On-demand movies, TV shows, documentaries, and Netflix-only content.
Netflix has a variety of “Netflix-only” series like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. Netflix also has a giant collection of movies and many seasons of popular TV shows. Be aware, current TV shows are usually 1 season behind, so if you want to see the latest episode of Chopped or This Is Us, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Cost: $9.99/month to watch on 2 streaming devices at once, or $11.99/month for 4 devices.

Hulu
On-demand Movies, TV shows, Documentaries, and Hulu-only content.
Taking a page from the Netflix playbook, Hulu now offers many “Hulu-only” series like The Handmaid’s Tale and 11.22.63. Unlike Netflix, Hulu focuses on the latest TV shows, typically airing new episodes a day after they air on cable TV. If you like to discuss the latest episodes of your favorite cable TV shows, Hulu is for you. Hulu also has a “commercial free” option, meaning you can watch Guy’s Grocery Games all day long without a single commercial. Hurray!
Cost: $7.99/month to watch on 1 device, or $11.99/month for commercial free.
Hulu is also now experimenting with providing Live TV, offering a Live TV beta for $39.99/month. Expect this to become more popular and widespread as content service providers try to knock the expensive cable TV companies out of the market altogether.

Amazon Prime Video
On-demand Movies, TV shows, Documentaries, and Amazon-only content.
Amazon Prime video is similar to Netflix, although some might argue it doesn’t offer as much quality content. Like both Netflix and Hulu, Amazon has “Amazon-only” series like Transparent, Sneaky Pete, and The Man in the High Castle.
Cost: Amazon Prime Video is free with your Amazon Prime account ($99/year) or you can purchase a monthly membership for $8.99/month if you do not wish to purchase a year of Prime membership.

Other options exist for getting your favorite shows:

HBO Now – For $15/month, you can watch every series that ever aired on HBO, including the latest releases merely minutes after they air Live. HBO Now also has a backlog of many popular movies, comedy specials, and documentaries. If you need your Game of Thrones fix, this is for you.

Showtime Anytime – Showtime has a similar service to HBO offering the latest in Showtime series and movies for $11/month.

YouTube Live TV – For $35/month, you can now watch Live TV streaming from ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and popular cable networks on up to 6 devices at a time. This is a new service from YouTube and one to keep your eye on.

iTunes – With an Apple TV, iOS device, or computer, you can purchase TV shows and Movies directly from the iTunes store. Hate monthly subscription fees? Just buy the shows and movies you want to watch or rent them for 24 hours at a lower price.

Amazon Video – Without Amazon Prime Video, you can purchase or rent the shows and movies you’d like to watch through Amazon Video.

Sling TV – Sling TV is a new service to the streaming industry. It offers streaming Live TV, not on-demand. There are mixed reviews about its quality and reliability, but this is sure to be a service to keep your eye on in the coming months. It can only improve, and the demand for this type of Live TV service is very high.

We have walls and walls of DVDs and Blurays!

Your Public Library – Last but never least, keep in mind the many movies, TV shows, documentaries, musicals, foreign films and more that are available from your local public library. Cheshire Public Library has a wide selection of popular “Quik Fliks” if you’re looking for the latest movies, not to mention a huuuge collection of DVDs, Blurays, and downloadable and streaming content. Best of all? They’re all FREE to borrow, and nothing beats free! 🙂


Technology Help – Need device advice? Come to Drop-in Tech Help. No appointment necessary. We provide help with smartphones, laptops, tablets, ereaders, email, Facebook, social media, cutting the cord questions and more! Check out the calendar for our next session.

Teach Yourself Technology

technology support help me please!

At Cheshire Public Library’s weekly Drop-In Tech Help, I am often told that people don’t know where to begin with learning technology. They ask me what special resource of knowledge I use and where I went to school and how long it took me to learn all of these tricks and devices. The answer is simple: There is no secret knowledge! I use books and the internet, and you can, too.

If you recently got a new device or you feel overwhelmed by your device’s capabilities, start with a book. The library has a variety of books on popular devices, and we can always get something for you if we fail to carry it. Books are great for starting out with a new computer, smart phone, or tablet. You can look up topics like Setting Up Your Email or page through the whole book at your own pace. Most technology books are visual, and you can go through step-by-step instructions with your device at your side.

If you prefer video instruction, you can try Lynda.com, which is now available for all Cheshire Public Library resident cardholders. Lynda.com is an online learning site that hosts a constantly growing library of over 3,000 courses.

What are you waiting for? Here’s a small sample of the books we have available:

jacket-aspx iPhone: The Missing Manual by David Pogue

Covers all models with iOS 8.1 software, including iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

 

 

jacket-aspx iPad for Seniors by Nancy Muir

Learn about all the incredible things your iPad can do with this friendly guide. Learn to make video calls, navigate with maps, find almost anything with Siri, and more!

 

jacket-aspx Teach Yourself Visually: Android Phones and Tablets by Guy Hart-Davis

Includes customizing your phone or tablet, working with text and voice, making calls and instant messaging, enjoying social networking, working with apps, browsing the web and e-mailing, taking and using photos and videos, using maps, Google Earth, and clock, playing music and videos, troubleshooting your device.

jacket-aspx Kindle Fire HDX for Dummies by Nancy Muir

Also covers the Kindle Fire HD!

 

 

jacket-aspx My Windows 10 by Katherine Murray

An easy, full-color tutorial on the latest operating system from Microsoft.

 

 


Technology Help – Need device advice? Come to Drop-in Tech Help. No appointment necessary. We provide help with smartphones, laptops, tablets, ereaders, email, Facebook, social media, and more! Check out the calendar for our next session.

Where Did My Games Go?!

Solitaire Screenshot

Solitaire Screenshot

The Windows 10 upgrade removes the classic Windows games we’ve all enjoyed for decades. It replaces games like Solitaire and Minesweeper with new versions that are marred by advertising. Anyone who wants to remove the intrusive ads needs to buy a “Premium” subscription for $10 per year.

In other words, Windows 10 gets rid of beloved and free classic games in an attempt to monetize them. Not cool!

But don’t despair.  You can get your classic games back. A quick Google search reveals numerous sites where you can download the games again. I’ll even give you a link to my favorite option, Winaero, which also provides a tutorial for installing them.

One caveat: if Windows 10 updates, the games are deleted again! You have two options for protecting your Minesweeper habit: (1) Disable Windows Automatic Updates, or (2) Keep the classic games install file, and reinstall when necessary. Your choice!


Technology Help – Need device advice? Schedule a one-on-one lesson in the basics of computers, laptops, tablets, and eReaders. Click here to request an appointment online or call the library at 203-272-2245 to make an appointment. The library also offers a monthly Drop-in Tech Help program.