3 Apps that will improve your life

Now that you know the truth about technology, it’s time to improve your human-computer interaction experience by incorporating some useful applications. I’ve found three easy-to-use apps to help get you started.

Moment

icon175x175Price: Free

Developer: Kevin Holesh

Available for: iOS

Current Rating: 4.5 Stars (60 ratings)

 

It’s easy to lose track of time watching cute cat videos and drooling over sprinkle-coated rainbow doughnuts on Instagram when virtually every platform is integrating endless scroll and auto-play. Good thing there’s an app that can do the work for you. Moment is specially designed to track the time you spend each day using your iphone and/or ipad. This app is foolproof in its simplicity. It runs in the background so forgetfulness won’t inhibit the tracking progress. Easy-to-read graphs neatly categorize the information collected, such as usage time and the time of day. Yeah, it may drain your battery, but better your battery than your social life!

Additionally, if spending time with the family involves everyone on their phones gathered together in the same room, Moment has you covered. It’s family tracking feature allows you to monitor the activity of the entire household. This app even allows you to set a timer for device-free activities (such as family dinners) that a causes an alert to sound if anyone picks up the device. Best of all, it’s a completely free investment to help keep you “in the moment”.

 

 

Sleep Cycle

sleep_cycle_ios_iconPrice: Free

Developer: Northcube AB

Available for: iOS and Android

Current Rating: 4.5 Stars (1,484 ratings)

 

Tired of waking up tired, even after going to bed early? Although you may be sleeping for a significant duration, it may actually be the quality of your sleep that’s lacking. Sleep Cycle is an app that uses the microphone or accelerometer in your phone to track the different phases of sleep throughout the night. With the detailed graphs and in-depth statistical analysis, you can easily track the patterns of your sleep quality. This will allow you to pinpoint any factors that may be influencing your sleep cycle (such as caffeine intake or eating habits) so you can make the necessary adjustments for a significant improvement.

Sleep Cycle also doubles as an “intelligent alarm clock”. When your lightest sleep phase is reached, the app can recognize this and an alarm will sound. Using this app consistently to track your sleeping habits can lead to a greater level of productivity and focus since it can help you to attain a much higher energy level throughout the day!

image-sleep-cycle-app 

 

TED

 icon175x175Price: Free

Developer: TED Conferences

Available for: iOS and Android

Current Rating: 3.5 Stars (5,470 ratings)

 

The ease of streaming videos on our devices pretty much anytime and anywhere we want has caused our attention to be focused on this source of entertainment. Since we’re definitely not going to give up this luxury anytime soon, we may as well maximize the  potential benefits of providing not only entertainment, but education as well. TED Talks aim to stimulate ideas and provide a whole library of knowledge that you won’t find binge watching three seasons of your favorite shows.

The TED community includes people from all types of background who discuss concise but powerful ideas of just about anything you can think of or haven’t even imagined! This app allows you to take these talks on the cgo to watch whenever you please. So next time you’re taking your lunch break, instead of turning to Candy Crush to drown out your boredom, try listening to a TED Talk and stimulate your mind. You won’t be disappointed!

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Well you made it this far, so why procrastinate another second? You’re device is already in front of you and these three free life-changing apps are only a few clicks away. Have fun exploring!

It’s Time to Rewire

 

What The Tech has made it clear that there is a major issue of addiction to technology. It’s no secret that this is inhibiting our ability to think creatively, controlling the way we interact socially, and decreasing our decision to function independently.

This video emphasizes the current issues of the tech-obsessed generation and encourages positive progression through inspiring an unwiring.

Hopefully, this stimulates a movement towards unplugging our devices so we can recharge our minds.

8 common mistakes you may be making about technology

It seems like everyday there’s a new and improved eye-opener about the impact of technology use. Like I previously mentioned, technology is our generation’s drug of choice and our addiction has influenced many misconstrued ideas about how it is/will affect us. But what’s fact and what’s fiction? If we believed everything we heard from friends or saw on the news, chances are we would end up curled into a ball on the floor out of the fear that moving could cause us to spontaneously combust. To help avoid spiraling into this sad scenario, I’ve done some research and uncovered the truth behind a few common myths about technology.

Myth #1: If you post a disclaimer, you can prevent Facebook from using your photos.

False: It’s hard not to believe something that sounds so official, but this is actually just another one of those Internet hoaxes. Remember that seemingly endless document of terms and conditions you agreed to without reading when signing up for Facebook? Yeah, me neither. But somewhere in all that legal jargon we agreed to sharing, use, and distribution of the content we post, even though we have ownership. Always be sure to read the fine print!

Myth #2: The government can track your cell phone, even when it’s off.

False: Maybe all those governmental conspiracy theory movies have gotten to our heads, but this still isn’t possible. Any kind of cell phone tracking can only be done when the phone is turned on. Even if worse came to worst and you somehow accidentally managed to install a piece of malware that deceives you into thinking your phone is off when it isn’t, the battery can always be temporarily taken out to solve the problem.

Myth #3: You should only use the charger that came with your phone.

False: This is just another one of those marketing ploys used by companies to squeeze every last cent out of your wallet. After selling the main attraction, they bank on making additional profit off selling accompanying accessories like chargers. Just because the brands match doesn’t mean your charging options are limited. Any other charger that fits the manufacturer’s specs for your device will work just fine. If you are browsing the web for alternatives, make sure you aren’t purchasing a knock-off charger, since these have posed previous hazards.

Myth #4: Cell phones cause cancer

False: If this one were true, I’m pretty sure a majority of the human race would be doomed. Not to worry! The Annual Report of the President’s Cancer Panel has found no evidence that supports a link between cell phone use and cancer. Radiation is still given off when a signal is transmitted, but it’s a different wave on the spectrum. This non-ionizing radiation is far too weak to damage cells and cause cancer.

Myth #5: Private or “incognito” browsing means you are completely anonymous online.

False: Privacy mode does not give you the power of invisibility. When you’re browsing the web, this option keeps the content you view from being stored in your web history. There is also an added element of user control since the privacy feature limits the third party site’s ability to track information by blocking auto-login and deleting stored password and username information. Still, this does not completely hide your identity and browsing activity from third party sites.

Myth #6: Violent video games cause kids to become more aggressive or violent.

False: Though it is much easier to place the blame somewhere else than to take responsibility for our actions, it’s tough to make a case when science disagrees. One large study found that there was no significant change in behavior among kids who played violent video games. In fact, there is evidence that when video games are played within moderation (less than an hour a day), kids actually experienced more positive behavioral benefits than kids who don’t play video games at all!

Myth #7: Web cookies are dangerous and should be avoided

False: Even if you’re watching your diet, these cookies can be beneficial. Clearing them is not preventing any harm to your computer. Cookies are small storage units created when browsing websites. By tracking the user’s movement, they can bookmark where you left off and help store login information so you don’t have to retype your login data each time you visit the site. These text files are very simple and cannot execute code or access files on your computer, so there is really no need to fear a few extra cookies!

Myth #8: Leaving your phone on the charger overnight destroys the battery.

False: Since we are constantly attached to our phones throughout the day, leaving them plugged in to charge when we’re sleeping is the most convenient option. Fortunately, our phones prevent battery damage by stopping the current when fully charged. It’s still important to remove the phone case while leaving it on the charger to allow the heat to escape, since this can damage the lithium-ion battery.

Well I hope after reading this, you have acquired some useful knowledge that will arm you with both caution and confidence in your future endeavors across the information superhighway. Some additional “accessories” (don’t worry, these ones are free!) to help more completely equip your utility belt are available through various sources, some of which I previously mentioned like Note to Self and WIRED. You can also keep up with the latest tech-based news and analysis by checking out @TechCrunch on Twitter! It’s been a pleasure getting technical with you, until next time.

 

Anti-social media: your brain on drugs

Hello again! As my previous post had mentioned, the technological infiltration of the way we function has stimulated a rapid disengagement of creative thought and quality communication. You know the addiction is spiraling out of control when the mindless wandering of the tech-savvy, millennial population is essentially beginning to mimic a real-life zombie apocalypse. Fortunately, I’ve concocted an informational antidote of good and bad sources to help you regain control of your brain.

User discretion is advised:

Facebook is the social networking platform whose success is fueled by our desire to be accepted and acknowledged by others. It has capitalized on promoting the idea that success can be completely quantifiable by diluting emotional attachment down to an unhealthy obsession with superficial validation. The attempt to document and post the play-by-play of our everyday lives in a never-ending pursuit of “likes” is causing amounting social disconnection among our population. It is ironic that the very platform we utilize as a way to enhance our social networks has actually been found to be linked to mental disorders, such as an increase in symptoms of depression that stem from social comparison.

Tumblr is a popular platform for picture-blogging that can be thought of as a more anonymous way of self-expression. Unfortunately, it’s contributing to our addiction for distraction and stunting creative development with the main feature being the “reblog” button. Though the photos only have one original source (the content creator), they contribute to our “copy-paste culture” by being reblogged onto other users’ personal pages. A dashboard containing the main feed of recycled pictures incorporates an endless scroll element that allows users to move infinitely down the page. As I’m sure you can imagine, this allows us to rapidly process large amounts of information…and forget it just as quickly. Not only does this contribute to our diminishing attention span, but constant scrolling on platforms such as Tumblr also causes spikes and drops of dopamine in our brains that is stimulated by the sporadic bouts of pleasure in trying to obtain something ultimately unobtainable. This is what feeds the technological addiction of being absent-mindedly glued to our devices, so it is best to steer clear of this media.

Tech it out:

Dose of reality: The WNYC podcast, Note to Self, describes itself as a “tech show about being human”. This podcast gives an interesting and informative perspective on the way we incorporate technology into our lives, from the many ways someone can hack your life to the prevalent problem of photo clutter. Manoush Zomorodi tests out many new technological innovations and follows up with an honest and in-depth review of the experience. She also encourages discussion by giving the listeners an opportunity to call in and comment on various topics having to do with all aspects related to technology.

Catch-all: YouTube is a video-sharing website covering pretty much any topic your heart desires. This is also a great source for everyday tips and tricks to easily improve your life, such as how to easily cut an onion without crying or how to perform open-heart surgery (though I recommend this to be something strictly informative). Whether you’re interested in weekly gym routines, cute cat videos, or meal ideas that fit your budget, YouTube has you covered.

Latest and greatest: WIRED magazine helps to keep you in-the-know with the hottest trends in technology and its impact on culture, the economy, and politics. Available both online and in print, WIRED taps into the ways technology is revolutionizing our world in terms of business, security, transportation, and science. This is a great source for an easily-digestible report on everything tech-related.

If used in the right way, various platforms of technology can be an incredible enhancement in the way we live our lives. There are an immense amount of sources that can educate, entertain, and provoke creative, as well as those that should be used with caution. Happy browsing!

Get Inspired to Get Unwired

If you are a millennial, chances are you have bought a weapon of mass destruction and in fact, you’re probably using it at this very moment. It fits in your pocket or on your desktop and it appears relatively harmless on the surface. Technology is the drug of our generation, constantly consuming up to 18 hours a day of millennial minds. The addiction is fueled through the fast-paced advantages of a thriving social network that is conveniently available at our fingertips. The mobility, accessibility, and affordability of technology has completely altered the way we live our lives, especially since we constantly crave the need to be engaged by checking our devices about 45 times a day! With the click of a button, you can share photos with all of your friends, confirm overnight shipping for a last-minute gift, and even video-chat with someone on the complete opposite side of the world. With something so powerful, how could we possibly live without it? And that is precisely the problem.

Like the majority of you, I’m definitely guilty of becoming so overwhelmingly reliant on the enhancement technology seems to have on my life that I feel anxious and lost without it. The unhealthy dependence and reliance created by this behavior is causing dehumanization by isolating us from the face-to-face contact with others. Meaningful connections developed in social relationships are dwindling through the preferred alternative of texting, emailing, and even one-night-stand dating apps. The increase in communication with family and friends via technology has strongly indicated a decrease in not only the quantity of face-to-face interactions, but the quality as well.

What we initially thought of as an enhancement to our lives is beginning to embody the complete opposite. As technology continues to advance and improve, people seem to be shifting in the opposite direction. We are forming a habit of second-guessing our instincts through the reassurance of relying in artificial intelligence. There is a global threat of disconnection from our social environment and mass destruction of creativity.

So how can we learn to recharge our minds and energize our social lives? Let’s skip the anonymous meetings and therapy sessions. My idea is quite simple: less is more. No, I’m not suggesting resorting to text-message carrier pigeons (though talk about suspense in waiting for a reply!). What the Tech is here to help encourage healthy habits of technology use for optimizing human computer interaction through bringing awareness to the ways it distracts, influences, and controls the way we live.

So put down the headphones you’ve been trying to untangle for five days and get ready to feel inspired to be unwired!