Modern childhood milestones – mobile phones

This week we gave our daughter her first mobile phone. It’s as natural as first steps, or losing a first tooth, but I feel a bit sad about hitting this technological milestone.

Finally, we can all sit together as a family in the same room and chat silently with people who are not in the room. Cool.

A quick audit of main computing/electronic devices in our family of four people looks like this:

  • 1 x desktop
  • 2 x laptops
  • 2 x tablets
  • 4 x personal mobile phones
  • 2 x work mobile phones.

This is probably fairly standard these days for privileged middle-class urban types like us. (I haven’t bothered to add Kindles, digital radios and other paraphernalia.)

tomato

A healthy conversation about fruit and vegetables. 

Mobile phones at school

I’ve lectured my kids for years about (what I consider to be) the proper use of technology and the internet. E.g. “It’s all designed to be hugely addictive and your soft fresh young brains are no match for the shiny shiny digital temptation.” Or else: “Our bodies are NOT designed to be hunched over phones. ‘Text neck’ is a real thing!”

 [ Aside: A typical adult human head weighs 10 to 12 pounds. As the head tilts forward, the strain on your neck increases. At 15 degrees of forward tilt, this may equate to a head weighing 27 pounds. At 30 degrees forward, the strain on the neck equals a 40 pound head. https://www.spineuniverse.com/wellness/ergonomics/your-cell-phone-killing-your-back ]

It will be interesting to see how my kids will learn to deal with technology at school, as they aren’t allowed to use them during the school day.

My initial feeling is relief. No worries about theft, losing phones, cyber-bullying, cheating in tests etc. And school can be one safe place where there is respite from the unfair fight against evil purveyors of tech addiction …

However, my young digital natives need to learn to manage technology and devices appropriately. Especially when I’m not around with my passionate parental hassling.

Phone-less in transit

Right now, my dad is flying over to visit us from Australia. He forgot to bring his phone, so our immediate response was “How will we find him at the airport?!” Hmmmm; how did we used to do this before phones? Then my brother sent me a message: “Dad just called me from someone’s phone, he said to meet him at the hire car spot.” Just like the old days.

text conversation

This is what passes for conversation in our family.

 

Here’s one I wrote earlier

The invasion of the attention-snatchers. Using technology mindfully.  Does that sound like a phrase created by rich young white men in grey organic bamboo t-shirts? Turns out that I‘ve actually been doing it for years…  I wasn’t trying to be mindful, I just don’t like technology telling me what to do.

The Dark Side of digital time wasting. Lost : one incomplete Death Star. I have lost my Tiny Death Star. I’ve been working hard on adding levels for Emperor Palpatine since December, and tonight my 75% complete moon-sized battle station disappeared off my phone.

Contradictions? Oh no they’re not!

The World Cup

I don’t generally follow much sport. However, I really did want England to win the World Cup so that we could channel our furious nationalistic energy in to football, instead of Brexit. So football is NOT coming home.  And my home is still NOT going to be in Europe.

Clean eating

Tonight I had a ‘meal of two halves’ (to borrow a sporting metaphor ).

  1. Homemade vegetarian burger, served with a large spoon of sour cream.
  2. A steak. Medium rare, served with a large shake of Ottolenghi tomato sauce.

Social life

Tonight I was meant to go to a social evening after work. Instead, I went home, listened to podcasts and filed personal emails. Like all introverts who need solo recharging, I feel refreshed and relaxed.

Feminism

I am a feminist, but I do feel quite entitled to a seat on the Tube. I mean, men have much stronger sturdier legs than me … My handbag gets pretty heavy.

Lego

I should have rebuilt my daughter’s Lego house that I accidentally smashed in the middle of the night. But I suggested instead that it was time to renovate “like we are” and she thought that was a good idea. Phew!

steak card

A genuine greeting card that I am saving for someone very special.

[Writing time – 15 minutes. Reading time – at your leisure.]

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Kids – sorry the grown-ups broke your EU  Dear kids, Yesterday some grown-ups broke your European Union. Sorry about that. They didn’t really mean to. I hope that you can fix it when you’re older. Remember to vote. Love, mum

Hype cycle of life I’ve had a few days recently when I’ve been without my phone. This made me realise how I use social media to fill all the little gaps in the day when I’d rather scroll than think or look or talk. (Introverts unite!)

Keep the water in your mouth Yesterday I found a Post-It note in the kitchen with these words of wisdom: Keep the water in your mouth.

 

Getting comfortable

Daughter: Mum, we’re learning about life cycles at school.

Me: OK. What stages are there in a life cycle?

Daughter: Birth, growth, reproduction and death.

Me: And what stage are you at?

Daughter: Growth!

Me: So what stage am I at?

Daughter: *Pause*

Son: Well, you’ve had us, so that’s past reproduction … death?

Daughter: I think there might be a bit between reproduction and death.

We actually had a good laugh about it, and the kids possibly looked embarrassed to have written me off so quickly.

I don’t need reminding of my rock-solid middle age status. The possibilities that were ahead of me decades ago are being slid across the John Lewis dining room table to my kids. I’m still hoping that one of them will be entrepreneurial and/or creative. My own youthful ambitions included:

  • Private detective and also an international spy
  • Science fiction writer in a light-filled attic
  • Boutique paper shop owner in Florence.

Instead, I have a sensible digital marketing career and I live in a regular suburban street.

We will be moving to a new regular suburban street soon. After years of renting, and despite Brexit and bombings, we’ve bought our own place. Our new home looks very much like all the other ones in the street and I’m now OK with that.

I propose to insert Comfortable between the Reproduction and Death phases of the life cycle.

life cycle diagram

My view of the suburbs.

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Hype cycle of life. I’ve had a few days recently when I’ve been without my phone. This made me realise how I use social media to fill all the little gaps in the day when I’d rather scroll than think or look or talk. (Introverts unite!)

Kids – sorry the grown-ups broke your EU. Dear kids, Yesterday some grown-ups broke your European Union. Sorry about that. They didn’t really mean to. I hope that you can fix it when you’re older. Remember to vote 🙂 Love, mum

New year guilt-free information cleanse

It’s Chinese New Year and it’s time to celebrate the last year, relax with family, and look ahead to the next year.

On reflection, it turns out that my husband is a very wise man who has solid advice for me, despite being part of the white male liberal urban middle-class capitalist patriarchy. (Just joking. Mostly. Luv u!!)

On politics: “We’ll be OK.”

The shuddering , sliding and shifting of world politics has been consistently  concerning for me. But husband has taken a practical view that we will survive it, and that despair is pointless.

In the more eloquent words of author and activist Rebecca Solnit: “Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and in that spaciousness of uncertainty there is room to act.” Hope in the dark

What I’m doing about it

I’m keeping the hope, but still reading the news.

We are reaching information fatigue. Last week, we couldn’t face any more news, opinions or analysis. I want a little sip of information, just to keep my brain hydrated, but the newspapers, TV and websites are coming at me with a water cannon of THINGS I NEED TO KNOW.

The ‘clean eating’ fad is ridiculous and dangerous, so I’m on an ‘information cleanse’ – applying some conscious filters to my news and information. I’m avoiding meat-based shouting opinions, fake news pumped full of refined sugar and dairy-laden conspiracy stories.

red heart nope pin

Do you see hope or nope?

 

On guilt: “Stop wasting your time feeling guilty.”

Guilt. Gilt. Only one letter difference and only one is shiny.

Husband is very quick to smack down guilt. He has a more practical sense of how we need to motivate ourselves.

What I’m doing about it

Less guilty and more gilt-y.

After the inauguration (in-anger-ation?) and women’s march, I was on Twitter, scrolling and shaking my head, contributing to the aforementioned ‘information fatigue’.

Kristina Halvorsen is one of my content strategy heroes, and I follow her on Twitter.

Kristina: My 12yo son is racked with white man’s guilt. Wants to help the world but doesn’t want to be seen as a “white savior”. Parenting is hard.

Me: I don’t want my kids to be driven by guilt alone. Maybe grateful to be in a position to make a difference?  Responsible & aware & kind?

Kristina: ME TOO

Me: I’ve got a calming facemask on & starting to read Hope in the dark. Rebecca Solnit. Want to pass hope on to kids. And skincare.

Special thanks to Sam for the recommended reading.

 

Here’s one I wrote earlier

To all the ladies in the house   Mother’s Day had serious expectations heaped upon it, such as handmade cards and someone else replacing the toilet paper for once. International Women’s Day? Just the same old fluff – gender parity, equal opportunities, more women in leadership, less violence blah blah.

Kids – sorry the grown-ups broke your EU   Dear kids, Yesterday some grown-ups broke your European Union. Sorry about that. They didn’t really mean to. I hope that you can fix it when you’re older. Remember to vote. Love, mum

 

 

Hype cycle of life

I’ve had a few days recently when I’ve been without my phone. This made me realise how I use social media to fill all the little gaps in the day when I’d rather scroll than think or look or talk. (Introverts unite!)

Over the years, I have been subjected to many people explaining the Gartner Hype Cycle  to me. It’s *a thing* if you work in digital/technology. They use it to show how we are all sucked in to new tech, get disappointed, then shrug our shoulders and use it more sensibly. It is represented by a bendy chart like this:

gartner-hype-cycle

The Gartner Hype Cycle

I tried to review my own use of social media using the Hype Cycle’s five phases of a technology’s life cycle…

Technology Trigger: “A potential technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity.”

Me: Started it/went back on it because I’m feeling strong. Technology will not control me. I can stop when I want to. It’s fun. Wheeee!!

Peak of Inflated Expectations: “Early publicity produces a number of success stories — often accompanied by scores of failures.”

Me: Oh it’s so shiny. A lovely portal in to pictures of excellent hair, architectural fruit platters, artistic shoelaces on amusing tablecloths, outlandishly refined pencil storage vessels.

Trough of Disillusionment: “Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver.”

Me: What have I learned from the last 74 posts I scrolled through? Clean eating is both a joke and a serious food phobia. Everyone I know, or do not know, or should know, has more than me. More culturally diverse holidays, more whimsical children, more successful and publicly affectionate partners, more innovative recipes using avocado, birch water and food-grade iron filings.

Slope of Enlightenment: “More instances of how the technology can benefit the enterprise start to crystallize and become more widely understood.”

Me: Have accepted that my abdominal muscles will only be *that* defined if I use a bold permanent pen and glitter glue. Realise that taking a little peek in to the lives of friends and family is better than closing the door. A family reunion is three generations + Mark Zuckerberg in a blue room.

Plateau of Productivity: “Mainstream adoption starts to take off. The technology’s broad market applicability and relevance are clearly paying off.”

When I can’t be bothered making small talk amongst unknown school parents, I can pretend that Twitter is my work email.

Here’s one I wrote earlier

The invasion of the attention-snatchers Using technology mindfully.  Does that sound like a phrase created by rich young white men in grey organic bamboo t-shirts? Turns out that I‘ve actually been doing it for years…  I wasn’t trying to be mindful, I just don’t like technology telling me what to do.

Using tech for good, not evil  I was running a little quiz and a guy made a joke about looking up answers on his phone. Him: But you’re a digital person aren’t you? It’s technology! Me: I believe in technology for good, and not evil.

Kids – sorry the grown-ups broke your EU

Dear kids

Yesterday some grown-ups broke your European Union. Sorry about that. They didn’t really mean to. I hope that you can fix it when you’re older. Remember to vote 🙂

Love, mum

Post-Brexit, I’ve been doing some metaphorical soul-searching. Rummaging around in my drawer of tidy private political opinions. Well, I’ve tipped that drawer on the kitchen table and this is what’s come out. (Some swear-y bits follow below. )

Kids' guide to the EU

This kids’ guide to the EU recently appeared in our kitchen. Great timing.

 

Age-appropriate socio-economic context

I explain the world to my kids with a pinch of age-appropriate socio-economic context. Mentioning background, life opportunities, education, bad luck. I follow up with: “In our house, dad and I think [*insert appropriate liberal metropolitan educated employed opinion*], but there are people who don’t agree. That’s OK.”

Today, a day after Britain voted to leave the EU, bollocks to that nuanced ‘two-sides’ approach. I think that 51.9% of the voters made the wrong decision about the EU referendum. I’m telling my kids that I voted Remain because I wanted them to have the same opportunities that British kids had before them.

Unfortunately, more scared, confused, mean (sorry), arrogant (apologies), wrong (not sorry) people voted Leave. They probably damaged the economy for a lot of us, and they definitely stuffed up the European future for my kids.

More immigrants? No thanks, I’m full.

I’m telling my kids that a lot of nasty people supported a Brexit because they don’t like immigrants. (Of course, not ALL people who voted to leave were bad. Aaaaah – can’t help myself … Sorry.)

Our family is stuffed-full of immigrants. We like to get around, so I’m horrified and disappointed that this debate was so racist and fearful.

The Leave campaign was supported by famous arse-hats. Farage, Trump and a dirty pile of right-wing European leaders talking up the anti-immigration bullshit. These are not my people.

My reactions on Facebook yesterday

1. First thing in the morning – unfiltered emotion.

Went to bed in the United Kingdom and woke up in land of hate and glory. I slept badly, hopefully dreamed that the Remain side would ‘edge’ ahead… Instead I’m now living in Little Middle England.

This morning I had an unexpected cry over politics and unexpected need to share my sadness on social media. I’m not angry. There are apparently enough angry haters out there already and more of them voted. Just sad that being moderate and reasonable and compassionate isn’t good enough anymore.

I’m still glad I supported and voted for Remain. I can tell my kids that.

2. A bit later – after too much information, emotion and social media

My knee-jerk metropolitan liberal elite post-Brexit strategy: combination of stay within safe bubble of left-y urban multicultural suburbs + make sure our kids give a fuck.

European Union 2

Smiling daughter within the European Union. 

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Keep the water in your mouth   Yesterday I found a Post-It note in the kitchen with these words of wisdom: Keep the water in your mouth.

Where do you go when you press Home?  Does your life have a ‘Home’ button? I’m back home (Sydney) after a brief visit to London (new home). My old house is empty and my new house is waiting for me.

The invasion of the attention-snatchers

Using technology mindfully.  Does that sound like a phrase created by rich young white men in grey organic bamboo t-shirts? Turns out that I‘ve actually been doing it for years…  I wasn’t trying to be mindful, I just don’t like technology telling me what to do.

This morning, while mindlessly Twitter-scrolling during the kids’ swimming lessons, I found some people with interesting job titles explaining why and how to take control of our technology.

The rebirth of calm

I found this article first: The rebirth of calm: Why we need technology with manners.  Amber Case, who is a Cyborg Anthropologist (!!) talks about why technology needs to be less intrusive and more polite.

“… fancy computerised replacements threaten to overcomplicate the tiniest details of life. Imagine a fridge or an AI-studded fruit bowl that texts you when one of your bananas is rotting. That might sound nice, but Case points out that a banana already comes with a custom technology that lets you know it’s going bad: “It’s a peel,” she says.”

Time Well Spent

That first article led me to this website: Time Well Spent. They are a bunch of designers who want technology help us spend our time well. They have a manifesto (of course they do), but it makes sense.

“We believe in the possibility of better design, that lets us connect without getting sucked in. And disconnect, without missing something important.”

They also have a video of a TED talk (of course they do).

Mindful smartphones

From there I ended up reading about mindful phone use: Distracted in 2016? Reboot Your Phone with Mindfulness I can’t tell if the author Tristan Harris wears bamboo sweaters, but I do know that he used to be a Product Philosopher(!!) at Google.

His article is well worth the estimated reading time of 11 minutes and 28 seconds.  It has some simple tips on how to use your phone when you need to, and not be tempted by those shiny pretty colourful apps.

“We live in an Attention Economy. That means every app and website … is trying to get you to come back and spend more time. Companies literally have teams of people called Growth Hackers, whose job is to invent new reasons (notifications) and new persuasive tactics to bring you back.”

I don’t think that we are weak or stupid, but there are just much smarter people whose jobs are to keep us app-happy and alert-addicted.

Lessons learned

  1. We have limited capacity to pay attention. Technological fun is unlimited. It’s not a fair fight, so we have to try harder.
  2. If you use frog legs instead of dolphin kicks while doing butterfly arms , the swimming teacher gets annoyed.
  3. I was right to turn off my email, app and phone notifications. Last night, my husband had an enjoyable drink with my boss because I was finishing something in the office and hadn’t seen his messages. The world didn’t end, and I joined them a bit later.
  4. Job titles are much more interesting than they used to be.

 

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Using tech for good, not evil. I was running a little quiz and a guy made a joke about looking up answers on his phone.

Slightly ranting about kids, technology, good and evil. I can’t decide. Internet = evil cesspit of narcissistic idiots chatting to gambling-addicted paedophiles? Or Internet = global community of inspiring humanity sharing knowledge and joy?

Make your own laptop I was in one of those over-priced Belgian cafes, filled with equal quantities of rustic wooden furniture and jars of chocolate spread.