The Loneliness Epidemic #lookedup

I happen to quite like technology.

I love that, a few years ago, I could sit in my apartment in New York and see my dad’s face from his home in Australia, and now I can sit in my apartment in Australia and see his face from a hole in the wall in Kansas. I love that I can keep in contact with friends I made in Germany, Thailand, Italy and America. I love social media, blogs and personal websites as mean of self-expression, community-building and information-sharing.

But when I see two people sitting next to each other on a park bench silently hunched over their phones or the man in the car next to me texting at a stop sign or the people in the line for their morning coffee with their heads buried in their phones, I feel something kind of like heartbreak.

We’ve talked for decades about the fear of robots taking over; I think when we imagined it, we thought of a forceful takeover—a violent battle in which we all fight bravely for our freedom.

Looking around, though, it seems pretty apparent that we are simply handing that freedom over.

There aren’t sinister machines growing legs and turning against us, and we certainly aren’t running for our lives.

And here’s the part that makes all this as upsetting as it is: People today are more connected to one another than ever before in human history, thanks to Internet-based social networking sites and text messaging. But they’re also more lonely and distant from one another in their unplugged lives, says Sherry Turkle, PhD (2012). This is not only changing the way we interact online, it’s straining our personal relationships and the way we interact in public space as well.

Technology itself is innocent, and can so frequently be an asset, but when we sink into hypnotism, we give away our power. Our compulsions, addictions, and distractions are never anything more than an honest and childlike longing for fullness and joy.

As Louis C.K. (2013) illustrates so clearly, “we need to build an ability to just be ourselves and not be doing something.” This is a natural human state, but it can be scary as hell. It allows for the bottomless cesspool of our inner world to have a voice for a moment.

The most dramatic change that technology offers is our ability to be “elsewhere” at any point in time, to sidestep what is difficult, what is hard in a personal interaction and go to another place where it does not have to be dealt with. So, it can be as simple as waiting at the bus stop and going on your phone to fill the loneliness or avoid talking to the person next to you. ‘Cause shit! What if things get awkward? It is, however, very important that everyone develop these social skills and have real life connections- not just ones on screens. If people looked up from their phones more often they might see something they would have missed out on entirely.  These days, however, when a difficult or uncomfortable or lonely moment comes, a lot of people retreat onto Facebook. Whether or not they physically leave the place they are, they have “left.”

Walking through the grounds of university, we are together, but each of us in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and touchscreen, ignoring everything and everyone around them.  To get to know why people do this, and myself included, I posted a survey to the University Facebook page and asked students to fill it out. The results were very saddening, as to why people avoided real life human interactions and always resorted to their screens.

When I asked people through a survey if they prefer talking or texting, I was shocked.  52% told me that they’d rather text than talk, they are expressing another aspect of the new psychological affordances of the new technology — the possibility of our hiding from each other. They say a phone call reveals too much, that actual conversations don’t give them enough control over what they want to say.

96% of students said they had felt lonely at university at one point or another in their studies. 56% of students said that they avoided talking to people because they didn’t really know how to start or sustain a conversation and 74%of students said they look at their phone whilst waiting for something because they don’t want to appear lonely and friendless to other people. Another 88% of students attributed their incessant phone use to the fact that they just couldn’t be bothered to talking to new people or looking up and noticing what is going on around them as they found that what was going on, on their screen to be far more interesting.

During the research conducted, subjects when being alone in public without their mobile devices expressed these feelings of being alone and anxious, they noted:

“I felt I was missing something.”

“ I felt lost without my phone, something was missing.”

“I felt nervous, confronted, intimidated and fidgety.”

“I experienced feelings of being bored and self-conscious at times.”

A similar response from another surveyed individual who answered yes to ever using their phone whilst waiting:

“I feel like I’m more subconsciously fixated on checking social media and not being able to just sit and do nothing at all without feeling restless and uncomfortable.”

“Yes, I felt-lost- I couldn’t be contacted by anyone or contact anyone, I couldn’t check social media and felt out of touch and unsafe.”

Here were some other responses:

“I became so used to checking my phone so often that it’s weird when I don’t have it.”

“I didn’t know where to look without having my phone to look at.”

My survey is not the only one showing these results. It seems to be a ubiquitous issue: the paradox of loneliness in crowded places. A recent survey British telecom regulator Ofcom (2013)  revealed that, 81% of smartphone users have it on all day, every day. Almost half of smartphone users, upon being woken up by a phone call or text or misplaced alarm at night, end up using the phone instead of shutting it off and going back to sleep. Over half of adults and two-thirds of teens regularly use their phones while socializing with others in person (there’s nothing like a tableful of people staring at their phones in unison, is there?). About a quarter of adults use their phone during dinner. A third of teens can say the same. 47% of teens use their phones on the toilet, while just over a fifth of adults do the same. However, more than a quarter of Londoners say they feel lonely often or all of the time, according to a poll commissioned by BBC London (2013). Nearly 60% of those aged between 18 to 34 questioned spoke of feeling lonely often or sometimes, compared to 35% of those aged over 55The same proportion said there was little or no sense of community where they live and a third said they felt they did not know their neighbours. In a report by Mental Health UK (2010), found technology can isolate but is also an unrivalled means of connecting people.

These statistics call for us to realise that the smartphone and the screens we have are making us lonelier and unhappy in public spaces.  As we become more reliant and addicted to our screens to fill the void, we lose the ability to create new human relationships or appreciate the smell of the place where you get your morning coffee, or catching the smile of a passer-by.

Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we short-change ourselves. Worse, as my survey found, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.

As Shirley Turkle (2012) puts it; ‘We are tempted to think that our little “sips” of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation. But they don’t. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, all of these have their places — in politics, commerce, romance and friendship. But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation.’

WE expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship. Always-on/always-on-you devices provide three powerful fantasies: that we will always be heard; that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; and that we never have to be alone. Indeed our new devices have turned being alone into a problem that can be solved.

When people are alone, even for a few moments, they fidget and reach for a device. Here smartphone connection works like a painkiller, not a cure, and our constant, reflexive impulse to connect shapes a new way of being.

This new way of being spills out into the public spaces we find ourselves in. For example eating lunch in the park is now always accompanied by a smartphone or tablet. The public space use to be a place where people can socialise and meet others whilst getting out of their private sphere. Now they have become extended private spheres. Most people chose their smartphones over meeting new people.

This results in a sea of people looking at their phones instead of experiencing the world and the people around them. I’d love it if public spaces were reconstructed in a way that would make people feel comfortable enough that they could interact with one another without their smartphones.

“Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” was the headline on a substantial article in US magazine The Atlantic in 2012. In a New York Times article headlined “How Not to Be Alone” and published in June 2013, American writer Jonathan Safran Foer homed in on the essence of the issue. “Technology celebrates connectedness, but encourages retreat,” he wrote. “Each step ‘forward’ has made it easier, just a little, to avoid the emotional work of being present, to convey information rather than humanity.”

You may have 600 friends on Facebook, but how many of them provide a meaningful connection? How often have you tapped at your phone or clicked the “refresh” button on your email, longing for someone to message you? How often have you had your head down over your smartphone when you might have lifted it to see and connect with a warm, living, breathing human being?

We use phones to avoid being human. I suspect that the next generation is going to be entirely skilled with these things and entirely unequipped for real human beings.

Smartphones are proving to be dehumanising, through the rituals and routines that we are using this technology. We are easily tempted by their potential to connect to a wider social network, which inhibits our value in trying to connect with the person or place right in front of us (Kruszelnicki 2013).

I’m writing this now in my apartment, on the computer that connects me to Facebook and Twitter and any number of other online distractions. It’s deathly quiet. Silence is good for writing. But silence tells its own story. Silence opens up the space for those insidious slivers of doubt about success and failure, meaning and worth. Silence emphasises the stark reality of the small part we each play in this whole big thing.

Loneliness can make you feel as though there’s not enough of you, the Canadian writer Emily White said on radio (2011). Herbert Bowers (2007), in his cold public-housing flat, makes a similar remark: “It’s the tyranny of being tiny: you have all these people around you but you’re so tiny they don’t take notice of you. And it’s not that you want to be noticed in a big way. It’s just a nod of the head, ‘How are you?’ As simple as that.”

I myself am as guilty as anyone, I rarely ride the bus without my smartphone, listening to music, closed off from others. However, for one week I decided I would refrain from this and started the #lookedup movement. For one week I set myself a goal to not bury my head in my phone when I was in a new situation, alone, waiting or in transport. I sat through the feeling and #lookedup. Some the things I would have missed if my head was buried were pretty cool. I asked my Instagram followers to take part and the response was overwhelming. People from all over the world #lookedup from their phones and some amazing things happened.

I hope people are learning to place boundaries around their use of smartphones and the need for constant connection and that they are beginning to develop the “ability to recognize what technology is causing distractions and addictive behaviour”.   As we become more aware of the ways that technology is disrupting our relationships, and the richness and fullness of our life we can make a change.

We can choose to turn off our smartphones and consciously enter into the shared public space in which we inhabit with others.  Once we become aware of the presence of others, we can begin to pay attention to each other and choose to enter into meaningful dialogues.

As we continue to pay attention to where we place our attention, we begin to notice that technology is only pulling on our attention because we allow it to. “Technology is not out of control because it is a real power, but because we cannot control what is suppose to control it; namely, ourselves.”

What if we acknowledged that emptiness is natural and allowed, and that sadness is inevitable? I think the payoff is worthwhile; indeed, there is more to living than just feeling “kinda satisfied with our products” (Louis C.K 2013)

So I’ve made a pact—want to join me? Let’s band together and agree to find some bravery; let’s sit with our sadness and allow our loneliness and boredom and angst and nihilism to exist AND lets look up from our screen and live. Don’t shuffle along, oblivious to the world around you, eyes and attention trained on that screen, missing everything that is important in life.

Reference List

BBC UK 2012, ‘Lonely London: Poll suggests a quarter feel alone’, BBC UK London,  20 November 2012, viewed 28th October 2014, <http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-20324373&gt;.

C.K, L & Obrien, C 2013, The Conan Obrien Show, online video, 20 September 2013, Gawker, viewed 28th October 2014, <http://gawker.com/louis-c-k-s-explanation-of-why-he-hates-smartphones-is-1354954625&gt;.

Foer Safran J 2013, ‘How not to be alone’, The New York Times Sunday Review, 8 June 2013, viewed 28th October, <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/opinion/sunday/how-not-to-be-alone.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&gt;.

Hutcheon J, 2013, One Plus One: Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, online video, One Plus One, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, viewed 29 October 2014, < http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-22/one-plus-one-dr-karl-kruszelnicki/5110910&gt;.

Loneliness: breaking the taboo, 12 November 2011 1:00pm, radio program, ABC Radio, accessed 29th October 2014, <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/opinion/sunday/how-not-to-be-alone.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&gt;.

Lost and Found- Episode 14, 2007, television program, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia, viewed online 29th October 2014, <http://www.abc.net.au/tv/canwehelp/txt/s1926215.htm&gt;.

Marchie S, ‘Is Facebook Making Us Lonely’, The Atlantic, 2 April 2012, viewed 28th October 2014, <http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/is-facebook-making-us-lonely/308930&gt;.

The Mental Health Foundation, ‘The Lonely Society’, The Mental Health Foundation, 2010, viewed 29th October 2014, <http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/content/assets/PDF/publications/the_lonely_society_report.pdf&gt;.

Robinson, Anthony, B. “How did phones take over our lives?”Crosscut: News of the Great Nearby . Accessed September 13, 2013.

Przybyiski, Andrew K., and Netta Weinstein. “Can You Connect with Me Now? How the Presence of Mobile Communication Technology Influences Face-to-Face Conversation Quality.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 30, no. 3 (July 19, 2012): 237-46. Accessed September 13, 2013. doi:10.1177/0265407512453827.

Turkle, S 2012, Connected, but alone?, online video, 2 February, TED Talks, viewed 11 October 2014, <http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together?language=en&gt;.

Prezi

http://prezi.com/embed/jrzoyzqaqpn8/?bgcolor=ffffff&lock_to_path=0&autoplay=0&autohide_ctrls=0&features=undefined&token=undefined&disabled_features=undefined

All images used in Prezi Presentation are licensed attribution free from  Creative Commons/ Creative Commons Flickr  or are my own.

 

 

Advertisements

Gettin’ bums on seats

The Australian film industry has gone through a tough time over the last decade where it has been rare for a film to truly break out and become a hit with both audiences and critics alike. Many of the breakout hits from recent times have been feel good follies such as Red Dog or The Sapphires but Australia has a history of producing dark, emotional and powerful films that while not being in any way crowd pleasers are works of art that deserve to be found by those around the world.

2014 is shaping up to be Australia cinema’s worst domestic performance in 10 years, the trend looks set to continue.Sure, there are multiple reasons for this, but ultimately us Australian’s don’t support our film industry in the manner we should. Wolf Creek 2 is the only Australian film to make any kind of a serious impact at the local box office this year, taking in just over $4.1 million. By comparison, Adam Sandler’s Blended, generally agreed to be his most  terrible movie for some time, made $4.4 million. Go figure. So what does it take to make Aussies want to go and see Aussie films?

You are not alone, if you are having trouble thinking of the last five (or one) Aussie Film you have seen, as the IF reports that publicity for films is terrible and this is a reason why Aussie bums are not filling those seats for movies like Predestination and Felony. Both films have sold to most major markets internationally and are guaranteed a US theatrical release. Sony is the US distributor of Predestination and Gravitas Theatrical is launching Felony in mid-October. I feel as though if you don’t (well didn’t 😦) watch At The Movies With Margret and David or read film articles you wouldn’t know about these films in the first place.

Or perhaps it isn’t the lack of publicity and poor marketing that leaves Australian films flopping time and time again, as one consumer, Junior, argues that Australian films are just poor quality…

Marketing is one of the major hurdles, but in the long run its the quality of the films that will have Australian audiences coming back for more. I saw both of these films [Predestination and Felony] on the weekend, and honestly they were both pretty clunky and average at best. You can blame marketing, stale attitudes of audiences etc, but there will be no word-of-mouth or enthusiasm if the quality isn’t there. Festivals such as Canne, Venice, Berlin – all of which typically (but not always) critically validate a film, seldom have Australian films in *official* competition. Why? Because the quality isn’t there. Stop funding half-baked genre films in a short-sighted attempt to make us ‘players’ on the ‘world stage’, and back filmmakers whom truly do have vision and something to say.
When it comes to the sorts of films that make real money at the local box office, Australian’s like to keep things light and breezy compared to the dark and gritty dramas we so often produce. According to figures collected by Screen Australia, these are the all-time Top 10 highest-grossing Aussie films within Australia itself:

 

1. Crocodile Dundee (1986) $47,707,045
2. Australia (2008) $37,555,757
3. Babe (1995) $36,776,544
4. Happy Feet (2006) $31,786,164
5. Moulin Rouge (2001) $27,734,406
6. The Great Gatsby (2013) $27,383,762
7. Crocodile Dundee II (1988) $24,916,805
8. Strictly Ballroom (1992) $21,760,400
9. Red Dog (2011) $21,467,993
10. The Dish (2000) $17,999,473
Their list is not adjusted for inflation – if it were, then older films like The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert and Muriel’s Wedding would likely crack the Top 10 – but even so, it paints a pretty clear picture of the kinds of local films we like.
First, and most obviously, most of the films in the Top 10 are major studio releases that feature overseas talent and financing. It seems that if we want to make money at home, we still need help from outside.  And going from the list above Australian audiences love family-friendly entertainment, and connect very strongly with animals. Three of the films on the list feature them in leading roles – five, if you consider ’80s Paul Hogan to be an animal (which, honestly, I kinda do).
image via techyban.com
The Top 10 list is also notable for Baz Luhrmann domination. Four of the Top 10 films are his, highly-stylised extravaganzas are basically a license to print money. Even Australia, which everyone sort-of agrees in my tutorial class was a bit shit, made a truckload.
While only three of the films in the Top 10 could strictly be filed under comedy The Dish and the two Crocodile Dundee movies – all have a certain sense of lightheartedness. Even the weepy Moulin Rouge made time for Kylie Minogue as a CGI fairy.
Speaking of CGI, all have very high production values. It goes without saying that Luhrmann’s films spooge lavish production design all over the screen, but others, like Babe and Happy Feet, also make prominent use of computer animation and special effects trickery. We also love our underderdog stories. The Crocodile Dundee films were about Aussies showing Americans how it’s done. The Dish  was about good old ‘strayan ingenuity, while Red Dog was about an actual, literal underdog.
So, here we see what it takes to get Australian’s to see Australian films. Does this mean that all Australian films will now contain 1. An Animal, 2. CGI, 3. Maybe a large song and dance sequence (or popular commercial pop song) to keep it light, 4. Bring in overseas stars and 5. Appeal to that Aussie belief that we do everything better here.
Whilst all sound suggestions, we need a creative project that could help the Aussie film industry. I think we need to get people talking about Australian film. I asked a few friends about Aussie films and they automatically assumed that a movie made in Australia  would be boring and too long. Most of them couldn’t think of the last Aussie film they saw. Now that is sad. The question is how do we erase peoples preconceptions about Australian film being dry, boring, long, pointless (Just some adjectives i’ve heard about Australian film) and shift the thinking to see it has a vibrant, young, cutting-edge and entertaining industry that people will want to spend their money on?
Perhaps we could start a social media campaign as KGrace suggested or  use CrowdSourcing as The Marvels of Media came up with. I think we need to totally reposition the way the Australian film industry is perceived by Australians. Through research via social media and perhaps live movie nights and screenings where researchers can talk to movie-goers about what they thought of the film. Researchers could also ask people at the cinema what they love about the movie they just saw and what prompted them to see it and then apply those elements to Aussie films.
They will probably conclude that they can boost the film industry  by giving preference such as funding to make films with family friendly genres and accepting the fact that they may have to cast some US or UK  bigwigs to help the film out, because unfortunately Australia does not have the population to sustain a celebrity culture.
We need to start getting Aussie bums on seats when Australian film is being shown, otherwise there will be no film industry at all in the near future. And according to Quentin Tarantino that seems pretty sad considering how cutting-edge it use to be (if you have a spare 2 minutes watch this video below to see!).

++

What was the last Aussie film you saw and did you like it? Why/Why not?

 

 

Mindful Multitasking

There is a good chance that at some point while you are reading this post, you will be tempted to do something else at the same time. Don’t worry, I won’t take it personally. I won’t think badly of you and I won’t even be particularly surprised. I am currently talking to my housemate whilst researching for this post and typing.

We’re all so busy these days. We work (while eating), we exercise (while watching the news), we try to eat well (which requires planning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning), we socialise in person and via a variety of devices (phone, email, text, Skype).  We may think we are achieving more, however there is a growing number of articles suggesting and proving that multitasking makes us less efficient, less effective, more stressed and more likely to make mistakes.

In our race to fit it all in, it seems that we’ve forgotten how to focus on one task, one activity, one experience at a time. Just as silence is becoming a lost art, tragically absorbed into the soundtrack and audible rhythm of a world that’s becoming increasingly louder, focusing our attention on one activity is also falling by the wayside of our lives.

In my research, I found that there are four main reasons people engage in multitasking:

After learning more about multitasking this week, it got me to thinking… Why do we feel the need to fill the space? Is there a way in which we can engage in one task at a time, or sit in stillness for a moment without the need to check Facebook, listen to the radio? This is where mindfulness comes in, a practice I have recently been learning about (read more here).

An experiment conducted by Levy, Wobbrock, Kaszniak and Ostergren looked specifically at the effects of mindfulness training on multitasking behavior of knowledge workers in high stress environments. They found that when asked to do multiple tasks in a short amount of time, those who had been trained in mindfulness, compared to control groups, were able to maintain more focus on each task and had better memory for work details. They were also less negative about the experience and reported greater awareness and attention. In short, they were able to perform multiple tasks more mindfully.

If you are familiar with mindfulness practices, this makes sense. One of things developed in mindfulness training is to become more aware of your attention and increase your ability to choose your focus. If we can train ourselves to have more awareness and control over our attention, it makes sense that we would be better equipped to deal with a demanding work environment or studying at university.

Shifting now to third reason why people are tempted to multitask: When they are so uninspired by what they are doing, they consciously or subconsciously look for something else to think about or do for entertainment. According to Gallop’s 2011-2012 study of employees, 70 percent of Americans are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their work. As noted in the report, there is significant evidence that disengaged workers are less productive, make more mistakes, and can be more costly to employers in terms of absenteeism and sick leave. It also makes university a lot harder and wastes a lot of time.

A study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior demonstrates mindfulness training can help improve employee attitudes towards work and specifically increase engagement. Again, this makes sense. One of the basic methods of mindfulness training involves paying attention to your breath with alertness, relaxation, and a sense of curiosity. If you can train your mind to be comfortable and curious attending to your breath, it stands to reason that you could choose to apply that same orientation towards any task at hand. It does take practice though!

Let’s say you are faced with a massive essay to write. If your mind starts to look for more interesting things to do, it is going to take you longer and you will likely make mistakes. If you could look at this task with a calm, clear, present and engaged mind, you will be more efficient and effective and you might even find some enjoyment in the process (lol).

I don’t want to miss a single moment. This life passes by quickly, and while not every moment is beautiful from bliss, every moment is beautiful because it’s a moment that I’m here. Multi-tasking, while sometime essential, is more often a choice, a choice that dilutes the moment and causes us to miss out on the windows of beauty that spread out before us like country road. Mindfulness isn’t just something you practice once a day for half an hour; it’s a way of life. It’s about being mindful of each moment:

Focus on driving when you’re driving.

Focus on eating when you’re eating.

Focus on your lecture. (Difficult).

Focus on your friend when you’re talking with a friend.

One task at a time.

image via roychristopher.com

image via roychristopher.com

Wallis, C, 2010, The impacts of media multitasking on children’s learning and development: Report from a research seminar, New York, NY: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop

Youtube Challenge: Monitoring Your Children

When I was a child, my mother (my father was more lax on what we could watch) would always (try to) control what we watched on the television. Programs like The Simpsons, Degrassi High and Neighbours were banned from our household, unless we were sneaky enough to switch them on while my mother was cooking dinner. The Simpsons, especially, was always discussed the next day at school, so I was always eager to try and catch a glimpse of the ‘naughty’ episode that night, similar to how KGrace was.

Television is the menace that everyone loves to hate but can’t seem to live without.” —Paddy Chayevsky

Now children are moving their attention away from the television and onto the internet, whether it be through their smartphone, tablet, laptop or family computer there is a worrying concern as to how to regulate childrens’ time online to make sure they are not watching or looking at anything ‘harmful’ or as my mother puts it – ‘naughty and damaging’. Things you can find on the internet are  a lot more sinister than watching the Simpsons, where sites such as Pro-Ana or YouTube videos filled with expletives and violence, or unsafe challenges can be easily accessed.

While YouTube may be screened for extremely explicit violent and sexual content, it’s still something of a wild frontier, containing a huge volume of garbage that kids shouldn’t have access to. Ken Myers puts it into perspective:

As a parent, I have the responsibility to play the role of Internet traffic cop, unfortunately for me, the Internet is a 50 million lane highway. There’s no V-chip for YouTube like there is for the Television…

YouTube is parent’s nightmare, especially if you have curious kids.  So how do parents monitor there children’s time on YouTube? I remember if I was looking at things on the internet I wasn’t suppose to be looking at I would just quickly change the window or close it before my mother saw and then delete the history. So how do parents get around sneaky children or even just the wrong click?

image via Blend Images/Getty Images

A search around YouTube an Google’s site for parents, combined with hot tips from Parenting Blogs offered up some useful advice on how to regulate your child’s online time on YouTube.

YouTube Safety Tip #1 – Turn on SafeSearch

The Safesearch feature relies on YouTube users to be accurate in their descriptions and titles for their movies.  As you can imagine with the millions of hours of YouTube available, the titles and descriptions and maturity ratings are not always accurate.

YouTube Safety Tip#2 – Create Playlists and Mark Favorites

Kids usually have their favorite video.  Whether it is PSY in ‘Gangum Style’ or ‘My Little Pony,’ my kids can watch the same video over and over. Jennifer Puckett suggests that  if you create a playlist you are letting your kids skip the step of searching for a video every time.  You can even create a bookmark for a playlist so that they go straight there instead of the YouTube home site.

YouTube Safety Tip#3 – Report Inappropriate Content

They may or may not pull the video but at least you are requiring a YouTube employee to review the video.  If you do this, you are helping the thousands of parents that may have seen the same video come up during a benign YouTube search.

YouTube Safety Tip #4 – Search and Watch YouTube

It is important for kids and teenagers to learn to explore on their own. Sit by them as they search for new videos on YouTube.  WebCurfew suggests that you highlight the video results that may not be a good fit for them and that you should tell them how you came to that conclusion.  Teach them to understand that YouTube is a great education tool, but they have to be careful of some of the content on YouTube.

YouTube Safety Tip #5 – Be Wary of YouTube Suggestions

The YouTube suggestions will lead  kids to unrelated videos from their original search which may include inappropriate videos.

YouTube Safety Tip #6- Gender Neutral

Ensure that your child’s user name is gender-neutral and doesn’t reveal any part of their name, age, hometown, or other identifying information.

YouTube Safety Tip #7- Don’t be a bully

Tell your child not to use profanity or make racist/sexist comments on videos. Don’t let cyberbullying occur on any level.

YouTube Safety Tip #8

Tell your teen to ignore comments that try to provoke a fight

Mobile YouTube Safety Tip

A search around my itunes app store offered up Video Monster.  It allows you to dynamically add content to the device, cache or download certain videos and has a passlock to update the playlist.

As you can see, this is way more intense and requires a lot of vigilance on the parents behalf to monitor and regulate a child’s time and what they do on YouTube, compared to just telling them not to watch a certain TV Show. I think it all comes down to respect, clear and open communication and trust to ensure that your child has an enjoyable and safe online experience.

If you have a spare few minutes there is a really interesting article about how un-monitered YouTube use by two 14 year old girls has basically ruined their lives. Click here.

++

Now over to you: Do you think that the above steps are too intense and harsh on children or are they necessary? If you have children what do you do?

 

Public is so Private

With our smart-phones crowding our field of vision, it’s easy to miss what is right in front of us at times: real human beings. We care so much about feeling connected to the world by constantly updating our status and liking others’ photos, yet we can often miss out on connecting to the actual person standing next to us. Checking our news feed is a normal part of our daily activity nowadays, but this action especially heightens when we don’t have a companion by our side in public places. When we’re alone, it’s easy to disengage from the physical world around us.

A public space is defined by The Oxford Dictionary of Human Geography as ‘the areas of the geographical environment that are accessible to and shared by all members of the public. Such spaces include streets, parks, and wilderness.’ Places where private businesses run (like a cafe) blur the distinction,but for the most part are considered a public space because they are open to the public. Conversly, a private space is considered to be areas that are restricted in their occupancy and use (like a home).

With this is mind, after the lecture, I began to notice what we now do when we are waiting in line – in public spaces, especially here at UoW. Whether it is waiting to order a coffee in the line at Panizzi, waiting for a class to start or waiting for the elevator, we no longer have the patience to just wait there and take in the surroundings around us, or strike up a conversation with the person in front of us- we need to manage the anxiety somehow.

It is quite ironic how unsocial social media and always being connected  has made us become.  I think it is quite sad that the majority of us resort to hiding behind our phone in public spaces because we fear being alone.

Waiting for the elevator feat. phone

Waiting for the elevator feat. phone

This got to me to thinking that we shouldn’t feel intimidated or be afraid of rejection if we wanted to talk to people waiting around us; the reason for wanting to talk to the person beside us isn’t a form of weakness. It’s not because people need to feel welcomed or appreciated in the space they are in, but because we are thinking well beyond ourselves that we wish to focus our attention on another. Remove the fear of rejection in a public space, that may come from engaging with someone new and be the first to initiate a conversation.

I tried this myself, during the week and complimented the person behind me in the coffee line on the scarf she was wearing. We then talked about our favourite clothes stores and the line went much quicker! That was a lot more interesting than scrolling through Instrgram for the umpteenth time that morning!

Being present in the world is easiest when you are not buried in your phone. The next time you are in a public space and waiting for something, talk to the person behind/next to you.

Do you notice that you hide away into your phone when waiting?

 

 

Escape to the Cinema

The cinema began with a passionate, physical relationship between celluloid and the artists and craftsmen and technicians who handled it, manipulated it, and came to know it the way a lover comes to know every inch of the body of the beloved. No matter where the cinema goes, we cannot afford to lose sight of its beginnings.

 

 

In 1969, Torsten Hägerstrand, an urban planner  came up with the concept of a space-time path to illustrate how a person navigates his or her way through the spatial-temporal environment. He identified three categories of limitations, or “constraints”: capability, coupling, and authority

  • Capability: Can I get there?
  • Coupling: Can I get there at the right time?
  • Authority:  Am I allowed to be there?
Torsten Haegerstrand image via http://belgeo.revues.org/10085

Torsten Haegerstrand image via http://belgeo.revues.org/10085

What happens when you apply these contingencies to the cinema? The cinema is a popular social place, and has been for many, many decades, it could be compared to going to a concert, theater, museum, travelling and doing sports. It involves going out with a group of friends (or alone?) coupled with a sense of relaxation and sense of fun and excitement.

To test Hägerstrand’s theory,  on a rainy afternoon, I sent my boyfriend a text message and asked if he wanted to see the Inbetweeners 2 that night, After texting back and forth* about times and which cinema (we had to make sure he didn’t miss the rugby game) we agreed that he would pick me up 8 (I don’t have a car [capability]) for the 830pm movie at Hoyts Warrawong.

 I then began making carrot sticks and dip for some movie snacks for us as I hate popcorn and it is so expensive. My boyfriend picked me up and off we went, I was excited to spend the rainy night at the cinema and laugh at the antics of the Inbetweener boys, I don’t think I could say the same about my boyfriend.

Lining up to purchase our tickets ($9.90 each), my boyfriend impulse bought some popcorn AND maltesers. I was fine with my carrots, dip and bottle of water, nicely smuggled in my bag! It was surprisingly busy ( I didn’t think people still went to the cinema? Maybe it was the weather…) and the whole place was filled with couples.  We were ushered to our theater (never knew that was still a thing) and then ushered to our seat in theater room, where we also had the option to buy more snacks.

Sitting, in our assigned seats (up the back on the side), the movie finally (after the 23453 commercials) began, as did the laughs. I looked over to my boyfriend who was laughing and shaking his head. I will admit though, the squeal  was not as good as the first. 

After the movie there was a rush to get out. Everyone was back to reality, adjusting to the bright lights. Cinemas, offer a sort of escape from reality. You are in a dark room with strangers where your only thought is what is going on, on the screen in front of you. Everything outside that door does not matter for now. The romanticism involved with the cinema is something that cannot be accomplished from downloading a movie and watching it at home. 

Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theater.

Perhaps it is the social conducts that apply to every social space, that give the cinema the edge in the digital age. When you go to the cinema, you usually combine it with great socializing and food, and yes that could be replicated in your lounge room, but to me it is just not the same. The rest of the world seems to agree as Box Office Figures have almost doubled for the top movie of 1993 to 2013.

You can see how all of these social constraints affected our cinema-going experience.It is also easy to see how these constraints can be applied in almost every social setting. When you are planning your next social outing, see how these constraints affect your experience. 

———————————–

 

*My boyfriend has this odd rule that he refuses to see any sequels, as he thinks they are unnecessary, always terrible and ruin the first, so it took a lot of convincing on my part for him to come with me haha!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Broadband Wontwork

Did you know that Australia has slower internet than Romania, Latvia and Israel, in fact we don’t even make it into the top 20! The Australian Government plans to change this with the construction of the National Broadband Network (NBN). The NBN claims that it will enable access to fast, reliable and affordable phone and internet services.

Marketing the NBN as a key component to your life, has been the message of the building and operating company NBN CO. Yet the continuing issue is the drag on effect that has occurred due to the change in government.  This has meant that the idea and message of the NBN has been frustratingly blurry. 

Closing this digital divide we experience in Australia is no easy feat as it would be difficult to get the same fast internet speeds in a remote Aussie town compared to a bustling suburb in Sydney. The NBN supporters acknowledge this and say they plan to use a mixture of technologies to deliver it so they have the best fit for each area.  The video below paints the possibilities and how much better life will be for the average Australian household.

Now let’s look at another Australian household, my childhood home and what their thoughts are on the NBN. My childhood home is located in the small rural town Inverell, with a population of 12000 in northern NSW.  My childhood home is located 30 kilometres out of Inverell on a small farm where my 4 younger siblings (19, 15, 13, 7) and my mother and step-father live.

As a teenager, I remember always having problems with the internet. It was (is) very slow and we could only ever have 3gb PER MONTH(!!) for the entire household, due to being in a rural area. It was a nightmare to do homework and I never had the luxury to YouTube or go on social media and talk to friends. You could say I was pleased to move to Wollongong and have unlimited access to the internet! My family still suffer from the 3gb quota and are excited what the NBN have in store for them.

No faster internet any time soon for us

No faster internet any time soon for us

To no surprise, it appears the NBN has nothing in store for my family, as I checked the website for an update. Closing the digital divide for this Australian household seems to be something more of a utopian vision they can only dream of. Nevertheless I still asked them over the phone what they thought about the NBN.

What do you expect to do differently when and if the NBN arrives? The 15 year old replies: OMG I just want to go on YouTube endlessly, is that really too much to ask? I would just like to be like everyone else and be able to go on Tumblr all the time and Snap my friends without being yelled out at by Mum for going over the internet quota! It would be easier as well in regards to homework and assignments I guess. Everything is online now and I feel pretty left out. 

My mother: I would love to be able to connect all our devices such as the ipad and laptops and have the freedom to use them whenever for however long. I know it is tough for the children to live in these times without fast and unlimited internet access, so I am hoping the NBN will allow us to have affordable and accessible internet soon. I think I will watch more TV shows online that way, download more music and read more articles. I know we would be able to do more business at home, so we wouldn’t have to spend such long hours in town. However in saying that, I do not want my family to become isolated by our devices, I am seeing that already with the girls and their iphones. I would like the home to have the capability the NBN offers but I don’t want us to abuse it and lose communication and family time.

My mother seemed to be talking about the same thing Turkle (2012) was cautioning:  that society is forgetting the art of real conversations as we now have the ability to edit, delete and retouch. Turkle maintains that using an application in place of real world, face-to-face interactions is having a detrimental effect on how we prioritise offline communication. In comparison.Turkle (2012) believes we are ‘shortchanging ourselves’.

“Because the moment that people are alone, even for a few seconds, they become anxious, they panic, they fidget, they reach for a device. Just think of people at a checkout line or at a red light. Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved. And so people try to solve it by connecting.”

I do agree with what my mother and Turkle are saying, we have lost our sense of self, our sense of doing nothing, just breathing, taking it all in. I posed this quote to my 13 year old sister and she disagreed. She thinks that this is how people are now, this is how we live, that the device is our second mind. She added that ‘mum only says this because she is old and she never grew up with it, it is just like how tv would have use to have been!’. Livingstone (2009) agrees with my sister as he stresses that worries about social isolation and addiction that were the same with the arrival of Television. 

Looking ahead five years what kind of things do you expect Australian families to be doing online? My 19 year old sister: In short, everything. I would if I could. I think they would be grocery shopping online, clothes shopping, paying bills, working, skyping, organising, programming the washing machine, just everything. I think a lot of small businesses will suffer, but they will probably migrate online too and function out of their garage haha. Who knows, five years doesn’t seem that far away but a lot can and will change between now and then. Even now, I do everything online, i’ll Facebook message [my sisters] in the other room so mum can’t hear us, now who would have thought that.

The number of households with access to the Internet at home continues to increase, reaching 7.3 million households in 2012–13 and representing 83% of all households (ABS, 2014). With the Internet access in Australia rapidly growing. It appears the NBN would be a welcome change to my childhood home, where my family would have the opportunity to join the rest of Australia well (96% who have internet access at home, ABS) on the connectivity front. The NBN has the ability to catapult Australia out of its out-dated technology. We are already globally isolated enough, we don’t want to be isolated by our slow internet  in the technological future as well. 

Australia's internet is outdated

Australia’s internet is out dated

 

REFERENCES:

Livingstone, S, 2009, ‘Half a century of television in the lives of our children and families’, in The end of television? Its impact so far. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, ed Katz, E and Scannell, P, pp.151-163, accessed 22/08/14, http://ann.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/625/1/151

Turkle, S 2012, ‘Alone Together’, TED talk, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtLVCpZIiNs.