Book Review: “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now,” by Jaron Lanier

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I’ve really been reconsidering the way I use social media lately, and interact with some of the big technology companies. Part of this was the recognition that occasionally, while I was searching for a new pen or planner on two of my favorite stationery websites, I was seeing advertisements for the exact same items on Facebook, and in my Google Feeds. I doubt this is coincidence! I was disturbed that my browsing was clearly being mined in order to advertise to me. I doubt that anyone is super interested in my browsing habits other than to sell things to me, but it still felt invasive. I noticed the privacy problems elsewhere, too. People that I prefer not to “friend” were popping up in my suggested friends, and I can’t help but assume that the same was happening to them as an unpleasant surprise.

The news article recently where a physician’s patients were being suggested as friends for each other was distressing to me, too. No psychiatrist would likely “friend” a patient on Facebook unless it was a purely professional site- to do so would be a boundary violation- so one can’t help but assume that Facebook was keeping track of the patients’ locations, which also feels quite Big Brother to me.

Another thing that happened to me was that I had posted a cute photo of my kids, and I noticed that someone I didn’t know had “liked” on the photo. But this shouldn’t have happened, as all my content is set to the most stringent privacy settings! Not only that, this person was not a “friend of a friend” so there wasn’t a terrific explanation for why this person had access to photos of my children. There are cases where people exploiting children take random photos of children off the internet for their own use, which I found distressing, but hadn’t worried about since I had set sharing to “friends” only.

Then, the new iPhone setting was uploaded that tells you what your screen time has been, and it was higher than I would like, though lower than the average person.  A lot of that time was checking Facebook. I noticed I felt grumpy and tired by the constant “best face foward” aspect of people’s feeds. And a recent study noted that people get back an hour of their life and are happier after they quit Facebook. Who couldn’t use an extra hour every day?

In a perfect example of synchronicity, there was an article in one of my favorite magazines, The Idler, reviewing Jaron Lanier about his book, “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.”   I read the article, then checked the book out from the library.  I think it’s worth reading.

The book is pretty short, just 160 pages, so it doesn’t take much of your time. It doesn’t tell you HOW to quit social media, or tell you to give it up entirely. Instead, Mr. Lanier, who was an Atari and virtual reality pioneer (if my internet research is correct) and now is among other things, a philosopher, recommends withdrawing from social media that meets specific criteria, until the clear flaws are fixed. He makes 10 arguments about why withdrawing from social media is a reasonable decision, and many of this arguments were based on information I had never heard before. There are some platforms, such as LinkedIn, which he does not feel are as problematic. While there are many aspects of social media which he points out as problematic, the one that I thought was the most concerning and resonated with my own experience was what he named “BUMMER.” BUMMER stands for Behaviors of Users Modified, and Made into an Empire for Rent, and this is the concept behind items that I have looked at in Google showing up as advertisements in Facebook. He asserts that for every click or like you make, social media bots immediately change their algorithm to sell you things and to sell you and your information to companies. He likens this to a cultural denial of service attack, and I felt this was a poignant description, as well as quite upsetting.

The only thing I didn’t really like about the book was the occasional repetitiveness of the arguments, where he brought the same information up over and over again. The tone was quite casual, which may or may not be annoying to readers. However, he did take care to not lecture to anyone, or make assumptions about the reader, which I appreciated. I thought the information in this book came at the perfect time for me. The arguments solidified the concerns I had, and pushed me to action.

Firstly, I signed up for an online class from the Idler, How to Fix the Future: A guide to taking back the power from the digital overlords. I thought this class did a great job of framing the historical context, and had some nice materials to supplement the short classes, which were excerpts of a talk that a journalist who specializes in this area, and the editor of the Idler had. The class is inexpensive, <$15, and worthwhile.

Secondly, I deleted all my social media account apps from my phone and iPad, which had the effect of making me spend zero time on social media, other than checking every few weeks for friends with birthdays on my feed to wish them a happy birthday.

Thirdly, I made a plan for social media- deleting pages and groups from my pages that I feel are not needed, and only checking every two weeks for updates from friends. I’m keeping the silicon|sutra social media as is, however.

Lastly, I signed up for some new services:

  • a secure email service, Proton Mail, that doesn’t mine my email, though Google claims they aren’t doing this anymore (who really monitors this?)  and allows encryption.
  • A VPN service from the same email service, both of which I’m super happy with.
  • Firefox. Mr. Lanier asserts that Firefox has made user privacy a priority and I agree that I have not been targeted as often with ads. Additionally, it has an option to “contain” sites like Facebook, which can follow you in subsequent sites to gobble up your data to sell.

I’m interested to hear if anyone else has been thinking or struggling with these same issues. Let me know in comments below!

The Jibun Techo: Analogue superplanner?

I am constantly trying out new planners- electronic, paper…I like them all. However, I’ve recently been turning more to paper, since I find that I remember my appointments and tasks better if they are written down, and I am rarely sitting at my computer. My profession, psychiatry, necessitates that I am fully focused on the person in front of me- no checking my phone for messages, overdue tasks, etc.

I’ve tried a few planners over the last few months, partly to write about them here, including the Mark’s Tokyo Storage planner (awkward name, elegant page design and functional cover), the Hobonichi, and the Traveler’s journal. However, I think the one I like best of them is the Jibun Techo.  It comes in a small size that looks like the Hobonichi Weeks to me, a business appropriate one (the “biz”) and an “A5 slim”, which is really Cahier sized, not A5.

The Jibun Techo is really three books in one. One book, the Life book, contains anniversaries, budgets, life events, memories, etc, that you might keep from year to year. It’s made from sturdy, fountain-pen friendly paper that should last several years. The planner book, the thickest of the three books, contains monthly and weekly planner pages, plus monthly trackers for habits, book lists, movies lists, maps of public transportation, etc. The paper is very thin, and I think perhaps Tomoe River, which has the advantage of being light, but fountain-pen friendly. The pages are multicolored, and days cover 24 hours while giving sunset/sunrise and moon phases, which is uncommon for planners like this. The third book is a thin Ideas book, which has Tomoe River paper, and can be a daily log, notes, etc. The whole thing comes in a functional vinyl cover, which has some card slots, and can be decorated (though I’m not much of a decorative planner person). A pocket in the back holds a pencil board with an elastic strap that holds the whole thing closed. I ended up putting a leather traveler’s cover from Jenni Bick on mine.

I leave the Life book at home. I noticed that I brought it with me every day to work, and never once used it- the kind of planning I did with it was more what I would do on my weekly/monthly/yearly planning, and I didn’t need it day-to-day. The other issue I had with it was my concern with losing it. I would be horrified if I left my budget and sensitive information like kid’s birth dates and passwords at the local Starbucks! Recreating your planner would be awful enough, but I think real identity theft damage could be the result of losing the Life book.

Now for the planner: I really like the layout. The vertical layout helps me plan my day but there is a ton of space for tasks, which I felt was lacking in the Midori traveler’s vertical planner. I don’t write tasks that I do routinely (daily rituals, so on), but I do have a lot of deadlines with my evolving career and family, and there was not enough space in other planners. The Jibun also has optional task strips, which are like perforated post-its which are a perfect column size that you can add on extra room for tasks (or clean up a task list that has become chaos!). There are small removable highlighter flags that are also column size, so you can highlight important appointments or tasks, though I have not figured out how functional I think these really are. I have them, and have used them, but I find the fact that they tend to fold away from the page somewhat distracting. I think a Mild-lighter highlighter might work better, honestly. Perhaps someone has a different point of view.

I also really like the habit tracker section, and the places to write movies, books, etc. I ignore some of the spaces to write things down- I feel like I keep a journal, and I don’t need to write EVERYTHING including what I ate down. It’s a fine line between detail-oriented and obsessive compulsive personality disorder! (kidding, sort of…)

I bought a few of the Ideas books since they are so thin; I figured I would fill them up rapidly, but to my surprise, I really haven’t. The paper has a tiny grid, and for some reason, I’ve adjusted my handwriting to the tiny grid, so I get a LOT of writing on one page.

Here’s my thoughts of the pros and cons of the planner:

Pros: great design, thoughtful sections, planner pages with sunset/sunrise/moonphases and color accents are quite nice, fountain pen friendly. Relatively light, especially if you leave the Life book at home. Can still be used, even if you don’t read/speak Japanese.

Cons: perhaps too many spaces for recording your life events/details (when does it become more time consuming than time saving to keep a planner), the sections like budget, etc are potentially too sensitive to carry with you in case of loss. Some of the sections (again, like the budget) don’t translate well if you don’t read Japanese. Tabs are in Japanese, and I had to write the translation in a fine pen, which is still hard to read. Many people, including me, sort of hate the font style.

One last handy tip- there’s some translation on the Jet Pens website, in the product photos. If you join one of the Japanese planner Facebook groups, they have more of the translation in the files sections of their groups. However, this still might not help you use the budget section since it can be a hassle to flip back and forth to the translation!

Do you have a planner you love, or really have an opinion about the Jibun Techo? Let me know in the comments below!

P.S. Is anyone else SUPER excited about the “Digital Minimalism” book by Cal Newport coming out next month??

Choosing the right planner, part III: the schedule-based options

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If you read the first article in the series, about a way to organize your thinking about planners and your time (find it here), you know whether you’re a task or a schedule-based planner. The task-based options were the subject of my last post. This week, we’ll talk about the schedule-based options.

Paper-based options:

You can practically insert any paper planner with hours of the day delineated here. However, there are a few that I particularly like:

  1. Ring-bound planners (Filofax, FranklinPlanner, etc): these are super easy to rearrange, beautiful, and pretty easy to customize your own inserts, especially if you pick an A5 one. If you’ve never visited Philofaxy, have I got a treat for you. This site is all things ring-binders, and has really nice printables for free for your shiny new binder. I like Filofax binders, partly because of the history behind them (did you know they were issued to students at the UK’s military academy first?) but the pagers from Franklin Planner are generally more useful in my opinion.
  2. Disc bound (Circa, Arc): I talked about the disc bound system in the last blog in this series, but Levenger makes a really strong planner system that you can put into your disc-bound system. They have great paper that is fountain pen friendly, too.
  3. Proprietary planners (Panda planner, Free to Focus, Best Self, etc): these three bound planners are not super customizable, but if you’re just learning to set goals and plan, it’s probably work picking one of these up, and sticking with it for three months. These planners get you through the system of setting goals, the daily review, the weekly review, and planning very effectively.
  4. Traveler’s system: I’ve talked about the Traveler’s system before as well, and this is still one of my favorites. They have a monthly planner, weekly in two different formats, and undated daily pages. These also come in a small, passport size, and a proprietary larger size. I use these frequently because of the flexibility, and because it reminds me of Indiana Jones. Just kidding.
  5. The Jibun Techo: I’m going to write a blog on this on its own soon. I’ve just bought one and started using it, and am really impressed with the ability to keep track of a lot of data. Look for my blog on this!

Electronic options:

You could always use the calendar on your phone, but there are better options.

  1. PC users: Microsoft Outlook is what I recommend, but most people don’t use half of the features. Find a good tutorial, and learn how to use Outlook to its full potential.
  2. Mac users: I like Fantastical on the Mac. Some people really like Busy Cal, but I found it a little cluttered. Also, Fantastical has native language entry. The implication of this is MUCH faster data entry. For example, if you want to have lunch with Mark tomorrow at noon, in a conventional program, you would need to type in “Lunch with Mark” then use a drop down box to choose the date, and then the time. With native language entry, you can just type “lunch with Mark tomorrow at noon” and the app automatically recognizes this and correctly adds it to your schedule.
  3. iOS users: I like Fantastical (also has Mac versions, see above) and Calendars 5, both of which have native language support.

Hybrid Users:

  1. Electronic calendar, tasks, and a notebook for daily notes (needs to be transferred at the end of the day). There’s a great article about this, that I discuss in my article about Hybrid planning here.
  2. Disc bound system- keep schedule on computer, and print calendars to add to disc bound system. Easy! The Levenger Circa system is standard letter size, or half a sheet of letter size paper, so it’s very convenient.
  3. Moleskine smartpen and planner, others similar on Kickstarter: these are pretty expensive options, and I haven’t seen many reviews of them. I can’t recommend for or against since I haven’t seen them in action.
  4. PDF planner pages, tablet and smart pen (GoodNotes, OneNote): there’s a whole community of people you never even knew using on their iPad pro with the app GoodNotes. Here’s a good video on it from Bohoberry.

I hope this gave you some good ideas! Are you using a different schedule-based planner and loving it? Feedback for me? I’d love to hear from you- use the comment form below, and I’ll respond to you!

 

 

Choosing a planner, part II: the task-oriented options

If you read last week’s post (you can find it here to catch up), you know whether you’re a paper, digital, or hybrid planner, and whether your schedule is mostly task or appointment-oriented. This gives us six different “types.”  This week, I’m planning to discuss the task-oriented types. Next week, I’ll give love to the appointment-oriented types.

Without ado, the Task-oriented planners…

1. Paper planner options:

  • Bullet journal:  The bullet journal is a system originally designed by Ryder Carroll, to help himself  manage his schedule given his difficulty with ADHD. The system is cheap and convenient- classically, it uses a hard back journal, either the dedicated journal from Leuchtterm 1917 or a blank one. You can track tasks, written notes and some events, but I think if you have a lot of future events, this system is probably not as helpful. There is a small investment of time in the beginning to set up the notebook- maybe 15 minutes at most. Don’t let yourself get intimidated by some of the beautiful art in the bullet journals you find by Googling; you can make a functional bullet journal just fine with NO decoration. This may be the most efficient task based option, because there’s nothing really faster than jotting down a list of tasks. The genius of this system is the review- by reviewing your tasks every day, you really prioritize what you plan to do daily, and what’s important. This system is highly recommended. Find videos, set-up information and more here.
  • Kanban system: this system was originally made for teams to track projects, but can work well if you have a tasks in various stages of progress, don’t need much portability, and spend time mostly in one place for those tasks. Essentially, this is a board with a sticky note for each task, and columns to move sticky-tasks within: these can be as simple as to-do, in process, and done. Find more information here.
  • Traveler’s journal: A traveler’s journal is essentially a piece of nice leather with an elastic band that can hold one to three thin paper notebooks. There are a million different notebooks to choose from (ok, maybe an exaggeration), but you can find whatever you need for a traveler’s journal, including a booklet to make lists in, calendars, etc. The Traveler’s Journal is The Wirecutter’s favorite planner because of it’s flexibility. They recommend buying one from Amazon, but I prefer Goulet Pens since they are a small family business who take good care of their customers and are very knowledgeable about what they sell- you can find them here, and I’m not getting a commission, I swear.
  • Circa/Arc/ring bound: The Circa system from Levenger is what I use to organize patient information, and is highly customizeable. This system consists of plastic, celluloid or metal discs that have a ridged edge which holds plastic covers and pages together. You can rearrange the pages and tabs infinitely with no trouble. The sizes are generally standard American letter size and half-letter size, so it’s easy to add print-outs, etc. Levenger and Staples (the cheaper Arc system) both make a multitude of forms for these systems. You can find the Levenger version here.

2. Digital options:

  • Smart phone task list: This is probably the most basic option. I’m not excited about the task lists that come standard on ios or android, mostly because of their lack of features.
  • Consider a better app, like Todoist, Things3, Microsoft to-do. I use Todoist because there are a TON of features, and I can use todoist on the web, my phone, mac, PC, android, etc. Things3 is wonderful, but only for Apple fans. Microsoft to-do is a good option if you use outlook.com to manage your calendar or have an outlook 365 account you use frequently.
  • list on Evernote or OneNote: this could be an option if you’re determined to use Evernote for everything! I don’t think I would choose this option, but there are definitely Evernote power users who stick to Evernote to plan their entire lives.

3. Hybrid Options:

People who mix paper and digital have a lot more options, which may or may not be a good thing.

  • Electronic calendar, with bullet journal or notebook
  • Trello (recommended): Trello is a great program online and a multitude of apps that replicates the kanban experience electronically. However, it is a LOT more powerful. You can find Trello here, and a genius article for how to use Trello as a magnificent task-conquering machine here.
  • Tablet with pen capability and OneNote or similar- not my favorite, but you could do this if you’re determined to use your Surface tablet or iPad pro and the digital pen!
  • Evernote/Moleskine notebook and smartphone integration or similar: these are notebooks that have various ways of converting the pages to digital options; either a special pen, or an app with a camera. I think a lot of these are in the planning phases, or are pretty expensive for what you get.
  • Could consider bullet journal with official app (I think the app isn’t very good)

That’s it for the task-oriented options! I hope you found what you needed- please let me know if you have any other ideas or questions, or tell me what you thought in the comments below! Next week, I’ll cover the appointment-oriented options in paper, digital, and hybrid versions. See you then!

 

Choosing the right planner for the way you work: a series

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Getting organized is hard work! I read a news story recently that reported we lose three days a year just looking for things. Imagine what we could do with an extra three days- go on a romantic weekend trip, take the kids on a fun trip, complete an entire project, take a spa retreat… We even hire people to organize us!

The reclaimed time aspect of getting organized is probably the most important part of the process, but getting organized helps us save money, too. Besides not buying extra things we already have but can’t find, organizing our time ensures that we pay bills on time and not incur late fees, sign up for things early when costs are lowest, and buy things we need when they are at their least expensive.

We can save time and money, and feel less overwhelmed by having a good system for keeping our time organized. In my practice, I often hear patients say, “I forget things I’m supposed to do a lot, and let people down. I used to be able to remember everything without writing things down when I was young.” There are a lot of reasons that you can have trouble with memory, including medical and psychiatric problems such as anxiety and depression, pain, poor sleep, and head injury. I don’t know about anyone else, but keeping track of my schedule has become monumentally more complicated as my professional responsibilities, (multiple ways to keep track of licensing and board responsibilities and continuing education units, anyone?), childcare and household responsibilities, and social commitments increase. When I was in my twenties, I didn’t have to keep track of as many things- my work shifts, classes, bills and dates. In my forties, I keep track of my patients’ care and schedules, my own teaching and professional requirements, my kids’ schedules, my spouse’s schedule, financial information, household maintenance, blog and hobbies, and my own health maintenance. That’s a lot more information- of course I need to write it down now!

But an easy step to help with information overload is figuring out a system to get your time under control. I use a two step process plus modifiers to help my patients. There are probably a lot of ways to divide personal organization, but this is the way I like to think of the issue.

Are your days mostly task-oriented or appointment-oriented?

Look at your normal, average day.

Are you mainly going to meeting-after-meeting-after-meeting-after-appointment-after-meeting-after-ohdearlordnotanother-meeting with just a few (or a lot) tasks? Do you have a lot of appointments to schedule in the future? You’re probably more appointment oriented at this point in your life.

Or, do you have relatively few things tied to a specific time during your day, but a long task list of things you get done on your own schedule? You can still have a few appointments, but those are maybe just a few a week.

For example, I have morning rounds, afternoon rounds, teaching classes, meetings to mentor residents, and scheduled meetings for providers and patient’s families, as well as my own family commitments and my own wellness commitments. These are mostly scheduled times, with some tasks as well. I’m more appointment oriented.

Write down which category you fall into, and let’s go on to the next decision point.

Are you a paper, digital or a hybrid kind of person?

This one is harder to decide, typically. There is good data that people in general learn and recall better when they write things down. But there can be good reasons to use digital- including repeating appointments, sharing a calendar, etc. Digital also tends to be lighter if you need to lighten your load while commuting.

Benefits and drawbacks of paper

We already discussed that you remember things and learn better when you use paper. Also, jotting down an appointment typically is much faster than the multistep process of turning on your phone, computer, or tablet, opening the app, entering in data, and saving. You can express yourself better with beautiful planners, papers, and pens. You don’t have to charge paper. A paper planner can be left open on your desk while you work for reference. Paper may be the only option if you work in a secure workplace that handles classified or proprietary data that doesn’t allow electronics. Certain methods of paper planning can really help you prioritize what is important to you instead of clicking “add all” to your digital calendar and suddenly have half a dozen appointments you have no intention of going to cluttering up your month.

On the other hand, paper can be damaged or lost, and there’s no real back up. Paper can be heavy to carry, and less convenient to add repeating appointments to. Some digital calendars can have nice linked information that you can find everything you need in one place.

Benefits and drawbacks of going digital

We talked about digital being more convenient to carry and add multiple appointments to. You can set alarms to remind yourself to do something. Often, digital systems have cloud back ups that can keep your data safer from loss.

However, digital systems can be lost if you’re not backing them up to your computer or the cloud, and I’ve found a lot of people who aren’t. Digital systems can be a lot harder to actually plan on and picture what your week or month looks like (does anyone really like the monthly view of a calendar on the tiny iPhone screen?). You learn better by writing, as we talked about before. Apps have annoying bugs and upgrades, and tend to be more expensive if you have to upgrade devices than a paper planner. Goal planning can be a little more difficult. You may not be allowed to have a device at work, depending on what you do at work.

The hybrid planner

You don’t have to choose one of the other, but can develop a system which uses aspects of digital planning and paper planning. I’ve written pretty extensively about this system here, which I’ll refer you to. Read this blog entry, then come back to this page.

So, write down which type of planner you need: digital, paper, or hybrid. Next week, we’ll go over which planners I think suit each of the six types best and where to find them. After that, we’ll discuss how to use the planner that you’ve chosen. Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

 

 

 

A review of the Peloton: wunderkind exercise bike or fancy coat rack?

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Our family bought a Peloton bike with the idea that it would be a painful, but necessary addition to our house. Taking up a bunch of room in our small living room, we thought it might be helpful in keeping the adults in the family semi-fit. Still, the bike was met with a lot of concern and criticism. A sample of the potential complaints before the bike arrived:

“But do you REALLY have to wear the biking shoes?”

“Won’t classes being boring? I’d rather just watch TV and bike if I have to. Can’t you take the tablet part off so I can watch TV, or can I watch TV on the tablet part?”

“Is the bike really a good workout?”

“The bike won’t be like spin classes.”

“You could just ride a regular bike outside and buy a trainer for inside.”

“Isn’t this a lot of money for an exercise bike?”

We ordered the bike after going to try on the shoes, and get fitted for the correct setting on the bike at the kiosk at our local mall. We had a chance to try out the Peloton at that time, and the sales associate, who was very friendly and enthusiastic (and clearly a fan/rider herself), helped us with correct form. After that, she ordered the bike for us, which took about 10 minutes or less. A day later, we received a call from the delivery service, and the bike was delivered and assembled the next day.

To answer some of the questions above: yes, you need biking shoes, and those biking shoes need to be firmly attached to your feet. No, classes are not boring, but yes, if you insist, you can watch television, though I don’t know why anyone would want to.  No, the tablet doesn’t come off and as far as I know, you can’t watch TV on it. Yes, it’s a good workout, and you’re going to be sweaty afterward. No, perhaps it isn’t really like spin class, but over the long run, it is cheaper, and the classes are amazing. Yes, you could ride a regular bike, but you won’t have to contend with other drivers. Yes, it’s expensive.

Everyone in our house loves this bike. I have exercised more in the last few months than I have in my entire life. I love the classes, and especially some of the instructors (that’s you Robyn Arzon, Christine D’Ercole and Denis Morton!). The tablet offers an immersive experience that feels like you’re really there, and if you take the live classes, the instructors regularly provide shout outs to virtual riders meeting milestones. There are also on-demand classes (obviously no shout-outs), with all kinds of music, lengths, instructors, themes, levels of difficulties, and my favorite, ones with DJ’s. It feels like the dance parties I was always too busy to go to because I was working, and afterward, despite riding 45 minutes, I feel refreshed and accomplished.

There are milestones you can meet, which keep me motivated, and you can offer “virtual high-fives” to the other riders or your friends. You can also just take timed rides, or ride in over a hundred different places on earth- next up for me is exploring Paris, something I have never done in real life!

My spouse rides the bike, and has loved it. He’s very tall, perhaps the maximum for this bike at 6’5′.  He plans to combine the Peloton with weight lifting at the gym, and I have been doing the floor classes included with the Peloton digital app with good results. There’s even Yoga classes with Colleen Saidman Yee!

Perhaps the biggest skeptic in our house was my mother, who has been able to ride the bike even with some orthopedic issues. I think she didn’t want to like the bike, but recently skipped a beach vacation, reporting that she “didn’t want to break her streak.” And she hasn’t even asked me recently if she can watch TV on the tablet screen, which is a victory for team Peloton!