Hi my name is Erin, I'm a binge TV viewer

Tech-savvy young people have come up with a whole new way to watch TV, said John Jurgensen in The Wall Street Journal. The “binge viewer” compulsively views whole seasons of drama series in marathon sessions lasting a day or more, using new technologies like on-demand TV, digital video recorders, and streaming websites. Netflix says TV shows now account for 60 percent of its streaming volume, and has even introduced a feature that automatically plays the next episode of a series. TV networks aren’t happy, because binge viewers bypass advertising vital to their business, but the increasingly popular practice is “changing the economics of the industry.” Producers now create “highly serialized shows,” hoping to make streaming deals that invite bingers to devour them in one sitting. Immersing yourself in a well-told TV drama, psychologists say, produces “something akin to a trance”—making the characters, plot, and emotions they evoke seem more real.


Binge viewing may be popular, said Jim Pagels in Slate.com, “but it destroys much of what is best about TV.” Series like AMC’s Breaking Bad are intended to be watched over periods of weeks, not hours—and gorging on them denies you a chance to develop a relationship with their characters, or to relish each episode as a story in itself. There’s nothing quite like the delicious suspense of a cliff-hanger—but “that pleasure evaporates when you simply click ‘play’ on the next episode.” To me, it’s disrespectful to watch the entirety of a nuanced, artful drama in “a few couch-buried sittings,” said Richard Lawson in TheAtlantic
.com
. “Something like Mad Men, which unfolds with elegant precision and demands a little thinking time, is probably best savored slowly.”

That’s silly, said James Poniewozik in Time.com. Is a great novel less wonderful if you read it in a long, “sustained trance,” or 20 pages at a time over the course of weeks? That’s purely a matter of personal preference; good storytelling “will take whatever viewing conditions you throw at it.” Besides, the era of everyone watching TV shows at the same time, the same way, is over, said Linda Holmes in NPR.org. Now you can watch your favorite series on “a big TV, or on a small TV, or on a tablet, or on a phone.” You can watch it on a train or bus, or in bed, in the afternoon, or at any time of day you like. How could that be bad?

- As seen in The Week
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Are you a tech slave or a tech master?

When William Falk, Editor-in-chief of The Week mused on the last of his summer vacation and wondered whether are we tech masters or tech slaves, I knew I had to blog his commentary because I and so many people I know, feel the same way... "Not so long ago, I would have found it unthinkable to work while on vacation, but that was before I traveled with a trio of tech gadgets.


"One fine day last week, with the sun peeking through the clouds and the wind hissing in the trees, I had my nose buried in work for The Week magazine. This was remarkably stupid of me, since I was on vacation on a beautiful island, and my family was waiting to go to the beach.

"Not so long ago, I would have found it unthinkable to work while on vacation; I recall glorious two-week sojourns where I had no contact with bosses, employees, even friends. But that was before I traveled with a smartphone, an iPad, and a laptop, and learned to like living in a constant stream of information and connection.

"Why do so many of us now work while on vacation, on holidays, on weekends? Not because we must, but because we can. When the ether around us pulses with wireless invitation, to disconnect requires a very deliberate act of will. Even the dopamine-pushers of Silicon Valley are becoming alarmed by just how addictive their devices have become.

"But we cannot rely on the tech wizards to save us, any more than we could expect tobacco companies to convince nicotine addicts to stop smoking. So: Will we be masters of our machines, or their slaves? The choice is ours.

"When I finally tore myself away from mine last week, I found myself on a spotless stretch of sand under a vast, achingly blue sky. Tumbling and hooting in the pounding surf with my daughter, I was fully present in the moment. Fully alive. And when we came back to the rented house, the devices were winking in the semi-darkness, beckoning me to re-engage with a world best left behind.

- By William Falk, as seen in The Week
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Technology: Is it making addicts of us all?

Next year, for the first time, “Internet use disorder” will be listed in the appendix of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

“The latest trend on the Internet,” said Tracy McVeigh in The U.K. Observer, “is to step away from the Internet.” With smartphones, tablets, and other digital devices reshaping how people work, communicate, and spend their free time, scientists and psychologists are starting to question what our reliance on these devices is doing to our minds.

Next year, for the first time, “Internet use disorder” will be listed in the appendix of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, said Matt Richtel in The New York Times. Even in Silicon Valley, there is a growing concern that technology is taking over people’s lives. “We’re done with this honeymoon phase, and now we’re in a phase that says, ‘Wow, what have we done?’” says tech guru Soren Gordhamer, who has organized an annual conference of digerati called Wisdom 2.0 to explore the need for balance in a wired world.

Companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are now teaching their own employees meditation and “mindfulness,” and warning them of the dangers of constant texting, tweeting, and web-surfing. “It’s this basic cultural recognition that people have a pathological relationship with their devices,” says Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal, who consults with tech company executives. “People feel not just addicted, but trapped.”

Don’t blame the gadgets, said Alexis Madrigal in TheAtlantic.com. It’s not your smartphone’s fault that you compulsively check your email “at a stoplight, at the dinner table, in bed.” It’s mostly the fault of our employers, who now expect workers to be available 24/7. We can also blame the “strange American political and cultural systems” that make us feel guilty about taking any time off, and obligated to meet the growing demand for nonstop productivity. People have iPhones in Britain and Germany, too, yet “Americans now put in an average of 122 more hours per year than Brits, and 378 hours (nearly 10 weeks!) more than Germans.”

Beware: We’re already paying a steep price for our digital obsession, said Tony Dokoupil in Newsweek. Research shows that constant use of these devices is actually rewiring the physical structure of people’s brains. Every time your phone, tablet, or computer pings with a new text, tweet, or email, it triggers a sense of expectation, and the reward centers in your brain receive a pleasurable “squirt of dopamine.” Over time, a brain habituated to these quick fixes shrinks the structures used for concentration, empathy, and impulse control, while growing new neurons receptive to speedy processing and instant gratification. Brain scans of Internet addicts—defined as anyone online more than 38 hours a week—can resemble those of cocaine addicts and alcoholics. Symptoms of Internet addiction can range from depression to acute psychosis. The Internet, in other words, is “driving us mad.”

I know of a good treatment, if not a cure, said Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. It’s called nature. When we get into the great outdoors, the illusion of control that technology provides disappears, and we are “deflated, humbled, and awed all at once.” In the “vast natural cathedral,” we are reminded of a world much larger than ourselves—one that predates us, will outlive us, and at whose mercy we exist. To escape our “post-industrial self-absorption,” we all need to leave our iPhones at home at least once a week, and go take a walk in the woods. Your devices will be waiting when you get back, and you’ll be a bit saner when you rejoin the endless conversation.

- As seen in The Week
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That’s not my phone, it's my tracker!

The device in your purse or jeans that you think is a cell phone—guess again. It is a tracking device that happens to make calls. Peter Maass and Megha Rajagopalan of The New York Times want us to stop calling them phones. They are trackers. Thanks to the explosion of GPS technology and smart phone apps, these are also taking note of what we buy, where and when we buy it, how much money we have in the bank, whom we text and email—and more. Cellular systems constantly check and record the location of all phones in their networks. If someone knows exactly where you are, they probably know what you are doing. People should call them trackers. We can love or hate these devices—or love and hate them—but it would make sense to call them what they are so we can fully understand what they do.

- As seen in The New York Times
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