Google: Changing how people think?

A new Columbia University study found that the use of Internet search engines alters the way the brain stores information.

Is Google making human memory obsolete? asked Matt Peckham in Time.com. That’s the question raised by a new Columbia University study, which found that the use of Internet search engines like Google and Yahoo changes the way the brain stores information. In a series of experiments, researchers found that student subjects quickly forgot information they’d entered into a computer, if they believed they could just retrieve it from the computer later. In another test, subjects were asked to remember a string of facts and which folders these facts were stored in. To the researchers’ surprise, the subjects recalled the correct folders—but not the information itself. What this study reveals, said Kari Lipschutz in Adweek, is that we’re adapting to a powerful new technology by altering how we think. In effect, “Google is becoming your brain’s external hard drive.”

As one who likes my brain the way it is, said Jakob Nielsen in Businessweek.com, I find this pretty alarming. It’s certainly convenient to, say, pull up any historical fact in a microsecond. But for a sense of the relative strength of European navies during the Renaissance, and how the struggle for power in that era has shaped the modern world, I still read a book or two—and weave that information into my memory. That’s what you call learning, and it’s what leads to “deep understanding.” The Web has its uses, but mainly, it “fragments information into tiny nuggets that can be digested in a two-minute visit.”

Socrates made a similar complaint in 370 B.C., said Ronald Bailey in Reason. That was long before Google, of course, but back then, the Greek philosopher was worried that writing was making human beings dumber. The written word transmits merely “the appearance of wisdom,” Socrates said, arguing that it would diminish the importance of memory and extemporaneous speech. He was wrong. So are the people who think Google will make us illiterate and shallow, said David Alan Grier in Businessweek.com. Over the last decade, Google and the Internet have raised research standards, stimulated political argument and discussion of thousands of topics, and given any individual with a computer instant access to an ever-expanding body of human knowledge. Does Google “provide all the information that we will ever need?” Of course not. Does it, on the whole, make us smarter? Sure it does.

- As seen in The Week



Tech Book Review - The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You

The former director of MoveOn.org, Eli Pariser, shows how Google, Facebook, and other sites track your mouse clicks so they can filter results and tailor them to your preferences.


The idea of the Internet as a free and open conversation “is fast becoming quaint,” said Jesse Singal in The Boston Globe. Not long ago, it was still possible to hope that the Internet would forever be a “clearinghouse of information and fierce debate,” a place where users would constantly be confronted by new and challenging ideas. As Eli Pariser observes, things haven’t turned out that way. Pariser’s Google isn’t your Google. Even his CNN.com isn’t your CNN.com. Instead, the pages many of us see have been tailored to who we are, where we live, and what we’ve clicked on. Pariser, the former director of the liberal activist group MoveOn.org, liked to monitor the opinions of conservative pundits using Facebook; one day, the pundits disappeared. Google had filtered his “news feed” not for political reasons, but to limit his updates to “friends” he’d interacted with.

Welcome to what’s euphemistically called the “personalized” Web, said Christopher Caldwell in the Financial Times. Google, Facebook, Amazon.com, and other “filtering Goliaths” are forever tracking your mouse clicks and keystrokes in order to feed you the news you’re likely to want and the kind of products and advertising pitches you’re likely to respond to. The Internet isn’t even tailored to suit your tastes, really. It’s “personalized the way a blackmail note is personalized—to better fit your particular vulnerabilities.” Yet even our most benign impulses can lead us into cul-de-sacs, said The Economist. As filtering continues to privilege the popular above the unpopular, “people will be invisibly steered away from important issues that are unpleasant or complex, such as homelessness or foreign policy.”

“There’s another problem with filters: People like them,” said Paul Boutin in The Wall Street Journal. In a book that’s mostly a “powerful indictment” of a system that threatens to turn us all into ill-informed partisans, Pariser “fumbles around in search of a solution” because he knows that the Internet is too unwieldy now to be navigated without filtering software. Even so, “The Filter Bubble is well-timed” because the threat it describes is “real but not yet pandemic.” As Pariser notes, Google and Facebook both provide ways that users can disable personalization filters if they choose to. What’s more, the effects of filtering are sometimes mild. “In a test I conducted myself,” I recently asked a handful of Google users across the country to search a phrase in the news and we came up with almost identical results. “To tell the truth, we were kind of disappointed.” - Get the book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You on Amazon.com!

- As seen in The Week



Tasty Tidbits of News from the Tech Front

A Social Network for Seniors
Proust.com encourages older users to share memories and life stories by prompting them with questions. Barry Diller’s IAC this week launched a social networking site specifically designed with senior citizens in mind, said Austin Carr in FastCompany.com. Proust.com encourages older users to share memories and life stories by prompting them with questions about cherished events like their first kiss and favorite birthdays. Co-founder Tom Cortese said the idea of preserving family stories came to him after watching his grandmother battle dementia. “It was just this process of seeing memories go by the wayside,” he said. “There were so many stories I wish I knew about her life.” Modeled after a questionnaire devised by the master of nostalgia, French novelist Marcel Proust, the site helps users craft personal histories through its Q&A format. It also allows members and close family to purchase e-books and even physical copies of the digital autobiographies.

Ryan Seacrest's Fear of BlackBerry Neck
Ryan Seacrest is terrified of contracting “BlackBerry neck,” says the National Enquirer. The distinctive pattern of unsightly creases and wrinkles is caused by spending hours with a bent neck, looking down at one’s smart phone. The American Idol host is on his BlackBerry all day, and a source says he “keeps showing everybody his neck and asking if they can see anything. Now he’s trying to train himself to text without bending.”

Taking a Byte out of Cybercrime
Tens of thousands of new malicious pieces of software are being identified every day. The fight against hackers is projected to cost U.S. companies $130 billion in 2011, triple what they paid in 2006, said David Goldman in CNNMoney.com. This “rising tide of online crime” could be even more dangerous than the cyberwar the Pentagon fears, said Noah Shachtman in The Washington Post. With tens of thousands of new malicious pieces of software (malware) being identified each day, the Web could soon look “like the South Bronx circa 1989—a place where crooks hold such sway that honest people find it hard to live or work there.” Yet it’s only a “relatively small number of companies that support the criminal underground.” Half the world’s spam comes from just 1 percent of Internet service providers (ISPs). More data might lead us right to the criminals, but currently only 30 percent of companies report all of their data breaches.

The ID10T Story of the Week
A fugitive by the name of Victor Burgos taunted police on his Facebook page, posting "Catch me if you can. I'm in Brooklyn." Cops quickly tracked down Burgos to an apartment in Brookly where he was sitting at a computer with his Facebook page open. Uh dewd, it's called using the privacy setting?

Three Reasons Why Millionaires Love Facebook And Hate Twitter
Millionaires are signing up for Facebook in droves, but dropping out of Twitter, according to a new survey reported on by the Wall Street Journal. Julie Zeveloff of Business Insider says the survey, by Spectrem Group, found that 46% of online users with investible assets of $1 million or more are members of Facebook, up from 26% a year ago. The number of millionaire Twitter users, on the other hand, decreased from 5% to 3%.

There are three reasons for the difference in millionaire usage between the two sites, which are often mentioned in the same breath. First, Twitter is super open, making it tough for "control freak" millionaires to filter information. Facebook, meanwhile, has plenty of privacy settings. The second factor is age. From the WSJ: According to the study, among those with $5 million or more in investible assets, the boomers are slightly more likely to use Facebook than the youngest investors — 56% vs. 50%, respectively. (Warren Buffett is an exception, of course). Twitter was generally more popular with the younger-millionaire crowd. Finally, Twitter is a broadcasting tool, while Facebook is a networking tool. Savvy millionaires prefer the latter.

And finally, one of the perils of online relationships...
Cheryl Gray, 50, of Michigan is suing Wylie Iwan, 35, of Washington state after he ended their online relationship. Gray claims that after "meeting" Iwan on Facebook, she bought him gifts and spent hours a day communicating with him, before Iwan met someone else and disparaged her on Facebook. "I did nothing wrong," said Iwan. "It was an online relationship."

- As seen in The Week

Handwriting: No longer necessary?

Officials in Indiana have stopped requiring schools to teach third graders the art of cursive handwriting. In a few decades, no one who grew up in Indiana will be able to sign his or her name, said Theodore Dalrymple in The Wall Street Journal. That’s because state officials have stopped requiring schools to teach third graders the art of cursive handwriting—the looping, joined-up letters that have stood for centuries as a sign of education and sophistication.

Instead, students will be encouraged to focus on keyboard skills, on the principle that almost all writing today is done on a computer and a cell phone. Other states may soon follow, since the federal government’s core standards for schools make no mention of cursive handwriting. This is sad—and extremely shortsighted. Developing their own handwriting gives young people a powerful, and tactile, sense of their individuality and character. And when these schoolchildren grow up and have to sign a marriage certificate or will, will they need to “hire an out-of-stater or immigrant” to do it for them?

If only I could hire someone to sign my name, said Craig McInnes in The Vancouver Sun. I am “cursively challenged,” and the “meaningless scrawl” I call my signature comes out differently every time. Indeed, my handwriting has always been awful, no matter how many school drills I performed. Yet people still insist you can read a person’s character from their longhand. I live in fear of “having to write even short phrases on birthday cards,” in case the recipient concludes that I am an illiterate half-wit. Romantics may pine for the past, but give me a keyboard any day. In today’s workplace, said Kayla Webley in Time.com, knowing how to type is a vital skill. Knowing how to write longhand is as useful as “being able to churn butter.”

Cursive is far more than an “irrelevant relic” of the 20th century, said Mark Bennett in the Terre Haute, Ind., Tribune-Star. Studies have found that handwriting boosts fine motor skills in children, and writing things out by hand enhances comprehension and learning. Just as schools still teach math, even though “most of us rely on calculators to divide and multiply,” so should school districts continue to teach children both how to craft handwritten notes and how to type. Fortunately, many of Indiana’s third-grade teachers understand this, and say they’ll continue to teach cursive even if it isn’t required. The writing’s on the wall: Man cannot communicate by texting alone.

- As seen in The Week
Brought to you by NetLingo: Improve Your Internet IQ

How to Avoid Scams on Craigslist

When on Craig'slist be sure to deal locally, insist on cash, do some research, and pay cautiously.


1. Deal locally. Follow the same common-sense precautions you would if listing or answering a traditional classified ad. Make deals with local people whenever possible so that you’ll be able to meet face to face.

2. Insist on cash. “Fake checks and money orders are common.” If you accept one as a payment, your bank will “hold you—not the buyer—responsible.”

3. Do some research. When you can’t deal locally, check up on the other party: Get a street address and look it up on a White Pages service such as whitepages.com. If there’s a listing, “that’s a pretty good start” toward establishing your counterpart’s baseline reliability. Google the person, too.

4. Pay cautiously. Don’t ever wire money: Only scammers demand it. And “for God’s sake,” don’t e-mail your credit card numbers.

- As seen in Wired.com
Brought to you by the NetLingo Blog

Teamwork Can Outdo Brilliance

America’s companies should reconsider the value of “a well-assembled team that may not dazzle with individual brilliance but overwhelms with collective capability,” said Bill Taylor in Harvard Business Review.

America’s bosses are too impressed by superstars, said Bill Taylor. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg claims that employees who are “exceptional in their role” are “100 times better” than those who are just pretty good. But he would say that, wouldn’t he? He has to defend his $47 million purchase of a company, FriendFeed, simply to acquire—or, as some say, “acqhire”—its employees at a cost of about $4 million apiece. Does that really make sense?

“If you are building a company, would you prefer one standout person over 100 pretty good people?” Consider how the team players of the Boston Bruins beat the star-studded Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup, or how the Dallas Mavericks shamed LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Our fascination with “the Free Agent, the lone wolf, the techno-rebel with a cause” has gone too far. America’s companies should reconsider the value of “a well-assembled team that may not dazzle with individual brilliance but overwhelms with collective capability.”
- As seen in The Week

Planning on an MBA? Your tweet could be worth $37,000 - Apply by July 28

The University of Iowa’s Henry B. Tippie School of Management is offering a full scholarship worth $37,240 to the MBA program applicant with the best answer to their essay question. The catch: The answer must be in the form of a tweet, 140 characters or less.


Think of it as a chance for a prospective MBA student to hone his or her elevator pitch, says Jodi Schafer, Tippie's director of admissions and financial aid. "That's sort of the power statement you need to sell yourself quickly and concisely, the way you have to sell yourself quickly and concisely in business," she told Yahoo! Shine as reported by Lylah M. Alphonse.

The question is pretty straight forward: "What makes you an exceptional Tippie Full-Time MBA candidate and future MBA hire? Creativity Encouraged!" But crafting a 140-character answer is harder than it looks. (In fact, this paragraph itself is twice as long as the answer can be.)

So how are you supposed to sell yourself succinctly without selling yourself short? Schafer offered a tip: Just like on Twitter, applicants can use abbreviated links to direct the admissions officers to a more well-rounded answer posted on YouTube, Facebook, or a blog. "Personally, that's what I'd like to see," Schafer said. "People sending me elsewhere."

There's a one-tweet-per-applicant limit, and you shouldn't actually post your tweet on Twitter; to keep things confidential, students should send their tweet-like answers to the admissions office, along with the rest of the official application. The $85 application fee will be waived for students who submit the 140-character answers, and standard-length responses, usually about 450 words, are also acceptable—but not eligible for that full financial award package.

"Social media has been shown to be a powerful tool for business communication, so it makes sense that our applicants demonstrate an ability to use it," Colleen Downie, senior assistant dean of the full-time MBA program, pointed out on the Tippie MBA blog. "This is a way for prospective students to show us that they embrace innovation and are comfortable using the kind of media and technology driving so many changes in business."

According to Business Week, 307 people applied to Tippie's full-time MBA program last year. Schafer said that applications are up slightly so far this year. Given that applying to any graduate program takes a lot of preparation, "We never intended that our applications would jump drastically," Schafer explained. "We really don't expect to see the impact of this until 2012." That's when the "application tweet" will be open to all students, international and domestic. "There are a lot of people who have expressed interest, but they can't move their family or take the GMAT this quickly," she added.

The school's essay-by-tweet experiment is open to U.S.-based students only and runs through July 28. A scholarship winner will be announced on August 4.

A few other organizations are hopping on the Twitter bandwagon, though they aren't offering as generous a package as the University of Iowa. KFC (Yes, that KFC, Kentucky Fried Chicken) is offering high school seniors a chance to be awarded up to $20,000 over four years for a single great tweet. Scholarship.com's "Short and Tweet" program encourages students to "sum up your college experience in 140 characters of less and possibly win $1,000 or a Kindle for school," and The 140 Scholarship offers three different awards for students who "write a Tweet highlighting how we can use Twitter to improve the world."

Brought to you by NetLingo: Improve Your Internet IQ

Is it the end of an era for .com? The Internet faces a domain name revolution!


The world of website names is about to be completely revolutionized. At the moment, a Web address can only end with one of 22 suffixes — .com, .org and .net are among the most popular — but in the near future websites could end with more tailored suffixes such as .kids, .shop or .nyc (for a big city like New York).

The body in charge of deciding the rules for website names, ICANN (International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), announced in June, 2011 that it will liberalize the market of address endings — also known as gTLD’s, generic top-level domains — allowing anyone to choose whatever suffix they want for their website, including ideograms and Arabic characters.

The Internet community, governments and companies have been campaigning for the liberalization of websites’ names for years. But with a customized domain name to cost around $185,000, it is expected that only big organizations will apply for now. “It may also take twice that amount to operate and maintain a proper gTLD of their own, a condition ICANN has made obligatory for all applicants,” points out Robin Wauters of TechCrunch.com. “The question is if the advantages of owning a ‘brand domain’ justify the high costs involved.”

As seen in N.Y. Metro, Beatrice Bedeschi interviews Brad White, ICANN’ s director of global media affairs.

What are the main changes you expect to happen after this decision?

That is the most exciting part of it: We don’t know, in the sense that now it is up to the creativity of the people, and their capacity to imagine new ideas. Nobody could forecast the success of Twitter or Facebook, until they completely changed the way we interact on the Web.

Do you think that companies will be forced to buy a customized name just to protect their brand?

There are safeguards built into the system, with strict rules on how to apply and what documentation to present. In other words, if someone applies for a specific suffix with the name of a company or a brand, we check that he is acting on behalf of the company and has the right to do so.

Do you think the $185,000 fee will prevent people from applying?

That’s the fee you have to pay just for the registration of the domain. Then you have to add all the money it needs to be administered. And one can make money by selling second-level domains afterward. The application is open to everyone, but of course we expect big companies to apply mostly.

“This may turn out to be the decision with the most repercussions ever taken by ICANN,” says technology writer Robin Wauters from TechCrunch.com. “It may represent an excellent opportunity for companies, organizations and cities worldwide to benefit from strong branding. On the other hand, the new extensions might cause confusion with end users.”

Still texting while driving? Don't do it!


In May, 2011, Indiana joined 31 other states when it passed stiff new laws prohibiting texting behind the wheel. Under the new law, effective July 1, Indiana drivers face a maximum fine of $500 if caught texting. Drivers under 18 are also prohibited from all cell phone use. With the addition of Indiana, 32 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have now banned text messaging by all drivers. Furthermore, eight states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands have prohibited all handheld cell phone use while driving. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, distraction behind the wheel is still a major factor in many serious car crashes, with texting and hand-held cellphone use being the top culprits.

How Your Web Rep can Ruin Your Job Search


If I've told you once, I'll tell you again, you must manage your digital footprint and keep your digital doppelganger in line! Posting racy photos and controversial remarks won’t get you as much press as former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s sexting display of his political briefs, but they can cost you in your online job search.

This has been a constant warning to job applicants, but the threat is more real than ever now that the Federal Trade Commission has allowed Social Intelligence Corporation to perform background checks on the Internet activity of job seekers. This means that your entire online history is fair game — even if you think it is private.

A recent Vault.com survey as reported in AM NY showed that while 93 percent of employers claim they haven’t rejected a candidate based on their social media presence, more than a third of recruiters do examine the social networks of applicants. That number is probably higher than they would like to admit, and will be even higher in the future now that there are companies out there willing to do such work.

So what’s a job seeker to do?

1. Stop trusting privacy settings - Privacy settings are not 100 percent reliable. If someone wants to find information out about you, they will. The fact that you tried to make it private won’t stop them from using that information against you. The less you trust a privacy setting, the more you might want to stop posting objectionable content.

2. Keep your image professional - According to the Vault survey, 60 percent of recruiters thought candidates should take steps to hide their personal pictures, and only 51 percent of job seekers said they actually do. But why post them in the first place? Pictures of you drinking or scantily clothed, or even that fun shot of you holding a samurai sword, could make you appear to be a risk in a recruiter’s eyes, no matter how cool you look to your friends. The truth is, you don’t look cool without a job, so stop sabotaging your search.

3. Your friends can hurt your career - It only takes one friend tagging a photo of you looking intoxicated — which will put the picture on your profile —to ruin your chances at getting a job. Recruiters will see these pictures. Ask your friends not to tag you in photos, and be vigilant and de-tag objectionable photos.

4. Keep your religious and political views to yourself - Before social media, it was said that you should never discuss religion or politics with friends. Follow that philosophy online.

5. Think of social media as your resume - You know you work hard; you know you always get the job done. Recruiters don’t. Put yourself in their shoes and make sure your online presence represents the type of person you would hire for a job. Until then, DQYDJ!

10 Smart Ways to Use Social Media in Your Job Search

Everyone’s talking about using social media for job-hunting. But how, exactly, should you do that? Alexis Grant of U.S. News shows 10 smart and strategic ways to network your way into a job using three popular online tools: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.


1. Let people know you’re looking. Whether on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, let your friends and followers know that you’re looking for a job. Even better, tell them what type of job you’re looking for. They may not know of any openings right now, but if they know you’re available, they’ll think of you when a position opens up. That will help you hear about openings before they’re listed on popular job boards.

2. Don’t be afraid to network on Facebook.
Facebook may be for fun, but don’t make the mistake of overlooking your network there, especially if you already have hundreds of friends. Facebook can sometimes be more useful for job hunting than LinkedIn, because friends who know you personally have more of a stake in helping you. They want you to succeed—so use that to your advantage.

3. Make sure your Facebook profile is private. Much of your Facebook profile is public by default, and you probably don’t want a potential employer browsing your personal updates. Under Account, then Privacy Settings, choose “Friends Only.” That way, an employer who Googles you won’t be able to see the details of your profile, your photos, or your personal status updates.

4. Find information about hiring managers. Before you submit your resume, look up the hiring manager on LinkedIn and Twitter. (If he’s smart, he’ll make his Facebook profile private.) LinkedIn profiles and Twitter feeds are gold mines of information on individuals. Knowing more about the person who’s hiring can help you tailor your cover letter to their needs and desires.

5. Hyperlink your resume. Add the URL for your Twitter handle and LinkedIn profile to your contact information on your resume. (But don’t add your Facebook profile, since that’s private.) Not only does this offer the employer another way of getting in touch with you and seeing how you interact online, it also shows that you’re social media-savvy, a skill valued by many employers.

6. Be strategic with Facebook lists. Facebook’s list feature allows you to continue building your network without worrying about professional contacts seeing your personal updates. Under Account, then Friends, create a new list, and customize your privacy settings so professional friends can only see what you want them to see. That way your close friends can still keep up with your photos and personal updates.

7. Create the connections you need to get the job. It’s all about who you know, right? Don’t just use the connections you already have. Figure out who you need to know to land a certain job—likely the hiring manager—and make that connection, whether by getting them to follow you on Twitter by retweeting their tweets, or growing your LinkedIn network until they become a third-degree connection. Twitter in particular offers opportunity to connect with professionals who might not otherwise give you the time of day.

8. Get Google on your side. If don’t like what pops up when you Google yourself (because you know an employer will Google you), create a LinkedIn profile. Fill out your profile completely and become active on the network. That will help push your profile to the top of Google’s search results, which means a potential employer will see what you want them to see.

9. Join industry chats on Twitter. Look for chats that revolve around your industry, or better yet, the industry you want to work in. Joining online conversations helps you keep up-to-date on the industry, meet helpful contacts, and showcase your expertise in your field. You may also want to network with other job seekers through weekly conversations like #jobhuntchat or #careerchat (see also: hashtag)

10. Seek out job-search advice. All three of these networks are great places to find advice on job-hunting and mingle with other job seekers. Join LinkedIn groups that focus on job search. Follow career experts on Twitter, and “like” their pages on Facebook. That way you’ll get tips for your search even when you’re not looking for them.

- As seen in U.S. News Brought to you by the NetLingo Blog

Cybersex: It's about narcissism

Cybersex: Will it make monogamy obsolete? Internet connectivity and online porn have opened new ways to engage in extramarital adventures.


He never touched another woman, and claims to be happily married—yet for years he’s been conducting virtual affairs through Facebook, Twitter, and texting. Just how unusual is Anthony Weiner, New York’s scandal-plagued Democratic congressman? asked Tracy Clark-Flory in Salon.com. Not very. In a brave new world of online porn and instant Internet connectivity, millions of other men and, yes, women are exploring the “countless new avenues” for extramarital adventures. Like it or not, “technology has forever changed the landscape of intimacy and fidelity,” and is now forcing us to reassess our traditional concepts of monogamy. Does sexting count as adultery? Or are these virtual dalliances with strangers we’ll never meet just a harmless form of online entertainment?

These are questions we’re just now beginning to consider, said Andrew Sullivan in TheDailyBeast.com. For the first time in human history, the Internet enables people to create an alternative sexual reality where they can exist as “a body without a head (or a mind), a pair of strained underpants,” or even as an avatar with a whole new identity. “We haven’t quite figured out how to square this with our other lives.” In the past, infidelity was fraught with the possibility of destructive consequences, including sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Not so if you “cheat” through an online sex chat or a pornographic webcam. These activities are so wildly popular, especially among people under 35, because they allow otherwise monogamous individuals to let off some steam. What’s so terrible about that? said Jessica Bennett, also in TheDailyBeast.com. A recent survey found that 65 percent of women “and a whopping 80 percent of men” say they’d cheat if they knew they wouldn’t get caught. It’s simply unreasonable to expect one person to fulfill your every need, sexual or otherwise, through decades of marriage. Cybersex is just one of the many ways modern couples are seeking a little extra on the side. “That doesn’t mean the end of marriage,” but it may mean that we have to revise the rules.

If you think online sex isn’t “real,” said William Saletan in Slate.com, you’re fooling yourself. The Internet creates an illusion of anonymity among its users, making them think of online affairs as a “kind of a game disconnected from reality.” That was the rationalization Weiner himself used to excuse his “sexting”; as he said in his defense, “I never met these women. I never really had much desire to.” But what he called his “communications” turned into real online relationships, rife with intimate exchanges and sexual expression, which he pursued addictively and recklessly. Weiner’s pregnant wife is now heartsick, and his career is in tatters. Sounds pretty real to me.

But what a strange kind of reality it is, said Ross Douthat in The New York Times. As Weiner has reminded us, cybersex isn’t about relationships at all, or even about sex. It’s about narcissism—in its most “desperate and adolescent” form. You don’t tweet photos of your penis or artsy shots of your gym-sculpted pecs because you’re fascinated with the women on the other end. You send them because you’re fascinated with...yourself. Narcissism, of course, existed long before Facebook and Twitter, but social media serve “as a hall of mirrors in which it flourishes as never before.” In this obsessive new realm, the real thrill comes not from talking dirty but from the chance to say, over and over: “Look at me! Look at meeeee!”

- As seen in The Week

Is Facebook's 'like' button spying on you?

The Facebook "like" and Twitter "tweet" buttons that appear on so many websites do a lot more than just help you share content with friends...


The ubiquitous Facebook "like" and Twitter "tweet" buttons let web users share content with their friends and followers, but, unbeknownst to most, they also let the social media sites track users — even when people don't click on them, according to a study done for The Wall Street Journal. Here, a guide to the buttons and the privacy concerns they raise:

What do these buttons do?
Their primary function is to let users share items from across the web with their social networks. But they also place cookies on a user's computer that allow Facebook and Twitter to know when a user visits a specific page. If you visit any web page with a "like" button on it, Facebook knows about it. And the buttons "could link users' browsing habits to their social networking profile, which often contains their name," says Amir Efrati in The Wall Street Journal.

And it tracks you even if you don't click the buttons?
Yes. As long as you've logged into Facebook or Twitter once in the past month, your data is collected, even if you don't click the button. The tracking stops only when a user "explicitly logs out of their Facebook or Twitter accounts," says Efrati in the Journal.

How common are these widgets now?
The Facebook and Twitter buttons "have been added to millions of web pages in the past year," says Efrati. Facebook's widget appears on one-third of the 1,000 most-visited websites in the world, while buttons from Google and Twitter are on one-quarter and one-fifth of those sites, respectively.

Is Facebook using this data?
Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other "widget-makers" say they don't use the data to track users. And they say that the data is "anonymized" so that it can't be traced back to specific users. Facebook says it only uses the data to power targeted ads. The social network stores the data for three months, which is "substantially longer than the two weeks Google stores similar information," says Lee Mathews at Geek.com. Twitter says it doesn't use the data and deletes it "quickly."

What can be done to minimize this tracking?
"If you’re worried" about it, you should "log out of these sites after you’re done checking your email, tweeting, poking, or what have you," says Kashmir Hill in Forbes. "Yeah, you'll have to re-enter your password more often," says Linda Sharps at The Stir, "but it seems like you can have either convenience or privacy these days — not both."

- As seen in The Week
Brought to you by the NetLingo Blog

Talk is Cheap: Five VoIP-Powered Services


As seen in Conde Nast Traveler, Alex Pasquariello reports on the five most popular VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) powered services. Which one is for you?

1) For old-school travelers who still use hotel-room phones, the best way to call is using VoIP calling cards, including www.axvoice.com/plans/calling-card.html, Pingo.com, Enjoyprepaid.com, and Comfi.com. What do you need? A landline and a card or online account loaded with pre-paid credit.

The fundamentals of the classic calling card remain: Pick up a landline, dial a toll-free local access number, enter a PIN and an account number, and reach out and touch someone. What's new is that your entire call—whether to a landline or a mobile number—is routed over the Web, which translates into super-low rates.

Cost: Varies by destinations but ranges from 5 cents to 50 cents per minute.

Drawbacks: VoIP calling card services are available from a limited number of countries. Connection fees can offset the great rates.

2) For tech-savvy travelers who want voice and video chat, the best way to call is Skype. What do you need? A laptop, Android phone, iPhone, or iPod Touch.

A pioneer in VoIP applications, Skype remains the go-to service for travelers who are wired and who have consistent Wi-Fi access. Skype's mobile app, designed to work with the new generation of camera-enabled iPhone and Android devices, means you can leave the laptop at home. Voice and video chat to other Skype users is picture- and pitch-perfect.

Cost: Free when calling other Skype users; rates from 2.3 cents per minute for calls to landlines and mobiles in 42 countries when you pay as you go, and even lower with a $14 monthly subscription.

Drawbacks: Forgetting to turn off data service when using Skype mobile abroad can quickly lead to sky-high international data charges.

3) For globe-trotting Apple fanboys and girls, the best way to call is Apple FaceTime. What do you need: An iPhone, iPod Touch, or MacBook.

A super-simple Wi-Fi video-chat app available on the latest iPhone, iPod Touch, and MacBook devices, all of which have cameras and microphones. With a couple of taps, you're connected to your loved ones, and they can see your face via the front-side camera—or switch to the normal camera to chat while you show them the view of your destination.

Cost: Free to other FaceTime users.

Drawbacks: You can only call others who have the latest Apple gizmos, and it doesn't work with data service—you must be in a Wi-Fi zone.

4) For international road warriors, the best way to call is Toktumi Line2. What do you need? An Android phone, iPhone, or iPod Touch.

Wouldn't it be great to have a U.S. number at which all your clients could reach you even when you're abroad? That's what Line2 gives you—along with visual voice mail, so you won't waste time or money taking calls you don't want. When you're in a Wi-Fi zone, the Line2 app effectively adds a second line to your smartphone, allowing people to call you overseas at no extra charge to them.

Cost: The app is just 99 cents, but you'll need to pay $10 a month for a phone number, voice mail, and unlimited calls and texts within the United States; overseas, rates to land and mobile lines start at 2 cents per minute.

Drawbacks: See those under Skype, above.

5) Facebook fanatics, the best way to call is Vonage Mobile App for Facebook. What do you need? An Android phone, iPhone, or iPod Touch.

Vonage's VoIP service has traditionally been marketed as a replacement for home lines, but its mobile partnership with Facebook makes staying in touch on the go as easy as updating your wall. Download the app on your latest-generation iPhone or Android device and it imports contact info for all of your Facebook friends—if they also have the app, you're ready to chat.

Cost: Free to other Facebook friends with the Vonage Mobile App.

Drawbacks: Do you really want everybody you've friended on Facebook to be able to call you on your mobile?

Smart phones may be getting smarter by the minute, but the sound quality on most of them is far from genius. For crystal-clear audio on phone chats or during your in-flight movie, consider packing Etymotic's HF3 in-ear buds (etymotic.com; $179), or go wireless with Nokia's noise-canceling Bluetooth BH-905i headset (nokiausa.com; $300).

- As seen in Conde Nast Traveler
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Technology and Eroticsm: The Connection

“As our markets discover and respond to what consumers most want, our technology has become extremely adept at creating products that correspond to our fantasy ideal of an erotic relationship, in which the beloved object asks for nothing and gives everything, instantly, and makes us feel all powerful, and doesn’t throw terrible scenes when it’s replaced by an even sexier object and is consigned to a drawer. The ultimate goal of technology, the telos of techne, is to replace a natural world that’s indifferent to our wishes—a world of hurricanes and hardships and breakable hearts, a world of resistance—with a world so responsive to our wishes as to be a mere extension of the self.” - by Jonathan Franzen in The New York Times

Should parents get to control their kids' Facebook pages?

A California bill would let parents prune what their kids post online. Is this a victory for parents or a strangely heavy-handed law? What do you think...


Facebook is heading for a showdown with parents in California. State legislators are considering a bill that would force social networking sites to change their privacy policies, giving parents the right to prune online information about their children up to age 18. If a mom or dad didn't like a photo or post involving their kid, they could demand that Facebook remove it within 48 hours, or face a $10,000 fine. Is this a sensible way to help parents protect their children?

Some say yes, parents should set the rules: Once a kid turns 13 and becomes old enough to be an authorized Facebook user, "parental authority essentially is meaningless," says Mary Beth Hicks at The Washington Times. Facebook guarantees users' privacy, and essentially tells parents to mind their own business. It's about time we had "a law that reminds social networking companies of the primacy of parents in the lives of their minor children."

But do we really need a heavy-handed law? By all means, parents, keep tabs on what your children are doing online, says Jeanne Sager at The Stir. But don't demand that Facebook do your dirty work. If you want the ability to remove inappropriate pictures, tell your kid to give you his password. "That's all you have to do. Buck up and act like real parents."

Don't forget about kids' rights: This bill is supposed to be about protecting privacy online, says Kashmir Hill at Forbes. But for California teens, it does the opposite. Giving people "more control" over online information isn't always liberating — just ask some of the 16-year-olds who would be affected by this law. "Kids should have some privacy rights too, after all."

- As seen in The Week
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Social Couponing Explodes in NYC

It wasn't long ago that clipping coupons was something you'd picture your parents or grandparents doing, maybe sitting in a rocking chair, looking for deals at the local grocery store. But times have changed, and in New York City, the coupon market has a completely new feel — it's going social, and the Big Apple’s nearly unmatched density of businesses has made it a prime target for the trend as New Yorkers indulge on deals at restaurants, salons and activities.


Services like Groupon, LivingSocial and Scoutmob have led the social couponing charge, with some leveraging group-buying power for huge daily discounts at local businesses. Their reach has ballooned over the past seven or eight months — even amNewYork launched its own Daily Deals earlier this year — making many wonder: Are our days of coupon clipping on their way out?

"At least with certain demographics, like younger buyers, absolutely," said Michael Stanat, a global marketing executive with SIS International Market Research. "These new social platforms engage users in ways coupon clipping never could … and they give consumers a way into New York experiences they'd otherwise never have," he said. Last month Google and Facebook jumped into the ring with their own services, though spokespeople declined to say when they'd launch here. Still, businesses citywide have been jumping on the social trend for years.

"For restaurants in this city, print [marketing] is done," said Mark Kelly, owner of Tree Bistro in the East Village. "Social has completely changed how the restaurant industry works in New York." Groupon reportedly had $103 million in revenue in February.

Amanda Kludt, editor of eater.com, said the deals can be a boon for struggling or new restaurants. "A lot of restaurants that participate with Groupon say they don't really make money off it, but it's good marketing," she said, though adding that it "almost creates a caste system" among places who need the exposure and the higher-end ones who sidestep it altogether. Still, many New Yorkers are buying in.

"All of my friends are on it, and it just makes it easier to find deals and be social," said Chris Ess, 24, of the Lower East Side. Oscar Martinez, 34, of Williamsburg, agreed. "I don't pay retail price ever, so this is a way to discover new trends and brands and services for cheap," he said.

By the numbers:
10% of U.S. adults have bought a social coupon in 2011.
45% of purchased coupons go unused.
2,203% growth of Groupon revenue between 2009 and 2010.
-As seen in AM NY

Planking: Top 10 Facebook Crazes

A 20-year old man, Acton Beale of Brisbane, fell seven stories to his death last week while trying to lie facedown on a narrow balcony railing, prompting calls for an end to the Facebook craze of "planking."

The practice, which involves lying like a plank somewhere odd or dangerous and posting the photo on Facebook, is particularly popular in Australia. The Planking Australia Facebook page has more than 120,000 members and boasts photos of people planking ona McDonald's sign, a highway, and a ski lift.

As "planking" becomes the latest Facebook craze, here are ten other fads that have swept through the social network.

1. Farmville – The virtual farming game now has 46 million players on Facebook, and has even launched a Lady Gaga version. Gagaville is a “magical place” according to the popstar where fans can farm crystals, unicorns and motorcycle-riding sheep.

2. Doppelganger Week – During “doppelganger week”, Facebook users change their profile pictures to a celebrity who they think they resemble. Popular choices include Muppets and Hollywood stars. Cartoon Status week also saw Facebook users change their pictures for cartoon characters.

3. The Numbers Game – Facebook users post a number as their status update and their friends write what ever comes to mind after they see the number. Popular choices are 1, 7, 21, 69 and 420.

4. Bra Color – To help raise awareness of breast cancer, female Facebook users change their status to the color of the bra they are wearing. The most popular colors are black, white and beige.

5. 25 Random Things about Me – A chain letter called "25 Random Things about Me" wormed its way through Facebook, with recipients rattling off 25 random facts and then inviting their friends to do so.

6. Dipping – Teenagers caused a stir in 2008 by using Google Earth to spot houses on a map with outdoor swimming pools and then organizing impromptu pool parties through Facebook.

7. Sleeveface – Using an old record sleeve and a digital camera, Facebook users take pictures of themselves with the sleeve in front of their face. The results were collected into a book in 2008.

8. I Like it On – Another campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer, female users suggestively update their profiles with “I like it on” followed by words such as “floor”, “kitchen counter” and so on.

9. Miss Bimbo – In the hugely popular Miss Bimbo game, Facebook users as young as nine are given an alter ego who they can give plastic surgery and diet pills to snare a billionaire boyfriend.

10. Frape – Combining “Facebook” and “rape”, fraping involves sneaking onto someone’s Facebook profile and changing their pictures, interests and sexuality. Fraping can also involve poking and messaging strangers from someone else’s account.

- As seen in The Week and The Telegraph

Getting Energy from a Silicon Leaf

A silicon “leaf” that mimics photosynthesis could open the possibility of an entirely new source of cheap and abundant electricity. MIT researchers say they’ve developed an advanced solar cell the size of a playing card; when floated in even muddy water under direct sunlight, it splits H2O into hydrogen and oxygen, which can then be transferred to fuel cells that produce an electric current.

Lead researcher Daniel Nocera tells Wired that a single artificial leaf and a gallon of water could produce a day’s worth of electricity for a household in the developing world. There have been previous attempts to create artificial leaves, but they have often depended on expensive chemicals and proved difficult to sustain for long periods. What makes Nocera’s version different—and scalable—is that it uses inexpensive materials and can operate for at least 45 hours straight.

An Indian company has already signed a development deal, and a commercial application may be ready in the next three to five years. Nocera is convinced his leaf can bring affordable electricity to communities without access to power grids. “Our goal is to make each home its own power station,” he says. And we say, more power to you! - As seen in The Week

Track me to the Islands then, I may never come back

I've been telling you this for years, and it's not like you can do much about it, but I just want you to know: the iPhone and other mobile devices are tracking where you’ve been. Two data scientists revealed that iPhones, iPads, and iTouches track their owners’ GPS locations, store their movements for up to a year, and stream this information back to Apple.


If you have an iPhone or other Apple mobile device, your every move is being tracked and recorded, said Nathan Goulding in NationalReview.com. Two data scientists triggered a new privacy firestorm last week by revealing that “without your consent or any warning labels,” iPhones, iPads, and iTouches track their owners’ GPS locations, store their movements for up to a year, and stream this “geodata” back to Apple.

These devices are creating records of unprecedented scope and detail, said Alexis Madrigal in TheAtlantic.com. “Even searching a suspect’s house could never yield a full inventory of that person’s friends and acquaintances, the entire record of their voice and text communications—and all the Web pages he’d ever looked at.” Now Apple—and cops, prosecutors, divorce lawyers, or anyone who gets your cell phone—“can have all of that in two minutes.”

“Ooh, big brother is watching,” said David Pogue in The New York Times. Frankly, “who cares if anyone knows where I’ve been?” Banks, credit card companies, online marketers, and phone companies are already collecting vast amounts of information on all of us. Indeed, cell phone companies track our movements, too; the only difference is that the information is stored on their computers, not on your cell phone. And Apple’s not “the only big bad villain here.” Google’s Android phones, along with BlackBerries, Palms, and most other smartphones, are tracking our movements, with varying degrees of thoroughness and transparency.

If you think there are any laws against this, said Jordan Robertson in the Associated Press, “think again.” Phone companies can’t share information obtained from your cell without your consent, but the government hasn’t gotten around to hardware and software makers like Apple and Google. Of course, all makers of “spyphones” have their excuses for snooping. They claim that mining data about our whereabouts will be good for us, because it will allow them to identify “Wi-Fi hot spots” and create services to fit our needs, including advertising aimed at reaching us when we’re near a particular store.

Sadly, most people will accept this latest intrusion with “a weary yawn,” said John Naughton in the London Observer. “Technological fatalism” has set in. Scott McNealy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, once said, “You have zero privacy. Get over it.” A decade later, “it looks like he was right.” - As seen in The Week

See also: fingerprint, digital footprint
Blog posts are brought to you by NetLingo :-)

Blocking Someone on Facebook is like Blocking Them Out of Your Life

As seen in AM New York, "Some kids definitely have a church/state feeling when it comes to Facebook, and they want to keep their parents out."

During a recent dinner, Daryl Smolens called her daughter Ali and asked her to tell the friend she was dining with to have fun in Boston this weekend.” “I turn to him and say, ‘I didn’t know you were going to Boston,’” recalled Ali. “My mom already knew because she had read it on Facebook, and here I am sitting next to him and I didn’t even know!” The 25-year-old West Villager said it’s “100 percent” annoying when her mom knows more about what her friends are doing on Facebook than she does. And she’s not alone. As Facebook’s popularity spikes among all generations, more parents are getting involved in their kids’ online lives — and it’s not always welcome.

“Without fail, every time I sign on to Facebook, my mom already has commented on one of my friends’ status — even before I’ve had a chance to see it for the first time,” said Ali. “I’ve known Ali’s friends forever,” said Daryl, 63, of the Upper East Side. “They are always at our house hanging out … not always with Ali around. “I did tell Ali I would stop commenting on her friends’ status, but, you know, I’m a mother.”

Wendy Sachs, editor in chief of Care.com, a parenting website, said: "Parents want to stay connected to their kids, and Facebook offers an often unedited look into what’s really going on in their lives.” Many parents with younger children insist on having access to their Facebook page to ward off cyberbullying or other inappropriate activity. In an October, 2010 Care.com survey, one in three parents of children 12 to 17 years old said they feared their kids being cyberbullied more than kidnapping, suicide, car accidents or terrorism.

Cyberbullying has terrified parents, so monitoring is becoming increasingly important,” said Sachs, who has a 9-year-old son. But even she knows the drawbacks to giving parents permission to view your Facebook page. “As a child of divorced parents, an innocuous post of a piece I wrote followed by a humorous comment by my dad led to a bitter comment from my mother,” Sachs said.

“I ended up deleting the post and almost de-friending my mom on Facebook.” Mark LoCastro knows that Facebook feuds can mushroom into larger family feuds. The 28-year-old Lower East Side resident wanted some privacy, so he limited access to his profile. But when his dad’s girlfriend discovered that she was blocked, things went south. “The following day, she was real upset and contacted my dad,” he said. After a conflict, LoCastro restored her access. “I guess blocking someone important on Facebook, like a family member, is like blocking them out of your life,” he said. “People sometimes take Facebook too seriously.”

Here are some recent Facebook statistics:
Sources: Facebook's Social Ads Platforms; Retrevo.com

48% = Percentage of parents who “friend” their kids on Facebook

15,516,780 = Number of active Facebook users age 55 and over as of January, 2011

58.9% = Growth in the 55+ age group on Facebook between January, 2010 and January, 2011

45,406,460 = Number of active Facebook users ages 18 to 24 as of January, 2011 — the biggest user group

4,369,820 = Number of people in New York City who have a Facebook account

55% = Percentage of Facebook users who are women

43.4% = Percentage of Facebook users are men

71.2% = Percentage of people in the U.S. with an Internet connection — 206.2 million — are on Facebook

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NSFW = Not Safe For Work (or School)

Talk about denial, a conservative Indonesian lawmaker in Jakarta resigned last week after he was caught on camera watching online porn on his computer during a parliamentary session. Arifinto, who like most Indonesians goes by one name, is a member of the Prosperous Justice Party, which calls for a central role for Islam in public life. He was the leading force behind Indonesia’s extremely strict anti-porn law, under which a leading pop star was sentenced to jail when his homemade sex tapes were put on the Internet. Arifinto initially tried to argue that he had clicked on a spam link by accident, but then admitted his guilt and resigned. - As seen in The Week

And in other troubling technology news, reports of attempts to sexually exploit children have doubled in just a year. According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited children, it's because predators are now using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to contact minors. - As seen in USA Today

Finally, what's the tech health scare of the week? It's something new, known as "Facebook depression." A report by the American Academy of Pediatrics says that doctors and parents need to wake up to how social media affects children. When pediatricians take a child’s medical history, they need to ask, "Are you on Facebook?" "Kids can be insecure in general," report author Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe tells LiveScience.com, "and Facebook can heighten those anxieties to a huge degree." Along with cyberbullying, researchers have identified the problem of "Facebook depression," which arises when children have their "friend requests" rejected and sees photos of classmates having fun without them. Such experiences can lead to "profound psychosocial outcomes," including suicide, the report says. O’Keeffe says parents should help their preschool kids explore the Internet and begin discussing online situations as soon as possible. It’s vital that adults understand the technology kids are using, she adds, "so they can set appropriate limits." - Also seen in The Week

They're Compiling Detailed Profiles of You

To experience a profound violation of your privacy, you need not opt for the "touch my junk" line at the airport. Just go online. There, sophisticated marketing and research companies are giving you the full WikiLeaks treatment through cookies, beacons, and other tracking devices that record your every move, like unseen spies.

Somewhere, someone has made a record of your e-mail address, Facebook ID number, and even your name; they can record your every keystroke on the Web; they can sniff out information about health problems, interests, and attitudes, and sell that information to life-insurance companies, advertisers, or potential employers. Did you Google Viagra? Click on ads for weight-loss products? Someone knows. All of these intrusions are laid bare in an ongoing and superb Wall Street Journal series called "What They Know.'' The series deserves a Pulitzer, for revealing the extent to which companies are secretly compiling detailed profiles of your likes, dislikes, purchases, searches, sexual proclivities, and religious and political beliefs.

There's a curious paradox involved in communicating and gathering information via a keyboard and a computer. It feels so intimate and personal, but is utterly not; it's called the World Wide Web for a reason. Your e-mails can be retrieved and used in lawsuits, and are screened by the government for evidence of violent intent. A hacker on another continent can seize control of your hard drive. An Army private can plunder the government's "private" network, embarrassing diplomats, presidents, and kings. Here’s your Miranda warning: You have a right to remain silent, but whatever you do online can and will be held against you. - by William Falk, as seen in The Week

Oh and by the way, venture capitalists in 2010 invested $1.1 billion in start-ups that track online behavior to send targeted advertising to consumers. Despite concerns of privacy advocates and congressional threats to rein in the practice, "it's a huge market and it's growing," says investor Chris Fralic of First Round Capital. - as seen in The Wall Street Journal

Google’s Scary New App


The app would link an image search engine to a face-recognition program, so that photos could be matched to personal information. The concept of personal privacy just took another hit, said Mark Milian in CNN.com. Google engineers are working on a mobile application “that would allow users to snap pictures of people’s faces in order to access their personal information.” The app would link an image search engine to a face-recognition program, so users could pull up a profile on anyone whose picture they snapped—provided the photographic subjects had given Google permission to match photos with their personal information. Privacy advocates are already crying foul, pointing out that a stalker, for example, could use the app to find out where someone lives. One advocate noted that the company “has a tendency to push boundaries in order to outdo competitors.” Not to worry, says a Google spokesman: “It’s a sensitive area. We are taking a sort of cautious route with this.’’ - As seen in The Week

Time to Start Using Your Earbuds, as in Always

It's official, pressing your cell phone to your ear can at least temporarily alter your brain. That’s the disturbing finding of researchers from the National Institutes of Health, who scanned the brains of 47 volunteers while they had cell phones attached to each side of their heads.

During a 50-minute call, activity in the brain’s neurons closest to the antenna increased by 7 percent—a significant amount. “We have no idea what this means yet or how it works,” study author Nora Volkow tells Wired, “but this is the first reliable study showing that the brain is activated by exposure to cell phone radio frequencies.” Previous studies have found contradictory evidence about whether mobile-phone radiation can lead to a higher incidence of brain cancer; many researchers have insisted there is no way the weak radiation emitted by the phones could affect biological tissue. But the NIH study shows that there is, in fact, an interaction, raising the question: Could the neurological stimulation shown by the scans be causing dangerous inflammation and brain-cell damage over time?

“You don’t have to wait around on us for the answers,” Volkow says. She strongly recommends using earbuds, headsets or a speakerphone to keep cell phones away from your head.

Why Gadgets cause Junk Sleep

It's official: Viewing light-emitting TVs, smartphones, computers, and video-game players less than an hour before bed interferes with sleep. Why do more than 40 percent of Americans say they don’t get enough sleep? One likely culprit: our ever-glowing screens.

A new study by the National Sleep Foundation found that 95 percent of people polled had used some sort of electronic device less than an hour before bed the previous night. Light-emitting TVs, smartphones, computers, and video-game players “can suppress the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin” and rev us up, making it difficult to nod off at a restorative hour, study author Lauren Hale tells USA Today.

The consequences of the national sleep deficit are both broad and alarming. Out of more than 1,500 people surveyed, 37 percent admitted to having driven while tired in the past month—the cause of 100,000 crashes and 1,550 deaths per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Young people, the heaviest users of light-emitting gadgets, were the drowsiest, convincing Hale that the trend “could really affect the future of sleep” and “have serious consequences” for physical and mental health. Her advice: Don't rely on junk sleep! Power down before hitting the sack, and read or listen to music instead.

Google +1 takes on Facebook

Google will begin allowing users to personally endorse search results and Web pages, its latest attempt to stave off rival Facebook while trying to jump onboard the social networking boom. The so-called "+1" button started to appear alongside Google search results for some users this week, letting people recommend specific search results to friends and contacts by clicking the button. Eventually, the feature may begin to influence the ranking of search results, although according to sources, that is still under consideration. Results are now ranked by their closely guarded algorithm.

In other Facebook news, it was a good week for F2F human contact after Christian clergy said a large number of people have given up Facebook for Lent. Facebook "is almost compulsive," said one pastor. "That's why it makes sense to give it up for Lent!"

It was also a good week for this +1, Amanda Hocking, who may be publishing's most unlikely self-made millionaire. According to Tad Vezner in the St. Paul, Minn., Pioneer Press, a year ago, the purple-haired college dropout couldn’t find a traditional publisher for any of the eight young-adult paranormal romances she’d written in her bid to keep up with the rent on her small Minnesota home. But then last spring she decided to start self-publishing the whole lot as e-books, which sell at just 99 cents to $2.99 a title. By January, the 26-year-old was moving more than 400,000 “units” a month, and pocketing roughly 70 percent of the gross!
ROTM,
Erin