Going back to the lever and the wheel, technology has always been meant to make our day-to-day tasks easier. And while it’s obvious that smartphones, computers, and social networks have greatly enhanced our lives, you can’t ignore the physical effects and and anti-social behavior that have accompanied these modern trappings.
Of course, you can change your tech tune at any time, but the New Year is an excellent opportunity to reset your ways. So should bad tech habits be forgot, and never brought to mind? Here’s some tech resolutions to consider…and auld lang syne.
No Smartphones While Eating
If you have a teenager, this one’s a no-brainer, but even if you’re childless, it’s a good rule to live by. Firstly, no one wants to see photos of every meal you eat on Instagram. But more importantly, in a time where we all feel stretched thin and barely have a moment to ourselves, setting the phone down at mealtimes assures that you have at least a few minutes to collect your thoughts.
If it feels forced, try taking baby steps — instead of mindlessly devouring Twitter with your lunch, read a book (but not an e-book).
Turn Off Push Notifications
At this stage of Android’s and iOS’s development, it’s hard to imagine mobile operating systems without the ability to throw alerts at us every three minutes, but that was the norm back in the day. Heck, the original iPhone didn’t even have third-party apps.
Retake control of your apps and your attention span by turning off all your push notifications — every badge, alert, and banner. Then, once you realize if you’ve actually been missing particular apps’ updates, turn them back on one at a time.
Turn on Find My iPhone
This resolution is easy — all it takes is a swipe, some taps, and inserting your password. And even better, there’s no reason for you not to have this smartphone-saving tool operating in the background. Okay, well there are suspicions that Apple’s iCloud service was at the center of the massive celebrity photo hack this past year, but 1.) those were highly targeted attacks, 2.) you are (probably) not a celebrity, and 3.) Apple has since beefed up its login security, making it even safer to use iCloud. So when you do indeed lose your iPhone, whether it’s under a couch cushion or at a crowded bar, you’ll be able to track it down.
There are as many reasons to go paperless as there are trees in the forest, but here’s one that may hit home with you: Collecting various scraps is just plain overwhelming. This step-by-step walks through exactly what you need to de-ink your life.
But if you want to tackle going paperless with your smartphone, Scanbot is an excellent Android and iOS app that turns paper into PDFs, ready to store in the cloud or on your device. If you’re worried about receipts for your taxes, check out Wave Receipts, a free iPhone-only solution that scans and categorizes your sales slips.
Don’t Drive Distracted
In 2015, 44 states will ticket you for sending texts while driving and 14 will bust you for just holding your phone in your hand. Even if you’re not in one of those states, you’re still playing it fast and loose with safety. In 2012 (the last year they were tabulated), 421,000 people were injured in distracted driving accidents, and you may not care if you’re one of them, but you have an obligation towards everyone you share the road with.
Put the phone down, and keep your eyes up. And if you need to be connected, pick up a Bluetooth headset. The Jawbone Era works great, won’t make you look like a cyborg, and will only set you back $99 — which is about $300 less than a ticket.
Take Your TV Out of the Bedroom
Did you catch last night’s episode of Homeland? I know, right? Mind. Blowing. But watching it at 10 p.m. on Sunday night might be the worst thing you can do — not just for your 8 a.m. conference call, but for your health. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, late night shows contribute to chronic sleep debt. Getting fewer than seven hours of sleep is associated with increased obesity, morbidity and mortality, and for as many as 40% of Americans, this is their reality.
And don’t even think of putting a TV in the kid’s room. Research has shown that placing a television in there will cause your children to gain weight even beyond screen time. Disrupted sleep patterns are the culprit here, too — so keep it in the family room.
Use A Password Manager
Sure, using one password for everything makes your login info much easier to remember, but it also makes it amazingly simple to hack all of your accounts. Easier still — not remembering any passwords. Password managing apps like 1Password and LastPass make this possible by helping you to replace your standard “Kittens123!” password with strong strings of random characters, numbers, and symbols. Then, when you need to log in to a service, just pull up their mobile or computer-based apps (or easier still, use their browser plugins) to insert the login information.
It’s all protected behind one passcode to log into the app, but if you really want to go password-free, set up your mobile apps with Touch ID on your iPhone or iPad, and you’re freed up to forget everything.
Back Up Three Different Ways
Of course you backup your computer regularly, but do you do it right? Three-way backups are the best way to ensure your data doesn’t get lost. The first, and easiest, way to backup your files is locally onto an external drive. On Windows 8, daily backups can be done easily by enabling File History, and on Macs it’s a feature called Time Machine.
But cloud backups are all the rage lately, and rightfully so, because if there’s a fire and your external drive gets torched, you’d be out of luck. So put your critical files online (and encrypting them is probably smart, too).
But the third way to backup is called off-site backups. Because if there’s something worse than a fire — like an earthquake — and your external drive is toast and everyone’s Internet connection is down, you’ll still need your files. So, once a month, make a copy of your external drive, and bring it over to your mother’s house to store it safely. Yes, this resolution requires more frequent visits to your mother — but consider that a bonus resolution.
Mind Your Ps and Qs (posts and quotes)
In 1864, the Great Emancipator Abraham Lincoln famously said, “The problem with Internet quotes is that you cant always depend on their accuracy.” Okay, you got me — he didn’t say that. But chances are you’ve posted equally bogus information on Facebook, like that Facebook Copyright post (not real), and some of the Ebola “news” stories that were floating around.
This year, resolve to stop spreading misinformation online — with more than half of Facebook and Twitter users getting news from the sites, it’s just an irresponsible thing to do. Lifehacker has an excellent step-by-step on how to determine if what you’re sharing is true. So, research before you repost.
Make Your Posts Pertinent
While we’re on the subject of social media, there’s a time and place for everything — except on Facebook, where it’s everything all at once. Younger, more tech-savvy users are already hip to using Friends Lists to block groups of people from posts en masse, and you should do it, too. (That’s why you think little Kevin is working so hard at college, Aunt Carol. His friends actually know him as the keg-stand champ of Sigma Nu.)
First, going through your Facebook friends and categorize people into various groups, like co-workers, high-school friends, baseball fans, whatever. You can then make pertinent posts only to the people who would be most interested in reading them. For instance, if there’s a fundraiser at your local church, post that to friends in your town, not to everyone on your list. And there’s another good reason for doing this — your second cousin who lives three states away has probably already blocked you because of all those fundraiser reminders you posted last year.