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BY REGINA BOYLE WHEELER
For the foreseeable future, the COVID-19 pandemic is drastically changing the way we live. Public health officials continue their urgent calls for social distancing as this physical separation between you and other people is currently one of the most effective ways to slow the spread of the virus and ease the mounting burden on the health care system. So, in these uncertain times, just when we need each other the most, we’re urged to keep our distance.
Even as schools, businesses, churches, and seemingly everything shuts down, staying connected is vital—even while we hunker down at home.
Make virtual connections
Thanks to 21st-century technology, connecting to others from a distance is easier than ever.
- Use Skype, Zoom or other video conferencing platforms to have coffee or happy hour “with” friends or “lunch” with co-workers who are working from home. Host a virtual book club or card game.
- Start a family group text and share jokes, news or videos of your silly dog.
- Use FaceTime or similar video chat apps on your smartphone to virtually visit family or friends who live just around the corner, or on the other side of the world.
- If you have a Chrome browser on a desktop or laptop computer, use Netflix Party to watch movies and shows with your friends simultaneously. Use the group chat function so you can talk about what you’re seeing as if you were in the same room.
- Since most gyms are closed, many are offering free resources for people who want to continue their workouts virtually. Fitness chain Planet Fitness is live streaming free 20-minute “work ins” via Facebook at 7 p.m. ET daily.
- Your religious life can be an even greater source of support now. Many religious institutions are offering either live-streamed services or taped versions. Check your organization’s website or Facebook page.
Take advantage of social media
In times like these, social media platforms can not only help you help others but also help you feel connected to the world around you.
- Set up a neighbourhood Facebook or Nextdoor group so neighbors can post notices, share resources or alert others to someone who’s in need. Nextdoor has launched Help Map so neighbors can locate those who need food or supplies and people who are willing to pitch in.
- Storytime is online too. Check out the Storyline Online YouTube channel. It features a variety of celebrities reading kids’ books.
- Join Pinterest to find new recipes to make for your family or search for DIY projects to improve your home.
- Check out #quarantinelife or #socialdistancing on Twitter to see how other people around the world are spending their time and connecting. Search for other hashtags that interest you.
There are also low-tech ways that can help. Write letters, send care packages, pictures and the like, suggests Kozlov. “Not everyone has access to technology, so make sure you’re finding ways to send ‘mood boosts’ to those who don’t have access,” she says.
Older people, especially those with underlying health conditions, are at higher risk of complications if they get COVID-19. For their safety, nursing homes and long-term care facilities are tightly restricting or banning visitation. This is the same population that might not have access to technology and are at risk of social isolation, Kozlov says. So “old school” solutions like sending a card or making a phone call can really brighten their day.
Wondering if you could be exposed to COVID-19 through contaminated mail or packages? It’s very unlikely.
The chances of being infected by letters or boxes that have been “moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature” is low, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adds that “In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.”
That said, frequent handwashing, including after receiving and opening mail, is one of the best ways to reduce your risk for infection.
Bond with your pet
Your pet is an important social connection and can be a stress reliever, too. A 2019 study published in AERA Open found that even a brief time interacting with pets can help lower stress. Researchers divided about 250 college students into four groups: one petted cats and dogs for 10 minutes; one watched the activity; a third simply viewed a slideshow of the animals; and the fourth didn’t touch or view the animals at all. They found that the hands-on petters had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their saliva than the other three groups.
Important to note: The CDC recommends restricting contact with pets if you get COVID-19 because the risk of transmission between humans and animals is not yet well understood.
Take a breather
Go outside for walks, exercise, fresh air and sunshine, if allowed in your community. You can pass people on the street (maintaining the safe six-foot distance) and wave hello and exchange a smile or a few pleasantries.
“The videos of people in Italy singing out their windows is so moving, and people in my neighborhood have taken to standing on their front steps at 5 pm and singing ‘We Are the Champions’ together,” Kozlov says. “This is a great way to feel like you are part of something bigger.”
That underscores the idea that social distancing can be reframed as an act of social cohesiveness. If we all do this, we’re protecting ourselves and others as well, Kozlov says.
She encourages people to adjust their thinking about this trying time in another way, too.
“Take this time and try to think of it as something other than ‘the time the country shut down.’ Maybe it can also be ‘the time I learned a new skill, the time I read all the books I’ve been meaning to read, the time I watched all the classic movies, the time I reached out to old friends and cultivated our relationships,’ etc. We are all very much in this together, so find your community (from a distance) and try to support one another.”
Edited for ILSTV
Just months after the first iPhone was released in 2007, Nir Eyal and some of his Stanford classmates were part of a project creating apps that would be advertised and sold via Facebook.
This was before the app store existed and at a time when Facebook was open to third-party app developers.
The goal of the project was to learn about the psychology of Facebook and what drew people to it — or away from it.
Eyal served as the CEO of the business and within months the apps created by the class had 16 million users and they’d generated more than $1 million US in ad revenue. They understood how to design to create dependence.
While people may talk about being addicted to their phones or to social media, the reality is that they are dependent on those products because they’re designed that way.
Those products are designed to get you hooked.
Creating the habit
The group at Stanford, informally known as “The Facebook Class,” went on to work at Silicon Valley giants like Facebook and Google.
Eyal teaches, consults and writes about the intersection of psychology, business and technology. He’s the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.
“Of course these devices and apps are hacking our attention. That’s what they’re designed to do,” Eyal told Day 6 host Brent Bambury.
He says that five years ago, even he was hooked.
“I would check my phone when I meant to be with my daughter. I would check my phone when I meant to do a project at work. I would check my phone just for any old reason,” said Eyal. “And that actually caused me to reconsider my relationship with distraction.”
Eyal uses an example from the behavioural work of psychologist B. F. Skinner to explain how devices and apps are designed to become habit-forming.
Skinner taught pigeons to tap a disc in order to get a pellet of food. The food was their reward.
Eventually, Skinner changed the pattern so that the pigeons would get their rewards inconsistently. The birds might tap the disc but would not always get a food pellet.
“What Skinner observed was that the rate of response the number of times the pigeons pecked at the disc increased when the reward was given on a variable schedule of reinforcement,” explained Eyal.
“We see the same, what we call intermittent rewards, in all sorts of things. It’s what makes gambling so engaging. It’s what makes the news interesting,” he said. “It’s what you don’t already know.”
The same desire for intermittent reward apply to books, movies and sports – the outcome is unpredictable.
“And of course, it’s at the core of many habit forming products online like social media, email, Google searches. All of these things utilize an intermittent reinforcement.”
That unpredictability is why users keep checking Facebook and Twitter and Instagram – will there be any likes? Will there be any retweets? What’s trending?
Sounding the alarm
Chamath Palihapitiya was a Facebook executive in the company’s earlier years. Today he’s a venture capitalist and a critic of social media.
In a talk at Stanford University in late 2017, Palihapitiya acknowledged that while it wasn’t intentional by Facebook executives, “I think in the back of the deep, deep recesses of our minds we kind of knew that something bad could happen.”
READ FULL ARTICLE AT CBC NEWS
Toronto, ON — Online shopping has afforded consumers the luxury of shopping around the clock, but how many professionals take advantage by shopping on the clock during the holidays? Nearly two in five Canadian employees (38 per cent) will be “workshopping” — shopping online from the office or when using corporate devices — according to a new survey from staffing firm Robert Half Technology. Of those respondents, 21 per cent admitted that looking for cyber deals hinders their on-the-job productivity.
Even though 76 per cent of technology leaders said their firm allows for it, more than half (55 per cent) prefer employees avoid shopping online during business hours or while using a company device. Security risks (62 per cent) and loss of productivity (30 per cent) are the top “workshopping” concerns among tech managers.
“Between planning for the holidays, fitting in social obligations and wrapping up major projects, year-end can be a stressful time for workers,” said Deborah Bottineau, district director for Robert Half Technology. “Online shopping during the workday can be a helpful way to manage to-do lists and alleviate some of the pressures of the season.”
“Tech leaders should anticipate an increase in online shopping this time of year and make a proactive effort to refresh and communicate IT security policies with their teams,” added Bottineau. “Ensuring employees limit their browsing time and understand safe online practices can mitigate potential risks to the organization and help staff stay productive both at and outside of work.”
- Workers ages 18 to 34 (47 per cent) are the most likely to “workshop,” compared to 38 per cent of workers ages 35 to 54 and 17 per cent of workers 55 and older.
- Forty-four per cent of all “workshoppers” say they’ll spend under 30 minutes per week shopping from work during the holiday season, while 38 per cent will spend up to an hour per week “workshopping.”
- Thirty-nine per cent say they like to “workshop” just about any day; 22 per cent say Cyber Monday is their favourite day to “workshop,” followed by Amazon Prime Day (16 per cent).
About the Research
The online surveys were developed by Robert Half Technology and conducted by independent research firms. They include responses from more than 500 workers 18 years of age or older and employed in office environments and more than 270 IT decision makers in Canada.
About Robert Half Technology
With more than 100 locations worldwide, Robert Half Technology is a leading provider of technology professionals for initiatives ranging from web development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support. Robert Half Technology offers online job search services at roberthalf.ca/technology