Smartphones and Opinions

Although I’m the type of person that usually despises doing something on a smartphone or tablet when it could be more efficiently and more easily done using a computer, I think it’s pertinent to inform you that I am currently writing this post from my brand new iPhone 6. There, it’s out there, I’m an Apple user. I’ll put a break in the text here for those of you who need a moment to process this.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, and before I get into the topic of this post, I feel obligated to defend myself for choosing a side in one of the most vitriolic and polarized debates of our time.
Here are some of the reasons I chose to get another iPhone:

  • I like the operating system, it’s familiar and I like knowing how to use my phone.
  • It comes in a pretty champagne color.
  • It interfaces nicely with my other apple devices.
  • I like it. That’s literally all that should matter.

Also, for those of you that care, I owned Droid before I ever had an iPhone, so I’ve tried both and made a decision based on my experiences and numerous online reviews and comparisons.

Tangential rambling out of the way, I’d like to discuss a question that’s been bothering me for a while: Why the heck are people so concerned with what other people like, do, or spend their money on?
You have a Galaxy? Cool. That’s nice, that means your texts will show up on my phone in green speech bubbles rather than blue. You have an iPhone 6+? Why do you need a phone that big? But, good for you and remember not to put it in your back pocket. You have a Nokia brick phone from the Stone Age? You’re probably gonna survive the zombie apocalypse. Also what’s your high score on Snake? I secretly admire and envy your ability to exist untethered to the omnipresent force known as 3G.
This unnecessary concern with other people’s lives extends far beyond phones. I recently read an article enumerating why adults shouldn’t be reading young adult fiction, which frankly, left me at a loss for words. No human has the authority to tell someone what they can or can’t like. If you want to read the Fault in our Stars and watch the movie until you can recite it and buy all sorts of merchandise branded with the “Okay? Okay.” speech bubble thing, you can absolutely do that regardless of whether or not some snooty English professor approves. If you want to invest your time and money into watching makeup tutorials on YouTube and attempting to recreate Taylor Swift’s VMA smoky eye look, once again, 100% up to you. If you want to spend hundreds of hours recreating King’s Landing in Minecraft, by all means do so, and please share your server IP with me.

I’ve heard many complaints, from different people, all along the lines of “Why does she own so many pairs of shoes, who really wears that many different shoes?” or “Why would you spend so much on concert tickets” or my personal favorite “A new video game costs HOW MUCH?!?!” all of which are usually followed by some proposed “better use” for that money. After hearing enough of these criticisms, I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone has their thing that they spend time or money on, that most other people may not understand and will likely judge.  As long as you have that money to spend, and it’s not interfering with your ability to buy food or pay your rent, you should be free to spend it on whatever you like.

The fact that I bought an iPhone doesn’t make your Galaxy work any differently, it doesn’t mean that I think you should own an iPhone instead, it means that I liked one product better than it’s competition and decided to purchase that product. Likewise, a middle-aged woman reading Divergent is not bringing down the collective intelligence of our society, it’s a woman reading a book that she likes. Illegal, illicit, and morally questionable activities aside, I cannot fathom why anyone is so interested in what someone else enjoys or or purchases.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a new Assassin’s Creed game to buy. Just kidding, I need to buy gas instead.

Is dumping ice water on your head really helping?

By now, unless you’ve completely abstained from social media for the past two weeks, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge. The premise is simple: someone nominates you for this challenge, and you have the option of filming yourself dumping a bucket of ice water on your head, posting that video, and nominating three friends for the challenge, or not completing the challenge, and donating to the ALS foundation. There are variations of the challenge that specify amounts the nominee needs to donate if they choose not to do the challenge, and some that you have to donate if you do the challenge and donate more if you don’t.

In the wake of this trend, I’ve seen quite a bit of backlash complaining about the annoying videos, complaining about wasting water, or even, and I kid you not, complaining that this challenge is taking away from other charities. My major complaint is that these videos, while spreading awareness, are also spreading Vertical Video Syndrome. For the love of God people, please just record videos horizontally. Maybe because I’m a bit of a narcissist and I think the internet could benefit from my opinion, or maybe because I’ve convinced myself that people actually want to hear my opinion, I’ve decided to once again, use my blog as my own little soapbox, and pretend that people are listening. So here are my problems with the challenge:

  • How the heck do you donate?
    The vast majority of the challenges I’ve seen, contain a video (none of which I’ve actually watched, because I have no desire to watch people dumping water on themselves) and then a caption with some variation of “I’ve been nominated by [friend] for the ALS ice bucket challenge. I nominate friends X, Y, and Z. You have 24 hours to post your video or you have to donate.”
    Ok cool, but out of the dozens of videos from my friends alone, only ONE has posted a link of where to donate. Maybe put the two minutes of effort into finding out where to donate, because I think that people are much less likely to donate if they have to figure out where and how to donate themselves. If this really matters to you, find the link and make it easy for people to donate.
    Here’s the link for that.
  • Does anyone really know what ALS is?
    How many people are actually going to take the time to read about ALS and find out what it is? Two arguments can be made here. One is that even if one person takes the time to do the research and become more informed, that makes a difference. Alternatively, the argument can be made that it doesn’t really matter. Whether or not I understand what ALS is does not affect the research being done, or the value of a donation. Still, if I’m going to advocate or raise money for something, then I want to understand it and know how my money is going to be used.
    Here is a brief, concise explanation of ALS for those of us who don’t like squishy sciences.
    And another, slightly more in-depth look at ALS.
    To make things more tangible or more relatable, here’s an article about how one of the greatest minds of our generation has lived with ALS for nearly 50 years. (Let’s be real, I just wanted to talk about Stephen Hawking.)
  • You’ve been nominated.
    Maybe this is just me, but when I’m told that I have to give away money or pour ice on my head, my initial reaction is something along the lines of: “just try and make me.” I’ve always been a bit rebellious, and quite frankly, I don’t think anyone likes being told that they have to do one of two unpleasant things. I understand this is for charity, but I still don’t like being told what to do.

Time for a change of pace, let’s talk about the positive side of things.

  • Virality. 
    Think back to this past winter, when the Cold Water Challenge was making its rounds of the internet. Was there a cause attached to it? No. At least, not from my understanding, I mean, I didn’t watch those videos either. People jumped in cold water for the sake of jumping in cold water and it spread like wildfire. There’s an enjoyable aspect to doing something mildly unpleasant and then watching your friends do the same thing. This Ice Bucket Challenge is a fantastic use of something that will plague the internet anyway; I love that someone thought to use it as a vehicle to raise awareness.
    I’ve heard a lot of “just donate money, you don’t need to dump water on yourself.” Um no, dumping cold water on yourself is what makes this fun, shareable, and ultimately, viral. $15M doesn’t get raised by just donating money, it gets raised by giving people incentive, and making it fun and interactive.
  • Research funding.
    Remember the $15M I mentioned earlier? Yeah, that.
  • I got to see Henrik Lundqvist dump water on himself.
    This doesn’t need an explanation.

The undeniable fact is that this challenge is raising money and awareness. Anyone in the sciences can attest to the fact that money fuels research. No funding means no salaries for those doing the research, no lab equipment, no access to the necessary facilities. The truth of the matter is that science is incredibly expensive, and research needs funding.
Yes, there are people doing this just for the likes and the comments. Yes, the plague of vertically filmed video is spreading. Yes, this is getting slightly annoying. but you know what else is even more annoying? I would guess living with ALS.

To answer the question posited in the title: yes, dumping ice water on your head is really helping. Now if you would excuse me, I have been nominated, so I’m going to go find a bucket.