Is Video Better than a Call?

Why does graduate student resist a voice call?

This is a black and white photo of  Pittsburgh Mayor Peter Flaherty at the first public demonstration of the Picturephone on June 30, 1970. AT&T Archives & History Center
PIcturephone, 1970 (AT&T Archives)

Dear Smartphone: I teach graduate students and now do so over a virtual classroom. Over the summer, one of my students has to finish a paper and then look for a job in this country. He checks in with me once a week. I can’t figure out why he insists  on using Zoom video for these meetings instead of a voice call. We are not sharing documents or anything like that. Dieter, Berkeley


Dear Dieter: I believe you have identified a generational trend. Over the past three or four years, live video has grown in use. One data source says one-fourth of young people in the US video chat on a daily basis. During the pandemic it has became even more mainstream.

Your student probably finds a loss of ‘information’ when the visual channel is absent. You, on the other hand, may find it burdensome, or at least cognitively challenging to have both voice and video merged, particularly if the video quality is poor. Younger people seem to be more forgiving of asynchronous talk and fuzzy pictures. 

SEE The PICTUREPHONE!

A while back I posted a snapshot of the AT&T picturephone to Instagram. I was surprised how many young people did not know about this invention. They were shocked that it took more than 50 years to become mainstream because it seemed so natural! Picturephone service was costly and the technology was well ahead of its time as the video demands fast data speeds, like 5G. Here is a link to its debut.

Back then, most people never used a Picturephone but it was the butt of jokes about the need to take out the hair curlers, get a shave, etc. Today, we makeup similar stories about having an extra “zoom shirt”  on the back of the chair for that impromptu meeting online.

SEE THE CHANGES!

Our devices, and habits, are continually updating. I have an older friend who remembers when her well-to-do grandparents first allowed a phone in their home. The ring-ring was considered to be an interruption, so the butler answered for the householder. A similar protocol evolved in offices, where assistants screened incoming calls. The invention of  caller ID and the answering machine minimized their role, and then, mobile phones ushered in the era of text.

If your student wants to use both voice and image, it could be because they have grown accustomed to distance education via Zoom. Or, if they are from overseas, they may be used to calling back home with video through an Internet connection on Facetime or Skype. These platforms work over the Internet and there are no phone charges. 

If you don’t want to video with the student, hopefully you will be back in your (IRL) classroom soon. 

Need Bluelight Glasses?

Do I need blue light glasses? How do I separate fatigue from facts?

This is a stamdard chart showing the electromagnetic spectrum wavelength. Humans perceive visible light as colors because of these different wavelengths.
Will glasses block the blue light?

Dear Ms. Smartphone: I saw my gorgeous daughter-in-law for the first time since the lockdown, and was surprised she now wore glasses. When I asked, it turns out these are not prescription glasses, just a frame with special lenses to filter out “blue light”  from the computer screen. This is all new to me.  Is it useful and should an older person, like me, be filtering the blue light too? Esther, Corinthian Island

Dear Esther: Chances are that your daughter-in-law spends a lot of time on the computer now that the office is closed and business is conducted remotely. Until the lockdown, office workers could break-up their screen time with in-person meetings, voice phone calls, and a beverage break. Now, it is straining on the eyes (and well being) to focus on a single screen, or multiple ones, for eight to ten hours a day. It’s  hard to sort out the effects of general eye fatigue from the specific effects of blue light.

Citing from a Harvard Health report, blue light is visible light with a wave length between 400 and 450 nanometers. LED displays and specifically the backlight displays on smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers look “white” but they are emitting blue light. These high wave lengths have more energy per photon of light than other colors so at high enough doses, they could cause damage when absorbed by various cells in our body.

As more computer users worry about their eyes and clamor to get protective eye gear, others claim that this is just aggressive marketing and up-selling. Many medical experts refute the claims. I encourage you to read up more and try to sort it out.

Smartphone Display

That said, why not check-out what’s baked into your own smartphone? There has been a different, but related concern: blue light from phones interferes with the circadian clock, that is adaption between night and day.

On your iphone or ipad filter out blue light by going to the Display and Brightness screen, and then tapping the Night Shift setting. On an Android look in Settings>Display>Blue Light filter.  To further protect, consider getting a special screen protector for your computer and smartphone – it will block light in the 380-500 nanometer range throughout the day (not just night). 

Age Spectrum…Light Spectrum

I have an interesting anecdote to pass on. When I last visited my ophthalmologist in 2019, the clinician told me she was seeing more young children with vision problems. She encourage me, a.k.a. Dear Smartphone,  to tell parents to withhold Ipads and phones from kids.  BTW,  blue light effects are not confined to young people and office workers. It is thought that it might hasten macular degeneration in older folks. Note that for every research study pointing in one direction, there seems to be refutable evidence in the other. But, if you liked the fit and look of your daughter-in-law’s glasses, why not try a second pair?


Post A Snapchat Birthday?

Mom wants to be a good sport and post Happy Birthday on Snapchat.

This is a yellow birthday cake with the logo of Snapchat on the top, where the candles would normally be. The images was posted on Pinterest.
Pinterist…Sweet Sister Cakes

Dear Ms. Smartphone: When I asked my older daughter how to surprise my younger daughter for her birthday, she suggested that I make a card for her on Snapchat. I didn’t know that the girls  were using Snapchat, and now I don’t know how to make this card! What do you advise? Samantha, San Francisco

Dear Samantha: First, I assume your daughters are age 13 and older and Snapchat does not produce “cards” like Hallmark!  The intricacies to post and send make it the province of those under age 25. Put it this way, if you and I can figure out how to navigate Facebook or Instagram, we are probably not the audience Snapchat wants to attract.  That is, unless we are corporate sponsors or advertisers. 

The ‘cards’ that your daughter suggest might be “homemade” filters and stickers- upgrade options you customize on Snapchat, but for a fee. The fee is based on ‘Time’ X ‘Reach’. Sorry, calculating that is beyond DearSmartphone’s playgrade (!sp!)

But, the learning curve for making a post and having it come out as you planned could be fairly steep. That’s because the gesturing is different than in other apps, and features are hidden from plain view. But, again, that’s the point! said this Time reporter, when it first launched. New features were added to the platform this summer.

Ephemeral

I hunch that your daughters will get a big chuckle circulating Mom’s home-made birthday Snap to their regular friends. But your photos and short videos are  “alive” for only 24 hours and then they disappear. So, unless you “pay to play” with the filters, you do not have to worry about making a permanent mistake; the content is ephemeral. 

The simplest thing may be to take a mug or video of you with other family members , add stock (no fee) stickers and filters and then post or share. Here are “educational”  videos about making a birthday greeting on Snapchat . Watch at your own risk! Maybe your older daughter and her friends will continue to make more celebratory stories with you (although I doubt it). If not, remember to close your account!

Birthday Gift…

Have you thought about the cake and an alternative birthday gift? You could give your daughter a few stock shares in Snapchat and in so doing, link her  between the virtual world and the real one.  When the stock did its Initial Public Offering back in 2018 it opened at $17.00 per share. Today (June 12) the shares are only  $20.18. So maybe your daughter, the stock, this platform, and this new reality platform will all reach maturity together!  Happy augmented birthday.