I genuinely appreciated a few of you reaching out last week, both in the comments here on my dusty little website and on my purposefully neglected Facebook page, sharing your own methods on how to use social media for good. It seems that several of you have carefully crafted parameters that allow you to wield the unsettlingly awesome powers of online interaction in order to make the world a better place, and I for one would like to applaud your efforts.
In fact, I’ll do that now.
I’m back. I did it. (You can trust me.)
I did literally do it, because I try to be someone who does what he says he will do. Yes, I felt silly. Yes, I did give you a standing ovation. Why? Because, why not not? If applause is good, standing and applauding is better. We all decided that at some point back in the forgotten mists of Long Ago, and by golly, we’ve all been agreeing to it pretty much every time we go see a play or a musical or a speech that isn’t actively awful. Why should I be the one to buck centuries of storied tradition?
Now, let’s move past the part where I just stood and gave a solo standing ovation alone in my apartment.
The point is, I am sincerely gladdened to learn that many of us, in these tiringly terrible times, are endeavoring to use our smartphones to make others and ourselves more peppy, more present, and more positive, and so, here is a Part Two to last week’s essay. In it, I share with you another way I have found of making certain the time I spend in the eerily incandescent light of my smartphone’s shining screen is time well spent, and not time unprofitably, irresponsibly, and irretrievably frittered away. After all, no one knows how long one’s life will be. Let us use our time well.
[I have a lot of thoughts on this subject, so, fair warning, this will be be an ongoing series.]
We begin by abandoning the topic of social media completely. Let us consider that case closed, though there is, of course, much more we could (and may yet) say. Instead, let’s talk about how to turn our smartphones…into a library.
The world is wide, my friends, and full of wonders. And yet, it is easy to forget this. Realize that your smartphone (yes, your smartphone) is a window, a book, and a speaker system connecting you to almost any sight ever filmed, story ever typed, or sound ever recorded. We all know this, and yet we insist on wandering about like fact-starved fools, blindly accepting only the paltry offerings we find drifting down the electric rivers of our media feeds as though we are content with these soggy scraps. Know that there is a feast out there, my friends, if only we will seek it out.
Let us feast.
Allow me to introduce you to the OverDrive app. This marvelous app, free to download, connects your device to your library account. Libraries, you see, still exist in their traditional, seemingly antiquated state, offering old-fashioned books, films, and recordings; however, most now also offer, free to their members, digital collections of books, audiobooks, and (some) videos. Simply download this app and plug in the numbers on that library card you still have gathering dust in a drawer somewhere, and presto!
You can either download books straight to your phone or tablet, or you can link the system up with a Kindle, if you are the sort of person who owns a Kindle. I happen to be one of those sorts of people. I love old-fashioned books, but I travel a lot. And, books are heavy. So, why choose between the old ways or the new? Do both, I say! Pack a book and a Kindle.
I particularly love that OverDrive allows you to download audiobooks for free for the normal amount of time you would check something out from the library-- say, two weeks. This is especially useful considering the long commutes my job requires. Nothing helps pass time stuck in traffic so profitably and so enjoyably as a well-produced (free!) audiobook. Friends of mine swear by Audible, a paid service that provides audiobooks, but I say, why spend money when you don’t have to spend money?
I trust you will agree.
The only “downside” to OverDrive is that digital library collections are designed to mimic how a library only has a limited number of copies of a given work. Therefore, there are only so many “copies” of each digital book or audiobook. Often, an item will already be “checked out” and you have to go on a waiting list. Also, your local library probably doesn’t have every digital book out there, just like they don’t have a copy of every physical book ever printed. This can be an annoyance occasionally, but the app will send you an email when a book becomes available. I have found that by signing up for a lot of wait lists, books stagger in seemingly of their own happy accord.
It’s kind of like sending free gifts to Future You.
“Hey, You! I mean...Me! Here is a digital copy of that book you really liked at Barnes & Noblem, but now you can keep your 25 dollars. You’re welcome, Future Me!”
And yes, even if you are not the sort of gadget-and-gizmo-loving person who has a Kindle, know that you can download books onto your phone. Then, you can read them whenever you end up stuck waiting in a car for that late friend of yours, or when you are pointlessly standing in line, or when you just really need something good to read. Having back-up books on my phone has made me a genuinely better person, because, whilst I might otherwise waste that time scrolling and trolling, instead I now read.
I recommend it.
Reading is amazing.
And, please, feel dangerously free to join me next week for Part 3, in which I will cover several other ways to “life hack” your smartphone.
In the meantime, stay safe, everybody. My love to you all.