Five things about media and technology right now

1. The Gawker vs. BuzzFeed battle is like those movies where Godzilla fights another monster. Sure, you can root for one of them, but in the end a city is still destroyed.

2. You can’t convince me we’re in a “golden age of television” when Monday’s episode of The Bachelor was three hours long.

3. I remember the days before the web when I would be eating dinner and wishing I could take a picture of it and share it with 900 people I kind of know.

4. If you’re wondering when clicks/traffic became the most important thing, it was around the time “writing” became “content.”

5. Nobody cares if you leave social media.

Yes, I still need a landline

Over at Jim Romenesko’s media blog, Jim has a post titled “You Still Need A Landline? Really!?” Note the exclamation point and question mark combo that signifies utter confusion and surprise. It’s on a story about a new Pew Research Center poll conducted about what technology people would miss the most if they had to give it up (you can see the chart at the link above). Most people will miss the Internet, cell phones, and television, which seems reasonable. But there are many who would miss their landlines too.

Yes, I still need a landline, and I bet you do too, even if you don’t realize it.

The reasons are all the reasons that people are giving in Jim’s comment section and on his Facebook page: a lot of rural communities don’t have cell towers, your cell loses battery power, there isn’t a strong signal, towers going out during storms, long conversations aren’t comfortable. And to that list I would add you don’t have to worry about minutes or various other charges, you don’t get charged for certain incoming calls or texts, there’s more privacy, and local 911 works better.

I have never, ever, not once, had a cell phone conversation that was 100% glitch-free. The call was either interrupted, filled with static, or at the very least an odd one second delay in our responses. As for landlines, I can’t remember the last time I had any problem with them.

The funny thing is, I see a lot of people using their cell phones but many of them aren’t even using them as phones anymore. It’s all texting and posting on Facebook/Twitter (which means the comfort reason above won’t make sense to people who don’t actually, you know, talk on the phone). In 50 years we’re going to be a race of people with giant thumbs but the inability to speak complete sentences.

I remember the first phone we had when I was a kid, a classic black rotary phone that must have weighed about 5 pounds (if we had thrown it against the wall it would have put a hole in it – try that will your cell). We had to rent it from the phone company. We had one phone in the house, and it was on top of one of the tables in the corner of the kitchen, next to the fridge and the spice rack. If we wanted to talk on the phone we had to actually come downstairs, sit in the chair and talk right there in the kitchen. No roaming around the house or taking the call in our bedrooms or in the living room.

Teens and twentysomethings are reading that last paragraph and shaking their heads at how barbaric those times must have been. Yes, it was a sad time when we couldn’t play with birds that were angry or even snap pics of our food and post them for all the world to see.

I’ve told this story before: a friend of mine was going to be interviewed on the air by NPR over the phone. Because they’re so unreliable, NPR (and others) don’t allow people to use their cell phones. So he had to go on Facebook and actually ask people who lived in New York City if anyone had a landline he could use for the interview.

Will cell phones be as solid/reliable as landlines one day? Maybe. Probably. But who knows. You’d think they’d have the technology down by now. (It seems most people will happily give up quality for convenience.) I want to live in a world where we have both landlines and cells.

I know several people who have completely ditched their landlines and rely only on their cells now (a story I read said that over 50% of people don’t have a landline or have one and never use it). Which means they’re always reachable now. How is this a good thing? They’re no separation anymore between the “connected” part of our lives and the “unreachable” part of our lives. And I wonder how many of those people have lost their phone, had it stolen, or dropped it in the toilet or on the floor?

Hey, cell phones are great. Great for emergencies, convenient, and from the conversations I overhear as I’m shopping at the supermarket, they’re especially great for when husbands have to call their wives and ask “What was the name of that thing you wanted again? Hello? I can’t hear you. What?

So it’s good that some people still use their landlines. I am worried though about the number of people who say they’d miss social media, though I guess there’s some comfort in the fact that it was last on the list at 10%. I thought it would be a lot more. Hashtag relieved.

Monday

If you checked the site over the weekend you may have noticed that I changed the template drastically. If you’re just checking the site again after several days away you don’t notice any change at all. And if you’re reading this in the archives a year from now when the design has probably changed yet again you have absolutely no idea what this current design is anyway so forget I mentioned anything.

I changed it back to what I had before. The new design was too…something. Solid but dull. I usually choose traditional over funky, personal over a business look, the classic over the colorful. Translation: I like a lot of black and white, so it almost looks like print.

Good weekend. Ordinary weekend. Went to the supermarket, which isn’t a surprise because I seem to go to the supermarket at least 4 or 5 days a week. I still don’t know how this is possible. I don’t have four kids, I’m not buying enough supplies to put in my bomb shelter for the apocalypse, and I don’t even forget to buy something the first trip, forcing me to go back. I just need to go to the supermarket four or five times a week, every single week.

Other than that, the weekend was spent working on Letter #5 (it will be in your mailboxes at the end of the week). Oh, and also dealing with the thing I hinted at last time. I don’t mean to be coy (he said, coyly), it’s just something that I’m writing about in that Letter and I don’t want to repeat it here (trying not to repeat anything in both places). I talk about things in the Letter that you won’t even know about here.

Solution? Subscribe!

Oh, one more thing from this weekend: the Olympics ended. I think I watched maybe 4 minutes total. Just no interest in skiing or figure skating or bobsledding (though I probably should since you don’t see many sporting events with your name in them). It also knocked The Blacklist off the schedule for a couple of weeks, which took work away from me (I’m reviewing it every week for Vulture.com). Review of tonight’s episode will be up tomorrow morning here.

I’d write more, but I have to go to the store again.

Completely Random

1. As I’ve mentioned on this site approximately 744 times, I love winter. I love the cold. I love snow. But enough is enough. I usually get sick of it around the beginning of March, but this year it has gotten to me a couple weeks earlier. Snow is beautiful until it stays on the side of the road for weeks on end, getting all black from dirt and street grime, filled with candy wrappers and soda cans. Last week there was a giant icicle hanging from the roof, ready to fall off and impale someone a la the metal pole getting the priest in The Omen.

2. Things we no longer need to see on local news: stories about how sitting at your desk could kill you, photos of snow-covered patio furniture, viral videos, commercials for what the same exact channel is going to have on the news the very next morning (the same stories you’re watching now), what Justin Bieber is up to, the newest Apple product release, movie box office results.

3. People in cottage cheese commercials seem so happy, like they don’t even realize what they’re eating is disgusting.

Even in the 50s it wasn’t that appetizing. In a sandwich? With maple syrup?? I guess anything that covers up the actual cottage cheese is better than eating it plain.

4. I like writing with paper and pen, drinking tea, staying in on Friday nights, reading cooking magazines, and watching black and white movies on TCM. Apparently I’m a 71 year-old grandmother who likes to knit. All that’s missing is a cat.

5. The February Letter is coming next week. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you should! Get two! Send one to a friend!

6. “Reality television” is usually neither.

Shampoo and Pretzels

I have two stories to tell you. One is short and lighthearted and completely trivial and one is really long and involves one of the worst things that has ever happened to me. Can you guess which is which from the title of this post?

I’ll tell you the lighthearted one, which involves the shampoo (want to hear the pretzel story? You’ll have to subscribe to The Letter!)

Question: is it possible to not know that you’re washing your hair every single day for four months not with shampoo but with something else? I’m here to tell you from personal experience that yes, it is entirely possible.

I fill a small travel bottle with shampoo, so I don’t have to keep a large container of shampoo in my shower all the time (limited space). I fill it every month and a half or so and today was one of those sos. As I was pouring the shampoo into the plastic bottle today, I noticed something interesting. It wasn’t shampoo. It was body wash. I looked on the shelf to see if I had grabbed the wrong thing, but there were no other bottles on the shelf. Sure, there were other bottles, but I’d know if I grabbed the Listerine or the shaving cream instead of my shampoo. This is the shampoo I’ve been using for the past four months. Guess I bought the wrong stuff at the supermarket. All those bottles with the fancy names and the confusing colors. I’ve been washing my hair with body wash every day since Halloween.

What I’ve discovered is that body wash can be used as shampoo – and vice versa – and you’ll probably never notice the difference. I guess this isn’t too surprising. I’ve used hand soap as shampoo before when I ran out of the latter (and I bet you have too). The moral of the story? I think a big chunk of the personal hygiene industry is lying to us, every single morning.