Use your phone to call somebody, not just to read coronavirus news

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This week has felt like a year. One thing I’ve been thinking about is how most stories in tech — heck most news stories in general — tend to have a much shorter half-life these days than they used to. Remember how T-Mobile is buying Sprint and how the legal hurdles are almost all fully cleared? It’s a gigantic realignment of the entire mobile industry and it has zinged by. Hell — there was an impeachment trial this year and it feels like ancient history.

We’ve become used to stories lasting a day or two and having weirdly little immediate impact on our lives even when they’re hugely important. Here’s another tech example: Huawei is still unable to use Google software or sell phones and networking equipment here.

That changes a lot. Beyond what phones you can buy, it will alter the price and access of rural wireless service, has national security and trade implications, and could eventually change the way Google builds Android itself. You can’t think about it every day, even if you’re into tech, so you just kind of dip in and out of the story when there’s a new development.

But the coronavirus is different — it refuses to get turned over in the news cycle and the effects are everywhere every day. It is frankly exhausting. I have a tiny piece of advice, then: as the news comes in, you should read it with a different state of mind than your usual news consumption. This isn’t a Twitter trend that will be forgotten next week. As you consume news on your phone, think about the longer timeframe this story occupies and your place in it as a human with friends, family, and fellow citizens.

Consider taking another pass on your breaking-news notification settings. We are all desperate for more information that will put this entire thing in context, help us wrap our heads around it and know what to do next. But it’s okay to turn off some push alerts and instead choose when to read the news yourself instead of letting it pop up on your phone unbidden. Trust me: you’re not going to forget to look for what’s new.

And if that means that the next time you look at your lockscreen it’s a little barren of new information, that’s okay. Use that moment to open your phone and check in with a loved one or a friend. It’s a phone, after all — it was originally designed to help you communicate with people you know.

As for me, I’m going to keep on writing about gadget news and computers in this newsletter and probably just a little less about the pandemic. 

Because there will still be new product launches, new software updates, and new ways regulators will propose changing your digital life. Some of those stories will be directly related to the coronavirus — I’m very interested to see how this summer’s “virtual” developer conferences are going to work, for example.

Many others won’t be, and that’s okay too. It’s okay to continue being interested in things like gadgets and tech even during a pandemic. More than okay, it’s important to keep paying attention to the rest of life. Monica puts it better:

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