The Tech Getting Us Through Lockdown
January 03, 2021
Recently I was looking through the apps on my phone and decided to make judgement calls on which were actually improving my life and which were subtracting from it. We hear a lot today about tech, especially social media, being bad for our mental health, addictive, and generally a waste of time.
To keep things positive, I want to take stock of the apps and software that I genuinely feel have improved my life over the last difficult year that was 2020 rather than detract from it.
Nike Run Club
As lockdown descended upon us in March last year, myself and some friends all took up running to keep healthy while the gyms were shut and to blow off some steam from being cooped inside. Now I must admit that before lockdown, I had never run a 5km before in my entire life! Since starting running with NRC however, I’ve now run 5, 10, and even 20km distances and plan on taking things further in 2021. At first I just used the app to simply track my runs for distance and times. As I got more into running, I began exploring the different guided runs NRC offers and have found myself learning, improving, and most importantly staying engaged with running throughout the year. If you’re like me and not remotely a sporty person, I highly recommend you give it a go.
Running kinda sucks at first but you if stack the deck in your favour with the right gear, prep work, and keep at it for a week or two, you’ll reap a lot of physical and mental benefits. In the book ‘Born to Run’ they state that every time there has been a big increase in the number people participating in long-distance running, the country has been in a national crisis. First during the Great Depression, then in the early 70s following the Vietnam war and Cold war, and again after 9/11. I wonder did NRC see an increase in downloads during 2020?
I’ve always been a big proponent of Discord since stumbling upon it back in 2016. I’ve played my fair share of video games over the years but these days I mostly play to socialise with friends and colleagues online. I’ve tried many different solutions for comms including: in-game chat, Skype, Ventrilo, Xbox parties, PS parties etc. None of them come close to Discord in terms of ease-of-use, features sets, call quality, or pretty much anything I can think of. In my view, Discord is the de facto way to communicate via voice online.
I believe if it were allowed onto the console platforms, it would easily have a monopoly in the video game chat space. My hot take is that some day, Microsoft will buy the company and incorporate it into their Xbox/PC ecosystem and enter another nail into the coffin of the more stuck-in-the-mud console makers out there!
Anyway, in the context of lockdowns and being stuck inside for weeks and months on end, I found Discord to be a godsend. New groups of friends that don’t even game ended up making servers for us to hang out in and shoot the breeze. It helped us stay connected and up-to-date with one another, play some games, and have a bit of fun. If you and your friends are stuck in WhatsApp groups or organising Zoom calls, please do yourselves a big favour and get setup on Discord.
Apologies to the iOS users out there, but unfortunately this one is Android only!
To put it simply, Vanced is how the Youtube app should work. It’s the same smartphone Youtube application we’re all familiar with along with three very important differences. There’s no ads to skip through before watching any content, audio can be played in the background while using other apps or when the phone is locked, and there’s an option to have a mini floating player while using other apps.
If that sounds appealing to you, you can download the APK from vancedapp.com. For the best experience, I’d also recommend disabling the default Youtube app that comes installed with your flavour of Android and configuring Youtube links to now open in the Vanced app.