7 Ways To Deal With Social Media Withdrawal

Congratulations! You’ve finally decided to ditch your social media addiction. We’re sure you’re going to enjoy your life free of the pressures that social media can bring, but you might be feeling some residual urges. 

No habit is easy to drop overnight, so here are some things you can do to help quiet the urge to whip out that phone and overcome your social media withdrawal.

Have an Argument With Random Strangers

Without social media, how are you going to let people know how wrong they are? If you’re feeling the need to have an argument with a total stranger, why not head over to a local park or restaurant and listen in on other people having discussions?

That’s the perfect place to interrupt them with a “but actually” and explain both why they’re dumb and you’re right. Do note that people punch much harder in real life than online, but otherwise it’s really the same thing.

To really get the authentic experience, be sure to have your phone or (for more intimidation) an actual encyclopedia handy. You don’t have to follow your new debate partners if they decide to walk away. That’s a sign that you’ve won. Good job!

Stick Polaroids of Your Food on Bulletin Boards

What’s the point of even eating food if you can’t show people how great that food is first? If you’re feeling a little unsatisfied with your meals since getting off the ‘gram, why not invest in an instant Polaroid-style camera and pin those pictures on bulletin boards and other public places people are likely to see them. You can even hang around to hear their comments.

If you want to keep up your food photography hobby on a budget, you can hang around restaurants and ask people if you can take a quick snap of their food before you dig in.

Send People Inappropriate Mail

Have you spotted someone who strikes your fancy, but you can no longer slide into their DMs because you’ve given up on that? Don’t despair! You still have the option of writing a perfectly normal, creepy, inappropriate letter on paper. Put it in an envelope and literally slide it into their mailbox.

If you want to be really efficient, just make photocopies of the one letter and carpet bomb as many potential life partners with your solicitations as possible. After all, the more times you roll the dice, the more likely you are to hit the jackpot!

Buy a Megaphone

One sign of social media withdrawal is feeling a little lonely without the entire world hearing your every random thought. It turns out there’s a piece of technology that does pretty much the same thing. All you need to do is order a nice megaphone and then pick any street corner that looks comfortable. Somewhere with something to stand on to let your voice carry a bit better would be preferable.

This way you can shout any and all of your important opinions into the public domain. Letting the people of the world benefit from your unique take on current events. Even better, when the police do eventually show up, you’ll be on even footing with them as well, since your megaphone and their loudspeaker should be evenly matched.

Lurk in Public Places

Lurkers are a staple of social media. These odd folk like to watch and never participate in anything themselves. Believe it or not, lurking is actually a fine tradition that predates social media by, well, by a long time. So if you were a champion lurker online, you can keep practicing your hobby after kicking the digital habit. 

There are plenty of spots to lurk about. Bus stops, subways, in front of convenience stores, the list just goes on. Be sure to dress for the occasion so that everyone knows you’re not keen on interacting. Long trench coats are a classic, along with a cap and a pair of dark sunglasses. Skipping a few showers is an effective pro-tip as well.

Take a Magazine to Social Gatherings

Social media is the perfect way to ignore the people who are literally sitting at the table with you in favor of the comings and goings of people you’ve never met in real life. The good news is that shutting people in your immediate vicinity out by rudely ignoring them was an art before Twitter was a twinkle in Jack Dorsey’s eye.

All you need to do is pack a magazine or newspaper in your bag and whip it out in the middle of a conversation. In fact, this is way better than getting distracted by Twitter, since you don’t even have to make grunting noises to fake your listening. With your nose firmly stuck in the gossip column, there’s no way your “friends” won’t get the message loud and clear.

Buy an Anonymous Mask

One of the best things about social media is that you can choose to use a fake name and profile, letting you say and do what you want without anyone knowing who you really are. If you miss that anonymity, consider buying a meme-worthy mask featuring something like the iconic “Anonymous” mask. This is sure to let people know you don’t want them to know who you are. 

Don’t Actually Do Any Of This Stuff!

By now you’ve probably figured out that none of this is real advice! Isn’t it weird what sorts of behavior are perfectly OK online, but are undoubtedly creepy in real life? Social media is fine in moderation and if you use it in a healthy way, but the way it’s designed can also bring out the worst in people. 

If social media is making your life worse, rather than better, you really should consider cutting down or eliminating social media from your life. Resources such as the Addiction Center can help you recognize and deal with social media addiction and withdrawal, or the negative mental health consequences of social media abuse.

What Is PlayStation Plus? A Guide

The days of gaming consoles as standalone gaming machines is long behind us. Today, every modern console depends on being connected to a network of content and services. Subscriptions make up a large part of console companies’ business and PlayStation Plus is a pioneer of that model. 

If you’re thinking about getting a PlayStation or already have one, but are considering buying a PlayStation Plus, we’ve got all the information you need to decide whether the PlayStation Plus is for you.

So, What is PlayStation Plus?

In a nutshell, PlayStation Plus is a subscription service that you have to pay for over and above the cost of the console and the cost of individual video games. You can subscribe on a monthly, three-monthly or annual basis. The service becomes cheaper the more you pay upfront.

How Much Does PlayStation Plus Cost?

If you’ve never been a subscriber, you’ll get the first 14 days of PlayStation Plus for free. If you bought your console new, there’s also a good chance that there’s a voucher for a few months free included in the box, depending on the bundle you purchase. There are three options for the subscription:

  • 1 Month – $9.00
  • 3 Months – $24.99
  • 12 Months – $59.99

You can also buy prepaid cards, which are sometimes offered through third-party  sellers that run sales and discounts. This is a good opportunity to pick up a year’s worth of the service for less. Just be sure you’re buying the correct card for your region.

What Can I Do With PlayStation Plus?

If you choose to subscribe to PlayStation Plus, there are some features you get beyond the standard  experience.

The most important feature for most people is multiplayer gaming. If you want to play games with your friends over the internet, you really have no choice but to fork out for a PlayStation Plus subscription.

There are exceptions to this. In general, free-to-play games don’t require a PlayStation Plus subscription. Some games that have their own subscription fees, such as Final Fantasy XIV, can be played without paying for the Plus service.

The other exclusive feature is cloud storage. You get 100GB of cloud storage if you’re a PlayStation Plus subscriber. This storage space is used to upload and sync save game data. This is very handy if your PlayStation dies or you have two consoles and want to sync saved games between them.

These are the only two features we think can be considered “core” to the PlayStation experience. If you can live without premium game multiplayer or cloud saves, the case for PlayStation Plus is much less compelling. 

Sharing PlayStation Plus Benefits

The PlayStation 4 is designed to be a shared system. You can have multiple accounts on one machine. Everyone can play all the games on the console, under the condition that the game belongs to a user who has that console registered as their primary console.

So, do you need to buy a PlayStation Plus subscription for every user on the console to benefit? The answer is that it depends. When it comes to multiplayer, every person on that console can play online, as long as at least one person has PlayStation Plus membership and that’s their primary console.

Also, unsurprisingly, any games bought by the Plus subscriber are still available for everyone else. That includes the “free” PlayStation Plus games, which we’ll get to in a moment.

Sadly, other users on the system do not get access to the cloud save feature. Which means that if something happens to that PS4, only the Plus user will have their saved games in a safe place.

How Do The “Free” Games Work?

At the time of writing, Plus subscribers get at least two PS4 games every month as part of their subscription. You have no choice in which games are offered. This means that it could be a game you’ve already purchased in the past or that just doesn’t interest you.

Your license to play the game is also tied to your subscription service. Which means that if you let your Plus subscription lapse, you can’t play those games anymore. This also means that you need to connect to the internet from time to time so that the game can renew your license.

On the upside, even if you let your subscription laps, PlayStation Plus games you’ve claimed in the past remain in your download list. So if you ever restart the subscription, you can play those games again.

In the past, PS3, Vita, PSP and PS4 games were included each month, but Sony has recently stopped them all except for the PS4 titles. Most likely in preparation for the PS5.

The PlayStation Plus Value Proposition: Discounts, Exclusive Content And Free Games

When deciding on PlayStation Plus, there are lots of different factors to take into account in terms of whether it’s worth the price. Online gaming and cloud backups are certainly worth the cost of the service, but only if you’re actually going to use those features. So what about the rest?

Looking at the history of free games with PlayStation Plus, it’s certainly a fantastic deal in pure dollar terms. If you have to buy those games separately, any two of the premium titles are likely to cost more than a year of Plus. How much that is worth to you will depend on the titles, your tastes and how many of the games you already own. It also depends how often you normally buy new games. 

The same goes for exclusive content. Plus members get avatars, in-game content and various other digital items that are exclusive. However, they might not be for titles you play or care about. Making it a very personal factor.

From our point of view, aside from multiplayer and cloud, it’s the Plus-only digital discounts that easily make up the cost. If you buy (on average) one or two games on sale every month and take advantage of the additional discount percentage of Plus, you’ll make back the money and more. Most importantly, you’ll be getting those discounts on games that you choose and actually want.

PlayStation Plus and the Next Generation

At the time of writing, no one knows how PlayStation Plus will work on the upcoming PlayStation 5. The assumption is that the core offering will be the same, but of course Sony may have changes in store. 

Given that the PS5 is meant to be backwards compatible with PS4 games, we could be looking at four games a month via Plus that will work on the PS5 console. Also keep in mind that you’ll most likely be able to redeem free PS5 games as a Plus subscriber, even if you don’t yet own a PS5.

PlayStation Plus has been with us since the PlayStation 3 era. As consoles have become even more online-centric, we expect the next generation experience to be even more deeply entwined with the service.

The 5 Best Budget Android Tablets

There’s no doubt that the premium tablet experience is on the Apple side of the fence when it comes to tablet computers. Unfortunately, even with the release of cheaper iPads, these are still very costly devices. 

The good news is that the best budget Android tablets can offer you most of what premium devices can, if you can live with a few compromises here and there. We consider tablets under $300 to be in the “budget” space and are going to highlight them from most affordable to most premium.

Affordable Media Tablet: Fire 7 Tablet – $49.99

There are two Amazon Fire tablets on this list and, as many would point out, these are not strictly Android tablets. Amazon uses a modified version of Android for their own tablets, but you don’t get access to the Google Play Store or the customizations most Android users enjoy. That being said, if you really want to, there are ways to sideload Google Play on to a Fire tablet.

So why even bother? The simple answer is that you won’t find better-specified tablets at this price with the sort of support and build-quality Amazon provides. Amazon can offer such tablets at these prices because you become part of their content ecosystem. If you’re OK with that, it’s more than a fair trade.

Looking at the Fire 7 itself, for fifty bucks this is a lot of tablet. These days 7” barely counts as a tablet, since many smartphones are just short of this number. Yet you aren’t going to find a decent smartphone at this size for the price either.

With such a (relatively) small screen, the Fire 7 is best-suited as an affordable content consumption device. Music, movies and eBooks will work just fine. Casual games without 3D graphics should also be a decent experience, but comic books are rarely a pleasure to read at this screen size. 

If you only have $50 to spend on a smart device, this is the best budget Android tablet you can buy in our opinion.

Fire HD 10 Tablet – $149.99

The second choice for the best budget Android tablet on our list is the Fire HD 10. The 32GB model sells for $149.99. An amazing offer for a 10.1” tablet. This new model has an octa-core CPU, as much as 12 hours of battery life, dual-band WiFi and USB-C.

That’s impressive at twice the price, but the 1080p screen on the Fire HD 10 has been designed specifically to match the aspect ratio of most modern video content. That is, 16:9. This model of Fire tablet can also go into “Show Mode”. This essentially makes it work like an Amazon Show Alexa device.

Of course, the actual quality of the screen, speakers and shell have to be seen in context of the price. None of it is premium, but if you need an entertainment tablet (or three) this is where we recommend most people start.

Lenovo Smart Tab P10 With Alexa – $249.99

Lenovo has a reputation for making quality tablets and laptops and the P10 is no different in that regard. Its budget price does mean you won’t get top-tier specifications, but it’s a well-balanced machine, all things considered.

This particular bundle is notable for the inclusion of a charging speaker dock with Dolby Atmos technology. So you can plop your tablet down in it and listen to music, watch videos and use it as an Alexa device through “Show Mode”.

The specifications of the P10 are pretty decent. A SnapDragon 450 octa-core chip and Adreno 506 GPU are perfectly competent mid-range parts. 3GB of LPDDR will be OK for most applications as well, with a moderate amount of multitasking. Also, surprisingly at this price, is the inclusion of a fingerprint sensor.

Apart from having four speakers, the dock also has three far-field microphones, which means you really are getting that Alexa Show experience included in the price. Lenovo intends for this to be used as a family entertainment tablet. From that point of view it’s brilliant.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 64 GB Wifi Tablet Silver (2019) – 279.99

The Galaxy Tab A 10.1” tablet is about as close as you’ll get to something that competes with the entry-level iPad model. It has incredibly slim bezels and a large, bright, colorful screen. The picture is accompanied by built-in Dolby Atmos speakers and you can upgrade storage by adding as much as 512GB of SD storage.

We’d strongly recommend the 64GB (or 128GB) model over the 32GB, because these two higher-end models have an additional GB of RAM. Well worth the price difference. While the Exynos 7904A isn’t going to compete with Apple silicon, that’s not the same as saying it’s not fast enough for most people. 

The Tab A 10.1 is a great all-round tablet for both work and play and we don’t think there’s a better general choice for less than $300 at the moment.  Add to this the build and component quality that Samsung are known for, and it’s an easy recommendation.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0″ with S Pen 4G LTE (2019)  – $286.00

It might seem strange that this 8” Samsung Tablet costs more than the 10.1” machine we just looked at. However, apart from having a slightly smaller display, the Tab A 8” is packed with some fairly impressive features.

First off, this is a 4G LTE model. Not only can it be used with mobile data, but you can also make and receive calls on GSM (the global standard for mobiles cellular standard) networks. Sadly it does not support CDMA (the code-division multiple access cellular standard), so check your own service type before making the purchase. This is then, in effect, a 8” phone as much as it is a tablet. Even better, this comes with a Samsung S Pen. So if you’re the artistic type or like to take notes, this is an excellent machine for the job.

In terms of sacrifices, you only get a mono speaker. There’s no fingerprint sensor either, but that’s not too surprising. The cameras are merely OK, but with 3GB of RAM and an octa-core CPU these are tradeoffs for the better. It’s only a mid-teri Snapdragon, so don’t expect a gaming beast. But day-to-day entertainment and productivity should be no issue at all. 

The Tab A also comes with an IP68 rating, another feature you’d expect from a phone and not a tablet. With an IP68 rating it’s essentially water and dust proof! This is really a device that blurs the line between smartphone and tablet computer.

If you can live with the 8” screen size, we have no trouble recommending this as one of the best budget Android tablets under $300 on the market.

“Budget” Isn’t Half Bad

While the tablet market in the budget segment is absolutely flooded with poor quality products, with a bit of research it’s possible to find incredibly well-specced and well-built devices. 

The five tablets highlighted above represent a variety of choices and, depending on your needs, there are plenty of great choices still out there. Feel free to give your own recommendations down in the comments.

The Best Podcasts You Should Be Listening To & Why

Putting out a podcast is as easy as buying a laptop, podcast mic and just going for it. So, predictably, there are a seemingly endless number of podcasts out there, and the vast majority of these are, well, not great. 

So we’ve done a little research and come up with a list of (in our opinion) the best podcasts you should be listening to right now.

You Are Not So Smart

Human psychology is fascinating, and the rise of pop psychology is a testament to this. Yet, what’s most fascinating is how we can be fooled, fool ourselves and generally make a mess of making the right decision or finding the truth. 

Which is why You Are Not So Smart is both an important and fascinating podcast. Run by David McRaney, each episode focuses on the weird ways we make mental errors, delude ourselves and develop weird beliefs. You’ll learn just as much about how you can avoid these mistakes as you’ll learn about people in general.

It also has an amazing intro song, in case you were still on the fence about it.

Today, Explained

Vox has done an amazing job with its Explained series on Netflix, but sadly those episodes are few and far between, so it’s a good thing they also run a daily podcast by the name of Today, Explained. As a daily podcast, the topics tend to be very much about what’s happening in the news right now.

Unlike most daily news shows, Today, Explained takes the time to consult experts and really dig deeply into what’s going on at the moment. It’s one of the best podcasts to get a good grip on the facts and factors that play into the headlines, which might be the only thing many people read before forming their own opinions. If you listen to Today, Explained you don’t have to be one of them.

Sword and Scale

True crime has always been a popular genre, but podcasts have absolutely blown up the fanbase for these sordid tales of naughty people doing very naughty things. Sword and Scale is widely considered to be one of the very best examples. 

The production values are sky high and you’ll be treated to a mix of narrated stories, interviews with experts, criminals, victims and anyone else with insight into each particular crime. 

At the time of writing there are a staggering 153 episodes spread over six seasons. So you have plenty of catching up to do!

The Joe Rogan Experience

Is it really necessary for us to punt one of the most popular podcasts in the world? Maybe not, but if you somehow haven’t heard of the Joe Rogan Experience or have, but aren’t a listener, we’re here to tell you that it’s definitely one show you should give a chance.

The Joe Rogan Experience is hosted by, of course, Joe Rogan. A man who rose to fame largely as a comedian. It turns out, however, that he’s also a fantastic interviewer, letting a wide variety of interesting guests spill the beans on what they believe and think. The show is certainly irreverent and, at times, politically incorrect, but no one can ever accuse it of being boring!

Rogan will have anyone on the show if he thinks people should hear them. Many scientists, tech luminaries and politicians can be counted among their number, but there’s no telling who Mr. Rogan will have on his show next. That sense of “anything can happen” is definitely a part of the podcast’s lasting appeal.

Planet Money

Money makes the world go ‘round, but very few people really understand how money works, how it affects us and what happens when the financial world really goes south. Planet Money explains complex financial concepts and events in a way that anyone can understand. 

It’s another NPR hit and an essential listen for anyone looking to understand economics. Which, ultimately, should be all of us.

Analog(ue)

Analog(ue) is a tech podcast that’s actually about how that tech makes people feel. As tech fans it’s easy to get caught up in the specifications and numbers, but hosts Myke Hurley and Casey Liss concentrate on how these technologies fit into our lives and how people can better make tech a part of their lives, rather than making tech the point of their lives.

Bookclub

It’s incredible that someone else didn’t call dibs on a name like “Bookclub”, but yes this aptly-named podcast is all about the written word. It’s an excellent way to discover new notable books to read and features interviews and discussions with the authors of the works themselves. 

Bookclub is a BBC Radio 4 production, so the quality is professional. If you still love reading in the age of the internet, it’s a match made in heaven.

Flash Forward

Speculative fiction and real-world science have always had a cosy relationship. A lot of the technology we have today was inspired by shows like Star Trek or books and writing by authors such as Arthur C. Clarke. Which is what makes Flash Forward such a compelling podcast. 

The podcast starts with a “what if?” question and then takes us to the future to see what the consequences might be. So you’ll hear stories informed by experts based on premises like “what if there was no more darkness” or “what if we never fixed the Y2K bug?”. 

It’s mind-bending entertainment that makes you think. Can there be a better endorsement than that?

Radiolab

Radiolab is one of many NPR radio shows that gets syndicated as a podcast. NPR has a stellar record for producing quality content and Radiolab stands with the best of them. Well, it was one of their standout shows, but now Radiolab is distributed by WNYC.

Radiolab episodes are exceptionally well-produced and run about an hour in length. The show tackles heavy topics philosophy and science, while scoring it to strange and wonderful experimental music. Interviews with experts on these topics have a live and unedited feeling, while complex concepts are broken down so that a non-expert audience can easily understand it. 

With almost two million regular listeners, it’s clear that anyone with an interest in science or philosophy should give this trippy show a listen. 

Podcasts Saved the Radio Star

With such a list of high-quality podcast entertainment, you should be set for any length of “me time” you might be facing. No matter which podcasts suit your personal taste, you’re sure to come out the other side a more educated and informed person.

What do you consider to be the best podcasts out there? Have you considered creating your own podcast? These are the essential podcast tools you need to get started.

How To Unlock a Phone With Free Unlock Phone Codes

When you buy a phone from a carrier, you might be tempted by a great contract deal, but there’s a good chance the deal has some fine print that locks your handset to the network provider you bought it from. 

That means if you try to switch to a different network provider, your phone simply can’t make calls or use data services. The good news is that you can usually unlock these phones by simply using an unlock phone code. We’ll be covering these unlock codes, how you can get yours for free, and how to unlock a phone. But first there are some important things you should know.

Is Unlocking Your Phone Legal?

As always, when it comes to legal issues, it’s up to you to determine if something is legal where you live. Each country will have its own consumer laws that govern things like unlocking your phone. 

In the United States, you are entitled to an unlock, as long as your handset has been paid off completely or you’ve paid the termination fee on your contract. In other words, if you own your handset outright, it’s legal for you to unlock your phone. 

Which is where unlock codes come into the picture. Well, perhaps not immediately.

You Might Not Need a Code

Instead of trying to get a code yourself and unlocking your phone independently, it’s a good idea to first get the carrier on the line and ask them to unlock the handset for you or guide you through the process. This is a good method, because they can confirm whether you are legally eligible for an unlock. 

If you are eligible, in the USA at least, carriers are obliged to unlock your handset for free. So go ahead and give them a call.

To make things a little easier for you, here are the direct links for unlock eligibility checks for the four major US carriers:

These should be your first stop on the journey to unlocked phone freedom.

Unlock Codes Usually Cost Money, But Free Codes Exist!

If, for some reason, getting help directly from the carrier isn’t possible, you’ll need an unlock code.This could be because you’ve bought the handset used or perhaps have moved to another country. 

Regardless of why you need to unlock a phone, most of the online providers of codes want a little money from you for the privilege. Once again, in the USA carriers are obligated to unlock the phones of eligible handsets, so please do speak to them first.

One popular site is FreeUnlocks, which offers the first code free through a partnership with TrialPay. Sadly, all of the other options we looked at only offer a paid service or so-called free options turned out to be scams or spam. So, for now, FreeUnlocks and asking your carrier seem to be the only good free options.

However, if you are willing to pay a bit of money, sites like UnlockRadar, Unlock Arena and Dr SIM do offer a risk-free service.

The Limitations Of Unlocking

There’s some confusion among some users when it comes to terms such as “unlocking”, “rooting”, “jailbreaking” and other terms that relate to modifying a phone so that it does things it can’t do out of the box.

“Unlocking” your phone simply means it can now work with any carrier on a compatible network. It does not mean that it will work with any carrier on any network. If your phone doesn’t have the hardware to communicate with a specific network, no amount of software settings and tweaks will change that.

“Rooting” your phone means getting root access to that phone, so that you can do pretty much whatever you want with it. Such as loading your own version of Android on it and getting rid of carrier bloatware. The term “rooting” is only used in relation to Android phones. You can read more about rooting in our article on the subject.

“Jailbreaking” is a term used for Apple devices and differs somewhat from rooting. When you get root access in Android, you are opening up the full native powers of the device. When you jailbreak an iOS device, you remove restrictions that were never meant to be taken away. This lets users run software or modify the iOS experience in ways that Apple certainly does not approve of.

In other words, when you unlock your phone, you aren’t going to get any of the benefits of rooting or jailbreaking. These are separate processes with serious risks to security or even your device, if things go wrong.

How To Unlock a Phone With a Code

There is no universal method to enter an unlock code once you have it. The exact process will differ depending on the make and model of the phone you have. Which means that, if you don’t receive instructions with your code, you should Google your phone model and the unlock code procedure.

As an example, let’s look at Apple and Samsung devices. Apple devices are unlocked remotely by your carrier and there’s no code. So all you have to do is wait for the email or other message confirming that your handset has been unlocked. Then, after inserting a new SIM, you’ll go through the normal Apple setup process for iCloud and your Apple ID.

On a Samsung device, you only need the code itself. When you insert a SIM from a carrier outside the one your phone is locked to, you’ll be prompted for an unlock code. Just type it in and off you go.

Consider Buying Unlocked Handsets

While most people who buy locked handsets are motivated by a great deal (or simply don’t know any better) you should seriously consider buying an unlocked handset right off the bat the next time you get a new phone. This does mean having to pay the entire price of the handset upfront, but it does give you the freedom to change your carrier immediately or have concurrent plans with different carriers.

 If you also buy a dual-sim phone, you can have one SIM dedicated to a carrier with great voice tariffs and another with cheap data, as one example. It also means you can more easily adapt to varying levels of coverage if you travel often. If you’re travelling overseas, you can even temporarily use the SIM card of a compatible network provider in the country you’re visiting, without paying astronomical roaming fees to your local carrier.

It might seem like a worse deal compared to a contract, and it might be! However, compare the total cost of the carrier contract against the total cost of buying a handset outright and then using a prepaid voice and data plan. In many cases you might find over the course of a contract’s length you could save money by going the unlocked route.