Author Archives: EricaAmerica

About EricaAmerica

Finding the micro in the macro.

Human Habits

Habits are hard to break and even harder to build. Well, wait let me rephrase: they are exceptionally easy to build if they’re algorithmically driven. But us mere humans struggle to do it the old fashioned way.

This morning, in the New York Times, was a great article about an Italian restaurant in New York City’s east village. Customers were distracted. They spent entire meals on phones. What could be done? The owner considered a few options: offering to “check” their phones at the hostess table? (Nah) How about having the waitress offer to take them? (Even worse) What about buying vintage tins from Etsy, placing them on the table, and allowing patrons to discover them, and their use, at their own pace? Bingo.

I have to admit, I’m so happy to see this trend.

Last week I got a new phone and all of the notifications were set to default: in other words, ALARMINGLY obnoxious. I posted an Instagram photo and every single time I got a like, I was notified. That’s over 100 notifications! Throughout the week I started to feel laggard. I was checking my phone even more than usual. My battery was drained (on a new phone)!

Last night, when a stranger “liked” my photo. I had had enough. I went into settings and silenced them all.

I work in technology, but I hate the way technology demands to own my attention and the cadence of my life.

So on I go trying to fight the algorithmic habits with good old fashioned discipline: Settings > Notifications > Mute All.  

The American Identity

I had dinner with my friend Carri Twigg last night. She’s a former organizer who worked in the White House during both Obama terms. She’s the kind of person who attracts attention wherever she goes, and despite her humility, I can tell deep down she likes it.

I was telling her about my recent trip to Minnesota, far, far up north to a town of about 300 people. It just so happened the annual summer parade (celebrating mythical American hero, Paul Bunyan, mind you) was happening. So, embracing my American roots, I saddled up on the street ready to receive candy tosses and cheer on the modest floats.

Just as I was wondering if there would be a LGBT float (it’s Pride season, after all!) along came the Congressional representative’s car. A naive girl, I did a quick Google search in the hopes he stood on my side of the culture wars. Unlikely. The first result was his Facebook post shaming gay people and black people, saying something about Obama’s agenda to ruin the United States.

Shoot.

I was telling Carri about this experience and once again, naively stated, “I think it’s just about exposure” suggesting that if that Congressman, or those voters, just got to know me, they’d feel differently about the entire group.

Carri, half black, born and raised in an all-white Ohio community, smirked. “I’m not convinced,” she said rather gently, going on to explain to me how her community, growing up, was constantly exposed to her (black) which didn’t stop them from saying all sorts of hateful, racists things about black people as a whole.

“I’m going to say the douchiest sentence ever, Erica. Forgive me: have you seen my TEDx talk?”

I smiled, “no, I haven’t.”

And there it is, all laid out: why exposure alone isn’t enough in shaping, and reshaping the American identity.