How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Choire Sicha, the editor of the Styles desk at The Times, which reports on everything from weddings and fashion to social change and self-care, discussed the tech he’s using.
What does your tech setup look like? And what do you do to make it look stylish?
Like 19 out of 20 Americans, according to the Pew Research Center, I have a mobile phone. Like those belonging to three out of four Americans, according to the same, mine is a janky hand-held device that I use for talking, playing games, reading, writing, taking photographs, keeping in touch with friends, checking weather, hate-reading, Netflixing, learning chords to 1980s songs from websites that probably give me weird viruses and creating expressions of my identity to display to strangers across the internet.
Why do we do that? I use this phone more than I use my office laptop. I use this phone more than I use any other device in my life, including my television. Sometimes instead of turning on the television I will just watch television on my phone. Don’t tell David Lynch!
I also should stop calling it my phone, because I do not make phone calls on it, because phones are fairly useless as phones and mostly because the phones are infested with incessant spam calls that apparently, as with school shootings, food-borne illness incidents and the removal of registered voters from the rolls, we are incapable as a society of preventing in any way. Also, because I am on an Android phone (a Pixel XL), none of my friends will text with me, and it makes me sad. They love their beloved iMessage on their beloved, stupid iPhones. Companies don’t care about us, or at least not me. They care about themselves (and about not paying taxes in America, and I get that, truly, I have been there myself).
My phone does have a New York Fashion Week PopSocket on it, though, and I’m a real PopSocket convert! It makes reading in bed great again.
What’s so janky about your setup? What features or tools are on your wish list to make it better?
It’s agonizing and surreal that for this funny time-window in human society there is an annual New Phone Season. Each year we are besieged by very barely updated versions of existing phones that are larger and more expensive than ever, and usually just as fragile. As the New Phone Season approaches each year — it’s usually September to October, when Google, Samsung, Apple and others either bring out or announce their annual lines — one tries ever more desperately to time the death of one’s primary digital device to coincide with it.
My phone is ragged now. We barely made it. The screen is horribly burned in. It’s hot. When I plug it in, it begins to download and update things and everything freezes. It smells a little bad?
And now the decision time is here, and I’m unhappy.
The more I’m put in the position of deciding whether I will spend more than $1,000 on a “phone” (as the prime large-size offering from each of the three major companies ends up being more than two weeks’ take-home pay for a Whole Foods employee) or daringly branch out into the slightly less premier brands, the more I realize how awful it is that these disgusting, beeping, needy Tamagotchis are my most constant companion. I have a more active friendship and, to be honest, romantic life with my phone than I do with almost any humans. Can this be good for me? Am I an experiment?
At the very least I would like them to make digital devices that aren’t incredibly fragile and scratchable. Right now, until they just punch the circuitry into the back of our skull, like the way they murder cows, we have to carry these things around as if they were tiny flat glass babies.
In the end, as you can see in the pictures, I finally bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 9.
How has tech affected style?
The biggest trend around the world is that nearly every man now has a worn-in rectangle in the front pocket of his jeans. I also predict that hand-enlargement surgery for women will briefly become a trend until the time of the, you know, putting the phones into the skull bones. Then there are no more worries!
The best part of how they’ll put the phone in our heads is that when the seawaters all rise, the phone will be the last part of us to get wet.
What other tech product are you currently obsessed with?
The majority of my tech use actually occurs while I sleep. I have a Wirecutter-endorsed Coway air filter, which may or may not be doing anything but I love it to death, and a small symphony of Dyson fans and Bose noise machines that create an envelope of air and sound all around me, as if Kate Bush were constantly twirling at high speed while I dream the night away.
This setup saves marriages and also soothes cats. If you sleep in silence next to someone, you are doing it wrong!
The tongue of this whooshing envelope, if you will, actually intrudes into my person in the form of a small plastic mandibular advancement device. It’s a kind of fancy mouth guard, and the technological arms race around sleep apnea is fascinating. For instance, while I was being fitted with this device — it gently juts the jaw forward, basically, allowing you to breathe while you sleep and not rush toward death as quickly — it was casually mentioned that if it didn’t fit handily, they could install little bumps on my teeth that would fit into slots in the device, locking it in overnight, in a real steampunk nightmare of medical intervention. It fit.
Does your lover or spouse report that your snoring is terrible? Do you feel exhausted in the morning? Do you feel like you have a cold all the time but you don’t? Do you wake up suddenly at night screaming in panic? No, wait, that last one’s normal.
The rest of you, visit an otorhinolaryngologist today!