Life hacks are small bits of advice that resolve a problem or just make life a bit more manageable. The best part is that most of these hacks are shared through social media.
Some hacks go viral, like this summer’s YouTube watermelon-cutting videos. The short videos showed us how to cut a watermelon into easy to eat strips instead of messy wedges.
(In case you’re curious: Cut the melon in half lengthwise, place on cutting board flat side down, cut into 1-2 inch strips lengthwise, then repeat cut across, pull out a square and enjoy.)
Last year it was all about figuring out how to break free from a zip tie.
(Use teeth to pull as tight as possible, move the connector in the space between palms, using as much force as possible thrust your forearms against your hipbones.)
There are many more that populate my newsfeed and Twitter accounts.
Life hacks are help us solve important problems, too. Prior to the ability for people to self-publish on YouTube, Pinterest and Facebook, we all had a few tricks up our sleeves that would make life easier. Each of us has a clever way to use resources.
When I have a problem, I now consult the social media hive-mind, and the answers are often surprising and, more importantly, they work. Dent in your refrigerator? Clean it, heat it with a hairdryer, then spray it with an air duster (liquid carbon dioxide). Repeat until dent disappears.
Life hacks aren’t just about solving problems. You can consult social media for creative ideas. Figure out a creative way to hide your garbage cans by building a tiny shed. Or make the perfect favors for your kids’ Halloween party by dyeing pudding green, putting it in clear cups, sprinkling cookies on top, and drawing a Frankenstein face on the outside.
You’re learning to do it yourself because you have access to a worldwide support system of creativity.
My favorite life hack is the camera phone. Every day I take photos of important information. Business cards, presentation slides at a meeting for my kids’ school, a meeting agenda, bills and receipts, and, my favorite, the grocery list my wife writes on the whiteboard on our refrigerator.
If I see something on the board, I take a quick pic and head to the store. It’s also really great for those old family recipes on stained and wrinkled index cards. Don’t write down the ingredients. Take a pic and go shopping.
Life hacks work best when you share the best of them. When you let people know that every Post-it note should be considered a keyboard duster, or that you can put a plastic lazy Susan in your refrigerator, you might be improving someone’s life.
Now it’s your turn. Send me your best life hacks.
Tweet them to me at @adamearn or share them in the comments section below. Working together, we save ourselves time and aggravation and, in the process, we’re a little more connected.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is associate professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about social media and technology, sports and fans.