Comparison Is The Theif Of Joy

ImageWe all do it.  We know how it makes us feel.  We all keep doing it.  Social Media is our template; mainly the Facebook newsfeed. There we all are, lined up next to our closest friends, worst enemies, and the occasional pretty stranger we like to ‘take outfit inspiration’ from.  Is it just me? Oh well maybe it’s just me.

            Mark Zuckerburg’s first try at an online sensation on a college campus was essentially putting two girls pictures side and voting who was prettier.  According to the movie “The Social Network”, that is what the actual Facebook stemmed from.

            ImageMark Zuckerberg was Time’s Person of the Year in 2010.  The interesting article delves deep into who Zuckerberg is as a person, and how that transfers onto what Facebook is and what we should do with it.  “Zuckerberg loves being around people. He didn’t build Facebook so he could have a social life like the rest of us. He built it because he wanted the rest of us to have his.” (Time 2010)

            Something my mother, a strict Facebook critic, always says: “You kids are going to be really disappointed when you realize in real life nobody really cares about what you’re doing every minute of the day”.  But the sad thing is, this has become our real life. Facebook is a part of our reality. Scary but true.

But we do it to ourselves. “Like everything on Facebook — like Facebook itself — it’s voluntary.” (Time 2010) “As it turned out, that, more than anything else, was what people wanted. They didn’t want to organize their photos by folder; they wanted to organize them by who was in them.”

We as people, are and always will be fascinated by other people.  Facebook takes our fascination to the next level. As Zuckerberg would say, that’s how people parse the world.

Now I know it was not Mark Zuckerberg’s intention, but he created something that tapped into the core of mankind. I believe it is really human nature, and Facebook is the perfect platform to default back to comparison every time.

My favorite quote of the entire article:

“Facebook runs on a very stiff, crude model of what people are like. It herds everybody — friends, co-workers, romantic partners, that guy who lived on your block but moved away after fifth grade — into the same big room. It smooshes together your work self and your home self, your past self and your present self, into a single generic extruded product. It suspends the natural process by which old friends fall away over time, allowing them to build up endlessly, producing the social equivalent of liver failure. On Facebook, there is one kind of relationship: friendship, and you have it with everybody. You’re friends with your spouse, and you’re friends with your plumber.”

I have noticed this pattern of comparison in myself, and I am trying to change the cycle of comparison to unhappiness.  The simplest thing would seem to be to delete my Facebook, but I still want to ‘exist’ to my friends.  I want an outlet to express myself through photos and the other things Facebook allows you to do.  Facebook has some real benefits, and really can help bImageecome an actually more social person in ‘real’ life, if I make some changes.  I made a group on Facebook that is now just my close friends.  I found myself knowing more about someone I met once then the people that I really care about it my life.  So I put them into a group and now only have those close friends pop up in my news feed.  This decision really has helped a lot with spending too much time on Facebook as well.  ‘De-friending’ people I don’t really know is another step in the right direction.  Image

I personally, but also we as a society, need to be more present mentally where we actually are physically. Become more aware of your thought life. Every time you find yourself wishing you could be more like (fill in the blank), recognize it and decide to let it go. If you’re not afraid of feeling cheesy, develop a positive mantra for when those negative thoughts arise. i.e.: “It’s better to be a first rate version of myself than a second rate version of someone else.” (Thoughts on Social Media 2012)

            The last and most important thing to remember it to always project who are as a person in everything you do, not just online.  Every conversation you have, every opportunity you have to express yourself, project who you truly are and who you want to be together to make the best version of yourself.  “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity,” Zuckerberg said in a 2009 interview with David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect. This is a popular attitude among the Silicon Valley elite, summed up by a remark Google CEO Eric Schmidt made last year Imageon CNBC: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity,” Zuckerberg said in David Kirkpatricks book The Facebook Effect.  Remember, it is you that has to live with yourself at the end of the day.  Be true to who you are, but always strive to be a better person as well – in everything!

Image

Sources:

http://carrotsncake.com/2012/04/comparison-is-the-thief-of-joy-thoughts-on-social-media.html

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2036683_2037183,00.html

Kirkpatrick, D. (2010). The Facebook Effect (pp. 287-333). New York: Simon & Schuster.

What Are The Chances?

Image

I would like to start off by telling you a story.  This is a story about what Shirky talked about in an excerpt of Here Comes Everybody.  He wrote about the six degrees of separation between people, and how even when we can’t imagine knowing anyone on that plane, just the fact that you are leaving the same airport means you will have common connections.  My little story is about chance, odds, and finding someone in this world of six billion people.

            It was in the middle of June, and I was staying in Boone for Orientation.  I would be a freshman in the fall.  As I sat in my departmental meeting on the first day, someone in the classroom of twenty brought up the topic of intramurals.  This was before the Professor came in so I was only talking to the few people around me.  I said “I want to start an intramural volleyball team!”  A girl sitting to my right, whom I had not really noticed or been directing my sentence to, perked up and spun around.  “Me too!”  I had never played volleyball in my life, but wanted to learn.  Her name was Molly.  She had played through middle school and high school and had a real passion for it.  For the rest of the day we stayed close, exploring campus and becoming friends.  It is very common that you never see “orientation friends” again.  Sometimes even the friends from year to year disappear from your life.  Not Molly.

            Molly heard me say my last name to someone else we were talking to.  She was astonished “I was supposed to find you!”  Molly’s grandmother was a patient of my Dad, an eye doctor.  She had recently had an appointment and they talked about their girls who were going off to Appalachian.  Molly and her grandmother are from 30 minutes away from where I live.  She drove thirty minutes away for her eye appointments because my Dad actually started his business 25 years ago in their small home town.  Her grandmother told Molly to look out for me, but out of all the orientations that summer, and all the people at each orientation, really; what were the odds?

            It gets weirder.  Molly is no longer in the same department as me.  If she had not been in that departmental meeting we might not have ever met.  If I had not had a weird excitement to learn a sport I never played, we might not have ever met.  Three years later Molly and I are roommates.  Her roommate/best friend of two years and my roommate/best friend transferred from App in the same year (they have never met).  One year ago, Molly and I found out we share the exact same birthday: March 19th 1991.  Not only that, but we were born within an hour of each other, by the same team of doctors at the same hospital.  I always say to Molly if she was a guy I would know she is “the one”.

Shirky states that “Once you’ve understood this pattern-which a larger network is a sparsely linked group of more densely linked sub-networks you can see how it could operate at multiple scales. You could tie several few-person networks together into a network of networks. Connections in these larger networks are still between individual people, but now those individuals have become even more critical; in fact, the larger the network is, the more important the highly connected individuals are in holding the overall structure together. Even at seemingly absurd extremes, the pattern holds: random pairs of people from New York City, a pool of millions, are likelier to be connected in a shorter chain”(2008).Image

            So we are all a whole lot more connected than we think we are.  Social networks such as facebook really bring those connections to realization, now you can see all the mutual friends you have with some “random person”.  And everything put on the internet, I believe, truly is/should be considered a published work.  Publishing it to all these people you have connections with that you don’t even really know. I absolutely agree with Shirky when he wrote “is that in an age of infinite perfect copy-ability to many people at once, the very act of writing and sending an e-mall can be a kind of publishing, because once an e-mail is sent, it is almost impossible to destroy all the copies, and anyone who has a copy can broadcast it to the world at will, and with ease. Now, and presumably from now on, the act of creating and circulating evidence of wrongdoing to more than a few people, even if they all work together, will be seen as a delayed but public act”(2008).

            The movie “Rip! A Remix Manefesto” showed that the internet was created for the purpose of sharing!  We are free to share, for the most part.  But we have to be careful of what we publish, what we are putting our name or our face on and sending out into the internet, for all sorts of people to see and maybe even take if they are able to.

            I believe the core problem with copyright infringement, plagiarism, and pirating is the fact that we are able to do it so easily, and we will.  It really is as simple as “copy and paste”.  If a photographer wants credit for a photo, put your name on, and don’t publish it where someone can easily take it.  There are many sites such as Flickr that are safe, and sometimes the copy/paste option is disabled and all it pastes is the link to the site – brilliant! “One way to increase visibility and access to your photos is to share it with an existing community that has enabled CC licensing, making it easy for you to indicate the license along with other information, such as who to attribute. In addition, search engines like Google and Yahoo! will index your work as CC licensed if the metadata is properly attached.” (Creative Commons 2012)          Music is another big topic; it is so easy to never pay for a single song.  But honestly, we’re not reselling these songs; we just want to listen to them in our cars!  I really do battle back and forth with this issue, because the artist really should get the credit and earnings for the song, but don’t they make enough already? Do I really need to give you another $1.29 not even to say that I own it, just to listen to it on my iPod?

            In a scenario where the technological world was a better place, people would share as the internet was meant to be shared.  It wouldn’t be considered stealing to listen to a new song or copy and paste an image.  Everyone in this world appreciates the work of the creator, and the people viewing understand we did not create this work but want to share it anyways.  If creators really wanted to protect their work, they wouldn’t put it on the internet! And if you were to put something of your creation on the internet, go through the precautions to keep it safe. In this world, money and profit is not the object, but creating the work to share with others, and for those others to share with other others, that is the goal. 

ImageIn this world, the internet would be like a modern art gallery in New York City.  You walk through, admire, and talk about it with your friends.  You never take the art off the wall and walk out with it.  That is just rude!  To truly ‘share’; to show everyone you know (meaning bring them to the art not take it to them), to give credit where credit is due, and to appreciate the beauty of another person’s work, that would be the perfect scenario.

            ImageI believe technology can accomplish this by having certain constraints.  Photographers can attain the feature that block the copy/paste action, and they can also always put their name or logo on every photo.  I believe a technological example a more perfect scenario is Pinterest.  Pinterest allows each user to admire different photos, and “Pin” them on a virtual board as you would a bulletin board.  Pinterest makes me feel like I’ve discovered a great work of art everytime I log in.  The beauty of it is, if you click the photo, it goes directly to who originally pinned it and what website it came from – originally.  I think its genius! This is an example of how technology and the internet can come a little bit closer to making the world a better place.

Works Cited

“RIP: A Remix Manifesto” (2008)

 

Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations (pp. 47-80). New York: Penguin Group

 

Lainer, J. (2010). You are not a Gadget. New York: Alfred Knopf.

 

Creative Commons: Case Studies – http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Photography

Virtual Reality – Not Reality At All

“The specialness of humanity is found only between our ears; if you go looking for it anywhere else, you’ll be disappointed.” -Lee Silver

I fell in love with this quote at the beginning of Friedman’s Future Imperfect: Technology and Freedom in an Uncertain World (pg 275).  The most amazing thing about the human race, and the part of ourselves that holds who we are, is destroying itself from the inside out.

Virtual Reality: what do those two words together even mean? The definition of the word Virtual is: “Almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition” (Miriam Webster 2011).  Since I was raised a little old fashioned and with no older brothers, the Virtual World is still considered “nerdy” or “un-cool” to me.  However, that is not how the rest of society sees it, apparently.    I have to be honest and say I do log in to Facebook (funny side note, my 2007 Microsoft Word did not recognize the word “facebook”) multiple times a day, but there is something even more fake, in my opinion, to video games and programs like Second Life. 

“If it looks real and feels real the brain tells us it’s real” Jeremy Bailenson Director of the Virtual Lab gives his insight on his studies with virtual worlds.  “Behavior carries over to behavior face to face” “Virtual experiences can affect you profoundly in wonderful and not so wonderful ways.”  (PBS 2011)  Our brain is tricking itself, or is being tricked by this technology that amazing brains of others created.

Image

An article I found on Internet Blogging found through extensive research that “73% of adult profile owners use Facebook, 48% have a profile on MySpace and 14% use LinkedIn. ‘Blogging appears to have lost its luster for many young users,’ said Lenhart. ‘The fad stage is over for teens and young adults and the move to Facebook – which lacks a specific tool for blogging within the network — may have contributed to the decline of blogging among young adults and teens.” (PEW Research Center 2010)

Image

I find this information so disappointing because in my opinion blogging is one of the most intelligent forms of the virtual technological world.  A good blog takes talent, skill, and knowledge.  Great writing skills and, almost always, great photographic skills are the pair that makes a blog worth reading.  I believe these skills are (should be) more highly esteemed than the ability to quickly click your thumbs in a certain pattern.  But that’s just me.

The brain often fails to differentiate between virtual experiences and real ones. The patterns of neurons that fire when one watches a three-dimensional digital re-creation of a supermodel, such as Giselle or Fabio, are very similar—if not identical—to those that fire in the actual presence of the models (Blascovich  & Bailenson, 2011)  But somehow we do know that Fabio really isn’t in the room! I just wonder what tells us that if not our brain.

All of these authors notice how ‘the brain’ doesn’t know the difference. If our brain can’t tell a difference, if the neurons fire the exact same way, then how do we know the difference? What other part of is telling us “this is an Xbox game!”? 

 

“Disruptive as it may seem, the shift to an ever more virtual world—of which the Internet was only one step—may be something close to inevitable, given how humans are wired neurophysiologically. Driven by imaginations that have long sought to defy the sensory and physical constraints of physical reality, humans continuously search for new varieties and modes of existence, only this time we’re doing it via the supposedly cold machinery of digital space.” (Blascovich  & Bailenson, 2011) We are doing this to ourselves. It seems that the very thing that created all this, the imagination, is now destroying itself. 

There are different levels of these technological Virtual Worlds.  The further you get, the faker the illusion.  Even if your neurons don’t know it, you know this isn’t reality.  If the technology isn’t benefiting your health or helping you learn something, then what a waste of time!  Be present in the world we were born into – that is our true reality. 

 

Sources

Blascovich, J., & Bailenson, J. N. (2011). Infinite Reality – Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution. New York: William Morrow. http://vhil.stanford.edu/pubs/2011/infinite-reality-intro.pdf

 

Pew Research Center, Lenhart, Purcell, Smith, Zickuhr (Feb 3, 2010) Social Media and Young Adults http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Social-Media-and-Young-Adults.aspx

 

Friedman, D. (2008). Future Imperfect: Technology and Freedom in an Uncertain World (pp. 275-292). New York: Cambridge University Press.

 

PBS Documentary “Digital Nation” (2010)

 

Miriam Webster (2011)

The Internet and the Mind

Is the Internet Really Big and Bad Enough?

As I sat down to write my feelings on this topic, many questions were puzzling me.  How is it that my brain processes all of this technology surrounding me?  Am I really making myself stupider? How is it that I can scroll and click with a mouse without thinking, simultaneously read words on the screen, even type so many words a minute without even having to (consciously) think about the letters I’m touching?  Are these actions really turning my brain to mush? I’ve never really been so sure.

PBS aired a well rounded and unbiased documentary of technology effect on society called “Digital Nation”.  At first, the documentary interviews many adults that seem to be very much against it.  Here are some quotes:

“They need to be stimulated, in a way they didn’t need to be stimulated before”

“They have done themselves a disservice by believing a multitasking environment can make them successful”

– Sherry Terckle, MIT Professor

“They are trying in a way that is not effective as it could be because they are distracted”

– David Jones MIT Professor

I’m just wondering how these MIT Professors even do their job!  How do they check their emails, or communicate with students? They obviously don’t consider themselves apart of the collective “they”.  I agree that we as the “digital native” (Horstman, 2010) generation are distracted, over stimulated, and ineffective.  I would just like to recognize that we didn’t choose this for ourselves, and we would not rely on sites such as ASUlearn, g-mail, etc. if they were not necessary to our entire education! We wouldn’t even be able to register for single class without the internet, and “we” are not the ones that set it up that way.  We as a generation and a society have gotten ourselves into this, and we are all guilty of it.

I ultimately agree with Professor Terckle, one of her last points really hit home when she said “Technology challenges us to assert our human values, which means first we have to figure out what they are. That’s not so easy. Take advantage of what it can do, but also ask what it is doing to us”.  I believe that truly is the key to this problem of technology and the internet.  The very last segment of the documentary shows a man recording himself with his laptop.  He starts to list everything he loves about the internet and its possibilities, but most of all; he loves “being able to turn it off”.  That is what we have to learn how to do more of.

Nicholas Carr’s What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, a reading on the brain and how scientists and experimenters have discovered the truth about how amazing it is, truly fascinated me.  I have never before been presented with the facts about the brain in such a way that really kept me interested and left me astonished.  I have heard the facts before; sure the human brain is amazing, but never really grasped just how much until now.

The chapter’s main point can be summed up by this:

“What we learn as we live is embedded in the ever-changing cellular connections inside our heads. The chains of linked neurons form our mind true ‘vital paths’. Today, scientists sum up the essential dynamic of neuroplasticity with a saying known as Hebh’s rule: ‘Cells that fire together wire together’.”(Carr, 2010)

Contrary to past beliefs, the brain we possess is very plastic, meaning it is very changeable.  These paths of the brain are very changeable, but Carr makes sure to say, are not elastic. The brain cannot snap back to what it once was.  “The cellular components do not form permanent structures or play rigid roles. They’re flexible. They change with experience, circumstance, and need. Some of the most extensive and remarkable changes take place in response to damage to the nervous system.”

On the left: My Grandfather

I find this information fascinating.  My grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about 10 years ago.  He is always on medication, but has found rehabilitation benefits from the Wii Fit.  The Wii Fit is a gaming system that has the player interact with their brain through visuals and balance control.  It is amazing how it helps him; my 80 year old grandfather with an immobilizing disease gets higher scores than my middle school age brothers.  “Our ways of thinking, perceiving, and acting, we now know, are not entirely determined by our genes. Nor are they entirely determined by our childhood experiences. We change them through the way we live, and as Nietzsche sensed. Through the tools we use.” (Carr 2010)

My Grandfather "PopPop"

Parkinsons.org of the UK reported that two thirds of people with Parkinson’s that use the Wii Fit noticed an improvement in the management of their symptoms. The people who were surveyed noticed “ an improvement in their balance, which helps prevent falls that are common with Parkinson’s, that it is more convenient than going to the gym and some people don’t feel confident in that environment,   that you can track your progress through the exercises, which helps keep you motivated, that the social side of using the Wii with family and friends, combined with the adrenaline, really helps improve mood and combat the anxiety and depression that many people with Parkinson’s experience”(PDS of the UK, 2012)  This is just one of the many examples of technology furthering our society into better brain health.

I thought the Chapter “Digital You” of Scientific American: Brave New Brain. By J. Horstman gave a much different depiction of the brain than the Carr’s What the Internet is Doing to Our Brain.  Horstman gives little credit to the human brain.  He predicts in the future “people will ‘wear’ computers, special contact lenses and sensor that show multiple layers o reality and communication as well as sensors that locate them and show their location in blueprint-like detail” (2010, pg 62).  His chapter encourages healthy happiness by stepping away from technology.  Overall he just gives technology too much credit.

The things we worry about losing as we move into relying so much on technology are just the price of gain.  “When writing replaced memory, we lost some memory.  Something is always lost. That is the price of gain” – Professor James Paul Gee Arizona State University (PBS, 2011) But I also believe our brains can handle it.

When Carr described the history of brain research, one (now mostly dismissed) theory I believe, still has some truth to it: “But the workings of the brain, argued Descartes, did not explain the workings of the conscious mind. As the essence of the self, the mind existed outside of space, beyond the laws of matter. Mind and brain could influence each other (through, as Descartes saw it, some mysterious action of the pineal gland), but they remained entirely separate substances. Reality had a material side, which was the realm of science, but it also had a spiritual side, which was the realm of theology-and never the twain shall meet”.

No matter what you decide to call the “brain” or the “mind” or even the “heart” or the “soul”, there is an aspect of our being that is unexplainable and far beyond science.  We can’t even fully understand the brain yet!  Technology has nothing on the magic of our brains. Maybe in the future technology and the brain will combine; and that could really be detrimental, but for now, I will exercise my ability to turn it off (Digital Nation, 2010).

Sources:

PBS Documentary “Digital Nation” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/view/

Horstman, J. (2010). Scientific American: Brave New Brain. San Francisco: Wiley.

Carr, N. (2010). What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains: The Shallows. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Parkinson’s UK

http://www.parkinsons.org.uk/wii

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.