We Will Not Look: An Open Letter To Jennifer Lawrence

To Jennifer,

-and the rest affected by the recent (or any) breach of privacy-

I feel the need to express to you directly my thoughts, though I would be shocked if this ever reached your ears. They say that any press is good press, and while I’m sure that is probably true – I doubt that this is your preferred method of increasing your fan base. Leaked nude photos seldom do much to increase ones reputation as a professional, and I would not be surprised if you and your publicist have spent several sleepless nights working on cleaning up the mess made by others.

While it’s one thing to live in a society where something as detestable as pornography has become commonplace, indeed in some circles –though not all– it’s socially acceptable; At least porn has the illusion of consent with all involved parties. It is an entirely new moral low to watch as millions rave about and seek after images that were never meant for their eyes. Things that were stolen and never meant to be brought to light. It’s bad enough that one man was twisted enough to steal those images – it’s worse that countless others have allowed them to spread. I’m sorry that this is the world we live in.

I wish to offer you, as small a token as I know it is, some level of comfort. As a 23 year old male – In this situation I think I have broken the mold. I haven’t seen those photos, nor do I intend to. What’s more is that I know I’m not alone, even if in the waves of media coverage, it seems like you must be living under a rock to have missed this scandalous opportunity to ‘sneak a peek’. But there are at least a few good men (and women) out there still. Those who respect your work and enjoy the stories you’ve shared with us, but more than that – those who respect you as a person. Someone who, regardless of station, deserves common decency. (And I would add a certain right to privacy!)

Regardless of the situation that led to this point, or the debate about what sort of photos should or shouldn’t be taken – for your sake and our own; We won’t look. It’s simply not worth it to us. There is nothing to gain, but plenty of dignity and self respect for us to lose. No matter how harmless a .jpeg on a web browser appears; To us, it isn’t. 

So as small as it may seem and as trite as it probably is (given what’s happening in the rest of the world) we’re going to take this small stand: We will not look.

 

 

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What Facebook’s ‘Terrible’ Experiment Taught Us

FacebookRx Last month a report was released that caused the Social Media World to flip it’s proverbial lid. In fact, there was such outrage I wouldn’t be surprised if someone actually found and flipped several non-proverbial lids.

The offense stemmed from the fact that Facebook tinkered with nearly 690,000 user accounts as a social experiment to determine if something called “emotional contagion” impacts people online. Basically they were looking to see if a person’s emotional state was affected by the emotions they perceived from others in their News Feed.

They tested this in a week long study involving two groups of people: One group would see fewer positive posts from others, the other group would see fewer negative posts. They discovered that we do in fact play off of the emotions of others within our social media sphere – those who saw fewer positive posts followed suit and posted less positive things. The pattern was the same for those who saw less negativity, they follow suit and produced more positive things.

In layman’s terms: Our emotional state is swayed by the emotions we see in the world around us. (At least, to some degree.)

While this experiment was legal –If you’re having trouble sleeping, go back and read the legalese that Facebook calls it’s Terms of Agreement. But, you did sorta give them permission to do this kind of thing– it’s still unclear where it’s entirely ethical of Facebook to try and depress several hundred thousand of its users, in the name of science. If you care to look, there are plenty of ‘fire and brimstone’ blog posts out there condemning Facebook for this ‘heinous act of treachery that it wrought upon humanity!’

However I’d invite you instead, to take a look at the silver-lining that many people may be missing in this story. What Facebook has shown us is that we can be the agents of emotional change on -potentially- a massive scale. If it’s true that we are under the effect of others emotional postings, then it stands to reason that they are under our influence; however minor that may be.

The study admits that it is very difficult to influence a person’s mood because there are so many factors involved, but what it seems to miss entirely is the fact that when it comes right down to it: YOU are in control of your emotions. That’s right! You get to be in charge of how you feel; not Facebook, not your co-workers, nor the overly dramatic celebrities you follow on Twitter. (Like, oh em gee Kim. Oh. Em. Gee.)

Knowing this, we then have the power to ‘look above’ the emotional clamor and turmoil and choose to be positive. At no point are we forced to surrender our emotive compass to the whims of those around us, especially those we interact with online. This means we can make the conscious decision to be positive in spite of what we’re being presented with, AND — here’s the really cool part — if enough people begin to make this choice, Facebook has gone and put the research in to show that it’s destined to spread. Forget viral marketing campaigns, forget finding your name on those Coke bottles, (If you see an “Alana” bottle by the way – my wife is still looking) you can be the pebble that instigates an avalanche of positive outlooks across your entire social media world. Not to get all ‘He-Man’ on you, but “[You] have the power!”

The best part is that eventually all of the happy vibes you’ve been sending out will come back your way. Like dropping a pebble in a bathtub, those waves will soon bounce off the walls and head back in the direction they came from. It’s all too easy nowadays to get lost down the rabbit hole of negativity and hate. Isn’t it nice to know that we all stand a chance at making the world a brighter, more positive place?

 

 

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The Mormon (Not So) Civil War

Due to recent sensational and well-publicized events within the Church, my Facebook news feed has become a parade of blog posts and opinion columns dissecting the scandal of someone’s membership being revoked. One of the more popular posts floating around is this one. I particularly enjoy the part where she discusses that it’s okay (encouraged, even) to ask questions. It’s an interesting opinion piece that is well written.

One of the things that post does not discuss, and that many of these blogs seem to miss is that while it’s wholly acceptable to ask questions – it’s not okay (discouraged, even) to berate the person doing the questioning.

In the past weeks I have seen comments slung by Members of the Church (and those of other beliefs) ranging from, “So-and-so is crazy” to full-blown judgments of So-and-so’s eternal destination. I have watched as people I know – friends who are dear to me – take their sincere and heartfelt questions and bury them deep for fear of retaliation from their supposed “brothers and sisters” in Christ.

Now I can’t speak to those who are not of the Mormon persuasion, but for those who are:

How dare we!?

How can we in one breath align ourselves with Christ and in the next sling insults designed to mock, hate, and deride? How can we honestly say things that attack another Child of God (Remember that song? Yeah, it applies to the person on the other end of the inter-web too…)

At this point I’m sure I’ve got at least 3 different mindsets here:

  • The first -and probably the majority- is, “Well, he’s right! I’d never do anything like that!” 
  • The second is something like, “This guy has it wrong, Christ spoke out harshly against apostasy all the time!”
  • The last and the minority is, “Man, he was talking directly to me. I was totally at fault of these things and I will change my ways for good.”

I’ll start with that last one and go in reverse: First, if you’re acknowledging you’ve had some less than charitable attitudes and are going to “change your ways for good.”  Then awesome. My work here is done.

Second, if you take issue with the fact that clearly (and on multiple occasions) we can find Christ saying less-than-nice things about certain vile figures in the New Testament (and are using that as justification to ‘call a spade a spade’). I would advise you to leave the casting of stones to the Sinless One, and offer you this quote:

“The Savior taught us to love not only our friends but also those who disagree with us…”For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? … And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? [Matt 5:46-47] … In the Gospel of Jesus Christ, there is no place for ridicule, bullying, or bigotry.”

– Elder Neil L. Andersen, April 2014 (emphasis added)

As recently as five minutes ago another story sprawled across my Facebook and again there was a comment section filled with acid from both sides of the debate. I would link to the dialogue except I don’t want to increase the traffic to such an embarrassing and hateful display from self-proclaimed LDS Members. I will however quote Courtney K. who said, “Sounds like a loving church in these comments. Can’t wait to invite my friends to join!”

Which brings me back to that first group, the majority of us who say: “Well gee whiz! He’s right and I try to never conduct myself like that! Sure glad he’s not talking about me!” You’re right. I’m not talking about you. I’m sure you are very careful to express your opinions and ideas in a way that doesn’t attack, that isn’t laced in bigotry or hatred. But when did we become complacent with just worrying about us? When did Christ ever say that if we had it figured out ourselves we could be done?

We have an obligation, if not to the Church itself then at least to ourselves (if we’re going to really practice what we preach) to show love and compassion. And if you ask me: To provide the gentle voice of reason when appropriate. We don’t need to become the ‘Prudish Police’ of Facebook (I actually think there’s a coalition of super-moms that have that title), but we would do well to vocalize, to stand up and without sarcasm or responding ‘in kind’ say something when we see others we know cross the line.

“A man who is filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.”

-Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, Jan 1, 1841, p. 258

 “Brethren and sisters, love one another; love one another and be merciful to your enemies.”

– Joseph Smith via Lucy Meserve Smith, Aug. 1, 1892

HAVE your opinions and questions. SHARE your opinions and questions. DISCUSS those opinions and questions. But do it without hate, and encourage others to do the same.

Please?

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“Well, at least I’m smarter than all these other idiots.”

If you’ve spent even 15 minutes on the internet at some point, you’ve probably felt something like this:

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Now I doubt you’d put it like Homer did, but if you’ve felt this way – you may be more like everyone else than you thought. A recent study conducted by YouGov.com shows that 55% of Americans believe that they’re at least slightly smarter than average (with another 36% stating that they’re average). Or as Peter Moore says, “…the average American thinks they’re smarter than the average American.”

Their results are shown as follows:

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Now they go on in their survey to ask questions based on income levels and other things. It’s pretty interesting so I’d recommend checking it out for yourself.

I however have come up with my own theory to explain this study:

Stupid people are loud.

What’s worse is we’re wildly entertained by stupid people and their loudness. As evidence: I give you Honey Boo Boo. In fact, I’ll raise you a Bridezillas, and toss in any one of a dozen celebrity meltdowns just for good measure! (Britney, Lindsay, Amanda, take your pick!) I know at this point you’ve probably hidden all the young children and are coming after me with the “swear jar” because I said a “no-no” word (twice!), but I’m going to say it again — someone keep track and I’ll pay my tab at the end of the post — these people are stupid. And what’s worse is that they’ve become famous for it. So what does that say about us?

I think that the reason all of us average Americans assume we’re at least somewhat smarter than everyone else is because the normal intelligent individual (like us) knows to keep their mouth shut unless they’ve got something intelligent to say. Stupid people can’t stand silence and so they have to fill it with anything, everything! So when we’re asked to compare ourselves – all we can hear is roaring stupidity – we assume that if that racket is the norm, we’re at least a couple of steps ahead of the game.

(I know Ron White has said, “You can’t fix stupid.” But consider this my disclaimer that I consider stupid to usually be a temporary state of being — if only so I can have excuse to later be dumb myself. Fourth of July is coming up, and I’d hate to rule anything out…)

So here’s where I make this applicable, are you listening?

I firmly believe that if you’re reading this, then you probably don’t qualify as stupid (at least not right now, I mean: You’ve got great taste in blogs!). So please, be careful how you present yourself online – even on social media forums with friends. More and more employers are looking past the job interview and into the online profiles of their applicants. This means that, while you may clean up nice for the interview, if you’ve spend the last 5 years online badmouthing past employers it’s possible your ‘big break’ will be a big bust. In fact, there are even websites now that offer “social media checks”  to curious employers. Twitter has gotten people fired and Facebook has been used to help police track suspected criminals on the run: Stupid can have lasting effects if showcased online.

My advice to you is this: Don’t be stupid. Especially online. Because once you’ve posted that status or shot off that tweet, you lose the ability to take those things back.

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#Selfie – American Narcissism

Maybe it’s satire. You know? Maybe they’re just poking some fun while trying to cash in on the latest fad. To be honest? That’s probably it — but my problem is not with their business sense.

#Selfie by the Chainsmokers has been climbing to the top of charts since its release late January and garnered over 40 million views on YouTube. If you haven’t heard the song, you’re not missing much – except a headache and possibly an unfortunate desire to go and “take another Selfie.” Selfie was named “word of the year” by the Oxford Dictionary in 2013 (it wasn’t until I looked it up to write this post that I realized this wasn’t a joke!), and as reported by CNN there are now more than 54 million photos on Instagram with the hashtag selfie. It’s statistics like these that are highlighting, for me, a bigger problem:

When did we all become so vapid and self-centered?

It probably started innocently enough: With the onset of sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc… all requiring profile pictures – it made sense to occasionally turn the camera inward and snap a shot or two so that you could be properly identified online by friends/family. Then, of course, the phone companies started to make self-facing cameras the standard, and the trend intensified.

Selfies themselves are not the issue, only a symptom. The internet and social media sites are continually hailed as being pioneers of connectivity – putting us in touch with more people in more places every day. And yes: It’s amazing, it really is. But the focus of this connectivity is no longer so much about making/maintaining human relationships as it is a scramble to become a self-made celebrity. Comment sections are rife with people begging for “shout outs and reposts,” because today’s savvy internet user isn’t interested in friendships, they’re interested in followings — Narcissism isn’t a new concept, but with the advent of Social Media, he’s becoming our best friend.

The harm here is that this culture of self-adoration doesn’t limit itself to the internet, and when too many people become “all about me” it means bad news for everyone else.

For example: John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address is famous for the slogan, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” But there are some other gems in that speech that are less well-known, but no less powerful:

“To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required…” (emphasis added)

“In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course.”

-John F. Kennedy, Jan 20th, 1961

Statements like these, emphasizing personal accountability and work ethic are sorely missed. It seems to me that the unsaid slogan of today has become, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what it hasn’t done already, and demand that!

**Note: The big irony of this post is that every time I tried to
write "Selfies", my auto-correct wanted to change it to, selfless.
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3 Ways To Avoid Being Murdered … Online.

Your Double Life 

At this point everyone has one, so there’s no sense in denying it. There’s the life you live, and the life you post: Your digital life. Given the recent security breach at Target, and a couple of high-stakes digital hijackings involving the twitter usernames: @N and @mat (those are links to their stories). I’ve found myself scrambling to find some kind of digital ‘bullet-proof vest’ to wear online.

At this point you may be thinking, “Well – I never shop at Target, and I hardly use twitter.” and if you’re about to merrily click over to Facebook to stalk—er, “skim through” a friend’s profile. Let me throw some other names out to get your attention:

GoDaddy, Amazon, PayPal, and Apple

All of these companies were involved in some way with the hacks of @N and @mat (the links to the stories are above – take the time to read them!) and while I am not pointing any fingers of blame at these companies, if you’ve used their services, or services like theirs: Listen up – this applies to you.

I’m not going to go into detail on those stories, you can read them for yourselves. What you ARE going to get, is 3 simple things that you can do to prevent the brutal murder of your double life.

1. Backup Your Data.

And no, I don’t mean pushing the floppy disc icon on all of your word docs. Backing up your data is simply transferring the information on your computer to external storage (this could be a cloud server, a hard drive, etc…). While this won’t necessarily up your security – it will give you a ‘safety-net’ to fall back onto if you ever are compromised. Think of it like a ‘redo’ if you’re assassinated online. It would’ve saved @mat from a lot of heartache:

“Had I been regularly backing up the data on my MacBook, I wouldn’t have had to worry about losing more than a year’s worth of photos, covering the entire lifespan of my daughter, or documents and e-mails that I had stored in no other location.” – Mat Honan (emphasis added)

Backing up your data is simple, and there are plenty of low cost options available. Here is the WikiHow link to get you started.

2. Set up 2-point verification wherever possible.

2-point or 2-step verification is something that has begun to gain increasing popularity. It means you set up your account so that whenever you try to log in, a text message is sent to your cell containing a code you must then enter to gain access to your account. What that means is that even if someone gets your account name and password, they will be unable to log in and hijack your information without also having swiped your cell phone. If you’re like me and your Google Account/Gmail is something of a ‘grand central station’ for your online life – this is a must. (And in typical Google fashion, they’ve made it pretty painless to setup: Click here!)

3. Don’t use the same password for everything.

Surprising that this even needs to be said? Maybe. But does that stop people from using the same password for everything from their Facebook to their bank account? No.

THIS IS A BAD IDEA.

I mean, I get it – you have a “thousand different accounts for a thousand different things” and you really “only use one or two of those regularly so you can’t expect me to remember so many passwords!” and your password of, “myhipsdontlie” is un-guessable. Right. It’s just easier to use one password or some variation of that password for everything. Then you’re not trying to remember a novel full of alpha-numeric key codes with 1/2 of them being case sensitive.

My advice? Bite the bullet and make sure you’re using some variety. I myself can’t keep track of shoes, let alone passwords. So use a password vault like PasswordSafe to keep everything straight. Also if you use any sort of online banking, I’d suggest a unique password solely for that purpose – use it nowhere else.

I could keep going, but those are three simple things that don’t consume too much time and will help you to stay on top of your online security. I think most of us assume that we’re fine because we’re just a drop in the proverbial ocean of faces online – it’s statistically unlikely that ‘they’ will come after us.

And you’re right, the odds are that unless you do something to make yourself a target, you’ll probably never be the ‘random victim of the month’. But when a burglar is picking his next mark, he’s starts by looking for the unlocked doors & windows.

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Never Go To Bed Angry: Revamping Age Old Advice

Things that will cause absolute strangers to give you advice:

  1. Being famous
  2. Wearing a cast because you broke a bone doing something dumb (I’ve been here.)
  3. Getting engaged/letting on that you’re newly wed.

From the moment she said “Yes” to my ring and many times after the “I Do”, my wife and I have had the pleasure (in most cases) of getting advice from every imaginable source: Friends, family, neighbors, coworkers you rarely talk to, that one guy at the gym, the guy in front of you at the buffet line — I could go on.

Wedding

What I found interesting from this barrage of free ‘marital counseling’ is that people’s favorite opener was always either a sighing, “Marriage can be tough” or an overly wise “Never go to bed angry, stay up and fight!” That second bit was the one that caught my attention for two reasons:

  1. My father told me the opposite.
  2. So did my Bishop.

Now if there are any two men I’m inclined to listen to for life advice; it’s going to be my hero, and my religious leader. Even when it seems like the both of them are going directly against the bulk of society’s “knowledge”. Both these men gave me this advice fairly soon after our engagement, so it was with their thoughts in mind that I began (and still continue) to get advice from the rest of the world that flies in the face of what I was told.

Connected Research:

In the book “Switch” by Chip and Dan Heath, they discuss the difficulty of change. (To paraphrase briefly:) The metaphor they use is that your brain is like an elephant with a rider on top. The rider is your analytical and logical mind – the part that makes good decisions, and the elephant is the emotional mind that provides you the energy and willpower to act on your decisions.

So — Imagine that elephant and rider have had a long, hard day of working in whatever sort of labor that elephants and riders work. Imagine that it was hot, and dusty. Imagine that the dry wind was blowing in their faces as they struggled to accomplish tasks that were filled with setbacks, and now they – elephant and rider both – head home exhausted after such a day.

Picture in your minds that the path they walk to get home crosses close to a crystal clear pond, and as they walk the elephant can smell the fresh grass and hear the croaking of toads. This elephant has put a good many hours in today, following instructions from the rider with exactness. But now? He’s thirsty: And unless the rider wants to try and hop off and drag him by the tail (also ineffective) that elephant is going to go and get some water. The rider can scream and yell and stomp his feet, but that giant is tired and thirsty, and done caring about obedience.

The Problem with the “Stay up and fight!” Mentality:

Our minds work very much like this oddly-matched duo: As the day goes on and we’re faced with the normal stresses and trials of the day-to-day doldrums – we become less and less able to make good decisions and our proverbial ‘elephant’ brain begins to take over. The unfortunate truth in my life is that the clients I work with from about 9am-11am get the best me I can be! I’m awake, well rested and I’ve shaken off the morning grogginess by then. My wife, however – well, she gets the “just worked 8 hours with no lunch break, then school for 4-5 hours only to come home for another 1-3 hours of homework before bed” me. (And that’s not a very fun “me” to encounter!)

When confronted with an issue at the end of the day — made worse because it’s happening at home —  the ‘rider’ of your elephant may not keep control; and if you’re not careful you’re liable to turn into a PO’d pachyderm. This problem only gets worse as the night wears on, and your fatigue increases.

The Merit in Their Message:

There is a reason that this advice of late-night confrontation has stuck around, and that’s because there IS a sound principle behind it: If your choices are going to be a) stay up and argue it out until the issue is resolved, or b) go to bed and wake up the next day pretending like it never happened then –YES– By all means stay up until 3 am screeching at each other until you come to a resolution. Because if the alternative is closing the lines of communication and burying your problems: “stay up and fight” is the correct choice.

A Third Option:

The solution to this problem takes a little bit of planning and openness from both spouses. But the answer is really simple: Instead of going to bed angry/engaging in a late-night World War III that’s sure to make your neighbors love you, just stop. Stop and acknowledge that:

  • You love each other
  • You WANT to be there (you chose this, remember?)
  • You think MUCH more clearly after some much needed rest

Accept these three things and then go to bed, promising –now this is the important part- that the conversation isn’t finished and plan a time to resume the discussion when both of you are rested and thinking clearly. Everything need not be handled in one night, and honestly most things seem a lot simpler once you’ve had a chance to sleep on it. But, again, the key to this solution is that you go back to the conversation later; it can’t just be buried that night or it will fester under the surface until it becomes a much more serious matter.

So the next time you see that dumbstruck look on a strapping lad’s face followed by a ring on the slender hand intertwined with his; and you start to feel the urge to advise – think a second on elephants, and then maybe revamp some age old advice.

wedding 2

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