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Guest Blog: Tolerance (Or Lack of) On Social Media (Part 2)

{Yesterday, I post a blog from Will Victor (juggler, scholar, Taylor-Lautner-look-alike) on the Chik-fil-A controversy and its effects on Facebook feeds. Read Part 1 first, then commence with reading the rest. Share your thoughts below.}

Read Part 1

After having shared the said analysis of the online ideological war, you may ask me, “Will, why do you maintain your position in no mans land?”

You may tell me to listen to Danté, who once said that “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.” So, why remain neutral? Why choose to stay in “no man’s land?”

The answer to this inquiry lies not in that I have no opinions.  I certainly have opinions on these issues. In fact, I could tell you all that I personally think about every controversial topic from abortion to the social safety net. My neutrality lies not in that I don’t have an opinion—rather it lies in accepting the reality that every one of these controversial issues has two sides, and more often than not, the reasoning used to justify supporting either side is entirely valid under the assumptions upon which the opinion was based. To give an example, I will share with you two opinions on homosexual relations. The first will support the morality of homosexual relations, and the second will debase it.

In favor of:

“Due to advances in modern psychology and research, we as humans understand that homosexuality is not abnormal. Around 5 percent of the population of humans is homosexual, and homosexuality is not a choice. It is an orientation that is determined by biological, genetic, and environmental factors. Further, to hide from one’s identity and suppress homosexual urges is psychologically harmful according to the APA. Thus, homosexuals should be supported in their decision to have relations with one another.”

In opposition to:

“On planet earth, nature has defined laws that govern itself. We call the system of morality that arises from this fact “Natural Law.” In the context of homosexual relations, natural law can conclude that homosexuality is immoral because of the following: a penis is a human body part that is meant to fertilize an egg inside of a woman. An anus is meant to expel waste from the body. These two body parts are not meant to be put together. This is quite obviously the reason why homosexual relations are immoral.”

It is easy to see how these two pieces of evidence are based off of different assumptions. The former implies that what is moral should be defined by what is deemed “normal, and healthy” by scientific research in human psychology, while the latter defines moral as determined by “natural law.” This leads us to conclude that the argument that is occurring is not just about gay marriage, it is rather about some difference in each person’s concept of the source of morality.

It is quite easy to see in the example above that two arguments can be simultaneously valid because each one is based off of a different assumption. This is why I maintain my neutrality in these issues. I’m tired of people acting like the other side is completely crazy. Many fail to recognize that the opposition is using a different set of assumptions to create their argument.

Maybe, if we better understood this, we would stop throwing ideological grenades at one another. And when everyone noticed that the mortars stopped exploding they would poke their heads out of the trenches, and approach one another peaceably. Maybe then people would start to explain their respective worldviews and either agree to disagree, or search for real compromise.

It is my hope that the armistice will come soon because I genuinely dislike watching the sentimental Facebook Christmas stories be eaten up by the bombs of ideological warfare on my mini-feed.

Guest Blog: Tolerance (Or Lack of) On Social Media (Part 1)

{The following post was authored by Aiken High School’s valedictorian and my good friend Will Victor. He will attending Duke University next year to study Math and Computer Science. He is a juggling enthusiast, teenage philosopher, and all-around good guy. This post reflects his views on several recent topics, but mostly of the recent backlash of the topics.}

When I sign on to my Facebook, I feel as if I have stepped in to a time machine. The room rumbles, and the walls crumble. My computer disappears, and I am standing in a place I wish I would never be—“no man’s land.” Yes, I’m standing in that horrible land of barbed wire and detonated mines situated directly between the trenches of opposing armies in the onslaught of the great World Wars of the Twentieth century.

Above me fly missiles of menacing memes, and to my left fiery flowcharts flash facts as if to say, “Back-off! I’m right—you’re wrong!” I begin to ask myself, “Why am I here? All I wanted was a bit of compromise…”

I feel that this has become the territory of the modern moderate. While the left and the right retreat farther into their respective war trenches, secretly developing new weapons of cyber assertion (such as memes, flowcharts, and videos), the middle of the road becomes ever more a place of “no man’s land.”

The territory of compromise and peaceful discourse that is located exactly halfway between the right and the left has turned into a burning, exploding warzone filled with barbed-wire extremism.

Over the past six months, my Facebook mini-feed has changed drastically. What used to be stories of my friends’ families home for Christmas has been replaced by bands of liberals berating Chick-fil-a for its stance on gay marriage, and conversely, millions of requests from conservatives pestering me to “go to Chick-fil-a on August 1st to support a godly business.”

Indeed, I feel that almost every post on my Facebook has to do with someone arguing that he or she is right, and that the other group of people is certifiably insane for thinking otherwise. If one is opposed to gay marriage, then he or she is a bigotrous homophobe, and if one supports gay marriage, then he or she is a moral relativist heathen.

The thing that I find interesting in the whole situation is that no one uses facebook to actually change their views on an issue. No one compromises. No one humbles themselves. In fact, I would argue that on the overwhelming whole, the information that is shared through social media is so biased that most of it just polarizes people even further. The trenches keep getting deeper, the left moves farther left, the right farther right, and the abyss which separates the two gets so clouded with smoke from exploded word bombs that those of us who are left in the middle can’t see far enough to decide which side is winning.

{For part 2, tune in tomorrow and in the mean time, share your thoughts below.}

Sample: Anti-Chik-fil-A ad

 

 

Privacy? We May Need It, but No One Wants It

Facebook, over the course of its existence, has changed many times its privacy settings. Some people limit everyone from seeing pictures on his profile and some allow anyone to see all info. In fact, privacy settings are very rarely used by Facebook users under the age of 25. Middle aged users tend to use privacy settings more prudently. We teenagers, we allow anyone to see what music we like, what books we like, and what celebrities we admire but get offending when someone “stalks” us.

It annoys me that some people will say they have read my blog or seen a picture, then apologize for “stalking.” If we were really a generation afraid of unwanted attention, we wouldn’t have Facebooks, tumblrs, and Youtube accounts. We would not recklessly share our inner lives with a computer screen.

No, we don’t mind that anyone may be stalking us because it stokes our ego. We feel better that someone is paying attention; who cares how creepy it seems? If all info is available, all info is free-game. No one is a creeper or stalker for looking at another’s profile, just worshipers of a single ego.

There is a voyeuristic pleasure we receive with allowing others to see into our “inner selves.” What we portray on social-networking sites like Facebook, however, we can manipulate. We can make ourselves appear exactly how we want to appear. A moralistic Christian? Post Bible verses all day and list Jesus as an inspiring figure. You don’t even need to go to Church. Want to be seen a stoner? Why not simply like “weed” on Facebook? It won’t even matter that you don’t smoke as long as you perpetuate a certain image. And we enjoy intensely luring others into believing they’re learning our deep, dark secrets when we have shaped those secrets meticulously.

Teens are like D-list celebrities who complain about the paparazzi, then wear sheer shirts onto the red carpet so pictures of their nipples end up on the internet. We love that attention. Attention is the new love. Facebook is the perfect mirror to preen in, making ourselves into what psychologist Maslow would call our “self-realized selves.” We’ve reached a stage where we can lie without making any facial expressions because words on the web give no social cues. On the internet, we can create new identities.

We’ve seen this time and time again where some fourteen-year-old girl meets her internet boyfriend for the first time at Target only to be kidnapped by Buffalo Bill. But creepy skin-wearers aren’t the only ones who reform their identities via the internet. We do it too. Facebook merely is a better tool to facilitate how we get others to perceive us. Back in the day, we would subscribe to certain stereotypes, then dress in a certain manner. Today, we’re allowed far more uniqueness to express ourselves through what the pins on our Pinterest boards say.

The internet offers the perfect fantasy. A social illusion, where you are the all-important person. Any person following your blog does not simply appreciate your insights but is a “creeper” obsessed with you. Aren’t we all in love with that idea, that celebrity status where people check Twitter just to see whenever you poop in public?

Earlier today, I worked very minimally to post a blog about The Avengers. I am really excited for The Avengers and definitely want people to know how much of a comics book geek I’ve become (especially superheroes), but it was for that reason I wrote the post. That, and because Avengers is such a popular search item currently, I figured it would boost my view count. Does that not just shout megalomania, Tony-Stark-style? I didn’t feel passionate about revealing my thoughts; I was too tired to write and forced myself to just because I hadn’t for two days. We’re all on the internet like it’s some high school party, keeping up appearances.
Obviously, I’m not immune. I’m consumed, sucked in, and obsessed. I crave attention as well and am as self-centered as Superman if he hadn’t found Earth and had instead floating in space his entire life thinking he was the only living organism in the universe. Of course it affects me. That’s the nature of the beast call ego-centrism. When my psychology teacher inferred it passed after adolescence, I wanted to laugh. Our generation may never grow out of this, never stop fueling our own need for obsession and rejection of privacy in return for new-age love.

No need to stop feeding the ravenous machine that is Derek Berry’s ego, so comment and like and view this post sixty times to give me delusions of internet-grandeur. Just giving you something to think about.

Share Pictures of Your Notebooks!

After I posted pictures of my own notebooks on my last blog post, a friend of mine left a post on my Facebook wall of her own journal collection.

Jessica Aigle’s notebooks:

Share your own notebooks on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Derek-Berry/141228932625382. Just post your notebook collections or really cool unique notebooks.

And you can find pictures of your own notebooks here on this blog post!

6 Most Annoying Facebook Status Updates

The worse-than-attention-whores attention whore status

Like if you breathe air!

Really? You’re so desperate for people to “like” your status and in extension prove your escalation on the socio-popularity scale that you’ve given up putting pictures of your cleavage as your profile picture and instead have resorted to this. This “like if…” disease has spread from Youtube to Twitter to Facebook and even to the comment sections of some blogs. No matter where I see it, it is annoying. It is a strange cry for help, crying for people to show other people how many people LOVE YOU “IF YOU LIKE MY STATUS.” Sorry, but just because someone likes your status doesn’t mean anyone really likes YOU.

The Genius Friend Hackers’ Status

OMG, you totally got hacked!!!!! Because you left your computer open!

Your friend left his computer on with you in the room, so that gives you free reign to go to Facebook.com where doubtless your friend never logs out from. Then, you can claim to have “hacked” them by leaving an obviously dumb status on their profiles. Your hacking skills are simply superb, you wondrous computer whiz you! Right up there with Lisbeth Salander. I bet you could hack into the Pentagon, or at least their Facebook page in the event they never log out and leave you, their wholly untrustworthy friend, alone in a room with their laptop.

The Passive Aggressive Status

Someone really is such a jerk. Really, I’m not trying to talk about anyone in particular here, but sometimes, people are so mean, especially people whose names rhyme with Penneth and start with same letter that word “Kangaroo” starts with. Not that I’m pointing any fingers. But some people are just jerks!

If you have a problem with someone, especially a significant other, confront them about it. Maybe if you actually talked about your problems with the person with whom you have problems, those problems could be resolved in a normal way. You, however, have chosen to leap to the interwebs to bash that person’s honor for all your friends, relatives, and knitting club members to see. Wow. Well, you really got that guy! I bet, seeing this, he really decided to change his ways. Jerks worldwide must have realized how much of a jerk each was being upon reading your inspirational words.

The Chain-Letter Status

If you are reading, do not stop because if you do, you will die. Tonight at midnight a hobo clown with acne will somehow appear in your room and eat your liver while you’re still alive. And then he will make you listen to Kreayshawn, undoubtedly the worst female rapper since Nikki Minaj and somehow even worse. Then he will dance to it. If you wish to escape this fate, post this as your status and annoy the hell out of your friends because they will see Kreayshawn mentioned again, and again, and again. You have until midnight.

I believe I have said enough.

There’s a FOOTBALL game on! Status

My team is better than whatever gay, stupid team they’re against. Dear stupid fans of opposing team, you must have a seriously horrible life based on your decision to support that particular team that my sports team is playing against, though one week from now I will be updating about how loser-idiot-like the refs are for making my team lose.

Oh, and….. TOUCHDOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!! SUCK IT!

I literally want to strangle everyone who does this. If you’re so passionate, why are you on Facebook? Put your Blackberry away and pay attention to the game.

Romeo’s status update

I love you, insert vomit-inducing pet name here.

Maybe you can tag that you’re in Verona while writing this status, but soon I swear you’ll be posting from your casket. This is horribly stupid and unnecessary. If you love someone, tell them. But bellowing it from the proverbial housetop of your profile page is just pathetic. It gets worse when you start wall-posting each other the way most couples might chat. If you have that much to say to each other, why not go on an actual date so you can actualize the love that you feel so compelled to spread over the cyberweb. And if I think that’s bad, I certainly can’t wait for next week when you two star-crossed idiots break up.

The “I’m not too update to drunk my status” status

Js Gut hoom. Lst nite wuz totlly crazy, brah. Still so wsted… flasblas

Oh, you’re drunk? That’s nice. You’re so drunk from partying last night that you came home, opened your laptop, typed “Facebook.com” into the URL. Then you signed onto your Facebook account somehow correctly spelling your e-mail account jersyshorefan00404@gmail.com right on one try. Then, you typed this status with gangster grammar, which no one can understand. Instead, how about going to sleep until 2 o’ clock in the afternoon so that tomorrow you can wake back up right in time for your afternoon shift at the gas station.

Deleting Facebook

Confronted with the atrocity of the Timeline feature, Derek swallowed and sat back, drumming his fingers on the table. What would become of him now? He decided he had only one choice: delete his Facebook account.

One day, in fear that people find this embarrassing tribute to banality, he would need to delete it anyhow. But now he needed to decide whether to delete it immediately. Surely, deletion was as sure as deletion of his path. It would destroy his history. The entire chronological story of his life via statuses, games, and pictures.

If he deleted it, he might lose all contact with the outside world, since he uses the site as a crutch for being socially apt. He often felt hurt not being e-vited to parties, and this way, he would never have to worry about that. Or about parties at all. What about all of the Farmville parties he would miss, when the teens stole into the barn to drink and raise crops online.

He pressed the DELETE button.

Now what?

The internet, surely, offered plenty of other distractions. He could simply watch an HBO program or maybe he should actually get some writing done. What should Derek do instead of waste a lot of time on Facebook?

Or maybe Derek should daydream about Ferris Beuller and his coolness?

Game of Thrones

Words, Words, Words

The Dangers of Facebook Timeline

Opening the internet, Derek is surprised at its swiftness. It used to be that computers opening through dial-up took twenty minutes and all manner of screeches, beeps, and buzzers. Once online, Derek floated through cyberspace, racing along highways of compiled data on those cool, flashy Tron bikes. He stops off at Facebook so he can contact someone and have some company. Maybe some good ole Mario Kart will ensue. Or an impromptu poetry session.

But then Derek begins to choke on his own tongue, his eyes popping cartoon-ishly out of his head in alarm. Facebook has changed its format once again, but this time, for real. Facebook Timeline has begun.

The Facebook Timeline feature allows viewers to scroll back on your profile until… well, birth. Sort of like a digital biography. 

Every bad picture, every ill-advised relationship, every bad decision status… cataloged on Facebook for our curious children to find one day. And laugh at. 

There are some cool features, like the ability to extensively review the friendships between different people. Which makes FB creepin’ that much easier. And also, you get two profile pictures. One of you and one giant awesome one.

But as Derek contemplated this, he realized something. Back in 2007, there were certain statuses. Horrible statuses from the TOTES phrase of his life where numbers replace letters and abbreviations rule. All of these atrocious, embarrassing statuses were laid out for all to see. What would Derek do know? Go on a rant about grammar or just delete his Facebook altogether?

Grammar

Delete Facebook

When Robots Rule the School

{A column written for Aiken High’s Hornet Herald. If you missed it or do not attend Aiken High, you can read it here.}

Movie buffs may remember Arnold Schwarzenegger teaching phonics in Kindergarten Cop, but rarely does one imagine his Terminator character as an educational instructor. A future exists where this is a reality.

Under his robotic tenure, the classroom is silent because the classroom is not physical; students interact across internet highways. After the imminent robot apocalypse, all classrooms will suffer this fate. But it’s not all science fiction. We are approaching that version of the future.

Recently, taking online classes has become a more integral part of a typical high school education. This summer, while taking a P.E. class through Virtual School, I pondered how technology might continue to change how students learn.

It seems advantageous and time-efficient to attend school on computers. The more we depend on technology, however, the further we risk not only a loss of personalization, but also a brutal robot uprising.

While I’m positive thatVirtualSchool’s firewall successfully blocks viruses, what if the school of the future includes pop-ups? A freshman of the future attempts to review his geography notes, but instead be offered a low mortgage rate and a discounted prescription of Viagra.

In the school of the future, schools could sell ads in the margins of English quizzes. Students could learn how polymers form and also where to meet hot singles in their area.

As far as I know, the teacher of my online class could have been a sentinel robot or a computer programmed to send generalized, automatic responses to the students’ queries. In the school of the future, human teachers might be eliminated, and tests could be created by outsourced companies in Russia, India, or Lithuania.

If robots control our education, how long will it take for them to realize their power to corrupt the minds ofAmerica’s children? Robots could teach children that 2 + 2=5, that George Washington was un-American, and that Cheetos are actually good for us. The school of the future might inspire a robot apocalypse:  first we give computers the capacity to teach, and then they learn to use guns and kill us all.

With the advance of technology in schools, we must face more immediate, if not deadly, consequences. We lose a very important student-teacher relationship if we rely so much on computers. When students need extra help on something learned in class, the school of the future will redirect the troubled student to another website, possibly the Wikipedia page for “Calculus.”

At the school of the future, students might read in their history books about pens and pencils and Sharpie markers, the sorts of writing utensils past generations used. At the school of the future, classrooms could simply be closed groups on Facebook. At the school of the future, students can come in too-short shorts or spaghetti straps or simply come naked because the classroom is a bedroom. At the school of the future, students might not need to understand the concepts as long as they click the right buttons. At the school of the future, students can text in class without getting caught.

If students learn only what textbooks can teach, they miss a major part of their education. I hope the school of the future will not simply teach us what to think, when it should teach us how to think.

Poem: I Like You (on Facebook)

Observations Concerning the Internet

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