The Trouble With Choosing Your Major

How are you supposed to go into college knowing exactly what you want to major in? I don’t really understand how anyone can be prepared to decide what to do with the rest of their life when they are applying to college. People tell you, “Don’t worry, you have time; you can figure it out later!” But then it turns into “later,” and some of us realize we are on the wrong path, but there is nothing we can do about it.

I am one of those people. I decided to apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences as a High School student, yet I didn’t really know what I wanted to do yet. I thought being a Business Major would be impossible for me, so I assumed that I should do something similar, but easier. So here I am, a Public Relations major. And people always tell me that my major is similar to marketing, so I should be able to find a job pretty easily. The only problem is, employers want to hire people who majored in Business! It’s that simple. And I see it every day as more and more of my friends who majored in any specialty under Business get job offers left and right. Obviously, now I know that I picked the wrong major. And it is too late to switch.

You might wonder why I wouldn’t be able to switch my major at this point, and the answer lies in the fact that I didn’t take the correct math classes my freshman year; so, if I wanted to take any Business classes, I would have to take two math classes before I could even begin to take business classes (which progress in order after you complete required classes each semester). That might land me a graduation date in 2017, when my current expected graduation is in 2015! And I am pretty sure I don’t have the time or money to spend going through all of that.

So what is the point of all my ramblings? Maybe that high school students should put a good amount of thought into their future before applying to college and selecting their major. I just wish there was some way for people to know what they should be doing with their lives much earlier than their junior year in college. Because sometimes, you look back on what could have been and realize that it is just too late.

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Old People Texting

A week ago, I asked my mom to read over something I had written. It was typed on my laptop in a simple Word document. Five minutes in, I hear her say, “I can’t scroll down! It’s not letting me!” She didn’t know how to work the touch pad. In her defense, she never uses laptops. However, she uses her smartphone everyday to complete various tasks. It’s not that using technology is too difficult for her, she just doesn’t have a need for all of it.

Google “Working with Generation Y.” Articles upon articles (mostly about Tim Elmore’s book of the same title) will appear, advising baby boomers on ways to deal with millennials. Most of this advice is about generalizations; young kids all want work to be fun, to be paid a lot immediately, have flexible hours, etc. All of these articles mentioned that Generation Y was raised with parents who provided everything and will continue to hand over money in the the blink of an eye.  I found it all to be a bit ridiculous. Who wouldn’t want to have a job with meaningful duties, decent pay, and flexible hours?

After reading quite a few of these blogs and online papers, I found a similar theme: Generation Y and technology. Many of the baby boomers reported feeling scared about losing their jobs to younger employees who have more experience with technology. Generation Y consists of those who were born between the early 80s and middle 90s. They’re often referred to as “Digital Natives.” Companies are hiring fresh new faces who can work with social media and new forms of technology. Everyday we see new software and hardware being developed, and it can be difficult to keep up. This may seem threatening to Generation X and the Baby Boomers, but according to a study done by the Georgia Institute of Technology and the International Telecommunication Union, there is hardly a generational gap at all concerning technology in developed countries. People who can afford to have smartphones and computers will have them, and learn to use them. Many of those in Generation X were involved with developing computers and cell phones and still have the knowledge and wisdom to be relevant today.

Sure, us “Digital Natives” can upload a picture to Instagram or Tweet about our trip to Starbucks, but how many of us are going to be creating the next iPhone?

 

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Only slightly browned

Twelve days ago already (can you believe it?) I  gave my Ignite presentation on Mozilla Popcorn Maker. I have to say, it went pretty smoothly! I’m glad I practiced as much as I did, because it definitely would’ve been a burnt mess had I not. Here’s a little self-reflection on my 5 minutes of speech:

1. Ditch the podium. I felt I would give off a more approachable, perhaps convincing vibe if I didn’t coop myself behind the podium in the corner of the room. Instead, I rebelled and shaved off a split two seconds at the beginning of my presentation by sauntering to the other side of the big screen during my first slide.

Pros: More room to move around, less cramped space, better pointing ability.

Cons: Ok, so since I didn’t practice it dynamically, I may’ve spoken too much to the giant screen instead of my audience on occasion. Also, my hands may or may not have been shaking. Was that strategic or nervous pacing? One may never know.

2. Talkingatfiftymilesaminute. This is the inevitable plight of Ignite presentations. I’m a super speeder talker naturally (and I hate it because nothing ever comes out clearly and I sound stupid) so the Ignite format was both comfortable and scary for me.

Pros: I’m used to talking that fast. Plus, how else are you going to fit ALL that pertinent info into just five minutes?

Cons: Speedy, forced, sometimes unintelligible speech. Also, when I got really excited and talked even faster than normal, I advanced my slides prematurely and had awkward pauses here and there- like just before my video that didn’t play was supposed to start…

3. No video! I had an excellent clip of myself puenting, or bridge jumping embedded in my speech, but it refused to cooperate.

Pros: 15 seconds of free, only half-planned blabber. (Or is that a con?) I think I gave a hap-hazard description of what puenting is and why I was doing it, which fortunately brought me to my next slide just in the nick of time. Phew!

Cons: See pros.

4. When seconds feel like hours… When I practiced, I had my ending *perfently* timed. I’m talking voice-commanded ending slide. But, alas. #2 and probably a bit of #4 got in the way and played ever-so-slightly with my timing, and I ended my speech at a fearful 3 or 4 seconds too early.

Pros: “Finally, she’s done rambling…”

Cons: That anxious feeling as you use your closing line just a little too soon and walk back to your seat, praying, waiting, hoping that your final “The End’ screen actually pops up…

So it did, thankfully. And then it was all over! What a feeling of relief and accomplishment. I’d definitely recommend it. I had a lot of fun! I kind of wish we had to do an Ignite presentation when I took Public Speaking, but I’m glad I got the chance to do so here.

Phew! Now off to make some actual popcorn.

 

 

 

A cozy kind of glitch

I’ve been on a bit of a glitch art bender lately — ideas for my Unit #4 assignment, maybe? — and while I was out doing a little holiday shopping this weekend I mentioned to my friend that I’d love to see glitch aesthetic incorporated into clothing somehow — the brightly-colored abstract patterns that can result from databending would look awesome printed on a scarf or a shirt.

As it turns out, someone had a similar idea. Glitch Textiles doesn’t make clothing, but they do produce stunning blankets woven to look like they were produced by broken VCRs or digital cameras. I’m not sure I’ve ever coveted a bolt of fabric more.

DCP_0219

At $200+ apiece, these blankets are way rich for my blood, but I can admire (and obsess about a little, okay) from afar. There’s something intriguing and terribly cool about taking an unassuming digital error and converting it to something deliberate, tangible, and useful in the real world. I love it.

The Punctuation Predicament

When I finally got my texting game together in say, around seventh grade, I automatically just typed every message in its grammatically correct form. Now, this was before I was an English major, or had even done any amount of respectable reading. But still, I spelled everything correctly, and put commas where they felt needed.

Undoubtedly I received a bit of joking criticism from some of my friends who were fans of shorthand. But by then, it had become expected. And at this point, I can’t get away with even the slightest spelling error. The only times I use incorrect spelling/grammar/excessive emoticons now is when I’m being ironic. And no, I swear I’m not a hipster.

However, according to a New Republic article, I’m one of the minority. In the piece, Ben Crair elaborates on the fact that using proper punctuation in texts (and tweets) has become passe, and now even misconstrued as meaning something else.

For instance, the period. Choosing to include a period in texts, since it’s not exactly necessary, tends to hint to its receiver an air of finality, which can sometimes be felt as anger or aggressiveness. University of Pennsylvania professor Mark Lieberman explains it this way,

“In the world of texting and IMing the default is to end just by stopping, with no punctuation mark at all. In that situation, choosing to add a period also adds meaning because the reader(s) need to figure out why you did it. And what they infer, plausibly enough, is something like ‘This is final, this is the end of the discussion or at least the end of what I have to contribute to it.’”

And while an American University study found that college students use “sentence-final punctuation” on 39 percent of the time in texts, the omission and distortion of meaning is found in other punctuations, too.

Due to the inability to hear inflection and tone in a text, the overuse of the question mark and exclamation point has risen. There’s clearly a difference between receiving a text that says “Sounds like a good idea” and “Sounds like a good idea!!!!”. While I personally find the latter incredibly obnoxious, it does provide a sense of clarity (and assurance that it’s not sarcasm) the first lacks.

The reasoning behind this all, according to the article: “People are communicating like they are talking, but encoding that talk in writing.”

It seems to boil down to the unsolvable difference that will always lie between the written and spoken word. Regardless, the point remains: Knowing your platform and how to communicate on it effectively will always be a crucial skill. Period.

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Babies with iPads

I vividly remember getting my first cell phone. As a few of the girls in my friends group had recently received their own phones, I instantly began begging for one as well.  I was in 6th grade and it was a little hunk of plastic, one of the cheaper versions that didn’t even have a catchy name, just a number/letter combo like J57X. Regardless, I loved it.

The point here is I knew what a cell phone was, could see the benefits of having one, and asked for it by name. This is not the case for toddlers who begin playing with technology before age 2.

While I can see the educational benefits iPads and similar devices offer to a toddler’s sponge-like brain, I also can’t help but see a lot of negatives. But according to a Daily News article, 77% of parents believe using a tablet is beneficial to their child.

I can’t help but wonder, however, are parents using this as a substitute for reading to their children? Because playing games on a screen is not going to stimulate the language areas of their brains. It’s sad to see that some outlets are referring to tablets as “the electronic babysitter”.

However, in researching this phenomenon, I found little negative publicity for children using iPads, and instead just generic advice like experts recommend instituting time limits for children when using technological devices and, above all to “trust your gut”.

The only issue with this, I fear, is that toddler’s are not able to voice their feelings and needs like more grown children are. For instance, I know that after I stare at my laptop of iPad screen for too long, I can get quite the severe headache. However, I think a child having a lot of fun playing a game would dismiss this feeling until it became extreme. But, alas.

All in all, I realized I had to take a deep breath and understand that most parents are always trying to do the best for the children, even if that includes letting them play around on the iPad every once in a while.

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Understanding Cyber-bullying?

In light of my last post, I attempted to do some research into the statistics of cyber-bullying and found this CNN article. While the report didn’t present anything I hadn’t previously seen on the news, the numbers were still a bit shocking.

As many as 25% of teenagers have been victims of online bullying, 10% experiencing cyber-abuse within the past 30 days. Although those numbers may not sound especially staggering to most, as someone who feels like high school was just the other day, it’s truly surprising.

Maybe it’s because I went to a conservative high school, or maybe it’s just because I was raised to pick good friends, but the idea that 1 in 4 of my peers was bullied in any form seems more than a bit off to me.

Middle and high school are a rough time for everyone. Puberty sucks, homework sucks, rules suck, just about every part of it sucks. But the idea that to deal with all the suck you take it out on someone else? That was just never something that crossed my mind.

I guess I was lucky that, in my high school, being nice was seen as cool. I guess maybe that’s why I’ve never understood movies like Carrie, where the pretty girls band together to target a misfit.

But I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. It seems like every other week you flip on the news to see another teen that’s taken their life due to online bullying, like the especially harsh Steubenville Rape Case. Just reading about these things makes me sick, but most of all confused as to how and why it keeps happening.

The biggest question arising from all this mess: How do we fix it? What should schools and parents and social networks themselves being doing to prevent events like this from happening? Thomas Holt, professor at Michigan State summed up the problem saying,

“How do we extend or find a way to develop policies that have a true impact on the way that kids are communicating with one another, given that you could be bullied at home, from 4 p.m. until the next morning, what kind of impact is that going to have on the child in terms of their development and mental health?”

Luckily, it seems that many schools and even the government are making changes to prevent this sort of abuse. Organizations like We Stop Hate and It Gets Better (along with many others) serve as resources for students facing bullying.

While it appears that the right steps are being taken to eradicated cyber-bullying, it will undoubtedly still be a long and bumpy road.

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Ignite Feedback

These are just some quick thoughts that I have about the last project we had for Writing and Digital Media; specifically, the Ignite style of PowerPoint presentation.

I will say that it was really nice how Ignite forced us to compress our presentations into five minutes. In any other class, doing presentations for a class of twenty would have taken two weeks, not two classes.

It was also pretty intense. I’ve had a lot of experience with public speaking, and no matter what I always get nervous when I present. But having to pace myself to a string of fifteen second slides added an entire level of magnitude to my nerves. I think that someone could do a scientific study on the brain and prove that a human’s perception of time speeds up drastically during a presentation, because I could swear that each slide lasted only five seconds.

I’m torn on the issue of Ignite. On the one hand, I suppose it was a unique challenge to learn how to constrain myself to the Ignite format. On the other hand, I have a particular PowerPoint style that is very different from Ignite, and I kind of sort of hated Ignite. At least, I hated it at first. And honestly, given the choice, I probably wouldn’t ever do an Ignite style presentation again unless I had to.

But I do think that this kind of presentation is a very good constraint to introduct, especially in a classroom environment where presentations often last way too long. Or even in a business environment, where presentations go on FOREVER.

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The Positives of Oversharing

Andrew Simmons recent article, “Facebook Has Transformed My Students Writing- for the Better”, had me once again rethinking my concepts about oversharing online.

Simmons explained that as a teacher, he found that Facebook encouraged open and honest writing previously deemed socially unacceptable, especially for boys. Simmons wrote,

“While Facebook and Twitter have eroded writing conventions among my students, they have not killed the most important ingredients in personal writing: self-reflection and emotional honesty. For younger high school boys particularly, social networking has actually improved writing – not the product or the process, but the sensitivity and inward focus required to even begin to produce a draft that will eventually be worth editing.”

This sentiment reminded me of a research paper I wrote not too long ago detailing the movie Gran Torino (read: one of the best movies ever), and how Clint Eastwood, despite all his previous machismo, seemed to be making a statement about the true characteristics of masculinity. The movie favors honesty, loyalty, and sacrifice over violence, power, and aggression. In this article, Simmons argues that Facebook and rappers like Kanye West are doing the same thing – showing that vulnerability can be “cool”.

As someone who (as previously mentioned) tends to avoid oversharing and overly-emotional Facebook posts, it’s hard for me to agree or disagree with this supposed trend. Simmons doesn’t fail to point out that while a new sense of openness is created with social media, its just as quickly followed up with cyber-bullying.

To close, Simmons acknowledges the deeper truth behind Facebook (over)sharing – it doesn’t really matter if it’s improving a students writing, if it’s doing the much important job of providing true healing and support.

Writing isn’t just about the spilling of guts, obviously, but the transparency encouraged by social networking has laid the foundation for this freedom. When this freedom results in powerful, honest writing, it can in turn result in true healing for kids—not just the momentary reassurance a well-received status update may provide.

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This Post is Way Overdue…

Well, it’s basically been a month since I last did anything on my blog, and I have a really poor excuse to try to defend myself. I haven’t really had anything I’ve wanted to talk about.

Okay, that’s not really true at all. More like I haven’t had a lot of time to work on the posts.

No, that’s a terrible defense. Blog posting takes a couple of minutes. This isn’t a term paper I’m writing here (though it’s probably a more accurate representation of my actual writing style). Okay, how about I say my excuse is that a blog is by nature somewhere that you post your thoughts and ideas whenever they come to you naturally, and I haven’t been hit by inspiration to write.

And that is the absolute worst excuse I could have come up with. Really, all I can say is that I sort of didn’t focus on the blog because of other projects with deadlines, and I could have just spent an hour each week keeping up. I have a personal tendency to procrastinate on things that I don’t have deadlines on, which is probably one of my own biggest failings.

Still, I can make this work. I can bring some value out of this month-long dry spell, and I can do this by talking about writing.

There’s this one nugget of wisdom I love that applies in this situation. In his memoir On Writing, Stephen King wrote, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” I love this quote because, even though it comes from the world of creative writing, I think it applies to just about every aspect of the writing universe.

It’s easy to sit around and wait for inspiration to strike, to wait for the “right moment” to begin the composing process. This sort of thinking has caused many a student to wait too long to begin their papers, their final projects, and their presentations, until the final product is harmed by the lack of effort put into the writing process.

I am very, very, very guilty of this particular sin (hence the month-long absence of blog posts). Every so often I have to remember Mr. King sitting down and writing at his desk every day no matter what and force myself out of bed and into my crappy fifteen dollar chair to begin typing.

Now I’m not saying that the writing process can be simplified into a basic tedium of pounding out drafts. There is certainly a creative process where a writer would have to stop and think. My own writing process is very convoluted, where short bursts of writing is interspersed with hours of sitting around, walking, going to the grocery store, talking with my roommates, playing video games and tabletop games, watching movies, and generally goofing off.

Sometimes my goofing off is a part of my process; either I’m gathering up ideas to put into my work, or I’m resting my brain after a bit of mentally exhausting output. But other times I’m just putting off actually doing what I need to do, and it’s often hard to distinguish which one I’m doing.

I would say that it’s at least safe to say that if you haven’t even sat down to write a single word of a first draft yet, then you might just be procrastinating. This is at least true for me. Once I’ve begun to put words into a draft, I switch to writer mode, and everything I do after that tends to be a part of my process that feeds back into writing. But the most important step is to just sit down and, as Mr. King would put it, get to work. Once I grit my teeth and make a couple of paragraphs happen, my brain switches and the rest begins to flow.

Which brings this back around to the particular issue of applying this philosophy to blogging. I do firmly believe that if someone doesn’t have anything that they actually want to say on a blog, then they shouldn’t make things up to blog about. But that’s not what happened to me. I’ve had things I wanted to blog about, I just haven’t sat down and worked. So that’s what I’m going to be doing this weekend, and hopefully for the rest of the week and the semester as well.

Yell at me if I don’t.

Oh, and by the way, Stephen King is the man. I don’t care how many of his books are terrible. The man has serious writing chops.

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