The Future of Selfies

In a distant, alternate universe, Tami has just snapped and shared her 10,000th selfie. She becomes the first person to do so in a mere 5 years. Tami is lauded by the entire planet; as fans fantasize about being able to achieve such a feat, they begin to try to mimic her perfection. Tami, a 25-year-old self-employed model, feels highly empowered by giving people a chance to witness her unprecedented beauty. Tabloids swoon over catching her in the act of posing for a selfie. She’s a role model. A saint. A woman of valor with a smug attitude that everyone ought to aspire to have. She has told people that her narcissism and self-righteousness can be further extended and she therefore plans on upping her selfie capturing to uncharted heights. Her fans abound, and people can’t wait to see more of her. The future looks bright…

Suppose such a universe did exist; hey, it might be imperceptible and right in our backyard! I doubt it, but selfies have transformed the way you and I perceive each other. The images reflect a “me-first” connotation in an increasingly “me-first” society. We all witness people who post endless photos of themselves in a mild-mannered way. These people are harmless; they’re just presenting the fruits of their labor. It’s good to have confidence and a bit of egotism, which can fuel you to do bigger and better things, but when these habits become visceral compulsions—the need to post pictures of yourself—you need to lighten the load.

Selfies have become commonplace in society. We see them being snapped everywhere from funerals to doctor offices. Think of how rare it was to get a picture of someone back in the AOL instant-messaging days; you would have salivated just to see one selfie taken by the woman or man with whom you were in conversation. But now that technology continues to increase at an alarming rate, we have the resources to present ourselves in a plethora of different ways, and at the most unceremonious times.

Apps like Instagram and Snapchat encourage you to post as much as you can of whatever you want, and the most important “whatever” is yourself. So we are left with people posting the same selfies unendingly, because “it’s not nice to criticize people” and the apps essentially provoke you to share instantaneously. Just remember: anything done in moderation is fine, but, usually, familiarity breeds contempt. Too much of anything gets old really quickly. People who have that mysterious mystique about them tend to keep the audience on their toes.

Let me drop a term I learned in economics some years back that has stuck with me: the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility. This basically states that the more you have of a good, the less you desire it the next time. It applies to many things in life: food, music, SELFIES, etc. That said, the more often you post selfies, the less your audience is enraptured by each successive picture, given the short lapse of time in between them. This is not only directed at women; men tend to turn the camera on themselves a lot nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, I think most selfies that people take are appealing and worth viewing, but they can quickly become redundant.

When your relationship is seemingly flawless and your partner starts taking selfies, consider that a massive red flag. Selfies are toxic for dating; they can tear down a good relationship faster than a wrecking ball against a Lego set. That is because a selfie is inherently attention-seeking, and creates a chasm of uncertainty and insecurity from your partner who values you the most. You show me a relationship that has a lot of selfie-posting from either ends, and I’ll show you a relationship that has a short lifespan.

Sometimes the prettiest females are the ones who don’t know they’re pretty; the under-the-radar, coy individuals who rarely dive into their egos. Studies have claimed that frequent selfie sharers have a dark underlying factor linked to narcissism and traits of psychopathy. These studies are still in their nascent stages, but evidence is being corroborated by many different outlets. Kim Kardashian is releasing a book titled selfish, which is a compilation of selfies throughout her “hardscrabble” life. This highfalutin tale will probably have a great effect on young, impressionable minds; and, maybe for the worse. I do commend Kim’s ability to promote her brand from a business standpoint, but maybe not in such a gaudy and dishonorable way.

Now, what will happen to future generations who embark in the realm of “selfiedom”? Will there be a backlash against selfies for fear that too much pretention might make one un-relatable to more modest people? It all remains to be seen. Moreover, these apps that unveil our privacy and give constant viewership to our friends and family will not dominate our life forever. There will always be something new and innovative waiting around the corner. Hopefully the avant-garde of that “something” will unshackle us from the depths of conceit in which we’ve been buried. Vanity can be inherent, but that doesn’t mean we should look away from things of great value in life.

In my estimation, extreme selfie shooting will eventually become a diagnosed disorder—a compulsion to exhibit oneself for the approval of others—that will inevitably wane through digital detox. All phones are equipped with cameras, but once we decide to spend less time on the phone because we’re literally wasting our lives away, we’ll naturally see a decline in selfies. Until that time, embrace the countless selfies that people share without any qualms. My advice is to post selfies that are original but to post them infrequently, so your onlookers will eagerly anticipate the next one. The visual aesthetics of a female are one of the greatest sights we can glance at, but we don’t need Tami’s reality to become our own.

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When Does The Party End?

Here I am, Saturday night, listening to music (a constant that’ll forever remain unchanged) and reading articles. Five years ago, at age 21, I would have had a better chance of scoring a date with Beyonce than to be caught doing what I’m doing now. The unwavering ambition to party was unquantifiable. But things change, right? It’s natural; the party cannot last forever. I suppose, growing older does make you more responsible in terms of bodily preservation and the forethought of having to deal with a harrowing hangover makes drinking seem a bit distasteful. Everyone wants to have fun, but everyone’s definition of fun may vary. One avenue of fun we can all agree on is partying; but why is that? Why is it so hard to be sober and have fun while everyone is raging and basking in drunken shenanigans?

Back in college, on the weekends, you can almost guarantee that about 85% of the students on & off campus were devising plans to get rowdy no matter what. If a tornado was on the doppler radar, that just meant to find a basement to imbibe in – where there’s a will, there’s a way. The ‘pleasure demand’ was sky-high. People just wanted to enjoy themselves, whether it be sexually or “alcholically;” this epicurean lifestyle would flourish most in college – where freedom meets a whole lot of raging hormones and peer pressure.

For some people, that behavior can persist throughout a lifetime. For others, the lifestyle may have an expiration date – I guess it has myriad factors all of which lead to how the pleasure affects you. But one thing that is glaring to me when looking back at high school & college was the immediacy of friendship needs which may inevitably engender partying, in one form or another. For example, think about how often you would be hanging out with one of your peers. Even if it were just watching TV or bullshitting over a past-happening, you almost unconsciously gravitated toward your friends. Introspection may be a natural derivative of maturing, but it’s hard not to look back and wish you were still close-linked like you were during those unforgettable days.

Now, when you get with your friends to carouse the town, it doesn’t have the same spark as when you were younger. Well, it’s probably because it has become superfluous, and everyone tends to be scatter-brained; fretting about things that are soon to come. Some people can bury their head in the sand and party daily with no remorse. I commend these brave ragers. But, for me, and many of my counterparts – we’ve curtailed the partying about 65%. Staying in on some weekends is just the way of the future. Being able to be able-bodied and productive without wallowing in bed, unable to sleep, is a major trade-off. However, people grow, things change – our generation of big kids still lusts for happiness and yearns for excitement. That’s how we feel alive. That said, the partying will never end, but for some people past their peak, it will be greatly reduced. Old habits die hard…

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Exercise Your Way to a Better Brain

Motion is self-expanding. We can easily succumb to the nonchalance of sitting on a couch and watching endless hours of Netflix. However, a sedentary approach to life is a shortcut to an accelerated death. To grow and live long, we must stay in motion. Physical activity endeavors from Pilates to sports to yoga all contribute handsomely to enhancing your body not just physically, but mentally. All the small things add up in the end, but we can temporarily obviate our inevitable demise by expending more kinetic energy, daily. The benefits of the impacts that exercise places on your brain are enough to convince any sane person to get moving post-haste. The brain can atrophy (cerebral atrophy) just like muscles can with underuse.

Throughout life we are battered by pangs of distress, emotional despondency, injuries, illnesses, diseases, hapless happenings, brain cell deterioration, etc. Moreover, most of these maladies come at the expense of our own ignorance. We’re taught early in life how important physical activity is in gym class. Some of us adhere, some throw the information in the back of our cerebellum only to be retrieved when it’s too late; or when we’ve been perturbed by unsettling news that an impending problem with our body will soon be taking place.

One of my favorite platitudes that I can’t say enough, “The time is now,” really hits the nail on the head on why we shouldn’t delay the advancement of our mind & bodies because tomorrow is truly not guaranteed. I understand how easy it is to be lazy; the willingness to not unleash any energy seems like a quality that an obese society cherishes. There’s too many avenues of contentment and complacency that, and much to our own chagrin, end up withering us away — even unknowingly.

Neurobiologically, exercise releases cortisol — the stress hormone that increases fat and stifles memory consolidation — which is a major benefit to adapting to stressors that may offset your system’s homeostasis. Along with strengthening your immune system, exercise can increase euphoria and feelings of bliss by the production of endorphins. Hence the term “Runner’s high” that befalls you once you reach a plateau of running and the feeling of comfortability and oneness with the specific activity. Long walks stimulate creativity and de-stress you from whatever may be burdening you at the moment.

Alzheimer’s, the terrible neurodegenerative disease that affects millions of people,  can be slowly prevented by increasing your movement. Scientists and psychologists have proven that a reduction of cognitive decline can be the result of implementing small, 20-30 minute routines into your daily regimen. Obesity is a big risk factor for Alzheimer’s, so continuing to shed body weight can stave off the eventual disease and lower the incidence rate.

Cognitive functioning and brain plasticity will be expanded 10-fold by instituting any form of aerobic exercise into your lifestyle. The brain will become sharper, motor skills will improve, brain fogginess will subside, the ability to learn new things will increase, and your memory will strengthen. These are advantageous points enough to keep you from ever wanting to take the escalator again.

As time progresses, we slowly lose more and more brain cells. We just aren’t made to last forever. Our bodies fade just as ink does on a sopping wet canvas. Death is inescapable, but we can decelerate the process by becoming more active. A civilization in motion is one that is highly prosperous and productive. Showing our kids the importance of ‘go-getter-ness’ and relaying the undeniable benefits of movement can take our planet to greater heights. As the battle with obesity and decline in brain functioning continues, understand that you choose whether or not you want to make yourself better. Be wise, get moving.

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Kids These Days

            We all, for the most part, remember our childhoods vividly. The days when juice boxes and fruit roll ups were in close proximity—when you made candy the entree and the actual dinner an optional appetizer. You could have the greatest time just being on the grass without any accompanying objects; the world was your oyster. These were your most precious days because of the lack of responsibility, the novelty of life, and our adventurous mind-states. However, with all the buffoonery that took place, you always knew where to draw the line. There was play time, school time (sometimes the two overlapped), and most importantly–reverence for the elders around you.

            I distinctly became cognizant of these important values through my parents, and through the visceral feeling of doing the right thing. That’s not to say that there weren’t plenty of defiant children around me who simply never listened and who remained wayward no matter how much verbal criticism or abuse they received. It’s relatively easy to follow suit with your contemporaries. Those children can be labeled as “bad seeds” and such, but I think there’s much more to it, psychologically and genetically. But now: today, apathy reigns and it seems as if kids, namely teenagers, represent a hodgepodge of nefarious morals. Nipping this slippery slope in the bud will keep our planet secure and I don’t think the contributing factors are hard to figure out.

          From the so-called “knockout game”—in which assailants secretly walk up to innocent pedestrians and knock them out cold– to guys and girls fist-fighting each other, society’s decorum is waning faster than ever. Put it this way: The “knockout game” is the highest form of cowardice ever demonstrated on this planet. Wait, hold up, let me reiterate: The knockout game is the highest form of cowardice EVER demonstrated on this planet. In the 21st century, cold-cocking someone who isn’t consciously aware that it’s going to happen trespasses on the lawn of fairness, bravery, justice, moxie, and rightfulness. This game is unconscionable; this behavior cannot be tolerated at any level. The fact that adolescent teenagers find humor and pleasure in this is beyond me. It seems to be a microcosm of the mentality kids possess these days in America: “Who can one-up who?” I find it utterly deplorable and downright inexcusable to hit another innocent human being for the sake of gaining “cool points” or fulfilling some gang-related initiative.

          Personally, I think social media exacerbates immaturity. Think about it– kids want to impress their so-called friends, so they do the most outlandish things. The correlation between funny and immature has always been a strong one. Now that Vine, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are available to anyone, people gain notoriety by performing such inappropriate histrionics. Many people adapt these technologies for mature uses that don’t contain any vulgarity, but this seems less widespread in adolescent youngsters right now. I get that kids will be kids because they’re just experiencing life by witnessing their mistakes and improving on their foibles at a slower rate than, say, a mature adult person. But, these same kids are our future, and reproaching them for wrong behavior should be encouraged. The lack of discipline and respect trickles down and has a chain reaction effect that is viral; that is, it makes other kids want to partake in these activities in order to become popular. It produces a snowball effect–when a snowball rolls down the hill and gains mass, it becomes harder to stop. Let’s not let this be the case for our young adults.

          Now, who’s to blame? Of course it can’t be the kids, I mean, they’re just kids, right?  Yes, indeed, kids only bear the burden of some of the culpability. Blaming teachers would be ill-conceived; you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The root of the problem lies within the parents. Kids are by-products of their parents. Whatever traits you and your spouse inherit, your offspring will probably have some of that DNA along with variations depending on the presence of dominant or recessive genes. That’s half the battle, and the other half seems to be losing its grip on our civilization: strong family values. Instilling probity in a kid’s mind at an early age and leading by example is crucial to molding their mind. Apathy also seems to resonate in parents; this paltry level of care is corrosive. I understand that broken families and an overabundance of children produces a cascade of pressure and responsibility, but it’s incumbent upon you–the bearer of the child– to take accountability, and if you can’t, simply do not have kids. Obviously that’s easier said than done, but it’s time to wake up. It’s the year 2014. Parents who neglect and abuse their children literally make them defective. This impedes the child’s development and also causes resentment. We now know, scientifically, that a small dose of spanking is okay, but relentlessly abusing your kids can lead to psychological problems and trust issues within your kin. There are numerous, alternative ways to discipline a kid that won’t eventually come back to haunt you. Just remember: violence engenders violence. Those kids who have no parents and deflect all of the societal temptations deserve major kudos and should be revered in every sense of the word.

          Though my tirade seems negative, it is only trying to prevent this adolescent complication from spiraling out of control. Moreover, I’m optimistic that we’ll start taking heed and recognizing that the absurdity of our actions ultimately reflects our own character. A recent survey by Joseph C. Blader Ph.D., of Stony Brook University, evaluated data from 1996-2007 from the National Hospital Discharge showed that psychiatric hospitalization rates have increased for children ages 5 to 12, rising from 155 per 100,000 children in 1996 to 283 per 100,000 children in 2007. A slow and steady increase in disorders will continue to grow exponentially, so making sure your son or daughters’ mental health is intact could be essential for knowing why he or she acts the way they do. I stand by the golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. Our kids are a distorted snapshot of what the future holds for us today. And if we want to change our future, we need that photo to come into clearer focus.

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