Considering What’s Making me Happy

Sometimes taking a look at both sides of things can get heavy and difficult. That combined with, well, life, I’ve been a little down lately.

Today I thought I’d try a less heavy topic  like Daylight Savings Time. I don’t know if I’m just exhausted or what, but after ten minutes of research I was SO BORED.

So instead I’m watching Pitch Perfect and waiting for True Detective to start. Because that is really my life.

And then I got an idea! Every week on Pop Culture Happy Hour  they end their show with “What’s Making Us Happy.” So here are some things that are making me happy (besides Pitch Perfect and True Detective)

  • Bike ride up Provo Canyon – no picture because… I didn’t take one.
  • Billy at the Nissan Car Dealership. This super nice guy is helping me find my car. Hopefully I don’t get so screwed over this time.

  • My job. I have a real life job, guys. And I get to write/edit/blog all day, which is great.

  • My room is clean and all my laundry is done.

So this is what’s making me happy. Enjoy your week and let me know what’s making you happy!

 

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Considering the Middle of the Cookie Dough Oreo

Last month, the Cookie Dough Oreo was announced. Like many cookie-dough loving, Oreo eating people, I was ecstatic. It’s basically the magical cookie you never knew you wanted, but once announced realized you always hoped for.

Going to the store became a hunt for the Cookie Dough Oreo, but to no avail. Oreo’s evil marketing campaign announced the Oreo flavor weeks before it was released. While scouring the internet for the release date, I ran across a few reviews. I was devastated to discover no one was overly fond of the new Oreo, saying that “Cookie Dough” tasted more like coffee than anything else.

So I gave up on finding and enjoying the Cookie Dough Oreo. What was the point?

A few days later, I received a text from my friend saying he had found the cookies.I didn’t want to be Negative Nelly, so I chose not to disclose what I knew about the horrible flavor. Plus, I still wanted to try them. Maybe they wouldn’t be that bad?

And they weren’t. They were pretty good, especially compared to what I was expecting. So I ate too many. Friends were not so impressed, however. Not having heard what I had about the cookies, they were disappointed.

Experience is all about perception and expectation. If you expect something to be bad, you will only see the negative. If you expect something to be good, you will only see the positive. Look at basically any political debate right now and you will see that that is true. If we try to remove expectation and remove our own biased perceptions, we achieve objectivity. This is nearly impossible as human beings, but as I go through this blog, I think that is basically my goal. I try to remove my bias and my expectations and consider the middle of an argument, and of the Cookie Dough Oreo.

Considering Certainty

Last week, I read a piece in the New York Times titled “Dangers of Certainty.” In it, Simon Critchley recaps a show from the 1970s called  the “Ascent of Man.” It’s hard to recap a recap, but it ends with a clip of the scientist in the show visiting Auschwitz. He says that the horrible acts committed were caused by people who believed they had complete knowledge – and complete certainty.

“When we think we have certainty, when we aspire to the knowledge of the gods, then Auschwitz can happen and can repeat itself. Arguably, it has repeated itself in the genocidal certainties of past decades.”

On a related note, I watched the Oscar-nominated documentary The Act of Killing over the weekend. The movie follows Indonesian death squad leaders who committed mass murders in the 1960s. These men are  celebrities in their towns and country. The movie makers invite them to reenact their killings  in a Hollywood style for the film.

The movie is weird, but the most unsettling thing about the documentary was the nonchalant attitude in which these men recreated their mass murders. There is no sorrow or remorse. Even now, 50 years later, these men think they were right, or at least justified, in their mass killings.

In each historical horror there is one underlying similarity: certainty.

One does not commit mass murders of Jews unless they are certain it is right.

One does not set fire to a bus in Alabama unless they are certain those inside are wrong.

One does not fly a plane into a skyscraper they are certain it is the right thing to do.

I am not saying that proclaiming certainty on a subject automatically leads to atrocities. I think it is just important to realize that as right as we think we are on some things, these people believed they were just as right.

The scariest part about the current media and political climate, to me, isn’t that we don’t agree. The problem isn’t that we have different ideas or opinions. It isn’t that we have different goals. The scariest part to me, is that we are all certain we are right, and the Other is wrong. Somewhere along the way, we all forgot to say “I don’t know.”

As I’ve gone through this experience, I don’t always love not knowing exactly what I think. Certainty is sometimes more comfortable. But as the philosopher, Voltaire, said, “Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.”

Considering Social Media

sirius-xm-twitter-politics

I recently read an article titled 8 Things Your Brain Does Wrong Every Day. The article states that “we naturally gravitate towards things that we agree with or that reinforce our existing beliefs.” This is never more apparent than when using social media.

Everyday we friend, follow, and add people to our networks who we know will validate our ideas. Transversely, we hide and unfollow those who challenge those ideas.  Even which “news”  channel we watch – Fox or MSNBC? –  shows bias. We gravitate towards what we already agree with.

With that in mind, I decided to begin my impartiality experiment by purging my Twitter Feed and Facebook Timeline of bias. Mainly, this meant unfollowing liberal media outlets. Like most people, I use Twitter for most of my minute-to-minute news. Early yesterday I began unfollowing A LOT of my social network.

I said goodbye to Mother Jones, MSNBC, Rachell Maddow, DCCC, and other “liberal” groups. As I went along, determining whether groups were “liberal” or not became more difficult. Certain news outlets (Huffington Post, Buzzfeed) and journalists (Paul Krugman) were confusing. Biased or not? Other hard ones were Planned Parenthood and the Brady Campaign (A group pushing for stronger gun control legislation). These are nonprofits that liberals support, but does following them show a liberal bias? 

Simply unfollowing the questionable users seemed like the best answer, except for one problem: Purging people from my timeline was really hardI began to feel extremely guilty. By unfollowing “my network” am I revoking support and not being true to them and subsequently myself? I realized my political affiliations have become a huge part of who I am. Stupid as it sounds, I felt like I was denying a part of my identity by removing people I believed in from my newsfeed. 

This stressful response surprised me. I did not expect to care that much about the purge. This was a testament to how much I identify with my social media. The irony, of course, is that none of these people know I exist, let alone care whether I am following them or not.

After tearing of the band aid, I think I was able to remove all bias from Twitter. I kept most the news outlets, but removed the political pundits and columnists. I kept following both Republican and Democratic politicians, although I may decide to unfollow them later.

I forgot to check, but I would guess I unfollowed about 15-20% of my newsfeed. I used my new Twitter feed during the Super Bowl, and I didn’t seem to miss  anything – even caught Hilary Clinton’s Fox News zinger! Twitter honestly kind of seems less cluttered, but that could be my imagination.

I’ll update soon to talk about how I feel about my new unbiased Twitter feed.

Do you think purging Social Media of bias is a good idea? Would you ever do it? Let me know!

Considering the Middle

I’ve started to notice a pattern emerging around me. This pattern is not just on the news and in capitol buildings, but in my neighborhoods and families. In looking for “truth” we have come to one conclusion: If I am right, then they are wrong.

Each of us spends so much time and energy arguing this point. We spend hours each day, watching the news and surfing the internet looking for people who validate our rightness. And in 2014 we can find them and easily isolate ourselves from those who do not agree with us. We refuse to entertain the thought that others, too, could be right.

Little do we consider that the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. Sure, we know it in the philosophical sense, but we could never admit it. Doing so would allow for the possibility that we are wrong. But we are right. So they must be wrong. And nothing is discussed and nothing is accomplished and nothing is solved.

If we momentarily considered the middle, we may find some answers. Just because I’m right doesn’t mean you’re wrong. In each of our ideas is an element of truth. Finding that truth is increasingly difficult in the world of social media and 24 hour news. My goal is to see if that impartial, middle area is still there to be explored.

My questions are:

Can I have an informed opinion without disregarding either side of an argument?

Can I really be involved in social media, politics, and culture at large and remain somewhat impartial?

Can I have integrity if I don’t fight for one set of beliefs?

During the month of February I will consider these questions in as many contexts as I can: politics, pop culture, sports, etc. I will try to rid my social media of partiality. And I will spend as much time as possible considering the middle.

What questions and issues would you like to consider and discuss?