27
Oct 18

The Pros and Cons of Education in The United States

Education is one of the most important rights that all individuals should have access to. It is the stepping stone to success and opportunity in any society. Each country has their own set of laws concerning education and the educational system. The educational system in Asia differs from the educational system in the United States. However, they all follow the same set of standards in order to shape tomorrow’s leaders to become successful adults and influential individuals. Our world is constantly changing and it requires a society that is well versed in understanding the problems deriving from cultural differences and tolerance of one another’s beliefs and perceptions. The United States is one of the countries that has an enormous diverse society, therefore, their schools contain a huge level of diversity between students and educators. With such a diverse society, the educational system should accommodate and encourage this level of diversity as it has a lot of pros to education and the school system. However, as all things, there are both pros and cons to all educational systems.

In the United States, education has evolved throughout the years. With the arrival of people from all over the world came the development of stereotyping and discrimination. Unfortunately, this is one of the cons of the major level of diversity that is found in the United States. Discrimination started off first and foremost with the oppression of African Americans in the U.S. With the movement of Martin Luther King and Martin Luther Kind Jr., came the light of change of racism, discrimination, and social oppression. African American children began to attend school with the white population and slowly but steadily, their rights as humans began to take place. Unfortunately, in a school setting, a lot of bullying is a result of how other children differ in their looks, backgrounds, or cultures. As people advance into the 21st century, one can only hope that discrimination diminished in all aspects of society. However, that does not seem to be the case in most schools. According to Barret, McEchin, Mills, and Valant (2017), currently, black and poor students are suspended at much higher rates than their white or non-poor peers. This proves to show that discrimination is an unfortunate reality in most schools that develops into a negative aspect of the schooling in the United States. Another con that is available in U.S. schools is that they are overcrowded. Usually, the smaller the classroom the better the individual student experience (Lynch, 2015). Now-a-days, more and more children are in desperate need for one-to-one tutoring. Children are in desperate need for this classroom attention in order to grasp and understand concepts more effectively. Additionally, the greater the classroom size, the less effective a single teacher is at providing the best educational experience to all the students.

On the other hand, the schooling in the United States does have some pros over other school systems around the world. Firstly, the school system in the United States is very inclusive. Not only does it include children from all cultures and backgrounds, it includes individuals that are “school-age” citizens. For example, if an older individual did not finish his school education back in the day, they are given the means to complete it now if they choose to do so. Additionally, education in the United States is funded annually. According to Terry Heick (2015), Americans annually fund education to the tune of a projected $821 billion in 2013. Furthermore, all schools in the United States promote literacy. Educators are well aware that literacy is an anchor for social, economical, and financial improvement. With more educated individuals, the society can strive greatly as it advances into the future. Moreover, educators and school staff acknowledge that there are socioeconomic influences that take place in a child’s education. Educators are aware that socioeconomic status greatly affects the academic performance of a child. Therefore, they try their best to help those children that suffer from low socioeconomic status to the best of their ability.

In conclusion, education is essential for the development of any child. Often, it differs from one country to another but it follows the underlying principals that is universal in educational systems world-wide. Americans are committed to changing for the better and that is shown through their development as a society throughout the years. The cultural diversity is a major development that is not simply established in any society. All individuals of any society are subjected to the negatives that comes along with change. However, a society is considered successful if they work together as a single unit towards overcoming such disparities and learn to live and develop efficiently together.

References

Barrett, N., McEachin, A., Mills, J., & Valant, J. (2018, January 09). Discipline disparities and discrimination in schools. Retrieved October 27, 2018, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2017/11/20/discipline-disparities-and-discrimination-in-schools/

Heick, T. (2015, November 21). 10 Things Public Education In America Is Getting Right. Retrieved October 27, 2018, from https://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/10-things-public-education-in-americsystem-is-getting-right/

Lynch, M. (2017, October 15). 10 Reasons the U.S. Education System Is Failing. Retrieved October 27, 2018, from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/education_futures/2015/08/10_reasons_the_us_education_system_is_failing.html

 


27
Oct 18

The Finnish Education System Builds Socioeconomic Equality

I have developed an obsession with the Finnish education system. It started when I had my son, 5 years ago and has grown stronger throughout the years. It is true that we have options in this country. You can choose to send your child to public school, private school or a charter school. It sounds nice, but the competition and price is fierce with alternative choices. Private schools can cost upwards of 15,000 a year, and good charter schools may have 22 seats open and over 2500 applicants in a lottery system. So, you really don’t have much choice. I’m not sure why the American education system has deteriorated so quickly and in such a huge way. There is too much focus on standardized testing and placement. Kids aren’t really learning though, this is evident by how we rank compared to other countries. It’s a fact. Additionally, the stress of school makes children not life time lovers of learning, but they end up hating school. If you have a child with special needs this decision and stress is even exacerbated. My son is autistic and I hate the thought of putting him in public school. It has nothing to do with the teachers. I think generally most teachers are enthusiastic and are teaching for the right reasons, but the system is failing even them too. They have little to no autonomy on teaching the way they want. We can fix this though, it is a fixable problem. We just need to look at how Finland turned their system around.

Three decades ago the Finnish school system was much like ours. Very regimented and the outcome was poor in comparison to other countries. Finland faced a problem when they had a huge amount of refugees from other countries coming in which created a very distinct difference in socioeconomic statuses. Basically what Finland did was have all schools public and free. That’s the only choice you have. All meals are free and there is no segregation in classrooms. Teachers teach to all children no matter what level of understanding, or special needs they may have. Children get supported with one on one teaching from assistants and/or other teachers. There is no superiority between kids. This created a harmonious and cohesive and supportive relationship among students. The school day is also less structured with many breaks incorporated and lots of time for socializing and building relationships. They also don’t have a focus on homework. The outcomes have been amazing to say the least. Finland is constantly ranked among the top education systems in the world. Teachers are the leading degree that people want to peruse, it is considered an honor to become a school teacher and it is the most respected job. Children are happy and happy to go to school, and they perform. One of the most fascinating features that has come out of this is that socioeconomic mobility has increased on a level that hasn’t been seen anywhere else. A child born into poverty in Finland has a better chance at moving into the middle or upper class system as a result of completing school. This has lead to a decrease in government funded assistance programs and the money saved has been redirected back into the education system and teacher/assistant salaries.

I only wish more people in government would take the time to learn and study the education system in Finland. They have given us a literal blue print on how to correct this problem with the most positive outcomes.

Saunders, D. (2016) Finland’s Social Climbers: How they’re fighting inequality with education, and winning. The Globe and Mail

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/education/how-finland-is-fighting-inequality-with-education-andwinning/article29716845/


25
Oct 18

“I had to… So I Couldn’t….”

“I had to baby sit my little brother Monday night and I had planned on studying that night!” “I really needed to help out a friend of mine through a rough break-up this week, so that interfered with my study time.” “I might not do as well as I had planned on this test because I wasn’t feeling very well this week and couldn’t study a lot.” Precautionary excuses such as these are examples of self-handicapping. Self-handicapping is a process used to protect one’s self-image or self-concept. Self-handicapping refers to the strategy of creating or acknowledging potential barriers to success in an effort to displace the blame of possible failure to an external cause vs. an internal one, as well as enhances the value of success if achieved despite the barriers (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012).

Most of us have most likely witnessed examples of self-handicapping, if not practiced this phenomenon ourselves. This past week while meeting with a student she revealed to me that she had completely skipped taking an exam for one of her classes. She explained her decision by stating that her teacher didn’t remind them consistently enough that they had an upcoming exam, then had the audacity to only gave them 5 minutes to study right before the test! Instead of taking the test in the only class that she has been struggling in this year, and risking the possibility of not doing well, she chose to not take it instead and place the blame on her teacher’s actions, or lack thereof. This protected her self-concept because her poor grade wasn’t due to her lack of intelligence, her inability to grasp the concept of the material, or her lack of organization, it was all due to the course of bad decisions on her teacher’s part. Have you ever witnessed someone utilize the self-handicapping self-serving strategy or utilized it yourself?

The process of self-handicapping presents other questions. Is self-handicapping a strategy that is used minimally in times of high stress or fear of not doing well? Are there long term implications for someone who self-handicaps regularly? If someone habitually self-handicaps is it no longer a question of creating some barriers to make ones-self feel better about an outcome, is it now a question of self-esteem, depression, or anxiety for example?

 

References

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., Coutts, L.M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed).  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

 


23
Oct 18

The Re-Education of Schools on Mental Illness

I remember being in the main office during regular school hours, there was an “emergency” meeting between the principle and my parents along with myself. My disciplinary behavior was cause of concern, most of my teachers were concerned that I wasn’t being attentive in class and that my distractions were a disciplinary concern. I was also known to have bursts of attention seeking behavior and mood swings that affected me being successful in class. At the end of the meeting it resulted in more disciplinary action from my parents. Fast forward almost 10 years later my brother found himself in a similar situation in a different school. The psychologist of the school had diagnosed him with ADHD and bi-polar disorder. I had also been diagnosed after graduating high school with the same symptoms. It was very frustrating looking back at how my school dealt with these issues especially since it did little to improve upon my situation.

“School has been a real challenge for them. That’s not unusual for the 1 in 5 children with a mental illness. They often suffer anxiety, difficulty focusing and social challenges. Half of them drop out of high school, in part because many schools don’t manage to meet their needs” (Gold,J.2016).

The overall education system in the United States has taken steps to improve upon giving services and understanding how mental illness impacts their student body. Although the progress depending on regional area of a school can be stagnant. This can be attributed to a multitude of issues stemming from lack of resources provided to the school, lack of qualified individuals to help diagnose and treat students with learning disabilities and in worse cases a sense of apathy towards those who suffer from mental illness. Students with behavioral issues are often cast aside and written off as “problem child” therefore setting them up for an inclined battle throughout their life to have a semblance of normalcy. Previous understandings or lack thereof in regards to behavioral and emotional issues brought forth by mental illness has created an underlying problem in our educational system. Although in recent times there have been steps take to correct this problem there is still much more than needs to be done in order to better address the issue at hand.

“Schools do not all screen students for mental health issues, and the practice varies widely across states. Even if students are successfully identified, many areas lack the community-based mental health treatment options that would be needed to help them. Just 38 percent of youth with a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder receive treatment services” (Gold,J.2016).

With 38% of the youth in the United States suffering from mood disorder and schools not always screening students for mental health issues it leaves a door for potential disruption down the road with regards to their student being able to successfully complete their education and living a better quality of life during and after school.

 “In 2014, the federal government announced $48 million in new grants to support teachers, schools and communities in recognizing and responding to mental health issues. Still, many students’ mental health problems continue to go unidentified and untreated” (Gold,J.2016).

Funding for schools to address the issue is crucial in combating the detrimental effects of students with mental illness not having proper resources. Yet the responsibilities still lie within the school to make a better effort in identifying and treating students with mental health issues. To add more cause for concern, the current Presidential Administration is looking to roll back on public spending especially in schools. The cut in federal funding for such programs put mentally ill children at risk; resources provided by the government along with the conscientious efforts by schools to identify and provide services are desperately needed in order to assure the proper development and success of students.

Gold, J. (2016, September 13). One out of five children have mental illness, and schools often don’t help. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/one-five-children-mental-illness-schools-often-dont-help


23
Oct 18

Politics and Manipulation

 

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” -George Orwell (1984)

Media sources have the power to heavily influence how people think. Often this is used for educational purposes and helpful reasons. However, with the incredible influence that media sources have over our perception of events and surroundings – it has become increasingly powerful as a tool for manipulation. This manipulation is done either by partisans or the media source itself, often for personal gain.

Politics is something that has become inescapable in our social media focused society. We all know a person that uses a social media platform to start arguments with people they disagree with politically. Often spreading misinformation that will heavily sway other people’s beliefs as well. (Strandberg et al. 2018) This behavior has always been a part of our internet culture as social media allows people to reach a larger audience than ever before. (Nelson, 2018) However, this type of behavior has become increasingly common with the influence of a few factors. Due to our media’s representation of political turmoil and indifferences it has caused an increase in polarization over the recent years and the divide continues to grow.

Social media and news media have an enormous impact on the way that we process current events. Both sources can cause the public to believe something based on false information to the extent that it becomes the norm. A non-political and humorous example of this is the belief that carrot consumption improves eyesight. The only truth to this is if you already have a Vitamin A deficiency. This belief was started during World War II when Britain’s news stories were reporting that Royal Air Force pilots included a large amount of carrots in their diet in an attempt to mask the true reason behind the recent success of their pilots against their German pilot counterparts. The British were hiding their recent application of radar technology in aircrafts, something the Germans were yet to grasp. (Mikkelson 2015) Nevertheless, there are people in the United States today that believe that anything outside of the minute amounts of beta-carotene/Vitamin A in carrots is improving their eyesight thanks to that myth perpetuated by media outlets during World War II. This certainly makes a point to show that if the media we rely on can report false information to make the entire world believe carrots improve eyesight, certainly they can make people sway their opinions on political issues using false information as well.

The news media loves dramatic stories that increase ratings. Each news outlet often leaning towards a specific political party and skewing events to align with their beliefs. The increase in political polarization in the public as well, has also led to an increase in hostility towards those with opposing views. In an effort to increase dramatization of events in exchange for higher ratings – news media will make it seem as though our political parties are at war with each other. This representation of events makes a majority of the public shift their beliefs towards the party they align with and it creates an “Us vs. Them environment.” (McLaughlin, 2018) Not only does this lead to an increase in intergroup conflict, but also partisan identification, affective polarization, and ideological polarization. To put this in simpler terms, the media will dramatize conflict, the public will feed off of the conflict and become increasingly hostile and polarized, and in response partisans will take advantage of this and hold increasingly extreme views in an effort to obtain more public favor.

The news media irresponsibly uses its incredible power for personal gain and profit, while social media gives a platform for the spread of misinformation and dramatic political polarization. Unfortunately, the only thing that can be done going forward is the education of the public to understand the manipulation that is occurring on perceivably trusted sources and to learn to question things and research on their own. The issues stemming from media manipulation of the public will be an ongoing issue in the future and major changes would have to take place in order for media platforms to be purely healthy forms of communication rather than polarizing political tools.

References

McLaughlin, B. (2018). Commitment to the team: Perceived conflict and political polarization. Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications, 30(1), 41-51. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1027/1864-1105/a000176

Mikkelson, B. (2015). FACT CHECK: Does Eating Carrots Improve Your Vision? Retrieved October 21, 2018, from https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/24-carrot-eyesight/

Nelson, A. (2018). Pennsylvania State World Campus. PSYCH. 424 Applied Social Psychology. Lesson 8: Media/Communications Technology. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1942493/modules/items/25002532.

Orwell, G., & Fromm, E. (2015). 1984. NY, NY: Signet Classics.

Strandberg, T., Sivén, D., Hall, L., Johansson, P., & Pärnamets, P. (2018). False beliefs and confabulation can lead to lasting changes in political attitudes.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147(9), 1382-1399. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1037/xge0000489

 


23
Oct 18

Meanspo and Thinspo

 

(My post can be triggering if you have had an eating disorder so please don’t read if that is the case)

“Tumblr lets you effortlessly share anything. Post text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos from your browser, phone, desktop, email or wherever you happen to be.”

Often described as ‘microblog’ tumblr is a place where people can post anything they want. What is interesting is that Tumblr has a younger user demographic in comparison with other social networks. Whats also interesting is that there is a problem on Tumblr with blogs that promote anorexia and bulimia. Such a big problem that the site had to announce a new policy against “self-harm” blogs stating that from now on, Tumblr will moderate blogs that “glorify or promote anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders”

Pro-Ana blogs are still easy to find on tumblr. A whole community of people glorifying being eerily thin though “thinspo” and”meanspo.” Thinspo is often images of women with thigh gaps, protruding collarbones, rib cages visible through their clothes, gaunt cheeks, and  hollow eyes. Living skeletons.The blogs are filled with quotes revolving around how no one will love you unless your thin or how the only way you will ever be at peace is if your thin enough. There is also “Meanspo” blogs in which is people cruelly tell each other they are worthless if they eat, or gain weight, using words like fat cow and gross pig. Also featured on these blogs are a ton of tips on how to purge, count calories, use laxatives, trick your doctor in regards to weigh ins… All of it very disturbing. All of it not content that you would want impressionable young people exposed to.

The problem with media is that it creates access to literally everything. I am not one for censorship but I do think that certain content can be very harmful, especially to younger people and to the more vulnerable individuals of a population.

I had an eating disorder when I was younger and I still have a lot of issues when it comes to self image when it relates to size. These blogs prey on people who need help and who are on a self destruct course. I especially was very disturbed by “meanspo” which is just people being cruel to those who need support the most.

I think that social media sites should be required to monitor the content they allow to be published. Its good that Tumblr now has a policy against posting blogs that promote self harm but I also think that more needs to be done when it comes to protecting young people from some of the very harmful content that is easy to access online.

Im honestly not sure how this can be done without crossing the line of censorship but with this new world that we are now in of instant information and access, something does need to be done in order to protect those who are more vulnerable and fragile.


22
Oct 18

Swipe Right for Love

Believe it or not, my fiancé Dylan and I met on the dating app tinder. Rather than meeting the old fashioned way where we saw each other across a crowded room and fell in love, we first saw each other on our smartphone screen while flipping through profiles on tinder and swiped right (meaning we both said we were interested in talking to each other on the app which made it a “match”). Once we matched, we chatted back and forth over text for a couple of weeks, and eventually made plans to meet each other in person. Then after a year of dating, we got engaged! We have a wedding set for next August. The popularity of tinder and online dating services is continuously growing, due to a wide variety of motivations from individual users.

Marriages which started online are becoming increasingly more common. Online dating services are now responsible for introducing 1 in 6 married couples (Nelson 2018). However, despite this fact, tinder is not exactly thought of as a place to meet your future husband or wife. In general, it is stereotyped as an app to be used for hookups (meaning casual sexual encounters). However, according to a research study by  Sumter, Vandenbosch, and Ligtenberg, this stereotype is not entirely accurate. “The current study was the first to demonstrate that Tinder should not be seen as merely a fun, hookup app without any strings attached, but as a multifunctional tool that satisfies various needs among emerging adults” (Sumpter et al. 2016). The study uncovered 6 different motivations that cause young adults (18-30) to use tinder: Love, Casual Sex, Ease of Communication, Self-Worth, Validation, Thrill of Excitement, and Trendiness (Sumpter et al. 2016).

What also interests me, is that people’s initial motivation to create a tinder profile may not match their results. For example, while I did find love on tinder, that is not the motivation (as outlined by Sumpter et al) that I would categorize myself under. I have Autism Spectrum Disorder and am very introverted, which can make meeting people in person very difficult for me; because of this, I would categorize my motivation to use tinder was Ease of Communication. A study by Elizabeth Timmermans and Elien De Caluwe actually specifically linked the personality trait of introversion to this motivation. “Introversion (low extraversion) is a personality trait that positively predicts social phobia. Therefore, it is likely that individuals with lower scores on extraversion are more likely to use the application to improve their social skills” (Timmetmans & De Caluwe 2017). I would say this finding definitely matches my own personal experience. Since I struggle making initial romantic connections in person, it helps to do it online and build those skills in an environment where I can take my time to craft responses. In the end though, I didn’t end up needing to build those skills, because I met the love of my life on tinder right away!

When my grandparents asked me where my fiancé and I met, they were very confused when I told them we met online. To them, the concept was very foreign. In fact, if Dylan I had been born in their generation, we likely would have never met. The platform of tinder has created a new landscape for romantic interaction which allows for a wide range of connections that may not have been possible in any other circumstance. Many different motivations bring people onto the app—where they are brought together in an environment where they explore their connections from the comfort of their smartphone. This story of tinder shows that as technology evolves, they way that we interact each other and find love will evolve with it.

Sources

Nelson, A. (2018). Penn State World Campus. PSYCH 424 Applied Social Psychology. Lesson 8: Media/Communications Technology. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1942493/modules/items/25002532.

Sumter, Sindy R., et al. “Love Me Tinder: Untangling Emerging Adults’ Motivations for Using the Dating Application Tinder.” Telematics and Informatics, vol. 34, no. 1, 2017, pp. 67–78., doi:10.1016/j.tele.2016.04.009.

Timmermans, Elisabeth, and Elien De Caluwé. “To Tinder or Not to Tinder, That’s the Question: An Individual Differences Perspective to Tinder Use and Motives.” Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 110, 2017, pp. 74–79., doi:10.1016/j.paid.2017.01.026.


21
Oct 18

Filtering Factors

Have you ever thought that you would look better if you had plumper, more kissable lips? How about if you had a completely different skin complexion? Or even better, how about a set of dog ears and a canine’s nose? Well, it seems that the latest in social media-based psychological disorders, “Snapchat dysmorphia,” may be a cause for such intriguing requests. This condition stems from the circumstances in which people develop an obsession with correcting their physical appearance to resemble the filtered images produced in Snapchat, a popular social media platform. In further examining this unique predicament, a look at its unattended consequences and potential developments may shed new light on the risks of using social media.

According to information provided by the American Psychological Association, a body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a condition in which an individual’s fixation with imaginary or miniscule physical defects begins to consequently affect their mental and behavioral health (Traynor, 2018). While there is no known cause for this ailment, some have started to fear that the filtered images produced in Snapchat are causing people to invent or exaggerate flaws in their natural, physical appearance (Welch, 2018). What may initially appear to be a casual, and even humorous, selfie session can slowly begin to change how an individual may view their own self-image without the benefit of alterations. As these feelings continue to manifest, people may become depressed, embarrassed, and ashamed of their outward appearance in comparison to their Snapchat image (Traynor, 2018). These sentiments can also cause one to isolate themselves from society, develop eating disorders, or seek permanent medical procedures to alter their outward presentation (Traynor, 2018).

A recent story produced by CBS News focuses on an uptick in plastic surgery requests from individuals seeking to look more like their Snapchat photographs. While some use to provide images of celebrities to describe their ideal corrective procedures to surgeons, these doctors are now more commonly being presented with selfies that have been filtered to erase one’s faults. From 2015-2017, surgeons saw a 13% increase in the number of patients who wanted to look better in their selfies as a reason to seek a corrective procedure (Welch, 2018). Where the process of revamping or photoshopping images was generally limited to models and actresses, now one’s neighbor, childhood friend, or coworker may be able to modify their appearance with a telephone. This leaves many individuals, particularly adolescent girls, even more concerned with their everyday image, and ultimately, vulnerable to taking drastic measures to portray beauty (Welch, 2018).

“Snapchat dysmorphia” presents another reason for society to discuss the consequences risky outcomes involved with increased social media usage. As individuals continue to use photo-filtering technology to perfect their digital image, the concern that these techniques can lead to serious ramifications continues to rise. For those who develop a body dysmorphia disorder due to invented physical defects from Snapchat filtering, there is an increased likelihood of depression, social isolation, and acquired eating disorders. For some, plastic surgery has become the most viable option to obtain an appearance fit for, and because of, social media.

References:

Traynor, T. L. (n.d.). Body Dysmorphic Disorder [Scholarly project]. Retrieved October 19, 2018, from https://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/undergrad/ptacc/body-dysmorphic-traynor.pdf

Welch, A. (2018, August 06). “Snapchat dysmorphia”: Selfies, photo filters driving people to plastic surgery, doctors say. Retrieved October 21, 2018, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/snapchat-dysmorphia-selfies-driving-people-to-plastic-surgery-doctors-warn/


21
Oct 18

The Stratifications of Information Access in the Digital Age

“One by one he would conjure up the world’s major electronic papers… Switching to the display unit’s short-term memory, he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him.”
— Arthur C. Clarke, 1968, 2001: A Space Odyssey

The Stratifications of Information Access in the Digital Age

As social psychologists, we know that access (and its lack) to many different resources affects the well-being and development of individuals. We discuss discrepancies in the availability of housing, money, food, energy, education, and medicine and how these can impact individuals and society as a whole. Another resource often falls through the cracks in this conversation: information. Information encompasses all knowledge, not only that which is formally taught. Psychologists readily discuss formal education and have entire branches devoted to its study. Relatively little attention has been given to the broader resource of information and the impact of its presence or lack of availability.

The entire internet grew out of the desire and need to digitally share information. Its culmination was a huge leap forward for people who wanted or needed to be able to access lots of information quickly and efficiently. Jump forward a couple of decades and we are having conversations about how internet overuse is affecting youth, how the society is suffering, and how we are using the internet to make ourselves more depressed, lonelier, more disconnected, and lower in self-esteem. What in the world [wide web] happened!?

Information is very different from other resources in one key way: it does not get used up. The more it is shared, the more it growsrather than suffering depletion—whether for the betterment or detriment of those who consume it. Constructive information, when accessed, feeds the initial individual andthat individual’s ability to contribute to their society. But what happens when a resource has no bounds? The easiest comparison here is to equate the resource of information to that of food. Pretend that you have access to your very favorite foods, 24/7, no wait times, no questions, and the concept of “using up” a food or its source no longer exists. … Might you gain some weight in the next few months? Conversely, though, what if access to this limitless supply of food was still available, just not to you? And any other sources being to disappear? Though we are becoming all-too-aware of the negative effects of binge-level internet use, there are also those who are starved by the same system.

While development of information and communications technologies (ICTs) have created ways for information to easily be shared across the globe, by allowing money to sway the flow of information, they have also widened the gap between the rich and poor—both in terms of individuals and of entire countries (Britz, 2004). We have had to generate language to name the phenomena that followed their integration into society: information-poor, information-rich, digital divide, information poverty.

This year, Net Neutrality (U.S. Federal Communications Commission [FCC], 2015) was repealed in the United States (FCC, 2018). This allows an internet service provider (ISP) to give preferential treatment to any company and to slow the use of others. Although the administration termed this “Restoring Internet Freedom” (FCC, 2018), what this does is allow the companies which are able to funnel the most money into an ISP to receive better, faster service while slowing service to others. And that might not seem completely unreasonable, at first. In the U.S. we’ve grown accustomed to everything coming at a price—whether it is one we can afford or not. But this ability of an ISP does not only affect simple things or entertainment, as some tend to think of it. Internet service is much more than an individual user’s ability to catch up on streaming episodes of favorite shows.

In this same year, Verizon interfered with the functioning of fire fighters in the Mendocino Complex Fire of northern California (Dwyer, 2018). Being in the midst of a raging fire, it would make sense that teams would not be able to rely on landlines to coordinate efforts. Instead, they use the internet. But as they fought, their internet connection slowed to the point of being unusable. When Santa Clara County firefighters contacted Verizon for help, it was suggested they pay for an upgrade (Dwyer, 2018). Is this a type of information gap we can afford?

This also affects our ability to obtain current news. Most news sources are losing their ability to sustain printing practices, moving instead to online platforms (Bell, 2017; Ell, 2018; Grabowicz, 2014; Thompson, 2016). Limiting access to news restricts how informed the population is able to become on every variety of topic—whether it is medical advancement, natural disaster updates, or political issues on which a citizen is to vote. With every citizen in the U.S. having an important stake in upcoming elections, can we afford for some citizens to be less-informed than others? As hurricanes build and move toward us, can the country afford not to have access to the paths of these storms and shared information on how to escape them?

I am not so naïve as to posit that internet use is only for reading the news or fighting fires. But, even when taken in a much broader sense, internet availability not only affects individuals, but we teach each other how to use it as a group, as a community, and as a society (Tikhomirov, 1974). Along these same lines, as a society adopts new innovations, we collectively let the infrastructures which made possible whatever preceded them disappear. It isn’t only that we are alloweduse of the internet, it is expected. As internet use becomes the norms in schools, students with home internet access have better academic performance than those without, even when adjusting for economic status (Attewell & Battle, 2006). As it becomes the norm of society, unless previously informed otherwise, we expect others to be available to us at all times, within a matter of minutes (if not seconds). Previously-used modes of doing things may still be possible, but are reserved for those who have the time and other resources to purposely unplug from the demands of modern society. I love to write letters by hand, to cook over camp fire, to walk when I could drive. But if I used these methods exclusively due to an inability to access modern ones, I would soon lack any form of functioning within my community. It is the same for those to whom information access is limited.

As societies continue to evolve, if basic resources continue to be readily available to some and purposely withheld from others, we will be actively creating an ever-widening gap between those who are able to be a functioning part of their communities and those who do not have the tools to do so. In the case of information, there is no reason anyone should have to go without. This is not a zero-sum game. One person is able to have 100% of this resource while every other person around them also has 100%. If we do not want to actively create a population even more-prominently split between the havesand the have-nots, this resource, more easily than any other, can be made available, equally, to all.

________________________________

References

Attewell, P., & Battle, J. (2006). Home Computers and School Performance. The Information Society: An International Journal, 15(1), 1-10. Retrieved October 20, 2018.

Bell, M. (2017). Viewpoint: We broke the news media, how can we fix them?. In Newman, N., Flethcer, R., Kalogeropoulos, A., Levy, D. A., & Nielsen, R. K. (Eds.). Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2017 (pp. 28-31, Rep.). Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Britz, J. J. (2004). To Know or not to Know: A Moral Reflection on Information Poverty. Journal of Information Science, 30(3), 192-204. doi:10.1177/0165551504044666

Clarke, A. C. (1968). 2001: A space odyssey. New York, NY: New American Library.

Dwyer, C. (2018, August 22). Verizon Throttled Firefighters’ Data As Mendocino Wildfire Raged, Fire Chief Says. Retrieved October 20, 2018, from https://www.npr.org/2018/08/22/640815074/verizon-throttled-firefighters-data-as-mendocino-wildfire-raged-fire-chief-says

Ell, K. (2018, February 13). New York Times CEO: Print journalism has maybe another 10 years. Retrieved October 20, 2018, from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/12/print-journalism-may-last-another-10-years-new-york-times-ceo.html

Grabowicz, P. (2014, October 17). The Transition to Digital Journalism. Retrieved October 20, 2018, from https://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/digital-transform/

Tikhomirov, O.K. (1974). Man and computer: The impact of psychological processes on the development of psychological processes. D.E. Olson (Ed.), Media and symbols: The forms of expression, communication, and education, University of Chicago Press, Chicago (1974), pp. 357-382

Thompson, D. (2016, November 03). The Print Apocalypse of American Newspapers. Retrieved October 20, 2018, from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/11/the-print-apocalypse-and-how-to-survive-it/506429/

U.S. Federal Communications Commission. (2015). Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet. FCC 15-24. retrieved from http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2015/db0312/FCC-15-24A1.pdf

U.S. Federal Communications Commission. (2018). Restoring Internet Freedom. FCC 17-166. retrieved from https://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2018/db0104/FCC-17-166A1.pdf

 


21
Oct 18

Experiencing the Problems of the Digital Age

Social media has become a factor that has brought about great change in the world today. It has affected all aspects of life that range from communication, economy, social connections, and self-presentation. This period in history is what is known as the digital age. Generally, mostly everything in an individual’s life is controlled or associated with technology. The aspects that are influenced by technology include a person’s social, financial, personal, and work-related factors. People have become dependent on technological devices and social media. It has become the epidemic of the modern world which poisons our brains, bodies, and hearts.

Growing up in the digital age has undoubtably brought about change in the usual upbringing of our children. It has affected our children on a social, cognitive, and emotional level. Young children are being exposed to more hours of television and game-content that alter their thinking and mood. They lack the exposure to other activities that are essential to their cognitive development. For example, young children that are constantly watching television do not develop a proper level of imagination. Additionally, according to Christopher Bergland (2013), television exposure impairs a child’s cognitive development and ultimately, has a correlation with attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). Therefore, digital media not only impairs cognitive development, but it also may result in psychological disorders. In teenagers, social media can seriously affect their mental and emotional wellbeing. In this age, mostly all teenagers depend on social media as their source of entertainment or outlet. They have developed a need to know what is going on in other people’s lives as well as self-advertise their own lives by posting information or sharing pictures or videos.

One of the problems that young people face in the digital age is having a self-identity crisis as a result of the internet.  According to Carl Pickhardt (2014), every posted description of oneself, be it a social networking page or an online video tour of one’s computer desk layout or set-up, to everything beyond and in between, is an advertisement intended to define self, publicize personal image, enhance social standing, and attract attention from friends or family. As children, one identifies himself or herself through the attachment with their parents. When the teenage years make their way, teenagers detach from their parents and are more identifying with their social group. Furthermore, these are the years where a teenager changes identities in order to discover which person he/she is becoming. In the virtual world (the internet) adolescence become comfortable with the idea of expression through a computer screen. They become dependent of this factor and, as a result, do not develop the necessary charactiristics needed for face-to-face interaction. Additionally, teenagers can easily be manipulated by external factors that are presented on the internet that changes their thought, beliefs, and overall, self-image.

The problems that teenagers face affect their psychological, emotional and physical well-being. Psychologically, teenagers can develop of a form of addiction to social media or social communication. They are prone to situations such as cyber bullying which can ultimately affect their overall mental health. For example, a teenager that is cyber-bullied is at risk for developing depression and committing suicide. Emotionally, teenagers are prone to getting their feelings hurt because of the content found on the internet. In addition to cyber-bullying that causes hurt feelings, the way that the media portrays the ideal image of men and women can make teenagers feel angry, upset, or disappointed in themselves for not meeting those unrealistic body or beauty standards. Lastly, the internet can cause problems for individuals on a physical aspect as well. According to Mieko Okabe (2018), mobile phone users are usually chronically tired and suffer from headaches, vertigo, and stiff shoulders and necks. Additionally, internet usage has affected the amount of sleep that teenagers get. Usually, they are sleeping less than they should which would increase their development of insomnia. This will ultimately lead to loss of appetite, increased blood pressure, and less productivity.

In conclusion, the internet factor that one can not simply let go from their lives. However, it does cause problems on a social, psychological, emotional, and physical level when it is not used in moderation. The problems that arise from the abuse of the internet impact individuals and their societies together. The dangers of the internet can affect little children and develop into their teenage years. These first stages of life are essential for proper character, cognitive, and social development that are needed tools in order to function productively in society as adults. Education is an efficient way to bring about change to parents, teenagers, and other individuals about the responsible uses of the internet. Psychologists can develop education programs that bring awareness to the harmful causes that the internet can have when used in excess. However, they should also promote internet use in a responsible manner since society will continue to move into a digital age.

References:

Bergland, C. (2013, November 23). One More Reason to Unplug Your Television. Retrieved October 21, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201311/one-more-reason-unplug-your-television

Johnson, C. (2014, May 28). Growing up digital: How the Internet affects teen identity. Retrieved October 21, 2018, from https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865603981/Growing-up-digital-How-the-Internet-affects-teen-identity.html

Okabe, M. (2018, August 24). The problems of living in the digital age. Retrieved October 21, 2018, from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/08/24/reader-mail/problems-living-digital-age/#.W80lxa15DBI

Pickhardt, C. E. (2014, May 26). Adolescence and Internet Identity. Retrieved October 21, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/surviving-your-childs-adolescence/201405/adolescence-and-internet-identity


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