Monthly Archives: April 2011

Social Network Suicide

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A friend of mine asked me this week to explain my reasons for committing social network suicide:

I’m not going to bore you to death with the details of how
FB got started or how it works -I’m sure most of you have watched “The Social
Network” and probably all have facebook accounts yourselves. Facebook has
revolutionized the way humans interact with each other. With a few clicks you
can message your cousin in London, fill your friends in on how you scored on
that Finance mid-term, or even find out whether that girl who sits next to you
in into the same bands you like. Facebook has more than 500 million users, each
with an average of 130 friends, spending a total of over 700 million minutes on
the network each month. If you haven’t noticed it yet, the unique thing about
Facebook is that rarely will you find a profile that displays anything less
than only the best moments of that person’s life.

When I was on Facebook, I had close to a thousand friends,
easily more than as many photos, and everyone of them depicting a concert I
went to, a party I was at, a ceremony, that time I went to Greece, that time I
went to Venezuela; you get the picture. Anyone who looked into my life from the
window of a web-browser would probably think that I’m the man, that I have more
friends than they do, that I have a more exciting life, or that I’m more
popular than they are. As sweet as that would be, it simply isn’t a holistic
view of my life. Instead of presenting myself for who I really am -flaws,
fears, frustrations and failures -I chose to create a more popular, more
successful version of myself. If you’ve ever sat around at home on vacation for
more than a day, you may recall how easy it is to subdue your boredom by
surfing the internet, and updating yourself on your “friends” lives. Very
quickly, you may begin to compare your own life to everyone else’s profiles. Maybe
you’ll feel bummed that you don’t travel as much as they do; maybe you wish you
were more athletic, maybe you’re jealous that someone else has an internship
for the summer and you’re still waiting for one. And then maybe you feel better
about yourself when you finally come across someone’s profile that’s more
boring than yours. For me, I realized that there really isn’t any benefit from
being connected to a bunch of people that I’m loosely “friends” with. I also
realized that comparing myself to my peers is dumb -especially when it’s done
through a biased lens -and that I’d rather pursue real friendships with people
that I care about enough to see in person, rather than just creep on every now
and then.

Ultimately, Facebook causes people to be self-conscious,
envy others, feel bad about themselves, or feel good about themselves by
judging others. Ask yourself this: to what degree do you compare your life to
peoples’ “profiles”, and do you believe that false social approval is something
worth striving for. Would you rather people know you for who you are, or as the
person you’d have them to believe you are?

Think of it this way; if you were to die tomorrow, will it make
any difference what people thought of you?

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$14.3 Trillion

The time has come for us to lift the cap on our borrowing capacity: 14.3 trillion Dollars has not been sufficient to turn our deficit around, and now we need to borrow more in order to not default. Normally, since being a business major I have a pretty decent grasp of the complexities of federal spending, I stay away from making claims on how our deficit should be handled. I’ve worked for the WTO, and I know better than a lot of people what my limitations of understanding national and global economics are.

Today, however, I happened to go for a run through one of my favorite parts of town. If ever you run down University Drive toward South Atherton, you’ll come across a giant sign that says Lederer Park, behind which there is a very beautiful, very quiet neighborhood. I have been there many times -it’s one of my favorite getaways when the noise of UP gets to me -and each time I can never quite wrap my mind around one peculiarity of this neighborhood: when it’s night, and you’d expect families to be relaxing inside their homes after a long day’s work, in this neighborhood I’ve seldom found more than half of the houses inhabited. People own them for sure; there are no property signs out in the yards, but neither are there cars in the driveways or people in the windows. I believe that these mansions are the second (or perhaps third or fourth) homes of football fans who stop by every now and then in the fall (and maybe this weekend too). Again, you guys are probably all rag on me for this too, but I think our country has earned it’s current situation through many irresponsible government initiatives such as  the American Dream Downpayment Act of 2003, or by allowing stated income loans to be sufficient for home mortgages. Again, I’m in Smeal, I understand the merit of the free market and in our freedom to use our incomes however we please and to not pay high tax rates. But the reality is this: people don’t actually know how to spend their money wisely. How else did we get here in the first place? Instinctively, once our physiological needs of food and shelter have been met, our first priority is took seek to advance our own position or our own comfort, and not to better our society through social giving. In a perfect world, I would be absolutely pro free market policies, but we live in a far more broken world than that. Stricter government intervention at this time is a good idea, and if we need anything right now, it’s aggressive appeals to revalue the Chinese Yuan, and better incentives for American corporations to stay at home.

(mis)Representation

Elections are done. I know; I didn’t space the last week, and I would like to congratulate our own T.J. Bard for winning the presidency this year. But to be honest, I was frustrated at the way which our student body approached the election season. A post from Onward State put it perfectly:

Presidential candidate David Adewumi had a good point when he said
that most of the student body wasn’t attending last night’s debate, and
that the majority of people who were had already made up their minds as
to who they were voting for. And he was right: clearly divided sections
of supporters indicated their choice by the brightly-colored shirts they
wore.”

Unfortunately, this is the nature of political debates. Objective
discourse is nowhere to be found. The UPUA doesn’t have the luxury of
broadcasting the debate to a wider TV audience featuring undecided
voters. And even if they did, let’s be honest; who would watch? Each
ticket’s cheering section began applauding its candidates’ answers early
into the debate. During an opponent’s answer, sometimes these sections
would even murmur uneasily or borderline catcall their opponents, giving
the debate an atmosphere somewhere between the British Prime Minister’s Question Time and an episode of Jerry Springer.

I’m disappointed in UPUA for two reasons: first, for all the mudslinging and accusations that go on between the candidates, the few students who actually follow the election, and the educational and nonpartisan Daily Collegian. Second, I’m disappointed that less than 10 years ago, when Penn State Students got together to remodel the system of student government, they didn’t pick a structure that would allow for campus-wide student engagement. Instead, they chose an archaic and conventional system that, much like the local and state government today, would only appeal to a portion of the population (note: a record 18% of the undergrad population voted this year). I’m probably going to be considered radical for this idea, but to me it seems that we have a small enough population on this campus that we don’t need representatives to vote for us. Instead, I think that student government would be much more representative of the student body if every student were to be given the right to vote individually on legislation. We’re more than capable of doing it -either through electronic voting booths or through our e-lion accounts. Ultimately, I’m just bummed that instead of coming up with a creative alternative to our flawed system of government, we the students settled for minimal representation.

Happy Monday,

-Harry

p.s. Go Huskies!