Glasses

Since I can remember, I’ve been wearing glasses. Wait, no. That’s a lie. I got my first pair of glasses when I was 8 or 9, in my fourth grade back in elementary school. Up until that point, I had never touched a pair, even though my entire family wears them. I remember talking to my mom about how everything seemed blurry; out of focus and that sometimes, I’d see two of everything and that’s when the headaches would begin. It was after this that my parents finally took me to an optometrist to get my eyes checked and it turned out, I too, much like the rest of my family, needed a pair of my very own glasses.

My first pair were these simple grey oval shaped ones. I still have them lying around in a drawer somewhere. But they were the coolest things ever to me when I was a kid because it had the type of frame that you could bend and twist and it wouldn’t break. That pair lasted me maybe 3 or so years, before I needed to get a new pair. My second pair were classier. A nice dark brown shade with a more rectangular frame, but still the type that you could bend.

The thing about glasses is that I don’t mind them. I know people who’ve said that they’ve been wearing glasses for longer or shorter than I have, and they hate it. They hate the way it leaves those marks on the bridge of your nose, or how sometimes it can make the back or your ears hurt. They hate the weight and everything about them, and how they would much rather have contacts. Truth be told, I hate glasses as well, but for a different reason. But in comparison to contacts, I don’t mind them.

I’ve always had a slight thing against contacts, seeing as how the idea of sticking something into or just in front of your eye has always freaked me out. It just seems weird and no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to psych myself into wearing them. So for me, it had become glasses or bust. I also hate the idea of laser eye surgery; however minimal, there is still the chance of going blind, and that scares me way more than contacts do.

But the reason as to why I detest glasses. It’s simple, and it’s something that’s been with me since I got my first pair all those years ago. It boils down to the fact that you’re aware that your eyes aren’t what they should be. With contacts, you wear them and you can forget that your eyes aren’t as strong as they should be, because you don’t have to view the world through a frame that sits just outside of your vision. You’re aware of it being there. You can see it. You can feel it, but you can’t do anything about it. It’s there, and it won’t go away. I hate glasses because I feel like what I’m seeing is different from what other people are seeing.  It’s like for a specific part of my spectrum, my vision is crystal clear. But dart your eyes to the side and everything becomes fuzzy. It’s an unsettling feeling to have.

I guess I do have one thing to be grateful for though. I was born with my eyesight intact. I can see, even if it is out of focus all the time when I am not wearing my glasses, but at least I’m not blind.

Another thing; your mother lied. Carrots do not improve your eyesight. They help maintain it.

Searching for Jobs (and the Problem with the Current Education System)

Ever since I graduated from university a year ago, with my degree in Environmental Studies, or more specifically, Environmental Politics, I’ve been stuck in a routine of wake-up, go to my part-time retail job, come home, apply for jobs (if I have the energy), and sleep. What scares me the most, however, isn’t the fact that it’s been a year and I really have nothing to show for it, but rather the toll that it’s starting to take on my psyche. While normally I’m a fairly happy and mellow person, I’ve been finding that the more I talk to my friends the more I say things along the lines of, “searching for decent paying, non-retail jobs has to be the single most demoralizing activity in the world.”

When we were growing up, we were an extremely privileged generation riding along the coattails of the greatest economic boom in recorded history, and to an extent, we still are. We were told that specialization was no longer the key, that we needed to be more rounded out, so we took up soccer and tennis and swimming and volunteered, because without that cultural grounding, we’d be laughed out of the job we wanted and would have to apply elsewhere — somewhere second rate. The problem with this is two-fold. First, we’ve burnt ourselves out doing everything we can to create a mile-long resume that says nothing of who we are as people, and secondly, the first rate positions are no longer hiring and the second rate companies have gone bankrupt.

It’s easy to point fingers, blame others for being accepted because the fit the role of being ethnically diverse, but that’s not it at all. The problem lies within our education system. The cost of getting a formal education in Canada is about $27,500 for a four year program (and is slowly rising), which pales in comparison to America, which ranges anywhere from $27,000 to $60,000 per year. It makes obtaining a formal education a seemingly unreachable goal financially. f every student could, I’m sure that they’d declare bankruptcy if it would allow them to wipe their debt away and start fresh.

“A bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma.” — NY Times

We’re an incredibly capable generation of students, eager to learn and studying everything from English to Psychology, partly because we can, and partly because we wanted to be well-rounded heirs to the economic throne. Maybe it’s the over-abundance of choice that prevents us from being able to settle into any one field, for the fear of feeling stuck in something you don’t like, or maybe it’s the fact that while we live in the 21st century, our educational system is stuck, preparing us for the century past. Rather than giving us the tools to be successful in the age of the internet, universities are more concerned with their profit and rankings amongst each other, making it ever harder to find even the most basic of entry-level positions in 2014.

I’ve spent much of the last year searching for jobs, applying for just about any position that’s open, and I’ve had a few callbacks, but nothing successful. They all require a one year commitment with no guaranteed hours or pay, nor a guarantee that they’ll keep you on past the one-year contract, all as an entry level casual worker/intern. Perhaps it’s my approach and mindset to this that’s preventing me from finding that a semi-decent paying, non-retail position job I so badly want, or perhaps it’s not know where exactly my heart lies. Whatever it is, I’m beginning to feel demoralized, and I’m not exactly sure when that will change for the better, but I hope it’s soon.

Mobile Photography, and Why I Love It

I love taking pictures.

Ever since I was a kid, my entire family has been all about capturing moments in time through photography. It didn’t matter if we were making a stupid face or if there was too much flash. What mattered was that the moment was captured for us to relive at a future date.

When Instagram first came out, I was skeptical. I didn’t see the need for yet another social site that only shared photos, when I had Twitter, and its image hosting site, Twitpic. Yet, when it was finally released for Android, I immediately downloaded it, and then never used it.

I used to have a bad habit of doing that. Signing up or downloading the latest app or social platform, and then never using it because I am so comfortable with what I currently have. I finally decided to give Instagram a try close to two years ago, and my life immediately changed.

I was hooked.

At first, the site was populated by overly processed images of food, celebrities, and yourself, and to a certain degree, it’s still very much like that (if you go to the Explore page). There weren’t high-quality images like the ones you’d see on Flickr or 500px anywhere, but that wasn’t the point. Initially, it wasn’t about the pictures, it was simply about the sharing.

When I first started to use Instagram though, the platform was going through a bit of a shift. I started to follow people I didn’t know, and saw that they were posting insanely high-quality images. I instantly thought that they were using a DSLR, which is cheating and circumventing the instant-sharing aspect of the platform, but I was okay with it because the images were phenomenal. What blew me away was the fact that there were people out there using nothing more than the tiny digital cameras on the backs of their phones to take beautiful photographs.

I snapped this photo in a Tim Hortons Drive-Thru in December 2013.

I snapped this photo in a Tim Hortons Drive-Thru in December 2013.

And I suppose that’s why I like the idea of mobile photography so much. It’s instant. You take what you see, and you share it. The best part about it is that you can post whenever, from wherever. While Twitter is relegated mostly to text and links, and Facebook and Google+ are meandering, trying to find their way back home, Instagram is pure. There isn't the social obligation to follow all of your friends, but rather, you get to follow all sorts of interesting people from all over the world.

As film-maker Casey Neistat said in his 2012 YouTube film,

“The magic of Instagram is that you get to peer into the lives of really interesting people.”

However, given the chance to help change and improve the platform and ideas behind mobile photography, these are the two things I’d love to change:

We know what your face looks like. There no reason to have a wall of JUST your face. Instagram, and mobile photography in general, is all about sharing the world around you. Leave the selfies to other sites like Facebook.

Go easy with the hashtags, or at the very least, make the relevant to the image. If your posting a picture of a sunset, there’s no need to have the hashtag #ootd just to get views and likes. That dilutes what makes Instagram so good.

Instagram has become all about sharing stories through high-quality photographs. It’s given me the chance to explore the world through the eyes of people I both know and do not know, and has pushed me to take more creative and inspiring photographs. What I find most interesting, however, is how you can tell how much a person has changed just by looking at their photographs, and what they choose to share.

A Culture Of Indiscriminate Over-Sharing

Recently, after having a conversation with my close friend, Dave, and after watching Sherry Turkle and her TED Talk, Connected But More Alone?, I have realized that we live in a culture of indiscriminate over-sharing.

Let me explain.

What I mean by a culture of indiscriminate over-sharing is that not everything you post from status updates to photos is relevant or necessary. Do your friends really care about seeing the 200 photos of you and architecture from Europe, or the 300 photos you’ve taken of your food with a million filters applied? The answer is simple: no, no they do not. Not everyone needs to know, nor cares, whether or not you can sleep, if you’re at the bar with your girlies, or if you hate the new layout of the social networking site that you’ll continue to use.

After coming to that realization, I began thinking; how did that process even begin, and it’s incredibly simple — it started with ourselves. Humans, by nature, are attention seeking, and we’re always looking for ways to one-up our peers. We see our friends and their amazing escapes around town, and sometimes the world, and we feel compelled to show that our lives are just as exciting. Susan Cain, in her TED Talk, The Power Of Introverts, says:

“It turns out that we can’t even be in a group of people without instinctively mirroring, mimicking their opinions. Even about seemingly personal and visceral things like who you’re attracted to, you will start aping the beliefs of the people around you without even realizing that that’s what you’re doing.”

Cain makes the argument that it’s a vicious cycle that we unknowingly perpetuate, and how it’s a cycle in which we need to break.

This isn’t just specific to Facebook; a recent study showed how nearly 40% of tweets were pointless babble from saying how much fun people had last night at that party in which they got SOOOOO wasted, or how they’re at 10,000 tweets! But, if you look, how many of those tweets were of any real importance that made people want to read more, think, and get engaged? Barely any, so much so, that almost 75% of all tweets go unread. Google+ is a unique networking site, because almost as an unwritten rule, you do not have people clogging up their “newsfeed” with one million photos of food, status updates, and pointless check-ins.

I’ve been a long time advocate of not being on Facebook. When the site originally launched, and had the VIP status of being associated only with top tier colleges and universities, it made sense. This was before advertising and the site in general opened up to the general pubic world-wide; it was the discussion between you and your classmates that kept you logging in every time, and not the steady decline to your five buddies clogging up your news feed by checking into the bar down the street. I mean, do we care if you’re at one bar and not the other? Once again, the answer is no.

While sites like Facebook might still hold some relevance, I see it going the way of Myspace very soon as users flock to other networks like Twitter and Google+. As Derrick Wlodarz puts it,

“If Facebook’s loss of 2 million users over the past six months is telling about anything, it’s that the social media craze of yesteryear has peaked — or is even on the slight decline already.”

From what I’ve been able to tell, the main reason as to why people aren’t satisfied with Facebook is due to their horrible privacy settings, and because Facebook continues to abuse it. Yet, what the same user base fails to realize that (pardon my slight anti-Facebook bias) besides Facebook being evil incarnate, they watch the trends of their users and adjust the site accordingly. So, for example, if they see users interacting with each other more than others, those users will see more of each other in their news than anyone else (Eli Pariser, in his TED Talk, calls them Online Filter Bubbles, and tells us to be wary of them). The same goes for with the way they upload information about themselves from personal phone numbers, to their sexual orientation, to photos of them doing kegstands. Facebook sees this indiscriminate over-sharing and once again, adjusts their site accordingly, because it thinks that the users simply do not care. It’s as much the fault of the user base as it is the fault of Facebook (and it’s evil, oh so evil, shenanigans).

Yes, I understand Facebook is seen as a convenient way to stay in touch with people long distance, but there are other ways as well, such as Skype, e-mail, and you know, by using the device you can’t go 5 minutes without; your phone! But, as we continue to make a shift from a world in which we once used online accounts and connections to stay in touch with relevant and important topics of the day and discuss them, to a more me-centric world, I fear that we will lose our ability to be truly social.

As my incredibly good friend Dave said to me,

“This is why we lack privacy these days. Smartphones will do our networking for us, and [not] as much effort will be required on our part to stalk and interact with people. Remember that shitty knock-off Android phone I had? I’m only making the connection now, but it had features I never got around to telling anyone. One was the option to send canned messages, like, “I love you.”…That is both hilarious, and seriously f-cked…it’s an unsettling thought to have in anyone’s head that your significant other’s texts are pre-written, so to speak.”

Dave was completely right, and his sentiments only further echoed what Sherry Turkle said in her TED Talk:

“And what I’ve found is that our little devices, those little devices in our pockets, are so psychologically powerful that they don’t only change what we do, they change who we are…People talk to me about the important new skill of making eye contact while you’re texting. Why does this matter? It matters to me because I think we’re setting ourselves up for trouble — trouble certainly in how we relate to each other, but also trouble in how we relate to ourselves and our capacity for self-reflection. We’re getting used to a new way of being alone together.”

This raises another interesting point; filters. This goes back to Eli Pariser’s talk; I think we like being online because it allows us to create this persona of ourselves in which we can interact with one another without actually having to interact. Another friend of mine once said that she tried online dating, and found that it the people she met in the flesh were different from their online selves, and she faced that same problem too; that she couldn’t live up to this character she had created for herself. This is a huge problem that stems from being online, and being able to edit, retouch ourselves not too much, nor too little, but rather, just right into the people we wish we could be, rather than who we are.

Personally, as much as I live on the internet and use it for almost everything I do, I wouldn’t be surprised if social networking was but simply a passing fad. What I’m more interested in is the world post-social networking.

My father has always told me that within my life time, the world’s most precious commodity will no longer be oil, or anything of material presence, but will shift to our own sense of privacy. Generally, I’d debate him on that, but in this case, I couldn’t agree more.