Cupid’s Corner

Cupid’s Corner

Happy Valentine’s, Galentine’s, or I-Stayed-Home-and-moped-about-tines! Whatever you did, I hope you had a good day and felt loved by those you love, including yourself! Life’s too short for self-hatred and self-pity. That I know from personal experience. 

With love in the air I wanted to share some personal thoughts I’ve had on love recently. Though to be honest, they’re not my thoughts. You see, I recently got engaged and with that happy day has come lots and lots of advice. Some good, some questionable, and others just plain funny. 

While you may have been married for years, recently divorced, or never in a romantic relationship, I hope you can see the principles in each piece of advice. While the advice may not perfectly fit your situation, the principle can probably be applied to most relationships in your life. Whether it’s your spouse, boss, neighbor, gal-pal, bro, or your dog, the key to basically every relationship is mutual appreciation and good communication. I hope you’ll find something useful in the advice I’ve been given. 

E-R = C

I’m going to start with some math here, but don’t worry it’s pretty simple. The above equation stands for Expectations – Reality = Conflict or Celebration. The essence of this concept is that we all need to check our expectations about the other person in our relationship. If we expect the other person in a relationship to understand us perfectly, never get upset with us, or never disagree with our point of view, then we will receive a swift and harsh reality check. On the other hand, if we expect to be with someone that is flawed, unique, and ever-evolving, and remember that we are subject to all the same imperfections, we’ll find happiness in the process of growing and becoming better together. 

Go to bed angry

Growing up I heard the common adage, “never go to bed angry,” meaning that if you and your spouse are upset with each other or in some sort of argument, you should work it out before you go to sleep and start another day. In concept this makes sense, why end one day and start the next one mad? But in reality, at least so I’m told, this is less realistic. In the words of a friend of mine, “there are few things a nap and a cookie won’t fix.” Turns out that a good night’s sleep, some time to reflect on the issue, and the opportunity of a fresh day can do a lot to put out the passionate fires of an argument and help us see what really matters. So many things don’t have to be an issue if we just give it some time to let the anger and other emotions fade out of the discussion. While emotions are great, it seems that most of us make foolish decisions under their influence, so just be aware, eat a cookie, and go get some rest. You can sort things out in the morning.

What you see is what you get

Now this may seem obvious, and I’m not here to insult your intelligence, but a lot of people forget this very important truth. This ties in well with point one, about expectations. Let’s talk some psychology to help explain this one. First, there are two things we need to understand: The Golem Effect and The Pygmalion Effect. These two effects are more or less the same, just describing different results from a change in behavior. “The Golem effect describes the process where superiors (such as teachers or managers) anticipate low performance from a subordinate, causing the very behavior they predict” The Pygmalion effect is just the opposite, “a superior’s raised expectations of subordinates actually improve performance.”

While your romantic relationship definitely shouldn’t have a superior and inferior member (unless you want to be really unhappy), I think you can see how important your belief in your partner is. What you see is indeed what you will get. If you believe your person is ugly, lazy, dishonest, and a bad kisser, that’s what they’re going to become. On the other hand, if you believe they’re hard working, attractive, honest, and a fantastic kisser, then whether or not that’s the case, that’s what they will actually become. If you water the proverbial flower and put it in good soil, it will grow, but if you don’t, it’s going to die. 

Now there may seem to be a slight disconnect between this last point and the first point I made. I can hear you now, “but Jackson I thought you said that having high expectations was bad.” That’s not what this advice is about. It’s true, if you expect perfection and shun reality, you’re going to be unhappy. What this last point is saying is if you believe in someone’s goodness, despite knowing that they’re not perfect, they will believe too, and that will help them achieve and become more. 

In Closing

As I write this blog, I’m grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the many pieces of advice I’ve been given lately. As I hope is clear, I’m no expert on relationships. I’m just sharing things that have been shared with me and that I see some worth in. I’m sure my soon-to-be wife and I will have our rocky times, just as all couples do, but I trust that as we employ some of the great advice we’ve been given, communicate, and love each other, everything will work out. I hope you too can find some worth in the advice as you consider your most important relationships.




Becoming a Hopeful Realist

Becoming a Hopeful Realist

I was discussing with a friend what I should write for this post. He brought up an interesting idea. My friend discussed the common glass half full vs. glass half empty scenario. He said there could be a third group: the people who see half a glass of water. Between the optimists and the pessimists there are people who simply see things for what they are. While this analogy might not work perfectly, it reminded me of one of the most interesting concepts I’ve learned of in recent memory. (more…)

Social Media & The New Echo Chamber

Social Media & The New Echo Chamber

One of the best (read: worst), parts of college is the assignment (read: punishment) to write research papers on various subjects. Usually writing isn’t a huge deal, I’d like to think I’m pretty great at throwing some coherent thoughts together (though you probably think otherwise), but the issue is with a research paper, you can’t just put your thoughts on paper. You have to put a lot of time and effort into finding articles and studies that support your claims. I find this research usually leads me to change my claim, or adjust it to better fit the research, which means I have to adjust my paper and constantly check that I’m sticking to the research as I write. It’s all quite exhausting and much more difficult than a normal paper.

All this being said, research papers can be really interesting, and sometimes even rewarding (sometimes).

So let me tell you about my most recent paper. I wrote it for a communications class focused on mass media. Our assignment was to argue one side of a controversial topic focused around media, and find research to support our argument.

I decided to write mine about social media and its effect on political polarization. That’s right, politics. Buckle up kids, it’s time to get triggered.

I’m kidding, the purpose of this blog and my original paper is not to argue left vs. right or to hurt any feelings. The point is that a lot of us feel that our current political discussions are much more heated and extreme than ever before, and it’s important to know why.

What I found in my research, and what is truly worrisome, is that social media is having an effect on political polarization, and it’s not a good one. The ideological middle ground is quickly disappearing as we push farther to the extremes of both left and right-wing philosophy.

A Pew research article told us as much: ““The share of Americans who express consistently conservative or consistently liberal opinions has doubled over the past two decades, from 10% to 21%. As a result, the amount of ideological overlap between the two parties has diminished” (Doherty, 2014).

Now I’m not here to say that social media is the only reason polarization is increasing, there are plenty of other factors that we could discuss. But it is clear that social media does play a role.

There were two main ways I focused on social media’s polarizing effect, these certainly aren’t the only ways social media affects us politically or otherwise, but they are two notable ways. They are through availability of information, and echo chambers.

Firstly, availability of information. This is pretty straightforward: social media gives us greater access to information and at a greater volume, this encourages us to be more politically involved, and as a result, we tend to float to one side of the spectrum. This makes sense, because it happens with most other things: you learn about something, and as you do you form an opinion about that subject. You can learn more about this concept here.

The second way social media leads to polarization that I discussed was the concept of echo chambers. If you pay much attention to politics and social media you’ve probably heard this term. Echo chambers are “environment[s] in which somebody encounters only opinions and beliefs similar to their own and does not have to consider alternatives” (Oxford Learner Dictionary). Social media is built to create echo chambers. The algorithms are designed to suggest content that it thinks you’d like, so the more involved you are with one side of the political spectrum, the more your suggestions will reflect that side. It’s easy to see how only seeing one side of an argument would make an individual sympathetic to that side, and unable to see or understand the other side of the argument. Here is a study that discusses this idea in greater depth.

So what is to be done about it? Well, other than getting rid of all social media and living in a hut in rural Peru, I don’t think there’s much you can do to avoid the current political climate. But you can be a responsible part of fixing this issue. You can be more open to other ideas, willing to discuss things across the aisle, and be welcoming to people that disagree with you.

Online, you can diversify your feeds. Instead of unfollowing your politically active friend from the other side of the political spectrum, you can take the time to read their posts and consider their ideas. Note, this doesn’t mean embracing negativity. If someone is constantly trying to start fights, unable to have a discussion, or is otherwise toxic, you have no need to follow or interact with them. But for everyone else out there, embrace ideas that aren’t your own. Before your texting thumbs start commenting angry responses, or you hit the “mute posts” button, take a read, consider the ideas, and compare them to your own, without needing to dehumanize or antagonize the person who made the post. Not only will you avoid anger, frustration, and the risk of losing a friend, but you’ll be able to contribute to a more intelligent, healthy, and inclusive discourse. Heck, you might even find things that you agree with.


Own the Present

Own the Present

I was recently told something that has been on my mind for a bit. I can’t remember the exact quote, but the message was this: you can’t change the past, and you can’t control the future, the only thing you have power over is the present. (more…)