Perceived Age

If you go to an amusement park or carnival perhaps you’ll find a person that can try to guess your age for a prize. I wonder if eventually these people get really good at it. I don’t think I would do too well, because my internal compass for age isn’t very accurate. Instead of having 4 cardinal points and 3 divisions in between (between N and W is NNW, NW, and WNW) I’m just left with a compass that has four sections. The numbers are very rounded, so telling the difference between someone in their 30s from 40s becomes a challenge.

Fortunately this doesn’t work into my day-to-day so I almost never have to worry about it. I don’t think I’ll quit my job in the I.T. sector to go join a carnival in the near future. Starting at about my early teenage years I’ve been told I look younger than I actually am. This is not something a teenager wants to hear, but it was always followed with “you’ll be glad for that when you get older.” Well, they were wrong. In the world of technology, and especially when job hunting, looking younger can be a problem.

library-1147815_1280You see, with age comes wisdom. Similarly age runs parallel to expertise. There are exceptions to every rule, and undoubtedly there are people advanced in their years that have done little to further their education. You can be wise, but lack expertise at the same time. Also you can have a load of expertise while missing some basic wisdoms. What I’m trying to get across is that these are directly correlated.

In the world of Information Technology, which I find myself submerged in, a lack of expertise is not something you advertise. Nobody wants to employ the uneducated, after all. If you want to give someone money to handle your technology you want to know that they know what they’re doing. So it is in my best interest to give off the appearance of expertise. Hearkening back to expertise and apparent age, if I look young then it will be harder to find a job. It’s hard to say what uneventful job interviews were affected by this, but there is no doubt in my mind that my younger face eventually played a small part. Perhaps this effect wasn’t intentional. If I’m optimistic I’ll tell myself that when the interviews were over the decision makers didn’t consider my age, but that it affected their “feeling” about me.

Whatever the case may be I have found an inverse effect. At my job my age was brought up in casual conversation one day. I’m the youngest on my team, and my actual age was a surprise to someone. However, they thought that I was older than I actually was. How can I be mistaken for a younger person for so many years only for this to change? My only hypothesis is that it’s because of my proven expertise. Since I have been at my current position I have had the opportunity to showcase what I have learned.

medicine-163707_1280The person that was surprised was hired for a similar role, but his expertise was in a different field. He had spent many years getting an education in another field, and is now learning the ropes in a pseudo-software development environment. Of course being formally trained in this area I have much more expertise than this person, even though I’m easily a decade younger. So, since this person only ever knew me by the expertise that I had shown they assumed that with it came age. Their knowledge actually changed the way I was perceived.

I would like to believe that in a perfect world we wouldn’t judge books by covers. However, we’re only human. And humankind has spent generations and countless years depending on interacting in a society, using sight as one of our primary senses. Judging a book by its cover actually has some evolutionary advantage in perceiving threat and opportunity. Given this I don’t think it will ever be possible to completely eliminate this flaw from the world. We have to care about our appearance. It’s built into our society. So we will continue to judge books by covers, but at least we can lean this flaw in the right direction to offset it. It’s a social bandage, a temporary fix for a larger problem that I am far from the right person to try to solve. So, in the meantime I’ll keep trying to prove myself to others and hope that my age never becomes an obstacle.

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Clickbait Conundrum

If you’re unfamiliar, the term “clickbait” refers to titles of articles, websites, videos, etc that are crafted in a particular way. They’re crafted especially to bait you into clicking on them. It’s almost as if it’s called that for a reason. These link names and titles are common on websites such as facebook and buzzfeed. Especially buzzfeed. Despite the value of the content behind the link, the goal of the title is to get you to click on it.

The easiest way to do that? Give some information, hide some information. Common clickbait-like titles will be in a format such as “you’ll never guess what [celebrity name] did to get out of a speeding ticket!” These titles really like exclamation marks at the end, as if by adding that punctuation the article will have more exciting or interesting content. Another common one is “The top [random number] ways you can impress your date.”

chain-722278_1280For example, say you’re an artist trying to find out how to promote your art. If you google that, the top results will probably be things like “40 ways to promote your art.” Does the format look familiar? Well if you want to know what those ways are you better click that link. They’ve hidden some information. Maybe the contents will be exactly what you’re looking for, the idea is that you have to click to find out. They could have just titled it “how to promote your art.” That, however, doesn’t tell you how many ways they’re going to provide you to promote that sketch of a squirrel you drew. They’ve given you information.

These clickbait formats are the results of hundreds of website owners asking themselves, “how do we get people to click links to our website?” Eventually enough people asking the same question will refine a method and perfect it. The result of asking that question is the clickbait format. It’s cancerous, and annoying. It’s an easy way to get people to view your article/website for ad revenue without having to prove any worthwhile content. Once you’ve been baited into clicking the link the website has already got everything from you they wanted. The only next step is to make sure every article on their website has this type of title so that hopefully you click from one article to the next until you’ve exhausted your day giving them hits and increasing their traffic numbers.

immunology-1787743_1280Clearly, I dislike this. However, it works. Sadly enough it really works. If you have substantial content that you put a lot of work and you have to title it then you really need to consider using such a clickbaity title. Why would I advertise you do such a thing even if I hate it? Because it works. If your content is better than a similar buzzfeed article but their title is more clickbaity, you can bet that they’ll get more views. It’s a sad truth, but spreading yourself like a disease is the best thing for business. Which is exactly why advertisements even work. Billboards, website advertisements, youtube advertisements, commercials, newspaper advertisements, you name it. Make yourself more known, and you will get more views. Use a formula specifically crafted to get people to click on your links, and you will get more views.

This is something I struggle with. I don’t make my titles with this format. I would like to think that if somebody wanted to read what I had to write then they would do so based on the merit of my content, not the ability to get them to click my link. The key words there are “I would like to think.” This is because no matter how good my content is, it’s not using a perfected cancerous algorithm. This is an example of how doing what you think is right, isn’t always what will get you the win. Using a clickbaity title feels like cheating. It feels like being dishonest to me, which is why I don’t use it. But if only the cheaters win how is anything substantial supposed to be added to the internet? Should I swallow my pride to get more viewers and hope they like what I have? Should I start taking buzzfeed’s lead and write the most mind-numbing simple posts I can to get more viewers?

Maybe one day I’ll have a mental breakdown and you’ll see a new post by me named “the top 10 things you wish you knew please click this link i’m so desperate.” I hope that day never comes.

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Mental Miasma

Sometimes it’s called “writer’s block.” A sort of mental miasma, or inability to think clearly. I’m not talking about something as serious as dementia. What I would call not being able to craft thoughts easily would be “mental miasma.”

The reason I don’t call this writer’s block is because I don’t consider myself a writer. Sometimes the thought to be crafted isn’t about what to write down, but what to say or do. I’m having a bit of that now, and I’m positive I don’t have dementia at 24. I’ve been awake for several hours after a good night’s rest, ate a proper breakfast, kept well hydrated, and even had a cup of coffee. In no way should I be anything other than alert and awake. In a way I am; I’m perfectly awake and alert. I even know what I want to accomplish, that is to write a blog post.

Also, it’s not as if I’m unmotivated. I know I want to write a post. It’s not like I don’t know what to write about, either. Even if the presence of this post isn’t a hint, I also looked at some of the wordpress daily prompts and had a few ideas. What followed after the ideas like a dust cloud was a sort of mental haze or miasma. I know the general idea of what I want to put down, but I’m having trouble crafting the thoughts to go along with them.

winter-1902502_1280I am a tree-hopping squirrel among the branches of an oak set squarely in the middle of a field. Every branch is within reach, but I’m much too far aware from the other trees of the forest, too far away to jump from tree to tree. Every idea I can find in my head leaves me stranded on a very narrow field of thought. Jumping to another idea is so hard when I’m like this. My brain wants nothing more to just sit and stare. Even though I’m perfectly awake and my brain fully capable of running at capacity, I’m still just circling the branches of the same singular tree.

This post, a look inward, seems to be the only exception when I get like this. It’s a unique cluster of trees, but it still isn’t a forest and doesn’t reach as far as I’d like. What I wonder, though, is do other people get like this? Is this a common situation people deal with? I’m not sure, and the answer feels… just out of reach.

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Decision Fatigue

I am an athlete. However the muscle that I’ve trained is not the physical kind. It is related to willpower. Resisting temptations has been shown to exhaust willpower, like a muscle getting tired. It’s known as Decision Fatigue or Ego Depletion. I don’t know so much about psychology to definitively state if comparing this to a muscle is accurate. I’d like to think that if it is then I’m training it to the point where saying no to something normally irresistible becomes effortless.

It doesn’t seem to me that people value our ability to resist temptation as much as they should. So many things are happening as inner workings in our brains, much more than I will probably ever understand. Though my understanding is limited, I’m pretty sure that our ability to override our desires with pure willpower is a wonderful thing.

Evolutionarily our larger prefrontal cortex can be used to cause the body to harm itself. What is more backwards and unwanted than self harm? How could the desire to commit suicide be beneficial to furthering our evolution? Well it probably has no benefit whatsoever, but the fact that so many people end their lives is testament to the power of our minds for better or worse. It seems to me a tragedy to ignore this, like a gift or fantastical superpower that we control.Our enlarged prefrontal cortex allows us to have a mastery over ourselves, to have the final say. It is the root user, the administrator, the dictator, the absolute ruler.

snail-1792651_1280I feel a tinge of pride when I tell myself I don’t need something. When my bank account could probably survive buying that new triple-A title video game but I pass it by anyway. When the supermarket display has some very tasty looking treats but I keep walking. I thanks my ability to say no, it feels overwhelmingly human. To not have control over your own actions feels scary, to accept that a package is dictating your fate is just ridiculous. If I give in, that means that a well-crafted picture has more say-so in my life than my own mind. That, I think, is absolutely terrifying.

There are so many things I can’t control. My life is in the hands of nature as well as other people. What I can control, though, is myself. I have no better control over anything in this entire world like I can control my own actions. It can almost be argued that the only thing anybody has control over is themselves. Whatever the case may be, I relish the opportunity to exhibit that control, and remind myself of my own humanity.

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Depression is not sorrow

I have had both the fortune and misfortune of dealing with depression. Misfortune because it is a state nobody should find themselves in in a perfect world. Fortune for the experience. The most deceptive thing about depression in the public eye is that people liken it to extreme sorrow and sadness.

When you’re sad, unhappy, and expressing sorrow then the world is in an evil state. Bright things are given a dark tinge, and your mind will only highlight the negatives. You don’t see a flower for it’s beauty, you see a weed. You don’t see a bee for their color and natural representation of the cycle of life; you see something ready to cause pain.

So Gray

dandelion-1363238_1280Depression is not sad and unhappy. It is not happy or joyful. It is not passion, it is not pain. Depression is not jealousy, fulfillment, neglect, anxiety, or really an emotion. Depression is a state, and describes the glass by which you view all things, including emotions. It is easier to describe what depression is not, than what it is, because depression is a dulling. As a lens, it turns the world into grayscale. If you were to use the word in a sentence such as “the button was depressed.” It would mean that someone took this item, a button, from a high state into a lower, pressed state.

When depressed happy things are no longer happy. If you were to stop the description here it may seem akin to sadness, so we liken it to sadness. However, similarly, when depressed sad things are no longer sad. Things that elevated your mood no longer do so. If your mood was a button, your mood has been depressed. Good things are no longer good, bad things are no longer bad, frustrating things are no longer- well, you get the point.

Depression is like the color black, and I’m not trying to imitate an angsty teenager here. Light is the presence of colors, but black is the absence of any color or light. It is a color that is in reality the lack of color. Depression is an emotion that is in reality the lack of emotion. This is why you can cheer up a sad friend, but not a depressed one.

Cheer up

When someone is sad, telling them positive things serves to remind them that those negative highlights that they see are actually colorful.You offset the bad with the good to return to a more neutral state. However, you can’t point out the good color to someone depressed, because they don’t see any color. If you only saw in shades of grey trying to tell them to look at the bright vibrant colors and not the dark nasty colors means nothing. There are no colors, you see. Depression would, in my experience, be much closer to apathy than sadness.

It feels somewhat psychopathic, the dulling of emotions. I remember when I was depressed vaguely feeling robotic.

dandelion-1844407_1280Why does depression look so much like sadness? If they’re not sad then why would someone who is depressed want to commit suicide? I think it has to do with the fact that this emotional depression also occurs in the mirror. If everything is depressed then you are no longer good at anything. You have no self worth, you merely exist. You don’t hurt anything, you don’t help anything.

Although, all it takes is a nudge. Just one negative example to plant the idea in your mind that you’re more harm than good. Then it’s good things: zero, bad things: one. It’s not much of a stretch from there to justify “if I were to not exist, the world would benefit from a net gain.” It’s not that depression makes people want to die, it makes them want to not exist, and death is the only way to not exist without some sort of sci-fi getting in the way.

This is further reinforced with being self-aware of your own state. If you know you’re not happy, then to not exist would mean there would be fewer people who weren’t happy. How is this a bad thing? Well the answer is that things change, and if a human being has nothing else then they at least have potential for change. I would like to think that the greatest thing that my past depression taught me was that no matter how bad (or how good, and that addition is important) things get they can always change. When things are at their worst this education keeps a tinge of optimism in me, and when things are at their best it keeps healthy skeptical pessimism in me as well.

Fix it

mud-1836537_1280What you may ask after reading this is, “okay, if I can’t fix this problem in the normal way, what DO I do?” I am guilty myself of seeing a problem and instantly trying to find a solution. Hell, as a software developer I’ve made it part of my career to try to fix problems. However depression isn’t something that can just be fixed.

Unfortunately I’m not sure what exactly helped me escape from depression, as some years have passed since then. I know I had a friend that helped, and could sympathise. When the world is devoid of color, maybe all you can do is wait for color to find its way back in. This doesn’t mean ignore it, or pretend everything is fine. Maybe a better way to put it is that you need to have patience. Time may heal all wounds, but this is more of a poison than an wound. I don’t know what the antidote is, but a patient listening ear certainly does wonders.

Also I would like to mention that I am not a psychologist. As an asterisk to the rest of this post I want to state for the record that this is what I gained from my personal experience. Certainly it may not be the same for everyone, and given how many people are on this planet variety is almost guaranteed. Please take my words with a grain of salt. Thank you.

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Diffidence and Confidence

To be confident is to be sure of one’s self. In contrast to be diffident is to express self-doubt.

You may have heard “confidence is key” expressed before as a way to get something done or to be more productive. There is no doubt in my mind that the ability to seem confident is a tool that is universally useful. Even to the introverted, a confident mask can improve a situation where a truthful and more pessimistic outlook cannot.

Diffidence is not the same as depression, but can be a symptom or contributing factor to it. When one is depressed and the world is only seen in shades of grey then it makes sense that someone who is depressed would see their own abilities equally as grey. Diffidence is not the whole picture, but it is hard to see a painting of depression that use confident strokes. I would love to fill this post with how to counter this self-doubt and worry. Sadly, though plenty motivational resources exist online I’m still not sure what the antidote to this poison is.

superman-1070457_1280I seem to be able to find an inexhaustible supply of doubt and worry with little effort put forth looking for it. However, I also know that progress is most easily made with confident strides and bold words. Getting things done, making things, improving life in all its ways is easier when you’re sure of yourself. Like trying to pound in a nail with a screwdriver, you can probably make it work, but you know there is a better tool.

There is no such thing as synthetic confidence. Even if you “act confident but don’t really mean it” that is confidence, because it seeps back inwards. Our psyche isn’t a solid thing made of metal, it is a damaged stone. If you spill something on it you can only expect that something to drain down the cracks. Flooding confidence over ourselves when we dislike it is uncomfortable, but you may find that this aspect tries to fill up its container like a drink around ice. To give synthetic confidence is to, ever so slightly, make yourself more confident.

If you don’t pour enough to set a mold then it will leak away with time. The most introverted of people would have to pour an absurd and unreasonable quantity of confidence to offset their outlook, because any normal amount will quickly fade. With extroverted people their stones seem to be made of pure confidence, and will have no trouble finding more. I seem to have found a balance between the rate of confidence needed, and the size of cracks created by diffidence. The diffidence drains confidence as quickly as it is filled up, reaching an equilibrium where I am neither cock-sure nor hopelessly pessimistic.

If instead of a fluid thing we thought of the two as a container and its contents, confidence would be the jar, and diffidence the substance. Most people upon seeing the presence of this doubt try to “solve” it. They remove it and tear it out because it’s no good. I seem to have just made a larger container for myself.

Doubt carries a negative connotation, so it makes sense to try to be rid of it. I feel like it should be kept, because that doubt is also skepticism. When you think of them as similar you might start to see why I think this. A moderate amount of skepticism is healthy, is it not? It’s a defensive mechanism to shield us from nonsense that otherwise we might fall prey to. You cannot have skepticism without doubt, and if you doubt the world around you it would be ridiculous to not also doubt yourself. A healthy amount of diffidence keeps the ego in check.

I think it’s perfectly reasonable to counterbalance diffidence with equal and opposite confidence.

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Daily Prompt: Fortune

via Daily Prompt: Fortune

Chance is defined as “the occurrence and development of events in the absence of any obvious design.” The idea behind chance, fate, luck, and fortune is that we don’t know what created it. The design of events is not obvious, they are not easy to see. The events and their inner workings tend to be on an enormous scale, and the people affected would be standing too close.

Why am I in the career that I am in today? Is it my fortune? Perhaps it is a result of my choice of college, which is a result of my highschool hobbies. Maybe that is affected by my psychological makeup and sociological and economical stimulus at that point in my life and the time leading up to then. What would have created that? Perhaps my parents decisions and fortune directly changed those factors that lead to me. What gave them that fortune? We find ourselves in a rabbit hole with no apparent end, and an endless number of bottomless branches.

Overanalysis of one’s history is probably not the best thing you can spend time on. As much as I disliked history class in grade school, I admit that the ability to learn from the past is a necessary one. In the present when you have misfortune you can do the same inspection, but in reverse. Why is my fortune bad? Why me? Why did the bad thing happen to me? Well if you try to fill up the endless list of bottomless holes with logic and reason you will quickly find yourself short on those resources, no matter how much you have. The point is that if you label your situation as bad fortune, then the conclusion you must draw is that you can’t know what series of events is directly responsible for it. Otherwise it’s not fortune, luck, or chance.

So, if your fortune is bad and you admit that you don’t know what caused it then what sense is there in dwelling over it? Why me? Why am I the one with the bad luck? Well the answer is that there is no answer, so stop asking the question. If you know a question is unanswerable then asking it is just wasting time and effort that could be better spent elsewhere, trying to improve the situation you’re currently in. I know this isn’t a perfect system, because we aren’t perfect systems. We’re ruled by emotions as much as our mind, and sometimes those emotions want to cry out with unanswerable questions because we’re frustrated as the lack of a perfect neat existence. It would be so nice if everything fit into place, if every peg had its own hole that was meant for it. We want there to be soul mates and we google search “what X is right for me?” replacing X with any number of products and services.

It’s understandable to get frustrated when we find a leftover puzzle piece, or a puzzle missing all but that last block. However, if your puzzle is almost complete, look not at the hole but at the excess of everything else that you have. If your puzzle is utterly incomplete then go hunting for some more pieces. Even if you don’t find any you can’t be in any worse position than you are now.

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