Hip Hop Advocacy & mini exploration

Posted: December 12, 2011 by mjb88 in Uncategorized

** Note and Disclaimer:  Please take no offense to inappropriate language that has been quoted, and keep the context in mind.  **

Hip-hop music can encourage positive personal reflection as well as social action on a large scale.  Through understanding and applying the benefits this art form has to offer, society can be transformed for the better.  Many artists and their lyrics can attest to this, as they profess love, positive minded thinking, and aspects of spirituality, while simultaneously detailing the hardships faced by many people today, and providing advice and encouragement in the face of these hardships.  However, there are still many individuals who have negative connotations and sentiments towards the genre, and with good reason.  The majority of hip-hop music that the general public receives often portrays and reflects anger, violence, excessive partying, misogyny and other less than divine qualities. The fact that all of this exists within the hip-hop world is undeniable, but there is much more to the genre and culture, which we will briefly begin to look into.  Through these posts I am attempting to show a side of hip-hop that too often goes unnoticed. I will attempt to do this using videos and lyrics, in collaboration with minor academic research and personal experience/observation.

Musicians from this genre can have a beneficial impact on a variety of individuals, including older generations who may be under-exposed to the full scope of the genre, as well as adolescents or young adults who have interest in the culture and music. One of hip-hop’s most important attributes is its ability to create truthful discourse. Hip-hop provides a conversation and expression of experience that describes the profundities and complexities of modern day life. Hip-hop captures everything from specific and personal moments to universal and global history, and does so through an incredibly unique and progressive lens.

Hip-hop music is prone to getting a bad rap in the news.  Theoretically, reports about a weapons incident in a club involving a celebrity rapper are going to get more attention, and be broadcast more widely and tele-visibly, than reports of some unknown hip-hop artist who has spoken to the inner hearts of maybe ten to twenty random kids in the inner city.  The positive transfer of energy that can be experienced through listening to or creating hip-hop is apparently more difficult to produce a story on than a quick short that can be cycled and recycled throughout the nightly news clip.  Hip-hop has the ability to produce lasting and positive effects on society.  However the genre has been painted in such a way that leads people to mistake a part for the whole.  The hip-hop music played by MTV and mainstream radio often perpetuates the negative stereotypes that are present in hip-hop.  It’s important to remember though, that this is only a certain brand of hip-hop.  The negative influence within the genre seems to be over-represented, while other hip-hop music is under-represented. It is important to consider where and how many of these images and perceptions are created.  An article written by Martin Scherzinger describes the concentration of mass media ownership within recent years, and cites recorded music specifically as “the most concentrated global media market today.”  The article also cites Clear Channel Communications, as “the world’s largest broadcaster, concert promoter, and billboard advertising firm.”  Beyond this, the article points out that many record label executives, and people who make decisions as far as what gets heavily played and promoted, are not people who are involved in the music or performing world at all.  In fact, many are invested in other industries such as pharmaceuticals and printing.

The MC blueprint has attempted to curb the negative stereotypes within hip-hop through his song, Hand Me Downs.  Excerpt from verse 1:  “… I’m mister positivity, I wanna bring it back, but rap now a days is by a buncha’ ignorant cats, not young gifted and black just guns bitches and crack.  I react by turning off BET, and Sambo telling me what blackness is supposed to be, used to give us world news now its all videos, … if you let the TV define what black is, you think ice and violence is all we think that matters, i guess this is what happens when rappers look up to thugs, and kids look up to rappers, to some of ya’ll if I don’t talk about the gat enough, or sell crack enough, I ain’t black enough, but I’d rather be a pro at bein’ myself than be an idiot tryin’ to be somebody else. Come on Say it loud, look what we’ve handed down, don’t it make you proud?”  (((The first verse describes the state of hip-hop, and rejects the stereotypes of the genre that are often represented by the media.  It also makes social commentary in general about the the TV and what it promotes.  The second verse involves personal reflection on an experience of the mc, as well as providing a hopeful outlook and recipe for making a change and strengthening the overall community; stating))): excerpts from verse 2:

“…15 same age I learned shits wild, An older lady walks up greets us witta a smile, asks how we both doin’ and sits down, she knows what its like to grow up in the south, civil rights when the whites was holdin’ us down I started thinking to myself that even though when times were tougher, they still took time out to speak to one another, but look at us, me and this young brother, actin’ too proud to break down and speak to each other. So inside I felt ashamed, not sure of how to, but I wanna change, and as long as I’m alive then the fact remains, that its never too late for us to break the chains… come on ya’ll.” 

Beyond just perceptions of the genre, there have been a number of studies that exemplify the negative attributes which hip-hop can promote to people. According to an article detailing a recent study, “Young people who listen to rap and hip hop music are more likely to have problems with alcohol, drugs and violence than listeners of other types of music, a new study shows.” (Chen, 2011)  The article also states, “People should be concerned about rap and hip hop being used to market alcoholic beverages, given the alcohol, drug and aggression problems among listeners,” said lead author Meng-Jinn Chen, Ph.D., a research scientist at PIRE Prevention Research Center. “That’s particularly true considering the popularity of rap and hip hop among young people.” (Chen, 2011)

Yet another article speaks to the genre’s ability in influencing people and their actions on a personal level.  This stance proposes that lyrics and video images encourage individuals to portray themselves in degrading ways.  Although this is one opinion, and may not be entirely objective, it could indeed have some truth to it.   “According to Dr. West, rap music identifies young black women in five sexual personas: Diva, a woman who trades sexual favors for luxury; Gold Digger, a woman who trades sexual favors for basic necessities and leaves men bankrupt; Freak, a sexual powerhouse; Gangster Bitch, a “tough” girl; and Baby Mama, a child’s needy mother.   The most popular song that openly promotes this belief system is “Gold Digger” by Kanye West: “She take my money, well I’m in need/Yeah she’s a triflin’ friend indeed/Oh she’s a gold digger way over time/That digs on me.” The accompanying music video shows women provocatively dancing in black lingerie and posing in sexual positions.  When young black women listen to lyrics and watch images that promote sexual conduct, they take on the persona that is illustrated in the music and treat themselves as sexual objects.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08165/889550-51.stm#ixzz1fP3hxhaT

While this may have truth to it, again it is important to remember that this is only a certain brand of hip-hop.  If hip-hop can have a negative effect on people in this regard, then it must necessarily also be able to have an inverse, or positive effect on people.  If music has the power to promote the enacting of these objectifying portrayals, it must also have the potential to promote positive portrayals.  So if a young black adolescent listens to a song that promotes self awareness, self help, and the strength an individual can possess when facing challenges, is it not fair to say that he or she can take on that persona, and treat him or herself as an empowered individual with the potential to achieve what he or she believes?

In an attempt to balance the scales, and to represent an educated, truthful, and loving side of the genre, we can look to artists such as Macklemore, Zion I, & Soul Position, who embody and reflect constructive attributes and qualities being promoted through hip-hop.  In a world ever leaning towards new multi-media based communications; and in a culture continually engulfed in entertainment, hip-hop can be a very useful tool to promote positive change and growth.  Hip-hop generally expands upon and fuses poetry (the written/spoken word) with a variety of instrumental and or electronic music.  Modern day culture is heavily steeped in the idea of being entertained, and hip-hop for many is a great source of entertainment. The genre has grown in popularity since its origin, making it a medium that is currently reaching a wide and expanding range of audience.  What some people may not be aware of, is what I will deem ‘the socially and personally aware style of hip-hop; which promotes the improvement of human life in a variety of aspects; including spiritually, mentally, physically, economically, and socially.

A direct example of one such song comes from the artist Macklemore; who is ever growing in popularity and reaching more and more kids.  These lyrics exemplify an incredibly truthful take on his experience with reality.  The song and video Otherside remix (produced by Ryan Lewis feat. fences) speaks to his personal experiences and observations of others’ battles with drug and alcohol abuse.  This song is truthful about the possible and negative effects that the excessive use of illicit substances can have on people.  Rather than promoting things like ‘bottle poppin and blunt smokin’, which has become common among the ‘party anthems’ often played on the radio and seen on TV; Macklemore has been promoting understanding throughout his expression process, as well as creating an example of a sober MC who has gained popularity.


A comment recently posted on this page serves to strengthen my argument, stating: “Honestly if schools really wanted to teach anti drugs, like for Health class or something, then they should just play this song for their students. These 5 minutes have affected me more than many hours in multiple health classes from multiple years. You just do not get that “truth” or personal experience from those books. This song does it all. Schools really need to show this song to their students.”  Other comments speak to similar sentiments.  The video has certainly sparked a discourse among its listeners.

Another song by Soul Position, exemplifies the promotion of many positive qualities that hip-hop can encourage throughout day to day life.  Excerpt: “my rhyming get invited in your body like a vitamin, I supply the supplement, you just discovered it, hold me close and overdose on my poetic potion, love me when you rub me in your skin like lotion, then I begin to stimulate your innovative action, you used to be subdued but now you choose a route of passion, … let my thought direct you when you start to feel lost… you don’t need a needle just to put me In your arm.,.. use me to the fullest it will never get old… let me be an example of how to break the mold…  study all my hardship and learn to think critically… visit every continent without movin’ physically, exercise mentally get in shape spiritually, visit me and take deep breaths of my imagery, exhale, all the hate you had for your enemy, exhale, all the hate you had for your enemy.”  ((Note: All Blueprint lyrics transcribed from personal listening to the best of my ability))

As we can see through these songs, hip-hop also promotes positive qualities throughout society to those who are listening, and can serve as an outlet for individuals to gain and provide knowledge for and from others. Where part of the problem lies, is the availability and exposure of tracks like these, which are only heard by people more or less specifically looking for them.

Beyond this primary application of the genre, hip-hop might also be implemented into formal schooling and education methods.  “As an academic who has researched hip-hop and advocated for its use as a media literacy tool in the classroom (Kirkland, 2008), I have learned that hip-hop can be used in classrooms to inspire youth to be agents of social and political change.”  The majority of this article focuses on a high school English class in the Midwest, and details the ability of hip-hop in creating social awareness which can be cultivated into change. “Mr. Kegler’s lessons represented hip-hop as a critical language and common voice for the historically marginalized.”  (Kirkland, 2008)  The students studied Tupac lyrics, and applied/related these lyrics to imperfections of their own society.

America today is in a state of flux, and imperfections can be seen almost anywhere one looks.  The ‘Occupy’ demonstrations around the country have been a visual representation of the frustration that many people in our country are feeling.  This is combined with uncertainty about the future, dissatisfaction with the present, and actively motivated by what many feel are past transgressions and shortcomings of our government and country as a whole.  In my opinion the feelings go deeper than this, we are not even completely happy with ourselves as a civilization, or even happy with ourselves as individuals in some cases.  The hip-hop genre can serve as a springboard towards working together to bring about real and beneficial change.  Through listening to socially conscious hip-hop, individuals can gain an accurate depiction of the world we live in.  Through the creation of hip-hop, individuals can express their concerns about reality as well as encourage others to improve upon our shared reality.

The television, our most turned to source for entertainment and news, paints a daily picture of polemical arguments producing little fruit for the community as a whole.  It seems that almost every night we are shown two battling political parties, warring over scandalous past behavior and stealthily one upping one another in damage control tactics.  We are told that we are in a depressive recession.  Is this the case?  Maybe we are being taught a lesson.  Maybe we need to lessen our consumption as a nation, start participating in collaborative efforts, think about our problems and face them, move forward together and strengthen.  Hip-hop is a great framework for promoting these very ideals.

The song The Thing About It by Sweatshop Union, speaks to this notion.

“This is a time of growth for those that know,   And it’s a time of hope for those that don’t,

But if your mind is open you’ll get shown.


We’ve had our sights blinded, all of my like-minded people need to get up and discover the right time is,

Now, just start opposing the powers that arose, n’ ancient days have paved the way to this load,

that’s so controlled, it’s sitting & most, just sit and stare, at a television with a distant glare,

And I’m ashamed to admit it, I’m a slave to this shit as much as anybody but I’m not afraid of it,

This is where the change comes, and this is where we make some difference,

Embrace what’s within us and escape from this prison,

All it takes is a little bit of faith, And a little bit of love to get rid of all the hate


But the thing about it is we can’t just sing about it,

We can’t just sit around and wait until they thin us out,

We figure out where we’re going while we live in doubt if you want my truth, listen now and just think about it.

The thing about it is we can’t even think about it,

Can’t afford a minutes time to figure how to bring about a change,

So, take a second, and, shake your head, And then, take a step ahead and think about it.


Now the ball is in our court, while we sit and watch passively,

The face of the earth changes drastically, after we, clear space at this rate for strip malls and factories,

We risk take a crew fate at a pace beyond gradually.

No more crops for us to harvest and feed, self-sufficiency replaced by clone-copy written seeds,

Now ask yourself, how can we be free? When the water that we drink is owned by some company.

 I hear the weep of the streets, and cries of the skies,

see weakness is disguised with deceitful lies, Well we all eat to survive, and sleep through our lives,

competin’ for highs, all sheep and no pride,

Never speak of our lie, let the fear fortify, My insides are dying trying to fit in the design,

I’m reminded daily, of a world gone crazy, Guns mean safety for orphan babies,

Ignore the distortion you’re forced to perceive and believe what supercedes is love, but who agrees?

        Chorus 2

Could you survive in the wild, with a wife and a child? A whole human history, a line a type and a file,

So live your life in denial, or try to live on your own, without your colour TV, heat, fridge or the phone,

While the average guy lives an elaborate lie, Waste days on slave wage beneath the passionate eye,

Now we ovulate, copulate and over-populate, never stop to think about the things that we were taught to hate,

Now the stage is set, watch the players place their bets, take a sec shake your head, feel alive, make em sweat,

Realize that the system can’t exist without belief, appreciate your true potential, untwist your mouth and speak,

We’re working on building a world our children can live in, Understand, I can’t be while you’re still in this prison,

And I could spend my days preaching, so on and so forth,

But it won’t change, until we don’t want to go on, no more…”

 Chorus Repeated Twice

It is my personal belief that the hip-hop genre and community can serve as a unifying framework and function as an example for the entire nation.  The study of hip-hop is important right now especially because of the challenges and divisions that we as humanity continue to face.  “Today, the message of hip-hop is even transcending borders.  From xi ha in China to “hip-life” in Ghana, hip-hop is a lingua franca that binds young people all around the world, all while giving them the chance to alter it with their own national flavor.” (Hang, 2007)  At a show at red rocks this previous summer, a hip-hop artist yelled out to the crowd of thousands, exclaiming the sentiment that the gathering was ‘church’ or the closest to it, that a lot of the ‘congregation’ experiences.  Shows like this have become a religion of the youth in a general sense, or in the sense that Sunday mornings in the pews are many times traded for Friday and Saturday nights spent dancing to music, possibly consuming illicit substances, and coming together as a community to participate and experience enjoyment and entertainment.  The great thing about this entertainment, is that it can also stimulate true change and growth, can be educational, and does not necessarily have to incorporate partying ideals. I may even claim that this community has the potential to be even more spiritually enlightening than the community of a standard church.  Also, this culture is more able to reach a youth crowd and able to do so more quickly than many youth groups seem to be able to.  Hip-hop intertwines entertainment, and the opportunity to celebrate and enjoy oneself, while also learning, being aware of oneself and one’s actions, and seeking to improve oneself.

Maybe one of the most under-rated attributes of hip-hop is its ability to create truthful discourse.  Whether this discourse is indeed negative or positive, or viewed as good or bad becomes less important, as long as the truth is what is being expressed.  Truthful expression is valuable to any society, regardless of what it may entail.  We need to be exposed to the difficulties faced by others, rather than ignoring them.  We can learn from each other, and help each other, connect with and relate to one another.  So groups that express messages of violence, drug use, and even misogyny should be heard as well.  If this indeed is the reality of the world from their eyes, there is something to be taken or learned from it.  It brings to light in-efficiencies within our culture.  The song “express yourself,” by N.W.A. begins to break down stereotypes which the group dealt with firsthand, and simultaneously advocates creative expression of truth.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8dlsZ1018s (NWA)

For a further look at what hip-hop is, what it seeks to be, and what it truly encompasses, we can look to another direct source from within the genre itself.  Hip-hop is home to many artists who strive to reflect and report upon the experience of particular, usually important situations.  As a number of the lyrics suggest, the truth of reality can be harsh and corrupt.  These songs also attest to the fact that as human beings, we are destined to face adversity, but we have the opportunity and ability to not only deal with this adversity and gain strength from it, but also to empower ourselves and others in the process.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNWpxwflQ5A (Zion I)

This video provides an example of what hip-hop can mean, where it can take an individual, and how it can move and inspire people.  The videos and lyrics also demonstrate hip-hop’s ability to capture personal and local histories.  On top of all of this, this form of music involves an aspect of enjoyment and entertainment, which I hope the videos and lyrics also achieve.  Hip-hop is an art form, a culture, and for some becomes a way of life.   It would be a shame to let a limited amount of bruised apples define and represent an entire sub-culture and group that has the potential to become a warming, healing, inspiring and thought feeding brew of cider, would it not?



Posted: December 12, 2011 by rhjbrown in Beka

If you asked where most people get their information, the answer would probably be the public  media.  With television, blogs, websites, newspapers radio and all the rest it’s easy to find out information without looking too for.  However I believe that the media often creates misconceptions by only covering the basic details, which then leads to people not having a complete understanding.  I believe the first step towards understanding and accepting other people is to have a good understanding of where other people are coming from.  To that end in this post I would like to address several common misconceptions about Christians and Christianity specifically.  Being a Christian myself I often run into people who immediately jump to a conclusion about who I am, and what my purposes are.  While I cannot hope to address every point of contention, I hope to clear up several of the major questions or assumptions I, and people I know, run into.  I also cannot say that the answers I give will be shared by everyone who considers themselves a Christian, as each person’s faith is different.  Despite this, I hope you can come to a better understanding by reading this.

If there are so many denominations of Christianity how can it be true?

To answer this question, we should clarify what “Christian” means.  Christian is defined as, “a person who believes in Jesus Christ; adherent of Christianity.”(“Christian”), while Christianos, the Greek word that Christian originates from, translates to “Christ follower”(Thayer and Smith).  I would like to further define this for the purposes of relating clearer answers to these misconceptions.  Most people are aware that in common definition, Christianity embodies many denominations, or groups.  Each of these denominations has different specifications, but are in general considered to be under the same faith heading of Christianity.

I myself, consider myself am part of a Church that considers itself non-denominational.  We don’t connect ourselves with any particular denomination, though if we go by a definition, it would be considered Evangelist.  This means that we interpret the Bible as literal truth, for example we believe that the “Bible stories” that are detailed in the Old Testament are actual recordings of history as opposed to moral stories, and that God wants us to help other people know about Him.  That being said, I don’t believe that Evangelists are the only “true” Christians.  Even within the Church I attend people are convicted differently by different things.  God does not call people to be exactly the same.

There are however a few truths that a person must believe to be a Christian.  They include that a person must believe that they themselves are a sinner, and that Jesus Christ is the only way to be forgiven.  Because of this, there are several denominations that as institutions, not necessarily as individuals, should not be considered “Christian”.  These institutions believe that there are additional requirements that must be met to be forgiven; an example of this kind of institution would be the Church of Latter Day Saints, which is commonly considered a Christian denomination.

After spending two summers in Provo, UT and having many conversations with people of the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS), more commonly referred to as Mormons, it was explained to me that to be a forgiven member of the LDS faith you must follow the prophecies set forth by the prophets.  These prophets include people from ancient history, such as Moses, and people from recent history such as Joseph Smith, with the current prophet being Thomas S. Monson(Who is the Mormon prophet today?).

Christianity is following a set of rules, which many Christians often break

This idea that Christianity is about following a set of rules while seemingly true is misleading.  This comes about most likely because of the Ten Commandments, and many other commandments in the Old Testament.  These rules were put into place for the people who lived before Christ.  The rules and stipulations are there to help people recognize what sin, or going against God, looks like.  When Christ died a new covenant, or agreement, was put into place.  This covenant is what allows people to be forgiven, and it means that we don’t have to strictly follow every stipulation to go into heaven.  A new law was written in the New Testament which says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’…” (New International Version, Matthew 22:37-40).  As to the second part of this misconception, it isn’t really a misconception that people who are Christians routinely break the rules.  While it definitely is not the goal to break the laws of either the Bible or of the nation we belong to, Christians are just as imperfect as everyone else.  Being a Christian doesn’t make a person better than another, it just means that they have been forgiven for their mistakes, and therefor feel encouraged to do better.

Christians see all people who do not belong to Christianity as sinner, and therefore are horrible people

This misconception is very similar to the last.  If a person truly understands what it means to be a Christian, they will realize that they are just as much of a sinner as everyone else.  While it is true that we believe people are sinners, we include ourselves in this description.  If people didn’t sin against God there would be no reason for the grace and forgiveness given to us through Christ.  We also don’t think other people are horrible; there are a lot people who don’t belong to Christianity who are amazing people.  But we also know that according to the bible, there is only one way to get into heaven, and that does not mean being a good person, or going to Church, or doing good works for others.  The only way to get into heaven is to believe you are a sinner, and that only Jesus can forgive you and bridge the gap between you and God.

Christians do not think Science is legitimate or important

This misconception, I can unfortunately say is sometimes true.  There are Christians, good Christians, who choose to ignore science, and consider it to be destabilizing to their faith.  This however is not always the case.

There are many Christians who are scientists, even here at Colorado State University, I know three personally and have had them as professors.  In fact one of the pastors at our Church graduated from CSU with a biology degree.  Many of the people I attend Church have graduated with Chemistry degrees, Microbiology degrees and many others.

The most debated scientific study would obviously be how the earth was created, and how man came to be.  I believe the reason that scientists and Christians often clash about this topic is that we have all forgotten the Scientific Theory, is just that, theory.  When we are talking scientifically about something that happened thousands or millions of years ago, that is all we can have.  Also, to say that Christians are not interested in the science of how the earth came to be would be incorrect.  There are groups such as, TheInstituteforCreationResearch , CreationMinistriesInternational and Reasons to Believe who research and publish scientific articles that look into how the earth was created, and the world around us today.


Facebook: Maintaining a positive image of yourself in a virtual world

Posted: December 10, 2011 by entertainmentxray in Elizabeth

Self-esteem is something that many young people have a hard time building up.  What most people don’t know is that using a social networking site like Facebook can have an affect on your attitude outside of the online world and how you view yourself.  Many young women’s magazines as well as major TV media outlets have been focusing in on this issue, so I wanted to see if it was really something that might be a problem. Through my research, I discovered that the common idea behind Facebook and self-esteem is that it causes narcissism as well as negative self-image.  If someone is constantly liking your status’, writing on your wall, and commenting on your pictures, it’s a pretty natural thing to feel like you are important and matter to somebody.  However, how someone communicates with you online is very different to how you would communicate with them in person.

According to Gunjan Singh, who wrote about Facebook and young people’s well being, the 18-25 year old generation has a harder time distinguishing between the validity of relationships online and offline.  Many students in college meet people on Facebook or Twitter and then have a problem striking up a conversation with them in public.  I would love to do more research into friendships like this in the future.

There has started to be more discussion nationally about the effect that social media has on our lives, and one of the biggest points that many major media outlets are trying to make is to be careful what you do and post online.  One video from CNBC states that Facebook causes narcissism, and that young people need to be careful to not reveal too much about themselves online.  (CNBC, May 2011)  Elizabeth Taddonio, a CSU graduate student, wrote her thesis on young adult use of social networking, and one of the biggest points that she argues is that young adults need a better sense of what is real and not real online.  (Taddonio, 18) Although many people might like status’ and photos, that does not necessarily mean that they want to be your best friend in public.  This is an interesting dynamic that not many people have researched or looked into yet.  However, as a personal Facebook user, I definitely see this type of interaction frequently.  I moved out of state for college, and I often receive posts from old high school friends saying “I miss you, let’s hang out when you’re home” when they really have no intention of actually calling you to see when you’re free.  It’s almost like a type of “easy out” situation to make someone feel like you’re thinking about them, but do not really care if you ever see them again.  With the rise of social media all over the globe, I am sure that this will be addressed soon.  Until then, I’ll just plan on making my Facebook as private as I can.

When applying for a job, employers now have a whole new slew of ways to look into your past as well as examine who you are.  Facebook in particular is becoming a primary place to research into who your future employees could be.  Having pictures of yourself drinking, partying, and out with friends could be harmless in other environments, but it can have damaging effects to your job if you are not careful.  The easiest way to maintain some privacy on Facebook and make sure the wrong people aren’t seeing those pictures is to simply keep up with your privacy settings and update them frequently.  According to msnbc.com, Facebook updates it’s privacy settings an average of four times a year, and sometimes they are not explicitly advertised on the home page.  It is the responsibility of the user to keep checking and make sure that your settings are where they need to be.

Many people argue that Facebook is an online version of yourself and therefore has no real say in who you truly are.  Although those people have a point,  studies show that employers can and do look at Facebook as an indicator of if they should or should not hire you.  The Washington Post team recently did a study that tracked the eye movement of thirty people while being shown different Facebook profiles.  They published their findings in an article recently, and what they came up with is that your profile picture is the most looked at thing on your Facebook, with who your friends are in the sidebar at a close second.  They also said that employers are the number one group of people that look at the profiles of individuals they do not know.  This means that people are going to be looking at your page, especially during the hiring process, and you need to be extremely careful about what you post.  Forbes magazine also did a similar study recently, saying that employers look for “creativity, well rounded-ness and ‘chastity'”.

Maintaining your privacy online has always been important, but in a new age where social networking rules a large section of everyone’s lives, it is gaining importance daily.  For more information about privacy online, check out Jonathan’s blog as well.  He provides some great information.

To be FBO or not to be FBO?

Posted: December 10, 2011 by entertainmentxray in Elizabeth

“Facebook Official”, or “FBO”, is a term used by a large majority of young adults to refer to the stage in dating when you decide to tell the world that you’re dating via Facebook.  Personally, I think that it is ridiculous to base the validity of your relationship off of something online, but as I was searching for some evidence to discuss how Facebook effects your relationships I realized there were not a whole lot of strong sources that discussed this.  A magazine article or a blog post here or there, but nothing substantial.  I believe that Americans will believe almost anything you post online about a relationship, so I decided to create my own evidence for part of this blog.

This is my friend Zack.  We have known each other since 7th grade, and I count him among some of my very best friends.  We also joke around that if neither of us are married at a certain point in the far, far future we probably will just marry each other.  I decided to ask him if he’d be my “Facebook husband” for a night and help me with a project for class.  His response?  “Well, I’d rather just be your real husband, but whatever.”  Thanks, Zack.  We went into our settings and changed our relationship status, and our Facebook’s went crazy in less than an hour.

This is what the comments section looked like

It was completely overwhelming.  Zack and his friend’s figured it was a joke.  My friend’s however, were a little bit more gullible.

I also received countless numbers of text messages and phone calls asking me if it was true.  Part of me could not stop laughing.  I had not even been DATING anyone before this, how on earth could I have been married in a day?  I guess people are more gullible than I thought.  My roommate thought this was a hilarious concept for a writing assignment, so in the spirit of trying to convince others it was real, she wrote:

My mother freaked out after reading all these comments and called me in complete hysterics asking me what I was thinking.  It took me a couple minutes to calm her down and say it was just for a blog I was writing, but I’ll remember to tell my Mom I’m fake-marrying someone on Facebook before I post it again!

What I learned from this is that most people will take something absurd that you post in three ways: either they text you about it and don’t ask you directly on Facebook so that they don’t look weird to a lot of people, they voice their confusion directly on your status, or they think it’s a joke.  In terms of Facebook relationships, this can do a couple of things to the relationship outside of the online world.  Cosmopolitan magazine recently posted an article about what is and isn’t acceptable to write about and talk about on your boyfriend’s Facebook.  If you post too much, you come off as clingy.  If you post too little, your presence is not seen enough and “another girl could sneak up and snatch him by wooing him online.”  Their words, not mine.  If you change your relationship status and your friends get too involved (as mine did when I “married” Zack), the guy could feel overwhelmed.

I think there is still a lot of research to be done about what exactly effects a relationship when it comes to social networking, but I have definitely seen that Facebook could overwhelm a couple if too many people know too quickly.  Remember to keep this in mind when deciding how public to make your relationship.

How Popular Culture Influences the Popular Vote

Posted: December 9, 2011 by masonhandke in Mason

These days, it seems that young Americans know more about Snookie, the Jersey Shore actress, than about the War on Terror. This ignorance of important affairs is a major issue, as it leaves many young Americans unable to make an informed decision. However, this ignorance is being combated by an unlikely source: the entertainment industry. For the past several years, entertainment celebrities and television shows have been using their large viewership in order to influence and inform American youth on important issues and political decisions.

While recent technological advances have made it easier than any other time before to access information about issues affecting people all over the world, it seems today’s’ youth are decreasingly likely to know about these events. For instance, a National Geographic survey done in 2005 found that “37 percent of young Americans cannot find Iraq on a map,” despite the US having troops there since 2003 (The Eagle Online 2009).  Woodrow Wilson High School principal Helane Miller tries to explain this ignorance on the news media, claiming that “if there isn’t anything that concerns Americans in a personal way, [the news media] don’t seem to pay any attention to it” (The Eagle Online 2009). This is a major problem, as news media websites are increasingly the main way that young Americans get their news, with “25 percent of the youth” looking at news websites to get information, according to the Bookings Institute (Bookings 2011). With major news organizations not covering many international issues, it seems today’s youth in America will be lagging in knowledge. To make matters worse, only around 45%% of eligible 18-29 year olds voted in the 2004 election, while according to the Washington Post, 60% of all eligible Americans voted (Washington Post 2005, The Tartan 2008). It seems that in recent times, American youth are ignorant and non-active about many important topics. However, many celebrities and writers in Hollywood are using their fame in order to change this trend.

With paparazzi constantly buzzing around many entertainment celebrities, some actors and actresses seem to be on the news and magazine covers more than many countries. For example, the recent Kim Kardashian wedding special brought in over 5 million views, according to MTV (MTV 2011). Some celebrities are using this constant coverage in order to bring awareness to less covered issues. For example, singer Elton John and celebrity Kim Kardashian recently joined in on the 2010 World AIDS Day event, according to CBS news (CBS 2010). The hope is that the constant coverage of these celebrities will mean that the public is given more information about AIDS that would otherwise not be covered by the major news networks. Actors are also using their celebrity in order to bring attention to the genocide in Darfur. Former Northern Irish Secretary Peter Hain claims that the world is “looking away” from the massive amount of killings that are occurring in the country of Sudan (BBC 2007). The article describes how more than 200,000 people have been murdered in the Darfur region of Sudan in recent years, and that the news media and the UN do not seem to be covering the ethnic cleansing adequately. Actors such as Hugh Grant and George Clooney have been attempting to bring attention to the genocide by speaking on the issue, and being active in the protest and activism world dealing with the issue. For example, Hugh Grant attended an “action day” dealing with Darfur (BBC 2007). By going to these events, these actors are bringing the issue to the forefront, as they often bring paparazzi to the events. Actors are not the only ways issues are being addressed in today’s world; increasingly, reality television has been a conduit for problems and issues that are not often adequately addressed.

Reality entertainment television is also using its’ stars in order to bring awareness to issues that are not often covered, such as AIDS, teen pregnancy, and drug use. In the third season of the MTV reality show “The Real World,” a personality on the program, Pedro Zamora, was HIV positive. This was a huge step for HIV and AIDS awareness, as in the early 1990’s HIV and AIDS were still stigmatized, and few talked about the deadly disease openly. According to the Los Angeles Times, Zamora used his time on the reality show to lecture the viewers on the transmission of HIV, and used his newfound celebrity to show the world what living with AIDS was truly like (LA Times 2009). The public responded so strongly and positively to him, that a movie is currently being made about his life and death, further helping the HIV and AIDS information cause. Reality shows, like Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant, are also hitting teen pregnancy. With CNN claiming that 61 in every 1000 teen girls were giving birth in the year 1991, it is clear that teen pregnancy is an issue (CNN 2011). However, the pregnancy rates have been steadily declining. According to CNN, shows like “teen mom and 16 and pregnant have helped make teen pregnancy a topic of national attention,” and may partially explain why 2010 was the lowest teen pregnancy rate in 20 years, at 39 births for every 1000 girls (CNN 2010). This is due to Teen Mom’s large viewership, in which nearly 4 million people watched the season finale, and therefore allowing the viewers an easy way to start an open discussion on safe sex. With an average American spending 20% of their day watching television, it has become increasingly obvious that reality television is making it possible to reach American youth, and possibly influence their decisions and viewpoints (Nielsen 2011).

While celebrities and television shows have been shown to bring attention to certain issues, it has also become evident they can have an influence on political decisions. The 2008 election between Barack Obama and John McCain is a perfect example for the influence of celebrities. For instance, the voter-registry group Rock the Vote has been using celebrities for almost 2 decades in order to increase the youth voter turn-out. Using musicians and actors like Eddie Vedder and Jake Gyllenhaal, this group uses it’s famous supporters to create ads and speak at public events to promote young Americans to vote in upcoming elections. In the 2008 elections, youth turnout (18-25) increased by 4% over the 2004 election, partially due to the Rock the Vote campaign (Tartan 2008). Celebrity endorsement of candidate Barack Obama was widespread, and is widely accepted that the endorsements helped to propel Obama into the national spotlight. Musician Will.I.Am created a single titled “Yes We Can” that was made up primarily of Obama speech excerpts, and the music video has been viewed nearly 2 million times on Youtube (Youtube 2008). Celebrity talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who’s show brings in around 13 million viewers each episode, used her popularity to endorse Obama (Zap2It 2011). A recent study from the University of Maryland found that the so-called Oprah Effect brought in over 1 million votes for Obama in the 2008 election (Huffington Post 2009). As Obama only won by around 8 million votes, it can be clearly seen that Oprah had a noticeable influence on the final election results (CNN 2008). Even the United Nations has used celebrity influence in the past. In 2001, actress Angelina Jolie was named a UN Goodwill Ambassador. The UN named Jolie to the position in order to bring “awareness about the refugees” in Africa due to her large viewership, and hopefully to bring about change in poverty stricken countries (UNHCR 2001).

Conversely, some people might claim that while celebrities bring attention to many issues, little change is actually brought about due to the increased attention. Even actor George Clooney claimed that his inability to help Darfur was one of “his biggest failures” (Fox News 2010). However, I disagree with this idea. I feel that by bringing any attention to an issue is good news. For example, while the genocide in Darfur is still occurring, more people are now aware of the problem, and have a chance to voice their opinions in future elections, or even personally send food and aid to the region through charities. And while shows like Teen Mom might not seem to help an issue, they do make it easier for viewers to talk about such problems, and possibly even search out information to help the problem.

In closing, it is been shown that entertainment celebrities and television have been covering political issues more often in recent years. With this increased coverage, it is evident that they are having more influence on real world decisions and actions. From raising awareness about African genocides, to helping elect a president, it seems that popular culture will have be able to change the world.

-Mason Handke


https://i1.wp.com/i1203.photobucket.com/albums/bb388/watertiger21/Blog%20Wildlife%20Photos/shrew.jpgWritten by Becky Hutchens

Many people view wildlife documentaries for the entertainment, and not just to learn about nature. So why does it matter if the filmmakers stage animal encounters, behaviors, and other “natural” scenarios? Is it necessary for the audience to be aware of such occurrences in the films? The short answer: yes.

As Chris Palmer, author of Shooting in the Wild: An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom, wrote in his book, there are several questions of ethics that need to be considered: what about scientific accuracy? Animal welfare? Why choose to deceive an audience? (Lawrence)

Scientific Accuracy: As a science major studying animals and their natural behaviors, it’s disturbing to me knowing that so many people are being given false information from sources deemed to be accurate. In the science and zoology world (which is what these wildlife documentaries are about), data, observations, and research cannot be made up or revealed in “half-truths.” Imagine if the researchers in a medicinal drug study fudged their results a bit in order to make the research study more interesting and better for the product. The consequences could be huge. An example having to do more with this argument: a wildlife documentary that shows a predator eating prey may seem harmless, but what if the scene was staged, and that particular species of predator doesn’t actually hunt and consume that species of prey? The misunderstood knowledge of this predator-prey relationship could cause confusion and other consequences.

Fields of science have no room for fictionalized or dramatized accounts. Some audiences may watch wildlife documentaries for entertainment, but these films are still advertised and presented as films of scientific fact. Because of staging in these documentaries, the potential information, research, and data they could provide are moot.

One last example that comes to mind is the once popular Disney documentary White Wilderness. In the film is an emotional scene of lemmings jumping off a cliff and committing mass suicide. However, the scene was entirely staged: filmmakers actually pushed the animals off the side of a cliff (White; Woodford). In reality, lemmings do not partake in this behavior and do not commit suicide, but the film was seen by so many people that the myth spread like wildfire.

Animal Welfare: Pressure on filmmakers to get a winning shot brings up a question of animal welfare. How far should filmmakers be able to go? Staging a scene or scenario for the camera may stress wildlife, or it may encourage harm to animals. As mentioned just above, what was the impact on the lemmings that were pushed off the cliff? In what conditions are the animals from game farms kept? What is the impact on the prey species’ population when a filmmaker controls a scenario so that the prey animal is killed when it otherwise wouldn’t have been? Ethics can be confusing and muddled: Is it okay to catch insects and feed it to a predator? Most people would say yes. I would probably say yes. Is it okay to break a rabbit’s leg so you can film a predator “hunting” it, as one filmmaker admitted to doing (Aufderheide)? I’d say no, it’s not okay. Where should the line be drawn?

It is very important that audiences be aware of these questions and dilemmas, because if change is needed, people must first be aware of the problem.

Deceiving the Audience: This particular ethical issue is the one I believe to the most important one. After talking with friends, family, and other peers, I’ve determined that it seems there are many people who don’t mind if there are some instances of staging and not-so-natural scenes in wildlife documentaries. But almost everyone said they do think it’s unfair and not right that they aren’t being told about it.

Another issue is, when the audience is deceived, they may start developing misconceptions of nature due to unreal or staged footage they see in the films. A prime example is the story described above about the public believing that lemmings commit mass suicides. Such a staged scene has caused such a huge misconception!

With a skewed idea of what nature is really like, people may unintentionally harm, harass, or injure wildlife, and they may even put themselves at risk. For example, I can remember a time when my husband and I were hiking and, upon finding three fox kits poking out of their den, my husband, not aware of the repercussions, insisted on creeping closer and closer, which caused the kits a noticeable amount of stress. I have also observed, during my trips to national parks and other locations of close human-wildlife interaction, people putting their lives at risk as they approach grizzly bears, bison that weigh thousands of pounds, and bull elk that are ready to attack anything that moves in order to defend their females. People do this because they believe it is okay. Because audiences may be watching documentaries and learning from them that people need to be up close in order to have a great wildlife experience, and that it is okay to attempt to be so close and personal with wildlife, which is not correct.

A study I’ve recently come across shows that audiences of video media really are influenced and affected by the ways animals are represented in the film. The study showed many individuals small commercials with chimpanzees in them. (Subjects were under the impression that were participating in a marketing study and had no idea what was really being studied.) Subjects that viewed videos of chimpanzees interacting with humans, being silly, or being humanized (made to look like they have human feelings) were less likely to recognize and realize that chimpanzees are wild, untamed animals with serious conservation status concerns. But subjects that viewed videos of chimpanzees acting naturally and in their native habitat had much better understandings of the animals and of reality. (Schroepfer et al)

Conclusions: It’s okay for wildlife documentaries to be viewed as entertainment. However, it is important for people to know the truth about what they’re seeing. But it can make an experience more enjoyable when aware of it authenticity.