Pathway to Minimalism

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A little over two years ago I moved from a four bedroom three bathroom 1800 sq. foot house to a 700 sq. foot apartment.  I located, what I determined to be, the perfect apartment in a historical building in the perfect neighborhood – Cathedral Hill. When I saw it I knew it was the right fit the moment I walked into the space. I also realized that it was very small. I knew I would have to evaluate the things that I had collected over the years to determine what would deserve a spot in my new-found limited space.

Freedom from Clutter

What had started out as a difficult task to pare down my belongings, ended up being the most freeing event of my life. It is amazing how living with a lighter load and less clutter can clear your mind. The objects I owned were not only taking up my physical space, but also cluttering my psychological space.

I found that having less space to clean gave me more time to explore and enjoy my new neighborhood. Having less stuff to maintain and less room to fill with unnecessary purchases allowed me to have financial freedom to enjoy a wider range of opportunities and experiences than I had before. My life actually feels more abundant and fuller than ever, even though I have less material things.

Satisfaction and Fulfillment

I found the pathway to minimalism by accident. It was only after joining a Zen blog, https://zenhabits.net that I found a reference to minimalism, and realized it was the new found philosophy that I was living. I began to learn more about living as a minimalist and found that there is not one “right” way to practice minimalism. For me, it means that I don’t deprive myself of the good things in life – I just make sure that the things I acquire and the things that I do, bring satisfaction and fulfillment.

It’s hard to explain minimalism to friends and family without them thinking you have taken up some crazy lifestyle of deprivation. In our consumer driven society, it is hard to get people to understand that it is not the things you own that make you happy or define who you are, but the experiences you have and the time that you share.

To learn more about minimalism check out Joshua Becker’s site at: http://www.becomingminimalist.com/what-is-minimalism

 

Why I think Tom Brady is the GOAT

PERSONAL

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I am a big fan of the New England Patriots. I have been watching them for almost ten years now, and watching their Super Bowl team in 2007 was really what got me interested in football in the first place. I have watched every Patriots game I can over those ten years, and have continued to appreciate their organization more and more. After watching them for so long, I am beginning to separate my bias from what I believe is the truth: that I am watching one of the greatest football teams EVER. And a big part of that is their quarterback, Tom Brady, who I believe is the best to ever play his position.

There came a point for me over the last few seasons where I began to realize that this was more than just me being a big fan of Brady, or that he plays for my favorite team. As he continues to break records, win Super Bowls, and always strive to improve, I have begun to understand that he is, indeed, the greatest ever; here’s why.

NO DISCREDIT

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By saying Tom Brady is the greatest of all time, some might argue that other all-time greats are being discredited. What about Dan Marino, who had one of the best arms of any quarterback? What about Peyton Manning, who succeeded Brady in many passing records? Or Joe Montana, who NEVER lost a Super Bowl? All of these men were historic players in the NFL who will no doubt be remembered for their greatness. According to the 247 Sports article, “Why Tom Brady really is the GOAT”, by calling Tom Brady the best of all time we are not discrediting others, or even saying that Brady is better than them. By calling him the “GOAT”, we are saying he plays the position better than anyone else. Although these other quarterbacks might have succeeded Brady in certain areas, Brady takes the cake with his overall ability to never give up, always focus on the future, and continually work to improve and strive for the next win. His remarkable consistency is what has brought him to a whole new level.

ADVERSITY

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One of the qualities that separates Tom Brady from the rest is his willingness to push through adversity, and never give up. A perfect example would be Super Bowl LI, concluded earlier this month. The Brady and the Patriots were down 28 to 3 about halfway through the 3rd quarter in the Super Bowl, and a comeback seemed absolutely impossible. But what did Tom Brady do? He did not give up. He kept his team fired up, and one could tell that he truly believed they could still win the game. That confidence, along with his stellar play, is what kept them going through one of their toughest challenges ever.

Throughout his career, Brady has always seemed to thrive under pressure. This is one of the qualities that makes him so hard to beat. No matter the score, no matter the circumstance, Tom Brady will keep on fighting until the very end. This is truly exemplary in any setting, and Brady is a role model in that way. Are we focused on building our team up and pushing until the end, or are we giving in to the doubts around us?

FOCUS

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Going hand in hand with Brady’s ability to stay cool through adversity is his great focus on the tasks at hand and not getting distracted by the noise around him. At the end of the 2014 season the Patriots got accused of something that would eventually become known as a scandal called “deflategate”, which was largely centered around Brady and him allegedly tampering with footballs during a playoff game. Despite a large lack of evidence one way or another, the league brought heavy punishment upon Brady and the Patriots and many began to question the integrity and true legitimacy of the Patriots’ success.

Despite all the accusations and cloudiness of the situation around him, and even during a ridiculous 4-game suspension, Tom Brady maintained his focus. He didn’t let all the noise bother him, and he was able to stay alert and continue to prepare for the season ahead of him. When Brady returned to the team after serving his suspension, he was as fired up as ever and ready to lead his team to victory. They eventually went on to win Super Bowl LI at the end of the season

LEADERSHIP

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Finally, one of the main reasons Tom Brady is so successful is because of his incredible leadership both on and off the field. Brady’s knowledge of the game, his relationships with his teammates, and his ultimate drive to improve and win are what really put him ahead of others in these categories. His presence on the sideline and on the field evoke such a strong confidence, and his poise is what helps direct his team to victory.

Throughout many years of change with players constantly coming and going, Tom Brady has been one of the staple pieces in the Patriots organization that has remained over time. His leadership is what helps players fit into the system with their strengths and be utilized to their fullest for the team’s benefit.

SUMMARY

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There is much, much more that could be said about Tom Brady. Similarly, there are many arguments for other players to be considered the greatest of all time. But in my opinion, the qualities listed above, along with the Patriots recent incredible comeback Super Bowl victory have only continued to cement Brady’s legacy and his status as the greatest even. If you don’t believe this, watch him play. These qualities are apparent in every game his plays. Tom Brady lets his play do the talking, and it does just that. After watching yet another Patriots Super Bowl victory, especially in such comeback fashion, it can only be concluded that Tom Brady is, indeed, the greatest of all time.

Referenced Articles:

http://pit.247sports.com/Bolt/Why-Tom-Brady-really-is-the-GOAT-51145709

http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/18628154/tom-brady-goat-super-bowl-li-nfl-2017-new-england-patriots

Real News or Fake News

 

The Real Problem With Fake News

The first time I ever saw fake news was on my Facebook timeline a few years ago. It was something trivial like a sports trade that had been completed. I remember being so shocked by the news I didn’t even bother reading it I just instantly shared it. This was the start of a problem that has gotten more serious than fake sports trades. The substance of some of these articles are involving more and more serious topics that the reader has to sift through to make sure what they are reading is valid. This practice has been a growing problem in this country as there is a growing fear of spreading fake news, but there is another problem that has surfaced that many people may not realize yet. This new problem has emerged over the last year, as people are using the problem of “fake news” to discredit the media. This includes most recently our newly elected president of the United States Donald Trump. This problem is worrisome as the more discredited the media becomes the less informed the general public will be. Be sure to watch the video from Trump’s press conference provided by the Washington Post on the link provided. It shows the dangers of this term fake news as an authority figure is attempting to use this term to dismiss stories about his administration that he does not like.

“I have never seen more dishonest media, frankly than the political media”- Donald Trump

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump poses for a photo after an interview with Reuters in his office in Trump Tower, in the Manhattan borough of New York City
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump poses for a photo after an interview with Reuters in his office in Trump Tower, in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., May 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson – RTSEQUY

“The leaks are real. The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake”- Donald Trump

HOW TO FIND FAKE NEWS

So how do we know what to believe anymore? Well the problem is definitely getting more publicity than it should as it as not as prevalent is you would think by all of the attention it has been getting recently. Although widespread fake news is not the epidemic that the current presidential administration claims, that doesn’t mean that you should not know what to look for when you are reading a news article to catch fake news. Here is a simple crash course on what to look for when reading articles and what to do if you think you have come across fake news.

WHY IS THE MEDIA IMPORTANT?

Today the media serves as an informal part of the political checks and balances that our country has in place. It keeps people in power in check by being an extension of the American people’s voices while they are in office. Much like lawmakers are the voice of their constituents that they represent in the legislature, the media asks the questions that the public wants to know or needs to know. In order to make the most informed decisions and to make the gears of the democratic machine keep churning media is essential to the system. This is why monitoring for the real story and being informed in today’s society is important. When the Presidential administration decides to attack the media as the administration is under scrutiny, it is up to the general public to be aware of where the truth lies.

 

 

 

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Ted Cruz’s Lie About Democrats

Sometimes I’ll read the news and find something so insane and stupid, that I shut my eyes and gather my sanity for a moment. Ted Cruz inspired such a moment for me this morning in this Washington Post article. He claimed that Democrats are rooted deep in racism. Since it’s Black History Month, I thought the most festive thing to do was debunk his garbage claim.

Cruz takes a pretty hard stance against us Democrats by extension of his apparent stance against Dixiecrats. They were a splinter group of southern Democrats that obstructed racial progress through the 1940s to 1970. Cruz said:

“You look at the most racist — you look at the Dixiecrats, they were Democrats who imposed segregation, imposed Jim Crow laws, who founded the Klan. The Klan was founded by a great many Democrats.”

On the Ku Klux Klan

I’ll start with the KKK lie first. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups in America, made it very clear that the KKK wasn’t or isn’t some left-wing creation. The Klan originally started as a social club of former Confederate solders. There was an association between the KKK and Democrats during the 1920’s, but those members weren’t threatening black people with lynchings and social security. They were a group with dangerous and extreme right-wing stances using modern standards.

Cruz shoddy wordplay makes it seem like the Democratic Party is the KKK’s mother or father. In reality, the Klan is more like a distant cousin who’s awkward and creepy in conversation, lives in the woods to be “off the grid,” then doesn’t get invited to any reunions. Am I happy about my party’s association with the KKK in the 1920s? Of course not, but the Democratic platform today is not even the platform of the 60’s, let alone one from the 1920s or even the during reconstruction. To say otherwise is misleading.

Cruz and Dixiecrats

Cruz’s newfound hatred for Dixiecrats is odd seeing that he praised Jesse Helms in 2013. Helms was a staunch Dixiecrat who, after failing to block the Civil Rights Act, switched to the GOP in 1972. His switch to the party of Lincoln didn’t discourage his efforts to block Martin Luther King Day as a federal holiday or use Affirmative Action as a wedge issue in his 1990 senate campaign.

 

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Jesse Helms

On Helms, Cruz said in a Heritage Foundation event:

“And you know what? It’s every bit as true now as it was then. We need a hundred more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate.”

I’m certain Cruz hasn’t walked this statement back to this day. Honestly I’m not too surprised about Cruz talking from both sides of his mouth on Dixiecrats. From lying about Obamacare to his back-flip on Trump, Ted Cruz says anything to advance his own agenda.

Saying Democrats are the party of racism is disgusting. Covering his lie up with hypocrisy is even worse. We need keep holding Ted Cruz accountable and expose his lies so we don’t have to hear more of him past the 2018 elections.

Automation, is it inevitable?

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We’ve heard it time and again, the media’s portrayal of the future, a world submersed in advanced technology, one could only dream about. But, is this an accurate representation of our future society? Is there a possibility that our society becomes fully automated? That is the question concerning many skilled laborers, in the manufacturing industry, as automated machines are increasingly taking over various “routine” jobs. According to research done by Oxford in 2013, nearly half of all jobs in the U.S. are “potentially automatable,” within “a decade or two.”(Our Automated Future, 2016)

In the U.S., the manufacturing industry supplying the majority of middle class jobs, which if displaced would create job polarization within the U.S. economy. For those unfamiliar with the term, job polarization is basically the removal of the middle class and displacing those jobs into higher and lower paying job brackets. Considering the role education also plays on our society, this displacement has a possibility of occurring.

The role of education

Over the years, education has become a prominent piece within society. As companies become more stringent on the type of employees they hire, the more common the need for a degree has become. So, as more individuals obtain a degree the less middle class jobs are needed as higher paying jobs exist for those individuals. As a result, this leaves room for automation to take the place of middle class “routine” jobs.

degreeDisplacing the middle class jobs to higher paying positions, individuals with degrees could improve their chances of being employed at a higher position. But, this leaves concern for those not obtaining a degree. If automation was to become mainstream with job polarization occurring, would the standards of education increase creating more job opportunities? Or, would it create more unemployment, as some older individuals don’t have degrees?

In order for a job polarized society to run smoothly, there needs to be a balance between the high and low paying jobs. To achieve this, there needs to be no barriers of entry for lower class individuals. For example, education. Currently, some individuals cannot attend college because of financial difficulties, but if education was free, this could open opportunities for all individuals no matter their social class. If an individual works hard enough, they should be able to hold a higher paying position, despite their social class.

Past trends in technology

Looking back to the millennial year 2000, many speculated the world would “end” in part to the Y2K bug. During this time programmers feared computer programs would only be able to store two-figures, such as 00, creating the acronym Y2K or “year two kilo.” For many, this symbolized the beginning of a new era, with 00 being the beginning of time. For those unfamiliar with this event, a problem occurred in the coding of computerized systems, which was speculated to create havoc on computers and computer networks around the world at the beginning of the year 2000.

Considering this didn’t happen, can the same be said about our idea of “the future.?” Will y2kautomation just become a part of the society we currently know? Reflecting on previous industrial changes, I would speculate this to be the case, in the short term. The future isn’t going to just appear one day, it will gradually create itself over time, just as our society today. As a part of the digital era, we didn’t come across the internet in a day, it took three industrial revolutions to perfect it.

A great example of this is Google. Google is a company known worldwide for its advanced searches, free platforms and most recently its devices. Just think, the name we rely on today was nothing twenty years ago. Without the web (which also didn’t exist twenty years ago), we wouldn’t have the technology we utilize today.

Where does that leave us, as humans?

Unfortunately, there is no going back. Ever since the first industrial revolution, advancements in technology have permanently changed the infrastructure of our society. Unlike underdeveloped societies, who rely on tradition resources to survive, our society has centered itself around electricity and the internet to function. As a society, we have created machines to improve our standard of living, and because of this we have transformed our industrial methods, bringing us closer to a fully automated world.

34284357_lFor example, electronic devices today. The advanced features technology provided to users through, facial, voice and fingerprint recognition, touchscreens, etc., are slowly transforming the society we live in. Before the internet and cellphones, individuals had to find ways in which to communicate with other individuals. Whether it be meeting them in person, using a messenger, or investing in a house phone, individuals relied on one another to communicate. Today, that is not the case. If a person wanted to, they could stay in their home forever without leaving. The internet has given us the ability to pay bills, purchase products, and even communicate without the help of a physical person.

In a short period of time, our society has adapted the use of technology, and will continue to do so, unless the government steps in and restricts the specific technological advancements. As a developed country, we have the resources to fund, develop, and distribute technology throughout the U.S. and the world. For this reason, the U.S. and other developed nations will continue to support and produce technologically advanced products. Of course, that does not imply our society will become fully automated next year or the year after, it simply means technology will continue to change the way we see society.

Below are a couple links that examine our inevitable future, if technology continues to advance.

The last job on Earth: Imagining a fully automated world | Guardian Animations

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/12/19/our-automgated-future

 

Sad Social Media

I have always been the type of person to respect all people’s thoughts and beliefs. I have never bashed anyone for things they think or say simply because I disagree or think differently. I believe that all people can learn from each other while engaging in conversations if they have different views or thoughts. With that being said, I have found that I have been having a hard time with social media lately. Leading up to our recent presidential election and after, I have found Facebook to be a war zone. Many people use Facebook to have discussions about current events and I am perfectly fine with that, but I have never seen so many fights on Facebook as I have recently. I get it, I totally do – people are heated about the outcome and need an outlet to write about it.

It seems like anytime someone posts a status update or an article relating to the election, someone posts a comment that is full of hate or extreme negativity. I have witnessed friends who have said horrible things to their family members. It’s not something that I care to see. I like to log onto Facebook and see positive things or things that I can learn from, not super aggressive fights with mean and hurtful words. Seeing these things make me sad and leave me feeling down. Maybe I should just keep scrolling and not pay attention, but I have actually contemplated taking a break from Facebook and just deactivating my account until things calm down a little.

I recently ran across an article that outlines how to filter out political posts so that they won’t show up on my news feed. I decided to follow the steps so that I won’t see the fights that leave me feeling sad. I feel like I will start to have a more positive experience on social media after using the filter tool. Is it wrong to just want to see cute pictures of puppies and kids on Facebook?

http://www.gottabemobile.com/how-to-stop-political-posts-facebook-election-2016/

http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/11/20/502567858/post-election-overwhelmed-facebook-users-unfriend-cut-back

Sarah Whitehead

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Corporate Profits Trump Science

With a new president in the White House, environmental policy and science are on the hot list of topics expected to see major change. Shortly after being sworn in, President Donald Trump had the climate change page on the white house website taken down. The President has repeatedly expressed his view that climate change is not a serious concern. Vice President Mike Pence doesn’t believe in climate change or evolution, and Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson (former ExxonMobil CEO) doesn’t believe human activity is causing climate change.      

In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA) issued a groundbreaking finding that six greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane), “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.” This had previously been established as fact in the scientific community, but the importance of the “Endangerment Finding” was it allowed the EPA to regulate emissions from cars and power plants under the Clean Air Act. Lawsuits challenging the finding quickly followed and President Trump’s newly appointed EPA Head, Scott Pruitt, was one of the attorneys that mounted said lawsuits. Yes, you read that correctly. The man selected to lead the EPA has a history of fighting on the side of corporations and has challenged scientific findings of the agency.

To learn more about Trump’s fight against science: http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/healthcare/317194-the-war-against-science#bottom-story-socials

How did we get here? How do so many embrace the short-sighted belief that protecting corporate profits is, somehow, more important than the sustainability of our planet? The basis for scientific discovery is fact, facts accumulated through rigorous testing that attempts to disprove them as otherwise. Compared to his predecessor, President Trump and his new regime clearly take a very different stance on science and environmental policy. This new administration stands on the side of protecting and maximizing corporate profits. What needs to be addressed, is the administrations blatant denial of scientific facts regarding the consequences of certain destructive business practices.

This is not a call for the downfall of Corporate America, nor an attack on capitalism and free enterprise. I simply aim to facilitate a discussion about the bigger picture, social responsibility and the future we want to create. The key word here is future, our very existence is contingent upon having a planet capable of supporting human life. Neglecting to recognize facts and take measures to combat climate change jeopardizes the well-being of future generations. Scientific discovery is how we better understand the world around us, how we learn to make better decisions and improve. Science matters.

The good news is, people from all over are taking notice. More than 800,000 people involved in a private Facebook group organized a March for Science and plan to act.

Here’s a link if you want to learn more or get involved: https://www.marchforscience.com/

Kyle Winkelman

The sum of my life

Ever had a sign come to you in the middle of the day that basically summed up your life at your work desk? Well hey it happen today. Just clicking away, kind of a slow morning here at work not much activity you have that one co-worker that always asking you are you alright? is there something i can get you? In you mind you say yes a cold drink but knowing your at work so you cant . So verbally out loud the professional way is no i’m fine just thinking about something.

That one thought is you thinking about your nightly routine of coming home from a long day at work , coming into a house with kids that are running around screaming and jumping on your new furniture. As you open the door no one acknowledges you but your 7 year old daughter, she stops all of a sudden and says ” Hi Daddy” then she looked down at your empty hand and noticed that you didn’t bring home that juice that you drunk this morning that she owned and you purchased. She says “hey where is my juice that you drank up this morning ?are you going to replace it?” my answer is to keep her happy as possible so yes my dear as soon as i get settled in, but her ways of being very impatient come from a long line of family members that couldn’t wait or be late for anything.Being a excellent dad i am, putting on my shoes was my next move and so began to open to door to get that juice she could not wait for. This is were my challenges start with my 7 year old daughter, my sweet precious impatient child.

When i arrive home from the store frozen , toes numb from the cold i shout “hey i got your juice sweet heart, then she runs up and say “thank you daddy love you so much”. Now finally i get to relax for a bit and unwind from my crazy day, in my closet up stair. After being in the closet to unwind i usually close the door and take a nap. once i’m up my daughter is usually hungry and wants to eat, but she prefers to eat certain foods, very picky with foods, so subway it is for the night. After coming from subway, that’s where more action takes place where she has to go to bed. She states ” Dad could you could you wash my uniforms for school, then i tell her can you please go put it in for me dear. Dad its so far and i don’t want to walk down stairs. So we go back in forth until i say lets both walk the clothes downstairs and wash the uniforms. After washing the uniforms, she began to talk about the pleasure of sleeping in her bed and how should would not fall asleep until it happens.

After going back in fourth about how dad has work to do and that getting her sleep is important for the next day of school, the conversation gets no where. So in my mind do, do i allow this 7 year old daughter of mines challenge me so that she could stay up longer to wait on me to put her to bed, or do i come up with anther solution. I guess the moral of this story is that , you are going to deal with some battles but it’s the comprising that is going to be key to dealing with challenging children. This is the article that i figured connected to me and many others that deal with loving but challenging children so enjoy and check it out.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/on-parenting/what-to-do-with-a-controlling-7-year-old/2017/01/31/e7d2f896-e31c-11e6-ba11-63c4b4fb5a63_story.html?utm_term=.947eab0f74bc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is Our Credit Report A Reflection Of Who We Are?

Recently, I was reflecting on how our credit report plays a major role in our lives. Over the years, I personally have experienced the good and the bad aspect of having both and I have definitely learned a lot with those experiences. A credit report is a detailed report on an individual’s credit history generated by three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The credit history becomes a borrower’s responsible repayment of debts from a number of sources, including the banks, credit card companies, collection agencies and governments. These information becomes an important tools used to consider your creditworthiness and the key to your financial life.

The Importance of Good Credit

I cannot stress enough the importance of having a good credit, I wished someone would have educated me during my younger years that my credit score can make-or-break my financial decision in the future. Early on in my life, I soon learned that without a good credit I was unable to obtain the simple necessity such as a car loan, insurance, mortgage, rent an apartment, student loan, and a low interest rate credit card. I was devastated that my financial actions and decisions have rubbed me the freedom of having a good life and being denied has also suggested that I am a risk and irresponsible.

I was eager to undo what I have created and get my credit on the right track. I was fortunate to gain some knowledge from my father in-law who advice me to obtain copies of my credit report from all three agencies. Through him, I learned that every 12 months we are entitled to order a free copy of our credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies through AnnualCreditReport.com and also check out this website https://www.usa.gov/credit-reports. I truly believe that we can learn a great deal from someone with familiar circumstances and used their information and knowledge to aid our own.

In the process in trying to fix my credit report, my father in-law encouraged and persuaded me to contact all the creditors on my credit report and “Bargain” to a reduced amount to pay off all my debt. I have to say this is the complicated part in trying to fix my credit because most of my debt was during my younger years and still remain on my credit report. The chances of locating the companies information such as telephone number and addresses was quite challenging. Now, most people pay companies a lot of money to fix their credit but I on other hand, appreciated the complication and all that it took to get my credit on the right track.

Valuable Lessons

One valuable lesson I learned through this process that have helped maintain my credit in good standing over the years is going back over the question” Is Our Credit Report A Reflection Of Who We Are?” My take on this is No, because I would like to think we certainly learn from our mistakes as we mature and our childish decision from our past should not hold us captive and define who we are today. I certainly have learned my lessons and vow not to be considered a risk and irresponsible with any company I chose to do business with. Furthermore, there are many ways out there to resolve your credit issues you’re certainly welcome to take my approach and take pride in your accomplishment. I also try to engage my learning by reading articles and visiting website such as this: http://www.magnifymoney.com/blog/balance-transfer/the-fastest-way-to-pay-off-10000-in-credit-card-debt to continue to improve my knowledge on this matter.

Social Media “Activism”

I’ve actively worked in animal rescue and advocacy for the past seven years; during that time, I’ve witnessed how social media helps organizations reach larger audiences than they ever could have in the past. Social media is especially helpful for smaller organization that don’t have big budgets, but need to reach people to spread awareness about their cause—and hopefully, get people to donate money. It helps us learn about organizations around the world, and quickly connects us to issues regarding human rights, animal rights and environmental advocacy. But I also feel like it has one major flaw: It allows people to feel like they’re doing something, without really doing anything at all.

Protesting on Social Media

One social and environmental issue that comes to mind is the Dakota Access Pipeline. I know people who made calls or wrote letters and emails to express their concern about the pipeline, and I know someone who drove out to North Dakota to participate in the demonstrations. They saw a need, and they took action. But I feel like the majority of people defaulted to what had become a new form of so-called activism, which is changing your profile picture to some variation of “No DAPL” or “I Stand with Standing Rock,” or using these terms as a hashtag in a post about how they feel about the issue. Before I go any further, I want to make it that that I’m not bashing people who do this (I do it too). I think these still serve as a way to share your views and show that a lot of people care about and issue—sharing articles and photos from reputable sources is one way to help educate the masses—but it’s not enough. And I feel like too many people think it is enough.

Fully Committing to a Cause

Sharing photos and memes or using hashtags isn’t going to fix a problem. Turning someone who was shot by a police officer into a hashtag won’t fix a problem. Commenting “Someone needs to do something about this!” on a post will not solve a problem. Change happens when we take action. It happens when we get out from behind our computer or phone screen and decide to take action. One of my favorite quotes is from Lily Tomlin, who said, “I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.” People need to live by that quote. I try to live by that quote.

Going back to my advocacy work, I cannot tell you how many times people say they want to help, but then are suddenly busy when it’s time to do actual work. Or sometimes the work, even though it’s important to the cause, isn’t what people want to do, so they fall off the radar. People get all fired up on social media, but are they doing anything? Are they calling legislators or writing letters? Are they participating in peaceful demonstrations, donating money or volunteering for organizations? Are they truly thinking about what they can do to help initiate change?

Social Media Can be a Powerful Tool—If We Use it the Right Way

Sure, we can continue changing our profile picture to show our support and use those hashtags, but don’t let it stop there. Don’t be a passive advocate. Use social media to educate yourself about a cause, then turn around and use what you’ve learned to write a letter or an article for your local newspaper. Then share the heck out of that article with all of your friends. Engage in thoughtful conversations with people and correct those spreading misinformation. Again, change is possible if we take action.

I’ve been heavily active in animal advocacy for years, but now I’m trying to be more active in human rights and environmental advocacy. I’m using Facebook and Twitter to follow organizations and read articles about current events and issues, and I’m making myself find ways to get active in those causes as much as my schedule allows. I’m certainly not perfect, but I am trying to do a better job of being an advocate. We have a lot going on in our own country, as well as others. And with the changes we’ve seen over the past few weeks, it’s critical that we make our voices heard and stand up for the causes we believe in.

Arianna Pittman