Your Online Trail

Googling yourself can either be a nightmare or a relief. When you search up your name on a search engine- or worse, when others search it up- everything that is attached to your name shows up. Whether it’s a picture you posted five years ago and completely forgot about, or it’s social media accounts that you made then abandoned, everything that you do online can be found by others.

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It’s called a digital footprint. In short, your digital footprint is a trace that you leave behind on the internet. When you post a picture, leave a comment, visit a website or text others (basically, anything that you do online), you leave ‘footprints’ behind that can be seen by others.

If you are unaware and careless of what you do online, it will eventually harm you. A picture you posted that you thought was harmless could be the reason your job application is denied three years later. An offensive comment that you left on someone’s post can cause you trouble later on. Publicly announcing that you’re going on vacation could lead to your house being robbed. Which is why we must be very careful about our online privacy.

A simple way to avoid having a negative footprint is to not overshare. Posting your age, your pet’s name, where you live, your interests, where you’re heading for the summer, or where you ate last night is irrelevant to others and can be avoided.

Fortunately for me, when I googled my name everything that came up I was aware of and there wasn’t anything that shocked me. It was mostly my social media accounts and a website or two that I had activity on. I make sure that all my social media accounts are private, and I try not to post too many pictures. Afterall, I wouldn’t want strangers knowing everything about me.

If you’re wondering what traces you’re leaving behind on the internet, you can try searching up your name on google and hope that what shows up doesn’t make you cringe. Unfortunately, everything that you do on the internet is permanent, so deleting a comment or a picture won’t completely destroy it. However, you can try making your digital footprint more positive by watching what you’re sharing online. Before you post something, think: will it affect me in the future? Would I mind if my teachers saw it? Am I going to be embarrassed about it later? If it’s a yes to any of these questions, then you’re better off not sharing that information.

 

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Syria: What it Was & What it Became

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Six years since the conflict in Syria started, close to 500,000 Syrians have been killed in the fighting, more than a million injured, and over 12 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes- out of a prewar population of 23 million.

How it All Started:

On March 15th, 2011, the year when the Arab Spring progressed, peaceful protests broke out in a couple of Syria’s cities. The citizens were protesting after 15 boys were arrested and tortured for writing graffiti supporting the Arab Spring. One of the boys, 13- year old Hamza Al-Khateeb, died after brutal torture.

Although the protests were peaceful, the Syrian government, led by dictator Bashar Al Assad, responded with violence. Hundreds of protesters were killed, many more imprisoned. More protests broke out, with the same response from the government. The Free Syrian Army, a group of fighters who had one purpose- to overthrow the government and give the people a chance at democracy, formed soon after.

Citizens continued to protest for they were unhappy with the dictator, and the government, wanting to silence its citizens, continued to respond with violence. However, the people weren’t about to give up.

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At first, the government punished its citizens for speaking out with tear gas and bullets; soon after, they turned to missiles and bombed civilian homes, schools, and hospitals.  According to Physicians for Human Rights, nearly 400 attacks on 269 different hospitals have been documented since the war in Syria began, 90% of them by the government and its allies.

But that wasn’t enough to satisfy the government; chlorine attacks and even chemical attacks soon became a common occurrence for people living in Syria.

“You have to get used to the sound of cannons and bombs. You have to hear the planes and bombs, and yet you have to continue. People go out even if there is a plane above. If you care, you will never go out of your home.”- Rami Zien, a 23-year-old freelance photographer in Syria.

**Warning: watch at your own risk**

Impacts of the War:

Six years later, and Syria is a completely different place. The war between the citizens and the government is still ongoing, with no end in sight. Pretty much all of Syria’s cities now consist of ruined homes, schools, and buildings. Those still living in Syria are barely surviving with next to no electricity, food, or safety.

Most children in Syria haven’t gone to school since the beginning of the war since going anywhere is too risky. Many parts of Syria, including Eastern Aleppo, are under siege, making life even harder.

“People were being isolated, starved, bombed and denied medical attention and humanitarian assistance in order to force them to submit or flee.”- Emergency Relief Co-ordinator Stephen O’Brien.

A city that has it especially bad is Aleppo; what many people remember as a beautiful busy city, is now almost completely wiped out.

What can you do? Educate yourself. Speak out. Raise awareness. Support Syrian refugees if you know any. For those on the verge of death in Syria, any type of help is appreciated.

Athena: the Goddess of War, Wisdom, and Crafts

From all the Greek gods and goddesses in Greek mythology, Athena happens to be my favorite.

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She is often described as slim, tall, and beautiful with green eyes and brownish hair. She is always pictured either wearing full armor, or just a helmet.

Characteristics and Attributes:

Athena was the goddess of wisdom, war, and crafts. As a goddess of war, she relied on strategy and morality during the war, rather than bloodshed. She helped many heroes who fought in wars with her protection and advice. As a goddess of wisdom, she stressed diplomacy, justice, education, arts, and crafts. Because she was wise, many gods turned to her when they had issues among them, and she helped solve and end conflicts between them. She was also an expert in art, like weaving and spinning.

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Symbols:

Every Greek God or Goddess has at least one object that they are always connected with- a symbol. In Athena’s case, her main two symbols are the owl and the olive tree. The owl represents her wisdom, which she was known for, while the olive tree, which was actually one of her creations and very sacred to her, represented peace. Other symbols that are sometimes connected back to Athena are the aegis- her shield- which represents her protective power, and her armor, which represents wisdom and strategy.

 

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Like everyone else, Athena had her strengths and weaknesses- although her strengths outweigh the weaknesses. Her main strength is that she was rational and intelligent, and always thought everything through and made wise decisions. Another strength of hers is that she is a powerful defender but at the same time a potent peacemaker who hated war and only fought when it was necessary. Her main weakness- she was too ruled by intellect and lacked compassion, therefore being out of touch with emotions.

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Interesting Myth:

A myth I found that intrigued me, and had to do with Athena, was the story about the fight over Athens. As some of you may know, Athens, the capital of Greece, was named after Athena. Both her and Poseidon, the God of the Sea, competed to be the patron god of Athens. To win over the Athenians, both presented them with gifts. Poseidon, being the God of the Sea, struck his trident on the ground and created a spring of water, which represented the great naval power he would bring to Athens. Athena, on the other hand, being the peaceful one, created an olive tree, which represented peace and unity. Eventually, the Athenians chose Athena as their patron goddess and named the city after her.

Who’s your favorite Greek god or goddess? Have you heard any interesting myths you’d like to share?

Connected, but Alone?

We all depend on technology to get us through the day- it’s true. What we may not realize, however, is that we are becoming more disconnected from the real world when we spend most of our time on our devices. Just because you are always on social media, seeing what others are up to, doesn’t mean you are truly connected with them.

Recently in technology class, we watched a TedTalk by Sherry Turkle that talked about how we are becoming more and more reliant on technology, and less connected with others around us. While I was watching, I realized that I agreed with most of what Sherry said.

For one, I tend to check my phone a lot throughout the day. Whether it’s because I have notifications from social media sites, texts from friends, or I’m just bored, I find myself constantly reaching for my phone. Sometimes even spending almost an hour using it.

And it’s not just me. It has happened many times where I’m sitting with friends, wanting to talk and socialize, only to find everybody else on their phones and I feel like I’m sitting alone. Just like Eeman said in her post, The World of Technology, many people feel as though their phone is their best friends, and they absolutely cannot live without it.

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Sherry also talked about how most people prefer to text rather than talk to others in person. Sure, texting may be quicker and more efficient than talking face- to- face, but that doesn’t mean it should be our main way of communicating.

Over and over I hear, “I would rather text than talk.” ~Sherry Turkle

I’m glad to say that I am not one of those people who would rather text. I find it much more entertaining and real when I talk to my friends face- to- face, compared to when we text. When talking online, we have the ability to present a specific side of ourselves to others, the ‘better’ side, and we can be completely different people. That’s why I feel the conversations I have online are almost fake or robotic since they lack emotion.

So what do you do? Next time you’re sitting with a group of people, put your phone aside. Try to socialize. Have real conversationsIf you still find yourself reaching for your phone to check for notifications, turn it off. Do whatever it takes to actually, truly connect.

This applies to me, too. Lately, my friends and I have been making an effort to not let our devices distract us from each other. Whenever we get together to hang out, our phones lay forgotten, taking pictures being the only reason we might need to use our devices for.

The Horrors of Sleep

I’ve talked about the good side of sleep: the fascinating dreams that make you want to spend your entire life sleeping and escaping reality. But is sleep really a relaxing, peaceful condition we all enjoy? Not always. Among many other things that can happen to you during the night and make you dread sleeping, nightmares and sleep paralysis happen to be the two most known, yet terrifying.

Nightmares:

Do you remember a time you woke up at night after a terrifying nightmare and was afraid to go back to sleep? You’re definitely not the only one. Nightmares are a normal occurrence, but that doesn’t make them any less scary. A nightmare is a bad dream, but not all bad dreams are nightmares. Nightmares result in feelings of strong terror, fear, distress, or anxiety,  usually involve a threat of danger, and most often wake the dreamer from their sleep. A bad dream, on the other hand, is simply a dream that involves an unpleasant plot.

Although it differs from person to person, most adults report having at least two nightmares a year. The number of nightmares a person has depends on their lifestyle and health. For example, a person that stresses a lot or has extreme anxiety may have double the number of nightmares the average person has. Also, some medications are reported to increase nightmares, like antidepressants and antihypertensives.

Photo Credit: kbetart Flickr via Compfight cc

 

Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis is one of the most terrifying sleep disorders one could experience. If you haven’t experienced it before, count yourself lucky. According to studies, up to four out of ten people may have sleep paralysis; it is most common among young adults, and those who are sleep deprived.

In case you don’t know what sleep paralysis is, it’s a sleep disorder where your mind wakes up, but your body is still asleep. It occurs either while you are falling asleep, or while you are waking up. Many accounts of sleep paralysis are something like this: you wake up from your sleep, and you know that you’re awake. But when you try to speak or move, you find that you are unable to. It feels as if your whole body is paralyzed, the only thing you can move being your eyes.

You are in a state of panic, and you feel as if something is sitting on your chest, preventing you from getting up. You desperately try to call for help or move but to no avail. After what seems like hours, you are finally able to gain control of your body and move normally.

It’s obviously scarier in real life, and it’s something that I definitely don’t want to experience. You can’t pull yourself out of it, you just have to wait it out. Most episodes of sleep paralysis last for less than a minute, but to the person, it feels much longer. There is no way to prevent sleep paralysis; however, there are a few things you can do to make it less likely to happen: avoid sleeping on your back, eating heavy meals before bed, and try to get a good amount of sleep every night.

How many nightmares do you usually have? Are your nightmares reoccurring? Have you ever experienced sleep paralysis? Do you know anyone who did? What was it like? Do you have anything else to add about nightmares and/or sleep paralysis? Let me know.

The Phenomena of Dreams

Have you ever been so exhausted that the only thing you wanted to do was sleep, just because dreams are better than reality? Honestly, same. The concept of dreaming is simply surreal. Why do we see these bizarre scenarios in our heads when we are sleeping? Shouldn’t our brains be asleep too? These questions all lead to the same main question: why do we dream?

Why Do We Dream?

There’s actually no definite answer to this question. There have been several theories put forward in an attempt to explain the reason behind why we dream, but none of them is 100% correct. One proposes that dreams work with sleep to help the brain sort through everything it collects during the day. That actually makes sense; sometimes when we face a difficult problem, we may be able to solve it once we get some sleep. While we sleep, our brain goes through all the information we absorbed and decides what’s relevant and what’s not.

Dreams typically reflect our emotions. Have you ever been really worried and stressed about something and decide to get some rest, only to dream about it during the night? That’s usually because your brain is focusing on that one thing during the day, and continues to focus on it during the night, too.

Some scientists think that dreaming doesn’t have a function and that dreams are just random meaningless images that occur because our brain is working during the night. Although there is some evidence to back up this theory, I personally think this is not the case. If there really was no purpose behind dreaming, would we spend a portion of every night doing it?

Photo Credit: nerdcoregirl Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: nerdcoregirl Flickr via Compfight cc

Interesting Facts About Dreams:

  • You forget 90% of your dreams within 10 minutes of waking up.
  • In your dreams, we only see faces we already know. It may seem that it was a complete stranger in your dream, but in fact, it’s a person that you met at some point in your life.
  • You can have four to seven dreams per night, and you spend an average of one to two hours dreaming each night.
  • Our mind takes external sounds while we are asleep, and makes them part of our dream. For example, if music is playing near you while you are sleeping, you may dream you are at a concert or party.
  • Dreams are symbolic, so it is usually difficult to interpret the real meaning behind a specific dream.
  • 4.4% of the dreams of under-25-year-olds are in black and white, while the remaining number of dreams is in full color.
  • The three most common emotions felt during dreaming are anger, anxiety, and fear. Therefore, dreams are more often negative than positive- I know, it sucks.

What are your thoughts on the function of dreams? Do you think they have a vital role, or do you think they are just meaningless images? Are you one to remember most of the dreams you had during the night?
~~Ola