Friday, September 28, 2012

Scholarly Decisions at the Campus Dining Hall

This may be specific to the University of Hartford dining halls, but the takeaway can be applied to many college campuses. 

Our dining hall, offering unlimited food and multiple options, is called the University Commons. Upon entering Commons, you surrender your appetite to the Aramark chefs. Passing by those plates of stale food, you scan your options, hoping for your favorites. Three grilled cheeses and two baked potatoes later, you’re ready to vomit into your bowl of banana cream pie. Sure, you want to eat better, but that means heading for the salad bar each and every time you go to Commons, right? Nope. Just making these simple swaps can prevent you from slipping into another Commons Coma:

Water it up. Yeah, you’ve heard it a million times, but this time it includes kicking those diet sodas and iced teas to the curb, too. A study out of Yale shows that artificial sweeteners used in diet drinks may actually contribute to weight gain and cause you to crave unhealthy foods. Water, on the other hand, promotes faster metabolism and regular digestion, and we all know those factors are key when it comes to Commons.

Peace, grill line. In case you haven’t noticed, Commons kicked the grilled chicken off the grill and into the sandwich and salad bar. That means the only chicken you can get from the grill comes deep fried and covered in bread. How about this: ditch the grill line, and get yourself a grilled chicken wrap stuffed with all the healthy essentials. Your stomach will be happy, and you won’t be burping up that extra grease in your next class. Besides, I think it’s fair that we all boycott the grill line for taking away our beloved quesadillas.

Cheerios for dessert. Good move, Commons, placing the dessert buffet so we’re forced to walk by it at least three times. Those cookies can be pretty tempting, but are they really worth all that extra sugar? Turn right around and head for the cereal bar, but be sure to avoid those sneaky sugar-packed cereals. Even raisin bran has an unnecessary amount of sugar. Cheerios have only 100 calories per serving and have less than a gram of sugar. Best of all, they have whole grains and protein that keep you healthy and feeling full.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Blog Change

So I've changed the general topic and title of my blog. Since I had a broad range of interests, I figured I hone in on one interest and then relate it to social media. Since I typically am aiming for a career in the health and fitness industry working with social media, it makes the most sense to blog primarily about that.

Health 2.0 is the new title (which is apparently also the name of a conference), and the posts from now on will pertain to the impact social media has on the field of health and fitness.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My World of Text

So the other day I found this website called Your World of Text, and it's pretty much a collaborative empty space where people can type anything. You create a "world" and you can share the link with anyone, giving them access. Some people use it as a guestbook so visitors to their website can sign it, and some use it as a private log for their thoughts, setting the visibility so only they can view and edit it.

Thinking that this was a pretty neat idea, I created a world of my own. My initial expectations were that if I had shared this link through my various social media outlets, I would have a mess on my hands in terms of immature content and people just trying to be funny. Either way, I shared the link and sat at my computer ready to erase any vulgar things people were bound to write.

However, only two hours later I came back and was completely surprised at what people had written. People shared inspirational quotes, fears of theirs, and simple thoughts that they otherwise might have kept to themselves. The end result had me thinking a lot about the benefits of the internet and social media as an outlet for feelings and ideas without having to reveal your identity.

Click here to see the page. However, it's no longer editable. People wrote some pretty awesome things.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Minimizing Cost; Maximizing Rewards

In my communication theory class this week, we talked about the Social Exchange Theory. With this theory, the idea is that we are constantly seeking to minimize cost and maximize rewards with our relationships. The "minimizing cost" aspect of this theory doesn't necessarily refer to the amount of time, effort, or money put into a relationship (although it could), but rather the negative aspects of a relationship or the other person in the relationship themselves. A lot of people will be quick to defend themselves in saying that they don't look for a significant other that's better than the one they're currently with. However, in this theory and in human nature it is a lot of times our instinct to be always looking over our shoulder for the next best thing.

Naturally, this got me thinking a lot about social media and computer-mediated communication. Has the introduction of social networks and online dating sites increased the presence of the Social Exchange Theory? Online dating sites are all about maximizing rewards and minimizing cost, aren't they? People log onto those sites hoping to find the person that they are the most compatible with, and they'll browse through hundreds of profiles looking for that perfect person. Does the search really stop when they find a significant other?

Avoiding the "Freshman Fifteen"

The summer leading up to your big debut as a college student, you were probably forced into having the same monotonous conversation with every friend and relative about your plans for college. Along with the amount of times someone thought you said "Harvard," even more frustrating are the amount of jokes made about the dreaded "Freshman 15." Before long, people have you thinking it's not only an epidemic, but that it's completely unavoidable.

The truth is, switching to a college lifestyle is a shock to the system in many ways. Sleep patterns are thrown through a loop, stress is at an all-time high, and you're left to fend for yourself. So while people are quick to blame dining services for their unintended weight gain, it's not so much the quality of the food as it is the change in habits and lack of good choices. If you're adamant about proving your relatives wrong and coming back for the holidays looking better than ever, there's just a few things you need to avoid.

First off, rid your dorm room of any unhealthy snacks. Procrastinating and eating go hand-in-hand, and it can be pretty impossible to focus on work when you know there's a full bag of Chips Ahoy under your bed. Instead, try keeping healthy snacks in your room. All natural foods like raw nuts and granola can satisfy that mid-study craving without sending you into a sugar rush and throwing your mind off track even more.

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes college students make is eating late at night. Irregular sleeping patterns cause the body stress alone, and when the metabolic cycles are also thrown off it just makes sleep patterns more irregular. But while it's not always so much what time you eat that makes a difference, it's the types of food we're likely to eat late at night that are the problem. Next time you're feeling that itch to go get a Konover sandwich at 1 in the morning, try to distract yourself. Better yet, avoid the late-night hunger pangs by adding more protein and fiber into your dinner. An extra helping of chicken or beans are likely to keep you satisfied longer.

While eating healthier is a challenge in itself, it's also important to stay active. Even though you might think the hike to Auerbach and back is more than enough exercise for one day, it's not enough to keep off the pounds. Besides, exercise has great benefits that might even boost your GPA while lowering your BMI. Exercise releases endorphins, which are known fighters of stress. Going for a short run every day can be enough to melt away the stress, keep off the fat, and leave you feeling energized and ready to work.

Back to those jokes you're hearing about the "Freshman 15." It's likely Uncle Johnny wasn't referring to all the over-eating you'd be doing, but rather all the over-drinking. Thus we have the culprit in so many cases of the Freshman 15: Alcohol. If the risk of slipping grades and getting written up isn't enough to sway you from drinking three nights a week, let it be the risk of the slowly developing "beer gut."

It's not so bad. All you have to do is avoid unhealthy snacks, late night eating, lack of exercise, and excessive drinking. It may seem like a challenge, but you'll be well on your way to having the last laugh at the family holiday party.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

CMM 290: Intro to Social Media

This semester I'm taking a Social Media course that's being offered for the first time at the University of Hartford. I'm really excited about it, as I've been leaning more and more towards a career path based around social media. One of our assignments is to start a blog in which we will be required to post in at least twice a week for the rest of the semester.

I think I'll take this opportunity to delve a little deeper into the areas of study that I haven't had courses in lately, specifically with my Gender Studies minor. While I'll still be focusing on communications, it'll be a good way to challenge myself to encompass all of my academic interests. For instance, instead of just blogging about sexual politics, I could blog about how people are using social media to communicate about sexual politics and the ways in which the messages are interpreted via CMC.

Anyway, this is the first post of many. All of the posts for the course will be tagged with #cmm290.
Here we go!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Stigma & HIV/AIDS

This is also a paper I wrote for my Sexuality & Social Conflict class at the University of Hartford in Fall 2011.

I only knew my Uncle Danny for the first three years of my life. Memories I have are hazy, and most are emotional anecdotes from before my time. Even though I did not get a chance to get to know him, my uncle remains an integral part of my thinking, and a heavy part of my heart. You see, when Danny was young, he began to question his own sexuality, noticing that he was attracted to other boys instead of girls. Even at such a young age, he knew that what he was feeling went against the morals of society, and he knew it was something he must keep hidden. However, this forced the emotional damage to cut deeper, and horrible bouts of depression ensued. By the age of 15, Danny was running away from home for long periods of time. “We had no idea when he’d be back. Sometimes we even began to think he was dead,” my mother recounts. Danny found refuge in various underground societies of people like himself: oppressed and depressed homosexual men forced to live a life of shame and secrecy. So many of these lost individuals participated in recreational drug use and unprotected sex with relatively random men. It was in the early 80’s, only a matter of years later, that Danny was diagnosed with one of the biggest threats to humanity at the time: HIV. With the lack of healthcare or knowledge about the disease, and with very little support from society, Danny was left in his final years to battle the disease in his own bed at home. My entire family watched as his body became increasingly emaciated, and finally his painful death in 1993.

 So, yes, I had mentioned that Danny remains an integral part of my thinking, and in me his story ignites anger, fear, and a yearning to understand and change the way society thinks and reacts. The important thing to remember is that I am not alone in these feelings; that events and stories like these have incited anger in people throughout history, sparking social movements that rise up against the values that have been ingrained in our society for so long. So begs the question, how can a simple opinion shared by a majority of people have such a devastating and revolutionary effect on a society? I’ll illustrate my interpretation using two of some of the biggest major threats to the sexual freedom of American society: HIV/AIDS and the more contemporary debate over marriage equality. Social movements, especially those on HIV/AIDS and marriage equality, involve a constant power struggle between multiple structures on both sides of the debate, and both sides are ignited and influenced by the all-too-powerful existence of stigma.

The Road to Abortion

This was a paper I wrote for my Sexuality and Social Conflict course at the University of Hartford in Fall 2011.

Imagine you are outside of a Planned Parenthood, walking towards the entrance on a casual afternoon. You are greeted first by a mob of angry people, yelling and chanting against the murdering of innocent children. A woman is holding a sign that reads “Abortion is murder!” Another contains a picture of a 2-week-old fetus. A girl calmly walks up to you and says politely, “did you know that a baby begins growing fingernails after only 4 weeks?” Trying your best to ignore this, you walk inside. The waiting room is just like any other waiting room at any other physician’s office, with an assortment of people: some of them looking anxious; others calm. On your left is a girl of only 18-years-old. She's a sex worker. She’s there because during one of her sessions with a regular client, the condom broke, and she was impregnated. Not being able to afford to have a child, and feeling hopeless, she’s deciding to get an abortion. On your right is a young, middle-class married couple. They have three kids and a beautiful home, but after an unintended pregnancy, they decide that they can’t financially support another child, so they too decide to have an abortion. You sit down next to a middle-aged woman, who after long thought decided it was a big health risk for her to have a baby at 48-years-old. Overwhelmed, you think to yourself, “who is right?” Is it the people outside telling you that abortion is murder? Is it the 18-year-old sex worker? Are the decisions made by the married couple and the middle-aged woman responsible ones? You realize that maybe this whole abortion debate isn't just about abortion itself. The debate over abortion is underlined by the very complex subject of sexuality in society, and is shaped by discourse and multiple power structures within our society.

When one thinks of the word sex, it is often that we conjure thoughts and images of the biological makeup of what makes a male or a female, or the sexual act of reproduction. However, when we think of sexuality, we’re often confronted with a myriad of thoughts, because although not everyone knows the actual depth and impact of the concept, most know that it’s a pretty heavy subject. What’s important to know is that sexuality is socially constructed, and as Jeffery Weekes describes it, sexuality is “a bundle of social phenomena that shape erotic life: laws, religion, norms and values, beliefs and ideologies, the social organization of reproduction, family life, identities, domestic arrangements, diseases, violence and love...” (Seidman 2011, p. 19). This social construction of reality creates a discourse about sexuality, which correlates with a number of different social issues on sexuality, shaping it and changing the discourse over time. Foucault explores how discourse about sexuality has changed throughout history and how it affects society as a whole and webs out to affect other aspects of a culture. One of the burning questions Foucault poses is “what led us to show, ostentatiously, that sex is something we hide, to say it is something we silence?” (p. 9). This silence he is implying not only affects the way we think about sex as a society, but it also affects the way we express political and economic power–and as Karl Marx would explain, economics play a leading role in shaping the discourse on sexuality throughout history. What I’m going to explore in this paper is not just how sexual expression has changed over time, but how sexuality has forged a strong connection with power, economics, science, and other aspects of a society mainly through the regulation of reproduction, feeding into the long and heated debate over abortion.