Monday, December 15, 2014

Are You Faking It? Spread What Is Real

Well, at least he's keeping it real! 
Unlike the photoshopped pic in the back.

In the day and age where images can be easily filtered, altered, photoshopped, cropped, and edited in anyway, it's hard to spot if an image is real or not. Many images go viral in the hopes to cause excitement, confusion, hysteria, or hope, when what they do is just make us more gullible. What we see is not really what we get: 100% of images in fashion magazines are retouched, and it doesn't stop there.

You don't have to be a professional photographer to photshop these days thanks to our advanced technology. We live in a society which thrives on shock value and "reality" is nothing more than a sitcom. Popular images and promoting any kind of news takes the front seat. Whether it is real or not.

Here are three quick ways to help you spot a faker:

1. Reverse Image Search
This picture went viral after someone posted that it was taken during Hurricane Sandy.
This picture went viral during Hurricane Sandy, when a person posted it  stating it was taking during the hurricane weather conditions brought on by Sandy. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery is continuously guarded. However, this picture was not taken during Hurricane Sandy. According to reverse image search and some other sleuthing, this picture was found to be taken a month prior. Don't worry if you were fooled, The Washington Post, NPR, and The Daily Beast thought it was real too.

2. Read Between the Lines

Published in The Riverfront Time, October 1, 2014
Published on November 27, 2014 by the Imgur user Bdawgid, then was reposted by the above user on another media site without obviously checking it authenticity.

Pictures go viral for many reasons. Research shows that one of the top reasons an image goes viral is when people have a positive (to them) emotional reason to share it. What may be positive, may not have the same effect on someone else. Many times when emotions are running on overload, it is easy to overlook clues in the image which could identify if that image is actually real or not. Case in point, the two images above. The first one is real, the second one went viral and is fake. The Ferguson case has become a top national news story, tied to many different types of emotions. If one would take the time to look at the writing on the sign, you could see that the writing has been altered. Regardless if you feel you are graphologist, you do have the responsibility to ensure someone else's words were really written.

3. Use Common Sense

When we first teach kids to read, one of the strategies we teach them is using their "context clues". Look at the details in the picture. What do you see? What do you think this picture is about? What is this picture portraying. There are ways you can use the clues in the picture to help you see if the picture is real or not.

Know as the "Accidental Tourist", this image circulated right after 9/11. 
  • Lighting; Doe the lighting and shadow images in the picture line up, make sense?
  • Coloring: Is the coloring throughout the picture consistent. This is different than using a filter from your phone which changes the coloring overall.
  • Distortion: Are there objects in the picture which are distorted in anyway?
  • Realistic: Seriously, is this image real? if you question it, it probably isn't!
  • Other helpful websites are: Snopes.comHoaxes.orgPaleofuture
As you can see from the "Accidental Tourist" image above, the lighting is off as there are different shadows in different areas of the pictures which are not consistent. The coloring is is fake, as 9/11 was a warm and sunny day, which is not reflected in this picture. The plane is obviously distorted and added, as the size is not even accurate. The plane in this photo is a smaller version (Boeing 757) then the plane (Boeing 767) which actually hit the WTC. Not to mention, do you really think it's realistic for someone to being taking a picture at the exact moment a plane is coming at you? No matter what, it went viral and stirred up the emotions set by the tragedy of that unforgettable day.

Be a digital careful what you share or pass on, unless you are certain it is the real thing. 
Spread what is real, not a rumor.

Throwback to the '80s, before digital cameras and photoshopping at your fingertips. Timex Social Club sings about "Rumors". The vintage video will make you laugh, if nothing else!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Are You Hands ON? Hands OFF? Get Hands FREE!

It's that time of get togethers, coffee with friends, drinks with colleagues, dinners with families. It's that time of year...we should be spending together, really together: hand in hand, hands on listening, hands off our mobile devices and hands free from distraction.

But, we are not.

So, let's change that.

I recently heard one of my favorite songs from the past, by Jewel, "Hands" and it got me thinking about this season. How to handle freeing up our hands from that non living device that really doesn't matter, but using them to hold and hug those living people we really care for. 

"If I could tell the world just one thing, It would be that we're all OK..."

Misuse of technology can be frustrating, believe me, I teach with it most days! It's the way our world works, and it's OK that it's frustrating. What isn't OK, is just throwing in the towel and allowing ourselves to ignore those around us who absolutely deserve our attention.  We need to check our phones, we like to use social media, we enjoy taking pictures. It's OK. Just limit yourself and encourage those around you to limit their mobile device usage during times that are special.  A survey conducted last year shared that 9 out of 10 people feel their loved ones neglect them on a weekly basis by using their technology. Ouch! Make a plan and stick to it, invite your families to be part of the plan too. Perhaps it's something as simple as: everyone power off their devices and throw them in one of the stockings until after dinner. I'm sure Santa won't take them.  Your family, your special time, your decision. 

"I won't be made useless..."

We think we are using our mobile devices to be so useful and efficient, when really we are useless to our friends and families when they need us most. Remember the last time you had a "conversation" with someone by looking at the top of their head because they were looking down at their phone? It sucks. Model the behavior you seek to change. You can use some humor too, like saying, "Hey, I'm right here, you don't have to look for me on your phone!" Be honest and proactive. Find ways to finish your phone business before you meet up with others and expect them to do the same.  "Disconnecting is a luxury we all need", as New York writer Lesley Blume reminds us.

"We'll fight, not out of spite, for someone must stand up for what's right..."

Ok, don't fight, but what do you do when the phone doesn't get put away? Do you combat rude behavior with rude behavior? No, that won't get you very far. In the article, "How to get everyone to put away their damn phones at your party", Rebecca Adams discusses the importance of making it clear that the event, or time together is going to be unplugged. However, in the end, you shouldn't  embarrass someone or make rude comments if he or she continues to waste time on their phone. Remember, it's likely there's always going to be that one person. So, let it go...let it go, or don't invite them back! (Unless, they are family, then you are stuck, or need to be more creative.)

"My hands are small I know, but they're not yours, they are my own.."

Well, maybe you have big hands, but that's not the point here. The point is that we have to stop blaming others and other things because of our technology addiction. Saying comments like, "I have to check my work email right now before you pass the gravy," "I have to text back my friend before they get mad," or "I have to finish this game!" makes us sound like we are being ruled by a non human device which we OWN, it doesn't not OWN us. They are your hands, take control of them and use them more to hug and hold, rather than to post and not be present.

"In the end only kindness matters."

Whether you are a Jewel fan or not...she's onto something here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

You Have A Big Head! Make It Last

A phrenology chart: "Know Thyself" which labels 37 parts of your brain such as:
firmness, self-esteem, memory, time, friendship...

I don't know about you, but I think the Holiday season can be a little overwhelming. Each year it seems that the my to do list doubles when December 1st hits. How much more can my brain handle? How can I use my mind to find peace and also accomplish the million things I need to between Thanksgiving and New Years?

Let me start off by stating, I am not a phrenologist. A what? A phrenologist is a scientist who studies the brain.

However, along the way, I have become fascinated by how big our brains are, how they work and how they continue to grow, literally. I also am an educator who realizes the importance of following brain research and what it tells us about understanding our diverse group of learners.

Over the last 300 million years, our brain size has tripled. Yep, way back when, they had small brains, we have big ones! Aren't you curious as to why and what that means? Your brain is a machine, YOUR machine which gets you where you are going every day. If you don't take care of it, you may just lose your mind...

Size does matter:
Our brains are completely fascinating. If you are curious as to what all your brain can do, according to phrenologist, here is a list. It will blow your mind what you are capable of. Since the size of the human brain has grow significantly over the years, we have the opportunity and capacity to do bigger and better things.

Which side are you on? The question pops up all the time, "is he/she left or right brained?". Who cares? You have two hemispheres! Use them both. Sure, you may think with one side more than the other, but recognize that and be blessed you have both sides to help you through life. In case you need a refresher on which side of the brain connect to your who you are, explains:

  • The left hemisphere is dominant in language: processing what you hear and handling most of the duties of speaking. It's also in charge of carrying out logic and exact mathematical computations. When you need to retrieve a fact, your left brain pulls it from your memory.
  • The right hemisphere is mainly in charge of spatial abilities, face cognition and processing music. It performs some math, but only rough estimations and comparisons. The brain's right side also helps us to comprehend visual imagery and make sense of what we see. It plays a role in language, particularly in interpreting context and a person's tone.

Free your mind:  Your brain was created to interpret, challenge, assess and resolve things that happen in your environment. Therefore, your brain is constantly evolving. Over the last twenty years researchers have uncovered and confirmed that brain degeneration  and damage can be reversed. It is all based on how stimulated your brain activity is. Since then, many have developed brain games, and activities which they market as ways to stimulate your brain, to keep it active. Beware. Recent research shares that brain training apps or programs such as Luminosity, don't actually increase brain memory, nor is there compelling evidence to support an increase in cognitive functioning. Dr. Michael Merzenich, a famous and respected neuroscientist explains that because the brain is comprised of over 100 billion neurons, it is important that we keep these neurons busy and useful. He is known for us extensive research in brain plasticity (no our brains are not like tupperware).  It was once was believed that our brains became permanent at a certain age, thanks to Dr. Merzenich, we know now that our brain continues to build new pathways and avenues of learning throughout our life as long we keep ourselves exposed and experiencing new things. Take a different way home, pick up a new hobby, meet someone new, or just take the time to be a life-long learner.

This is your brain on music:  The holiday season brings many traditions, special moments and can be music to our ears. Did you know that listening to your favorite songs can actually keep you healthy? One recent study observed patients who were about to undergo surgery. Participants were randomly assigned to either listen to music or take anti-anxiety drugs. Scientists tracked patient's ratings of their own anxiety, as well as the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. What happened? The patients who listened to music had less anxiety and lower cortisol than people who took drugs. While this is just one study, it does point out a powerful medicinal use for music. We know that music is less expensive than drugs and easier on the body (unless you dive into a mosh pit). The study also highlighted evidence that music is "associated with immunoglobulin A, an antibody linked to immunity, as well as higher counts of cells that fight germs and bacteria."

This holiday season, use your brain:  keep yourself healthy and listen to your favorite music. Live longer and learn to experience new things with those you love!

My favorite song of the you have have it running through your brain all day.
Sing it Blue Eyes...