Weekly Passport: Multitasking, Materialism, and MICROaggressions

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Single-Tasking is the New Multitasking

Trying to do too many things at once makes it hard to get anything done at all.” In the latest installment for his If Our Bodies Could Talk series, Dr. James Hamblin takes on the singular task of calling out our debilitating tendency to “multitask”. Since we usually multitask at the expense of the quality of our work (if not otherwise our own ability to concentrate on any one thing), maybe we should try “singletasking” instead… (The Atlantic)

The Art of Discovering Something that Is Not New

Buzzfeed Food published an article asking, ‘Have you heard about the new kind of pie that’s all the rage, lately?’ It’s a hand pie, a little foldover pie that you can fit in your hand! They have flaky crusts and can be sweet or savory. You know, exactly like an empanada—a Latin American culinary staple? On face value, it seems stupid to get worked up over an empanada. I mean, it’s just a pastry, right? But ‘discovering’ empanadas on Pinterest and calling them ‘hand pies’ strips empanadas of their cultural context. To all the people who grew up eating empanadas, it can feel like theft.”  Let’s back up a sec. “Columbusing” is when you discoverfor yourself—something “new” that in actuality has always existed, only elsewhere in different cultures to different peoples. Discovering “new” things is one of the most important things you can do with your life; there’s no life without discovery. The deceit, however, comes when people casually go beyond discovery by claiming ownership of whatever they’ve discovered (hence “Columbusing”)—by depriving it of its original context, its cultural meaning, its legacy and so on and so forth. No matter how hilarious it may look or how self-deprecating and innocuous your intentions, dressing up like a fool, jerking around like a spaz, then calling it the “Harlem Shake” is dismissive of people who really do the real Harlem shake. True, you don’t hear Italians crying about the “Columbusing” of pizze, or Mexicans petitioning Taco Bell to stop wrapping burritos in cheese quesadillas; just as waters ebb and flow, it’s almost inevitable that cultures will shift and blend. But it never hurts to be respectful—to acknowledge the cultural shoulders on which you stand (and the incredible asses of true first “twerkers” =D.) (NPR)

How to Let Go of Materialism

Money can’t buy happiness, but placing less value on the things it can buy may improve your mental health. The longest ever study on this topic finds that becoming less materialistic leads to more contentment in life—and suggests ways to get to that happy place. So writes Tori Rodriguez for Scientific American, perfectly summarizing the conclusions of a set of long-term studies of materialism. Three of the four experiments “investigated how changes in materialism affect well-being,” with snapshots of subjects in the US and Iceland taken at two months, two years, and twelve years respectively—each revealing an inverse relationship between the focus on money and possessions and the level of happiness. The fourth study,“the first ever to use a randomized, controlled design to try to change materialistic beliefs”,involved a group of American adolescents, half of whom were “encouraged to clarify their intrinsic values (such as self-growth, closeness with friends and family, and contributing to the community) and to make financial decisions based on those values.” That group reportedly became less materialistic—and developed higher self-esteem over time thereafter. (Scientific American)

If by some miracle you’re actually interested in being less materialistic, check out Psychologist Tim Kasser’s thorough list of tips and strategies for building some self-awareness, checking your values, and developing some helpful habits.
(also via Scientific American)

What Everyone Gets Wrong in the Debate Over Net Neutrality

The real issue is that the Comcasts and Verizons are becoming too big and too powerful. Because every web company has no choice but to go through these ISPs, the Comcasts and the Verizons may eventually have too much freedom to decide how much companies must pay for fast speeds. Robert McMillan’s Wired article is a rare contrarian take (and a reasonable and refreshing one at that) on the FCC’s recently proposed rules intended to preserve an open and neutral web—rules which have resulted in everything from protests in DC and viral internet petitions to an open letter signed by (like, every) big internet giant. Vilified by everyone from Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT-D) to HBO’s Last Week Tonight host Jamie Oliver, the rules are accused of being too broad and for enabling the creation of “fast lanes“; put simply, its detractors believe “the rules would lead to a world where internet service providers can sell special treatment to web companies like Google and Netflix, charging extra fees to deliver their online videos and other content at fast speeds.” (Also see Klint Finley’s Wired article.) One thing you may not know, however, is that there already are “fast lanes” that nobody ever complains about—partly because they’re the reason why we able to, say, enjoy such fast Google searches, or stream our favorite Netflix movies so quickly and seamlessly… Might that make this mostly one-sided debate a little more interesting for you? 

Just remember what EA’s fearless leader said in her latest Field Notes yesterday: It’s YOUR personal responsibility to consider other sides to a story, to read with awareness, and to not regurgitate talking points without having considered their veracity.” (Wired)

The Ping-Pong Theory of Tech Sexism
A True (Illustrated) Story

“Sexism is subtle. It’s insidious. It’s rarely ‘Her idea is bad because she’s a woman.’it’s ‘I’m not sure why, but something’s telling me her idea is not good good.’ This kind of dismissal is ingrained in the way we all think. You have to really pay attention to change it.” In one of the more thoughtful, accessible, and sweeping treatments out there, graphic memoirist and writer Ariel Schrag draws up a clever and entertaining dissection of sexism in the workplace. (Most impressively, she tackles one of the most overlooked reasons for its persistence: too much emphasis on empowering women and too little engagement with men; you can’t fix sexism by ignoring—and in many cases alienating—HALF the population!)

That quote I pulled? Microaggression 101; coined by Dr. Chester M Pierce, “microaggressions” are described as “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people.” I look at them as cultural pestsconvenient havens for so many an ignorant and intolerant “-ism” and “-phobia”, from sexism and racism to xenophobia and homophobia; while it feels as if people are getting bolder and bolder in their open disdain for blacks, gays, women, Muslims, illegal immigrants, atheists, people with masters degrees and what have you, prejudices are by and large veiled in ways ranging from clutching your purse and shrinking into a corner when a big, tatted black guy steps into your elevator to calling a grown woman (especially someone you don’t know) “babe”, “darling”, or “sweetheart”. They’re there and true and many times totally obvious yet almost impossible to prove, particularly when the unwitting transgressor is fully convinced of his or her innocencehence both convenient (for the prejudiced, of course) and pestilential (to just about everyone else—not merely the victims, but those who simply know better as well).

I know we at Everyday Ambassador probably sound like broken records, but so long as people demonstrate how grossly inept they are at understanding this, we can’t stress it enough: We need to be more humble. The only people who dare to question whether or not they may have offended someone—who dare to empathize—are those who are humble enough to do so. It’s humility that enables us to identify our flaws, which is the only way we learn and become better people. (Matter)

…And now for a little respite from the serious stuff.

Check out this hilarious new CollegeHumor video about (#)selfies!


“Your Weekly Passport” is a series curated by Everyday Ambassador writer and editor Michael Nebab. Every Tuesday, we will post a round-up of meaningful media tidbits and Everyday Ambassador must-reads. To stay current with our latest edition, follow #weeklypassport on our other platforms, and check back for updates.

Author: Michael Nebab
Writer. Learner. Thinker. Realist. American.

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