Saturday, March 28, 2015

Second Thoughts on My Social Media Experiment

It has come to my attention that of the 3 social media platforms I talked about earlier(Snapchat, Facebook, and YouTube) the latter 2 are not really social media in the most candid sense for me.

I barely ever communicate through those two mediums (except for the rare occasions of comments on my YouTube videos or Facebook messages about the Physics lab.) However, I do confess that these are the two mediums on which I spend the most time (YouTube wins out by a landslide, by the way). So what is going on here? Well, the answer that was fuzzy to me is now clear as day: I am the one wasting my own time with frivolous social media and not paying attention to my friends enough. The statistics prove it! I have a whopping 398 "Facebook friends". How many of those do you think I talk to IRL at least once a day? Probably less than 15. I have an astounding 81 subscriptions on YouTube. How many of those do you think are my friends' YouTube channels? 4. And 2 of them have zero videos posted.

I think the answer is clear here: I am cluttering my own life with superficial, irrelevant muck that is sucking my free time dry. These aren't social media sites. They are black holes of solitude and a straight path to a wasted life.

Now, I've been giving Snapchat a bad rep, but as it turns out, Snapchat is the unsung hero. I have a mere 13 friends on Snapchat, and I have talked more with acutal friends over Snapchat in the 2 months that I have had it installed than on Facebook in 2 years.

So yeah, my problem is myself and my lack of moral character which would allow me to close that tab tab and get some actual work done. There is a silver lining however: I am my own problem, so I am completely capable of solving it independently. I am promising to work on it.

Bye-bye Facebook and YouTube. Snapchat can stay.

Friday, March 27, 2015

3 Lessons I Learned About Social Media

About a couple months ago, I dived deeper into social media. I was very aggressively (but not violently) convinced into making a Snapchat account. Facebook is in my bookmarks bar. And YouTube is basically my home page. (And though YouTube isn't necessarily a traditional social media platform, it is still kind of a "social" "media" "platform" when you think about it.)

I came into social media with the intent of having easier communication with friends and to be more in tune with the lives of my peers. I though that since I was just a finger tap away, I would be invited to more IRL hangouts and events. 

This has not been the case. Now, to be clear, I don't blame this on any of my friends. It's foolish to think that just because you are "there" you will automatically be likable and people will instantly invite you to their occasions. C'mon let's all grow up shall we? (I'm looking at you, 3-months-ago me).

Instead, I did see that my friends were indeed going places and having a good time. My hamartia was in the interpretation of these social media posts. Think about it: these clips are just a couple of seconds. They capture nothing about the overall experience that your friends were attending. It's like coming to a fireworks show with one firework. You see the best razzle-dazzle but you don't see the rest of everything. So, lesson number 1 : Your life is not less fun just because it SEEMS like everyone else's life is fun.  Instead, I have noticed that the level of fun I have at any given time is exactly directly proportional to how much effort I give towards having a good time. (Go figure.) Now this isn't as hard as it seems. Instead of looking at social media and trying to see if you are doing the most exciting thing out of all your friends, put down the phone and just open your eyes, I guarantee that you will feel better about yourself if you just take a moment to appreciate your own surroundings. It has worked for me, and it will work for you. (That last sentence sounded like I was advertising a skin cream instead of giving life advice, haha.)

Furthermore, once, I did go to a party with some friends. There was music,dancing, food, talking, and friends. Word of warning, I do not like dancing very much. Especially loud music and a lot of jumping and hand motions. Not for me. And so when I was at this party with all of my friends, I was dancing just like I had seen them in my social media feed. But, it didn't feel fun. I was just jumping and thinking, "This is not something I derive fun from." Instead, when we finally sat dawn to talk and chit-chat, I had a blast. The times I enjoyed most were when I was doing what I considered fun, not what my parents, my friends, or society thought what fun. So lesson number 2: Fun is very subjective and just because your friends are having fun doing one thing doesn't mean you will have fun doing it. And this can be difficult to come to terms with especially when the activity at hand (dancing in my case) is generally thought of in society as fun. It's discomforting to think that so many people like dancing and I do not. People have looked at me strangely and questioned my opinion with puzzled faces, but that hasn't changed my position. Thus, social media puts us at odds with ourselves, and that is not a good thing. 

Lastly, I also noticed that as I was sharing my life, my overall attitude toward an event was correlated to how much social media attention that post received. For instance, I coded up and awesome new solution to a problem on Codewars (excellent programming practice resource, by the way) and posted it on my Snapchat story. There weren't that many views, and nobody asked me about it later. But, later when I casually posted a picture of me at lunch, I got more views, and a few people even told me that it was a nice picture! The nerve of those people! The interests of my peers did not match up with my personal interests. That is okay, but what was totally wrong was for me to change my lifestyle based on their "scoring" of my activities. So, lesson 3: Don't change your lifestyle just to suite the attention of your friends. Real friends will respect that you have personal interests and inquire you about those interests. 

So, after careful consideration, I think that it would be good to see the other side of the story. I will now engage in a "social-media fasting" to see how a complete void of social media will affect my happiness, my productivity, and my fun.

P.S. Thank you so much for reading my muses! We are almost at 1000 views, which is a landmark I would never even have hoped for. I know that my readers are a very small group of close friends and the occasional accidental visitor, but regardless, I would just like to say THANK YOU so much for reading my blog. I hope to keep providing you with quality content and to create meaningful conversation with you all. =) 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Two Paths to Happiness And The One I Took

We portray ourselves differently in public than in private because it is a necessity. We have to conform, to some extent, to society because then we become a part of it and we feel accepted. That's a really good feeling: when other people give you their attention because you are relatable to them in some way. It's actually one of two path's towards happiness. The other being happy with one's self.

You are happy by yourself if you listen to the music that YOU like, and you laugh at the racist jokes that YOU feel are not crossing the line, and you watch the YouTube videos that YOU want to watch, and you do the solitary hobbies in the time and manner that YOU want to. 

This can last for a while, but then you get lonely. You start to wonder what your friends are doing. To quote Soko: 

Long time no see. 
Long time wondering 
What you were doing 
Who you were seeing

You grow restless because you need someone to talk to. It is an aspect of human nature to be social. It's what allowed us to evolve as a species, but for the individual it can be either a quality or a deficiency, depending on how you look at it.

So there exists this balance between pleasing yourself and pleasing those around you to get them to accept you which pleases you. As you can see, the first route is shorter but much more difficult and lonely.

Personally, I have been able to trod the first path basically my entire life. Thanks to my wonderfully supportive parents, bless their hearts, I was able to always go back to their support instead of trying to conform to my friends who had quite different world views than I did. I spent a majority of my childhood *alone* (meaning with family or really just by myself.)

One one hand, that solitude allowed me to explore myself. I experimented with hobbies. I tried different books, then I realized I didn't like books too much in general and moved on to YouTube videos. For school projects, when we had to work in groups, I was naturally demanding and instructive since I was used to doing things the way that I had done them. This of course resulted in me being a director and the other kids being puppets, but since I did most of the work, I felt it was justified. I was bossy, but the group's project (usually a video since I like making videos (something I learned while exploring myself(and yes I did put parenthesis inside of parenthesis inside of parenthesis which shows you how much I do things my own way))) was unique and stood out from the usual sample of other projects.

I could not, however, laugh by myself. I can't just start laughing when I'm watching a video or doing something by myself. So I was tempted to join niches and communities by seeing other kids laughing together. That didn't always go well. We connected during school, and I was invited to birthdays, but I was rarely invited on non-birthday occasions outside of school. Even after I moved from Louisiana to Texas, this trend continued.

Well, to be fair, Texas was a lot friendlier. I found people who were just as quirky and weird as I was, so it was much easier to find people to connect with where I didn't have to conform much. High school was even better since that was when I joined extra-curricular activities. Those experiences bonded me with people like nothing else. Regardless, the no-meeting-outside-of-school trend was not changing.

I had a lot of friends, but they were all in their separate groups. Nobody knew as many people as I did, but consequently, I was never part of a particular group of closely knit friends. I don't know if this was a natural process or if I did this to myself, but either way, the void between me and these groups seemed to be growing wider. Now I wonder if I've dug myself into a hole that is too deep for my to climb out of. But that doesn't mean I won't try.

I've lived my whole live trotting that first path. Now, I am going to try the second path. I'm going to download every social media app I hear. I'm going to join every WhatsApp group and add everyone on Snapchat. I'll try this out and let you know how it goes. Whether the first path or the second is more successful in achieving happiness.

P.S. Since sophomore year, though, this has been turning around. Some things in these past 18 months have been.................unique.................and they have made me really happy. But it's too soon to tell you. =)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What Makes Great Art?

As a filmmaker, its hard to come to terms with the fact that your audience will most definitely miss some of the purposeful details that you put in, and so you try to make each one glaringly obvious. But then, you make it too easy for your viewers; the flow of information is too slow. Sometimes in fact, people still don't get the picture. So, you must instead challenge your viewer to the brink of misunderstanding. You make your film such that the limit of transfer of information is not limited by the speed of the video but by the comprehension of the viewer. This allows for (brace for cliche) each person to interpret the message of the video for themselves. Ugh, glad that is over. 

And isn't that what great art does? Each time you re-watch the video, each time you re-read the book, each time you revisit the oil painting, each time you re-listen to the song, you have a new perspective of the art based on your emotional state and your new-found life experiences. You see something you didn't see before. The art is still relevant; it is still meaningful to you. 

That is why time-less literature like Romeo and JulietThe Scarlet Letter, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, authors like TolstoyHemingway, and Dumas, artists of the canvas like Da VinciMagritte, and van Gogh , musicians such as Luis Armstrong, The Beatles, and Beethoven , and last but not least the post-modern video creators for instance vlogbrothersTheThirdPew , and the gloriously amazing itsamemyleo (my personal favorite) have been and will be great works of art, great creators of art, that transcend generations of peoples and teach morals, tell stories, and express emotions that are relevant not to one demographic, but to the human that is in all of us and in each of us.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Why Is TFIOS A Good Story? Part 1


The reoccurring cigarette metaphor is a good example of storytelling because it shows how Augustus's opinion of himself progresses throughout the story. At first, he sees the cigarettes as something he has power over; this stems from his inherent desire to control his own destiny and to make something of himself. Later, when he tries and fails to buy the pack of cigarettes at the gas station and Hazel has to save him from his infected g-tube, it shows that Augustus no longer has power over the cigarettes because he can't even buy a pack without someone's help. It is symbolic of him deteriorating, weakening, and losing his grip on life. In his last days, Augustus hates his body for limiting his character which is contrary to the control and confidence he felt in the beginning. Nonetheless, he still fulfills his inner desire to leave a legacy by writing the sequel of An Imperial Affliction to Hazel. Though he doesn't end his life as the hero he imagined himself to be, he becomes a hero to Hazel and an inspiration as a person who loved with all his heart till the end. 

In addition, Hazel compares herself to a grenade because she believes that she will leave a deep emotional scar on her loved ones once she inevitably passes away. The metaphor of a grenade is a good example of storytelling because it highlights how death is so sudden (like the explosion of a grenade), how death affects everyone that is close to the person (like the people close to a grenade), and how death leaves emotional scars that take an extended period of time to heal (like a grenade leaves gashes and deeply penetrating wounds). However, because Hazel had a near fatal visit to the hospital but survived, she is able to see what is it like the be the grenade. At the same time, Gus is the first of the two to pass away, so Hazel also gets to feel like the person hit by the grenade. This is a fantastic example of storytelling since the reader is able to see both sides of the situation through the very intimate and personal perspective of Hazel.  


John Green makes extended use of foreshadowing which build suspense and keeps the reader guessing. This makes for an engaging story and builds emotional attachment. For instance, although this isn't mentioned in the movie, as Hazel and her mom come to pick up Augustus for their trip to Amsterdam, they overhear Gus yell, "BECAUSE IT IS MY LIFE, MOM. IT BELONGS TO ME." This outburst foreshadows that something isn't quite alright with Gus which turns out to be his cancer recurrence. 

In addition, during the actual flight to Amsterdam, Gus and Hazel make a conscientious effort to synchronize the playback of their movie, but Gus's movie starts a couple of seconds earlier which is both symbolic and foreshadowing of the fact that Gus will pass away sooner than Hazel.

These are just some of the examples of good storytelling techniques. I have personally reread the book three times, and each time, I notice more and more minute references and links between seemingly random additions to the story. That's what makes a good story a good story: it gets better each time you tell it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Isle of Man TT

The Isle of Man is a small, self-governing British Crown dependency on an island between Great Britain and Ireland. It is famously known for hosting the most prestigious motorcycle racing event in the world: annual "Isle of Man TT". 60.7 kilometers per lap. Speeds of up to 180 mph. And most bizarrely, the track is composed of normal public highways that have been temporarily close off. Enough chit-chat. Let's watch the footage. I recommend skipping to 2:30 for this first video.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why I Study Computer Science

I would like to believe that I study Computer Science because not that many people do. I think to myself that if I can learn how this supernatural machine works then perhaps I can wield its power for the betterment of mankind. Perhaps I can build a solution that helps people do something they thought was impossible before. To borrow a phrase from "The Imitation Game": It's the people that no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.


Computer programming makes us more human. As paradoxical as this sounds, it's true. Code is written to help humans accomplish their mundane and repetitive tasks much quicker so that they can move on to more intelligent and creative undertakings. Likewise, coding is an inherently social experience. A single coder won't get very far towards making a worthy project but a team of coders can accomplish great things. Each person specializes in their own skills so that each aspect of a program is programmed to perfection to create a profound user experience. Code is written by people, for people! 

The AP Computer Science Class

AP Computer Science is a difficult class. The concepts are abstract and hard to grasp. There are no turning cogs, no visuals, no observable steps. Everything about Computer Science is encapsulated into a big black box. You type in some code, and the computer spits out a result. That's it. What goes on inside the computer as each line of code is evaluated is up to your imagination. But that's the beauty of it -- everything is up to your imagination. You can simulate anything you want in a computer. The extent of how much your code can make an impact is solely dependent on how far you will push yourself. No one can say it is easy, but no one can say it is impossible.


Because of the flexibility in code, problems can be solved in any way that you wish. There are no right answers. The efficiency of the code is measured by how effectively you can transcript your thought process into a program. There is a lot of freedom in how a programmer can accomplish his/her task, so this provokes an intuitive thought process. You don't have to copy someone else's way of solving problems like the steps to graphing a polynomial function. Instead, you already understand you own train of thought, so each successive step in solving the problem already makes sense to you since you made it up.

Resources! Boundless Resources! 

There are tons of places for sample code that you can examine and even use for yourself when you hit a roadblock. Moreover, there are often entire libraries and frameworks of pre-written code that can give you a leg-up on your project. This is just another testimony to how all code can be built upon to achieve bigger and better programs in a faster, simpler process.


Programming, coding, computer science, or black magic. Whatever you want to call it, it is taking the world by storm. There is literally not a single reason to resist learning to code. It is the way of the future. It is the inevitable destiny of our species. Code is written by people, for people! =)