To Swipe or Not to Swipe?

Ah, dating apps. They’re one of the hallmarks of modern dating, and they tend to confuse the hell out of our parents (and often us as well). Some people swear by dating apps, saying that they might not have met their soulmate were it not for the advent of Tinder. But others, like Mariah Manoylov, argue that “dating apps dehumanize dating” and make it harder to see others as actual people and not as objects or conquests.

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There’s certainly no shortage of dating apps out there for people to use. From Tinder to eHarmony or from Grindr to OkCupid, there’s a dating app for everybody to find whatever it is that they’re looking for, whether that’s someone who shares their religious beliefs or someone who will have sex with them and respectfully never speak to them again.

On the surface, this seems like a great thing! You can find hundreds of people who like the same things that you like or who you probably wouldn’t have met or approached in real life. After all, the more bingo cards you buy, the more likely you are to win, right? But the abundance of dating apps and of the options that they give us, according to Manoylov, could be working against us.

When people are given too many choices, they can often fall victim to option paralysis. What this essentially means is that when you have a ridiculous amount of people available to you, it becomes nearly impossible to make a choice because you’re always thinking that there’s something better just around the corner. This works in reverse too — when you’re constantly thinking that there are better people around, it becomes hard to feel secure in a relationship and easy to experience a drop in self-esteem.

The problems with dating apps don’t stop there. On an app, it’s easy to fake a persona that doesn’t reflect who you actually are, and people tend to play up certain personality traits that they think are desirable. It’s gotten to the point where people can place a majority of app users in a few groups, because their profiles are just that similar. It’s almost like we’re living in Harry Potter, except the Houses are based on how many pictures you take with fish.

There’s also the issue of mismatched motives. What do you do when your intentions don’t match up with another person’s? Whether you’re the one who wants a serious relationship or the one who really only wanted an ego boost, contrasting motives can cause a lot of stress for the people involved if one or both people aren’t being honest.

I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve given Tinder a shot, once upon a time. It was… not great. It wasn’t terrible, either, to be honest. It was mostly just boring. Mindlessly swiping away at a screen eventually starts to lose its appeal, and I quickly realized that I would go on sprees of swiping left on people who I had barely even looked at. And when I did look at them, the smallest things would make me dismiss them — a grainy picture, an awkward smile, a fish. (I’m not in on the joke of men taking pictures with fish and I probably never will be.)

Do I believe that Tinder lowered my self-esteem? I personally don’t think so. But do I think it gave me a skewed perception of what dating is like? Probably. Even after I stopped using the app, I still find myself flirting mainly for the ego boost, and not to actually pursue relationships. I’m much more dismissive of people now, as well. After all, I’ve already seen how many guys there are out there, so why should I care about the few that are right in front of me?

It’s not all bad, though. I’ve seen my fair share of strong relationships that started online, and I’m very much aware of how important dating apps are to people who have a hard time making connections without them, like people who identify as LGBT. So my advice is not to delete your Tinder and flirt with your nearest grocery store cashier.

Instead, my advice is to follow the golden rule of dating: Communication. If you only want to hook up, be honest. If you’re hoping to marry someone from the app, just say so (although maybe don’t use the word “marriage” before you say hello). If you’re not quite sure what you want, speak up. Whatever it is, tell the other person and allow them to decide for themselves if they’re okay with it.

Next, try to be a little bit more realistic. Yes, there are plenty of fish in the sea, but a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush (was that enough clichés?). That doesn’t mean to settle. By no means should you settle for less than you deserve. But don’t pass up on a great person just because you think that there’s some theoretical perfect human waiting out there. You’ll miss out on a lot of great people if you’ve always got one foot out the door. (Okay, that’s enough clichés.)

Lastly and most importantly, try not to forget that these people you’re swiping on are real. They’re real humans with families and interests and memories and a lot to offer the world. Maybe they’re not the one for you, but don’t let a profile picture where they wear stripes with polka dots stop you from making a real connection (no matter how heinous that combination is).

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Social Media Destroyed My Relationship

By Roshan Davis

Okay, maybe I’m being slightly overdramatic. But the pressures of social media certainly set us on the fast-track to the end by putting our underlying issues under a microscope. (Don’t worry, we’re still friends. But that’s a blog post for another day.) When I was initially going through the struggle of trying to make the relationship work, I thought that I was going crazy. Why did I care so much about our online presence? Why did it matter if he didn’t post me on his socials, or if he didn’t keep up with mine? But after reading Hafeezah Nazim’s article about social media’s effect on relationships, I realized that my fears were actually quite standard for a person my age.

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Thirty years ago, it didn’t matter what your significant other was doing online, because online barely existed. You couldn’t overanalyze the cryptic tweet your boyfriend made an hour after you two had an argument, or stress over the fact that you posted a story 23 hours ago and your girlfriend has yet to view it. Even now, people in their forties and above don’t have to deal with these things — my stepdad barely knows how to text, and my grandma thinks that Snapchat is a type of snack food. But for young adults, these things have not only become factors in a relationship, they can make or break it.

My ex and I were in a situationship, which means that we were together but not, like, together together (which is also a post for another day), but this didn’t stop us from dealing with all of the pitfalls that come with a modern relationship. Granted, many of our problems were caused by his inability to communicate properly and by my self-destructive tendency to worry about whether my loved ones actually like me or are simply pretending to, but social media amplified my insecurities in a way that wasn’t possible for my parents’ generation.

Social media makes it ridiculously easy to drive yourself insane. Any time I hadn’t heard from him for a while, all I had to do was check to see if he was recently on Snapchat or Instagram, and my imagination could run wild with theories of what he was doing if he wasn’t responding to my snaps, liking my Instagram photos, or watching my stories. Social media might make it harder to lie about your whereabouts, but what you’re doing is anyone’s guess if you’re not posting about it, and an anxious young mind will jump to the worst-possible scenario.

So what does this mean? Is social media a curse placed upon Generation Z? Should we all toss our phones into the ocean and try to return to simpler times? Absolutely not. We have to learn how to deal with it, just like the generation before us had to learn to deal with texting and AOL messenger. And just like the uncertainty surrounding ambiguous messages and the fear of double-texting haven’t disappeared, social media-related anxiety is here to stay.

All we can do is try not to worry so much about what a person’s online activity “means”. Or, we can take our worry as a sign that there are more important problems that need to be confronted.

 

Follow-Up Interview with MyLifeAsJordan

By Roshan Davis

Jordan Heustis is a small YouTube daily vlogger at Towson University. She and her channel have been steadily gaining popularity within the Towson community, especially with potential attendees. Every day, Heustis compiles video clips of her and her friends simply living their lives at university, succinctly summarizing and advertising the college experience. Last year, I interviewed Heustis as her channel was hitting its 100-video milestone. Now it’s time to catch up with her and see what she has been doing in the last few month, and get an idea of what is still in store for her.

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Why Go Vegetarian? A Podcast by Roshan Davis

Podcast Link

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While many people in the United States and across the world maintain an omnivorous diet, there exists a small segment of the population that gas decided to omit meat from their diets, ranging from those who will still eat fish (which is often seen as less-feeling than other animals) to those who don’t consume any animal products whatsoever. In this podcast, ovo-lacto vegetarian and son-to-be vegan Jordan Heustis explains more about her meat-free lifestyle and what drove her to choose it.

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Dealing with the Destruction: Towson U’s Caribbean Student Association’s Efforts to Aid in Hurricane Relief

By Roshan Davis

The news of Hurricane Irma has been dominating the news as of late, with every major news station covering the disaster that followed so closely behind the catastrophic Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane, has terrorized the Caribbean and the state of Florida, resulting in dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries, as well as billions of dollars worth of damage. For many of the students at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland, the news is unfortunate, maybe even upsetting, but ultimately does not affect them—everything they own and everyone they know are safe. For one group of students, however, the news coverage serves as a constant reminder of everything that is at stake: Their homes, their families, and their lives as they know them. With heads bowed and hands clasped together, a group of forty-some Towson students stood together in their university’s student union, praying for the safety of their family members hundreds of miles away.

The Caribbean Student Association is a cultural group on Towson’s campus.  “[The CSA aims] to enrich the lives of students of both Caribbean and non-­Caribbean descent in order to celebrate the diversity of their cultures,” explained Abigail Braithwaite, the Chief of Staff of the CSA and a junior at Towson University. “We seek to expose our community to the same love, unity, and happiness that is experienced in our home countries.”

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“I first went to CSA a few weeks into the school year,” said Tyler Simonds, a non-Caribbean member of CSA and a junior at Towson University. “I liked how it was a learning experience for me, and that it was fun to attend.”

Many of the CSA’s members were born in Caribbean countries, and almost all of the CSA’s members have family still living on the islands. “Hurricane Irma affected families all over the Caribbean,” said Braithwaite, “and for people who have family there—it hit home while we were either at our homes or away, on campus. My uncle’s house and business were blown away due to Irma. He lost basically everything he owned … I was constantly thinking about all that he had worked for and where he would be living, and all the memories that had just gotten ripped away from him.”

This familial and cultural connection has led the members of the CSA to take matters into their own hands, and the students began planning several fundraising events for hurricane relief. The proceeds will all go towards repairing the damaged areas of the islands and assisting the families who lost so much of their lives to the destruction. “All of CSA knew it was going to be a good idea to fundraise, [to show] support and [to take action] for our loved ones and our countries,” said Braithwaite. “We started small with bake sales and raffles, and had a food sale of HIP HOP Chicken, but also did bigger fundraisers like Go Fund Me and an Applebee’s dinner night.”

Many people, both members and non-members, made appearances at the events, as the CSA’s unique style of operating fundraisers caught the student body’s attention. “I attended the fundraiser at Applebee’s,” said Simonds. “It was a lot of fun and different than any fundraiser I’ve attended before. Most fundraisers that I go to are very boring, but this one had music, food, and a lot of fun people. ”

“Our end goal was obviously to raise as much money as possible, but from what we have done in the past this was our most successful run of fundraisers! It was for a great cause too which made it [even] better,” said Braithwaite. “We are currently still keeping the Go Fund Me alive, but for now because the hurricanes have calmed down we have stopped heavily fundraising.”

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The effort put into fundraising by the club’s members is just one example of how the CSA brings people from shared backgrounds together to create a family right on Towson’s campus. “[The CSA] makes me feel relaxed and comforted,” gushed Braithwaite. “If it was just my friends it would have still worked out, but because I am surrounded by people who have lived their lives like I have lived mine and who know the world beyond Towson University it makes it really easy for me to share exactly how I am feeling and to make this experience and process better.”

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The Caribbean Student Association meets every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on the third floor of Towson University’s student union. People of all backgrounds and ethnicities are encouraged to come and partake in the meetings and discussions. You can also find and donate to the CSA’s Go Fund Me at this address: https://www.gofundme.com/3khfj-hurricane-irma-victims.

The Retrial of Aaron Holly

By Roshan Davis

On Sept. 20, the retrial of Aaron Holly, 32, for his involvement in the murder of Tanya Jones-Spence in 2002 took place at the Baltimore County Circuit Court.

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Holly, who was 19 at the time of his first sentencing, has spent the last 13 years in prison after receiving a sentence of life without parole. However, due to the Supreme Court’s recent mandate that the use of life without parole should be reserved only for juveniles who have committed crimes that reveal “irreparable corruption”, Holly’s case has been brought back into the light. Judge Vicki Ballou-Watts, who oversaw Holly’s first trial, was also tasked with determining if Holly’s sentence would be reduced or remain the same.

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“It was much more intense than anything else I’ve worked on,” said David Reiss, a film professor at Towson University, who was approached by the Baltimore County Public Defender’s office to create a video testimonial for Holly’s case. “Because it was so immediate, you know …  the stakes are so high.”

After creating the video, Reiss turned to his film class for feedback, and invited his students to the trial to show support for Holly. “It’s something that you could only really know by going there. Something that film definitely tries to recreate, but actually being there is completely different,” recalled Alec Bacon, one of Reiss’s students who attended the trial. “Someone’s life was on the line.”

After hearing several expert witnesses and viewing the testimonial video made by Reiss, Judge Ballou-Watts decreased Holly’s sentence from life without parole to four more years in prison and a chance for resentencing. The Baltimore County Public Defender’s office isn’t dropping the trial, though, as the victim’s family revealed after the sentencing that they have forgiven Holly and see no reason for him to remain incarcerated. The Public Defender’s office hopes to continue to work with Reiss to convince the judge to further decrease Holly’s sentence.

“So right now we have this window, right? And because this is new information that the victim’s family has forgiven Aaron and doesn’t want him incarcerated for another four years,” said Reiss. “Everything this young man has done has been positive in a really negative environment … and, like I said, there are other Aarons. There are jails that are just filled with these poor kids who had, like, terrible childhoods and just unspeakable things, violence. I did it because I saw an opportunity to do something that had never been done before … I’m all in on this.”

The defense hopes to schedule another hearing with Judge Ballou-Watts within the next month.

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