English 1020 Final

English 1020: Living Online has been an amazing experience for me as a writer. When I came to this class, writing seemed to be a one way conversation. However, I learned throughout the course that this is not the case. I have learned that we write to join a conversation, to give our opinions, and to open our reader’s mind. My experience I gained as a writer, the challenges I faced, and the goals I have met are all invaluable to me as a writer. The things I learned in this class have more real world application than I had previously imagined.

I never won any awards for writing the greatest essay, and I never had the best grade on a paper. Still, I continued to write and learn new skills that helped me to become a better writer. Not the best, but better. The most important skill that I learned in this class was how to present two sides to a conflict, offer evidence, and take a stand for what I believe.  A skill that I have honed in this class would be my ability to analyze and think critically. The in-class discussions were crucial to improving these areas. One last lesson I learned, and maybe a bit too late, was to never procrastinate. With these skills and experience, I now feel that I can actually write a “great” essay.

However, the class was not all smooth sailing. There were challenges every step of the way. I got lucky, because I ended up with a teacher that understood my issues and cared about my success as a student. One major road block was my procrastination, as I mentioned earlier. This caused me to almost miss an assignment because I waited too long to start it. Fortunately, my teacher gave me a break. Another issue was attendance to class. I missed three lessons that would have been instrumental in developing skills like forming a thesis and how to properly conduct research. Though I did have a few bumps in the road, I persevered and worked with my instructor to finish successfully.

In my midterm, I set out to accomplish three goals: being clear in my writing, having others peer review my paper, and developing a writing process. I feel that I have developed some clarity in my writing for my final paper, as I detailed most aspects of my topic. On the other hand, I know that I have a long way to go before my writing is crystal. Moreover, I reached my goal of having others peer review my paper outside of class. Before I turned in my proposal or final draft, I had two people read each one. I feel that this is a valuable lesson as well because it offers a chance for feedback from an audience. Finally, I achieved my goal of developing a writing process. On my final paper, I conducted research, wrote an annotated bibliography, wrote a proposal, did more research, created a bare bones outline, and then a full outline for the final paper. These things have all helped me become a better writer. In contrast, I would like to continue working on getting things done on time, as I still struggle with this.

In conclusion, English 1020 wasn’t a “be all, end all” course — it was a large step in my academic success. I feel that I am now experienced enough to produce drafts, proposals, papers, and even annotated bibliographies. Moreover, I know that these skills are not just useful for English, but for any course that requires writing. If I were to rate how useful this course was to my success as a student and future professional, I would say the course is highly beneficial, if not essential.

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Cannabis: Dangerous Drug or Harmless Plant

Cannabis Sativa is a flowering plant indigenous to South and Central Asia. Cannabis is also referred to as marijuana, pot, hemp, hash, and weed – to name a few. Renowned for the euphoric “high” it causes, marijuana is a chemical cocktail. THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the 400 chemicals in the plant and the main psychoactive ingredient found in the plant. THC interacts with a system, called the endocannabinoid system, which is built into the brain. While cannabis is a plant, its widespread use as an illicit drug has caused controversy in areas as diverse as medical science, religion, and personal liberty.

For thousands of years, cannabis has been used recreationally and medically. The Chinese were the first to discover the plant as medicine in 1500 BCE, Hebrews used cannabis in anointing oils in the bible, and Egyptians recognize Cannabis as a treatment to glaucoma, inflammation, and menstrual pains. Recognition of the drug continued to spread to Greece in 200 BCE and Rome around 30 AD. (Historical Timeline) In 1611 AD, Jamestown settlers brought hemp, a strain of cannabis with little to no THC, to North America for the first time. (Historical Timeline) Hemp became a vital export during colonial times with famous figures growing crops of the plant themselves, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Queen Victoria was a user of medical marijuana for her menstrual pains in 1840; shortly thereafter, marijuana became a prominent medicine in the civilized world. (Historical Timeline) In 1850, cannabis is recognized in the U.S. Pharmacopeia with a wide variety of treatments for illnesses including gout, alcoholism, insanity, typhus, and even rabies. (Historical Timeline)

However, in 1911, things took a turn; Massachusetts became the first state to outlaw the plant. (Historical Timeline) This time period can be marked by a movement of big government prohibitionists who were tackling prohibition of alcohol, prostitution, and gambling. Following the example set by Massachusetts, ten more states prohibited marijuana over the next decade including Texas, Oregon, Washington, and New York. Due to wide acceptance of the drug, the laws to ban cannabis were not caused by concern, but instead were used to discourage future use. Though the drug had already been outlawed in several states, the federal government continued to grow approximately 30 tons of cannabis for medical use annually. (Historical Timeline) In 1925, the League of Nations decided that cannabis is to be used for medical and scientific use only. (Historical Timeline) Public view on the drug continued to decline until 1942 when it was removed from the U.S. Pharmacopeia. In 1970, the U.S. federal government classified the plant as a schedule one drug with no accepted medical use.

14,000,000 people are diagnosed with cancer and another 8,000,000 die from the disease each year. (“World Cancer Day”) There are 50,000 HIV infections discovered yearly, with 32,000 cases progressing to AIDS. (“HIV/AIDS Statistics Overview”) With diseases and infections growing, it is necessary to assess all viable treatment options. Even a barbaric treatment like smoking cannabis sativa should not be eliminated if it has proven medical use. In the past, marijuana has been used to treat physical ailments – such as anorexia, arthritis, and sprains – and mental ailments like depression, anxiety, and insomnia. (259 Medical Conditions) If civilizations repeatedly associated cannabis as a medicinal remedy, why is it now considered a drug with no medical use? I seek to answer four primary questions: Should cannabis be legalized for medical use? Are there viable alternatives? If so, how do the alternatives compare to marijuana? Should cannabis be legalized for recreational use?

In my paper, I will discuss the actual science behind “getting high”. I will then discuss marijuana as a treatment option and how THC relates to a chemical called cannabidiol. Afterwards, I will talk about the alternatives and the pros and cons of those alternatives. Finally, I will take a look at recreational marijuana, why it should be legalized, and the consequent effects it will have.

Michael Bostwick wrote “Blurred Boundaries: The Therapeutics and Politics of Medical Marijuana”, an unbiased article on the medical and political stances of marijuana use as well as the science behind the drug. When discussing the endocannabinoid system and how cannabis relates to opium, Bostwick quotes Baker Pryce: “In both instances, studies into drug-producing plants led to the discovery of an endogenous control system with a central role in neurobiology.” Baker was relating the endocannabinoid system to the recently discovered opioid system. (Bostwick) While these systems are related, they do vastly different things. The endocannabinoid system plays a role in memory, appetite, metabolism, mood, sleep, and even pain.The endocannabinoid system is also what causes the brain to release more dopamine – the euphoric chemical released when our brain’s reward system is activated – to achieve a high. This system can be activated by ingesting THC in any form.             In addition, medical marijuana can be immensely different from recreational marijuana. For one, the source of the plant is not the same. For example, cannabis that is bought from an unauthorized seller cannot guarantee quality or safety of use. Authorized vendors and their wholesalers are subject to standardized regulations. “Street drugs” are drugs that have been purchased illegally, and usually from an underqualified seller. These drugs can contain other ingredients including, but not limited to, psychoactive drugs, herbs, and vegetation. Buying from an authorized vendor can ensure that one’s medical marijuana is safe for use. Medical companies have begun experimenting with synthetic THC as well.

Marinol, or dronabinol, is a synthetic THC engineered specifically for medical use. Marinol was approved by the FDA in 1985; however, there is debate over its effectiveness compared to smoking cannabis. (“Historical Timeline”) It is currently used to treat nausea in chemotherapy patients, Wasting Syndrome in AIDS patients, chronic pain, and even severe migraines. On the other hand, the side effects include vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, and stomach pain. The drug does have its advantages and disadvantages of use.

The most obvious advantage Marinol has is that there is no smoke. Patients on Marinol are prescribed a specific, monitored dosage – another handy advantage. In contrast, the bloodstream delivery can take four to six weeks to take full effect. Even after waiting four weeks, patients that have previously used marijuana claim that Marinol does not have the same effect, or that Marinol has less of an effect. Even so, Marinol is federally legal, therefore making it safer to use than marijuana. However, Marinol is certainly not the only alternative.

CBD is a compound found in cannabis that can have positive medical effects without giving users a high or stoned feeling. CBD actually counters the psychoactive effects that THC has on our brains. CBD actually boosts the positive traits of THC and helps to lower the negative. Unfortunately, CBD was bred out of many strains of marijuana. The growers knew that THC was what their customers wanted. However, with the legalization of medical marijuana being such a big issue, the interests of many growers are changing. CBD is a profound chemical that has amazing positive effects on the body.

A study done at the University of Kentucky showed that CBD guards and even reverses effects of alcoholism. (Giddingson) Furthermore, the chemical has been proven to decrease social anxiety. This was demonstrated by a study on public speaking. The test group that was administered CBD had lowered anxiety, impairment, and discomfort. (Giddingson) However, the group that was given a placebo drug noticed greater anxiety and discomfort. Lastly, the chemical CBD can actually stop the growth of cancer. The CBD causes the cells to remain in a certain area which prevents the cancerous cells from metasizing, or growing. While this isn’t exactly curing cancer, CBD can be a great step in achieving that goal.

Today, there are two states out of the fifty that have legalized marijuana for recreational use. However, there are twenty two states that have legalized medical marijuana. Why is there such a difference in acceptance? The answer lies in recreational marijuana’s social acceptance, effects, and the politics behind the plant. Although precautions are necessary, recreational cannabis should be legalized for a variety of reasons. The first reason can be found in the past, specifically the history of alcohol and tobacco.

While cannabis was outlawed by the state of Massachusetts in 1911, banning marijuana was only an afterthought to the primary movement — the prohibition of alcohol. The problem was that social acceptance for alcohol had declined. While the prohibition of alcohol was eventually repealed, the same problem has occurred in the tobacco industry. Tobacco companies were criticized for advertising their products, especially in the cases of advertising to children. To this day, a tobacco company cannot advertise via television. The social acceptance of smoking has declined causing the government to impose laws and regulations on states and companies selling tobacco. This becomes a problem when a government imposes on a citizens personal freedoms.

The effects of marijuana can be diverse, sudden, and even dangerous. The first and most noticeable effect is the change in motor skills. Studies have shown that driving under the influence of cannabis makes a driver two times more likely to have an accident; although cannabis’ effect on motor skills is not as drastic as alcohol’s, driving while high is still unsafe. Another effect the drug has on the brain is memory loss. Carcinogens, which cause cancer, are also found amongst the 400 chemicals in the plant. On the other hand, there is no lethal dose of marijuana, as a lethal dose would require a human to smoke approximately 240 cannabis cigarettes in a short time frame. (Greydanus) Furthermore, use in young adults under the age of 18 can result in a permanent ten to twenty point drop in IQ later in life. (Bostwick) On the other hand, marijuana can provide the recreational user a relaxed and enjoyable experience when used safely and correctly. Furthermore, marijuana is not a gateway drug. This term was invented by anti-drug governments and radical prohibitionists to dissuade the use of the drug. However, it has no actual base in fact.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a whopping 102.4 million cases were filed, reopened, or reactivated in 2006. (State Court Caseload Statistics) That is approximately 200 cases per minute. Moreover, a person was arrested for marijuana related charges every forty-two seconds in 2012. (Nelson) With these conditions, is it really necessary to take the time out of the day to arrest someone smoking a joint as opposed to catching harder criminals? The resources consumed to keep up a drug war, incarcerate criminals, and arrest suspects is ludicrous. If marijuana were to be legalized for recreational and medical use, the U.S. government would cut spending and increase revenues by ten to fourteen million dollars per year. (Marijuana Policy Project) With these financial increases, states could create new hospitals, schools, and even jobs in the cannabis industry. The financial gain is one of the many reasons marijuana should be legalized.

As previously stated, many are misinformed about marijuana being a gateway drug. There are a few reasonable explanations for the statistics; however, one cannot directly relate marijuana use to harder drug use in life or even crime rates. Doing so would create a logical fallacy known as false cause – presuming that a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other. One suggestion is as follows: since marijuana is illegal, recreational users must go through a street dealer. The cannabis smoker may be introduced to something harder because they are making an illegal transaction. Furthermore, since children and teens are often told marijuana is a gateway drug and are taught that cannabis is very unacceptable, a user may feel like this is untrue. In effect, this person could begin to believe that other, harder drugs may not be as bad as they were taught either. Another argument is that smoking marijuana can be an early experience in breaking the law. For example, once someone breaks the law without penalty, they are less likely to fear breaking other laws by doing harder drugs.

Medical marijuana, though useful, can be dangerous. However, it is the citizen’s responsibility to consume it correctly, safely, and responsibly. With twenty-two states legalizing cannabis for recreational use, more are sure to follow. Even though marijuana can be used to treat AIDS patients and cancer patients, cannabis is a psychoactive drug that needs to be properly regulated. With the right regulations and precautions, medical marijuana could be a game changer. It is important to note the economic and medical benefits of the drug. Moreover, when marijuana is legalized, the crime rate will drop significantly.

On the other end of the spectrum, recreational marijuana should also be legalized and regulated. With both the medical and recreational businesses in the cannabis industry, the U.S. would see an increase in jobs and revenue, as well as a decrease in crime and consumed resources. Furthermore, legalizing marijuana for recreational use can prevent regular smokers from having drugs laced. Alcohol and tobacco have been under the same criticisms before, but have survived to provide consumers with products that they want. Since the drawbacks of marijuana are not as significant as alcohol or tobacco – lung cancer, liver cancer, drunk driving, etc. – marijuana should be legalized.

In conclusion, marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the world. However, it is one of the least dangerous, even less dangerous than alcohol. Cannabis is a great treatment option for those suffering with certain physical and mental ailments, and can even be improved by the use of CBD. There is another alternative, but it is unclear as to whether or not Marinol can treat people to the same degree. Legalizing cannabis for medical and recreational use can give the economy a boost that the government has been waiting for. Furthermore, social acceptance of the drug is continuing to grow. While many campaigns have attempted to bury cannabis under a slew of misinformation, the truth about the plant is finally coming to surface. Myths like the gateway drug theory and marijuana being lethal are finally being thrown out and replaced by real information – good and bad. With the right regulations, science, and precautions medical and recreational marijuana have the potential to be a booming industry and provide relaxation for those who need it, and even those who do not.

 

 

Works Cited

Bostwick, J. Michael. “Blurred Boundaries: The Therapeutics and Politics of Medical Marijuana.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings (n.d.): 1-15. PubMed Central. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.

Giddingson, Jack. “Cannabidiol: The Side of Marijuana You Don’t Know.” Cannabidiol: The Side of Marijuana You Don’t Know. N.p., 20 Nov. 2013. Web. 02 May 2014.

Greydanus, Donald E., Elizabeth K. Hawver, Megan M. Greydanus, and Joav Merrick. “Marijuana: Current Concepts.” Frontiers in Public Health 1.42 (2013): 1-17. PubMed Central. 10 Oct. 2013. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.

Nelson, Steven. “Police Made One Marijuana Arrest Every 42 Seconds in 2012.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 16 Sept. 2013. Web. 05 May 2014.

“259 Medical Conditions – Medical Marijuana – ProCon.org.” ProConorg Headlines. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.

“Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) – State Court Caseload Statistics.” Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) – State Court Caseload Statistics. N.p., 13 July 2013. Web. 05 May 2014.

“Historical Timeline – Medical Marijuana – ProCon.org.” ProConorg Headlines. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.

“HIV/AIDS Statistics Overview.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 08 Apr. 2014.;

“Marijuana Policy Project.” The High Cost of Marijuana Prohibition in U.S.. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2014.

“World Cancer Day.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 03 Feb. 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2014.

 

Cannabis: Dangerous Drug or Harmless Plant

1. Currently, the United States is in a battle of legalizing or outlawing marijuana. There are two different areas being fought over: recreational use and medical use. Due to propaganda about the drugs Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica, many people are ill informed about the benefits and harms of Cannabis. While some prefer to turn a blind eye to the issue, it is important that the public knows all of the facts of marijuana. This includes facts on both sides of the issue.

Should marijuana be legalized for recreational and/or medical use? Are there viable alternatives? If so, how do the alternatives compare to marijuana?

2. According to the HIV/AIDS Statistics overview by the Center for Disease Control, approximately 14,000,000 people learn that they have some form cancer every year. Furthermore, about 50,000 new HIV infections per year. In 2011, there were 32,052 patients diagnosed with AIDS. With these diseases and infections growing, it is necessary to assess all viable treatment options. Even a barbaric treatment like smoking cannabis should not be thrown out if it has actual medical use.

Another question one may ask: what value does the drug have when legalized for recreational use? This question can be answered by comparing the histories and facts of marijuana and tobacco/alcohol. Some insist that the drug is socially unacceptable and that it is spiritually wrong. However, when differentiating between alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana, it can be noted that they all have similar pasts and views.

3. Before researching the topic, I had seen arguments from both sides. While one side claimed that it causes cancer, another side would retort that it cures cancer. Though my research has not lead to a black and white answer, there is truth to both sides of the argument. However, it is important that the reader understands that Cannabis is a drug with over 400 chemicals in it. Due to this, marijuana use is something to be taken seriously.

Donald Greydanus and his colleagues provide a scientific look at marijuana. The writers  take a detailed look at the chemical makeup of the plant and explain that the plant’s 400+ chemicals make the drug difficult to experiment with. This, at times, can cause the plant to be unpredictable. I learned about the endocannabinoid system built into our brains and how exactly THC works with this system to achieve a high.

Bostwick wrote an unbiased work on the medical and political stances of marijuana use as well as the science behind the drug. I learned that early use of marijuana, i.e. in adolescents, can lead to long-term health problems and lower intelligence levels. I learned from Bostwick that there are alternatives to cannabis, specifically dronabinol.

Lastly, the HIV/AIDS Statistics Overview gives a page of statistics on new infections, deaths, and even the top ten areas where the disease is most prevalent. This is very important to show how needed medical marijuana is. With these gargantuan statistics it is hard for the reader to ignore marijuana’s therapeutic use in some cases.

4. While cannabis is a risky drug, it is important that people understand marijuana’s benefits and drawbacks as a possible treatment option. Patients should also consider the use of alternative treatments and the various effects of each other option. Furthermore, people should be informed on marijuana as a recreational substance and the possible consequences of its use.

It directly relates to the research that I have read, though I haven’t taken a stance in my thesis for fear of turning away closed minded readers. I hope that my paper will combine facts with politics to achieve a solution that will change people’s view on the topic.

5. In my paper, I will discuss the actual science behind “getting high”. I will then discuss marijuana as a treatment option. Afterwards, I will talk about the alternatives and the pros and cons of those alternatives. Finally, I will take a look at recreational marijuana, why it should be legalized, and the consequent effects it will have.

 

Works Cited

Bostwick, J. Michael. “Blurred Boundaries: The Therapeutics and Politics of Medical Marijuana.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings (n.d.): 1-15. PubMed Central. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.

Greydanus, Donald E., Elizabeth K. Hawver, Megan M. Greydanus, and Joav Merrick. “Marijuana: Current Concepts.” Frontiers in Public Health 1.42 (2013): 1-17. PubMed Central. 10 Oct. 2013. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.

“HIV/AIDS Statistics Overview.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 08 Apr. 2014.

Annotated Bibliography

Greydanus, Donald E., Elizabeth K. Hawver, Megan M. Greydanus, and Joav Merrick. “Marijuana: Current Concepts.” Frontiers in Public Health 1.42 (2013): 1-17. PubMed Central. 10 Oct. 2013. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.

The authors begin by describing cannabis and its known affects, as well as some history behind the plant. They then go into detail about what drugs are taken with cannabis and the adverse affects on users. The next subject the article covers is the unique chemical makeup of cannabis sativa, containing sixty cannabinoids and 400 other chemicals, and how this chemical combination makes the plant difficult to experiment with. It also defines the endocannabinoid system. The article then details the medical benefits of the plant and the negative side effects often associated with marijuana. It wraps up by talking about the variety of psychoactive effects marijuana has on the human body.

The article is very reliable, one can tell because it is found in a scholarly journal and all information is well cited. The article approaches cannabis from a purely scientific view. The article shows no obvious bias either for or against marijuana use.

This article directly relates to my topic and will be vital in setting up the factual information that is the bones of my assignment. I plan to use information from the history section as well as the chemical make up and effects. I can also use the article to support information for or against the legalization of marijuana either for recreational use or medical use.

 

Bostwick, J. Michael. “Blurred Boundaries: The Therapeutics and Politics of Medical Marijuana.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings (n.d.): 1-15. PubMed Central. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.

Bostwick starts by describing what marijuana is and how it is used medically. He then goes into the public stigma of recreational use, and how recreational users “self-medicate”. The article then describes dangers of early use such as in teens and young adults. It goes into the plants dangers and how it actually works, through the endocannabinoid system. Bostwick then reviews its actual pharmaceutical value and evaluates alternatives to the THC found in cannabis. Lastly, Bostwick describes the political dogma around marijuana and the laws that affect the drug.

Bostwick does a good job in presenting the facts in an organized and unbiased way. All sources are documented and Bostwick is thorough in his explanation of the drug. It is also credible because it was found in a scholarly journal.

This article will help to establish the political background of marijuana. I can also use it to expand on the endocannabinoid system mentioned in both sources. This article can also be used to present alternatives and define how marijuana affects young users.

Writing: Past, Present, and Future

            Writing has been an important part of my life, out of necessity, not out of enjoyment. In school, I was always told that writing was a very important skill. And, as I’ve grown as a person and a student, I have realized how true this statement is. Writing is something that I do in every part of my life, whether it be writing a proposal for my parents, writing a post for social media, or writing a speech for a class. Writing is an essential skill: writing is the cover to a book, a first impression on a stranger, or even a map to the heart. While writing wasn’t exactly a large focus of mine when I was in high school, I am finding out just how crucial writing is in college.

            Before taking English 1020, I didn’t have a writing “career”. I had good grammar skills, the ability to compose sentences, and even a pen and a piece of paper to write on. The problem was, I didn’t know what to do with these things. Before being taught to write in tenth grade, I didn’t know how to put all of the necessary ingredients into the mix to produce a great essay. Through the help of my teacher, Mrs. Taunton, I learned how to write a strictly formal essay. She taught me to brainstorm, outline, write a paper, and do some proof reading. However, when I got into my English 1010 class with Mr. Fowler, I learned how to free write. Furthermore, I learned to compose a one-sided argument. This was the class that taught me to analyze, think critically, evaluate, and edit a peer’s paper. On the other hand, I would not be where I am today as a writer if I had not had some serious failures; due to these failures, I learned vital lessons and improved on my writing. In addition, this class has already taught me a lot about writing, and will continue to do so for the rest of the semester.

            English 1020 has taught me three important things so far. The first thing that this class has taught me is that writing is a two way thing. A writer writes for an audience, a writer also writes to join a conversation, and a writer writes to add information and takes sides on a particular topic. The second lesson I have learned is that I need to be more concise in my writing. The final lesson, and the smallest, is that everyone has room for improvement. Whether it be grammatical errors, concise language, or taking a side and continuing to argue for that side, every paper can always be better. These three lessons have encouraged me to take a look at writing in my future.

            As previously stated, there is always room for improvement. Some of my goals for this semester include being clearer in my writing, getting others outside of class to read and review my writing, and spending more time on my writing process instead of doing the bare minimum. As a future teacher, writing will be of great importance in my career. I will have a responsibility to teach children how to write in certain fields of study. As part of this responsibility, I must do my best as a student learning to write before I can teach children how to write. Learning from my mistakes and putting forth time and effort into learning will be my central goal for the rest of this semester.

            While I haven’t always been the best writer, nor will I ever be, it is important that I keep these experiences in mind while I progress towards my end goal. Learning from my mistakes as a writer is important in improving on my writing skills. Moreover, this class, and future ones, all have something to teach, I just have to be willing to learn. Lastly, writing will be an important part of my future career, so it is important that I put forth the extra effort into doing my best. While I will never be a perfect writer, I can always be a better writer.

The Dangers of Multitasking

Leo Widrich argues that working efficiently and single tasking are directly related. In his article, “What Multitasking Does to Our Brains,” Widrich writes about what multitasking is and what exactly is going on in the brain when we multitask. He argues that a habit of multitasking can actually decrease brain function. He states that we multitask for two reasons, the first reason is because it makes us feel good. Multitaskers accomplish many tasks at the same time, except that these tasks are done in a less efficient manner. The second is that people feel a lot of pressure to multitask. Widrich points out that our brain cannot actually do two tasks at the same time; instead, the brain divides itself and switches between tasks. In the long run, Widrich insists, our brain capacity and functions lower through the use of multitasking.
When writing a resume, multitasking is viewed as a positive trait. Multitaskers can get many things done at once, and with great speed. However, the evidence to support this claim is little to none, while the evidence against this claim is continuing to grow. As shown in several studies, a habit of multitasking decreases brain function, causes mindlessness, and reduces productivity. So, if this is the case, why are so many businesses looking for resumes that have the characteristic “great multitasker” on them? The truth is that business leaders continue to believe in a disproven myth, that multitasking is actually a good thing and can increase their profit margins.
When multitasking, the brain is very interesting. As previously stated, the brain divides itself to handle multiple tasks and switches between these tasks. The common conjecture, of course, would be that, like most muscles, the brain can train itself to be a better multitasker. Clifford Nass and several colleagues had the hypothesis that habitual multitaskers would develop other skills such as filtering information, switching between tasks at a quicker pace, and keeping a higher working memory. After running tests, however, Nass and his team found that the hypothesis they had created was wrong. Nass’ study showed that, in fact, people who singletask actually have the better working memory, can filter through irrelevant information, and can switch between tasks better than a regular multitasker. Nass asserts “…we’re starting to see some higher-level effects. For example, recent work we’ve done suggests we’re worse at analytic reasoning, which of course is extremely valuable for school, for life, etc.”(Nass) These significant drawbacks are not seen while we multitask and even take a while to surface. Consequently, this can become dangerous when we encourage an “I need it now” attitude in younger generations.
According to “Mindfulness Cuts Stress, Boosts Productivity” by Lynn Rossy, multitasking leads to a decrease in work productivity. This is because multitasking can make a person mindless. “Although you might feel like you’re working at a breakneck speed, research reveals that we may be taking longer to do our work and doing it less [effectively].”(Rossy) Rossy defines mindfulness as moment-to-moment awareness without judgment. Researchers have discovered that being mindful of your surroundings, your tasks, and your mood, can help reduce stress, increase happiness, boost creativity, and ultimately be healthier. Rossy sets a criteria for being mindful, that is intention, attention, and attitude. However, when examining multitasking, it can be noted that multitasking doesn’t have any of these characteristics. Our intention is to get as many tasks done at once as we can, our attention is divided between two to twenty tasks, and our attitude is rushed and not relaxed. In addition to the health benefits, mindfulness is important because the act of being mindful affects how productive a person is at a task.
Working on a project, sending a text message, reviewing emails, and doing personal research all at the same time has a very obvious side effect. Distraction. Computer users are constantly bombarded by flashing lights, loud noises, and even vibrations. This can ruin a person’s train of thought. If this is the case, multitasking is bad for producing results; if a worker is distracted and repeatedly losing his or her train of thought, it becomes extremely difficult for that person to produce quality work in a short amount of time. “The problem is that everybody is multitasking and getting distracted by the latest and the loudest.”(“Being More Productive”) In demonstration, a smartphone user with business texts, constant emails, and twitter notifications can be lured away from an important idea at any second. In this way, multitasking affects how we work and especially the outcome of our work.
Considering the significant disadvantages of multitasking, it is important to look at the ways someone can develop stronger, more productive habits. Widrich proposes single tab browsing, which is having only one browser tab open at one point in time. This prevents an internet surfer from being distracted by information on other pages. Rossy offers suggestions to becoming more mindful such as the STOP sign technique. “Stop. Take five conscious breaths. Observe the sensations of the body and no- tice what you’re thinking and feeling. Proceed. This can be used liberally throughout the day for best results.”(Rossy) Her technique is useful in stressful situations and in daily work environments. In “Being More Productive,” David Allen and Tony Schwartz offer that we take breaks while we work to replenish energy. This is practical when a worker feels tired and unproductful. Finally, technology users can turn off all devices for an hour each day, while focusing on accomplishing tasks that do not require those tools.
It is important that the truth about multitasking is revealed, and that people make the effort to singletask and be mindful. If multitasking is continued to be accepted as a good thing, the repercussions could be drastic. Workplaces will continue to be more mindless and less productive. Schools will train children at an early age to try to accomplish many things at once, which will decrease average brain function and capacity. In a society that needs everything now, leaders making the effort to undermine the idea of multitasking are crucial. Without the support of these leaders, employers, and mentors, the single task of eradicating multitasking is futile.

Works Cited

Widrich, Leo. “What Multitasking Does to Our Brains.” Buffer N.p., 26 June 2012. Web. 27 February 2014.

“Being More Productive.” Harvard Business Review 89.5 (2011): 82-87. Business Source Premier. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

Rossy, Lynn. “Mindfulness Cuts Stress, Boosts Productivity.” 67.8 (2013): 70-72. Business Source Premier. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

Eggers, Kelly. “Five Myths of Multitasking.” Fins, N.p., 18 May 2011. Web. 27 February 2014.

“Interview with Clifford Nass” PBS, N.p., 2 February 2010. Web. 27 February 2014.

I’m a Good Multitasker!

Today, we live in a world where everything is at the touch of a button, and literally the tip of your finger. We have the power to watch recorded videos, read blogs from people around the world, and even connect on a daily basis with those people from around the world, and all at lightning-like speeds. With all of this power, there must be a drawback somewhere right? Rebecca Rosen and Leo Widrich agree that there is a drawback. A huge one.

Leo Widrich argues that while most of us may think we are good multitaskers, we are not. One of his sources, Clifford Nass, found that those who multitask were worse at filtering information, switching between tasks, and keeping a high working memory. Widrich cites Zhen Wang saying that multitaskers are not more productive, but have a higher emotional satisfaction when completing work. Rebecca Rosen focuses more on how our brains take in and analyze information on the internet. She cites a study that shows that only sixteen percent of the subjects read information on the page in the order that it appeared; the rest, however, darted around the page and scanned the information before deciding if it was important enough to read. She argues that we are constantly seeking new stimuli and that we click on link after link in search of something that will stimulate us. This is where multitasking comes in. She states that multitaskers are worse at paying attention, managing memories, and switching between tasks than those who prefer to do one task at a time.

While Widrich’s post seems to be more of a how-to on how to single task, he does make a convincing argument and has a few pieces of supporting evidence. All of his evidence is thoroughly convincing, and even cite their own sources. While readers still need to think critically about the post, the evidence provided is very substantial. Rosen also cites many sources and includes much evidence in her essay. However, neither Widrich nor Rosen offer an opposing position. They both argue along the lines of “multitasking is bad for you”, without offering another view point.

Both Widrich and Rosen’s articles are thoroughly interesting because we have all been taught that being able to multitask is a good thing. While new evidence proves this very inaccurate, students, workers, adults, and children alike, are all being trained to multitask. I, as a student with many tasks every day, am guilty of multitasking. On a regular basis I sit down to read and turn on the TV, or I start an assignment and then begin to eat. With this new information, it is imperative that I break this habit, because, as I have learned, there is no such thing as a “good multitasker”.

Web of One: Why Pariser is Right About Filter Bubbles

In “Beware Online ‘Filter Bubbles'”, Eli Pariser talks about the dangers and effects of filtering search results. Pariser states that we should be on an “information diet” filled with things we want to see as well as things we need to see. His belief is that filtering search results can change the balance of information in our lives. Pariser argues that instead of getting rid of filters, programmers code the responsibility of balancing that information into these filters as well as give some control to the user. Pariser creates a balanced scenario in which he offers suggestions to those that are creating the filters.

While filtering of sorts is always going to occur, filtering search results, news feeds, and social media according to how relevant the information is, instead of how important the information is can be a bad thing. This brand of filtering encourages the lackadaisical attitude that our generation has grown to accept. Filter bubbles, as Pariser calls these network of filters that have been set up for internet users, can be harmful to the intake of information that students and professionals receive. These bubbles hide important information we need to be contributing citizens in a functioning society; they also show the unimportant information that can cloud our minds, make us less informed, and develop bigoted points of view while setting up a comfortable “web of one” that is not reality. As Pariser states “And if we don’t pay attention to it, it could be a real problem.” (Pariser) This observation is made after noticing that his Facebook page was drastically changed. The filter on Facebook had taken out the conservative view points and replaced them with liberal view points, as that was what he clicked on more. The problem with this is that the user does not get to see the other side of the spectrum, so to speak.

Pariser challenges the companies that do filtering to not only show us what we want to see but to “show us things that are uncomfortable or challenging or important…[or] other points of view.”(Pariser)  Without these other points of view or this challenging information, the user ends up with a biased system tuned to the user’s personal interests. This can be dangerous for governments and consumers. Pariser points out a time, 1915, in which people realized that the newspapers had a responsibility to give their readers important information and that “in fact, you couldn’t have a functioning democracy if citizens didn’t get a good flow of information.” (Pariser) This point is completely accurate. How are citizens supposed to make responsible, informed decisions when the information that they receive has been tampered with? Consumers also stand to lose from these online filters.

In 2009, the Peanut Corporation of America recalled 2,100 products that caused 500 illnesses in forty-three states. Another issue with these filter bubbles is that consumers can unknowingly consume a product that a company had recalled days, even weeks, earlier because their news website filtered the peanut recall story from the consumers news feed. This is a dangerous scenario in which the consumer would need the news site to be honest with them. The consumer needs to be able to edit the filters on these sites as well as have access to what gets filtered out. These two functions would cut down greatly on the dangers of filters.

Some may argue that it is not the responsibility of the companies to inform the user, but the responsibility of the user to inform themselves. While in some cases this may be true, the internet, today, is the prime source of information for many people. And even if it is the responsibility of the user, the search filters make it increasingly difficult to access this information. This attitude of non-affiliation is encouraged by the internet and the goal it has to give instant gratification instead of opening the minds of its users. Pariser describes this perfectly in this example:

“What they discovered was that in our Netflix queues there’s this epic struggle going on. Between our future aspirational selves and our more impulsive present selves. You know we all want to be someone who has watched ‘Rashomon’ but right now we want to watch ‘Ace Ventura’ for the fourth time.”(Pariser)

Pariser shows that our impulsive selves are looking for a kind of instant gratification, a funny cat video or a joke on social media, and that this craving conflicts with our aspirational selves that are looking for a long term enjoyment, knowledge. These kinds of conflicts can be found everywhere, from the movies we see, to the conversations we have, to the links we click on.

On the other hand, it is not totally accurate to say that it is the user’s responsibility to inform themselves. This idea leads to a bigoted society in which everyone demands their way. For example, I am an atheist. If I only followed like-minded people on my twitter account, I would never, as stated earlier, get the whole spectrum. I would only be reading the point of view of one side, therefore, closing my mind to outside opinions. People are not always willing to hear these other points of views. People are not always willing to have their beliefs challenged. This is why it is important for the ones with the power—google, facebook, yahoo news, etc.—to show this information to people. Computer users rarely go a day without going through one of these companies’ web pages. It is important that these users are informed on all sides, are well rounded, and engaged in the politics that affect them all.

I agree with Pariser that filters may have a purpose, that we may not need to destroy filters altogether, but that these companies need to take it upon themselves to make sure we are well informed. The companies we receive information from have a responsibility to show information that we do not want to see, to show us information that is uncomfortable, and to engage us in the society that we all take part in. The internet is an important tool, an important resource, that connects the user to the world around them. It is crucial that this resource is not filtered by what we want to see but by what we need to see.

Works Cited

Pariser, Eli. “Beware Online ‘Filter Bubbles’.” TED Talks. Long Beach, California. February 2011. Conference Presentation. http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html

“10 Biggest Food Recalls in U.S. History.” Buisinessinsurance.com. Web. 18 April 2009.

Wiki Research-Is it reliable?

Wikipedia has gone under the review of many critics as to whether or not it is a reliable research source. The Guardian, PCMag, and CNET News all posted articles debating its viability in the sense of information searching. While the Guardian and PCMag both posted reviews against it being used for research, CNET took a factual stand for neither for nor against Wikipedia. The Guardian used experts in fields to review articles in their corresponding fields and then give each article a rating. The writer of the article for PCMag showed Wikipedia’s fallibility by editing a wiki of himself, which was later changed to include outrageous lies and opinions. However, CNET showed that the Encyclopedia Britannica was only slightly less erroneous than Wikipedia at an average of 2.92 mistakes per article versus Wikipedia’s average of 3.86 mistakes per article.

While I may agree that Wikipedia can contain entries that are a “horrific embarrassment”(Wales), both the Guardian and PCMag reviews seemed to be biased, as neither included an argument from a side other than their own. Which begs the question, why should I care about this? PCMag did, however, mention a controversy involving a false biography on John Seigenthaler that was uploaded to Wikipedia as the reason for writing the article. Neither the Guardian nor PCMag offered specific, statistical evidence of errors. PCMag’s proof of unreliability is not as sound as one would assume; this is because articles that get more attention, such as World War II versus an article on the author, have more editors that correct these errors whenever the are discovered. Lastly, CNET showed statistical studies of errors in both Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica; CNET also included statements from both Jimmy Wales and Jorge Cruz, founder of Wikipedia and president of Encyclopedia Britannica, respectively.

Though the articles were not what I would choose to read in my spare time, they were interesting when actually analyzed. When I was in high school, I was told not to use Wikipedia as a source, as it was unreliable. The study from CNET, which was the most convincing to me, proved this statement nearly inaccurate. While Wikipedia did have an average of a third more errors, it shows that even the famed Encyclopedia Britannica can be subject to errors, omissions, and misleading statements as well. The bottom line, as PCMag stated, is that no source is 100% accurate 100% of the time.