How to buy happiness: Spending money on others benefits community, self

In one of my classes last week, we spent a day talking about things you can do to  make yourself happier and relieve stress.

As part of this particular lecture, we watched a TED Talk about how money can buy you happiness. The presentation was given by Michael Norton, associate professor of Business Administration at Harvard.

In his talk, Norton discusses a study he helped conduct regarding how spending money affects happiness. Random people were asked to rate their level of happiness,  then given a small amount of money and given a deadline to spend it by.
Some people were told to spend the money on themselves, and others were told to spend it on someone else.

After the deadline had passed, researchers contacted the subjects and asked them how they spent their money and to rank how happy they were again.

The individuals who had been directed to spend the money on themselves had little to no change in happiness. Those who were told to spend it on someone else consistently ranked their happiness higher than it had been earlier in the day.

Norton points out it isn’t how much money you have or what you spend it on that matters – it’s who you spend it on that counts instead.

In one of his examples, he compared how college students spent the money they were given on themselves and others.

In both groups, there were people who bought coffee from Starbucks. Even though they spent the same amount for the same exact thing, those who bought the coffee for someone else were happier after their purchase.

As college students, most of us don’t have a lot of extra cash to spend on ourselves, let alone on anyone else. Luckily, there are ad-sponsored websites that donate for you with just the click of a button.

Greatergood.com has options to donate to help fight hunger and poverty, fund mammograms for women who can’t afford them, donate to animal shelters, help homeless veterans, help children with autism, support diabetes research, give books to children and protect the rainforest.

It costs nothing to help. All you have to do is click a button, and the advertisers donate on your behalf. It’s a great way to help good causes and also raise your own happiness level.

Speaking from personal experience, it’s easy to get caught up in your own life and forget there are others who need help. I struggle to balance work, school and my social life while trying to find a full-time job for after I graduate in December.

To put it simply, I am beyond stressed, and it’s easy for me to forget that, while this stress is only temporary, there are others out there who have real problems that won’t go away without the help of others.

There are many websites and apps available that allow you to contribute to global good without having to break the bank – Greatergood.com and Free Rice allow are just two of the many websites that allow you to donate just by clicking buttons or playing games.

Websites like KickStarter and IndieGoGo allow you to find causes you care about and donate whatever you can afford to give. Causes that use these websites are given a specific length of time to reach their funding goal. If they don’t reach their goal, the often don’t get funded. Many offer incentives for donating different amounts of money.

By donating to a good cause or even just surprising a friend by paying for their coffee, you can help out others and make yourself happier, and, we all know, too much happiness is never a bad thing.

Book review: ‘The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight’

Once every few weeks, there comes a book that is slightly cheesy and predictable, but adorable nonetheless. “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight” by Jennifer E. Smith is one of these books.

Like most books or movies that fall into the “romantic comedy” genre, “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight” begins with a guy and a girl meeting in a cute way.

Seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan is supposed to be flying from New York to London for her father’s wedding, but she misses her flight by four minutes. This ends up working in her favor, because she gets a seat on a later flight and meeting Oliver, a Yale freshman who is returning to London for a family event.

They spend the transatlantic flight talking nonstop and having a series of cute-verging-on-romantic moments, but when they land, they get separated at customs.

They end up losing track of each other without trading contact information, leaving Hadley to wonder if she will ever see Oliver again and if something that felt meant-to-be could really be over as quickly as it began.

While the main plot was romance-driven, this book had some surprisingly deep subplots.

Hadley’s dad is marrying the woman he left her mother for a year before the book begins. Hadley has barely spoken to him since he and her mother got divorced, and she refuses to forgive him for leaving. Oliver also has issues with his family. He and his dad have a rocky past, and it’s one of the things he and Hadley bond over during their flight.

They swap stories of their best and worst family memories and find more and more in common the closer they get to England.

Smith’s writing style is very casual and easy to read. Hadley and Oliver are relatable characters.

When I picked up this book, I was expecting a pretty fluffy Young Adult novel without a whole lot of substance, so I was pleasantly surprised when the characters had realistic problems.

My rating would have been much lower if the family-oriented subplots hadn’t been included.

There were a few downsides, though. The book’s ending was ridiculously predictable.

It was really easy to guess most of the main plot points (although there was one big thing I didn’t see coming). I wish the plot had been more complex, but overall it lived up to my expectations.

Fans of romantic comedies and young adult literature should definitely check out “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.” Although it isn’t the most intricate novel ever, it’s cute and has some good messages about love and family. 4 out of 5 stars.

College freshman top three reading list

1. “A Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin

If you haven’t jumped on the “Game of Thrones” bandwagon yet, you’re missing out on a key part of college culture. “A Game of Thrones” is one of the biggest crazes on campus. Whether you’ve seen the popular HBO TV adaptation or not, you should definitely check out the book series. The books give tons more detail and background on the world of “Game of Thrones,” and you get to see many of the intricacies and understand the subtle references that either aren’t explained or are completely left out of the TV series.

2. “Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins 

“Catching Fire” is going to be the book everyone is talking about this upcoming semester. The second installment of the popular “Hunger Games” series, “Catching Fire” is driven by action and adventure but also offers a great love story and an interesting message about society. With a movie adaptation starring Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson being released in November, this is a book you’re going to want to check out as soon as possible.

3. “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green 

John Green is a hugely popular author among the college-aged set. His latest book, “The Fault in Our Stars,” is about two teenagers who are coping with cancer and trying to live their lives in spite of their illness. Instead of being the sad, tragic book you might expect, “The Fault in Our Stars” is full of humor and optimism. The characters are completely lovable, and once you pick it up, you won’t be able to set it back down. As a bonus, “The Fault in Our Stars” also has a movie adaptation in the works.

“All publishers, no editors”

Journalist Scott Pelley interviews Air Force Col. Gary Crowder for a news segment. (Photo courtesy of Scott*/flickr)

In my Journalism for the Web class a few weeks ago, we had a discussion about the major errors made by national news organizations when covering the Boston bombing. Stations and newspapers that many rely on for accurate information were broadcasting and publishing news that was far from true.

An article on Poynter features the point of view of Scott Pelley, CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor. One of Pelley’s quotes in the story really struck me.

“In a world where everyone is a publisher, no one is an editor. And that is the danger that we face today.”

 

Pelley went on to discuss his own errors in reporting on the Sandy Hook school shooting and also covered the inaccuracies in the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing. He said that many of these errors stem from amateur journalists on social media who share what they believe to be true, causing inaccurate information to go viral and get picked up by national news organizations.

Essentially, I think Pelley was trying to get the point across that we as journalists need to take a step back and reevaluate our process. Fact checking and editing are practices that seem to have fallen by the wayside, even though they are crucial to good journalism. Especially during situations of national crisis, news organizations rush to beat their competitors to the biggest scoop and fail to double check their sources or the truth of their information.

Pelley calls the current practice of broadcasting social media speculation “gossip” and states that “journalism was invented as an antidote to gossip.”

I think it’s really important for news organizations to get back in the practice of ensuring they only publish information that can be verified by reliable sources. I understand the temptation of seeing a particularly juicy tip on Facebook or Twitter and wanting to run with it, but it is still necessary to double check it for accuracy.

Social media has brought many positive things to journalism. We can now publish information almost instantaneously and through venues that millions of people see and use each day. However, we need to keep in mind that not everything we see on the internet is true.

10 tips for surviving finals

Final exams can be stressful. The weather is finally nice outside, and the last thing anyone wants to do is barricade themselves inside to study. Because it can be difficult to motivate yourself and get everything done before summer vacation arrives, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you survive (and ace) your final exams.

1. Study!

This may seem like common sense, but a lot of people don’t take the time to study for finals. It’s not fun to have to spend time huddling over a book when it’s nice outside, but taking a few minutes a day to study leading up to the week of finals will help you remember information and do well on your exams.

2. Take time to relax.

Yes, we just told you to study, but stressing out isn’t going to help you remember what you need to know for your tests. After spending some quality time with your course material, give yourself a break. Go for a walk, hang out with friends or watch TV to unwind.

3. Eat well and exercise.

It may not seem like it, but your diet and exercise plans can help you do well on your tests. Eating poorly and spending your time sitting on your couch instead of getting active can make you feel sluggish, which definitely doesn’t help when you’re trying to get motivated for your final exams. Exercise also releases endorphins, which help combat stress and anxiety. Go for a jog or play frisbee with some friends, and make yourself a nice meal instead of going through the Taco Bell drive through. Your brain and body will thank you.

4. Get together with friends.

Studying with other people is more fun and can help you understand points you might be having trouble with. Create a study group with people from your classes, and work together to prepare for the final.

5.  Get enough sleep.

Yes, the weeks leading up to finals are full of parties and farewell events, but sleep is key when you’re preparing for exams. Your brain keeps working when you’re asleep, and one of it’s key tasks is taking that information you studied earlier in the day and cementing it in your memory. Depriving yourself of sleep is depriving yourself of an important step in the studying process.

6.  Don’t cram.

You may think pulling an all-nighter to study for a big test is helping you, but in reality, it doesn’t do you any favors. Studying for a little while each day for a few days leading up to your exams will help you solidify the information in your brain and help you get a good score.

7.  Clean your room.

If your workspace is cluttered, it can make you feel even more stressed out and distract you from studying. Clean things up while listening to some good music or watching a movie to create a study space that would make your mother proud.

8.  Make a list.

The number of projects, papers and tests you have to prepare for can feel overwhelming. Make yourself a list of everything you need to get done, and tackle each task one by one. When you’ve finished something, check it off the list and give yourself a short break or reward before moving on to the next thing. Seeing your progress will make everything seem more attainable.

9. Sign out of social media.

We all know Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr are great for wasting time. Sign out of your accounts, so status updates and tweets don’t distract you from your work. If you really want to disconnect, Facebook allows users to temporarily deactivate accounts, or you can have a friend or family member change your password until finals are over. If you have a hard time disconnecting from social media, set limits for how long you let yourself spend on your favorite social media outlet, or only let yourself go on as a reward for studying a certain amount of time.

10. Put your phone away.

If you’re busy checking your texts or playing Candy Crush Saga, you’re not going to be paying very close attention to the material you’re studying. Put your phone somewhere where you won’t be looking at it, and don’t check it until you’re done studying.

GIFs and journalism

Girl falls while texting on live TV (courtesy of omagif.com)

Admittedly, I never imagined a world where news and GIFs (a type of popular animated image) and news were mentioned in the same sentence, but Poynter has done it again and made me think with this article about how several magazines and news sources have begun to incorporate GIFs into their online media.

I thought it was a really interesting idea for news sources to use this type of image. Normally, GIFs are amusing short video clips, often with subtitles to give context to the situation. I didn’t really see that as a way to share news or illustrate a story, but now that the idea has been planted in my head, I think it’s a great way to add some fun to feature stories online.

I don’t think the popularity of GIFs is going to drastically change the news industry, but it might change how readers share news. People can make GIFs of just about any video clip, so it’s entirely possible for someone to make a GIF image from a news broadcast and share either a major headline or breaking news story or an amusing story or blooper from the newscast.

News blooper: Reporter headbutted by goat (courtesy of omagif.com).

Incorporating GIFs with online stories could draw traffic. GIFs are a pretty popular medium on the internet, and people seem to really enjoy viewing them. Adding GIFs to feature stories could attract people to a website just to see what the images are. Another way news websites could utilize these types of images is by introducing a “GIF of the Day” category in their feature section to draw traffic. I think they could be used similarly to crosswords or Sudoku to attract readers.

Wearing heels for hope: Event promotes sexual assault awareness

Men in high-heeled shoes are not a typical sight on the UW-Whitewater campus, but on Wednesday, April 24, men and women from the campus and community put on the tallest shoes they could find and walked to raise awareness about sexual assault.

The event, known as Walk A Mile In Her Shoes, was hosted by University Health and Counseling Services in conjunction with People Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse of Jefferson County, DECA and the Intrafraternity Council as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Whitney Henley, wellness coordinator at UHCS, said the event was bigger than previous years. She said about 82 people attended this year’s event.

“I’m really excited and happy about it,” Henley said. “I think we had a great turnout, and it seems like all the attendees had a lot of fun.”

The organizations contributing to the event were able to raise nearly $3,000 for PADA. PADA provides support services for victims of domestic and sexual assault and advocates for the prevention of domestic and sexual violence.

Holli Zambrowicz, graduate assistant at UHCS and one of the event’s coordinators, said working with other groups helped Walk A Mile In Her Shoes be successful.

“There was definitely more collaboration this year with different organizations on campus like DECA and IFC, and I think that helped get the word out more, because we doubled and almost tripled our attendance rate from last year,” Zambrowicz said.

Although the walk to raise awareness is a large part of Walk A Mile In Her Shoes, this year’s event included a number of speakers and activities as well.

Some highlights included a speaker who was a survivor of sexual assault. Rep. Andy Jorgensen also spoke about Denim Day and the importance of raising awareness about sexual assault and violence issues.

Other speakers included Allen Jones, a representative of the No More campaign – a campaign that aims to end domestic violence and sexual assault – as well as the assistant District Attorneys from Fort Atkinson and the sexual assault nurse examiner from Fort Health Care.

In April, UHCS hosted several events to raise awareness about sexual assault.

“I think the combination of all three of our events this month, Denim Day and Take Back The Night included, give different perspectives on the issue,” Zambrowicz said. “Take Back The Night and Denim Day are more geared toward survivors and assisting them whereas Walk A Mile is engaging men and people who aren’t aware of the issue.”

DECA president, junior Matthew Ross, was one of many participants in this year’s walk. He also was one of the men who chose to wear high heels to raise awareness.

“It was definitely a different experience,” Ross said. “I found out I’m actually pretty decent at walking in heels, which I’m not sure if I’m proud of or not, but it happened. It was different. I’m not used to that.”

Ross got involved in the event through his work with DECA.

“Every year, DECA works with a non-profit organization and tries to support them. This year, one of the programs we were supporting was the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence,” he said. “Since we were working on that, we saw that the Health Center was hosting an event to help against sexual violence and raise some awareness, so we decided to team up with them.”

Because sexual violence is not a topic people often speak openly about, Ross believes it is even more important to raise awareness about it through events like Walk A Mile In Her Shoes.

“It’s not easy for people to talk about,” Ross said. “But it’s really great seeing people come together and actually speak about this cause, because there are a large number of problems throughout the community, and it’s great seeing people coming together in support, to raise awareness and also to raise the funds to go toward it.”

One of Ross’ favorite experiences from the event occurred as he was helping out at one of the booths that had been set up around the Hamilton Room for different organizations.

“When I was working the table for shoes, I had a younger boy, he must’ve been in elementary school, come up to me with his mother, and he flat out told me, ‘I’m wearing heels for this,’” Ross said. “He was determined to not wear shoes, because he really wanted to do something and have that kind of voice.”

Even though Sexual Assault Awareness Month has ended, there are still ways students and staff can work to spread awareness about sexual violence issues.

“For students in particular, we have a new student organization called Supporting a Violence-free Environment,” Henley said. “That group is a group of students who are dedicated to raising awareness about sexual violence, dating violence, harassment and stalking issues on campus.”

Zambrowicz said faculty and staff can work to spread awareness by joining the Sexual Assault Prevention Advisory Committee.

Individuals can learn more about these organizations by emailing Wellness@uww.edu.

What is “snackable” content?

No, not this kind of snackable content. (Image courtesy of Dale Matteson/Eyes on the World – Flickr)

“Snackable content.”

On its own, the phrase doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but dive a little deeper and you just may see the future of the news industry.

An article on Mashable.com did a great job of describing what snackable content is. Essentially, we as a society posses an ever-decreasing attention span, and people are hungry for short, easy to consume bits of media as opposed to long, sprawling stories or videos.

Twitter is a prime example of a truly “snackable” medium. Every post is 140 characters or less, so by browsing the Associated Press Twitter feed, you can see all the major headlines and get a lot of information without ever having to read a full story. On YouTube, you can watch a scene or two of a movie or a clip of a TV show instead of having to dedicate an hour or more to watch the entire thing.

Most people don’t want to spend a lot of time reading the newspaper or sitting in front of a news broadcast. Instead, they want ways to access short, individual stories that they can read or watch in a minute or two and then move on to the next thing.

We’ve already seen many media outlets embracing this form of content. Newscasts upload videos of individual stories to their websites so users can watch what they want to watch without having to sit through the whole broadcast. As I mentioned earlier, news outlets like the AP now post everything to Twitter, where readers can get the headlines and basic concepts of what is happening around the world without having to read entire stories.

Maybe our attention spans will grow with time and this “snackable” trend will prove to just be a phase. Or maybe it will stick around and truly revolutionize the way we consume news.

Celebrating survivors: Relay for Life raises money for American Cancer Society

Fairy tales and dreams.

That is the theme for this year’s UW-Whitewater Relay for Life.

The relay, hosted by Colleges Against Cancer, is a 12-hour event where teams walk and participate in games and activities to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

This year, the relay will take place from 5 p.m. May 4 until 5 a.m. May 5 at the Williams Center fieldhouse.

Senior Bailey Hearley, co-president of the UW-Whitewater chapter of Colleges Against Cancer, said that Colleges Against Cancer partners with the American Cancer Society to plan Relay for Life.

“Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s biggest fundraiser for raising money to find a cure for cancer,” Hearley said. “Because we are in conjunction with the American Cancer Society, it is a natural fit to have a Relay for Life event on campus.”

Hearley’s Colleges Against Cancer co-president, senior Cassidy Schmidt, hopes the organization can surpass the $25,000 they raised last year.

“Our goal is to always raise more money than the year before, so I think this year if we could reach $27,000 to $30,000, that would be a huge success for us,” Schmidt said.

Many people participate in Relay for Life for different reasons. Freshman Derrick Hoverson, juniors Samantha Pratt, Ashley Meyer and Megan Burczyk, and freshman Mariah Shaver share their stories.

The Survivors

For freshman Derrick Hoverson, involvement in Relay for Life goes beyond his involvement in Colleges Against Cancer.

This year, he will attend the event as the honorary survivor. The honorary survivor speaks at the beginning of the event to inspire participants and remind them of why they are there.

“I will give a speech just telling my story of how I dealt with cancer and sharing inspiration,” Hoverson said.

In April 2009, Hoverson was diagnosed with brain cancer. A large tumor in his brain pushed into his spinal cord and caused severe headaches.

Although it wasn’t always easy, he said the support of the people around him helped a lot. This June, he will be cancer-free for three years.

Hoverson’s involvement in Relay for Life extends back 10 years. He initially got involved in the event to support a family member who had cancer.

“My aunt Kathy was diagnosed with cancer, and she ended up dying, and I was always really close with her, so I really wanted to get involved with it,” he said. “And once I was diagnosed, I really, really wanted to get involved with it.”

Hoverson said people should get involved with the event, because it helps others and is just a great thing to do.

“If you go, it just makes you feel great,” he said. “You’re helping people. You’re volunteering. You’re working towards a cure for cancer, because you know someone who has cancer, and you would really want them to survive.”

The Sisters

Juniors Megan Burczyk, Samantha Pratt and Ashley Meyer have been impacted by cancer. Their team, This I Believe, is one of several Relay for Life teams created by members of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority.

“Cancer is something that affects a lot of people in everyone’s lives,” Pratt said. “Recently, two of our sisters in Tri Sigma have been battling and overcoming cancer as well, so it hits us really close to home, and it’s a cause that we all believe in. That’s why we’re all signing up for it.”

Pratt is the Sigma Sigma Sigma vice president and Burczyk is the president. Meyer is one of the Sigma Sigma Sigma sisters who has recently been diagnosed with cancer.

“Last summer, I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and I’ve been in remission since January,” Meyer said. “Cancer affects everyone, and you don’t really realize everywhere it is until you know someone who’s affected with it.”

One of the things the team members are most looking forward to about the event is showing support for their sisters and other loved ones who have had cancer.

“It’s just a common purpose that we’re all coming together for, and we’re all supporting each other. It’s a long 12 hours, but we battle it together,” Burczyk said.

The Friends

In the last two years, freshman Mariah Shaver has known five people who have been diagnosed with cancer. These loved ones are just one reason she started the team Once Upon a Cure for this year’s Relay for Life.

“Three of my good friends from high school’s moms all got breast cancer within the same year,” Shaver said. “My cousin’s mom got breast cancer. Everyone knows someone who has had cancer. Everywhere you look, you see survivors and people who lost loved ones.”

One reason Shaver would encourage others to participate is simply because it helps a good cause.

“It doesn’t take much to help out and give your time for a day or the little amount of time it takes to get a donation from someone. Helping is helping. They’ll take what they can get,” she said.