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Control the Internet, Don’t Let It Control You

Two people hugging looking at their phones; control your Internet

If you’re like most people, you have a smart phone. It’s good for taking photos, getting directions, finding out who the winner of the 35th Kentucky Derby was (Wintergreen), and protecting you, at least in a legal sense, from a police beat down or a Karen verbal, and possibly physical, explosion. You may also get a viral video in either of those last two cases. However, your smart phone is also capable of controlling you in ways you haven’t thought possible. Those who worry about being chipped through a vaccine have failed to realized that they have much more effectively chipped themselves through their Internet and smart phone usage. You need to control the Internet and take back your personal autonomy from the what you think to what you do to who you do it with.

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Break from Your Internet News Feed for Greater Creativity

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I listen to a lot of Disney Park atmosphere recordings on YouTube. It’s how I keep my stress level lower and improve my concentration while remaining relatively positive. The thing is, I just started doing this a couple of months ago with the implementation of self-isolation protocols. I watch How-to-Dad sometimes, and I’ve started Mousercising. I also watch Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert; however, when they went on vacation, my YouTube feed was taken over by Disney songs of all sorts. There are Disney Sing-Alongs, Disney Classic: A Magical Night, Disney mixes made by random people and a YouTube station that looks like it has radio call letters. All of this would be great if my only interest was Disney songs and their related videos. If it weren’t for a recent Mr. Rogers article, I wouldn’t find anything beyond what I’ve searched for in the past.

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The Internet Killed My Creativity

Untitled Mosaic by Cathy Cooke

by Cathy Cooke, BCHN, BBEC
Founder and Creator of the Sleep Easy Method

When I was kid growing up in the ‘70s, I remember creating elaborate stories in my head about far away lands I’d only heard of in books.  I remember playing in the woods in our backyard and pretending to be a soldier in the army – more specifically, being the first woman ever drafted into the army because my skills were so imperative the Corps’ success.  I had the most amazing journeys to places like China, Africa, the deserts of Saudi Arabia, all without leaving my backyard.

Fast forward to May of 2000, and I was still enjoying adventures to exotic places.  Four years after graduating college, I was dreaming of joining the Peace Corps and imagined myself living among the villages in places like Kenya or Angola.  I could picture it in my head: the dirt floors, the thatched roofs, the smells of Injera cooking on a wood stove.  I don’t know if that’s how it really was, but it was fun to pretend.  Maybe it was demeaning or naïve, I don’t know, but my imagination was strong and the creative urge inside me was fulfilled.

Over the next few years, I found myself becoming more involved with emails and looking up information online.  If I really wanted to know what life was like in Kenya, I just put it into a search engine, and wham, there it was.  And no surprise, it wasn’t exactly how I’d imagined.  Instead of debating for hours with friends about a particular topic, exercising my mind to see different points of view, employing creativity to construct a new argument for persuasion, or trying to use my brains flexibility to understand all sides, we’d simply look it up online, and the conversation was over.  No heated debates into the wee hours of the morning that often left us with a better understanding of the other side and agreed upon points of view.

It makes me sad really.  I want my brain to engage, to work, to be flexible and creative in these conversations and daydreams.  But it doesn’t happen anymore.  I don’t have to imagine, or think, or create, because I can just Google it, and that ends the experience.

I have found the same to be true for my artistic abilities.  I have always enjoyed doing crafty and artsy things.  In the early 2000s, I took up mosaics.  I remember walking outside for inspiration, looking into street-corner shops, in backyards where children played, on the nearby trails or at the plethora of activity happening in the trees and sky.  Certain colors and combinations of shapes would send my mind off to a place of wild creativity… “what if I combined that purple color with a deep red for an intense October sunset…”  I made some really unusual but pretty cool mosaics back then.  But with the advent of Google, I found myself looking online for ideas; it was easier than going outside.  And do you know what happened?  My mosaics looked flat, lifeless, or like I was imitating someone else, mostly because I was.  I was no longer exercising my creativity, because it was just too easy to look online.

This also makes me very sad.  It makes me sad for myself that I turn to the easy way too often, and thus, miss out on all the amazing things the natural world has to offer.  And it makes me sad for all the youth that never got the chance to imagine, create, or dream about what life is like in the Amazon or the South Pole.  They’ve never had a chance because the answers have been in front of them the whole time.  What kind of art will these kids create?  What kind of stories will they make up?  Where will they get their inspiration?

I have been known to say “If I could snap my fingers and the Internet would have never existed I would do it without flinching.”  I mean that with complete conviction.  Not only do I have an issue with the health impacts (EMF exposure, blue light, bad posture, poor social development), but also because it killed my creativity.  I know I have the power to remedy this.  You’re right, I could just get off the computer and go outside and find my inspiration again.  The problem is that in today’s high-tech world, we have come to rely on the Internet for the large majority of our communication, personal and business transactions.  I run a small business, and if I want that business to be successful, I have to be online a good portion of the day.  I don’t want it to be that way, but it’s the unfortunate reality of living in 2019.

Of course, I do admit to the benefits of the web, increased access to education and information, entertainment, social connections, etc.  But, is that worth what we have lost?  Not a chance.  I am a human being with needs that go beyond food and shelter.  I don’t need to see pictures of what Angola looks like.  I don’t need to connect with all ten of my friends from the 1st grade again.  I don’t need to be able to watch a marathon of “Mad Men” on Netflix this weekend.  But what I do need is my sanity, feeling fulfilled, and nourished.  The Internet does not provide this for me.  My daydreams, imagination, friendly debates, walks in nature and exercising my brain’s creativity, that’s what fulfills me and nourishes me.

So yes, if I could, I would snap my fingers and the Internet would disappear. And then I would have my exotic trips to far away lands, conversations until the wee hours of the morning, and some fantastic mosaics that are full of unique imagination.  It would give me back my creativity!  And that would be worth it.

Cathy Cooke, BCHN, BBEC
Cathy Cooke, BCHN, BBEC

Cathy Cooke BCHN, BBEC, is the owner of Whole Home and Body Health where she helps people to realize their potential through health interventions related to diet, lifestyle, and environmental concerns including air quality and EMF mitigation.  You can find out more about her services at wholehomeandbodyhealth.com, or by contacting her at cathy@wholehomeandobdyhealth.com

Editor’s Note: Cathy Cooke has released a Sleep Easy Class for people who have difficulties falling asleep. She is an amazing instructor who has spent years studying sleep and how to achieve a better night’s rest. Check out this introductory video to get rid of your insomnia for good on YouTube.

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The Ludicrousness of the Internet and the Simple Answer

Should I feed my dog mandarins? Yes or no. It’s a simple question to answer. Yet, before I can get an answer to this question on the Internet, I have to understand what a mandarin is, what a dog is, the different breeds of dogs that might eat mandarins (all of them), the nutritional value of mandarins and their rinds, how a dog’s digestive system works, why people might think it’s a good idea to give dogs a mandarin, why dogs should have mandarins, why they shouldn’t have mandarins, why they shouldn’t have the rinds, and then finally, the writer of the article deigns to give the answer: Probably not, but barring allergy, the dog won’t die from it. (In other words, I should not feed my dog mandarins.) That simple sentence could have been written at the top of the page, and it would have saved 15 minutes of scrolling and loading and given me the answer I was looking for.

The same is true for recipes on the Internet. Search for “apple pie recipes” and you’ll get plenty of recipes, but most of them will tell the story about how the person thought about making an apple pie on one harvest Sunday when the smell of cinnamon wafted through the air from the local bakery reminding him or her of a long deceased grandma who had the best apple pie recipe in the world, the one that you will soon be baking after the person gives you a complete biography of said grandma and the hardships she went through to get to the U.S. during the Great Depression. There will be a not-so-lively discussion of various apple types, how Johnny Appleseed was responsible for a majority of the apple trees in the U.S., and whether or not apple pie is actually as American as baseball and Chevrolet. Sure, the recipe, which calls for cardamom and squid, could’ve been placed at the top of the page and all of the other stuff below it, but you might’ve clicked to another web site if you found that the recipe required an ingredient you didn’t have, like 24k gold dust from a Nevadan river.

For either of these two posts, you’ll be scrolling past photos, videos and ads, all eating up bandwidth and time. Why all the scrolling, or worse, the multiple “next” page clicks? The easy answer is money. The slightly less easy answer is search engine algorithms. The least likely answer is credibility.

The more copy someone writes, the more place there is for ads. If a web page can keep you scrolling through ad after ad, it will make more money, even if you never click on any ads. Some web writers don’t have control over the placements of the ads, so using several pages rather than one long post makes it easier to make more money while you click through page after page of long-winded explanation for a simple question. Regardless of how much everyone wants content on the Internet to be free, the person or people producing the content need to make money to live. While multiple pages and multiple ads are annoying, they are necessary for many creators in the Internet (me included).

However, if no one is looking at the pages, there is no revenue to generate. Getting people to the page takes good search engine optimization practices. This includes writing enough that search engine web crawlers don’t exclude the page because it has a lack of content. “Should I feed my dogs mandarins? No” just isn’t enough words for a search engine algorithm to recognize the page as serious. Anything fewer than 100 words is suspect, even 100 words is questionable. Write enough, and the web page not only becomes more reputable according to web crawlers, but it will also hit on more keywords for search engines to latch onto.

For some pages, this is a matter of establishing credibility. (If I wanted to do that, I would tell you I’ve been working in the SEO industry for almost a decade and have studied trends in the Internet and its search engines. I would also give you a complete history of the Internet and my involvement with it, stopping just short of claiming to have invented it – I did not invent the Internet; please don’t start any rumors.) Because most Internet information is published by those who wish to remain anonymous or those you don’t personally know, it is important for the person to come up with a way to get you to trust him or her. After all, not everyone can be associated with a credible Internet source and those who aren’t need your page views even more than the biggest web sites. Of course, credibility doesn’t really matter to someone who is looking for a recipe. It should matter more to someone looking for dog care tips, but for the most part people on the Internet aren’t looking for the truth. They are looking for someone to confirm the information or biases they already have.

Aside from that, writing a lot doesn’t actually establish credibility. Anyone can write anything, and you will have little to no way of verifying the information. I used to be an astronaut and flew the first manned spaceship to Jupiter in a secret government program. That’s not true, but there’s no way you can verify it. Maybe it is true, and I’m trying to cover myself by saying it isn’t. Even if you have access to secret government records, chances are you don’t have secret access to every government’s records. However, if I wrote a whole lot about space and Jupiter and published some planetary stock photos, you might think I’m a credible authority on space travel. The same is true for someone who writes a whole lot of information they found on the Internet in their blog about feeding dogs mandarins.

Until the Internet changes the way information is sorted and paid for, there is little anyone can do to stop the overflow of useless information that doesn’t answer the question asked. Sending reports to search engines about clickbait, especially on sponsored posts, may help. Subscribing to your favorite web sites may also help. However, for the foreseeable future plan on learning the obscure history of someone’s great uncle pirate who is responsible for the introduction of gravy to the Indonesian diet while you’re looking for the answer to whether or not raccoons are native to North America. (They are.)