Monday, October 19, 2015

Why do we enjoy getting "Likes" on Social Media?

"Likes" or "Favorite" or getting a "Star" on your post in Social Media can be pretty exciting. Especially if you got one from a crush, a celebrity or anyone you look up to. Let's explore the reason for this interesting behavior...

We humans are "social creatures" i bet you've heard that phrase a couple of times. But what does that exactly mean, being a social creature means you and I prefer to live surrounded by people whom we know and trust. This behavior has helped us survive natures claws successfully throughout the history of human civilization.

Social behaviors in its primitive form is seen in animals like bisons, elephants, deers, sheeps, horses etc as they are seen to herd. This behavior of needing a "social company" or "herding" is to increase their chances of survival. In an event where a predator comes, the herd will naturally stick together and move as a massive group. The one picked out by the predator is the member of the herd that is too slow or left out. If the individual bison was grazing alone in the fields, and a predator comes the chances of his survival is nearly equal to how fast he runs/fights/knows the escape route, fact, he might not even know the presence of a predator until its too late. Being in a herd helps in big way.

In the case of humans, we use to be in need of such defenses; in this era the survival of us depends on how well we accept and fight the challenges in the modern world. To survive these challenges we seek for a sense of a way that we feel if the world comes crashing down on you, these people around you will help you back on your feet. Knowing that you'll be given a second chance in any failures makes you confident in facing them and improves your overall success.

Example : If you lose your job and have no money to buy food or have shelter, having a family will help you meet those needs until you find another job. So, the moment your boss fires you, your survival senses kick in and lets you know that you are not going to die. You have a family that can provide the shelter(i.e. food, emotional comfort, etc).

A group of friends also provides a similar sense of security, notice gang members are usually in a group...each of them have the sense of security that they will protect each other. Also, how we find it more comforting to walk down a dark ally with a friend than alone. In every situation mentioned the sense of security is what keeps us going, you may have came up with your own scenarios where a similar concept is at play.

The larger the group of people who conform to us the more secure we feel and the bolder our moves become. "Conforming" to us means agreeing to our reactions and opinions, it is only then the "conformer" provides the "security" we expect. If two people constantly have opposing view on things, its unlikely they'll stick together. Similarly, we are more inclined to buy something if 10 people agree that you should buy it.

On a grand scale, people today dream of being movie stars, singers, or to simply put it....people in general want to be famous, being famous is associated with success. The success in this particular context is being socially accepted in a grand scale.This gives an incredible sense of security. "Sense of security" is different from "safety". The latter refers to the objective notion that one's life is not at risk.

For humans to be a "social creature" we need to fit into the society first, being the odd one out will usually result in rejection. Much like how if a sheep walks into a herd of bison, would the herd accept it? To be accepted into society is by showing that you too are like the society and that is by displaying the fact that you too are following the latest common interests, i.e. ripped jeans, skinny jeans, choice of words during conversations, preference to buy a product from a famous vendor etc. As I mentioned before "..only when the "conformer" agrees to your opinions will the relationship provide the sense of security.." (It is definitely far more complex than this, but I am only elaborating from one aspect to discuss the topic of this post).

Until this point, a few things should be clear:
  • Humans are social creatures
  • The need to be social is to seek for a sense of security
  • The larger the number people who conform to our opinions, the greater the sense of security
Social media opens the horizon to us, it helps us get more friends and lets us know of their approval to our conduct. Get a new dress, put it on, snap a selfie upload it and 1 day later u only got 2 likes....and you'll start thinking if the dress is not good? or you didn't look attractive. If you did the same and got 200 Likes, you feel that the dress is AMAZING. To add on, a few people commented that the dress is stunning, you are beautiful feel like you own the world! When a "Like" comes from your crush, the feeling is phenomenal the reason for that is...with the "like" you feel that he/she is accepting your post. Thus, making you feel the increased likely hood to win him/her.

Achieving more "likes" makes you feel more accepted, and that gives you a sense of security that is despite all your weirdness that you don't show in public...

Is this a good/bad habit? This post was not meant to do that, I was just exploring the interesting behavioral science of enjoying getting "Likes" on Social Media. But surely, posting inappropriately can get yourself in it wisely and enjoy the increasing "likes".

Note: Some people display a hatred towards posting personal issues on social media, its a fairly interesting subject as well. The objective reasoning that getting more likes doesn't mean you are indeed secure in any way fuels this hatred. Some people whom already analyze this science are limiting their social media friends to whom they already know and trust and this also, reduces the chances of inappropriate use of the information they posted.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Do we need religion? Which is the best religion?

In the world today, religion plays an important role in the identity of a person. We as human beings take a mental note of the religion of people around us. We can easily say the religion of a friend without much effort, but is religion a hindrance to our society? and most importantly which is the best religion?

To dwell into this, we both need to be completely unbiased. As I said, religion forms the identity of a person so speaking or debating about it can scratch some surfaces pretty hard. I would like to make it clear that I wrote this post from an unbiased point of view and the reasons to my points will be laid as we go along. I hope you enjoy it, and get a fresh perspective on the topic. Let's begin...

The existence of God or the creator of all is pretty much unquestionable, the reason is...yes we may be able to explain why things happen the way they do but if you take a moment to ask yourself, where did the universe and everything in it come from? You'll say The Big Bang....but who made the atoms that formed the matter that made the Big Bang? yea go ahead read that question again, I asked "who made" not "how did it happen". The latter is famously explained by many. The question of "who made" gives rise to the idea of a greater power, Energy can be neither created nor be destroyed but it must have came from somewhere(basic logic)....the idea that it was created by a greater power known to man as "God" came into the understanding of this.

So for the part on whether god exists, yea he does. So now that we've got God in the discussion lets see other aspects of human existence to better understand the topic. 

Science is the laws of the universe, we are scraping the surface and reaping its benefits. Once again, who set this laws? Who coded this program? the law that opposite poles attract and similar poles repel or that gravity works instantaneously or that light travels faster than anything we know. Look at it, look at the diversity complexity in the'll notice that all of existence happens because of the interacting laws of the universe.

To make this simple, I'll use an example: fire burns, anything flammable that comes into contact with fire will catch fire. Who the heck programmed fire to have such a property? Why doesn't fire make flowers or freeze things or open a black hole? As ridiculous as it sounds, its a simple law we take as a fact and didn't realize that God set or programmed fire to behave the way it does. How he did it? In the case of a fire, the high energy of the flame excites neighboring atoms causing them to increase in energy and that leads to a flame. That is how He programmed fire to behave. So again, God exists.

Ok now that we understand "Science" is a word we humans use to describe the findings we make on how God programmed the universe. Its us learning how God made stuff, and by knowing some of it we use it to our advantage.

So if God used Science to form the universe, then Science must be the same all over the universe. Oh wait, yea its the same all over the place! The north pole, Mars, Jupiter or even your backyard the Science of things is the same. Its the same across Continents.

So now we agree on 2 things, God exists and that he made the universe with the laws called as "Science".

Now we'll look into another problem, how do we logically say that there is 1 God? Please don't quote Religious text as we are viewing this from a Scientific point of view. As I may say, how sure are you that the text is written by god himself? Its hard to prove, its only faith that makes us hold the texts very respectfully.

Its like having a school run by 2 Headmaster who works very efficiently that everyone thinks there's only 1 Headmaster. We have no way of proving if there is One or many Gods that is if we don't quote religious texts. I am still not quoting it.

So far we have made the understanding of the following:
  • God exists
  • Science is what God used to form the Universe and everything in it
  • We cannot prove that God is ONE entity, it may be more than ONE.
Despite having one or many Gods, the Sciences used by Him all over the universe is the same. In our world its the same in the US, China, Singapore, Antarctica or anywhere else for that matter.

So how is it that if He used ONE KIND of SCIENCE to form the universe, but HE is approached in a multitude of ways called "religion"? It doesn't make a lot of sense. Shouldn't we all have known 1 religion since we were born, hardwired into our core much like "seeing", its not something people teach you its just your innate behavior to open your eyes to see your surroundings.

Interestingly, some religions share common grounds in their prophets, stories, etc especially if the religions come from a geographically neighboring location. For example, Islam and Christianity originating from Mecca and Jerusalem respectively share the fact the Jesus is a Prophet. However in religions originating far away from the Middle East, say in India where Hinduism came about Jesus was not mentioned in their texts, nor does it in Buddhism. Buddhism shares some common principles with Hinduism and both religions originates from India.

Religions sharing some similarity when their geographical origin are the same makes this all fishy. Does this mean, religion was politically motivated? or was it a way to keep the community at peace? - as many teaching believe that doing evil will be punished in the afterlife.

So we have God whom made the Universe with His Laws that we call Science and this "Science" is similar across all of existence but suddenly somehow, we have religions emerging from across the globe with varying and even contradicting teachings in approaching God. Shouldn't God give out only 1 teaching? 

Also note that older religions have a more ritualistic approach whereas younger or newer religions have a more refined teaching. If God really did send his word, shouldn't he have sent the most comprehensive religious text since the dawn of mankind? Why did he wait for a certain period before sending it? I've seen and heard people saying God didnt send the perfect text early because mankind was not ready. Not ready in what way? Is it that we had animalistic behavior? If you are in a class and your friend tells you that you'll have an exam at the end of the month, would you believe him? or would you ask the Teacher yourself? which is the right way?

So again, this God used one kind of science to govern the whole universe yet sends(i.e the Vedas, the Bible, the Quran etc) us mixed signals when we try to approach him. From an intellectual point of view, its confusing. 

Despite all the differences in religions, all religion share some common code of conduct. Being polite, respecting the elderly, doing charity, not abusing animals, summarize, the one thing all religion teach despite their finer contradicting teachings is that do good and you will be rewarded well. This particular similarity is despite the cross continental differences in language, beliefs, superstitions, etc.

So is religion a hindrance to society? and which is the best religion? Religion is a way we keep our community working like a well oiled machine, it forms our core ideas and principles. It is not a hindrance to society, the issue is when people from a particular religion impose their belief onto another in the name of God. This disrupts and shatters the particular societies' religious ways, as I mentioned at the start religion forms our identity, going around and saying that someone's religion is "not good" is considered insulting the person thus causing furious battles that we have seen in history.

Which is the best religion? As I've mentioned, why the Creator of All didn't hard wire us with a particular religion? Is it that no religion is the right religion? or does religion not matter to Him? - It certainly does matter to us, for very good reasons. For this final question, there is no single religion that is the "best"; older religions have a more ritualistic approach with heavy reasoning while younger newer religion have a more finer teaching - maybe its because the founders have a better grasp on what matters and what doesn't? There is no objective way to say which religion is better.

"Almost every religion says not following their teaching will condemn them to hell after life, since no one person can hold to more than one religion at a time and all religion claims to be the right one...everyone is going to hell" - an interesting way to put things.

The world today has introduced different religions to all parts of the world, crossing their original boundary. The teaching may not seem relevant to the new places but a good principle is respecting that God made Science to govern the universe and the common teaching in all religion is amazingly similar despite their finer differences. Respect and follow these common teachings and respect the religion of another and the world will be a better place.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Taking control of your emotions.

In a usual day, we react to things around us. Greeting a friend, smiling stupidly as u watch a cute cat/puppy video, getting angry at your boss, etc.

You also notice your friend's or family member's reaction to changes around them.

For example, 
  • Your brother told you that he just got promoted, you acknowledge his emotion to the scenario and jump in joys if not you'd ask him for a treat. You acknowledge(thus you took note of their reaction) that being happy in this context is an acceptable response.
  • If your roommate jumps in fear when a cockroach takes flight, regardless of your reaction to the situation, you acknowledge his fear of cockroaches and jump to the rescue or you help find a match to set the place on fire. Either way, you agreed that being afraid of the flying roach is an acceptable response. Once again its because you took note of his/her reaction is why you gave an appropriate response.

The reason you would normally respond to the above mentioned scenario in the fashion I described is because you took note of their initial response. In the example given the emotional response is pretty much straight forward. In situations where you are not sure what the appropriate response is, you'll usually ask what they feel about it or if asking is not appropriate, you'll heighten your sense to look for any emotional changes so that you can conform to it - this is especially if you are close to the person.

So now we've seen people responding to things and how we react to it. Talking about how we react to things around us is also quite easy, an opportunity that benefits you gives off a happy response, a situation that sets you back usually gives a disappointing response,etc.

Early in this post I gave some neutral situations(greeting a friend, smiling at a cat/puppy video) however the reality around us is not all that perfect, we get into frustration, anger, hatred, greed, revenge, etc. All of which is not healthy nor beautiful.

We often dream of a perfect life, and when asked to describe a perfect life the usual association is money, happiness and worry free. In the ideal life negative feelings are not seen as having an association.

So, let me show you how to deal with this. I admit it is not easy but overtime you will be a natural.

Heard the phrase "are you listening to what you're saying?" this is especially if someone suggests a morally wrong or socially unacceptable way of conduct. Why do we say that? Obviously asking someone to hear themselves is not to be taken as literal as it sounds but more of to understand what they are saying. Would they not say what they just said? or Would they behave differently?

We talked about how we react to things, how people react to things and how we react to how they react to things...still following? haha....but did you know that we can see ourselves reacting to situations? Yes, read that again.

With this, you can immediately judge your response while you are responding to get a better outcome of the situation.

To achieve this we just need a little mental awareness that such thing exists and is possible, its not easy but it can be done with a little practice. We actually do it sometimes and it does improve us. Ever noticed that right before bed, when you put your gadgets away and try to fall asleep your mind becomes "uncontrollable" it reenacts the days scenario and think of ways it could have gone better, or if the scenario was good it reenacts it to relive the feeling of euphoria again. Or when you are in the shower, your mind begins to wander and apart from the concert you throw in there you also rethink of certain scenarios.

Those are a few example of situations that your mind review your actions and sees for ways it could be improved. Interestingly, we can tap into this in our daily life and believe me it will improve your relationship with people, your pets and your soul. It boosts your confidence as well.

"Nobody likes to see themselves behaving badly" this is exactly what we will use to improve our attitude. At the heat of the moment, when you can separate your soul from your body and see how you are behaving you'll reconsider your actions very carefully.

So how to do this and when? The most beneficial time to do this is also the most difficult time that is when you are angry. Before you shout or scream at the person, question yourself why did he do what he did? Would you have done the same? and the turning point is picturing yourself getting angry. If you do it vivid enough, you'll feel disgusted with your inappropriate action. Mind you I am not saying getting angry is a bad thing, I am saying getting angry is a normal thing but the way we chose to react when angry makes a huge impact in our life.

We see parents who are abandoned in hospitals and old folk homes, if their sons and daughters imagined watching themselves do it...they certainly would not. Sometimes imagining is not enough as some people lack the power of imagination, what we can do to help is question smartly. In the example i just mentioned, if the sons or daughters asked the question...when i get old, would my son do the same to me? Would i want that? Is god watching? something like that, ask yourself a few questions intelligently and you will make the right decision.

There are numerous examples which you can think of...especially those that makes you do a regrettable decision is where this will help a lot. 

In a happy situation, say your son did well in something and you praised him or gave him a kiss. Take a moment and ask yourself, was that enough of an encouragement? Should I have done more? Obviously imagining yourself doing what i mentioned will not make much of a different as it is a positive reaction from you.

In situations of panic, it helps to step out of your body and see yourself...ask what should you do next? Keeping calm is the first thing, the next is evaluating YOURSELF at the moment on how you are reacting to it. Evaluating it later in the shower or in bed is not going to improve the outcome of that situation at that time.

All this needs to be practiced from day to day to make it natural. To break it down to its very core, there are 3 aspects of this whole thing:
  • Your physical body
    • This reacts from the instructions of your mind 

  • Your mind
    • This can be controlled by your soul, taking a step back and looking at yourself and questioning yourself will improve your behaviour. 

  • Your virtual mind(Soul)
    • A higher order of thinking not present in any other creature known to man other than man himself. I use the word "soul" very loosely here, I don't mean to say animals have no soul.
Use the latter to control the former and you will be in control all the time every time.



Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Why are things harder than they seem?

We often forget how complex things can be in our daily lives.

From the very simple daily activities like bathing, walking, running or riding a bike we overlook things. There is a beautiful video on Youtube that talks about riding a reverse bike. 

Here's the video: The Backwards Brain Bicycle


In the video, he tries to ride a reverse bike which is basically a bike that steers in a reverse order; If you turn the handle right it goes left and vice versa. Initially many people would think that i'll just turn left to go right and right to go left should be pretty easy...and as seen in the video, its not as easy at it sounds. What's interesting is why is it not as easy as it sounds i.e turn left to go right and right to go left.

Some would say once you learn to ride a bike you cant forget it. Which is quite true. What we see is the "experience of riding", we just know that we can ride a bike if we push the pedal and keep going. We dont fathom the synaptic wiring needed to ride a bike (in other words, we dont realize what the body should do to ride a bike).

To understand this, I'll give another real world example. Say a kid wants a toy, from the perspective of the child the parent has the power to buy it for him. What the parent knows about the toy and if its worth the money or if theres a better place to buy it doesnt matter to the child. He doesnt know whats the actual picture in buying a toy (i.e. quality, value for money, does the parents have the money? etc.)

In the example: You are the Child and Your Brain/Body is the Parent.

Similar to bike riding, we dont realize what our body does to ride a bike. If you've seen the video you'll see that towards the end he was able to ride the bike but almost forgot how to ride a normal bike.

So what is it that our body does/needs to do that we didnt consider when we accepted the challenge to ride the reverse bike? 

I'll lay a few aspects that the body needs to modulate, there may be more making the entire situation far more complex than we perceive.
  • Balancing
    • The Vestibulocochlear System in the ear determines the orientation of your head and this information is transmitted to the brain for it(the brain) to decide how to rectify any problem(if any). Some ways the body corrects a balance issue is: When you make a sharp turn your body leans to the opposite side , it "knows" to not lean too hard on the turning angle. Its just an example, finer motor movements are done to fine tune the balance to precision.

  • Force to the pedals
    • How hard you hit the pedal is an instruction from the brain. Many different situation will require different force to the pedals. This includes how many muscle fibers contract and how many to relax, etc
  • Controlling the direction ( with the handle bar)
    • This is exactly what the heading is, turn left to go LEFT and turn right to go RIGHT. 
  • Visual Field
    • Where does your eye focus on during the ride? On the pedals? On the handle bar? Or the road ahead, or the back? or the sides? 
  • etc.
This enormous volume of information is relayed to your brain for processing and it decides how to react for the ultimate goal YOU GAVE it that is to reach your desired destination safely. 

When you first rode a bike, most of this has developed well turning the handle bar is a simple task(once upon a time you had to learn that too). The initial training to ride a bike is to learn or teach the brain new ways of intepreting in the incoming information.

Example, if the brain responds without learning: 
  • You are riding a bike and a dog chases you, you INSTINCTIVELY pedal harder. The reason for that is your brain has learnt that pedalling harder will get you out of the situation faster. Say your brain didnt learn that, the moment the dog chase enters your consciousness you'll get rid of the bike and run(i know it sounds dumb, but thats exactly what would happen)

  • In a far more obvious example, say you dont know how to ride a motorcycle and a dog is running towards you. You dont know how to ride the motorcycle....your brain says GOD DAMMIT RUN!!!!!! Now it doesnt sound all stupid does it? thats because we can fatom the big picture of the scenario.

The enormous information relayed to the brain during bike riding creates new synapses or logic sequences and the brain knows how to respond to specific combination of inputs. With more "practice in riding the bike" finer synapses are created which enables more precise control of the bike during handling. I hope its clear enough.

When the task given was to ride a reverse bike, and we just think to reverse the order of turning the handle, we forget that trying to change one small piece of instruction in the enormous set of logic sequences that your brain has programmed itself to do will cause many contradicting inputs and outputs. Resulting in failure to ride it successfully.

Is this dumb? Definitely not, the processing power was not overwhelmed it was the contradiction that fails the process. Truly remarkable, can we learn it ? most definitelty, in the video he eventually learns it over sometime.

This means, new synapses are formed and new logic sequences are registered and programmed. Making the reverse bike riding successful. 

When he tries to ride the normal bike again, and the "reverse bike handling sequence" is initiated...the system fails. The reason? because we need to teach our brain to differentiate which is the reverse bike and which is the normal bike so it could fire the correct sequence beautifully.

  • If you were to ride a car, would you try to push the pedal like you would when riding a bike? Haha...of course not, thats the wrong method.
  • Why is this? The brain sees...dude its CAR, you need this particular sequence to drive it. Using the wrong sequence will fail the process. So how does the brain know when to use what sequence? Its simply by taking note that the vehicle before you is a car or a bike or boat and to fire the appropriate sequences. Same goes to differentiating the reverse bike from the normal bike.

Notice that, even when we fail to ride the bike we drops our legs, locks our knees to prevent us from falling off the bike. Its a system on top of another complex system or even more systems that we are not aware of. This phletora of systems is what makes the brain something spectacular! 


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Crossing a road, do you run or do you walk?

Take a look at people crossing a road, infact notice yourself when you cross a road. We instinctively RUN. Why do we do that?

We can walk...the oncoming car MIGHT slow down or stop. We seem to have no trust in the driver that he would be able to stop his vehicle in time, which is ABSOLUTELY acceptable. Why would you put your life in a strangers hand? You wouldn't and you should not for that matter.

Lets break down what's happening here:

1. You decide to cross the road, you see a car coming at a certain speed and you estimate that it might hit you.

2. Your fight or flight response kicks in and within miliseconds you decided that running was the more successful option, because if you chose to fight you wont win the "fight" or collision for very obvious reasons.

3. You deciding to run was actually an instinct to avoid death. Much like how a rabbit runs from a Lion or an Antelope runs from a Leopard.

So I can translate that breakdown to the following: You are actually running for your life.

Think about it, just like how a rabbit or antelope would run from a predator you run from an oncoming traffic that might kill or injure you severely.

So basically this entire thing is a "fight or flight response". We chose flight as our brain calculates it to have a more successful outcome. 

Put the similar logic into a different scenario, in our lives today exercising is encouraged. How many of us feel the urge or the instinct to run/jog ? We do not. We do it as part of a routine workout schedule. Why is it that we dont feel this urge as we did when we cross a road? Isnt jogging also a type of "running for your life"?

The danger is not imminent, thats why...we perceive ourselves as being safe and not in any threat, thus the "fight or flight response" doesn't kick in. Should it? Its beneficial, so yea probably it should.

How would you kick your body into activating this response for a danger that is not imminent? For having the motivation to exercise atleast? The danger is real, poor health leads to a difficult death. But it doesnt seem real to many.