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Opinion Editorials

Is the Internet ruining society? [Editorial]

The Internet is an amazing tool from helping us with research, to applying for jobs, the Internet makes everything easier, but at what price?

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Is the Internet ruining us as a society?

The Internet is an amazing tool. The web makes almost every situation easier. You can apply for jobs in your kitten PJs, get to know someone face-to-face through Skype or keep up with family, friends or your favorite TV or sports personalities through Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. The options are actually limitless.

Even though the majority of us use the internet for general, daily inquiries, information and connections, there are many, many people creating opportunities that will make the world a better place too. For instance, the app Donate a Photo. Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 to the charity of your choice after uploading a photo from your gallery. Pretty amazing, right?

As much as each of us should be utilizing cyberspace this way, we aren’t. It’s a hard fact that as much as the internet has helped, it’s hindered also.

The web and our work lives

Our search for work has become easier because we can utilize job search engines like Indeed, Monster and CareerBuilder, but in the meantime, online monopolies like Amazon and Google topple historically indestructible corporations.

Furthermore, free apps are closing some of the largest businesses worldwide. Instagram, the app that shares your photos with everyone and is operated by a minimal staff, has almost single-handedly caused Kodak’s demise. We can’t hunt for jobs that no longer exist. Capiche?

The web and our communications

Ever meet a potential love interest for coffee, sat across from them (a type of body language that demands attention) and felt that you couldn’t pry them away from their phones – regardless of how engaging the conversation?

The ease at which we communicate through a screen has crippled our ability to communicate face-to-face. People demand to be connected to their virtual world all the time. That vibrating phone on your last date that alerted you of your newest twitter follower and the last friend who liked your fb post, is killing your ability to be present.

And of course, cyberbullying

The huge Michigan vs. Michigan State game on Saturday, October 17th made cyberbullying pretty central news.

Blake O’Neill fumbled a long snap in the last few seconds of the huge rivalry game, which led to a Spartan victory. If poor O’Neill’s heart wasn’t already broken from the defeat, shortly thereafter, the kicker started receiving death threats via social media.

Because we can’t see the damage it causes, we viciously attack others virtually. The cocooned safety we feel from behind a screen often allows us to type whatever vile thing that enters our minds. O’Neill has a team of supportive players and coaches rallying behind him, but for the misguided teen, threats like this could promote catastrophic results.

Privacy and the web

Bottom line, our privacy isn’t so private anymore. Potential employers, law enforcement and even government have the ability to pillage through our online presence page by page. Unbeknownst to many, your boss is likely aware of the last time you had one too many, the last video you posted from YouTube and where you went to lunch today.

Not to mention, the poor souls who were victims of the Sony Pictures hack. Once it’s online, it’s public forever, folks. As this class action lawsuit so arduously depicts, you likely shouldn’t expect much monetary retribution from your information being shared without your consent either.

Generally speaking…

As a society we squander the power of this platform. Instead of using the information highway as a tool to foster an age of enlightenment (the way books and art did in the past), we’ve submersed ourselves in the drama and voyeurism it deals. Instead of embracing the intellectual difference it can make, the internet revolution helps cushion the pockets of businessmen and the self-esteem of narcissists.

[End web bashing rant].

It isn’t all bad, of course. As stated above, the internet has the power to do wonderful things. More than anything it connects us with loved ones, offers loads and loads of information and keeps us up-to-date on the world around us. Each, if used with care, can be a building block for amazing things.

The problem isn’t whether the internet is ruining us; it’s whether we as a society have the capacity to use this tool for good.

And now, your challenge:

I’ve included a link to five apps below that encourage you to make a difference. Download one today, and use the internet to encourage positive change in our society.

  1. Charity Miles
  2. SeeClickFix
  3. HTC Power
  4. Donate a Photo
  5. Feedie

#InternetAndYou

Staff writer, Ashley Lombardo, earned her B.S. in journalism from The University of Florida and has used her skills to report on everything from the economy to productivity. She is well-known for her tremendously positive presence, and when she's not trying to save the world she indulges in red wine, friends, fitness, books, bubble baths, shoes, family and love.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Stephani

    October 22, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    Yay!! What a fab article!! And look at that tagline!! So proud!!

  2. Pingback: Google's starting them young at teaching kids to Be Internet Awesome - The American Genius

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Opinion Editorials

The truth about unemployment from someone who’s been through it

(EDITORIAL) Unemployment benefits aren’t what you thought they were. Here’s a first-hand experience and what you need to know.

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Have I ever told you how I owed the government over two grand because of unemployment in 2019, and only just finished paying it back this year?

This isn’t exactly the forum for memoirs, but this is relevant to everyone. So I’ll tell y’all anyway.

It all started back in 2018 when I came into work early, microwaved my breakfast, poured coffee, and got pulled into a collaboration room to hear, “We love you and your work, April, but we’ve been bought out and you’re being laid off.”

It was kind of awkward carrying my stuff out to the car with that Jimmy Dean sandwich in my mouth.

More awkward still was the nine months of unemployment I went through afterwards. Between the fully clothed shower crying, the stream of job denial, catering to people who carried rocks in their nostrils at my part-time job (yes, ew, yes, really), and almost dying of no-health-insurance-itis, I learned a lot!

The bigger lesson though, came in the spring of the following year when I filed my taxes. I should back up for a moment and take the time to let those of you unfamiliar with unemployment in Texas in on a few things that aren’t common knowledge.

1: You’re only eligible if you were laid off. Not if you had quit. Not fired. Your former company can also choose to challenge your eligibility for benefits if they didn’t like your face on the way out. So the only way you’re 100% guaranteed to get paid in (what the state calls) “a timely manner”, is a completely amicable split.

2: Overpayments have to go back. Immediately. If there’s an error, like several thousand of Texans found out this week, the government needs that cash back before you can access any more. If you’re not watching your bank account to make sure you’re getting the exact same check each time and you have an overpayment, rest assured that mistake isn’t going to take long to correct. Unfortunately, if you spent that money unknowingly–thought you got an ‘in these uncertain times’ kinder and gentler adjustment and have 0 income, you have a problem. Tying into Coronavirus nonsense is point three!

3: There are no sick days. If ever you’re unable to work for any reason, be it a car accident, childbirth, horrible internal infection (see also no-health-insurance-itis), you are legally required to report it, and you will not be paid for any days you were incapacitated. Personally, my no-health-insurance-itis came with a bad fever and bedrest order that axed me out of my part time job AND killed my unemployment benefits for the week I spent getting my internal organs to like me again. But as it turned out, the payment denial came at the right time because–

4: Unemployment benefits are finite. Even if you choose to lie on your request forms about how hard you’re searching for work, coasting is ill-advised because once the number the state allots you runs out…it’s out. Don’t lie on your request forms, by the way. In my case, since I got cut from my part-time gig, I got a call from the Texas Workforce Commission about why my hours were short. I was able to point out where I’d reported my sickness to them and to my employer, so my unpaid week rolled over to a later request date. I continued to get paid right up until my hiring date which was also EXACTLY when my benefits ran out.

Unemployment isn’t a career, which is odd considering the fact that unemployment payments are qualified by the government as income.

Ergo, fact number five…

5: Your benefits? They’re taxed.

That’s right, you will be TAXED for not having a job.

The stereotype of the ‘lazy unemployment collector burdening society’ should be fading pretty quickly for the hitherto uninformed about now.

To bring it back to my story, I’d completely forgotten that when I filed for unemployment in the first place, I’d asked for my taxes NOT to be withheld from it–assuming that I wasn’t going to be searching for full time work for very long. I figured “Well, I’ll have a tax refund coming since I’ll get work again no problem, it’ll cancel out.”

Except, it was a problem. Because of the nine month situation.

I’d completely forgotten about it by the time I threw myself into my new job, but after doing my taxes, triple checking the laws and what I’d signed, it was clear. Somehow…despite being at my lowest point in life, I owed the highest amount in taxes, somewhere around the 2k mark.

Despite being based on a system that’s tied to how much income you were getting before, and all the frustrating “safeguards” put in place to keep payments as low and infrequent as possible, Uncle Sam still wants a bite out of the gas-station Hostess pie that is your unemployment check. And as I’m writing this, more and more people are finding that out.

I’d like to end this on a more positive note…so let’s say we’ve all been positively educated! That’s a net gain, surely.

Keep your heads up, and masked.

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Opinion Editorials

COVID-19 acts are unfortunately too short sighted

(BUSINESS NEWS) The biggest flaw in the CARES act is simply that it won’t last. Numerous issues have extended the life of COVID-19 but the act hasn’t matched it.

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The CARES act gives an additional $600 weekly to those on unemployment assistance. The idea being that, combined with the $380 already granted by unemployment, the payments would roughly equal the wage of the average worker prior to the pandemic- about $1,000 weekly.

But on July 31st, the expansion that CARES provides will expire, and benefits will return to pre-pandemic amounts. Those currently receiving the maximum payment will see a 61% decrease in their income. In states that offer lower benefit payments, that percentage goes even higher. All of this comes during a national rental crisis, and moratoriums on evictions across the country are also nearing their ends or being extended last minute.

This isn’t the first or only “yuge” hole in the federal government’s COVID-19 safety net. Many Americans (this writer included) have seen neither hide nor hair of their promised stimulus checks. The HEROES act, which is being billed as a second round of stimulus money, remains under debate- as it has been for several weeks.

And the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires certain businesses to provide two weeks of paid leave to workers who may be sick (or caring for someone who is) has plenty of problems too, namely the laundry list of exceptions to it.

This is just the most recent push to return to the pre-virus economy before effective protective measures have been put in place for workers and consumers alike. After all, with cases of COVID-19 spiking again in the US, it’s apparent that the act is still absolutely necessary. Our lawmakers either lack patience, or compassion – take your pick. Frankly, I say it’s both.

Not only have countless health experts warned that reopening too early will be disastrous, but if a second lockdown is in our future, all of the time, money, and human lives that went into reopening will be wasted.

There is a silver lining among the storm clouds on the horizon. Because ballooning unemployment has created long wait times for benefit applicants, unemployment assistance programs are shelling out retroactive back payments to those deemed eligible.

Good news, at least, for laid off workers who have been waiting months to hear their fate.

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Opinion Editorials

Women-owned businesses make up 42% of all businesses – heck yeah!

(EDITORIAL) Women-owned businesses make a huge impact on the U.S economy. They make up 42% of all businesses, outpace the national growth rate by 50%, and hire billions of workers.

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Women entrepreneurs make history in the U.S as female-owned businesses represent 42% of all businesses, while continuing to increase at DOUBLE the national growth rate!

Women are running the world, and we are here for it! The 2019 American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, states 13 million women are now self-employed entrepreneurs. From 2014 to 2019, women-owned businesses grew 21%. Think that’s impressive? Well, businesses owned by women of color grew 43% within the same timeframe, with a growth rate of 50%, and currently account for 50% of all women-owned businesses! Way to go! What this also means is that women employ over 2.4 million workers who together generate $422.5 billion in revenue.

What can we learn from these women that’ll help you achieve success in your businesses?

  1. Get informed: In a male-dominated business industry, women are often at a disadvantage and face multiple biases. So, know your stuff; study, research, and when you think you know it all…dig deeper!
  2. Stay hungry: Remember why you started this journey. Write down notes and reminders, goals, and inspirations, hang them up and keep them close.
  3. Ask for advice: Life is not meant to go through alone, so ask questions. Find a mentor and talk to people who have walked a similar path. Learning from them will only benefit your business.

Many of these women found ways to use their passion to drive their business. It may not be exactly what they thought it would be when they started out, but is it ever? Everyone has to start off small and rejection is part of the process. In fact, stories of rejection often serve as inspiration and encouragement to soon-to-be self starters.

Did you know J.K Rowling’s “Harry Potter” book was turned down TWELVE times? Seven books later with over 400 million copies sold, the Harry Potter brand is currently valued at over 15 billion. While you might not become a wizard-writing fantasy legend like J.K Rowling, you sure as heck can be successful. So go for it, and chase your dreams.

If you want to support women-owned businesses, start by scrolling through Facebook or doing some research to find women-owned businesses in your community. Then, support by buying or helping to promote their products. Small businesses, especially women-owned, black women-owned, and women of color-owned, are disproportionally affected by the current economic crisis ignited by a health pandemic. So if you can, shop small and support local. And remember, there’s a girl (or more) doing a happy dance when you checkout!

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