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Op/Ed

Security of client information is important, so change the process

(EDITORIAL) Too many companies have had security breaches, which is bad enough, but is the process for insuring client information safety too old to secure?

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security too old to function

While, it’s clear companies seem to get hacked regularly, the steps taken to keep users safe are a joke. Companies still rely on asking personal questions in an effort to make users feel safe, but those attempts are laughable.

I wasn’t laughing earlier this week as I was setting up a few new accounts.

As anyone knows, creating accounts can be a real pain in the buttocks. But, since I’m kind of a geek, I would sometimes find the humor in choosing and answering my three security questions. (Wondering if I’d remember the answers.)

What band was your first concert?
What was your favorite dog’s name?
Where were your parents married?
What model was your first car?
Who was your childhood bff?

Cool.

I never thought much about the security questions until the last few times when I encountered a few like this:

In which city were you married?

What is the name of your eldest child?

At what time of day was your oldest child born?

How old was your father when you were born?

What?

I felt I had taken a step back in time.

Sure, these questions might be ok, if there were a lot of options, but these were four of the seven provided.

I’m not a super touchy person who gets triggered easily or angered at the drop of a hat. But, these questions made me question this process and its security.

Whether you’re a man or a woman, in this day and age, it’s quite possible you’ve never been married or had a kid. It’s also possible for some folks, they didn’t know their dad. Or, if they do, maybe they don’t want their security question asking how old he was when they were born.

But, the bigger question: Why so very personal? And, from a woman’s perspective, why so presumptive. It made me wonder: are the questions the same for a man or a woman of any age?

I can’t imagine a 22-year-old being asked about the birth of their eldest child. Or, where they were married.

These questions had to be options based on my age and gender.

I chose the questions I could answer like, where was my elementary school located.

But, I didn’t feel safer for answering. Somehow I felt like the company asking them was 1) Prying to gather personal data 2) Not concerned about safety 3) Was sexist.

As many others have argued, it’s time to shut this process down, if only for the fact that it doesn’t make us safer online. This is a practice that should be relegated to the past, just like the presumptive questions being asked.

Seems no matter where you look online, banks, retailers and even medical providers are hacked. Our information is floating in space on the interwebs.

Obviously, security is a top concern. Who wants to sign up for a service only to find out later, “OOPS, our bad, your information was hacked. Here, we will give you free credit monitoring for a month.”

Doesn’t cut it.

Mary Ann Lopez earned her MA in print journalism from the University of Colorado and has worked in print and digital media. After taking a break to give back as a Teach for America corps member and teaching science for a few years, she is back with her first love: writing. When she's not writing stories, reading five books at once, or watching The Great British Bakeoff, she is walking her dog Sadie and hanging with her cats, Bella, Bubba, and Kiki. She is one cat short of full cat lady status and plans to keep it that way.

Op/Ed

Social isolation can literally kill you – we need each other

(EDITORIAL) Social isolation and aloneness have bigger consequences than most people realize.

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introspection ask yourself

Can isolation kill you?

Starling birds are often considered a pest because these birds are abundant and usually come in mobs.

Researchers studied the effect of isolation on common starlings and found that when the birds were separated from the flock, it caused increases of the stress hormone, corticosterone. These gregarious birds did not handle isolation very well.

“We live in a society bloated with data yet starved for wisdom. We’re connected 24/7, yet anxiety, fear, depression and loneliness is at an all-time high. We must course-correct,“ said Dr. Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey.

We need other people.

Loneliness and isolation have the same effect on humans. Researchers from Brigham Young University found that loneliness increases the risk of mortality by about 26 percent. Social isolation has a little higher risk, 29 to 32 percent.

Most people tend to feel lonely or become more socially isolated as they age.

Some experts believe that middle-aged men are most susceptible to loneliness and isolation.

Loneliness is a subjective feeling, and it’s just as damaging as being socially isolated.

The researchers pointed out that someone who is happy to be alone still suffers from social isolation and thus, the increased risk of death.

On the other end of the spectrum is a person with a lot of social connections, but who does not actually connect with another person face-to-face. This loneliness is not good for people.

When you’re feeling lonely, it’s not enough simply to interact with others. You have to make an emotional connection. People cannot read your mind.

When you’re lonely, you have to let others know.

If you have a support group, reach out. If you don’t have a network of friends and family, you are going to have to create one. For me, it’s my church and community organizations.

You might find friends at the gym, in a theater group, or through volunteering at your local animal shelter.

Go and play cards with a person in a nursing home or just talk. You might be saving their life through your connection by keeping them from feeling alone while also helping yourself.

This story was first published here in 2018.

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Op/Ed

Career pauses can feel painful but can lead to new avenues

(EDITORIAL) My job pause(s) lead to a complete career change…maybe. While at times nausiating, they can lead to refreshing new outcomes

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Career change

What’s worse than stand-still traffic?

The start-stop traffic.

In a standstill, you know where you stand…still. In stop n’ go n’ stop again traffic, you have no clue. You go from 5 to 50 again for all of three feet then back to 5. Eventually, you don’t even care about getting to your destination anymore just so long as the tedium ceases.

My jobs went almost exactly the same way.

Retail work, career work. Retail work, career work. Retail work, career work. And each time I had to take a pause, I didn’t have enough time, money, or interest to keep up with the rising trend of ‘content creators’ who can film, edit, script, photograph, edit THOSE, AND do blogs and emails replacing copywriter positions. So I just stayed scrambling until I could ‘relax’ into a career gig that ended shortly for one reason or another.

Even though I left each advertising job under different circumstances, in late 2019, I realized ‘Okay, maybe it’s ME. Maybe if I’m this frustrated with the traffic, I need to pull off the road.’

The last shift saw me go from copywriter, to house cleaner, to heavy metal head shop gal, to moderating freight brokerage in the span of two months. Hell of a detour…

Of course now that I’m out of full-time work in the field I sold my credit score to break into, the guilt of having left a career I soured on to break into a field I didn’t need to go to college at all for is…crushing. And new beginnings, with wages to match, are hard no matter who you are.

However, this shame and heaviness is all coming from the inside. My parents are proud, my friends are happy for me, and I have yet to hear anyone actively dumping on my decision to purposely exit the salaried copywriting field. And even if everyone sucked about my choice, it wouldn’t change the fact that so far it’s the best one. At some point, you gotta shake yourself by the shoulders, borrow from Mrs. Knowles-Carter, and scream: Suck on my job cause, I’ve had enough.

Why deal with a stigma when you could deal with stigmata, right? Those are way cooler. And I’m pretty done with wounding myself either way.

Multiple small, panicked hiatuses taught me something. Some things. First thing: truly powerful screaming comes from the belly, not the throat. Most relevant thing: I don’t want to write for other people, nor for brands that can’t use some variant of my own voice.

I thought I was a copywriting mimic octopus who could change colors, shapes, and textures to suit an environment, but this whole time I’ve been a chameleon— always keeping my funky fresh shape, and only changing colors to suit how I feel, or to attract mates. Gentlemen.

I’m not going to act like career pauses are some great thing in which to discover yourself and do some eat, pray, love BS. I quite literally almost died of a bad infection during a time I was on a pause with no heath insurance. The pauses were financially and mentally draining, and if it weren’t for extreme strokes of good fortune in several places, I wouldn’t be in a position to write this piece.

What I will say is that I was able to bid the misshapen phoenix cycle I was on a phrantic pharewell, at least I think so. Anything’s liable to change, such is life.

For now, there is only to bag up the ashes and try to use them in fertilizing my next steps.

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Op/Ed

Women empowering phrases can hurt if they’re not authentic

(EDITORIAL) Who’s the Girl Boss? If you have to ask, it isn’t you…and if you have to answer, it’s not you either. False empowering words for women hurt too.

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women inspiring shirt

Pinkwashing. Noun. The practice of cynically plopping of a pastel shade, a string of lace, or a little glitter on absolute Grade-C bull$#!+, and using it to pry open the wallets of women.

Now I know what you’re all thinking. I’m too Deep ™ to enjoy a little fun flashiness or high-femme shenanigans, so I’m invested in raining on your parade, but I assure you this next truth bomb is coming from my heart, not my massive superiority complex.

“Girl Boss, Fempire, Boss Babe” and more are all empty ass phrases designed to separate us she-beasts from our money, our time, and our sanity as business owners.

I’m not against a bumper sticker or enamel pin here and there, don’t get me wrong. If you think for a second I wouldn’t own a shirt that says ‘Boss Bat’, and wear it to literally every business-type meetup under a blazer, you’re just mistaken.

BUT, I’m not here to rant about trinkets and tees this time. That’s the icing.

The moldy, thumbtack-filled cake we’re slicing up here is about the deeper issue of a toxic ‘hustle culture’ being marketed to women, and how insidious it can be for those of us who have to push back not just against the competition, but the idiotic stereotypes about our gender.

As difficult as it can be for even the straightest, whitest of men to start a business without also being rich, the fact that women still need to prove ourselves in a man’s world is an added hardship.

And now that people have realized there’s money to be made exploiting the railing against that hardship, the same dangerous crap being marketed to business owners has now taken on the mask of feminine solidarity.

‘Babes, it’s SUPPOSED to be this hard, stay up the extra 48 hrs and slap on a sheet mask, you’re building your fempire’.

‘Hey, chica, you can’t let the boys see you slip! Get that mani-pedi while you reschedule your pap smear around your conference calls for the 15th time!’

‘Sis, the only source of light you’ve seen in the last month being your computer screen reduced your fine lines and wrinkles! You GLOW girl!’

This is a gaping, gangrenous wound, and a cute lil hashtag-bandaid isn’t going to help matters.

We are literally breaking, bankrupting and KILLING OURSELVES for this ideal.

Know why selling Scentsy is so difficult? It’s not because you’re on your ‘lady-grind’, it’s because it’s a damn pyramid scheme, and you’re not supposed to do well at it.

It’s girl power to study by the lights in your car so you can pay for that “empowering (prerecorded) womens’ webinar’ in the first place right? Dude…no.

Now look.

I recognize that it’s important to make a big deal out of hardworking, successful women, because we’re still, some-crazy-how, not expected to be successes in the first place. It’s not just tempting to stand tall with your feet on the bloody backs of whatever you’ve conquered and scream ‘The best revenge is my paper and your DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM’, it’s necessary.

We’ve not only got the onus on us to make it happen against the odds as A: An entrepreneur, B: A woman, and C: Any other marginalization “points” you might have, there’s the added responsibility of not being allowed to be quiet about how well we’re doing.

Dangit, someone has to pass the torch. Someone has to be the name little girls pick when they’re asked to name a recent example of a “small-brained femoid” kicking entrepreneurial ass. Someone has to support other gals on their come-up, and take the publication photos, and give the Big Sisters – Little Sisters benefit banquet keynote speech, right?

That’s all very true! The spotlight can’t be abdicated frivolously, though I maintain that we’re ALL due for a vacation.

But we women have to also recognize the difference between being catered to and being sold to.

Having the same fast-fashion, peely-print t-shirt as a whole half the planet sucks anyway.

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