Smarter Than The Average Bear

With the exception some microorganisms, it’s probably safe to say that humankind has conquered the animal kingdom.  However, in this position of power we have projected our own behavioural and emotional qualities onto the other animals we share this planet with.  We have humanised and personified them, and this perhaps a way to better understand the world around us.

This is something that we experience early.  Whether it is the story of the Garden of Eden where the serpent convinces Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.  A bear tricking tourists out of their picnic baskets.  Or even a cricket acting as the voice of reason for a ‘real boy’.  Our anthropomorphising shapes how we perceive the world from a young age.  However, I would like to suggest that this humanising may be doing more harm than good.

Throughout film, television and literature we have portrayed lions and tigers and bears as creature that share our complex emotions and abstract thinking, but we have no knowledge of them sharing these traits in real life.  So is this creating a dangerous misrepresentation of reality of children growing up with these depictions?

Patricia Ganea, a psychologist at Toronto University, conducted a series of experiments in which children three to five years old were given information about animals in both a factual way, and in an over-the-top anthropomorphised way.  The findings suggested that the children were less likely to keep in mind the factual information about the animals when shown that the animals live life just like humans.

She said that while this is good for developing a sense of empathy with animals that may be mistreated, there is a downside.  This anthropomorphising may lead to an incorrect understanding of natural biological processes.  She also said that, “it can also lead to inappropriate behaviours towards wild animals through a misunderstanding of their actions or intentions.

We must consider that while our human tendencies are familiar to us, many animals display lots of (what we would consider) ‘human-like’ behaviour.  Chimpanzees have shown the ability to plan through situations… and hold grudges.  Wolves live is tight family groups.  And as the saying goes, elephants never forget and have been shown to suffer from grief and PTSD.

Now I’ll be honest, while I can definitely understand this viewpoint that some hold that anthropomorphising animals can be harmful to a child’s development as they learn about the danger of the world that surrounds them.  I myself can’t recall ever truly thinking that bears exclusively eat from a honey pot, or that sharks could be vegetarian and live by the mantra that “Fish are friends, not food.”  However, I do know that I learnt a lot about my own species through empathising with the animal characters of my childhood.

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Selfie Schmelfie

Ahhh the humble selfie, for some it may just be a throw away image but for others it can build an empire.  Behind every selfie there is a purpose, whether that showing the world how much you’re feeling your winged eyeliner today, or to display a product that you are totally not getting paid to promote.

I do suppose that I should begin by explaining to the uninitiated exactly what a selfie is (although if you are able to read this blog post it means that you’re on the internet, and if you’re on the internet it is an almost certainty that you have seen a selfie).  A selfie is a photograph that you have taken of yourself, a self-portrait for lack of a better term.

The selfie has become somewhat of an icon of the current media age, with approximately 17 million self-snaps being uploaded each day.  But… why?  What is it about the selfie that has social media users constantly uploading them?

I can understand uploading a shot of yourself after something has changed, or there is a new aspect of yourself to reflect on (be it a haircut or new make-up technique).  But it’s the people who always upload the same type of selfie that have me confused.  I catch myself thinking, “Come on man, we know what you look like already… for the 20th time this week.”  And I guess it is here that the negative stigma attached to selfie culture is born.  The belief that selfies = narcissism is one that I would say is held by many, and it’s easy to see why.

Type selfie into google, or read some of the other blog posts from the BCM310 subject who are speaking about this topic and you’ll find that one name reigns supreme.  Kim Kardashian(-West).  The queen of social media, and general self-promotion.  Only to be rivalled by her sisters.  She even released a book titled ‘Selfish’.  But why does Kimmy K consistently post her self-portraits?  Power.  Social media relevancy and influence equate to great power, and our constant viewing of her face means that she always has our attention.

People take great care in their selfies.  I have no doubt that many hours of hard work and dedication are put into werkin’ that front-facing camera. They are edited, sent to friends for approval, uploaded, taken down if the likes per hour number isn’t quite high enough, uploaded later, hash-tagged, shared, and bitched about.  But everyone seems to do it so why all the stigmatism?

On a deeper and I guess more ‘meta’ level, we take selfies and edit them or frame them to promote a certain idea of who we are or how we want to be perceived.  We curate our own image, an image that may not always be as true to ourselves as it could be.  But when you think about it, we can never fully know how others view us.  We can look in a mirror, or see a photo.  But mirrors have imperfections, and cameras can’t match the resolution of our eyes.  We have never seen ourselves as others do.

Of course this post focuses on the selfie, but it speaks to the wider issue about how we portray ourselves and lives through the many different social mediums.  Do you project an image of grandeur, while flipping burgers at McDonald’s? Or do you #staytrue.