Things I learned this week #31

This week we celebrated International Women's Day. My love and support goes out to anyone who identifies with that label. Let's keep pushing for fair representation and pay, acknowledgement of domestic labour as work, and maybe some systemic government-backed support for domestic abuse victims and sex workers that doesn't involve the police where it's not necessary. Anyway, here's a funny a bit by Iliza Shlesinger that I love.

  • This hijab-wearing model: Halima Aden is a Somali-American model who first came into popular attention, aged 19, in 2017 when she walked at an event for Kanye West's Yeezy brand. She also won Miss Minnesota, and was the first hijab-wearing woman to do so. She was described as a "different beauty" and honestly, it's easy to see why. Earlier this year, Aden announced that she would be leaving the fashion industry after feeling like she was compromising her religious beliefs. Aden represented the figure head of "Modest Fashion", a recent movement by western fashion labels to design looser fits and bigger silhouettes, in line with some cultures' expectations of modesty in the way (mostly women) dress. There's a pretty difficult conversation to be had here about the western/European/American perception of modesty as oppression, and the religious foundation of modesty. Fundamentally though a woman (and any person) should be able to chose what they wear and how they would like to show/cover their body. That just seems like a human right. Aden is a cool example because she's standing by her beliefs, despite the success she was seeking and following (almost 1.5m followers on the 'gram). As a younger, and newer model, in a famously cut-throat and often problematic industry, it can't be easy to make those decisions, or to speak out. Good on you, Halima. (source)
  • This reason to stop talking: I'm sure many other introverts can relate to the scenario: you're talking with someone you don't know particularly well, or maybe professionally, and there's a little voice in your head that's like "dude why are you still talking?". Well I hate to feed your insecurities but that voice has a point, y'all. In some research involving 252 strangers who were paired up randomly to talk (they were given some task to complete but told that they can chat for as long as they want before they started), a Harvard study found that only 2% of couples both agreed that the conversation was the right length. That's like two of the 126 couples. 69% of participants wanted the conversation to be shorter (preach, sis), and said that the conversation could have been about half the length. My advice from this research: wait until your new conversation partner is half way through a sentence and stand (if you're standing, try crouching suddenly) and say that it's been fun chatting but you don't want to bore them. In earnest though, don't be afraid to cut a conversation short if you feel it's dragging: the feeling might be mutual. (source)
  • This reason to not give anyone any certificates: You can be motivated by two types of influences: internal or external. Internal motivations are ones you make yourself: you want to do something because you enjoy it. External rewards are given to you by others: you want to do something because you'll get paid, or get an award. Internal motivators are stronger that external ones, the presence or expectation of an external validation (like a certificate) isn't enough to make us want to do something as much as if we ourselves decided we wanted to do it. The distinction between these two things isn't clean, in turns out. By providing an external reward for a behaviour, even if it wasn't expected or explicitly stated, you can reduce someone's intrinsic motivation for that thing. In one study, children were asked to pick any activity they wished (like colouring in), and were later given a reward for it (a certificate with a gold seal and a bit of ribbon). After doing so, children were less likely to chose that activity freely (i.e. without expectation of an external reward). As one 1999 meta anlysis states, "even when tangible rewards are offered as indication of good performance", they typically decrease intrinsic motivation for interesting activities". Given how powerful internal motivations are in allowing us to live a fulfilled life, the authors suggest instead focusing on highlighting how completing or performing a task helps us feel fulfilled. Reminding someone of how they felt during, or after a task, for example. This is an almost counter-intuitive way of thinking about things, we're so keen to give feedback and praise and recognition (and scholarships and grants and jobs), where this could be damaging the processes that actually go into the performance. (source)

What I've had on rotation

  • Something New: Organ by Dimension (EDM, 2021). This is a safe space and I need to not be judged. This is a pretty four-on-the-flour Electronic/House/DnB album which I just love. It's perfect for running and cycle training at the moment, especially as I'm trying to shed the sludge that comes from winter and my complete inability to resist Christmas chocolates and sweets. It's got that old 2007 Pendulum vibe that I remember listening to on my first MP3 players. (link)
  • Something Old: Temple by Matthew And the Atlas (Folk, 2016). Matt Hegarty, the lead singer of this band, has a distinct voice with a lovely tomber. Hearing this album again brings me right back to 2016, and writing my Ph.D. There's also an unplugged/acoustic rendition of this album available, which I recommend heartily. They're a great mix of indie rock and folk, and the sister acoustic album means that it can fit every mood. (links)

Cool Articles

  • Things I Made that Sucked by Jordan Morgan. This little self-critique slash reflection from someone who's designed and built indie apps for a while is nice. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and isn't preachy, it feels honest. If you're a maker of anything, you too have made things that suck, and I like that articles, like this, can normalise things like that.
  • Stop Keeping Score by Arthur C Brooks for The Atlantic. A nice short piece by Brooks which reminds us that we don't have to achieve our "30 things before 30" lists. A fact I find heartening because I've only got ten months left before I hit thirty and man this pandemic isn't going anywhere in that time. Anyway, a nice reminder that we can do our best work, be ourselves, and enjoy what we do without a prescriptive list.
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