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Correction (April 13 11:14 p.m.): Due to an reporting error in this column, the instances of underage binge drinking are incorrectly stated. There are roughly 1.5 billion instances of binge drinking a year in the U.S. involving those 18 and older. Most of those involve people age 26 and older. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.
You’ve probably heard about the power of positive thinking. In a nutshell, the theory states that when we affirm something and believe in ourselves, it’s more likely that we will achieve our goals.So it comes as no surprise that the reverse process works just as well. Thinking about the negative parts of something in your life can change your beliefs and actions toward it.This can have good and bad results. Say you have had some really strong positive feelings about summer. But as it turns out, you won’t be able to enjoy the sun and the beach because you’ll be working an internship in Siberia from May to August. What you will probably start doing immediately, and what you should start doing to become happier about your situation, is start focusing on the positives of Siberia and the negatives of summer here.It can be really humid here during the summer, and there are bugs. Plus you get bored just hanging out with your siblings for months. And Siberia won’t be too bad. This internship really pushes your career aspirations and it will be exciting and interesting. Who cares if you don’t speak Russian?Boom. All of a sudden you feel better about your prospects. The mixture of focusing on the positive and casting doubt on the previously good prospect helps you feel better. But feeling better, as we’ll see, can be dangerous. Not everyone can be as lucky as you to land that pivotal internship in Siberia, so let’s choose an example that hits closer to home. Pretend for a moment that you have an 8 a.m. class in Peabody Hall.It’s a struggle to get there some mornings; it’s so tempting to skip instead. One morning you lie in bed and consider whether or not you’ll go. It’s really early in the morning and exceedingly far away, so other people probably are going to miss it, right? You normally contribute to class, so since the professor knows you care she won’t be too angry with you. The last time you were in class it was particularly slow. Your friend leaned over and whispered: “Wow, we pretty much never learn anything in this class. Why are we even here?” Watch out for phrases like that, because they are some of the most influential in the armory of negative thinking. When you give yourself an excuse to not do something that can last for a whole semester, you’re doing yourself a disservice.Imagine if you instead had thought to yourself about the greatest time you’ve ever had in that class. You were on fire and answered several questions. You made a joke and the professor laughed and you got your latest essay back with a perfect score. Right now you’re feeling pretty content to go back to sleep for a couple of hours, but that contentment is not a sign that you’re making the right decision. So keep in mind that negative thinking can have a big effect on your actions. If you focus on the good parts of something, be it your class, the gym or your significant other, then you can disempower negative thinking and probably lead a happier, more successful life.
On the first day of any new semester, most professors don’t expect you to stay in class the whole period. It’s become fairly common to let the class out early.That little custom is one small brick in the foundation of the social contract between student and teacher.We can outline this contract in broad strokes. They provide us with education, answers and evaluation. We provide them with attention, revenue and inspiration.But there is a lot more to it than that.How the social contract is expressed, and what we expect from each other, is partially set out in the syllabus. It also develops over time and becomes more than just a trade of grades for work.In nearly every class, there is an expectation of attendance for all the students and the professor. After all, that’s the basis for the money that is changing hands. But sometimes this expectation is backed up by a roll call, or by extra credit for regular attendance. Sometimes there is just the request at the beginning of the semester.Besides attendance, expectations seem to be divided into two rough ideological camps. Some professors prefer to have a firm grasp on the room’s attention, and others will pretty much let the students do what they want.What students want, apparently, is a live Facebook connection at all times. Sitting at the back of the room, you can see the forest of glowing screens spread out before you, like a night scene from Avatar.Students’ opinions on the definition of a good professor vary. Students, by and large, like classes in which it is easy to score high grades. But what students like isn’t necessarily the mark of a good professor.The best professors redefine the social contract by providing great instruction and demanding significant participation. They make attendance meaningful, whether or not it is compulsory. An education by a great professor lights a fire within the student’s mind, which results in a desire for even more learning.Earning good grades from this kind of professor shows that you are worthwhile in his or her eyes; it is a reward in itself.There isn’t some magical process by which we are enthralled, starry-eyed, by the perfect professor. Rather, we can participate by adding to the class discussions, paying attention, and synthesizing the information from the professor. Both parties are responsible for making a class important.That, in a nutshell, is the evolution of the current contract.So next time, before you get on the Internet and start looking through your friends’ pictures, take a minute to think about how you could be adding to the class. Some students complain about their professors, and with a little imagination we can guess that the reverse happens as well.There are many ways for us to break the social contract. When we don’t show up for class, when we don’t pay attention, or when the professor fails to teach you the material — the contract is not being upheld.Don’t be a part of that. Instead, seek greatness in your classes. After all, we’re only going to be here once.
You might have gone to the gym on the first day after Winter Break. If you did, then we probably bumped into one another on the track. It was packed in there.
Turkey Drop? Someone might have broken up with you recently, or you might have been the one doing the breaking. Either way, ‘tis the season! The so-called “turkey drop” is the unfortunate practice of breaking up right on the eve of Thanksgiving and the holiday season. You can’t really blame people who do this. The holidays stir the emotional cauldron so vigorously, and they just make you think about marriage and domestic life. You’re at your childhood home, once again tied to Mom’s apron strings while she cooks the turkey. You and your parents go up to the attic and take down all the holiday decorations and begin to set them up. If you’re in my house, your parents talk at length about who they want to get which Christmas ornament when they die, but hopefully you don’t get that too. But it’s more than that. This string of holidays has been given romantic overtones, especially since the movie “Love Actually” came out.Plus, all the holidays are a package deal. If you don’t break up with someone before Thanksgiving, you’re stuck with them through Valentine’s Day. The prevailing thought is that the only thing worse than breaking up before Thanksgiving is breaking up between then and New Year’s.Now this might sound like a callous way of thinking about breaking up. But there isn’t any better way to think about it. There’s never a good time to break up. Everyone says that, and it’s true. But there certainly are especially bad times to cut the knot, and no one will disagree that Dec. 15 would be one of those times. We always think of the holidays as a time to bring people together, but it’s the same token that causes people to break up. You think about all the people you want to see and be with over the holiday. If your boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t on the list … then it’s turkey drop time. These considerations both just look at the perceived cost in the relationship. You have a large chunk of time over the holidays. You’re going to have to spend a lot of that time with your significant other.That time spent will be a cost either way, but if you’re going to be in a worse mood because of the time, then the cost just went up.However, there’s another cost to think about, and that is paid by the other person in the relationship. Negative feelings sustained by the other person will probably be greater if you break up after the holidays, because the time you spent together you were essentially pretending. But both people will pay a cost in bad feelings whenever the break-up occurs. It’s just a matter of who is willing to step up and perform the deed. And a matter of when they are going to do it. If the answer to the second question is right before Thanksgiving break, then you might want to look into getting your Turkey Drop certification.
At our school many people will be impressed by the amount of work you have to do and even the extent to which you are worried about completing it.Many people I talk to seem to wear this stress as a badge of honor, and they bask in it even though it’s emotionally draining. Exams start in a few weeks, and then the semester will swiftly meet its end. This is a daunting prospect for me and, I would bet, for most of you out there, too.We are about to step into a flurry of papers and exams that will make many students moan about all the time wasted from this past semester when they could have been working. Well, I’m here to tell you that there is no such thing as wasted time.You just have to redefine how you think about the time you have.I see a lot of my friends stressed out about the deluge of projects and work that they are going to have to do before a certain date. But I don’t understand why. If you begin with the assumption that you’ll be done by a certain time, then there’s no reason to worry.It’s like you’ve already finished, you just have to go back now and do it.I have responsibilities just like these friends do, and I have due dates. But having stress is the part I don’t understand, because I’m sure I’ll be finished eventually. Even though I’m not finished yet, I can usually dodge stress. And you can too. Think about your own stress and how often you sit there and feel that horrible emptiness of “Will I even be able to finish this now that I have wasted so much time?” I suggest that next time you feel that way, try thinking instead: “Ha HA! Stress! Now that I have rallied the troops with a rousing game of Farmville on Facebook, I shall destroy you!” Wasting time is impossible because the activities you engage in when you aren’t working are just as important as the work itself, because they loosen you up. If I couldn’t do other things to prepare to do actual work, I would be hard-pressed to get anything done at all. In part, this must be a generational thing. The Internet expanded the possibilities for people to do other things than their chemistry homework. Now that we have Facebook, it is hard to avoid spending some time playing applications when you should be doing something else. The same holds true for other inane activities.But it’s not unique to us. I’m sure the college students of yore stopped studying and played a game of hoop and stick in order to rest their quill hand. Taking a timeout is the best way to start fresh and do some meaningful work, so the only problem is the guilty feeling associated with having schoolwork to do but instead watching “Lost.” In order to do that, just remember that it’s a foregone conclusion that you are going to need some time to rest your brain.Keep your breaks short enough that you’ll eventually finish all you have to, and don’t feel guilty about taking care of yourself. The key is realizing that by the time class starts tomorrow, you will have finished your paper.And right now your future self is going to let you play a few games of FreeCell to celebrate the victory that you will eventually have.
Something momentous happened to me this week. Actually, it happened to you as well.I am, of course, referring to the new fall season of television.The beginning of a new season of television is an important social and personal event. New people enter our lives through these new shows, and we also get to see the same faces that have been coming back for years. We are emotionally invested in the lives of these fictitious characters. It tugs on our heartstrings when Jim asks Pam to marry him, and we cry and laugh with real emotion because of the events in the lives of “our” characters. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers Jaye Derrick, Shira Gabriel and Kurt Hugenberg study feelings of loneliness and how they relate to watching a favorite TV show. They say that people self-report fewer feelings of loneliness when they are watching a favored TV program. In the opinion of the researchers, we experience feelings of closeness to the characters because they act as our surrogate friends. And I would say they do a good job. TV characters are always on time and they are always cheerful, sad or funny. They match our expectations. They never ask anything from us, either, so we’re free to just use them for our own benefit and then turn them off when we don’t need them anymore. This one-sided relationship might sound unhealthy. TV is easily accessible in this technological era, and maybe if you can just see your television friends, you’ll have no need for the ones on whom you’ve relied previously. That isn’t true though. In my experience, television characters only really shine as surrogate friends in the hours where my real-life friends are busy or asleep. The increased value of television friends is based on their ease of use. In economics, price is modulated by many different considerations, but one of the most important factors is transaction cost. Transaction costs are, as you might assume, whatever money or effort you might have to expend in the process of transportation, storage and delivery of a product. For the purpose of this column, though, think about that Thursday night when you know you could go out to your friend’s house, but you live on South Campus and they live in an apartment off campus. Television friends have no transaction cost. Many network Web sites legally show their own programming online and Hulu collects selected ad-supported programming from different sources. If you have a computer, you can watch TV— and if you go to school here, you probably have a computer. Does this mean that we should neglect our real friends so that we can hang out with Bauer, Grey and Griffin?Definitely not.And is there anything wrong with calling television characters our surrogate friends? The answer is, again, a resounding “no.” Just embrace the warm feeling you get when you watch one of your favorite shows. Your real friends will understand.
When I was young my mom frequently read “The Man Who Kept His Heart In A Bucket” aloud to me. This book is about a guy who gets hurt by a relationship and resolves to stop the pain by physically taking out his heart and sticking it in a bucket to keep it safe. I got distracted by the fact that this lumbering automaton was somehow living with vital organs outside his body, and I didn’t really learn the book’s lesson. Flash forward to sophomore year of high school. After my very first girlfriend and I broke up that year, I thought that was that. I just gave up on dating. But not forever. I, just like the main character in that book, realized that it’s just too hard to keep your heart in a bucket. It’s cold and uncomfortable and you should just stick that thing back into your chest. I look around and a lot of folks seem to have their hearts in buckets. Our society supports the bucket as a desired course of action. In this world those who care the least are labeled the coolest. To that end, students at this school are very cautious and nonchalant. When it’s cool not to care, sometimes you can be way too cool. And in that lies madness. It seems, from talking to people, that most of the time bad relationships will lead to caring less about future opportunities. If you were an investment banker and you make a bum call on a stock, and you end up losing $100,000, what’s the first thing to do? You better spring into action and turn that loss around. No one will advise that you immediately give up for a while. Most people will, actually, compare themselves to investment bankers if you ask them about past relationships.They’ll complain about how they wasted so much time, money, or emotion on the person in question. I’ve said that; you’ve probably said that. Time is finite, although you have exactly as much in this moment as you would if you hadn’t “wasted” it on this relationship.Money is finite, and you might very well have wasted some on this person. But emotion isn’t finite. You can’t run out and exist as an empty shell. If you’re alive, you will have more emotion. There’s no way to store it up for a later date, or sell it off if you have a surplus. You give out emotion, you get emotion in return, but you aren’t trading a commodity. You are giving something away freely because you have plenty of it. Just because you spend a lot of emotion hoping that the Heels will win at basketball doesn’t mean you can’t hope for them to win at soccer. The real waste is not the time or the money you spent on the person.The real waste on your end is taking too long to recover. Visiting the past, looking around, and thinking about what happened is one thing. But you can’t live there for too long before your fingertips start disappearing like in “Back to the Future.”And without fingertips you won’t be able to text that nice boy in art class or that funny girl at the back of the philosophy recitation and ask them out.
In Chapel Hill, the most important period of the “friend-making year” has just begun with the start of the fall semester.
The end of summer and the beginning of the new school year bring plenty of exciting new prospects for relationships, and the market has never looked as good as it does this year.
Students of all ages around the University are meeting new people at parties, in the classroom and in their dorms.
Everyone is riding the wave of new possibilities for connection.
You should be too.
You’ll have plenty of time to seek out new people because, let’s face it, you probably won’t be able to find a job on campus this year.
But one thing you will be able to do is find plenty of potential friends.
They’re everywhere, and if you blink you could miss them.
Being open to making friends is important no matter how old you are or how many people you know.
Isn’t finding friends what college is actually about? In 50 years you won’t remember the grades you received or the college jobs you had, but the friends you make now will stick around forever.
Well, that might not be true.
In fact, if my experience is any guide, many friends you make in college will fade out of your life pretty quickly.
So what should you do about it?
Some people have a great solution — keeping up with every person they meet, no matter how minor.
But wait, you might respond, you as a college student have a lot of other things going on. You only have so much time to keep up with people, especially the ones who you don’t see all the time.
And that’s true. If you’re going to make it to class on time every day, you might very well be forced to skip lunch with your buddy from C-TOPS at least once.
Let’s look at it economically, and consider every friendship as a contract where you pay your time in exchange for the connection.
It might just be easier to make friends at a higher rate than you lose them. In the same sense that any business venture has unavoidable expenses, maybe we should just write off the friends we lose, and focus on making more.
On the other hand, you could consider the possible losses and decide to hang out with your usual crowd, to keep investing time in those people to deepen your relationships, and just let the might-have-been-friends pass you by.
Which course of action should you take?
If the choice is either writing people off who could be really important to you one day, or never being brave enough to branch out, that’s no choice at all.
There’s a balance to be struck. You don’t want to waste time on new people that won’t pan out, but you also don’t want to be bored on a Saturday night because the core group couldn’t make it out.
So you should definitely err on the side of making more friends, rather than less.
The more people you meet, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to flesh out that core group and expand your prospects for the next Saturday night.
Some people you meet won’t even remember your name the next day, while others will become your best friend almost immediately.
The “friendconomy” is hard to predict, and it changes rapidly.
But don’t let that intimidate you. As your relational adviser, I highly recommend you take advantage of this bubble and invest in a new friend today.