As someone who took the freshman IDS seminar back in 2015, the whole personal learning network was not something I had familiarized myself with! However, upon being presented with the necessity for a PLN for this senior IDS seminar, I began to assess my options. I never have liked twitter and deleted that back in 2017, and don’t think I could use instagram as a platform to learn and share knowledgeable things due to it’s very casual online environment. I thought of reactivating my twitter for the purpose of this class, but then remembered how much I really didn’t like the site when I was a member of the twitter community. I wanted to my PLN to access things I find interesting, and many of the things I find of substance, I read from my ‘wordpress reader’ through my account with them. I then began to set off finding blogs and organizations that I found interesting and following them or sharing some articles I had found along the way. I really wanted my PLN to attract the same audience I was trying to convey my research article to, which was essentially students who suffer from anxiety and depression. I searched for lots of articles about these two disorders in order for me to gain more insight about how others may be handling it, or viewing it. I looked for articles under keywords in the search box that I was also using to search for scholarly articles for my research article. Terms like: social psychology, society, anxiety and depression, mental health, psychology, epidemiology, students… along with many others. This is thought was an even better PLN than I ever could have imagined creating on twitter or another social media site because I literally get notified via email every time one of my saved blogs I follow would post another article. It was easy to make a connection to my PLN, immediately. Although if another person were to take interest in this type of PLN, make sure your email and wordpress are disconnected if you automatically follow a bunch of blogs. My email was overwhelmed with emails from wordpress and I had to figure out how to adjust the settings so I could actually access the emails sent to me from the university and other parties! Another thing I TRULY enjoyed about my personal learning network was that it was as multifaceted as my program and interests. Topics I heard during my sociology lectures, I would then look up later on my PLN and find more perspective/information on the specific topic or issue. I even wrote a couple articles during this time that were derived from information that inspired me from my PLN. This one is on the Functionalism of Marijuana, sound wacky? Give it a view 😉
Some documentation from my PLN interactions can be these articles I valued greatly while writing my Research Article. It was amazing to see just how well my PLN fit in with both my A.P. & R.A..
I’m just going to summarize my interactions and what lead me to share some of these to my PLN (with 20 whole followers may I add!! Score!!)
The first article I shared was written by this girl Erynn Brook. What interested me to Erynn’s blog was her ‘about me’ page, where it says her writing “weaves through conversations about media, people, culture, technology and anything else that pops into (her) world”. My innate interest is conversations, I am infatuated with speaking and learning from anything that leaves the minds and lips of others, so I found Erynn’s blog to be a very complementary fit to my PLN. The article I shared from her has to do with her experience with walking an 18 year old girl who was having seizures from the subway to her apartment. This girl was a complete stranger to her, and asked her help because she “seemed nice” and clearly could not have pulled off getting home by herself. It just made me really think that just before the girl signaled to Erynn with a laminated sheet of paper outlining her seizure plan, she was just another train passenger seeking out her destination like the rest of the people on it. What changed her and Erynn’s life forever was that Erynn chose to extend her humanity and assist this young girl to her condo. I think examples of compassion and concern taking precedence over other life obligations is one of the most underrated and gorgeous things about being human. This shows that the wars some are fighting behind closed doors can be more immense than imaginable, and to always help where help is needed!
Another article I shared a few weeks later was about childhood trauma. Written by a blog called “Forty Something, Life as we know it”, the post included some personal accounts of trauma the author experienced like narcissistic abuse, substance abuse and other things like PTSD and anxiety as a result of that abuse. I found this worthy of sharing to my PLN because at this point in my paper I was writing about how trauma in childhood years correlates directly to anxiety and depression following the children into their adult years. This author, who’s over 40 is still struggling with flashbacks and other tough memories associated with their trauma is a perfect example of where anxiety and depression can derive from, totally out of controls grasp. The thing that interested me about this article is that it goes to show how unknowingly damaging parents can be to their children, and that trauma experienced in childhood psychologically alters the mind of that child leaving them susceptible to developing disorders like OCD, ADHD, and all sorts of anxiety disorders. I think this was beneficial especially to my research article because much of my paper focuses on the stigma around mental health illnesses. The biggest way to defy the stigma is to present cold hard concrete facts to skeptics, anxiety and other mental disorders are sometimes already assigned to us without our consent and are out of our control. Sometimes we feel anxious for no reason and can’t justify our feelings and thoughts to society. This article shows us that we don’t have to, that we can’t possibly be responsible for the things we experienced as children that resulted in us developing these disorders. It’s not your fault! Relax.
I shared many more articles about a variety of topics but in this post I’m just speaking upon the three that stood out most to me, and contributed most to my growth this semester in regard to IS4444. Lastly, the last article I will talk about in this post was probably my hands down favorite!! If you like to learn about just how corrupt America is and you’ve never read “Chasing the Scream” by John Hari, do yourself a favor and go buy it now. In this book, Hari really maps out just how messed up the United States legislation has been regarding the infamous and statistically useless ‘War on Drugs’, and the real facts of how it has affected the victims. The victims in this case are minorities who since the dawn of the 20th century have been prosecuted and marginalized via bogus drug laws that pertained to their certain demographic group. Anyways, this article is really just a quick summarization of some of Hari’s key focuses and how they connect to my research article. The author, Phil Ebersole talks about how addiction comes about due to depression, and low self esteem/worth. He talks about one of my favorite studies ever “Rat Park” which was conducted by Bruce Alexander. Rat Park was essentially a study about rats and drug abuse, the research prior to this study concluded that rats will use cocaine available through the watering device inside their cage until they die from overdose. This research was much of what fueled the drug use fear-mongering campaigns that still run through our minds today, example: the ‘crack babies’ phenomenon (also disproved through further research). Anyways Alexander thought, ‘well obviously these rats are choosing to use morphine until they die, they’ve nothing else to do in that plain, cold cage with only one stimulus option’. Knowing that only about 10-20% of drug users ever become addicted to their substance of choice, Alexander improvised the stimuli conditions of the rats in the study. He gave them lots to do, and the option of the morphine water pump, a rat paradise per-say. Food, activities, & different scenery; with different things to do, and engage with. What the researchers found was completely opposing of previous studies. That only about 10% of the rats actually kept going back to the cocaine water pump thing, and the rest made themselves busy with things other than the drugs! This gave much insight into how we’ve been addressing addicts and drugs in general, and the means of stimuli in addicts’ environments requires a change. From stigmatized, judgmental and criminal; the attitude around drug addiction/abuse needs to be altered to an environment that harbors support, activity and hope. What does this have to do with my research article or applied project?? Not much necessarily. However, what it did offer me was an alternative approach to ‘concrete’ research, to always be questioning and looking for new answers to my questions. There’s no question anxiety and depression plays a huge role in addiction and drug abuse. Rat park is a perfect example of what happens when an individual’s quality of life changes for the better, and they have the option to choose a path alternative to drug addiction and death as the result of that substance. By increasing the quality of life of students in college, they will feel less inclined to drink and use drugs in excess, allowing them to continue on their path to a valuable education. Could you imagine if things like collaborative clubs that assessed the real interests of students took more precedence over getting literally the definition of the word -wasted- every Friday night with the same people each week? Forming lasting and meaningful relationships is proven to curb drug/alcohol use and allow users to seek happiness and connection in places other than the bottom of a bottle. This I think affects million of college students and could be a progressive step forward for student generations to come. The biggest obstacle in any addicts life is the stigma against them having a better one, and the same thing goes for those struggling with a mental health issue. Rat park shows readers and researchers that if you don’t like what’s being said about you, change the conversation.
There were plenty of valuable and enriching instances gained from using my PLN over the course of this semester and I feel like I will continue to use this platform as a way to connect with others about my interests. A Personal Learning Network should be something every college student contributes and engages in. I found a lot of really smart people talking about things I had no idea about, and was able to gain a greater perspective about how to approach both my R.A. and A.P. from use within this platform.