Spies, Privacy and Social Media

The internet and social media are twin inventions that have and will continue to shape human history. Almost every human has in one way or another utilised them to communicate, educate themselves or accelerate daily tasks. They have become so crucial that we would be in agony to live without them. We use them so much that we no longer question their safety and transparency. Many of us may never realise that our secrets and personal information may be being stored and accessed against our will. In this digital age, we have become so accustomed to entrusting third parties with our sensitive information, believing that they will live up to their promise of consumer privacy. However, it’s not all the time that these companies or third parties will respect our privacy. For example, in 2013, Edward Snowden revealed the existence of numerous surveillance programs headed by different intelligence agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency. Leaked reports and documents indicate that these surveillance programs, such as the Five Eyes network and PRISM, have been collecting consumer and personal data on a global scale for years. So, exactly how much freedom and privacy do we possess? How safe is our data?

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Social Media: A Data Collecting Net?

Twitter, Instagram and YouTube are just some social media platforms which may already be collecting your data.

As the internet advanced and mobile technology became widespread, the use of social media began to rise. Social media platforms such as Facebook, which was founded in 2004, offered us a space to share our lifestyles freely with others around the world. On such platforms, users can share and upload pictures, videos and recordings which are available to be viewed by everyone or a selected group of individuals, depending on the user’s privacy preferences. While people perceive social media to be a safe space to express their thoughts and feelings, many governments and their respective security services view the above services as a way to better monitor their citizens and thus enforce national security. The sudden influx of free-flowing data on such platforms offers governments an unprecedented view into the lives of their citizens, and those in other parts of the world. This has led to the creation of mass surveillance programs that record and analyse consumer data, often without the awareness of the consumer. While there are laws designed to protect personal information and privacy, the act of mass surveillance raises several pressing concerns. These include the reliability of such laws and in the event of absolute necessity, such as in the investigation of crimes, the extent to which relevant authorities may access consumer information. These concerns have only continued to worsen as technology and society advanced steadily. Most recently, an operation named “Trojan Shield” led by several federal enforcement agencies of the United States and its counterparts in many other countries, most prominently the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), has sparked controversy regarding consumer privacy. The operation, launched in 2018, was simple yet ingenious. As its name suggests, it entailed launching an app that offered its users an encrypted and secure messaging experience which in reality was a tool to identify and monitor criminals in real-time. Launched under the enigmatic name “ANOM”, the ersatz messaging app gave investigative authorities access to criminal communications and allowed them to learn more about existing criminal networks, which may have previously remained undetected. The operation ran for up to 3 years and concluded with more than 800 arrests, the seizure of 40 tons of drugs, 250 guns, 55 luxury cars and more than US$ 148 million in currencies and cryptocurrencies. Overall, the operation was considered a major success. But at what cost? ANOM’s users were not restricted to criminals alone. They were also used by normal citizens who became unknowingly implicated in the ongoing investigation, as their data was laid bare for authorities to see as well. This operation shows that there is a possibility that similar, supposedly secure messaging apps may already be in use for the mass surveillance of civilians.

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Edward Snowden: Intelligence, Secrets and Spies

Edward Snowden, a former CIA contractor, leaked numerous documents revealing the existence of mass surveillance programs.

In 2014, Edward Snowden, a former CIA contractor, leaked several documents which revealed the existence of numerous, previously unheard surveillance programs. These programs, controlled by several nations, most prominently members of the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance, ranged in capability from the tapping of fibre-optics to the interception of electronic communication. It is also notable that many of these programs have been undetected for years (PRISM launched in 2007 and remained hidden until 2013) and involved many telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon. For his actions, Edward Snowden was charged with violating the 1917 Espionage Act and theft of government property on 21 June 2013. Two days later, he made his way to Moscow to seek asylum, which was granted to him one month later. When questioned about his motives regarding the leak, Snowden expressed that he slowly became disillusioned with the programs he was involved in and was troubled by their ethical implications. He is currently living in Russia with his spouse Lindsay Mills and his son.


In this 21st Century, who should we entrust our information with? How much of our data is truly private? While we still lack clear answers to these questions, it is important to understand the importance of prudence when utilising the internet. Although the internet is a tool that we use almost daily, it is also littered with dangers. Yes, we can “delete” our social media posts, we can “remove” our comments, but how can we be certain that this information will truly be deleted on the other end? In other words, there is simply no substitute for being careful. Anything you post online can be dug up and used against you. This includes your search history too. 

So, will the world become the world as predicted by George Orwell in his best-selling novel 1984? One can only wonder how the future will be like.

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5 Random Jokes

Life can be tough and boring. That’s what jokes are for!

#1: The Spy

Why did the spy cross the road? That’s because he was never on your side.

#2: The Cell

What can die but cannot live? A battery.

#3: The Dark Joke

Why can’t Americans play chess? That’s because they lost both their towers…

#4: The Paralympian

What do you call a Chinese Paralympian? Lim Ping.

#5: The Physicist

What do physicists say when they don’t know something? Infinite density.

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6-Word Story Attempt 3

Take courage, fortune favours the brave!

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6-Word Story/Sentence Attempt Two

I can’t live, I can’t die

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The Simplest Six Word Story You’ll Ever Hear

After birth, he lived and died.

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Some Updates:

In case you missed me, I am doing well and I hope you are too! As stated earlier, I will officially continue blogging in mid-October. I thought that posting a six-word story would be a fun thing to do, so here you go. Well, it was in my opinion brutally simple and straightforward, but it was worth a shot. What do you think about it? Post your comments down below. If you enjoyed this post, do consider giving it a like! Follow me for more articles and stay tuned for more!

Practice Makes Perfect

As the old saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.” This timeless piece of advice is the heart of mastery and success. It is the path of all masters. Even after mastery is reached, practice still retains its importance as it sharpens and maintains the skills of the practitioner. Practice is harder than it sounds. It requires fortitude, consistency and fortitude on the individual’s part. However, I assure you that you will find the pain well worth it many years later. It’s similar to going to the gym. Most of us don’t like going to the gym, but we’ll be glad later that we went. The hardest part of practice is getting yourself to do it. In this article, we will discuss the importance of practice and how you should go about doing it. Before you continue reading, do follow me and subscribe to my newsletter!

The Importance of Practice

#1: Practice Sharpens Your Existing Skills

If there is one thing that your brain is good at, it’s forgetting. The mind, an efficient machine as it is, gradually deletes memories that have been unused for a certain period of time. On the other hand, the brain strengthens retrieval pathways that have been used repeatedly. When retrieval pathways are triggered repeatedly, they become more efficient and stable. These neural pathways can become so efficient that they can be triggered without thought. In other words, these memories become part of your subconscious mind. This is exactly how famous chess masters like Hikaru Nakamura and Magnus Carlsen are able to execute perfect moves with blinding speed while staying calm. This is the end goal of practice – to develop the ability to execute a series of specified actions perfectly and with minimal effort. This also prevents you from forgetting what you have learned.

#2: Practice Is An Unavoidable Part Of Learning

It is in my humble opinion that not a single human being was and will be able to ride a bike fluently on the very first try. In fact, many of us actually fell down. This is similar to learning other skills. We may not get it on the very first attempt, but with repeated practice we gradually become familiar with the subject matter at hand. We may even be able to spot and learn from our mistakes in the process. Gradually the neural pathways involved are slowly refined and performance increases.

Staying Motivated

Failure is inevitable during the process of practice. There will be times when you feel completely demotivated due to a temporary setback. Here, it is of paramount importance that you push through. There is no other way. When faced with failure, keep going. Of course, if you feel tired, do take a break. Just remember to continue practicing the next day. However, if you feel that the skill you are currently learning is not for you, you have the option to drop it. It’s better to learn something that makes you happy. Below are some tips to keep yourself motivated.

  • Give yourself a break if you feel tired! After all, humans are not machines. Practicing for too long will lead to burnout and fatigue.
  • Practice mindfulness and be aware of your thoughts. When faced with setbacks, try to avoid grumbling or throwing tantrums. Instead, think rationally and find out what went wrong. Then figure out how you can stop making the same mistakes.
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day. Many professionals of different arts and fields had to go through years and years of practice to attain the level of mastery they possess today. You will not see improvement overnight. Instead of focusing on the short term, focus on the big picture. Ask yourself what you want to achieve in the end and draw up a plan to work on it.
  • Stay consistent. Memories will fade if not utilised. Come up with a plan to practice in regular intervals. Always make sure that you make it for each and every practice session, regardless of how you are feeling on that particular day. It may not feel great now, but you will be rewarded handsomely in the future.

Conclusion

While practice is hard, its rewards are plenty and bountiful. I hope that this short article gave you an idea of why you should practice and how you should go about doing so. If you did enjoy this article, do consider giving it a like! Comment your thoughts down below! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more articles.

100 Followers! Thank you!

First of all, I would like to thank all my readers for their continued support throughout my blogging journey so far. The fact that many of you enjoy my articles gives me an incomparable sense of joy and accomplishment. While I was not confident that my blog would be successful or appreciated from the outset, you have proven me wrong. Throughout this blogging journey, I was able to learn how I could express my ideas with a higher degree of clarity and in such a way that readers will find my articles enjoyable. Moreover, I was able to learn valuable knowledge while conducting research for my articles. Once again, I would like to thank all those who have followed me from the very beginning. Your appreciation and support means the world to me. Thank you! Do follow me if you haven’t done so!

To Sleep Or Not To Sleep Early

Sleeping early. These 2 words somehow elude many students, employees and professionals alike. Sleep deprivation has worsened to the point that some of us might be asking ourselves, “What is sleep?” I’ll do you one better – “Why is sleep?” Seriously, many of us now find the concept of sleeping early foreign. We actively forgo it for work, study and commitments, even though we knew all this while the consequences of doing so. Forgoing sleep has adverse impacts on our health in the long term and would reduce our ability to concentrate in the short term. Without the ability to function at peak performance, we are less able to learn and chase after success. Thus, I can safely say, to sleep or not to sleep early is to sleep early. In this article, we will be detailing why this is the case. Before you continue reading, do follow me and subscribe to my newsletter!

#1: Sleeping Early Keeps Your Mind Healthy

As you slumber, your body parts are working hard to regenerate themselves. New cells are regenerated and dead cells are removed, while your brain and other organs work hard to detox themselves. All in all, your body slowly recharges itself and prepares for a new day. This is especially important for the brain. During sleep, neurones decrease in size by up to 60%, increasing the space between them for waste and toxic materials to be washed away easily. In fact, the brain removes significant amounts of a toxic protein known as amyloid-beta, which is involved in Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, science has shown that sleep and learning are closely linked. Here, new memories are processed and consolidated in the brain, as neurones in the hippocampus repeat the activation patterns that took place while the individual was conscious. This helps to transfer short-term memories held in the hippocampus to other parts of the brain, so as to facilitate the formation of long-term memories. Thus, missing out on sleep could cause one’s learning ability to decline by as much as 40%. That is something that you clearly want to avoid!

#2: Detoxification Of Body Parts

The brain is not the only that needs to clean itself. Sleep affects almost all tissues and organs in the body, from your heart to your skin. As mentioned above, your brain has something called a Glymphatic system which involves the shrinking of neurones so as to create room for toxins to be flushed out. Meanwhile, the body also secretes hormones, which decreases one’s breathing rate and promotes muscle relaxation. On the other hand, sleep deprivation increases inflammation levels, which restricts the body from effectively cleansing itself. The removal of toxic materials allows the unrestricted movement of essential substances and oxygen, which ultimately aids in the regenerative processes of the body. Missing out on sleep impedes the aforementioned processes, which may even cause the stunting of growth in children.

#3: Sleep Improves Immunity

Since sleep affects nearly every part of the body, it is no surprise that it also has a tremendous impact on our immune systems. Consistent sleep increases one’s immunity, while a lack of sleep increases the risks of diseases. When T cells detect an infected cell, they activate integrins, which allow them to adhere to and destroy the latter cells. The T cells of consistent sleepers have been shown to have higher levels of integrin activation than those of sleep-deprived individuals. Moreover, stress hormones may even restrict the functions of T cells in poor sleepers. High concentrations of these hormones may in turn decrease the ability of T cells to kill pathogens, thus weakening the body’s immune system. Another example is the fact that the body releases cytokines, in the presence of infection and inflammation, which help to fight diseases. Without adequate sleep, the body will not be able to produce as much of these cytokines and antibodies. During periods of sickness, the body utilises more energy so as to battle infections and eradicate diseases. This means that the body will have less energy on hand for other processes. During these times, sleep is of paramount importance as it helps to conserve energy and resources.

Conclusion

After reading this article, were you surprised by how important sleep is? Why or why not? Will you be sleeping earlier now? Jot down your comments in the comment section below! Thanks for reading! Do follow me and subscribe to my newsletter if you haven’t done so! Stay tuned for more.

Do You Practice An Attitude of Gratitude?

Having an attitude of gratitude sounds easier than it really is. Being thankful requires you to place your grudges, resentments and biases aside. Often, we become blinded by the so-called “negatives” of the people around us and our environment, and thus fail to notice all the goodness within them. Indeed, gratitude requires a change in perspective. Focusing solely on the negative events of your life will only bring you constant unhappiness. On the other hand, being grateful, even when the current situation may look bleak, can bring us an unparalleled feeling of contentment and joy. So, do you practice an attitude of gratitude? If so, why? Leave your comments down below! In this article, we will discuss why you should cultivate an attitude of gratitude and how you should go about doing so. Before you continue reading, do follow me and subscribe to my newsletter!

#1: Gratitude Grants Peace

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A glass is filled with water to half its maximum capacity. Is it half empty or half full? Different individuals would describe this differently, and their answers are but a reflection of their inner selves. Of course, there is nothing wrong with each answer. However, they do reveal much about our perspectives of the world – to focus on what is missing, or what is present? Gratitude calls us to focus on what is already in our grasp, and to cherish it. Exercising this gratitude helps us to count our blessings, and be thankful for all the good that we have had in our lives, be it our loved ones, our possessions or skills. On the other hand, if we focus strictly on what we are lacking in, we will never be fulfilled. Traces of this pessimistic attitude can be found in many forms of human behaviour and emotion, such as jealousy and feelings of low-self esteem. In other words, the human mind is most likely to lose itself in the void, thus giving birth to endless cycles of greed and desire.

#2: Gratitude Improves Relationships

Photo by Joey Kyber on Pexels.com

No relationship is one-sided. Each party involved has to appreciate the other, and vice versa. But how many of us do bother to reciprocate the love that the other party gives? Do we take it for granted? If you find yourself in this category, it’s time for you to show a little gratitude! Gratitude can be expressed in simple ways – it doesn’t require a full-scale party. It could be as simple as “I’m thankful for your company all these years”. While these may look insignificant, they help to season the relationship and keep the bond strong. However, there are many who do not understand this and inadvertently end up destroying their relationships, as a lack of gratitude results in the other party feeling disposable, expendable and unappreciated.

#3: Gratitude Helps You Stay Afloat In Life’s Challenges

Photo by Kellie Churchman on Pexels.com

How often in life have we felt crushed by failure, not because of the failure itself but because we could have done better? Again, we are focusing on what we lack, and not what we have at the moment. Instead of focusing on the failure, it helps to be grateful of the fact that you have tried and done your best. Likewise, we should also be thankful for the opportunity to fail. “Say what now?” Yes, you read that right. Failure is a chance to learn and to improve. It’s these lessons that make us who we are and who we will be in the future. View it as a curse, and you’ll never learn. View it as a blessing in disguise and you will be handsomely rewarded. It is the wise who, even in humiliating moments of defeat, are thankful that they have a chance to try again and do better. This essential lesson is especially important in the path to mastery, where mistakes are inevitable. Learn more about how you can attain success for yourself here: https://bestofwrite.com/2021/04/25/keys-to-attaining-success/

Conclusion

It has been a long time since I have posted. (At least it feels that way for me) I hope that you did enjoy this post. Thanks for reading! Do follow me and subscribe to my newsletter if you haven’t done so!

Here’s Why YOU Should Write

Writing is something we have been doing ever since our childhoods. All we had to do was pick up a pen or pencil and scribble away. Back in our younger days, writing seemed fun, even transcendent. Now, many of us find it a boring to do, even worse so when we don’t have the option to type. Technology has rewired our minds to prefer things that are more efficient, simple and elegant. We hate apps that have an obnoxious design. Meanwhile, tech companies are trying to make their devices and appliances thinner and lighter. Many of us fail to see the value of writing and dismiss it as a mere hobby or an ancient relic of the past. At most, we only write down what we need to get at the supermarket. What’s even funnier is that our vocabulary has gradually degraded overtime. In fact, I encounter many people who know no substitute for the word “happy” when chatting on WhatsApp. So why should we write then, given that technological advances have basically eroded the need for writing? In this article, I shall discuss this topic in greater detail. Before you continue reading, do follow me and subscribe to my newsletter!

#1: Writing Helps You To Express Your Feelings

Writing is a great way to release stress – a feeling we all know too well. We have become increasingly absorbed with our jobs and commitments, leaving us with little time for reflection. Many of us have become mindless robots, following a set routine – wake up, work, sleep, repeat. To many, the word “tomorrow” is no different to the word “today”. It’s all the same to them. Writing gives you a sense of time, a sense of what you have done in the present day and what you look forward for the next. This helps to break the monotony between days and allows us to better understand our deepest emotions. Often, we ignore these emotions, hiding them. And when they finally explode, our lives take a big hit. In summary, writing is a great way to understand your thoughts, thoughts that disappear and appear throughout the day. By penning them down on paper, you will be able to capture and study them.

#2: It Lets Your Creativity Run Wild

Much like drawing or painting, writing is a way to express your innate creativity. You can write anything you want. Love science fiction? Go ahead and describe the world of your dreams. It could even be something as simple as planning for your team project tomorrow. Point is, your paper (or text file, if you are using a computer or device) is an open canvas awaiting your ideas. Armed with ideas, a vivid imagination and your amazing brain, anything is possible. Meanwhile, writing activates both your left and right brain hemispheres. According to research, students who read and write extensively show greater creative performance than those who do not.

#3: It Improves Your Communication Skills

Those who write regularly are better able to understand their emotions and those of others. In fact, the ability to empathise is an essential skill in the social world. Furthermore, writing enhances your ability to organise and express your thoughts. This also leads to an increased fluency of speech. This will be useful in team projects of any kind, as you will be able to bring your messages across much more easily, thus allowing your subordinates and superiors alike to understand your ideas at a much deeper level.

Conclusion

Writing is something I would encourage all of my readers to try. Perhaps you could try to write a few lines or keep a personal diary. I hope that you did enjoy this article, and if you did, do consider giving it a like! Thanks for reading!