Stop Lamenting Over Hook Up Culture; Pt. III: Sex Beyond the Realm of the Physiological

In the previous two articles, explored why hook-up culture isn’t a unique phenomenon for our very selfish and egocentric Millennial generation, and what two factors drive our current situation. Part 3 examines the current situation caused by our evolving gender dichotomy, why finding someone compatible beyond a hook-up is more difficult today, and what we need to remember when it comes to approaching sex and satisfying more than just our basic physiological urges. Enjoy.

Ascending the Hierarchy of Needs

I enjoy pointing to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for many examples, and this situation is no exception. At the bottom are the basic physiological needs; this includes sex. If you are in the 20% bracket, your sexual appetite is satisfied. It’s the same situation of rarely being hungry because you have an ample supply of food in your house. Those constantly chasing sexual encounters need to ascend further up the pyramid or risk facing a depressing life due to a lack of personal development. Maslows-Hierarchy-of-Needs

If you track further up the hierarchy, you will see that love, friendship, and sexual intimacy are at about the halfway point. The idea that one can only achieve these attributes through a monogamous, committed relationship is why opposition to hook-up culture exists. Individuals can still find love and acceptance through their friends and sexual intimacy through a casual partner. Perhaps they are further up the hierarchy, constantly engaged in creative works or problem solving, and as a result have their other needs satisfied.

The difference today is that instead of one gender being able to pursue these dreams of self-actualization, we now have both performing the same task. Imagine that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a mountain that you need to regularly summit in order to realize your full potential and be your happiest. All people in the world are mountaineers tasked with scaling the peak. In the past, it was primarily men who were given the freedom and the opportunity to scale the mountain all the way to the top; they had more O2 tanks and better gear.

The lower you are on the mountain, the more people you have the chance of meeting, and everyone at the bottom is looking to have sex to satisfy their most basic, physiological needs. Meeting someone further up at a level of intimacy or body security could be the grounds for a relationship, but meeting someone at the top when you are both engaged in your highest order practices provides the best chance that you will both be a great match.

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For example, let’s say two rocket scientists exist in the same proximity. If they meet at the bottom of the pyramid, it’s safe to assume that they met at someplace like a bar where the only thing filtering their meeting was the fact that they wanted to get laid. Designing rockets is hard, lonely work, so sometimes you just need that stress release.

If they met further up, say at the love/belonging level, the two rocket scientists are likely more compatible because they fulfill the need the other is seeking, but it is not necessarily an ideal match. They’ve gone on a few dates, they feel comfortable with the other, but something may be lacking. When you meet someone in a situation on the level of self-actualization, like working on a complex project together, or solving a problem in tandem, that will produce the strongest match possible because the criteria are so specific and other needs are already fulfilled.

The constant flux up and down the summit provides a dynamic flow of individuals to meet.   People would not stay on the same level indefinitely; they would constantly be moving depending on their needs, and those who decided to commit to each other would make the ascent together. In order to meet a more ideal partner, you would have to find them at one of the more specialized, higher levels, which is more difficult due to the smaller area (time) available for you to do so.

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Fast forward to today, and now the climb to the top is a much more equalized scenario. For the first time, women can now ascend further up towards the summit as a result of entering the work force en masse, attending university in greater numbers than men, and having equal rights. Women sometimes meet men at the level of self-actualization, but because of the smaller base of this section of the mountain, these individuals cannot stay for long to search for a partner. As a result of the increased number of climbers moving up and down the mountain, meeting the right person has become increasingly difficult, and many resort to short-lived relationships at this level.

For those brave souls who dare to ascend the summit, they must eventually return to base camp to restock on their supplies to fulfill their most basic needs, which means there simply isn’t enough time available to build a long-term relationship for those driven by their careers.

At the base of the summit, there are far more people due to the amount of space available. Unfortunately, finding a partner in this sea of people who are united by the most basic of needs is incredibly difficult. Those who are driven by a higher purpose must ascend the peak to have a higher chance of finding a more suitable match.

This situation creates a rather incredible paradox: if you reach for the summit, you have a higher chance of finding a suitable partner, but with each step up the mountain, you also have less time available with which to find them. As someone advances further in their career and acquiring basic resources becomes an easier task, they can remain at the higher levels for longer, which creates more time to find an ideal partner. For those just starting out in their careers, time is incredibly limited.

Thinking About Sex Beyond the Realm of the Physiological

As a result of time being the limiting factor in this scenario, online dating apps have surged in popularity, giving those summit ascending self-actualizers a more efficient method to find a suitable mate, especially in those years of career establishment. The impact of time has been reduced. Those who are most efficient at gathering basic needs at the base of the pyramid and above will be able to spend more time at the summit searching for potential mates. If you are attractive, affluent, or a combination of the two, you will have no problem providing yourself with enough food, shelter, and sex to promptly begin the next trip to the top.

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The reason why online dating apps have become so popular is the 80/20 scenario presented before: obtaining sex is a physiological deficiency for 80% of the population. This is why in North America, where food, shelter, and other basic needs are so widely available, we place such an importance on obtaining sex through a variety of means; sex is the one thing holding many of us back from starting that ascent to the top. It is also why pornography and other means of obtaining the basic physiological parts of sex have become so popular in the past few decades, but these methods fail to provide us with the intimate levels of need that a real sexual encounter can.

Despite what we might convince ourselves, the basis for starting a relationship is physical attraction with the goal of having sex. What we forget is that despite it being listed at the physiological level first, sex is also present further up as intimacy, achievement (especially if you have a threesome with two supermodels), and confidence. When we only treat it as a one-dimensional act, we are dooming ourselves to a vacant state of mind void of true fulfillment.

Is hook-up culture ruining relationships as we know it? Not necessarily.

What is ruining relationships is people treating sex as one-dimensional in a transactional manner and failing to satisfy their higher order needs as a human being. Without a sense of confidence, intimacy, or achievement, no amount of sex will cure those conditions; they need to think about their sexual needs in a transcendental manner. Those who are comfortable with hook-up culture are more often than not also comfortable with themselves.

Let’s entertain a little thought experiment: Who is happier?

The guy that hooks up with a new girl every weekend? The girl in a committed relationship of over three years? The guy who is a 25 year old virgin? The girl who can’t seem to remain in a relationship longer than a month?

That guy who hooks up with a new girl every weekend could seem like “the man” to the guys, but perhaps he’s simply lashing out at the world because he was a loser in high school and still has major self-esteem and image issues. He tries to compensate by having a high number of sexual partners, which he equated to being popular based on what he grew up admiring in high school. Or perhaps he’s a genuinely awesome guy who just doesn’t have time to commit to a relationship and as a by-product of his awesomeness, girls throw themselves at him.

The girl in a committed relationship of over three years may love her partner unconditionally and be very happy. Or she may feel trapped, bored, and desire a change, which could lead to her cheating on her partner or simply breaking up with them. She could also be scared of meeting new people because she’s so used to the same partner, so she is socially withdrawn and anxious.

The 25 year-old virgin could be in a committed relationship where he has chosen to abstain from sex for religious reasons or personal beliefs, yet he may still be happy because he has other passions in life that outweigh those of the sexual nature. He could be someone who achieves happiness through his work or hobbies. Or he could be miserable, socially awkward, and so desperate for female contact that he is considering hiring a prostitute.

The girl who can’t remain in a relationship for over a month may seem distant, uncommitted, and frustrate all the men she has relationships with. Her parents and friends may worry about her inability to hold on to a partner for more than a month. She may have commitment issues because of things that happened in her past. She may get bored of men easily and lack maturity and self-control. Or she’s an incredibly busy and driven medical student and doesn’t have time to commit to a relationship, or simply hasn’t found her match yet, but she’s clearly content with how her life is proceeding.

So who is happiest? Impossible to say. Someone’s sexual history or habits is not necessarily indicative of their overall happiness and sense of self-worth.

To build on this model of thinking, we also need to stop raising men to think that their worth as males should be based on the number of sexual encounters they have. This type of behaviour is driving a lot of men to be very depressed because they are constantly seeking validation from an empty purpose. Your self worth as a male should not be based around whether or not you got laid last night; it should be based on what you’re doing with your life.

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It’s a juvenile mode of thinking to treat sexual encounters as the single most important thing you should be doing as a young adult male. Once this attitude spreads, violence against women will decrease, violence against other men will decrease, and more attractive lifestyles will be created.

How many times have you seen a guy at a bar get overly aggressive towards a girl because he’s desperate to get laid? How many times have you seen a guy punch another guy out because of aggression caused by competition or interference when it came to hooking up with someone? A lot of bar fights between men are caused – either directly or indirectly – by the fact that one guy didn’t get laid and he’s angry about it because of how he pedestalizes sexual encounters. As a photographer at a nightclub, part my job is to observe people, and I’ve witnessed this happen hundreds of times even before I held that position.

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Our boys need to be raised to be quality individuals and realize that they should care about developing themselves as people first, and realizing that quality relationships or those sexual encounters they desire will happen as a result of building an attractive lifestyle. It’s like using cheat codes for a video game just so can get the prize at the end. You’ll never be as satisfied beating the game that way as you would be going through the motions and improving until your skills and practice paid off. That’s why game designers create games in a specific way.

When hook-up culture is criticized, it is evident that those doing so are looking at the situation through a narrow scope. They’re viewing it simply by the numbers. So much more factors into happiness than sexual encounters, and while these may contribute to them, humans are sentient beings, and we operate on a level beyond that of the simply physiological.

We all derive happiness through a variety of activities, so it is time we stop judging others for their choices when it comes to relationships. The key is to stop trying to be happy, but instead live a life where happiness is the byproduct of your achievements and goals, instead of the lone goal. We lose sight of what makes us happy, and instead simply try to be happy.

Stop Lamenting Over Hook Up Culture; Pt. II: Time and Happiness Drive Hook Up Culture

The Driving Forces: Time & Happiness

If you think about the driving factor behind hook-up culture, it is not an attitude of lack of commitment, but it is simply an absence of time.

Psychologist Dr. Denis Waitley states that:  “Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent more hours.”

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Time is the most valuable commodity we have, and in their twenties, many people would rather invest their time to secure a stable future for themselves than invest in a relationship. The people complaining about hook-up culture are those who value outdated relationship metrics or who are simply not hooking up with anyone and are just bitter about it. In other words, they sense a lack of happiness in others or themselves as a result of their perception about the role of sex within relationships. Happiness is one of the most important things we experience as humans, but we often go about achieving happiness the wrong way.

A common point made against hook up culture is that it is eroding relationships. One could point to divorce rates being at an all-time high and marriage rates being at an all time low, but are those indicative of overall happiness? Marriage was a sacred thing for thousands of years, but did its sacred nature also breed happiness within it? Who’s to say that people are happier married than they are divorced? Remember that for hundreds of years, people viewed marriage as a necessity to life in their blind devotion to the Church, ignoring their own feelings or rights as a person.

Louis C.K. put it best: “Divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true…because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce … That would be sad. If two people were married and they were really happy and they just had a great thing and then they got divorced, that would be really sad. But that has happened literally zero times.”

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So as long as you’re happy, who’s to say what is the best relationship state for you?

Today, we feel the pressures of marriage and stable relationships more and more thanks to the glorification of it. TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress and other shows centred around weddings will always be a source of fascination for many women and what their future wedding will be like. Pinterest is full of wedding ideas and photos that are being viewed by millions of people, some planning a real wedding, while others are just wishfully thinking ahead. I’d almost hazard a guess that because marriage rates are dropping, more and more  television shows are being created to glorify the process by those in the industry to help bump sales up.

Marriage is being glorified more than ever before. Could this be a desperate response from the wedding industry?

Marriage is being glorified more than ever before. Could this be a desperate response from the wedding industry?

Facebook during wedding season is a nightmare for some people. Seeing the constant stream of beautiful wedding photos of perfect couples can really bother some people and make them depressed. But why should it? Why should being married be this one magical thing that will solve all the problems in your life? This isn’t to say that marriage is a sham, but the material act of getting married to someone does not create happiness; a good relationship does. The idea of marriage is often what we’re sold, but the process is what’s more important.

We could go to other extreme and examine hook-up culture for this same reason: is simply casually dating someone the right move for you? If you think that simply hooking up with more people will make you happy and established as an adult, you’re wrong. Don’t be sold on the illusion that sex alone will be a fulfilling part of your life, because you may be left with a rather empty feeling afterwards. I’m sure I’m not alone here when I say that after a one-night stand, I’m sure we’ve all felt a pang of regret at some point. Some of us have also felt fantastic after one, and that’s what’s so fascinating about relationships, whether they last hours, months, or years.

The Illusion of Happiness Through Sex

One danger of hook-up culture is believing that only sex will make you happy and leave you fulfilled as a human being. I have previously spoken about how in any given statistically relevant population, 80% of the sexual activity is done by 20% of the people, which adheres to the Pareto Principle, a widely applicable economics principle.

Twenty percent of the population do 80% of the hooking up, which leaves 80% of the population to divide the remaining 20% of sex amongst themselves. Statistically speaking, that’s a lot of sexless people. This divide produces an interesting dynamic: 20% of the population is used to regular intervals of sexual encounters, leading to the expectation that sex is something that occurs regularly. The other 80% is left with more sexual desire than the sexually satiated 20% because they simply don’t get as much: the demand is far greater than the supply, so the market value for a sexual encounter is much higher in the 80% bracket.

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Because the 20% group experiences a regular occurrence of sex, it no longer becomes a factor solely on the physiological level and evolves into a performance that benefits higher order needs like intimacy or confidence rather than a simple physical transaction. A transaction occurs for the basic things in our life like food or shelter, but we can’t buy higher order factors like confidence or self-esteem (despite what many companies may lead you to believe). The 80% are very conscious of their relatively poor sex lives, so they believe that an increase in the frequency of sexual encounters will cure that. It is this psychological mindset that has often driven people into hook-up culture, but for all the wrong reasons.

Men are predisposed to mate with multiple partners because they are biologically driven to pass on their genes to produce as many progeny as possible. Women are biologically wired to seek a committed partner to provide resources for them and their offspring. This produces a paradoxical mating dynamic. High status, attractive men have far greater access to potential mates, and as a result, most males of this phenotype are grouped into the 20 percent. Sex is an expected part of their routine, as they rarely have to work hard to get it due to their inherent attractiveness, whether it be physical, social, economic, or a combination.

The remaining 80 percent of men pedestalize sexual encounters because these are not part of their weekly routine. Women are placed at a high priority, and many men have grown up thinking that they need to earn the company of a woman, and we reach a situation where men are treating sex and dating merely as a transaction. Unfortunately, other lifestyle factors such as career achievement, physical fitness, and intelligence are ignored in process. This phenomenon is what produced the Pick-Up Artist (PUA) movement of the 2000s, where legions of men who would normally be classified as “creeps” or “losers” by women started to learn the art of “pick-up” and their lives began to revolve around sexual encounters with women. The highlight of this movement was the book “The Game” by Neil Strauss.

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If you’ve ever read “The Game”, you’ll remember that after the unlikely journey from being lonely online chatrooms to throwing parties in a Hollywood mansion, the whole scene sort of blew up because all of the PUAs involved reached a breaking point where they put too much emphasis on sexual encounters in the illusion that it created happiness.

What these men forgot was that in order to be happy, one must achieve and possess a variety of things, and once sexual encounters become a regular part of your life, there are more important things to worry about than going out to a club and hooking up with someone. These men failed to create an attractive lifestyle, and instead tried to “fake it till you make it”, which can only last for so long until a breaking point is reached.

The lesson to take away from this is that if you find yourself in the scenario where you are engaged in hook-up culture, you should not make your life revolve around directly creating sexual encounters. Hook-up culture should be a by-product of your lifestyle should you choose to engage in it, but it should not be all that you are. Creating a lifestyle solely around going out and hooking up with girls is not psychologically healthy, as you will eventually reach a point where you will feel empty; left searching for a higher means of fulfillment.

Part three will go into detail about why the absence of time and the evolving gender dichotomy of today’s world has made it increasingly difficult for “traditional” relationships to survive during your 20s. Part three will also describe the struggles that the majority of the population face when it comes to sexual encounters and relationships, in that many individuals feel pressured to have sex despite the fact that it provides merely the illusion of happiness. I will also go into detail about solutions to address this problem, and how we need to stop thinking about sex as a numbers game and producing negative judgements about others as a result. Stay tuned for part three.

Stop Lamenting Over Hook Up Culture; Pt. I: We are not a Unique Generation

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Hook up culture is one of the prevailing themes of relationships in the lives of young people today. Critics will argue that it’s ruining relationships for good, dating is dead, and so is chivalry. Men have no respect for women, women have no respect for themselves, and your twenties is doomed to be a string of failed hook-ups while establishing your career and asserting your independence. But is hook up culture really that bad? Or unique, for that matter?

I believe that the more important issue to address not a question of pursuing numerous partners, but how or why that is occurring. Is hook up culture ruining dating and relationships as we know it? Perhaps a little history lesson is in order first to see how we arrived at our current situation.

Before There was Tinder

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The Sexual Revolution that began in the 1960s was a radical shift in the structure and function of relationships shared in the Western world. No longer was it frowned upon to have pre-marital sex, experiment with a variety of partners, or worry about conceiving a child each time you had sex thanks to a few key innovations like the birth control pill. It was during this time that various social castes were discarded, and a much more casual attitude towards sex was first experienced. We are currently experiencing a new sexual revolution in the form of hook up culture.

Before the 1960s revolution, hundreds of years of Puritan influence repressed North Americans’ sexuality, treating all acts of the sort as taboo and impure. It was during this time that sex was treated with such high discretion that a husband was told to abstain from having sex with his wife unless it was necessary to conceive a child. Masturbation was viewed as a sinful and damaging practice – in fact, some of the top selling wares of the 1800’s were devices used to prevent humans from touching themselves (this is where the chastity belt first originated). It was also thought to cause blindness and insanity, which was later determined to only occur if your aim was poor.

Being a pilgrim really sucked.

Being a pilgrim really sucked.

As a result of this great cultural oppression, productivity in North America was incredibly high, and innovation flourished along with the economy. In fact, the modern 9-5 work day and the school year calendar originated from the schedules of farmers of this time period. If you wanted to do business, the hours of 9am to 5 pm were traditionally the most beneficial in for farmers in terms of productivity. The harvest ended in the fall, and that was the time when children could then be set free from a summer full of manual labour to pursue their studies. Summer vacation never used to exist; it was more like mandatory summer employment because school wasn’t in session.

All the while, North Americans were sexually repressed by Puritan influence in order to maintain this state of dull, repetitive work.

As Oscar Wilde once stated: “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.”

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Oscar Wilde.

By taking away sex from the masses, leaders in North America in the 1700s-1800s also took away the power of commoners. A steadfast devotion to God and his teachings kept citizens under control, as work was to be done as a duty to God, and sex and other “frivolous” acts were deemed sinful and unnecessary. In addition to the repression of commons, there was also repression of the cultural immigration that occurred when West African slaves arrived stateside.

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We rarely see slaves depicted in this sense, but if it weren’t for their cultural influence, North America would be boring and repressed, from an artistic and entertainment standpoint.

If it weren’t for the influence of African-American culture, we would not have Jazz, Blues, Rock N Roll, Rap, Hip-Hop, and a whole host of other forms of music, dance, and art. Jazz was initially treated with great fear, as was dancing to it, because of the perceived evil nature of sex imposed by the now-bygone Puritan rule. All subsequent forms of music created by African Americans were treated with the same hostility before being adopted into mainstream white culture.

Rock was called the devil’s music, Rap and Hip Hop were written off as the music that only petty thugs and criminals listened to, and all forms of dance and art associated with these forms of music were initially typecast as evil due to their prevalent forms of sexuality. The sexual themes were due to the cultural difference that African slaves brought with them to the United States.

West Africans were not governed by a sex-fearing religious body; therefore sex was not viewed as some evil, god-forsaking act, and various parts of their culture (including music) reflected that. Even the experimental, loose style of Jazz could be thought of as more overtly sexual than the more traditional, structured classical music that was popular with white folks for centuries.

The Influence is Still Present 

Today, two centuries of Puritan cultural influence is still present in our society. Sex is still viewed as a taboo subject, although far less evil than it was back in the 16th and 17th centuries. Our media is filtered through a lens of sexual appropriation, while forms of violence, both real and fictional, run rampant, despite the fact that increased exposure to both sex and violence has been shown to have negative consequences for human behaviour.

Which brings us to modern day hook up culture. This is a very polarizing issue: those who support “traditional” relationship constructs and morals can’t stand it, and those who have a less traditional view buy into it. The majority of media coverage about the hook-up culture is largely negative, with opinions on it ranging from “ruining dating forever”, to “creating a culture of people who are afraid of commitment”, or even “promoting promiscuity for both men and women.”

images-2All of these accusations speaking out against hook up culture are built upon a platform of “traditional” relationship metrics that have only existed for a few generations. What we think of dating today wasn’t what our ancestors thought of it in the 19th century. Before urbanization, humans didn’t really go out on “dates”. Most of humanity was agrarian, and the few that did live in the city were almost pre-determined to marry from a select pool of suitable mates from an equal social standing. Until the 20th century, most human relationships were essentially a pre-determined, classist dance that had been ongoing for thousands of years.

Farmers, and peasants before them, would have massive families in the hopes of breeding their workforce on site. Offspring mortality was much higher compared to today’s standards. For the children that survived and reached adulthood, the selection criteria for a partner was not so much physical or psychological like it predominantly is today; it was more of a geographical and economical based one. Due to this incompatibility, the incidence of domestic and sexual violence was also much higher.

Because of the repression of women’s rights and the overall sexual repression of humanity in 18th and 19th century North America, a very depressed state of being was in place for those in relationships. Rather than matching with a partner based on physical and psychological criteria like we do today in present day North America, a partner was viewed as more of a commodity; a means to an end, . Only in the upper class was the notion of “love” ever made present. Works such as “Romeo and Juliet” or “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” began to catch popularity with young couples and inspire them. It was at this time that women were pursued for emotional purposes, although sex was still oddly viewed as an abomination.

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Pretty typical party in the roaring 20’s

When the Roaring 20’s began, so too did the age of the automobile and urbanization. More young men began moving into the city to pursue lucrative work. The economy was booming, virtually every ambitious young man had a car, and jazz was in full swing. This was the beginning of modern “dating”. Taking a young gal out to dinner and then out dancing at a jazz club became a commonly practiced act, albeit largely opposed by the older generations. For the first time in history, a women’s family was not involved in her courtship like some kind of contractual obligation. Women started dressing more freely, cutting their hair short, and had a lot more fun than anyone could remember.

The Roaring 20s could be thought of as the first modern era of “hook-up culture”, as this decade presented a radical shift from the traditional relationship metrics of the past. The older generations thought everything that young people did during this time was immoral and wrong, and the same thing is occurring today with our modern “hook-up culture”. The Roaring 20s no doubt had its fair share of youthful critics who wanted to adhere to more “traditional” courtship, just as our modern day hook-up culture does.

It is said that history often repeats itself, and this is what is currently happening with hook-up culture: a radical shift in lifestyle (the existence of more career and education focused women than ever before) has contributed to a shift in relationship dynamics and made a bunch of people unhappy. In the Roaring 20s, it was a shift to the city, an abundance of money, and the geographical freedom created by the automobile that caused that culture’s relationship practices to be flipped on their head.

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What is happening today is not unique; it is simply the next dot on the evolutionary timeline of human relationships. By constantly backcasting and basing our relationship morals on what previous generations did, we are holding ourselves back from the natural evolution that is taking place as a result of our rapidly changing world. If we really want to get particular and base our relationship modes on what our ancestors did to be “proper”, why don’t we backtrack all the way back to pre-agricultural society where human tribes were essentially one big violent orgy? What sets humans apart from other species on this planet is our incredible ability to adapt to situations and figure out how to best play the cards that we are dealt.

To lament about the hook-up culture is to reverse the progress for women that has been made in today’s world. If we don’t want a string of casual relationships to dominate our twenties, than we might as well stop telling women to go to school and pursue a career outside being a housewife. It was this radical shift to a two-income household that drove the evolution of hook-up culture in North America. No longer were families solely dependent on the man of house providing for everyone while the woman stayed home, did the chores, and looked after the kids.

Today, more women than men are graduating from university and entering the workforce as the predominantly more educated gender. If a woman has lofty career goals, she may not have time to dedicate to a healthy, long-term relationship during her twenties. And that’s fine; neither do a lot of men who have the same aspirations. Eventually most people will settle down, and that age is being delayed more and more as people struggle to establish themselves their career at a current job or complete a lengthy term of graduate studies or professional school.

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Hook up culture is really a post-secondary student manufactured problem that only students or recently graduated students are complaining about. The fact is, post-secondary students are not having sex more often than those in the past. Millennials just love to constantly preach about how the world is so messed up because we think we’re the first generation to suffer underemployment and massive shifts in relationship culture, which, as I’ve just described, is not at all true.

Now that we’ve explored the historical context of hook up culture and sex in our present society, part two will investigate what motivates us to participate in hook up culture, and why there are negative connotations associated with it. As you will see, there are both positives and negatives to the current situation, but the take home point from this first part is that the current situation is not unique. As happens so often with Millennials, our perception that we’re unique and special is not remotely close to true. Stay tuned for part two.

The Missing 19 Percent: An Investigation of Part Time Faculty at Western University

Recently, the Western Gazette (Canada’s only daily student newspaper!) published an article entitled: “The Precarious Path to Professorship”. The article spoke of the ongoing issue of contract academic staff (CAS) teaching an increasing number of classes at Canadian universities. Before I delve into the situation at Western, I do need to comment on the article linked in the previous sentence.

The CBC article in question used Kimberly Ellis-Hale as their example of a contract faculty member struggling to make ends meet. Ms. Hale is 51 years old and has been teaching at Laurier for 16 years. She is struggling to make ends meet as a result of a being a single mother of two children and the low pay that CAS receive. A very sad tale indeed; until you actually decide to dig a little deeper.

A quick Google search of “Kimberly Ellis-Hale Laurier” will reveal that Ms. Hale is currently a Ph.D candidate at the University of Waterloo, and she holds a B.A. from the University of Toronto and an M.A. from Waterloo. Ms. Hale’s reputation on among her students is also less than satisfactory, which could be a hindrance against her career advancement and stability. While those ratings may be unofficial, professors are required to be evaluated by their students, and departments pay attention to what students have to say. For example, when a professor at Queen’s University was accused of spreading anti-vaccine propaganda in her first year class, she was subsequently investigated and placed on a leave of absence. The professor will not be teaching the same course and will be subject to a rigorous internal review process before she is allowed to teach again.

I am not one to discourage one’s pursuit of education, but perhaps deciding to pursue a Ph.D. when you have to support two children isn’t the wisest decision given the minimal pay graduate students receive in Canada. Ms. Ellis-Hale also decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Sociology, a subject that’s notoriously easy for undergraduates and low-paying for faculty.

It is easy to cry injustice at large institutions such as universities, but doing so without concern for the repercussions of our own choices is equally as unjust. Yes, perhaps graduate students should command higher salaries given the stresses they incur, but until that day comes, you need to be aware of what you’re getting yourself into before you dive into a 4+ year commitment of research and low pay.

With that being said, let’s move onto the situation at Western…

The Gazette article in question left me quite skeptical. On one hand, I have a good number of former classmates from undergrad currently pursuing the academia dream, so I can’t help but worry a little for their future and feel a pang of injustice about this whole scenario. On the other hand, I have a science background and I make my decisions based on gathering data, observations, and facts. In the Gazette article I linked to, the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA) estimates that 37% of their members are CAS. In the online scanned copy of the article, the graphic on the left hand side reports that number as 39 percent. Strange.

Regardless of the what number is official, that’s still a very high number. Thinking back to my undergrad, I can think of but a handful of lecturers that taught in my classes, but certainly not to the magnitude of almost 40 percent. My skepticism grew to the point where I decided to seek out the answer myself.

Methods

1) I sat down and went to Western’s website. I went to each department’s webpage and (painstakingly) counted each faculty member one by one, ignoring: i) the Faculty of Law; ii) Schulich Medicine & Dentistry; iii) The Faculty of Education; iv) Graduate programs in all other departments, and finally: iv) all Affiliate Colleges (Huron, Brescia, and King’s).

2) I went through each department’s website and counted full-time faculty and part-time faculty. I define part-time faculty as lecturers, graduate students, or professors that were designated (quite conveniently) “part-time”. If a professor was listed as “Assistant” or above, I considered them a full-time faculty member unless explicitly noted on their bio. Adjunct professors were not counted, nor were Emeritus professors unless they were explicitly listed on the faculty webpage, because these professors have employment elsewhere, or all retired.

3) I organized all of my results in a spreadsheet

Results

1) 1752 total faculty members were counted

2) A total of 19.1% of all faculty members counted were determined to be “part-time”

image (1)3) Percentages of part-time instructors in each faculty were as follows: FIMS (58.5%); Music (48.1%); Arts & Humanities (27.1%); Social Science (26%); Health Sciences (19.6%); Ivey Business School (14%); Science (6.1%); Engineering (0%) (Figure 1)

Notable Observations

1) Health Science has a noticeably higher percentage of part-time faculty due to the School of Nursing; nurses are needed to teach future nurses, after all, but nurses are generally gainfully employed, especially if deemed qualified enough to lecture future nurses. All other Health Science departments contained no part-time faculty.

2) FIMS (The Faculty of Media and Information Studies) is the newest Faculty at Western, and it also has the highest proportion of part-time staff members.

3) The internationally renowned Ivey Business School still had 14% of their faculty listed as part-time, but these faculty members are either graduate students or practicing professionals such as accountants or consultants with a steady income who pursue teaching out of interest, not as a primary source of income. The case of Ivey is also indicative that the proportion of part-time faculty does not impact the quality of education.

It is clear that there is some discrepancy between the numbers I have gathered and the numbers that are being reported by the UWOFA. In order for there to 38% part time faculty (which is the average of the two figures reported by the UWOFA) , there would have to be a total of about 666 (rounded up from 665.76) part time faculty members. How I failed to count 331 part time faculty members is beyond me, but something isn’t adding up. I would ask that a member of UWOFA please point me in the right direction, or try to explain how they arrived at their numbers. It would be unfortunate if they were fudging their data to leverage their campaign.

It also becomes clear that universities are making the most cuts in terms of tenured faculty within the arts faculties. In the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math for those unaware) a total of only 6% of all faculty were part-time, while in the Arts and Social Sciences (not including the Ivey Business School), a whopping 33.6% of all faculty were part-time.

One reason for this discrepancy is where the research interests of the university lie. To achieve a full-time faculty designation, a professor not only has to teach courses, but also conduct research, publish papers, sit in on committees, and perhaps most importantly, attract research dollars to the university.

Unfortunately, many organizations simply aren’t willing to fund research on the effect of post-World War II media on society as they are to fund the development of an AIDS vaccine. Simply put, much of the return on investment in scientific research is more measurable in actual dollars. The benefit of an AIDS vaccine or a new technology is much easier to quantify than the benefit of developing a sociological or musical theory or concept.

This is not to say that the Arts aren’t important; in fact, I previously wrote an article explaining why we need art in our lives in order to alleviate depression and holistically improve our lives. In difficult times, humanity turns to their most basic needs. Currently, we are in economic turmoil and, in general, are struggling to make ends meet. We are not at a point culturally when investing the development of the arts is of utmost priority, as artistic endeavours and products lie higher on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs than those of the natural and physical sciences.

A profession that deals with human health (e.g. a nurse or physician) will always be in demand, but one that deals with a requirement higher up the pyramid like esteem or creativity (like a musician or visual artist) will not always have the same job security due to art’s lack of basic necessity, but this individual could potentially earn more depending on the impact of their work. Some of highest paid professions are those of entertainers and other artists, but these positions are also much more rare.

Part-time faculty members are not paid enough considering their education, but level of education does not necessarily equate to a demand for higher pay. For example, many high school graduates are out in Alberta earning more money working in the oil sands than many Ph.D educated individuals will ever hope to earn. The difference lies in the need of work. Harvesting oil to fuel just about everything in our world is currently more important to the greater population than post-modern philosophy. There is simply not the demand for growth in arts research that there once was.

The fact of the matter is, individuals currently pursuing full-time faculty positions in the arts should be aware that the demand for their services is waning, and they should not be surprised with the lack of positions available for them. Getting a Ph.D does not entitle you to a seat on the ivory tower, so exercise caution when considering a career in academia, especially in the underfunded arts.

It remains to be seen what will come out of the campaign for better treatment of CAS, but until universities start to budge, even our most highly educated professionals may have trouble paying their bills.

Thumbs in the Shadows: The Story of Fake Likes and Click Farms

Like some of you currently do or have done in the past, I manage a Facebook page. Some of you may have done it to promote your own business, a client’s, or just made one up for fun. If you are the page manager for a business, one of the common things you hear people talking about is the importance of likes for your page, specifically, the number of them. When Facebook pages started becoming a default requirement for businesses, so too did the notion that a page would appear more impressive than their competition’s if it had more likes.

A business opportunity was created.

Companies that yielded the premise of buying likes began surfacing shortly thereafter. The basis was basic: for a relatively low cost, you could purchase a specific number of likes for your business’ Facebook page. How were these likes generated? Simple: like “farms”, which are essentially sweatshops only with computers, were set up in developing countries and employed locals to “like” thousands of companies’ Facebook pages. Later on this practice evolved and was applied to purchasing Twitter and Instragram followers as well.

goldfarmers01

World of Warcraft gold farmers in China.

The  business model was not a new one: menial computer tasks had been outsourced to third world countries ever since Diablo II and World of Warcraft became profitable enterprises. In these cases, employees worked long hours in front of a computer to “farm” gold and items for buyers in overseas. These workers were paid the typical terrible wages found in sweatshop conditions, and the prices for their products were rock bottom since the level of skill in order to produce them was next to nothing. Even children were employed in these item and gold farms for this same reason.

When Blizzard Entertainment, the game design company responsible for producing the Diablo and Warcraft franchises, cracked down on the online sale of gold and items, these gold and item farms were all but forced to cease operation. With a relatively low upkeep and start-up cost, these farms were extremely profitable enterprises with extremely adaptable equipment (all that these farms required were computers). When one door closed, another one opened, and that was when these gold and item farms overhauled themselves into “click farms” to generate more likes and followers.

The business model took off. Anyone from small business owners to multinational corporations was purchasing likes and creating social media presence with more likes. Unfortunately, Facebook took notice of this, and decided to get a piece of the pie.

facebook-fake-likesAs a page manager, you are encouraged by Facebook to help promote your posts by paying a set fee based on how much exposure you want your posts to get. By promoting a post, it uses an algorithm called EdgeRank to display your business’ post on anyone’s news feed who may have similar interests.

For example, let’s say you manage a page for a bakery that specializes in selling cakes. If you promote your post about a new type of cake you’re selling, your post will appear on news feeds of people who already like cakes, baked goods, bakeries, etc. On top of this, the more you pay, the wider your exposure in terms of geography.

If you pay the low amount and your bakery is located in New York City, then only those in and around NYC will have your post show up. This is, unless, a lot of your friends happen to like the page as well; then it will also show up on your news feed. So if you left NYC a few years ago to pursue a career in Los Angeles, the cake shop that all your friends back home like will still have their posts appearing on your news feed. If the amount that the hypothetical cake shop pays increases, so does the geographic range of their post reach.

Screen-Shot-2012-10-24-at-1.54.41-PMThis is a great form of advertising since it uses personal data gathered by Facebook to target your audience. This is why Google and Facebook are the two most powerful advertising platforms on the planet; they have access to vast amounts of personal data, which is an extremely valuable tool.

This is also why Facebook, Google, or other platforms like Twitter or Instagram will never charge for their services. If you’ve ever seen a viral post circulating around that states something like: “Facebook will start charging $2.99/month next month – sign this petition now and speak out against it!”, don’t believe that for a second: it’s bogus. Facebook would never risk alienating users to make money, because by providing a free service to gain access to the personal data of users, they are mining the necessary data needed for service where they actually make money:  advertising.

How to spot fake Facebook fans.

How to spot fake Facebook fans: Red Bull’s most popular fans are Egyptian males aged 18-24. Very suspicious.

When you pay Facebook to promote your page for you, it exposes it to users who have similar interests to your company in a geographic area proportional to the amount of money you invest. The problem that has been occurring in recent years is that by paying for a national or even international level of exposure, it exposes your page to the millions of fake accounts based at click farms. If the page owner for Pfizer performed some analytics on their page, they would find out that Pfizer’s popularity on Facebook is not the most popular in United States, where over 6 million men suffer from erectile dysfunction, but in Egypt, a country notorious for hosting click farms. Many small business owners who have experimented with heavy investment in Facebook ads have reported exponential growth in terms of page likes, comments, and overall traffic. So what’s the problem?

Engagement.

Even though it’s common sense, research has been done to support the notion that your best fans (and likely customers) are the most engaged on your Facebook page and other social media avenues. Remember the EdgeRank algorithm? EdgeRank essentially forms an “importance score” based on how often: your posts are shared, liked, commented on, and even how often your page is visited. Research has shown that an average of 16% of your page’s fans will see your content at any given time. This percentage goes up for your frequent engagers; the fans of your page who comment the most, like every post, or visit your page often.

Starting to see the problem? Simply liking a page isn’t enough: your page fans have to engage with the content that you’re producing. Some Egyptian fellow who is working in a click farm in Cairo doesn’t care about what cakes you’re serving this week, or the newest promotion on Viagra (well, maybe he does). He does his job, which is to go through a list of thousands of pages to like each day, and “like” it. Perhaps the click farm is offering a promotion that includes comments or shares as well, but this will happen rather infrequently, and because your legions of fake fans have never actually set foot in your business or purchased your products, there is no true engagement.

Because of the lack of interaction your page is garnering as a result of fake likes, your EdgeRank score will decrease, and fewer than 16% of your audience will be able to see your content. What small businesses did in the past during their start-up phase was buy a package of likes to help “seed” their growth. Let’s say our hypothetical cake shop purchased a very conservative 10,000 likes to get started in a big city like NYC. Through organic growth via word of mouth and good old honest hard work, the page received an additional 1,000 likes in it’s first week. Not bad.

World of Warcraft gold farmers in China.

Remember that 16% viewership number? Out of 1,000 real humans who liked our little cake shop, only 160 will see their content on their news feed.  The average percentage of fans who engage with posted content of a page they like is 10%, so out of 1,000 people who like your page, only 16 people will actually engage with each post our cake shop creates. However, one of the reasons EdgeRank was created was to discourage purchasing fake likes; essentially, EdgeRank doesn’t care if your page likes are real or fake, but it does care about engagement, which real people provide, and fake likes almost never do.

EdgeRank would factor in those 10,000 fake likes, those 16 real people who engaged with your post, and instead of an average score of 10%, the EdgeRank score for our little cake shop is a mere .145 percent. Thanks to EdgeRank, Facebook thinks that whatever content you’re posting isn’t that important, so it’s even more unlikely to appear in people’s news feeds. This is why most business owners who purchased a package of likes to “seed” their Facebook page growth experienced fantastic early growth, but soon after, page engagement and traffic dropped off significantly.

So whether you actively buy likes or initially promote your page to a geographically wide audience, you are at a great risk of attracting a large amount of fans that will provide you with likes, but no page engagement. This practice also opens up your page to spammers, which further complicates things.

images-2In recent years, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (and to a lesser extent, LinkedIn) have been cracking down on these fake accounts. It is impossible to cull mass amounts of fake accounts at once; page owners have to manually remove fake accounts one by one, which provides more hours of work for page managers.

Fake accounts will continue to persist as long as they can continue to sell the false promise of page traffic and manufactured fame. As a business owner just getting their start into the social media world, it is in your best interest to grow your page organically through your own local network. Use your employees (if you have any) to spread the word about your business as well. Create engaging content that will get your fans excited about your services and remind them of the value you can provide them. Avoid unnecessary posts and a “water hose” style of posting a constant stream of content, as it alienates and annoys your fans.

images-1Engage your fans with content as well: post testimonials, pictures of your customers if they allow it, and really try to reinforce a sense of community on your social media pages. This will give your fans a chance to be a mini celebrity and will help drive engagement. It will also help remind your fans of the real purpose behind social media: to connect people. As a business owner, your customers are your greatest asset, so why not include and interact with them on a more personal level?

The Age of Misinformation II: Watching a Documentary Does Not (Necessarily) Make You Smart

UnknownIn our age of armchair science, no media outlet provides a lightweight intellectual experience more than the documentary. What were once films of purpose and discovery have been affected by a new breed of documentary, which use pop science and scare tactics to deliver their message.

A documentary used to tell a side of a story, using facts and images gathered through research and a great deal of searching on the part of the filmmaker. The appeal of documentaries is their sense of discovery; both for the filmmaker and the filmgoer alike. Unfortunately, many modern documentary filmmakers are not seeking to answer their questions. They have already made up their mind as far as their results and discussion goes, and their film is just a means with which to carefully select and craft a fictitious story with a dishonest argument.

The epidemic of misinformation and sense of distrust many have for the world we live in has fuelled the meteoric surge in popularity many documentaries have experienced in the past two decades. What began as a film schematic that closely mirrored the process of the scientific method – where a principal investigator asked a question, formed a hypothesis, and carried out research and observation in order to form a logical, unbiased answer – has now turned into a parade of fabricated statistics, quotes taken out of context, and flat out lies.

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Some of the most popular documentaries of our time have also contained some of biggest lies and myths. Because of the surface legitimacy of a documentary, individuals that view the film who do not know any better are prone to believing the misinformation spread in the documentaries and making rash decisions about the subjects of these films.

 

 

For example, in the documentary Gas Land, there is a famous scene of a man lighting his tap water on fire. images-1

 

This flammable tap water was supposedly caused by the activities of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is a technique used to extract natural gas and oil. The shock and awe of this scene created quite a stir, but it was a myth. Flammable tap water is not caused by fracking; it’s caused via a methane build-up. There are three famous regions in the United States where this phenomenon occurs, and has occurred since before fracking was invented. Despite being disproven by numerous scientific governing bodies and high ranking officials, the belief that hydraulic fracturing causes flammable tap water persists to this day. images

 

I could go on for days listing inaccuracies found in popular documentaries, but I won’t bore you with the details. Instead, I’d like to explore why documentaries, many riddled with inaccuracies, have surged in popularity in the past few decades.

The basis of any documentary film is education; the purpose of the film is to inform the viewers of a subject and present the facts associated with it. Education is ever popular today because of the idea that the more education you have, the more successful you will become in life. Being intelligent is en vogue, and profound ideas are a popular form of social currency exchanged today. Being unintelligent is becoming less and less attractive.

For naturally intelligent people, their educational pursuits in an institutional setting or through their leisure time will yield a great deal of new knowledge and ideas through their natural curiosity and penchant for observation and problem-solving. Reading scientific research articles, non-fiction books published by reputable professionals, or attending public lectures on new topics are all great examples of how to do this. For those not as inclined to the rigours of higher learning, they turn elsewhere to find a quick fix to the problem. The easiest way to accomplish this is by watching a documentary.

Reading a 500 page non-fiction book could take a person weeks to finish, and it might be very time-consuming and boring. Watching a few documentaries one night only takes a few hours, and because the images on a TV or computer screen are more visually stimulating, the viewer is likely to retain more information, which makes the entire process that much more attractive. The problem is that watching a documentary gives someone the feeling that they’re critically learning something, but without a credible source in charge of delivering information, the risk of the information being misreported runs high.

If the documentary cites scientific studies or articles to support their point, that still is not enough. Despite the fact that a scientific article is authored by people who are credible sources with years of training in the subject they are researching and writing about, their evidence is not enough to provide proper support for a point. The fundamental basis of science is that it is a system of checks and balances. One of the cornerstones of the scientific method is replication. Can you replicate these exact methods and procedures and produce statistically similar results? If not, then either the methodology is flawed or the data and interpretation of it have been done so erroneously.

Replication is why, for the most part, majority rules in the scientific community. It is widely accepted that vaccines are effective, organic food is no better for you than non-organic food, and that adding fluoride to drinking water is not harmful because an overwhelming majority of experts have determined these facts through a series of experiments closely mirroring each other. Documentaries have a history of using anecdotal evidence and citing other shaky facts that ignores the fundamental scientific principle of replication.

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Another common tactic of documentaries is to cite “experts” on the subject in support of their point. These experts might have a “Dr.” in front of their name, but rarely does the documentary ever detail what their educational background is in. Additionally, just because someone has the letters doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re a credible source. In a recent poll, 3.7% of university professors in Massachusetts believe that creationism should be taught in science classes. These are Ph.D. holding experts in their field recommending something that has no place in a scientific environment. It is the same principle with health or lifestyle advice, where any person can write a recommendation for a certain food or lifestyle choice, tack their name on the end complete with a “, Ph.D” at the end, and give it the expert stamp of approval.

By promoting bad science, documentaries are encouraging a new generation of poor thought leadership. This has created a dichotomy of thinkers: those who are truly intelligent and logical with their information searching and gathering, and those who are led to believe they are intelligent by buying into quack science and alternative theories. The latter group is educated with a sense of being “awakened” or “enlightened” by gaining this newfound knowledge that is going against the status quo. This sense of enlightenment and distrust of mainstream thought is also the basis for conspiracy theories.

Humans are naturally susceptible to conspiracy theories. I’m sure we all tuned into a television program about one at some point and bought into it, even if it was for a moment. The human mind weaves observations into patterns to form conclusions and solve problems. It is why we are susceptible to a phenomenon known as Pareidolia, which is the psychological tendency to see patterns and shapes in random occurrences.

Seeing the face of Christ on this piece of burnt toast is an example of

Seeing the face of Christ on this piece of burnt toast is an example of Pareidolia

A common example is gazing up at a cloud on a summer day and seeing an animal or other object formed by the cloud. This is also why we see “faces” when we look at various surfaces, whether it be the man in the moon or seeing the face of Christ on a piece of toast or a burnt piece of Toaster Strudel. One reason we often see faces in things is because it is our primitive instinct to recognize faces, even from our earliest age as an infant. We are equipped with a primitive facial recognition cognitive process that allows us to form a face in our mind from a relatively simple geometric construct or pattern.

 

 

People seeing the face of the Lord on their breakfast pastry mistakes isn’t the entire story, though.

Maslows-Hierarchy-of-Needs

Recall Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, where humans first require food, water, and shelter. Considering most popular conspiracy theorists inhabit developed countries, their basic needs are met, so the next level of the pyramid comes into place. On the next level, we find the need for safety, security, and the protection from fear. It is this fear of the world and the governing bodies that control it that scares most into becoming a conspiracy theorist. Humans react differently to what they are scared of, and many humans are naturally fearful and suspicious of the motives of large governments and corporations. As a result, conspiracy theories are formed as an explanation and solution to the injustices these individuals face in their daily lives.

 

David Icke.

David Icke.

One famous conspiracy theorist named David Icke has popularized the theory that humanity is controlled by a select group of reptilian humanoids that control the earth through various positions of power in government and corporate ranks. He names high-ranking individuals such as the Queen of England, George W. Bush, and John D. Rockefeller as reptilian humanoids. These reptilians are said to be shape shifters that are hybrids of an ancient reptilian race known as the Anunnaki and humankind. Modern day reptilians are all hybrids, which, once they feed on human blood, can shape shift into human form.

Icke has published no fewer than 4 books on the theory, blending it in to other conspiracy theories. What’s even more remarkable than writing 4 books on these subjects is the fact that around 4% of registered American voters state that they actually believe in and support Icke’s theories.

Secrecy and the nature of human curiosity make conspiracy theories like Icke’s entertaining in either a serious or satirical manner, because nothing captivates the human imagination like the unknown. What is unknown and invisible is universally more attractive to us because of the effect that fear and uncertainty have on the human mind. Unfortunately, due to cultural tastes, documentaries will continue to grow in popularity, and will also continue the trend of being riddled with more lies and myths.

Zeitgeist contains numerous conspiracy theories, including Icke's reptilian theory.

Zeitgeist contains numerous conspiracy theories, including Icke’s reptilian theory.

In order to keep growing as an industry, documentaries need to compete with mainstream films, and a great way filmmakers can do that is to make their films more entertaining. A high level of entertainment often comes at a price, and farfetched claims composed of fabricated data and facts are often the solution. There will always be a group of individuals in a population who will reject mainstream media and demand answers that challenge authority. Sometimes these individuals will have some merit; for example, Galileo. Most often it is simply a case of human nature to be curious, and in order to address the issue of misinformation being spread by documentaries, we need to work a little harder to gain new knowledge, and check our facts along the way.