Social networks, blessed or cursed?

By: Gabriel Guerra Castellanos
President of War Castellanos and Associates.
13, January, 2021.

The year 2010 was coming to an end and we looked with amazement at what was happening in the streets and squares of Tunisia, first, then Egypt, and little by little what looked like a kind of inverted crescent on the map: the Arab world was discovering the fragility of its authoritarian and despotic regimes, societies and citizens woke up, hope was reborn.

The Arab Spring was rather short, because dictators and tyrants soon returned, as in the case of Egypt, and some never left, as in the case of Syria, but the message that the whole world was left with was that of power not only of society, but of social networks and messaging applications, which were extremely useful both for the dissemination of news and for social mobilization, evading the controls of police states in which censorship prevented any approach to reality .

Ten years and a month later, those same networks and messaging services became essential elements for the biggest assault on the democratic institutions of the United States of America since, in 1812, British troops attacked the seat of the Legislative Power, the Capitol . A mob made up of uncountable thousands of citizens sympathetic to the still President Donald Trump pounced in defense of his supposed victory, easily overcoming the few barriers in their path and coming within a trice of literally having legislators in their hands.

Unexpected? unimaginable? Well, notice that no, dear readers. The call and much of the organization of the march/assault took place openly, through several of the social networks that just a decade before had been the “architects” of the democratizing wave and that have now become tools of sedition. Days before, several traditional media, including the Washington Post, had raised their voices to warn of the nefarious intentions and preparations. Local and federal authorities did little or nothing to stop it.

But the events of January 6 were nothing more than the logical and inevitable culmination of years and years of propaganda and lies circulating on social media. From the absurd rumors about the birthplace and religion of Barack Obama to the deviant theories of groups like QAnon, from the aggressions of Trump's first campaign to the falsehoods to distort the vote in the second, the networks were a vehicle, platform, megaphone for the largest experiment in mass deception since the times of European nazi-fascism.

Too late, like someone who comes to plug the proverbial well, Twitter and Facebook closed the accounts of President Trump and several thousand spreaders of lies, after having succeeded for years. Late too, Amazon decided to remove the far-right network Parler, which was intended to be an alternative to Twitter, from its servers.

Many applauded, forgetting the complicity by omission of the large consortiums. But they do not take into account that in addition to being late, these actions will be useless, because the extremists have had plenty of time to connect, to set up alternative options on the Internet, or to go to the clandestine world of the network, the Dark Web, which makes them honor to his name.

If keeping them in sight the authorities could not stop them, what will happen now that they go underground? How will the self-victimization narrative of Trump and his supporters be countered?

I am very afraid that January 6 will have been just a warning of what is to come.

Anxiety to eat in times of pandemic 2021.

By: Isis Vazquez.

Excessive health concern, fear, anxiety and stress are normal responses in these uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In some cases it is normal and understandable that people experience these feelings in the context of the global pandemic we are going through.

Since the first months of 2020, the changes we have made in our daily lives caused by the pandemic have forced us to live "the new normal" with the latent fear of contracting the virus. In the face of “the new normality”, physical distancing, working from home and remote education of children can increase the level of stress and anxiety in people.

And what is the relationship between stress, anxiety and food? What makes us associate food with feeling good for a moment?
Eating foods rich in fats, sugars and refined flours help the production of neurotransmitters and the so-called endorphins.
Almost from the moment we have our first contact with the world, we begin to associate food with pleasure, with the feeling of well-being…
What is the first thing we do when a baby cries? We offer him something to eat. When a child gets hurt, we immediately run to give him a popsicle or candy, something that mitigates his pain at that moment. When we see that someone is sad about something. reason or that he has a duel, we offer him a chocolate, or a slice of cake and we tell him the classic phrase "the sorrows with bread are less".

To begin with, we have to understand what it is that we find in these foods that make us feel good, why by eating them we experience a bit of pleasure, tranquility and well-being, why a quesadilla, a cake, a chocolate or a candy can attenuate in that moment our anxiety that generates stress.
Foods rich in sugars help us release neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin (which is closely related to emotion and moods), this is because they have a series of natural chemicals such as tryptophan, through which The body produces serotonin that activates neurotransmitters in the brain, thus affecting mood.
Having serotonin levels below normal is associated with mental illnesses such as depression, stress and anxiety among other emotional problems, manifesting itself with an increased appetite for carbohydrates and sleep problems.

A person can develop a compulsion to eat foods with highly addictive substances, such as flour and sugar, when momentarily finding pleasure in them, it is like a kind of anesthesia caused mainly by endorphins.
There are many factors that can develop the compulsion to eat, in each person it is different, obesity is multifactorial, it can be due to genetics, culture, sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits.

Anxiety and stress cannot be removed by eating excessively.
What to do about this?

Identify if you are a compulsive eater, why you eat that way, what is behind this destructive behavior.

The WHO World Health Organization shares some recommendations for the general population on how to take care of #MentalHealth.

• Minimize the time you spend watching, reading, or listening to news that causes you anxiety or distress.
• Avoid listening to or following rumors that make you feel uncomfortable and look for those with positive content, happy and entertaining.
• Try to maintain your personal daily routines, such as sleep, personal hygiene, meal times, housekeeping.
• During times of stress, pay attention to your own needs and feelings.
• Do healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing.
• Exercise regularly and eat healthy foods.

If you need help.
With the purpose of bringing psychological attention closer to the population, the National Autonomous University of Mexico offers the services of a Call Center Psychological Attention Line specialized in mental health.

Through the number 5025 0855, experts offer first contact help on issues such as relationship problems, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, among others.
The IPN Psychological Support Line arises from the recognition that people face the experience of recognizing themselves as vulnerable, derived from this pandemic, and that this begins to affect their relationship with the world, with others and with themselves. For this reason, the mental health of each individual is fundamental, because recovering, strengthening ourselves, as a community and society, is everyone's task.

Monday to Saturday from 12:00 to 20:00 hrs. at the number (55) 5729 6376, extensions 23051, 23052, 23053, 23054, 23055
If you feel worried, sad, anxious or angry, do not hesitate to contact any of the hotlines.

Networks: regulation or censorship?

By: Gabriel Guerra Castellanos.
February 10, 2021.

Last week I told you a little about the dilemma, false in my opinion, that has arisen around social networks, dear readers. They have been placed, in the absolute terms that the Manichaeans like so much, as allies and promoters of dictatorial populism or as indispensable tools for the promotion or defense of democracy and freedoms.

A glance at the existing use and regulation is enough to realize that neither of the two extremes applies, for the simple reason that networks are only tools for transmitting information and everything that it contains: they can be broadcast channels of ideas and knowledge as vehicles for banality; tools of the post-pandemic trade or cave of speculators and scalpers; lifeline or guillotine of traditional media. And also, of course, forums for discussion and exchange of thought or closed and exclusive channels that promote "unique thinking", as if such an oxymoron were possible.

So networks are what we make of them or what we are allowed to make of them: there will always be the temptation to control instead of regulate, to close instead of open, to prohibit instead of allow. It is a very slippery path, because we have already seen what the abuse of this tool can lead to, although the same could have been said at the time of others that at the time were great technological advances that widened the lanes through which information travels , but they did not replace the issuers (or the contents) of it.

In Mexico, the debate quickly became politicized, as was to be expected. Many of those who applauded the cancellation of Donald Trump's Twitter and Facebook accounts, in part because they saw there an omen of something that could be applied to the president of Mexico, suddenly changed their minds when they learned of an initiative to "regulate" the networks. presented by Senator Ricardo Monreal, an ally of the president. And it is that, like so many other serious and substantive things in our country, everything seems to revolve around the presidential figure.

The issue is too important to be lost in the morass of the obsessively single-issue discussion that national politics has become.

Many experts have already ruled on whether or not the aforementioned proposal contravenes international treaties signed by the Mexican State. Others have expressed concern about the possibility that the government tries to "control" what is said and thought on the networks. And there are those who think that the companies that own the networks and platforms already have excessive power, dominant as experts on economic competition would call it, and that they should be regulated or “put in their place”.

The truth is that those who control technological tools today are owners of a large part of the modern world: from online shopping platforms to entertainment services, through applications for buying and delivering food or for daily coexistence, today they have a monopoly and monopsony power that puts individuals, communities, societies and nation states against the wall.

That is the reality: attempting to regulate or control something that has already happened is doubly difficult, and even more so when technology advances at quantum leaps while regulatory capacities do so at a snail's pace.

Those who aspire today to confine global information flows must promote a broad and inclusive dialogue with the many actors involved, including, of course, those of society.

Otherwise, their attempts may do little good, but much harm.

The long-awaited vaccines

By: Gabriel Guerra Castellanos.
February 17, 2021.

Finally, in record time and after an endless wait, because yes, both things can happen simultaneously, the vaccination process of the general population has begun in Mexico, according to the criteria of age and place of residence that the authorities determined. previously.

A lot has already been said about which vaccines were finally authorized and acquired, and I am not going to put myself here to want to compete with those who do know about these matters. Suffice it to say that those that will be applied in Mexico comply with regulations, do not report negative effects and have very acceptable effectiveness rates. There are two very important things: the first and fundamental is that the vaccine does not cause damage to the inoculated population, and the second is that it manages to stop and reverse the growth of the pandemic.

The national vaccination strategy is also defined, in principle. I say in principle because the logistical challenges are enormous and the epidemiological priorities are subjective and changing. For now, it has been decided to prioritize isolated areas, with higher rates of poverty, isolation and/or lack of hospital infrastructure or health services. Controversy immediately arose: why not start with large urban concentrations? Why give preference to where the virus has not reached? Why start with the poor? And don't laugh, dear reader, there were those who asked that last word more or less.

One may or may not agree with such strategy and prioritization, but at least they exist. And it is that what had been observed until this Sunday was a series of occurrences (including the disaster of the launch of the registration page) and an evident disconnection between the areas of acquisitions and supply, so to speak SHCP and SRE, and the nominally responsible for the application of the vaccines, for the operation of the program, the Ministry of Health. I'm not saying that all the complications have been ironed out, but at least the procedure has begun to flow, with hitches and delays that don't surprise me too much either.

I write these lines at the end of the second day of vaccination. The first day was full of chronicles and reviews of people who attended. Many complaints about long lines, delays and logistical failures, but also many expressions of satisfaction, of tranquility, of recognition of the public servants who make up the vaccination brigades. Of course, the matter became politicized in less than a puncture: unsubstantiated criticism and accusations from some, furious reactions from others to such claims, getting into an opinion about it was, is, a high-risk activity.

I'm a little tired of so much politics, dear readers. Neither does it seem to me an act of lese majesty to criticize or point out errors, nor does it seem to me that there is anything wrong with recognizing good news when it exists.

And the reality is that with or without long lines, with or without complications, the start of mass vaccination is very good news for millions of Mexicans who urgently need to break the shell of their isolation. For all of them, for all of them, my congratulations: they deserve it, we deserve it.

To understand

By: Gabriel Guerra Castellanos.

This March 8 was intense, deep, emotional, difficult. Women dominated the scene, if only for a day, and that abrupt shift in the media center of gravity was enough to leave many men dizzy, confused, irritated. Outraged.

Yes, you read that right: irritated. Upset because for a whole day they were exposed to countless testimonies of what women have to endure every day. They had to read/hear about the more than 10 women who are murdered in Mexico daily. About labor and income inequality, which has been accentuated during the pandemic. Of the many acts of gender violence that do not end in death, but in permanent physical or psychological damage to the victims. About rapists and serial stalkers who occupy prominent places in politics, in business, in the media.

Angry men because for a day they saw how streets and avenues changed their names, in an attempt to reverse, for a few hours, the inequality that prevails even in the nomenclature of our cities. Annoyed by how purple and green they painted the city, to see their mothers, wives, daughters, friends, colleagues wearing them proudly. Incredulous before the human rivers, the multiple expressions of rage, anger, frustration and impotence, before the way in which, even if it was only for one day, the social networks, the news, the media spaces, were dominated by and dedicated to women.

The instinctive reaction of those who do not understand is anger, and this is expressed more easily and quickly through indignation, whether real or feigned. This is how many of the criticisms and disqualifications towards what women express focus on the forms and modes of protest. What need to be violent? They ask those who have been victims of violence. Why deface and damage monuments? They question those who have seen their mutilated bodies. What do they not see that this is how they detract from their cause? They say to those who have always been relegated to the interior spaces of the newspapers, to the minor segments of radio and television. Who manipulates them, who directs them?

Many questions, many questions, but with the wrong addressee. Very few men wondered why this pent-up rage didn't break out before, why if it was "so violent" the balance was -luckily- white. Nor did they ask the women how many times in their lives they have been exposed to discriminatory practices, to their opportunities being conditioned, to acts of violence and intimidation, to the impunity of their aggressors, to the minimization of crimes or offenses.

That lack of masculine curiosity speaks of guilty consciences: of knowing that what they excuse in others is part of an unwritten or verbalized pact, which becomes an agreement of complicity, of silence, of facilitators.

The patriarchal pact exists: crude and obvious, although the frequency and daily nature of the acts that compose it make them invisible by force of habit.

The system is rotten. It is unacceptable. It has to change: and it will only do so if the denunciations have weight and consequences, if the protective mantle is used to shelter the victims and not the perpetrators, if we understand that the acts of violent groups do not remove the fact that the substance of the matter is the that should shock us, and not "the forms" that for some are so important.

Women are doing what is right, what is necessary. Men have to listen and understand.