Identity Theft Cause for Students to be Alert

(Written in October 2013)

College students are being advised to take more preventative measures when it comes to protecting their personal information.

According to a recent press release from the Better Business Bureau, young adults are the most at-risk group for identity theft because of their high use of smartphones and social media. They also found that “friendly fraud” situations, in which friends access smartphones or social media accounts without permission, account for more than 20 percent of on-campus identity theft.

University Information Security Officer Rob Arnold said smartphones make students vulnerable to identity theft because they can be easily lost or stolen. According to Consumer Reports, 1.6 million phones were stolen in the U.S. last year alone.

Arnold said there are simple steps that can be taken to ensure safety if your phone is lost or stolen, such as encrypting it with a pin number. This is something nearly half of smartphone users don’t do, according to a study from Confident Technologies.

“One of the best reasons to use encryption is that it keeps you comfortable,” Arnold said. “You have assurance that your data hasn’t been disclosed. It’s the difference between losing a locked box or an unlocked box, and if you know the phone is encrypted you can take more time before you take more drastic measures too.”

In addition to encryption, Arnold said students can take other precautions to secure their information. Among those are not reusing passwords across multiple accounts, having a backup plan if you lose your smartphone and taking advantage of security services available on websites like Gmail and Facebook.

The Better Business Bureau also recommends that students keep important documents locked away and have important mail sent to a post office box or their family’s home.

Although it may seem time consuming, Arnold said taking steps like these will prove beneficial if a victim of identity theft.

“It is just a tiny productivity tax you pay when you have to do something like type in a pin,” he said. “None of them cost anything, but the time you spend doing these will definitely pay for itself over and over again in the scenario where you would have had your data compromised, your device attacked or one of your accounts used by somebody for malicious purposes.”

In cases of “friendly fraud,” Arnold said the best preventative measure to take is simply keeping your social media passwords to yourself and carefully considering what you share on the internet.

Bailey Dumire, a freshman from Seattle, said her parents’ identity was stolen five years ago, which has made her more cautious when it comes to her personal information on social media.

“I’m really careful about what I put on the Internet now,” Dumire said. “I’m not really into sharing stuff on Facebook, so I don’t have my age or where I live, and I don’t put any of the fine details.”

Kristen Korona, a senior from Kansas City, works at the Kansas Union Bookstore, which she said has also made her more aware of how easily someone can have their identity stolen.

“Working at retail I’ve had a few instances where people’s cards don’t match their IDs, so I’m aware that kind of stuff happens more often than you would think,” Korona said. “I’m more careful about if I log in at work to my bank or anything with cell phones or computers, I’m just more cautious about logging out now.”

Homeless in Lawrence

Homelessness is one of the most visible social issues in the country, and Lawrence is no exception. 

The city had over three hundred people living on the streets in 2013, but the sheer numbers don’t tell the full story. 

In 2006, the city was listed by the National Coalition for the Homeless as the second meanest city in the country because of policies that are seen as detrimental to the homeless.  

The increasing number of women who are homeless in the city is alarming as well: in 2009 the percentage of homeless who were female was 28 percent, but since then, that number has nearly doubled, reaching 49 percent.

To gain a better perspective on these issues, I spoke on camera with Chelsea Ren Morten, a worker at the Willow Domestic Violence Center, as well as Glen and Julie, two people who have lived on and off the streets of Lawrence for nearly a decade. 

Twitter provides comedians multiple ways to improve their career

Matt Walker, a stand-up comedian in the Los Angeles area, decided he deserved more recognition for his jokes on Twitter. His 140-character jokes and funny photoshopped pictures had garnered him thousands of followers on the website, but he still didn’t have any tangible evidence for his online success.

When a friend told him about the Shorty Awards, an event that honors the best short content on websites like Twitter and Youtube, he rallied his followers to help get him nominated for the #Comedy Award. They got the job done, and Walker was soon in New York City accepting the award on stage from The Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones.

Twitter may have helped Walker get a shiny trophy to go along with his thousands of online-fans, but the veteran comedian says the website does more than just bring him attention.

“I do find that writing jokes all the time makes writing material easier,” he said. “It’s sort of like batting practice if you’re playing baseball. That’s not exactly how to play the game, but it keeps you in shape to do it.”

Most comedians have not experienced the kind of success that Walker has had on Twitter, but that hasn’t stopped many from using the site to help their career. Whether it’s being used to write jokes like Walker, for business purposes, or even as a spark for creative ideas, it’s clear Twitter is becoming an important aspect of the comedy industry. As evidence of its growing involvement in the industry, Twitter even partnered with Comedy Central two weeks ago to hold an online comedy festival. The festival, entitled #ComedyFest, was the first of its kind, happening over a span of five days and featuring 68 comedians who hosted online events like “Vine Parties” and live-tweeting of Comedy Central shows and movies.

Walker says it’s crucial for a comedian to find the audience that will enjoy his or her work the most out of the site’s nearly 250 million users. For him, that meant utilizing the Twitter’s “trending topics,” an aggregate list of the most tweeted about subjects at a given time. Most of his jokes poke fun at these topics, which makes the audience who read them that much bigger.

“Because all these trending topics are geared around what teenagers like, I have become sort of a guy who’s known for making fun of teenage celebrities,” he said. “But that’s how people read what I say on Twitter, and that’s a good thing.”

Matt Wiegand performs stand-up in the Reno area and reluctantly joined Twitter two years ago. Although he doesn’t like to tweet, he says he recognizes the importance the website has when it comes to the business aspect of comedy.

“You have to main an online presence to be a comedian now-a-days,” he said. “Bookers will look at your Twitter account now. They only care about making money, and the more popular you are online, the more popular you’ll be for their club.”

Evan Rabalais, a stand-up based in Baton Rouge, doesn’t use Twitter in the same vein as Walker or Wiegand. Rather than using it as a business tool or writing witty jokes, he uses the site as inspiration for his on-stage act.

“Instead of a punchline, I’ll say ‘Hey, this is a weird thing I saw today,’ and a week later it will become a full joke,” he said. “I’m not really trying to do one-liners that will get re-tweeted a hundred times.”

While comedians like Rabalais are using Twitter to help bolster their on-stage act, they must remember that potential fans across the Internet are judging their work.

Coulter Cranston, a 21-year-old from Wichita, follows many comedians on Twitter, and he says a few good tweets could gain a comedian a new paying customer.

“I only follow comedians who tweet one-liners and things like that,” he said. “If a comedian is able to consistently make me laugh on Twitter, I’m probably way more likely to see them if the come around my area.”

Even though Walker has been able to win a social media award, attract more than 10,000 followers and even have his account verified by Twitter, his career on stage hasn’t quite taken off. While he waits for that to happen, he still relishes his online celebrity.

“I haven’t quite figured out how to monetize it yet, and I’m probably still two years off from doing that,” he said. “But still, people will come up to me after the show and say, ‘I love everything you do on Twitter, it’s really funny,’ and that is really cool to hear.”

For more on the influence the Internet is having on comedy, check out the infographic and video below.

Studies show laughter provides benefits in physical, mental and emotional health

Comedian Dean Bose had a 102 degree fever. He was in Billings, Mont. at the Billings Hotel and Convention center where he was expected to do a 30-minute set on stage. He could have canceled, but for Bose, that was out of the question.

“I felt miserable. I just wanted to die,” he said. “But all I really wanted to do was go on stage. I knew that would make me feel better.”

Bose was right. He did his set completely pain free, which he credits to the laughs of the audience.

“Comedy is a symbiotic relationship,” he said. “You stand in front of the crowd giving them something, but you also feed off of their energy and laughs. Both get something out of it.”

The medicinal effects that comedy had on Bose are actually quite common; research has shown that simply laughing can improve physical and mental health and provide social benefits as well.

In terms of fitness, laughing can be a surprisingly good work out: Research has shown that a belly laugh can work out the abdominal muscles and shoulders and even improve cardiovascular health. According to Dr. William Fry of Stanford University Medical School, laughing 100 times is equivalent to 10 minutes of working out on a rowing machine or an exercise bike. More information regarding the physical benefits of laughter can be found on the infographic below.

Laughter can be beneficial in terms of mental health as well. According to Helpguide.org, a non-profit website that provides health advice, laughter can trigger the release of endorphins, or what they call the body’s “natural feel good chemicals,” which can cause an overall sense of well-being throughout the body. Also, the British Dental Health Foundation found that laughing can provide the same stimulation to the brain as eating 2,000 chocolate bars.

Lindsey Mitchell, a 20-year-old from Pratt, Kan., goes to local comedy shows at least once a month. She says she can notice a difference in her mood after seeing a comedian perform.

“It’s kind of weird, because after leaving a comedy show you feel funnier yourself, and you definitely leave the show feeling more lighthearted too,” she said.

Mitchell also says she uses comedy and laughter for cathartic purposes, visiting clubs during times of stress.

“Seeing a comedian definitely helps bring down my stress levels a lot of times,” she said. “It may only last a little while, but you don’t really think about your own problems when somebody is consistently making you laugh.”

The benefits of laughter can extend outside a comedy club or a movie and into personal relationships as well.

According to Helpguide.org, laughter can help dissolve distressing emotions, as well as forget judgements, criticisms, and doubts, which could lead to healthier relationships.

Dr. Jeffrey Hall, an assistant professor of communications at the University of Kansas, has done multiple studies related to the use of humor in romantic relationships.

Hall says humor and laughter are crucial to a good relationship, but his research shows that not all types of jokes are conducive to making a happy couple.

“You don’t want to be self-deprecating or aggressive, attacking your partner humorously,” he said. “The kind of humor that works best is silliness. The playful humor where you can just share a laugh with your partner to get through the mundane parts of life.”

After 17 years of being a touring comedian, Bose has experienced first-hand how laughter can be a boost to a drained performer. But seeing the effects that a simple joke can have on an audience convinced him how valuable humor can be.

“Laughter is definitely psychologically beneficial,” he said. “There’s no doubt it’s enough to make you feel better.”

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Colin Kane brings vulgar humor to Stanford & Sons

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Nothing was off-limits in Colin Kane’s Friday night set in Kansas City, Kan. The New York comedian, who has been known to cause some controversy with his vulgar jokes, covered topics like sex, racism, and homosexuality in front of a sold out crowd at Stanford & Sons Comedy Club.

Much of Kane’s material solicited a wide variety of reactions from the audience, whether it was applause for his observation that “people in Kansas City dress like they’re always helping somebody move,” or groans for his off-putting remarks about violence towards women.

The set was a relaxed one, with Kane sitting on a stool rather than moving about the stage. Kane was also eager to work the crowd, but mostly to insult specific audience members during his routine. He even brought along his own security team in case some took his jokes too personally.

While the response to the material was positive early on, the laughs seemed to dwindle as the show progressed. Ryan Harold, a 20-year-old from Chicago who attended the show, said Kane’s act grew tiring.

“It was funny at first, but it would have been nice to see him talk about more than just having sex,” he said.

Kane will headline two more shows on Saturday before he moves on to Minneapolis, the next stop on his tour.

Follow Funny Folk’s live coverage of the set here.