Social Media Diary

I chose Wednesday to do my social media diary because I don’t have classes on Thursdays or Fridays, so it makes it feel less of like a “week day”. I did it not hour-by-hour but rather where I was at the time because I think it reveals more about how I use social media.

10:00am-11:00am: Woke up and after checking email, skimmed through Facebook. I “liked” a few statuses about breast cancer awareness events that members of different chapters of my sorority are holding so that they could get more visibility online. I clicked on an interesting link (something stupid and entertaining) to read while I brush my teeth, but I don’t share it or comment. It made me think that while the person posting it might not think that a lot of people paid attention to it since there weren’t many “likes” or “comments” or “shares,” there are probably a lot of other people like me who click on it and read it without “participating.” I respond to a few messages that I received through Facebook messenger and open up half of the SnapChats I received (I have a huge number of snaps that I’m just too lazy to go through). I don’t look at Facebook again since I’m getting ready for class. However, I do take a Snapchat of something I thought was funny and sent it to my friends.

11:00am-12:30pm: I have an Anthro class at this time, and I always leave my phone in my bag so that I’m not tempted to click on Facebook or check my email and become distracted.

12:50pm-3:30pm: I use this time to study or catch up on work back in my room, but during this time, I’ve taken 3 breaks to dedicate to Facebook. The first break was right when I finished biking and sat in my room. I clicked on 4 links and “liked” five photos of friends from different states, also in my sorority. Just to note, throughout my whole time “studying” I would check my phone and respond to friends on the messenger. The second break I used solely to talk to people on messenger because two of my good friends were responding really quickly to topics that I thought were important. When I realized how little work I got finished, I went back to my way of sporadically responding. The third break was a really short one. I caught myself grabbing my phone when I finished a problem for a p-set to go through my newsfeed. I didn’t really comment or like anything.

3:30-5:15pm: This is when I’m commuting and tutoring a student. I try not to go on my phone when I’m driving, but it’s hard to resist if there’s huge traffic. Today, there wasn’t any, but it was still very tempting to click on the multiple floating circles that appear on my phone when I receive messages from friends on Facebook. Before going into their house, I respond to all of my friends and do a quick scan of my newsfeed again. Nothing interesting, it was almost the same. I click on a link that I found but I don’t read it, saving it for later. During my tutoring session, the only time I went on Facebook was when I was timing her on a few problems. That was more to respond to friends on Facebook. When I get to my car before driving off, I use a few minutes to respond to friends.

5:16-7:00pm: I’m on my way to tutoring another student. It’s pretty much a repeat of the block before. When I arrive, I respond to friends who had messaged me while I was driving, but I don’t go through my newsfeed this time. During our tutoring session, I didn’t go on Facebook because it was a very interactive session. However, when I reached my car again, I checked Facebook messenger and looked through my newsfeed. My friend posted something on my wall and I felt obliged to “like”  it and write some short comment.

7:01pm-1:00am: I broke up this chunk into hour-by-hour because nothing exciting is happening. During this time, I’m cooking dinner and doing homework. Most of this time is also spent on Skype with my boyfriend, so I don’t go on Facebook as much.

  • 7:00-8:00: I scroll through my newsfeed when I’m waiting for something to cook and look at notifications. I “like” three pictures that friends posted of them at some function. I use SnapChat to send pictures of my food to friends and followers.
  • 8:00pm-9:00pm: I  use Facebook on my phone to respond to messages from friends while I’m doing homework. I SnapChat a few friends silly things because I’m procrastinating. When it’s 9 though I use the Mac application for Self-Control and tell my friends I need to do homework because I got very little done. I put my phone away.
  • 9:00pm-12:00am: I’m mainly doing homework and Skyping with my boyfriend, so no social media use.
  • 12:00am-1:00am: It’s not until the hour before I go to sleep that I look at Facebook the most. I check my notifications and then I go to a Facebook group that I’m in to see what people have posted about EDM. There’s a link to an article about a Deadmau5 Tweet feud and that reminds me that I haven’t been on Twitter in a while. I use the Twitter application on my phone to scan through tweets from DJs. I don’t really follow friends or anyone else.

Judging from my social media diary, the only time I create content is through SnapChat. Rarely do I produce anything for Facebook unless I go out and take pictures but even then, I don’t always upload them onto Facebook. I’m not sure if I’m fully “participating.” I think the most participation I’ve done in a while is through blogging. However, I do think that “likes” add some participatory element because it allows creators to know that there is an audience there. In addition, participation may not have to do with creating your own content. Participation may be contributing to the circulation of information. If a link that I found on Facebook intrigues me enough, I’ll share it with other friends by messaging them. Most of my participation is meant for one-to-one or one-to-few communication, like through Facebook messenger or SnapChat. I’m a big narrowcaster, since I’m worried about privacy and don’t really have the confidence to broadcast anything I make.

Online Participation and Justin Hall

The architecture of participation has had such a profound impact on the online world. I don’t think I’ve ever really appreciated the effects that it has. Pew Research has stats the show an overwhelming number of users have created their own content whether that be through photos, videos, audio or text. The concept of “narrowcast” means that media production and content creation can fall into the hands of average individuals who aren’t going to be attracting a wide audience. Tools that allow for mass participation, such as social media platforms, have it made it so that “non-credentialed amateurs can now participate in many of the arenas that used to be limited to recognized and sanctioned experts” (Rainie 2010). Although in my small group, we spoke about how certain factors, such as cultural capital, socioeconomic status, and reputation, limit the freedom of expression on and accessibility to the online world, after watching Justin Hall’s video, I’ve realized that we’ve come a long way.

If you haven’t watched the video yet, just watch a few minutes. He came to visit us in COMM 182 last year and was hilarious. Like Howard mentioned in his post, Justin is credited (at least on Wikipedia) as being the first blogger. As such, he was able to express himself online in an open way that most of us will never (and probably wouldn’t want to anyway). For a while, he was the main content creator, broadcasting his life. Participation then had a clear differentiation between creator and audience. The audience participated by responding and commenting on Justin’s posts.

Justin attributes a use to the internet as being a way for people to tell stories and preserve their life narratives. One thing that Justin mentioned that my small group touched on was that although the internet has a lot of potential, at the time, people who weren’t of a certain class or education level couldn’t get access to it. Today, that has definitely changed. People from different socioeconomic classes in the United States, even if they can’t afford the fanciest laptops, are aware of at least some of the most basic tools that allow them to “participate” in some way.

Could we have ever foreseen that teenagers or even children could produce and become famous by uploading videos or pictures? Alison’s learner lecture was super entertaining and enlightening. One thing that struck me was that a 7-second video could be worth thousands of dollars to an advertiser because of the social capital that a user accrued just from making entertaining clips. It’s just incredible the level of participation that we can now have and how that has changed us socially, culturally, and even economically.

However, I wonder if I’m making the most of my participation. I read and lurk, but the most that I ever give back is through narrowcasting. I blog for music sites and previously our Admissions Site, but in an era where I have so many tools that can allow me to participate in the online world, am I making the most of it? Justin Hall went around the United States teaching people how they could create their own websites and tell strangers their stories online. It wasn’t something that everyone had access to, but as a young, educated American living in the 21st century, am I taking advantage of what I have? On the other hand, times have also changed. I don’t think I would ever have the guts to post the type of things about myself that Justin did (i.e. his nudes, details about his STI). However, back then, the internet wasn’t used as a way to screen candidates for companies. Not everyone was online and search engines were just not as good. Today, there is a thinner wall of privacy.

My question is, how do you participate and why do you choose to participate that way? Do you think that you’re participating enough? If not, how do you think you could participate more?

Social Media Revolution

Erik Qualman’s “Social Media Revolution 2013″ under our recommended texts should be moved to required. There was so much impactful information packed into 3 minutes and thirty seconds that I had to go back and rewatch it to understand which facts and statistics were getting the most reaction from me.

Here are the few that struck my attention, organized under my own titles:

Personal

  • 1 in 5 couples meet online
  • 3 in 5  gay couples meet online
  • 1 in 5 divorces are blamed on Facebook
  • 92% of children under the age of 2 have a digital shadow

Education and Information

  • Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passe
  • Some universities have stopped distributing e-mail accounts
  • Some kindergarteners are learning on tablets instead of chalkboard

Commerce

  • Social gamers will buy $6B in goods by 2013 while moviegoers will only buy $2.5B in real goods
  • 90% of consumers trust peer recommendation while only 14% trust advertisements
  • We will no longer search for products and services…they will search for us via social media

While we’ve always discussed the significant impact of social media on our individual lives and on society as a whole, this video really draws on statistics and facts that make the intensity of such a “revolution” truly known. To start off with the first category, it is apparent that social media affects our personal lives, particularly our love life. It’s becoming socially acceptable to find a significant other online–20% of all couples and 60% of all couples do. There was a time when using online dating sites was highly stigmatized but with new apps geared towards young people, such as Tinder and Grinder, as well as the acknowledgement of the difficulties of meeting new people in current society, online dating has become an important resource for forming new interpersonal relationships. This has especially large significance for members of the LGBT community, who are overshadowed by heteronormative mainstream society, to finding potential romantic interests. With the benefits also come the negatives. Without context to really understand why 1 out of 5 divorces are blamed on Facebook, we can only infer that a large portion of those divorces must have to do with breaches in privacy as spouses uncover hidden digital footprints revealing unsavory acts. The next stats about 92% of children under 2 having a digital shadow is astounding. What these both imply is that the online world is making more information available about us than possible before and it’s starting at a pretty young age. We will soon see the implications of this early exposure. It certainly means that we need to train the young to be aware of their digital footprint early on.

While I understand the attitudes of young people towards email, I think it has to do with where they are in their lives. I had also thought that email was unnecessary and antiquated until I started coming to Stanford. Email is such an integral part of my life, but my sister, who is 5 years younger, doesn’t yet understand the significance of email because she doesn’t receive many (yet–lucky her). I find it hard to believe that some universities aren’t distributing email accounts because how are their students supposed to gain the social capital necessary to transition into the working world? A lot of the students that I tutor in the area use tablets and computers to learn, which I think is great because it’s a more accurate reflection of the real world. They have the ability to quickly search up a concept on the internet if their book doesn’t provide a sufficient explanation or pull up their emails–yes, these students already have working email accounts that they check on a daily basis. I don’t think that email will step down as an important medium for communication. Going past this point, the use of tablets and computers as early as middle school shows the importance of understanding how to use these tools at an early age because they become vital to our day-to-day lives.

The online world is also affecting the way we do business. The creation of an online world means that a virtual economy has also emerged. This is an incredible creation of a completely new sector–it’s questionable to label it as part of the service sector but can it be part of manufacturing or industrial sector if it’s not even physical? The emergence of sites like Yelp and the prevalence of product and service reviews has shifted the expert role to the consumer. Unlike the industry expert, the consumer is seen as reliable because she is most likely not being incentivized by companies to endorse or condemn a product. The consumer’s assessment is perceived as objective and unbiased while advertisements are seen as untrustworthy. Thus, we see a need for businesses to adapt their marketing to this new world where word of mouth is more visible and prevalent. The last point makes social media even more important–the products or services that we need will look for us. Targeted advertising is a mixed topic for me. On the one hand, it’s creepy in that it relies on collected data on individuals but on the other, it exposes individuals to new products and allows them to discover things that may interest them. But perhaps the biggest takeaway is that our online identity is perceived as being enough to understand what we need or want to the extent where they are satisfied without much effort on our part to look for those things.

It’s crazy to think how different our world has become because of social media. These facts allowed me to compare my current world with the past in a way that really illuminates the effects of the revolution.

Effects of MDMA

In the late ’90s to early 2000s, MDMA was a growing concern as young people began consuming the drug for club parties and raves.  Recently, MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine), also colloquially known as Molly, ecstasy, e, or x, has begun to reappear in mainstream society. As with the media frenzy that surrounds a certain topic, there also comes increased dissemination of misinformation. In my late high school days, I remember a lot of myth would abound about MDMA, especially its health effects. One myth that I remember in particular is that MDMA would cause holes in your brain. Although I’m sure that it definitely deterred a lot of young people from trying the drug or reduced the amount that they used, an unexpected effect was that it made using MDMA a “special” ritual, reserved only for notable occasions.

Anyway, when I came to Stanford and took a PWR course called “The Rhetoric of Intoxication,” I did a research project on MDMA and was surprised to learn that Dr. George A. Ricaurte of Johns Hopkins University, who had conducted multiple studies as evidence against recreational drug use, had his papers discredited on the grounds that his experiments were flawed. The studies were done from 1998-2002 and were all quickly criticized after their findings were published. However, almost a decade later, his research is still believed by the public. A lot of this is contributed to the fact that the U.S. government still spent millions of dollars on an anti-MDMA campaign using images and findings from the study.

This example makes it apparent that even when “crap” is detected, the ramifications of its effect can be long-term and requires the individual vigilance in skepticism and fact-finding. For issues that use evidence based on science and research, there can often be a delay in correcting “crap” from earlier studies. Depending on who the stakeholders are, the correction may not be as widely circulated.

 

The video above has been flooding my newsfeed recently. It describes the physical processes that result from MDMA consumption. What I like about it is that it doesn’t demonize the drug but also brings up potential therapeutic uses and controversy over possible health effects.

The hard thing about finding objective sources for a divided issue like this is that it’s just so political. The crap detection test relies on assessing Currency, Reliability, Authority, and Purpose. The biggest indicator for me would be Purpose since sites like www.drugfreeworld.org would definitely be biased, but I did my best to assemble sources that I considered reliable.

 

Very Good-These sources are reputable or well known media outlets, contain citations to established organizations or researchers, most current, and seemed not be a stakeholder. An important facet of journalism is that it shows different perspectives, but that doesn’t necessarily mean an article has to be “balanced.” The first Vox article does a good job of explaining current drug policies in the U.S. and exploring criticism of such policy by citing and linking to Gallup polls, research from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, and studies from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Although it does take a side, I think it does so without trying to spread misinformation or portraying MDMA is harmless. DanceSafe is a harm-reduction organization that aims to neither condemn nor celebrate the use of MDMA but rather increase knowledge about its harm and ways to reduce exposure to such harm. I feel confident in putting it under “Very Good” because they’re frequently referred to by health sites, such as by Brown University’s health services site. In addition, DanceSafe is a known name in the harm reduction space and has participated in conferences with attendees including federal agencies.

Vox

DanceSafe

NHTSA

 

 

Partially Trustworthy-The main value of these sites are that they link to credible sources. For example, a lot of the articles on Erowid are created by the users of the site and links to a huge number of outside sources but seeing as the creators “imagine a world where people treat psychoactives with respect and awareness,” I think they may be more likely to spread misinformation relating to the “benefits” of MDMA. I’m unsure of its reliability and purpose. The sources below are sources that I think are good for finding primary sources (i.e. studies, research) that can be used to validate statements made by media and other sites, even if their credibility isn’t always the best.

Erowid

Wikipedia (Misconceptions of Drugs)

Wikipedia (MDMA)

MAPS

 

 

Untrustworthy-These sources are very biased based on what I gleaned from by reading their “About Us” page. In addition, they make claims that are unsubstantiated and rely on anecdotes. There are rarely any citations. A prime example is the first source listed below. I could already tell its purpose by looking at its domain name. Although its articles sometimes cite statistics that the articles above use, most of the claims do not rely on those statistics. Under “Dream or Nightmare?” the site refers to the survey on MDMA consumption conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health but end with the unsubstantiated claim that “ecstasy is emotionally damaging and users often suffer depression, confusion, severe anxiety, paranoia, psychotic behavior and other psychological problems.” The site also tries to use many quotes/anecdotes from individuals identified merely with a first name as evidence. The second source is on the opposite spectrum of the debate. While the site does mention a research article, it makes sweeping generalizations such as “Nearly everyone, no matter how they feel the following week, finds that the thoughts, feelings, and emotional release that they experience on MDMA persists afterwards.” This is misleading because the claim ignores potentially adverse mental effects of MDMA.

DrugFreeWorld.org

HowToUsePsychedelics.org

 

Although I haven’t listed a lot of resources, it took me a long time to handpick these. The tough thing about what’s reliable on this topic is that new information is always being released. Outlets that may seem credible might turn out to not be so. For example, Ricaurte’s studies have made me a lot more skeptical about relying on science journals, but unfortunately, those are the sources that we lend the most credibility. Those are the sources that we hope are not bias, although the source of funding says otherwise. What I’ve learned from trying to detect crap in a controversial area such as this is that you need to find multiple resources that can support claims. Although as I said, scientific research isn’t perfect, it is the best that we can do. It’s also important to find opposing viewpoints and look at their sources to compare.

Surprises with Netvibes

Apologies for the late post! I just got back to Stanford late last night after spending a week in NYC, so it’s been really busy trying to get back on track.

 

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I have to say that I actually really like Netvibes. I was actually skeptical at first, since I’m an avid user of my phone and many, many tabs on my computer, but it’s actually nice to have multiple sources all in one place so that I can skim through everything on one page before deciding to click on something. I chose my tabs to be things that I try to keep track of but fail to do because it takes so much time to go through all of the sources. However, on my dashboard, I was able to separate them according to general news (i.e. politics, global, etc.), business and finance, tech news, electronic dance music, and podcasts.

General is mainly just my social media widgets. I put it first because I’m prone to check it first anyway, but the general news comes next because I think it’s important to be well versed in current events. Then comes finance and business. This tab is going to be especially important to me because when I go into the workforce, I’m going to need to keep track of this area. I typically use The Economist and The Wall Street Journal, but to supplement my blank tab, I browsed the widgets under Business and Finance to find more sources. The next tab is tech news because while I would like to be up-to-date with the tech industry, it’s not as significant or mandatory for me as business and finance. In this tab, I was able to aggregate all of the blogs that I read, which really saves me a lot of time. On my phone, I usually browse through the WSJ first before moving onto TechCrunch or Mashable, but a lot of the time, I’ve already had my fill of screen time with the WSJ before I could even close the WSJ and open the tech news apps. However, being able to just quickly move from one tab to another and browse headlines quickly has helped me consume more tech news, if only incrementally. What I like about these widgets is that I can click on them to load the article without having to move to another page or close a previous page.

As you may know, electronic music is so important me to me. Especially since I blog for a site, I need to stay current with what’s going on in the industry as well as popular opinion. Going to school and working makes it difficult to allot time to what I would consider a leisure activity, which is why it’s further to the right. I do like that I can have the RSS feeds for all of my favorite websites there so I can look through the titles. A highlight, though, is the ability to have ALL of my podcasts in one place. I hate opening iTunes because it always crashes my computer when I try to download too many podcasts, but having the podcast tab allows me to see when my favorite DJs upload a new podcast and listen to it through the dashboard. This has seriously been a time saver, and it’s really helping me keep track of new songs that are being released.

How has it helped me focus my attention? Having a clear “map” of the type of content I want to consume is useful in directing my attention toward the type that I want to prioritize and feel that I should consume. For example, while I know that I should be reading more of The Economist, I tend to go on Dancing Astronaut, a music blog, first, but by seeing the tabs organized by importance, I’m more likely to read news first before going onto the next tabs. I feel guiltier if I immediately jump to podcasts or EDM because I know I haven’t fulfilled my goals of the day. Within each tab, the widgets that I put at the very top either were short and succinct and would give me a broad overview or very in-depth and substantive. For example, the WSJ tends to have articles that are a bit on the shorter side and produces many articles a day while The Economist provides lengthier pieces that dives into the analysis of a topic. That way, I can get depth and breadth.

I’m actually surprised that I like it so much. I plan on using www.diigo.com to get RSS feeds of people’s social bookmarks so that I can find new sources for topics in which I’m interested. I’m very passionate about education accessibility for low-income, first-generation students, and judging from the PDF that Professor Rheingold sent us as an example, it seems that Diigo would be a good resource to find news on such a topic. Will keep updating on my use with NetVibes.

Using Paper.li for My Coterm

I actually first heard of Paper.li last year from Howard when we were doing our walk and checked it out but never actually used it. I can see exactly how useful it can be. I like to scroll through my Facebook feed looking for the latest news on electronic music, but having it compiled on Paper.li would be a lot more convenient. Definitely going to revisit this for other areas that I’m interested in.

The most difficult portion of this assignment was to compile a Twitter list of “experts” to use in Paper.li. As a result, I had to find a topic that not only had “experts” but also experts who would use Twitter. After racking my brain for a topic, one in which I would actually be interested, I found that this was an opportunity to help me with my coterm project. Since I’ll be working on an environmental study relating to the ocean, it would be beneficial to keep up-to-date with what’s going on in that realm, since having only a social science research-focused perspective would be limiting.

While I’ve always been interested in marine biology and oceanography, I wasn’t too familiar with current sustainability and environmental debates concerning policy and new research. Having Paper.li would help me at least gain exposure, even if I’m skimming headlines most of the time. The tough part was looking for experts. What I did first was used the search engine on Twitter for “#coralreef” and scanned the Tweets that included that hash tag. When I found a “worthy” Tweet, I would click on the user’s profile and read the description. If I thought that they looked like an expert, I would view their full profile to see what other topics they posted about. Once I exhausted the “#coralreef” search, I went on to one of the members on my new list and looked at their lists. There was profile that I particularly liked with very good lists, organized by topics. I made sure to have a wide variety of “experts” ranging from journalists to scientists to activists to organizations. The scope became broader, from coral reef to encompass all different aspects of ocean environmentalism, including seafood sustainability and ocean acidification.

 

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For me, the organization is actually very ideal. I have the “Headlines” section that gathers the major content of the day. Photos and videos are particularly interesting in this subject, since beautiful visuals of the ocean are one of the main tools activists use in their environmental campaigns. Plus, the strange and bizarre pictures of sea creatures that people post are cool to look at. The “Science” section is where I can keep up with the new research being conducted while “Environment” is more specific to current efforts and policies. This area is just so broad and encompassing that it’s very handy to have something like Paper.Li to aggregate sources of experts that I choose to follow. I’m going to keep monitoring this Paper.li and my Twitter list to see who I should add, especially if the experts on my lists are always retweeting them, or take out if there are too many irrelevant posts. Thanks Howard for another tool!

Coffeehouses and Electronic Music

As I was reading Tom Standage’s “Social Networking in the 1600s,” which was linked to “The distractions of social media, 1673 style” under the recommended texts, I went through it skeptical about his comparison between social networks and coffeehouses. Coffeehouses in the 17th century was a place for people (mainly men) to come together to discuss a wide variety issues while escaping class barriers (although I’m also skeptical of this). Throughout history books and literature, coffeehouses have become immortalized as places of innovation, intellectual exchange, and invention. The cultural and productive value of the coffeehouse came to overshadow the protests of critics who believed that such places kept men from productive work. As I was reading his article, I had “Facebook” in mind, which doesn’t strike me as a public place for intellectual discussions.

However, as I neared the end, I realized that I had forgotten that social networks are more than just Facebook and that they are more than the passive way in which many of us use them (i.e. scrolling mindlessly through our newsfeed, posting pictures of cupcakes on instagram, etc.). Standage refers to specific examples, such as the use of social media in the Arab Spring, microblogging in China for political discussions, and internal social networks for companies. Since last June, I took a long break from my social networks to focus on work. In the process, I had forgotten the significance of social media platforms because I had condemned them as distracting.

Although social media has many “intellectual” benefits for me, such as discovering opinion articles on first-generation low income students at elite schools or the debates on university policy against students who have committed sexual assault, one of the primary reasons I use social media is to follow up on the electronic music and rave scene. Beyond just understanding what’s hot or trendy, I use it as a tool in accessing topics that are important to the scene. Youth subculture is often poorly represented in traditional forms of media. Most if not all articles in major newspapers on raves depict the scene in a poor light, one that is surrounded by drug use and overdose. Facebook is one of the primary outlets in which participants can gather to gossip about DJs, share details on exciting developments, and debate or discuss heated topics relevant to the scene.

There’s actually one Facebook group that has become almost something of a virtual coffeehouse for electronic music lovers. There are tons of active threads going on at one time on a wide range of topic discussions. A convention is to accompany any post with a track, which contributes to the information exchange within the Facebook group. In addition, what’s great about this group is that it tends to consolidate big news happening in the electronic music world all in one place. This is helpful because there is an abundance of sources to receive information (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) but the most “important” bits (i.e. juiciest, most controversial, most relevant) are picked out by fans to be shared. Also, usually when one person posts the news story, other people continue to add on to it w/developments from other sites as time progresses.

One of the things that I love about the group is the discussion that it generates. For example, a heated topic was the use of Native American headdress at raves. Although the majority of participants believed that it was racist and wrong, it was also interesting to see what the opposition had to say, even if I disagreed. Such a discussion was important in bringing awareness to many people to the fact that wearing Native American headdresses is a cultural transgression. Another more recent thread that garnered a lot of responses is Diplo’s new music video that has an anti-drug message. There are fans who support his message and critics who find irony that a DJ who openly admits to smoking weed produced such a video. (For an example of what the discussion looked like in the FB group, see comments below the linked video.)

Although I’m sure not everyone will equate the use of social media to discuss electronic music on the same pedestal as the discussions that took place in 17th century coffee houses, it is apparent that social networking sites provide a place to have an opened dialogue on information. Yes, we may spend too much time on these sites, but the dialogue and engagement that allows us to actively process information rather than to passively consume it is an important aspect of social media, one that can be used in other contexts.

Emoticon Use and Culture

As an anthropology major, I’m particularly interested in the differences in which cultures communicate as well as in the creation and interpretation of signs and symbols. In class, we discussed the way in which we use various tools to communicate online or through texts, like emoticons or acronyms. Through speaking with friends from Japan and other parts of Asia, I noticed that the forms of signs that we used varied in frequency.

To elaborate on the term “sign,” I use it  to refer to Ferdinand de Saussure’s definition of a sign as something that stands for something other than itself. It intrinsically has no meaning but becomes a sign once a meaning is interpreted using the sign. According to Saussure, a sign consists of a signifier, which is the form that the sign takes (i.e. word, picture, sounds, flavors) and the signified, which is the concept that the signifier represents. For example, the American stop sign takes the form of a red octagon (signifier) and is interpreted as a command to stop (the signified).

Now, interestingly, while my American friends do use emoticons, we are more limited in our use of “images.” I find that we tend to use abbreviations more often, such as “LOL,” “tfti,” and “wtf.” Even for my friends from Japan who are very fluent in English, knowing what my abbreviations stood for and actually understanding their usage and the connotations associated with them had to be learned. For example, explaining the use of “lol” its many variations was a bit challenging. I used to be in the habit of typing out “lol” every few sentences, but I remember the first time I explained what it stood for, one of my friend would ask “Why are you laughing out loud?”

On the other hand, my Japanese friends tended to use a wide variety of emoticons. While some were obvious, I had some trouble interpreting a few of them. I found this website that collects all of the different emoticons that Japanese people use. The picture below is only a small sample of the possible “Happy” emoticons that are available. There’s also a wide variety of emoticons available for emotions such as “Angry,” “Love,” and “Sad.” The site also has descriptions to help users in creating their own emoticons. For happy, the site advises:

For happy looking emoticons you usually want to use eyes that are high up. The best characters to use for these are ^, ´, `, or ⌒ among others. The best characters to use for mouths are ones like ▽, ∀ or ω if you want to be cute. You can also add * or # for rosey cheeks or add waving arms with things like , /, ヽ or ノ. You can also always throw in stars or hearts too. ”

 

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As you can see from above, it’s not always intuitive that some of these indicate happiness. However, the site’s guidance implies that there are some rules in place to help interpret what an emoticon could mean based on its attributes.

There’s actually been research done on studying emoticon use across cultures. A study (Markman and Oshima 2007) showed that emoticons had different functions in the two cultures. In the U.S., emoticons are often used in the closing of a statement or as a punctuation while in Japan, emoticons were much more complex and used to represent actual offline expressions. An fMRI study (yes, researchers have used fMRI machines to study emoticons) indicates that when we look at emoticons, even if they are static, we perceive them to be “dynamic and living agents,” so it would make sense that emoticons can actually serve the purpose of conveying “real” expressions.

Another study observes the use of vertical vs. horizontal emoticons in Tweets. Interestingly, users in a few countries, including Japan, Korea, and the Netherlands, switched the type of emoticons they used depending on which language in which they Tweeted. Japanese and Korean users tended to use vertical emoticons more when tweeting in their dominant language but used horizontal emoticons more when tweeting in English. Dutch users showed the opposite results.

While our class discussion may have indicated that the way in which we communicate online is up to the individual with no norms in place, I think it is apparent that there are certain guidelines that are embedded in us culturally, socially and biologically (see this paper-results show that our brain perceives some abstract faces/avatars as more “vivid and lively” than photorealistic ones) that help determine what the appropriate mechanisms are in online communication.

 

In Response to Fang–My Personal Social Media Strategy

I’m writing this post in response to Fang’s own post about her social media strategy. I’m very impressed with how she manages so many social media platforms! I have a bunch of accounts, but rarely do I use all of them and for apps that have a different purpose,  I tend not to engage myself with the social aspect. Besides Facebook and Snapchat, I’d say that my social media presence isn’t very strong, at least not recently.

I would say that in addition to being aware of how we curate ourselves on each platform, another important aspect is who is seeing it and who we consciously share these platforms with. I identify three different social spheres in my life and according to who falls into which realm, control how much of my online presence I willingly share. Obviously, google makes it difficult to have full control. The spheres, going from lowest amount of exposure to highest, are family (i.e. sister, mother, cousins), professionals (professors, managers), and friends (i.e. Greek friends, classmates) . These are no where near mutually exclusive (like work friends). I would say this is more of a continuum rather than perfectly distinct categories.

High Usage

  • Facebook: This is how I keep track of my expansive network. I’m in a sorority with a tight network of chapters across the nation shared as well with a brother fraternity. I’ve made friends across the world traveling or through programs. Facebook is how I keep up-to-date with them, how I talk to them (messenger) and how I allow them to keep up-to-date with my life (pictures, posts, etc.). In high school, my filter on Facebook was very low–any picture would be posted. However, I’ve been a lot less active in posting on Facebook, especially after understanding the potential ramifications of bad pictures or poorly worded posts. I don’t really use Facebook for the public, like posting up pictures for everyone or writing on walls, but rather as private tool to keep in contact with friends or acquaintances. FB messenger has become one of my favorite phone apps. Thank God for privacy settings–I use these to make sure certain individuals whose friend requests I can’t deny (i.e. cousins) don’t see incriminating things. I have only ever been Facebook friends with one co-worker post high school. My coworkers and I prefer…
  • Snapchat: This has actually become a preferred medium. It’s fun because I can see where my friends are and what they’re doing in “real time”, there’s a chat function, and we can “face time.” However, it’s hard to have two-way interaction because oftentimes you don’t open the snap right away and when someone else responds, you might’ve forgotten what they sent you. I like it because it’s visual and more thoughtful since you have to think of who you’re sending the snap to. One reason why I think it’s something that my coworkers and I use with one another is because it’s easily controlled and temporary. I decide what they see (unless I post it on my story) and it feels very personal since they don’t know who else was able to access it. I don’t mind adding anyone to my Snapchat since I’m also very conscious of what I post on “My Story,” but I would find it really strange if a senior person asked me to be Snapchat friends.
  • LinkedIn: Since entering the professional world, LinkedIn has usurped Facebook as my favorite medium in which to creep on others. I maintain a very sparse LinkedIn profile since I prefer traditional ways of networking and have found that much more useful for the field that I’m in. However, LinkedIn is immensely useful in helping me frame my interactions with people by understanding what interests them, what their work experience has been, where they went to school, etc. This has much value when I know the name of my interviewer, can do some background research, and find common things to bring up. Unlike Facebook, I rarely add people. I don’t mind sharing my LinkedIn with anyone.

Low Usage (of social media)

  • Spotify: I mainly use Spotify to listen to music. I almost always try to go on “private session” mode because I hate that it shares what I’m listening to with my Facebook friends. However, it does bring me pride when someone follows me or my playlists, and it’s useful for sharing music. Don’t mind sharing my Spotify indiscriminately, but I do suppose there are some playlists with questionable names.
  • Instagram: I was Instagram crazy for maybe 3 weeks, but according to my sister, coworker, and one of my seniors, this is the “new Facebook.” I never really caught on the trend probably because I don’t really take pictures and when I do, it just goes onto Snapchat, but my friends use it to tag me in pictures or videos. Asian girls for some reason particularly love Instagram and have been the only type of people to ask me right off the bat whether I have an Instagram. When I do use it, I use it more to look at pictures of DJs or brands that I like. I don’t really like to share my Instagram with other people because some of my initial posts were really weird and basic since I was using it to mainly troll some of my friends.
  • Soundcloud: It never even occurred to me that there was a social aspect to Soundcloud until one of my coworker found out that we had similar tastes in music and us follow each other. Beyond looking at some of her playlists and songs, I never really got into the social part but I love Soundcloud as a music player. Don’t mind sharing my Soundcloud indiscriminately.

As you can see, I don’t use too many social media platforms. The three that I mainly use are ones that I use a lot and play an integral part of my life. It’s much easier to manage my online presence with fewer footprints.

Reflections on COMM 182 and COMM 183

Taking Howard’s class last fall and now this course was perfect timing. COMM 182 exposed me to issues that I thought about during my summer internship while this course resurfaces some of them for further reflection. It’s hard to know where to start, but I’ll base it around some of the readings.

I was grateful that we talked about email apnea in COMM 182 because it made me even more conscious of the stressful effects that going through my inbox had on me. As a result, I tried to implement practices that would reduce the stress and became more mindful of my breathing. If I found that I held my breath or that my breathing was too shallow, I stopped for a bit to gather myself and started breathing more deeply. I have other practices (in detail in my comment on Betty’s blog post on mindful emailing), such as creating folders to evaluate priority, checking only a few times a day, disregarding the instant reply rule, etc. It helped a lot in the workplace where I had at least three or four projects happening at one time. I couldn’t just spend so much time on emails and give them instant attention every time I received one. Reading Stone’s Just Breathe: Building the Case for Email Apnea helped me gauge my progress in controlling my email apnea. Her piece was also useful in reminding me the physiological benefits there are to it as well. I am also trying to be aware of which other activities make me breath shallowly or hold my breath, such as checking my Facebook instant messages or going through my to-do list.

After discussing media multitasking in many of my communication classes and opting to be in the camp that being a HMM is an acquired trait rather than a natural one, I vowed to reduce my media multitasking so that I could focus more on my primary task and be quicker at task switching. I remembered that at my previous internships, I was less efficient than I could have been because of the temptations of Facebook, G-Chat, Instagram, etc, so I worked throughout the school year to reduce the time I spent on those media while doing homework. Luckily for me, my most recent workplace blocked social media sites (due to privacy purposes for the nature of our work), but I was able to also prevent myself from constantly taking out my phone to check my Facebook or texts. My focus was so much better, and I made fewer mistakes. The urge to constantly have some new stimulation, usually satisfied by my newsfeed or a SnapChat, was greatly reduced.

However, while I loved my internship, including the work I did and the people with whom I interacted, it had obvious effects on my health. The culture in business, particularly finance, indicates that the internship is a rite of passage, a temporary hardship that tests the mind, body, and soul. I thought that I had found a victory by controlling my social media consumption, but reading Cook’s piece made me revisit some thoughts that I’ve had in the past.

“It’s a common cycle. Working hard in school to get into a good university, then landing a ‘good job’ and working to get promoted, all the while trying to upgrade my belongings to match my desired lifestyle: a bigger apartment, a new car, high thread count sheets, and gourmet kitchen appliances. My whole life was geared toward reaching some undefined point where I would have ‘made it,’ so I could then take a well deserved vacation.”

I was being mindful so that I could succeed in the workplace, but as a result, I sacrificed being mindful to live fully. I’m very ambitious, and I love my job, but I realize that I also need to “[work] on showing up to my life on a daily basis, [try] to live in the present moment, [try to really be here, now].”

Although social media may seem counterintuitive to such a goal, I’ve begun reconsidering increasing my consumption of social media, but of course, in a mindful way. Throughout my internship, my time on Facebook was almost non-existent. Snapchat was my main medium, but even then, I was limited in two-way interactions. I saw it was a good thing, but I realized that I was becoming less engaged with friends who meant something to me but are geographically far. I recently texted a friend with whom I will be staying with in New York for a few days and congratulated him on something that I found out about through his Facebook. He was surprised when I told him where I heard the news from and he said, “But you’re never on Facebook anymore!” While many tout that it’s important to get offline and experience these relationships in person, sometimes it’s impossible. I have so many good friends scattered around the globe that the only way I can talk to them and keep up with their lives is through Facebook. However, mindful use of Facebook is different from opening the app on my phone just to merely scroll through the newsfeed.

As you can see, Howard’s classes have had a profound impact on how I’ve approached my personal life as well as my professional :)