Digital Death

3 Dec

As I mentioned earlier, social media can be so consuming it turns into an outright addiction. A simple cure to this addiction would be to just stop using social media. But what price would you pay to commit social media suicide? The answer is $1,000,000.

In honor of World Aids Day (which was this past Wednesday), a group of highly followed celebrities announced their “Digital Death” in effort to raise money for Keep A Child Alive, an organization fighting against HIV/AIDS in Africa and the rest of the developing world.

The premise of Digital Death is 19 celebrities that are very active on Twitter and Facebook have made the decision to sacrifice their digital lives until $1,000,000 is raised for HIV/AIDS. This meaning that celebrities such as Kim and Khloe Kardashian and Lady Gaga will not Tweet or update any statuses until the goal is reached. In order to reach this goal, the celebrities have sent out their cry for help, asking followers to donate money, or “buy their lives back.” Each celebrity gives their last Tweet and testament before they say sayonara to the social media world.

While I think this is a very worthy cause to be working with and raising money for, I can’t help but see the vanity behind all of it. These celebrities are begging their followers to bring them back their digital lives as if the world would be in shambles without their 500 Tweets a day. There really is no comparison between losing a digital life versus losing a real child’s life to such a horrible disease.

I am also curious to see how well this campaign does in reaching their goal. I understand that some people are on the edge of their seats waiting for a celebrities next Tweet. But to be honest, I would probably enjoy not being updated on whichever movie star’s every waking move. I have followed some celebrities on Twitter and actually had to unfollow them because their Tweets clogged up my feed. Some updates can be interesting every now and then, but in all honesty I really could care less.

Also, another reason I don’t know if this campaign will do so well is that when people stop Tweeting it just leaves more space for other people to fill. If you think about people you follow, when they aren’t Tweeting you stop looking to their accounts to read what they have posted. With all of these celebrities turning off their Tweets, I bet eventually people will just forget all together.

I don’t necessarily hate this campaign, I think it was a good idea on paper and it also helps raise awareness with the help from big names and faces. I just feel that too much of the focus is on getting Justin Timberlake back to Tweeting rather than the millions of lives affected by HIV/AIDS. But I’ll still keep my fingers crossed that they can raise the money for Keep A Child Alive!



Death by Social Media

19 Nov

Everyone has that friend that is constantly updating their Facebook status, documenting every breath on Twitter or ranting about some superfluous pet peeve on their blog. You may even be that friend. While it is quite evident that social media is an important if not necessary tool for keeping up with the times, it has also consumed the lives of many. So much that some people are even addicted to their social media outlets.

It’s a bizarre concept, but you also wonder how people who are always updating their status on five different websites can get anything else done. It is especially concerning when you see websites, such as Facebook, causing people great misfortunes like losing their job over an inappropriate tagged photo or even driving a mother to killing her child because of Farmville.

As more stories about overuse of social media emerge and make headlines, we know what is coming next: the parody. From the people at YourTango, a digital media site for love and relationships, comes the ‘80s PSA spoof, warning people of the dangers of social media addiction.

The video pokes fun at Twitter, Farmville, Foursquare and several other social media tools as if they were a drug addiction. It is over-the-top yet ironically believable considering how many people are plugged in 24/7. The message YourTango was making a point of is that so many people get too caught up in the digital world that they forget to keep up with and maintain their real life relationships. People are too focused on Tweeting about how wonderful the date is that they’re on than actually enjoying the time spent with the other person. Mashable wrote an interesting article about how Facebook has changed societies’ perspective on dating and ultimately has resulted in more drama that would otherwise not exist.

Are we really predisposed to dating controlled by social media or is there some hope left out there for an old fashioned, face-to-face, real-life relationship? To answer this, we must look to the origin of a relationship, or the first date. From the minds of two best friends, Aaron Schildkrout and Brian Schechter, came the idea of a dating website that focuses on the one of those infamous beauty pageant questions: Describe your ideal date. Rather than posting pictures and information about oneself, users post ideas for dates and the area that they live in. The website, titled “How about we…” is free to post and read date ideas, the only cost comes when you want to send a message to the person asking them on a date.

I find this to be a very innovative form of online dating. It’s the new way to blind date, but you get to choose the kind of date you go on. Some potential date ideas include:

“How about we… attack the Sunday crossword in a quiet café.”

“How about we… shop for pop-rocks in a classic candy store.”

“How about we… drink wine and see who can make the other laugh first.”

The site allows users to make profiles, but not as in depth as other dating sites. The questions asked reveal more unique information. Some include, “What would you bring to show and tell?” and “One thing my mother would want you to know about me?” This focuses more on the personality and makes things more relaxed.

Ideas like this are what help me to believe that social media can do great things if used correctly. The site uses social media as the stepping-stone from your digital to real life. It requires you to physically go out and interact with people without being overly dependent on the site itself. It can help save you from the dreaded, “Social Media Addiction.”

Secrets Saving Lives

11 Nov

Ok, so I know I mentioned PostSecret in my previous post regarding anonymous media, but after learning about Second Life in class and discussing the anonymity of avatars for networking, it got me thinking back to this viral art project.

To make a long story short, PostSecret was created by a man named Frank Warren, who handed out 3,000 blank postcards to strangers with two things written on the back: one was his home address and the other was a request for these strangers to anonymously send in a secret on the card to contribute to an ongoing community art project. The directions were simple: share a secret that no one knows, keep it concise, readable, and most importantly, make it your work of art. The cards that were sent back to him were turned into an art exhibit and posted to a blog. From there the cards flooded in and the phenomena that is PostSecret began. Over five years since the beginning of the project, Warren now has four published books, two blogs, and travels the world speaking about PostSecret and partnering up with worthy causes like the suicide hotline.

And of course, with various social media tools, PostSecret has gained even more followers through the Facebook and Twitter accounts. I peeked around on the PostSecret Twitter for a while reading some of the more recent tweets and came across several different posts about the “Soldiers Secrets” video. As last Thursday was Veteran’s Day, the videos release was timed perfectly for the occasion. The four-minute video is a compilation of post cards from soldiers and those with close ties to soldiers that reveal chilling, heartbreaking and honest secrets.

I find it pretty amazing that a project based on such a simple idea has made its way overseas to have an impact on soldiers at war. A lot of the secrets shared were confessions that those at war would not want to share with their loved ones to protect them from worry, but also secrets that were releaving to get out in the open. The effects that PostSecret has had on people (going off cards read from the blog) and their changed perspectives on life are almost therapeutic. If you have ever shared a secret with a stranger, it’s kind of a feeling of weight being lifted. The original premise of the project has definitely evolved into something much more complex but nurturing at the same time.

Something I stumbled upon that really made me realize the power of social media was a post referencing the “please don’t jump” secret. I did some investigating and found that it was actually a Facebook group that a PostSecret reader created in response to a devastating secret they read.

“I have lived in San Francisco since I was young. I am illegal. I am not wanted here. I don’t belong anywhere. This summer I plan to jump off the Golden Gate.”

The Facebook group generated huge amounts of support from people sharing their own experiences with suicide, posting encouraging comments and providing options for help. It also sparked an organized demonstration of support from a group of people who showed up on the Golden Gate Bridge to leave flowers, balloons and encouraging messages of love and compassion. The Facebook group currently has over 25,000 members who are continuing to provide support through daily messages. The mission of group was to hopefully grab the attention of whoever wrote the secret and show them that they are loved and appreciated in this world. It is really uplifting to see thousands of strangers coming together all for the life of one person. It shows there still is a sense of humanity in our society and that human beings can do great things if they use their power wisely.

Off the Wall Networking

3 Nov

After the recent post on the class blog mentioning the death of the floppy disk, I found it quite appropriate that I stumbled upon an art project involving the injection of USB flash drives into random public spaces around New York City. The project “Dead Drops” is an idea created by German media artist Aram Bartholl, who has cemented the flash drives into brick walls and curbs around the city for  “anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space.” A dead drop is essentially a secret location where two people can meet to exchange information without actually seeing each other. Most commonly used by spies, Bartholl’s idea is more for creative and experimental purposes.

He describes the true form of a dead drop revealing only the metal sheath of the USB drive protruding from a wall, barely noticeable to passersby.

“Dead Drops don’t need any cables or wireless technology. Your knees on the ground or a dirty jacket on the wall is what it takes share files offline. A Dead Drop is a naked piece of passively powered Universal Serial Bus technology embedded into the city, the only true public space. In an era of growing clouds and fancy new devices without access to local files we need to rethink the freedom and distribution of data. The Dead Drops movement is on its way for change! Free your data to the public domain in cement! Make your own Dead Drop now! Un-cloud your files today!!!”

This project is somewhat of an understated form of social media. While it is making personal information available to the public, it is still somewhat private. The locations of the Dead Drops are published on Bartholl’s blog, yet they still remain camouflaged among everyday city life. The concept is similar to having a Facebook or Twitter account with the information you share—pictures, videos, links, etc.—yet it all depends on who is looking at these various snippets of your life. If no one is following you on Twitter, who cares what you post, other than for your own public diary. The Dead Drops are an interesting idea because, as of now, it appears to be only a small population using the hidden networking outposts. It would be worth following to see if the idea evolves into something bigger or something viral. The anonymity of the project is appealing in the sense that people can share their secrets with the world without having to reveal anything about who they really are. Much different from the Facebook realm where it is near impossible to escape tagged photos and the like. It reminds me of another similar project, Post Secret, where people send in anonymous letters confessing their secrets. There is definitely a trend to watch out for here.

One concept that caught my eye from reading the comments people left was from one person who said that Dead Drops were like a digital form of “geocaching.” I did a little investigating and found that geocaching is a modern day treasure hunt where your map is a GPS device. The basic idea is that there are “caches” or the equivalent to a treasure chest, which are hidden all over the world in secret locations. To find them, the treasure hunter just has to log onto the geochaching website and plug the GPS coordinates into their device. The adventure begins and the coordinates lead you to the general site where the cache is located, but it is up to the treasure seeker to find the hidden cache. The idea reminds me of a hide and seek game with a time capsule, since the caches contain little trinkets and items that other people have left behind when they have found the cache. When you find a cache, you can log onto the website and record your adventures and findings. Since many new smart phones have GPS devices in them, almost anyone can play the geocaching game. The integration of technology and media with a physical adventure game is pretty innovative if you ask me. And not to forget, you can find Geocaching on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, so treasure hunters can stay updated.

Lately it seems as if everything in the social media world has become more about publicizing what you are doing, where you went last weekend, who you were hanging out with, etc. It has become information over share in my opinion and everyone seems to be too hung up on what their Facebook status says or which celebrity tweeted what. Dead Drops and Geocaching are two refreshing ideas that are focused more on content and the experience, rather than who is responsible for it. It may be bizarre, creepy, or just plain strange things that you encounter from these projects, but it is very likely that it will be something interesting and memorable. Definitely something sticky.

Fireworks in October

28 Oct

While we all know that social media has the power to persuade the minds of millions, it is always inspiring to see it used for a worthy cause. In honor of the recent suicides by bullied gay teens, hundreds of thousands of people pledged to wear purple on October 20. Purple was chosen because it represents spirit from the rainbow LGBTQ flag, thus Spirit Day was created. The event was created by Canadian teenager Brittany McMillan, who wanted to bring attention to the struggles gay teens face everyday with bullying. She started the event on her Facebook page, which quickly gained huge attention and sparked other pages that vowed to wear purple.

This viral message led other organizations to join the cause. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) created a Spirit Day application on Facebook and Twitter that changed the color of your profile picture purple and encouraged users to change their status and/or tweet the tagline “I’m wearing purple to end anti-LGBT bullying – make your profile pic purple today #SpiritDay’m wearing purple to end anti-LGBT bullying – make your profile pic purple today #SpiritDay” This definitely grabbed the attention of many. After changing both my Facebook and Twitter pictures, I received comments in support of the cause and was happy to see friends’ pictures sporting a purple tint after.

It is also heartening to see celebrities use their fame to support serious issues. Singer Katy Perry just released the video for her song “Firework” on Thursday, which is an uplifting anthem about “what it means to be an underdog and have the courage, if you’re on the outskirts of society, to be your own person,” as described by video director, Dave Meyers.

The music video features several different young people that get picked on by society more often than not, including the geek, the chubby girl, and the gay teen. The premise of the video is that fireworks start erupting from these kids’ hearts when they find the strength to publicly be proud of whom they are. Aside from it awkwardly looking like there are sparklers igniting from Katy Perry’s breasts, the concept of the video is heart-felt and encouraging. The premier of the video also launched with a contest to win a trip to London to meet Katy Perry. The rules to enter? Upload a video to YouTube describing what the firework in your life is. If that isn’t effective social media public relations than I don’t know what is.

The best part is that Perry announced on her heavily followed Twitter account that she dedicated the video to the It Gets Better Project, a website where LGBTQ teens can share their stories and experiences and support each other. And for a social media cherry on top, Perry added a hashtag with the word “firework” to her Twitter post asking followers to Tweet the fireworks in their lives. Mine is my favorite person in the whole world, my Mom #firework.

Zombie Monday

25 Oct

Due to work obligations and an empty gas tank, I wasn’t able to attend the Zombie Walk this past Saturday in Portland. But to keep in spirit and in excitement for the weekend festivities, I have “zombified” myself.

It scares me how similar this is to what I actually look like on some days. If only every day was Zombie day.

Try out the Zombie creator yourself and together we can start the Zombie revolution!

Facebook for President

21 Oct

It’s official. Facebook is taking over the world. Not really, but seriously. Reaching 500 million friends, it’s safe to say that the social networking site would be considered the popular kid at school, or at any school. Every school combined. If you just take a look at the people on Facebook, you will notice it is no longer just college students, which is how it started out. Does anyone even remember those days anymore? It’s hard to remember the simplistic idea it started out as—a website for students to communicate with each other among their college networks. But the requirements for an account have loosened up with the years and now anyone from household pets to fictitious movie characters are free to friend, message, wall-post and poke other users.

With this vastly growing site, it is no surprise that businesses have begun to capitalize on this extremely popular and widely used network. Business can guide customers to their Facebook page for updates, deals, and ultimately a two-way relationship where people can comment with their thoughts.

Take note also to almost every article you read online. Somewhere either at the top, bottom, or right in your face is the option to “like” a story. This will link to your page and Facebook will do you the favor of compiling everything you’ve clicked and generating lists of things that you will probably want to “like” button as well. Thanks for helping me realize things I am interested in, Facebook! The non-affiliated website, The Like Button in Real Life, even has tiny stickers that you can buy with the “like” logo for you to slap on everything your heart desires. Yet another company jumping on the Facebook bandwagon to make a profit.

However, one of the most genius ideas yet has come from the collaboration between Target and Kodak. On Tuesday, Target announced that customers can now print their Facebook pictures from the Kodak Kiosks in almost all of their stores nationwide. The kiosks, enabled with Social Network Connectivity, gives users access to all of their albums, photos, etc. and they have the option to not only print out pictures, but create photo books, calendars, greeting cards, DVDs and other photo memorabilia. This is smart move for Target since it gives customers even more incentive to come in and kill two birds with one stone: get your shopping done while print out your pictures hassle-free.

Facebook also one-upped their competitors once again by upgrading the photo features on the site. New features including high-resolution photos, bulk tagging options and easier downloads entices users to ditch their regular photo sharing sites in lieu of having every great feature on one website. This works in favor of not only Facebook but Target and Kodak as well. Talk

And with the Facebook movie, The Social Network, grossing more than 64 billion dollars and securing the number one spot two weeks in a row only 19 days after its release date, it is obvious what a social phenomena the company has become. There is no doubt that more companies will be teaming up with and integrating Facebook into their marketing agendas. Who knows, maybe we will eventually start paying our bills on Facebook. Or school curriculums will be taught via Facebook. There doesn’t seem to be an idea too absurd for Facebook.

For now, I will just keep using it as a distraction from schoolwork and time-filler when I am avoiding my lengthy to-do lists. But I can’t promise that is all I will use it for in the future.