That’s a Wrap

Today marks the end of another academic year for me.

And what a year it has been!

I feel as if I have grown more this year than any other year of my undergraduate career. Since I only completed my last exam a few hours ago, I have not had time to reflect upon the year and process all that has happened. I just know I am a different person than when I started in August.

One portion of this year that has really challenged me has been my psychology of social media course. Before this course, I did not consider myself very routine in using social media. However, this course has forced me to be consistent with my current social media and experiment with new forms including this blog.

The past few weeks I have focused my attention on a social media I have had for many years but rarely use, Pinterest.

I remember joining Pinterest and not really being sure what to do with it at first. I used it in the same ways I had seen my friends use it. I used it to collect ideas for my future life like going to college, getting married, and creating a home.

As life began to get busy, Pinterest was one of the things I gave up to give myself more time. This all changed when I was assigned to research Pinterest with a group for a final presentation in my psychology of social media class.

These past few weeks I have been rediscovering Pinterest, and I like what I am finding.

I learned through research that Pinterest has more uses that I had initially given it credit.

Pinterest really illustrates the commonality of humanity. When you pin something, you are 80% likely to get a repin while on Twitter you are only 1.4% likely to get a retweet. What is important to you is also important to others.

Pinterest also has massive amounts of resources and uses in education. Departments of Education such as Pennsylvania are using it to comply resources for teachers, students, and parents. This also encourages a greater dialogue between all three different groups.

This is only the tip of the iceberg of the information my group found about Pinterest.

To present our information, we created boards for each section of our research. When I was initially searching for information, the board was so helpful. I had one place that I could put all the information for my section.

However, as I prepared to present, I learned you cannot move pins around once they are on a board. This made navigating my board difficult. I had to know for certain which pin I wanted in order and what the widget looked like.

I was relying on the Smartboard in our classroom to work when I presented for me to personally navigate the confusing board. This did not work out as I had planned and so one of my group members tried to click on items from the computer.

This made me flustered and impacted my presentation in a negative way. I know I missed information because I was focused on the technology and prompting my group member.

To prevent this disaster again, I would spend more time being a careful curator and putting in the description section how to navigate the board in a presentation.

Combining public and private curation, after all, is one of the huge benefits of Pinterest to society.

While this presentation marked a wrap on my psychology of social media course, I have a feeling it only marks the beginning of my blogging adventure.

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Settling In

It has felt like this semester has been all about pushing me to define who I am.

  • I performed a Junior Recital that started to define who I would be as a performer.
  • I outlined my last few courses in my undergraduate career to finish defining my degree.
  • I started outlining my post-graduation plans to define my career.
  • I have been intentionally crafting my digital presence in two courses to define who I am to the outside world.

All these steps to define myself is ultimately causing me to actively begin to brand myself. But, branding seemed like the wrong term for an individual until recently.

Paul Wilson, a Marketing Technologist at Capgemini and author of the blog mymarketer.net, described finding your brand as finding your superpower where passion, talent, and focus all meet.

With this definition of what a brand should do, my discomfort of calling it branding has been subsiding. However, it has been replaced with a discomfort of following through to clearly articulate my own brand and answer the question who am I and why I am special.

There is so much to consider to clearly articulate my brand.

Thankfully, Paul Wilson, walked one of my classes through some of the steps to consider in creating a brand for yourself.

First, find the place where my passion, talent, and focus meet.
What is my superpower?

Then, embrace what makes me different.
What can I offer that no one else is offer with my superpower?

After that, remain authentic.
Is this who I truly am as a person and is it being displayed?

Finally, connect to all the tools available to me.
How do I spread my personal brand?

These are some deep questions, that I honestly can say I haven’t put enough time into yet to give an articulate answer.

Yet, the process has begun.

The creation of this blog for a class has, in turn, created my home on the Internet. There are so many places on the Internet and through so many channels of social media that I could use to express my brand. But, this blog is that place for me.

A blog allows for well-thought out ideas to continue to grow and change just a person grows and changes. It provides space for conversations to emerge that in turn deepens connections and authenticity.

It can be quite scary to think about the outcome of branding myself even as I continue to define myself because it means sometimes showing some parts that aren’t the most beautiful.

However, someone once said “if you aren’t going to embrace your own ugliness, someone else will and then they control the story.”

Thanks to the constant pushing of this semester, now,  I am controlling my own story, learning my superpower, and settling into my new home.

This is something I look forward to continuing and these are just the words I have thus far.

 

Waking Up

This past week, I spent Saturday evening up late lying in bed reading a book for my Psychology of Social Media course. I was focused on completing the assigned reading and unaware of the world around me.

The book I was reading was Revolution 2.0: The Power of the People is Greater Than the People in Power, a memoir by Wael Ghonim which tells the story of the Egyptian uprising in 2011 and the role social media played in creating this revolution. Before reading this book, I was highly unaware of the events that occurred during this time. Yet, I was fascinated by the transformation I saw through Ghonim’s story from despair, anger, and fear to action and ultimately revolution.

The next morning, I awoke to the news of bombings at churches on Palm Sunday. I stood frozen for a moment when I heard where it had happened.

Egypt.

The very place I had been reading about the night before.

Later in the week, I heard a guest lecture in my music history class on Frederic Rzewski Variations on ¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido! The theme of the 36 variations comes from a protest song out of Chile which translated means The People United Will Never Be Defeated. Before this lecture, I was unaware of the events that had occurred in Chile at the time of the song’s inception.

Yet, the melody of the protest song haunted me after the lecture. It was like I had heard it before but I just couldn’t place my finger on where.

So like any good student, I began to do my own research to see where else the song had been used. As I scrolled through the Wikipedia page, my eyes fixated on one piece of information. This very protest song had been used as a chant in Tunis in protests against their president at the time, Ben Ali.

In the book, Revolution 2.0, Ghonim directly states that the spreading of the news of the Tunis protests helped inspired Eygpt’s own revolution. When it came time for their protests they also chanted the same protest song.

I was no longer unaware.

The multiple little connections had woken me up to the pain of humanity in other parts of the world. I felt the pain for Chile, Egypt, and Tunis in their past and the raw pain of Eygpt yet again.

I was impacted and changed.

That’s the power of our connectedness through social media.

It doesn’t just have to wake us up to the pain of humanity but it can also wake us up to the good of humanity.

The important part is that it wakes us up and starts to stir within us the need to make an impact beyond the digital world into the real world.

Better Together

At times in life, we are all wondering what is happening in the world around us. Tragedy hits our family unit. A natural disaster leaves devastation in communities. Acts of terror are committed against innocent people.

When this happens, questions fill our minds and we search for answers. Ben Rector, a singer songwriter, encapsulates this searching in his song “When a Heart Breaks.”

This questioning and pain often times leaves us wanting to do something, anything to help.

Social media is now allowing us to do just that.

We are now able to do something in times of tragedy or even everyday life to change the world through what is known as crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing as defined by Merriam-Webster is “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.”  For a more in-depth explanation of mathematical data surrounding crowdsourcing, check out the PBS NOVA video, “Wisdom of the Crowds.”

One famous example of crowdsourcing in times of tragedy happened when Malaysia Flight 370 went missing.  A company called Digital Global released satellite images of the ocean for people around the world to look through and mark anything that could hint of a plane that had crashed on a site called tomnod.com. The site crashed as people went on to do their part in helping search for evidence in the ocean of the missing plane.

Another example of this principle being used in the world is Phylo. This online game lets people help map genes for actual genetic research.phylo

Tomnod.com and Phylo allow people to spend their time online doing good in the world.

Time is well spent and not just time lost.

Even the CIA is jumping on this idea of crowd sourcing with its Good Judgement Project. This project asks average people to help predict the likelihood of events happening in the world without the access to classified information. The predictions of all those involved is averaged and their average is sometimes 30% more accurate that the CIA.

I guess it just goes to show that we are better together than we could ever be on our own.

Our Current Cultural Conundrum

We are beginning to face a cultural conundrum within our world. What are we going to value?

The existence of the Internet and our current social media tools have begun to unravel the traditional ways we interact with one another and how we organize ourselves. The unraveling process has brought to light some of the hidden motivators in society.

We thrive on drama and sensationalism tantalizes us to engage.

Just look at the prevalence of the mention of tweets in the news. Why is what’s on Twitter even news anyways? Because it cultivates a culture of drama through the constant commentary on life people can give in 140 characters or less.

Twitter does not allow authentic dialogue. Twitter’s character limit allows interactions to incur in short, usually loaded, jabs that leave no room for discussion.

The Internet provides a false sense of anonymity that leaves users feeling as though they have placed on a “cloak of invisibility” as some scholars would describe. Within this realm of anonymity of the Internet, we no longer see people as people when they aren’t in our immediate sight. We replace individual humans that have feelings with machines that do not. A culture in which we no longer see each other opens us up to a culture of bullying.

While in the “real world,” the world that exists offline, we as a culture have worked hard to protect individuals from bullying, we tell a different story online.

In our culture, we are lifting up individuals as leaders who are pushing their way to the tops of our feeds often through sensationalized comments that devalue our shared humanity.  One does not have to look hard to find concrete evidence of such leaders.

The emergence of these types of leaders creates a perplexing narrative of our current values.

Offline we do not tolerate one thing that is praised online.

At some point, we are going to have to choice because our society cannot live forever in this place of dissonance.

So what are we really going to value?

We Need Space

College is a major time of self-discovery. Being out on your own allows you and actually forces you make decisions. And those decisions begin to help you determine who you truly are as a person.

With that space and freedom, the true essence of a person is revealed.

However, in our digital society, space and freedom are becoming harder and harder to find.

Before a child is even born, parents are beginning to create a digital footprint for them. They post pictures of their birth announcements and ultrasound pictures. By doing so they are leaving a trail to their child’s personal information such as birthday, name, and sometimes even place of birth. 

During their adolescent ages, parents share embarrassing photos and humor stories about the comical actions of a developing child increasing their digital footprint.

These things all seem innocent when we glance at them on our social media feeds because in our world it is strange not to have a digital footprint. 

Yet, the innocence of finding ones self is being lost among the innocence of sharing information. 

The more we share online about ourselves the more we solidify portions of our identity because what we share on the internet does not go away.

Thus, our children are losing the opportunity to find themselves on their own. Or once they have the opportunity such as in college, they don’t know how to use it. They run towards approval seeking means to continue to define their identity.

We have reached the point where oversharing is now normal and expected.

I think we need to give each other the freedom and space we need –  but may not necessarily want – now to keep some things private. We need to refrain from posting about every little thing and start collecting memories outside of the web so that we can find out who we are.

Maybe we will be surprised we like ourselves more than we like the likes and retweets.

Masquerade

One of the comic elements of a staged drama such as an opera or play is that people often try to disguise themselves in the simplest ways. A character will not be noticed once they place a hat on their head or a mask on their face.

One of my favorite Broadway musicals, “The Phantom of the Opera,” contains a song that speaks of this idea of putting on a mask to hide your identity.

“Masquerade!
Paper faces on parade . . .
Masquerade!
Hide your face,
so the world will
never find you!”

“Masquerade!
Seething shadows
breathing lies . . .
Masquerade!
You can fool
any friend who
ever knew you!”

When you watch a scene like this unfold, you often sit in disbelief as to how the characters could be so clueless as to the true identity of each character.

A mask cannot hide your true identity.

While this principle is obvious on the stage, it is often overlooked in other areas.

One such area that we overlook this is on the web.

The web as we know it actually contains three layers: the Surface Web, the Deep Web, and the Dark Web.

The Surface Web is any portion that is accessible through an internet search engine.

The Deep Web is that which is unsearchable yet accessible with credentials such as an email account.

The Dark Web is the hidden portion of the web that is only accessible if you know where to look.

deep-web-iceberg

The idea behind the lower levels of the internet is to provide even more privacy. Specifically, the promise of the Dark Web is that you should become anonymous.

By entering into the Dark Web, you are putting on a digital mask.

Behind this digital mask, in the “seething shadows” of the Dark Web,  people think they fool those who know them and those who don’t. Thus, many of the uses of the dark web involve harm to self and others.

However, just like the mask on stage, the digital mask is just an illusion.

Our actions on the web, even when masked, can be traceable with the right knowledge because in the end its all a system of 1s and 0s.

Anonymity is all a masquerade.

So stop trying to put on a mask and embrace your childhood fear of the dark when it comes to the web.