Social Media Through MY Ages

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We live in an age of constant updates, reposts, comments and likes. Who we are as an individual is greatly defined by the person we present ourselves to be on our social media sites– mainly because the majority of our ‘followers’ and ‘friends’ are (barely) acquaintances whom we might have met once at summer camp back in 1998. However, oddly enough, this doesn’t stop us from wanting to know exactly what they are doing, with whom, and how. Through the years, I feel we use social media different. Not just because one year we enjoy posting 140 character statuses and the next we can’t get enough of putting vintage-y filters on pictures of our pets. As we change and grow, the way we use and even interpret social media changes with us. But alas, this is far from a scientific discovery. Instead, I shall dazzle you with my own personal experience: Social Media Through My Ages.

Background for this– I was born in 1989. Graduated high school in 2007. College in 2011. Do the math, figure it out. Where in the world was social media at each point in time?

2003: MySpace made us realize that we could only have a certain number of “top” best friends. Like middle school needed more drama.

2006: Facebook stopped being an Ivy League gossip column and became accessible to everyone 13 and up.

2010: Welcome to Twitter, where brevity is the soul of wit.

2011: Time Magazine calls Pinterest a “top” website. Pin that where the sun don’t shine, Martha Stewart!

2012: Instagram hits over 100 million, because sometimes words are hard.

(Oh, and WordPress: 2003. Thanks for the outlet, guys!)

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Don’t pretend like you didn’t love these too!

Young’un Social Meda: The only way to describe this Age is: Foolishness. Myspace taught me so much about myself– mainly in the form of answering really deep information for my profile like who my favorite boy band was that week or the number of letters in my crush’s first and last name. Soon sparkly doll pictures could be added and at that point I absolutely knew I needed my own computer (Kids, back in my day, a “first computer” meant a 50lb clunker that took up at last 35% of my total tiny room space. I think I even had to move my blow-up blue sparkly chair out to make space!). Hours were spent changing backgrounds or, more importantly, finding the “cool” websites for those “cool” backgrounds (and glittery pictures, did I mention those?). On the plus side, my extensive use of MySpace supplied with my limited knowledge of HTML. If you wanted to make your profile REALLY cool, you needed to know all the secrets. So in-between IM-ing with friends, thinking up some pretty sweet Away Message (most of mine were quotes, like Mark Twain quotes, and I remember thinking that I was pretty darn cool for that), and updating my MySpace page, I slowly realized I had less and less time to interact with my friends face-to-face. Oh well, maybe we can have a sleepover tomorrow night and check out our MySpace pages as we doodle with gel pens and watch the latest episode of Lizzie McGuire. Sigh, nostalgia.

Early College Social Media: Surprisingly, little changed in our intents and purposes, but the format became much more sophisticated (by which I mean no more glittery pictures…well, for a of couple years). When we were younger, posts were all about trying to outdo and impress. I remember going away to college and feeling the intense need to prove that I was “having a great time” and had made all these fantastic new friend. Truth? While I did make great friends, my first year was plagued by homesickness and anxiety. Not that my social media pals would ever have known. Nor would I have known any fear or sadness taking place in their lives. Everything was dorm rooms, parties, new friends, awesome campuses, and “oh man, so much work!” Maybe our close friends knew how we really felt, but the 500 other people you graduated high school with were under the belief that everyone but themselves was living the best life ever. Of course, it also just occurs to me that maybe I’m alone here and everyone else really WAS living the BEST life ever their freshman year of college…

Current Social Media: At this point in my life, I find that my use of social media is primarily used for its originally intended purpose: keeping in touch with people who are in all different places. Well, that and a healthy dose of “stalking” those I might not know quite as well. We grow older and our friendship groups expand and disperse. There are the people we grew up with, the people we went to high school with, the people we went to college with, the people we used to work with, and then the people who are currently still in our lives, but– all factors considered–may soon also become former friends/schoolmates/coworkers, like the rest. Then, there is the element of contrast and compare. Face it, we look at other people’s lives and we, not so much envy them, but observe them in a selfish sort of way. Maybe we think: well, that would be nice. And in other situations we smile and think: good thing I didn’t end up like that. Whether it’s for daydreaming, self-affirmation or just to see what other paths people have traveled, something about social media keeps us company and support as we continue down our own path.

My Parent’s Social Media: And then there are the group that I will call “my parents,” though that’s technically not correct since none of my parents really partake in social media. For the most part, the baby-boomers whose social media presence I’ve studied are usually the parents of friends or even older coworkers. These “parents” are of a generation where they are just old enough to not have had it for most of their lives, but just young enough to learn the basics. The majority of their use is for reposting: recipes, chain posts, and the more than occasional “let’s see how many likes we can get for [insert often silly, probably fake reason/noun here].” Of course, it’s also used to keep in contact with friends. Many reconnect with former schoolmates or workmates. These are even more intersting reunions because rather than having become “facebook friends” while still knowing each others, these two will have been separated for decade before reconnecting. And, let’s face it, the kid who lived next door to your mom when they were growing up, is not that same person at 18 as they are at 58. There are whole lives to be caught up on. Oh, and of course there is the main reason why many “parents” have signed up for social network sites, though they’ll never admit to it and have since caught the social media bug themselves: They’re spying on their children. I mean, how else are you going to know what’s going through the mind of your 18 year old son. He’s not going to share with you directly but he will, oddly enough, share with 600 of his closest friends. No shame, parents. No shame.

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Oh, and these gems. Parents love these gems.

Years have passed, websites have developed, and vehicles of communication have multiplied (oh, have they multiplied!). The only constant in this crazy world is that things will continue to change: social media channels, technology, and our lives. And we will continue to come up with new and exciting ways to find out what a person we met once back in 2003 (you know, a cousin of a friend’s friend or the like) is up to now. And that’s okay. For whatever purposes we use social media, it will be there for us.

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Sisterly Advice for New Bloggers

A couple of weeks ago my family and I all received an email from my brother, informing the family that he had decided to start a blog. I was overjoyed to welcome him to the blogosphere and was glad that, as an already talented writer, he decided to try his hand at a new medium.

Then, the other day, I received another email from my brother, this time asking me how exactly to get his blog ‘out there.’ And there you have it, the age-old question (or at least digital age-old question): Now that you’ve decided to write about something, how do you get people to read it?

The following is the email I sent him in reply:

Dear —-,

The bad news: There is no easy, one-step magic trick to getting a blog
“out there.”
The good news: Your problem is exactly the sort of work that I’m
looking for a career in, so I’d be happy to try my hand at helping you out.

Basically, what you’re asking about is Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
People make careers out of driving traffic to websites, but alas you
are not a multi-million dollar corporation and I am but a mere novice
in the ways of SEO. Still, I’ll do my best to give you some quick and
easy tips, especially ones that I have followed with my own blog.

Now, keep in mind, my blog is no best-seller. It took me months to
get the limited readership that I have. Yes, sad but true, the basic rule of thumb is
that increasing traffic will take time– perhaps not months, but time
nonetheless.

First off, I hate to admit it to you, but don’t forget that in all
actuality, your blog’s premise isn’t unique (Sorry. Harsh. I know.) In
fact, you would be hard put to find any topic to write a blog on that
would be unique nowadays. It is the content, rather, that
sets a blog apart.

So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and I’ll give you some basic SEO
techniques:

1) Link your social media: I noticed you have already used Facebook to
publicize your blog, now go a step further. I suggest making a unique
Twitter account for your blog. You can then feature your tweets right
on your website. Also, you’ll be reaching a completely different
audience.  I also have a Tumblr, which you might want to look
into. There are also YouTube accounts, Stumbled Upon, Flickr, Digg,
MySpace, even LinkedIn. Whatever your feel will work best for you. And
then– connect!

2) Search Phrases: Use unique and specific tags for your posts. When
you just label something as ‘video games’ or ‘books,’ imagine the
number of search results that show up before your own. Be specific and
feel free to be liberal with the amount of tags you have. Also, the
words on the site itself all are put into some crazy mathematical
equation that determines your sequence in search results. I’ve found
that people have been driven to my site even by the words used in
images that I post. You can figure these things out by looking at your
WordPress stats. So be creative and feel free to be wordy.

3) Keep your content fresh, relevant, and user-friendly: Seems simple
enough, true, but just keep it in mind. Make sure that when a person
stumbles upon you after searching, they are getting exactly what they
are searching for. As far as keeping content fresh– you seem to be
doing that well. One thing I will point out is the ‘user-friendly’
aspect. Try not to let your posts get too looooong. While for some blog
readers, that’s not a problem, for others is a major deterrent. It’s
overwhelming to scroll down the length of a page and see that the post
you are (or were) about to read is much lengthier than you had
expected. I understand you’re not used to writing for this specific
format, but just keep in mind that it is a different format. Just like
you wouldn’t write a novel like a lab report, or vice versa, you don’t
write a blog post like a novel. I highly suggest looking at one of my
posts for further instructions on this front
(https://tessarickart.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/10-tips-of-blogging-tip-taking-blogger/).

4) Reciprocate: I know that you said you’ve been scouring the
blogosphere and to that I say: carry on. Also, comment back when you
do get comments. Visit other blogs and comment. If you see posts that
relate back to your own, comment and suggest that they take a look at
one of your posts (see my stealthy use of this tactic above).

I hope some of these ideas help. Like I said before, it’s not an
overnight process. It takes work and time. Just don’t become
discouraged. Stick to it.


Your fellow blogger,
Tessa

The Permanency of a Digital Legacy

Around the time of her 80th birthday, my Grandmother decided to write down her memoirs. Not for publication or as some sort of formal biography, but simply as a keepsake for the family. Having been born in 1919, she lived through a time of major changes and, whether kin or not, it’s hard to not find her stories fascinating. After reading them more recently, I began to wonder about my own legacy. Sure, it seems a bit morbid, but it’s hard not to wonder what you will leave behind after you’re gone.

That’s when I realized that, unlike my Grandmother, much of my life and experiences have already been recorded in perhaps an even more permanent format than ink and paper. Yes, I’m talking about the internet.

Over the years, I’ve had multiple blogs, some for school and some for personal use; social media accounts, ranging from the now-dated MySpace to the ever-popular Facebook; accounts at numerous sites, from shopping to gaming; papers or pieces published in online formats; and of course, any bit of local news with my name in it can also be found in the great online archive. So you see, if years from now my ancestors decide to look into who I was, they need go no further than the nearest computer.

Certainly there’s something less romantic about memoirs from the digital age, but perhaps the most frightening thing to take away from this is the permanency of all our online (and offline) actions.

In 2010, Twitter announced that the Library of Congress would be digitally archiving the tweets of all the site’s users since its inception in 2006. Phew, what a relief– years from now my ancestors can view my attempts at being witty with a 140 character limit. What exactly will they learn from this officially documented data? Well, they’ll find out I’m a bit of a complainer, not all that funny, and kind of boring. Of course, while sifting through the thousands of trivial tweets, they may come across some of my activities and opinions– you know, the kind of things one actually puts in a memoir.

But what about my other social media accounts? Well, I’m not sure if the Library of Congress has any claims of ownership on my Facebook, but then again there’s no telling what sticks around after you pass on. In fact, this has actually become a major concern for individuals– what happens to one’s online accounts after they die?

Sites such as Facebook and Twitter actually have policies set in place to deal with this and, with the proper proof, loved ones can delete the accounts of the deceased. In some cases, they can also choose to memorialize the account instead. Other accounts, such as those on PayPal or Gmail, also have systems in place to deal with such issues.

To make things a bit easier, it is becoming more and more common for individuals to make a Digital Will in which they leave instructions on the proper steps to be taken with digital accounts after the person’s death. There are also services, such as Legacy Locker, that store all of the information– passwords, usernames–for loved ones to access in the case of death.

So sure, there are plenty of steps to take in order to clear away some of your digital disarray, but there’s no way to completely erase your online presence. Then there’s always the fact that many people, myself included, don’t really care much what happens to those accounts after our passing. I mean, I’m dead and gone, what do I care if Amazon.com still has my order history on record. But then again, I also don’t have anything to hide…do you?

And that’s what it comes down to: our lives are out there, on the internet, and with just a little bit of digging, any number of things can be found out about us. And the scariest part is the permanency of it all.

So here I am, writing my memoirs every time I tweet, or comment on Facebook, or write a blog post. Look at me, I think I just wrote a whole chapter of my memoirs right here and now.

So what do you think? Is your digital legacy something you would like to try to erase, or just another chapter in your memoirs?

What does Tumblr mean to you?

I’ve been on Tumblr for about 6 months now and I’m surprised to say that the novelty has yet to wear off.

I mainly use the site to keep updated on and entertained by my television and movie fandoms ( [n] The community that surrounds a tv show/movie/book etc. ), and generally let out my inner nerd. From my own personal use, I would have supposed that the site would remain more of an alternative social site, always in the shadows of the more thriving Facebook and Twitter. And yet, despite my suppositions, a Nielsen Co. report finds that Tumblr has gained 183% in popularity from 2010 to 2011.

Further findings from the study include:

  • The site averages 21,280 messages and links posted daily. To better understand this figure, understand that it surpasses the number of blogs hosted by WordPress in one month.
  • More than 57% of Tumblr users are under 34 with only 17.5% over 50 years of age.
  • Tumblr uses are more often female (53%)…but not by much.

So why has this site gained so much popularity? And does its notably younger user base point toward Tumblr’s continued trend and growth?

Technically speaking, Tumblr is a form of microblogging. Microblogging  “differs from a traditional blog[ging] in that its content is typically smaller in both actual and aggregate file size. Microblogs ‘allow users to exchange small elements of content such as short sentences, individual images, or video links.'” Other examples of microblogging include Twitter and even Facebook.

To me, it is easy to see how Tumblr is more similar to Twitter than to a blog, such as WordPress. For one, people don’t often use Tumblr for longer messages or posts. On Twitter, individuals are actually forcibly limited in their content (140 characters max).

As for myself, on Tumblr I often just reblog posts that I find informative, humourous, or interesting; I rarely add unique content to the site. Many times, as with Twitter updates, the content of a post may send  the user to a completely separate site. The main focus is not the post itself, but the links or pictures that may lead to another domain.

Tumblr emphasizes how easy it is to use the site. And certainly, the directions are as simple as the  functions of the site. While some may use Tumblr as a primary blog, I still find the site to be less professional due perhaps in part to its simplicity. By this I mean that I don’t feel that one can accurately learn about me via my Tumblr page, whereas I consider my WordPress blog to be an accurate professional representation of myself (much as some people would consider Facebook to be a personal representation of themselves). There are just fewer opportunities to personalize and declare oneself on Tumblr. But then again, as I mentioned earlier, my primary purpose in having a Tumblr account is to free my inner geek.

I also want to clarify that by “less professional” I do not mean that companies and brands are wasting their time on the site. In fact, I feel that Tumblr is a really great way to reach a niche market– whether it be youth in general, or more specific fandoms of certain products and programs. Tumblr is a community in which people are constantly sharing information, even if there isn’t nearly as much direct conversing. It is also a community filled with very opinionated and interested individuals who are purposely seeking information on things that may interest them.

In my opinion, Tumblr is a fun site, but not one that I would ever put on a resume. It’s a place for me to relax and learn more about things that I might enjoy outside of a professional environment. I would love to hear more about other people’s opinions on the site.

Sound off below or respond to the poll. (Note: the last time I tried a poll it failed miserably. Please prove me wrong and restore my faith in both bloggers and polls).

Facebook & I have changed our relationship status to ‘It’s Complicated’

I know I’m not the only one with complaints about the latest Facebook changes. Everywhere I go, I hear co-workers, friends, and even complete strangers grumbling over the supposedly improved site. In a recent Mashable poll, nearly 74% of users said they hated the changes. And now we long for happier times…

Sometimes I feel like Facebook and I are in some sort of bad relationship. Facebook is crowding me, making me feel claustrophobic, not allowing me to have a life outside of it. Facebook is trying to provide me with everything I need, but rather than finding this convenient, I find it needy and constricting.

Everywhere I go, I find sites asking me to sign in via Facebook. But sometimes, I just want to keep things separate. I just want to be able to play my Words with Friends without checking in with Facebook. I feel like screaming at the site: I don’t need your permission to have a good time! Nor do I want to share every single detail about myself with you. I’ve told you my favorite movies and books, my likes and dislikes– isn’t that enough? Must I fan every product I’ve ever used, every actor I’ve ever watched, and every store I’ve ever shopped at? Stop being so pushy about it! The pressure in this relationship is overwhelming. I can’t handle it.

Of course, the site’s latest changes include updated friends list, news headlines, and feed subscription. Not to mention the pesky blue corner added to updates that are specifically selected to fit your interest (‘You don’t know me, Facebook!’…the two of us may have to settle this on Maury or something).

And worse yet, it’s reported that there are more changes to come. Facebook, don’t go trying to change yourself to fix an already broken relationship. Sure, I don’t visit you nearly as often, but it’s because we’ve grown apart. I’ve found other sites, like Twitter and Tumblr and while I swear their just occasional pastimes, you jealously seems to be getting the best of you. What am I supposed to say? That they mean nothing to me? Why must I feel so much shame for cheating on my social networking site?!

Plus, changing everything about yourself, Facebook, just makes me even more hesitant to keep you in my life. I never asked you to get a makeover or change your features, you did that all on your own, so don’t go blaming me when you start losing users.

And you know what, while we’re on the subject, stop judging me with your side advertisements. Personally, I think my teeth are white enough, thank you. And how dare you assume that I’m always “looking for something to do in *insert town here*.”

Let me live my life without needing to touch base with you every minute. Sometimes I just don’t want to keep you updated. You don’t need to know everything about what I do or who I see or where I am. Facebook: I think it’s time I started seeing other social networking sites.

Once, I felt like I knew you. I felt like we really connected (and that you really helped me stay connected). Now, you feel distant. You puzzle me– with all your new features and confusing ‘aesthetic appeal.’ Weren’t we happy before? What happened to us?

Bottom line, I think Facebook and I might need to change our relationship status to It’s Complicated.

Along Came an Interview

I should be in bed now. But tomorrow I have an interview and I am overwhelmed with equal parts anxiety and excitement.

The interview is in NYC, and the job includes doing freelance social media. It’s the perfect step in the door at an amazing company that I would really love to grow and be a part of.

I’ve had interviews in the past, but this one is different. My prior experiences, or at least the days leading up to them, were occupied almost completely with nervousness. This time, however, I’m going in with a balance of anxiousness and excitement.

I am genuinely excited to show them how perfect I am for this job. I’m excited to do my best and impress upon them my eagerness to be a part of their company. I’m excited to show them my worth and why I would be such a valuable asset. But, most of all, I’m excited to have this opportunity.

Who knows how tomorrow will go, and there’s the whole train ride into the city for me to bite my nails and freak out. But now, as I set aside my best professional outfit and mentally prepare myself with answers to pertinent questions, I’m overwhelmed with excitement.

Maybe this won’t be my big break, but then again maybe it will. All I know is that I’ve never felt more prepared to begin a career and I’m ready for an employer to discover this enthusiasm.

Wish me luck.

Charlie Bit My Finger Food

Is nothing sacred anymore?

One of my favorite YouTube videos has officially sold out. But then again, as far as selling out goes, this one doesn’t seem so bad.

The popular “Charlie Bit My Finger” YouTube video never fails to bring a smile to my face. Maybe it’s the two adorable children, maybe it’s the British accents, or maybe it’s the all-to-familiar exchange between an older and younger sibling. Well clearly I’m not the only adoring fan because after 366 million views, Gerber  has used the video in a campaign for their Gerber Finger Goods.

The video is the same we’ve come to know and love, with added pop-ups to inform parents on how to know when their children are ready to eat  finger foods– you know, instead of just their brother’s actual fingers.

The video has been up for a few weeks now and received a little more than 200,00 views. I’m unsure of how much the company paid for the rights to the  video (probably enough to send both Charlie and his brother to college a few times over), but the revamped short certainly hasn’t reached the same renown as the original.

In conclusion, the video is as funny as ever, but now it contains a few parenting tips. Simple…and efffective?