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.

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?

Kids Connect on Social Networks

Over school breaks I work in childcare at my local YMCA. I love the kids and their endless imaginations, especially when they’re younger and mostly unhindered by the fads of technology. The older kids (and by this I mean 8 to 12ish)  have a tendency of bringing in their Gameboys and Cell Phones. They want to show off, especially the ones with phones (why on earth an 8-year-old needs a cell phone is beyond me, and I will not get into that discussion right now). Growing up primarily in the 90s, my older brother and I coveted our video games, but there’s no doubt that as the years pass, the craze of technology is targeting younger and younger audiences.

Because of what I’ve seen, I really shouldn’t have been surprised to find out that there are social networking sites for children (13 and under)…but I was.

I first heard about this phenomenon when I read a headline that I thought indicated that Disney was starting a social networking site for children. Well, this was too much for me, and I couldn’t help but click the link to the article. Upon reading the full story, I realized that Disney was not starting a network, they were purchasing one that was already in existence. Worse yet, this site, known as “Togetherville,” is just one of many such networks!

According to an article (from last year, no less) off of Mashable.com, the Children’s Online Privacy Protections Act (COPPA) prohibits social sites to collect personal information from children under the age of 13 without parental permission. And yet, as a tech-saavy generation, many kids have learned to bypass this law…by simply lying.

A recent study revealed that 75% of kids, ranging from seventh to twelfth grade, have a profile on a social media site– and the numbers are only growing. Keeping this in mind, markets have opened up for ‘fun and safe’ networks for younger children. Five of the most thriving sites are:

1. Togetherville


The key to this site is the role a parent plays– they help sign their child up, create a profile for their child, and  are even responsible for picking out the child’s friends by sending email invite. Information on the site is limited to child-friendly material– YouTube videos, games, and projects. In many ways, this site is a Facebook Jr. Instead of ‘liking’ something, a child can ‘heart it.’ They can also buy and sell items using virtual money that their parents, free of cost, can give to them; this is called an allowance.

To safeguard their audience, which is primarily made up of children under the age of 10, Togetherville stresses the importance of a parental figure. Children must also agree to a code of conduct: “I agree to not say anything mean or hurtful, not say embarrassing things about myself, my friends, or my family, and take responsibility for what I say on Togetherville.” By involving children in the application process such as this, one of the best lessons to come out of this site will certainly be the message it sends about appropriate internet conduct, especially in terms of internet bullying and safety.

2. What’s What


Lauded as the “most secure social network for kids,” parents are once again a key factor in registering their child. The main difference here, however, is that parents must submit their credit card information  as well as three “mug shots” (taken with a webcam) to verify their identity. The intended market for this site is children ages 8 through 14. Drawing a slightly older audience than Togetherville, What’s What also gives the kids more freedom– they can interact with people they may not know in real life, but they can’t make friends outside of their age group (or grade year in school) without parental permission. In other ways, this site is again similar to Facebook– liking, making friends, joining groups, creating profiles. And, of course, parents have the control to edit or delete any information they may wish on their child’s profile.

3. ScuttlePad


Of course, this site also asks for parental permission, but kids also get to play a part in the process of registration. The site asks for their birthday, favorite color, and first name. After joining, they are free to use the site much as we use Facebook, but with one MAJOR catch. The site is programmed so that only a given set of words are allowed to be used in a specific format.

The site seems relatively secure, but possibly characterless due to its strict regulation. While the site may be fun for younger kids, older kids would quickly outgrow their stay.

4.giantHello


Per usual, parents help their children sign up, this time by either supplying the last 4 digits of their social security number, or by charging their credit card a grand total of one cent. Reviews say that the experiences on this site are most similar to those on mainstream social media sites. This means that a larger portion of older children prefer giantHello.

Once again, the site mimics Facebook in several respects: the kids have “walls,” friends can comment, statuses can be updated, photos can be uploaded, and fan pages can be joined. Friends must be asked via email, or given an actual invitations– yes, I’m talking about on paper– featuring a code to enter to connect. Certain celebrities, including the ever exciting Jonas Brothers (or is that so one year ago of me?) have fan pages that are updated through their Twitter accounts. This is an interesting feature since it actually does connect them to a real social networking site, albeit a filtered one.

5. Skid-e kids


Rather than asking for the constant approval and permission of parents, Skid-e kids relies primarily on staff moderators to keep the site secure. Photos are checked, messages are filtered, and stories are edited to make the site kid friendly. But the parental element is not completely eliminated– parents and kids alike are invited to create profiles.

The site features plenty of free games, although many are introduced with ads. Kids can also upload videos, comment, message, and updated statuses. Skid-e kids tends to draw an older crowd due to the rebellious nature of 10 year olds who don’t always want to have to get their mom’s permission to make any move.

 

While skeptical at first, on completion of reading the article, I have to admit my mind had been changed a bit. Perhaps these sites are beneficial, if only because they keep children off networks such as Facebook and Myspace, where the material is certainly not always G-rated. The sites also seem to strive to connect with parents, as well as children. I also really the concept of teaching children, at a young age, about proper online etiquette. Hopefully such an early introduction can help cut back on cyber-bullying by instilling a sense of respect and understanding.

We live in a world of computers, and it’s only natural that this upcoming generation take to it from an even younger age. But still– sometimes it disturbs me to see the 6-year-old who refuses to go outside and play because he prefers his gameboy, or the 10-year-old texting some buddies from school.

What do you think? I’m not trying to make social commentary, nor is this some guide to raising children– I’m honestly interesting in other people’s opinions. Perhaps someone has a first-hand experience? So…tell me about it?

10 Tips of Blogging & a Tip Taking Blogger

I came across an article on Ragan.com today that claimed to reveal “10 tips for writing for the web.” While I usually tend to avoid these sorts of lists, for better or for worse, I decided to take a quick look and evaluate my own blog by these standards.

Here’s the list of ten, as well as an appraisal of my own blog. Spoiler alert: I might need to write less in future posts.

Here are 10 tips to help you write better Web copy:

1.  Keep it short

  • And right out of the gate, we see one of my first biggest problems. I understand that we have a tendency to scan articles– be it online or in the newspaper– but I just can’t stop myself from being overly verbose at times. I like words, and I also like getting my point across– as long windedly as possible.

2. Make your last point first

  • I always try to do this, especially because I know I am capable of quite random tangents. This is kind of liking stating your thesis in the introduction to a paper. The concept seems like common sense, but working as a writing tutor for the past four years has opened me up to a whole new world ‘college-level’ writing.

3. Keep paragraphs short

  • Once again, back to our tendency to scan. The appearance of large blocks of texts can be intimidating and must certainly scare-off the most timid of readers. Instead, and I feel like I’ve mastered this skill quite well, it’s important to keep paragraphs short and succinct. Check! What else you got?
  • (Oh, and by the way, I thought it was interesting to note that the article suggests checking out the BBC website, “one of the major U.K online media sites where content is written specifically for the Web.” And yes, I checked, this article is British-based).

4. Use numbered lists and bullets

  • While this particular post certainly meets those requirements, I can’t say I use lists/bullets on a regular basis. Note to self: make more lists– grocery lists, to-do lists, favorite things lists– and post them. Okay, maybe the topics of my lists need a bit of work…

5. Use emphasis/bold

  • I hereby solemnly swear to place more emphasis on my words, to use bold type more liberally, and to underline to my heart’s content.

6. Use links

  • I always try to provide as many relevant links as possible. If people are actually taken the time to read what I write, I can only assume they have some sort of actual interest in the topic. Therefore, it would be only natural that they would want to follow up on it. I like to make that easy for them! Plus, when credit is due, I feel a necessary obligation to give it.

7. Use headings and subheadings

  • I do not do this. I don’t think at all. But note to self– good idea. This is another helpful way for me to learn to break-up my wordy paragraphs. As the article states, these headings/subheadings act as “anchor points,” and I certainly don’t want anyone sailing away from my page!

8. Avoid ‘big’ words and marketing speak

  • I don’t think I use any jargon, or ‘marketing speak,’ but I would have to go back and look. As to ‘big’ words– it depends on the audience. I don’t think I exercise my vocabulary too liberally on this site, but then again…who knows? Well, I shall attempt my foremost to abstain from indulging in the employment of gratuitus prouncements.

9. Think carefully about the headline

  • Some posts are easier than others to come up with witty titles for. I always try to post my blogs with fun, attention-gathering names. For instance, as I write this very sentence, I’m try to think up some sort of clever play of words for the title. This might end in failure, however, and I’ll just have to hope that a listing above my blog is incredibly witty and a user mistakenly clicks on mine instead– only to find this wonderous trove of treasure!

10. Don’t forget SEO

  • SEO, Search Engine Optimization. When everyone and their mom ( I really do hate that expression) has a blog, it’s important to stand out from the crowd. Especially those times when you fail to produce a witty title, you can at least include as many key words as possible to increase the chances of that blog post showing up during a search. For blogs such as WordPress, you can use the tag posts to help with this. In fact, I like to tag my posts with as many words as possible, meaning that I get a big A+ in this category.

My conclusion?

Well, my blog certainly isn’t perfect, but whose is? I feel like this list makes valid points, and I’ll certainly attempt to follow the 10 tips. What do you think? Anything this list got wrong? Anything you would add?

I’m open for suggestions. Oh, and I’m surprised it didn’t include anything about pictures. I love adding pictures.

Barbie & Ken Rekindle…online

They are the Ross and Rachel of toys. Will they or won’t they? Their indecision has plagued us for years…and the intrigue has just gotten even more compelling.

Many might recall that back in 2004, Barbie and Ken, the idyllic couple of our childhood imaginations, decided to take a bit of a romantic break. Perhaps these two ‘plastic celebrities’ decided they each wanted to spend just a bit more time on one of their numerous careers (i.e. rocket scientist, professional dancer, veterinarian). Whatever the reasoning, Mattel, Inc. split the two up.

And now, on the eve of Ken’s 50th birthday (wow, he looks good for his age– think he had some work done? plastic surgery maybe? sorry lame joke), Mattel has launched a digital marketing campaign of epic proportions in an attempt to reunite the two lovelorn dolls.

A jack-of-all-trades, Ken’s next greatest challenge is to win back his true love. Since the break up, Ken has been undergoing an image overhaul. Now he’s ready to show his new self off, and he’s using the power of social networking to do so. Consumers are encouraged to check out Ken’s profiles, as well as the hub site barbieandken.com. You can even vote in an online poll asking, “Should Barbie Take Ken Back?” Leaving no viral stone unturned, other social marketing sites being utilized include Facebook, twitter, foursquare, and YouTube. Fans can follow the love story as it unfolds, with both of the dolls actively engaging in socializing through these sites. Ken has been known to tweet anything from nostalgic memories about times with Barbie to his favorite articles in contemporary mens’ magazines.

So why the campaign, and why now? Well, besides the obvious excitement over Ken’s birth-aversary (that’s birthday and anniversary combined), the release of the latest Ken doll is also causing quite a stir. The new “Sweet Talking Ken” doll  is described as being “the ultimate boyfriend for every occasion,” praising his ability to say “whatever your want him to say!” Certainly sounds good.

Also in the works, in attempt to gain further notice, Mattel has started a web series called “Genuine Ken.” The series, hosted by Hulu,  is looking for the literal equivalent of the toy company’s newest Ken doll. The contestants all compete for the title of “The Great American Boyfriend.”

Another clever scheme is the product incorporation within the campaign. Ken be seen promoting any number of products. For instance, he uses a Macbook while browsing Google Chrome.

All in all, the concept seems pretty great. The famous dolls’ relationship spans generations, and by using the internet, the company has successfully targeted the modern youth. What do you think? And more especially, should Barbie take Ken back?