Profile of a New Digital Writer

When thinking about a digital writer I admire, the first person to come to mind is my mom, Donna Hochman. Although her career is not centered around writing, she has educated herself on the proper methods of using different social media accounts over the past year. Donna started her own interior design business over fifteen years ago, but realized that it’s time to expand her presence to social media.

I started off the interview by asking if she feels that her social media presence has increased her business a significant amount.

Donna: Growing my social media presence has definitely increased my business and has given me a lot more clients. It has given me more presence in the design industry and makes people aware of my work that otherwise would have no idea that my business even exists.

Which social media platform do you find most useful and why?

Donna: I have found Houzz to be extremely useful as it allow me to post multiple pictures of projects I have completed and include details about the projects so potential clients can get an idea of the kind of work I do. Current clients also have the ability to write reviews on my work so prospective clients are able to see real feedback on my business. House is also great because I can put together idea books for potential clients which is unique to this platform specifically. To my surprise, I have also found Instagram to be extremely helpful for getting my business out there. Often times I’ll take pictures of jobs I have completed and send them back to the vendors where I purchased the furniture in the space. They in turn have taken my pictures and posted them on their Instagram accounts where they have thousands of followers and I have then gained followers through that. I have also gained followers through the use of hashtags and creating strategic captions that instantly connect users to my profile.

Do you think you’ve grown as a digital writer and do you feel confident in your ability to increase your presence even more now?

Donna: Using social media for someone of my generation is constantly a learning process, but I feel more confident now in my ability to post on social media and use the proper methods for the different platforms.

Do you think writing digitally is more beneficial than in print?

Donna: It is definitely easier to connect to people and much less expensive than print advertising. I need to continue to post regularly on Instagram and grow my profile on Houzz while getting more followers. The more I post and the more I submit to venders, the more possibilities I have.

Writing as a Social Action

As a weekly writer for The Odyssey, a popular social media platform for millennials, I try to write about relatable topics for my generation so people will enjoy reading them and occasionally get a good laugh. Last week I decided to write about keeping Passover since it was happening during that time period when I published the article and shared it on Facebook. I am not usually one to write about religion or really any serious topic, but I felt that it was very relevant to my life. I thought I would try something new and discuss my way of practicing my religion and share it with all of my Facebook friends, hoping they would read and comment on it. I really tried to discuss the topic in a fun and light-hearted manner, so those who could relate to the topic would laugh a little and share my point of view.

I am always curious to see who likes or comments on my Facebook posts but I was especially curious to see the result of this one. Within the first hour it was up, I already received multiple comments and likes, all commending my article or commenting something funny to go with the mood of the text. I had shared some cooking tips that stick to the restrictions of Passover so it made me feel as if I had succeeded when my friends and roommates commented things like “Make more chocolate covered matzah, we love it!” as well as things implying they were going to try a recipe that I provided in the article. These are a few of the comments that I received:

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When it comes to The Odyssey, once an article is written, anyone has access to read it, share it, or participate in other social engagements. Therefore, there are always a variety of people that find the article somewhere in their newsfeed, but may not pay any attention to who the author of the text is, since their only interest is reading it. This is why I was curious to see the kind of feedback I would get from my own followers and friends on Facebook. The time that I posted the article was also right around Easter, so it definitely clashed with many other commonly shared posts on Facebook relating to Easter cooking, bunnies, decorations, and so on. I knew that most of the action I was going to receive on my post would most likely only be from people who also celebrated Passover, so there was the potential to get less feedback than usual. I decided going into it that I was ok with that, because I feel passionate about my religion and all of the holidays and celebrations that come with it. To my surprise, I actually received a good amount of likes because I realized that although I was targeting a specific audience which was definitely not the majority of my Facebook friends, the respective audience recognized the topic and showed interest in it.

Rohnson and Carr: Maybe Not So Different After All

When comparing Jon Rohnson’s perspective on digital culture in So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed to Nicholas Carr’s in The Shadows, it is evident that they have very different stances on the topic of social media. It is clearly to any user of social media that it can be dangerous, we just have to make sure users are educated enough to avoid the mistakes that can be easily made. Carr has an overall negative standpoint on social media, while Johnson is more realistic on the topic. Johnson believes that as long as users understand the effects of social media and the proper etiquette of using it, then there should not be any major issues.

One woman in particular was unaware of proper social media etiquette, and allowed one series of tweets give her a horrible reputation not only on twitter, but in her job field and in society in general. In December of 2013, Justine Sacco made the mistake of tweeting about her travels in a distasteful, ignorant manner that gave her possibly the worst reputation on social media at the time. After receiving no responses to her online actions in the beginning, she assumed people did not think much of her tweets. By the time her next flight landed, she quickly learned that was incorrect. She checked her phone to see a message from an old friend reading “I’m so sorry to see what’s happening” (Rohnson 67). Without even thinking twice about what she was tweeting within each of the 140 character tweets, Sacco fell into the category of being publicly shamed, for the entire world of social media to see. She did not truly have bad intentions, but this just proves that things can be misinterpreted once they are posted online and it is definitely better to be safe than sorry.

Although Johnson does not have as negative of a viewpoint on digital culture as Carr does, his story about Sacco is definitely an example of social media gone wrong. Carr is right in situations like these; one may not know the negative impacts of social media and could potentially ruin an aspect of his or her life with it. Carr continues to explain how technology is impacting our brains, not necessarily in a positive manner. “What’s been harder to discern is the influence of technologies, particularly intellectual technologies, on the functioning of people’s brains (Carr 48). People commonly assume that it is more acceptable to say things on social media than in person since it is not said directly to a person’s face. In Johnson’s view of needing to be educated on how to properly conduct social media, he and Carr are most definitely on the same page in regards to Sacco, since she let the internet take over her actions.

Aspects of Video

I have always been a fan of watching videos to learn more about different concepts, however, I would not consider myself to be an expert in making them. Actually, I would consider myself far from capable when it comes to bringing together audio, video, and pictures. I know I used to make fun music videos with my friends when I was in middle school, but I just cannot seem to remember how to use all of those special effects that I used to get so excited over. My lack of skills with using iMovie and editing nicely made me nervous to dive into this project, but I also knew it would be fun and interesting to take on the assignment using a different approach than usual.

There are so many aspects of a video that just cannot be depicted in written text. Yes, there are some texts that draw emotion out of the readers and may allow you to connect on a personal level, but that is never a guarantee with written text. The nice thing about a video is that the creator can demonstrate all of the emotions and scenes in the exact way they are envisioning it. In my video about what motivates students here at the University of Delaware, I was able to get direct quotes from my peers and have them each narrate a small portion of the video. I think by recording their voices, I was able to get a relatable and personal message across to all students and get them to take a break from their busy lives for just a minute to think more about their own meaning and why they are here at this school.

I really like that there are so many different methods of creating a video, which was demonstrated through the variety of concept videos in the class. I loved how Elyssa’s video served as a timeline to show personal memories from the same day every year, as well as a clip from the present. This was something that simply could not be done in only written text, because showing actual footage was the best way to convey her thoughts. Mackenzie took a different approach by interviewing students to give different opinions that we probably would have never heard if it were not for this project. I did not know much about the job of an RA before watching her video, so I found it to be a unique way of educating the class on the job. Although Amanda’s approach was quite different from these two since she did not include footage of people or any interviews, she definitely related to the audience through explaining her concept. Anyone can look up the meaning of subtweeting, but hearing a person thoroughly explain it in relatable terms makes it so much more meaningful.

As great as video can be for getting a point across, there are also some downfalls that do not necessarily occur in written text. For example, there are always the technical difficulties that may come about in any sort of media. And once you are online viewing the video, it is so easy to find yourself clicking the next link to a related topic and not finishing watching the original video. Overall, video is a great way to express ideas in creative ways that are catered toward your audience.

Persistence in Technology

While reading the first half of Danah Boyd’s It’s Complicated, I was able to immediately connect to the text since it constantly makes references that I see in my own life. She does not write it in as negative of a manner as Carr, just realistically which I enjoyed reading. She talks about the unwritten rules of society such as who sits where at the school football game depending on seniority as well as how we have changed the original purpose of social media. I have to agree with Boyd in these chapters, because realistically why do we need to be messaging our best friends right when we get home from school, when we should be interacting with our family or at least taking a break from technology.

The way that Boyd talks about persistence in relation to social media and technology amongst millennials really fascinated me. The example on page 11 really stood out to me; “Alice may write to Bob at midnight while Bob is sound asleep; but when Bob wakes up in the morning or comes back from summer camp three weeks later, that message will still be there waiting for him, even if Alice and Bob had forgotten about it” (Boyd 11). There are so many nights during the week where I fall asleep mid text message conversation, yet it picks right back up when I respond in the morning as if no time has gone by. Since a conversation over technology is not in the present, it can essentially be paused at any time. Just like Bob in Boyd’s example, I also went to overnight camp and had to go through the touch separation from all technology for seven weeks at a time. I would have to disagree with Boyd that a conversation can pick right back up weeks later because from my experience all I wanted when I got home was to sleep and not yet get engulfed in the overwhelming presence of communication through technology. For a number of days though, the conversation can most definitely by paused and picked back up at any time since chances are, it is not that crucial to one’s life if it is occurring through typed out text rather than on the phone or in person.

Many parents give their children a cell phone for the purpose of keeping in contact with them after school or on the weekends. That makes total sense, of course a parent wants to know the whereabouts of their child. But as cell phones and technology become more popular and more present, kids start to live their lives pretty much through technology. Jenny Schmitt is able to further explain this concept in her talk that essentially describes the majority of kids under the age of eighteen. Once a child is given a cell phone, there is no going back.

Reading is Power

Throughout the majority of The Shallows, Carr provides great explanations as to how technology has impacted our brain  as well as our lifestyle. He has mentioned how our thought processes have been impacted, as well as the different ways technology causes us to go about our daily routines. In the second half of the book he continues to explain what will happen to our brains as a result of choosing the internet over a paper back book. We would rather click from one link to the next to keep briefly learning short snippets of information in a timely manner. Up until this point in the book, I had never pondered the thought that us readers have just as much power as a writer does. We are able to look deeper into the fact that using hypertext to do extensive research has helped us students improve our critical thinking skills by quickly maneuvering through different sources to look at various different viewpoints. Carr states that “the academic enthusiasm for hypertext was further kindled by the belief, in line with the fashionable postmodern theories of the day, that hypertext would overthrow that patriarchal authority of the author and shift power to the reader (Carr 126). Before reading this passage, I had never considered this perspective. It had never occurred to me that the reader can have more power while reading a text than the person who actually wrote the text.

After reading so many passages and responses regarding the negative impacts that reading from the internet has on our brain compared to reading a book, this new viewpoint is quite refreshing. I love the idea that the ball is in now in my court when it comes to reading text online. By taking advantage of my ability to hop from one link to the next, I am a powerful reader with the capability to learn so much more than the author may have intended when he or she originally wrote that particular piece.

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Although this may seem like a cheesy Dr. Seuss quote that we have all grown up with, I think it happens to be very fitting for the situation. Not only does it encourage reading, but it shows that reading empowers us just like Carr had mentioned in the second half of the book. We as readers need to take advance of the power we are given when we take on the task of reading, and then jumping to further texts to increase our own knowledge.