Teach Me to Be You

I decided to interview my close friend, Lucy Vavala. I have always admired her Twitter Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 11.59.32 PM.pngand the many numbers of retweets and likes she gets on everything she posts. Lucy is a junior, Women and Gender Studies major. She describes her Twitter brand as mostly light hearted, although she talks a lot about politics and pop culture. To quote her exactly: “It’s kind of a mess, but it all works together”.  Below is the interview I had with her.

Do you feel you reach people on Twitter you wouldn’t connect with otherwise?

Yes. Definitely. I think I started on Twitter following my friends, a small network. But once I started following celebrities, blogs, and writers I connected with other people who followed these accounts as well. Then once I made my Twitter public, more people began to take notice to my tweets and my friends would retweet it to their friends.

Do you tweet about controversial issues only when an issue is trending or will you just tweet about issues that you are passionate about?

Sometimes the things that are trending are the things I’m really passionate about. Such as the Woman’s March. On Twitter I comment on a lot of current events, but not because everyone else is. I comment because I think it is an important issue that needs to be discussed.

Do you think there is a difference between the voice you use on Twitter and the voice you use in face-to-face interactions?

No. Anything I tweet I make sure sounds like something I would naturally say. If you post something that is attached to your name and your personal brand, but isn’t authentic, why post it?

What tweet are you most proud of? And why?

“My arch nemesis from swim team when I was little is going to the Olympics and I am eating stale triscuits on my couch in complete darkness”

This is horrible to say but I’m most proud of this one because it got the most retweets. I mean, I’m proud of other tweets but this one has to do with social validation.

Have you ever reread a tweet and thought it was too offensive to post?

Yes, there have been times where I reread a tweet of mine and thought “oh wow this could easily be misconstrued”. But even if I am tweeting something political I will still post it. I don’t care if my opinion differs from someone else’s, but if I assume someone will read my tweet and think I’m a bad person then I rethink it.

Do you ever use Twitter as an outlet when struggling in college?

At times, I have had my fair share of vague tweets. But I never really used Twitter as an online diary, because it is so public. I use Twitter as an outlet for my thoughts and opinions, not my feelings.

Do you have any advice or strategies you use when it comes to tweeting?

  1. Make sure it’s your authentic voice. That can be hard to find on social media because sometimes we just post what we think people will want to hear.
  2. Don’t tweet every thought that pops into your head. Use your filter.
  3. Be conscious of how you use capitalization, abbreviation, and word choice.
  4. Choose which audience you are trying to speak to: immediate audience (friends) or random people who might come across your tweet

I used the strategies Lucy gave me and created a tweet I thought would mirror her voice. Surprisingly, it worked! I got 5 likes (which is a lot for me).

Family Means: No One Gets Left Behind

I have been involved with theater most of my life. I started when I was in 5th grade and each year have done a number of different shows. Many of my performances took place in the same small town, community theaters. When I started as a freshman in high school, I started performing at Milburn Stone Theater at Cecil County College. The people there were absolutely amazing. They all treated me with such kindness and welcomed me with open arms. I stopped doing shows there after about three years as I started getting ready for my transition into college. Although I was not performing there anymore I continued to support my friends and attend many of the shows each year. Even with my absence, the volunteers and directors knew still knew me by name and greeted me as if I never left. The people there became another extension of my family. Recently, one of our family members has been taken advantage of.

Bambi Johnson, who was once the choreographer, but now artistic director, was fired from the theater. Bambi was in the middle of choreographing a show, Mary Poppins, when her dismissal was executed. The other directors told the cast of her departure, acting with no remorse or care that she was gone. The directors also gave no explanation to the cast as to the reasoning behind her leave. Even after constant efforts to discover why she was asked to leave, the directors still gave no comment to the matter. Since then, many volunteers and actors of the theatre have come together to support Bambi and try to get her reinstated. People have begun posting their favorite memories with Bambi, using the hashtag #ThanksBambi. This has grabbed so much attention from the outside community that many blogs and journalists have written articles about the whole debacle.

For my social action, I decided to also add to this conversation. Below is the status that I recently posted on Facebook.

“It has been a few years since I have performed on the Milburn Stone Theatre stage, but I have continued to attend the various shows every year in support of my friends. Recently, I found out about the dismissal of Bambi Johnson and am heart-broken. I remember the first show I did at Milburn: The Sound of Music. I can still recall the many wonderful dance rehearsals spent with the always positive Bambi. Her smile and energy made me excited to learn every night. Now, because of her dismissal, many of my fellow friends are no longer planning to support the local theater. I hate to see a place that used to give me such wonderful memories come crumbling down. I hope the school reconsiders their decision. Bambi is one of the sweetest and most hard-working person I’ve ever met. I am so grateful to be able to say that I have worked with her. I will always support her. #ThanksBambi #IstandforBambi #IfightforBambi”  

It has been said that Bambi is not commenting on any of these posts that tag her, however, I am curious whether she has been reading them. My goal behind this post wasn’t to take a different, more obscure position on an issue, nor was I hoping to stir the pot with other theater people and patrons. I just wanted to add to the conversation how important I thought Bambi was and how my own experiences reflect that. I was disappointed when I didn’t receive any comments from my old Milburn theater friends. I received only about 22 likes on my status and one share of my post from my random aunt. It seemed that hardly anyone saw it or cared to look at it.

The purpose of the hashtag is to hopefully grab the attention of the directors so that they see how many people Bambi impacts and how her dismissal will result in a rapid decline of volunteers and actors for future shows. As of right now, the directors have still yet to make a comment on the situation and Bambi’s firing. They seem to be very silent. I don’t know if these hashtags will make a huge difference when it comes to the reinstating of Bambi’s position, but I hope that at least the trustees of the school will begin to reconsider their actions.

Because of my contribution to the #ThanksBambi hashtag, I may be banned from the theater when it comes to auditioning and being in shows in the future. It was rumored that anyone who used this hashtag was being put on a blacklist. I don’t know whether this is true or not. However, after the lack of responses I recieved from my post, I don’t really know how meaningful my contribution was to the situation anyway. Other people who have still been heavily involved at the theater probably gained more reaction from their posts.

I hate to see a theater I once loved, be destroyed. I am a huge advocate for the arts and to see so many people confess that they would no longer audition or volunteer breaks my heart. But like I said before, each theater and show is like a family. And when you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.

Ronson for the Gold

I find it very ironic that as we are currently talking about social media and public shaming, two of the biggest shaming of the year so far have occurred. Different from Ronson’s examples of public shaming, these shamings are against companies not individual people. If any of you keep up with the latest trends on Twitter, you might have  seen the constant criticisms about Pepsi’s new commercial starring Kendall Jenner, along with the most recent United Airways incident. Both of these subjects have received massive amounts of shaming from Twitter users. Just as Ronson talks about the impact Twitter users have on the lives of those being shamed, today’s users have had large impacts on the individual companies. Not only are these companies being publicly shamed on social media, but Twitter users have decided to take it a step farther and actually boycott the companies. Both of which have already seen a drop in stocks because of the constant backlash from people. Both companies tried one of the approaches Ronson discussed in his book about how to survive public shaming: not being ashamed. Pepsi and United Airways defended themselves against the attackers by standing their ground about their actions. Unfortunately, that did not go over well with users. Pepsi was forced to take down the commercial and United Airways now has a possible lawsuit against them.

In Ronson’s book, he talks about many other examples of public shaming that he has witnessed and come to discover. From Justine Sacco to Max Mosley, Ronson takes us through the details of each situation and then talks with victims and attackers to see how the incident has affected them. Although at times Ronson does seem to take a comparable stance with Carr about technology, I really don’t feel that Ronson’s book is all that similar to the other two we have read. Yes, Ronson mostly talks about public shaming using technology, but his main concern in the book isn’t technology. His main concern is public shaming. Technology just happens to be a part of that in modern-day. Carr and Boyd however write specifically about the effects of using technology. They analyze research data and make a conclusion based on what they have found. Ronson’s stance on technology isn’t as clear. It seems throughout the book that at times, he stands on the side of the attackers, but once he talks with the victims and sees how easily a public shaming incident can ruin a person’s life, he grows more sympathy for them.

Boyd and Ronson do overlap some of the same ideas however. Boyd also interviews many teens to find out exactly how they feel about technology and their experiences while using it. I think that after talking with those people, Boyd came to a more positive conclusion about technology. She doesn’t blame technology for the evils that have occurred in society. Bullying. Shaming. They have all already been in our lives but now technology just amplifies them. Ronson also touches on this point. He discussed how public shaming and humiliation started back in colonial times. But, even though it was eventually outlawed, shaming in everyday situations continues to happen. Ronson interviewed many of the attackers and asked them if they felt any guilt when ruining that person’s life. Some were very remorseful about it when seeing the after effects, however others felt that it was “their duty” to call out the evil before them. (Carr would argue that people feel less empathy and sympathy for the victims they attacked because of their immense usage of technology.) Ronson makes the point that each of the attackers made a choice as to whether they wanted to shame that person or not. Whether they thought they were “doing something good” or not, they each made the choice. Technology never came into play when making their decision. Technology just amplified that decision so that millions of people across the world could now take part in the shaming as well (another choose that users have).

Overall, I think I preferred Ronson’s book out of the three. He didn’t take a scientific stand point about the issue he discussed. His journalistic skill allowed him to tell a story while also adding his own opinion after each story. Because of this I didn’t feel as though he was forcing me to feel a certain way about technology and public shaming. He just gave me the information I needed to come to my own conclusion.

Video vs. Text

I don’t know about anyone else, but when we were first assigned to the assignment for Concept in 60, I was freaking out. I use my phone and computer all the time, but I had no idea how to create a video from scratch. I started out by brainstorming possible concepts to explore and what exactly I would need to film. It was exhausting. My creative juices were definitely dry. After filming and editing the video for 2 hours, it amazed me how much work I had put into only 60 seconds. Which lead me to ask to myself whether just writing about the concept would have been easier…

So what are the accordances and limitations of text and video?

Well for one, time. I’m not just talking about the time it takes you to write something compared to videoing it, I’m talking about how much context you can introduce with each medium. If you are planning to make a video, you have to make it long enough to get the information you want said, but short enough that it doesn’t bore your audience. With our specific assignment of only 60 seconds, I found it incredibly difficult to say everything I wanted to say. With written text, there is really no limit to how long your piece could be. In today’s digital age, many of us can express how we feel in only 140 characters. In comparison, your audience would still be invested in the piece even if it was longer than 2-3 pages.

Reading can sometimes be straining to the brain. It requires an “inner voice” that can distract us from the actual information. With video, the experience is more passive. It takes a lot less energy and effort on behalf of the person watching. In Ashley’s video of Art, I didn’t have to do any thinking. All I had to do was listen to her voice and I received everything she was saying. And her beautiful drawing time-lapse made me feel relaxed and at ease, allowing me to fully immerse what she was saying in the background.

Words and written text greatly allow the writer to describe in detail the specifics of a place, person, or feeling. The reader has the ability to imagine these things without the use of picture or sound. Text gives the reader more freedom to interpret what an author writes. However, in retrospect, the tone of an author’s text can sometimes be misconstrued. With video, this issue does not happen. Jame’s video, How to Properly Watch a Movie at Home,  could easily be written out as a “how to” article. However, the steps he describes would be taken in a more serious tone if they were just written. The video allows the audience to observe the humorous actions and body language of James, which lead them to receive the comedic tone of the piece.

Lastly, video gives the author more creative opportunities to express themselves. Through music, pictures, and video the writer can use multiple effects to engage the audience. In Will’s video, without the use of music, filters, and video I’m not quite sure how his story would be translated. It would be very difficult to describe his emotions and actions through text. Through these multiple effects, video content allows you to show viewers more dimensions of the same content. An example of this is shown in Mackenzie’s video, What is an Ra?. Not only did she vocally describe her role as an RA, but she used pictures and an interview with a student to explain who she is and what she does. Because of her pictures, viewers were more likely to connect with her personally and the topic she discussed. With only written text, readers may have a harder time relating to her.

Today, video is the fastest form of communicating topics and issues with people. They can be very useful compared to written text. However, I think the more effective use of each of these mediums depends on the situation and the environment they are being used in.



The Evolution of Me

Goodbye Carr, hello Boyd. After Carr’s 257 pages of constant criticism on technology and the many negative effects it has not only on our social interaction, but on our actual brain connections, Boyd’s polar opposite mindset feels as if I can finally come up for air. I have never truly resonated so much with a book until now. Honestly, at times, I find her analysis of teens and their uses of technology to be creepingly accurate. It’s almost as if she has opened a window to my brain, and can see everything I think and feel. Boyd is finally the one adult that seems to understand the processes I go through everyday regarding what I post, who I post to, and even when to post.

In the first few chapters of her book, Boyd talks about identity expression and steganography. In her discussion of identity expression, Boyd explains how teens use social media as a way to find themselves and transition from childhood to adulthood. Because of the various networks the internet has to offer, many teens find themselves having to create different personas and identities on each site. Myself, included. When I first opened an account on Facebook, I used it as a way to connect with friends old and new.  Just as Boyd describes, I used to add my best friends as part of my “family” and constantly post on their walls just to say hello. Now, 9 years after creating a profile, my use of Facebook is limited to reposting Buzzfeed videos and checking the pages of the clubs I’m involved in. I don’t see Facebook as a means to follow the lives of my friends anymore, because a lot of people my age no longer use Facebook as vigorously as before. My current identity expression is most seen on my Instagram. There, I purposely plan what pictures I post and how they are presented, hoping to make an impression on people. To me, Instagram is sort of like my brand. It advertises my life, relationships, and hobbies. Anyone could get a clear sense of who I am and what I like to do, just by scrolling through my feed.

I specifically resonated with Boyd’s introduction to steganography in the digital age: subtweeting. We’ve all done it or have seen someone do it. And boy does it suck when you’re the person who is being subtweeted about. Or at least, you think the subtweet was about you…was it? I can’t tell you how many times I have read my friends’ subtweets and wondered whether they were talking about me. The crazy thing is, I will still wonder even when nothing has happened between me and that friend for a subtweet to be initiated. Any time that I have tried to subtweet, it always ends up back firing on me. If I am upset with someone and I subtweet them, I am always contacted by random people asking if I’m okay. Or worse, the person I subtweeted confronts me about it. This has happened so often, that I have stopped all subtweeting in general, afraid of someone reading my tweets and posts out of context. Boyd points out this very issue in Chapter 1. She talks about how all posts can be taken out of context, because the writer or “poster” doesn’t intend for their message to be read by everyone. They only have a distinct audience in mind.

As I continue to read her work, I am sure more of my own experiences will match many of the examples that she provides as evidence to her points. I look forward to reading more on her refreshing view of teens and technology. Her optimistic viewpoint certainly decreases the fear I once had about technology ruining our lives. (Thanks a lot, Carr)

A Letter to Carr

Dear Mr. Carr,

Hello from the future! Throughout the past two weeks, I have had the pleasure of reading your work and I must say, you sir, are an excellent writer. Although at times, I felt as if your arguments were repetitive, I found myself learning something new about technology in every chapter I read. Your extensive research on the history of technologies and their impact on our brains, not only impressed me, but sparked an intrigue to read more. I found myself reflecting on my own technology usage and whether the losses in concentration and memory were present in myself. During my reflection, I came to the same conclusion that you argued about various times in your book: the internet and technology changes the way I think and do things.

There is, however, one point that I would like to discuss with you. In Chapter 10, A Thing Like Me, something you said stood out to me.

“the more distracted we become, the less able we are to experience the subtlest, most distinctively human forms of empathy, compassion, and other emotions.”

At first, when reading this quote, I immediately thought of a term I learned in my Communications class called the bystander effect. The bystander effect is the tendency for individuals to be less likely to help another person in need when other bystanders are present, or believed to be present, as compared to when they are alone. When walking between classes today I noticed how everyone seemed to be on their phones, unbothered by the obstacles or people in front of them. I wondered what would happen if I suddenly dropped to the ground while walking.

Credit: Latticework of Mental Models: The Bystander Effect http://www.safalniveshak.com/latticework-of-mental-models-the-bystander-effect/

Would anyone look up from their phone to offer me help? Or would they be so distracted by the screen in their hands, that they simply walk by, expecting someone else to step in? While wondering these questions, it is then that I come to agree with your statement that our compassion and empathy may become void with the constant interaction of technology.

But what if our human qualities did not diminish with the use of the internet? What if they actually increased? Because you are stuck in the year 2010, you are not yet aware of the multiple current issues happening in our society today. Some examples actually show that through technology our compassion and empathy for others has expanded. Recently, the Black Lives Matter movement has taken over our media news. During one of the many African-American shootings, one woman actually live streamed the incident. Through her smart phone camera, we were able to witness the tragic event and how it unfolded. This is not the first time that a shooting has been filmed either. I have watched some of these heartbreaking videos, and because of them, my empathy for these victims only grew. My interaction to this technology did not weaken my emotions, it strengthened them.

Even while scrolling through my timeline on Facebook, I become more aware of the multitudes of social and global issues happening in our society. I recently watched a video of the Kiss Cam that took place at the Pro Bowl. While scanning the crowds, the camera stopped on a man and woman couple. To my surprise, the couple looked at each other and then the man turned to another man sitting next to him and kissed him instead. The video continues, highlighting the different forms of love, whether that be between people of the same gender, different religions, or different races. Videos and articles such as these, allow people to take away a message. After watching the video, I felt compassion for those whose love is not seen as the “normal” or “correct” one. Not only did I feel sympathy for these people, but I immediately wanted to alleviate the pain and discrimination that those couples go through.

So yes Mr. Carr, you were right. I am extremely distracted by my technologies, but I have come to realize that although my distraction may sometimes cut me off from the real world, that doesn’t mean that the real world is cut off from me.