The monster that is Facebook

We have all had the feeling of Facebook being something both annoying and intrusive yet at the same time so addictive and entertaining. All of us at some point try to remember what life was before this social network took it over and can’t seem to come up with a memory but we can all recognise the detrimental affect it has had upon our lives and even emotional health.

Gehl’s central argument in his article is about Facebook and the way it’s changed our lives in terms of viewing privacy, what we aim for on social media (which translates into how we feel in life) and how our activity and information is taken and used from the social network. He highlights the issues with our compulsive need to share and have attention on the activity we post on our Facebook profiles, popularity being determined by ‘likes and friends’ and society losing its sense of what privacy really means.

I agree with Gehl’s argument as I’ve felt the same way many times before about the monster that is Facebook. Facebook is a sense of pressure, a new kind of pressure that we all feel regardless if we want to admit it to ourselves or not. As an active participant, you want to show people what you are up to so that it seems your life is more interesting than theirs- it’s a competition whichever way you spin it. More likes = more winning. Privacy on Facebook is an issue however, knowing when someone has read your messages, seeing if they’re online on mobile or web, knowing that they’re online if they haven’t responded to a text or call – it’s all pressure and jealousy waiting to happen. And somewhat a form of stalking – admit it, we’ve all Facebooked stalked and continue to do it. I have thought about deleting my Facebook before but having known what’s like and having that instant communication with others, it’s an addiction that is almost impossible to break – I know I’ll be back on the site before the day is up.

Then there are those rare individuals who have Facebook but rarely if ever post anything at all but you see them online all the time. Those rare people who can have social media and not get addicted but use it for convenience sake of connection with others over chat and messaging.

Facebook creates more problems than it solves and is the reason it has such a love hate relationship with society. The number of relationships and friendships it has ruined is astounding- but that leads us to question is it the website or people to blame for that, or both?

All in all, Gehl is very right in his isolation from the Facebook world. I know people who refuse to have a Facebook profile and are perfectly happy and functioning without it. It is a horrible crutch to those who do have it and much too banal and drama-packed to be worth anyone’s while. This being said with Facebook open in my browser, I wish I had the ability to remember how peaceful life was without this monstrosity of a website. 

Technology Timeline

All the predictions about the future were right, we have become dependent on technology to the point where it rules versus the other way around. Today, I could not happily and fully function without my smartphone –which doubles as my ipod- and my laptop. Those are the two most essential technological devices in my life and I use them both on a daily basis along with the HDMI cord that I use to hook my laptop up to my television screen so that I doubles as a second laptop screen and my external hard drive which stores all of my movies, tv shows and backup music and picture files. I am attached to my phone to that extent simply because of my busy schedule between work, filming and having to constantly have it near me in case my agent calls for bookings. When I was told that I needed to be constantly checking my phone for these alerts I was not pleased, I do not appreciate being tethered to a device to such an extent.

 I bought my laptop the summer before I went to university, before I would use the desktop shared between my mom and myself. I updated my Blackberry Bold 9900 to my iPhone in February, my uncle gifted me the television and HDMI cord when I was moving to university and I bought my external hard drive to store my media. I have changed phones a few times mostly due to the fact that I have broken them or they are stolen. I have not yet replaced my laptop though I have wanted to many times because it freezes frequently and runs slow. This may be due to the fact that I have downloaded many programs on it and leave it running almost all day. I have also wanted to upgrade to a larger laptop, I didn’t expect mine to be this small but it’s still survived everything I’ve put it through so I do love it. This is the same reason I wanted to upgrade to an iPhone many times during my Blackberry phase but I had to wait until I was eligible for an upgrade.

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I have a few phones that I still have lying around that I am no longer using. A Sony Ericsson and two Blackberry’s. I also have one of the first generation of iTouch iPod’s that I have neglected since upgrading to my iPhone. However, I’ve just realised that I can still load a lot of my music onto my still working iPod since the amount of music I can put on my phone is still limited, so I still have use for that faithfully working iPod.

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When I am getting rid of old phones or gadgets I usually take it back to the store I bought it from as they usually know and have the means to dispose of them properly. Phone companies like Bell also give you credit towards accessories when you do this so that would be incentive for people to bring in and dispose of their devices properly. To be very honest, it irks me so much when I see people simply disposing of their devices any which way is convenient to them. I am a ‘go green’ person and try to consider the environment in everything. Recycling is important to me along with disposing of items like technological devices and batteries properly and even compost and actual garbage.

As for the social impact, nothing annoys me more than sitting with friends who are talking to you and texting at the same time. I have been known to take my friend’s phones away from them when we are together.  It is honestly shocking to me how anti-social people have  become and how okay they are with that being their personality now; they just accept that it is ‘difficult’ to have a conversation in person  and find it easier to text. It baffles me. I know a few people who have anxiety meeting new people and making friends in person but online they can do it without any qualms over a video game or social media – to me that is more frightening as you have no idea what they person you are talking to looks like.  They could be lying completely about who they are, at least in person you can read body language and gauge reactions for yourself. I simply can’t understand how a mobile phone can change centuries of human interpersonal interaction in such a drastic way – is that a comment on what we have allowed our society to become or on how weak certain individuals are? Natural selection taking place? 

#OfCourseThisTitleWillBeHashtagged – Hashtag Activism #Yay or #Nay

Depending on how you view Twitter, the usefulness of hashtags and the intentions of those using them, hashtag activism can have two very different meanings. If you are among the skeptical who believe that those who tweet about great political causes and start hashtags about them to raise awareness are just bandwagoner’s looking to feel good about themselves the Urban Dictionary meaning might be one you agree with

“The kind of activism undertaken when you “do something” about a problem by tweeting or posting links to Facebook, without any intent of ever actually doing something. Nothing more than a nonsense feelgood gesture so that one can say they “did something about” whatever trendycause they’re pretending to care about. Usually only lasts a week or two before the cause is completely forgotten.”

However, if you are among those who believe that even the laziest attempts of raising awareness can make a difference you might appreciate the less snarky definition of hashtag activism – this being the attempt to raise awareness for a cause or bring attention to an event by creating a hashtag relating to the situation and composing tweets about the situation in order to trend the topic on Twitter.

When it comes to deciding whether hashtag activism has real world consequences, I am on the fence mainly because of the number of Twitter (and even other social media users, since Facebook has that hashtag option now) users who jump on the “first world digital bandwagon” just because it seems like something they should do at the time. This and also because many of the people who start these grand twitter political hashtags for causes are “American do-gooders” (really do-gooders in general) who, in the end, really do not do anything for the cause but create self-righteous tweets and hashtags from the comfort of their own homes. The whole Kony 2012 and Bring Back Our Girls spectacle blew up because of a bunch of famous faces that jumped on those hashtags to make it look like they cared and were making a difference but really they were using it for nothing more than publicity -let’s be honest here. I guarantee after taking those pictures with that piece of paper and scribbled hashtag they didn’t give a second thought to those ‘causes’ and went off living their famous lives. Not that I am putting these celebrities down, their publicists or managers most likely made them do it, I’m just saying it’s one of those bandwagon problems that comes with this territory – where nothing comes from it except that their fans are now scrambling to figure out what they were advertising.

This leads me to the other side of my fence, while that was the constraints of hashtag activism – bandwagon tweets with no real outcome for the cause – it does give it great publicity and awareness to the fans of those famous faces. This will then get more people talking about it and maybe someone will finally do their research so more intelligent and informative tweets can be tagged in the hashtags rather than half informed outraged tweets. Also, once a hashtag goes viral and becomes a media sensation journalists and newspapers will take notice and write an article on it, pulling tweets from the hashtag to post in the paper as examples. This leads to even more exposure, alerting those who might not use twitter about what the new media outrage is and what people are saying about it. More awareness, more exposure.

In the end, at the very least, hashtag activism may not solve world hunger or even completely solve the issue it is raising awareness for but it does give its cause a lot of attention which will encourage someone to make some sort of change for the better. Usually some sort of good comes out of all of the attention given to the situation, usually it is small, but it is something. 

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The meme I have created is one featuring James Dean for the James Dean fandom or Classic/Old Hollywood fandom. This meme works as a combination of a joke and a motivational picture. It works as a joke because the tagline “You Should Be Studying” is most likely a true statement for the audience it is meant for, as they are probably scrolling through their fandoms social media outlet- Tumblr, Twitter or Instagram and are neglecting their studies (or other duties that they are supposed to be attending to) and a picture of their idol referencing this neglect may (or may not) help them realise they are procrastinating.
The audience this meme is directed to is fellow James Dean lovers and even the Classic/Old Hollywood and Hollywood Golden Age fandom- one that is surprisingly large in numbers. They would appreciate the irony and meaning behind this meme as they understand the love and fascination one feels toward their idol and how hard it is to tear yourself away from indulging in content about them- especially on sites like Tumblr where there is a constant flow of such content.
I wouldn’t say this meme requires specialized knowledge other than the knowledge of who James Dean is and what he looks like. This meme references the fangirl tendencies of those who use sites such as Tumblr and Twitter where memes of this kind can mostly be found. It highlights the tendency to continuously scroll and indulge in James Dean or Classic Hollywood content and the comfort and fun in interacting with fellow fans on these sites as you become friends and bond over your love of your fandom thus neglecting your studies or responsibilities. It references the attractiveness of our idol, James Dean, and our love for him and the meme uses him and his expression as a way of telling us to give our obsession a break and go study – almost saying he knows we’re neglecting our real life responsibilities to indulge in content about him.
The intertextuality of this meme references the fangirl behaviour that is especially present today, more than ever before, because of digital culture. It builds on other memes that have been floating around the fandom and fangirl circuit that use pictures of male idols/crushes with the same tagline – reminding fangirls that they should be studying. Idexically the picture of the male crush changes for each fandom but the tagline and message says the same thus making its templatability simple: different picture (content) suited to each fan or fandom with the same message. All in all I did build existing memes created by fangirls and suited its content for the James Dean and Classic Hollywood fandom. It connects to others with its similar meaning and tone but differs in its reference which is suited to each fandom.
This idea came to me instantly and I ran with it. I knew which picture of Jimmy I was going to use from the get go and the tagline. Having run a One Direction and The Wanted fan account on Twitter and Tumblr I have seen many similar memes using each of the band members and the whole band numerous times and that is what inspired me to create a similar James Dean meme as I have not come across one of those yet (simply because his fans are much more mature). I followed the meme generator link posted on the Sakai assignment page and followed the steps to creating the meme, which were much simpler than I expected, and voila – here it is.

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The meme that I chose to deconstruct today is “Condescending Wonka” highlighting the issue of “online confidence”. I chose this meme because it is culturally relevant about the social interactions observed today both online and in person between individuals. The meme addresses the issue of those individuals who are snarky and mean online and believe they are being witty and in person are the opposite. They have the confidence behind a computer screen and the safety of being online but in person lack that confidence – which the sarcasm of the meme highlights. It positions me as a reader within a larger community of one who understands the type of behaviour being referenced, having seen it online, and the outcome of this behaviour once the individual is away from their safety net of the computer. This community is the new generation today of avid internet users who are present on many different internet sites and experience this behaviour from users; this community may not only include teenagers and young adults but also older adults who are internet savvy and spend a lot of time online. Those working in media and marketing may also have no choice to become familiar with the trends of the internet to use them to their advantage. The meme is using sarcasm and condescension to, ironically, address the same behaviour that users take part in online but are unable to translate that confidence into their everyday interactions in the real world. It I s addressing the issue of how many individuals take liberties online that they wouldn’t in the real world because they have that safety of anonymity and control online while in person they do not; it is highlights the problem of deteriorating self-confidence in people today as they use the internet as a substitute form of a somewhat smoke and mirrors type of confidence. Condescending Wonka’s point of reference is the witty and sometimes condescending manner of Gene Wilder’s portrayal of Willy Wonka in the original 1971 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Its indexicality and templatability would be the tone and image used for the meme which allows for many other situations to be sarcastically referenced and work with the overall structure of the meme. This meme would be a cultural artifact as it captures the silly behaviour and attitudes that are running rampant in our society today – be it online or in the real world – and addresses how some members of society find it to be embarrassing and ridiculous. This specific meme in particular will highlight the mean behaviour of individuals online who can’t translate that ‘confidence’ into their real lives in the everyday world.

Networking Online is The Way Now

Participation online has become second nature to users of all kind with the new generation of the internet and worldwide web – Web 2.0. The regular users of the internet are familiar with the various internet sites that require daily and constant participation such as Facebook, Twitter, blogging sites etc, while others may simply use e-mail accounts as their modes of participation in online culture. Then there is the gamer culture – the online gaming sites which require users to participate and directly interact with other gamers online.

Within contemporary digital culture I have noticed it has become necessary to be a participant online for various reasons – to create an online presence to promote businesses/yourself, to keep up to date on the world and in contact with others and even to increase business by establishing the option to shop online for your business. My take on participatory digital culture today is that of a double life. We basically have our online presence/lives where we follow and participate with those that we choose to on the various social media sites and then our real lives with the people we interact with on a daily basis. Career networking and opportunities have turned participatory also with the establishment of the LinkedIn site where one has to join and update their account regularly so that they will show up when searched by potential employers and coworkers to find them. Today’s digital culture has made “on the go” or “from your home” participation that much easier so that we never miss a thing that is happening in our online lives and can participate right from our phones, tablets and even now straight from our television sets.

With the gamer culture online and constantly interacting with numerous people from around the world while playing these games and building teams, gamers form friendships with these ‘virtual’ beings and I have known people who have formed real life in person friendships with gamers who live in other cities. I have a friend from Hamilton who became really good friends with another gamer in Halifax, who I in turn became really good friends with. It is quite amazing how life events like that can happen.  I met one of my best friends from my fan account on twitter, she lives in Florida, and she found my twitter account through my tweets and started replying to them because she liked what I posted. From that we started talking and got to know each other and realised we were basically like long lost sisters. Participatory culture- improving our networks and friendships and making the phrase ‘global village’ more relevant day by day.

I am very much a participant online. I am on all the main social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram – with my own YouTube account also. I run two Tumblr blogs and about 3 different Twitter accounts which I update frequently. Responding to tweets, commenting and blogs can make a difference if used correctly and this type of participation is something I believe in. For example this type of participation is mostly used in the entertainment industry where producers, writers and directors use Twitter and Facebook to poll their audiences about what they like and want to see; it is also how the celebrities keep in touch with their fans and learn the same thing.  This is how users/audiences can have an impact on their favourite show or with their favourite celebrity.

I measure participation by how frequently a user uses their account to tweet, posts online or comment on online content – in my opinion that determines how dedicated they are to the account they have created. I believe participation online can be a bit too emancipatory with some users using the possible anonymity to be hostile and rude online. Some users do abuse the online forum by being hateful online without reason.  

Tradeoffs to participation online could be seen as simply creating accounts and observing the other user activity taking place with minimal or no interaction (participation) with them or the content being shared. These would be the Facebook accounts that you forget you are friends with because they never post or participate on Facebook, the Tumblr accounts that follow you but there is no activity and the Twitter accounts that follow you but never tweet anything of their own.