Tag Archives: social media

Digital Camera + Facebook + Alcohol = Augmented Reality

On Saturday I spent a delightful evening at Stanford's Senior Formal – it was a pretty spectacular affair. I didn’t bother to bring my camera because I can always rely on every young lady at the party having one – you've seen it: cute, pink, canon

As I eagerly wait for the photos to post to Facebook, some musings I've had at the intersection of FB, digital photography and college culture (read as alcohol) are beginning to crystalize.

The jestful adage ”if it’s not on Facebook it didn’t happen” is becoming a powerful statement of reality for young people. Many can attest, for instance, to the sort of ripples that an announcement that “so-and-so is in a relationship with so-and-so” creates in a FB social circle. 

A recent study aptly titled "Look at us: Collective Narcissism in College Student Facebook Photo Galleries" explores the ways in which FB has transformed the way we use and share personal photos. 

Authors Andrew Mendelson and Zizi Papacharissi (of Temple and U. Chicago respectively) conclude from looking at some 20k+ photos, that "the central objective among college students on Facebook was the recording and posting of their participation in the social rituals of college." No surprise there.

Certainly photos are narrative aids in telling a social-status garnering story about participation in college life. More than that, I suspect that photos serve as a sort of cognitive aid or reality augmentation. The emergence of cheap digital photography and a nearly ubiquitous sharing medium increasingly shapes the way young people parse lived experience. Bear with me here:

Over the past several years I've had dozens of day-after-the-party conversations. What I've concluded from these is that many of my peers dramatically overreport “how good a time” they had last night. Part of this is semi-conscious – tales of epic nights of mayhem are an important cultural ritual in college and people play up the "good" parts while skipping over the bad. There may be more to it than that though.

How do you tell the story of a night you don't remember very well? You reconstruct it using the clues available to you.

You have a neon-yellow drink bracelet so you know you went to the Sigma Fratty Psi party. You have a receipt for five milkshakes and $30 worth of chicken tenders in your pocket to you know you hit up the LateNight eatery. The receipt has a name scrawled on the back, so you know you hung out with a girl named Mindy (or Minty?) who could only remember 9 digits of her cell number.

Then you go on FB. There are a couple of photos of you with buddies, with pretty ladies – you were all smiling and apparently having a good time. You vaguely remember some unpleasantness, but a dozen pictures of smiling, fun-having people assure you that a good time was had all around.

Not so. That vague unpleasantness you remember – shortly after the last photo you lost track of your buddies. You wondered around feeling alone, disoriented, miserable. Then you marked your territory around a palm tree…in vomit. Having lost your keys, you then called your roommate, almost unintelligibly drunk and maybe crying a little bit, and got him to retrieve you from the hallway.

Ok, so I took this scenario to a ridiculous extreme, but this is I suspect, representative of an actual phenomenon. Facebook photos don't just tell other people what we experienced – they tell us what we experienced. And like Fox News, they're only truthful in a fun-house mirror sort of way  – the photos are out of context, plus, who doesn't try to put on a good face for those conspicuously staged, destined for FB snapshots?

How to blog about social media, gen-y and other buzzwords – a satire

There are certain essential elements which anyone who writes about social media, web 2.0, gen-y, personal branding, careers or closely related subjects should be aware of. They form a canon, a sort of tao, if you will.

Let's begin at the beginning. Well, before the beginning really. Mark Twain once wrote,"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." Start by putting on your clothes. Before you write you must establish your ethos.

This means settling on a good head-shot, coming up with a compelling story around why you're unemployed (referencing "The 4-hour Workweek", of course), deciding what niche you'll be a self-proclaimed expert in and creating a profile on every social media site. With your ethos firmly established, now you may begin to write.

Titles are what really draw people in, so use one or all of the following conventions around title writing. The best is generally "X ways to do Y" (e.g. "5 ways to be inane on twitter while gaining followers"), but sometimes the urgent  call to action like "X things you/your business needs to know in order to do/avoid Y", is a better option (e.g. "5 social media tools every business should use to avoid bringing about the twit-pocalypse").

gen-yAlso, if you are afraid your title is a little too vanilla, throw in a buzz word or two -"social media" or "web 2.0" will usually do just fine. If there is a new mobile media device coming out soon, like an iphone, ipad or netbook, you can use that too, even if it doesn't have much to do with the content of the post (e.g. "5 ways the ipad will revolutionize your love life"). Also, consider adding "2.0" to any noun or verb to make it somehow new, exciting and hip (e.g. "Detroit 2.0" or "Gutter Cleaning 2.0"). 

Then there is the somewhat more trivial matter of content. Try these out as rules of thumb. It's rarely a good idea to write anything longer than 300 words – it makes people's heads hurt, especially if you use big words, like "rigorous". Begin, or end, your post with a common quote or truism like "we all know how important it is to be yourself" or "we can do anything we want if we stick to it long enough" – anything you've seen re-tweeted or on a refrigerator magnet will do. Also, consider a selection from any number of self-help books.

Next, create a list – numbers are better, but bold sub-headings will do. This breaks the post up into chunks telling your readers, "this is a blog and narrative flow has no place here". If you don't have anything to say, that's fine – interview a pseudo celebrity or self-proclaimed expert.

Alternately, share a story or experience about how motivated and smart you are – remember to add in some buzz words (I suggest "personal brand" or "Millennials") to make it topical. Also, add an inspirational take-way or call to action, like "What would you do if you were as beautiful and talented as me?" at the end so as not to seem self-centered.

If you are writing about careers, talk about "passion" and "loving what you do". Be careful not to define concepts too clearly. Also talk about the importance of developing a unique brand and putting yourself out there with social media tools – it's been said before, but you must be brazen enough to say it again.

For posts on the value and potentials of social media, either be exuberant or damning. Do not be nuanced – it might be confused for a lack of an opinionated stance. Alternatively, be completely ambiguous.

The same is true about writing about Gen-y; make broad generalizations about either how unrealistic, un-disciplined or illiterate we are or pine about how digitally enlightened and natively skilled we are. Also, consider writing about how to manage or market to Millennials – they do not speak English but rather English 2.0.

Never forget to note the "fundamental differences" between Gen-Y's approach to anything, and every one else's. If Baby Boomers shaved with straight razors, Gen-y will buck that and do it using the power of the social web.

Your audience is the most important element, so keep in mind that, for the most part, you are preaching to the choir – most of your readers are other bloggers who write about the same things you do. Do not critically analyze anything – by doing so you risk being critically analyzed yourself.

To appeal to your audience, raise your credibility and as a killer starting (or ending) point for a post on just about any topic, quote Penelope Trunk, Dan Schawbel, Chris Brogan or Seth Godin. Finally, fluff is the stuff that fills your stuffed animals and your pillows – it is comforting and it is good! 

What do you think are the essential elements for blogging about social media, careers, gen-y and personal branding?

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Over the past several months I've read dozens of blogs and hundreds of posts, many of them around topics like personal branding, careers, social media and gen-y/millennials. In this piece I share some observations I've taken away about how to write on these topics. I make this entry into the public record in the tradition of "How to write about Africa" and "How to write about poor people", hoping it is received in the playful (if somewhat satirical) spirit in which it was conceived. I am guilty of most of the things I satirize.

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