Cooking with Spirit

Last year, for my twenty-first birthday, my beautiful future in-laws gifted IMG_1093me a voucher to the Spirit House Cooking School in Yandina. Today, I finally attended my ‘Wok Meals for Busy People’ class.

Having never been to a cooking school or anything of the like before, I was unsure what to expect. Alas, I was utterly blown away by the sheer beauty, class, and deliciousness of the place! Hidden amongst a forest of bamboo, peace, and tranquillity, lay the Spirit House Cooking School.

Inside the school, our chef, Kelly, gave us the rundown on what delicious Thai dishes we would be preparing for our lunch:

  • Steamed Salmon with Ginger and Black Bean Sauce
  • Crispy Sweet Potato Noodle Balls with Szechwan Pepper Glaze
  • Stir Fry Pork with Pineapple, Ginger and Yellow Bean Sauce
  • Chicken Curry with Water Spinach Kaffir Lime and Tamarind
  • Singapore Style Seafood Noodles

It was exciting to see the inside of a real industry kitchen for the first time!

The first step in the process was to prepare all the ingredients that we’d be using that day. We spent a good part of the morning chopping, slicing, and squeezing.

Next, we had to use a mortar and pestle to pound many of our chopped up ingredients in order to make a red curry paste.

The first dish we prepared was the Crispy Sweet Potato Noodle Balls, which we sat down and ate early as an appetiser:

After our noodle balls, it was time to start cooking the main meals. The first meal we cooked was the Steamed Salmon and Ginger and Black Bean Sauce (personally, this dish was my favourite):

Next we cooked the Stir Fry Pork Belly:

Then the Singapore Style Seafood Noodles were dished up. The seafood in this dish were prawns and cuttlefish!

Last but not least was the beautiful chicken curry:

All the dishes were laid out on our tables as a banquet and we ate until our heart’s content!

All in all I had an absolutely marvellous day! I had fun and learned an abundance of information, not only about preparing and cooking food (you should peel ginger with a SPOON so as not to waste any like when peeling with a knife!), but also Thailand itself (did you know putting a FORK in your mouth in Thailand is akin to licking food off your knife in a fancy restaurant?! Rude!). I am so, so thankful to the Rakovszky Family for gifting me this marvellous experience! I’m sorry it has taken me so long to use it. 10/10 would attend a Spirit House class again!

I’ll never let go, IAB260

IAB260This will be my last blog post for my university subject: Social Technologies (IAB260), however, hopefully it won’t be my last blog post ever. I’ve discovered that I really do enjoy blogging, but without the pressure of being graded or having a deadline, I may find it difficult to blog simply for my own enjoyment. We’ll see how it goes.

In this wrap up post, I will be giving some feedback on the subject, speaking of my learning experiences, and putting forward some ideas on how to improve my own learning.

Unit Feedback

Expectations vs Reality

1 2(Gifs by minastirith from Tumblr)

Despite my use of the gifs above, this class exceeded my expectations of what I thought it would be. I came into IAB260 expecting to learn how different types of people used different social media platforms, and how to better use them to my own advantage. I thought this unit would probably be pretty boring because I thought I knew everything about social media already. Honestly, I was really looking forward to an easy 7, because, well, Facebook. However, this unit was so much better than I expected it be! It was fun, interactive, and a different type of learning environment that I really enjoyed. I also learned a whole lot more than I thought I initially would. From blog writing skills, to understanding how others use social media, to getting to know my online self better. I’ll speak about all the amazing things I learned later in this post.

Goodbye, Blackboard

I was a bit unsure of the learning environment for this unit at first. I thought to myself, “How on earth are the tutors going to keep track of our assessment and learning without QUT Blackboard?” While I certainly think it was a greater effort for Kate and Tracy to keep track of everything, the IAB260 website was easy to navigate and find the resources I was looking for, not to mention much more aesthetically pleasing than Blackboard.

At first, I wasn’t comfortable using Google+ to interact with this class. However, now that I’m used to it and have gotten to know my way around, I quite like it. The community aspect makes it easy to communicate with others in the class with the ability to pin posts and view and navigate content easily with tags and categories.  I would use Google+ again for this type of class, but for now I will continue to stick with Facebook groups.

The mix of online activities and workshops was excellent. Both were engaging and suited my university lifestyle. The various media for learning materials is something I will miss from this unit. Having YouTube videos, blog posts, news articles, TED Talks, and scholarly articles all thrown in together as learning resources was fantastic! I didn’t get bored having to listen to or read the same thing every week. The multitude of learning materials kept my learning exciting, and I looked forward to new resources each week. This is something I believe all lecturers and tutors should learn from.

I genuinely enjoyed the nature of the assessment too. Never in my life have I actually been excited to start working on an assignment. The assignment tasks were fun! If I’m being honest, I used this class as my procrastination for my other subjects this semester. When I didn’t feel like working on an assignment for another class, I’d put off work by creating parts of my persona poster, or writing a blog for this class, because those were fun activities to do that I really enjoyed. They just happened to be marked too, which was a bonus!

My Key Learning

Identity MapThe key take away from this unit for me is a deeper understanding of who I am as a user online, specifically on social media. It’s not something I’d ever thought about before this unit. Our first assignment where we had to create a persona and identity map forced me to analyse how I interact within the multitude of social networks I have. On the vast majority of my networks, I actively engage with others and am the creator of my own content. However, the way I engage and interact with my connections varies from network to network.

For example, on Facebook and Instagram I post whatever I like, sharing with my friends and followers what interests me and what I happen to be up to at that moment. It is never inappropriate, however it’s certainly not considered professional either. Whereas on LinkedIn, you see the strictly ‘no funny business’ version of me. I only share articles which are intellectual and written by other professionals. Any photos you see of me on LinkedIn consist of me looking well put together and formally dressed. Private messages I send to people within my network are well constructed and formally written, they certainly don’t contain any 🙂 or 😛 or XD.

After creating my Identity Map and analysing why my identities are the way they are, I decided to venture out into my social media networks and have since worked on changing a few of my identities. I try not to be a The Lurker as much as before. For example, I now tweet and retweet more personal content on Twitter. I’ve now also come out of my shell on reddit and have started contributing more to conversation. The same goes for YouTube, I’ve actually uploaded a video for the first time ever! Even though I made it specifically for this unit, it was still a contribution that I’m quite proud of. I can’t say it’s very professional though, so I may want to think about who I want to view it.

However, this is a very good example of my key learning for this unit. I am now more aware than ever of what I post online, where I post it to, and who I share it with. I believe this is excellent to learn, especially at this stage in my life, before I’ve started my professional career. I don’t have to be afraid of future employers discovering information or photographs that could portray me in a negative light. I can be confident walking into an interview knowing that my interviewers haven’t found something inappropriate on my Facebook profile. While my online identities are still largely separate in some places, where they overlap isn’t a cause of concern. This is something that helps me to sleep easy at night.

Other Learnings

I certainly believe I was able to tick all the boxes for the learning outcomes of this unit, which were to:

  1. Apply analytical and critical thinking skills to understand the way people experience social technologies, including how people construct personal and professional online identities
  2. Assess and critically reflect on social technologies and their applications
  3. Demonstrate broad knowledge of issues and topics related to social technologies and deep knowledge of one or more specific topics
  4. Apply verbal, written and visual communication skills that effectively convey information in social media contexts

I will take you through my learning for this unit one week at a time.

Week 1:

I learned that this unit doesn’t have lectures! Wooh!

-cue instant happiness-

Week 2: Blogging and Channel You

I learned how to make a blog, write a blog, what makes a good blog and how to appeal to my readers. I made my very first measly IAB260 post which you can read here. Writing my first blog post was an interesting experience. Despite reading the learning materials, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I received some good constructive feedback on it though, which lead me on the right track of knowing how to write effectively.

Week 3: People and social technologies

I learned how to understand the different types of users of social media, from pregnant mothers, to people with disabilities, to Indigenous Australians.  This would become important when creating my persona poster. Most importantly, I learned the importance of empathy. I recommend watching the following video to understand empathy a bit more:

I also recommend watching this video on blame, simply because I found it funny and enjoyable. It’s also an important concept to understand:

Week 4: Networks and communities

Networks, communities, and tribes. This video by Marc Samet on network theory helped me to understand these topics in more detail. However, it wasn’t my week to blog, so I won’t yabber on about them.

tumblr_mxpic3HgmX1s3a8zvo1_500
All Lestrade gifs by f4ndom-qu33n from Tumblr

Week 5: Information in social media

I learned how different people experience information on social media, and the way we interact with information now that it is online. danah boyd’s Educause Review was an interesting read on how times have changed: the majority of us don’t read the newspaper, we just read Facebook. You can read my blog post on this topic here. I am very proud of the title I gave that blog post: ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Other Current Affairs‘. It was very clever and engaging, if I may say so myself. I tried to come up with similarly clever titles for my other blog posts (including this one), but none of them were ever quite as good as that one. On the downside, I believe my Week 5 blog post lacked structure. This is something I tried to improve in my following posts.

Week 6: Social media in natural disasters

It was interesting to learn how social media has changed the way we interact during a disaster, and how it can even be used to save lives with nifty new features like Facebook’s Safety Check and Twitter Alerts. This video about the use of social media during the 2011 Queensland floods gives an overview of the explosion of social media use in Queensland for disaster management and is an interesting watch. I didn’t blog on this topic, so I won’t say any more.

tumblr_n4190p2lsZ1s0twm9o1_500Week 7: Activism and Citizen journalism

I learned how citizen journalism is beginning to take over social media, with average, everyday people reporting on the true current events and happenings, without the censorship of mainstream media. I focussed my attention on activism for my blog post. From studying the learning resources, I learned how technology is changing the way people demand for change and stand up for causes they believe in. Social media has led to a form of activism called ‘slacktivism’, and despite its degrading name, has caused an incredible amount of change through clicking, sharing, and changing your profile picture from the comfort of your own home, as described by Mary Joyce in her article: The 6 Activist Functions of Technology. I tried to improve my blog post this time around by incorporating headings to allow for better post structure. I enjoyed using headings to break up my content, so continued to use them for the remainder of my posts.

Week 8: Quantified and connected lives

This week covered lifelogging, fitness tracking, wearable technology, and how they can be used to improve daily life. This blog post by Ted McCarthy talks about the important concepts of this topic. Again, I didn’t blog about this, so moving on!

tumblr_n4190p2lsZ1s0twm9o9_500Week 8 was also the week we had our persona posters displayed on The Cube!

IMG_3822The IAB260 Poster Exhibition was a fun experience where we were able to view our peers’ work and appreciate all the effort everyone had put in to create such unique posters. I was overwhelmed by some of the posters, they were so intricately and brilliantly crafted and inspiring. We were also given free pizza, which made me the happiest person in the world.

IMG_3832To my great surprise, I won the prize for Best Content! I was incredibly humbled that my peers thought my poster was worthy of that title, and also secretly proud of myself that my amateur PowerPoint skills somehow managed to out-do some of the visual design students in the class. 😛

IMG_3846Week 9: Memes, movements and virality

This week, I learned what it takes in order for something to go viral, whether it be a hashtag movement, meme, or video. I focussed on memes this week, and enjoyed researching where memes came from and what they can incorporate, as explained in SourceFed’s video. I enjoyed this week’s topic the most, because I got to have a lot of fun writing about something silly, yet also very interesting to me. I wrote a case study on Doge in my blog post, and researching the history of the famous Shiba Inu was fascinating.  I also created some memes of my own for the first time ever, and it turns out I really enjoy making them!

Bad Luck Brian

First World Problems

Fry Squint

Week 10: Creativity and making

This week focussed on the ways individuals use social technologies to create or engage people in their creative or making pursuits, and the maker movement. Learning about the maker movement from Brit Morin’s article made me very interested in the way people DIY projects for their own interest and also to sell online. But this topic was not my division.

tumblr_n4190p2lsZ1s0twm9o4_500Week 11: Trust and ethics

This was a very interesting topic where I learned about ethics and social media research, and online harassment, shaming, and bullying. It taught me that we always have to be careful about what we post and share online, how we interact with people and companies over the internet, and how we should always research the facts before sharing them within our networks. I found this topic the most challenging, simply because for some reason I couldn’t get in the right head space to write about it. It took a while for me to think of what to write about and get inspired to create my blog post. However, once I started I couldn’t stop, as usual. I wrote my blog post on cyber-bullying and how easy it can be for one simple slip up to ruin your life. This week also taught me a good life lesson when I watched Sally Kohn’s TED Talk:

“If someone is being abused online, do something. Be a hero. This is your chance. Speak up. Speak out. Be a good person. Drown out the negative with the positive.”

This quote is something I will try to remember and act upon when I come across online bullying in the future.

Week 12: Learning

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) and lifelong learning through the internet was intriguing to learn about through this video. I have no doubts that I will participate in a MOOC one day, so it was interesting to hear about the types of learning they can offer. This topic wasn’t on my writing to-do-list, so moving on!

tumblr_n4190p2lsZ1s0twm9o6_500Week 13: Gamification experience

To be honest, when I first heard that we would be having a ‘gamification experience’ in this subject, I thought ‘laaame’. However, I was proved wrong. The gamification experience was AWESOME! How can I not say that though? I came second! The experience was definitely the most fun I’ve had in one of my university subjects so far. It was interactive, sometimes challenging, and appealed to my competitive side. It showed me how interacting with my peers really improves the learning experience.

However, I’m not really sure if the gamification experience worked like Kate had planned. The idea was to get everyone in the class participating, creating content, and interacting with each other, however, for the most part, the students who were already regularly posting within our Google+ community were the same students who participated wholeheartedly in the gamification challenge. This in particular taught me that it’s much more difficult to get students engaged in something than I originally thought. I’ve been trying to come up with ideas on how to improve this situation, but quite frankly, if monetary rewards and additional marks don’t do the trick, I don’t know what will.

Here’s the amateur video I mentioned earlier of me responding to the statement: “Gamification is bullshit”

Personal Improvements

I believe I could have improved my own learning by reading more of my peers’ blog posts. The blog posts that I read were incredibly interesting and portrayed a different perspective on some hot topics. Had I taken the time to read more posts, I believe I would have received a broader range of knowledge on the weekly topics. This would have helped me to improve my own posts too, by taking into consideration the perspective of others. In order to improve this, I should have set aside an hour of my time every night to read through my peers’ posts.

Additionally, a specific skill I could improve is my brainstorming skills. Instead of storing ideas in my head, I should write them down immediately, to ensure I don’t forget any interesting points I come up with. This may be difficult to improve on though, as most of my fantastic ideas come to me in the shower. Perhaps I should invest in some waterproof markers!

Strengths and Weaknesses

I’ve been told my whole life that I write well, so it comes as no surprise that I am quite good at blog writing. I read all the learning materials for my week thoroughly, conducted my own research into topics, and was able to bring it all together in a well-structured manner which lead to some great posts (in my humble opinion).

I do have some weaknesses though: time management and procrastination. I tend to get distracted very easily by the exact same thing this unit teaches us about: social technology. I need to learn to simply sit down and finish my work without having to check Facebook every five minutes. I’ve used Wunderlist this semester, which has helped me to keep on top of tasks and organise their importance accordingly. It also gives me the satisfaction of ticking a completed task off the list. My time management has certainly improved this semester, however it still needs work.

Final Remarks

In conclusion, I have thoroughly enjoyed IAB260. The online environment, multitude of learning resources, and personal engagement with my peers, Kate, and Tracy have made this unit my favourite so far in my university career. I learned a lot not only about myself and my online identities, but about how social technologies have impacted and changed humanity’s way of life (mostly for the better). I have sincerely enjoyed blogging, and hope to continue to do so in the future. Farewell, IAB260! It’s been great getting to know you.

Goodbye
Gif by gazelover from Tumblr

No More Mr. Nice Guy

[This blog post quotes some strong language. Reader discretion is advised.]

Image by Volkan Olmez is licensed under Public Domain
Image by Volkan Olmez is licensed under Public Domain

The Internet can be a wonderful place full of loving friends, inspiration, support, and baby animals. It can also be a place of darkness filled with nasty, vindictive low-lifes ready to tear you apart at the drop of a hat. They bully, harass, stalk, and shame in great numbers. If you don’t know what cyber bullying is, you’ve been living under a rock. But for all you hermits out there, cyber bullying “is bullying that is done through the use of technology“. Online harassment is conducted through the Internet with the purpose of hurting, shaming, or embarrassing someone. Often times, cyber bulling and online harassment is carried out by immature teenagers who have nothing better to do and don’t truly understand the consequences of their actions. However, when it becomes a case of adults targeting adults, what hope do we have?

The Internet’s First Victim

Photo from Monica's Ted Talk
Photo from Monica Lewinsky’s TED Talk

I recently watched a Ted Talk by Monica Lewinsky. To be honest, I had no clue who Monica was and had to look her up to learn her story. Wikipedia told me that Monica was the star of the 1998 Lewinsky Political Sex Scandal and was involved in a sexual relationship with former United States president, Bill Clinton. Despite being only four at the time of this scandal, and therefore being previously oblivious to its existence, I found Monica Lewinsky’s story quite compelling. In her Ted Talk: The price of shame, Monica states:

At the age of 22, I fell in love with my boss, and at the age of 24, I learned the devastating consequences … Not a day goes by that I’m not reminded of my mistake, and I regret that mistake deeply.

In 1998, after being swept up into an unlikely romance, Monica was then swept up into a sensationalist media maelstrom that had never been seen before. Previously, news was consumed by reading a newspaper or magazine, listening to the radio, or watching television. However, Monica was caught up in the digital revolution which meant her story was available online and could be accessed any time, any place, anywhere. News of Monica’s scandal online was the first piece of news to overtake traditional news media. Monica became the Internet’s first victim.

With photos of Monica being plastered all over the internet, her once private life was now on the line for international public humiliation. Her personal reputation was destroyed instantaneously on a global scale by mobs of virtual stone-throwers. The Lewinsky Scandal happened in a time before social media, however people could still comment online and email stories and cruel jokes. Recordings of Monica’s private telephone conversations were leaked online which lead to excruciating public humiliation. Monica expressed in her speech what these actions cost her:

“I lost my reputation and my dignity. I lost almost everything, and I almost lost my life.”

Selfie Dad

Watching Monica’s TED Talk reminded me of the Herald Sun article about the recent false accusations towards a father who was accused of being a sexual predator by a woman who thought he was taking a photo of her kids.

Earlier this month, a man in his 40s was shopping for a present for his partner and noticed a Star Wars display at Target. The father of three said his family loved Star Wars films and he innocently took a photo of himself at the shop display. However, a woman saw him taking the photo and thought he was taking a photo of her children.  Without investigating the matter further, the woman posted the following photo on Facebook and stated that he was a “creep” and “sex offender“:

Image from The Courier Mail
Image from The Courier Mail

The post was shared more than 100 times over social media, and eventually word got around to the father himself.  A work colleague rang the father and informed him that his photo was online and he had been called a creep. The father stated that “[He] felt sick. [He was] so embarrassed and devastated.” The self-confessed “daggy dad” went immediately went to Knox Police Complex to explain what had happened, someone on the street shouted out to him “sicko” when he was walking to the police station. The police took his phone, checked its content and thoroughly investigated his story. The father said, “That’s more than what the woman did who posted my photo without any investigation or course of natural justice.

Eventually, the issue was resolved when the father and the woman met up to talk things through, as reported by the Courier Mail. The father explained to her the devastating effects her post had on himself, his family, his children, and his work. He said the woman understood the amount of pain her post had caused. “She acknowledged what she did was wrong, and she should have left the information with police which is the proper authority to investigate any suspicious behaviour,” the dad said.

Image from Mamamia Women's Network
Image from Mamamia Women’s Network

The father accepted her apology and told her he had no ill will or malice towards her and he forgave her. He decided not to take any legal action against the woman, despite being urged to do so by legal professionals. People may be wondering why he didn’t sue her to teach her a lesson. To explain, the father said,

“Well I think the lesson was not just for her, it’s about the tens of thousands of other people who also should be heeding the message and that lesson (of making sure what they share on social media is legitimate), so I don’t want to put the culpability on her alone.”

The father has encouraged people to check their facts before they spread vicious rumours online, as the next victim may not be as resilient as himself with the the strength and support of his friends and family. They may be more vulnerable and it may be a different outcome for that particular person.

I think Sally Kohn’s TED Talk: Don’t like clickbait? Don’t click is relevant in this instance, even though ‘sharing’ a post is not the same on as ‘clicking’ on a post, the same rule applies: “Everything we blog, everything we Tweet, and everything we click is a public act of making media. We are the new editors. We decide what gets attention based on what we give our attention to.” So make sure the information you’re reading, liking, and spreading is accurate and not a life-altering lie.

StalkerSpace Shame

An issue of online harassment even closer to home happened just last week. Candace Krieger, an admin of the Facebook group QUT StalkerSpace 2.0, spoke up publicly about people who had been privately messaging her with violent threats and bullying her about her appearance:

Candace

Upon seeing this post, someone from StalkerSpace decided to escalate their bullying and took to 4chan to anonymously ask the Internet to “raid this bitch” and “push her for nudes“. However, the anonymous user’s plan backfired when people from StalkerSpace found his post and stood up for Candace, called out the original poster, and turned on him for being a loser with nothing better do with his life than to hate on someone he’s never even met.

Image used with permission from Candace Krieger
Image used with permission from Candace Krieger’s Facebook

Candace states in her Facebook post that, “bullying and harassment is never okay and while [she’ll] stand up for anyone else suffering it in a heartbeat, it’s quite difficult to stand up for yourself.”  Monica Lewinsky reflects on this in her TED Talk and asks that people “ post a positive comment for someone or report a bullying situation,” if you see they are being harassed online. “Compassionate comments help abate the negativity,” Monica expressed.

Cyber bullying, online harassment, and shaming can happen to anyone, and it can have devastating affects on people’s lives. It is our duty as Internet users to be wise about what we share with others, research the facts before we believe them, and do our best to help someone if we see they are struggling with online bullying.

Have you ever seen someone being harassed online? Did you stand up to the bullies? Unfortunately, I can’t say I’ve ever come to someone’s aid when I’ve witnessed cyber bullying. I prefer to pretend I simply can’t see it and continue on my merry away. I am sure there are a lot of people out there who do exactly that too. So to conclude, I’ll leave you with a quote from Sally Kohn, and we should all heed her advice:

If someone is being abused online, do something. Be a hero. This is your chance. Speak up. Speak out. Be a good person. Drown out the negative with the positive.

Doge: What does it meme?

[Update: I added the More about me(me) section, as well as some more information on how Doge has become a part of my life.]

Doge is absolutely my favourite meme of all time! It’s cute, funny, and relatable. I still giggle every time a new doge meme pops up. I don’t think it’ll ever get old to me! Do you have no idea what I’m talking about? That’s okay, keep reading. I’ll take you through what a meme is, how they came about, and the history of Doge and how it became viral!  Buckle in for some serious wow.

My Doge

What is a meme?

Richard Dawkins
Meme from quickmeme.com

According to Paul Gil, a meme (pronounced meem), is a cultural symbol and social idea that spreads virally, similar to the way that a flu bug travels from person to person, a meme travels through social media. The term ‘meme’ was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1974 book The Selfish Gene. In Sean Rintel’s The Conversation article, he explains how Richard Dawkins shortened the Greek term “mimētḗs” (meaning “imitated thing”) to coin the word ‘meme’ as a cultural analogue to a gene. Dawkins claimed that genes are subject to the forces of evolution: variation, mutation, competition and inheritance. Under the Dawkins definition, a meme can be any idea, behaviour or trend that has the ability to transmit from person to person.

SourceFed’s video explains that nowadays, memes are known as funny pictures or silly internet videos. The most common form of memes are humorous pictures with words on them which you share with your friends.

Sean Rintel describes how memes have three main properties:

  • Intertextuality (memes reference other memes or concepts)
  • Indexicality (an element in one meme can be used to comment on many situations)
  • Templatability (memes have recognisable structures with room for new content)

These three features allow a meme to be created by anyone, about anything. People who create memes and don’t follow these rules tend to end up on reddit‘s Terrible Facebook Memes subreddit.  However, as the concept of memes was created before the invention of the internet, that means memes existed in the real world too. Some examples include Kilroy was here from the 1940s:

Engraving of Kilroy on the WWII Memorial in Washington DC
Wikipedia/Engraving of Kilroy on the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C.

and Frodo Lives from the 1960s and 70s:

‘Google Plus‘ by Aha-Soft Team is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Frodo Lives‘ by Quinn Dombrowski is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I wasn’t around when these memes were running wild, but perhaps some of my older readers can remember them. If you’d like to know more about memes and their history, I highly recommend the following video:

Now let’s move on to my favourite meme in the existence of everything!

such doge very meme wow

Doge is a slang term for the word ‘dog’. It is primarily associated with pictures of the dog breed Shiba Inus (nicknamed ‘Shibe’) and internal monologue captions on Tumblr. These photos are often photoshopped to change the dog’s face or captioned with interior monologues in Comic Sans font. For example:

Doge Original
Restraining order is now in effect by Amanda B from Know Your Meme

These seven easy steps from BarkPost author James will help you to understand doge, before we get into its history:

(click on the picture to be taken to the original source)

1. “Doge” is web slang for “dog.” The doge meme starts with a picture of a Shiba Inu.

Doge 1The breed is called “shibe” in online slang. Any picture of a shibe will do.

Doge 22. Text is then added in Comic Sans font that represents the shibe’s internal monologue in “dog speak.”

Image by3. The word “wow” must be used.

a8b4. Other thoughts often begin with “so,” “much,” and “such.”

tireddoge-700x524Writing nonsense is not only accepted, but encouraged.

5. The doge meme takes many forms. The same shibe images are manipulated or added into other photos for hilarious effect.

From We Know MemesSometimes the doge dog speak is added.

Image by Sometimes it is not.

I need more doge by 6. Doge also exists in GIF format.

Gif from BarkPostGif from BarkPost7. There really is no limit to doge.

Image by fromsuch history

First of all, let’s talk about where the word ‘doge’ came from. The misspelling of the word ‘dog’ dates back to June 24th, 2005, when it was mentioned in an episode of Homestar Runner’s puppet show. In the episode, Homestar calls Strong Bad his “d-o-g-e” while trying to distract him from his work:

Now where did the photo of the majestic shibe come from? Well, her name is Kabosu and on February 23rd 2010, her owner, Atsuko Sato, posted several photos of the eight-year-old rescue-adopted Shiba Inu dog to her personal blog. Among the photos included a peculiar shot of Kabosu sitting on a couch while glaring sideways at the camera with raised eyebrows. This became the dominant image of the doge meme.

Doge 1
Image from kabosu112

The beginning of the lift off of the doge meme started on October 28th, 2010, when a photo of Kabosu was submitted to the reddit subreddit, /r/Ads, with the title ‘LMBO LOOK @ THIS F***** DOGE‘. Then, in April 2012, Tumblr user leonsumbitches uploaded an audio file of a computer reading a passage about encountering a “doge,” which was accompanied by a photo of a woman patting a dog on the head, which you can see below. The audio post, which you can listen to here, has been played more than one million times.

Doge is pleasedThe single topic blog Your Daily Doge was created in response, and proceeded to reblog leonsumbitches’ post numerous times. On May 7th, YouTuber KwandaoRen66 uploaded a video with a person reading the doge encounter text over a fake Pokémon battle:

By June, doge threads appeared on 4chan with people posting photos of dogs in different outfits, and in the same month, a photoset of a Corgi with a cup and saucer balanced on his head went viral on Tumblr after it was named ‘Polite Doge’. In August, the first doge single topic blog, F*** Yeah Doge, launched on Tumblr. The doge meme began to truly go viral when the single topic Tumblr blog Shiba Confessions was created, and people began to refer to these dogs as ‘shibes’.

The term ‘doge’ appeared on reddit in December 2012, in a post submitted to /r/DogsIWannaHug. On January 8th 2013, the subreddit /r/Doge was created, where users shared photos and videos of the captioned Shiba Inus. In May, /r/dailydoge was created to share one dog photo a day, captioned or not. Another single topic blog, shibe-doge, launched in July 2013 dedicated to sharing photos of Shiba Inus. On November 20, 2013, YouTube implemented an Easter egg that changed the text on the site to be coloured and in Comic Sans, just like that in the Doge memes:

Image by Mister J from
Image by Mister J from Know Your Meme

very viral

The reason the doge meme was so successful and went viral is because it ticked the boxes for the six qualities that Ilya Pozin believes that content needs in order to go viral. The doge meme was:

  1. Short and sweet
  2. Upbeat
  3. Timely
  4. Involving
  5. Informative
  6. Inspiring

These qualities allowed people to create their own doge memes, and share them with the world. This ultimately leading to Doge peaking in November 2013, according to this tweet by Asher Wolf:

Doge even ended up in Harry Potter! How much more popular can you get?! 😉

Very Magic. Such Patronus. Much Dementor. Wow.

Doge Patronus by Davekaushik from Imgur
Doge Patronus by Davekaushik from Imgur

much impact

dogecoin-300The most notable impact of the doge meme was the creation of an entire new currency. On December 6th, Dogecoin was introduced as an alternative cryptocurrency based on the meme. The currency is marketed as ‘… an open source peer-to-peer digital currency, favoured by Shiba Inus worldwide‘ and is ‘the fun and friendly internet currency‘, and features Doge as its mascot.

Dogecoin currently has a market capitalisation of $USD 9,182,317:

Graph from
Graph from coinmarketcap.com

The doge meme certainly impacted me. I invested in (a very small amount) of Dogecoin, I joined the /r/Doge and /r/SuperShibe subreddits, liked some Doge pages on Facebook, and I started following Shiba Inu, Marutaru, on Instagram. Most importantly though, my best friend, knowing my obsession with Doge, bought me a Doge purse and key ring for my birthday last year!

Doge Purse2
My Doge purse and key ring

My Doge obsession didn’t stop there! For a good part of last year, I had the following majestic image set as my desktop background. I giggled every time I opened up my laptop.

Wallpaper by emma_85 from Superb Wallpapers
Windoge 8 by emma_85 from Superb Wallpapers

I also had this inspirational image set as my phone background for some time:

Beautiful and Empowered by zeldaboom from Tumblr
Beautiful and Empowered by zeldaboom from Tumblr

I encourage you to visit zeldaboom’s Tumblr for more inspirational pictures of her beautiful Shibe.

More about me(me)

Meme by Rhiann Rawlinson posted in QUT Memes
Meme by Rhiann Rawlinson posted in QUT Memes

I have had further involvement in the world of memes. I am a regular viewer of the /r/AdviceAnimals subreddit on reddit. Despite its name, it features every and all types of memes, resulting in humorous posts that brighten up my day.

QUT even has its own Facebook group dedicated to memes about QUT. The group is open to all QUT students and we are encouraged to submit our own memes. I actively view the QUT Memes group and am enlightened with a new funny meme related to university or studying every day. The image to the left is an example of the type of content posted to the QUT Memes Facebook group.

I also made some memes of my own for this subject, for the first time ever! I found the creation process of coming up with something clever to fit the scenario quite challenging, but also fun. Meme Generator was an easy site to use to create memes, but then I discovered the iPhone app, Mematic, and the whole process became much simpler!

You can view some of the memes I made for IAB260 below. I am very proud of them!

Bad Luck Brian Y U NO Success Kid One Does Not Simply I Don't Always Fry Squint First World ProblemsOlivia's RDJ Memes - 2Additionally, my boyfriend bought me the 2014 Grumpy Cat calendar for Christmas a couple of years ago!

My Grumpy Cat Calendar
My Grumpy Cat Calendar

AND I am the proud owner of an Awkward Moment Seal mouse pad!

My Awkward Moment Seal Mouse Pad
My Awkward Moment Seal Mouse Pad

Just as a side note, if someone would like to buy me this Doge sweater, I will be forever grateful:

sweater_doggymuch conclusion very end wow

As you can see, memes are slowly achieving world domination. Well, perhaps not, but the popular memes of today have certainly integrated into many more aspects of our lives than the old school memes of the past. As long as people continue to create memes worthy of virality, then they shall continue to be a part of both our online and offline lives. Doge especially is a very fun, simple meme. It has brought many people entertainment, and an appreciation for the silly personality of Shiba Inus.

Readers, what do you think about memes, in particular, Doge? Do you have a favourite meme? Have you made any memes you’d like to share? Leave a link in the comment section below to your memes, I’d love to check them out!

In the meantime, I will be waiting patiently for my Doge sweater to arrive. 😉

#Hashtivism

What is internet activism? What is slacktivism? Can we really change the world with the use of a symbol?

Picture2
Image by Juskteez Vu is licensed under Public Domain

These are questions that I will answer and elaborate on in this blog post, along with some powerful examples of digital activism and my involvement in it.

Internet Activism & Slacktivism

Whether it’s raising awareness or calling people to action, the internet has played a significant role in connecting the world with a common goal of change. In her article on the activist functions of technology, Mary Joyce lists some of the actions internet activism incorporates:

“Signing an e-petition, donating online, changing your Facebook status message or avatar image to promote a cause, emailing your Congressman, carrying out a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.”

In his 2012 essay, Berin Szoka expressed his view that internet activism via social networks is effective. Szoka used the examples of bringing down dictators in the Arab world, stopping the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and electing Barack Obama, as evidence of the important roles played by internet activists. If internet activism can truly do all this, then why has it been derogatorily coined “slacktivism”?

My good friend Wikipedia defines slacktivism as, “…the act of showing support for a cause but only truly being beneficial to the egos of people participating in this so-called activism.”

I tend to disagree. It is true that actively going out into the world to fight for what you believe in, and posting about it on Facebook are two very different things. However, I also believe that the “slacktivist” label is unwarranted. As says in his article on the difference between activism and slacktivism, the word implies that slacktivists are lazy and that their actions are not particularly helpful. Bailyn goes on to ask, “…But is posting online about an important issue really “slacking”? If so, what would doing nothing be?”

specifically looks at the use of hashtags in her article on social media and hashtag activism. She affirms that the organisation, creation, and support of hashtag campaigns allow people from all over the globe to get involved with important conversations. Hashtags have the ability to bring attention to and mobilise a large population through the high number of mentions that they gain. It is these mentions that bring hashtag campaigns attention worldwide, and allow people to speak out for what they believe in. The desire to speak out through the use of hashtags cannot be dismissed as slacktivism. In fact, it is a new and powerful type of activism, all the more so because it combines the efforts of millions of people.

Let’s take a look at some examples of this so called ‘slacktivism’, and witness just how powerful hashtags can be.

#YesAllWomen

Before murdering six people on Friday 23rd May 2014, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger posted a video rant on YouTube in which he said he would “slaughter every spoiled, stuck-up blonde” in a sorority house because they had rejected him. Within hours, the hashtag #YesAllWomen began trending on Twitter, as women world-wide shared their experiences of harassment, abuse and sexual assault. According to Topsy, the social search and analytics company, the hashtag had been used more than 500,000 times by that Sunday afternoon.

From Elliott Rodger’s autobiographical “manifesto”, the following sentiments were shared:

“The ultimate evil behind sexuality is the human female.”

“…women’s rejection of me was a declaration of war.”

“Women are like a plague. They don’t deserve to have any rights. Their wickedness must be contained in order [to] prevent future generations from falling into degeneracy. Women are vicious, evil, barbaric animals, and they need to be treated as such.”

Rodger’s extreme sense of male sexual entitlement resonated widely with women, with writer Annie Cardi and her friend kicking off the start of #YesAllWomen:

Rodger’s comments inspired an online conversation around the #YesAllWomen hashtag, criticising the way society teaches men to feel entitled to women at the expense of their health, safety and, in Rodger’s case, lives. Here is a sampling of some of the tweets that followed:

An animated heatmap of the #YesAllWomen hashtag was created, portraying how it progressed from its initial creation on May 24 and spread throughout the weekend. The hashtag had international awareness, with most of the tweets originating from the U.S. and U.K., but activity was seen in many other countries, including Pakistan, Indonesia and Qatar.

The New Yorker journalist, Sasha Weiss, expresses that, “there is something about the fact that Twitter is primarily designed for speech—for short, strong, declarative utterance—that makes it an especially powerful vehicle for activism, a place of liberation.” This statement agrees with my view that hashtags and slacktivism are not to be taken lightly.

#HeForShe

A related movement called #HeForShe was sparked by British actress and Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, Emma Watson. In her speech at the United Nations HQ in September 2014, Watson spoke of the launch of her global campaign ‘HeForShe’, which called on men and women to work together towards a fairer society where males and females are treated as equals. “Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too,” she said. Watson then took to Twitter to ask the male population to join her:

The hashtag went viral when many famous men began to post selfies, pledging their support for the #HeForShe movement:

#HeForShe took social media by storm. By October 2014, the #HeForShe hashtag had reached 1.2 billions unique Twitter users. Emma Watson’s speech has been viewed more than 7 million times on YouTube, HeForShe’s Instagram reaching 59 thousand followers, and the HeForShe Facebook page accumulating 371 thousand followers.

The #HeForShe movement, like #YesAllWomen, has given voice to men and women globally to express their thoughts, dreams, and desires for a world in which everyone, regardless of gender, is treated with equality and respect.

Unfortunately, I was not an active Twitter user during the time of #YesAllWomen and #HeForShe, so I did not get the chance to add my voice to the movement. However, I have been, and continue to be, an active member of other movements.

My Role in Activism

During my time at high school, I was a member of Vision Generation, or VGen, which is the youth arm of World Vision. My high school’s VGen group would organise events and movements through Facebook and Twitter, and we would invite our friends to join us in an attempt to gain traction and attention for our causes. VGen’s state leader at the time, Jasmine Mikschi, realised the potential social media had to increase VGen’s online presence, stating, “[social media] is a great way to build excitement and energy especially for young people as we are all interconnected through social media and by everyone getting excited it creates a momentum and ripple effect.” Mikschi was correct, and the majority of the time we were very successful, at one point making the news for our participation in a silent mime protest for women and children’s health:

Some other movements that my high school’s VGen group participated in included:

#Don’tTradeLives

Don't Trade Lives

#ChildHealthNow

Child Health Now

and

#MakePovertyHistory

Make Poverty History

Although I am no longer a member of Vision Generation, their social media presence has continued to grow stronger over the years, with #SaveAustralianAid and #StopChildMarriage as some of their most popular campaigns on social media at the moment.

Unfortunately, since I’ve left high school, I no longer participate in movements like I used to. My involvement in movements has dwindled from actively getting out there and participating, to clicking links in emails to sign petitions for Avaaz and Change.org.  While signing online petitions certainly isn’t a bad thing, it is certainly a form of “slacktivism”. However, until I once again have the time and motivation to go out into the world and participate once more, being a “slacktivist” is certainly better than being nothing at all.

What are your opinions on the matter, dear readers? Do you believe “slacktivism” is a negative approach to movements? Have you participated in any internet activism yourselves? Please leave a reply below and let me know your thoughts!

Critical Discussion: The Who, What, Why and How of Social Technology

Understanding who you are and how you represent yourself on social media is an important concept. Similarly, user research is important to understand the behaviours, needs, and motivations of not only yourself, but of others in order to provide the best product or service you can offer. These topics, along with my learning outcomes for this assignment, will be examined in this critical discussion.

My Social Technologies & Online Identities

BannerMy online identities vary from platform to platform and consist of:

  • The Socialite
  • The Student
  • The Professional and
  • The Lurker.

These identities represent who I am and how I wish to be portrayed on each of my social networks. Allow me to further explain:

On Instagram and Snapchat I am the Socialite. Instagram is my obsession. I can’t leave my bed in the morning, or go to sleep at night without trawling through my entire photo feed and liking everything I see. This is portrayed in the ‘Day in the Life’ section of my Persona. Snapchat I use less regularly, however both networks allow me to stay in the know with my friends and family who use it, some of whom don’t have any other forms of social media. I am very active on Instagram and Snapchat, always commenting or responding to photos and videos, and often posting content myself. The majority of my content from Instagram gets cross-posted to Facebook, to allow my friends and family who don’t use Instagram to view what I am up to.

On Facebook and WordPress, I am both the Socialite and the Student. For social purposes, I actively use Facebook to post photos, videos, statuses, and links to content I find interesting. I follow my friends and family and I like and comment on their content, to show them that I am interested in keeping up-to-date with their lives. For student purposes, I use Facebook to connect with group members for subjects, and it allows us to share our work, hold meetings, and review content all in the one virtual space. I also use Facebook to play simple games with my mother and grandmother.  I am part of the 93% of shoppers whose buying decisions are influenced by reviews on social media, so I also use Facebook to leave my own reviews about businesses and products. I don’t use WordPress as often, however I post, read, and comment on content semi-regularly for both my social and student purposes.

On Google+, I am the Student. I am active within university subject communities: posting content and sharing ideas. However, I am a lurker among other Google+ communities that I am a part of relating to my university studies. I simply view content, but do not interact in any way.

On Twitter, I am both the Student and the Professional. I use Twitter to interact with my peers and share content, give my thoughts and opinions on their posts, and follow QUT’s Twitter accounts, to guarantee I don’t miss any important information. From a professional perspective, I use Twitter to follow persons and corporations I would be interested in working with in the future. I favourite posts about work experience opportunities, job openings, or any posts of interest to ensure I have the information I need for the future. I am also aware that I do not use Twitter the way many others do. For example, I am not part of the 53% of Twitter users who recommend products in their tweets, however I am aware that product recommendations make up a large part of the ‘Twitterverse’.

On LinkedIn, I am strictly the Professional. As 80% of companies use social media for recruitment, and of these 95% are using LinkedIn, I actively keep my profile updated with all my latest skills and achievements, and look for opportunities to connect with peers, colleagues, and professionals who share similar interests in my areas of study. As is portrayed on my Identity Map, I occasionally share content from some of my colleagues, but I mostly stick to congratulating my connections about their new job opportunities. I also use LinkedIn to follow and connect with professionals and corporations I’m interested in working for in the future.

On YouTube, Pinterest, and reddit, I am the Lurker. I read, view, favourite, and pin videos and pins I find interesting, fascinating, or would like to save for later. I silently appreciate or judge the content, never contributing my own thoughts or content to these sites.  I will occasionally show posts of interests to friends and family, however this is not done via social media. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, so I also use it to find content on how to solve issues or problems I am having, whether it be how to properly structure a consulting proposal, or how to change my car’s tyre.

Overall, I am very active on the majority of my social media accounts, posting content on most platforms multiple times a week, making me one of the 96% of Millennials who use social networking sites.  My online identities vary from social network to network – from care-free young adult, to hard working professional. If there’s one thing I know for sure about social media, it’s that I couldn’t live without it.

The Importance of User Research

Robert Shumacher defines user research as:

User
Image by Gilles Lambert is licensed under CC0

“The systematic study of the goals, needs, and capabilities of users so as to specify design, construction, or improvement of tools to benefit how users work and live.”

But how do we define a ‘user’? As Edward Tufte famously said, ‘Only two industries refer to their customers as ‘users’: computer design and drug dealing.’ I’m going to focus on the former of the two. According to Jeff Sauro and James R Lewis, a user in this regard can be a customer, employee, a mobile phone owner, social media user, or anyone who is attempting to accomplish a goal, typically with some type of software, website, or device.

Sauro and Lewis also determine that user research encompasses many methodologies that generate measurable outcomes, including usability testing, surveys, questionnaires, and site visits. However, I believe that user research is best performed through the use of personas. Alain Giboin defines personas as: “… user models that are represented as specific, realistic humans”. Carla Merrill and Diane Feldman state that personas must answers the questions of:

  • Who is this user?
  • What tasks does this user perform now?
  • Why does this user need a product like ours?
    and
  • How does the user’s current software fail him or her?

It is important to conduct user research through personas in order to understand how people use social technologies, so that the user experience of these technologies can be continuously improved to adapt to the ever changing needs and wants of the users. eBay’s user experience research director, Christian Rohrer, explains how user experience has evolved from focusing mainly on utility, to usability, assisting users to accomplish their goals, eventually becoming as issue of desirability, which meant liking the way the product looks and feels.

If the user experience does not meet the needs of the user, or if there are never any improvements, then the user becomes dissatisfied with that social network and leaves it to find a competitor’s product that will better meet their needs. Chloe Albanesius describes how this is  what happened to Myspace in 2008 when it was overtaken by Facebook. As of 2015, Myspace currently has 50.6 million active users, compared to Facebook’s whopping 1.39 billion active users. Dr. Brent Conrad explored how due to Facebook’s ability to allow for minimal effort catch-up, share with many people simultaneously, connect with both friends and family, and overall simply fill the essential need for human connection, it surpassed Myspace as a social technology by meeting the needs of the users.

Personally, my ideal social media platform would encompass the diversity of Facebook, the simplicity of Instagram, and the customisability of Tumblr. Due to user research, I’m certain that a social media platform catering exactly to my needs will eventually be created, or perhaps it already has and I’ve yet to discover it.

Learning Outcomes

SONY DSC
Image by Aleks Dorohovich is licensed under CC0

By designing my persona and identity map, and by reviewing those made by my peers, I was able to analyse and critically think about and understand the way people experience social technologies, including how people construct personal and professional online identities. It was interesting to find that some students use a social network that I use solely for leisurely, personal purpose, for professional purposes (YouTube, as an example). It was also fascinating to discover that some students’ most used social networks were platforms I’d never even heard of, such as Stack Overflow, Path, and SoundCloud (I’d heard of this one, but had no idea it was a form of social media!)

In order for me to properly model my persona and identity map, I had to research the amount of time I spend on social media. The personal learning outcome I gained from this was something of a shock – I’ve spent approximately 30 hours on social media in this month alone! However, I am glad I learned this as it now allows me to ensure that I manage my time more effectively.

By completing this assignment, I’ve learned the skills to analyse mine and others’ use of social technologies, communicate with peers in a collaborative learning environment, and to use PowerPoint in ways I never thought possible. It’s incredible what that program can actually do! Due to gaining a greater understanding of social technologies, I now have the knowledge to conduct user research, create personas and identity maps, and understand the meaning behind them. These are all important aspects that I will be sure to use in my future endeavors.

Sources for Assignment 1

Inspiration to use icons in my About section on my Persona Poster came from Jennifer Trinh

Baby‘ by Yi Chen is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Birthday-Cake‘ by Pham Thi Dieu Linh is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Christmas-Tree‘ by Christoph Robausch is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Circle‘ by Renee Ramsey-Passmore is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Comment‘ by Arthur Shlain is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Computer‘ by Chris Kerr is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Cupids-Arrow‘ by Martha Ormiston is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Death‘ by Alfredo Astort is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Dislike‘ by Eugen Belyakoff is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Excitement‘ by Yamini Chandra is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Facebook‘ by Aha-Soft Team is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Google Plus‘ by Aha-Soft Team is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Heartache‘ by Martha Ormiston is licensed under CC BY 3.0

In-Love‘ by Martha Ormiston is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Instagram‘ by Aha-Soft Team is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Iphone‘ by Edward Boatman is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Laptop‘ by Jason Grube is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Like‘ by Blake Thompson is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Like‘ by Eugen Belyakoff is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Linkedin‘ by Aha-Soft Team is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Loading‘ by Juan Pablo Bravo is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Loading‘ by Juan Pablo Bravo is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Loading‘ by Juan Pablo Bravo is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Love‘ by Martha Ormiston is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Love‘ by Martha Ormiston is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Music‘ by Andreas Bjurenborg is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Number 3 in red rounded square‘ by Hedonil is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Patient‘ by Javier Cabezas is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Pencil‘ by Javier Cabezas is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Pinterest‘ by Aha-Soft Team is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Reddit‘ by Aha-Soft Team is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Ring‘ by Alex Sheyn is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Sad’ by Nathan Borror is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Smile‘ by Brian Dys Sahagun is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Snapchat‘ by Aha-Soft Team is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Twitter‘ by Aha-Soft Team is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Wedding‘ by Ivan Colic is licensed under CC BY 3.0

WordPress‘ by Aha-Soft Team is licensed under CC BY 3.0

YouTube‘ by Aha-Soft Team is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Other Current Affairs

Laptop
Work Station Straight On View‘ by Alejandro Escamilla is licensed under Public Domain

[Update: I added some facts about social media usage to my top paragraphs, in order to better structure my argument. I also included some thought-provoking questions towards the end of this post.]

Whilst my interest in the lives of the Kardashians teeters on nil, there are many other topics of interest out there that I like to keep on top of and get involved in. But in the fast and constantly moving society of today, how is a 20-year-old student supposed to keep up with all the latest news when watching the 6 o’clock news and sitting down on a Sunday morning to read the paper aren’t always convenient options? Why, social media, of course!

Social media has changed the way we interact with information for the better. In danah boyd’s Educause Review, she affirms that the ‘old school’ ways of tuning into the nightly news to receive the same message at the same time, and reading newspapers and listening to radio stations which all give the same perspective on the same story is going out the door.  In a study of Social Media as Online Information Grounds, it was found that social media platforms promote the use of virtual spaces to enable information grounds that can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and by anyone. The study states, ‘the openness, transparency, and availability of social media has also helped users share, disseminate, and find information in online spaces.’  This statement correlates with the data that social media has become one of the top sources of news, with over 50% of people learning about breaking news over social media, rather than official news sources.

This is certainly true for me. Social media is the only platform I use in order to stay up to date with news on topics that I’m interested in. A review by Lyndelle Gunton and Kate Davis explains how Twitter is an excellent news source, as those who connect to Twitter experience an enormous surge of information throughout the day, with users able to share, bookmark and evaluate information as soon as they see it. I personally check Twitter’s Discover and Trends sections regularly as it is an excellent way for users such as myself to keep up to date on the most recent current affairs. It comes as no surprise to me that Erik Qualman’s video on socialnomics states that grandparents are the fastest growing demographic on Twitter.

According to Buzzz’s Social Media Revolution 2015 video, ‘We no longer search for the news, the news finds us…’ An example of this is when I stumbled across the news on reddit that the House of Representatives passed the Data Retention Bill. The comment section for that particular reddit post was filled with angry redditors cursing the government and debating over which VPN provider is best. It was a very interesting discussion to get into – a discussion that would not have happened had I learned the news from watching the news on the TV, with no one around me to have a discussion with. By subscribing to subreddits such as /r/news, /r/technology, and /r/australia, I get to read the latest news and information on my interests on my front page every day.

Along with reddit, I also use Instagram to keep on top of the latest hair and beauty trends, as well as to see what’s happening behind the scenes of Grey’s Anatomy. Facebook keeps me up to date on anything and everything concerning my friends and family: scholarship offers, travel destinations, new cars, babies’ first steps, what level my mum just passed on Candy Crush. By liking pages such as UNILAD, I can view all the latest pop culture information in a format that is entertaining and easy to read and share with my own friends. I have to this day never liked a page of a typical news provider (think ABC News), however, enough of my Facebook friends have liked the pages so that if a particular news story is popular enough I will end up seeing the story on my news feed anyway. If certain news events are important to me, there will often be a page or group created that I can like or join to ensure I don’t miss any part of the story. An example of this is Cyclone Pam and its devastating effects on Vanuatu. By joining the Vanuatu Cyclone PAM 2015 group I am constantly flooded with updates on what is currently happening over in the South Pacific island nation.

The best advantage social media has over any other news source is that you can choose what information you do and don’t want to see. Like dogs? Follow some dog accounts on Instagram. Don’t like finance? Unsubscribe from any finance subreddits. Enjoy checking out what Hugh Jackman is up to from time to time but don’t want to be inundated by info? Like his Facebook page, but unfollow from constant updates.

‘Social media isn’t a fad, it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate.’ Information on social media is ever changing and ever flowing. Social media users today are more informed than ever before, with the option to customise their platforms to their own interests, there is no reason for anyone to be left out of the loop concerning their passions and interests. Social media has brought people together through shared interests, and will continue to enlighten lives with all news of importance. Until my phone runs out of battery again, that is.

Readers, in what ways do you use your different social platforms to keep up with current affairs? Do you prefer the social approach, or are you more ‘old fashioned’ in the ways you gather news?