I was first!

I once asked a wise man whether it was about quality of content or quantity of content…he replied ‘Both’.

I no longer think this is the correct answer. Unfortunately we seem to be living in a time in which it no longer matters what you post but rather when you post it. What you have to say about a particular occurrence or life event is of little importance; what matters is that you are the first to say it…and that people acknowledge that you were the first to say it.

I recently fell ill and as I could barely move for a few days the last thing on my mind was checking my social media accounts and commenting on recent events. It was a detox forced upon me by circumstances I could not control. I was ‘off the grid’ or ‘MIA’ if you will. It actually felt strangely liberating…and yet a couple of weeks prior when I dropped my phone in water and was without a mobile phone for a couple of days I felt panicked and fidgety…in fact I’m pretty sure I was suffering from similar twitches to those of a junkie experiencing withdrawal (think Jessie from Breaking Bad – this is the second time I’ve referenced Breaking Bad in one of my blog posts, I’m clearly still not over the show ending).

Alas the feeling of freedom I had experienced during my time away from social media was quickly replaced by a sense of panic yet again as I made my return to the world of digital communication devices. First were my emails; I had missed out on getting some tickets I had eagerly been awaiting. Then came Twitter; I had lost some followers due to my sudden lack of tweeting. There was also the countless news/pop culture stories I had missed that I usually find out about through either Twitter or Facebook. Not to mention various friends personal updates; Penny’s wedding day photos, Mya’s latest photo of her baby daughter in yet another “amusing/adorable” outfit, Rob’s cryptic and just that little bit passive aggressive status about someone “doing his head in”. These were things I missed. Correction: these were things I had missed out on knowing as they happened and therefore could not provide a live running commentary as my fellow social media users could. However, these were not things I missed in the same way one misses a loved one. Nevertheless missing out can cause anxiety; hence the introduction of the term ‘FOMO’ into our vocabulary; on which I have previously written a blog post.

As I attempted to catch up I realised it was a fruitless and incredibly time consuming task. It was useless. And what I would I really gain by scrolling back through my various accounts? Jenny’s photo of her breakfast 3 days ago? Mike’s twitter feud? James’ gym selfie? Were these things I needed to know? Though perhaps we are now living in a perpetual state of ‘catch up’. My social media accounts are the first thing I check in the morning when I wake up and it has become almost second nature to scroll back to see what I missed whilst I was sleeping.

I cannot deny the sense of elation I feel after a well-timed comment or tweet though. For in that moment, I feel relevant. Important even. I have contributed to the conversation at the right time and my contribution has been recognised…perhaps even praised through the form of a retweet, ‘like’ or share.  Although I am fully aware of the absurdity of this feeling. In fact I often feel an overwhelming desire to mock myself in the moment.

“It is imperative that you know I am currently in China Town” is what I cynically thought last night as I shared a photo on my Snapchat story of my surroundings. Of course it isn’t! In fact it is almost ludicrous to think that anyone would care, but perhaps what is more worrying is that people do. People digitally ‘follow’ you for just that reason in fact.

Unfortunately though, as a result of our attempts to ‘be first’ in sharing content online, we have fallen victim to commenting on everything. Even in cases in which perhaps our comments are not warranted, wanted or in any way shape or form, well informed or executed. As I said, it no longer matters what you say as you long as you were first to say it.

 

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Do we still suffer from FOMO?

 

 

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‘FOMO: anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.’

In 2013, FOMO was added to the Oxford English dictionary. Once again I was late to ball as I only noticed its infiltration into popular culture and discourse in 2014 whilst coming across various Buzzfeed posts centred around the term…

The 6 Stages of Chronic FOMO Everyone Experiences

19 Signs You Live With Spine-Crippling FOMO

11 Signs You’re Infected with FOMO

In all honesty I had somewhat forgotten about the phrase; perhaps because I am no longer at the job where browsing through Buzzfeed was the only thing keeping me sane whilst simultaneously accelerating my downward spiral into madness, or perhaps because it is simply no longer in circulation due to a decline in its popularity and use. There is of course also the possibility that I am no longer ‘down with the kids’ and no longer able to keep up to date as to what the ‘hip’ new vernacular seems to be but for the purposes of my delusional belief that I am still ‘cool’, let’s assume it is the former rather than the latter.

Nevertheless the expression popped back into my mind a few weeks ago on my commute home as I noticed a couple of advertisements placed side-by-side in an underground station.

 

I found these adverts particularly interesting as they seemed to have one key thing in common; FOMO. They were attempting to capitalise on the fear of missing out. Granted this is probably not a new advertising or marketing strategy  but I was still rather impressed by this direct tactic and clear message.

By inferring that the consumer would not rise to the challenge of what the advert was asking of them (albeit through somewhat passive aggressive and manipulative discourse), they were both targeting the consumer’s competitive nature through provocation as well as alluding to the reward on offer that others will miss out on.

As a digital media masters student currently studying a promotional culture module I found this form of marketing rather intriguing as I had never so consciously been taunted by an advertisement before. It would be interesting to find out just how effective these adverts and tactics have been. I suppose this depends on where we do in fact suffer from FOMO…

According to this Buzzfeed quiz, I quite clearly do…

I got FOMO! Let’s be honest, you saw someone else take this quiz and you just had to get involved. You have severe FOMO and you’re fine with it. Better that than be stuck inside on your own, right? Life is for living! Sorry, we won’t distract you any longer, there’s probably something much more fun you could be doing.’ 

 

Snapchat isn’t very snappy…

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To us millennials, time is our most valuable asset. Social media apps such as vine, Snapchat and twitter have ensured that we have an average attention span of about 15 seconds. We have become accustomed to streaming forms of information. Our instinct is to swipe, tap, like or ‘heart’ (as Twitter recently introduced). Even clicking (through the use of a mouse/mouse pad) has become a thing of the past as we move toward greater use of tablet and touch screen devices.

Early last year I decided to jump on the Snapchat bandwagon. As a social media junkie I expected the app to be just as addictive as my other accounts. However I quickly realised it wasn’t as easy to navigate as the other social media apps I was used to (primarily Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and even Tumblr – which these days seems to be becoming somewhat obsolete? The concept seemed brilliant; users uploading 6 second continuous videos which would disappear after 24 hours (hence the ‘ghost’ image as their logo I presume). Nonetheless, there are some ticks and kinks that could do with ironing out, in my opinion, in order to make the app more efficient…

  1. Users should not have to continue holding down on the circle in order to record their video. One tap of the circle should be sufficient as this would enable the use of both hands whilst recording.
  2. Once a user has tapped to view someone’s story, they should be able to tap out of that user’s story at any point
  3. Users should be be able to navigate through people’s stories and view the particular 6 second video they would like to watch rather than having to view the entire story – I suggest that a user’s story should be divided into a selection of still screenshots that you would be able to swipe between to find the particular screenshot of a video that you are interested in viewing – similar to the stills of photos at the bottom of the screen in the iPhone 6 and 6plus camera roll that you can navigate through
  4. The ‘Stories’ Page should in fact be a streaming procession of videos of the people you follow – similar to that of Vine – this would again save time rather than having to tap in and out of someone’s ‘story’; you would simply be able to scroll down the screen
  5. The above modifications should also be applied to the ‘Discover’ screen in the app

As stated above, this is purely my opinion and perhaps Snapchat’s format is the format of the future for social media and networking sites. One thing is for sure though, over the last year Snapchat has slowly but surely been proving itself to be one of the most dominant platforms in the social media landscape. It is no longer an app only associated with 13-17 year olds. Everyone is on Snapchat; and once everyone is on Snapchat, no one will be. The most coveted target consumer audience will see it as having become too mainstream i.e. once their parent’s generation are on it, it will no longer cool. The attention will shift and marketers will follow. I can in fact already see this happening as there is a growing trend toward the use of Periscope. Although for the time being, through its use of free and chargeable comical and entertaining animated facial filters, Snapchat is still very much in and at the forefront of ‘the game’.

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Flip a coin…

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Why do we ask for advice?

During my teens I recall seeing an episode of Frasier in which Niles presents a coin toss as the solution to helping Frasier make his decision…

Niles argues that before the result of the coin toss is revealed, the person attempting to make the choice or decision already knows which outcome they were hoping for.

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Whilst we could argue not all decisions can be made as simply as this, I do believe that nine times out of ten we already know what we want to do. So why do we ask? Why do we torment ourselves and over think our choices?

I think we do so for reassurance and for comfort. We want to justify how we came to the decision we ultimately know we will make? However we may also want someone to act as devil’s advocate and present the situation from a point of view we had not previously considered. Ultimately though, are we simply just unsure of ourselves? I remember a friend recently fretting over a decision and I snapped “Stop doubting yourself!’ which I think was rooted also in the frustration I sometimes feel at myself for doing precisely this.

I believe the decisions we make are usually true to our nature i.e. a timid person may be more likely to make the more comfortable choice or the choose the safer option. An example would be that I sometimes struggle to ask for help and when my brother asked for advice on a situation in which he was unsure whether he should, I wrongly advised against it. Thankfully he didn’t listen to me as asking for help on that occasion proved to have the most amazing and wonderful results. I learnt a valuable lesson that day, just as I had when I watched the episode of Frasier all those years beforehand.

The challenge lies in taking the road less travelled and stepping out of our comfort zones when it comes to making decisions. Only in doing so will we begin to trust in ourselves.

Confidence is comfort.

I think how we perceive ourselves and how we come across are two drastically different things.

I don’t think I exude self confidence and yet I am constantly told I do. Inside though, I feel like an awkward mess.

I’m clumsy, I ramble and I don’t think I’ll ever ooze ‘cool’. Sometimes I’m happy about that…and perhaps its my acceptance and comfort in my lack of coolness that translates into confidence.

Other times though, I feel I try to emulate what I think it is to be cool and in those moments I inwardly cringe. An example would be strutting down the street in what I think is a rather fashionable outfit and feeling somewhat smug, only for reality to remind me that I’m not the ‘catwalk’ type by either tripping me up (this happens a lot) or seeing either a pre-teen or an elderly citizen donning the same clothing.

The thing is, I’m worried we associate confidence with things like loudness and aggression. Meanwhile I’m sat in the corner being quietly confident? I have no desire to be a bossy b*tch and don’t believe I need to be in order to succeed.

I’m also not sure how I feel about the fetishism associated with quirks. Somewhere along the way we were sold the notion that it’s ‘cool’ to be the awkward girl, that our quirks are endearing and our clumsiness is ‘cute’ (see Zooey Deschanel, Jennifer Lawrence etc). Granted we’ve come a long way from the days in which the geeky girl needs a makeover in order to be accepted…

But have we now not just simply created particular parameters for what it is to be cute and geeky; for what it is to be cool?

 And do we define coolness as confidence?

I have gotten to the stage where I don’t think I believe in words like ‘cool’ or ‘hipster’ or ‘trendy’ any more.

I think confidence is comfort.

Being comfortable in your own skin allows others to feel comfortable around you. You don’t have to be loud, you don’t have to be quirky and you don’t have to be eccentric. You are simply just you. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

So if there was one thing I could encourage us all to do it would be to stop second guessing ourselves.

As cheesy as this may sound, I recently realised (with the help of a very good friend and a beautiful soul) that I am enough. We all are. We don’t have to try to be anything other than ourselves. What you if have to offer is good enough.

And while this post may seem rather corny, I honestly can’t stress how important it is to believe in yourself.

Death to the dating app! Let’s just all ‘stalk’ each other…?

Remember the olden days when a guy would see you out in public and ask for your number. Actually…remember the prehistoric days when a boy from school that you liked would call you at home on the landline and you’d have to yell down the phone “mum put it down, I’ve got it!!” before you could speak to said boy…(ahh James we could have been so good together, if it had worked out I could’ve told people I was married to James Bond – yes there really was a boy in my class called that and yes his parents clearly did hate him).

Alas, I digress. For you see, courting is much different in the world of today. There’s no more wondering whether to give your number to the guy at the bar whose been eyeballing you all night;  the one whom you can’t quite tell whether he resembles Chris Hemsworth or that’s just the ‘happy hour’ cocktails taking effect. There’s no anxiously drafting out that first text message and wondering whether sending it the following morning is too keen. I’m not even sure whether people use actual chat-up lines in person anymore; a personal favourite I once received was “Is your dad a terrorist? Cos’ you da bomb!”, although thinking back on this now, seeing as I am originally middle eastern, this may actually just have been a racial slur…
No, now we live in a world of swiping right or swiping left. I am of course talking about dating apps. I’m afraid to say I’ve had the unfortunate experience of having some experience in this field. We won’t name names because I think the admission in itself is shameful enough. Now you get to experience a different breed of the chat-up lines of yesteryear. They come in such delightful variations as;
“Nudes?”
“I like your feet” (surprisingly, my feet were not exposed in any of my photos)
and again a personal favourite…
“How would you feel about a relationship in which I bought you gifts and in return you humiliated and dominated me?”
I certainly attracted a ‘unique’ category of men online.

You see, the modern day dating app, or perhaps more aptly, the screen on which we use it, has eradicated the need for the initial physical interaction when expressing an interest in someone. And has thereby armed our society with a new found sense of bravery. People are daring to ask the questions no one wants to be asked… “What are the races of the men you’ve slept with and how would you rank them in terms of performance?” – worryingly, these were all genuine questions I received.

The specimen of bachelors and bachelorettes of course varies from app to app, as does the method in which one may express interest in a potential date-ee. I think a wonderful symbol of the times we live in is that some apps allow you to be judged by appearance alone.

As a response to the above, and despite the joys to be had from responding to such messages as “Baby I want to take you out and spend £50 on you at the cinema and a nice restaurant”, I have decided to opt out of my brief, but not so short, foray into the online dating world.

I am a realist though, and an active player in this digital world the majority of us seem to inhabit. I recognise the networking opportunities social networks provide. What I propose however is that we don’t just use them to network. Cut out the middle man. Why use a separate app in which you have to write out a profile and list your likes and dislikes, when your personal social media account already includes all of this information.

See someone you like the look of on Twitter? Follow them. I guarantee within a day of reading their tweets, you’ll know whether they seem like someone you’d like to get to know further or whether they’re a blithering idiot – sometimes their Twitter bio alone is enough to confirm this.
Perhaps Facebook is recommending some potential ‘friends’ to add. Why not bite the bullet and add that person that you have no mutuals friend with. If they’re going to an event you like the sound of, strike up a conversation about it. If they share a buzzfeed quiz about what Avengers character they are, be brave enough to click that ‘like’ button. Granted unlike Twitter you may need longer than a day to gain deeper insight into the person’s personality on Facebook but it may end up providing a more rounded picture into their character based on the places they visit and the dreaded photos they’re unwillingly tagged in.

Lastly (but perhaps most importantly) we come to the photo and video based social apps. The instagrams, snapchats and other variations of the sort. These perhaps provide the greatest insights into a person’s personality for they bear the deepest, darkest and ugliest secrets of them all.

The selfie.

If you can bear to see someone at their most narcissistic, and still like them, then there’s probably a pretty strong attraction there and that might be worth exploring.

These platforms are also great in that they offer visual insights. Want to know what kind of food the person likes…see photos of the type of cuisine they enjoy. Want to know whether they like to travel and where they’ve been…you’ll be able to see photographic evidence of their trips. Want to know what that person has been up to during that day…check out their ‘story’.

The advantage of these channels is that they provide real time visual updates. Perhaps you’re on the South Bank and someone you follow has just snapped a ‘selfie’ of themselves in front of the London Eye. Send them a snap back of yourself also stood by our monumental ferris wheel.

Why send numerous messages back and forth on a dating app asking what they got up to over the weekend or what kind of music they like when snapchat or soundcloud or Instagram already tells you all of these things. Why make inane small talk when you could actually be discussing something you’re both interested in! And let’s be honest, there’s at least one person you follow on social media you find intriguing and wouldn’t mind getting to know.  If there wasn’t I don’t think hashtag #oomf would exist or be used in memes to describe someone you possibly fancy!

You may completely disagree however and think it may seem like I’m simply proposing that we should ‘stalk’ people online, which I’ll admit seems rather creepy. However, I should note though that I have already heard people use this term. ‘Stalking’ your ex partner on Facebook is supposedly a socially acceptable concept? As is ‘stalking’ a new colleague online who perhaps you may like the look of, so you ‘google’ them or find them on Linkedin. One must then argue whether online stalking i.e. analysing someone’s social media accounts, has simply become another term for ‘researching’?
Does it therefore make sense to research the person you potentially want to date?

Here’s Buzzfeed’s take on the subject:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_748333311&feature=iv&src_vid=-MUis1VegwY&v=UVHyS8UbiOE

A letter to those who insist on the use of long paragraphs…

We live in a society where our attention spans are dwindling…fast! Following a rather stressful experience this morning I would like to kindly request that we all attempt to write shorter paragraphs.

I recently embarked on the journey of beginning a masters degree. During the enrolment process I was required to choose my modules online. However unfortunately the instructions on how to do so were unclear, to say the least. Buried deep within long paragraphs outlining the procedure were pertinent bits of information on the requirements for your selection. 

These key steps should have been written in a separate paragraph altogether (here’s one I made earlier…) 

Unsurprisingly this was not my first encounter with mammoth paragraphs. This was, albeit, the first time it pertained to the outcome of a rather important decision…which is what made the whole thing all the more worrying. The main point of the whole exercise had been lost in translation; in that it had not been communicated effectively. Ironically the degree falls within the media and communications department but I’m hoping this was simply an error on the admin side. 

I’m sure I’m not the first person to have been aggravated by lengthy pieces of text which fail to make a point (this may even be an example of one now), but I would like to use this post as a sort of public service announcement to all the official institutions out there (I’m looking at you Apple Terms and Conditions Department) to perhaps use more clear and concise wording in your documentation. 

Thanking you all kindly in advance…

Yours sincerely,

A millennial with the attention span of…well…a millennial