The Experience of Blogging

The Question

My new found knowledge about blogging

Thanks to this social media class, I have learned a lot about blogging. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot. And a large majority of that is what I have learned about myself through this experience.

I have learned about blogging in general, such as how to set one up, how to add links and media, and how to utilize other aspects of the dashboard. I now know that this form of content is written in article form. It needs to be told as a story, taking the reader on a journey of some sorts. It also takes good story telling skills and sometimes the integration of the opinions and support of other sources. Overall, I realized that blogging can be difficult, but I found a list of tips provided by WordPress that will make it easier to write in the future:

  1. Post regularly, but don’t post if you have nothing worth posting about.
  2. Stick with only a few specific genres to talk about.
  3. Don’t put ‘subscribe’ and ‘vote me’ links all over the front page until you have people that like your blog enough to ignore them (they’re usually just in the way).
  4. Use a clean and simple theme if at all possible.
  5. Enjoy, blog for fun, comment on other peoples’ blogs (as they normally visit back).
  6. Have fun blogging and remember, there are no rules to what you post on your blog!

Is blogging really what I expected?

I thought it was going to be easy to blog. Just type. Then I found out that we had to have links and videos and pictures. So, after a couple of hours of searching the internet and not having written a word, I realized that it was A LOT harder than I thought. After I finished, I felt fairly good about it until I received my grade. Blogging is just typing, writing about a topic. Or is it more than that?

Then there was the whole other issue of how my brain is wired thanks to being a part of a program in which research and writing is extensive. For the past 3 years, I have been writing in a manner that rarely allows for personal opinion or a 1st person point of view. After writing a few blogs, I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. However, I am going to be honest, I will probably not continue to blog after the conclusion of this class. If I need to or feel it should be done in future places of employment, I will do so, but I will not be doing it voluntarily on my own. It just isn’t my cup of tea.

What surprised me…

It was difficult. I was not expecting that. I believe what surprised me was that blogging is not what I expected. What I have written above is also applicable to this question. I feel like whatever I write in this section would be repetitive, so let me just sum it up: I was surprised that my existent writing skills were not appropriate or sufficient for blog writing. Now I know that the reader needs to follow a yellow brick road.

Blogging for nonprofits

I thought it would be beneficial to look around the internet to find reasons why it is a good idea for nonprofits to use blogging and I came across a really awesome article from sproutinsights. Mike McGrail lists good 5 reasons why nonprofits should blog:

  1. A blog allows you to add a human touch: The most important people at charities are the people themselves — those who are passionate about the cause and work so hard, often for very little in return. By allowing your team to blog, you are creating an insight into the people at the heart of everything you strive to achieve. 
  2. A blog allows you to show the affect of your work: All of the hard work that the people within your organization carry out is committed with one aim: helping others.
  3. A blog allows you to act quickly: By creating a blog on your site, you are ensuring you can act quickly to create news and appeals.
  4. A blog can drive donations: Your blog represents an opportunity to attract donations from its readers. Adding regular calls to action to each blog post can be an effective way of gathering donations.
  5. A blog adds value to your social media activities: It can be difficult to make the most of social media and its platforms; a regular blog gives your activities on Facebook, Twitter, and so on a focus and creates discussion points across your networks.

Netvibes Dashboard

Here is a great description of what Netvibes is: A dashboard is basically a central hub for conversation discovery, aggregation, tracking and archiving. It’s  comprised of multiple data sources such as Twitter mentions, blog searches, web searches and so forth.

Netvibes is basically a tool used for listening and reading about topics that you are interested it. It is a culmination of information about those topics that can potentially benefit people and organizations in one way or another, especially when being used for something very specific.

Netvibes was very difficult to use at first. It takes a lot of time and thought as to how to best search for a topic that will yield the most results. The times that I have attempted to use it, I have had no luck finding what I am looking for. It is going to take a little more time to learn and figure out how to use the dashboards more effectively. I have not used netvibes to inform my blog posts up until this date, but it is going to be a major tool that will be used in our up and coming campaign in class.

netvibes

What Is Real?

For some reason when I started to think about what I wanted to write about for this free topic, my mind automatically went to this video that I saw a few years ago. It is so short and so simple, but apparently it left an indelible mark on my mind. From what is “normal” to what society deems as beautiful…

Photoshop is amazing. I guess it could be considered an art. But what produces art in someone’s eyes may produce low self-esteem for another. Photoshopped images on the front of today’s magazine covers and advertisements is creating the message of what should be real for viewers. Let be honest… photo editing is leading to the impossible and false representations of beauty in today’s society.

Not surprisingly, people in the US are making efforts to ban the ability to photoshop in cosmetic adds and other magazines. Though it can not be eliminated all together, there seems to be consensus on a requirement for the announcement of false advertisement, so to speak, on ads. Said best by the director of the National Advertising Division, “You can’t use a photograph to demonstrate how a cosmetic will look after it is applied to a woman’s face and then – in the mice type – have a disclosure that says ‘okay, not really.’” I’m glad someone is looking out…

So, we all know that advertisements, in this case cosmetics, are made to make viewers believe that they need a product to fit in and make ourselves look good. But let’s face it. Normal women don’t look that good. All of those beautiful faces that are proving the worth of the makeup for sale are photoshopped beyond recognition. For kicks, let’s just look at these pictures… something that shows that even the most socially deemed beautiful woman is subject to alterations.

Before and After

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In the world of advertising, none of these things that we see are real.  Everything gets photoshopped beyond recognition, and the more impossibly thin and beautiful they make these women look, the worse the “normal” woman feels about herself.  We have been conditioned to think that if we don’t look a certain way, we can’t get as far in various aspects of life or will be treated differently. We will never be able to completely alter how we feel about body image, but maybe next time we see the flawless picture of a model in a magazine, we will be able to realize that the only thing that is real is the paper they are printed on.

Where there is no privacy, is there bravery?

After we discussed the topic of privacy online, I set out to see how much using privacy settings on social media sites actually prevents the spreading of personal information. That’s when I came across the video that is posted above. It is so simple, yet gave me a sense of the heebie jeebies. It never really occurred to me that almost everything we do results in information sharing. Uploading a coupon is sending a message to some one or some thing about what my favorite restaurant is. My most frequent purchases at a grocery store are being reported to some company that is ultimately making money off of my personal thoughts. It is really very creepy.

When it comes to daily internet usage via computers, apps and cash registers, I suppose there is not much hope about what information about yourself is being sent into cyberspace and available for anyone’s viewing. But for the purpose of having a privacy discussion, let’s narrow it down to social media websites.

Privacy

Even though social media sites have privacy settings, information is still going to leak. Tactical Technology’s Security in A Box recommends acknowledging a few reflective questions before posting material online, which I think is an awesome idea. The internet may not be able to protect or filter information, but the mind can. These questions include:

  • Who can access the information I am putting online?
  • Who controls and owns the information I put into a social networking site?
  • What information about me are my contacts passing on to other people?
  • Will my contacts mind if I share information about them with other people?
  • Do I trust everyone with whom I’m connected?

Bravery

“Bravery is a muscle, like love. You have to exercise it constantly or it will turn flabby.”- Chris Brogan

Since there really is no such thing as privacy online, it then leaves people to decide on whether or not they want to be brave enough to post personal material online. As we saw in the video, if someone is taking a medication, their health status is floating out there somewhere. It more than likely will not be found by the regular online, blogging public, so sharing such personal information is decided by the bravery of an individual.

 “People view depression as a weakness. Hell, any condition is a weakness. But some people have a harder time admitting something like that.” – Chris Brogan

I am not that brave. I am a pretty private person when it comes to personal health, so I would not allow myself to blog such information for the world to see. However, I fully understand that some people may feel that talking/writing about it is therapeutic, and who doesn’t want to use their story to help other people?

“…I’m not speaking for you, I’m speaking alongside you.”- Chris Brogan

To quickly bundle together this platter of words, more information about ourselves than we will ever know is exposed in the world of technology. We can not always rely on privacy settings provided by various companies/websites, so we need to filter in our own minds what we are willing to have available as public knowledge. In doing so, we make the decision based on bravery. Some people want to keep their lives private, which is fine, but there are those that wear their heart on their sleeves and try to help the world… like Chris Brogan… providing one of the most admirable posts that I have read. The decision is yours.

“Hello, Hashtag?”

 

Hashtag?

 

Hello, Hashtag!

A quick look at Twitter’s history

Back in 2006, Twitter was released to the world of social media. The mere 400,000 tweets in 2007 has increased at a staggering rate. As of 2012, there are 500 million registered members creating over 340 million tweets per day. Twitter is now ranked in the top ten social media sites. Surprisingly, however, it has been noted that Twitter is mainly used by older adults who might not have used other social sites before Twitter. As the social media site has become more mainstream, celebrities have joined in on the trend, creating more buzz and increased publicity.

The all important baby naming

Because of the popularity of social media sites, parents are starting to pay tribute to social networking. Yahoo Shine presented an article about the uncommon baby names that are starting to appear. Naturally, there is much debate and outrage about naming children with what could be considered bizarre names. Not surprisingly, many people had a response to the parents decision, posting crueler hashtags on Twitter such as #Foolishparents, #YourParentsHateYou, #StupidestNameEver. Many commenters all over the internet wondered about the parents’ mental stability. I don’t know whether it is mental stability or the lack of consideration of the child’s future.

Apparently, however, this is not something that has happened only in the U.S. In 2011, a man in Egypt decided to name his daughter Facebook. In Israel, Lior Adler and his wife, Vardit, named their little girl “Like” when she was born in May 2011. The author of this article did make a slight quip that, I’m going to be honest, was slightly humorous: “Now that little Hashtag has arrived, all we need is a tiny Tumblr, an adorable “@,” and sweet little “YouTube” and the social media baby name trend will be properly established.” Does anyone honestly believe that it will ever get that far?

What happens in the future?

Of course, now the issue becomes how to avoid the inevitable teasing that the child may encounter on the playground or other public places. However, maybe all of the talk will only make the little girl a strong person. Who knows if names such as these will continue to become more popular. If so, she may not have anything to worry about. When it comes down to it, it will be how these children handle themselves under ridicule and whether or not they embrace their name.

The Power of Storytelling

The Ugly Duckling

“It is a beautiful summer day. The sun shines warmly on an old house near a river. Behind the house a mother duck is sitting on ten eggs. “Tchick.” One by one all the eggs break open. All except one. This one is the biggest egg of all. Mother duck sits and sits on the big egg. At last it breaks open, “Tchick, tchick!” Out jumps the last baby duck. It looks big and strong. It is grey and ugly. The next day mother duck takes all her little ducks to the river. She jumps into it. All her baby ducks jump in. The big ugly duckling jumps in too. They all swim and play together. The ugly duckling swims better than all the other ducklings. “Quack, quack! Come with me to the farm yard!” says mother duck to her baby ducks and they all follow her there.

The farm yard is very noisy. The poor duckling is so unhappy there. The hens peck him, the rooster flies at him, the ducks bite him, the farmer kicks him. At last one day he runs away. He comes to a river. He sees many beautiful big birds swimming there. Their feathers are so white, their necks so long, their wings so pretty. The little duckling looks and looks at them. He wants to be with them. He wants to stay and watch them. He knows they are swans. Oh, how he wants to be beautiful like them. Now it is winter. Everything is white with snow. The river is covered with ice. The ugly duckling is very cold and unhappy. Spring comes once again. The sun shines warmly. Everything is fresh and green. One morning the ugly duckling sees the beautiful swans again. He knows them. He wants so much to swim with them in the river. But he is afraid of them. He wants to die. So he runs into the river. He looks into the water. There in the water he sees a beautiful swan. It is he! He is no more an ugly duckling. He is a beautiful white swan.”

Everyone has heard about the story of The Ugly Duckling. Watch the video and read the content below and then I’ll explain its relativity to the topic of great storytelling!

Story telling can either be extremely boring or completely fascinating. As it turns out, the best story telling is most successful in stimulating different parts of the brain. Leo Widrich poses and interesting question: Why is it that we can activate our brains better by listening to stories? As shown in the video, it is because we are wired that way. We think in a story format everyday. The key when sharing is to make the audience feel the same emotion as you do.  A story is ultimately a connection of cause and effect when broken down. And that is exactly how we think. Now, in order to get someone to feel the same emotion, it is natural to need to be able to relate someone’s story to our own personal experiences. Let’s look at how we can take this information about how our brain works and connect it to the science of good story telling:

1. Exchange giving suggestions for telling stories: Telling a personal story is the most effective way to get people to see and relate to a suggestion from your point of view. According to Princeton researcher Hasson, storytelling is the only way to plant ideas into other people’s minds.

2. Write more persuasively- Bring in stories from yourself or an expert: Exchanging stories with experts is the best way to share and add to your own knowledge foundation. The more perspective someone gains, the more information they will be able to present to an audience.

3. The simple story is more successful than a complicated one: Most people believe that giving many details and using big words is the best way make a story seem interesting. The truth is actually that the simpler a story is, the more likely it will be remembered. Using simple words and low complexity is the best way to activate the brain regions that make us truly relate to the happenings of a story. Leo Widrich suggests that we try to reduce the number of adjectives or complicated nouns and exchange them with more simple, yet heartfelt language.

Let’s Look Back…

The storytelling video above mentions many aspects of how it evolved and how it relates to individuals. In this case, the primary connection is that of how stories are told across boundaries and are retold in attempt to preserve a group sense of community. This particular story is constantly retold to children who have self esteem issues, a problem that EVERYONE can relate to. It brings about a sense of community in a way that unites people with an issue that they have in common. Simply put, this story is one that portrays the world that builds emotional connections between people. The Ugly Duckling is simply in its wording, yet leaves an emotional impact and moral that can affect every reader or audience in one way or another. It is and will always be remembered.

 

“Internet Addiction Disorder?”

 

Facebook Psychology

As I was looking on the internet for materials to set up my blog, I came across this picture and knew right away that this would be the center of discussion for my first set of posts (For a better view of the graphic above and the full website, click here). Is Facebook, and any other social media site for that matter, addictive? Interestingly enough, according to Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, “…receiving and answering a notification results in a hit of dopamine, a chemical neurotransmitter associated with the motivation and reward response in the human brain.” As it turns out, in a few Asian countries, “Internet Addiction Disorder” is recognized as a real psychological disorder and will be released in the upcoming fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-V). Also through recent studies, it has been shown that Facebook/social media sites are causing a decrease in attention span and an increase in ADHD, low self-esteem, and poor body image.

So, after reading about the negative affects of Facebook, I now pose a question: We know there are positive aspects of social media, such a maintaining friendships, use as a communication tool, and networking, but will such media get to the point where it is more harmful than beneficial?

I am one of millions of people that check my Facebook account routinely; however, it is strictly for staying in touch with close friends and communication with peers with regard to school projects and happenings. I do not feel that I am addicted to Facebook, but I am perfectly fine acknowledging that my weakness is Pintrest. It is a source that I use to assuage boredom and find things that bring about a lot of humor and a sense of a positive future (such as dreaming of and building my ideal house and what my wardrobe would look like if I had the money). On the other hand, I have always had a poor attention span, but I do find that with social media distractions, it becomes even worse in moments when I have no motivation to complete other tasks. When it comes to Facebook addiction, I believe at some point it will become more harmful and we should be more worried about the younger generation, a generation that is being raised on electronics, in which social sites can be accessed. I can see how it is already a huge concern and will become a paramount problem in the near future. So, here is a question I pose for you: Something needs to be done, but in the era of technology, what could that be?

Personal vs. Professional Social Media

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Social media is used for so many different purposes. I found an article online called “Personal vs. Professional: The Social Media Mindset Divide” that explains the different sets of emotions that are experienced in different forms of social networking. As mentioned by author Lenna Garibian, “When visiting personal networking sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest) people experience emotions around memories and entertainment, whereas when visiting professional networks (e.g., LinkedIn, BranchOut, and BeKnown) people are motivated by the sense of purpose to achieve the goals they’ve set…” This concept is visually show above.

After reading this article, I was surprised that a couple of sentences could put into words exactly what I was feeling when I created this blog. We have the option of connecting this blog to our personal Facebook and/or Twitter fed. However, I am very hesitant to make such a link. I feel that adding the connection mixes my personal life with that of a professional nature. To apply what is posted above, my Facebook account is used for personal emotions and experiences, those that I would prefer to share only with my family and friends. This blog was created with the intention of creating a professional network and the specific goal of creating and completing an academic assignment. Everyone has their own opinion and comfort level as to how much they are willing to share on various social media sites. Personally, I prefer to keep the two separated.

To briefly mention, the topic of personal vs. professional social media can easily relate to the Facebook/employment controversy. It is my thought that companies should not have the right to force a future employee to relinquish their personal login information, allowing the internet to act as a character reference for the potential hire. Companies are now trying to act as Big Brother, attempting to tap into an individual’s personal emotions. I believe that personal and professional media needs to remain unattached, unless someone has the desire to post something that is of neutral content and does not disclose personal information on what would be considered a professional social media outlet.