header image
 

Hacking Doctor Who: When People Become Slaves to Social Media

I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the 50 year old BBC show Doctor Who, but I have watched every single episode and special since it’s revival in 2005. The Doctor himself has been played by a slew of different actors and has always had a (usually female) companion by his side. The most recent Doctor is played by the youngest actor ever to portray the alien Time Lord: Matt Smith

The Doctor travels through time and space in his ship The TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) saving humans and aliens alike from the evil that threatens the universe. His current companion, Clara, is portrayed by Jenna-Louise Coleman:

But all this is just a little background information to give you a sense of the world of Doctor Who. My interest was piqued most recently by an episode that ran a couple weeks ago but I just now got around to viewing: “The Bells of Saint John”. In this episode, The Doctor and Clara investigate an unusual wifi server that seems to be downloading people’s souls.

Now, obviously, whether intentional or not, this serves as a metaphor/commentary on how the Internet has taken over our lives and even penetrated our hearts and minds. So without delving into that discussion, I wanted to focus on a couple of other scenes that caught my attention.

The villains in this episode discover that The Doctor is on to them. In doing so, they determine that to find the Doctor they should first find the TARDIS.

In the scene that this still was taking from, The Doctor’s Tardis appears in the middle of a crowd. Thinking it is a magic trick, onlookers take pictures that are then instantly uploaded from the web. In this way, the villains are able to track The Doctor and Clara as they race across London on a mission to discover who is behind the evil wifi.

In the second scene that I found interesting, Clara is hacking into the mysterious wifi to discover who is behind the scheme.

 

She hacks the web cams of the employees and takes pictures of their faces, then running a scan to match the faces to employee Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, and Twitter accounts. All of whom have their place of employment listed. From there, after a few more obstacles, The Doctor and Clara are able to return everyone’s souls and minds back to their bodies.

However, from my point of view as a communication student in a social media class, I was extremely intrigued by what this says about our online privacy, or lack thereof. Granted, this is a science fiction television show, but this episode took place in present-day London and addressed extremely current issues about Internet addiction and social media privacy.

It has become increasingly difficult to maintain a social media presence while retaining privacy of photos, status updates, and personal information. Of course, most sites like Facebook and Twitter offer privacy settings by which to maintain some semblance of a private online life (if you’ll disregard the paradox).

But something always seems to leak out. And while the results aren’t so drastic as portrayed in Doctor Who, if that one embarrassing picture gets out, maybe someone loses a job. Or if you post about going away on vacation, who’s to say your home is safe from burglaries?

So what then is the ultimatum? Renounce all social media or else risk sensitive information becoming public knowledge? If I had the answer I wouldn’t be asking myself this while I check the box of every privacy setting Facebook and Twitter have. But then what is the answer?

Category:  Uncategorized      Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Catfished”: Learning to Communicate in a Social Media Age

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how our means of communicating with one another are changing drastically. And what sort of consequences come from this transitionary phase of communication? What immediately comes to mind is the movie Catfish, and the subsequent MTV reality show of the same name. For those of you not familiar with the Catfish phenomenon, here is the movie trailer:

 

In the MTV show, the host Nev investigates other suspicious online relationships and usually the one who seeks out Nev finds out that their love interest is not who they thought they were. Either they are hiding something like their gender, or true identity, or sexuality, every show is a strange look into how Facebook is being used to give some people new identities.

However, the majority of social media users aren’t being duped into falling for complete strangers via social media. On a much more mundane level, we are instead reconnecting with old flames and finding new ones. Recently, a friend of mine got back in touch with an ex-boyfriend from high school. They talk online for awhile before taking their conversations to texts and after only two months she decided to go visit him in Alaska.

What she found there wasn’t the attentive and charming personality that she’d conversed with online. Instead he was a rude, disrespectful drunk. While he was at least the same person she’d talked to through Facebook, he was also completely different than he’d come across. So that leads me to the question, how well do we really know the people we are getting to know through Facebook? Even if these people aren’t complete strangers, what exactly do we lose when we choose to communicate through social media instead of face-to-face?

More than this, what does communicating through social media mean for the future of interpersonal communication as a whole? Nonverbal communication with morph into something else entirely. Instead of facial cues it will be emoji cues. Rather than body language we will dissect response times and the amount of “lols” used. So whether the future is bright or not remains to be seen, but it is without question that we are experiencing a paradigm shift in communication.

Category:  Uncategorized      Tagged: , , , , , ,

How Many Twitter Followers Could Charles Manson Get?

It’s that time of the semester! Time to buckle down, put the nose to the grindstone, and all the other awful sounding cliches that indicate the next month of my life will be miserable. With impending final papers, presentations, and projects  I’ve been doing a bit of light reading for one of these papers I have due. Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi, is a book to give you nightmares.

For those of you not familiar with one of the most famous true crime books, Helter Skelter details the Manson murders and the subsequent trials of the Manson family.

While I’m reading this book, I’m thinking about how absolutely terrifying it is that one average guy can brainwash so many young men and women into committing brutal and gruesome acts of murder and inspire the kind of loyalty and unfaltering willingness to obey that the Manson family members exhibited. However, what I’m also thinking about is how Charlie Manson would shape up as a criminally insane cult leader in the social media age. Although I do not pretend to be an expert on cult behavior, I find myself intrigued by the idea that cult leaders would recruit members using social media sites.

Psychos such as Manson have long been glamorized by the traditional media and entertainment industry. Even more recently we have seen a rise in depictions of the anti-hero or villains. For example, on TV right now are three shows that give us a look into a killer’s mind: Dexter, Bates Motel, and Hannibal.

The stars of these shows are psychopathic and sympathetic. The creators of these shows are asking us to get inside the minds of these killers, to see what they see and to feel what they feel. So is the next logical progression is to do what they do?

Whether or not these shows are having an actual impact on the public’s psyche does not matter. The traditional media outlets like the news are doing a good enough job of over publicizing homicidal tragedies like the Aurora, Colorado shooting and the horrific Newtown massacre.

So what does this all really mean? Essentially, the world we live in has a fascination with the macabre. We obsess over it in the news, we turn to it for our entertainment. So is it such a far cry to think that psychopaths like Manson and Holmes and Lanza will soon turn to the Internet? And more specifically, will the next targets be the vulnerable semi-anonymous users of social media? Are we really that safe in our obsessions when we turn to sites like Twitter or Facebook to connect with people who only may be who they say they are?

 

Category:  Uncategorized      Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Bling Ring: Social Media Spawns Criminal Enterprise

Last week I was subjected to the nearly two and a half hour torture that was the movie Spring Breakers. But even though the movie was an excruciating ordeal, I did love seeing the previews. One of the previews that caught my eye was for a movie coming out this year called The Bling Ring, from director Sofia Coppola. One of the only reasons it drew my attention is because it stars Emma Watson, who is adorable and impossible not to love.

However, I couldn’t really tell what the movie was about from the previews so I did a little digging when I got home. It turns out that the movie is based on true events about a group of teens who used Google Earth, Facebook, and Twitter to find celebrities’ houses, track their whereabouts, and rob them when their houses were empty. For those of you who haven’t seen the trailer yet…

 

The basics of the true story behind The Bling Ring is that a group of teens led by ringleader Rachel Lee used Google Earth to spy on celebrity homes and used Facebook and Twitter to determine when they would be out and about. They would then break into the targeted celebrity’s house and “go shopping”. Paris Hilton’s house was robbed by the Glitter Gang a 5 times in all, totaling about $2 million in losses. Other stars whose houses were hit include Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson, and Lindsay Lohan. But what interests me isn’t the thievery. What intrigues me is the motivation behind theses crimes.

Yes, while Lee and the other kids in the “Ring”  did use online resources to track their targets, what first motivated them to steal celebrities’ jewelry and clothes and other luxury items can be traced back to the pervasive nature of social media. Teens and young adults, such as myself are bombarded by celebrity images not just in magazines anymore or in movies. We get a daily dose of glam when we follow celebrities on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook. For some of us, it’s simply a glimpse into the lives of our favorite celebs. But for others, seeing our favorite celebs and the fabulous lifestyles they lead can be psychologically damaging. In fact, a few of my classmates are examining this phenomenon right now by surveying college students about whether or not celebrity Instagram accounts influence their self body image. The gang who robbed these celebrities admitted that they wanted to dress like they were rich and feel like they were famous and glamorous. People aren’t born feeling this way; they are conditioned by their environment to develop the desire to be rich and famous, to dress up in glitzy gowns and jewelry. And what perpetuates this desire are photo-sharing sites like Instagram where we see celebrities living the lives we wish we could have.

Hopefully none of us reach the extremes the Bling Ring did to feel glamorous but I think we all of those yearnings, however infrequent, to experience the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Category:  Uncategorized      Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Social Media Event: Rape in Steubenville, Ohio

Although this topic has been extensively covered in the media recently, I feel intensely aware of the Steubenville rape case that has been a hot topic on the news. Whether it’s because I am a student at St. Edward’s, and our school likes to think that they are teaching us to become aware of and move to right social wrongs. Whether it’s because I am a woman living in a rape culture where men generally act superior and we are conditioned to simply “take it”. Whether it’s because I am first and foremost a human being with respect for other human beings. I cannot say. What I do know is that the Steubenville, Ohio rape case sickens me to my core.

Let us disregard for a moment CNN’s appalling take on the case verdict. Because the rapists do not need anymore coverage. Let’s think for a moment what this incident, what this rape, actually means. Let’s just focus for a second on the victim and how her life was destroyed not only by rape but by rape in the most public sense ever. Is it not bad enough that a young woman has had her life tainted forever by the stigma of rape, especially in a small town? But that girl had the worst moment she will ever experience plastered across social media:

Ordinarily this image might appear to be the drunk antics of friends. However, to those of us who knows what happens next this is a sickening display of disregard for this girl’s body and dignity. This is a girl who simply did what all of us have done before: got drunk at a high school party.But she ended up raped, humiliated, shamed, and threatened, and all on social media. Perhaps the most chilling detail of the entire case is that the victimized girl did not even know she had been raped until finding out about it via social media. Partygoers had uploaded pictures and videos where they laughed and joked about the rape, making light of a horrific incident. Witnesses did not stop there. They tweeted throughout the night their support of what took place and their apathy for the rape they were party to.

 However, after all of this, I was most glad to see the immediate response against the rapists and other partygoers who simply stood by, taking pictures and videos on their smart phones and let a girl get raped. It is encouraging to see how people are starting to finally see and listen to the injustice that is present today in the rape culture we live in. I think that one of my favorite comedians said it best:

There is no other way to put it. Men don’t worry every time they go out drinking whether or not they are potentially going to be raped. Why should women have to?

Category:  Uncategorized      Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

How to Stay in the Loop at SXSW Using Social Media

As an Austinite, it seems as though all I’ve been hearing about lately is SXSW. Typically, that means I will stay as far away from the city as possible, sticking to the outskirts and not even attempting to attend any shows or events. However, for the brave souls willing to fight the crowds, I thought that this week I’d offer a little insight into how to stay connected at SXSW.

The social media site of SXSW is going to be Twitter. Bloggers, celebrities, and brands are going to be updating the action constantly. In particular I would suggest following Mashable. The blog site is keeping on top of the latest SXSW news and info. The blog site will be tracking all the SXSW action using Topsy analytics. If any of you get out to the festival let me know what you did/saw/experienced! And if any of you see Grumpy Cat at SXSW, a photo op is a must.

Category:  Uncategorized      Tagged: , , , , , ,

Celebrity Fan Culture (and Obsession) in Social Media

A reoccurring theme that I have noticed in many of my classmates’ presentations, posts, and papers is celebrity fan culture and how fan and celebrity “relationships” are heightened through the use of social media. Before the age of social media, fans interacted with their favorite celebs via one-way media such as magazines, television, or personal websites. But now we – the general public – aren’t limited to these mediums any longer. Now, we have been given Twitter to follow and tweet our favorite movie stars or fashion designers. We have Instagram to follow our favorite bands and pop stars. And Facebook and the list goes on…

However, the celebrity super fans don’t stop short of following their favorite stars. Teenage girls beg Justin Bieber for retweets until he finally concedes and thousands of users leave comments on Rihanna’s latest racy Instagram photo. This suggests that the fan culture still consists of a one-way communication model. This is not the case. Social media has given stars a new outlet with which to communicate to their billions/millions of adoring fans. Now, when celebs put information out, they get feedback instantly via these social media platforms. And they now have the opportunity to respond to feedback. For example, many celebrities play Q&A with their fans on Twitter or will respond specifically to negative media by confirming or denying rumors on their social media sites, such as the Biber smoking pot scandal.

But what’s the big deal? So we now have the ability to interact with the distant celebrities we worship for the monotonous chart-topping hits they churn out or the countless identical film roles they play, why do we care? Because not only is this a revolutionary step in fan culture but it also poses potential threats to our normal, uneventful lives.

Americans have always been a bit of a celebrity-obsessed culture, putting our movie stars and singers on pedestals. In fact, there is a name for the affliction called Celebrity Worship Syndrome. What this meant in the past was that maybe we saw our celebrity idol in a magazine and got down on ourselves for not being as thin or beautiful. However, now that we have been given the tools to interact on a deeper more personal level, does that make the celebrity idols more human or even more glamorous and unreachable? Now that we have the ability to talk to them on Twitter or Instagram, does it crush us more when we fail to receive a response? Have we potentially been handed our own self-destruct button for self-esteem and self-awareness?

Category:  Uncategorized      Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

Following the Oscar Action on Twitter

In honor of the 85th Annual Academy Awards tonight I am blogging about the Oscars! I’ve always watched the Red Carpet Live and the subsequent extravagant awards show. However, this year I am following the entire show like I’ve never followed before. In the lead up to the actual Academy Awards, I’ve been following the “Road to the Oscars”, a campaign to generate excitement from film fans about the upcoming Oscars. Over the past month my twitter feed has been bombarded by Instagram photos from the Oscars Luncheon and tonight with intimate pictures from the Red Carpet.

Although this is all exciting, my favorite part of the Oscars social media experience is following the  hashtag #bestdressed. The Red Carpet announcers have gradually been interviewing the women walking down the Red Carpet and asking Twitter users to hashtag the star they think is the #bestdressed. (Seconds ago, they announced the Twitter-voted winner: Jennifer Lawrence).

However, to me, this is just another instance of how social media is inviting us in. Here we sit as average Americans, viewing from our couches as the glitterati gather to celebrate a year in film. Previously we were hindered in our viewing by obstacles such as distance, television quality, and one-way communication. Now, the Academy has made us a part of the process by inviting us in and helping us to become a part of the show.

These are just a few thoughts I’ve got running through my head as I personally prep for the pomp and performances about to be unveiled. However, the countdown to the Oscars reads 4:50 and I’ve got to go! Let me know how you feel about the Road to the Oscars Campaign and the Oscar tweets sure to occur.

Category:  Uncategorized      Tagged: , , , ,

The Pressure to Socialize Online

 

Lately, social media and its benefits and costs have been on my mind. This most likely has something to do with the fact that I am a communication major and right now, social media is THE big thing in the realm of communication. However, it seems more at the forefront of my mind than ever before. Of course I have always been a member of some social media site ever since my cousin made me a MySpace when I was 13.

Although, since then social media and its various uses have grown and transformed and morphed into useful business tools of the modern marketing era. So, the question that has inhabited my brain for the past couple of weeks is how useful is social media really and why is it so important?

In one of my classes (not the one that requires me to post on this blog) we are required to write a scholarly research paper in a group. We get to choose our own topics and group members. Immediately when my group met we gravitated towards topics related to social media. When we asked ourselves why we were so obsessed with the idea the conversation got a little interesting. We discovered that each of us felt an immense pressure from our professors and career center staff to be active on a variety of different social media sites. For example, all of us had one common experience. When we went in on our own separate occasions to the career center to inquire about internship opportunities, we were all asked the same series of questions: Which social media sites are you on? Do you have a Twitter? Are you familiar with Reddit? Do you know how to use WordPress?

It became clear to us that there exists this ever-present pressure to be proficient at using these social media sites. Of course from there we talked about why this pressure exists. Social Media is new and every day it seems like someone else is finding a new way to utilize it to track and promote a brand or business, manage customer relations, and create campaigns for a product or person or company that accomplish the one goal in our consumerist society: selling. Because that is what social media has become: another tool to sell an idea or service or product and to track these sales and mediate these sales.

So what my group arrived at when we had finished exploring these questions about social media was that while it clearly has benefits as far as getting a job out of college and helping businesses as a marketing tool, the pressure to use social media is so powerful that younger and younger people are using it for the wrong reasons. These wrong reasons may include embarrassing pictures, drunken tweets, and Facebook messaging when supposed to be studying. However, because students like myself feel this overbearing pressure to be on social media to see what’s happening and who’s who that we find ourselves using it incorrectly. We blindly stumble through making our profiles and adding pictures and posts because we feel we have to and maybe it’s not helping us but only hurting us in the long run.

I’d be curious to see if other students or just those of the general population felt the same way. Does this pressure exists outside of my own experiences and those of my classmates’?

Category:  Uncategorized      Tagged: , , , , ,

Fear Of Missing Out or Being Ordinary?

 

Something that I’ve been really interested in lately is why social media has such a large part in our lives, especially in those lives of people from my generation: the Millenials.

We have things like Facebook Addiction Disorder, which is a recognized problem with those who can not stay off of Facebook. They constantly update and post and tag as if they are desperate to put their lives out there. Look! See here! These are forty slightly different pictures of me that I took one right after the other! Then there are those afflicted with F.A.D who sit and stare and the computer screen pressing the refresh icon over and over again to see if anything new has been added to their feed. It’s not just Facebook either. It’s also Twitter and Instagram and Tumblr. We are constantly checking and adding, friending and following, and updating the world (or at least our followers or friends) on what we are doing every second of the day.

 

Lately, this phenomenon has been attributed to something called FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out. Essentially FOMO is exactly what it sounds like: anxiety created from seeing what everyone else around you is doing and instilling in you this sense of worry that you are somehow boring or uninteresting.

Now, I can relate to this on some level. I also log on to these social media sites and look at pictures that everyone is posting and think, “Wow, I’ve gotten nothing to share but a few new pictures of my cat.” Or I look at a person’s tweets and think, “They are always going out to parties with so many different people. I’ve got absolutely no friends compared to her.” However, I am still a little skeptical about this supposed fear that somehow I’m missing out on something that someone else who I don’t really care about is doing.

Instead, I think this obsession with social media sites and the constant checking and updating comes from a fear of being ordinary. Particularly within the Millenial Generation there is an immense amount of pressure that has been placed on these kids from the beginning of their lives that they have a constant fear of amounting to nothing special. We grew up in a time where it was expected that we would go to college and get degrees. However, the adults of our lives also placed on us this expectation to be someone important and successful. Whether that means being famous or making a lot of money or having a large and happy family, we Millenials have a lot to live up to.

This is where I believe the fear of being ordinary comes from. I think we are so obsessed with Facebook and Twitter and all these other social media sites because it is a way for us to get ourselves out there that is permanent and real and says, “I was here. I was somebody.” It is also a platform for commiseration. We can look at other people and feel better about ourselves by saying, “Oh guess who I saw was pregnant? Guess she’s not finishing college!” As if another person’s failure to complete some set goal somehow confirms the image we have of ourselves as being special in a crowd of millions.

Whether or not the fear of missing out or the fear of being ordinary is the reason for our Facebook addictions and Twitter obsessions is the fact is we are on them and they are changing the way we communicate and the way we perceive ourselves and others. It will be interesting to see how the generation after us handles this influx of information and whether they suffer the same fears.

Category:  Uncategorized      Tagged: , , ,