Defined by a Facebook Page

Every morning as I walk to the bus stop, I have my ipod playing, headphones glued to my ears. There I am, standing at the bus stop, waiting for the big white vehicle to turn the corner and sway just a bit while it veers to the right. When I step on to the bus, I remove my headphones, say good morning to the driver, and strategically sit next to the closest group of people I can find. Why do I remove myself from my own world where only my playlist and I exist? You would be surprised at the fascinating conversations to be overheard on the morning shuttle.

The other day as I was casually looking out of the window at the ever so familiar scenery I heard two girls gossiping about their love lives. “So, is he just your boo, or are you two F.B.O?” “F.B.O?” I thought to myself. I had no idea what she was talking about. The girl, however, seemed saddened to inform her friend that they were not, in fact, F.B.O.

That day I got home and consulted my Facebook-obsessed roommate, if she could define the acronym for me. “Duh, Ally,” she said in that where-have-you-been tone she often uses, “F.B.O. means Facebook official, like are you officially in a relationship with somebody on Facebook.”

It was suddenly clear to me why the girl this morning on the bus had been disappointed that she only had a “boo” and did not have a F.B.O. relationship—and did this mean she had no relationship at all? Was the act of clicking a few buttons and declaring your commitment on your personal web page the only way to have a real relationship?

Does web validation stand true for everything else; are things only important if they’re on the web? If nothing shows up in a Google search of your name, are you a nobody?

Does my Facebook page signify who I am? I feel as though I am a very complicated person, how can the things I casually post on my page really identify and capture my personality?

I started to look at my Facebook page from a different perspective. It was true, you could tell a lot about me by looking at my page. My pictures could tell you a lot, snap shots from what I had done that weekend (whether I remembered them or not). You immediately would be sure of whom my best friends are by the numerous comments, even my mom and sister were listed as my family. My page could even tell you what some of my interests and hobbies were.

Maybe we do make these sites and invite people into our lives as a way of leaving our mark, and showing that we are apart of the world, maybe seeing the website is proof that our lives have meaning and are real.

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Playing with Paper dolls in a Virtual Vogue

It may be perfectly suitable to describe myself as a “fashion junkie.” I love accessorizing outfits with jewelry, belts, hats and my signature daily appendage—flower hair clip, color matched to my ensemble. I never feel like my look is complete without a variety of accessories to compliment even the most simple outfit.

Recently, I read an article called “Fashion Democracy” in The New Yorker. Right away the title caught my immediate attention. The article was about a site called Polyvore,  where everyday proclaimed stylists (like myself) could creatively mesh up different pictures into a mosaic-like collage of artistic pictures, creating an outfit, complete with accessories. Of course, I had to visit the site.

The intricate arrangements of photos and clothes, is similar to the lay-out of fashion magazine pages. The site has built up a community where users must subscribe to the site, building a profile where they can display their outfits to all other members. Members may then comment on other participants collections. Most comments are very encouraging, one member said “I love that you paired those shoes with that bag, congratulations on your first set.”

Many of these collections are very intricate, where the creator integrates pictures of models, clothes, accessories, backgrounds, and many times inspirational quotes all into a beautiful art piece.

The viewer can then scroll their mouse over a particular item that interests them, and a link will show up that will display the price, and take them right to the site where the product is sold.

Magazines have always been my favorite medium. More specifically, fashion magazines, I love the pictures, the articles, and the presentation of a creating a piece of artwork out of a fashion statement. I now wonder if the world of polyvore, and many other up and coming sites, may challenge the fashion magazine industry.

Because of the state of the economy, we can already view the change in the pages of magazines, frugal outfit suggestions have been taking the place of the outrageous apparel that used to line the pages of Vogue and Vanity Fair.

The convienience and immense variety of entertainment the web provides, has been replacing  industry after industry, these new fashion blog sites could really have a damaging effect upon magazine production.

How the web is changing the news

Just as I begin to enter into the world of journalism, immense change is occurring. I am a journalism major, and very passionate about writing and staying informed in the media. However, the web is dramatically changing this field.

All of the abilities of the web have vastly changed how we read, review context and receive the news. Print allows us to hold the material, physically in our hands, focus, and take our time absorbing the information. Reading news on the web is an entirely different experience. We take in news at hyper-speed, and may choose to review the story in different forms of media from print, audio, and video to pictures.

Being a journalism major, this change is a little hair rising. I may be one of the few people I know, my age to have a New Yorker subscription, read the weekly newspaper, and pick up a paper at the grocery store, however, I admit I do, like most people today, receive the majority of my news from the web. There is something I love about holding a real newspaper in my hands and really absorbing the full story. But, the fact is that the web provides convenience and endless information. The New York Times is the home page on my computer, and I check many other news and celebrity gossip sites throughout my day.

I am afraid that there will be a shrinking demand for journalists as the web takes over. I should be supportive of journalists, not only to help sustain the industry, but to learn from their examples and increase my knowledge in this field that I am so committed to.

The question is, will enough people stay loyal to journalism, or will it be abandoned and replaced?

It is very important to stay informed on current events in the world, and journalists have a valued job to present these stories in an informative and stimulating manner. However, when most people read a news article on the web, they don’t absorb it as much as print media. The infinite information, and alternative links surrounding the page, can often tempt us to click onto a new search, never reading the full article.

The endless information, and the ability to jump from one subject to another; the web has enabled news to be consumed in a completely altered way. There are some definite benefits to reviewing news on the web. It’s fast, easy accessible, and all the different media elements, such as video, pictures, and sites containing corresponding stories, are all available on the web, and missing from newspapers.

There are many advancements in news formatting and journalism, and I hope this continues to be a prosperous business, and I hope to be part of the change.

What can journalists learn from bloggers?

Back when Apple and blackberries were just fruits, journalists were only found in newspapers and on TV. Today, with the ever-growing Internet dependence, fruit names are just as likely to be describing a device, as the food, and an online blogger could well be considered a journalist.

The most prominent distinction between a blogger and a traditional journalist is the amount of personality and opinion that are incorporated into blogs.  Blogs allow for conversation, discussion and even argument, to be brought to the news.

Traditional journalistic guidelines tell the reporter to simply present the news, without displaying their personal opinion. Bloggers take an immediate and opposite approach. Most bloggers are very direct and colorful with their point of view, putting themselves into their writing by displaying their perspective.

That is not to say that opinion is left entirely out of news corporations. It may become obvious if the business is leaning toward being a right or left-wing supporter based on what news they report, word choice, or when and where they report on a story.

Blogs also offer for a conversation to occur between the writer and readers. Something that is difficult to transpire in customary journalism, without screaming at the TV or shaking your head at a newspaper headline. Readers have the option of commenting their thoughts onto the blog, provoking conversation, and maybe even altering someone else’s opinion with their thoughts and insight.

What might be most frightening to the neo-luddite would be how easy and accessible it is to become a blogger. Virtually anyone could become a blogger, and present unreliable or biased information to the public. However, even printed news is known to have reported false accounts, and format of blogging allows the writer and reader to easily correct facts, and discuss controversial topics.

Ultimately, the power of debate and dialogue is the most influential aspect of a blog, and something traditional news could definitely benefit from. People benefit from the opinions of others, and it is important to be exposed to many positions and be able to have your voice heard.

Do Advertisements Define Our Culture?

We may carelessly pass by a billboard on the street, or zone-out during a commercial on our TV, but whether we know it or not, these advertisements are subliminally sending messages into our brain. Marketers spend billions of dollars, and millions of hours constructing these ads, hoping to connect with us, and sell us their product—and it’s working.

I recently watched a program on PBS called “the Persuaders,” which focused entirely around advertisement campaigns and the strategies marketers use to push their merchandise onto us, as consumers.

We are all susceptible to the tricks they use to keep us buying. Making the company’s logo on a shirt look “cool” or “fashionable,” is a way to turn us all into walking advertisements. Another tactic may be instilling a repetitive tune or catch phrase into our brains so we remember their product as we do our shopping.

But, one of the more frightening ways marketers target us is by playing on our very human emotions. The companies will use an inner message creating a meaning for the brand, where the product goes from being an object, to a symbol of a desirable human characteristic.

Marketers use different studies to research the desires of their consumers. They target us by aiming at our unconscious needs and impulses. Sometimes we have no idea why we need the commodity, it may not even fit into our every day needs, but the advertisement tells us that it is fulfilling and necessary. They strategically know the right words to use that will appeal to the customers, and give them a strong connection to the item.

Are we tricked into purchasing? Do the products give us what we want and need, or is it just the language disguising our inner feelings and needs?

Some people become so devoted to that company because of the message they portray, that the user goes from being a customer to becoming a devoted fan. Many market-researchers build on this “emotional branding,” by studying cults to place some of the same values into their companies. They found that one of the primary foundations cults use is providing its members with a sense of belonging that adds meaning to their lives. Many Mac users and Harley Davidson fanatics show the same obsession and loyalty to their organization.

It is natural for everyone to seek a sense of community, and want to feel a sense of belonging and meaning to their lives. Material objects may satisfy these needs for a period of time, but it does not last. This is perfectly fine in the eyes of the marketer, because it keeps us as consumers, and we keep going out and seeking more material objects, in hopes to fulfill and add purpose our lives.

All advertisements target YOU, what you need, and what you have to have. Just as L’oreal’s slogan says: “Because you’re worth it.”

Computer Crime

Cyber communication has become such a huge part of our society, that it is sometimes hard to distinguish the difference between our personal relationships, and relationships created or maintained, on the Internet.

Social networking sites allow communication to be personal and easily accessible. However, there are many negative aspects to forming online relationships. It is much easier for people to type hurtful words, than it is to be outright rude to someone’s face. When you disrespect a person, and see their reaction right in front of you, human instincts kick in, feeling remorse and regretful for inflicting pain onto someone else.

A particularly awful case of cyber crime took place when a 13-year-old girl, Megan Meier, killed herself after she was dumped by who she thought was her 16-year-old online boyfriend, Josh Evans.

“Josh Evans,” however, did not exist. The Myspace profile was a fake account made by her enemy and neighbor, Sarah Drew, and Sarah’s mother, Lori, 47, posing to be a teenage boy, to bully Megan.

“Josh” sent Megan a message one day, telling her he didn’t like her and that “the world would be a better place without her.” Megan, with a history of depression, responded to the message saying, “You’re the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over.” That afternoon Megan hung herself in her bedroom.

Watch 1:09-2:05

It is easy to get real relationships confused with cyber relationships, because we rely so much on the Internet for our communication with each other.

Megan’s case is very disturbing, and it was very hard for the courts to decide how to punish Ms. Drew, and her daughter because it was the country’s first cyber bulling case. They violated Myspace’s policy by posing under another identity, however, many people post false or exaggerated details about themselves. Ms. Drew’s punishment was reduced from a felony, to a misdemeanor. Because people lie on My space, usually to a lesser degree, it is hard to qualify lying about your age, or weekend plans as a federal crime.

It is not unusual for people who have a hard time fitting-in, to turn to the Internet to reach out to other people for some social acceptance. Megan did not realize that her real life problems with bullies, were targeting her cyber life, as well.

Imagine a Modern Day Y2K

In the beginning of the computer age, before the new millennia, computers used two digits in representing a year, rather than four, as a means of saving data space. As we progressed into the 90s, people were terrified that when we made the jump from 1999 to 2000, the computers would respond to the 00 as the year 1900, setting us back 100 years!

Suddenly, the nation was in uproar. Companies spent billions of dollars trying to restore and back up their information.

We were told that the “Y2K” bug would affect everyone. It was predicted that the banks would fail, airplanes would not be able to fly, entire companies would go under, as well as many other devastating theories were made by individuals.

We knew, even then, that a computer crash would have a great affect on life, as we know it.

Imagine if that were really to happen, to us, now!

The Internet can surely be defined as a growing phenomenon. It’s hard to imagine life without the Internet. For many Americans, the Internet is not something you check once daily, but is something we stay constantly connected to. Many people carry their internet with them wherever they go, using their smart phones and PDAs, to stay updated and in touch with friends, family and co-workers.

If all of this were to be shut off, it would be an epidemic. People have become addicted and dependent on the immediacy and convenience the Internet provides. I know my world would be completely out of whack without the Internet. I count on it for providing me with communication, entertainment, knowledge, and much more, on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

However, losing the Internet would be a greater problem to our society than the consequence of not being able to update your Facebook status. Some people use the Internet more than others, but it is safe to say we would all face the repercussions of a failure. Our country depends on the Internet for communication with other nations, for communicating news to each other, for travel, it is used in the classroom, businesses rely on it, many families could not stay in contact without it, and many other unfortunate events would occur.

We have become so utterly dependent on it, it would be difficult to come back from that, and know how to cope and function without it.