Cut the Loop

I follow a lot of bloggers on Instagram and lately there has been a trend of ‘Loop Giveaways.” These giveaways are basically where a group of bloggers or shop owners team up and pool their money together to get a several hundred dollar gift cards some kind of designer item, iPad, or any other high ticket item. They then all post a picture announcing the giveaway. To enter you have to like the picture, and then click to see the person who is tagged in the picture in your feed and go to their page and follow them and like their picture. This continues until the ‘loop’ is completed and you get back to the person whose picture you liked first.

These are a great way for new bloggers or shop owners to get more followers and it is an easy way for me and everyone else on Instagram to have a chance to win something cool. So when these first started popping up I entered almost every single one of them, because – hey, why not!

I am a huge Instagram fan and check it more times per day than I can even count or would care to admit. To me it is almost a sacred space filled with people who I care about and am interested, and also things that inspire me. It is a very creative space.

This is where my hatred for the giveaways comes in. Even though I followed a lot of people or brands I don’t know, I still knew who they were. After entering a lot of giveaways, my timeline is full of people and things I not only don’t know – but also don’t really like. They’ve turned Instagram from a haven to somewhere I barely recognize.

Now this is easily fixable by going and unfollowing people, but that takes a lot of effort and I don’t want to unfollow someone on accident that I actually like. So even though I have the chance to win huge prizes simply by liking and following people, I’ve given that up simply because I hate having my timeline cluttered with people I don’t care about.

I do have to admit that as I’m typing this it sounds crazy that I’d rather pass up a chance to win $600 to keep my Instagram the way I want it, but it’s true. Instagram means that much to me.

Emma vanBree

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Addiction or Habit?

In my last blog post I touched on the subject that we are on our phones so much that sometimes we do it without even realizing it. For many people it takes more of a conscious effort to stay off of our phones than to be on them. While I do believe some people do have Internet addictions, I think excessive phone use for most of us is simply out of habit.

I was a recruitment counselor last year and part of the agreement was that I had to delete my Facebook for several months and make all of my other profiles private. I knew that I could definitely handle this challenge, but it was going to be just that – a challenge. When D-day (Deactivation day) finally came, I nervously clicked through the steps and before I knew it I was Facebook-free.

At first it was difficult not only because of FOMO but because I kept going to check Facebook out of habit when I was bored or when I needed to look up someones birthday. More than anything Facebook serves as a social register for me and it was hard to break off my relationship and dependence from this resource. I do admit to cheating a few times and signing back in because I desperately needed to look something up. However, after a month or so something miraculous happened – I stopped feeling the urge to check Facebook and finally felt content with my Facebook-free status.

After several months Bid Day finally came and I was allowed to get my Facebook back. Instead of rushing back to my computer I actually held off for several weeks because I had come to enjoy my life sans-Facebook. Part of the appeal was the challenge of resisting it but the other part was the freedom that came with recognizing I didn’t need to know everything that was going on in my friend’s lives. I actually only got it back because my friends kept nagging me because they couldn’t tag me in pictures.

I know that this is only one case, but I know that if people actively tried to cut back on phone and internet time they would have an experience similar to mine. Just like forming any new habit it is hard at first, but once you get into a new routine you no longer miss your old one. This truth is proof that for many of us media over-consumption is simply out of habit and not actual addiction.

Emma vanBree

Texting on the Job

I think we can all admit to being a little overly attached to our phones, so much so that I sometimes find myself on my phone without really realizing it. And although there aren’t many major consequences for this when you are at home, there can be severe complications when you’re on the clock.

A friend of mine recently lost her job and one of the reasons her boss listed was that she seemed distracted and was on her phone too much. This all came as a complete shock to her because she didn’t feel that she was on her phone too much and her bosses had never said anything to her that would make her think they weren’t satisfied with her quality of work.

This raised a lot of questions for me like how much time spent on your phone is deemed too much by your boss. You could think your use is infrequent, but this might still be too much in the eyes of your boss. Also, are we so attached to our phones that we sometimes find ourselves on them without even noticing? I definitely find myself on my phone almost constantly if I don’t have anything going on and could see myself definitely using it without realizing. When I hear my phone make a noise now it is basically instinct to check it.

When she talked to them more about their decision they said that they had a meeting once while she was employed where they mentioned that everyone should be better about not looking at their phone, and they thought that this should have covered the topic. She said that this meeting was soon after she started working with them and they never mentioned it again in the several months she worked there.

In this day in age is just mentioning something once, especially when it comes to cell phone use, enough to really get people to listen and comply? In my opinion it is not. You can’t mention something to anyone once and expect them to remember it or make changes, especially after several months. Because people are so attached to their phones this should be something that is probably mentioned weekly at meetings.

I think employers should be a little more explicit about how much time spent on a phone is acceptable and they should also remind employees more frequently, potentially at weekly meetings. This is unfortunately an issue with today’s culture and it is a hard habit to break. People can’t be penalized when they didn’t realize they were doing anything wrong.

Emma vanBree

An Argument for Increased Surveillance

I strongly dislike the idea of anyone being able to watch my every move, whether in real life or on the Internet. However a recent event involving my sister has caused me to rethink my ideas of security, particularly in public.

A couple weeks ago, my sister was hit by a car while she was on her moped and the driver of the car that hit her left the scene. The car had been trailing closely behind her, and when he/she tried to pass her he/she ran her off the road and hit her from the side. And because there were no traffic cameras that could have captured the license plate, there is nothing the police can do to try to catch the driver. Which means that this careless person has been allowed to go about their business with no consequences, while my sister has had to take some time from school and have many doctors visits to make sure that she is okay.

Thankfully she didn’t sustain any major injuries, but it still hurts me that the person that did this has been able to get off scot-free.

This has led me to believe that having surveillance cameras on roads might bring more good than harm. I don’t think that this video feed should all be monitored or that data should be extrapolated from it to track people. However I do not see anything wrong with a video feed that gets deleted after a few hours that is only consulted when there is an accident.

Not only would this prevent people from getting away with fleeing the scene of accidents, it would clear up any confusion of who caused a more major accident if there is a lot of dispute.

After being personally affected by this issue, I think that the pros more than outweigh the cons. If a little camera could prevent anyone from escaping justice, I’m all for it.

Emma vanBree

#FunFactFriday – Bling Bling

If I’m ever bored I can always count on Reddit to entertain me with mindless content, and also really interesting things I never knew before. I did a #FunFactFriday post a few weeks ago and thought I’d bring it back.

This week as I was browsing Reddit I stumbled upon this TIL (Today I Learned) –

TIL diamonds aren’t rare; their demand is a marketing invention. In 1938 De Beers hired an ad agency who arbitrarily decided that a diamond engagement ring is worth 1 month’s salary. It worked so well they increased it to 2 months’ salary. De Beers carefully restricts supply to keep the prices high.

While I had heard this of course, I thought I’d share it again with the world because I am an advertising major and have to acknowledge the best advertising campaign of all time. I can only hope that I will ever be half as successful in my own career as this campaign was.

What’s crazier is that even though many people know its true, it hasn’t really changed the way most people feel about it. Even though I am well aware that diamonds aren’t as valuable as they are made out to be – I still like them. It’s been so drilled into my head that knowing the truth doesn’t even change my mind.

Emma vanBree

Do I know you?

Bailey’s post about the awkward struggle of accepting family members and family friends’ friend requests and the ensuing judgement got me thinking about all of the friends I have on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media accounts.

While I am *blessed* to have somehow dodged that sticky situation myself, I do face another struggle almost every day. That issue is that I am friends with a lot of people that I have only met in passing or have never met at all. This is all good and well until you run into these people in everyday life and you have to make the decision to:

  1. Say hello to your acquaintance
  2. Ignore them and pretend they are a complete stranger

I often times (and by often and I mean all the time) choose the second option for fear of being the awkward person saying hello to someone who doesn’t know who I am. If someone says hello to me, of course I will say it back. But I always air on the safe side to avoid putting myself in a socially awkward situation.

Although it sounds really silly, this problem is only growing more severe every day as our real-life communities become even more intertwined with our digital ones. People share so many details of their lives on social media that I begin to feel like I am actually friends with them without ever having a conversation with them. Once you have been friends with someone on Facebook for a while you see people grow up and achieve things and reach major milestones. You see their successes and their failures. These details are far more intimate than ones you would ever know about them if they were not part of your digital community.

A girl that I went to elementary and middle school with just had twins and she posted pictures from the hospital on Facebook – and I saw them. She shared these photos so friends could see them, but these posts get seen by IRL friends and everyone else you are ‘friends’ with on social media. This was an extremely personal moment that I (who am basically a stranger) got to see. And that’s really weird.

Social media is great for keeping up with your friends because you share your life with them. However once you start adding people that aren’t IRL friends, you begin to keep up with them, too. This results with you knowing just as much about complete strangers than you do your real friends.

Emma vanBree

Wide Awake Wilson

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I am from Wilson, North Carolina – a fairly small town of around 50,000 people that is about 40 miles east of Raleigh. Although many people have never heard of it Wilson is was once the tobacco capital of the world (yes, the world), the birthplace of the bank BB&T, home of both Parker’s and Bill’s barbeque.

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But more importantly (in the context of this blog), Wilson is one of the few counties in the state that created their own, independent, cable and internet service, Greenlight. This is somewhat of an anomaly because shortly after Greenlight was created, North Carolina made these independent services illegal. However, much to the delight of its users, Greenlight was grandfathered in and still provides internet to many Wilsonians.

My family has yet to make the switch to Greenlight, but everybody I know who has has been much happier than they ever were with Time Warner Cable. My boyfriend had Greenlight and he was always thrilled with the service they provided. In the several years that he had the services, he had only a couple of problems. This is a big difference from my TWC experience, where problems happen every few months.

While the service is by no means new, it has been in the spotlight this week because the FCC agreed to hear the “City of Wilson’s petition today calling for it to override North Carolina’s law against municipal networks” on Thursday. This was an effort to over-turn a 2011 law that imposed numerous conditions that effectively prevented Wilson from expanding Greenlight service into neighboring counties, even if requested.

And by a 3-2 vote by the FCC it was successfully overturned.

While this is a big win for Wilson, it is also very telling as to what the FCC will do when it votes on net neutrality, which is coming up very soon. By allowing Wilson’s Greenlight to have more freedom to grow their business, it seems like the FCC is definitely thinking with a pro-net neutrality mindset.

While this is all speculation and nobody will know until the vote happens, it is a very interesting and precedent-setting vote.It’s fun to see my hometown playing such a big role in the decision making process of the future of the Internet.

Emma vanBree

False Sense of Security

One of my friends from home and I were reminiscing about stupid things we did growing up, especially in middle school. She and my sister – never me because I am too afraid of the dark – would sneak out all of the time to meet up with their friends. They would sometimes walk a couple miles in the dead of night to get to their friends house, and sometimes completely alone. A young teenage girl walking alone at night sounds extremely dangerous, but she mentioned that she never felt in danger because she had a cell phone with her.

That got me thinking – Does having a cell phone make us feel safer? Is it a false sense of security?

If someone actually wanted to abduct or harm my friend and sister – would having a cell phone really help them escape? Would they be able to call 911? Would they even have a chance?

I would argue not. If something were to happen, there would be no one that could get there fast enough to really save you. That’s assuming you still had access to your cell phone, that they wouldn’t have taken it from you. You’d have to be anticipating danger in order to really save yourself.

Just like when people to tell you to keep your cell phone on you when you go on a longer drive. If you were in a really bad car accident – you probably wouldn’t be able to reach for your phone to call anyone for help. In reality, if you couldn’t reach your phone you would be just as stranded if you were without one.

So although our smartphones allow us to stay connected with our friends and the Internet on the go, how much do they really keep us safe from real life dangers? I would argue very little. Cell phones create a false sense of security because people feel as if they have all their friends, family, or law enforcement at the tips of their fingers, but that only lasts if you can access your phone, or if people can get there in time to help you.

No matter how connected you are, that will never protect you from real life danger. In fact, being glued to our phones can distract us and actually make us more vulnerable. If my friend was on her phone she might not notice someone walking behind her because all her focus is directed toward the phone. She is less alert, and thus more susceptible to a threat.

It is hard to imagine life without my cell phone constantly by my side, but this conversation got me thinking that being in touch with the Internet may actually be doing more harm than good. If we are so connected to our devices, we aren’t as aware of our surroundings and this can put us in great danger. Our online security isn’t the only one we should be concerned about these days.

Just some food for though this Saturday evening.

Emma vanBree

Watch Your Mouth

In my post about my 15 Minutes of Fame after I was published by the Nieman Lab I discussed how I wish I had written more eloquently, because I had no idea that my post would end up being seen by such a prestigious news source. I definitely learned my lesson that I need to take the time to edit my posts to make sure that I am putting out quality content that represents me well.

However, yesterday I learned another very valuable lesson that it’s not just how you say something, but what you actually say. Once something goes public, you can’t take something back – so you have to be incredibly careful about what you decide to put your name on in the first place.

When I attended the Andrew Robertson lecture yesterday, who is the President and CEO of BBDO, I was asked by someone from The Daily Tarheel if I would mind answering a question about the lecture on my way out. Normally I wouldn’t do this kind of thing, but I guess I was in a generous mood yesterday because I said why not. However when she asked me why I attended the lecture, I froze. The true answer was because I was required to, but did I want to tell that to a reporter? Probably not. I asked her if she needed my name, and she said she did. After I heard that I knew I couldn’t answer that question. The last thing I want is for people to be reading the paper and see a quote from me saying that I only go to things that are required. Which is true, but only because I don’t normally have class on Monday and I had to work a half day to be able to make the lecture. But I still don’t want that to be on the record, where it not only reflects on me – but all organizations I am associated with.

I’m thankful that I didn’t blurt out my answer before I thought it all the way through. I guess if I’ve learned anything from my journalism classes it’s to be careful about what you say to someone, because you never know how it will be used. I realize that I’m saying it here, but the likelihood of someone seeing it here is a lot slimmer than it would have been in The Daily Tarheel.

Thankfully when I said I didn’t want to answer that one, she said she could ask me another question: Did you find anything surprising about the lecture? I happily answered that one, relieved to have dodged the first-question bullet. I’m glad to have escaped that situation unscathed, but it definitely reminded me to be incredibly careful of what I say ‘on the record.’

Emma vanBree

Social Media Are The New Portfolio

Throughout college, and even in high school, I was given constant reminders to be careful about what I posted on social media. Despite these conversations, what really stuck out to me were the horror stories I heard of people who faced serious consequences for their actions on one of their social media accounts. One particular story that really stuck out to me was a guy from my hometown who got drafted by the MLB, only to be dropped because of his use of the word “n*gga” on Twitter. Although I know this word is a derivative of a very offensive word, I never considered it to be too bad because of how much it is mentioned in music and even some normal conversation. To me it had pretty much turned in to another word for friend, homie, bro, etc. But even still this word cost someone the chance at a career in professional sports, despite his talent.

However, as I’ve been in college, instead of getting even more fearful of my social media use, I’ve actually embraced it even more as a way to set myself a part from the masses. As Brooke mentioned in her post, “1 in 3 employers who search for their candidates on-line have come across content that has strengthened a candidate and made he or she more qualified for the job.”

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My experience as a senior in college pursuing a job in a creative environment, social media is something that should be embraced. I’d even go as far as saying that my Instagram and Pinterest are my creative portfolio, and I’ve encouraged employers to visit my sites in hopes they’d get a deeper sense of my personal style and personality. I believe that being transparent with employers makes a bold statement that I have nothing to hide, and I expect them to thoroughly research me on social media. And from their research I hope that I am able to distinguish myself from other applicants and bring myself to life in a way that my resume cannot.

These sentiments are only confirmed by Undercover Recruiter when they said that they “believe hirers are trying to get a more personal view of a candidate, rather than the resume-like view they will see on LinkedIn.”

If I am looking for a creative job, my style and taste is even more important than my prior experience or GPA. Giving employers access to my ‘portfolio’ helps determine whether or not I would be a good fit for their company, before I even come in to interview.

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So instead of being fearful of how your social media use might affect your job hunt, embrace it. Think of it, instead, as a way to enhance your chances of being hired as you distinguish yourself from other candidates and build a digital presence that is truly representative of who you are and what you are all about.

And for the record, I do have a job lined up for after graduation – and it’s one that I am extremely excited about.

Emma vanBree