Unfollow & Don’t Look Back

Social media allows us to stay connected with friends whether they are up the street or across the world.  It’s a great thing.  I’ve noticed that this is becoming something more and more important to me as the years go by and I become separated further from my friends.

Just this semester, several of my friends chose to study abroad.  And, because of social media, I have been able to keep up with them, see what they’re doing and live a little, vicariously through them.

Even a little closer to home, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat all keep me connected with friends from home and high school as we begin to physically part ways.  We’re all off at separate colleges doing different things, but still able to keep in touch through the many forms of social media at our disposal.  We’re able to continue building relationships and interacting with our faraway friends instead of being limited to the few occasions we now see each other–Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, et cetera.

It is great to stay connected with friends, but on social media that term has taken on a whole different meaning.  As of right now, I have 1,161 “friends” on Facebook, but I’m working on that.  And when I say working, I mean unfriending.

I found that the first friends to go were those who I wasn’t close with to begin with.  Some names I didn’t recognize at all.  Second to go were those that I know well, but posted far more frequently than I cared to see.  These people have what I would consider “no filter” to their posting habits.  If you want a better idea of what I mean, it can be found on this list.  They simply post too much information.

Maureen O’Connor argues in her article, “The Joy of Unfollowing” that there is “no such thing as TMI on the Internet”.  The Internet is an all-inclusive, voluntary arena for media consumption and interaction.  O’Connor believes “we are living in a post-TMI age, and everyone needs to deal with it.  Preferably by using the ‘unfollow button.'”  I’ve found that it’s an effective tactic.

“If you continually recoil at TMI, it’s because you lack the willpower to stop consuming (or foresight to avoid) the information in question.  That’s your fault,” O’Connor says.

When we feel we are being exposed to TMI on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever else, we just need to let go, unfollow and never look back.  It is our own fault if we continue to be frustrated by our “friends” content they share or the frequency at which they share it.  It’s an easy fix, we’re just reluctant to do it. One of my classmates, Ashley, asked this:

“Okay, I’ll unfollow them, but what am I supposed to say when they ask me (most of the time in an awkward face-to-face conversation) why I did that?”

My answer, tell the truth.

I recently had one of my friends confront me in one of these awkward face-to-face conversations during which she asked why I unfollowed her on Instagram.  I told her exactly why.

“Every single picture you put up is either of a horse or a dog.”

She kinda laughed and said, “well, I can’t argue with you there,” and was pretty cool about it.  Maybe this kind of reaction isn’t so common, but it worked out all right in this instance.

I think Ashley illustrates a common fear of unfollowing.  Oliver Burkeman, a writer for The Guardian, gives us a physical analogy for building up the courage to click the unfollow button.  He says it “feels like delivering a slap in the face (and not even a well-timed slap, since you can’t be sure when they’ll find out).”  He offers suggestions to lessen the surprise factor of the virtual slap to the face in his article.

Don’t let TMI get you down.  Because if you do, it’s all your fault.


*Images obtained from Google Images


Coming Out in the World of Sports

I am revisiting a topic I discussed earlier on in the year on my blog because I feel I didn’t communicate my thoughts effectively.  Also, it pertains to an issue that continues to surface; that is, news coverage of athletes announcing that they are gay.

I don’t mean to sound insensitive, because I’m not, but these announcements aren’t news.  It may be news to the athletes family, their friends, their coaches and their teammates, but it is not news to the world.

Most recently, Derrick Gordon, a guard for the UMass men’s basketball team, announced that he is gay.  Of course, an interview shortly followed his announcement on April 8th in which Kate Fagan asked Gordon about his coming out.

The questioning started out relevant to sports.  First, Fagan asked Gordon what it was like to finally tell his teammates he was gay.  She quickly moved on to ask him about his parents’ reactions and how his siblings took the news.  Fagan later brought her questions back to basketball, Jason Collins and concerns of playing in college after coming out.

Gordon admitted in the interview that Jason Collin’s coming out encouraged him to do the same.  For this reason, the media coverage of these (very personal) announcements is a good thing.

I cannot speak from experience, but can imagine it is quite a difficult thing to build up the courage to do.  I think it’s a great thing and I don’t mean to criticize the athletes, because they didn’t ask for this attention.  But ESPN discovers someone who plays sports is gay and they decide to make it a news story and blow it completely out of proportion.

Michael Sam, a highly touted football player from Missouri captivated sports news for the same reason in February of this year.  The talented defensive end admitted to have been gay for some time, but felt that he should make his sexual orientation public before entering the NFL draft.


The ensuing reaction from the media was all positive (as it should be) but I wonder if all the attention to stories like this are counterintuitive to the progression of homosexuals in general.  NBA basketball player Jason Collins made his coming out public last April.  Collins became the first openly gay athlete to play in a major American sport and ESPN had a field day with the news.

jason collins

I think it’s great that the media recognizes milestones such as these, but the amount of attention given to these announcements may be a little over-the-top.  It makes coming out seem like much more of a big deal than it should be.  I don’t mean to be inconsiderate of the people who have built up the courage to make their homosexuality public, but I do believe the media has successfully blown it out of proportion.

It makes me believe that the media attention is a large part of the reason athletes are reluctant to come out.  They may not want to be the next athlete to be talked about for a solid week on broadcast television solely because of their newly announced sexual orientation.

I’m sure the announcements of Collins, Sam and Gordon have given many athletes courage to be comfortable with who they are, but I don’t think they’ll want the media attention that these athletes have received.  I wish the best to all three of these athletes in their respective careers.  I just hope they make headlines in sports for something other than their sexual orientation going forward.


Phoneless in Sewanee, Tennessee

This weekend I went to Sewanee to visit my friend, Mason, who has been begging me to come for years.  The eight hour drive has kept me from making the trip, but I finally made it down there a month before he graduates and moves to Alaska to be a fishing guide.

This weekend was Sewanee’s biggest of the year.  I didn’t know exactly what to expect visiting a small school in the middle-of-nowhere, Tennessee coming from a big school in North Carolina.  It was almost like a music festival; band’s played all day, all over campus.  Everywhere we went someone has having a party.  And I kept bumping into people that I didn’t even know went to school there.

The first day I was there I kept taking snapchats of what was going on around me. At one point I realized that I was spending way to much time on my phone, a problem I don’t usually have.  I felt compelled (for some reason) to let all my friends back home know what I was doing down at Sewanee.  Maybe it was to throw it in their face after all of them decided to stay in Chapel Hill this weekend.

I was a little overwhelmed with how many people I didn’t know, and reverted to communicating with my friends at home rather than meeting people and enjoying the weekend away from home.  I kept taking refuge in my phone–tweeting about something, sending a snapchat, even a mass text to a group of friends.  Then I lost my phone.

I didn’t even realize I had lost it until hours after the fact, but once it was gone I felt relieved.  The only negative that came as a result was getting separated from my friends for a while and lost on a campus I had never been to before.  But even that was fun, and I eventually ended up in the right place.

I’ve always been critical of people who let their phones distract them from where they are and what they’re doing.  At the start of the weekend I was one of those people.  I was avoiding awkward first-time introductions and escaping into social media on my phone.  I didn’t really have fun until my phone was gone, but once it was I had a great time, met a ton of people, and had no concern for what was going on anywhere but what I was doing in Sewanee, Tennessee.


Branding Through Virality

Often times the most effective advertisements are those that strike deep into the viewers emotional core.  It’s a difficult thing to accomplish, especially when limited by the constraints of television spots or simply to a page in a magazine.  But the internet has broken down those barriers and it has given birth to the art of branded viral videos.

In this generation, the best ads are the ones that go viral.  They’re also usually the ones that were banned from television.  Take Scarlett Johansson’s SodaStream ad for instance.  This ad wasn’t banned from television, but it was banned from airing during the Super Bowl for sponsoring reasons, “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi”.

Halfway through the commercial, Johansson, straw in mouth, says, “if only I could make this message go viral,” after which she sheds her bathrobe to reveal a sexy black dress.  Some would say in order to have something go viral, you can’t say the word viral.  But when you include an actress often mentioned in the sexiest woman alive conversation, it changes the game a bit.  The ad has close to 14 million views on Youtube.

If any major company or brand hasn’t caught on to this trend, they are surely falling behind.  Dove has made several videos as part of their real beauty campaign that have tapped into emotion and have been seen by more than 62 million viewers.  Through their real beauty campaign they have solidified their brand as something more than soap.  Dove encourages people to be comfortable in their own skin, and embrace their real beauty.  Kmart had a video go viral because it’s simply hilarious, so funny it may make you “ship your pants”.

Chipotle has even entered the world of viral video advertising.  In a clever, pixar-like short film called “The Scarecrow”, Chipotle artistically communicates the values they uphold through the eyes of a conflicted factory worker who wants to make a difference.  The short includes a sorrowful rendition of “Pure Imagination” casting shadows on the poor practices exercised in today’s fast-food world.  The end of the short film mirrors Chipotle’s stand for “food with integrity” when the factory worker quits his job and opens up a food stand outside of the factory.

Apple went straight for the heart this past Christmas with the release of their “Misunderstood” video.  The ad focuses on a teenage kid whose attention is focused on his iPhone rather than enjoying Christmas festivities with his family.  At the end he plays a video for his family that he had been capturing the entire time.  It’s endearing to the point where it nearly brings tears to the eyes at the end.  The ad makes Apple seem like more than a tech company, and that is what viral branding is all about.

Viral branding enables a company to establish an emotional connection with consumers.  It provides them with enjoyment, laughter, sadness and an intimate relationship with the brand.  Viral videos are both “compelling and shareable” and although they may not cause a massive surge in revenue, “visual storytelling can help [an] organization stay relevant in ways that cannot be measured”.


Living in Two Worlds


The other day I was talking to someone at a party and, in the middle of conversation, she turned to me said, “hey! thanks for liking my picture”.  I was confused and had to ask what she was talking about.  She reminded me that I liked a picture she posted on Instagram a couple days beforehand, which I had forgotten about.

I was a little surprised that she just thanked me for liking her picture, but afterwards, I was glad she did.

I think she might have been wondering why I liked it.  The picture had her and a few other people in it, one of which has been my friend for a long time.  We ended up talking about him for a while after we realized we had a mutual friend who happens to be one of the funniest guys I know.

Why is it that we completely separate our social media lives from our real ones sometimes?  Why should I be taken aback when someone thanks me for expressing interest in their life?  Maybe it’s because we all tend to keep our lives and our lives on social media separate.

Of all the people who “like” my photos on Instagram or favorite my tweets on Twitter, there have only been a handful who mention something to me about it later, in person.  It’s a shame, because it can lead to some interesting conversations.

If you think I’m wrong, wait until the next time you get back from a break.  After spring break I can’t tell you how many people asked me what I did, and then, after I told them they said, “Ohhh yeah, I saw your Instagram”, realizing they knew all along.  That’s not to say everyone knew what I was doing, but the people who did wouldn’t acknowledge it outright.  They wait until it comes up in conversation.

There are others who come back from break and no exactly what you did.  A conversation with that person might start more like this:

“How was Big Sky?  I saw your pictures, it looked amazing!”

I’ve found that my closer friends are more up-front in these situations.  And that’s not surprising by any means.  The people I’m not as close with are more likely to act as if they didn’t see my picture, or like it, and they’ll probably act oblivious to it when they see me.

It’s almost as if their hesitant to bring it up first because it might seem like their stalking you or something.  That shouldn’t be the case.  I follow you, you follow me, there’s no reason to ignore that social media relationship.  You’re not invading my privacy if you know where I’ve been.  I chose to put that picture up and all of my followers can see it.

Don’t hesitate to bring up social media in person, it makes it feel more normal. By ignoring our interactions on social media when we interact in person it makes them feel like two different worlds, when, in reality, social media is simply a minuscule online portion of our real lives.


*Images obtained from Google images