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The Grand Social Media Experiment. We learn by doing.


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7 Days of Blogging – #6 – Social Emotion and Grief

deathI have been thinking a lot about how we deal with death and grief on social media, and this can be viewed as a kind of Part 2 to my 7 days of blogging #5, Five Equals Robin. A friend of mine just recently lost her husband. Within a year of discovery that he had inoperable brain cancer, he was gone. Gone. She decided early on to share their experience and her emotions, and now also her grief, very openly on Facebook. She gave the option to “unfriend her” if you felt it was too much. Too many posts, too much reality, too much emotion, too close to home, just too much. I opted to stay and experience her and her husband’s journey. It was raw and it was visceral and it was real… and it was a beautiful journey. It was (and is) never too much.

It taught me much about community coming together to help in time of need and about collective mourning. These were not our “best” friends, nor people we hung out with on a regular basis, but they needed us to come together as a community to help, and were brave enough to ask for that help. We helped as much as we could (I’m not sure it is ever enough, but I do know we will still be there in the months to come.) Utilizing various social media sites they set up a network of people to help wherever needed.

Caring Bridge is a site giving support to families when they are experiencing health issues and is a great place for information exchange on what is happening without the phone ringing off the hook. Another great site they utilized was Food Tidings, which is a place where they listed needed food items and preferred recipes. We could then schedule ourselves for whenever we could pick something up for them or bring them a warm meal. It may not seem like a big deal, but when going through this, feeding oneself can be a struggle.

These sites make things so much easier, but this is not a new concept. Meghan O’Rourke writes about how a century ago, we were more communal about our grief. The town or community of neighbors would come together to help in times of need, or of grief. This changed during World War 1,

“partly because the sheer numbers of dead made it hard to properly mourn all those who had passed, and partly because psychoanalysis was placing new emphasis on the internal aspects of grief… Americans came to view grief as a private and a psychological function rather than as a communal one. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ “stage theory” of grief, with its emphasis on tidily achieving “acceptance,” became our script for mourning. Death began to take place in the remote hospital, instead of at home; wakes were outsourced to funeral homes; and children lived longer, making sudden death more unusual.”

This man in his forties was blessed to have the option to pass away at home in the arms of his loving wife, and with his beloved pets. Sunlight streamed into the windows, and he could look out to view the garden they had grown together. He got to visit and commune with his loved ones and friends before he passed. Although we may not have been there in person, we were able to experience it with them online because of her ability to share those private moments in such a unique way. Perhaps some felt  the need to “unfriend,”  but for me personally it was (and still is) a privilege to share this reality with her. This is a prime example of how social media has helped to restore the concept of communal mourning.

After his memorial, my husband actually had a hard time with the fact that he’d never really gotten to hang out with this person whom he’d never met but was so similar to, and now he was gone. Luckily there are many stories online to keep his memory alive forever and others will get to know this man as so many of the rest of us have.

“I hope it is true that a man can die and yet not only live in others but give them life, and not only life, but that great consciousness of life.”   ~Jack Kerouac

 

Please remember, it may not “be for you”, but please respect that there may be others who need to grieve within an online community, and that it happens to be good healing for them.

 

~Christine Dietsche


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My Little Pony: Every Pony Has His Day

My Little Pony Ponies

Derpy Hooves, Shining Armour, and Princess Cadance at MLP-MSP 2014

Four sharp-dressed men strode into the hotel lobby, looking much like the characters of Reservoir Dogs. Without guns, of course. Three of these men were long-term associates, one was a more recent addition to the group. Two go by their given names, two have aliases. These men were on their first mission together—one they successfully accomplished in one weekend, after months of planning, Skyping, tweeting, posting, and other online collaboration.

In June 2014, fans of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” gathered at MLP-MSP, Minnesota’s First-Ever Brony Convention. Most of the attendees weren’t little girls—they were adults dressed like colorful ponies complete with pink wigs, horse tails, unicorn horns, and Pegasus wings. Some of the pony costumes were meticulously handmade, while others cost as much as $2,500 to purchase. One wonders, why were these grown men and women willing to face possible public humiliation by dressing like cartoon characters?

“My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,” is a cable TV program in its fourth season. Although the TV show was originally intended for young girls, it attracts male and female viewers of all ages. Millions of young men (called “Bronies”) follow each episode, living by the show’s tag line, “Friendship is Magic.” According to Walt Disney, “Animation offers a medium of storytelling and visual entertainment which can bring pleasure and information to people of all ages everywhere in the world.” Disney has said, “You’re dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.”

Fans of the show are hooked by its clever scripts, high-quality animation, superb acting, and original songs. They are drawn by the show’s characteristic loyalties and kindnesses. The ponies typically rely on goodwill and friendship to resolve moral dilemmas such as bullying, gossiping, or jealousy. The essential story elements are honesty, kindness, laughter, generosity, loyalty, and magic (which happens when the other elements are in place). These principles apply to all people, extending beyond age and gender. Additionally, Bronies say the show draws them in with pop-culture references to shows such as “Mad Men,” “M*A*S*H,” and “Arrested Development,” as well as parodies of songs and popular phrases.

Brony fandom is a global phenomenon, with about thirty conventions held around the world each year. This trend has inspired several documentaries and a great deal of academic research. There are very few cultural sensations as unique and unexpected as “My Little Pony” fandom. Bronies experience a sense of community and friendship from the cartoon, and this carries over into their day-to-day lives. Brony online discussions are usually civil and helpful instead of insulting and hostile like many chat boards. Because it promotes friendship and acceptable behavior, “My Little Pony” seems to attract nicer people. Some fans have found that this kinship has helped them with their confidence levels and to deal with depression.

There are approximately three million Bronies ranging in age from 14 to 57 years old around the world, the majority of which are male. They have many different backgrounds, including soldiers, physiologists, scientists, and students. There is an entire community of Bronies in the military, traditionally a very masculine environment. “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” reflects many of the most important values in the military, such as loyalty, duty, and respect. These men push the boundaries of what society considers appropriate behavior, especially for adult males, because they enjoy watching episodes of “My Little Pony,” collecting memorabilia, and attending Brony conventions like MLP-MSP.

The three-day MLP-MSP affair was packed with a full schedule of events. The entire agenda was posted on Google Calendar and made public, which made it very easy to find information about individual events as well as create calendar entries on smart phones and tablets. MLP-MSP had about 750 attendees. Through social media outlets, such as Tumbler, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and chat communities, this con attracted people from all over the United States and as far away as Canada and Israel. The events were live-streamed through YouTube, and the chairs live-tweeted highlights of the convention all weekend long. Although this was relatively small for a Brony Con, it was well-organized with everything handled quickly and expertly.

On the last day, after all was packed up, the chairs left the hotel in street clothes, returning to their families and other commitments. We don’t know their real names, but they’ve got what it takes to run a con. And they will be back.

—Laura


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The Social Media Effect

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With the advent of social media, artists and musicians have taken to social networks to promote their brand. Even record labels are using our preferences on social networks to find stars. Every time we watch and download things related to artists online we help direct things a certain way, good or bad.

According to Dereck Thompson, senior editor at The Atlantic, “New artist are more likely to make name for themselves on twitter…Instagram mentions, and other traces of digital fandom forecast breakouts”. The perfect examples are the artists from One Direction or 1D, for all you fans out there.

After failing to progress as solo artists they formed the group and finishing third in the seventh series of The X Factor in 2010. ID was thrust to international success by social media. They have won several awards so far and even now represent over $50 million business empire. Not to mention a very loyal fan base.

Take a good look at their twitter and Facebook pages and you will see the type of support they receive from their fans.

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You might be wondering if I’m a fan of 1D or just plain “Why are you talking about 1D?, give me social media”

Hold on just a minute! This 1D story is to show you how powerful and effective social media can be. When you have something good to offer to people, and people want it, you would be surprised how much they will seek and gobble (sorry it’s almost Thanksgiving) what you give them. With a little elbow grease of course. You have to put in the work to get any type of result on social media.

Overall point??, offer great content, do your work on social media, improve and promote you brand and don’t forget to give it some time, and with a little bit of luck on your side, watch your brand catch the social media effect.


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7 Days of Blogging – #3 – Dog Blogging

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Zelda and Juno (Zelda on left)

Today I am going to blog about dogs and how they are everywhere on the internet and, most importantly, in our lives. This is my “#3” in the series because for a week we had three pets instead of two, since we fostered a little puppy named Jesse (now known as Juno.) In the past we have had more four-legged family members (up to 5 at one point) and in the future I certainly foresee more four-leggeds in our life. I won’t be the crazy cat lady today (but I’m sure I will be in the future!) since I am concentrating on Dog Blogging.

This past week we helped a wonderful puppy find her home through social media and many phone calls. I discovered that my family (my husband, myself, our dog Zelda and our cat Zaepfle) can be good foster parents. Not easy to not become a so-called “foster failure.” We learned we got to be a part of this special girl’s story, and help her find the right future.

As you can see, our family took in this little friend and adored her. We then made sure she found the right home. Through photos posted on social media, many stepped forward, and she found the right place to call home for life. We got extra lucky in that her new family is close to us and there will be play dates together!

Dog rescues have figured out in the past few years how important it is to tell the story of each individual animal. There are so many stories out there on social media, and videos, including news reports, of dogs found in desperate and near death situations and because of social media they become “miracle” stories.

There is much knowledge available regarding the No Kill Movement.  Our family member, the little ambassador dog, Zelda, was rescued from a kill shelter in Kentucky with nine (yes nine!) puppies in her belly. All ten of them found homes through the tireless efforts of a No Kill rescue called Safe Hands. It was her photo  and story that captured my heart!

We are so blessed to have Zelda in our lives. She has given us more joy than I can express in one blog post. Thanks to her rescuers’ efforts, she has even been able to connect with some of her pups and their families, and their stories will continue with the help of social media.

There are so many rescues out there and many have learned that a good photo will find the right home. There are many resources to explain the facts. This was not possible before the internet and social media. Families and individuals take the time to foster animals instead of animals being left in a cage to await their fate. We have a long way to go because so many only know of a place that has an ad on TV or because they have been around and their name is “known.”

I certainly encourage you  that when you are ready for a pet for life, to look into the local, “smaller” rescues. Check out their social media sites like Facebook, Twiitter and Instagram and see who they are posting about that needs a loving home. Learn and understand what the No Kill Movement is all about. Understand the importance of fostering. An animal in a foster home will most likely be healthier, more socialized, and you will be able to know more about their personality and special needs. Support, donate, volunteer and/or foster. You will make a difference in this world that is immeasurable and become a better human for it.

~Christine Dietsche

 

 

 


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World’s Ugliest Woman

 

Be STRONG when you are weak. BRAVE when you are scared. And HUMBLE when you are victorious.

Be STRONG when you are weak. BRAVE when you are scared. And HUMBLE when you are victorious.

Lizzie was a sweet little girl, born to two very excited first-time parents in Austin, Texas. She was very small at birth—she was born four weeks premature and weighed less than three pounds. Lizzie was nurtured and cared for by her loving parents and grew to be quite a precocious child. She was blessed with two younger siblings, many relatives, and had a very charming, very normal life. At least that’s what she thought until she went to school.

Little Lizzie was very excited on her first day of school. She had a pretty dress, new hair ribbons, and a snazzy lunchbox. She couldn’t wait to make new friends in kindergarten, but when she got to school, things didn’t happen as she thought they would. No one would speak to her. When she talked to them, they backed away. She had a very bad first day.

When Lizzie got home, she told her mother what happened at school. It was then that she discovered she was not like other children. Her mother told her they would learn to like her and they quickly did. Throughout Lizzie’s school years, there were those who stared and were mean and insulting. There were also those who were very good to her—who loved her and stood by her side when other kids mistreated her. Through all of this, Lizzie remained positive and kind.

Lizzie was very smart and had a great sense of humor. Whatever she wanted to do, she did and was successful at it. Lizzie prospered in school, joined lots of clubs, and was on the cheerleading team. One day, while distracted and not wanting to do homework, she listened to music on YouTube. Lizzie saw a video on the side that looked familiar to her and had over four million views. She clicked on it and was horrified to see her face in a video titled “World’s Ugliest Woman.”

This is how I discovered Lizzie—I was watching something on YouTube, a news program or something, and saw a video on the side where Katie Couric interviewed the ugliest woman. I hadn’t ever seen Katie Couric but was familiar with the name. I was curious to see who she was more than I cared about seeing an ugly woman.

What I saw made me sad and happy at the same time. Lizzie Velasquez is an amazing young woman. She is funny, upbeat, kind, and adorable. She was born with a disease so rare that it doesn’t even have a name. She has no fat cells in her body and cannot gain weight. She is also blind in one eye. Lizzie has put up with so much—wherever she goes she is stared at and treated as if she is a monster. But Lizzie is a special beauty with many loving friends and a wonderful family.

I was so moved by her story that I wanted to learn more about her. I watched a few Ted talks she has done. Lizzie is an inspiring motivational speaker and encourages people with her story. She has decided not to let the bullies win—the video that made fun of her made her even stronger. She vowed to not let it get her down and speaks out against cyber bullying. Lizzie lives every day to the fullest.

I found Lizzie at a time when I needed to hear her story. I was very stressed and things were going poorly for me. Lizzie is so strong! If she can move forward with all that is against her, I think I could too. Lizzie has a website and uses Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumbler to share her story. Lizzie’s story has appeared via broadcast, on-line, or print media all over the country and internationally. She has written three books, of which I now have two. I’m so glad I was distracted that day and virtually met this amazing, inspiring young woman.

You can hear about her story here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1tydA1MraE. Just don’t read the comments—they will make you sick.

PS: I screen-captured the beautiful pictures of Lizzie from http://lizziebeautiful.tumblr.com/post/98397430713/be-strong-when-you-are-weak-brave-when-you-are (top) and http://ryantowephotography.com/blog/lizzie-velasquez/ (bottom).

—Laura

Lizzie Velasquez

Beautiful Lizzie

 


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The New Narcissism (17Q17)

 

 

 

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You either love or hate the selfie. Some can’t stop taking them, others believe they’ll cause the inevitable downfall of Thailand. Is there any truth to the notion that selfies are bad?

Possibly.

According to this awesome, informative program, human beings are always being affected by the want of super-normal stimuli. We have this idea of perfected self-beauty that is inherit in each of us, and we all take some strides to become it. It’s a major reason why you shave, put on makeup or even put pants on in the morning. You want to present the best version of yourself to yourself, and the rest of the world, because it feels amazing to be thought of as amazing. The problem comes when you take your idea of perfection (whatever it may be) too seriously. Consistently taking an absurd numbers of selfies may be evidence of a possible mental disorder. Danny Bowman, a British  19 year old, would spend 10 hours a day taking up to 200 photos of himself, and attempted suicide when he felt he would never become his ideal version.  This is an admittedly extreme case, but is a cautionary tale nevertheless.

We all should love ourselves, but be sure that you love truly you. Not an idea of ‘what you should be’.

 


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Instagram J(*V*)

instagram-app-headerInstagram is one of the up and coming runners in the social media race. Because I’ve heard so much about it recently, I decided to do a little research to understand what all the commotion is about. This post gives some great information about how to use Instagram for business or personal use, http://www.wikihow.com/Become-Instagram-Famous

Wiki says: Instagram is an online photo-sharingvideo-sharing and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures and videos, apply digital filters to them, and share them on a variety of social networking services, such as FacebookTwitterTumblr and Flickr.[5] A distinctive feature is that it confines photos to a square shape, similar to Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid images.

Some interesting facts I dug up about Instagram:

      • Named by combining the vintage “instant” camera and telegram
      • Instagram offers a 15 second editable video as well as photos
      • Is a free app that was launched on October 6, 2010
      • It became the #1 in the App Store within 24 hours of launch
      • Holds the record of being the first app to reach 1 million downloads (Dec. 21, 2010)
      • By 2011 more than 100 million photos were uploaded
      • An Instagram photo made the cover of the Wall Street Jounal
      • Surpassed 25 million users in March 2012 – acquired by FB the same month.
      • Can be instantly shared on multiple platforms; FB, Flickr, Twitter
      • October 15, 2013 – More than 150 million users and 16 billion photos shared
      • Vernacular: “regram” “latergram” “selfie” “#FlashbackFriday” (to name a few)

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Social media conversations are shifting from texts to visuals. Images are the new language of follower engagement.   Every phone has a camera, making it easy to snap a quick photo while shopping to get a second opinion, before purchasing a Christmas gift. Or one can capture that special moment in a 15 second video to capture and share, or revisit  at will. I found a pin on Pinterest offering a step-by-step on how. Instagram has become the new family album.

 It’s all about “telling the story,” and what better way to share than with a photo or video? Not to mention, it gives our  tired thumbs a rest. It should come as no surprise that Instagram is the app choice for smartphone photographers. Today it seems anyone with a smart phone can be a journalist and a photographer. If you possess  the natural ability to  compose visual and written content that attracts an audience— the stage is all yours!

Businesses use Instagram as well to publish photos and videos cross-platform instantly. With smart images, branding, messages and content, businesses can find an immediate audience and quickly develop an army of followers. Instagram adds a personal touch to the faces behind the brands people love. Businesses, breaking away from the less personal, press-release format, can tell their story and create a more intimate connection with their customers.

For business or personal use, it seems that Instagram seems to be all about  following others so they will in-turn follow you. This is such a competitive world we live in, one that sends dichotomous messages. One minute we are “sharing,” which is one of the basic social skills we learn as toddlers. The next minute we are competing “Omarosa-style” for the most amount of followers or market share. Yikes! Somewhere in the middle we find ourselves searching for the perfect platform to share our voice and our talent with the world. Although social media seems over-whelming at times, there are far more open doors now than ever before in history. The challenge now in expressing ourselves, is to choose which ones to open—yes that is the key. As an artist and because of my interest in photography, I believe Instagram will be one door that appeals to me as I move into the public relations world. 🙂

J(*V*)