Staying True

As we’re well aware by now, everything that we post online goes public, where everyone and anyone can see it. This fact generally means that most people end up trying to find a “voice” that they are comfortable with, which can result in people adopting a persona that meets the needs of their content. In some cases, this persona doesn’t necessarily match up with the person they actually are, or rather only shows one side of their personality. This type of persona can be seen in blogs labeled as “educational,” wherein the writer uses an academic and serious tone that would more closely resemble their personality from a professional perspective than say, the way they would act in a social setting. Likewise, personal blogs will often have a more personal, less professional tone.

Recently, in the age of viral videos, we’ve seen a rise of these personas fighting for your attention. Think of them as Jimmy Fallon after he sold his soul— perpetually acting like everything that he sees and hears is the most interesting thing in the world while simultaneously trying to possess the cumulative charisma of the entire planet. You may have come across some of these types— Tai Lopez telling you what’s in his garage, Rick Lax with his cheap tricks and flash cards, or even SoFloAntonio with his stolen content. Recently, since apparently he makes such a great example for everything, you can take Logan Paul for an example. While he’s now moved on from filming dead bodies and transitioned into tasering dead animals, he still has managed to captivate his audience with his persona. Every time Paul has a camera pointed at him, he seems to resonate this energy and intensity that would be impossible for most people to maintain for even 5 minutes. Yet Paul has done this every day for over a year, and this is where his major problem stems from.

You can make the argument that Logan Paul actually doesn’t have a persona, and that he’s just a sociopath who was never told no, but I like to believe that deep down, he is a real person. Where he has found himself in trouble is in adopting that persona every single day. At a certain point, when you maintain a persona that is in any way fake for so long, you eventually cease to be the person you used to be, and start to become that persona. This is what I believe has happened to Logan. He has essentially reached this point where he doesn’t know how to act in such a way that won’t work in the context of his videos anymore, because he simply wants to turn everything into content. When that becomes your main objective in life, you start to forget about unwritten rules like “don’t film dead bodies” and “don’t tase dead animals for your 12 year old fans.” The same persona that has made Paul as successful as he is has also brought about his fall from grace.

While that example presents a very extreme case of what can happen in being disingenuous in your work, it still provides something to think about as you try to find your voice. This idea is well illustrated in danah boyd’s talk at Web 2.0 expo, that Dani also talks about. Your words matter more than you think, and are able to both build people up and tear people down. When what you are typing carries significant weight, it’s hard to justify those words coming from a persona, rather than from a genuine person. What you may end with being faced with is people trusting in that persona as the true you, wherein you become almost obligated to continue with that persona in order to maintain their trust. What’s important to think about is just how far to carry that voice so that it doesn’t get away from you. On the internet, everything you say is permanent.




(Hun)ting for the Self

Whenever I’m presented with the idea of writing about myself, I can’t help but think back to a story that my mom won’t let me forget. I was probably about 12, and rather distraught about an essay that my teacher had assigned on something like “what do you most like about yourself?” My mom was trying to help me search deep inside myself and find that inner love, but I just wasn’t having it. I looked my mom straight in the eye and said “mom, why does every stupid topic have to be about yourself? I hate essays so much that I don’t even like anything about myself right now.” This came from a kid who wrote a 3 page essay about Attila the Hun on a test with the topic of ‘great leaders (say what you want about his ethics, but there’s no denying that he brought fortune and glory to his people).’ A decade later, this sentiment still holds up. Writing about myself always feels awkward, like I’m sharing things that I’d never out loud in any context. Along the same line I rarely, if ever, post on social media, aside from the occasional picture or comment. Even these often come months apart. When it comes to putting myself out there, I simply prefer to not. That being said, I would imagine that this would make me a representative poster rather than a presentative poster, assuming that my silence on social media can also be attributed to my real-life quietness.

What I really liked about the articles this week is that they touched on something that I’ve thought about before: representation vs. presentation. What I’ve noticed on my social feeds is that the people who post the most are often the strongest of representatives for both groups. The first group of those that post frequently are the ones always talking about uplifting things and telling people how much they love them. These people are almost always the ones that back in high school were complaining relentlessly about every person they came in contact with, as well as life in general. Yet in just a matter of hours, a revelation seems to occur after they’ve sufficiently vented in which they find an inspirational quote taken out of context and often misspelled that they preach like the gospel. Bonus points if they include multiple exclamation points and emojis.

Example A

All of this positivity is obviously a lie. Grandma and Great Aunt Charlene look at their posts, so they can’t write what they really think, lest they be lectured on their choice of vocabulary. The safer alternative is to use the social media equivalent of the fake smile they already use.

On the other hand, you have the people that represent exactly what they are. These are the people that never stop complaining about things on your news feed. They were minorly inconvenienced by a food service employee? It’s there for you to read about. Significant other broke up with them? Incoming posts where they lash out in anger. These are the people that keep it 100%, you know what I’m saying? While they may not be the people you want to associate with (they are the reason the unfollow button exists), you can’t deny their unfiltered and unasked for honesty. In this instance, I believe it’s a perfect opportunity to break out my favorite Attila the Hun quote (the first one I found on google).

Everybody has value; even if to serve as a bad example.

Perhaps it’s time to start posting selfies with quotes from Attila the Hun as the captions. If you want to look at another perfect example of representation rather than presentation, look no further than our favorite nomadic conqueror. He was violent, cunning, ruthless, and never pretended to be anything else. Take, for example, this lovely quote that you’ll soon see accompanying a heavily-filtered selfie coming to your Instagram feed soon:

Trample the weak. Hurdle the dead.

Now that’s sage advice that I think we can all learn a thing or two from. I can picture that as a tweet he would post were he alive today, possibly accompanied by a selfie of him holding a disembodied head up by the hair. Attila will be Attila, what can you do?

Millennial Attempts Social Commentary!!! (Emotional)

Today a video came up in subscription box that seemed really relevant for this week’s subject. I highly recommend that you watch it, since there are a lot of great points made in it without taking itself too seriously. The general message being made is that things that we consume are becoming shorter, faster, and simpler— and the expectation seems to be that the way we live our lives needs to follow that same line of thinking. Even still, this video is representative of the same recent movement. The audio flashes from jump cut to cut, leaving no room for breathing or gathering thoughts. Points are made through jokes and small skits, rather than being simply gone over in length. At the end of the video is a request to like, subscribe, and share. The whole thing is over in just 6 minutes, outro included.

William talked about this in his post as well, far more eloquently than I’m able to. He makes the point that as quality of life has improved, there is less to work for, or at least different things to work for:

When people were settlers in this country, they had plenty to keep their attention occupied as well. Like staying alive. Providing for one’s family was also an attention getter. Then there is the actual job of interacting with your family members. Upkeep of a farm and the residence. Not dying because of dangerous animals and the local indigenous population that you have pissed off. That pesky neighbor Mr. Smith. He just had to put up residence two miles down the trail. But that was really it, right?

As William says, many of these same concerns still exist, but they take up far less time than they used to. This leaves us with far more free time than we used to have, and the options competing for that time will go to extreme measures to keep it. Remember when baseball was the American pastime? Yeah, me neither, I wasn’t even born yet. The MLB is greatly concerned about the future simply because the games last far longer than the attention span of most people. They’ve had to incorporate rule changes to try to shorten the length of games, but even then, their viewership is declining every year.

Even though basic survival tasks aren’t really relevant anymore, that doesn’t mean that life should be easy. Entertainment cries for our attention while our culture simultaneously lambastes those being idle. If you’re not currently working for something, you should be, because someone else is and they’ll pass you up. If you want to be successful, just listen to the advice of all the social media gurus popping up all over the place. By paying for professionals to produce videos that make them seem modern and successful, they can compensate for the fact that their videos don’t actually tell you anything that isn’t already glaringly obvious. Yet entities like these just keep popping up like wildfire. They’ve already made 6 figures at 20 years old, and they’re here to help you do the same if you’re willing to like, subscribe, share, and buy a whole closet’s worth of obnoxious T-shirts with clickbait slogans (you won’t believe number 5!)

What’s important to keep in mind is that although you can skip ads, change the channel, and fast forward, you can’t jump cut your life.

Reading Too Much Into Things

The way I’ve always thought about writing is to write as if the paper were someone you were trying to directly speak to. The positive of this is, of course, that the paper cannot respond. Writing a journal or weblog is often like this, though in the case of the weblog, the paper you’re writing to is the vastness of the internet. Yet that seems to be the appeal of weblogs— that you can catch a glimpse of someone else’s life, or immerse yourself into a subject in a way that traditional websites cannot facilitate.

But are weblogs literary? Such a question is quite strange to me. At what point do we say that something is literary when something else is not? Most definitions that I can find say that the work has to prove itself as artistic in some manner, able to provoke thought and understanding of life. That sounds fine, sure, but that definition is not only vague, but also incredibly subjective. For example, I’ve found instances of bathroom graffiti to be not only artistic, but thought provoking. In that sense, I would consider them to be literary, but many would not. Additionally, I’ve read professionally-published articles (hello Buzzfeed) that not only showed no artistry whatsoever, but also provided no insight towards the world that was already blatantly obvious. Yet, I’m sure most people would consider said articles literary if put to question. Conflict of values aside, what I’ve gleaned is that content matters somewhat less than the medium on which it is published. Yet still, saying that some written work is “literary” and another is not seems absurd to me. What’s to say that Dear Abby columns are not literary? How about personal advertisements? Social media bios? They may not be literary in the same sense that say, Moby Dick is literary, but at what point do you draw the line in the sand and say “no, not you?”

On the whole, literary status is generally preserved for works considered to be ‘formal,’ which sounds quite chaste. Perhaps it is right to separate genres of works into these subcategories so we don’t accidentally put our beloved classics next to bathroom graffiti, but trying to paint forms of literature with a broad brush as literary or not seems to be a bit of an overreach. People have had their journals published and lauded as fine pieces of literature (see David Sedaris’ Santaland Diaries as a brilliant example). Were these same entries not literary before they were published in a book? In that sense, I find it hard to believe that you cannot consider such other “informal” works literary when sometimes all it takes for them to cross over into the revered ‘formality’ is an illustrated cover and a copyright.

Weblogs fall into a difficult category. If I’m going to say you can’t paint things with a broad brush, then I cannot talk about weblogs as if they are all the same. Weblogs can be similar to that of an online journal, but they can also be based on subjects such as politics, travel, and educational purposes. Yet what weblogs tend to have in common is the linking together of things— other’s works, photos, and so on. They engage the world around them, as well as the people around them. Often blogs are not just a one-sided conversation between the writer and a voiceless piece of paper. In the world of blogging, people take the place of the paper and that seems to make all of the difference. Viewer comments and engagement show that people are not only interested in the subject matter at hand, but that they find importance and substance in it. In that regard, it would be hard to consider the work of weblogs short of literary, even if they don’t fall into the category of ‘formal’ literature. But what about a blog about bathroom graffiti….?

Posted and Permanent

The Internet brings that which never before was visible into the light of the day, mingling public information with private tidbits from which the public should perhaps be spared.

In one sentence, Torill Mortensen can essentially sum up the moral of this entire post. While the rest of her article brings up many other important topics and lessons, I found this one to be the one that really stuck out to me, because it holds extreme relevance not only to the present, but also to the immediate future. While it may seem like you are anonymous online, what you search, look at, and especially post, is not invisible. A practice that is becoming commonplace when a new figure is introduced in the media has been for people to dig through their comprehensive social media history to search for anything that could be mildly offensive, regardless of time frame. Regardless of what you think of such behavior, at the end of the day, it’s a reminder that that a joke about x racial or social group that you thought was funny a number of years ago and tweeted may end up being what people judge you by today.

This idea is also vital to bloggers. Often, people think of blogs as an online journal or diary. Typically, such things are kept private to the person maintaining them, but since blogs are open domain, that privacy is revoked. For a blog to be successful, the blogger should be comfortable posting to their audience as if they were a close group of family or friends, but it is instrumental that they remind themselves of what they post is open domain. In other words, things that you say around friends and family can often vary from what you’d say to a group of strangers or acquaintances. Sometimes jokes can be misconstrued, or you say something that you’d later regret. Even then, those actions don’t have the same potential for repercussions that a similar post online will, because not only can anyone with a computer access it, but also, said person can download it, reproduce it, and spread it around in the public. While you want blogs to feel in a way like an open door into your mind, there needs to be some reservation, lest you attract unwanted attention towards yourself.

In my last post, I talked about the Paul brothers, particularly Logan Paul and the controversy surrounding his visit to the Japanese “Suicide Forest.” William posted an insightful comment that provided a strong counterpoint to the conventional reaction regarding that video. Rather than attempt to directly respond to that comment or just rag on Logan Paul like so many other people have been doing, I thought that this was a great jumping off point for an important lesson not only in online presence, but in general: Regardless of your intentions, and regardless of circumstances, you cannot control how others will react to your posting or actions.

The Logan Paul suicide forest vlog is relevant in this topic, so I’ll use it as an example once again. When Logan Paul first released the vlog, the first people to see it were, naturally, his immediate fan base, or subscribers. In the immediate aftermath of the posting, the video was not only doing well from a viewing perspective, but also had a seemingly uncontested 600,000 likes. Paul’s fan base, namely people between the ages of 10 and 16, had seemingly no problem whatsoever with the video. However, after the video began gathering attention from those outside his immediate fan base, that tranquility was swiftly thrown into chaos. Hundreds of thousands of reactions popped up surrounding the video instantly, be they comments on the video itself (before it was taken down), tweets, and videos. Eventually the story became so big that it reached national news. Upon reaching this level, public consensus was to condemn Paul. YouTube itself imposed strict sanctions on him, stripping him of his elite advertisement status, as well as canceling his upcoming film. Through this all, Paul’s fan base remained fiercely loyal to him, and not only that, grew at an even higher rate than it previously was in the aftermath of the release.

Paul, for his part, apologized multiple times in the video, essentially saying “I’m sorry that this happened, guys. This was supposed to be a fun vlog.” Now, while you could make the argument that running around in a forest noted for the number of suicides committed in it every year is hardly the setting for a “fun” vlog, that was Paul’s stated intention. After finding the corpse in the forest and filming it, Paul started giving a speech about how suicide is not the answer, telling those that are considering it to seek counseling and other outside help. Now, this doesn’t sound bad, but he also filmed this segment while standing just mere feet away from a person who had already made his choice. His speech almost seemed like he was addressing it to the corpse in multiple spots. Again, perhaps good intentions, but it’s easy to see why many people found that unsettling. Paul has since posted two apologies, the first being a tweet that many found too self-important and insensitive, and a video that came off as more genuine. Even after these apologies, Logan Paul still faces massive public outcry, and all eyes will be on how he handles himself coming out of this controversy. What he said was intended as a vlog to raise awareness for suicide and to promote an overall positive message has landed him in a massive media swirl, making him a prime example of the overall message Mortensen speaks of.




Blogging and What’s Next

With increased access to media over time, as well as the introduction of social media, the number of voices of there have gone up exponentially in just a short amount of time. Where once only the upper class elites could write and read, now anyone who wants to can put out their voice for people to see. While social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have taken over the internet as way for people to connect and express ideas, the blog has carved out a niche for itself as a way of telling more of a story than is possible in 140 characters. In the infancy of the internet, Cameron Barrett, a blogging pioneer, one could say, compiled a list of all the other blogs that he could find on the internet at the time. When he first made the list, back in 1998, it was only 23 links long. As of 2015, an estimated 28.3 million people updated a blog at least once per month, with that number set to increase to 31.7 million in 2018 (per Statista). The reason that so many people seem to be drawn to blogs is the same reason that people keep diaries, commonplace books, or even wrote letters. A blog can have numerous identities: personal, thematic, community-based, and many others, offering seemingly infinite ways for people to express themselves and their ideas.

Yet now, even as blogging has evolved from its infancy and become immensely popular, it looks to be undertaking a major transformation in terms of the medium that it will encompass. In the past few years, vlogging (video blogging) has not only risen in popularity, but grown so popular that certain personalities have multi-million person fan bases all across the world. The appeal of vlogging is the same as blogging in the sense that you get to see the world through another person’s eyes, in which you get a sense of what it is like to be someone else on a regular, if not daily, basis. However, instead of reading about that person’s life, you can watch it through a direct spectator view, sometimes with aspects of first person as well. Often, events are accompanied by commentary from the personality, explaining what it is they are doing and what they are feeling– a real time blog, in a sense.

The most prominent example of just how big vlogging has gotten over the past couple years would, of course, be the Paul brothers. While seemingly arrogant, sensationalist, and highly controversial, it’s hard to dispute the vast success of the brothers Logan and Jake. Since joining YouTube in 2017, Jake has amassed a subscriber count of 13 million people, while Logan has accumulated roughly 16 million over the same period of time. It’s worth noting that both brothers upload every single day, with each video averaging between 4 to 7 million views. Whereas blogging mainly caters to an older audience (median age of 38), vlogging has caught fire with the younger generation, mainly those in their early-to-mid teens. While a lot can be said about the influence that these videos can have over people of said demographic, negative press and publicity of the two brothers has only emboldened them, as well as grown their fame. Recently, Logan Paul filmed a vlog in which he entered the Aokigahara, or “Suicide Forest,” in Japan. While there, he encountered the body of someone who had died that day. The controversy stemmed mainly from Paul’s filming of the body, as well as making jokes about it, that in the moment, seemed crude. The thumbnail of the video featured the body posed next to Paul in such a way that it was essentially being treated as a prop. The backlash of this was quite swift and severe, yet despite all the negative press, Paul thrived, gaining subscribers at an even faster pace than he already was.

The infamous Logan Paul thumbnail. As if this wasn’t chilling enough, the vlog contained footage of Paul filming the body from mere feet away, only blurring the face.

With the success of the Paul brothers, vlogging channels have sprung up like wildfire on all platforms, with many people trying to emulate what has already proven to be wildly successful. The style of vlog that the Paul brothers produce is catered to the short attention span of the younger audience, with fast-moving, high intensity action scenes, with the dialogue included mostly coming from a personality with a lot of energy. The editing and filming of the vlogs is done in such a way that you are never given a chance to look away because something new and even more exciting is always happening. What has been seen in this style is that vloggers tend to set themselves up for failure. The nature of the vlogs, intended to have some crazy thing happen every time, while also being uploaded on a daily basis, sets up the scenario in which the vlogger has to up the ante with every vlog. Eventually, there’s no way to do such a thing unless you go to extreme lengths to do so (just like Paul in the Suicide Forest). So while vlogs have become the next big thing on the internet, it will be interesting to see if they can sustain the frantic pace that they not only encompass, but also through which they have gained popularity.

Getting the Boot

The last two weeks flew by, leaving me at times feeling like the caboose of a very long train just dragging behind. But yet, this caboose still reached the station (it’s okay to cringe). I’ll be honest, I didn’t post as much as I would’ve liked to, or probably should have, and more frequent posting is something that is definitely a major goal of mine coming out of boot camp. Regardless, I still learned a lot in these past weeks, even though it often was a trial by fire type of situation.

A major part of what I learned is that there’s quite a lot of moving parts to forging an online presence for yourself, though I still feel like I’m only touching the surface. RSS streams were a complete unknown quantity to me before this period, and I couldn’t have really told you much about Creative Commons other than that the name sounded familiar to me. I had no idea what a Gravatar was, or any idea how to set up a blog. While I don’t claim to be an expert on any of these things, I now at least have my feet under me, which is the point of this whole project.

In terms of posting, I’m the first to admit that I’ve been pretty bland. Expect a whole rack of spices to be assembled as the semester goes along, I’m talking nutmeg, cayenne pepper, maybe even some saffron. As I get more comfortable on this medium, I hope that I can make something has a bit more flavor than cream of rice. I’ll quit with this extended metaphor.

Regardless, here’s what I’ve done so far, with much more to come:

Taming Turtle Lake

RSS Feeds

What’s the Big Deal With Creative Commons?

Hey, Didn’t See You There