Rory for a day

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetI’m writing to you from the sweetest bed and breakfast that I’ve ever seen. Admittedly, also the only bed and breakfast I’ve ever seen. But there are all sorts of nooks and wood and fireplaces and croissant french toast and porch swings and coffee and, come on, it’s pink. I am in Starshollow (please don’t tell me otherwise).

Part of the quaintness of being here in the library is all of the print. Books, magazines and newspapers all around, including today’s copy of the New York Times. Although I’m ashamed to admit it, today is the first day that I’ve ever read the print version of the Times.

I just think it’s so telling that I think of a print paper as something quaint. Not outdated, or unnecessary, but quaint. People pay for quaint, right? Right?

Sometimes.

I don’t pay for the Times in print because I can read a good bit of it online for free. Then when I hit the paywall, I just go to a different online source. I also get a good bit of my news on-the-go, in circumstances in which I wouldn’t have time to whip out the old hold and fold.yaledaily

Having held the Times today, and discussed the future of digital in class, I believe that print has a little more to say for itself than “quaint.”

Today’s coverage of the Germanwings tragedy answered more questions than I knew I had. Three and a half full pages in print were thorough and engaging, while the online coverage provided its own unique graphics, images and stories.

So for today, I see the opportunity for digital and print to exist as complements of one another, not competitors. For today, I am Rory Gilmore and I want to write for the New York Times. Check back with me when I return to the Hill.

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On the cats of Beograd, memories & taking (too many) pics

serbz 645I have 4,491* pictures on my iPhone. When friends say, “Hey, remember that time sophomore year when…” I take out my phone and start scrolling, scrolling, scrolling… Until I give up because I have 4,491 pictures on my iPhone. I take a lot of pictures.

I enjoy having pictures to look back at and remember. As graduation gets closer, nostalgic me is glad that my past four years are so well-documented.

Of course I sometimes wonder whether I’m doing myself a disservice by not just enjoying the moment, especially when I’m in the midst of something that I really want to remember – like my time in Belgrade this past summer.

I spent two weeks soaking up the city and the people and taking very few pictures (at least in my book). The pictures that I did take weren’t necessarily beautiful or Insta worthy, but were realistic representations of my time there.

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T9 texting all day everyday on the phone I shared with 2 people.
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Observing what a flimsy cage stands between Mr. Lion and that human.
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Waiting on my friends who decided we needed to stop and film a cat showdown.
Trying to eat pizza while being hardcore judged by this cat.
Trying to eat pizza while feeling judged by this cat.

I’m thankful that I have these to jog my memory, and to show to others who want to know about Belgrade. (And to take note of the apparent cat theme that I missed until now…)

Then I went into tourist mode. I spent my last morning in the city taking pictures just for fun.

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For me, this was a perfect balance. I experienced Belgrade and snapped a few pics for the sake of memories and stories along the way. Then I devoted time to taking photos, itself an experience that I enjoy.

The fact that I wrestled with finding a balance to begin with reveals that I really value making memories (obviously) but also really value taking my own pictures. I bet a lot of Americans would say the same. We come together on Instagram, the fastest growing social network among U.S. adults, every single week on #tbt to celebrate these things. I love Instagram, and I would have a hard time deleting Facebook, my photo album of high school and early college.

Technology is constantly changing, but that doesn’t mean that the things that humans treasure are changing alongside of it. We should be thinking of new ways to draw on some of those constants, like creating art and nostalgia, to grow future online communities.

*Correction: 4,495 photos by the time that I finished writing this blog

News on Twitter

My past year in J-school has forced me to be a more faithful follower of current events. At first I got my news from papers – I had quizzes on local papers and the Daily Tar Heel. Since then, Twitter has become one of my main sources of news.

I still use Facebook, but only to keep up with friends and waste some time, not for news. In my opinion, it’s not great source.

For one thing, the things that pop up in my news feed are often more influenced by popularity than timeliness. That’s fine when it’s a Spring Break picture, but there have been multiple times that I’ve seen a story that someone posted at the top of my feed, thought, “No way. Not again,” and then realized that it was posted six days earlier, but had been liked by a friend recently.

And maybe other people are better readers than me. Maybe that’s just a pet peeve. A 2014 Pew study found that 30 percent of adult Americans on Facebook use it to get their news.

Plus a lot of friends my age don’t see the point of Twitter, but I definitely prefer it for news. Twitter is often where I first hear about a story, and what I turn to if I know that something is going down. One downside, of course, is that there are so so many tweets that ones that you would’ve liked to have seen can get lost if it’s not checked frequently enough.

Twitter is trying to provide a solution to that. In January, Twitter announced the “While you were away” feature that places a few tweets at the top of your feed as a recap.

“With a few improvements to the home timeline,” said Paul Rosania, product manager, “we think we can do a better job of delivering on that promise without compromising the real time nature of Twitter.”

I hope that this feature will improve the way that I get news from Twitter by recapping important stories if I haven’t been on for a while. However, I’m a little hesitant because Twitter is terrible at understanding what I care about (second only to Trivia Crack which sends me notifications to tell me that it misses me).

I follow a little bit of everything on Twitter: newspapers, UNC student services offices, celebrities, funny accounts, city governments and of course, friends. When Twitter recommends that I look at something, it’s usually because multiple accounts that I follow have interacted with it. So even though I mostly use Twitter to keep up with current events, whether serious or entertaining, Twitter seems to think I only care about Carolina basketball. Makes sense. Many of the friends that I follow have Carolina in common. But accounts that I get news from, say the New York Times and the Washington Post, are less likely to favorite the same thing, or interact with content at all.

What’s popular among the accounts I follow doesn’t necessarily mean it’s relevant to my interests and motives in getting on Twitter. I’m not bothered by the “while you were away” feature – I’ll scroll by it if I don’t care about it. Beyond that though, I hope that future updates will either leave my feed alone or ask me what I really care about.

The branding of biscuits

I’ve eaten my fair share of Biscuitville biscuits. That’s Biscuitville, not Bojangles. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good cajun filet every now and then, but eating at Biscuitville feels more…personal.

I have memories of going with my grandparents, who brought their own garden tomatoes and peeled them at the booth so that they wouldn’t have to pay for them. I remember going in and seeing biscuitvillefamily members working there. It was the fast food run of choice during high school free periods. And the best Biscuitville, the Church Street octagon(ish) Biscuitville, remains the site of reunions with high school friends.

Still, it took a lot of messages from Biscuitville to catch my attention.

Last year an updated billboard on the interstate caught my eye. New branding. I liked it. But I didn’t give it a second thought, and it certainly didn’t make me want to buy a biscuit any more than usual.

I heard that they launched a lunch menu, and I’ve been asking people from time to time if they’ve been bold enough to try it. That made me a little curious but also didn’t make me want Biscuitville more.

Last week when my friend drove back to school from Burlington with a huge, yellow pimento cheese coaster (which we laughed at), and then I came home to an equally large blue eggs coaster on my parent’s coffee table. This was the first time I looked it up. I followed Biscuitville on Twitter and Instagram to get a sense of bvlwhat it’s going for.

Biscuitville is indeed in the process of a makover. Two stores in particular are testing out the new look that goes along with a renewed emphasis on freshness and southern hospitality.

bvl instaAll of this background goes to say that it took a lot of time,  messages and a creative PR move (the coaster collection contest) to grab my attention – even for a brand that I had existing loyalty to and as a J-school student who takes notice of branding efforts. A bombardment of messages, from different directions is sometimes necessary to spark curiosity. Visibility is important, and social media is a good way to increase awareness at a low cost.

As for brand loyalty, I think social media plays an important role. Followers are reminded of the brand frequently, are up to date on current messages and offers and feel more connected when they are given the chance to participate.

Nextdoor app brings neighbors together

Today was the first time that I’ve ever heard of Nextdoor, a social networking app, but I’ll be paying attention to it over the next year. It’s been around for five years, and now has a $1.1 billion valuation.

Nextdoor is all about local community. There are currently 53,000 “mircocommunities,” and to become a member of one, users’ home addresses are verified. Creators hope this exclusivity creates a sense of privacy and security.

So, like YikYak, it connects people to those who are geographically close to them. Unlike YikYak, users’ posts are identifiable; posts cannot be made anonymously. Though YikYak’s anonymity has been a cause of controversy, I don’t see the two apps as competitors.

We created this company because we believe that the neighborhood is one of the most important and useful communities in a person’s life. We hope that neighbors everywhere will use the Nextdoor platform to build stronger and safer neighborhoods around the world.           |Nextdoor Mission Statement

Nextdoor has broader functions. Neighbors can sell things to neighbors, make product recommendations and get announcements directly from local government agencies that are Nextdoor partners. Product and service recommendations are most of the app’s content, and Nextdoor is currently thinking about how to use these recommendations to bring in ad money from local businesses. Nextdoor hopes to create credibility and trust between neighbors. And if people trust recommendation posts, this could be good for bringing in ads.

Nextdoor has not yet released the number of people who use the app, but I’m interested to see how well its catching on in different age groups.

Love you too, Facebook


My classmate Brooke introduced me to Facebook’s new suicide prevention features.

Initially I was very skeptical. But Facebook seems to have done their research, partnering with academics, nonprofits and suicide survivors and trying to stop system abuse before it happens. I should show some more respect. It is Facebook.

As of December 2014, it had 890 million daily active users, all of whom are touched by Facebook’s decisions. Still, I tend to put more responsibility on the individual than the movers and shakers of Facebook. No one is forced to use Facebook, or any other form of social media, so I see it as a member’s choice to use it as a tool, or to use it less, differently or not at all if they see it impacting them negatively.* Or maybe even a friend or loved one’s responsibility to point out these issues if they’re blind spots, but not Facebook’s.

I don’t necessarily like this, but think it’s just the way it is.

That’s why, like Brooke, I really appreciate and respect this act of corporate social responsibility. Facebook connects its users, whether for good or for bad. But, recognizing the value of social connections in suicide prevention, they have taken advantage of their opportunity to provide users with additional positive tools. They have given users, a heck of a lot of people, another feature to use responsibly.

Not a half-bad PR move, either.

Facebook, which I would tend to think of as a huge, impersonal institution, has sent out a message that they care about individuals (the new ads help, too). High five, Facebook. I love you, too.

And since we think that social media has the potential affect people negatively, but just can’t seem to get enough of it, I expect to see more positive efforts from social media sites in the future.

*I’m speaking to user responsibility and negative impact generally. I’m not suggesting that using Facebook is connected to increased risk of suicide.

The highlights reel

One should use the camera as though tomorrow he would be stricken blind. Then the camera becomes a beautiful instrument for the purpose of saying to the world in general: ‘This is the way it is. Look at it, look at it.’ -Dorthea Lange

I’m in the research phase of a campaign aimed at lowering mental health stigma on campus. One of the challenges is figuring out the most effective way to spread messages on social media. While conducting an interview this week, I gIMG_8922ot a response that I didn’t expect:

“How likely would you be to share this photo or a photo like this on social media?”

“Pretty unlikely. Considering I don’t use social media.”

Oh. Noted.

My friend went on to explain why they weren’t a fan of social media. Social media, they say, often gives more attention to “news” that doesn’t matter instead of real stories and issues (#TheDress). It also acts as a highlights reel, showing only the “Instagramable” parts of life, and not the more realistic, ugly parts. This, they said, is bad for mental health.

Mental health- that’s why I’m researching. They had my attention.

It seems that spending a lot of time on social media can lead to increased feelings of loneliness and depression. Enough time spent on social media can take away from time that would be spent with others, creating more loneliness. Pictures can create the illusion that everyone else’s lives are better than your own.

In a 2012 survey by Anxiety UK, 53% of participants reported that using social media changed their behavior, and 51% said that change was negative, that comparison to friends led to feelings of inadequacy.

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Seeing only the beautiful, edited images that people want others to see can feed into the lie that their lives are perfect and easy when this isn’t necessarily the case.

I began writing in hopes of pointing out that I do this too. I planned to go back to an ugly time in my iPhone album to show you a real life picture beside the pretty one I chose to Instagram on the same day. But I realized that I didn’t really have the pictures that Dorthea Lange talked about. The “this is the way it is pictures” weren’t taken, much less shared.

I don’t think that social media is the best way to communicate about personal problems. But when problems do exist, it’s important to remind ourselves, and remind others, that we’re usually seeing the highlights reel.