Guidelines and Balance: Monitoring an Online Community

Week 12 Process Post

In a digital world, the comment section of any online space can look like a war zone. It has become increasingly easy to hide behind the security of ones screen and launch negative comments like virtual rounds of an automatic rifle.

Creating an open online space also means an open space for the darker side of the internet in regards to online comments, shaming, and negative feedback on a publishers content.

In the article “The Psychology of Online Comments” by Maria Konnikova, it is explained how numerous websites have created community guidelines by removing the comment section. Although the anonymous space of the internet plays can key role in creativity, it can also lend a hand to concepts such as the online disinhibition effect and the diffusion of responsibility and encourage un-civil behaviour (Konnikova, 2013).

Personally, I have not yet had an experience with “trolls” or negative online comments (which could be due to the fact that my blog is basically unseen by the public eye). However, in the case that I do blow up as an online blogging internet sensation, I have outlined below a couple of my own community guidelines for my own website:

  1. Regulate the comment section: comb through the comments to remove any overly negative, rude, or inappropriate comments that take away from the general “vibe” of the site. AKA, keep things happy, inclusive, and fun. Life is hard enough and I don’t need something as silly as the comments section of my website to promote anger and hate.
  2. Create a sense of balance (for myself and my readers): Although it can be easy to only focus on combing out negativity, I also want to make a point of responding to positive comments and highlighting little pieces of encouragement and joy that has been created within my online space,. This could be done by making a “community sunshine patch” page that works to highlight the more “sunny” portions of my online community. For instance, I could repost testimonials regarding positive feedback on this page such as “I tried this recipe and my family loved it!!!”, or “I started a daily stretching routine and I finally feel like I’ve claimed a space for zen in my own mind”. Another thing that I could do with this “community sunshine patch” page would be to screenshot and highlight positive interactions between commenters to encourage others to engage with one another and make an online family (awwww).
  3. Display a set of descriptive community guidelines on the homepage of my website that clearly states that this page will not tolerate any slandering or hate towards others, gender, age, abilities, viewpoints on topics, race, or religion. Basically telling commenters to be open minded, respectful, and kind.

Works Cited: Konnikova, Maria. 2013. “The Psychology of Online Comments”. http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/the-psychology-of-online-comments

Trans-media Integration

Week 11 Process Post

This week, I am reflecting upon ways that I have integrated different forms of media within the content of my website in order to make it eye catching and interactive for readers and page visitors. At the beginning of the semester, my plan was to integrate different channels of media into my blog such as photos, videos, music, references to alternate websites such as Pinterest, and links to alternate pages such as sites for recipes and additional readings. By doing so, I aimed to create different levels of story telling that added to the general theme of a “life well lived” hoping to layer content that applied to all areas of life, to best fit the idea of “A Blog for Life Livers”. Much like how Henry Jenkins explains Transmedia Storytelling in his article “Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: Seven Principles of Transmedia Storytelling (Well, Two Actually, Five More on Friday)”, I worked to integrate different channels of media into my website in such a way that accounted for the idea that “each medium makes its own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story” (Jenkins, 2009). Although Jenkins’ article mainly refers to Transmedia integration in relation to multiverses and fan fiction, I believe that this concept still applies to my website and the creation of my blog as I looked to use multiple channels of media integration within my site to “enhance engagement and expand ones understanding (Jenkins, 2009) and help readers dive deeper into a life well lived.

Works cited:

Henry Jenkins. “The Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: Seven Principles of Transmedia Storytelling (Well, Two Actually. Five More on Friday).” Henry Jenkins, Henry Jenkins, 12 Dec. 2009, henryjenkins.org/2009/12/the_revenge_of_the_origami_uni.html. 

Monster Insights Reflection

Week 10 Process Post

This week, I am looking at the data collected through monster insights. I was surprised to the the number of page views that my website had and was expecting a lot less as the only people that I am aware of who have seen my site are my parents, a few friends that I have sent it to for a “second set of eyes”, and the classmates that have had to peer review my page. In addition to this, I was also surprised by the avgerage session duration on my website. I fully expected it to be quite low but an average session time of 4 minutes (3.58 min) is more than I expected from my small community of viewers. Ideally, I would like this number to increase as it would mean that people are wanting to “stay a while” and engage with my content. From this data, I feel more inspired to make some more eye catching graphics that pull users in, as well as more blog posts such as my “forest foraging ” post and my “magic: sometimes lost but always found” as they are my most popular/ best received posts. In addition to this, the 40.83% bounce rate on my blog was a tough metric. Meaning that 40.83% of people viewing my website arrive at my landing page, and then “bounce” without looking any further, totalling in almost 50% of my engagement being through single paged visits. Ouch. However, I do wonder if I have contributed to this metric through all of the times that I look up my own website to “check it out” and then quickly exit off it. In all, I found the metrics from monster insights very helpful and am taking away the motivation to create more using engaging content now that I can see what makes the people stay.

Social Media: Expanding or Narrowing Our View? Personal Response

Week 9 Process Post

Journalism and media have expanded in many ways in recent years and have allowed an entire new platform of journalism and news sharing to emerge from the internet. However, the idea of what constitutes news has changed its shape to become a much more loosely defined term. For instance, we have become accustomed to forms of news such as “soft news” and “infotainment” that are less concerned with important global events, and are more directed towards appealing to emotions, entertainment, and sensationalized, catchy headlines. Whether we realize it or not, the news we are exposed to is filtered and narrowed to fit our own biases, even when we think that we are seeing the “full truth” or “expanding” our viewpoints. Factors such as proximity, the introduction of hard and soft news, and what we subconsciously select as “newsworthy” when reading/ viewing the news all impact the information that we are receiving in the age of digital media. For instance, proximity influences the news we see and is a byproduct of the subconscious tendency to care more about what is in our direct community/ culture. Often, we contrast a narrative that fits our normal scope of daily life and cultures because we feel more closely related to it, and therefore more drawn to reading and empathizing with this kind of media. For example, as Canadians, we are more drawn to events that involve Canada because it seems more relevant to our daily lives and close to home. The two avenues of news (hard and soft news) also plays a large role in what type of digital media we choose to consume and contributes towards our own narrowed vision of the social world. We have become more drawn to sensationalized news stories and the media has used this as an agenda setting tool to decide on which topics will grab the most public attention. This has set a new norm of what is considered political, and we have started to expect more personalized/ appealing/ flashy coverage of news. This gradual shift in how our news is packaged has shaped a narrowed viewpoint on media and news in more ways than we may realize and has made it become increasingly harder to differentiate credible information online.  

How I Got My Attention Back: The Debrief.

Week 7 Process Post

“Could I go offline for a month?”

The answer?

Yes. You can....and it was awesome.

A month ago, I asked myself, “could I go offline for a month?”. I had just finished reading Craig Mod’s article “How I Got My Attention Back” and I was deeply inspired to reflect upon my own social media habits. I felt as if his article spoke directly to me and my social media addiction and I knew I wanted to change. On October 1st, I called up two of my friends and made a pact with them to go off the social media sites of our choice for a full month. During the course of our break we aimed to observe ourselves and reflect upon our lives before, during, and after, and to report back to each other afterwards. Before starting this one month social media hiatus I was both excited and nervous, but more than anything, very ready to cut my ties with the world of likes, posts, and snaps. This break was a long time coming and this article seemed to fall into my lap at the perfect time, giving me the perfect excuse to press pause on my social media presence.

Now, a month later, the hiatus has come to an end.
You may be wondering how it went.
To sum it up, it was great.

My screen time on my phone went down exponentially, I started getting out of bed faster, I became more productive and focused while doing homework, and last but not least, my mind felt like it had one less thing to worry about. It soon became apparent that I actually didn’t miss using Instagram at all, and it was easier than I thought to stop caring about checking my friends Instagram stories or posting my own content to “stay relevant”. Before the Instagram break, I often felt like I had to always make an Instagram post or upload a story to show people how “great” my life was and uphold an image of being an “artsy” Instagram user. By not using the app, it felt like an invisible weight was lifted off my shoulders and I realized that no one actually cared if I posted a picture or a story, and that my “image” was just an expectation that I created for myself. I recently spoke to one of my friends about our time off Instagram, and we both came to the conclusion that our time away made us realize that we really don’t care that much about what everyone else is doing, or at least what everyone else is posting, and that what truly matters is the people who are closest to us in our lives. As brutal as it might sound, realizing that we could care less about “connecting” with hundreds of followers and friends was a very grounding thought. It highlighted that at the end of the day, the friends and loved ones that I have “offline” are the ones that are a part of my daily life whether or not I am on social media.
I hardly thought about my time off Snapchat during my hiatus, because quite frankly, I did not think twice about deleting Snapchat and have no desire to get it back. I found that once I deleted the app, I became a much better communicator. Rather than being stretched in what felt like a bunch of different directions, trying to answer a multitude of people across different platforms and hold constant conversations, I only had one method of talking to my friends (texting and calling) and I was able to focus my attention and energy on one mode of communication. All of my texts and calls were intentional messages and my quality of texting increased greatly. Beforehand, I was known for forgetting to respond and leaving people on “read” for hours and days on end, whereas now, since I only had one way of talking to my friends, I made a greater effort to answer. By being forced to talk to my friends solely through texting and calling, it made me identify who the core people are in my life. It helped me realize that there are a handful of people who no matter what, I will go out of my way to communicate with regardless of Instagram or Snapchat, and that these are the people in my life that deserve my time and attention.

In all, I found that it was a much needed lifestyle change to delete social media from my life for a month. I found that not only did I not miss it, but I preferred my life without it. I found that I had let apps such as Instagram consume way too much of my conscious and subconscious thought, and that I was deeply absorbed in a world that doesn’t actually matter. By not spending my spare moments scrolling through my phone, I had more time to focus on homework and overall was more productive. I found that I actually had more time in my day than I used to believe and that I was able to complete tasks way faster when I wasn’t thinking about my phone. Going forward, I have decided to delete Snapchat permanently and to keep Instagram, but only have the app downloaded on my iPad rather than my phone. This way, I am able to keep my phone distraction free, and continue building on the momentum I gained this past month of reduced screen time and using my phone solely for communication purposes.

The main takeaways of my social media vacation:

1) Instagram is not that important

2) The friends and people that matter in your life will find ways to reach out and connect with you no matter what. You do not need social media to “stay in touch” with people.

3) I don’t actually care that much about what other people are posting, and it felt really nice to no longer be constantly viewing other peoples “highlight reels”.

4) Without social media, I liked that my phone was actually used as a “phone” and was a communication tool and nothing more.

5) I am much more productive without Instagram or Snapchat on my phone.

Works cited:
Mod, Craig. “How I Got My Attention Back.” Wired, Conde Nast, 22 Dec. 2018, www.wired.com/2017/01/how-i-got-my-attention-back/.

Peer Review 2 Reflection

Week 6 Process Post

After reflecting upon the “Procrastireader’s” peer review of my blog, I found I was able to take the constrictive criticism from Tonia and use it to better improve my page. I really appreciated the feedback and found it really helpful to have a fresh set of eyes to view my page and improve the content and visual appearance of my site through Victoria’s suggestions.

For Instance, I took Victoria’s suggestion in cleaning up the appearance of my home page. I had been wrangling with trying to have a homepage video that played on a 14 second loop, but was constantly running into the problem of it loading and working on some computers and not working on others. When Victoria said that my blog had a nice “minimalistic” white space on the homepage, I knew that the video had not loaded for her, and if my peers are seeing an empty blank page when they see my site for the first time, that is was time to put this Tom foolery to an end. I later removed they video, went back to the drawing board, and worked to re create the homepage using photos rather than a large video file (Thank you for helping me decide to make this switch!!). In addition to this, I also switched around the menu underneath the “we hope you find what you’re looking for” heading. I agree, it wasn’t looking very polished and didn’t quite fit the theme of the website. I found the suggestion of adding a “writing, poetry & short stories” section super helpful – I hadn’t thought of doing that and after reading that suggestion, it seemed like something I should have done all along to make the website more user friendly. It also inspired me to write more stories and poetry since all the posts that received the highest feedback were the ones that were either my poems or my short stories!! In addition to this, I went in to my posts afterwards and fixed the grammatical errors that were pointed out and fixed the inconsistency with titles on my blog and process posts.
In all, Victoria called me out on all of the little details on my website that I was either neglecting, was too lazy to fix, or had looked at so many times, not realized that they were an issue all together. I definitely feel more inspired to spruce up my page by adding more photos and more creative content so thank you, I really appreciated your thoroughness and attention to detail in your peer review of my site!!

Online Disinhibition Effect

Week 4 Process Post

Out of the six behaviours of John Suler’s “The Online Disinhibition Effect” , I feel that the behaviour of asynchronicity aka “See You Later” most reflects my online self (Suler, 2004). I often find myself leaving people on “read” like its my day job. Interacting with people in “non” real time over platforms such as email and online messaging platforms I often get overwhelmed with the idea of an instant message requiring an instant response and am disinhibited by the idea that over text and email I have the ability to close the screen and choose what/when I want to respond and often use it as a get out of jail free card to take my time when it comes to replying. However, I believe that the weird set of rules created by online messaging/ interaction that dictates an immediate message needing an equal immediate response inhibits the ability to allow ourselves to take time whatever time we may need to respond.

Works cited: Suler, John. 2004. Psychology of Cyberspace – The Online Disinhibition Effect, truecenterpublishing.com/psycyber/disinhibit.html.

How I Got My Attention Back

Week 3 Process Post

“Could I go offline for a month?”

The question circulated through my mind as I read Craig Mod’s article “How I Got My Attention Back”. How long had it been since I really went offline? Sure, I have gone for week long camping and hiking trips where my phone is put on airplane mode, but that has always been followed by instantly posting pictures of the trip to instagram, checking to see what I “missed” on Snapchat, and “catching up” on other social media sites as soon as I got back home and into cell service. Plus, while on adventures and trips my days are filled with activities and spending time with friends where our phones are stored away in our bags and doesn’t really count as removing social media from my actual daily life. Instagram was first created in 2010, and a year later in 2011, I downloaded the app and made my account. I have had instagram since I was 11, meaning that I have been using the app 9 out of the 10 years that it has been around. For 9 straight years I have been scrolling, posting, and liking photos without a second thought. As I read the article, Mod’s words seemed to be talking directly to me, can I sit quietly in a room alone? How many days do I start by turning my phone alarm off and instantly clicking on instagram, checking Snapchat, or scrolling on VSCO? One of the most prominent quotes from Mod’s article was regarding a having a healthy mind and gaining control over our own attention:

“Attention is a muscle. It must be exercised. Though, attention is duplicitous — it doesn’t feel like a muscle. And exercising it doesn’t result in an appreciably healthier looking body. But it does result in a sense of grounding, feeling rational, control of your emotions — a healthy mind.”

(Mod, 2018)

I had noticed that over the past couple years it has become increasingly hard for me to focus my own attention while reading (especially for schoolwork) and that almost always, I’d read a paragraph or two and instantly reach down for my phone, go on a social media app, and only then after a couple minutes of scrolling be able to return to my reading. It seemed as if my brain was squirrelly and quickly became restless if I was away from my phone for too long. I was unable to focus on anything other than the idea of checking my instagram or answering a snapchat and wouldn’t be able to think of anything else or read another line until I satisfied the overwhelming urge to check my phone. This often happened throughout other moments in my day too, whether it was while I was riding the bus, sitting in a lecture, or eating a meal, I would find that in moments of stillness, I could not sit with my own mind.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” wrote Blaise Pascal. Did any of us remember how to sit quietly, alone, without a phone in hand?

(Mod, 2018)

I remember reading the quote above and thinking, “why am I like this?”, “Why can’t I sit through a lecture and not pull out my phone?”, “Why do I seem to always feel the need to be either posting a story or a picture instagram?” And “why do I care so much?”.

Needless to say, I recognized that it was time for a change. After reading the article I reached out to two of my friends and proposed the idea of going “offline” for a month. Obviously neither one of us could go completely offline as our schooling is all online, but we could go off all social media and were excited at the prospect of doing so. We each identified which apps we spent the most time on and over the phone lined up what we were going to cut off during our personal hiatuses. For myself, Instagram had to go. Next was Snapchat, VSCO, and Facebook. These were all the apps I found myself spending the most time on and that I often use to compare myself to others and have not the best for my overall mental health. Starting October 1st until November 1st, myself and two of my friends are logging off/ deleting all of the social media apps that either a) we spend a too much time on or b) have negatively effected our mental well being. In the time that I spend off of social media, I am planning on substituting the time I normally would spend on my phone with journaling each night before I go to bed, going for walks, finishing my book, and hopefully getting more homework done!! Another thing that I hope to accomplish while off of social media is spending more quality time chatting with my roommates. Often, when we’re hanging around the house or eating a meal together our phones are in our hands and our attention is split between the real world and our virtual worlds. I am looking forward to no longer feeling the need to be scrolling through instagram while sitting on the couch and hanging out with my roommates and to give those around me 100% of my attention.

Works cited:
Mod, Craig. “How I Got My Attention Back.” Wired, Conde Nast, 22 Dec. 2018, www.wired.com/2017/01/how-i-got-my-attention-back/.

Digital dressing up: Reflection

Week 5 Process Post

After reading the article “Digital dressing up: modelling female teen identity in the discursive spaces of the fashion blogosphere” by Tara Chittenden I felt as if I was able to relate the concept of using fashion and self expression as a tool for “emerging teen identity” (Chittenden, 2010).

When I was younger (starting around age 12 to my late teens), I always thought that I had to have a “style”. I felt the need to align who I wanted to be on the inside with how I presented myself on the outside and I would craft my wardrobe around each new stylistic phase: sporty, Pacific Northwest-y, surfy, tomboy, etc.. I would work to tailor each piece of clothing to fit the certain identity that I wanted to create for myself.

Much like Chittenden’s article, my ideaology surrounding my own female teen identity was linked with the idea that “Most teens are concerned with reconciling how they perceive themselves with how they are perceived. By trying out different expressions of identity, receiving feedback from peers, and figuring out how to modify fashion, posture and language, teens gain self-esteem in the impression they make.” And that “The relationship between fashion and social capital means that teens are constantly monitoring how they look for anything which might contradict their perceived ‘fit’ into teen culture” (Chittenden, 2010).

This occurred over and over again throughout my teenage years and even with my taste in music, I would only listen to one genre at a time. Bound to the idea that I had to find one “style” that summarized what I liked so that when people asked what I listened to, I could have an acceptable answer and could avoid the eye roll that came from saying “I like everything”. I believed that I had to have “a favourite”, because that’s what I had learned was cool. To have a favourite artist, a favourite song, a favourite genre, a certain way of dressing, a certain classification of self identity. For years, I worked endlessly to find the ultimate way of presenting myself that I could select above the rest and finally have a path that was clear and made sense to others.

However, the more I tried to limit myself and hone in on just one thing, the more I realized that I’d get bored of wearing one style of clothing, listening to one kind of music, or pursing one type of hobby. I liked everything and had an appreciation for all sorts of “styles”. I felt jumbled, like my passions and interests were always pulling me in multiple different directions, and that I had no clear “self identity”.

Fast forward to present day, where I found myself back to the same predicament as we were required to create an online “image” for ourselves for our publishing wordpress domains. How could I ever find a singular interest to present as my “online identity” on my website? It seemed that I could find little pieces of myself everywhere and that all my hobbies and interests were stretched widely across the board. I love to write, take photos, make videos, read books, adventure, explore, and dabble in more sports and hobbies that I can even keep track of, so why do I have to chose one idea and forget about the rest?

This is where the idea of “A Blog For Life Livers” came from. Before creating my blog, I found myself thinking, “what if we aren’t just one thing?” “What if your style could be no style at all, but just a selection of different random pieces and sounds that move you and bring you joy?” What if what shapes us are unique layers of different thoughts and experiences, and when combined with each other, make a mosaic of human individuality that displays more colour and depth than a singular blanketed statement of self identity ever could. I believe that this idea is the first step towards breaking away from the belief that so many of us carry in our teenage years that order to “be somebody” you had to be “something”. The idea that we need to categorize ourselves and those around us into groupings based on what “type” of person we are. Whether it is through our style, our taste in music, and now our online self.

Going forward, I decided to create my online identity for my blog in a way that invited all who simply live life to take whatever it is they need from a wide variety of content. Whether it was stories, videos, poems, or random photography from experiences and adventures, that there would be something for everyone. I wanted to create a site that threw the idea of choosing “one” way of presenting ourselves and our style out the window. Whether it’s online, in the music I listen to, or in the fabric of the clothes I wear, here’s to a sense of self that allows the room to let things be. Here’s to accepting the idea of everything, and realizing that what I once viewed as “stretched widely across the board” is actually an appreciation of all of the different wonders that life has to offer.

Works cited: Tara Chittenden. 2010. “Digital dressing up: modelling female teen identity in the discursive spaces of the fashion blogosphere.”Journal of Youth Studies http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13676260903520902

Personal Cyberinfrastructure Reflection

Week 2 Process Post

A personal Cyberinfrastructure is a concept that has been around for many years, however, now more than ever it has become increasingly relevant in today’s schooling. A personal Cyberinfrastructure is the idea that one can create an extension of their intellect online, and that this extension allows users to become the master of their own digital voice. An online presence has become more and more imperative to our learning processes as students and this involvement with the online world only increases as we enter the workforce. Currently as a student, my Cyberinfrastructure (or lack thereof) consists of scattered digital footprints of archived blog posts, old school projects lost in the stream of YouTube videos, and numerous files of essays, papers, and powerpoints, saved on my laptop, never to be seen again. However, as a social media user, my personal Cyberinfrastructure is much more developed. My social media Cyberinfrastructure is primarily used as a sharing platform for pictures from my adventures and the hobbies that I do with my friends. I use my instagram as a highlight reel of my adventure photos and as a way to showcase my work as both a photographer and cinematographer. I have worked to create an online identity as an outdoor enthusiast/ content creator as I am passionate about film, adventure cinematography, and capturing candid moments of joy and the human experience. At the same time however, my personal Cyberinfrastructure uses me, and I often find myself feeling “bound” to a certain way of posting on my Instagram. I often catch myself feeding into the belief that I’ve created a certain “personality” online and that I have to uphold. I hope to develop my personal Cyberinfrastructure as a student as in-depth as I have for my social media presence and I think that the experience that I have gained developing myself online as a social media personality will transfer over to developing my online presence as a student.