Big Fat Screw Up

(Image courtesy of

Walmart. Always a target. Always.

Walmart is no stranger to controversy whether it is from their employment practices, their paid wages, where their stuff is made, or any other reason you can think of. Recently their online site has come under criticism for something posted that may, or may not, have been intentional. Either way, everyone can agree that the newest flub is quite a big fat screw-up.

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Emotional Engineering: Has Facebook been messing with my mind?

Yes, I admit, I am a fan of conspiracy theories. In a nutshell, I prefer to watch over Big Brother, than letting Big Brother watch over me. Recently I viewed a Vice episode about Brazil’s Retaliation of FIFA, World Cup 2014, and the upcoming Olympics. A very surprising example of Digital Eyes of Mordor is the multitude cameras installed by the government in a few of most notoriously troublesome slums surrounding the World Cup stadium. The show argues that the cameras have been installed to spy on the population, as opposed to using these constantly live streams to respond quickly to gang activities and other extremely dangerous situations occurring in the slums daily.

But do we really need to go as far as Brazil to find some concrete reasons for concern relating to our freedom of opportunity? Not really! Although in its core, the Internet is supposed to allow us all to connect freely. Certainly, the “freely” aspect has been rapidly challenged in recent years. Concerns relating to Net Neutrality, for example, are on the forefront of many social media scholars.

There’s really no need going that far, though. Even if you are not a conspiracy theorist, I am sure you have also noticed how your personal information, Google searches, and location coordinates are being constantly pinging away all manners of personal data from your digital devices. Where does it all go? Some black cloud or the Death Star? I sure don’t know.

One of the creepiest things I have been noticing in the past year or so, is how Facebook “nonchalantly” reorganizes my feed, grouping certain updates together. Most of the time they are harmless, border-lining ridiculous. Nonetheless, the scrutiny over MY private info is disturbing. And I have often wondered about who makes the decisions regarding what I see on my wall, and what is it that I don’t get on my feed?

But it gets even worst! Apparently, in January 2012 “Facebook identified 689,003 English speaking users to run a psychological experiment on, for the duration of a week. They began to manipulate the newsfeed of a group of these users to remove posts with a negative emotion attached to them, and removed all posts with a positive emotion for the other group. The objective of the study – can we be emotionally influenced by what we see in our Facebook newsfeed? And if so, how much?” (Singh, 2014)

This tale gets even creepier. What Facebook has done is performing A/B testing-type experiment. Even though the ethics of such approach are certainly questionable, all the legal concerns are ironed perfectly in the company’s Terms of Service document all Facebook users must sign prior to starting socializing.

Sadly, Facebook isn’t the only social networking platform to use us as guenea pigs. On the Contrary!

“In fact – this is true for most (if not all) social networks. LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest – all of these websites are designed and engineered to influence us to click more, engage more and interact more with them. The nature of their algorithms is never revealed, but one thing is always made clear – they’re doing all they can to give us as much relevant content as possible.” (Singh, 2014)

 Emotional Engineering

Photo courtesy Social Media Today website

   Yet the most disturbing aspect of such hidden, but ongoing experiments are focused on emotional engineering — which has been Facebook’s business model from the very start. (Singh, 20134)

In a way, Facebook proved that “by taking a group of close to 700,000 – proved that if push comes to shove, sway the opinion of the 1.3+ billion people that use the service.” So what happens if a “political candidate that’s backed by a network like Facebook essentially be able to get more votes?” (Singh, 2014)

Scary, isn’t it?

But are you really surprised?




Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Now. (n.d.). Free Press. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from

Singh, A. R. (2014, July 1). Facebook’s Been Running Psychological Experiments On You. RSS. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from

Forgive But Never Forget

What happens to the way we share when the Internet has a problem forgetting?  What happens to our sense of identity when we have to be so careful and crafty about every little thing we post?  On the one hand, people adapt and take on a kind of social media identity, like speaking a new language. On the other hand, the culture causes some to opt out and lay low like hiding in a basement until the storm passes.

I don’t blame them.  “Up to 70% of employers who have used LinkedIn say they’ve chosen not to hire a person based on what they’ve found out about them online” (Forbes, see Reference).  My friend has a name that coincides with a porn star’s—nothing against porn stars—and she’s a dance teacher running her own dance production.  The recommendation (also by Forbes) is to leave no room for mistakes—i.e., “look for ways to differentiate yourself”—which some people have to consider these days.


(The Latest Trend For Bridesmaids Is To Pull Up Their Dresses And Show Off Their Butts:

Now say an employer Googles the name of an applicant and finds that five years ago she was involved in a scandal case the ruling of which dubbed her completely innocent.  Still, this case becomes an impeding factor working against her favor until it is completely stricken from Internet search results, which likely is never because of ingenious caching mechanisms comprised as components of advanced Internet search algorithms.  This is a hypothetical that we commonly see in actual instances.  It is mentioned in blogs, essays, and commentaries; how are we called to relook at ‘forgiveness’ in this digital age?

On the other side of the spectrum we take a look at user behavior online.  This gripping short was introduced to us in a grad communications course.  We follow a coming of age teenager as his relationship slides into a digital ditch.  Oh, and the entire 17-minute movie takes place on a computer screen.  The short does an outstanding job presenting a story and how relationships carry on over the Internet, and in this case, how one can unravel amid social media.  It also offers another glimpse at the Internet backscratcher analogy and how we best think before we click.


[“Noah” short (NSFW):

A suggestion to employers: don’t overreact.  Digging up bachelor weekend photos from a potential future employee doesn’t amount to much these days.  If they currently make sexy videos on the side, that’s another thing.

The perennial reminder to all of us: if it’s private, it ain’t for posting.  We’re warned that Snapchat, in spite of its ‘auto-erase’ functionality, can be hacked if the receiver uses a third-party application to save the incoming photos and videos.  On different mediums I step out first to admit that I constantly have to learn about privacy the hard way.  A simple analogy: the Internet places a million metal back-scratchers at our ready.  Upon the slightest ‘itch’ we are encouraged to ‘scratch it’–i.e., take a picture, share it, allow so-and-so app to access it forever and ever.  Knowing when to scratch and when to let a needless urge go away could turn up a useful skill in this generation.  We’re in it together in this journey to digital fluency. We will—and we must—adapt and become smarter, more cognizant participants of social media lest the Internet fall in on itself, or fall prey to red-eyed digital bandits.



Ambrose, M. L. (2012). Seeking digital redemption: the future of forgiveness in the internet age. ExpressO. Retrieved from

Berkowitz, J. (2013). You need to see this 17-minute film set entirely on a teen’s computer screen. Fast Company.  Retrieved from

Hamlin, R. (2011, January 14). Forgiveness might still be possible in the digital age, but how do we forget? HuffPost: Religion. Retrieved from

Hamilton, D. (2011, September 29). The virtue of forgiveness, not forgetting, in the digital age. Divinia Hamilton Blog. Retrieved from

Jacobs, D. L. (2013, May 17). How an online reputation can hurt your job hunt. Forbes. Retrieved from

O’Brien, J. (2014, May 11). Snapchat not sexting-safe, cops warn. Toronto Sun: London Free Press.  Retrieved from

The Takeover: Instagram and Advertising

Hey digital mavens! Over time past couple of years we’ve watched with amazement as Instagram has grown to a global community with millions and millions of people who take photos and share these rare moments through Instagram.

I don’t know if you have noticed how certain brands we love have Instagram pages that are so flawlessly done. These advertisements you see feel as natural to Instagram as the photos and videos from many of your friends. I in particular follow Starbucks :

ImageJust a glimse at their Instagram and your intrigue by their clever way of marketing the brand of Starbucks. I am always saying “Wow” how did they think of that photo or video. Starbucks is one of the brands that are marketing masters through Instagram, with 2.5 million followers Starbucks is a brand that knows how to market well on Instagram. The key of creating a creating such a postive look to a brand through social media is to connect emotionally with your audience.

On Instagram their are other companies who have took avadgtave of marketing on Instargram in the last couple of years. Since “Instagram – which was bought by Facebook for $1billion in 2012 – introduced ads to its US audience in November. In a blog post, Instagram said advertisers had positive results which “in some cases [were] well above the ad industry’s average for performance”. The app said it had over 200 million users worldwide.” BBC News This proves that marketing on a social app is something most brands should do. Getting closer to the consumer and creating an emotional connect through their brand is the best way gain exposure.

What I really love about Starbucks being on Instagram is that the vast majority of the images on Starbucks’ are fan submitted images of from locations around the globe. The company encourages its followers to post their own Starbucks photos, along with a campaign-focused hashtag to connect the visual content back to its brand. People can add comments and likes and build a whole conversation around the looks the fans have created. I have yet to have my personal photos of Starbucks posted on their page, but one day I know I’ll make it. ImageBut even if I don’t, I enjoy how such a brand can flawlessly connect with its consumer and build its momentum through such a digital driven world.  Oh man how I love the branding of Starbucks. Comment below digital mavens and share your insights below! 


Gittleson, Kim. Instagram expands ads to the UK, Canada, and Australia. June 2014

Social Media and the Bystander Effect

Imagine you’re witnessing something newsworthy like a fight or a burning building. What would be your first instinct? To help, to call the authorities, or to pull out your camera phone to record the event? For many, the answer is to record it on their phone, but why? According to some social psychologists this is a new incarnation of what psychologists call the bystander effect.

The phenomenon was originally studied after the murder of a New York City woman, Kitty Genovese. Thirty people witnessed the violent murder but no one reported it or attempted to help the woman. Psychologists attribute this to the idea that people will not help out if others are present, the bystander effect. In other words, everyone assumes that someone else will, or already has, helped out. In today’s culture, this effect has given rise to the behavior of filming or otherwise documenting an event instead of stepping in. This action is connected to the bystander effect, but on a different level: people believe that documenting an event, like the Stanley Cup riots, and sending it to the authorities is helping out. This may be a step toward being less passive, but still doesn’t prevent the event from happening.

Similarly, the bystander effect may be well at work on sites like Facebook. For example, I’ve seen many friends share their friends’ Kickstarters to urge people to donate money too their projects. However these people don’t usually donate, and instead, they simply share the Kickstarter. According to one article, this is because people believe strongly in their own social capital, that sharing a link is the equivalent of a monetary donation. The article uses the example of Veteran’s Day, and how people on Facebook were suggesting helping veterans. While most everyone would agree to help them, several factors contribute to the bystander effect and prevent anyone from doing so effectively. First, it’s often ambiguous how one can even help, like, people may simply not know how or where to help. Second, social media groups are not tight knit, so if an old acquaintance from high school asks their network to help out with something, people aren’t likely to help if they don’t feel a strong bond with the person. Third, the classic idea of diffused responsibility plays in. If an acquaintance walks up to someone and asks for money for an emergency, one would be likely to help, but online in a network of hundreds, everyone assumes someone else will.

Overall, I don’t believe that social media completely encourages the bystander effect. Take for example the Arab Spring, in which revolution (and action) was fueled and maintained by social media. However, I do agree that it’s dangerous to film a crime instead of helping or assuming that sharing a link is as valuable as donating or attending. 


Social media, mobile phones changing ‘bystander effect’. (2014, March 14). Retrieved from

Social media and the bystander effect. (2013, September 16). Retrieved from


To everyone reading this, you’re just a science project. You’re an experiment.

Every day we log onto social media to chat with our friends, to express inner opinions, to look at the new movie coming out, or even to “like” a new program. What you probably don’t know is that you’re part of a science experiment which is using everything you do, on your free to use social media platform, to create a profile for who you are and how you think. Ever write a status update on Facebook just to see your ads to change immediately to whatever you just typed about? That’s exactly what I’m talking about here.

In a PBS post by Angela Washeck, she quoted Douglas Rushkoff as saying that impressionable teens today have replaced their habit of plastering their personal stuff on their bedroom walls with now moved on to inhabiting social media and sharing their personality through there, but don’t realize how this is benefiting trends and brands (Washeck, 2014). Rushkoff’s newest Frontline documentary “Generation Like” explores how young adults are providing social marketing and advertising with treasure troves of information through their online interactions. Some, like Tyler Oakley, are getting “free” stuff in order to promote certain brands to their friends and/or followers (Washeck, 2014).

What we have perceived as “organic” viral trends are actually meticulously planned marketing strategies (Washeck, 2014). Do we really like these things or are we just monkeys running through the course in order to try and score “free” stuff and fame? While some are being given things for free, they really aren’t free. As these items or brands become popular, their publicity does the work for them. A couple of freebies handed out to some carefully placed popular online identities can turn into millions or billions of revenue for companies, so in a sense, they pay for themselves.

One of the questions being raised is whether or not this is exploitation. Not only have advertising pros learned exactly how young people share, but they’ve also learned just what drives them to share (Washeck, 2014). We, as consumers, are providing free data for marketers and advertisers without even realizing we’re doing it. Some may actually realize it though, and they’re profiting off of your shares and retweets. There is definitely more public relations work being done through this, but there is a lot of behind the scenes advertising as well. We, the consumers, are doing all the leg work without much benefit, unless you feel that the products you’re knowledgeable about now is your payment. According to Washeck, Rushkoff said, ““Over time, there will be a reaction against it…I’m kind of hopeful we’ll have another burst of awareness” (Washeck, 2014).

Knowing how we’re all essentially being manipulated through observation, how do you feel about this? Does this make you think twice about “liking” or re-tweeting something?


Washek, A. (2014, February 19). [Web log message]. Retrieved from