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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been passionate about writing.  I brainstorm story ideas, jot them down and continue about my day.  I eavesdrop into conversations, not to be nosy, but to use small talk for character ideas.  I’m inspired by everyone I meet, from their looks to their behaviors, speech, quirks and life experiences, which I use to enrich myself and my writing.  It’s a passion that impacts my entire life.

During the four years of undergraduate college, I sadly lost some of this magical thinking.  Because my effort was spent on scholarly papers, I lost touch with the purity of raw writing.  The kind of writing that shows who I am, as a person, not just an institutional robot.  But using grandiose diction doesn’t communicate the sarcastic dreamer and writer that I am.  This class brought me back to that point.

I began this course with a focus on technology and relationships: two of my favorite topics.  I also began with an expectation to please the professor through my work, a notion introduced by a class reading.  I thought it was unacceptable to incorporate my personal experiences and that frankly, readers didn’t care to know about me as a person.

Fortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My first posts were characteristic of this post-grad, robotic writing that no one reads on their lunch break.  I didn’t know that writing for the web was different from writing for a professor, and my learned behaviors carried into this course.  With a degree in journalism, I knew how to structure posts in a journalistic manner, but not conversational.  Luckily, Professor Kalm brought me back to the basics.

Writing for the web – and real­ writing in general – doesn’t require extravagant similes, metaphors and language to fill sentences and attract followers.  In fact, I realized that all of my posts were condensed to half their original length before posting.  There’s a way to remove words and sentences, but communicate the same message.  And the less time it takes to read, the more appealing it’ll be for readers.

Looking over my posts, I’m proud of my accomplishments.  I covered topics that impact everyone, especially my generation, and I did so in a relatable manner.  The voice I wanted to achieve was a conversational realist with a touch of sarcasm, which I’m still working toward.  I want to sound distinct among others and, more importantly, like a real person, not a robot.  I want readers to understand my sarcasm about certain trends, such as neurotic cell phone use, but I don’t want sarcasm to outshine the real problems.  Sure, some of the sociological trends are funny, but they’re real.  I wanted my readers to rethink their experiences.

I also wanted to become more comfortable with sharing my experiences, and now, I have.  I enjoyed confessing my crumbled texting relationships and humorous encounters with social media. Sharing my experiences helped readers to relate and to know that I’m not just researching, but I’m experiencing.  I’m growing along with them, through technology and relationships.

Learning to condense my writing was challenging.  As I said, I’ve been writing in essay style for years, so a conversational voice was unheard of.  But after these 12 weeks, I prefer this style of writing.  It’s easier to read and even easier to relate to.

Despite my progress, there’s still a long way to g, but for writers, improvement is constant.  We’re always learning, changing, developing and forming our voice.  Mine is just emerging.  I hope to tweak my sarcasm and perfect my conversational style.  I hope to identify unnecessary words, sentences and paragraphs, and use adjectives sparingly.  But the most important goal of mine, with writing, is just to keep trying, to keep pushing.

Throughout my four years at Quinnipiac and the array of English, creative writing and journalism classes I’ve taken, this course challenged my abilities in a different way, but in a way that I thoroughly enjoyed.  I will continue to use this writing style, tweaking it to identify myself as an individual, working to develop credible, relatable work.

When considering suggestions for this course, only one comes to mind.  I would have liked to incorporate search engine optimization, particularly with blog headings and tweets.  Aside from this, ICM 506 was a great experience.

Thank you, Professor Kalm, for helping me develop my skills.

And thank you to all my classmates, for your wonderful feedback and your thought-provoking work that inspired me throughout the course.

The social media campaign, Above the Influence (ATI), has recently changed its ways of reaching the public.  The campaign, which works to discourage substance abuse, has turned from television advertising to social media, to spread its message.

When the Partnership at Drugfree.org launched Above the Influence in 2005, the campaign received $540 in federal funding from the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) .  But funding decreased in consecutive years, until stopping altogether in 2012.  In order to continue campaigning, the Partnership turned to more affordable means, like social media. 

ATI has high hopes for this change, since teens spend more time on social media than watching TV.  The campaign will use popular mediums like Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook, which has nearly two million “Likes.”

The campaign has a unique strategy for attracting followers.  The Partnership discourages substance abuse by urging kids to “stay true to themselves.”  ATI found that merely saying “drugs are bad” is ineffective.  Instead, the campaign suggests notions like drug use, for example, will cause kids who enjoy skateboarding to lose their abilities.

A new online campaign, “Made by Me,” is being held to encourage teen involvement.  Teens can submit their ideas for the next ATI commercial and vote on submissions.  The contest is being held until Aug. 16, when the winner will be announced.  For the grand prize, ATI is offering a trip to New York to help with production and later, Washington for Above the Influence Day on Oct. 17.

Critique
Over the years, I’ve seen many thought-provoking ATI commercials.  Commercials featured siblings ditching other siblings for drugs, and the emotional turmoil that followed.  Or, teens that denied drugs were rewarded by strangers.  The messages were clear.

Now, with the campaign turning to social media, the tactics need to be bolder, more eye-catching.  For example, Instagram photos should contain powerful messages.  Personally, I believe the transition will be successful.  Since teens spend more time on social media than watching TV, they’re bound to come across ATI’s advertisements.

However, being the devil’s advocate, this may also prove ineffective.  Parents and guardians are less likely to use social media than teens.  When ATI commercials played during my teen years, my parents discussed substance abuse.  If these commercials didn’t exist, these conversations may not have either.  I feel it is detrimental for the campaign’s objective to not involve both parents and children.

There are pros and cons to the transition.  On social media, teens can pass along their information.  Tweets are re-tweeted, Instagram photos are re-posted and Pinterest content is re-pinned.  On the other hand, all this re-posting could get lost in the online world.  At least when the public service announcements play, the message is there; it’s clear.  You are forced to watch the commercial as it interrupts your favorite show, but you can ignore an uninteresting Tweet.

When analyzing ATI’s transition along with my plan for Kut off Kids, I can see some parallels.  It’s important to look at the targeted age demographic, which will dictate the mode of advertisement.  I would look for ways to attract the 30+ demographic, the desired consumers.  For this reason, social media like Twitter and Instagram is unnecessary, since they’re more teen-oriented.

First, I’d create a Facebook for consumers to learn about the product, but I wouldn’t disclose too much information.  With too much information, teens could tamper with the app.  I would also create a company website, which would be advertised alongside Facebook, Google and similar sites.  Since these sites use algorithms to advertise content, it would pinpoint the consumer market.  I would also develop commercial advertisements for the app, scheduling them to play early to midday, when children are at school or asleep.

I’m aware that Kut off Kids can’t be hidden from curious teens.  Children will see the commercial, browse the Facebook and visit the website.  But I’ll structure the app so only buyers can access the full amount of information pertaining to the app.  My chief source of attracting consumers will be via the commercial, which is most likely to reach a large consumer base.

After reading this week’s lecture about conversation, I couldn’t help but reflect on the topic.  I’m fascinated with the way people interact, in every facet.  Meeting for the first time, the progression of a relationship, face-to-face interaction, body language and – you guessed it – bonding via technology.  This is why I’m such a fan of Catfish: as a viewer, I try to decipher why it’s easier to trust via the internet.  I’m determined to find the answers.

But conversation comes with a terrible downfall.  I’ve mentioned in previous posts that people are constantly on their phones in all settings, whether social or isolated.  Instead of bringing us closer, it causes an “alone togetherness.”  We’re together, but distracted.

If you’re on a date with someone incessantly using his/her phone, they’re uninterested.  If you’re a student, texting could be the difference between an A and a C.  As a waitress, I see parents eating with their children, in silence.  Mom and dad are texting, tweeting or Facebook-ing while little Johnny eats alone.  It’s sad.  There’s no other way to describe it.

Last year, Sherry Turkle led a discussion, “Connected, but alone?” about the role of phones in our lives.

Referring to the “Goldilocks Effect,” Turkle says that “people like to keep themselves at a distance that they can control.”  This is because real conversations imply pressure.  Eye contact.  Body language.  Immediate response.  Real emotion. Vulnerability.  As Turkle describes it, we can’t edit, rewrite or delete during real conversation, but with texting, we can.

Turkle goes on to say that cell phones provide an “illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.”  We aren’t required to take stroll with Lindsey, but we’ll text her at 11 p.m.  Even worse, we’re so suffocated by our phones that we don’t enjoy “real” alone time, which makes us feel more alone.

I agree with Turkle, as I fell victim to these situations.  I’ve tried to spend some “me time” reading, only to simultaneously text eight people.  Just today, I went to the gym and texted while reading, watching TV, listening to my iPod, using an exercise machine and later talking on the phone.  This was supposed to be alone time – it wasn’t.

I’ve experienced the cell phone’s lack of compassion.  I can text my old college roommates, telling them I miss them, but it’s nothing like being together, laughing and making memories.  Texting can only go so far.

And yet, we continue to use texting as a wall.  We won’t rid of the habit, but we complain when our date texts during meals or our friend doesn’t answer quickly.  It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s the fate of our generation, or so it seems.  As a nation, we’re distracted from the one tool that’s used to keep us together.

It’s a paradox, really.

These are two screenplay scenes about a female in high school, whose ex-boyfriend “sexted” naked pictures of her throughout the school.  In the first scene, the female confronts her mother, and in the second scene, her best friend.  I was inspired by Professor Kalm’s tweet, referring me to a new Canadian campaign against youth sextingI’ve also been watching a handful of Lifetime movies lately, and couldn’t help but envision these scenes as Lifetime-esque.

SCENE 27

FADE IN:

INT. COOPER FAMILY HOME DAY

ANNABELLE stands alone in her kitchen.  While leaning against the counter, she reminisces about her day at high school.

ANNABELLE
(To herself) Why me, God?
Why me?  Why did you do
this to me?

Annabelle covers her face with her hands and begins to sob uncontrollably.  During Annabelle’s breakdown, her mother, LISA, returns home from work.

LISA
Annabelle! What’s wrong!?
Don’t cry. What happened?

ANNABELLE
Mom, go away. I’m fine.
(Sobbing).

LISA
Tell me what’s wrong. I can
try and help.

In efforts to comfort her daughter, Lisa grabs Annabelle’s hand.

LISA
Sweetie, tell me.

Annabelle takes a deep breath, and walks over to the kitchen table.  Sobbing, she looks up at her mother.

ANNABELLE
Promise you won’t be mad
at me?

LISA
Yes, Anna.

ANNABELLE
Okay.  So you know how Chris
and I just broke up right?

LISA
Is that what this is about?
Two years is a long time, but
things will get better.  It may
hurt now, but I promise everything
will be okay. When I was….

Annabelle suddenly interrupts Lisa.

ANNABELLE
Mom, it’s not even about
that.  While Chris and I were
dating, I sent him pictures
of myself.  I mean, he sent me
pictures too, but I didn’t
save them.

LISA
What are you talking about?
Pictures of what?

ANNABELLE
Naked pictures, Mom.  I know
a lot of people who’ve sent
them before.  Nikki, our
neighbor, sends them to her
boyfriend, Ralphie, all the time.

LISA
That doesn’t make it okay, Anna!
You can’t just send out pictures
of your naked body!  Do you have
any idea what Chris can do with
those pictures?  How many people
will see them?  What about your
reputation!?

Disappointed, Lisa begins to raise her voice.  Annabelle can actually see a vein protruding from Lisa’s forehead: her telltale sign of anger.

LISA
I can’t believe you’d do
something like that!  I never
thought you could be so irresponsible!
This is the reason you’re crying!?

Annabelle, distraught from her mother’s reaction, steps back.  Knowing that she had no other option but to confess the truth, she prepared herself by taking a deep breath.

ANNABELLE
No, mom.  That’s not why I’m
upset.  I’m upset because I
started liking Chris’s friend,
Jackson.  When Chris found out,
he got jealous and started
sending the pictures to everyone
in school, including Jackson.
Now everyone in my classes have
seen them and no one will talk
to me.  They’re constantly calling
me names like “slut” and “skank.”
I don’t know what to do.

Shocked, Lisa begins to leave the room.

LISA
I’m sorry, Anna, but I can’t
handle this right now.  Let me
think about it and we can talk
later.

Annabelle notices tears in her mother’s eyes.

ANNABELLE
So I’ve become a failure to you?
I made a mistake, mom.

Lisa shakes her head and wipes a tear from her eye.

LISA
Yes, you made a mistake, Anna.
But you’re 17-years-old.  I
thought you knew better than
that.

EXT. COOPER FAMILY HOME      DAY

Lisa leaves the room.

INT. MAYBECK FAMILY HOME          DAY

Annabelle finally gets hold of her best friend, MAYRA, to discuss the situation.  Mayra, a social butterfly (to say the least), had just arrived home from an evening out, earlier that afternoon.  Annabelle arrived to find a sleeping Mayra, who was unenthused about being awoken.

ANNABELLE
Mayra, wake up.  I have to talk
to you.

MAYRA
Anna, get out of here. I don’t
want to talk about your sex
pictures.

Mayra groans, rubs her forehead and turns to lie on her side, her back facing Annabelle.

ANNABELLE
C’mon, Mayra.  I don’t know
what to do. (Crying) I can’t
go to school.  Chris won’t
talk to me.  My mom is crying.
Please.  Help.

MAYRA
I’m sorry.  You’re right.

Mayra turns over in her bed and faces Annabelle, who continues to cry.

MAYRA
Have you talked to Chris?
I’m sure if a teacher or something
at school knows about these
pictures they can help you.  Maybe
you should go to the police.

ANNABELLE
I’ve seen things like this on TV
Chris is a minor too, so he can’t
be charged with anything serious.
And he’s saying that his best
friend, Ryan, went into his phone
and sent the mass-text. And the
school already thinks I’m a big
joke.

MAYRA
It’s hard, Anna, but you have to
stay strong.  Not everyone
thinks of you badly.  You and
Chris were dating for two years,
so if anything, he made himself
look like an asshole.  Not you.

Mayra rises to hug Annabelle.

ANNABELLE
I didn’t think someone I was with
for two years would send these
pictures to other people. I
trusted him. And now, I have to
deal with it.  Not him.  I wonder
how he’d like it if I sent pictures
of him around the school.

MAYRA
Don’t stoop to his level.  You’re
gunna make each other look even
more immature.  But this just
goes to show that you can’t
ever trust someone fully.
You’re not married.  Just
‘cause something is going
good one day doesn’t mean it
can’t change. And when someone
has a nude picture, there’s
no telling what they’ll do with
it.

ANNABELLE
You’re right.  But what should I
do now?  Should I make up a story?
Should I try to fix things with Chris?

MAYRA
Don’t bother.  Chris is an asshole
and everyone will realize it in
time.  As for now, just promise
me you’ll never make this mistake
again, okay?

ANNABELLE
I promise.

EXT. END SCENE

To view the Kut off Kids Prezi, click here.

Executive Summary

One-by-one, your child’s classmates are given smart phones.  Some of them have working parents, while others are involved in after school activities and need the device to contact their guardians.  Whichever the case may be, young Lucy is begging to join the mobile parade.  Sure, you’ll need to consider the increased monthly bill and rules about usage, once she joins the family plan.

But, what about safety matters?

When teens are given cell phones, they are granted free range to communicate with new people from different areas.  Rebellious teens can test their boundaries, claiming to be at the shopping mall when realistically traveling downtown.  Lucy may claim to be sleeping at Amy’s, but may actually stay at Ryan’s.  If these scenarios mimic your concerns, than the Kut off Kids app is the tool for you.

Kut off Kids is a mobile application and safety tool for guardians to track their child’s whereabouts.  For just $4.99 a month, users can customize the app, creating safety and danger zones and receiving itineraries of their child’s locations throughout the day.

If a child ventures to an unwarranted area, or, a “danger zone,” the phone will immediately cease all communication aside from contact with their guardian. Your teen will be unable to call, text or utilize any social media until returning to a safety zone.

Aside from different zones, guardians can customize whether they’d like a safety report of their child’s whereabouts sent directly to their e-mail or cell phone.  The phone will record their child’s locations at customizable times during the day, whether every twelve hours or by the hour, sending an itinerary of Lucy’s locations.

How will this communication block help, you may ask?  For teens trying to sneak around, lacking the ability to communicate with their cohorts is frustrating.  It makes their plans more difficult and discourages them from pursuing whatever activity he/she has in mind.  It stalls them, allowing you, as a guardian, to develop a plan of action.

Kut off Kids will only be available to account holders.  The purchasing process will require specific information only obtainable by those directly billed to prevent malicious use of Kut off Kids.  Since only account holders can use the app, Lucy’s jealous boyfriend or the suspicious neighbor cannot track her whereabouts.  But, mom and dad can.

The application will only connect with Lucy’s phone through the GPS standalone service.  And, when Kut off Kids is purchased, your child can no longer deactivate their GPS service.  Your child will have no way of knowing the app is in use, and you won’t need to tell them!

If you’re weary about Kut off Kids or don’t want to exhibit parent-stalker syndrome, allow me to dissuade these thoughts.  The teen years are some of the more rebellious, confusing processes in one’s life.  WebMD’s Jeanie Davis reports that teens are now exposed to adult activities more than ever before.

It is mainly during the 13 to 17-year-old demographic that teens will experience their first love, sexual encounter and exposure to drugs and alcohol.  At this stage, parents know whether Lucy is the rebellious type, but regardless of her demeanor, monitoring her behavior and whereabouts could prevent poor decision-making.

Kut off Kids could be the difference between Lucy involving herself with Mike, the marijuana smoking outcast or Sam, the driven baseball player with college plans.  It could mean the difference between a Friday night movie or booze fest.  It could give parents a leg up on their child’s extracurricular activities.

Kut off Kids will initially receive its funding after the official website is launched.  Here, interested consumers can learn more about the mobile application, its capabilities and the story behind K.O.K’s development. Current users can share their experiences with the device and how it has helped their families.

The site will ask for donations to kick off the project, and will reach out to organizations associated with teen safety for help getting started.  Over the course of six months, while the K.O.K. app is in development, a social media campaign will be launched for publicity purposes. K.O.K. will use popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to reach large groups of people.  After the application is launched, 10 cents of every user subscription will be donated to the organization that contributes the most to K.O.K.’s development. The application will be available for purchase in the mobile application store corresponding with the user’s smart phone and service provider.

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After moving back home, I started spending more time with my 16-year-old brother. We’re eight years apart, so communicating in the past was tough.  But, as we’ve gotten older, we’ve grown closer, becoming more like friends than competitive siblings.

My brother is very active, but I’ve also noticed him spending a lot of time on his Xbox.  In the wee hours of the morning, I hear him challenging his friends on his headset.  As an occasional (maybe rare) gamer, I’m familiar with the profanities spoken via the headsets.  Children as young as seven are cussing about anything and everything, in order to insult their competitor’s abilities.

My brother, being the easygoing fellow that he is, rarely feeds into this nonsense.  But for many teens, overlooking threats is not so easy.

Cyber-bullying can take many forms, such as via the Xbox headset, but it’s more common via texting or through social networking sites. Formally defined, it is “the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person.”

In an earlier post, I discuss how texting can improve shy individuals’ social skills.  When behind a screen, people are more comfortable with sharing information.  When the pressure of face-to-face interaction is lifted, we feel empowered. More confident. Bold.

This is what occurs for cyber-bullies, especially when anonymity is involved. Cyber-bullying has especially become a problem because of its free range for teens.  Without parent supervision, teens can type and post anything.  When teens exchange aggressive texts or emails, or post hostile material on social media, the content can be shared with hundreds of people.

Simply put: cyber-bullying can be humiliating for the victim.

And, in most cases, parents don’t know it’s happening.

A well-known case involves 13-year-old Megan Meier, who committed suicide after being cyber-bullied.  Megan, who struggled with her weight and depression, had problems with her friends at school.  When a 16-year-old boy, Josh Evans, friend requested Megan on MySpace, she was flattered.  After growing close with Josh, via MySpace, he suddenly became cruel, accusing her of being a “bad friend” and insulting Megan. A few weeks before her birthday, Megan committed suicide.

Megan’s parents knew her MySpace password and kept a watchful eye on her interactions with Josh. The suicide followed one interaction when Megan’s parents weren’t home, despite them demanding that she log off the site.

After her death, the Meier family found that Josh never existed. He was a fake profile created by a neighboring girl who Megan lost touch with. The girl’s parents helped operate the profile.

Unfortunately, tragedies like Megan’s story have become all too common. With one in three kids cyber-bullied, particularly through the ages of nine to 14, it’s become an ordinary dilemma for adolescents.

There is no foolproof way to prevent cyber-bullying, but there are ways for parents to monitor their teen. PBS.org suggests that if the bullying occurs, have the teen stop responding and block the bully immediately, whether via social network or cell phone. If the bullying persists, change the teen’s contact information. Throughout the harassment, keep a record of the texts and/or emails, in case matters escalate.

When cyber-bullying occurs, there’s no guarantee that a child will speak up. Most often, teens keep the bullying to themselves, due to embarrassment coincided with parent involvement. The best assets are watchful eyes and receptive ears to a child’s behaviors and habits.