Tag Archive: Social Media

  1. Death in the Age of Facebook

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    Years ago, I went to camp with a girl named Olivia. She was everyone’s friend, or at least seemed that way, and everyone envied her charm. She was the type that could sneak out one weekend to a concert in Boston, get caught in a storm and come back soaking wet and escape the whole episode without getting in trouble.

    A few weeks ago, I came across Olivia’s Facebook profile for the first time in over a year. Olivia and I hadn’t been particularly close and hadn’t felt any obligation to keep in touch after camp ended. But, when I came across her profile, the words “Remembering Olivia” occupied the space where just her name should have been, and I had the chilling feeling of encountering a ghost. After all, Olivia had passed away a year earlier from leukemia.

    I hesitated to explore any further, as it felt like disturbing a grave. But I read on. The page had become a memorial, a testament to Olivia’s life. Friends still regularly posted photos and messages to her, often saying how much they missed her and reminding her of the empty space she’d left behind. Others wrote messages that didn’t mention her death — her best friend had posted a link to Taylor Swift’s newest music video, and another left regular updates about college life.

    *  *  *

    After coming across Olivia’s Facebook, I began thinking: What will happen to my Facebook after I die? Or my email accounts, or all the texts and photos on my phone? It’s strange to think of those things as a type of property, something that becomes owner-less at one’s death. We live in the digital age; what happens in the digital afterlife?

    With that question in mind, I began doing some research online and discovered a whole range of services offering to help plan your digital afterlife. Google allows you to determine what will happen to your emails when your account becomes inactive, while Yahoo even has a service that allows users to pre-write emails to be sent once the company is notified of their death.

    I was more than a little disturbed by this morbid side of the digital age, using technology to extend a person’s existence beyond the limits of mortal life.

    But there are other ways to manage one’s post-mortem online presence. In February, Facebook announced a new policy allowing users to designate a “legacy contact.” This person would be able to write one last post on your timeline, respond to friend requests and change your profile picture and cover photo.

    To me, this seemed much more natural than sending emails from beyond the grave. Rather than mimicking the person’s presence, this policy allows his or her death to be acknowledged, with the word “Remembering” added before his or her name. Facebook’s inherently social nature provides the perfect forum for people to communally mourn a friend or loved one while celebrating that person’s life, immortalized in a Facebook profile.

    *  *  *

    When I found out about Olivia’s death, I cried.

    The tears startled me, because I’m not an emotional person. I don’t know if I even cried when members of my extended family passed away. I tried to figure out why I was so affected. Maybe it was her youth, the tragedy of a life taken too early. Maybe it was the shock of knowing that even my peers were not excused from mortality.

    But I think I took her death hard because I had, in some ways, watched it approach. Facebook had provided a window for me and 800 other Facebook friends to watch Olivia battle her illness.

    Although she rarely posted about it herself, Olivia’s sickness was reflected in her profile. In the early days of her diagnosis, during her senior year of high school, her page was flooded with encouragement and support. And for the rest of that year, her life was documented on Facebook with the same nostalgia of any other high school senior. But her illness marked every moment: She received her college acceptance letter while in a hospital bed, and her graduation cap sat upon a head that had lost its hair to chemotherapy.

    Through Facebook, we watched Olivia’s life from afar, never personally involved in events so distant that they seemed unreal. But it’s hard to distance yourself from death, so unequivocally absolute that it feels real no matter how far away it is.

    On the day Olivia passed away, hundreds of people left messages on her timeline. Friends and relatives posted, as expected, but most people left messages that began, “I didn’t know Olivia well…”

    I didn’t leave a message. Maybe that was out of self-consciousness, but I just didn’t feel that I had earned the right to publicly mourn her. Instead, I dug out an old memory card that held our photos from camp, and privately mourned a life lost.

  2. Snapchat and the Real Me

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    We all understand the existential threats posed by social media: how its ubiquity is shortening our attention spans, making us anxious and depressed, eroding monogamy and family values, forcing us to see how much fun stupid Karen is having at her stupid parties — the list goes on. Snapchat, however, stands apart. Unlike Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, Snapchat foregrounds something we have always known about human selfhood: its nonexistence.

    For most smartphone users, Snapchat is integral to the smartphone experience. It occupies a distinct space from the other principal photo-sharing app, Instagram, both because Snapchat content is deleted after viewing and because it can be selectively shared. Because ’Grams live forever, it is expected that they are aesthetically pleasing. The structure of the app reinforces this: The cornerstone of Instagram is the filter, designed to make photos as beautiful as possible. With Instagram, everyone is an artist: Snap a pic of a cloud, throw a filter on it (not Kelvin, obviously, because that looks #ridiculous) and pray that you cross the popularity threshold, past which Instagram lists your likes as a number rather than as a series of names.

    Snaps, by contrast, are all about the content of the photos themselves. They are not saved, so aesthetics are unimportant. The main embellishments on Snapchat are captions; while there are filters, they are so meager and pathetic compared to Instagram’s wealth of photo-editing power as to be saddening. Snaps are often humorous, conveying your quirky, idiosyncratic life, which means that there’s a lot of “look at how much we’re drinking and how crazy we are” content (college, amirite?). As such, there’s very little overlap: A Snap is rarely a ’Gram, and vice versa.

    The crucial difference between Snapchat and Instagram (as well as Facebook), however, is in the way photos are shared. On Instagram and Facebook, you share content with all of your Friends. On Snapchat, you select to whom you’re sending each picture. This grants you the freedom to take and share pictures that not everyone in your network would appreciate.

    For example, when I came across a lone cupcake sitting on the sidewalk of Elm Street last Wednesday, my first instinct, obviously, was to Snap it (caption: “sum1’s ready 2 party 2nite”). I then had to make a decision: Who of my 49 Snapchat friends (50 if you include Team Snapchat) should receive it? The Snap represented a distinct sense of humor that my friend Thomas (username: givememilkPLZ) certainly appreciates, but perhaps not Annie (username: thisisnottherealannie), to whom I show a goofier sensibility. Instead, I sent her a Snap of a bottle of Dubra (caption: new bestie [two men holding hands emoji]), which I would not send to Thomas, who doesn’t drink. As in life, I never reveal my whole self in Snapchats.

    In this way, Snapchat is customized exactly to my tastes. People only send me things that they think I would appreciate. Snapchat allows me to present a different version of myself to everyone I know. Sending Snaps is an act of self-creation: When I scroll through my list of Snapchat friends trying to decide who would appreciate a picture of a coffee cup I have drawn a face on, I am deciding which version of me — what sense of humor, what values, what worldview — I want to share. What consistently shocks me is how stark these variations are. While everyone knows that we act differently with our family, with authority figures and with our friends, we generally consider how we act with our friends to be our “true selves.” Our choice of Snapchat recipients shows that even among our closest friends, we make distinctions, constantly presenting alternate selves, tailoring ourselves to others’ expectations. Selfhood is illusory: I show a different “real me” with each Snap.

    Snapchat is therefore the best imitator of real life that we have. None of the “one-personality-fits-all” nonsense of Instagram and Facebook, where you are pressured with presenting one coherent self/brand to the world: On those platforms, what your best friend sees is also what cute Josh from physics sees, which is also what your uncle sees. In real life, I do not present the same person to everyone, or anyone — I make minute alterations in what I say, how I say it, and my accompanying physicality. The types of Snaps I send and to whom I send them, show far more than my Instagram feed ever could. Who are we, then, but amalgamations of Snaps, each revealing one of many shifting components that make up our identities?

  3. WEEKEND's Guide to Social Media

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    Do you remember the glory days, back in middle school, when your AIM away message was your entire social media presence? Now, there are just too many ways to express your feels online. You could make a status (but where?) post a photo (but WHERE?). What’s the difference between Instagram and Snapchat? We’d talk about Friendsy, but we don’t understand the question and won’t respond to it. Still, whatever your social media struggle, we sympathize. We want you all to succeed—and we’re tired of seeing Twitter-cali- ber posts on Facebook, so we’ve made a handy flowchart to tell you what to post where.

    WEEKEND social media guide[media-credit id=11498 align=”alignleft” width=”150″]

  4. Cross Campus: 9.21.13

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    Today’s the day! Hip college students across New Haven, rejoice: the iPhone 5 is out today at 8 a.m. At the Apple Store on Broadway Avenue, a few brave fans began forming a line early Thursday evening; just before midnight, four people had lined up. Black curtains in the windows prevented passersby from seeing inside the store.

    Predictions. A group of sportswriters from the Ivy League’s student newspapers are predicting that Cornell will defeat Yale in tomorrow’s football game; only Dartmouth thinks the Elis will prevail.

    She had money problems? Linda McMahon, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate who became a multi-millionaire as the leader of World Wrestling Entertainment, decided Thursday to repay $1 million in debts she walked away from in a 1975 bankruptcy that has become a part of her campaign narrative, the Hartford Courant reported. The announcement comes after her opponent, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, had applied pressure on McMahon’s economic record, just as he faced criticism for failing to make payments on his home.

    New demographic. The New Haven-based 3Penny Orchestra, whose “Call Me Maybe” cover arranged by Arianne Abela MUS ’10 and Colin Britt MUS ’10 has scored 1.4 million hits on YouTube in just over a week, appeared on Today Thursday morning.

    Sorry we’re not sorry. An article in the Atlantic Wire claims that convenient access to delicious, all-natural burgers in New Haven has ruined Shake Shack for everyone else. Because the New Haven location was the chain’s 15th, New York City law demands that Shake Shacks display calorie counts on their menus. A Double Shackburger, as it turns out, is 770 calories.

    More election troubles. The election saga continues in the fifth Assembly District. One vote originally marked “deceased” turned out to be from an elderly woman who is not, in fact, dead. The vote could have broken a 774-774 tie in the race between Leo Canty and Brandon McGee for the Democratic nomination, except that it was cast for a third candidate. Now, there will be a revote on Oct. 2 to determine the winner, the Hartford Courant reported.

    Yes sir. A ribbon-cutting ceremony today at 11:30 a.m. on the Hewitt Quadrangle will welcome ROTC to campus.

    THIS DAY IN YALE HISTORY 1980 “The Yale College Council has gotten a reputation for blowing a lot of hot air around,” YCC Chairman Dan Meyer says. “This year we need to develop more concrete programs.”

  5. Taiwanese media outlet parodies Yale-NUS

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    Reading about a controversial, nuanced subject such as Yale-NUS can be boring, but it doesn’t have to be, thanks to a video that’s about to go viral.

    Next Media Animation, a Taiwanese website that creates CGI parodies of recent news stories, released a video on Monday depicting the controversy surrounding Yale-NUS. Highlights include University President Richard Levin helping Singaporean students do a keg stand, the Yale faculty wielding torches and a surprisingly detailed depiction of the Sterling Memorial Library’s front steps. Watch the video here:

    For other hard-hitting NMA coverage, see their story on James Franco at NYU.

  6. Ta-Nehisi Coates enjoyed his time at Yale

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    Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor and top blogger for The Atlantic, was on campus last week as part of a panel discussing the Civil War’s 150-year legacy. According to a post to his blog today, he had a lovely time.

    “I’ve been meaning to express precisely how much I enjoyed my visit to Yale last week,” Coates wrote. “There were so many highlights.”

    Coates cited sitting on the panel with Yale celebrity professor David Blight and meeting Sterling Professor David Brion Davis as two of the highlights of his trip, in addition to escaping the lonely life of a writer.

    “Writers, who aren’t in the academy, spend so much time alone. If only for a moment, it was nice to come off the island,” Coates wrote. “It was a good day.”

    Coates is known for his autobiography, “The Beautiful Struggle,” that chronicles his journey from the streets of Baltimore to his arrival at Howard University. His blog, simply titled Ta-Nehisi Coates, was named one of Time Magazine’s Top Blogs of 2011.

    Glad you had fun, Mr. Coates! Come back soon!

  7. Music video featuring Yalies goes viral

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    A music video called “We Are Ready” posted to YouTube by Dancefloor Diplomacy, a 20-person band founded by Jakob Dorof ’12, is racking up the hits and garnering attention from big media outlets.

    The Huffington Post’s Culture section featured the band — which also counts Daniel Spector ’12, Stephen Feigenbaum ’12 and John-Michael Parker ’10 among its members — and highlighted the “new genre of music” Dancefloor Diplomacy created in the music video. The music is called collage, and it features stripped down versions of popular songs such as Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” Beyoncé and Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” and Joanna Newsom’s “Peach, Plum, Pear.” Though most of the songs do not have vocals, the band members sing on Hot Chip’s “Ready for the Floor.”

    The video debuted last Tuesday, and as of this afternoon, it’s up to 26,100 views. Watch the video below:

  8. Meet the brains behind “White and Blue for You”

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    Last Tuesday, high school senior Jackie Milestone released a music video about her hopes to attend Yale after being deferred early action. Her video racked up over 10,000 views and has been featured on CBS News. The News got in touch with Jackie at her home outside Philadelphia.

    Dan Stein: How did you think of doing a video?

    Jackie Milestone: Well I guess it was that I’ve been songwriting for a while. It’s one of my biggest hobbies. When I got deferred, I was upset for a while but I wanted to do something that would make me stand out. I figured there were a couple ways that I could go with it when I decided to write a song. I didn’t want to come off as pompous, but I wanted to feature my creative ability.

    DS: Where did all that Yale swag come from?

    JM: Every single piece of that belongs to my sister or my dad. My sister did a summer session at Yale — she filmed and edited the video for me. She’s a junior at Bennington College up in Vermont. I actually don’t own any Yale paraphernalia. But I asked my dad to bring out his stash and 21 shirts later, there it was.

    DS: What’s your favorite lyric in the video?

    JM: My favorite lyrics are the ones that reference the summer that I was there, my memories from Yale are at the top of my all time list. When I reference those experiences they make me smile.

    DS: What classes did you take during your summer at Yale?

    JM: I took two courses, a modern American literature class and the “Art of Poetry.”

    DS: What’s your favorite part of Yale that made you apply?

    JM: If I had to pick one thing, I find the academics to really be a perfect fit. Something my dad (a Saybrook alum) talked about a lot was that he learned just as much from his peers as his teachers. So I want to feel inspired.

    DS: Do you think the video will help you get in?

    JM: I’m hoping that this video will give me that extra standout factor, but the fact of the matter is that there are so many qualified people who applied. Hopefully it will show that I’m a unique and creative individual.

    DS: Fun fact?

    JM: Whenever I hear some bad things about the video — whenever you make something public like this, that happens — I put on the song “Up, Up and Away” and brush it off!

  9. New version of UBYC tells it like it is

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    Undergraduates for the Best Yale College has it all figured out.

    Imagine a world with trampolines in every college courtyard, Berkeley Mac & Cheese in every dining hall and puppies in every library, Skappo on Chapel Street — no, we’re not talking about Duloc, or Yale Law School. This, my friends, is the wondrous @BestYale, a Twitter account that dares to dream of the magical place that Yale College could actually be.

    Do you miss Provost Peter Salovey’s moustache? We all do. BestYale wants to preserve it for posterity.

    Are your master’s kids not as adorable anymore? Replace them with cuter upgrades. BestYale can do that for you.

    Yale administration, listen up. There’s a lot more we could be doing if we want to have the @BestYale possible, and this Twitter account is a good start.