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Finals, finally

This has been hands down the worst semester of college for me. My classes weren’t difficult; they were all pretty manageable. What was difficult to deal with was my lack of motivation and focus. I checked out much earlier than I usually do. I stopped attending weekly classes and worrying about assignments. I want to graduate more than anything; I hate my current job and my living situation, so I’m not sure where my determination has gone.

As my grades keep rolling in, I at least passed everything so far. That’s the positive. And I normally start the winter semester with a stronger drive than I have in the fall, so that’s good too.

What’s not good is that I think I’m scared. I’m scared for the big change that’s headed my way in August: graduating, moving in with my boyfriend in a different state than my family, starting my career….the list goes on. I normally consider myself an adventurer, but that’s a lot to deal with in one month. And while a part of me is counting down the days with excitement, in the back of my head, I can’t help but be scared.

And the clock keeps ticking.

A topic of my choice

As always, I procrastinated my blog post for the week. If there’s anything I’m thankful for, it’s that this week was long and slow. I needed a nice break from my real world.

I remember being a kid (and by kid, I mean between the ages of 12 and 22) and complaining about stress in my life; my mom’s response was always “wait until you get into the real world.” That always sat funny with me because I WAS always living in the real world. Even if my real world didn’t consist of bills and a job, the stressors I faced at the time were real and exactly what I could handle at that age.

However, I do understand what she meant at the time. At 25 (almost), I’ve never been more overwhelmed, busy and consumed in absolutely too much. Currently I work about 30 hours a week at a job I can’t stand while taking 15 credit hours, applying for internships I absolutely need to graduate while attempting to manage a long-distance relationship, a social life and a sense of sanity. I’m not going to lie, I do ditch class at least once a week just to catch up on sleep or allow myself a chance to just have an hour or two to myself.

As much as I love my boyfriend Ryan, our every-other-week rotation gets to be quite a lot. He lives in Illinois, about a four hour drive from where I live. We take turns every two to three weeks seeing each other. I can’t imagine going longer, but I also feel so tired. After a long week of work and school, I just want to kick back and relax. And even relaxing with him is not very relaxing because I’m thinking about the homework I’m putting off  or how I’m absolutely going to fail my German test on Tuesday. It’s worth it though; it’s worth every mile on my car, every second in traffic on I-65. He’s worth it.

As stressed as I always am, I know this temporary. I know that what I put in now will (hopefully) pay off after graduation. I want so much in life and I accept it takes work to get it. I also accept I’m not Superwoman and it’s okay to vent occasionally. And I’m also eagerly counting down to my August graduation.

Video Review: Balding Guys go Completely Bald

Okay, who doesn’t like Buzzfeed videos? I think I follow every Buzzfeed handle on Twitter and Facebook to ensure I get all their news updates, recipes, insightful articles and of course, their videos. Working for Buzzfeed is in my top 5 dream jobs; everyone working there always seems to be having fun, even if their being video taped eating strange foods or, in this case, shaving their heads.

This was a video I watched just recently and I decided to use it for my article (or video review) this week. It’s relatable to my life in a way because my boyfriend is going bald. As much as he hates to admit it, his hairline has been receding since pretty much high school. Now at 29 years old, his hairline is about half of what it was ten years ago. He is always wearing a hat and rarely takes it off. He has considered “Bic-ing” it (his term for shaving it down the skin) for a while now, but I personally like it when he buzzes it a bit. I can’t imagine what he would look like without any hair on his head. Of course, it’s his decision, and when I saw this video, I immediately thought of him and his biggest insecurity.

The first thing I liked about the video was the introduction. It’s a short video like most Buzzfeed videos, less than three minutes, but in that time, they introduce you to the three gentleman that are about to shave their heads. Each of them explain the history of their hair loss and give you and idea of how sensitive a subject it was for each of them. Not one of them denies that losing their hair was a hit on their confidence; not one of them describes the experience as a positive one. Like females, I think males find confidence in their hair. I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to lose my hair, especially in my early 20s.

I also really liked their thought process behind deciding to completely shave their heads. In my boyfriends case, he used to grow his hair out really long so he could style it forward to hide his receding hair line. Eventually, his hair dresser broke the news that his hairline was trailing too far back. That’s when he decided to start buzzing it. The three men in the video also explain the process they went through to decide to just shave it all off. What’s funny is that all three of them also explain how you have to have a certain head to pull off fully bald. They all seem very nervous that they won’t have the right head to get away with the new look.

In the next part of the video, the men buzz their hair down as low as it will go and then dive in with shaving cream and razors. The Buzzfeed filmmakers made sure not to have mirrors for the men so there would be a big reveal at the end. Since the gentlemen were shaving their heads themselves, it got a little dangerous and you can see a little blood from their accidental self-inflicted cuts. One guy says he knows his girlfriend might not like it too much, and another guy can’t get over how weird it is to only feel skin as he rubs his hands across his scalp.

And then comes the big reveal: all three men are pretty stunned but all pretty happy with the results. All three of them are happy with their head shapes, which must be a definite confidence booster. They cite reasons like saving money on haircuts and feeling the breeze better as to why they might keep this hairstyle.

It’s a short, quirky video, but that’s exactly why I like it. I think Buzzfeed almost always manages to entertain on some of the most random subjects I’ve never thought of. Even if I didn’t have a balding boyfriend and didn’t have a way to relate to this video, I know I would still watch it and find it interesting. I think it helps that Buzzfeed typically keeps their videos short; it allows enough time to suck in the audience, offer them something fun and leave them entertained without becoming long or mundane. The people in their videos also are always a diverse group of people; they usually have men, women, people of color, different ethnicities and different sexualities represented. Though this video is specific to men, it does offer somewhat of diversity in the short three minutes.

I’m a huge fan of all their videos and I think this video accurately shows why.

Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-jdyx-XSic

 

Tuesday Morning

I’m waking up this morning thumbing through Facebook and I see a post from someone I’ve known since childhood. She asks what are some good depression medications because she feels she’s getting to that point. First of all, everyone is different; Lexapro gave me thoughts of suicide, but Celexa worked wonders (minus the extreme weight gain an inability to actually feel anything). The first comment is a recommendation for Lexapro; the next is a recommendation to go see a psychiatrist.

And then the idiocy rolls in: “Ride on a Harley Davidson”, “Work out”, “Nature”, “Horses”. Would you treat diabetes with horses? Or COPD with nature? Probably not.

Depression isn’t made up; it’s not just feeling sad or down in the dumps. It’s a legitimate, chronic illness, something that needs the same amount of care and treatment as any other disease. Sure, outside factors like working out can boost your mood, but it’s not a cure and certainly not a a reliable way to treat mental illness.

People assume depression is just sadness. Yes, you are sad, but it’s much deeper than that. It’s a sadness down to the core of your being that you have no justification for. It’s laying in your bed not wanting to shower or get up to the turn on the light. It’s not wanting to talk to anybody. Not wanting to eat or eating enough for ten people. It’s crying for no reason to a point where you can’t breath and there’s no explanation for it. Or crying specifically because you don’t know why you’re crying. it’s little voices in your head telling your you’re not good enough, you’re not loved, you’re not even liked and never will be, you’re life is shit and you are just sad ALL. THE. TIME.

And no, nature and horses don’t make that go away. Temporary relief is not sufficient and not a valid recommendation.

It’s annoying and demeaning that people believe all you need to “fix” depression is a treadmill or a hike. First of all, it’s not really fixable; it’s definitely a process to find your peace, but it doesn’t just go away. And by offering suggestions like hikes and horses you’re saying my struggle is weak, by battle is made up and it’s all in my head. If it was that easy to just get out of your head, wouldn’t all sufferers of mental health issues be flooding the trails and gyms? To me, you’re saying that you’re sadness as a non-depressed person could even compare with the sadness I feel, I just can’t handle it.

No one understands depression unless it has happened to you. It’s an inescapable, unavoidable hole in your being causing any and every negative though to flood your head and feel real; it’s a feeling of drowning in sorrow and melancholia; a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. And unless you’ve actually gone through that feeling of desperation, your opinions don’t count.

Stop judging people on their mental illness and #endthestigma.

How social media has affected my life

It’s funny to think social media has had such an impact on my life. Throwback to many years ago: signing on to AIM after school, creating thoughtful or funny away messages and hiding chatrooms from my parents. I distinctly remember the day I created my MySpace account. I was in middle school and my best friend had just created hers. We were definitely not within the age requirements but logged on anyway. She was my #1 in my top eight, Tom being my #2 as none of our other friends had jumped on board yet. I immediately added all my favorite bands, my favorite part of MySpace, and had fun for years on the site. To be honest, I miss the ability to create and tamper with your layout and add greater a sense of your character to you MySpace page unlike other sources of social media. Middle school is a time to discover who you are and who you’re not; I was able to discover that and express myself much differently than others before me because of MySpace. My music taste especially tranformed as I was able to find small bands that I was otherwise never going to come across. I guess you could have labeled me a scene kid wannabe, and while at one point this embarrassed me, it was fun to feel apart of something bigger than you when you’re 13. And unlike others before me, all of my awkward middle school years are forever chronicled in the vast interweb.

A few years later, Facebook was accessible to non-college students and became my next obsession. I’m still most active on my FB account. Slowly I started up my Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other accounts as they gained popularity. Social media has become a source of humor, news, networking and enjoyment. At one point in my life, I wanted to be a journalist, specifically a foreign correspondent for a newspaper. As newspapers began dying out and the internet started taking over, I realized I needed to head in a different direction. That former self would be so disappointed to know that I’m one of the reasons I had to give up my dream of seeing my work on the front page of a paper. I get most of my news through Twitter or Facebook now.

I will say the biggest way social media has changed my life is that it made me realize how big the world actually is. I’ve heard people say it’s made the world smaller through our ability to connect to anyone anywhere at anytime, but to me it’s opposite. As I said before, MySpace allowed me to big apart of something huge. I grew up in a town of 8,000, went to school with the same kids since elementary school and felt bored, basic and unnoticed. Through MySpace, I met people, I discovered new places and people through that site and felt comforted that there was more out there than Island Lake, Illinois. Facebook and Twitter only made this stronger as networking is so much more on those sites than on MySpace. With props to my Online PR class, I have made strides on my Twitter involvement which has directly resulted in making great networking connections. I have come to follow and be followed by others with the same interests as me who live all over the world. I have been made connections with public relations professionals everywhere from Colorado to New Orleans to South Africa and Switzerland. I have been followed by new people after tweeting about new podcasts or movies I like. And while some of these connections might not ever amount to anything, there’s a chance that they might. Prior to social media, these connections were rare; with social media these connections happen daily.

At the same time, as a future parent this scares me. I have had several interactions on social media that are creepy and inappropriate. In eighth grade, a man around 50 years old had requested to be my friend on MySpace. I denied him as we had no mutual friends and I had never met him personally. He then messaged me an entirely creepy message and re-requested. I responded with a swift block. This wasn’t the only time this happened. I never told my parents about any of the inappropriate encounters I had because I was afraid they would make me delete my accounts. I know through my experience with social media, I will have to be much more proactive in my future childrens’ social media involvment because while it is great that it expands our world, there are certain things we don’t want or need to be exposed to.

Social media has been an extremely life-changing tool for many people. What’s amazing is how it’s going to continue to grow and progress through the future. I find it so interesting that there are jobs now designated specifically to maintain organization’s social media sites. The importance of social media is apparent and it can make or break an image. I think in that sense it’s made me reevaluate the image or brand I’m giving myself in my posts. I look at my Facebook memories daily and see all the embarrassing posts I’ve made over the years. I’ve shared TMI, cussed a lot, been overly opinionated and more. Looking at those posts or doing social media audits make me contemplate the person I want people to see me as.

Book review: The Tao of Twitter

I honestly chose the book The Tao of Twitter solely from the name. I read The Tao of Pooh years ago and loved it; the word “tao” was really reeling me in. I was not expecting to love the book as much as I did. I’m still fairly new to Twitter, though I’ve had an account for years. I made my account pretty much when it first came out. I watched a clip on the former user submitted news channel Current about the growing fad of Twitter, and being a former MySpace and Facebook addict, I thought it looked fun. I made an account, started tweeting and was bored to death. None of my friends had Twitters yet so there was no interaction. Instead of investing time into learning more about how to use the site and push my friends to join as well, I just stopped logging on. Within the year, it exploded. Everyone I knew had a Twitter, news stations were using Twitter to get information out fast, celebrities, companies, bands and more all had Twitter accounts. But because I had a negative experience before, I wasn’t convinced to try my account out again. It took years and this class to convince me to jump on the bandwagon and now I get the hype. I am now becoming a Twitter addict. But I’m still at a place where I’m learning new ways to connect to people and more about what Twitter has to offer. The Tao of Twitter has given me amazing insight into what my experience on Twitter can become.

The stories told by Mark W. Schaefer about his personal Twitter experiences made the advice he offered so much more valuable and reliable. In the beginning of the book, Schaefer goes into detail about the value that friendships that have formed on Twitter can be to a person’s career. He explains a specific example of an interaction he had with one girl who simply replied to a tweet he posted about the Steeler’s that benefitted his business and her career. This story completely inspired me to step up my Twitter game. Over the last few weeks of our J360 class and hash tagging phrases like #PublicRelations, #PR, #SocialMedia and other PR related words, I have had a complete influx of followers in the PR and marketing world. While I have noticed some are spam accounts, some are legitimate executives of public relations firms or professionals in the field. This story has opened my eyes to the possible interactions I may have with any of these people that may someday lead to a move in my career. Because of this, I am inspired to go get my headshots done to have a good profile picture, to clean up my bio and audit my past tweets and to maintain both personal and professional posts to show personality and professionalism to these public relations role models.

In the next section of the Twitter basics, Schaefer explains that meaningful content is the second step in the tao. Through this section, Schaefer explains that in order to strengthen or make possible connections your content has to be meaningful. There’s no better way to be meaningful than to be human. I have seen this first-hand in the last few weeks on Twitter. As I stated before, I have had an influx of followers since I have been more active on Twitter. A quite a few of these have been spam accounts or just people who post way too many mundane articles or plugs for their businesses. Seeing my feed flooded with these boring posts causes me to scroll past them and to mute their posts. I want to continue to follow them in case someday there is a connection, but it’s hard for me to reach out for a connection because frankly I’m not interested in their posts. I want to see who they are, not just constant information about their business.

Speaking of business, Schaefer explains the benefits Twitter accounts can have on a business. He explains that “Twitter users are three times more likely to follow brands than Facebook users. In addition to following brands, Twitter users research and engage with companies—42 percent learn about products and services via Twitter, and 41 percent provide opinions about products and services.” Yet again, I agree with Schaefer. Brand pages on Facebook feel so much like an advertisement whereas Twitter somehow creates a personality for a brand and feels more like a great public relations tactic. Of course, this also depends on the brand, but the interaction between buyers and brands on Twitter creates that relationship and what is PR for if not for building relationships?

Chapter five was one of the most helpful chapters for me because Schaefer addresses some very important setup basics. The most important thing for me still is building up my followers. I follow several hundred people, but don’t have nearly that many people following me back. Schaefer explains Twitter is only really fun if you are interacting and engaging with people. How do you engage with someone who doesn’t know you exist? He offered some tips on how to build your followers, including searching hashtags for people with the same interests, searching for people that are on lists and just to start following anybody you might find interesting. He explains there is an unwritten code to follow back those you follow you, so I started following people back who were following me and just finding anyone that might be fun to follow in hopes they will reciprocate. Of course you can’t follow everybody, so I did just start searching public relations related hashtags, hashtags related to my favorite TV shows, movies and other interests and found people that seemed pretty cool. Since the start of J360 and since I began reading this book, I have gained about 60 followers. I think that’s a good start, but it’s not enough.

As Schaefer goes into detail about authentic helpfulness, he mentions the importance of building your tribe. I am nowhere near having a tribe. While I have gained followers, I have yet to build relationships with them. Schaefer says it’s important to befriend not just influential people, but also real people who are willing to get to know you. He says to read peoples’ profiles, retweet their posts and reach out to them when it’s applicable. Getting this far into the book made me realize just how much work Twitter can be. While Schaefer says to spend about twenty minute a day on Twitter, I feel that with where I am on Twitter right now, I need to spend much more than twenty minutes a day to catch up on what I’ve missed out on for years now.

I would say that next to chapter five, the next most helpful chapter for me was chapter eight, “Unraveling Twitter.” Getting to know the language of Twitter helped me navigate and use certain tools Twitter has that I never understood before. For example, I follow Chrissy Teigen (because who doesn’t?) and she kept talking about her mentions. I really had no idea what this was or how to access it until I read through the language of Twitter section.

The last section I found most helpful was chapter fifteen, “The Awesome Power of the Twitter Search.” In this section is a table explaining how to search a topic in several different ways to find the results you are looking for. Being an international social media service, anything searched can result in thousands (or more) hits. I have noticed this in the last several weeks of being a part of Twitter. Especially using Twitter on my phone, I find it hard to find exactly what I’m looking for. But the guide Schaefer offers towards the end of the book is extremely helpful and something I will definitely use to find what I’m looking for.

The whole book is honestly helpful and interesting, but there’s no way to possible address everything I loved and learned from this book without writing a whole book myself. In less than 250 pages, Schaefer offers important information and advice to not just beginners but also advanced Twitter users. Though tweets are only 140 characters, Twitter is a complicated yet significant tool for everybody. In order to be successful, you have to know what you’re doing and how to efficiently do it. Mark Schaefer’s book The Tao of Twitter is a concise, effective guide on how to boost your Twitter presence.

 

 

 

#OkayToSay

I read of a campaign happening in Texas called “Okay To Say” designed to allow Texans the opportunity to freely talk about mental health issues. It was launched by the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute after a survey showed 3 in 4 Texans know someone that has a mental health issue and 9 in 10 Texans believe it’s harder to talk about mental health than physical health.

There is definitely a stigma placed on mental health issues. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, it took me a long time to realize it’s not something to be ashamed or embarrassed of. Some people’s hearts don’t work quite right, some people’s kidneys don’t function properly; my mind handles stress and emotions much differently than others. Illness is illness no matter if it’s physical or mental.

Since the campaign launched, Bruce Springsteen is one of a few celebrities who have come forth about mental health issues he faced. I think this a great campaign that can push not just Texas but the country to overcome the negative connotations with mental health and strive to better the healthcare needed for these issues.

 

Article Review: Yahoo Hack Messaging Promises Investigation, Puts Security in User’s Hands

Yahoo officially released that in 2014, over 500 million accounts had been hacked. Some of the information copied by the hackers were passwords, security questions and answers. In the last year, several major hacks have been revealed including the Russian hack of the DNC servers. This brings us to a very important question: how often do you change your account passwords and questions?

We all rely on a sense of security from the big, wide web. Even though we are all so gracious with personal information on our Facebooks, Twitters, Tumblrs and other social media sites, we are releasing information we give permission to be put out into the world. Yet, we trust the 8-character minimum password we assign to even more important and private accounts such as bank accounts and billing accounts. We take for granted the very fact that these 8-characters words, phrases or collection of random letters and numbers are extremely crackable. We assign a single password for multiple accounts, trusting that no one could possibly know the name of your very first goldfish and the year it died, or the nickname your father gave you, or the make and model of your first car.

Passwords, like underwear, need to be changed frequently. Maybe not everyday as good hygiene suggests, but don’t be lazy. Your actual identity could be at stake. Check out this site to see how safe your passwords really are from being cracked: https://howsecureismypassword.net/

http://www.prnewsonline.com/yahoo-hack

 

Article Review: Are Hashtags Really Useful for Twitter Marketing?

In the Twitter world, it’s basically a sin to not hashtag. Hashtagging is believed to bring like-minds and new followers to your account, organization and overall mission. This summer in the Non-Profit PR class I took, of the 100 social media musts we analyzed hashtagging was right at the top. It’s a free, easy way to market.

However, in the article I read from Social Times, hashtags are seeming to become a waste of time. Ryan McCready, content editor at infographics design platform Venngage, analyzed 137,000 tweets within one week and came to the conclusion that only a mere 35% of the accounts tweeting a particular hashtag were genuine; the other 65% were either spam accounts or questionable accounts.

McCready also found in his analysis that 11,000 tweets in 3 days led to “10.5 million false likes and 10.8 million false tweets or retweets”; this could essentially lead to “almost 15 billion false notifications per month.”

It’s understood in PR and marketing that social media isn’t fool-proof; it’s a lot of tedious and difficult work sometimes. With the millions and millions of accounts currently on Twitter vying for as many followers’ attention that they can get, it’s already difficult enough to cut through the clutter to get your message across. You have a lot of competition and it’s fierce. On top of that, you have the problems with bots and spam accounts, and if there’s a strong presence of these spammers, that can deter future followers from taking your organization seriously. And if these bots and spammers and “questionable accounts” are using your organization’s hashtags, this can make it even more difficult to have a meaningful message displayed to the Twitter world. There are accounts that hashtag whatever it takes to get anyone and everyones’ attention, all for the sake of followers.

I do understand what the article is saying, and I understand the problem PR, marketing and advertising people face with spam accounts. However, I do see the overall value in using hashtags. Sure, there may be unwanted attention, retweets or likes from unfavorable accounts. Yet, with hashtags, your message can be reached to thousands more than it would without hashtagging. Using hashtags allows your audience to find more information about a special event or the overall mission of your organization; it allows other organizations with similar missions to come together and work towards their common goals; it’s also, again, a simple, cheap way to get your points your cross and allow your audience to be apart of your team by sharing these hashtags with their followers as well.

I think one way to try to prevent some of these spam accounts from infiltrating your messages is by using unique hashtags, not generic ones. For example, the article explains this:

“More than one-half of the tweets in #Advertising are zerospam, and less than one-quarter are real. For almost all hashtags analyzed–including #Entrepreneur, #DigitalMarketing, #InfluencerMarketing and #Startup–more than one-half of the tweets came from questionable accounts.”

These hashtags that were analyzed are pretty generic; instead, by using more organization or mission specific hashtags, you might prevent the majority of your audience from being fake accounts. For example, the Alzheimer’s Association uses the hashtag #Walk2EndAlz to advertise the Alzheimer’s Walks. I would think the more specific you are, the less likely you are to be bombarded by these spam accounts.

It can be discouraging for PR professionals to use these social media tools knowing that at times, majority of their perceived audience is actually spam or questionable accounts. But Twitter and the use of hashtags are still some of the best tools to use, especially for non-profit organizations.

http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/are-hashtags-really-useful-for-twitter-marketing-infographic/644583