Facing the Facebook Generation

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My Facebook profile. Do the notifications excite you? They do for most people.

I won’t preach to you all; I’ll just tell you my personal experiences with Facebook.

I held out for as long as I could in high school without succumbing. I didn’t want to get addicted, or be a part of those secretive conversations about who did what to whom. Nevertheless, because the (student) editor of our newspaper only communicated via Facebook, I succumbed. And have regretted it many a time.

Yes, it’s a great communication tool, for all the family scattered abroad and the classmates we haven’t talked to in years and that person we never had a relationship with. But unless you’re a supernatural wizard, and pathways are not reinforced by neurotransmitters in your brain, you’ve probably spent many a night looking people up you’ve never even met and perusing their photos. 

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More times than I care to acknowledge, I’ve seen someone walking down the street and felt a pang of familiarity. After I’ve wracked my brain to figure out how I know them, it hits me: I’ve seen their Facebook profile. Or how about when you meet someone and you tell them you’ve met before, but you don’t remember where? They don’t remember you. And then it hits you: Facebook. Caught red-handed. 

How about those beautiful bright red notifications that confirm people think you’re as funny, smart, or witty as you think you are? Or when your profile alerts the public that you’ve gone to an event? Tells everyone that you do, in fact, do worthwhile and fun things with your time with other people that are equally as popular? 

Oooh. Friends. Now that is a touchy subject. I know people who literally have 3,000+ Facebook friends. Now really, what’s the point? I’m not a perpetual friender, so I only have around 180 friends.

Only.

Should I feel sad and friendless? Or should I just feel sorry for the people unable to differentiate between their real friends and fake ones? Do they friend every single person that they meet? It’s the only answer I can possibly fathom to be remotely accurate.

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How about when people tag you in photos so you don’t have to upload them yourself like all the other losers out there? Really, now. You’re above the uploading stage. (Fake it ’til you make it, anyway.)

 I have so many college friends who constantly upload drunk party photos of themselves. Why is that? Because they look good for these events on the weekends and they want their other school friends to see they can look decent if they put in the effort? Is it because they want to show how many “real life” friends they have and how these people like them enough to get drunk with them?

Well, after all that, I’m still here and kickin’. An active Facebook community member. I still have my account. I nearly deactivated it in the summer, but held onto it because it was just too d*** useful. We’ve all claimed that we want to deactivate our accounts. Been there, done that, I know. I’m not unique in that regard. My account has come in handy several times in the past few weeks, from contacting people about spring classes to finding out about events to even crowdsourcing for a class assignment. I’ve told myself after college I’m done. Deleting my account. But I’m going into PR, and I’ll be hard-pressed to remain social-media-less. So it seems I’m screwed for now, and also for the long term. At least I have one thing going for me:

Twitter will have to wait. 

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Aside

To the PR industry: Take a look in the mirror


ImageMost of the world hates us. We’re manipulative, deceitful, and devious.

Which industry am I referring to?

Well, it’s not the medical one. Or the nonprofit industry. It could be the ice cream truck industry, whose model is to coerce little kids into begging their parents to buy them ice cream. But it’s not politically correct to harp on that.

I’m talking about the field of public relations.

*Gulp*

My textbook claims that public relations is all about building and maintaining positive relationships with one’s publics. Although the model for PR used to be manipulation and persuasion, we’ve moved on. Advanced, progressed. Become enlightened. Now we strive to communicate with our publics and receive feedback.

That’s all BS, and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. Sure, honesty is a good policy, and I don’t hope to see any libel or slander suits come my way in the future. But I wish that PR practitioners would just be honest about what they’re trying to accomplish. I mean, come on. War propaganda originated from this industry. Go read the book Toxic Sludge is Good for You. It’s a pretty nasty but accurate expose of the PR industry.

Persuasion? Yes.

Relationships? Maybe.

Tonight I heard Jack Martin, CEO of Hill & Knowlton, one of the oldest PR agencies in the world, speak about the future of PR. He emphasized that the “public” in “public relations” will become exceedingly important as time progresses, especially because of the proliferation of mobile gadgets. He didn’t clarify why the public is the essential element of good PR. But they’re “important”.

The very act of the PR field claiming that its focus is on the people and a two-way reciprocal model of communication is itself a spin scandal. Hypocritical and ironic. The multi-billion dollar industry, which advocates honesty and Ivy Lee’s handprint “always tell the truth,” conceals its real motive of manipulation behind the veil of “doing good for the public” and building positive and mutually beneficial relationships. They call it management; my textbook and professor love throwing that word around. I call it manipulation.

This is the industry, whether you’d like to believe it or not. I like PR simply because it empowers its practitioners to mass-manipulate the public.

Lofty goal? I won’t say it is.

The idea of manipulation fascinates me nonetheless. I could have been a lawyer and done the same thing, but I didn’t want to sit in school for many years. But no one would deny that the primary objective of a lawyer is to twist and manipulate the facts. I wish the PR industry would recognize its objectives are the same.

You may not like me, but at least I’m not a hypocrite.

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Is political decorum relevant any more?

Biden laughs in Ryan’s face during the vice presidential debate.

I watched the vice presidential debate on Thursday night, courtesy of YouTube. Being a pseudo-political junkie, I was excited to watch it, and to see Paul Ryan’s personality emerge.

With his reputation, I was certain that he would dominate the debate.

Wrong.

While the verbal sparring began benignly, it soon climbed the ranks and topped out as a historically significant event. (Both vice presidential candidates are Catholic, which also deemed the event a historical moment.)

I was genuinely surprised by how rude Biden was and acted during Ryan’s speaking. I’m not naive; I know that politics is determined by how aggressively the underdog can undercut the upperdog. That was Romney’s strategy for the first presidential debate, and he was largely declared the winner of the event by the general population.

But here’s where Romney and Biden differ: while Romney pushed forward his talking points for a couple moments even after his time was up on the clock, Biden laughed out loud in Ryan’s face while he spoke about his agenda, and consistently interrupted him. Biden also constantly whined that he was given less time than Ryan to speak, which simply wasn’t true, and it took the moderator, Martha Raddatz, to tell him to more or less just shut up.

It was nice to see an animated and laughing side to Biden, and there were some great moments that made national headlines:

Biden: “That’s a bunch of malarkey!”

Biden, later: “That’s a bunch of stuff.”

Moderator: “What do you mean by ‘stuff’?”

Ryan: “It’s Irish.”

But Biden’s condescension was simply over the top, and although he was deemed the de facto winner, so many people were upset by this obnoxious element of his personality that emerged on Thursday night that they are reconsidering their vote.

I know I am.

 

Columbus Day?

ImageI’m all for Columbus. Apparently, we wouldn’t be here without him, and this country that we call home today would not be our motherland had he not discovered it. 

My mom gets off work Monday, because she works for the federal government. The rest of us still have school, which is a disappointment. But in thinking last week, I had to stop and pause. 

Why is Columbus Day a holiday? As I recall from American history classes, approximately 95% of the natives were progressively wiped out, because we landed on the shores and decided that the land, as white people, belonged to US and no one else. Germs did most of the trick, and as for the leftovers? Guns and steel were pretty efficient.

Finders keepers, right? Wrong. 

Over 400 years after this country was founded, no one would argue that we had a right to exterminate the native peoples that we found here. I’m not a romantic; some tribes were absolutely vicious to each other. The times didn’t see anything wrong with this course of action either. 

But Columbus Day only became a holiday in 1937, less than 100 years ago. By that time, de facto segregation was more or less allowed, but explicit segregation was outlawed. Today, we’ve become the most liberal place on Earth, and anything goes.

This year, I’ll be celebrating the second days of Sukkot on Columbus Day, so the holiday is pretty irrelevant.

For the rest of you, my question is this: why do we still celebrate this holiday? And what should it mean to us?