COMM14 – Blog Post #2 / Communication Styles – Breaking Bad Habits

I tried to get my mom into Breaking Bad over the recent Christmas holidays.

This incredible television series – five excellent seasons long – chronicles the tribulations of Walter White, your average middle-aged high school chemistry teacher who breaks bad and becomes a illegal methamphetamine drug kingpin. It’s required viewing for any fan of great television, great acting, or great writing.

But, according to my mom,

“It just takes to long to get started!”

–Mom, in classic mom voice, December 2015.

A little bit of context: I forced her to sit down with me to watch the first two episodes (I had been keen to rewatch the series after its Facebook page posted a “which Breaking Bad character are you?” quiz), and she appeared to be unmoved by the whole concept.

Mom: It seems interesting, but the characters are boring and nothing has happened.
Me: What?? The characters are the best part. SO much happens!
Mom: Well I’m bored, we should watch something else.
Me: I don’t get you. This is the best series ever, it has such a high rating on IMDB—
Mom: The neighbours will be over soon, could you set the table? Where did I put the poinsetta…

As you can see, my mom’s attention span (like any modern consumer of new-age blog-style media) is extremely thin. She’s a busy journeywoman with a lot on the go, so if something isn’t interesting right away, it’s not worth her time.

The Inverted Pyramid communication style online caters to the impatience of modern mom-like™ social media consumers: they are rarely willing to offer up their time to navigate their way through a dense editorial piece with a lengthy analogous intro (of which I am certainly guilty of at this very moment).

They want the juicy bits right away; they want to be hooked in to whatever their reading and they’re satisfied with having the additional details explored later. Otherwise? They’d rather prep the house for a neighbourhood dinner.

Back to Breaking Bad: what I eventually realized in my mom-conundrum is that I had already seen the entire series before – I had the big plot points stored in my memory bank, with the details slightly blurred. In essence, my memory of the entire show was compiled in an Inverted Pyramid in my brain.

But for Mrs. Donaldson, the busy high matriarch of my Donaldson family, the long narrative and expositional details of the first two episodes of a 62 episode series weren’t explosive enough to reel her in immediately.

Ultimately, an epic, Emmy Award winning TV series isn’t like a blog post: a) because there’s no award shows for blogs and b) because no one reading your blog has time for the flowery exposition. In effective social media communication, you must wow your readers from the get-go and then – if they’re interest is maintained – you can saturate them in details afterward.

Thus, your post should be structured like a trailer rather than a series.

EDIT: Am I a hypocrite for advocating the Inverted Pyramid approach to blogging without actually practicing it in my post? Perhaps. But some blog topics, particularly reflective editorial ones, benefit from the Hourglass model of writing.

 

COMM14 – Blog Post #1 / What I Did On My Vacation: Exchange 101

 

“Take a big chunk of our hard-earned money and thrust yourself into the geographic definition of culture”
-Mom, date unknown.

I can’t imagine these are words that many middle class children have heard frequently in their inspired, escapist-centric teenage years; and I have to admit that, in all honesty, that might be a bit of a misquote.

In my third year of post-secondary studies at Queen’s University, I decided that it was 100% necessary that I embark on the ethnographic spirit quest known as Academic Exchange. I rallied what few funds I hadn’t spent on textbooks I barely opened, alcohol I had barely omitted from my diet, and luxurious 2am visits to McDonald’s I could barely remember.

Alas, it wasn’t enough, but with the help and unconditional – although possibly irrational – support from my parents, six months later I was off to Cardiff University, in the capital of the nation within a country (“not-England, UK”), Wales.

My time in Cardiff wasn’t long by any means, however four and a half months living in a foreign country is more than enough time to learn a few things not only about a different culture (a Big Mac in the UK has nothing on it’s North American brother) but about myself as well.

Here are a few things I learned while on exchange:

  1. Research The University – Not Just The City

Cardiff, the capital of Wales, has a population of roughly 450,000 and a long history in coal mining. There is a significant sporting culture there and the bars and clubs available to the youthfully reckless sprites of the city are endless. I knew plenty of facts about the city of Cardiff before arriving, but not much about the actual university I was attending.

What I didn’t know was that Cardiff University was popular for its status as a “party school” for posh Londoners who cared not for the expensive flats they grew up in with their parents. I also was unaware of how far the university (and the university residence) was from the city centre, and that I was only allowed taking three courses in my academic program.

Do a bit of extra research. It certainly won’t hurt.

  1. Money – Save It So You Can Spend It

I came to Cardiff with parent-allocated money for a flight and for rent, but that’s it (the fact that they were willing to pay for that much is incredibly humbling and I’m forever grateful.) However, the rest of my trip was up to my own wallet, and sadly I completely misjudged how expensive it is not only for personal upkeep in the UK over the course of several months, but how expensive it is to travel to all the places I eventually wanted to travel to.

I worked for two months the summer prior at a restaurant. $2,000 Canadian was not enough for that quintessential student Eurotrip that everyone on exchange is supposed to have – at least according to Facebook.

  1. On That Note – Regret Nothing

When I realized that my high expectations for the perfect exchange trip might not be met, it was a bit of a downer. Several of my other friends on exchange had asked me to meet up with them in their various host countries (Istanbul? Is that too far for an Uber?), and I had to decline – I only scraped together enough ca$h for a few weeks in Portugal and Belgium.

But then I realized – I’m here, I’m in a foreign country, and there’s a large chance that this experience will not be replicated any time soon. Don’t let the idea of the perfect exchange bog you down, take the bull by the horns (if you’re in Spain, particularly), and make your exchange experience exactly what you want it to be with the cards you have been dealt.

  1. McDonald’s In Europe Just Isn’t As Great

With the exception of the Chicken Legend®, the sodium content of their burgers and fries just isn’t where I need it to be at 3am on a Saturday.

Yum.

The Chicken Legend itself.

Lived in Europe or know someone who is about to? Sound off in the comments!