COM0014 – Blog #1: The RMS Queen Mary 1

My boyfriend and I have been long-distance for 7 years. We’re separated by the USA/Canada border, but we try to make a trip to visit each other every year, twice if we’re lucky. Every time we see each other, we try to include one big event in each trip. For example, the last time he came up to Canada, I took him to Niagara Falls. In August 2019, when I last went to the States to see him, he took me to see the RMS Queen Mary I in Long Beach, California.

I’ve had an interest in ships for a long time, so I was very excited for this particular event. The Queen Mary I is an ocean liner, built in 1934 by Cunard-White Star Line. It was initially intended as a passenger liner for the transatlantic route, but became a troopship during WWII. It stayed in service until 1967, and today it sits permanently docked in Long Beach as a hotel and tourist attraction.

Over the years, it has acquired a reputation for being haunted. With about 50 deaths while it served as a passenger liner, and the countless deaths during wartime, it’s easy to see where this reputation might come abound.

We stayed one night in the ship, and took the ghost walk after dark. The haunted aspect was less important to me, I just really wanted to see all the cool spots the tour would take us. The Engine Room and the Boiler Room were the highlights of the tour.

I mean, take a look at the Boiler Room! It was so dark that I had to use the flash of my camera to even see the whole room.

I won’t call it a phobia, but I do have an irrational anxiety around large objects, especially objects that are supposed to move. I can’t even look at Google Earth because of this little quirk. So, when the tour arrived at one of the propellers, I battled a whirling sense of vertigo as I tried to take a good picture (also without dropping my phone into the open water. Yes – open water.) Person in the photo included for approximate scale. Does anyone else have a similar discomfort around grand objects or spaces? Please tell me that’s not too weird!

Lastly, although I’m not much invested in the “haunted” aspect of the ship’s attraction, I did manage to capture something strange in two of my photos, which were taken a second apart. The dimly lit picture on the left was taken first, and the second was taken moments later when I realized I didn’t have the flash on. I’d like to point you in the direction of the small, dark figure circled in the first picture, and its absence in the second.

I didn’t think this was strange until I realized no one on the tour was that small; there were no children under 13. Not to mention that the figure doesn’t look normal, it seems to be making some funny sort of pose. Then I thought maybe a person was kneeling there and it was creating a strange-looking figure without the flash. Then, I realized that with a mere second between the two pictures, a kneeling person would likely not have enough time to get up and walk out-of-frame before the second photo. So, I don’t have a solid explanation for the little, dark figure. It’s fun speculating, though! What do you think, any ideas on what could cause this little anomaly? Has anyone here experienced something odd on a ghost walk? Tell me about it!

I have so much more I’d like to say about this ship, but I think I’ll leave it at that for now. I know I’ll always think back on this trip with excitement and gratitude.

References

LeBlanc, J. (2018, July 30). 10 Haunting Facts About the Queen Mary. Retrieved from https://www.toptenz.net/10-haunting-facts-about-the-queen-mary.php

The Queen Mary. The War Years. Retrieved from https://www.queenmary.com/history/timeline/the-war-years/

The Queen Mary. Britain’s Masterpiece. Retrieved from https://www.queenmary.com/history/stats-fun-facts/comparison/

Wikipedia. (2020, October 28). RMS Queen Mary: History (1934–1939). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Queen_Mary#History_(1934%E2%80%931939)

ADHD vs. Social Media

Really this blog entry should be about neurodiversity in general, but seeing as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is my diagnosis, that will be the focus of my writing. ADHD is a common mental disorder, 8.5% of children and 2.5% of adults, often characterized by inattention and hyperactivity (Parekh. 2017).

I have heard criticisms from people about the existence of ADHD. There appears to be a belief that ADHD is over-diagnosed. Many young children, boys especially, are expected to be somewhat hyperactive; if a child doesn’t want to sit still in class, does that really make them disordered? I’ve also heard people speculate that technology is a contributing factor to the high rates of ADHD in children in recent years, as children are naturally inclined to seek out fun over work. I mean, why should children want to focus on Math when they have TikTok, Instagram, and online video games to challenge their attention?

Take this segment in RSA’s video, Changing Education Paradigms:

Keep in mind, there is a lot in this video that I agree with, and their outlook on the institution of education vs. our progressing society is definitely food for thought. That being said, I am wary of their stance on technology vs. ADHD.

I’ve come to know that there is much more to ADHD than hyperactivity and difficulty paying attention. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), ADHD is a brain disorder; certain structures in an ADHD brain are smaller or less dense than those in a neurotypical brain. The AACAP outlines that the cortex of the brain that controls memory, decision-making, problem solving, planning, and motivation to name a few- is affected by ADHD.

Imagine how frustrating it is for a child to be wired in a way that affects the way you make decisions, solve problems, make plans and motivate yourself, and then have their struggles be attributed to their consumption of technology, as opposed to the physiological differences in their brains. It might annoy an adult, but it could be dangerous to a child’s mental health. I am concerned this perception might mean that a child won’t get the treatment they need, or might be blamed for a disorder they can’t get rid of.

How it felt going through elementary school. (Source)

On the flip side, there are some great, insightful videos about people’s experiences with this disorder. Take Jessica McCabe’s TEDx Talk, Failing at Normal:

On a personal level, her speech resonates with me. The emotion in her voice as she speaks of her experience speaks of the struggle behind ADHD that most people don’t understand. McCabe also has a YouTube channel, How to ADHD where she gives great insight into many topics that might be helpful to people affected by this disorder.

There are also articles and forums dedicated to helping people with ADHD function better in their day-to-day lives, or if nothing else, exist to help each other understand that we’re not alone.

In all, obviously everything we consume online must be taken with a grain of salt and a critical mind. It is easy to spread harmful misinformation through social media, but it can also be a valuable place to find communities and networks of resources. Have you ever found a helpful community online to support you or a loved one? How do you feel about social media in regards to neurodiversity? Tell me your thoughts in the comments.

Twitter: Is Social Media helpful or harmful to people who are neurodivergent? Here’s one perspective from someone with ADHD. https://bit.ly/3m3PPbZ

Facebook: Are you, or do you know someone who has ADHD? Social media seems to have a lot to say about this disorder. https://bit.ly/3m3PPbZ


Parekh, R. (2017, July) What Is ADHD? Retrieved from: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/adhd/what-is-adhd

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2017, February) ADHD & the Brain. Retrieved from: https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/ADHD_and_the_Brain-121.aspx

Picking Up New Skills with Social Media

Twenty years ago, how did we pick up skills? We went to the library to pick up a book, took private lessons, joined a group or club, subscribed to a magazine, got a formal education, or we would wing it and dive into a new skill blindly.

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That’s not to say we don’t still do these things, or that we shouldn’t, or even that these methods of learning are outdated and needed to be improved upon. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if, after this whole mess of a year is over, we see an uptick in face-to-face skill sharing methods. I imagine many of us are at least a little starved for human connection, or maybe that’s just me.

I miss my friends. Source

Today, though, there is an overabundance of online resources to pick up a skill, or research how to do a task. We’re essentially drowning in information, and it’s difficult (if not impossible) to know if what you’re reading online is a legitimate resource with helpful information.

Take YouTube, for example. There are entire communities dedicated to tutorials and developing skills. Cooking, makeup, singing, crafting, writing, repairs, DIY, and application tutorials are just a few of many skills that have communities dedicated to them on YouTube. On the same vein, many influencers promote sites like SkillShare, whose entire purpose is to learn new skills for an economical price (Skillshare, 2020).

Sites like Skillshare aren’t without their criticisms, though. One article on StudyBreak, a website written by students about media and culture, states that the teachers on Skillshare may not be experts in their fields (Stager, 2020). Who is there to verify the information being shared to students? Stager goes on to say that without quality control, students must be critical about how qualified their teachers are. Therefore, the courses cannot be trusted entirely.

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This also applies to online forums for specific skills. I have personally used forums such as Absolute Write and Podcasts such as Writing Excuses to learn other people’s opinions about creative writing, but I have always used these resources with the knowledge that I cannot take anyone’s word for absolute fact. I have to use my own experiences, and reconcile their opinions with my own, to determine whether or not I believe these resources are worth my time. That being said, hearing other people’s opinions, and hearing people talk about writing topics I would have never considered, has been helpful to me in improving my own writing.

Is social media a valid resource for learning? What do you believe? Tell me your experiences below!

Twitter: Can you learn new skills with Social Media? Here’s what I think: https://bit.ly/36ZZPiw

Facebook: Social media has changed everything, including how we learn new skills. Click the link to read some pros and cons: https://bit.ly/36ZZPiw

References

                Skillshare. (2020) About. Retrieved from https://www.skillshare.com/about

                Stager, M. (2020, September 23) Are Learning Platforms Like Skillshare Worth Your Time? Retrieved from https://studybreaks.com/college/linkedin-learning-vs-skillshare/

Catfishing: A Cautionary Tale

I believe social media is a valuable tool for social and business connection. All of my clients communicate with me exclusively online. I also would never have met some of my best friends without social media. That being said, we all know that making social connections online is risky, due to the web’s anonymous nature. I know of these risks first-hand. Let me preface this story though, by saying I believe this experience was particularly exceptional, and isn’t necessarily representative of online connections as a whole.

In early 2012, I started using social media platforms to connect with people for creative projects. I found a group of people looking for additional talents through YouTube. The group thought I would be a good fit for the role they were looking for, so they brought me in and invited me to their Skype group chat. We used Skype to communicate through text and voice chat, and to share files stored on cloud sites such as Dropbox. At this time, we weren’t professionals; we were young people from all over the world, who wanted to share our talents with a community, so we came together to work on a project. We were all excited, and we all became fast friends.

There were warning signs from the beginning.

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The director of this project, let’s call him Tommy, was mostly friendly but comically egotistical. I can still hear his drawling voice boasting over his subscriber count. Tommy was very possessive of his project, constantly lording over us with his leader status. He also refused to entertain the idea of releasing smaller-scale products concurrently with his Big Project. He was still a friend, just one we kept at arm’s length.

Things got weird.

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Tommy quickly became romantically involved with a girl on the team, let’s call her Ana. Ana had a brother– call him Evan – that occasionally helped with small tasks. Evan didn’t have a role in the project at first, but he became a friend, too.

Tommy and Ana’s relationship became pretty involved, but the rest of us started noticing strange things about Ana and Evan. They never talked at the same time, for one, and all of us thought Ana’s voice sounded strange, like a forced whisper. We tried bring up our concerns to Tommy, but our speculations were disregarded every time.

Everything turned around overnight.

Guess what hit this fan? Source

After a few months, Tommy finally allowed a portion of the team to work on a small project to boost our audience. So, we began working on a project that would become our first official release to our new YouTube channel. Meanwhile, Tommy talked about buying a plane ticket to see Ana in person.

A few days later, Evan started a Skype call with terrible news. He and Ana had been in a car accident with a drunk driver. Evan was okay, but Ana had tragically passed away. Tommy was inconsolable, and we all mourned our friend.

We thought it couldn’t get worse.

The next day, I got online to find everyone in a call again, panicked and scrambling for information. In the early morning, Tommy had left a final goodbye message to us.

However, our concern was short-lived; Tommy soon joined the call, unharmed and not a danger to himself. Tommy apparently had suspicions about Ana, and was trying to coerce the truth out of Evan. Tommy just needed our concern to be genuine in order for the threat to work.

The truth was that Ana never existed. Evan had pretended to be two people the entire time. Tommy told us that Evan had made Ana up to get close to him.

Initially, we were shocked and angry at Evan. How could our friend manipulate us like that? Then, our anger turned to Tommy, for the exact same reasons. The entire situation was beyond messed up, and both Tommy and Evan sat at the heart of the cause. So, every single one of us left the group. We then regrouped as a new team, without Tommy and Evan.

Turns out, the Silver Lining was worth the mess.

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We finally released the small project we’d been working on, and continued to do small projects for the duration of the channel’s existence. We amassed an audience of over 200,000 people across our social media platforms. We attended conventions, networked with industry professionals, and best of all, we worked together as a real team. Nearly nine years later, this group remains some of my closest friends. Even though the channel is no longer active, we all still collaborate and help each other out. I believe that this experience bonded us, perhaps permanently.

What now?

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What does the experience mean to me today? Well, thankfully it didn’t continue to sit in my brain and become a traumatic experience. I believe I have my network of friends to thank for the recovery of our well-being. It does serve as a cautionary reminder, though, to stay alert when making online connections.

What is “Catfishing” exactly? One site from TechTarget defines a Catfish as someone who fakes their online identity (Rouse, 2014). They also continue to outline a few warning signs, such as:

– Not wanting to meet in person or chat over webcams
– Claiming a serious disease/injury
– Attractive profile pictures
– Giving personal information that doesn’t make sense
– Asking for money (Rouse, 2014)

So, if you have suspicions about anyone you may be communicating with online, or you know someone who is talking to suspicious person, be on the lookout for these warning signs.

Have you ever had a strange encounter with an online persona? What did you learn from the experience? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

Twitter: You won’t believe this Catfishing story! Read about it here: https://bit.ly/36srxEc

Facebook: You never know who you’re talking to online. Read one person’s wild story about Catfishing here: https://bit.ly/36srxEc

References

Rouse, M. (2014, June). Definition: catfish. Retrieved from https://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/catfish

COM0011 – How Social Media Changes Us.

This past week, I read Hopper’s article Influencer Marketing in 2020 – Are We Sick Of It Yet? At one point, the author states that younger generations demand authentic content, which they are not getting when companies use influencers to promote their products. (Hopper, 2020)

I find this quote interesting and somewhat ironic. Content on social media was once seen as authentic by default, at least far more authentic than media on TV, radio, in magazines and movies. In the mid-late 2000s, content creators on social media garnered large audiences in a seemingly “organic” manner, mostly through word of mouth in the form of shares, likes, comments, and followers. This was before comprehensive algorithms, bots, sponsors and ads.

The idea that content creators on social media – now termed “influencers” are going the same route as older forms of media in terms of authenticity, is a fascinating development.

This idea reminds of one particular conversation I with a friend back in 2008. We were at the movies, watching the trailers before our show came on. I can’t remember what movie we were about to watch, nor the trailers we saw, but I do remember a conversation I had with my friend. We’d just seen a trailer advertise its movie using a Twitter handle. We looked at each other, puzzled, and remarked how weird it was to see a movie using Twitter to advertise itself.

In 2008, social media sites weren’t regarded as professional platforms, at least not to us teenagers at the time. YouTube had only just launched its Partner Programs (Jackson, 2011). Twitter was the site to keep tabs on celebrities’ day-to-day thoughts and activities. Facebook still had gaming apps, Poke wars and Honesty Box, a classic vessel for cyber-bullying. In hindsight, I realize that social media already had a significant impact on society, especially in the United States with Barack Obama’s presidential campaign (Aaker, 2009). My friend and I were only somewhat cognizant of political events of the time, however; we simply found it strange to see something in the “real world” advertised on social media. The line between this so-called real world and the internet was distinct.

I consider myself lucky; my adolescent struggles were nothing compared to the challenges youths of this decade face. On the smaller end of the scale, I never had to worry about how botched my makeup looked. None of us had the beauty-guru community on YouTube to teach us how to shape our brows, or create the perfect winged-liner look, or how to contour our faces. We didn’t need perfect techniques or expensive brands – we were all experimenting with our looks. Teens today appear to be under so much more pressure to look perfect.

One nice thing about masks is that my makeup routine gets cut in half. (Image Source)

More importantly, however, the ease of access to information means that no one is blind to world events. Ten years ago, my lazy teenage self could choose not to watch the news on TV, or choose not to read the newspaper and remain ignorant of the world around me.

(Image Source)

Today, newsworthy events are all around us online. People talk about everything on Twitter and Facebook. Livestreams are available to keep updated about ongoing events. Articles can be found everywhere, even before you load a single website if you have apps such as Pocket for Firefox. I generally regard this as a positive change, but as we all know, the abundance of information has a troubling dark side. Misinformation, hacking, conspiracy theories, and extremists – these can affect all of us in some way or another, and they can be difficult to recognize when they’re designed to prey on our vulnerabilities and predispositions. Adults who are unaware of these snares can be duped by misinformation that elicits strong emotional reaction. Teens, who are often navigating the online world without any guidance, are even more at risk.

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Social media and the internet at large has fundamentally changed us. We are at a transitional point where the most knowledgeable and adaptable demographic of users are also the most vulnerable – people who were born into our current technological landscape, with no concept of what used to be considered “normal”. Over time, I hope we will become so adept at navigating these digital pitfalls, that they will no longer pose a threat to the wellbeing of future generations as well as the positive potential of widespread access to information.

Twitter
The life of a teen in the 2000s was surprisingly different from those in the 2010s. How Social Media Changes Us
https://bit.ly/35SrGjW

Facebook
Who had it better, teens in the 2000s or the 2010s? Read my take in How Social Media Changes Us.
https://bit.ly/35SrGjW

References

Hopper, D. (2020, September 7). Influencer Marketing in 2020 – Are We Sick Of It Yet? Retrieved from
https://www.business2community.com/marketing/influencer-marketing-in-2020-are-we-sick-of-it-yet-02343130

Jackson, N. (2011, August 3). Infographic: The History of Video Advertising on YouTube. Retrieved from
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/08/infographic-the-history-of-video-advertising-on-youtube/242836/

Aaker, J. (2009, August 27). Obama and the Power of Social Media and Technology. Retrieved from
https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/faculty-research/case-studies/obama-power-social-media-technology