Tagged: social media

Student project aims to combat racism on campus

By Jacob Carter, Staff Writer

I am too, NYU aims to combat racism on campus./ PHOTO VIA Flickr user DryHundredFear

Despite better efforts, racism still exists./ PHOTO VIA Flickr user DryHundredFear

Nine students at New York University recently banded together to form the “I, too, am NYU” project. The organization’s goal is to bring a voice to the campus’ many racial minority groups and illuminate the discrimination that such students frequently face.

The inspiration for the project originated from similar actions taken by students at universities such as Harvard and Oxford. Involvement in the mission came after the college’s president, John Sexton, proclaimed in a university-wide speech that “there is no racial majority ” on the campus. Needless to say, many students felt insulted by such a remark, as it minimized the importance of race and glossed over prejudices that still exist today.

The project’s most powerful element comes in the form of photos that have since been publicized by means of various social media outlets. In the pictures, each individual holds up a whiteboard on which he or she has written some of the racist or stereotypical remarks that have been addressed to them.

One black female student wrote down a comment made by her white male roommate, which reads “There’s no such thing as a black pretty girl.” Another student wrote down the words of a concerned parent who didn’t think her daughter would get into the school because the school was “letting in a lot of foreigners.”

Along with the photographs, the organization crafted a proposal asking the university’s administration to be more open in regards to issues such as race. Though their efforts are quite recent, the group has been met with large amounts of both support and criticism.

Most of the disapproval comes from those who claim that racial tension has been the only result of this project. Others are upset at how the project represents certain racial minorities better than others. On both accounts, I find these criticisms to be quite wrongheaded.

In regards to racial representation, the group itself wisely pointed out that the project is still in its early stages. Hopefully, as it continues to expand with new participants, it will not be long before a full spectrum of racial diversity is expressed.

However, it is the comment concerning racial tension that I found most disconcerting. By unveiling the discrimination that still exists in our current culture, these students have illustrated a problem that is often thought to be antiquated or irrelevant. Though prejudice is not as blatantly malicious as it once was, it is still an issue that demands to be addressed. Therefore, these students are not causing racial tension. They are simply uncovering an aspect of society that is all too often ignored by many people.

I was deeply moved by the project, and I hope that their efforts are rewarded by the presence of a more racially harmonious campus environment.


In Biz: Professor Boches on digital brands

By Madeline McGill, Staff Writer

There are few college students who are not familiar with at least one well-known digital brand. Staples such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr  have blended seamlessly into our lives, dominating our day-to-day rituals. Casual actions like waking up and checking Facebook or browsing through BuzzFeed during a study break  demonstrate the significant influence that digital brands hold.

Edward Boches, an advertising professor at Boston University’s College of Communication, says that digital brands are significant in that they often serve a certain utility, which is changing the landscape of how the idea of a brand is defined.

“By definition a digital brand isn’t something that you buy and wear, it isn’t something that you buy and eat, it isn’t something that you buy and drive, it’s something that you use on a day in day out basis,” said Boches. “So it has to add enough value to your life that it’s something you want to use.”

When one stops to think about how a digital brand such as Facebook became such an integral part of our social interactivity, the story becomes less clear. Yes, many digital brands arose to meet the growing market need for social media services. But how did the ideas behind Snapchat and Instagram turn into multi-million and billion dollar industries?

Boches said he believes that there are certain factors  that contribute to the success of a digital brand. One of these, he stated, is an available user base.

“If you look at the value of any digital brand, whether it’s Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, a blog like the Bleacher Report, it’s pretty much based on how many eyeballs it has,” said Boches. “

What use would Instagram be if no one had instant access to a camera at all times of the day? Part of the company’s success is that it was able to take advantage of the utility of the modern camera phone while creating a digital platform that appealed to a wide audience.

Appealing to a wide audience, according to Boches, can also be achieved by a frictionless user experience.

“Because you think about anything that you use in that space, and if it works really easily, really seamlessly, really simply, really institutive, and has very low friction to it, then you will tend to use it more,” said Boches. “So think about how fast Instagram took off. You didn’t need to figure it out or think about it.”

However, any avid Instagram user can tell you that it is not all about the individual user experience. There is a great need for users to share their experiences with their network, and Instagram provides a digital space where that need can be met.

“So why did Instagram take off so quickly? Because all of a sudden everybody in the world is walking around with a camera in their pocket that can capture images and what are you going to do with those images?” said Boches. “You’re going to want to share them and look and other people’s pictures, and so it could only have existed when all of a sudden the camera in your pocket was a universal thing. Which by the way was also connected to the web, which was connected to your social profile, which was connected to everything else.”

Digital brands that effectively tap into an active user base will experience astounding results. Since its  launch, Instagram boasts more than 200 million monthly users, 70% of whom log in at least once a day.

Recognizing the success effectively cultivating and mobilizing a user base may yield, there are individuals who use the process of digital branding, through digital brands such as Facebook and Twitter, to promote themselves or an idea that they want to share.

Many college students are familiar with the Twitter user @BostonTweet, who created a Twitter account in 2008 to promote  local business activity during the economic downturn. Boasting 112 thousand followers as of April 13, account creator Tom O’Keefe has successfully marketed himself as a personal brand to the Boston area.

According to Boches, this is just one example of how any individual can market themselves via emerging forms of digital media.

“You could be a brand,” said Boches. “If you’re a reporter, and you have a column, and you have a Twitter account, and then you also have a blog, and you also have a Instagram, and you share all of your content and you build a community of followers, and they pay attention to you and seek out and subscribe to your content, then you are a small brand.”

It may not fit the traditional definition of a brand, but it is all part of an evolving transition that is changing the way that the public regards the traditional definition of a brand.

According to Boches, anyone who is resourceful, determined and prolific could accomplish what @BostonTweet has done with the digital resources at their disposal.

“When I was your age, you needed five million dollars to do anything,” said Boches. “Now there’s a multi-billion dollar infrastructure courtesy of Facebook, Google, Twitter, the web, YouTube, et cetera… I think what it means is that anybody with the wherewithal, with the creativity, with an idea, with content, et cetera, can do something.”

Boches added that though actual content creators comprise a smaller proportion of social media platforms than content distributors, generational changes have encouraged the increase in the percentage of content creators.

“There’s an argument that goes like this: of all the people on all the platforms, whatever they are, Pinterest, Twitter, WordPress, across all those platforms probably only 10 or 15 percent of the people who use them are actually creating content and calling attention to themselves. 30 or 40 percent of people are maybe distributing and sharing it, and passing it around or commenting it or interacting with it. The rest are just reading it, as consumers,” said Boches. “But, if you look at those numbers, that 15 percent of content creators used to be 5, then it was 10, now it’s at 15 and I think as your generation and subsequent generations have something to say, you’re growing up with the idea that ‘Well, we own the media. The media belongs to us.’”

With the ingrained idea that people have the power to manipulate the media, what are the future implications of digital brands and the process of digital branding? With more resources available, it is expected that the number of personal and digital brands will arise via the use of social media platforms.

“I do think that it’s not that we’re going to see less of it,” said Boches. “It might be harder to stand out, and harder to get real notoriety, and you might have to be more inventive and more creative and better at it.”

Life Hacks: 5 Things Learned from Last Semester

By Shivani Patel, Staff Writer

Shivani Post

Looking back, moving forward /PHOTO VIA Flickr user Nomad Tales

Hello friends! I hope you all had a great winter break filled with great food and good company. Here we are at the start of a new year, time for new beginnings and new life hacks to try out.

But before we turn over a new leaf, it’s important to take a look at the past and learn from our mistakes. Why don’t we take a close look at the fall semester and rectify the mistakes we made (if you didn’t make any, good for you – but let’s be real: we’ve all made mistakes).

Here are five things we (hopefully) learned from first semester:

1. Read.

This does not mean simply skimming. It may get the task done quickly, but not very well in the long run. When it comes to studying, websites like Sparknotes and Cliffnotes are helpful to refresh your memory, but the only way to actually know what’s going on is to read the real deal. Don’t have the time? Try an old elementary school tip and apply it to college by reading a portion of the assignment each night. You can also make a habit of active reading by taking notes or by quizzing yourself at the end of chapters, another great study tool.

2. Monitor your party habits.

Partying is fun, I get it. The experience is unlike any other, but at the same time, don’t be that desperate freshman looking to “turn up” every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. First semester it might hard to find the delicate balance between having a social life and partying too much, but now that we’ve had a semester to assimilate, it is no longer acceptable for you to stagger into your dorm every single weekend. Instead, plan out your weekend. One night out, another night in. Your body will thank you for less toxins and more sleep.

3. Get involved. 

Academics are great, and should be a huge part of your life. However, if you spent your entire first semester hitting the books, it’s time to get some fresh air. Thankfully, BU has over 500 clubs and organizations, including the Community Service Center (CSC), that you can always find something to do. SPLASH may be over, but another way to find out what BU has to offer is through this great site that lists all our student organizations. If you don’t have the time to commit to anything specific, at least make a late New Year’s Resolution to explore Boston. Go see a Red Sox Game, visit a museum, the list goes on.

4. Make an effort to keep your friends.

This one isn’t as obvious, but if you notice, your friends have been coming and going all throughout first semester. The friends you thought you would keep all four years from orientation are no longer your friends and the random kid you met in math class is suddenly your best friend. Unlike high school, you don’t see your friends every single day, which makes things more difficult. Take the time to keep in contact with people, by making a lunch date to catch up. It will be worth it in the end.

 5. Social media is not that important.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. We’re all obsessed, and while we say we can stop at anytime – the truth is, we can’t. Document how much time you spend on social media everyday for a week and you’ll how bad your media addiction really is. By learning to cut back, you can increase time spent on studying and spending time with friends, and therefore improve your grades and relationships. If you can’t stop checking your social media sites, look into applications such as Self-Control (Apple) that block you from accessing those pesky sites you go to by instinct.

Best of luck in making this semester even better than the last.


MUSE: In Defense of the Selfie

By Hannah Landers, Staff Writer

Van Gogh self portrait

Van Gogh’s take on a selfie/PHOTO VIA Wikimedia Commons

Burglary, arson and murder are all considered to be pretty terrible crimes, but one look at any number of ranting articles on the web could have one believing that there is no atrocity more heinous than that of the “selfie.” Yet they’re out there, and multiplying by the second.

But are selfies really so bad?

Though the term itself has become a recent phenomenon, selfies have long been a staple of social media.

Come with me now to a simpler time, when Myspace reigned supreme in the kingdom of the internet. Ah, yes, I can see it now: the profile layout that you carefully selected after hours of scouring the web, that Dashboard Confessional song with just the right amount of angst for profile’s music player and, most importantly, your profile picture.

You spent time on that photo, if not in staging it then in scrupulously selecting it from all those photos you took at your cousin’s wedding where your hair looked, like, so good. Myspace gave us the selfie, and we all embraced that sweet little nugget of vanity in our arms like it had come from the holy womb of Kate Middleton herself.

In fact, if we really want to “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” this into the depths of history, any artist who has ever produced a self-portrait has engaged in the not-so-sacred practice of selfie-dom. Yes, these portraits vary in their realism (I’m looking at you, Van Gogh!) and require a certain level of artistry, but doesn’t every great selfie? Today, the tricks-of-the-trade are a soft-focus filter and a steady hand.

And really, vanity is the social media endgame no matter what you’re posting. Sure, your Instagram might not be flooded with photos of your face, but it’s still a collection of the things that you see, the things that you experience. No matter what you’re posting about on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram, it all comes down to the bare-bones fact that you’re commanding followers and strangers all across this great internet nation of ours to care about you.

Therefore, there’s nothing really so egregiously arrogant about wanting to share your cheesin’ mug with the rest of the world. Selfies should be something to praise, not to condemn. You’re looking and feeling good, and you should be encouraged to share that positivity with the rest of the world. Selfie on, Garth!

Vine bringing the public closer to the President

Vine, bringing us one step closer to Mr. President more than this piece of local artwork/ PHOTO VIA Flickr user Robert Hoge

By Kristina Saliba, Staff Writer

One thing I never thought I would share with the President of the United States? We both Vine. That’s right America; your President was recently featured in his very own Vine, a relatively new social media app that let’s you put together short video clips that you film on your smart phone.

According to an article from Yahoo! News, the President’s first Vine features Bill Nye the Science Guy and PBS host LeVar Burton. They are promoting the third annual White House Science Fair, an event that encourages science and celebrates student winners and their projects from all over the country. During this event, Obama goes from exhibit to exhibit examining different scientific and technological experiments and designs. Fortunately for all of us, this leads audiences to the White House’s second Vine post: Mr. President himself skillfully pedaling a stationary bike in his suit and tie, demonstrating the “bike-powered water filtration system”.

This Vine is one step among many that the White House has been taking to immerse itself more fully in social media, which is a great thing to see. It takes our President down from the heightened position he has. Vine makes him seem far more approachable, more like a regular guy who also rides stationary bikes on the White House lawn to filter water.

I would personally love to see more Vine videos to get a glimpse at the daily activities and events our President and the White House partake in. The Vine of our President on a bike is just another example of how social media has made our world smaller, bringing people closer to each other for better or worse. The White House also has a Twitter that let’s us know what’s going on up there on Capital Hill. Hopefully they keep it up.

The rise of Snapchat

By Alex Diantgikis, Staff Writer

Snapchat users can take photos and send them for a selected period of time before they are deleted/ PHOTO VIA tommiemedia.com

Snapchat users can take photos and send them for a selected period of time before they are automatically deleted/ PHOTO VIA tommiemedia.com

For the past couple of weeks my phone has been taken over by the new craze– an app called Snapchat. The smartphone application allows users to edit and send a picture to their friends or contacts. Which pretty standard.

The catch is that the photos are only visible to the recipients for a set amount of seconds, decided upon by the sender, and the pictures don’t save to your device. The sender can see when the receiver has opened the picture and if they have taken a screenshot of the image.

Every day my phone is bombarded by Snap Chat. Pictures of food. Pictures of shoes. Pictures of tongues. Pictures of lecture halls. Pictures of this too close for comfort guy on the T. Pictures of the hot guy on the T. Pictures of painted nails. Pictures of snow. Pictures of the Citgo sign. Pictures of freshly rolled out of bed hair.

In the beginning, I was skeptical. The idea sending photos for a set amount of time seemed sketchy to me. “Snap me,”seems to have become an everyday phrase. Particularly embarrassing photos usually get a screenshot.

And where do the pictures go if they are not saved to your device? Are they just floating out in cyberspace? Are they deleted? Or is there some massive database warehouse of selfies where Snapchat workers laugh as they scroll through your most embarrassing  shots?

Besides, what was the value of sending pictures on a timer? Why was this such a craze?

And then my hipster, I’m too cool for mainstream-attitude caved, and I downloaded it. I’d like to say I was peer-pressured into it, but it was simply curiosity. I wanted to understand the madness.

Then it hit. The hurricane of images.

And slowly, it started to seem less weird. It allows me to connect with my family and friends at home. It’s cute and harmless and slightly addictive. Bottom line: it isn’t what it appears to be and, like most forms of social media, its content and usefulness is created by the consumers. You can use it to your own purposes–I certainly do.

Texting turns 20

By Amira Francis, Staff Writer

The Office

IMAGE VIA memecrunch.com

Type “Texting turns 20” into your state-of-the-art iPhone, the search engine on your laptop at home or your easily transportable iPad, and what will you find? You will be reminded that something we pretty much all take for granted wasn’t always alive and functioning for your convenience.

As a 90s kid, I’ve grown up with a lot of things my parents never had. In fact, I didn’t even realize that my parents lived without these things until I was much, much older. A world without snap chatting? Please.

In all seriousness, though, it can be nice to stop and take a moment to appreciate all of the commodities that fill today’s social life. And it can be humbling to think about all of the ways that life would be different without technology. What would our social lives be like?!

Certainly, without technology, information would travel a lot more slowly. You wouldn’t know the news that your cousin is having a baby without the excited phone call, you wouldn’t hear that your uncle is getting divorced again without the self-righteous Facebook status. Although, hey—maybe that would be a GOOD thing. I mean, half of us receive our social information through Facebook stalking. How healthy can that be?

If we didn’t have technology, it might actually strengthen relationships. Nowadays, the fact that you sent a letter to your dad or reached out to your long-lost best friend through carrier pigeon means everything to them. It would certainly clear out your friend list if the only people who talk to you were the ones who really wanted your company. And yes, everyone loves saying that they have tons of friends, and maybe technology even convinces them that they do have tons of friends, but sometimes it’s good to know the fake friendships from the real ones. A lack of technology would filter out the bad relationships and strengthen the good ones.

Hillary Clinton text

Even Hillary Clinton remains connected / IMAGE VIA politco.com

If there were no technology, it might also make you (and society) more productive. Wait, what? More productive? Well, no, not in some ways. For example, with that research project you need to do, does the teacher think you’re going to go to the lengths to retrieve all of your information from the good ol’ library and its wonderful collection? Hell no. But think about all of the time you spend wasting on the Internet. What if that just wasn’t there?! What if you spent that time learning something you’ve always wanted to learn, or visiting somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit? Yes, it’s cliche. And yes, it’s worth thinking about.

Mind you, there are plenty of things that technology makes you thankful for. It’s difficult to feel isolated when surrounded by thousands of Facebook friends. You are always connected to the news, always connected to society, always connected to the world. Technology, of course, has simplified things in a lot of ways. And we should always be thankful for that. I would just say: be careful about over-using these miraculous technological inventions. Don’t break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend through texting, don’t make all of your friends through the Internet and don’t become a recluse because you’re addicted to Tumblr. Life is full of many important, invigorating experiences. Appreciate technology, but get out there and enjoy what’s around you, too.

Oh, and happy birthday, texting.

BU students’ startup digitizes real estate game

By Allison DeAngelis, Daily Free Press staff

Take one part Google+, one part Facebook and another part real estate agent and out comes SocialRent, the apartment-finding application created and programmed by five BU students over winter break. The application works to help young adults find roommates and housing over the Internet.

Founded by School of Management senior James Zar and College of General Studies freshman Brandon Cohen, SocialRent was created to solve a problem the boys saw amongst peers looking for apartments.

“There is no one else focused on the customer, that’s focused on making the renter or the group of students have the best experience possible,” Zar said. “The truth is there’s no one doing that right now, except for us, and we’re proud to say that.”

After four weeks of winter break spent working 12 hour days, the finished product emerged as an application on Facebook where friends looking for housing can collaborate on their ideal place to live, each with the ability to make changes in a format that Cohen says resembles Google+.

After logging onto Facebook and downloading the app, users choose their ideal location on the “area chooser” map and rent limit. From there, they drag and drop the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. that they prefer onto the “place creator blueprint.”

Almost immediately after it launched, one of Conrad’s friends used the site instead of a local realtor. After the agent showed the girls a rat-infested former-frat house, “I said, ‘Don’t use them, use our app… We’ll just take care of it,’ and she was like, ‘perfect.’”

Photo courtesy of SocialRent Facebook Page

Users have flocked to SocialRent since it hit the web on Jan. 17, and Zar estimates that they already have around 700 housing projects in the works and more than 1,000 users.

Conrad said he was surprised by how quickly people began signing up with the site. “One time I checked [the amount of users], it was about 450, and the next time I checked [the amount], it was like 800. So it went two-fold in two days,” he said.

SocialRent now partners with 15 real estate agents nationwide. They currently work with realtors in ten different cities, but stress that the very day they get a request from a user, they work to make a relationship with a real estate agent in that town.

As they expand naturally, they look to put SocialRent in “college- and high-tech cities where young adults and recent grads live—the millennial generation, as we refer to it,” said Zar.

Despite the positive feedback from BU students in particular, the team still has work to do on the site. They continue to look for investors to “accelerate their growth process,” but having just returned to school, they are focusing on fortifying the experience users are having as well as juggling the business with schoolwork.

When asked how he was handling the workload as a programmer for the site, CAS junior Jeffrey Giardina said, “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. It’s a good idea and it’s getting a lot of press, a lot of users. It is tough, but we just try to make it work.”

Keep an eye out for this new start-up, and the changes they’re planning to make, including a “roommate finder” and a way for users and their parents to process forms digitally.