Crush It! rough draft

Gary Vaynerchuk speaks from his experiences throughout his how-to guide on creating your own personal brand in Crush It!. Gary’s purpose throughout this book is to guide everyday social media users on how to take the creative concepts they have and turn them into successful and very realistic business entrepreneurships. The audience he’s speaking to is thus not necessarily very tech-savvy individuals, but more so average people interacting with the media around them. However, he makes it clear that the only type of people who will attain successful results from Crush It! are those who have a passion to turn their dreams into their real lives, even if they have some reservations about how to get there. Without passion, he says, you have nothing (Vaynerchuk 8).

Gary doesn’t specify what types of personal brands users may want to establish because he has the same business model for all types of people. The entire book revolves around this idea of passion – everything he mentions relates back to the importance of individuals taking advantage of the best marketing strategy there is out there: caring (Vaynerchuk 90). He breaks the book up into a number of sections, including the importance of family, utilizing social media, monetizing your brand, maintaining authenticity, and leaving a legacy behind (which is more important that gaining monetary capital). Yet all these bits and pieces tie into one overarching theme: passion can get you anywhere.

While I can’t say I completely agree with Vaynerchuk that passion is all you need for success (I mean come on, this guy is a little too optimistic to think money means nothing!), Crush It! was certainly an interesting take on how the average person can really turn themselves into an entrepreneur with no past business endeavors. This being said, it’s clear that Gary believes in the social construction of technology as a discourse; he believes that the technology users create responds directly to their already existing social influences. The idea and creativity that those trying to create their own brand have didn’t come from the technology, but rather social media is a tool that can be utilized to expand and develop that brand. Your creativity and passion is what gets the ball rolling and the technology is just there to speed things up (Vaynerchuk 21).

Vaynerchuk also makes it clear that it’s important to not only be true to your clientele and brand, but also (and more importantly) to yourself (Vaynerchuk 33). He stresses the importance of maintaining authenticity when monetizing and marketing your brand (Vaynerchuk 73). The worst thing you can do is lose sight of your original goals; that’s when you lose passion and stray away from your true intentions of being happy (Vaynerchuk 10). That is when you let the currency get ahead of you, and it’s clear that Vaynerchuk believes it’s more important to leave a legacy of yourself behind than make money and lose your enthusiasm (Vaynerchuk 110).

This is very reflective of a number of concepts we’ve discussed throughout the course. His ideals about authenticity very accurately reflect different types of taste within social media that Bourdieu analyzes. If you’re the type to have an “authentic” profile on social media, you are presenting your true self to an audience, suggesting you are trustworthy and reliable. These are foundational concepts in Crush It!, as Vaynerchuk believes you can’t maintain a successful brand without being true to yourself and your customers. This might mean that those who identify with other types of taste, such as “prestige” where users feel a need to identify their tastes in relation to a certain type of hierarchy, may not be able to receive the same results from Crush It! as to those who would construct a more “authentic” social media profile like Gary Vaynerchuk.

Somewhat along the same lines, the author discusses the importance of marketing and branding yourself through the creation of a community. He makes note that sometimes creating the content is a lot easier than creating the community because you want to get users hooked and not lose them after one glance (Vaynerchuk 86). This all relates back to having passion and a vision: you need to create an environment, a practice, and an identity that users will trust and build a relationship with despite the fact that this will all be through social media. This very much relates to ideas and problems of community within online spaces in general.

Baym discusses how it was once assumed community would disappear with the coming of the Internet. However, this isn’t true – there are just different ways of communication online. These ways are through a sense of space, shared practice, shared resources and support, shared identities, and interpersonal relationships. These are the exact same types of necessary components of building your own online brand that Vaynerchuk discusses in Crush It! Both authors note the problem with maintaining a sense of community in an online world, but make it clear that while it may be a bit more difficult there is certainly something to gain from this, such as Ellison’s concept of social capital.

Sexting: it ain’t so bad!

It’s no shock that sexting can result in terrible outcomes. There have been cases of suicide and bullying, especially involving teens and young adults. An Ohio news team covered a story about Mansfield Middle School and how they’ve chosen to address the issue of teen sexting and cyberbullying. The article notes how big of an issue it is, especially for parents, living in the Mansfield area. The story focuses on what the school has been doing for the parents, providing them with a cyberbulling and sexting workshop where parents can learn about the dangers of sending explicit images that “can never be deleted.” The school is mainly aiming to make parents aware of the dangers their children are in and wants to teach them how to prevent it from happening.

While I understand the issue with middle school students sending one another explicit images, I don’t think the school addressed the issue in the proper way. Youth use media as the new public space to interact and talk with friends, according to dana boyd in her article “Why Youth ❤ Social Networks.” Kids no longer feel as though there are physical places they can go to with a group of friends without feeling like they’re unwanted or causing a disruption, so they turn to social media. While they can be in the comfort of their home, they can still escape the grasps of their parents ever-watchful eye. After all, that’s part of what growing up is all about.

 Image

There are dangers of sexting that teens need to be aware of, but that’s just the problem. Mansfield Middle School is teaching the parents about sexting and bullying and not addressing who’s actually participating in the act: youth. Kids will only feel more trapped under the grips of their parents if they’re simply being lectured by an adult who they may assume already doesn’t trust their access to technology, and that’s the opposite of what Mansfield wants. As boyd notes, the more parents worry and agitate kids to “protect themselves” online, the more kids will engage in this act just to “avoid the watchful eye of parents.” The last thing you want to do is have your kid lying to you about the way they use technology. However, by not highlighting the potential danger and instead teaching parents new ways to sneakily watch how their kids are interacting with social media is only furthering the gap.

While I agree that sexting (especially among minors) is not to be taken lightly, I think it gets a very bad rap. I don’t think it helps that sexting is linked with teens, who are perceived to be living in “an overly sexualized culture” that now can take that culture onto the web. Sexting doesn’t just happen with teens, but when it does it can go in two directions. Yes, it can definitely be a method for bullying and a way for people to exploit others by violating their privacy. Parents fail to see that teens actually care about their privacy though, and it leads to them taking extreme measures to keep them safe. In trying to teach them the importance of maintaining their privacy in social media, parents violate the boundaries teens have created between the two of them (either with their social profiles, sexting, etc). They use this as justification for violating teens online privacy, by snooping and controlling what they have access to. This is “the key hypocrisy surrounding teens and privacy” according to boyd and Marwick.

 Image

So while there are very real dangers about the possibility of being exploited through social media, it can also be a way for teens to explore their sexuality. By producing sexuality through a form like sexting, they’re likewise producing their own media. It’s a way to explore the technology and, what most fail to realize, actually has the potential to be totally safe. It can be an agreed upon private act between two people. It can be consensual and that’s what a lot of people don’t understand. It’s also a method of self-expression. As noted in “Sexting as Media Production” on the issue, “sexual image production is not inherently harmful, but that the malicious distribution of private images certainly is.”

Likewise, sometimes it’s easier for teens to express their true feelings through a less personal mode of communication such as texting. It’s hard to always speak face-to-face with someone on certain topics and thus social media can give teens more confidence to speak their minds. Going along with that, it’s sometimes harder for youth to express their sexuality in person. With sexting, they can explore their feelings and themselves in a new context that could help them build confidence and understand their sexuality more (“Sexting as Media Production“). Of course this has the potential to go awry, but if done in a safe way I see no problem!

Blog 2 – Interpersonal Relationships & Social Networking

The article I found is called “Social Networking can help and hurt relationships.” It’s from a Salt Lake City news team, analyzing how relationships on social media can be both beneficial and destructive to couples. The article basically discusses the issues of meeting strangers online and the damage that can be done if a significant other posts too much/too little about the relationship on the social network site. The article says the Internet is NOT the place to meet new people and should be utilized as a space to further connect with friends/lovers in real life.

The article is a very negative portrayal of online social relationships, clearly making it known that “there is no substitute for face to face” discourse. The article interviews people from around Salt Lake City on their opinions, all of which make it very clear that formulating relationships online is dangerous business. Interviewees also voice their opinions on being in a relationship on Facebook; they find that it’s dangerous to 1) not make it clear to your friends you’re in a relationship (and thus make it appear that you’re single) and 2) post too much on your Facebook about the details of your relationship, such as obviously directed statuses.

The story highlights some legitimate problems with the formation and maintenance of online relationships, but I think it’s an obvious bias from the author’s point of view. The article title is a bit misleading – it makes it seem as though the story is going to weigh the benefits and losses to social networking relationships, when it really just highlights the latter. It suggests that there is potential to meet people online, but immediately mentions how it’s unlikely, dangerous, and very difficult even if you’re using a dating site.

I think it would have been better if the author really tried to outline the benefits of having relationships online as well, giving more of a weighted balance perspective. Which one would win? After all, I highly doubt that everybody that was interviewed had strictly negative feedback. And if that was the case, she should have made a mention of that – it’d be a significantly more interesting article if that were the case and she’d included statistics, like all 50 people interviewed said online relationships were dangerous. I definitely don’t think it’d only be interesting to present the story like this, but necessary. You always have to see both sides of the story when talking about the cons of something – how can you really understand the cons without knowing the pros? Being able to accurately compare the two is very important in making a logical assessment.

The story in Life 2.0 really analyzed the situation of much more extreme online relationships of people who were so caught up in different worlds to really understand the reality of the relationships they were forming. The one character who was pretending to be a girl in someway embodies the fear interviewees talked about in the article I found – it’s dangerous to make relationships with people online because they’re not always who they appear to be. While the man on Second Life told friends his true identity, you really couldn’t get a sense of who he was without his 11-year old avatar. Likewise, the couple that met and fell in love on Second Life were unable to make the relationship work in real life. The two did not end up being the people they fell in love with – their avatars. While it can definitely be argued the Second Life is more “real” than a site like Facebook because you can hear peoples voices, customize your avatar to look like you, etc. you still cannot get a full understanding of what a person is like in real life. While they may not be acting “fake” on SL, there are definitely aspects of their personality that the online world of social media just don’t have the capacity for, such as the problems that arose from physical labor when the couple were gardening.

While the movie really highlighted an extreme way of forming online relationships, both my article and the film seemed to have the same general direction or theme. Both seemed to be pointing out the dangers of getting caught in the web of forming online relationships – how they can be misleading and dangerous. The film definitely tried to portray social media as somewhat entrapping, which the article really did not, but they both highlight the importance of maintaining skepticism in the people you meet online.

Both the article and the Second Life movie were a bit too extreme, however. There are SL users that play moderately, which means that not everybody on SL is going to have the same experience. For some people it’s just a fun way to interact with new people and that’s it. Similarly, some people are moderate users of Facebook who meet people online in a safe way. Neither the article nor the movie even tried to portray these two sides. I really think it failed to convince me of how dangerous social networking is (which I think was the goal of both). Instead, it made me believe them less because I just wanted to see all angles of the story.

Blog 1 – Our Social Selves

Beer has a problem with the way that boyd and Ellison go about framing their questions. He believes that they’re not asking the right questions – he thinks that instead of asking people how to use social media, we should ask larger questions and use social media to find the answer. In particular, Beer doesn’t like how boyd and Ellison differentiate between Friends and friends (online vs. in “real life) as well as the differences they point out about mediated and unmediated communication. Beer believes that all forms of communication are somehow mediated, which I agree with. He also believes that there shouldn’t necessarily be different terms for Friends and friends, claiming that who you’re friends with in the physical world is often the same relationship online. I also agree with him on this.

I like boyd and Ellison’s article as a point of reference; they do an excellent job giving us the basics and the definitions of social networks/social networking sites. As I mentioned, however, I have to say that I agree with Beer’s issues with their article. Beer also brings up capitalism and how it cannot be overlooked in the realm of social media, stating that it plays a huge role in the sites, the ideologies they enforce, and how users interact with them. While I also agree that capitalism is not a point within social media that should be overlooked, I also want to point out that capitalism applies differently to different sites and different users. Beer would probably agree with me, but in the last 4 years a lot has changed that he couldn’t have foreseen.

What I’m really trying to get at is some forms of social media are purely used for capitalistic purposes, while other users are simply trying to kill some time looking at friend’s photos. In particular, Twitter has become a site a lot of businesses and companies have utilized simply to promote and drag attention to their industry. I work in New York Magazine‘s PR Department, for example, and I manage the Twitter and Facebook accounts. I see how many more viewers it gets the company, so I can understand how crucial social networks can be for particular companies. Another example would be LinkedIn, a purely professional social media site that allows users to network themselves and their companies. Twitter has also changed the types of people we interact with in the online world. While it’s still true that most of our Friends and friends are one in the same, I personally can say that I have many followers/I follow people on Twitter that I don’t personally know simply because they’re funny/businesses/news sources/etc.

I think social media is really tough to analyze as a whole because different sites are used in completely different ways. It’s difficult to sit down and make broad analyses of social media as a whole and I think a better approach would maybe be to look at different types of social media in multiple contexts, compare them and see what each one is doing and how users within our society are reacting to and using them. I also think it’s important to ask broader social questions like Beer suggests, such as  “Is there any socio-technical explanation for how society has shaped within the last 4 years?” and then maybe attempt to analyze that by seeing how Twitter and Facebook have changed over the years and consequently affected our society and human interactions. I think that by doing this, you could get a much better picture of the importance and affect of each social networking site. It seems silly and overcomplicated to try to analyze each site at once. While I agree with boyd and Ellison on some of the basics of social media, it doesn’t make sense to say that Reddit and LinkedIn have similar purposes.

It would also be interesting to compare the end results of certain types of social media – to get to the heart of what people really aim to get out of them and how this reflects our society as a whole. What is someone really trying to get at, for example, when they’re tweeting at celebrities? Obviously they want to get a response back but they know it’s not likely to happen.  Is it simply because they know that this is really the only site they can do that on, or is there something more? Maybe people simply want to get recognized and gain more followers, or maybe they’re just trying to be the latest trend (pun intended).  No matter what the reason may be, what does this really say about our society? It could be that we like living in the online realm better than we do the “real world.” Does this show throughout our society? There are so many questions and ways to go about it, but I think what I’m really trying to say is that there’s just too much social media these days to categorize it all as one. It is necessary to analyze them separately and in multiple contexts to really understand how these sites are affecting the physical world and vice versa.