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.

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Blog Post 3: “New Girl”

In the first season of the television series “New Girl,” the main character, Jessica Day, finds herself the butt of a YouTube joke. This occurs specifically in the 14th episode, entitled, “Bully.” The story line is this: Jess Day is an elementary school teacher who believes in the power of song as a teaching technique. One day, a young boy requests to stay behind and eat lunch in the classroom alone; Jess is concerned, and so he confides in her that he is being made fun of—the other kids in the cafeteria have started playing a game titled “Coin Slot,” which consists of putting pennies in this poor child’s butt crack. When the class returns from lunch, Jess and the troubled student stand in front of the class while she sings about why bullying should stop. Meanwhile, all of the students watching this phenomenon all have out their cell phones, video recording the show. Later that evening, her roommate shows her a YouTube video in which she is starring. Basically, Jess Day’s head has been put onto a sparrow’s body and the song is playing in the background. During the song, a bird continuously poops on her head. Although she sang the song only a couple hours before this, the video already has over 1000 views. The person who has posted this video is a girl in Jess’s class.

(Also in the same episode, a man in his late twenties takes a photo of his genitals and sends it to his partner, whom he asks later, “Did you receive my junk mail?” Although this man is not considered “youth,” it is interesting to note that even though this sexting scene is not one of the most important in the episode, it is still included.)

This incident is framed in a way that most social media site users are familiar with, although they may never have been the butt of a SNS joke.

The three readings which I will compare the “New Girl” YouTube incident I’ve found to are: “Why Youth Heart Social Network Sites: The Role of the Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life” by danah boyd, “Prevalence and Characteristics of Youth Sexting: A National Study” by Kimberly J. Mitchell, PhD, David Finkelhor, PhD, Lisa M. Jones, PhD, and Janis Wolak, JD, and ‘‘ ‘As soon as you get on Bebo you just go mad’: young consumers and the discursive construction of teenagers online” by Rebekah Willett.

First, “Why Youth Heart Social Network Sites: The Role of the Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life” by danah boyd explores the idea that youths are exploring another public when they are exposing themselves and their works on social media sites. She goes on to say that although their access to their sites is regularly restricted due to uneasy feelings stemming from adults (parents, teachers, etc.), it is the older population’s responsibility to learn from what the youth is experiencing on social media sites in order to help them navigate these sites more intelligently and effectively. Coming back to “New Girl,” Jess Day’s solution is to watch the video through, read the comments, and get a feel for why this video was posted. In class the next day, Jess Day calls up the girl responsible for posting the YouTube video to the front of the classroom and has the girl sing a duet with her in front of the entire class. She states, before the song begins, “Camera phones are encouraged!” This video also gets posted on YouTube for the world to see.

“Prevalence and Characteristics of Youth Sexting: A National Study” by Kimberly J. Mitchell, PhD, David Finkelhor, PhD, Lisa M. Jones, PhD, and Janis Wolak, JD confirms that sexting is not the norm when it comes to youth use of social media. However, as “New Girl” suggests, social media can be (and has been) used for other degrading tasks, such as bullying. Its layout is similar to a pamphlet, and it’s use of tables and diagrams really enhance the readers’ understandings of the argument; I feel that it’s just as accessible and “user-friendly” as the scene portraying the YouTube bullying.

Finally, the article, ‘‘ ‘As soon as you get on Bebo you just go mad’: young consumers and the discursive construction of teenagers online” by Rebekah Willett, considers that social media a way of creating a youth’s identity through reaching out to a variety of communities and audiences. This also rings true for the “New Girl” video as the girl who posted the video is solidifying her role and identity as a bully through reaching out to an almost infinite and ever expanding audience.

Pinning Down Our Place in Social Media

David Beer is essentially redirecting traffic in his response to Danah boyd and Nicole Ellison’s article. He recognizes their constructed history of social network sites and their detailed research on the digital revolution, but takes issue with three points. First, he finds their definition of “social media networks” too broad to thoroughly analyze and categorize each site. Instead, using a term like Web 2.0 to describe the “general shift” would allot more space to divide the sites (Beer 519). Second, Beer suggests that boyd and Ellison’s terms, “friend” and “Friend,” are seemingly one in the same. To say that we have online and offline friends, is to downplay the domesticating effects the technologies have had on us. We should be asking how technology changes the concept of friendship over time (Beer 520). Lastly, Beer challenges the author’s position on SNS being unmediated communication, saying that all communication is mediated. Each of these points carries Beer to his core argument. While analyzing SNS from the user “profile” perspective is important, he says we must also understand SNS from the capitalist perspective. Studying the infrastructures and interests behind what we see on the screen (and are naturalized to) is essential to understanding how we, as a consumer-based culture, fit into the business-model. Beer does not want us to become unaware users. Four years have passed…are we aware?

I also find boyd and Ellison’s separation of “friend” (offline) and “Friend” (online) puzzling. If I talk to my best friend Ellen on Facebook, who I met in the physical world, she is still the same person. What has changed is our style of communication, which should drive the categorization instead of the person. It feels like the authors separation has devalued friendship. What happens when I talk to Ellen on Skype or through the phone? Does that mean she has once again changed from being my friend to some other name? Because we can place a veil over our identity and therefore are forced to navigate through authenticity issues, there is a human pull to separate the tangible from the intangible. But the reality is that these sites are places where meaningful and strong friendships are made. We have created new norms for ourselves. As Boyd says, we should spend time asking how the concept of friendship has changed (for good and bad) because of these mediums (520).

Picture a Venn Diagram. You have your strictly face-to-face connections. You have your strictly online connections. And in-between, you have those that overlap. Whether we call them friends, Friends, FRIENDS, etc. is rather tangential.

Reading Beer’s piece reminded me that every time I log in on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, I take on the role of the consumer. I feed into a capitalistic business model, where advertisements flood my screen and creepily (I might add), display the products I was thinking about 2 hours ago.

One of my favorite social networking sites is Pinterest. This site challenges boyd and Ellison’s broad category of social network sites. It posses characteristics of both “network” and “networking,” showcasing that with the constant stream of new applications, one cannot fit a square peg into a round hole. Anyways, until I read Beer’s article, I was rather ignorant to the simple fact that every one of my “inspiration boards” is an advertisement for some recipe, magazine, photographer, blogger, destination, etc. But I don’t necessarily have that “Gotcha!” feeling. It’s not a trick or a trap that Beer explains, but a true awareness to the capitalistic motive – a perspective that may for some change their usage, and for others result in nothing.  In an article, the co-founder of Pinterest, Ben Silvermann, said his inspiration to start the site came from his love of collecting and his desire to help people connect based on common interests. This seems to be his agenda, but should I be led to think otherwise? Should I question how the site is used for business or how it profiles users like myself?

 The glitch I see in Beer’s argument is that users of Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, etc. are too entrenched in the use of the site and what it offers them. They are busy making connections and posting pictures. They are consumed with how their twitter draws traffic to their blog. Do they really care about third parties and capitalistic agendas? If the advertisements on the side of Facebook make shopping that much quicker, what would lead us to speculate otherwise? Either these very conveniences are a disguise that capitalism hides behind or we are simply too stuck inside to see the bigger picture.

I think scholars should approach the study of social media in two ways. First to understand how our use of social media has impacted and furthered our capitalistic endeavors. And second to understand why we are so engrossed with these sites. In an essay in the NYT, author Jonathan Franzen discusses, with much sarcasm, the “like” button on Facebook. The button serves as a “consumer choice,” merely “commercial culture’s substitute for loving.” He suggests that the products we use to access these social media are “enablers of narcissism,” driving us into a bottomless pit of expectations that we struggle to meet in the physical world. The “sexy Facebook interface” does something to us. What if scholars pinpointed it? Why are our online lives designed to mask our imperfections? Do we seek approval online because we fail to offline? Do we create outrageous pinboards on Pinterest to please others or ourselves? Is social media a catalyst for competition? We can’t forget that after all, humans are the designers…

If we look into this mirror, what do we see?

Picture via Franzen NYT article

Blog 1: Social Network[ing] Sites

Social media is a relatively new and constantly changing phenomenon.  As such, it is difficult to examine and interpret it in a truly scholarly way. Ellison and Boyd, however, took an honest shot, and for that, I must give them props.  Their primary goal is to establish a definition for what, exactly, social media means.  The result is a three-part definition that identifies social media as a “web-based services that allow individuals to (1)construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” (211).  Next, they go about differentiating the online “Friends” (note the capital “F”) with offline friends.

Unsurprisingly, their attempt at defining and interpreting social media is not without enormous faults.  In trying to understand the phenomenon in an academic context, they end up understating and misconstruing a lot of information.  Their narrow definition of social media, for example, demonstrates their preoccupation with semantics over practice and ideology.  Boyd and Ellison dedicate a significant amount of time to their justification in opting out of the term “networking.”  They defend this for a few reasons, emphasizing that “what makes social network sites unique is not that they allow individuals to meet strangers, but rather that they enable users to articulate and make visible their social networks” (211).  This is a bold statement.  The article is clearly outdated, but I am curious as to how Boyd and Ellison would react to the capability to hide one’s friend list (or rather, “Friend-list”) on Facebook.  And based on how I recognize and understand behavior around blogging and microblogging, I think that Boyd and Ellison are too quick to belittle the uniqueness and profoundness of connecting with strangers online.  Social networking sites are indeed unique because they allow individuals to meet strangers.  True, not all of them serve this purpose.  But some of the ones that do, such as Twitter (and many, many others), create a global community.  It is unique to be able to meet someone in a moderately personal, albeit online, setting across the world.  Prior to social networks, there were online chat rooms.  Despite the simple notion of being able to meet a stranger online in a chat room, it does not possess the same meaning or significance.  On a social network, one is more likely to be established and have a persona—even if that persona is not exemplary of how one is in their offline, everyday life.  It gives the phenomenon far more depth in that respect.

Per the “Friends” and “friends” differentiation, I am surprised.  I was struck a few years ago when a professor pointed out that the interactions that occur online are, indeed, “real.”  Many of us are quick to romanticize the “realness” of face-to-face interaction, when technically, interaction through other mediums are every bit as “real” as that of face-to-face.  I think that perhaps because online communication is still so new and so consistently evolving, it is difficult for many of us to comprehend.  This is in large part due to the fact that social networks involve a set of communicative rules that inform and are influenced by the norms and reality of online communication.  Boyd and Ellison deem online relationships “Friends” with a capital “F” because “the connection does not necessarily mean friendship in the everyday vernacular sense, and the reasons people connect are varied” (213).  This is an absolutely ridiculous claim.  If that is the case, then we must go back to the tradition of pen pals and capitalize the “p” in “pals.”  The internet is not the first incident of strange or unconventional communication with strangers.  Writing and telephone were likely broached with the same insecurity and confusion with which Boyd and Ellison approach social media.  I don’t think it is entirely their fault; I do believe that because they were examining the phenomenon in such an early phase of its existence, their results simply don’t apply now in the way that they might have several years ago.  In fact, I cannot say with any security that a study conducted today would even have any significance or validity in social media within the next 5 years.  The rapidity and consistency with which it changes, then, I think is a more important subject to understand before we try to set some confining rules over what social media entails.  Then, I believe that we will begin to understand what social media truly is when we understand how and why people are using it.