What do you meme?

What do you meme?

The year is 2031. You open your news app up on your phone to a short string of emojis, depicting a headline. No, it is not an Orwellian notion of newspeak. It is the regression of humankind back to the use of hieroglyphics to represent words and phrases.

The way we present and transmit information has transformed a great deal over the past decade, particularly over the last few years too with the rise of the emoji and apps like Snapchat. Either my family is a constant in this swirl of change or my mother is just vintage for forever prodding me to send thank you letters to my relatives in 2017, where even my 84 year old granddad is on our WhatsApp family group chat.

Social media, of course, has been the major phenomenon to embrace the amalgamation of conveying news stories with, well, stupidity.

With the Internet fast and furiously reacting to a shocking news story with memes and viral Tweets, humanity is either doomed for eternity or cleverly adapting to our world of constant interconnectivity.

Remarkably, this generation is quite frankly the first to be so immersed in politics and revolutionary ideas. And what better way for media outlets to interact and engage with teenagers and twenty year olds than with funny images? And to think it all started with that viral YouTube video of a guy singing about shoes and lolcats, which is well, pretty self-explanatory.

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Memes can be completely inappropriate, particularly if they are deemed as ‘spicy’ or ‘creamy’. There are enough savage Facebook groups out there dedicated to sharing such monstrosities, even though I do laugh at pretty much of all of them, probably representative of my own debilitating self. Yet, there is more to the meme than dark humour.

Richard Dawkins was the first to coin the word ‘meme’, whose description is an idea which is spread from one person to another within a culture, while they physically reside in the brain. Memes are, therefore, the conveying of information. Of course, it would not be practicable to use memes as the first source of information, as things get lost in translation, particularly when being subjective concepts.

The dangerous twist of real and fake news is fuelled by such concepts, where objectivity is being falsely perceived in one person’s conception.

What with all of this ‘fake news’ debacle which has been completely thrown out of proportion, it is up to an individual to use a range of sources rather than one biased one anyway. Especially if that source of legit-I-promise facts is The Onion. Do we not understand sarcasm anymore?

Images and expressions get lost in translation, whereas the fluidity and eloquence of the English (or alternative) language is timeless. Words may come and go, such as ‘golly’, but you cannot achieve any more certainty than using precise language. I like the engagement between social media, mainly Twitter, and receiving the news, but there are always going to be flaws in how this information is presented. To articulate a complex news story in under 140 characters is pretty impressive, I must admit. Though, if you haven’t jumped on the 2016 bandwagon yet, download Quartz, an app allowing the news to be messaged to you.

However, such simplicity in these snappy, dramatic headlines is what leads far too many into treating the headline alone as the news story, which ends up shared among every other Facebook user’s profile with fearmongering comments abundant.

Clickbait has already been picked up by Facebook to resolve its prominence across its website, thankfully. Although, my issue isn’t with obviously fake articles that start with ‘You will NEVER believe…’ or ‘X did this, but when Y happens, I was SPEECHLESS’. My worry are exactly these farfetched names of genuine articles, especially by accounts like Lad Bible. If you’ve miraculously never heard of this website, good job. But, it initially began its life as a hub for ‘lads’ to read stories about t*ts and borderline rape culture, yet now becoming a really ambiguous means of sharing day-old memes, viral videos and things that are ‘deep’ which don’t really belong on the site.

Then again, what a way to direct 16-30 year olds about important issues than on a group perceived to be dedicated to lad culture, on the flipside. One example of one of their clickbait is this article. Now, read the title: Family of Woman Given One Week To Live Asks For Favour In Post. The favour is to simply “live your life to the absolute fullest”. How is this article-worthy? Why am I wasting characters ranting about this? I’m hungry, that’s why. But, my point being, that while compellingly worded stories grabs our attention, particularly of the naïve, they have the potential to be dangerous.

Obviously we don’t all need an in depth reminder of the fake news scandal around the US elections.

Ultimately, we are never again going to solely rely on printed newspapers for our news, what with the concerns about the environment and people not recycling paper, as well as the clear fact that politics and current affairs move incredibly quickly these days. So, it’s much easier to receive on demand notifications of what’s happening around us rather than wait a day for stories whose development hasn’t been fully scripted in a newspaper anyway.

On the contrary, I also hope the news retains some dignity. There is a certain limit to how far silly things like memes can go with the sincerity of the news. Of course, chat shows and panel shows are exempt from this, naturally.

I also hope that clickbait can be fully prevented, most probably from professional journalists who know how to craft a headline without misleading the public but still encapsulating some eagerness to know more.

Maybe all my desires will be rebutted in 2031, and we’ll actually get a daily meme messaged to us which somehow amalgamates all the relevant news stories represented as the 2013-equivalents of Pepe the Frog and doggos. Oh, who am I kidding, Pepe is always going to be around.

 

 

 

 

 

Black Friday is even darker for students

Black Friday is even darker for students

As it goes every year, American folk rekindle with their families on the fourth Thursday of November for a meal to say ‘thanks’ for the blessing of the harvest i.e. eat twice their body weight in turkey with all the trimmings.

Following the occasion, shops thrust their consumerist junk at us with ‘special discounts’ despite that, with price reduction, their worth is still a lot less than the price-tag. ‘Black Friday’ as it is called, marks this day of anti-gratitude, anti-blessing, anti-Thanksgiving.

Apparently, the day exists as the first day of the Christmas shopping season. Can I just emphasise the word season, that there is still plenty of time for shoppers to dwell and lurk through bundles of clothes and shoes to fulfil their Christmas lists? Modern Christmas has lost its traditional roots and is solely a time to display the grandiose of capitalism, but with the occasional Mariah Carey tune to make things seem more festive and family-friendly.

As a student, you would assume receiving the tens to hundreds of emails come through from companies (who I am sure I never even subscribed to) who market their ‘black deals’ and ‘exciting reductions’ would make today actually feel like Christmas. You are so very wrong if you thought so.

A student’s financial situation is more corrupt and damaged than some of the current affairs you see on the news. While tuition fees are already at their highest, so are rent rates and basic necessities hit by inflation. My student loan doesn’t even cover my rent, I am permanently in the depths of my overdraft as a result, and I have applied for too many part-time jobs with too little responses i.e. zero. The idea of the maintenance loan is so that students also receive financial aid from parents or guardians. This is not always the case.

Personally, I believe the bankers and those in authority who control the budget presume ‘daddy’ will always bail out their child when in serious hardship.

Sorry pal, but we are not all middle class.

Not all of our parents work, if that’s to say we do have parents.

Throwing on top a series of marketing spew highlighting the perks of Black Friday doesn’t necessarily make a student feel more compelled to spend money. My priority isn’t to buy the latest brands because they’re on discount, but it is deciding whether I have enough money left to eat for the rest of term.

Of course, many students LOVE Black Friday, and perhaps they have been putting money aside so they can buy items today. And perhaps these items are Christmas presents for family, friends, or significant others. I can’t generalise my thoughts to every student.

What I can generalise though, is the ever-expanding disparity between the rich and the poor. There’s always going to be many, many people richer than I, but let’s at least make things fairer.

And let’s be grateful for what we do have. Okay, I may be a broke b*tch, but I am studying at university which not everyone has the opportunity to do, and I have a loving family who I don’t have to travel far to see. That is what we must remember not only during Thanksgiving, but during the festive season too.

Oh, and did all these companies really think I’d be abandoning the lull of the library during the busiest time of the year for assignments, just to buy something I don’t even need? Well, anything does distract me from doing work after all.

 

The world at your fingertips

The world at your fingertips

I was barely seven years old when I found myself sat trying to work out this oblong black toy my mother passed to me, muttering something about avoiding stabbing myself in the eye with the antenna. ‘Motorola’ was imprinted in silver above an olive green screen. Her abandoned phone; or in her words, “I don’t need a portable phone so here, it’s a toy”. After several futile minutes, I decided this Motorola had no place in my imaginary toy land where Beanie Babies ruled under the supremacy of a multicoloured goat I owned. Now imagine that nowadays, living in a digital universe but not requiring another handset – unbelievable! Or is it?

It seems that children are swiftly receiving their first mobile phone as they just tumble out of their nappies. I was 10 years old when I was blessed with the big accessory at the time, a pink flippy Vodafone which I attached a cute charm on from Claire’s Accessories. I only had the numbers of my direct family stored safely in that phone, should I come across trouble and need to contact one of them. Approaching secondary school, I don’t think I used that phone to its full potential, whatever potential it really had (albeit a very addictive game). Fast forward to sitting in a French class in Year 10, the first year of GCSEs. My Samsung phone didn’t have a Facebook app but that didn’t stop me from using my 3G to open up the web version on the Internet. But not too regular. God forbid you opened that Internet button accidentally and had to force it to close, freaking out you’re going to cost your parents a heap of money. Now, at 20 years old, I have both a work phone and a personal one. They’re both iPhones, and are portals to other worlds. I wake up to use one phone to practise speaking Spanish, do some brain training, check the Guardian, my social networks, and use the other to check my work emails. But then sometimes I accidentally find myself sitting in bed scrolling through an infinite Twitter feed, almost as if it is an innate action I cannot control.

 

Internet addiction is real, and it’s targeting the young and impressionable. We constantly have an active online presence through our social sphere. It’s deteriorating and dangerous. We are perceived by who we are virtually. Brag about your personal possessions through a simple Instagram upload, paint yourself as an outgoing person by Snapchatting a social event, or maybe check-in on Facebook at numerous restaurants in London to illustrate how much of a food connoisseur you are. These actions are quick and indirectly say editable things about yourself. Don’t want to be seen as boring? Just don’t tweet about the endless revision for your exam next week – nobody will know a thing! Am I a hypocrite for slamming down virtual actions when here I am, writing a blog? Yes and no.Without the internet, I couldn’t be refining my lingual abilities each morning. I couldn’t follow current events just by clicking on an app. I write online to educate, not out of some carnal desire. But that’s not to say I couldn’t do these things otherwise. The advancement of technology has simply made the world accessible. No longer can you interact with some form of life over just an imaginary  game in your head while stranded in a desert, just cross your fingers that the Sahara gets WiFi coverage. Before smartphones were a thing, I would watch the 6pm news during dinner with my parents to learn about the worldwide atrocities and political escapades, and learn French and Spanish through school, books, a dictionary, and the occasional Google translate which may have landed me in trouble one time. I even wrote countless stories in old exercise books, pretending I was J.K. Rowling’s apprentice for my eyes only.

Smartphones give the impression that we are more intelligent beings than previous generations. Really, technology has allowed us to feel smart. We ‘feel’ smart because on the news we see reports about smart tissue engineering curing diseases, which may have initially begun with a human, organic idea, but developed into putting that idea into technology. Maybe a human genius orchestrated the operational side of how an aircraft would work, but what we marvel at is how impressive airplanes are – not how clever the people behind all these ideas are and were. What came first, human intelligence or technological ease? However, you move away from these astounding scientific developments into biased social media, aforementioned. While Twitter has educated me about 140-character news bites, it has also gathered the momentum for viral memes and vines, whether of cats or Drake. Is this utterly stupid or purely part of millennial culture? The power of social media is how frightening something you can put online can go worldwide. A slip of the finger and you create an irreversible action. I can try all I might to delete my abbreviated Facebook statuses from sitting in that GCSE French class, but my words are imprinted forever online. This has the effect of creating a permanent, indestructible archive of words, feelings, and events. Great for all of those news stories, but not so much for those recently dumped and are posting emotional selfies of them crying on Facebook.

So if your whole virtual life is readily available, is it safe? Is it your personal information? Who can see and use it? Once you upload a photo of your poached eggs and avocado to Instagram, it does not belong to the big Insta-dogs, fortunately. But this isn’t the same for other sites like Facebook, so be mindful where you’re posting your photos if you want to claim ownership of those  aesthetic eggs.With Facebook, your photos become their property, so they can do a limited amount with it. If you have an issue with this, you probably should have read those Ts and Cs when you signed up for an account. This is where Intellectual Property is integral. Say you’re a budding graphic designer, and have just uploaded an excellent picture of Tom Hardy drawing to Facebook, you’re most likely going to get some likes and comments from mates and your aunt (or maybe some of those irritating ‘love hearts’ that are now a thing on Facebook). But, what if somebody saves your photo and reposts this as their own? Well, basic copyright protects work like this so your still, unblinking Hardy will forever be yours. Facebook does recognise and take action against those pesky impostor accounts which might be using your work or even your selfies to Catfish other people, just by simply allowing you to Report these profiles. Just recently it was revealed that a brother posted revenge porn on an American website with asking prices for strangers to bargain how much they wanted to do obscene acts to her. The law around revenge porn is a prime example of an issue caused by social media and the law shifting to a changing environment.

But take LinkedIn, a brilliant amalgamation of seeming professional with basic social network behaviour. Often enough, this is how recruiters seek out new joiners to a company. This is when you need to think about your virtual archive and keep your personal life off LinkedIn – it really isn’t the place, guys. Even better, keep your personal social networks private. For me, it was difficult making my Twitter private as I get a pang of recognition and appraisal when my tweets get retweeted (typical millennial me). Despite my inaccessible Twitter (unless I accept your follow request), I will make the effort to talk about my interests and passions rather than idiotic things I’ve said and done. Perhaps this is my transformation into my bleak twenties.

Ultimately, your virtual behaviour isn’t going to shape you as a person, unless you’re a fangirl and the friends you meet online have brought the best/worst out of you. But, your persona is going to be altered by your online appearance. Although the Internet was still in its teething stages during my time at school, I can only anticipate now that it is mandatory to teach kids about the dangers of smartphones. The Internet is a lot darker than I’ve made out. It’s where paedophiles, terrorists, fraudsters and trolls lurk, purely because what they want is so accessible online. These evil people still exist in the real world, much like a lot of things you get pleasure out of online (not a euphemism). When I think back to my mother chucking her Motorola to me as a toy, I don’t know if she’d do the same today with her Samsung Galaxy phone or tablet. For her, Netflix has replaced BlockBuster, and eBay has replaced pawn shops. We can mourn the loss of Woolworths but remember that now we have sites like Amazon. And nobody’s complaining about Asos, right? We may have lost jobs and revenue through liquidated companies, but were regained through the power of the Internet. Customer service is not only by phone now, but through a chat box on the website. We have more available skillsets creating real occupations, like technicians, engineers, those guys down IT. Thanks, technology. Right now we’re seeing the revolution of the Internet Of Things, which is bringing about smart-homes, driverless cars, and maybe even something from Google you insert into your eye to cure poor eyesight (I think I’ll stick with my glasses).

My key message is that we cannot be ignorant to the qualms of technology and the Internet. We should be very fortunate that we are living at this exact time in the Earth’s lifespan that the Internet is becoming an abundant tool stretching into all parts of our lives. To be honest, I am pretty gutted that kids nowadays aren’t using Bebo and MySpace as a rite of passage into downloading Snapchat. I guess babies now using iPads as toys is the new thing which I still don’t agree with, but hey, my Grandad downloaded Snapchat to show me pictures of his garden, and I’m not pestering him to get on Facebook.