Author Archives: Masked Retail

Peer Review #2 – Let’s Talk About this Film

Today, I am very excited to be conducting a peer review for Let’s Talk About this Film. In this review, I will be focusing primarily on the design of the website as of October 20th, 2020. I will be drawing upon concepts such as contrast, typography, consistency, and overall usability; these concepts are gone over in more detail here.

When I first view your page, I see a classic black/grey background with white writing. The writing is clearly legible because of the contrast, and header image adds to my understanding of what your blog is about. I think that the font in the header really suits the tone of the website. It would be nice if you customized the font for the rest of your posts to complement your writing. Your current font seems quite generic, so I think customizing it to match the font of the header will create consistency with your work. There is a Netflix logo in the header that did confuse me a bit. Is your site only reviewing movies on Netflix? That doesn’t seem to be the case as I continue reading, so I think it would be best if you used a more general icon so that readers know exactly what will be in store for them.

I found it easy to access your posts, as I able to view the most recent posts by scrolling down the homepage or by using the menu. However, because you have a continuous scroll, I did feel a bit bored scrolling through all the lines of text. I think you could better captivate your readers by adding more images to your posts, whether that be a featured image or an image between lines of text to illustrate a point. This will give your page a better rhythm, as right now there is no patter of where images appear. If you are not attached to the idea of the continuous scroll, you could always install a plugin (if your theme can’t do it) to create a grid layout, which will allow you to access content without scrolling through so much work. I was able to use the grid layout by following the instructions here.

At the bottom of the homepage, there are several link icons that have no description attached to them.

It seems that when you click on one of these icons, it takes you to a static page that was set up by the theme but is not being used by your blog.

Don’t be afraid to customize your site! I am not sure how your theme may differ from my own, but I think you could remove these footer icons or edit the link attached to them by following one of the suggestions here. There are several options to choose from, so hopefully at least one will work with your theme. Similarly, I think you could customize the other things that appear in your footer area, such as the additional “Address” or “Hours” tab. I see you wrote a funny comment to go along with each of them, but I am not sure if that is because you genuinely wanted those sections or because you haven’t tried to customize the site. For the purposes of your site, those tabs should not be necessary.

I see that you have not attached any social media links. I didn’t do this either to protect my privacy, but if you would like you can link to your social media by following the steps here. I also suggest you install a plugin to your contact page so that your personal email can’t be so easily accessed (it may attract spam by being so openly available on your site.) Having a contact form will also enhance the professionalism of your site and make it easier for your readers to contact you. You can install a contact form by following the steps here.

One final thing I wanted to mention, though it is not related to design, is spelling and grammar. There are many errors throughout all your posts that discourage me from reading your work. Make sure you proof read prior to posting, and maybe look into using something like Grammarly if this is an issue you struggle with in your other academics.

Overall, there are definitely some good things going on your site. I enjoyed your colour scheme and site usability. I think the biggest thing is for you to customize your site to suit your style; don’t rely solely on the original theme! I hope that the links I provided help you to customize your site to meet your vision!

The Deteriorating Democracy of Social Media

For some time, social media was used for interacting with those who would not normally be available to us, which allowed for the spread of knowledge and more transparency in the political world. For a while, this removed the power structures from online interactions and allowed everyone to have an equally important voice (Suler, 2004). Though social media platforms claim that they remain democratic, there is substantial evidence that these platforms can be used and manipulated in a way that does not promote democracy, but rather uses the accessibility of the online world to promote authoritarian ideologies. Instagram in particular has become a good place for users to speak their minds, especially given that the amount of Instagram users has nearly doubled in recent years, from 428 million in 2016 to 800 million in 2019 (Sevastopulo, 2019). While this seems to be the case in many social media platforms, Instagram’s rising popularity gives way to the spreading falsified information that contributes to the reduction of democracy in social media.

Like other social media platforms, Instagram was designed with features that are meant to make it a democratic platform. For one, most content can be accessed without “following” a particular person or organization, meaning that users may access information on a topic without subscribing to the information provider. Users are permitted to comment on posts, regardless of whether they agree or disagree with the original message. Furthermore, Instagram allows for more information to be provided in a single post than other social media platforms: the character count is significantly longer than that of Twitter, and more information can be conveyed with visual aspects in a post. The result is that users can clearly communicate their thoughts through multiple channels within Instagram, offering a substantial amount of freedom with what users produce.

Despite the above-mentioned qualities, there are Instagram characteristics that have consequences for the democracy that social media claims to provide. Instagram enables selective exposure, meaning that users can easily access information that confirms their own beliefs without necessarily coming across content that challenges those beliefs (Roman, 2020, p. 1). For instance, users are more inclined to follow political candidates with whom they share common values than political candidates with whom they disagree on key issues (Roman, 2020, p. 8). On Instagram, content is recommended to users based on posts they have “liked”, contributing to a continuous stream of repetitive content. To avoid any challenge to their beliefs, some users may even utilize selective avoidance, a technique for avoiding opinions that challenge one’s own beliefs (Roman, 2020, p. 1). So, Instagram algorithms enable issues of selective exposure and selective avoidance, which is undemocratic in that users are overexposed to certain content and underexposed to other content.

Groups such as political parties and organizations may use social media for symbolic and presentational reasons (Nic DePaula, 2018, p. 99). The definition of “information” within the context of social media is unclear, leaving room for these purely symbolic presentations of information that may be better described as propaganda than truth. Furthermore, the fact that that anyone can make claims about anything, regardless of the legitimacy of these claims, contributes to the spreading of “fake news”. Instagram does not have a fact-checking team (Sevastopulo, 2019), meaning that there is no monitoring of false information on behalf of the platform. Plus, people who are contributing to false news on Instagram can be more difficult to track due to a lack of personal information required on a profile. This gave way to a surge of fake accounts that can be cheaply purchased to boost engagement on Instagram. These false accounts are used to spread even more misinformation about the number of supporters a person has, in addition to any more false news being produced by the fake accounts (Sevastopulo, 2019).

A key issue with social media is that it is much easier to spread misinformation than it is to correct it, which results in widespread confusion and disputes over the truth (Beauchamp, 2019). Once the information is public, there is no going back, and a lie is more likely to become widespread than a follow-up critique. This idea is especially prominent when examining the social media surrounding current U.S. politics because the far-right utilizes the spread of misinformation to their advantage. While mainstream media has caught Donald Trump in lies countless times, his supporters spread his lies and even fabricate false evidence to cement the idea in others that Trump’s word is truth. Social media platforms in and of themselves naturally aid the far-right. The far-right aim to undermine trust in established institutions, which then helps the far right gain public favour while mainstream groups (Beauchamp, 2019). When there is so much misinformation spread, the confusion leads people not to trust democratic institutions, which then displaces that trust in a way that benefits authoritarian groups (though they are the ones most responsible for the false news in the first place.) The spreading of false news therefore disproportionately benefits more conservative groups, which further reduces the vision of democracy on social media.

In sum, Instagram and other social media platforms are becoming less democratic as time goes on. Despite the original intents and purposes of social media, the platforms themselves enable ignorance, anonymous deviance, and the falsification of information. This has had an enormous influence of politics, particularly in the U.S., and will continue to have this negative effect on democracy as long as platform creators continue to allow undemocratic behaviour to take place.

References

Beauchamp, Z. (2019, January 22). Social media is rotting democracy from within: How social platforms enable far-right politicians’ campaigns to undermine democracy. Vox. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/1/22/18177076/social-media-facebook-far-right-authoritarian-populism

Nic DePaula, E. D. (2018). Toward a typology of government social media communication: Democraticgoals, symbolic acts and self-presentation. Government Information Quarterly, 35, 98-108. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.giq.2017.10.003

Roman, J. H. (2020, September). Insta-echoes: Selective exposure and selective avoidance on Instagram. Telematics and Informatics, 52, 1-10. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tele.2020.101432

Sevastopulo, H. M. (2019, February 21). Why US politicians are turning to Instagram ahead of 2020 election. Financial Times. Retrieved from https://www.ft.com/content/737d2428-2fdf-11e9-ba00-0251022932c8

Suler, J. (2004). The Online Disinhibition Effect. Cyberpsychology & behaviour, 7(3), 321-326. Retrieved from http://truecenterpublishing.com/psycyber/disinhibit.html

What I Think at Work Versus What I Say

Anyone who has worked in customer service knows that you must act professionally at work even when dealing with difficult situations. However, that does not stop me from thinking about the things I wish I could say when dealing with these interactions. Below are some common questions/comments that I receive while working at a retail store during the pandemic.

Scenario #1

Customer: I know you just closed the store, but I came ALL THIS WAY to shop at your store, can I please come in? I know exactly what I am looking for!

Me, internally: If you came all this way for our store, why would you not do your research about our store hours to ensure that you would make it in time?

Me, out loud: Sorry, we are closed. There is unfortunately nothing I can do.

Scenario #2

Customer: Can you check to see if my size is in the back?

Me, out loud: Unfortunately, I know for a fact that we don’t have any more of that product in the back.

Customer: Can you please check again?

Me, internally: I already know that we don’t have it, and it sucks that people don’t believe me. It benefits me to sell more product, as I get incentive bonuses for making sales goals, so I have no reason to lie about what product we do or don’t have.

Me, out loud: Yes, I will check again, but don’t get your hopes up.

Scenario #3

*customer starts to enter the store

Me, out loud: Hi there, could you please put on your mask before entering?

Customer: I don’t have one, are you providing them?

Me, out loud: Unfortunately, we are unable to provide additional masks at this time.

Customer, angrily: You can’t force people to wear a mask if you won’t hand them out!

Me, internally: We are over 6 months into the pandemic. If you do not have a face mask of your own by now, that is because you do not want to have one. Plus, if you have experienced people giving you free masks, you should have held onto one of those instead of ripping it off your face after leaving a store and immediately throwing it out.

Me, out loud: Sorry, we are unable to provide masks at this time. If you wanting to enter our store today, I know you can buy a mask at the dollar store to your right.

Scenario #4

Customer, confidently: Just so you know, you don’t need all these safety protocols. Covid isn’t real.

Me, internally: There are not enough words in the English language to describe how ignorant you are.

Me, out loud: *awkward laugh* Okay, then.

Peer Review and Design Reflection

Last week, this site was peer reviewed by a classmate of mine (the review can be found here.) I was pleased to see that my classmate liked my menu setup, as well as the minimalist theme. This classmate also enjoyed my written work, which boosted my confidence since I aim to have strong written skills and to communicate effectively to my readers.

One tip that my classmate gave was that I change the layout of my posts. Originally, my posts were in a full-list form- that is, you had to scroll past an entire post to read the previous post. My classmate suggested that I use a block format so that more of my posts can be viewed at once, and then my reader can more easily navigate my written work. I implemented the format based on this video that my peer recommended, and I like the way it turned out.

Then, during my class lecture, we discussed design ideas, which provoked me to make some extra changes to my site. My site previously displayed a large header image, which met the aesthetic I was looking for but also took up so much space that viewers would have to scroll down to see what my page was about, running the risk that they may leave the page due to the work needed on their part. When looking to change this layout to ensure that viewers would stay to access my content, my TA mentioned that when looking at WordPress themes, there is a Feature Filter that allows you to select features that you want on your site and generates the themes that meet your set criteria. Once I discovered this feature, I was able to select a theme that better suited my style and preferences. I now have more control over the layout of my site while still maintaining the minimalist style that I began with. I am much happier with my site now, so many thanks to my classmate for the peer review as well as others who have offered me suggestions to improve this site. I look forward to hearing more feedback in the coming weeks to make this site the best reflection of my work.

Peer Review #1 – Chiang Finance

Today I will be conducting a peer review for Chiang Finance’s website, including an examination of the design, content, and the development of the online self. Keep in mind that I accessed this site and published this review on October 9th, 2020, so if you are reading this later, it is possible that edits have been made to chiangfinance.com.

First of all, I like the theme of the homepage, it makes me eager to dive into the featured posts. It has a very clean look to it and the menu is easy to navigate. The purpose behind the site is straightforward (“Financial Tips for Young Adults”), however I had to go into the “About” section to learn more than that. Perhaps you could put a one-sentence description on the homepage that gives a few more details about the purposes of this site. I think that by mentioning on the homepage that you are studying finance, you will give your website more credibility from the get-go and better articulate your online self.

It is clear from your blog posts that you have a lot of knowledge and experience with financial matters. I am glad to see that you have linked out to other sites/your previous posts and answered questions that young adults may ask.  Your vision board fits well with the content you have produced, so it is clear you have figured out who you want to be online and what you aim to accomplish. I liked how each post features a relevant image and how many of your posts referred to our assigned readings. I also enjoyed seeing your mini assignments, especially the meme you created.

One critique that I have is related to spelling and grammar. While I can understand everything that you are saying, there are enough spelling/grammar mistakes to reduce the level of professionalism on this site. I know that it is easy to make these small errors when writing directly in WordPress. I suggest writing your posts in Microsoft Word so that the program can revise your work before you publish it. This also has the bonus of having a secondary storage place for your work in case something happens to your website.

While I am glad to see that you have a “Contact” page, I think you should consider using a contact form. According to this WPForms article, this will enhance the level of professionalism for your site and allow readers to contact you without even having to leave your site. This will also protect your privacy better so that readers and scammers cannot access your university email so easily. I found this tutorial here to be helpful; you should be able to apply the steps listed in the article to a plugin of your choosing!

Overall, I am quite impressed with your website, especially after reading that this is the first website you have built. You are consistent with your tone and have already written about a variety of financial issues. You are consistent with your tone and have already written about a variety of financial issues. In Matthew Stadler’s 2010 speech, “What is Publication”, he states that publication requires being a good host, which in particular requires consistency and transparency. You seem to be on the right track here and I am confident that you will be a good host. I am excited to see where you go from here!

My reluctance to share personal information online

You may have noticed that I have not shared many personal details about myself. For example, in my “About” section there is an animated picture of me instead of my real face. I have shared my first name but not my surname. There are also no links to my personal social media. This was a very deliberate choice of mine due to the nature of this blog and my personal feelings on personal privacy.

This blog primarily encompasses my experiences in my workplace. I focus on the interactions that I have with customers, leaving names and detailed descriptions out of my work to protect their privacy. While I try not to share anything about my workplace, it is possible that my employers would not be pleased that I am writing about my experiences that occur within a professional setting. I will therefore keep the name of my company and its location private to avoid any repercussions from my employers. In addition, I do not want to specify what store I work at because I definitely do not want anybody on the Internet to know where to find me. The thought of someone who reads my blog seeking me out at my work is terrifying, regardless of their intentions.

This all ties into why I am reluctant to link my personal social media to this website. If I shared these links, people would easily find out a lot of information about me, which could lead to figuring out where I work and where I attend school. If you are visiting from my Pub101 course, I know that you have access to some of these details, but I know that I can trust you with the information. The same cannot be said for others who access this website. Moreover, even though I am aware of the great things the Internet has done, I am not done being afraid of it. I want to protect what remains of my privacy to give myself peace of mind when writing about my life. I simply cannot get rid of the feeling that letting go of my privacy will have unintended consequences.

So, I feel good with where I am at. I am proud of this platform and happy that I have a public to share to, and I am comforted by the fact that I remain somewhat anonymous while doing so.

Let Me Step Into the Customer’s Shoes…

This week’s blog post is a little different. Instead of reflecting on my week as a retail employee, I am going to reflect on my own shopping experience at the mall.

I got off work early today, so I popped into Aritzia to see if I could use up my gift cards. I was greeted by the girl at the front of the store, and we got to chatting about how it is to have a whole speech to say to customers before entering the store. It was so nice to talk to someone else who understand what it’s like to be up there and have people completely ignore you when you give them the speech that you’re literally required to say.

After that, I was helped by an associate who was around my age (I will call her Anna). Anna greeted me, saying “Hi, how are you?” I said, “I’m great, and how are you doing?” She looked DELIGHTED that I had acknowledged her in this way. She told me that people so rarely ask about her, expressing how people seem to forget that you are a real person when your job is to serve customer needs. Anna was super sweet, and we bonded over working in retail during this time. I got really great service from her and she recommended several pieces that she thought I might like.

I got home that evening and was telling my dad about how great the experience was, and he said, “Obviously she was nice to you, she was trying to sell to you.” I thought a lot about this sentiment, as I am sure that many people feel the same way about friendly retail employees. I would be easy to assume that people act friendly in order to achieve some ulterior motive, but I do not want to think of it that way. I am certain that I got better service today because I properly interacted with Anna. At the end of the day, I cannot be forced into buying anything, so I see no point in avoiding an employee in fear that they will try to sell to me. Plus, I got more enjoyment out of the experience than I would have had I kept to myself when shopping.

Take it from me: Even though providing excellent service to my customers is my job, it is something that I want to do. If you let me, I can help you out and we can have a great time shopping together, just like Anna and I did.

Spiderman Takeover

Hey everyone, it’s your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman here! My good friend Emma let me take over her blog for the day, so let’s get right to it!

I’ve been seeing a lot of anger over mask-wearing requirements, and hey, I totally get it. It can be a bit uncomfortable to wear a mask all day (trust me, I know). I get that things are tough right now, but it is for that very reason that we should wear masks in public. Of course, physically distancing yourselves from others is the most important step to prevent transmission of the virus, but wearing a mask is the next best thing you can do to protect yourself and others.

Sometimes physical distancing may not be possible, in which case it is important to have a mask as an extra precaution. On top of this, wearing a mask will make others around you feel more comfortable in this uncertain time and show them that you care about their wellbeing! Plus, masks are super cool! Just look at mine!

Another thing to remember is that you need to wear your mask properly for it to do its job. This means wearing the mask over your nose, not just on your mouth. And don’t forget, wearing a mask on your chin will do nothing for you. Can you imagine if I wore my mask hanging off my face? Everyone would discover my true identity, my enemies for would come for my loved ones, and I’d probably get arrested for vigilantism or something along those lines. Anyway, it’s better for everyone if you wear your mask on both your mouth and nose.

People often confide to me that they wish they could be a hero. Well, I’m telling you now that you can be a hero my following Covid-19 guidelines such as physically distancing, staying home when sick, and wearing a face mask. It may not be as glamorous as punching bad guys, but by following the guidelines, you can save tons of people from harm!

Want to be a hero? Mask up!

Could I Survive a Month Offline?

Craig Mod wrote an interesting article, “How I Got My Attention Back” about what he went through when being offline for a month. Mod focused on the internal struggle between wanting to choose other ways to use his attention and the need to stay informed about world news through social media. I can certainly relate to this struggle. On the one hand, social media often makes me feel insecure and frustrated. When I see pictures of people sharing the best parts of their lives, I feel jealousy. When I see people sharing hate around the world, I feel angry and insignificant. At the same time, I cannot stand the thought of being ignorant to what is happening around the world politically, socially, environmentally, and economically. I feel as though I would not be able to contribute very much to society if I were not informed on current events, especially in a time where important news is shared daily.

All that being said, I think that I could survive a month offline. In the past, I have gone on week-long trips where I wouldn’t have access to the internet, and I survived just fine. If I were able to do it for a week, I think that I could extend my time offline to a month. I bet at first, I would notice the desire to check my social media, but after putting some distance between myself and the online world, that desire would fade. As I would get into the routine of being offline, it would become easier and easier to use my attention for other things without longing for the internet. I certainly wouldn’t get bored, as I have a “To Read List” that is far too long, as well as great family and friends who are the company I need. I think that the break would be good for my mental health, as I would get to choose what is use my attention for and try to do things that make me happy.

My main concern is what would happen when I returned to the “real world” and used the internet once more. I fear that it would be really easy for me to fall back into the same routine of giving most of my attention to social media, the same way I have returned to my routines after returning from one week away from online activity. My plan would be to focus on where I put my attention by way of self-reflection. If I do not like where my energy is going, I must ask myself why my attention is being drawn there. Then, I must put restrictions on how I access the information that is stealing my attention. For example, if I realize that much of my attention is being wasted on Instagram, I should limit myself to 1 hour of Instagram per day, which is enough to take in important news without getting distracted by other materials. While my current situation does not allow me to forego the Internet for a month, I am interested in trying it out in the summer when school does not stand in my way.