It’s crazy to think that my undergraduate career is wrapping up within the next couple of weeks. It’s been five years of blood, sweat, and tears, but looking back on it now, it was so worth it. I have learned many life skills that were beyond my major, gained valuable knowledge on Elementary education (my major), and acquired so many wonderful memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Saying that though, I am beyond ready to move on and see what is next to come in my life! In the words of Ariana Grande, time to say “thank you, next” to SFU and my bachelor’s degree!
I do want to shout out this class, PUB (Publishing) 101, as one of my favourite classes I’ve taken at SFU. I truly appreciate the course designers who believed students’ work is worthy and valuable enough to be put out there and read by the public, as well as taken seriously by academics. Creating work that will not only be read and critiqued by our professors and TA’s, but the public via the Internet, gives our work a sense of greater purpose than simply for a grade. So thank you, Suzanne and Ellen, for believing in us and recognizing that students’ voices deserve to be heard not just within the four walls of our classrooms, but for everyone to hear as what we have to say is valuable. I never thought I would ever write a blog, until I took this class, and now I have discovered that my voice matters too.
I created this blog in hopes of spreading kindness and encouraging people to practice empathy for others. If I have inspired at least one person to spread kindness in someone’s life, then I have achieved my goal! I truly believe kindness as a ripple effect, as demonstrated in this comic I stumbled upon on Facebook:
I plan on continuing my blog past this course, however I am going to take a well needed break for a little while! I’m not sure how long it will be, but I definitely want to continue writing and putting my thoughts on the Internet. Even if no one reads, I’ve discovered it’s a cathartic way of organizing my thoughts and figuring out my stance on big issues, as well as a venting outlet, and who doesn’t like venting.
Always remember that everyone is just doing their best in this big, wide, weird world and that we’re all humans who crave love and belonging. Be the positive light in someone’s day, the answered prayer, the spark of joy. Let’s all change the world, one act of kindness at a time!
This week in class we watched a TedTalk by Jon Ronson where he discussed peoples’ tendencies to behave like a lynching mob on social media when it comes to perceived injustice, as well as the joy people get out of this public shaming. Jon Ronson discussed a particular case of a woman named Justine Sacco. Some of you may remember her as the woman who made a tweet before getting on an airplane from London, England to Cape Town, South Africa that utterly dismantled her life during the span of the flight. She was a public relations worker in New York with 170 Twitter followers. However, her story is proof of how fast word can travel, especially on the Internet. The tweet that ruined her life was this:
Upon arrival in Cape Town, Justine turned on her phone to discover that she was the world wide #1 trending topic on Twitter. It turned out that one of her 170 Twitter followers sent Justine’s tweet to a journalist who then retweeted it to his 15,000 followers, and spiralled from there. Jon Ronson actually emailed the journalist a few weeks after the incident and asked him how it felt to do this, and he exclaimed it felt “delicious.” When I heard this, I was immediately enraged and knew I wanted to discuss this on my blog. How could someone say the destruction of someone’s life felt “delicious”?!?!?! Then, Jon Ronson began to show some of the tweets that were sent to Justine, ranging from demanding her to be fired from her job, to wishing AIDS upon her:
Jon Ronson had a suspicion that Justine’s tweet was actually not meant to be racist. He met with her a couple of weeks after the debacle and asked her to explain the joke, and she said that her intention was to mock the bubble Americans live in when it comes to their knowledge of Third World countries. Clearly, it was not interpreted that way.
Although I do feel that Justine was in the wrong and could have worded her joke much differently to convey what she was trying to say, I don’t believe she deserved to have her life torn apart because of it. I understand how her tweet was misinterpreted, as it’s nearly impossible to detect elements like tone and body language over Twitter that help with interpreting a message, but she made a mistake. Jon Ronson mentioned how it was interesting that someone tweeted, “somebody HIV positive should rape this bitch and then we’ll find out if her skin colour protects her from AIDS” (8:10) as that person received no public persecution whatsoever. So why when we are joining in a mob mentality do we all of a sudden deem this disgusting behaviour appropriate? I can’t imagine any sane person having the courage to say something like this to Justine’s face. However, when we have a mob of people doing the same thing, and we can do it while hiding behind a computer or phone screen, it makes dehumanizing someone a lot easier, and we may even feel a bit of joy sitting back and watching somebody’s life crumble right before our eyes.
While watching this video during class, one of my initial thoughts was, “what if Justine was just doing her best?” I know that may sound like I’m giving her too much of a break, but that is the mentality I live by and also what this blog is centred around, so I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t ask myself that. Once again, although she could have worded her joke way better, the intended meaning was misinterpreted. I do believe that she made a mistake, but we all have made mistakes and bad judgement calls. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised that everyone on Twitter that night was so quick, and excited, to call someone out for their wrongdoing. It’s much easier to do that then take a minute to ask ourselves, “maybe she meant something different by that tweet” and giving Justine the benefit of the doubt. Instead, responding in ways the Twitter users did that night makes us feel better about ourselves; that we’re not the only one who has flaws and makes mistakes. Jon Ronson put it beautifully when he explained that the Twitter users that night were trying to call out someone’s misuse of privilege, essentially something good, however the phrase “misuse of privilege” is becoming a free pass to tear apart anyone we choose to. In attempting to search and find the “bad guys” in our world, we are utterly destroying innocent peoples’ lives, and feeling good about it. I ask this of you: next time you see something online someone has said that bothers you or even enrages you, like Justine’s tweet, take a minute before you respond and ask yourself if you were standing in front of that person with no one else around you, would you still say that comment to them? If the answer is no, don’t post it. Also, ask yourself if there are other ways of interpreting what they said. Who knows, you may have saved someone’s life.
As the semester comes to a close (as well as my degree) it’s time to do some reflecting on the work I’ve completed in PUB 101. While reflecting on my blog and the semester for this essay, I couldn’t help but feel proud of my classmates and myself for the work we’ve completed. My classmates and I not only created this semester-long project for school, but we were given the opportunity to showcase the potential and talent we have as university students to the Internet world. I am incredibly proud of the unique content my classmates have created. I look forward to keeping up with their blogs and seeing where they go with them!
I wanted to create a blog on the topic of kindness because I saw (and still see) a dire need for positivity in our current world. Reace Mok, one of my classmates who wrote a peer review on my blog said, “her topic is extremely timely, as in the age of cyberbullying and Trumped-up racism, stereotyping and hate, a little kindness is a fresh and needed concept” (Mok, 2019, para. 8). Reace’s comment was exactly my thinking at the beginning of the semester when brainstorming blog topics, and thus began The Kindness Lifestyle. The target audience for my blog is everyone, as I don’t believe kindness is limited to a certain type of person; it’s universal. However, due to kindness being associated as a female trait, I believe my blog attracts mainly females. Based on comments and feedback I’ve received, this rings true as they are almost all from females. I believe I’m addressing my target audience, which is everyone, through my content as it remains focused on the universal topic of kindness. However, I could improve on making the design universal, specifically more gender neutral, as currently my blog design could be considered more on the feminine side. It’s interesting though because my classmate, Tobi Cheung, who wrote a peer review for my blog said that, “[my] blog style matched the topic [I] [am] writing about, the colours were soft which [is] very welcoming and [has] a calmness to it” (Cheung, 2019, para. 2). Tobi said that my blog design matched my topic and since most people would consider my blog to look quite feminine, does this mean that kindness is in fact associated with femininity based on Tobi’s comment?
Designing my blog was one of the most exciting, yet difficult parts of the creation process. Just as I was content and proud of what I had created, with the help of a WordPress tutorial on YouTube, I read Travis Gertz (2015) article, Design Machines: How to survive the digital apocalypse. In his article, he discusses the pressing issue with the design of websites today; they all look the same.
After reading Gertz’s (2015) article and seeing the collage of images shown above, I realized that my website falls into this “digital design homogeneity,” as he describes it. I was discouraged seeing that my design was nothing new or original as I worked hard on it, as well as received many compliments. However, I did keep the design for the duration of the semester. As the semester closes and I have more time to become familiar with WordPress design, I will try and redesign The Kindness Lifestyle to be more unique and more of a monopoly, as one of our guest speakers, Trevor Battye, described what our websites should be.
Trevor Battye also showed us a video by Peter Thiel where he discusses the importance of being a monopoly in the business world (Independent Institute, 2015). Although he focuses on businesses, his ideas can also apply to our websites. Thiel believes that as a creator, your work should be so unique and one of a kind that it does not have any competition (Independent Institute, 2015). In this sense, I believe the content of my blog is on it’s way to being a monopoly, but definitely not with design yet. Sofia Sullivan mentioned in her peer review on my blog that, “nowadays you don’t typically see blogs [on] this subject [of kindness]” (Sullivan, 2019, para. 4). As I continue to build my blog, aiming to be a monopoly will be a priority when making decisions about content, but especially with design as that is what makes websites stand out to viewers.
Reflecting on my thoughts of publication at the beginning of the semester compared to now, I will say they have changed quite a bit. I still believe that what people post on the Internet should have purpose and be productive (at least most of the time), however over the semester I have gained more respect for certain platforms like Instagram. Although I still see the majority of people using Instagram in a pointless manner, I also see the potential it has for purposeful content after what we’ve learned in this course. The most significant thing I learned in this course is that although almost everyone in the world can be a publisher with the technology we have, it’s much more difficult than it appears to be for that exact reason. Creating an innovative idea that is a monopoly is difficult to do with so many people trying to do it every day. However, I hope with my blog I provided value in the sense of inspiring my readers to think differently when it comes to kindness as well as provide them with a glimmer of positivity.
About a year ago I came across a girl on YouTube named Claire Wineland. She was 21 year old girl with cystic fibrosis who documented the ups and downs of her journey living with this disease on YouTube. I watched a couple of her videos and thought that she was an incredible girl, but didn’t keep up with her past those couple of videos. Then, in September of 2018, I heard she had died one week after receiving her long awaited lung transplant. In sad situations like these where life doesn’t make sense or seem fair, I tend to try and forget about the story to save myself from heartbreak. However recently, I came across Claire again amongst my recommended videos on YouTube. Her video was a part of a series called My Last Days produced by Justin Baldoni. Justin created this series to find out and share the unique perspectives of life from people who are dying. A more detailed description of his series can be found here.
I watched Claire’s episode, Meet Claire, Finding Beauty in the Sadness, and what she said brought me to full blown tears, “you don’t need to know you’re dying to start living.” Something so simple that essentially everyone knows, but so many people forget to put into practice; myself included. We all get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that we often forget what a gift each day truly is; that each day is a new opportunity for us to make a positive impact in the world.
Hearing Claire say this lead me to reflect on what I want to be remembered for during this little life of mine. The fact of the matter is, we all have an expiration date and none of us know when it is. So I asked myself, “if I die tomorrow, what will I be remembered for?” I can only hope that I will be remembered for how I made others feel. In my 23 years of life, I hope I’ve made the people I’ve crossed paths with feel as though they are loved for exactly who they are and that they are innately deserving of love and belonging. I also hope I’m remembered for actively spreading and practicing kindness, as that is a daily goal of mine. Claire said that we have no control over when we die, however we do have control over creating a life that we’re proud of, and at this point, I will say that I am proud of my life. That doesn’t mean I don’t have room for improvement though because I always will! I feel as though we tell ourselves that we’ll have time to create this life we’ll be proud of someday. We tell ourselves that we’ll start doing things when we have the money and time. But how do we know we will have this time? Since Claire new roughly when her expiry date was (which not many of us do), it was obvious through the way she spoke how much she saw every day as a gift and was actively making the most out of every second she’d been given.
What if we all lived like we were dying tomorrow, like Claire did? What would you do differently? How would you treat others differently? I know this is a short blog this week, but really, it all boils down to one question: what do you want to be remembered for?
Rest in peace, Claire Wineland. Thank you for dedicating your life to serving others and teaching me how to treat every day as the gift it truly is. You are an inspiration to all of us.
If you would like to donate or find out more about Claire’s Place Foundation, you can check out the website here.
We had a wonderful guest speaker in class this week, Darren Barefoot, from the company, Capulet Communications. His talk on multichannel marketing and transmedia integration inspired me to reflect on the various media and channels I promote and growThe Kindness Lifestyle on as a brand, which is not many, and how I can continue to grow my brand past the completion of this course. Currently, I promote my blog posts on my Facebook account, and that is all. I’ve mentioned in previous posts how I’m not one to keep track of followers and analytics, however for the sake of this post I will pretend I do and consider what I would conduct in order to grow The Kindness Lifestyle as a brand through transmedia integration.
As we’ve discussed in class, as well as discovered through my own experiences, it’s evident that one of the dominant “channels” used to promote websites, ads, companies, etc. is social media. Specifically, there are a few superior ones which include Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube. Of these five, I currently have two for my own personal use; Facebook and Snapchat. According to Hootsuite, as of 2019 the world’s population is 7.676 billion, and of those people, 3.484 billion are active social media users. Considering this, my first plan of action would be to create accounts on each of these social media platforms under The Kindness Lifestyle. Although this would be stepping out of my comfort zone, I would also make a YouTube channel where I would discuss the topics that I write about in my blog. Marketers have said that video has become more powerful than text as it’s more memorable, probably because it appears more personal to the viewer. Having a YouTube channel would be a way to grab another audience’s attention and direct them towards my blog, but also a way to grow my brand as a whole.
However, Darren Barefoot also discussed the notion of “heartbeats and remarkables” when it comes to marketing, and social media was considered a heartbeat. He described “heartbeats” as the basics of marketing that all companies and brands have such as email lists, websites, and social media. Remarkables on the other hand are the exceptional marketing tactics that catch the consumers’ eye; some of them include PR stunts, gimmicks, pop-up events, and unique fundraising mechanisms, to name a few. An example of a remarkable marketing tactic can be found here. Relating back to my website and brand, an effective way to draw people’s attention to The Kindness Lifestyle could be creating an original remarkable. It’s evident that social media isn’t enough to promote a brand these days as everyone has it; it’s simply a necessity, or heartbeat, in the marketing world at this point. However, I was curious if it would be more effective to conduct a remarkable marketing stunt when you have a significant following, or conduct it despite a significant following as a way to make people curious enough to search your brand and see what it’s all about. When considering this, maybe I should take Darren Barefoot’s advice of “safe is risky and risky is safe” in the marketing world.
Reace has written a powerful and vulnerable blog called ReRouted. His blog discusses his experiences in finding his identity after he left playing football. Coming from an ex-athlete such as myself, I found myself relating to his posts which brought me comfort in realizing I wasn’t alone in my experiences of finding my identity past my sport. In saying this, I believe Reace’s intended audience is athletes of all sports. I say athletes in general because although he discusses the life of a retired football player, athletes from all sports must experience this one day and would find value in his blog at any stage of their athletic career.
Right off the bat, Reace’s stunning homepage immediately shows his viewers what his blog is all about. I absolutely love the series of images he chose as they tell his story of slowly shedding off his identity as a football player and coming into his new self. This series of images alone is a huge way he has marketed his blog towards athletes, and more specifically retired athletes, as we all can relate to this feeling of taking off our uniform for the last time. In this sense, Reace has already gained his audience’s attention on a personal level right from the beginning of their search. He also has featured his “About” section on the side bar of the front page, so if he has any viewers who may not have understood the series of images at first glance, they can easily find what his blog is about on the homepage. Both the eye-catching images and his “About” section being on the homepage is a great way to decrease bounce rate, which as our guest speaker, Monique Sherrett, explained, is the rate at which people come to your website and leave right away.
Reace’s blog content is very consistent with his theme. He shares a vulnerable part of himself, which is oftentimes difficult for ex-athletes to talk about. Although there are plenty of articles on the Internet that discuss this identity crisis athletes face when retiring from their sport, this is the first time I’ve come across a blog dedicated to it. One of our guest speakers, Trevor Battye, discussed how our goal with our website should be to create something that no one else can compete with, and I believe Reace has done this. Not many people are willing to be vulnerable and put their struggles online for everyone to read and see, but I believe that is why his blog is extremely marketable to his audience. All retired athletes face this identity battle at varying degrees; Reace’s blog gives these people a place to come and see that they’re not or were not alone in this struggle. Here’s one of his posts that truly demonstrates his courage to be vulnerable with his readers, which is something I truly admire.
A possible way Reace could increase his marketability towards his audience is through including images in his blog posts. Not only does this give the reader a visual break from the text, it also adds another personal touch to his already personal posts. It could be worthwhile to include images of himself playing football! Another way he could increase his marketability towards his audience is by including mental health resources (maybe even ones geared towards athletes) at the end of his posts for viewers to look into if they are struggling and considering getting help. Coming from experience, this retired athlete identity struggle can be difficult to navigate alone; letting his audience know that it’s okay to seek help would not only increase his marketability, but also help decrease the stigma around mental health. I believe Reace will have no problem maintaining and growing his audience as long as he stays true to them and continues to be a courageous blogger through his vulnerability!
Recently I’ve been noticing the abundance of engagement ring ads that have been popping up on my Facebook feed. Although it’s something that I have noticed, I haven’t thought deeply about why they may be showing up on my feed until this week in class when we discussed audiences and how websites reach their intended audience. Our professor gave us an activity to try, which was to pick an ad from our Facebook feed and reverse engineer it, A.K.A dissect why it may be popping up on your specific Facebook feed. Below is one of the many engagement ring ads that I’ve come across on my Facebook feed:
As many of you have probably noticed, Facebook seems to know your exact search history based on their creepily accurate ads they place on your feed. However in my case with the engagement ring ads, I found it interesting as I haven’t searched engagement rings in my browser, so where did they get this information from that I might be in this market at the moment? Time to start reverse engineering!
I began with thinking about what my characteristics were and which one’s I’ve shared with Facebook. Like most people, I have my basic characteristics listed on Facebook. This includes my age, gender, education, things like that. However, I also have my relationship status listed, which is currently “in a relationship”. Based on this information I’ve shared with Facebook, they can conclude that I’m a 23 year old female who is in a relationship. In general, women in the age range of 20-30 years old who are in a relationship may be thinking about getting married. Facebook may have taken this information and made an assumption, which is why they’re promoting engagement ring ads on my feed. Another added factor to this may be that I’ve had my relationship status as “in a relationship” on Facebook for over three years now. I noticed that these engagement ring ads started appearing on my feed a few months ago. Since Facebook thinks I’ve been in a relationship for a long time now, maybe that is also an indicator to them that they should start targeting me for engagement ring ads. However, I’m not positive if Facebook actually tracks this factor, but with my experience it seems as though they very well might be.
I plugged in my reverse engineering into Facebook Audience Insights and this is what I discovered:
I set the audience to Vancouver, Canada, and women in the age range of 20-30 years old. I didn’t specify if they were in a relationship or not as I wanted to see the percentage of this audience was listed as “in a relationship.” It appears that 61% of women 18-34 years old who are on Facebook in Vancouver, Canada are in the 25-34 age range, and 39% are in the 18-24 age range. Of those women, 27% of them are listed as “in a relationship.” Based on this information, I can assume that Facebook may be targeting that 27% with engagement ring ads.
My dear friend Rosa (who also has blog!) recently recommended me to read a book called, The Hidden Messages in Water by Masaru Emoto. She explained to me how Emoto is a Japanese scientist who discovered that the molecules of water are effected by our thoughts, words, and feelings. Essentially, his research involves saying different phrases and playing different kinds of music to water, then freezing that water and analyzing the kinds of crystals the it forms. I know… sounds crazy but bare with me. I made a mini resolution at the beginning of this year that I would read more books, but also read books that I would never think about reading. Following our conversation, I immediately ordered the book on Amazon and had it in my hands within a couple of days. Little did I know the magnitude to which this book would blow my mind.
As I explain Emoto’s work, it will slowly start to make sense how this relates to kindness. For over a decade now, Emoto has been taking pictures of frozen ice crystals. He began taking these pictures when he noticed in his research that water “expresses itself in a vast variety of ways” (p. ix). As he was taking these pictures, he researched why certain types of water created certain kinds of crystals, and that’s when he started experimenting with saying different phrases and playing different kinds of music to liquid water then freezing it to see what kinds of crystals it makes. His findings were absolutely remarkable.
Below are pictures of frozen water crystals when he had a group of children say “you’re beautiful” a few times and several times to two different cups of water. The third cup was ignored completely.
Next are a series of pictures he took when people said “thank you” in various languages to different cups of water. As he notes in his book, they all resulted in crystals that were “beautiful and complete”.
Finally, when words and phrases that indicated harm were spoken to cups of water, no crystals formed at all.
You may be catching on now to how this all relates to kindness. However, let me explain even further. Emoto discusses in his book that the average human body is made up of 70% water. Based on his research then, the things that are said to us have a significant impact on our bodies and minds, as water absorbs the energy and vibrations from those words. He says that the key to living a happy and healthy life is to “purify the water that makes up 70 percent of your body” (p. xvi).
It’s quite evident that a huge part of kindness is how we speak to other people. We are taught from a young age that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” however I think we’ve gotten that wrong. Sure, we can brush off negative things people say to us, but based on Emoto’s research, those words do effect us at a molecular level. I believe this quote from his book sums up how his research relates to kindness beautifully:
“In Japan, it is said that words of the soul reside in a spirit called kotodama or the spirit of words, and the act of speaking words has the power to change the world. We all know that words have an enormous influence on the way we think and feel, and that things generally go more smoothly when positive words are used. However, up until now we have never been able to physically see the effect of positive words” (p. xxvi).
Thank you, Masaru Emoto, for showing us the physical effect of words through the magic of water! For the sake of the water in us, go speak kindness and love into someone’s life today.