U.K.-based model Stina Sanders is an Instagram sensation.
Sanders made headlines recently when she dumped the airbrushed, artificial images to show the manufactured side of modeling. She replaced her glamour shots with “real life” double chin, hair removal and IBS treatment images.
Response to the social experiment was mixed. She initially lost thousands of followers, but gained the interest and appreciation of people around the world who support her message.
I reached out to Sanders after news and images of the experiment went viral to ask about her message, advice for parents, and her next moves:
Q. What were you trying to accomplish by posting these “real” images?
A. All my life I have been judged because of my career. I like social media but it concerns me that young girls are looking up to their idols not realizing how contrived their images are. They’re unrealistic, and I’m sure it’s caused plenty of people, especially young girls, a lot of issues, simply because they feel they are not as good as the standard they see online.
Q. How does it feel to know that your message is resonating with so many people?
A. I think it’s fantastic that it’s given people the confidence to come forward and say ‘I’m tired of this bullshit, too. Let’s just be real.’ People have thanked me, especially over the photo I shared where I had just finished my psychotherapy session. So many people suffer, yet no one talks about it enough. The irony is, talking is the best cure. At the end of the day, we’re all human and we all have flaws and believe it or not, body hair. We need to stop pretending that being perfect is real.
Q. What steps might someone take to be more authentic online?
A. I think if you create a life that isn’t really yours, then you’re always going to be found out in the end. The only person you can be is you. I think we also need to all remember that social media isn’t real.
Q. As a parent, your message is really important to me and probably to a lot of other parents. What advice would you give parents raising girls or boys about social media and life online?
A. It’s interesting because a lot of parents have reached out to me. I think they didn’t realize how fake social media can be, and how poisonous it is for young children and teenagers.
I remember being really tiny and meeting a celebrity for the first time, and I got really excited about it to the point where I thought I would faint. It was my dad who reminded me to calm down and that ‘We all poop!’ That stuck with me. I think it’s important to make children aware that we’re all human.
Q. How do you think this will change anything for you professionally moving forward?
A. As much as I love modeling, my real passion is writing. I want to write articles that make people feel happy, not alone.
Check out Stina Sanders’ blog at stinasanders.com and follow her on Instagram at @stinasanders.
The five days after Thanksgiving are a mixture of hysteria, hype and maybe some hope.
The mother-of-all-shopping-days, Black Friday, is followed by Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.
If you’ve been frugal during the holiday spending spree, and you’re feeling generous, consider giving to a favorite charity on #GivingTuesday.
#GivingTuesday is Dec. 1, 2015. It was created in 2012 as a response to the commercialization of the holiday season, and to campaign for charitable donations. According to givingtuesday.org, the 92nd Street Y, a nonprofit cultural and community center in New York City, launched #GivingTuesday as a way to celebrate and encourage giving.
“The one difference with Giving Tuesday, and why it focuses on cash, is specifically because of that sequence ... Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday,” said Lori Shandor, Director of Development with Mill Creek MetroParks.
“It’s to get people to circle back to what they were thinking about on Thanksgiving, thinking about those who are less fortunate.”
#GivingTuesday is the textbook definition of hashtag activism.
On Twitter and other social media platforms, hashtags (the # symbol) are used to organize conversations on similar topics. Hashtag activism is viewed as a form of social media crusading, drawing the attention of millions of social media users to important issues.
Some notable examples from the past few years include #BlackLivesMatter and #BringBackOurGirls. The hashtag credited with starting online activism is #OccupyWallStreet.
To be sure, Small Business Saturday is also a form of hashtag activism. Using the tag #ShopSmall, the focus is still on spending money, but to get social media users to think locally, about shopping at small neighborhood stores rather than big-box department stores.
For #GivingTuesday, it’s as much about giving back as it is about drawing attention to the issues of consumerism.
Between 2012 and 2014, major nonprofit software services such as Blackbaud and nonprofit crowdfunding services such as GlobalGiving reported raising more than $83 million.
Of course, that number pales in comparison to the money spent over the previous three days. But consider this: Blackbaud reported donations on #GivingTuesday through their service jumped from $10 million in 2012 to more than $26 million in 2014. That’s a 159 percent increase in donations.
Clearly, the social media masses were activated.
Many nonprofit agencies are already gearing up for another big Tuesday. Chris Evans, star of the “Captain America” movies, recently posted a short YouTube video for Christopher’s Haven, apartments in Boston for families of children battling cancer.
The video was promoted on Twitter with a tweet that had the #GivingTuesday hashtag.
For some nonprofits, giving back doesn’t always mean giving money.
“Places like the food bank or St. Vincent De Paul are always in need of items as well as monetary donations,” said Shandor. “As fundraisers, we ask people to be giving of their time, talent or treasure.”
Want to activate your nonprofit group on #GivingTuesday? Check out givingtuesday.org for tools, resources and webinars. If you’re thinking ahead to next year, the next #GivingTuesday is Nov. 29, 2016.
A few weeks ago, a graduate student in my online class sent this email:
“I’m really not getting anything out of these online meetings with my group. It feels like we just sit around and look at each other. Want to make it more interesting? Give us free pizza, beer, and play some techno music in the background. Even then I’m not sure it would be as good as an in-person face-to-face meeting.”
Interacting with real people online to accomplish some goal is a tricky business. Although these meetings are synchronous (i.e., happening in real time), and we can collaborate with people scattered all over the world, something is missing.
Don’t fear. Whether you run a nonprofit or you own a Fortune 500 company, web meetings can work.
Start by finding the right service.
Some of the top-tier paid services such as GoToMeeting and WebEx offer many bells and whistles, and they do their best to mirror a face-to-face meeting environment.
If your budget is tight, free and low-cost services such as Google Hangouts, ooVoo and Skype can connect your group with video and sound from various locations at the same time.
I mention “low cost” only as a reminder that you still need A) a computer, B) with a webcam and C) access to the Internet.
Here are some basic strategies for conducting a virtual meeting:
When all else fails, take my student’s advice and play techno music in the background.
Twitter caused mass pandemonium last week when it made a significant change to the user experience.
In response, the stalwart Twitter mob grabbed their Internet torches and pitchforks intent on bringing down one of the largest social media platforms.
How did Twitter make so many Tweeters so angry?
They ditched the longtime icon for “favoriting” a tweet, the gold star, and replaced it with a new icon, a red heart.
“We are changing our star icon for favorites to a heart and we’ll be calling them likes,” Twitter posted in an announcement Tuesday.
Its reason for the change might seem trivial.
“We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers,” Twitter said. “You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.”
That’s it. They swapped the star for a heart, setting off a storm of contemptuous tweets from longtime users.
For the majority of Twitter’s more than 300 million active users, the change was met with utter indifference. In fact, my wife, a solid “check-my-Twitter-feed-once-a-day” user reacted with a “huh?” to news of the change.
She couldn’t have cared less.
Heart icons on social media are nothing new. Popular platforms such as Instagram, Periscope and Vine have been using hearts as a seal of approval since their inception.
So why haven’t all Tweeters fallen in love with the heart? After all, many of these people are cross-platform users, meaning they use other services compatible with Twitter’s interface, including Instagram and Vine.
The answer to that question might reside in the definitions we’ve developed for the symbols for stars and hearts. To better understand this visceral reaction, we need to look back to grade school.
When I did something exceptional in Ms. Valentine’s third-grade class, I usually received a gold star sticker on my forehead. I was Ms. Valentine’s favorite pupil, at least on that day.
She never used hearts.
Hearts mean something more to third-graders. They take on an entirely different definition when we get that first note from an admirer in school.
Hearts equal love. Stars equal liking something.
But according to Twitter, “The heart ... is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures and time zones. The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people.”
To separate themselves from the heart icons on other platforms, Twitter added some emphasis to the new heart. When users select the new Twitter heart, a brief animation suggests the heart is bursting, further signifying a Tweeter’s approval.
Like other changes we’ve been forced to adopt on other platforms over the years (Facebook, anyone?), there’s little chance Twitter will react to the negative reactions of their longtime users.
In the minds of most users, the star is now a distant memory, and only time will mend the hearts of scorned Tweeters.
My Facebook friend Maxine is a good person. She’s honest, but maybe a little too honest. She shares the kind of stuff online that would make most people uncomfortable.
Her most-recent post focused on an article she was reading while using the bathroom. Yes, the subject of the article was interesting, but her Facebook friends didn’t need to know where she was reading it.
Of course, oversharing of personal information is nothing new. The term “overshare” was Webster’s New World Dictionary Word of the Year in 2008. Some trace the origins of the phrase “too much information” back to a Duran Duran song of the same name from the 1990s.
The phrase quickly morphed into its own acronym, TMI. Overshare with a friend in the late ’90s and early 2000s and the response was usually “T. M. I.” Do a quick search on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #TMI to read examples. Be warned. Most #TMI posts are cringe-worthy.
Social scientists have grappled with the question of what drives people to overshare information, positive or negative, on social media. We’re just now beginning to understand why people divulge excessive personal information on Facebook, and how truthful they’re willing to be.
In the September issue of Computers in Human Behavior, Erin Hollenbaugh, professor of communication at Kent State University, and Amber Ferris, professor of communication at the University of Akron Wayne College, examined why some people were more honest than others in the information they shared on Facebook. The Facebook honesty variable is intriguing for a variety of reasons, but mostly because of the implications it has for people trying to find more information about other people (e.g., pre-screening potential dates).
According to their study, Facebook users who posted honest, positive self-disclosures did so as a way to maintain their offline, personal relationships. Self-esteem played a role here, too. Facebook users with good self-esteem tended to be more positive in their posts.
However, users looking for online companionship were actually more negative in their disclosures. “If you’re lonely in your offline life, that negativity seems to spill over into your online life,” Hollenbaugh said.
More surprising were the intentions of those who posted negative, dishonest information. Hollenbaugh and Ferris found that Facebook users who want to create new online networks often built those networks on less-than-honest self-portrayals.
“There was a clear pattern where Facebook users disclosed dishonest, unintentional, negative information,” Hollenbaugh said. “These people don’t expect to be held accountable [offline] for what they say [online].”
There could be another reason why people are more negative on Facebook than in-person, Hollenbaugh noted. “People who are developing online relationships might feel freer to disclose lots of negative information because they can spill their guts about all the horrible parts of who they are without fear of in-person rejection.”
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.