THE EDGE AND WESSEX SCENE PRESENT
THE SOCIAL MEDIA ISSUE
THE DARKER SIDE OF SOCIAL MEDIA: GETTING REAL ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH 12
FRIEND, FOE, OR BOTH? THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SOCIAL MEDIA AND UOS STUDENTS 17
BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL: SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE PERCEPTION OF STARS 21
THE EDGE AND WESSEX SCENE PRESENT
THE SOCIAL MEDIA ISSUE THE EDGE TEAM
EDITOR THEA HARTMAN
PR OFFICER NICOLE KALINOWSKA
DEPUTY EDITOR SOPHIE JONES
PR OFFICER PASCAL EZEABASILI
NEWS EDITOR ELLIE BRAIN
PUBLICITY OFFICER AMBER-LOUISE LARGE
RECORDS SAM LAW
LITERATURE EXEC ABI CUTLER
FILM EDITOR ALICE O’HARE
RECORDS EXEC TOM BREWSTER
CULTURE EDITOR ELLIS MURRELL
HEAD OF DESIGN CHARLOTTE MORRIS
LIVE EDITOR NATASHA WILLIAMSON
EVENTS OFFICER BEN DOLBEAR
ONLINE MANAGER JACK NASH
VP DCI EVIE REILLY
WESSEX SCENE TEAM EDITOR ivan morris poxton
LIFESTYLE EDITOR megan hart
DEPUTY EDITOR zach sharif
INTERNATIONAL EDITOR tabassum rahman
HEAD OF PRINT rachel winter
TRAVEL EDITOR george hart
HEAD OF IMAGERY avila diana chidume
SPORTS EDITOR aaryaman banerji
HEAD OF MARKETING joe briody
SUB-EDITOR amy picknell
FEATURES EDITOR linnea lagerstedt
SUB-EDITOR annabel gadd
OPINION EDITOR rachel mather
SUB-EDITOR emily fry
POLITICS EDITOR charlotte colombo
SUB-EDITOR hazel jonckers
SCIENCE & TECH EDITOR laura nelson
VP DCI EVIE REILLY
Front cover image courtesy of House of Tomorrow and Netflix.
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For the past 15 years or so, various social media apps have gradually pervaded our lives to the point where young people spend an average of three hours a day scrolling through such platforms (according to a 2018 study by Global Web Index). So what is it about social media that makes so many of us want to “kill” the tiniest amount of spare time on it? This year, The Edge and Wessex Scene have come together to assemble a complex look at social media through students’ eyes. Illustrating this approach is a survey (pp.17-18) we conducted on the subject, with the help of UoS students. One part of the survey took a look at people’s views on social media platforms and their impact on mental health. It’s a theme returned to in a number of articles (p. 7, 1112 and 15 in particular) by Wessex Scene contributors. A social media app is in many ways a double-edged sword. It can provide the gateway to freedom (p.14), essential travel tips (p.27) and help try to find a missing person (p.30). Equally, it can close people off from different political viewpoints (p.16), be manipulated by governments to repress free speech (p.22) and construct a fantastical idea of reality (p.26). Social media hasn’t left the entertainment industry alone either - a part of our survey captures its impact students experience of entertainment, and The Edge’s writers analyse this phenomenon in film, live music, and even books (p. 24, 25, and 32). However, it’s not all cloudy: social media platforms have been incredibly beneficial to new artists (p.8), helped redefine video gaming (p.9), as well as provided authentic glimpses into users’ personalities through their music-listening habits (p.31). To top all these inquisitive pieces off, we revisit some of the most famous depictions of social media in entertainment which are relevant to this day: David Fincher’s The Social Network (p.23), Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror: ‘Nosedive’ (p.13), and Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet. (p.10) We hope you enjoy reading the rich and varying content in this collaborative magazine edition. The Edge and Wessex Scene are neutral publications and as such,views expressed within the magazine are each author’s alone. If you’re new or not on Facebook please contact editor@ wessexscene.co.uk and/or firstname.lastname@example.org to contribute to our respective publications - we look forward to hearing from you! - Editors Ivan Morris Poxton & Thea Hartman
CONTENTS 03 Social Media Nostalgic News
21 Breaking the Fourth Wall: Social Media and Changing Perception of Stars
05 Reality TV and the ‘Insta-Celebrity’
22 The Great Firewall of China: China’s Internet of Censorship
06 HowJameelaJamil’s#IWeighCampaign is Redefining Body Image
23 Flashback Review: The Social Network
24 Does Social Media Spoil the FilmWatching Experience?
08 DoesSocialMediaHelpUp-and-Coming Artists?
25 The Gig Feat. Your Mobile Phone
09 GamingSocialNetworks:RedefiningThe Medium
10 Flashback Review: Childish Gambino Because the Internet
27 Travel Vlogs - The Guidebook’s Spiritual Successor
11 The Dark Side of Social Media: Getting Real About Mental Health
28 Traveling for Instagram? 29 How Social Media has Changed What it Means to be a Music Fan
13 Black Mirror’s Nosedive: A Not-SoDistant Reality?
30 Social Media and the Search For Sala
14 Social Media: The Saviour of Human Rights Movements?
31 A Love Letter to the Spotify Sidebar of Shame
15 Now Trending: Evaluating the Social Media Detox
32 Books in the Age of Social Media: Evolution or Revolution?
16 The Perils of Tunnel Vision
33 Social Media and Citizen Science
17 Friend, Foe, or Both? The Relationship BetweenSocialMediaandUOSStudents 19 Death of a Persona: How Social Media Demystifies the Live Performance
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SOCIAL MEDIA NOSTALGIC NEWS WORDS BY ELLIE BRAIN
9 YEARS AGO
13 YEARS AGO
Instagram was launched
Although the youngest of the three popular platforms, I would argue that Instagram has the most potential to grow bigger than Facebook and Twitter. It encompasses a messaging section, photos, and 24-hour stories. The creativity of Instagram allows a plethora of people to use the site to further their own careers. However, the danger lies in the “perfect feed” mentality. The toxicity surrounding Instagram is when people post their apparently “perfect lives”, which in reality only shows the best parts of themselves. Aspiring to this level of perfection is firstly impossible, and secondly really unhealthy. Whilst Instagram is great at bringing people together and demonstrating creativity, it is really important to remember that what you see isn’t necessarily the whole truth.
Twitter was launched
13 years after its launch, Twitter remains one of the biggest and most influential social media platforms in existence. Whilst originally intended as a way to state your thoughts and feelings in a short 140 character summary, it has now expanded into a news outlet, way to keep up with the famous and influential, and one of the quickest ways to find out information. More recently, it’s been at the frontline of a number of controversies. For example, Kevin Hart stepping down from the Oscars came after the discovery of some homophobic tweets he wrote a few years ago. This only serves to demonstrate the power of social media and the necessity to take care of what you post online. Most companies now suggest making your accounts private, as it is common practice for potential employers to search for results about you through different social medias.
15 YEARS AGO
Facebook was launched February 2004
With Facebook now in its 15th year, it is useful to reflect on the impact it’s had on not just social media, but society as well. Most recently, issues of privacy got founder Mark Zuckerberg into a world of trouble; the links between using browsing history to influence marketing strategies were not completely transparent to the average Facebook user. As a result, a lot of us have shut off from Facebook even if we haven’t necessarily de-activated our accounts. Although you may have an active Facebook account, it is fair to say that other social media platforms have become a lot more present in recent years. The only worthwhile appeal I can see is that practically everyone has Facebook and the same cannot be said for Twitter and Instagram (at the moment). I suspect it won’t be long now before other platforms catch-up and are able to do what Facebook does, only in a better and potentially more private way.
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REALITY TV AND THE
“INSTA-CELEBRITY” There’s no denying it: social media is absolutely everywhere. But perhaps its biggest influence has been in how it has completely changed the way we view celebrity culture. Just like asking somebody which actors, musicians or comedians they like, we now have barmy YouTubers, funny Twitter accounts and fit Instagrammers. These people are celebrities in their own right with, in some cases, larger followings than Oscar winners. Some of them simply started out through social media and have seen their audiences grow massively over time, such as Zoella or Lele Pons, but many have found online fame following stints on the Marmite of television: reality shows. Reality television has become a staple in our TV schedules, and seems to be experiencing some kind of renaissance. Love Island, for example, broke ITV2 records in 2018 as their most watched programme ever, with a peak of 4.1 million viewers tuning into the final. Approximately half of them were between the ages of 16-34, which is, crucially, also the demographic that uses social media the most. A recent BBC Panorama documentary, Million Pound Selfie Sell Off, explored the concept of the “Influencer”: social media users with such large
audiences that brands pay them to advertise their products. These influencers are so persuasive because they feel like a friend. Constant posts make followers feel like they’re involved in the day to day life of an influencer and that they’ve gotten to know them personally, so they trust the products they are seen to be using. Zara McDermott, a 2018 Love Island contestant, admitted in this documentary that she had been offered up to £3,000 for one advertisement in an Instagram story. The “Influencer” industry as a whole is worth around $4 billion worldwide. Reality stars like the Love Islanders use their social media as a continuation of their temporary television career, and it allows them to generate a hype akin to the more “traditional” celebrity. Therefore, for many people, the obvious question seems to be: if they don’t have any specific talent, can they truly be a celebrity? Some would argue that they can’t - having no real career, as such - because they simply post photos and videos for their legions of fans. Actors and musicians, for example, would likely go through years of training and experience serious setbacks throughout their career, and earning money just from Instagram may seem like cheating, somehow. However, others would disagree. A Cosmopolitan journalist recently attempted to become Instagram-famous in a week, and found that there is a lot more skill to this than meets the eye. Obtaining and maintaining a following takes lots of time, and the ability to work out the most effective way of getting “likes” isn’t easy. Despite the controversy surrounding it, there is no denying that people are drawn to the idea of perfection, and it can often involve putting on a front to create this illusion. Similarly, reality TV is known for creating a “scripted reality” in many cases, in which stars create a new version of themselves that is likely to translate over to their social media in order to appeal to their fanbase. Does this, therefore, constitute as a form of acting? The social media celebrity still has a long way to go before they are regarded in the same way as the more conventional celebrity. However, their popularity among young people and the incredible influence they have as a result is indisputable. The way we consume media and our perception of stardom has changed massively in recent years, and it seems that this industry will only get stronger, so perhaps it’s time to finally accept them.
WORDS BY BECKY DAVIES Image courtesy of Tiago Banderra.
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How Jameela Jamil’s #IWeigh Campaign is Redefining Body Image WORDS BY MOLLY JOYCE Jameela Jamil is best known as a T4 presenter, the first solo female presenter of the BBC Radio 1 Chart Show and most recently for her role as Tahani Al-Jamil on The Good Place. She has been in and around the beauty and fashion industry for over a decade and is undeniably beautiful - something which Kristen Bell’s character is constantly pointing out on the show. Yet, crucially, this beauty is not the defining characteristic of Tahani’s flawed but lovable character - and neither is it the defining characteristic of Jameela. Jameela has shared her history of battling and overcoming an eating disorder, facing sexism and racism throughout her life and career and has championed the need for more inclusivity within her industry. For example, she launched Why Not People? in 2015 - a company that is dedicated to hosting live entertainment events that are accessible to people with disabilities. More recently, in March 2018, Jameela used social media to launch the #IWeigh campaign to convince people to value the weight of their talents and experiences, not a figure on the scales. Angry after seeing a photo of the Kardashian-Jenner sisters in which the weight of every woman was edited onto the photo, Jameela set up the @i_weigh Instagram account, which describes itself as a ‘movement for us to feel valuable and see how amazing we are beyond the flesh on our bones’. Jameela runs the Instagram account and posts pictures that are sent in where people have “weighed” themselves, writing a list of what they are defined by and most grateful for. Be it their sense of humour, their ability to love, their friends and family, all are empowered. The account also reposts inspirational quotes and opportunities, and Jameela has since expanded this campaign by giving talks. Her most recent talk focused on the need for parents to teach their sons about sexual consent, and how exciting and enthusiastic this consent should be for them. In the past few months, she has also spoken out against celebrities being paid to promote “detox teas” to their largely young and impressionable followers. These detox products are incredibly harmful and not compatible with a healthy lifestyle and mindset, as they promote the idea that the singular thing we should all be striving for is to be skinny. Not true. Importantly, #IWeigh seeks to be as inclusive as possible and promotes its goal across all sexualities, genders, races and ethnicities. Image courtesy of Sela Shiloni.
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Jameela defines herself as a ‘feminist-in-progress’ on her personal Instagram - a fantastic phrase to describe someone who is a champion of equality but is able to admit that they are human and are still learning. She has admitted that the #IWeigh campaign has largely been taken up by white, able-bodied women and the campaign is working hard to be as inclusive as possible and understand the different challenges that many of its followers don’t have to face due to their white privilege. This campaign has been set up for everyone - reminding us all that there are no restrictions to loving yourself. Social media is a particular battle when it comes to loving yourself, as it can seem that as though everyone else has a perfect life with amazing friends, no worries and great skin. But it is important to remember that social media is just a highlight reel and not an accurate portrayal of life. If you need some help loving yourself, unfollow any toxic accounts and instead follow @i_weigh - and whilst you’re there, think of how you would weigh your life. It’s time to start changing the way we think about our worth.
HOW SOCIAL MEDIA CAN BOOST YOUR SELF-ESTEEM
Most of us have grown up in the age of social media, where everything is there at the touch of your fingertips and we can follow the lives of our peers and celebrities with ease. Social media has a reputation for being detrimental to mental health and self-esteem, especially in teenagers. While this can certainly be true, not everything about social media is so bad. In 2019, people are becoming increasingly aware that social media platforms can also provide a positive space to promote healthy lifestyles and encourage our peers. Instagram has been a mainstream social media app for several years now. Since I created an Instagram account at the age of 15 it has been my favourite form of social media and it still is six years later at 21. As a teenager my use of the app certainly wasn’t healthy. I was obsessed with following celebrities, models and influencers - comparing my body to theirs and feeling down about myself wondering why I didn’t, or couldn’t, look like that as well. This is no doubt a similar story for many people. The easy access of seeing size 4 celebrities all over your feed with people commenting how beautiful and skinny they are can have a really negative effect on the mind. Flash-forward to around the age of 19 or 20 and I realised this wasn’t a healthy use of social media, and was never going to make me happy. I purged my Instagram following feed of people who I was only following because I wanted to be “inspired” to lose weight or remind myself that I didn’t look like them. I kept the accounts where I had grown to respect the person, and not just their body. Now my relationship with social media is a lot healthier. Sure, I still follow a few skinny models and
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influencers on Instagram, but I follow them because I respect their stories, and I admire them a lot as people. Some have struggled with eating disorders and mental health disorders, some haven’t had good childhood experiences, and all of them are inspirational as people. They use their platforms to encourage healthy eating and fitness, which in turn inspires me to live my life in a healthier way. They promote the idea that it’s who you are as a person that is more important, and not to focus so much on looks. While that is easier said than done, hearing it repeatedly does have a positive effect. Social media is not just seeing other people’s posts, the other side is what people say of yours. I don’t get a huge number of interactions and while I don’t post on social media platforms for likes/comments/responses, I simply enjoy documenting my life, I can’t help but admit there’s a nice confidence boosting factor that comes when someone comments that you look good in a picture or you get an abnormal number of likes. I don’t think likes should ever be a focus, but comment sections in social media have increasingly become a positive space (although that does not mean the negative comments have disappeared). This creates a safer space for people to interact with their peers, and social media can have self-esteem boosting effects as a result.
WORDS BY MEGAN CROSSMAN IMAGE BY EMILY KILMARTIN
WORDS BY JED WAREHAM IMAGE BY EMILY BEASLEY
Does Social Media Help Up-And-Coming Artists? Ten years ago, artists and bands would promote new music and shows primarily through mediums like newspaper adverts, television ads, flyers and posters. Now, these kinds of promotion are pretty much non-existent and musicians favour social media to reach the masses. It is a lot easier and much cheaper to advertise and promote online: one tweet by a small-to-average sized band could be retweeted 350 times on Twitter and the exposure could reach over tens of thousands of people - and it doesn’t cost a single penny to do it. Most of us would have experienced that period of time, five or six years ago, when you would get three or so follows a day on Instagram or Twitter from new up-and-coming bands. They’d expect a follow back - probably sliding into your DMs to make the request - and ask you to check them out on YouTube. Then, after a couple of days they’d unfollow you and repeat the same tactics on hundreds of others. It is a bit nostalgic seeing some small bands doing that even now. But amidst it all, it did kind of work. I had bands like Moose Blood, Sundara Karma and Mallory Knox reach out to me in this way, all of whom have gone on to achieve a lot. It would be fair to suggest that a large amount of the bands’ popularity originated from these social media tactics alone. Artists like Lewis Capaldi have capitalised on social media to boost popularity and promote themselves. Taking advantage of tools like Instagram stories, Capaldi records himself making jokes and puts them online for his followers to see. He is more than just a great singer-songwriter, he is also quite the comedian. Again, this style of self-promotion is free, but it is remarkably effective. I have found myself to be quite a big Capaldi fan just because I originally found his tweets and Instagram stories funny. Yet social media can be hit-ormiss when it comes to new artists - not everyone is lucky enough to get a big break online. Despite its ease of use, you really do get out of it what you put into it - as Capaldi proves. Up-and-coming musicians can also rely on social media to help entice fans of other, similar sounding artists. When larger bands go on tour, they’ll bring support acts with them who may not be as wellknown. But these bigger bands will use their online presence to post statuses and pictures with links to the support act’s own social media and music. Overall, social media can be a ridiculously useful tool to help upand-coming artists and bands to grow and increase a fanbase. It has proven to be effective at promoting new music, tours and festival slots and is the most used form of media for this kind of advertising. The cost and ease of using it makes it the perfect option for every artist, not just the new ones, to boost their popularity.
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GAMING SOCIAL NETWORKS: REDEFINING THE MEDIUM Any serious gamer will know what Twitch is however, I’ll break it down for any “casuals” out there. Twitch is a website, app and tool for professional gamers and streamers to connect with the wider gaming community, by the medium of real-time livestreamed gaming. This can either be done by an individual, or by a games manufacturer for the sake of eSports (for example, the Overwatch League is streamed exclusively on Twitch). But to be able to stand on its own two feet, it must be able to compete with the likes of the multimedia giant YouTube, which already has a large presence in the gaming community. To a degree, Twitch has generated some of the biggest streaming names out there right now, such as Ninja or Shroud, and it’s a big business, with the above streamers earning figures upwards of one million dollars. Companies, both within the gaming industry and outside of it, utilise the platform. The world’s most valuable company, Amazon, now owns Twitch. So what sort of games are streamed? Well, it can be anything: from Fortnite to World of Warcraft to Pokémon. As long as there is an audience interested in watching the game, it’ll be streamed. But is there an audience? Well, yes. At the time of writing this article, there have been an average of 1.5 million viewers at any one time watching the platform in the past 7 days, so people are definitely using it to watch their favourite streamers. But why is it so popular? Why not just use YouTube or stream on Facebook Live? The answer is simple. The layout of Twitch lends itself to gamers. The interface has about two thirds of the screen with the streamer’s content on it, along with a sidebar which fans can use to communicate (or just spam) the streamer with memes, stickers, gifs; you name it, you can
post it. The service also gives viewers the opportunity to donate to their favourite streamers (a secondary source of income for most streamers, as big names are sponsored). You can search for games, streamers, content; whatever you play, there’s a stream for it. So now we can view our favourite games and pick up some tips from the pros, how do we communicate with teammates? That’s where Discord comes in. Discord is the social network for any serious gamers. It allows teams to communicate succinctly while playing their favourite games. Many games, especially on console, have a limited communication range, whereas Discord allows this more succinctly, with text and audio communication. Discord is perfect if you need to discuss something with someone without talking to the whole team, as you can mute people from the chat or singly talk to someone. Another benefit of Discord is it allows you to link all of your accounts together, to have all of your gamer friends in one place, as well as another channel to communicate with streamers, as many occupy their own servers where they chat with fans and look for teammates for their Twitch streams. Although Discord does bring your existing gamer buddies together, it can be difficult to find new ones, as their networking features aren’t ideal. There are no suggestions or anything of the sort, which platforms such as Playstation Network or Xbox Live provide by Facebook friends etc. However, if you are a serious gamer, these two apps had better be part of your setup, as they will enhance your gameplay experiences, help you improve your skills and communication, and, consequently, you win more matches. Twitch and Discord are both available to download on PC, Tablet and smartphone now.
WORDS BY JACK NASH
Image courtesy of Benedict Evans.
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Childish Gambino Because the Internet
WORDS BY OLLIE WEBBER Donald Glover has risen to fame in recent years as a multi-talented actor, writer, comedian, rapper and producer, amongst other things. The sheer scope of his talent is mind-boggling, with his most well known contributions to culture including being a central cast member on Community, writing for TV shows 30 Rock and Atlanta and most recently playing Lando Calrissian in 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story. In the world of music Glover is better known as ‘Childish Gambino’, a magical musical alter-ego that has been producing music for over a decade. One of Glover’s most prominent releases in recent years was 2013’s Because the Internet, Glover’s second album release that saw him relinquish his work on NBC’s Community to commit to the album’s production. Whilst for many years being a YouTube rapper, Glover stepped it up with the release of debut album Camp in 2011, but 2013’s Because the Internet saw the rapper truly start to experiment with his style. Single ‘Sweatpants’ is a personal favourite showcasing Glover’s playful side as he raps over a crunchy bass hook that chooses to showcase his status without feeding his ego. Lead single ‘3005’ is another highlight, which remains catchy and appealing all these years later as a well produced pop-rap number. Glover truly shows his more intriguing side the more the album progresses as his talents for music, writing and performance begin to blend together to produce something very special. ‘Flight of the Navigator’ is a dream-like piece that evolves into a soulful sung performance over acoustic guitar that transcends much of what came before. With lyrics such as “when Image courtesy of Autumn de Wilde and Glassnote.
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you lie in darkness it’s hard to see” and “we’re left alone / no one left to call upon”, it is certainly Gambino’s most contemplative work on the album. It is in this latter half that Because the Internet seems to become more dark and even reflective in its tone. Songs start to discuss the nature of fame and how it can change people, social media and the influence it has over the psyche, amongst other themes. Particularly social media seems to be affecting Glover, with reports of strict working schedules, not allowing himself to use Twitter or Instagram throughout the project, and Glover himself taking a hiatus from social media during the album’s production. This, twinned with the bizarre 72-page screenplay released alongside the album, tell a tale of the woes of the internet and how it can negatively contribute to our thoughts and actions. Interestingly, to this day, Donald Glover has very little social media presence, mostly using it only to promote his music and performances rather than divulge on his personal life. In many ways, Because the Internet, whilst being a little inconsistent, manages to be a playful and fun hip-hop album that still has an important message. Breakout singles like ‘3005’ and ‘Sweatpants’ provide enjoyable enough music, but the latter slightly stranger tracks begin to unravel an intriguing narrative, within which lies a much deeper message should the listener dare to look. Because the Internet is available now via Glassnote records.
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The Dark Side of Social Media: Getting Real About Mental Health When we read stories about bullying via social media, one of the most common remarks we hear is the victim’s statement that “the bullying followed them everywhere.” Operating outside the limits of face-to-face harassment, negative messages on social media can attack you from your bedside table in the middle of the night or in the morning while you’re brushing your teeth. Spaces that may have seemed safe now become places of anxiety because your phone is always with you, therefore the bullying is too. While this isn’t an article about bullying, the sad reality of cyberbullying is present in other negative aspects of social media as well.
dropping moment of rejection when you see pictures of a party you weren’t invited to? Who hasn’t scrolled through their Instagram feed only to feel their mood suddenly fall as you wonder why everyone else is having fun and your life is so boring? With moments like these occurring every day, it’s no wonder the average high-school student today has the anxiety levels of an average psychiatric patient in the 1950s, and it’s not like our daily lives aren’t stressful enough already! The pressure to balance life and university, to make healthy choices and manage your time well is already enough to trigger anxiety in a lot of students. We have enough to deal with without inviting toxic influences into our safe spaces too.
Social Media and Depression
Getting Real About Mental Health
You don’t have to be bullied for social media to have a negative impact on your mental health. If that seems like an odd statement, think about the number of times a day you check your phone. Maybe you’re waiting for a text back; in those moments, apps that have “read” indicators seem like they were purely designed to torture you and can cause a spiral into anxiety as you wonder why someone hasn’t replied. Similar concerns pop up with posts on social media, as it gets tempting to measure your selfworth through likes, friends, and followers. Don’t even get me started on the pressure to maintain a social media presence. The pressure to keep up with our peers, to show that we look the right way and keep up with the right trends is the kind of pressure we used to associate with celebrities and building a “brand” for your public. But today, that pressure has been extended to everyone, and it’s not healthy. It gets even worse when you consider additional downsides like feeling excluded through social media. Who hasn’t experienced that little heart-
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What can you do to protect yourself from the toxic side of social media? In my opinion, the best place to start is by asking yourself some questions. Take a look at how you use social media and why. Think about which apps you use most often and what you hope to gain from them. If you find that you focus on certain apps primarily so you can keep up appearances, it may be time to take a step back. Although avoiding social media altogether isn’t the answer, detoxing might be. Consider cutting down on the amount of time you spend on your phone and avoid following accounts that you know will make you upset. Instead, try to focus on connecting with people who have a positive impact on your life. Navigating social media safely can feel like a minefield, but it doesn’t have to be. Being honest with yourself about mental health and taking steps to protect your mind are a great start to making social media less toxic, and cultivating a happier you.
WORDS BY ALYSSA-CAROLINE BURNETTE IMAGE BY FRANCESCA D’COSTA
BLACK MIRROR’S NOSEDIVE:
A NOT-SO-DISTANT REALITY? It’s hard to think of an object of entertainment that is as good at dealing with the powers and implications of technology as Black Mirror. Charlie Brooker’s warped and pessimistic vision of the future is almost always a little too close to home, so well observed that we feel personally attacked as it critiques our reliance on central aspects of our contemporary society. Mobile phones, reality stars, virtual reality, the internet, politics: you name it, Black Mirror has probably covered it. Nothing could be more suited to offering a scrutinisation of social media, and this is precisely the case in Season 3’s startling opening episode, ‘Nosedive’. The third season of Black Mirror saw Channel 4’s baby move across to Netflix, access bigger budgets, bigger audiences, and in turn make bigger statements. The simple fact that the first episode of this series is a bold attack on social media and the culture it promotes speaks volumes. ‘Nosedive’ centres around Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard), a quite frankly insufferable woman who wears far too much pink and is far too concerned about what people think of her. But these character flaws aren’t exactly her fault, for the society in which she lives is - to put it bluntly - one held hostage by social media. Everything, and I really mean everything, depends on the way you present yourself online. This is a world in which the pressures to get likes and the subsequent pressure to be popular is at an extreme, for if you don’t meet certain levels and scores you are ostracised from the desirable circles, restricted as to where you can live and quite frankly confined to a pretty mediocre quality of life (or so it may seem at surface value). Every action you make in the “real” world results in ratings online, and just as soon as things start to really get exciting for poor old Lacie, they no sooner come crashing down in spectacular style. This is social media after all. Nothing is ever simple on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and the same can be said for the dystopian rating system of ‘Nosedive’. In the central role, Dallas Howard is superb. She masters the art of playing a character that we equally Image courtesy of House of Tomorrow and Netflix.
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WORDS BY ALICE O’HARE
sympathise with and yet detest at the same time. Whilst Lacie’s socioeconomic status quite literally nosedives, our feelings towards her do not, a testament to Dallas Howard’s performance, and more importantly, a testament to the way Brooker’s creation gets under our skin, making us hate social media as much as Lacie does by the time the credits roll. In fact, to say that ‘Nosedive’ offers a statement of hate towards social media is nothing short of an understatement. Every character that buys into the culture of online popularity bringing real-world happiness is superficial, self-absorbed, and as a result completely underserving of this popularity they have managed to accrue. Lacie is liberated only in the episode’s final moments when she has been stripped from the rating technology after receiving a dreaded one-star rating. Great irony comes from the fact that whilst she is being kept in a cell, she has never felt so free. Social media, then, is the real prison in this dystopia. Despite the strident criticisms contained in ‘Nosedive’, it appears that such a use of social media is not far from being a reality. Many links have been made between Black Mirror’s vision and a suggested Social Credit System in China, set to be tested in 2020. The system, if implemented, will see users with high scores obtain access to more efficient transport, better schools and faster loans. Although not quite as extreme, we can similarly see a social media dominance in the Western world, with Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram converging, and platforms such as YouTube steadfastly becoming ways of capitulating to superstardom and subsequent popularity. Whilst it is clear that Brooker aimed to make a bold statement that would have wider societal implications with this episode, I’m pretty sure that this is not the effect he intended. ‘Nosedive’ has been undoubtedly successful and has rightly cemented its place as one of the best episodes of Black Mirror. Unfortunately, it seems like an awful lot remains to be done if we are to avoid being held captive by social media in the very near future.
THE SAVIOUR OF HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENTS? Any Generation Z baby can easily confirm that social media has become an essential force in their life. It’s their main method of communication, their main source of information and their main means of entertainment. It’s no surprise then, that many individuals and organisations take advantage of the fact that social media is widespread and transcends borders, to promote their ideas and values. One of the most significant effects social media has had on campaigning is the ease with which one can rally support behind a cause, particularly in the cases of human rights violations. While in the past, dictatorial regimes and other oppressors could freely take advantage of minorities and disrespect many significant freedoms without any accountability, in the new age of social media it’s easier to uncover their wrong doings and condemn them worldwide. This can be attributed to the fact that content uploaded online can potentially be used as evidence of war crimes and human rights violations. This occurred during the Syrian Civil War where first-hand footage of atrocities such as beheadings was uploaded to Youtube; and shared via Facebook and Twitter, and seen worldwide. Furthermore, during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, progovernment forces and separatist rebels shared posts on social media and during recent protests in Paris, members of Gilets Jaunes have been sharing their testaments of events. Additionally, due to it being unrealistic to regulate platforms on the internet, many social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook have become fundamental in promoting free speech and expression. Many oppressed groups now have the opportunity to learn about their human rights and what they are legally entitled to. Many choose to voice their discontent and Image courtesy of Florian Rainer.
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seek support from others who face similar situations. Furthermore, due to the fact that social media can award anonymity to its users, anybody from any corner of the world can express their views and stories without fear of condemnation or loss of personal security. Realising this, many nations like China and Pakistan have attempted to provide barricades towards accessing social media platforms and skewing anonymity to reveal the true identity of their users. As a result of this David Kaye, a United Nations special rapporteur stated that: ‘[The] prohibition of anonymity online interferes with the right to freedom of expression…’ Unfortunately, governments widely oppose campaigning and opposition forming on social media and have historically attempted to thwart users’ efforts to condemn them. As a direct consequence of their actions, the not-for-profit Bahranian organisation Majal launched a website called CrowdVoice.org that specialises in the archiving and preservation of content created by social movements. It’s incredible what social media has achieved in terms of providing vulnerable people and marginalised minorities with a voice to challenge their leaders and fight for their rights. Even though many go to great lengths to prevent this from happening, social media is an anarchic force that cannot be easily monitored and regulated but can provide a platform for the bringing to justice of abusers and the promotion of freedoms. This, in the midst of a confusing and dangerous time, is social media’s greatest strength.
WORDS BY STEFANIA ZENIOU
WORDS BY EMILY FRY IMAGE BY CHARLOTTE WILLCOX
EVALUATING THE SOCIAL MEDIA DETOX Confession time: when I’m feeling low for any reason, I find myself opening Twitter. Rather than processing my feelings in a healthy way, I send out a tweet that reads something along the lines of “oh look at that, I’m crying again lol”. It’s a habit that often makes me wonder whether it would be more beneficial to ditch social media, at least for a brief hiatus, in a bid to better my mental health.
reflect inwardly on ourselves. These breaks allow us to use the mental energy we reserve for drafting witty and topical tweets to instead recollect our thoughts and focus on ourselves. It is these hiatuses that stop us from worrying about our online popularity, and ask us to objectively look at our lives for the tangible accomplishments that we are proud of – not those only experienced through a screen.
Social media has entered our lives in a massive way: in fact, by 2021 it’s forecast that there will be around 3 billion active monthly users of Instagram. As more of us find ourselves online, we are becoming increasingly aware of the negative impacts social media has. Research associates intense social media use with lower mood, decreased life satisfaction, body image issues and addiction. Posts that fail to get enough likes can be damaging psychologically, leading to a negative self-perception and lack of personal validation – both of which contribute to increased anxiety and loneliness. The pressure to maintain the appearance of a “perfect” life online creates a false reality founded on unrealistic expectations. With this abundance of proven dangers, surely the solution is to just ditch social media altogether?
Somewhat ironically, there are now countless apps available to help users kick the habit of spending excessive periods of time on social media. The most popular include Forest, Moment and Offtime – all of which challenge people to gradually cut down how much time they spend on their phone. In this digital age, the act of social media detoxification can be incredibly overwhelming and perhaps even isolating, but those who endorse these cleanses emphasise the importance of starting out small. It’s always worth asking yourself whether some time out is needed from social media in order to schedule in some wellearned TLC. Social media can be extremely exciting, but it can also be extremely harmful. To benefit mental health, the most important thing is finding that balance between having fun and knowing how to manage your limits.
It’s undeniable that taking a breather from social media can benefit a person’s mental health. Uninstalling all those countless apps from your phone can break the social comparison cycle we regularly find ourselves caught in, protect a person’s data, help us to reconnect with the world and conquer the dreaded fear of missing out. From my own experience, taking time out from social media gifted me with so much more free time and gave me a new lease of life. I was no longer obsessively refreshing my Twitter feed; hours were not wasted lurking on Facebook; my hobbies broadened beyond being an amateur photographer for Instagram. The premise of detoxification isn’t to ban social media altogether, but to ask people to be more mindful of how they use it. We should question whether we are using these tools to connect with one another, or whether they merely push us to compete with each other. Allowing ourselves to switch off from the online world is an act of kindness and a manageable form of self-care: by momentarily bidding farewell to Facebook, we look beyond our online posts and
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THE PERILS OF TUNNEL VISION
It’s difficult to see a clear path nowadays. Social media rips apart this already muddied path. It does this by showing you yourself. Too much. Twitter can be an echo chamber of your own views reverberated back to you, creating a bland wall of agreement. People group together, and a mutual interest becomes an exclusive one. How has this happened, and how can we open our eyes again? In the good old days (worryingly sounding like a Brexiteer here), mainstream newspapers were the predominant source of news. These have so many flaws and complications - too many to get into right now. Yet one of the few good attributes this era had was the ability to open up a conversation. You might be reading a column that you have chosen to read, one that you respect or agree with. But such is the nature of the newspaper, you would naturally look over to an opposing argument, which would widen your perspective. You’d have a deeper understanding of the issue at hand, building up a more tolerant outlook generally. Unfortunately, social media doesn’t work like this. It is the most diverse medium and a labyrinth of all forms of opinion - objectively. Yet, in the user’s hand’s, this is anything but the case. Twitter is the prime example. You choose who you follow, and these views are beamed to you on a daily basis. Twitter’s algorithm will then find people similar to these and recommend them to you. Deeper into the rabbit-hole you go. It doesn’t take long for you to be consumed daily by a whirlwind of your own thoughts. This can happen to anyone, of any political persuasion. It’s not just your preferred information and worldview that you’re bombarded by either, but your preferred misinformation. I must stress that this is a common problem amongst all people. Having said that, the place where this kind of tunnel vision is clearest is amongst far-right and far-left ideologies. The
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two political extremes are hotspots for the systematic exclusion of alternative opinion. And because often the opinions are so extreme, it’s very obvious to point out that most of what someone consumes is a sh*theap of extremity. It also rids fake news of its irrelevancy. Even in the rare instance that a correction to false stories is published right away, this correction (the truth) will only be spread to people to whose opinion it appeals to. The phrase ‘preaching to the converted’ springs to mind. It’s not just Twitter either, look into the Facebook comments of any group and this becomes as clear as day. This is because Facebook groups collate the same kinds of people together, who naturally share similar opinions on issues discussed. It’s why when some terrible site like The LAD Bible publishes a clickbaitinducing news story (which is often vastly exaggerated or entirely made up) the comments are so trashy and similar. Only those people with the strongest of opinions will take to commenting, but in groups like these, those strong opinions will all be of the same ilk. Hell, even Match of the Day has an awful comments section, because sadly there are so many sexist and horrible football fans. The LAD Bible in particular, because its very existence is predicated on “lad” culture features a torrent of abuse in these sections, particularly for stories about women or immigrants. Yet this is not even supposed to be a political page. In any walk of life, following just the people you agree with is like having exactly the same group of friends all your life. It’s dangerous and frankly, boring.
WORDS BY ZACH SHARIF IMAGE BY SEAN KEAR
FRIEND, FOE, OR BOTH?
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SOCIAL MEDIA AND UOS STUDENTS WORDS BY THEA HARTMAN & IVAN MORRIS POXTON
Because this year’s collaborative magazine tackles an aspect undeniably present in the lives of university students, we thought that the best way to understand the extent of the social media phenomenon in our community would be asking the students themselves. Almost 100 students took our survey and a unique insight has been gained from these findings.
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SOCIAL MEDIA USAGE (%)
We began by building a picture of students’ consumption of social media. By a significant margin, Facebook was the most used social media network in fact, only one respondent indicated that they didn’t use Facebook. Four other social media networks boasted 50%+ of our respondents as their users: Instagram (76%); Spotify (68%); Snapchat (67%); Twitter (53%). Twitch, the live streaming platform for gamers, garnered 12% of respondents as users. When it came to students’ own estimates of how long they spent on average per day on social media, more than three-quarters of respondents said between 1-4 hours. This tallies with a 2018 report which suggested 16-24 year olds spend just over 3 hours a day on the platforms. Finally, on what they used social media for,
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OUR RESPONDENTS CHOSE ‘CONNECTING WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY’ (88%) AND ‘KILLING TIME’ (79%) AS THEIR MOST COMMON REASONS BY SOME WAY. From an entertainment standpoint, social media does indeed play a role in people’s decisions regarding what to watch/listen to next, but this role isn’t as significant as initially expected, especially considering the sheer scale of entertainment-related content on social media. This is illustrated by the difference between how many people consumed some of the most popular TV shows, films, and albums on the market, and how many did so because of social media. While 99% of the respondents consumed at least one of the titles listed in our survey, 38% of them claim that their decision was not influenced by social media at all (most listed recommendations from friends and family as the main factor in their decision-making process), and those swayed by social media distributed their answers rather evenly throughout the list. Blockbusters such as Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Avengers: Infinity War don’t need social media to boost their numbers: they were watched by 63% and 52% of the respondents respectively, with only 2% and 7% watching them following social media interaction. Whereas even the most popular TV shows (Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) seem to have social media as one of the foundations of their popularity (15%-18% of the respondents watched them because of social media), the most popular films don’t.
SOCIAL MEDIA HAS NOT TAKEN OVER WORD OF MOUTH JUST YET; AS PROLIFIC, LONG-STANDING FRANCHISES, THE REPUTATION OF MARVEL AND STAR WARS PRECEDES THEM EVEN IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA.
Similarly, there doesn’t seem to be a trend in terms of social media influencing respondents’ entertainment choices, with 31% claiming they are sometimes influenced, making this question case-dependent (most of these respondents follow their favourite artists on social media platforms and keep up with their releases from there).
IF ANYTHING, MORE PEOPLE TEND TO SEPARATE THE ENTERTAINMENT FROM THE ENTERTAINER, WITH 41% OF THE RESPONDENTS SAYING THEY ARE RARELY OR NEVER INFLUENCED BY ARTISTS’ SOCIAL MEDIA, AND NOBODY BEING ALWAYS SWAYED BY AN INDIVIDUAL’S SOCIAL MEDIA ON THE FLIPSIDE. It is positive that people make their decisions without being influenced by an artist’s social media comments, since they can often be misleading. However, as some of the respondents themselves highlighted, they would not watch/listen to work featuring ‘people portrayed negatively in the press’ in order to not support stars who abuse their position. We were also keen to look into people’s perceptions of social media’s impact on mental health. Firstly, we asked respondents to indicate on a sliding linear scale from 1-10 how much they agreed with the statement, ‘Social media is harmful to individuals’ mental health’. With the higher the value the more in agreement with the statement they were, a majority of respondents tended to agree with the statement, with 7 the most popular rating (41%), followed by 8 (17%). We then sought to find out student perceptions about which major social media networks they view as best and worst for an individual’s mental health. It’s fair to say the results would not make for comfortable reading for Instagram’s PR department. The photosharing app topped our worst for mental health poll with a whopping 68% and languished at the bottom of our best for mental health poll with 5%.
THE MOST-LIKED PHOTO OF ALL TIME ON INSTAGRAM MAY BE OF AN EGG AS PART OF A MENTAL HEALTH CAMPAIGN, BUT THAT HASN’T STOPPED OUR RESPONDENTS SCORING INSTA AS THE WORST PLATFORM FOR MENTAL HEALTH. A consistent theme in our comment box allowing respondents to explain their choices for the best and
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worst mental health questions was the view that Instagram photos provide a constructed version of reality.
WORST SOCIAL MEDIA FOR AN INDIVIDUAL’S MENTAL HEALTH
SNAPCHAT WhatsApp topped our best for mental health poll with 58%. A little surprisingly given the hideous nature of Twitter storms, the 240-character limited platform placed in second with 16%.
WHILE ONE SUCH RESPONDENT COMMENTED THAT THERE’S ‘A LOT OF LOVE SPREAD ON TWITTER AND AWARENESS FOR MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES’, ANOTHER DESCRIBED IT AS ‘AN EVIL BRAIN LEECH’. Rounding off our survey, we set our respondents a binary Yes/No question on politics and social media: ‘Should politicians engage the public and share political views on social media?’. 91% answered ‘Yes’, suggestive of a desire among university students at least for politicians to engage with the public more. Our whistle-stop survey of how University of Southampton students interact with and their views on social media highlights a number of trends. Above all though, as expected, it underlines social media’s phenomenal influence, especially on mental health and public opinion.
DEATH OF A PERSONA
HOW SOCIAL MEDIA DEMYSTIFIES THE LIVE PERFORMANCE WORDS BY TASH WILLIAMSON With the birth of modern social media platforms in the early 2000s, the world got that much smaller. Private lives could now be on display for the general public to ravenously and carelessly consume, regardless of their disposition or intent with that information. It was no longer just the paparazzi shoving cameras into the faces of our icons but our icons themselves. The enigmatic musician may have just met his or her match. From Freddie Mercury to Ziggy Stardust via Sasha Fierce, musicians have always had a history of embodying personas on stage to inspire, to tell a story or to unleash an alter ego more outrageous or confident than their own. Different from their true personalities, they may be, but up on stage it is impossible for fans to know what is real and what isn’t, especially since they don’t know the “real” them to begin with. There was no one quite like Freddie Mecury. For someone like him, a man everyone thought they knew because of his celebrity, being enigmatic wasn’t so hard. For one, the self he presented on stage – diva, queen – and the music he wrote – dramatic, ambiguous – were perpetuated by his own elusiveness. The media and his fans, though, were quite happy to invent their own arbitrary versions of him. He was a cultural icon, and so his persona, which they more often than not synonymised with himself, was created and manipulated by his consumers. This illusion of intimacy with
Image courtesy of Steve Jennings.
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Freddie and the self-entitlement this entailed meant his image was never fixed. Everyone had their own impression and opinion of him, and between that and Freddie’s own complex and multifaceted personality, he and his persona got by just fine. All Freddie had to do was sit back and watch. But for a man who both craved and loathed the limelight he was showered in, avoiding interviews and distrusting of most journalists except a select few, the enigma he presented only lured people in all the more. In a world of social media, no one can maintain that amount of elusiveness. If the artists themselves aren’t posting updates and videos for their rabid fans - every PR company’s wet dream - someone else is. These posts not only give the illusion of a connection and closeness between icons and their fans, but they can also define that person. The magical aura fades when you can see what they ate for breakfast, and with that, some of the compulsion that attracts people toward them. But it says as much about us as it does about the stars whose content we gobble up on social media sites. In a world of binge watching and consumer power, our demand for more and more extends to every facet of our lives. We want to know everything about our heroes, and we want to know now. If that comes at the cost of the pedestal we sit them on, so be it. There just might be a little less magic and a little less stardust on the stage tonight.
Breaking The Fourth Wall: Social Media and Changing Perceptions of Stars WORDS BY CHARLOTTE COLOMBO IMAGE BY FRANCESCA D’COSTA Social media for film stars is a double-edged sword. If used in the right way, this revolutionary tool can ensure they are never far from people’s thoughts. One click of a “follow” button and they’re in your peripheral every day and it is therefore near impossible for them to fade into irrelevancy. This means of surveillance can “make” a stars career and keep them connected to millions of adoring fans. On the other hand, one impulsive status means their career is irrevocably broken. By increasing their social media presence, stars become more vulnerable to its permanent and unforgiving gaze, where every little action is magnified to the extreme. With the glory and destruction social media brings to stars, is it really worth the risk? Some might say that social media has changed celebrity culture for the better. Before, there was a strict “us” and “them” mentality. The celebrities’ would live a lifestyle so far removed from our own that we might find it hard to consider them genuine or relatable. The best achievement social media has had for stars is breaking down the divisions between the celebrities and the fans. By giving us snapshots of their daily lives, we feel less like fans, and more like friends. We get a sense of intimacy that cannot be replicated in glossy interviews or red carpet appearances. By having this insight into these celebrities innermost thoughts and feelings, we are able to humanise them and admire them not only for their talents, but also their personal qualities. We are able to see that celebrities are three-dimensional beings and not just shallow and vapid people who know when to smile on cue. Take Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman as examples. They know exactly how to use social media in the right way, striking the perfect balance between hilarious instagrams and
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tweets whilst not allowing us to invade their privacy and there is subsequently no doubt that their well-loved online presence has significantly helped the continued success of the likes of Deadpool and The Greatest Showman. But when you get to know somebody on an intimate level, it is often said that you know them “warts and all”. By this, we mean that we understand that this person we know intimately has flaws and misgivings, and that they’re far from perfect. This is perfectly fine when it comes to a personal relationship with someone, but when we consider how social media misuse has destroyed the career of celebrities like James Gunn and Kevin Hart, one could argue that celebrities cannot afford to be loved “warts and all”. In order to survive life in the public eye, their persona has to be blemish-free. For Gunn and Hart, a few misjudged tweets have severely ruptured their personas, missing out on directing the third instalment of Guardians of the Galaxy and hosting the Oscars respectively. Therefore, as sad as it might seem, these film stars cannot really afford to use social media in the same way as us “normal” folk do. The inescapable surveillance and staying power of social media mean that one misinformed opinion from 2009 can never be taken back or undone. Paparazzi, internet trolls or anyone who is feeling a bit bored can now scroll through every bad decision a star has ever made. At the end of the day, Hollywood is ultimately a business and, like all businesses, it is based on supply and demand. If there is no demand for a particular actor or actress, the directors will not bother to “supply” them. Thus, if the cases of Gunn and Hart are anything to go by, in order to preserve their careers, stars have no choice but to remain guarded and continue with that ‘us and them’ mentality.
THE GREAT FIREWALL OF CHINA: CHINA’S INTERNET CENSORSHIP WORDS BY CHARLOTTE COLOMBO IMAGE BY NINA PANNONE Although there have been rumours flying around which suggest that the EU are introducing worldwide internet censorship laws, we are yet to experience widespread censorship in the UK. By “censorship”, what I mean is that the UK government doesn’t dictate what we can look at online - they may monitor it to an extent, but for the most part we have the freedom to look at whatever we want, even if the government might not necessarily agree with it. However, we often take our free reign on the internet for granted, as in many areas of the world the government largely limits what its citizens look at out of fear of rebellion, corruption and freedom of thought. One of the most infamous examples of such a government system is in China. China’s internet is highly censored through its “Great Firewall” web filter, with many of the social media sites, search engines and streaming services we take for granted as being part of our everyday life are completely blocked in mainland China. Some will argue that due to most of these websites being non-Chinese, it isn’t much censorship and most internetusers in China feel consequently unaffected by the ban. However, amongst the list of websites banned are the most universal and well-known social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and countless other social media sites which we take for granted as part of our everyday life. With these websites being so intrinsic in how we connect with other people and the wider world, one could argue that Chinese residents not having access to them is a form of deprivation.
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In recent years, it’s worth noting that the function of social media has changed slightly. As well as being an essential way of staying connected to friends and loved ones who aren’t immediately in your geographical periphery, it has also arguably become a source of knowledge. These days, breaking news isn’t announced initially on the television or in a print paper. Usually, we instead find out breaking news in real-time through a tweet or a Facebook post. As well as this, consider how many news articles you see when you scroll through your news feed. These days, news outlets survive on having a good social media presence, as that is where most people go to find their information. Consequently, one could argue that as well as being isolated from friends and loved ones, the residents of China are deprived of accessing real-time breaking news as a result of their inability to access social media. Whilst the spread of news and information is spearheaded by individuals on social media, in China the residents have to rely solely on media outlets that are regulated by the government. This means that it can be said that they are controlling the information that floods into the country and ensuring that certain narratives are being made whilst others are erased. At this point, it is hard to forget that China remains under communist rule, with their Communist Party being the sole ruling party of mainland China. While countries such as Stalin’s USSR had a history of censorship, it’s arguable that by restricting China’s internet access, the Chinese government is bringing that censorship to the 21st century.
The Social Network WORDS BY JOE WILLIAMS Facebook may be viewed as the uncool auntie of the social media landscape now, but it’s difficult to underestimate the global influence of the company and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg since its inception 15 years ago. Released in 2010, David Fincher’s The Social Network tells the story of that inception and the people involved. Watching it in 2019, the film has the undertones of a horror. After all, it was made by the guy who directed Seven and it doesn’t help that Kevin Spacey’s name appears in the credits as executive producer. That bit of nastiness aside, the wonderfully chilly tone of The Social Network hits on the growing feeling of unease in many quarters regarding the impact of social media platforms, particularly Facebook, not just on children, but on politics, culture and wider society. In defining how we communicate and interact with each other, essentially everything is on the line here. Based on The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay claims artistic license with the facts. It pissed off pretty much everyone portrayed in the film. Its structure, on the other hand, is meticulous, flitting smoothly between the main narrative and the depositions taken in the respective lawsuits Zuckerberg then faced from fellow co-founder Eduardo Saverin (pushed out of the company) and Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (claimed Zuckerberg stole their idea). In representing these “he said, she said” cases, where emotions run high and accounts differ, The Social Network feels somewhat self-referential in its own looseness with reality. It speaks to a larger discussion of what is ownership in the internet age, one that has only ballooned in the years since the film’s release and plagues content creators online today. More pressingly, it seems to foreshadow the discourse surrounding fake Image courtesy of Relativity Media.
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news that has become such an urgent talking point when integrated with social media’s unrivalled ability to spread disinformation. It is to Sorkin’s credit that he is able to concoct a thrilling drama from guys writing code, talking about writing code, and then writing some more code, always making it feel about something much greater. Fincher’s direction comes in handy here. His precise, steady camerawork is cold and impersonal, mirroring the cogs and gears turning in Zuckerberg’s brilliant mind yet his complete social ineptitude too. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross provide a foreboding score, headlined by the essential ‘Hand Covers Bruise’. Overlaying single piano notes with a droning distortion...it’s a haunting theme. Their score is chiefly responsible for the sense of dread that permeates The Social Network. What that dread seems to be building towards is the betrayal of a friend, Zuckerberg screwing over Saverin, ending up alone in the process, isolated despite founding the largest social platform on the planet. Several years on, the potential interpretations of this anxiety seem to have spiralled. It now represents the creation of something that has long exceeded the control of a few Harvard undergrads, something that can be used and manipulated any which way depending on the agenda. Sorkin has discussed the possibility of a sequel. With Zuckerberg providing testimony to Congress last year, and Facebook’s use of personal data still a matter of great scrutiny, this story appears far from over. What we see in The Social Network is just the beginning. The Social Network (2010), directed by David Fincher, was distributed in the UK by Columbia Pictures, certificate 12A.
Does Social Media Spoil the
Film-Watching Experience? WORDS BY ABI CUTLER Having exploded in growth and influence over the past decade, social media now infiltrates our lives at nearly every level, including the way in which we discuss films. This can be a good thing, especially for marketers looking to promote their latest film; advertisements on Facebook and Instagram are particularly effective, reaching a far wider audience than more traditional advertising methods such as billboards or television adverts. That these social media adverts are often interactive, especially on platforms like Facebook, makes them all the more intriguing for the viewer, and this is likely to boost box office earnings. As for the film-goer, though, social media can quickly become their worst enemy. Platforms like Twitter are great for creating discussion around pretty much any topic, including films. If you’ve seen a film and want to know what others thought, or even engage in conversations about it, Twitter and similar social media platforms are great; if you haven’t seen a certain film yet and it’s receiving a lot of hype, you’re entering dangerous territory by opening up these apps. If we look at Avengers: Infinity War, one of last year’s biggest blockbusters, it was greatly anticipated by Marvel fanatics and more casual filmgoers alike, and also filled to the brim with moments just waiting to be spoiled for those yet to see it. Social media was full of fans’ opinions of the film, and many users were not as careful as they should have been in revealing unwanted information. So how much does this spoil the film-watching experience? Quite a lot, actually. No one wants a film Image courtesy of Marvel Studios.
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they’re really excited for to be spoiled for them by knowing part of the plot before they see it, just as they wouldn’t want to find out what happened on the latest episode of a TV show they love before watching it, or learning about a massive plot twist in a book they haven’t yet finished (my thoughts are with those who prematurely learned that Snape kills Dumbledore back in 2005). There are a few ways we can help social media become a safer place for those wishing to avoid the dreaded film spoiler. Firstly, if you have seen a film during its opening weekend, be considerate and careful about what you post: make sure any opinion or review you share about the film is spoiler-free for at least a week or two following the film’s release, or at least post a clear heads-up if you are about to reveal a spoiler. Secondly, if you wish to avoid spoilers yourself, be very wary when you are scrolling through any social media platform. Temporarily unfollow any account which is likely to post spoilers, such as a fan page, and if you so much as glimpse the word spoiler or even see the title of the film, shut your eyes and get away as fast as you can. However, the only way to completely avoid spoilers on social media is to avoid social media altogether: if you have been waiting months or even years to see a certain film, you may want to consider deleting the apps off your phone until you are able to make it to the cinema, if this is viable. While social media is brilliant at garnering hype for a film, it presents many dangers; as you scroll through your feed, tread cautiously.
THE GIG FEAT. YOUR MOBILE PHONE WORDS BY JO LISNEY IMAGE BY RACHEL WINTER Love or loathe technology, we cannot escape its presence. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages, so what happens when we apply it to concerts? Billie Joe Armstrong has famously spoken out against the use of phones at Green Day concerts. He believes that they are a distraction to audience members as we forget to live in the moment. Likewise, recording videos of artists to share online does not capture or do justice to them, as there is nothing better than seeing live music. This is also a breach of social media terms of service as posting videos from concerts on some platforms like Instagram and Facebook will not be permitted to be streamed to your stories. If you somehow do manage to get it online, these companies will take it down. On the flip side, it allows a wider exposure for upand-coming artists. We are more inclined to watch videos from gigs if our friends are the ones recording! Furthermore, stars like Ed Sheeran would not have had the success he has had if he had not relied on people sharing videos of his early performances. Can you imagine a world without Ed Sheeran?! It must also be noted that it allows people to “try
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before they buy”. They can judge whether these acts are worth investing their time and money in to see. It is annoying and disheartening when you are hyped up to see your favourite artist and they don’t live up to your expectations. Granted, sound systems and acoustics do play a part in sound quality, but it allows people to see how artists engage with their audience as well as set out expectations for the show. I would always record videos from gigs I attended as a teenager so I could re-watch and re-live them. However, I would just end up cringing when I watched it back; video recording and singing were not my strong points. It was as I got older that I stopped recording them. For me, I became so focused on my phone that I forgot to look around me. All my focus and effort went into keeping my phone still and making sure it was good. I have seen Green Day live and do believe that Armstrong’s points are true. I want to live in the moment and have that shared experience with my friends that I can reflect on for the rest of my life. I want to enjoy every moment of it for the price I pay too. With that being said, there is a place and time for phones and it is up to the individual on how one wishes to go about it.
AND THE FEAR OF MISSING OUT WORDS BY KAYLEIGH LITTLEMORE IMAGE BY AVILA DIANA CHIDUME I first heard the phrase “FOMO” the summer before I was about to start university. I just thought it would be one of those overused phrases that would pass in time, or at least until the next “triggered” or “YOLO” took hold. However, I think that the fear of missing out has a huge impact on the mental health of people, especially university students, and whilst I’m not an expert on the topic I can speak from my own personal experience with this. Before university, I was told that it was going to be the most amazing time and that I’ll make friends for life with the people I meet in halls. Although I can now say that I’m truly enjoying my university experience, that was not the case during my first or second semester of first year. I didn’t become close friends with those I lived with and I did not really know anyone else, so I felt alone. As I did not have people to go out with, I began to feel as though I wasn’t having the amazing university experience that, according to social media, everyone else was having. I found myself stalking social media each night to see what other people were up to and I became consumed by jealousy of them. I began to put too much pressure on certain people and pushed others away, my logic being that if no one was around me then I wouldn’t be missing out. I know now that I was not the only person going through this, but at the time I truly felt I was the exception to the normal university student. Why is this so important? This may only be my story, but you can see the impact social media has on the fear of missing out all the time. Seeing people going out whilst you’re stuck in for whatever reason can lead to a feeling of being excluded and alone. This is not inherently bad, and everyone will encounter some sort of FOMO from time to time. It’s simply not possible to be able to attend every social gathering that you get invited to. However, I believe that the combination of social media and the fear of missing out can seriously harm our mental wellbeing. What is the solution to this? You cannot exactly stop people who are having a good time from posting about it on social media and I would not want to!
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Although social media can do some harm, it can also be a nice way of remembering a great night out. What we need to do is to make sure people are aware that the lives depicted on social media are not necessarily reflective of the truth. Whilst this makes logical sense for the likes of the Kardashians, people tend to forget that ordinary people, like you or I, also present the best and most interesting versions of themselves on social media. Despite knowing this I still let myself fall into the vicious cycle of checking my news feed and working myself up over feeling like I was missing out. Just make sure to check in on your friends, especially if they start to isolate themselves. I was lucky enough to find some amazing friends that helped me see that not everyone is living their best life all the time - despite what you see on social media.
Travel VlogsThe Guidebook’s Spiritual Successor The advent of YouTube has democratised the filmmaking process and paved the way for a flood of new content to arrive at our fingertips, a flood which has permeated into all aspects of life. Subsequently, this has led to the genesis of the “vlog”, which to the uninitiated, is a contraction of “video blog”. By nature, vlogs are of course generally lifestyle or hobbyist-orientated, but nonetheless they are wideranging, spanning categories ranging from gardening to gastronomy, and collectables to cinema. However, in my opinion one category stands out, unparalleled in its ability to create excitement and intrigue: travel vlogs. That creating engaging, entertaining, and unique content no longer requires a Hollywood-style studio and an army of production crew means that anyone can pick up a camera and cultivate some good old movie magic from the comfort of their own home. Travel vlogs take that a step further, with vloggers able to venture out into the world armed only with a camera, bringing their viewers along for the ride. Vlogs can be found about pretty much anywhere, with many vloggers also making the journey as much of an event as the destination, producing detailed coverage of their flights, train journeys and road trips - there’s a seemingly infinite amount of focal points out there. This simple yet brilliant formula is proving to be a hit, with travel vlogs appearing everywhere and the category’s popularity growing exponentially. Indeed, a quick YouTube search for ‘London travel vlogs’ yields a colossal number of results, many boasting viewing figures which number in the thousands. This is no coincidence, and I am thus convinced that travel vlogs are the spiritual successor to that ageold institution, the
guidebook. A number of factors contribute to travel vlogs’ success, notably the entertainment they provide. Vloggers are generally charismatic, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and getting to live vicariously through their experiences is a lot of fun. Many travel vloggers I follow, such as Wolter’s World, Theme Park Worldwide and Lost LeBlanc are really enjoyable and relaxing to watch - to the extent that often I’ll find myself watching vlogs from places I’ve already visited or don’t plan to visit. The fact that travel blogs are so heavily intertwined with social media makes them interactive too, a feature that guidebooks don’t offer. Despite this plethora of positives, travel vlogs are by no means short of naysayers. Critics complain that they cheapen the travel experience, removing elements of surprise and discovery, and that after watching them, people may feel they’ve gained a sufficient flavour of a destination so they won’t actually visit. On the contrary, vlogs can actually be a powerful research tool and fertile source of information, allowing us to get a small taste of a place, growing our appetite to visit it rather than satisfying it. They give us ideas for new places to see and aid us in deciding whether we want to take the plunge and book a trip. After all, travelling is expensive, and it’s good to have a rough idea of whether you’ll enjoy visiting a place before committing. Further criticism about vlogs creating unrealistic, high expectations of places (consequently often leading to disappointment) is valid, but simultaneously travel is all about compromise, flexibility and open-mindedness, and if you keep those things in mind, you’ll rarely go wrong. Ultimately, travel vlogs are a prime example of “edutainment”, providing a wealth of useful knowledge whilst having a lot of fun along the way. Next time you’re bored on the internet, why not try one? You never know where it might take you…
WORDS BY GEORGE HART
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Travelling for Instagram? WORDS BY ZACH SHARIF In our digital age, image is everything. Style over substance is the aim of the game. On Instagram, you can show the world your perfect lifestyle, complete with matching outfits, dream holidays and aesthetic looks. You can do this knowing full well none of it is true. We can express our personality, or hide it. This age of information is also the age of misinformation. Travelling is no different. To pack up and leave your comfort zone, experiencing new cultures and climates, to converse without the need for a smartphone, can seem magical. It can also be an outright lie, but plastered over Instagram dressed up as the truth. So why do people travel just for the Instas, and should you? To be clear, this isn’t a problem exclusively with Instagram. The idea of using photos to tell stories or even just express yourself is a good one, and it is this function which is why most people use the service. But it can be so tempting to give a false impression of your trip. The classic “gap yah” trope is a good example. Did you travel for months, taking photos of only a few instances of actually experiencing the culture and talking to people? Or did you travel for months, hanging out by a pool, then took a lot of pictures on the one day you went to a market? Nobody can tell, it could be either. Alternatively, some people can use Instagram in the right way, but excessively. Where once Gary would bore his entire family with his hours-long slideshow in his front room, now he can bore the whole world.
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Nobody cares, Gary. Nobody cares. Similarly, you can watch a ten minute long Snapchat story of Sarah’s 1975 concert she went to last night. Nobody cares, Sarah. Nobody cares. Don’t misinterpret me, there is nothing wrong with taking pictures of some amazing views and sharing them with your friends. I also accept that you do naturally want to show off where you’ve been. But as with all social media, what you post does have consequences. There comes a time when your activity doesn’t just concern itself with FOMO, or you “living your best life”, but lying about a whole different one. This can have real consequences for your own mental health. If your digital life becomes something unobtainable and a world away from your own, you will generally compare the two. And because your own life cannot live up to pure fantasy, this can naturally make anyone upset. Social media happened so quickly to our generation at such a young age that nobody had time to process it fully. We poured our lives into these apps, and it felt easy to become engrossed in another world. But the point at which a tool starts to consume you, is the point at which to take a step back and re-evaluate. The popular images people put up to show off how exciting their travels are is a microcosm for social media’s impact on wider society. The tunnel vision of fake news and misinformation distorts people’s political views. In the same way, a tunnel vision of unrealistic lifestyles distorts people’s views of
How Social Media has Changed what it Means to be a Music Fan The rush of discovering incredible new music from an artist you’ve never heard of before. The thrill of learning about a newly-announced album from one of your favourite bands. The excitement of going to see them live. Being a music fan has always been full of emotion – but has social media changed how we interact with our favourite artists in the internet age? Social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and more music-focused social media like Soundcloud and Bandcamp, have brought us closer than ever to the music creators and performers we love, but how has this changed what it means to be a fan? For one thing, social media has helped break down and humanize our idols, in particular through Instagram stories and the hyper-affinity of Soundcloud. Before social media, the only way you could really get to know an artist was through attending gigs or going to signings, or by trawling through TV or magazine interviews. With Instagram (and stories), artists can now show you important (or mundane) moments in their lives, whilst Soundcloud brings you closer to the recording process and lets you discuss the music with the artist (at least the smaller ones). All of this paints a clearer picture of the person behind the music, humanizing them and bringing you as a fan
closer to the artists you love. Social media has also changed the way you become a fan at all. Platforms like Apple Music’s Connect and Rate Your Music have exploded in recent years (even if they remain tiny compared to the leading platforms of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), becoming hubs for fans to discuss artists and albums and recommend similar music to each other. On a wider scale, Reddit forums like r/listentothis and r/ ifyoulikeblank make music discovery easier than ever before, with fans recommending their favourite artists to people who have never come across them before. Being a fan no longer just means listening to a whole discography in one afternoon – it now also means telling others to do the same. But perhaps the most significant change to music fandom as a result of social media has come in the way that fans now interact with artists. With Patreon, you can support little-known music-makers in more ways than simply buying their album or their merch, instead subscribing to them financially and potentially seeing personalised rewards. Twitter, Instagram and Reddit let artists share fan-created content and respond to fan messages with ease, making being a fan an even more personal affair, to the extent that you could even find yourself featured in your favourite artists’ content (in 2018, rapper Logic sampled fan recordings in opening track ‘Thank You’ from YSIV). With polls, events, and even more at their disposal, artists have the power (through social media) to interact with their fans in ways they never could before. Of course, these changes bring with them the possibility for negativity as well as positivity. In early 2019, Lisa from K-Pop group Blackpink was subjected to racist abuse through social media. Such events highlight the dangers of social media for artists, and for fans (as anyone who’s read YouTube or Facebook comments will know, arguments can easily erupt and spill out of control). With these new tools at our disposal, we can now know more about the artists we love, interact with them more than ever before, and discover (or recommend) new artists with ease. Social media has radically changed what it means to be a fan.
WORDS BY SAM LAW IMAGE BY HILARY IP
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SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE SEARCH FOR SALA When newly signed Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala’s plane disappeared over the English Channel on 21st January, news spread like wildfire across social media. The trending pray for Sala sparked an outpouring of hopeful messages. The plane, piloted by David Ibbotson, was flying from Nantes (Sala’s former club) to Cardiff, when it went missing shortly after requesting to land. Rescue efforts were called off by the police after four days of searching, and due to the type of aircraft the government’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) decided not to search for the plane. This decision provoked campaigning and petitions on social media for the continuation of the search. The Sala family started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for a secondary search operation, turning to social media and Sala’s worldwide fans for support. The GoFundMe page was widely shared, and became the most visited page on the entire site. It received contributions from top football players such as Mbappe, who at one stage was the only person to better Sala’s goals-to-minutes ratio in Europe’s top leagues. Over £260,000 was raised, enough to fund a private search directed by shipwreck hunter David Mearns. The search commenced on 3rd February and centred around the last recorded radar position of the plane, approximately 20 miles north of Guernsey. After the overwhelming response on social media, the AAIB also decided to send out a vessel in search of the missing plane. Despite adverse sea conditions, the plane wreckage was eventually found by geophysicist Brian Critchley, using high-tech underwater surveying equipment on board the privately funded vessel, led by David Mearns. The plane’s location was confirmed by the AAIB using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), and a body was discovered in the wreckage. Two days later the body was successfully recovered and formally identified as Emiliano Sala.
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The connection and online presence of Sala’s supporters had a crucial role in bringing closure to the case, and peace of mind to the Sala family: ‘Seeing the whole world mobilised to support us in our research has been an infinitely precious help.’ Messages of remembrance and recognition were shared across social media as news spread of Sala’s passing. Sala’s tragic “final goodbye” Instagram picture, posted the day he went missing, that sees him with his former team Nantes, now has thousands of comments commemorating his life. His profile picture poignantly already featured him holding up the blue Cardiff City shirt with pride. Despite his blossoming career being prematurely cut short, Sala made his mark as a driven and passionate young man, and he will be remembered with much admiration. At the time of writing, David Ibbotson’s body has sadly not yet been found. His family set up a GoFundMe page in an attempt to fund a subsequent search. This raised more than £250,000. Hopefully, his body will be found and returned to his loved ones. The tragic event has truly demonstrated the positive power of social media in times of crisis, and its ability to bring people together for a good cause. At times of crisis, the human ability to come together has always been our greatest strength in the face of adversity. So while social media may exacerbate our deepest flaws, it also reflects our most positive traits.
WORDS BY EMMA CRITCHLEY IMAGE BY RUBI-BLUE COLLINS
A Love Letter to the
Spotify Sidebar of Shame WORDS BY XAVIER VOIGT-HILL What with the emerging aftermaths of controversy after controversy, it’s become somewhat in vogue to bemoan social media as the cause of modern society’s every ill. Yet, I still find the thought of adding myself to its ever-expanding horde of detractors rather unfortunate – after all, where would we be without Ed Balls Day, #susanalbumparty, or an 11,000-strong Jason Derulo fan club? That said, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that only one social network in my life – Spotify – actually tells me anything about the people I call acquaintances. Instead, the desktop app’s Friend Activity sidebar serves as a radical counterpoint to well-worn conventions of more explicitly social platforms, offering real-time streams of consciousness as its core attraction. The result is one of almost disturbing simplicity for the product of a £20 billion tech company: a reverse chronological list of the last songs played by the people you’ve chosen to follow for whatever reason, updating by the second and linking off to full playlists and top artist summaries for when you’re feeling particularly intrigued and/or nosy. What this allows is a genuinely fascinating glance into the minds of your nearest and dearest at any hour, more than what they might actively share ever could. It can expose a certain indie evangelist from The Edge’s editorial team as a raving fan of Shawn Mendes, ancient graduates adjusting to adulthood with the exact same sort of thirst for tacky EDM that I suffered a few years back, or highlighting that long-lost school friends might be over 5,000 miles away but they still start the day with the same Tom Misch records as you do. In five-ish years as a Premium subscriber, I’ve only ended up following 220-odd profiles, which may seem diminutive compared to every comparable online community, but perhaps that’s its strength. I’d hazard a guess that the feed that follows is split fairly equally between two camps: people with exceptional
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taste, who’ll often find the next great things yonks before I’d stumble into them otherwise, and those still followed out of morbid curiosity, as I see them fill their afternoons with copious Death Grips, Hamilton, Yxng Bane, or Ed Sheeran. Such is Spotify’s near-ubiquity when it comes to music consumption that everyone from your closest friends to your GCSE Physics teacher gets chucked onto this same playing field, with refusal to participate in the mass soul-bearing reserved only for those who refuse to commit to streaming, those so ashamed of their music tastes they listen in private mode, and those on Apple Music – who are not to be trusted. Despite Spotify’s apparently unquenchable urge to hack mercilessly away at its product to make actually using it for music listening a dash more convoluted with each update, the one element of the experience that seems largely intact since I’ve been a customer is what keeps me locked in month after month, even if I dread to think what version of me my 87 followers would manage to put together from my listening habits. (With my manic array of playlists marked private to maintain some mystique for prying eyes, I imagine it’s likely an incomprehensible blur of Carly Rae Jepsen, PC Music, and Bloc Party’s first album.) However, it’s exactly this raw, unfiltered antithesis to social media’s typical tropes that makes my Spotify profile easily the most honest and intimate portrait of myself to exist online, caring purely for bloody good music and the quest to find more of it, rather than the vicious old hunt one can get trapped in elsewhere pursuing likes, clout, or the illusion of success. For all the pitfalls and increasingly evident impacts of streaming and social platforms on culture and society, the character found in Spotify’s clunky old sidebar – however (un)intentionally – can be a refreshing and wholesome contrast to the rest of what modern life has to throw at us. More than a £20 machine-flattened blob of PVC, at least.
BOOKS IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA:
EVOLUTION OR REVOLUTION? WORDS BY ABI CUTLER When the Amazon Kindle was released in 2007, the world of reading changed forever. Though e-books and e-readers have existed in some form or other for decades, Amazon’s innovative design with no backlight, boasting a reading experience akin to that of reading from actual paper, launched a new age for readers: we could now carry hundreds of titles in a single lightweight device, with a battery life which lasted for days or even weeks on a single charge. Whereas you might pay £7.99 for an average paperback, many Kindle e-books retailed at less than £5, some costing as little as £0.99 or even nothing at all. The popularity of the Kindle was evident right from its launch – when the first-generation Kindle was released in the US, it sold out in 5.5 hours, and was consequently unavailable for months afterwards. Considering its hefty price of $399, this overwhelming demand is remarkable, and the Kindle has continued to lead the world of e-books as new editions of the device continue to be released, more popular than its competitors like Apple Books and the Nook e-reader, whose digital content was discontinued in the UK in 2016. This impressive rise of the e-book over the past 12 years has led to a crucial and divisive debate: how does it stand up to reading a physical book? Many diehard fans of ink on paper see e-books as absolute blasphemy. ‘There’s nothing like the feel of turning a page, or the smell of the paper,’ you hear them say. To a large extent, I absolutely agree. There’s nothing quite like the smell of a new book, and likewise there’s nothing like the completely different smell of a really old book. Holding a physical book in your hands, seeing the progress you are making as you turn page after page, there’s more satisfaction to be had there. But what about books that you know you are only going to read once? And what about physical books that are ridiculously expensive for no good reason (basically every hardback at retail price). This is where e-books really come into play for me, and as much as I love and often prefer reading physical books, I wouldn’t want to be without my beloved Kindle either.
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There is now even a social aspect involved in the form of Goodreads. Founded in 2006, Goodreads is a “social cataloguing” website, on which users can rate and log books they have read, as well as receive recommendations for future reads. In 2013, Amazon acquired Goodreads, expanding their digital reading empire, and the website now incorporates social media platforms in the way it runs. You can link your Goodreads account with accounts on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, importing contacts to your Goodreads “friends” list and allow your “friends” on social media to see what you are reading or how you have rated a book. With some platforms, there is the option to allow Goodreads to post directly onto your account, such as your Facebook timeline. Since Amazon acquired the site, Goodreads has even been integrated into certain Kindles, including the Kindle Paperwhite (2nd generation onwards) and the Kindle Voyage. Is this step into the digital world a positive thing? It certainly doesn’t seem like print books are going anywhere anytime soon: 2016 saw a rise in print sales for the first time in four years, as well as the first drop in e-book sales in seven years. As for social media, whilst it can be useful to see certain book recommendations and ratings from my ‘friends’ on various platforms, I’m not particularly interested in knowing what distant acquaintances I haven’t spoken to in two years are reading right now. There is no doubt that e-books and Kindles, and even sites like Goodreads, have found their place in our technologicallysavvy society, but it is by no means time to neglect the printed book, and nor should it ever be.
Social Media and Citizen Science I’m going to make an assumption to begin with. When you think about social media as a resource for research and data, your thinking will be very social sciencebased. You might think of the ways sociologists would be interested in how social media shapes the way people interact. Perhaps research into the psychology behind cyberbullying? Maybe, if you’re worried about your right to privacy, the ways in which your data can be analysed to influence what products or parties you support? Likelier than not though, you won’t consider how social media use offers huge potential for the study of environmental sciences. You really should. Citizen science is defined by National Geographic as ‘the practice of public participation and collaboration in scientific research to increase scientific knowledge’. This form of science isn’t new (it traces back to at least the turn of the twentieth century) but the age of social media has expanded its use and possibilities. In fact, in 2014, citizen science made its entry even into the Oxford English Dictionary. There’s always a ceiling to the scope of a lab-based or purely scientific experts’ study. That’s where citizen science comes in. Public engagement on social media can create far more extensive research data, including the GPS coordinates of the recording of something. That’s the main benefit of a citizen science approach to a study, but another significant bonus is educating the public by engagement, whether about a specific issue such as the effects of climate change or demystifying science as inaccessible in general. One of the most significant examples of a citizen science social media project is iSeeChange. Founded in 2013, its premise is beautifully simple: people are encouraged to post images to Instagram of anything unusual which could be related to climate change under the hashtag #iSeeChange. It might be the first bluebell of the year, or the first swallow of the summer. Scientists can then
WORDS BY IVAN MORRIS POXTON
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check the photo and via Instagram’s supply of the date and location, map out environmental changes over time. Piloted in Western Colorado, the project has expanded to now hold a global reach and led to the involvement of NASA scientists studying atmospheric carbon dioxide. Sometimes citizen science via social media may use preexisting platforms, such as Twitter and Flickr. Imagebased platforms, like Flickr, appear to be particularly rated by environmental researchers as they can help provide visual verification of sightings. However, other times, entirely new social media networks may be formed to help coordinate information gathering. In the UK, two projects have taken this approach, while still engaging on traditional social media as well. The somewhat garishly-titled Project SPLATTER, which is run by Cardiff University, enables people to report roadkill sightings across the UK. This highlights areas where roads are conflicting with wildlife and at least in the case of badgers, actually provides vital information about the population spread of a species. Meanwhile, the Open University-led iSpot has created a community network for the reporting and identification of all manner of flora and fauna species with users uploading photos of sightings. There are challenges in the relationship between social media and science. Research suggests social media has dramatically reduced attention spans, while it also enables the spread of fake news - for example, the NHS has identified anti-vaccination stories as leading to a rise in the number of measles cases. Yet the growing role social media can play in facilitating citizen science, which in turn can increase awareness of issues and the data which scientists can analyse, merits greater appreciation.