Keeping up with the apps.

I dread it.

A few times a month, it’s that alert I get on my phone that says my apps need updating. Sometimes, the updates are simply bug-fixes. But lately, the updates consist of new features that I have to keep up with – and just when I get to know the update, there’s a new update again.

Constant app updates are obviously the result of fast-paced technological discoveries, and they aren’t going to stop any time soon. It’s the same thing with any technology – you buy the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 5s comes out a few months later. But apps update at an incredible rate – I have a new update available every day.

Yesterday, I updated Snapchat. For those of you who don’t remember, Snapchat just made a dramatic change about a month ago, one I’m still recovering from. (Loss of access to my friends’ best friends…so sad.) Yesterday, Snapchat decided to add emojis next to certain friends’ names, and I had to Google what each of these emojis meant. Not only that, but the emojis led to a 2-hour conversation between me and my friends about who has which emoji beside who, and what that means. It was like we were finally getting a taste of the ‘best friends’ feature again, but not quite as transparent.

Courtesy: Google images

Instagram is releasing a new update in “a few days,” according to Mashable. This new update will include new editing tools (as if there weren’t enough already) and a feature where you can select certain users whose posts you want to follow closely. I’m assuming this means you’ll get a notification when these people post. But all I could think when reading about this new update is that it’s going to take me twice as long to edit my pictures, and before I know it, my phone will be blowing up to alert me that one of my friends posted a photo. I really don’t see the advantage of that feature.

Courtesy: Mashable

Other apps have made major changes in the past few weeks as well, and some are set to update soon. Think about Twitter’s fairly new features that show you an “Activity” feed and notifications about what your friends are “favoriting.” I personally don’t care for the extra notifications, but at least they didn’t make the app more difficult to use. Facebook is, of course, adding a digital pay feature to the Messenger app. I’m pretty excited for this one.

I’ve found that with the constant app updates, I have to pick my battles. I don’t necessarily utilize every feature offered. Snapchat messenger, for example, is not something I use to communicate with friends. The video chatting feature is too difficult as well – why wouldn’t I just FaceTime?

As far as the new emojis go, I’m probably going to ignore them. But I’ll be counting down the days until “best friends” come back.

Fashion meets function.

I’ve never been the type to wear “functional” accessories. I tried a watch for a while, but decided it was too bulky. When Livestrong bracelets were popular, I was the only person at my high school who refused to wear one because it didn’t match my outfit.

So now I’m conflicted. Technology is becoming too prominent not to wear – think Apple watch, and my favorite fashion designer is designing Fitbits. What am I supposed to do?

Elle Australia featured the Apple watch in a multi-page spread in their last issue. Of course, they displayed the special edition watches that cost well over $1,000, but it’s a tech watch regardless. The editors made it a point to pair the watch with statement jewels and this fashion season’s it pieces.

Looking at the pictures, I wasn’t bothered by the presence of the watch like I thought I would be. If technology is becoming such a huge part of our lives, why wouldn’t it be something we wear? Now thinking about it, I hold my phone so much that it becomes part of every outfit I wear. I might as well have it strapped to my wrist.

Courtesy: Elle Magazine

So now for the Fitbit. I’ve always thought these were kind of silly. I don’t need to know how many calories I burn each day – if I eat healthy and workout, I’m fine. Not to mention the fact that it’s a giant piece of rubber wrapped around your wrist that looks like a glorified rubber band. Or, it was. Now, Tory Burch designs Fitbits. And they are leather. And silver. And gold. And rose gold.

Courtesy: Tory Burch

Obviously I’m more likely to wear one of these items now that techies are designing pieces with fashionistas in mind. It’s actually kind of cool that fashion and tech are finally emerging, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for items like Apple watch and Fitbit. (Especially Apple watch.)

I’ve decided to stop fighting the inevitable, and let tech-functionality find its way into my wardrobe. I’ll be ordering a Fitbit this week.

Anxiety? There’s an app for that.

This morning, my friend Lauren and I were driving through terrible traffic. I told her traffic gave me anxiety, and it turned into a joke for the rest of the day about how everything gives me anxiety. We looked up ways to soothe anxiety – thinking teas, super foods, certain herbs – that kind of thing. But instead, we stumbled upon a Buzzfeed article that revealed 14 apps for people with anxiety.

While we looked at the article, I couldn’t help but think this was crazy. In my opinion, phones give people anxiety. My phone certainly plays into my stress level. The idea of staring at my little screen to calm my anxiety sounds bizarre.

So I downloaded the first app on the list – Pacifica. The app is based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), apparently a well-researched technique.

The first thing the app had me do was choose what kind of anxiety I wanted to fix. I said “calm daily anxiety” because I don’t have an actual anxiety problem. The other option was to have fewer anxiety attacks – something I’d be shocked could be fixed with a phone.

The app then told me to enter my mood daily, and gave me relaxing techniques to calm anxiety. This made sense to me – the app itself doesn’t help anxiety – the app gives you activities that involve leaving the phone.

I think I’m actually going to try using the app for a few weeks. Anyone could benefit from it – if anything, the app gives you a reminder to breathe.

Women in media… again.

The portrayal of women in media is a huge topic of conversation lately. Whether it’s a Hardee’s commercial or the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, scandalous pictures of quarter-dressed women are sure to cause controversy.

But something I never hear about is the portrayal of women in children’s movies – specifically, children’s movies made to entertain 8-12 year old boys.

I had this thought when I was reading my favorite supermodel’s twitter feed. Alessandra Ambrosio, an established lingerie and swimsuit model best known for her work as a Victoria’s Secret Angel, was featured in an Elle magazine article about her upcoming role in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. Immediately I thought it was weird. Ambrosio is a sex symbol for sure, and she has never been in a movie. Why didn’t they chose an actress for the role?

I thought more about it. This isn’t the first time a supermodel has starred in a children’s film. There was Megan Fox in Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Rosie Huntington-Whitley in Transformers. Why are the sexiest supermodels chosen for these roles, and whose idea is it to cast them?

Megan Fox in Transformers 2 Courtesy: Google images
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in Transformers 3 Courtesy: Google images

My problem with this isn’t the fact that pretty women are chosen to star in children’s films. My problem is that women who are known as lingerie and swimsuit models are chosen for the leading roles, and these movies are aimed towards young boys. What kind of perception is this supposed to give my 8-year-old cousin who watches Transformers movies on repeat?

Don’t get me wrong. I actually love all three of the women I’ve mentioned. I follow them all on Instagram and look forward to seeing Ambrosio walk the VS runway every year. But I’m a 20-year-old who seeks these models out as style and fitness icons. Parents of young boys don’t have much of a choice when it comes to exposing their sons to sexy supermodels early in life. They could obviously forbid their kids from watching the film, but there is always a way to watch it, even if it’s at a friend’s house.

For anyone who isn’t convinced this is a problem, I’d like to leave a closing thought: What if Barbie movies starred half-dressed grown men?

TV a la carte

This past week, I attended the Wade H. Hargrove Media Law and Policy Colloquium featuring David Cohen, the Comcast Executive Vice President. He addressed a number of topics including net neutrality and the possibility of unbundling cable packages. While net neutrality is a topic I know we can’t get enough of recently, I was more intrigued by his discussion about unbundling.

Unbundling a cable package simply means that a cable company (aka Time Warner or Comcast) would offer individual channels to consumers instead of making them pay for a package of channels. Some people only watch ESPN – they would only pay for ESPN. Some people only watch MTV – they would only pay for MTV. Think of it as TV channels a la carte.

This kind of service is already available through the TV services some people choose to use from the Internet. Hulu, Apple TV and individual stations’ websites are examples of this. So wouldn’t it make sense for cable companies to follow the trend?

Cohen said no, and that unbundling channels might make cable more expensive. I did some further research since this was all new to me, and I found there was some legitimacy in Cohen’s point. For example, according to The Atlantic, an ESPN-only package could cost $30 per month – more than an entire month of bundled cable. The same goes for many other major networks including AMC. The reason for this is because every cable subscriber won’t be paying the subscription fee to each channel, and therefor to sustain income, individual channels would have to raise their fees per person.

Another argument, however, is that these individual channels would find a way to downsize according to their new audience size. Of course, I couldn’t find a single article on how this would be possible.

As for me, I have no desire for unbundled channels on TV. Although I don’t watch must TV on a television (I usually go to NBC.com or Netflix), I find myself watching a different channel every time I turn on a TV. I know I’m not the only person who does this – I’m not a crazed sports or politics fan, so I really watch TV for different shows – all of which air on different networks. If cable companies completely unbundled their channels and didn’t offer the standard package at the same cost, I would give up cable altogether.

Will political cartoons adapt?

Last week, I attended a lecture hosted by the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy about political cartoons. Kevin Kallaugher, a political cartoonist at The Economist, spoke about his career experiences and what the future might hold for political cartoonists.

Kallaugher began the lecture by asking everyone in the room who knew a political cartoonist to raise his or her hand. There were about 50 people in the lecture hall – only one person raised his hand. Kallaugher then informed us that this wasn’t shocking at all – there are only about 40 paid editorial cartoonists in the U.S. today, while there were about 2,000 employed editorial cartoonists at the beginning of the 20th century.

Part of the reason for this is that newspapers have had to cut editorial cartoonists from the regular staff. It’s rare, or almost impossible, as a political cartoonist to find a long-term paying job at a newspaper. Because of this, political cartoonists are having to adapt in order to remain relevant. The problem with adapting is that it’s not always profitable – while political cartoonists can put their work on the Internet for the world to see, they won’t always make money from this.

In an article from Big Think called “Is the Editorial Cartoonist Dead?” by Bob Duggan, Duggan says this can also open doors for political cartoonists to freely express themselves, as long as they know they won’t always make money. With more political cartoonists working as free agents, they don’t have to follow the rules of editors, and therefor can use their cartoons to express their opinions freely.

Although I recognize the decline of popularity in political cartoons, I hope the political cartooning industry isn’t dying. I’m a prime example of the fact that my generation hardly looks at political cartoons – I hadn’t given them any thought until I attended this lecture. I could, however, see political cartoons making a come back if cartoonists embraced Internet culture and utilized social media.

The good news is that my generation loves pictures. According to a recent Forbes article, people want visuals. Multi-media platforms are growing in popularity, and most people would rather look at pictures or videos on their cell phones than read an entire story.  An Instagram account with nothing but political cartoons? I’d follow it!

Not everyone uses social media?

Most adults use Instagram. Most adults use Twitter. Most adults at least use Facebook.

At least… that’s what you would think as a college student.

I’m connected with all of my friends on some form of social media. Whether it’s all of the three I mentioned above or just one, it’s guaranteed that if I want to connect with someone on a social media platform, I’ll be able to find that person on a social media platform.

Once in a blue moon, I’ll realize one of my friends doesn’t use a certain form of social media. My friend Laura, for example, revealed to me yesterday that she doesn’t have an Instagram account. (How did I not notice this!?) My friend from class, Nick, then said he isn’t on Twitter. (What!?) Based on my reaction to finding out these people weren’t on one specific social media platform, I guess you can see how rare this finding is for me as a college student.

And not only am I a college student – I’m a college journalism student. With the growth of social media as a news and communication platform, social media is a huge part of my curriculum. The idea of not having it seems extinct.

But in the Pew Research Center’s report on Social Media Site Usage in 2014, there were some shocking statistics. For example, 58% of adults in America use Facebook. Barely more than half. This is probably 20% lower than what I would have estimated, considering the fact that almost every person I know has a Facebook.

The statistics that surprised me the most were the numbers for Twitter and Instagram. Only 21% of American adults use Instagram, and 19% use Twitter. Although this still means millions of people use these social media platforms, it means even more people don’t.

I’m beginning to realize that there is a world outside of my hip college town. Perhaps if I visited a more rural community, I would understand where these statistics came from. Or maybe it isn’t about geography – perhaps those not on Twitter and Instagram are simply not smartphone users. Perhaps the wealth divide in the U.S. is the main reason so many people are left behind.

All I know is that if I don’t send out a tweet or upload a picture on Instagram tomorrow, I’m not behind. I’m actually ahead of at least 81% of the adult population.