You could live on the border of a digital divide.

In 2015, it’s hard to imagine life without the Internet – especially for those of us who use the Internet on a daily basis for socializing, studying and even working. But according to Mashable, only 71% of Americans subscribe to broadband Internet at home. In other words, millions of people in America don’t use the Internet. See this shocking infographic.

This was shocking to me because I know I couldn’t go to school or do anything I like to do without the Internet. How do these people apply to jobs or colleges? How do they get directions to unfamiliar places or find out about anything!?

The truth is, most of the people in the U.S. without Internet access don’t go to school and have low-paying jobs. It’s an unfortunate cycle that keeps lower-income Americans from getting Internet access, and keeps people without Internet access from getting higher incomes. Internet is expensive in America – more expensive than other first-world countries – and this leaves people in rural or poor areas behind.

School districts around the country are also effected by the lack of Internet access in these areas. In Jacksonville, North Carolina (hometown represent…), Digital Millennium Consulting did a study where they gave high school students smartphones with special software to help them with algebra. At the end of the year, students who used the smart phones to help them with algebra did 25% better on end-of-year tests than students who were not given the smart phones. None of the students used outside Internet help for the purposes of the experiment.

The digital divide leaves so many people behind, and the majority of us forget who is and is not on the Internet. To think that people from my hometown go without Internet but also go to the same schools me and my friends went to is insane. Having Internet access gives people an advantage automatically – I wonder who the honors students would have been if everyone had Internet access.

The order of things.

Something that we don’t often think about is the order with which we build connections with people. Most of us are connected with our closest friends on all of the main social media platforms – Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn – depending on which ones they have, of course. Most of us also know where our friends live, their phone numbers, and their email addresses. But which of these connections comes first?

It seems logical that we would meet a person, become their friend, get their phone number, and eventually build an online relationship with them. But social media is now equally as essential to our communication patterns as a cell phone number, so this order often shifts.

I think it’s safe to say that for most people, Facebook has become the place where we have the most connections. I’m not saying these are the most intimate connections we have – just the greatest in quantity. For example, I have 1,925 friends on Facebook (kind of embarrassing), but I have 730 contacts in my phone. This means I’ve become “friends” with at least 1,195 people on Facebook whose phone numbers I don’t even have.

Instagram is becoming a high contender as well. I’ve noticed this semester that people I meet in my classes follow me on Instagram before we even exchange phone numbers. This is perhaps because Instagram is a visual social network where there is little communication involved. Once the user posts a picture, other users can simply “like” the photo as a way of communicating their feelings about it. While Instagram does allow comments, it isn’t assumed that everyone who likes your photo will comment on it. Therefor, following a person on Instagram is casual. We like casual.

Snapchat is, in my opinion, the most intimate social network. I’ve even heard people say “are you guys on Snapchat level?” meaning “are you guys close enough to be Snapchatting?”

This has become less of this case with the invention of Snapchat “stories,” because these have the same effect as Instagram posts and don’t require much communication. But for now, most of us only add our closest friends on Snapchat. These are the friends we also might text or see in person (gasp) on the regular. I have less than 80 contacts on Snapchat – this compared to my 1,925 friends on Facebook and my 730 cell phone contacts.

Twitter is, for me, one of the last ways I connect with people. I follow all of my friends on Twitter, but I also use Twitter to follow news organizations and companies. Unless someone seeks to follow me on Twitter, I most likely won’t make the effort to find them. This is true for a lot of my friends as well – Twitter is becoming more of a news source.

As strange as this sounds, I think phone numbers are sometimes the last bit of contact information we exchange with our peers. Social media has made it easy to indirectly communicate with people, and phone numbers are only necessary to communicate with your closest friends (if you’re into constant communication) or for emergencies and the occasional phone call (a phone call is an instance of speaking to someone on the phone or attempting to contact someone by phone, just incase anyone forgot).

I’m intrigued by the order with which we communicate because I think it has a huge impact on how we build relationships. Are our relationships more superficial now since we can depend on Facebook and Instagram to stay in touch using visuals and one-to-many communication channels?

Tinder love and care.

Tinder is slowly taking over the world.

Because of the exponential growth of technology, my generation has never experienced the old-fashioned dating ways our parents swear once existed. A boy won’t call you to ask you out anymore – he’ll get your number from a friend and text you to see if you’re going out. That, or you’ll match with him on Tinder.

Apps like Tinder are growing in popularity and making this hands-off approach to dating and communication even more common. Everyone knows someone who uses it, and most people have experienced “swiping right” or “swiping left” on a picture on a phone screen. Most people, though, myself included, think of Tinder as the kind of app people use for entertainment around college campuses. But recently, Tinder has made appearances in unexpected places.

I first had this thought when I was watching MTV this past weekend. A commercial aired featuring various celebrities “swiping left” on Tinder when they saw pictures of a person smoking. The ad then stated that Tinder users without cigarettes in their photos get about double the matches smokers get. This commercial impressed me because it targeted people my age with an app marketers know most of us are familiar with. If my parents watched that commercial, they probably wouldn’t understand it, but that doesn’t matter. My generation is made up of people who are deciding right now whether or not to smoke cigarettes – a decision that could affect us for the rest of our lives.

A few days after seeing this commercial, a New York Times tweet caught my eye. I followed the link to an article, and it stated that at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, this past weekend, Tinder usage in the New Harbor, Maryland area spiked by 202% during the days of the conference. This data came from Tinder.

It’s shocking how popular this simple dating app has become among people my age. The fact that it’s being used as a tool to promote health nationally goes to show how secure the app’s popularity is. It also shows how powerful apps can be, even when they are just talked about.

Making and saving memories

This afternoon, I was sitting on the couch with some of my sorority sisters looking through old scrapbooks girls had made in the past. The scrapbooks had pictures of cocktail parties, bid days, mixers with fraternities, service events, and any other sorority function you could imagine. We all sat for an hour looking through the scrapbooks and realized the most recent book looked like it was from the early 2000’s.

We all wondered the same thing: “Why don’t we make these anymore?”

My first thought was that we don’t value sentiment as much as the generation before us did. It was obvious in the pages of the scrapbooks that these girls treasured the memories they made with each other at each event – enough to make an entire scrapbook about it. But the truth is, we no longer feel the need to put work into things like photo albums and scrapbooks because we know we can easily store the even more images on Facebook or on our phones. The sentimentality isn’t gone, just expressed in a different way.

I was pleased to find out that the reading we were assigned in my Current Issues in Mass Media class happened to expand on this. In an article in The Atlantic, Chau Tu writes about technologies we use today to store memories and how our brains process memories differently because of this. Tu discussed research that showed the more we photograph events (or Tweet about them, etc.) the less we actually store in our memory because we are “outsourcing” the memory instead.

I agree with this, and the way we store these memories now increases the amount of outsourcing we do.

Back in 1998 when the girls in Zeta Tau Alpha were making their photo albums of events, they were most likely gluing all 30 of the pictures they took at the event onto the pages of the book. These pictures were probably taken by different people, with a camera, and not run through filters or posted to Instagram/Snapchat throughout the night.

Now, the way we store these memories is completely different. At a service event, for example, every girl would have her phone out taking pictures every few minutes. Not only would most of us take pictures, but we would also spend a few minutes each posting them on social media. We would actively update our Snapchat stories too, and by the end of the event, the entire day could be pieced together by scrolling through our feeds.

According to the research in Tu’s article, we would be outsourcing all of the memories we made that day. Chances are, weeks later, we would remember fewer specific moments of this day than if we had put the phones down and simply enjoyed the experience.

The importance of a vision

For the first time ever, a company’s vision is becoming just as important as the company’s product.

When I think of a brand like Victoria’s Secret, I don’t think of the products they actually sell. I think of their social media campaigns, their fashion show, and their infamous supermodels who have become more than just faces in their catalogues.

When I think of a brand like Patagonia, I think of the company’s founder, a climber and environmentalist named Yvon Chouinard. I also think about the inspiring emails I receive from Patagonia every other day about climbers and athletes around the world who do amazing things – wearing Patagonia, of course.

Plenty of companies reflect the same branding values as Victoria’s Secret and Patagonia. Think about Apple and Facebook – do Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg immediately come to mind? These companies have all successfully branded either their CEO or their company’s vision instead of placing emphasis on advertising their specific products.

I’ve noticed this concept trickling down to smaller brands as well. Businesses in Chapel Hill utilize social media as a tool to build relationships with customers, and when they don’t have a strong social media presence, they fall through the cracks. (I mentioned this in one of my previous blogs as well.)

As an APPLES service-learning intern for two organizations, I know that to improve a company’s PR, the first thing we do is brand the company based on a person or a vision. For the UNC Learning Center and the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the two companies I’ve been working with, my team didn’t even consider changing or improving the companies’ products to build up the clientele and brand awareness. My peers and I have been focusing solely on building the brands’ social media presence and creating a concept that will stick with viewers.

Social media has made this publicity model easier than ever. Campaigns are shared among millions of people on a daily basis, and people become loyal to brands without even knowing it. It’s easier to become loyal to a person or an idea than an actual product.


Backstage at the Versace Fall 2015 RTW show at Milan Fashion Week, Donatella Versace said she wanted to “redefine Versace for the world today.”

The Italian fashion house did just that. Versace sent its models down the runway donning an unusually trendy pattern – think hashtags and @ signs. I know what you’re thinking – that sounds pretty tacky. I have to admit when I first heard about it from a Women’s Wear Daily tweet, I thought, “this can’t be good.” But the dresses were fabulous – and a true reflection of “the world today.”


The pattern seems strange, but the Internet has become such a huge part of our lives that it’s almost shocking digital patterns haven’t made an appearance on the runway before. Of course, I have to admit I’m surprised the first company to do this was one of the most elite fashion houses in the world.

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The question now is whether or not people will actually adopt this trend into their wardrobes. Although I admired the digital-inspired pieces, I have to say I wouldn’t consider a dress with a hashtag on it for say, formal, even if it was in my price range. I predict that it will become a huge trend among less luxurious brands to include digital graphics on clothing collections. Graphic tees, for example, with digital phrases and symbols will most likely become more popular at stores like Urban Outfitters and Brandy Melville – trendier stores that require less of a financial investment.

I guess the Versace collection struck me as groundbreaking for two reasons:

1. Graphics on a dress are unheard of – especially a Versace evening dress that probably costs upwards of $2,000.

2. The collection made it clear that the Internet has officially taken over every aspect of our lives – even high fashion. I would almost say that the infusion of digital graphics into high fashion pieces is a statement on Versace’s part that it’s okay to have fun with fashion, and fashion should reflect our lives. The Internet has become a vital part of who we are as a generation, so why shouldn’t our style reflect that?

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Acronyms – our new habit.

Eric did an interesting presentation in class a few weeks ago about how common it’s become for us to use acronyms instead of real words. He mentioned – for lack of a better word – an evolution of the English language into an acronym-focused language that sounds incomplete and rushed.

Eric made a lot of great points about how this was effecting what we type using digital media. But I want to add on and say that acronyms are taking over the language we use in person as well.

I had this realization when I was watching Friends this morning. Phoebe told Rachel that she and Monica were her “B.F.F’s” and Rachel looked at Phoebe with a look of complete confusion. Phoebe then clarified, “best friends forever!” and the laugh track played.

I was mind blown that the acronym “B.F.F.” wasn’t common knowledge. This is such a commonly used acronym today that I don’t even consider it an acronym – it’s literally another word that means best friend. But 17 years ago (wow) when this episode aired, the term BFF was so uncommon that it had to be clarified in the Friends script. In fact, the whole point of the joke was that Phoebe was weird, and therefor she said a weird thing. Typical Phoebe.

This brings me to my point about our new speaking habits. I find myself and my friends saying things like “lol” and “tbt” (throwback thursday) when we are talking to each other- in person. We will actually say things like “Oh my God tbt to when we…” and it hadn’t even occurred to me until now that this isn’t actually a real sentence made up of real words. If I spoke that sentence to my mother, she would most likely have no idea what I was trying to say.

This is something that will probably continue to get worse, as I’m pretty sure Eric predicted in his presentation. Online, it’s definitely going to get worse as we type more and more and rely less on in-person communication. It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing – right now, it seems pretty innocent to me, but it’s definitely important to remember that there is a time and a place for acronyms, and it’s hard to quit a habit.