Friday, March 09, 2012

Tumblr: Microblogging with Morals

Tumblr, as many people today in our technology-driven world know, is a free blog platform in which users can post multimedia content to their “tumblelog” to share with the World Wide Web. With over 47 million blogs, it can be said with confidence that Tumblr plays an important social role in today’s society. Playing “host” to such a wide variety of microblogs is undoubtedly a daunting task, and surely representing these blogs comes with many responsibilities. With this, Tumblr has been increasing censorship of the blogs and search phrases of its users. On their website, Tumblr states,
“One of the great things about Tumblr is that people use it for just about every conceivable kind of expression. People being people, though, that means that Tumblr sometimes gets used for things that are just wrong. We are deeply committed to supporting and defending our users’ freedom of speech, but we do draw some limits.”
One of these limits include a new policy that prohibits users from creating blogs or blog posts “that glorify or promote anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders; self-mutilation; or suicide”. The act of pulling these self-harm blogs obviously has the best intentions, however Tumblr is still under ridicule from many of its users. These users have either created or “follow” blogs that post “thinspiration”, “pro-ano”, and “pro-mia” pictures and lifestyle guidelines, encouraging each other to “stay strong and starve on”. Many arguments are based on how Tumblr will draw the line between free expression of its users, versus harmful content. Tumblr responded on their website within their Content Policy with this,
“Promotion and Glorification of Self-Harm. Don’t post content that actively promotes or glorifies self-harm. This includes content that urges or encourages readers to cut or injure themselves; embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders; or commit suicide rather than, e.g., seeking counseling or treatment, or joining together in supportive conversation with those suffering or recovering from depression or other conditions. Dialogue about these behaviors is incredibly important and online communities can be extraordinarily helpful to people struggling with these difficult conditions. We aim to sustain Tumblr as a place that facilitates awareness, support and recovery, and to remove only those blogs that cross the line into active promotion or glorification of self-harm.”
Tumblr will also implement Public Service Announcements (PSA) when users use the search engine for words such as “pro-ana”, “pro-mia”, “thinspiration” and “thinspo”. This PSA will link users to Help Lines and websites that encourage them to seek help, instead of “thinspiration”. This is a very big step in the right direction for Tumblr, and therefore its users. For a blogging platform that is known to house many raunchy and controversial blogs, it is interesting and admirable that they have voluntarily come forward to censor those of which that contain self-harming content. Perhaps this is because these harmful blogs are projecting themselves as “healthy” to an extremely susceptible crowd, in which Tumblr feels responsible in protecting.
Despite the why and how, Tumblr picked the right time to do so. With summer on its way, awards shows every night, and day after day of “Fashion Week”, is it any wonder there has been a serge in “thinspiration” blogging. The pressures placed on
the youth of today to be thin, attractive and confident are substantial and overwhelming. The last thing society needs is an easy way (Tumblr, for example) to feed the fire with blogs encouraging this ideal. Although the banned blogs may not have caused every viewer an eating disorder, it can surely cause a loss of confidence in body image, which is why prohibition was such an important step for Tumblr to take. Although Tumblr may lose a thousand users due to the new policy, those blogs were detrimental to the health of millions of users, and thankfully Tumblr realized this.
Banning these blogs may not change the way some people continue to treat their body offline, or deter people from posting elsewhere, it will certainly make it easier to browse Tumblr pages without feeling ashamed, discouraged, and unhappy with ones own body image compared to distorted ideals. Hopefully this makes room for Tumblr blogs that truly inspire, accept, and encourage healthy body image. That’s an ideal society should stand behind.

Tumblr Follows Suit

With the fashion industry continuously working on and improving the body image being conveyed to young girls and women, other industries are taking notice and doing their part.

The fashion industry has long been scrutinized for their portrayal of unhealthy body image through both runway shows and editorials. In the last few years, organizations associated within this industry have made it a point to begin creating and enforcing policies to ensure healthy models are being used by designers and magazines. As of a recent, an extremely widespread social media platform has decided to take action as well by removing self-harm content and providing Public Service Announcements in place. This platform is Tumblr.

Tumblr is one amongst the social media platforms currently dominating the internet. The Tumblr homepage has a daily counter showing how many blogs and posts total, as well as how many posts were made during that day. Right now Tumblr sits at “18,983,293,198 total posts, 44,387,775 daily posts and 47,593,269 total blogs. When checking back almost an hour later the total posts and total blogs jumped by several thousands. These numbers indicate how fast postings can spread through Tumblr along with how far they can reach, and is one of the reasons action is being taken.

The site creates a sense of community as you can follow your favourites and comment on shared interests. It is a place where individuals can blog and reblog whatever they wish – from likes and inspirations to favourite television shows, fashion, food or cute animals. It is a faster form of blogging, where many posts are simply reposts from other Tumblr pages. When browsing through, many pages consist of pictures, quotes, videos, etc… with associated tags (#fashion) –similar to Twitter- making searches very easy for users.

This all started when it was announced on the staff blog that Tumblr will now begin to ban content that promotes self-harm. They are going to be prohibiting posts that “encourage readers to cut or mutilate themselves; embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders; or commit suicide rather than, e.g., seek counselling or treatment for depression or other disorders” – They have also decided that they will start showing Public Service Announcements targeted at these issues. When users or browsers are searching for tags such as “#thinspo” (thin inspiration), “#proana,” or any other terms associated with self-harm, a PSA will be displayed offering support sites and hotlines.
Tumblr, however, does realize that they are putting themselves in the line of fire. The philosophy of this website and the company is that it offers users a space and environment to post freely and express themselves. The company’s release states “We are deeply committed to supporting and defending our users’ freedom of speech, but we do draw some limits. As a company, we’ve decided that some specific kinds of content aren’t welcome on Tumblr. This prohibition is intended to reach only those blogs that cross the line into active promotion or glorification; recommending techniques for self-starvation or self-mutilation” – It came down to giving users the freedom to post while maintaining the company’s values and beliefs. The company is also offering a grace period for these specific blogs to remove content and change what is necessary to avoid losing their account.
So far the reactions of bloggers have been mixed. Thousands of users have reblogged the company’s post and are in full support of the decision. However, for all those in support, there are almost as many not in favour. Reasons against the decision range from taking away outlets for those who need to connect with others in their situation, while others discuss other manners of self-harm promotion. The majority of replies against Tumblr’s decision express that the company is going too far and are concerned with what will be prohibited next. One blogger states, “so why don’t they also create a policy against people posting about, while, or in support of getting drunk. Is that not self-harm? Drug addiction? And all those pictures of ‘glamorous’ women smoking cigarettes. Aren’t they promoting something harmful too? Needless to say, I disagree with this policy. There are other ways to support people in the position of utilizing self-harm than making them feel like freaking pariahs.
Critics are also quick to point out that these bloggers will simply move to the next big social media platform – Pinterest. Pinterest is similar to Tumblr as it allows users to “pin” any images from the internet to their online pinboard. Cheryl Wischhover of checked out Pinterest for herself. She reported that although there are as many pins of the same content on Pinterest, most of these pins are originating from Tumblr pages. Therefor in a sense, eliminating postings on one will platform heavily reduce postings on the other
Only time will tell whether this prohibition will stand and whether or not it will truly work. As far as individuals turning to other sites, that cannot be controlled. However, eliminating one source is always a step in the right direction.
Art or Foe?

The division between utilizing current accessible fashion as an expression or solely as a necessity

In today’s modern world there is a balance of life that we human beings attempt to manage within our own hierarchy of priorities to satisfy our core values and necessities. On this journey of balance we now find ourselves in a world submerged in an abundance of various social medias and technologies, this revolution of constant communication has changed some consumers ideologies of fashion. Many people find salvage in fashion as a tangible art form that allows them to express themselves on a continual basis; while others view it as a human necessity. This division is prevalent since we are a consuming world, whether or not you make the conscious decision to utilize clothing as an expression or just a textile that keeps you from being nude- you are still a consumer contributing to the fashion industry. The division represents the modern world and its ladder of consumer needs, showcasing that people have the privilege to express themselves freely within their religion, culture, social status, art, personal comfort and financial means. Also technology and social media has allowed people to share their style, fashion needs, and opposing opinions on fashion as art; all publicly. This sort of creative freedom is an opportunity to see behind the consumer dollar and divulge into the innate nature of humans to see any form of “art” in different perspectives.

Fashion as an art merely means that certain people feel an organic passion for expressing themselves through clothing. The act of dressing is not just a daily routine it is a constant discovery of one’s self and inner creative desires. The aesthetic is mesmerizing, allowing people to escape from the definite and day dream within reality. Fashion has no boundaries of self expression because it is something your physical self is adorned in. No matter what your day entails, your clothing is accompanying you for the majority of it - playing a key role in how one is represented in the world. According to Rachel K. Ward in a lecture on March 27 2008 at Cornell Fine Arts Museum, “ The truth is that art may at times resemble fashion and fashion may look like art. “. Whether or not one agrees with that, it is true. Historically and currently fashion is intertwined with many facets of art and the creative world. This places fashion particularly at the high-fashion level, at par with any form of art. Fashion shows are the focal presentation of fashion as art. In Rachel K. Ward’s opinion on Michael Kors as he orchestrates a fashion show for his collection, “…in the fashion world designers give models particular instructions before going out on the runway. Here we see the creation of a fantasy, a mental world associated with the clothing, Kors is activating the presentation of fashion with a particular vision…”. It is clear that designer’s place an artistic direction into their fashion shows and just like any form of art, shows can be misinterpreted by anyone because of their bizarre nature. In the realm of clothing, that is only due to the intense artistic vision designers implement on the runway and is then trickled down to retail level where garments are more wearable. No matter the rank of art that a consumer views fashion to be, “some see clothing as equivalent to the out most layer of themselves and so incorporate them into their life-world with little difficulty…” as stated by John Flügel in The Psychology of Clothes (1950). Flügel perfectly explains how some people utilize fashion as a direct expression of who they are and even a daily expression of art with a natural ease.

On the opposing side of the division, consumers view fashion just as clothing and categorize it as a human necessity. There is valid research done by Abraham Maslow in Motivation and Personality (1987) where he organized Maslow’s human need’s which include, “Physiological, Safety, Social, Esteem, and Self Actualization.”. These human needs display the balance of life that humans are engaged in throughout their lives. Too many individuals clothing as art in this balance just does not take precedence, just as John Flügel states “…others locate clothing within the external environment; clothing is “other” to their sense of themselves.” It does not demean this category of the division it just represents a consumer that truly does not connect with their clothing as a creative outlet or representation of themselves. There is no relationship between the decision of what to wear other than what is socially acceptable for certain activities and the necessity of having to be dressed in public. Maria Alice further researched the correlation between Maslow’s human needs and fashion in her article on Consumer Needs as a Core Aspect within Fashion Product Design. Marie Alice’s theory of, “Interpretation of Clothing and Fashion Needs” in relevance to physiological needs, “is related to the body temperature, Safety is linked to the protections of the body, Social needs fulfill the role of integrating people into group, esteem represents the individual recognition and self actualization needs are related to the worthiness of indulgence.” Many consumers view clothing as a basic necessity that keeps themselves and the ones they love warm and save from the elements. There is simply just a lack of representation of oneself through clothing because they have different personal priorities and passions in their balance of life. Fashion being so representative of society’s perception of beauty that many consumers view on clothing is directly associated with excess, extravagance and gluttony. The fast paced culture of fashion supports these qualities because how can clothing be considered traditional art if it is constantly changing and demanding more rather than being a staple in time like famous canvas paintings. Rachel K. Ward describes this comparison as, “art is normally aligned with meaningful intention and thus meaningful engagement; fashion is generally regarded as momentary and meaningless.” The unattainable nature of the fashion industry a main reason why so many people go through life viewing clothing as just something of comfort and ease, while having other creative outlets as their priorities.

The division of fashion as an art, necessity, or foe will remain a prevalent consideration for our social modern world. We must acknowledge all sides of this division because clothing is a human necessity, and we must continue to support the art of fashion. We are setting a foundation for future generations within our cyber world, how will our fashion be perceived; art or foe?

Kony 2012 - Cause or Con?

Is the latest viral social media campaign really worth fighting for?

In the past week, many people who use social media tools like Facebook and Twitter have been bombarded with links with the heading of "Kony 2012". Who, or what, is this most recent viral campaign about and why are so many people jumping up to support it?

This campaign was started by a non-profit organization called Invisible Children Inc. In 2003, three friends travelled to Africa to document issues relating to Darfur. However, when they arrived, their focus was drawn elsewhere. When they got to Uganda, they were introduced to the children of the area who, on a nightly basis, are forced to travel miles on foot to seek places of refuge in order to avoid kidnap by a group known as the Lords Resistance Army or LRA. These children would seek safe places, such as bus shelters or church basements in urbanized areas in order to keep themselves safe from the threat of being abducted by the LRA and forced to become sex slaves and child soldiers. After witnessing these events, the filmmakers petitioned the US government to get involved and assist in putting a stop to such travesties. However, according to the three men, they were told that unless there was a direct threat to US national security or the US economy, there was no way that the government would intervene. After hosting more than ten thousand screenings at schools, churches, concerts, and rallies, the group found success after petitioning the government a second time, with the support of many outraged young Americans who were touched by the original documentary. The government decided to send 100 US troops to Uganda as advisors to the Ugandan armed forces. The issue now is how long the US government will allow these troops to stay.

With this in mind, Jason Russell, who is one of the three original filmmakers, has started a viral campaign to create awareness about the LRA and its leader, Joseph Kony. He created a 27-minute documentary that sums up the activity of the LRA and Kony and then asks viewers to help make Joseph Kony famous in an attempt to stop his heinous crimes. By using social media tools it seeks to target twenty "culture makers" and twelve "policy makers" in order to spread awareness and capture the man responsible for the kidnap, rape, and mutilation of Africans for over 26 years. This video has been viewed over 21 million times on YouTube, and this number continues to increase rapidly. But there has been a steadily growing amount of criticism about both the campaign and the organization, Invisible Children Inc., as the message has spread.

There have been questions raised about the organizations use of funding in previous years. As a non-profit group, their finances are public, and they've received criticism because only 32% of the money they spent last year actually went to direct services to help in the issues they say they are tackling. The rest of the money, which in total was some 8.6 million dollars, went to staff salaries, travel expenses, transportation, and film production. The organization has also refused to have their finances externally audited, which has certainly raised some eyebrows. In addition to their finances, Invisible Children Inc. is said to have exaggerated and manipulated facts in their campaigns for strategic purposes. And one of the biggest criticisms of the group is their calling for direct military intervention. The money they raise goes to the Ugandan army among other military forces in Africa, however many of these groups are accused of partaking in activities very similar to the man they are so desperately trying to have arrested, such as rape and looting. In recent years, the LRA has actually moved out of Uganda and into other areas in Africa, and yet the Ugandan army is still receiving the majority of the funds from the organization. And finally, the group is being questioned about their targeting of the US government rather than the African leaders to incite change.

So, when you consider these criticisms, you have to ask yourself what is really being promoted when the "KONY 2012" link is passed on?

The message gets blurred by the organizations money grubbing tactics, questionable practices, and the selling of merchandise in the form of bracelets, t-shirts, and stickers all in a convenient "action pack" for the cost of 30 dollars (only $9.60 of which will go to direct services on the ground in Uganda if the 32% figure mentioned above is true). The true call to action is lost in the promotion of the charity itself over the actual cause.

Undoubtedly, Joseph Kony is a horrible individual who certainly must be brought to justice. His crimes over the past 26 years are disgusting, and should be stopped. The basic premise of the campaign is admirable: to spread the word about this man and his crimes in the hope that people will be compelled to stand up and change something, and that ultimately Joseph Kony will be captured and tried for his crimes against humanity. And the word has certainly spread. However, the good intentions behind the campaign seem to be the last thing anyone is talking about at this point. Before passing the video along, do your research. If you believe in the message, spread it. If you believe in the organization, promote it. But don't jump on the bandwagon blindly just because it's the thing to do. And most importantly, don't forget what it is that is really being fought for, as it appears those closest to it just might have.

The Pit Falls of Social Networking

The Pit Falls of Social Networking

The internet and social networking is an excellent way to keep in contact with friends, play games or to keep up on news of your favourite company. On the other hand, people need to use these tools with caution.
As humans, we are social creatures that like to interact with each other and share ideas. When we are online and not seeing some of our friends and family, we up load pictures for our friends and family to see. But do we know if it is just our loved ones looking at them? Online privacy is a bit of an oxymoron. As much as we password protect our profiles on Facebook, it still is possible for people who are not our friends to look at our embarrassing photos of our crazy night at the club or that sexy picture we took for a significant other. As a rule of thumb, any photos that you would not want your grandmother to see, do not upload them to your profile. We do not have to only worry about strangers look at our embarrassing profile pictures, but also potential employers. Employers are using Google to search for information and or pictures of applicants to see if they are a ‘right fit’ for the company. If they find any scandalous photos, you could be hurting your chances for getting a job.
With social networking, people or companies can update their Twitter status in real time. It can be a useful tool to let friends see how you are doing, your activities or your feelings. Unfortunately, we are living in an age when there is such thing as too much information or TMI. People have to be careful about what they vent about on Facebook or Twitter. If you are friends with people from your work place or especially your boss, you may want to think twice about what you complain about through your status updates or tweets.
British woman complained about her current boss calling him a ‘pervy wanker’ and forcing her to do, complaining extra work or pointless tasks. She forgot that she added her boss as a friend; therefore he was able to see her status updates. He responded back to her status by telling her that she was fired and she can come pick up her belongings as reported in the article, “Fired Over Facebook: 13 Posts That Got People Canned” by Catharine Smith and Craig Kanalley . In 2011, designer Kenneth Cole used the Arab Spring to promote his spring collection according the article Kenneth Cole's Controversial Social Media Campaign Trivializes Serious Issue, as reported by Jo Piazza (August 18, 2011).
“Millions are in an uproar in #Cairo. Rumour is they heard our new spring collection is available online at”
Although his followers increased by 3000, most people found the tweet in poor taste and making light of a very tense and violent situation in Egypt. A few hours after the tweet was posted, Kenneth Cole issued an apology via his facebook account.
With more people using the internet, any insulting or controversial comments made by celebrities or radio personalities, have the potential to go viral. Written in the article, Rush Limbaugh vs. Sandra Fluke: A timeline (posted March 7, 2011), conservative shock jock, Rush Limbaugh made some very insulting remarks about Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student who testified in congress to subsidize birth control. Limbaugh asked during an interview, "What does that make her?” and he replied, "It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex." Limbaugh apologized about his comments but it was a little too late. People with access to a computer, cell phone, television, etc heard Limbaugh’s insulting remarks, even though some people do not listen to his radio show. As of March the 6, 26 advertisers have pulled their sponsorship of his program.
Social networking can promote a cause or charity and get young people on board because they are constantly using Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Recently a video on was uploaded, about stopping a war criminal Joseph Kony in 2012. The charity, Invisible Children, is behind the video and the campaign to arrest Kony for war crimes and for people to donate money to help the people of Uganda. The charity has been able to get a lot of people to watch the video and donate because Invisible Children has also asked celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Rihanna to tweet #stopkony. There is a backlash against the video because some have claimed that the some of the information in the video is exaggerated. According to the article “Obama Takes on the L.R.A” on Foreign Affairs, (published November 15, 2011) Mareike Schomerus, Tim Allen, and Koen Vlassenroot wrote that the army that Kony is leading, the Lord’s Resistance Army (L.R.A), is weakening and even if with Kony’s arrest, his followers will join other militias or continue their war crimes independently. Also, there are accusations that Invisible Children is using donations for expensive trips and promotional movies. With all the criticisms, Invisible Children claims that all the facts in the video are accurate and donations have not been used inappropriately.
In all the examples shown in the article, it is evident that social media is a powerful tool for communication locally and around the world. But we have to use this tool wisely.