A Question of Balance

facebook-friends-hpnotiq-ecards-someecards Social Media is a double-edged sword. It simultaneously informs and isolates its users. Studies have shows that, despite its name, social media adversely affects the quality of offline, face-to-face interaction. In fact, a new study from the University of Michigan by psychologist Ethan Kross shows how social media contributes to loneliness, rather than making us feel connected. Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 9.44.38 PM Kross’ study concludes, “On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. Rather than enhancing well-being, however, these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it.” Kross’ study demonstrates that the more time people spend on social media, the less face-to-face interactions they engage in and the poorer the quality of it. On the other hand, according to Author of “Smarter Thank You Think,” Clive Thompson, we shouldn’t fear the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Instead, we should embrace social media because it is helping us to achieve things we couldn’t have done before. social-media-democracy As he argues in his recent book “Smarter Than You Think,” bouncing ideas, thoughts, and sharing knowledge can boost our brains. Thompson says, the Internet in the 21st Century has become a humongous idea-making machine. Never before have we been able to disseminate our ideas with so many people, all over the world. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSi5NdQClDg Ultimately, the Internet, specifically social media, is apparently making us a more intelligent, albeit, socially inept bunch. Jonathan Safran Foer said it best in a piece for the New York Times, titled “How Not to Be Alone,” which was an adaption of his Commencement Speech for Middlebury College in 2013. He summarized the role of social media, stating, “Technology celebrates connectedness, but encourages retreat.” His article opens with a story of a stranger crying in public. He explains that he was faced with a choice: to intervene or not to intervene. Foer explains that it is easiest to “retreat into the scrolling names of one’s contact list, or whatever one’s favorite iDistraction happens to be.” 09FOER-articleLarge Foer notes despite the fact that “communication technologies began as diminished substitutes for an impossible activity,” we now prefer the diminished substitutes. The problem, according to Foer, with accepting or preferring the diminished substitute of interacting via social media, is that we “become diminished substitutes. People who become used to saying little become used to feeling little.” However, Foer makes an important point: “It’s not an either/or — being “anti-technology” is perhaps the only thing more foolish than being unquestioningly “pro-technology” — but a question of balance that our lives hang upon.” bjs-20130526-094735-102 Clip from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Commencement Address at Middlebury College In conclusion, social media is creating a well-informed, intelligent generation of socially awkward introverts. However, the problem is not social media, but rather our use and habituation of the social media platforms. It is our responsibility, as Foer highlights, to balance our use of social media in order to achieve equilibrium between dissemination of information and sociability.

Case Study: Food Network

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For my final project, I chose to explore the Food Network’s social media strategy and explore the Network’s plans for the future. The Food Network’s engagement levels on its social media sites is greatest on Facebook. Despite its size, however, Pinterest has been a successful channel for Food Network fan engagement, as well.

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This breakdown fascinated me and I wanted to understand the why behind this breakdown. I decided that the best way to approach this topic would be to go straight to the source. I found the Social Media Director of Food Network, Ms. Kate Gold, via LinkedIn. I sent her a message requesting her expertise and she was kind enough to make herself available to me.

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We scheduled a time to chat and spoke about the Food Network and it’s use of social media for approximately a half hour. It was a wonderful conversation and I am so thankful for her time and insights. Below is an excerpt from our phone call, followed by a slideshow of quotes highlights from my chat with Ms. Gold.

Phone Call Highlights

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5 Key Takeaways from Kate Gold
Full Infographic: Here

CNN: Where No News is Not An Option

I viewed the November 12, 2014 CNN broadcast of CNN Newsroom with CNN Anchor, Brianna Keilar. The segment included coverage of the Rosetta comet wake-up glitch, rescuing of two stranded window washers, and a story about 3 Denver girls were recruited by Isis.

The biggest takeaway, that I will discuss in detail in this blog, was CNN’s elongation of news stories.

Another general point that struck me during my CNN viewing, was the number of interviews. I found this graph by Pew that reflects this trend.

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I would argue that this emphasis on interviews is an attempt to increase the audience’s trust in the news organization. Viewers may believe that since CNN interviews more people it is a more trustworthy source.

After many weeks of heavy Ebola coverage, I actually thought that CNN’s choice of stories was refreshing. There was a diversity of topics and, honestly, I was just happy to not hear another story about the Ebola virus. With that being said, the story angles of each and every CNN story mirrored a similar negative speculative spin. For example, during CNN’s coverage of the Rosetta glitch, CNN anchor Brianna Kielar interviews Dave Brody from SPACE.com. Rather than focusing on the facts, the two discuss all the possible issues that Rosetta could face. Brody offers, “But let’s talk about the big picture here because so much more could have gone wrong.” CNN’s angle of speculation does not serve to inform the audience of reality. Instead, it creates more talking points and drags out the conversation. While this may serve to entertain, it does not necessarily inform.

Similarly, during CNN’s coverage of the rescued window washers in New York City, CNN correspondent Miguel Marquez reported from New York City on the story. Despite the fact that the window washers were rescued and safe, Marquez’s coverage attempted to generate more questions. For example, Marquez reports “This is going to be highly studied in the days ahead.” Instead of a story angle that reflects closure, CNN continues to sensationalize the story to create more interest. This type of never-ending story coverage highlights CNN’s attempt to encourage viewers to tune in for constant updates in order to maintain an audience and, in turn, generate revenue from ad sales.

In fact, after viewing this segment of CNN I found this clip on CNN’s website from a follow-up news story later that day. In the clip from AC360, titled, “What it’s like to wash skyscraper windows” Anderson speaks with a representative from the window washer’s union about today’s WTC scaffolding collapse. This interview is a perfect example of CNN’s attempt to drag on a story and keep viewers believing that there is more to learn and new information to tune in for. It is truly the never-ending story.

http://www.cnn.com/video/api/embed.html#/video/bestoftv/2014/11/13/ac-window-washer-union-rep.cnn

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As a result of the CNN’s attempt to sensationalize and elongate the life of the story, the tone of the story was confusing. The facts of the story conflicted with the tone of CNN’s story. Despite the fact that the window washers had been rescued and “the guys in there, were laughing the entire time with paramedics.” CNN continued to press the danger and continued hazards of the story. For example, Marquez reports, “The big question now is how firefighters and the building is going to get that scaffold down because it is now stuck and banging against the building.” Is this really the “big question” that the audience should care about? Or is this merely another attempt to elongate a story to generate return viewership for updates. It seems to me that many of CNN’s stories never end. There is always a reason to return for more updates. This tone and story angle reflects CNN’s business interests rather than its role as a Fourth Estate.

From my viewing of CNN, I am not confident in defining CNN’s target audience. However, I would assert that there was not a strong political bias. Granted, the stories did not necessarily offer the opportunity to present political bias. The only aspect of CNN’s target audience that I believe was somewhat clear from the coverage I viewed, was the intelligence level of the viewers. From the content that was discussed and the questions that were asked, I would argue that CNN’s target audience is not necessarily the most intelligent viewers. The question of intelligence was also reflected in the use of graphics and special effects. For example, CNN utilizes enormous font and flashy transitions during its coverage. In doing so, it appeals to viewers that want news that entertains rather than informs.

Concerning CNN’s target audience, it is interesting to note the ideology of the viewers. I found graph from a Pew article helpful:

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Each source is placed on the line graph below according to the average ideological composition of those who use the source for news about politics and government.I thought it offered an interesting frame of reference for understanding the range of the different ideological preferences and the resulting distinct audience profiles for each news source.

My experience watching this CNN news broadcast reminded me of a segment from an old episode of The Daily Show from September 17th, 2013. The segment titled, “The Best F#@king News Team Ever Covers Breaking News” describes the scene of breaking news as it happens” makes light of CNN’s sensational news reporting style. The Daily Show’s clip touches on the fact that many news networks are not held accountable for inaccurate or misleading reporting. Instead, the main goal is to draw viewers in order to sustain advertising dollars and ultimately turn a profit. It is a hilarious clip and I encourage you watch it!

Transcript from the CNN segment I viewed: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1411/12/cnr.07.html

Seeds & Sprouts: Food Blogging Done Right

Ms. Kaitlyn Magnotte is a self-proclaimed “budding foodie” and author of food blog, “Seeds + Sprouts.” Although her love for cooking began at a young age, this passion has recently become her career. She plans to attend graduate school to become a certified dietician. Ms. Magnotte’s blog is a compilation of delicious recipes that offer healthy options to classic comfort foods. Unlike many other food blogs, her posts are not just a list of ingredients paired with instructions and a couple of photos. Instead, “Seeds + Sprouts” offer critical nutrition information and alternatives for those with special dietary needs.

Personally, one of my favorite parts of the blog “Seeds + Sprouts” are the pictures that she includes. Her photography is both aesthetically appealing and a realistic depiction of the recipes she posts. Many foodies edit and alter their food pictures to the point of no return. Ms. Magnotte, however, includes beautiful shots of her food as it is. This is both honest and practical since she wants her followers to be able to mimic the dishes she posts.

I had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Magnotte and I was able to ask her a number of questions about her blog and its success. The insight that she shared was enlightening. Below are the ten questions that I included in my conversation. Please listen to the audio below for the complete interview.

  1. Have you always been a foodie, or did you grow into your love of food?
  2. Why did you decide to start a blog?
  3. What goals do you have for your blog, Seeds and Sprouts?
  4. What is your favorite item to make or cook?
  5. What is your least favorite food trend?
  6. What makes a recipe blog-worthy?
  7. What is your favorite part of blogging?
  8. Is there any aspect of your blog that frustrates you?
  9. How do you feel about the social media craze of Instagramming dishes?
  10. Do you have any advice for bloggers just starting out?

Ms. Magnotte touched on an interesting point that I had not necessarily considered. She pointed out that despite the benefits of the foodie craze, the possibility now exists too all too simply disseminate unhealthy food habits. Her point echoed the words of Voltaire, a French Enlightenment philosopher, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” The trend to snap and share photos of food could have negative ramifications depending on the content, context, and audience. Ms. Magnotte’s point reminds us to network with caution and think before your tweet!

Learn more about creating foods with simple, wholesome ingredients at http://seedsandsproutsblog.com/ 

The Perfect Pair: Instagram & Food

Individuals primarily use social media to interact with friends and family. However, they are also discovering, learning, sharing and talking about food online. Instagram is a unique social space that is used by millennials to share photos documenting their lives. However, the mobile application has adopted an unexpected but significant role in our culture. Instagram provides a setting for food photography as both entertainment and self-expression. “Foodies” document meals that he or she prepared at home or pictures of meals ordered at a restaurant. In either case, the increased presence of food photography through Instagram has re-energized the world of food and cooking.

The following infographic by Dine & Dish discusses the relationship between social media and food. The infographic notes that currently 49%, nearly half of survey consumers learn about food through social networks. The infographic highlights that almost a quarter of those surveyed “like to document their own culinary creations.”

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An article by Kristen Alana in Fine Dining Lovers, “Food Photography: A Look at the Rise of Mobile Food Photography,” discusses the role that Instagram plays in food experiences. Alana writes that Instagram is “taking up an ever-increasing space in the dialogue of where people share. At over 80 million users, with an average of 4 billion photos uploaded per day, 575 likes per second and 81 comments per second – Instagram is undeniably the king of mobile photography content.” Alana points to the increased use of Instagram by Chefs. She writes, “Instagram is so popular, that chefs are turning to it over other social networks to engage and connect with fans in the same way only Hollywood actors used to do.” Utilization of Instagram by chefs and food photographers “can help inspire you to the joy of eating.”

As such, many Instagram users are willing to engage with food brands and food-related companies in this space. With that being said, the level and quality of interaction with these companies have even greater potential if the interaction promises to enrich users’ lives in some tangible way, whether through useful information, money saving deals or entertainment. In turn, Instagram offers a unique opportunity for food companies, restaurants, and food-related businesses of any kind another place to promote and advertise. More importantly, Instagram presents another space to connect with new and existing customers in a fun and innovative way. I would encourage businesses in the Food industry to embrace the Instagram trend.

Kraft’s television commercial for Real Mayo, titled, “The Potato Is About To Go Viral – Food Deserves Delicious” is a great example of a business recognizing the importance of Instagram and the popularization of food photography.