The Blackout: The Effects of a Social Media Blackout on a PR Student

Social media is an important tool for everyone in today’s society. For a young adult, it seems crucial to constantly stay connected. If you’re a young communications professional in the making social media quickly becomes your middle name.

Forgetting about all of this, I accepted a challenge to go at least one week without logging on to Facebook and Twitter. My answer to this challenge was to add an extra week just to prove that I could handle it.

Here’s what I learned about myself, and PR, in the past two weeks:

Where’s the news?

I didn’t realize how much I relied on Twitter for news until I deleted Ubertwitter off of my Blackberry. Normally, I let my traditional media consumption habits fall to the wayside because of social media. The blackout helped to bring a more active media consumer out of me. I visited news websites more often for updates and actually caught myself paying more attention to the 5 o’ clock news. In addition to the Chronicle (which I normally read), I found myself desperately searching for the Daily News to read. In my personal life, I was also absent for a few personal updates via Facebook. I can’t believe I missed a couple of birthdays and relationship status changes! Shame on me, right?

Where are my contacts?

These days, when we make a new friend in person, our first or second instinct is to add them to our social network of choice. PR professionals often add their new professional contacts after a successful networking situation. For the past two weeks, I added no one. I started a list of people to follow last week to make sure that I wasn’t missing out on any potential contacts or hurting any feelings. Also, it was incredibly frustrating to realize that there were some contacts that I could ONLY reach through Facebook or Twitter. I made another list to remember whose phone numbers to get after the blackout.

What’s the joke?

As anyone on Twitter knows, there are inside jokes and news exclusive to the site.  For example, artists give their Twitter fans a sneak peek of new music, and awareness campaigns gain a following on the site. Of course, I received none of the above. For me, this was just a simple case of being out of the loop until a friend would graciously fill me in. However, in the PR industry, failing to monitor the media especially social media can easily lead to an out of control situation.

I had homework before this?

On the bright side, I had more time to actually complete homework, PRSSA duties and more. I also had the opportunity to catch up on all the blogs and television shows (Entourage marathon!) that I had let get away from me. (Ironically, being off of Twitter actually made me miss a lot of the shows I wanted to catch up on. Usually, I would see a tweet about the show to remind me it was on!)

Isn’t there anything else to do?

The downside was clearly boredom. I had no idea how much of my spare time social media actually occupied. Without my favorite procrastination tools, I had nothing but extra time on my hands these past two weeks.

In the end, this blackout was a great reminder of the role social media plays in my life. It did not prove to be a necessity, but it absolutely serves many important purposes. Those functions can help to strengthen personal relationships; as well as help a public relations practitioner effectively do their job. Facebook and Twitter, respectively prove themselves to be irreplaceable in everyday life. I also proved to my challenger (my younger brother) that I could make it without Facebook and Twitter.  My real question is, in this day and age, why would anyone want to?

Nikki Croney PRSSA’s PR Director

The Social Network – What’s Real? What’s Not? A Must Read!

Warning: Contains Spoilers

Eduardo is not too innocent himself…

I just came back from seeing The Social Network, which Rolling Stone claims to be“The Movie of the Year.” I had low expectations for the film and believed that everyone was overhyping it, but after seeing it I will say that it is a great film. Why? It tells the “true” (really, how true is it?) controversial story of how Facebook began, which is currently the number 2 most visited website in the United States behind Google.

Since I am a social media nerd, I had to do my research as soon as I got back to campus to see what was real in the film and what was more for the cameras. I had to know if Mark Zuckerberg was as big of a jerk as the movie makes it seem. I just spent the past hour or two reading different articles online, and was surprised by my some of my results. I even was able to get my hands on the original articles from The Harvard Crimson that were mentioned in the film. What great free press for the school newspaper!

Months ago I thought it was too soon to release a Facebook film, but now I think it’s cool that everyone can find this information online since the incidents in the film are only from a few years ago. Here is what I came across; you’ll definitely want to check these pages out if you saw the film and are asking yourself, “I wonder if this part is really true?”

The Social Network Movie vs. Facebook True Story

I thought this website had a lot of information that I had not seen in the other articles I read. I also like the “Reel Face” vs. “Real Face” section they have so viewers can see the real faces behind Facebook compared to the actors who played them. I was surprised by how many actors actually resemble the people they played.

An Annoted Guide to Every Harvard Crimson Article Mentioned in The Social Network

Vanity Fair found all the original newspaper articles from The Harvard Crimson that were mentioned in the film and gave a short summary of each scene they are featured in.

Here are the articles…

Hot or Not? Website Briefly Judges Looks

Facemash Creator Survives Ad Board

Hundreds Register for New Facebook Website

Columbia Rebukes

Harvard Phoenix Club Accused of Animal Cruelty

Article explaining how much the Winklevosses actually made from their lawsuit…

The Facebook Movie is WRONG – Here’s How Much Zuckerberg Actually Gave The Winklevosses To Go Away

How off is the film in portraying the reality of the Facebook situation?

The Facebook Movie Is An Act Of Cold-Blooded Revenge – New, Unpublished IMs Tell The Real Story

At Last — The Full Story Of How Facebook Was Founded

The 10 Most Glaring Lies In “The Social Network”

Article about Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake’s character)

With a Little Help From His Friends

The book that the movie was based on, which is supposedly more fiction than the truth- The Accidental Billionaires

Another book I came across that I read is more credible but seems less dramatic- The Facebook Effect

How Harvard is reacting to the film. Also learned what a “final club” is reading this article. It’s comparable to a fraternity or sorority.

What Harvard thinks of The Social Network

“Social Network” Shown at Harvard

Mankiw Defends Against Harvard Stereotypes


The Real Mark Zuckerberg

After saying he would not watch the film, Mark Zuckerberg gives his take on ‘The Social Network’

An interesting article I came across about Zuckerberg breaking into a Facebook user’s private email account. This incident was not shown in the film, which I read Zuckerberg should be happy about.

Final verdict based off of my research: Many details are left out in the film to make Eduardo look completely innocent, while he really could have been the villain. Harvard does not seem supportive of the film at all and Zuckerberg does not seem too concerned with it. I want to see an interview with Eduardo about this film.

I can now sleep tonight after reading all of this.

Nick Schweers
Digital Media Chair

Not everyone has this “real-time” addiction.

Our generation does not have patience for anything. We want EVERYTHING done instantly, whether we are on the computer or out at a store. People can’t even spend the time to wait in a grocery line anymore. We now have the ability to scan our groceries with a little gadget while we are picking them out in the aisles. Have a stain on your shirt? Don’t worry about waiting to go home to wash it. Take out your Tide to Go pen and remove that stain right away! These are just two examples of the fast-paced direction we are moving in.

This post was sparked by a tweet I saw from Mashable which read “Google Instant Search Feeds our Real-time Addiction [CNN]” with the provided link to the article that Pete Cashmore wrote for CNN. The article discusses the new phenomenon that Google released this week called “Google Instant.” I began to see this new feature last night on my laptop while I was Googling away and to be honest, I am not a fan. For those of you who haven’t realized, when you now Google something, search results appear as soon as you begin typing. So literally every time you add letters or words, the search results change live right in front of you before you even finish what you are typing in the search box. What’s next? Is Google going to read my mind and I won’t even need to type in the search box?

Image Source:

I am an avid user of social media and my addiction to the Internet/computer is abnormal compared to most people I know, but I just don’t like being classified as being part of a generation that needs everything in real-time. I can wait the extra 2-5 seconds to click “Google Search.” There is just too much going on now while I type on Google. Not only are suggestions still showing up below the search bar (which I have always been a fan of), but now the search results are changing every second or two. It is almost annoying because I find it distracting while I am trying to type. I find it amazing how far Google has come since my childhood, but honestly I find this feature unnecessary. I Google everything, and I have never thought of or even desired this instant result service.

Cashmore explains in the article why Google added this service. He talks about the increase of fast internet connections and the flow of information on the Web. People have become so used to the “real-time Web” by using social media that we have become conditioned to expect immediate access to all information and news. Social media also recommends content and delivers information to us without any searching involved, while users have to specifically search on Google. Google’s suggestions while you search is an attempt to resemble social media. Supposedly the search feature takes into account your search history, location, and other factors. It’s crazy to think how much social media is shaping the news and web.

According to Cashmore, “The only way the company can truly compete with social discovery is by going on step further. What if instead of guessing your intent while you search, Google could predict your needs before you search? That’s likely the next evolution…”

I am a 20 year-old student who doesn’t live under a rock, and I can tell you I don’t mind waiting in a grocery line once in a while or clicking a search button on Google. Do any of you agree? Disagree? Let me know.

Nick Schweers
Digital Media Chair


Why You Should Be Using Foursquare

Recently, it has been hard to ignore the new Foursquare application phenomenon that has taken cell phones by storm. It has brought social media to an even higher level than it was before and expanded what users can do on the net and on their phones. What is Foursquare? Foursquare is free software for mobile devices that allows users to “check-in” at venues around the world by using the mobile website, texting, or by using the mobile application. Foursquare started out in 2009 with limited availability, but fully launched in January 2010 worldwide. As of March 2010, the service had 500,000 users internationally. As of July, Foursquare averages 1 million check-ins per day.

Users can not check in at a computer (only on a mobile device), but they can still update their profiles and view other user profiles as well. When users check into locations, they are awarded points and sometimes even badges. For example, I recently acquired the “Superstar Badge” because I had checked into over 50 different venues. I currently have 13 badges. Another one of my favorites is the “Swarm Badge,” which is a badge a user receives when they check into a venue that 50 or more other people are also checked into. I received this badge when I checked into the Washington Memorial on the 4th of July while I was visiting DC. Users can have their check-in information automatically sent to Twitter or Facebook, or they can even hide their location too.

When a user is checks into a venue, they can see the other people also checked-in and view their profiles. The person who has checked into a venue the most becomes the mayor of that venue. I currently am the mayor of my residence hall at Hofstra and the Recreation Center at Hofstra. My school has a location for every building on campus. Want to check-into a place that isn’t on Foursquare yet? You can add it very easily and quickly.

There are many opinions about this new application. Some people merely see it as a game (which is what it first started out as), while other people see it as a new stalking device. There is more to Foursquare than what meets the eye, and people are noticing this. This past month, Facebook offered Foursquare $120 million (according to Mashable), but backed out when Foursquare asked for 25% more. While doing quick research, I also saw that Yahoo has tried to buy Foursquare several times and possibly even Microsoft.

I used to see Foursquare posts on Twitter and Facebook and shake my head, but I have officially become addicted to the application this summer. I am on it all the time on my Blackberry. Why will I stick to using Foursquare? Why should you consider using this application too? I have compiled a quick list of why I enjoy this program…

1. It’s informational – When you check into a venue, you have the availability to write a tip/review about your location. Users are able to read this tips when they select the venue on the program. This feature comes in handy when you are looking into going to a restaurant that you’ve never eaten at or you are in a city you’ve never visited before. I have received some great feedback when I checked into a venue. While I was in Boston last week I needed to use a restroom. I checked into the Borders I was at, and someone happened to write which level the bathroom was located on. This is funny because I actually could not find it until I read the tip on Foursquare.

2. Sales and Discounts! – Companies are taking full advantage of the free marketing they can use with this program by adding “specials” at their venues. This is becoming more popular, and I saw it a lot at venues in Boston. For example, the American Eagle near my house in CT had a special that if you checked into the venue and showed the cashier, you received 20% off your entire purchase. The Whole Foods in Boston had a special that if you were mayor of that venue, you would receive a free cheese pizza. When you check into a venue, it shows you the specials nearby. If the venue has its own special, there is a button that says, “Special Here.” These specials are nothing to joke about. People make fun of this application, but it’s helping out businesses (marketing and sale wise) and helping consumers save money. I am sure the popularity of this application will grow even more with businesses, so look out for more specials near you!

3. Free GPS Location Service– In a new city or area and you don’t know what’s by? When you click the “places” program on the program, it lists all the nearby venues and an approximation of how far you are from each venue. Of course, you would need internet capabilities on your phone to perform tasks like this.

4. Run into Friends, by Accident!– While I was home last week, I checked into the mall. 30 minutes later my friend texted me, “Are you at the mall right now? I just checked-in and saw that you recently checked-in too.” We ended up meeting up and chatting for a couple of minutes. If it wasn’t for Foursqaure, we might not even have run into each other.

5. You Can’t Stalk People with this Program– People are concerned about the privacy of this application, but like I already stated, it does not give much personal information. Yes, you can see where people are and you can see who is at your venue, but Foursquare user profiles are very limited. They only list the users’ first names (and the first letter of their last name), their recent check-ins, their badges, and their pictures if they decided to even upload them. How will people feel about Facebook Places, where very detailed profiles are now telling people where Facebook users are also located. Seems worse to me…

6. It’s Fun!– I enjoy collecting different badges and competing with my friends over who has the most points. You can see your points from the week compared to the rest of your friends’ on a “leaderboard.” You can also see who has the most points overall in different cities by viewing the leaderboard of the city you are currently checked into. I can’t compete with these people…they must check in everywhere every second of the day. I try to limit my check-ins to no more than 12 a day (which is still a lot compared to my friends).

7. Brag About Where You Are– In an exotic location? On vacation? Check into the Eiffel Tower in Paris and tweet it so all of your friends at home can be jealous!

Foursquare is growing everyday, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next. Say “no” to Facebook Places and “yes” to Foursquare! Who knows, maybe I will even see you around at your next check-in.

Nick Schweers
Digital Media Chair