When people find out I have Twitter (and tweet frequently) they often ask why. Why would I, an insignificant university student, want to let the world know what I had for breakfast or where I’m headed for the evening?  To most who are not in the know, mindless tweets referencing the weather or daily minutia seem permeate the Twittersphere.  However, as evidenced by the vastly growing number of users on Twitter and increased user retention, there must be something drawing people in.  What is it?

By using Twitter, you are opening yourself up to dialogue, information, news, and relationships you may not have had by limiting yourself to other social networking and media sites.

the author’s own Twitter feed

I’ll admit, my first experience on Twitter felt a bit stalker-ish.  IN my POLS 393 class last year, Professor Jonathan Rose (@JonathanRose) asked if anyone Tweeted and was met with a room full of blank stares.  Being the curious person I am, I found his Twitter and ‘followed’ him.  As a Twitter newbie, and being used to Facebook where ‘friending’ someone essentially makes your life quite public and opens you up to creeping, I felt a little awkward doing so.

Making the decision to follow my professor led to me to a whole slew of interesting people on Twitter.  Take, for instance, Professor Sidney Eve Matrix (@sidneyeve) who teaches Film 240 and is what many would consider a social media maven.  By following her on Twitter, I became aware of a course I did not even know existed (through her recommendation that I take it) and which has quickly become a favourite.  Through her Twitter feed, I happened upon Beth Daniher (@bethdaniher), a former Queen’s student who I recognized by name and face from my experience as an Orientation Week leader but have never actually spoken with.  Beth is a current student at Humber College for PR and I have found her tweets so useful as I determine what sort of graduate program I wish to go into next year.

This is only a small example of the vast opportunity for learning and interaction afforded by Twitter usage.  And so, the question remains. Should you Tweet?

YES! You should Tweet!

  1. You find yourself interesting
    (see: Ashton Kutcher, @aplusk)
  2. You find other people interesting
  3. You want to keep in touch with friends without the incriminating photo evidence of Facebook
  4. You hate wading through the news online but like to know what’s going on
    (@CNNbrk, @HuffingtonPost, @GlobeCampus, @QueensJournal, @QueensU, @kingstonist, @torontoist)
  5. You like it when news anchors air your Tweets on the 11:00 news, to the horror of your father
    (@LRobertsGlobal)
  6. You are a student and your professors have Twitter (@JonathanRose, @SidneyEve) and maybe even your Principal (who happens to be quite interesting & loves Queen’s trivia @QueensPrincipal)
  7. You like to know what your student government officials are up to
    (@AZabrodski, @MichaelCeci, @Leslie_Yun, @MorganSCampbell)
  8. You like a good laugh
    (@PeterMansbridg, @shitmydadsays, @TeenieTuxedo, @VoiceInPMsHead)
  9. You’re a politician and you like to let people know about your platform & what you’re up to
    (@DrEricHoskins, @MichaelIgnatieff)
  10. 10. You are the pet of a politician
    (@Cheddar_Harper)
  11. You have a blog/website/feeling/organization you’d like to promote
  12. You want to be considered digitally savvy by employers
  13. You don’t have enough applications on your iPhone/Blackberry and are looking for just one more.

NO! You should not Tweet!

  1. You like to be out of the loop
  2. You are boring & think everyone else is boring, too
  3. You think Facebook is professional
  4. You don’t like learning what people in your industry have to say
  5. You are a politician and have nothing nice to say….ever.
    (@SueAnnLevy)
  6. You are a politician and like to dispense sexist advice to young girls
    (http://tinyurl.com/m8tt5t)
  7. You are an NFL player or are in an NFL stadium. After one too many mishaps, and fears about their TV contracts, the NFL has banned Twitter in many cases.

So go ahead. Tweet. Make a name for yourself in the social media world and learn valuable communications skills. When you only have 140 characters to make your point, you learn to be succinct and engaging. What do you have to lose?

Some Twitter tips

  1. Use your real name! People like to know who they’re following.  Not only does it add legitimacy to your account, but you might also get some pretty cool perks out of it.
  2. Keep it professional. This will come up in a Google search. This is a great opportunity to shape your online identity – it isn’t often that you get to control what comes up about you online!
  3. If you can’t be professional, lock your Tweets. But, seriously, Twitter makes no sense if you lock your posts.
  4. Don’t Tweet about your lunch. Unless you’re the voice in Stephen Harper’s head, no one cares.
  5. Follow people you find interesting and people you want to be more like. Ask them questions, Re-Tweet what they post, engage.
  6. Find your niche and stick to it.  If you’re Tweeting about something other people are interested in, your follower base will grow and you’ll get more out of the Twitter experience.
  7. Use the #hashtag feature to link quickly to other posts where people are talking about the same topic. Likewise, use the ‘search’ and check out the ‘trending topics’ to find out what’s hot.
  8. Use the new “lists” feature to check out your favourite followee’s lists – you’ll probably want to be following many of the same people.
  9. Have fun! Not every post has to be a link to a serious news article or a new blog post. Give your Tweets some personality.

So go to http://www.twitter.com and make a name for yourself in the social media community. It’s that easy.

PS. All the @names in this post link to the person’s Twitter page. Enjoy!

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As the dust over Aberdeen settles, and the horse excrement is washed away by the ever-present Kingston rain, we must come to terms with the effects of this first “Fauxcoming” weekend and take inventory of what occurred.  I, for one, must admit that my predictions were wrong. Very, very wrong….but you wouldn’t know it from the media coverage given to the event.

For many who have followed Fauxcoming in the news, it would appear nothing had changed.  Numerous students were arrested, debauchery was witnessed, and the cancellation of Queen’s University official Homecoming weekend was met with nothing more than contempt and spite-partying.  Surprisingly, this was not the case.  However, this did not stop the media from perpetuating the pre-conceived notion many outsiders have of homecoming, stopping at nothing to reinforce the stereotype of unruly, drunken university students instead of reporting what actually occurred & admitting that most students seem to be more concerned with preserving the tradition of Homecoming weekend than boozing and brawling on a 2-block residential street.

Inflammatory journalism forces students to put out fires in the coming years
(Photo courtesy of StoneMonkey, Flickr)

Most disappointing was the main coverage by the Queen’s Journal, specifically, the article syndicated in the Globe & Mail on Sunday morning.  After following the very promising coverage online on Saturday night (as I sat around my kitchen table with new and old friends, celebrating my final undergrad Homecoming in the best way), I was flabbergasted when I awoke to find opposing taglines on the Globe & Mail article (About 2,000 people turn out for boozy street party, which had attracted as many as 8,000 rowdy revellers in past years) and the Queen’s article… both written by Journal staffers.  It is unfortunate that, given the opportunity to clearly and articulately influence the national view about the so-called event, the authors chose to fuel the homecoming fire instead of using the window of opportunity to cast Queen’s in a favourable light.  While the interesting and well-reported “Overheard on Aberdeen” and Aberdeen Live-Blog/Tweet gave a full scope of what happened on those 2 blocks of pavement Saturday night, the articles were sorely lacking in the reports of police brutality, Queen’s spirit, and general student attitude towards the night.  This, accompanied by the photos which showed not happy, spirited students but a large police force, drunk eyes, and arrests, added to the impression that this night was no different than any other Homecoming Saturday night in the last 5 years or so.  (Author’s note: My favourite photo?  The beautifully ironic one of the confiscated horse toy)

What really happened?

Most students stayed off Aberdeen.  There have been numerous reports of police brutality against students, lending to the impression that the police were here to prove a point – not to preserve peace.  Charges were laid for jaywalking, swearing, standing on the sidewalk, and other minor ‘offenses’.  Those simply walking through Aberdeen (allowed, since the police were purportedly here to keep the street ‘open’) were subject to physical and verbal abuse by the police, not to mention excessive use of the mounted forces.

Luckily, these instances are not going unnoticed.  In the wake of lacking positive reporting on the event, students have taken to YouTube, blogs, Twitter, and their Facebook statuses to tell their side of the story.  Unfortunately, none of this can make up for the gaffe made by the Journal reporters featured, and the general consensus of the mainstream media. As a result, Queen’s students are on trial for yet another year, and will have to endure continued scrutiny & abuse in the lead-up to and the event itself.

This post is also featured on the course blog for FILM240


I was at Spring Reunion 2009.  Were you? Didn’t think so.

Consider yourself lucky.  After three fantastic years of Homecoming experiences, I was thoroughly depressed when I witnessed what was being touted as a fantastic alternative to the September festivities.  I have always looked forward to Homecoming, and not for the reasons many would think.  I’m not an Aberdeen supporter.  While I stop by to take a look, I don’t find pleasure in being crammed onto two blocks of SWAT-team-bordered, fenced in street with 5,000 of my closest friends.  I also don’t enjoy having to form a human chain to make sure my friends don’t get lost or trampled, illegally urinating in some unfortunate person’s backyard due to lack of facilities and ability to leave, or having to duck when beer bottles soar over my head (although I will admit I could not wait for Homecoming to roll around in first year for specifically these outrageous experiences).  Instead, I like Homecoming for what it is meant to be – seeing the alumni come ‘home’ to Queen’s, sharing their experiences, and re-living the experiences we are still fortunate enough to be a part of.  This year, the only contact I had with Queen’s alum was the poignant moment when I witnessed an aged Engineering alumnus in his mustard yellow jacket wandering on Earl Street alone, looking at the pile of rubble with windows that was Phase I of the Queen’s Centre.

aberdeen-street-party-homecoming-queensNOT TRADITION (Photo courtesty of stephentaylor.ca)

Each year, I have attended the Homecoming football game, sharing it the first year with my floor, second year with my frosh, and third year with my housemates.  Each year, I have had an immense surge of pride at seeing the most senior of alumni, eyes brimming with tears, being driven around the track at Richardson Stadium in golf carts while waving to thousands of cheering students.  In fact, during a recent conversation with some fourth year and recently graduated students, we all agreed that the best part of Homecoming is the interaction we get to have with the alumni – whether at the football game, the QP, walking around campus, or even, as the case may be, during kegstands on Aberdeen.  This year, I’m faced with the reality that I may never get to experience this myself, and that this very special moment where we are movingly connected as students with the alumni is gone.  I will never get to experience the tradition of Homecoming.  In fact, I may be relegated to doing the Oil Thigh alone in my bedroom each September to retain my connection to the school.

traditionTRADITION (Photo the author’s own)

What will canceling Homecoming mean for Queen’s and the City of Kingston?  Well, I certainly don’t think it will prevent the infamously large street party.  As evidenced by a Facebook event created likely mere moments after the cancellation announcement was made, students will be taking to the streets out of spite – if anything, the party will be more rambunctious and dangerous, as police struggle to contain and arrest thousands of drunken revelers.  Connection between alumni and Queen’s will suffer, and donations will likely take a hit as a result.  And, let’s face it, Homecoming is the only time anyone gets out to see the football games and our currently 3-0 boys could use the well-deserved support.  But, most importantly, beyond the financial and sports-driven context of Homecoming there is that Queen’s tradition that drew most of us to the University in the first place.  Homecoming, especially once you have graduated, is the cornerstone of that tradition.  It is easy to lose touch once you’re gone, but knowing that each year you can return to campus and re-live what were likely the best days of your life is a welcome comfort.

While the Queen’s PR and AMS drones may spout that Spring Reunion 2009 was a success, let’s think about this in a different way.  Why bother coming home if there’s no one there to greet you?

SIDENOTE:

Please stay in this Homecoming weekend and stay off Aberdeen.  The only way we can convince the administration to bring back the real Homecoming is to let this Fauxcoming go off without a hitch.  Where’s the fun in police, ponies, teargas & tasers, anyways?

also posted at: Always OUA .

mentioned at: CIS Blog and Out of Left Field


“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all”. This mantra, instilled into preschoolers by their parents, seems to be forgotten once one reaches middle school. Bullying has always been a problem amongst pre-teens, something that tends to clear up with ‘maturity’. However, with advances in technology new forms of cyber-bullying have evolved, trapping even supposedly logical and mature adults into its web. It is not uncommon to find anonymous attack comments on blogs, newspaper articles, and even Twitter. What’s worse is the ability by anyone to create an almost anonymous online identity, allowing them to say what they could not or would not do in normal, polite society.

mranonymous(Photo courtesy of Crenshaw Communications)

A few examples in particular come to mind. First, there is the Canadian model, Liskula Cohen, who was tormented online through a blog written by an anonymous author. She recently won a Supreme Court ruling in New York City, allowing her to force Google to unmask the identity of the mystery blogger, who’s blog has since been taken down. WIth this new information, Cohen is able to pursue a defamation suit against the woman who took to her blog, calling Cohen a “psychotic, lying, whoring…skank” (Ottawa Citizen).

There is the other, obvious example of those who comment frequently and anonymously on newspaper websites, forums, and other such public media.  During the height of the Queen’s University “Mantlegate” scandal, as well as various other high-profile University/AMS blunders, it was not at all uncommon to visit the Journal website only to find individuals hiding behind snarky screen-names and making libelous, unfounded, and overall hurtful comments.

Most recently, politically-involved students at Queen’s were terrorized by a Twitter account going by the handle Mac-Corry (the name of an infamous building on campus, home to offices and small classrooms).  Under this pseudonym, what I would take to be a disgruntled and bored student was able to air his or her grievances with various individuals on campus, while lauding others and making anonymous remarks to some Queen’s professors and faculty who use the social-networking site.  Not uncommon are reports of celebrities being impersonated on Facebook or Twitter and other such sites, wreaking havoc amongst their close-knit professional circles and letting down fans who believed they had found their one true, direct link to their favourite celebrity.

Through all these examples runs a common thread – an individual who is too cowardly to own up to their own opinions and comments and who hides behind a pseudonym to make them.  It is as if people feel they have an entitlement to online anonymity.  However, in an age where many were brought up to believe the Internet is unsafe and we should do everything in our power to protect our identities and personal information, who is to blame and, in truth, who can really blame these people?  With more and more people being judged by their online persona, it is not really unsurprising that people are unwilling to make remarks which can not only be traced back to them but may also be considered against the norm, or pushing boundaries.

As evidenced by this blog, I am a true proponent of cultivating one’s online identity and keeping it in sync with what one would portray in a regular social setting.  I’m of the persuasion that if you are going to dish it out, be it opinion, sarcasm, or criticism, you should be able to take it as well.  Without owning up to your own work, the true possibility of having a constructive and open dialogue about it with anyone.  By attaching your name to something, you are in essence practicing self-censorship.  Think of it like the “Beer Goggles” application on Gmail, which asks mathematical questions to prevent users from, say, drunkenly emailing their boss about their horrid choice in corporate-wear at 4am after a more than a few brews at the local pub.  Unfortunately, although it is becoming harder to mask one’s identity online thanks to new court rulings, availability of IP addresses, and phenomena such as the “verified” Twitter account, there is no guarantee that our society is heading in a direction where one’s online and real self will match up.  However, it is also fully possible that we are heading towards an internet reality where in order to post content you will have to ‘verify’ your identity, much like those ‘verified’ Twitter accounts.

Whatever you decide, I think it is important to abide by that cardinal rule taught in kindergarten…with a tiny amendment.  If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all…unless you’re willing to attach your real name to it and be ready for the counter-criticism that comes with making such comments.


When ‘stripper poles’ and ’16 year old girls’ are mentioned in the same sentence, most will think to stories such as a recent one out of Rhode Island – where girls under 18 are ‘permitted’ to strip for cash under a loophole in the law (Projo). What generally doesn’t come to mind are 16 year old Disney-bred starlets grinding on a pole at the Teen Choice Awards.

48597637Miley grinds on the pole during the 2009 Teen Choice Awards
(Photo courtesy of LA Times)

While the pole dancing itself does not concern me (as some of you may know I took a great cardio-pole fitness class last summer with some girlfriends before a severe back injury forced me to ‘retire’), the fact that a sixteen-year-old girl is doing it suggestively in public to an audience of teens and tweens does.

Where are the role models?

While some may object that tween celebrities such as Miley Cryus are, indeed, role models, it has long been the case that pop idols provide a certain benchmark for what young girls aspire to.  I know that growing up I looked to the Spice Girls and Britney Spears as role models.  In fact, I would be hard-pressed to find a girl my age that did not want to be a Spice Girl or Britney Spears.  While these women may have now progressed to the same infamous level as Miley, the truth is that they were quite wholesome back in 1998.  Britney was a schoolgirl singing about e-mailing her heart and the Spice Girls were the forefront of “girl power”.  Now, girls have Miley on a stripper pole at the Teen Choice Awards and posing in a sultry, sexual manner in Vanity Fair as well as Vanessa Hudgens’ nude camera-phone photos making the rounds to look up to.
miley cyrus vanity fairbanner Do we blame society for changing our tastes from wholesome to a whole new level of raunch culture or do we blame Disney for trying to force these girls into a level of purity that is simply not attainable? Are these girls just trying to grow up, albeit not so gracefully, or are they rebelling against the Disney norm to the detriment of their followers?  I would venture that they are trying to be popular in a sex-crazed society and may think the only way to do so is to follow in the footsteps of train-wreck, vagina-flashing celebrities such as the Britney Spears of 2007 and Lindsay Lohan, both former child stars.

I think there is also a sort of corporate responsibility breach on the part of Disney.  With their stars appearing as role models to thousands of young girls, I believe they have a responsibility, perhaps through contract, to ensure that their stars maintain a Jonas-Brothers level of purity in the public eye, at least for as long as they are employed by the company.  In this sense, even if the starlet cannot take it upon herself to act her age and refrain from posing suggestively and gyrating in public, she would be bound to do so by contract.  Unless bound by contract, I’m not even sure I can blame the girls from trying to rebel against implicit constraints.

In the end, one thing is for certain.  Rhode Island laws aside, the sexualization of these young stars by our society and themselves is leading to something that is a bra and panty set shy of being child pornography.  If this is what little girls have to look up to, I am seriously concerned about what is to come.  It’s time for Disney to reign in their stars if they plan to keep pushing them as role models for their family-geared brand.


More to Mock

07Aug09

Last week was the pilot episode of new ‘reality’ dating show, More to Love.  What’s the difference between this and the Bachelor/Bachelorette?  Well, apparently it’s helping obese girls find love.  Lucky them!

More-to-Love_l(Photo of contestants courtesy of EW.com)

Officially, the show is billed as “the first broadcast dating show entirely cast with heavy and “average-looking” contestants,” (THR). Based upon the hour I watched last night, I would venture that the show is not only cast entirely with heavy and people, but also those with deep emotional scars and identities that revolve around being heavy.  By no means, are all the contestants average.  Many of the girls are quite beautiful and boast larger, but defined figures.

I remain offended by the very concept of the show, on many levels.  Firstly, they claim the show to be a dating show for the rest of us, a show that will break down boundaries previously set by reality TV.  I, for one, do not see how matchmaking ‘big’ girls with a bachelor who is a self-proclaimed chubby-chaser breaks down any boundaries.  More to Love skips the stereotype smashing that shows such as Beauty & the Geek achieved, where they mismatched couples and let each see that they had underestimated the value of the other person.  Instead, they enforce the stereotype that obese people belong each other and should be segregated from society as much as possible.  Why not give these girls a classic Prince-Charming type and let him fall in love with their personalities first, or give a less-classically good looking Bachelor the typical “Bachelor” type girls?  Apparently this would not make for good TV, and, I would assume, would be forcing the chiseled and skinny to date down.  But hey, it sure sends a great message!  “You don’t have to be skinny or pretty to be on a reality dating show! But if you’re not…we’re going to give you a bachelor who not only likes fat girls but is chubby himself! No fairytale-Prince Charming for you!”

Secondly, I have issue with the types of women they have chosen and how they are portrayed.  Format of the show aside, if they are going to set up ‘larger’ people, why not keep the mental state of these individuals the same as on typical dating shows?  When casting for shows such as the Bachelor and the Bachelorette, it seems a certain physical and mental vetting process is in place to ensure that not only are contestants in peak physical condition but are also mentally ready for love – something (purposely) lacking on More to Love. Instead of giving both the Bachelor and the contestants their pick of ‘the cream of the crop’, we instead see stereotypes reinforced.  Of course these girls have never been on a date! Of course they’ve been been made fun of their whole lives! If it wasn’t enough to reinforce the stereotype, the show has the women do ‘confessional’ tapings, where they cry and tell the world that they’re happy they’ve finally found a man who won’t hurt them (you know, because he’s fat, too!).  The show also seems to think nothing of posting the women’s height and weight next to their name and occupation when they are shown onscreen.  Of course, this is a typical reality dating show practice.  Wait, it’s not? Right…I’m thinking of the Biggest Loser. Silly me!

Will I keep watching? Probably.  I’m intrigued to see how this pans out. My predictions include some weight-loss challenges, makeovers, maybe the introduction of some skinny girls.  If the producers are being really ambitious, they might even rig it so the “not superficial” Bachelor chooses the ugliest, fattest girl of them all to be his mate! However this ends, I really don’t think society will learn anything from this show, other than that fat people belong with other fat people.  That’s what the producers were hoping to accomplish, right?


As of late, Facebook has gained some notoriety over its privacy policies – particularly about how it has been allowing third-party applications to access the personal information of its users.  However, we have to question whether our very use of Facebook negates our claims to want for privacy.

Imagine, if you will, relationships as defined by a second-grader. You meet in the playground at recess, or in math class, decide you are best friends, and spend every waking hour together, sharing imaginary friends and secrets.

Now, picture a night out with friends.  Most likely, if you are headed to a party, you will meet others.  The next morning, (or that night, for the more zealous amongst us): friend requests and the dreaded ‘morning after’ photo tags and memory-resurfacing wall posts.  Most likely, you will leave the photos tagged and accept the friend requests.  For those of us who have had Facebook for our entire university lives, we are giving what is basically a complete stranger complete and utter access to the past four years of our lives. It is not difficult to create an opinion on someone based on their Facebook profile.

Things that used to take months or years to figure out – favourite colour, movies, quotes to live by – are now readily available (note: I STILL don’t know my best friend’s favourite colour, and I’ve known her since we were in grade 4.).  Are we not cheapening the very meaning of friendship and encouraging superficial relationships by automatically allowing every person we meet access to our life story?

Given this, where do you draw the line at who to ‘friend’? I have had a recurring friend request (always ignored) from a girl I was paired up with in the Best Buddies program during high school.  As much as I enjoyed my time with her, I cannot bring myself to add her to Facebook – I fear she might see something inappropriate which might reflect badly on both the experience and me.  Also, given a bad experience with a woman I have worked with the past four summers (where she informed me that she followed my Facebook like a soap opera and knew the names of all my friends), I have become much more choosy in who I allow to see my personal information.

This, of course, brings us to the limited profile.  While you do have the option to limit what each and every individual you add as a friend can see, those who had hundreds of friends before these measures were put into action often don’t utilize them properly with these old contacts, although we use them stringently with new ‘friends’.  Cue the awkwardness of the new guy you’re dating realizing he’s on limited profile. (It happened to me. Really.)

Finally, there is the question of the relationship status itself.  Adding someone as your partner on Facebook brings the relationship to a whole new level.  Never mind if you have been quietly dating for months – you are now going to broadcast your relationship to Facebook at large.  This is a far cry from the days when the key exclusive moment in a relationship was the first time you called someone your ‘boyfriend’, or had ‘the talk’.  In fact, should you choose to add someone as ‘in a relationship’, the other person will even get an email saying something along the lines of “…has said you are in a relationship on Facebook.  We would like to confirm that you are, in fact in a relationship with…”
Unfortunately, the same courtesy is not in place at the end of a relationship.  There is no “…has said you are no longer in a relationship. We should like to confirm that you do, in fact, realize this, before we change your linked status”. What was once a private matter shared with just your girlfriends and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s is now a network-wide scandal, particularly when the person who didn’t ‘cancel’ the relationship is left with their status reflecting the former state.

Where does this leave us? Perhaps we should be more choosy with both our Facebook ‘friends’ and with how we broadcast our information. Facebook is the new Big Brother, and the world is watching.