Social Networking: The New Normal

With the advancement of new technology comes the adaptation of human communication. Just as the telephone replaced the telegraph, social networking sites and texting have become the norm for communication amongst friends and family. Social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter have also had a significant impact on the way romantic relationships are formed and maintained.

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Social networking sites are “web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system”. Generally speaking, we normally know the people we are “friends” with on these sites and we maintain our relationships with them through the use of social networking. However, many of these sites allow us to make connections with individuals we have never met in person before.

Social networking sites also allow us to display our romantic relationship status, be it is single, engaged, married, or my personal favorite “it’s complicated”.


Direct Effects on Relationships

Social networking has had a direct effect on the way we develop our relationships, be they friendships or romantic relationships. This is especially evident in the development of I-You and I-Thou relationships. Julia T. Wood describes I-You Communication as relationships that are personal, but where we do not engage with others as unique individuals (Wood, 2010). Generally, I-You relationships occur in the workplace, on sports teams, and among classmates. They are somewhat personal but do not disclose a lot of information (Wood, 2010). I-You relationships are easily maintained on social networking sites through “friending” another classmate etc.

I-Thou relationships are a little harder to maintain on social networking sites since they are much more personal. Wood describes I-Thou relationships as “the highest form of human dialogue, because each person affirms the other as cherished and unique” (Wood, 2010). I-Thou relationships are rare, and are only seen when we are completely genuine with another (Wood, 2010). These relationships can rarely be maintained solely through the use of social networking sites because they require a deeper understanding of another, not just knowing their most recent status update or their favorite bands. To maintain these kinds of relationships, both parties will need to spend time together and communicate frequently though text messages, instant messaging, and telephone or Skype conversations if they cannot have a face-to-face conversation.

Long Distance Relationships

Social media sites are very helpful in maintaining long distance relationships. Distance can be leading factor in why many relationships crumble. Unequal effort on the part of one partner can lead to resentment from the other (Wood, 2010). Additionally, reunions can lead to more conflict because partners have established their own independent routines (Wood, 2010). Instant messaging on Facebook and video conferencing on Skype enable partners to communicate quickly and effectively when they are not in the same place at the same time. But merely chatting with your partner is not enough to maintain a relationship. Many couples have found that getting creative with their use of social networking can aid in maintaining their relationships. For example, sending videos, pictures, and setting up Skype “dates” can be effective in showing affection (Wood, 2010).


The Catfish Effect

While social media allows individuals to post and share pictures and other information about themselves such as hobbies and taste in music, movies, and books, it also opens the door for deceit. It is just as easy to post false information about yourself as it is to post the truth. It is important to remember that not everything on the Internet is true, so before jumping into an online relationship, remember to ask questions. However, there are numerous cases of people starting online relationships and then becoming sorely disappointed when they meet in person and find out that what they saw online is far from reality. One famous case is chronicled in the documentary film Catfish, which follows a young man by the name of Nev Schulman and his online relationship with a young woman by the name of Megan Faccio. As their romance blossoms on the computer screen, it becomes apparent that both want more and Nev travels to Megan’s hometown to meet her. Only when he reaches his destination, Nev is surprised to find that Megan is actually named Angela and she is actually 40 years old – far from the 19-year-old Nev thought he was talking to.

When we lie to those we are in a relationship with in this manner, we violate their trust, which is a key component to the foundation of any relationship. Trust is “believing in another’s reliability” (Wood, 2010). Once we trust another in a relationship, we begin to feel psychologically safe within the relationship. When trust is broken, the consequences can be devastating (Wood, 2010).

Jealously and Social Media

If you’ve managed to maintain a truthful online relationship, long distance relationship, or romantic relationship in general, you still have one more hurdle to jump: jealousy. Jealousy can quickly deteriorate a romantic relationship and social networking sites like Facebook are not helping. The Huffington Post reporter Katherine Bindley writes that triggers for jealously through social networking can be “under sharing” (aka rarely to never referencing the relationship on Facebook), tagged photos with an ex or a friend request from them, and even a flirty comment from another friend on the site. While Facebook isn’t exactly the problem behind relationship jealousy, it is a catalyst for it. Bindley found that the so-called “Golden Rule” of Facebooking while in a committed relationship is to not be doing things you wouldn’t want your partner to see, much like in life outside of social networking.


A Few Reminders About Social Networking

Social networks can be great places to meet new people, share more with people you already know, and even show off your creativity. However, you should always tread with caution when using them. Here are a few reminders:


Everything is permanent. Even if you delete the angry status you made earlier, the racy photo, or the vulgar Tweet, remember that everything is recorded and can be dredged back up in everything from a background check to divorce proceedings.


Meet in public. For those looking to take their online relationship to the next level by meeting in person, be sure to do it in public. You never know if the person you started an online courtship with is who they say they are. By meeting in public, you can help ensure your safety by being surrounded by others and a way out if you feel uncomfortable and want to leave.


Be honest. Social networking can be fun as long as you remain honest about who you are online. In reality, you are no different online than you are in real life.


Social networking has no doubt changed the communication landscape, with nearly 1 billion people and counting online, our interactions can reach across the globe. It is important to know the effect social networking can have on our relationships because soon social networking may define our relationships rater than face-to-face conversation. Society must learn to use social networking effectively and responsibly without forgetting how to interact in person. By following some of the tips and guidelines discussed above I think this can be accomplished.




Wood, J. T. (2010). Interpersonal communication: everyday encounters (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub..


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Artifacts: They’re Not Just for Archaeology

Artifacts – it’s a word we are all familiar with thanks to everyone’s favorite archaeologist, Dr. Indiana Jones no doubt. But aside from being pieces of history that have been uncovered and placed in museums for all to enjoy, artifacts are also an integral part of how we communicate with one another without saying a single word.


We use artifacts everyday of our lives to physically express our identities on both personal and professional levels.  Artifacts include the clothes we wear, objects we carry, and even the objects we choose to decorate our homes and other personal spaces with (Wood, 2010). And it’s not just Western culture that has artifacts. According to author Michae Schiffer in his book titled The Material Life of Human Beings: Artifacts, Behavior and Communication, “Although other animals make and interact with a limited number of artifact types on a sustained basis (e.g., bee hives and honeycombs, beaver dams and lodges), in no other species do the variety of artifacts and the diversity and complexity of interactions begin to approach those found in even the most materially impoverished human society.”


According to Dr. Julia T. Wood, an artifact is “personal objects we use to announce our identities and heritage and to personalize our environments” (Wood, 2010). Wood further states that we have been exposed to artifacts since infancy, with some hospitals using blue or pink blankets to denote the sex of a baby. Artifacts can also be used to identify groups of people. For example, you can identify police officers based on the uniforms they wear or medical doctors because they usually have a stethoscope around their necks.

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When I was in middle school, my favorite artifacts were my terrycloth wristbands. Each wristband had a different patch on them like Hello Kitty dressed as a pirate or a smiley face with the words “Bite me” underneath it. Safe to say, I was not an athlete. Instead, my wristbands were an ironic expression that suggested to the world that I was someone who wanted to be “outside of the norm” and (more importantly at that age) that I liked alternative music. While my parents and some of my classmates didn’t understand it at the time, my wristbands were a huge part of my self-expression.

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The next time you are out and about, I encourage you to take a closer look at the artifacts other people use to signify their identities and then look at your own. What are you trying to communicate to everyone around you? Chances are you may like many of the same things as the strangers you pass, even if you use completely different artifacts to express your self.




Schiffer, M. B., & Miller, A. R. (2002). The material life of human beings artifacts, behavior, and communication (Taylor & Francis e-Library ed.). London: Routledge.

Wood, J. T. (2010). Interpersonal communication: everyday encounters (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.


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What’s Your Type? A Closer Look at Stereotypes

We hear about stereotypes everyday of our lives. They are perpetuated by the media through the television programs, movies, and even the news we watch. At school we’re taught to look past stereotypes or to avoid using them altogether. So, if stereotypes are so bad, why do they continue to have a place in our society? The simple answer is that maybe we need stereotypes.


Whether we like it or not, we have all been stereotyped at some point in our lives. These stereotypes could be based on what we wear, how we speak, the color of our skin, and even the organizations we are a part of. On the flip side, we have also all created stereotypes for others. You may be saying to yourself “What? No, not me I would never do such a thing!” but the harsh reality is that it is true. However, it is not entirely your fault!


As we all know, the media constantly perpetuates stereotypes, especially during children’s television programming. Disney Channel usually finds a way to fit in the typical “high school” stereotypes into their programming with characters that are nerds, jocks, and preppy rich girls. According to a study done a New York University (NYU), when children hear generic phrases such as “boys like to play in the dirt”, it begins the process of stereotyping. The study suggested that parents begin adjusting their language and use phrases such as “some boys like to play in the dirt” as a way of defining behaviors for certain groups.

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A stereotype is a “predictive generalization applied to a person or situation” (Wood, 2010).  According to Julia T. Wood, stereotypes are actually based on what we internally perceive to be similarities between people, not actual similarities between people. Additionally, false stereotypes are caused by misunderstandings of certain groups or when members of a particular group do not adhere to typical behaviors.


An example from my own life when I terribly misjudged and stereotyped another person was when I met one of my now close friends Kristen. When I first met Kristen, she looked like a Barbie doll had birthed her with her spray tan, blonde hair, rhinestone covered iPhone and pink dress with a matching pink manicure. Essentially, the polar opposite of myself. Before she had even opened her mouth to speak to me I had judged her to be annoying and ditzy and I thought that we would have nothing in common. As it turns out, Kristen and I had a lot in common and she has become a very dear friend of mine. By stereotyping Kristen, I thought I could predict how she would act when in reality, I was dead wrong.

What’s important to take away from my story is that most of the time, our stereotypes are wrong. We need to begin judging others based on their actions and character, rather than their outward appearance. This is easier said than done but with a little effort everyday I think it is possible to at least minimize the amount of stereotyping we as a society do.





Wood, J. T. (2010). Interpersonal communication: everyday encounters (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.


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Let’s Get Personal

Hello Friends!

For those of you who may not know me, my name is Liz and I’m  a senior Communication Studies major with a concentration in Mass Media at Longwood University. I’m very involved with The Rotunda and serve as The Rotunda Show Coordinator. I also participate in the Joan of Arc Leadership Program. While the prospect of graduating this year is slightly terrifying, it is also extremely exciting. After graduation I hope to get a job within the mass media field be it broadcasting, print journalism, or  radio.

I always thought I had subpar communication skills until I started taking my comm studies classes. Over the summer during my internship, I really got to see just how much I had learned about communication. My internship took place at a radio conglomerate in my hometown of Richmond. I worked in the marketing and promotions department, so I interacted with listeners frequently at station events. I had to learn how to use different styles of communication for different situations. For example, I would have to adjust my communication styles when interacting with large crowds of people versus smaller crowds of people. I also had to adjust the way I communicated with different staff members at the station. I would speak to the DJs differently than I would my supervisor.

I'm the little ginger one by the way.


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The Rebirth of Local News – How Hyperlocal News Sites Are Helping

As I’ve written before, newspapers have been closing their print editions or closing their doors forever. Local newspapers have been hit the hardest by the Internet age. Fear not though, the same element that has led to the closing of local newspapers has also led to its rebirth in the form of Internet startups.


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In an interesting twist, author Ken Doctor noted in his book Newsonomics that the larger local news companies are looking for ways to downsize while local news startups are looking for ways to expand. With newsroom cutbacks on the rise, this is no surprise. According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, 20% of news executives have said that their staff is too small to do more than the minimum level of reporting. What does this mean for local news? It gets cut, not only in larger papers but in smaller ones as well.


Internet startups are “filling the void” left behind by newspapers that no longer cover neighborhood news. These startups are generally independent and create communities that are being noticed by metro newspapers. In turn, these newspapers are beginning to partner up with the independent sites in order to cover more for less.


In the end, it is up to the reader to choose whether or not they need or even want their local news fix. Their choice to read hyperlocal news sites or independent Internet startups can be related back to the Uses and Gratification Theory. The Uses and Gratifications theory tries to explain why people use a certain form of the media. The theory goes on to state that people will choose certain forms because they believe it has a limited effect on them i.e. the audience member/consumer can control over the media they choose. With independent startups, readers have their choice of both local and national news, thus giving them not only control over what they read but how they read it as well.


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I think that independent startups are a great way to preserve local news. Partnerships with metro papers in the area can lead to more traffic for both and more stories. However, I am concerned that some readers may stumble upon very biased blog posts about local news stories. It is very important (to me at least) that these independent startup sites for local news are run by professional journalists or someone with knowledge of the news industry as a whole.



Doctor, K. (2010). Newsonomics. New York: St. Martin’s Press.


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Paper in the Digital World – How a Dying Industry Is Adapting

Since the dawn of the digital/internet age it’s been no secret that newspapers are becoming obsolete. Newsrooms are downsizing at high rates and some papers that have been in business for a hundred years are shutting their doors forever, not even offering an online edition of the paper. Some big papers have a market penetration percentage that is as low as -11.3%. Yet everyday, we rely on the news industry for information, stories, and updates. So while the business is dying, the news is not. The transition from paper to Internet has forced reporters to adapt to the new world of news.

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In his book Newsonomics, author Ken Doctor discussed the crossover between professional journalists and the average citizen, or amateurs, as he calls them. Doctor has noted that many news outlets, be they paper or broadcast have sections on their websites where readers/viewers can submit their own eyewitness footage or accounts. This has worked out well for the news industry, as they receive information to run and do not have to pay a reporter to go out and get it.


By featuring the blog posts and content produced by amateurs, the media is able to cut costs as well as contribute to the reader/contributor’s looking glass self. The looking glass self is essentially how a person’s sense of self is developed through their interpersonal interactions. When the media uses an amateur’s submission, they help develop that person’s sense of importance and it can even help encourage them to submit more useful insights or footage.


Blogging is also coming to the forefront of news reporting. According to Doctor, “As story writing in newspapers has decreased – I estimate that production of stories is down 20 percent in the last five years – “post” production is up” (132). Blogs are not only cheap to produce; they’re interactive as well. Readers can view a post, respond to it, and get an immediate response from the author or other readers – instantly.

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Doctor has also noted that papers that jumped on the blogging trend first have been more successful in terms of readership and collecting ad revenue. Even though most of our news is now online, media outlets still rely on those advertising dollars to keep the company afloat. Those who have not caught up to the blogging trend are missing out; other bloggers are finding news and breaking it every second. Hot Air, Politico, Talking Points Memo, Salon and the Huffington Post are just a few leading this trend.


Papers also need to compete with news aggregators, or online companies that collect news stories from different outlets across the country or even globe and put them all in one easy place for readers to find them. While this is convenient for the consumer, it takes away from the readership and potential ad revenue for online newspapers. One such aggregator is TBD.Com, a startup in the Washington D.C. area that collects local news from sites like Facebook and Twitter. According to the site’s social media producer Mandy Jenkins, TBD uses “geo-targeting” technology that can locate where its readers are, thus making the site not only easy to use but interactive as well.

It is sad to see an entire industry begin to collapse under the pressure and speed of the digital age. However, traditional media will still have a place in our society if they continue to adapt their methods of presenting the news. Eventually, there will be no need for physical newspapers at all as articles and stories become more available online and through web applications or devices like Amazon’s Kindle. It is a challenging battle that I hope journalists and future journalists are willing to fight.

For more on this topic, I found this video to be very helpful.

Doctor, K. (2010). Newsonomics. New York: St. Martin’s Press.


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Creating Stereotypes: How Columbine Media Coverage Changed Our Perception of the School Shooter

On April 20, 1999, America’s perception of the school shooter was forever changed by the media’s coverage of the Columbine High School shooting. Plagued by questions and in search of answers, the media scrambled to discover what happend but more importantly, why it happened. Collecting eye witness and police reports, the media constructed a stereotype of school shooters/teen killers that has remained to this day. However, the “goth teen killer” had been an idea already known to the public from a case before Columbine.


Society relies heavily on the news media for information. Society will assume that the news media has done their research and presents that correct facts when broadcasting or printing stories, especially those of a confusing or violent nature. When the public demands answers to their questions about violent crimes, it puts immense pressure on the law enforcement and the media who then must rush to find answers. Six years before the tragedy at Columbine, the town of West Memphis, Arkansas experienced their own horrific tragedy when the mutilated bodies of three 8 year old boys were found in a drainage ditch. Who was blamed for this crime? Three teenage boys from the area who were considered “goth” by their peers and other members of the community. The three teens all wore black, “listened to heavy metal music”, and one even “considered himself a Wiccan”. After a long trial, the three were convicted of the crime and have spent the last 15 years in prison. By not conforming to the norm, the West Memphis Three (as they are commonly referred to) became prime targets.

The situation at Columbine was similar when the myth that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were portrayed by the media as being members of a gang called the “Trench Coat Mafia”, which subscribed to the “goth” culture of the time. According to author Dave Cullen, the Trench Coat Mafia was a myth that stuck because “it was colorful, memorable, and fit the existing myth of the school shooter as outcast loner”. Once again, we see that people went looking for explanations in the wrong place again, seeking out aspects of society outside of the norm and blaming that to be the cause. in reality, Harris and Klebold were moderately popular and did not listen to any of the bands the media claimed they did (Cullen).

By adhering to myths and stereotypes of the school shooter, the media aids in a theory called “mean world syndrome”. The mean world syndrome theory was developed by George Gerbner and it discusses how the more violent television programming we watch, be it a television show or the news, the more likely we are to feel unsafe in our communities or even country. In the Columbine case, the news media continually covered the event and perpetuated the myth that the “goth” culture and video games were to blame for the shooting and others like it in the 90s (and even today). This coverage then led to public outcry and fear of those aspects of our nation’s culture.

What we should take away from every school shooting or child murder is that every case is different. Some perpetrators are bullied outcasts, but others are usually very disturbed individuals, like Harris and Klebold [a sociopath and deeply depressed individual respectively] (Cullen). This also means that the media needs to treat every tragedy like these as individual incidents that have very different causes behind them. As viewers of media, we need to be careful that we do not take what we see at face value and ask more questions of the news media.

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Helpful to Your Product, Harmful to Your Children: Advergaming Decoded

Advergaming – you’ve probably never heard the term before unless you happen to be the creator of advergames. So what exactly are advergames? Advergames are Internet based games, usually linked with a food or toy product that combine the product’s marketing message with the game experience. Essentially, the game is really one long, repetitive, and interactive advertisement for a company’s product. And while children may be exposed to advertisements anyway on other media platforms, advergames take a company’s marketing message to an entirely new level that might be hurting children in the long run.


In a Bloomberg Businessweek article, a successful advergame is described as a game that is not only fun for the player but one that will also provide a positive product association for the client that commissioned it.

In a world where adults and children are inundated with advertisements, companies are forced to be more creative in order for their ads to be noticed. This is where advergaming comes as an advantage; they demand the player’s attention. According to Samantha Skey of Alloy Media, a company that specializes in advertising to children, “Attention is a great commodity right now.”

Advergames are outside of the limitations that have been placed on television commercials, turning what would have been a 30 second television spot into a 30-minute advertisement for a product. Advertisers have also begun to use the “cradle-to-grave” strategy when marketing to children. This strategy hopes to build life-long loyalty to a brand by advertising to children “early and often” and across as many media platforms as possible in order to gain children as customers. Annually, children spend around $40 billion of their own money and further influence another $700 billion of spending. This makes children prime targets for advertisers as future consumers of a product.

The advergame also closely relates to the concept of semiotics. Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols and how we as a society use them to construct meaning. In her journal article titled “Marshmallow Power and Frooty Treasures: Disciplining the Child Consumer through Online Cereal Advergaming”, Deborah M. Thomson discusses how cereals such as Lucky Charms and Froot Loops use advergames to teach children their marketing message. Thomson also notes that the advergames use the cereal in such a way as to make it look like something that should be highly valued. Essentially, the games reward players for their manipulation and consumption of the product. The cereal becomes the sign and the associated meaning gained from it is reward, which will hopefully lead the player to buy the product.


Now armed with this information, you as a consumer can come to your own conclusions about advergaming and how it may affect you in the future. These games have become more prevalent in the past few years and are a very creative and sneaky way companies can market to children. Parents should be cautious about how much time their children spend playing these games, otherwise they’ll be hearing about how much Little Timmy wants Froot Loops next time they’re at the store. Constant play can lead to the memorization of a company’s message, which is helpful to the company, and harmful to children.

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Sex and the Super Bowl (2012 Edition)

In an all-American stand off, Super Bowl XLVI, was an exciting one as the New York Giants took on the New England Patriots in Indianapolis. But aside from the game, the most anticipated part of Super Bowl Sunday is commercials. One commercial I found to be particularly entertaining was one for the automaker Fiat. Incidentally, this year was the first year Fiat had a Super Bowl commercial slot.

In the Fiat commercial, a very attractive Italian woman berates a nerdy looking man in his 30s. Eventually, she begins coming on to him, creating a very sexually charged atmosphere. When the man goes in for a kiss it is revealed that there really is no woman, but instead the Fiat 500 Abarth parked on the city street, thus creating a very comical situation.

According to an article by Laura Petrecca in USA Today, approximately two- dozen automakers and auto products take up this year’s Super Bowl ad space on NBC. According to Petrecca, this surge of auto advertising comes after a boom in the auto industry. U.S. auto sales are up by 10.3% from 2010, with a record 12.8 million spent (Petrecca, 2012).

Among the dearth of car commercials present for this Super Bowl, this Fiat ad was definitely geared toward men in their 20s or 30s, as it incorporated elements generally associated as things that guys within that age bracket like, such as cars and women. One of the persuasion strategies this ad uses is the “beautiful people” approach, or the use of attractive models/celebrities to attract our attention. By using the attractive Italian woman as a representation of the Fiat Abarth, it suggests that owning/driving the same car is the next best thing to being with a woman of her caliber.

The ad further uses the beautiful people concept as a form of association, or the attempt to link a product or service with something already desired by the audience such as beauty, fun, or success. By having the beautiful model represent the car, people will most likely relate beauty and desire to the Fiat Abarth.

However, using the woman as a representation of the car can also be seen as the disempowerment of women. The ad objectifies the model, making her look like something that can be bought, much like the car. She’s even branded with the 500 Abarth logo of a scorpion on the back of her neck. Many viewers may not see this side of the advertisement because they are caught up in the humor of the situation.

The use of humor in this ad is excellent. According to the Media Literacy Project, humor grabs our attention and makes us feel good because we laugh. When the man realizes that the woman he had envisioned is actually a car, the viewer finds it humorous and therefore relates a positive feeling to the Fiat Abarth.

In all, Fiat has produced a very successful debut Super Bowl commercial by combining humor as well as set gender roles. Despite the objectification of women the commercial does reveal that in our society, men see cars very much like they would view a beautiful woman; with adoration and lust. This element of truth is what makes this commercial so funny and popular (in my eyes at least).

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Me, Myself, and AIM

Hey there, Liz here, thanks for checking out my blog! Hopefully you will find it interesting and funny. Alas, not all of us can be clever. I’m currently a junior Mass Media Communications major at Longwood University, which is located in Farmville, VA. Yeah, it’s in the middle of nowhere but there’s still things to do if you look for them.

One of the biggest (and most important) social media outlets I used as middle schooler was AIM (AOL Instant Messenger in case you forgot). Every day after school I would log on to my account and see if any of my friends were on as well. If they were, we’d resume the same conversation we were having not even an hour before. The most frustrating thing that could happen would be if your friends weren’t online the same time you were.  However, my parents were not fans of AIM because they had read about how child predators use chat rooms like it to meet kids my age. I remember they would constantly harass me about making sure my privacy setting were in place and that I was “careful about who I talked to and what I said to people online (well I guess I should say “remind me” but it felt like harassment at the time).

AIM was a huge part of my life at that point in time and it was vital to my friendships. Not all of us had cell phones yet, so texting each other hadn’t become the way we kept in touch when we weren’t at school. Looking back, I can’t believe I spent so much time in front of the computer just for AIM.



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