Liking isn’t helping

I found a really great advert the other day which illustrates a bit of what I said in my recent post about the bystander effect.

I find it so offensive when I see posts on social media that say things along the lines of “1 like= 1 prayer, 1 share= 100 prayers” and get even more irritated when I see people getting sucked into the naivety that they are making a difference by liking/ sharing. Our compassion and sympathy are being manipulated and guilt tripped into sharing a photo and encouraging others to do so when really, quite often, it does nothing but spread the issue thinly across the internet.

I have drawn attention to the exceptions (such as the #nomakeupselfie) because I think it is important to note how amazing social media can work when people make the effort to make the change. However, for me liking/ sharing posts that ask for help often cuts corners and make you feel like you are helping, without actually doing anything to help.

Below are some really powerful images that say a lot. I hope they move you in the same way they moved me. If you would like to read move about the “Liking isn’t helping” campaign here is a link to the Huffington Post article which explains more about it.


Screen Language- The Use of Body Language Online.

Body language is a fundamental part of communication, aiding, emphasising or contrasting verbal comments, thus playing a major part in deciphering what is being said. It has been defined on The Free Dictionary as: “The gestures, postures, and facial expressions by which a person manifests various physical, mental, or emotional states and communicates nonverbally with others”. James Borg, writer of Body Language: 7 Easy Lessons to Master the Silent Language, argues that human communication consists of 93% of body language which leaves just 7% of communication consisting of words. There have been a huge amount of studies on body language as well as numerous articles that offer tips on how to use body language to make yourself seem more successful, such as in an interview or a business meeting. All of their suggestions are helpful, “talk with your hands”, “don’t use gestures above your shoulders”, “keep your arms open” and “maintain direct eye contact”. They are helpful but, for me, they are completely useless. My time in Italy is drawing to a close and I have been searching the internet for jobs to come back to when I return to England. Since it has been impossible for me to meet potential employers face to face I have had no choice but to fill in online application forms, send out online resumes and have online interviews – screen to screen. Despite my overly optimistic searches for online body language tips, or “screen language” (a neologism I created for online body language), I can assure you that there is nothing out there to offer a suitable alternative. What I mean by screen language are the gestures, postures, and expressions used online to manifests various physical, mental, or emotional states with others.

Nowadays you can apply for jobs online, have interviews online and, in some cases, communicate online right up until your very first day of the job. However, during many of my previous job applications an important part of the process was meeting with the employer directly, talking about the job, personally handing in my application and then having a face to face interview. I could get a sense of my employer, who they were, what kind of attitude they gave off, and they could do the same for me. We now have sites, such as LinkedIn, that allow you to create a profile for yourself and then find and apply for jobs without ever having to leave the house. Additionally, employers can find suitable candidates and offer them jobs or interviews. With sites like LinkedIn employers are able to search for candidates with the right skills, experience and interests. But how are we able to get an impression of the employer/ employee without the aid of body language? What is the body language alternative in an increasingly digitalised world?

It is often difficult to decipher what somebody means without body language or even voice tone to offer clues. A sarcastic comment online could be misinterpreted as a compliment, a compliment misinterpreted as an insult, and so on. However, online language is filled with acronyms and emoticons and I truly believe that this online language replaces body language and thus becomes a sort of screen language. You can change the entire meaning of your message with a simple smiley face or an acronym like “SMH” (translated as shaking my head) and, just like body language, we can begin to decipher what is being said. Interestingly there is also use of words, which would replicate body language, written inside asterisks such as *rolling my eyes*. As I have tried to show in the picture below you can take one simple phrase and completely alter the meaning through the use of emoticons, asterisked words and acronyms. Screen language gives off a friendly and casual approach to communication, an approach unsuitable for job applications. I have found it increasingly difficult to convey, in a nonverbal way, my expressions and attitudes in online job applications without using body language. How can I put my personality across on an application and show them how much I want this job? Is that even what employers are looking for anymore?

Screen Langauge

We have shifted away from the “walk into a shop and hand in your application form to the manager” era and now it just doesn’t feel like a practical way to apply for jobs. I can reach a larger mass of employers through online applications and they can reach me. Let’s face it, if wasn’t for online job applications I’d be paying hundreds on flights back to England every week. Although times have changed this also means that the way we present ourselves has changed. It is difficult to use a screen language in online job applications because it is important to try and present yourself as professional and by adding a “lol” or an emoticon you would definitely not display that. I feel that the only way you can try to demonstrate you personality is by answering the questions or requirements they provide with references to your personality and experience, which doesn’t feel like much so maybe that is why sites like LinkedIn are becoming increasingly popular. By creating a profile for yourself you allow employers to see what type of a person you are. They can observe the types of groups you are in and what you comment on/about. Like I said in an earlier post, social media gives us a platform to advertise and market ourselves whilst displaying our best qualities. As a result, we can give off the professional personality we try to convey during face to face meetings with employers. Our profile picture would be a carefully chosen professional image, in a suit or at graduation for example, that gives off a good impression. We have the time to carefully think about what it is we want to say and draft out messages before we post them.

Body Langauge Online

It is easy to present yourself in a different way when hiding behind the screen but not so easy to do this face to face. That is why I believe that, even though we are shifting into a digital world, body language is still an essential part of communicating. When looking for jobs or candidates social media should play a role in selection, it helps find a larger range of people. But it definitely shouldn’t be relied on. Especially when it is so easy to misinterpret what is being said.

The Bystander Effect and Social Media

Today I want to talk about the Bystander Effect and how this affects us in society and on social media. To introduce this topic I feel that it is first necessary to briefly touch on the sociology of the stranger. This topic gripped me during my third year lectures at university. Originally studied by Georg Simmel in 1908, he describes the stranger as someone who “comes today and stays tomorrow”. Zygmunt Bauman pessimistically adapted Simmel’s theory and argued that the urban society we live in today means that people live together in density. There are too many people to know them all thus we are populated mostly by strangers, something he calls “universal strangerhood”. Social media makes our world much more diverse. It brings together different cultures, different classes and as a result we are able to enter into other peoples communities easily. With one click of the mouse we can look through the pictures and statuses of different people who don’t necessarily fit in with our society. But we are all strangers to each other. Bauman goes on to argue that “we live among strangers, among whom we are strangers ourselves” in a state of civil inattention and as a result we pretend that we do not see and do not hear. We ignore those around us, even when those we are ignoring are in need of our help. Something called the Bystander Effect provides a shocking realisation of the reality of our disregard to strangers. To show this I have included a video clip for you to watch.

I saw the video below when I was back in college. Granted that was years ago but what is illustrated in the video is still true today. When we see someone in need, a stranger, we walk on by, pretending that we do not see and that we do not hear. When we see that others are ignoring the person in need it reinforces our lack of desire to help. As the video’s narrator puts it, “these strangers have silently formed a temporary group with a rule- don’t help!” It was disturbing to watch this video back in college and it is disturbing to watch again now, especially since I was recently a victim of this type of behaviour. I was mugged on the streets of Naples, Italy. Afterwards, I screamed for help at passers-by on the road. Scooters and cars ignored me, driving past, it was only when I ran into the street and stood in front of a passing car that I got help. I sat on the pavement with the people who were helping me and passed out. When I woke up there was a crowd of people standing above me curious to see what had happened. I’d gone from struggling to get help to being crowded by passers-by. Of course there are much worse stories than this, this is just my personal account of the Bystander Effect. What is interesting is when someone does stop to help, others are more inclined to do so and they find themselves “in a different group with a new rule- to help”. I can’t be angry at the people who ignored me because it is difficult to know what I would have done in that situation. If I’m really honest I would probably have ignored me too. But it is a sad state of affairs when people are unsure whether they should help or not. When you see other people are around it is easy to assume that someone else will eventually help the stranger and so you can carry on with your own daily activities.

It is also interesting to see that people are more inclined to help certain people. The homeless man received much less attention that the man in a business suit. Why are we more inclined to help some people and not others?

As shown in the video we are less likely to help when others around us don’t help. We watch for other people’s reactions and when they don’t intervene we assume we shouldn’t either. Sam Sommers offers an alternative opinion on why we don’t help. In his article he argues that “while technology has shrunk the figurative distance between communities, many of us also live in an era in which it’s easier than ever to disengage from the outside world. In today’s waiting rooms, elevators, and commuter trains, you see more pairs of headphones than conversation partners, more people thumbing iPhones than making eye contact”.

Social media can enhance the Bystander Effect. People are quick to post statuses encouraging people to support, donate or protest over issues but don’t always do what they are encouraging others to do. They think that the post itself is good enough to help spread the word. The 2004 happy slapping trend saw people watching and filming victims being beaten rather than helping, and then posting these videos online or sharing them via bluetooth. When a greater number of people are present we are less likely to help the person in need. However, as seen in the video, this can also work the other way. When we see others helping and we are more inclined to help too. During this week the popular #nomakeupselfie arose. Cancer Research UK received more than £2 million thanks to this latest craze. By seeing other people helping we want to help too and when you mix that with a platform like social media it spreads quickly and widely. Without social media there would have been a lot less money raised this week.

However, I do still believe that we are in a society that ignores the needs of the “other”. Relating back to Bauman’s point that the world is now full of strangers I believe that this makes us become self-conscious individuals. We wait for others to act before we ourselves act, probably why social media crazes get so popular. But I think the past week really shows how the power social media can make an impact on everyone. Social media does make it easy for us to disengage with others, it’s easy to ignore statuses or posts and so this disengagement online may have been transferred into the outside world. But we have also seen that we can really engage ourselves and want to join in on helping issues that affect the outside world. I think we need to be more educated about being a bystander and how to prevent it. Even just one person reacting against the Bystander Effect can create a ripple and result in many former bystanders helping. Make the change and see the difference, don’t just be a bystander.

Out of interest I want to add a poll to the end of this post for people who have seen a situation like this occur. It could be anything from hearing an abusive comment on the bus, to seeing an act of violence. I’ve kept the results hidden because I want total honesty and, as we have seen, people are more inclined to do what the crowd does.

How do we communicate across different cultures?

I have spent some time now living with a family in the south of Italy and have decided to dedicate this blog to the ways in which we communicate across different cultures. Since the majority of my time has only been spent either in England or in Italy I want focus on them rather than other cultures. I think it would be unfair to make judgements based on places I’ve haven’t had the chance to fully experience. I will be looking at the different types of communication in Italy first but to completely understand these types it is necessary to delve deeper into Italian history.

Italy was formerly a country of city states and each region had its own dialect based on Latin. In 1861 Italy finally became a unified country, much later than its neighbouring European countries, thus generating the birth of a unified Italian language throughout the country. But what did that mean for the dialects? Well they are still very much present in everyday life with many of the grandparents using the dialects of their region regularly in conversations. It was only through compulsory education and media platforms such as television, newspapers and advertisements that began to showcase universal Italian, helping to spread it across the country.

I naively came to Italy with no idea about the use and importance of these regional dialects within Italy and I often feel like I’m learning two languages, Italian and Neapolitan. Many of my friends have excitedly translated words in Neapolitan for me, they are so proud of their provinces and are eager to show off their local dialect. Their Neapolitan language sets them apart from their neighbouring communities and makes them unique. When I asked them how many dialects they knew they listed numerous ones that they were bilingual in. It fascinated me to think of the many types of Italian used even today when the only variations we hear in English are different accents or colloquial slang. But unlike these accents or use of slang, dialects such as Neapolitan are not variations of Italian but a completely different language with its own set of grammatical rules and pronunciations.

However, not only are there regional dialects to learn but Italians have so many hand gestures incorporated into their conversations that talking with your hands becomes a whole other language on its own. They use their hands to really express and emphasise what they are saying even if the listener has no idea what is being said. In a country with so many different dialects, hand gestures became a good, universal way to communicate clearly across many communities. Sure some of the gestures are slightly changed in the different regions of Italy but speaking with hands is an easy language to learn, and an important one. Isabella Poggi stated in the New York Times that 250 different hand gestures were used in everyday Italian conversation. You can have a whole conversation without ever opening your mouth. But why are hand gestures used so much in their conversations? Well during the first few months that I lived here, having only a limited understanding of the words being spoken, that is an easy question to answer. They are passionate about everything- food, greeting each other and communication is no exception. Hand gestures accentuate what is being said without saying anything at all, it has been said that if you tie and Italians hands behind his back he becomes mute. Even if you spend just 1 day in Italy, especially in the south of Italy, you can see just how passionately they communicate with each other. Their boisterous voices accompanied with enthusiastic hand gestures made for a stark change from what I was used to in England.

Within the first month of my stay in Italy an Italian friend showed me this article. To quickly summarise the article it discusses the difficulties foreigners have deciphering what the British mean when they talk. It provides a 3 columned table of the trickiest phrases; What the British say, What the British mean, and What the foreigners understand. It suggests that the British will be too polite and would rather not speak their minds in case offence is caused. The stereotypical label attached to the British personality is politeness with a lack of criticism towards others. The article has become a big hit across the internet with many of the reader’s whole heartedly agreeing with the label.

To assess the reality attached to this view I read a report called Charm Offensive: Cultivating civility in 21st Century Britain, written by Pheobe Griffith, Will Norman, Carmel O’Sullivan and Rushanara Ali. According to these researchers Britain ranked highest in the world for being the most polite and civil. They also found that British people ranked tolerance and politeness towards others as highly as showing respect for the law.

So we find ourselves with 2 contrasting stereotypes for Italy and Britain. The Italian’s are passionate while the British are polite. Does that mean that they are true solid definitions? Definitely not! People may think that the British are polite but the Charm Offensive found that only 4 in 10 people believed that individuals treated others with respect. I may think that Italians are passionate and expressive but the reality for them is likely to be different. However, I do think that the outsider’s point of view provides a different insight into cultures and it brings forth questions and understandings that no one from that culture has really considered before because for them it is normal- unquestionable even. When talking to one of my Italian friends he turns to me and exclaims, “You’re too British! You’re too polite to say what you really think”. I was amazed, it was something I’d never really thought about before, and if I’m completely honest I thought to myself- “how rude! What’s wrong with being polite and British?!” Nobody had ever said that to me before, nobody from Britain anyway.

I believe that culture affects and alters the ways in which we communicate. Something that is socially acceptable to say in one culture is socially unacceptable to say in another. To speak the language is one thing, to speak the culture is a whole other matter.

***SIDE NOTE- I have recently been called “too Italian”. I’m not sure where the happy medium lies but I feel like Goldilocks searching for the bowl of porridge that is “just right”***


In relation to my previous post

The other day I found this video and I absolutely loved it. I thought it described what I wrote in my post ‘Do we live in a hyper real world through communication?’ perfectly.

I’m also so glad that other people have a similar opinion as me when it comes to social media. So for the people that haven’t already seen it, here is a video that looks at how communication has evolved in the modern age

This Video Will Have You Completely Rethink How You Conduct Yourself Online And In Person (Video)

Do we live in a hyper real world through communication?

Hi everyone, so I haven’t blogged in a while because I’ve had such a hectic few months. I’ve recently moved to Italy and have been settling in and adjusting to a new life out here. I want to dedicate a blog post to my experiences out here focusing on what I’ve learnt about the way people converse and how conversations differ from England. But I want to wait a little longer before I do blog about this, mainly to learn more about the Italian culture and to understand it better before I begin to speculate.

Today I am going to focus on another topic, the idea that we live in a hyper real world. To begin this discussion it will first be important and necessary to define hyperreality. I have included two differing sociologists with different definitions to help outline this word. The first, Umberto Eco, argues that hyperreality is “the authentic fake” whereas the second, Peter Sparrow, narrows his definition further and argues that hyperreality is the “virtual irreality”. So what exactly do these quotes mean?

Everywhere we go we are bombarded with masses of images, logos and adverts that are trying to convey a message to us, trying to appeal to a certain side of us. Many of the images that we see blur both reality and imagination together, incorporating a world mixed of the two. I remember visiting Las Vegas when I was 15 on a school trip. I became fascinated by the city and yet utterly confused by it at the same time. We walked around the city at night, seeing many of the sights, including the Venetian Resort, a hotel that imitates the Italian city of Venice, with Venice’s famous canals becoming one of the main artificial features of the hotel. It was not only confusing to see this Italian city right in the middle of the famous hotel but the fact that the ceiling had been realistically painted to look like it was always day time was really disorientating for me. I think this must have been the first real example of hyperreality I was consciously aware of. Not only had night and day become blurred into one within a matter of minutes but America and Italy had also interlinked. I could be in two places at once, the reality and the illusion, America and Italy, night and day.

Another example is Disneyland, with their slogan boasting the phrase “the place where dreams come true”. For Eco, Disneyland is a good example of the hyper real world because the “land” imitates real cities but within these cities of Disneyland are simulations or simulated experiences. The sociologist Jean Baudrillard also looks at Disneyland in his book ‘Simulacra and Simulation’. Disneyland becomes a perfect world where dreams really can become reality and thus by indulging ourselves in this imaginary world we are able to escape the realities of the real world. The first words spoken on the Disneyland advert below this text asks us “where can you live the magic?” The answer? Disneyland.

I could go on forever about the different examples of hyper reality we see in society but the desire to escape the realities of the real world is something that interests me in regards to communication and so now I want to aim to focus on that. For many, social networking sites are the ideal place to broadcast an idealised image of you. You can chose a profile picture which enhances your character, maybe a picture of you skydiving to show how adventurous you are or a picture of you looking your best on a special occasion. I know I am definitely guilty of this but the point is it’s not reality. On the computer screen the picture that depicts you is an exaggerated version of yourself. On the screen there could be an absolutely flawless photo of yourself whereas behind the screen may well be sitting there scrolling through these sites in their pyjamas looking like a whole other self to what they’ve chosen to display. This is a good example of what Baudrillard would call a simulacra. It is an escape from reality, a different “you” photographed on a certain day that now represents the rest of your virtual life.

With the protection of a computer screen to hide behind we have the ability to say, write and communicate whatever we feel like, thing we would never imagine saying in real life. The recent rise of internet trolls is a good example- individuals who deliberately post controversial messages in order to get a reaction from virtual individuals. By communicating in the open world of the wide web our musings or replies on these social sites are opened up to anyone who has access to our profile, meaning that others can join in with their own comments. These ways in which we communicate online differ from conventional face to face communication because online communication is opened up to such a wider audience, made even wider with the ability to share or retweet posts. If blogging wasn’t available I’d have a much smaller audience to express my views but instead I have the ability to reach out to whoever reads my posts.

The final point I wish to make about online communication is the virtual and real friends we have. We not only have the ability to connect to friends and family who live on the other side of the world from us but the ability to follow celebrities on these sites and receive regular updates from them, enabling us to have an insider’s access to a celebrity lifestyle. Celebrity culture and real life becomes mixed into the same social media space, a world of the real and the imagined.

I am definitely guilty of buying into the hyper real world of images and communication and hyper reality is something that has fascinated me and will continue to fascinate me for many years to come. I’m sure there will be many more references to hyper reality in more of my blog posts. But I am aware of how much I have written about it so far so will end my post on this note- living in a hyper real world can be dangerous. It is wonderful to have a place to escape to when the realities of life all gets too much, but hypereality has an expiry date and you can’t live in an illusion forever. Hyperreality is an exaggeration of the reality around us, depicts reality but is in fact not real and it’s dangerous to get lost in a world of the imagined. Just like Alice we too need to wake up from wonderland one day.

Do the new ways in which we choose to socialise make us anti-social?

The Social Network topic is such a broad theme that I will be aiming to spend several blogs on exploring the sub topics, endeavouring to keep each post related the heading. This blogs question, “Do the new ways in which we choose to socialise make us anti-social?” is complex with many answers, with most answers varying on who is responding to the question. The definition of socialising is the act of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs and ideologies. When looking at the statistics about social network statistics I found that 98% of 18-24 years olds socialise through sites like Facebook and Twitter so it would be fair to argue that the norm and custom amongst that age would be communication through these sites. What these statistics also suggest is that whether we love or hate social networks we can unanimously agree that they are popular, but what exactly is their appeal? By fitting into the age category stated above I would argue that the main appeal for me is the connection I am able to have with my friends. Events are created and discussed, photos are uploaded and group messages are sent and so by disconnecting yourself from social networks it becomes easy to isolate yourself from the social interactions between your friends. These sites also enable you to quickly connect and communicate with your friends, not only one on one but on a large scale.

However, this being said I do believe that there are aspects of social networking that verge from socialising with friends to anti-socialising. One of my pet peeves is when a group of friends meet up and instead of interact with each other they will sit with their phones in their hands, updating statuses, tweeting or sharing new images. There is nothing more anti-social than someone who won’t socialise. Another aspect is the difficulty you face in conveying emotion or tone of speech such as sarcasm. Without adding in an emoticon in your dialect or including slang words such as “lol” or “omg” what you aim to say can easily be misinterpreted, something which is avoidable when communicating face to face.

Rather than communicate face to face I believe that social networks enable us to communicate to a large, global audience. Perhaps it could be argued that we now publicize ourselves to this audience, like an advert, announcing our likes and dislikes, personal bio and recent visits. But I think this can still be viewed as social rather than anti-social. Socialising is the way in which humans connect with each other. In today’s society we still connect but less frequently by face to face. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, with the emergence of sites such as LinkedIn we have the ability and ease of making ourselves known as well as the accessibility of connecting ourselves to individuals and companies that interest us giving us opportunities we may not have without the site. I think that the emergence and increased popularity of these social networking sites encourage a new kind of exciting communication. Rather than be dismissive we should embrace the way our society has moved on and accept that it will always be changing, soon a completely alien form of communication will emerge, challenging our conceptions on what socialisation is again.