Cindy Brugge

A Public Relations Student

Category: Social Media Blog

Managing Illness Updates through a New Social Media Tool

When my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, it took a major toll on my extended family. The matriarch of our family tree, she is my only living grandparent. With four grandparents down and only one to go, I did not handle her illness well.

My parents, grandparents and aunt at my dedication

My surrogate parent, she hid Easter eggs, bought me my first bra, organized tea parties, sewed dress up clothes and kindled my competitive nature by being a fierce Spades opponent. As close as I have been to her, I am not alone in this sentiment. My 12 cousins have slight variations of the same story. She was our playmate through childhood, our advocate through adolescence and remains our mentor as we have matured into adults.

Easter Celebration 1993 with my grandmother and two of my cousins

So, it isn’t hard to understand our heartbreak when she became terminally ill with stage three leukemia. I specifically remember the first time all 13 of her grandchildren came to the hospital on one afternoon. After everyone spoke with her individually, we all came in the room and sang “Amazing Grace.” (Side note: My singing was mostly mumbled words mixed with tears, snot and sobbing noises.) That afternoon made our communal love apparent very quickly and in the passing weeks, I began to see that the admiration for my grandmother extended past my family into the community.

On a daily basis, people crawled out of the woodwork to reach out to her. If she had allowed it, she would have had a constant stream of visitors from dawn to dusk every day. However, the chemo took the spark out of the spunky old broad. She spent most of her days in a great deal of exhaustion and pain and wasn’t able to take in the chaos and outside germs that visitors brought in. Although her friends couldn’t come to her room, she still needed constant supervision from family. So we had an ongoing schedule of shifts for the family to keep an eye on her health. It quickly became very confusing and difficult to maintain the various schedules of the numerous caregivers.

Therefore, when I recently found CaringBridge, I was amazed at the service it provides and incredibly disappointed that I hadn’t discovered it sooner. CaringBridge is a social media site that allows an ill patient create a page to update followers on their health status. Each page has a journal and a photo book to keep followers up to date and a guestbook for people to share kind notes with the ill individual. Each site can be created for public or private use, which can be especially helpful with the sensitivity of illness.

All of these qualities of the website intrigued me, but I was most excited about their supplemental application, SupportPlanner. This website allows the family to manage the various details involved with trying to support an individual in the hospital. The planner helps maintain caregiving schedules and provided meals. It can also allow for pet and childcare, as well as household chores. Juggling the responsibilities of someone who becomes incapacitated in a moment can be very challenging. This app makes this balancing act much simpler. Announcements are posted to one place, making it easier to complete every task while accepting help from the numerous involved parties.

Luckily, my grandmother overcame the cancer through chemo treatment. In remission, she is no longer bedridden in the hospital. However, her illness is likely to return in the coming years. If we are unfortunate enough to undergo this experience again, I will be utilizing this unique feature for my family.


Saying Goodbye to Facebook?

“None of my friends use it anymore…”

“Isn’t that for older people mostly?”

“I’m thinking about deleting my account, because I’m never on.”

I hear these statements about Facebook more and more frequently. High school and college students have begun abandoning Facebook and flocking to other social media sites, such as Instagram and Pinterest. But as they leave Facebook out in the cold, should they worry that these passing trends may eventually fade in to obsoleteness? And if so, will they return to Facebook or will an new site emerge as a front runner to replace Facebook?

Facebook recognizes its failing platform and is in the process of redesigning its front page. Will this help them regain strength like a phoenix rising from the ashes? Some don’t think so.

David Garcia, a researcher from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, said that this redesign could cause Facebook to plunge lower in ratings than before. Garcia referenced the redesign of Friendster, which was the final straw of its following.

Garcia makes the valid point that an updated design could be only detrimental to Facebook. With use already declining, Facebook will cause confusion with already rare users. Unless Facebook is able to integrate a new element that revives its following, we might be saying goodbye to the beloved site in the near future.

Why Free People’s Social Media Gurus Constantly Rock My World

URBN, a corporation that owns numerous trendy clothing stores such as Urban Outfitters, Free People and Anthropologie, has consistently infiltrated the market with forward thinking ideas. In accordance with this tendency, Free People has integrated many social media tools into their marketing strategy to create a blissfully, seamless transition across all of their web platforms.

Pinterest: On this platform, they have 36 boards and over 10,000 pins. Their most populated areas are on the DIY and recipe boards, but once people begin to follow Free People for their beautiful random pins they also receive a steady stream of Free People clothing, fashion shows, hairstyles, interior design, etc. Additionally, every Free People product that is pinned, links to the Free People website. They’ve also found ways to cleverly get people to join the conversation of their Pinterest page. For example, Free People addicts competed in a competition in early February to submit the cutest relationship pictures to celebrate Valentines Day. Let me just say that this board is so adorable that a razor blade to the wrist seemed preferable to a lonely February 14th.

Instagram: Free People’s Instagram account just makes followers envious of every URBN employee. Fun pictures of day-to-day activities in the Free People corporate office, include snapshots of their office dogs and crafty projects. Then the next post will come from backstage at a fashion show or a preview of a new line of clothes, being released. They absolutely stay in touch with their audience by fitting into the hipster, Instagram scene with their stylish lifestyle.

Twitter: Because their job looks like so much fun, URBN has a Twitter handle to post job opportunities. If you look for career options on their website, it sends you right to the Twitter page. This way their job opportunities are always being updated. It also forces their applicants to be on the same forward thinking wavelength as URBN branches.

Blog: On top of everything else, they have a great blog called Building 25. The web design of their blog is clutter free and easy to use with tons of information from many different outlets. My favorite column is the 60-Second Stylist. They also try to engage their audience by answering dating advice questions and offering a book club to their followers.

Bldg 25: The Free People Blog

Bldg 25: The Free People Blog

Other: YoutubeFlickrFacebookrdioGoogle+

I love that I get a daily dose of this brand through social media without being overwhelmed by embedded ads. They are incredibly effective, by skillfully adhering to their brand to market to current shoppers and future audiences. I just can’t get enough of their web presence.

Using Crowd-Sourced Information to Track Sexualized Violence in Syria

With various sexual crimes happening around the globe, it can be very difficult to get a grasp on the sheer size and reality of the problem at hand, but a group of researchers have started to use social media to track sexualized violence in Syria.

Women Under Siege is an organization aimed at providing proof that rape is a tool of war, “not only a crime of war but a tool.” By connecting the numbers of rape with the numbers of other common war violence, they hope to prove this theory and give groups, like the United Nations, the authority to act against “gender-based genocide.”

Screen-Shot Taken from the Women Under Siege Crowd Map

Screen-Shot Taken from the Women Under Siege Crowd Map
This screenshot shows some of the elevated rape crime numbers in Syria and Lebanon. The interesting part of these statistics is that Women Under Siege collected these numbers from social media testimonies and confessions.

“Every report is coded by perpetrator and date, and mapped by location,” said an NPR report by Deborah Amos.

Director, Lauren Wolfe, is pushing many research standards because many people believe that crowd-sourced information is untrustworthy. These opinions are absolutely taken into consideration, especially in reference to the social stigma associated with rape in Arab countries and the unlikelihood of a true representative sample.

However, this is the first time in history for such research and statistics to be gathered in real time. For this reason, the project is breaking many standards for acceptable research and trying to initiate crowd-sourced information into the research world.

“This is what is really new in terms of the story that can be told by crowd-sourcing,” said Lucas Dixon, social media research fellow at University of Edinburgh. “It can give you the overview picture, it can connect the dots, it can then inform you in ways that weren’t possible before.”

Social Media as a News Source: Natural Disaster Case Studies

In a 2005 TedTalks lecture, James Surowiecki, staff writer for the New Yorker and author of The Wisdom of Crowds, proposed the idea that social media had become a major up to date news venue. This prediction has become more and more truthful in the past eight years to the point that people have begun to visit Facebook for the latest news before a newspaper or televised news source.

His opinion was drawn from the immense amount of raw firsthand accounts of the Indian Ocean earthquake that led to multiple tsunamis in numerous Asian countries.

Blogs with information that described how breathtakingly destructive and debilitating the tsunamis were for the victims of the storm flooded the Internet. Personally, I remember my father watching and re-watching tourist videos that had been shot of the massive waves taking down everything in their path.

Surowiecki claimed that this had been the first time that our most immediate news source was coming from the people, not the journalists. These people were not being paid to find the most newsworthy piece of evidence. They were just trying to show the world what was going on.

“What we have is an army of local ‘journalists’ who are producing enormous amounts of material for no reason except to tell their story,” said Surowiecki.

This began the modern day phenomenon of social media news. In October of 2012, we have seen that little has changed from this scenario.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast coast, social media also provided an up to date news source.

Facebook was saturated with phrases like “stay safe” and “Hurricane Sandy.” In the first 24 hours following the storm, Twitter was overwhelmed with 3.5 million tweets with the hashtag #sandy. 10 pictures per second with same hashtag were uploaded to Instagram. (A total of 350,000pictures within the first 36 hours.) From all of the hurricane popularity on Instagram, the website was created to see the story of the hurricane in posted pictures.

Law enforcement quickly caught on to this social media trend and started offering information, such as directions to different shelters and taking emergency “calls” via Twitter. News stations were also tweeting the latest reports to the public.

This viral news source kept people updated with reports from the common man and allowed messages to be passed in a way totally unlike the newspaper that we find each morning on our porch step. The pictures were vividly unbelievable and the messages were coming from real people whose urban streets were flooded knee-high with water, further proving Surowiecki’s prediction that social media has become the most predominant source of the news.