“Digital Kidnapping:” The Rise of a Disturbing Trend

Social media roleplays are an online game in the same family as fanfiction and cosplay; users will create settings and characters, create social media accounts for them, and then play out relationships and events as those characters. Sometimes they play as established characters from television and film; other times, they extend existing fantasy universes. Where new characters have been invented, tradition dictates that they’ll choose a celebrity who fits their vision of what the character looks like, and use public domain photos of that celebrity where images are required or desired. These games have become so popular that players have to apply to take part; game organisers will ask a set of questions, and select the person they think will play best. For the most part, it’s harmless, creative fun; but recently, it’s taken a darker turn as people have started playing using photographs of “real” people, stolen from their social media profiles. It’s not quite catfishing, as players will usually make it clear that they’re role playing (by putting “RP account” in their description), but it can be equally distressing to the people whose photos are being used to represent a character they have no control over. Read more

Guilty By Association: Reddit and Monetising Hate Speech

RedditA few days ago, Reginald Braithwaite posted an excellent piece titled “So Long, Reddit,” in which he stated that he would no longer contribute to a website that makes money off hate speech. Racist discussion threads (“sub-reddits”) like Chimpire might stand as a testament to just how far Reddit is willing to take its policy of free, virtually unmoderated discussion, but as Braithwaite correctly points out, Reddit is a business, and it’s making money off adverts placed in those threads. Essentially, as he puts it, they’re monetizing hate. While the majority of Reddit users may completely disagree with the sentiments expressed in these threads, they’re supporting their existence by supporting the website and its current policies.

This then begs the question: what are we complicit with, or could we consider ourselves to be complicit with, by continuing to be part of larger social networks? By giving Facebook money to post your adverts in people’s newsfeeds, are you supporting their “real name” policy and its negative implications for the transgender and drag community? By viewing sponsored photos on Instagram and contributing to their advertising revenue, are you supporting the deletion of breastfeeding photos as “obscene”?

If you create your own private social network, on your own website, you know exactly where every dollar is going. You can create policies and terms that you’re proud to announce. You can rest assured that everything you’re participating in sits well with your personal sense of right and wrong.

Essena O’Neill, Social Media and Authenticity

It seems like everybody who works in communications is talking about Essena O’Neill at the moment; how she exposed the truth behind the photos she posted on Instagram, sharing what it took to get the perfect photo and how much she was paid for promoting certain products. She claims that social media is fake, and we’re all just seeking validation. essena

While many studies exist showing the negative effects of social media on self-esteem, most of the backlash against Essena has focused on three things: the fact that she’s still online and asking for money, that she’s manipulating information, and that there are many positives to social media.

I have a group of friends who I’ve known for ten years (we all met in 2005). One of them has made me and my partner godmothers to her son; another is planning to sign as a witness on my marriage certificate. Three of them live in my old hometown, and the first thing I do when I book a flight is send them a group text so we can arrange a girls’ night out. They’re my cheerleaders, my confidantes, people who I love dearly and who will drop everything just to call me on a bad day.

I met all of them online, because we joined the same private, niche interest social network.

Imagine if you were the only kid in your town who loved comic books. Imagine if you were the only person you knew with severe anxiety or depression. Imagine being transgender in the middle of the most conservative, religious city in your state. Imagine if everyone in your family just switched off when you started talking about your favorite book (again).

Maybe mass social networks are all about validation and popularity, but niche social networks are all about community. Technology isn’t inherently bad in itself; it’s how we use it.

There are several products which have been developed to try and create a more authentic social experience online. Casey Neistat created Beme, a video sharing app where you press to your chest to record, and the second you’re done, your video is uploaded (no opportunities for editing or withholding the information). Once the video has been watched, it’s gone. You can watch Neistat’s introduction to Beme below.

And of course, there’s PeepSo. Essentially, when you remove the mass market from the social networking experience, you remove the need to perform. When people join private, niche communities with a specific focus, there are no “celebrities”, there is nobody you have to impress. You’re simply there to connect with others, to have a shared experience.

The best thing Essena has done here is crack the door wide open, so we can start to have a real, informed conversation about what social media is, how it works, why we use it. We’re excited to be part of that conversation, and would love to hear your thoughts.

PeepSo 1.2.0 Has Native WordPress oEmbed Support

I know what you’re thinking: “Wow! Fantastic! Superb! Awesome! Fabulous… Huh?”

You were right the first time. oEmbed in PeepSo 1.2.0 is a way of presenting a link on a website. Instead of showing blue text and an underline, you get to show the actual content you want to share. So if you wanted to show your visitors a YouTube video, instead of telling them where to go, you embed the video itself.

YouTube embeded link.

YouTube embedded link.

You’ve seen this before. All the big names online— Spotify, InstagramTwitter—they all do it. It’s a fantastic way of presenting content.

Instagram embeded image.

Instagram embedded image.

oEmbed isn’t just pretty. It also helps with usability and it keeps people on your site. Instead of sending your users to YouTube, you can show them the video inline and keep them with you.

Twitter embedded link.

Twitter embedded link.

PeepSo now supports all of the embeds that WordPress natively supports. You can see the whole list here: https://codex.wordpress.org/Embeds

And if you really want to learn oEmbed’s technical details you can take a look here: http://oembed.com/

 

Interview: Leanne Hughes on Social Media and the Body Modification Industry

Leanne Hughes is an internationally respected body modification artist (specialising in body piercing), and has recently moved from Australia to London to continue her professional development. Her next project is a membership site focused on connecting industry professionals with trusted vendors (conceived and built by Samppa and Aneta VonCyborg, owners of VonCyborg Body Art). We spoke to her about social media and the body modification industry; the pros, the cons and the potential.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and your background in the industry.

I grew up as a somewhat isolated and lonely individual, never really feeling like I fit in, until seven years ago when I began my career in the body modification industry as a body piercer at The Piercing Urge in Melbourne, Australia. The body modification community is my family and I am very much at home within it. I did my piercing apprenticeship at The Piercing Urge, Australia’s leading body piercing and tattoo studio. I fell quickly into it, piercing came very naturally for me and after a few years I started specialising in genital piercing and had a lovely and loyal client base.

leanne hughes tongue splitAt the start of the year I made the decision to leave Australia, pursue my desire to travel and my dreams to move further into the body modification scene. On June 30th 2015 I flew to London and have been residing there with Samppa and Aneta VonCyborg. Samppa VonCyborg is one of the world’s best known and respected body modification artists; body modification has its roots in the piercing industry, but has developed and progressed into more extreme modification of the body.

I am currently working as a Personal Assistant to the VonCyborgs, as well as working part time in a well known tattoo studio, Love Hate Social Club London, which is part of the famous Love Hate Tattoos chain by Ami James of Miami Ink. Body Piercing, modifcations, tattoos, scarification and  body suspension are my biggest passions. My personal modifications include several piercings, heavy tattooing, scarification and a tongue split. I also partake in body suspension when I can, it is the most beautifully intense and euphoric experience I have ever known.

Do you think social networking has had an impact on the piercing community, and how people perceive body modification?

leanne hughes piercing 2Social networking has definitely had an impact of the piercing community and the way people perceive body modification. I believe for the most part it has been a positive impact in that it has brought the industry into the mainstream and it is becoming more accepted in society to be pierced, and tattooed, and the more extreme modifications are also becoming more accepted. There is definitely a fascination held by those not involved in the scene. However there will always be people who view modification negatively and will judge harshly. But that goes with anything in life.

What are the upsides and downsides of social networking, from your professional point of view?

The downside to the industry being brought into the mainstream is that the line between those passionate about modification and those being modified to be “cool” has become blurred. And sadly, true artists are being “copied” by individuals not good enough or qualified to be offering modifications. This includes not only piercing and tattooing but sadly extreme procedures such as tongue splitting and ear pointing. It is one thing to receive a dodgy piercing that you end up having to take out, or a bad tattoo that you have to get removed or cover, but it is another matter altogether to have what is technically a “surgical” procedure performed by an incompetent artist and suffering severe medical conditions and/or disfigurement as a result.

That said, there is thankfully a good deal of focus and effort made by the industry to communicate the importance of doing research before undertaking in any form of body modification, whether a simple ear piercing, a tattoo or a tongue split.

Facebook, Instagram and the other major social networks have fairly strict content policies; have you ever seen photos reported that you don’t believe should have been?

I have definitely seen photographs that have been reported with no need to have been, generally by those who are narrow minded and judgmental. I personally posted a photo on Instagram of a male nipple piercing I did and it was reported as nudity as someone thought it was a female nipple (off topic, but for the record I strongly support the “free the nipple” movement).

On the other side of that I have also seen photographs posted that definitely should be reported. I think the way social media sites, Facebook and Instagram particularly, moderate posts needs improvement.

Are there online communities for piercers outside of the “major” social networks – if so, how popular are they? If not, do you think there’s a market for one?

Outside the realm of Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr, there really aren’t any alternative social networking sites for the piercing and modification industry. Fetlife has become a means of communication, but is not an industry specific site. BMEzine was the biggest site for the industry, an online magazine noted for coverage of extreme body modifications, but sadly it has slowly been diminished over the years – the founder of the site, Shannon Larratt, passed away in March 2013.

I think there could potentially be a market for industry specific sites, but with the ability to create forums and groups, either public or private, on Facebook this is perceived as a much easier and more favorable option. These forums and groups, more so the private ones, give piercers, tattooists and modification artists a means to communicate, share, ask questions, seek advice, discuss and debate. The privacy also allows the sharing of photographs that would not be permitted to be shared publicly, so that is definitely a bonus. There are many forums and groups, some piercing only, some tattooing only, some extreme modification only, some shared. Some are wonderfully informative yet some are not so great, as is the way with any industry.

I personally would love to see an industry specific social networking site, however I don’t see it happening any time soon due to the dominance of Facebook.