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A Facebook identity crisis

May 10, 2010

When I was younger, I enjoyed using Facebook. I interacted with distant high school friends and learned more about the people I was meeting at college. Facebook was a means to an end – using Facebook made my real-life social experience better.

What is it now? When I log on to Facebook, I see the status updates and miscellaneous activity of the 50 or so friends that Facebook deems to be my ‘best friends.’ Someone has filled out a survey, the title of which is a provocatively sexual song lyric taken out of context, and the questions are personal, and in some cases, obscene.

‘What is bothering you right now?’ the survey asks.

‘I bet you miss someone right now,’ the survey asks. Is that even a question?

Three or four people state how much work they have left until they are finished for the semester. An innumerous number simply list the number of days until the last day of classes, and another innumerous number ‘like’ those status updates.

A girl posts the insecure lyrics to their favorite song, as if the lyrics reflect what’s going on in her life right now.

There is more than that, too. Take a look on CareerBuilder or Monster.com and look for how many companies are hiring ‘Social Media’ interns, consultants, and analysts to develop Facebook fan pages and to build a Facebook presence.

In short – Facebook is becoming a culturally accepted form of narcissism, a means to broadcast thoughts and ideas to a large audience, rather than one person connecting directly to another for the mere sake of connecting with someone.

Facebook wants to make a universal ‘like’ button so you can advertise what you like to all your friends. Already, your Facebook friends can give your interests and likes to external applications and companies. Essentially, it is creating an environment where your digital presence – interests, likes, friends, and relationship status – is quantitatively you, a set of raw data for advertisers to peruse and take advantage of.

Am I being too cynical about this? In theory, it’s a tool for your friends to find all of this out about you too.

But really, anyone who’s my friend should already know that my favorite movie is… (go ahead, guess)

*checks Facebook*

Die Hard.

-ben

The end of an era

April 19, 2010

There are quite a few ways to measure my time at Cognito, which has sadly come to an end:

–          One website, which I came to see as my baby (by the way, it’s the mark of a good parent when he knows to let his baby run free)

–          Two events, spent talking (perhaps ‘hobnobbing,’ one might say) with clients and journalists

–          Three published written pieces! Oh baby!

–          Four months

–          Ten lunch trips to the schnitzel truck

–          One hundred morning commutes (and three broken trains)

–          One hundred fifty cups of coffee

I’m not going to get sentimental (or I might just burst into tears, right here, in the Starbucks). It was a fun and valuable experience, and now the New York adventure continues.  I will be applying to jobs, working on my book, diving deeper into digital marketing, and savoring every moment of free time I have.

Who knows…maybe I’ll even budget some time in for fun.

-ben

Tag Clouds

April 11, 2010

My friend Joe showed me a cool website, www.tagxedo.com, where you can make your own fancy tag clouds. Here’s one for the home page of my website:

And here’s one for my short story, ‘On Fire,’ that you can read elsewhere on this website 🙂

I am pretty sure that this is how cool people spend their Sunday nights.

And yes, I know they are just little.

It’s all right though – I think you will somehow survive.

-ben

This economy has gone zero days without a financial accident

March 9, 2010

Since so much of what I do during the week revolves around financial reform, I thought it might be appropriate that I write about it here.

I can appreciate, however, that financial reform is not the most compelling subject in the world, so I’ve been trying to think of an metaphor to make the topic more interesting to the uninformed reader, i.e. my audience (sorry…two paragraphs in and I’m already insulting you).

The general background is that Wall Street got too smart for its own damn good, it played with complicated financial assets, convinced people they could get something for nothing by investing in them, and then, well, by god all those people DID get something.

They got broke.

This is what I call the “non-biased background,” of course, and it’s already pretty boring. But today, I finally came up with a metaphor that’s *hopefully* not offensive to the bankers, and it *hopefully* won’t sway your opinion one way or another (do we ever expect to change anyone’s opinion?).

Anyways:

Let’s say that the Wall Street hot-shots and the bankers are, collectively, a five-year old boy.

Let’s say the five-year old boy was treated like an adult, and his parents left the cookie jar on the counter because they trusted their son. And why not? They raised him well, he was good to others, made sure all his friends in kindergarten were making sound investments with regards to the building blocks. His parents knew he snuck a cookie now and then, but you know what? He studied hard in school, he really made some nice towers out of those blocks, he deserves an extra cookie once in a while.

But then one cookie becomes a few cookies, and one day, when he’s stretching on his tip-toes for the jar, it comes crashing down.

Cookies everywhere. Mommy (the Democrats) yells at him, sends him to time-out, and from then on it’s a cookie-free house.

Do you think she’s being too harsh? Remember – her son just broke a trillion-dollar cookie jar.

Well don’t worry, that part didn’t really happen.

What is happening is that the child is still sneaking cookies because his parents haven’t really decided what to do yet. His mom wants the new cookie jar put on the high shelf, and his father (the Republicans) says that boys will be boys – he’s learned his lesson already.

The mom, however, holds more of the power in the relationship – she can withhold certain benefits from her husband.

By that, I mean the mom can essentially stop Congress from accomplishing anything at all.

Why…what were you thinking?

Anyways, they start installing a high shelf to put the cookie jar on. The child pouts at mommy and whines and screams and pounds his fists on the floor and switches his funding dollars to Daddy.

I sense the metaphor breaking down right about now, meaning that we’re at the part where I’m expected to come out and say my opinion, right?

The child complains that financial regulation will hamper the markets. Well, news flash says mom – the child does a pretty good job of hampering his own damn markets. The dad argues that too much regulation will prevent legitimate risk-reduction techniques, and the mom asks the dad just how effective those ‘techniques’ are (…that’s what she said). Dad scoffs and says mom doesn’t know what she’s talking about, mom throws the roast across the kitchen and tears off her apron,

“You never say you love me anymore!” mom wails.

“That’s because I don’t!” dad says.

Oh boy, I’m losing focus here. Ultimately, it’s pretty simple – when cookie jars stop crashing down from countertops across the world, no one will be talking about financial regulation anymore. The end.

It just kills me that as the economy begins its recovery, I can already feel everyone’s eyes on the cookies, as if nothing had happened.

I shouldn’t have written this while hungry.

-ben

You Know You’re Old If….(Pt. 2)

February 1, 2010

Again, I know this isn’t a real update, but I have been swamped lately. Traveling all the time, working two internships, still fitting in time for creative stuff…essentially I sacrifice sleep. Here are my relevant life updates, for those of you who care (and if you do care, you probably know this already…)

1. I’m about 7 weeks into my 10 week internship at Cognito, a financial services PR agency. It is an absolutely fantastic place full of terrific people, and I’ve learned an unbelievable amount about how PR works from the bottom up. A lot of the copy I write gets used by actual clients, which is a thrill, and by week’s end, I’ll be able to link to what I’ve been working on.

2. I’m starting to pull ideas together and get some writing done for my next big book project. Hopefully this one will actually be, you know, good.

3. Learning a lot about search engine optimization. When I get some more free time, I’ll do some more independent research so I can be the best at it.

That’s about it.

Also, you know you’re old if you root through public trash cans (taking off the lid, arm deep into the muck) for a newspaper. Yuck.

-ben

You Know You’re Old If…

October 29, 2009

You have ever said, “Oh, we had a lovely conversation.”

You have designated times during the week where you sit on a specific bench. No newspaper or book or anything…you just sit.

(Not a real blog post…I just noticed these things :-P)

-ben

How Not to be Found

October 27, 2009

I’m always amused by the college-aged job seekers who change their Facebook name so potential employers won’t find them. A common tactic is to change last name to middle name – delightfully hip, and in most cases, you will sound more like a porn star (Benjamin Lawrence, anyone?).

But this is a game you will lose. Unless your name is John Smith, if employers even bother to look for you, you can’t hide. If they care enough to look, you can bet they will release the hounds. There’s no point in pulling the middle name trick if you’ve registered your profile URL under your real name. There are a lot of things I don’t understand. Why de-tag pictures if your profile is private anyway? (unless you look ugly in them – very probable). Protect your tweets, keep your LinkedIn hidden – it’s funny that these things are intended to be social tools and lubricants, and this obsession with corporate snooping is making people clam up. Kind of defeats the purpose, right?

With increasing parts of our lives under scrutiny, do people behave differently? We all know someone in college who refuses to have their picture taken at parties. God forbid they’re seen with that distinctive red Solo cup, full of some ambiguous, sinful substance.

So, a tip for people worried about what’s on the internet about them: Google your name, take a look at what you see, decide what you don’t like, and FIX IT!

ANYWAYS,

If I were in human resources, and it was my job to research and report on candidates (same job function as a KGB agent), I’d make sure they drank out of at least a few Solo cups. A few Solo cups means well-adjusted in my book. Otherwise, they’re either neurotic enough to painstakingly delete all of their pictures, or they have no friends.

Or they don’t drink in college.

Which is ridiculous.

-ben