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Posted by Shannon

About two years ago, I was trying to explain a humble-brag -- and how to avoid it -- to a friend making her first foray into social media. That's when it dawned on me that Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice was the perfect example. 

We’re both Jane Austen fans, and we’ve often discussed what an astute judge of people she was. Her books are populated with characters we all know. Reading her I’ve often been struck by how technology changes while humanity doesn't. She shows us everything from psychopaths to fools and her comic romps are nothing but snapshots of villages behaving badly. 

So I'm drawing on Austen's insights to teach generations of city dwellers about the etiquette and social skills necessary for getting along in a village. Which is really what social media platforms have done – turned us into a huge village. 

Social media novices often ask how to avoid putting a digital-foot-in-mouth, so now I tell nervous tweeters that before they post they should pause and ask themselves, “What would Jane say to that?”

I expanded the idea into a think piece for Calgary’s Swerve magazine: "Jane Austen’s Guide to Social Media." Which published on time, Thursday, despite the flood. 

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Gap Flap

12 Oct 2010
Posted by Shannon

Here’s an incident I wish the research psychologists would explain: the massive outrage over the new Gap logo, which forced the company to revert to its old, reversed white-on-blue look. 

Who has time to care about the logo for the Gap or any other company?


Now, I understand the design and advertising world having an opinion, but it was ordinary consumers who fuelled the outpouring of rage, particularly in the Twitterverse.

Why? Even if you’re a devoted Gap shopper, a logo has no impact on you or the quality of the garments, so why bother airing an opinion? Or even having one.

Edelman PR has done a disturbing study that might have an answer of sorts. 8095, a study of millennials born between 1980 and 1995, suggests that the under-30s view brand affiliation as a personal identifier akin to religion and ethnicity. Apparently trying and reviewing brands online is a "core value." 

Unfortunately it doesn't answer the real question, which is how could they possibly consider shopping a core value? If you scratch the surface of most inexplicable human behaviour, you find that it’s comforting in some way. That’s why people believe in psychics, reiki, and all sorts of magical thinking: it gives them an illusion of control, which they find reassuring.

So maybe shopping and exercising influence on brands makes'em feel like they have control in a chaotic world?

I wonder if they've heard the term Fool's Paradise? 


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Cut the crap

16 Apr 2010
Posted by Shannon

Social media users tend to ignore the first question most audiences ask of any communication that comes their way: What’s in it for me?

As I drown in waves of self-serving drivel, I wonder if there has been a genuine social shift into the Age of Narcissism, or if it’s an illusion created by the sort of people who favour Twitter, in particular. I suspect the latter, since some of the biggest offenders are well past their half-century mark.

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Posted by Shannon

The New York Times is all a-twitter about New York City Ballet dancers being, well, all a-Twitter.

Several are using the bumper sticker of social media to tweet about their feet and various other concerns at intermission, in the physiotherapist's office, or on the bus.

I’m not sure of the wisdom of letting dancers speak directly to the public. Fifteen years as a dance critic taught me that letting dancers speak for themselves rarely ends well – for the companies that is.

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Privacy is dead

28 Mar 2010
Posted by Shannon

Social media hammering nails into the coffin of privacy is a daily occurrence now.

Today’s highlights include CBC reporting a journalism professor at King’s College informing us that the New Brunswick courts “misunderstand the nature of social media today” when they’re foolish enough to issue a publication ban on naming sexual assault victims.

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Oh those Twits

21 Mar 2010
Posted by Shannon

I’m immortalized in the Twit-o-sphere this week speaking in tongues.

 At least that’s what the 140 character limit reduced me to. On Saturday I did a short talk on media literacy for skeptics at SkeptiCamp 2010. They asked me to explain why the woo-woo gets so much play in publications that used to do journalism…

 Like I know?

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