Social Media: Why It Matters by Meghan_Stauts
It's more than just a Facebook status update or 140-character sentence.
January 23, 2012 02:40 PM | 5244 views | 0 0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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Famous Last Facebook Words
by Meghan_Stauts
January 23, 2012 01:46 PM | 494 views | 1 1 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Perhaps I am too much a product of the social media-obsessed Generation Y, but I have to admit that the thought of what would happen to my social media accounts in the event of my untimely death has crossed my mind more than I care to admit. How would I want to be e-remembered? If I died today, my last Facebook status would be, and I quote, "I am not ashamed to admit that I nearly shed a few tears for Heidi and Seal. If they can't make it, who can?!?!" Not with a bang but with a whimper indeed.

Surely I am not the only person who has thought this, right? Apparently not, as I discovered a new Facebook app created for just this purpose, fittingly named If I Die. It touts itself as being the "first and only" Facebook application that allows users to create a video or text message that will only be published after he or she passes away and only after the death has been confirmed by three of the user's chosen trustees. 

While just the slightest bit morbid, If I Die undeniably has a place in a world where 800 million people spend their time on Facebook each day. The app encourages users to upload their life story, a secret they haven't shared with anyone, or even their will in the form of a video or text message. While hopefully most users would want to leave their family with happy, pleasant memories, this so-called "digital afterlife application" has a serious chance of causing more damage than good. Say someone's last Facebook words were written in a momentary fit of rage or bout of depression, and they unexpectedly die shortly after. Their words could leave an indelible mark on their friends and family for years to come.

I don't think I will be installing If I Die just yet. Perhaps I'm superstitious or just like to believe I've still got a few good decades left in me; choosing what may be my last e-words seems a little too stressful at present. However, that's not to say that I don't hear the little Faulkner that always sits on my shoulder whispering to fall back on my old favorite: "The past is never dead. It's not even past." 

What would your last Facebook words be? 
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Welcome to 2012!!!
January 24, 2012
Wow! This is the first time I've seen your column. It is so good to see the MDJ take a step into the present and acknowledge that the 50's are never coming back!!!!

Thanks for your blog!!!!

Girl Scout cookie craving? Believe it or not, there's an app for that.
by Meghan_Stauts
January 13, 2012 03:45 PM | 416 views | 1 1 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
If you follow us on Twitter and Facebook, you might have noticed my not-so-subtle declarations of love for Girl Scout cookies lately. Yes, folks, it is indeed that time of year again where we all stalk the daughters of coworkers in order to get our hands on those round, delicious treats.

Reporter Lindsay Field has been working on a story about local Girl Scouts for this Sunday paper and, after I had walked slowly past her desk for the 59th time, passed their 2012 media kit my way. Trying not to salivate on the glossy green & white pages, my eyeballs stopped in their tracks when they came across the phrase, "Want Thin Mints? There's an app for that!"

Cue triumphant fist-pumping. Girl Scouts, you just made my week!  If there are two things in this world I have an undying love for, it is my iPhone and Samoas. Okay, and my husband and our dogs...and Thin Mints.

The Girl Scouts FindCookies app allows users to find cookies nearby by searching for your city and state, your zip code, or by enabling GPS location services. This is obviously helpful for those days where you just really want a post-dinner (or breakfast) snack of the GS variety but don't know where to find those beloved sweet treats. We all know that Keebler Grasshoppers just don't cut it. Sorry I'm not sorry.

The best part is this app does not merely just locate cookies. Oh no. It also has a "What's your cookie personality?" game. Users tap an image of their favorite cookie, and the app displays what that cookie says about the user. FYI, I'm brainy, complex, and mysterious. The more you know...

The app is rounded out by detailed information about each cookie, videos, recipes, and sale notifications. Let's be honest though. I could live without the nutrition facts, as I'm currently trying to divert my attention from the fact that two Tagalongs have 140 calories and 9 grams of fat.

Perhaps I'm a bit premature in making this statement, but I don't even care: this might be my favorite app of 2012. Check it out and tell me what your cookie personality is!
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Just say no!
January 14, 2012
Girl Scout Cookies are not Weight Watcher friendly!

Still, I manage to sneak one every once in a while. All I have to do is go without eating t-for two days.

Do what I do Give the Girl Scouts the money and tell them to send the cookies to a deployed U.S. serviceman/servicewoman. They offer that service, though it is not widely publicized for some strange reason. Anyway, it is a guilt-free way to support our young peeople and our people in uniform at the same time.

Oh, the Places You'll Go: Social Media in 2012
by Meghan_Stauts
January 06, 2012 04:33 PM | 372 views | 1 1 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
One week into the new year, the always-reliable Mashable released a list of solid social media predictions for 2012. Three in particular stuck out in this digitally obsessed brain of mine.

Facebook Growth Plateaus, but Engagement Continues to Surge: How many users can the Zuck really continue to add after his company has already hit 800 million? Perhaps now the focus will not be on the number of users but instead on how much content they generate. With the recent addition of Timeline, I'll be excited to see how the Facebook profile evolves; once a cool "college kids only" site, it now exists as an ever-changing online document of a user's life, with emphasis on sharing, sharing, and sharing some more.

YouTube Gains Popularity in the Living Room: Why would you NOT want to watch Charlie Bit My Finger on the big screen? Jokes about viral videos aside, YouTube will certainly have some competition with well-established services like Hulu Plus and Netflix's instant streaming service. I'm curious as to how the Google-owned company will make the move from dorm room to living room. 

A Meaningful Second Tier of Social Networks Emerges: Hooray for beloved timewasters and inspiration-creators Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr! None for you, Google Plus. 

What do you think? Do you care where sites like Facebook and Twitter are heading as long as they aren't changing your privacy settings once every three weeks or charging per tweet, status update, etc? Leave a comment and tell me your predictions!

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January 13, 2012
My YouTube prediction:...Less finger biting and more tripping and falling down - while texting.

Auld Lang Syne, Twitter.
by Meghan_Stauts
December 29, 2011 02:23 PM | 445 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
It was a pretty good year to be a Twitter user, so in true Twitter fashion, I'll keep it short: the platform's international reach was inescapable. For perhaps the first time, journalists worldwide began using Tweets as credible, unfiltered primary sources. Regimes were overthrown. High-profile assassinations were live-tweeted. A young girl tried to figure out which seat should she take. And it all unfolded in 140 characters or less. 

Recently Twitter posted its Year In Review, breaking down the most frequently tweeted words into topics like sports, food and drink, and hashtags (my obvious favorite). Take a look for yourself

What do these topics say about what people feel compelled to tweet about? Notably, five of the hot cities and countries are international. Four out of five of the hottest movies are superhero movies. Nearly half of the tech topics are products of the late Steve Jobs, himself also a hot topic. #egypt was the most popular hashtag, followed only by #tigerblood. Winning! 

Perhaps utilizing Twitter as an anthropological tool to study society in 2011 is taking it a bit too far (or is it?). One thing is for sure: we should all be happy that the McLobster didn't happen.
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Rock star Twitter moments? Yeah, they totally exist
by Meghan_Stauts
December 23, 2011 12:45 PM | 424 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Up until this week, I could count the number of times that I had a brush with the folks on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on one hand.  Actually, more like on one finger: George W. Bush visited Harrison High School while I was a student there. I think I watched his speech on closed circuit television. Impressive, I know.

On Wednesday, I officially added one more moment to my list when the official White House Twitter account retweeted one of MDJ's Tweets, essentially broadcasting our name and message to  their 2.6 million followers. (My horrible-quality screencap at left does it no justice, but hey, it's proof.)

Hold up. Why? Who? What? 

You see, late Tuesday, The White House launched a social media campaign to help put a face on a recent debate that resulted in gridlock in Congress over the American Jobs Act; they asked their followers to tweet with the hashtag #40dollars and tell them what sort of things the extra amount of money per paycheck would help their familys pay for. We followed in their footsteps, asking “What would an extra #40dollars per paycheck mean to you?” Quickly thereafter, the White House retweeted our question, and instantly, our Twitter feed filled with people responding, saying #40dollars would help pay for things like gas, student loan payments, and groceries for the week. According to Washington Post, over 30,000 people responded to the campaign over the course of the week. It was so cool to know that a small fraction of those people took the time out of their day to tell us what $40 meant to them.

As I am writing this, I'm watching the Associated Press tweet that Congress has approved a two month extension of a payroll tax cut. Sigh. The power of 140 characters.

For more information about #40dollars campaign, click here. 

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"A New Kind of Profile"
by Meghan_Stauts
December 16, 2011 04:28 PM | 497 views | 1 1 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
     Facebook finally made its shiny, new, Zuckerberg-helmed interface available to all users this week with the public roll-out of Facebook Timeline, urging all users to "tell your life story with a new kind of profile."

     The "new" Facebook archives seemingly everything that anyone on Facebook has ever done. Ever. Using all data that the user has ever allowed Facebook access to, Timeline creates virtual, linear life story that is public to all of the user's friends. Depending on the applications users have enabled on their accounts, Facebook Timeline tells their friends all of the basics plus everything imaginable - from what places users visited to what songs are on their favorite Spotify playlists.

     Personally, I like to save myself the unavoidable embarrassment that comes with making public my obsession with playing the Glee version of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" on repeat, so my enabled applications are few and far between. The application that disables the posting of unflattering pictures and awkward wall posts from those friends from high school and college? At this moment, disabled because it unfortunately does not exist. This is where Facebook Timeline tends to veer into Orwellian territory; Zuckerberg is watching your every move - and apparently has been, since you were born.

     My guess is Facebook users will either love the trip down memory lane that Timeline will guide them on...or we will soon hear the horrified slam of laptops nationwide as people come front and center with some less-than-pleasant moments from their early teens or 20s that were, shall we say, digitally preserved. Never fear: users have seven days to hide and highlight stories to their hearts' content until their timeline is just right. Then their timelines automatically go public. No turning back.

     Facebook's frequent overhauls always attract heated protests ("I'm quitting Facebook! This time! Really!") or declarations of love ("AWESOME!!!!") from its 800 million active users. I fall squarely in the middle: pretty cool stuff, Zuck, but also, just a tad creepy. What do you think about Facebook Timeline?
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To FB or not to FB
December 19, 2011
I call it Brag Book. When friends from years ago asked to "friend" me it boosted my ego until I realized they weren't interested in me it was for me to be interested in them. I keep my "friends" to about 25. And the "friends" I have a reciprocal relationship with on FB is a fraction of those 25.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet (During a Performance)
by Meghan_Stauts
December 09, 2011 02:36 PM | 547 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Tweet seats: in-house seats that allow theater patrons to tweet throughout the performance without disturbing their fellow lovers of the arts.

I promise you, this is not just some random social media catchphrase that I made up. Tweet seats, as I found out this week after stumbling upon this USA Today article, are popping up in theaters and performing arts centers across the country. Often located in the back row of theaters, they are meant to accommodate those people who wish to live-tweet symphonies, musicals, and the like while appeasing those who cannot stand the tell-tale combination of cell phone lights and the flurry of thumbs of people tweeting, texting, etc.

When USA Today's Kara Rose asked patrons about these tweet seats, one concert attendee sang their praises, saying, "I could communicate openly about my reactions to the music, musicians and conductor — without speaking a word. Plus, I had the opportunity to engage others, and get their reactions to the performance." On the flip side, another grumbled that the people in the tweet seats, "...didn't even look up to applaud at the end of each selection. The fact that they were watching their handheld devices, they missed out on what was happening on the stage."

This is where I break free from the social media pack and side with the old schoolers. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for communicating openly and obsessively documenting every aspect of my day (hello, Instagram), but even I reach a point where it's time to put down the iPhone and take a deep, touch-screen-free, in-the-now breath.

Awards shows, political debates, high school football games? All free game for live tweeting. However, if I'm taking the time out of my life to go enjoy a real, live performance that isn't taking place in my living room, I want my attention to be focused solely on what's in front of me - not retina-deep in my phone, concentrating on how I can describe my experience in 140 characters or less for the sake of "engaging others." At the end of the day, I prefer to engage others face-to-face over a nice meal where the risk of my phone's text autocorrect embarrassing me is nonexistent.

What do you think, blogging brethren? Tweetriffic or twittorrible idea?

(I'm working on the social media puns, I promise.)

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by Meghan_Stauts
November 29, 2011 11:53 AM | 719 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Brace yourself. I'm about to do something I never thought I would do so long as I lived.

That's right, folks. I'm about to admit that Mississippi State had a clever idea. Cue my husband's ashamed glances and heavy sighs.

Now that the proverbial Band-Aid has been ripped off, allow me to explain. If you were one of the 27 people that watched my beloved Rebels fall miserably to the Bulldogs in the Egg Bowl on Saturday night, you might have noticed that The School Down South had painted the phrase #hailstate in their end zone, number sign and all. And, if you were like most members of my family, you wondered, "What the heck is that in the end zone?!"

A hashtag is a short word or phrase that, when typed after the number key, will become categorized in a list of other tweets using the same hashtag. Pretty confusing, I know. For example, during a Braves game, a Twitter user could tweet something like, "Tim Hudson is back at it again! #Braves" The #Braves hashtag would automatically create a hyperlink that, when clicked on, would display a list of all other Twitter users also tweeting with the #Braveshashtag. When a bunch of people use the same hashtag, it becomes a "Trending Topic" but that's another story for another day.

So, did Mississippi State's trendy end zone art make a point? Sure; I didn't even know they had access to the Internet down in Starkville (I jest, I jest). In all seriousness, a glance at the list of Tweets using the #hailstate hashtag shows that people were using it and using it frequently. Even if the hashtag was mostly used to brag and boast, perhaps those Bulldogs are onto something after all.

Where do you think hashtags will pop up next?

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Thank you, social media.
by Meghan_Stauts
November 25, 2011 03:10 PM | 609 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
This Thanksgiving I'm thankful for a great number of things. I'm thankful for my little brother's safe return from Afghanistan, my husband of 3 great months, our dogs that always make us smile, and my family and friends that support me without fail. However, as I began wrapping up this day of work, I couldn't help but think of how thankful I am for social media.

I'm thankful for Twitter. I found out about bin Laden's death over an hour before President Obama announced it on television after a White House aide leaked the news with a simple tweet that read, "So I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn." I now use it to break news for MDJ and live-tweet high school football games for Cobb Football Friday, interacting with readers both new and old. We have received story ideas from our followers and constructive criticism from others. The door that it has opened for journalism in the 21st century is undeniable. Every morning when I open my Tweet Deck, I can't help but smile at those 140 character sentences, trying to predict what crazy Tweet I'll see today. 

I'm thankful for Facebook. Aside from keeping up with former classmates and relatives living across the country on my personal account, I've used MDJ's account to post a picture of Kennesaw Mountain High School's first special-needs homecoming winner, only to gain over 60 comments and likes. I've conversed with young MDJ readers about whether or not a tattoo shop should be allowed on the Marietta Square. Much like Twitter, it has opened up a whole new realm of possibility for sharing stories, photos, and video.

I'm thankful for Instagram, the iPhone photo-sharing app. Not only does it make my mediocre cell phone snaps look like Eggleston-esque works of art, it inspires me to think outside the box when it comes to what makes a picture beautiful. Like Facebook and Twitter, the instant gratification of Instagram is undeniable; the ability to share photos with your followers in mere seconds is addictive. Whether it's a photo of flags flying in Marietta Square on Veteran's Day or of the spread the Marietta Diner sent to MDJ staff the day before Thanksgiving, Instagram makes sharing photos from around Cobb with our readers quick and easy.

I'm thankful for our MDJ bloggers who have been so willing to jump on board with this new venture. These different people from different backgrounds all blogging about different things enrich our site with every blog they post, and I cannot wait to see where the blogs take us. 

Happy Thanksgiving, blogosphere!

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Blogging, Blogs, and the Bloggers that Blog Them
by Meghan_Stauts
November 16, 2011 04:24 PM | 824 views | 1 1 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

You may have noticed some changes around MDJOnline in the past few months. We’ve expanded our online presence across a number of platforms and have also increased the amount of online-specific content, such as photo galleries and videos of events happening aroundCobbCounty. Most noticeably, we have embraced the use of social media as a new way to interact with our readers, including the very place you are visiting right now: the brand spankin’ new blog section of our site.

Trendy catchphrases like “blogging” and “social media” are often met with confusion by people not entirely versed in the vocabulary of the Internet. After all, what makes a blog any different than your average op-ed? By definition, a blog is a website that contains a writer’s or group of writer’s own experiences, observations, opinions, etc. In essence, with some keystrokes and the click of a mouse, a blogger can share his or her unfiltered opinions on the issues that matter to them with an immediate online audience.

Blogs illustrate participatory, grassroots journalism at its finest. Harnessing the virtually limitless space of the Internet, blogs give people of all backgrounds an easily-accessible vehicle through which they can share their thoughts and opinions on a wide variety of topics with an extremely large audience. Take a look at the bloggers we have housed in our blog section; from an ex-Marine to a professor of sociology, our bloggers backgrounds vary wildly, purposefully so. Whether or not a blogger holds a degree in journalism or has any journalistic experience is irrelevant in the “blogosphere”; rather, it is what they have to say that matters.

Of course, blogs are not meant to take the place of traditional journalism; nothing can replace the experience of starting your morning off with a cup of coffee in one hand and a good, old fashioned newspaper in the other. However, in the age of touch-and-go technology, bloggers will be able to continue the conversation in the “blogosphere” well after the coffee has cooled and the ink has faded.

While the blogger his or herself is certainly a crucial part of a blog’s success, blogs rely heavily on the interaction of readers to offer feedback, or perhaps even to offer a dialogue different than their own. As we see every day on the comment section of MDJOnline, readers will always have opposing viewpoints, but what is most important is that people are engaged in conversation about events on local or national scale on a very public forum. These conversations often create a snowball effect, spurring the writing of other blogs, more comments, so on and so forth.

So welcome to our new blog section. Take a look around. Read what our bloggers have to say. Comment on their blogs. Make your voice heard. Interact with other readers (respectfully, mind you).  Who knows? Your thoughts might spur someone’s next blog…

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November 20, 2011
LOVIN' IT. Blogs focused on local issues. What a concept!

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