Lesson learned

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What we should do with our social media accounts in the face of professionalism

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 4, 2015

When bodybuilder and middle school teacher Mindi Jensen received an ultimatum from her academic employers to either delete her workout/bikini pictures from her Instagram account or lose her job, it seemed like the whole world collectively rolled their eyes. Here we go again.

There was a time when I thought my teachers lived in the school after the bell rung and plotted our next quiz and homework assignments. While they might have been preparing the following day’s lecture, teaching was far from the only thing on their mind. Turns out, they do have a life outside of school and they barely thought of me after work—just like all people who make money during the day and go home to pursue their personal hobbies and projects in the evening.

Parents of all people should know that. So the fact that some parents approached North Sanpete Middle School’s administrators, the people in charge of Jensen’s career, and complained about the pictures on her personal account is a little appalling. The parents go on to claim that the images of Jensen were “inappropriate” and “pornographic.” Do those parents even know what porn is? Because I scroll through Instagram once a day and I never find “porn,” no matter how hard I scroll.

While it’s true that a professional working closely with children should remain decent on all platforms, it’s unclear where the line is drawn. Here’s how I see it: let’s say the teacher was a man and he had pictures of himself working out and in swim trunks—no!—Speedos. Would he get in trouble? Would the school board threaten to fire him if he didn’t take down those pictures? If that does happen, it doesn’t make the news. What is happening is oppression. What the parents are actually saying is: “You can’t show those pictures, because you are too pretty and you are arousing our kids. I don’t know how to discuss sexuality with them or explain that teachers are people too, with personal lives and aspirations, so I’ll just blame it on you, fit lady.”

At the end of the day, the school came to their senses, realized the legless claim the parents were standing on, and apologized to Jensen. But the question remains: how can we know if something is appropriate for the Internet or not? With nude and embarrassing pictures soaring this way and that through the air, we can’t be certain who would take offence. Therefore, we must go back to the rule of thumb: would we be okay if our mothers saw that picture of us? If the answer is yes, then share it. If no, then maybe it’s best to keep it in our private archives.

When it’s all said and done, Jensen will have a great lesson to teach to her students, one that stems from confidence and defending personal convictions. I think that’s a good lesson to learn in the social media age.

No extended invitation for selfie sticks

Image via Thinkstock

Music festivals deem photography tool narcissistic and unsafe

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. April 7, 2015

To Coachella and Lollapalooza, well done. Way to take a stand against the selfie stick—an abomination. In a world where we are so self-centred, snapping images of our daily features, our meals, and our mundane everyday tasks, it’s about time we sever the need to turn all the attention on us.

Music events like Coachella and Lollapalooza are the settings for memories (at least, you should try to limit your alcohol consumption so you can remember it). They’re grand spectacles, but they’re also events you have to share with thousands of other people. The concerts are not just for you, even though you’ve paid to attend and participate.

Perhaps selfie sticks have gotten a bad rap for being self-indulgent and the people using them are often seen as being inconsiderate. However, I believe the main problem with selfie sticks is the cultural acceptance of them. Many of us have accepted the fact that if you want to take a good picture of yourself, an extending stick with a little grip at the end is the apt tool to do it. First of all, you don’t need a good picture of yourself at a music festival or anything else. What good does a picture of your face and a blurry background do?

If you want to take pictures, capture candid moments, not contrived compositions. If you want a group picture, invite someone to help you take it. Most people are eager to help you capture a genuine moment between friends. More often than not it turns out better too. If you want a true memory of the event, you shouldn’t be taking pictures of yourself, you should be focussing the camera the other way, capturing your surroundings and the people around you. Or better yet, put the camera away for a bit and just savour the moment.

Admit it, it’s already bad enough that so many people are holding cameras and smartphones above their heads to record concert performances. There is no way to stop that. We have already sunk too deep into that realm to reverse the habit. But there is still time to keep selfie sticks out of our cultural norm. We don’t have to be slaves to our own narcissism. It’s time we use forward-facing products to enhance our experiences, not the kind that fish for compliments and are designed for bragging rights.

New Canadian App Encore Helps Concert Fans Relive Memories Of The Epic Nights

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The bass drop, the drum beat and the roaring applaud and cheers of the crowd, urging the band back on stage for just one, maybe two more songs: those are the fleeting moments of a concert.

Those moments are what Toronto-based Encore is hoping to save for fans and concert lovers all across the world. The new app will act as a storage bank containing photos, videos, set lists, past and future shows and other sharable content, as well as the convenience and accessibility to purchase tickets and invites friends.

According to Encore’s Summer 2013 Survey of concertgoers between the ages of 18 and 30, 72% will take pictures, 49% will post it to Facebook, 41% will film videos, and 35% will tweet about it. Concerts are spectacles that fans will wait months and years for, and there is little doubt that it is worth remembering.

“We know everyone needs a good concert app,” Nicholas Klimchuk, co-founder at Encore told Techvibes. “We know what a good concert app entails. We don’t think people have designed it well. What makes Encore different from other concert apps is that we don’t just focus on upcoming shows—we focus on the past.”

“Users add every concert that they’ve been to and we suck in all the photos and videos, so you have a time capsule of the experience,” he continued. “And then it’s really cool to see a profile of every concert you’ve been to.”

Nostalgia is an important element of being human. The ability to recall the past and feel the warmth of a memory is something unique to us. But people evolve too and habits change. There was a time when concertgoers would keep their ticket stubs and place them with their collection after the show. They would keep it all in a box, an album or make a collage, frame it and hang it on the wall—some still do that, but most have transitioned into the digital age… and Encore is embracing them.

Yes, gone are the days of raised lighters, sign of the horns and peace signs, instead people are holding up recording mobile devices during the performance. Although the percentage shows that the majority is behaving this way, the act itself is still a little irritating to other attendees.

“It is kind of annoying that you have an iPad in my face and I can’t see the artist,” said Klimchuk. “There are ways to do it where people get used to it or it’s less annoying. But I think it makes a great beginning line for Encore, because people click through things they hate and people hate phones at concerts. Even if you don’t like the product, this will get people to click through.”

Encore puts the photo taking pressure on someone else. We have all tried getting the perfect shot through the crowd and even if we are competent iPhone photographers, the result may be a little disappointing. Sure, we put a higher value on the photos we take, and Encore is not trying eliminating that, what it is doing is sourcing the crowd and collecting the images and videos from the audience as a whole, allowing you just to enjoy the show in the moment, and the pictures after, should you choose.

“If you look at the past seven Beyoncé concerts, all the different angles and photos, they all look the same,” said Klimchuk. “I can a take a photo from the England concert and say it was the Toronto concert and no one would be the wiser. But the interesting thing is that people prescribe a higher value knowing that that is the Toronto concert and I was there.”

We continue to anticipate concerts and reminisce about them long after it’s over. It’s not just about the music, the venue or the artist, but the memories we share with the people we went with. If you live in a big city, odds are there is a concert you would like to attend every other day; this leaves a lot of possibilities. Whether you end up going or not, Encore knows that we all need a moment now and then to recollect our thoughts, think about the good times and prepare ourselves for the next one—whether it is the opener, the headliner or the encore.