Storytelling in a Digital Age

Storytelling is a tradition that’s been on going since humans could speak and communicate with one another. It’s not a surprise then, that as our technology developed, so did our forms of storytelling. There were oral poems like The Odyssey and Beowulf. Then the written word with the first written story, “The Epic of Gilgamesh.” Then the radio, the television, the motion picture. And now, the Internet. My question? How has digital media affected the way we tell stories via social media and apps? I looked at three accounts on Instagram and two on Facebook to figure that out.

Accounts investigated

Instagram: StoriesWTF, Stories.Below and ScaryStoriesandPosts

Facebook: Facebook Stories and Humans of New York

Data collected

Stories are nothing without an audience, so I tracked each accounts’ likes, comments and shares (if applicable) between September 18th and December 3rd, 2014. Each graph contains four to five posts in chronological order and how their followers or audience reacted.


Screen shot 2014-12-08 at 3.11.12 PM

  • Switched basis of posts three weeks into my analysis from stories to memes and internet trends.


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  • Posts became infrequent, even though the account gained 2,000 followers from 9/18 to 12/3

Scary Stories and Posts

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Facebook Stories

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Humans of New York

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Each account had their own specific set of data that reflected their followers.

Likes vs. Comments

It doesn’t matter if a story is on Instagram or Facebook or any other form of social media – likes are always going to be higher than comments. This is one (in my opinion) negative formation of our use of social media. It gives off an impression of laziness; that we can’t continue conversations but will gladly “like” something to support it.

Sharing vs. Telling Screen shot 2014-12-09 at 10.37.23 AM Screen shot 2014-12-08 at 3.52.24 PMWhat was most significant in all posts on both platforms were the way commenters tagged other users, showing them that they should see that post or read it or know about it. This, in itself, is a new form of storytelling because it’s spreading the stories without restating them themselves. This falls under email forwards, “sharing” on Facebook, sharing links, hyperlinking in posts, etc.


Why We Can’t Wait

As this semester comes to a close and I embark on my twelfth post, I’m taking the time to reflect on how to conclude. More Disney feminism? More historical ladies? I can’t talk about that. I can’t think about anything except the solidarity of American citizens who are supporting those in Ferguson and New York City around the country.

Around the country. 

We’ve been paying attention to the #blacklivesmatter movement and the police brutality protests happening in New York City and Ferguson for months. I live hours away from both and a local mall held protestors over the weekend, with banners and chants. Fellow students from my Massachusetts university stood in rally for Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Protests are happening everywhere. The crowds that swarmed NYC landmarks over the past weeks gave me chills.

I feel like I should catch my breath because what we need to overcome obstacles is collaboration of all people. I think we’re starting to see that.

If anyone is out there thinking, what can I do? Follow the words I have been applying to my life every day: speak up. Do not let someone defend racism as its displayed in the light of police doing their duty. Get on Twitter and Facebook and find local rallies and protests.

We can’t wait for change to happen. We can’t assume someone else is going to stand up for the black lives lost every day. We need to make the change happen and we need to stand up.

“Lightening makes no sound until it strikes.”

Martin Luther King Junior, “Why We Can’t Wait” (1963)


Disney Princesses: Feminists or Foes?

*Uh oh! This post got lost in the black hole known as the Internet. Maddiegal tried to redraft this post exactly as she had it before.*

Disney movies were a thing when I was growing up. They were the end all, be all. My mother would pop the VHS tapes in and out constantly, my and my sisters’ eyes glued to the tube.

It’s no wonder, of course, that I’ve always been influenced by the messages in many of those films. A lot of the subtle sexism and racism went over my head as a child and young adult. Is it possible, though, that these Disney princesses still have some redeeming feminist qualities?

1. “The Little Mermaid”

The lesson people think it teaches: Give up parts of yourself for a guy.The Little Mermaid, screencap 1

The lesson it taught me: Find your place in the world.

Yes, Ariel ended up basically selling her soul away to the sea-devil to be with a guy. But didn’t you watch the beginning of a film where she’s exploring a sunken ship and escaping the jaws of a shark? Ariel is an adventurer: brave, smart and caring. She wants to know everything about the human world, a world so unlike her own.

“Bet’cha on land they understand, bet they don’t reprimand their daughters. Bright young women, sick of swimmin’, ready to stand.”

Although Ariel doesn’t know everything about the human world (I am a daughter and I have been reprimanded plenty ‘o’ times) she wants to take a leap and visit a new place that she was interested in and felt she belonged.

2. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”

Snow-White-classic-disney-10264612-1120-800The lesson people think it teaches: Wait around to be rescued.

The lesson it taught me: No matter what, keep holding on to hope.

Snow White is probably the most controversial princess I could pick and I 100% understand why people do not think she is any kind of feminist role model.  Snow White is presented as a male rights activist’s dream come true; submissive and traditional. However, Snow White was also being treated cruelly by her only family member and her life was threatened. Did she give up? No! That girl kept on singing!

There’s a lot in life that is out of our control. Death, sickness, tragedies. Most of the time, there is little we can do to prevent or stop these things from happening. Having faith in anything, whether it’s a religion or a book or even yourself, will help keep you pushing through the bad.

3. “Tangled”

The lesson people think it teaches: You can’t take on the world without a man’s help.rapunzel

The lesson it taught me: Take a chance on your dream, even if it scares you.

Okay, so I wasn’t exactly a child when “Tangled” was released in 2010. It has become a staple in my Disney film collection, however, and I think Rapunzel has become one of the best Disney heroines in the past decade.

The finest quality that Rapunzel possesses is her authenticity. She wants to leave her tower but is scared of the reality. When she actually gets the opportunity to do so, she wonders if its the right choice.

“Look at the world – so close, and I’m halfway to it! Look at it all – so big – do I even dare? Look at me – there at last! – I just have to do it. Should I? No. Here I go….”

Sounds like the day I left for college. The fear, the excitement and finally the self-support to start a new page.


Bonus Princesses!

The Disney women don’t need to be defended – they’re feminists from head to toe!

Mulan from “Mulan”

Has to dress as a man, but saves China and destroys Shan Yu in the end. The toughest Disney lady to date.

Jasmine from “Aladdin”

Another woman looking to explore a different side to life, Jasmine unapologetically rebukes any type of arranged marriage and sneaks out of her palace walls. She stands for what she believes in – a great message to teach young girls and boys.

Merida from “Brave”

One of our newest Disney princesses, Merida’s story doesn’t focus on a romantic love but a family love. The bond between mother and daughter moves the film through its entirety. Plus “I’ll be shootin’ for my own hand!” Bullseye for feminist Disney fans.

Dear Racists, Black People Exist. Get Over It.

When the new “Star Wars” teaser trailer was released last week, some viewers complained that actor John Boyega shouldn’t be a storm trooper. Why? Because only white people are storm troopers, of course!

The Atlantic  went on to crush those cold, racist claims in an analyzation of past “Star Wars” characters and origins. The poor actor himself went on to subtly and symbolically flip off the nay-sayers on his Instagram account.

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I grew up watching the original “Star Wars” trilogy. My childhood and adolescence directly fell during the release of the prequels in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I’ve seen these films time a time again and while I know that the people who used their supposed “Star Wars” knowledge to defend their racism, I can’t get past a few things.

1. This is a franchise with characters like this


2. And this


3. And this guy


4. But this man


couldn’t exist as a storm trooper?

In a world that was created out of imagination, anything should be possible. And it IS possible. That’s why John Boyega landed the role and that’s why thousands of people have supported him and will continue to do so. He is one person of color who was able to break through that Hollywood race barrier and his representation in a multi million dollar production will reach thousands, perhaps millions, of young people of color, aspiring to be actors.


What do you think?

Have you ever heard someone give a ridiculous excuse for their racism?


Maddie Gal Rant: Annoyed with intersectional feminism? You’re probably white, middle class and straight.

My feminism was integrated into my life earlier than I could have realized. As a child, I was always taught to treat others the way I would like to be treated. My family is compassionate, understanding, caring and helps anyone that they can. My mother, especially, has taught me to go out of my way to help others. Often I find myself doing someone a favor or helping a friend with a project. I do this, not because that person will owe me something or it will feel good to heinconvinient-truth-1lp them, but because deep inside of my heart and my head, I know it is the right thing to do. My morals and conscience weigh heavy on my mind.

This is why I am so heavily involved in the ideas of intersectional feminism. I know that the oppression of women directly affects me – but I am also white, middle class, heterosexual and able bodied. I experience one sliver of oppression, when there are others who may experience all of it.

A few weekends ago, my sister (a self declared feminist herself) shared her frustrations with me about a mutual friend who constantly goes out of her way to nitpick feminist issues. “It’s too much,” she said. I understood where she was coming from. Constant opinions and ideas on what’s oppressive and what isn’t can irritate you. But then I stopped and felt ashamed.

Because of our status, the issues that are “too much” for us may not directly affect us but they directly affect someone else. That’s what intersectional feminism is! We need to care about and help each other. The role of a privileged person is one of a teacher to others like them. We need to stand up and speak up for those who cannot do it themselves.

Every day, I try to be a better friend, a better teacher and a better feminist.

What do you think?

Do you know someone who just doesn’t get why feminism is important? Have you ever tried to explain it to them?

How do you try to be a better feminist? 

Why Representation in Entertainment Matters

To white people: do you ever take a minute to look at your surroundings or whatever you’re watching on TV and realize that all you see is someone who looks like you? Imagine yourself as a child again. What thoughts would be going through your mind if you were a person of color and didn’t see your culture or ethnicity reflected in the media?

Maybe you would think you’re not important. Maybe you would think there’s no one of your ethnicity in entertainment. Maybe you would think that you couldn’t become an actress or performer because no one has done it before.

Instead of me trying to further explain it, I’ll share some extremely important examples from some wonderful women.

1. Internet personality Glozell goes to Disneyland and meets Princess Tiana, the first black American princess.

“I’m so happy to meet her because when I went to Disney as a child, there was no black people even in the parade, none less a princess.”

2. Academy Award winning Actress Lupita Nyong’o on “The Color Purple”

“When I saw Whoopi Goldberg and she looked like me, and I was like, ‘Oh! I could do this, I could do this for a living.”

3. Cali Lynn, daughter of The Game and Tiffney Cambridge, talks about why she wants to be an actress (1:26)

“If I was on TV, I would be Kerry Washington because she works at the White House. She’s so smart.”

It is extremely hard to doubt or disagree that representation doesn’t matter when there are examples so significant and so touching.

What do you think?

Representation is not for lack of trying. Much of Hollywood works against casting people of color. Do you think the consumers can affect Hollywood’s tendencies to exclude multiple ethnicities?

What area of media and entertainment would you like to see less caucasian people and more people of color?

When White Men Are Left Out: Catcalls and Domestic Violence in the Media

If my dad has seen the Hollaback/Rob Bliss Creative hidden-camera video of a young woman being catcalled on New York City streets, then you probably have, too. catcall_video

Out of 10 hours, an approximate number of 100 catcalls were recorded. Many of them were disputed. One of the men on my favorite morning radio show defended the man who “only said God bless you.” In reality, he looked her body up and down and said, “God bless you, mami….damn.” Is that the same as a religious person wishing good will upon another human being? You can get back to me on that one.

But a great argument that has been forming since the end of the week is that there were no white men catcalling the woman in this video.

I’m almost shocked that this has been brought up at all. There is a lot of evidence that the mainstream media will focus sexual harassment and domestic violence toward men of color. As I sat on my boyfriend’s couch this morning and he and his roommates watched football, this ad played during a commercial break:

But it was heavily edited from its original 60 seconds, and the only white man that I consciously saw was Eli Manning…twice. This is an example of institutionalized racism and white, male privilege at work. When only men of color are harassing women on the streets and only men of color are representing a problem of domestic violence in the NFL, isn’t that sending a message out to audiences that white men are not included and thus don’t do it?

Just like representation matters in entertainment, it also matters when the demographics of harassment and violence are tampered with. We can’t count white men out. We need to demand that they be shown in every area of sexual harassment and violence like other ethnicities.

What do you think?

What kind of harassment have you experienced in real life or online?

Have you heard any noteworthy reactions from peers towards the Hollaback catcall video?

Who’s That Lady? Three Women You Should Have Learned About in High School

As the Etta James record has suggested for years, “this is a man’s world.”

There are countless women that have been snubbed by science and history since time began. Here are just a few.

1. Ching Shih ching

Would it surprise you to find out that the absolute most feared pirate of the 19th century and all time was a women? Ching Shih was a prostitute who was forced to marry a pirate king of the China sea. After six years of marriage and her husband’s death, Ching Shih took over his fleet of scally wags and ruled the Chinese coast. Not only did she lead the most successful group of looters, but she beat the Chinese government in battle as well.

And to top it all of, Ching Shih got away with years of piracy through a government deal. She turned in her sword, but kept all of her treasure and lived out the rest of her life in the Chinese countryside.

2. Juana Briones

Although a picture of Juana does not exist, the Juana Briones Heritage website provides this picture of her niece, who was said to look just like her.
Although a picture of Juana does not exist, the Juana Briones Heritage website provides this picture of her niece, who was said to look just like her.

Another woman before her time, Juana Briones is considered one of the first businesswomen and female landowners in the United States.  Her parents immigrated from Mexico to California in 1776 and she was born in 1802. Juana owned her own cattle business, built her own property and supported local community trading posts and medicine – all after being divorced from her husband and raising eleven children.

Even during U.S. Land Commission Hearings, Juana fought to keep her multiple properties and succeeded.

3. Rosalind Franklin Rosalind_Franklin

Born in 1920 England, Franklin attended Cambridge University and studied physical chemistry. Her Xray diffraction techniques led to the discovery of the DNA structure, which she was never credited for.

The three scientists who claimed Franklin’s discovery as part of their own research of DNA won the Nobel Prize in 1963. Her contribution has only been acknowledged within the past ten years.

What Do You Think?

What women would you have liked to learn about in school?

Do you thinking we should celebrate “Women’s History Month” or petition to learn about women in history as often as we learn about men?

The Scariest Halloween Trick of All: Cultural Appropriation

Three weeks ago, I sat in a local bar with my boyfriend and some of his acquaintances through a past summer internship. Football and baseball glowed from half a dozen TV’s above us. The conversation turned towards the Washington Redskins.

As I listened to their conversation while sipping a bottle of Angry Orchard, it was clear that this group of white men in their early twenties knew the term “redskins” was racist – but it didn’t directly affect them so they didn’t care. One of them tried to defend the Florida State Seminoles, stating that the chief of the Seminole tribe actually encouraged the use of their name for the university mascot. (This is complicated but not true.)

Cultural appropriation, the adoption or theft of icons and aesthetic standards from a minority culture, is everywhere. White privilege helps many white people to turn a blind eye. But it is hard to ignore when you realize that cultural appropriation has found its place in sports, music and entertainment, even your own Halloween costumes.

In 2011, Ohio University began the poster campaign, “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume.” The impact of the images affected not only the Ohio University student population, but the web-based communities when the campaign hit the internet.

blackface poster          geisha poster         na poster

It is hard for me to encounter those who can look at these posters and still not understand the problem. If you are not part of a culture, you do not have the right to take ownership of something that is important or even sacred to that group. You are trivializing their identities and existence. Don’t let someone tell you it’s a “tribute” to a group. It’s racist. 

The overall lesson of cultural appropriation is also very straightforward: do not take what is not yours. Didn’t we learn this rule in pre-school?

What do you think?

Have you ever had a personal experience where you’ve witnessed cultural appropriation of your or someone else’s culture?

I work at a clothing store that had native american costumes for young girls. What racost costumes have you seen this Halloween season?