Friday, 19 May 2017

My Internet History

I was recently reminiscing about MSN Messenger with an old friend and we were talking about how funny it would be to be able to look back at all of our old chat logs. While I'm sure the majority of the conversations would just be full of boring exchanges such as 'wuu2', 'nothing, u?' and millions of emoticons, it would still be interesting to see what we talked about every day despite having just spent six solid hours together at school.

This then led me on a quest of trying to dig out all of my old profiles on various websites and social networks that I used to use back when we had dial-up and it took hours just to load a page.

1. Myspace
Myspace in 2007

I tried as many combinations of emails and passwords as I could remember, but I couldn't get back into my Myspace account. I did manage to find my account though, but since the redesign it doesn't quite feel the same. No more drama of the Top 8 Friends or the joy of having a list of notifications as you logged in. So many evenings were spent with a friend huddled around one big desktop computer checking our Myspace account for updates from friends or random people asking PC4PC.

Here are some classic Myspace emo shots that I found instead for your enjoyment, although they're not too bad. I think I would need to remember my logins to find the worst ones tucked away in an album somewhere.

I wish I'd taken screenshots of my profile every time I changed it, as I used to spend hours tweaking my profile and searching for the HTML codes for cute things like falling stars or an ice lolly cursor. My profile songs were also carefully curated, but mainly included songs from My Chemical Romance's Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge.

2. Habbo Hotel

Before Myspace there was a pixel hotel that took hours to load and often crashed and every swearword came out as 'bobba'. I used to think this was the coolest chat room ever with the tiny pixel furniture and clothes. I remember spending most of my phone credit on becoming a part of the Habbo Club where you could buy better furniture and clothes, and access VIP rooms. I actually sacrificed texting my friends for impressing people on the internet...

Me and a friend also used to scam furniture off people playing that musical chairs type of game in our rooms. We were terrible people. Although I do remember giving away all of my furniture when I last logged in. I think I may have shut down my account as I unfortunately can't get in to it either.

3. LiveJournal

Dear Diary, mood - apathetic. If Myspace was the place where we all pretended to be interesting and exciting, LiveJournal was where we all went to pour out our teen angst.

I actually managed to get into this account and it is so cringeworthy and hilarious.

A lot of my usernames included 'ma'. M for 'em' and A for 'ah', which makes Emma. Yeah, weird logic. And look at that alternating capitalisation and ~ marks. Amazing. And for the MCR fans, yes those are lyrics from Thank You for the Venom. Let's take a look at a few entries, shall we?

All of the text speak, as if I also had to fit as many words in as possible before being charged 12p for sending another text. I love how it changes from being a party invite to an update on boys. I don't even remember who I was referring to in that bit, but I do remember the water party. It consisted of one paddling pool, one water gun and like five water bombs. Oh, and vodka stolen from my parents' alcohol cupboard.

Here I address being socially awkward and being jealous of people with piercings and tattoos. I'm kind of glad I wasn't allowed those things at that age as I would have made some terrible, terrible choices. Mainly lots of thick, black emo stars down my wrist or on my chest.

4. Neopets

These are just in the order in which I remember them as I started playing Neopets way before any of the above. I remember signing up in the computer room at primary school where the internet was worse than the one at home because of all of the firewalls. I do remember that one boy somehow managed to print off the entire WWE website though.

I'm quite glad that the Neopets site hasn't changed much in the past 10 years. All the hard corners and blue banners and clunky design. Yet again I can't log in to my account, but I did find my public profile, and look how sad my Neopets look. Slowly decaying trapped in an inactive account. Someone please put them out of their misery?

I remember being so excited when I won the Cloud paintbrush. I spent far too many hours playing games on that site trying to collect or trade rare items.

5. Piczo and Faceparty

Unfortunately Piczo was closed down in 2012 so there's no way I can try and recover my account/poorly designed website. Rest assured it was just a shine to My Chemical Romance. I really latched onto that band for 2 years...

Faceparty was a bit of a weird one and more of a dating site, although it looks a lot sleazier now than I remember. I do know that me and my friends felt a bit 'grown up' joining the site and I think we all lied about our ages on there too. I know one of my friends used to chat to someone who was two year above us at school which was SCANDALOUS, but I don't remember using it that often.

From there we all moved onto Facebook, which seemed really boring and bland in comparison to Myspace, but that's where everyone was migrating to and we just followed. And poked everyone for a good year.

It's been a bit weird visiting websites I haven't visited in years and really frustrating trying to remember passwords from more than 10 years ago (gulp!). It doesn't help that the hotmail address that all of these accounts are linked to has been deleted by Microsoft. It's made me think of the sites we used to visit for funny videos and games before we had YouTube and CandyCrush, but that's a whole other post.

Did you ever log on to any of these sites and do you have any embarrassing Live Journal posts to share? Please do!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Why it’s so dangerous for bloggers to promote alternative medicine

Scrolling through my Twitter and Instagram feeds I’ll often see that little hashtag #ad or #sp sprinkled across the accounts of various bloggers or ‘influencers’ that I follow on social media. I have no issues with sponsored content in itself - I fully understand the power of influencer marketing and I’ve definitely bought a product just because I’ve seen a tweet/read a blog post about it or seen a great collab. Plus, bloggers have got bills to pay too.

Sometimes I might see a sponsored post from a blogger that I don’t necessarily agree with or buy in to. Maybe it’s with a gambling company, a brand with a bad reputation or just a cut and paste campaign where 10 bloggers all have the same content. I might not agree with it, but not much harm can come from it. Maybe a reader buys a £20 product that isn’t actually that great. No big deal. I once bought a makeup brush because a beauty blogger recommended it, but it turned out that it was actually a bit shit and shed everywhere. It obviously didn’t have a big impact on my life. I just moved on and bought a better brush. No big deal.

What I do take issue with, however, is when bloggers start to promote companies that are masquerading in the cover of the ‘wellness’ movement, but are dishing out medical or dietary advice with no qualifications or scientific backing. And they’re getting paid for it.

The problem with the clean eating and 'wellness' trend

It all seems to have grown from the whole #cleaneating movement. Over the past few years it seemed like everyone and their mum were peddling recipes from the likes of Deliciously Ella or the Hemsley and Hemsley sisters and cutting out sugar, or gluten, or anything ‘processed’ (you should see the process cashews go through just for us to be able to eat them…) for no other reason than some pretty skinny white girl(s) said it would make them ‘feel better’. And how on earth do you measure that?

I’m all for cutting back on the lattes and pizzas and throwing in more fruit and vegetables into our diets, but the clean eating trend is just so constrictive, judgemental and fucking smug. Fruit and vegetables are ‘clean and pure’, and anything else by default is ‘dirty, disgusting’ and ‘ew, how could you put that into your body?’. I just want a bloody Domino’s pizza now and again, ok, and that’s FINE. I also like avocado and poached egg on wholemeal bread. It’s called balance.

Thankfully there has since been a bit of a backlash against this militant approach to eating. Grace Victory’s BBC3 documentary ‘Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets’ helped to shine a light on some of the crap pseudoscience these ‘nutritionists’ were peddling, including the ridiculous idea that milk draws calcium out of your bones....Hey, did you know that you only need £50 in your bank account and an internet connection to become a ‘certified nutritionist?’ The Angry Chef is also a brilliant blog that defends the positives of ‘convenience food’ and helps to debunk the a lot of pseudoscience that gets peddled by food celebs. I would highly recommend giving a few posts a read if you feel the same. Not Plant Based is another great website that has recently sprung up as a reaction to the clean eating trend.

When did we stop trusting experts and start listening to unqualified people on the internet?

Despite a bit of a backpedal on this trend, I’m still seeing blog posts and sponsored Instagram pictures promoting the services of these ‘nutritionists’ combined with some sketchy alternative medicine, all cloaked in the notoriously vague yet trendy term of ‘wellness’. They all go a little something like this: “I just want you to feel as great as I do, since I received this service for free and I’m getting a % on all the sales that they make from this link, but I just want you to feel great. This person is neither a qualified doctor nor a dietician, and it’s probably actually quite dangerous for you to follow their advice, but look how pretty and skinny I look in this great picture of me, you could look like this too! [Link to expensive service of which I’m getting a percentage]”   

Oh, and if you’ve never heard of this particular brand or service before, it’s probably because there are a lot more restrictions on advertising wild health claims in print media or TV and they’re more likely to have their advertising taken down. Plus, it’s easy to ignore a terrible advert in the back of a magazine, but an emotional and heartfelt blog post from a blogger whose judgement you trust hits all the right emotional buttons.

Scrolling through the comments on these posts is where things start to get really worrying. There are comments from people who have long term health issues, who feel let down by the NHS, or can’t quite put their finger on what’s causing their wide range of symptoms. These are people who have tried everything, and are at the end of their tether, and then someone comes along who they feel like they know and trust offering them a solution. And sure, it might be an expensive one, but they’ll try anything to just feel a little better. And this is where the problem lies.

Online influencers are making money out of people's desperation

These highly influential bloggers are making money from people who are desperate for any solution to their health problems and trust their advice.They’re not advertising a dress that you maybe can’t afford, they’re advertising a very expensive ‘health’ service that does. not. Work. The only evidence they provide is purely anecdotal and based on their personal experience. And that’s not how science works. Thankfully some of this sponsored content does mention visiting a GP first, but it’s added as an afterthought and after a list of disparaging comments made about western medicine.

Recently, a 47-year-old woman was taken to intensive care after taking a cocktail of herbs and alternative remedies which all of these 'detox' teas and juices are full of. How scary is that? She didn't just have the shits for 3 days, she ended up in intensive care.

There’s a difference between your well meaning friend recommending you cut out dairy because she heard that it might help your skin condition, and a blogger suggesting that you go and follow the advice of someone who did an online course in Chinese medicine, who isn’t medically qualified and charges £40-100 per complementary product. And that’s because they’ll get paid for each person who clicks on the link to their website.

Not everyone is going to do their own research about a company that promises a magic solution to a health condition that they’ve been struggling with. This responsibility should be with the bloggers promoting these companies. I don’t care if it’s been declared as sponsored content, promoting this pseudoscience is irresponsible and dangerous. And deleting people’s comments telling you so is even worse.

It's time we started listening to the experts again.

Monday, 4 April 2016

I Want To Read Your Diary | How I Miss Traditional Blogging
Image Credit

I can’t remember the first time I read a blog. It probably started with reading updates on my friends’ Live Journals, but there was something exciting and comforting about reading their personal posts. A place where they felt free to say more in writing than they ever could in person. Maybe it was fulfilling some voyeuristic tendency of mine, or I just enjoyed being plain nosey, but I enjoyed having a deeper insight into my friends’ personal thoughts.  

And then blogs started popping up. Things cobbled together with template themes from WordPress and Blogger. Where absolute strangers would talk about their days, and discuss the new films they’d watched, or books they’d read, or talk about their friends and relationships. I don’t even know how I discovered them. Maybe somewhere in the half empty room of Twitter back in 2009. Whatever it was, I lapped it up, because it was interesting to read how other people lived their lives. It was honest and raw. In both the content and the layout. And that’s what I miss.

I’ve worked within Social Media/Content Marketing for the past 3 years, so I’ve seen and been a part of the explosion of sponsored content and brand partnerships with ‘influencers’, but as a blog reader - I miss the original bloggers. The ones who didn’t care about rankings and their domain authority. They just wanted to share their stories with a handful of people on the internet, it didn’t matter how many people read it, just that they got a few comments now and again. Fierce friendships were formed between bloggers in the early days. Some still last today, but they were stronger because they were forged in that ‘tell-all’ era.

Maybe they didn’t reveal absolutely everything, but everything was less curated. There weren’t these painstakingly perfect photos taken with a DSLR and edited in Photoshop. The photos were taken on a phone and were slightly orange and misaligned, but they got the point across and that was fine. Between the slightly too big or slightly too small fonts, were real words of confessions. Of ‘do you feel this way too?’, or ‘what do you think?’. Not ‘I really love this product because they’re paying me to write a post on it #ad’.

I don’t begrudge the massively successful blogs who have millions of readers and big brand sponsorships, but to me they’re not blogs, they’re online magazines. Everything is diluted and carefully considered before it’s placed in public view. I miss the blog posts written in haste at 1am, and published at 1:15am, because they just ‘had’ to say something about a topic, or something that had been bothering them all day. Don’t apologize. Give me rambles.
Often when a ‘bigger’ blogger writes a #personal post, they’ll be met with so many comments and messages of support and words of advice that they’re sometimes shocked by the volume. But why? That’s what people want to read. They want you to know the ‘real’ you, and to know that they’re not alone in feeling a certain way, or facing a certain problem.

I still read some of the ‘big’ blogs, but only now and again. They’ve become my version of a glossy magazine. Their aspirational content and perfect photography is ok now and again, but they’re not my favourite. I don’t really connect with them. The sponsored content just washes over me. Especially if a group of bloggers have all been chosen for the same campaign and all of their content is the same.

The blogging world has been on an upward trajectory for a few years now, but it’s only inspiring a certain type of blogger and discouraging others. Budding bloggers might not even start just because they don’t think they have a camera that’s good enough, or they’re not ‘techy’ enough, or they’re not ‘pretty’ enough(!). It’s killing pure creativity. Even some of the new bloggers just seem to be following a prescribed script of how their blog should be, rather than what they want it to be, or be something they’d want to read themselves.

The perfectly laid out lifestyle/fashion shots might be for some people, but they’re not for me. I want to know about the things you’d never say out loud. I want you to feel free to say whatever you want. I want to read your diary.       

If you have any suggestions of ‘old-school’ blogs I should go and read, please let me know! 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...