The Hipster Effect » Internet culture Identity, society and work in the age of perpetual connectivity Tue, 26 Mar 2013 00:35:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Beware the n00bs /2012/05/23/beware-the-n00bs/ /2012/05/23/beware-the-n00bs/#comments Wed, 23 May 2012 18:27:02 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=721 more]]> Ah, nostalgia – how we love thee. That song your dad used to sing you to sleep with (The Beatles – Strawberry Fields Forever). That movie you’ve seen so many times you could practically recite it by heart (Beetlejuice). That TV show you used to watch over and over and over again during long lazy summer days (Bewitched). When it comes to the media we love, nostalgia seems to be everywhere. Everywhere, that is, except the internet.


I </3 reposts

That’s not to say nostalgia doesn’t exist on the internet – far from it. After all, we love reading lists of toys that were popular when we were growing up, discontinued food products that make us long for our grade school lunchboxes, classic TV shows cancelled before their time. But once we’ve read them, we better not see them again. The internet is made for new things, for a constantly replenishing trough of new information. Be gone, you with the reposted photo of that weird nude couple holding cats. Get away, you who want to show me that video of the sneezing panda again. This is the internet! I came here to see new things, or to reminisce about tangible old things like Fraggle Rock or Red Dwarf. Get off of my forum with your boring reposts of last week’s jokes.

Long gone are the days of endless Gilligan’s Island reruns. This is the meme-a-minute new millennium. Novelty is practically a birthright.


Re: re: re: fwd: re: FWD: re: re:

When I was a kid, I convinced my parents to let me stay up late one day a week to catch the new episode of Roseanne. These days, my pleading would never work; it would be Tivo’d and I would watch it tomorrow. The ad-hoc, on-demand nature of modern media consumption has at its heart a single factor: choice. Recorded movies mean the end of, “tune in this time next week!” Downloaded songs are the death knell of radio requests. And as far as internet content, we’ve come to expect an unwavering stream of new videos, new jokes, new stories, new amusements – new everything that’s worth a click and a minute. Seeing somebody repost an article you read last month as if it just came out shatters the illusion of personal control. It makes us feel as if we’re back to the days when media outlets gave us one set of options, take it or leave it. What happened to choice and a customized stream of content? The indignation builds and the internet cries back: n00b!

The reason people are so quick to shout down “old” content online has to do with what we expect when we go internet surfing in the first place. We expect novelty. We expect to choose for ourselves what we want to see, the sites we want to surf. We expect the newest and best of everything, because that’s what the internet has always shown us. So when somebody has the gall to post something that you’ve already seen as if it’s brand new, that expectation falters and suddenly it feels like you’re no longer in control. You cry out, “Repost! Old!” and downvote it to oblivion, hoping that will teach OP a lesson in messing with your internet stream.

Perhaps there will come a day when your browser will be smart enough to block content you’ve already seen, wherever it happens to appear. Perhaps you will never have to see that gif of the dramatic chipmunk ever again. Until then, put away the anger and back away from the repost. OP did not know any better. Let’s hope the time comes when we no longer feel the need to demonize anybody who unwittingly reposts content that’s been around for months. Or at the very least, let’s be a bit more lighthearted when it comes to chastising n00bs. After all, nobody is born l33t.


*n00b = Newbie. New internet user.

*OP = Original poster. The user who posts a piece of content.

*l33t = Elite. Highly experienced user.



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Book excerpt: The Age of the Remix /2012/05/07/book-excerpt-the-age-of-the-remix/ /2012/05/07/book-excerpt-the-age-of-the-remix/#comments Mon, 07 May 2012 17:55:00 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=695 more]]> It’s fun to find something cool on the internet.

It’s even more fun to share it with somebody else.

Such is the ethos behind the wildly popular Reddit community, a social news website where eight million active users[i] submit content and vote it up or down in popularity and site ranking. With over 111,000 topical “subreddits”[ii] and a voting-based comment system that encourages witty and relevant conversation, Reddit has drawn a fiercely devoted user base known for both its individual and group participation. The voting system that underlies Reddit encourages users to contribute their own comments and iterations of popular jokes and memes, rewarding those that make it to the top with thousands of views and a not insignificant amount of praise. The same system downvotes content that is facetious, disingenuous or malicious, keeping hooligans at bay and making it clear that such behavior will not be tolerated. Though individual participation is highly encouraged and rewarded, the Reddit community also has a keen sense of when it’s time to band together as a group. Whether it’s raising $70,000 overnight for a troubled orphanage in Kenya,[iii] organizing a 40,000 participant-strong Secret Santa gift exchange[iv] or just playing around with the Scumbag Steve meme,[v] the high level of user involvement spurred by Reddit has at its core a simple fact of human nature: it feels good to be in control.


Ask me anything (AMA)

“Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)
—1969 book by Dr. David Reuben

Now here’s a novel concept for your modern, internet-connected Digital Native—once upon a not-so-long-ago time, racy and taboo knowledge was more than just a mouse-click away. There was, in fact, no easy way to find answers to those questions you were “afraid to ask,” nor was there an easy and safe way to discuss such questions with others. The answers to those questions, provided you could find them in the first place, came from tightly controlled official sources, usually in the form of books, newspapers, TV and radio broadcasts. Though the then-prevalent hippie subculture encouraged you to question everything, it was vague when it came to how you could actually go about doing so. Therein lay a twofold communication conundrum of the pre-internet era: (1) how could you find answers to questions that were too taboo to ask? and (2) how could you be sure that the official story about anything was true when all you could access was the official story?

“IAmA guy that hasn’t pooped in the month of August yet. Ask me anything about my extreme constipation.”[vi]
—Reddit, August 2011

“I am national correspondent for the Atlantic (and long-ago speechwriter for long-ago president Jimmy Carter) AMA”[vii]
—Reddit, February 2012

From the curiously gross to the politically relevant and with a little bit of everything in between, the popular “Ask Me Anything (AMA)” subreddit is just one example of the kind of internet-fomented forum that breaks down the pre-internet barriers to communication and knowledge. Those previously unanswerable taboo questions can now be addressed not only through the static pages created on the early internet, but also through the active conversations fostered through the increasingly interactive modern internet. The ability to participate in such conversations anonymously means that being “afraid to ask” is pretty much a thing of the past.

More relevant to our cultural evolution is the modern ability to question the official story of companies, governments, teachers, parents and other authority figures. That old symbolic phrase touted by many a hippie—”Question Authority”—has now become a physical reality in the open world of internet communication and research. We are no longer willing to take big media news stories at face value, preferring instead to hop online and reference multiple sources to get the whole story, warts and all. We discuss them on social networks, share feedback on blogs, and generally do our best to get involved with the stories that interest us (now that it’s actually possible to do so). And at a time when the deaths of Osama Bin Laden and Whitney Houston are hitting Twitter and Facebook before they’re hitting CNN and Reuters, the purveyors of the official story are no longer able to hide like the wizard behind the curtain. The ability to communicate freely online has empowered us as a society in a way that is, as with so many cultural trends spawned by the internet, a first in human history. Not only can we now find out the whole truth and everything but the truth; we can actively participate to change official policies for the better.

Take the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), for instance. Boy, did the internet hate that one. As news of the freedom-curtailing act made its way from Facebook friend to Facebook friend, many of us bounded together to spread knowledge, sign petitions, contact politicians, and finally to participate in an unprecedented blackout that stretched to some of the most popular sites on the internet (Reddit and Wikipedia included). The day before the blackout, SOPA had only 31 opponents in Congress. The day after, that number more than tripled to 101.[viii] Two days after that, SOPA was declared dead in the water and the battle was already over. While many declared that the internet had won out, in reality the truth stretched deeper than that. It was we the people who had won, and it was the ability to freely communicate online that had tipped the scales of justice in our direction. Perhaps Time Magazine put it best when it declared you its 2006 person of the year: “The new Web… is a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter.”[ix] Underlying that fact: freedom of communication.


Read only –> read/write

“No mommy, let me do it.”

Perhaps no phrase is as indicative of the fundamental need for control that seems to be hardwired in the human brain[x] as is this common childhood utterance. Our first experiences with control take the form of actions without a framework—touching things, grabbing them, shaking them, kicking them. As our minds mature and we gain control of our motor functions, our actions become more complex. We put the round peg in the round hole and stack the small ring over the big one. By the time we toddle our way up into childhood, simple movements transform into structured play and games. We quickly learn that while moving things around aimlessly might be interesting, taking the time to learn the rules is what really makes a game fun. To learn we must first observe, temporarily relinquishing our control in the process. Once we’ve understood the rules, we gain a whole new level of control and suddenly Hungry Hungry Hippos becomes more than just a collection of things to shove up your nose. Is it any great surprise then that, after taking some time to observe and learn the framework and rules of the internet, we’re ready to regain the control that comes so naturally to us?

“Today’s audience isn’t listening at all—it’s participating.”
—William Gibson, science fiction writer[xi]

Ours has become a world of mashups, a world of memes, a world of remixes and fan fiction and ubiquitous blogs and Tumblr reposts, all of which allow users to create something new within the framework of something that already exists. While our first online experiences involve observation—learning the rules of the game, watching how others play, thinking about what we would do if it was our turn—the fun doesn’t really start until we join in and start playing for ourselves. We get our feet wet by joining user-friendly social networks, posting simple content like status updates and photos and commenting on other users’ posts. On a site like Reddit, most people start as lurkers, observing but not participating, before finally feeling comfortable enough to join in on the conversation. Once we’ve dabbled in adding our own content online, we get more brazen. We leave more comments on more sites, post videos as well as photos, and start reposting the content we find in our daily observations. The more we participate, the more others participate with us, drawing us further in and making us search for still newer ways to contribute—and there are plenty of companies out there lining up to help us do just that.

As more and more internet and software companies hit the market, we’re provided with more and more ways to interact with content, and that interaction is getting easier with every passing year. Most computers now come pre-loaded with basic music-, photo- and video-editing software, giving everyday users access to tools that cost thousands of dollars just a couple decades ago, and tens of thousands a couple decades before that. Combine the availability of production tools with the ease of posting and sharing content online and it’s no wonder that there are literally billions of posts, videos, photos and status updates added to the internet each and every day. And now that those production tools are making their way into our mobile devices as well as our home computers, those figures are only likely to increase.

The upshot of all this new content we’re adding is an explosion of productivity, innovation and self-expression. Sure, there may be hundreds of silly new meme photos added to sites like Reddit on a daily basis, but there’s also that one guy who decided a new tool was needed to house those photos and created Imgur, a site that now attracts 16 trillion views a month.[xii] And yes, though most of the 60 hours of video added to YouTube each and every minute is bound to be junk, it’s also the site that gave birth to the Justin Bieber phenomenon and arguably gave tween girls one of the more wholesome role models it has seen in some time. Hearing those success stories gives your average internet user all the more reason to chip in her own talents, and even if they never do reach beyond her own circle of friends, the ability to freely express herself and receive positive feedback from those close to her will have made the experience worth it anyhow.

The internet has thus fueled a shift from what media theorist Laurence Lessig called a Read Only culture into what he calls a Read/Write culture. It is a version of culture that encourages more than just the passive consumption indicative of classic media including books, television and music. With the tools of production increasingly at hand, we’re free to throw our own contributions into the pot, ad hoc and at will (like this self-published book, for instance). Whether we’re creating something from scratch or altering pre-existing content, most of us now have the tools to produce and publish readily awaiting at our fingertips, and they’re pretty much free to boot.

Just as a kid might initially enjoy watching his older brother play video games, we know the real fun doesn’t start until we have the controller in our own hands—which, culturally speaking, we already do. And just as that kid might then enjoy playing the same games his older brother did, he’ll quickly realize that he’d much rather choose the games for himself. Playing copycat may be fun at first, but it’s a bit like playing a game without knowing the rules in that it’s really only half of the fun. It’s not until we move beyond copycat and create something worth copying that the real fun begins. And once we do create that something, we’ve got an instant audience ready to test it out on—our Facebook friends.[1]


[1]Or Twitter, or MySpace, or LinkedIn, or Pinterest, or Path…





The above is an excerpted chapter from my new book, “The Hipster Effect: How the Rising Tide of Individuality is Changing Everything We Know about Life, Work and the Pursuit of Happiness.”



[i] Jeremy [jedberg]. “Your Gold Dollars at Work.” Web log post. Blog.reddit. Reddit, 26 July 2010. Web. <>.

[ii] Metareddit. Web. <>.

[iii] Hopfensperger, Jean. “Kenyan Tale Shows Power of Online Giving.” StarTribune. 6 Feb. 2012. Web. <>.

[iv] “Statistics for Secret Santa 2011.” Reddit Gifts. Web. <>.

[v] “Scumbag Steve.” Reddit. Web. <>.

[vi] Nopooshallpass. “IAmA Guy That Hasn’t Pooped in the Month of August Yet. Ask Me Anything about My Extreme Constipation.” Reddit. 19 Aug. 2011. Web. <>.

[vii] Jfallows. “I Am James Fallows, National Correspondent for the Atlantic (and Long-ago Speechwriter for Long-ago President Jimmy Carter) AMA.” Reddit. 8 Feb. 2012. Web. <>.

[viii] “SOPA Supporters Before And After.” WeKnowMemes. WeKnowMemes LLC, 20 Jan. 2012. Web. <>.

[ix] Grossman, Lev. “You — Yes, You — Are TIME’s Person of the Year.” Time Magazine 25 Dec. 2006. Web. <,9171,1570810,00.html>.

[x] Gilbert, Daniel Todd. Stumbling on Happiness. New York: Vintage, 2007. Print.

[xi] Gibson, William. “God’s Little Toys.” WIRED Magazine July 2005. Web. <>.

[xii] “Site Statistics.” Imgur. Imgur, LLC. Web. <>.




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I’m a time-shifter (and so are you) /2012/03/26/im-a-time-shifter-and-so-are-you/ /2012/03/26/im-a-time-shifter-and-so-are-you/#comments Mon, 26 Mar 2012 20:42:18 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=638 more]]> I used to be one of those people who hated TV. You know the type – I didn’t own one and I wouldn’t allow one in my home. My laptop was my own personal movie theater, and for me that was enough. A few years later I upgraded to a dedicated monitor, and not long after that I caved in and got myself a big old HDTV (and a correspondingly small box for streaming movies and, eventually, TV shows). After swearing it off for years, the realization finally dawned on me that what I’d hated wasn’t the act of watching content – it was the feeling of wasted time I got by endlessly flipping through channels on cable TV. With the nonstop flow of programming available there, it was just too easy to get lost in those channels, usually watching something I didn’t really want to be watching. I wanted to choose for myself how I would spend my time, and not to fall into fruitless time-sinks like channel-surfing.

Unlike pretty much all technologies that preceded it, the internet is, by its very nature, infinite. There is no set start or end – everything is available, all of the time. It is up to us to choose our own beginnings and endings, a freedom we are now coming to expect from older forms of media as they transition into the digital world. We want our movies, music and books to be available when we want them, where we want them, and though legions of viewers still watch American Idol live, scores more are happy to Tivo or download it to watch later, uncut and commercial-free. As the time-unrestricted nature of the internet has become an expectation that many now view as a fundamental human right, we increasingly expect to choose for ourselves not only how we want to live, but when.

As a freelancer who works from home, I often get lost when it comes to time. On many an occasion have I found myself wondering why there are so many people on the roads or in the subways before realizing duh, it’s rush hour, clueless. The ability to work remotely and on my own schedule means Saturdays can be Tuesdays, midnight can be lunchtime and the holiday break can be crunch time. While telecommuters represent an extreme version of a time-untethered existence, anybody who uses the internet is, to some extent, a time-shifter. Older generations gathered around the radio at a set hour to hear weekly broadcasts. The morning newspaper gave you all the news that was fit to print, and not an article or editorial more. Millions tuned in every evening to watch Walter Cronkite and once the national anthem played, that was it for TV viewing that night. These days, it’s up to us what we want to access and when – which is a good thing and a bad thing.

Now that we can choose for ourselves when and how we’re going to interact with just about any form of content out there, it’s also up to us to choose when to start, and when it’s time to stop. Anybody who’s surfed the internet knows how easy it is to get sucked into the LOLcats vortex, emerging hours later with that same sense of wasted time that once made me shun cable TV. With everything now available all the time, it’s up to us to choose when and how to interact with all that content, and with each other. When I first started freelancing, I had to set certain rules for myself to make sure I still got things done. Similarly, I have rules for myself when it comes to interacting with content. I still don’t allow cable TV in my home (though I’m an avid user of Netflix). I only use social networks on my own computer – no Twitter on my mobile or peeking in on Facebook when I’m at a friend’s. My phone gets shut down every evening when I’m done working, and so on. These rules impose a certain framework that helps me be more effective and less distracted, and all of that makes me a happier human being. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, with great freedom comes great responsibility. You’re darned right that I missed some deadlines in my early freelancing days due to irresponsible use of my new-found freedom; it wasn’t until I started actively managing that freedom that I began to truly reap the rewards. And it wasn’t until I set limits on my technology usage that I was able to fully enjoy it without being overwhelmed.

What about you, my fellow time-shifters? How do you keep yourself from getting sucked into the always on, always connected, always new world of internet content and interactions?


Image credit: Sean MacEntee


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Your Facebook identity: comic edition /2012/03/23/your-facebook-identity-comic-edition/ /2012/03/23/your-facebook-identity-comic-edition/#comments Fri, 23 Mar 2012 19:04:52 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=622 more]]> So apparently Facebook no longer has a privacy policy. Yep, that’s right – what was once its “Privacy Policy” has now become its “Data Use Policy,” which, to be fair, is a more accurate assessment of the policy’s actual content. After all, what Facebook is talking about here is all the different ways it’s going to use the mounds of personal data we willingly feed into it. The funny thing is, that important but telling name change happened way back in September, but only last week did Facebook officially announce that and other important changes to its policies (remember, there are 845 million of us directly affected by such changes).

And so, in honor of these disconcertingly flippant updates, here’s a batch of comics poking fun at the inherently open nature of our Facebook identities. Nervous laughter ahoy.
















Image credits: The Joy of Tech, Mashable, Toothpaste for Dinner, Savage Chickens


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Be my valentine, Internet /2012/02/14/be-my-valentine-internet/ /2012/02/14/be-my-valentine-internet/#comments Tue, 14 Feb 2012 08:25:29 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=551 more]]> Dear Internet,

Will you be my valentine? You don’t have to show me your tubes or anything (though maybe when Grandpa Cray goes to sleep I can sneak a peek at your fiber optics). It’s just that… well, Internet, I love you. There, I said it. I’ve loved you since I first laid eyes on you, back in 1995 when you were still doing the whole HTML 2.0 thing and before you went through that ghastly frames and MIDI auto-play phase. That’s ok, internet. I’ve been through phases too. Remember my old AOL profile? We would pimp those things out before pimping things out was even a thing. And remember how you used to play me that little whirr-kcccchhh-whirr song as my trusty 28.8 dialed up and hooked into you? That was awful nice.

You sure did help me in school, Internet. Screw that Dewey Decimal and his boring card catalog. By the time I went to college, you left lame old Dewey in the dust. OK, I did still have a couple of Encyclopedia Britannica CD-ROMs hanging out at home, but we knew those wouldn’t last, didn’t we, Internet? Neither did those AOL ones, come to think of it. But none of that mattered anyways, Internet, because we both know when I really fell for you.

You went high speed for me.

Boy, Internet, I’m kinda glad that I was stuck with 56.6 until 2002 because you + DSL + Napster was enough to keep me tuned in for days on end. That was around the time you started to hide the borders on your HTML tables for a much sexier, more mature look. I guess that was when you left puberty, Internet. That’s ok. I went through it too.

Things went pretty fast for us after that, didn’t they, Internet? Before I knew it I was embracing your Wikipedia, touching your Facebook, ogling your YouTube. I couldn’t help it – you just got more and more alluring over the years, like some unending supply of vintage wine that gets better with every year. Pretty soon, we were inseparable. You left your wires behind and started following me everywhere I went. First it was just to coffee shops and airports, but next thing I knew you’d made your way into my back pocket and I knew then that I needed you near me all the time. Sure, you were doing it to others too – gals and guys both, though sometimes I’ve gotta admit you’re pushing it with the really young ones – but what did I care? Every time I looked at you, Internet, you showed me exactly what I wanted to see. With you, I was happy to share.

And so, Internet, I wanted to tell you that I love you. OK, you’ve got your bad sides (*cough* Rule 34 *cough*), but who doesn’t? Be my valentine, Internet, and I promise I won’t go to China or Syria until they stop judging you and just let you be.



p.s. I really would like to see your tubes though.


Image credit: joestump


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10 crazy things that tweet /2012/01/26/10-crazy-things-that-tweet/ /2012/01/26/10-crazy-things-that-tweet/#comments Thu, 26 Jan 2012 20:59:43 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=529 more]]> Whoever said that Twitter is reserved for the living and literate? Certainly not the folks that invented these tweeting products. From the useful to the absurd, here are 10 devices making 140-character waves – from before the cradle to after the grave.

#1: Tweeting straight from mommy’s womb

Expectant father Corey Menscher was perhaps more expectant than most – rather than waiting for his baby to be born, he invented the Kickbee, allowing his unborn little one to communicate with the world via kicks and sensors. Presumably, “Mommy’s got bad gas” and “Enjoy your sleep while you can, sucker” will be available in version 2.0.



 #2: Tweeting toddlers

Being born is no reason to stop the tweeting action. With the Twoddler – a modified Fisher Price toy featuring photos of the family and a whole lot of sensor action going on under the hood – the tweeting doesn’t have to stop at the end of the birth canal.



#3: Tweeting toilets

So your toddler’s growing up and it’s time to toss the diapers aside and go potty like a big boy. But what’s a working mother to do? Easy – track that potty progress via Twitter. The hacklab.TOilet sends out a tweet every time the toilet is flushed. In the words of the inventors, “hey, it’s more useful and relevant than just about everything else on twitter!”



#4: Tweeting dogs

Think humans are the only ones with things to tweet about? Get your dog in on the tweeting action with Puppy Tweets, a Twitter-enabled device that mounts on your pup’s collar. Among the available tweets: “I bark because I miss you” and “I finally caught that tail I’ve been chasing.” If the next version includes “Hurry home I’m having a vomit-a-thon” or “Boy this shoe tastes like sirloin,” I’m sold.



#5: Tweeting cats

Don’t worry internet, I didn’t forget the cats. While Rover’s tweeting up a storm in the backyard, let Tigger get in on the game with the Kitty Twitty, his very own tweeting cat toy. No word yet on whether it speaks Cheezburger.



#6: Tweeting plants

Twitter or not, your dog and cat make it very clear when they need food or water. But what about your plants? Worry no more – the Botanicalls Kit will let that Azalea of yours tell you when it’s feeling thirsty. As an absentminded house plant serial killer, I have to say this device could actually prove quite handy.



#7: Tweeting office chairs

If a freelancer farts and there’s nobody around to hear it, does it still make a sound? It does if you have the Twittering Office Chair. According to the inventors: “The Twittering office chair “tweets” (posts a Twitter update) upon the detection of natural gas such as that produced by human flatulence.” Looks like it’s time to finally throw out that old whoopie cushion.



#8: Tweeting beds

One best man rigged up the bed of a newlywed couple to automatically tweet when and how the newlyweds did what newlyweds do best – have sex. The twittering bed was reportedly based on the same technology as used in the twittering chair. Only, you know, sexier.



#9: Tweeting brains

Proving that not all tweeting devices have to be whimsical, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has invented a device that allows users to tweet directly via electrical signals in the brain. The device is aimed at helping patients whose bodies no longer work, such as those suffering from locked-in syndrome. At 8 characters a minute it’s not going to win any speed competitions, but it’s a start – and a great one at that.



#10: Tweeting zombies

OK, not really zombies. Just plain old dead people. The e-tomb is a conceptual grave marker that stores information about your deceased love one that is then transmitted via Bluetooth to graveside visitors. And while it may not technically be live-tweeting, it’s really the next best thing: dead tweeting.



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Phone addiction: comic edition /2012/01/16/phone-addiction-comic-edition/ /2012/01/16/phone-addiction-comic-edition/#comments Mon, 16 Jan 2012 20:44:49 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=516 more]]> It’s not exactly a secret: pretty much all of us are addicted to our smartphones and other internet-connected devices. Gizmodo recently posted a real-world game where everybody at your lunch meeting / romantic dinner / non-LAN-party social gathering stacks their phones face down on the table; the first person to check their phone pays the entire bill. Saturday Night Live poked fun at our screen addiction this weekend with a parody commercial for an app that sends realtime notifications about “what’s in front of your face” and the Simpsons got in on the action with their own mock social networking app, SpringFace. And so, here’s another set of comics (and one comic infographic) depicting the modern internet-connected life: the phone addiction edition.














…and for your bonus unrelated comic: the distraction that is the internet.


Image credits: Mashable comics, The Joy of Tech, The System, OnlineSchools, Asher Sarlin

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Then and now: comic edition /2012/01/11/then-and-now-comic-edition/ /2012/01/11/then-and-now-comic-edition/#comments Wed, 11 Jan 2012 21:08:15 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=500 more]]> This week marked a first in my 17 years of internet use: my mom forwarded me a legitimately funny email (and one that originated on Reddit, to boot). The email in question contained a bunch of then and now comics and, coming from somebody whose leisure internet usage consists of family photos on Facebook and prolonged solitaire battles (I love you mom), it was surprisingly zeitgeist. And so, for a bit of lighter fare here on The Hipster Effect, check out this selection of Then and Now comics depicting just how different an internet-enabled society really is.



The Reddit-spawned original (curiously enough, my mom's version was missing the bottom row)



I feel this kid's Transformers-induced pain



The golden rule does not apply to piracy



Modern birthdays: Tweets over Twister



Rarity = excitement



Globalization ain't no thang



The changing form of distraction


…and finally, an unrelated bonus comic:



Got any more? Post them in the comments.

Image credits: Reddit, Smilorama, Endless Origami, Failbook, Techno Tuesday, Rage comics, XKCD


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The impossibility of a screen-free life /2012/01/04/the-impossibility-of-a-screen-free-life/ /2012/01/04/the-impossibility-of-a-screen-free-life/#comments Wed, 04 Jan 2012 23:46:34 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=488 more]]> When was the last time you went screen-free for a day? I’m not even talking about a whole week or a month here – just a single day. When was the last time you went screen-free for a whopping 24 hours? Spending any amount of time without a screen is getting harder and harder with each year that goes by. So how exactly did we get to this point?

In the beginning, things were slow and expensive. Modern kids will never know of the prolonged pings of a 14.4 modem, of waiting minutes (minutes!) for a single page to load on a painfully slow computer that probably cost over 3,000 dollars. (See if you have the patience to wait for Google to load on a 14.4 modem simulation – I didn’t.) Technology was expensive and even if you did have a computer in your home, the internet was just too slow to spend much time on. Every single page took endless minutes to load, until finally impatience got the best of you and you logged off in frustration. As technology got cheaper and the internet got faster – first on our home computers, then on our handheld devices – waiting for content ceased to be a factor. When everything is instantaneously accessible, there’s no time lapse to allow you to think of other things you could be doing – there’s just content, content, and more content.

In the beginning, there wasn’t much content. Computers were too expensive for most to afford and, even if you had one, you probably didn’t know the first thing about putting content online. It wasn’t until things got cheaper and faster that businesses and institutions went online en masse and the amount of available content started to explode. With more content came more reasons to stay online. We all know the feeling of opening a single Wikipedia entry, only to find ourselves hours later in the nether regions of the web, still clicking away, our original question long answered and forgotten.

In the beginning, you only consumed content – you did not create it. This is where things really branched out from the classic screen of the TV. With the interactive web, not only could you read something – you could leave a comment or write your own rebuttal. Not only could you watch something – you could shoot and upload something yourself. Not only could you consume – you could participate. And so could everybody else.

In the beginning, your social life was relegated to the real world. Sure, there were those among us who spent hours on early communities like Prodigy and AOL, but you weren’t likely to find many of your real-world friends on there. It wasn’t until the rise of the social networking-fueled web that the ability to create content joined the ability to connect with your friends and we all started creating content about our day-to-day lives. We could suddenly store and share our experiences, both past and present, giving us even more of a compelling reason to check into Facebook just one more time.

In the beginning, being online meant being at a desk. Once the laptop became popularized and the wireless internet grew along with it, the chain to our desk was broken and we were finally able to interact with the online world from the comfort of the couch or the dining room table. The rise of the smartphone enhanced that portability even further, allowing all bar bets to be settled immediately and providing an eternally connected lifeline to the online world of content and friendships. The current rise of the tablet is taking things a step even further, allowing us the computing power and larger screen of a traditional computer with the portability of a smartphone. Now, you can be online anywhere, at any time, with anybody.

In the beginning, the online world was more asynchronous – in other words, not everybody was online at the same time. Since being online meant being at a desk, it also meant that you weren’t logged in all of the time, and neither was anybody else. There wasn’t much need to check in more than once or twice a day – there probably wasn’t anything new to see there anyways. Now that we all carry the internet around wherever we go and add content on the fly, there’s constantly something new to check out. We’re logged in more and more of the time, making the online world more and more synchronized with the real world. Being offline means missing out on what’s going on with everybody else. Simply put, being offline means being out of the loop.

In the beginning, bananas did not have QR codes. Yep, last week I reached for a snack only to realize that there was a QR code advertising the new Alvin & The Chipmunks movie staring up at me from this otherwise completely organic product. Advertisers and other businesses have taken it for granted that we’re constantly in arm’s reach of a device. Even the most offline elements of our otherwise online world are now beckoning us back online, back into the connected world, back into the realm of interactivity. Once we get there, the speed and the content are all we need to sending us zipping away down the information superhighway.

And we wonder why it’s so hard to be screen-free.

The difficulty we now face is not how to log off entirely, which admittedly makes us miss out on a lot of what’s going on in the world, but how to integrate the omnipresent internet into our lives without losing touch with the world around us. Initiatives asking us to be screen-free for a week are missing the point. It’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever be screen-free again, at least not for any extended period of time. Rather than trying to ditch our screens altogether, we need to learn how to integrate the internet into our lives without letting it take over. Screw screen-free. We need to get screen-smart.


Photo credit: jasontoff


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Are there memories without pictures? /2011/11/01/are-there-memories-without-pictures/ /2011/11/01/are-there-memories-without-pictures/#comments Tue, 01 Nov 2011 22:54:26 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=390 more]]> Less than twelve hours after the last guest left, the first question was already being asked: did anybody take any pictures? The question itself was rhetorical. Of course people took pictures. Most of them, in fact. The real question was this: did anybody take any pictures with me in them?

The event in question was a Halloween masquerade thrown by respected New York promoters Gemini & Scorpio. It was the kind of party that was chock-full of photo ops and performances, with no shortage of professional and amateur photographers on hand.* But for those of us who couldn’t find a place in between the folds of our mummy bands or superhero capes to stash a camera, the next day we found ourselves relying on the kindness of picture-taking strangers to get a record of the night’s events. After all, what’s a party these days without pictures?

You see the same thing any time you go to a concert, a performance, a parade, or any other event where there are likely to be people out having fun: a never-ending sea of cameras and smartphones, all quietly recording the event for posterity. The photos and videos are immediately posted on Facebook, on Twitter, on Flickr, on YouTube, all tagged and edited and ready to be viewed by the event participants and the world-at-large. If, come summertime, I find myself reminiscing about what I did on Halloween, I can always revisit the photos and put myself right back in the costumed thick of it.

There’s no question that we as a society like taking photos. We like to record the interesting situations we find ourselves in. We want to keep records of the good times we spend with our friends. We want to track the growth of our children and our pets. We want to catch pictures of those moments when we feel happiest – not just vague recollections of them, but real, bona fide photographs that we can look back on whenever the mood strikes. So what happens to all those memories that aren’t backed up with a clear visual record?

In the past, the moments you recorded were relatively few and far between. You had to buy a camera, buy film, pay for photo processing, and then you had to wait for several days to see if the picture even came out in the first place. Now, with high-quality digital cameras coming standard on the increasingly ubiquitous smartphone, the production costs associated with casual photography have practically dropped down to zero. That means we’re taking a whole lot more photos, and we’re doing it a whole lot more often. Sure, you’ll remember the concert even if you don’t record a video. But won’t you remember it better if you do?



As a high school and college student, I obsessively attended dozens of concerts in and around New York City. For a few of those shows, I happened to bring along a disposable 35mm camera. And which concerts do I remember best now, a decade later? You guessed it: I have the clearest memories of those few concerts where I captured photos.

Now that we take photos of everything, what happens to those memories that aren’t accompanied by a visual record? If you took pictures at 9 out of 10 concerts this year, are you going to remember the tenth next year? How about in a decade? It’s a fair bet to say that while you may still remember it, you’re not likely to remember it well. We’re constantly jogging our memories when it comes to the events we took photos of, bringing them up to the top of our minds. Non-recorded events slip lower and lower in our collective memories, sometimes slipping away altogether. So what happens now? Will the constant documentation trend make us ultimately remember more, or less? Will we remember more since we have more photos of more events to refresh our minds? Or will we remember less, focusing on those events we have photos of in lieu of those we don’t? Either way, it’s something to think about as we decide which events to document and why. Now pardon me while I go hunt down a picture of my masquerade costume.


* Full disclosure – I DJ’d the party

Photo credits: Ana Mariel and simononly


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