The Hipster Effect 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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The Hipster Effect at TEDx Gramercy /2012/04/30/the-hipster-effect-at-tedxgramercy/ /2012/04/30/the-hipster-effect-at-tedxgramercy/#comments Mon, 30 Apr 2012 16:32:37 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=668 more]]> In March 2012, I was invited to speak about the hipster effect at the inaugural TEDxGramercy event. Without further ado, here is a video of my TEDx talk: on identity, personal transformation and the hipster effect.



I highly recommend checking out some of the other talks from TEDxGramercy. Quite enlightening all around.


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A new definition of hipster /2012/04/02/a-new-definition-of-hipster/ /2012/04/02/a-new-definition-of-hipster/#comments Mon, 02 Apr 2012 18:43:52 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=647 more]]> When was the last time you heard the word hipster being used? For most of us, not more than a few days pass in between encounters of the commonly used insult – and, for the most part, it is an insult. Yet despite its exceedingly common and widespread usage, publications continue to release articles declaring the hipster phenomenon over. Last week, Flavorwire published an article asking, “What Comes After the Hipster?,” with various experts chiming in on what hipsters might have been and what is likely to follow. In late 2010, n+1 magazine held a panel asking, “What Was the Hipster?” and later released a book by the same name. But before we get too carried away declaring the hipster dead, there’s something I’d like to point out.


Google Trends: Hipster (4.2.12)


This chart shows the amount of people searching Google for the word hipster (top), and the amount of news articles that mention the word hipster (bottom). Now I’m no mathematician, but it’s pretty obvious that this is hardly the moment when we should be declaring the hipster dead. Far from leaving our vocabularies, the word hipster is becoming more and more common with every month and every year that passes. So rather than asking what comes after the hipster, I suggest we take a step back and ask what is the hipster.


Even the dictionary is confused about hipsters

Ask a few people what they think a hipster is and you’ll quickly realize that we don’t have a single accepted definition of this exceedingly popular cultural phenomenon. While the most popular definition on Urban Dictionary skews towards the positive, that same definition is also the least popular, with 71,000 upvotes and nearly 18,000 downvotes. Classical dictionaries are still using the definition of the 1950s hipster and the Oxford Dictionary states simply that the hipster is “a person who follows the latest trends and fashions.” Yet none of these definitions even mention the things we associate with hipsters most: skinny jeans and PBR, wild outfits and fixed gear bikes, ironic mustaches and American Apparel. Without a single, shared definition of the word hipster, each of us is creating our own definition and – given that the common usage of the word is pejorative – our self-created definitions usually err towards the negative. I was recently sent a blog post likening the current usage of the word “hipster” to the 90s usage of the word “faggot” as a catch-all insult aimed at anybody who looks or dresses differently, which I believe is a fairly accurate assessment of the actual usage of the word. Until we can all agree on a single definition of the word hipster, that negative usage is only likely to increase. So let’s take a look at why we have such trouble defining them in the first place.


The hipster “subculture” is not anchored by a single aesthetic

When you think of a punk or a goth or a hippie or a raver, a very specific image is likely to pop into your head. These previously popular subcultures each rallied around a set of shared values and, more importantly to the outsider, a set of shared aesthetics. When I was in high school, goths tended to be shunned, but it was clear that in social environments outside of school, their wild form of dress served as a code to help them find one another in mixed surroundings. That shared code of aesthetics was the outward manifestation of a shared set of values, giving goths an easy way to identify and meet other members of their own subculture. Hipsters don’t share that single set of values or that single set of aesthetics; hipsters are, in fact, focused on individuality.

Whereas previously prevalent subcultures focused on group differentiation, hipsters focus on the individual. The hipster isn’t necessarily about finding other likeminded souls out there. It’s more about expressing yourself and doing your own thing, no matter how wild that may appear to others. As more and more modes of self-expression have made their way into popular culture, fueled largely by the wide-open nature of the internet and the vast amounts of content we now consume on a daily basis, we’ve come to adopt more and more iterations of style at a breakneck pace. And because we’re adopting so many different styles so rapidly, we don’t have time to create a shared set of meanings about trends. Instead, what’s going on now is that we’re creating our own meanings for each particular style or object. Classical meanings have been lost somewhere along the way; though half of the people in a room may be wearing thick-rimmed glasses, odds are good that each of them has a different reason for doing so. We, as a society, assume this to mean lack of authenticity, but in many ways it is at the very heart of authenticity – it is choosing for yourself exactly how you want to outwardly express yourself, imbuing each object with your own personally created meaning rather than using off-the-shelf cultural symbols.


The hipster as the scapegoat

One thing is sure about hipsters – you’re not one of them. Right? We use the word hipster on people who express themselves more eccentrically than we ourselves do. It has become a term of comparison. The girl in the used sedan thinks the guy on the Vespa is a hipster, the guy on the Vespa thinks the girl on the fixed-gear bike is a hipster, the girl on the fixed-gear thinks the guy on the unicycle is a hipster, and on it goes. We know that hipsters have something to do with uncommon modes of self-expression, so we assume that what we consider common can’t possibly be considered “hipster” – it’s that guy buying mustache wax over there whose style is uncommon. When we encounter an uncommon style, we project a negative set of personality traits onto the wearer, making it OK to call them a hipster and, in so doing, protecting ourselves from being judged as hipsters. We often use the word hipster as an insult due to our own insecurities. We are afraid of being judged as being hipsters ourselves, so we set the bar higher to shield ourselves from that negative judgment. That’s why, no matter how many times you’ve been called a hipster, you refuse to identify yourself as such. What is common to you cannot possibly be outlandish or outrageous – it’s that guy who’s the real hipster. And on it goes.


A broader definition of the word hipster

Until we come up with a set definition for the word hipster, each of us will continue to raise the bar above ourselves to make sure that we don’t get associated with those types. And so, I’d like to humbly suggest a new definition for the word hipster. I think the Oxford Dictionary got it right in trying to set such a broad definition, but I also think it neglects what’s at the heart of the hipster phenomenon – individuality and self-expression.

Hipster: somebody who self-expresses in a way that doesn’t fit into previously accepted social or subcultural categories.

That’s it. The definition of hipster varies from person to person because the notion of what is and isn’t acceptable varies from person to person. By defining hipsters as those who express themselves outside of what we consider to be socially acceptable, we acknowledge that hipster is a relative term, difficult to define in isolation. In coming to an understanding of what the hipster really is, we can better understand our knee-jerk hatred of them and move beyond the insulting nature of the word to appreciate why it is that hipsters seem to be everywhere and nowhere at once. Only when we get beyond the hatred can we address how and why this extremely widespread phenomenon is affecting our culture – and make sure that it does so positively.


Check out 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 for a more in-depth analysis.


Photo credit: Newtown graffiti

Hat tip to @drawmedy for the Life is Posers post


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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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Infographic: Life, meet work. Work, meet life. /2012/03/14/infographic-life-meet-work-work-meet-life/ /2012/03/14/infographic-life-meet-work-work-meet-life/#comments Wed, 14 Mar 2012 19:30:24 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=611 more]]> Once upon a time, there used to be this handy-dandy wall separating our work lives from our private lives. These days, the separation isn’t so clear. The line between life and work has been steadily eroding for years, with our personal lives now following us into the office and our work lives barging into our private homes. Below is an exclusive infographic taken from my new book that gives some insight into just how much that wall has changed.



Check out The Hipster Effect book to find out more about what this all means and how we can best deal with the continuing erosion of the wall between life and work.

Infographic design by Made of People!


Data sources:

a. “Doing Business in Bed, When Sick & on Vacation.” Clean Cut Media. 23 Sept. 2010. Web. <>.

b, c. Fox, Zoe. “Shocker: Most Americans Check Work Email During Holidays.” Mashable Business. Mashable, Inc., 28 Nov. 2011. Web. <>.

d. Moore, Brian J. “Social Networking in the Workplace.” National Law Review. Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, 19 Oct. 2011. Web. <>.

e. “Gen Y Facebook Users Seen Mixing Business With Pleasure.” Marketing Charts. Watershed Publishing, 9 Jan. 2012. Web. <>.

f. Eler, Alicia. “91% Of Hiring Mangers [sic] Use Social Networking To Screen.”ReadWriteWeb. ReadWriteWeb, 5 Oct. 2011. Web. <>.

g. Rosen, Jeffrey. “The Web Means the End of Forgetting.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 21 July 2010. Web. <>.


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Hot off the presses + TEDx /2012/03/08/hot-off-the-presses-tedx/ /2012/03/08/hot-off-the-presses-tedx/#comments Thu, 08 Mar 2012 19:53:03 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=594 more]]> Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present The Hipster Effect: How the Rising Tide of Individuality is Changing Everything We Know about Life, Work and the Pursuit of Happiness, now available for purchase on Amazon. This book is the culmination of a year and a half of solid effort and over 200 sources worth of research. Check it out and let me know your thoughts!

From the book description:
The Hipster Effect tackles the phenomenon of the modern hipster by looking beyond PBR and thick-rimmed glasses and to the cultural and social conditions that resulted in this new breed of über-individual. Part social commentary and part sociological analysis – combined with a fair dose of cultural anecdotes and humor – The Hipster Effect takes a wide-angled lens to the subject that everybody’s joking about but few are taking seriously (despite the cultural evolution it clearly reveals).”

Full description and excerpts available here.




In other good news, I will be speaking about the hipster effect at TEDxGramercy this Saturday (March 10th) in New York. Hit me up on Facebook or Twitter if you’re planning on going. I’ll be posting a video of the talk within the next week or two. Exciting times!


Cover illustration by João Raposo


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Book excerpt: Translate my outfit /2012/02/29/book-excerpt-translate-my-outfit/ /2012/02/29/book-excerpt-translate-my-outfit/#comments Wed, 29 Feb 2012 22:49:45 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=567 more]]> “The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.” – Steel Magnolias

Well, that and walk-in closets. After all, is there any better indication of the modern obsession with personal appearance than our need to have an entire room dedicated to housing our threads, kicks and baubles? There’s clothes for work, clothes for working out, clothes for going out, clothes for staying in, clothes for fancy occasions, clothes for going to the beach, clothes, clothes everywhere. Different types of situations require different types of clothing, and at a time when pretty much everybody around you is carrying a camera-enabled smartphone in their pocket, your poorly chosen outfit could very well follow you long after the day is over and the last of the wine has been poured.

More than just a carrier of social norms, what we wear is an outward demonstration of who we are. Before you even utter the words, “Hi, my name is,” your outfit has already sent a message. Clothing, in that sense, is not only a tool for covering ourselves up; it is a tool for communicating who we are. Wearing gold lamé to a funeral communicates just as loudly as showing up with a boombox blasting ABBA. Showing up to your office job dressed in hot pants and a tube top does the same. It’s loud. What we wear shows who we are and how we want to be perceived. No wonder The Container Store has become so popular; when clothing is communication, it’s important to have a closet full of the right things to say.

Provided you’re not living in a nudist colony, there’s a certain set of daily rituals you use to prepare yourself before leaving the house – grooming, dressing, preening, pruning and otherwise priming yourself for public appearance.  Where you’re planning on going dictates the social norms required for your outfit, but the rest is up to you. Do you want to fit in or stand out? Are you going for classic chic or a modern conversation-starter? Underlying these questions is a basic fact of identity: how do I want to be perceived by others? Whether consciously addressed or not, how we dress is a way of telling people who we are and how they should think about us. But what happens when the signals get crossed and the meanings confused?

At a time when each of us is exposed to more cultural and personal options than ever before, misinterpretation of intent has become a common problem. I might think that this giraffe-print polyester vest shows that I’m open-minded and fun-loving, but to you it may appear childish and – dare I say it – hipster. Similarly, you might think those big ol’ diamond earrings you’ve got on show that you’re classy and sophisticated, but to me they might just be plain old pretentious. Though each of us is now exposed to more ways of dressing, more modes of fashion and more types of personal style in a single day than our grandparents were in an entire lifetime, the norms governing those different iterations of self-expression have not yet been agreed upon. You may know how to judge which type of blazer is appropriate for a tenured professor, but assuming that you know how to judge a particular type of mustache that has just reentered the cultural zeitgeist after years of obscurity is far less certain.

Just a century ago, nobody owned more than a few basic outfits for a few basic situations. Their options were limited and the message sent by each outfit was obvious and widely understood. Now that our options have increased exponentially – and on-demand 3D printing technology is on the horizon to increase those options further still – our clothing still talks, but we’re all speaking different languages. This is not the conformist, jumpsuit-wearing future once imagined by Star Trek and Logan’s Run. This is a full-on express-a-thon, only without the benefit of a Douglas Adams-inspired babel fish to translate what each of us is trying to say. We’re confusing each other in the name of expressing ourselves. Thankfully, the confusion can be easily corrected. All we need to do is recognize that our wires are crossed. We’ve progressed too quickly, picking up too many stylistic iterations and losing their meanings along the way. Until we can all agree upon what exactly it means to wear a pair of Wayfarers, we ought to just lay off of the judgment and realize that what I think it means doesn’t necessary match what you think it means, and let’s just agree not to even ask Auntie Mabel from Nantucket for her opinion quite yet. We’re confused enough as it is.

The above is an excerpt 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.”


Image credit: Alaskan Dude


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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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