I don't usually do this

I file several to dozens of stories a week, so I rarely have time to get emotionally attached to first drafts. I throw them out into the ether — well, really into the hands of my trusty editors. I'm usually if not always quite pleased with the final result. This week, one of my lovely (and I mean absolutely delightful) clients Teen Vogue ran a condensed version of my piece on the psychological ramifications of social media hate-stalking in teens. What I'd like to do is share my original draft since I had a blast writing it. Like, writing about social media etiquette is my favourite thing to do after doing Pilates to pop punk music. Really specific, I know. Without further ado:


Here's Why You Should Seriously Consider Cutting Yourself Off from Hate-Stalking

 

By Marissa Miller

 

Whether we’d like to admit it or not, we’re all guilty of Facebook stalking. It starts innocently: first, you log on with the intention of posting a cute meme on your BFF’s wall, and then hours later you find yourself clicking through profiles and links you had no plan on visiting. You then find yourself 10 degrees of separation deep into some serious lurking – of strangers or not – and having to feign ignorance next time you see them in person (“Oh, you went to Jamaica this summer? Had no idea!” “Seriously loving your top – where’d you get it?”) Girl, we all know you saw that very detailed OOTD.

But for teenage girls, social media lurking can have serious ramifications on your psyche that extend well beyond accidentally liking a post from 73 weeks ago.

“You’re only seeing part of the story so you’re getting a skewed perspective,” says Corrie Sirota, a clinical social worker. “We do know that it’s a fantasy image. Your perspective is what you believe is the truth, so you think it’s what’s really happening, but the image we portray is not real.” 

The stakes are especially high since adolescence is a period of identity development and discovering who you are. “Popularity is hugely important in high school. After high school, who cares if you’re popular? You don’t want your kid to be popular in high school because if you peak too soon, that’s dangerous. Think about Mean Girls; it still stands true. [Social media] is just faster, bigger and wider spread. It’s that same dynamic of being mean and what one has to do to maintain that status.”

Over half of adolescents log onto social media sites every day, a testament to the amount emotional development they experience online. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) called on pediatricians to speak to their patients about their Facebook habits to gain some insight into what could possibly be the culprit of depression. Experts say prolonged exposure to the sites could lead to feelings of isolation and poor self(ie)-esteem.

The old adage goes: for every good selfie, there’s 47 failed ones. This further proves that we display these perfectly curated online versions of ourselves. And who could blame us? Our digital audiences span far and wide, and now given the lenient and wonky privacy settings inherent in many social media platforms, we have less control over who sees our stuff, putting even more pressure on us to be some variation of perfect. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh Business School found that those with more friends on Facebook tend to feel more stressed in an effort to constantly please and entertain a varied social group. In this same vein, the account you’re fawning over – or likely at this point stalking – did not, in fact, wake up like ‘dis. It’s important to remember that we’re all putting our best feet, faces and social lives forward. Take it all with a grain of salt (pink Himalayan salt if you plan on Instagramming it, that is).

So, what exactly are we trying to get out of stalking? Is there a high associated with being stalked? If we know it’s only making us feel worse about ourselves, can it be characterized as something of an addiction?

Sirota confirms that it is, indeed, a drug. “It’s our lifeline. People feel connected that way. It’s a bit of voyeurism. ‘Look at me, look at how wonderful my life is even though my life is a disaster’. It’s getting that validation. People who aren’t popular in real life can be popular online,” she says.

Taking a trip down the digital lane of someone else’s life may feel as natural as accepting a Facebook event invitation, but in no way is it healthy. It begs the question: why are we more interested in someone else’s life than cultivating our own relationships? “When fantasy becomes stronger than reality, you can’t live up to that,” Sirota says. Sure, but somehow, many of us find ourselves trying to live up to the standards of people with fabricated lives.

Of course, stalking is a lazy way of forging a connection with someone. Instead of enduring a face-to-face conversation (oh, the horror!), we try to extract as much intel about them as we can so we’re mentally prepared for or IRL interaction. Think about all the times you discovered a wealth of information about someone’s background, their hobbies and their personality – all through absentmindedly scrolling years down their feed. Did it feel like an organic way of getting to know them? Did their true, in-person selves measure up to their digital selves?

We invite you to rise to the challenge of stepping away from the urge to stalk. Let us know in the comments about your experiences!

Santa, I've been bad this year

It’s Yom Kippur, which means there’s nothing to do but die for melted brie and think about all of the bad things I’ve done this year (like the neon nail polish I continue to wear despite the fact that it’s fall). Another cardinal sin I’ve committed that I think has larger implications is falling prey to click bait – which (not too soon, I hope?) is the swine flu of digital media.

Would give my firstborn child for this.

Would give my firstborn child for this.

A few years ago, we discovered that, by implementing certain code-related practices, we could boost SEO scores. The algorithm is still largely mystical and elusive, but any SEO nerd knows that Google favors certain user-friendly phrases and buzzwords over others; that limiting use of outbound links to generate what some might call inorganic traffic depletes SEO score; that good content trumps lots of it. It's a work in progress, and by no means formulaic.

BuzzFeed came along and had little interest in mobilizing SEO techniques per se – instead they were interested in generating content (if you can call it that) that went viral in the quickest amount of time possible. It was a cute little science experiment that evolved into a digital revolution. In eight years, they’ve garnered a global audience of 150 million people. That’s like, five entire Canadas watching cats sneeze.

You'll NEVER guess what happened when Marissa saw this cat!!!!!! Spoiler: she died and went to heaven.

But BuzzFeed is way more than just cats. They share their rapidly expanding platform with investigative journalism and heartfelt essays. News. First-person accounts at the front lines of war. They didn’t have to do this – after all, their cats-only recipe was kind of a genius ploy on its own. But from what I can deduce, they’ve infused the same branding techniques into their cat videos as they have with, say, a piece called Inside The Chilling Online World Of The Women Of ISIS

That's a headline that gets my attention, and perhaps for the wrong reasons. “Chilling” is definitely a word I’d ascribe to the piece, but that’s a sentiment an unbiased editor should allow readers to discover on their own. Sadly, that's a very understated example of click bait; sharing links on social media has become a natural disaster, void of substance and full of cheap marketing. "OMG you HAVE to see what happened when these two celebrities were in the same room that one time at that place!"

Herein lies the conflict of click bait: you. Can’t. not. Click on it. And you don’t want to. You're a slave to it. It’s sensationalist, and your journalism professor told you that that was a naughty, naughty thing. But you hate-click on it anyway just to see what all the fuss was about – much like I hate-watch New Girl because Jess Day really irks me. 

Is nothing sacred anymore?

Is nothing sacred anymore?

Click bait is founded on the notion that a sexy headline is worth millions in revenue, and less so in great content. It’s a more direct, aggressive form of SEO if you will. SEO best practices can take months to take shape, while a “you have to see this to believe it”-type click bait headline could amass hundreds of thousands of clicks in one day, thereby enhancing its unpaid, organic rankings fairly quickly.

There’s a certain elegance, a command of language, a confidence in refraining from click bait. New York Times digital articles boast relatively easy-to-search SEO-friendly headlines, with, in most cases, an obscurely compelling print headline listed at the bottom of the webpage (because of course, SEO headlines on paper are just a sad missed opportunity for poetry). The NYT would be the laughing stock of the schoolyard (like, gimme your lunch money, loser!-status) if they were ever caught pulling any of that click bait funny business. That, and Facebook was smart enough to ban click bait a few months ago. 

So pretty much, SEO is like going to the gym and eating paleo, while clickbait is saying eff it and proceeding to saw off a leg to lose 10 pounds.

Since I’m click baiting (and hey! It worked – you’re reading this), I might as well sin again and sneak in that melted brie.

The two types of happiness

My shpiel on why I haven't written in a while: 1) I actually half forgot I had one and got really excited when I remembered, 2) my blog doesn’t help fund my shoe addiction, 3) I feel a little shy about having a blog to begin with.

How un-Amurrican of me, right? Like, my thoughts matter and I want them heard. But the truth is, when you’re a white, non-binary, (upper?) middle-class female, no one cares about your narrative. Except for my mom. She totally cares about my narrative. Hi mom!

The Internet (or rather entitled millennials) push out content at a rate too rapid for us #peasants to digest. Not only has the authenticity of content suffered as a result, but anyone and their dog with a WordPress password can label themselves a "writer", a badge of honour that so many of us have toiled after and cried for and endured insomnia for (way too many prepositions at the end of clauses, will fix eventually).

The whole Internet is just one giant Mean Girls cafeteria discussion and everyone is trying to speak louder than the next guy. I don’t want to wear pink on Wednesdays! I want to wear pink EVERY DAY! I’m sure your dad has sat you down at the dinner table one night and been like, “So, kids, what’s new on the Internet these days? A lot of garbage, eh?” Hi dad! Sifting through it all is exhausting and makes me want to retire early. You were right. 

That’s why I conducted a little experiment with myself: I decided to go to a relatively big deal of a thing and not write about it. Last night, my friend Nick took me to the Sex Tape movie world premiere (starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel) at the Regency Village Theatre in Downtown LA.

There are celebrities behind me on a red carpet. Could I see a thing? No. Did I care? Also no. Is this what emancipation feels like? Yes.

Enjoying things from a consumerist lens and then from that of a publishing one is kind of a schizophrenic experience. You get to be happy both ways, but as a consumer, you can double-fist popcorn AND Diet Coke while snort-laughing at the movie’s terrible sex jokes, and as a reporter, you tend to be busy panicking that your recording app will run out of space, that you’re going $40 over your data limit fact checking important things on Safari like “New Girl show Hannah Simon is it Seesee or Cece?” and worrying that there is probably maybe definitely coral lipstick on your teeth while interviewing a celebrity. Both yield different forms of happiness, ones that I would have to oscillate between in order to hit that sweet spot.

Hannah Simone (Cece) from New Girl is the ultimate sweetheart. "Oh my God! I'm going to get my boobs all over you!" she said, panicking at my height in comparison to hers. Here I am on stilts/tippee toes. Editor's note: This is from the same night, I just had to run to the car to change outfits because pencil skirts are LITERALLY the Houdini-straight jackets of fashion and why anyone would submit themselves to that kind of torture I don't know.

In any industry, it's important to go off-duty to renew the thrill of getting back into the game. Like rest days from the gym. BUT WHAT ARE REST DAYS EVEN. SLEEP WHEN I’M DEAD?

Suffice to say, I felt very guilty not compiling a best-dressed list, or some philosophical analysis about why couples make sex tapes in the first place (Jack Black in the movie has the answer, btw. Go see it July 18). Oddly, publishing — as opposed to consumerism — is my guiltiest of the guilty pleasures. It’s hard for me to demonstrate restraint when all I want to do is contribute to the Internet’s muddled discourse, noise and “garbage” your father so fondly talks about at the dinner table. 

You're not a bitch if you're busy

My excuse for not having written here in over a month is that I was busy – busy in the typical having-many-responsibilities-to-fulfill sense, as opposed to the type of busy I would try to embody in order to appear more important than you. But this is not the case. What do you think I am, some kind of monster?

Busyness can translate into superiority. If you’re that busy, you must be some regal, untouchable being, as if any sort of disturbance will mess with your chakra and your holier-than-Thou stature. Another grand, sweeping statement for you: having actual free time to watch a season of Orange is the New Black, uninterrupted, means you are some type of good-for-nothing who needs to take on more projects at work. Right?

In truth, being so overwhelmingly busy that you don’t have the time to Snapchat me a photo of your new cat at least once a day can mean two things: you either have a) no interest in expanding your social circle to horizons broader than that which contain your cat (achoo!) or you have dismal time management skills, which is a setback in itself and probably my next blog post, but who knows. In fairness, I don’t have time to Snapchat you photos of my hypothetical cat either as I am asphyxiated by deadline-induced stress. True story.

Is busyness synonymous with importance? Let’s have a look. As a general rule, the corporate hierarchy suggests that interns are glamourized slaves (yup, I went there). Paid or not paid, they are often bombarded with tasks that their superiors don’t have time to do nor want to do (let’s be real here, not all internships live up to their “for educational purposes only” mandate. This is a reality. But as a wise man once said, “Don’t hate the playa, hate the game”).

It’s not as though anyone has bestowed upon these interns the opportunity to make revolutionary decisions – instead they toil away and do what they are told and make a suggestion or two. While having someone take care of menial tasks is essential to the health of any organization, you’ll rarely see an associate bow down to an intern, unless of course their basic HTML skillz are 2 die 4. The higher-ups have generally already paid their dues and thus have a little more legroom. While interns are often some of the best-dressed in the office (it’s like going on a first date, but every day for 4 months!!!!) there’s something inherently blue collar and unsung-heroic about how busy they are.

My friends have been expressing resentment towards me as of late for being too busy to step away from my work. I admire them all, firstly, for being able to uphold sophisticated positions and secondly, for having the time to hit up happy hour on the regular with little to no fear of their work quality being compromised (and also for having really nice hair and nail beds, but that’s a given). I admire them for being able to turn off work mode. I admire them for being able to relax and give busyness the manicured middle finger.

How do you decompartmentalize? How do you remove yourself from something in which you’re so completely engrossed? I was following a major league baseball player on Twitter a few months ago, Jose Canseco, who said in order to attain balance, your life should fall into the pattern of 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours of work and 8 hours of play. Talk about normcore and a sentiment to which I will never relate. Unfollow.

                                                                      Would you take life advice from this guy?

                                                                      Would you take life advice from this guy?

What if being busy is truly and organically a result of your work being synonymous with your play? Is it destructive to cut off momentum when your brain is transfixed by all the spelling errors you get to edit? Or are there proven therapeutic benefits to prematurely cutting your work time short in favour of this contrived idea of play? That last bit veered on the introvert vs. extrovert battle we all have going on internally, but I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Many people tell themselves that this year will finally be the year they remove parasitic people from their circles, otherwise those known as toxic, unstimulating or #basic (I’ve been reading awful memes in Earlybird filter on Instagram, so naturally I am on board with the common resolution). My friends embody none of these colloquialisms, but of course, sometimes it’s important to do you. If you care about someone to the moon and back yet they find a way to hinder your ~*~CrEaTiVe PrOcEsS~*~, you are not heartless nor are you psychotic for opting out of certain interactions. You are a human and you like creating things and creating solidifies your existence. We good now?

Being “busy” is an excuse you will tell that  guy on Tinder who can’t discern “your” from “you’re”. It doesn’t mean you’re better than him (cognitively, maybe) but that he just doesn’t fit into your self-defined equation of happiness in that moment. Being happy is letting yourself melt into your endeavour until the sun rises. If that’s in line with your definition as well, let’s live busy ever after. Because what’s worse than having nothing to do besides maybe death or running out of ink?

After all this banter on how busy I am, you’re probably wondering how I made the time to write this blog, or maybe you are also busy and that thought did not once cross your mind. The truth is that you just have to suck it up. We’ve all been allotted the same 24 hours, and I have faith that Darwin magically whittled our workloads down to a manageable scale so that we can Snapchat each other our hypothetical cats and call it a day.

Where for art thou poetry stigma

For those of you who’ve been following my posts, you’ve probably come to realize that I often talk about digital media within the context of health, beauty, fitness, and the occasional nail polish idea. These aren’t particularly offensive topics – at least I hope they aren't. That’s why I have been hesitant to talk about poetry, because once you throw that into the mix, people run for the hills and start occupying Wall Street, or worse, shaving Miley Cyrus mohawks in protest.

And understandably so – there is nothing safe about poetry. There is nothing comforting about it. There are no CP Style or AP Style guidelines telling you to do things a certain way. You could write % instead of per cent and get a round of finger-snapping applause while the audience at your poetry reading murmurs along to your free verse thing about hummingbirds at dawn and you will feel like you don’t deserve the praise because you invented your own writing rules, you went hard on that line enjambment, you inventimavized words, you went CRAY on spacing, your poem is to be read in a Norwegian­ accent, so how could you be right? Being objectively wrong about a syntax rule is soothing. There is no wrong in poetry, unless you're one of those angry kids in my former poetry workshops. 

Oddly enough, promising not to talk about poetry is only turning me into one of Freud’s little “repression leads to fixation” projects. I used to write poetry all the time, either to get published in anthologies or to tell my friends things that I was too shy to say sans the guise of obscure language. It was my platform of choice, my language, my Snapchat (ps: Snapchat is the worst but I use it religiously). Being a journalist and a poet is a difficult thing for many people to contend with because they pull at opposite sides of the brain.

You’re probably wondering, How can she tell my story accurately and fairly if she’s feeling so many feelings? This is a good hypothetical question. The tools I’ve learned as a poet have helped me immensely as a writer in that I’ve developed a linguistic fearlessness, almost a feeling of being invincible. More so, I think it’s helped me connect with people I talk to on a very human level. I get attached to the stories I write and the people I interview, but that’s because poetry has helped me care.

Even so, telling people I write poetry is often met with visceral reactions. It's like coming out of the closet. Eyebrows scrunch into unibrows, mouths go ajar, nostrils flare in panic. The digital age – aka all of society, aka our governing force – doesn't make the world very comfortable for poets. Every verse is a Survivor challenge and few of us get that Immunity (#TBT). People are threatened by its fluidity, its ability to emancipate both physically and spiritually. Incorporating SEO into poetry is not a thing, and the moment it is will be the moment it is tarnished forever.

In 2008, police arrested a Jordanian poet for incorporating verses of the Quran into his love poetry without approval of the Jordanian government. He was charged with harming the Islamic faith and violating the press and publication law for combining the sacred words of the Quran with sexual themes. If this weren't a fairly outdated example, I’d say that a breach of freedom of expression in this seemingly harmless manner (stemming from either political or religious sources) is a world I’m ashamed to be a part of. 

I hate to say “poetry is everywhere” because that is probably something I learned from Sesame Street, but it really is. Find your poetry. Do that one weird thing that totally conflicts with your career and make it work for you. We’re all anomalies. 

charles bukowski.jpg

Google and Ryan Gosling love you! (example of a non-SEO friendly headline)

I want to talk about SEO in a way that won’t gross out people who don’t care about SEO. For those unfamiliar with the acronym that has become as trendy as the shift from kale to cauliflower (PS: I do not endorse this. Cauliflower is the herpes of vegetables), it stands for search engine optimization. Media brands, be they blogs or multi-national corporations, are resorting to various algorithmic techniques to ensure their content wins the Number One Spot (the Ludacris song, obviously) on search engines, yielding more traffic, engagement, shares and sales. Side note: when you work in digital media long enough, you tend to forget that there is such a thing as traffic with cars.

Yesterday at the magazine, the staff was (sounds weird but it's a collective noun so we're good) invited to an SEO workshop. I don’t need to go to this, I thought. The best way to learn SEO is to JUST DO IT (brought to you by Nike) as a sort of trial-and-error-experiment. Wrong, Marissa! You did need to go to this!

One fascinating thing I learned is that yes, it means you are doing something right if your article ranks top 10 in a search request, but while the top result garners 53% of clicks, the 10th result garners, wait for it…wait for it… one meager depressing per cent of clicks. Imagine how much exposure the 30th or 50th or 100th search result get? Chew on that for a bit. 

Very fundamentally, it starts with a focus keyword. Let’s say nail art tips. Because really nothing is more important than nail art tips. You can’t just toss around “nail” or “art” or “nail tips” on their own throughout the article content, meta description, headline, page URL, heck, even the image file should be something like nail-art-tips.jpg!!!

My aim is not necessarily to demystify SEO as a practice, but to encourage you all to play around with various techniques and figure out what works for you, what makes sense in the context of your brand. The key, in many ways, is to play reverse psychology (or maybe just psychology, I don’t know, I’m not Freud, leave me alone) and envision what people will type into Google, and in what order they will phrase their search inquiry. How does the mind work? How do people want their information served? This includes embedding your post with relevant hyperlinks in an organic way and, the money tip, producing quality content.

When the lecturer was all like “quality content,” I was all like “Hold the phone, mister.” How do you measure quality content? Besides being some subjective evaluation, how do you create content that is holistically *good enough* for SEO?

He said the trick is to produce original content. This means that all of that syndicated crappola (excuse my French) that you read on blogs who regurgitate one another, are truly shooting themselves in the digital foot. The take away: Be fearless in the content you create. Be artists, visionaries and abstract thinkers whenever you can. Ironically, it's important to be creative in how UN-creative you get in terms of crafting SEO-friendly headlines. A pretty pun on a print page is a disaster in digital. Think in numbers, lists, how-to's. When a Google user wants to get rid of a cold, they don't have time to type in "Sucker punch those sniffles in the face!" but, quite plainly and banally, "Get rid of a cold fast."

There is a plethora of replicated garbage out there and not enough room for it in search engine rankings and in our brains. I get that it’s financially savvy to run stories from a newswire, but the return on investment of producing a fresh angle on an old story is invaluable to your brand and to readers. Or, you could just save a ton and get your intern to write it. But don’t worry, because that intern will one day be successful and enterprising and all that fun stuff. See? It’s all about ROI. Wink.

Pretty much, if your crush isn’t noticing you, it is because you are not SEO-friendly enough and you’re just ranking low on search engines and you should probably paint more relevant keywords all over your skin. Feel me? 

The trick now is to implement SEO best practices into this SEO blog post. How’s that for meta?

gosling-seo.jpg

Sprinting, running and getting it done

Let’s play a game of Would You Rather.

Yes?

Okay.

Would you rather spend a month doing passive leg workouts with minimal resistance and range of motion because that’s all your hotel room and schedule could afford, or abandon your blog like a lost child in the abyss of a Target store only to find it weeping and begging for your attention, all sad, yanking at your pant leg with metaphorical mascara running down its eyes?

Neither of these! (Spoiler alert: I just played a round of Would You Rather with myself. Separate issue, separate post.)

I get it. These are all major #firstworldproblems, but there is something about losing momentum that is so eerily debilitating. In many cases, stepping away from a mentally exhausting project or creative endeavor can help you breathe new life into something once you revisit it, but in my case, the opposite tends to usually ring true.

I like to think of the types of momentum I experience in my life as mental inertia. Whether it’s torturing myself at the gym six days a week to sneak in a full-body workout (trust me, it feels so good) or vowing to complete a feature in under two days, time off removes me mentally and physically from my work to the point where it feels like a foreign entity to me. Fear of the unknown, or rather the forgotten, sets me back. 

Trainers always tell me to take rest days. I don’t refrain from taking them because I’m particularly maniacal about working out (white lie #1), but because the comfort in doing something one day and then again the next at the same time creates structure and flow in a transitory world. The same goes for writing. I looked at this blog thing after a month of not touching it like it had 12 hands and googly eyes. Who are you? Why are you looking at me like that? You’re making me uncomfortable. Stop it, I said to this blog.

But of course, there are exceptions to every rule. My friend called me yesterday, lets call him David to protect the innocent (his real name is also David), to ask me how I developed my strong work ethic. I told him two things. A strong work ethic is really nothing to admire. If you are a human being you will naturally be so passionate about something, at least one thing, that there is really nothing you’d rather spend your time doing.

The second thing I told him is that it’s important to get invested in multiple projects at once so that you don’t feel suffocated by one in particular. Like interval training, sometimes it’s more effective to imbue short bursts of energy into a certain project than to test your endurance, yield lackluster results, and come out drained and hating yourself and the thing that you once loved, on the verge of murdering an innocent bystander for the nearest Gatorade. 

David has so many ideas that he often isn’t sure where to start, and I think that if he were to spread his little videojournalism wings (am I giving away too much info? Were we off the record?) he would view each of his projects with a newfound sense of excitement and maybe even first-date butterflies.

That’s all I have to say about momentum for now. Some people are sprinters and some are marathon runners. Where do you fall?

 

hellyes.png





Digital girl in a digital world (like Madonna, but not)

I’ve been thinking about magazines a lot lately. Not that I haven’t been thinking about them before, too, but I've been consumed with the idea of magazines being unable to exist on their own like an eight-year-old child in the cavernous bedding section at Ikea.

I am not worried about the survival of print as a species. Come on, they are not zebras or pandas! Give them more credit than that! An iPad doesn’t look as Instagram-appropriate illuminated by the flame of a fireplace and a glass of Pinot. Neither does the blue light of a Macbook Air you got for grad. There will always be a place for print in our lives, but not at the extent of eschewing their digital counterparts altogether.

It has come to my recent attention (oh boy, I sound like a professor about to call out a student for copying off another kid) that most major media outlets have a print and digital product that are FRATERNAL TWINS. You’d think you’re getting the same stuff, but consuming them is a wholly different experience.

One of my favorite women’s magazines offers an incredible digital product that’s catered to an entirely different demographic and is essentially an entirely different experience. Why they chose to deliver these two products under the same name is something I had to mull over for like 30 minutes in the bath. To me, it’s interesting how they’re trying to be every place in the world at once. They want to be political but they also want to be sassy and they want to speak to your mom and they want to speak to your little sister. It’s an ambitious endeavor, but are they succeeding? Of course they are.

Why? I think it’s pretty simple. You have two entirely different people opting for print vs. digital media. You've got your old school, seemingly conventional kids who get off on flipping ACTUAL REAL TANGIBLE pages, the ones who haven’t yet been contaminated by the Gen Y zero-attention-span syndrome. They can stomach the “dreaded” long-form journalism, unadulterated by breast enhancement ads and viruses (how you got your computer virus is not my business).

Then we have self-diagnosed ADD/ADHD/Just, like, really eccentric millennials and “cool moms” who subscribe to the notion that if you can’t tell a story in 140 characters, you don’t know your story at all. These are the types of people who will click on an article based on its feature photo (we are visual creatures and there is no refuting that) and opt to continue reading whether or not the lede is cool, grabby or profane enough.

Publications shoot themselves in the foot if they don’t consider this dual reality. Transferring print content online isn’t enough, and demonstrates laziness and insensitivity. While creating a new online brand is costly, there are other alternatives start-ups can look into to get in with the “cool moms” of today. Of course, these two demographics are not mutually exclusive, but it's important to factor in how you can maximize the satisfaction of both.

Reformatting long features can be as easy as turning them into click-through galleries that divide content into little bite-sized-Ritz-cracker-blocks of cuteness. Paired with a photo in each block, reading the content will feel like a linear string of headlines. Clicking on things has become this Tourrets reaction we have towards everything digital, so flying right through a gallery won’t feel so laborious. And within minutes, you’ve conned your site visitor into reading a whole 2,000 words! Ha! Manipulation at its finest. Sorry not sorry this blog post isn't a gallery. #meta

Flowery stuff is cool on the web, but it’s not for everyone. Cut down huge features by getting only to the meat of it. Anecdotal ledes are my favorite things in the entire world and they get me PUMPED, but they can often be somewhere around 1,200 words long. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Tell me what you want to say in the time it takes for me to decide to leave your site and go play Tetris.

That long-winded profile you did with some B-list celebrity? No one *really* cares about an eight-page spread devoted to the ins and outs of their walk-in closet or their diet down to the very last calorie (actually, I totally care, but that’s just me). Instead of copy pasting the whole thing onto WordPress in all its daunting glory, why not retain it in its organic, natural, oh-so-easy Q&A format? Sure, we’re less likely to get a glimpse into your writing chops, but strong journalism is more so about asking good questions. Show off in the meta-description, just to whet our appetites, and then let your source’s badass responses stand as a testament to your skills as a reporter.

Do you guys get your news on print or digital platforms?

On a kind of unrelated note, this Buzzfeed article sooo gets my dad-joke-inspired word humor. If you love it as much as I do we should be friends forever. http://www.buzzfeed.com/regajha/puns-for-english-nerds

Turns out Madge is more than just a material girl.

Turns out Madge is more than just a material girl.

Beauty experiment for hippies

Now that I’ve been freelancing for the past couple weeks (code for toiling away in my Concordia Journalism hoodie and Red Hot Chili Peppers sweatpants), I've had the luxury of bringing my coconut oil experiment to fruition.

For the past seven days, I did not put an ounce of anything on my face, body or hair (excluding shampoo/conditioner) that was not organic virgin coconut oil. A few weeks back I hypothesized that my skin would clear up and hair would stop panicking on contact with the North American (re: Arctic-like) elements. It is true that putting oil-based products on your skin can actually tone down your skin’s oil production since it’s not trying to overcompensate in that department, but that was never something I was able to wrap my, um, skin around.

According to simple math, extra oil on your face should yield a forest of acne, right? Wrong! My friend Liz, who I’ve dubbed my personal skincare strategist, told me I was glowing. GLOWING! I love you, Liz! I never realized how big a problem my skin was until I stopped using that Clean and Clear garbage meant for smiling twelve year olds having slumber parties in those bad commercials. The only time I get in trouble is when I use it as lip balm and accidentally get really excited over how good it tastes.

And now for the hair situation: the key is to rub approximately half a teaspoon in your hands and apply it to sopping wet hair. Anything dryer, and you run the risk of having to contend with greasy strands all day. Applying it to wet hair allows the coconut to absorb deep into your strands and chameleonize (?) itself into your hair’s natural texture. Since doing this every day for the past two weeks, my hair has grown like a weed. I haven’t changed anything about my diet (except maybe more protein? Who knows? I like my baked tofu), but I have been massaging my roots to increase circulation on my scalp.

I think the issue is that most of us don’t realize how fast our hair really grows. Because many of us have dead ends, they fall off before we can see what kind of new lengths we’ve reached. Applying coconut oil to the ends (and what’s left over to the roots) seals in the cuticle and reduces the incidence of split ends, thereby not destroying hair growing efforts.

Aaaaand skin. Pregnant ladies tell me they apply coconut oil to stretch marks, and while I don’t really have any, I figured why not try it out as a preventative measure. Slather it on right after a shower when the room is all misty and sauna-like and your pores are begging to be replenished by good quality moisturizers. Locate places you’re most likely to gain weight. For ladies, this is usually hips, inner thighs, breasts and triceps. For men this is usually the stomach and hips. Apply liberally to these areas and immediately seal it in with cotton clothing. Knees, elbows and the bottom of your feet are also quite receptive to coconut oil.

Don’t be afraid of the grease! It is good for you! It will make your skin and hair happy! And just remember, anything you apply topically gets absorbed internally. Those ingredients you can’t pronounce? Just imagine them invading your bloodstream and waging war on your organs like it was WWIII. Cue images of baby coconuts hanging out in your arteries and playing hopscotch and catch with each other like the cutie pies they are.

coconut.jpg

The thing we thought that is most beautiful about us

People consider themselves vegan

66.66% of the time

Because they don’t want to

Offend the people they

Love

 

Later

They will go into their rooms

And drink and write

And push-up and pick

The guilt

Away

 

The would castrate their

Stomachs if they could

Heretics, there is a Miasma

And it lives in their

Closets

 

And lays feelings in the

Crevice of their clothes

Who needs those

When you’ve found your

Catharsis

 

On sale for $5.49

In the back next to

The condoms

In aisle 7, hide

You think you know

Someone. 

kale.jpg

Be an artist and be damn proud of yourself

This. This is why I do what I do. I never doubted arts/creative writing/reporting as my career path, but several people a day throw arguments at me why I shouldn’t do it – not because I’m not qualified, or passionate enough, or ready – but because they fear for me and they care and they are worried and they are my "friends". They’re worried I’ll live on canned tuna alone or not have an overflowing supply of Bath and Body Works exfoliant like I do now. Because the latter would be an ultimate tragedy. A girl’s gotta exfoliate. There’s virtually no going around it.

I tell them they should be way more worried having me do their taxes or perform open heart surgery on a loved one. For me, poems can mend hearts. Magazines are medicine. Do you know how much money I’ve saved on therapy just from reading Cosmo alone? Not that I need therapy, because I absolutely don’t (not that there is anything wrong with it at all if you need it).

Speaking strictly on preventative terms, my psyche and overall well-being would be a lot different had I not had the authoritative final say of the magazine to have my back during iffy times and even not-so-iffy times while getting a pedicure (which is more often than not Fiji by Essie, in case you were wondering. Baby pink on toes still works for fall, and I'm living proof!). Anyone who tries to argue the validity and importance of women’s magazines can meet me in the schoolyard at 3 p.m. We’ll duke it out. Come at me, bro.

When you’re passionate about something, the money follows. I send all the hugs in the world to those of you who have chosen a certain field strictly for money or stature or whatnot. Own up to what you love and stop putting yourself down for enjoying endeavours people don’t conventionally deem prestigious. You are great and you will be successful.  So, for all of y’alls who think you’re doing me a favor by requesting me to rethink my career choice, I invite you to read this quote by my man Kurt Vonnegut. I’m sure you’ve heard it, but I’d like it to come from me. Love to all.

"Here is a lesson in creative writing.


First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.

And I realize some of you may be having trouble deciding whether I am kidding or not. So from now on I will tell you when I'm kidding.

For instance, join the National Guard or the Marines and teach democracy. I'm kidding.

We are about to be attacked by Al Qaeda. Wave flags if you have them. That always seems to scare them away. I'm kidding.

If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."

Kurt-Vonnegut0658.jpg

Hot yoga, height, and inner peace as bull

I don’t understand people who are addicted to things other than yoga. Like, really. It is all you need. Sometimes I wonder why yoga-related apparatuses are not deemed contraband because all they do is enable my quest for that really ridiculously awesome yoga high.

Hot yoga is one of the most brilliant things you can do for your body. I know this because I am living proof of a sweaty pretzel. During a 90-minute power flow session today, I found myself contorted to the point where I didn’t think I’d ever be able to walk again. Lying in shavasana, I had visions of me being wheeled out in a wheelchair lamenting my days of warrior two. But alas, I left the studio feeling at least a foot taller than my 5’2/5’3 frame.

Which leads me to my next point: what is height? Okay, it’s a measurement of the top of your head in relation to the floor, duh! But I mean, what does it mean to be tall? Why is the pursuit for a powerful stature such a crucial one in both industrial and social settings? Is it to compensate for what we really lack deep down?

People tell me I have a tall presence. Well thank God for that! Why do women wear heels? Why are taller men more likely to be hired for a job over their shorter counterparts? It seems to me that men and women use height for different things. I find it interesting because sometimes height is favored and sometimes retreating into a ball of vertical ineptitude is the most endearing thing ever (I hope. Please say yes.)

Calories aside, yoga is such a holistic experience in itself that it kind of offends me that studios feel the need to adorn their walls with kitschy Buddhist trinkets and the like. The practice in itself, the act of using your body to do wonderful things, is inherently spiritual. Like a framed piece of paper on the wall next to where I’m peeing is really going to tell me how to achieve inner peace. 

My friend Caroline and I doing sun salutations in front of the Austrian Alps this summer. 

My friend Caroline and I doing sun salutations in front of the Austrian Alps this summer. 

Helvetica

I'm going to do this thing called Poem of the Week (#POW?) every Tuesday because I'm a huge nerd and I would rather some of my unpublished works didn't feel left out in a lonely folder in some forsaken corner of my desktop. POEMS HAVE FEELINGS TOO. And without further ado...

Helvetica

It portrays words in a naked way, as if their meanings stand for themselves

and no complicated font has to compensate

it is safe

and safety sells.

It is not afraid to tell us what it thinks we don’t know,

What it knows we don’t know.

 

A phrase hanging alone, unaccompanied by the carefully-crafted marketing scheme of a font

Will wet no tongue 

Words, edges carved to perfection

Your favourite cut of roast beef

Covered in mom’s gravy

Toast, fireplace, smells of grandma when she was here

 

Baby Lisa is on the carpet, sprawled

Cranium fixated on the words before her

“pupp-y” she mutters,

The Helvetica saturating her brain

Forever imprinted on her cortex

She will grow up to be a slave to the typeface

Just like us all, drones, we want to go home

And read books that make us feel like everything will be okay

No intimidating hues please, no contrived cursive

 

I would like to thank you, 1957

You were a good year of crap cutting

And rational idea forming

And making us all come together through font

Even the prepubescent Asian girls look good with

American Apparel splayed conveniently across their nipples

A sarcastic salute to the bureaucratic entrepreneurs

That control them,

A separation between Slut and State

 

I cannot hate you, Helvetica,

The aunt who brings me pancakes and

Looks just like me but is not afraid to punish.

Vulnerable, we are friends forever through typography. 

helvetica.jpg

Going nuts for coconut oil

When it comes to makeup, I’m kind of a Buddhist. An advocate of minimalism, our buddy Buddha over here once said that liberating yourself from attachments is the road to emancipation. I remember being on a five-day canoe trip at summer camp about a decade ago and was one of the few girls who refrained from freaking out about a lack of toiletries. It’s not that I’m low maintenance, I would just hate to have to rely on material things to make me happy or confident or fulfilled. Needless to say, I had a fantastic time.

coconut_oil.jpg

Democritus also said that “Happiness resides not in possessions and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.” The soul he is referring to is of course this new massive jar of virgin organic coconut oil I just purchased from some pretentious health store. I had been reading about the myriad benefits of using all-natural cosmetics since all that lives on the surface of your skin gets absorbed into your bloodstream through your pores. I don’t know about you, but that scares the living daylights out of me. I’m not a huge makeup wearer to begin with, but I want to see what happens when I go makeup free for a week (like, not a streak of eyeliner, not dab of concealer) just to see how my skin reacts.

Yes, it’s vegan, yes, it’s organic, but I would recommend consuming it in moderation. This stuff is considered one of the worst cooking oils. At 53 grams of saturated fat (265% of your recommended daily value), you’re better off bathing in a tub of whipped cream while a male model feeds you donuts (I can arrange that for you, by the way). Saturated fat is the evil kind. Stick to heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats found in nuts, fish, avocados and olive oil.

It hasn’t even been an hour since I brought home my baby (weighing in at 6 pounds and 4 ounces, it’s a boy!), and I’ve already slathered my entire body in it. I feel like a piña colada. How do you guys incorporate coconut oil into your beauty routine?

Be a someone, not a something

When I was a kid, I used to think that you had to be a famous person to have your own website. I thought, Wow, you must have had to make substantial advances in cancer research or written seven platinum albums or invented Toaster Strudels. But as it turns out, any pathetic whiney Joe Shmo can get their own dot com. This isn’t to say I fall into that category, comma, because I don’t, comma, but it seems that everyone is trying to make themselves known, or become someone.

I’m saying this after a coworker of mine told me in passing today “I need to change my brand.” This struck me in a weird way. Yeah, it’s kind of a hipster, post-modern, trendy thing to say with a straw still in your mouth, but it is sad and a true testament to who we’ve all become. Or rather what we’ve all become.

coke.jpg

Why would you want to change your brand? What are you, Coke? Are we commodities? Are we services? Are we a means to an end? This all led me to question the transitory nature of identity. To say that individuals have brands is also saying that we are on the market, and perched atop the shelf of life. Who will buy us? Will they pay cash? I, personally, don’t take debit.

Okay, I bet you’re all like, “All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players” and now Shakespeare is rolling over in his grave. I won’t disclose my coworker’s position, but it saddened me deeply to hear him articulate so naturally that he didn’t feel like he was enough -- in an industry that values radical thinking and alternate ideas, no less.

Ending thoughts: Brand, shmand. Settle into a brand organically. If you have to hem the edges, sure. But transforming yourself will feel incredibly stifling and will be a huge fun-suck. Not to mention, your audience can smell a sham miles away, like a bad Louis Vuitton on Canal Street.

Higher education made me a better person. You?

Okay so today I went to this weird ceremony called “graduation.” It was this anti-climactic gathering that happened four months after I actually finished my final Quebec Anglo Literature class, so receiving my diploma (with distinction, holler) felt so unwarranted, out of the blue.

School is a very weird thing. It feels like an obligation to me, a basic necessity to survive, something like food, water, and nail polish. Getting rewarded for it and having my whole family watch me shake hands with old men and pose in pictures with my hair done all nice because I completed something so essential to the basic function of what it means to be human felt very off and boastful.

I understand in many countries, education is a luxury. In Canada, where tuition is like buying a couple pairs of designer jeans (I’m not kidding), it’s something that we honestly have no excuse for not doing. School isn’t right for everyone – I know plenty people who haven’t made it past the first year of their undergrad before realizing their heart lay in entrepreneurship. And this is a very noble feat. For the most part, kids who chose an alternate productive, practical route are doing very well for themselves. I am just saying that lack of funds is a poor excuse to not pursue higher education. There are bursaries, student loans, heck – go set up a lemonade stand! – that can help you along the way.

I was raised in a household where going to school and trying your ultimate best and receiving no less than top grades was not an option. This sort of atmosphere was oddly not oppressive at all. It is comforting to know your parents are behind you 100% when it comes to expanding your knowledgebase and as a result, allowing you to have a more informed foundation of ideas upon which you can build your future.

Did I change over the past three years? Heck yes. For the better? I hope so. Three years ago I certainly couldn’t write a news feature without sweating the Niagara Falls out of my armpits. Today, I only sweat the Saint Lawrence River. Cheers, to Higher Education!

In sickness and in health, but hopefully the latter for the most part

Hello, readers (ew, seriously so boring and overdone. I feel like I need to brand you guys like Lady Gaga's Little Monsters or something.)

Today I got a cold and it was my microcosm of an apocalypse. For someone who takes care of her health to a meticulous degree, and as a result always feels STELLAR (I'm talking +2 hours of exercise a day, a solid blend of complex carbs and protein, at least eight hours a night), you can probably imagine the uproar that was my body upon learning my lymph nodes were swollen.

sick-but-pretty.jpg

A blog is a terrible place to complain about an itty bitty cold. But herein lie the therapeutic properties of writing! (You hear that, Obamacare? Cheap health care right over here. Going once, going twice.) 

Whenever something feels minutely wrong with my body, my mind shuts down along with it. I'm too busy panicking that my cold will transmogrify into this full-blown calamity resulting in puddles of phlegm and a post-root-canal puffy face. But those are all pretty one dimensional reasons to fear sickness. In truth, being sick is your body's sly way of telling you to chill out and take the escalator once in a while. We can't ALL be decathlons, all the time. Or can we?

First post

A first blog post is kind of like a baby's first step. Once you start, you can't stop. Or isn't that what they say about Lay's chips? I've technically kept a blog ever since my good friend Rachel bought me a purple fluffy diary for my eighth birthday. I would write about the makeup I would put on my Barbie's, needing a place to document an intense sorrow upon massacring their hair with Crayola scissors. Sorry, Skipper - if you can read this, I know a great place that does hair extensions. 

This isn't to say the plight of an eight year old is any less complex than one I'm experiencing now (what a clever way to avoid disclosing my age! I promise - it's not a "weird age," but I'd rather not feed into the minds of ageist bureaucrats) but with our digital climate functioning as the collective mode of curating information and solidifying events in time, I might as well jump on my own bandwagon. 

journal.JPG

I say "my own," because it's about time I started to practice what I preach. If you haven't gotten a chance to skim (or cream for all you non-terrified-of-calories-people...haha) my About page, I'm the social media manager at a marketing agency. What this means is I get people from various demographics to care about what specifics brands are saying on the Internet. This means crowdsourcing, using psychology to engage, marketing ideas and services to target groups with attempts at expanding said groups, staying on top of relevant industry trends while trying to predict them, and honestly, just having fun. 

I love my job so much that I get kind of antsy on my morning commute. I just want to go up to the bus driver and be like, "Mom, ARE WE THERE YET? I CAN'T WAIT TO GO ON HOOTSUITE AND RETWEET A BUNCH OF COOL THINGS." 

There is something deeply invigorating about the immediacy of the Internet, and that's why I've launched this site; so you, Dear Reader, can immediately connect with me, Marissa Miller, instead of having to find out where I live, break into my room and uncover the musty fluffy purple journal Rachel bought me for my eighth birthday.