The Politics & the Personal in Workplaces

Did you know around 70% of employers screen your social media accounts in the hiring process?

Ok, I don’t know how accurate that figure is (because it’s based on one study), but I do know it is definitely becoming the norm for employers to look at your social media accounts when you apply for jobs.

As someone doing a degree in communications and media I have no escape from hiding any public social platforms I have from potential employers. If that is the fate I’ve been resigned too then what should I be posting on my Twitter account and blog? Are there topics I should stay way from? Issues I shouldn’t discuss? Will voicing certain political opinions actually get me fired/not hired?

On my twitter and even my blog, I don’t filter the dominant parts of my personality. If you go through the first few of my tweets, you’ll know my stand on many different politic issues, it’ll be very clear the kind of values I stand by, you’ll know that I have very strong advocacy for movements supporting and uplifting women of colour. These are some of the more political tweets you’ll find on my timeline.

Aside from politics, you also get glimpses of my personal life. My interactions with my close friends, my feelings towards some of the friendships I have and even some tweets about my family.

 

If employers are going to be looking at all these things: is there a line I should draw?

Let’s start with the politics. I’ve always been wary and careful about what I post – especially with issues surrounding race. Because I know I will be applying for jobs in Australia – where my employers will be predominantly white – and I’m unsure how they’ll feel about hiring someone with strong convictions on white privilege.

Just recently L’Oreal fired Munroe Bergdof over remarks she made of the Charlottesville protests, the company claiming she was “at odds with our values” in a tweet. Here is where I ask myself: am I willing to tone down my advocacy? should I be a little less intense when I post tweets regarding politics? (All these things I also think about knowing I have peers/lecturers from uni following me online too).

No matter how many conversations I have with myself on this issue, I always come down to the same conclusion – I’m not sure if I should or shouldn’t but I don’t want too. At this point, I’m happy to say I’ll cop whatever jobs I miss out on; if a company is actually using those tweets as a reason to not hire me, probably means I dodged a bullet (this is what I’d like to believe anyways).

When it comes to the personal, I post whatever I don’t mind anyone knowing about me. It could be my struggles with anxiety, funny conversations with family and things I’ve done with friends. I recognise some of these tweets might point towards consuming alcohol, maybe even on sex/dating, but they’re never explicit/crude (most of the time they’re quite funny). I think those are just part of the human experience, it wouldn’t stop me from doing my job to the best of my capabilities.

The thing about my twitter account is that it isn’t just those things. It isn’t just the politics and the personal. It’s also my values, what I can bring to the table, my lens of the human experience. It is part of who I am and who I will be as an employee.

If an employer can look at these tweets and based on an algorithm decide there’s something there that makes me not worth hiring, that means you wouldn’t have liked me in your company anyways. I know companies like to say all they’re looking for is a ‘professional’ online presence but that is a very loaded, very subjective word.

I will end this post with the title of Kris’s blogpost on public identities (which I definitely recommend reading) because it made me laugh and quite aptly summarises what I think: I’m ‘authentic’. Fire me.

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The Value of Narrative Practices

Something I often ponder: What is so valuable about seeing your story told, either in your own words or through the words of others? As someone who adores writing, I find words comforting – a way of organising the messy, cluttering thoughts in my head (hence, the name of this blog).

This weekend, I read an article by Carmen Ostrander on narrative practices in therapy. This article explores different ways words and narratives can be used in therapy and how they might influence people’s thoughts and approach to things. Ostrander claims that this can “provide engaging departure points for alternative accounts of lived experience with outcomes that are unique to the individual,” (2017 p. 56). As human beings, we are quite accustomed to the idea of telling or listening to stories. Writing in the Atlantic on the psychological comforts of storytelling, Delistraty suggests: “Humans are inclined to see narratives where there are none because it can afford meaning to our lives, a form of existential problem-solving,” (2014). This is similar to the concept Ostrander tries to use in her therapeutic practices – alternative approaches to therapy by engaging a client’s creativity. She does so by looking at few different ways of narrative practice: documentation, invitation, collaborative note-taking, rescued word poems, letter writing, waitlist letters, bibliotherapy, medicinal words and the written word.

The practices that caught my interest in particular are: the written word, collaborative note-taking and rescued word poems. These three practices link well to my proposed question of the value of seeing your narrative told in the words of your own or the words of others.

Ostrander highlights the importance of the written word. Listening and speaking can sometimes include a tangle of words and thoughts. Writing allows you to neatly tie together certain ideas and the most prominent or important thoughts/phrases/words your mind has latched onto; “writing provides an alternative means of expression, and a different way to hear what is being said,” (Ostrander, 2017 p. 62). This reminded me of a lovely piece written by Claire of excerpts from her journal. There is something quite entirely wonderful about seeing the narratives you have constructed of yourself at a particular moment in time. Ostrander goes on to explain how these constructions are valuable in understanding yourself, your problems and becomes a point of connection in your communities. While I think all of this is true, there is definitely much more to be said about the kind of reflection the written word offers us as individuals. Looking back at your words from the past is almost a form of time travel. It gives you a sharp contrast of who you were then and who you are now.

However, what happens when others take part in writing your narrative?

Ostrander looks at collaborative note taking, as a way “to adopt a decentred approach that fosters a sense of joint ownership over the documents and files,” (2017 p. 57). She actively chooses to show her clients the notes she has taken over their session and allows to them to change the words she’s written. This is a brilliant insight into the importance of being careful with the words of others. I’ve talked about this in a previous blogpost, where I question how we can respect the narratives of others, especially when individuals can be quite concerned with self-presentation. Ostrander has a lovely approach to this with her collaborative note-taking. She explains it by saying a joint examination allows for someone to have “ownership of what is said about them,” (2017 p. 57). This indicates that even when we let others take charge of our narrative, it is important that we have the most control over it. The way we should undertake writing the narratives of others is to remember that we are simply a vessel for their voices – let them do the guiding.

Rescue-word poems allow for some creativity while listening to the narrative of others. Ostrander uses it to “capture points of resonance, evocative images, words that zing and sparkle,” (2017 p. 58). She writes out words, phrases, sentences that her client has said and shows it to them at the end of session. The experience she talks about here reminded me of Kris Christou’s article, ‘Words are powerful entities which convey the values of an individual‘: he created a lumen5 video using words his mother said to him. She was surprised that those words actually came from her. However, having your own words repeated back to you in such a way can be quite confronting. A classmate of mine has said that it was rather weird to see your own words reflected that way. Ostrander acknowledges this as well, saying this method has not always been positively received. However, I do think there is merit to this practice. It allows you to understand how others might perceive your words; how they might engage with the narrative you are trying to present. Sometimes, it can provide a new perspective of your values.

This article was insightful and strengthened my love for narrative writing. I will end this on a quote from Ostrander’s article that encapsulates the value of narratives.

“[Stories] flourish when they are written, spoken, shared and witnessed, extending beyond ourselves, connecting to others, in chorus, in community,” (2017 p.63).

References

Delistraty, C. 2014 ‘The psychological comforts of storytelling’ The Atlantic, 2 November, viewed 21 August 2017 <https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/11/the-psychological-comforts-of-storytelling/381964/&gt;

Ostrander, C. 2017, ‘The chasing of tales: Poetic licence with the written word in narrative practice’ International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work vol. 16 no. 2 pp. 55-64

Feature Image: Power of Words (2011) is by Antonio Litter shared under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Presentation That Never Ends (& How We Grade It)

“Picture a situation where you had to make a decision and what lead you to make it; then think of a value you were representing when you made that decision,” was what Kate told us (well not those exact words, I paraphrased from memory) to do in our first Advanced Seminar of Media and Communications class. After that, the class left in pairs to relay our own stories to each other. When we got back, there was a little spreadsheet online, where there was a box next to our name ready to be filled in with the value we thought we represented in our story.

What intrigued me as those little boxes started filling up with different values – why those values? Each individual person knew what this activity was aiming to do. We knew what to look out for in our story. We knew what questions were going to be asked. With that in mind, why then did we chose that specific story?

Obviously, I can’t speak for everyone when I answer this. However, I think there’s something to be said about the way we choose to represent ourselves in different settings. Wether consciously or unconsciously, a lot of our decisions is done based on wanting to present ourselves a certain way: especially when it comes to our own narratives.

During this activity, the story I chose portrayed me as someone reliable or dependable. Upon reflection, the reason that happened is because to me that’s one of the things I like about myself. It’s one of those things I believe is an accurate characterisation of me. More importantly, it’s how I want people to think of me.

Everything we do in the public sphere comes with the undertones of self presentation. What we wear, what we tweet, the way we interact in conversations, the kind of food we eat. Self-presentation also shifts based on many different factors and can change many times. Maybe it’s just me, but I constantly feel the need to prove myself as a person, especially when some aspect of myself has changed. This could be things like choosing to speak up on a particular discussion in class, wearing a new hat to show change of style or retweeting several articles on twitter when I’ve had a shift in political views.

In this era we are given countless platforms to curate the way we present ourselves in society. The one thing we can’t do however, is have complete control over all narratives of ourself. I was very surprised at how my classmates were unwilling to write a blogpost on the stories of other peers because it could lead to misrepresentation. It was a lovely insight into how thoughtful and considerate people can be.

I don’t think completely avoiding narratives by others is possible though. Just in this blogpost, you get my narrative of what Kate said in class and of the attitude of my classmates. This is my lens of how they presented themselves.

As someone who is studying media & journalism, I want to be able to tell the stories of others. However, I’m hoping to be able to create narratives that respect their self presentation.

The question then is how comfortable are we letting others write out narratives for our carefully curated self-presentation? And how do we make others comfortable that their narratives are safe in our hands? Because I can already think of a number of situations where I know my personal biases might factor into how I present narratives.

I’m not sure I have all the answers for that yet, perhaps in another post once I’ve sat through a few more of Kate’s classes.

The thing I’m leaving with you with at the end of this blogpost: what was I trying to present about myself with this blogpost & why? Could you curate a narrative about me that you feel is fair? (I don’t actually want to know the answers, just a thing to ponder).

 

The Darkness Behind Fair Skin Commercials

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to add anything to this conversation; a quick google search will tell you that many, many others have offered long, thought-out articles or research papers on the prevalence of light skin being a reinforced beauty standard in the media. But then I figured, no harm in adding an extra voice to this issue – my voice.

Recently, in Malaysia there was an ad that used blackface and depicted dark skin as something disgusting. To be honest, I was repulsed but also not surprised that corporations wanting to sell skin products would use this method. It’s one I’ve seen pushed at me time and time again since I started watching TV.

I can’t tell you how happy and proud I was that so many people were angry and voiced that anger. They shared opinions, tweeted at the company, expressed disapproval of such an ad – it ended in the ad being taken down. What did shock me was the response to the backlash: by the company and by other people.

The company gave your standard PR apology: ‘truly sorry that some elements have offended the  general public’. I was honestly hoping for something better then the company trying to do damage control by putting the main focus on those offended instead of the reason they found it offensive. To be fair, I really should have known better.

Then there were others, who I guess didn’t find the ad offensive. Their justification was ‘oh but it was just following an old legend’ and others saying ‘PC culture has gone out of hand, why are you trying to make this a race issue’. This was the most disturbing part of the reaction to me. That people didn’t understand why this was an issue, why it was a great thing that there was backlash on this video.

So here is – what i hope will be – a simple explanation on the importance of calling out light skin as a defining standard of beauty.

For ages, there was always this consensus that light skin was more beautiful. There is no definitive answers for where and exactly what point that rhetoric became true. Irregardless, companies trying to sell beauty products capitalises on that (like with any other kind of beauty standard). They need you to believe that there is something wrong with you, that your features aren’t good enough and they have the product to make you better. Just look at any beauty ad on TV. It might not be so explicit as the one that caused the controversy, but there is definitely elements of fair skin being the end goal of every woman who wants to look beautiful. Take a look at this Vaseline ad:

I can think of many different reasons body lotion would be good for the skin besides having a fair one. Even if you look at the model, her tan skin really wasn’t that dark at all. Speaking of models, if you look at any of the Youtube pages of cosmetic companies – Nivea, Bioessence, Dove, L’Oréal – you’ll notice the lack of any dark-skin model in videos.

Why is this an issue? Are people just being over sensitive? Trying to be too politically correct? Are they just jealous? (all this I’ve seen people say in comments).

When the media constantly puts out ads the glorifies light skin, the internalised message is that lighter skin is always better. This is reflected in the way people treat others and treat themselves. A dark skin person is seen to immediately loose out in life just for the virtue of their skin colour.

It makes it normal that people gasp when someone has dark skin. It makes it normal for the prettier person to always be the one with lighter skin. It makes it normal for people to see those with dark skin to be of less value. It makes it normal for people to use skin colour as a justification for discrimination. Your normalise the idea that dark skin is a bad thing. Not sunburnt skin, not dry skin, not unhealthy skin, dark skin.

Unfortunately, we still live in a society that places a huge focus on beauty. Not only do you normalise dark skin being a bad thing for others, you also normalise it for those that do have dark skin.

Indian girls (I say this because I am talking about this in a Malaysian context) often try their hardest to have lighter skin. I remember friends in high school complaining about their dark skin, wishing they were fairer. My grandmother, who loves me unconditionally, but will still give me a thousand different skin lightening products thinking it might help. My sisters and I would compare to see who was unfortunate enough to end up with the darkest skin. You create a society where people feel they loose out for something they were born with. You create a society that says all girls should be beautiful, but you only attain that beauty by being fair.

There is still a long way to go in terms of commercials capitalising on insecurities, not just with skin colour but other aspects as well. But I will not apologise for calling these companies out. This isn’t ‘making it a race issue’, it just happens to be one because most dark skin people are Indians and they have been discriminated for it. This isn’t pc culture trying to wreak havoc, this is a real issue that has effected many people and this time they aren’t just going to stand by and watch it slide.

I’ve realised there are a lot of things, a lot of issues we don’t have much control over. But for the ones we do, we are going to do something about it and we will do it unapologetically.

credit for the feature image to sarennya ❤ 

You are what you tweet (or are you?)

Oh yes the 21st century. Where who we are, how we are viewed and a large portion of our reputation is based on our online persona.

The one ability social media gave us, is the ability to create our personas. It’s sort of like creating a brand for ourselves online. Try out this analysis of your tweets to see what brand you have created for yourself.

People gain traction from creating certain personas especially on twitter, a lot of ‘famous’ twitter accounts, can be considered micro-celebraties.

For example someone created a twitter account called ‘Emo Kylo Ren‘ which is based of a character from The Force Awakens, creating a persona of said character and has 880K followers.

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Wether consciously or unconsciously, all of us post what we do for a reason. We want to give off a certain impression when we tweet.

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Think of our digital artefacts or the #bcm112 hashtag during a lecture, we tweet certain things because that to us, is how we want to be represented. And sometimes, how we choose to present ourselves, can make us famous.

I’ll leave it to you guys to decide if that’s good or bad or somewhere in between.

 

 

Conflict (with) Journalism

In a previous blogpost , I wrote about how we have moved from being audiences to being actual participants in consuming media and thus, creating a shift in the journalism paradigm. This shift claims that citizens now could also be considered journalists and obviously some professional journalists are not very happy about that claim.

But let’s look at some of the reasons, this shift in paradigm is becoming more apparent and more favourable within the public.

  • citizen journalism has an open access platform (much like when I blogged about Apple vs Android )
  • There is user-led content creation
  • the significant lack of gatekeepers

Take a listen to this podcast, where I explain those points in better detail.

The general systems in which citizen journalism operates in opens up a whole new way we access information and that is something current journalist instead of combating, should learn to work together with.

All things are Remixes (including this title)

Normally, when said the word remix , the thing that pops into people’s minds are remixed songs and music. However, a remix can also be defined as “to combine or edit existing materials to produce something new” , which means to say that almost every creative output can be considered a remix.

Think of all the movies about to be released, are large percentage of them are either sequels, remakes or based of books/comics/video games. If we go by that second definition all of these movies are considered remixes too. Think of how you recognise certain lyrics, rhythms or beats in the latest songs. Think of all the memes.

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Kirby Ferguson says that “creation needs influences, which is why everything is a remix.” (P.S. I highly recommended watching the video linked in above quote).

If you think about it, all Digital Artefacts are remixes too. Mine certainly is. The concept of using emoji’s as the main form of communication has been seen on many platforms including  BuzzFeed.

So, next time you think of creating something, maybe also think about what you’re remixing.