Finding myself through WorldOfWave

To describe the blog and website journey of PUB 101 in just a few words, is not possible.  I have always wanted to find more courses that push the boundaries of creative expression, and I have finally found a space for that.  As a 4thyear student in my last few semesters, I have never had an opportunity to do a course that allows me to creatively express myself until I enrolled in PUB 101.  The immense amount of feedback, passion, and support from friends, family, and readers has changed how I have been growing my online presence and identity. Thank you to my peers, Suzanne and Ellen for providing feedback, support and opportunities to grow through my blog. Instagram was where I first started to put my passion into practice, and post photos that I took in my spare time. The style and fashion aspect was the original foundation for the worldofwave identity, but as I began posting these photos I felt as though I was not truly expressing my true self.  I continually compared myself to others, because I did not ‘fit’ the average style blogger mould that I saw on so many social media accounts.  It felt as though there was a significant part of me missing, and that is when I started to reflect on my goals for the website. It took me quite some time to find what my passion was, but once I realized that I could incorporate my personal values of happiness & kindness into my website and Instagram page, I felt empowered.
Since I began to do my #28dayswithwave kindness challenge and post more personal content, I have felt more successful and fulfilled.  I have learnt that my true passion will drive the development of the blog, rather than social media controlling my choice of content.

I did not think that I would be able to gain so much support from the people around me, because I underestimated the impact that self-expression and social connections have on developing the online presence.  Over the course of the semester I realized that my my site should be catered to everyone, because the overarching themes of worldofwave is spreading kindness and positivity.  When I first started the blog, I thought that only young females and women would be viewing my website content, because a majority of the material was fashion and lifestyle based.  During the first week of class, when we discussed about public spheres and personal infrastructures, I utilized my Facebook to make an announcement for the launch of my website.  I was overwhelmed with the amount of support, interest, and encouraging comments I received from people within my social circles.  In the social media and technology driven society that we live in right now, the authenticity and personable aspects of photos and posts are slowly being lost. I was very hesitant to share the news of my website with friends, but I wanted my audience to know that being personal and honest in social media is still prevalent.  

Before starting my first blog post in January, I had a vision that I wanted to achieve and maintain over the course of this blogging adventure.  My vision was to create a social movement that promoted networking and developing relationships, through spreading kindness, compassion, and love for one another.  I want to encourage others to develop their own sense of self love and gain a strong sense of body positivity, like I have begun to do over this past year. These values are significant areas of my life, because I have personally been challenged with them, and I want to show the people around me that there is a supportive community out there.  As I started to post stories about body image, health, and acts of self-love, many friends started to open up about their own experiences.  I then realized that more stories about these topics need to be shared, so I became more comfortable with using this online platform, to post more personal stories and pictures. As a young adult in a social media driven world, multiple generations have been highly influenced by validation and acceptance we receive through an online presence. We seek for that confirmation through the conformity with the most ‘popular’ posts and within the comments that others reinforce. We become highly influenced by others’ actions and base our design decisions on others.  As Gertz (2015) states “when we let the success and failure of others superficially guide design decisions, we skip over the context and uniqueness of what makes our products different”.  We become consumed by the outcomes of others’ work, that we forget to use our own passion to guide our vision.  The ideas that we see in the design and work of other individuals supersedes our own, leaving us to forget about our unique ideas.  

Although this may be the case for some, cyberinfrastructures can influence individuals in a positive and healthy way.  As an introverted individual, I treat my blog and social media as an alternative voice that I can use to collaborate with like-minded people and express my personality. Campbell (2009) states that personal cyberinfrastructures ‘will allow new learning and new connections to emerge as a natural part of individual and collaborative efforts’.  Through the comments I have received on my blog posts, I have been able to interact with my peers and viewers.  Their thoughts and ideas have changed the way I design my blog and given me a new perspective on how to appeal to a greater audience.  There are many heart warming comments as well, that have inspired me to continue writing posts about personal stories and advice.

Although my demographics on google analytics are a majority of individuals in the 18-34 year-old age range, there could be young teenagers and youth that view my website.  This means that a younger audience is drawn to my content, and to specific topics such as lifestyle, fashion, and personal advice.  I do not want to perpetuate the expectation that they must dress, look, or act to ‘fit’ into a particular mould.  With the constantly changing social media lifestyle that is encouraged, it is an important value to be a role model and leader for the future generation.  Renninger (2015) makes a significant point about counterpublic communication, as it can be challenging to fully express ourselves with the pressure from society or the people closest to us.  He states that “The value of counterpublic communication is rarely recognized, except by those seeking to change the status quo” (p. 1514).  Although there are many individuals that try to bring a unique tone and aesthetic to their online identity and presence, they are still not fully acknowledged for their efforts.  The dominant culture precedes marginalized and minority publics and cyber infrastructures, as Renninger (2015) discusses “marginalized groups sit radically outside of the public sphere” (p.1514).  Therefore, particular groups of individuals are initially at a disadvantage, due to the hidden protocols and social cues that are perpetuated within society.  The misrepresentation and disadvantage that particular groups of individuals experience are not justified, only reinforced. When I first started my Instagram page, I was hesitant to post any of my own photos, because I was influenced by the number of fashion posts that were of women who were tall, slim, and of the dominant culture.  I did not feel as though my identity of being a five-foot four female of a visible minority, with a more athletic body shape was being represented enough in social media. 

Reflecting back to my initial post at the beginning of the term, my online identity and thinking has changed to becoming more open to discussion about personal stories and creating meaningful connections with my readers.  I began to edit my images less by keeping the theme natural and simplistic, because I think it is important to be real and honest in an online world where many photos are unrealistic and drastically altered.  According to Volpe (2019), “the documenting and sharing of authentic, casual moments, to be one of the most effective strategies in building a child’s “brand” on Instagram”.  Although she specifies that this format of documentation is best suitable for a child’s brand, authenticity can be a general encompassing theme for anyone’s identity and online presence.  Social media has developed particular measures of what is ‘acceptable’ to post, and set attainable standards that youth and young adults feel they must achieve. I felt the same pressure with my experience with social media in the past, so I began to change my website theme and overall message.  

Moving forward into the future with my website and the worldofwave brand, I want to continue to build my online presence and blog. One of the significant take-away lessons that I will keep with me, is Darren Barefoot’s “risk is safety, and safety is risk” discussion.  When we limit ourselves to the potential to make unique content, we are taking a step backwards and not willing to step outside of the box.  Trying new content and testing alternative ways to improve a blog can help us develop a stronger image and blog.  Trevor Gertz has also inspired me to take my passion and interest to develop unique work.  In his louder than ten website, he says that “When we let the success and failure of others superficially guide design decisions, we skip over the context and uniqueness of what makes our products different”.  Being different from the other blogs is a powerful statement that can made in social media, and our fear to conform can limit our ability to grow exponentially through our online presence.  Over the course of this semester, I have learnt to continue putting my passion forward in all the work I do, because this shows through in my presentation and development of everything I do.  If the content and outcomes are not successful right away, I will not be discouraged but instead work harder to find a solution. This opportunity in PUB 101 has driven me to use my passion, find myself in a creative and unique way, and be more confident in myself.  

References

Campbell, Gardner. 2009. “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure.” EDUCAUSE

Review.44 (5). http://er.educause.edu/articles/2009/9/a-personal-

cyberinfrastructure.

Gertz, Travis. 2015. “Design Machines. How to survive in the digital

Apocalypse.” July 2015. Available from: 

https://louderthanten.com/articles/story/design-machines.

Renninger, Bryce J. 2014. “‘Where I can be myself … where I can speak my

mind”: Networked counterpublics in a polymedia environment.” new 

media & society

http://nms.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/04/09/1461444814530095

Volpe, Allie. 2019. “How Parents of Child Influencers Package Their Kids’

Lives for Instagram”. The Atlantic.