Is social media really social?

By Caitlin Kelly

ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT CAITLIN KELLY 2013.

I really enjoy social media — but I see such mixed results.

Women who speak up about contentious issues are harassed, bullied, doxxed. Some, in desperation, end up fleeing Twitter and other platforms, blocking everyone who attacks.

I’ve had a few bad experiences there as well, but thankfully most of my social media experiences have been pleasant.

I recently started using Instagram.

My site is caitlinkellynyc...and I’m enjoying the wild mix of people who like my photos — from an auto-body shop in Brazil (a photo of a vintage air machine) to a trekking company in Nepal.

I have, as you know from reading here, extremely eclectic interests, so my Insta feed includes flowers, vintage clothing, travel photos and lots of female pilots.

Thanks to this blog, and through reading theirs, I’ve made friends in real life with  Cadence, author of Small Dog Syndrome in London and Kate Katharina Ferguson in Berlin.

Thanks to Twitter, I also met up in Berlin with Jens Notroff, an archeologist who works on Gobekli Tepe, a 12,000 year-old Neolithic site in Turkey and Dorothée Lefering, a travel blogger whose post about Rovinj, Croatia impelled me to stay there for a glorious week last July. I’d never even heard of it before!

We all met for lunch at Pauly Saal (a trendy restaurant) in Berlin last July, thanks to “meeting” them regularly through several weekly Twitterchats focused on travel — and Jens and I bonded for certain after trading the lyrics to the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Who knew?

 

forest 04

 

Now, thanks to Insta, I’m reviving my photography skills; I began my journalism career as a teenager selling three cover photos to a Toronto magazine, then sold to Time, The New York Times, Washington Post and more.

I love how my Smartphone has made me hyper-aware of my surroundings once more. The glossy perfection and waayyyyyyy too many selfies of Instagram don’t appeal to me, but I’m loving the global reach it offers.

I also spend a lot of time on Facebook participating in online-only women’s writing groups, where we find friendship, freelance work, staff jobs, mentoring and moral support. At worst, it can get ugly and weird, but at best it’s my daily water cooler, as someone who works alone at home in the boring suburbs of New York.

(It costs me $25+ in train and subway fare into New York City to meet people face to face, so social media offers us all an easy and affordable option.)

But I also plan play dates — this week an Oscar-viewing night with a neighbor, lunch here with an editor, a Canadian consulate event at the Tenement Museum in New York City, and meeting friends for dinner in Harlem at Red Rooster.

My weekends are also filled with in-person social activities from now through mid-April, so I don’t feel isolated and lonely, which social media can create online interaction is all you do.

Facebook was also useful recently in a highly unusual way — with a local woman reporting to our town in real time that a woman had been shot in an apartment complex nearby, that the shooter was on the loose (!) and that’s why we heard police helicopters overheard for hours.

(She died and he was captured in New York City at the bus station.)

The hashtag for our town’s zip code, whose Facebook page has thousands of members, was the single best place to find out what was happening.

 

Are you using and enjoying social media?

 

Which ones do you enjoy most and why?

But what if they don’t “like” it?

By Caitlin KellyBETTER BLOGGING

From The New York Times about our addiction to being “liked” on social media:

Walking through an airport newsstand this year, I noticed a novelty. The covers of Inc., Fast Company and Time all had female executives on the covers: Sara Blakely, Angela Ahrendts and Janet L. Yellen. I quickly snapped a photo and sent out a tweet to my modest list of followers: “Women on the cover. Not just for girlie magazines anymore.”

Then I waited for the love. I checked the response before passing through security. Nothing. I glanced again while waiting for the plane. Still nothing. I looked again before we took off. Nobody cared. My little attempt to pass a lonely hour in an airport with some friendly interaction had turned into the opposite: a brutal cold shower of social isolation.

A few days later, I mentioned this story to my wife. “What a great tweet!” she said. She then retweeted it to her larger list of followers. Within seconds, it scored. Some Twitter bigwigs picked it up, and soon hundreds of people had passed it along, added their approval and otherwise joined in a virtual bra burning. Though I should be above such things, my wisp of loneliness was soon replaced with a gust of self-satisfaction. Look, I started a meme!

We are deep enough into the social-media era to begin to recognize certain patterns among its users. Foremost among them is a mass anxiety of approval seeking and popularity tracking that seems far more suited to a high school prom than a high-functioning society.

It’s interesting where this stuff ends up — one talented young photographer, a friend of ours working in Chicago (who has not even finished college) — was recently offered a full-time staff job by a major newspaper after editors kept seeing his excellent work on Instagram.

Here is his astonishing collection of photos of a train ride from Chicago to New Orleans in a recent New York Times travel section. Go, Alex!

Do you care if people “like” your posts on Instagram or Reddit or Facebook or Pinterest?

Do you get re-tweeted?

Or does “real life” still matter more (or as much) as approval on social media?

Do you ask for what you (really) want?

By Caitlin Kelly

Have you seen this post on Reddit?

It’s not new, but it’s a must-read for anyone applying for a job:

Today I finished interviewing my third new hire this month, two of
which are women. They both are getting paid substantially less than the
man I hired earlier this month, and to be honest I am getting tired of
that. I don’t set the wages, I just handle negotiations (HR has to
approve every offer I make).

Our process, despite the pay gap, is identical for men and women. We
start with phone interviews, and move into a personal and technical
interview. Once a candidate passes both of those, we start salary
negotiations. This is where the women seem to come in last.

The reason they don’t keep up, from where I sit, is simple. Often, a
woman will enter the salary negotiation phase and I’ll tell them a
number will be sent to them in a couple days. Usually we start around
$45k for an entry level position. 50% to 60% of the women I interview
simply take this offer. It’s insane, I already know I can get
authorization for more if you simply refuse. Inversely, almost 90% of
the men I interview immediately ask for more upon getting the offer.

Asking for what you want and need is, for many people — women, especially — a terrifying, overwhelming challenge.

So they don’t.

They wimp out, then walk around, sometimes for years, pissed off at themselves for not being bolder, for not really putting their desire on the line, whether for better pay or a raise or a personal matter that really needs resolving.

English: Chungking Negotiation at 1946
English: Chungking Negotiation at 1946 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe you really want more respect or attention or more time alone in silence. Or for your husband to stop throwing his wet towels on the bed or your kids to not throw a fit when you expect them to empty the dishwasher or clean up their rooms.

What’s the worst that can happen if you ask?

A tantrum

A fight over how “demanding” and unreasonable you are

You lose that gig/client/job offer

They’re rude or nasty to you

Then, what’s your fallback?

I know this, having grown up in a family where negotiation was rarely an option. You learn, quickly, not to ask because asking for what you want, (which, within limits, is healthy), because you know it’s going to cause conflict.

And everyone wants to avoid conflict, so some people just end up caving and resenting and sighing and feeling crappy.

Wrong!

The best choice I ever made — from 2007 to 2009 when I really needed some steady income — was to work retail part-time, selling clothing at a local mall; here’s the book I wrote about it.

The money was low, $11/hr, with no commission, but it taught me the most useful skill — how to ask for what I want, simply and clearly and without endless foot-shuffling or hand-wringing,

In retail, in business, it’s called closing the deal. It is scary! I still dread that moment of self-assertion, but I do it more often and more quickly now — and my business is doing better as a result. I did it yesterday, dreading (worst case) the client in question was deeply unhappy with my work and would never use me again.

(Helloooooo….that’s called catastrophizing. Turned out much better than that. Whew.)

But I had to ask. And I had to conquer, still, my discomfort with it.

I want every woman who works for income to read this fantastic book, “Women Don’t Ask”, which intelligently addresses why we don’t, (usually for fear of pissing people off.)

Women, especially, can get really nasty with other women who ask — because some are themselves terrified of asking, then resent us for having the cojones to do it, which may also force them to ask someone they’re scared to push on our behalf.

Do you ask for what you want, in work and in your personal life?

Do you get it?

The writer’s week: two conferences, new headshot, juggling five stories at once

By Caitlin Kelly

Time Selector
Time Selector. Never enough!!! (Photo credit: Telstar Logistics)

This was the week I thought my head — like the watermelon in The Day of The Jackal — would simply explode.

Too many people needed too many things from me, all done without delay and without error, handled with grace and aplomb, all at once.

Last Saturday, Jose and I attended a fantastic day-long conference in Manhattan, oddly enough in the same building he works in daily, at the New York Times’ Center, a bright, airy auditorium that faces an inner courtyard filled with tall birch trees. It was a social media summit, and included speakers from BBC, the Times, ad agencies and even reporters from Russia and Iran.

I found the whole day fascinating — rare for any conference.

It was also the perfect time to chew over the ethics and issues of crowd-sourced reporting after the bombing in Boston. A young student, Sunil Trapathi, had been mistakenly identified on social media as a possible culprit — his body was found in the Providence, RI Harbor last week.

The conference audience was a mix of students, working journalists from such legacy media outlets as The Atlantic and the popular NPR radio show Fresh Air, think-tank types and social media experts. There was much hand-wringing about how to do better reporting faster and better. Is social media helping or hurting?

Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian with the Reddit ...
Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian with the Reddit Alien (Photo credit: Anirudh Koul)

Here’s an analysis of why this went so terribly wrong so quickly, from the atlantic.com:

the names that went out over first social networks and then news blogs and websites were not Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation released early this morning. Instead, two other people wholly unconnected to the case, became, for a while, two of America’s most notorious alleged criminals.

This is the story, as best as I can puzzle it out, about how such bad information about this case became widely shared and accepted within the space of a couple of hours before NBC’s Pete Williams’ sources began telling the real story about the alleged bombers’ identities.

The story begins with speculation on Twitter and Reddit that a missing Brown student, Sunil Tripathi, was one of the bombers. One person who went to high school with him thought she recognized him in the surveillance photographs. People compared photos they could findof him to the surveillance photos released by the FBI. It was a leading theory on the subreddit devoted to investigating the bombing that Tripathi was one of the terrorists responsible for the crime.

I spent all week fine-tuning this story in today’s New York Times’ business section, the fifth published there in a year, my best run anywhere, ever. It’s a story I proposed many months ago, reported in the frigid depths of February in Montreal, followed up with many phone and email interviews along the way.

English: The New York Times building in New Yo...
English: The New York Times building in New York, NY across from the Port Authority. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s a profile of Ubisoft, the fourth-largest video game maker in the world, with 7,540 employees worldwide and 2,500 in their Montreal studio — 82 percent of them male.

I had never played a video game when I pitched the story, really more interested in a French company operating in 26 countries and how they manage creativity.

Tuesday, my editor at Ladies Home Journal rejected six of the 12 (!) sources I’d found for my story. I had no time to handle this, and she’s quitting next week. I threw it to my poor overloaded assistant, with an email whose subject line started with the sincere word URGENT.

Wednesday evening at 6:30, an editor I’d pitched a day earlier said yes to a story — as long as it was delivered by Monday. Sure, no problem.

Jose, my husband who is a photo editor there, met me at the Times and took this new headshot. (Thanks, honey!)

caiti blog image 2

I went down to Bizday and said hello to the people I’ve worked with there.

Thursday was an entire day at the ASJA annual conference, listening to a wide array of editors, (hoping to find new markets), and catching up with friends from all over the country, many with new books to promote and one waiting to hear if he’s won a big fellowship, with only 12 awards to be made among 36 applicants.

The young man sitting at the next table during one session was a winner of the fellowship for which, last December, I was one of 14 finalists (of 278 applicants.) Gah.

Friday morning was an almost impossible juggling act of incoming and out-going emails and phone interviews, (with a lobbyist in D.C., then a Kentucky senator, then an interior designer), while the Times’ copy desk and my editor pelted me with last-minute questions, (necessitating more fact-checking calls and emails to sources in Montreal and Los Angeles.)

In an oddly fortunate coincidence, two of my current assignments focus on aging, so I learned a lot, some of it immensely helpful for my own future, and my readers. In conversation with the Kentucky senator, I learned of a possibly really interesting feature story, which is often where I get my ideas.

I emailed Stacy Zoern, about whom I wrote for the Times last week, and asked if I can come out to Austin, Texas to do a much longer and more detailed story about her. She said yes.

Now I just need to find another editor with a travel budget and some serious money to spend!