#SMPAsocial Digital Assignment

I created this blog because I was in a social media class in the School of Media and Public Affairs at GW. Not only was I tasked with producing weekly blog content that incorporated different elements every week but we also were required to Tweet and engage in conversation through Twitter about social media and the latest news and thoughts pertaining to all things social. Here is my review of a semester spent in #SMPAsocial.

Top 5 influential #SMPAsocial tweets of the semester 

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Over the course of the semester, some tweets from the class and from myself have surprised me more than others.  Here are the top 5: 

1.) This tweet from Melissa was written before the midterm and this one enticed more conversation than others. Melissa took a local piece of news at Georgetown University and opened up the conversation to the class about the response to news like this on social media. This helped me think about how people react to news like this on social media and allowed me to hear other thoughts on the subject. I think this Tweet was one of the first to really start a conversation in the #SMPAsocial Twitter feed because it enticed reactions and asked for thoughts. In “Spreadable Media,” Henry Jenkins wrote about spreadability and how online publications look to see which articles “hold people’s attention the longest” (Jenkins, 5) and this tweet/article continued to be talked about for a while after the decision was released. 

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Melissa was able to get us to engage with this Tweet and even inspired me to look into @Georgetown’s mentions to see how these students were reacting to the news that slave descendants would get priority in admission. I also liked how Melissa retweeted the tweet from CBS News instead of just tweeting out the article, it got the news to us faster and I heard about this decision first from her tweet.



 

2.) This was one of my most popular #SMPAsocial tweets and it was before the midterm. It received 8 likes and 7 replies. Some of the early feedback I got from Professor Usher was that the content of our Tweets should say something more than just the headline of the article. With this tweet, I wanted to grab people and essentially give away the punchline for the story because that is what got people to reply to the tweet.

Articles that are studies and research can be boring but this one was a really interesting finding. One of the earliest tasks was to find content to post that was intriguing and added something to what we were learning in the class. Along with the discussion of how social media advances our communication, there are drawbacks. Just like when we had a discussion after our social media fast it was interesting to hear how people felt a sense of loneliness both with and without social media (the fomo effect).

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But this study was a nice accompaniment to that conversation because it shows a different aspect of that. Not only can you be depressed after seeing all that you are missing out on or wasn’t invited to on social but then when you are depressed, your followers can tell.


 

3.) Twitter is a source of information. Being a part of #SMPAsocial helped me learn a lot about the newest tech and social media changes. From this tweet by Hanna, I learned about the new features on Instagram, before any of my friends had figured them out. Sharing brand new timely releases and being the first to do so will spread your content faster and to a broader audience. It was also nice to see in this tweet both that there are new features on Instagram and Hanna’s opinion of them.

Twitter has helped me to start more conversations and be way more knowledgable about social media and algorithms in general.

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4.)  It was nice to see different content other than just articles brought up on social media. In this Tweet, Belle took a screenshot of a Tinder ad by @NordstromRack and added a quippy thought to the tweet which worked. What made this tweet more interesting than  the other tweets that incorporated content other than articles was that @NordstromRack responded to Belle.

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In class we talked about engagement. Engagement is not just a single interaction with one customer, but an open line of communication over a period of time and being there for patrons. Dave Kerpen wrote in “Likeable Social Media” that a company who engages with customers “truly cares about what they say, think and feel” (Kerpen, 66). This Tweet was a perfect example of companies that actually keep up with their mentions and replying to consumers. @NordstromRack replied to Belle! In class we went over how some industries, like airlines, have been more active in reaching out to customers when they have specific questions and using social media to do so. That is what happened here. 

We also discussed target advertising and how Belle is seeing content like this because she probably has been on Nordstrom Rack’s website. So remember, the Internet is watching.

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5.) In a nutshell, this tweet sums up #SMPAsocial. Social media is not as easy as it looks. After being on Twitter constantly all semester long and then lasting a full 24 hours without it at all, I have learned so much about how to navigate social media and how to produce more spreadable content. Despite how much I have learned, I’m still just figuring everything out. This class has taught me a lot about how to make the most effective tweets but I know social media will continue to surprise me and there will constantly be new things I can learn.

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This unique Tweet by Leena summed up those feelings for me and produced a NYTimes piece on why quitting social media could be for the best. It is natural instinct for me to open my social media apps on my phone and read all the latest news but what I have learned is that I like being away from it all, even if it is just for a day.

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Reflecting on my blog, “The Invisible”

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I am proud of the blog I created. I wanted to create a blog that allowed me to make connections and talk to people. When I was writing a post about why this blog and this work matters, I wrote about how when I moved to D.C. I had no idea that the District has an epidemic of homelessness but through this blog I was able to have real conversations with people and learn more about the scope of the problem. But it wasn’t always easy finding a way to talk to someone on the street. At first I was nervous. But I was determined to make this blog happen and what I learned is that talking to people and expanding my perspective on how people get to the point of homelessness and why it is such an issue in D.C. can make a difference. 

I learned a lot through this platform this semester. With every week came a new requirement to incorporate a different element into the blog and at first, it was difficult for me to find ways to incorporate all of these features because I just wanted to tell stories about the people living on the streets around me. But then I realized that my blog didn’t only need to tell stories about individuals it could give people information about how to volunteer, what they can do to help and why this matters.  However one of the biggest challenges for me was that it got harder for me to find people to talk to in the area with midterms and other assignments I tried to find different ways to blog about homelessness and the GW community. I do wish I had talked to more people and been able to tell more stories since that was my favorite part of having this blog. 

Throughout this semester I was able to apply different features and skills to my blogging, like infographics, embedding, gifs, pull quotes, bullet points, memes, slideshows and Youtube videos.

Whether it was an infographic that could tell the scope about homelessness better than I could with words….

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Or a pull quote that showed the essence of the story….Screen Shot 2016-12-10 at 1.45.19 PM.png

Or even a couple bullets that helped move along the blog and showed the important and shocking numbers….

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……all of these elements improved the readability of my blog.

As I advanced and learned more about how to make a blog engaging, I went back to my first post about Bill Hassay, a street performer in Georgetown, and added a slideshow and a pull quote. I would say this is my favorite post of the semester because I was able to go back and add in what I was learning to enhance the post. It was nice to go back and see how much progress I had made on better formatting my blog posts and coming up with new ways to incorporate different visual elements. Another one of my favorite posts this semester was a about the top places to volunteer in the District because I got to format it as a listicle and use Youtube videos to tell the stories that I couldn’t do with words.

I know that in the future I can produce much more online readable content after working on this blog and that I can continue to incorporate all of these different elements in the future.


Best-of #SMPAsocial

1.) The first post I would nominate for top #SMPAsocial credit goes to Talia Balakirsky’s Chocolate and Patents on her Intellectual Property vs. 2016 blog. Who would have thought that intellectual property and candy would go so well together and be so entertaining? Not me, that’s for sure. But it was. And I mean who knew I could learUnknown.jpegn so much from a Wonder Ball?

It seemed like Talia was able to use all of the skills we learned in class and incorporate them into this post. The infographic was well done and easy to understand. I also really enjoyed that she used gifs and pictures and even Youtube videos to break up the text. She even referenced previous blog posts and used her own voice to make it more personal. Especially since this was about legal matters, using her own voice made it more digestible but it was still an in-depth analysis and thorough post. It was also nice to see the text broken up using subheads, pull quotes and side notes.

Throughout this whole semester, Talia has taken complicated topics and made them digestible for all readers. Talk about a challenge. Talia decided to chose a blog topic that was not the easiest to convey in 500 words or use creative visuals, but she did just that. I never thought that I would enjoy reading about Intellectual Property law but every week she chose a different case that was relatable for even those least interested in the topic. She was able to incorporate graphics, gifs, memes and youtube videos in ways that made it interesting and engaging. Whether it was about Spongebob, SNL, Harry Potter or Facebook, each post took what could be a complicated case and lawsuit and transformed it into a fun, digestible blog post. After Professor Usher would assign a task to incorporate into the blog for that week, Talia then continued to incorporate those elements throughout the next weeks. She used memes and youtube videos in creative ways in multiple posts which kept humor in what could otherwise be a bland topic. I saw a lot of progress in Talia’s blogs over the semester and especially enjoyed the chocolate one. 

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Solid work Talia, standing ovation for you. 

2.) The second post I would nominate for top #SMPAsocial credit goes Blake Kraus’ post about the lack of District House basement vendors on his DC Pop Ups and Food Trucks blog. The struggles he wrote about in this post were definitely relatable to GW students. I liked how he embedded tweets from Hatchet articles to accompany his anecdotes. The post started off funnyDistrict-Vendors_OA.jpg before he even mentioned the food which made me want to read on. Then he provided a lot of actually useful reviews of alternative options because of the lack of District food that I enjoyed reading about and trusted his ranking system because it was so entertaining. He incorporated images from the truck he was reviewing then used a number system and a picture and caption (really funny ones) to rank and review the food.

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He also put in a cost analysis which was helpful for students on a budget. He embedded tweets and used images and subheads throughout which made it easy to digest.

I had a lot of fun reading Blake’s blog this semester. This was my favorite food blog of the class because it had a distinct personality throughout the entire semester. If I saw one of Blake’s posts on another site I would be able to tell it wasFalfalfelTruckFire_SH.jpg his because he has a very distinct voice that makes his posts unique and different from other food blogs, a lot of that is the way he writes with humor. It is not easy to be funny in every post but he is. Usually when I read blogs that are not produced by the #SMPAsocial class it is because they are entertaining and make me laugh. This blog did just that. It was also nice to see that Blake kept up with current food truck news, aka the Falafel truck incident! I thought it was very clever that he tied it into Thanksgiving safety tips. Many people don’t think about these issues, which made his blog unique and relatable to his audience.

200-1.gifThumbs up Blake, I was impressed. 

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Winter on the D.C. Streets

As we start to hear holiday music in department stores, put up our decorations and look forward to hot chocolate and fire places, it’s important to think about those that will not be as fortunate this winter. As we get into the holiday spirit, the temperatures will continue to drop lower and lower. Those experiencing homelessness and living on the streets will be at risk for a lot more than just the shivers.

Why is the winter so bad for those experiencing homelessness? Here are some of the risks people experiencing homelessness face on the street in the cold: 

  • For the homeless, frostbite is winter’s number one threat. Most common is frostbite of hands or feet and the worst cases of frostbite can lead to amputations.
  • You are more susceptible to illnesses in the cold weather. The cold lowers immunity and thickens blood, which increases the risk of infection, heart attack and more.
  • Extended exposure in the outdoors causes risk of hypothermia and can result in death.
  • Many are at risk of mental illness when living on the streets and especially in the winter. Cold temperatures can render enzymes in the brain less effective which can cause mental lethargy and can lead to feelings of depression and loneliness.

This weekend the temperatures are already hitting the 30s. On Saturday, I was in Dupont Circle and I tried to speak with a man who was sitting on a bench covered in two blankets but he politely declined and covered his head. The temperatures will only continue to drop and there are a few things you can do to help.

How you can help those experiencing homelessness this winter: 

Put this number in your phone!
If you see someone who needs shelter, you can call (202) 399-7093 or 211, email uposh@upo.org, or tweet at @DCHypothermia to have someone come pick them up.

If you have any extra winter clothes you don’t wear, donate them! 
Here is a list of 5 local D.C. shelters that need winter clothing:

  1.  Coalition For the Homeless
    1234 Massachusetts Ave NW · (202) 347-8870
  2.  CCNV
    425 2nd St NW · (202) 393-1909
  3.  Central Union Mission
    65 Massachusetts Ave NW · (202) 745-7118
  4. Covenant House Washington 
    7 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002 · (202) 842-5459 
  5. 1413 Girard St NW, Washington, DC 20009 ·  (202) 232-7356

Volunteer!
The winter tends to bring more people into shelters and soup kitchens and social service staff can become overwhelmed. Signing up for just one volunteer shift a month at a shelter or kitchen can make a difference and make it easier for the shelters to bring in more clients.

Photo credit: Jay Westcott for NationSwell

 

 

Assessing GW’s Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week

My last post was about the ways that you can get involved with national Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, and while I was finding ways to highlight how to get involved, I found a list of events that GW was doing for Hunger Week.

Here are some highlights and lessons I learned from their events: 

I participated in the collection efforts that GW had. GW decided to collect feminine hygiene products for women experiencing homelessness. They put donation boxes in all of the residence halls starting on November 4. This is a necessity that I never even considered how those experiencing homelessness deal with. GW also hosted an informative meeting on Thursday on campus where the organization BRAWS, Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Sheltersspoke about menstrual equity and access to feminine hygiene products. Hosting an event that supported the collection drive really helps students understand the true impact of their donations.

I also would commend the Nashman Center for their work and social media this week. Although the interaction with the posts was not substantially high, they have definitely improved their content and promoted the events this week better than any of their previous events.

My favorite part about GW’s Hunger Week this year was that they really stepped up their social media game. Not only did they increase the promotion of the events throughout the week but they also did “Neighbors of GW.” The Neighbors of GW social media event lasted from November 14 -18 and was a partnership  with Humans of GW. Each day during GW Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week the GW Hunger Week twitter account shared  one story about individuals in the Foggy Bottom community experiencing homelessness. The stories were posted around campus on posters and shared on social media accounts to help GW students learn to #KnowYourNeighbor. This reminded me a lot about the people I have spoken to for this blog and I really liked the hashtag they used.

Here are the tweets from #KnowYourNeighbor: 

I also wore purple on Friday, to show my support and raise awareness of hunger, homelessness and food insecurity. That one aspect of the week could have been better promoted on social media because that is an easy way to show support but I did not see many students on campus wearing purple.

Overall I would rate GW’s efforts this week in raising awareness as a 9/10.

The program has changed over the years, here is a video from GW’s Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week in 2010:

National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week

The week before Thanksgiving, a holiday where we reflect on all the things we are thankful for, it is important to remember those who are not as fortunate.

This week is National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week.The week is sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness. During the week this year, the organizations decided to focus on the laws passed by local governments around the country that prevent people experiencing homelessness from doing life-sustaining activities, like forcing them to choose between “basic necessities like purchasing food, paying rent, or going to the doctor.” It is important to remember that the number of people affected is always bigger than you think. Below are some numbers that show the scope of the problem:

  • 46.7 million Americans live below the poverty level
  • 578,000 Americans are homeless on a typical night
  • 49 million Americans are at risk of suffering from hunger
  • 1 in 5 children in the U.S. live in poverty
  • Here is a clip that really shows what these numbers mean for hunger and homelessness

This video, by the Washington Post, really captures the impact of homelessness on D.C. specifically.

During this homelessness awareness week, there are a number of things that we can do to give back:

  • Search for an Awareness Week event near you and find out how to get involved
  • Host an event
  • Volunteer at any of the great organizations in D.C., here are 5 options
  • Talk to someone who is experiencing homelessness, even a conversation can make a difference
  • Think about what else you can do — there is no one way to help
  • GW is also holding campus events this week to raise awareness

Now more than ever in a time where Americans are struggling to come to terms with the results of the presidential election and what it means for our country, more and more people are realizing how important it is to make our voices heard. We all have one and we all have the ability to speak for those who can’t. Whether or not the cause is homelessness, during this week when we reflect on what we are thankful for, think about those who can’t be grateful for a roof over their heads or a warm meal on their plates.

It is often hard to relate to what others are going through when you haven’t experienced it. That is something I have personally struggled with. So to end this post,  here is a video I found to be moving and inspirational.

Top 5 places to volunteer in D.C.

After receiving positive feedback about this blog and hearing people say that they wish they could do more, I wanted to look into some of the local organizations that the GW and Foggy Bottom community could volunteer for. Most of the places on the list I was able to visit, and others I have heard great things about why each organization matters and how volunteers can make a huge difference.

Below is my list of top five places to volunteer in D.C.

1.) Bright Beginnings

When you walk into the organization, you automatically feel welcome. This organization that provides developmental childcare for children, ranging from infants to five years old, living in homeless situations and provides on-site therapeutic and family support services. BBI serves about 162 children every day whose families are living in crisis shelters or transitional housing.

How to volunteer: Volunteers interact directly with children helping with reading and play in the classrooms. All you need is a background check and a TB test to start volunteering with the kids at BBI.

Location: 128 M St NW #150, Washington, DC 20001

2.) Martha’s Table

This organization  addresses emergency needs with food and clothing programs, and work to ensure a bright future for children and families through education and family support services. The group’s outreach is thousands of people through their food, education, and thrift store programs with significant support from 16,000 volunteers every year.

How to volunteer: Martha’s Table volunteers range in age from elementary students to retirees. The hours are flexible, volunteers can sign up for their own shifts.

Location: 2114 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

3.) So Others Might Eat

This organization offers emergency services, including food, clothing, and medical treatment, to low-income and homeless people in D.C. They also offer job training, addiction treatment, and counseling.

How to volunteer: Volunteers can serve meals to clients, tutor and mentor children, help out during special events, and more. For a longterm opportunity, young adults are encouraged to sign up for SOME’s Volunteer Corps, which provides housing, work experience, and temporary relief from paying school loans.

Location: 60 O St NW, Washington, DC 20001

4.) Street Sense

This organization gives those who are experiencing homelessness the opportunity to sell newspapers that feature news, editorials, and art about homelessness, poverty, and other social issues. Half of the paper is written by homeless and formerly homeless people. Vendors pay 50 cents for each paper, which they sell around the city for a suggested donation of $2. 

How to volunteer: Students can intern for the organization and help to write and produce content for the newspaper. Volunteers can also work with distribution and communication between vendors and help out at the various workshops and classes the organization holds, or one-time events such as film screenings and performances.

Location: 1317 G St NW, Washington, DC 20005

5.) Miriam’s Kitchen

This organization provides short-term assistance, including healthy meals and social services, to people experiencing homelessness in D.C. They link clients to permanent housing and advocates for a long-term solution to homelessness in the city.They can also provide services like giving haircuts and manicures, and editing resumes. Volunteers can help prepare meals or serve clients on a monthly basis. 

How to volunteer: Volunteers can chose to work in four areas, the kitchen, guest services, the art studio, or advocacy. All volunteers need to commit to at least one shift per month on an ongoing basis.

Location: 2401 Virginia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20037

 

Disclaimer: This is not in a particular order and does not mean other organizations not included are not considered the “top.”

Why it matters.

I am not providing solutions. I am just talking to people. With every person that I meet and speak with, I continue to hope that the next time I go out to find people to talk with that there is no one for me to find and that no one is living on the D.C. streets without permanent housing. So in this blog I wanted to explore how realistic that hope is.

When I moved to D.C., more than two years ago, I had no idea that the District has an epidemic of homelessness. After realizing that our Nation’s capital has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country, I wanted to know more. Students at GW see homelessness on our campus and in the surrounding areas, but just how far does homelessness in D.C. go? Who is impacted?

The purpose of my blog is to humanize the issue. I want to put stories and faces behind the people we pass on the street everyday. But I can’t talk to everyone. I can’t hear every story but it is important to note how many people are suffering from homelessness and who they represent. Data helps to show root causes of the issue and can lead to solutions.

In order to write or speak about an issue, it is important to understand the scope of the problem. This data from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s Homeless Committee shows a regional enumeration of the area’s homeless and formerly homeless population. These numbers were drawn from that survey:

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Children, families, veterans, adults, anyone can become homeless.

D.C. has a substantially higher rate of homelessness than any other region in the area. These numbers really put the issue in perspective. Despite your race or age or previous occupation, anyone can end up experiencing homelessness. As I continue this blog, I want to learn more about how this situation happens to so many people and what I and others can do to help.

“You might not want to ask for help.”

Writing this blog has provoked many questions in my head. One that I will address in this post. What is the city doing to combat homelessness?

One program I found that D.C. is working to implement is specifically for senior citizens. “Age-Friendly DC” is coordinating collective action through 2017 to improve accessibility to transportation, health services and housing for senior District residents over the age of 50.

Angie Whitehurst, a Street Sense vendor who is volunteering for the initiative, said that this program could help her and many others. 

“I have a mother that is a senior citizen. She is 86. I’m a senior citizen and I’m 62, and I have a sister who is 55,” Whitehurst said. “I know a lot of people who can benefit from this program.”

A factor of Age-Friendly DC that will impact the elderly community is a wider range of affordable housing options for older residents. Whitehurst said that she sees a real need for this program.

“If you age in place, you have everyday living problems and you can become very isolated,” Whitehurst said. “You might not want to ask for help or know that there are services available to keep you alive, and living well and happy.”

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According to projections conducted by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the current elderly population (people over the age of 65) is projected to more than double. Over 95,000 elderly persons are expected to be living without stable housing by 2050.

Age-Friendly DC will offer senior citizens and disabled persons property owner tax relief to help them keep their homes. The Handicapped Accessibility Improvement Program and the Single Family Residential Rehabilitation Program will also offer loans and grants for home improvement and repair.

“[Age-Friendly DC] can help to better secure your own future, and that is important to people who are aging in place because it is about self-respect, dignity, self-sufficiency, and maintaining your legal and spiritual independence,” Whitehurst said.