social media

Tragedy Girls: A Fresh, Trendy Take on the Horror Genre

In Tragedy Girls (2017), two teen girls set social media on fire by kidnapping and unleashing a pet serial killer. Will they—or their friendship—survive this newfound notoriety? Written and directed by Tyler MacIntyre with contributions by Chris Lee Hill, Tragedy Girls is a fresh, contemporary take on the genre. MacIntyre and Hill also collaborated on several other projects, including the horror-comedy Patchwork (2015), and the film undoubtedly benefited from their rapport.

Sadie Cunningham (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla Hooper (Alexandra Shipp) are high school cheerleaders who run an unpopular true crime blog. They hatch a plan to kidnap local serial killer Lowell (Kevin Durand) and convince him to work together. He refuses, so Sadie and McKayla opt for plan B: commit sensational murders and blame them on Lowell, all while increasing their readership with exclusive inside information on the crimes.

The plan goes awry when Lowell convinces McKayla that Sadie wants to take all the fame and notoriety for herself. He eventually escapes and tracks Sadie to her friend Jordan’s house. Jordan (Jack Quaid) is son of Sheriff Welch (Timothy V. Murphy). He has a crush on Sadie but suspects McKayla is really the serial killer. Lowell stabs Jordan, but Sadie wakes Sheriff Welch and he chases Lowell off.

The girls’ rift deepens as Sadie and Jordan fall in love and McKayla continues her life of crime with Lowell. I won’t spoil the ending, but Tragedy Girls concludes with a fiery prom night that will make anyone sensitive to the topic of school violence cringe. The film’s ending reinforces the notion that attractive, popular girls are perceived as incapable of being vicious killers.

(more…)

Ingrid Goes West

A social-media obsessed woman with borderline personality disorder moves to Los Angeles to insert herself into another woman’s life, severely disrupting the lives of everyone she encounters in this dark comedy by debut writer-director Matt Spicer. Ingrid Goes West (2017) has a lot to say about contemporary American society, but despite being shot and promoted as a comedy, there’s really nothing funny about it.

Its humor comes from Aubrey Plaza‘s performance as Ingrid Thorburn, the unfortunate young woman just looking for a best friend. Her portrayal is awkward, charming, and at times frightening. But even though we’re invited to laugh at her fumbled personal interactions, there are no jokes or one-liners. This lack of overt-comedy is not a deficit.

As the film opens, a distraught Ingrid maces a bride for not inviting her to the wedding and is committed to a mental hospital. Upon release, she sees Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) in a magazine and begins following her on Instagram. Ingrid comments on a photo and Taylor replies, inviting her to check it out next time she’s in LA. Coincidentally, Ingrid’s mother dies, leaving her with a $60,000 inheritance. Ingrid uses that money to move to LA and rent a house from aspiring screenwriter and Batman fanboy Dan Pinto (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.).

Once in LA, Ingrid remakes her personality and appearance in Taylor’s image and plots to insert herself in the woman’s life, going so far as to kidnap her and her husband Ezra’s (Wyatt Russell) dog so she can return it. Ingrid and Taylor become friends, but their relationship is complicated by the appearance of Taylor’s drug-addict brother, Nicky (Billy Magnussen), and fashion blogger Harley Chung (Pom Klementieff), who begin to monopolize Taylor’s time.

(more…)

Social Media Policy Crosses the Line in Case of Woman Who Gave Trump the Bird

You’ve probably heard this disturbing story of Juli Briskman, who was fired after a photo of her giving President Trump’s motorcade the middle finger went viral. Her employer, a government contractor called Akima, LLC, justified terminating her employment on the grounds that she violated their “social media policy” by using the photo as her profile picture on Twitter and Facebook.

“Basically, you cannot have ‘lewd’ or ‘obscene’ things in your social media. So they were calling flipping him off ‘obscene,’” Briskman said. What a cheap excuse!

While it’s true Akima is a government contractor, and Briskman was clearly making a political statement, she did it on her own time, and posted the photo on her personal social media accounts. If this isn’t considered a direct attack on her freedom of expression, I don’t know what is.

In June, I argued that it was wrong for National Park Service employees to express their displeasure with the Trump administration because they were doing so on official government accounts.

It is inappropriate for Federal employees to engage in politics while at work, using government equipment, and in their official capacities, but I have no problem with them doing so on their own time, on their own social media accounts.

Likewise, if Briskman had been driving in a company vehicle, and the photo clearly showed Akima branding, I could see where they might have a case for reprimanding her, since it makes the company look bad. But not only was she riding her bicycle on her own time, you can’t even identify her in the photo.

There ought to be a separation between a person’s employment and his or her private life, and you shouldn’t have to fear reprisals at work for political opinions you express in your free time. Apparently Virginia is a state where an employer can fire an employee anytime, for any reason, but I still think this is ridiculous enough to open them up to a lawsuit.

Jenna Abrams Exposes American Media’s Stupidity

“Jenna Abrams had a lot of enemies on Twitter, but she was a very good friend to viral content writers across the world,” begins a Daily Beast exposé on a Twitter user that turned out to be the creation of the Russian-controlled Internet Research Agency. The article is meant to alarm readers about Russian influence in mass media, but in fact just shows how dumb the American media really is.

According to the Daily Beast, Jenna Abrams “at one point boasted nearly 70,000 Twitter followers.” Despite an “audience” amounting to 0.0002 percent of the U.S. population, her tweets ended up being quoted in articles published by a wide variety of news organizations and websites, including USA Today, The Washington Post, HuffPost, The Daily Caller, The Telegraph, CNN, and even the New York Times.

Why? I’ve talked about the tendency of lazy journalists to use Twitter as fodder to churn out articles and drum up fake controversy before. It’s easy to find a handful of tweets and quote them in an article, creating a perception of disagreement or consensus on an issue. The fake Jenna Abrams account gave them exactly what they wanted.

So who’s really to blame for getting trolled by the Russians? For an industry that supposedly prides itself on checking its sources and being the gatekeepers of factual information, they sure didn’t do a good job verifying to whom they were giving a wide platform.

Now media outlets are covering their asses by pretending Jenna Abrams and other fake accounts were “popular” and “influential” during the previous presidential election. A few thousand Twitter followers, many of whom were also probably fake, on a national scale is less than statistically insignificant.

Anyone can create a Twitter account, pretend to be whoever they want and say whatever they want. It’s ridiculous how much the news media cares about what anyone says on Twitter, or any social media for that matter, but that’s why the media’s credibility is at all-time lows.

Why I ‘Unliked’ Social Media

How often have you pulled up your Twitter or Facebook feed and seen nothing but fake news or ridiculous headlines?

How often have you been drawn into worthless arguments that lead nowhere?

How often have you seen someone you used to respect post something completely stupid that changes your opinion of them entirely?

How often have you “unfriended” or “unfollowed” someone for any of the above reasons?

How much time do you spend repeatedly checking updates on social media?

I’ve had a Facebook account since 2005, when you still needed a .edu email address to sign up for an account and it was just about sharing pictures and organizing events with your college buddies.

Even back then social media was kinda worthless. Remember Myspace and the social manipulation of arranging your “top eight” friends?

Over the years, I’ve considered deactivating my accounts so many times, but the thought of losing touch with all my friends kept me hooked. Facebook even uses that fear to guilt-trip you into keeping your account when you try to leave.

I’ve also used Facebook in the past to successfully promote my books and articles, but here’s a secret: it doesn’t work anymore unless you pay for it.

Facebook allows you to create pages to stay in touch with your fans, but hardly any of them will ever see what you post unless you “pay to promote.” Twitter recently adopted this model as well.

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter use your social connections and personal information to make money. I don’t have a problem with it–you voluntarily sign up and they have to stay profitable.

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have begun censoring users, deleting or hiding posts they deem offensive and banning or suspending nonconformist accounts. Again, they are private companies and I support their right to decide what kind of content is shown on their platforms.

But does that mean I should continue to use those platforms? Not at all. Tech execs like to pretend these platforms have become an indispensable part of modern life. They’re wrong. I can live without ever seeing another funny cat photo.

At this point, the drawbacks to social media far outweigh the supposed benefits. I decided not to support it anymore, to focus on growing my website and finding other, healthier ways to connect with friends and family.

So if you really want to keep in touch, send me an email (the old fashioned way). I’d love to hear from you.

White House Spokesman Says Tweets are Official Statements

Well, this is awkward.

A day after arguing the national news media was crazy for treating President Donald Trump’s twitter feed with the same weight as official White House policy or executive orders, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer poured gasoline on the fire by saying: “The president is the president of the United States … they [tweets] are considered official statements of the president of the United States.”

The news media, of course, held a triumph. Not only did this validate CNN Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza’s argument (et al.), but it fed into their narrative of a disorganized and rudderless White House because the statement was at odds with what other Trump advisors have said.

Now, just because Sean Spicer said they are official statements, doesn’t make them so, but it certainly makes it difficult to argue otherwise. The weight of social media is not something that will be spelled out in black and white, it’ll be determined by the conversation we’re having now.

Personal social media accounts should not carry the same weight as social media accounts officially associated with a job or public office. It’s a dangerous road when we can’t separate the man from his position. This was the problem with those National Park Service employees tweeting against the administration. I have no problem with them doing so on their own time, on their own social media accounts, but not their work accounts.

It is illegal for Federal employees to engage in politics while at work, using government equipment, and in their official capacities. This is a little more ambiguous when it comes to the military, where you can be prosecuted for criticizing the president at any time. But, essentially, the idea is that citizens of the United States have a right to express their political opinions on their own time.

@realDonaldTrump is Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account. @POTUS is the official Twitter account of the President of the United States. Is there a difference? Yes! Or at least, there should be.

Are Trump’s Tweets Official Policies?

According to Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large, not only is there “no difference” between President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed and official policy statements and executive orders, but Trump’s tweets are actually more important than official White House statements. No, this is not satire. An editor at CNN actually made this argument earlier today.

I’ve written before about CNN’s obsession over President Trump’s Twitter feed, but this takes it to a whole new level. I thought the cable TV network was just being lazy by constantly making news out of the president’s social media posts. Now I’m starting to believe they’ve actually lost their minds at the CNN Center in Atlanta. To quote the article:

On “New Day” Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka echoed that sentiment, insisting to host Chris Cuomo that “it’s social media, Chris, it’s social media. You know the difference, right?,” adding: “It’s not policy, it’s not an executive order. It’s social media. Please understand the difference.”

Here’s the thing: There is no difference. And, in fact, Trump’s tweets are actually more important than the more formal statements coming out of his White House because they represent something much closer to what he believes on nearly every issue.

Except there is a difference. One has the force of law, or at least creates policies and rules for federal employees to follow, the other does not.

TIME actually called out President Trump today for signing documents that had no official weight. In a press conference at the Oval Office, the president signed a “a decision memo and letter transmitting legislative principles to Congress” regarding privatization of the Air Traffic Control system. Like a tweet, neither document actually does anything.

But to illustrate their point, CNN actually references a Twitter account that creates counterfeit White House press statements using Trump’s Twitter feed. Thousands of people have already re-Tweeted those documents, and from browsing the comments, it looks like a fair number think they are officially coming from the White House.

If I were president, I wouldn’t use Twitter or any social media. I think it’s a terrible way to communicate with the public, especially for an elected official. But the U.S. president is not a king whose word automatically becomes law. Let’s get real. Tweets and social media posts are not meant to be official proclamations, and should not be taken as such by a legitimate news organization.