Author Archives: William Lam


This week’s reading focused in on collective behavior on social media. Transmedia organizing and reporting was proven in What Happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson: Net Neutrality, Algorithmic Filtering and Ferguson to be an especially vital tool in the coverage of the social movements in Ferguson—with many people taking part in online activism via hashtags on Twitter and Facebook. This transmedia storytelling covered the events in a way that normal broadcast or print media could not—in real time, and (mostly) unfiltered.

Online activism has always been present in my life—from my earliest days on MySpace where my middle school classmates urged me to change my profile picture to my favorite cartoon to speak out against child abuse. Oh, and let’s not forget the stupid 2010 trend when girls were messaged secretly on Facebook to post where they put their purse as “I like it (place here)” as their status in order to advocate for ovarian cancer (I think?).

Although this week’s readings can point to many successful cases of online mobilization, I couldn’t help but first think of the failed instances of clicktivism during my time here at UCLA. Again, I respect the successes online media has had on movements such as Ferguson, Chapel Hill, and other national/international tragedies; however, I feel that because of these successes, students here on campus rely too heavily on hashtags and Facebook profile photos to advocate for trivial causes. The biggest offender of this is the Vietnamese Student Union during their “scandal” in the fall of 2012 and again in 2013.

The backstory of this was due to an offensive flyer allegedly posted to their office door, VSU wanted to bring the issue of campus climate front-and-center. 2012 did not see much online mobilization, but 2013 brought about their attempt at a hashtag campaign #BeyondTheStereotype. The consequent Facebook event tried to mobilize students to raise this issue to administrators. How?

“Change your profile picture by taking a photo with a positive catch phrase written on your arms or piece of paper (See examples below). If you are comfortable, feel free to add your own narrative to describe how you feel.”


In the end, what did this accomplish? Nothing. Like my middle school days of MySpace profile photos, this effectively accomplished nothing.

Basically, this week’s readings reminded me of why I hold so much biases against VSU. Online mobilization is an incredible tool for millennials to use because it covers events and voices opinions in ways that traditional mobilization failed to do or took longer to do. In this case, VSU’s hashtag campaign for a movement with no tangible end-goal gives online mobilization a bad name, and makes it hard for other legitimate online movements to be taken seriously.

Twitter Users as Social Justice Police

This week’s reading, “Digital Natives with a Cause,” described a growing concern for this current generation’s lot of “Digital Natives.” Digital natives are defined as a population that are interpersonally inept, socially inept, self-centered, and ignorant, among other negative aspects. These negative qualities are credited to the overconsumption and misuse of technology and the internet. However, in “Digital Natives with a Cause,” authors Shah and Abraham brought to light an interesting point:


“Youth are often seen as potential agents of change for reshaping their own societies. By 2010, the global youth population is expected reach almost 1.2 billion of which 85% reside in developing countries. Unleashing the potential of even a part of this group in developing countries promises a substantially impact on societies.”


This week, I wanted to argue with the critics of this generation’s ignorance level online. Ironically enough, I stumbled upon this article form Complex Magazine while at work, which reported on E! Fashion Police’s Guiliana Ranic’s culturally ignorant remarks of Disney’s Zendaya on her chosen hairstyle at this weekend’s Oscar Awards.


The article goes onto report that Twitter was used as a channel of frustration towards Guiliana—from fans, Oscar watchers, and Zendaya herself. I feel like this aspect of the situation reflects that this generation is not as ignorant as older generations may think. In fact, in some regards, this generation is even more socially aware of racism and ignorance from the older generation. Guiliana is not within the age range of the “Digital Natives.” It’s kind of funny how this article to me combats the critic’s argument on ignorance.


With so many cases of social media being used to stand up for causes, to call to action and mobilize, and to criticize anything politically incorrect, it’s hard to agree with critics on the “problem” of the Digital Natives population. Perhaps this is even more evidence of a generational gap between millennials and the older generation, and it makes me wonder even more whether or not the older generation studying and reporting on Digital Natives are overly critical on different behavior as opposed to negative behavior. Rather than trying to find actions that defines a so-called growing problem, perhaps these people should try to connect causation and action to understand rather than define. If this generation, as Shah and Abraham point out, is “shaping the world,” assuming only the negative aspects is totally the wrong approach.

Not about that #BOBALIFE

Race and Social Media states that theorists argue about race as a verb, “pointing out that it is through the process of racialization that we ‘race’ others in out minds eye, giving them a label that corresponds or contrasts with the one we give ourselves.” The article goes on to point out a consequence of this racialization being negative interpellation, “where we feel uncomfortably noticed and made visible.“

Reading Race and Social Media this week hit close to home for me this week–figuratively and literally.

A few others in the class have already discussed Asian Americans in social media, and I’m sorry to have to contribute to that. I really don’t mean to be redundant, but when reading this week, it reminded me of my hometown’s portrayal on Youtube in the recent years—most notably by Youtubers The Fung Brothers. This duo’s channel focuses heavily on all things Asian American—or at least what they categorize as such. The example I want to point to is their music video “626,” a parody of Snoop Dogg’s “Young Wild and Free.”



The music video basically highlights all the “best” parts of my hometown, the San Gabriel Valley, which almost exclusively consists of boba shops and Asian restaurants. Although I do agree my hometown is filled with great food options that can make any food blogger happy, my hometown is much more than just boba. Okay, let me first state, I hate the Fung Borthers. This hatred started when this music video first came out; and from then on, their channel continually consists of nothing but stereotypes of Asian Americans—almost caricatures of Asian American identity. We drink boba, we eat pho and dim sum, we somehow all have the same upbringing with strict parents, we wear the same brand of clothes, we all dance/sing, etc.


In regards to this week reading, I do feel negative interpellation from Youtubers such as the Fung Brothers because it, in a way, rubs it in people’s faces that what they portray is representative of all Asian Americans. The article this week brought up an important discussion to me—is social media too racialized? Where should the line be drawn when it comes to Youtube videos such as “Sh*t Black/Asian/Hispanic Girls Say”? For channels such as the Fung Brothers, although I’m happy (to an extent) that the Asian American minority is given a chance to represent themselves in popular culture, relying on just the fact that you’re Asian American may not be the right way to go. I am more than just the food my culture eats. I am more than my area code. My area code is more than just Asian food. So why are Youtubers like the Fung Brothers focusing so much on race for views?


One last thing: I am not about that #BOBALIFE or #that626. I hate boba.


In Chapter 4 of danah boyd’s “It’s Complicated,” she talks to teens about their parents’ rising concern of internet safety. Although the chapter opened by talking about two boy’s parent’s influence on their use (or lack thereof) of MySpace and Facebook, the chapter especially focused on the safety and privacy of adolescent girls. The girls expressed concerns of rape, assault, and kidnapping as possibilities of unsafe social media interaction. Boyd offered some insight, saying “[the girls’] fears were rooted not in personal experience but in media cover- age magnified by parental concerns.” With shows such as Datline NBC’s To Catch a Predator and MTV’s Catfish, the internet has come to be known as a dangerous place for adolescents, teens, and even young adults alike.

That being said, this chapter reminded me largely of my own personal concerns of internet safety—namely, privacy. That brings me to the concept of “catfishing.” Catfishing is defined as via Urban Dictionary “someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.” I was reminded of this conversation I had with a good friend of mine back in 2011, and decided to unearth that conversation from my inbox.

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The conversation above shows that two of my friends had catfishes of themselves on Facebook. This may have been an indirect result of their increase in followers on MySpace, then Tumblr, in the years leading up to 2011. I remember once this happened, we literally all panicked. I don’t think I’ve ever reported someone as quickly as I did when I found out two of my good friends had imposters on the Internet. The damage was minimal, but the aftereffect was scarring. This prompted my friends Tho and Miranda to change their privacy settings to the strictest settings. A few years later, this also happened to my friend Cynthia, once she started gaining a large following on Tumblr as well.

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In fact, this even happened to me, when someone took my photos from my Tumblr account this past summer, and began to use my face on Grindr, a gay dating/chat app (and I’ve been in a monogamous relationship with my girlfriend for almost two years, so it makes absolutely no sense.)

I guess what I’m trying to point to is that the internet, because of the element of anonymity and the allowance to curate content in whatever shape or form we feel, raises the concern of privacy in more ways than one. In terms of catfishing, said privacy is violated with the burden of one’s identity—or rather, fake identity. Filters—though on Instagram photos are nice—can be used for evil (sorry, a little dramatic) when applied to the concept of filtering content to present an image of oneself… or in this case, someone else as yourself.

The scariest part is, all these catfish accounts of my friends and I still exist today.

The (even bigger) announcement

In this weeks’ reading, danah boyd attempts to define the new concept of “super publics.” In her argument, she discusses how digital media has “screwed with the notion of public, removing traditional situationism that connects strangers.” The notion of a “public act”—which is defined as “one that is visible to an audience of strangers, connected by exposure to that act (a.k.a. a public)” and is explicitly limited in scope—has transformed into a larger audience of strangers because of the internet.


That being said, I saw this as true, as there has been a recent trend at my internship where celebrities announce pregnancies and other exciting news in a new way. The traditional way of announcing them via news outlets, magazines, and other traditional ways of media has been replaced with announcements via Instagram. Justin Timberlake was the last one I encountered this week, where it was revealed that he and wife? Jessica Biel announced that they’re expecting via his Instagram account (although the media had already long speculated Jessica’s pregnancy due to numerous photos purporting a new “bump”).

I think it’s interesting that celebrities like JT are starting to utilized social media moreso than traditional forms of media for these types of stories. You can actually see a shift in the style of writing in these tabloids; they went from simply reporting news received from publicisits to now reporting news from what they see on the celebs social media. Now, tabloids are beginning to stretch even further to expose these celebrities’ secrets before they are revealed on social media. The digital sphere has changed the audience of celebrities from domestic magazine readers to now worldwide followers—somewhat parallel with boyd’s argument of a superpublic.


Superpublics are still a concept even boyd is hashing out, but I see the correlation in my world today.

Yet Another Kim Kardashian Post

Let’s admit it—we see Kim Kardashian everywhere. I don’t necessarily like her, her family, or the consequent TV show/product endorsements/anything to do with the Kardashian clan; but like her or not, I’m forced to keep up with this family because of their presence on social media. Deny it all you want, I don’t care, but the fact of the matter is, this woman is probably one of the most successful social media users on the planet. She’s everywhere—and I seriously mean everywhere. Going down her impressive list—28.2 million Twitter followers; 25,176,521 Facebook fans, 25.1 million Instagram followers—having Kardashian-West’s numbers is something that only exists in my dreams (or nightmares; I’m not sure how I’d feel about it, really).

All this being said, my blogpost today is yet another Kim Kardashian post. Although I’m somewhat reluctant to do so because I really don’t like encouraging the pervasive presence of the Kardashians, I stumbled across Kardashian-West’s latest Super Bowl ad for T-Mobile.

The commercial addresses the issue of “lost data,” where cell phone carriers taking away unused data at the end of a customer’s billing period. She reasons with the audience that they should fight back (by switching to T-Mobile) as lost data will result in missed opportunities to see “my make-up, my back hand, my outfits, my vacations, and… my outfits” with each scene showing her taking a selfie. Seeing her social media statistics, this commercial is an effectively comedic way to coerce people into switching wireless providers in order to “save the data” to continue following her every move on social media.

This reminded me of chapter two in Jill Walker Rettberg’s “Seeing Ourselves Through Technology,” where she defines a “neoliberal subject.” A neoliberal subject, in Silicon Valley social media-developers terms, is one who “‘attends to fashions, is focused on self-improvement, and purchases goods and services to achieve “self-realization.” He or she is comfortable integrating market logics into many aspects of life, including education, parenting, and relationships. In other words, the ideal neoliberal citizen is an entrepreneur’.” If a neoliberal subject were to win a “best and most” category in their high school yearbook, they would win “most likely to succeed in social media, most likely to gain followers on Twitter and most likely to have their Facebook posts filtered into your newsfeed.” In this respect, Kim Kardashian-West qualifies as a neoliberal subject.

Still, with all that being said, I still hate Kim Kardashian-West. I’m just so sick of seeing her on my social media feeds; but hey, the exact reason why I hate her is what makes her successful.

Context Disconnect

This week, Danah Boyd’s “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens” discusses issues stemming from the online personas of today’s youth on social media. One issue she tackles which resonated with me was the issue of “audience” and how teens curate their online identity to fit a certain audience’s expectations. In the text, Boyd argues that “teens often imagine their audience to be those that they’ve chosen to “friend” or “follow,” regardless of who might actually see their profile,” and therefore, curate their social media’s content accordingly, restricting certain content to certain audiences.

Although this is slightly embarrassing that I’m writing my blog on this, this week, the reading reminded me of my own habit of filtering content in order to build an online persona separate from my own. I stumbled across an old Facebook post from one of my friends, where he makes fun of my Instagram account.

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My Instagram tells the truth—my life really is dull. With school and work and dance being the only things dominating my schedule, there really isn’t much time for me to go out and socialize as much as I would like; but as he puts it, I curated my social media content to show “pictures of hella friends and adventures.”

The reasoning for this, however, is well put by Boyd; “the intended audience matters, regardless of the actual audience.” I used to have a large follower base on Tumblr and Instagram back in my freshman and sophomore year of college, to the point where people began to recognize me in public from time to time. It was weird, considering all I did was post photos of myself (and my friends, because I’m not a narcissist) and recount my days of schoolwork, dance, and the occasional traveling. Over time, I let pseudo-internet popularity consume me and I began to change my habits online, resulting in the disconnection between my social media activity and my reality. My Instagram account now (because I deleted my Tumblr this past summer) caters to an audience—my Tumblr followers who initially followed me for my “adventures”—as opposed to my friends and family, and as a result, when taken out of context, my life looks a lot more interesting on my Instagram account than it really is.

Aside from problems arising from my friends never knowing my true whereabouts at certain times due to my Instagram’s misleading geotags and occasional #latergram sans the hashtag, Boyd further discusses challenges from how searchable social media accounts can be, acting as a trail of breadcrumbs, so to speak. “Social media introduces additional challenges, particularly because of the persistent and searchable nature of most of these technical systems. Tweets and status updates aren’t just accessible to the audience who happens to be following the thread as it unfolds; they quickly become archived traces, accessible to viewers at a later time.” From this, I fear that one day my Instagram will get me in trouble with my professional life if taken out of context.

It’s a somewhat lame connection, I know, but the reading reminded me of my own social media habits, and I’m glad I’m not alone, to be honest.

How to Drive like an Assh*le? Check your phone.

Although I claimed to spend more time on Instagram over Facebook during the first day of lecture, for some reason I found myself on Facebook for a huge chunk of my day off from work. During my mindless scrolling—liking friends’ new photos, ignoring meaningless status updates, the usual Facebook routine—I stumbled upon a video titled “How to Drive Like an Asshole,” shared by a friend who framed it with the caption, “The reason why I grind my teeth every day in LA.” The two minute clip showed a video game animation video (reminiscent of circa 2005) of different scenarios that would cause people to be considered a horrible driver. Watching it was hilarious, and I immediately shared it on my own news feed as “I’ve never seen a more accurate video of my life.” )However that’s not to say that I’m a horrible driver; in fact, I consider myself a great driver despite the tired stereotype.)

This video, with an uncanny accuracy of my commute, also connected with this week’s reading for me. As I watched the video, it struck me how inapplicable the smartphone scenarios would be to my parents when they were my age. For example, the video shows a scenario of checking “for email, or really just do[ing] whatever” at a red light and forgetting to go when it turns green. This scenario is really only applicable to recent times with the rise of new media i.e. smartphones. This may be a bit of a stretch, but the same way the Atlantic’s Nick Carr asserts that Google is making us dumber in the reading, smartphones could be making us worse drivers? Per the reading’s example of technological determinism, “something, or someone,” changed the way young people drive, and that thing is the smartphone, according to the video. Now obviously, aside from anxiety of impatient drivers such as myself, the smartphone has caused anxiety regarding a cultural change of more careless, distracted drivers.

It’s funny how a video that sums up my rush-hour frustrations connected with this week’s reading, but for me, it illustrated new media’s causality for cultural change. If it were 20 years ago, I doubt anyone would pull the “slow down on the freeway on-ramp to open the Maps app for directions before actually driving like a sane person” situation; but that’s my reality today.