Denise Li, Opinions

I’m Probably Really Annoying On Facebook … – Denise Li

… But I’m also probably not going to change, says Denise Li.

When you work with digital and social media as much as we do at Material World, you’re pretty sensitive to articles about the effect that Facebook and Instagram on its users, as well as the articles with headlines such as “The 10 Most Annoying People on Facebook”.

Thanks to the fact that I’ve read tons of these articles, I am now unable to deny awareness of my multiple social media sins, sins such as …

1. Posting my holiday snaps (These can elicit feelings of envy in some of my friends)

2. Posting mushy relationship-related status updates (To my defence, I only do this on occasion and I’m in an LDR after all …)

3. Using a couple pic as my profile pic (see above)

4. Posting status updates about how happy and contented I am with my life (it’s usually a result of fitness-induced euphoria)

To name a few.

I am aware that this is probably what some people think when I post updates on my Facebook.

I am aware that this is probably what some people think when I post updates on my Facebook.

Yesterday, I came across yet another blog/op-ed about the issue (read it here). The author thinks “A Facebook status is annoying if it primarily serves the author and does nothing positive for anyone reading it”. By this, the author probably means that unless I’m sharing links to other interesting articles, I’m really not doing my Facebook friends a service at all.

The Facebook Timeline is a funny thing … on the one hand, it occupies the territory of both personal and public space. Public in that whatever you post is up for consumption by others, but at the same time, I think its “personal-ness” should be acknowledged and respected.

What do I mean by this? Well firstly, I don’t post up pictures of my holiday with the primary intent of eliciting feelings of jealousy. I do it because it is a convenient place to collect photos I’ve taken to remember my memorable trips. I’ve changed a couple of laptops over the years, but I’m happy that I can still browse through pictures of a solo backpacking trip I took in 2007, and the trip where I met Alain in 2010.

I am currently doing the same with an album I started on Facebook a couple of weeks ago titled “Bruges 2014” (to commemorate my trip to Europe), and despite my acute awareness that I may be pissing some people off by doing so, I will continue to upload pictures to the album. Some of you might think I’m guilty of “curating my life” or “trying to show my ‘perfect life’ to everyone”.

But here’s the thing: I am not in control of what other people think or feel, and unless I post up racist or otherwise bigoted remarks on Facebook, I honestly don’t think I’m doing anything wrong.

When a Facebook friend posts a status update proclaiming how happy she is with her life, I am genuinely happy for her. After all, isn’t it frequently said that one of the keys to happiness is showing gratitude? Begrudging someone who shows her contentment on a public sphere is just grinch-y and mean-spirited. If you take issue with it, then I’m sorry to say that you – and not your Facebook  friend – are the problem. If it bothers you so much, there are a few simply solutions: (1) scroll down (2) hide the person’s updates from your Newsfeed, or (3) unfriend the person. But perhaps it might be beneficial for you to do a little soul-searching and start examining why someone else’s happiness annoys you so much.

If you are jealous of something your friend posted on Facebook, you - and not your friend - are the problem.

If you are jealous of something your friend posted on Facebook, you – and not your friend – are the problem.

It’s your prerogative to post what you want on social media (stopping short of it being racist or homophobic of course, because there is such a thing as responsible speech), and while I may not be appreciative or care for every post, I will defend your right to post it.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys training in MMA, and doing conditioning workouts. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets and Instagram @smackeral83.

[For More Op-Eds on Social Media …]

Let’s Make Social Media a Positive Space

I Miss How Facebook Used To Be

5 Social Media Resolutions for 2014

Deborah Tan, Opinions

Your Marketed Life versus Your Real Life – Deborah Tan

How concerned are you with how you appear to the social media crowd? Deborah Tan feels our marketed life is taking over our real ones, and it’s a problem of epic proportions.

What you can't tell from Scott's glamorous life: she had mounting financial problems.

What you can’t tell from Scott’s glamorous life: she had mounting financial problems.

I read an article about designer L’Wren Scott’s suicide this morning. The article spoke about how many of New York’s creative, glamorous set are actually living a “marketed” life that their real-life income can barely support. While Scott’s “carefully curated Instagram feed” shows she was living the life as rockstar Mick Jagger’s girlfriend, the designer was in fact US$6 million in debt.

This got me thinking about the many conversations my friends and I have about The Edited Life. Whenever someone is home for a holiday from overseas, they would inevitably ask about an ex-colleague or an old classmate: “How is so-and-so? Her life looks wonderful!” This is when someone would wryly go, “Well, full marks to her for being such a wonderful editor and curator!” It’s not that we are jealous. It’s just that being closer to the subject matter, we know the truth is often more than just what people see on Facebook, blogs and Instagram feeds.

In the same New York Post article, it is also revealed that the cast members of the reality series franchise The Real Housewives felt pressured to lead lives that exceeded the fees they received from the show. Housewives star Alex McCord said there was tremendous pressure to throw lavish parties and create the “biggest, blingest, most tricked-out lifestyle” for the camera. In reality, many of them and their husbands could barely afford to keep up with such appearances. An idea of the “casualties” caused by this 8 year-old show? 12 Housewives have filed for bankruptcy and 1 husband has committed suicide.

How Edited Is Your Life?
While the majority of us may never find ourselves in the same million-dollar dilemmas as New York’s glitzy set, the truth is, we are all guilty of editing our “public lives”. What we put out on social media about ourselves is often the shiniest, the prettiest and the most envy-inducing stuff. We want people to see the beautiful vintage cushions we’ve bought, not the $1.4 million mortgage we are struggling to support. We want people to see fast-paced, powerful jobs we have, not how we are not getting enough sleep and maxing out our credit cards.

But At What Cost?
There are countless articles about creating “social media success”. From the kind of photos that get the most Likes on Instagram to what is the best time to send out a Tweet, experts out there are sharing the tips and tricks on how everyone can achieve social media celebrity status. What we are not realizing is that we are becoming “addicts”. Addiction experts estimate that at least 10 percent of the population are vulnerable to “friendship addiction”. These people get their “fix” from the affirmations they think they are receiving from a friend accepting their request to connect on social media. There are also those who REFRESH their Facebook walls, Instagram feeds incessantly to see how many Likes they have collected.

Such behavior – in the end – only contributes to our insecurity and obsession to “keep up”. It’s a vicious cycle – the more we try to keep up, the more we end up spending our time, money and energy into meaningless pursuits such as shopping, checking out fancy restaurants, decorating our lives. We take our cute family out for a picnic not to spend quality time but to capture Instagram-worthy moments to feed our legions of ardent followers.

Hands up if you have secretly wished you had an Instagram feed as popular as Beau and his puppy Theo.

Hands up if you have secretly wished you had an Instagram feed as popular as Beau and his puppy Theo.

What Is The Quality Of Your Relationships? 
The question we need to ask ourselves TODAY is: when our real lives start to fall apart, how many of our so-called Facebook friends can we really turn to? For Scott, even though she was jet-setting with a rockstar boyfriend and hanging with the most glamorous people in New York, it was tragic that in her hour of need, so few knew about the extent of her financial problems.

In the same article about Scott, “Ironically, last week I said to three different people, ‘I wish I had her life, look at her life — she’s always somewhere fabulous and fancy,’ ” stylist Philip Bloch told WWD. “You think, here’s someone who has it all. You just never know.”

The harsh reality of social media could not be better presented in this one tip every marketing expert always shares: Be “positive”. We are told constantly that our audience wants to see happy things, they want to come away from our Facebook feeling that life is good. And so what do we all do? We shove the things that are troubling us to the back of our minds, turn the frown upside down, and put our best face(book) forward. This is extremely isolating. You end up feeling like no one gives a damn about the unhappy You, and that accompanying sense of helplessness can be crippling.

Your carefully selected pictures and stories may have the effect of lifting your audience up from a bad day but what are they doing for you?

Perhaps you may not even know it! You become so wrapped up in your marketed life that you ignore the real problems that need dealing with. The most telling sign that you are in a little too deep? If you are feeling not so good today, would you still post a picture of your OOTD (outfit of the day, in case you don’t know) and put on a smile for the camera? If you’re feeling troubled by something, would you still post up pictures of your smiling kids and wait for your followers to Like it enough to help you forget your problems?

I suspect you already know the answer.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She thinks that if all of humanity were to disappear and what is of us are our Facebook profiles, the aliens will find us extremely one-dimensional. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

Child's Play, Material Moms

[Material Moms] How To Take Share-Worthy Pictures Of Your Kids – Delphine Tan

Cute kids’ pictures are EVERYWHERE on social media. But our Material Mom Delphine Tan (@mummydelphine) took photo-sharing one notch up when she created an adorable photo series for her newborn son. 

During my confinement period, I wanted to take a picture of David beside something I could use for comparison to gauge how much he has grown, which is why the pictures are dated. It had to be something that wouldn’t change in size and wouldn’t get thrown or given away, so I used the kids’ dolls.

The picture that started it all.

The picture that started it all.

I get my inspiration mainly by just looking around the house to see what I can use. I also love the creative photos of kids on Bored Panda, which were taken by more artistic parents with better cameras. The matryoshka one was definitely inspired by one of those photos but mine’s not as beautifully executed!

Delphine's favourite!

Delphine’s favourite!

Going by the number of “likes” on Instagram, the most popular post so far is the caterpillar one, but my favourite is still the matryoshka one. I also like the one of the astronaut going to the moon.

I was planning to stop by the end of my confinement (today!) but may take photos now and then if I’m inspired. In the meantime, enjoy!

Most popular post

The famous Caterpillar post.

Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars.

Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars.

Does not like being compared to a Minion

Does not like being compared to a Minion

Attacked by dinosaurs!

Attacked by dinosaurs!

All ready to play golf with Dad!

All ready to play golf with Dad!

Star Wars, as requested Delphine's sister.

Star Wars, as requested by Delphine’s sister.

Guess who's cooking dinner tonight?

Guess who’s cooking dinner tonight?

Which photo is your favourite? Share with us in the Comments section below!

Delphine - 2About The Author: Delphine Tan still feels like a kid but is married to Adrian and mother to Anya, Adam, and David. Since she has no artistic talent and does not know how to cook, she spends her free time reading, blogging, and collecting matryoshka. Besides being addicted to caffeine, Delphine also suffers from the compulsive need to Instagram every single plate of food that she eats. 


Deborah Tan, Opinions

Using Pseudonyms On Social Media. Yes Or No? – Deborah Tan

Is there a point to using pseudonyms when it can be easily found out just who it is you’re talking about? Here, Deborah Tan talks about the illusion of privacy and why the sooner we snap out of it, the better and healthier our social media use is going to be.

Over the weekend, my boyfriend brought this up in a conversation with me, “Everyone asks me why you don’t use a pseudonym whenever you talk about me on Facebook.”

That got me thinking about why. One, I have never been a fan of using pseudonyms unless the situation absolutely calls for it. Two, I think pseudonyms are a bit pointless in this age and time where almost everybody has a Facebook or a Twitter account. Third, I am of the opinion that using pseudonyms will only increase people’s curiosity of whoever the hell it is you’re talking about!


No point playing coy if you are still going to be using social media.

A long time ago, I maintained a blog on Livejournal. Sometimes, I would nose around my friends’ friends’ blogs and read whatever it was they assumed was okay to share in Public. There was this girl I particularly remember. On her blog, she would use letters whenever she wanted to “name” a person she was writing about. “Today, A and I met up for lunch”, “Z and I had a huge argument about the time he has been spending on Warcraft” … it annoyed me tremendously. First, she got my curiosity stoked. There was no such thing as Facebook back in those days and it was almost impossible to find out who she was writing about. Second, I felt she wasn’t really protecting the identities of her friends. For surely if I was “A” and I had met her for lunch that day, I would know she was talking about me! So what was the entire point of the exercise?

The Illusion Of Privacy
Many of us explain that the reason why we are on Facebook is because we want to stay in touch with our friends. We say we blog so that our friends overseas can know more about our lives, beyond the “Okay, she’s still alive … that much I know” realm. But I think the reason why so many of us have taken a shine to blogging and social networking is because we want to exhibit a part of ourselves to the world – even to those who know nothing about us.

We have been given the illusion that we can truly control how much we share when, in reality, the control starts with us. What you say about your boss, what you write about your relationship, what you bitch about your friends … if you don’t want your posts to get around, the most logical thing to do is to not put them up on social media at all.

You think your 400-over Facebook friends are “friend” enough to not take a screenshot of your inflammatory post about what you really think of your neighbour’s noisy kids, and announce to all of Singapore that you are a kid-hater? Well, just look at the most recent case of a certain investment banker.

Just because you have set your post’s privacy to “Friends Only”, it really doesn’t mean those reading it are really your friends.

Social Media Editing
One of the things we often deride social media for is that many people “edit” what they show on their Facebook Walls and Instagram Feeds. We go, “This is so fake! I totally don’t believe her life is as fabulous as she makes it look on Facebook!” But you know what? The smart people are the ones who pick and choose what they share and broadcast to the world. They know better than to “air their dirty laundry in public” or to “let their inner Mr Hyde take over”.

If they really want to vent, they make sure their comments are worded in a way that presents them as logical, level-headed individuals who have cause to bring up whatever they want to say.

My point here is as much as it is YOUR Facebook account, YOUR Twitter feed, YOUR Pinterest wall … you owe it to yourself to edit your social media feeds to death. I don’t mean just putting up the fabulous pictures of your expensive holidays in Europe, I mean ensuring those suggestive pictures of you drinking from a bottle at a club don’t get put up at all.

Don’t Assume Your “Friends” Are Really Your Friends
At the end of the day, a lot us make the mistake of assuming that those whom we have “allowed” into our social media worlds owe a certain “loyalty” to us. “I have given them the ‘privilege’ of being part of my Facebook circle, they owe it to me to not spread my stuff around.” WRONG. What you have given your Facebook friends is ACCESS. And the duty to limit their access, to limit what they can see, falls on you.

Rather than assume that everyone will be on their best behavior on social media, perhaps it’s best to think the worst of everybody.

You Want To Play The Game?
After all I’ve said, you’re probably wondering, “Hang on, isn’t she kinda contradicting herself?” Well, I’m not. I think there are – broadly speaking – two types of people who use social media. The first assumes they can say anything and everything as long as it is on THEIR Facebook Wall. Those in this group fail to see that nothing is really private and when things go out of hand because of what they’ve posted, they blame it on a breach of their privacy. The second group – on the other – recognizes that there are private things and there are “private” things. They have an instinctive feel of what they can say and, even if these things are shared, they can go, “Yeah. I said it.”

I don’t share on Facebook the worst fights I have with my boyfriend. Small arguments, sure, and that’s because which couple doesn’t argue? I don’t diss him on Facebook. Teasing, yes, and that’s because we know what the limits are. I don’t use a pseudonym when I talk about him on Facebook because anyone can see in my relationship status just whom I’m engaged to.

On my personal blog, I once wrote about how I really don’t like my neighbour’s noisy kids and I was criticized and slammed for being a horrible person. It felt bad to be called out but after the initial sting, I felt I had the right to be honest about my feelings about the issue. It was something I had complained about on Facebook too. I did not bother to correct the person who reprimanded me on my blog for having such evil thoughts because, at the end of the day, I am happy to admit that I’m not a child-friendly person.

It’s Not Just A One-Sided Thing
Operating on social media is more than just protecting yourself. Other people’s privacy must also be respected. We have to ask ourselves, “Is this something I should spread?” Ask yourselves this: Do I have to be a social police? Do I have to be the one to out this person for whatever inflammatory thing he/she has said on Facebook?

It is more than just watching what you post online. Often, it is also watching what you spread online. If something does not agree with you, do you really have to share it? If something could potentially get someone into trouble, would it not be better to drop that person a message and express your discomfort first rather than share what was not yours to share in the first place?

Defining what is “Private” on social media is like swimming in murky waters. Everyone – you and I alike – is trying to find their way around it. The best way to conduct ourselves online, for now, is to watch what we put up and watch what we share. And, if your true intention on social media is to start fires every time you see something disagreeable, then I say you should not be on social media at all.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

This is not the end …
1. 5 Social Media Resolutions For 2014

2. Let’s Make Social Media A Positive Space

3. “Sorry” Really Is The Hardest Word

Infographics, Opinions, Vanessa Tai

5 Social Media Resolutions For 2014 – Vanessa Tai

Social media usage in Singapore is intense. Just take a look at the infographic below:


So, even as we make resolutions to lose weight, spend more time with our family, quit that gross habit … we should also consider making some changes to our online life. Because most of us are plugged in almost around-the-clock, it’s worthwhile examining how we can be better participants on social media. Here are some suggestions (please feel free to add your own in the Comments section below):

1. Be vigilant about your privacy settings

Yes, it can be tricky keeping on top of your many social media accounts. However, as we post more and more content online, it’s important that we regularly check our privacy settings. Not being on the ball with your privacy settings could lead to relatively innocuous situations like everyone on your Facebook knowing you have a penchant for listening to ’90s boyband hits on Spotify, to full-blown social media disasters (as exemplified by PR executive Justine Sacco). Which brings me to my next point …

2. Be more positive

While we may be tempted to fire off a string of passive-aggressive tweets about our co-workers, or rant on Facebook about the driver who cut our lane this morning, we should think about who’s going to see our posts. Everyone has their own battles to fight, and the world is angsty enough as it is. Do we really want to clog other people’s news feeds with our #firstworldproblems?

material world_social media

3. Be less hung up about numbers

Speaking of #firstworldproblems, is it really worth getting anxious over why that totally adorable picture of your pet/baby/boyfriend on Instagram isn’t getting as many Likes as it should? I know I’m not alone when it comes to incessantly refreshing my feed to see if anyone has Liked my post yet. If you do this too, please stop. One Like does not a validation make.

4. Be less of an armchair activist

Just as people Liking our posts does not equate with us being Ms. Popular, Liking a Facebook page for a social cause does not equate with social change. If we truly feel strongly about a cause, we should get off our computer chair and onto the ground to see how we can help. [Relevant: How you can keep the spirit of giving alive]

5. Be mindful that you’re talking to people, not robots

In an era where online debates are de rigueur, always remember that the person you’re arguing with is also a human being. Just like in real life, we should always aim to fight clean – that means no name-calling or personal attacks of any kind. And as much as possible, let’s avoid getting drawn into arguments with: (in this order) Internet trolls, people who are needlessly rude, and people who refuse to see another side of the argument.

What other social media resolutions should we adhere to? Tell me in the Comments section below!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. She uses Hootsuite to manage her many social media accounts. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Deborah Tan, Opinions

Let’s Make Social Media A Positive Space – Deborah Tan

Yesterday morning, Vanessa sent us a picture of a meme created about a local blogger. The blogger had asked for a free hair treatment and, when she did not get what she wanted, she resorted to sending the owner an email calling him a “jerk” and threatening to ruin his business’ reputation.

The "Hair-Raising" Mob is Calling for blogger's head

The “Hair-Raising” Mob is Calling for the blogger’s head

She later claimed that her email accounts have been hacked and she did not send the offensive email to the owner, that everything was the work of a malicious hacker and she has since shut down her blog. One of the comments left in response to her post disturbed me. The person demanded for proof that her accounts have indeed been compromised, implying that the blogger was merely lying to protect whatever sliver of dignity she still has left.

I’m not sure if I’m the only person who feels this way but … since when has it been okay for bystanders to get involved in an argument between two people? On social media, it seems, everyone is a participant. On social media, everybody has a point he needs to make whether or not it involves him at all.

But let’s get something out of the way first, in case you think we are speaking up for the blogger.

We are Material World believe there is no such thing as a free lunch. A blog is NOT a pass to free meals at restaurants, free hair treatments, free clothes, free renovations or a free car. It is because bloggers all over have been accepting payment in kind for reviews, that it’s been difficult for digital content producers to charge decently for their work. If there is anything we all can learn from this incident, is that a blog should NOT be used to support a lifestyle you otherwise cannot afford. Even established beauty editors don’t get their hair done every time they have to attend a launch. You have work for your numbers, you have work for your viewership. Don’t think – for a minute – that starting a blog is all you need to be as successful as Xiaxue. I’m not a fan but I have to give it her that she’s worked very hard over the years for her success.

OK. Back to the stuff I want to talk about today.

1. Social media is not law enforcement

Why do we want proof that the blogger’s accounts have indeed been hacked? If you think she is lying, then stop reading her blog, warn other businesses about her … but we don’t need to force her into a corner by demanding for proof. Social media is supposed to be a “happy place”, don’t make it into a virtual vigilante group where we insist upon enforcing our own brand of justice on people whose behaviour we don’t approve of. Just as how blackmailing and extortion should be not tolerated, so should the name-, blame- and shame-game so many of us play on social media.

2. We forget that a human being is behind that Facebook account

She may or may not be a likeable person. She may have questionable writing skills, but to those who made comments about her “being a joke”, telling the salon owner that he’s being too soft on her … let’s remember that she’s been taught a lesson, her name, dragged through the mud. She’s probably not going to be able to score so much as a free lip balm … so let go. Would it make us all happier if this blogger gets into more trouble? No.

3. We all have a duty in making social media a positive place

One of the people on the salon owner’s Facebook Wall made a very good point: let’s go back to focusing on the victims of Typhoon Yolanda. Social media can be a place for positive change. We can harness its immediacy and its ability to engage to bring everyone’s attention to worthier causes. We can use it to promote best practices for businesses, and as a way to market to our customers without having to pay expensive advertising fees to traditional media.

When you have a voice, you should be using it as an instrument to share information, offer alternative points of view, and engage people in conversations. It should not be used as a weapon by anyone. Just like how we would never walk into 7 Eleven and help ourselves to a can of Coke without paying, we should not expect that our voice alone entitles us to a free anything. Likewise, if you won’t go up to someone and tell her she’s a hypocritical liar to her face, don’t do it on social media. This quarrel is between the blogger and the salon owner. If they can settle this between themselves, great. If not, let us not become a keyboard mob either. Let us be better people and focus on helping those who need our voices to further their causes and highlight their plight.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She’ll be helping victims of Typhoon Yolanda to collect canned food this Friday at Parkway Parade Giant between 11am and 2pm. Come if you can. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

Deborah Tan, Opinions

The Overreaching Media & Why It’s Doing More Harm Than Good – Deborah Tan

Picture this: You are driving to work and you’re tuned in to the radio. An ad comes on, promoting the latest issue of a magazine. The voice tantalises you with a couple of lines about what the issue is about and then … it launches into a whole series of “extras” that the magazine also has.

Staying connected is the only thing on our minds these days

Staying connected is the only thing on our minds these days

“Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for your exclusive invitations to our fashion events!”

“Go to our website to check out exciting behind-the-scene videos of our photoshoots!”

“Be sure to read the blogs of our editors and writers!”

“Tweet us your favourite catwalk pictures from this season’s fall/winter shows!”

WOW. Do you feel tired for the magazine? Because more and more, I am like, “Woah … stop for a minute. Go back and tell me more about the magazine.”

Of course, it isn’t just magazines that are reaching out to its readers using more than one platform. These days, radio DJs are blogging, celebrities are tweeting, magazine editors are Instagramming, bloggers are also YouTube stars … everyone is doing everything.

And it’s kinda killing the magic for those of us on the receiving end.

You see, I miss the days when if I wanted to read a magazine, I’d just buy a copy and flip through 180 pages of great reading material about relationships, shopping, food, movies, TV, etc. If I wanted to catch my favourite celebrity in action, I’d go watch his latest movie or buy his newest album. If I wanted to read a blog, I’d just go read a blog.

Every form of media I consumed stayed in their nice little circle. As a consumer, I appreciated where one form of media began and where it ended. Each form of media had its own function in my life and I was able to choose when to switch off to a magazine and tune in to a radio. I liked that my radio DJ remained a voice (I never quite cared how Simon Lim, Captain Of Your Heart, looked like) and that I won’t be seeing him monkeying up as a YouTube star when I logged on to the Internet.

Old fashion? Unsavvy with the way media these days work? I don’t think so.

Is it time to jump off the social media bandwagon?

Is it time to jump off the social media bandwagon?

1. People Need To Switch Off
It is really for marketing purpose that your DJs and writers are reaching out to you via social media and anything that pops up as a feed on your Facebook Wall. I don’t know when this began but suddenly, someone decided that no, they don’t want people switching off. They want you to, when you close the magazine, to check out its app on your phone. They want you to, when you switch off the TV, be able to still watch your favourite shows online. They want you to, when you turn off the radio, meet your favourite DJs at an event by the local community club.

Allowing the reader/viewer/listener to switch off is important. Because we need to miss you. I remember a time when I looked forward to the appearance of each new issue of my favourite magazines. That was before Facebook, that was before Twitter … the anticipation made the product exciting. The excitement made me want to buy it. Now, all I do is, “What? So soon? Didn’t I just read the last issue?” It’s not that I just read the last issue, I just simply saw a update on my Wall by the magazine’s Facebook Page.

The constant connection is tiring and it dulls our anticipation for whatever new offerings our magazine or favourite TV shows have. With binge-watching, people don’t watch TV anymore. They download an entire season and watch it all at one go on their iPad. Satisfying in some ways but the magic that comes with the wait is somewhat lost.

2. Overreaching Promotes Mediocrity
We are always told to focus on one product and making sure it becomes a great product. When a media – whatever its form – overreaches, it is in effect building a domino formation. You just need one aspect (say, your website) to be lame and it basically undoes the good work you’ve been putting into your main product.

Increasingly, media owners are showing that they are suffering from FOMO (the fear of missing out). They see their competitors launch an app, and they want one too. They see their competitors go on Pinterest, and they want one too. They see their competitors blogging, and suddenly the whole company has to blog.

If you have the resources, fine. If you don’t, you are simply stretching yourself thin and, instead of being good in one thing, you now just mediocre in everything. And once the consumer becomes accustomed to mediocrity, standards everywhere just fall.

3. The Connection Paradox
And when all messages and all marketing strategies start to resemble one and another, the consumer obviously is going to get a bit overwhelmed and bored. She starts disconnecting.

The more connections a media makes with a consumer, the more likely she is going to want to start distancing herself. If she distances herself from your Facebook Page or unfollows you on Twitter, that’s not very good for your marketing team. If she distances herself from your main product, that’s even worse.

I think we are failing when it comes to understanding why people connect with us because we are only concerned with how many people we can be a nuisance to, and then hoping that these people would never be irritated enough to click the Unlike button. It’s not going to keep on working like this. A shutdown seems inevitable and that’s just bad news for everyone in the media.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, Suits, and wants to know why cat pictures attract so many Likes on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweet. 

Character & Soul, Opinions, Self-Improvement, Vanessa Tai

Social Media Envy – Vanessa Tai

17-year-old fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson was only 12 when her blog shot to prominence

17-year-old fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson was only 12 when her blog shot to prominence

Mark Zuckerberg. Jennifer Lawrence. Tavi Gevinson. It seems like the world’s movers and shakers are getting younger every season. You don’t even have to look that far to meet successful young people. In Singapore, more and more young people are eschewing the traditional career path for entrepreneurship, to be a lifestyle blogger or simply to travel overseas for work. And with everyone being increasingly connected through social media, it’s almost impossible not to compare your life with those around you. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve googled somebody whose work I admire, only to be aghast – “He/she is HOW OLD?!”

It’s hard to shrug off that nagging sense of inadequacy when you scroll through your friends’ humblebrag status updates or receive LinkedIn notifications of an ex-schoolmate’s promotion (again.) Unsurprisingly, several studies have indicated that browsing through Facebook can actually make us feel bad about ourselves or dissatisfied with our lives. According to social psychologists at the University of Michigan who conducted a recent study on the co-relation between Facebook usage and self-satisfaction, there are several reasons why we could be feeling this way. One, it could be because you’re engaging in unhealthy levels of social comparisons. Or two, cooping yourself up at home surfing social networks means you’re not engaging in other healthier activities such as exercising or face-to-face interaction.

Of course, it would be unrealistic to completely unsubscribe from all forms of social networking. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are all great tools to stay on top of current affairs and connected to your friends’ lives. You’ll just need to find a way to beat that sinking feeling of inadequacy. Here are some ways I personally find very helpful in keeping the green-eyed monster at bay.

1. Adjust Your News Feed Settings

Just an example. I would never unfollow Hugh!

Just an example. I would never unfollow Hugh!

Sounds simple, but a surprisingly large group of people don’t make use of this function. There are several people on my Facebook friend list whose achievements never fail to make me feel bad about myself. But because they didn’t really do anything to offend me, I can’t quite cull them from my friend list … so I do the next best thing. I click the “I don’t want to see this” option and voilà! Problem solved.

2. List Out Your Achievements

It may sound contrived, but I’ve found that writing a list of things that I’ve achieved can be a real confidence booster. It doesn’t even have to be major achievements either; some of the things I have on my list include things like “Spent a day alone in a foreign city” or “Volunteered at an overseas film festival.” Whenever you feel down, it helps to re-visit the list for a shot of self-assurance.

3. Constantly Seek To Improve Yourself

We may never be able to stop comparing ourselves to others, but we can always try to better ourselves. Yes, there will always be somebody smarter, richer, prettier or more successful than us, but that’s no reason to resign ourselves to our “station in life.” Nor is it worth it to get resentful either. Instead, always ask yourself, “How can I improve?” As Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.

What are some ways you cope with social media envy? Tell us in the Comments section below!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Share this story "Social Media Envy" on Facebook and stand a chance to win this prize!

Share this story “Social Media Envy” on Facebook and stand a chance to win this prize!

Career, Self-Improvement

How To Run A Successful Online Business – Vanessa Tai

material world singapore-entrepreneurshipHave you ever entertained thoughts of being an entrepreneur? Perhaps you are slouched in your office cubicle, or glancing around the tired faces around you on public transport and thinking, “Surely, I should be doing something that makes me excited to get up every morning.” Or perhaps you have a groundbreaking business idea but aren’t quite sure how to get it off the ground. If you daydream of being your own boss, you aren’t alone. In 2012, 56,778 new business start-ups were set up in Singapore!

And why not? Singapore has a great environment for start-ups to thrive in. There are a slew of public and private funding to choose from, plus government entities like EnterpriseOne that support young start-ups. The time is especially ripe for online businesses – according to research by Paypal, the size of the Singapore online shopping market reached S$1.1 billion in 2010 and is forecasted to hit S$4.4 billion in 2015.

material world singapore-harley finkelstein

Harley Finkelstein, Chief Platform Officer at Shopify

Harley Finkelstein, Chief Platform Officer at e-commerce platform Shopify was recently in Singapore and we sat him down to get his advice for up-and-coming online entrepreneurs. Trained in both law and business, Finkelstein started his own business at the age of 17. Apart from his role at Shopify, he also serves as a mentor and advisor to a number of entrepreneurial organisations and incubators.

What are some common misconceptions of e-commerce?

Newbies tend to have this perception that setting up an online store is difficult and expensive. But as an online retailer, there’s actually so much you can do that doesn’t even have to cost you. For example, if you have an online store selling hats, you could always start a blog or Twitter account that gives people interesting hat-related information … or send samples of your hats to key online influencers, who can help you generate buzz. Or if you feel the look and feel of your e-store isn’t working, you can change the layout in a matter of minutes. Technology has made everything much clearer and easier.

What are your tips for e-commerce retailers to keep their marketing ideas fresh? 

In business, creativity and versatility is important. Just throw some spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks. At Shopify, we have “Hack Days” once every three months where people from different departments get together to work on new experiments. One of these experiments was Popify, an idea that Brennan Loh (Head of Business Development) and I came up with. Basically, we set up a pop-up store for several Shopify stores that only had an online presence. It was really amazing to see how well it worked for these retailers. There was this store that sold hammocks – their customers loved being able to try out the hammocks at a brick-and-mortar store, then going online to buy it (that way, they don’t have to lug a heavy hammock all the way home.)

If I’m looking to set up an online store, why should I do it on Shopify? 

Because it’s so easy, anybody can do it! Plus, you’ll get a tremendous amount of support not just from the Shopify team, but from other Shopify merchants. Our Shopify blog is the second-most popular e-commerce blog in the world, and we also have something called the E-Commerce University, where we dish out tips on everything from marketing to design and even delivery. Shopify merchants are also very active on the forums, sharing their experiences and other business best practices with newbies. In fact, some of them have even taken these interactions offline. Some of the e-retailers in New York, San Francisco and Israel have organised gatherings to swap stories and ideas.

Finally, what’s your best advice for an aspiring entrepreneur?

Be tenacious and persistent. You may not succeed on your first try but you should work on building a culture of experimentation. Just put something out there and get feedback. Don’t give up.

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Love, Relationships

Is It Acceptable To Flirt On LinkedIn? – Deborah Tan


Love in the age of social media

Here’s the thing: I get that social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook provide a great stage for flirting. You can post cute comments, like a status update, retweet a tweet … all in the hope that the object of your desire will reciprocate with an equally encouraging reaction. But what about LinkedIn? It’s a social media platform too, isn’t it?

Except that LinkedIn is a social media platform for people to connect about WORK stuff. It’s a place where individuals talk about their career achievements, share their resumes, harvest endorsements for PROFESSIONAL reasons. To use LinkedIn as a way to flirt with someone isn’t just pathetic, it’s bordering on harassment.

A couple of times now, I’ve received requests to connect from people who really have no business with me or my field of work. Sometimes, I would accept their requests because a part of me still holds on to the “wisdom” that anything can be an opportunity. I mean, who’s to say that someone in chemical engineering wouldn’t be requiring editing services … ?

And every so often, after the acceptance of these requests, I would get a message that asked if I would like to meet up for coffee because this person would like to make new friends and he is new in town and would like to be shown around … I usually just don’t reply.

These days, I’ve become a lot more selective in accepting requests to connect on LinkedIn. Whenever I received such a request, I would click on the person’s profile and look for THREE things:

1. Is he or she in an industry that is a close cousin of mine? I’m in media so I would usually accept requests from fellow media practitioners, PRs, freelancers, publishers, etc. If the person is in an industry that doesn’t remotely require my expertise, then I go to the second step.

2. Which connections do we have in common? If the connections we share have a fairly even split between men and women, I know he is probably interested in expanding his networking circle. I have a number of friends in the business of helping startups start up, so if I see them on our list of mutual connections, I will probably accept the request. If not, the third step pretty much reveals his intentions.

3. Our mutual connections are women with great profile pictures. This is where I make the call to either take a chance OR ignore the request.

I know I should not pass judgement so quickly but after having been propositioned for the wrong reason on LinkedIn a couple of times, I think it’s reasonable for me to put in place a set of protocols that I can rely on to help me sift out the amorous requests from the ones with a professional intent behind them.

LinkedIn, unlike the other social media platform, is where we tend to accept requests to connect from people we have never met before. We connect with like-minded professionals because this is as close to networking in person in the digital sphere. To abuse LinkedIn and to use it as a way to find women and men whom you are attracted to for romantic reasons is like an insurance agent going to a funeral and trying to sell policies to the mourners – INAPPROPRIATE.

Have you been propositioned on LinkedIn before? Do you agree that LinkedIn should not be used for romantic reasons? Or, you think it’s okay? Do you have a set of “rules” you follow when deciding who to add or not add on LinkedIn? I would love to hear from you.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, Suits, and is trying to get more endorsements on LinkedIn. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

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Infographics, Love, Relationships

[Infographic] How Social Media Affects Your Chance At Love – Deborah Tan

Today, Lunch Actually released the results of a regional dating survey. The survey was done with 1,900 singles in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia, with 788 of these in Singapore. The most interesting discovery of this year’s survey is that more and more people are opening up to the idea of finding love online.

Fifty-one percent of the respondents in Singapore have tried online dating while more than 70 percent of them have admitted to checking out their potential dates online. Founder of Lunch Actually Violet Lim attributes this phenomenon to the pervasiveness of social media and smartphones.

To learn more about how social media can affect your chance at finding The One, check out our infographic below:

Love and social media

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, Suits, and hopes to meet Steven Tyler in person one day.

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Opinions, Vanessa Tai

The Problem With Apathy – Vanessa Tai

By now, you’ve probably read about the exchange student’s experience at Clarke Quay. If you haven’t, the gist of what happened is this: a girl and three of her friends were out for drinks at Clarke Quay when she got harassed by an older man. According to her, he followed her around and continued to touch her repeatedly despite her screaming at him to get away. What riled her up the most, though, was that even though there were plenty of people around them, nobody stopped to help.

As I was reading her post, one paragraph in particular stood out:

Screen shot 2013-05-07 at PM 11.38.37

Okay, seriously, what is up with this insane need to record unfortunate incidents on camera? One only has to take a casual look at “citizen journalism” websites to see a proliferation of such trigger-happy behaviour. From couples quarreling in public to drunken brawls, it seems like everybody’s jostling to upload The Next Big Viral Video.

Seriously, dude?

Seriously, dude?

Some might say such behaviour is a nasty by-product of the social media generation, where we’re slowly but surely becoming desensitised to such situations in our quest for Likes. However, the “apathetic bystander” is not a new phenomenon. Researchers have studied this peculiarity ever since the 1960’s, when a young woman was killed on the streets of New York in front of over 30 eyewitnesses … none of whom came forward to help. According to researchers, some of the reasons for this apathy are 1) people are usually less likely to take action or feel a sense of responsibility when in the presence of a large group of people and 2) the innate need to behave in a socially acceptable manner.

Even if what these academics posit is true, that’s no excuse for throwing common human decency to the wayside. It’s important that we stand up against bullies and call out bad behaviour, or the consequences could be disastrous. I guess the reason why most people don’t intervene is probably because they’re worried for their own safety, or they’re afraid that reporting the case might end up being a real hassle. For me, I’ve always believed that “no man is an island.” One way or another, we’re dependent on each other for help. Who knows – it could be me today, and you tomorrow. I’m pretty sure all those “citizen journalists” wouldn’t want to be filmed in their hour of need; they would want a helping hand!

Even as the lines between our online and offline worlds continue to blur, let’s never forget what it truly means to be human: the ability to show compassion and kindness.

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets

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