Black Friday!

You know what rules, like, a lot?  Thanksgiving.  Come on, you know you love Thanksgiving.  Putting on comfy pants to make room for the delicious, and massive amounts of, food consumed.  A good excuse to get friends and family together.  It’s really just such a good time!

Now, Thanksgiving has come and gone here in Canada, but a few blocks south, in America, it’s turkeys all around.  Personally, I’ll use any excuse to enjoy stuffing, so I am celebrating.  Something else that Americans enjoy in the season is Black Friday.

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving.  Its name comes from the term “In the black”, which really means that stores finally start turning a profit in the fiscal year.  Most non-retail establishments even give their workers the day off (one can only assume so they can shop!).  Things have gotten pretty crazy down there.

But, it’s not just our friends State-side who have wised up to the sales, some of which last more than 24 hours straight.  Many Canadians are lining up to cross over the border for their very own shopping bonanza.  What to do if you can’t drive?  Well, in our modern times, we have a little something called the internet, and that means we can enjoy a new advent called cybermonday.  Basically, it’s all the goodness of Black Friday, but from the comfort of your own home.  You just better hope the stores don’t resemble the Thanksgiving turkey… picked clean!

Some could argue that Black Friday is good for the economy, while others would say it’s the best time to get a jump-start on holiday shopping.  You know what I say?  Shopping straight-up rules, and there is nothing quite like the rush of getting something on sale.  Seriously.

Mother Monster

Well everyone, it’s happened.  We all knew this was coming.  Inevitable.  Kind of like the tides.  Or the seasons.  No, I’m not referring to that silly apocalypse that had people all bent out of shape.  Today we’re talking GaGa.

A fairly run of the mill party girl from New York City, she took the music industry by storm in 2008 with “Just Dance”.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Number one after number one, and outrageous art-to-wear fashion choices, have catapulted GaGa (also known as Stefani Germanotta) to the forefront of both the music and fashion industries.

And that’s not all.  GaGa has singlehandedly conquered the digital world.  Not only with digital downloads (although, you can check off that box too), but the world of social media is putty in her hands.  Lovingly referring to her fans as her “Little Monsters”, she has appointed herself as Mother Monster.  The maternal connotation is strangely fitting.  She tweets to 10,377,254 Little Monsters who religiously follow her on Twitter, making her the most followed user on the micro-blogging giant.

Her musical talent, incredible stage presence and undeniable charisma have clearly given GaGa a nearly countless mass of loyal fans.  Her Little Monsters aren’t okay with downloading pirated copies of her music either.  They are buying it.  People are actually buying music again!  Who knew that was ever going to happen?  The downward spike of music sales seems to be on the rise again.  Industry insiders are saying her new album "Born This Way" could very well save the music industry.  Internet savvy and saving the industry from a full on demise?  GaGa is certainly no shrinking violet.

Everything GaGa touches turns to gold.  Somehow she takes the familiar and makes it intoxicatingly exotic.  Listen to her music and tell me it doesn’t remind you of something.  In 2010 GaGa was named one of Polaroid’s Chief Creative Officers.   The buzz on the internet alone was enough to get the world talking about Polaroid.  After details of their Tokyo meetings were released, and prototypes were unveiled at CES 2011, again GaGa’s Little Monsters are itching for the camera’s release.  A new lease on life for a seemingly forgotten and obsolete company in the digital age.

Apart from the irresistible music and the online domination, GaGa is actually making a difference in the world.  Her philanthropic list is growing almost daily, most notably her collaboration with MAC for their VIVA GLAM campaign.  She speaks out in favour of equal rights around the world, particularly for the gay community.  Her influence is impressive.  She’s an icon to a community where she technically isn’t even a member.  And she’s got a track record that supports her ability to make change.  She’s even listed as one of Forbes 100 Most Powerful Celebrities in the world!

Lady GaGa has managed to gain a physical grasp on the intangible.  Love her or hate her, it’s very obvious that this girl from New York City is 100% not going anywhere.  Put your paws up!

Privacy Settings: Personal or Nationwide

     

Censorship runs rampant in our lives.  What is censored?  Oh right, everything.  No swearing on television, radio edits for songs, some video stores only have family friendly versions of Hollywood films available for rental.  We bitch and we complain about how we can’t have everything we want, but how quickly, in North America, we forget just how good we have it.  We have access to a nearly uncensored world of wonder with a simple click of a button.  On the World Wide Web, we can see, hear and experience pretty much anything, with nearly no worry. 

As social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter become as commonplace in our lives as actual social events, users have begun to censor themselves.  Adjusting privacy settings on user profiles goes hand in hand with having membership to these sites.  Taking control of what you share on Facebook seems to have become an obsession for some.  Don’t look good in that photo?  Untag it!  Don’t want co-workers to read wall posts about the wild weekend?  Put them on the no-view list!  It’s become so easy to stop sharing information with the world, on sites that were actually designed to share information with the world, that social networking sites are sort of making themselves obsolete.

While all of this is happening here in North America, cast your thoughts across either ocean, to countries like China, North Korea or Saudi Arabia (and that’s naming just a few).  Living in these countries means you have no choice but to be censored.  In Mainland China the censorship has gone as far as Google being blocked from usage.  That includes Gmail folks.  Watching a video on YouTube?  Good luck.  Updating your Facebook status?  Forget about it!

Here in North America, while we’re obsessing over a self-imposed vanilla version of online censorship, people around the world are unable to even access many of these websites.  While the internet has the ability to open many doors for us, those doors have been slammed shut in the faces of users in countries where censorship is imposed by leaders rather than the users themselves.

You Can Get Anything on the Internet.

As long as someone is talking about you, you’re obviously somewhat important.  This phrase has become quite literal as of late.  When looking for the next singing sensation, nobody would have dreamt crooning teens would be discovered on, of all places, YouTube.  The fact of the matter is putting a video online can create stardom overnight.  We are living in the age of the Internet Celebrity.

Because the internet is so diverse in content, it gives people a chance to showcase pretty much every talent imaginable.  Blogging, art, video, singing, or just a highly opinionated rant can draw attention from thousands of internet users who have nothing better to do.

In 2005, Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr. started a blog all about the comings and goings of celebrity life.  After a dispute about the name PageSixSixSix.com he renamed the blog, and himself, Perez Hilton and history was made.  He and his blog became notorious in Hollywood.  Stars feared him, for the usual gossip related issues, but also for his, sometimes frightening, keen sense for an “outing”.  Closeted gay celebrity population beware…  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right?  He is now seen at as many celebrity events as his namesake Paris, and ratting someone out is a little harder when they’re your bestie, isn’t it?

Where would little Justin Bieber be without YouTube?  Probably in Stratford, working at McDonalds.  Thanks to his mother posting all those videos of him on the internet, his discovery by Usher has made him into the biggest teen idol in the world.  The internet obsession with the Biebs has not ended though.  Striking quite the sour note with a whole lot of people, fabricated stories of his death, fake pornographic photos and other such nonsense pop up online all the time.  Even if they don’t like, people are still talking about him!

YouTube is littered with viral videos.  Nichole337, adorable Japanese dogs, and my personal favourite, Antoine Dodson.  Whether it’s shameless self-promotion, or a news report turned into a ridiculous song, the power of streaming video has really given anyone the ability to become an overnight sensation.  Whether their celebrity status is warranted is up for debate.  Although we help make that decision, sometimes it feels like the opinion of one person doesn’t really change the bigger picture, and you’ve got to admit, that Bed Intruder song is damn catchy.

Romancing the Media

The world we live in is ever changing.  Electric cars, new medical technology, robots, even the most frivolous of things like video games seem to be unstoppable, thanks to the swift pace of technological advancement.  At the forefront of the tech-race are the internet and social media.

In their younger days social media sites, like Friendster and Facebook, were used merely to chat or plan parties while teenager’s parents were away.  They have now become a method of interaction among people worldwide.  In the 2011 Arab revolutions and revolts activists used “Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate and YouTube to tell the world.”

Casting your mind back, about 30 years, many of you can remember the marriage of Prince Charles and Diana.  As a televised event, 750 million viewers worldwide bore witness to the exchanging of vows.  In 2011, thanks to the internet and social media, one can only imagine how many viewers the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton will draw.   The internet just won’t shut up about the wedding!  Every 10 seconds it is mentioned online.  The guest list for the Royal Wedding is around 1900 which seems a bit much, but considering this is the future King and Queen, it’s not actually that steep.  While this is the actual guest list for the event, the entire world is invited through a live streaming video feed online.  Estimated “attendance” is several hundred million of their closest friends and relatives.

Whether used as a tool for change, planning that sweet kegger or inviting the entire world to be a part of your special day, social media has become one of the most powerful tools in marketing and an integral part of our lives.