Posts tagged with "Social media"

Neuroscientist calls ‘Blue Monday’ idea ‘rubbish’

January 21, 2020

If you’ve heard that the third Monday in January—January 20 this year and known as “Blue Monday”—is the saddest day of the year, or that through some dark magic the date has power over your life or mood; don’t believe it, Canoe reports.

The idea of Blue Monday first surfaced in 2005, when a UK-based company called Sky Travel identified the date using an equation relied on variables such as weather, debt, time since Christmas, and time since failure of new year’s resolutions. Since then, the notion has become a popular hook for publicists promoting everything from retail to vacation therapies.

But it’s not a real thing, experts say.

In fact, neuroscientist Dr, Dean Burnett of Wales told Canoe that he was forced to become a reluctant, but tireless, warrior fighting what he calls the “ludicrous” concept of Blue Monday after being quoted without context in an article about the day some years ago.

Burnett calls the equation, and the whole concept, “rubbish.”

“It’s not a thing,” said Burnett. “This nonsensical equation was made up by a travel company to encourage people to take more holidays this time of year, and they found an academic to put his name to it.”

Burnett, who has spent years working in psychiatry and has an extensive background in mental health, told the Toronto-based news outlet,  “There is no such thing as a 24-hour depression, like a flu. Mental health just doesn’t work that way and the idea that it does is actually quite harmful.”

Nonetheless, the idea gets a lot of traction through social media.

“It’s a work of genius: Mid-January everyone is a bit bleak. If you are led to believe it’s the most depressing day of the year, it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. Any other day you might not give any attention to the little negative things that happen, but, ‘Oh, it’s Blue Monday’ legitimizes focusing on it,” Burnett said.

He hopes to turn the day around and use it to promote mental health by encouraging people to support mental-health charities, as he is doing through a gofundme page entitled “Rethink Blue Monday.

“If we can associate it with a more genuinely positive thing, then we can help redirect it to something more positive. Mental health is an ongoing problem, not something that happens one day a year,” Burnett told Canoe.

Research contact: @canoe

National Lampoon returns with ‘Radio Hour’ podcast, but no Trump jokes

December 18, 2019

The relaunch of National Lampoon—the famed comedy studio for live performances, films, TV, social media, and audio productions—begins in earnest this week with the December 19 debut of National Lampoon Radio Hour, a sketch comedy podcast written and performed by Cole Escola, Jo Firestone, and clutch of rising-star comedians, Variety reports.

On the latest episode of Variety‘s Strictly Business podcast, National Lampoon President Evan Shapiro—hired last May to revive the brand—discusses the guiding principles behind the comeback of a phenomenon that was a primal force in the careers of Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Bill Murray, John Hughes, Christopher Guest, Harold Ramis, Michael O’Donoghue and other heavyweights.

The company founded in 1970 as a humor magazine by Harvard Lampoon alumni—and later, expanded into a radio sketch comedy series, albums, and live stage shows.

As industry legend goes, the founders of National Lampoon turned down the offer from Lorne Michaels to develop the original “Radio Hour” into a TV series. That prompted Michaels to hire away many from the Lampoon stable to kickstart Saturday Night Live for NBC in 1975.

Given National Lampoon’s history with the Radio Hour, a podcast made sense to start a new era for the company. During the interview recorded in the comedy performance space at Brooklyn’s famed Union Hall, Shapiro also shared a clip from the new-model  Radio Hour—featuring a spoof of ABC’s enduring reality series The Bachelorette.

Video of the podcast performers in action on each episode will be uploaded to National Lampoon’s YouTube channel — a precursor to what Shapiro hopes will be a TV development pact for the property, Variety reports. Shapiro sees the podcast and YouTube offshoot as a handy way to “monetize the development process.”

The industry news outlet says the podcast also takes a cue from the Lampoon’s past by offering promising young comedians “a safe haven and format where they can really do anything,” Shapiro says. “It’s a platform to critique and satirize mainstream culture.”

The company now aims to integrate itself back into the cutting-edge comedy world with the podcast, live shows around the country and at a dedicated performance space in New York, and a host of film and TV projects in development.

“We want to be the brand that people want to wear on their chest,” Shapiro said. The live component of the comedy business gives them an opening to become part of what Shapiro sees as “the comedy lifestyle” for hard-core fans of standup, improve, and sketch troupes. “Media brands that have engaged communities, ones that are sustained over time — those are going to be the truly successful media enterprises” of the future, he said.

One thing listeners won’t hear on “Radio Hour,” which is set for an 11-episode initial run as weekly installments, is an avalanche of Trump-related humor. True to the spirit of the company that generated such box office smashes in 1978’s Animal House and the Chevy Chase-led Vacation movie franchise, National Lampoon aims to offer a “twisted mainstream” skewering of contemporary culture. But it will not be overtly political — an edgy choice, given the environment.

“We are going to take on culture, not politics,” Shapiro said. “We’re holding up a mirror to the culture that needs to know that those jeans do make your ass look fat.”

Research contact: @Variety

Why Facebook may know when you last had sex

September 11, 2019

Did you think that you and your partner or spouse were the only ones who knew (maybe, aside from your next-door neighbors) when you two last had sex? Wrong. Facebook may know, too, according to a September 9 report in The New York Times. And they also may know when it’s “that time of the month.”

How is that possible?

According to the UK-based privacy watchdog, Privacy International, at least two menstruation- and ovulation-tracking apps, Maya and MIA Fem, have shared intimate details of users’ sexual health with Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform, as well as other entities.

In some cases, the data shared with external social media (which are self-recorded by users in the app) included:

  • When a user last had sex,
  • The type of contraception used,
  • Her mood, and
  • Whether she was ovulating.

The Times notes, “The findings raise questions about the security of our most private information in an age where employers, insurers, and advertisers can use data to discriminate or target certain categories of people.”

The information was shared with the social media giant via the Facebook Software Development Kit, a product that allows developers to create apps for specific operating systems, track analytics, and monetize their apps through Facebook’s advertising network. Privacy International found that Maya and MIA began sharing data with Facebook as soon as a user installed the app on her phone and opened it, even before a privacy policy was signed.

Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne told the new outlet that advertisers did not have access to the sensitive health information shared by these apps. In a statement, he said Facebook’s ad system “does not leverage information gleaned from people’s activity across other apps or websites” when advertisers choose target users by interestBuzzFeed first reported the news.

However, the fact is that today, many apps still are not subject to the same rules as most health data.

Some of the apps even have come under scrutiny as powerful monitoring tools for employers and health insurers, which have aggressively pushed to gather more data about their workers’ lives than ever before under the banner of corporate wellness. Plus, it appears the data could be shared more broadly than many users recognize, as flagged by the Privacy International study.

Several period- and pregnancy-tracking apps have been called out for sharing health data with women’s employers and insurance companies, as well as for security flaws that reveal intimate information, the Times reports.

Deborah C. Peel, a psychiatrist and founder of the nonprofit Patient Privacy Rights, based in Austin, Texas,  told the Times that people expect their health data to be protected by the same laws that protect their health information in a doctors office, but that many apps aren’t subject to the same rules.

“Most people would want to make their own decisions about what’s known about their sex life, about whether it’s shared or not,” said Peel. “Right now we have no ability to do that.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Cheap thrills: Dollar General’s new $5 beauty brand is going viral

September 10, 2019

Fashionistas, take note: There’s a new brand in the beauty business—and it’s not sold at swanky cosmetics counters for big bucks, or at drugstores, either.

Launched last spring, Dollar General’s humble, $5-and-under Believe Beauty cosmetics line is available at the chain’s 15,000 locations nationwide—and it has gone viral, thanks to the raves of social media beauty bloggers.

According to a report by CNN, Dollar General partnered with a beauty manufacturer on the private-label line of lipsticks, eye shadows, foundations, nail polishes, and skin care essentials; and is giving it prime real estate at stores: It’s displaying the 150-product collection in dedicated sections at the end of store aisles, making it easy for customers to find.

The aspirational brand is “an important part of our strategy,” CEO Todd Vasos told the network news outlet.

Dollar General executives say they developed the brand to bolster the company’s hold on existing customers and improve its thin profit margins. Dollar General also hopes to draw Millennials with the brand. Millennials probably won’t post online about snacks or a new mop they bought at Dollar General, but they love showing off their new makeup online, CNN notes.

Dozens of Believe reviews on by beauty vloggers on YouTube already have racked up hundreds of thousands of page views. One 16-minute YouTube review from a beauty vlogger has 125,000 views. Instagram is flooded with more than 3,000 posts using “#believebeauty.”

All that social media attention means free advertising for Dollar General. It boosts the company’s image with younger shoppers and is helping lift the dollar-store empire.

“People like those kind of videos because it’s something different,” Taylor Horn, a blogger who reviewed Believe on her YouTube channel, told CNN Business. Her channel has more than 750,000 followers.

“It’s cool when lines like Believe Beauty launch, where it’s accessible,” she said. “I think it’s more achievable and the things that your everyday consumer can afford.”

Dollar General is following a similar strategy to Walgreens, Target, Zara, Forever 21 and even 7-Eleven, CNN points out. These companies have all added their own in-house cosmetics lines in recent years.

Research contact: @CNN

Fat cat finds foster family

September 3, 2019

There’s just more of him to love. Mr. B., a 26-pound cat who was surrendered to the Morris Animal Refuge in Philadelphia, finally has found a foster home.

The shelter received more than 3,000 adoption applications after it posted Mr. B’s plight on social media—tweeting, “OMG, big boi…is a chonk of a chonk. He redefines the term. …Can you give him a home?”

In fact, MSN reports, the tweet was shared more 14,000 times and became the subject of numerous headlines as people fell hard for the chunky Mr. B.

After the two-year-old feline was placed in a loving home, the shelter sent its thanks on August 22, tweeting, “Sweet chunky Mr. B’s amazed by the huge outpawing of interest in him.”

The shelter said on its website that it will continue to work with Mr. B’s new foster family to help resolve the cat’s health and behavioral issues so that they might eventually offer him a permanent home.

“While the goal is to make this Mr. B’s forever home, the family will be able to provide him with a safe and comfortable environment while we learn more about him and his needs,” the Morris Animal Refuge website said.

The shelter also revealed that Mr. B’s viral post helped bring in over $1,800 in donations and the shelter has sold more than 400 Mr. B CHONK shirts.

Morris Animal Refuge has not divulged either the name or location of the foster family, in order to allow them some privacy and the opportunity to bond with Mr. B.

Research contact: @MorrisAnimal

Last licks: Woman caught on social media licking store ice cream and putting it back faces years in jail

July 8, 2019

A woman who licked more than her lips at a Walmart store may find herself in the “cooler” soon. The “mystery shopper” (who has not yet been identified by authorities) went viral on social media recently for licking a tub of ice cream and returning it to the frozen food display.

Now police say that, when they find her, she faces up to 20 years in prison for the prank, according to a July 4 report by NBC News.

The footage of the escapade—which already has been viewed more than 11 million times— shows the so-far unnamed woman opening a container, running her tongue across the ice cream; then laughing as she places the violated dessert back in the freezer, in a branch of Walmart in the city of Lufkin, eastern Texas.

She could face a second-degree felony charge of tampering with a consumer product, the Lufkin, Texas, Police Department said in an email statement to NBC News. The charge comes with a two- to 20-year prison term and up to $10,000 in fines, according to Texas state penal code.

Police also want to speak to the man she was with, who is thought to have filmed the incident and can be heard encouraging the woman to “Lick it, lick it.”

According to NBC, investigators also are in discussions with the FDA and additional federal charges could be made.

“Our detectives are working to verify the identity of the female suspect before a warrant is issued for her arrest on a charge of second-degree felony tampering with a consumer product,” a police spokesperson said.

“As that portion of the investigation continues, detectives are focusing on identifying the male (in the green shirt) behind the camera seen in images of the two entering the store together.”

Blue Bell Creameries, the local manufacturer of the ice cream brand the woman licked, has called the incident a “malicious act of food tampering.”

All tubs containing the mix of creamy vanilla ice cream with swirls of chocolate fudge and dark-chocolate-covered roasted peanuts have been removed from the store’s shelves as a precaution, the company said. The specific carton believed to be compromised was found among the lot.

In an earlier statement, the company explained that its cartons are frozen upside down in production, which creates a natural, tight seal by freezing the lid to the tub, meaning consumers would notice if any tampering occurred upon opening a fresh tub.

Research contact: @NBCNews

If this optical illusion seems to be moving, you are stressed out

June 20, 2019

Many of us remember mood rings, which peaked in popularity in the 1970s. When worn, the rings purportedly revealed your state of mind by turning colors—from violet for happy and romantic, to blue for calm and relaxed, to yellow/amber for tense and excited, to brown/gray for nervous and anxious.

Now, an optical illusion that is trending on social media supposedly serves the same purpose.

Some say that the image was created by a Japanese neurologist; others claim that Ukranian artist Yurii Perepadia revealed the secret optical illusion and posted it on Instagram.

Whomever the progenitor may be, India Today made the image famous, and it also has appeared on MSN, as well as on the sites of thousands of obsessed social media fans.

If the image remains firmly fixed in place, you are calm; if it moves slightly, you are stressed—and it it moves like a carousel, you are very stressed.

Research contact: @yurrii_p

Postpartum support: It takes a village—or a ‘rubber corset’

May 31, 2019

Recently, a photo surfaced on Jessica Simpson’s Instagram page of the singer—who gave birth to her third child, daughter Birdie May Johnson, a little less than two months ago—relying on a novel “support system,” as she starts to get back into shape.

In the post, Women’s Health reports, Jessica shares a picture of herself hitting the street to exercise wearing black leggings, a black top, and something else that’s apparently not visible onscreen: a corset.

 “Just stretching it out in my rubber corset,” Jess captions the photo, adding, “The joys of postpartum.”

In my what? This looks like something we would read about on Goop!

The rubber corset to which Jessica refers is most likely a type of postpartum or belly wrap—a product that, for generations, women have worn for support after childbirth, according to What To Expect.

Such wraps not only offer new moms the opportunity to look a little more “streamlined” after the birthing experience, but they also serve a medical purpose: to help support the muscles and abdominal organs postpartum, according to What To Expect.

In fact, a study conducted in 2010 and published in Physiotherapy Canada found that postpartum wrapping could help women walk farther and get back on their feet sooner. Another study, published in the International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, found that some women who wrapped themselves experienced less pain and bleeding after having a C-section.

Postpartum wraps come in all kinds of materials and sizes: As What To Expect notes, they can be made of an elastic material that’s closed with Velcro, or they might be made of latex or other stiff materials, like the one Jess wears in her photo. The amount of compression a wrap provides can vary, too: While some are gentle, others can aggressively cinch the waist, with the purpose of changing its appearance (in Kardashian fashion).

A word to the wise:  Get a thumbs-up from your doctor before wearing any such gear—and to make sure the device is also approved for pregnant women (i.e., not just a standard corset to wear underneath formal wear).

Research contact: @WomensHealthMag

Mutt shots: Snapchat offers lenses for dogs

December 27, 2018

The Internet already is a dog-eat-dog world, with pooches worldwide vying for “top dog” (and top money) on such sites as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Now, Snapchat has introduced special lenses that will help proud owners to digitally dress up their hounds for the holidays in reindeer ears, eyeglasses, pepperoni pizzas, and even butterflies.

To try them out, PC Magazine advises, simply open the Snapchat camera and press on the screen to open the lens carousel, as usual. Scroll through the carousel until you find a lens with a little blue pawprint icon on it, aim your camera at your dog, and prepare to say “aww.”

Dog lovers have been “barking mad” since October, when Snapchat brought cat-friendly lenses to its platform, but left out filters for Fido. With both available as of this week, we can expect more varieties (and maybe a few filters for our iguanas and parrots?).

Appealing to dog and cat owners might just help Snapchat offset declining user engagement on the platform, PC Magazine reports. The company also recently introduced Snap Originals, five-minute exclusive shows that feature new episodes everyday. Originals can be found in the “Discover” section of the app or via Snapchat search.

Research contact: @Snapchat

Who are ‘influencers’ and how do they get paid?

December 17, 2018

If you enter the hashtag #influencer on Instagram, you’ll quickly navigate to a page with nearly 10 million posts. But that’s only the tip of the influencer iceberg, so to speak. According to Mediakix, there will be 21.7 million brand-sponsored influencer posts on Instagram by the end of the year—and 32.3 million by the end of 2019.

From micro-influencers making $50 per post to Instagram superstars like singer Ariana Grande , who command half a million dollars per post, the Instagram influencer market runs the gamut in terms of following, audience, and engagement; and it has even the biggest brands buying in. AdidasSamsungAmerican ExpressMicrosoft, and many more are finding ways to partner with Instagram influencers to reach their audiences and create new ones.

But how do you get started? In the case of Amber Venz (#venzedits), who spoke to CNN for a December 12 report, by the time she was in high school, she was designing and selling jewelry. And by the time she was 23, Venz was running a website that showcased her work as a personal shopper

 “I posted three times a day, and it was like trend stories and sale alerts,” Venz told the network news outlet.

Within a few months, the site was generating so much buzz around her hometown of Dallas that The Dallas Morning News ran a full-page story about her site. “It said ‘Meet the Blogger… She is now doing all these services online for free.’ My blog actually became quite famous,” she says.

But the “for free” part irked her. According to the CNN rags-to-riches tale, Baxter Box (who was her boyfriend at the time and is now her husband) got her thinking about how she could make money from the “free” fashion and style tips she was offering on her site. That’s when they came up with RewardStyle, an invitation-only platform that allows fashion and lifestyle bloggers and influencers to make money from the content they post.

Created in 2010, the company website says, “RewardStyle influencers have exclusive access to an innovative ecosystem of monetization tools, a global network of 4,500+ retail partners, and tailored growth services-all designed to power the monetization of your content.”

Today, the website has formed a global community of more than 250 team members, 30,000 top-tier influencers, and 1 million brand partners across more than 100 countries.

“With a proprietary ecosystem of innovative technology, strategic growth consulting, global brand partnerships, and expansive consumer distribution, we’re doing more than just monetizing the industry—we’re defining it,” Venez claims.

Here’s how it works, CNN reports: Bloggers write a post or post a photo on social media and hyperlink to a particular brand or retailer’s web site. If a person clicks on the link and purchases the featured product, then the blogger gets a commission. Venz says the commissions vary depending on the brand, but are typically between 10% and 20%.

RewardStyle gets a cut as well, but Venz wouldn’t disclose how much the company makes each time an influencer helps make a sale. “Everyone only gets paid when a consumer actually makes a purchase and the retailer is paid. It is all commission-based,” she said.

“These are primarily women who love fashion or interiors or talking about their family or their fitness routines and they have attracted an audience that loves their point of view and comes to their content on a daily basis,” says Venz. “We’ve given them a way to monetize that.”

And 4,500 brands, including Walmart, CVS, Amazon and Gucci, also use the platform, which has racked up $3.8 billion in total sales since it was founded.

Despite the company’s success, Venz told the news outlet that wants to keep innovating. “We are not low on ideas. So the thinking that we’ve peaked early is honestly not something that’s crossed my mind,” she says.

In 2017, for example, the business introduced a consumer shopping app called LIKEtoKNOW.it. The app lets users take a screenshot of content anywhere on the internet created by an influencer. RewardStyle will then send them links to buy the products that appear in the screenshot. The app has 2 million users and has generated $210 million in sales for its retail partners so far.

“One of the things I love about RewardStyle is that it is empowering thousands of women to do the thing I always wanted to do, which was work in the fashion and media industry,” says Venz.

Research contact: @rewardStyle