The Importance of Digital Literacy

Lynda Hall calls for digital literacy on the web and why it is important for people to understand how to use digital platforms successfully. If someone is considered digitally literate, I think that they should be able to effectively communicate with a large group of people through principles of visual design, stylized writing, and ethics. Since people mainly skim read on the Internet, it is important for the author to grab the readers’ eye at any time possible. It is important to strategically plan one’s webpage to make it easy to navigate and intriguing. For me, if a website is aesthetically pleasing, I trust it and will read it. When people have a sense of who you are through your writing style and personality, they will trust you and read your work. The most important aspect of being digitally literate is being an ethical writer. For me, being an ethical writer can cover anywhere from plagiarism to cyber bullying. It is important to realize that there is someone who your words affect behind another computer screen. In order to be a good writer, you have to consider other’s feelings and the ethics of blogging and creating a video or podcast. These three criteria for being digitally literate can expand to any media platform and they should be considered during every step of creation.

Whether it is the opening shot of a film, or the background noise in a podcast, creativity and ethics must go hand in hand to make any digital platform successful. For me, ethics were considered at the beginning and end of every project. With my blog and personal video, I called out a lot of people for their hygienic habits. I had to ask myself, “Will this be hurting anyone or embarrassing them publicly?” I asked everyone’s permission before using their names to avoid any negative consequences of my posts. I considered ethics at the end of every project to make sure I didn’t plagiarize anyone else’s work while researching for my project. Out of all the media platforms we learned about this semester, blogging was probably my favorite. I really enjoyed finding my own creative voice and pairing it with visuals to tell a story. I think that I organized my blog posts pretty well and made them aesthetically pleasing and easy to read. I really invested time into my website and Linked-in with the hope that employers could see the strengths that I have gained from this class. I am more of a visual person and creating videos and podcasts that focused on sound was really hard for me. I could have spent more time making sure my audio was purposeful and organized. I had a hard time with planning interviews and recording because you only get one shot to get it right. Videos and podcasts are a lot harder to edit than a written blog post.

Branding is how businesses, peers, and your audience view you.

The most important skill in this class that I learned is how to engage your audience. Anyone can blog and make videos, but it is hard to catch your audience’s attention with so much competing information on the Internet. I learned many tools like how people scan websites in a “F” formation or how people ignore visuals on a web page, unlike in a book. It’s better to bullet point and split up texts with sub heads. All of these facts are helpful tools to get the reader’s attention. Once you have their attention, that is when you can sell them your product, idea, or brand. I want to go into marketing or brand management and this class helped prepare me for that.


Furman Traditions

Traditions are a cherished aspect of Furman’s culture. They bring together alumni and current students and celebrate Furman’s uniqueness. Olivia Kent, Caroline Terry, and I created a video to highlight some our favorite traditions and show alumni and current students that Furman’s traditions are still alive and rich. Enjoy!

How To Create A Successful Website

Two important things to think about when creating a website is your personal brand and the accessibility of your website. When people look at your site, you want

Visit Nar Costa's site for more information
Visit Nar Costa’s site for more information

them to be able to get a feel for who you are. Blogger Nur Costa says, “Self branding, therefore, is more than our own image and identity. It is everything that will allow you to differentiate and position yourself through communication, networking, presence and visibility”. It helps you communicate with your viewer and get your name out.

The accessibility of your website is important also. If it is hard to navigate and find information from, people won’t come back to it. In “Elements of The User Experience”, Garrett writes about why it is important to have an easily accessible website. He says, “the user experience is the experience the product creates for the people who use it in the real world.” The functionality and aesthetics of a website go hand in hand. A website must be functional and easy to navigate, but also interesting and aesthetically pleasing. If it isn’t easy to access, the user will feel stupid even if it isn’t their fault if the website has glitches or is confusing. Even though new web designs and options for the viewer are great when creating a website, simplicity and easy access should be the priority. Garrett says, “the practice of creating engaging, efficient user experiences is called user-centered design. The concept of user-centered design is very simple: take the user into account every step of the way as you develop your product.” If a website is easy to operate then it increases the viewers efficiency and they will return more often. In order to get followers on your site it is important that you think about how they interact with you and your website. Having a properly branded and easily accessed site will help make any site successful.

Bivin’s on Ethics in Journalism

People don’t realize how their words can hurt others, especially in journalism. People really only consider if there actions will hurt others if they can link their actions to a direct consequence. Linking helps writers conceptualize primary relationships or obligations based on consequences. Journalists have an obligation to themselves, their employers and their viewers. Sometimes these obligations can conflict.

Let’s take Gossip Girl for example. Dan had a responsibility to his viewers to keep posting the juicy gossip of Constance. But he also had a responsibility to Serena, his girlfriend. He had obligations to both, but chose his viewers over Serena as he posted gossip that hurt her.

Gossip Girl Cast

William Ross believes obligation can be used to further identify those linkages and assign ethical, rather than functional, priority to status. Pre-established obligational relationships may be altered or even overridden by issue related obligations. An example could be a newspapers responsibility to create profit verses their obligation to inform readers. Another dilemma could stem from whether writers should give readers the information they want or the information they need. Fidelity to an ideal or professional standard may weigh more than economic conditions

Bivin’s says, “Some people say that journalists are and should be free from any o obligation save that of providing the news. By providing the new, they are serving the public interest—and that is responsibility enough.”

Regardless of journalist’s obligations, journalists have a sense of social responsibility. James Grunig states three categories of social responsibility:

  1. Organization performs most basic task (gathering and giving news)
  2. Clean up potential consequences (Responding to complaints)
  3. General societal concerns (hunger)

Even if some people don’t feel a social responsibility when they write an editorial or post something on Facebook, their post will affect someone in some shape or way. It is important to think about the consequences of everything you post.

Talk Dirty (about germs) To Me

As we briefly discussed in my first blog post, people have different ideas about washing their hands and their own personal hygiene. This is all fine and dandy when we are talking about someone washing their clothes or taking a shower, but everyone needs to be on the same page about washing their hands:


More people don’t wash their hands than you would think.

My intent in this blog post is not to make anyone feel uncomfortable or call anyone out, but to educate people on why it is important to wash their hands. I believe that personal hygiene should be just that: personal. However often someone wants to wash their clothes and shower is up to them. But not-washing your hands puts other people in danger because you are spreading your own feces to different surfaces and people, whether you mean to or not. In study of over 100,000 people conducted by the company “Initial Washroom Hygiene“, it was found that 62% of men and 40% of women don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. With the hygiene hypothesis set aside, it is my opinion that everyone should wash their hands with soap and water for the health of everyone around them. Germs stemming from feces are easily transferrable by contact and respiratory interaction. In order to put hand washing in perspective here are some scientific and not so scientific reasons why you are getting sick:

Feces  (aka. poop, poo-poo, hell’s candy, or whatever you want to call it) seems to be the main reason for any average Joe’s sickness. Germs from  feces can pretty much cover your day to day exposure to Salmonella, E. coli O157, norovirus  (also commonly known as food poisoning) and adenovirus, which can be spread through the air. Adenovirus is usually what people worry about during flu season. This poop stemming virus can cause:

  • Common cold
  • Sore throat (pharyngitis)
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Diarrhea
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
  • Fever
  • Bladder inflammation or infection (cystitis)
  • Inflammation of stomach and intestines (gastroenteritis)
  • Neurologic disease

So the next next time you have pink eye, just know that it is because you probably have some strangers poop in your eye. (I am sorry for giving you that image.)

Germs can be where you least expect them.

There are germs on everything: shopping carts, cell phones, sinks, etc. According to a 2007 study in the Journal of Environmental Health, nearly 70% of the lemon wedges sitting on glass rims in restaurants contain fecal matter. People touch these things, and then the germs are transferred onto their hands.  People are always touching their eyes, nose, and mouth and don’t even realize it. The spread of germs can easily be decreased if people would just wash their hands after they used the restroom. It can be your personal preference to not wash your own hands, but it isn’t fair to those who prefer to have feces-free hands. Both washing your hands and showering are personal choices, but not washing your hands hurts other people.

Most people don’t realize that your day to day cold and sicknesses are stemming straight from poop. So if everyone washed their hands right after they use the restroom, the spread of poop could be easily decreased. I interviewed Furman students to get a feel of Furman’s “poop spreading” culture in the video below.

How Often Should You Wash Your Jeans?

According to Huffington Post, an average pair of jeans consumes roughly 3,500 liters of water — and that is after only two years of use, washing the jeans once a week. Levi Strauss & Co., along with other name brand jeans, are making efforts to make their clothing more sustainable. In other words, Levi’s jeans will be made to be washed less, last longer, and the color to hold. When you wash your jeans less, you save time, money, and the environment.

Levi’s Conservation Effort

Almost all jeans have been washed while they are being fitted, so you don’t need to wash them before you wear them the first time. Chemicals in your detergent fade the color in your jeans, so it is best to let them air hang even if they don’t pass the sniff test. If you let them air out in between wears, the jeans will stretch to custom fit your body. Most jeans are elastic enough now that you don’t need to wash them to shrink them back to their original size. CNN says some alternatives to washing your jeans are spot washing them with a toothbrush or even freezing them to kill bacteria. As a rule of thumb, according to Mary Bruno head of J. Brand design, you should wash your jeans after four or five wears.

You won’t only be conserving your jeans by washing them less. According to Energy Star, the average household does almost 400 loads of laundry each year, consuming about 13,500 gallons of water. When you wash your clothes less by wearing them more than once, you will save energy and water usage, not to mention time. Even if you just use a washer and not a dryer, you are saving money and energy. Your dryers is the second highest energy consumer in your household according to the US Department of Energy. You will spend around $96 per year on using energy for your dyer alone. No matter how you decide to clean your jeans, you will be saving water, money, and your jeans if you don’t wash or dry them after every wear. It’s a win-win.

In the video below, Levi Strauss talks about the company’s sustainability efforts and how often people should actually wash their jeans.

How To Conduct a Successful Interview Using Audio

People have the attention span of about 15 seconds, or the time of a sound bite. This means that writers need to catch their audiences’ attention quickly and effectively. J. Carl Ganter and Eileen E. Ganter’s article “Sound in the Story” says that the writer must appeal to the audience’s emotions by effectively tying in audio, videography, and photography to a story. Audio can add another dimension to the story telling by helping the reader feel present at the setting being portrayed.

Audio Techniques
Audio Techniques  (Image Source)

When recording interviews, the interviewer must focus on listening. You will want to record your interviewer in a really quiet place to cut down on distractions. You want the microphone to be about four inches or a fist length distance from his or her face. Be sure that the microphone is very still because you don’t want handling noise. You should try to engage in conversation with the interviewee so that they forget that they are being interviewed. They should feel very comfortable. Engage in conversation but don’t let your preconceived ideas over power the interviewee’s voice. The focus is on their thoughts and not your own.

Before you interview your subject, fully understand what they want to talk about. Make sure they know the story you are covering and the background to it. During the interview start with warm up questions; then you can feel it out from there. Sometimes they can talk about themselves for hours, but sometimes you will have to refer to your planned questions. Next, go back through your interview and double check on background information and key facts to make sure your story is valid and trustworthy.

Audio adds credibility to a story because you are hearing someone actually speaking. Once you gain a reader’s trust, they are more likely to keep reading the story. Audio can help the writer fight for the readers’ attention if used properly.


Is There Such A Thing As Too Clean?

There are so many unnecessary primping and “cleansing” chemicals that go into a girl’s shower basket. Most of which is actually harmful. I would like to preface this post by saying that everyone has different hygienic needs, and these tips won’t be the best routine for everyone. Societal norms are the reasoning behind most of our routines, even though most of these habits are bad for us.

Here are some tips for a healthier shower routine:

Showering too frequently can dry out your skin and hair.
Showering too frequently can dry out your skin and hair.

1. You don’t need to shower everyday. According to Dr. Joshua Zeichner and Dr. Ranella Hirsch, most people only need to shower every 2 to 3 days. This keeps your skins’ natural oils in balance. Now, just think about all the things you will save by showering only when you need to: water, time, and money on the water bill, shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc. Emma Cook, a sustainability and biology major at Furman, is an example of someone who doesn’t shower everyday, but you would never be able to tell. Emma confessed that she hadn’t showered in two days, even after hittin’ the gym. Emma says, “Over the summer my showers were a quick dip in the ocean.” She would use the ocean water as body wash and shampoo. Emma proves that you don’t have to shower everyday to be fully functional in a clean society.

2. Hot water and soap can dry out your skin. When you use harsh soaps on your body it strips your bodies natural oils. Hot water also dries out your skin and leaves it rough and crackly. Leah Smith, my roommate, doesn’t believe in soap (like I said in my last post). She uses run off shampoo to clean her body and thinks plain ol’ water is strong enough to do the trick. Leah rinses off in the shower twice a day, and her soap-free cleansing routine works for her (and for our friendship). Even though I personally enjoy using soap, it isn’t a necessity. Even if you aren’t showering and washing your body everyday, you can still towel down the smelly places on your body.

3.  Shampoo can dry out your hair if you use it too often. Girls are starting to learn that shampooing your hair everyday and not using conditioner can strip your hair of its natural oils. You want to avoid chemicals like sulfur in your shampoo. Once I switched to a less harsh shampoo and washed my hair every 2 or 3 days, my hair become so much healthier.

Most people are taught to shower everyday and don’t realize the damage it does to your body. I think less is more, especially when considering that 26 seconds is all it takes for chemicals in your personal care items to enter your blood stream. So think carefully about what you are using as shampoo and body wash.

Collage credits: Dry Skin Image, Dry Hair Image, Child Showering Image, Dirty Hand Image

Personal Hygiene: What’s Hot and What’s Not?

There are two sides to every story. Some people say that the less you wash your hands, the more immunity you will have to harmful germs when they come your way.

Hygiene Hypothesis

There was a whole study done on this called the hygiene hypothesis. The hygiene hypothesis states that young children should be exposed to harmful germs related to allergies in order to build an immunity to them later on in life. I have asked Furman students about their hand washing regimen and shower schedules and how they relate to how often they got sick.

Credit: Kincy Gibson
What are you putting in your body?  Photo by Kincy Gibson


Brilliance or B.S.?

Everyone views correct personal hygiene differently and hygiene varies from person to person. Here is what some students said:

Chris Sherman, a junior at Furman University, says he washes his hands after he uses the restroom and occasionally before he eats. He doesn’t get sick very often but thinks that people need to defend themselves against germs by using soap. He thinks that hand sanitizer and antibiotics are hurting people in the long run by making bacteria stronger and humans’ immune systems weaker. He didn’t necessarily believe the hygiene hypothesis, unlike Leah Smith.

Leah, a sophomore at Furman and my roommate, showers twice a day everyday, but doesn’t believe in soap. When she was younger, bugs would fly out of the soap dispenser at her school and she hasn’t used soap since. She claims it is the reason that she never gets sick and swears by it.

The point:

My point is that everyone has unique cleaning habits and different things that work for them, but a lot of people “over clean” themselves and their clothes because of incorrect assumptions. On the other hand, most people don’t sanitize their hands enough because they don’t know about all of the harmful germs on them. My intent is to educate people on proper hygienic techniques while still respecting that everyone’s hygienic needs are different. I interviewed a sample of Furman students to try to catch a glimpse of Furman’s overall definition of cleanliness and how Furman’s culture shapes their hygiene regimen. In my next few blog posts I will discuss how often (or little) people should properly shower and wash their clothes and hands compared to societal expectations.

*Names were changed at the request of interviewees