Awareness or Activism?

In today’s world, we are all (well most) social media savvy, right?

Social media alike everything has critiques however we must appreciate this platform as a means of positive influence over peoples lives. Many of us are on social media for different reasons, including friends and family, professionally or just for fun!

I know my mum doesn’t even understand the concept that you may be ‘friends’ with people on Facebook even though you maybe just know them briefly OR that if you try to zoom on Instagram you might actually end up liking that persons post. Mums for you. But other than my mum not being so savvy, the rest of us are!

Fun Fact: At the beginning of 2017, the total number of social media users in the UK had reached over 39 million users, with estimates going up to 42 million users. (Statista, 2017)

This astonishing fact has ought to mean something; at least that social media is doing something right, or even the users, us?

Social media has been widely adapted by celebrities, bloggers and people in the spotlight. They tend to try and create a sense of community for their followers to ensure this keeps up, although many are willing to share experiences that will empower others around them.

Recently on This Morning (favourite morning show ever) a star from Coronation Street, Sacha Parkinson, spoke out about her battle with ‘Endometriosis”. This was such an inspiring conversation she had reinforcing all girls to listen to their bodies.

Click here to watch this short clip.

Not only did she voice this on national television, she followed up with several social media posts and stories.

This to me has extremely positive effects on some lives encouraging girls they are not alone. Along with this it probes real discussion about issues that should be addressed and not hidden. Social media can help us to teach each other in a way that could never have been possible before now.

Lets appreciate that!

There were many movements on social media in 2017 that have actually caused some social change, or should I say were successful lobbying tactics!

One that stood out in my mind was #WomensMarch. The main mission of this campaign to dismantle systems of oppression has left echoes for everyone to hear. Teresa Shook set up a Facebook page that essentially went viral overnight when 10,000 people responded the next morning. Wow!

From this campaign social media circulated knowledge through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more. Facebook became the hub of activity where everyone could contribute to this discussion and amazing cause. Real life activists got involved and turned this into a real life event.

Again, this reiterates the power of social media and its enormous impact globally.


Social media can effectively portray an emotional appeal and reach out to many people with the click of a button. The emergence of digital media does have its downsides, but its positives are really too good to ignore.

Is social media activity becoming a substitute for actual activism?

This question is left unanswered. BUT, it certainly is becoming a main influence to people in power. With little propaganda attached it seems a more realistic approach and most definitely raises awareness.

Some argue a hashtag is not a movement, whilst some suggest social activism WILL spark change if done right!

“Sharing is the essence of social media!”


Katy McGuigan is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can reach her on LinkedIn at and on Twitter @KatyMcGuigan2.

A 14 Year Old and a GoPro Walk into a Field…

My cousin Katie came home from her first day of secondary school gushing to tell me all about her classes and the people she met. She was decorating her diary, filling in her timetable and telling me all about the day’s events. I flipped through the pages of her diary and was horrified to find a page called ‘Snapchats’ with everything from EllieXoX to Hollie123 (I could tell you about the day she lost her phone and gone were the hard-earned 237 day streaks, but that’s another story in itself.)

What ever happened to the good ol’ days of giving out home phone numbers? Gone now are the glory days of your mum shouting at you to get off the house phone because Nanny’s probably been trying to get through for the past 3 hours. To this day I’m still annoyed I couldn’t three-way call like Lizzie, Miranda and Gordo.


I’m not claiming that I don’t use Snapchat or any other forms of social media to keep in touch with my friends, I love aimlessly flicking through Facebook looking at memes and cat videos as much as the next person, I’m just sad to see so many young teenagers glued to their smart phones.

However, every once in a while we meet someone, an absolute anomaly, who isn’t obsessed with uploading their next Instagram post at prime time or with the latest iPhone that’s going to smash sooner than the last one (and I’m not talking about your dad that still has a Nokia 3310). Enter Katie’s older brother, James. His interest: farming and absolutely nothing else; whilst most teenagers would come home and go on Facebook, James got straight into his overalls and headed to our Granda’s farm, when other teens were getting play stations and footballs for Christmas, James was getting tractor simulators and new work coats for the farm. But alas, nothing lasts forever.

As James got older he became glued to his dad’s iPad watching YouTube videos by farmers called the Grassmen, a group of men who decided to experiment with cameras in their tractors and fields and soon developed a mass following with some videos gaining almost 5 million views. James watched all their videos and couldn’t wait to tell me when he met Donkey at The Balmarol Show. Naturally I assumed he meant the character from Shrek; I soon learned that Donkey was one of these Grassmen and a major influence on James.


My interest was piqued when James’ parents asked if they could buy GoPro accessories for James from my Amazon account for Christmas. James? A GoPro? He’s not travelling to Thailand this summer to find himself, why does he have a GoPro? When I thought about it I didn’t know many people who owned a GoPro, never mind any 14 year olds. I was on placement in London at the time and soon forgot about it until one day my mum sent me a YouTube link with the message: “Watch this”, and five minutes later: “Did you watch it yet?” James had uploaded his first video – my reaction: instant fan-girl.

Being from the country I’ve seen plenty of tractors driving around and, as many of you probably know, it’s really not that exciting. With a variety of editing and the addition of music James managed to make something that people would generally find quite boring really fun to watch. The video currently has 364 views (of which I think 64 are mine). I remember showing my co-workers the next morning with pride written all over my face, their expressions were mere confusion as many of them most likely hadn’t seen a tractor in central London nor knew anyone that drove them. I’ll let you decide for yourselves but I’m sure you’ll agree the results are amazing, especially for a 14 year old that wouldn’t have touched an iPhone just a few years ago.

It turns out James wasn’t just producing short videos but was also uploading images to an Instagram account of the tractors and the fields. We still joke about him lying down in the grass to get the perfect shot, but the truth is the pictures are amazing:


Some people are paid thousands to make content for social media and here was my cousin spending his time doing it for free all because he loved farming. So, as much as we want to roll our eyes and moan about “kids these days” with all their gadgets, at the end of the day they’re allowing teenagers to be creative in ways we never would have dreamed of just a couple of years ago. It also goes to show that social media isn’t just for the travel and beauty bloggers, farmers are even starting to get a piece of the action!

Roisin Watters is a final year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at:, and on Twitter @Roisin_Watters

Social Media or Social Suicide?

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Most people enjoy it, some people are addicted to it and for some people it can get them into a lot of trouble. I, being of a traditional mindset, am one of the few who believe in NOT having it. I’m talking about social media, of course! I view social media like a big night out: it may have been fun and games in the beginning, but it always ends up in a headache…

I have engaged with most social media platforms at some stage or another, but they never quite did it for me. Facebook seemed like a way for other people keep an eye on me. I didn’t do anything interesting enough to justify an Instagram account and I just didn’t get the point of Twitter. Now, I do have LinkedIn, but seeing as it doesn’t involve posting holiday snaps or getting tangled in heated cyber discussions with your friend’s auntie’s boyfriend, it doesn’t really count.

Social media is undoubtedly a fantastic tool to keep in touch with childhood friends or to share pictures with family members living afar. However, it seems strange that some use it to air their dirty laundry, post pictures of their three meals a day, or to voice their inappropriate views.

Social media has evolved, and the trends have changed, but the premise remains the same – you can say pretty much whatever you want to a potentially global audience. Comments, posts and hashtags ‘go viral’ and before you can say ‘Instagram filter’ your opinions are being judged by a lot more than your 170 Facebook friends.

And now the social media user’s greatest enemy is the screen grab. You can guarantee that no matter how swiftly you deleted something, if you have said something controversial, racist, homophobic or just downright ridiculous, someone out there will have a permanent record of it. And in this hyper-sensitive world, it is taking increasingly less for anyone, anywhere to be outraged about one’s social media content.

This year’s ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’ was immediately in the headlines for a lot more than gruesome trials and female campmates in bikinis. Jack Maynard, a YouTube star, exited the show after just three days due to social media controversy. Resurfaced tweets from 2011 showed Jack using homophobic and racist language, when he was simply an unknown teenager.

Despite the fact that his spokesperson immediately issued an apology and Jack himself has delivered a lengthy expression of regret, it has irreversibly damaged his image and personal brand. He is set to lose out on £20,000 a month through endorsements and his social media following has taken a dramatic dip in the recent weeks too.

On a more worrying note, President Trump is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to social media controversy. His Twitter account could be the cause of nuclear war before long. With power comes great responsibility, something the leader of the free world should be given a lesson on, before re-tweeting far-right videos and indulging in playground name-calling with eccentric, but nuclear-equipped, dictators.

Organisations, celebrities and politicians are among the many who spend time and money working with the right people to ensure they maintain the best possible public reputation. Public Relations practitioners shed blood, sweat and tears to manage someone’s standing and yet they allow them to have social media, which has the power to undo all their work, instantaneously.

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I am relieved that I don’t know anyone as controversial as Trump and I don’t bank on seeing any of my peers on Love Island or I’m a Celebrity anytime soon. However, I, along with my classmates, am in the process of looking for graduate jobs and my increasing knowledge of PR would suggest we all need to think before we type. Our social media posts may not be splashed over the front page of ‘The Sun’ but they could be on a potential employer’s radar, with proportionality damaging results.

As soon-to-be graduates, our own reputation is one of our greatest assets and we need to manage it carefully. So when it comes to social media; learn from the mistakes of others, take notice of the principles of PR, and most of all, mind your Ps and Qs.


Jenny Craig is a 4th Year BSc in Communications, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted via LinkedIn –

Big Brother is watching you…

Towards the end of 2016 Spotify put its abundance of listener data and insights to playful use in a new Out-Of-Home ad campaign, placing billboards globally after an initial release in the UK, US, France and Germany.

The adverts were created by the company’s in-house marketing team and revealed some of the weird and wonderful habits of its users, using accumulated and even some personal data, Spotify generated headlines such as;

“Dear person who played ‘Sorry’ 42 times on Valentine’s Day, what did you do?”

“Dear person in the Theater District who listened to the Hamilton Soundtrack 5,376 times this year, can you get us tickets?”

Spotify then ended many of the billboards with the tagline “Thanks 2016. It’s been weird.” In ways a celebration of both a great year for music and also the continued support and listenership of its users.



The ad campaign by Spotify was clever and engaging and was received extremely positively by consumers for the most part.  What they managed to do in a way was to humanise the technology – this worked particularly well based on the personal and emotional connection that people have to it.


A not so successful story for Netflix…

On December 11th 2017, Netflix tried to apply a similar approach to Spotify in customer data and insight sharing, only this time using their Twitter account as the medium.

Netflix revealed that 53 people had watched its latest Christmas movie ‘A Christmas Prince’ everyday for the past 18 days, adding to the end of the tweet – “Who hurt you?”  The tweet has gained more than 100,000 retweets and 400,000 favourites at the time of writing.


The tweet was intended to be light-hearted and humorous, but has faced a massive backlash from consumers, with many users describing it as being “creepy”.  The tweet has also managed to kick off a debate around how closely the company is watching its customers, and raises the questions, what exactly can it do with the data generated by the viewing habits of its users, and more alarming, how many people in the company have access to the data.



Netflix were quick to defend the tweet and certainly didn’t feel that they had anything to apologise for.  They did however, reassure their users that their privacy was not totally being invaded with an official statement saying; “The privacy of our members’ viewing is important to us.”

But the question is – how did Netflix fail at something that Spotify managed to do so well?

The Spotify campaign had an underlying positive tone to it, celebrating the weird and wonderful habits of its users.  One the other hand, Netflix took a slightly harsher tone in their tweet.  ‘A Christmas Prince’ is a movie that they produced and marketed and it follows a format not unlike the ever-popular Hallmark Christmas movies.  The tweet comes across as a little judgemental, shaming those for falling in love/becoming maybe a little obsessed with their movie.

It could also be perhaps that people hold different emotional connections to music and TV or Movies.  Therefore, to be potentially confronted by your TV viewing habits would feel a lot more intrusive than for someone to know what music you’re in to.

Up until now we thought that the scariest feature about Netflix was the ‘Are you STILL watching’ screen that may pop up while you’ve been watching the latest addictive series for 4…5…10 hours straight (no judgement here!).  Now we know they’re documenting everything we watch.

Is this a PR disaster?  Maybe, a little.  Will it have lasting impact on the company?  Probably not – people will still continue to ‘Netflix and chill’ and binge watch their favourite TV series.  Perhaps next time though…Netflix should think of all the implications before trying to be funny on Twitter.


Jonny Allen is a final year Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University.  You can find him on LinkedIn here –

Three weeks of social media rehab


We’ve all been there. That gut wrenching, heart pounding moment you realise you can’t find your phone. You frantically pat your body up and down, hoping, praying that it’s lodged deep within your pocket. Know what I’m talking about? Not nice, is it?

Anyone who knows me knows that I love social media. I struggle to go a day without uploading a Snapchat story and often am guilty of uploading more than one Instagram in a single day. I know; social suicide! My social media addiction often acts as a great source of entertainment for my friends. “Oh, there she is! Social media queen! Make sure to get a Snapchat of that, Hannah!” … the jibes are endless but (as us Northern Irish like to say), completely ‘fair enough’.

So, when the battery in my two-year-old iPhone 6 decided to completely cut out during a celebratory post three assignment deadline trip to Dublin, I was phoneless. You can imagine my despair. I hadn’t lost my phone, but holding it in my hand while it refused to turn on, smugly replaying the apple restart logo with the somewhat aggressive “CHARGE YOUR PHONE” symbol constantly appearing on the screen, almost made me wish I did. I wanted to throw it out of the car onto the M50. A weekend exploring a perfectly decorated Grafton Street at Christmas, walks along Malahide’s beautiful coastal path, copious portions of poached eggs and smoked salmon for brunch, pints of Guinness in Gibneys and all without a single Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook post. In fact, I was so quiet on social media that my friends actually started to express genuine concern for my wellbeing. A digital silence? Nope. Not for me.

Once back in Belfast, I was on a mission. An urgent visit to Three and I had managed to bag myself a new phone. I took my brand-new rose gold iPhone SE home and eagerly awaited my social media fix… Until…

“To verify your iCloud account, a code has been sent to your device ending in *********06.”

Sorry… what? My number ends in 54, not 06! Great.

To save explaining every boring, intrinsic technicality, I’ll just cut to the chase; I was locked out of my iCloud (and subsequently all apps on my new phone) for a grand total of THREE WEEKS as the wrong number had been verified to my account. That’s right. Me; girl who can’t leave her phone alone for three minutes has 0 access to anything other than texts and calls for three weeks.

So, what did I learn?

  1. The gym is a terrible place to be when you’re phoneless.

 I never realised how much I rely on music to keep me motivated during a session in the gym or how loudly I stamp on the treadmill when I run and… let’s not even talk about the heavy breathing. Sorry fellow gym members.

  1. The memories you gain from real life experiences are long-lasting, even when they aren’t documented on social media.

 Don’t get me wrong, I think social media is an excellent way to capture and record memories and I will continue to do so. I now know, however, that I don’t have to photograph or record everything – something I’m sure my friends will be pleased to hear!

  1. I could focus on my work more

Whilst I might enjoy receiving Snapchats of my housemates attempting to sing or of them scaring each other in our flat while I’m in the library (sometimes a little too much when I struggle to hold back uncontrollable laughter in the McClay), I did find it much easier to concentrate on assignments without my phone.

  1. I could focus more in real life

 Without the subconscious distractions generated by nonstop notifications, I was more engaged in day to day life. I wouldn’t zone out of a conversation because a message came through to my phone and I would take in my surroundings when walking from A to B. It sounds silly to say but I started to look up and around me, rather than down at the HD screen in my hands.

  1. I was far more sociable

I managed to have better conversations, with the people that mattered to me. Not over text, not on Facebook, Snapchat or WhatsApp, in person.

  1. I didn’t miss social media as much as I thought I would

If I was told three weeks ago that I wouldn’t be allowed access to my social media accounts for this length of time, I would not have been happy. Social media has become an integral part of our lives and I couldn’t possibly entertain the idea of being off it for so long. But did I really miss it that much? Honestly… no. I enjoyed the  much needed detox!

Recent research published in The Times claims that social media is bad for your mental health. Academic studies continuously suggest that intense use of social media is linked to depression, low self-esteem and feelings of depression.

Maybe a break from it every once in a while would be of benefit to us all?

Now I’m not going to start anti-social media protests outside the City Hall, nor am I going to deactivate my accounts, in fact I’ll probably be back to annoying my friends very shortly, but now, at least I know the positive benefits and the headspace going digitally teetotal can bring about.


Hannah Martin is a final year Bsc student in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @HannahMartin596, and Linkedin


Football Fanatic

Not many things will get me up early on a cold wet and windy Sunday morning in January but football is the one thing that will.

I have been playing Gaelic football since I can remember for my local club St Marys Burren.

My family has always been involved with our local club from playing to supporting. From a young age I have always been interested in sport from swimming to Irish dancing to netball to gymnastics but football has been the one sport that I have always had a passion for and enjoyed playing.

I would encourage anyone to join a football team or to take up a sport or even re-join one as the benefits are life long and worth every session training in the cold and wet!!

 Four key life benefits that playing sport brings:

  • Working as a teamCF20It goes without saying that working as part of a team is key when playing football and most team sports for that matter. This is a quality that is rhymed off at many job interviews but playing football instils the skills working and communicating within a team and how your strengths can be part of something greater and work with others to achieve a common goal.


  • Exercise mental and physical health

An obvious one but training 2- 3 nights a week with a match at the weekend does bring your physical fitness levels up and there is no better feeling than feeling fit – all the shuttle run sprints are worth it come championship in the summer.

An aspect that is often over looked is mental health. Sport plays an incredible role on the state of your mental health. The positive effects playing sport has is often forgotten or down played, anytime I am feeling overwhelmed or stressed with work or university as soon as I put on my football boots I become focused and determined to do well in training it helps take my mind off whatever is making my feel stressed or anxious and helps me realise that there are other things going on in life and not to get bogged down on the negative aspects.


  • Social Aspect:

One of the best things about playing football and sport in general is the friendships you make along the way. I have been playing football with some of these girls since primary school!


The craic that you manage to have even when you doing hill sprints up the side of the Mourne Mountains just shows how strong the bond with your team mates can be. It is something that shouldn’t be undervalued the friendships you make with people in your local club and parish, some of the best nights out our nights with my team mates whether it be our annual dinner dance or club fundraising nights.



  • Being part of something bigger

The GAA is a fantastic organisation to be part of. With a GAA club set up in most countries around the world it is a large organisation that still has the feel of a grassroots organisation with the local clubs the heart and soul of the GAA. My club St Marys Burren motto is “Ar Aghaidh le Cheile” which means forward together. This motto is something that is strongly practised within the club and whilst playing as part of our team. Playing support has instilled a sense of commitment and belonging to something bigger.


My advice (although slightly bias)  for anyone reading this is to consider taking up a sport, it is never too late or for those who have fallen away to consider re-joining you cannot put into words the advantages that sport brings to your life so why not get stuck in!!

Caoimhe Fitzpatrick is a Final Year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at University of Ulster. She can be found on Twitter: @caoimhef_95 / LinkedIn: