2017

I have finished uni and I’m about to graduate and as soon as anyone learns that fact they immediately ask “What’re you gonna do now? Do you have a job lined up?”. Lately I hadn’t been able to answer that question with any passion or enthusiasm for my inevitable career path, I have always loved the media industry and I know I’ll end up there but my responses had been sounding less genuine in recent months. 

I think we can all agree 2016 was not great for anyone but for me the second half has been one of the worst of my life, and this is without exaggeration. Every minute of day to day life was met with stress, frustration and sadness. I knew what it meant, but I continued to work two jobs, two internships, study full time uni and maintain a social life.

I have been falling in and out of mild to extreme depression for 8 years, I have been getting help for 5 years and 2017 is the year I am going to really focus on leaving that dark cloud behind once and for all. 

When I was 16 my depression was severe. I don’t know how to put it into words but imagine the feeling of knowing the sun is shining but being unable to feel the warmth and happiness it brings. Imagine every smile and laugh ending with a sigh of sadness. I blamed my unhappiness on teenage things like unhappiness with my body, thinking everyone was talking shit about me, wanting approval and wishing I had things I didn’t.

When I was 17, things started to get worse. Everyday I would cry and everyday I would wake up wishing I didn’t have to face the world that day. I can’t remember ever waking up excited for the day and everything in my life begun to suffer. Even simple everyday tasks were too much, I was always late because I was too sad to even dress myself. Every movement was accompanied with a heavy sigh which felt like a tonne of bricks was pushing me down into the ground and my one and only goal for the day was to not let them crush me.

At the final athletics carnival for Year 12 was the most depressed I can ever remember being, the entire day was a blur and reminiscent of a hurricane in my mind but in the photos there’s not a cloud in the sky and my smile is as fake as every other day. My friends finally decided enough was enough and I was forced into a car to go get help. I was reluctant but I remember having no energy or motivation left to even feel emotion. I was feeling nothing, no emotion whatsoever not sadness nor anger nor contentment or relief. We sat outside the doctors office for awhile while they convinced me this was the right thing to do. 

I remember standing on the side of the road and they crossed and I just stood there. My mind told me if I walked at any time it would all be over and I wouldn’t have to go. Just one foot out, and that was it. I looked at my friends, just stared at them. They’re the reason I didn’t. That thought still scares me, I imagine how close I was and I realise now I’m so thankful to have friends like that, and to whom I owe my life.
The doctor told me I needed to go to hospital because my depression was extreme. I begged and pleaded that I couldn’t go because then people would know and I didn’t want anyone to know, not even my family. My mind was panicking, I had the HSC to do, I had a job and what would everyone think. I was given a session with a psychologist that afternoon and my mental health care plan was worked out, including seeing a physiatrist as well to monitor my medication plan. 

I have been seeing that same psychologist for 4 years now, with the last two being infrequent. I was on medication for two years and in 2015 I was able to get off it. But things took a turn for the worst this year in August when I couldn’t cope with everything. I put it down to the fact I had taken on too much and put too much pressure on myself, but that wasn’t the reason. The big black dog had reared its ugly head again. 

My biggest regret is not getting help sooner this year, I should have known things weren’t right again and that my mind was up to its old tricks.

Again, I let it get to the stage of absolute desperation and one day I couldn’t take it anymore. I was home alone and had a complete meltdown, I couldn’t breathe, I was panicking, crying, screaming and lying on the floor because I had no energy to pick myself back up – all out of the overwhelming feeling of being extremely depressed again. I remembered the words the doctor said to me when I was 17 when I was in this state, “you should be in hospital”. I panicked even more, I couldn’t go to hospital because I had to work, I had uni, I had an internship and worst of all, how would I explain it to everyone. I felt ashamed, disappointed in myself and angry that I let it get so bad and relapsed again. 

It took hours to reason myself out of my panic before I eventually got myself to the doctor, I can’t even remember driving there because I felt that same feeling I had back in 2012. I was numb, after my meltdown I felt nothing. Not anger nor sadness nor grief, just completely numb.

I am back on medication and seeing two psychologists. To be honest, I don’t remember much from that state I was in and I didn’t remember how bad I was until two weeks later in a check up appointment the doctor said “and the suicidal thoughts, do you still have them?” Once again everything hit home and I realised I let it get too far before I got help again. This is no longer the life I want to be entangled in, falling in and out of depressive cycles and self destructive decisions

So, when anyone asks me what I’m going to do now that I’ve finished uni, it is this: I am going to focus on improving my mental health for myself. The mind is such a powerful force and at the end of the day your mind is your life source, shapes your reality and provides the basis for your existence. So, here’s to 2017 and getting my mental health in check so I can hope to succeed in whatever I do and whever I go. Here’s to finally looking forward to the exciting opportunities and challenges the universe can throw at you, and wanting to improve because I want to – not for anyone else.

My 3 favourite beaches near Tuscany

This July, I was lucky enough to spend a month living in Florence. Whilst Florence was beautiful, it gets bloody hot during summer. The days had a continuous maximum of 35 degrees Celsius and the humidity was around 80%. The thing I started to miss most about home was the beaches. So here’s my list of my 3 favourite beaches you can easily access from Florence.

1. Monterosso al Mare

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Monterosso is the first, and biggest, town on the Cinque Terre. When you first walk out of the train station you’re greeted with beaches full of multicoloured umbrellas and a promenade trimmed with flowers, palm trees and sun-drenched travellers. The beaches here are private but we managed to haggle a good price for some sunbeds for half the day.

The best part about Monterosso is that it’s technically a sand beach! By sand, I mean there are pebbles closer to the water but there is sand near the sunbeds so it’s a little bit of both. It felt more like home!

How to get there:

From Florence, there are trains that take about 2.5 hrs to get there if you have to change trains. On Sunday’s, there are direct trains from Florence which take a little less time. 10/10 would recommend staying a night here if you can, but if not – it’s totally doable in a day!

2. San Fruttuoso 

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Now, San Fruttuoso is a little further afield than the Cinque Terre from Florence – but if you do decide to stay a night in the Cinque Terre, this place is not to be missed! Once an old abbey, this beautiful spot has crystal clear water and even an underwater statue of Jesus Christ for those who know who to dive.

As it is surrounded by hills on either side, I would recommend heading to San Fruttuoso first to make use of the most amount of sun rays. We went in the afternoon and by the time we left, half the beach was in the shade.

How to get there:

This secluded beach is only accessible by ferry or by foot. By foot, it takes around 2 hours one way and I’ve heard the walk is far less crowded and more scenic that the Cinque Terre. We decided to take the ferry both ways, and the coastline was breathtaking! We bought a return ticket from Rapallo which let us hop-on and hop-off at other towns along the route such as Santa Margherita and Portofino.

A return ferry ticket will cost you around 17.50 euros and you can find the timetables here.

3. Quercianella

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Just around the headland from the beach

This last one is nowhere near as famous as the other two – but it’s the closest to Florence! If you’re in need of a quick dip in the ocean but don’t want to travel too far from Firenze, this one’s for you.

On one of my last days in Florence, my Italian friend organised an afternoon trip to the beach for us. She said she’d spoken to a few friends and they’d recommended a sleepy town on the Tuscan coastline. From the train station, it was about a 20 minute walk north to the beach. There was both private and public sections, so we just lay our towels down in the public area and jumped straight in the water. People were floating on inflatable beach toys and the vibe was really chill compared to other beaches we’d been to.

As we were leaving, we saw people setting up yoga mats on the beach for a spot of sunset yoga practice! I loved the relaxed atmosphere this beautiful town had – my friend even said she’d be recommending her family to come here next time during their summer holidays. I would definitely recommend a visit here and, if you want to stay overnight, Villa Margherita looks divine.

How to get there:

The train is a direct service from Florence and takes about 1 and a half hours.

Happy swimming!

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Not too far from home!

– s.

Fame, fortune and the Figure 8 Pool

Before I post anymore of my travel stories, I’m going to tell you about somewhere very close to my hometown that has recently risen to fame through that wonderful new-age weapon we call social media – The Figure 8 Pool.

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Image source: NSW National Parks

The Figure 8 Pool is a naturally formed rock pool located on a secluded rock shelf about 1 hours drive south of Sydney in the Royal National Park. It has recently become very popular among tourists and Sydney locals alike due to its’ ability to be well suited for the ‘gram. If you search the hashtags on Insta, you’ll find around 5000 photos of people around the pool.

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The day my friends and I visited started as a nice sunny day, but during the 2 hour walk (yes, it’s 2 hours one way to get there!) the weather begun to change to a gloomy, stormy mess of a day. We still made it there before the weather turned horrible, but I wish we had properly checked the forecast.

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Although small, the pool is quite beautiful and I’m sure it would look even lovelier on a sunny day. Closer to the cliff there’s another swimming hole that is larger and easier to get into as you can just walk into it – we preferred to swim in that pool instead because the Figure 8 Pool is not big enough for a lot of people.

Things to note:

  • The number 1 rule – Check the tides!! If it is high tide, do not go. There’s a chance you’ll be swept off the rocks, or the tide will be too high to even reach the rock shelf where the pool is.
  • The walk is hard – the second half of the walk is a steep descent (so you’ll be ascending on the way back, which was tough) followed by a climb around massive rocks on the headland
  • You will need good walking shoes – I’ve seen people walking it in flip flops and high heels and I can think of nothing worse
  • Take plenty of water – it’s a long walk and you’ll want to spend some time at the beach
  • There’s no cafe/toilet on the walk or near the pools – closest toilet is at Garie beach

For more information about the Figure 8 Pools, visit the NSW National Parks page here

For any Sydney local who loves a bit of Wild Swimming, I recently purchased the Wild Swimming Sydney book which features the Figure 8 Pool and many more. I’m hoping to make my way through more of it this summer, you can find out more here.

Let me know if you’ve ever been there and how you found the walk in the comments!

– s.

Pröst!

Munich has been one of my favourite cities this trip. I hadn’t previously been to Germany before and was so excited to be able to stay with my friend for a week.
My week was full of bier, brezn and beautiful sites. I visited the English Garden many times and drunk the first of my favourite German bier, Hofbrau, next to the Chinese Tower.


Now I’m from Australia and the biggest stereotype we have is that we’re all surfers. I suppose I can surf small waves but I’ve never been a big surfer. So you can imagine I was so surprised to see people surfing in a river! There’s a wave created on the river in the English Garden by the rocks on the riverbed and people surf the one wave. The wave looked difficult and required a lot of turns and tricks – I could’ve watched them for hours, I was in awe!


The highlight was climbing the Olympia Tower which gives an amazing view out over all of Munich. We were lucky with the weather on the day we went because it was sunny and clear and we could see all the way to the alps in south.


If you like vintage shopping, Munich has an amazing store called Pick N Weight where the price of the clothes is measured by – you guessed it, weight! They had so many gorgeous and high quality clothes and even had second hand dirndls. I know where I’ll be going if I come back for Oktoberfest.


My week in Germany could not have been possible without my friends who have moved there. Their tour guiding made me feel like a real local and it was so much fun to see them again. I think getting to know people from around the world is so valuable and gives you an opportunity to learn so much more about other cultures and ways of life.


Munich, I will definitely be back!

– s. 

48 hours in Madrid

¡Hola mi amigos!

In 2014, I was lucky enough to spend 2 months in Europe. I spent my first month studying Italian in Rome at Scuola Leonardo Da Vinci – 10/10 would recommend if you’re keen on learning Italian. During the second month I went on a Contiki tour with my friend – visiting Spain, France, Monaco and Italy.

One thing that surprised me was how I absolutely fell in love with Spain. It’s a country rich with culture, amazing architecture and churros – seriously, the churros are so good that we went to the same churro shop twice in one day.

We began our Contiki in Madrid, the capital of Espagna – and what a way to start! We only had 48 hours in the Spanish capital, so here’s my guide on 5 the things you should tick off your list in Madrid.

1. Churros

Literally the first thing my friend and I did when we checked into the hotel was start the search for the best churros in Madrid – and wow, did we find them! Nestled in a seemingly sleepy alleyway, Chocolateria San Gines is one of the most famous churros vendors in Madrid. Inside, the shop is bustling with locals and tourists alike and the smell of churros cooking fills your lungs. The decor is simple but welcoming – the walls are adorned with black and white photos of celebrities who’ve visited over the years. Order the ‘Chocolate con churros’, which comes with enough churros for two and hot melted chocolate for dipping. If you’re feeling hungry, try the ‘Chocolate con porras.’ Porras are a thicker version of churros and taste just as good, if not better! I dare you not to visit this place more than once.

2. Mercado de San Miguel

I. love. markets.

In every town I visit, I scout out the local markets before anything else. Markets are a great way to experience the local produce and culture. I also use the markets as a way to learn the foreign words for food, this comes in handy especially when you’re dining out.  Mercado de San Miguel is a collection of tapas food, drinks, legumes and fresh produce. Be sure to have a lunch or dinner here and sample all the tapas plates on offer! It is open 10am – midnight on Sunday – Wednesday and 10am-2am Thursday – Friday. With opening hours like that, I’m sure you can squeeze in a quick visit.

3. Valle de los Caidos

Valle de los Caidos requires about a half a day trip from Madrid but believe me when I say, this place is worth the trip. Valle de los Caidos translates to ‘Valley of the Fallen’ and is an underground church and tomb carved into the hillside. It was built to commemorate the fallen on both sides of the Spanish Civil War. The size of the tunnel leading to the main basilica absolutely took my breath away and the huge cross that stands atop of the hollowed out cave is the largest in the world, standing at 150m high. It’s about a 45 minute bus ride from the centre of Madrid to Valle de los Caidos or you if your prefer, you can hire a car and drive there yourself.

4. Football

…or as us Australians say; soccer! Even if you’re not a soccer fan, it’s a fantastic experience attending a European football match. The passion and enthusiasm of the fans is second to none. Whilst we were only in Madrid for two nights, we were lucky enough to find a football game on the second night of our stay and lucky enough to see Ossasuna vs. Real Madrid – with the main attraction being Cristiano Ronaldo! Our seats were fairly high up in the grand stands but they were reasonably priced and we still had a great view of the game. Grab a beer, grab a team scarf and cheer on your team to victory or defeat!

5. Bar Mirador CentroCentro

Rooftop bars are another thing I love to keep an eye out for in a new city. I love the al fresco dining experience and watching the sunset over a new city with a drink in hand.¡Qué maravilloso!

We found Bar Mirador hidden away in the rooftop of Centro Centro – a museum and cultural space which begun life as the city’s postal service building in 1909. From the outside Centro Centro resembles a palace but inside it is a modern-day multi-purpose building with an impressive mixture of classical and contemporary architectural features. To reach the rooftop bar, take the lift to level 6 and exit around to the right. The bar is open until 2am most evenings, but I would suggest going up just before sunset to grab a drink and watch the city pass through life below you.

There you have it, my favourite places I visited in Madrid in 48 hours! What are the best places you’ve been to in Madrid? Do you know of any other great rooftop bars or churros shops? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

– so.

How to dress for autumn at uni

It’s supposed to be the ‘cooler’ months now – however, Sydney’s weather has been nothing short of temperamental lately. Today I woke up and it was raining, then it was sunny, then it was hot, then came the wind – once you leave home, you never know how the weather will change. If you’re like me and hate dressing for the wrong season – here are some tips for this ever-changing season.

Layering is the way to go when you’re not sure how the day will turn out. Sure, you could check the weather app on your phone – but I’ve found the weather is so quick to change in these last few weeks. For the ultimate cross between comfort and style, layer your look with a striped tee, grey hoodie and oversized denim jacket to finish it off. If you get hot during the day, just take out the hoodie or denim jacket!

Grey hoodie from New Look on ASOS

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Denim jacket from Noisey May on  The Iconic

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Striped tee from MNG on The Iconic

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If you really feel the cold, I always chuck a scarf in my bag just in case the wind picks up!

Hope you enjoyed these tips, let me know of any other cold season hacks you have in the comments 🙂

– so.

 

Eat, Look, Sleep – Repeat

This week we are looking at the suffering of others, and how we, as the audience, acknowledge and react to this suffering. I have ascertained that in the present-day we are bombarded with news, photos, videos and tweets daily of the suffering in the world – so, have we become numb? Does the sorrow we feel, evoked by images of human suffering, have an expiry date? I think the saturation of images we have at our disposal to shock us is one of the reasons we’re not so surprised anymore. Michael Kimmelman of The New York Times concedes, “The number of images that flash across television and computer screens diminishes the value of any single image you may see.” Prior to the Vietnam War, it was not common to have image after image of human suffering floating past our eyes. Photographs of war and its consequences appear to have more moral authority after the war photography from the Vietnam War due to the way in which photos of suffering became opportunistic rather than set-up. (Sontag, 2013)

A recent image that managed to shock the world and change people’s ideas on a subject was the image of Aylan Kurdi, the young refugee boy who drowned off the coast of Turkey whilst fleeing war and persecution with his family.

This image was run on the front cover of more than 30 newspapers in Europe, and changed many countries’ policies about the intake of refugees from the Syrian crisis. This image even managed to challenge the ideologies that then Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had held for so long – Australia was going to increase our intake of refugees from the Syrian crisis to a one-off count of 12,000. (Henderson & Borello, 2015)

Bulent Kilic, a Turkish photojournalist who won the World Press Photo award for Spot News, has perfectly captured images of refugees struggling through the Turkish and Syrian border in a wave of desperation. The images are powerful because they show thousands of displaced people trying to bring their families to safety. You can view the photo series here.

As I scroll through these images, pausing on each one to garner the full weight of the situation, I appreciate the photographs are impeccably composed and can be seen as beautiful – hauntingly, beautiful images of suffering. Michael Kimmelman from the NY Times reviewed the photography exhibition of Salgado, a photographer known for photographing human suffering in an almost too beautiful way. Kimmelman says, “If your subject happens to be the dislocation of people and their suffering, then those people and that suffering become your compositional devices.” Kilic’s photo series has been wisely collated to evoke emotion from the viewer by capturing the images of children being passed through the barbed wire border and elements of raw human suffering. However, the viewer can choose whether or not they feel compelled to act about the unjust suffering they’re seeing, or whether these images are considered a piece of art, with the subjects merely just that – a subject.

Susan Sontag says, “War was and still is the most irresistible – and picturesque – news.” The idea of wanting to see images of suffering, but not wanting to do anything about it, isn’t a new concept. I believe the power of the media in telling stories of suffering is immense – the problem is that we, as the viewers, have the agency to view and forget or view, feel bad then continue on with our day. How then can the media, and the images, become powerful enough to want us to take action?

These stories I have described of despair and sorrow happened last year, and here we are in 2016 with the same stories of despair and sorrow and I feel as though they’ve become yesterday’s news. As Sontag (2003) laments, “What does it mean to protest suffering, as distinct from acknowledging it?” I think images can be powerful tools in facilitating debate and discussion around an issue of human suffering, however, I think the way in which we debate and react to these images is the main issue.

Media Watch does a perfect summation of the issues presented by the image of Aylan Kurdi and the consequences of the image, which you can watch here:

http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s4312433.htm

Carrie Bickmore, host of Channel 10’s ‘The Project’, becomes overcome with emotion when discussing the topic and consequently describes exactly how I think we all feel as I watch images of war and violence in the media each day. “I just can’t look at that without being so upset, like it just makes me think how lucky, lucky I am that I live in Australia, that my children live in Australia. That’s what it is.”

That’s what it is.


References:

Henderson, A and Borello, E 2015, ‘Australia confirms air strikes in Syria, announces additional 12,000 refugee places’, ABC News, 9 September, accessed 31/3/2015,

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-09/australia-to-accept-additional-12,000-syrian-refugees/6760386

Kilic, B 2015, ‘Fleeing Through the Eye of a Needle’, weblog post, Agence France-Presse, 15 June, accessed 30/3/2015,

http://blogs.afp.com/correspondent/?post/turkey-refugees-islamic-state-kurds-border-desperate-flight-from-syria

Kimmelman, M 2001, ‘Photography Review; Can Suffering Be Too Beautiful?’, The New York Times, 13 July, accessed 30/3/2015,

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/13/arts/photography-review-can-suffering-be-too-beautiful.html?pagewanted=all

Media Watch 2015, The Power of an Image, accessed 31/3/2015,

http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s4312433.htm

Sontag, S 2003, Regarding the Pain of Others, Hamish Hamilton, London, accessed 31/3/2015,

https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/590618/mod_resource/content/1/regardingpainofothers.pdf

 

 

Please ‘Like’ Me

“I remember getting home and thinking how crazy it was that I was getting 50+ likes in only a few hours. ‘Can you believe it? These people like me!!’

This quote is one of the many statements from Essena O’Neill, now ex-social media personality, about the enthralling nature of social media and online social validation. Further into the statement, entitled ‘Liked’, O’Neill self-reflects that her thirst for self-validation through social media stemmed from looking up to popular girls at school and wanting to be like them. She states “I wanted everything she portrayed online … she was Facebook famous.”

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‘Purposeful Social Media Engagement’ by Kris Olin, available at https://flic.kr/p/bwU1uZ, CC Licence

Marwick (2013) notes “status seeking is a primary motivator for human action.” Christofides, Muise and Desmarais (2009) surveyed 343 undergraduate students about the motivators for disclosing or controlling information about themselves on Facebook. The survey discovered that the need for popularity was a significant motivator for students to disclose such personal information. In O’Neill’s case, it appeared to be the primary motivator for portraying a convincing online identity through impeccably constructed images.

Varnali and Toker (2015) suggest that a user’s identity on social media is self constructed, with influence and additions from their community. Even though self-disclosure on social media acts as a way to identify the user, it is not always necessarily akin to a true or authentic identity. The honesty and validity of self-disclosure on social media comes into play when a user’s community is primarily based around offline relationships. For example, my followers on Instagram are primarily people I know in real life – this means that I have to maintain a relatively realistic identity on my online accounts.

Varnali and Toker (2015) hypothesise the conception of one’s online identity can be based around one’s level of public self-consciousness – that is their awareness of how the public sees them. In the case of Essena O’Neill, her followers and admirers were viewing a carefully assembled and contrived identity that O’Neill had created using her knowledge of her own public self-consciousness. O’Neill realised that people were interested in her staged pictures at home in high heels and high fashion garments, even though she later revealed she did not even leave the house. This realisation allowed O’Neill to use the images she had created to further curate her online identity and social validation.

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Photo via essenaoneill.com

Marwick (2013) characterises the notion of one’s status as being derived from context. In the context of the social media, one’s status is based on quantified data of their online identity. For example, the number of likes and followers a person has can affect their online influence and the perception of them by others within their online community.

O’Neill stated she was “obsessed with being liked,” seemingly obsessed with the identity she had created through her affinity for self-validation online. O’Neill believes that “craving attention validated through social media … shows a gap in real life connections.” This became her ethos when quitting social media and launching a website designed to inform people about the falsities social media can promote.

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Photo by New York street artist, Morley via iammorely.squarespace.com

Marwick (2013) notes the “attention economy of social media” plays a large role in how we perceive status of ourselves and others online. No matter how hard we resist, we’ve become accustomed to the lust for self-validation through social data. Honestly, I wait for the 11th like on my Instagram photos before I can be truly satisfied with the content I’ve laid on the line for the sake of other people’s approval – because the 11th like signifies enough people have liked my photo for it to become a number, a piece of data to judge myself by. It sounds silly, right? So, this begs the question – is it the user that has created this disregard for the authentic self and the search for the social validation in numbers or is it the platform?


 

References

Christofides, E Muise, A & Desmarais S 2009,’Information Disclosure and Control on Facebook: Are They Two Sides of the Same Coin or Two Different Processes?’, CyberPsychology & Behavior, vol.12, no.3, pp341-345, accessed 12/03/2016, UOW Library database.

Marwick, A 2013, Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age, Yale University Press, New Haven, accessed 09/03/2016, UOW e-readings.

Varnali, K & Toker, A 2015, ‘Self-Disclosure on Social Networking Sites’, Social Behavior and Personality, vol.43, no.1, pp1-14, accessed 12/03/2016, UOW Library database.

One question, so many alterations.

It’s coming close to the final stages of our group assignment – the questionnaires and the focus groups! In our tutorial, my group and I decided to road-test some questions to see if anyone in our tutorial could find any problems with one of our major questions.

The question was:

In regards to the Facebook trending bar, do you:

  • interact with it
  • ignore it
  • research more about the topic
  • read the heading and move on
  • other

The first issue with part of the question our classmates picked up on was the wording of the question. There was debate that they would do a culmination of the options when navigating the Facebook trending bar. We decided we should put the word “usually” in so we could get a more definitive answer for the question.

The second alteration we made was to cut out the first answer to the question – “interact with it”. It was thought that this was too vague to be an answer and that we should explain more ways to “interact” with the Facebook trending bar. So, we added in a new option that a few people were already putting down in the other section – “click on and read description”. A lot of our trial participants said they would often just click on the topic, read the description and move on. Their reasons varied as to why, but we have put another question in our survey asking why they do or do not use the trending bar.

The trial of one question from our initial survey was a real eye-opener to us as we weren’t able to see things that could be fixed in our question by ourselves. After this exercise, we looked at all our questions and interviewed each other quickly to see if we could answer the questions without being puzzled by what the question was asking. We found that we initially had too many open-ended questions that wouldn’t provide us with sufficient quantitative data to use for our reports. We changed two of our open-ended questions into multiple choice in order to get more quantitative responses.

We decided to use the more open-ended questions we had come up with for the focus groups so that participants could really have a chance to discuss how they felt about each question in depth. I hope that we’ve made enough changes from the initial pilot survey so that people are not confused with the questions that we’re asking. I’m excited to start collecting our surveys and conducting our focus groups to find out more about people’s options about our topic!

I’ll keep you updated!