Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Informational Awakening

The pervasive nature of culture is comparable to the nature of information. Both can be spread from internal sources to the masses and are likely to create a sense of knowing. Information, specifically, has the ability to enlighten its recipients. However, the information has reached a point at which it is excessive. Hyper awareness in today’s society stems from the recently developed demand for instant gratification. This awareness is the direct result of the information age. The immediate and constant availability of information has awakened the minds of this society as a whole and has created a new state of extreme consciousness.

People feel the need to be aware about news events and the happenings of the nation. The September 11th terrorist attacks generated feelings of surprise, confusion, loss, and heartache. In the years following the incident, news steadily became more accessible and convenient. The advent of cyber news and YouTube came at the right time as people were searching for new mediums to acquire news and to rest assured that they knew, at all times, what was occurring in the world. David Altheide states that, “The communication process and content are inexorably joined, with one always having implications for the other. In this sense, ‘new knowledge’ and information is always connected to a stock of knowledge and symbolic interpretation” (650). For media, the communication process can influence the way the messages are interpreted. The recipient of the information must then analyze the message using their preconceived understanding of the matter. The way the message is received can alter its meaning and how it is decoded, for example the viewing of a news story on YouTube versus a news paper. Instant and visual versus delayed and drafted. President Obama has made use of different mediums to delegate his messages. People feel comfortable knowing about his actions and recent whereabouts, thoughts, and opinions. YouTube updates make him not only more accessible, but more popular with the millennial generation. The medium that politicians and news generators chose to use can influence their likeability and event he way their message is received. The cyber news format has the upper hand because of its convenience and accessibility. Either way, there is a constant need for information in any format.

The news awareness has crossed over to the fascination about the lives of the rich and famous. There is still, of course, a strive for awareness about news, but the ‘crossing over’ that has occurred here is the transfer of focus from one to the other. The majority of media coverage is no longer about serious world or local issues. The content that has encompassed the media is now based on celebrities; what they’re doing, who they’re dating, what they’re wearing, where they’re going. What is fueling this obsession? The need to know has been transformed from stories of substance to stories of fluff. The obsession is fueled by a culture that comes from above.

With the advent of the information age, people are more exposed to widely held views of beauty. People are told how to act and what to look like in the sense of an “ideal” person. The criteria for this ideal person are the celebrities, whom exhibit a god-like demeanor that the rest of us struggle to acquire. Susan Bordo argues that, “Culture overwhelmingly dominates women’s lives especially, imposing models of bodily beauty that get construed as freely chosen options by those victimized by them” (1026). The celebrities are extravagant and sociable, not to mention talented. It is only natural that others would want to emulate them. Women are convinced by the media that this is the ideal image of beauty. In order to achieve this, they purchase beauty products, invest in gym memberships, and among other things, undergo plastic surgery procedures. These industries are benefitting from this image and use the media to advertise their product, all the while assisting in the projection of the ideal woman. Julie Rivkin mentions that, “Generated by those at the top of the social hierarchy, the media inevitably further attitudes and perceptions that assure its continuation” (1026). It is a vicious cycle that is occurring. The results that these industries have experienced adds a new impetus to their quest for female perfection. Chris Barker states that, “Representations of women reflected male attitudes and constituted misrepresentations of ‘real’ women” (307). Therefore, the ideal woman projected by the media is not correct, nor is it how most women actually look. This is not a matter of how the media want women to look, rather it is about how the media want women to want to look. Most celebrities are attractive but jump at the chance to fix even the smallest flaw. It’s about acceptance and the strive to be the ultimate image of perfection. The fascination with celebrities and all of their glory has turned from those who are talented to those who are documented. In other words, reality television stars.

Another source of hyper awareness is the medium of reality television, which allows Americans to fantasize gaining status through automatic fame. Ordinary people can watch the shows, see people like themselves and imagine that they too could become celebrities by being on television. It does not matter as much that the contestants often are shown in an unfavorable light; the fact that millions of Americans are paying attention means that the contestants are important. “The message of reality television is that ordinary people can become so important that millions will watch them. And the secret thrill of many of those viewers is the thought that perhaps next time, the new celebrities might be them” (Reiss 2009). The desire for fame can be achieved by the same means as the desire for acceptance. Typically, when a person is famous they are liked by all and are a part of the ‘in crowd’. This explains why a person would strive to become famous. It is an instant way of being accepted and it’s all about instant gratification.

The last, and most important medium in which people are using to enhance their awareness of others is the Internet. Reality television was used to find out what others were doing at all times, whether they are fellow average Joes or celebrities. This stems from the idea that instant information is paving the road to gratification. The use of the Internet differs from viewing reality television in the sense that it is even more instant. In terms of social networking sites, the information can be accessed in less than a second after it is updated. Barker states that, “We are in the midst of a digital revolution that is transforming our world” (346). Computers are used more now than ever before. The amount of online courses that universities are offering is steadily increasing with each new semester. Many classes incorporate the Internet into their curriculum, whether it is with on-line lectures, blogs, assignments, and grade postings. Barker also states that, “The digital universe is overflowing with information” and that it is a “wondrous expansion of human knowledge” (348). Not only is the cyber world bringing forth this ability to expand people’s knowledge, it is also allowing for the expansion of the knowledge of people.

Everything one could ever want to know about a person is on the Internet. With the cyber storm came the lack of privacy. We are more aware of others now than ever before. "You have to realize that you're constantly being assessed," said Jason Foster, "It's everything you do, everything you wear, everything you say." As a result of this rapid accessibility, people normally tend to present a more desirable version of themselves to the cyber community (Aleman, Wartman, 2009). This has lead to an externalization of the self. People direct their personality outward and are not timid about the information they are presenting. In fact, it is becoming a social norm to project such information and those who do not are an outcast. People want to know everything about everyone and want to feel that other want to know everything about them, so they make information available. Whether it be through instant status updates, the ‘About Me’ section, or a list of interests, there is always a way to express ones self. The information being presented may be either factual or fabricated, but in any case, the information is there and is readily accessible.

It has been said before that if you are not on Facebook, you do not exist. The harsh reality is that social networking sites connect people and are becoming a major form of communication. The people who are not jumping on to the social network bandwagon are left in the dust. Social networking sites are not all rainbows and sunshine, however. Instead of being beneficial, they can actually work against a person and disadvantage them. "These days, you are what you Google" (Foster 2009), and if a search turns up inappropriate photos or an immature Facebook page, the employer doing the research may think twice about the intended hire. There are a multitude of uses for these sites beyond arrant communication and once people realize this they are more aware of the image they are presenting.

The social network concept in its entirety can be compared to the non-virtual social network that involves the characters of The Rules of Attraction. This novel takes place in the 1980’s, just a decade shy of the personal computer phenomenon. The students attend a liberal arts school where nobody is left out of the conversation. Everyone is aware of the situations and circumstances of others through an endless grapevine of communication. The dining hall, where the students gather and talk about others, is the Facebook homepage where people can be seen and statuses are updated. Instead of instant messages hand written love letters are used to communicate feelings. The transition from tangible to virtual forms of communication is less thoughtful and more guarded (Gackenback 2007). In the novel, people are informed through word of mouth. Now, up to date information is posted online and readily available. The difference is that the virtual world is more controlled and structured as people construct their own identities and present information about them that they want others to view rather than leaving others to make their own assumptions based on information from a secondary source.

These sites of interaction can be more or less beneficial. There is an “interaction between individuals and the culture and subcultures that (people) construct, not only through the process of externalization and objectification, but also through their own learning as a result of the process of internalization” (Le Cornu 2009). If social networking sites are the said subculture, then it can be assumed that people incorporate cultural values, morals, and motives of other cultural or social groups into their own knowledge through cyber socialization and information. People can encompass a greater understanding of others through this medium. This is the era in which people “not only consumed knowledge, but produced it as well” (Aleman, Wartman 2009). Bloggers, authors, journalists, and stay at home moms, can all publish their work, on-line that is. Anyone who has an opinion about something or just wants to inform can now do so in the comforts of their own home and without much hassle.

This instant sharing of information is revolutionary and convenient, but it has its problems. “With information comes disinformation” in terms of a digital disaster (Barker 2009). The dependency on the Internet may not seem like a considerable concern, but some feel otherwise. The expected meltdown of Y2K was a wake up call for many. Is the dependency on computers and the Internet going to lead to our downfall as a society? As the first few minutes of the millennial year passed no noticeable changes occurred. Computers were handling the change with more ease than the people behind the screens, waiting for any sign of malfunction. Recently, the concern is encompassing the year of 2012. It has been predicted that a solar storm will occur that will trigger planet-wide radio blackouts, which will cause the Internet, and everything that depends on it to fail. Ironically, most people heard about this from the Internet its self. The medium is causing a high awareness of the topic and it seems to be at the top of everyone’s minds, or recently searched list. This may or may not actually occur, but the implications are that this society had welcomed the cyber world with open arms and is now squeezing tight. Perhaps the dependence on the Internet, in all of its information giving, fast paced, and instantly gratifying glory, has reached a new level.

Is too much of a good thing a bad thing? The Internet and its usage is increasing exponentially, but it may be a means to an end. The World Wide Web “has an addictive quality because of the pleasure it provides its users but also because of the sense of dependency it creates” (Aleman, Wartman 2009). Not only is this nation run by technology and the reliance on a well-functioning Internet, people living their day-to-day lives rely on it as well. This would cause for a diminished sense of independence if the functioning Internet were to subside. It seems as though a person can no longer find their way around without MapQuest or their GPS navigation. A person cannot find the definition of a word without typing it into an on-line dictionary. People cannot communicate with each other in the real world as well as they can in the virtual world. Internet has not ameliorated our abilities to function independently as much as it has made us more reliant on the medium. It has, however, created an atmosphere of hyper awareness, which can be perceived as either commendable or contemptible.

The awakened conscious of society has been brought about by the availability of information in terms of news, celebrities, reality television, and, of course, the Internet. It has been a luxury to be able to use each of these mediums in the search for information and to participate in the creation of new information. As the mediums continue to develop, so do our thoughts and ideas. The advances in technology have correlated with the advances in cultural knowledge. There is a heightened awareness of other people and their cultures because of the media and Internet. Our dependence on such mediums is questionable but the public opinion remains constant; it is better to have experienced such luxuries and lose them to have never had them at all.

Works Cited

Alemán, Ana M. Martínez. Online social networking on campus understanding what matters in student culture. New York, NY: Routledge, 2008. Print.

Altheide, David L. "THE NEWS MEDIA, THE PROBLEM FRAME, AND THE PRODUCTION OF FEAR." The Sociological Quarterly 38.4 (1997): 647-68. Print.

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies Theory and Practice. Minneapolis: Sage Publications Ltd, 2008. Print.

Ellis, Bret Easton. Rules of attraction. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1998. Print.

Foster, Jason. "'Branding' Yourself Could Be Boon to Career." General OneFile. Herald, 31 Mar. 2000. Web. 14 Dec. 2009. .

Le Cornu, Alison. "Meaning, Internalization, and Externalization." Adult Education Quarterly 59.4 (2009): 279-97. Print.

Reiss, Steven. "Why America Loves Reality TV | Psychology Today." Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness Find a Therapist. Web. 16 Dec. 2009. .

Rivkin, Julie, and Michael Ryan. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Malden: Blackwell, 1998.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Group Presentation

Our group presentation was about Myspace and Facebook. It took a while for us to all meet because we had conflicting schedules. I emailed the group members for a while and we finally agreed on a meeting date. We met in the library and started out by brainstorming ideas for the presentation and basic ideas for how to relate it to the class theme. We came up with a lot of ideas and Heather and I wrote them all down. When the meeting was over I suggested that we all go through the Cultural Studies textbook, specifically the Digital Media chapter and try and find ideas that Barker has to relate to our presentation. When I got home, I typed up the notes that I took in the meeting and emailed them to everyone.

After I emailed the group and organized another meeting we all met up again in the library. This time we turned our ideas into questions and came up with some answers to lead the class if they were stumped or not responding. Our questions were organized into different sections like Profiles, Socializing, Activism, etc. We talked about what medium we should use to present and came up with the idea of a powerpoint. We were discussing the idea of a blog that had our questions posted on it but we all decided against it in the end.

It was either at our first meeting or the second one that I was browsing YouTube for some humorous Facebook videos. I found two that we could work into our presentation. We all watched them and decided what we could say about them and how to make it work with our main ideas. Over the weekend I created the PowerPoint presentation and then we met again on the Monday before our class presentation, which was on Wednesday. We decided where in the slides the videos should go and then we practiced giving the presentation. We all chose sections that we would present and were each in charge of our own slide.

The presentation went well and the high level of involvement and interest that the students exhibited surprised me. I was very interested in the topic as well and could not stop talking about it, even if it was somebody else's assigned slide. I probably should have kept my mouth shut at some points and let my other group members talk but I was enjoying being able to feed off of the students energy and converse with them.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sex and the City Analysis

This clip from Sex and the City involves Charlotte, the more reserved character, talking to her friend about the recent anonymous sex she had. The scene makes it seem like this type of behavior is acceptable, which is reinforced by the gay man she is confiding in. How would this be different if the same thing happened in a suburban neighborhood? It would be considered much more scandalous and Charlotte would probably be looked down upon by her neighbors rather than praised, as she is in this scene. There is something about the city, especially New York City, that allows a person to be more private and anonymous about their actions. Charlotte found herself having sex with her not-so-attractive divorce lawyer and nobody found it to be a disgrace.

This may be against one’s morals and values, but it does not matter because many people are unaware that this event even occurred, or events like it. Also, the city is a more forgiving place. Not only are personal actions kept anonymous, but the eclectic group of people who have settled here are more forgiving to this life style. Chris Barker writes in Cultural Studies that the city is an “escape from the controls of traditions” and is a “product and symbol of modernity” (380). The typical New Yorker residing in Manhattan is not a Christian suburban housewife who will judge a woman about her promiscuous behavior. The typical New Yorker is more open to different ways of living.

New York offers an abundance of excitement. It is a place where a person can either completely disappear or make themselves known. Barker wrote a section in his book called, “The excitement of the city” in which he describes the very essence of a city its self. According to Barker, cities have many things to offer, one being “the context for mixing and meeting with a range of different people” (397). The gay club where this scene takes place reinforces the idea that there are many, many different types of people that a person can mingle with at any given time. In other episodes, the girls go to all types of different parties where they meet interesting, and sometimes bizarre, people. It is more available to them in the city as apposed to a family-oriented neighborhood in which one will encounter the same people each day.

Barker also writes that, “In big cities, as nowhere else, one can…play with identities” (397). With such a large mass of people in one small area, it is nearly impossible to keep track of a single person’s whereabouts. Charlotte had sex with her divorce lawyer and the only people who will be aware of this are the people that she tells. She is not normally this promiscuous but she has no shame because she was personifying an alternate identity. She was not Charlotte the conservative and reserved girl; she was Charlotte the client who this working professional is not familiar with.

New York, and big cities in general, are more open-minded to multiple lifestyles, forgiving of the mishaps of others, and enable people to “play with identities” as Barker puts it. Yes, the people here have morals and values, but they are less defined. There is a gray area between right and wrong that people live within. Some of the things the characters do in Sex and the City may be deemed completely acceptable to some and utterly reprehensible to others. The atmosphere in the city is fast-paced, exciting, and best of all, anonymous. If you want to go to a gay bar and talk about your promiscuous sex life without anybody judging you, then go right ahead.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Response Paper- Social Networking Sites and the Construction of Identity

Identity is variable and can change as a result of the social vicissitudes of culture. With society’s technological advancements came the advent of social networking websites such as Facebook and Myspace. Theses sites act as portals of self-expression. Using this medium, one can virtually construct their own identity and modify the way it is represented as their own identity changes.

The anti-essentialist view of identity is that it is not stable and concrete, but rather it is constantly fluctuating as a result of culture and surroundings. Chris Barker, author of Cultural Studies, adds to this when he writes that identity is “fluid” (216). The opinions of ourselves change often and we create these opinions. So, then, identity is self-creative. According to Barker, it is “not a collection of traits we possess” but it is “a mode of thinking about ourselves” (217). One knows what makes up their identity because they created it, but this true self can be misrepresented to others.

The differences between self-identity and social identity are evident in the online social networking world. The identity of the self is a personal, solitary opinion. Social identification is the “expectations and opinions others have about us” (Barker 215). On social networking sites, users create a personal image of how they perceive themselves using narrative paragraphs, quotes, status updates, and pictures. According to a recent study of 59 Facebook users conducted by Temple University’s Department of Sociology, most users seemed to preset themselves as how they aspire to be in their offline lives but have not been able to accomplish. While a personal online profile can give the viewer a fair representation of the person, it is not always accurate. The study concluded that Facebook users “make certain implicit identity claims aimed at generating desired impressions on their viewers especially in terms of the depth and extent of their social ties” (Zhao). The strive for social acceptance is directly related to the comparative nature of these websites. Users are bombarded with a constant flow of information about others that they cannot help but compare themselves to them and alter the identity they have created.

Users of social networking sites have an image to uphold, just as people in the non-virtual world do. . On a website such as Facebook or Myspace, the image one presents to others is being continuously evaluated in relation to other users, most likely of their same peer group. These sites serve as a way for people to monitor each other (Gackenback 2007). For example, college students often view potential roommates’ online profile as a way to decide whether they are suitable candidates or not. Girls have been known to check up on their ex-boyfriend’s new love interest, or to check on a current partner to be reassured of their faithfulness, or lack there of. As a result of this rapid accessibility, people normally tend to present a more desirable version of themselves to the cyber community (Aleman, Wartman, 2009). However ‘normal’ this may be, the behavior that profile holders exhibit is much like Patrick Bateman in the film American Psycho. He is a narcissist who is defined incessantly by others and has an incomplete idea of his own identity. This never-ending stream of comparisons suppresses true identity.

The social network concept in its entirety can be compared to the non-virtual social network that involves the characters of The Rules of Attraction. This novel takes place in the 1980’s, just a decade shy of the personal computer phenomenon. The students attend a liberal arts school where nobody is left out of the conversation. Everyone is aware of the situations and circumstances of others through an endless grapevine of communication. The dining hall, where the students gather and talk about others, is the Facebook homepage where people can be seen and statuses are updated. Instead of instant messages hand written love letters are used to communicate feelings. The transition from tangible to virtual forms of communication is less thoughtful and more guarded (Gackenback 2007). In the novel, people are informed through word of mouth. Now, up to date information is posted online and readily available. The difference is that the virtual world is more controlled and structured as people construct identities for themselves rather than others making their own assumptions.

Identity is a result of comparisons. Barker states, “…one of the earliest elements in the construction of our sense of self is gender” (64). Gender is used as another level of self-comparison within social networks. This explains the feminist opinion that “identity is marked by social difference” (Barker 224). Men and women fit into certain gender roles that are notable in online communities. For example, men are less concerned about conforming to beauty and are more interested in expressing individual meaning. Conversely, women are more prone to be concerned with standards of beauty (Aleman 2009). “Self-representation is restricted by the social norms of gender specific to women” such as sex appeal and photos of promiscuous behavior (Aleman 2009). Men are equally as guilty of conforming to perceived roles of gender by the ways in which they express their masculinity. Aleman gave an example of this when she wrote an anecdote about a girl whose boyfriend refused to replace his main profile picture of him playing football with a photo of them together at a formal event. She assumed it was because he wanted to maintain a certain image (74). Both sexes are concerned with the image they present. Men and women may modify their profile to appear more in line with the socially acceptable of roles of gender.

One can construct self-identity to be a certain way in their eyes, while emitting an altered cultural identity. This can be both purposeful, as a means to fit in with society, or unintentional, as a reaction to being exposed to and compared with other identities. One’s own perception of their identity is malleable; therefore the way it is represented is ever changing.

Works Cited

Alemán, Ana M. Martínez. Online social networking on campus understanding what matters in student culture. New York, NY: Routledge, 2008. Print.

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies Theory and Practice. Minneapolis: Sage Publications Ltd, 2008. Print.

Ellis, Bret Easton. Rules of attraction. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1998. Print.

Gackenbach, Jayne. Psychology and the Internet, Second Edition Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, and Transpersonal Implications. New York: Academic, 2006. Print.

Zhao, Shanyang, Sherri Grasmuck, and Jason Martin. "Identity construction on Facebook: Digital empowerment in anchored relationships." Computers in Human Behavior 24.5 (2008): 1816-836. Wilson OmniFile Full Text Mega. Web. 12 Oct. 2009.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ethnography: Lotus

On Monday, September 21st, I sat discretely at LOTUS, a self-serve frozen yogurt bar from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm. It’s a colorful and trendy place with pink and green tables and orange chairs. Lotus appeals to a younger crowd with it’s super modern décor. This place also seems to appeal to Asians as apposed to the Starbucks just next door, which seemed to have more of a multicultural mix of customers. I read on a blog that Asians used to go for Boba tea which was imported from Taiwan in the 80’s and quickly became a hit ( Now the new trend is “fro-yo”. According to this blog, Koreans have taken over the frozen yogurt empire and transformed the vendors into trendy and fresh places where the Asian influence is apparent. This trend has recently seeped into main stream culture as more and more hip frozen yogurt stores are being opened.



There is a white female and black male sitting next to me. About my age (19). The girl has ice cream and the guy does not. They seem to be flirting.

Blonde and brunette females. About 30 something walk in. Get yogurt. Are choosing toppings together. Girl behind counter looks bored. She just saw me look at her and she looked away. Middle aged man sits by himself eating yogurt at a central table. Is talking loudly on the phone.

Young flirty couple leaves. As they walk out the girl asks they guy if there’s a Toys R Us around here. He seems confused. Lonely guy on cell phone’s phone rings. Sounds like old school phone ring. Talks for a shot while and hangs up. He is in a gray T-shit and jeans. Very casual. Doesn’t look like a business man. He is now eating his ice cream and not talking on the phone. The music seems to have gotten louder. Some random indie song that I’ve never heard.

There is a girl in front of me alone. Has laptop and books. Maybe she’s in here because Starbucks is full, like me. A friend comes to meet her. Another female about the same age. 20-ish. Both wearing gray shirts. The girl pulls up a chair. Both girls get up. One throws away her empty yogurt cup and the other asks the girl ho works here if she can pull another table closer to them. She cheerfully says “sure!” They get study materials together and chit-chat.


Cell phone man calls someone. Talking about how he lost two million. Doesn’t specify of what, though. The music is loud so I can’t hear what he’s saying. The song just said “It’s not about love…I am not in love” and is dramatic with trumpets.

The study girls friend gets ice cream and cell phone man is still on the phone. A Hispanic lady and a Hispanic man walk in together. Before they get ice cream he says, “I’ll pay for you”. She is wearing a lot of make-up and is taller than him. He has a baggy red T-shit and baggy denim shorts.

The guy on phone has an iPhone I just noticed. Study girl’s friend pays for her yogurt with a credit card. Hispanic couple is laughing together while they get their ice cream.

Cell phone man gets up, throws away ice cream cup, and goes to public restroom.

Hispanic couple kisses after they purchase their ice cream. They proceed to sit down two tables away from me and speak in Spanish. Girl who works here wipes tables. I get up to buy ice cream because I feel weird just sitting here staring at everyone without purchasing anything. My total was $3.18.

Hispanic girl laughs loudly. Two guys walk in together. Both white. Casual attire. About 20. The shorter one talks about someone being mad at him. They pay together. I know one of them but he doesn’t see me so we don’t say hi. He’s homosexual so this could be a date.

A security guard walks in and goes straight to bathroom. A rock song is now on. An older (by older I mean older than the girl who works at the counter) Indian woman comes out from the back with a money bag and says, “I’m leaving” and then proceeds to talk to bored behind-the-counter girl. Then she leaves. Girl stares outside of window longingly.

Two girls in school uniforms walk in with a woman who seems to be their mother. They sample multiple flavors. They’re Asian. The girls look like twins. Meanwhile, security guard leaves the store. The mother pays for the girls’ ice cream but doesn’t get any for herself. One girl chooses a purple spoon and the other a yellow spoon. They leave.

The male couple leaves. The girl with the yellow spoon runs back in and grabs a purple spoon. There are six different colors of spoons to choose from.

I am left with flirty Hispanic couple and the study girls. They have two tables full of binders, books, and laptops. Hispanic couple is speaking spanglish- combo of English and Spanish. A song comes on that I recognize. It’s on my iPod Sleep Playlist.

Nobody comes in for a couple minutes. Then tall white female with curly short blond hair and an Asian male with long hair and a half ponytail. Both in jeans. Look about the same age. Female pays for the both of them.

Trendy young Asian couple walks in. Curly blonde girl sees a penny on the ground and runs to pick it up. Seems excited. 25 year old female comes in alone. Waits patiently for young Asian couple to finish with the yogurt machine. The Asian man and blonde curly girl are sitting at a table eating together. Both leaning in towards each other. Body language implies that they are a couple.

Meanwhile, the girl in the young Asian couple pays for both yogurts. They leave. Blonde girl pays and sits alone. Two Asian girls walk in. About 30. They have Starbucks and one sits down at a table while the other gets yogurt. Both have glasses. Speaking in another language. Laugh together.

Pilipino man is leaning back in his chair telling a story. Just noticed that the two studying girls have tiny little laptops. I’ve never seen a laptop that small before. They have the same one.

Music is quiet and I hear a rumble of conversations. There are now four groups of two here. Bohemian Rhapsody comes on. Pilipino man leans in close to curly blonde and says something softly. I take a picture with my cell phone of the place. Nobody notices.


White trash man comes in. White “wife-beater” tank and denim shorts. Asks the girl-behind-counter a question, then leaves. Old lady in black polka dot pants comes in. Older black male comes in after. They talk as if they know each other. They sample different flavors then leave together without buying anything. White trash man is back. He whistles to himself while serving his ice cream. Security guard walks by outside for the third time. I take a picture of white trash guy. Jolly balding man with brown hair walks in. Has a back-pack on. He’s wearing pink pants and has a huge smile on his face. Hispanic couple looks at me and knows I’m taking pictures. Oh well. Pink pants man sits down and pulls out a laptop, sets it up on the table. Still has huge smile.

Male security guard comes in. Different from the first one. Gets bright pink ice cream. Caucasian male and female walk in. Both tall. Get ice cream together. Girl has a tattoo on the back of her neck. She’s wearing business casual. He’s in sweat pants and track shoes but a collared shirt. Security guard leaves. Female pays after male presents a coupon. Asian girls, Philipino man and culry blonde, as well as Hispanic couple are still here. The white couple sits right next to me and talks about immigratin laws. The man’s phone makes a chiming noise and he pulls his phone out of his pocket and notices he has a voicemail. He says, “I’m busy they can wait”, and the woman says, “well at least your priorities are straight”.

Three overweight girls walk in and they are with one heavy male. All Caucasian. Two seem to be a couple and the other girls look like just friends going along for the ride.


The first topic I’d like to touch on is lonely cell phone guy. Does he feel uncomfortable sitting by himself with out talking on the phone? Could be something to hind behind that makes him feel secure. Or he could be bored. This generation seems to need to multitask in order to be entertained, but this man was a bit older. Has the invention of cell phones made it so that people feel the need to always be talking to someone if they’re not busy? The mentality is, “there is somebody I could be talking to”, or “there is something I should be doing”. People don’t take the time to sit down and relax. Be alone with their thoughts.

The man who decides to check his voice mail after the date is giving his partner all of his attention and for this she is satisfied. At least technology has not taken over him. Many people sitting at Lotus with their partners were texting other people while trying to have a face-to-face conversation at the same time. It’s comforting to observe this man who is not yet a slave to technology and puts his relationships first.

I noticed a considerable amount of older people (not college age) who were Lotus customers during this hour. It makes me wonder what they all do for a living. Why are these middle-aged people here on a Monday at 2pm? Is this a result of the economy? They could be on a lunch break but they all spent quite a bit of time sitting at the tables. This isn’t Spain, we don’t have Siestas which allow you to be absent from work in the afternoon and return to work at night. I have no explanation for this, it’s just a thought.

The two study girls look alike but I can tell they are not related. They’re peers and friends but not individuals. Same outfit, same hairstyle, even same trendy laptop. This screams out materialism. Both girls are trying to fit in and be accepted and as a result they have become exact replicas of each other. This is an example of culture from above. Society tells us how we should look and what we should have. They’ve both been watching the same commercials, apparently.

Another example similar to this is my observation of the girl who runs back in to choose the same color spoon that her twin sister chose. This could be a number of things. For instance, her mother could have wanted a bite and so she ran in to get another spoon. In my opinion, this girl noticed that she liked the color of her sister’s spoon better and perhaps wants to feel equal to her. She hasn’t developed a sense of individuality but rather embraces the comfort of conformity. It may seem like a stretch, but I drew a connection to American Psycho. Patrick Bateman has no real sense of self and lives his life mirroring others around him, much like this little girl and her twin sister.

As for the heavier-set couple, they are the first overweight people I see. There are two other heavier girls with this couple and I wonder why they all share this common bond. It’s just like the two study girls with the same hair, clothes, and personal belongings. People tend to flock to other people who look like them. This occurs in racial groups as well. This subconscious desire to be around those who resemble us gives us a sense of belonging, and that’s all we really want…right?

I’ve expressed my thoughts on materialism and conformity. Now I’d like to move on to gender roles and masculine versus feminine attitudes.

The red shirt Hispanic guy has a more masculine persona by taking the initiative for the woman by offering to pay for her. This could be because he already feels emasculated because this woman is so much taller than him and has to make up for it in some way.

I finally have my trendy young Asian couple that I was hoping would come in and prove my point about the demographics of a fro-yo place, and once again the girl pays for the guy. In class we compared a scene of Anchorman to a scene of Fatal Attraction. In one case the man was perusing the woman, and in the next the woman was after the man. Today, women feel that it is more appropriate to pursue a man rather than waiting around for him to come to her. This is why I observed so many women paying for their dates. In these times it’s okay for women to take on a more masculine role in the relationship, just as it is okay for men to be a bit more sensitive as shown through romantic comedies. Being more feminine does not always have to be about emotions. The security guard who purchased bright pink frozen yogurt, a much more feminine option than a black coffee at the Starbucks next door.

I observed a gay couple at Lotus together and another very gay man in bright pink pants with bright pink ice cream. It’s possible that they could feel comfortable here because it is so flashy and bright. I’m not trying to convince anyone that all gay men and all Asians like frozen yogurt, this is merely and observation. About 90% of the people who came in were couples, heterosexual and homosexual alike. It’s kind of like Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex where he mentions the need for coupling in society. I find this to be a biological need more than a social one.

The couple that spoke Spanglish together represents a merging of cultures as well as a language barrier. As for the inter-racial couple, this is now more accepted than it was a few decades ago. The female took on a more dominant role by paying for the man. As for the girl in business clothes with the man in sweat pants, perhaps she works and he stays at home? The typical gender roles have been reversed.


Benedek, T. (1953). The Second Sex: By Simone de Beauvoir. Translated and edited by H. M. Parshley. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1953. 732 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 22:264-267.

"Sharon." Web. 23 Sept. 2009.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

First Post EVER!


This is the first post on my new blog created for Honors English 313. Hooray! I'm sure there will be many more to come.