A Single’s Guide to Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is almost here—that dreaded date where reality almost always falls short of expectation. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, there’s a lot of pressure to live up to the day. People who are single often feel less-than-themselves on February 14th if they don’t have a date. However, there’s plenty of ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day without desperately digging through your contacts.

 

friends

  1. Friends Night Out

No one ever said that the self-proclaimed “Day of Love” was limited to romance. Celebrate platonic love by planning something with your friends. Go out to eat, see a movie, or, if you want to avoid the many couples on parade, stay in for a Netflix binge session with popcorn. The best part? Your friends won’t care if you wear sweatpants the entire night!

 

treat-yo-self

  1. Reward Yourself

If all your friends have dates, that’s fine! Take the opportunity to reward yourself and relax. Been eyeing the Cheesecake Factory dessert menu online? Get a slice of your favorite flavor. Think your nails need touching up? Go get them done. Haven’t had time to read that new book, or watch that new DVD? Get some snacks and enjoy yourself. The key difference to the stereotypical “singles Valentine’s Day” is that you are pampering yourself, NOT throwing a pity party. Doing things you enjoy will take your mind off of the social expectations of the holiday and allow you to enjoy being you.

 

diy

  1. Learn Something New

This one may seem like a stretch, but there’s nothing more rewarding than learning (or perfecting) a new skill. You might finally get around to learning your favorite song on the piano, or teach yourself how to cook your favorite fancy dessert. Maybe you want to try and create a craft from Pinterest. Some of the best projects are those that you make for other people, but feel free to craft for yourself! Even if it doesn’t go exactly as planned, you’ll have something to show for your efforts. This tip is also a good way to distract yourself if you tend to have a hard time on Valentine’s Day.

 

These were just a couple of ways that you can make the most of a single Valentine’s Day. No matter what you end up doing, just remember what we all have to look forward to: the day-after chocolate sale!

Buster the Boxer Bounces into Our Hearts

Buster the Boxer Bounces into Our Hearts

Residents of the U.K. know the Holiday Season has officially begun when they see the John Lewis Christmas ad. For years, the department store has produced emotional ads that would leave the Grinch holding back tears. This year, however, the world was presently surprised.

Almost anyone you speak to will say that 2016 has been an interesting year. From several high-profile deaths (including Alan Rickman and David Bowie) in the first few months to Brexit and the U.S. Election, this year has had its share of frustrating moments. That is exactly why John Lewis decided to give consumers a break, and remind them of the joy of “giving the perfect gift at Christmas”.

 

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The ad starts with Buster the Boxer watching his little girl jumping on the bed on Christmas Eve. The Mother tucks the little girl into bed, then watches the Father build a trampoline in the yard. In the night, two foxes, a badger, and a squirrel sneak onto the trampoline. Buster watches them joyfully jump from inside, growling in frustration. Cut to Christmas morning. The little girl finally sees her present and is overjoyed. As she runs towards it, however, Buster pushes past her to finally enjoy his moment on the trampoline.

 

TV isn’t the only way that John Lewis is sharing the Holiday Cheer. The store is selling stuffed animals of Buster and his animal friends to benefit The Wildlife Trust in the U.K. Also, shoppers at the Oxford Street store in London can live the experience thanks to a VR in the children’s department that allows them to bounce with the animals. Fans can also become Buster himself thanks to a Snapchat lens.

 

The U.K. has fallen in love with Buster, and so has the world.  Since it was posted on the company’s Facebook page two weeks ago, it has 33 million views and has been shared 886,000 times. It may be safe to say that John Lewis’ optimism has brought a little Christmas Spirit back to the world.

Click Here to watch the ad.

 

The Online Parade

The Online Parade

 

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TechnoBuffalo.com

Each Thanksgiving, millions of Americans crowd around their TV to watch the Macy’s Day Parade. Children and adults alike gawk at intricate floats, sparkling Broadway performances, and massive balloons as they make their way through New York City. This year, however, viewers didn’t have to tune in to the network’s coverage of the parade. Macy’s embraced a new kind of stream: the 360-degree live stream.

Though the floats may stay the same, technology does not. Thanks to Verizon, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was able to test out a new way to share its experience with the world.  The phone provider sponsored a 360-degree live stream to be beamed from its YouTube account during the parade. Viewers could change their view to see upcoming floats, people in the crowd, or balloons floating by balconies. Announcers were on hand to let viewers know what was coming up (and mention Verizon’s sponsorship, of course).

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google.com

I checked the live stream myself several times during the parade. It was exciting to see the route as if I were actually on the streets of NYC. However, it lacked the charisma that the network’s feed has. This could be for a number of reasons. Networks have been showing the parade for years; they understand how it works, which angles are best, and show a wide array of performances. The facts and stories that are scattered throughout the coverage can be interesting as well.

However, Verizon’s live stream did have one major plus: no commercials. Since Verizon sponsored the event solo, there were no interruptions. It felt a lot more natural to Netflix natives like myself.

All in all, I’m very interested to see where this goes. Will they use 360 degree live streams next year? Will other events follow in Macy’s footsteps? Only time will tell.

The Scoop on Starbucks’ Holiday Cups

The Scoop on Starbucks’ Holiday Cups

Last year, Starbucks faced surprising backlash when they introduced their plain red Holiday cups. Critics accused them of removing what made up the holiday season, such as Christmas trees and snowflakes. This year, the coffee chain has taken a personal approach to counter last years’ bad press.

Many consumers saw the red cup as a canvas rather than an attack on the Holiday season. People began posting photos of their coffee creations, and Starbucks took notice. The company decided to call for submissions for the 2016 Holiday Cup. Consumers responded beautifully. Here are the designs that were chosen:

 

This is a great example of engaging with consumers. According to an article on 1912Pike.com, Starbucks received more than 1,200 submissions from 13 countries. That is a lot of posting, sharing, and conversation among the community. If current conversation is any indicator, it’s also a great way to improve sentiment. Starbucks is proving to its consumers that they value their input, and their talents. Though it is early in the Holiday season, it seems that Starbucks has regained its Holiday throne.

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Starbucks Instagram

A Weekend of Magic

A Weekend of Magic

This weekend has been one full of magic and nostalgia for Harry Potter fans. Not only did the newest installment in J.K. Rowling’s universe, “Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them”, come out on Friday, but FreeForm is having another Harry Potter Weekend.

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From Friday to Sunday, FreeForm delights viewers with a marathon of all eight films. The network is famous for randomly depositing these marathons throughout the year. It’s even rumored that they begin when an employee pushes a large red button.

screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-6-22-37-pmBesides the frequency of these special weekends, this marathon seems to be strategically placed. Though it hasn’t been said if FreeForm is working with the marketing department for Fantastic Beasts, this would be the perfect weekend to remind people of the world that the movie is revisiting. Fans would get a taste of what they’ve been missing since the premiere of the 8th movie and, hopefully, encourage them to go to the theater to see Rowling’s pre-Potter installment.

However, it will be interesting to see if this drives people to the theater, or keeps people on their sofas. Perhaps fans will be so caught up in the nostalgia that they will forget. We will have to wait until the final numbers on Fantastic Beasts’ opening weekend are released; even then, it will be difficult to measure if Harry Potter Weekend had any direct effect on ticket sales. But, it is an interesting thing to contemplate, none the less.

YouTube Gets Awesome

YouTube Gets Awesome

YouTube: its a place to watch cats chase laser pointers, amazing covers of your favorite songs, and people falling flat on their face, and give back.

Confused about the last one? Many people associate YouTube with entertainment, not charity. However, VlogBrothers John and Hank Green have been challenging this idea since 2007. With the help of their community, Nerdfighteria, the Green brothers raise thousands of dollars every December to support a wide array of charities. It is aptly called “The Project for Awesome”, with the noble goal of “decreasing world suck” through a 48-hour live-stream-donation bonanza.

 

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Crowdfunder Insider

Here’s how it works: Nerdfighters (members of the community) create videos about charities in their community that could use some extra funding. These could range from animal shelters to groups that donate bikes to kids in need. Then, other Nerdfighters watch, comment, and like the videos to show their support. The favorite charities are allocated grants from the money raised. In 2007 the group “hacked” the algorithm, and managed to make the entire YouTube home page about charity! Two or three large charities are also given funds.

 

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My 2015 P4A perk: a signed “Paper Towns” poster, based off of John’s book.

Then, the live stream begins! John, Hank, and a plethora of other YouTubers take turns auctioning off items, completing challenges, and answering questions. People watching the stream can donate via the website, or purchase “perks”, limited addition items that are sold to benefit the stream. The donations are usually matched to a certain amount, and then its up to the YouTube community to reach the yearly goal. In 2015, the Project for Awesome raised a staggering $1.5 dollars. 

As a lover of YouTube, and a member of Nerdfighteria, this project is one of my favorites. It demonstrates that YouTube really is a community that cares about the world, not just a bunch of angry comments. It proves how much good can be done in the digital space, and through video, by everyday people. It feels pretty good.

Snap the World

Snap the World
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Business Insider

Snapchat is one of the most popular social media platforms among the oh-so-coveted millennial audience. Its addition of lenses has only added to the appeal of the app (see: snapchat and the election). Now, the newly rebranded Snap Inc. is taking it to the next level with “world lenses”.

Previously, the camera would map your face, and then apply interactive lenses based on this information. You could become a dog, a deer, or a glamour queen. New lenses were added later on that allowed users to swap faces with a friend, or overlay a photo onto their face. However, the new “world lenses” go one step beyond the lenses we’ve come to love. Not only can it be applied to your face, but it overlays 3-D graphics onto the world around you. Now, you AND that cloud can have rainbows pour from your mouth!

 

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The Guardian

Beyond being incredibly entertaining, these world lenses are an interesting development in the race for VR. From startups to big tech companies such as Facebook, experts seem to agree that virtual reality is the next Big Thing in the tech world.

By rebranding themselves as a camera company, Snap Inc. has allowed themselves to join the race. They’ve even applied for patents for software that would allow for ads and promotions to be displayed based on physical objects via a camera (such as their new camera sunglasses). If Snap Inc. is the first to efficiently monetize VR, Facebook might need to watch its back!