#Selfies

The rise of social media has been one of the most remarkable things to happen in the past ten years. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have redefined the way people connect and how businesses advertise. Within this revolution there is another sub phenomenon that exploded over the last 5 years; selfies. What is it? It’s the modern day self-portrait in the form of a photo. People who use to have other people take pictures for them can now do it themselves. The spread of front facing cameras through smartphones have made this trend available for both the youth and the elderly. People everywhere are taking a quick selfie of themselves; whether it’s on their way to class or visiting the Great Wall of China.

Selfies have been so ingrained into pop culture that it has completely captured the social media industry. It’s become impossible to scroll through a Facebook or Instagram feed without seeing somebody’s selfie. It’s not just social media either. There is a huge plethora of apps dedicated to selfies. The most famous is Snapchat. It’s an app that people use to send messages that are deleted immediately after they’re read. It’s become the catalyst for the spread of selfies across America. Just how big is Snapchat? Well it recently turned down a 3 billion dollar offer from Facebook. Of course, it’s not just social networking companies that are making big dollars from this trend. Photo editing tools have flooded the app stores. To “glamify” selfies people have turned to various photoshop programs and “Instagram filters”. Slapping a mayfair or lo-fi filter on a selfie is a quick easy way for people to add pop to their pictures. The purpose is to make the picture as fabulous as possible. It’s the same reason why people take pictures of their food. They want to show it to others as part of their social “resume”.

The word selfie has even officially entered the English language. The Oxford dictionary named selfie as the word of the year in 2013. In addition to becoming a part of the English dictionary, there are even songs made about it. The hit “song” #Selfie was one of the biggest of 2014. As of right now it has 300 million views on Youtube! There’s even an ABC comedy, albeit recently canceled, titled Selfie.

There is a famous phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan. He asks, “Why is this understanding of ‘the medium is the message’ particularly useful? We tend to notice changes – even slight changes (that unfortunately we often tend to discount in significance.) ‘The medium is the message’ tells us that noticing change in our societal or cultural ground conditions indicates the presence of a new message, that is, the effects of a new medium.” The medium is anything that has a profound social effect. It’s not the individual message that each selfie may hold, but how the “medium”, the selfie, has changed the way people think and act. It doesn’t matter if the person taking the selfie is in her car, or in a three star restaurant, but it’s how society reacts to being able to take and send selfies. Probably the most famous selfie ever taken is the picture above. It’s known as the “Oscar Selfie” and is one of the most heavily retweeted pictures in Twitter history. Since then it has spread like wildfire. Even president Obama was caught taking a selfies with world leaders.

Selfies are not just an American pop cultural trend. It’s global. It’s a trend that has no signs of slowing down. The selfie has become a type of photo that can be done by anybody who owns even the cheapest of smartphones. While many will say it’s an indicator of our narcissistic society, but it’s simply another way for people to show themselves to others.

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Restaurants on Wheels

Over the past few years “foodie” culture have made its way into mainstream America. Local ingredients, exotic flavors, celebrity chefs, and new chic restaurants became all the rage. People were finally saying no to the prepackaged dinners that places like Olive Garden were selling. Even more recently the foodie culture has given rise to another phenomenon,food trucks. From University City in Philadelphia all the way to Beverly Hills, LA, food trucks have been serving hungry customers every form of food imaginable. Sushi, Hot Dogs, Dim Sum, Texas BBQ, chili, dumplings, cheesesteaks are just a few of the diverse plethora of foodie goodness offered by food trucks.

Opening a restaurant in the past has been a daunting task. The turnover rate along with the high costs of opening restaurants mean it’s a huge investment. For example, something as simple as a McDonalds franchise costs upwards of 1.9 million dollars! The recent recession increased the risks even more. With food trucks, these risks are more manageable. Food trucks have made it possible to sell great food without having to invest millions of dollars to open a brick and motor restaurant. Another advantage food trucks have compared to traditional restaurants is that they can change their locations. If one location is not selling well, they can move elsewhere. Since food trucks provide fast on the go meals, they can find a location on Market during the day and park themselves in front of a bar in Old City at night.

A Korean American started it all by the name of Roy Choi. Roy Choi, a self proclaimed “screw up”, started Kogi, a food truck business that sold Korean Taco’s. With Mexican and Korean flavors and pricing that competes with Chipotle, he had a game winning combination. Choi utilized the mobility of food trucks by parking his truck in the hearts of LA nightlife, Sunset Boulevard and Venice Beach His business exploded. Soon there were hundreds of people lining up to buy his tacos. Choi expanded his fleet of food trucks and used social media like Twitter to let people know where his trucks were parked. He soon went viral and was featured on TV shows like Top Chef and magazines like Food and Wine. Today, there are entire TV shows dedicated to just food trucks. Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race is an example of this. The show pits seven different food trucks competing against each other in various cities. The ultimate goal is for the trucks to win by having the highest sales. The competitors have various celebrity chefs as mentors and the truck who has the least sales is eliminated each week. The winner gets $50,000 and a brand new truck.

Food trucks combined with smartphones have been a match made in heaven. With social media and stand-alone apps, any person can find where their favorite truck is at any given time. Social Media also helped fuel the growth of food trucks. Food truck owners, who don’t have the luxury of huge marketing budgets, can take to twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for their advertising. As a result, they can build huge followings. For example Roy Choi’s Kogi has 131 thousand twitter followers! As Brett Lamb explained, “Advertisers realized that word of mouth and recommendations are a powerful way to sell products.” Food truck owners rely on “opinion makers” for their truck to spread in popularity. On social media they let their followers know where and when they can find their trucks. Slowly, their followers spread the popularity of their truck. This is “word of mouth” at light speed. They notify their followers of any menu changes or other new developments. Here in Philadelphia there’s a website devoted to the location of various food trucks. Having personally taste tested a few, I can attest to the convenience and huge selection of food offered by food trucks.

By engaging in social media food trucks have become part of American popular culture. TV shows, twitter followers, foodies, and mobile apps have all been used to spread their popularity. Being able to grab a great $5 meal on the go whether for lunch or after a party offers a convenience that is hard to find in a major city. Food trucks have made it possible for people to taste all different types of foods that would have not been sold before. In a country filled with Arby’s and Subways, food trucks offer new tastes for both the foodies and regular people alike. Food trucks have entered the lifestyle of the 21st century citizen.