Using Digital Media For GOOD!

Using Digital Media For GOOD!

Happy July, everyone!

Last month, I had the opportunity to create social awareness around Capital One’s Digital For Good Summit — which is a free event designed to empower charities and non-profit organizations to use technology as a force for good. The Summit aims to help bridge the technology gap these groups are facing by providing attendees with access to tech leaders and like-minded peers they might not have access to otherwise.

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As a Communication Studies major myself, finding tactics to thrive amongst the growing changes in digital media is a huge passion of mine. When I started my first Communications Studies class in 2012, only a handful of my peers used social media. By the time I graduated, there were countless courses on topics that pertained to social and digital media. In *four* years, we went from low awareness of digital media, to teaching about it in classrooms.

Imagine what it must be like to be a charity or non-profit in the last handful of years. While changes in digital media have been favourable for private organizations to reach a larger audience, charities and non-profits often fall behind due to lack of funds or resources.

Early last month, I had the opportunity to spend the day at the People With AIDS Foundation (PWA), to learn about their struggle in today’s digital divide. After spending just a few hours at the organization, I learned that PWA is often the first point of contact for young HIV+ individuals in Toronto. Their services play a crucial role in guiding vulnerable Torontonians towards a sustainable and accepting life with HIV. However, fast changes in digital media haven’t left the organization with much time to grow and adapt. In fact, 74% of Canadian charities believe a growing tech gap threatens the long-term success of their organization. Charities like PWA provide vital services for so many HIV+ people in Toronto, including many of the LGBTQ+ community, who are often at a higher risk of becoming HIV+.

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Myself & Mike from the People With AIDS Foundation (PWA)

SO, this brings me to the Capital One Digital For Good Summit. Through the Digital for Good program, Capital One is able to utilize their network, talent and resources to close the tech gap in communities. Capital One’s work in this area focuses on supporting charities with their tech infrastructure and preparing people for 21st century jobs. It was a lot easier for someone like me to adapt to new changes in digital media — I mean, I literally went through an academic institution while these changes were occurring. However, for charities and non-profits that weren’t as lucky, they’ve needed an educational and supportive resource to help their organization adapt to an ever-changing digital world.

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The summit featured a series of panels from various figures in the Canadian & international charity community. Additionally, one of the speakers was Shiza Shahid, NOW Ventures & Co-Founder of Malala Fund. As a young entrepreneur, Shiza Shahid has found a way to harness the power of social media to literally change the lives of young women all around the world. See below for a snippet of her speech!

As well, one of the featured organizations was Kids Help Phone, who I learned uses AI word-recognition technology as part of their services. They utilize word-recognition technology to streamline the most vulnerable people who contact their services. In my opinion, having charities and non-profits who have already adapted themselves to digital media was incredibly helpful to those who attended. When there’s like-minded people from similar background in one space, it can often become easier to ask the right questions. I equate the Capital One Digital For Good Summit as a similar event to YouTube’s VidCon — at it’s core, the event aims to bring likeminded people together for thoughtful discussion, and a goal to find resolutions.

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Even though the summit is over, the conversation doesn’t stop! If you know a friend or family member who works at a charity or non-profit organization, invite them over for a coffee! I think a lot of us have crucial knowledge about digital and social media that they’d love to learn about.

— MR

Disclosure: This blog post was made in partnership with Capital One & their Digital For Good Summit. All opinions are my own.

How I Reduce Stress (as a stressful person)

How I Reduce Stress (as a stressful person)

Okay everyone, let’s get a little more personal in today’s post. While I’ve shared an abundance of my life on YouTube over the past six years, everything goes through an editing phase. I take out my “ummmms” “ahhhhhs” and general feelings of frustration when filming doesn’t go my way. Luckily, I have editing programs that take out all those annoying snippets, so you don’t have to see them!

I’m a (recovering) stressful person. Throughout my life, I’ve always found it difficult to remain calm in situations of pain, discomfort, and disappointment. Remember that movie, Mean Girls? There’s a scene where Lindsay Lohan describes her inability to stop talking as “word vomit” – I’d say that’s the best way of describing stress. You feel stressful emotions coming up, but you find it near impossible to relay those feelings in an unhealthy, stressed way.

Over the past year, I’ve been developing a few different ways to reduce my stress level, and I want to share them with you. These are approaches and products that work for me & my life, so feel free to let me know any of your own tactics in the comments section below!

Stress Reduction Tip #1: Shut those lights!

Whenever I’m feeling stress, and this could be for a variety of reasons (lack of sleep, back pain, arguments), I always find that placing myself in a quiet & dark place is ideal. Especially in today’s world, we’re constantly staring at LCD screens with plenty of ongoing stimulus; while we might think that distracting ourselves from stress would be the solution, it can often make things worse (especially for me!).

Here’s what I do! I place myself in a small, dark room – this could be a bedroom, or even a bathroom – and I play rain sounds on YouTube. The darkness from the room allows my eyes to get a stimulus break, and the quiet white-noise from the rain sounds calmly distracts my mind momentarily. After 15-20 minutes of calmness, I usually find that my stress has reduced, and I’ve received a new perspective on the situation. So much of the time, our stress holds us back from seeing alternative perspectives.

Pro Tip: if you type “ASMR” on YouTube, there’s a whole community dedicated to calm sounds that may help reduce your stress!

Stress Reduction Tip #2: Go for a sweat!

Specifically, a yoga sweat! I started taking hot yoga a bit more seriously over the last six months, and I try to attend one class a week. There’s a reason I recommend hot yoga over traditional workouts or cardio: you can’t access your phone! Most hot yoga studios have a no-phone policy, which can be great for social media obsessed people like me! 🙂

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Additionally, the heat from a hot yoga class feels incredible! It allows your muscles to warm up and stretch out much easier than a traditional yoga class. After a hot yoga class, I’ve often experienced a lower heart rate and a better nights of sleep – and sleeping is what?! FUNDAMENTAL! Contrary to what you may expect, the strenuous exercises do actually result in a reduction of stress.

Stress Reduction Tip #3: Use the right products!

This month, I’m trying Icy Hot® muscle pain relief products to show you some of the benefits they provide for muscle pain. Since a lot of my job involves sitting (while writing, filming, editing, and posting), it’s quite easy for me to experience back and shoulder pain.

The Icy Hot® Advanced Pain Relieving Cream has 16% menthol and 11% camphor, which are the highest allowable amounts on the market, making it the strongest pain relief cream available with those ingredients. They also offer a Medicated Patch & Medicated Spray, depending on which format you prefer to use.

Predictably, I had some lower back pain about two weeks ago. My shoulders were quite sore from the previous day’s workout, so I didn’t want to overextend my arms and shoulders to apply the cream or patch. I was so ecstatic that Icy Hot® offers their muscle pain relief products in a spray format, which allowed me to apply the product without much effort. Soon after applying, my pain was reduced in half, and shortly after that, I didn’t feel any discomfort at all. The product starts off cool, then switches to hot (then back and forth a few times), which helps keep your mind off the pain!

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For me, less muscle pain is less stress. I’d highly recommend trying their products next time you feel muscle pain. #RELIEFISICYHOT (Always read and follow the label) 

Stress Reduction Tip #4: Get that fire going!

This may seem like an obvious tip for some, but lighting essential oil candles can be so so so calming for our bodies and minds. In the same way as a dark room can help distract and calm our visual senses, essential oil candles are incredible for our aroma senses.

My favourite essential oils are lavender, sandalwood, and rose! If candles aren’t your thing, you can get the essential oils themselves & massage a drop or two into your temple area of the scalp. Feel free to tag this tip along with tip #1 for added relaxation! 🙂

Stress Reduction Tip #5: Don’t do it alone!

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Almost always, I find that talking about my stress can make me feel less stress. I’ll often chat with my partner, Chris, or call my parents over the phone if I’m feeling stressed about something that just won’t let up. Often enough, I find that talking about what’s going on in my head can help put situations into perspective. What initially felt like the end of the world feels more like a minor setback when I put things into perspective. If you don’t get an extra perspective, you just become an echo chamber for your own negative thoughts. Even if physical pain is causing your stress, it’s much easier to feel like you’ll never get past the discomfort if you do it alone.

I know I mentioned ASMR already, but there are a handful of great “ASMR role plays” on YouTube targeted towards people experiencing stress. If you feel like you need some personal attention, but don’t have a partner or loved one to talk to, some digital “attention” might do the trick.

-MR

Michael Rizzi is a 24-year-old YouTuber & blogger from Toronto, Canada. Follow his blog for up-to-date & fresh content on a weekly basis!

This post was sponsored by ICY HOT. All opinions are my own.

For any questions, concerns or comments regarding the ICY HOT product line, please contact: ch.canada-ConsumerCare@sanofi.com

“Queer Eye” Antoni Inspired Avocado-Stuffed Pierogies

“Queer Eye” Antoni Inspired Avocado-Stuffed Pierogies

For many LGBTQ+ folks, the Netflix revival of Queer Eye has been momentous. Five confident, queer people helping their fellow men through the trails and tribulations of life. For years, we’ve had representation in pop culture through a very narrow lens: the fashion commentary on the red carpet. On Queer Eye, we’re chefs, stylists, life coaches, builders, and (of course) fashionistas! Admittedly, even Tan France’s fashion commentary goes well beyond clothes, often aligning personal style with confidence.

Okay, Michael, enough blabbing about Queer Eye. Let’s talk PIEROGIES.

Last week, it was released that Queer Eye’s Antoni will be moving forward with a cookbook publishing deal. While announcing his deal, Antoni made reference to “Avocado-stuffed pierogies,” and I was in A-W-E. Why hadn’t anyone else thought of that?! The whole foundation for a pierogi are its soft, creamy filling; and what’s softer, creamier, and more ON TREND than avocados? Genius, I tell you.

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Now, I couldn’t wait for this “avocado-stuffed pierogi” recipe, so I went ahead and made my own version. My goal was to make tasty pierogies for my partner and I, and maybe get the attention of Antoni while I’m at it. SPOILER: it maybe works, so stay tuned for the entire blog!

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THE DOUGH, DUH!

Making pierogi dough is very simple, so don’t feel intimidated by it. Here’s how to make a simple & straightforward dough:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of warm water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Simply combine all the above ingredients in a large bowl! You’ll need to get your hands involved, as the dough will be dense. Keep an extra 1/4 cup of water by your side to adjust the consistently. The ideal consistency feels dense, yet soft. Leave the dough covered in a bowl for 30 minutes before use.

THE AVOCADO FILLING

The filling is time consuming, yes, but it’s not difficult. You’ll need about an hour to complete the filling.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled & halved
  • 1 large white onion
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 50g – 75g of feta cheese
  • 1 container of plain, greek yogurt
  • Salt, to taste
  • Margarine or butter, as needed
  • Olive oil, as needed

Step 1: Dice a white onion, and place in a medium-heat skillet with 3 tbsp margarine & 1 tbsp olive oil. The oil addition to the margarine will ensure it doesn’t burn, as oil has a higher burning temperature than margarine or butter. Begin stirring the pan every 3-5 minutes, until the onions become translucent after 20-25 minutes.

Step 2: While the onions are becoming translucent, place the halved potatoes in a salted pot of water. Begin boiling. The potatoes should take 30-40 minutes to cook through.

Step 3: After the onions become translucent, place the temperature to LOW, and stir every 7-8 minutes. This will give the onions enough time to slightly caramelize before each stir. The onions will need another 30-40 minutes during this process.

Step 4: Take the potatoes out of the pot, and mash in a large bowl. Set the bowl aside for 15 minutes to cool. Once cooled, add 2-3 tbsp of plain, greek yogurt & stir until combined. Add 2 diced avocados & your feta cheese.

Step 5: Once the onions are caramelized, add to the potato mixture. Grab a large spoon or  spatula and FOLD the mixture together. It’s important that you don’t vigorously mix the ingredients, or everything will mesh together as one unison flavour. If you FOLD the mixture, you’ll have bites of avocado, caramelized onion, and feta cheese individually! YUM!

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Step 6: Roll out your dough to about an 1/8 of an inch, and cut circles using a wider glass cup. Place a ball of the filling on top of each circle, then begin to close each pierogi. I could write forever on how to close them properly, but just watch Martha Stewart and her mother do it! They explain it PERFECTLY!

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Step 7: Boil 6-7 pierogies at a time, for about 3 minutes. Serve with a dollop of plain greek yogurt or sour cream!

Optional Step 8: Fry the pierogies in 1/2 tbsp of margarine for added crispiness!

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Honestly, these are a solid 10/10. The acidity of the feta cuts through the fattiness of the avocados, so it’s not overwhelmingly creamy! If you make this recipe, be sure to tag me @mikerizzi 🙂

DID ANTONI GIVE HIS APPROVAL?!

After sharing my cooking experience on Instagram (and tagging @antoni), we exchanged some words! Turns out his tweet was a complete joke!! He never meant to put avocados in pierogies, but his mad scientist ideas led to this tasty recipe. I’d say that’s a win for stomachs everywhere.

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Until next time, this foodie is OUT.

-MR

 

Conquering My Paradise Bucket List

Conquering My Paradise Bucket List

Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to go on Club Med’s first Canadian media trip, to see why this longstanding resort brand has managed to sustain such popularity. I’ll start off this blog by saying that I’ve been to about 5 all-inclusive resorts in my life, and they almost always have the same problems: sub-par or average food, sub-par or average entertainment, and a crowded resort grounds. I was a bit skeptical going on a media trip to Club Med, as I wondered if they could move past the average experience I’ve had at past resorts. Spoiler alert: THEY DID.

Before I left for my trip, Club Med asked me to create my ideal bucket list for the trip! I’m not much of a bucket list kind of person, but I thought I’d give it a try & get in the Club Med spirit. Without further adieu, here’s how I conquered my Paradise Bucket List, while having the best resort experience in my life!

Bucket List #1: Shoot Beautiful Drone Footage

could write a big paragraph of how happy & excited I was to take beautiful & colourful drone shots for the first time, but pictures speak louder than words.

The surroundings at Club Med were so perfect and serene, it made creating drone footage a little too easy!

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Bucket List #2: Go Sailing

When I first got my itinerary, there was one item that stuck out amongst the rest: sailing. I’ve always wanted to go sailing, ever since I was a little kid. There’s something so aesthetically nautical about sailing, but it can be difficult to sail when you live in the concrete jungle that is Toronto!

I was the only one in my group to want to go sailing, so I convinced our Club Med representative, Julien, to take me sailing (it worked!). We took the sail boat about 400-500 metres from the shoreline, just far enough to get into a serene vibe.

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Club Med actually had a LOT of different water sports in addition to sailing, such as kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. I’ve been to a number of all-inclusive resorts, and I can honestly say I was impressed by how many “included activities” were available. I ended up going kayaking after our sailing activity was over!

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Bucket List #3: Try Acrobatics at Creactive By Cirque du Soleil

I think the most unique part of Club Med is its acrobatics centre, called Creactive. The family-friendly playground is a great addition to the resort, as it gives both kids & adults a fun escape from traditional activities. I don’t know about you, but I’m not the kind of person that can sit on a beach for 7 days… I need alternatives! At Creactive, there’s over 30 different acrobatic activities, so if you’re travelling in a group there’s something for everyone’s interests.

SO! Let’s talk about my experience with Creactive’s playground. Well, instead of talking about it, just watch…

Bucket List #4: Get Some R&R

Whenever I travel to a sunny destination, there’s always the necessary visit to the spa! There’s something about a spa visit on vacation that’s like peanut butter and jelly… they just work together. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Club Med has a men’s only spa, where they have trained staff to deal with men’s haircuts & spa services. Now, I’m VERY picky with my haircut, so much that I only go to a very specific barber 40 minutes from my apartment. I can honestly say that I received one of the best haircuts at Club Med’s Men’s Spa by L’Occitane.

Bucket List #5: Make Friends (ahh this sounds so sad, but hear me out!)

Since this was a media trip, I often don’t know anyone else while travelling. On this specific trip, I was the only person to not know at least 1 or 2 people, which can be super intimidating! I get a lot of questions around solo travel, and since its part of my job, I’ve experienced it a number of times.

It’s taken me a while to get used to the idea of making friends while travelling, but I’ve gotten the hang of it – and I’m starting to enjoy it! When you’re travelling with pre-established friends, you’re always on someone else’s schedule. Whether the bulk of your friends want to swim while you want to tan, there’s always a struggle between what the majority wants, and what you actually want to do. Travelling solo, and making friends along the way, gives you the perfect balance. You don’t necessarily feel bad when you turn down an offer to hang by the beach, or play volleyball, but you always have the option of joining in on the group later.

For myself, this trip had the perfect balance of group activities & solo time, and it was rooted in the fact that I travelled alone. So I’d challenge you to try travelling solo to your next destination, but be open to the idea of making a friend or two along the way. You never know who you’ll meet!

A big thank you to Club Med for including me in their first ever Canadian Influencer Media Trip. The memories will last a lifetime!

-MR

 

 

 

 

How to Create A Colourful Instagram Feed (and why you should!)

How to Create A Colourful Instagram Feed (and why you should!)

HELLO WORLD.

I’ve always been a very colourful person, both figuratively and literally. I was that drama kid in high school who wore the brightest colours, skinniest jeans, and most florescent shoes (and I slayed all of them!). It’s weird to look back at your younger self and realize how similar you still are. While I may not be an explosion of mix-matching colour, I still love bright & positive hues that bring happy feelings to people.

When I was younger, the only way I could express my colourful style was at school (thank god we didn’t have boring uniforms!). Nowadays, we have platforms like Instagram, where your feed can be a canvas for positive vibes. You don’t need to have piles of money or fancy equipment, either; most of us have smartphones that capture sharp photos, perfect for sharing on social media platforms.

I’ve been experimenting with colour over the last year, and I’ve finally found a balance that works for me! So in this blog post, I’m going to discuss some different ways you can integrate more colour into your feed – and why you should!

Disclaimer: I’m not a professional photographer by any means! Just a kid who likes telling stories with his pictures, and learning along the way. 🙂

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My Instagram feed, Spring 2017!
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My Instagram feed, Spring 2018!

Tip #1: Start colour hunting in your city!

Colour hunting has really changed how I look at any given city I’m visiting, or even my own! I love walking down artistic districts, such as Queen / Ossington area in Toronto. There are so many fun colour walls in the city that are super easy to make Instagram-worthy. It’s a great way to start integrating colour into your feed because the walls do all the work! The tough part is actually getting outside & finding colours that work for you.

When I started looking for colour walls last year, I tried finding bright prime colours from the LGBT pride flag! Check out some of my first colour wall shots from last year.

 

 

All the above pictures were shot on my iPhone 7 Plus. However, I would have gotten comparable quality from any other android device! Style over technology ANY DAY!

The best part about colour walls is that any day can be a colourful day! It’s actually better to shoot these kinds of shots on a cloudier day, because the light won’t be harsh against your face, or cast shadows in an unflattering way.

Especially during the Fall & Spring months, when weather can be unpredictable, colour walls are a great way to start showing some hues on your feed. Not only that, but your shot will stand out amongst the darker & greyer shots that often fill Instagram’s live feed during the colder months of the year.

Pro tip: Not all colour walls are equal. Check out the wall’s quality & cleanliness; it might look colourful from afar, but if there are excess stains or wear&tear, it could make your feed look messy.

Tip #2: Tell a story with your shot!

Listen, I’ve mastered the “laughing in front of something aesthetic” shot. I’ve done it a thousand times, but I’m bored at this point. Lately, I’ve been noticing a trend on Instagram, where creators tell a story with their shot. In this way, you may not be adding physical colour to your feed, but you’re bringing a sense of vibrance and fun to Instagram!

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Taken somewhere in Los Angeles, June 2017

So, how does one “tell a story” with a picture? Start by taking in your surroundings, and figure out what kind of mood it puts you in. Are you jumping off a boat, with the least bit of care or stress in the world? CHANNEL THAT! (see below hehe). On the other hand, are you amazed by how grand a building is? Maybe try snapping a shot from below, where you’re looking up at the giant structure. Even if its brief, people will create a story in their minds about what’s happening around your shot.

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I love this shot! It’s so fun, and you can’t help but wonder what kind of conversation was going on between my friends on the boat. 🙂

Tip #3: Follow other colourful creators!

Whenever you need inspiration, it’s always best to look how other creators approach their content. Below are a couple of my favourite colourful creators!

 

A question you might ask is, “how do I get inspiration without copying someone else’s images?” The best way to find inspiration with integrity is to develop your own style first.  Some colourful creators put a focus on style & fashion, others look to interior design. Establish the kind of content you want to produce FIRST, then find the most colourful way of displaying it. For myself, I love telling colourful stories through travel and lifestyle. While I love brightbazaar‘s feed, I wouldn’t suddenly start a plethora of colourful design pictures, because it wouldn’t feel authentic to myself! In the same way, I love how colourful colormecourtney‘s page is, but her colours are a bit too saturated for my own feed. In this way, I feel inspired by these two without feeling the urge to copy.

Tip #4: Use the right photo editor!

In my experience, photo editors like Adobe Lightroom are very important when creating a colourful feed. There are plenty of apps available to Apple & Android phones that work great, but Adobe Lightroom lets you edit your image’s individual colours / hues.

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If I simply put this image into a regular image editor on my iPhone, my only option would be to increase its vibrance or saturation. As a white guy with reddish/orangeish undertones on my skin, that would make me look like an Oompa Loompa! As well, a lot of daylight shots will feature yellow undertones from the sun, which aren’t everyone’s ‘cuppa tea. Photo editors like Adobe Lightroom, where you can edit each hue individually, corrects these problems!

Tip #5: Preview your feed before posting!

When you’re creating a colourful feed, it’s important to plan your layout before posting. Certain colours just don’t sit well beside each other (literally), so having a clear picture of your feed before posting is suuuuuper helpful. Personally, I use the UNUM app because it’s free (woooo!) and let’s you modify your feed relatively well. For a free app, it does all the prep work I need!

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// michael rizzi


Michael Rizzi is a 23-year-old YouTuber & blogger from Toronto, Canada. Follow his blog to stay up-to-date on fresh content!

My Booze-y Mint Sangria

My Booze-y Mint Sangria

Happy March, everyone! We survived the cold & boring months of January & February… so I think it’s time for a little celebration. What better way to celebrate the warmer weather than a pitcher of sangria! While sangria can be a bit more of a summer drink, here’s my recipe for Mint Sangria – it’s less sweet than usual, making it perfect for the Spring season.

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Here’s what you’ll need to make ONE pitcher of Mint Sangria:

  • 1 bottle of cheap white wine
  • 1 can of apple cider, preferably a less sweet brand!
  • 2 handfuls of strawberry halves
  • 1/2 navel orange, segmented
  • 1/2 grapefruit, in 2 quarters
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 2 lemon wedges
  • Fresh mint, as much as your personal preference (I like lots!)
  • Club soda

love this recipe for a couple reasons. Firstly, it’s not overly sweet, which is perfect for a Spring afternoon with friends. The bitterness of the grapefruit helps to balance out the sweetness from the berries. Secondly, it’s very booze-y! Since I’ve replaced most of the club soda with apple cider, this sangria has more alcohol per glass (wooo!).

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What time of white wine should you choose?

Go for a drier and less sweet white wine, like a Pinot Grigio! It’s important that you don’t use a sweeter wine like Moscato, because the fruits will bring enough sweetness to the drink. As well, always buy the cheapest wine! No point in spending a bunch of money on wine that you’re going to use for sangria.

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Should I mix the ingredients in any specific order?

Take your pitcher and add all your wine & cider first, so that you have a better understanding for how booze-y your sangria is going to be. Next, add all your fruits & squeeze the fresh lime into the pitcher. Load up the pitcher with as much fresh mint as your heart desires, and let it sit in the fridge for at least 8 hours. I don’t add my club soda during the soaking process, since the drink will loose much of its fizz. Instead, top off each glass with the club soda to give each drink a fizzy kick!

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Optional step: Grab yourself a big jar with a straw, and have yourself a booze-y time!

Thirsty yet? Have a go at my Booze-y Mint Sangria, share it on social media. Make sure to take @mikerizzi!

What I Eat in a Week – Meal Inspiration!

What I Eat in a Week – Meal Inspiration!

Hey everyone!

So recently, I’ve been getting lots of questions about my weekly diet. As I’ve been creating more fitness & nutrition content, a lot of you are interested in the foods that I eat! All week, I’ve been filming my meals for a “WHAT I EAT IN A WEEK” video. Since it’s tough to get through a handful of recipes in a YouTube video, I thought I’d publish them here.

Enjoy – and happy eating!


BREAKFAST

Overnight Oats

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I’ve already blogged my recipe for Overnight Oats – you can find it here!

Morning Scrambled Eggs

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The key to a great egg breakfast are your scrambled eggs! To get the perfect breakfast, beat 2-3 eggs in a bowl, and add to a medium-high skillet. Begin moving the eggs around after 4-5 seconds, and continue to move the eggs until completed. After 20 seconds or so, take the skillet off the heat and continue to move the eggs around. After 10 seconds, place the skillet back on the heat, and cook for another 20 seconds. Your eggs should be perfect! Next, slice a naval orange to get your Vitamin-C. Fry up a slice or two of turkey bacon, and serve with coffee!

Avocado Toast with Poached Egg

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I start by preparing my poached egg. Simply get yourself a zip-lock sandwich bag, and spray a small amount of oil into one corner. Crack the egg into the oiled corner, and air-close the bag. Place in a shallow pot of boiling water for 6 minutes. Next, mash 1/2 an avocado with 1 tsp of honey. Spread on a toasted slice of rye bread, and place poached egg on top. Serve with coffee.

Banana Oat Pancakes

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I’ve already blogged my recipe for banana oat pancakes – you can find it here!


LUNCH

My Healthy Cobb Salad

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Here are my ingredients for the salad:

  • Base: Baby Spinach
  • Dressing: Balsamic vinegar with olive oil
  • Toppings: Turkey bacon bits, 1 egg, carrots, cucumbers, avocado, and low-fat cheddar cheese

Vegan Toasted Sandwich

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Start by roasting 5-7 slices of red peppers in the oven at 450F for 20 minutes. Next, cook 1/4 of a white onion and a handful of sliced cremona mushrooms in a skillet until the onion is translucent. Toast a couple slices of rye bread, and spread a tbsp of salsa on top. Stack your cooked vegetables, and enjoy!

Open Face Veggie Burger

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  • Base: 1 slice of whole wheat bread, toasted, with ketchup
  • Patty: 1 veggie burger slice
  • Cheese: low-fat cheddar cheese
  • Toppings: Caramelized onions, salsa, ketchup, and mustard, cooked on a low heat for 10 minutes

Dumplings with Light Salad

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Salad: Start with a handful of baby spinach in a bowl. Add carrots, cucumbers, and any other desired vegetables. Mix in a light dressing (I used balsamic vinaigrette), and your side is complete!

Dumplings: I used shrimp & pork dumplings, with a side of soy sauce. These are store bought.


DINNER

Vegan Chili

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love my vegan chili recipe! Here’s how to make it:

  1. In a large pot with 2 tbsp of olive oil, mix 1 chopped onion, green pepper, and mushrooms until soft.
  2. Add 1 can of tomatoes, and stir until hot.
  3. Add 1 cup of white beans, 1 cup of kidney beans, and 1 cup of corn.
  4. Mix 1/2 cup of mustard, and 1/4 cup of ketchup, and stir until incorporated.
  5. Add 1 tbsp of chili powder, and 1/2 tbsp of paprika.
  6. Add 2 cups of water, and bring back to a boil. Cook for 1.5 – 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so.
  7. Serve with white rice.

Quarter Chicken Dinner

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This is my go-to dinner! It’s super simple to make, and will ensure you spend as little time in the kitchen as possible. Here’s how to make each section:

Chicken Quarters: In a freezer bag, marinate chicken with your desired spices & 1 tbsp of olive oil. Bake in a 425F oven for 45 minutes (I’ve tested the chicken multiple times, and 45 minutes is my sweet spot!).

Potato Wedges: Peel the potatoes to your desire (or don’t peel at all!), and cut into wedges. Mix the wedges with a sprinkle of salt, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Bake at 425F for 30 minutes. To align with chicken quarters, place in oven 15 minutes after the chicken goes in.

Corn: Mix 1 cup of cooked corn with 1/2 tsp of honey, and a sprinkle of salt.

Beef Pot Roast

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I’ve already blogged my recipe for Beef Pot Roast – you can find it here!

Protein-Packed Pasta

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Growing up, my mom would cook our tomato sauce with beans to help bulk up the protein. Here’s my version:

  1. Begin cooking pasta, with lightly salted boiling water. Follow individual cooking instructions.
  2. (while the pasta is cooking) In a lightly oiled skillet, cook diced onions until relatively soft. Add white beans, and continue to soften for another 8 minutes or so. Add minced garlic, and stir for another 2 or 3 minutes. Add tomato sauce, and stir until hot.
  3. Add pasta to sauce, stir, enjoy!

SNACKS

Sweet Potato Fries

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While this specific platter of fries was from frozen, I often make my sweet potato fries from scratch! Here’s my recipe for the from scratch version (consider 1 sweet potato as 1 serving):

  1. Peel 1 medium to large sweet potato until all skin is removed. Rinse before cutting.
  2. Cut the sweet potato in half *vertically*, then continue to cut strips out of each half. If the strips are too wide, cut each strip vertically again to reach desired shape.
  3. Place the uncooked strips in a bowl. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp paprika, and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper.
  4. Cook in a 425F oven for 25 – 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  5. Enjoy with chipotle mayo (chipotle flakes + mayo) or metchup (ketchup + mayo)!

My Jazzed Up Protein Shake

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Water + protein powder is boring, so here’s a jazzed up version that’ll get you excited about extra protein!

  1. To a blender, add 1 frozen banana, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cocoa powder, 1 tsp peanut butter, 1 cup of almond milk, and ice.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Enjoy immediately!

Pro tip: Brands like Silk make an amazing unsweetened vanilla almond milk, that’s just 30 calories/serving! A GREAT replacement for cow’s milk.

// michael rizzi


Michael Rizzi is a 23-year-old YouTuber & blogger from Toronto, Canada. Follow his blog to stay up-to-date on fresh content!

Why Instagram “pods” are a waste of everyone’s time

Why Instagram “pods” are a waste of everyone’s time

Last week, I published a blog titled “Why it’s important to talk about fake social media followers…” –  and a lot of you really enjoyed my insight into the topic, being a recent grad in Communication Studies. I thought I’d write about a similar issue that’s been a hot topic on Instagram over the last year: Instagram pods.

What are Instagram pods, you might ask?! Simply put, an Instagram pod is a group of influencers that agree to engage with their fellow members’ Instagram content. This takes place in the form of likes, comments, and follow-backs. Many Instagram pods communicate via Instagram’s direct-message platform, but many have shifted to WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

Before we get into things, let’s establish what led to the popularity of Instagram pods. In 2017, Instagram stopped displaying content in chronological order, which angered a lot of users. As a chronological platform, all Instagrammers we’re given an equal opportunity to achieve engagement. If Influencer A uploaded a picture at 12:00pm EST, and Influencer B uploaded a picture at 12:03pm EST, Influencer A would appear after Influencer B. Everyone felt that their content had a fair shot to receive engagement.

As a replacement, Instagram opted for an algorithm-based platform that displays content with an interest-based approach. This came at no surprise, with platforms such as YouTube & Twitter already opting for an algorithmic approach. With an algorithm at the forefront of content dissemination, engagement became key. Suddenly, flashy follower counts were reprioritized to the background, and engagement was king.

As such, Instagram pods are essentially a big F-U to the algorithm’s dissemination. Influencers joined pods to increase their ‘organic’ engagement (I use this term very lightly), in order to be prioritized by the algorithm. Think of the algorithm like a mediator; if the mediator sees a wealth of engagement upon upload of an Instagram picture, it increase your chances of ending up on the explore page.

I’d like to take a moment to say that I’m not part of an Instagram pod. However, I’ve been contacted by a few different pods to get me to join their groups. In one instance, the pod solicitor cited their “500 members…with 400k+ followers” to entice my interest to join. The pod solicitor even attached a well-produced video, highlighting the pod rules and perks. The pod rules included “liking all members’ posts” and “only quality comments! 4 words + emoji!” Yikes. That seems like a lot of work for extra engagement…

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Let me be clear: this situation is not the exact same thing as purchasing fake followers. The likes, comments, and overall attention is real. There are real people liking and commenting on each other’s posts, which appears harmless and unified! But let’s talk about where this situation enters the grey zone of ethics. Let’s say TV Network X is selling commercial space to prospective advertisers. The advertisers are informed on TV Network X’s demographics, including its main audience’s age, gender, and location. What the advertisers don’t know is that 30% of TV Network X’s viewers are other advertisers, who are primarily concerned with advertising their own set of products and services. Would it be ethical for TV Network X to continue along this path? I would argue not.

Instagram pods, much like TV Network X, are contributing to inflated engagement. As such, advertisers are painted a picture that isn’t entirely true. An advertiser might spend X% of their marketing budget on an influencer campaign, only to receive a fraction of the authentic engagement they were purchasing. While members of an Instagram pod might argue that their arrangement is simply “artists supporting other artists,” the fact is that inflated engagement numbers really screw with advertisers’ view of Instagram.

Here’s where the story gets unfortunate: there’s no real way to tell if an Instagram account is utilizing inflated engagement, since the comments and likes appear natural. This means that brands and agencies have to rely on both quantitative and qualitative aspects of an influencer’s advertising worth, which can be very tricky. The only indicator of a pod member might be their comments section, which would be filled with engagement from other influencers. This isn’t the best metric for measuring, as one might argue that comments from other influencers are simply “friends engaging with friends.”

So if we can’t properly tell which Instagram account is part of a pod, what can we do? Sometimes the hard truth can be the best medicine. If you’re part of an Instagram pod, you are wholeheartedly wasting your time. You’re spending hours daily, engaging with other Instagrammers in hopes of receiving similar attention. Instead, you could spend those hours drafting unique ideas that help build your brand from the ground up. Now, it might take a bit longer to receive the desired engagement, but you’ll be assured that your time was not well wasted.

Travel host & producer, Gunnarolla, once tweeted, “Are you really an “influencer” when all of your engagement comes from other “influencers”? Trying to wrap my head around this…”. I remember when he tweeted this last year, but I didn’t fully understand it until I started learning about Instagram pods. The core of the word is influence – the ability to persuade an audience towards your lifestyle or brand.  If the only people you’re able to influence are other people trying to influence, the process of influencing becomes meaningless and arbitrary.

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There’s no shortcut to success as a creative. Whether you’re a writer, video creator, or photographer, the key to fulfillment is creating content. Turning content creation into a numbers game ruins it for the rest of us. When you work hard, act as ethically as possible, and create content that you’re proud of, the audience will follow.

// michael rizzi

Michael Rizzi is a YouTuber and blogger from Toronto, Canada. Follow his blog for up-to-date posts that will brighten your day. 

50 songs that will ELEVATE your workout!

50 songs that will ELEVATE your workout!

Having a solid foundation for anything you do in life is vital. You wouldn’t go skiing without getting the proper equipment to glide your way down the mountain. So why would you head the gym without a solid playlist full of bops?! Search no further! Here is my master list of gym-pumping songs that will take your workout from zero to hero. Download links for the Spotify and Apple Music playlists will be available down below!

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Work It – Missy Elliot

This BOP from Missy Elliott’s 2002 album, Under Construction, will teleport your workout to hip-hop heaven. Try Work It during your next weight lifting session or light run!

Get Ur Freak On – Missy Elliot

Hate sprinting? Think again. You’ll be freakin’ your way through an intense cardio session with this 2001 hit.

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Toxic – Britney Spears

Arguably the best pop song of all time, Toxic is a Britney song that NEEDS to be on your workout playlist. The catchy chorus is perfect for dreadful cardio exercises, or weight workouts with a lot of repetition.

Viva La Vida – Coldplay

Not your average workout song, but the deep orchestra-like sound will help drown out the noise from any gym.

The Middle – Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey

By far my favourite song from January 2018. A *must have* on your cardio playlist. The chorus is deep & full of sound.

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Run Up – Major Lazer ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR & Nicki Minaj

Pro tip: I sometimes hear versions on the radio without Nicki’s track, don’t bother with those. Nicki MAKES this song a bop.

Timber – Pitbull ft. Ke$ha

I’m not the biggest Pitbull fan, but him & Kesha knocked this one out of the park. 

Bartier Cardi ft. 21 Savage

Not the best song for running or jogging, but the *deep* bass of this hit will elevate ANY weight exercise.

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King – Years & Years

Being Years & Years’ most successful song, “King” pops up during every one of my workouts. The harmony is dense with upbeat sound, making it interchangeable for any kind of workout.

Casanova – Allie X ft. Vérité

It’s a bit light on the harmony, making it a tough choice for cardio. However, I love listening to Casanova during high intensity, low movement workouts, such as shoulder press or bicep curl.

My My My! – Troye Sivan

THIS IS *THE* BOP OF 2018. THAT IS ALL.

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E•MO•TION – Carly Rae Jepsen

While she may have been robbed from awards & recognition in the past, don’t rob her of a spot on your workout playlist. She deserves better than that.

Primadonna – Marina and the Diamonds

The heavy bass of this pop masterpiece will jazz up any workout!

Sex Yeah – Marina and the Diamonds

This one’s a bit more underrated, but an incredible song nonetheless. It’ll even have you feeling sexier during your workout. 🙂

Tell Me You Love Me – Demi Lovato (NOTD Remix)

While the original isn’t the best song for the gym, the NOTD Remix adds a faster tempo that will crush any workout.

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Échame la Culpa – Luis Fonsi & Demi Lovato

Move over, Despacito! Luis Fonsi is back with another smash hit alongside Demi Lovato. This smooth & upbeat hit is a must have in your workout playlist.

Knock You Down – Keri Hilson

Keri Hilson’s 2009 bop is often forgotten amongst the vast number of hits over the last decade – BUT LET US NOT FORGET. Knock You Down is a masterful pop hit that is necessary to anyone’s workout playlist.

Raise Your Glass – P!nk

Need a little spunk in your workout? Try this.

One, Two Step – Ciara ft. Missy Elliot

Arguably one of Ciara’s best hits, this bop will glide you through any cardio routine.

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Salute – Little Mix

This uplifting bop has female empowerment written all over it! It’s been on my workout playlist for well over a year, so I *highly* recommend it.

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Reggaetón Lento – Little Mix & CNCO

Two incredible pop groups, one amazing song for your workout! PS- it’s a bit sexy, which makes me feel sexy during my workout (always a plus).

Black Magic – Little Mix

This song is SO upbeat! Perfect for a dull cardio workout that needs a little something something.

Hollaback Girl – Gwen Stefani

B-A-N-A-N-A-S. That is all.

SOS – Rihanna

Try listening to SOS during your HIIT sprint minute, which I wrote a blog about a few weeks ago.

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PRIME – Allie X 

This retro pop hit will jazz up your repetitive weight exercises! I’ve been known to play this song exclusively during workouts… 🙂 

Feeling Myself – Nicki Minaj ft. Beyoncé

When you’re feeling’ yourself at the gym, there’s no better song. Not the best cardio song, but hella good for those days when you need an emotional lift.

Boys Boys Boys – Lady Gaga

This is for all my gays!! When you see that cute boy working out, play this song!! (you’re welcome)

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Hair – Lady Gaga

The heavy pop-rock sound of this song makes it the perfect bop to drown out background noise.

Swine – Lady Gaga

Probably my favourite song to sprint to. While it wasn’t everyone’s favourite song from ARTPOP, the ultra-heavy electronic sound is perfect for running/sprinting.

Scheibe – Lady Gaga

FINE. My last Gaga song. Just listen to it at the gym, it’s amazing.

When Love Takes Over – David Guetta ft. Kelly Rowland

Such a classic hit! Especially if you grew up with this bop, the nostalgia train will glide you straight through your workout. 🙂

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My First Kiss – 30H!3 ft. Ke$ha

When you need that extra kick of energy, this song is perfect! Feels very rebellious and kick-ass. 

I Like It – Enrique Iglesias

This song is super auto-tuned, but it’s a fun beat that’ll uplift any dull mood.

Your Love Is My Drug

Such a classic Kesha hit. It’s positive & uplifting, which is a necessity while exercising.

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Cold Water – Major Lazer ft. Justin Beiber & MØ

It’s one of those ultra-catchy songs that you’ll end up playing 50 times while at the gym.

Cheap Thrills – Sia ft. Sean Paul

I LOVE the repetitive beat of this song! It’s perfect for a repetitive exercise like the Stairmaster or elliptical.

Where Are Ü Now – Skrillex & Diplo, with Justin Bieber

What I like most about this song is the full & dense sound. Helps block out background noise & distractions.

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Commander – Kelly Rowland ft. David Guetta

This song makes you feel like HOT SHIT. Trust me. You’ll be feeling like an award-winning model, strutting their way down the catwalk. Or just lifting weight, whatever comes first. 🙂

Into You – Ariana Grande

If you’re into running long distances, this is such a great song to have on repeat. Super catchy.

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Cake By The Ocean – DNCE

DNCE knows how to create a BOP. 

Summertime Sadness – Lana Del Rey (Cedric Gervais Remix)

Cedric Gervais takes this song from “crying in my room after a breakup” to “revenge body, bitches!!”

Swalla – Jason Derulo ft. Nicki Minaj & Ty Dolla $ign

Probably one of the most catchiest songs of 2017 – a must have on your workout playlist!!

Bitch I’m Madonna – Madonna ft. Nicki Minaj

It’ll make you feel like YOU’RE Madonna. Boom.

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Girl Gone Wild – Madonna

This is one of Madonna’s most underrated, but deserving, songs. Pro tip: watch the music video before taking it to the gym. SO WORTH IT.

Livin’ It Up – Ciara

First off, Ciara is such an underrated singer and performer. Secondly, add this song to your playlist – you won’t regret it!

Get Outta My Way – Kylie Minogue

All hail Kween Minogue! Such an underrated bop.

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Closer – Teagan and Sara

Probably one of the best songs from Canada’s own Teagan and Sara. The music video is super LGBT+ inclusive, which makes it a bit more personal for some of us.

Feel It In My Bones – Test ft. Teagan and Sara

A powerful classic! This is a really great cardio song. I always get lost in the catchy harmony.

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Born Again Teen – Lucius

A pop anthem that needs to be on your playlist NOW!! I first started listening to Lucius after seeing them live at Wayhome 2016. Been obsessed ever since!

Something About You – Lucius

Once again, a really great song for repetitive exercises such as Stairmaster or elliptical.

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There you have it! 50 songs to elevate your gym routine! Be sure to check out these songs on my Spotify Playlist and Apple Music Playlist!!

Have any other songs to recommend? Leave them in the comments section below!

-MR

 

Why it’s important to talk about fake social media followers

Why it’s important to talk about fake social media followers

We need to have a chat about fake followers, and why they’ve been a negative addition to a positive social media landscape. While fake followers aren’t anything new, there’s recently been a flurry of conversations around it, as reported by the New York Times and the BBC.

Super briefly, here’s an explanation of the different ways people achieve fake followers:

  1. They directly purchase a specific number of accounts to “follow” their social media page from a third party
  2. They directly purchase a specific number of accounts to “like” their social media content from a third party
  3. They do a combination of 1 & 2
  4. They use specialized apps that follow a large number of people, in hopes of receiving a “follow back” from a % – then unfollow those people & repeat (while this isn’t purchasing followers, it’s not the most ethical)

I started making video content on YouTube in January of 2012 when I was in my last year of high school. Do the math: that makes it 6 years on social media. Every time I think of that number, it still amazes me. 6 years. 312 weeks2,190 days. No other hobby or career path has ever lasted that long in my life.

When I first started posting videos online, I just had an itch to create something. Follower counts were cool at most, but not a living necessity. I’ve celebrated at the 1k / 10k / and 100k mark, but that’s about it. The bigger celebrations have been after uploading a video that I was immensely proud of. Some that come to mind are my interviews with HIV+ individuals, my travel to Spain, and my laser hair removal experience. I’m proud to say that whenever I’ve been excited about my career, it’s rooted in the content I’ve made.

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Before we talk about why fake followers are bad, it’s important to understand that the creator space (YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, blogs, etc.) has become a pretty big deal. In 2016, Neilson reported that 18+ adults spend about 6-7 hours a week on social media, on average. With that in mind, we need to understand that the attention towards traditional media outlets, such as television, are becoming equally as dispersed as social media.

So what happens when eyeballs shift from a TV network to a YouTube channel? Brands shift, and take their budgets with them. In theory, this is really great for digital creators, because it places a higher monetary value on their “art” (i.e. videos, photography, think pieces, etc.). I’m so proud of the travel content I created in Spain, but none of that would have been possible without Contiki funding my travels. The same goes with my HIV+ interviews – none of that would have been possible without Bell Media providing the studio space.

Before we get into the negatives, let’s figure out why purchasing fake followers may be perceived as positive. Let’s be real: the image of a content creator (or sometimes referred to as influencer) is romanticized. We see content creators being recognized by big name brands, and that might be a dream for someone looking to “make it big.” In their eyes, all they need to do is spend some money on followers, and the rest is roses, right? For anyone out there that’s actually built a following, they know too well that’s far from true.

Now let’s talk about why purchasing fake followers is bad. When a person engages in sourcing inauthentic followers, they’re contributing to a mentality that follower count = value. Let me tell you, if you haven’t been told this before, it doesn’t. Now, someone’s follower count can be an incredible demonstration of their value and quality as a creator. Some creators that come to mind are ASAP Science, David Dobrik, and Casey Neistat. These creators have immense follower counts, but their value is rooted in the quality of their content.

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As a smaller size creator, I’ve always been proud that my audience shows strong engagement – it’s the reason why I wake up every morning and try to create something! When someone purchases fake followers, or racks up a bunch of “follow backs”, they’re going to have low low low engagement. The reasoning for this is obvious, because if your followers are fake, or don’t follow you out of interest, they’re not going to engage. The engagement that’s purchased is purely artificial. As such, fake followers exist as an artificial face to success and quality.

As a Communication Studies major, I have a lot of care for emerging media industries. I’ve always supported the growth of the “creator class” because it gives young people the opportunity to be their own boss. Instead of graduating university and needing to work at a big production company to create valuable content, they can do it themselves. Think about how powerful that can be for a young person; to be able to start their own talk show on YouTube, or display their travel photography on Instagram. Content creation is freedom, and freedom is a very liberating thing.

With that said, inauthentic followers dilute the value of an independent creator to a popularity contest of numbers. Those numbers, by the way, get noticed by brands and agencies, and unknowingly re-route their hard earned budgets to a scam-like practice. On top of that, it creates an illusion that smaller creators with quality content don’t fit in today’s “creator class”, and I think that’s a shame.

So why should YOU care about whether or not you follow an account that has fake followers? Here’s why: if you’re following them, they’re probably not too concerned with your entertainment, but rather with popularity and making a quick buck. If someone is buying fake followers, they want to leverage those metrics towards brands that will sponsor their content. Sponsorship isn’t the bad bone here, because most creators engage in some level of sponsorship (myself included!). However, the purpose of sponsorship should always be to allow creators to continue to create their quality, organic content. I think that’s a concept that most people can get behind.

In order for the “creator class” to prosper, there can’t be a way for people to cheat their way to the top (or rather, their view of the top). I want independent creators to succeed, because I’ve seen some of the most original and entertaining content from platforms like YouTube and Instagram – and I know you have too! But let’s not ruin it with people who only care about popularity and a quick buck. You & your 6-7 hours a week on social media deserve a lot better than that.

Remember: numbers ≠ success.

-MR

PS- Neilson, you crazy. I spend WAY more than 7 hours a week on social media… 🙂