Brands latch on to craze of hidden messages; and teens use sophisticated tricks to earn more
A TREASURE HUNT FOR A LAUGH
Hiding messages within images in a scavenger-hunt fashion is the latest craze to hit social media.
The new meme works by telling users to zoom in on a certain part of an image and follow the very finely inscribed instructions to reveal the hidden words.
Most of the messages are a complete waste of time, and end up insulting the user to a comedic effect. But some users and brands have effectively latched onto the fad.
US family restaurant chain Denny's, for instance, posted a tweet of their pancakes last Thursday with the message: "Zoom in on the syrup."
It then instructs you to look at the lower left corner, then the lower right corner, followed by the upper left corner and finally at the butter, which says: "Has this distracted you from overwhelming existential dread?"
The tweet has since gathered more than 270,000 likes and retweets.
The first instance of the fad appeared last Tuesday on video creator Daniel Alexander's Twitter handle SNCKPCK, which asked users to zoom in on a puppy's nose.
The treasure trail ends with a message which says: "You are beautiful."
TUMBLR ATTRACTS AWKWARD TEENS
If Instagram is for the fashionable and seemingly wealthy, and YouTube for those blessed with good looks, then Tumblr is the social network for weird and awkward teens.
The secret lives of users of the microblogging site were revealed in a recent report by American magazine New Republic.
Reporter Elspeth Reeve, who is currently with Vice News, called them "comedy geniuses whose empires rise and fall without adults ever noticing".
In her long essay, Ms Reeve interviewed several users who use sophisticated ways to make money by manipulating the way they earn from Google ads.
In one month, two teenage users earned as much as US$25,000 (S$35,300).
These teens, some of whom quit school to produce content full-time, set up secret Facebook groups with other popular users to organise and trade favours in the form of reblogging their content.
The users also have to be very quick to produce viral content.
"To grow a following on Tumblr beyond people you know, you have to post more than updates on your personal life - you need stuff that will resonate with strangers," Ms Reeve wrote.
"Teens are free to express their low self-esteem on Tumblr, but they have confidence in one thing: Everyone will steal their jokes."
Tumblr is the top source for BuzzFeed's viral content, according to a 2015 study by Priceonomics.
Remember that photo of the blue-and-black or white-and-gold dress? It appeared first on Tumblr.
Ms Reeve reported that the tech companies have since wised up to the ways these teens have been gaming the system, and have closed several loopholes that enabled them to earn so much in such a short time.
Many brands and personalities buy "likes" on social media to pad up numbers and create the impression of popularity.
But researchers at the Huron University College in Canada have discovered that everyday users do it too.
CLICKNETWORK: The YouTube reality channel has the distinct honour of being the first Singaporean channel to attract more than a million subscribers. The channel, founded in 2011, has produced more than 1,000 videos.
NINTENDO SWITCH: The gaming platform was one of the top trending items on Google after its launch. Another hot topic that is being discussed (and tested) is the gaming company's decision to make its cartridges taste bitter to prevent them from being accidentally swallowed by young children.
SNAPCHAT: The social media platform which went public last week is now valued at about US$38 billion (S$53.6 billion), making it worth more than well-known brands like Target, eBay and Hilton, according to reports.
In a survey of 450 users aged between 18 and 29, the study found that 15 per cent of respondents admitted to buying "likes" for their Instagram profiles.
A hundred likes sets users back US$2.95, while 10,000 likes cost US$69.99.
Another unsurprising finding was that one in four modifies his physical appearance before uploading selfies online.
One user, for instance, never uploads any pictures without first giving herself a "digital nose job".
The researchers attribute the reasons for this to high levels of narcissism and a weaker sense of self-belonging.
Those who score better on feeling a sense of belonging among their peers are also less likely to engage in deceptive "like-seeking".
"The reason they are on Instagram is they are trying to document their lives for others and trying to share," said co-author Matthew Maxwell-Smith.
WHICH COUNTRY HAS BETTER FOOD? SINGAPORE OR MALAYSIA?
The age-old discussion has blown up again, this time in a Reddit thread about Malaysia.
"Singaporean food is like an utter downgrade of Malaysian food. It's really blasphemous," said user roflmctofl earlier this week.
It has since drawn more than 200 comments.
Another user, a Malaysian who was born in Singapore, said Singaporean food is like the "son that was abandoned by their parents for being… overpriced and fairly edible".
Some of the discussions, however, were quite constructive.
One Canadian user, who has been to both countries multiple times, said: "It comes down to two words - 'wok hei' (the aroma created through stir-frying over high heat)."
User aadvaapad suggests that the difference in taste boils down to Singapore food being "Fujian-influenced", which means lighter and soupier food.
"(The food) is relatively simple with the taste of ingredients not being overpowered by seasoning and spices. The only exception is the salted egg dishes."
Malaysian food, on the other hand, incorporates more ingredients and styles from Malay and Indian cuisine, which makes it more flavourful but less healthy.
"All I can say is Malaysian food is nicer, but you probably will die faster too," the user said.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 05, 2017, with the headline 'Meme that lures with a scavenger-hunt twist'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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