Thursday, August 22, 2013

Digital Dining and Its Impact On Community

Along with screenshots of your Pandora and chain letters, posting pictures of your food is one of the most annoying things you can do on a social network. Regardless, legions of food-posting users may have found a way to leverage their enthusiasm. Restaurants are now offering perks to patrons for posting pictures of their food to Instagram. (Read the original article here)

Many of the perks offered are off-menu freebies, such as an horchata-flavored milkshake from Antique Taco in Chicago, or a hazelnut-and-espresso ice pop from 83 ½ on New York's Upper East Side. The Empellon Cocina, a Mexican restaurant in New York City, has its hashtag printed on the menu so Twitter users can link their tweets to the restaurant.  

Restaurants like Empellon Cocina and Antique Taco are recognizing the real potential of posting your food to Instagram.  From an influential user, that horchata milkshake could get as many as 800 “likes” in a few hours.  “It's almost like they're becoming a brand ambassador on behalf of the  restaurant,” owner David Rodolitz said in the Journal article.  “Sharing” your meal in picture form is a digital invitation to share the experience, which is a powerful marketing tool.  

Let's take this beyond the marketing strategy.

Sharing a meal is a powerful way to build community; it allows a group of people to experience the same thing at the same time, together.  That's why the Jewish law gave so many restrictions on what to eat and how to prepare it; not eating the same things was an immediate and visceral way to establish the “otherness” of the Hebrews as they sought to fulfill their priesthood to the nations.  It seems like the restaurants' strategy to get their food posted is an attempt to digitize another important quality of community (i.e., Facebook revolutionized friendship, Twitter revolutionized following, and Instagram is revolutionizing fellowship).

Step back a minute.  Sure, you can get a burger out of it, but do 1,000 people really care what you just ate?   And does sharing a picture really satisfy the human need for companionship?  The digital community is a poor substitute, not a replacement.

For those of us less connected, maybe we'd be better off calling a friend to meet for coffee.  I can't promise it'll be free, but I can promise other incentives – like a conversation longer than 140 characters.

Do you agree? Do you think digital dining has an impact on genuine community? Comment below and continue the discussion...

Connect with Axis:

This post was written by Lucas Zellers, our summer intern. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Where I'm from in rural Illinois, you can say almost anything about anyone as long as you follow it with, “bless your heart.”  For example, “He's so dumb he'd take a shower with a hairdryer to save time, bless his heart.”  In the past two years, another phrase has come into America's vocabulary that seems both equally useful and incomprehensible: YOLO.  For example, “Not sure if I can afford these shoes – YOLO!” or, “I may be too hungover for work tomorrow, but YOLO.”  So what is this mysterious be-all end-all of self-justifying phrases?

YOLO is the millennial grandchild of an idea that can trace its roots all the way back to ancient Rome.  The Roman lyric poet Horace, in his Odes, said carpe diem quam minimum credula postero, or roughly translated, "seize the day, putting as little trust as possible in the next.”  The sentiment is echoed in  Robert Herrick's 1648 poem “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time,” which admonishes its readers to “gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” In both instances, the argument is to value the time you have because you may not have more.  It's a noble sentiment, even Biblical, as in Ephesians 5: “Make the most of the time, for the days are evil.” But like all ideas, this one grew and changed with time.

The idea that was “Carpe Diem”and “Gather Ye Rosebuds” was reincarnated as “You Only Live Once” in early 2006, when The Strokes released a song by that title.  The phrase didn't really gain traction, however, until Canadian pop star Drake released the song “The Motto” in late 2011.  Among other explicit lyrics, the chorus includes, “You only live once ‒ that's the motto n***a, YOLO, And we 'bout it every day, every day, every day.”  This compressed the idea into an acronym, something quickly said and easily remembered.

As an acronym, YOLO exploded into youth culture, taking on a life of its own as shorthand for youthful exuberance and a devil-may-care, reckless abandon to living in the moment.  The sentiment went viral in popular music, as “The Motto” was followed by fun.'s single “We Are Young,” Ke$ha's “Die Young,” “Young, Wild and Free” featuring Wiz Khalifa and veteran rapper Snoop Dogg, “Live While We're Young” by trans-Atlantic sensation One Direction, and most recently “Live It Up” featuring Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull.  The common element in all of these lyrics is the pursuit of pleasure in the brief moment of youth without regard for consequence.  YOLO has become a popular hashtag in social media, and even a verb used  for any activity that fulfills the YOLO lifestyle, as in “a hard night of YOLO-ing.”

What makes YOLO so dangerous is that it has become a moral compass for the next generation - or perhaps more accurately, a substitute for one.  The gospel of YOLO is the frantic pursuit of pleasure while sacrificing foresight at the altar of  the moment. It's an excuse, a verbal “don't judge me” to accompany a moral shrug of the shoulders.  In its current incarnation YOLO looks less like “carpe diem” and more like a phrase echoed throughout the Bible, “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” In Ecclesiastes the phrase is used by King Solomon to describe the vanity of the world.  In Isaiah, the phrase is used to describe the wicked conduct of a Judah that has turned its back on God.  In 1 Corinthians, Paul uses the phrase to describe what Christian faith would have to look like if the resurrection of Christ had not happened.  None of these are depictions of the fulfilling life YOLO promises.

Even more importantly, YOLO simply is not true: you only live twice.  The end of our lives is not the end of our existence, and the end goal of living is not simply to enjoy life as much as possible.  Making the most of every moment doesn't mean ignoring the consequences.

This generation didn't invent YOLO, but embraced it as an anthem, and in that anthem they embrace a philosophy without limits and dignity.

What consequences do you see to living to the tune of YOLO? Comment below and continue the discussion...

Connect with Axis:

This post was written by Lucas Zellers, our summer intern. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The New Gentleman | A Blog About Technology

Do you know the one thing my momma never taught me? iPod etiquette. As a kid, my mom hammered home what it meant to be a gentleman. “Stand up when a girl enters the room.” “Always hold the door for elderly men or women.” “Make sure you give someone a firm handshake.” “Don’t put your elbows on the table.” “Ask questions, don’t just talk about yourself the whole time.” “Always open the car door for your sisters.” “Serve first, eat later.” She taught me what it meant to show respect to other people, which is, at its core, what it means to be a gentleman. And yet my mom never taught me how to use an iPod.

Now I don’t blame my mom for this because I didn’t get my first iPod until I was almost done with high school. My mom didn’t teach me iPod etiquette because I was almost out of the house before it even existed.

But today, while running down the street, I realized that we need iPod etiquette. During my jog, I passed several people – most of whom were elderly. Now normally I wave and say, “Good morning.” But today that felt weird. Today, when I passed people, waved, and said “good morning” it felt like I was being rude.

See, I had earbuds in and was listening to music on my run. Now what is the hidden message to someone I pass on the street? Let’s look at it this way. If I walked up to you while you were sitting at your computer reading this blog and said, “Good morning, how are you today?” You would probably look up and respond. But what if, when you looked up to respond to me, you noticed that I was wearing earbuds and listening to music? Would it change the way you responded? Would you feel like I heard or even cared if you were actually having a good morning? No, because earbuds communicate one thing, “I’m in iWorld right now listening to music. I can’t hear you. I don’t really care about you.”

Maybe I’m overreacting, or maybe not. But I think we need a new breed of gentlemen. I think we need gentlemen who learn iPod, TV, and Internet etiquette. I think we need gentlemen that are conscious of what their use of technology is communicating to other people, and doing to their relationships. Basically we just need a bunch of dudes to apply the basic principle my mom taught me as a kid, “being a gentleman means respecting other people and showing them that respect.”

So I leave you with a question, how can we use technology and iPods in a way where we show other people respect? Comment below and continue the discussion…

This blog was written by Daniel Ryan Day, the author of Ten Days Without and Director of Content for Axis. You can pre-order Ten Days Without on Amazon, B&N, and