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Social Media is Making Us More Insecure

Social Media Insecurity

Disclaimer: a lot of you are probably going to disagree with me on this, and that is fine. I want to disagree with me.

After all, social media isn’t just a hobby for me. It’s my profession, which hopefully makes what I’m about to say a little more validated.

Social Media is making us insecure.

Specifically, people (skewing younger) are misusing the social media tools given to them and creating false impressions of themselves that are fueling their own insecurities, as well as the insecurities of their peers.

Plenty have researched the link between social media sites and depression. A 2012 study found that there is, in fact, a high correlation between depression and use of major social network, Facebook. The study assessed the risk of depression among high schoolers and compared the risk rate to links between depression and TV use, to name one.

Other studies somewhat disagree. Huffington Post discussed a few related findings and found that there seems to be a stronger case that social media doesn’t cause anxiety or depression, it just pushes already at-risk people off the figurative cliff.

I find that difficult to know for sure, and I gravitate more towards the idea that we have yet to see the true effects of what social media use is doing to the youngest of us.

See, the originators of these studies, and the writers like me who are interpreting them, are a different generation from the one ahead of us.

Yes, I am a millennial, but I’m also a little older. I didn’t grow up linked to social media like children are today, which means that we can only discuss what is happening in real-time with younger users.

And it’s not pretty.

It’s easy to make the argument that insecurity and low self-esteem is evident in teenagers, after all. We have millions of people logging into Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, bragging about the great things that are happening in their lives. We know this because we see it every day.

Forget for one second how bragging is a result of insecurity. Focus on the result of this social competition we’re seeing before us. Kids are getting on Instagram and seeing pictures of people they know doing something that they aren’t. It can be overwhelming for someone between the ages of 13 and 16 to feel like they are missing out on something.

Honestly, we’ve all felt like this at one point, so you know that social jealousy can be a lot more impacting when you’re a teen, that stage of life when your self-esteem is at an all-time low.

Thus, teens like to lie about their lives in order to feel slightly better about what they think they’re missing out on. Why do you think Catfish seems to resonate so quickly with people? Most of us have been “catfished” or have even “catfished” someone else.

Social media is an anonymity paradox. On the one hand, we are more anonymous than we would be in a face-to-face interaction with someone. On the other hand, we are using social media to essentially make ourselves public to the whole world.

Now, I don’t mind being public about a lot of things, but I certainly don’t want some things to be so easily accessible. No one really does. The problem we need to address, then, is how we educate ourselves and those younger than us. 

Throwing money at the problem or forcing kids to stay away from it won’t help. Kids are way too far ahead of their parents for them to regulate social media use. Instead, kids (and us) need to be taught how to temper our concern and fixation over social media.

Would that solve the whole problem? No, but it’s a start. I’m convinced that a lot of the depression and anxiety complexes developing from social media can be prevented by good parenting and willpower.

And, of course, social media has just as many benefits as it does pitfalls. It’s strengthened relationships between friends separated by distance, given brands the opportunity to grow, provided many jobs, and overall, it’s been a great outlet for entertainment and leisure.

Just remember to be cautious of its ills.

So, when your friend tells you that they want to take a “break” from Facebook or Twitter for a few weeks, don’t mock them for it (which I am guilty of doing). Encourage and cheer them on.

You could even join them if you’re brave enough.

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking the “follow” button in the top-left corner.

Don’t forget to check out New Professional News, a list of headlines essential for any new professional, updated daily at 8am.

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How to Create Your Content Machine

Content Machine

“Whoa Jon! What’s a content machine?” Great question, voice in my head. Your content machine is how you take in content across multiple channels daily.

It’s simply a collection of all of the news, blog articles, tweets, and one-offs that are being put in front of you by way of Gmail, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or even Reddit.

We often don’t put much thought into our content machines and how we’re setting up channels for consumption. Most of us just go to our favorite sites and happen upon stories we find interesting.

That said, creating your content machine is essential to ensuring that the stories you happen upon are the best in your network, and setting up your channels to do this isn’t very complicated.

The first step is recognizing what your content machine already looks like.

Ask yourself, “What do I find myself reading a lot? Newspapers? Whatever randomly pops up on my Facebook?”Which bookmarks am I actually checking?”

Be honest with yourself and acknowledge what sources influence you the most. From there, you can fine-tune these channels to supplying you with great content whenever you need it.

Next, let’s go through some of the more common channels and see how we can make them work for our content machine more effectively.

1. Email. 

I put this at the top because this is the apex of my own content machine, and probably yours as well. It’s a given that your email is where most of your subscriptions funnel in, so I would recommend starring the websites you find most useful.

Or you can be more proactive and research some great news aggregation sites that will send you great links to explore every morning. I rely a lot on PRSA for example, since I am a member and receive great stories from them. (Subscribing to jonnegroni.com can’t hurt either)

2. Twitter.

Yes, there is more to Twitter than just gaining followers and playing with hashtags. Making Twitter work for your content machine is a little trickier than email, because it requires a little more work than just subscribing to great stuff.

You want your news feed to be filled with great content you can access on the go, so I recommend following the followers of your passions. I love to blog, so I follow a lot of bloggers. The payoff is that my news feed is full of great stories that are relevant to me and whoever I share them with.

If you have a cluttered feed beyond repair, remember that you can always create lists and bookmark them for daily use!

If you want to use Twitter for fun and professional networking, consider making two separate accounts.

3. LinkedIn.

Similar to Twitter, your updates feed on LinkedIn can work wonders for your content machine. Thankfully, LinkedIn is a little easier for sorting good content from sillier updates, and you can always customize what shows up in your feed.

Be sure to also join a lot of groups with like-minded people, as this will give you great updates and content to digest and share. Oh, and PLEASE check out LinkedIn Today. 

4. Google+.

I’ve spoken on this recently, but Google+ boasts a very content-rich community that is active and engaging. Because there are less active users, there are more meaningful interactions, and the service does a great job of simplifying how you get great content.

I find myself searching for what’s trending a lot on Google+, which lets you use the search bar at the top to discover great content from people you don’t follow (yet).

5. Facebook.

I say this tongue-in-cheek, but there are very useful ways to make Facebook an asset for your content machine. While I mostly prefer to use the site for recreational use (unless it’s for work), I can’t deny how Facebook’s massive network works well to deliver new content.

Okay, there are certainly many reasons why your news feed is filled with mundane information, but utilizing Facebook’s “list” function can allow you to filter posts from friends that do like to share interesting, useful content from the rest.

Conclusion.

Now, these are just some of the ways you can get to work on your content machine. Whatever network or platform you’re using, remember to always set time aside in your day to read and follow-up with as much content as you can. It’s a great habit, and it will no doubt grow your skills and awareness of whatever industry you commit to.

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking the “follow” button in the top-left corner.

Don’t forget to check out New Professional News, a list of headlines essential for any new professional, updated daily at 8am.

5 Steps to Branding Yourself Online

Brand Yourself

If you have profiles on various social networks, then you have a personal brand. The problem is that you may not be keeping good track of this brand and how you’re perceived online.

Luckily, there are simple ways for you to start creating a more consistent presence online, rewarding you with a tighter, more influential network.

1. Craft your ideal brand. 

Before anything else, you absolutely need to have a clear idea of how you want to brand yourself (this can be broad, so don’t panic.) Simply put yourself in the shoes of someone who just stumbled upon your LinkedIn, Twitter, or whatever else.

What do you want them to see? Do you want them to find you fun, energetic and engaging? Do you want people to like your writing and creativity? Do you want to come off as professional and business-oriented?

In my case, I want my identity to feature what I can do as a writer and how well I get along with others online. I go for the creative youth identity that I know I excel at.

As long as you’re realistic and honest about what you really represent, coming up with an identity game-plan can be an extremely fun exercise.

2. Update/Create all of your profiles at the same time.

Time to get started. Once you know exactly what you want your personal brand to be, it’s time to implement it across all of your channels.

If you want an online identity that sticks, you need to have a cohesive theme between your major networks. The best way to accomplish this level of consistency is to edit them all at the same time.

They don’t have to be identical (and definitely shouldn’t), but they should at least match each other in terms of language and presentation. Your “About Me” on Facebook should make sense alongside your Twitter bio, even though they will no doubt say different things.

For example, your  Facebook may say that you are a lawyer at Earth, Wind, and Fire Legal (Fresh Prince of Bel-air joke), but you LinkedIn, in contrast, says you are a legal consultant for the parent of the firm. Even worse, your Twitter could say you’re a paralegal because you haven’t updated it in a year.

Use the same language and verify that your online brand is as up-to-date as possible.

3. Leave some information out. 

This may seem counterintuitive, but a big mistake some people make with their online identity is that they talk about themselves too much. Yes, you want to inform people and make your bragging rights known, but being an open book can have negative consequences.

You don’t want people to feel like there’s nothing else they can learn about you, so try to keep an air of mystery that will open the door to future conversations.

4. Change your profile picture.

I’m a firm believer that you should have a different profile picture for the social networks you use the most. This is because each network is different, and you want to communicate separate (but equal) things about yourself across your profiles.

My goal with Facebook, for example, is to feature pictures of my family and what I like to do for fun. So, my profile picture reflects the lighthearted, family side of me. My Twitter is more of an outlet for the creative professional in me, so I usually go with minimalist pictures. LinkedIn is obviously a place for being professional, so you’ll find the suit and tie version of me on there.

See, it’s not that I’m a different person in each of these cases. If you read about me, you’ll find the same person, just a different shade. And it all ties back to one theme, my brand.

5. Create as much content as possible.

Sharing is great. I do it a lot, and I love telling others about what I find interesting. That said, creating your own content is very important as well.

I create my own graphics for this blog and I write everything you see. That’s because when I broadcast something I’ve published, I want my identity stamped on it.

Attaching yourself to your works is one of the easiest ways to communicate your identity to your network, and it leaves a lasting impression if you’re content is good enough.

And you don’t have to just blog. Take photos. Make videos. Write poetry. Do what you like to do and put it on your fridge (new social media idea, don’t steal it).

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking the “follow” button in the top-left corner.

Don’t forget to check out New Professional News, a list of headlines essential for any new professional, updated daily at 8am.

How “Amy’s Baking Company” Has The Worst PR Strategy I’ve Ever Seen

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1 week ago, I watched the most entertaining episode of Kitchen Nightmares yet, as Gordon Ramsey actually walked out on a restaurant for the first time in the show’s history.

Short version: Amy’s Baking Company shot itself in the foot this week and destroyed their reputation via social media and their behavior on the show.

For more insight on what happened, here is the most comprehensive article I’ve read on the subject, but right now I’m just going to discuss the aftermath and what to make of their upcoming PR efforts.

Here are the facts: the internet hates this restaurant. Their biggest challenge is that they are trapped in a black hole of negative publicity. Can they really be saved at this point?

I get that they hired a PR firm, but even I have more Twitter followers than those guys. Yes, they have an impressive client list, but everything about Jason Rose, his firm and their website screams old-school, and this brand is facing problems because of the owners’ inability to grasp the new school. Social media, that is.

I mean, did they really expect people to believe they were hacked? For days? Especially when the content matches up with how they were portrayed in the show?

What convinces me the most that these hacking claims are a lie is the follow-up. Your statements amid a PR crisis speak volumes, and I don’t believe this PR firm they’ve hired understand how shallow their strategy has been so far, so let’s analyze.

Their first follow-up statement:

“Obviously our Facebook, YELP, Twitter and Website have been hacked. We are working with the local authorities as well as the FBI computer crimes unit to ensure this does not happen again. We did not post those horrible things. Thank You Amy &Samy”

First of all, this isn’t “obvious” to anyone that witnessed the couple in action via the show. Their disrespect towards their customers, their employees, and Gordon Ramsey was caught on film. And yes, it portrayed them as crazy. That’s not spin, that’s being caught red-handed.

Yet, they still claim to be the victims in all this and expect people to believe them.

Next Facebook post:

“Other Side of Amy’s Baking Company Controversy in Scottsdale To Soon Be Told

SCOTTSDALE, AZ. MAY 15, 2013 — Amy’s Baking Company will host a Grand Re-Opening on Tuesday night, May 21, following unflattering portrayals on national television.

Customers will be able to decide who is correct: a famous celebrity chef or the marketplace that has supported the small, locally-owned business for six years. 

When re-opened, a portion of proceeds will benefit a charity organized to bring awareness to cyber bullying. 

Seating is limited. Reservations may be made by emailing sjones@rosemoserallynpr.com. 

Diners will also have the opportunity to meet, and judge for themselves the character of owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, who have devoted their lives to and earn their living from their small restaurant. The Bouzaglos have been married for 10 years, after Sammy emigrated from Israel. 

The owners will likely be holding a press conference before the Grand Re-Opening and answer falsehoods depicted on a reality television show, including assertions that the restaurant confiscates tips from servers. 

In fact, wait staff is paid $8-$14 per hour, two and half to nearly five times the standard hourly wage for servers. 

Questions will also be answered about what happened to their Facebook page. 

Amy’s Baking Company was recently featured on the hit PBS show “Check Please” and has received A+ reports from CBS 5 for kitchen preparedness. 

“We are very upset by what has taken place, apologize about the acrimony that has ensued but now must fight back to save our business. We hope and believe much good can result from what has transpired. We ask the public to keep an open mind as we begin to tell our side of the story,” Samy Bouzaglo said. 

For more details, please contact Michael Saucier. 

-30-“

I kept the boilerplate at the end because it shows you how “press release” this is.

Okay, let’s begin with “Other Side of Amy’s Baking Company Controversy in Scottsdale To Soon Be Told”

Other side? How can there be another side when we’ve caught you in the act? Shifting the blame is a classic PR move that doesn’t really work anymore now that information is so easily shared. ABC has been picking fights with bloggers and critics for years. No one is convinced that there is another side. 

It’s also evident here that this was written by their PR handler due to the language. We need statements from the owners, not their advisors.

SCOTTSDALE, AZ. MAY 15, 2013 — Amy’s Baking Company will host a Grand Re-Opening on Tuesday night, May 21, following unflattering portrayals on national television.

“Unflattering portrayal” is interesting language, because it seems to imply that the depiction of them is not accurate, even though the word “portrayal” literally means to describe. Nice try. The Grand Re-Opening seems like a smart move, since it keeps their publicity going and will no doubt draw interest, but to me, it just makes the restaurant look more guilty. If they really didn’t say all of those terrible things, why did they have to close down? Acting guilty can be just as worse as being guilty.

Customers will be able to decide who is correct: a famous celebrity chef or the marketplace that has supported the small, locally-owned business for six years. 

Asking us to pick between Gordon Ramsey and them is quite possibly the dumbest decision I’ve ever seen a modern PR firm make. He’s famous for a reason. He’s well-loved. The public is absolutely going to pick a professional, well-loved chef, over a restaurant that’s been harassing customers and employees for years. If the market has been so kind to them, then why did they need Gordon Ramsey’s help in the first place? If the problem was always cyber-bullying, wouldn’t that be a reason to hire a PR firm over a “famous celebrity chef?” 

When re-opened, a portion of proceeds will benefit a charity organized to bring awareness to cyber bullying. 

More shifting the blame. They are still trying to perpetuate the myth that they are victims, even though we saw firsthand on the show why they are getting all of this hate. They’ve been shown that they bully everyone else, but they claim that they’re the ones being bullied. Giving to a charity is good in theory, but choosing one that satisfies your complaints comes off as self-serving. If they really wanted to appear authentic, they should have chosen a charity to help the hungry. Since, you know, they’re a restaurant.  

Seating is limited. Reservations may be made by emailing sjones@rosemoserallynpr.com. 

Who is “sjones?” I don’t really care, but what’s odd is the email. Why are reservations being made with the PR firm? This makes no sense. 

Diners will also have the opportunity to meet, and judge for themselves the character of owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, who have devoted their lives to and earn their living from their small restaurant. The Bouzaglos have been married for 10 years, after Sammy emigrated from Israel. 

We can judge pretty easily from the tape. No one is asking to meet these people in person unless they just want to observe the train-wreck firsthand. Rebuilding a reputation is pointless when there is no apology. Also, this whole “small local restaurant” thing is easy to figure out. They want us to feel like they’re just a small business trying to make it, but oh no! They’re being bullied by the “big guys” like famous, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey. Are you kidding me? First, anyone who has seen the extravagant decor within the restaurant can tell that they’re not “the little guy.” The rest is obvious. They’re the bullies, and constantly saying the opposite doesn’t make it true. Also, being married for 10 years and emigrating from Israel doesn’t say anything about your character…

The owners will likely be holding a press conference before the Grand Re-Opening and answer falsehoods depicted on a reality television show, including assertions that the restaurant confiscates tips from servers. 

The owner and many employees have already confessed that tips are being confiscated. Denying it is pointless.

In fact, wait staff is paid $8-$14 per hour, two and half to nearly five times the standard hourly wage for servers. 

Yes, because servers keep their tips, hence they don’t need a high hourly wage. Gordon Ramsey rightfully pointed out on the show that the customers would not have given any tip if they knew that the owners were taking them. If the owners are paying them this wage, then they should have a policy in place where the servers can’t accept tips, which is not the case. 

Questions will also be answered about what happened to their Facebook page. 

Can’t wait to see this excuse in action, especially since posts like the ones from the other day weren’t the first. Hate language has been seen on their site long before this fiasco.

Amy’s Baking Company was recently featured on the hit PBS show “Check Please” and has received A+ reports from CBS 5 for kitchen preparedness. 

We already know that Gordon was impressed with the cleanliness. That doesn’t make the food or customer service better. In PR, we call this “bolstering” which is an attempt to highlight unrelated positive aspects of a company in order to decrease attention to negative aspects. This doesn’t work well when the negative has been so greatly highlighted, and no apology or remorse is evident. 

“We are very upset by what has taken place, apologize about the acrimony that has ensued but now must fight back to save our business. We hope and believe much good can result from what has transpired. We ask the public to keep an open mind as we begin to tell our side of the story,” Samy Bouzaglo said. 

Oh look! A statement from the owner! What?? An apology? Why didn’t they start with this? Because at this point, it doesn’t even seem remotely genuine. If they were so sorry, they wouldn’t bury this at the bottom. Also, more tricky language. They apologize for the acrimony that has ensued. Okay, well that doesn’t say you apologize for your acrimonious behavior, just what’s “happened.” Wow, just when I thought they couldn’t shift the blame one more time.

For more details, please contact Michael Saucier. 

Who?

So much of this nonsense could have been avoided if they simply said this:

Sorry. We’ll change. 

Because that’s all people want. We don’t want to be accused of being closed-minded. We don’t want fancy PR strategies or a big press event. We want to see responsibility and admission of guilt. But according to them, we “the customers” aren’t always right, but they are.

May 21st can’t get here fast enough.

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking the “follow” button in the top-left corner.

Don’t forget to check out New Professional News every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me)  

Leaving “Stuff” Behind

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“Those who save their life will lose it. Those who give up their life will save it.” This is a famous passage from Luke 9:24 that I believe almost anyone can grab value from.

Why?

I’m rapidly learning how to give up the things I have clung to in order to gain something far more valuable. I don’t want to generalize, but it has to be said that a common attitude among new professionals like me is that we need to conserve everything we have and avoid any and all risks that threaten our current status.

Example: I left the town I graduated college from and worked for about 5 months. It was a great experience, but I eventually needed to make the next step in my career. I made what I still believe was the right choice and took a job in the same town I went to school in.

It hasn’t been easy, only humbling. Still, time has passed and eventually I’ll have to leave again for whatever is next. And this definitely won’t be easy.

Life here is comfortable. I have everything I need, and yet I am certain that my ambitions don’t lie here. Rather than cling to the life I know and love, I have to give them up for something that will eventually be better. Something that will be fulfilling.

The hard part is leaving “stuff” behind. I’ve built a life here. I have so many things I’ve invested in here, so the idea of leaving them behind is daunting. But it’s necessary.

Some of you have taken risks in the past. You’ve moved on from them and may find yourself clinging to what you put aside before.

I never realized how easy it is to fall into this trap, so I encourage you to let it go, as I need to.

Claim that confirmation you have. Make the sacrifices you need to make so that you can finally settle on what you want in your life once and for all.

If this seems impossible to you, but you still have that desire, surround yourself with those who challenge you. Talk to someone older about what they’ve learned and accomplished. Find ways to encourage yourself and build a clearer vision.

In short, stuff is stuff. We can gain it. We can lose it. What we won’t always have access to is opportunity. Know the right opportunities from the flimsy ones. Seize the opportunities that are worth sacrificing your “stuff” for.

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking the “follow” button in the top-left corner.

Don’t forget to check out New Professional News every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

Don’t Be Impressed With Yourself

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Will you? Yes. Should you? Depends. Would it be better if you weren’t? Absolutely.

Let’s be clear: self-esteem isn’t being brought into question. Having a high self-esteem is crucial in preventing depression and anxiety, so please don’t get the two confused.

The difference between self-esteem and being impressed with yourself is within the very nature of the words. Self-esteem has everything to do with being content with yourself. It’s a word that relates to satisfaction and confidence.

By contrast, being impressed literally means to “affect forcibly or deeply” in relation to admiration. Why do you think the word is synonymous with “imprint?”

Most of us can agree that self-esteem is a positive force in our lives, but I’m not so sure about the idea of always being impressed with yourself.

Having such a high admiration of yourself leads to nothing but conceit and complacency. After all, our ambitions are stifled when we think we’ve achieved everything we can. This intense focus on ourselves prevents us from being objective and, more importantly, creative.

The essence of what I’m trying to say is this: don’t be satisfied with where you are at and what you are doing. Don’t be “impressed” with yourself. Instead, be confident in what you’ve managed to achieve and then move forward.

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking the “follow” button in the top-left corner.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

Everything You Missed When You Watched ‘Inception’

inception

Inception is rapidly becoming my favorite movie of all time. I first saw it during the midnight premiere back in 2010, and I enjoyed the heck out of it. I remember being mesmerized by its originality and unrelenting assault on my mind’s stamina.

It took another dozen viewings of the film, however, to persuade me that this is one of the best films of my lifetime, and the first truly great film of the 21st Century.

Let me explain.

For me, a truly great film isn’t really like a masterpiece. A masterpiece, after all, is more about critical praise and the apex of one’s career. Inception is great in a different way. It’s just smart. It didn’t receive universal, critical praise (though it got some) because it completely went over the heads of almost everyone.

inception

For all of you who think you “get” the movie, I sincerely doubt that more than a handful actually caught everything that was going on in the story.

Here’s a test to see if you did: do you think the ending was a cliffhanger? Because if you did, you are dead wrong.

Let me be clear about something. I’ve seen this movie backward and forward, so what I’m about to get into is just a summary of what I’ve personally discovered, combined with some great insights provided by the research of others.

Spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen the movie, stop reading this and get that taken care of.

inception

I believe the entire movie was a dream, and we are supposed to arrive at that conclusion. Nolan implants countless clues that point to this, but he works to make sure that even the clues themselves are ambiguous.

The first clue? To catch it, you have to watch the movie at least twice. There is a line in the movie when Cobb points out that our dreams always start in the middle of something, but not really the beginning. We never think about “how we got there” as he puts it.

Inception begins in the middle of Cobb’s story, as well as the middle of a dream heist. We aren’t introduced to Cobb, Arthur, or Saito. We are given a brief look at the end of the story, and then the movie just shifts seamlessly into the dream heist.

What does that remind you of? When we recall a dream, we typically start at the end (Cobb and “old” Saito) and try to remember how it actually started, but we can’t remember how it really started and just start somewhere in the middle.

inception

So, let’s say you buy that. The whole movie was a dream. Doesn’t that make you mad? Well here’s Nolan’s genius: that shouldn’t matter. We get mad that the movie was just a dream and say, “Why bother watching a movie that didn’t really happen–” and then you realize that the movie is fiction anyway.

That is just one example of why this movie is so amazing. It has scores of themes you didn’t even think were possible to associate with the film. And it takes work to sort this all out.

Back to the first statement that everything was a dream. Maybe you’re not convinced? I’ll give you more clues. The basis for the “It’s a dream” theory is based on how limbo works. When the “kick” happens, namely suicide here, you go one level up in the multi-level dreams.

inception

Cobb explains to Ariadne that he and Mal, his wife, ended up in their world-building limbo because they were experimenting with multi-dreams and Cobb pushed them too deep. He says they grew “old” together and eventually committed suicide on the train tracks to go back to reality. But here’s the thing…that would have sent them only one level up.

Cobb believes inception is the reason Mal went insane and killed herself, but it was actually true. If they died in limbo, it would be impossible for them to return to reality again unless they died again and again. Totems mean nothing here because the totem Cobb used was Mal’s, and he even broke the rules and explained how it works to Ariadne, compromising its purpose. (Talking about the totems alone would take up this entire article by the way)

Another clue that they were in a dream when Mal killed herself: She trashes the hotel room to make it look like Cobb killed her so that he will eventually join her, but when he approaches the window, she’s across the road in another hotel room. If you look closely, it’s the same hotel room, plus it would make no sense for her to go to the other side. Cobb even proves that he doesn’t catch how that’s odd when he tells her to come inside and motions for her to come into the window he’s currently at, even though she’s across the street.

inception

One of the characteristics of a dream is that weird things happen that we don’t catch. When the dream was happening, strange things happened that we didn’t realize were major “plot holes” or illogical until we woke up and actually thought about it.

The entire movie is like this. The fast (and sloppy) editing, the one-dimensional characters all revolving around Cobb, the walls closing in on Cobb for no reason during the chase scene in Mombasa, bodyguards coming out of nowhere to attack him, Saito showing up just in time to save Cobb, and so many more examples all lead the diligent audience to believe that this is really just a dream.

After all, do we really believe that an energy tycoon that is smart about money would actually buy an entire airline just for the heck of it? And then said tycoon would risk his life in order to take part in the mission? It doesn’t really make sense the more you think about it.

inception

Watching the movie play out, it’s hard not to catch that it is clearly an allegory to filmmaking. When watch a movie, we are watching what is essentially a dream. Plot holes and the like exist because the director is trying to explain his “dream.”

Nolan himself has even admitted that he framed the characters around certain roles in filmmaking.

Cobb is the director: he leads the whole thing.

Arthur is the producer: he organizes everything.

Eames is the actor: he changes his appearance.

Ariadne is the screenwriter: she designs everything.

Yusuf is the special effects studio: he’s behind the technology to make everything work.

Saito is the bank-roller: he funds the project.

Robert is the audience: he’s the person they’re trying to plant an idea into.

inception

Need more clues? We’re told during the movie that elements of a person’s subconscious creep up during the dreams. That’s why Robert’s number, 528491, appears so often in the movie. He initially guesses the number is a combination to his father’s safe. Later, the number shows up on a napkin, a hotel room, and eventually his father’s safe at the snow fortress.

This carries on throughout the whole movie. The number of the train that kills Cobb and Mal, when they are in limbo is 3502. The taxi number later on is 2305, and the hotel Mal trashes is in room 5302. This implies that Mal’s death happened during a dream. And in the image above, you can see 3502 on the train that appeared during Robert’s dream.

Here is the most important subconscious clue, since it has to do with the ending that ticked everyone off for being a supposed cliffhanger. The end scene when we watch to see if the totem will fall (and prove Cobb is in reality) is a red herring. A massive misdirection that serves to make us miss what’s going on in the background.

inception

Remember, killing yourself only sends you one level up. We find “old” Saito and Cobb about to shoot themselves to escape limbo. If they did, then that means they would go back to the snow fortress. But wait, that was Fisher’s dream and Fischer received the “kick” already. If they went back a level up, that means there is nothing there. That means that the first person to die, Saito, would fill that dream with his subconscious, leading to the ending scene where Cobb supposedly reunites with his children.

How am I sure? Saito says that he always wanted a “house on a cliff.” In limbo, he is an old man living in a house on a cliff. At the very end when Cobb spins the totem and greets his kids, they say that they have just built a “house on a cliff.” This points to the whole thing taking place within Saito’s subconscious.

The beauty is how that can be a number of things. What if “house on a cliff” referred to Cobb’s subconscious being projected through Saito? That would mean Saito never existed. Honestly, there are countless ways to interpret this, but that’s not the point. The point is that this movie was designed in a way to make us understand that movies themselves are, well, inception.

inception

I could go on and on about this movie, honestly. There are just so many ways to interpret and find new revelations within the narrative. That is why it is a truly great movie, and it pains me to see that so many people dismissed it because it went over their heads and a movie like this lost “Best Picture” to The King’s Speech.

I’ll leave you with some more crazy facts in case you’re interested:

DREAMS: Dom, Robert, Eames, Ariadne , Mal, Saito.

If you add Peter, Arthur, and Yusuf, it spells DREAMS PAY (their profession is to make money by stealing from others’ dreams).

Hanz Zimmer created the entire soundtrack for this movie using only one song that is slowed down and sped up: the song used to initiate a dream is over, which is “No Regrets (translated)” by Edith Piaf. Seriously, even the blaring trombone composition is taken from that song. Also, the very last word in the song is “mal” which coincidently refers to the character Mal.

inception

The running time of the movie is exactly 2 hours and 28 minutes long, which is how long the song “No Regrets” is when translated to minutes and seconds.

Ariadne is a mythological princess who aids Theseus in escaping the Minotaur’s labyrinth. The name is also associated with Ariadne auf Naxos which is an opera that is essentially a “play within a play.”

The movie is based on Cobb’s mission to get home. His first name, Dom, literally means “home” in Latin (think domestic).

One last thought, a lot more about this subject can be found in this book, Inception and Philosophy, by Kyle Johnson. I haven’t read it myself, but I’ve been told it goes even deeper into the movie and what it all meant. Click here to check it out. 


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