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Wolfgang Ruth: A summer’s change of pace

Sept. 4, 2019

Wolfgang Ruth is a senior studying journalism at MSU. This summer, he interned for Refinery29's social media and video departments in New York City. 

Taylor Swift’s “Welcome To New York” is a ‘just moved to New York City’ song so cliché, it’s incredible. The feeling of listening to it as you fly over skyscrapers is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced; it carries a sensation my brain immediately recognizes. So, as cliché as I am, I moved to the concrete jungle for the second summer in a row this past June — bags packed and Swift’s track playing on my Spotify — and I re-entered the city filled with “bright lights,” “broken hearts” and streets way too crowded. My lungs filled with car exhaust, the sun’s heat made me sweat and the air was muggy. But I was home. 

After accepting an internship at Refinery29, a media mogul whose focus is to empower and inspire women, I joined the digital company’s social media and video departments — my role within the office was to work with the Snapchat and Instagram teams. Anyone who knows me knows that excitement was an understatement. 

I’d commute from my Flatbush-confined apartment in Brooklyn, which rested right below Prospect Park, and would board the Parkside Avenue Q train most mornings to get to work. On my way, I’d stop at Ground Support — the coffee shop that became my ‘regular’ last summer — as I’d purchase a medium iced latte; a year later wouldn’t cause them to forget my order. It was a routine that I grew to love each day, never wanting but knowing it would only last for a seemingly-short three months.

At my job, I gained not only experience that I knew would be helpful to my career, but a family and knowledge of what that looks like in a work-setting. Getting specific: I edited existing video assets for IGTV and researched content for Refinery29’s multiple social media platforms, like their main and Style Instagram feeds. I’d track competitor performance and use that data to research what might or might not work on our own social channels. For Snapchat, I wrote copy, edited and built daily Snapchat editions into their content management system, as well as researched and brainstormed Snapchat and Instagram strategies in relation to video and how we could produce content. Tracking Snapchat analytics to pull edition data was also a daily task. This, of course, is a short summary of my intern-job description.

And during my time at Refinery29, I was even able to get a chance to write for the site’s Entertainment section (The Drop, specifically), and interviewed two up-and-coming female artists on their music careers and what they’d hope to bring to the industry. Most importantly, though, I got to work with the most amazing group of people. It was an opportunity I still can’t believe was my reality one week ago.  

Another highlight of my summer was filming my first tattoo for a Pride Edition on Refinery29’s Snapchat, which went live on June 30, and featured me getting a tiny rainbow inked on the inner side of my right arm. The edition was accompanied by an online article I wrote for the site, and, it was in that moment when so much pride was created as I realized I was part of a company that cared so much about acceptance, diversity and equality. Refinery29, and its many creative and talented employees, made my internship everything it was. 

I did learn, however, that working in social media is sometimes draining. Continuous content can be exhausting — both for the creator and the consumer. But the positive response to the work done, work meant to inspire and empower audiences, is the reward.

Whether writing an article online or posting something to Instagram, you will truly never know whose life you might reach or connect with. It could be someone who needs information on a certain topic via a Thursday Snapchat Edition, or a person who needs to know they are not alone in whatever life might be throwing their way. I feel that I helped be that educator or friend to someone at Refinery29 — through work and collaboration and care — and I will strive to continue to be that for people wherever I go in the future.