You might have seen Maria Sotiropoulou online sometime. She is the one who uploads the most beautiful images on instagram, the one who draws inspiring sketches and the one who is madly in love with Chios, where her family comes from. And yes, she is all that in person. A sweet, super talented, multi-tasker that makes sure she has enough spare time to attend her acrobatic courses and who strongly believes in people. So, I had the pleasure of visiting her apartment, on a rainy Sunday, and I got to see all that; meaning, I got to see her climb up the walls, stand on her head, do splits in the bathtub… you name it. But what I found most fascinating about Maria, who is a social media pro, is that she is a strong believer that no matter what you do online, it’s not worth anything, unless you take it out on the streets, unless you make it physical and unless you put it in the real world. And that, coming from someone who works on social media and is a creative director for many companies and websites online, is something worth paying attention to.
Tell me a little bit about your background.
I studied graphic design right after school at Vakalo and then did my Masters on Communication Design at Pratt Institute. My thesis there was based on social media, and that’s what got me involved in everything I do now.
Really? What was it about?
It was a project on the G-train, which is NYC’s most notorious line and the only one that connects the city with Brooklyn and Queens. So I named my thesis project the Glorious G-train Series, which was actually a guerrilla project, and what I tried to do is that I tried to create an atmosphere around that train line. You know this train is always so late and people riding it get so frustrated, so I started making stories about it and putting a certain glory to it, just to make it a bit easier on the people.
And how did you actually do that in relation to the social media?
It was in 2007 when I started my project, which I turned in two years later. So social media was pretty new back then and I happened to be the only one that actually did a thesis project that involved the internet and reaching out to people. So I made various stickers that had the g-trains blog address on them and that contained little messages or blanks for the people to fill in. It was hilarious, because I went out one Sunday to stick everything I had been making with a friend, who is so posh, no one would accuse her of harming public property. But ok, we were careful. We didn’t leave any stickers on surfaces that would take forever to clean up. Anyways, funny thing is that people responded to my G-train stickers and they left some pretty funny notes!
That seems fun. And how did you continue with all the things you collected?
I blogged about them, I also blogged about my everyday experience on the G-train. I rode it every day, you see.
Could you see this project applying to the Greek realm?
On the transportation network, no, I guess not. I mean, our metro line is so clean cut. And you couldn’t also do it on the streets, because there’s so much visual noise there, posters and stickers and signs.
Apart from your glorious project on the glorious G-train, you are the brains behind the amazing blog In the Mud I found Thee. How did you come up with the name? And how long have you been blogging there?
I’ve had In the Mud I found Thee since 2008. I guess it could be considered vintage by now! No, but I started it because of school. I was uploading sketches and gradually it turned out as my online diary.
You post stories and pictures as well, right?
Yes, the stories are a bit surreal. Mostly I will be extra happy or frustrated about something, so I put all my feelings on an object and tell the story through their eyes. It’s funnier that way and I don’t end up with cheesy lines like ‘oh, I am so in love’ or angry texts! As for the name, I know it’s a bit long, but I love how you can always find something beautiful, even if everything seems to be going downhill and you can’t see the light. Amidst the harshness, you can always get yourself the material and make something worth being happy about.
That’s something worth repeating to one’s self each day. So, in the mud you find beauty and in social media you find, what? How do you feel about this new era? Does it generate misconceptions?
Social media is a great tool and an amazing way to keep up with your friends. It is, let’s be honest now. I have a lot of friends living far far away, so apart from the occasional emailing, it’s nice to share a song or a picture of your everyday moments with the ones you love. It is those little details that make you feel close to one another, when you cannot achieve this physically. But we must not forget that the real world is much more important and that nothing can stay online and go no place else. And yes, it does create misconceptions, it sometimes makes people thing they are celebrities and it makes you think about social media pr and what will you like, and what will you share and so on, but as long as everything is done in moderation and with certain ‘ethics’, it can become a powerful tool in your hands.
Ok, but let’s talk a little bit now about the fact that you can climb walls. And do all supernatural stuff with your body. And let’s not forget the fact that you run a lot – 10km to be exact.
When I were young, I used to do gymnastics and I was always facincated by the circus. So, I decided to give it a go. At first it was really scary, you feel the adrenaline going through your veins and you need to be well disciplined and in control of your body. Especially when I am working with ropes or fabric, where you tangle yourself to them and you get really high up, it can be scary. The teacher is on the ground, you are up in the air, alone and no one can really tell you what to do, so you need to control every muscle of your body and do it well, otherwise it can be dangerous. As for running, I really enjoy it.
Are Greeks conscious on body health?
No, not at all. We don’t even give our body, or any activity, a chance! I mean, even simple exercises can be done just by clicking on youtube!
And sports can be a great stress relief, especially on times like these. Could you point out something positive and something negative the recessions has brought on us?
The positive side of it is that people are becoming more friendly and relationships stronger during hard times. Of course you cannot ignore how aggressive people can get, and the violence that you see all around, which is very sad, but on a smaller scale something better is happening. Hopefully it will expand on community levels. Also, I love how people are becoming more active, due to the lack of money. If there’s something they can do it themselves, they do it, instead of just buying it. The other day my grandmother repaired a sweater that belongs to my grandpa. When she gave it to me I was so happy, because it’s something that you re-use and it’s not just an anonymous sweater off some store – it’s a sweater my grandma made! As for the negative side of the recession, I am amazed at how extreme and violent one can get when pushed to the limits. All this violence and all this hatred is poisoning us.
Is there someone to blame for all this?
No, certainly not. I mean we are all to blame. I won’t be saying the state is to blame. The state is us! But I strongly believe that a person who is fighting in his everyday life with simple things, like being polite, picking up after his mess, recycling, respecting others….. is a much greater fighter and protestor that someone who just screams and destroys.
A few comments on the things pictured and said above:
Maria climbs walls. I will say that again and again, until I come to terms with the fact that someone can to do something like that. / She used to have a thing for swords. She owns quite a lot. Now she’s not really into buying the any longer. Yes, she has a samurai sword in her collection. / The comic book shown in the picture above is actually in Turkish and was published in NY by a friend of Maria’s. She is begging her friend to translate it in English. Let’s hope she does. / The book she is holding open in the picture above was given to her as a gift from her loved one. It is her first book. He collected some of her best instagram pictures and made a book out of them. / The sneakers Maria is wearing come back from 6th grade! That’s right. They still fit!