A Day Without Twitter

A Day Without Twitter

When social media crash, do you crash and burn along with them? As a society so enamored with staying digitally connected and continually sharing our personal moments and thoughts online, what happens when our newfound forums are momentarily disabled? How do we function, and how do we learn to cope?

For me personally, I’m not exactly sure what to do. I confess: I depend on Twitter for various forms of communication, and I have found that it can be extremely frustrating when I want to send or read a tweet but can’t.

When something as constant as Twitter or Facebook goes down, it makes me think critically about the direction that our society is heading. When did we become so heavily reliant on social sites that share sometimes important or inspirational, but more often than not irrelevant, information about ourselves? And more importantly, what does that mean for us when a social media site is malfunctioning? Does our day collapse along with it?

In my search for sanity during yesterday’s Twitter crash, I ran across three posts that helped me process the situation.

Why is Twitter so addictive?

According to Forbes.com contributor Reuven Cohen, in his article “When Twitter Goes Down, So Does the Social Web,” Twitter has become “the beating pulse of the Internet.” Cohen reflects on the connection and relevance that Twitter holds in our lives. According to him, the site has become the central source of socially aggregated information.

For many users, Twitter serves as our confidant, our cheerleader, and fellow business partner. And when it fails or becomes unavailable, then essentially we do too — well, at least metaphorically.

Adds Cohen, “It’s the first place I look when there is a story worth following. The first place I look for opinions, and the first place I go to share. The instant Twitter goes down, there is an immediate and distinct sense of disconnection from my social graph.”

Yep. Disconnection describes that sinking feeling I had yesterday pretty well.

So after reflecting on why Twitter is so crucial to my day, I was left wondering what I should do in those exasperating times when it is not available. Or, put another way: What can we, the users, do while we wait for something as indispensable as Twitter to get back online?

Well, Dave Larson at the blog TweetSmarter suggests that users first and foremost realize that any problems related with the social media conglomerate will take time to fix. So we need to approach the situation as we would any emergency: stay calm and be patient.

In his post, “Ten Things You Absolutely MUST Know … When Twitter Goes Down,” Larson also advises using your mobile device as an alternative to the Web, during the momentary shut down. Larson recommends waiting before complaining to Twitter, and finally rescheduling any important tweets that need to go out.

A final thought that I was reminded of during my search for Twitter illumination was to always consider, or perhaps reconsider, other social media sites. Interestingly enough, one of the main ways many of us found out about the Twitter outage was through our friend’s status updates on Facebook. So if getting your frivolous or clever thoughts out to the social-media masses is an absolute must, consider Twitter’s larger (though usually clunkier) competitor. This is a major step for a Twitter diehard like myself.

Thankfully, though, Twitter is back up today — just in time for the start of the Olympics. So, there should be plenty to tweet about this weekend.

Happy tweeting, tweeple :0 )

Post THIS to Your Status

Post THIS to Your Status

In recent weeks, Facebook has annoyed its patrons by adding stuff they don’t want and moving features they do like to hard-to-find spots. More troubling than that, the social networking giant has made folks increasingly nervous about privacy issues. People are concerned that the techies at Facebook make too many tweaks to the privacy policy without making the changes clear to their users. (Yep, they do.) And people are worried that the Facebook crew is sharing our personal information with advertisers. (Guess what? They are. It’s called their business model.)

But while people are obsessing over privacy, my question is: Where’s my check?

The more I hear about the recent changes to Facebook the more irritated I get, mostly because I haven’t received my check yet. What check?

Listen, Mark Zuckerberg owes me something.

Let me explain. I’m not one of those people who are waiting for their handout from “the man” and I’ve never expected that I’d see my 40 acres and a mule. But I do understand one thing about the new economy: if you can deliver the right potential customers (leads) to advertisers, they will pay you for the service. And the more information you can collect about a person’s interests and buying habits, the better you are able to match that person up with advertisers, and the more money you will make.

This is not a new concept — over the past hundred years or so the advertising industry has made demographics a science.  Search providers like Google, Bing, and Yahoo take it to the next level. Ever search for a new car and then notice that some of the display ads that you run across later in the day are new car ads for that same brand you searched for? Google calls this “retargeting” and advertisers are happy to pay for it.

Facebook, on the surface, is like a huge community center where your friends and family get together and share stuff that you like. Did you know that 4 percent of all photos are on Facebook? OK, I’ll wait while you read that sentence again. I’m not talking about 4 percent of photos taken last year, I mean 4 percent of all photos EVER TAKEN. So that community center is HUGE. And while I’m sharing songs and photos on Facebook, they’re taking notes. They know my favorite TV shows and movies, my hobbies, the last book I read . . . they know me almost as well as my wife. All of this information (which I’ve freely shared; no one held a gun to my head) has value.

I recently visited Facebook (and let’s not kid ourselves, it was 60 seconds ago; what can I say? I’m an addict). Amidst the status updates and Farmville accomplishments from my middle school classmates, I see an ad for Klipsch speakers. I like Klipsch — I’m even a fan of their page. I’m not offended or annoyed by the ad, and I’m actually more inclined to click on it simply because I’m interested in it and like the product. Facebook uses the information I provide to show me ads that I would be interested in. So as a target consumer I am pure gold to the company. And I hear that Zuckerberg guy’s got, like, a million dollars. You see where I’m going with this? I want some of that!

“But,” you say, “Facebook is free! Look at the benefit you get from it! Why are you so greedy?” Well, being broke makes me greedy, but that’s a philosophical discussion for another time. My point is that Mark Zuckerberg should be paying me.

There are 750 million Facebook members. Ad revenue for this year alone is expected to be in the neighborhood of 3.8 billion dollars. I want my piece of the pie. More specifically, I want to renegotiate my Facebook privacy policy on my own terms.

Mr. Z, I need to get paid based on the amount of personal information I provide to Facebook. Sharing my hobbies? Three . . . no, five bucks each. You want to know what cars I would maybe like to test drive? I’ll let you know for twenty-five. And I’d better see some serious coin, otherwise I’ll clam up like a . . . clam.

And the real power’s in numbers. Facebook doesn’t care about you as an individual; they simply want to be able to deliver thousands of interested eyeballs to their advertisers. So, the only way that this will succeed is that you, dear reader, have to work with me . . . tell your friends, tell your family . . . post this to your status. If enough of us post, Mark Zuckerberg won’t have any choice but to cut us a check!

Right?

Otherwise, we can all just migrate over to Google+, where they’re still trying to figure out how to make money off of us.

Will your Facebook profile keep you out of college?

Will your Facebook profile keep you out of college?

You are no stranger to social media usage. You blog your thoughts on the latest music single, you tweet your reactions to award shows in real time, you create videos of yourselves and friends goofing around, and you even share pictures from your summer vacation with friends half way around the world. This ability to share your thoughts and experiences has opened up new doors of opportunity and made the world smaller. You can create your own platforms to express your voice and opinions, market your own media content, and even connect with people you’d never be able to meet!

Unfortunately, there is a downside: we are sharing too much information. Nowadays, everyone is on Facebook: classmates, neighbors, youth ministers, teachers, principals, college admissions officers, employers, and even parents! Sure, you may not add them as a friend, but did you know that people can still have access to your page (even if you have strict privacy settings)?

Did you know that university admission counselors log on to Facebook to gather information about interested students?

Did you know that potential employers log on to Facebook to gather information about people interested in working for them?

Did you know that Facebook gives your information to outside agencies?

Nothing you do on Facebook can truly be private. As a matter of fact, nothing you do online is personal anymore.

Because of this, we need to be aware of the type of information we are sharing. Let’s say that if you could ensure privacy, would you post inappropriate pictures and information?

Have you considered that God sees all?

Our online lives should resemble Christ because as Christians, we are supposed to lead lives that honor God and display the light of Christ (Matthew 5:13–16). While we are all human and everyone make mistakes (Romans 3:23), we should be cautious not to broadcast our shortcomings and sin to the rest of the world.

Here are steps to ensure your online and real life don’t contradict God’s Word:

1)    Ask yourself, “Does this honor God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, KJV)

As Christians we should not commit actions that are displeasing to God. Unfortunately, it can be very easy not to consider whether or not a facebook post will honor God. The next time you get ready to change your status, post a picture, or make a comment, ask yourself, “Will this be pleasing to God?”

2)    Love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matthew 22:38–40)

When a certain man asked Jesus about the greatest commandments, He stated that two commandments were most important. One was that we love our neighbor. Using social media platforms to spread rumors, post mean things about someone, or to taunt someone is never acceptable for Christians. Make sure your real and virtual interactions display brotherly love.

3)    Don’t sow bad seeds into your future (Galatians 6:6–8)

Sometimes posting too much information online can be detrimental to your own health. Imagine the consequences if your supervisor sees a recent status update, but you are supposed to be working. How would you feel if your full tuition scholarship to a college was revoked because of questionable pictures that were posted of you at an admitted students’ event? The Bible is clear that we reap what we sow, so don’t mess up your future by making bad choices today.

Keep these 3 points in mind and you’ll be on your way to a healthy real and virtual life.

The Mask of Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks have transformed the way we interact, but how real are the virtual selves that we create online?
Unlike any other time in history, the average citizen is getting a taste of the world of celebrity. With little more than a laptop and a user account, we now have the power to create an “image” comprised of photo albums, status updates, and tweets. And we can reap tremendous social praise for our glam-shot photos, humor, and popularity as measured by our quantity of “friends” or “followers.”

But this new era we have knowingly entered, as with any era, will have its repercussions, many still unknown. Though social networking is passionately embraced among those eager to communicate, collaborate, and make money globally, perhaps the world of celebrity offers the best hints as to where this new culture of artificial reality could lead if we’re not careful.

Ten years ago, it would have been absurd for your sister to tell you she was getting married through an email. Just this week, my coworker found out that her sister, who she lives with, was engaged through a Facebook status. In her sister’s defense, it is much more efficient to write a Facebook status, where all of your friends and family can be alerted to an important announcement at once, rather than making separate phone calls. But it is this quest for immediacy, and the pressure to keep up with the times, that ironically will de-socialize our social-centric society. Despite this revelation, the machine cannot be stopped. Critics will become hypocrites; I am no exception as I type this “revelation” on my iPhone while having lunch with a friend.

Celebrities are being forced to become more “real,” via outlets like Twitter, in order to synergize with the new self-made celebrities of social networks and reality television. A Facebook or Twitter profile is seen as a more accurate portrayal of an individual, because it offers the full spectrum of life — personal, professional, and emotional — and it is often less censored than their public persona. What we are discovering is that relatable and local characters are more compelling than super-sensationalized celebrities. Ironically, this encourages the average, “real” citizen to create a more sensationalized version of their own public persona.

By now, both critics and enthusiasts have acknowledged the “Facebook Effect,” but back when the quiet storm was still developing in Silicon Valley, no one could have predicted the power of its impact. This freedom that social networks provide has facilitated political movements, the most recent being the protests in Tunisia and Egypt, which were driven, in part, by messages on Facebook.

While people are starting to realize the power of “image” on social networks, be it real or false, Internet-image security is quickly becoming a powerful new industry, as the world is made smaller and people are forced to submit to the social machine. For example, a new application called uProtect.it was recently introduced on Facebook, to protect comments, status updates, and even prevent Facebook from accessing them. Michael Fertig, CEO of Reputation.com, the company that created the app, highlights its social and political implications: “You want to help the guys in Tunisia? Here’s your tool.”

These concerns spark paranoia, not only for citizens of oppressive nations but also among average citizens right here in the United States who not want their bosses finding out what they did on their “sick day.”

So why can’t we stop sharing our personal business on the Internet? Is it therapeutic, or have we become so self-obsessed that we truly believe the world cares about our every rant and rave?

Movies about the future have all offered commentary on where they think the world is headed socially, and it has always been toward an apathetic, narcissistic society. Although the insights are typically guided by humor, the writers are clearly on to something. The Pixar film Wall-E (2008), for instance, depicted a future where careless humans consumed all the Earth’s resources and were forced to live on a space shuttle. The humans are obese, mobile only with the assistance of flying La-Z-Boy-style chairs. They have no face-to-face interaction; they speak to each other on video chat screens, usually around a pool that they never swim in. The film suggests not only that the trend of ever-greater convenience will eventually lead to chronic laziness, but also that our technology will one day reshape our reality.

A false and perverted reality is also the theme of the 2009 film Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis. This film takes place in a future world where people never leave their home, but interact through surrogate robots that go into the world as more polished versions of themselves. The surrogates are physically and cosmetically superior to their owners. Although this may be extreme, social networks in many ways serve a similar function. We present ourselves in a manner that we feel is more attractive and appealing, and ultimately many of us prefer sharing and interacting that way over connecting in person because of the control we have to carefully manage our image.

It’s obvious that social networking is changing the psychology of our culture. We love being constantly “plugged in.” We crave the immediacy of communication and the instant gratification of seeing friends respond to our random thoughts and observations. We also love the way it has helped us improve our sense of self. Thanks to social media, we now have the opportunity to create an artificial version of ourselves that makes us look good to our friends and followers. But in our enthusiasm to connect, are we in danger of trading truth for virtual reality?
______________________________________________________________________