The Delightful and Dubious Online Tech Trends of 2013

The Delightful and Dubious Online Tech Trends of 2013Have you been blissfully caught off guard by all of these new and fancy tech trends that are saturating the marketplace? Wonder which tech trends will stick around or which should be buried in the desert along with lost copies of Atari cartridges? Yeah, I hear you. Personally, I don’t have a whole lot of time to be perusing and checking out these new apps and gadgets all on my lonesome, so usually it’s on the suggestion of a friend or maybe a rogue reader with a keen eye that wants to get my opinion. So I took a look over some pretty big tech trends that have made a big impact on 2013 so far. Take a look and add your own! You know, be interactive!

Tech Trends: The Apps We Love and Hate

Snapchat: So some Stanford University students got together and pieced together an app that would allow the user to take brief snapshots from one second to 10 seconds and, then they allegedly fade off into the ether, never to be seen again. Currently, the demographic model is full of tweens, teens, and baby-adults below the age of 25, which puts Snapchat in a weird position. Anyone I know over the age of 25 who owns Snapchat is adorably questionable, at best, or they’re curious just like most of us are. What does it mean? What’s the reason? Users can take lurid pictures, embarrassing selfies, and revealing portraits and think that they will vaporize the second they will it, yet dozens of programs on the Google Play store say otherwise.

Just searching “Snapchat” shows that obviously an exploit exists, as well as reports that those images of yours don’t exactly leave. No, in fact they are saved for at least 30 days anyhow, so obviously some smart little jerks have figured out how to save your preciously stupid brain hiccups that made you take snaps of your junk and post them up for mere seconds. Can someone screenshot it? Sure they can. What does the company think of this? Obviously it finds it deplorable but — hey — you’re the one trusting an app with your naughty bits, so who is really at fault here?

The Delightful and Dubious Online Tech Trends of 2013
As you can see, Snapchat makes up only one application on this list of tech trends, and every other search brings up its dubious little screenshot thieves.

Vine and Instagram Video: Founded in 2012 and then quickly acquired by Twitter, Vine’s a nifty little program that helps you make and produce six-second videos that are easily condensed and posted up on social media without the huff and puff of most social media outlets like Facebook and such. Instagram would release its own quickshot video section to its app that allows up to 15 seconds as well as your normal Instagram filters. The fascinating thing about this is what people are doing with these videos.

People like Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark on Game of Thrones, used Vine to post the most popular reaction on Twitter to the Red Wedding episode of her show, acted out in mere seconds by herself. Folks are getting creative in thrilling ways and using Vine and Instagram to show it off, and it’s never been more interactive of a world as when you give the people a way to let you see through their eyes, one sepia filter at a time. Some tech trends are exciting in simple ways.

The Delightful and Dubious Online Tech Trends of 2013
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones fame gives six seconds of fan reaction on Vine.

Candy Crush Saga: Who would’ve guessed that a candy-coated, brightly colored Bejeweled clone would so easily capture the hearts of people all around the world? But nobody can stop it. I had yet to have witnessed this confection that developers at King came up with in April of 2012 and less than a year later, it surpassed FarmVille in social media games. What was doing it? Was it how quick it is to pick up such a simple concept with adorable, harmless visuals? Possibly.

It might have something to do with the fact it isn’t a required time sink like most of those other “Ville” games happen to be. When you don’t need to constantly tend to crops, check on your city, or any other arguable waste of time, it opens you up to be able to enjoy something more at random. With only a set amount of turns, most levels don’t take long to complete. And while you are only allotted a certain amount of retries within a time period, it’s not such a bad thing to be told to back down and go do something else until you have more opportunities to bite into a level. Not too bad for a brand new title to bring in nearly $700,000 a day in revenue, is it? Quite a bit of money people are spending on those truffles, you know?

Real Racing 3: Is it possible we’re doing too much with our smart phones? Are they making us dumber? Are they making us think we have any business playing a racing game on our phones? Sure, I can understand tablets that are wide enough to handle and/or appreciate a game of this kind of high-definition, but I know people who are turning on their phones and syncing up to this game on an almost daily level.

Why are we doing this, hmm? Released in February of this year, Real Racing 3 absolutely wowed critics with its beauty and rightly so; the game has some incredible presentation, offers in-app purchases for vehicles and upgrades, and does what most free-to-play app games do but with the splendor and visuals of something you’d see on our current-generation gaming consoles. So it’s beautiful and it’s making money, but do we need it on our phones? On our tablets, sure, but our phones?

Playing this on my phone felt wrong and awkward, yet I was still compelled to play it just so I could see the visuals some more. Cars are crisp and beautiful, tracks are well laid-out, and this game could easily be something I’d purchase for $15 on the PlayStation Network and race against my friends. Instead? Phone. I’m stuck with it on a phone. Makes no sense.

Soundtracking: Bringing a “check in” approach to your music collection, Soundtracking is like setting a playlist for your day, not ahead of time but as your day happens around you! Listening to a song and it’s speaking to your current mood? Soundtrack it and the app will either listen to the sound around you if you’re listening out loud, grab it off of your phone, tablet, or Spotify, or you can search for the song you’re thinking of at that moment and let it out on Facebook and Twitter.

Maybe people will dig your vibe and follow your Soundtrack, opening up brand new audiences to music at the touch of a button. Honestly, of all the things listed here in this article, I think Soundtracking is a tech trend that has turned me on the most with its quick, reflexive interface, its smart lingo, and its no-frills desire to share music with everyone I know.

The Delightful and Dubious Online Tech Trends of 2013
On Soundtracking.com, you can find some of the trending Soundtrackers today, sharing music from all over the world!

Tech Trends: Social Media and the New Niche Machines

While some of these tech trends are certainly not new, they’ve either faded into the background or blown up more recently and I’m thinking it has to do with the user experience. We’ve all changed, haven’t we? With more freedom comes far more responsibility, and when you let the world at large play with websites like Tumblr, Vine, and Instagram, we all become a little more in tune with the audience we built.

The lot of us have a song to sing aloud and when we know we have all these freedoms to say what we want when we’re doing it without the constraints of Facebook or MySpace (do people still use that?) to hide their pretty words and take away their creative process.

Tumblr: With a dashboard consisting of seven buttons sprawled out at the top of your page, you can get to ushering forth your message as quickly and evenly as possible. The tech trend of hashtags are like the private little Reddit pages that you keep all to yourself, pleasantly seeking what other users are creating, talking about and re-blogging from their minds or from the minds of others.

Microblogging has gone where bigger blogs couldn’t go, and that’s where Twitter sent them. When WordPress is too heavy and meant for those intensely dedicated to the words and audience at large, Tumblr just wanted to see what you had to say and without the pretense or complication. In June of this year, Yahoo! bought Tumblr and, as of August 8th, Tumblr hosts more than 100 million blogs. Not too shabby for the place that people too chatty for Twitter go in order to get their heavenly Internet sermons to the masses, be they photos, gifs, or rants about the upcoming season of BBC’s Sherlock.

Fitocracy: Combining the love of reaching levels and achieving goals in video games, Fitocracy is among tech trends that award users with achievements to boast for every fitness landmark they reach in goals set forth by fitness instructors, professional nutritionists, and more from all over the world. Completing quests always seemed like something out of World of Warcraft and those tech-savvy yet health-seeking individuals could do well to give Fitocracy a try and see if it fits, so to speak, with their trophy-requiring lives.

Does it work? Sure, dozens swear by it, and my feed is littered with wonderful achievements and fitness peaks that friends of mine worked hard to get and boast about with pride! See, getting some fun recognition doesn’t have to be reserved for video games only, but when you pump out some of those crunches before work in the morning, too!

Klout, Pinterest, and LinkedIn?: Are we still doing this Klout thing? Are people still “pinning,” and is anyone actually checking out their LinkedIn activity? To me, Klout always seemed like a place where people impregnated each others’ feeds with self-importance and over-inflated corporate sponsorship. Talk too much about some beverages and someone will consider you an “Influencer” so much so that, before you know it, bitches be offering you tea bags as a Klout Perk. Yeah, that happens. That happened to me. Some tech trends are kind of lame.

Pinterest?: It’s Tumblr for those without the attention span to push forward and send their own message so much as re-pin someone else’s neatly — it’s like scrapbooking on the Internet. It came and went and died a death when people realized the simplicity of other sites and how we could easily tell our stories outside of just repeated imagery on a corkboard.

As far as I know, not a single person has actually gained a job and/or done anything other than show off the people they know on LinkedIn. An ever-growing resume online, it becomes a quick study in Facebook for the workplace and nobody should be offering jobs to people based on some delightful little blurbs and resume-esque coding on a website. No, we need to see it as social media only and something that holds the same weight as Facebook because we can still, easily, control our message there.

Hell, I haven’t logged into my main LinkedIn page in years and if anyone were to look that up, they’d think I hadn’t worked at a new place since 2007. Is that true? Sure isn’t. However, when you look me up on Google, it’s one of the first pages you see. Now is that anything you should be regarding heavily when it comes to your professional career? No, because it’s still just another page on the search engine that can come and go with the fleeting fancy of the average human’s attention span (and fickle tech trends).

Tech Trends: So What’s Next?

It’s leaving a lot of possibility for the upcoming applications and social media mavens when you see just where we’re sitting now with tech trends, isn’t it? With rumors swirling about an Amazon branded gaming console akin to the recently crowd-funded OUYA, we could see integration with our current tech that brings not just gaming applications, but social media applications to a brand new front. It’s always been a cumbersome thing to take part in the Android world from the comfort of your television and such, but maybe that day is soon to pass.

The world is brimming with technology and its naturally forming tech trends, and the biggest and brightest are yet to come. Once we’re all wearing eyeglass smart phones and wearing small hard drives as watches, none of us are going to look back at 2013’s early half and think that the tech trends going on were anything other than a flash in the pan. We’re going places, kids. Look out.

What apps and websites have caught your attention this year and what are you hoping to stumble upon before 2014 rears its glorious head on us all? Sound off below and share your best guesses for future tech trends with the lot of us!

Header images thanks to Petr Kratchovil and Silviu Firulete — modified by the author. Application images sourced from respective sites listed.

The Zimmerman Trial and How Twitter Felt It

The Zimmerman Trial and How Twitter Felt ItWere you sitting there on the edge of your seat when the Zimmerman verdict was read and processed through the various annals of the Internet? Do you recall your moment or internal conflict? Did you talk about it online? Were you at work? Yeah, a good majority of us were.

I’m not going to open this up and scorch the Earth with hot item debates on who did what and who was guilty and how our justice system failed or served us because, well, what in the hell do I know? I’m just a person with the facts that were given to me and nobody needs another one of those articles in their lives. I’m not going to gloss over the chaos with a bit of sugary frosting either, but that’s not what this is about.

This is about what you and I did last week. This is about where you and I came in and we said some things we should’ve held in. Maybe you did. Maybe I didn’t. Regardless, wipe your brow and let’s figure this out, shall we?

Giving It All Away on Social Media in the Wake of the Zimmerman Verdict

I’ve written a dozen times or so about the power of keeping your emotions to yourself and knowing when to back away from your streams of consciousness, but what about in these situations? This isn’t a dead-on situation like with the Boston Bombing. There is no clear cut definition that anyone can point to and say, “this happened and it was horrifying and there is absolutely no damn excuse,” because right now the logic exists in gray areas with Zimmerman and Martin. While I carry very, very passionate thoughts on the topic, I had to sit back and watch as my fellow Internet users spread their hate and fear across every avenue available to them.

Some folks wanted to watch the world burn down to the ground and wrapped their fingers tightly around pitchforks and torches, white-knuckled and screaming about injustices that let people walk away as a child remained dead. Others wanted to point out that this kid was a future Tyler Durden and, if anything, Zimmerman did us a fucking favor by stalking his prey after being pounced upon and putting bullets into his body. There was hate on both sides and everyone was frothy and spitting from the vitriol as it came curdling from their fingertips and into the social consciousness melting pot.

When I scrolled through the search terms on TweetDeck, I found that a lot of very conservative folks with red, white, and blue laced accounts were clasping hands to their chest in relief as one less “hood” was put out of his misery. One such account was a woman posing with a gun, saluting to an American flag in her tight denim cut-off shorts and her cleavage pushed high. Admittedly, I wanted to believe the entire account was just meant to troll individuals, but it seemed she was marketing her brand around being the sexual chocolate of the conservative camps. Her entire feed was just drenched in conspiracy theories and hate speech and people retweeted and blew up her account like crazy. Surely she was met with some disdain, but the fact is: this kind of bullshit exists.

It’s not just on a conservative level, mind you. Even the liberals had their megaphones on the ready and I wasn’t innocent either. I had fear in my heart. I let it out, you know? I sat and watched and felt the cold tingle of dread sprawl its fingers up my spine as I feared a riot in Florida. My largest and most expressed concern was of that notion. I didn’t want to see passion turn into pain for the masses. I had witnessed the L.A. Riots during the Rodney King “situation” and I knew what happened when you took passion and blended confusion into the mix. I didn’t want to see it again. I hated it. I hated that the masses were taken from being huddled and hurt and turned into the enemy because nobody would actually be able to sit them down and say, “this is why you’re feeling this and this is what we can do to stop it,” and that’s because there is nothing one can do to sort that out.

How to Process Everything Responsibly in America After Zimmerman

Now that we’ve sorted out how we feel on these subjects and we can actually put our fingertips on the situation and what upset us in the first place, we need to know how to convey our feelings without putting the crosshairs on ourselves. For those of us in the workplace when these kinds of things go down, we’re automatically ready to take to the social media world and air out our grievances because we just need someone, anyone, to hear us and to let it be known that we’re okay or we’re not okay. It’s this chemical in our bodies that needs to be flushed, dumped, and jettisoned off of our internal spacecraft, and if we don’t, we feel we’re not being heard.

Someone’s going to see that.

Think about that, for just a moment or two. Are there people on your feed who could use your passionate discourse on politics or hot topic debates and think wrongly of you? Could that affect your job? Could it affect some aspect of your life negatively? Look, one could scream a thousand times “but this is my right! I can say what I want,” but that’s not realistic whatsoever in this day and age. If you’re trying to get a job and someone Googles (or Bings; don’t hurt me) your name to see that you’ve got this anarchist laced Twitter feed about taking down the establishment, you’re not getting that fuckin’ job, bro. Sorry. You’re not. There are times where, even with my clear statement of “these tweets are my own and not a reflection of my employer,” I have to pull back and not let it all out. It’s not because I’m feeling I can’t say what I want; it’s because sometimes what I want to say isn’t network ready and it needs to only air on paid cable between the hours of 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. with heavy editing from an executive.

We can’t just always rely on those little notes. Sometimes we have to be held accountable for the things we say and it’s hard to do when you see the world falling at your feet and want to scream about it and what it means to you. I’ve taken the time to write about how people should self-censor their emotions online because of the audiences that we all have and I still feel that’s necessary here, but when it comes to public debate, it’s a dicier situation. This isn’t a personal matter that others don’t want to or need to hear about; it’s something we’re all thinking about anyhow. The problem comes into play when you realize that there are handfuls of people who don’t feel like you do and they’re on your feed and will automatically respond with passion, the same as you. Before you know it, you’re debating on a place not built on the format because you can only give out 140 characters at a time.

Think about that now. I’ll give you a second. On Twitter, we’re given a space to blurt out whatever the hell we want at the rate we can think it and type it. The service gave us a limit. There’s a reason for that.

I would never stop anyone from discussing how they feel, because I believe that’s why we were given free will, but you need to learn how to do it in a way that nobody’s going to judge you for five minutes of venting, you know? Perhaps link to someone’s article or maybe to a news post and leave it at that. Let someone else’s words do the talking and you can stand behind what they say without your words being the feverish venom that gets people fired. Maybe question some details or even question what people are thinking and feeling and let their thoughts facilitate any need you have to really get things out. Talk with them privately and discuss it in a matter that makes you look like you’re open to both sides of the coin and not just ready to burn down the barnyard because the sky is possibly falling.

At the end of the day, we’re all just human beings and we’re not going to be able to contain ourselves constantly — but wouldn’t it be nice if we could make some attempts at having civility when tragedies occur? Wouldn’t it be a grand concept to know that our feelings aren’t being used against us due to a Google search and some careful and calculating research? How nice a world that would be.

Where do you stand when it comes to using Twitter and other forms of social media to display your feelings on things like the Zimmerman trial and political discourse? Do you think people open fire too easily on these forums?

[Image via Ian L and edited by author]

Monitoring Your Facebook and Twitter Expressions Better

Monitoring Your Facebook and Twitter Expressions BetterAre you the type who looks to social media like Facebook and Twitter as an outward expression of your emotions? I think, to some degree, we all have a bit of that in us. However, not everyone has the kind of processing time or capability to really take a step back and think about the things they’re posting. Some would argue belligerently that “It’s my Facebook and Twitter! I’ll post what I want!” but that’s the irresponsible person’s way of thinking. Every once in a while, all of us need to be pulled aside and be given a few helpful tips on how to approach Facebook and Twitter that won’t make us flinch the second we log in later when the coals have cooled or the tears have dried up.

Good thing you’ve got me, right?

What Are You Trying to Say on Facebook and Twitter?

The important thing about social media like Facebook and Twitter is that it seriously bridges gaps between all of our lives, yet it’s done mostly through text. That, no matter how good of a writer you are, can be complex. I personally praise myself on being easy to convey through emotion and text, but if the person who’s reading what you’re saying has a different voice or tone in their head, what you’re saying and how you feel you said it on Facebook and Twitter no longer matters. This is something I still struggle with, so I’m not even going to tell you anyone has it truly mastered. However, there are ways to make sure you don’t bumble without meaning to.

Monitoring Your Facebook and Twitter Expressions Better
It also may seem silly that someone saw fit to write this book, but there you have it. Facebook and Twitter are serious business, you guys!

When you’re upset and your fingers want to start clicking against the keys to vent your frustrations on Facebook and Twitter, lift your hands up off your keyboard and form the words in your head. Think about it as if you have an actual audience who is viewing your message on a screen and think about the people in your feeds and on your Facebook and Twitter as if they’re each individuals with their own lives, emotions, and strains, too. How would they receive your message? Would they care? Would they see your anger or sorrow as valuable and want to help, or is it possible they will just scroll past it and your message would have been for nothing? Or, and hear me out, is it possible that they will have an indelible tally-mark now to notice that you have a hot-head and you can’t keep your emotions in check, thus changing the way they look at you? Yes, they may change the way they look at you based on a few quick-tempered words you put out on Facebook and Twitter for everyone to see.

Seems silly, doesn’t it?

It’s human nature, though. None of us are innocent of it, and while there are a few altruistic souls out there who would pity and want to help soothe your animal heart, not all of them are going to be that way. Some will see you as unpredictable and possibly short-fused or maybe they will consistently see you as morose. Are you always bitching about work? What about your kids? These things leave impressions, and God forbid you start in on relationships; nothing spells “Ditch the ship” like seeing someone consistently leave vague yet passive aggressive posts about their significant others on Facebook and Twitter

Remove the Chaff on Facebook and Twitter

If you feel that you’re possibly reaching out to a specific audience member or that maybe you feel like you’re not able to express yourself without fear of reproach — remove those people. Start a more private and intimate Facebook page or — better yet — blog about it. Sometimes we really need to get these feelings off of our chests and it’s easy to do it digitally where strangers can see it and not link back to our names. Personally, I own five Tumblr pages that none of you could and would be able to find but they speak leagues about who I am: my most raw feelings and emotions and expressions of myself that might not be ready for prime time. There are dozens of ways for you to express your inner-self online without damaging your family, friends and workplace relationships because you’re upset. You just need to get creative.

Another Tip: Lock it up! If you don’t want the public to see everything you’ve got going down, Facebook and Twitter have settings where only those who you add to your lists and feeds will be able to see your inner workings. If you feel you cannot possibly restrain yourself from your outpourings, at least — at the very least — limit your audience.

If you feel that you are an open book and you have people on your feeds that won’t understand or possibly care about the things you say — why are they there? It’s not a judgment call because, at one point, I had amassed 1,300 friends on Facebook and, to be honest, I knew 60 of them personally. We easily add people to our lists because we want to get to know them better, follow their lives, and understand who these new faces are, but I have issued a preliminary period. If I add someone and haven’t felt the need to comment, like, or even notice their posts, I remove them. I give it a week and if I feel they’re just sitting there, reading, and looking over my feed silently without approaching me either, I remove them. There’s no use in them being there to witness all of my personal stories and intimate details into my family life and such, if they’re not going to become active in it.

Don’t Be Vague on Facebook and Twitter

Look, I get it. Sometimes you just have to get it out. Sometimes you’ll say something like “Another one bites the dust,” and that will lead people to think you’re either having a Queen moment or you’re talking about someone. Possibly even them! Nobody will know though or possibly one person will see it and get the hint and then, before you know it, you’re conveying things through passive means that are looking innocent but are more like drone strikes of aggression in status message form. Don’t do that. That’s wrong. I know that because I did it. I never saw it as that, I always saw it as “Aha! He’ll know what I mean! Jerk!” and instead of actually communicating the issue with that person one-on-one, I was just being a little shithead and acting like a child. Don’t do that. Don’t use Facebook and Twitter to air your grievances out through song lyrics or four-word sentences. We all know you’re upset, we all know who it is about, and some of us don’t really care because our lives are heavy, too.

Now that’s not to say you shouldn’t post music videos and Spotify tracks if you’re really feeling the emotion there. Do it. That’s far more productive than just blurbing out text in hopes that someone who you feel wronged you will see it. At least put something on the landscape worth scrolling around, you know?

So these are my tips. Do you know someone who uses Facebook and Twitter as a means to blurt out their personal business? Do you cringe sometimes when you see their posts on Facebook and Twitter and other social media? What about you? Are you guilty of these same kinds of atrocities? Of course you are. We all are. What do you do in order to resist the temptations of blindly gushing on the Internet?

Image purchased by author at 123rf.com

Social Responsibility on the Internet Begins at Home

Social Responsibility on the Internet Begins at HomeLook, there’s no clever way to SEO this title to get my message across: social responsibility on the Internet begins at home. There’s no way for me to make sure that people are going to get this by inputting something into Google by using specific words. In fact, if I were to actually use the words I wanted to in order to make the title of this article, I doubt my boss would ever, ever let it be posted. In fact, if you’re faint of heart or sensitive like a good amount of humans are, I suggest you just don’t read this. I know, I’m polarizing, but, well…

I’m getting angry. I’m angry about the lack of social responsibility displayed by people on the Internet. I’m angry that the problem doesn’t seem to be easily resolved. I’m angry that the blame for social responsibility on the Internet doesn’t get placed on people who could make a difference — such as parents.

Social Responsibility in the Age of the Casual Sociopath

Recently, someone on my Twitter feed posted an image of a human being, in the dark, slumped over on the sidewalk. The man looked unresponsive and wasn’t even naturally resting as if he was just passed out drunk. No, he looked to be in distress and instead of posting something that seemed concerned, worried, perhaps even panicked — the OP mocked it. He took a damn picture of it, hashtagged it and went about his day. Two people retweeted it. Eight people? Eight people favorited the picture and post of a guy who is presumed dead.

I Am Sick and Tired of Social Irresponsibility

What in the bloody hell has happened to us and our collective sense of social responsibility?

It gets worse, however, and what follows is a couple of people stating these delightful things. I warn you, they’re not pleasant.

I Am Sick and Tired of Social Irresponsibility

Who’s to Blame When Social Responsibility is Eschewed on the Internet?

For those of you wanting to know why I blurred out the names and faces of these people, it’s because I know how the Internet works when people become upset and outraged. While this kid, who is well known on YouTube and has a little over 8,000 followers on Twitter, has severely shown disrespect and disregard, I don’t think he should be burned at the stake. This lack of social responsibility isn’t about him, but it is painting a picture with very fine and broad strokes of all colors because we got us here.

These two people responded and, instead of concern and shock, one wanted the user to urinate on the body. The body that, in all likelihood, is a dead one. The second, which I’d like to make note of (not that it’s remotely important but it’s certainly interesting) is from a female telling the user to perhaps scare the person who she thinks might be sleeping into thinking they were raped.

Yes, raped. “It will be so great.” she says, because how funny would it be to leave someone in the street, waking up confused and obviously in distress, to give them something else to possibly be concerned with. Rape.

Social Responsibility and Modern Youth

I’m becoming disgusted, more and more, with where youth is taking social media. I know this makes me sound half like a concerned citizen and an adult, but the other half makes me sound like an old woman, shaking a rake and telling kids to get off my lawn. We need to become more proactive about social responsibility because our youth is losing its humanity at a rate that is downright fucking terrifying.

When you stop upon seeing a human being on the ground like that and your first thought is to take a picture and not check on the person’s well being, something is wrong with your compass of social responsibility. It’s not okay. It’s not okay if they are homeless and you’re taking pictures. It’s not okay if they’re drunk and you’re taking pictures. None of that is okay because you are exploiting and mocking someone who is not in a good state. However, when you have a feeling they’re dead? When you think someone is dead and you take pictures? You’re a damned sociopath.

Awareness of Social Responsibility Shrinks and Shrinks

This isn’t new and this isn’t something that has just begun. More and more, we’re cheering on the start of this social media irresponsibility where we can say whatever the hell we want, we can harass and threaten, and if we don’t stand for it, we get told “Welcome to the Internet.” No, that’s not okay. We should not and cannot condone this kind of psychotic behavior because of the anonymous faces and thousands of miles between the offenders and ourselves.

Social media companies are becoming far more conscious of these things and Facebook has started blocking and removing any posts that deal with rape, sexual assault of any kind, and anything that celebrates hate towards a group, minority, or human being in a threatening manner. Some call it a threat to our amendment to free speech in America and I consider those people to be heartless flag-wavers who don’t understand that we were human beings long before we were countrymen. Personally, I would like to see Twitter and other social media platforms take this same stance and start watching for things of this nature and offering probationary periods for those who cannot handle social media responsibly.

Social Responsibility Should Be the Norm, Not the Exception

We can’t keep allowing this kind of thing to continue because our children are going to see what is the “norm” with this crass, irresponsible behavior and they will emulate it because it is learned behavior. As a parent, I can’t allow that. I can’t. I will protect and do my child a service in any way I can to keep her from being an Internet sociopath. If that means I need to make videos that teach young kids how to use Facebook and Twitter and how to get their feelings out without utilizing these means and what not to do on these forums, so be it. I’ll take that on. Something needs to happen.

Because we’re going down fast.

Social Responsibility and Social Media

What do you think about the state of social media and what it means to us as human beings? Are we desensitized daily due to constant streaming information? Are we forever trapped in the evolution of this form of mass media? Do you think being proactive with teaching children and teenagers how to interact on the Internet can curb the onslaught of inappropriate and inhumane gut responses? Where do you think this is headed? I’m fascinated to find out your thoughts. If anything, I want this to be a conversation piece to start a dialogue where we approach a problem that is standing on our doorstep. We started the Internet; we need to take it back and stop accepting this kind of behavior for us, for them, and for the future of all those who use it for what it’s intended to be: a wealth of possibility, expression, and connection.

(Images both taken from author’s feed and header image was purchased from 123rf.com)

How to Avoid Social Media Overload

Social Media Overload and How to Avoid It
Social media overload! Too much! Too much! [Image by Karl Newark]
Just a few short years ago, there were only a couple of social networks that mattered. Facebook and Twitter were pretty much where everyone hung out. It was pretty easy to keep both sites updated and keep your finger on the pulse of what each site had to offer. As more people have become social and more companies have realized just how valuable those connections are, social networks have popped up everywhere. Gone are the days of simplicity in sharing. Welcome to the time of social media overload.

I’m Experiencing Social Media Overload! Hand Me a Flag!

Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. Google Plus. Pinterest. YouTube. Reddit. Tumblr. LinkedIn. The list goes on and on — and on. Infinity. I’m getting tired just trying to list the ones deemed important these days. I have profiles on them all, much as you likely have. Somehow, I maintain them all. Once in a while, I even find the time to update a few. Hand me a white flag. I admit it: I’m burned out. Overwhelmed. Overloaded. Stick a fork in me — I want to be done.

Yes, that sounds a tad dramatic. I feel dramatic when I stop to think for even 10 seconds about trying to keep up with all of these spaces. I adore the connections I have made, the jobs I’ve landed due to these places, and the knowledge I have been blessed with along the way. But geez, at what point do we decide that social media is taking far too much time out of our lives?

I’m at that point, but I realized something yesterday: there is no good reason to overload myself. Why do I feel the need to be everywhere? What am I really going to miss if I’m not spread so thin? I have to be on those aforementioned networks all day every day for work, on more than one personal/company account. Is it any wonder I find myself dragging at the thought of then logging in as little old me?

In the Words of Lamarr: “sssSTOP IT!”

Feeling the strain of social media overload? That’s right. Stop. Walk away. Go so far as to deactivate a few of your profiles, or allow them to go stagnant while still keeping your username. I promise it won’t hurt. You won’t lose any jobs, friends, or information. You will still be able to do and have these things, but you’ll also have your sanity once again. There is honestly no good reason to keep beating your head against a proverbial wall while trying to maintain some “presence” on a gazillion sites. I challenge anyone to prove me wrong. Yes, it’s a good idea to make a basic profile if keeping a particular username is important to you or your company. That does not mean you have to actually build out the profile and maintain it.

But I Have to Be Where My Customers/Fans/Followers Are!

Well yes, in a sense you need to be there. But you honestly don’t have to be everywhere. Keeping only a couple of well-run social properties and pointing to them from a central location (such as your blog or website) and cross-linking in your information/about sections will allow people to find you. How many customers do you think you’ll gain if you try to jump onto 12 websites instead of four? Seriously? I’d stake my entire professional reputation on the fact that the number is far less than you think.

Keep It Simple, Silly!

Whether you are reading this as a person who just wants to have fun online, a social media manager for a company or someone who wants to make connections in order to get ahead in the workplace, you need to slow your roll — or you’ll fall victim to social media overload! In any of these instances, you need to be on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ at the very least. In many cases, it’s also a good idea to be on Pinterest. The other networks have benefits, yes, but you do not have to be there beyond keeping a landing place so your name is reserved.

Okay, So Where Should I Be?

I’m so glad you asked! I already mentioned “the big three” and Pinterest. In my humble opinion, you need nothing else — with one exception. LinkedIn. If you are online in a professional capacity of any type, you must have a well-maintained profile on LinkedIn. I’m not going to bore you with the reasons why. There are many guides to tell you why and how to work this website. Just trust me. Do it.

The only way to avoid social media overload is to simply stop overloading yourself. Rip that bandage off and breathe a sigh of relief. You’ll thank me for it within one day. Pinky swear.

Why Are Edward Snowden and NSA PRISM Scaring Us?

Why Are Edward Snowden and NSA PRISM Scaring Us?
The NSA: Are “they” out to get you? Unless you’re horrible, I would almost be willing to bet not. [Image shared by Will Hart via Flickr]
Coming off of Edward Snowden’s release of documents that showcase what theorists have already been touting for decades now: a government “need” for our personal records from both phones and Internet. There are banks built from the ground up with the intention of housing broad sweeps of our personal records and they’re utilized whenever there’s a requirement for the information. The NSA (National Security Agency) is spying on us all!

Welcome to the New Age.

Is the NSA Violating Our Constitutional Rights?

People are either enraged or terrified; I sit in neither camp and, trust me, that’s a weird place to be. The angered lift their pitchforks high and recite the Constitution as if that slip of paper will stop a damned thing. I can promise you that nobody lifts their chin during Congress hearings and says “But, but guys… the Bill of Rights. The Constitution! Justice! Freedom!” because it’s not about that. Nobody is going to protect your browser history in the name of freedom, ladies and gentlemen.

Then there lie the scared and the skittish folks who worry about everything being massively controlled and those rights that they banked on being taken away from them.

What Dirt Does the NSA Have on You?

Those are the ones I worry about, to be honest. With a palm to their shoulder, I wish I could kindly whisper in their ears that the NSA doesn’t give a good goddamn about what you’re doing. If you fear that your privacy is being invaded, and you fear the intrusive eyes of Big Brother, you have more to do with it than you think — and perhaps that’s just as much on you as it is on the government. I need you to wake up now, okay? Take your iPhone out of your hands, stop tweeting about your lunch, and listen up.

The masses are already live and direct; you’re feeding the machines and downloading everything at an incredible rate. With wristbands that tell the Internet your every step taken and just how high your heart rate goes up, phones that can tell anyone where you are at any time, and computers becoming portable enough to access the Internet from anywhere, you are without restrictions. You tether your phone to your laptop, your laptop to your brain, your brain to the Internet, and then you want to know why they have an interest in your information?

But You Already Invited the Vampire into Your House…

Without going all Fight Club rhetoric on the lot of you, you’ve given everyone your information freely in order to… give everyone your information freely. You signed up for those websites that give you access to being social with strangers, but you’re worried about strangers looking over your shoulder? You practically handed them the keys to the castle already, but now you’re worried?

It’s time to wake up.

Check it out: at the end of the day, the lot of you have nothing to worry about. Unless you’re up to something, and then, you know what? That’s on you. I don’t get scared about transparency because I have nothing to fear. What I know is that the President has no need for my Internet history. There is no war that is hinging on finding out from what local farm I ordered honey, and there’s no congressional hearing that would be started by finding out what I’ve been watching on RedTube. None of it matters. I’m inconsequential in these debates.

And so are you. Hurts to hear it, I guess, but let’s be honest. If you’re enraged, you’re possibly not seeing the big picture or even what it means to the rest of the country. I’m no terrorist, folks. The authorities don’t want what I’ve got, and so they’re not going to come near me. Why would they? Why would they come after you? Why would they want to know what you are doing? Are you a threat? Bet you’re not. And if you are? I hope they find you.

It’s a revolution, I suppose.

How Will the NSA Use All of This Information?

We have seen such massive, massive tragedy in the past 20 years; some of it comes from foreign soil, and some of it is coming from our own backyard. This is the reality of it, and if we want protection from these tragedies, we have to accept that the authorities charged with preventing them are going to make some new rules. I cannot tell them to do everything in their power to protect my child and me and then, in the same breath, tell them they better be ethical and held accountable to outdated standards. That’s impossible and irrational thinking. Those are the same people who send ricin envelopes to the President when they imagine up a gun recall.

Take a breath and move forward, people. This is it. Yes, your email providers and your cell phone company will deny-deny-deny, and video games will come out that point out just how real it all is. We’re all plugged in and live.

In my world, there is just so much more at stake, and being safe is more important to me than someone wanting to know what I did on my phone or what is in the contents of my laptop. You can have it. If it means you can get to the bottom of these mass-scale tragedies by seeing how much time I spent on Steam, have at it. Any means necessary, you guys. This is life.

I’m sure a lot of you are completely in disagreement with me and I’d love to hear about it. What do you think about the NSA PRISM discussion and the news coming out of whistleblowers from around the world? Are you angry? Are you afraid? Let me know. Tell me what you think I’m not taking into consideration; give me something to ponder! I welcome it.

How Soon is Too Soon for Social Media?

How Soon is Too Soon for Social Media?How soon is too soon when it comes to carrying on with business as usual in the wake of a massive tragedy? It was mere days ago that the horrific and unanswered events of the Boston Marathon bombing rocked the headlines and there wasn’t a soul online who didn’t express their opinions about it via social media. Mere months ago, a mentally ill young man gunned down a school and murdered his mother and it held us all absolutely captive as we mourned before our grief turned to rage and the world sought the audience of the Internet to sound off.

But what do we do when Twitter has become the most instantaneous form of communication between ourselves and the world at large? Instead of checking the news on television like we did some 10 years ago, millions of us refreshed Twitter and clutched our chests, posting updates and retweeting directions from Boston officials in order to help wherever we could. Honestly, I have never seen so much Internet camaraderie as I did mere days ago. Upon my feed, people retweeted helpful information to those people in Boston who they could reach via the popular social network. Things like “We’re three miles away and have empty beds and first aid” and phone numbers to call to get the names of runners for family members who wanted to check on their safety. People retweeted information coming from the Red Cross on blood type availability, directions from the Boston Police Department that kept everyone updated. No, we didn’t look to CNN or MSNBC in this instance; we took to Twitter and fought to find the source.

Anger in the Aftermath

However, once the debris settled and the sun went down, our grief rumbled into anger and we wanted questions answered. Everyone gave their condolences, sought to defraud the fake charities set up to steal funds that were meant to go to the battered, broken, and disfigured, and to sort out the trauma. While the masses were attempting to figure out, personally, where to go from here, businesses that use Twitter and Facebook for social media and marketing had no clue what was next. How do you decide when to go back to business?

Personally, I released an article that day and I didn’t promote it on Twitter because I would’ve preferred to leave the lines of communication open to see more and to let people find out more about the victims of that heinous act. Now it didn’t bother me, because why would it? It’s just an article? However, there are companies that depend on social media to keep their name up and mass emails were passed back and forth between company owners and marketing departments to find out what was next.

Different Comfort Zones for Different Folks

I decided to take to my Twitter feed and some of my good friends to see how they felt about the situation, seeing as how they deal with business on the social media platform, too.

Bobby Loertscher, community manager for Zen Studios, felt it was a matter of decency.

“Our games are super mild, but even so, I am really careful with how I word each post so we don’t step on any toes. Right after the fact, I just assume that they (brands that promotionally tweet) are pre-scheduled posts, but after the news is widespread, I think even the big companies should take a breather for the day.”

Phil Kollar, gaming journalist who previously worked for Game Informer, felt that letting the air clear is the best thing to do.

“My personal policy is that I at least take a day off and let things settle. That said, I think everyone handles their reactions in their own way — so, I try not to judge how other people do it. I think the classy thing to do is back off for a while. I don’t want to make assumptions about who has seen the news, who hasn’t, and how other people prefer to handle it (the news).”

While Varian David, a self-promoting businessman who uses Twitter for his own company, sees things a bit more logistically.

“In a perfect world, I suppose a company can make a call and pull whatever promotion they had lined up for a day, just so people can mourn — but that’s going to cost a lot of money. If you are in a business, no matter what it is, you have to make money in order to survive — employ people and bring home the bacon. I feel taking a day off is a reasonable amount of time.”

The three of these people come from all walks of life on my Twitter feed, from the journalist working for a large, branded company, the community manager for a smaller game studio, and the small business owner who uses social media as a means to get his name out there. The three of them look to Twitter as a way to promote the work they’re doing and it’s complicated when your humanity tangles up with the promotional business of the day.

How Soon is Too Soon for You?

Honestly, I can’t tell people how and when it is decent to tweet or resume social media marketing, because it is all relative. I know, what a cop-out, right? I can only offer what I have done because it was how I felt at the time. When images were flashing on my screen of blood-strewn streets and sobbing static images of grief-stricken injured runners, the last thing I was thinking about was “But what about promoting myself? How can I do that today if all of this is going on?” because I’m a sensitive human being who happens to be an American, hoping to see her fellow Americans pull through a horrific tragedy. I’m part of a massive group of human beings out there in the social mediasphere, but sometimes we’re in a majority because of business and money — and that’s a shame.

How about you? How long do you think you should take — or how long have you taken — to resume business after major tragedies in the past? How soon is too soon? Do you own a business based on social marketing? What do you think is best in these situations, and how does it make you feel to see people promoting business amidst breaking news?

Image: Downtown Boston, public domain

Fear of Being Alone: Social Media in Entertainment

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=21405&picture=the-lost-toy&large=1

Fear of Being Alone: Social Media in EntertainmentI remember this special, magical time in my youth spent with my Sega Master System, where I would need nothing but a controller and my little composition book. My mother had started this trend of writing down notes about the various games I was playing to help me if I ever got lost or found out a good tactic to use in the future. There were various tomes of these little clues and tips that we all wrote and set up in the small cabinet of our entertainment system. Our games were all lined up neatly and then you’d see five or six little books with our names on them or even the names of the games we were documenting. Games like King’s Quest had their own book with clues and hints, passwords, and even graph paper taped on the inside to show us what paths to take in order to get through without problems. Essentially, we were writing our own strategy guides before they were being printed in the mass market.

The Way We Were

I remember being so fascinated by this concept because we rarely all sat together to play games unless we were super excited about the title or unless they were two-player. My mother used gaming to unwind at the end of the day and she was who got me into roleplaying games like Phantasy Star, because they were her way of using escapism back then. We didn’t often run in the same times when it came to gaming, but I used to be fascinated with sitting there, on the floor, thumbing through the notes she took for the games she played. So detailed, you know? Sometimes I’d meet up with her in the kitchen in the morning and we’d discuss Phantasy Star or Golvellius, perhaps even some other new game we had that was complicated to me but that she was breezing through. She’d toss her frosted blonde hair over her shoulder, push her stylish bangles up her wrist, and then walk me through how to get to my next checkpoint in the game. My mother was this tall, beautiful, blonde gaming idol to me and nobody else I knew was playing all of these games because my peers didn’t have this many. I was quite lucky, I realize.

Honestly, things didn’t change on that front for a long, long, damned time. If I wanted to discuss games with people, I usually had to actually talk to them about said game. Through the console systems that we were gifted with through the years, they were all still very solitary experiences. Like watching movies and listening to music, gaming was something you did and then would later talk about by documenting it online. “I enjoyed this because…” or “This movie was good because…” littered the Internet due to the fact it was the only way we could relate to people and get the word out that we were enjoying or hating something and have other people engage us in the conversation. To be honest, I really preferred it back then.

The Consoles Have Eyes

Fast-forward to today and there is absolutely nothing I’m doing online that people don’t know about. I wish I was kidding, really. If I log on to my PS3, I usually get about two or three texts where people now realize that, not only am I online, but that might mean I’m not working and I’m free. If I am just going on there to watch The Daily Show on Hulu, I generally have to field messages and, by scrolling over to my Friends List, I can see what they are doing as well. Without meaning to, the PS3 turned me into a mini cyber-stalker. When I log onto Steam, an online gaming platform, I’m met with the same amount of enthusiasm, but generally there’s no socializing downtime. I usually have to mark myself as “Offline” in order to game without interruption, but the PS3 doesn’t really offer that if your game title is an online one. No, you just have to sit there quietly while everyone knows what you’re doing; you’re possibly ignoring them or acting very anti-social. Everyone needs a quiet escapism break though, don’t they?

The New Normal

It made me think about the fact that this is the new normal for us. We need people to know we’re doing everything because activity is such a huge deal to us now. “Look, everybody! We’re enjoying ourselves! See?” seems to be brandished on electronic billboards for everyone to see and we need that to keep going. We check in to shows, games, and even comic books on GetGlue and show off that we’re presently involved in something that thousands, maybe millions of others are doing. We just have to connect somehow. (Personally, I’m addicted to those stickers.) It is to the point now where nobody is safe from it and if you use Spotify, you have to actually check off something in your settings to not broadcast that you’ve been listening to R. Kelly’s “Remix to Ignition” on repeat for the last two hours.

Every website, every Netflix movie in Instant Watch, every show on Hulu, each game you play, and the music you’re listening to will give you an option to share it on Facebook or on Twitter. Applications are set up to actually document and update your friends and family with every single damned thing you’re doing because, well, they need to know, right? You hope they’ll see what you’re watching and think something about you or possibly relate. “Well, Bob is watching from the Criterion Collection. How fancy!” will flitter through your mind whether you realize it or not and instead of finding out that Bob’s a huge fan of “The Red Balloon” on your own, you’re force-fed these little mysteries. Instead of maintaining my own memory, I feel like all of this useless information about people is forcing out the stuff in my brain that I actually put there with purpose. I’m retaining too much dumb shite, to be honest.

Going off the Gaming Social Media Grid

It made me wonder if it was something I had become so used to that I needed it in order to feel normal in my peer group. I set up my Nintendo Wii on my new television because, though you have the option to add friends, I have not. I never play online multiplayer on my Wii, so if I’m using that system, I’m virtually invisible to my friends. There’s an odd silence that fell upon my room as I was playing Super Mario Bros. 3 and that was the Internet peace that hummed all about me. Nobody knew unless I told them, you know? Nobody could see I was logged on and text message me, there was no “Share to Facebook” button whenever Mario sprang up and freed a blinking star at the end of the level. Absolutely no leaderboard glittered with updated scores of my friends and family there, as I played, not connected to the Internet and social media whatsoever.

It was quiet and unsettling.

I loved it.

It started making me wish that I had thought of it sooner. I immediately started dusting off my other consoles, digging out cords and cables and seeking time in the day to enjoy that black wall of quiet some more. When trophies aren’t being given away because nobody is watching what you’re doing but you, when Raptr isn’t checking off the game you’re playing and spreading it all over the Internet, and when your automatically updated scores aren’t taunting your friends, it frees up a lot of your own internal resources. The peace and quiet of gaming because you want to game and not to do something everyone else is doing, so they can see, is a beautiful thing. You’re actually alone in those moments, enjoying something all for yourself. Just for you.

Sharing is Caring, But…

Now some of you might say “But I don’t do ______________ for anyone but myself.” And sure, maybe some of you are truthful about it. Even though you’re connected through dozens of methods of social media in your entertainment life, you’ll still hold steadfast to it. Let’s be honest, though: we found it novel. We did. Gaming companies are starting to pay attention, just as music and movie business is, too; we can’t do anything without showing it off or using it as a badge to prove our self-worth. This exists for a reason: we did it. We wanted that connection to be built, didn’t we?

I, personally, wish that we could have an option to remain online but maybe go invisible once in a while. To enjoy our games without needing to have our escapism virtually broadcasted to whatever audience is paying attention would be a novel concept and I really, truly, want to go to there. (Yes, it was a 30 Rock reference. My grammar didn’t have a stroke.)

What do you guys think? Do you prefer it this way because this means a new way to connect with others, or do you feel okay with your quiet time and wish it actually belonged only to you? Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if I could go back to the day where I could play Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Vollyeball without everyone thinking I’m a creepy boob-hound. I prefer to be that in the privacy of my own home without the judgmental eye of a captive audience to damn me, you know?

Image: The Lost Toy, Public Domain

Would You Pay $1 to Message Anyone on Facebook?

Would You Pay $1 to Message Anyone on Facebook?Facebook recently posted this statement: “Imposing a financial cost on the sender may be the most effective way to discourage unwanted messages and facilitate delivery of messages that are relevant and useful.” Last year, Facebook made this statement: “a rumor on the Internet caught our attention. We have no plans to charge for Facebook. It’s free and always will be.” So which is it?

Are those of us who choose to use Facebook just getting paranoid, or are our feelings justified when we fail to believe anything the company says? While we continue to reel from the insane policies of Instagram, are we starting to believe that social networking is on its way to a timely death as we continue to have our privacy invaded?

For those of us who use Facebook to stay in contact with family, friends, acquaintances, and other people who are a part of our lives, the social networking site has become a must have form of communication. Now that Facebook has exceeded one billion human beings who visit the website, why would any of these millions really care how the company implements any policy?

http://youtu.be/c7SjvLceXgU

The reason I pose this question is because of a conversation I read involving a few acquaintances that I hang around with on Facebook. One mentioned that they were tired of the never-ending privacy issues that the company (Facebook) seems to change very often. This person continued to complain that the newest privacy settings made no sense and that they were personally struggling with how to determine which privacy settings would be best for them.

After a few more rants, one of our mutual acquaintances made a very observant and timely statement. he said, “keep your settings the way they have been, stop worrying, and enjoy Facebook and the friends you have met here.” After reading this, it confirmed something I have known since I first joined Facebook. I enjoy using Facebook and interacting with all those who have touched my life, in the past, in the present, and, I hope, in the future.

So when I asked the question: “Would you pay $1 to message anyone on Facebook?” I already knew my own answer to the question. For those of us who enjoy using Facebook, it really doesn’t matter. As long as we stay in contact with one another, with those we care about and with those whom we love, everything else is nothing more than an annoyance.

Since life itself is full of annoyances that we have learned to overcome, Facebook is sometimes just another one of those annoyances that some of us need to live with. I believe that the benefits far outweigh any negatives and, if or when I receive a message from a company, some schmuck, or other person who wants to spend a buck to annoy my privacy, I will try to remember why I joined Facebook in the first place.

What do you think?

Comments, as always, are welcome.

Source: Forbes

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by eston

The Day I Let My Kid Have a Facebook Account

The Day I Let My Kid Have a FacebookFacebook, to be honest, is something I ruefully enjoy. In fact, about a year or two ago, I cancelled Facebook and only came back after several months when I felt it was “safe.” Clustering just my friends and family together, it eventually amassed to a few hundred people that, even though I knew them, they didn’t really know me. Frustrating as it was, I eventually whittled away at 300+ people to just a little over 60. Sure, the numbers grow little by little, but the numbers are kept down to family, close friends, and people I write with.

That’s me, though; I’m an adult (that could be up for debate, really) and I can decide who I add, what kind of content I look at, and just where it is being shared throughout Facebook, and, well, the Internet. As an adult, I’m responsible for what I upload to Facebook, be it status messages, pictures of my goofy face, or even when I share other people’s goofy faces. That’s all on me, you know?

About 11 years ago, I created a smaller version of myself. One could consider it cloning except she came out far superior and vastly more intelligent and I dub her my “Monkey.” With big, heavenly brown eyes, an infectious laugh, and a thirst for all things dealing with technology, my Monkey seemed to be quick to want her own Facebook. You can imagine my surprise when I realized this, but then took a look around at everyone she knows and how each and every single one of them have a Facebook account.

I remember that it was a Tuesday.

The conversation leading up to it was one of mild irritation — and mostly on my part — as she perched at the kitchen table and glanced over my open laptop, idly scrolling about the bits of nonsense.

Can I have one?” she asked, never lifting her eyes from the pictures I had posted of her that my privacy settings had kept mostly everyone away from.

And this is when I had to decide just how closely I could monitor my child’s experience without taking away the enjoyment she sought in it. Sure, she’s 11 and really, what does an 11-year-old need with Facebook, but it was all quite innocent. Her church group has an open Facebook presence, as does her family who shares quotes, pictures, cute stories, and everything — there for all to see. I had to ask myself if I thought my child was responsible enough to handle an open forum like that and just how comfortable I was that my child’s face would be on the Internet at all.

Then, well, I looked at my own Facebook page and realized I had been exploiting her cute little Monkeyface all over my private space. So why shouldn’t she get to, as well?

Upon setting up the account, we went over some rules and regulations to having a Facebook account and just what safeguards would be in place for her and, recently, I found the notes I jotted down for both of us when we were discussing it; I thought I would share them.

Rules for Monkey and Her Facebook Account

  • All settings will be private. This means that only friends and family members will be able to view her profile. (A parent can set these features up for their child to assure that they can’t accidentally go in and undo the deeds.) This is to safeguard others from looking her name up on the Internet and trying to add her, based on the information given, and exposed.
  • Absolutely no personal information shall ever be shared in a status update. This means phone numbers, addresses, or even private, personal experiences that others might not understand and take out of context. Sure, it was hard to use the potty one time, but I doubt everyone on her Friends list needs to be aware of it or how we fixed it, right? We also don’t need a bunch of her school chums giving us a call on the old telephone to check in on that potty situation, right? Exactly.
  • Friend requests will always be OKed by an adult — preferably a parent and/or grandparent. We know who is best for her to be speaking with and if it’s someone who she doesn’t know and neither do I, chances are that they have no business on her Facebook.
  • No spamming! This rule was added after the horrific “CatSpam 2011” incident, where we have had to make certain issues very clear. When she posts something to her status update — it goes out to everyone’s news feed. Posting repeatedly will spam updates on top of other people and it gets rather frustrating. So, when she sees a cute kitty website and wants to show them off to the world, she should refrain, choose one or two, and only post those.
  • Apps and games will be approved, as well! Sometimes, games and applications on Facebook aren’t meant for children or even younger viewers at all, so it’s up to the parent to safeguard her from those things. Games in which the player documents someone’s suicide drop off of a tower or where she takes pictures of her face and makes it look dead? Not really the most appropriate for a child. She must talk to her parent before a new app or game is to be utilized. She should remember the spam rule, however, and choose requests carefully.
  • Pictures must be approved before uploading. She’s a kid and, as such, she’s not really aware of the world around her and what might be considered inappropriate to some folks. While she might think nobody will think twice about her in her pajamas on Facebook, some people might think it “scandalous.” She must always run pictures by her parent!
  • Language, little one! Just because she may see other people posting language that isn’t intended for her doesn’t mean that she has the right due to the open world of the Internet. She is to be held to the same guidelines, language-wise, as she would be in front of her grandparents. She must keep this in mind.

Facebook is a great place for children to keep up with their family, their sports teams, church groups, and so on, but it’s just like most activities and it’s best done when very, very highly supervised. As it stands, my child has an adult check on her Facebook page nearly nightly and, if it’s not me, it’s her grandmother (Nonnie represent!) and I think that helps keep an eye out for anything Monkey might not see.

As an adult who was brought up in the age of the Internet, I know that I never wanted to be kept away from something that was growing so massively important, but I needed to be educated about it. If your children are of the age that they want to take part in the same social media circus that they see you’re a part of, let them know the boundaries and the reasons they may or may not want to, as well. Educate them on the boundaries that are put up to keep them safe, but never keep them away just because; that’s a one-way-ticket to rebellion that will have you finding an uneducated little monster with a secret Facebook page filled with curse words and scary pictures. After all, that might be what they think Facebook is for, you know?

What it all comes down to is this: I had to take the strong and attentive parenting style that I hold in my everyday life and apply it to the Internet, as well.

Do you let your children use Facebook? What boundaries do you have set up and if you haven’t allowed your children to use it, what age do you think you might? What about other social media sites like Twitter, Reddit, etc.?

Facebook to Provide Easy Access to Developers – Do You Approve?

Facebook to Provide Easy Access to Developers -- Do You Approve?Anyone who has been using Facebook for a while knows that, since the company went public, there has been an avalanche of changes. One of these changes was immediately noticeable when we began to see a bombardment of unsolicited advertisements on our Facebook newsfeeds. However, little did we know that this was just the experimental stage in which Facebook developers were attempting to determine the public response to wading through all the garbage in order to get information about their friends.

Since it was new, I know that at first I thought that these advertisements were being unintentionally passed on by my electronically challenged family and friends who didn’t know what they were doing. Of course, you must understand that while these people can get into trouble answering questions that pop up on their machines at unexpected times, they view Facebook as a playground for fun and games. So when I get some type of unwanted notice, request, or announcement, I normally ignore the solicitation and go on with normal daily activities.

However, Facebook needs ways to increase its revenues, so it is also going to make changes to the way developers are allowed access to its website. The company’s hope in doing so is that, with developers having easier access to the site, it will in turn make it easier for them to develop new Facebook applications that it can get the unwitting public to buy.

Why Are Developers Receiving the Red Carpet Treatment?

Only the most uninformed are unaware of the beating that Facebook took when it went public several months ago. Since that time, Facebook, once the darling of the Internet, has continued to see its stocks fluctuate as it struggle to change Wall Street’s sour opinion regarding its ability to make a profit. So, in order to change this opinion, Facebook will need to make some drastic moves to increase profits, which may explain why it is attempting to make it easier for developers to develop Facebook applications. In other words, the company is hoping against hope that, between advertising and new applications, it will be able to line its coffers and increase profitability.

How Will Consumers Like Unwanted Advertising?

While Facebook investors attempt to increase revenue, how are Facebook users handling the deluge of changes that have occurred on their personal pages and newsfeeds? My personal opinion is that, for those of us who choose to use Facebook, these changes have done little to further our enjoyment in using the social network. I know for a fact that several of my friends and family have given up on Facebook and have shuttered their accounts.

However, I chose a different route. Instead of closing my Facebook account, I have installed a program called Social Fixer. This program manages my Facebook page and effectively cleans out the annoying advertisements, unwanted sponsored advertisements, and other assorted junk. In fact, it has completely restored my Facebook account to one that I can actually use.

With that being said, I know that many of you are as frustrated as I was, so why do the people behind the scenes at Facebook come up with these schemes? Money: it is as simple as that. It is almost like the company is shouting that it cares more about revenue then it does about its clients. However, now that I have made this statement — which I have heard echoed numerous times on Facebook — let us look at the facts.

The purpose of Facebook, like any business, is not to become our friend or to give us a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling all over, but rather to make a buck. Its sole purpose has always been to one day cash in on its creation by going public. The developers at the time were looking to the future and saw the creation of a new social networking site as a golden opportunity. Unfortunately, when it was finally able to enter the race, it stumbled at the start line and has been forced to accept declining revenues that have resulted in unhappy investors. So, while Facebook developers struggle through their own financial turmoil and face the fact that investors are losing money on an investment that they thought would rival what had happened when Google, Apple, and other highly prized institutions when they went public, they know that they need to change what they are doing.

That means that, as long as Wall Street continues to challenge the company to produce a solid revenue source, we Facebook users will continue to be forced to accept the changes that are thrown at us. I would even venture a guess that we will be in for more advertisements and more applications in the very near future. If that prospect bothers you and you feel that you can’t or won’t deal with the inconveniences any longer, your only option is to move on. If that describes how you feel, I hear that Google+ is open for new members.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Source: Facebook developers

Source: Facebook advertisements

Common Facebook Annoyances and How to Fix Them

Facebook: Five Self-inflicted Annoyances and How to Fix ThemWhile Facebook has become a connection for many, it can also serve as a venue for frustration.

I saw this several weeks ago when I watched my wife become so extremely frustrated with Facebook that she eventually deleted her account. Her reasoning was simple and was based on one out of control application. Yes, our daughter had asked her to check out this particular application, but once she did, there was no way to delete it. She had contacted the Mood Detector website and sent multiple requests until finally it got even worse. The app then changed the name from hers to another while still posting to her site. It additionally began to add objectionable links to other sites that were offensive to her.

To fix the posting of this erroneous information that appeared to be coming from her, she contacted Facebook for assistance (at least three times), but when no assistance was forthcoming, she found herself at a loss as to how to prevent this information from being forwarded to her friends. However, over all, this incident is more about a misunderstanding about how Facebook functions than about an errant application running amok on her account.

While this incident was personal, it is not — by far — the only complaint that I have heard. In fact, during the past few years as Facebook has expanded and made a multitude of changes, I have seen my small listing of friends complain about similar injustices. However, these frustrations may have been avoided if these people had taken the time to learn some simple basic options. These options, available to all Facebook users, might have been able to prevent these annoyances in the first place.

I have listed a few of these preventable annoyances along with simple-to-follow rules to avoid them. This post, along with another recently offered by fellow LockerGnome writer John McKinlay about Five Frequently Forgotten Facebook Functions, should help solve your Facebook woes (and, if not, leave a comment below and we’ll try and address it in the future).

Adding (and Subtracting) Friends

Over at the Free Dictionary site a friend is defined as:

  • A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
  • A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
  • A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.
  • One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement.

Yet, on a social networking site, a request to become a friend may come from a complete stranger. It can be someone we have never met, or a person we have absolutely nothing in common with or association to. This means that you can say “no” or simply ignore requests from strangers to access your site. There is absolutely no reason that one needs to accept any unwanted friendship requests. My advice would be to keep your friends list small, thus enabling you to actually read and enjoy your common interests and social activities with those you know and care about.

However, if you find yourself currently inundated with a vast assortment of people you don’t know, and would like to delete some of them, it is easy to eliminate those people by merely following the below information, which was taken from the Help section at Facebook.

To unfriend someone:

  • Go to that person’s profile (timeline)
  • Hover over the Friends box at the top of their profile (timeline)
  • Click Unfriend

Accepting (and Denying) Application or Game Requests

Many of us have found ourselves falling victim to the following carrot sent by a friend: ‘If I can get just one more cow or one more bale of hay, I can achieve top score in…’ whatever. Fill in the blank; that person will be a contender. Then, feeling obligated or wanting to help that person achieve their goal, we have accepted the challenge to join in only to later discover that the purpose of this innocent game was to acquire personal information and call it into a centralized server. In other words, it is like placing personal information on a billboard at a bus terminal where the stored information about you can be read by strangers. That means that, to protect yourself, you don’t want to put your personal information out there for everyone to read.

To avoid this trap, don’t join in the first place. But if you already find yourself a victim, you can remove the app by doing the following (again, this information is taken from the Help section at Facebook).

To remove an app:

  • Click at the top right of any Facebook page and choose Account Settings.
  • From the menu in the left column, select App Settings.
  • Click the app you’d like to remove, then click the Remove App link.

Fine Tune Your Notifications

Another annoyance occurs when Facebook informs you, via email, that someone has posted a comment on your page. For some of us this may not be a big deal but, for others, this can create an insurmountable amount of email to meander through. If this is the case for you, it may be time to curtail some of these notifications.

Be comforted by the fact that you can limit or eliminate them, but there is just one minor problem with the way that Facebook handles notifications: It’s semi-difficult to uncheck all of the boxes from the different categories. However, if you are patient and take your time, you can free up your inbox from clutter and free yourself from Facebook.

The process to turn off notifications requires you to go into your Account Settings and click on Notifications. The first option you can try is to check Email Frequency; this will allow you to still receive important updates and a summary of notifications while eliminating individual emails.

Once this is done, 13 categories with approximately 70+ areas of notifications are displayed. Each of these categories and subcategories require an action from you. This is your individual choice and requires you to uncheck any item from which you no longer wish notification. I personally have unchecked each of them and now receive no notifications, which allows me the opportunity to manually go out and look at Facebook entries at my leisure.

Facebook Privacy Settings

Unfortunately, another avenue of concern is how easy it is for the unscrupulous to attain access to your Facebook account information. To prevent becoming a victim of privacy invasion, you need to secure your Facebook account beforehand. To achieve this lofty goal, take a trip over to your Facebook account and go into you Privacy Settings.

Once there, you will find that one of the easiest ways to protect yourself is to block everything and don’t allow access by anyone. However, just like it was when turning off notifications, there is no one button to turn everything off. You have to wade through all of the settings to turn off or leave on the settings of your choosing. I personally would recommend that you limit access of your information to known friends only.

Social Fixer for Facebook

No matter which browser you use, there is a Social Fixer extension available. Social Fixer is an easy way to control Facebook behavior and I highly recommend giving it a try.

Comments, as always, are welcome.

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by stoneysteiner

How to Enable Facebook Timeline

Announced today at the f8 conference is a completely new redesign of Facebook; this new design is more customizable to your needs and filters out a lot of the trash that can build up over time and ruin the quality of your Facebook experience. If you’re an impatient person like me and you want to access the new Facebook Timeline layout, follow these simple steps to activate it.

Once you’ve logged into your Facebook account, enable Developer mode.

To do this, go to the search bar and type Developer. You’re looking for an application made by Facebook — it should be the first result that appears. Once you click on it, give it permission for your account.

How to Enable Facebook Timeline

If it doesn’t automatically get you to a screen that looks like what you see above, head over to the Developer section of Facebook and create a new application.

This application will not be seen by anybody, but it is needed to activate Facebook Timeline. Once you name your application, you must agree to the platform privacy agreement.

Once your application has been created, head to the Settings page in the Developer application. Under the settings for your application, look for where it says Open Graph and click on the Get Started Using Open Graph link.

Once you click that link, there will be a form where you may enter test actions. In these two fields you may enter whatever you wish, as long as it goes along the lines with the statement.

How to Enable Facebook Timeline

Once you press the Get Started button, you should be thrown into a configuration prompt and you may change data and save it again.

Now it’s time to wait (not long — only five minutes or so) and head back to your main Facebook profile.

On the top you should see your invitation to the Facebook Timeline beta. Presto! You’re in!

Have fun with the new Timeline and tell us what you think about it. Is this the last time Facebook will make a major change, or will it happen again soon?

Katango Automatically Creates Facebook Groups So You Don’t Have To

One of the greatest features of Google+ is the ability to easily create “circles” and control what you are sharing with different groups of people. You can hide your drunk party pictures from your boss, not bother your casual friends with updates about your cat, and generally have more control over the information that you are sharing. Groups are available in Facebook too, but they aren’t used very often because the process of making and managing them is not very intuitive.

Katango, a new iOS app, is aimed at changing that. The premise of the app is simple: it “automagically organizes your friends into groups for private messaging and photo sharing.” In essence, it scans through your Facebook friends list (after you give it permission, of course), and then sorts those people into groups based on their shared connections.

Katango is free in the App Store, and once you log in and give it permission to access your friend list, it creates groups almost instantly. The accuracy of the app is eerie and a real reminder of the power of the information that you provide to Facebook without even really thinking about it. Katango was able to group my friends from College and High School separately, as well as my family on my mom’s side and my dad’s side and professional contacts. There were a few groups that didn’t really make sense, but overall it got me 95% of the way to perfectly organized Facebook groups.

Inside Katango you can send status updates and photos to individual groups, but unfortunately that’s where the fun ends: you (at least now) cannot sync these new groups back to the real Facebook interface on a PC; the groups are forever stranded inside the Katango app and if you’d like to communicate with them, you have to use the app. However, sending updates from within the app is easy: just open it up, click the “Pencil and Paper” icon next to the group you want to message, and a compose window pops up that you can type and insert images into. It’s that easy.

The technology behind Katango is obviously impressive, and I’d love to see it expanded into an app or feature that works on the full version of Facebook. The ability to auto-create groups that I can target while posting all the time is very, very attractive, and could help me in being a better Facebook sharer. For now, however, Katango is an awesome concept with not a whole lot of usefulness.

Making Plans with Plancast

Making Plans with PlancastThere’s something to be said for the thrill of spontaneity, but sometimes it’s nice to have something to look forward to. Making plans may not be the most glamorous of tasks, but it at least ensures that your time — whether it be used for work or pleasure — is maximized to the limits only imposed by hours in the day and months in the year. Not making plans might leave you at home alone on a Saturday night, twiddling your thumbs and wishing you’d figured out something to fill in the space on your calendar. (Not that there’s anything wrong with staying home on a Saturday night — especially if you specifically planned to do so!) In any case, you want to keep track of your options, and usually the only way to do this is to find a way to organize your time properly in a way that’s quick and as painless as possible.

Right now, many of the popular services and applications focus on enabling people to tell others what they’re doing at any given moment. Through these creations, you can sometimes find out a lot more about someone than you would ever care to know. Living in the moment is one thing, but the process of planning something hasn’t gone away. Plancast is a service that enables you to spread the word about what you’re planning to do so that other people can possibly join you.

A lot of planning tools are overly complicated and formal, but Plancast keeps things simple. By posting some quick details about what you’re planning to do, your friends and other users can see this information and let you know if they want you to count them in. It’s easy to see who’s going to be involved, and plans can be shared on Facebook and Twitter for greater visibility. If used, Plancast could prevent you from spending so much precious time making and sharing plans. So, what are you planning?