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Facebook, privacy and the new norm

29 Sep

Every time Facebook tweaks their interface people will find reason to complain. Yet the initial irritation wears off and people grow accustom to the changes. And it’s funny – the more intrusive Facebook becomes, we adapt ourselves to this sort of full disclosure and the more integral it becomes in our daily lives. Friends can peak into another side of our virtual selves. Whether or not it enhances our interactions is debatable but privacy still remains the biggest controversy of them all.

I remember thinking newsfeed was TMI when it was introduced. Now I can’t imagine Facebook without it. I disliked the ‘like’ button for as long as I knew it fed information to the third party advertisers. Now I’ve given in some and liked so far as my favorite brands.

Transparency, although similar to privacy, is not an issue for me. I don’t care if people see my wallposts, or notice when I comment on something. What I don’t like are the cookies that are being stored. I don’t like the thought of being traced and having that information used for data analysis and plugged into algorithms. Privacy policies always say they remove our identity from the stats, but we are a stat nontheless. Combined with the masses we create valuable information as a whole. Something seemingly mundane as entering age, location, the when and where we log onto Facebook reveal plenty. That alone can track the daily habits of a young professional like myself.

Facebook has more information than the census could ever accumulate. They say they use sensitive data to best serve us. Perhaps. But, serving us comes with new product placements from paid advertisers. According to one blogger/hacker, Facebook has tracked cookies even after logging out of their homepage. They have only recently admitted to it as a bug and “fixed” it. (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2393750,00.asp#fbid=F0HsYn-e0gy)

Facebook’s biggest change arrives with its introduction of the new timeline. Facebook has astonishingly and maybe not surprisingly stored all of your activity since you first joined. On your profile it has laid out all of the activity on a timeline for you and your friends to see. Information such as every poke, like, check-in and defriending is stored. Reading some of that history threw me for a loop. It knew more than I cared to remember. If that wasn’t enough, they analyze some of that data and chart it. For example, all of your checkins over the month are put together on a map. I can only guess the next step will be analyzing the data further into more charts and graphs and compiling all of your actions into mathematical formulas. Maybe it will predict future activity. We will become walking mathematical functions giving data away to Facebook while others cash in on it. Is it such a terrible thing? Depends on your view of privacy.

I wonder if people will adopt these drastic changes? Will it become the norm just as newsfeed did? Have we finally reached the saturation point of full disclosure? There isn’t much left to say as Facebook continues to excavate our lives. They may know more about us than our moms do and that to me is a very scary thought.

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Moment of silence

7 Aug

I wake up to my phone alarm first thing in the morning, stumble out of bed not just to hit the snooze button. I check my inbox immediately and find comfort in new email. New notifications and mentions on my Facebook and Twitter feed give me a momentary rush in the morning which could very well be my caffeine buzz. I ignore my body’s yearn to go back to sleep. I’d rather be checking what I missed in my sojourn in dreamland.

Sound familiar?

The addiction to being online is transforming into the new norm. For me, at least, I need to make a conscious effort to log off. One morning I purposely turned off the radio during my commute. Breaking that morning ritual was not exactly demanding, but it took some convincing of myself to try it once.

Why did I bother? I was turning into a news addict, maybe not a drug addict, but an addict nonetheless. I felt a sense of withdrawal when I didn’t check the news or Facebook for more than an hour. When I tried to focus on work completely, I struggled. I had to listen or watch the news in the background while I worked on the computer or talked to someone. I multi-tasked to no end. I thrust myself into that situation willingly however. Only a bigger distraction could grab my attention. The rest would be forgotten and get lost in the noise.

I realized the distractions and chatter became deafening. It silenced my own thoughts.

That drive in silence felt oddly inspiring. There was an absence of something more than sound – an absence of immaterial things. What used to be a fear of awkward silences became instant gratification from a brief moment of introspection. That morning I practiced my internal monologue and it’s not as laughable as it sounds. I was reacquainting myself with my thoughts and feelings. Instead of reading someone’s rant online or getting flooded by the news, my life was simple again as it should be.

Revisiting Google Plus

4 Aug

A month has passed and G+ has integrated nicely into my life. In the few days I started using it, G+ felt like an exclusive club where we got to hang out with some of the tech bigwigs. People like Myspace founder Tom Anderson and VC/entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki were suddenly reinstating their influence and making a lot of noise – mostly good noise. They loved it and everybody loved it too and shared their devotion to G+ and prided themselves as G+ users.

Having been on G+ for a month now, the growing G+ community took me by the most surprise. I didn’t expect to find the majority of users to be programmers, engineers and nerds like myself who were also into technology. That’s a huge reason why I stayed on G+ and love about it. I’m biased however.

Besides that, people were also adding thoughtful dialogue, sharing new content and making new connections. It felt authentic, closer to a real life discussion than what I experienced on Twitter or Facebook. I felt more confident knowing people were actually adding me to their circles because they found me interesting. There was also little to no spam. That was a huge +1!

As I started using G+ more, I drew boundaries when sharing. Posting became more of a conscious effort and I became aware of my audience. I don’t sync my updates among all social platforms. I use each for specific purposes and feel like each has different effects in amplifying thoughts and ideas.

When I share a post on Facebook, I get responses from a core group of friends. I still tweet, but half the time it’s sorting through spambots and obsessing about your follower count. I still find Twitter trumps G+ on the news front however. With G+, it tries to be both, however it stands out by encouraging people to participate in a discussion with friends and strangers. That is probably the most amazing part.

Now the funny part about G+ is that the people don’t get tired of singing its praises. Somehow discussing G+ with other diehard users convinces themselves how great it is. Outsiders AND insiders hear the fanaticism over G+ and current users have dissected G+ more than the Google engineers who developed it! Bottom line: People really want to preserve this interactive community.

I am a believer in it too and actively using it. I’m still unsure whether I’ll leave Facebook altogether or if G+ will be interesting enough months from now to keep me engaged. I am observing my own social media behavior evolve as I spend more time on it. G+ does increase the social aspect of social media and that is a very good thing. While Facebook remains the lazy way of interacting with friends and Twitter focuses on popularity and online clout, G+ focuses on community. To my surprise, G+ is filling in the social media hole that I felt was missing in other platforms.

Creative

13 Jul

We have all experienced a point of saturation in our lives when we feel ready if not more than ready to finally start something. It could be something new and exciting or it could be taking on a project you finally have confidence for. You’ve acquired all the knowledge and excelled to a level that it’s time to finally apply yourself. Maybe hitting this turning point is a sign just to start and create anything.

I’m convinced that everybody is creative in some way or other. When I say creative, it’s not solely about the arts, but applying abstract concepts and skills in creating something that you can call your own. It has your perspective. It’s uniquely yours. I feel that without realizing it, some of us play down their creative side and leave it up to so-called ‘artsy’ types. We convince ourselves that we’re more left brain than right brain. When we assume such things maybe we are missing out on tapping into something great?

As an expressive people, we’ve found so many outlets to release all of our ideas on Twitter, Youtube and blogosphere. I started my blog mainly as a form of sharing some deep, and not-so-profound thoughts and to practice my writing. It has taught me to stop and pause the twitter feeds and digest it all. My naturally curious self is taking a new turn in applying all that I take in from the web and exchange new insights and discoveries. I read because I think the world is interesting. I write because I need to express how interesting the world is.

Perhaps I am in some ways just adding more noise to the chatter on the internet with a blog. For now, it’s my form of expression and my creative outlet.