Social Media and the Anonymous Society

There is little doubt that social media use has become ubiquitous in modern societies. So much so that it is almost impossible not to have some sort of online presence. With just a persons name you can find out an amazing amount of information, and with face recognition software, we will soon see the disappearance of the anonymous society. But is all this necessarily a bad thing?

Enter the Fixers

Currently there doesn’t seem to be a week that someone isn’t caught out doing something deplorable by social media; such as the Starbucks Arrest or the Racist Lawyer Rant. In the past both of these, and many more incidents, would have gone unnoticed, brushed under the carpet of our anonymous society. But now they are viewed, shared and judged by a social media consortium.

One additional aspect of incidents such as these, is that it helps others share their stories, and we are reminded that sometimes these are more the norm rather than the unusual. It can demonstrate a point of view from the outside of a persons social network.

Crime & Punishment

With social media being the judge and jury to these crimes one question remains, who is the executioner? For this I rely on the adage, live by the sword, die by the sword. Many of the punishments dealt out are self imposed, or reflected back onto the parties by social media. Starbucks held ‘anti-bias training‘ closing stores to do so, and The Lawyer has lost contracts and had his business rating lowered by angry consumers. The outcomes for both of these incidents will be different, one will do something and make changes while the other will most likely try to ride it out in hiding.

What about Freedom?

Some might say that freedom of speech is vital to a society regardless of size. I believe this is true, but not freedom from consequence.

The way that information is being created and shared on a daily basis. It is becoming harder and harder to keep things inside a circle of tolerance. The people in these examples have had their opinions and ideas festered and protected by those they surrounded themselves with. While it may not have been done on purpose, it has been the outcome. But now with social media, it is much easier to show people the effects of what they say and how they act; especially to people and communities of limited voice.

Social Media Gets Results

The fear of being outed on social media can keep people from doing things that they know is wrong. Everyday in the park, across the road from my house people are littering (car batteries was the latest). I wonder how fast it would stop using a camera and social media feed to expose the culprits?

Feature Image: Ryko naktys by Zoi Koraki (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Selfie Culture; What a Bunch of Posers!

One of my secret pleasures is looking at random selfies. I have found that many subjects, mainly those under 25, have a few poses to pull ready for the shot. When looking at these and I often wonder how did they decide on that  pose? How many photos did it take to achieve such photographic confidence?

Kids Today

When I compare the way my kids, especially my daughter (6), handle themselves in front of the camera it is clear that the ability to pose just comes with experience. Although she doesn’t ask to delete photos that she’s not happy with, I am sure that this is not that far away! When taking photos I can ask for a variety of expressions from her and she hits it almost every time. A part of this success is that she wants to see the photos straight away. Could this be an aid to memory? I believe so. With the immediate result it’s easier to see if the pose had the desired effect. If not then a new photo can be taken in seconds.

You Lookin’ at Me?

Generally, I don’t enjoy getting my photo taken (despite a recent post), or even looking in a mirror. It was something that I was never used to as photos were mostly taken to mark a special occasion. They were not especially expensive, but there was a cost and time involved. Film was sometimes developed weeks after the shot and there was no second chances to capture the moment. Occasionally a roll would come back and some photos were taken over six months ago! I didn’t give too much thought as to what I looked like in a photo at the time it was taken; it just happened. But with modern devices it’s possible to have reflective considerations on how you look in photos and this can prepare you for times when you’re not in total control of the camera.

I’m No Model but…

I don’t believe taking a selfie is vain, and knowing how to handle yourself in a photo is an ever increasing important skill. Imagine going for a job and the interviewer takes your photo (this has happened to me three times), do you want your one chance to stand out to be a good one? You can’t ask to see the photo – well you could but that’s not going to go well – and you need to be confidant that you look your absolute best to stand out of the slush pile.

Selfie Skillz

Like most things taking a good selfie requires skill and patience. Find out what works best for you. However there are a few tips that I’ve picked up in my travels.

  • Look up to the camera and not down.
  • Avoid the front on shot, a slight angle is more interesting.
  • Don’t look into the light, find some shade if possible.
  • Take many and pick the best one.
  • Delete as you go, don’t wait until the memory is full.

These work for me in most situations, but not necessarily for everyone. Figure out what works best for you; but also remember not every photo needs to be a selfie.

Feel free to comment below with your own selfie tips!

Feature Image: Posers by Mick C (CC BY 2.0)

Why I said ‘Goodbye’ to Facebook Groups

Groups on Facebook are a way that like minded people can come together and discuss topics of interest. Anyone with a Facebook account can start a Group, and dependent on the settings others can find it and join. Once accepted the new member can make posts and comment on other peoples posts. All of this is great in theory, but it relies on the premise that people are accepting of the ideas of their fellows. In the end I found groups to be more divisive than inclusive, again showing that ‘social media’ is a fallacy.

I’m right and you’re wrong!

Many Facebook Groups appear to follow the mantra, ‘I’m right and you’re wrong!’. However, this is flawed thinking. A Group by its definition is supposed to be a place of shared ideas. People of different backgrounds join or are invited because of a common theme. Listening and understanding the thoughts of others is how we learn. We don’t have to accept the ideas of others but it is not that hard to listen, and engage in sensible debate. I found that too many times a person started a Facebook Group with the intent of shouting their messages and ignoring or abusing all others. But that is more akin to a Page rather than a Group.

So what happened?

I was a member of several groups that were about a similar topic. However, I found that many people were just arguing all the time, mostly over rules and how it should be played. But the funny thing about this particular hobby is it has very few rules on how to play, as set out by the creators. Some of the arguing was so bad that a few members had split and formed new Facebook Groups. But even in these new Groups a lot of the talk revolved around which Group was right and why they don’t talk to that Group and so on…

It was all very depressing and it made me start to dislike something that I had loved doing. A few times I had  commented that maybe these things were not worth worrying about, only to find myself at the bottom of a dog pile. So instead of trying to weave my way through the clouds of hate that these groups produced, I pulled the plug and exited all of the groups. I’d had enough. I didn’t care which faction was right. Why should I let some toxic individuals ruin my fun? It was something I didn’t need in my life. It was all very sad (as in pathetic).

How I feel now…

After ditching all the groups, I felt a massive wave of relief. I got back into doing what I thought of as an enjoyable pastime. I began to see it for what it was, and was less concerned about what others thought of it or each other. I started to follow people that seemed to enjoy it as much as me. They were making videos and periscopes and running blogs. They talked about the hobby itself rather the who did what or where. It was a much more interesting time. I feel that Groups are really for the few individuals that start them, and not necessarily for other people to join.

Would I try them again?

All of this happened some time ago and just recently I have joined a couple of different Groups. I am much more diligent this time and I read a few posts and see how people respond. Also I found that a Group that has clear rules about what it accepted and what is not, has made for a better time and an active community (such as this Hiking & Camping Group).

What I learned…

Basically, if something is happening in a Group that you don’t like. Don’t hang around, get out! Odds are many others feel that same way. As I said before, anyone can start a Group, but to run a Group? Perhaps that takes something more than the average Facebook user is willing to commit. Before starting something, have a think. What will the Group be about? What should the discussion revolve around? How should the discussion take place? How should people that don’t follow guidelines be dealt with? Maybe then social media will become more social rather then a network of closed door rooms.

Feature Image: Goodbye. by Lucy (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Forget to Logout? The Expectation of Online Privacy

At work last week I was looking up the companies Facebook page and noticed that my boss had, at some point, forgotten to log out of his account. While many nefarious thoughts about what mischief I could cause ran through my head, in the end I clicked on log out and left it at that. I didn’t tell him or snoop around on the page – I’m not sure if that is my personal set of ethics kicking in or just a lack of interest. My boss is a reasonably casual guy and I don’t think he would have cared if I had hit him with a sneaky status update. We have all seen it before, someone has their account ‘hacked’, which is code for leaving their phone unlocked around ‘friends’. But it got me thinking, do you have the right to privacy if you leave an account logged in?

Facebook by Samantha Steele
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If the worst thing to happen was a friend writes a funny update on your status, that can be deleted as soon as you find out, then it is not really a problem. Most people that do this sort of thing would be privy to most things on your Facebook page anyway. But what about a stranger? What if you left your phone on a table for a minute and when you returned to collect it someone was casually scrolling through your Facebook page? Would you feel different or the same?

I did once find a phone at work, it was left unlocked, and we did the right thing and called a couple of her contacts to let her know that we had her phone. I have also found four wallets in my lifetime, all which were returned because I went through its contents to find information about the owner. I still felt very awkward about searching through someones private contacts. Even though on these occasion there was a reason to be searching and probing into someone’s private details.

Where does this stand with a computer, particularly one that is known to be used by other computers. So at one point my boss was in my office, most likely ‘helping’ with some paperwork – I was sick for a few days last week – and I guess at one point he checked his Facebook status and left it logged in. So if you forget to logout, do you have any rights to privacy? or is it the same as leaving a $50 note in an ATM (this happened to me once)? As soon as you walk away the expectation is that it is gone, despite what the reality may be.

Facebook by Johan Larsson (CC BY 2.0)

Generally I don’t log out of Facebook at home or on my phone, it is always logged in. This is because I am lazy, I can’t be bothered to log out and back in every time I check it. However if I found someone – even a family member – casually scrolling though the page I would feel violated. I know several time sat work I leave Google signed in, which in my view is worse than Facebook as they have access to all of my emails, drive docs, and purchased entertainment – I don’t have credit card information saved, but I suspect that many people might.

The right to privacy comes down to the location. At work you should have an expectation of privacy as it is a professional place, at home absolutely, unless you are a child. However in a public place than absolutely not, if you leave a public computer logged in to Facebook, or worse, than anything that happens is your own fault. I’d like to live in a world where this doesn’t have to be the case, but the desire to see how the other is living is a core trait of humans – it is something that has been done for survival for generations. After all is this not what Facebook and other social media is all about? We are allowing others into our lives to see how we are living. A like is really nothing more than a stranger saying that you are doing things correctly.

It would be good if Facebook had a setting that caused it to logout after a predetermined time of inactivity to prevent someone from gaining access due to a forgotten logout. But that is not reality, and even in areas where general privacy is a given, in the end it is more hope and trust than a guarantee. The only way to be certain of privacy is to log out after every use, make it a habit. In Facebook click on setting, and it is the last menu item, click it to sign out and secure your online presence.

Feature Image: PRIVACY by Metro Centric (CC BY 2.0)

The Puzzle of the Profile Picture

puzzled
Puzzled by duzern (CC BY-NC 2.0)

No matter what anyone says, we are judged by our covers; often in the first few seconds

It may come as little surprise that companies are now looking at social media profiles to determine an applicant’s suitability. Even with an account set to private, when they find your account they will see a profile picture and perhaps older photos that had been your profile picture. If you log out and search for yourself, you can see what others will; it can be quite confronting.

This knowledge is what prompted a change of my profile picture. My existing photo wasn’t something that I was embarrassed about, it was more that it didn’t have much to say. It was a photo taken at my (old) workplace, and I liked the photo, which is why I had used it. On reflection it probably isn’t a good photo, in regards to conveying a message, especially because I am looking for a change in my career. Actually my LinkedIn profile photo was worse because I didn’t have anything just the anonymous grayed out silhouette – not very professional!

I’m not a member of the so called selfie generation and usually find myself behind the camera instead of in front of it. Therefore, I actually didn’t have anything that I would consider suitable. On a personal note I don’t generally like having my photo taken, but perhaps that is because most of my experience is with one shot and you’re done cameras, over the now many shot and discard digitals that are standard. So at 8pm, I decided to do a selfie photo shoot. I was looking for a natural pose and as I am lacking the self awareness of the practised selfie I took a few tentative shots and the results were less than impressive. In the end I decided to just go wild, pulling faces and trying to make myself laugh and not looking at the results until I felt that I had acheived capturing many different expressions and lighting angles with assorted backgrounds. The result was having a plethora of photos to choose from.

many-rob-t
Many Rob’s – Screenshot 2016

After viewing all of the possibilities the photo I selected was the one that I feel captured my personality the best. After selecting the photo, I decided that other aspects of my profile needed to be updated. If you haven’t updated your profile in over six months then it is most likely overdue. In the online environment freshness is key to keeping up to date and current.

The end result of this process is a much more serious and professional profile. Will it in turn result in people taking my opinions with a more weight? Only time will tell; but I certainly believe so.

 

#rainbowdashrules

Developing Divergent Identities on Socials

People are akin to a strand of copper wire; until you open them up you can’t know what is hidden under that plastic exterior.

wires
Cable Confusion – Eric (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Some people have centralist ideologies based around one main interest, but many are divergent and can’t be defined to form fit into standard ideals. I have always hated how some people feel the need to box you. They make an early judgement put you in a place and that is where you sit forever and no manner of accomplishment can shift you from this shelf; you will always be oh that person. Even worse though, as there can be an expectation of being an expert in this box they have you sealed up inside. Although it can be maddening, this personality trait can be used to your advantage especially when it comes to promoting yourself online.

One of the main components people look for when following someone online, especially with an unknown, is being consistent. For someone that has many different interests and even some that may contradict themselves, such as I enjoy novels and their film adaptions, I’m fine with dog and cats living together, but probably worst of all… Star Wars and Star Trek!

When you follow many different interests the feed can become confusing and hard to compile the individual stream into a coherent message. This can lead to missing information or worse believing something that is false to be fact. It was this type of misinformation that may have resulted in people voting certain ways in the recent US election.  It seems highly plausible that fake news was just more appealing, that it made the unaware share and promote them as though they were factual and therefore perpetuating the problem. If messages were received from one stream of collaborated consciousness it would have been easier to spot the anomalous fake message. After all it is easier to spot an orange in a bowl of apples rather than a blended smoothie.

apple-orange
Apple Puzzle – Salvatore Gerace (CC BY-SA 2.0)

To combat this, I am planning on splitting my socials into categories, and each will follow proponents of particular interests. If I pick four or five main interests, it will be easier to disseminate information and hopefully lower follower loss due to inadvertent unwanted information being provided. In the need to find work I really don’t feel that it is more beneficial to be a generalist reporter, as most fit into a category, such as: political, entertainment or scientific. While it is good to be able to provide employers with a sense of an ability to write and produce content on varied topics, I figure that having one group of social accounts themed to produce content on one major theme is the better way to get notice, rather than the scatter shot approach.

For the moment my main account will focus on my writing, which can include most of my content pieces as, despite the topic, they would all fall under a creative writing theme; these posts will be focused on the writing of the article rather than the content. In the not too distant future I hope to include new blogs and twitter accounts for my other interests.