Is Facebook Making Us Into Lazy Friends?

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Image: Public Domain

I have been considering closing my Facebook account for a variety of reasons. I have been telling myself it is because of the company’s dishonesty, trickery, sneakiness, and liberal definition of privacy. They also use aggressive means to try monetizing their business with advertising, gaming, and selling of data, which are all rather obnoxious.

Of course we have control over this product. Although it is free, it is still a product and we are paying for it in some way. If I am in control over this, why am I considering canning the account instead of just ending my relationship with this company that I constantly complain about?

Facebook has become the only way I connect with friends (other than the few that live nearby). It is more than just a product because it is your social life, which is what makes it so brilliant and so dangerous.

So, this morning I realized the real reason I may be so uncomfortable with Facebook; it has allowed me to justify being disengaged from my friends. I don’t have to call, because I see a few things that are going on in their life on Facebook. Plus, I really have not been getting any satisfaction from using it lately. I know that it isn’t in my personality to really reach out to friends over a distance. And those distances have only grown in the last decade following high school graduation. But Facebook has made it worse by making me think it was okay to just settle for a few likes, because that’s what relationships are nowadays. But all relationships (romantic, familial, and friendships) take work.

What do you think? Does Facebook have this effect on friendships and the way we socialize? Is it worth closing altogether and go back to calling people and writing letters?

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Article: Hacking Coveted Twitter Handles

I am always captivated by stories of hackers, scam artists, and fugitives. I’m not sure why. Maybe it is the sense of danger and adventure and plot that I admire in well-written movie scripts. Maybe it’s the window into the dark and mysterious. Maybe it’s how close and relevant it all feels to our daily digital lives.

This week, I read another fantastic story in this “genre” where the author describes the details of a digital attack where the ultimate goal was his coveted Twitter handle @N. I have to admit, that is a pretty awesome Twitter handle, but I would not pay $50,000 for it (as someone offered), or break laws to get it. These stories always remind me of how fragile our security is in the digital world. The other thing I love with this story (and many others like it) is that the attacker is humanized. Many people think of hackers as masked men without morals living in a lawless, virtual world. Here we see that the attacker is very willing to negotiate, with little harm done to the victim’s accounts. In other stories, hack-tivists seek to expose security weaknesses for the good of the people and the industry. I eat it up. Every time.

Read the article here:

http://gizmodo.com/how-i-lost-my-50-000-twitter-username-1511578384/@whitsongordon

The Circle – The New Novel by Dave Eggers

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Photo LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by Johan Larsson

I am about halfway through Dave Eggers new novel The Circle, which follows a young female professional as she starts her career with the number one technology company in the world. The company is basically a mix between Google, Apple, and Facebook.

Dave Eggers is one of my favorite authors, and I was intrigued by the idea of him tackling the topic of technology and our relationship with social media. I have seen some backlash, saying the author got it all wrong, but I don’t think that is totally true.

It is difficult to judge a book – a story – until the ending, but I do have some impressions so far.

There is one thing he got wrong that has been bothering me, and that is the use of the term “cloud,” as in cloud storage. This metaphor has become popular to describe data storage outside of your local computer. I suppose the term may make it easier for some people to understand the concept of where is all that stuff. Yet many of us understand there is no cloud, per se. There are many, many intricate networks of many, many, many servers storing data that are access from devices around the world. The way characters in the story use the term (characters that should know better) describe things as being saved on the company’s cloud. That is linguistically, and technologically awkward, because they may be in the metaphorical cloud, but they are stored on the companies network of servers. Am I nitpicking here? I don’t know. I am an English teacher and a tech-nerd, so I guess this is the result of the combination.

I think many people are taking issue with his portrayal of a large tech company, but really it is all allegory. One thing he got very right, is our relationship to our gadgets and the way we engage through social media. The urgency of notifications, and the excitement of “likes” and “retweets” is well represented by the systems and employees within The Circle. At times, the company feels futuristic, and then there are many other times when you feel like you are looking into a mirror.

I look forward to the second half of the book, after which I will share my final thoughts. Anyone else read the book? What are your thoughts?

Twitter, The World’s Backchannel

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Photo: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works by Scott Beale

I do not voluntarily watch too much TV, but sometimes it is on in the house. For most of the year, I am teaching during Good Morning America, but I happen to be in the kitchen while it was on one day this summer. They were introducing a pop star who was to perform a few songs in Central Park to a decently large crowd and a much larger one watching at home. At the same time, the producers introduced a Twitter hashtag in the lower third of the screen and proceeded to display tweets from the online chat. This is certainly not the first time I have seen something like this on TV. It has been a growing trend for the last two years. Typically, I am annoyed by this. It always seemed like a desperate attempt to be trendy and hook a young audience. Something that is new for ABC is including Twitter handles in each reporters lower third graphic, under their name and title. Television reporters on several networks have even been quoting tweets to add context to their news stories. It seems that ABC is really trying to integrate Twitter into the entire news experience. So what? Do they have some sort of partnership with the social network to help promote each other’s businesses? I am trying to think more about how Twitter, used in this context, can be meaningful.

While watching this artist sing and dance across the stage on a blistering hot New York City summer morning, sweat poring off his skin, I started thinking about what was really going on in the bottom third of the screen. This practice of streaming tweets during the performance was tapping into the voice of the audience. Isn’t that what a backchannel is for? It gives a space for live discussion, commenting, questions and answers.

I experimented with using TodaysMeet while watching and analyzing films in my video production course. The students were intrigued by the idea but did not really use it. I think if it is integrated as a part of the course from the beginning it will see more use. The site (and others like it) is used to set up what is basically a live chat room for student discussion. It could be used in many ways. I decided it could be useful during long films.

Twitter can certainly be used as a backchannel for individual events, such as the pop concert or for my video class. But it seems that more and more, Twitter is becoming the backchannel for the world. News events, professional development, pop culture, and more are being discussed all day, in real time, 140 characters at a time.

What do you think about this idea of Twitter as a backchannel? Discuss in the comments below or on Twitter, or course.