Archive for the ‘ Social Networking ’ Category

Goodbye Facebook Part 2: Life After Facebook


Four months ago I quit Facebook.

I was nervous, filled with trepidation about how my friendships would proceed next. My quitting Facebook was not an impulse decision. I was finally taking my friendships back, showing my friends that I was tired of the broadcast environment and that I wanted to spend more time with them on a far more personal level. What happened next?

Several friends immediately contacted me to setup lunch plans, make sure I had their contact information and generally show their support and encouragement for my decision. Many agreed with me but weren’t ready to close their own account. One wrote me in angry protest.

My blog post about quitting Facebook went semi-viral. My biggest post to date, it still rakes in regular traffic here. The web response was unreal, more than 80,000 hits in a 24 hour time period. As a nominal blogger, these numbers are huge to me. I couldn’t keep up with the comments here on the blog, Google Plus, reddit and Hacker News. As a writer, it’s hugely flattering to find your words carried meaning for others. For everyone who read my first post, thank you.

I will admit, I feel slightly cut off now that I’ve stepped away from receiving the broadcasts of every small detail of the daily lives of my 200 or so closest friends and family. People truly do have to take an extra step to loop me in to their lives. What’s been impressive are the number of people that take that extra step. I’m learning, quite clearly, who truly values my input.

Having lunch with a friend, she suddenly remembered news that she’d already shared online. “Oh yes! You’re not on Facebook, let me tell you about….” But you know what? I loved hearing it from her personally rather than reading a post. It was far more fun, more personal to hear the story over a shared meal at our favorite restaurant. Being able to see the happy glow in her eyes, share laughter and smiles and give her a hug at the end far outweighed reading smaller updates on a daily level.

My circles have grown much smaller, but infinitely tighter. On the flip side, losing all that extra “noise” in the background has helped me focus on deepening the actual relationships I share with them. I’ve withdrawn from my circle of friends somewhat, but the individual interactions are richer and deeper. Gone are the daily hellos, traded in for afternoons at the beach, lunches at our favorite restaurants, emailed photos when a friend stumbles on to something that reminds them of me.

I have one friend in particular that was upset I left Facebook. She felt I’d traded Facebook for another social network. She didn’t realize that I use them for different purposes and I wasn’t swapping one for another. She seemed angry and after one awkward dinner, we haven’t spoken, texted or emailed since.

I was deeply saddened that she’d let my leaving Facebook come between us. Then I realized something very important: We’d been drifting apart for several years now. The only thing really holding us together was the superficial ties on Facebook. I think, rather than keeping the friendship afloat, Facebook prolonged the inevitable death throes of two people moving in different directions. Facebook was a tool to help falsely maintain an ending friendship. We’d simply grown too far apart.

I want my interactions with my friends to be honest and real. I don’t want to maintain a friend list because “I should”. I want the people who keep me around to do so because they like and value my company and opinion. I’m not going to lie, I still miss seeing a lot of those status updates and photos. But I also know that each time someone calls, emails or texts me – it’s because they wanted to share that specific moment with me.

And, for the first time in 10 years I did not call my friend and sing to her on her birthday. Sometimes, it’s best to just quietly slip away.

The Power of Social Search: Bing or Google?


I’m a Google Girl, I happen to enjoy all things Google. I almost exclusively use Google for searches, but I know that technology changes and it’s a good idea to challenge your conceptions from time to time. Reading about Bing’s integration with Facebook, I decided to give a Bing a try.

*Note I did this little experiment about 2 months ago, before I closed my Facebook account.

My experiment: I linked Bing to Facebook and searched “andromeda” in both search engines.

First, Bing made me complete a captcha! Shut. The. Front. Door.

Once completed, I was able to retrieve my search results. The Facebook plugin put a ticker on the right side of my screen. It was reminiscent of the ticker found within Facebook and I found it made my screen feel cluttered and claustrophobic. However, collapsing this ticker defeats the purpose of evaluating the new social search features.

My top search results: Wiki article on the Andromeda Galaxy, two scientific articles and a male infertility clinic followed by a preview of an image search. Wedged between my search results and the social plugin was a list of advertisements and a list of related searches. The social plugin? It just provides me with a list of Bing searches that my friends have posted on Facebook. None of this list pertained to my actual search. Instead it was a complete distraction and provided me with nothing useful.

Bing Results

On to Le Goog:

With Google, the “personal” or social search results were interspersed with the regular results. A toggle allows me to view just the personal results if I prefer. My top results were a bit less varied in that it suggested Wiki articles on both Andromeda Galaxy and the television show, as well as an IMDB link. On the side it suggested related searches to expand the search range and below was a quick preview to an image search.

On the landing page there is also a list of search tools that include limiting your search to a particular time frame, dictionary results, reading level, translated pages. While my main landing page has a little less variety, it seems laid out in a more intuitive way. The main search topics are more thoroughly covered but there is also easier access to more complex searches.

Google Results

Now, here’s where it gets interesting.

The “personal” results brought up a search results of all public posts within my Google Plus sphere, but not just any old post – only the ones pertinent to my search. My Googleverse has just been blown out of the water. With a vague recollection that a friend shared an article about Andromeda, I can use the personal results to quickly locate their original post. This search is far more, well, personal.

Google Personal

Sorry Bing, you’re just not there yet. Like Facebook, I feel like I’m being broadcast at rather than customized to. And if you’re out there still wondering how Google Plus can be useful for you? Go circle up a group of people who post on topics that interest you. Your search results will thank  you.

Conversations with Mohammed


 

With a sad heart, I’ve realized Mohammed closed his account. Our conversations are over and I have this vague, incomplete feeling like something is now missing from my life.

I first met Mohammed in a Google Plus Hangout. With 10 people, our group video chat room was full. Most of us were Americans and Mohammed’s video was muted. He wasn’t talking, nor was he joining in the text chat on the side of the room. After an hour or two, I’d forgotten he was even “in” the room. As a non-Muslim American, I’ll admit there’s a lot of bias, suspicion and general doubt that involves reading about or interacting with anyone named Mohammed that lives anywhere in the Middle East.

I’m not sure how or why we managed to get to this topic, but I mentioned an article I’d read about a teenage boy in Saudi Arabia who’s father had 4 wives. He’d done an “Ask me anything” thread and I was absolutely fascinated at this glimpse into a completely foreign life. With the introduction of this topic Mohammed came alive, first in the text chat, next by speaking and finally, by coming on camera and fully debating with us. We learned he was from the Gaza Strip and Palestinian. A product of a harsh, war torn life he was nonetheless very respectful of us, listened and debated in the true spirit of a real dialogue.

I. Was. Fascinated.

I love people. I find them intriguing. My main thrill with Google Plus Hangouts is the ability to connect with so many diverse, interesting people. They all have a story to tell, hopes, dreams, fears, worries, families and friends, pains and troubles. I have so many interesting “pen pals” and “conversation partners” from around the world. I love listening to them and finding out what makes them tick. I like having my own view of the world challenged, I absolutely love it when someone presents an opposing view point and persuades me to their point of view.

Mohammed and I kept talking. He didn’t work Fridays and I found myself looking forward to my next Thursday night. As the evening drew late for me, the sun would be rising for him. We’ve spent long hours debating politics, religion, families, society. I saw the peace he found in his religion. It truly gave him what he wanted and needed from life and I can appreciate that about him. He lived in a mosque. In his late 20’s he and his brother were building a house and it needed to be finished before he could begin looking for a wife. The only women he interacted with were his family members, but he talked to his mother every day and had a deep respect for her. You could see it in his eyes, the healthy respect he had for all his female relatives. He told me I reminded him of his favorite sister – she too had green eyes and he said I even looked like her.

He was intrigued by American culture. His only real information was what he saw in movies and he had no real concept of the average, daily American life. At first, he felt that we had no values. As we talked, he began to see that we did have a value system, it was just rooted in a very different core value. Everything in his life came back to submitting to the will of Allah. Everything was about obedience – from how you lived, to where you worked, to what you ate and when you slept. I still cannot fathom an entire lifestyle built on this core value. As an American, I value independence. I’ve been taught from an early age to find my own way, educate myself and make decisions based on my own thought process.

We come from opposite ends of the world, opposite ends of culture, opposite ends of religion. And yet, we had so very much in common. We both have families we love, we’ve both been misunderstood, we both just get through each day the best way we know how. He told me stories of childhood in a strict Muslim community, from having trouble staying up late for the last prayer of the day to time spent with his sisters. I learned about his pride in his community, the things he ate and his surprise at our perceptions of where he lived. He learned all about us too. Our frustrations at how deeply our government has let us down, how much many of us don’t support war in the Middle East (although we do support our troops!), how grounded I am as a Mom and how connected my family is to each other – that we also have family values here.

He never said good bye. I don’t know why he’s closed his account. Perhaps his house is finished and this chapter of life is over. Or maybe these conversations with a foreign woman were taboo. I’ll never really know, but my friend Mohammed, I shall miss you.

Liberating My Facebook


I did it. I finally make that agonizing decision to cut the virtual cord and quit Facebook. 

I announced it publicly both on Facebook and through my blog here. I wanted to give my friends time to download all my information and I knew they didn’t all log in daily.

Then it hit me. That horrible sinking feeling as I realized I didn’t have all their information either. I couldn’t just arrogantly announce I was leaving and expect all of them to contact me if I wasn’t willing to put some effort in from my end.

I suddenly realized that if I didn’t save their information before closing the account it would *poof* vanish into thin air. Terrorized at the thought of all their phone numbers and emails evaporating from my phone in a mere instant, I broke into a cold sweat as I painstakingly attempted to export their data.

Once again I’ve grown lazy. It’s so easy to just link the accounts and never have to manually track phone numbers and emails. And again, the point is crystal clear that I’m not taking ownership of my relationships.

Then, the popular argument for keeping Facebook, “I’m just doing it to stay in contact with my friends” suddenly hit home hard.  As much as I detest how far our interactions have deteriorated, I paused to consider leaving a placeholder behind to keep the contact list. Unfortunately, that would entirely defeat the whole purpose of closing the account. Moving forward, resolved strengthened, I knew I needed to cut off the Facebook serpent right at the head.

This next part is about how I managed to liberate my contacts from the iron-clad Facebook grasp. Facebook clearly didn’t want me leaving but I was determined. Some of you may have different experiences, but I thought I’d share how I finally managed it.

My first stop, the download feature within Facebook turned up fruitless. This only works if people have opted in and all the default email addresses were now Facebook email addresses rather than their main ones. One Google search later yielded the Yahoo – Facebook solution. Seemed simple enough, log into Yahoo and use the import Facebook feature. The problem was, it just hung there. It said it was downloading, but no. No error messages, no completion, just a frustrating, endless loop.

The next time I went to my Yahoo account it gave me the opportunity to sign in with Facebook. When I took that route, the Facebook contacts dropped right in! Better yet, they had their real email addresses. Turns out I had a nice list, but the export function apparently went no where. It seems the Big Bad Facebook worked very hard at breaking as much download functionality as it could muster.

Weary at the prospect of copy/pasting each person into my regular contact list my entire day brightened when my Knight in Shining Armor charged in and automated the process. Fueled by a fierce debate on my Google Plus commentary, he made me a script that gathered the data and saved it nice and neat in a ready to upload CSV file. Want to do the same? He even freely posted it for you: http://campkludge.org/?q=yahoocontactexport

Within minutes my Contacts were complete and I disabled my Facebook account. Of course Facebook tried to guilt me into staying first: Are you sure you want to leave? Your 219 friends will miss you no longer be able to contact you.

Oh yeah? Who cares….I can contact them any time my little heart pleases. Suck on that Facebook. My communications are no longer held hostage by you.

Goodbye Facebook


Let’s get something straight: This is not a Facebook hate post.

That being said, I’m running a little experiment of disabling my Facebook account. Why you ask?

I first joined Facebook to stay in contact with a group of friends I’d met through an online direct sales forum. I was quitting direct sales and no longer visited the forum, but wanted to stay in touch with the friends I’d met there. They were my very first “internet friends” and meant a lot to me, even though I could no longer really relate to their threads any longer. These friends saw me through one of the most challenging times of my life, when money was short and my relationship was in the toilet. Next I had a few “real life”  friends sign up and suddenly I had this beautiful, amazing walled garden where I could let it all out , carefree. I ranted, I raved, I cried, I shouted, I giggled – early on this core group saw an unfiltered version of me.

Then the high school acquaintances, professional connections and more distant family members found me. I made a decision early on to largely keep my professional contacts off Facebook. I’m glad I did so, but my posts became more and more filtered as the “Friend” list increased. Now, they were all getting the facade, the highlights because I donned the “happy” mask. My closer friends were still caught the true story through instant messaging, text messaging and phone calls, but Facebook gave us a new, shared way to communicate with each other.

Facebook was a way to enhance our communication rather than replace it. I felt sublimely connected to my friends and enjoyed reading their posts about what they were doing, seeing pictures of what they were eating and  in general experiencing their lives with them. The great part? We all commented back and forth on each other’s updates and photos. Our conversations spilled over from real life and into the digital realm. All in all, we grew closer as the vines of our lives intertwined and grew together, using Facebook as the connecting fertilizer.

Then something changed.

I can’t place the blame on my friends. The Facebook algorithms prioritize who’s in my Newsfeed and now it’s filled with memes, reshares and fluff. Instead of seeing real updates from my friends, I see content that doesn’t even remotely relate to me. Here’s a classic example: I simply thought one of my friends just didn’t use Facebook very often. One evening, over pizza and wine she’s telling me about a breakup and a poem she posted. I never saw the poem. When I visited her Timeline I realized she had been posting every day and it never once showed up in my Newsfeed. Instead I see a photo of someone I don’t know; gliding down my Newsfeed simply because one of my friends “liked” it and the original poster doesn’t have their privacy settings in place. And don’t get me started on privacy settings, that’s an entirely different collection of posts.

Facebook has become less personal.

Conversing with a friend, I start to share a story I’d earlier posted on Facebook. Since she didn’t comment or “like” the post I guessed she hadn’t yet seen it. Instead, she cuts me short: “Yeah, I saw your post on Facebook.” And that was it. No dialog, no joy at conversing with each other, just friends passively watching each other from a distance. I’m guilty, I’ve done it too. We’ve become quiet ships, passing by in the dark silence of the night.

I’ve made a decision.

I no longer want my friends to have this passive peepshow into my life and I don’t want to have the same view of theirs. I want us to talk. I want a personal email. I want to find a way to share photos in a way that encourages us to talk about them with each other. I want to chortle over sushi about the random events and cry together over wine when heartbreak attacks. In short, I want my friends back. The only way I can do that is to cut the cord.

A Simple Idea That Simply Changed Everything


Today is YouTube’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday YouTube!

What an amazingly simple idea, start a website where people can upload and share videos publicly and freely. 7 years ago who could have possibly imagined how deeply this simple idea could permeate and change modern daily life?

Today we use YouTube in most aspects of our lives: entertainment, business, personal and educational. Movies host theatrical trailers both on their website and on a YouTube channel. Businesses create marketing campaigns using viral and quirky videos.  A business can create informational content about who they are, their products and industry specific topics.

Now, more than ever, information is just a few simple clicks away. Just this month, YouTube showed me how to change the camera lens cover on my cell phone (bye-bye scratchy photos) and guided my son on how to sync our Xbox remote to a friend’s console.

For some, the YouTube effect is stronger than others. With millions of views per video, Maru, a playful, mischievous Scottish White Fold seduces the internet on a regular basis. I’m sure his owner is more than a little pleased with his success.  If you don’t know Maru, let me educate you now:

 

As a mom, I share home videos of my children with my grandparents who live across the country. I’m able to find funny jokes, inspiring stories and an army of artistic movies, shorts and videos. From my phone, I can privately upload my sons humiliating themselves in dance and karaoke while publicly posting my parents’ little pocket beagle ferociously attacking a feather. And let me tell you, the feather usually wins. Just this weekend I grabbed this little altercation between them:

 

The growing vlogging community is an incredible artistic outlet. YouTube has become a display case for home animation, video rants, home produced films, fan fiction, cooking lessons, college applications and creative resumes.

As features are added and the technology evolves, I can’t help but ponder about where this is headed. The integration of Google, YouTube and Google Plus allows us to seamlessly share and explore things from all areas of our lives. With Hangouts on Air I could broadcast and record family events that distant relatives can’t attend. Weddings, soccer games, birthday parties – suddenly distance is not such a large hurdle for keeping families and friends connected to each other.

It’s just such a simple concept, create a space where people can share their videos. It’s astonishing how simply this idea has changed the way we do business, entertain ourselves and archive our personal lives. Tell me, how has YouTube affected your life?

 

The Luxury of Being Anti-Social


I don’t have that luxury.

Was my reply to Mom’s announcement she was considering closing her Facebook account. “Of course you do!” was her response.

On the surface, she’s not entirely wrong. I can absolutely close my account. It has not replaced my interactions with my friends and family, although sharing family photos would require some rejiggering on my part. But that wasn’t really what I was referencing.

At the time, my cousin’s teenage daughter was living with my parents. My mom really only used her Facebook account to monitor her activity, but because she wasn’t a regular user my mom did not have the tools to fully understand what my cousin’s daughter was doing. Over time, the Facebook activity became such a bone of contention between the two that my mom eventually banned her from Facebook.

As you may have guessed, this strategy wasn’t exactly successful.

I adore my mom. She’s incredible and I often call her Super Grammy. Although there is an alarming and growing trend of grandparents rearing children, to take on your niece’s teenage daughter is matter for sainthood. On top of that, she’s there 100% for me with my children as well. Vomiting kid? No problem, get your hiney to work and I’ll mop up. You’re sick? Let me bring you some soup. Need a night out? Send the kids over, I can handle it.

On top of that, my mom is incredibly intelligent and tech savvy. She was the one to teach me DOS and introduce me to computers. She’s still the only one at her house that can setup and program their entertainment centers. She was the first to adopt ebooks in our family and the first among us to use online banking and shopping.

So let me make this exceptionally clear. Her problem with Facebook isn’t lack of smarts, caring or knowledge – it is lack of use.

First, without regular usage, Super Grammy was unaware that you could disable posts, pictures and your wall from people you still had friended. She didn’t know that she wasn’t seeing a complete picture and she didn’t know how to limit or control it.

Second, it’s impossible to model good social networking behavior if you don’t use the services. Until you’ve made a few online blunders yourself, it’s difficult to anticipate the specific problems, bullying and arguments that can arise from these platforms.

With the increase in frictionless sharing and interconnectivity it’s imperative that I remain fluent in the digital biosphere.  I’ve made a few of my own blunders and I’m learning how to mentor and model best social networking practices.

Frictionless sharing is the single most irritating part of Facebook and what almost had me quit. As the Maid of Honor in one of my best friend’s weddings, I was using Pinterest to explore all facets of wedding planning. Although I’d disabled the app from posting to my Timeline it managed to sneak back. Multiple inquiries about my upcoming nuptials had me steaming.

A small mishap like that one could really translate into major problems for the novice user. Unfortunately, this technology is changing at a pace that even the most seasoned social networker has trouble staying afloat. I will simply be an ineffective instructor for my children if I don’t keep my account, actively use it and seek out the newest changes each and every time.

My children are still young and they haven’t yet begun with Facebook  but I certainly see it glinting at me over the horizon.

What are your thoughts? How do you manage your children’s online social networking? What’s worked? What hasn’t?

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