Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Great Facebook Addiction (revised)

Is Facebook the drug of our generation? The answer is a big embarrassing "yes" says an interesting new study by Ars Technica.
Except we youngsters can't even say that anymore, now that we're Facebooking our moms and whatnot. As a direct quote from the study explains, "Students from 10 countries... all reported distress, isolation, confusion, boredom, and a feeling of addiction when they had to go 24 hours without any form of media, including Internet."Apparently a large amount of this distress was in reaction to not having access to Facebook.

Lets take a moment to think that one over. What is it we do on Facebook? Post status updates about our fun Friday night? Whine about final exams? Boast about our vacations and semesters abroad through cleverly titled photo albums? I'm an addict and I'll be the first to admit it, but I've never felt so silly about that until just now. In fact, now that I really think about it, not once since I became Facebook active have I gone more than a few days without checking in. And now that I have my trusty iPhone in my pocket at all times (God help us all if I don't) it's certainly less sparatic than a few days. Maybe more like a few hours?

This study has really got me thinking about deleting my Facebook account and seeing how long it takes me to start "itching like a crack head," as one study participant put so eloquently. In fact, earlier this semester in my Media Communication class we had an assignment to watch one movie from beginning to end to see how long we could make it without signing on to any sort of social network. Sounds easy enough, right? Turns out I was a bit optimistic starting out this assignment. I decided to watch the cult classic “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead”, thinking it would be silly enough to hold my attention and keep my idle hands from wandering to my keyboard. Thinking ahead, I made sure to keep my laptop in my bedroom far out of reach... Ten minutes later, I found myself grabbing my iPhone and opening the Facebook application, completely out of habit. Here's how is played out: What was new? Not much, the usual friend connection in my newsfeed, a comment on my latest mobile upload of a puppy at Town Lake, a new photo ablum of my old classmate Lindsey's trip to Spain. Interesting, I haven't seen her in about five years, lets see what she's up to. Spain sounds so fancy. Sorry to end the story early, I know it was a real nail-biter, but in the essence of time I'll keep it short.

Of course I had to report to class the next day and embarrassingly admit to my Facebook addiction – only to find out that it was the case with almost the entire classroom. If Facebook is a drug, then we are all addicts. But to be realistic, the Facebook addiction isn’t something to laugh off – it is gaining attention from credible institutions who are worried about the outcome of over exposure to the social networking site and what it can do to a persons personal life and general productivity. Says Elizabeth Cohen of CNN, “Although there are no statistics on "Facebook addiction" -- it isn't an actual medical diagnosis -- therapists say they're seeing more and more people… who've crossed the line from social networking to social dysfunction.”

As you saw in my description, my Facebook experience that evening while I should have been watching a movie uninterrupted by social networking was less than exciting or informational (about things that actually matter, that is). Yet, when is it ever either of those things? In the study on Facebook addictions detailed in the CNN article, a woman named Cynthia admits to being a Facebook addict. She spends an unbelievable amount of time every week dedicated to Facebook. She does use it somewhat for work related needs, as she is the owner of an online retail store who likely promotes through and advertises on the site, but the rest of the time is merely recreational use - the same as what most of us use it for. How did she get on Facebook in the first place? "My daughter just got married, and I got great happiness posting her wedding pictures for all my friends to see", says Cynthia. That's how it all began, that's how it gets you. The same certainly goes for me - I created a Facebook account for the same reasons that I check in daily now, to keep in touch with my friends at home while I am away at college as well as to build connections with the countless new people I meet in Austin all the time. Facebook has so many benefits - it really has become a new way to network socially - but what happens to the old fashion kind of social networking? The kind where you call people when you miss them so that you can hear their voice? Is that being replaced by interactions of the digital age?

As seen in the CNN artivle as well as in countless others like it on the subject, you know you're a Facebook addict when you are effected by the five red flag symptoms (taken from the CNN article):
1. You lose sleep over Facebook
2. You spend more than an hour a day on Facebook
3. You become obsessed with old loves
*(one of my personal favorite topics, see below!)
4. You ignore work in favor of Facebook
5. The thought of getting off Facebook leaves you in a cold sweat

As promised, I must touch on my favorite negative outcome of Facebook use. Drama. Specifically in your relationship. This website is like love-eating poison to relationships, and it seems that Facebook is becoming the true sworn enemy to love birds all over the world. While its true that sometimes Facebook reunites old flames, sometimes it does so with people who are already married. It's true - according to US lawyers, "Facebook is a top cause of relationship trouble". Two-thirds of those lawyers say its a "primary source in divorce evidence".

Now that we have all the facts, let us all take a moment to reflect on our own Facebook use. Maybe some of us are addicts. Perhaps some of us use it merely recreationally - pffft, heard that one before. And for the rest who are just too cool to be on Facebook - the whole world thinks you're a snob.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Social Marketing Compass & Conversation

Hey COMM 3309, we're almost done!!! Lets just take a second to virtually high five one another and breathe a sigh of relief.

Alright, back to business, lets talk about the final chapters of Brian Solis' Engage. We've certainly learned a lot from this man and I think we can all agree it will help us tremendously in our future endeavors. For those of you tuning in from outside our class (I know that at this point I must be one of the most famous and sought after bloggers in the blogosphere) Engage is the "complete guide for brands and businesses to build, cultivate, and measure success in the new web."

I found chapters 19-23 to be some of the more interesting chapters we have covered this semester. I especially enjoyed the information describing the Social Marketing Compass and the Conversation Prism, mainly because I can really see us applying this in our future PR classes and in work related research.

Among having other benefits, the Social Marketing Compass is extremely helpful in understanding how brands can better communicate with their customers, peers and influencers. However, what I found most helpful from this entire segment was the Conversation Prism. The Conversation Prism allows a to understand "a whole view of the social media universe, categorized and also organized by how people use each network." Also explained as the art of "living, listening and sharing," the Conversation Prism allows brands to better themselves by understanding what is being said about them and how they can respond, thus benefiting from the conversation.

The Great Facebook Addiction

Is Facebook the drug of our generation? The answer is a big embarrassing "yes," says an interesting new study by Ars Technica.
 Except we youngsters can't even say that anymore, now that we're Facebooking our moms and whatnot. As a direct quote from the study explains, "Students from 10 countries... all reported distress, isolation, confusion, boredom, and a feeling of addiction when they had to go 24 hours without any form of media, including Internet."Apparently a large amount of this distress was in reaction to not having access to Facebook.

Lets take a moment to think that one over. What is it we do on Facebook? Post statuses about our fun Friday night? Whine about final exams? Boast about our vacations and semesters abroad through cleverly titled photo albums? I'm an addict and I'll be the first to admit it, but I've never felt so silly about that until just now. In fact, now that I really think about it, not once since I became Facebook active have I gone more than a few days without checking in. And now that I have my trusty iPhone in my pocket at all times (God help us all if I don't) it's certainly less sparatic than a few days. Maybe more like a few hours?

This study has really got me thinking about deleting my Facebook app and seeing how long it takes me to start "itching like a crack head," as one study participant put so eloquently.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

personal branding & instant news in the digital age

For our COMM 3309 assignment this week we are focusing on chapter 12-18 of Brian Solis' Engage, which was especially interesting as I found two specific topics that apply to my own life.

Solis covered a topic which ties in with my semester-long personal learning project (PLN). The project involves creating an online resume/digital portfolio, and for it I have had to find experts in the field on Twitter, Delicious, blogs and other internet networks. Most of the experts I have connected with have a similar interest: personal branding.
Solis discusses personal branding at length in this segment of Engage. Even though this information is actually geared towards companies, industry professionals and management, it is still been very useful for my project and has helped me to better understand what everyone is talking about on Twitter. Hooray!

Another point made in this segment which resonates with me is the recent advancements of instantaneous, constant flows information. Like the rest of you, I have become extremely spoiled in recent years with technological advancements that allow us real-time updates of what is going on when, where, and with who. It all ties in with social media as well, allowing for a web of instant information that we have not only grown to expect at all times but have become very dependent on. Just this morning, I found myself annoyed at the fact that NPR hadn't updated their Facebook feed in the past 5 minutes to tell me exactly what was going on with the government shutdown situation and the deals being made regarding federal spending. In reality, I'm spoiled rotten by technology, and nothing new had happened in the 5 minutes since I had checked last.

using Facebook to find terrorists?

Ever get freaked out about the lack of privacy on Facebook? Do you feel like "big brother" is able to watch us a little too closely through our social network profiles?

Normally, I would be the first to agree about being concerned with what we are accidentally sharing (and to whom) on Facebook. Not everyone needs to know what I decide to share with my network, and I believe we should keep our sharing to a minimum anyway, mainly to spare everyone else the boredom and ourselves the embarrassment.

Speaking of people who share too much, lets discuss the case of Sundullah Ghilazai - an alleged terrorist who boasted his dastardly plans all over the internet, and thankfully for us, got himself arrested.
Back in December 2010, Facebook user Sundullah Ghilazai was arrested by US federal authorities after boasting on the social networking site that he'd use explosives on the Washington DC public transit system. Several bomb threats were made in the area, and Ghilazai and his internet boasting fit the profile for the prospective terrorist. Even if he wasn't - the details he shared publicly on his profile are enough to raise several red flags. However, it wasn't until an informant contacted the authorities that Ghilazai was arrested.

The informant reported that Ghilazai disclosed to him some disturbing details about his possible violent plans through the private two-person Facebook chat feature. Ghilazai's Facebook interests and photo albums  contained a lot of material regarding AK-47's, tents filled with explosives, and hateful commentary. Had Facebook's privacy controls been even looser than they are, would this man have been pinned as a terrorist sooner?

Granted, terrorism will exist Facebook or no Facebook, how do you feel about the sites' privacy issues now? Would you rather have everyone's information be somewhat public in order to catch people like Ghilazai, or do you value your privacy above potential safety threats?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

from sketchy to squeaky clean (for a price)

These days it's impossible to get accepted to college, land a great job or even be considered for an interview if you have incriminating results on your Google search.

Those Facebook photos of your keg stand at last years 4th of July party? They'll be back to haunt you. And that hasty Tweet you made with all the cuss words and inappropriate context? I doubt think your future boss will find it as funny as you did. Maybe you're not a party animal - but your online presence says otherwise. It says screams "do not hire."
Now, this isn't exactly news. Internet searches have been causing a stir in the job search/college application world for a few years now, and lots of people have smartened up about what they post online. Most of us have already done what we can to clean up our image, should we have even the slightest of questionable content linked to our names on the internet. But for what we can't get rid of, what is there to do?

Thanks to, we don't have to do a thing! If you can afford to pay the fees, that is. For an annual fee of $120-$600, the busy bees over at Reputation offer to "expunge negative posts, bury unfavorable search results and monitor a client's virtual image." Acting as PR rep's of a certain sort, allows your new squeaky-clean image to shine through all the negativity you have uploaded over the years, assuring prospective bosses and college admissions staff to see the "real" you.

The only question is, what happens to all the people out there equally guilty of questionable content but who cannot afford to pay for this service? We all (hopefully) know better than to post anything lewd or incriminating on the internet these days - is it fair that only the ones who can afford it are allowed to erase their past?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

where social media & PR collide

In chapters 3-6 of Engage, Brian Solis discusses our use of social media and the "next web" and their implications on our lives.

In our expanding world of social media, which most of us practically live our lives on, there exists many words, terms, and phrases having having to do with the practices of our online network activity. Solis brings to mind the fact that it is important that we not overuse or misconstrue such terms or they will lose their meaning or take on new ones.

The term "next web" refers to blogs, wikis, podcasts and the like. Far and wide people, corporations and organizations are mastering the fine art of the next web to their public relations advantage. Doing so can veil the fact that it is actually the person/corporation/organization behind the online project, like in cases of blogs that seem to personal to be corporate, or wikis that support a specific company or organization because it is actually their property and under their direction.

Engage has given us a lot to think about in our world of social media. I'm sure I will think twice next time I see a company-driven blog or wiki or misuse a word associated with networking.

Social Networking gets "Colorful"

A new social media application is causing quite a buzz, even though most people don't actually know what it is - or how to use it.

Color is the newest way to share and compare photos of what you're doing in real time. What sets this social network apart from others is that there is no "checking in" to a location, and it is not dependent on a friends list or followers; it revolves solely on where you are at the moment of your photo upload. Your photo is then shared with everyone in the vicinity. An interesting twist is that there are no privacy controls - whatever you share will be shared with everyone around you.

With Color, you can keep up with the happenings of those around you in real-time. However, what exactly is the point? In essence, it seems that you will only be sharing (bragging) your fun night to strangers who happen to be in the same geographic vicinity as you. That, or you will be checking your Color app only to find that everyone else around you is having a much better time than you are.

Something to think about: the advent of this technology causes us all to wonder about the effects it will have on our real lives. Much like people being fired due to questionable tweets or finding trouble getting hired after years of irresponsible Facebook use, won't Color's lack of privacy settings land you in hot water?

On the other more positive hand, this technology could in theory be extremely helpful and even groundbreaking for uses more serious than boasting about your fun night on the town or whatever silly antics you're currently getting into (not that those aren't enjoyable and post-worthy). Considering the recent social movements such as the uprising in Egypt or even the marches to support Planned Parenthood taking place across our nation, an application such as Color could be extremely useful in connecting and sharing to promote a common cause.

With so many possible consequences/exciting opportunities yet so little experience with this new application, it will be very interesting to see what will become of Color.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Word of Mouth

While reading the Groundswell chapters 7 & 8, I found myself reflecting a lot on my own personal experiences with the subject matter. The chapters discuss energizing the groundswell and the importance of word of mouth. I find this to be extremely true, especially in the last couple of years.

As new technology and websites have developed, it is easier than ever to share praises and warnings with other consumers. Yelp especially is coming to my mind. Other sites, such as Make Up Alley, have become little addictions of mine as well. Yelp provides rating systems and review comments for establishments while sites such as Make Up Alley provide a space for consumers to share reviews on specific brands and products. I find myself relying heavily on user reviews before I spend money on a product or dine out at a new restaurant. Most of the points made about energizing the groundswell and the importance of word of mouth really resonates with my personal outlook, and I feel it is safe to assume the same for my peers.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

@CharlieSheen joins Twitter, world watches in excited horror

"America's Bad Boy", Charlie Sheen, has joined Twitter. If this doesn't interest to you, I'll assume you have been living under a rock in recent days/weeks/years.
Charlie Sheen's wild antics, rants, and less-than-sober lifestyle has landed him in the spotlight as well as in some hot water. Celebrity-obsessed America has been following his every move starting a wave of speculation and dialogue as to his drug use, at-home rehabilitation, and outrageous remarks on national television. His hit show "Two and a Half Men", for which he is now the highest paid TV actor in the nation, has even been shut down for the remainder of the season due to his recent escapades. So what's the best plan of action for Mr. Sheen? Probably not to start a Twitter account.

Earlier today, @CharlieSheen was verified thus confirming that the account is really him. According to Gawker, the Twitter account is "gaining followers at a rate of approximately 500/second" - even though he has yet to post a single tweet or set up any profile information, including a picture. The Huffington Post also reported that at one point, the account gained 4,812 followers in 60 seconds.

So I am wondering: why on earth would Charlie Sheen be allowed to create a Twitter account? Wouldn't his PR people stop that immediately considering his outlandish, ridiculous tendencies? Sure, it will be extremely entertaining to watch, but won't it likely lead to lots of embarrassment for him and possibly cause damage to his career?

Oh, his publicist quit on Monday. That explains it.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

tap listen & talk

In chapters 4-6 of Groundswell, the authors discuss three important keys to success and strategies to achieve it. The topics covered include "tapping the groundswell", "listening to the groundswell," and finally "talking to the groundswell". Each is important, yet you will be stronger and more effective having a knowledge of all three skills.
 Once you have tapped the groundswell, considered your strategy and looked at the important objectives, it is time to pursue your success. I fully agree with the authors' view on listening to the groundswell, because your company is only as good as the consumer believes it to be. Listening to consumers by monitoring response to your brand is important not only because it provides feedback but because it allows you to create dialogue with the community and emerge yourself in the groundswell. This is where "talking" comes in.

When I read chapter 6, all I could think of was Facebook and the interaction I have with clients and users of the company I intern for. Every day I connect with them through Facebook and often on Twitter as well. This is has already become common practice for many companies and will only continue to do so with time. If a brand wants to be successful, especially with today's tech-savvy consumers, they must learn the importance of communicating with their audience and potential audience, giving themselves another way to expand and strengthen their business.

"Great Firewall of China" blocks LinkedIn

It's no secret that in recent years the Chinese government has put into place several blocks on social networking sites that would allow citizens to communicate and share information on an online community. The two largest and most internationally used websites that have been blocked throughout the nation for a while now are Facebook and Twitter. However, access to Twitter has been managed by those who have the skills and knowledge to hack in through private networks. According to CNN, the most popular way to access Twitter in China was through a loophole involving the very popular professional business-geared social networking site LinkedIn.
 The Government shutting down access to LinkedIn in order to prevent access to Twitter is yet another jab at the Chinese civilians who are being kept from communicating, sharing, and receiving news and information on the internet. Moreover, search engines such as Google are so heavily censored that it seems practically useless to use them in the first place.

Since the blocking, news of planned revolution protests are sprouting up regarding Chinese political activists eager to change the government. Any thoughts or predictions on the matter?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"new influencers" in the new world

In this ever-evolving world of social media, we are constantly finding new ways to find and share information. Many of us, myself included, get a large portion of their news from online sources, usually through links on Facebook and Twitter.
So how do you find sources of information? For starters, these people who are referred to as the "new influencers" in Brian Solis' article on the subject are not only sharers but listeners. They have a weighted network and a large following - popularity being an obvious marker of an online influencer. He or she must be an expert of sorts on their subject. For example, you wouldn't turn to Paris Hilton's Twitter account for information on interesting political matters just as you wouldn't trust an opinionated status update from John McCane about summer 2011's expected fashion trends.

The influencer may only be considered so when they have established themselves in their online community, doing so by two-way communication and networking with followers and those that they follow back. The ratio of followers-to-following is a good indicator that this is someone who not only shares but listens.

What makes these new influencers so important is the fact that we are in an age of opportunity and information. We are not just being fed the news; we are creating it, finding it, sharing it, and most importantly - discussing it. I myself have been inspired to become more influential in my web presence, though only time will tell if my skills and motivation to do so are up to par.

Reward for @MayorEmanuel

As is often the case these days with large companies or people in the public eye, Rahm Emanuel has a Twitter impostor causing a bit of a stir on the web. Over 31,000 followers read the mysterious tweeter's frequent posts displaying the possibly soon-to-be mayor of Chicago's inner monologue, complete with rampant cursing and political satire.
What sets this story apart from the rest is that Emanuel is taking action - he has offered an award in return for the identity of the impostor. While most politicians would likely be upset over the joke that is being played on him, Emanuel is taking it in stride and using it as a PR tactic to present himself in a positive light. The award won't be in cash - it will be a donation of $2,500 to the charity of the impersonators' choice, should he or she come forward to identify themself. With elections just around the corner this is the perfect time and the perfect scenario for the former White House chief of staff to show his human side and his sense of humor. He even claims to enjoy the impersonators tweets in an interview on the "Roe & Roeper" show.

The account is being run by a person with a knowledge of Emanuel's campaign agenda and schedule, as well as his notoriety for being a bit of a bad-mouth himself.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Facebook pages: hits & misses

In response to the chapter titled "Strategies for tapping the groundswell" in Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies, I found myself thinking about the sorts of interactions I have with businesses and companies through their Facebook pages.

For many companies, Facebook has been a priceless blessing. For instance, I am constantly intrigued by Facebook posts published by businesses which I am a fan of and often times interact with the posts. This works in their favor by ultimately getting me more involved in their business, i.e. spending money on their products or services. For instance, just yesterday I saw a post about a great happy hour deal at Shangri La and ended up meeting there with friends for the evening.

However, as mentioned in the chapter, Facebook pages can often backfire on a company and result in money lost and poor publicity. As in the case of Walmart, their Facebook page was meant to attract young people and promote their dorm room decor line. Unfortunately for the company, their Facebook page became a soapbox for a disgruntled community unhappy with the Walmart's business practices.

These sorts of hits and misses occur daily in the ever-evolving world of social networks. What is most important for companies is that they choose the appropriate channel and online format to engage in communication with their customers or audience and remember that this sort of communication on the internet is two-way. What the audience says will not always be what the company wants to hear.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The (new) News

Even though the percentage of the population who even has access to interactive tablets such as iPads is very small, companies are scrambling and spending millions to get their hands on the market of electronic tablet newspapers.

Last week, Rupert Murdoch spent $30 million dollars to launch The Daily, an iPad-only newspaper, says Julianne Pepitone of It will cost an annual $26 million dollars to keep it running. That's a lot of money for a newspaper with a fairly small potential audience, right? Well, according to industry forecasts, the ownership of tablets such as iPads is about to sky rocket. "Apple sold 14.8 million iPads last year, and its nearest rival, Samsung's Galaxy Tab, shipped 2 million devices" says Peptitone. A research firm called eMarketer predicts that in 2012, sales of tablets will reach over 81 million.

That's quite a leap, considering it is just now early 2011. However, with over 100 competitors of the iPad set to release their own tablet models by that time, it's certainly a possibility. With all of this change and flux in the digital age, what is to become of paper news? And for that matter, magazines? I thought Kindle was a silly idea when I first heard of it. Surely, no one would prefer a reading literature from a screen over the feeling of a good old fashioned hardcover book. Man, is my face red.


Facebook and Twitter have done a lot for me in recent years. They've kept me in touch with my friends around the country, reminded me of the names of people I met over the weekend, kept me up-to-date with birthdays, and led me to interesting websites through the help of friends' links. But has a social network site ever persuaded me to partake in a radical social revolution? No, and I doubt it ever could.

I fully agree with Malcom Gladwell's stance on social media's role in social change: while it may help to spread the word, online networks lack the trusting relationships and personal investments required of a social revolution. I can't tell you how many groups I've joined or online petitions I've signed for all sorts of worthwhile causes, from helping Darfur to supporting gay marriage. These are extremely important causes that are fully deserving of our time and energy, and my awareness of them has certainly been impacted by and benefited from social media. However, I cannot say that I would ever take my beliefs to the streets for a potentially dangerous protest or unorganized sit-in just because someone on Twitter who I met last year at a Christmas party invited me to do so.

I realize I may be coming off as abrasive, but the truth is nearly all of us are on the same boat. As Malcom Gladwell discusses in "Small Change," without the strong ties of interpersonal relationships that energize us to make a difference in the world, we are weak and divided in our attempts. We can thank social media for the endless opportunities it provides us with and the voice we are capable of finding on the internet, however, Twitter and Facebook can do little more than help us share our views, beliefs, and ideas. And of course, allow us a place to share links to the breaking news about social change breaking out and taking charge due to the energy of real human contact.