Your attention span after smoking the Social Media pipe.

by baldilocks

From our beloved Mr. Reynolds:

I think a lot about whether social media are good or bad for society. I’ve written about how they make it easier for people to form mobs, facilitate the weaponization of emotion, and allow bad ideas to spread like disease through early civilizations.

But I also have to wonder: Are social media bad for our brains? (…)

Of course, this isn’t the first time that technology has changed people’s mental processes. Preliterate people had a lot less access to knowledge than people who can read — but preliterate people tended to have amazing memories by today’s standards. (…)

Now, of course, actual bound books are fading, and people read much more on screens. As a result they tend to multitask — read something for a bit, check email, go to see whether you’ve gotten any “likes” on Facebook, go back to reading for a bit, check Twitter. And social media tend to make that worse by subjecting users to a vast stream of bite-size it. (…)

Deep thinking is becoming less common, and worse, this seems to be particularly true among the academic/political/intellectual class that’s most on Twitter.

Glenn says he doesn’t have a solution to this. I do, but it takes personal will.

I, too, found that too much Social Media was harmful to my concentration process. It was taking me much longer to finish reading books than it used to; sometimes I wouldn’t finish them at all since I frequently use e-books and audio-books downloaded from the LA Public Library. Another symptom is pervasive: many open browser tabs. And this is the worst: the degeneration of my ability to concentrate enough on an idea in order to write about it sensibly and to connect one idea with another. (Thank God that I wrote my novel before Social Media’s ascent!)

The solution is very simple: disconnect for a set and regularly scheduled time segment.

Sometimes, I devote the segment to audio-book “reading” coupled with apartment cleaning; other times to something outside of myself.

I do this about twice a week and I can see the change. Additional benefit: the times when the scatter-brained, emotional poo-flinging hits the brim — even when it’s from those with whom I usually agree – and makes me want to shut it down. Call it a sign of detox.

Of course, I’m paranoid enough to believe that the mass splintering of our collective attention spans is intentional.

It doesn’t have to stay that way, though. But recognizing the problem is the first step.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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The Internet is forever

Modern Proverb

This is the only bit of advice that I have given in all caps but it is about as critical as it gets.

In life there are always frustrations and in the days before the internet people vented in a bar, or to a friend or, as I like to do, take my frustrations out on a pinball machine (nothing better when you need to relax). It can be very healthy to vent one’s frustrations.

However it is not healthy to do so on social media.

Social media is good for many things but venting at a moment in anger isn’t one of them. When angry one is liable to say things that we instantly regret, picture saying or writing said thing on a permanent platform where the world can see it and comment on it, and where it never disappears (don’t think for one moment it won’t get screen caped).

We’ve all made the mistake of saying things in anger to a spouse, don’t compound said error by doing it so on facebook, twitter, snapchat or anywhere else where there will it has the potential of doing permanent damage to a relationship.

Incidentally it goes without saying that this advice is worthwhile for things far beyond marriage.

The 30 Tips to Say Married 30 years so far

Tip 1:  Choose Wisely
Tip 2: A long Engagement
Tip 3: Get Married in Church
Tip 4: Don’t write your own vows.
Tip 5: Set limits early
Tip 6: Live Modestly
Tip 7: Embrace Your Mother-In-Law
Tip 8: If possible take advantage of your parent’s advice.
Tip 9: Don’t Diss your spouse to your friends
Tip 10: Remember Birthday’s and Anniversaries


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Finally might I suggest my book Hail Mary the Perfect Protestant (and Catholic) Prayer makes an excellent Gift.

By:  Pat Austin

Instagram logo

SHREVEPORT —  As a high school educator I have spent the last several years of my career lamenting the distraction that is social media in the classroom.  When I started teaching twenty-two years ago I didn’t own a cell phone.  Not many of my students did either and at that time I taught in a school with a fairly affluent student body.

Things have changed.

Schools have struggled with the rapid advancement of this technology, too.  Initially, the devices were banned from school, then banned from the classroom, then banned from being visible (“we know you have a phone, just keep it in your purse or backpack so it’s not a distraction”), and eventually we’ve ended up where classrooms are embracing cell phone technology.

There are many ways the phones can be used in the classroom and thousands of educational apps that kids can use either independently or as a class activity.

There is always some district policy on phones, then it filters to the school level, then to the classroom and at that point there is a wide diversity of how teachers deal with them.  Some have very strict “no phones!” rules, some have “cell phone jail” systems, and some just don’t care, defeated, and will turn a blind eye to it.

Social media is a big deal: there are 800 million monthly users on Instagram as of September 2017 and half of these users are between 19 and 29 years of age.  For marketing your brand, Instagram is huge, and getting bigger:

Due to the apps visual nature and high user engagement rate, Instagram is also a valuable social media marketing tool. As of March 2016, 98 percent of fashion brands had an Instagram profile. As of December 2016, average number of image brand posts on Instagram was 27.9 posts per month.

This is not your Snapchat teenager group.  As of January 2017, there were 300 million Snapchat users.  Forty-five percent of Snapchat users are between 18-24 years old.

As for Facebook, research shows that people use Facebook primarily for keeping up with family and friends. With two billion monthly active users, Facebook is still alive and well.

Twitter is still huge with over 300 million active monthly users, but Twitter’s growth has stalled.  Twitter is still very popular for news sharing and for celebrity stalking.  With American presidents using Twitter to broadcast policy these days, it’s impossible to deny Twitter’s viability, but there are some troubling signs:

Despite a steady revenue growth – the company’s 2016 revenue amounted to 2.5 billion U.S. dollars, up from 2.2 billion in the preceding fiscal year – Twitter has yet to report a positive net income. In 2016, it’s annual net loss amounted to almost 457 million U.S. dollars.

These are all very big numbers and it’s clear that social media is the new frontier for pushing your brand.  I’ve spent some time researching Instagram over the past few days and experimenting with my own feed.  I started an Instagram account several years ago only to keep up with photos of my new grandson who lives in another state.  I never posted to it and had about thirty followers.  I just enjoyed looking at everyone else’s photos. Now I’m engaging with the platform more and the followers are coming fast. (In the Instagram world I’m barely a blip on the radar when it comes to followers.)

It’s easy to see why Instagram is such an engaging platform.  Everyone has their own niche and the big brands and celebrities are there as well.  Currently, National Geographic has over 86 million followers.  Nike is right behind them.  Celebrities with huge followings include Selena Gomez with 133 million followers and Beyonce with 111 million followers.

On a more real level, people are using Instagram more than ever to promote their brand.  Consider Hilary Rushford, New York stylist and former Radio City Rockette, who decided a day job cubicle wasn’t for her and formed the Dean Street Society which is a motivational company helping people develop the best of themselves, whether it’s personal style, entrepreneurship, defining a business model, or marketing. She has 167 thousand followers and is growing fast.

So back to the classroom: how does this all tie in?  The kids in my classroom have never known a life without digital technology.  They are totally connected and invested in their phones.  Teachers today must find a way to make that work for you instead of against you.  It’s hard to engage a kid in the merits of Macbeth when they’re more interested in the latest cat video on YouTube or taking a selfie with a cute Snapchat filter.  The reality is there.  As educators we have to embrace it and work with it,  otherwise you are doomed to one semester after another of frustration.  There are many ideas out there to help figure out ways to engage students through social media.

Social media is here to stay, and it’s growing.  Make it work for you, whether you’re in the classroom or promoting your brand, blog, or posting a cat video.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.  Follow her at instagram.com/patbecker25

We need to talk about school shootings.

Somehow in the past, we didn’t have this problem. Somehow, kids brought guns to school all the darn time without deciding that it was a good idea to gun down their fellow students. I was guilty of leaving a bunch of shotgun shells in my book bag in 4th grade, because I had gone hunting with my dad the previous weekend. While we had the occasional lunatic, school shootings were pretty rare. Most violent crime happened outside school, and thankfully our crime rate overall has continued to decline over the last twenty years, so we’ve actually gotten safer over time.

So what’s different?

Continue reading “Save our kids by giving teachers guns and banning Facebook”

A 2010 report that said most journalists used Twitter, Facebook or blogs as vital news sources didn’t receive much public attention, but it noted what has become a huge shift in how the mainstream media operates.

The survey – conducted by Cision, a public relations firm, and Don Bates of The George Washington University’s Master’s Degree Program in Strategic Public Relations – said journalists viewed social media as an essential tool for gathering news, but they were aware the information they found could be unreliable.

No kidding. Although social media hadn’t yet degenerated into the stinking dumpster fire it is today, reporters and editors eight years ago knew most of the tips they found online had to be independently verified before they could be reported. Based on the embarrassing number of “fake news” stories in the past year, that no longer seems the case.

I’ve always been particularly suspicious of Twitter as a news source. In days gone by, cranks and fanatics had to stand on a soapbox in a public park to spout their views. Thanks to the internet, these zealots don’t just have a megaphone but the equivalent of a cable TV network to spread their warped and often insane ideas around the globe.

Yes, online communities can be marvelous creations where like-minded folks can share concerns, offer each other support and pass on expertise to those who need it. But cyberspace also provides a place where lunatics and perverts, who would be powerless in the real world, can band together and become a force in pushing their agenda.

While their overall numbers may be small, crazies can make a splash when their tweet catches the eye of a reporter who decides to turn it into a news story. That’s especially likely to occur if the tweet wins support from others in the form of re-tweets and likes.

And that’s my problem with reporters using Twitter as a news source. In a country of more than 325 million people, is it truly newsworthy if several thousand fools like a tweet? And I’m being generous – I’ve seen tweets that drew the attention of only a few hundred people developed as news stories.

One of the websites I’ve found helpful in following Twitter’s influence on the media is twitchy.com, a conservative site founded by Michelle Malkin in 2012. Twitchy re-posts threads that develop after a leftist make a tweet that incites withering responses from right-wingers. It’s usually very amusing.

But Twitchy does more than that. It offers a path into Twitter itself that non-tweeters like me can use. I quickly discovered that tweets by celebrities and pundits often collect only a couple hundred combined re-tweets and likes. Even President Donald Trump, who has 45.6 million followers, sometimes gets fewer than 100,000 combined responses and re-tweets to his posts.

It bothers me when something that might interest so few people can result in news stories that get national or even international attention. It’s almost as if news coverage in the pre-internet age could be decided by what appeared in letters to the editor.

Indeed, Twitter, Facebook and other social media can generate real news, but journalists have to exercise discretion before they sit at their keyboards and tap out their stories. And while the internet has made the process much easier, nothing beats old-fashioned shoe-leather doggedness when it comes to accurately reporting the news.

***

Happy New Year! May you enjoy joy, prosperity and good health in 2018.

by baldilocks

The infamous Katrina. Cite.

Every day there’s a new online outrage. This probably started eons ago — Internet time scale — but since the onset of the Social Media Age a little more than ten years ago, outrage has become its own reward. Watching it is a guilty pleasure – voyeuristic, one might say – but when one is other-directed, it’s essential to pull one’s self away from it for a specified period of time. For some, that specified period is forever. (As I recall, the late and much-lamented Steven Den Beste opted out of the pre-Social Media blog game after his fame as an essayist had nearly reached legendary status. There was a huge amount of poo-flinging even back then. I know.)

Don’t worry, I’m not considering this, though I have many times in the past. I like Social Media but I also think it’s detrimental for those who never learned long-term, pattern-based thinking. But for those who feed on emotionalism, especially outrage…

Social Media can be compared to a tropical storm which is capable of ramping ramp up to a Category 5 hurricane within seconds. To state the obvious, Cat 5 hurricanes can leave massive physical destruction of lives and property in their wake.

What lies in the wake of Social Media storms? Too often, truth is the casualty. Seemingly insignificant nuances of a story – on which knowledge of the truth often hinges – can get left out in the rush to weigh in … and to condemn an “evil-doer,” especially if that “evil-doer” is the “wrong” color or of the “wrong” political party.

And, sometimes, for the necessity of the maintaining the storm’s power, nuances big and small are ignored or discounted on purpose.

Reason: because destruction is the goal.

I’ve intentionally left out examples here, because as I began to compare this phenomenon to a hurricane, I felt that each specific example would require its own post. I’m sure that someone else has already undertaken this task, but I want to give it the Baldilocks Treatment. Look for Part Two on Tuesday.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.

Attention: See Da Tech Guy’s pinned post!

As one of the biggest marketing tools we have, social media is being tapped by companies large and small. It is one of the most effective ways to ‘collect’ followers while building a brand. One US digital marketing company, Single Grain, regularly explores new and innovative ways to tap the power of social media, but what they keep coming back to is the example set by our Commander in Chief, Donald J. Trump. Perhaps, looking at his history of Tweeting might provide some insights into what the average consumer is looking for and how to make use of that when building a brand. Let’s take a look at POTUS.

He Is Our POTUS After All

Whether you love him, hate him, or simply don’t care much about him at all, the one thing you have to admit is that President Trump made the history books during this heated and often controversial campaign. What the masses saw was a man who, for lack of a better description, opened mouth and inserted foot. He’d be out on the campaign trail or watching the nightly news on the day’s events and suddenly he would be Tweeting his thoughts. This endeared him to some, but others were disgusted by his actions.

But the one thing that Single Grain wants to point out here is that he sure grabbed the media’s attention! The race is long over and he is now the President of the United States, our POTUS, and still, he’s tweeting away as if he were just another blue collar worker waiting for the weekend and a couple days to relax and enjoy. Unfortunately, that isn’t one of the luxuries our 45th President gets to enjoy. As President, his week is seven days long and he’s on duty 24 hours a day. So what can today’s business owner or administrator learn from all this? And, more importantly, how can today’s digital marketing company cash in on his example?

Consumers Want ‘For Real’

What most people respect, even if they don’t like our president is the fact that he is ‘real’. What you see is what you get and that is something today’s consumer wants. They want ‘for real.’ They don’t want a brand built on a Madison Avenue marketing campaign that is far from the reality of what that company is and what they have to offer. Today’s consumer wants a brand they can engage with and it is why so many people hit ‘like’ or ‘love’ on product pages.

Millennials are all about being in touch with their feelings and they want to deal with brands who have a social message. While you might not agree with President Trump’s politics, he has a message and he’s only too glad to share it. He will Tweet his heart away and that is something that just might set the stage for marketers going forward through the next four years. Want to get your message out there to a group of people you will find on social sites 90% of their free time? Learn to social market and you’ll have learned the real message behind those Tweets. Trump trumps social media and that’s a lesson well learned.

As a social media nerd (perhaps you know the type), I take note of the political ads in the sidebars and footers of the blogs and pages I follow. The unseen forces that affect ad-placing algorithms have figured out that I’m pro-life, and most of the political ads I see are for more-or-less pro-life candidates. A pro-Hillary ad like the one that crossed my social media feed today is jarring. (How did she find me?)

A pro-life physician whose blog I enjoy took Democratic VP candidate Tim Kaine to task recently for Kaine’s personally-opposed-but position on abortion. No surprises, until I got to the end of the post and saw a pro-Hillary ad at the bottom of the page.

The blogger sure didn’t place that one. The platform hosting his blog did. I took grim pleasure in thinking how few clicks the ad must have gotten from the blog’s usual audience.

This, I reminded myself, is why bloggers need to bite the bullet and pay for self-hosted sites. When we don’t, we’re at the mercy of the lovely and talented ad team at WordPress or Google or whatever. It’s just plain annoying to know that even in an ad rotation that’s largely non-political on a pro-life blog, something like the Clinton promo can slither in. Free social media isn’t altogether free, a fact I wish I could ignore. If we’re using space on someone else’s property, be it Facebook or Twitter or a blog that’s not self-hosted, the landlord gets to set terms.

This was a minor annoyance, but it was just pesky enough to annoy me. It was my lesson for the day, and I share it with you at no charge: blog your heart out, and own your platform if you can. Hillary is lurking for your readers.

A follow-up to my July 28 post, “Ethics and PP’s Campaign Cash”: A report in the New Hampshire Sunday News says that the New Hampshire Executive Branch Ethics Committee has dismissed the ethics complaint against Gov. Hassan and Councilor Van Ostern, who took Planned Parenthood campaign money and then supported state contracts with PP. Nothing to see here, folks.

Ellen Kolb writes about the life issues at http://leavenfortheloaf.com. When she's not writing, she's hiking in New Hampshire.
Ellen Kolb writes about the life issues at Leaven for the Loaf. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking in New Hampshire.

A note to readers: DaTechGuy has given me a chance to earn a regular gig here, and I hope I can earn your thumbs-up with this week’s post along with my earlier ones (here and here). He’ll be judging the entries in Da Magnificent tryouts by hits-per-post and hits to DaTipJar. If you hit DaTipJar after reading this, please mention my name so Da Boss knows I’m earning my keep. (Look for a tip jar link at the right side of the page if it’s not visible below.) Thank you!

FYI from DaTechGuy Ellen’s first piece was Ethics and PP cash her second was The portrait’s gotta go: Putting a Know-Nothing in his place.



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By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I’m usually pretty slow to catch up to new social media and I’m sure this is no exception, but I’ve recently discovered Periscope, Twitter’s live-stream app.  I’m told it is similar to the Meerkat app, which I’ve never used. Via Periscope, I’ve spent the past ten days in Munich at Oktoberfest; this morning I caught a guard inspection at the palace in London, and I walked through Nottingham, saw the Robin Hood statue, and went to a beer festival. There’s an Irish fellow in Cork that likes to read Walt Whitman – he’s fun to watch because he talks to the people leaving comments on the stream.  And just a few minutes ago someone in the middle of the North Atlantic was ‘scoping whales.  A few weeks ago I was watching the protests in Ferguson.

As with any other social media, there is a lot of junk there, too: “Shaving my Legs in Miami,” for example or “Vaping in Omaha.”  You have to sift through the inane sometimes to find something interesting.  I have caught a couple of Ted Cruz speeches via Periscope and one Donald Trump event.  As the political season heats up, Periscope might be an interesting tool to catch those events you may not see otherwise.

This live-streaming video is something that can get sticky ethically, I think.  Obviously not everyone wants their faces broadcast to the world on the internet; privacy issues abound.  Some I’ve watched on the app are very careful, for example, when children are on scene and try to respect privacy by not showing them.  Others ‘scope with abandon.  CNN reports that the night of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, millions of people used Periscope to watch the fight – illegally.  It’s a sticky wicket.

On the other hand, it’s a neat way to see the world from your couch and to watch events you don’t have access to.

You can find a basic tutorial for Periscope here; it’s very simple.  You can watch or you can broadcast.  You’ll want to be sure you’re on WiFi if you start catching videos unless you still have an unlimited data plan; the live streams will eat your data quickly.

Like I said, I’m usually the last to get on the train with social media, and if you’re using Periscope, I’d like to hear what you’re doing with it.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

but, is there a more sinister side to Facebook?

I’m not a huge fan of Facebook, and I still don’t get the point of Twitter.

When I first was on Facebook, I went crazy and started gathering friends as though my life depended on it.  I confess to having a feeling of some importance when I hit almost 2000 friends.

One day I was perusing my Facebook feed and noticed that I didn’t really “know” any of those 2000 people and couldn’t care less what they were doing.  I decided most of them had to go.  At that time it was much harder to delete friends, and it took me several weeks to wean the list down.  I figured if I couldn’t pronounce the name of the place they lived, and didn’t even know where it was, they probably weren’t my “friends.”

I know some people just have their family and closest friends on their feed and that’s perfectly acceptable; except when they announce their vacation plans and the dates they’ll be gone.  Do they not realize that a crafty thief, without too much effort, can probably access their address?

I never update my page anymore, and only leave an occasional “like” on my very best friends pages.  I don’t even link my blog posts anymore.

Why?

Glad you asked.

I’ve noticed the pervasive narcissistic tendency for people to post each and every little thing that happens to them, and it is invariably fraught with angst and drama.  No longer do people just have a headache.  Now they have the worst headache (insert your favorite malady) that ever befell a human being since the first time Eve told Adam, “Not tonight, dear. I have a headache.”

If they’re having a bad day, it becomes the “worst day ever.”  Stuck in traffic?  Horrible!  Every little trifle and piffle is blown up to the size of a dirigible.

Do I need to talk about “selfies and selfie sticks?”  I didn’t think so.

But, even more sinister is the fact that Facebook has become one of the major ways the government has to track you.  NSA, CIA, FBI are all watching you and yours.

Not only are they tracking you, but they’re feeding propaganda to the masses through social media.  People are being paid to troll you and tell you exactly what they want you to believe.

A study back in November of 2013 discovered that 47% of people get their news from Facebook.   Soon, every major network will be disseminating the “news” through a social media platform.  You will read only what they want you to read.  And trust me; it won’t be the truth.

I won’t get into the damage Facebook and mobile devices do to the thinking part of the brain.  That would be a whole post by itself.

More:

Government Trolls are Using Psychology-Based Influence Techniques on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter

Nowhere to Hide: Facebook Goes Beyond Facial Recognition to Track You

Digital Data is a Mortal Risk