Category Archives: Facebook

Cyber-warfare – a new definition is overdue

Used to be that cyber war was considered actions of an adversary to take down a system using the Internet. Like crippling a financial system, hacking into and holding hostage a web site, compromising power and communication grids etc. That definition  is really old now!

As authorities uncover Russian interference – specifically the work of trolls, fake social media accounts, and even advertising piped through Facebook, Twitter and Google – we should understand that cyber warfare is more subtle, and has outgrown the old definitions. It is about disrupting the behaviors, and messing with the minds of citizens. Before we show our irritation with foreign culprits, we should be unhappy with how we citizens are easily manipulated by what is online.

The glue that holds us together appears to be easily dissolved by what passes for ‘information.’ As the Philadelphia Inquirer story reveals, we are experiencing high-tech cracks and wedges to undermine us. They worked because of a critical mass of people who unthinkingly re-tweet and share posts and sponsored content. Content that few care check where the source of the post is.

Consider this sponsored ad (featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer story). It looks so silly, and poorly crafted that you’d think any person with some common sense would not even read it, let alone pass it along to others. Variations of these include chain-letters, and memes that no one knows the origin, but often accompanies a statement like “Could I hear an amen?”

For the record I never respond with an amen, for two reasons. The word is a statement of approval or concurrence reserved for prayer. It’s not the linguistic equivalent to the Like button. Also, someone’s rant does always not require public approval to make it more valid. You can still be a friend whether or not you agree with someone’s pet peeve. And for heaven’s sake (pun intended), don’t Like or re-tweet this post unless you a read it in its entirety.

Cyber war is no longer just about attacking hardware or infrastructure. It’s about unhinging us through the things that pass through the pipes that connect our hardware. It’s not about a denial of service, but about a denial of common sense.


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Technoference and Emojipedia – Part of our evolving vocabulary

While you were not paying attention, a new vocab has been tying up its shoes and sprinting through the techno-social-media crowd. (Sorry I just made up that super-hyphenated word.)

Emojipedia does exist. It’s a place where you could find such things as a ‘Man teacher: medium skin tone’. (Several variants, actually, as seen on Facebook, Samsung devices and Google.) If you’re looking for a person shrugging (not sure why, but…) there are 18 variants, and you’ll find some for world events and animals and such.

I could give you some even more obscure words, especially if you want to flummox someone. Try fudgel. It means one is pretending to work though basically fudging. Or ‘Grok.‘ If you haven’t run into this, I guess you don’t quite grok this post.



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Could they be social minus the media? Dire mental health finding

If you have teenagers, you know the dilemma. How do we get them to make connections without a device?

A subset of this includes:

  • How do we keep the phone away from the dinner table?
  • At what time should all devices be off in the home?
  • Is there a good reason to allow my daughter to use Snapchat? Or Instagram?*

As someone who once conducted workshops on how to adopt social media, I feel it is my responsibility to now warn young people about the unintended consequences of trying to be ‘social’ via a screen. We don’t need research to tell us that a generation could be experiencing serious issues very soon if we thrust smart phones into their hands, and hope for the best.

This research just in: Mental health and Instagram. 

Conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK, it has young people using words like ‘fake,’ ‘intimidating,’ and ‘superficial’ to describe platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. The report explains how:

  • Young people say that 4 of the 5 social media channels make their feelings of anxiety worse!
  • A phenomenon called ‘Facebook Depression‘ which involves being ‘constantly contactable’ and having unrealistic expectations of reality. I had never heard of such a phenomenon, though suspected this existed.
  • FoMo (Fear of missing out) is also a thing, and is another cause of distress, something adults are just getting to know about.
  • There are indeed opportunities, despite the dire warning this report sends out.

Not many young people realize that Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp. 


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From Abraham Zapruder to Diamond Reynolds – Cameras in public life sensitize us

It’s just three months since Facebook Live became a feature that anyone could use. But it took another accidental ‘reporter’ named Diamond Reynolds to put it to use in a way no one ever envisaged.

This came some 52 years after another accidental reporter named Abraham Zapruder captured sniper bullets hitting President John. F. Kennedy in Dallas.

That was a time when cameras were scarce, and there was no such thing as a live citizen journalist broadcast. Now cameras (and all manner of recording devices) are so ubiquitous, we’ve almost come to expect to see the raw footage or listen to soundtracks of terrible events. Technology has given us a way to piece together events. The hope is that events seen through multiple camera angles might help us NOT rush to judgement.

Facebook Live allows 90 minutes of video. Zapruder took just 26.6 seconds of footage.


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Facebook Fatigue builds up

I feel a bit better now that I watched the spoof about Facebook Life Filters.

A few weeks prior, I had submitted my cover story, Time to Exit Facebook and expected to uppset a few FB die hards. The article was published this month in LMD Magazine. I had pointed to some of my favorite annoyances –a few of which are brilliantly covered in the spoof!  These are the most annoying categories of users that drive us away:

The Graffiti Artist – The person who incessantly posts anything and everything he or she sees, thinks or does, because it makes him or her feel like a citizen journalist.

The ‘PDA’ Junkie – Someone who indulges in Public Displays of Affection (known in the pre-Facebook era as a ‘PDA’). This person thanks a sibling, or wishes a spouse in purple prose, an act that can surely be done with more class… in private.

The Random Shooter – Have smart camera-phone, will shoot anything: expensive cars, cumulus clouds from windows of aeroplanes, birthday cakes, children, hotel rooms…

The Poser – Someone who leaves smart comments, regularly updates his or her profile picture and delights in posing in selfies.

You could read the full article here.



The urge to exit Facebook

I’ve begun running into people in the past few months who are wrestling with the idea of cancelling their Facebook accounts.

Are you one of them?

It’s been some seven years since I signed up, and I have to admit it almost feels like I have to hold my nose when I login, now and then. Now and them, meaning a few times a week -down from a few times a day some years back. Hence that post a few weeks back when I wondered if the social network, was more of a faux community.

There seems to be a bigger picture emerging.

As one person I interviewed noted, the land grab to just be seen on Facebook, and that “me-first’ mentality has worn thin. There is too much chest-thumping, too much ‘thought burps’ for some to want to be part of it.

I like to hear what you think of all this, and how you use or ignore. I don’t want to know the obvious: that it’s easy to find long-lost high school friends, and how it makes you feel connected. There are dozens of ways we could do that now.

I like to know:

  1. Have you changed your Facebook activity?
  2. What makes you wince at what people say/post?
  3. Are you using Facebook in some other interesting way?
  4. Are you (or someone you know) contemplating heading for the exits?
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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Facebook, Social Media


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Is Facebook a faux community?

Over the Christmas break I’ve had a lot of time to think through some of the social behaviors we accept, and quietly incorporate. Sometimes these are things we once scorned, and never thought possible in our lifetime.

Things like doing a Google search while driving; posting pictures the very second we experience an event (basically experiencing an important moment in our life through a screen, first); checking the status of things that once didn’t matter to us before (“What’s the temperature in DC today?”; What does Times Square on 31st night look like on Facebook –since the TV networks do such a sloppy job of it now).

You get the picture…

My wife and I have also contracted a curious digital illness, FAS. Call it the Facebook Avoidance Syndrome. We don’t check in on a daily basis because it means inviting a lot of useless information into our lives, and worse, making what someone posts the main topic of discussion, rather than real issues near us, and around us. I must admit, these are interesting sidebars, but do we really want to be informed how deep the snow is, or the ingredients of one’s holiday cookies? Is this community?

  • Yesterday our neighbor stopped my wife and wanted to tell us they were moving. “I didn’t want to leave a note on your door to tell you this, he admitted.”
  • Friends dropped in a few days ago to check how I was going. No status updates were required in this old-fashioned practice.
  • While we’ve been more-or-less off the FB grid, the phone has been off the hook

I felt the need to post a short message on Facebook the other day to say this: Going forward in 2014, I would further reduce my Facebook activity. I said I won’t be breathlessly posting the food I consume or the anniversaries I celebrate.

What “activity?” you ask 🙂 I hardly add content to the Zuckerberg machine. I don’t subscribe to birthday apps, and the likes. But the point was that, if folks needed to reach me, or keep me informed of things, I didn’t want them to assume I knew, just because it was on Facebook.

Many hard-core Facebookers –and I know plenty, have interviewed many– can’t imagine life without it. Some have begun to feel like this is the only way to stay in touch with community. Granted, we have all used Facebook or LinkedIn to discover people from our past, analog communities. They feel as if there is no other way to trade empathy.

I beg to disagree. If all you had is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.

One of my friends asked me “What this means in a Chat Republic?”

I EXPECTED THIS.  My book dealt a lot about online and virtual communities, so I knew this question would come. I’m sure some of you are shocked I would even take this attitude. If you are, all I could say is re-read the  book’s introduction – “Why don’t we chat?” (If you don’t want to get the book, or borrow it from the library, I’d be happy to send you the chapter.)

Another asked me, why make a public announcement of this? Public announcement? I thought most people assumed our posts were just between friends. Maybe some realize that Facebook goads us into self-publicity, even while giving us the sense that we are engaging in private conversations. Indeed, Facebook’s public-private divide is confusing.

Digital Social networks were intended for communities. Humans weren’t built for the networks. Simply sharing whatever crosses our path –or our camera view finder– does not enrich our community involvement. Over-sharing is indeed a disease. It’s sometimes nice to be in the presence of a community where no one is taking pictures and setting others up for a Facebook post. (Sigh!: It’s an adjustment for me. There are places I go to now, where I don’t carry my SLR, and never, ever use my camera phone.)

It’s nice to avoid faux communities, and be in the presence of real communities.


1. There’s an interesting Carnegie Mellon University study if you are interested, about this very confusion, and how the many changes in Facebook’s privacy policy first reduced how much personal info people shared, and then how it began to rise. 

2. You may actually not see a link to this on Facebook. I don’t intend to post it there. The link between this blog and FB have been disconnected. This blog is obviously a public medium. 

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Posted by on January 3, 2014 in Facebook, Social Media


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