Tag Archives: Social media

Have things gone too far?

I went to look at Pinterest this morning. They won’t let me. They want my birthday.

Why do they need my birthday? It will not, no matter what they claim, help them make my search experience any better since I input directly what I am interested in.

I figure it’s a desire for more advertising revenue. It could help them sell targeted advertising at me…Like I need more of that in my life. I get plenty from other sources.

At least, before, Pinterest had to figure out ads related to sewing, cooking, and photography, not assume that, because I am “une femme d’un certain age”, that I need a barrage of ads for incontinence products or unpronounceable medications. (If I hear “Sometimes I get bladder leaks” one more time I might scream!).

I used to like Pinterest.

They gave me access to posts that weren’t necessarily visible in the Google-y/Bing-y world, where posts are listed first by who is paying them to advertise, followed by who might be induced to pay them for ads, then by the big ticket clickers, after which the listings just fall apart and become random and irrelevant. They are unable, although I suspect that it is really unwilling, to give any visibility to people who are just posting about their own experiences.

Side note: this is one of my greatest concerns about AI. It’s just one more manipulator in this system “optimized” to repeat the messages that are already out there. If it really had any merit you could find interesting material on page two of a search.

In Pinterest it was easy to search on obscure ingredients, like aquafaba or lemon balm, and find out how they can be used; craft ideas, like adding pockets, or cutting out cool snowflakes; and out-of-the-way travel locations.

Drawing a line

How old I am is none of their business, and it is one more point of vulnerability for scammers and hackers to get a hold of information that might endanger me. So I deleted the app from my phone.

Back in the day…

Can you remember when a search took you from your known area of interest out into a world of new ideas? Like when you opened the encyclopedia to look something up and saw a new term linked only by the first few letters that led you on a path of discovery? Internet searches used to be like that.


Now you type in the name of a city and you get an entire page trying to sell you places to stay and/or flights. Expedia, Hotels.com, Trip Adviser….

At the very bottom of the page you might get one Wikipedia or tourist board listing that actually tells you a little about the place. Page two is generally random nonsense derived from the idea that you clearly didn’t know what you wanted to learn about and/or misspelled the name of a more well known place.

Random Reflection-What is real?

There was a lengthy piece in yesterday’s paper that gave me that “wow”, flabbergasted feeling. I’m trying not to be silenced by that feeling. Lately it occurred to me that these flabbergasting things are really stifling communication by reasonable people. The people who are hard over one way or another have a standard set of lines to go to, relevant or not.

The article: Paying to be Popular: social media’s black market. Since anyone reading this is at least a little involved in social media it’s worth a read. Fake followers for fake news (I am talking about real fake news, not the kind of “fake news” that means someone in power doesn’t like it even though it’s true). People who are “influencers” are buying followers so they appear to be more influential than they are. This causes their postings to bubble to the top in the algorithms that decided who should see what.

There was a scary article, in a scary special report called the Future of War, in this week’s Economist as well: My truth against yours: The power of fake news and undue influence.

It is a war…on us.

Here is the last paragraph from the Economist article:

In the future, “fake news” put together with the aid of artificial intelligence will be so realistic that even the best resources and most professional news organization will be hard pressed to tell the difference between the real and the made-up sort. Official web-sites and social-media accounts will become increasingly vulnerable to hackers, who may be able not only to provoke stock market crashes and riots but even contrive crises between countries that may induce them to go to war with each other.

The two articles are talking about some similar points. In the Times article some people have had their social media identities borrowed by these outfits that provide fake followers. The article was primarily about marketers manipulating the system. In the Economist they show how this was used during the last presidential campaign to manipulate outcomes.

This brought to mind something from a couple of years ago: I was chaperoning my niece and some friends at an over-night at my dad’s house. They made popcorn, watched a movie then started to do those Facebook surveys. The ones like “What kind of princess are you?”  I was struck at how much data about the personalities of these young people Facebook was obtaining through these surveys. Enough to figure out exactly how to manipulate the people who fill them out, not just by interests based on what they post, but by creating and choosing ads that will trigger them to react.  It felt evil. The kids were just doing the surveys for fun.

I think we need to ask some serious questions of ourselves about what the purpose and scope of social media should be…or if it should exist at all.

It feels like the system has evolved to stifle and manipulate us. Is there any way to hit the reset button and turn it back into a fun way to connect with family and friends? Or maybe I was naive to think that was ever the point.

Sound of Silence

Normally my posts are photographs, however, more than one of the posts for the Daily Post Photo Challenge this week included the song “Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel. That got me thinking about social media.

When I heard the words “people talking without speaking, people hearing without listening” my mind was filled with an image of a room full of people looking at their cell phones. Last Sunday’s newspaper mentioned “phubbing” which is snubbing the person you are with by paying attention to your cell phone instead of them.

It has existed way longer than the current smart phone craze. People answering the phone in the middle of a conversation has gone on since phones were invented. When calls were rare and most people only made them for something important that made some sense. Now most calls are telemarketers and more than three quarters of the bleeps and buzzes mean someone posted a twit or shared a cute cat video (Don’t get me wrong: I like cute cats, although my own Empress is more elegant than cute).

I never developed the habit of talking for a long time on the phone. When I was a kid we had a party line and we weren’t allowed to just chit chat. By the time I was a teen we had a private line, but we moved to a place where I didn’t know anyone to talk to when I was 14. In those days the long distance phone rates were high so I couldn’t talk to my old friends, we wrote letters and sent them in the mail. I still have some of them. Communication was more special, it took more effort and you could save it. Even though one can save email will we? when the next technology comes out will you convert? I doubt I will. I don’t even download most of my email anymore.

The other part of the song that made me think about the internet was “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls, and whispered in the sounds of silence”. What are Twitter and Facebook? Seems like they might be today’s subway walls and tenement halls.

I ask this because we have had hostile foreign powers controlling what people see as “the words of the prophets”. But those walls are also covered with cute cat videos and memes.

I was never the Facebook-iest person, but wound up silenced earlier this year. It is a venue for people to talk about their trip to Hawaii, their child’s beautiful wedding, cute pet stuff, etc. A place to share the good life.

Social media isn’t the place for you when what is going on in your life is an elderly relative falling, having to confront that person about not being able to go back into an apartment, clearing out the apartment and dealing with the angst and depression that go with it, and the semi-infinite challenges of government paperwork so that person doesn’t wind up on the street. It’s not that my life isn’t good, but it’s complicated, and intricate, nuanced communication is not what Facebook is about.

It is also a venue for outrage. The Russian, and other, trolls are doing a lot with this. I’m as outraged as any, perhaps more than many who are more vocal, but social media isn’t the place for this, no discussion, no resolution. Cute memes are just that, they might, briefly, relieve feelings but are not wisdom or balanced discourse. You might say that in some ways they are just another form of silence.

Alas: I have no answers, just questions. But it doesn’t matter, looking back I’ll be able to say “my words like silent raindrops fell, and echoed in the wells of silence.”

I know I should wordsmith this post more, but I don’t want to be tardy with this post. It was mostly inspired by the “Silence” daily post photo prompt but this isn’t a photograph. My response to the photo prompt is A Pall Hung Over Us.

Express Delivery

I have been speechless a lot lately, witness the lack of posts for a while. It seems like every time I see a prompt or read something and start to express my thoughts on the subject, I get hit with something else and never finish getting it together. It’s been a flabbergasting year.

The Times (Seattle, that is) newspaper this morning , yes, I still read the paper, has an article that disturbs me greatly, it isn’t the first of its ilk recently.

Facebook, Google helped anti-refugee campaign ads is the title. On my recent trip to China one of the movie things I watched going over was a British news magazine article about Facebook. For a while now I’ve been feeling the creeps about how much information Facebook has on me, especially given my low participation rate. Even though I never gave them my birth date somehow it’s there. All of this information is collected so that they can target advertising in ways unprecedented by anything that has ever existed. I doubt if my mom could do a better job of targeting me than Facebook, and I don’t do much on Facebook.

Google isn’t far, if at all, behind. I feel more warmly about them for some reason, which may have no basis in today’s reality. Amazon may know more than either, although I’m not sure they have realized that I ordered the knee brace for my grandmother and the cowboy boots for my son…I’m pretty sure Facebook could figure that out.

The concept of free speech is being challenged more today than ever in history. I’m sure someone out there will disagree, but here is why I think so: What is delivered, express to our inboxes and news feeds, is not even truth, it’s what the companies get paid for pumping into mail boxes. In a slimy way they carefully choose the mailboxes so that there is a “receptive”, meaning uncritical, audience. By the time less receptive people are aware of the misinformation, a bunch of people are so deeply entrenched in the weirdness that they won’t believe the truth.

This prevents people from hearing multiple viewpoints. It prevents freedom of thought, which is the ultimate purpose of freedom of speech.

The world is a messy place, the social media world is dumbing things down, only showing people what they want them to see in order to make ad revenue. They don’t just allow a warped worldview to go unchallenged, but actually benefit financially from lies in a very big way.

We need to be aware of “all the news that’s fit to print”, and maybe some that isn’t. These companies are making that hard to accomplish. One gets pigeon-holed by the data collection/evaluation and only gets to see one set of information.

Two questions to ponder:

  1. Great privilege, such as that granted by our society as a whole to social media, should have corresponding responsibility. The question is: How do you accomplish that?
  2. How does one get the straight scoop… or at least balanced crooked ones?

Words are all I have…

The world is filled right now with folks speaking out. It was almost a relief that today’s newspaper hasn’t come (or maybe it is in the bushes or under the porch). Yesterday’s had me in emotional distress all day.

This got me thinking a very unorthodox thought: Perhaps the most effective way to Speak Out in today’s world is for us to start reading newspapers again, and turn off the boob tube.

Show the media that they have to start reporting fact, not opinion, “alternate facts”, or just plain old fiction, by hitting them in their ratings. Everything is being turned into a made for TV drama. Wise up folks: The way to stop toddlers from having tantrums is not to give them attention for having them. Even in print reporting should be strictly about issues, with names not listed in the headlines, so people don’t get ego boosts from seeing their faces and names on TV 24-7.

If there wasn’t the instant ego gratification of “news” coverage, the incentive to do dumb stuff in rapid fire would go away. We need to cultivate a society that values thinking things through over having temper tantrums on stage. Everyone, on both sides, feels like they have to speak out quickly. This results in a barrage of opinions getting the headlines and facts showing up so late that no one hears them because we have moved on to the next sensation.

I live in a nation which has a constitutional right to free speech. This is a good thing. It is, of course, a two edged sword: people who don’t agree with your point of view get to speak freely as well. That doesn’t bother me so much.

My concern these days is that people are coming out with opinion, “alternative facts” (aka, what they wish was true) and even false news and presenting it as truth. They have the right to do this. Even legitimate news programs have taken to reporting opinion as if it were news. I don’t have a TV so don’t know when this started, but one night over at Dad’s the local news channel presented tweets and Facebook entries! Excuse me??? Apparently this is a regular feature.

One problem is that there are way too many “news” shows for the amount of actual news that American audiences are willing to watch.

There is a good deal more going on in the world than what we hear on the 5 o’clock news. If we were less parochial perhaps presidential candidates would know where Aleppo is..although maybe was is more accurate in this case. Heaven forfend that the media tell us about things elsewhere in the world, those long drawn out battles and hardships in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia are so tedious, not the way to boost ratings.  They are complicated and can’t be explained in 140 characters, so off with their heads. You can watch for 15 minutes and have a handle on everything they are going to bother to report in the next two hours, but most people numbly sit there for an hour or even two, and with every repeat they become hypnotized into thinking they know what is going on in the world. Of course actually knowing about and trying to understand those issues might make us stop and think about the consequences of our actions, that’s not much fun.

Okay, off the soap box. The sun is shining on the day before the groundhog pops up: what will tomorrow bring? Hopefully not another executive order…it’s getting tedious.

Socially awe-kward

Is it just me?

I have always been socially awkward, so it should come as no surprise that the “social”-on-steroids world of the internet is not working well for me. I have been learning about social media of late. It has been inspiring Awe in me, but not in a good way.

My simple view of social media is that it is to connect people, a way to keep in touch or get to know and share with people we don’t get a chance to see very often or who live far away. For the “platforms” doesn’t seem to be the goal anymore. The goal now is to connect an infinite number of advertisers selling crap to the poor souls looking for real people to connect with who are prone to accidentally click, hover or swipe in the wrong place.

As some of you know I started a new blog, Goin’ with Grandma. Since what I wanted to do is try and find other people who travel with elderly relatives to share experiences, lessons learned and tips. I really have no interest in “monetizing” the site, but I am trying to figure out how to find people. So I have connected it to Facebook, Pinterest and my partially finished Linkedin profile. I signed up for “Bloglovin'”, and have been using Yoast SEO.

Getting things set up and linked up has been educational, but not effective as a way to find people in a similar situation. If my goal was to have my inbox filled with even more ads it was effective. Most of the ads are to help me become a social media butterfly (got news for them: I am a worm not a caterpillar).

The SEO thing (that means Search Engine Optimization) goes counter to what I was taught about good writing: to use a variety of words instead of the same phrase repeatedly. Long sentences using a rich and varied vocabulary are to become a thing of the past so that computers can figure out what we are trying to say and send us “traffic”.

I was inspired to write on this topic by a survey sent to me by Bloglovin’. Several of the questions were a little outrageous to me, I am pretty sure based on question wording that they are actually collecting data for Instagram marketers. However, I’d like to share one question with you that made me laugh out loud:

What is your favorite new social trend that gained popularity in 2016?

  • Boomerang
  • Yik Yak
  • Shots
  • Ello
  • Hyper
  • Facebook Live
  • Haven’t heard of any of these/They are not relevant to me

I would have checked the last box. Clearly I am not their target demographic. I guess I will always be the person standing beside the door wondering whether to go in or go home…even sitting in my own living room typing at my own computer.

Have you ever felt that way?


The tyranny of social media

Many of us spend Countless  time these days on social media, absorbing it and creating it. Don’t get me wrong, I like it and use it. But how does one tame the dragon in order to have a little time left to weed the garden, fix a meal, wash dishes…or spend a little time with a physical person now and then (for the sake of argument dogs are people too)?

My son has a degree in marketing. He is teaching now at a kindergarten in China and would like to move to a different field of endeavor. He and I have been talking, when we get a decent connection, about forming a little business that does marketing: branding (he is pretty knowledgeable about this), web site development (my area), and gives a hand with printed and social media (we are both pretty good at layout, and he has language skills that would allow him to assist a Chinese or Japanese company to create well-crafted English language marketing materials). The idea is that it would give him some experience he could use to find a different career and I like playing with web sites, it’s a bit like quilting.

Our aspirations are low. We would be delighted to have two or three clients.

Where is the countless in this? I have been researching about social media. Turns out that the current ideas about marketing using social media mean COUNTLESS posts on countless platforms. There are countless posts about the ideal calendar for making those countless posts and how to create those countless posts with a small amount of content. The current social media marketing theory is old-fashioned nagging: fill inboxes and “news” feeds with you, you, you and more you. All of these posts are programmed with carefully selected words that big data knows are more likely to cause people to “click” (they call this “responding to a call to action”).

I am feeling rebellious right now, and I am not alone, I read recently that people are starting to react negatively to this constant bombardment. One of the ways you can see the rebellion starting to poke out is when the talking heads say “content is king”. What that means is:  folks are becoming better at sifting the wheat from the chaff.

One humorous marketing backfire this week is that an online travel agency, the one that seriously botched up our hotel reservations, showed up in my Facebook “news” feed as a “suggested post” (see my previous post: Was it all a dream?).

I use social media (duh). It is a communication tool, I post where it makes sense based on who I am communicating with. For example this week I have not posted on this blog because I am in Palm Springs California with my grandmother, and we are visiting her friends, they use Facebook so I have made several Facebook posts related to our activities this week. At home I don’t look at Facebook everyday, here I do.

Sometimes the countless connections become a source of busy-ness. Then we have to figure out how to keep the ones  that contribute to our quality of life and get rid of the rest. I think that is where many of us are in the social media rat race.

How do you deal with the countless demands of social media? Is your goal to have countless followers…or to connect with a few people you might otherwise not meet in a meaningful way?