Category Archives: Social Media

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When school shootings are broadcast on Snapchat, the effects reverberate

On Wednesday afternoon, some of the terrified teenagers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, used social media to bear witness to the recurring tragedy of our time: a mass shooting.

These children, who’ve grown up with smartphones at the ready, did what comes naturally to them and shared their experiences on platforms like Twitter and Snapchat. The images, sounds, and comments they transmitted to their friends and family quickly went viral, providing the world horrifying glimpses of what it’s like to hear a gunman roam the halls of your school.  

SEE ALSO: During the shooting, Snap Maps took viewers inside the Florida high school Read more…

More about Social Good, Social Media, Mass Shooting, Gun Violence, and School Shooting

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Why We Must Read Outside Of Our Comfort Zone

Lately I have been reminiscing about how I used to sit with friends in coffee shops and talk about culture and current affairs, moving through disagreements without dramatic exits or the imperative to agree. In recent years, I have noticed a cultural shift in how we react to disagreement in online discussions. Social media, once the space to share family photos and catch up with friends several countries away, has become this arena of dogmatism where differing viewpoints are unwelcome, even hostilely rejected as bigotry.

I have attributed this recent wave of intellectual intolerance to the impersonality of virtual culture, in part. But I have also concluded that such intolerance to differing viewpoints in online forums and Facebook groups is due to the fact that people read within a very narrow framework today—only reaching out to articles that reinforce, instead of challenge, their views. And dare they read something with which they disagree, the author is quickly demonised, her ideas are considered worthless, and online battles or callouts ensue.

All this because certain ideas presented conflict with the reader’s “inner truth.”

Recently I posted a discussion between Camille Paglia and Jordan Peterson on my wall which, like so much of what I put on social media, is not an endorsement of the piece. I often post articles with which I disagree simply because I enjoy challenging my own thoughts. Like all humans, we grow both physically and intellectually and I avoid intellectual ossification through exposing myself to different ideas constantly. To my dismay, the responses to my post were super personal: “I don’t like them” or “they’re anti-feminist.” Nobody offered any substantiative engagement with the content of the dialogue. And when I posted an article about Scarlett Johansson speaking at last month’s Women’s March in Los Angeles, the comments were similar in spirit: “But her views on Israel” and “Why did she work with Woody Allen?” Yes, people are imperfect. But whatever happened to the ability to read across a spectrum of political opinions and—in the process of reading—engage constructively to opposing views? After all, if the criteria for having something to say means being perfect, then we should all stop reading now, right?

As a university professor, my job has been to devise syllabi and offer readings in conjunction with a certain framework, usually a theme, historical period, or theoretical school. I ensured my syllabi represented male and female thinkers as much as I balanced ideological foci from week to week—across different schools of thought, through political currents of the left and right. When I taught Edward Said, I would often teach Samuel Huntington in conjunction; when I taught Judith Butler I would teach Simone De Beauvoir. I am careful to teach subjects within the more realistic and historical accuracy of disagreement and dissent and not a monochrome schema of uniquely leftist politics. Yet over the the past fifteen years, both university curricula and popular media have been streamlined to fit the students’ and readers’ ideology. Why has this shift occurred?

First, reading today is largely informed by the hyper-individualisation of society informed by technology. We spend more time online, isolated, and far less time in libraries, cafés, and book groups where we can exchange ideas and learning about new pieces to read through discussion. Instead, our reading choices are today largely electronically informed—from Facebook adverts which are algorithm-generated, directing us to read news tailored to our increasingly finite reading habits to the apps which suck our user information from browsing histories. The latter is no small affair as these apps collect data from every single action we perform: reminders to exercise; trading algorithms which dictate the political influences of media; watches which record our sleep and heart rates; and even today’s blockchain technology which ostensibly promises security and privacy in this era of government spying. When we see a list of “recommended reading” on our social media, it has been devised entirely from all the above data.

Between the pundits who believe that technology has reduced our critical thinking skills and those who maintain that disagreement is now a “dying art,” I think our challenge here is quite tough. First, we need to understand why we have allowed our reading habits to be swayed by our own ideological dogmatism. Second, we need to act on this knowledge and open our ideological framework. But how?

The answer is painfully obvious: we need to read texts that challenge us by understanding that an article is not necessarily “good” merely because it reinforces our ideas. We need to keep our minds open to being wrong and mostly we need to return to reader objectivity of the sort that our teachers and professors demanded of us as students.

So to you, dear reader, I urge you to be student of the world and read at least one article per day with which you disagree. Challenge your ideas through thoughtful interrogation instead of bathing in the virtual echo chambers of the ego.

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Snapchat Update Petition Reaches Over A Million Signatures

A petition to roll back on Snapchat’s new design has now managed to secure over a million signatures.

According to the creator of the petition Nic Rumsey, the update’s “many ‘new features’ are useless or defeat the original purpose Snapchat has had for the past years.’

As of writing the petition currently has 1,010,131 signatures.

The new update features a major redesign that splits interactions between friends from those by brands, celebrities and influencers.

Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegal said in a blog post that in the past, mixing the two was “blurring the lines between professional content creators and your friends” and that it had been and “interesting Internet experiment.”

One of the unfortunate side-effects from this is that any celebrities or influencers you were following are now effectively partitioned away in a separate part of the app forcing you to search for them every time you want to view their content.

Reactions to the update have been almost universally negative with the app achieving only a three star rating on Apple’s App Store.

A number of celebrities have also spoken out against the update including Chrissy Teigen who tweeted: “I liked that you guys felt like we were friends. I’m sad it doesn’t feel like that anymore. How many people have to hate an update for it to be reconsidered?”

Kylie Jenner also responded to a fan’s complaint about the new update saying, “I kinda agree ”.

Snapchat’s response so far has simply been: “Updates as big as this one can take a little getting used to, but we hope the community will enjoy it once they settle in.”

While it’s unlikely that Snapchat will completely redesign the app again, it could well make some incremental changes that address the most common issues that users are having.

Perhaps underestimating the importance of its influencers and celebrities the company could well make some changes to either increase access to those snaps within the app.

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How I cleaned up my embarrassing Twitter history

This may be hard to imagine, but I, a now hilarious 24-year-old with impressive self-control and impeccable taste in movies, music, and celebrity crushes, have not always crafted the best tweets.

Sure, my Twitter fingers are professionally trained at this point. But when I first made my debut in 2011, I was an angsty 18-year-old, obsessed with One Tree Hill, listening to Dashboard Confessional on a loop, and tragically venting about freshman year of college.

I’ve grown a lot since then. And the sophisticated professional I am today decided it was time to venture back into my Twitter history and clean up my online image.  Read more…

More about Tech, Twitter, How To, Social Media, and Archive

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Snapchat’s Snap Map Is Now Viewable By Anyone On The Web

Snapchat’s Snap Map can now be viewed by anyone through a web browser.

The company today announced that it would be making the feature available online, regardless of whether you have a Snapchat account or not.

Unlike the app version of Snap Map which shows snaps and the locations of your friends, the web version only shows snaps that have been designated as publicly viewable.

Interestingly, Snapchat sees this not just as a means of exploring cities but also as a news source.

By using the heat map Snapchat envisages news organisations using it to grab videos straight from breaking news locations and then embedding them in their articles. 

Snapchat’s Snap Map launched to some controversy back in July after it was revealed how easily its users could be sharing their location without realising it.

This effectively allows you to zoom in on ‘hot spots’ around the world where there are a lot of snaps being taken.

As you can see from the embedded map above, this has unsurprisingly centred around many of London’s tourist hotspots including parks, museums and monuments.

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How to switch back to the old version of Snapchat (before it sucked)

All is not well for Snapchat. The app has ticked off its most loyal users with its latest redesign which merges your friends’ snap messages with their Stories. 

It’s the app’s first major #facepalm. But good news! There’s a way to switch back to the old Snapchat, and we’re gonna show you how do it. But it does come with one big catch.

SEE ALSO: 9 Snapchat Sins You’re Probably Guilty of

Twitter user Clare James posted step-by-step instructions Friday on how to revert back to the old Snapchat on iOS, and we confirmed on our own iPhone X that it works!

Just follow these steps: 

PSA: how to reverse the Snapchat update ‼️

— clare james (@clarejamess9) February 9, 2018 Read more…

More about Mobile, Iphone, Snapchat, Social Media, and Apps And Software

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Facebook Reportedly Beta-Testing ‘Downvote’ Button

Last month, Facebook admitted that its platform is bad for democracy.

Now comes word of a project that may push people into more of an information cocoon.

Facebook is testing a button with selected users that allows them to “downvote” posts they consider inappropriate, uncivil or misleading, the company said.

Facebook insisted in a statement to HuffPost that it is not “testing a dislike button.”

“We are exploring a feature for people to give us feedback about comments on public page posts. This is running for a small set of people in the U.S. only. 

Sources familiar with the program said the “downvote” button is only a short-term test and will not affect how a comment, post or page is ranked.

The info gleaned is not about giving a commenter feedback but giving feedback to Facebook.

Tech reporter Taylor Lorenz said the “downvote” option first appeared Thursday in the comments sections of certain Facebook groups as well as on old Facebook memories content.

She shared screenshots on Twitter ― but not on Facebook, for some reason.

Lorenz said this newer button might allow content that’s offensive or inflammatory to be pushed to the bottom of a comment feed.

Facebook appears to be trying to invent Reddit, Alexis Ohanian, that website’s founder and CEO, noted on Twitter:

So far, only 5 percent of Android users in the U.S. are getting the downvote option, Facebook said. 

This article has been updated to include Facebook’s statement.

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Facebook looks to be testing comment downvoting

Hating on your friends’ dumb Facebook posts is on the verge of getting a whole lot easier. 

Ever the innovator, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears to have found a way to transfer all the bickering in your feed into something much more orderly. Specifically, downvotes. 

SEE ALSO: Why social media companies won’t kill off bots

On Thursday, various people took to Twitter to voice their surprise at a new feature they say they spotted on the sprawling social media platform. If their reports are accurate, it appears to allow you to downvote comments you don’t like. 

This has long been a feature on sites like Reddit, but Zuckerberg has long been adamant about refusing to add a “dislike” button to his service.  Read more…

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These ‘duh!’ features would make Instagram perfect

It’s been said, many times, but it’s worth repeating: Instagram’s algorithmic timeline is a steaming pile of nonsense.

SEE ALSO: Instagram is actively ruining my life with its inhumane algorithm

The photo-focused social network replaced its chronological feed with an algorithmic one back in 2016, meaning the content you see is ranked according to the likelihood you’ll “care about it.” What this feature denies is the ability for you to select what you actually care about and see it at a glance.

This “algorithm knows best” approach is common in online services many of us use every day, including Facebook, which owns Instagram. There’s no particular reason to examine this now, except that people seem newly agitated by the unseen forces determining what they see on social networks.  Read more…

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Why social media companies won’t kill off bots

Bots, bots, everywhere, but nothing good to click. 

As the social media networks of the world engage in a performative struggle to become good for people’s well being, they have been simultaneously peppered with questions about bots on their respective platforms. The automated accounts degrade the user experience and poison the well, the argument goes, and calls to cull them from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have only grown since the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

SEE ALSO: People think Facebook is listening to them. Here’s how they’re fighting back.

The bots, however, are very much here to stay.  Read more…

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