Category Archives: Social Media

How did we manage to live before….

For a couple of years now it’s been my habit to wind down the working day by logging onto all my social media sites at the same time and catching up on everything as I finish my work day.

Online social media has made itself ubiquitous and to some degree almost inescapable in the last 3 or 4 years.  You can log into your social media accounts in so many ways that it almost seems that you can’t get away from it.

If you have some sort of event or some sort of business that is in any way related to the internet it is almost compulsory for you to become involved in social media.  Even if you’re just an individual you are almost obliged to get on and find out what all your friends are doing else you risk falling behind in the latest events and not knowing what is happening in your little social domain.

Lately however it has been become overwhelming.  Disasters, news events, the elections, gossip, they all get bandied about by one contact or another on social media sites.  You see the same piece regurgitated in a seemingly endless stream of story overload.  Then of course comes the incisive commentary from your contact list.  People on the left, on the right, people from one group and another.  Lastly comes all the fighting and bickering.

And of course a friend of a friend (and possibly of a friend) posts about some tragedy in their life.  I want to empathize with their plight but when you have so many people on your news feed demanding your attention it all becomes too much to process and I feel that it actually drains my emotional batteries to the point that I just don’t want to know any more.

I feel like these social media sites aren’t so much communicating with me as they are yelling at me.

So I just left.  At first it was for nothing more than just to get away from it all and take an online vacation.  To let all the cyber babble die down and give my mind a break.

Surprisingly it was easy.  I thought I would want to constantly check and get updates but I found that the first day went off pretty much without any hassle at all.  I can’t say that I found a ton of “extra time” or made great personal discoveries by being by myself.  I didn’t even take time to wonder how easy it had been to not log in. It was just, quiet.

Instead of logging in I read, I watched a couple of movies on Netflix, “The big short”, a highly entertaining and thoughtful movie.  I just went about my daily life without the nagging feeling that I was missing out on something by not checking in.

By day 3 however something curious happened.  Social media missed me.  Not the individual people mind you.  I don’t think they even noticed I was gone honestly.  No, the social media websites themselves started sending me emails and telling me how many new notices and notifications had happened since I had last logged in.  Another website sent me suggestions for new people to follow that I might enjoy reading about.

By day 4 I had accumulated 99 notifications and then the spam emails kept repeating themselves.  Apparently 99 notifications is the upper limit the programmers set.  Perhaps they couldn’t believe that someone would let more than 99 notifications go by without checking in.

The only time I was somewhat tempted to log in and post something was when I went to a cafe on the east side of Houston and I wanted to post a picture of the cafe.  But as I sat in the cafe I began to think about this and wonder.  Does posting about the cafe experience make the experience any better?  Why share everything?

Andes Cafe

Andes Cafe

I had decided somewhere at the beginning of the “experiment” to come back in a week.  A week passed and I found I had absolutely no desire to log back in.  I was somewhat apprehensive to tell the truth.  I finally relented about ten days in and logged back in.

Like someone coming back from vacation that has a mailbox stuffed with letters, I had to wade through all my old notifications and messages.  After about 2 minutes I just hit the “read” button on everything.  Nothing had changed.  I honestly don’t know what I expected to have changed.

Perhaps one thing that has changed is that I no longer feel that having an online presence is as de rigueur as I once thought that it was.  A world without social media is not unimaginable.

I will continue to log in but I no longer feel as invested into the whole social media experience.  I don’t feel that I have to share every moment in my life or react to everyone’s news anymore.

You can live your life off the net quite well and find a satisfying life.  You can leave.

you are not the sum of your internet identity

I am seeing more and more people being miserable online.

I don’t know if it’s just the time of year or something that has happened lately or maybe I just didn’t notice it but I am seeing this more and more online.

Not just on Facebook (although that’s the primary source) but on other social channels.  A sense of true dissatisfaction with one’s personal life.  People complaining that they’re going nowhere and not doing what they want to do.

I think it’s the reason why I am paying less and less attention to social media lately.  I still log on but I barely pay attention to the social media tabs anymore.

I asked two people privately why they were feeling so low and their answer was essentially that they saw the good news posted by their friends online and felt that their own accomplishments or lack thereof made them feel inadequate by comparison.  They also felt that if they couldn’t “keep up” or contribute their own accomplishments at a steady rate that they were not living a worthwhile life.


One of the flaws of the internet age is that people project themselves.  Life online and offline can be radically different.  People choose to project themselves in one way or another and it may not reflect reality.

Reminds me of a discussion I had with a high school classmate.  We were discussing going to the 20th high school reunion and he said  he would not go.  I asked him why and he said a lot of people will buy fancy clothes and rent expensive cars to make themselves look more prosperous than they really were.

I think we all do this in a way.  I know that I don’t share all my bad news and I’ve had a good dose of it this year but I don’t like to share it online.  What would be the point to share that with mainly acquaintances?  My friends know my problems already.

What I’d rather do is share positive news and hopefully cheer up or maybe even inspire positive change in people.

But I think even I have to realize that we are not the sum of all these posts online.  We are living, breathing, people.  We have to learn to see beyond the tweets and Facebook posts.

we have to make our real lives more important than our online lives.

to share is to care?

I recently attended a sci-fi convention over the memorial day weekend.  Comicpalooza took place last weekend and it was a major success.  My next blog post will be partly a summary about that and about conventions in general but I wanted to address a side issue about this last convention before that.

I posted a lot of my activities and a lot of the sights and sounds from the convention to my social circle on Facebook.  At one point I thought to myself that I was posting too much.  I have seen people become obnoxious on social media and post every passing thought and every event that takes place in their lives.  One of my peeves about Twitter is that it seems to encourage that sort of thing.  Not so much on Facebook but it still happens.

Apart from this I have noticed that some people really don’t like it when you post good news or life events.  They tend to feel sadder and find their lives less satisfying. I have a couple of friends that always detail the latest tragedies in their lives and how much worse that they are doing in comparison to everyone else.

When I think about these two categories of people I get self-conscious posting about the good things in my life.  I want to be sensitive to the fact that not everyone is having a good time like I am yet I don’t want to limit myself either.  I thought about this a lot on the first day of the convention and decided I would go ahead and post my updates and here is my reasoning.

Firstly, I post the positive, the good and the interesting things that happen in my life.  I very rarely post the bad.  Now that doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen in my life.  They do.  In fact bad things have happen to me all the time but they never get mentioned on Facebook.  I don’t really see the point in posting these “micro tragedies”.  Apart from people telling my how sorry they are, they really can’t do much to alleviate the situation.  So I really don’t see the point in doing that.  If it’s something big I will post about it but otherwise it doesn’t get mentioned.

Secondly, posting about things that I do, see, hear, experience lets people who might be far away share a little of that.  If they were curious about a movie, or about steampunk, or rock climbing, or about night life in Houston then they might learn a bit from me.  Maybe they wanted to ask about something but didn’t know how to broach the subject, or they might become emboldened to try something new.  You can never tell what one little thing can lead to.

Lastly, sharing my news encourages others to do the same and lets them explore their own interests.  Marianne Williamson’s quote from “A return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles” is quite pertinent to this point.

“There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you… As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I know that people brag.  I acknowledge that they sometimes get carried away.  We should all strive to be a little more humble in our daily lives.  But at the same time, being a shrinking violet and refusing to share is just as bad if not worse than being a braggart.  In this life we should look to each other and support each other in whatever way we can.

I say that part of that is sharing your gifts, talents, interests, and even good news with each other.

different worlds

I took another step into the social media world the other day.  I joined LinkedIn.  I can’t say that I did so willingly or enthusiastically. I’ve known about LinkedIn for quite a while but I’ve resisted joining for my own reasons.

The whole thing was precipitated by a serious inquiry that came into our website.  The client wanted to connect through LinkedIn.  Normally other people in the office would deal with this but they were busy so it fell to me and I had to register to begin the conversation.  The first thing that struck me is that I have never had anything to do with LinkedIn and yet I had over 200 connection requests already waiting for me.  What’s more LinkedIn wanted to take a peek into my mail contacts and social contacts to add more people.  I bypassed this option and cropped through the requests taking only the ones that looked familiar and ignoring the rest for now.

Some people might find it odd that I want to keep my professional and social lives apart but to me they have little intersection.  My professional life deals with many technical subjects that my friends and family don’t really know all that much about.  On the work side, the people who I deal with are mainly consummate professionals.   They eat, breathe, and sleep their jobs and don’t really like to share their home life.  In some cases I don’t really know anything about them.

To me social media has always been a more private affair that dealt with my life outside of work.  Something that was for family and friends.  To my peers I am someone who is interested in movies, writing, science fiction, and various other things.  To my co-workers and business contacts I am the guy that provides them reliable service and advice.

The only intersection between the two worlds is me.

So how will this play out in the long run?  My aim is to try to keep these worlds separate as much as possible.  I know that the two sides can be successfully integrated and can even enhance each other in some ways.  But I value my home life and I feel a line has to be drawn between the two.

youtube, facebook, twitter and the rise of the new media model

Entertainment, communications, and advertising have been changing in the last 15 years as never before.  They are set to change even more radically in the next five to ten years.

The tried and true models of yesteryear; TV networks, movies, radio, sports, and the music industry have all been shaken to their foundations by the rise of the internet.  Some have adapted better than others and some are on the edge of extinction.

The power of a single internet event to reach out to millions and even tens of millions of people at a time is now undeniable.  How people, companies, and even governments harness that power is what is being debated and shaped at the moment.  The one’s that figure out how to utilize and monetize this force will be the winners in this bonanza.  The losers will fade into history and become little more than Wikipedia entries.

Facebook and Twitter have been publicly battling it out for the last few years.  Both are scrambling to add more and more people to their rolls and trying to capture people’s attention. YouTube also is also adding more people to their rolls but in a much quieter fashion.

All three are depending more and more on the mobile market.  The mobile versions of these sites all have advertising in one form or another.  Ads come in the form of static and unobtrusive side ads or full screen ads played before the featured content comes on.

In Facebook and Twitter you actually have to pay to promote your posts to appear to a wider audience but you don’t have the guarantee that people will actually click on your ad to see what you sell or do.

In YouTube the ads come in the form of the television ads that we all are familiar with.  These ads are either a minutes long ad that can be bypassed after 5 seconds or an ad that is 30 seconds or less that can’t be bypassed.  In order to catch the viewer’s attention, the advertisers have become very creative.  They take ads that on TV would be 1 to 2 minutes long and shrink them down to make their case in seconds and keep the person engaged.  The static ads in Twitter and Facebook don’t do this.

Another thing I have had pointed out to me is that in Facebook and Twitter the users take on the role of bait for advertising by creating content for others to come in and see or they’re potential targets for that advertising.  Other than getting access to the site they are not compensated for their content.

YouTube actively engages with the public in a different way.  YouTube of course wants people to click on ads, but content creators can be incentivized to create content.  YouTuber’s can monetize their content.  With persistence and creative content you could actually make YouTube into a full time job.  Further if you get a sponsor then you’ve really got it made.

Another thing I have been admiring lately about YouTube has been their attempts to organize their main content providers (channels) and get them to create new content, cooperate, and exchange ideas with each other.  In particular I have been amazed by 3 YouTubers.

Hannah Hart, Mamrie Hart, and Grace Helbig are three twenty somethings that each have followings in the hundreds of thousands.  They regularly appear in each others videos, they film each other, support each other, and just recently they parlayed their success into a feature-length film sold on their channels and only available online.

Recently one of them, Grace Helbig, left her old YouTube channel (owned by another group) to work on her own channel.  She basically left the  channel with 2.4 million subscribers to start from scratch.  As of mid February 2014 she is back up to 1.5 million subscribers and adding people all the time.  This at a time when conventional TV viewership is dropping.

It’s not only YouTube that is creating original content.  Other online powerhouses are creating content for online customers.  NetFlix, Hulu, and Amazon are also getting into the game by creating original online content and shows.  Some of it supported by advertising dollars and some by subscription fees.

Are Facebook and Twitter taking note?  Sort of.  Twitter has Vine and Facebook has Instagram. Both have short video formats that will be perfect for the mobile market advertising formats.  If advertisers are clever enough then they should be able to make use of these short formats to sell their goods.

But I am really liking what I am seeing out of YouTube.  The idea that talented people who were previously just viewers and unappreciated content creators can now monetize their content and become a part of the process is really appealing to me.  It’s not all sunshine of course.  YouTube still takes about 45% of the advertising revenue stream (which some content creators consider extremely high) but it’s something that can be adjusted over time.

As we move more and more into this digital age where ideas and thought are becoming more and more important, I think we need to rethink the old media models and start to consider that entertainment and information are no longer flowing down from central sources from on high but flowing freely up, down, left, and right across this world.  Those that realize this will successfully adapt and be able to reap the benefits of this new age.