Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Should We Be Picking on Facebook?

Facebook rolled out changes to it's newsfeed this week, and based on the response level from my circle of friends, this may be the company's worst move in the last year. To make the situation even worse, the freakishly confusing new Facebook format launched for wide release on the same day Google+ opened membership to anyone over the age of 18. (That's right, you don't need an invitation to be part of Google+ any longer!)

With over 750 million active users worldwide, changes to Facebook always generate controversy, but come on! Where Google+ has a clean, intuitive "Apple-feel," Facebook seems determined to bring back the Texas Instruments calculator of my youth (yes those Pre-Personal Computer times with dinosaurs!)  with small, complicated, hidden, confusing, uninspired, layers of complexity. Making sense of Facebook is parallel to rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time. Did I mention, I don't enjoy having my head patted!

Of course, users have complained about Facebook changes before, and, with the exception of privacy, little, if anything, has ever come of them. SO . . . get back up, brush yourself off, and start all over again . . . or, take this opportunity to make your opinion heard by taking a nice, long vacation from Facebook. You will be missed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Virtual Newsfeed - Reliable?

One of the glorious things about the social media is the way it can spread news and information. Within seconds events like the death of a celebrity or a big new story can go viral with hundreds, then thousands, then millions of postings on Facebook, Twitter and the like.

I've come to rely on the social media as a primary source of my news. When Judge Walker announced his ruling regarding the constitutionality of California's Prop 8. I was seeing tweets 45 min. before anything came through "reliable" news channels. I wanted to verify the judges ruling before posting anything myself, and refreshing my browser only brought up more tweets.

There is no question at the speed "information" can be spread using the social media, but what about it's accuracy? It seems to me that 'misinformation' is spread just as easily. When more and more people copy posts, the natural instinct is for a reader to feel more and more confident about its accuracy. And the more people convinced that a 'mistruth' is true, such as the conspiracy theories about the citizenship of Barack Obama, the harder it is to remove that mistruth from popular culture.

Now here's the real kicker. Because social media users surround themselves with people (friends) and things (pages) they 'like,' rather than the general clutter that is 'news,' it's less likely that they will ever hear a contradictory point of view. Remember the health care reform debate a few months ago? Rumors that Fox News celebrity Rush Limbaugh would 'move' to Costa Rica were rampant and I joined my friends in wishing him bon voyage. My dear friend Janet told me that Limbaugh was being misquoted. When I investigated, I found that she was correct and that indeed Limbaugh had not stated that he would move, but rather that he might be seeking health care in a foreign nation in five years.

Solution: 1) investigate what you read, and especially what you post, and 2) 'friend' some people you don't like so much - you might be surprised about what they can teach you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Virtual Friendship

With Facebook's imminent announcement of reaching half a BILLION users, I am sitting here this morning wondering what this world of "virtual friendships" means to me.

Ok, I'm a long way from the Facebood 'friend' max of 5,000, but even so, it's pretty obvious that this interlinked society of high school chums, former work associates, social-climbers, and strangers-who-like-the-same games-that-I-like, has made a huge impact on my communication habits. Instead of picking up the phone to call a friend about seeing a movie, now I post "I want to see that cool new Indie film" as my status and see who responds. I find out that a friend is home sick, or has lost a loved one by reading their updates. I read the news by scanning links shared by other friends (Go Argentina!). I don't have time to be bored, there is just to much to keep up on at Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and MySpace and Blogger and and and . . .

But I wonder, is this virtual society less personal than a phone call? In this age of caller-ID and cellular phones, sometimes I feel a little too "connected." I'm often on the phone for hours with clients, and just want a little quiet time for myself. I mean sometimes my friends can whine and whine! So yes, maybe it is less personal, but maybe that isn't such a bad thing.

Does social networking give me the same satisfaction as a 'hand-written' letter? I used to be a pretty good letter writer. Then, it was only Christmas cards, but in the last five years, I don't think I've even gone through a booklet of stamps. Though I've saved some letters for over 30 years (still get great joy rereading them), there is a thrill in receiving a text message from my niece announcing that she just qualified for Nationals, or a photo from a fellow-foodie of the plate sitting in front of her that she's delayed digging into, just so she can show us what it looks like. There just isn't anything better (yet) for sharing the moment with those you care about (or just anyone that will read it).