Category Archives: Social Networking

When Your Family Tree Includes Bigotry

Up until recently I had two Facebook profiles. One was my ‘public’ page. (You can find it here at http://facebook.com/jackcameron.) The other was my ‘personal’ page. Much of my family does not share my political or religious views and they do not much like it when I share what I think about these topics but I try to do the family thing and keep in touch. So I made a page where I can update them on family stuff without offending their delicate sensibilities.

A few weeks ago I chose to take down my personal Facebook page. This was the result of accepting something fundamental about much of my extended family and I feel like I should share it.

My grandfather on my mother’s side once trained his black lab dog to bark at black people. Growing up I heard relatives use racial slurs in conversation without any discomfort. I didn’t have a black friend until high school. Neither my brother nor I have ever had a long-term romantic relationship with someone who was another race.  I come from a white family that has been and in some cases still is entirely comfortable with racism.

This is not to say that we are all racists. There are those of us who recognize the mistakes of past generations and have moved past the bigotry that was commonplace in society in the previous century. I have family members who I love very much who have managed to become more open to other races, cultures, religions, sexual orientations, and lifestyles. I have other family members I love who are unable to move on and remain bigoted. They likely will remain bigoted the rest of their lives.

So when I called my brother out on my personal page for his endorsement of a bigoted candidate, I was met with a fair amount of hostility from some family members because I had previously said I would not talk about politics. It struck me that they were more upset about this than they were about my brother spouting his support for a racist Presidential Candidate. They were more comfortable with racism than they were with conflict.

From one perspective, they were right. I said I would not talk politics and religion and I did. It was then that I realized as a vocal liberal Democrat and atheist my social media page should reflect those values. My personal page was not really personal at all. It was a placeholder to placate people I’m related to by blood but who have very little in common with me. If they weren’t related to me, they wouldn’t be my friends. In other words, my personal page was essentially a page to make the bigoted members of my family comfortable with my online presence. As soon as I realized that was what I was doing, I took the page down.

It’s okay though. The family members I know and love I keep in touch with online and offline. The others are just people I’m related to. I’m under no obligation to make them comfortable. This is especially true for the bigots. I am me. I won’t pretend to be somebody else. If that offends anyone, I don’t much care.

– Jack Cameron

Hello, Ello

ello

Since my last post was about taking a break for Social Networks, I figured this one should be about the newest Social Networking site.

There’s a scene in the Aaron Sorkin scripted The Social Network where Eduardo tells Mark they should sell advertising on Facebook. It goes like this:

EDUARDO It’s time to monetize the thing.

MARK What were their names?

EDUARDO Did you hear what I said?

MARK When?

EDUARDO I said it’s time to monetize the site.

MARK What does that mean?

EDUARDO It means it’s time for the website to generate revenue.

MARK No I know what the word means. I’m asking how do you want to do it?

EDUARDO Advertising.

MARK No.

EDUARDO We’ve got 4000 members.

MARK ‘Cause theFacebook is cool. If we start installing pop-ups for Mountain Dew it’s not gonna–

EDUARDO Well I wasn’t thinking Mountain Dew but at some point–and I’m talking as the business end of the company–the site–

MARK We don’t even know what it is yet. We don’t know what it is, we don’t know what it can be, we don’t know what it will be. We know that it’s cool, that is a priceless asset I’m not giving it up.

I don’t know if that ever actually happened, but if it did, at some point Mark decided to give it up. Now Facebook is little more than an online ad machine punctuated by links and statuses from the people Facebook has decided you most want to see. Worse, it’s been proven that the ads don’t even work and are a waste of money for companies. Facebook has become a necessary evil for keeping in touch with friends and family. Facebook is simply no longer cool.

Twitter has become the place where you can get news faster than the news on television and where you can follow celebrities amusing quips, but it lacks the personality that Facebook has. Your profile on Twitter simply isn’t very interesting.

Google+ has the problem that it’s trying to do too much and too much of what they’re trying to do seems like Facebook. There’s just not a very good reason to use G+ over Twitter.

I had the thought not that long ago that someone should make a dead simple social networking site that doesn’t have any filters, algorithms, or commercials and just puts up what we want to put up. Of course I don’t actually know how hard it is to do such a thing and luckily I don’t have to find  out because the folks at Ello have done I for me.

Ello’s homepage says, “We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership. “ Ello is both free of ads and free of manipulation and I’m really hoping they can stay true to this.

Ello is a social network that lets you post whatever you want whether it’s links, images, or status updates. There’s no character limit like Twitter. However, Ello does borrow Twitter’s ‘follow’ feature. This allows you to follow people without waiting for a friend request response. Unlike Twitter, it allows you a simple way to organize the people you follow into two simple categories: Friends and Noise. This makes it easy to put someone you’d rather not constantly see but whom you may want to check up on from time to time into the ‘Noise’ section without them knowing anything beyond the fact that you’re following them on Ello.

Ello is still in the Beta phase. So it’s invite only. Once you’re in, you’re given some invitations to give out, but they are limited. There are still a few bugs they’re working out. Earlier today it wouldn’t let me post and the search feature to find other members seems to only sporadically work.

(Note: As of this writing they’ve frozen invitations to Ello as they’ve reached capacity right now. They expect to unfreeze the invitations soon.)

These sort of things are expected in a Beta and the simple concept and design make up for it.

Unfortunately, social networks are only as good as the population of the network. I recently got my invite and gave out the initial set of invites I had. I intend to post original content there and use the social network whenever I can as I believe we need a viable successor to Facebook. The more people who do the same, the more likely Ello can thrive.

I hope you’ll have the chance and interest to join me. If you do, you can find me at http://Ello.co/jackcameron.

– Jack Cameron

Man Takes Break From Social Media Plunged Into Productivity

SocialMediaI’m a big fan of social media. The ability to instantly share and discuss information with friends, relatives, and strangers is incredibly attractive to me. It’s also a time suck that has almost addictive like properties for me. There are projects I want to complete that are taking far longer than they should.

There are many reasons for this but one of them is because I’m busy on Facebook arguing about the validity of the state of Palestine with a former coworker who once insisted I wash the dishes at the restaurant because the acid he was on made it seem like they were melting. It occurred to me that there might be better uses of my time.

Initially I stopped arguing with people on pages that weren’t mine. I resisted the urge to tell people they are wrong on the Internet. I reminded myself that not only are there far too many people out there with ill-informed and stupid opinions, but that telling them they are wrong is a fairly thankless and endless job that rarely results in anyone’s mind being changed.

However, I would still engage with those who were wrong on my page. If I posted something and you disagreed with it, I would argue the point both because I believed I was right and because I was interested in any information someone else might have that might prove me wrong.

It turned out that even with this restriction, I was spending far too much time paying attention to Facebook and Twitter. This was time I should be spending doing pretty much anything else.

Social media isn’t pointless and it does have its uses, but what had happened was this: I was letting my social media activity dictate my online activity rather than the other way around.

And so I’ve given myself a self-imposed break from social media. I’m not going to pay attention to most other people’s posts and I’m not going to post anything except links to my work outside of social media.

I’ll go back to posting regularly in September but the plan at this point is to limit those posts if for no other reason than everything I write on Facebook belongs to Facebook.

In the meantime, this will give me time when I’m online to update this site, TacomaStories.com, and others. I just became a contributor over at FivePointReview.com. The rest of my creative time will be devoted to getting my long awaited crime novel ready for publication.

– Jack Cameron

Why I’m Leaving Facebook

In recent months most of my online activity has been focused on Facebook. I haven’t twittered much. Nothing much has happened on this or my TacomaStories.com site. Really, if you didn’t check out my Facebook page, you’d hardly know I was online, but all of that is changing. And I know I’m not alone.

This morning I watched the video below regarding what’s wrong with Facebook. It echoed many of my own thoughts lately. Go ahead and take the time to watch it. I’ll be here.

The ads have only gotten more and more prevalent on Facebook and more often than not I’m forced to click on my friend’s page and scroll through their posts to actually see what they’ve posted because quite often it doesn’t show up in my feed. And I know people who like my page do the same thing because all of a sudden I’ll get ten likes on ten different posts in ten minutes.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only problem. As noted in this video, so called ‘like farms’ in the third world not only cause things you actually like to be filtered out since only a fraction of their audience sees what they post, but these ‘like farms’, in order to avoid detection, are literally clicking ‘like’ on every ad they see, effectively  making advertising on Facebook useless.

So what’s to be done? I want to continue to post content online but I want it to go to everyone who wants to see it. Facebook has made it abundantly clear that this isn’t something they’re very good at doing. Not only that but if someone who likes my page goes on vacation for two weeks, they’re likely to miss out on posts because finding old Facebook posts is like trying to find your own log of shit in a sewage treatment plant.

Deleting my Facebook account isn’t a good option because while I’m ready to leave other friends and family aren’t and no matter how much I might want them to, there are those who only check Facebook for anything. Luckily, other programs talk to Facebook just fine. So I’ve linked my @jackcameron Twitter account to Facebook. This means that anything I say on Twitter gets posted on Facebook without me having to do anything. This will effectively keep daily activity on my page without my actually having to post anything on Facebook.

(Side note: The one area where Facebook works better than anywhere else is letting close personal friends and family all know about a major event. When I was in the hospital, it was a simple matter to post updates there where friends and family could see but the general public could not.)

Of course Twitter isn’t the only alternative and as this post demonstrates, sometimes I want to say something a little longer than 140 characters. Since I can be a bit of an organizational neat freak, I made the following flow chart:
OnlineContentFlowchartThe result is basically that I’ll be posting much more on here and on TacomaStories as well as posting on Twitter. And Facebook becomes a much smaller part of my daily online life.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll still check in on Facebook and comment on things when someone is wrong on the Internet, but it’s time that I control the content and who gets to see it.

What are your thoughts on Facebook, social media, and online presence in general?

The Strange Immortality of Facebook

A couple of years ago I met a guy on Facebook named Bob Forsythe. Bob sent me a friend request shortly after a mutual friend blew up at us both. I did not know him before that. Since then, we’ve shared various links and amusing photos that appealed to our mutual dark senses of humor, and had countless conversations about the two topics people say you should never talk about: religion and politics. We didn’t agree much, but we enjoyed each other’s points of view.

A little over a month ago, I realized it had been a few days since I’d heard from Bob. I went to his Facebook page and found a bunch of posts from other people all saying things like ‘Rest In Peace’. It turns out that Bob had shot himself. I didn’t really have any friends in common with him because he lives in Colorado and I don’t. And our one friend we did have in common, I hadn’t talked to since our falling out. Right around the time I was reading Bob’s page, a friend of Bob’s got in touch with me and told me what happened.

I had never met Bob in person or talked to him on the phone. Our entire friendship existed on Facebook. And yet, given the content and quantity of our talks, I would consider him a good friend. And now he’s gone. Only, on Facebook, he isn’t.

I was prepared for the inevitable memorial page. I’ve enjoyed learning more about Bob and who he was to so many people. What I wasn’t prepared for was the Avengers. The only game I play on Facebook is the Avengers game. Bob played it also. In the game, if you have Facebook friends who also play the game, you can use their characters during battles even if they aren’t online. They are back up. And though Bob has been gone for over a month, his character continues to help out as I battle various super-villains on Facebook.

But that wasn’t all. As anyone who uses Facebook knows, when you click ‘like’ on a company’s page, you give them permission to use your name in advertisements. And so I get things like the image below when I log into Facebook. Bob may be dead, but his name is still selling the pages he liked.

It’s occurred to me that Facebook creates a sort of immortality that is almost entirely accidental. Almost no one updates their Facebook page thinking that what they post might be the largest source of material open to the public about your life. I miss my conversations with Bob, but through his passing,  a couple of friends of his have sent me friend requests. As far as I can tell from talking to them, Bob was the same online as he was offline. So sure, Facebook might not intentionally be your legacy, but it just might be an accurate one.

– Jack Cameron

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly About Facebook’s Timeline and Social Networking

In the late 1990s, I was a regular on an internet chat room run by the Tom Leykis Show. (Remember when chat rooms were all the rage?) One of the most common conversations went like this:

Person 1: You seem cool. What do you look like?

Person 2: Why don’t I just send you my photo? What’s your email address?

This happened all the time. And it tended to happen to the same people. So I told everyone to send me their picture and I would put up a website with all the photos of the regular chat people. Now, when someone new came on, we could just send them to the site where they would find that they too can be on the site if they send me their picture.

This was my first encounter with social networking.  At the time, the only thing you had to choose was whether or not you wanted to share a photo and if so, which one. That site no longer exists now. Neither do the chats. I’m not even still in contact with any of the people I met on the Tom Leykis Show chat room in person or online. It was something that happened and then it was gone, like most things in life.

Then there was MySpace. It was nice and simple. Post your picture, write what’s going on. Exchange messages. The choices were fairly simple. Share your name, age, hometown and whatever was on your mind. You could post what you were thinking. You could blog. You could comment on what other people were thinking or blogging. MySpace was an interconnected blogging site for people who didn’t want to code.

In 2007, everything changed with Facebook. Initially it seemed like a MySpace clone. Then Facebook began evolving. And it never stopped evolving. MySpace quickly became something that kids were into. Facebook became the place to be online.  Suddenly you were in contact with people you knew in high school. Suddenly some ex who you forgot about is sending you a friend request. Suddenly your mom is your friend on Facebook. This year, Facebook passed half a billion users. More people you know have a Facebook page than don’t.

With something that popular, there were inevitably going to be others who wanted a piece of that pie. Twitter carved out a niche by being incredible simple and easy to use. Before everyone had smart phones, you could send a text to 40404 and tell the world what was going on. It also became the place to connect with celebrities. LinkedIn showed up saying they were the Facebook for work. And like work, they were boring, but still kind of useful. Google came out with Buzz, which faded. Then they came out with Google+. G+ would have been a contender three or four years ago back when people were getting tired of MySpace and trying out Facebook. But it’s too late now. I know some people with G+ accounts but every one of them has a Facebook account that gets updated more often.

As soon as G+ came out, people began wondering how Facebook would respond. Initially it seemed like they weren’t going to do anything major. Then they came out with Timeline.

I’ll get into the whole Timeline thing in a minute, but first I want to back up and explain something. It doesn’t really matter how cool or flashy your website is. It doesn’t matter who is involved or what company it represents. What matters first, before all of that, is content. Content is king. Your site can be easy to navigate, pleasant to look at and on the cutting edge of what any browser can display. It won’t matter if you don’t have quality content.

Most companies pay people like me to write informative and entertaining content for their websites and social networking pages. What makes a company like Facebook so ingenious is that they don’t provide the content. They let their users provide the content. It has been said that “If it is free, then you are not the customer, you are the product.” Facebook has a billion eyes looking at Facebook.  And you and I are providing the content. This is what makes Facebook so powerful.

Facebook doesn’t just encourage us to post our thoughts, pictures, links and whatever else onto our pages. By linking us with our friends, it lets us share these things with the people we care about. And the people we care about love that. Facebook makes sharing our private stuff fun. That’s the magic of it. It gives us connection even when that connection might actually only exist in our heads. I mean it’s not as if every one of our friends looks at every one of our posts, but we still imagine that they do.

Timeline is everything that Facebook was and more. We’re no longer contained by the fact that Facebook didn’t exist before 2007. We can now post pictures, thoughts, ‘life events’ and everything else at any point in our lives beginning with the day we were born. If you really wanted to, you could use Timeline to tell your entire life story in a way that no journal has ever really been able to capture and share it on a global scale.

The potential here is extraordinary. It used to be that if you met someone new, you could look that person up on Facebook and find out what they looked like, what their relationship status was, what their interests were and how many Facebook friends they had. Now, with Timeline, it’d be possible to learn everything you might learn on a date just by going to their Facebook page. Facebook encourages you to post where you worked, who you were married to, how long you were married and what day you had a kid. In fact, Timeline has made it remarkably easy to fill in your entire life with words and pictures. Your autobiography could be a click away.

Remember what I said about content being king? This is the Holy Grail of content. Sure, you might not decide to share everything with Facebook, but the more you share, the more you feel connected. The less you share, the more people will think you’re hiding things. The one bright side of this is that at least it is letting you write your own autobiography. It’s not cross checking this with employment statistics and public records.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Timeline. I think the one thing that people might not be noticing is the fact that Facebook essentially owns everything you post there. For most people this doesn’t mean much. There’s not a lot of call for autobiographies of random people. However, let’s say you’re not random. Let’s say that you become someone who is in the public spotlight. Let’s say you become massively famous. And then let’s say that spotlight of fame burns you and you flame out like Charlie Sheen. And you do it publicly. On Facebook. What is to stop Facebook from taking your entire profile, publishing it and not giving you a dime?

Okay, that’s a worst case scenario. It’s unlikely to happen because you’re probably not going to be famous and Facebook would encounter a mass exodus if they started publishing ‘Facebook Biographies’ without the consent of the main characters. A more likely possibility is that with publishing becoming cheaper and cheaper, you decide to publish your own autobiography and you decide to use a bunch of your Facebook posts. For whatever reason, your autobiography takes off and is a best seller. Facebook could potentially sue for their share of your riches despite the fact that you wrote every word. Again, it’s probably not going to happen, but it could.

The most likely scenario in a world where you decided to share your entire life on Facebook goes something like this. You spend years creating your Facebook page with daily posts of random things that interest you. You comment on things. You share pictures. You share your life online. From time to time you might add things that happened before you joined Facebook into your Timeline. You create a snapshot of what your life was like day by day. And then you die. Two hundred years pass. And somewhere in the Internet archives, your Facebook page exists. More permanent than any hardcopy book that can be lost or destroyed. More accessible than an old relative that knows your family history. Your Facebook page becomes the Testament of You.

Strangely in this last scenario, Facebook owning the content actually helps you. Because jackcameron.com only exists as long as I or someone else pays for it. I’m betting my great grandkids won’t give a shit about keeping Great Grandpa Jack’s website up. But I don’t have to worry about my Facebook. It’s owned by a multibillion dollar corporation that isn’t likely to go away anytime soon and even if it does, it’ll likely just be sold to another company that will keep it going. Sure, there’s the possibility that Facebook will one day charge, but it’s unlikely. There’s no reason to. We aren’t the customer. We’re the product. And I’m okay with that.

– Jack Cameron