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Posts Tagged ‘Online Communities’

Ask.Fm: Where Wild West Meets Social Media

May 10, 2013 5 comments

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Another day, another social network to monitor. I first learned of ask.fm from my friend last week. She was in a flap. Generally, she is unflappable. My interest was piqued.

It’s horrible and nasty, you won’t believe what kids are saying on it, and ALL the kids are on it. Check it out.

So I did, and my unflappable friend was quite right to be flapping.

Ask.fm is an anonymous platform that allows users to post questions or comments to a user’s profile. It’s the social media equivalent to the wild west: anyone can follow anyone, and users don’t have access to who is following them, they can only see their number of followers.

In other words, it is a hotbed breeding ground for bullying, harassment, and inappropriate comments. If I could sound alarm bells here, I would let them ring.

You should know I’m not a helicopter parent. I have somewhat liberal views on social media, I believe it will play a role in our children’s lives and we need to keep an eye on things, while understanding that we don’t fully understand its (important) role in their lives. Whether we like it or not, it’s here, and it’s big.

That being said, I created an alias on ask.fm and followed my kid and her friends.

The questions and comments range wildly from inoccuous compliments to ranting insults, and everything in between.

Interestingly, as dismayed as I was with the content, I was impressed with the way she handled the insults, basically by laughing at the caustic comments or posting silly YouTube cartoon videos as a response. I suppose a sidebar of these social network sites is kids learn to deflect and stand up to haters. (I’m not sure I have the same capacity.)

But inevitably, others will fall victim to its nasty nature. Ask.fm is being blamed for the suicide of at least one teenager in England last month.

Apparently, you are able to block a user that is being abusive, and if you don’t respond to a question or comment, it won’t show up on your profile. This article, aimed at parents and teachers, will give you the lowdown on this potentially caustic site.

I can’t see the point of this network – it seems like nastiness personified to me, but I guess that is also its charm. My daughter tells me it’s just silly fun. When I was her age my friends and I stuck jellybeans up our noses for silly fun, but there you go. The times they are a changin’.

Getting a Handle on Twitter

January 19, 2011 8 comments
Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Twitter confounds me.  Although I’ve never been to a rodeo, I feel like it’s the feisty calf that my cowgirl self can’t lasso.

I have had trouble wrapping my head around this site, and was immediately dismissive of its necessity.  Who cares what Ashton Kutcher is saying about anything?  And pith has never been my strong point, so that 140 character minimum equates to writer’s block for me.

But it’s hung around, and in fact is growing in leaps and bounds, getting harder to ignore.  I had coffee with a Vancouver marketing dynamo, Jennifer Maloney, of Sip Publicity, and she encouraged me to get on Twitter. Her explanation was that Twitter was like one big cocktail party, where you meander around catching snippets of conversation which will occasionally interest you, and some which will not.  Facebook, on the other hand, is more like a barbecue, where you are in the company of those you know personally.

Equating any site on the internet with a cocktail party is music to any SAHM’s ears.  SIGN. ME. UP.

I love the game of cocktail parties, as everyone is ducking and jiving to have an interesting conversation with someone they barely know.   I’ve used the old “I just need to refresh my drink” phrase in efforts to dodge conversations containing the words “projectile vomiting” on more than one occasion.  Conversely I’ve lurked on the outskirts of tight circles discussing shoe sales or juicy tidbits of gossip, straining my ears so hard to hear that I practically fell on top of their cosmopolitans.  Yet my social calendar is devoid of these swanky little numbers.  Could Twitter really fill this crater?

I took a deep breath and created a Twitter handle, although I still had no idea what I should be tweeting about.  The next step was getting a list of followers, because what is the point of tweeting if no one is listening?  I already talk to myself far too much.  Jennifer had recommended looking at lists that interesting people are following.  If you’re interested in yoga, you might follow people who are following Lululemon.  I know, that’s a lot of following for one sentence, but welcome to the Twitter world of tweets.

There are many different people on this social networking site for many different reasons.  Like anything on the internet, watch out for spammers and anyone who tries to tell you how to make quick, easy money, and of course anyone who wants you to take your clothes off.  In fact, it’s really no different from real life; spidey senses should prevail.

As with any worthwhile achievement, the key to Twitter is patience and perseverance.  You are not going gain followers overnight, something that bothered me for a couple of months.   It’s a numbers game, where people generally follow people who have a large number of followers. These people are called influencers, and there is a certain amount of notoriety to be gained from hanging around them.  Exactly in the same way as everyone wants to be associated with the popular kid in school.  We grow, but we never really change.

The Twitter world at first seemed like a strange universe, where people were speaking a language I had never learned, with weird symbols like @, #, RT and DM.  But like skinny jeans, I’m slowly coming around to this fashion fad which seems to be here to stay.

The days of drinking and driving are firmly gone, but drinking and tweeting is encouraged!  Mix yourself a cosmo and join the party.

To Facebook or not to Facebook

December 22, 2010 2 comments
Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

This is a question that can easily divide a room in half at a party amongst people my age: “Are you on Facebook?”  Unlike teenagers and twenty-somethings, my peers are more hesitant to adapt new social networking practices, treading cautiously and making sure no credit card numbers are required before joining.  On the other hand, just like some school aged children, those not using Facebook are quick to sling arrows and insults towards those that are.  Just like all of those insecure bullies on the playground.

In the same way that a gun can be used to protect yourself, or murder someone, Facebook can be put to good, productive use, or it can be abused and exploited.  If you’re careful, Facebook doesn’t need to be the three headed monster lurking in your closet, contrary to what its critics tell me.

I have been on Facebook for a few years now, and am happy to count amongst my random list of friends some of my oldest and dearest childhood buddies.  I don’t exchange messages with them on a regular basis, but am happy that I know how to reach them if I want to share a memory with them, and if I’m ever in their city, I will look them up, since I now know where to find them.

Naysayers tell me they are in touch with all of the friends they want to be, they don’t need an online presence for this purpose.  That’s their prerogative.  But if life wasn’t so busy and these people still lived in my neighborhood, I would still ask Kyla if she could go bike riding after dinner, and ask Trina to come over, see if Jacqui could pick me up on her scooter, or ask Angie to go to a movie.  I would love to be able to do this, but these friends are now scattered across the country and busy with careers and families.  Facebook is as close to a playdate as we can come.

With almost my entire family on the opposite coast of Canada, Facebook is a great way of sharing photos.  We tried Flickr after our family cruise, but I have long since forgotten both the site name (Regan Cruise? Family Cruise? Booze Cruise?) and password.  Facebook is so much easier.  Every now and then I post an album of recent photos, and although I can almost hear a collective groan from the rest of my Facebook friends, it helps my family recognize my children who are growing like weeds when they disembark from the airplane each summer.

As for people who say it is nothing but a pick up place, or a place to connect with old boyfriends, I’m still waiting with bated breath, but no one has tried to pick me up.  There’s always next year, I guess.

Besides all of its obvious uses, Facebook is a huge part of our pop culture.  Ignoring it is like ignoring the World Wide Web.  Whether or not the powers that be at Facebook should install a “dislike” button has sparked a massive online debate – over the top, in my opinion, but fascinating to see how passionate Facebook users are about their network.   Or to see how much time people have on their hands.

Like an overused toy on Christmas that doesn’t see the light of Boxing Day, I go on Facebook sporadically these days, it has lost its shiny luster.  I don’t check my news feed everyday to see who has updated their status.   But I’m happy to be there in case an old friend looks me up, and I’m not above creeping – the Facebook term for looking at your friends profiles and pictures – in my spare time.  The world is becoming a smaller, more intimate place, and that has its benefits.