How Social Media Will Change the Future

future2The future of social media is going to alter the way we see the world. In the next few years, everything will change: the way we communicate, share our experiences and our realtionships with smart devices. As technology and social media integrate into every part of our lives, social media will literally become engrained in who we are. Nobody knows for certain what the future holds but experts all agree that the below trends will appear in the next few years.

The History of Social Media in 90 seconds

Here is a list of 10 exciting ways we can expect social media to change over the course of our lifetime:  

1. Social Media Will Not Exist Anymore – Social Media will become so widespread and common that it will not be called social media anymore. Instead it will just be called mass media. The term ‘social media’ is so ingrained into our everyday existence that the phrase seems redundant, like “color TV” or “cordless phone.” We will look back one day at the dawn of social media and remember it’s beginning while our children will never know a life without it. Furthermore, social media will become so engrained in ‘who we are’ that it will become an extension of self and “we will cease to notice it unless it’s missing – like the way you never notice electricity until it’s gone (5)”.

2. The Virtual’ Experience  – Already news outlets have begun to use videos from bystanders to ‘tell’ the story. However, experts believe in the future all videos will be “knit together into a single immersive video, enabling the viewer to virtually experience the event in real time (1)”. This means the user will be able to “go inside” a news experience. This will change the way people view and participate in current events and widen the scope of possibility. Not only will you be able to watch the latest hurricane but you will be able to ‘experience it’ as if you were there.

This will offer a unique opportunity for companies to showcase new products and services in a virtual world. It will also change the online experience as users will be able to test drive a car from the comfort of their own home. It also opens up the possibility of an increased global awareness as we are able to connect more deeply to people around the world.

3. Social Media Becomes a Part of You The cellphone has just overtaken the desktop as the primary means of accessing the Internet but this trend doesn’t stop there. In the future, social media is going to become even more invasive and more a part of who we are. With inventions such as the Apple Watch, Tesla Model S car with built-in internet, Oculus VR Glasses and the Google Glasses the way we are accessing social media is changing. In May, Google Glasses became widely available, if not affordable ($1149 US on Amazon). Some experts go as far to say that technology will evolve into an implanted device in our bodies that will connect to everything around us.

future6 future5

“When our eyes are a video camera, our ears a microphone, and we are wearing

clothes with code in the fibers, we’ll likely share our lives on a biorhythmic scale.”

–Jen Goldberg.

With this shift companies will have to make sure all of their content will be able to “take advantage” of this shift. For example: this means not just posting text-heavy content but “utilizing video, tappable post elements, and other tools to increase the richness of the customer experience and interaction with you (2)”. Additionally as virtual reality opens up endless possibilities we will have to look at the ethical standards and limitations that apply to this ‘new world’ order.

 4. Even Your Fridge will Get SocialEverything from home appliances like thermostats, bathroom scales and refrigerators to wearables like fitness bracelets and smart watches are now collecting data and sharing this information. Lots of these devices are also pushing notifications to Facebook, Twitter and other networks, which is a trend that will continue. We currently “have thermostats that learn our preferences, watches that take our pulse, and Nike even knows how often and how fast we run, and this is just the beginning (3)”. For example: in the future, a smart fridge that tracks your Facebook may see that you are having a party and will connect the fact that you are out of beer and send you a reminder.  Although no one knows for certain what the future holds, one thing we do know is that the connection between smart devices and social media will merge at some point. Although this presents endless opportunity for companies to collect customer data, again ethical standards will need to be established to protect people.

5. Filter InformationWith all the data floating around in social media, the ability to filter this information will become more advanced. This way people will be able to filter information from the brands/people and news that pertains to them. Additionally as people tire with Facebook they are seeking out new more targeted social media sites like Foodie or Kaboodle. Some of these sites boasts millions of visitors every month and they are growing bigger every day as people are looking to connect with like-minded people. This market is expected to grow expedientially and there is a niche social networking site for everyone: shopaholics, foodies, exercise gurus, travel attics, etc. Here are the Top 5 Niche Websites.

6. Virtual Socializing Instead of going to the beach with a friend, one day you will be able to use technology to visit a virtual beach. Jason Stein, Laundry Service Founder & President, explains “All I do all week is look at my phone, reading articles, liking posts, sending emails/tweets/messages. In the future, I will “disconnect” by putting on Oculus virtual reality glasses when I get home—and suddenly I’ll be sitting courtside at the Knicks game with my Facebook friends.” Virtual socializing will become more and more prevalent as people strapped for time and money will instead opt for a virtual experience. As an alternative to hopping on your stationary bike you will have the opportunity to go biking through the Alps with your best friend. Or instead of going shopping alone you can go to the virtual mall with your mom who lives 2,000 kms away.future3

7. More Privacy – The demand for anonymous social media is only going to get bigger in the future. In the past people were concerned with how many ‘friends’ they could accumulate, however, people are becoming more selective in who makes up their ‘friends’ list. In other words, we used to be impressed with how many people we could share our lives with, and now we’re more interested in limiting what we share and with whom – quality vs. quantity. Those who want to take privacy to ‘the next level’ can use apps such as Whisper and Secret. They allow you to reveal your innermost thoughts to the Internet without being traced. In October, Facebook rolled out its new chat app Rooms, which allows users to create chat rooms around shared interests, with no requirement to reveal name or location. People have voiced their concerns with privacy and technology is aiming to meet these demands.

8. Short and Sweet – With less time and more information people are more interested in pictures and short bursts of copy. That is why the fastest growth right now is happening on Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat. People don’t have the time or interest to read long-winded self-interest posts – they are looking for a quick in-and-out. The strongest competition seems to be in the video market – here everyone is competing for a piece of the pie (Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest). In fact, “brand-supported short video content is an unstoppable force, so Google/YouTube clearly have targets on their backs (4)”. Video will also be equally as important as the virtual world becomes more and more prevalent.

9. Payment Options in Social Media –  There is a hidden payment feature inside Facebook’s messenger app just waiting to be activated as many of tech’s biggest players are battling it out in the mobile payment space including: Apple, Square, Stripe and Paypal. Nobody is quite sure why Facebook is trying to connect payment options to social media but it may be to leverage customer purchasing data or to keep Facebook as a one-stop destination. As the worlds of social media, technology and consumerism start to blur one can only image the possibilities. The one thing that’s for sure: you can expect to see major social networks aggressively seeking to handle your financial transactions in the future. Earlier this year, both Twitter and Facebook began beta-testing “buy” buttons which appear alongside certain tweets and posts and allow users to make purchases with just a click or two, without ever leaving the network. With this new feature, an online seller could post a picture and the viewer could buy with the click of the button – shopping made easy!

future710. Accessibility for Everyone – Recently Facebook acquired the company Ascenta (who build and distribute solar-powered drones) in an attempt to help it deliver wireless Internet access to underserved parts of the world, such as Africa. Facebook hopes to have the drones in the air at some point in 2015, ever expanding the world’s largest social network. This comes on the heels of Amazon’s recent announcement that they will be making deliveries using drones. One can only wonder what other purposes drones may serve in the future.   

 

 

  1. Cory Bergman, BreakingNews Co-Founder
  2. http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/36458.asp#singleview#k4yST6J191pE6vbf.99
  3. Otis Kimzey, Simply Measured, Director
  4. Alec McNayr and Alan Beard, the co-founders of McBeard Media
  5. Sarah Green, Harvard Business Review, Senior Associate Editor and Host of HBR Ideacast
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How to Write an A+ Blog

blog4I wish this would have been the first blog I ever wrote. I have learned so many useful tips on researching for this blog that I have realized the wrongs of my ways. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Follow these 10 easy steps and make sure your blog is a success:

1. Write Strong Headlines – eight out of 10 people will read your heading. Two out of 10 will read your blog. Let’s face it…without a strong headline nobody is reading your blog so a strong headline is perhaps the most important thing you can do. It’s important to spend time crafting an eye-catching headline. Some go as far as to say pick the six words that count most for your heading. If you can’t limit it to six words, research shows that readers will digest the first three and the last three words in a heading.

Here are eight headline strategies that are backed by science (see blog.bufferapp.com):

  • blog6Surprise “This is Not a Perfect Blog Post (But it Could Have Been)”
  • Question “Do You Know How to Create the Perfect Blog Post?”
  • Negatives “Never Write a Boring Blog Post Again”
  • How to “How to Create the Perfect Blog Post”
  • Numbers “Top 10 Ways to Create a Perfect Blog”
  • Audience Referencing “For People on the Verge of Writing the Perfect Blog”

Additionally, it is important to come up with strong opening line (or hook) to equally capture the reader’s attention. It is often this storytelling hook that engages people to read on. For more ideas on how to write strong headings: How to Write Magnetic Headlines – CopyBlogger.

2. Great, Factual Content – you can have a catchy-headline but if it’s not backed up with good content then  the reader will feel ripped off when reading your blog. There is so much information out there that it’s important to do your research, make sure it’s accurate, concise and complete. In today’s world people are busy and looking for good information and fast. If you provide good content people will keep coming back. Make it easy for people to find information and eliminate the fluff. As one blogger put it “publish epic content”, this way “you will become known as a subject matter expert and people will remember your blog”. See ‘How I Built a Top 100 Blog in 12 Months and How You Can Do it Too’ by Mathew Woodward.

blog 73. Add Eye-Catching Images (or Videos) – Blogging and social media have become increasingly visual in the last few years. The old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ holds true for blogs. You can use images to bring the reader to an emotional space or share intimate details about an experience. Through images the reader can relate to the story before reading a word. Online photo editors such as PicMonkey and Pixir can help you achieve great photos. You can also create a ‘look’ by using similar-looking images which can be effective in creating your brand. Equally important is to make sure your blog is professional looking. Spend the extra time to ensure your blog is well put together and polished. For more information you can visit: ‘Getting Visual with Your Content: 10 Effective Ways to Use Images’ – infographic and article by Lane Jones.

4. Make it Easy to Read – Essentially people will be scanning your blog for information that is pertinent. Very rarely do people read a full post. To make sure it’s easy to read add in headings and easy to follow formatting. Often bloggers will use numbers to clarify a subject (i.e. ’10 Ways to Loose Weight’). Bullet points and subheadings are also useful tools in creating a scannable document. Keeping paragraphs and sentences short will also increase reader ability. If you run out of space post hyperlinks with more detailed information. This will add credibility and also save space. Finally, think about using bolded or italicized text to highlight important points. This will make your blog seem less busy to the reader and increase your chance of being read.

Blog#15. Get to the Point – All too often there is too much of a lead up to get to the actual point of the blog. As a public relations student I was always taught to lead with the most important information first – the same is true of blogs. This way you have a better chance at capturing the readers attention. Equally as important is to stick to the point – try not to ramble and stay on topic.

6. Be Friendly – People look to blog posts for information and/or to be entertained. It is important to try and stay positive and conversational when writing your blog. When you are conversational you take the first step in connecting with the reader.

7. Find Your Voice – It is equally as important to add personality and find your voice. After all people are reading your blog because of your opinions and experiences. Find your niche – this way the writing will come easy to you. Decide what you are passionate about. Running? Cooking? Parenting? It important to blog about something you have a unique perspective on but be careful to avoid heavily saturated topics (unless given a unique twist). Try to take advantage of your strengths and experiences. Be original. Be interesting. Be honest. Be yourself.

8. Stay Current – It’s important to stay current on what everyone is talking about. This way you are able to blog about things that are top of mind for people. Stay on top of trends and offer your option/experiences/thoughts on what is going on. Tie the current trends back to your niche.

blog#29. Understand Your Reader – it is important to understand your target market. Once you find your niche you will know who is reading your blog. It is important to write information that they will find useful. Your content must add value to your readers life (entertainment/information). It is also important to use “we/our” statements instead of “you/your” (especially in negative contexts) as it’s interpreted less accusingly. This is something I find a bit challenging…as I am writing for “you”.

10. Keep It Short – I often fail in this department but it’s important to keep things short. It’s the opposite of university essays. Short sentences. Short Paragraphs. Short(ish) Blog. The sweet spot for blogs should be around 1,500 words – a seven minute read.

In all – if you follow this formula you should be on your way to writing a great blog. For me it’s a work in progress as I try to tone down the essay writer in me and allow myself to be myself.

How to Protect Yourself on Facebook — 15 Easy Tips

PRIVACYMost recently, I wrote about doing a ‘Facebook Cleanse’ to refine my contacts on Facebook to a group of ‘Friends’ I felt safe ‘sharing’ with. Logically, the next step in procuring my online security was to explore all possible privacy features on Facebook. My goal was to come up with 5 easy ways to protect myself but as I dove deeper, I realized how complex and numerous the options were. In the end I was able to get it down to 15 easy tips.

The first thing to remember when trying to protect yourself and your privacy on Facebook is that Facebook wants you to post as much information as possible. This not only creates a closer connection between the user and Facebook but it also creates a wealth of information for advertisers to use. Over the years, Facebook has changed their privacy controls again and again in an attempt to trick the user. When Facebook first started information was shared solely with ‘Friends’ but over the years it has morphed into primarily a ‘News Feed’ that is shared with the world. That is ‘shared’ unless you take the necessary steps to ‘unshare’ your information’ and protect yourself. Everyone has a different level of ‘sharing’ they are comfortable with so feel free to pick and choose what resonates with you. How to Protect Yourself on Facebook — 15 Easy Tips

  1. 1. Maximize Privacy Settings – make sure you limit access to your account to ‘Friends’ only. On the upper-right hand corner tab – SETTINGS – PRIVACY – chose the tabs for FRIENDS ONLY. Here is a suggested screen shot of a recommended privacy profile:Screen-Shot-2013-08-27-at-11_22_36-AM-660x318
  2. 2. Block People and Apps – Block certain people from inviting you to apps and events, or block certain apps altogether. If you know of any annoying friends or apps, you can add them to your block list. I was very excited to learn I could block ‘Candy Crush Soda Saga’ game requests. To make changes go to the upper-right hand corner tab – SETTINGS – BLOCKING.
  3. Limit App Access to Your Account  – some apps may be accessing your personal information without your knowledge. Surprisingly I had about 12 apps I never use in this category. To adjust your apps go to the left-hand navigation bar and click APPS – SETTINGS – and make changes to LOGGED IN WITH FACEBOOK. It is important to keep this area as clean as possible as Facebook applications can be insecure, littered with spam, and annoying. Most recently Facebook was found leaking private photos by allowing third party apps to syphon personal pictures personal . facebook-app-setting
  4. Limit What Information is Shared with Advertisers  – Facebook will sometimes try to use your information in advertisements to your friends—for example, if they see an ad for a restaurant you’ve “liked” on Facebook, then they’ll see your name under the ad.  You can limit what information is being shared with advertisers.  To adjust your apps go to the left-hand navigation bar and click ADS – SETTINGS and make changes to THIRD PARTY SITES and ADS AND FRIENDS  click EDIT and change the setting to NO ONE. You can even go a bit deeper by blocking Facebook and/or other participating companies from collecting and using information based on your activity on websites, devices, and/or apps. You can opt out through the Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada. You only need to opt out once. If you opt out of interest-based advertising from Facebook on one phone or computer, they will apply that choice everywhere you use Facebook.Facebook-Ad-Settings
  5. Limit Who Can See Your ‘Friends’ — If you would like to control who can see your ‘Friends’ go to FRIENDS – MANAGE – EDIT PRIVACY and edit WHO CAN SEE MY FRIENDS LIST  to ONLY ME. This removes the ‘popularity contest’ side of Facebook. Additionally, there is an option to adjust WHO CAN SEE THE PEOPLE AND LISTS YOU FOLLOW to ONLY ME.
  6. Change Your Name and Birthday – Another little trick that some people use on Facebook is to only use part of their name (i.e. Amy S) or another well-known nickname. Additionally, you can protect your information further by changing the year of your birthday. This way, if your personal information is ever compromised, your correct name/birthday remains unknown.
  7. Look at Your Profile from an Outside Perspective — An interesting little trick is to look at your Facebook page from an outside perspective by clicking on VIEW ACTIVITY LOG – VIEW AS. This is a good tool to use once you think you have made all possible privacy updates.
  8. Manage-Facebook-Privacy-Options-Step-4-Version-2Make ‘Friends Lists’ – The easiest way to protect yourself on Facebook is to organize your ‘Friends’ into ‘Lists’ (‘Close Friends’, ‘Family’, and ‘Coworkers’). This way you can pick and choose what information is shared with whom. To create your ‘Lists’, go to the left-hand navigation bar and under FRIENDS click the group(s) you would like to edit: ACQUAINTANCE, CLOSE FRIENDS, LIMITED PROFILE or FAMILY. Once these groups have been established you can post status updates to select ‘Lists’.
  9. Limit ‘About’ Information – If you are like me and extremely private then you want to adjust the ‘About’ settings on your Facebook page.  Here information is shared about where you work, live, etc. Not only did I select the ONLY ME tab but I did not disclose the details of where I work, go to school, live etc. Since I am not interested in sharing this information with the public I don’t see the point in sharing this information with Facebook. To make changes, go to your personal Facebook page – ABOUT and change settings to ONLY ME.About
  10. Change Past ‘Public’ Posts to ‘Private’ – Since Facebook has changed the privacy settings so much over the past few years it’s hard to know where you stand in terms of privacy. Even though you may have updated your current settings to maximize privacy, past posts may still be public. In order to update past posts as private: click on the upper-right hand corner tab – SETTINGS – PRIVACY under WHO CAN SEE MY STUFF there is the option to LIMIT OLD POSTS. This will change the content of your Timeline from being SHARED WITH PUBLIC to FRIENDS ONLY. Facebook will warn you that this change is permanent.
  11. Protect Your Data Plan – (I am not sure that this fits on the list)…but recently I upgraded my phone to IOS8 and downloaded the latest version of the Facebook app. With these changes I started going through data on my phone like crazy. After a few calls to Rogers, I discovered the instant ‘video play’ on my Facebook feed was eating up all my data. To adjust this feature go the left hand side navigation bar under VIDEOS – AUTO-PLAY-VIDEOS and switch it to OFF. Again, it is in Facebook’s best interest to have videos playing as it allows advertisers a stronger platform.Facebook-Auto-play-Video-Settings
  12. Control Your ‘Status Updates’ – Every time you update your ‘Status’ on Facebook you have the option to select who the update is shared with. You have the option to share it with FRIENDS, PUBLIC, CLOSE FRIENDS or ONLY ME.
  13. Beef Up Security – Make sure you make the most of Facebook’s security features. To optimize security go to the upper-right hand tab and click SETTINGS and then SECRITY. Here you need to make sure the security features are enabled such as SECURE BROWSING and LOGIN NOTIFICATIONS (which lets you know if your account is accessed from a new device or browser). It is also recommended to enable approvals for logging in from an unknown browser and enabling CODE GENERATOR to add an extra layer of security.
  14. Keep up with The Latest Privacy Changes – Facebook is constantly changing and evolving the privacy regulations. To keep up with this flux and constant change Facebook has created a page called Facebook Security. Additionally, there are blogs that stay on-top of Facebook so you don’t have to. One that was particularly useful to me was: The Always Up-to-Date Guide to Managing Your Facebook Privacy.facebook-security-settings
  15. Basic TipsFacebook’s Privacy Tips offers basic tips to keep your account safe such as: picking a strong password, making sure your e-mail account it secure, making sure to log out of Facebook when you are not using it, etc. I can’t help but feel frustrated that Facebook purposefully turns the responsibility of security back to the user but meanwhile willingly shares personal information without consent.

Keeping our Facebook information private is getting harder and harder all the time, mostly because Facebook keeps trying to make it public. Facebook adds new features to their site all the time, and many of those features share information you might not want out there. The best thing to do is to play around with Facebook and get to know it. Facebook has purposely separated all of the privacy and security features so you have to go to many different places to ensure optimal privacy. Facebook is hoping that you don’t take the time to make these adjustments and unwillingly share as much information as possible. Everyone has different levels on comfort it just depends what you want to share – either way you should be in control.

Un-friending on Facebook – The Top 5 Reasons I Decided to do a ‘Facebook Cleanse’

Facebook

It became clear to me after writing my first two blogs about privacy and security in social media that I needed to clean up my ‘friends’ list by doing what’s called a ‘Facebook cleanse’.

When Facebook first hit the mainstream in 2006, we were ‘friend requesting’ anyone and everyone. People who I went to elementary school with suddenly appeared out of the blue with promises of reunions. It was a good way to see what people were up to, share a few laughs about the past and move on. It seemed that ‘friending’ people quickly evolved from ‘quality of friends’ to ‘quantity’ forcing the virtual definition of the word ‘friend’ to take a new meaning.

Here are the top 5 reasons I decided to tighten up my ‘friends’ list:

  1. It’s not Safe

As mentioned above, security has become a really big issue for me. When I share pictures of my children online I want to make sure I am ‘sharing’ them with people I know. This is not a foolproof system but, by deleting people I don’t really know, it limits the risk.

When I was deleting ‘friends’ from my list I used the basic rule: “would I go for a coffee this person”? “Is this person going to be a part of my life in the future”?  If the answer was yes to either of these questions I kept them as ‘friends’.

  1. It Wastes Time

I found myself spending too much time reading status updates from people who are not a part of my life. Not only is this a wasteful, time consuming process…it’s strange when you actually see this person face-to-face and you know their whole life story. They go to tell you that they just got married BUT you already know this — along with what they wore, who they invited and where they honeymooned — because you saw it on Facebook!

Many experts recommend culling your friend list once a year to remove total strangers and other hangers-on. By keeping the numbers of your ‘friends’ down, it gives you the opportunity to focus on the people who really matter to you. Instead of reading status updates from strangers you can instead focus and comment on the posts from people who really do matter to you.

  1. You Wouldn’t Talk to Them at the Grocery Store

You wouldn’t talk to this person in the grocery store …so why are you following their daily lives on Facebook? In a recent study, 34% of people admitted they have Facebook friends they would ignore in real life. This actually happened to me…where a Facebook ‘friend’ and I walked right by each other. We were not trying to be rude — we simply had nothing to say. You have to ask yourself the question: “why would share your life with someone you wouldn’t stop to talk to in the street”? Again, cut the superficial threads and attend to the relationships that really matter.

  1. ‘Friends’ or Foes?

Interestingly, the average person has 287 friends on Facebook but only 10% are considered actual friends (3). The majority of people we are calling ‘friends’ are really more like acquaintances.

A recent study revealed that 58% of people keep Facebook ‘friends’ they don’t like so they could still see their photos and statuses, and find out what they were up to (3). I find this particularly disturbing as Facebook gives nosey (not necessarily well-intentioned) people a way to spy into your life.

George Charles, from VoucherCodesPro, says: ‘It seems with the results of this study, the old saying about keeping your friends close, but your enemies even closer, is definitely alive and well even in today’s society with our reliance on the internet.’

  1.  It’s Annoying

In recent studies, people admitted to deleting people who bragged too much about their life and/or who posted too many ‘vanity’ selfie pictures. Other things that pushed people to delete ‘friends’ were ‘attention seeking sad posts’ and ‘angry ranting posts’ (2).

As I was deleting ‘friends’ these above considerations did come into play. There were a few people that were cut because I realized their posts were draining me.

In the end, I deleted about a third of my ‘friends’ list and it was a surprisingly hard thing to do. I did have some regrets and even went back and re-requested some friends (a bit awkward) but overall I felt good about the changes I made.

Some believe that deleting people on Facebook could hurt you both personally and professionally. They argue that the web is so interconnected that people can see your information whether they are a ‘friend’ or not. They also feel that every person you delete on Facebook is one less networking opportunity (1).

For me the reasons above strongly outweighed the potential networking opportunities. I feel more open about sharing with my ‘friends’ on Facebook and feel like I have more time to read the posts from people who really do matter to me.

  1. Men’s Health Magazine
  2. Metro, UK
  3. Mail Online

When ‘Sharing’ on Social Media is Sharing Too Much – Things to Consider BEFORE Posting Information About Your Children on Facebook

privacy

In 2006, when Facebook first hit the mainstream, it was a novelty for people to unwittingly share pictures and personal information online. I can remember how excited I was to amass large groups of ‘friends’ and share whole albums detailing my everyday life. Over the last few years, the Facebook landscape has changed and then changed again. Recently people have begun to ask serious questions in regards to online safety and the consequences of ‘sharing’ too much. Specifically, posting pictures and information online has raised new questions about what is safe and proper conduct in regards to our children. Over the years I have gone from posting whole albums to posting an occasion ‘distant’ photo of my children. There is no doubt we are obsessed with posting pictures and updates about our children but is it safe, or even ethical to publish something about someone who can’t give their consent — or can they?

Who is Posting Pictures of Their Children Online?

Most parents have posted, or thought about posting, something about their kids on Facebook or other social media outlets at some point in their life. In a 2011 study, 66% of generation X parents said they post pictures of their children online while over 50% said they share in their children’s accomplishments. A more recent US study found that 63% of moms use Facebook; of these, 97% said they post pictures of their child; 89% post status updates about them, and 46% post videos.

There are two things to be careful about when posting information about our children online. The first is the amount of information that you give away, such as: date of birth, place of birth, the child’s full name, or geographical location.  The second issue is about consent. What type of information would your children want to see about themselves online (2)?

Is it Safe?

Some parents have safety and privacy concerns when it comes to their children. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to secure online anonymity. Passwords and photos are easily hacked, and the more information that’s available, the easier it is to trace it back to the person (1). As a parent, it’s hard not to question what will happen to the photos and information posted about my children online. I often worry about posting too much information and setting up my child for predators and/or identity theft.

Additionally, there have been many ‘privacy controversies’ regarding social media sites such as Facebook over the years. There have been many questions raised about ownership of photographs and who can share the pictures you post. It hasn’t helped that Facebook keeps changing its privacy policies to confuse the ‘user’ into sharing more than anticipated.

In response to the uncertainty, many parents are now opting to not post any pictures online. While other parents find a happy medium, by posting pictures or stories about their young children without using their real name and/or not tagging them in pictures.

Three Things to Remember When Sharing Information About Your Children Online (3):

  1. Don’t Share Too Much – Avoid telling people where you are going that day, date of birth, place of birth, the child’s full name, or geographical location, etc. Be as vague as possible – your real friends will know the details anyway.
  2. Use the Privacy Controls – Facebook and other social media sites have privacy features that can control who your information is shared with. Privacy controls are subject to change without notice so make sure they are up-to-date. Only share pictures and information with people you trust.
  3. Your Data is Being Shared Whether you Like it or Not – Remember a friend could unknowingly allow your information to be shared with a third party without your knowing. It is better to keep your posts vague and nondescript.

Should the Child Have a Say in What is Posted About Them Online?

The trend of posting information about our young children on social media sites raises an important issue: don’t children deserve some privacy? Some parents feel strongly that they should not post images of their child before they are old enough to make decisions for themselves. Interestingly, before researching for this blog I (accidentally) asked for my six-year-old daughter’s  permission before posting her picture. I was surprised to find out she really does have strong opinions about what she would like ‘shared’ online.

Another question that arises: could these pictures someday come back to bite our children? This is a little far-fetched but it is possible that the embarrassing pictures you post of your children could resurface one day…like when they run for office. Sometimes it is hard to completely understand what the future is capable of and therefore always better to err on the side of caution.

Even if the Information is Deleted is it Ever Really Gone?

You also have to ask yourself: even once a picture is deleted is it really gone? There are many beliefs out there that once a picture has been digitalized and posted online than there is never any way to truly delete it. Others fear that their pictures will be stolen online and used without consent. There have also been many theories that include Facebook selling your pictures for profit.

Whatever the future holds it is glaringly obvious that our children’s digital footprints will be quite different from our own. As a generation Xer I grew up without my life being documented by pictures online. All of my embarrassing pictures are currently safety locked up in my family album — there is something to be said for privacy.

Perhaps it’s time for me to review my Facebook friendships and become more selective about which friends I share photos with. I also need to check my own privacy settings and make sure they are at maximum capacity. Finally, I will continue to only post ‘distant’ pictures of my children with my daughter’s consent (my son is only 3) and resist using their full names.

  1. Amy Webb, a futurist and CEO of the digital strategy firm Webbmedia Group
  2. Victoria Nash, the acting director of the Oxford Internet institute
  3. Based on a Consumer Reports Study

When It’s Time to Unplug – 10 Reasons Why Too Much Social Media is Bad for You

mom

About ten months ago, I rarely picked up my cell phone. As a stay-at-home mother of two young children my time happily consisted of taking care of them. My friends would tease me about ‘getting with the twenty-first century’ and share their frustrations with my lack of social media use. To be honest, my cell phone package didn’t even include texting and I only dabbled in Facebook.

This all changed once I upgraded my cell package to include texting and slowly became addicted to my mobile device. I soon discovered how fast and efficient texting could be. Once my texting addiction was in place I noticed how conveniently I could scan Facebook and other social media sites. It wasn’t long before my phone started travelling with me everywhere I went: in the bath, to bed, it even accompanied me while making dinner.  Social-media-surfing became a go-to activity every time I had a few moments to myself.

Today my cell phone has become an extension of who I am – a lifeline. Social media has become my main tool for keeping in touch with friends, my news source and regrettably my biggest time waster. Unfortunately, this new addiction of mine has not gone unnoticed. It is not uncommon for my children to seek my attention while I try to finish reading an interesting article or reply to a Facebook message. It is also not uncommon for my husband to start up a conversation with me while I continue to scan Facebook. Somehow, somewhere I have become disconnected by connecting.

Over the long-term social media and I have developed a love-hate relationship. Although I feel drawn to social media and a compulsive need to check in throughout the day, I also realize how much time it wastes. Another interesting observation was how I left a ‘Facebook session’ in a lesser mood than I went in with. For these reasons and more I decided to research the long-term negative effects of spending too much time on social media.

Here are the 10 most important reasons I’m unplugging from social media:

1.   It’s Bad for Your Physical Health — Since the majority of time we spend posting on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites is done sitting this can be harmful to our health. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, almost 80% of us spend three or more hours of our leisure time sitting down and this is not good. Add this to the time we spend idle at work, travelling to/from work and sleeping and we spend the majority of our lives in a sedentary state. Recent reports have suggested that living a sedentary life is as dangerous to our health as cancer. Sedentary lifestyles have been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression.

2. You Are Not Living in the MomentAlmost a quarter of Americans say they’ve missed out on important life moments in their quest to capture and immortalize them for social media. We often over-indulge in our digital world but meanwhile miss what is right in front of us. In “Seven Rules to stop your Phone Taking over Your Life”, Tom Chatfield writes about the habit of “phubbing”: snubbing other people by ignoring them and paying attention to your mobile phone instead”. We have all seen it: families at restaurants all on social media devices. People are socializing but not with the people they are with. This sends the message that other people are more important than the ones around you. Recent studies suggest that simply leaving your phone on the table while dining with friends can create negative feelings. I can relate.

3.   It Wastes Time — Often I have tried to justify my time spent on social media as research (after all…I am a communications professional and it’s my job to stay up-to-date). However, 35% of people believe social media is the biggest waste of time in their lives (behind watching TV, playing video games and shopping). Interestingly, when someone is alerted to a new ‘tweet’ or Facebook message it takes them an average of 20-25 minutes to return to what they were doing beforehand. In 30% of cases it took them over 2 hours to regroup (1).

4.   It Can Affect Your Job/Education — Excessive social media use can even impact you negatively at work or school. It is commonly known that over half of all people use social media at work and productivity suffers because of it (2). If half of the employees spent an average of 30 minutes a day in a company of 100 people this would equal 6,500 annual lost hours of productivity (3). In addition, Facebook can be distracting and negatively impact one’s ability to learn at school. Studies found that middle school, high school and college students who checked Facebook at least once during a 15 minute study period received lower grades.

5.   It Can Make you Feel Bad — An often complaint I hear from friends is how they feel bad after spending too much time on Facebook. Posts on social media often present an idealized version of a person’s life and Facebook users constantly compare their own life to the idealized versions of others. In fact, in 2012, a team of researchers in the UK surveyed users and 51% said using Facebook changed their behavior in a negative way because of the decline in confidence they felt. A separate study from the University of Michigan, found that avid Facebook users were unhappier than those who used it less. So it isn’t just me who feels bad spending too much time on Facebook.

6.   Connecting Can Make You Feel Disconnected — Ironically, spending too much time on social media can actually exacerbate feelings of disconnect, and put people at higher risk for depression and low self-esteem. In fact, the “passive consumption” of social media (scanning without commenting) can be related to loneliness (4). Surveys also found that Pinterest users often felt depressed because they perceived that they weren’t as crafty and interesting as everyone else. Similarly, Facebook can make people feel unpopular and boring.

7.   It Can Hurt Your Relationships — Spending too much time on social media can even hurt your relationships and get in the way of intimacy. In a recent study, 10% of people younger than 25 years old responded that they participate in social media and text messages during sex (5). Although this is not something I would ever do I have noticed social media putting an occasional wall in my relationship. A January 2012 study found that families spent 34% less face-to–face time than 10 years earlier – which is a direct result of increased social media usage (6). 32% of family members admitted to using social media and texting during meals instead of talking to their families. This lack of face-to-face time is bad for relationships and the long-term effects are currently unknown. In the world of social media, people meeting face-to-face is becoming increasingly rare as they decide to communicate via the web. Furthermore, social media provides a ‘tool’ for cyber bullying as people are more inclined to be cruel when not faced with a person face-to-face. According to a February 9, 2012 PEW report, 15% of users on social media had an online experience on Facebook that caused a relationship to end. One can only wonder if the result would have been different if the disagreement had occurred in person. Often without face-to-face communications the message is distorted. So much of communication is actually done through body language or other subtle cues which can be lost without a visual.

8.   It Can Cause Stress — Excessive Social Networking can cause stress. In fact, the more friends a Facebook user has the more stressful that user finds Facebook to use (7). Interestingly, social media can often lead to a commonly used term called FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). FOMO is a phenomenon that can lead you to feel pressure to share everything on social media to show how much fun you are having. Personally I have felt a tremendous pressure to post ‘status’ updates despite my very private nature. Sometimes trying to keep up with social media appearances can feel like a full-time job. With more and more communications moving online there is added pressure for an online ‘presence’. The common phrase “if it didn’t happen on social media than it didn’t happen” is becoming widely accepted by many. This reminds me of the Matrix and makes wonder if ‘one day’ we will all be living in a virtual world.

9.   It is  Bad for Your Mental Health — a UCLA report has suggested that excessive online media use can essentially change the way your brain works. The use of too much social networking has been correlated with personality and brain disorders, such as the inability to have in-person communications, a high need for instant gratification, ADHD as well as self-centered personality disorders and addictive behaviors (8). Social media can also perpetuate already existing problems. For example people with low esteem tend to post more negative posts and are ‘Liked’ less which leads to an increase in low self-esteem. It’s a vicious circle. A Boston-area pediatrician has coined the phrase “Facebook Depression” which she included in the newly revised American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines. She believes Facebook acts as a magnifier for people who are susceptible for depression. Additionally, teens using Facebook have more narcissistic tendencies while young adults who have a strong presence show more signs of other psychological disorders. In summary, daily overuse of media and technology has had a negative impact on the health of our children making them more prone to mental illness.

10. It’s Addictive — Perhaps the most shocking and relevant discovery for me was the fact that social media is actually addictive. The 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health (DSM) is currently evaluating “Internet Addiction Disorder” for inclusion. Some believe that social media sites can even be as addictive as cigarettes or alcohol by activating the reward part of the brain. In an article published in the journal of Psychological Science by Wilhelm Hofmann, 205 people were given Blackberrys and tracked on how they use social media. They found that their desire to participate in social media was only surpassed by their desire for sleep and sex. Social media addiction is so common that researchers have created “The Berge Facebook Addiction Scale” to qualify the level of addiction. Another study in 2012, based out the UK revealed that two thirds of users admitted to being unable to relax if they didn’t have access to their social media accounts.

When It’s Time to Unplug

Experts suggest you know it’s time to walk away from social media if you find yourself needing to spend more and more time on social media; constantly think about it or plan to use it; feel anxious if you don’t have access to it; if you are moody or restless if you can’t use it; try but fail to cut down on social media use; or neglect other areas of your life in favor of using it. If you find yourself checking-in to see what other people are doing instead of actually doing things yourself it might be time for change. Additionally, if social media is the last thing you do before you go to sleep, you check it during the night and/or it’s the first thing you do in the morning it might be time to consider it an addiction.

It’s Not All Bad News

We all love and use social media. Things like Facebook and Twitter have ingrained themselves in society because they make our lives better. However we need to be aware of the amount of time we spend on social media and monitor it accordingly. We need to ensure that we are offsetting the time we spend online with spending time in the moment with friends and family. There are many benefits to social media: you can stay connected, share pictures, share ideas, find employment and niche groups with similar interests. Social media gives us the ability to share and connect in ways never before possible. But it’s also important to remind ourselves that there is a time and place for social media. When my kids are with me (which is most of the time) they need to take priority; if I am out to dinner with a friend I need to give her my full attention; and when my husband and I are watching a movie I need to respect this as our special time. My personal goal is to spend less time on social media and more time just being here!

1. Mark Dolliver, “Social Networking: A Waste of Time?,” www.adweek.com, Oct. 7, 2010 2. Nielsen Wire, “Social Media Report 2012: Social Media Comes of Age,” www.blog.nielsen.com, Dec. 3, 2012 3. GFI Software, “Social Networking at Work: Thanks, but No Thanks?,” www.gfi.com, June 3, 2011, David Schepp, “Employees Admit Social Media Is a Waste of Their Time [Infographic],” www.jobs.aol.com, June 13, 2012 4. Stephen Marche, “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?,” Atlantic Monthly, May 2012 5. Beth Snyder Bulik, “Apparently That Text Can’t Wait — Not Even During Sex: Report Reveals Surprising News About Social Media and Its Grip on Our Lives,” www.adage.com, May 5, 2010 6. USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future, “Special Report: America at the Digital Turning Point,” www.annenberg.usc.edu, Jan, 2012 7. David Gutierrez, “Facebook Is Making You Miserable, Scientists Find,” www.naturalnews.com, Nov. 29, 2012  8. K. Wolfling, M. E. Beutel, and K. W. Muller, “Construction of a Standardized Clinical Interview to Assess Internet Addiction: First Findings Regarding the Usefulness of AICA-C,” Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy, 2012, Tony Dokoupil, “Is the Onslaught Making Us Crazy?,” Newsweek, July 16, 2012 9. Vito, Piilieci, “Is Social Media Harming Our Mental Health”, National Post< March 2012