Tag Archives: social media

Hoping for better Web civility in 2015

In looking through some collected links from the last year, I found that this one, dating back from February and posted on the Harvard Kennedy public policy journal website, sums up so much of what I’ve been thinking lately about the digital world.

Australian graduate psychology student Claire Lehmann bemoans the culture of easy outrage on the Web, and how this supposedly ideal collaborative realm has become a forum to deepen already sharp ideological differences:

“In an era in which social media provides the fuel for partisanship, online platforms are monetizing the flames. But they are also burning the bridges between us. We seem to have fewer shared goals. Our most pressing moral challenges are ones which require creative, long-term solutions of cooperation and commitment. Globally and locally, we face environmental calamities, rising economic inequality, and ageing populations. The need for bipartisan solutions has never been stronger.

“Reinforcing bitterness between groups of people by invoking indignant outrage may be a good business strategy for online news outlets, but it is terrible for encouraging the social cohesion required to address problems facing our society . To foster cross-pollination of ideas, we need both to be aware and to listen. We should endeavor to avoid joining online digital mobs where we might throw verbal stones at anyone who may disagree with us. Ideally, we would consume a balance of information that both comforts us by adhering to our world-view and challenges us by expanding it.”

This is not a new concern, but I haven’t read a better expression of what for many, myself included, have found to be a frustrating, dispiriting development.

After nearly seven years of actively using social media, I dropped off significantly in my participation in the past year. The ability to quickly connect, converse and share information with people I find interesting and engaging was diminished by others seeking to demonize those with differing points of view, or who link to the “wrong” thing.

Perhaps I need to alter whom I follow — there are far too many people I follow who post frequently, and at times nastily, about politics. That’s not why I follow them, even if I may agree with them. It’s cable news come to my timeline, and it’s an unwanted intrusion.

Depending on the issue — and especially if it involves race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion and political philosophy — one is essentially drummed into silence if the social media mobs declare a certain view to be incorrect. The cultural topics that help define who we are as humans have become bristling ideological and political vehicles, instead of entry points for understanding through respectful argument.

One of the pleasures of adopting to digital media has been the ease of hashing out points on which we may not agree. I’ve been a guest on the sports-and-culture podcast of writer Michael Tillery, whose program is housed on the RAPStation website. I don’t care for rap at all and Michael and I disagree on some of the things we talk about, and Tweet at one another. But I appreciate the chance to think out loud and not be flogged out of reflex.

There’s nothing like a vigorous, but civil debate. While social media, especially Twitter, isn’t perfect for this, some enlightening discussion has been possible. I’ve enjoyed it, in spite of its limitations.

But if mobsters want to disrupt that dialogue — and it’s troubling how many of them call themselves journalists, writers, artists, academics and intellectuals — it’s far easier to do that, and rudely troll someone they don’t follow, or who doesn’t follow them.

So whenever big news came down — a Supreme Court ruling, the Ferguson demonstrations, a mass shooting or allegations of a gang rape — I logged out. I suspect I wasn’t alone.

It’s just not worth it to engage in any kind of meaningful discussion of hot-button issues, at least openly on social media. I’m not afraid of having my own views challenged; if anything I want to learn what I don’t know, or what my blind spots are.

But it’s best doing so in other venues, including blogs and podcasts and offline conversation. Despite its many positives, social media is no match for old-fashioned face-to-face talk, or a phone call, or a thorough vetting through the written word.

Besides, I’m not any good at responding to the mobs. I don’t have the jugular for it. I admire those who do, such as blogger extraordinaire Andrew Sullivan. He recently pegged a fierce defense of his tenure as editor of The New Republic, and its contrarianism that offends many liberals, following an attack from leading black writer Ta-Nehisi Coates.

While Coates seems eager to banish even discourse about views he doesn’t like, Sullivan loves the free-range, interactive exchange of ideas that the Web makes possible. On his blog, The Dish, he exemplifies it like few others

“The role of journalism is not to police the culture but to engage in it.”

Sullivan’s Enlightenment-oriented desire to let all views be aired, and then see where the debate goes, is being eclipsed by an authoritarian sensibility that’s getting stronger in the digital world, and on social media in particular.

This growing force of the culture police wants nothing to do with engagement. They are on the left and the right, and this leaves the rest of us feeling as we do about politics — left out of the conversation, browbeaten into withholding our views. Especially if they are more nuanced and complicated than the mob can handle.

Like Lehmann, I fret that the mainstream media will continue to traffick in such divisive fare, and that the onslaught will be far more overwhelming than anything we saw in 2014. That’s saying something.

Fear, loathing and privacy on Facebook

Bipartisan Congressional action on anything — much less social media privacy?

The latest furor over the most recent Facebook changes comes as a House Democrat and Republican are soon to introduce legislation that would regulate what information Internet companies could make public and allow users easier opt-out procedures.

In truth, this bill has been in the works for almost a year, but the timing of making it available for citizen comment as many Facebook users are up in arms over “instant personalization” is interesting, to say the least.

I’m becoming increasingly disturbed by Facebook’s deceptive explanations for what it has been doing, and more than irritated by founder Mark Zuckerberg’s claim that nobody wants privacy any longer. Speak for yourself.

His company is scouring every possible avenue for revenues, and I’ve got no problem with Facebook making money. I don’t post anything there that I want to keep private. The same goes for Twitter, my blogs and other places where I post online. It’s exercising simple common sense.

But I and millions of others signed up for Facebook with the understanding that we could control what information got out on search engines and to the general public.

Now Facebook is taking away those options as it becomes an even more dominant — if not the most dominant — figure on the social media landscape. Under Zuckerberg’s ethos, you ought to believe that you should want to share so much more information, photos, etc. with your friends than you’re already doing. This of course, serves Facebook’s bottom line interests.

My bottom line is this: Facebook has betrayed the original trust it offered to users who signed up under their real names, with closed networks and required confirmation to add friends.

Facebook is a terrific place for me to stay in touch with former colleagues, old friends and family members out of town. As an avid social media participant, I love seeing how individuals consume and share news and other information, and I respect the power and command Facebook has created within one vast, self-contained environment.

That’s why Facebook is banking that so many millions of users simply cannot do without it, and therefore won’t take action to delete their accounts. Even though there are growing reasons to do so.

But while I’m unsure about the wisdom of government intrusion — and where it might go from here — Facebook has crossed a line that doesn’t appear to concern Zuckerberg.

To help cut through the confusion and Facebook’s facile language about privacy issues, I suggest following the updates from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It’s an amazing resource.

So is the Electronic Privacy Information Center, especially, as Chrys Wu reminds us, with this being Privacy Week.

I think I have locked down information from my account that Facebook has no business distributing without my permission, and that I can still control. But there’s no way of knowing for sure.

Or what Facebook will do next.

Journalism/Media/Web links for April 27

8 Ways for Entrepreneurial Journalists to Think Like Business People:

“Many, many businesses have failed where the income statement showed things were great, but they didn’t have cash. Cash flow is ‘the lifeblood of your business.’ ”

Bias Or Balance: Media Wrestle With Faltering Trust:

“Five or 10 years ago, the conversation about trust and the media would have triggered different results. But people no longer volunteer so many complaints about reporters making up stories, as they did in the wake of the scandals involving Jayson Blair at The New York Times and Jack Kelley at USA Today. And concern over how stories are slanted no longer comes just from conservatives. It comes from all quarters.”

72 Marietta — I Still Love You:

The Journal and Constitution hated each other then — a deep, healthy hatred that was a beautiful thing. The first time in history when the Constitution out-circulated the Journal was on Aug. 17, 1977, when the morning rag reported Elvis Presley’s death. I never forgave Elvis for dying on Constitution time.”

Terry Gross: What I Read:

“I really don’t keep up with bloggers. I suppose I should feel guilty about that but my goal in life is to get away from the computer. Time spent reading blogs takes away from the time I should be spending preparing for guests. It’s hard when you’re doing a show like Fresh Air and you’re talking to musicians, theater people, actors and experts on every subject. You have to make peace with the fact that you can’t keep up with everything. It’s more information than you can possibly absorb.”

Think Again: The Internet:

“Today’s Internet is a world where homophobic activists in Serbia are turning to Facebook to organize against gay rights, and where social conservatives in Saudi Arabia are setting up online equivalents of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. So much for the ‘freedom to connect’ lauded by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her much-ballyhooed speech on the Internet and human rights. Sadly enough, a networked world is not inherently a more just world.”

Facebook Further Reduces Your Control Over Personal Information:

“The new connections features benefit Facebook and its business partners, with little benefit to you. But what are you going to do about it? Facebook has consistently ignored demands from its users to create an easy ‘exit plan’ for migrating their personal data to another social networking website, even as it has continued — one small privacy policy update after another — to reduce its users’ control over their information.”

Taking the Twitter Times plunge

I’ve created my own personalized “Twitter Times” that encapsulates what some of my most active Twitter followers are reading and sharing.

As you can tell, my tastes run newsy, geeky and jocky, in no particular order. And with some local Atlanta news sprinkled all around.

When I hear fellow Twitterati say they use Twitter as their own personal news wire or news service, this is a good example of how it can be used not only to distribute interesting links.

It also makes it easier to catch up with what your followers have been interested in when you can’t get on the Tweet, as has been the case quite often for me lately.

Like Twitter lists — and here are mine — Twitter Times makes being on the Tweet a lot more manageable. And fun.

New York Times media reporter David Carr explains why Twitter will endure.

Follow me on Twitter here.

Between nostalgia and the future of news

I’ve got so many links on journalism and media topics here from the last week to share, especially as they pertain to old-media journalists being confronted with the realities of the new media universe, voluntarily or not. As traditionalists continue their nostalgia tour of the late, great newsroom, the vitality and energy that have departed the premises is cropping up in outside precincts in a variety of new endeavors.

I’mtrying not to get too excited, because the prospects for bootstrapping remain daunting (via @ckrewson). Still, I love hear about the fight that’s left in so many people, in spite of their circumstances and their odds for staying in the profession.

• Travel editor Chris Gray Faust was among those laid off at USA Today last week, despite being an experienced travel editor and newsroom manager who jumped all over the Web. She’s eager to move on, based on what she observed from those outside the “newsroom bubble:”

“I’d go to conferences and meet people who were making it just fine on their own. Some were creating niche businesses, busting up the paradigm. Others were parlaying old school media talents into fresh ventures, with a moxie that made me wish I had the freedom to emulate them. The air inside USAT’s towers on Jones Branch Drive always seemed a little stale after that.

These freelancers-slash-entrepreneurs are smart. They are nimble. And now they are my role models, as I join their ranks.

• Public relations maven George Snell is predicting that the Gray Fausts of the world will infuse non-newsroom journalism with some badly-needed vibrancy (via Dan Kennedy) and help create a blogging “Renaissance.” He didn’t delve into how they might be able to make a living:

“Former journalists like Chris Gray Faust are going to take their journalism expertise to blogging. They no longer will be blogging part-time as a supplement to their ‘day jobs’ as journalists. They are going to be blogging full-time – trying to make careers out of it. This surge of professional writers and reporters to the ranks of blogging is going to take blogging in new and creative directions.”

• Not long ago I wrote here about the fallacies of neutering the newsroom. In her latest piece for the Nieman Journalism Lab, Gina Chen explains how she finally was deprogrammed out of the cult of objectivity — after leaving her newspaper, of course:

“By not telling people what I thought or felt or believed, I may have been avoiding the near occasion of subjectivity, but I wasn’t being a better journalist. I wasn’t building trust with readers. Refraining to tell readers where I was coming from didn’t make me objective. It just failed to make me transparent.”

Amen.

• Then there are social media policies that some news organizations have employed to put their august journalists in another kind of straitjacket:

“The notion that jour­nal­ists don’t have per­sonal lives or opin­ions, that they shouldn’t reveal polit­i­cal pref­er­ences or engage in civic causes regard­less of their beat, that they should be shielded from direct inter­ac­tion with the pub­lic for fear of dis­clos­ing a com­pro­mis­ing point of view — this is sheer lunacy. If news­pa­pers die, it will be because they splayed them­selves on the altar of objec­tiv­ity rather than mov­ing to a new kind of rela­tion­ship that the pub­lic is clearly crav­ing for.”

• What impact might these restrictions have on a younger generation of journalists? Plenty, and this appraisal is hardly encouraging:

“If young journalists choose to revolt against convention, they will likely be rejected by the group. This means isolation within the workplace, or outright dismissal. Pushing the limits of the organization can result in a very real cost for younger journalists. It’s high risk, with potentially few rewards.”

• Meanwhile, some journalists wrapping themselves up in the cloak of traditionalism continue crabby diatribes against threats to their careers without examining how they might adapt to the media world as it is:

“We advocate abolishing the term ‘citizen journalist.’ These people can call themselves ‘citizen news gatherers,’ but it is no more appropriate to call them citizen journalists than it would be to sit before a citizen judge or be operated on by a citizen brain surgeon.”

• One newspaper old-timer I’ll give a bit of a pass to is Pete Hamill. For all of his nostalgia about the way newspapers were, he does provide a bit of bracing realism about his beloved craft, and is clear-eyed about what he likes, and doesn’t like about journalism emerging on the Web:

“I love Charlie Sennett’s globalpost.com. I did a piece for them on the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism behind the Iron Curtain because I was there. So I think the beginning of that is happening. You can see with the Wall Street Journal what the format might be. They are now charging for the Internet version which is a hell of a lot cheaper than finding a newsstand to carry it.

“We have some others. The Huffingtonpost.com does not pay its writers. Tina Browns’ thedailybeast.com does pay its writers. You have to be paid because this is not a hobby. You have to keep that standard. You can’t ask grandpa to loan you money because you have to go to Afghanistan. I walked the picket line for that to continue.”

• Also getting some traditionalists uptight is a reorganization announced last week at the Dallas Morning News that has some news managers — in entertainment, sports, travel, automotive and typically ad-oriented verticals — reporting to business and sales staff. Mathew Ingram has mixed feelings about this that I share:

“Should the Chinese wall between editorial and advertising become more porous, or be torn down completely? I’m torn on the subject, frankly. I realize that journalism needs to bend and evolve, and that harsh business realities have to be taken into account, but I’ve also seen the damage that can be done when ad concerns drive — or even shape — coverage of a story.”

• However, for those of us now on our own or who are part of independent news ventures, no such wall exists. We’ve got to make it pay, or we go on to something else. Those still in newsrooms who are shocked by the wall crumbling need to break out of the cocoon, and soon. Among the challenges for news entrepreneurs, this is the one that I think might be the most important — and probably the most difficult — to reach:

“Don’t assume anything you do will be unique. No matter how clever the idea or the underlying technology, someone else can easily set up in competition to you. The internet makes it much easier to self-publish, but it makes it easier for everyone not just you! Being the first to do something is not necessarily good. You will do all the work creating a marketplace that others will then exploit. But if you are in a niche and fairly innovative space, competition is a good thing. It spreads the burden of building consumer confidence in your business model and should prevent you becoming complacent.”

Some evolving redefinitions of journalism

Rounding up some items that have caught my attention recently on journalism, media and the Web. Here are a good half-dozen links, with a few addressing the fluid role of a journalist, and what it means to be doing the news, during this time of great change:

Why the mainstream media is dying:

“What really cracks me up is how often I still hear people say that bloggers are mere ‘aggregators’ and the ‘real journalism’ gets done at places like the Times. Because time after time, blogs are simply beating the shit out of the newspapers. They’re the ones who still dare to go for the throat, while their counterparts at big newspapers just keep reaching for the shrimp cocktail.”

Top 50 Journalism Blogs:

“If you are a seasoned journalist, you may have become disillusioned in how this field has changed over the past decade. With the changes wrought by online venues and phones that can report instant messages and photographs, many amateur and professional journalists alike are asking, ‘What is a journalist, and where is this field headed?’ ”

A Shield for Bloggers: Just who is a journalist today?:

“I think at the end of the day if you’re an online journalist working for a company or on your own and you on a regular basis report and distribute the news, you’ll be covered. I don’t know what the language will look like, but that’s the objective. There are modern-day pamphleteers here that you should be able to get covered.”

Don’t Save Journalism — Save Honest Communication:

“Journalism as a word is loaded because of the ministry it invokes. The profession that, since Watergate, has laid claim to it. That ministry is now a diaspora. Much like after the Gutenberg revolution the ministry lost its authority in interpreting the bible. Martin Luther showed us how. In reaction many journalists cling even tighter to that word. But the word needs to be redefined.

A Blog is a Better Social Media Hub Than Twitter:

“The most influential people on Twitter are either already celebrities, create their own content, or both. Who do you see most often retweeted? Major news outlets like CNN, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Mashable. Guy Kawasaki. Robert Scoble. Of course there are many reasons these people are influential, but a very basic reason is that they are creating original content somewhere other than Twitter. They are most often using Twitter as a super-news-feed, and as a way to drive people back to their blog, web site, etc.”

The Internet and Well-being: Flogging a Dead Horse:

“For anywhere from 2-12 of the population, the Internet can produce compulsive behavior, ranging from constant online gaming to online shopping addiction. But for most, the paradox is that there really isn’t a paradox.  The Internet destroys time and space and allows us to remain connected with those we already share an offline relationship as well as to meet others who can present us with different life outlooks and perspectives.”

Twitter goes down, the world Tweets anyway

While waiting for my social media crack supply to be replenished today, I found out I’m hardly alone in my Twitter cravings. The problem, in a nutshell: It was possible to post and the search function worked, but timelines weren’t available. And quite a few people, myself included, were down to 0 followers and were following nobody.

A random sampling of the reaction taken during my lunch break (otherwise I did get a lot done during the outage!):

Twitter Is Frozen, which is many signs of the apocalypse

TWITTER IS FROZEN ON MY BDAY. how cruel.

Wtf wat is dit met Twitter?

じわじわ表示されてくる<Twitterフォロー中のつぶやきみれない

Trying to figure out twitter! Wondering if its better than facebook

Hello!!!!!!!! hello helloo helloo helloo! wow there is nobody but my own Twitter-Eco

I’m reasonably sure I just broke Twitter

Quelle horreur! Twitter is frozen!

Is it me or is twitter having a wobbly?

Meu twitter não está atualizando nada!!!

Is Twitter twatted or did everyone go very quiet?

O Twitter tá bizarro hoje.

Why is Twitter quiet? COULDN’T BE: people have lives, internet slow, lazy day. MUST BE: end of the world (except Utah) Welcome to my brain.

ทวิตเมื่อสองชั่วโมงที่แล้วเพิ่งโผล่มา Twitter ท้องผูก?

Irgendwie bekomme ich keine Updates mehr von den Menschen den ich folge. Ist Twitter mal wieder kaputt?

hey twitter, stop being douchey.

Twitter is hier stuk.

twitter ta bugado ?

what have i missed? why has miley deleted her twitter?

twitter is goin bi polar on us maaaan!!

@twitter, @twitter, @twitter, @twitter can ya hear me?

fuckk twitter. im going back to bed.

Twitter needs that thumbs up thing.

just said to a friend, I might actually have to talk to hubby tonight if twitter is down

Twitter “What were you doing 2 hours ago?”

is anybody out there or is twitter being an arse?

Has just discovered twitter, help?!!

pourquoi je ne reçois rien sur twitter ????

i feel me sooo damned alohoooone without my following peeps, dear mister @twitter

Twitter? Why are you dead today? I need amusement.

eating blueberry yogurt and emo’ing over a frozen twitter.

Twitter is frozen. Does this mean we have to go outside and actually socialize with, like, people?

Is Twitter still ackin’ all janky!?

Twitter Is Frozen – just like the rams offensive line for the past two years!!

is there a twitter strike??

Tired and a headache, but it doesn’t look like I’m leaving the office any time soon. Not that you care twitter, you’re not even listening!

Uhhhh Twitter Is Frozen because of stupid Miley!!! I really hate her so much!

Twitter is frozen because Kanye interrupted it.