As Cook said of social media, “sometimes the very technology that is meant to connect us devices technology is capable of doing great things but it doesn’t want to do great things.” (Fast forward video to 7 minutes and watch) Your thoughts?
It’s odd for me to be sounding the alarm bells about social media, following my optimistic book on the subject. (Hey, that was 4 years ago!)
Jean M. Twenge, writing in The Atlanticsounds a dire warning to parents. It’s worth a read. She says that there’s “compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are… making them seriously unhappy. “
Seriously unhappy? Coming from a researcher that must mean a lot. She says:
“The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives.”
She refers to changes in their social interactions, and also, their mental health.
“Post updated – our deepest apologizes for the earlier typo.”
Now I’m not going to join the bandwagon and frame it as the end times in education. We all make mistakes. Even one like this, as her staff did. Mistakes happen when we blurt things out without much thought.
However, there are some lessons here worth repeating about using a social media handle to go public:
What is the purpose? Micro-blogging, or trying to communicate in 140 characters requires a different discipline (from say shouting, or firing off a press release). One needs to craft the message to the channel and its audience. What was the point of the Education secretary’s Twitter handle being used to publish a quote from the essayist and author? Just to show that the department is clued up on sociology and civil rights? Come on! Does the Dalai Lama need to quote Gandhi to prove himself?
Whose ‘voice’ is it? A department or an organization comprises many divisions. But the top dog sets the tone of voice. A random quote is quite an anemic way to communicate, since it basically reflects no one. Is the channel a news feed, or for insight into the workings of the organization? Is it a place to link to important assets, or ideas? It can’t be all things to all people. Define your brand voice!
Who is doing it for you? Sure someone else may manage the communication, but you oversee it. Or, as some companies like Dell do it, set up multiple Twitter accounts for different constituents. This was something we discussed in 2009 and 2010.
Perhaps government agencies shood should go back to Twitter skhool school. Or at laest least take communication 101.
Anyone who began using Twitter around 2008, may recall that there were certain requirements and protocols that had to be learned, unless you wanted to risk the wrath of the twitterverse. (How many of you remember using 40404 short code? If not, never mind.)
One of the holy cows about using Twitter was to avoid all caps. It was common sense, and a convention borrowed from email etiquette. We still tell young people getting started with email that it is rude to type in all caps; there are others ways to add emphasis. Communication doesn’t require one to shout! The intended audience is supposed to be respected.
So what do you tell a young person who sees the president of the United States using Twitter frivolously, impulsively, and using the tool to bully, shout and vent?
There are some things in life for which you don’t need a handbook. However I’ve got this 2009 book titled The Twitter Handbook, I will be happy to mail to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC. Someone seriously needs a crash course.
Chat apps with encryption sound like an idea whose time has come. Or rather, an idea whose time came, did a quiet exit, and after some tangle with Twitter, did an U-turn and returned as ‘Signal’.
Signal has powerful encryption, and has supposedly grown by 400 percent since the US election. Indeed, most people are passionate about keeping their communication away from prying eyes of governments. Or is this paranoia, knowing what we know about email being easily hacked or compromised? Even Signal has been subpoenaed by the govt! No coincidence that journalists now use encrypted chat apps more than ever.
Which explains why Chat apps like WhatsApp, Line, SnapChat and FB Messenger have quietly changed how we communicate. Hike, the SnapChat clone in India lets users chat in eight languages!
To be sure, as I said (in the last chapter of my book, Chat Republic) ordinary citizens, not just journalists, who become wary of the status quo, would refine these modes of chat in ways that we never imagined. That was in 2013.
And we the ____________ people (insert ‘cynical,’ ‘paranoid,’ etc) are probably taking that path too.
We aren’t surprised anymore that the Deputy Minister of Policy Planning and Economic Affairs, Harsha de Silvauses his Twitter handle, as if he was texting you personally (and bilingually, too). He’s not alone in this digital democracy of 20.8 million people.
I’m not being a Luddite here when I say that the Apple Watch could be the killer app in social – as in being the thing that kills our ability to be social beings.
I’ve followed the developments of the smart watch for more than a year now, and have even talked to students and many others about it. I come at these ‘smart’ devices from this angle: Like all things in technology, whether or not we need the product of service, whether or not we approve of the trend, it’s important to stay tuned to what dimension is opens up. Technology seldom turns out to be what it started off as.
Facebook is less and less about making friends. It is now all about gathering and sharing data, and you are its accomplice.
Twitter did the classic pivot, from being a neat way to bypass the clunky Internet and stay in touch with a few, to turn into a one-to-many engine.
Quora (I’m not sure how many of you you still use it) began as a great community, but is also a search engine.
Instagram was once a terrific creative space until the selfie-obsessed discovered it
As for the Apple Watch, it opens up a new solution to the ‘stop staring at your phone’ problem. But just because it reduces the number of times someone will take a phone out of his/her pocket, it could start a whole new trend. Siri users, for instance will find it irresistible.
My comments to the story on TechCrunnch was that there’s a boon and a dark side. We hear that the best ideas are formed when we are offline.
To which I came this comment: “A big benefit of wearables is the sensors, don’t have to use it for notifications. Not that it will stop people engaging in info overload if it’s readily available.” The point is well taken, Michael Mahemoff. But I am glad you mentioned information overload.
Mind the ‘gaps’ – This is the perfect time to introduce Michael Powers (“Hamlet’s Blackberry“) who wrote extensively on this. He makes a great observation of “the gap” we need between utilitarian devices and the best uses we put them to. If you pile on screen experiences, says Powers, “there are no gaps in your connectedness (and) you never get to that place where the most valuable benefits are.”
I love the look and the convenience of a smart watch, but I don’t welcome it. I don’t think you need to be pro something and therefore against its disruptor.I adapted to an ebook reader, yet will always read and buy books made of atoms.
But just like Google Glass this is one wearable I will skip because if only because it eliminates the ‘gaps’ I am not willing to give up.
Take the poll, and let me know. Or leave a comment.