“I’m done with Facebook,” a close friend recently lamented to me over a cup of coffee at Youngstown State’s Dunkin’ Donuts.
“I just can’t take the negativity anymore,” she said. “The political posts are overwhelming. And what’s worse is I agree with what most of my friends are posting.”
She held up her pointer and middle fingers in the air to make quotes when she said “friends.”
“You can’t just drop in with rant after rant, and expect me to want to stick around,” she said.
“They haven’t engaged me on a personal level. “
She asked me to get coffee to vent, but also to find some strategies for dealing with the seemingly endless political posts and the sea of disruption the world has been floating on since November.
OK, OK. I know. This all started long before November.
Still, it left us to wonder what happened to civility on Facebook. When exactly did it turn from cute baby pictures, pithy memes and inspiring quotes to picket signs and bullhorns?
“When did everyone suddenly become a loudmouth on a soap box in the town square?” she asked.
A few years ago, I wrote about my resolution to be a better social media user.
In that column, I noted our penchant for being better social media users. To be better, I opined, meant being a more “positive” social media user.
A coffee in one hand, and smartphone in the other, she scrolled through her Facebook newsfeed methodically unfollowing or unfriending anyone who posted even the slightest hint of a political opinion.
“I’m done with them all,” she exclaimed (a little loudly, I might add).
Clearly, she’s frustrated. She’s not alone.
If you’ve recently scrolled through your newsfeed, you’ve likely read posts from friends who claim they’re unfriending friends. Those who post anything political or don’t ascribe to a specific political ideology get the boot.
The fact is, there are tried-and-true strategies for dealing with unwanted posts. We’ve just forgotten them.
The first one begins with you.
Are you mostly positive in your social media posts?
“Be the positive social media change you want to see in the social media world.” No. Gandhi didn’t really say that, but I like to think he would have.
“Try this,” I told my friend, “let the first thing you post each day be something positive.”
Rather than respond to political posts with your own perspectives that perpetuate negativity, offer a positive retort.
Say something positive about someone in your life, post an uplifting picture, or find an inspirational quote.
It doesn’t mean that every post has to be positive and inspiring, just the first one. Positive posts are infectious. You can inspire others to be upbeat.
And who knows? Your positive posts may lead you to cultivate new friendships and mend broken ones.
When the ratings for Sunday’s Super Bowl rolled in, they were likely met with some disappointment in the National Football League’s front office.
Conversely, media critics and researchers weren’t surprised. Ratings for NFL games have been down all year.
Fox’s broadcast of the big game drew 111.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen data released by the network on Monday. It was the smallest audience for the NFL’s championship in four years.
To be clear, garnering 111.3 viewers is an impressive feat when you consider our entertainment options. With counter programming such as Animal Planet’s annual Puppy Bowl or the Hallmark Channel’s Kitten Bowl, it’s easy to understand why some people simply turned the channel.
It may be hard to understand why so many chose not to watch the Super Bowl. After all, it was one of the greatest games in NFL history. It had an exciting finish. It had the first-ever overtime in championship history. The winning team came back from a huge deficit to win.
Why did so many people turn away?
Some claim the game was, well, boring. So, they may have turned away early. When you consider that most people tune in before the game kicks off to view the pomp and patriotism, they were probably watching with an expectation that the game would be exciting.
Instead, the first half was a blowout, probably leaving many people to lose interest.
Some claim the lower numbers are a reflection of the scandals that continue to plague the NFL. Whether it’s concussions or domestic violence, some viewers are turning away in protest.
But don’t blame social media. The fact is the social media ratings were worse than Nielsen’s TV ratings. Yes, users were actively posting updates about the big game on big platforms like Twitter and Facebook. But even those numbers were down from previous championships.
For example, some 60 million Facebook users created 200 million images, comments and reactions (i.e., Likes) during the Super Bowl, many of which were posted during the Pepsi Half Time Show with Lady Gaga. That’s down 25 percent from last year, when 65 million people created 265 million posts.
Twitter users were far less active than the previous year. According to Nielsen, about 3.8 million U.S.-based users created just under 17 million tweets during the game. That’s a drop of about 33% from last year’s championship, which generated a little more than 25 million tweets.
In fact, Twitter’s response to the lower numbers was interesting. They noted that users generated over 27 million “global” tweets about the game.
Rather than respond to the decline in activity, they simply posted the numbers with highlights from important moments during the game.
You can see more on those numbers and tweets at blog.twitter.com.
My wife claims that those who use WebMD can be classified into two camps: optimistic and pessimistic.
An optimist, she says, will search symptoms on WebMD and ultimately rule out the most serious of ailments based on the possible causes offered.
A pessimist will search the same symptoms and see only doom and gloom, and focus on the gravest of possible outcomes (e.g., long-term illness, death), let alone the most serious of causes.
Of course, my wife and I both use WebMD. When you have four kids, it’s not financially prudent to visit the urgent care at the sound of every sniffle.
Luckily, my wife and I tend to fall into the optimists’ camp when using health information sites.
“I actually recommend patients use [WebMD],” said Dr. Mike Sevilla, a family physician in Salem.
“It’s probably the most popular site that my patients mention to me during office visits.”
Aside from being an expert on connecting with patients online, Sevilla is a highly sought-after speaker, in part because of his use of social media and Internet. He’s my go-to-expert anytime I have questions about online health advice.
“Medical sites like WebMD are really good at specific questions like: What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack? What are the signs and symptoms of a stroke? These sites cannot put symptoms together for you and give you a diagnosis,” Sevilla said.
In addition to WebMD, Sevilla recommends patients use the Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic websites. But like anything you read online, he warns pessimists and others to proceed with caution.
“I tell my patients, sites like WebMD are like the World Book Encyclopedia,” Sevilla said.
“When I was growing up, my parents bought an entire set of [encyclopedias], and I remember going back and reading about a lot of topics, and eventually found myself reading more about health-related topics.”
“And just like the encyclopedia, you can learn about a disease using WebMD, but it can’t diagnose you,” Sevilla added. “And, obviously, you should never diagnose yourself.”
Working at the Family Practice Center of Salem and the Salem Regional Medical Center, he sees many patients who visit only after looking at WebMD and other health sites first.
“I have patients say, ‘In WebMD, I put in that I’m fatigued and I’ve had some abdominal pain and it told me I have cancer. Do I have cancer?’”
Sevilla is quick to remind both optimists and pessimists that only health professionals can paint the big picture.
“Trained medical experts are the only ones who can synthesize and integrate things like your symptoms, your previous health history, your family history, and other pieces of information to come up with a diagnosis.”
Check out Dr. Sevilla’s blog at drmikesevilla.com, and follow him on Twitter at @drmikesevilla.
The transfer of power on Friday from Obama to Trump went fairly smoothly. Lots of smiles, handshakes and hugs.
The one bump you probably didn’t see was the transfer that took place online. On Twitter, to be specific.
I tend to shy away from political material in this column. I also avoid talk of politics on my social media posts, holding true to the advice I offer readers.
But a mistake such as the one that happened on Twitter on Friday requires a little unpacking, regardless of how political it appears on the surface.
The fact is it wasn’t political. Leave it to Twitter users to make it political.
In case you missed it, when Twitter transferred administrative power of Twitter accounts from Obama to Trump, several unsuspecting users started screaming, albeit in 140 characters or less.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said that about 560,000 users were automatically transferred to the accounts now controlled by the Trump administration. This included the mother-of-all-world-leader-accounts, @POTUS.
@POTUS is the official Twitter handle of the president of the United States.
Twitter quickly corrected the transfer issues.
Dorsey noted in a tweet that users who followed Obama’s new account, @POTUS44, were automatically set to follow the @POTUS handle as well.
@jack: All: we investigated what happened here, and we made some mistakes (which have been corrected). Some context first.
Dorsey went on to say that the Obama administration had actually been working with Trump’s team on the best way to hand-off the accounts. In a way, the teams agreed that it was actually the “people” who owned the @POTUS account, not one individual.
As Dorsey put it:
@jack: Because @POTUS is an institutional account (not personal) they felt it only fair to transition accounts with followers intact, but 0 tweets.
The Trump @POTUS account has a little more than 14 million followers. By comparison, @POTUS44 has 14.6 million. Obama’s old @POTUS account is now nothing more than a collection of his posts as president, something akin to his presidential library of archived tweets.
If you go to @POTUS now, you’ll find only a few tweets, the first of which was posted on Friday at 2 p.m.
Dorsey went on to detail each step Twitter took to fix the transition problem:
@jack: 1. People who followed @POTUS44 (Obama Admin) after 12pET were mistakenly set to also follow @POTUS (Trump Admin)
@jack 2. Some people who unfollowed @POTUS in the past were mistakenly marked to now follow @POTUS
The switch also affected other official accounts such as @VP, @WhiteHouse, and @PressSec. Those who unfollowed those accounts in the past were mistakenly marked to now follow the new accounts.
Like any good leader, and in true Twitter fashion, Dorsey owned the mistake:
@jack: We believe we’ve corrected all accounts to reflect your follow/unfollow intent. We’re sorry for the mistakes made here, and thank you all.
Three-quarters of U.S. residents now own smartphones and nearly 90 percent are online, according to a report published last week by the Pew Research Center.
Smartphone adoption had the sharpest increase. The report shows 77 percent of Americans own smartphones, up from 35 percent in 2011.
Pew Research Center has chronicled this trend and others through more than 15 years of surveys on internet and technology use, according to report author, Aaron Smith.
It’s important to note the distinction in types of phones adopted. There’s a big difference in the terms “cellphone” and “smartphone.” Cellphones are mobile devices, but not all cellphones are “smart.”
According to the study, 95 percent of Americans report owning a cellphone of some type. One-hundred percent of the respondents in the 18-29 age group reported owning some type of cellphone.
The Pew study findings also showed a slight increase in home internet adoption in 2016. This followed a downward trend from 2013 to 2015, during which time home internet use dropped from 70 percent to 67 percent.
A drop of 3 percent may seem insignificant, and likely due to an increase in smartphone adoptions.
It’s a simple case of paying for the same thing twice. Look at it this way: if you have access to a super computer connected to a 4G network in the palm of your hand, do you need internet access at home?
Apparently some Americans still value their at home internet.
Or there could be another reason.
“Even as [internet] adoption has been on the rise, 12 percent of Americans say they are smartphone dependent when it comes to their online access,” Smith said. Smartphone dependents own a smartphone but don’t have home internet service.
“The share of Americans who are smartphone dependent has increased 4 percentage points since 2013,” Smith said. “Smartphone reliance is especially pronounced among young adults, nonwhites and those with relatively low household incomes.”
Those without high school diplomas are less likely than college grads to have internet access at home. Age, income, geographic location, race and ethnicity are all indicators of whether or not a home will have internet access.
“As of November 2016, [73 percent] of Americans indicate that they have broadband service at home,” Smith said. “But although [internet] adoption has increased to its highest level since the Center began tracking this topic in early 2000, not all Americans have shared in these gains.”
Accompanying the Pew report on connectivity is a new set of fact sheets focused on three primary research areas: internet, smartphones and social media. According to Smith, Pew plans to update the subject areas with new information as it’s collected.
The fact sheets are a “one-stop shop for anyone looking for information on key trends in digital technology,” Smith said.
Predictions are part educated guess, part soothsayer.
At the risk of shooting my credibility in the foot, I’ve never been very good at predicting anything.
Exhibit A: I once predicted that none of us would be driving our own cars in 2017. We’re still a few years from seeing that one play out.
It’s coming. I promise.
When I looked into my social media crystal ball at the beginning of 2016, I saw what the tech prophets saw: a move toward more video.
But not just any video. Streaming video.
Voila, 2016 was the year of video. From Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and Snapchat, everyone was getting into the streaming game. It was really more conjecture than seeing the future. We were already knee-deep in streaming our own content thanks, in part, to services like Periscope and Meerkat.
So while the prediction was accurate, it was akin to predicting snow for northeast Ohio in January.
There’s so much more to come with live streaming video in 2017. For example, in late 2016, Twitter introduced a 360-degree streaming service via Periscope. The ability to stream in 360-degree video capture is only available to select partners, but the service has great potential.
360 video is a chance for Twitter to avoid another “fail whale” of a year. That’s my weak attempt at saying Twitter had a lousy 2016. We used the term fail whale during the early years of Twitter when users overpowered their servers.
While Twitter is diving head first into streaming live sports with the NFL and now golf, the real growth will almost certainly be in their streaming services for users like you and me.
With this new technology, we can get a full picture of the streamer’s view. So, if the streamer is on a mountain top (with a strong 4G signal), we would get a complete view of the landscape. The best part: the viewer controls the view by simply tilting their mobile device or moving a cursor to a different part of the view.
Want to see 360 video? Check out the first-ever 360 degree video with Alex Pettitt at @Alexpettitt and Brandee Anthony at @Brandee_Anthony. Search for their “360 Sunset in Florida.” Pettit and Anthony provide great 360 video recordings, including a few from Pettitt at last week’s CES (formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas.
For more 360 videos, check out @ClemsonFB’s departure from their practice facility, a few days before the FBS Championship game, @Toyota’s introduction of their new concept car at CES, or chef @altonbrown in his test kitchen.
To find these and other 360 videos, search #Periscope360 on Twitter.
What’s up next in streaming media content? Your guess is as good as mine.
You can bet somebody’s working on something big for 2017.
Youngstown State University will play for the FCS championship this Saturday. I've worked at YSU for about 11 years and I'm a huge fan. Many students who have passed through my classes are also students, so I enjoy cheering them on. As a former student-athlete, I know the commitment many of them make to their studies and their teams.
Whether you’re headed to Frisco, Texas, for the game, watching it at Covelli Centre with other YSU fans, or watching at a sports bar or at home, you can watch it “together” with fans all over the world thanks to social media.
Sometimes that’s easier said than done.
Knowing the right social platforms, addresses and hashtags to use during the big game will be just as important as the content of your posts.
Case in point (and I’m a little embarrassed to admit this): Last year I posted a dozen tweets at a social media conference before I realized I was using the wrong hashtag.
It was an honest mistake. I inverted two letters. Ironically, I was tweeting out reactions to cool new social media skills. I don’t have a big ego, but I was really surprised no one was retweeting any of my posts. At the very least, someone should have been favoriting my witty one-liners.
And then I figured it out. It sounds silly, and maybe a little vain, but instead of connecting with other conference attendees, I was out on my own social media deserted island.
It was lonely.
Thanks to YSU’s sports information department, fans have a clear set of addresses and hashtags to use to connect with other fans.
“In athletics, we’re excited to use our social media platforms to give our fans information and images leading up to and at the title game,” said Trevor Parks, YSU’s sports information director.
YSU fans near and far are preparing for the big day, making travel plans, buying new clothes and memorabilia, planning parties.
Add “checking YSU’s social media platforms” to that list.
“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in our social media followers over the past month, and we hope to have a strong week to give them insight into the big game, our program, players, and coaches,” Parks added.
Parks also provided a rather comprehensive list of hashtags and platform addresses for following YSU.
For example, you can always use the tried-and-true hashtag #GoGuins (short for “Go Penguins”). Parks noted two more important hashtags:
I’m wondering how many YSU students will be using that last hashtag on the 22-hour bus ride to Texas.
On Twitter and Instagram, fans are encouraged to follow the @YSUsports and @YoungstownStFB and use those address when posting tweets and pictures.
Facebook users can like and follow pages for “Youngstown State Penguins” and “Youngstown State Football.”
Snapchat users should add ysusports.
Want to learn more about YSU’s opponent, James Madison University? Check out @JMUFootball on Twitter and follow them on Facebook at “JMU Football” and “JMU Sports.”
“It’s a hoax.”
“This is fake news.”
Those were a few of the posts of disbelief on social media to the news of George Michael’s death on Christmas Day.
Many of us are on high alert for fake news, so it’s understandable that people would dismiss the story of the legendary pop singer’s death.
In fact some of my Face-book friends refused to post anything about Michael’s death until they found a credible source to confirm the story.
After all, it was Christmas Day. How does the singer of one of my generation’s most iconic Christmas songs, “Last Christmas,” die on Christmas Day? It sure sounded like fake news.
One headline about Michael’s death reminded me of a famously fake Betty White death story.
The fake headline about the famous actor reads, “Betty White Dyes Peacefully In Her Home.”
Of course, White is still very much alive. Any good sleuth or wordsmith probably picked up on the word choice in the headline.
Did you catch it?
Naturally, there’s a big definition difference between “dyes” and “dies.”
“It’s not like I don’t trust my friends,” one Facebook friend lamented to me in a private message. “Most of [my friends] are kind of gullible and they’ll post anything without checking [the story’s] authenticity.”
When all else fails, I turn to Snopes.com, a wonderful antidote to bogus news. According to their site, Snopes “attempts to give accurate information about rumors and urban legends on a variety of topics, including war, business, events” and more.
However, news like that of Michael’s death spreads so quickly that even Snopes can’t confirm or deny authenticity.
So, beyond checking a news source and using myth-busting sites such as Snopes, online news readers are left to their own devices for uncovering the truth. Here are some additional strategies:
Check the URL. The URL, or “uniform resource locator,” is simply a Web address. I’d rather not give credence to the site for the fake Betty White story by including it in this column. But if you want to search for it, be my guest. Even though they pass themselves off as satire, these sites have only exacerbated the trust issue. If you want good satire, go to The Onion.
Quote and Experts. I often ask students to find news-related blog posts with quotes from experts. It’s kind of a fool’s errand because some bloggers often post critical reviews and rants. Then they try to pass off these rants as real news. Credible journalists seek out multiple and expert sources to add context and legitimacy to a news story.
Trust Your Gut. If you think a story is false, trust your instincts. If something sounds too good (or bad) to be true, look for a second or third trustworthy, credible site before posting a link to the story to your social media accounts.
People around the world will be waking up Christmas morning to find a new smart phone under their tree.
If you’re one of the lucky souls to score a new phone, the excitement of ripping through the wrapping paper to get to your new toy is only half the fun.
After setting up your phone, the first order of business will probably be a selfie or two by the tree.
Then it’s on to downloading apps.
Of course, there are many apps from which to choose. Probably too many.
As of June 2016, there were over 2.2 million apps available to Android users and over 2 million apps for Apple devices, according to statista.com.
It’s hard to know where to begin. Sure, you could start with must-have apps like Facebook and Instagram. Or maybe you’re a gamer, waiting for a chance to try your hand at Pokemon Go or Mobile Strike.
Some of the best apps for getting you through the holiday are actually Christmas-themed apps.
So, whether your smart phone is brand new, or you have an old phone due for an upgrade, Christmas apps are both fun and beneficial for getting through the season. Here are a few of my favorites:
How The Grinch Stole Christmas. A few years ago, I downloaded this app. My kids and I return to it every holiday. Of course, the great Dr. Seuss tale is not the only Christmas book available for iOS and Android platforms, but it is on the best for the money ($1.99). Sure, it’s designed for kids, but that’s my main motivation for opening it every holiday (secret: it’s actually a lot of fun for adults, too). Check out the reading options, tap the pictures as you navigate the pages, and listen to the professional narration or record your own.
Christmas Photo Apps. Getting everyone to fit around the Christmas tree for a family photo can be tough. Instead, you can capture that great moment anywhere and set it within an amazing holiday frame. With an app like “Christmas Photo Frames” available for Android and iOS devices, simply take a photo or pick one from your gallery, select a frame style (e.g., Santa Claus, candy canes, etc.), apply texture and tones (e.g., gray scale, sepia, etc.), and save it. When your masterpiece is complete, share it on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.
Tracking Santa. Let’s be clear. NORAD’s Santa Tracker is the gold standard for following the big guy and his reindeer as they circumnavigate the globe. NORAD (or North American Aerospace Defense Command) offers great features including following Santa’s progress on Dec. 24, playing games, and listening to Christmas tunes. The app is free and available for Android and iOS devices. Make it extra special and track Santa’s moves with the rest of the family on your large, Internet-connected television.
Facebook launched its new Parents Portal on Tuesday, a collection of resources for parents.
The portal sits within Facebook’s safety section. You can find it by typing “safety” in the Facebook search menu.
The broader safety site includes links to the Safety Center and Help Center. These sites include information on Facebook policies, tools and resources for staying safe online. You can perform quick security and privacy checkups for your accounts.
Also included in the Safety Center, but not directly linked to the Parents Portal, is the Bullying Prevention Hub, with resources for teens, parents and educators.
Additionally, at the bottom of the navigation menu under the Help Center menu, is a link to suicide hotlines, with links to resources and suicide prevention numbers in more than 40 countries.
The Parents Portal is an attempt by Facebook to be make social media safer for everyone.
“Our goal is to help foster conversations among parents and their children about staying safe online,” Facebook said in the announcement posted yesterday.
The Parents Portal submenu provides parents with links to categories including “Get to know Facebook,” “Parenting Tips,” and “Expert Advice.”
The opening page to the Portal reads “We’ve come up with some handy links, tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your experience and help your child navigate their experience.”
Antigone Davis, head of global safety for Facebook, said the ultimate goal of the Parents Portal is to create discussions between parents and children about online safety and social media use.
“The way that we hope to do that is by providing parents some of the fundamentals about Facebook so they can engage in meaningful conversations with their children over the course of their lifetime,” Davis said.
Within the “Get to Know Facebook” section, you’ll find information for helping new users get started on Facebook and how to help them stay safe when they get started.
Facebook’s “Staying Safe” section includes information on community standards (what is and isn’t okay to share on Facebook), policies for keeping teens safe, and underage accounts.
Parents also can find links to help explain basic Facebook functionality to their kids, such as blocking, following and unfollowing, friending and unfriending, and reporting cases of abuse, bullying and harassment.
The best part? Facebook gives you links to videos.
So, if you don’t know how to talk to your kids about these important issues after reading the information, or your kids won’t listen to you, show them a video. For example, check out the video on safe friending under Facebook’s Best Practices menu.
It’s clear that Facebook wants the experience to be fun and safe for users of every age, and giving parents more tools to protect their kids online makes us all a little safer.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is associate professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about social media and technology, sports and fans.