This column first appeared in the October 13, 2019 PRINT edition of The Vindicator:
Happily married for nearly 20 years, my wife and I still have the “occasional” disagreement.
She calls them arguments. I call them debates (which infuriates her just a bit more).
Lately, our debates have focused on what really happened when we dated in college. We agree on how we met. Other events are blurry, a discombobulated list of dates, times, locations and “he said, she said."
After all the misremembered recollections, we always end in agreement about one specific thing. It’s one reason why we’re happily married: we would be terrible in today’s dating scene. Of course, I silently disagree that she would have any trouble finding dates. My wife is smart and funny and pretty. There’d almost certainly be a long line of suitors at her door.
However, the fact that I even used the word “suitors” in the previous sentence suggests I might be getting a little too long in the tooth to survive today’s dating scene.
This is because most of the people we know who are single have turned almost exclusively to online dating to find their matches.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve talked to people actively using dating apps.
“We met online,” a newly married couple said, in unison, both smiling.
Ahhh... young love.
“Well, I like to say ‘we matched online’,” the wife clarified. “Living in a different city from where I grew up, it was too hard to meet new people,” she added. “I didn’t have time to figure out if my the love of my life was hanging out at a gym or a park or some random street corner.”
They turned to Match.com to find each other. But from what I gathered from these discussions, the platforms we choose to find our matches matters very little.
eHarmony. Bumble. POF (a.k.a. Plenty of Fish). OkCupid. Hinge. I was introduced to new apps like Coffee Meets Bagel and The League. The list of dating apps seems endless. It’s easy to understand why entering the dating scene seems such a daunting task.
This is the new norm.
Just last month, after teasing it for more than a year, Facebook entered the dating business with a new feature simply titled Facebook Dating.
Even Tinder has found a new home among reputable dating apps. Once lauded as the “hook-up” or “booty call” app, many are turning to Tinder to find long-term love.
“(Tinder) was the first app I used when my last partner and I split,” a single woman told me. “It looks a little superficial on the surface, but you can really find lasting relationships on (Tinder) too.”
Subscription fees are a big turn off for some.
“I’m not a big fan of paying for (dating apps),” a new college graduate said. “If I can try them for free, I’ll likely use that app first over others that charge up front.”
When asked for what advice they would give to those who are new to online dating, most focused on keeping the options open. By “options,” they meant dating apps, not those we might choose to “date.”
“Don’t limit yourself to one (app),” the new college graduate added. “You never know if your match is over there on Tinder while you’re spinning your wheels on another app.”
This column first appeared in the October 6, 2019 edition of The Vindicator:
According to a new study, Americans have serious trust issues.
Whether it’s government or social media, it’s now customary to treat everything we read and hear with skepticism. We’re also increasingly pessimistic about the ability of social media to deliver credible news.
There are solutions to these trust issues, but before we put faith in social media again, we need to understand the root of our suspicions.
First, most of us don’t know how to fix the social-media-news credibility-delivery problem.
A report from the Pew Research Center published last week found that most Americans were unsure how social media could improve the quality of news delivered on our feeds.
Facebook and other platforms have been grappling with the “quality” issue since long before November 2016. We just needed a big event like a Presidential election to expose the problems with using social media to get all of our news.
It’s also no surprise that we’re a bit cynical about the recent efforts of Facebook and others to deliver news from unbiased sources...
Read the rest of this column in The Vindicator at https://www.vindy.com/life/lifestyles/2019/10/always-be-suspicious-of-social-media-news/
This column first appeared in the September 29, 2019 edition of The Vindicator:
Promoters of a plan to raid Area 51 in Nevada must be scratching their heads today.
Their plan was to get millions of people to show up at the military base, storm the gates, and uncover the truth about hidden alien technology.
More than 2 million people checked the “going” box on the “Raid Area 51” social media event page.
Imagine that number: more than 2 million people. According to a 2017 U.S. Defense Department report, that’s roughly the same size as our active and reserve military forces.
On the day of the scheduled Area 51 raid, however, only a few dozen people actually showed up at the gate.
So, what went wrong? What happened to the other millions of people who said they’d show up? Could it be they were abducted by — wait for it — oh, never mind.
The “truth” is, like most things we try to plan and promote on social media, it’s easy to slap some information and a picture or video on an event page. It’s not as easy to get people to actually show up for the event, even if they tell us they’re “going...”
Read the rest of this column in The Vindicator at https://www.vindy.com/life/lifestyles/2019/09/facebook-events-dont-mean-much/
This column first appeared in the September 22, 2019 edition of The Vindicator:
We like when people “like” our posts on social media. For others, however, the “likes” their posts receive, or more specifically don’t receive, could lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.
Apparently, Facebook wants to help alleviate those feelings.
In what appears to be a response to studies linking social media use with mental health issues, Facebook is testing a small but significant platform change that would hide like counts from some users.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term “like counts,” it simply refers to the number next to the thumbs-up, heart and other reaction icons that appear under Facebook posts. Click on the like count of a public post and you’ll find a breakdown of the six reaction types: like, love, haha, wow, sad and angry. The more our friends “like” something — that is, the more they react to our content with one of those icons — the more our like counts increase.
Jane Manchun Wong, a software engineer who researches yet-to-be-released features on major social media platforms, uncovered evidence of Facebook’s test this summer...
Read the rest of this column in The Vindicator at https://www.vindy.com/life/lifestyles/2019/09/facebook-post-like-counts-could-vanish/
This column first appeared in the September 15, 2019 edition of The Tribune-Chronicle:
I had a good side hustle for the last few months.
What’s a “side hustle” you ask?
My hustle was mentoring writers online. I received papers, suggested edits, and sent them back for students to revise and submit for a grade. It was easy work for not a lot of pay, but it helped enhance our summer vacation savings.
Think of it as extra work, but not a part-time job.
As a teenager, my side hustles were mowing lawns and shoveling sidewalk snow around the neighborhood, but my part-time job was flipping burgers at the local Burger King. The part-time job is better understood as employment that requires clocking normal hours with hourly pay and some benefits.
If you have a full-time job, the side hustle is merely supplemental income. Maybe you’re trying to make ends meet. Maybe you’re saving for a new TV. Maybe it’s for your subscription to a favorite local newspaper (wink, wink). Maybe you just like the extra work...
Read the rest of this column in The Tribune-Chronicle at https://www.tribtoday.com/life/lifecovers/2019/09/best-apps-to-use-for-your-side-hustle-or-gigs/
This column first appeared in the September 8, 2019 edition of The Vindicator:
The new school year brings opportunities for our kids to make new friends and reconnect with besties after a long summer break.
With daughters in middle and high school, I get to watch them deftly navigate these relationships with the help of technology. They’re kind to their friends, and they communicate responsibly with their buddies on social media and in texts (even if they never return mine).
In some ways, I feel like I’ve taught them well. They’re a little awkward and shy, but they’re fiercely loyal to their friends. They’re also fairly responsible with tech.
Now is not the time to be complacent. Even if the house is empty for the first time in months, this is no time to sit back and relax.
It’s the best time to be on guard...
Read the rest of this column in The Vindicator at https://www.vindy.com/life/lifestyles/2019/09/check-your-kids-protecht-list/
This column first appeared in the September 1, 2019 edition of The Vindicator:
Something strange happened on Facebook. Don’t worry if you missed it. After all, strange things happen on Facebook all the time.
In my time monitoring Facebook, I’ve seen the breadth and depth of strangeness. You can participate in debates as to why Alaska is not one of the 50 states, or why Puerto Rico should be. You can watch fast-paced how-to videos for packing clothes into small suitcases or making elaborate vegetable sculptures. I’ve learned you can buy one dress shoe in Facebook’s Marketplace, a men’s size 10-and-a-half for your left foot. Of course, this is probably not strange for all the folks who do not need two same-sized shoes.
Part of the appeal of Facebook is that all this strangeness is perfectly curated and available whenever I want it...
Read the rest of this column in The Vindicator at https://www.vindy.com/life/lifestyles/2019/08/facebook-makes-strange-change-to-home-slogan/
We’ve used this column once a week for the last five years to look at how technology can enhance and, at times, hinder our relationships. We’ve explored the role of social media in our lives.
Five years seems like a small, inconsequential amount of time for anything. It’s a blip on the radar of The Vindicator’s impressive 150-year run. It’s a fraction of the history enjoyed by the first American television programs that aired over 90 years ago.
At my age, five years goes by in the blink of an eye.
But five years is big in terms of the scope of the current slate of social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are teenagers today. Instagram is a 9-year-old. Snapchat is an infant.
We’ve been at this for half-a-decade, and in that time, we’ve covered a lot of ground, trying to stay ahead of this fast-paced, ever-changing world of social media.
Along the way, we looked at tips and tricks for getting the most out of our favorite platforms. We took deeper dives into protecting our privacy and security. We studied the landscape to look for promising new social media to make us feel better connected.
After five years, are we better or worse at this?
Probably both. We’re better because, as research suggests, we feel more connected to our world, our friends and family, and our communities. People often cite social media as the reason why they feel more connected.
We might also be a bit worse because, over the last few years, we’ve come to grips with real privacy and security concerns that have simmered under the surface of social media since the start. How Facebook and others (and us) have handled these issues is as telling as our continued use of their services.
In other words, we still have work do. Of course, we can’t control the actions of social media companies, but we can control our own.
In one of my first columns, I offered some basic tips for adjusting our behaviors, for using social media in ways that were meant to encourage online prosocial behaviors:
The term “catfishing” has slithered its way into our everyday lexicon.
For those unfamiliar with the term, it simply refers to the act (or is it an art?) of luring some unsuspecting person into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.
If you’ve ever caught a real catfish, it sounds like a similar scenario.
I love to fish, but I’m not a fan of catfish. Catfish are known for hitting your line and taking the bait, then nothing. They sit at the bottom of the lake, in the mud, with bait and hook. Then, as you slowly reel it in, the catfish suddenly acts like a huge shark, twisting and turning, flipping and flopping.
You think you’ve got a prize-winning catch on the line, only to realize it’s just a slimy catfish.
Catfishing usually happens on social media, and Facebook seems to be the platform of choice for these bad actors.
“I think she’s catfishing me,” someone will post on social media. Or “I think you’re being catfished,” a friend will say to someone when it seems like the fish (person) on the other end of the line seems too good to be true.
But the days of the catfish are numbered. Facebook and other social media platforms have developed technology to identify and eliminate some of the tricks catfish and other scammers use to trick gullible relationship-seekers.
They’re also using this tech to stop others from causing harm online. More on that in a second.
Facebook announced last week that they rely on a combination of technology, and people to make their platforms safe for users. And they’re making this technology and the algorithms they use available in an open source environment for other platforms and engineers to crack down on those who do harm.
“We are open-sourcing two technologies that detect identical and nearly identical photos and videos — sharing some of the tech we use to fight abuse on our platform with others who are working to keep the internet safe,” said Antigone Davis, Facebook’s Global Head of Safety, and Guy Rosen, Facebook’s VP of Integrity.
They’re focused on solutions for stopping more than just the catfish. This technology can help to identify other harmful content, such as child exploitation, terrorist propaganda, and graphic violence. The hope is that this new technology can will help Facebook and others find content duplicates (e.g., duplicate photos like we see in catfishing incidents) and prevent them from being shared.
“These algorithms will be open-sourced on GitHub so our industry partners, smaller developers and non-profits can use them to more easily identify abusive content and share hashes — or digital fingerprints — of different types of harmful content,” Davis and Rosen added.
Catfish will undoubtedly continue to lurk among social media feeds. It’s comforting to know Facebook and others are adding another another layer of defense to stop the fish before someone mistakenly reels in another.
Two aliens have invaded my home. Don’t be fooled by their appearance. One looks like a 14-year-old girl, the other like a 12-year-old girl.
They’re good aliens, not at all like the kinds we see on TV. They’re polite. Sometimes they do funny things or make interesting noises. Most days they clean up after themselves.
My wife and I try to communicate with our new alien friends. But as those (i.e., parents) who have attempted interplanetary species-to-species communication will tell you, it’d be easier to find water on Mars than to have meaningful conversations with this type of alien.
We have a lot of difficulty finding a common language through shared experiences. We’re separated by more than three decades of life.
Oh, and they’re from another planet.
It’s not all bad. We occasionally find topics to discuss that don’t border on the mundane.
One common language we share is music. Over the last few months, the aliens have been home a lot (i.e., summer break), so we’ve turned to music to help bridge the conversation divide.
If I hear them listening to a song we listened to in the 80s and 90s, I perk up. “Oh, that was my favorite song in (random year),” I say. Even if it wasn’t really my favorite song, it gives us a jumping off point for connection.
We talk about the songs, the bands and what mom and dad must have been like in those days.
Earlier this summer, the 14-year-old alien jumped in the car as I was turning down the volume. The Dead Milkmen’s Punk Rock Girl was playing. She said, “No. Turn it up.”
I smiled, sang the lyrics out loud (and off-key). She laughed at me, asked me to replay it, and sang along. We talked about the lyrics and relationships.
About an hour later, I went to Spotify and created a “Songs You MUST Hear” playlist. Of course, I add the Dead Milkmen’s ode, but I also filled it with many songs from different genres and decades, some hits and some a little more obscure.
We share a Spotify account. It’s mostly “alien” playlists, all loaded with nonsensical music created by other silly aliens.
We hear them listening to songs my wife and I recognize. A fellow alien will take a song from our youth and create a parody about Minecraft or Fortnite. The parodies aren’t very good, but we hum along because we know the tunes.
Yesterday it was a-ha’s Take On Me. Last week it was something by Queen. It doesn’t really matter what song it is so long as it opens the door to making a deeper connection with our little aliens.
I know it won’t always be this way. The aliens will learn our ways. They’ll learn our language. For now, it’s nice to know we have music and a Spotify playlist to make a connection.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.