I’m a big fan of the TV series “The Walking Dead.” It airs Sunday nights, and I rarely miss an episode. If I do, it means watching it from our DVR on Monday nights.
Missing the original airdate requires avoiding social media all day Monday for fear of reading reviews of the show, or seeing an image or meme about the show that might reveal important information.
In essence, I like to avoid any chance of catching subtle or overt spoilers from the night before.
What’s a spoiler? They’re pieces of information that come close (if not all the way) to giving away important details of a plot.
I liken the TV spoiler to skipping to the last chapter of a great book.
It’s natural to want to go to social media during and after our favorite TV shows to share the experience with other fans. Popular TV shows have made it common promotional practice to include Twitter addresses and hashtags as “bugs” in the bottom right- or left-hand-side of our screens to drive us to their social media platforms.
Social media has made it easy for us to connect with fellow viewers from around the world and share the viewing experiences. But for some people, sharing the experience might mean ruining it, or spoiling it, for others.
I recently asked some of my friends on Facebook if anyone had fallen victim to the social media spoiler.
Of course, when I posted my question, some friends used it as an opportunity to post their own spoilers, such as [SPOILER ALERT] “Darth Vader is actually Luke Skywalker’s dad. Can you believe it?!”
Spoilers take on all shapes and sizes and genres. For example, the sports spoiler was a recurring theme.
“Social media has essentially replaced the DVR,” said Ed Jenkins. “Instead of recording and watching later, my ESPN SportsCenter, Twitter and Bleacher Report apps tell the ending to the story in real time. During football season I find myself turning off notifications on all social media apps to not spoil my ‘delayed sports viewing experience.’”
Some suggested strategies for avoiding social media spoilers.
“If I miss ‘The Walking Dead’ I literally will not go on Facebook until I watch it,” said fellow ‘Dead’ fan, Megan Coene. “One time I even put my phone in airplane mode.”
Others aren’t that concerned about spoilers.
“It’s kind of expected at this point,” said Sam Marhulik. “People want to discuss immediately after the show, and that to me is the sign of a good program. Whether I see what happened or not, it isn’t going to deter me from watching.”
Other fans suggest it’s time to establish some spoiler etiquette.
“Ideally, Facebook and Twitter would implement spoiler tags,” said Bob McGovern. “What’s an appropriate time after which something is no longer a spoiler? Basically it’s about when the burden shifts from the viewer to the person for whom the show [might be] spoiled.”
Are you a social media spoiler or spoilee? Share your stories and tips with me on Twitter @adamearn or in the comments section below.
~ A version of this post appeared in the March 29, 2015 "Connected" section of The Vindicator newspaper.
Don’t expect to find ink on the fingers of many in the Millennial generation. They’re not reading newspapers — at least, not the “old-fashioned” print versions. Much to the chagrin of my friends in traditional media (i.e., newspapers, TV news), much of this generation is not reading and watching news the way older generations do.
But maybe that’s OK.
Members of the Millennial generation still want news. And they still need newspapers and credible sources to provide it.
According to the Media Insight Project, this new generation of adults age 18 to 36 are going to social media in large numbers to find news, share stories, and offer opinions about the information they read.
Eighty-five percent of the Millennials said keeping up with the news is at least somewhat important to them, and 69 percent of this group said they get news daily.
The news they read is meshed with social connection. Their news is part of a continuous feed of entertainment, opinion and editorials, as well as posts and updates from friends, family and others.
Millennials are going to Facebook to find news on a regular basis, and many of them do so daily. This is promising news for Facebook considering the number of critics who suggest teens and Millennials are leaving Facebook in droves.
Of the platforms used by Millennials for news, those surveyed say they also get news from social media services other than Facebook, such as YouTube, Instagram and Reddit.
The fact that Millennials are going to social media to find news may not be all that surprising. Several studies over the past few years from the Pew Research Center, the American Press Institute and others have found a steady uptick in the move to social media to find news.
But is this a good move? How are members of the Millennial generation, or any generation for that matter, learning how to use social media to consume and share news?
No one really teaches social media literacy outside of a few books, online tutorials and college classes (quick plug: we now offer a social media literacy course at YSU).
Many people will tell you that they learn to use social media for news through trial and error.
Two weeks ago, my friend found a story on Facebook about Pittsburgh becoming the first “Google City.” The details looked legit. It looked like a real news story and included “facts” and quotes.
In reality, it was a satirical blog post by breakingburgh.com. These funny, often witty sites have the appearance of real, credible news, and lead many readers to think what they’re seeing is the real deal.
Thanks to sites such as snopes.com and other fact-checking services, knowledgeable Web surfers are able to determine fact from fiction. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.
News is changing, and the way we read it is changing, regardless of what generation we’re in. It’s up to us to be better at finding the best, most credible news to share through our social media connections.
~ A version of this post appeared in the Sunday, March 22, 2015 issue of The Vindicator newspaper.
You see the same person every day. You stand in line together at the same coffee shop. You ride the same elevator to work. Maybe you go to the same school, use the same gym or the same grocery store.
You never talk to this person. The connection ends every day with that same cup of coffee.
These missed connections are often the product of varying levels of shyness. Still, social media continues to throw options our way to help alleviate this inhibition.
One of those new options is happn.
happn is an app that works with your location and, more importantly, the people you cross paths with every day.
“What makes happn different from other dating apps is that the experience starts in real life,” said Marie Cosnard, happn’s head of media relations.
The hallmark feature of the app is the real-time “geolocation” function. happn shows you a chronological timeline of people you’ve passed on the street and who were (or are) at the same place and at the same time as you.
If the person you’ve encountered is also using the app, you can see how many times you’ve been in the same location.
Like Tinder and other dating apps, if you see someone you like, click a heart button. And if the other person has liked you too, you can start a conversation.
For a little extra, you can send a “Charm” to be sure your profile is noticed. Cosnard equated this to the Facebook “poke.”
“One way of using happn is to find the
people you’ve seen before but didn’t have the chance to approach,” Cosnard said.
Another way is to discover new people around you. These might include people who ride your bus everyday, people who go to the same grocery store as you, people who jog in the same park or simply people who live nearby.
“They are people you might bump into every day but that you’ve never noticed because you didn’t look up,” Cosnard added.
Because happn works with your location, you need to activate the GPS setting on your mobile device.
Some users might consider the activation of the GPS locator a risky proposition. However, happn offers additional features to assure some level of protection.
“The app has been designed to guarantee the safety and privacy of all users,” Cosnard added. “The current location of a user remains completely invisible to other members. No matter how close a person is to you, the closest indication of distance will be less than 250 meters away.”
happn isn’t available in Northeast Ohio or western Pennsylvania, at least not yet. Although the new app boasts more than 2 million members, the real growth will probably hit when they move beyond major cities such as New York City and San Francisco.
“We have launched 15 cities so far including Paris, London, Chicago and Boston,” Cosnard said. “We will be launching more global cities throughout the year, at the speed of about two per month.”
For more information, check out the happn website at www.happn.fr.
~ A version of this post appeared in the Sunday, March 15, 2015 issue of The Vindicator newspaper.
One of my students said, “LinkedIn is like Facebook for business people.”
Okay, that might be underselling the value of Facebook for business and professional networking. Still, it’s a pretty accurate description.
LinkedIn is one of the largest business-oriented social networks with more than 300 million members in 200 countries. We use LinkedIn to search for jobs and network, and as employers, we post jobs openings and evaluate potential employees.
“We are power users of LinkedIn for a multitude of applications,” said Jim Cossler, CEO of the Youngstown Business Incubator. “It is absolutely our go to database for ‘people’ talent.”
When my student equated LinkedIn with Facebook last week, it made me think about how we present ourselves on professional networks. Let’s face it: Our LinkedIn profiles are usually much different from our Facebook and Twitter profiles, posts and images.
This spring, as a new crop of graduates will earn degrees and hit the job market, many will go to LinkedIn to set up professional profiles, connect with employers and begin networking.
“In vetting people, we look at a number of things,” Cossler said. “We look at educational attainment, professional societies and associations, work and internship experience and history, volunteer and charitable interests and contacts.”
Contacts are key for some employers. It’s a new take on the old business adage that “who you know is just as important as what you know.”
Our contacts on LinkedIn give employers a glance at our personal and professional networks. And networking is one of the primary reasons the Youngstown Business Incubator was selected as the top university-affiliated business incubator in the world (yes, the world).
“Contacts are really important,” Cossler said. “What we often can’t see, but what is very important, is who does the person we are onboarding ‘know’ who might be valuable to YBI. The number of first contacts on LinkedIn is important. But, the quality of the contacts is of greater importance.”
Of course, a complete LinkedIn profile is important, too. Don’t leave your profile blank. One option is to provide employers a snapshot of who you are and what you can offer in the “summary” section. It’s also important to share your experiences and tell a good story.
Select a professional image, one that shows the real you without offending potential employers.
“We scan LinkedIn profiles for ‘dumb’ stuff,” Cossler said. “That runs the range, but an example would be to have a profile picture of you in your favorite band T-shirt holding up a beer in tribute. We might love the band, but it’s not going to get a job at YBI.”
Of course, if you’re a newly minted college graduate, you may not have the ability to showcase an extensive professional network on LinkedIn. But you do have skills, and a story to tell. Be charismatic, highlight your skill set and build a professional-looking profile on LinkedIn to attract the right employers.
~ A version of this post appeared in the Sunday, March 8, 2015 issue of The Vindicator newspaper.
A few weeks ago, I took a picture of a group of people and quickly posted it to Facebook. I included important details for the picture — the event, names, location and tagged people in the picture with whom I was Facebook friends.
After closer examination of the picture, I noticed one person in the group was “rubbing” her nose. She wasn’t necessarily “picking” her nose, but anyone else viewing the picture might have mistaken the rub for a pick.
I promptly deleted the photo for fear the picture might embarrass this person.
In an attempt the salvage the memory, I went back to my phone and cropped out the nose-rubber. She was standing on the very end, so it was easy to edit her from the picture. But at the same time, I was cutting her from the memory. Feeling torn about the decision, my personal social media etiquette dictated saving this person’s dignity and preserving what I thought was an important moment in my life (and hers).
The nose-rubber prompted me to think about some of the strange social media etiquette we’ve developed.
I asked Facebook friends what kinds of social media customs they’ve established over the years. Some probably sound very familiar.
Like my dilemma over deleting a person from a picture, my Facebook friend Amanda noted that she deletes status updates that turn into long conversations.
“I have a tendency to remove posts that contain long conversations that amass in the comments,” Amanda said. “Once we’re all done chatting, I remove the post just like I would hang up a phone after a conversation. That way, people’s comments are gone and they need not worry about things staying in social media for people to read later.”
Unfriend or Unfollow
“Sometimes I unfollow people who post too many memes [i.e., a piece of media, usually an image with text, which spreads from person to person],” Tiffany said. “I also unfollow people who are super negative, because unfriending seems to signal ‘real-life’ unfriending and I don’t want to hurt their feelings.”
Invitations to Events
Some etiquette rules spill over from offline life. For example, forgetting to invite someone to a special event can cause strained relationships. Creating events on Facebook should have eliminated this problem, but it may have worsened it.
“I have to be careful about who I invite to certain events,” Amy said. “If I leave someone out accidentally, I end up with other people in that group angry at me.”
Liking (Every) Posts on Your Wall
Like my friend Brandy, I feel compelled to recognize posts other people make to my Face- book wall. It feels like the polite thing to do.
“It’s common courtesy to ‘Like’ or leave comments for people who post on your wall,” Brandy said. And liking the posts people make when wishing you happy birthday may not feel like a weird social media norm, but if you have a lot of Facebook friends, it’s time consuming.
Do you have some strange social media etiquette rules? Share them with me at email@example.com or send me a tweet at @adamearn.
~ A version of the column appeared in the Sunday, March 1, 2015 "Connected" section of the The Vindicator newspaper.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is special assistant to the provost and professor of communication in the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA where he also directs the graduate program in professional communication. He researches and writes on a variety of topics including communication technologies, relationships, and sports (with an emphasis on fandom). His work has appeared in Mahoning Matters as well as The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers.