As a social media columnist and teacher, I regularly interact with folks who give me recommendations on new apps and other tech.
“Try this,” a friend exclaims. “It’ll change your life.”
Everyone means well. After all, I proudly wear the mantle of early adopter. I have the charges on my credit card statements to prove it, from my good friends at Google Play and iTunes.
The other day, a student suggested I use Box instead of Dropbox or Google Drive for cloud-based, file sharing. I resisted, only to watch the young’un roll his eyes at me in disgust.
Of course, the kid didn’t want to change his tech to accommodate mine.
Didn’t I know that Dropbox and Google Drive were for old people?
What I wanted to say, but didn’t at the time, is “let me tell you a thing or two about technology, you little punk.”
Of course, I would never talk this way to a student.
But the eye roll was enough to curl my old man ear hair.
When I was growing up, we played video games on bulky machines in our living rooms.
Those, “throwback” consoles you young’uns like so much were our nirvana.
When you died in a level, there was no going back to the same part of a game. You went back to the beginning.
Those things in your pockets that allow you to take photos and video of every morsel of food you eat or silly animal you see? I had to major in communication to get my hands on that kind of tech.
I edited my video on what were essentially two interconnected VCRs.
It sometimes took hours to get one good minute of footage.
My audio often crackled because, well, one wrong move with the long microphone cord would result in “literal” crossed wires.
I shot my pictures on black and white 35-millimeter film and developed them in a darkroom using harsh chemicals that your mommy would never allow your precious little fingers to touch.
These days, we need to keep our digits Purelled and pristine to operate touchscreens.
Nope. Back in my day, a camera was a camera and everyone knew you were taking his or her picture.
Don’t even get me started on “risque” photos.
I still have vague flashbacks to college parties, kegs in basements and Polaroid cameras. I’m really hoping those never end up on Facebook.
It may seem strange for a tech columnist to prattle on about analog media, but it was comforting to know that if the VCR ate your tape, you could use a pencil to fix it, not stare at a screen with messages about buffering and lost connections.
Back in my day, we had some control when using mechanical devices.
I miss that control.
Rant part two, coming next week.
On Feb. 16, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in his Building Global Community statement
“As we build a global community, this is a moment of truth. Our success isn’t just based on whether we can capture videos and share them with friends. It’s about whether we’re building a community that helps keep us safe – that prevents harm, helps during crises, and rebuilds afterwards.”
These are important words to consider in the wake of Sunday’s horrific murder in Cleveland, a crime that played out for the world to see via Facebook.
Like any new communication technology, there will always be those who mean to corrupt it, to use it for malicious purposes, and to circumvent the altruistic intentions of the medium.
And like every form of communication, those who create a new medium and make it available to the world become targets of contempt the moment the medium is used for a nefarious purpose.
We’ve seen these crimes transpire on television. Not often, but it’s happened. So, it wasn’t a question of if a video like this would be shared on Facebook, but when.
So, as expected, critics quickly emerged Sunday in the wake of the murder to condemn Facebook’s streaming video service.
As news of the murder and manhunt broke, media outlets rolled out a cadre of experts including law enforcement, government officials and pundits, many of whom leveled accusations at Facebook.
But as they spoke, one fact was clear:
Those who were condemning Facebook were from generations of technology immigrants, Boomers and Gen Xers who didn’t grow up with new media. Those who grew up with this technology would have likely offered a competing point of view, likely with messages of hope and trust in video sharing.
When a public relations nightmare hits, Facebook typically turns to their vice president for global operations, Justin Osofsky.
In a post April 17, Osofsky said, “As a result of this terrible series of events, we are reviewing our reporting flows to be sure people can report videos and other material that violates our standards as easily and quickly as possible.”
Osofsky pointed out that Facebook is exploring ways that new technologies can help ensure the safer communities to which Zuckerberg referred in his Feb. 16 statement.
“Artificial intelligence, for example, plays an important part in this work, helping us prevent the videos from being reshared in their entirety,” Osofsky said.
Facebook is clearly working to enhance the video review process.
One friend posted Sunday, referring to the Facebook murder, “If [Facebook] can deny my video because it contains a few bars from I Walk The Line, certainly they can create an algorithm to find and delete these kinds of videos.”
Like Facebook, we’re all trying to figure out how the streaming of personal videos fit into our daily social media diet. But one thing is for sure: This was one of many big tests for Facebook and it’s way too early for someone to suggest they failed.
One of the most enjoyable parts of a vacation is planning.
That might be hard to believe when you consider the planning part usually involves negotiating destinations and dates with your family, saving money for the big trip, and ultimately packing half of your belongings into a minivan.
When my family planned a vacation in the 1970s, we relied on brochures from travel agents and customized AAA Triptiks that mapped each step of the journey.
Twenty years later, we used MapQuest to download and print directions.
Fast-forward another two decades and our travel planning now consists of a laptop and some incredibly useful apps.
AAA Triptiks. One of my most memorable travel planning tools from my youth got an upgrade. The foldable, page-flipping travel guide from the ’70s is now an app, with more features than you’d find on a printed map.
The AAA TripTik Travel Planner (via the AAA Mobile App) includes trip-planning maps and traveling directions. You’ll find more than 59,000 AAA approved and “diamond rated” restaurants and hotels. Use the booking feature to make your reservations and get discounts at more than 164,000 locations.
Best feature: Share your travel plans on multiple devices. Start on a laptop and access your plans later via the mobile app.
DuoLingo. If your trip will take you to some place a little more exotic than Dayton (no offense, Dayton), preparations might include learning the basics of a new language. Whether it’s Spanish, Swedish or Swahili, DuoLingo is one of the best apps for language development. And it’s one of the most downloaded for iOS and Android devices.
How long will it take you to learn the basics? According to DuoLingo, 34 hours on the app is the equivalent to a semester-long elementary language course.
Best features: First, it’s free. Second, DuoLingo is one big, language-learning game. The short lessons start with the basics and then move into useful topics such as numbers, places and distances. Get an answer right, earn points and level-up.
Waze. The social GPS app has grown-up since I first wrote about it in 2014. If you’re unfamiliar with Waze, the Google-owned app is like most GPS devices, offering detailed maps and directions.
Waze makes it social by connecting fellow drivers through its interface. If you’re friends with fellow “Wazers” on Facebook, connect with them on the app by sharing destinations, estimated arrival times or “beeping” (e.g., Facebook “poking”).
Best features: First, once in a while, I drive fast. Not too fast. Still, the “slightly” controversial police notifications are helpful.
Second, Waze occasionally offers celebrity voice guides. Over the years, we’ve received pithy travel updates and quips from stars like Stephen Colbert, Morgan Freeman, and my favorite, Ed Helms. When you download a celebrity voice on Waze, keep in mind they’re usually only around for a short time.
Dan Middleton, better known as DanTDM to millions of adolescent fans around the world, performed at the Akron Civic Center last Friday.
My two oldest daughters asked for tickets. They don’t ask for much. They’re not boy band fans. Our big entertainment expense usually involves a Sunday afternoon trip to the movie theater.
So when they pleaded for DanTDM tickets, I jumped at the opportunity for a parenting win, but not before asking, “What’s a DanTDM?”
“Not a what. A who. He’s a YouTuber,” my oldest daughter said. “He has millions of followers on his (YouTube) channel. You know? He does the Minecraft videos.”
“Oh yeah,” I replied half-knowingly. “OK, let’s go.”
When I posted to Facebook friends about Mr. TDM, they made it clear they knew all about him. “The YouTuber!” one parent proudly replied, but not before one of my more hip friends Brandon quipped, “Do you try to sound old, or is that just natural?”
Brandon was right. I was trying to sound old. I knew of DanTDM long before they asked for tickets.
Acting like I don’t know something is part of Adam’s Parenting 101 strategy. Once in a while I act like I have no clue what my kids are talking about to see how they’ll react.
My kids see this as an opportunity to teach something new to their know-it-all dad. I see this as an opportunity to connect with my kids.
They’re not fully aware of my little scheme, but my oldest daughter is catching on. She’s clever and skeptical, like her mother.
Before dropping $270 on three tickets (no, that’s not a typo; $90 per ticket), I did a little digging to be sure that: (A) this would indeed be an appropriate show for kids (I had no reason to suspect otherwise, but you never know), and (B) would this be even the slightest bit entertaining for a 40-something year-old.
At the show, we weaved our way through a sea of dazed parents and eager children to find our seats. When I made eye contact with parents and snapped them from their zombie-like trance, I’d ask, “Do you know what the ‘TDM’ stands for?”
“The Diamond Minecart,” one mom triumphantly replied.
I paused and asked her, “What’s a Diamond Minecart?” Too late. She was off to buy a $30 T-shirt.
The show included references to Minecraft and characters from his series that most parents wouldn’t know. But the kids knew every reference, as evidenced by the high-pitched squeals and excessive decibel levels.
The encore included a plea from DanTDM to not share online what we just saw. “Make it a surprise for everyone,” he said.
The real surprise, however, was something I shared with everyone online and in-person – that my children and I built some great memories, thanks, in part, to a world-famous YouTuber.
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.