It’s no secret that Facebook has been in image repair mode for the better part of two years.
Although they won’t come right out and say it, Facebook puts part of the blame on us and some of the content we post and share.
In an effort to clean up their act (and ours, apparently), Facebook has spent considerable time and money deleting user posts that violate “community standards.”
To do this, they’ve hired an army of reviewers to eliminate bad content. They’re also constantly tweaking algorithms to identify potential violations.
What Facebook’s army specifically hopes to curtail are posts that include adult nudity and sexual activity, fake accounts, hate speech, spam, terrorist propaganda, and violence and graphic content.
“Over the last two years, we’ve invested heavily in technology and people to more effectively remove bad content from our services,” said Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of product management.
Facebook published the first report of these policing efforts in May.
That report was meant to show us the types of content that were detected and removed so that we could see just how well Facebook was enforcing its standards.
The report also revealed how much work is left to do.
“People will only be comfortable sharing on Facebook if they feel safe,” Rosen said.
A second report posted last week detailed improvement over the past six months. The update included new categories on the number of posts removed related to bullying and harassment, and sexual exploitation of children.
“We are getting better at proactively identifying violating content before anyone reports it, specifically for hate speech and violence and graphic content. But there are still areas where we have more work to do,” Rosen added.
Two content categories Facebook highlighted in its most recent report focused on successes in deleting posts with hate speech and graphic content.
The amount of hate speech Facebook deleted from the platform more than doubled from its first report, from 24 percent to 52 percent. Detection of posts with violence and graphic content also improved from 72 percent to 97 percent.
The biggest win, according to Facebook, is that most of these posts are being removed before anyone sees them.
“The majority of posts that we take down for hate speech are posts that we’ve found before anyone reported them to us,” Rosen said.
To get a sense of the volume of content, consider this: during a three-month period, Facebook took action on 15.4 million pieces of violent and graphic content. This means there may have been millions of other pieces of content that Facebook didn’t take action on, but still reviewed.
The report also noted the types of actions Facebook took on content violations.
“This included removing content, putting a warning screen over it, disabling the offending account or escalating content to law enforcement,” Rosen said.
You can read the report by searching “Community Standards Enforcement” at newsroom.fb.com.
The paradox of my life as a social media researcher and columnist is that using Facebook, Twitter and other platforms makes it harder for me to write.
How can this be so? After all, “to write about social media with credibility, I must immerse myself in it,” or so I used to think.
Every Monday night I start to get the twitch of horror and anticipation that precedes my weekly musings and, instead of opening a new document and recording my thoughts, I do what many other writers do: I check my social media feeds.
I look to see who’s out and about. I scan events happening around me. I read news and reactions to the big stories of the day.
According to Statista, the daily average time a person spent on social media in 2017 was 135 minutes. If that’s so, I use at least 134 of these minutes screwing around while my deadline for this column approaches.
The only comfort I have is in the knowledge that I’m not alone. A quick web search of “writers,” “social media,” and “distractions” results in thousands of columns by fellow writers facing the same dilemma.
So, in an attempt to focus less on deadlines and more on my readers, I’ve started using strategies advocated by these fellow writers.
First, as with everything, there’s an app that does most of the hard work – at least when I’m on my laptop.
Freedom is software that comes in the form of a download for your Mac or Windows-enabled device. It’s also available as a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox and Opera.
According to Freedom’s description, “every time you check email, a social feed or respond to a notification, your mind requires 23 minutes of re-focus time to get back on task.”
Freedom helps control those distractions by blocking sites I tell it to, for time periods I specify. Even if I try to visit Twitter after blocking access, that little reminder that I’ve blocked it is often all I need to refocus on an important task.
Second, I bought a brand new legal pad and sharpened a box of No. 2 pencils.
According to productivity experts, writing longhand has several benefits beyond getting me away from my laptop and smartphone.
Writing longhand stimulates parts of the brain similar to those activated by meditation. Another benefit is that I write much slower than I type. This slower pace is linked to better thinking and more creativity.
In the end, few people would suggest we give up social media altogether.
But the next time you need to pull away from social media to complete a task – whether it’s a column, a term paper, or the next best-selling novel – remember that a little help and self-discipline go a long way to beating deadlines.
Editor’s note: Adam submitted this 12 hours before his scheduled deadline.
This past Monday, I counted the email in my in-box from the weekend. There were 138 received between late Friday night (when I stopped reading) and early Monday morning. This doesn’t count junk and spam.
Ok. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot.
On a typical weekday, I receive 100-plus emails, and on busy days, it’s double that. I’ve spoken with friends and colleagues who receive far more on busy days.
Imagine being an editor for a newspaper, receiving an endless stream of email announcements about community events, concerts and lectures, and bake sales.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, we spend about 28 percent of our workday reading and replying to email. Of course, that percentage varies greatly depending on your industry and job.
And then there are those of us who manage multiple email accounts. Last count puts the email addresses I maintain at 12.
Beyond my personal Gmail account, I also manage a work address and several organization email accounts. Some get more attention than others, and some get ignored for days at a time. There isn’t enough time to read it all.
Like many of my friends who manage multiple accounts, I’m accessing different email management platforms throughout the day – Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Microsoft Outlook – and on multiple devices (laptops, desktops, smartphones).
Don’t get me started on messaging apps (i.e., Facebook Messenger) and texting. That’s a column topic for another day.
Anyone who receives this volume of email will tell you that it feels incredibly overwhelming.
“Sorry I didn’t see your email. It’s a losing battle,” a colleague lamented this week when I asked if he had time to read my email. “Sifting through it all to find what’s important? What’s urgent? I’m drowning in email.”
I told him that scanning has become a go-to strategy for “reading” it all. Most of us are very good at scanning our in-boxes, looking for keywords or phrases, familiar email addresses and names that we deem important enough to open.
According to digital marketing expert Lon Safko, the average person spends 2.5 seconds scanning an email. For some, it takes a split-second to determine the worth of an email based on sender and subject line.
Our email scanning skills have to be precise, but they also have to be adaptable. We have to know when to choose other communication channels.
Marketing consultant and creative strategist Annabel Acton notes that we have options for staying ahead of it. Her suggestions for cutting through the clutter include:
Blocking out time each day just for reading email, but avoid the urge to read email at other times.
Only reading and react to an email once; don’t save it for later.
Knowing when email isn’t always the best response option; try calling or sending a video message.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor of communication studies 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 about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers on social media and society.