This column first appeared in The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers on November 8, 2020:
My kids think I’m a genius.
In truth, I probably sound a lot smarter than I really am.
My “smart dad” charade has been tested lately. Like many parents, I’m forced to be a pseudo-homeschool teacher’s assistant, answering endless questions about second-grade social studies, fifth-grade science and seventh-grade math.
Some of the questions I get make Common Core look like, well, the ABC’s.
I’m thankful our 10th-grader learned long ago that, no, Dad is not “smarter than a fifth-grader.” She’s a very perceptive 15-year-old...
Read the rest of this column at https://www.tribtoday.com/life/lifecovers/2020/11/help-keep-wikipedia-free-so-we-can-be-smart/ (may encounter paywall).
This column first appeared in The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers on November 1, 2020:
We’re good at celebrating friendships on social media.
Although the act of friending might seem little more than adding someone to a list of contacts, we cultivate friendships on social media with likes and shares, images and tags, greetings and comments of love and support.
Calling someone a “friend” elicits feelings of connection, even if you might never actually meet an online friend face-to-face.
In rare cases, the friend isn’t even a real person. I’m not really Facebook friends with our local Dairy Queen. Yet my belly and wallet would suggest we have a deep, personal connection.
Facebook quantifies our friendships through the pictures we post that represent our connections as well as old posts we’ve shared about one another...
Read the rest of this column at https://www.vindy.com/life/lifestyles/2020/11/cultivating-friendships-through-social-media/ (may encounter paywall).
Launched in October 2010, Instagram celebrates its 10th birthday this month.
Like other popular platforms, Instagram grew up fast. One million users subscribed by December 2010, and within a year, Instagram celebrated 150 million image uploads, thanks to 10 million daily active users.
It was a meteoric rise. When Instagram was a mere 18 months old, it was adopted (OK, “acquired”) by Facebook for $1 billion.
In 2020, Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users.
According to Statista, most of Instagram’s users are 18 to 34 years old, and it ranks second as the most preferred app among teens, after Snapchat, of course.
The largest user base is in the U.S. (130 million as of July 2020), but users in India (100 million), Brazil (91 million), Indonesia (73 million) and Russia (51 million) have added to Instagram’s popularity.
When surveyed by the Pew Research Center, four in 10 Americans reported using Instagram.
“The share of U.S. adults who say they (use Instagram) has grown from 9 percent in 2012, when the Center first began asking about the platform,” said Brooke Auxier, Pew research associate. “At the time of (this) survey, though Instagram had grown to be one of the more popular online platforms in the U.S., most Americans still did not use it, unlike the two most popular social media platforms, YouTube and Facebook, which were used by majorities of U.S. adults.”
Read more at https://www.vindy.com/life/lifestyles/2020/10/instagram-not-media-of-choice-for-news/ (may encounter paywall)
Around 2006, I created a cellphone policy for my students: “No cellphone use during class. No texting. No calls.”
For the most part, students were respectful when it came to using their phones in class. Texting was kept to a minimum, and we were just on the cusp of smartphone adoptions, so distractions from apps and games were limited.
The biggest obstacle back then was getting students to remember to mute their phones.
We’d start each class with a cellphone check, similar to the reminder theater goers get before a movie or live performance. In the early days, I’d forget to give that reminder at the beginning of class and, invariably, a musical ringtone would sound off.
It was so bad that I later revised the policy to read: “If your cellphone goes off during class, you’ll be asked to stand up and dance.”
Read more at https://www.vindy.com/life/lifestyles/2020/10/if-your-phone-goes-off-youll-be-asked-to-dance/ (may encounter paywall).
We spent a few nights in the heart of central Pennsylvania last August with one mission: stay up late to watch the Perseid meteor shower.
The meteor shower is an annual event. It’s identified on the family calendar alongside other important dates like birthdays, Christmas and Halloween. Sure, we may not be opening presents or dressing in funny costumes, but we use it as another reason to celebrate.
Our viewing location this year was as rural as you can get without camping deep in the woods. Location was important because it meant we were far away from light pollution. We learned our lesson about light pollution during past meteor showers.
If you want to see a lot of “shooting stars” (i.e., our kids’ term for meteors that streak across the night sky), you need to be away from the city and suburbs. Too much light means you’ll see fewer meteors. You also have to be willing to stay up late, something our kids never seem to mind.
I also learned that our kids are incredibly impatient when it comes to waiting for the elusive shooting star. Truth be told, I already knew they were impatient. But quite frankly, so was I.
Read more at https://www.vindy.com/life/lifestyles/2020/10/pick-up-your-device-to-identify-the-stars/ (may encounter paywall).
Some of my fondest memories of childhood are waking up early on cold fall mornings, gathering my fishing gear and heading to a local lake or river with my dad.
I suspect he never knew where we were going or if the fishing would be good. It didn’t matter. If my dad were still alive, I’m sure he’d fully admit to never really caring where we fished.
He never consulted maps or weather conditions. He didn’t check with local anglers for fishing reports. He just drove, parked and we eventually cast our lines in some out-of-the-way fishing hole.
Sometimes we caught fish — and we always caught colds.
Of course, these trips were memorable, not because we caught a few fish, but because we were out in nature, bonding as father and son, away from stress and complications of everyday life.
Read more at https://www.vindy.com/life/lifestyles/2020/10/fishing-apps-connect-anglers-for-best-spots/ (may encounter paywall).
Fake news creators are a lot like computer hackers.
To understand the comparison, we need to look at hackers’ motives. The problem here is that hackers — like fake news creators — have many motives.
Plus, there are many types of hackers. In a post to the blog Infosec, a site devoted to information security, Penny Hoelscher wrote that hackers’ motives “vary widely, from the terrorist hacker wanting to save the planet to the script kiddie wanting to destroy their ex-spouse.”
If you’re not familiar with the term “script kiddies,” they’re simply hacker-wannabes, “usually low-skilled, but they can be a menace to individuals they target to harass or whose lives they try to infiltrate,” Hoelscher wrote.
The motives we give hackers and the categories in which they’re placed mirror many of those of fake news producers.
Read more at https://www.vindy.com/life/lifestyles/2020/09/fake-news-creators-are-a-lot-like-hackers/ (may encounter paywall).
The 1988 U.S. presidential election was the first time I cared about politics. George H. W. Bush, the incumbent vice president, was running against Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.
But that’s not why I cared. I didn’t care if Bush or Dukakis won. I didn’t fancy myself a Democrat or Republican.
Having recently turned 18 and registered with the selective service, my thought was “Hey, I’m finally an adult. I’m going to conquer the world.”
The first step was to elect a president. Time to cast my vote. This was my first big obstacle to world domination.
It also was my first big adult fail.
OK, it wasn’t really a huge failure, but it felt like it. Little did I know how hard it would be for a newly minted grown-up to find voting information. When I asked, Mom said, “You just vote at the same place I do. We’ll get you there.”
“Of course! Mom knows,” I thought. Mom was relatively active in politics. She voted in every election. Before I was born, she marched with Dad in Washington for different issues. Mom would certainly have all the important information.
On Election Day, I arrived at our local polling place with Mom. No sooner did I walk in the door...
Read more at https://www.vindy.com/life/lifestyles/2020/09/social-media-doesnt-let-you-forget-to-vote/ (may encounter paywall).
Popular mapping apps Google Maps and Waze have a lot in common.
In many ways, they’re like sisters raised by the same parent company (Google). Like families with multiple children, where one kid might get more attention than the other at times, they’re both equally loved.
Google Maps, the popular sister, dominates the most-downloaded mapping app category for Android and iOS platforms. According to Statista, Maps recorded nearly 155 million downloads in 2019, dwarfing Waze’s 25 million (Apple Maps ranked a distant third).
With that many downloads, it’s easy to understand why Google might show Maps some preferential treatment.
Waze, however, is clearly the fun sister. While the older sister is all business, Waze gives friends and acquaintances all the bells and whistles, traffic cameras, route updates and entertaining features that Google Maps does not.
But both sisters are equally accurate at providing step-by-step directions. This is because they share a similar genetic code (i.e., programming). After all, they both benefit from Google’s all-powerful framework.
The major difference is that...
Read more at https://www.vindy.com/life/lifestyles/2020/09/google-and-waze-maps-have-a-lot-in-common/ (may encounter paywall).
This semester I’m teaching a course at YSU on Netflix and streaming services. You’re probably thinking “Whoa. What an easy class! They probably just sit around and watch movies all day.”
Some days I wish that was true. Instead, my students learn how streaming platforms work, terms we use to talk about video-on-demand (e.g., subscriptions, pay-per-views), advertising and marketing strategies, and binge-watching.
Of course, we tackle fun stuff, too, like producing and developing new shows and other streaming content.
And OK, yes, we’ll watch a few shows together as a class if for no other reason than some of these students have yet to see some of the best Netflix has to offer. After all, what good would a Netflix seminar be if we didn’t spend time talking about “Stranger Things,” “Black Mirror” and the “Tiger King” documentary?
COVID-19 is complicating my ability to teach this course in the way I would during a normal semester. A handful of mask-wearing students come to our Payiavlas classroom in YSU’s new Constantini Media Center, while the rest attend from a distance, opting to participate via video conference.
Read more at https://www.vindy.com/life/lifestyles/2020/09/watch-videos-together-with-browser-extensions/ (may encounter paywall).
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.