I have a wallet full of department store, gas station and restaurant loyalty program cards. Some I use on a nearly daily basis. Sheetz, Giant Eagle, Panera Bread, and others get frequent swipes.
The others? Not so much.
In fact, I have a stack of loyalty cards saved in a plastic container, tucked away in the family junk drawer, because I foolishly think I’ll start frequenting those businesses some day.
When a cashier says, “Hey, if you join our loyalty program, you can get 20-percent off your purchase today. And it’s free,” I’m usually game.
Okay, I get it. It’s their job to get me to sign up. And okay, the loyalty program is not technically free. I’m paying for those benefits with my data and info on my purchasing behaviors.
Obviously I have no major hang-ups with loyalty programs or giving them my data in order to tailor shopping and dining experiences to my tastes. I am, after all, the stereotypical middle-aged Dad who likes his grocery discounts, free restaurant appetizers, and fuel perks.
But being connected to my favorite businesses is important to me, too – businesses that serve my needs and that want to have a relationship with me through these programs.
I just wish it didn’t involve so many darn cards.
So, it was with both excitement and utter terror this week when reports surfaced of Sweden’s new human microchip implant initiative.
Thousands of Swedes agreed to be “chipped,” a process that includes injecting a tiny microchip under the skin to be used in place of credit cards, workplace IDs, gym memberships, and those pesky loyalty cards.
Conspiracy theorists have taken to the streets (and message boards) to protest chipping and offer end-of-days warnings. Futurists and technophiles have, for the most part, offered a few cautions while also praising the possibilities for implementing this technology.
It’s safe to say I fall somewhere in between those favoring the new tech and those scared to death of it.
Chip implants are actually old news for the Swedes. They’ve been at it since 2015.
What’s new in this iteration is the level of information that can be stored on a chip. Also, aside from New World Order fears are more pressing matters, such as privacy and security (e.g., hacking an chip), though it seems for the time-being some are willing to ignore these issues in trade for convenience.
This begs the question for Swedes and others welcoming a future of wrist or hand or, dare I say, forehead scanning: how much are we willing to sacrifice for access to cheap food, clothes, and gas?
Convenience is a factor when embracing or rejecting chip implants. Injecting a chip under our skin may come with a price most aren’t willing to pay, even if it means missing out on a few restaurant discounts.
Laughter filled Gate A10 of the Pittsburgh International Airport as I exited the moving walkway. It was late January and I distinctly remember being tired and cold and done with winter.
Hearing the glee echo through the cavernous terminal warmed my heart.
It’s not often you hear those sounds in an airport terminal – far away from the eruptions of joyous reunions in places like baggage claim and curbside pick-ups.
This kind of infectious laughter can only be described as rowdy squeals, snorts and happy tears. Someone lets out an unexpected laugh so genuine, so pure, so hearty that everyone soon joins in with a laugh or, at the very least, a smile.
These laughs weren’t caused by a reunion, or the anticipation of a great adventure, or giddiness brought on by a few too many drinks from the restaurant adjacent to our gate.
What fueled this amusement was nothing more than a social media post; a video, to be precise. That’s it.
How we got to that point, however, is what really strengthened my hope in humanity.
A 20-something young man clad in black sweatpants, a LeBron James jersey, black flip-flops and white socks was mindlessly scanning his social media feeds. “I was bored,” he told me in the aftermath of the laughter.
“I had my sound up, and when I scrolled over that video, it was probably a little too loud. She heard it and started laughing. Like really laughing.”
The “she” he was referring to was a wonderfully gregarious woman, 70-something (my best guess), and just as pleasant as the best grandma image you can muster.
She was sitting beside him, waiting to board the plane, minding her own business, and – as he recalled – she just reacted to the sound of a baby laughing on the video and “looked at my phone to see what was making so much noise.”
The video was of a bright-eyed baby, sitting mid-floor, being playfully circled by the family dog. It was almost as if the dog knew it was entertaining the baby – clearly taking the laughter as a sign of approval.
“When she saw it, she was just laughing so hard, I gave her my phone so she could see it closer,” he said. “But then she started laughing louder, and everyone around us did too,” he added.
We weren’t laughing at her. We weren’t laughing at the video. We were laughing with her and the pure joy she exuded.
She handed the phone back to the young man and simply said, “Thank you. I needed that.”
“I think everyone needed that,” he replied.
This laughter contagion creates the kind of connection to others we need today more than ever (yes, even strangers in an airport), to celebrate moments that connect through happiness – albeit with a little help from an entertaining video.
I don’t really know anyone on my father’s side of the family. He didn’t talk much, and when he did, it was never about his family.
What I knew was limited to weird bits about step-brothers, an alcoholic mother and years spent bouncing around through Illinois’ foster care system. It sounded bleak, so I never really pressed the issue for fear of drumming up some unnecessary pain.
As kids, my siblings and I met his cousin once as she was passing through our town. Or was it an aunt? I really can’t remember. I was 10 years old and the moment so fleeting and so long ago that the memory is now hazy.
Thanks to Facebook, I’ve connected with another family member – Ruby, my father’s cousin. She is a wealth of information about his past, supplying me with great pictures of his parents and other relatives, many of whom died before I was even born. My grandfather looks very tall in the pictures, which helps to explain my hulking 6-foot-8-inch frame.
But that’s it. A random visit from someone I can’t remember and a Facebook friend who sends the occasional picture serve as my only connections to his past.
He died a few years ago, right around the time consumer-based DNA testing was becoming readily available in the United States.
23andMe and a smattering of other DNA ancestry services are now part of our everyday lexicon, luring us with the promise of a deeper sense of genetic heritage in exchange for a little saliva, $150 and the ability to store our DNA profile on some random computer in California.
As a researcher and writer, the offer to have more data was enticing. But if I’m being honest, it really came from a longing to learn more of the truth behind what little I already knew of my dad’s story.
Unfortunately, what I found told me very little about his life.
What it did tell me was that my life was bigger than the DNA contributions of one person, painting a bigger picture of a vast lineage, a family journey from places such as England, Ireland, Germany and Switzerland.
Buying into the DNA hype comes with risks. I get it. For me, it seemed like the secondary reward was knowing more about my genetic health, wellness traits and other reports these services provide.
What I didn’t expect was a connection to a possible paternal relative. “Open Sharing,” or connecting with DNA relatives who use the service, connected me to a third or fourth cousin (we share a great-great grandfather on my father’s side). She reached out, asking questions to see if we shared other connections.
I didn’t learn more about my father from the DNA sample, but maybe I’ve made a connection to his past and my family that wasn’t there just a few short years ago.
It’s safe to say Facebook is having a crappy 2018.
Endless scandals. Bountiful lawsuits. Congressional testimony. It’s hard to know if Facebook has hit bottom, and if they have, how they intend to claw out.
This is where Facebook’s “Hard Questions” feature shines. Some top-level exec will provide answers to big issues facing the company and their billions of users.
On Monday, it was Rob Goldman’s turn. He’s Face-book’s VP for Ads, and his question was a doozy:
“What do Facebook advertisers know about me?”
“To build a product that connects people across continents and cultures, we need to make sure everyone can afford it,” Goldman stated. “Advertising lets us keep Facebook free. But we aren’t blind to the challenges this model poses. It requires a steadfast commitment to privacy.”
I have to admit a little skepticism. This is the same company that earlier this month sent millions of us a message saying that our information had been sucked up into the Cambridge Analytica vortex.
Oh, and it happened two years ago.
I’m a forgiving soul, so I slogged through his answers, looking for loopholes, hoping to learn something new about how advertisers are trying to connect with me.
What I found actually opened me to the idea of maybe trusting Facebook again. Well not today, but some day.
According to Goldman, there are a few ways advertisers can reach us.
They take information from our use of Facebook (including age, gender, hometown, friends), and when we like posts or articles, they use that information to understand what might interest us in terms of products and services.
Next, advertisers will share information with Facebook about us (i.e., customer information) so that they can reach us. Advertisers might know our email addresses from a purchase or from some other non-Facebook data source.
Lastly, there’s a ton of information that websites and apps send to Facebook about our use of their services. Some apps we use, for example, may utilize Facebook tools (e.g., such as using Facebook to login to the app) to make their ads more relevant to us and to evaluate the success of their ad campaigns.
“For example, if an online retailer is using Facebook Pixel, they can ask Facebook to show ads to people who looked at a certain style of shoe or put a pair of shoes into their shopping cart,” Goldman said.
“We do not tell advertisers who you are or sell your information to anyone. That has always been true. We think relevant advertising and privacy aren’t in conflict, and we’re committed to doing both well.”
Only time will tell if we can hold Facebook to this promise and trust them again.
If you want to manage what information advertisers know about you, go to “ad preferences” and edit what you’re willing to share.
About a decade ago, while out with my then-3-year-old daughter, we stopped for ice cream in the late afternoon.
I knew this was a mistake. There was a chance my wife was cooking dinner. I knew that by getting ice cream there was likely no way my kid would eat anything for dinner that night.
So, I did what any rookie dad (and husband) would do in this situation. I told my daughter, “Don’t tell your mom we got ice cream. She might get mad.”
“Okay Daddy. Our secret,” was my daughter’s reply.
Whew, I thought. Crisis averted. Surely I could trust my daughter with this important information.
Alas, as soon as we walked in the door, my beautiful daughter threw me under the bus by announcing our little secret side trip to Handel’s Ice Cream.
Needless to say, I was in the doghouse for a few days after this. But I learned an important lesson: Don’t share secrets with people you can’t trust, including chatty 3-year-olds.
Ten years later, I’ve slightly adjusted this personal rule to include the sharing of personal information on Facebook and other social media platforms.
There. I did it. I compared trusting my toddler with a secret to sharing personal information on Facebook.
Is it really any different?
Don’t get me wrong. I occasionally share personal information on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms that I probably shouldn’t. I know the risks. But I also know that I’m exchanging data (money) for access to their platform (service).
As shocking is this may sound to some people, Facebook isn’t a free service.
Although critics have bellowed from social media soapboxes about the risks of sharing too much information, few actually listened to the warnings. Those are the people who did not receive the little “thanks for playing” message from Facebook last week.
That message, sent to some 80 million users, was Facebook’s attempt at an explanation and apology.
Thinking our personal information is somehow safe online is as laughable as telling a toddler to keep quiet. No one expects the kid will keep the secret. If they do, they probably shouldn’t be on social media.
I was one of the lucky Facebook suckers to receive the Cambridge Analytica message. Yes, I freely gave up personal data to play a game or complete some dumb quiz.
Boom. Credibility blown. Time to follow my own advice.
The bigger question is this: What will we do now that we know what we already knew? That’s a confusing question, but the answer is simple.
We can continue to share information we hope will be kept private by people we don’t know and on machines we’ll never see for a service we think is “free,” or we can treat Facebook and other platforms like toddlers who can’t be trusted to keep a secret.
Apps that make me look like the world’s greatest photographer hold a special place in my heart, and on my smartphone.
Instagram, Snapchat and other image sharing apps are good, but they rarely give me best-picture-ever quality newer smartphones are capable of. I want to take the kind of pictures one expects to see when, say, looking at an image in an issue of National Geographic.
Before you say I should temper my expectations, meet Dayflash, a new app for enhancing your image sharing experiences.
Developed with input from hundreds of content creators and image influencers, Dayflash offers a unique photo and video sharing service that complements traditional platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
“We’ve had a passion for art and photography for a long time,” said Dayflash co-founder, Rupali Renjen. “It started out in the shortcomings we found with photo sharing apps as a whole. Then it became something more after we talked to lots of users of photo apps.”
Although Dayflash is a social app, it won’t replace your favorite social media platforms. And that’s okay. It’s not supposed to. They’re merely trying to make your social media experience a bit better – for you and your followers.
“We’re simply looking to introduce (an app) that could ignite public interest around great social and visual content on mobile,” Renjen added.
So far, they’re generating a lot of interest. During their pre-launch phase, several thousand well-known Instagram influencers and others joined Dayflash. Many became active users.
These power-users noted the sleekness and simplicity of the Dayflash interface.
One aspect I noticed right away is that photos and videos looked sharper. This is because, by default, Dayflash displays your photos and videos in an immersive full-screen photo display format.
Like other social apps, you can search for and follow new Dayflash accounts that interest you.
When you’ve got a great content, you can share your full-screen photos and videos to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
With so many similar image-sharing services, the question for Renjen and her team now becomes how to make Dayflash stand out in the crowded app marketplace.
For one, those people who are running from Facebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal might see Dayflash as a nice alternative.
“We want a unique and immersive full-screen photo display format that can make many of our aesthetic photos look more beautiful and lifelike than ever before,” Renjen said.
Dayflash is poised to help users reach new audiences and bring greater visibility to their Instagram accounts.
“Instagram users have done a lot to build their accounts, so we’re also looking to help them build their Instagram presence, and to do so more quickly,” Renjen added.
Dayflash is currently available on the iTunes App Store for iOS devices.
Kelsey Klim and Kollin Chupa of K Squared know something about the entertainment and event industry.
If you don’t know their names, but you live in Northeast Ohio, you probably know their work. Before K Squared, they were known as the one-two punch for entertainment marketing inthe area, having worked with just about every live act to come to Youngstown for the last 10 years.
From the Covelli Centre to Packard Music Hall to JAC Live, Klim and Chupa have worked with global and local companies, world-class entertainers like Elton John and Rod Stewart, and well-known shows like Disney On Ice and Cirque du Soleil.
On a personal note, Klim and Chupa were part of my first class at YSU.
As most teachers will tell you, keeping an eye on the growth of former students after graduation is akin to watching your own kids grow up.
I interviewed the dynamic duo about K Squared and their recent partnership with DOYO Live, Youngstown’s digital marketing and interactive design conference.
DOYO returns for its third year, August 1-2, 2018, in its new location: the DeYor Performing Arts Center.
As graduates of our communication studies program, it’s clear that the twins learned how to leverage their skills and experiences with Eric Ryan Productions into face-paced, versatile careers.
It’s also clear they’re determined to fix a problem they see in their industry: marketing jargon and “big business” practices have replaced personal attention, which ultimately leaves some clients feeling unsatisfied.
K Squared wants to fix that problem.
Q: You didn't take the typical path through college to learn about marketing. How did a communication degree prepare you for this career?
A: We truly believe that the best approach to anything is to approach it from a holistic view. It’s a concept we’ve carried into our own business model. It wasn’t enough for us to sit in a classroom and learn about theories. We wanted a tangible way to put those theories into practice.
We discovered that we had the resources accessible to us within our community and campus. We just had to look. At YSU, Campus Recreation and Student Programming had merged into a new department, and it was there that we discovered a passion for live events, event marketing, sponsorships, and corporate sales.
We also met our former boss Eric Ryan during this time frame, which led to our eventual careers at the JAC Management Group. Suddenly all of the communication classroom lessons started to make sense in a much deeper way.
Q: You've networked with a lot of names in the entertainment industry. How has that network helped you launch K Squared?
A: Our previous experiences have absolutely paved the way for the foundation of K Squared. Not only did we gain a versatile skill set, we built many relationships that have extended into the launch of K Squared.
Q: What are the advantages to having your business in Youngstown?
A: The absolute best advantages to having our business in Youngstown, or any business for that matter, are the relationships. We are fortunate to live and work in a community where relationships still hold a very strong value and almost serve as a type of currency in a lot of circumstances.
It could be a double-edge sword, but we’ve found that many clients and people within our network still have a very strong entrepreneurial spirit and recognize and support that same spirit in others.
Q: I loved your FB Live session with Dennis (Schiraldi) for DOYO Live. Looks like you’re going to be pretty involved when DOYO returns this year in August. What are you looking forward to most about the 2018 Conference?
A: First of all, we are thankful for the partnership and sense of collaboration and community Dennis has cultivated within the business and marketing community.
We’ve founded our business model on the mantra of “collaboration breeds creativity”, so it was a natural fit when we began working with Dennis on event and corporate sponsorships.
We’re excited to inject our knowledge of sponsorships into this year’s conference because it marries a lot of our passions and business foundations: events, sponsorship, and marketing.
Above all else, we’re excited that the conference has grown each year and even more excited to be part of that growth this year.
To learn more about K Squared, check out http://www.ksquared.marketing and look for them on Facebook.
For more on DOYO Live, including dates, tickets and schedule of speaker, check out http://www.doyolive.com. You’ll also find some great links to live video on DOYO’s Facebook page.
I’ve had several what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up conversations with my kids. They run the gamut from the typical to the exceptional to the implausible.
Ballerina. Police officer. Astronaut. Garbage collector. Mud taster. That last one came from my five year old. I’m fairly certain he wants to be a comedian.
As they’ve grown a little, the conversations have morphed into selecting college majors. When I asked what majors might interest my 12- and 10-year-old daughters – without missing a beat – they replied in unison: YouTube.
“Huh? You want to major in YouTube?” I asked.
“Yep. We want to be YouTubers.”
Not one to shoot down the dreams of children, I simply said, “We don’t have that major at YSU.”
I could immediately hear the disapproval from my wife in the other room.
“Wrong answer, Dad,” she said.
She was right. Although the major doesn’t exist, the pathway does. The trick to picking the right route to YouTube stardom starts at an unlikely point: content.
“What is it exactly that you want to talk about on your YouTube channel?” I asked them. “Whatever it is, you need to focus on that in college. You need to be experts in that thing, whatever it is.”
I was simply echoing the advice of YouTube star Jim Chapman. His “How to Become a YouTuber” video has over 1 million views.
In his video, Chapman recommends committing to your goal. He also argues that you don’t need fancy equipment, although he’s obviously using more than just the built-in camera and microphone on his laptop.
The rest may require a little help from a college degree.
Knowing more about presentational skills, writing, marketing and advertising, and media production will set your kids in the right direction for success.
This is the advice we’re giving our kids now: pick the right college courses.
Here’s the college pathway we think our kids should consider when considering a YouTube career:
Presentational skills. Charisma will only get you part way. Being spontaneous and making direct eye contact with the audience (i.e., the camera lens) will make most YouTubers look and sound natural. You learn these strategies in public speaking classes.
Writing. Reading from a script is a snooze-fest, but you still need to know what you’re going to say and in what order. Similar to outlining a paper, use a keyword outline to keep you on track when recording. You learn these tools in basic writing classes.
Media production. Pick up as many media production courses as possible to learn how to operate the best equipment, to get good lighting and sound, and to learn more about the media industry in general.
Marketing. Take as many business classes as possible. From overviews to in-depth marketing and advertising courses, the strategies you learn will set you apart from other YouTubers who are getting by on charm alone.
The more things change the more they stay the same, at least when it comes to social media.
A new report from the Pew Research Center didn’t use those exact words, but their findings suggest our social media habits haven’t changed much over the past few years.
Most adults still like Face-book and YouTube, while the 18- to 24-year-old crowd still prefers Snapchat and Instagram.
Early 2018 data show that Facebook and YouTube still boast the highest number of users among all social media platforms. However, younger Americans tend to use a wider variety of social media platforms, and with more frequency than older users.
“78 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds use Snapchat,” the report shows, and almost three-quarters of that age group will access the platform several times a day. “Similarly, 71 percent of Americans in this age group now use Instagram and close to half are Twitter users.”
Don’t be surprised if some of these numbers sound familiar. We’ve been seeing them for the past two to three years, and the results always show the king of all social media still sitting on the throne, even if his crown is a little askew these days.
“As has been the case since (Pew) began surveying about the use of different social media in 2012, Facebook remains the primary platform for most Americans,” the report shows.
“Roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults now report that they are Facebook users, and roughly three-quarters of those users access Facebook on a daily basis. With the exception of those 65 and older, a majority of Americans across a wide range of demographic groups now use Facebook.”
The typical American is using three of the eight major platforms on a regular basis. Along with Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter, we’re using LinkedIn, Pinterest and WhatsApp.
Next to Facebook, YouTube has the largest user base. Although not considered a traditional form of social media, the site utilizes some of the same features we see on other platforms (i.e., liking, sharing, commenting).
Three-quarters of U.S. adults and nearly all (94 percent) 18- to 24-year-olds use YouTube.
“These findings also highlight the public’s sometimes conflicting attitudes toward social media,” the report suggests.
“For example, the share of social media users who say these platforms would be hard to give up has increased by 12 percentage points compared with a survey conducted in early 2014. But by the same token, a majority of users say it would not be hard to stop using these sites, including 29 percent who say it would not be hard at all to give up social media.”
Whether or not these groups will abandon social media altogether or find new platforms for connecting with others has yet to be seen. But for platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, now may be a good time to ask them to stay.
I had a dark social media time period for about two months last year. Fed up with the negativity and lack of connections to real friends, I started to rebel against the social media establishment.
My angst was palpable. Just ask my wife. “These people are idiots,” I once exclaimed very loudly, referring to the Zuckerberg types who control social media, not to those who post pictures of babies and kittens and Donald Trump.
After eliminating some social apps, significantly curtailing time spent on other apps and a short fast, I was on the path to social media enlightenment.
Deepak Chopra would be proud.
Of course, this didn’t stop me from writing about and lamenting on the experiences.
Others noticed a change in my normal social media cheerleader tone during my anti-social media emo phase.
You remember emo kids, right? Head-to-toe black clothing. Dark eyeliner. Black hair. Depressing music. A generally withdrawn disposition. Hating the world. That was me (minus the black hair, of course).
Call it a reaction to the disillusion the world was having with Facebook, but I was concerned about the psychological effects it and other platforms were having on me.
Then I found Reddit. Again.
In case you missed these knowledge-filled nuggets, I’ve written about Reddit here, on my blog. Use "reddit" in the search bar to find more.
First, it’s important to know what Reddit is not.
Reddit is not Facebook or Snapchat.
It’s not Twitter, although I suspect in many ways, Reddit users would more or less liken their activity to tweets, retweets and hearts than other forms of posting.
This is because, like Twitter, Reddit bills itself as a social news aggregating and sharing service. Though to be sure, the news content is not always reliable.
But that’s where Reddit shines, separating the wheat from the fake news chaff.
Users post stories and other content in a message board-like environment, while other users “upvote,” “downvote,” and comment on the worthiness of that content.
How I envision Reddit saving social media has more to do with that user activity – the community curated and approved content – than it does with negativity, grandstanding, self-promotion, and the hated algorithms that control the content you see first on “big social” (e.g., a term used to reference the big social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram).
To be sure, Reddit has all of those features, but the community and functionality are what draw people in.
Reddit is not pretty. Don’t expect glitz and glamour. The interface is simplistic by traditional graphic design standards, and the desktop and app interfaces are nearly identical.
As you consider migrating from traditional social platforms, dividing your screen time between the accounts you’ve had since the birth of social media and the search for something new, maybe it’s time to show Reddit some (more) love.
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.