Archive | November, 2010

Death by Social Media

19 Nov

Everyone has that friend that is constantly updating their Facebook status, documenting every breath on Twitter or ranting about some superfluous pet peeve on their blog. You may even be that friend. While it is quite evident that social media is an important if not necessary tool for keeping up with the times, it has also consumed the lives of many. So much that some people are even addicted to their social media outlets.

It’s a bizarre concept, but you also wonder how people who are always updating their status on five different websites can get anything else done. It is especially concerning when you see websites, such as Facebook, causing people great misfortunes like losing their job over an inappropriate tagged photo or even driving a mother to killing her child because of Farmville.

As more stories about overuse of social media emerge and make headlines, we know what is coming next: the parody. From the people at YourTango, a digital media site for love and relationships, comes the ‘80s PSA spoof, warning people of the dangers of social media addiction.

The video pokes fun at Twitter, Farmville, Foursquare and several other social media tools as if they were a drug addiction. It is over-the-top yet ironically believable considering how many people are plugged in 24/7. The message YourTango was making a point of is that so many people get too caught up in the digital world that they forget to keep up with and maintain their real life relationships. People are too focused on Tweeting about how wonderful the date is that they’re on than actually enjoying the time spent with the other person. Mashable wrote an interesting article about how Facebook has changed societies’ perspective on dating and ultimately has resulted in more drama that would otherwise not exist.

Are we really predisposed to dating controlled by social media or is there some hope left out there for an old fashioned, face-to-face, real-life relationship? To answer this, we must look to the origin of a relationship, or the first date. From the minds of two best friends, Aaron Schildkrout and Brian Schechter, came the idea of a dating website that focuses on the one of those infamous beauty pageant questions: Describe your ideal date. Rather than posting pictures and information about oneself, users post ideas for dates and the area that they live in. The website, titled “How about we…” is free to post and read date ideas, the only cost comes when you want to send a message to the person asking them on a date.

I find this to be a very innovative form of online dating. It’s the new way to blind date, but you get to choose the kind of date you go on. Some potential date ideas include:

“How about we… attack the Sunday crossword in a quiet café.”

“How about we… shop for pop-rocks in a classic candy store.”

“How about we… drink wine and see who can make the other laugh first.”

The site allows users to make profiles, but not as in depth as other dating sites. The questions asked reveal more unique information. Some include, “What would you bring to show and tell?” and “One thing my mother would want you to know about me?” This focuses more on the personality and makes things more relaxed.

Ideas like this are what help me to believe that social media can do great things if used correctly. The site uses social media as the stepping-stone from your digital to real life. It requires you to physically go out and interact with people without being overly dependent on the site itself. It can help save you from the dreaded, “Social Media Addiction.”

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Secrets Saving Lives

11 Nov

Ok, so I know I mentioned PostSecret in my previous post regarding anonymous media, but after learning about Second Life in class and discussing the anonymity of avatars for networking, it got me thinking back to this viral art project.

To make a long story short, PostSecret was created by a man named Frank Warren, who handed out 3,000 blank postcards to strangers with two things written on the back: one was his home address and the other was a request for these strangers to anonymously send in a secret on the card to contribute to an ongoing community art project. The directions were simple: share a secret that no one knows, keep it concise, readable, and most importantly, make it your work of art. The cards that were sent back to him were turned into an art exhibit and posted to a blog. From there the cards flooded in and the phenomena that is PostSecret began. Over five years since the beginning of the project, Warren now has four published books, two blogs, and travels the world speaking about PostSecret and partnering up with worthy causes like the suicide hotline.

And of course, with various social media tools, PostSecret has gained even more followers through the Facebook and Twitter accounts. I peeked around on the PostSecret Twitter for a while reading some of the more recent tweets and came across several different posts about the “Soldiers Secrets” video. As last Thursday was Veteran’s Day, the videos release was timed perfectly for the occasion. The four-minute video is a compilation of post cards from soldiers and those with close ties to soldiers that reveal chilling, heartbreaking and honest secrets.

I find it pretty amazing that a project based on such a simple idea has made its way overseas to have an impact on soldiers at war. A lot of the secrets shared were confessions that those at war would not want to share with their loved ones to protect them from worry, but also secrets that were releaving to get out in the open. The effects that PostSecret has had on people (going off cards read from the blog) and their changed perspectives on life are almost therapeutic. If you have ever shared a secret with a stranger, it’s kind of a feeling of weight being lifted. The original premise of the project has definitely evolved into something much more complex but nurturing at the same time.

Something I stumbled upon that really made me realize the power of social media was a post referencing the “please don’t jump” secret. I did some investigating and found that it was actually a Facebook group that a PostSecret reader created in response to a devastating secret they read.

“I have lived in San Francisco since I was young. I am illegal. I am not wanted here. I don’t belong anywhere. This summer I plan to jump off the Golden Gate.”


The Facebook group generated huge amounts of support from people sharing their own experiences with suicide, posting encouraging comments and providing options for help. It also sparked an organized demonstration of support from a group of people who showed up on the Golden Gate Bridge to leave flowers, balloons and encouraging messages of love and compassion. The Facebook group currently has over 25,000 members who are continuing to provide support through daily messages. The mission of group was to hopefully grab the attention of whoever wrote the secret and show them that they are loved and appreciated in this world. It is really uplifting to see thousands of strangers coming together all for the life of one person. It shows there still is a sense of humanity in our society and that human beings can do great things if they use their power wisely.

Off the Wall Networking

3 Nov

After the recent post on the class blog mentioning the death of the floppy disk, I found it quite appropriate that I stumbled upon an art project involving the injection of USB flash drives into random public spaces around New York City. The project “Dead Drops” is an idea created by German media artist Aram Bartholl, who has cemented the flash drives into brick walls and curbs around the city for  “anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space.” A dead drop is essentially a secret location where two people can meet to exchange information without actually seeing each other. Most commonly used by spies, Bartholl’s idea is more for creative and experimental purposes.

He describes the true form of a dead drop revealing only the metal sheath of the USB drive protruding from a wall, barely noticeable to passersby.

“Dead Drops don’t need any cables or wireless technology. Your knees on the ground or a dirty jacket on the wall is what it takes share files offline. A Dead Drop is a naked piece of passively powered Universal Serial Bus technology embedded into the city, the only true public space. In an era of growing clouds and fancy new devices without access to local files we need to rethink the freedom and distribution of data. The Dead Drops movement is on its way for change! Free your data to the public domain in cement! Make your own Dead Drop now! Un-cloud your files today!!!”

This project is somewhat of an understated form of social media. While it is making personal information available to the public, it is still somewhat private. The locations of the Dead Drops are published on Bartholl’s blog, yet they still remain camouflaged among everyday city life. The concept is similar to having a Facebook or Twitter account with the information you share—pictures, videos, links, etc.—yet it all depends on who is looking at these various snippets of your life. If no one is following you on Twitter, who cares what you post, other than for your own public diary. The Dead Drops are an interesting idea because, as of now, it appears to be only a small population using the hidden networking outposts. It would be worth following to see if the idea evolves into something bigger or something viral. The anonymity of the project is appealing in the sense that people can share their secrets with the world without having to reveal anything about who they really are. Much different from the Facebook realm where it is near impossible to escape tagged photos and the like. It reminds me of another similar project, Post Secret, where people send in anonymous letters confessing their secrets. There is definitely a trend to watch out for here.

One concept that caught my eye from reading the comments people left was from one person who said that Dead Drops were like a digital form of “geocaching.” I did a little investigating and found that geocaching is a modern day treasure hunt where your map is a GPS device. The basic idea is that there are “caches” or the equivalent to a treasure chest, which are hidden all over the world in secret locations. To find them, the treasure hunter just has to log onto the geochaching website and plug the GPS coordinates into their device. The adventure begins and the coordinates lead you to the general site where the cache is located, but it is up to the treasure seeker to find the hidden cache. The idea reminds me of a hide and seek game with a time capsule, since the caches contain little trinkets and items that other people have left behind when they have found the cache. When you find a cache, you can log onto the website and record your adventures and findings. Since many new smart phones have GPS devices in them, almost anyone can play the geocaching game. The integration of technology and media with a physical adventure game is pretty innovative if you ask me. And not to forget, you can find Geocaching on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, so treasure hunters can stay updated.

Lately it seems as if everything in the social media world has become more about publicizing what you are doing, where you went last weekend, who you were hanging out with, etc. It has become information over share in my opinion and everyone seems to be too hung up on what their Facebook status says or which celebrity tweeted what. Dead Drops and Geocaching are two refreshing ideas that are focused more on content and the experience, rather than who is responsible for it. It may be bizarre, creepy, or just plain strange things that you encounter from these projects, but it is very likely that it will be something interesting and memorable. Definitely something sticky.