The Paradox of “kicking smartphone addictions”.

It’s amusing that people think of “kicking smartphone addictions”. We now have a decade of experience in the current social media landscape. We have a decade of using smartphones rather than feature phones. In effect we have had a decade to adapt our lives to the age of the ubiquitous smartphone. We can ignore the Blackberry and Nokia ages where phones were for phone calls, playing snake and business rather than pleasure.

Those that see social media as a disease usually have partners.
Those that see social media as a disease usually have partners.

People who see smartphones or social media as addictive usually have one thing in common. They have a “partner”. They spend their free time with a specific individual. “It’s about finding balance. I became conscious of what matters to me, in my life. My smartphone is still a part of it, but it’s no longer the boss.” I have never been addicted to the device as such. My passions lie with what I can do with the device. I was passionate about Twitter when it was a social network. I was passionate about facebook when it was a way of keeping up with friends.

If Twitter and facebook become ego-networks for marketers and public relations professionals then the “addictive” aspect of smartphones vanishes. As social media goes from a conversation to a broadcast and a monologue it delivers another opportunity. It gives us the chance to go back to reading books. As we no longer “socialise” with smartphones the “addiction” is gone. We loose nothing by spending time “offline”.

You don’t need to give up the smartphone or any apps. If you’re like me you can pick up an e-book reader and replace Facebook and twitter with reading. If you’re going to passively read an e-book reader is an interesting alternative.


Black Mirror – A television series

Black Mirror – a television series

Black Mirror is a television series that was broadcast by Channel 4 a few years ago and made available to Netflix audiences recently. The series explores a variety of topics and issues to do with technology from death to crime and existentialism. It also explores themes like family and friendship.

We spend a lot of time thinking about technology and how it has changed our lives. Sometimes it’s fun to watch 80s series to see the world as it was before computers and the internet and sometimes it is fun to watch dystopian essays or short stories exploring facets of modern life.

In modern society we see that social media is affecting the discourse that is taking place between politicians and normal people. We see how social media and the lowering of the barriers of entry to the fourth estate have created a golden age for propaganda and disinformation. We see in The Waldo Moment that a CGI bear can mock the political system. It could be directly related to what we have seen happen recently.

Be Right Back deals with online identity and how a person can be emulated once they have died. The question is an interesting one. The more active we are on social media the more our character and personality can be understood and reflected back. This is limited. We are not entirely ourselves online. There are some things that we hide from the online world.

In Fifteen Million Merits we see a dystopian vision of the world where everyone lives in a small dark room. They get out of this room to go and peddle for a few hours to get Merits. Once they have 15 million merits they can “apply” for a different kind of job via a talent show.

Nosedive explores popularity and social networks. Everyone is constantly being rated based on what they share, how they interact with others and more. In such a dystopia people can progress or lose privileges based on reputation. In such a reality people are vulnerable.

A vertovian theme is explored in “The Entire history of You”. An implant called the Grain records your entire life and you have the ability to fast forward and rewind moments of your life. In so doing you can analyse what went well, what went badly and more. You can also see more than you were intended to see through other peoples’ recorded experiences. In this episode we see the Kino-Eye, the all seeing eye. Your life is no longer private.

I like some of the themes that are explored in this series and I recommend people to watch at least some of the episodes. I feel that they are relevant to our discussion about social media and online lives.

Thoughts on Youtube Backstage

Youtube backstage is a consequence of Youtube comments not playing nicely within Google+. Google+ is a pleasant social network where people who want to have conversations and share pictures can meet and broaden their horizons. It is a place where you can write comments that are as long or as short as you want. Misunderstandings, as a result are less common.

The idea of youtube backstage is to expand youtube channels so that content creators can share images, polls and more. In so doing Youtube would provide people with a one stop shop. The need for twitter, instagram and facebook would be reduced.

Some youtube content creators have from two hundred thousand to ten million followers. With such a big audience youtube pages would become self contained communities. If you’re watching No Man Sky videos rather than commenting on episode videos you will comment on the game. Would this encourage people to move away from Reddit?

One of the most interesting benefits of youtube implementing text, images and polls is that it would create an environment in which for advertisers to be seen without distracting people from the content. When you watch youtube videos you see pre-roll videos and banners. When videos are longer an advert is shown after a certain number of minutes. With text, images and polls adverts could be shown for longer. As channels are themed adverts will be relevant to the channel rather than a person’s browsing history.

I spent a few weeks watching content created by youtubers. In that time I have watched “series” and “episodes”. If youtube finds a way to monetise the niches that content creators have built up over time then Google and Youtube will benefit. People will go from passive viewing and occasional commenting to active conversations. Conversations make social networks sticky. A sticky social network provides value for advertisers. Advertisers provide funding to content creators and this provides content creators with a higher income, providing them with the incentive to do more of the same.

Did anything happn?

Happn is a location based dating app, at least in theory. I have had the app on my mobile phones for a year or more and have yet to meet a Happn user in person. In theory Happn shows you who you have crossed paths with and where. It also tells you how many times you have crossed paths with specific individuals.

One of the biggest limitations of this app is that for now users of the app are based in cities rather than the countryside. As a result I will cross path with dozens of people I go to Geneva or Lausanne but will cross paths with no one when I am up enjoying a via ferrata. I find this to be a shame. It is precisely when I am on a via ferrata that I want to find people to share the passion with.

A few days ago I was at the Plainpalais fanzone in Geneva as people queued up and waited to get in to watch France Versus Germany. I launched the app and saw that a lot of people at the event had the app active. I walked away from the fanzone and forgot about the app.

So far with this app I do not remember having any matches or making any real effort to meet people that I see come up. Some apps are fun for statistical analysis rather than face to face encounters. Two people I know have turned up on the app. I have enjoyed a few via ferratas with one of these people and worked on a number of interviews with the other. One is in Lausanne and the other in Geneva. We will see if I ever meet someone via the app. Knowing me it will happn (;-)) when I can be bothered.

IFTTT – Instagram to Twitter

Instagram is still a healthy social network. It still finds an engaged group of users who want to share their adventures, meals, friendships and more with other users. Some of them love sharing selfies and others share beautiful landscapes. This keeps the network vibrant and young.

Twitter on the other hand has neutralised peoples’ passion and engagement with the site. They wanted to become google reader, they wanted mass following of key accounts, they wanted to neutralise the social, conversational aspect and they have succeeded in their goal so effectively that now an IFTTT rule reduces the need to visit twitter.

IFTTT Instagram twitter
Which network do you prioritise

When you share your instagram photos as native twitter photos you are hiding that you are disengaged from Twitter. By hiding this disengagement from the social network you are hiding that you may not respond to replies, mentions etc. By not responding to those interactions you are negating the purpose of your presence on the social network.

Twitter declines further
The once social network Twitter continues to decline

When you fail to interact directly with websites such as Twitter you perpetuate the notion that twitter is a place where bots interact with bots because humans are no longer present. When humans are gone, when interactions between users no longer take place then what remains of the “social network”?

Two hundred and ninety six thousand people have added this recipe to their IFTTT accounts. A quarter of a million people have chosen to spend time on Instagram rather than twitter. For this reason it makes sense to share pictures via Instagram. We will see your instagram account and we can start following it. In so doing we spend our time more effectively. Instagram still has a future. If you post to the networks that you want to use there is a good opportunity that others will want the same. Lets cut out twitter. 😉


The Post Social Media Era

I believe that we are shifting towards a Post Social Media Era where social networks are built in to online activities. People love to say that online social networks and social media are a waste of time and that they have a negative impact on how we feel about ourselves. For years I have been trying to demonstrate that social networks and social media are as valuable and important as socialising in person. The first 17 minutes are about a game that attempts to provide the player with empathy for those suffering from Anxiety. It then inspires Jack Septiceye to provide us with a look at how he felt after leaving college, how youtube helped him connect with people and how it had a positive impact on his life.

When most people read about social networks and social media they read about making money, social media marketing, trolling, disinformation, depression and many other topics but very few of these articles look at the positive impact that connecting with people can have through social media. Social media, after all connect people whether they live in the middle of a big city or in the middle of the countryside. When you live in the countryside and practice sports in the mountains then the car and social media are equally important for having a sociable life.

Focus on fun, not sensationalism

What social media practitioners and brands need to understand that social media and social networks are about people who are geographically dispersed want to have fun and socialise with other people. The most popular networks are those where the sense of community and fun is highest. Facebook grew because it provided a place for university students to mingle with people in their own university, people that they met in person and wanted to keep in touch with online.

Twitter at first was a “What are you doing now” network where people posting at the same time would find common passions and from there chat and build up friendships before bringing them to the real world.

How can you do that in a media landscape where people see social media as a branding opportunity, where people automate their contributions to the network. As the number of impersonal posts increases so the amount of noise increases.

Converse to be relevant.

Social media and social networks need to stay social. They need to encourage people to come and spend some time with other people. Why would you spend time in a place where no one listens to you, where no one values your presence? The multiplayer game play video illustrates this perfectly. The more you enjoy yourself the more likely you are to spend your time doing something.

Social networks and Social media need to prioritise social interactions and conversations between friends and like minded people rather than encourage the broadcast mentality. The broadcast mentality is what encouraged me to blog again. Why waste time on facebook and twitter writing short posts with no value to make money for someone else when I can blog instead. I can practice and improve my writing skills, I can work on my ideas and then people can read and use these ideas for their own projects. The low ROI in social media could explain why so many people log in daily but so few participate via their timeline.

Future opportunities

We will see what the next stage of social networks will be. Will it be AltspaceVR with VR Goggles.  Will social networks and social media become invisible as they become more present in our lives? Look at Google Hangouts, Google docs and online collaboration. Look at sports social networks like Strava. A gamer plays online games, a writer writes blog posts and articles, a photographer shares images, a youtuber shares videos, an athlete shares workouts… Do we still need Facebook and Twitter in a time when social networks are no longer for socialising? New doors and opportunities are emerging and we have to be there to take advantage.

Quora and lateral thinking

Recently I saw the question “Why can’t I charge my mobile phone while riding my scooter?” on Quora so I decided to provide the answer that you see below. In my eyes my answer is legitimate. As an ingress player, as a scooter driver, and as someone who has done what I describe in the answer below I do not see why it is not a valid answer. Quora and lateral thinking are not synonymous. It would seem that Quora users do not like lateral thinking.

Downvoting legitimate answers
Downvoting legitimate answers

This is a legitimate answer because within the ingress playing community everyone that I have met uses an external battery to recharge their phone whilst out and about. Some of them carry the battery in a pocket, others in a bag and yet more of them have a special case for the bike so that they can play the game with ease whilst moving from portal to portal. If you haven’t played Ingress on a bike then you should definitely try it.

To have a reasonable answer downvoted by a user of Quora degrades my motivation to contribute to the site. I was once threatened with a ban for providing a link to back up and source what I had written. A second time I had personal attacks for writing a question to a questions asking for thoughts on a topic and now I see this downvote to a legitimate answer.

Social networks and online communities should be about open and free discussions where peoples’ thoughts and opinions are valued. When they are not valued then the return on investment for community members declines. It also discourages people from contributing to the community. Ideally you should highlight what you like and ignore what you dislike. By ignoring what you dislike you offend no one. You discourage no one.

Quora stats

In the grand scheme of things I have had 153 upvotes and only one downvote that I am aware of. This should not discourage me from using the network in future. I will take a break from the social network once again. Other social networks are more inviting, more open, more stimulating.

Social Media and The Human Return on Investment

Social Media and the Human Return on Investment, because contrary to popular belief we use social networks to socialise, not to shop.

As we grow older and more mature our close network of friends changes and evolves. We go from school friends to university friends and then to professional friends. In the process we move from a village to another village, from a town to another town and eventually from one city to another. In the process the links we have with some friends strengthen and others degrade over time. This is modern life.

I find it hard to discern whether the return on time invested on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and others is decreasing because people’s understanding of these social networks is shifting or whether it is related to growing up. As the people I know get married and have children their priorities change and privacy becomes more important. We have to keep the children safe.

Facebook, as a social network is less engaging than it used to be. The people I have as friends post less frequently, the events we can participate in together is shifting and the content shown in timelines is evolving. To compensate for the decline in friends engaging in social networks like twitter and Facebook people are following publications, brands and news sources. This flow of information is tailored to the lowest common denominator. The sensationalist writing style discourages me from following these sources of information.

I have a concern that what were social networks until two or three years ago have become advertising networks on which people occasionally socialise and interact with other individuals. I feel that a bigger and bigger portion of the time that people spend on advertising networks is looking at mainstream content and comments. On Facebook as I scroll down the timeline I notice an increasing number of adverts. Personal posts are less and less frequent. Has the community left this “social” network?

I have spent years thinking about online communities and how they interact. During this time I have seen the ebb and flow from one type of community to another across multiple platforms and applications. Within the next two to five years social networks will be virtual reality environments such as we saw with World of Warcraft, Everquest and Second Life. The question is whether people will want to socialise in virtual reality or whether it will be populated by gamers.

Every online social network is stigmatised. This stigmatisation prevents people from fully exploiting the potential of social networks. We see this stigma through the use of dating apps rather than Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social networks. Dating apps are stigmatised but at least you swipe left or right and you’re done. ;-). You’re only “active” for a few seconds at a time. On Facebook and twitter you need to be active for hours, days, weeks or even months… You have to be careful. You may be stigmatised. 😉

Now that most people see social networks as a waste of time it gives us more time to do other things. It gives us time to read, to do research, to watch television and even to go two or three hours without looking at a mobile or computer screen. Imagine that. 😉

I believe that on the one hand the stigmatisation of Social networks as a waste of time has discouraged people from using them to their full potential. As a result of this people feel comfortable spending ten to fifteen minutes a day on these networks. On the other hand I see marketers, public relations specialists and advertisers push for their campaign to be seen. As peer to peer communication goes down and human return on investment (ROI) decreases, and as marketing campaigns take over the timelines they are effectively closing the door on people’s motivation to spend time reading through their timeline.


My love/hate relationship with twitter turns Ten

I have been active on the World Wide Web for two decades, two thirds of my life. Half of that time has been spent as a twitter  user. I was among the first to use the service and I saw it go from being a curiousity to being the most popular conversation tool around. When twitter was young the iPhone was in it’s infancy and data plans did not exist. As a result it was SMS based. The SMS idea was short lived as it ended up costing the twitter founders too much.

Twitter owes an immense debt of gratitude to Apple, the iPhone and the shift towards mobile data plans somewhere other than Finland. When we were Twitter infants, when we were discovering the network and thinking of how to use it we were stuck at a computer and dependent on wifi and power sockets. If we left the house we missed on the conversation. Twitter at the time was a compelling network, especially since I was lucky enough to live in London during the golden age of Twitter.

Twitter is a fantastic and compelling social network that has the wrong people affecting its feature. Marketers, public relations professionals, investors and other groups are too busy trying to push content to people rather than attract people.

Yesterday afternoon I came across the term “Organic Social media” in relation to Instagram’s shift from a reverse chronological timeline to an algorithm driven timeline. A shift in the definition of social media has taken place. A decade ago social media implied that people were sharing content and commenting on it. They were making statements and friends and colleagues would comment conversationally. Marketers et al have destroyed the conversation and shifted everything towards an “I am the best so look at me” fed by likes, comments, shares and other tricks.

As Twitter turns ten years old I grow curious about the future of friendships and online conversations. I question whether social media landscapes will become as unfriendly to introverts as bars in the physical world. Will social media become the place where the most conventionally appealing individuals thrive?

Stop wasting time on Instagram with friends – Algorithms and attention

Instagram is a photo based social network that allows two types of users, ego-maniacs on one side, and explorers on the other, to share images of interesting things they see and do. Some people share beautiful mountain images and others share images of their trips to Paris, Rome and more. I share images of Via Ferrata, climbing and a number of fun sports. The ego-maniacs share images of themselves in as many places as possible.

Instagram is a “last active, first seen” kind of social network. We see the most recent images first. We see active users frequently. Less engaged viewers are less visible. This is a participation reward model. The more engaged you are with the community and the more people will see your content. There is no favouritism.

The algorithmic timeline will penalise the most active users and encourage the cult of personality. The Cult of Personality social media model is great for marketers and public relations accounts because it makes those with the most likes and comments more visible. When you’re conversing with two hundred or more people this is enviable. As people interact connections are created and communities form. Conversations are a two direction affair.

According to Statista Instagram now has 400 million users. Selena Gomez is the most followed person on Instagram at the time this post was written. 69 million people follow the account. Images from the account are suitable for a glossy magazine rather than a social network. They lack in warmth and familiarity. The account is cold as a result.  These cold and impersonal images can easily get a million likes and algorithms will push this content to the detriment of images by friends and family.

Chronological timelines are great because activity and personal engagement reward account holders. When you switch to an algorithm based timeline you will unfollow celebrities to avoid having their posts flood your timeline.

Facebook demonstrates what happens when you shift from a chronological timeline to an algorithm timeline. User engagement and interest declines and what were once vibrant conversations lose in appeal and the return on invested time, for users declines. This decline results in the network’s tab being closed in our browsers and the app becomes dormant.

Dormant networks resort to sending e-mails to re-engage their users. Both Twitter and facebook do this. Imagine if you received a tweet to let you know that you got an e-mail or that e-mails appeared in your Facebook timeline. It demonstrates that networks like Facebook and twitter, by focusing on making money, forgot to make their products essential. By making this mistake both Facebook and Twitter need to nag us to come back via e-mail.

If algorithms are used in timelines then the algorithm should keep posts by our friends chronological and apply the algorithm to celebrity accounts. We already have an algorithmic option on Instagram via the explore tab. Instagram must resist the urge to break personal timelines as this will disengage users.