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.

 

The Gopro Hero 5 karma advert is aspirational

I love sports and I love the outdoors. I really like snowboarding when the conditions are good and when there are few people. I love to climb, to hike and to do via ferrata. Last year during a film festival I was invited to try Paragliding for free and the flight lasted 45 minutes.

In light of this you can see why the Gopro Hero 5+ karma above is so fun for me to watch. It’s not that I want a gopro camera. I’ve had at least two of their devices and except for filming two or three dives and two or three via ferrata the cameras have stayed in drawers or boxes. GoPro show adventures and experiencers that I aspire to. For this reason we want to watch these edits. We enjoy these edits.

Modern film making does away with cranes, jibs and tripods replacing them with drones and devices like the Karma Grip. If you look at the adverts you see that video production has shifted from being a profession to a pass time. At the time of writing the Grip costs about 350 CHF and the drone has not been priced. GoPro is competing directly with DJI and their product line.

With systems like GoPro and DJI are providing the term prosumer evolves. Thrill seekers and adventurers get to play with technology that they can afford to buy and use during their trips or weekend adventures. With this technology fixed cameras are a thing of the past. The camera moves with the action. In practice the camera operator doesn’t need to be an athlete to get in position to get the shot. Assistants are no longer required to carry heavy gear. You carry everything in a bag on your back and it’s ready to use within a short amount of time.

 

On the rise of disinformation through the dumbing down of Social Media

For years I have been complaining that social media has shifted away from conversations towards marketing. It has shifted away from peer to peer conversations towards a broadcast model where crowds listen to and share individual sources rather than interact within a social network. As a result of this communication shift people re-share content rather than create their own.

Until the election of Trump and Brexit it was unpleasant but had to be seen as part of modern life. We had to accept that sensationalism and dumbed down content were popular. We had to accept that most people saw social media as RSS rather than conversation.

Within the last year we have seen that the shift from social media being conversational has shifted towards trolling, disinformation and misinformation. We see that people speak about living in a “post truth” age and more. In such an environment we see that people hear what they want to hear and vote for what they idealise rather than what makes logical sense. Brexit and Trump are consequences of people following idealism rather than realism. In such an intellectual environment social media, rather than encouraging the flow of information and context has had the opposite effect. When Obama was running for President the blogosphere was seen as a gate keeper, as part of the fourth estate, as part of the checks and balances.

With Trump and Brexit we see that the Tabloid press in England and Troll armies in other countries have deliberately misguided people, deliberately made them vote against their own self-interests.

For years I saw the web as a place to socialise and make new friends but within the last year, with troll armies, marketing and more I see that conversations are declining. The Return on Investment that I used to enjoy as a human rather than a marketer justified the time I spent socialising via social media. In 2016 the Return on Investment of using Social Media became negative. I watched youtube series, I read books, I read mainstream media, I listened to podcasts. In 2017 I want to replace the time that I spent on social media on reading books. In this day and age the cost of social media exceeds the potential return on investment. I finally find that social media is a waste of time. It took a decade for me to fall out of love with social media.

The Frankfurt School of thought and blaming social media.

When we were at university studying the media we learned about the Frankfurt School of Thought. We studied Adorno and others. We learned about the public sphere and more. I see a lot of articles today discussing whether we live in a post-fact and post truth age. Social media are given the blame but this is over-simplistic. In the Frankfurt school Knew Trump was coming Facebook is blamed for the proliferation of fake news when it is an aggregator rather than the source of disinformation.

For years the American news industry has shifted increasingly towards entertainment and audience rather than fact and context. As a result of that shift mainstream media in the Anglo-Saxon world has been dumbed down. Through putting commercial interests ahead of hard news mainstream media have lost some of their authority. By authority I mean trustworthiness and fact based reporting.

Rather than look at social media as the culprit I would look towards Fox News, Sky News, the tabloid press and right wing propaganda. Assange, Snowden and others wanted to undermine the democratic party and in so doing undermined Democracy as a whole. As a result of that undermining they encouraged people to shift their media consumption habits from hard news sources towards opinion news sources where facts were optional.

Lies have long legs: they are ahead of their time. The conversion of all questions of truth into questions of power, a process that truth itself cannot escape if it is not to be annihilated by power, not only suppresses truth as in earlier despotic orders, but has attacked the very heart of the distinction between true and false, which the hirelings of logic were in any case diligently working to abolish. So Hitler, of whom no one can say whether he died or escaped, survives.

If Adorno were to look upon the cultural landscape of the twenty-first century, he might take grim satisfaction in seeing his fondest fears realized_

We see this as a key discussion point today with Trump, Brexit and the defeat of the Si vote in Italy. Lies are spread and reinforced so that empty promises win campaigns, rather than logic and reason.

_The failure of Facebook to halt the proliferation of fake news during the campaign season should have surprised no one; the local hirelings of logic are too enamored of their algorithms—and of the revenue they generate—to intervene_

Social media did not fail. The Fourth Estate failed. We have two choices. We can read the over-simplified sensationalist crap or we can delve deeper to the content that is based on fact but may put us to sleep. Not everyone is reading news for entertainment. Some of us switch between media sources to avoid being narced (pardon the diving term). We see certain sources are anti-European on a daily basis so we switch source, we switch language. Social media is not the problem. Blind belief and trust is the problem.

I hold a strong belief that the study of history and the necessity for people to study current affairs are essential. I also believe that educational systems need to encourage people to think critically and to understand the media landscape. They need to understand how propaganda works and how disinformation can go into a positive feedback loop whereby lies become truth. “positive feedback loop” in this context is a term taken from environmental science. It describes how a small negative change, over time can gain in amplitude and feed into itself.

_Fake news is an extension of the same phenomenon, and, as in the Napster era, no one is taking responsibility. Traffic trumps ethics_

For years people have worried about privacy but from what we see today privacy is not the problem. Disinformation is the problem. Mainstream media and their audiences need to be more critical. They need to read numerous sources and use ethics and morality to see which sources they trust and which ones they disregard.

It is too easy for

 

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.

The Selfie Stick cutter

In some cities you see a strange set of creatures and the selfie stick cutter is there to resolve this issue. People carry long poles at the end of which they stick their camera. They look at the phone held at a safe distance and smile, do victory symbols and other such gestures. These sticks would be really interesting if they were used to provide people with interesting images. Instead they are used to take pictures in interesting places with ordinary people in front. As a camera operator I photograph landscapes or monuments. It is an old fashioned habit.

The selfie stick is so endemic to some parts of the world by now that pranksters run around and cut people’s selfie sticks with the phone still attached. You can watch as dozens of phones fall to the ground in this video. Mobile phone repair shops must really enjoy watching this video. Look at all the work they will soon have.

I think that this video is meant to be seen as a joke but can you imagine how much anger such an action would generate. Can you imagine how fast you would have to run away from some of these people. You see these people look surprised and in some cases betrayed.

They have a quarter of a million views so far and it will grow from tomorrow onwards, as people in offices share the video with their friends and colleagues. Maybe by next week it will have more than a million views. Selfie sticks are popular and so are pranks. With the money they could make from monetising this video they could compensate the people whose screens they broke.

The story is not viral yet
The story is not viral yet

Selfie sticks do have one practical purpose. You can fix 360 cameras to them and take pictures without the giant index finger getting in the way. That is how I use one. You can get them for cheap from certain types of shops. You do not need to spend 29 euros.

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.

Discussing News on Facebook

Discussing News on Facebook is not as interesting as it is on Google Plus. On Facebook publishers and friends tend to share and promote clickbait rather than articles that they have actively looked for and read. Google+ in contrast is a place where people surf the web reading news stories and when they find a good one, link to and share it. For this reason I go to Google+ for news and current affairs if I go to a news aggregator rather than Facebook.

The technical change this time around is that Facebook will favor links shared by your friends and family over links that publishers place directly into the News Feed through their pages. source

The language used is interesting, “favor links shared by your friends and family”, there is no mention of original content, there is no mention of photographs. The focus is on news curation rather than personal content. The unique selling point of facebook is not that we share links but that we are a community of friends and family. If we share news and current affairs then there are dozens of alternatives.

It has two priorities, Mosseri says: to inform and to entertain. Source

When I look at a news feed and when I read headlines I want to be informed and educated. Entertainment is not key for my news consumption habit. I do not want to be told how to feel or how it will change my life. After years of Facebook use I see the social network as superficial. It failed to encourage the right user behaviour.

In many cases, their feeds have been overrun by posts from pages and publishers they follow, some of which post as often as 200 times a day. They may click on and like those posts, but ultimately they don’t want posts from their friends crowded out by all that professionally produced content. Source

That I am blogging about these articles rather than simply sharing them to Facebook shows that the sense of community that helped Facebook grow and thrive over the years has been undone by years of prioritising the wrong content. That decline started with farmville a few years ago and culminated a few weeks ago with me reverting to this blog.

I took a break from writing this post to look at how many personal posts I could see and the answer is very few. Facebook has already damaged the personal relationship that people have with it. People now use it passively, liking and sharing links rather than conversing.

Facebook is no longer the conversational social network that it once was. People have lost the habit of conversing with their friends and Facebook is doing what it can to re-engage an audience that has already found other distractions. With a hot story like BREXIT you can be certain that I wanted to discuss it. Google+ has been an interesting place for these conversations.

 

Thoughts on the Conversational Sharing of Links

Facebook and twitter were first and foremost about conversations between individuals. It is only later that thoughts on the conversational sharing of links became relevant. In a conversational environment you may see headlines and either comment or re-share them without taking the time to read the article. In taking the time to read the article you neutralise the conversation that you were having.

This is not restricted to Facebook and Twitter. Those who remember Google Reader remember that we used to star articles that we wanted to read later. We bookmarked the stories that we thought were interesting and other people could see what we highlighted. This habit continued on to Facebook and twitter.

According to a new study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59 percent of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked: In other words, most people appear to retweet news without ever reading it.

source:

The article and the researchers have failed to take in to consideration the tools that are available to social network users. On Twitter you had favourites and retweets. In theory a favourite serves as a bookmark and a retweet serves to share an article that you believe your timeline might find interesting. On Facebook they go further. You can like a post, re-share it or “save” it for reading at a future date. As people use likes to bookmark stories, share to distribute stories that are relevant to their friends or “save for later” for stories that interest them we see that sharing without reading is not the full picture. It does not look at why people shared the link. There is a chance that someone I know might like a story related to one or other of their passions or professional interests. In so doing sharing is not as senseless as the researchers imply.

The researchers made a few other telling observations, as well: Most clicks to news stories, they found, were made on links shared by regular Twitter users, and not the media organization itself. The links that users clicked were much older than we generally assume — some had been published for several days, in fact

If people follow only news organisations via a social network like Twitter then the social network ceases to become social and becomes an RSS aggregator. If it becomes an RSS aggregator then the value of such a social network declines. Do you remember when people were discussing curation, both at a friendly level and at a higher level? They were speaking of shared content and people sorting through what they thought was most interesting or relevant for the people who chose to associate with them. This explains why “clicks to news stories, they found, were made on links shared by regular Twitter users,…”. This is what you would expect from a social network. We trust the people we feel inclined to follow.

Among the many phenomena we’d tentatively attribute, in large part, to the trend: the rise of sharebait (nee clickbait) and the general BuzzFeedification of traditional media; the Internet hoax-industrial complex, which only seems to be growing stronger; and the utter lack of intelligent online discourse around any remotely complicated, controversial topic.

Clickbait and sensationalist articles are designed for a media landscape where people believe that clicks and hits are the purpose of a social network, rather than a sense of having had a good conversation with another person. Unique individuals should be socialising with those in their networks and as users get to know whom they have connected with so the sharing of news stories and information should match that knowledge.

The problem that I see is that no one knows their audience anymore, no one is trying to hit a niche. They share empty but sensationalist articles rather than the well written and thoughtful content that their followers, friends, colleagues and categories people would be interested in.

When people start to use social media to connect with like minded people once again, to have conversations and share interests then the quality of links shared will increase. Within a few weeks we may go back to a healthier social media landscape.