I bought a copy of November’s Marie Claire the other day for a bit of light reading. It happened to be the edition which included their bi-annual Marie Claire @ Work feature and it had a few articles on the topic of ‘tech’ at work. Working in that area I was obviously interested but the first article I found really rubbed me up the wrong way. It was a feature on Sophia Amoruso who founded Nasty Gal clothing; The headline was “How I made it in Tech.”. My problem: she founded a successful business which makes use of tech but she doesn’t actually work in tech!
As is clear from some of my more recent posts the Watling household has recently been thrown in to disarray by a mini arrival in the form of our daughter H. Sam and I are of course biased, but H is incredibly cute… even when she decides to screams her head off (she sticks her bottom lip out which is both cute and really funny!).
This weekend marks 4 weeks since I decided to try and distance myself from Facebook, which I failed to do following this post last year. After getting irritated yet again by the things which prompted the post last year, I decided I needed to go cold-turkey this time; My rule of ‘once a day’ last year quickly escalated to regular checking again. Anyway, this weekend I passed the 4 week mark in my break from Facebook. After a week or so of being tempted to check, I have broken the habit I think. Do I miss it? Not really!
Okay, so ‘Farewell’ is perhaps a little stronger than reality, but further to my post a month ago, Monday saw a significant directional shift for my interaction with the aforementioned social network site. I have decided to stop actively using it and, to support this, the Facebook apps have been removed from my phone and tablet respectively.
This may sound like a trivial move, but as I mentioned in my previous post, these things are habit forming. I only removed the apps yesterday but nearly opened Instapaper (the app which got to fill the icon space!) several times, purely out of habit. I would accept the habit if it gave me any pleasure (semi-addiction to tea serves as a great example of that) but Facebook had stopped doing that. Why you ask? Well I shall explain.
Facebook itself is, I maintain, quite a clever concept. It has really revolutionised the way we interact and allows me to keep in touch with friends far-away without needing to email them every day. But, in my view at least, it has also seen the return of ‘school yard’ culture to adult life. Before Facebook, in grown-up world, if you saw something funny, you would email or text your specific friends and share. In that same grown-up world, if you had some exciting news you would similarly message those same friends directly.
Today, that seems not to be the case. Instead of putting up a simple message post, people will put a ‘cryptic’ post on, alluding to something exciting. They allow a mass on comments and queries to build then, if they feel gracious, they may reveal the meaning. More often than not, they don’t. I suspect most are actually about nothing so, 2 hours later, they have forgotten what they meant in the first place. Amusing articles are the same: a small niche group will be tagged and no explanation offered. The purpose is merely to say to everyone, look at this part of life we all shared which you don’t get.
So, you now ask, why not close your account? Well, as alluded to above, there are some friends who I like to keep in touch with that way. People use it for photos and for nice things, so if there are events now and again, I will log-in to see if there are pics. As grumpy as this may make me sound, Facebook does have it’s place, but I personally prefer mediums where no particular response is anticipated. If you get one, great, but if you don’t then you still shared what you wanted to, with everyone and anyone. That is why I have my blog; that is why I use Twitter.
Of course, this habit will take some breaking, so I may find myself accidentally going there a few more times until I kick the habit!
Stop a random person on the street in any typical town and the odds they have heard of Facebook are pretty darn high. The chances that they are also a Facebook member is probably equally so. Of all of the social networks in the world, Facebook (or FB as many people use for shorthand) is the most well known and has the most users. I have been a member of Facebook since 2007. That’s longer than I known a lot of my closest friends.
Initially, it was ‘the place to be’ digitally. Gone was the ability to over customise like My Space – everyone’s profile was very similar and easy to navigate. As the functionality evolved, people were able to easily share their thoughts, feelings, pictures and media of interest with their self-controlled group on contacts. Facebook, along with so many other social media sites, such as Twitter and Pinterest, became quickly embedded in to our lives and slowly ever more accessible due to smart phones. To a degree, people have become ‘hooked’ on social media – it is now a crutch that stops people feeling alone even for the brief few minutes whilst sat on their own in a restaurant! According to a Lady Geek tweet, 21% of people in an ecigarettedirect poll said they over-used social media**.
“21% of those polled said they spent too long on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.” Poll by ecigarettedirect.co.uk
— Lady Geek (@ladygeek) February 23, 2013
It followed on to say, in another tweet, that 18% felt they were addicted and 1 in 10 want to cut down.
18% of people polled by ecigarettedirect.co.uk– Say they’re addicted to at least one social media with 1/10 vowing to cut down their habit
— Lady Geek (@ladygeek) February 24, 2013
As Facebook opened up a set of developer accessible APIs, moving Facebook to be a platform as well as a social media site, the site became littered with games. So instead of sharing snippets of their lives, people took to playing and, instead, sharing their game progress. There was only so much I could take of ‘Farmville’ updates before every Farmville message was banned from my wall!
Since then, I feel there has been a decline in usage of FB. Rather than sharing routinely, most people do what I tend to do and use it as a way to ‘pass the time’ and ‘see what people are up to’. Except, with most of us doing that (or not going near it all) that leaves very little to actually read. I’m not alone in noticing this and I have to wonder if people are finally getting tired of sharing on FB. Or is it that they no longer trust it to put much information on there? After numerous ‘dramas’ when FB have tried to subtly change their security policies and make everything public, I wouldn’t be surprised. Or, perhaps the ‘intelligent’ FB filtering on my wall means I just don’t see most things now-a-days. Perhaps it’s a sign that I should break my dependency…at some point!
**I wasn’t able find the original source poll though, so am working on a loose assumption that the tweets are accurate!
The other night, the BBC aired an ‘interview’ with Mark Zuckerburg about Facebook and how it came to be. Many of us will have seen the cinematic portrayal of the tale, The Social Network, some of which will be based in fact and the rest in, if not fiction, then on a very twisted truth. I certainly don’t want to debate that here in this post, rather it was some of the content of the documentary which got me thinking about the security aspects of social media – something which has bugged me for quite a long time and is probably one of the key things from taking that final step in to a full social media world.
One of Mark Z’s key ‘philosophies’ is that social media is a way to give people a voice and the freedom to share and say what they want. To this end, within Facebook, functions are built to support that; what this means in practical terms is that where security or privacy settings are available, they will default to the most public option. Now, it is possible to change this in your global settings (I have changed mine to default to ‘Friends’ for example) and you can then customise further for each individual post, picture, etc. But the fact is, how aware is Joe Public about this?
In the world before social media (yes, I know it is tough but if we really cast our minds back, we can catch a glimpse of that antiquated time), the only way we could share our personal data was through letters, emails, phone calls and text messages. If someone, even if it was someone we knew, had snooped around our inbox, or rifled through our email, we would have got a bit disgruntled. Similarly, if I had left a letter on the train, I would be suitably annoyed that anybody and everybody could see my name and address. So, why is Facebook any different? I’m not talking about random “I wish it were Friday” or “More rain :(” type posts, but the other personal details we share on our profile. I cannot help but feel that you either have to know exactly who it is looking at your data, or that data should not be there. Okay, so perhaps you trust everyone on your friend list and you have your profile ‘locked down’ to friends only. But let me then ask, do you trust every single one of those ‘friends’ to not lend someone else their phone? Or remember to log-out when on a public computer? I know I certainly wouldn’t!
Now, please let be clarify, I am not against social media and whilst at times Facebook annoys me, it helps me keep in touch with the day-to-day lives of far-away friends. I am also an ardent Twitter user, as many of my blog readers will know. But I just feel it pays to be cautious – sharing with the world does not mean you have to put your mobile number AND address AND date of birth all on your profile. It does not mean you have to share all the ins-and-outs of your holiday plans (dates, times, flight details, alarm codes) with all-and-sundry. Yes, I will put my hands-up, I am rather paranoid. But, whilst I may take it to extremes, it doesn’t hurt to be a bit more cautious. Rant over 😉
Apologies for the radio silence over the last week and a bit folks but Sam and I had a well earned break and headed away on holidays. For those of you who are curious we went to Rome and then Milan (and surrounding area), but more on that later. What I wish to talk about is slightly more techie but driven by the situation I found myself in on holiday. Now, I have an iPhone, as does Sam. We are big ‘online’ people, which you would probably expect from people with websites who work in IT. We, of course, took said devices with us on holiday. As soon as we reached baggage claim at Fiumicino airport, we disabled our flight mode and waited for the ‘Welcome to Italy’ texts to come through from our network. Texts and calls were as expected – 11p and 36ppm respectively. Already quite high. Then I saw the data costs: £3.06 per MB. Yes, that’s right, three whole Great British pounds (and six pennies) for a meg. But apparently O2 would text me to let me know when I hit £20. How kind.
I had also been mis-informed by the details on a popular travel website that at least one of our hotels had free WiFi. I was sadly mistaken and our first didn’t even offer paid WiFi (although it did have a free public computer). In the second hotel, we enquired about the cost of paid WiFi to be told it was 3 € for half a hour and scaling rates up to 25 € per 24 hours. Ouch! We chose not to take either of those options, as you can perhaps imagine.
Sam had a slightly better experience with his network because T-Mobile offered some tariff bolt-ons: £5 for 20MB. At 25p per meg, that is actually quite reasonable. However, it still got me thinking – the value these devices add really comes down to your ability to connect when on the move. It is also crucial to have an awareness of how much data you are downloading, especially outside the EU where charges are not capped or controlled as closely by any regulating body. I know of someone who recently went abroad and racked up several hundreds of pounds of data charges. If your phone has a data counter, reset it when you go away and track how much you are using! To put things in to perspective, Sam used 12MB of his allowance over about 4 – 5 days. I checked my email via my webmail website and then spent about 15 mins reading the headlines on the BBC News iPhone app and this equated to around 2MB. So, on some networks it seems it is possible to stay vaguely online whilst abroad, but it won’t always come cheap. Also, the more rich the content, the more it will cost. So remember to ask yourself, do you really need to upload that picture to Facebook right now?!
Cast your minds back to the time before social networking, back to the days where you only used your mobiles for calls and texts and the internet was somewhere you built basic HTML websites to provide information or amusing animations. Yes, it is hard remembering that time, but it did once exist. It was, in many ways, a glorious time because, unlike today, people did not have a way (or indeed feel the need) to share every detail of their life with the world!
Now, I am a keen blogger, twitter user and I do indeed have a Facebook profile which I often check. So, in no way am I condemning or compaining about the existence or use of these types of sites. Indeed, there is something nice about knowing that when I am bored at home on my own one night, I can share the fact that "Angela Watling wishes she had some chocolate" with the world. But, this sort of freedom comes at a dangerous price. Imagine a different evening: you have had a sh*t day at work (one of those truely awful ones), the trains are screwed, it’s raining, you are tired and have a tonne of stuff to do at home. These sorts of things put you in a bad state of mind. So, what do people now do…? They get out their phones and log-on to a social networking site. In a few seconds, with no real thought, a rather abusive and irrational post insulting your colleagues and / or train company and / or your life is composed and sent off for everyone to see.
Now, not only are you tired and wet, stuck in a train station after a long day, but now everyone who ever knew you (or possibly never did) thinks you are miserable, a tad unprofessional and a bit of a pity-seeker. Okay, so that is a slightly extreme take on it and often you do get and deserve pity. But, my point is that, at times of stress, we don’t really think through what we are saying. Before, you would just have a verbal outburst at 1or 2 people. But now, those few words are imortalised online for everyone to see. Sure, you can usually delete them, but in the few minutes it takes for you to get that feeling of regret, someone will have read them. For a one off, people see it and then forget, but do it often enough and it starts to reflect on you as a person. Do it enough and you risk writing something which could offend a friend or worse cause you problems at work.
So, should we all take a step back from social networking and re-assess what value it brings us? Should we consider whether it is really the best forum for everything we want to say? Obviously it is a personal choice, but I know that after one or two incidents such as the above, on a bad day, my phone stays safely in my bag. Some opinions and comments are best left unsaid.
We watched ‘The Social Network’ again on Friday night (see our Shorties on Revado) and, despite reminding me that I disagreed with some of the Oscar nominations, it also got me thinking about Facebook vs. Twitter again. It is a topic I have pondered over many times and I think over the last 6 months my view has actually changed.
Like most people, I joined Facebook first; I was invited or lured in by friends. I don’t like to miss out on things! At that time, I didn’t understand the purpose of Twitter. However, as social netowrking has evolved, I have grown to appreciate Twitter more and have grown more and more infuriated with Facebook. The reasons for me are this:
Twitter is a forum for making a statement or sharing a piece of information. Others can share it or acknowledge it, but it is not a platform where response or acceptance is expected.
Facebook is quite the opposite now. More and more people put cryptic status updates on Facebook which are literally screaming for someone to ask "What’s wrong?" or "What do you mean?" or throw sympathy at people. It is also used for sharing good news in the same way, but somehow that annoys me slightly less. In fact, I have no issue with blatant complaining – it’s the cryptic messages begging for attention which make me want to remove people as friends sometimes. Perhaps the reason it annoys me the most is because there is a little part of me wanting to ask the questions myself. But, I refuse to let myself ask those questions and stop myself from posting status updates that might be read in that way. What morals I have! 🙂
I had a quick read online about this and views seem to be similar. This article on Network World is a fairly high level view, but rings true with some of my opinions. I like this article on Twitip more though. It summarises quite nicely the pros and cons of both sites.
Of course, the irony of all of this is that I still check all of them and do so regularly. All social networks quickly become addictive and I find it hard to give any of them up. If I had to choose though, I think I would let Facebook go first – although not forever you understand…!
Thank goodness it’s almost the weekend! This has been my first week back at work following ‘The Move’ and I can’t stress enough what a shock it has been to be back at my desk for 7 hours a day following a much longer commute into London. The commute itself isn’t actually that bad. The walk to the station is about 20 mins and then the train we get in the morning takes 35 BUT always has seats it would seem. I then have a 15 minutes tube journey on the Victoria line, which isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. On the way home it’s even quicker because the train I get takes a mere 23 minutes!
It’s nice to have the house to go home to in the evenings though. Everything in Welwyn is nice and chilled compared to West Kensington, which could be fairly manic and loud at times. Unfortunately we had to deal with the flat a couple of nights this week which meant we got home quite late. But, none-the-less, we still had time just to veg out a bit. Everything with the flat ‘check-out’ went okay though, so hopefully we’ll get our deposit back this time. I’m hoping I won’t suffer another incident like I had back in Canary Wharf (thieving, lying, evil landlord); even though it all happened over two years ago, I am still bitter!
We haven’t got much planned for this weekend, although we do want to go and see "Run, Fat Boy, Run" at the cinema. The plan was to go this evening but the show times are 7.10pm and 9.30pm – how rubbish are they?? Anyway, we haven’t decided if we want to go yet and if so, whether we will eat before or after. Our tummies aren’t very good at lasting out that late for food!! The only other thing we want to do on Saturday is some bits and bobs in the garden. Sam wants to wash the conservatory roof and I want to ‘treat’ the decking before winter sets in.
I’ve become properly addicted to Movie Quizzes on facebook this week. It’s terrible! I keep doing them at work when I should be working so it’s lucky I have worked extra time this week because I have to surrender loads of it to account for the quizzing! I am now rationing myself to just doing one at lunch and one or two when I am waiting for something to run or compile. I think that’s fair – a distraction helps one focus better on work, as long as I don’t go back to doing loads in a row…