Social Networks

Entries related to social networks, group psychology, anthropology, and really any of the social sciences.

Martin, Nikki, Miley, Wayne, Antoinette, Bob, Maya and Shelley

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I am on vacation on Cape Cod and my friends are back from the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington. Sure, we have an African American President, but racism still abounds, as I am too frequently reminded of on Facebook.

Recent commentary has got me thinking more about black culture. When I think of black culture, I think of Nikki Giovanni ego tripping through Africa.

I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built
the sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad

But that was over forty years ago. Where do egos trip today? At the video music awards, Miley Cyrus, apparently trying to tap into aspects of black culture, sang:

And we can't stop
And we won't stop
Can't you see it's we who own the night?
Can't you see it's we who 'bout that life?

Can't stop what? If you can't stop, you're out of control. You need help. Not being able to stop is a sign of addiction. It is part of the Lindsay Lohan path towards court mandated rehabilitation.

But we can stop, and we can stop in unexpected ways. After Newtown, Wayne LaPierre, NRA's executive vice president said, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun". Antoinette Tuff showed this to be wrong, when she spoke from her own brokenness supported by a belief in God's love to stop a shooting.

My pastor, he just started this teaching on anchoring, and how you anchor yourself in the Lord…I just sat there and started praying.

Yes, Antoinette stopped a bad man with a gun. What will it take to stop a bad girl with a song?

As an aside, people are spending a lot of time complaining about how everyone is talking about Miley Cyrus as chemical weapons get used in Syria. This is not an either/or issue. In one discussion, I shared,

the dichotomy between women being violently oppressed because of social constructs of race and gender in the United States and women being violently oppressed by others seeking to maintain power in Syria through the use of chemical weapons seems a bit strained. Human justice for women battered because of the entertainment industry is as much of a human justice issue as how women are being battered by oppressors with chemical weapons on the world stage.

So, what will it take to stop a bad girl with a song, a bad girl with a performance that promotes the degradation of women and has troubling racial overtones? Perhaps, it takes a good man with a song,

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our mind…
All I ever had:
Redemption songs:
These songs of freedom,

Maybe it will take a great woman with a poem:

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Or, as one strong preacher woman I know put it:

Janet's Wardrobe Malfunction; Madonna & Brittany's Kiss; Miley Cyrus's pitiful twerk...its still the oldest profession and pays the bills. Media Pimps and Women are exploited commodities in our sexist world. Pray for our sisters, our daughters, ourselves. Now Rise!

We should not slut shame Miley. We should not overlook the role of those around her in creating and performing the VMA performance. Instead, as Shelly said, we should pray for them, and all of us.

More About Facebook and Sadness

Yesterday, I wrote about whether or not Facebook makes you sad. Today, I turn my attention to the news.

UN pushes Syria for chemical probe, activists send samples
Syria war has created 1 million child refugees
Israel strikes militant base in Lebanon after rocket fire
US soldier apologizes for 'cowardice' in murder of 16 Afghan civilians
Brazil central bank commits $60bn to prop up currency
Crisis of market confidence after Nasdaq shutdown
Illinois Unemployment Second Highest In Nation
UPS to end health insurance for working spouses
Egyptian Tomb Bats Carry MERS Coronavirus
Beastly fire disrupts Idaho vacation heaven; smoke casts shadow over economy
Tropical depression moving northwest in Pacific
Jury expected to begin deliberating case of Ohio mom accused in classroom brawl
US, Australian agents seize $330 million in cocaine from yacht in Pacific nation
Ryan Braun finally admits drug use in 2011

In contrast, I look at the messages on Facebook.

Moments of Gratitude
Today is my last full day of life in India. The grace of God has allowed me this privilege. I am grateful.
Meet the Woman Who Prevented a Mass School Shooting Yesterday
On my way to New Mexico to attend the NALEO Policy Institute on The Changing Dynamics of the 50+ Population.
An image of Christians protecting Muslims and vice versa in Egypt
A picture of a celebration of the nurse practitioner residency program graduates at the community health center.
An image of coworkers white water rafting
An image of a friend delivering his son to college
A picture of a State Rep being recognized for supporting a great community organization
A picture of a boy fighting childhood cancer as he kicks a soccer ball with his prosthetic leg
For those of you that don't know, September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month! Lets make this year matter!

Does Facebook Make You Sad?

There is an old saying that you are what you eat, but these days, as I get more exercise going for walks during the day, I've come to realize, it isn't just what you eat, but what you do with it afterwards, how you metabolize it, that matters.

In the past, I've written about how the idea, "you are what you eat", applies to social media. What is your media diet? What are your friends saying on Facebook? Are you spending time reading people online that edify you or that tear you down?

It is the sort of question that those in the Christian tradition are likely to confront as they read Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

These thoughts have come back to me recently as I've followed the discussion about a recent study about Facebook use. NPR ran the headline, Facebook Makes Us Sadder And Less Satisfied, Study Finds

One friend on Facebook shared this saying,

Somehow this doesn't surprise me... Too much screen time is too much screen time.

Yet as we dig a little deeper, we find some interesting details. The study, entitled Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults was of 82 people around Ann Arbor Michigan, with an average age of about 20. Sixty percent of the subjects were female.

I do question how well this sample reflect Facebook users in general, as well as some of the conjectures about the meaning of the study. The NPR article says,

The study authors did not get at the reasons Facebook made their test subjects feel glum. But Jonides suspects it may have to do with social comparison.

"When you're on a site like Facebook, you get lots of posts about what people are doing. That sets up social comparison — you maybe feel your life is not as full and rich as those people you see on Facebook," he says.

Perhaps it isn't what your media diet is, "lots of posts about what people are doing", but what you do with it. I wrote about the what you eat part of this earlier in You Are What You Eat, the Online Version. What are the choices you make about who you follow on Social Media? Are they people that you can learn from? Do they represent a diverse set of views and experiences? Or are they mostly fellow classmates at University of Michigan going through very similar experiences as you are?

To broaden it, a bit more, are you in a Filter Bubble as Eli Pariser describes it?

Today, I read Facebook posts about a young muslim woman who has already led a very tough life. She lost her son to brain cancer. She is fighting chronic illness of her own, and her relationships with others have not always been as nurturing as one would hope.

Yesterday, she wrote,

Today I was thinking about my son Junaid ... I was thinking about the moments up to when he took his last breath. I was thinking about the state I was in when he took his last breath. Subhan Allah sometimes I felt like I want to loose my mind, but Allah would not allow it, to this day I sometimes don't want to feel at all (go numb) sometimes I cry and sometimes, I ask Allah why.

This woman is one of the strongest women I know. She is doing great things for her community and I have learned a great deal from her.

Today, I read the article School Clerk In Georgia Persuaded Gunman To Lay Down Weapons, which I found through a friend on Facebook.

Yes, I have a bias towards social media. It is what I do professionally. So, I did what any person with an interest in social media and a little investigative reporting would do and sought out Antoinette Tuff's Facebook page. The items over the past few months are a nice compliment to what she said in the interview. Back in June, she posted

God is opening so many doors in my life until I can't do anything but sit here and just cry and watch HIM move just had he has promise me for so many years. Thank u GOD for all that u r doing and the many millions u r going to continue to do. To God be the glory. Thx. Thx Thx God

Little did she know what those doors would lead to, two months later.

As I write this post, I take a few moments to look at Facebook statuses. My eldest daughter is teaching in Japan. I glance at pictures of some of the places she has been. I have yet to make it to Japan, and I could get stuck in social comparison and feel sad that she has gotten to travel to places that so far, I've only dreamt of visiting.

I see posts from high school classmates that I've known for over three decades. One posts regularly about time with his grandchildren. I don't have grandchildren yet and I'm pleased that my children are busy doing other great things besides starting families right now, but I can still rejoice in my friends joy about his extended family.

Another friend from high school has posted great pictures of her vacation on Cape Cod. In a few days, I will be heading out to Cape Cod, and I look forward to my time of relaxation after a very hard year, and I'm glad to see the joy my friends trip to Cape Cod has brought her.

It would be very interesting to see this study redone with a larger set of subjects. Does Facebook usage result in declined feelings of personal well being for all people? Does it depend on age? Economic status? Diversity of friends on Facebook? What the subjects post? What sort of emotional, psychological or life skills the subjects have developed? The amount of time on Facebook?

Does Facebook make us sad? Perhaps if we are college kids who are not seeking a diverse set of Facebook friends and have not yet learned to join with the struggles of friends that are struggling, and rejoice with friends that rejoice. But perhaps that is not so much about Facebook as it is about growing up and maturing.

For me, the new worlds I see, whether it is the painful life of a muslim woman, the wonderful travel of my daughter and other friends, or the simple pleasures of long time friends brings me great joy, and I hope my readers can find ways to re-approach social media so that they can get similar joys.

Players Who Suit Ingress

In 1996, Richard Bartle wrote and article, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs in which he explored four basic player types in text based virtual reality games called MUDs or Multi-User Dungeons. He summarizes these types as follows:

So, labelling the four player types abstracted, we get: achievers, explorers, socialisers and killers. An easy way to remember these is to consider suits in a conventional pack of cards: achievers are Diamonds (they're always seeking treasure); explorers are Spades (they dig around for information); socialisers are Hearts (they empathise with other players); killers are Clubs (they hit people with them).

He uses this to explore ideas like game stability and player interactions and recently, I've been wondering how this relates to the Augmented Reality game, Ingress.

In Ingress, players interact with one another, destroying opponents portals, fortifying portals that other faction members have captured, recharging portals, exchanging gear, etc. There is an achievement aspect in terms of what level one is and how much gear one as accumulated.

I suspect that the player styles may change as people level up as well as when an area gets more players of one faction or another, and that each player has a little bit of each style.

For example, I probably started off primarily as an achiever, seeking treasure and trying to level up. Once I reached Level 8 in Ingress, which is currently the highest level possible, my focus on seeking treasure has diminished, but I still seek a basic amount of treasure. Now that I'm Level 8, I tend to move more towards being an explorer or a socializer. I like exploring new areas and I like interacting with players.

I've met some players who fit very nicely in the into the socializer category, always dropping inventory for new players and helping them get started. I've ran into players who remain very focusing on achievement, trying to build up Level 8 farms, and gather as much gear as they can from them. I've run into others that focus mostly on tearing down other people's farms.

Another component of Ingress is establishing links and fields. With this there are several different styles, that I haven't really figured out how they best fit to Bartle's model. Some people rarely link, or create links to support a farm. Others create long wild links, which make it difficult for others to link but don't serve any other apparent purposes. These links are used to establish fields. Some people establish large fields, mostly as an achievement, which the killers take down as soon as possible. Others create lots of small fields, overlapping as much as possible.

Bartle spends a bit of time talking about interactions between different styles of players and it is useful to read through the section, think about what sort of player you are, what sort of players are around you in your faction, and what sort of players are in the opposing faction. It may provide insights that can make the game more fun for players, no matter what style they adopt.

So, do you play Ingress? What style of player are you? What style of players are around you in your faction? What style of players dominate the opposing faction? How do these insights change the way you approach the game? Or, do you think Bartle's ideas don't translate to Ingress? Is there something that better explains player interactions? Let me know your thoughts.

Podcamp WesternMass

Podcamp WesternMass is tomorrow and I've been following some of the discussions about ideas for different sessions. There has been a bit of talk about '101' sessions, introductions to various aspects of social media. I always worry about these sort of sessions, where there is an information based power imbalance; the person leading the session having lots of information, and many of the other participants mostly having questions. I know these sessions are important, but I prefer dialogues between equals, so I haven't stepped up to facilitate a session like this. If I did, I'd probably want to talk about broad based strategy issues. What is your goal or mission? What is your message? What is your audience? Perhaps a little bit of a discussion about metrics and all of it leading back to the ideas of intent and impact.

Intent and Impact are issues that I'm particularly focused on these days. What is your intent when you follow someone on social media? When you retweet them? When you post something of your own? What is your intent when you post or share a political comment or a cute picture? How does this fit into group dynamics and parallel processes between groups? How does it relate to Zeitgeist? I wonder how much other people are thinking about this or are interested in talking about this?

I'm also especially interested in some of the more geeky discussions. My good friend Joe Cascio is going to be talking about Bitcoin. I hope this will be a lively discussion, perhaps tying in other issues like alternative non-dollar based currencies, micropayments, point systems and other rewards, etc. I wonder if anyone else there is playing with Raspberry Pi. I could talk a little bit about that, but it probably wouldn't be a great discussion unless a few other geeky people gathered and we shared ideas and brainstormed about what could be done with Raspberry Pi.

Staying on the geeky thread, I'm interested in augmented reality. I was accepted into ProjectGlass, which means I may be getting a pair of Google Glasses soon. What will I be able to do with these? What else is out there for augmented reality? What else is out there for immersive glasses?

One of the things people talk a lot about with Google Glass is taking pictures and videos. We've seen Instagram take off. What else is happening or coming in digital photography and videography? Anyone playing with Vine? What about creating your own Instagram like filters with Photoshop or Gimp? Are their other video tools people should be looking at?

Here, I'm especially interested in mobile, and I wonder what else is coming in Mobile. What are some cool things people are doing with mobile that I'm missing? Are there tools to encourage creativity? Audio, pictures, video production and editing tools? HDR? Panoramas? 3D photography? New ways of looking at creativity? Anyone playing with SuperColider on Android? (I haven't had a lot of luck with it yet). How about Creatorverse? Ingress?

This gets me to what I think was the most valuable session for me from Podcamp last year. I think it was supposed to be about Evernote. I like Evernote. I'm kicking around Google Keep. I've used Onenote in the past, and I'm wondering if there are things that I can be doing with Onenote at work. I've also been interested in mobile audio note taking. "Note to self" spoken into the cellphone to launch an app that does speech to text note taking. Maybe there will be some discussion about these apps at Podcamp WesternMass.

However, only a couple people showed up at the Evernote session, so we sat around sharing ideas. I learned a lot about Evernote that day, and especially ideas about using IFTTT with Evernote. If you haven't checked out "If This Then That" ifttt.com and your a serious social media person, then you're really missing something.

I guess that gets to what I like best about Podcamps, going to sessions where you discover something unexpected, maybe even as the session goes off topic, and everyone gets engaged in the discussion. Because after all, engagement is a key goal in social media and it should be in Podcamp as well.

So, are you interested in any of these topics? Are there other topics your interested in? Let's build the discussion and momentum going into Podcamp WesternMass.

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