Extinguish the Flaming Social Media Trashpile!

Extinguish the Flaming Social Media Trashpile!

The “Fire Tetrahedron” of Social Media

Most of us learned about the Fire Triangle back in grade school. To burn, a fire needs three things: fuel, a heat source, and oxygen. Take away one of those things, and you can extinguish the fire. But there is also something called the Fire Tetrahedron: Add a chemical chain reaction to the fire, once ignited, and it feeds itself. It becomes significantly harder to extinguish.

Social media runs on things commonly called “social proof” and “engagement.”

Social proof is a lot like a middle-school popularity contest.

Engagement requires slightly more than passive eye-rolling from observers. The trick is to get your “followers” to do something. Basic engagement could be as simple as clicking the thumbs-up icon on Facebook. “Yay, you,” thinks the user. “Whatever.” If you can get them to spend a little more effort – to change the thumbs-up to a heart emoji, for example – you actually got something like a “reaction” out of them. But the holy grail of engagement – getting a thing to “go viral” or “spread like wildfire” online – requires the equivalent of fuel, a heat source, and oxygen. Add in a chain reaction – getting others to share and build on it – and “the algorithm” (a mythical, poorly-understood, often reverentially referenced or cursed) will “reward” you with its attentions.

Will it reward you with sales? Will it reward you with paying jobs as an internet “influencer”?

Honestly, I’m not sure what the ROI is on this largely thoughtless, mechanical attention. Some businesses see it as a matter of economic life or death, while others wisely ignore the whole thing. I think it depends on how much customers need, or more importantly, want, to interact with their favorite brands online and how good the social media teams behind those brands are at making their customers feel special.

That said, when individuals get caught up in playing “Burn, Baby, Burn!” on social media, it can come across as desperately pathetic. My theory is that it is killing genuine conversation and relationships online, spoiling everyone’s fun, and will eventually lead to burn-out and the (possibly overdue) death of social media altogether. Unfortunately, it will drag things like “community” with it, because by the time it’s all said and done, we’ll be so tired of each other we’ll wish we were hermits.

Fuel

Advertisers have long known that there are three things that reliably sell product: sex, fear, and death. You don’t need all three, but a combination of any of these three elements is best. Thus, “fear of sex” is good; “fear of dying in the middle of sex” is even better. Buy condoms and life insurance.

The fuel for engagement is a good story, a controversial opinion, a funny meme, or a cute cat. Throw in fear, sex, or death, and you’ve got a winning formula, for sure! “Fear of dying without ever getting laid” is another good one, and it’s not an unreasonable fear for those obsessed with promoting their “personal brand” and “going viral” on social media. There’s nothing wrong with knowing your “personal brand” or “going viral” with a good post, but when it requires the equivalent of an over-smoothing filter and animated sparklies on your entire life – when you start talking about “curating” your Instagram or “optimizing” your LinkedIn profile, consider the possibility that, as a living, breathing, flawed and ordinary human, you may be taking the whole thing too far.

Speaking of taking the whole thing too far, if your goal is to appear trustworthy and employable, don’t steal others’ good stories from somewhere else on the internet, then try to pass them off on LinkedIn as your own.

Heat Source

To get a “Like” requires very little effort beyond your followers’ desire to make sure you feel “seen” and validated. I could click “Like” all day, just to make you feel good about yourself. This is where a little pot-stirring can come in handy. In today’s powder-keg of social media, you probably don’t want to ask “Why isn’t cannibalism a good idea for population control?” Asking whether it’s okay to put pineapples or anchovies on pizza is about the right amount of heat. If you want to stand out from the crowd, don’t be an ordinary troll.

Oxygen

In all seriousness, the unethical social media “influencers” and wannabe “influencers” out there rival the number of zombies it would take to equal an “apocalypse.” Avoid giving them oxygen – also known as “attention.” It’s harder than you think. For years, we’ve been told “don’t feed the trolls.” We are still feeding the trolls. But next time you’re really tempted to share something from someone you don’t know, personally, stop and think, “Do I really want to do this? What are they gaining from it? Do I want to give them that?”

I’m not going to share the original links that prompted me to write the following posts on LinkedIn, but with very little effort, you could find them. And there are countless more examples – these are but two drops in a sea of superficiality and nonsense.

Nobody wants to end up as a bad example posted to Reddit’s r/LinkedInLunatics. And if someone asks you if you used ShlinkedIn, maybe you should scrub all your social media and rethink your life.

Chain Reaction

You are the chemical chain reaction. Each time you share, you fuel the fire and fan the flames. Before you do that, here are a few things to think about:

  • Does the headline match the content or is it just “click bait” that will set a reader up for disappointment?
  • If the thing you’re sharing is a news article, is it grounded in fact? Is it written by an ethical journalist or published by a reputable, reasonably-unbiased media outlet? Are sources cited, so that you can verify for yourself that the original information says what the article claims it says? Have you ever done that – checked the original sources to see if they say what it’s claimed they say?

    In 2008, a friend forwarded the email (shown on a blue background, dated Jan 6, 2008, though there were earlier versions of it as well) to me and asked me if it could be true. The original email contained a live link to snopes.com – where snopes is mentioned. Click the blue text – sure enough, there’s an article on snopes debunking the email itself. It was at this point I started paying closer attention to politics and political parties, and realized just how much seething hostility and lies lurked under the surface. None of this serves us, the people of this nation – or the world. None of it.

  • If what you’re sharing is an opinion piece, is it clearly presented as such, and is the bias clearly understood by all? Do you agree with the content of the opinion piece you’re sharing, or do you just think it’s a funny, catchy headline that sums up a thought you had – until you thought more deeply on the subject? Read A Pillow Full of Feathers before sharing.

Good things to share include:

  • A story about yourself, that’s true. Be sure to include details and avoid all temptation to exaggerate the heroic bits, unless someone else is the hero and you are thanking them.
  • A story about someone you know personally, provided you were involved in the action or have their permission to tell the story where you intend to share it.
  • Artwork posted by an artist-friend, which they shared online and which has sharing buttons you can use – to promote them and their art. (In other words, share – don’t download, then upload a copy of their art to your post!)
  • Stories, poems, and blog posts written by your friends, which they shared online and which have sharing buttons you can use – to promote them and their writing. (In other words, share – don’t copy and paste their words into a new post of your own.)
  • Links to books friends have had published, so that people can find out more and buy them.
  • A funny meme found on a site full of funny memes, or a photo found on a free stock photo site – shared in accordance with their Terms of Service.
  • A thought-provoking question and discussion of a topic that interests you.
  • A poll you made.
  • A compliment or expression of thanks to someone.
  • A funny cat video (again, of your own cat – or use the proper sharing buttons!)

This is just the tip of the iceberg of social media awfulness and how to avoid igniting the trashpile and feeding the flames. Let’s all resolve to do better in 2022, lest we contribute to the downfall of civilization.

Any more tips you’d like to share? Please, add them in the comments!

Before Creating a New Facebook Account, Read This First!

Before Creating a New Facebook Account, Read This First!

Locked Out – But Not in Facebook Jail

It happens. You forget your Facebook password – you haven’t had to enter it in six years, but you got a new PC or mobile phone and suddenly you’re being asked for that ancient password. Do they think you’re Sherlock Holmes, with a vault marked “Passwords” somewhere in your Mind Palace?

You admit that you’ve forgotten it and you request a reset. You wait, eager for the email containing the magic link. Then, you  remember that the email you used ten years ago is defunct and you refused to give up a modicum of privacy to give Facebook a valid phone number that’s already listed in six online people finder sites.

If you had set up dual authentication or had a set of recovery codes printed and locked up in an actual filing cabinet, you’d be fine. But now Facebook is telling you that it won’t let you in without three forms of government ID, a utility bill, your last rent or mortgage statement, and a DNA sample. Don’t bother. It’s a black hole into which all your proof of ID falls – and nothing happens. This is where you compromise your privacy and proof of ID for no return whatsoSay good-bye to the last decade of your Facebook life, including any Groups or Pages you own, unless you had a trusted Admin who can give you Admin privileges and reassign ownership to you.

At this point, Facebook helpfully suggests you open a new account.

STOP! It’s a trap. Oh, it’s fine to open a new account, but there are a few things you need to do before sending your first Friend Request.

First, open that account. Choose a “friendly name” (if Facebook lets you) that resembles your actual name (without any spelling errors) or your high school nickname if it’s not too humiliating.

Add a new Profile picture that is different from your old one. Ideally, use a recent headshot that shows the real, recognizable you. It wouldn’t hurt to hold up a copy of today’s newspaper with the date prominently shown in the photo. Why? Because cloned accounts often steal public photos that you’ve posted in the past, and your Profile pic is usually public.

Add a cover image. This photo should show your personality, but should neither be too close to your core identity or too generic. OK – generic is fine, here. Use your own camera to take a photo of the wood grain on your desk. Include any identifying coffee rings and unique tchotchkes; you can use different photos at other angles to prove you are you, later.

IMPORTANT: Avoid using any of the following: patriotic images, treacly “inspirational” photos/quotations, military images, pictures of guns, images showing conspicuous wealth, religious images, children, winsome family pets, or free stock images. Why? These are used by and sought after by imposters. Get into the habit of assuming a few things that may or may not be true:

    • “Military man” in officer’s uniform with numorous decorations on his chesticles: Probably seeks connection with people who have relatives in the military. Looks for flags, eagles, military logos, photos of folks in uniform. Remember: Loose lips sink ships! Try a reverse image search. Play “Who’s that Admiral?”
    • “Military man” in fatigues, blowing shit up: See above, only now you can assume that they’ve assumed your military connections are all enlisted, not officers. Or that you love men who blow shit up and have ready access to lots and lots of firepower. “Hey, ‘bro – wanna hang out at the gun range, some time? I just need to move $900,000,000 and travel to wherever you are, first. Where are you?”
    • “Single/divorced/widowed man with sad eyes, holding small child or puppy on lap”: Ordinary phisher. Appeals to loneliness and kindness. Poor, tragic soul. Probably a teenager overseas, using his one hour at the local internet cafe to try and score a few hundred bucks from idiots in the USA. Real romantic prospects don’t cold DM anyone with “Hey, beautiful” or “what u up to babeeee”.
    • “Man holding cocktail in/in front of his private yacht/jet/exclusive resort, inviting you to join him with his bedroom eyes”: Oh, please. This is the gold digger version of the previous type. They just think you’ll be more likely to bite if you think his prospects of paying you back with exorbitant interest, later, are better. The guy can transfer his own money out of the country on his boat or plane, unless it’s drug money. If it’s drug money, you don’t want any part of that.
    • “Girl taking selfies of her impossibly round ass or boobs in a truck stop bathroom mirror”: Do you men get any variety at all? Do they even try? I get one of these women about every 12th attempt. I didn’t fall for “sad, rich single dad on a yacht”? Maybe I’m a lesbian. Send truck stop girl. I figure they’ll just keep baiting the hook with different worms to see if I’ll ever bite. I am a little insulted that no one has sent me a “Professor buried under a mountain of books in the university library archives” yet.

Seriously, no man or woman worth spit cold DMs a stranger with “Hey beautiful” or “ur pic make me so [adjective] I wan to [obscene verb] you.” But apparently, the flattery and the appeal to empathy/pity/abject horniness work all too well or they’d have given it up a decade ago. So just try not to bait the hook if this isn’t the kind of fish you want to catch.

Do all of the things outlined in this post: So You’re NOT Leaving Facebook? Do not even post on your Facebook wall before taking care of your account settings!

Post one explanatory post on your wall: Why did you start a new Facebook account? Be honest here. Did you forget your password? Were you locked out? Was your old account hacked? (Be sure you understand the difference between “hacked” – taken over by someone else, who can log into the original account, post to it, etc. – and “cloned” – where someone steals your public data and creates a whole NEW account (like you just did, here) to impersonate you. There’s a big difference.) Do not start sending out Facebook Friend Requests just yet!

Find 5-10 real life family members or friends who are known to your other friends and known to be “social media wary.” In other words, the sort that would never accept a Friend Request on the strength of “Mutual Friends” alone. Ask them to post on your wall first, explaining why you opened a new account and asking other relatives and friends to contact them if they have any doubts or questions. Make sure that these people know what’s going on.

Wait 24 to 72 hours. Allow others to send you Friend Requests, but do not start sending them out to all your former connections. Talk to people you know. Go ahead and post to your Profile, and the more you sound like yourself, the better.

Slowly start sending Friend Requests. Start with people you know best, and work outwards towards acquaintances. ENCOURAGE “Mutual Friends” to check with one another before accepting any Friend Requests.

Locked Out – In Facebook Jail

Wait it out. Seriously, just wait it out. Appeal your sentence. Rattle your virtual tin cup against the jail cell bars. Sing loudly and off key. Blog – now is a great time to start your own blog and focus on building a website that you control, rather than donating free content to the Mark Zuckerberg Empire. Think about why you need – IF you need – Facebook at all.

Try https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/801409666590556

Notice that question about AdSense, on the form? Odds are, if you aren’t a Business User, you’ll be met with resounding silence. Facebook Support is not there to help you. It’s barely there to help people who earn it revenue. You’re the product, not the customer. Abandon hope.

Whatever you do, though, do not get scammed into paying a third party “provider” to help you hack your way back into your own account on Facebook. There are thousands of those. As one friend of mine said, recently, “Where there is prey, there are predators.” Just tweet “I’m locked out of my Facebook account” on Twitter, and you’ll see. Just say “no.” Because whatever they’re proposing to do to “help” you will get you in (more) trouble for violating Facebook’s Terms of Service, and will just cost you money. Money that would be better spent on building your own website where you can complain at length about Facebook – or, better yet, ignore Facebook completely, right?

Follow It (for Readers)

Follow It (for Readers)

If you have already subscribed to this blog, and are happy with what you’re getting in your email or news reader, you can skip this post. A few readers had questions, here and on Marian Allen‘s blog, so I said I’d try to answer them. If you want a better idea of what it means to subscribe, what a “feed” and “feed reader” are, and how to control what you read in one, please read on!

What is a “Feed”?

Since this post is for readers, primarily, let’s start with “what is a ‘feed’?” A “feed,” or “web feed,” is created by any site that has regularly updated content – like a blog or ezine or newspaper – and is delivered to readers in a variety of ways, by subscription. For example, you can get updates from this blog in your favorite “feed reader” or “news reader” or “news aggregator” such as WordPress Reader, Flipboard, Feedly, Feedspot – which I use, myself – and others. Calling it a “news aggregator” makes it sound like something exclusive to traditional news media, but it is not. It is simply a way for you to subscribe to updates from sites you like.

Click here to see what a “feed” looks like in its raw and unformatted form: https://jahangiri.us/2020/feed

What on Earth Am I Supposed to Do with THAT?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s the best reading experience I can offer. Still, you can plug that URL into any feed reader or news aggregator you like, and it will “pretty it up” for you. It will transform whatever that is into something readable.

You can learn the feed URL for any web site using an extension like Get RSS Feed URL. This is what you’d see if you used that on my blog:

From there, you click Copy URL and go configure your favorite feed reader to pick it up.

Or you can just click the big green Follow this blog button. Follow.it is a feed reader/news aggregator. Free, lightweight, easy to use. It does have a few features I have not seen on some of the others, like the ability for readers to filter their feed by keywords or tags.

To filter by keywords, click the Keyword(s) box. Enter keyword (this does not appear to support phrases in quotation marks or wildcard searches, so use single, whole words only). To exclude a keyword, use the minus sign (hyphen) right in front of the word, with no spaces: -keyword. Choose title only or title and body of the post.

To filter the feed by tags, click the tags box. This will display tags that were used by the creator of the feed, as shown below.

Hover your cursor over any of the keywords displayed (they are shown in order of frequency of use). Move your cursor up and down the pop-up menu and click to select Must, Must not, or Neutral (clear any previous selection).

At the bottom left of the keywords, you can click Set all to neutral if you want to remove the keyword filtering altogether. At the bottom right, you can display more keywords by clicking Next > or < Prev.

Also, you have the ability on multi-author sites to follow just one author, or several. I do not recommend using this option on my site, because on the rare occasion I invite others to write for this blog, I know and trust them, and I really hope you’ll read what they have to say. If you only want to read what they have to say, you may never receive updates from this blog. It may be useful, though, on a large news site with hundreds of contributors, if you only want to follow a few of them. Using the New York Times as an example:

To filter by author, click the names of any authors you want to follow. Click again to unfollow them.

As new tags or authors are added by the feed’s creators, they will be “neutral” or possibly ignored, so use these filtering features judiciously, or you may miss updates you want to see.

Follow.it also makes it easy for you to choose from a variety of ways to read (and each feed can be customized differently). Maybe you just want to check on the dashboard – or “News page” – on Follow.it. Maybe you want a single daily newspaper (also known as a “digest”) of selected feeds. Maybe you want “breaking news” – updates delivered to your inbox within hours or minutes of when they’re posted! Or maybe you use Telegram, and want to be notified of new posts there. You can customize each feed using the Output channels to send you just what you want, when you want it.

Phone (SMS), WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and other delivery methods are teased as “coming soon.” I don’t know how soon, so let’s just say that this is it – for now.

To get back to the Filters and Output channels page, just click the Follow.it logo at the upper left corner of the screen:

That will toggle between your personal news/settings and the Follow.it Directory. Click to expand the Reading section in the left sidebar, then click All to display All news:

Hover over the lower right corner of an article to display the icons shown above: Bookmark, Mark as read, Hide story, Share (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Email, Buffer, Telegram, or Link), and Settings. Select Settings to modify your filtering and delivery options.

Discover More Stuff to Read!

Another nice feature of Follow.it is a Member Directory. Only paid members are included – it’s a nice perk. I’ve already picked up half a dozen new subscribers this way, and I’ve only been using it a week!

You can filter the directory by Category, Location, Language, and Keywords.

Tip: Don’t use the Give me a tip what to follow link unless you’re just interested in local news. It will attempt to use your location (or network location) if you allow it. It does not appear to be customizable by interests and the location filtering is only as good as sites that provide their locations. It may be better to enter your location (city, state, country) as a keyword.

The list of suggested sites appears to be sorted by most recently updated.

Still Have Questions?

If you are a blogger, sign up here. Then look for the Help Center (for Publishers).

If you are a reader, see their Help Center (for Readers).

 

 

 

An Engraved Invitation to Follow.it and Follow Me

An Engraved Invitation to Follow.it and Follow Me

Follow Me!

Google Feedburner is finally going into “maintenance mode,” after nearly 8 years of rumored obsolescence, abandonment, or other funky defunctiveness when Goggle terminated their popular Google Reader in 2013.

Marina, at Follow.it*, was kind enough to alert me to the fact that this was, finally, really and truly, happening on July 1, 2021. I think maybe she assumed I had more than 64 subscribers over the past 8 years, but she kindly offered to help me migrate them. She didn’t need to – it was pretty easy to do it myself. If you have fewer than 100, you can – if you have more, you’ll have to get Support to help you. They’re very helpful!

Some of you may be very, very surprised to get fresh emails from me in your inbox! If your first thought is, “Who is this? I never signed up for this!” you did, in fact – but you probably didn’t notice you weren’t getting emails from me for a while when I started a new blog. Or, two new blogs. I hope the emails will be welcome, but if they’re not, it’s just as easy to unsubscribe as it was to subscribe in the first place, all those many long years ago… and I will be over here crying, but I wish you well. Read on to find out how, if you haven’t figured it out already.

For those of you who are new to this blog or just curious about the free features Follow.it has for readers (they’re all free for you readers, and mostly free for bloggers*), I invite you to click the big green Follow this blog button, below:

You will be taken to the Filters and Output channels page:

Choose your Output channels: Newspaper (a daily digest of posts from the feed); Single emails (oh, you eager thing – you want to see each post the minute I hit Publish?); News page (Follow.it feed reader dashboard); RSS (you have your own feed reader); Telegram (how cutting edge of you!).

You can play with Filters: keywords, tags, authors, and popularity, though it is unlikely they’ll match content on the blog and you may get no results at all. You can see the options I’ve chosen for my own subscription, above. Of course I subscribe to my own blog – that way, I know if something goes wrong!

You may, instead, be taken directly to the subscribe page where the only option is Follow or Unfollow. If you see the Manage button shown below, you are already subscribed; click the Manage button to go to the Filters and Output channels page.

Enjoy this little playlist, especially from me to you:

Follow.it for Bloggers

Follow.it is a great alternative to Google’s Feedburner.* Most of the features are free – forever. It’s not a trial. You can see all three pricing levels – the paid levels are based on the number of subscribers you have, and there is a simulator to help you calculate the costs. You can change plans or revert to free easily, at any time. One good reason to upgrade is to get discovered like a Hollywood celebrity – consider one of the paid plans to have your feed(s) included in the Follow.it Directory.

Click here to sign up as a Publisher on Follow.it.*


* Affiliate link: If you do end up upgrading to a paid plan, I’ll receive a small commission.