Conference on Social Media for Good, Istanbul

I’m very happy to share that I’ve been selected to speak at The International Conference on Social Media for Good in Istanbul in May. The selection process was extended a few weeks due to an overwhelming global response, so the conference should be an interesting one!

My paper will offer a conceptual framework for a community-based digitally immersive social networking application for CSOs, and I will present for discussion the role of meta networks in facilitating a more robust global reporting structure via said app.

About the conference

Kimse Yok Mu (KYM) is an international NGO carrying out humanitarian aid and development projects in 110 countries. Following the International Conference on Philanthropy and Peacebuilding — organized by the Academic Studies Department of KYM in collaboration with the Journalist and Writers Foundation and Istanbul Bilgi University, with the participation of 25 academicians from 19 countries in April 2014 — the 2015 Conference aims to reveal theoretical contributions as well as representative practices addressing the use of new generation internet applications to generate social benefit.

Selected abstracts and agenda will be posted on the Kimse Yok Mu (KYM) site soon. Follow on Twitter @KYM_Academic.

Istanbul Conference 2015 full

Should I unfollow you?

“We’re among the first generations expected to maintain connections with every single person we’ve ever met, thanks to the Internet.” Helena Price

Photographer Helena Price decided one night before bed to unfollow everyone on the Internet. Easier said than done. Basically any network she frequented throughout the day that she passed off as ‘productive’. For Price (and I’m betting for many photographers) this meant Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram, all image-rich, content-heavy-in-your-face-honey-I-shrunk-the-day social networks.

She wanted to see if she could recreate the Internet in a more productive way, de-cluttering her brain and doing what she wanted, instead of living in someone else’s feed, inspirational or not.

For Price the addiction was real. She hit withdrawal immediately after ‘purging’, instinctively opening apps she knew had empty feeds, like an amputee reaching for a leg that’s not there. One month later she’s sharing her success on Medium with a take on minimalism that will make you feel lighter just reading it.

And here’s the deal. Minimalism is good for leaders. Being more focused on fewer things makes a healthier, less cluttered path to success than muddling through with little or no focus. (Think ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’.) I’ve seen this principle at work in my own life.

Organizing even our ‘inspirational’ inputs can be a profound experiment waiting to happen. It might not be for everyone, but those brave enough to try it might come away with a powerful lesson on what matters and what doesn’t, online and off.

Selfies

Joan Rivers said it best when she joked about being shown pics of people’s ugly kids. Selfies, well, they might be about narcissism but there’s a lot of loneliness out there, and studies show that oversharing via social networks makes lonely people feel more connected. The more selfies, the lonelier the person. Narcissism seems a typical sign of insecurity anyway. We all get a good selfie in now and then, but there’s a line between normative behavior and mental aberration. It’s just creepy to see a person, pretty or not, post so many selfies, day after day after day. God I hope they don’t post my selfies when they find my phone.

Out of my mind

Now with one billion users worldwide, Facebook is in a prime position to play God with those who choose to use the service every day. In January 2012 Facebook manipulated the emotions of more than half a million people in the name of ‘research’.

For the ‘emotional manipulation’ Facebook study, half of the subjects’ feeds consisted of ‘negative’ posts, while the other half was fed ’positive’ posts. Facebook then monitored them to see if their life outlook had changed based on the curated info. Whether or not you feel this undermines the already waning integrity of the social network, it’s clear now more than ever that Facebookers are little more than products—churning out heaps of data on the daily that are sold and used to calculate how best to manipulate the soul on the other end of the screen.

Adam Kramer, the FB data scientist who executed the study in 2012, says the idea was to see if an onslaught of negative information would cause people to leave or avoid the site.

Kashmir Hill (Forbes) puts ‘research’ in quotes like I do, suggesting that Facebook somehow skirted the standard ‘human subject’ rule used in science experiments. The social network’s data policy took advantage of a conveniently trusting constituency, all to run psychological tests, cloaked in consent forms. A bit disconcerting to consider how in a worst-case scenario the clinically depressed might fare, let alone the idea of Facebook engineers telling us what info is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ within our chosen social sphere. Kramer:

The reason we did this research is because we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product. We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out. At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends’ negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook.

Facebook users are products, and for Facebook to profit it needs a full shelf. Maybe our social web overlords will one day learn from this virtual Gulag and see that, in the end, Facebook was the reason we all left Facebook.