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Cyberbullying…a realization

November 15, 2011 Leave a comment

“You gotta take a look at this!”  These were the first words my wife said as I walked through the door the other night.  She calls me over to the computer only when there is something outrageously funny or horribly offensive and I could tell that tonight would be the latter. I walked to the computer and read through a facebook conversation posted on one of my daughter’s friend’s wall.  We read through the entire conversation together.  It was filled with a horrific medly of insults, vile language, and threats about what would happen at school the next day.

Now, let me be clear, it was not directed to my daughter.  But our daughter’s friend was the bully, and we had never seen that side of her.  In person she is a sweet, considerate, quiet 13 year-old.  What was it that caused her to change into a cyberbully?  Why did she feel she had free reign to unleash such garbage toward another girl online?

My wife and I decided to stop the attack.  We chose to approach her by way of texting.  Once this friend realized that her actions were public, she changed her toon.  The conversation was immediately deleted off of her wall, and she was mortified that we read through it.  She has apologized over and over to us.  She apologized to the girl she cyber-attacked.

A national organization called Fight Crime: Invest in Kids did a study in 2006 that found 1 in 3 teens have been the victims of cyberbullying and 1 in 6 preteens have been victims (read it at http://www.fightcrime.org/sites/default/files/reports/cyberbullyingteen_2.pdf).
With 33% of teens being victims, I wonder about how many are committing cyberbullying.  I also wonder if it translates into actual bullying at school, or if it stays in the virtual world.  A quick conversation with one of my daughters revealed that it does, but has evolved since the days of stuffing people in lockers and throwing their binders down the hall.  Now it is even more psychological.  “They just laugh around you,” my daughter said.  “Everywhere you go, people just start laughing and looking at you.  There is no reason for it….they just laugh.”

So, I wondered, at what point do we grow out cyberbullying, or bullying at all for that matter?

Never.

I was at a presentation of Loralee Choate, creator of loraleeslooneytoons.com.  She was talking about the highs and lows of blogging.  The highs, she explained, included a trip to the White House and brandwork with McDonalds (both increadible stories).  The lows had to do with cyberbullying.  She described a friend she had for years in the ‘real’ world who turned into her biggest troll (cyberbully) in the ‘virtual’ world.  It was a dual relationship.  This ‘friend’ would smile at her, then get online under another name and troll her website.

There is a certain sense of invincibility people feel online.  There is an assumption of confidentiality online as well.  I don’t know what can be done to educate the public that the United States Supreme Court found that there can be no expectation of privacy online.  After all, people have been feeling invincible in vehicles for more than 50 years when they are not.  I can’t imagine what technology will be in 50 years, but I hope the virtual learning curve is faster than the drivers’.

Until then, it must come back to oversight.  Parents, webmasters, colleagues, any third party.  Cyberbullies need virtual babysitters, and with so many of our youth in danger of being victims of it, or heaven forbid turning into the cyberbullies themselves, we must be aware.

So that is the point of this blog.  Cyberbullying is out there.  It is real.  It is around.  I admit I don’t understand the rush some people get from destroying another’s self-confidence.  Until reading that facebook conversation with my wife, I didn’t think it was as an immediate danger as it is becoming.

Google+, Online Privacy, and a Street-Wise Public

September 5, 2011 2 comments


Two articles struck me this week.  Oh they are not new, in the social media world they are ancient history (weeks old!).  But they caught my eye and have messages worth repeating.  Eric Convey, managing editor of the Boston Business Journal, wrote an article on his blog  BBJ The Bottom Line entitled Google+ vs. Facebook, a verdict.  The article compares Google+ and Facebook and the most interesting part of the article centered on the inherant flaw in Facebook’s success.

The second article was prompted by the first.  I started to wonder exactly why people broadcast their hidden secrets and most embarrassing moments online.  Why do people seem to think their privacy is protected in social media?  The term “social media” itself implies that the people are going to see it.

First though…on to Mr. Convey’s article.

Eric Convey’s article caught my eye with a great title.  I searched for a reportable article for a good 20 minutes, sorting through all the noise out there in the ‘world wide web’.  I saw the word “verdict” in the title and clicked before a second thought.

Fortunately for me as a curious reader, Mr. Convey held to an objective comparison of what Google+ is trying to do, compared with what Facebook has already done.  He reviews what has turned Facebook into the Mocrosoft of social media.  Convey reviewed how effectively Facebook has connected people, “in a controlled environment.”

He also discussed how such a success has turned into Facebook’s largest weakness.   “If lore is correct,” wrote Convey, “numerous careers have sputtered after postings meant for friends were seen by bosses. Who doesn’t have an embarrassing photo from a college party that no doubt would have drawn howls from friends who long forgot the soiree, but scorn in certain professional circles?”

Google+ now enters the fray with it’s own take on the issue of separating information with it’s emphasis on circles.  Circles allow people to partition their online identities in a way that is more similar to real-world interactions.  People can separate their contacts into circles of interest, thus separating social, family, and work updates and notifications.

So, Google+ capitalizes on Facebook’s inherent flaw (or success, however you look at it).  The major problem Google+ has right now lies in numbers.  Facebook only has hundreds of millions of more accounts and many years of experience more than Google+.  Google+ has a lot of catching up to do.

Convey suggested, pit against each other on an even playing field, Google+ has the upper hand.  In the evolution of social media happening right in front of our eyes however there is no such thing as an equal playing field.

Now, on the blog The Modern Archivist, Elle Byrum delves into the question of privacy in social media.  Her article, “The Perils of Social Media” highlights Isaiah Lester, who won a $10.6 million wrongful death lawsuit he initiated in the death of his wife.  Two years after the lawsuit, Mr. Lester posted compromising pictures of him wearing a shirt that said “I [heart] Hot Moms.”  This started a chain reaction (trying to delete the photos obviously did not help) and now Mr. Lester stands in a position where his court victory could be reversed.

There is no privacy online.  Entire careers are made in archiving traffic online.  The fairytale of online privacy must dissolve into “streetwise” social media behavior.

I spent two years in Los Angeles, Calif. working with the less fortunate.  Most of my time was spent in the “jungle” (it’s common name) of south central Los Angeles.  At first the scenery and culture were completely foreign to this sub-urbian Oregonian.  After a few months of pounding the pavement and surviving the hazards of a low income urban environment, a sixth-sense developed.

By the time I left Calif. I could tell what streets were safe, what were dangerous, and when it was time to leave.  You see, in the evening the city shifted and some safe zones during the sunshine turned to crime centers by moonlight.

It is the same with social media.  It is a requirement that we develop an online sense of what is safe, what is not, and when that changes.  Today online scams and cyber-bullying damage so much more than stealing lunch money did in my youth.

So, this weeks emphasis is simple.  Social media is not going anywhere.  With Google+ jumping in to take on Facebook, our future is embedded in social media.  Social media is social.  It is not private media.  It wasn’t designed to be so.  It will take a new kind of “streetsmart” to understand how to manage social media.

What an exciting time to live, eh?

April Social Media Club Meeting

April 13, 2011 Leave a comment

How quickly a month can roll by! I have made my wife and coworkers sick of social media stories since I had such a great experience at the Social Media Club of Cache Valley (SMCCV) meeting last month. The April meeting was tonight and it again was fantastic.
The meeting had a different flavor to it compared to last month. It highlighted Liz Butcher, creator and owner of Butcher’s Bunches. She creates premium jams that have been celebrated such events as the Sundance Film Festival.
Liz markets almost exclusively through Facebook. She said she took out a newspaper advertisement one time, but did not get the results that she continues to get by marketing online.
I was impressed by her story. She is riding the social media wave in a unique way. The right people found out about her and the right things happened. It went ‘organic’.
I wrote last month about my paradigm shift with social media. Social media is nothing to be controlled or managed. It is a matter of finding the right wave and jumping on. Social media is organic. It deals with millions of human users, so it comes as no surprised it demonstrates human tendencies. I come back to that word again…it’s organic.
Liz’s story motivated me to start up that gerbil in my head. You know, that little gerbil in that little wheel that starts running, spinning the wheel and cranking out ideas. Butcher’s Bunches sells jams and is thriving through social media. What is a business plan that I can hold on to? I am looking and talking and thinking. It is exciting. Social media opens up so much.
Back to the meeting. I must admit that I enjoyed the ‘how to’ format of the March meeting more, but that is my personality. It was nice to see the outcome of successful social media use and I enjoyed every minute of it. I see the benefit of that as well. I wonder if a meeting could be planned that would handle both formats? Maybe an hour of ‘how to’ and an hour of a highlighted success story.
Just an idea.