As we begin a new year and head back (at least virtually) to work and school, we might be thinking about personal things we would like to improve. Some people resolve to exercise more, stick to a budget or cut out sugar from their diet. Others resolve to write that book, use social media less or volunteer in their communities. These are all great ideas, and I’d like to add another one.
Though we all made our New Year’s resolutions on Jan. 1, I respectfully suggest a January resolution that would, if we each committed to it, produce a large positive impact on society. This year, I resolve — and would like to encourage others to resolve — to stop the spread of misinformation at the individual level.
Well it’s official. Across North America and most of Western Europe, the Christmas holidays are going to look very different this year. Since the second wave of the pandemic hit, we’ve been told to use virtual tools to connect with our loved ones for some holiday cheer. In fact, we may all find ourselves declining to participate in in-person holiday gatherings in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 prior to the release of a vaccine.
Unfortunately, however, we’ve already been doing almost everything digitally from our couches for months, and most of us are getting really tired of the whole thing, with good reason.
So do we write off the holidays altogether? Or do we try to find new ways to make things memorable? My research on digital literacy shows ways we can connect this holiday season, even as we stay physically apart.
The first few months of the pandemic was filled with Zoom fever. People were zooming work, happy hour, board game nights and other events as well. Then many people felt like they hit a wall. Zoom fatigue is real. And recent research suggests that all the efforts to connect using video chat platforms (Zoom, Skype, Teams and similar) might actually be wearing us down.
So while you consider how to spread holiday cheer, you want to find ways to step away from doing everything via video chat. Instead, learn from the ways digital natives use digital communication tools, and celebrate the season using a variety of platforms, as I’ll outline below.
This kind of engagement with digital technology makes sense for everyone. If you use Zoom for work, you may want to experiment with other technologies to connect with family and friends, For example, you could use an app like Rave, Airtime or Teleparty to watch movies synchronously with friends. Or you could visit friends and family virtually in a game like Animal Crossing, World of Warcraft, or Minecraft.
Get digitally creative
There are many other ways you can connect with loved ones to spread some holiday cheer. The sky, and your creativity, are the limit, but here are a few of my favorites:
Host a virtual New Year’s cèilidh on YouTube: A Christmas cèilidh is a Scottish holiday tradition where family and friends get together and share songs, stories and dancing. You can create a virtual cèilidh with those you love by using a site like YouTube. Each participant can upload a video of themselves singing a song, telling a story, reciting a poem or playing a musical instrument. Then you can curate the videos into a playlist that the group can enjoy while eating their Christmas cookies. After all, research shows that YouTube is place where communities are created, as well as a place where videos are shared.
Tune in, turn on, then cop out
Holidays are stressful, and you will feel tempted to accept every virtual invitation, but you also need to spend some time disconnecting from digital devices. Some universities recommend that their doctoral students build in digital detox times in order to combat Zoom fatigue.
Sometimes you’ll really want to use a videoconferencing platform to recreate a holiday dinner or cocktail party, so make sure you combat Zoom fatigue by balancing your video chatting with the other ways to connect described above.
In developers’ conferences and earnings calls, the biggest of the big tech companies are trying to develop unique value propositions that paint them as friendly, responsive, and attuned to the needs of their customers. Then the mainstream technology media (often overworked, understaffed and reliant on the good graces of big tech for continued access to stories), generally reports these messages at face value. News in the last week focused on Facebook’s pivot toward community groups, Google’s exciting universal translator or Amazon’s claim that small and medium sized business partners made on average 90K last year through their platform.
Popular opinion is that fake news and distrust of the mainstream media was mostly a problem during the 2016 US election and the ill-fated Brexit vote in the UK. However, before either of these things happened, we actually saw anti-news sentiment in small pockets of Canadian social media chatter. During our last election in 2015 people were beginning to use the hashtag #CdnMedia to criticize mainstream media sources and accuse journalists of working for the Liberal government. As we enter another election year, we may want to learn from what happened before, as I suspect this type of chatter will only become a bigger player in 2019.
This post was originally posted to Medium, you can view the original here
One of the key benefits often ascribed to local news is that local news outlets facilitate more hyperlocal reporting. That is to say, the presence of a local news outlet is associated, at least in many people’s minds, with an increased coverage of local stories in a community. But is this correlation true in practice?
Today, The Verge published an article stating that Twitter has drawn a small line in the sand with respect to the tweeting habits of the 45 president of the United States. Adi Robertson reports that Twitter has suggested that while it is important not to censor or remove important public figures like the president from the platform, it will draw the line at “tweets that reveal a private address or phone number”. Of course, not all people agree with this stand. For example, Sam Harris clearly stated in a recent podcast that he thinks Trump should be banned from Twitter, since the damage he can do via a Tweet is just so great. Twitter’s response though, is one worth considering. When is it appropriate to silence a public figure on a platform like Twitter? And when is it actually in the public interest to support a person’s right to make even crazy or patently false claims on the site?
You may have noticed that net neutrality was in the news quite a bit this week after US FCC Chairman Ajit Pai tried to slip a release into the pre-long weekend news burial ground stating that he plans to roll back any legislation related to Net Neutrality. In response to this, Netflix released a statement that it opposes any attempts to roll back net neutrality rules. Back in July, when the idea of gutting net neutrality law was first floated under the Trump administration, all of the major platform players such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon, spoke out against these proposed regulations. But a Google search that I conducted this morning shows news in which Twitter, Pinterest, AirBnB and of course the aforementioned Netflix make statements opposing the new legislation while Facebook and Google are conspicuously absent.
This is part three in a series which details why I think you can be an effective social media advisor, even if you are not personally on Facebook yourself. In this post, I’m going to briefly discuss some of the personal reasons why I do not engage on Facebook, and why I’m thinking about withdrawing my participation from social media completely. You can read part 1 here, and part 2 here.
Even if you don’t work in a social media or technology-related field, sometimes keeping up with social media can feel like a second full time job. For some, this second job is worth it, but for others, it might not be, and social media use is more a compulsion, something you do out of habit, even when it stops feeling fun. Like smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, or a regular sugar habit, this activity initially delivers feelings of happiness, euphoria or satisfaction, only to devolve into a monkey on the users’ back.
Once, when discussing our changing habits online, Mark Zuckerberg told his colleagues, “a squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.”