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Instagram account mocking repetitive posts is dead wrong

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Instagram is an aspirational place, filled with repetition and a homogenous aesthetic – one user mocks it, but we support you and your efforts.

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There are no new ideas. There are iterations of old ideas and once in a blue moon, innovation and creativity align and we’re presented with a really good refreshed take on an old idea that feels brand new. We know this and it’s okay.

However some of us pretend we don’t know that. Some of us are inspired by other people’s ideas and are moved to replicate those ideas to a T.

So it should come as no surprise that a cheeky Instagram account should emerge showing us all how non-creative we all are. @insta_repeat  currently boasts 271,000 followers and promises “Deja Vu Vibes.”

Scrolling through the feed, you’ll find pics of faceless longhaired girls wearing hats staring a foggy evergreens, a bunch of someones in bright red jackets solo canoeing on still lakes on misty mornings and white, disembodied hands holding out orange leaves against forests during golden hour.

On Instagram, imitation truly is the sincerest form of aspiration and as cheeky and eye roll inducing this account is, there’s something deeper behind it.

Here’s the thing – creative impulses have become more and more homogenous and this is because we have inspiration at our fingertips and in our pockets at all times. We no longer have to search for inspiration because it’s just a few scrolls and swipes away and this lends itself to hard replication.

For example, some of us remember a time before the Internet and certainly before social media, when if you wanted to find out about a new band thousands of miles away from your tiny town, you had to go to into the nearest city and find the weirder record  store and search the stacks to find their album.

The same goes for fashion. A lot of us subscribed to magazines and literally waited out the month to get our next fix.

In that searching came waiting and during the waiting, came inspiration and time to create something new or at the very least, something informed by what we were taking in. But now, there is no waiting, there is only consuming. When content is free and easy to access, there is no digestion period. There is only more content and an increased urge to replicate the idea as closely to the original as possible.

The homogenization is seen in makers and crafts fairs all the time.

Go to any of them in Austin, for example, and you’ll find it hard to swing a dead cat and not hit succulents in whimsical pots, delicate thin metal jewelry, and rustic leather goods.  We also see the same blue or pink cakes being cut into at gender reveal parties, and a lot of us went to weddings lit by fairy lights and were forced to drink out mason jars.

Trends become trends because they inspire replication because they are aspirational. And this is fine.

Not everyone can be punk rock. Not even punk rock.

Further, Google and Microsoft has spent exorbitant amounts of money to stitch together users’ “repetitive” pictures from across the globe to create interactive, multi-dimensional scenes you can explore online. But what do they know!?

So should @insta_repeat stop you from snapping a picture of the sun setting over the Grand Canyon or taking that pic of your bent legs on the beach that let’s everyone know you’re enjoying your trip to that resort in Tulum everyone goes to?

No, it shouldn’t, because at least you’re creating or trying to create and that’s more than what a lot of people do with their free time. So go out there, wrap yourself in a serape and see the world.

Hates gonna hate, but who cares? Not you, Hot Dog Legs.

Meg Furey-Marquess is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. She has covered tech for The Metro Silicon Valley and The Bold Italic. She was named one of the Top 39 Writers on Medium in 2016.

Social Media

Why your Instagram follower counts might be jacked

(SOCIAL MEDIA) What’s going on with Instagram follower counts? It’s a v-day bug, of course!

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Yesterday, I did what I usually do on Instagram – peruse through my own profile because I enjoy my photos. Though my follower count is nothing to write home about, I was confused when I noticed I had lost about 10 followers and had mysteriously unfollowed about the same number of people.

To quote Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, “I was like, totally buggin’”. Turns out, bug was the operative prefix as a bug was cause for the issue, and many users were feeling the bite.

TechCrunch shared that Instagram confirmed the bug was the problem causing follower counts to change. The social media platform also said that the issue should be resolved by 9 a.m. PST on Valentine’s Day (because the only love worth celebrating is that of your follower count!)

At first, many users, myself included, assumed that the decrease in followers came from an attempt from Instagram to remove fake spam accounts. However, when we noticed that our following count had also gone down, that was when people took to Twitter to complain.

One user wrote, “so I just lost like 4K on Instagram and it unfollowed like 100 people within a matter of minutes? what’s going on [whining emoji] like I’m not mad about my follower count cause I’d rather have less spam followers and better engagement but like why is it unfollowing people?!”

Instagram also used Twitter as a way to explain the issue, which is where they shared that the problem should be fixed by Thursday morning. “We’re aware of an issue that is causing a change in account follower numbers for some people right now. We’re working to resolve this as quickly as possible,” the company tweeted on February 13. “Update: we’re expecting to have this issue resolved by 9 a.m. PST tomorrow. We understand this is frustrating, and our team is hard at work to get things back to normal.”

My follower/following count went back to normal a few hours after I noticed the issue, but it may take just a bit longer for all users to see the counts restored.

Share with us below if this issue threw off your social media game yesterday!

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Fallout from Facebook’s shady program spying on children

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook is barely even trying to be sneaky anymore, paying children to allow them to spy. Shameless.

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Facebook recently landed in hot (boiling) water when it was uncovered that Facebook has been paying teens to install a “research” VPN on their devices that would allow the tech giant to see all of the teen’s cellular and web usage, for about $20 worth of gift cards each month.

The participants were largely recruited into the program as a result of targeted Snapchat and Instragram ads, and offered participants additional incentives to refer friends into the program too.

The purpose of this Big Brother program was not to empower young minds with technological innovation, but to use all of this data to track Facebook’s competitors, keep track of emerging trends, and otherwise be creepin’ on the kids. The program reportedly went so far as to ask users to share screenshots of their Amazon order history pages.  

According to the report: “Facebook sidesteps the App Store and rewards teenagers and adults to download the Research app and give it root access to network traffic in what may be a violation of Apple policy so the social network can decrypt and analyze their phone activity.”

Oh, and if the privacy concerns of this whole program weren’t terrifying enough; it has been going on since 2016.

Almost immediately after the news broke, Apple banned Facebook’s Research VPN and shut down the iOs version of the Research app, before Facebook could suspend the program voluntarily. Apple also released a statement condemning the program and Facebook’s shady choice to hide it in the iOs Developer certificate rather than the App Store (where apps that collect personal data have been banned since last summer).

This entire debacle highlights the murky borders of online consent when children and teens are involved. Not only are teens less likely to be aware of the risks of sharing their data, but also often parental “consent” is not real. There’s no verification of parental consent; if a teen checks a box in an online form saying that they are their parent—the website is none the wiser. The same is true for many age verification processes.

If you are a real parent reading this and want to check to make sure that your teen’s not selling their personal data for pennies, you LifeHacker has instructions to help you identify whether or not they are in the program (and get them out of it!).

This entire debacle is a nice reminder that large tech companies may offer innovative services, high salaries to employees, and strange new ways of keeping in touch with people we’d probably forgotten by now, but the product is not the social networks they build.

The product that Facebook, Google, Amazon, and other giants are really interested in is data – we’ve been reporting that for over a decade now. Their treatment of people that may not even be able to consent to sharing their data highlights this narrow goal. If you a not a person, but rather a collection of market insights, what does your age matter? It’s just another variable for the algorithms (robots).

The upside of this entire debacle is that many parents previously unaware of this type of program are now talking to their children about this topic.

Further, this gives politicians more tangible evidence of why media companies like Facebook should never get a free pass for bad behavior.

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We’re skeptical of FB’s reason for killing the Moments app

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook is killing Moments. Turns out, most people don’t know it exists – here’s what we’ll all be missing.

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January was the longest year ever, amirite guys? Now all that’s over, we can finally say goodbye to toxic things like Whole 30 oversharers and, if we’re lucky, terrible products from tech giants.

I love writing about tech companies’ failed attempts at ~cool~ new products. Honestly, it’s become a personal hobby, or, dare I say, delight. Nothing warms my ice cold heart like seeing Google Glass, Google+, and the Facebook “Moments” app go up in flames.

*record screeches*

Wait, hold up… there was a Facebook Moments app? What the heck is (or was) the Moments app?

In case if you didn’t know like most people, here’s what you need to know:

Moments was originally created in 2015 as a way for Facebook users to privately share photos outside of the standard Facebook platform. The app implemented machine learning and facial recognition technology to help group photos, and then “recommended” who to share the photos with based off who was in the picture.

Get off my lawn.

If there’s anything we learned in 2018, it’s that we can totally trust Facebook with very private and personal information!

And I know what you’re thinking: why would this crappier and creepier version of Google Photos be necessary? Spoiler alert: it’s not.

In a moment of temporary sanity, Facebook announced it’s shutting down Moments and the app in its entirety on February 25th, citing a notable lack of downloads.

Here’s the interesting bit, though: no other reasons were mentioned like security or privacy concerns, and they insisted it’s pulling the plug only because not enough people downloaded it.

Considering Facebook bullied hundreds of thousands of users into downloading the app, so much so that in 2016 it was #1 in the App Store for several days, do we really believe the “no user base” excuse?

What else is going on under the hood of Moments that isn’t being revealed?

Given the recent controversies surrounding Facebook’s lack of data transparency and unethical decision making in this realm of personal data, I have a hunch something else might be behind this sudden “no downloads” rhetoric.

Only time, and perhaps another amusing congressional hearing, will tell.

In the off chance you’re one of the seven people with photos on Moments, you’ve been forewarned, and make sure to delete all of your data from it in case if Zuck pulls another Cambridge Analytica.

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