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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

Tiktok: Did they really just censor disabled users?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) TikTok was concerned about disabled users being bullied so in a stunning reversal, they limited those users visibility on the app. Yikes.

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TikTok, the popular social media platform where users upload short, often silly or light-hearted, videos is coming under fire this week. Internal moderation documents acquired by the German digital rights blog, Netzpolitik.org, show that TikTok has been discriminating against users who are disabled, queer, and fat.

According to these documents, TikTok instructed moderators to tag any content created by so-called, “special users.” The “special users” tag refers to users who are “susceptible to harassment or cyberbullying based on their physical or mental condition.”

The idea behind the tag was to provide these “special users” with protection from cyber bullying and online harassment. This was achieved by limiting the visibility of these user’s content. Videos with this tag had their viewership limited to the user’s country of origin and were prevented from being featured on the “for you” section of the app.

To make matters even worse, moderators only had about 30 seconds to make the decision to flag a video or not. Imagine looking at a complete stranger for less than a minute and having to decide if they fall somewhere on the Autism spectrum. Now, imagine doing that with only a 15 second video for reference.

Sources inside TikTok say that moderators complained about this policy multiple times, but their concerns were ignored. According to a TikTok spokesperson, the tag system was meant to be a temporary solution.

“This was never designed to be a long-term solution, but rather a way to help manage a troubling trend until our teams and user-facing controls could keep up.”

Point blank, TikTok discriminated against users based on their physical appearance and perceived disabilities. They denied these users a fair opportunity on their app by limiting the visibility of their content therefor preventing them from growing their audiences.

In their statement about the moderation policy, TikTok’s spokesperson asserts that the policy is no longer in effect.

“While the intention was good, the approach was wrong and we have long since changed the earlier policy in favor of more nuanced anti-bullying policies and in-app protections.”

Owning up to their mistake is a good start, but a simple ‘our bad y’all’ is not good enough. When a company currently estimated to be worth 75 billion dollars admits to blatant discrimination against its users, there need to be some reparations.

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Facebook is finally allowing you to use your data freely, kinda

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook is taking baby steps to improve data portability with new photo transfer tool. They are working with google, twitter, and microsoft to make it work

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Facebook is rolling out a new feature which will allow users to transfer their photos directly to Google Photos. The product is rolling out in Ireland first for some beta testing, but set to launch globally in the first half of 2020. At first glance this may seem like a mundane new tool, but it is just one thread in a complex web of legal and social change related to users’ right to their own data.

The true heart of this story is the ongoing issue of data portability. Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft are all part of the Data Transfer Project which aims to create data portability. Data portability refers to an individual users’ right to control their own data on the web, which includes the right to download and transfer their data to different services. The hope is that a seamless flow of data will create a more authentic sense of competition.

In their statement about the new product, Facebook reiterates this belief by stating, “we believe that if you share data with one service, you should be able to move it to another. That’s the principle of data portability, which gives people control and choice while also encouraging innovation.”

Being able to seamlessly transfer your photos from Facebook to any outside platform is a big step for a company that has spent most of the year in anti-trust investigations.

The photo transfer tool will be helpful to some users, but is it a genuine step towards breaking up the Facebook data monopoly? After all, Google has also gone through anti-trust investigations this year, so perhaps more open competition between two of the largest software companies on the globe is not exactly what legislators had in mind.

It’s nearly impossible to read whether Facebook’s attempts to improve global data portability are sincere or just an elaborate effort to keep governments off their bottom line. There is an argument to made about whether or not corporations can ever be sincere, but that is a story for a different day.

The best thing everyday users can do to protect their data right now is to stay informed and keep asking questions.

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‘Secret sister’ gift exchanges are not just lame, they’re ILLEGAL – tell your friends

(SOCIAL MEDIA) There’s a new gift giving program spread on Facebook but you may be giving more than gifts. Secret Sister is actually an illegal MLM that gives away your identity.

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‘Tis the season for Christmas themed pyramid schemes! No, we’re not talking about your favorite MLM adding some holiday flair (though that’s probably happening too), this is something more sinister: Secret Sister gift exchanges.

Not to be confused with Secret Santa (the anonymous gift exchange among friends), Secret Sister exchanges promises the impossible: buy one gift for a stranger, get upwards of 36 gifts in return. It might sound like a Christmas miracle, but it’s actually classified as a pyramid scheme… and gambling, to boot.

Not to mention, it’s definitely illegal, hun.

Circulated primarily on Facebook and targeted mostly at women, Secret Sister exchanges have been running since 2015, according to Snopes. Users are invited to join and invite up to six friends to participate too. Like all pyramid schemes, the further down the ladder you are, the less likely you are to receive many (if any!) gifts in return.

That’s the best case scenario.

Not only are you bothering your friends and potentially gaining nothing (or little) in return, you’re also at risk of identity theft when you participate in a secret sister exchange. Why? Well, most of these schemes involve users submitting important personal information such as phone number and home address, which aren’t the sorts of things you want falling into the hands of total strangers.

These “Secret Sister” gift exchanges might also go by other fun, festive names. For instance, one scam focused on “wine drinkers” and encouraged participants to purchase bottles of wine. But a pyramid scheme by any other name is still a massive waste of time and money.

A good rule of thumb? If something is offering amazing results for a fraction of the cost (like 36 gifts for the price of one), be wary. That’s the same promise you’ll get at a slot machine – and that’s less likely to steal your identity after you’ve lost money.

Not to sound like a PSA, but if you or anyone you know seems to be caught up in a secret sister gift exchange, get out! It shouldn’t be the season of law-breaking and identity theft. And if that $10 is burning a hole in your pocket, there’s plenty of ways to find some holiday cheer. Donate to a local charity, buy a gift for a coworker, maybe even treat yourself!

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