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Two Weeks of Social Media Hell

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La Porte de l'Enfer - Gates of Hell - Auguste Rodin

A lot can happen in two weeks.

I didn’t post last week. It happens. “Don’t cry for me ArgentGenius” (ok, not so funny Evita reference, but it was stuck in my head and I had to use it). I’m back with twice the thought of one of my normal posts. Are you ready?

In the last two weeks, two events occurred back to back that made me question social media, especially Twitter, a lot. Not to question it in the sense of “I’m going to give it up,” but more in the sense of “where are we heading with it.” What is social media’s purpose and how can we define that purpose without trying to gum up the works with a set of “rules” that are counterintuitive to the theories behind social media itself? We’ve had the ROI discussion ad naseum and I don’t wish to rehash that…I’m looking for a personal answer to my own belief systems.

Week One: Repetitive Uselessness

The first week seemed simple enough, SXSWi was the event and a technological geek wonderland had descended on Austin. I follow a lot of über-nerds and real estate tech folks. I enjoy hearing technology discussions, even when they’re over my head. I thrill in hearing about a new product or service that might somehow apply to me. If I can’t apply it to real estate, I still retain some interest. I love technology, it’s an interest of mine.

I watched the Twitter stream with avid interest in learning, experiencing (even though I wasn’t there), and gleaning a few nuggets here and there. Considering the fact that many of the social media mavens of our time would be in one place, I expected to see great things. I felt like I had been let down.

Considering all the social media brainpower gathered in one place, I thought we’d see a Twitter stream full of bright, inventive, new thinking. Instead, I found myself reading about a lot of lunches, a ton of photo-ops, and a party-hopping list detailed enough to make even a rockstar jealous. I received less value and more fluff than ever before while following a conference. I had to ask myself – where is the substance?

Following conferences via social media has become a great way to experience things without having to be there. Sure, you’ll never get the full effect, but if you’re not able to make it, it’s the next best thing. If the conference is so intertwined with social media, I would expect much more actionable knowledge to come from it, but I just didn’t see enough of it coming out of SXSWi. Several attendees seemed to take offense to such armchair quarterback commentary, but I ask them – where was the open sharing of knowledge that social media seeks to achieve?

Week Two: Fire and Brimstone

Ahh, the second week. How to discuss this without dragging AgentGenius down into the hell that is the health care debate? I don’t wish to talk about right or wrong, costs or savings, Republican or Democrat. I don’t want to get on a soapbox and tell you how you should feel, much less have you get on the pulpit and preach your opinion about it. There are plenty of places to discuss the bill and the hows and whys. Please check your opinions at the door. Our demon coat check will make sure your opinions are returned to you upon leaving this post.

So yes, I’m about to talk about something so heavily wrapped in politics that I’m going to try and avoid politics. This should be fun.

My worry is this. Social media is descending into an AOL chat room like firestorm of hatred and accusatory speech. The worst in human behavior is being let loose. Opinions are a great thing. Opinions filled with venomous rancor are not. I saw words like dumb masses, stupid people, uneducated slobs, and even God hating slung around as if we were fighting each other and not talking about the health care bill. In a sense, I can understand the anger and fervor with which people took their stances, but to call the other side stupid? Have we not let go of the days on the merry-go-round yet?

The childish name calling and flame-war-inducing baiting that is going on sickens me. We are better than this, are we not? When it comes to real estate agents, I would hope for even more (I believe in our industry…blah, blah, blah), yet time and time again, I saw agents from around the country turn into vehement mouthpieces for their respective side. Again I stress; opinions – yes, venomous rancor – no. There is a marked difference in the two.

You should have beliefs and you should truly have a passion for them. You’ll get no argument from me there, but to broad brushstroke the opposing beliefs with commentary of a baseless nature and fling personal attacks and insults of one’s intelligence or religious belief? Seriously?

“But, I never said…”

Of course most will read this and comment how they did tweet useful things from SXSWi or would never say those things during the health care debate. For many of you, I know this to be true. This isn’t a one-on-one attack against the readers and writers at AgentGenius, but it is an assault on those that (wittingly or not) destroy the social media ideas of openness, discussion, and free thinking. Social media can bring out the worst in people, much like Myspace, AOK chat rooms, and IRC have in the past. Is this where we want it to go? Or do we believe that there is more to life than brand-sponsored parties and political-bashing? Social media is what you make it…what you put out there today, becomes your path for tomorrow – what will it be for you?

photo of Auguste Rodin’s La Porte de l’Enfer (Gates of Hell) courtesy of Screwtape

Matt is a former PA-based rockstar turned real estate agent with RE/MAX Access in San Antonio, TX. He was asked to join AgentGenius to provide a look at the successes and trials of being a newer agent. His consumer-based outlook on the real estate business has helped him see things from both sides. He is married to a wonderful woman from England who makes him use the word "rubbish."

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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. nanette labastida

    March 23, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    i can imagine from the outside it would be hard to filter any actual info from sxswi – the social stuff was actually very fun & kinda useful from here, the social world expanded when you couldn’t be at every event, or to find out the event you wanted to get to asap, where the good networking friend making was happing .
    there were a lot of tweets from the talks and panels, was helpful knowing the individual hashtag.
    SXSWi is such a frenzy of fast paced activity, i think the best information will be found in people’s blogs/wrap ups of the event. when they have had time to soak in and process and organize all the insane stuff going on.
    or it was just a big party
    but connections were made and that counts.

    • Justin Boland

      March 23, 2010 at 4:32 pm

      “i think the best information will be found in people’s blogs/wrap ups of the event. when they have had time to soak in and process and organize all the insane stuff going on.”

      Amen.

      Synthesis takes a little time. The immediacy of “remote viewing” an event like SXSW is more of a novelty than it is useful. This week there’s already been a few excellent reads from post-SXSW bloggers — I especially dug Umair Haque’s latest.

      The SXSW chatter is mostly just noise, though. TED is exactly the same way. Seeing people’s 140 character impressions is barely interesting, but once the videos of the actual talks go up, that’s a much more meaningful kind of “Access.”

  2. Joe Loomer

    March 23, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    “I thought we’d see a Twitter stream full of bright, inventive, new thinking…”

    Did I misunderstand, Matt, or where you seriously hoping to get deep insight into what where most likely in-depth subjects via a 140 character twitter micro-blog? I think Nanette hit this on the head – if the blogging stream is not refreshed and vibrant post-convention with the relevant knowledge revealed in a more comprehensive way, then it apparently was a party break and not worth the attendance fee.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  3. Melanie Wyne

    March 23, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Matt,

    Great post. IMHO social media is a lot like politics. If its done right, it is a democracy. You have the option to choose who you follow/friend/link and who you don’t. People are who they are in life and in social media. There is plenty of good stuff out there and interesting people producing useful/thoughtful content. And if interesting content is not your thing…you can find out what someone had for breakfast. You choose. If you don’t want to read their stuff unfollow/unfriend/de-link. (You can even mute someone for a period of time. That’s what I did during SXSW.) The best part is you can do it instantly.You don’t have to wait around for the next election.

  4. Duke Long

    March 23, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Matt,
    Copy of a (ironic) tweet of mine from this week.
    I think twitter has peaked…going back to the street!!! #CRE
    9:43 PM Mar 20th via TweetDeck

  5. Michael Bertoldi

    March 23, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    I guess I can see your concern, but I agree with you when you say social media is what you make it. A lot of my own social media practice has come from a brand standpoint, but from a personal perspective, I don’t follow that many people. I especially don’t bother with those who bash someone else’s personal beliefs or political party. If that comes on my radar, and again, and again, I unfollow.

    My twitter use is mostly for business and professional growth. I follow people like you and other real estate agents or I follow a circle of social media and marketing experts because that’s my field. I don’t use it for chit chat very much and to me, if you’re bashing a political stance, it’s chit chat. I tend to use facebook more for friends I actually know or have met.

    I recently went to Social Fresh, a social media conference with some pretty big names in the social media realm. I found it pretty interesting, learned a little, and was motivated a lot. Sometimes you may not learn all that much, but it’s somewhat of a refresher and motivates you to go back home and put what you learned – or were reminded that you know – into practice.

    From a stream point of view, I try to tweet “nuggets” from the speakers. If I think something was a good point, I’ll tweet it. Hopefully you’ll read it and say “good point.” Then, it might stick with you. Kind of like a good quote. All you’ve got to do is figure out how to use it.

    Just my two cents…

  6. Matthew Rathbun

    March 24, 2010 at 6:53 am

    Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re better than this…

    When Twitter was new there was a sense of civility for most. The groups were small and you were trying to voice an opinion while being sensitive your your small following. Now that it’s larger, any opinion will find a backer. Once most people feel they have support from at least one person – than they feel they are justified and the comments and feedback escalates.

    I think this applies to comment streams too. We’ve all become a bit too familiar with each other.

  7. Gregg Collum

    March 24, 2010 at 7:10 am

    I understand your comments on the social media side of things.I have started to utilize and come into some understanding about the importance of SM. I also agree about not personally attacking someones personal beliefs or affiliations.

    But what I have discovered in my years of travel and my tenure as a military man, is that there are way too many people out there trying to be politically correct. There are way too many “wandering generalities instead of meaningful specifics”. If someone CHOOSES to express themselves in a way that may be offensive to someone else, so be it. I may not agree with the way it was written BUT I applaud them for their guts to express themselves in what is still a free speech country. I fought for that persons right to be a jerk or offensive.

    I have Russian friends who were jailed for 10 years in the former Soviet Union for writing about democracy, free speech etc.

    The words you saw/read maybe from people that are so angered about what is happening to his/her country that they don’t know a more eloquent way of expressing themselves. I too am mad as hell about what is happening to MY COUNTRY.

    Your final comment in quotations –“but it is an assault on those that (wittingly or not) destroy the social media ideas of openness, discussion, and free thinking.” — They are not destroying SM ideology (if one exists) but simply expressing themselves. Those people right or wrong in their writings still have the right to rant as they see fit.

    FREE SPEECH IS STILL FREE SPEECH. If I don’t like what I read or subscribe to– I move on.

  8. Jason Keath

    March 24, 2010 at 8:23 am

    SXSWi is the super barcamp of social media conferences. Meaning there is little currating of content quality, nor guidance of topics. It is best served for the quality niche topics covered and the networking. Want the hard details of the business? Go to a smaller more focused conference.

    • Benn Rosales

      March 24, 2010 at 11:19 am

      Uh, no it isn’t. It’s a technology conference/music/film conference with sm is ONE of hundreds of topics being discussed at the same time. As someone that lives in Austin and is in Tech, and has attended numerous SXSW conferences, I would leave Austin and never return if it ever became a giant barcamp for social media egos.

  9. Dan Connolly

    March 24, 2010 at 11:18 am

    I agree that free speech is incredibly important and I think that we forget about the unfollow option. If you don’t like the tone of the comments, unfollow! When I find a poster who likes to resort to name calling etc to make a point, I just don’t read their posts or engage in the conversation.

    It’s like the woman’s bumper sticker that says: “Life is too short to dance with ugly men”

  10. Benn Rosales

    March 24, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Here’s the thing about SXSW Matt:

    Folks in my stream all realized even we were being flooded with goings on during SXSW – so I like most stopped tweeting unless we were focused locally.

    If you haven’t attended SXSWi it’s really really large, but the sessions are incredibly intimate, seating is mostly 75 to 120 unless it’s a keynote.

    The greenroom for SXSW only holds 40 people, and that would include panels as well, but that’s about how many sessions are occuring at any given time – I did not enjoy the greenroom, no food.

    There are breakfasts, brunches, lunches, and evening parties all day long, every day- this is where most of the online chatter is coming from.

    In the sessions, because some of what you’re hearing is dry out of context if you’re not a software engineer, or a mega company getting a lecture on the virtues of privacy, a tweet contextually may fly over your head because it’s not digested and articulated with all aspects supporting it.

    The sessions I attended were high level, not much of the same ol mumbo jumbo you hear from so called gurus, but numbers and stats that dont make much of a tweet.

    Unfortunately, for those that tried to tweet sessions probably missed a good portion of the real content because they felt they knew everything already and could tweet it without really pondering the ramifications of the data being presented- this is the saddest part of the conf.

    If I had my way, the entire conf center would be blacked out from tweeting all together and really force so-called thought leaders to go home an really digest and vet the information they’re hearing, otherwise, they’re just publishing hearsay with stolen context and facts.

    I didn’t attend sxsw to be seen or heard, I went to learn, and discern. sorry, that’s what the parties are for, but even then, I really just went for the free beer.

  11. Real Estate SEO Tim O'

    March 24, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Disappointing? Have you read any of the social media books? Pretty light weight I must say.
    So to see these leaders in a room and get anything else is not a surprise to me.
    But I am a Social Media heretic. It has its place, not just as big as everyone is making it.
    To expect people to behave any differently than anywhere else on passionate issues is silly. As mentioned before you have a just a few words you are allowed to say so how intelligent can they be? Whether discussing politics or the media itself.

  12. Missy

    March 24, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Matthew, my favorite place to be on any debate night or election night is Twitter. Why? I love the fast pace of the comments, from both sides. Yes, some folks get vile, but that is America.

    If I am on a trending topic than most are not my followers or I them. So I just watch, and RT when someone has a cool tweet.

  13. Helen Young

    February 27, 2012 at 10:13 am

    I have to agree with Missy! Twitter all the way. 🙂

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Social Media

Instagram now lets you create and share fundraisers

(SOCIAL MEDIA) If you’ve been wanting to start a fundraiser for something you care about, Instagram’s new feature lets you do just that. Go check it out!

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Instagram Fundraiser

Instagram announced last week that it has launched a test for a Personal Fundraiser tool on its platform. The feature will allow users to start their own fundraiser if it complies with guidelines or choose an existing cause to support. The launch began in some US, UK, and Ireland markets and is available on Android and iOS.

In its announcement, the company confirmed that since January, more than $100 million has been raised for COVID-19 across Facebook and Instagram (also owned by Facebook), citing that donations on Instagram have doubled in the US in the past 30 days. The announcement said, “from people raising money to buy medical equipment for Black Lives Matter protesters, rebuilding Black-owned small businesses affected by COVID-19 and funding educational resources related to racial justice, people are eager to mobilize around causes they care about.”

Personal Fundraisers are short-term and meant to serve time-sensitive causes, with the initial duration lasting 30 days with the option to extend for an additional 30 days. Users must be 18 to create a fundraiser and have a designated bank account in which funds can be deposited. Donations will be processed through Facebook Pay, which also powers Instagram’s new shopping features. The platform covers fees for non-profits, but not for Personal Fundraisers. Donors can choose to keep their information hidden from the public, but organizers will be able to see user names and donation amounts.

To start a Personal Fundraiser, users with access to the feature can tap “Edit Profile”, “Add Fundraiser”, followed by “Raise Money”. They can then choose a photo, select the fundraiser category, and write out a story to encourage donations. When approved, users will be able to raise funds.

Instagram says it will expand the number of users who have access to this feature in the months ahead, as well as give users access to share fundraisers both in their Feed and within Stories. Fundraising features already offered by the company include Donation Stickers for Stories and a Live Donations feature for live streams.

This feature is similar to the fundraising feature already available on Facebook, Instagram’s parent company.

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Social Media

Should you be Facebook friends with your boss?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Are there times when it makes sense to connect with your boss and team on Facebook? Or is LinkedIn enough?

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facebook friends

Just as we learn, grow, and change in life, so does our use of social media platforms and technology in general. It makes sense though – when hot new programs come out and “everybody’s doing it” (thinking of you MySpace and Plaxo), it’s easy to create a user profile to see what you think of the platform.

You may be a heavy user at first (looking at you Facebook) and then back off, only to use it for certain functions (Groups and Events for example). In the interim, you may have joined Instagram because for some reason it seemed simpler and light-hearted. And don’t let the new, shiny things coming out pass you by without at least seeing if you like them, or if they help entertain you and connect you to loved ones (looking at you Snapchat and TikTok).

Amongst some doubt of new or potential users in the mid-2000s after Facebook opened up to those outside of universities, we have to admit that Facebook has had a longevity that some of the other platforms have not. It allows you to keep your personal network in one place as well as your photos, significant dates, your career changes, events, and even see what your cousins are up to. It almost feels like once you’re invested, it’s hard to get out.

The thing is, there is definitely a grey area on who you accept as a “friend”. It really is up to each person’s comfort level on who they want to be connected to, and how much sharing they do on the platform. This article isn’t going to address Facebook privacy concerns and data sharing, but we do encourage you to look in to those if that is something that is important to you. It’s a similar idea with LinkedIn – some people are happy to connect with anyone and everyone, while others prefer to keep their connections to those they personally know and/or have worked with.

This story is addressing a question as it relates to an article in Inc. about whether or not is it’s ok for managers and employees to be “Facebook friends”, and some other tricky professional situations. We have to look at few things first, including the evolution of our use.

Since Facebook was made available to everyone, we have gone from a simple profile picture, relationship status (oof), and random updates about our breakfast/dentist appointments, to joining interest groups, sharing news articles, promoting brands and memes at a mind-boggling rate. Many people have considered deleting their Facebook profiles due to a high level of negativity, privacy concerns over their data and pictures, and how ultimately, scrolling your newsfeed can be a total time suck.

Many stay on because they are in groups (like super amazing, supportive, and popular ones such as Austin Digital Jobs) that they enjoy, and it’s a way to stay connected with others. This has felt true especially during COVID-19 where many people have lost their social outlets, networking opportunities, and have not been able to get together in person. Social media has also been a useful platform for small business owners and entrepreneurs to run a business page at minimal costs (free unless they run advertising), and reach out to customers. Facebook (owner of Instagram) also seems to have been making strides this year to better support small business owners.

So, should you be Facebook friends with your boss?

That is up to you (we are not here to tell you how to run your life) and while many have said, “Nope” in a super unofficial survey of 30 respondents, there were a couple of interesting perspectives:

“Since I’m my boss, twist on my answer… I don’t yes any professional that asks to be FB friends. That’s what my page is for. I even have a canned response that says this because I get so many asks. My personal FB is for actual friends of mine. I didn’t want to yes my MIL either. I have her on the restricted list.”

“I guess it depends. I’m friends with my boss and most of my coworkers. Creative shop within a corporation … about 45 strong. We are tight.”

“If you love your job and you love your boss then I think it is ok. I work 2 part-time jobs and both of my bosses are amazing! I am friends and Facebook friends with both of them.”

“I’m fine. I don’t post much on Facebook anymore. My bosses are all fairly chill. ”

“I have been Facebook friends with previous bosses while they were my boss. I am not with my current boss, but I’d be fine with it if we were. I don’t post anything too crazy, and I tend to over share in the office already. I like to be an open book. Tiktok would be different though… ”

For some who are part of a start-up or smaller team where collaboration and getting to know one another  are supported (thinking teams of 10 or less, hey AG Staff Writers), this may be more of the ‘norm’ and acceptable. However, the majority of people do not want to be “Facebook friends” with their boss to draw a line between work and personal sharing. Many people also mentioned that it varied if they chose to be Facebook friends with their colleagues, although they seem to be more open to colleagues vs. direct supervisors.

This seems to reflect back on how you use Facebook and if sharing your weekend or family photos is not something you want everyone to see. On the flip side, if you’re not sharing much, maybe you’d be OK with being connected there. A more professional way of connecting with your supervisor and others at work is through LinkedIn, and is in fact, highly encouraged.

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Could TikTok soon be banned in the U.S for privacy breaching?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) TikTok, a video content social media giant, has been deemed a potential national security risk by the U.S Federal government.

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TikTok is banned

U.S lawmakers are calling for a full investigation into TikTok, the fifteen second video app with almost 180 million downloads, after expressing concerns of a privacy breach by the Chinese government.

TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, purchased the platform originally known as musical.ly in November 2017. Since then the social media app worth an estimated $150 billion has almost 180 million downloads in the U.S, and 800 million downloads worldwide.

According to Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, the U.S has reason to believe the Beijing-based company, ByteDance, may have been coerced into handing over data to China’s communist leaders. The app’s Founder, Zhang Yiming, and TikTok’s spokesperson responded to the accusations with the following statement: “TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”

We don’t know if we believe you TikTok.

TikTok received over 500 legal demands, including emergency requests, in the first six months of 2020. TikTok has also previously confirmed that the app stores user data on “U.S-based servers” withdrawn from phone downloads. Information includes IP addresses, messages, location information, and according to Pompeo, “sensitive information”, exposed by data breaching that disregards American rights to privacy and potentially violates national security guidelines.

Company employees may live in the U.S, but with its head of operations stationed in Beijing, pressure from the Chinese Government to provide user information is a very serious concern for Americans using the app. 41 percent of its users are part of Generation Z, a highly influential, social media-friendly age group, ranging between 16 and 24.

A sense of invincibility within this age range encourages users to use the app without caution of personal information that may be provided or derived off your phone after installation. In the past two years, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have also been criticized for not abiding to lawful privacy standards.

ByteDance has halted the use of its corporate office in Beijing and is looking to establish headquarters within the U.S or under new management.

The U.S. government is seriously considering banning the use of TikTok.

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