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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

Has your Twitter account been hacked by ISIS?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) ISIS is using Twitter, as always, to spread propaganda, but are they using *your* account to do it? Maybe.

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twitter accounts hacked by ISIS

Hackers aligned with the Islamic State are hijacking dormant Twitter accounts to spread jihadist propaganda online. Is your account vulnerable to ISIS?

TechCrunch reports that the breach is the result of a well-known loophole in Twitter’s security protocols. For more than a decade, the platform did not require email confirmation for new accounts. As a result, an unknown number of dormant accounts are easy targets for hackers. Last June, in attempt the curb the growth of automated spam accounts on the platform, Twitter instituted mandatory email confirmation for all new accounts, but millions of older accounts remain unverified. Now, it appears that those accounts are being targeted by the Islamic State and its supporters.

To complicate matters, Twitter is only partly to blame.

According to the Washington Post, Twitters boasted more than 330 million monthly active users in the second quarter of 2018, but the platform is home to another 500 million dead or dormant accounts, and many of those dormant accounts were created using email addresses that no longer exist.

Popular email providers like Hotmail and Yahoo regularly delete and recycle dormant accounts after a period of just 12-18 months of inactivity. If your Twitter account was created using an email address that has been recycled, then an enterprising hacker only needs to reactivate your old email address to gain access to your username.
Enter Islamic State.

Also known as IS or ISIS, Islamic State is a terrorist organization that uses revenue from oil smuggling, extortion, and kidnappings to fund religious violence. From 2014 to 2018, Islamic State conducted or inspired more than 140 terrorist attacks in 29 countries.

Since its inception, ISIS has used social media platforms including Twitter and YouTube to recruit new members and promote sectarian violence. In 2014, IS announced the death of American journalist and hostage James Foley by releasing a video of Foley’s beheading on YouTube. Two years later, an account associated with IS reportedly used the hashtag #JustinBieber to troll the pop star’s fans with a graphic video that included scenes of four men being executed.

Twitter has suspended or deleted more than 1 million terrorist accounts since 2015, and more than 200,000 of those accounts were removed in the first half of 2018 alone. So should you be worried about the security of your Twitter handles? That all depends on whether or not your accounts are linked to an active email address.

Log on. Check your setting. Delete any accounts that are linked to dead email addresses.

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The FBI has a new division to investigate leaks to the media

(MEDIA) The FBI has launched a division dedicated completely to investigating leaks, and the stats of their progress and formation are pretty surprising…

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Expanding its capability to investigate potential governmental leaks to the media, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) created a new unit to address those threats in 2018.

Documents obtained by TYT as a part of their investigation identify the need for the unit as being due to a “rapid” increase in the number of leaks to the media from governmental sources.

“The complicated nature of — and rapid growth in — unauthorized disclosure and media leak threats and investigations has necessitated the establishment of a new Unit,” one of the released and heavily redacted documents reads.

The FBI appeared to create accounting functions to support the new division, with one document dated in May 2018 revealing that a cost code for the new unit was approved by the FBI’s Resource Analysis Unit.

In August 2017, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions had stated that such a unit had already been formed to address such types of investigations, which he had deemed as being too few in number shortly after taking office in February 2017.

By November of the same year, Sessions claimed that the number of investigations by the Justice Department had increased by 800%, as the Trump administration sought to put an end to the barrage of leaks regarding both personnel and policy that appeared to come from within the ranks of the federal government.

The investigation and prosecution of leaks to the media from government reached a zenith under the Obama administration, using a United States law that originated over 100 years ago in 1917, and was long unused for such purposes.

The Espionage Act treats the unauthorized release of information deemed to be secret in the interests of national security and could be used to harm the interests of the United States or aid an enemy as a criminal act. While controversial in application, the administration used it to prosecute more than twice as many alleged leakers than had been addressed by all previous administrations combined, a total of 10 leak-related prosecutions.

In July 2018, Reality Winner, pled guilty to one felony count of leaking classified information in 2016, representing the first successful prosecution of those who leaked governmental secrets to the media under the Trump administration.

Winner, a former member of the Air Force and a contractor for the National Security Agency at the time of her arrest, was accused of sharing a classified report regarding alleged Russian involvement with the election of 2016 with the news media. Her agreed-upon sentence of 63 months in prison was longer than the average of those convicted for similar crimes, with the typical sentence ranging from one to three and a half years.

Defendants charged under the Espionage Act by the FBI are challenged in mounting their case by the fact that they are prohibited of using a defense of disclosure in the public interest as a defense to their actions.

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Social Media

MeWe – the social network for your inner Ron Swanson

MeWe, a new social media site, seems to offer everything Facebook does and more, but with privacy as a foundation of its business model. Said MeWe user Melissa F., “It’s about time someone figured out that privacy and social media can go hand in hand.”

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Let’s face it: Facebook is kind of creepy. Between facial recognition technology, demanding your real name, and mining your accounts for data, social media is becoming increasingly invasive. Users have looked for alternatives to mainstream social media that genuinely value privacy, but the alternatives to Facebook have been lackluster.

MeWe is poised to change all of that, if it can muster up a network strong enough to compete with Facebook. On paper, the new social media site seems to offer everything Facebook does and more, but with privacy as a foundation of its business model. Said MeWe user Melissa F., “It’s about time someone figured out that privacy and social media can go hand in hand.”

MeWe prioritizes privacy in every aspect of the site, and in fact, users are protected by a “Privacy Bill of Rights.” MeWe does not track, mine, or share your data, and does not use facial recognition software or cookies. (In fact, you can take a survey on MeWe to estimate how many cookies are currently tracking you – apparently I have 18 cookies spying on me!)

ron swanson

You don’t have to share that “as of [DATE] my content belongs to me” status anymore.

Everything you post on MeWe belongs to you – the site does not try to claim ownership over your content – and you can download your profile in its entirety at any time. MeWe doesn’t even pester you with advertising. Instead of making money by selling your data (hence the hashtag #Not4Sale) or advertising, the site plans to profit by offering additional paid services, like extra data and bonus apps.

So what does MeWe do? Everything Facebook does, and more. You can share photos and videos, send messages or live chat. You can also attach voice messages to any of your posts, photos, or videos, and you can create Snapchat-like disappearing content.

You can also sync your profile to stash content in your personal storage cloud. Everything you post is protected, and you can fine-tune the permission controls so that you can decide exactly who gets to see your content and who doesn’t – “no creepy stalkers or strangers.”

MeWe is available for Android, iOS, desktops, and tablets.

This story was originally published in January 2016, but the social network suddenly appears to be gaining traction.

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