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Social media’s ironic and desperately lonely outcome

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Social media has the power to connect people from all over the globe. Yet, there is an unprecedented amount of lonely people lurking on the screen.

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Social media has supposedly made us more connected than ever. We can keep up with family milestones, see pictures of our loved ones, and say hello to an old friend with the click of a button. So why does social media seem to make us feel so lonely?

Studies linking depression and poor emotional health to social media usage have been around for a while. However, these studies have been somewhat limited to surveys in which subjects self-report that using social media makes them depressed, as well as studies that correlate depression with social media without proving causation. In other words, a study might show that people who use social media more often and for longer hours are more likely to experience depression – however, such a study is a sort of chicken-and-egg question. Are people prowling the internet late at night because they’re bored, lonely, and depressed, or are they bored, lonely, and depressed because they’re online? Correlative studies can’t answer that question.

For the first time, researchers seem to have made a hard, causational link between social media use and emotional well-being. TechCrunch reports that Melissa Hunt, a researcher in the Penn State psychology department, has published a study in the latest Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology that suggests that limiting your exposure to social media improves your emotional well-being.

The study compared control and experimental groups of students. For three weeks, the control group continued using social media as they normally would, whereas the experimental group limited their social media usage to 10 minutes per day for three apps – Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. The study tested students for their “baseline” emotional health before the experiment, then tested them again afterward.

The results were clear. The group that limited their social media use “showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression.” Interestingly, both groups showed a decrease in anxiety and FOMO (yes, they actually tested for “fear of missing out,”) over the three weeks, suggesting that even being more aware that you’re using social media a lot led to self-monitoring that improved emotional health.

The study didn’t dig into why social media makes us sadder and lonelier, but previous studies suggest that using social media encourages “social comparison” that make us feel bad about ourselves. Seeing a constant feed of other peoples’ perfect vacations/cats/boyfriends/breakfasts makes us feel crummy about our own lives.

Even more importantly, using social media may give us the illusion that we’re engaging in a social activity when in fact we’re literally sitting alone in front of a computer. Limiting social media time forces us back into the present, into interacting with people IRL and engaging in the hobbies and activities that actually make us happy.

So if you’ve been feeling a little blue, you might want to start by logging off social media. Personally, I deleted all of my social media accounts years ago and saw a significant decrease in anxiety. I know I’m unlikely to convince anyone to take this bold move; Hunt was unable to research longer-term effects of limiting social media because she couldn’t compel enough subjects to come back for a second round. But this study lays the facts bare – at least limiting your daily intake of social media is a pretty surefire way to feel better.

The Penn State study did not find that limiting social media improved self-esteem or social support. In other words, logging off is just the first step. But once you’ve wrenched yourself away from the screen, you’ll actually have time and energy to spend time with friends face-to-face.

So remember next time you log in to Facebook to keep up with your “friends” – you’re only making yourself more lonely.

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Tech News

Daily Coding Problem keeps you sharp for coding interviews

(CAREER) Coding interviews can be pretty intimidating, no matter your skill level, so stay sharp with daily practice leading up to your big day.

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Whether you’re in the market for a new coding job or just want to stay sharp in the one you have, it’s always important to do a skills check-up on the proficiencies you need for your job. Enter Daily Coding Problem, a mailing list service that sends you one coding problem per day (hence the name) to keep your analytical skills in top form.

One of the founders of the service, Lawrence Wu, stated that the email list service started “as a simple mailing list between me and my friends while we were prepping for coding interviews [because] just doing a couple problems every day was the best way to practice.”

Now the service offers this help for others who are practicing for interviews or for individuals needing to just stay fresh in what they do. The problems are written by individuals who are not just experts, but also who aced their interviews with giants like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.

So how much would a service like this cost you? Free, but with further tiers of features for additional money. Like with all tech startups, the first level offers the basic features such as a single problem every day with some tricks and hints, as well as a public blog with additional support for interviewees. However, if you want the actual answer to the problem, and not just the announcement that you incorrectly answered it, you’ll need to pony up $15 per month.

The $15 level also comes with some neat features such as mock interview opportunities, no ads, and a 30 day money back guarantee. For those who may be on the job market longer, or who just want the practice for their current job, the $250 level offers unlimited mock interviews, as well as personal guidance by the founders of the company themselves.

Daily Coding Problem enters a field with some big players with a firm grasp on the market. Other services, like InterviewCake, LeetCode, and InterviewBit, offer similar opportunities to practice mock interview questions. InterviewCake offers the ability to sort questions by the company who typically asks them for that individual with their sights targeted on a specific company. InterviewBit offers referrals and mentorship opportunities, while LeetCode allows users to submit their own questions to the question pool.

If you’ve really got your eye on the prize of receiving that coveted job opportunity, Daily Coding Problem is a great way to add another tool in your tool box to ace that interview.

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Tech News

Quickly delete years of your stupid Facebook updates

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Digital clutter sucks. Save time and energy with this new Chrome extension for Facebook.

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When searching for a job, or just trying to keep your business from crashing, it’s always a good idea to scan your social media presence to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for failure with offensive or immature posts.

In fact, you should regularly check your digital life even if you’re not on the job hunt. You never know when friends, family, or others are going to rabbit hole into reading everything you’ve ever posted.

Facebook is an especially dangerous place for this since the social media giant has been around for over fourteen years. Many accounts are old enough to be in middle school now.

If you’ve ever taken a deep dive into your own account, you may have found some unsavory posts you couldn’t delete quickly enough.

We all have at least one cringe-worthy post or picture buried in years of digital clutter. Maybe you were smart from the get-go and used privacy settings. Or maybe you periodically delete posts when Memories resurfaces that drunk college photo you swore wasn’t on the internet anymore.

But digging through years of posts is time consuming, and for those of us with accounts older than a decade, nearly impossible.

Fortunately, a Chrome extension can take care of this monotonous task for you. Social Book Post Manager helps clean up your Facebook by bulk deleting posts at your discretion.

Instead of individually removing posts and getting sucked into the ensuing nostalgia, this extension deletes posts in batches with the click of a button.

Select a specific time range or search criteria and the tool pulls up all relevant posts. From here, you decide what to delete or make private.

Let’s say you want to destroy all evidence of your political beliefs as a youngster. Simply put in the relevant keyword, like a candidate or party’s name, and the tool pulls up all posts matching that criteria. You can pick and choose, or select all for a total purge.

You can also salt the earth and delete everything pre-whatever date you choose. I could tell Social Book to remove everything before 2014 and effectively remove any proof that I attended college.

Keep in mind, this tool only deletes posts and photos from Facebook itself. If you have any savvy enemies who saved screenshots or you cross-posted, you’re out of luck.

The extension is free to use, and new updates support unliking posts and hiding timeline items. Go to town pretending you got hired on by the Ministry of Truth to delete objectionable history for the greater good of your social media presence.

PS: If you feel like going full scorched Earth, delete everything from your Facebook past and then switch to this browser to make it harder for Facebook to track you while you’re on the web.

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Tech News

Google’s reCaptcha better secures sites, but comes with wild privacy risks

(TECHNOLOGY) Google has made some serious advances when it comes to reCaptchas, and they’re extremely impressive. Unless you value your privacy…

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Check here if you are not a robot. If you are not a robot, can you read this nonsensical string of letters and numbers that looks like it’s been wrung out like a wet towel? Can you choose the picture of a car out of these nine street scenes?

Over the years, Google has come up with a number of ways to verify that internet users, especially when signing into accounts, are not, in fact, bots. The most up-to-date system, reCaptcha v3, stands to big up web security, but comes with some serious privacy compromises.

The new reCaptcha is invisible to the user. No more clicking through pictures of street signs and dogs. According to Cy Khormaee, product lead for reCaptcha, “Everyone has failed a Captcha,” but from now on, users will no longer have to worry about it.

That’s because the new reCaptcha v3 detects bots by analyzing a user’s navigation of the site itself. Unusual or malicious actions generate a higher risk score. Website administrators receive users’ risk scores, and can respond according by, for example, requiring further verification from suspicious users.

This new method should make it much more difficult for bots to crack a site, because mimicking a whole string of human behaviors is much more complicated that breaking the old Captchas.

Over 4 million sites are still using the old Captchas, while 65,000 new sites are testing out reCaptcha v3. While some sites will display the reCaptcha logo at the bottom of the page, you mostly won’t be able to tell which sites are using the new service.

One major trade off is consumer privacy. As part of assessing a user’s risk score, reCaptcha v3 checks to see if you already have Google’s cookie installed – the one that allows you to open new tabs without re-signing in to Google. The logic is that, if you have a Google account, you are more likely to be a real person. The downside is that this means that Google is receiving data from every site you visit that uses reCaptcha v3.

And what will they do with this data? Google told Fast Company that reCaptcha gathers “hardware and software information, including device and application data” and that this data was used only “to fight spam and abuse.” They claim that data won’t be used to target advertising to users.

As of yet, Google’s Terms of Service does not include any language about reCaptcha. Once again, consumers have nothing more than the good word of the corporation to trust when it comes to their privacy.

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