Friday, June 24, 2011

Social Networks Are Not The Culprit

There have been enough posts, tweets and articles written about Anthony Weiner... So much so that I promised myself that I would not add my two cents. Enough has already been said – right? Probably. But there can never be enough said about sexting, no matter who the culprit is..

We have fallen into what I like to call a “false sense of security” when it comes to technology and social networks. In spite of the privacy warnings by countless media professionals, we still feel safe posting almost anything and everything. Just because it is “my cell phone,” “my twitter account” or “my Facebook page” doesn’t mean that it’s private. It’s almost as if everything is public record. I’m reminded of the first time I typed my address into the Google search box and there was a clear, crisp image of my house with my car parked in the driveway.

There’s a lesson to be learned by all from Anthony Weiner, and the lesson is this; do not post anything on the Internet that you will be embarrassed to admit if questioned about it. Weiner obviously isn’t the only one posting sexually suggestive photos on the Internet. A recent study revealed that young adult men and women are sending or posting nude or semi-nude images of themselves.

• 33% of young adults
• 36% of young adult women
• 31% of young adult men

The following young adults are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages:
• 59% of all young adults
• 56% of young adult women
• 62% of young adult men
• 64% of young adults say they have received such messages

The question I would ask these young adults is this – Do you ever think about the impact sexting might have on you ten years from now? A few things to think about prior to posting what one considers to be a private tweet:

• Think about the impact of your tweet
• Does your post have the potential to damage your credibility
• Will your post affect others in a negative way?
• Can you own up to your tweet?
• Will a post or tweet that is sent privately cause you to lie should the content of the tweet become exposed to the public?
• Can this negatively impact the future of your career?

One could almost understand “sexting” by youth. Many are carefree and at times might not necessarily understand the consequences of their actions. However; for adults, I dare to suggest that better judgment should be in effect, especially the career professional that is responsible for making decisions that affect a large population. Some are quick to blame social networks and blast the privacy or rather the lack of privacy across social media. Social Media is not the culprit, the user of it is. Suffice it to say, it all comes down to common sense. Nothing is private as it relates to information that is shared on the Internet.

When I travel, I even find myself wondering if there are cameras inside our hotel rooms, the bathrooms… I question privacy on a daily basis. The same could be said about apps such as Foursquare and Facebook’s “Places.” We are literally throwing our privacy out the window. Many have adapted such a false sense of security that we unashamedly will post and tweet our whereabouts to the world – naive to the fact that we ourselves are opening the doors to self-violation and violation of our family and friends. Not to mention putting our selves at risk of criminal acts against us.

Have we become so narcissistic that we truly believe that others want to know what we eat, where we eat, where we party, what we’re watching, what we’re wearing or not wearing? The narcissistic mentality is destroying families, friendships and relationships.

There was a great post written by Ari Herzon in Social Media Today entitled “Does Twitter Breed Narcissism?” In this article it is revealed that a study published by Rutgers University states that on Twitter alone, the “majority of the updates are self-centered and the writers are less interactive with others.” Lovers of social media have adapted to this mentality. Although I would have to say that I find Twitter to be not as self-centered as the study suggests. All day tweets come across my feed by writers engaging one another in conversation. A simple RT is a conversation and an acknowledgement to the writer as if to say… job well done. Narcissism is fine in this realm of social media; it’s what drives the average social network user. However, when it is used in a way that has the potential to hurt others and damage your credibility, then you’ve crossed the line. As written by Alfonso Wyatt “Technology will not forgive or forget.” So much of what we say and what others say about us goes into what Jeffrey Rosen refers to as a “digital file,” as written in his NY Times article “The Web Means the End of Forgetting.”

Let’s take a look at the bigger picture of life. And while we want to share ourselves with the twitterverse, ask yourself is the image I want to be remembered by? There is a great lesson to be learned by the Weinergate scandal… what have you learned?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Making Social Networks Family Friendly

I’m finally settled under the dryer, the heat coming from the hair dryer is at a nice comfortable temperature. It’s soothing and if I don’t start this blog post now, I’ll be napping in a moment. The writer’s den is now open – well at least for the next thirty-five to forty minutes.

In a recent interview between Disney CEO Bob Iger and Kara Swisher at the All Things Digital Conference as reported on Huffington Post website, Iger apparently shared thoughts about social networks for kids. In February, 2011, Disney purchased “Togetherville,” a social network for children. Although the purchase was made earlier this year, Disney, as stated to Swisher, has no plans to create its own social network in the near future.

A recent survey by Consumer Reports revealed that of the 20 million minors that actively used Facebook in the past year, 7.5 million of them were under the age of 13. And more disturbingly is the fact that more than 5 million were under the age of 10. I share these numbers to help bring awareness to the fact that kids are already using social networks. They’re using social networks at an alarmingly high rate that seems to rise daily. In recent days I’ve noticed posts and questions about kids and whether or not there should be a kids only social network. There are naysayers out there concerned about how a kid’s social network might be a hindrance and actually prevent kids from learning healthy “face-to-face” social skills. Others suggest that it opens the door for pedophiles to have easy access to children and my favorite – a social network for kids will keep them “glued” to their cell phones and computers. Consumer Reports has indicated that 1 million underage children have been the victim of harassment and cyber bullying on Facebook alone in this past year. It almost seems as if the concern, while valid, is a mute point. Children are already on social networks, so why not design a site that is kid friendly and age appropriate?

I absolutely understand the concern and most importantly the fear of pedophiles having greater
access to kids is scary. However, as adults, we cannot abstain from our responsibilities of holding kids accountable and monitoring their actions. If a 10 year-old is given a cell phone to use while her parents/guardians are at work, then that same cell phone should be taken away at bedtime or during the hours when the family is safely home together. This has almost become a “taboo” subject. The idea of implying that parents, teachers, mentors and other adult figures should take a more proactive role in monitoring young people has sparked several debates. I’m not a parent, so I will not throw a stone and this post is not to judge. However, I ask the question, is it such a bad idea to create a social network for kids? Do we have the same concerns each time we give kids a computer, cell phone and Internet access? A social network for kids is not the issue; it’s how we proactively make sure that youth are involved in other activities.

The social activities don’t have to cease. Enroll youth in dance classes, golf, tennis and music. This is the start of summer and for New Yorkers that means lots of FREE activities such as movies in the park, Shakespeare, Museum Mile festival, dancing on the pier or a simple picnic in the park. As adults, we really can set the standard and turn off our own cell phones and computers. Decline the urge to tweet or update our Facebook status and use that time to help create balance in the lives of young people. Youth have time to keep their heads buried behind a computer screen, cell phone and Xbox because they have nothing else to fill their time with. Integrate their day-to-day activities into their social networking activities. Hold them accountable and in turn you hold yourself accountable. Disney successfully made their brand as successful because it truly was about “family.” Disney, should the company ever decide to launch a kid’s social network, has that same potential to succeed. Well, I don’t want to write a book on the subject… or who knows, maybe I do. Either way, it’s food for thought. And, we don’t have to wait for a kids only social network, there are 7.5 million kids on Facebook alone now, not to mention other social networks such as Twitter, You Tube and yes, even My Space. So, let’s build from there.

Here are some ways you can strengthen the social network bond with youth:

• Create a family page that allows young people to connect with cousins, aunts, uncles and siblings.
• Create a community page where other members of the community connect to provide updates on the latest events in the community. Schedule bowling and movie night.
• Create a private photo album that can be shared with classmates, teachers, local girl and boy scouts.
• Create a blog and write about your experience on social networks and how it differs from face-to-face interaction.
• Take a html and Application development course with your child. Conceptualize an App that you would like to see on social networks and work together to develop one.

These are just some examples. Social networks do not have to exclude family members. If used creatively, it could bring family members together, especially family and close friends who live out of state.

Well, it’s time for me to close up shop and sit in the stylist chair. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. Until the next time… have a great day!

All Things Digital Conference Photo credit MathAt/

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"Transparent:" It's More Than Sexuality

The beauty parlor has truly become my new virtual office. It must be the baritone whirling sound of the hot air dryer, or the huge purple rollers pinned tightly to my scalp or simply knowing that in less than an hour’s time I will feel brand new. To me, the beauty parlor is a metamorphosis, a time of renovation and renewal. I walk through those doors feeling the weight of the world and walk out ready to face the world… well, for at least the next 7 days. Then it’s back to the beauty parlor. For those of you who don’t know, what I call the beauty parlor is what many of you call the “hair salon.” Either way, it’s my place of rejuvenation and what has now become my writer’s den.

Since May 16, 2011, the trending topic across media platforms has been about CNN anchor, Don Lemon openly revealing that he is gay. In his memoir “Transparent,” Lemon shares details about his career, life and for the first time, publicly reveals his sexuality. In recent weeks, many have written blog posts and articles that focused entirely on his “coming out.” Lemon has used Social Networks to tweet with his fans, friends and supporters about his sexuality. I feel as if I was among the first to have read the book. But my curiosity wasn’t to find any lewd, intimate details about the sexual molestation Lemon experienced as a child. No, I wanted to know about Don Lemon the multiple Emmy award-winning journalist. I can’t help but think that Lemon’s professional accomplishments and hurdles that he’s so diligently overcome, have been lost in all the media coverage about his sexuality.

This book is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in broadcast journalism. “Transparent” is not just a book about a man coming out of the closet. In fact, there is only one chapter in which Lemon actually speaks in depth about his sexual orientation. When I share my opinion to others about how I believe the rich content of Lemon’s academic and professional triumphs are actually lost by his “coming out,” the immediate feedback I receive is that Lemon chose to reveal his sexuality in this way in order to increase book sales. Call me na├»ve, but I refuse to believe that. However, the businesswoman inside of me has not completely cast that thought aside.

The truth of the matter is “Transparent” is sort of a “coming of age” type of book. The man behind the desk at CNN studio has a story that I believe will impact the lives of many. He is a man on a mission and I appreciate his Transparency.

Well, the dryer has stopped and the part of my brain that is used for intricate thinking has also seemingly stopped. So there it is, the closed sign to my virtual office has been placed on the door and the den is officially closed… until my next appointment at the beauty parlor.