When Sandra Hassan created the I Am Alive app, her intention was mostly dark humor. A 26-year-old graduate student in Paris, Hassan had gotten sick of worrying about family and friends whenever she heard news of a suicide bombing in her hometown of Beirut. A detonation on January 21, in the same neighborhood where a car bomb had exploded just three weeks earlier, spurred her to action. In what she describes as an “expression of discontent,” Hassan developed an app that allows users, with one touch, to tweet a reassuring message to their followers: “I am still alive! #Lebanon #LatestBombing.”
The app quickly caught on: within a month, it was downloaded more than 5,000 times.
Read more. [Image: James Walton]
Social media companies constantly collect data on their users because that’s how they provide customized experiences and target their advertisements. All Twitter and Facebook users know this, and there is a broad array of feelings about how good or bad the persistent tracking of their social relationships is.
What we do know, though, is that—when they want to—they are aware of how to go behind the machine’s back. They know how to communicate with just the humans without tipping their intentions to the algorithm.
In a new paper, University of North Carolina sociologist Zeynep Tufekci explores some of these strategies among Turkish protesters. She looks at these behaviors as analytical challenges for researchers who are trying to figure out what’s going on. “Social media users engage in practices that alter their visibility to machine algorithms, including subtweeting, discussing a person’s tweets via ‘screen captures,’ and hate-linking,” Tufekci writes. “All these practices can blind big data analyses to this mode of activity and engagement.”
The same practices, though, from the user perspective, can be understood as strategies for communicating without being computed. All they require to execute is thinking like an algorithm.
Read more. [Image: Renee Magritte via Wikimedia Commons/The Atlantic]
“My superior is a gamer.” Sister Helena Burns said, laughing. “You know you’re a media nun when your superior is a gamer.”
You might not expect nuns to be experts on Twitter, Facebook, and multi-player video games, but Burns defies all expectations. With 13,790 Twitter followers and counting, the Daughter of St. Paul calls herself a “media nun”: A woman religious with a calling to communicate the word of Christ, in any way she can.
And yes, there is a gamer-superior in her convent.
“She has this souped-up computer,” Burns continued. “She gets her own little ministry out there. Once people get to know she’s a nun, they have questions, or they ask for prayers. But you do have to clean up your language when Sister Irene’s out there.”
I imagine Sister Irene sitting in front of a sleek desktop with neon LED backlights, wearing her bright yellow Grado headphones and concentrating intensely on a multi-player RPG. It’s a funny image—there’s such a symbolic disconnect between the stereotypical idea of a nun and a basement-dwelling teenager who loves World of Warcraft. That’s what’s so fascinating about these sisters and their order: They defy stereotypes about who participates in Internet culture, and how.
So how does a nun use social media?
Read more. [Image courtesy of Helena Burns]
The Like button is older than you think. Well, sort of.
Back in the 1930s, Dr. Nevil Monroe Hopkins, a research engineer at NYU, had an idea: He wanted to allow consumers of the mass medium of the time—the radio—to offer feedback about the stuff they were hearing on their newfangled machines. He wanted people to be able to do what the average user of Facebook or Pandora or Instagram takes for granted today: to express pleasure at something. Or dissatisfaction, for that matter. Hopkins was looking for a way for people to vote about the stuff on their radios. Using their radios.
And thus was born … the “radiovota.”
Read more. [Image: Radio-Craft Magazine via Gizmodo]
On the Monday morning after Daylight Saving Time kicks in, we’re both groggier and happier—or, at least, that’s what Facebook says.
The insight comes from the company’s Data Science team, which works with proprietary information gleamed from the statuses written by millions of Facebook users. They were published in a blog post today.
On the Monday morning after Daylight Saving Time (DST) began this year, 25 percent more Americans told Facebook they were tired than would do the same on a usual Monday. Likewise, instances of “sleepy” and “exhausted” were both up.
By the afternoon, however, people reported their sleepiness at normal rates. You can see that on the graph above—“feeling tired” spikes in the morning but falls in the afternoon.
Read more. [Image: Facebook Data Science Team]
Young women who placed importance on comments and likes, and regularly untagged photos of themselves, were at greater risk.
Read more. [Image: birgerking/Flickr]
“Twitter is the best and Twitter is the worst.”
This was the response Dr. Marion Underwood, clinical psychologist and University of Texas at Dallas psychology professor, received from one of her 15-year-old daughter’s friends when she asked what the girl thought of the social networking juggernaut.
“I can’t get off of it,” the girl elaborated. “I can’t stop getting on Twitter.”
If these sound like the words of an “addict,” it’s because they (at least kind of) are. Underwood was inspired to take her informal poll after watching the teen in question spend the entirety of her daughter’s birthday party glued to her phone, reading and sending tweets. What’s more, she says that social media can be highly addictive. Millennials are perpetually accused of self-centeredness, but it isn’t self-promotion, in and of itself, that they’re addicted to, Underwood says. It’s the positive reinforcement they receive from peers for doing it. For some teens, however, there’s a source of reinforcement even more addictive—and elusive—than their peers: their favorite celebrities.
Read more. [Image: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP]
We fill the human-shaped void with 225 percent more Facebook interactions.
Read more. [Image: Facebook]
Facebook might understand your romantic prospects better than you do.
In a blog post published yesterday, the company’s team of data scientists announced that statistical evidence hints at budding relationships before the relationships start.
As couples become couples, Facebook data scientist Carlos Diuk writes, the two people enter a period of courtship, during which timeline posts increase. After the couple makes it official, their posts on each others’ walls decrease—presumably because the happy two are spending more time together.
Read more. [Image: Facebook]