Sep 15

How I Learned To Stop Hating And Love The Facebook


I used to hate Facebook.

Well, first I loved it. Those first few months after I created an account were magical, at least from a social media perspective.

I re-connected with people who I thought I would never see again, let alone talk to. They were friends I grew up with, went to school with, worked with.

It became a convenient way to stay in touch without having to see them in person, which was nice, because quite a few of them lived in other states.

Facebook was the ideal solution for personal interaction in a world where we spend a lot of time not interacting with people.  If you went a few weeks or months without seeing a friend, you could log into Facebook and immediately be brought up-to-date on what was happening in their life.

It was nice. It was easy.

But somewhere along the way, something changed, and the fact that all of this was so easy was probably the reason.

Facebook’s tentacles began to spread beyond its digital roots. I found myself having more and more conversations with people about what they had read on Facebook, as opposed to what they were actually doing.

“Did you see what so-and-so posted yesterday?” I would hear.

“I haven’t seen her house, but I saw the pictures posted on Facebook” others would say.

This tool that enabled us to stay in touch was now becoming the de facto way of staying in touch, and there was something very, very wrong about that.

So, in true blogger fashion, I started writing about Facebook. A lot.

And when I got fed up — I don’t remember the straw that broke the camel’s back — I deleted my account. And, again, in true blogger fashion, I wrote about why I deleted my Facebook account.

For four months, I was fine. Proud, even. I had managed to laugh in the face of the world’s largest social networking service.

One billion people could be wrong.

When I read about users complaining about a new site design or algorithm change, I smiled smugly to myself, secure in the fact that I had stuck it to the authority and didn’t have to waste my time worrying about trivial matters.

I was free and clear of all of that manufactured drama. I could now focus on the important matters in life.

But then it struck me that conversing with those long-lost friends and relatives was important.

I hear a lot of people talk about how they need their social networks to provide them some value in their life in order to keep coming back.

Facebook, at face value, seems to provide minimal value.

But, at least for me, when I started looking at it as an ongoing conversation among people who I know in real life (and a conversation where I don’t have to be professional 100 percent of the time) that was where I found the value.

Not real, professional value, mind you. But social value. A way to keep in touch with people who I can’t keep in touch regularly, for whatever reason. Or my friends, who I don’t see regularly because of, well, life.

As for those who complain? You’re going to encounter them anyway, regardless of whether or not they’re on your computer screen or sitting across from you at the dinner table.

Facebook is rightfully a target of scorn occasionally, but it does have some value, so I’m just going to use it, okay?


Feb 15

That’s What He Read – “Punxsutawney Phil Can Go To Hell!” Edition


That’s What He Read is a look back at five of my favorite articles from the past week. It covers all topics, but you’ll usually find the focus on writing, social media, and storytelling. I try to add some color to spice it up, but I usually fall flat on my face. Anyway, enjoy!

Time to Reassess Real-Time Marketing (Scott Monty) – We can blame Oreo for this mess. They capitalized on a combination of luck and preparation to fire off the ‘tweet heard ’round the world’ during Super Bowl 47, and now every brand thinks that setting up a War Room will help them capture that same bolt of lightning. Well, there’s a reason why the saying revolves around lightning and not lightning bugs. The bolt is much harder to catch, as was evident this year.

10 Ways Facebook Has Ruined Your Life (Mashable) – My first thought was “Only ten?” But this list nails all it. In the grand scheme of things, a lot of this is not important to our every day lives, but if you’re spending so much time using something, you should at least enjoy it, right?

How Netflix is turning viewers into puppets (Salon) – This article is over two years old, but I found it while perusing the House of Cards subreddit on Reddit and it’s fascinating. Essentially, as the headline suggests, Netflix used Big Data culled from 29 million of their streaming video subscribers to learn how they watch TV to create better content for their audience. House of Cards is/was the first show to exploit that data. I’d say it worked.

How Top Publishers Are Using Snapchat (Digiday) – Count me among the many who like Snapchat’s new Discover feature, and it appears I’m not in the minority. But just how many people are in this group? That’s tricky. See what one publishing executive had to say: ““I can’t tell you what the numbers are, but they’re fucking incredible.”

The Hidden Cost of a Flexible Job (The Atlantic) – In my humble opinion, if your workplace offers a flexible work arrangement but you work late often to give the impression that you are, indeed, working, then you’re doing it wrong. And so is the workplace that breeds this type of activity. If I didn’t have a client, I could work from home every single day and not miss a beat. It’s a perk I readily enjoy and am glad it’s offered. But if it ever gets to the point where i’m working late just for the sake of keeping up appearances, then I will gladly forego the ability.

What did you read this week? Anything good? If so, share it with us!

Jan 15

That’s What He Read – First Edition of 2015

That's What He Read

That’s What He Read is a look back at five of my favorite articles from the past week. It covers all topics, but you’ll usually find the focus on writing, social media, and storytelling. I try to add some color to spice it up, but I usually fall flat on my face. Anyway, enjoy!

Mitch Albom Must Be The World’s Most Miserable Sports Fan (Awful Announcing) – If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I loathe Detroit Free Press sports columnist, Mitch Albom. The sad part is that he used to be my favorite sports writer. Now he’s like the old man who sits on his front porch and yells at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn. Anyway, Ian Casselberry nails it in his description of how far Mr. Albom has fallen. I suggest you read it.

The Shameful Triumph of Football (The Atlantic) – Contrary to my tweets last Sunday during the Detroit Lions playoff loss, I’m not a big fan of the NFL. The league’s popularity has soared even during a season that has it’s fair share of controversy and negative PR for certain players. Tuning in each week tells the league everything’s fine, even when we tell ourselves it’s not, but we can’t tune out.

The 51 Greatest Articles on Writing I’ve Ever Read (Buffer) – Whether you’re a PR person, a novelist, a content marketer, or just someone looking to write better, you’ll surely find something in here that will capture your interest.

A Teenager’s View on Social Media (Medium) – I found this post to be quite insightful, even though it told me a few things I already suspected. Namely, teens hate Facebook, love Snapchat. But hearing why they love and hate certain channels was a peek inside the mind of most brand’s target demographic. Who needs million dollar research budgets when what we want is right in front of us.

Atlanta Hawks Host Tinder Night (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) – I would’ve expected a team like the Philadelphia 76ers or New York Knicks to host a Tinder night, not the Atlanta Hawks. Bad teams need to keep fans interested, but the product on the floor in Atlanta is good enough that fans don’t need a diversion. Still, the same team whose CEO sent a letter excusing fans from staying up late to watch the team play on the West Coast hosted a night based on a popular matchmaking app. Not something you’d expect to see, but maybe that’s why it worked.

Did you read anything this week you want to share with the class? Tell me in the comments!

Jan 15

Deleting Facebook: Four Months Later


It has been close to four months since I deleted Facebook from my life, and I’m happy to report that some things have changed.

I eliminated Facebook, in part, because I didn’t like the person I was becoming, at least on social media.

Those people whom I hid on Facebook were the people I found myself most drawn to; I had to seek them out to confirm that they were still humble-bragging about their daily lives. Rather than avoid them, I made a point of finding them. And I hated myself for it.

But without Facebook, I no longer have the means to hate-read those status updates. The urge to peek is gone; my opinion of them no longer colored by how awesome their personal and professional lives seem.

And since I deleted the Facebook app on my phone and iPad, I can be more “productive” when I use those devices.

Before, the iPad and phone were just Facebook machines masquerading as marvels of technology. Now that it’s gone, I am exploring other apps (like Elevate) that might be beneficial to me. The certified time-waster that is Facebook is no longer a temptation.

What has surprised me, though, since giving up is how often people talk about Facebook outside of Facebook.

It’s a real part of our organic lives, whether we like it, or not.

Anything that makes it’s way to your Facebook feed — a Swarm check-in, an Instagram post, a tweet — is now fair game to be talked about in real life.

It’s both absurd and a sign of the times.

My wife and I learned of a friend’s engagement and a death in our extended family last week from her Facebook feed. We certainly would’ve gotten the news sooner or later, but it was posted to hundred of people instantaneously, which ensured we learned of the news right away.

The ease in which we can share news with friends and family makes it no surprise that this digital application has effortlessly nestled into our physical lives.

I don’t feel the same away about Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat, even though they are arguably more popular with the crowd that makes things popular.

Maybe Facebook is the elder of the group; a service that has been around long enough that it’s just there now. We no longer think of it as social media. Like the radio in your car, or the TV in your living room, it’s ubiquitous.

One thing I do know for sure is that, contrary to what you read, Facebook is never going away. 800 million users can’t be wrong.

If anything, it will evolve into something different; something that only our parents, aunts and uncles use.

But for the lot of us, we’re too entrenched in the service. It where our lives are stored for all to see.

It’s damn near impossible to let that go.

Aug 14

Is Social Media Guilting Us Into Activism?


Two mornings ago, I awoke to find that my brother-in-law had tagged me on Facebook to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

For those who are somehow unaware of this social media activation, it’s exactly what it sounds like: you dump a bucket of ice water on your head to raise awareness for ALS.

Secretly I hoped nobody would tag me, because nobody wants to dump a bucket of ice water on their head, but I guess the odds weren’t in my favor. When a social cause has reached the point where celebrities like Bill Gates and Jimmy Fallon are doing it, it’s only a matter of time until us regular folk get involved.

To date, the challenge has raised more than $4 million for the cause. That’s more than double what they raised last year.

But like anything born on social media, there are dissenters.

The publication Quartz says that all of these donations to ALS are taking away from potentially donating to other charities.

The Huffington Post plays the “slacktivism” card to say all this challenge has done is get us talking about the disease, while conveniently ignoring the fact that it has raised millions of dollars.

I’ve even seen people flat-out not accept the challenge because they’d rather write a check. (Or, maybe they just don’t want to document being icy water poured on their head.)

I’m more interested in whether this is merely social media guilting us into doing something we’d rather not do.

When your friends are calling you out publicly to participate, you can’t exactly not do it, lest you want them to give you a hard time about it. So you do participate, then challenge three other friends to do the same because, well those are the rules.

By doing so, we are essentially clearing our conscience and putting the onus on somebody else to try and not break the chain.

This challenge brings together two polar opposites to accomplish the goal: calling out people on Facebook and Twitter to participate (which is the worst) and donating money to a good cause (which I endorse).

When the final numbers are tallied, we will undoubtedly see that it was a success. And, who knows, maybe that dollar you donated will lead to a cure for this terrible disease one day.

But peer pressure to participate in anything is the worst kind of pressure, and this is taking it to the max.

For the record, I shot a video and challenged three of my friends to do it, both because it’s a good cause and because I didn’t want to be the one to break the chain.

It’s a double-edged sword, this Ice Bucket Challenge. And with its success will bring many copycats looking to get in on this trend.

I’ve even heard that an organization is working on something to bring awareness to depression in light of Robin Williams’ death.

If that becomes a success, we will never stop this train.

We live in a world where, thanks to social media, you can communicate with practically anyone. It’s an amazing thing. But with that brings the ability to tap into our guilty consciences simply by tagging someone from the comfort of our living room.

I’ve yet to determine if that’s a good thing, and I’m not sure I ever will.