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.


May 14

That’s What He Read – May 2, 2014



Well so much for that blogging commitment, right?

My only excuse is that I was traveling for work, so I didn’t have a lot of time to put my pen to paper and flesh out some of the ideas I’ve got kicking around in my head.

The upside is that I got to spend a few days in Washington D.C., although it was pretty wet. But as a father of two little girls, I got an entire evening to myself. It’s one of the perks of business travel.

I hope your week went well.


It’s been said by those of us in the communications industry that numbers are the enemy. But that couldn’t be further (farther? I never know) from the truth. There is a renewed focus on making data work for us. Now we just need to find the right story to tell to accompany it.


It’s well-documented (at least in my head) how much I despise Facebook. A big part of that is because of the inanity that we see every day as we scroll through our feed. I was never a big user of MySpace, but it’s starting to resemble that failed social site, but now with new and improved quizzes. Thankfully, a researcher at the University of Colorado Denver has figured out the posts that turn us off. Maybe if we can ignore those, we won’t hate Facebook quite so much.


I’ve always wanted to run my own journalistic endeavor. But that’s probably never going to happen. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to this idea of content creation. I mean, in a sense, if you’re running a content enterprise for a company or client, you need to act like a publisher.


The world is warming. And it’s unlikely we’re going to find the silver bullet that turns this trend around. What we have to do is get away from this hero mentality that someone’s going to swoop in and fix the problem, and learn to survive in this new climate. The faster we realize this, the faster we might adapt and learn to live with what we’ve got.


What did you read this week?


Apr 14

That’s What He Read – Week of April 21, 2014



It’s one of those things that I want to do all of the time, but I end up doing it none of the time. Then, while I’m perusing the Internet when I should be doing more important things, I suddenly get the urge to put words down on my digital domain.

But when I turn off the Web and stare at the box where the words go — whoosh! — the inspiration is gone.

So things need to change for me. I feel better when I write, even if it’s something as unimportant as a post about the Elf on the Shelf.

I figured, since I like to share things, I ought to resurrect the ‘That’s What He Read’ posts to get the writing bug again. So that’s what I’ll do.

Stick around. You might start to see more of me.


I have a long-running hatred of Facebook, yet, I continue to use it because it’s so easy to stay in touch with friends and family who live far away. But I also use other social sites; sites that are designed with one purpose in mind, as opposed to Facebook, which is designed to be the dog’s breakfast of social. Maybe I would feel better if I ditched it and used the other sites for what they were designed to do?


I once tried to read Nick Hornby’s autobiographical book about his support of the English soccer club, Arsenal, but I just couldn’t get through. It bored me. But as a struggling writer (by that, I mean, I struggle to write) it’s encouraging to hear how established writers struggle at times. Gives me hope.


I don’t read The Everywhereist religiously. It’s one of those blogs I like to read, but can go weeks and months without visiting. But then something will happen to remind me of it, and I come rushing back. While perusing it earlier this week, I came across a post on donuts that, well, who doesn’t love donuts?


All of us could use more time in our day. But do we really waste 70 percent of our time in a given day? That seems a little bit hard to believe. You know what’s even harder to believe? A full hour for lunch.


What did you read this week?

May 13

I Don’t Like (The Digital Version Of) You


To That One Facebook User All Of Us Know:

I know too much about you. And it is causing me to draw some conclusions about you that, while unfair, are hard to avoid when I read what you post to your Facebook page on a regular basis.

Here’s what I’ve gathered in the past week:

  • You are smart. We are dumb.
  • You just checked in at church and are, thus, holier than thou.
  • Your one-year-old daughter regularly eats an organic quinoa-avocado-red pepper relish with her oatmeal. My daughter eats cheese sticks for breakfast. You win.

I could go on, but I’ll stop there.

What bothers me about those First World Problems status updates is that you are not like this in real life.

The organic life form who I go to the bar with, and mill around the coffee machine with, is a normal person. But put you behind a keyboard, and suddenly you turn into a braggart.

Is a “like” worth so much to you that you feel like even the most meaningless moments in your life are worthy of publication? As if we actually care?

Perhaps I need to step back. Maybe I’m getting mad at the wrong entity. It might just be Mark Zuckerberg’s fault for inventing this stupid network.

Or, it might just be the next step in our evolution as humans.

This era of humanity is marked by a laziness that is unsurpassed in the entirety of human civilization. (I’m pretty sure that’s an accurate statement.)

I mean, we use Facebook as a substitute to wish family members a happy birthday, instead of calling them on the phone or visiting them in person.

And we think that’s okay.

Five people give us a thumbs up for sharing daily entries about how amazing our husband is (when, really, you should just thank him in private).

And we think that’s okay.

We yell at strangers who we think are stupid, in the privacy of our Facebook page, so that we don’t have to reap what we sow.

And we think that’s okay.

Technology is a marvelous thing. But, like most things that make our lives easier, it can turn us into something that we despise.

I’ve thought long and hard about deleting my Facebook account. But I still see it as a valuable way to communicate.

Maybe we just need to have patience with how the other 1.1 billion users use Facebook. Like a movie or a book, we all have different tastes and thoughts about what is right and what is wrong.

Maybe Facebook just needs some time to grow up.

Or maybe you do.

Either way, I don’t like the digital version of you.

Feb 13

That’s What He Read – February 8, 2013


I was in Philadelphia earlier this week for work. It didn’t dawn on me until yesterday evening that I was mere blocks from The Liberty Bell. But a quick Internet search told me that the exhibit was already closed, so the Instagrammer in me died just a little bit.

Oh, well. Maybe next time.

Since you’re likely snowed in today, here are some articles to read.

Better Than Human: Why Robots Will — And Must — Take Our Jobs (WIRED) – “It may be hard to believe, but before the end of this century, 70 percent of today’s occupations will likewise be replaced by automation. Yes, dear reader, even you will have your job taken away by machines. In other words, robot replacement is just a matter of time.”

“Facebook Fatigue” Could Throw Monkey Wrench in Social Marketing and PR Strategy (Bulldog Reporter) – “Moreover, Pew paints Facebook as a place of growing irrelevancy and tedium for an increasing percentage of adults. Family member and friend connections may keep people attached to the site, which means they won’t quit Facebook, but they’re not visiting as often, nor are they experiencing the same type of enjoyment as they once did, the article reports.”

Inside Patagonia’s Content Machine (Digiday) – “Many brands feel like they are faced with a dilemma: They can either make great content or try to sell products. Boland doesn’t see it that way. He sees great content and conversations around products as something that naturally occurs, without the need for marketers to be so heavy-handed.”

Watching the Super Bowl From Coca-Cola’s War Room(s) – (AdAge) – “There was a pause and then applause to acknowledge Coke’s first ad, “Security Camera,” which was unrelated to the “Mirage” campaign. There was another pause as Pepsi Next’s “Party” ad aired. The Coke team quickly posted a response to Pepsi Next that it had prepared earlier, a message from a Coke showgirl saying a house party was nothing compared to Reno. Otherwise, eyes remained glued to computer screens.”

Bang With Friends: The Beginning of a Sexual Revolution on Facebook? (Fast Co.Design) – “The premise is so obvious, you’ll kick yourself for not thinking of it first. You install the app, then the app lists your Facebook friends of the opposite sex. You click if you’d like to “bang” them, and no one ever knows . . . that is, unless one of those friends installed the app and elected to bang you, too. Bang With Friends makes finding a mate as easy as window shopping on Pinterest.”