The weird and wonderful world of neighborhood Facebook groups

The Facebook logo.

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This community is peak Facebook neighborhood group. The dog poop disposal debates have slowed of late, but the urban turkey sightings, requests for recommendations that have already been given a dozen times, and earnest pleas for all fireworks to be canceled on Independence Day because they make little Fluffy-Poo scared will surely never die. Each year has its recurring rhythm of topics: gardening in the spring; crime in the summer; Halloween in the fall; snow removal in the winter. Then there are the perennial favorites, like solicitations of advice for handling various vermin or inquiries into whether you should call the cops because a man you do not know has knocked on your front door.

On Instagram, Seeing Between the (Gender) Lines

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Her research found that social media is a gathering place for discussing the logistics of gender — providing advice, reassurance and emotional support, as well as soliciting feedback about everything from voice modulation to hairstyles. The internet is a place where nonbinary people can learn about mixing masculine and feminine elements to the point of obscuring concrete identification as either. As one person she interviewed put it, “Every day someone can’t tell what I am is a good day.”

Nearly everyone Darwin interviewed remarked about the power of acquiring language that spoke to their identity, and they tended to find that language on the internet. But Harry Barbee, a nonbinary sociologist at Florida State University who studies sex, gender and sexuality, cautioned against treating social media as a curative. “When the world assumes you don’t exist, you’re forced to define yourself into existence if you want some semblance of recognition and social viability, and so the internet and social media helps achieve this,” Barbee said. “But it’s not a dream world where we are free to be you and me, because it can also be a mechanism for social control.” Barbee has been researching what it means to live as nonbinary in a binary world. Social media, Barbee said, is “one realm where they do feel free to share who they are, but they’re realistic about the limitations of the space. Even online, they are confronted by hostility…

 

Quitting Instagram: She’s one of the millions disillusioned with social media. But she also helped create it.

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But Richardson isn’t a bystander reckoning with the ills of technology: She was one of the 13 original employees working at Instagram in 2012 when Facebook bought the viral photo-sharing app for $1 billion. She and four others from that small group now say the sense of intimacy, artistry and discovery that defined early Instagram and led to its success has given way to a celebrity-driven marketplace that is engineered to sap users’ time and attention at the cost of their well-being.

“In the early days, you felt your post was seen by people who cared about you and that you cared about,” said Richardson, who left Instagram in 2014 and later founded a start-up. “That feeling is completely gone for me now.”

Even in Silicon Valley, where it’s common to hear start-up workers become frustrated with management after an acquisition, the disillusionment of the early Instagram employees is striking: People seldom swear off or criticize the product they built, particularly when it has enjoyed such remarkable success. Instagram reached 1 billion users this year.

The Strangers Nextdoor

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Gone, mostly, are the days of asking your neighbor to borrow a cup of sugar… Now, irritation generally characterizes my relationship with my neighbors. Why would you wear heels when you have hardwood floors and a downstairs neighbor? Who still listens to the Barenaked Ladies, much less on repeat? But I also have intense curiosity, and in the absence of peeking through my neighbors’ windows as I walk by, which is hard to do in a high-rise, I have Nextdoor.

Nextdoor, for the sane and detached among you, is a social media platform that’s locality-driven, an alternative to meetings you actually have to show up for, neighborhood Facebook groups that might give away a little too much information about you, or listservs that clog your inbox. When you sign up, you give your address, which the company verifies by credit card billing address, phone billing address, or postcard. You have access only to your neighborhood and a few surrounding hoods. It’s a place to post about a lost dog or found kittens, advertise an estate sale, or ask for recommendations for a handyman from fellow residents…

“Community building” is usually more of a buzzword or phrase on social media, but in this case, it’s quite literal. The idea is that Nextdoor promotes community engagement with the people in your actual, geographic community, and that it would build social capital and better citizens. Instead, it’s been heavily criticized for contributing to fear, distrust, and racist behavior. There are also coyote sightings, warnings about the Starbucks Unicorn drink, and requests to borrow someone’s kombucha scoby.

The Crime category is where the ugliness of Nextdoor is most obvious. The coded language of “hip-hop types” and “thugs” (translation: black or brown), “suspicious” people and the homeless.

When Pixels Collide: How a million strangers on the Internet turned a blank canvas into art

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Last weekend, a fascinating history of humanity played out on Reddit.

For April Fool’s Day, Reddit launched a little experiment. It gave its users, who are all anonymous, a blank canvas called Place.

The rules were simple. Each user could choose one pixel from 16 colors to place anywhere on the canvas. They could place as many pixels of as many colors as they wanted, but they had to wait a few minutes between placing each one.

Over the following 72 hours, what emerged was nothing short of miraculous. A collaborative artwork that shocked even its inventors.

iFriends

internet friends vs real friends

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

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Yeah, yeah, I might have loads of Facebook friends but it’s my REAL friends, the ones I see every day in the office, or went to school with who matter… It’s what you’re supposed to say, isn’t it? The internet has ruined friendships. It’s made a mockery of carefully built up relationships. It’s no substitute for REAL LIFE interaction. Pressing the ‘like’ button has replaced caring for people. Online interactions damage ‘real’ interactions.

*sings* Bol.Locks.

…Through [online] groups I connected with a clutch of incredibly like-minded people; people who sit alone at home all day, often in their pyjamas, typing on their laptops, writing articles read by millions of people, influencing decisions and generally producing stuff that would make you think they were a lot cooler than they really are. Suddenly I had met my peer group, people I could talk to about my work who knew what being a freelancer feels like and who understood that interviewing a rock star was sometimes the least glamorous thing in your life.

 

Introducing The Social Network For Dogs

Dogly_1

Excerpt from this article on OgilvyDO:

“Dogs are becoming the new celebrities,” says Cory. “They have millions of followers, and people trust them. It’s not like if a celebrity is selling a product.” These doggy accounts, most of which started out as just amateur photographers and their pets, have morphed into media brands. “They have agents, book deals, apparel… On the flipside, there are these volunteer-run shelters trying to save dogs with very little time or resources.” Cory and Jane wanted to find a way to combine this love of storytelling with a way to do good, and so together they founded Dogly.

It works simply enough; you download the app and share images and stories with the Dogly community. When another member loves one of your photos (it’s all about the loves, not likes) that counts as a donation towards your chosen shelter. The more creative your content, the more loves you get, and the more good you do. Shelters also use Dogly to post updates on adoptable dogs, and the shelter with the most loves at the end of the month receives a $1,000 donation.

Is it the Beginning of the End for Online Comments?

The Daily Dot recently became the latest news website to get rid of user comments

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Vibrant online communities? Or cesspools of abuse? Have comments had their day?

The debate about comment sections on news sites is often as divisive as the comments themselves. Recently outlets such as The Verge and The Daily Dot have closed their comments sections because they’ve become too hard to manage. And they’re far from alone.

That’s the downside. But it’s also worth remembering that many news organisations – including the BBC – have used comments sections to make real connections with audiences, find stories, and turn what was once a one-way street into a multi-headed conversation.

In our experience, our community hasn’t evolved in our comments. It’s evolved in our social media accounts. To have comments, you have to be very active, and if you’re not incredibly active, what ends up happening is a mob can shout down all the other people on your site. In an environment that isn’t heavily curated it becomes about silencing voices and not about opening up voices.

The Public Humiliation Diet: A How-To

The Public Humiliation Diet: A How-To

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I’ve struggled with my weight for my entire life… So I needed to set some ground rules for myself to lose weight, ground rules that I felt were reasonable to follow for the rest of my adult life. Here’s what I did:

3. I posted that weight daily on Twitter. But it doesn’t matter where. It can be on Facebook or your blog or whatever. Shit, you can print it out and stick it on your office cube every day. What I found doing this is that it 1) gave me a public incentive to stick to a goal; 2) garnered support from people. Most Americans struggle with their weight, and most of them sympathize with someone else trying to get healthier. Support helps. Maybe some people will tease you, but that’s its own incentive anyway. Part of losing weight is acknowledging the fact that you have issues with food. And holy shit, do I have issues with food.

Negativity Online: An Essay Inspired By 200,000 Comments

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Most bloggers (and stat counters) will tell you that people don’t say much online anymore. Comments are being replaced by shares, likes and pins and unless someone has an extreme opinion, they tend to just read and move on. But when we read something that touches a nerve, or worse — an insecurity — the meanest parts of us can come out.

…When I read through comments on [DesignSponge], I get a very clear message that there seems to be some sort of unstated consensus that “normal” is best. People want to see homes and ideas and products that shock them with their creativity and beauty — but only to a certain degree. If it goes “too” far or is perceived as having been made with “too” much money or effort, it immediately tips over into negative comment land.

…Here’s what I see happening in the comments here at DS:

  1. We assume we know what someone is like because of one small glimpse inside their home/life. Just because someone cleaned up their house for their home tour or doesn’t have a pile of clutter doesn’t mean they have a team of house cleaners or think they’re better than anyone else. The amount of times people have commented that someone is probably “not a good” parent for NOT having toys shown on the floor of a child’s room blows my mind. The same goes for how clean someone’s kitchen looks (“they must never cook if it looks that clean”). The bottom line is — people clean up when they put their lives online. The only thing we can truly know from that photo is that they took the time to straighten up or, like a lot of us, shoved everything messy to the left of the photo.
  1. We assume there is a magic “normal” we can find that will somehow make everyone happy…
  1. We assume that people who are perceived as wealthy think they are better than other people or have it easier than others. Those people are then deemed fair to attack because they think they’re “above” us…

…After reading through 200,000 comments, I think a lot of the upset that people feel comes from wanting to see more diversity, more honesty and more transparency online. And I think that challenge is one for me and other content producers, and not homeowners or the people who share their lives online.

Photo by Oddur Thorisson from Manger