Beme is a Social Media App that Wants to Engineer Authenticity

Excerpt from this article:

Authenticity is in short supply online, says video maker Casey Neistat, with social media forcing us to present over-stylized and over-perfect versions of ourselves to world. Neistat thinks he has the answer, though: he’s built a new social media network named Beme (pronounced “beam”) where users communicate with self-destructing videos recorded by placing their phones on their hearts.

…Removing the smartphone from its traditional location between you and the real world allows for a more authentic experience, claims Neistat. In the same vein, he says, Beme offers no chance to review or edit videos: they’re just sent straight to users’ feeds, which are themselves minimalist lists of recent uploads. Users click and hold on a video to watch it, and once it’s been seen it’s “gone forever.” They can, however, give feedback by tapping the screen mid-video to send a selfie from their front-facing camera. “Getting reactions is my favorite part of the app,” says Neistat. “There’s just something so satisfying about being able to see people actually watching what you share.”

Why Grandma’s Sad (A Response to the Article on Screen Addiction)

Following up on yesterday’s post about Kids and Screen Addiction, the article excerpted below argues that “what’s happening on all these screens is not, as the writer suggests, an endless braindead Candy Crush session, but a rich social experience of its own” [link to the full write-up, and see also this post on Kottke on the debate]:

That screen is full of friends, and its distraction is no less valuable or valid than the distraction of a room full of buddies or a playground full of fellow students. Screen Addiction is, in this view, nonsensical: you can no more be addicted to a screen than to windows, sounds, or the written word.

This is an argument worth making, probably. But tell it to an anxious parent or an alienated grandparent and you will sense that it is inadequate. It is correct, yes, and it addresses their stated concerns. But those concerns—that the screens are poisoning families, that they’re making kids unhealthy and sedentary, that they’re destroying curiosity—were never really the issue. Screen Addiction is a generational complaint, and generational complaints, taken individually, are rarely what they claim to be. They are fresh expressions of horrible and timeless anxieties.

…The grandparent who is persuaded that screens are not destroying human interaction, but are instead new tools for enabling fresh and flawed and modes of human interaction, is left facing a grimmer reality. Your grandchildren don’t look up from their phones because the experiences and friendships they enjoy there seem more interesting than what’s in front of them (you). Those experiences, from the outside, seem insultingly lame: text notifications, Emoji, selfies of other bratty little kids you’ve never met. But they’re urgent and real. What’s different is that they’re also right here, always, even when you thought you had an attentional claim. The moments of social captivity that gave parents power, or that gave grandparents precious access, are now compromised.

All of this reminds me of a book that I read years ago, Everything Bad is Good For You, by Steven Johnson, who made a similar argument that parents were misguided in bemoaning the ways in which their kids were devoting rapt attention to TV and video games, i.e., what if a kid was spending hours sitting sedentary, reading a book? would they be as concerned?

Instagrads: What It’s Like To Spend All 4 Years Of High School On Instagram

Excerpt from this article:

Instagram is now more important to teenagers than any other social network. It’s the first place teenagers go for news on new couples or breakups; it’s where they can show off in front of their friends; and it’s where most parents still don’t go.

…Instagram is also a form of self-expression. “If I don’t Instagram in a day, I feel weird,” Kami Baker, a junior in Omaha, Nebraska, who writes about her social anxiety for The Huffington Post, tells me. “It’s become a kind of online diary for me.” As Otto says, “[Teenagers] are using Instagram to express who they are, in a way.”

And you better make it count. Be careful about posting more than one photo a day. If you’re planning a “promposal” (an elaborate prom invitation that may or may not involve balloons, posters, flowers, or dessert), you better have somebody ready with a camera. Breakups are an occasion for black-and-white selfies captioned with mysteriously sad quotes. Every day could be an occasion for a selfie. But please, don’t post ONLY selfies. And if it doesn’t get more than 10 likes, well, that’s just “a little embarrassing,” Martin says. Selfie sticks, however, are totally cool.

…A Short PSA: How To Selfie

“The thing behind the selfies is that some people need that instant gratification,” says Maria, whose mother asked that I not use her last name. “But I think selfies are just fun if you use them the right way.”

What is the right way?

“Not posting one every day and using them maturely.”

What are the wrong ways to use selfies?

“Posting one every day. Posting on different days but you’re wearing the same outfit so you can see that you took them at the same time. “

Maria’s feed features a lot of selfies—and a lot of photos with her girlfriends.

Facebook’s Last Taboo: The Unhappy Marriage

Excerpt from this article:

Those who have spent more than a few passing minutes on Facebook could attest to the fact that marriage is usually portrayed in an exceptionally positive light, more so than other areas of our lives. There is far more social acceptability to not only grumble but to seek input about the missteps in our careers or the sleep deprivation that goes with child rearing than about the possible fissures in a marriage.

 …So why does the social media screen tend to go dark after the wedding, only to light up with the occasional burst of good news? Perhaps Facebook is actually mimicking the real-life personal dynamic, where once the vows are exchanged, the marital code of silence goes into effect: The oversharing culture, which reigns during the engagement and wedding, suddenly morphs to undersharing about our spouses. Maybe there’s not as much of a highlight reel to show after the honeymoon when real life sets in.

It has to do with vulnerability, said Sherry Turkle, a M.I.T. psychologist and author of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.” “If you complain about your pet, your job, even your children, there is a sense in which these are external to you — the complaint is about what life has dealt you,” she said in a phone interview. “When you complain about your marriage, the boundary between marriage and the self is much less firm.”



Why the modern world is bad for your brain

Daniel J Levitan

Excerpt from this article:

Our brains are busier than ever before. We’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, jibber-jabber, and rumour, all posing as information. Trying to figure out what you need to know and what you can ignore is exhausting. At the same time, we are all doing more…

 …Just having the opportunity to multitask is detrimental to cognitive performance. Glenn Wilson, former visiting professor of psychology at Gresham College, London, calls it info-mania. His research found that being in a situation where you are trying to concentrate on a task, and an email is sitting unread in your inbox, can reduce your effective IQ by 10 points.

 …Russ Poldrack, a neuroscientist at Stanford, found that learning information while multitasking causes the new information to go to the wrong part of the brain. If students study and watch TV at the same time, for example, the information from their schoolwork goes into the striatum, a region specialised for storing new procedures and skills, not facts and ideas. Without the distraction of TV, the information goes into the hippocampus, where it is organised and categorised in a variety of ways, making it easier to retrieve.

 …To make matters worse, lots of multitasking requires decision-making: Do I answer this text message or ignore it? How do I respond to this? How do I file this email? Do I continue what I’m working on now or take a break? It turns out that decision-making is also very hard on your neural resources and that little decisions appear to take up as much energy as big ones. One of the first things we lose is impulse control. This rapidly spirals into a depleted state in which, after making lots of insignificant decisions, we can end up making truly bad decisions about something important.

 …Each time we dispatch an email in one way or another, we feel a sense of accomplishment, and our brain gets a dollop of reward hormones telling us we accomplished something. Each time we check a Twitter feed or Facebook update, we encounter something novel and feel more connected socially (in a kind of weird, impersonal cyber way) and get another dollop of reward hormones. But remember, it is the dumb, novelty-seeking portion of the brain driving the limbic system that induces this feeling of pleasure, not the planning, scheduling, higher-level thought centres in the prefrontal cortex. Make no mistake: email-, Facebook- and Twitter-checking constitute a neural addiction.

Be the Star of Your Own Snapchat Story

Excerpt from this article:

The best way to understand Snapchat Stories is to imagine a short and very personal TV show: directed, edited and starring you. There are technical limitations. The videos are shot and viewed mainly on smartphones. And each clip can be up to only 10 seconds long, though you can record dozens of them in a row, creating an episode that is a few minutes long.

Snapchat Stories can either be private, only viewable by your friends, or public and seen by anyone. But unlike other social video services, and here’s the best part, Snapchat Stories last 24 hours and then — poof! — they’re gone.

And because your clips vanish after being viewed, you can be as normal or silly as you want. In that way, they mimic real life.

That’s the main reason people I know have been drawn to Snapchat Stories. They are fed up with managing injurious comments on Facebook, worried that a vicious mob will attack them for saying the wrong thing on Twitter or frustrated that a photo they share online will show up in a Google search for all of eternity.

A group of teenagers I spoke with recently told me about their secret way of using Facebook so that public posts don’t stay public forever. Here’s how it works: Jack posts a comment on Jill’s Facebook page; when Jill reads the comment, she “likes” it; when Jack sees that, he goes back and deletes the comment. Sounds complicated, but young Facebook users do this to replicate the ephemeral nature of Snapchat.

Are Teenagers Getting Less Lonely?

Excerpt from this article:

The authors also note that, as loneliness decreased, what they call “social network isolation” — measured by students’ responses to the statements “There is always someone I can turn to if I need help” and “I usually have a few friends around I can get together with” — actually increased. In other words, though students in 2012 may have felt less lonely than they did in 1991, they were also more likely to feel that they didn’t necessarily have someone to rely on.

If teens are more socially isolated than they used to be, at least by these measures, why isn’t it bothering them more? Dr. Clark told Op-Talk in an email that people might see less need for friendship than they used to: “Worse social networks may not have produced an increase in the experience of loneliness because people are more self-sufficient.” Today, he said: “People may feel like they do not need to rely on people as much as previously. People can choose more aspects of their life, including what job to choose, where to live, and who to marry. Labor specialization could lead to a focus on the individual.”

Mourning in America: A new Internet way of remembering the long-departed

Excerpt from this article:

Twenty-two years after their fathers’ deaths, they have their answer: the Internet. After all, it’s where everyone shares everything these days. It’s the space where so many of us spend so much of our lives. So to welcome in others who have suffered losses like theirs — and to bestow a kind of permanence on loved ones fading fast into the hinterlands of memory — they’ve created their own mourning Web site. In October, they launched the Recollectors, a storytelling site that’s a vehicle for both catharsis and oral history, where children who have lost family members to AIDS can share their tales.

The trouble with modern friendship

Oliver Burkeman illustration

Excerpt from this article:

Judging by the research, the panic merchants are wrong: social networks don’t replace offline friendships, or turn users into basement-dwelling zombies, unable to converse face-to-face. Nonetheless, Dunbar’s work does suggest something troubling about modern friendship. For centuries – and especially since the Industrial Revolution – we’ve been uprooting ourselves from the communities in which we were born. But until recently, on arriving in a new place, you’d inevitably lose your ties with the one you’d left; you’d be forced to invest fully in a new social circle. These days, thanks to motorways and airliners, email and Skype, you need never cut those ties. You never leave your old life behind, so your emotional investments are scattered. Ironically (and as a British transplant to New York, I speak from experience), it’s precisely your continuing bonds with the people you’ve loved for longest that risk leaving you feeling alienated where you are….

Why are densely linked friends better friends? The motives involved aren’t necessarily all that virtuous. Maybe they just feel more social pressure, and worry that mutual friends will judge them if they’re not nice. Even so, the effect is that in a dense network, an act of friendship is two things at once: an expression of an individual bond, and another stitch in a bigger social fabric. At the very least, it’s an argument for getting over your hang-ups about introducing your friends to each other. True, they’ll probably gossip about you at some point, but then that strengthens the social fabric, too.