The Social Robot http://thesocialrobot.com Mon, 26 Sep 2016 14:57:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Will Cable Soon Be a Think of the Past? http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/09/will-cable-soon-think-past/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/09/will-cable-soon-think-past/#respond Mon, 26 Sep 2016 14:57:18 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5367 For the past six years I’ve lived without cable. Through Netflix and Hulu accounts (or those who shared their passwords) and a Chromecast, I’ve successfully gone without signing up for an actual cable account. There are, of course, exceptions as to what can be watched – live sports must be viewed on cable, any type […]

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Sponge Bob Squarepants watching TVFor the past six years I’ve lived without cable. Through Netflix and Hulu accounts (or those who shared their passwords) and a Chromecast, I’ve successfully gone without signing up for an actual cable account. There are, of course, exceptions as to what can be watched – live sports must be viewed on cable, any type of award show or live event also requires an account. (If it’s that important, I DVR it at my parents’ house, which may or may not be cheating.) But the point is, I haven’t cable … and for the most part, I don’t really miss it.

Bonus perks: there’s no longer that crushing feeling that you’re missing something good on TV, or the even more crushing feeling: paying hundreds of dollars a month for the ability to be a couch potato. Instead, I pay less than $20, and very rarely miss out on something I want to view.

And it’s not just me doing it. Not having cable is becoming an increasingly popular method among consumers – because of the rising fees associated with cable, but also because outside brands are making this possible. With monthly subscription services (like Netflix and Hulu, as well as Amazon), you’re not completely in the dark once going cable-less. In fact, companies are even expanding this notion. Amazon recently announced that it’s looking to tackle live events (including sports) through its prime memberships.

If they succeed, will there be a need for cable at all? Streaming services are cheaper, more accessible (watch from you computer or smartphone, in addition to your home TV), and they host more features, like previews, actor interview, etc. Plus, there are fewer commercials – sometimes, there aren’t any at all. In a world where commercials blast the eardrums and drone on for minutes at a time, this is a huge perk to the watching community.

One can even argue that, once generations become accustomed to using Internet for all their TV watching, it just might become the new norm.

How Will Cable Companies React?

All it takes is a single call to a cable provider to know they’re already feeling the heat. After a multi-month issue with my Internet bill, I was ready to swear off them altogether – they’d been trying to stiff-arm me into adding cable. I’d call to resolve a random fee, and be shuffled through to a salesperson who gave a speech; before I could answer they’d say, “Ok let’s get you signed up for that thousand-channel package.” It went on like this for minutes – is this how desperate they have become? Or has it always been a tactic and I’d been off the radar? Either way, it made me want to run the other way, if only out of spite.

The Future of TV

Every generation has seen changes to the way it uses technology. As new programs and products are released, we adapt the way we live. Watching TV is bound to be no different, with cable taking on significant changes toward more efficient and more affordable methods.

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YouTube Heroes: Internet Vigilante Justice http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/09/youtube-heroes/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/09/youtube-heroes/#respond Thu, 22 Sep 2016 14:00:27 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5361 YouTube recently made the move to get more social. Under the still-in-Beta “community” tab, content creators (the artist inside me just shuddered) will have the ability to post text, images, GIFs, all the usual social tropes. Users can like and comment on the items in this stream, giving them a way to connect with the […]

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YouTube HeroesYouTube recently made the move to get more social.

Under the still-in-Beta “community” tab, content creators (the artist inside me just shuddered) will have the ability to post text, images, GIFs, all the usual social tropes. Users can like and comment on the items in this stream, giving them a way to connect with the channel operators they most enjoy.

Sarah Perez points out that this is Google’s latest attempt to rejigger its social presence. (Any Google+ users in the house?) Social media is snatching up Internet ground like it’s post-WWII Eastern Europe. But is it necessarily a positive that YouTube is becoming more social? More social features theoretically mean more engagement, which means more advertising — so yes, as a business decision it makes sense.

But have you been to the Internet?

Anyone who has ever read a YouTube comment section (Why? Why do I still do this?) knows that the conversation taking place isn’t the most sophisticated. There’s some straight up vitriol below almost every video. The anonymous nature of YouTube profiles (and the comment scoring system, as pointed out on Reddit) allows people to write recklessly. Hate speech and name calling is a common site. No one has to own their words. Comments sections are not friendly places.

Of course, Google knows this (Google knows everything). It’s got a plan to counteract the comment section roustabouts. YouTube Heroes is a volunteer program that allows you to take justice into your own hands. It’s like becoming a weekend sheriff’s deputy. An account grants you the ability to flag inappropriate content, add captions and subtitles to videos, and contribute to help forums (Yipee!). There’s no indication that you get a cool t-shirt or anything, but still, what an opportunity!

As Philip DeFranco points out on Twitter, this may be a good pilot program for the “if everyone had a gun we’d all be safer” theory.

YouTube Heroes gain powerful access

YouTube Heroes will have access to mass flagging tools, possibly creating a more-heavily policed environment. This new program may help clean up flagrant or disgusting comments on videos, but it’s also impossible to envision a scenario where none of the Heroes experience some sort of power trip — flagging undeserving video victims.

I referenced a Reddit article earlier in this post. In it, the reader asks why two sites (Reddit and YouTube), each which grant users relative anonymity, generate vastly different comment section experiences. The Reddit users’ response (I realize the potential bias): Reddit’s default display ranks comments based on the number of upvotes they receive. On the other hand, YouTube’s “top comments” display ranks comments based on a variety of factors, including the number of likes they receive, the recency, and the conversations they generate. So, if an inflammatory comment sparks a string of responses that attempt to shoot down the original idea, it may actually bolster the mean-spirited comment’s rank. It’s like using an offensive hashtag in your post about how offensive the hashtag is. Ahem.

YouTube’s commenting system is much better than it used to be. At least people can’t just spam posts anymore. I’m doubtful however, that YouTube Heroes presents the sort of sweeping, Harvey-Dent-in-Dark-Knight changes that it boasts. We might be looking at more of a “Homer the Vigilante” situation.

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Facebook News Needs Journalistic Integrity http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/09/facebook-news/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/09/facebook-news/#respond Thu, 08 Sep 2016 14:00:58 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5356 Who do you consider the ultimate news authority? The way the 2016 presidential election has unfolded begs the question. Perhaps the rational answer is that no news outlet should be considered the end-all-be-all when it comes to journalistic clout. Only with a variety of sources and perspectives can you form a well-rounded opinion. Throughout the […]

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Facebook news image Who do you consider the ultimate news authority? The way the 2016 presidential election has unfolded begs the question. Perhaps the rational answer is that no news outlet should be considered the end-all-be-all when it comes to journalistic clout. Only with a variety of sources and perspectives can you form a well-rounded opinion.

Throughout the last sixteen months though, even institutions like The New York Times and Associated Press have made some mistakes in an effort to publish quickly. I’ve called attention to the consequences of a 24-hour news cycle before — it has no doubt changed the way news is produced and consumed. We’re starting to see a shift in journalistic trust that tends more toward the chaotic.

Where do you go for news? If you’re a moderately affluent adult in 2016 (children and time travelers can quietly bow out), you probably look online. Twice as many adults use the Internet as read a paper to stay informed. That statistic shouldn’t shock you — this has been a developing trend for a decade. Newspapers are no longer the gatekeepers.

Consumers get their news from a wide variety of websites, but how many different sources report news? Aggregating has created a cottage industry of refining and repackaging articles. Everyone is publishing, not necessarily reporting.

The Facebook news marketshare is undeniable

In a sea of noise, you can always find the note you want to hear. The fractured news market has created echo chambers all over the Internet. However, even across this rugged landscape, one source stands tall, with unparalleled reach.

Facebook is used by 64% of American adults, and 30% of American adults get their news from the social networking site. To reference that earlier statistic, 38% of American adults get their news online. That’s an incredible market share. Of the American adults getting their news online, more than 3 out of 4 of them use Facebook. Of course, most people probably use more than one source, and Facebook news is an aggregator after all — directing people to other websites.

In any case, no one can deny that the social networking site has a massive audience. It’s an influencer. Even if Facebook doesn’t claim to be a journalistic outlet, it has reach. It controls the dissemination of news. That is, in effect, what a contemporary news source does. News sources need journalistic integrity, and that might be even tougher to come by when you start as a for-profit business that later decides to aggregate news.

Trend manipulation comes easily, whether intentional or not

The Facebook news entryway sits on the right-hand side of its page. A little sidebar includes stories that are trending. What used to be three headlines (which were often clickbait riddled), has been reduced simply to three names, of celebrities or institutions, and the number of people talking about the particular issue. You have to click to get any substance.

Facebook news Hillary ClintonI took this screengrab from my sidebar earlier this week. Notice the discrepancy in the numbers? Six times as many people were talking about the super-culturally-relevant-I’m-sure MythBusters story compared to the Hillary Clinton story. Guess what piqued my interest more? But after hovering over the presidential candidate’s name, I saw that the related article was from a far-right news outlet — the chairman of which is also CEO of the opposing campaign.

Of Facebook’s millions of users, 3.3 thousand are talking about what is, by definition, a biased news article, and yet that lands on what is essentially Facebook’s front page. This is how trends develop. They’re a snowball careening downhill. Facebook’s got the strength to give stories plenty of momentum at the top — that’s why journalistic integrity is vital, even for aggregators.

Repressing news stories is a slippery slope (analogy spinoff). Earlier this spring, former Facebook news curators said they routinely hid Conservative news stories from the view of users. But not all news stories are created equal. Helping to prop up agenda-driven news, makes you complicit in that story.

Yes, consumers should be careful about what they read and pay attention to sources, but if news outlets, which Facebook undeniably is, are going to profit from publishing the work of others, they are obligated to retain some journalistic morality themselves.

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Tips for Starting Your Book Idea … No Matter How Long You’ve Held Onto It http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/08/tips-starting-book-idea-no-matter-long-youve-held-onto/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/08/tips-starting-book-idea-no-matter-long-youve-held-onto/#respond Mon, 29 Aug 2016 14:39:33 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5350 There are people who are writers and there are people who hate writing – that’s pretty much how the population is divided. But as it turns out, there’s an entire new set of variables that have been hiding beneath the surface: people who want to be writers, but never seem to get started. The more […]

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snoopy typingThere are people who are writers and there are people who hate writing – that’s pretty much how the population is divided. But as it turns out, there’s an entire new set of variables that have been hiding beneath the surface: people who want to be writers, but never seem to get started. The more people I meet, the more often I talk about writing, the more I hear about folks who have this great book idea. Or that they have a relative or an old neighbor whose story they want to tell. Whether or not the ideas are worth writing about isn’t for me to judge (I will be asked if an idea is “good” or “worth pursuing.”) Instead, it’s about the want to write, but never quite moving forward.

What are you should-be writers waiting for?

Get Rid of Your Doubts

Are you worried that your book or essay won’t be very “good”? Who cares. Even the most famous of writers have penned some doozies. The only way to get better – or to get start – is to actually begin writing down your ideas and putting them into action. Sit down, type up some pages, and see what happens. You might decide you really don’t like writing at all. But the only way to find out, or to improve, is to get started and make yourself into one who writes.

Meet With Others Who Write

Writing groups, workshops, classes, etc. – anything you can find that can help you write, you should consider signing up. These types of classes are full of others who are in your exact boat, which means you can lean on one another for support and constructive criticism … in that order. It’s also a good reminder that you aren’t the only one muddling your way through the process.

Stop Looking Up to Others (Kind Of)

There’s nothing wrong with having inspiration, or admiration for what others have done. But you shouldn’t consider them experts, either. Writing is objective; everyone has different ideas and different approaches. I am constantly humbled by the amount I don’t know, and strive to use that as motivation.

Stop Procrastinating

There’s no rule that says you have to write every day, but you do have to write eventually. Devote as little as 15 minutes at a time – so long as you’re working toward your cause, you’re on the right path. On the other hand, if you have to force yourself that much to sit down and write, you might ask if it should continue to be a hobby worth pursuing.

Try and Try Again

Keep writing, and keep writing some more. The more often you do something, the better you can become. Soon you’ll be typing faster, words will flow easier, and you’ll improve your own thoughts as you go.

Never be afraid to produce “bad” writing, so long as you’re putting words together, it’s progress in the right direction.

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Television Shows Are As Good As Old Friends http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/08/oldfriends/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/08/oldfriends/#respond Fri, 12 Aug 2016 14:00:57 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5345 Throughout my life I’ve found it easy to make friends. (This boast is part of a larger illustration, I promise.) I mean that everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve always had a volume of friends. (Trust me.) Some people just have one or two buddies with whom they are truly intimate. I don’t think it’s possible to […]

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golden-age-of-televisionThroughout my life I’ve found it easy to make friends. (This boast is part of a larger illustration, I promise.) I mean that everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve always had a volume of friends. (Trust me.)

Some people just have one or two buddies with whom they are truly intimate. I don’t think it’s possible to really be close to 40 or 50 people, but I have a long list of guests I’d let crash on my couch for a couple days.

I’ve retained a core group of friends from elementary and high school with whom I will probably always share a bond, but I don’t get to see any of them on a daily basis.

When I moved to college I made new friends living in the dorms, at improv practice, and at other universities (where we would sometimes do improv).

I moved to Dallas a little over a year ago. Again, through the improv theater mostly, I’ve made a group of friends with whom I enjoy spending time. Now that we’ve all moved around, these pockets of friends exist throughout the country — Kansas City, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New Jersey.

When I’m home in Kansas I enjoy spending even a couple hours catching up with people I once saw on a daily basis. Sitting down for dinner with a friend I haven’t seen in six months, the familiarity sinks in quickly. It feels like I just talked to this person yesterday.

TV shows offer comfort in small doses

Seasons of prestige dramas on HBO, for example, usually run about 10 hours total. You spend only small chunks of time with these groups of characters, but you remember them. You care about them. A new season finally comes out and you get to catch up with one another.

Reuniting feels good, and it’s painful when you eventually have to say goodbye again. The characters and settings are like that friend you haven’t seen in six months — (usually thanks to a little narrative structure) you sit down with them and everything comes rushing back. Barring a cancellation, you know you’ll get to watch more House of Cards in less than a year, but when that world is fresh in your mind, it can feel like an eternity.

Media are imaginary friends for adults

TV shows and podcasts offer us intimate experiences that we can substitute for human interactions. That almost sounds like a dark joke, but when you live in a city where you have to drive 30 minutes each way to get to your friend’s house, sometimes it’s easier to just watch an episode of Mr. Robot.

In college, I could walk 15 minutes and spend $5 to get drunk with my friends at a stripmall of bars. I spend that on parking now.

Weeknight forays simply don’t make economic sense anymore. That conclusion bummed me out initially, but I’ve come around. I don’t consider it healthy to replace all human friendships with Netflix shows, but I also don’t think anyone should be ashamed about the comfort they experience while watching Stranger Things or listening to This American Life.

My favorite podcast is Harmontown. When I listen to an episode, it’s like I’m hanging out with a familiar group of friends. I’ve consumed hundreds of hours of this show. I know the cast and their temperaments. I laugh because someone refers to an incident from twenty episodes ago — twenty weeks ago.

We have a history with the media we consume. I’ve known Tyrion Lannister way longer than any of these people in Dallas. I don’t confide in fictional characters, and I value the friendships I have with fellow improvisors here. But as with my friends from elementary school, the length of a relationship matters.

I mean to humanize media, not dehumanize humans. People and TV shows come in and out of your life. It’s okay that they mean something. Enjoy each one while you have it.

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Pokemon Go Explodes Into Existence http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/07/pokemon/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/07/pokemon/#respond Thu, 28 Jul 2016 14:30:14 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5340 I played Pokemon religiously growing up. I got a Gameboy Pocket for Christmas when I was seven or eight years old. I drained countless pairs of double A’s on Red Version. I watched the Pokemon cartoon in the afternoons when I got home from school. As I grew up, so did Pokemon — releasing more […]

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PokemonI played Pokemon religiously growing up. I got a Gameboy Pocket for Christmas when I was seven or eight years old. I drained countless pairs of double A’s on Red Version. I watched the Pokemon cartoon in the afternoons when I got home from school. As I grew up, so did Pokemon — releasing more and more editions of the game. I’d add to my collection all summer. When my parents told me to go outside, I’d take my Gameboy with me and play there. I had books that included maps of the various regions — Johto, Kanto — and complete lists of the Pokemon and all of their abilities. I bought the last Pokemon game I have purchased my freshman year of college, more than ten years after my first game. I still play through them once in awhile.

I don’t play Pokemon Go.

Niantic Labs released the augmented reality game on July 6th. The rest has been a blur.

To outsiders, the game presents annoyances: herds of people darting back and forth through public spaces, heads buried in their phones; whole tables of people staring down at their screens during lunchtime conversations. Stories have surfaced of kids asking strangers for access to their backyards in the name of conquest. And, of course, there’s this.

To insiders however, the app offers a video game come to life. It taps into the nostalgia of a rabid fan base, making concrete (to some degree) what had previously been a childhood fantasy. Everyone who ever played the Pokemon games growing up most assuredly dreamt of a reality in which they actually possessed and raised a pocket monster of their own.

Regardless of your player status, Pokemon Go has been an ubiquitous force for the last three weeks. During a recent trip home my mom asked me if I had the game so she could play it. That never happened growing up. The sheer volume of people playing Pokemon Go has created huge implications for the tech world, and the world at large.

Pokemon Go as a digital marketing tool

How often does a brand new customer base of 21 million people appear over night? That’s the number of daily users for Pokemon Go, and the game hasn’t even finished its rollout. Businesses started to capitalize immediately.

Restaurants and coffee shops started advertising free wifi and check discounts for players that wanted to stop in. Since the game is location-based, those in the hunt for a Pikachu have to physically go to specific locations to claim their prize. Businesses that cater to players can catch the eye of potential customers that may not have known the business existed.

PokemonPlus, there are in-game methods of attracting players. Businesses can purchase “lures” to drop at specified Pokestops. If a business is near a Pokestop (generated by the game’s developers), for roughly $1 that business can drop a lure to cause Pokemon to appear in 30-minute intervals. This essentially sends out a beacon to players in the area drawing them to the business. It’s hard to find a better ROI per advertising dollar at the moment.

Pokemon Go as a security risk

While the game is a huge opportunity for commerce, it also presents its own set of risks. Millions and millions of people are downloading this game every day — some of them from third-party sites, which can be harbingers for malware.

Some raised concern over the permissions the app requested upon download. The developers have since said that they did not intend to require access to users’ Gmail and Google Docs, but it’s discomforting to consider the powerful combination of access and malware on your phone.

Then, of course, there’s the physical security threat. Police reports have been filed suggesting that criminals have lured Pokemon Go players to a particular place in order to rob them. And as far as the users themselves, with such a dedicated collection of players, it’s not hard to imagine some trespassing in order to secure a rare monster.

No matter your opinions or involvement with the game, you must acknowledge that Pokemon Go is a phenomenon. It’s hard to say if the game is here to stay just yet. The daily user numbers have already waned slightly, but in this moment, Pokemon Go certainly presents an opportunity.

My decision not to play Pokemon Go isn’t a principled one. (For the sake of my livelihood as a tech-centric guy who writes for a digital marketing firm I probably should play the game.) My current workload puts enough of a strain on my phone battery. As a freelancer, I don’t really need another distraction available to me 24/7. I like playing through the platform games for a week or so once every year or two. It’s a memory to which I have direct access.

I’m interested to see what Pokemon Go will become. I’m content to watch it from the outside.

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How Often do you Unplug? http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/07/how-often-do-you-unplug/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/07/how-often-do-you-unplug/#respond Mon, 25 Jul 2016 12:37:10 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5336 We are a generation of now. Of being entertained at all times, and of having immediate access to any number of programs, games, and of course, communication. We can reach out to others in multiple mediums at any given time. In fact, it’s expected. With computers and mobile phones essentially acting as pocket computers, this […]

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Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 7.35.38 AMWe are a generation of now. Of being entertained at all times, and of having immediate access to any number of programs, games, and of course, communication. We can reach out to others in multiple mediums at any given time. In fact, it’s expected. With computers and mobile phones essentially acting as pocket computers, this has become part of the status quo. If someone isn’t responding to you, it’s almost deliberate; that’s how easy it is to get ahold of people in the year 2016.

But what about those times you just need to unplug? Or even to focus on one form of communication at a time? If you’re anything like this blogger, you can get overwhelmed by the constant amount of notifications. There are texts, IMs, emails, and for some reason, calls. (Seriously, email me or I will forget to call you back and/or never listen to your voicemail. It’s nothing personal; calls interrupt your entire chain of thought.)

Anyway, there’s a whole mess of talking – in some form or another – all going on at once. Sometimes we just need a break. It might be a short one, but it can do the brain some serious good. Look, some way smart people even did their homework to prove that that’s true.

So … Do you unplug? Or are you constantly tuned in, afraid you’ll miss out on something great? (Or something mediocre?) We want to know. What are the social norms, and how many of us are sticking to them – that is, on your own time, after you’d had a solid electronics break.

We’ll get back to you on our own time, too.

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Crisis and Social Media: The New Normal http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/07/crisis-social-media-new-normal/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/07/crisis-social-media-new-normal/#respond Fri, 08 Jul 2016 14:31:22 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5324 Last night my girlfriend and I sat on the couch watching Mr. Robot. I thought I heard a faint popping noise that I assumed came from Independence Day holdovers. We live three miles from downtown Dallas. About ten minutes later, I checked the group message I share with high school friends. One of them had […]

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Downtown-Dallas-Crisis2Last night my girlfriend and I sat on the couch watching Mr. Robot. I thought I heard a faint popping noise that I assumed came from Independence Day holdovers. We live three miles from downtown Dallas. About ten minutes later, I checked the group message I share with high school friends. One of them had said “I wouldn’t go outside if I were you, Neely.” I didn’t understand what that meant. I checked Twitter and the rest of my night got sucked into a wormhole.

It’s unmistakable, the feeling of watching a crisis unfold online. It starts with a kernel. You begin connecting dots and speculating in your head while you pan for more information. Even with a lightning-fast news source like Twitter, it takes time to figure out what’s happening. A clearer picture starts to cut through the chaos. Then that picture homogenizes. The videos and personal accounts are sieved until a few pieces of information remain. They’re then rapidly circulated by the cruise ships full of people that begin to arrive online. Eventually, a trend search becomes useless because everyone is recycling the same information again and again.

There had been a protest downtown. Someone(s) shot police officers. That was all we knew right away.

After 25 minutes on Twitter and Reddit, we turned on our cable box — which I had cancelled, effective today — to watch the local news. Multiple reporters had stationed themselves on the fringe of the fray downtown. Observations and eyewitnesses added some context, but chaos was the prevailing character.

I talked with my parents, and my girlfriend talked with hers. My mom hadn’t seen any news that night because she had been at a meeting.

On Facebook, I watched people begin to mark themselves as “safe” during “Violent Crime in Downtown Dallas.” I thought that title seemed strange at the time. It’s actually good reporting. We feel compelled to label every crisis as it happens. We have to know the motivations behind horrific actions in order to rationalize them. “Person X believes Y, so — as disgusting as Z is — it makes sense that they would do Z.”

Rationalizing terrorism normalizes terrorism. Labels politicize these atrocities, but I’m not making a political statement. Do you feel disoriented, afraid, angry, and/or sad in the wake of last night’s events? Then it was terrorism.

In a way, those first twenty minutes of a Twitter trend are a cleaner form of reporting than we often get from professional news sources. It’s just data pouring in from an almost-random sample of people. It hasn’t yet been hewn into statistics to serve a cause. It’s also a faster form of news. It has become the way you download in a time of crisis.

Five years ago, if something happened, I turned on CNN. Now I use a microblog and local news coverage. I went to the Atlanta-based news giant’s website this morning. I saw the headline regarding a body count from last night. Five officers dead. There was also a red, clickable box next to it that said “WATCH CNN.”

The last year has felt more crisis-laden than any year before in my life. Social media are where you learn about a crisis, and where you’ll see it chopped and sold for parts.

It doesn’t feel bad. It feels normal. And that feels bad.

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Trend manipulation and #HeterosexualPrideDay http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/06/trend-manipulation/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/06/trend-manipulation/#respond Wed, 29 Jun 2016 14:30:56 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5320 Is the Internet trolling itself with this trend? Social media are home to acidic opinions, ready to melt the world around them. But what happened Wednesday morning felt like a nudge from an invisible hand. The question is worth asking. The hashtag #heterosexualprideday appeared in 114K tweets by 7:15 AM, central time. Heterosexual pride was […]

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trend-heterosexual-prideIs the Internet trolling itself with this trend?

Social media are home to acidic opinions, ready to melt the world around them. But what happened Wednesday morning felt like a nudge from an invisible hand. The question is worth asking.

The hashtag #heterosexualprideday appeared in 114K tweets by 7:15 AM, central time.

Heterosexual pride was a movement that largely took hold in the nineties as a counter to gay pride (see also: #AllLivesMatter).

I won’t take time to explain why this angers people. Just check Twitter, it’s pretty thorough.

A quick trend search for the topic reveals an avalanche of sarcastic quips. Memes, .gifs, and subreddit links all chip in to help the Twittersphere dismantle the farcical hashtag.

Trend perpetuation has happened before

During my research, the proponents of #heterosexualprideday were so few-and-far-between, that even the supporters seemed disingenuous. It reminded me of last year’s “Boycott Star Wars” campaign that had almost no legitimate backing. The trend survived on the outrage of those who were justifiably disgusted.

When there’s no one on the other side of an argument, yelling doesn’t necessarily accomplish anything.

By commenting on the movement using the movement’s hashtag, you spin the movement forward. Maybe your goal is to ridicule the trend for being tone-deaf, and you need the hashtag as evidence in your argument. Even so, that chess move will always be undercut by the inevitable slew of self-fulfilling tweets reading, “How is #heterosexualprideday a thing?”

In this case, I’m watching the trend develop live. I have a few good guesses as to where this thing originated, but unlike with the Star Wars incident, I don’t know. Which is why I have to ask, “Is the Internet trolling itself?”

Twitter has become one of the most widely consumed news sources in the world. It’s actively wrestling the mantle away from cable, so it seems only natural that it would eventually pull a cable news move. Using a straw man argument to fuel a 24-hour news cycle, that’s textbook. It’s also the reason I don’t watch CNN.

Heterosexual Pride Day is basically a “you up?” text from Twitter

Twitter users are always up.

Social mediaphiles have the ingenuity of a Japanese elementary school gym class. They’re always active. A halfway-serious proposal is all they need to invite themselves over for a three day stay.

Could Twitter be making things up to stir the pot? Is the type of rhetoric I just used part of the problem?

More likely, #heterosexualprideday is a prompt from a conservative group. But maybe a struggling biology student just got confused. Regardless of intent, the manipulation worked. The seed has taken hold. The trend towers over runners-up like #ThingsIWillAlwaysBe.

The resounding disapproval of Heterosexual Pride Day looks like a win for progress, but what’s the end goal? What’s the best-case scenario? After being thoroughly routed, all supporters of this polarizing stance have to change their banners to House Social Equality and swear fealty to Ru Paul?

The social media battlefield is not where opinions are altered.

Personally, I enjoy seeing ignorance struck down. The overwhelming “no” from Twitter users is encouraging given the typically toxic environment. But remember, a one-sided argument is ultimately just a person shouting at the air in front of them.

This has been a time trial, not a race.

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Make the Bold Choice When Writing http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/06/make-the-bold-choice-when-writing/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/06/make-the-bold-choice-when-writing/#respond Wed, 22 Jun 2016 14:00:12 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5312 Acting is all about making a choice. You’ll hear directors and critics refer to a performer’s “choice” as being bold, or weak, or confusing. The words are on the page for the actor. It’s the way he or she chooses to interpret those words that dictates the performance. The relationship between writer and actor or […]

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bold-choice-signActing is all about making a choice. You’ll hear directors and critics refer to a performer’s “choice” as being bold, or weak, or confusing. The words are on the page for the actor. It’s the way he or she chooses to interpret those words that dictates the performance. The relationship between writer and actor or director can sometimes become strained because the writer pens his or her words exactly as they should be delivered. Depending on the egos of the individuals involved, any deviation from the master plan can be interpreted as a criticism.

However, ultimately, writers have the same decisions facing them as performers. As a writer, you still get to make choices. Choosing to move boldly or in an unexpected way can totally change an audience’s perception of your story.

Our culture loves twists, craves them even. We anticipate them happening for the length of entire seasons, novels, and films. You can get lost in a portal while wading through Internet theories about prestige dramas like Game of Thrones. Who’s gonna die? Who’s who’s parent? We devour it. Audiences want to be surprised.

Not every surprise is about shock value. A changeup can be just as lethal as a curveball. Amidst a tension-filled science fiction thriller, the film Ex Machina finds time for a bizarre dance sequence (spoilerish) that injects humor and humanizes the borderline-unfamiliar situation. Ultimately it adds more weight to the film’s haunting conclusion.

When you make the atypical choice as a writer, it snaps the audience to attention. However, when it comes to writing, saying is always orders-of-magnitude-easier than doing.

When writing something for yourself, no matter how many words you key, you’ve always got a theoretical abyss before you. That’s a lot of blank space. I’ve mentioned writer’s block before, but I’m not referring to an absence of motivation now. Even when you’re in-rhythm, making pronounced choices isn’t a given.

A gear shift still needs to feel earned. You want your story or piece to satisfy the audience’s appetite for story, not necessarily its expectations. Emotional honesty for characters and the author is key. Honesty validates the unexpected choice. I learned that from improv.

Improvisation is all made up, just like writing. When improvising though, you cannot revise. That means you have to be clear and bold with your first draft. The audience will shriek with delight when it sees an interesting or unexpected choice. However, the moment you sell out your own character or the scene you’re in for a joke, the audience loses something. You can actually feel the souls withering in the theater.

I don’t suggest that writers should halt their own process to brainstorm ideas for wacky twists. You have to be true to your own style. However, if you have an impulse, follow it and commit to it. That’s a core tenant of improv, and an easy way to empower yourself as a writer. Don’t be afraid of the bold choice. The audience wants you to make it.

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