A few days before the election Silverman and fellow BuzzFeed contributor Lawrence Alexander traced 100 pro–Donald Trump sites to a town of 45,000 in Macedonia. Some teens there realized they could make money off the election, and just like that, became a node in the information network that helped Trump beat Clinton.
Whatever weird thing you imagine might happen, something weirder probably did happen. Reporters tried to keep up, but it was too strange. As Max Read put it in New York Magazine, Facebook is “like a four-dimensional object, we catch slices of it when it passes through the three-dimensional world we recognize.” No one can quite wrap their heads around what this thing has become, or all the things this thing has become.
“Not even President-Pope-Viceroy Zuckerberg himself seemed prepared for the role Facebook has played in global politics this past year,” Read wrote.
[social] Climbing Out Of Facebook's Reality Hole … Buzzfeed on Facebook’s virtual reality projects … ‘The Facebook CEO took the stage at the company’s annual F8 developers conference a little more than an hour after news broke that the so-called Facebook Killer had killed himself. But if you were expecting a somber mood, it wasn’t happening. Instead, he kicked off his keynote with a series of jokes. It was a stark disconnect with the reality outside, where the story of the hour concerned a man who had used Facebook to publicize a murder, and threaten many more. People used to talk about Steve Jobs and Apple’s reality distortion field. But Facebook, it sometimes feels, exists in a reality hole. The company doesn’t distort reality — but it often seems to lack the ability to recognize it. The problem with connecting everyone on the planet is that a lot of people are assholes.’
[fb] Why Facebook Won, and Other Hard Truths … some interesting thoughts on Facebook’s success against the Open Web … ‘People read the web now at the level they read email — they look at a lot of stuff. And what they want (and what many people continue to shame them for) is a standard interface that allows them to do that without feeling stressed. You want to win against Facebook? Let go of the idea of people reading your stuff on your site, and develop or support interfaces that put your readers in control of how they view the web instead of giving the control to the people with the servers. Support people looking into federated recommendation systems. Make friends with the idea of full copies of your stuff flowing across the web instead of links.’
[fb] An Inside Look at a Facebook Data Center …. ‘Maybe this is why some of the moments where conversation switched from the technical operations to Facebook-speak felt so awkward, but unintentionally so, like when Facebook’s algorithm decides to fill your Year in Review with pictures of an ex-boyfriend. It’s a brand that becomes harder and harder to empathize with the more it insists on trying to be empathetic, maybe because it’s not clear if there’s a distinction between an empathy engine and a branding engine or maybe because I am generationally disinclined to trust anything that’s too big to fail.’
On Twitter, people say things that they think of as ephemeral and chatty. Their utterances are then treated as unequivocal political statements by people outside the conversation. Because there’s a kind of sensationalistic value in interpreting someone’s chattiness in partisan terms, tweets “are taken up as magnum opi to be leapt upon and eviscerated, not only by ideological opponents or threatened employers but by in-network peers.”
Anthropologists who study digital spaces have diagnosed that a common problem of online communication is “context collapse.” This plays with the oral-literate distinction: When you speak face-to-face, you’re always judging what you’re saying by the reaction of the person you’re speaking to. But when you write (or make a video or a podcast) online, what you’re saying can go anywhere, get read by anyone, and suddenly your words are finding audiences you never imagined you were speaking to.
I think Stewart is identifying a new facet of this. It’s not quite context collapse, because what’s collapsing aren’t audiences so much as expectations. Rather, it’s a collapse of speech-based expectations and print-based interpretations. It’s a consequence of the oral-literate hybrid that flourishes online. It’s conversation smoosh.
[web] God Tier: Facebook moms run the meme game … a look at the rise and fall of the Image Macro … ‘Post-memes seem targeted at parents, Christians, and conservatives. Again, this is just the core audience. But many expressions are unexplored in post-memes. A Minion — or Garfield or Tweety or Snoopy — never means “I’m cooler than you.” It never supports the young against the old. It never seeks to upset the status quo. It is never sexual. And it is never truly weird. Until it is.’
[social media] Many, many Facebook users still don’t know that their news feeds are filtered by an algorithm … a look at how Facebook automatically filters your news feed … ‘Without understanding Facebook’s algorithm, these participants resorted to developing other theories for why their social lives changed on the site. Some blamed themselves for being bad at Facebook. “These participants felt that they missed friends’ stories because they were scrolling too quickly or visiting Facebook too infrequently,” the researchers write. Others figured that their friends had stopped sharing with them. “I have never seen her post anything!” one study participant said of a friend. “And I always assumed that I wasn’t really that close to that person, so that’s fine. What the hell?!”’
[twitter] What Good Is Twitter? … Is Twitter such a good way for websites to share content? ‘Last Monday, I published an article about the history of American innovation as seen through a study of patent text literature. This study found that chemistry concepts dominated science in the early 20th century, but from the 1980s on, the most-cited terms in patent texts were almost entirely in the fields of medicine and computers. Yesterday, chemistry; today, computers. This seemed like a catchy parallel, which might strike some as illuminating and others as over-simplifying. In other words, the perfect tweet. I wrote this message, with a link, and a picture. By Friday morning, it had about 155,260 impressions. According to the new Tweet activity dashboard, 2.9 percent of those users clicked the image, and 1.1 percent retweeted or favored it… but just 1 percent clicked on the link to actually read my story. One percent.’
Getting to News Feed Zero … What happens if you hide everything on Facebook? … ‘Then, after 500 hidden posts or so, something strange happened. Facebook needed to take a breather. There are no more posts to show right now, it said. I felt like Columbus setting out to find the edge of the Earth, and succeeding. As someone who used to explore the boundaries of video game maps—hoping to find a glitch in the system that would unlock some heretofore unexplored wonders in lieu of actually playing the game itself—this felt momentous. And then it felt lonely…’
I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me … ‘My News Feed took on an entirely new character in a surprisingly short amount of time. After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages. Likewise, content mills rose to the top. Nearly my entire feed was given over to Upworthy and the Huffington Post. As I went to bed that first night and scrolled through my News Feed, the updates I saw were (in order): Huffington Post, Upworthy, Huffington Post, Upworthy, a Levi’s ad, Space.com, Huffington Post, Upworthy, The Verge, Huffington Post, Space.com, Upworthy, Space.com.’
[life] Tweet … Channelling Allen Ginsberg in 2014 … ‘I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by brevity, over-connectedness, emotionally starving for attention, dragging themselves through virtual communities at 3 am, surrounded by stale pizza and neglected dreams, looking for angry meaning, any meaning…’
[tech] Spring Cleaning Who Has Access to Your Social Media Data … useful tips for managing Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn … ‘Just like the spring cleaning rule that says, “If you haven’t worn it in six months, throw it out,” you should use the same edict with your online data: “If you haven’t logged in to an app or site in six months, revoke its access.”’
[politics] The Top Five Political Twitter Gaffes … ‘We can’t decide if this is a gaffe or an unintentional stroke of genius. Who knew Ed Balls would become a social media superstar by accidentally tweeting his own name?’
7 Ways To Be Insufferable On Facebook … the humblebrag, image-crafting, attention craving – a pretty comprehensive list of annoying approaches to Facebook … ‘A Facebook status is annoying if it primarily serves the author and does nothing positive for anyone reading it.’
[work] Hyperemployment, or the Exhausting Work of the Technology User … Whatever happened to Keynes idea of a Leisure Society? ‘The economic impact of hyperemployment is obviously different from that of underemployment, but some of the same emotional toll imbues both: a sense of inundation, of being trounced by demands whose completion yields only their continuance, and a feeling of resignation that any other scenario is likely or even possible. The only difference between the despair of hyperemployment and that of un- or under-employment is that the latter at least acknowledges itself as an substandard condition, while the former celebrates the hyperemployed’s purported freedom to “share” and “connect,” to do business more easily and effectively by doing jobs once left for others competence and compensation, from the convenience of your car or toilet.’
[web] Stop Externalising Your Life … yet another look at why Social Media is bad for you … ‘The key thing to remember is that you are not enriching your experiences by sharing them online; you’re detracting from them because all your efforts are focussed on making them look attractive to other people. Your experience of something, even if similar to the experience of many others, is unique and cannot be reproduced within the constraints of social media.’
[web] Don’t Be a Stranger … a longer read on internet friendships and the differences between the Web in 2006 and now … ‘Internet friendship yields a connection that is selfconsciously pointless and pointed at the same time: Out of all of the millions of bullshitters on the World Wide Web, we somehow found each other, liked each other enough to bullshit together, and built our own Fortress of Bullshit. The majority of my interactions with online friends is perpetuating some injoke so arcane that nobody remembers how it started or what it actually means. Perhaps that proves the op-ed writers’ point, but this has been the pattern of my friendships since long before I first logged onto AOL…’
[comics] The Social Networks of Superheroes … Are fictional social networks similar to real ones?… ‘The Marvel Universe does exhibit the statistical features of a real social network in some simple ways. Furthermore, similar to our own world, they found distinct differences between the social structures of good guys and bad guys. However, in some very important aspects, it’s actually the opposite of a real social network. Specifically, while in real social networks the popular people interact with the other popular people, this is not so in the Marvel universe. For example, Spider-Man and Captain America rarely come into contact.’
[twitter] The Real Weird Twitter Is Espionage Twitter … Is Twitter being used as a numbers station? … ‘GooGuns posts nothing but strings of letters and numbers, like b39e65fa00000000 in intervals of about five minutes on average. The string of characters always ends with zeroes, occasionally with the location service turned on, so you can see that 554705fa00000000 was allegedly tweeted from the “Region of Khabarovsk.” This has been going on all day and all night, for years, with more than 318,000 tweets posted since 2009. But why?’ [via @qwghlm]
[socialnetworks] An Autopsy of a Dead Social Network … ‘They say that when the costs–the time and effort–associated with being a member of a social network outweigh the benefits, then the conditions are ripe for a general exodus. The thinking is that if one person leaves, then his or her friends become more likely to leave as well and this can cascade through the network causing a collapse in membership. But Garcia and co point out that the topology of the network provides some resilience against this. This resilience is determined by the number of friends that individual users have. So if a big fraction of people on a network have only two friends, it is highly vulnerable to collapse.’
Why Facebook Makes You Feel Miserable … ‘The most common cause of Facebook frustration came from users comparing themselves socially to their peers, while the second most common source of dissatisfaction was "lack of attention" from having fewer comments, likes and general feedback compared to friends.’
I Am Facebook Friends With Ryan Lanza … What happens if you’re friends on Facebook with somebody who is suddenly receiving a lot of media attention … ‘I found myself inundated with messages, some from journalists seeking confirmation, many from people saying angry and bizarre things to me or about Ryan. One demanded to know how I could be friends with such a monster. Could I help a random internet sleuth create a “psychological profile”? Did I see warning signs in Ryan? Why did I suspiciously post cartoons about mass shootings only days before? That was very tasteless. A text to my phone from an unknown number read “looks like this killer is a fan of yours.” A Twitter user declared me a “snitch” for sharing Ryan’s post. Someone accused me of having something to do with the killings, “which you take delight in,” they wrote, and hoped the FBI would hold me accountable.’
Here’s How Facebook Gives You Up To The Police … a fascinating look at what Facebook hands over to the Police after a legal subpoena … ‘Your entire Facebook browsing history – When you click on someone’s profile, it’s logged. Other Facebook users don’t know you’re looking at their profiles, but Facebook itself most assuredly does. Or rather can, if the police come asking.’
“It’s one thing for a family member to tell you to get yourself together,” Ms. Martinez said. “It’s quite another when a person you follow on Pinterest presents some sound advice with a great typeface on a pretty background.”
[twitter] Grace Dent: 100 things about me and Twitter … ‘I unfollow my friends all the time. I think life’s too short to have someone pissing you off in your timeline. It’s like radio interference in your brain on a lovely day.’
[internet] Social Fax Machines … James Shelley On Social Media … ‘Imagine that you were one of 300 people with fax machines. Each one of you program your respective machines to carbon copy every fax to all 299 other machines. Then, together, you go about your day diligently reading the faxes that pour in.’ [via Sore Eyes]
Weiner needed a more private channel of communication for flirtations up to and including pictures of his package. Since the women followed him already, he could send them direct messages. But to receive their replies, he had to follow them in return. Only then could he engage in flirting or sexual repartee.
Weiner seemed not to realize the extent to which Twitter’s rules still made him vulnerable. The women were publicly listed among those accounts he followed. Since he only followed around 200 people, these new followers seemed out of place among the politicians, journalists, and celebrities on his list. It was all too easy for a political foe to notice that Weiner was adding young women (and in at least one case, a porn star) to his followers soon after a public exchange.’
Bradley Manning’s Facebook Page … I can’t help myself but be fascinated by this archive of Bradley Manning’s Facebook Wall … ‘Manning’s Facebook postings are a vivid, if partial, portrait of his life in the military and of the political and social issues that he followed closely. They reflect his commitment to gay rights and defiance of the military’s ban on openly gay or lesbian soldiers. They track the anguish in his personal life. And they conclude with an entry, put up in Manning’s name by his aunt, explaining his arrest with a link to a WikiLeaks website.’
FaceFacts … Jason Scott on Facebook … ‘[Facebook] is like an ever-burning fire of our memories, gleefully growing as we toss endless amounts of information and self and knowledge into it, only to have it added to columns of advertiser-related facts we do not see and do not control and do not understand.’
Is Facebook Making Us Sad? … ‘Facebook is, after all, characterized by the very public curation of one’s assets in the form of friends, photos, biographical data, accomplishments, pithy observations, even the books we say we like. Look, we have baked beautiful cookies. We are playing with a new puppy. We are smiling in pictures (or, if we are moody, we are artfully moody.) Blandness will not do, and with some exceptions, sad stuff doesn’t make the cut, either. The site’s very design—the presence of a “Like” button, without a corresponding “Hate” button—reinforces a kind of upbeat spin doctoring.’