Do Social Media Erase Memories?

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If there is something very evident regarding social media is how much power they have given people to spread messages, which may end up having both positive and negative consequences. We are no longer passive members of an audience receiving and processing information. We have the power to create, distribute, and control messages; we have the ability to make our voice so strong that in a matter of hours, on one side we have one business forced to close and on the other we have a funding campaign to make up for the financial loss, as a result of closing the business. This is the case of Memories Pizza, an Indiana- based restaurant who reportedly was the first to say it would refuse to cater a gay wedding, protected by Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). I live in Puerto Rico and if it weren’t for social media, I would have never learn about the existence of Memories Pizza.

In a matter of minutes, people headed to review websites like Yelp! and social networks like Twitter to express their opinion for and against the restaurant’s position. There are 194 reviews on Yelp! written in two days; there are 1,046 reviews on the “not recommended” section of Yelp!, meaning these ratings were not factored in the overall star rating, based on reliability and quality, among other factors. The content of these comments ranges from supportive messages like “I support Memories Pizza” to others questioning their position and talking about how horrible its pizza is in a effort to undermine its reputation. The results of these comments, and many others on social networks like Twitter, combined with offline threats, forced the owners to close the restaurant. This is how its Yelp! page looks today:

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On Twitter,#MemoriesPizza appeared in Twitter’s top ten most popular terms, with tweets both supporting and condemning the business for their public stance.
This is one of the tweets from an assistant softball coach, who was later suspended from her position:

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The message constitutes a threat, meaning that there were repercussions and local authorities are investigating this matter. This is another example of how people have a voice on social media, as a result of the limitless space there is and the absence of editing. Each person is on his or her own and may choose to post the content they deem appropriate.

The restaurant’s website was also hacked and someone changed the background of the homepage to rainbow-colored and the message, “call us to cater your gay wedding!” This is more support to the idea of how much control people have on the Internet. This means both control to hack into these websites, as well as control of the message itself.

Yet, not everything is negative for Memories Pizza. On the other side, there’s an army of people who are concerned about the economic implications of having to close the business and are encouraging others to donate money through a crowdfunding platform, GoFundMe. This platform allows people to raise money for events and other causes. As of right now, in just two days, the Support Memories Pizza account has raised $538.599. This is an example of how to use social media to put your cause in front of an audience, expecting people will be moved to take action. Social media have the power to move a lot of people in record time, in this case, 18,333 in two days. While the increasing amount of threats to this family moved them to close the business, this side of of social media must not be forgotten: huge masses of people join together to show support, it doesn’t matter which side you’re in.

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While the future of Memories Pizza is uncertain, we must take a look at these reactions as a way to show, not only how fast people can react and create movements on social media, but also how they have brought forward the potential to make a difference. For good or for bad, it seems like these memories created by the thousands of people who had something to say about Memories Pizza, will not be erased. Something happens=people react and, with social media, it’s permanent.

Ethical Implications of Disaster Porn

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“I never look at it. I can’t. I Googled myself once, and I looked at it and I was like, I can’t look at that. That just brings me right back to me laying on the ground.”

These are the expressions of Jeff Bauman, a Boston Bombings survivor who we remember from this graphic photo of him published on social media right after the catastrophic event. He is also referenced to as a hero, since he helped the FBI identify Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The picture is graphic in many ways, particularly as it shows he lost both limbs. There are many ethical implications and issues that can be explored regarding publishing this photo. Journalists, photojournalists, and others working on news organizations have the responsibility to confront us with the truth, not hide it from us. They do so by narrating stories. These stories help readers understand reality. Even though publishing these photos is disturbing, journalists may feel they need to show the different sides of the story and different perspectives, so that readers get an easier understanding of the big picture. However, there are many ethical considerations regarding whether or not to publish these types of images. I will address some of the most important ones to conclude that there was no reason to publish this photo.

One of the ethical implications is the debate between privacy and public interest. While a man is struggling with shock and pain, why is it necessary to spread such an image as he deals with this devastating situation, in which he probably was not even reasoning what was happening? Is this the only way of telling people the story about the Boston Marathon Bombings? Maybe they could have used his photo without showing the limbs and put something on the text to describe what happened to him. Isn’t the image too graphic or it’s essential to tell this story? According to Bloodshed in the news – dealing with graphic images, “Harrowing photographs do not inevitably lose their power to shock. But they are not much help if the task is to understand. Narratives can make us understand. Photographs do something else: they haunt us.” Another question is, do they need to exploit a tragic event to inform the public? Is a man’s right to privacy lost because the incident happened in a public place? How ethical is it to publish this image without his consent? I don’t think so and one reason is that it may be distressing to his family, particularly when they learned about what happened to him through social media.

According to Family Of Jeff Bauman, Double Amputee In Viral Photo, Learned Of Injuries On Facebook, Jeff’s father got a call from his stepdaughter asking him, “if he had seen the picture.” It was at that moment when he turned to Facebook and saw the viral photo. This means the publishing of the photo left no time for the family to be contacted by the authorities. Because of speed and immediacy on social media, they learned about this. Journalists know this about social media. They know news travel faster than with traditional media. However, because they are in a rush to publish the best content, they do not stop for a second to analyze how this can impact a victim’s family. Another thing they don’t analyze is how can the photo impact the victim, considering emotional effects and dignity. I started this post with a quote from the injured person, which clearly portrays how disturbing and traumatic the photo still is and how he can’t even look at it. Photos published on social media are also permanent and victims struggle with post-traumatic stress. Doesn’t anyone stop to think about this for one second? The other distressing part for both the family and the victim is the fact that the photo is way too graphic, explicit, and gruesome. The mental well-being of both should be taken into consideration, as well as the fact that they needed to grieve and let it sink in.

I have a question for journalists and for all of us. Does social media make us more hungry for this type of content? Do these images make us and the victims more or less human? Are we more curious because we have access to more information, which we can access faster? I think these circumstances should be approached with more sensitivity. I think such images are not essential to tell a story, as they are not the only option to use in the narrative. German journalist Simon P. Balzert composed a code of ethics for the use of graphic images. Some of the guidelines include publishing more emotionally appealing and least shocking images and not publishing solely for its shock or entertainment value. On the contrary, it should be published because it’s newsworthy and pertinent.

My Fellow Ello

Ello’s promise is that it will not make money from selling ads or user data. The anti-Facebook social network launched last year with these promises; to make these even tighter, ir converted its legal structure to a Public Benefits Corporation. This means that Ello is a for-profit organization, but an essential part of its philosophy to benefit society. The company sees money and profit as a means to make social impact. Ello wants to provide users the opportunity to connect without other companies seeing them as products that can be bought and sold. According to Ello Doesn’t Have Ads, “Collecting and selling your personal information, reading your posts, and mapping your social connections for profit is unethical. Every new feature on an ad-driven network is either a new way to gather more data about you (which can be sold), or show you more ads (which are auctioned), or both.” Thus, Ello’s motto is to do the right thing by making the product beneficial to users themselves, not to other companies. In this way, we see a company reflecting what care ethics is about.

Without advertising, the company says it will make money out of premium extra features, like profile customization. This model is not new and, in some cases, it has proven to be profitable. As a matter of fact, it’s widely used in the gaming industry, known as the “freemium model,” in which users play for free, but pay for extras. The concept is if you want to get the best rewards or features, you have to pay money; users pay to enhance the experience. Clash of Clans and Game of War: Fire Age made enough money last year to buy Super Bowl ads. Sounds good, right? It’s important to note that only 1.5% of freemium revenue comes from these purchases. Also, this model doesn’t mean that these apps are free from advertising. As a matter of fact, according to a survey by App Annie and IDC on 2013, 50% of app revenue comes from in-app advertising and that percentage is expected to increase in 2017. There are two possible scenarios regarding data mining here:

  • It doesn’t mean that no one is using data; it’s used internally to enhance user experience
  • With the information above, we see the success of the gaming apps does imply using advertising as an important source of revenue, thus user data is sold.

In my opinion, this model might work for gaming, but not for social, especially if the social network offering an ad-free experience has no attractive features and functionalities that may motivate me to try it or even consider leaving Facebook because that one is better. In order for Ello to profit from the extras, it needs to increase its user base. As of October, they had 1 million users, to which they just added 250,000 more. The rollout has been limited because the platform is unfinished and they have decided to add features along the way. They have missed a very important thing, if not the most: the app version. Considering the growth of mobile usage, how come they leave this for 8 months after launching?

Just recently, Ello added the ability to post videos from other sources like YouTube. In Ello Is Becoming a Real Social Network, Even as Tech Media Pronounces It Dead, John Koetsier touches on this point by saying that this new ability to share video does include ads, not from Ello, but from YouTube. I wonder what platforms like YouTube and Soundcloud will be able to do regarding advertising, considering the fact that they will be able to know where traffic comes from. Technically, Ello is not selling information, but it’s providing an open forum for others to take data from there. Ello was able to tackle this with a feature on the settings menu, which you can turn off to avoid embedded media.

I think at this point, this limits the user’s ability to connect organically; to create and celebrate life just like Ello wants. It’s a cool option and it strengthens their position about no ads, but then it’s also a barrier for sharing information. If I’m an artist and want to share my video from YouTube with my friends, then it means not everyone will see them. What will happen when people are able to use hashtags? Doesn’t this give outside sources access to content related to a hashtag? I wonder up to what point can they keep this promise, when content like hashtags are part of a universal database.

I honestly love Ello’s philosophy and I like the intention of creating a company with a sustainable model that wants to do social good by intending to protect people and providing a platform strictly for connecting with other people, not products. The freemium model they expect to use for added features and customization sounds like a great idea, but why will people pay for something that they can have for free in the platform which billions of people use? In order to capitalize on this, they must focus on what’s different and try to make it really different. If there is the equivalent of a newsfeed, what feature does my product have that makes me different? Snapchat and Instagram did this. They both have feeds, but Snapchat decided to erase content and Instagram decided to stick to enhancing the photo sharing process. It’s a matter of differentiation…..and launching the app as soon as possible. As soon as they are able to increase its user base, we will be able to see if these promises also result in a sustainable company.

I think people will react positively, just like me, initially. I loved the idea and the concept, but once I got a chance to play with the platform, I couldn’t find anything interesting or too different, so I never used it. Also, it will take a while to see if there will be consequences for all social media, but I can say it makes me think about Path, another social network which tried to deliver a similar ad-free promise to protect privacy, but with a price people were not willing to pay. I think there is a fine line between protecting and not protecting users on social media. They’re all businesses and they need to make money, sometimes sacrificing what they initially say they will protect.

The Act of Moderating on Social Media

“A single tweet can create a ripple that expands into big waves, whether harmful or helpful.”-Daniel Threfall

In How to Effectively Moderate Social Media, Threfall makes this statement, which helps explain the importance of social media moderation. The purpose of moderation is to lead conversations. On social media, this involves keeping an eye on what people are saying on our social media pages, so that we can keep a safe, peaceful, and collaborative environment, rather than one characterized by offensive, potentially dangerous, and out-of-line comments. The role of the social media moderator is monitor, track, listen, and respond, when necessary and according to a company’s social media policy. In the end, the aim should be to develop and maintain relationships, so the strategy should be to take actions that work in favor of this, rather than against. The social media moderator faces many challenges, depending of the situation. There are also many possible ways to address different comments, as well as unlimited choices, including deciding not to respond, deleting a comment, and responding publicly or privately. There are also many choices regarding what to say and how to say it, in terms of tone and language.

Below please find two hypothetical examples of audience and customer comments and my approach regarding moderating these. My recommendation is to respond to both online, right at the place they customer posted the comment. This, in my opinion, serves to respond to others who might have the same concern. Also, it’s a way for companies to transform a negative situation into a positive one. I think it’s the opportunity for a company to demonstrate how serious it is about its business.

Example #1

Customer comment to a hotel: “I am disgusted about the state of your restaurant on 1467 Justin Kings Way. Empty tables weren’t cleared and full of remains of meals. It makes me wonder what the state of your kitchen is?!!! Gross.”

My response: “Hello (insert customer name). Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We sincerely apologize for this situation at our restaurant during your visit. Cleanliness is one of our of top priorities and I can assure you that steps are being taken with members of our team to address and correct this issue, so that it does not happen again. (Insert customer name), we value you as a customer and would like to take this opportunity to invite you to come back to our restaurant and give us another chance. If you wish to contact me directly, you can call the restaurant (phone number) and ask for Celeste. Have a great day!”

Example #2:

Message to a mainstream news network: “Your reporting on the Middle East is biased in the extreme. You gave almost all your air time to spokespeople for the Israelis last night and there was no right to reply for the Palestinians. The conflict upsets me so much and your reporting of it, saddens me even more and makes me f**king furious.” (Let us assume the reporting was balanced, with equal time to both sides.)

My response: “Hello (customer name). Thank you for taking the time to write us about how you feel regarding our reporting about the Middle East. Our mission is to conduct reporting that is characterized by impartiality, fairness, and justness. We value the members of our audience and would like you to continue tuning in to our station. Please feel feel to contact me directly by email (insert email address) if you would have additional questions or concerns. Thank you and have a great day.”

Both responses are honest, genuine and address the specific areas which are under attack. Also, both mention how the company values those two areas as part each company’s mission and vision. Finally, both responses offer an opportunity to take the conversation outside, if there are other areas that need to be addressed. Since both user comments address sensitive issues like restaurant cleanliness and biased reporting, I think it’s best to address it publicly in general terms and then offline. Address the areas in such a way that people acknowledge someone is listening to them, but never go into too much detail either, because that may irritate the user even more.  Responding in a genuine, sincere, and authentic way yields respect.

Why I trust Oprah

I trust Oprah Winfrey, both online and offline. She earned by trust many years ago because, not only she is genuine and transparent, but also she is intimate, helpful, knowledgable, and reliable. I’ll add to this equation that she is one of the most selfless persons I’ve ever known. Yes, she has a huge media empire that makes a lot of money, but she uses that fortune to help others and to touch our lives by handing us the tools that we can use to be better persons; to grow as compassionate human beings. I trust her so much that I think what she says is what’s right. Oprah is committed to making a better world. The first webcast that I ever saw and the one that helped me get through a very rough time when I lost my dad was Oprah and Eckhart Tolle: A New Earth. My relationship with Oprah started when she had the show and now extends to social media networks. I follow Oprah on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

We discussed Steve Rayson’s trust formula, which is as follows:

TRUST= Authority x Helpfulness x Intimacy/Self promotion)

Taking a look at each of these variables, I can say that they are present at Oprah’s social media accounts. Let’s begin with authority, which means someone is knowledgable and demonstrates it, in this case through quality content. For example, on Facebook, Oprah has devoted content during the past month to Selma, a movie she produced about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. about his fight against discrimination of black people being able to register to vote during 1960’s. The content we see is meant to create awareness about this situation by educating us. Her knowledge about this, which is important to her because we’ve seen her advocating for equal rights, moved her to launch this campaign on Facebook, which is educational and is how she demonstrates not only how much she knows about it, but how much is her commitment to this cause. She posted this video just this week, Because of Dr. King, in which many people expressed how his fight and achievements influenced their lives:

Oprah has the power to summon and call together a huge number of people so that they can show their gratitude. Judging by the amount of fans Oprah has (10 million+) and most of the responses to this message, we can see how someone with authority moved people:

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In terms of intimacy, I can say that on social platforms, Oprah has opened the doors to her home, the most intimate place. She has also allowed us to see how she spends Christmas, when she picks fruit and what she’s having for dinner. She is warm and friendly enough to make us part of her daily life. Another example, is how committed she is to meditation, which is a great tool that portrays is important to her, thus she shares how it makes her human. Finally, intimacy is also about sharing what’s meaningful to you. Here are come examples of how this intimacy is reflected on her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts:

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In terms of helpfulness, there is no doubt that Oprah’s mission is to help others, and on her social media platform she continues to do that. She shares information about the multiple projects she runs to help others. Some may see this as self promotion, but I see it as a way to ask people to contribute to the lives of those in need. For example, in collaboration with Teavana, she launched the Oprah Chai Tea last year to support educational opportunities for young people. This item is sold at Starbucks, so she has dedicated some efforts on social media to promote this, which has a bigger end result than just making money. Take a look at the post below in which she personally went to Starbucks to enjoy the drink and posted the photo. Because we are talking about help, please note the comments people wrote and how one of Oprah’s community manager took the time to reply. One of them is a question to which they replied.

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I think Oprah actively participates on her Twitter account and engages with people. It’s not a customer service forum, so there is not so much she can help with. Still, she takes time to respond. In the example below, she responds Tallulah to a post about the Chai tea, with a comment about sharing it with a friend. This is a way of helping too!

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I could continue to give examples, but I’m sure by this time, it’s very clear how the reasons I trust her are reflected on how she behaves on the platforms, thus bringing me closer to her. She promotes her meditation sessions with Deepak Chopra, for example, but they are all meant to help us grow as human beings. I say it again, I trust Oprah.

The Rules According to Pinterest

Pinterest’s mission is to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting” via a global platform of inspiration and idea sharing. Its Terms of Service include the Acceptable Use Policy, which follows a different format regarding the rules people must follow when using social networks. We have evaluated Facebook’s, Twitter’s and Ello’s terms and conditions. In these three, the rules consist of a list of what we can’t do.

What’s different with Pinterest is that after each rule, there is both a short and long explanation of what the rule means, as well as examples (in the form of pins) of the types of posts they allow. Below is the first example of one of the sections of this document:

Stuff you can’t post

You aren’t allowed to post anything that…..

  • Is sexually explicit or pornographic, exploits or presents minors in a sexual way, or promotes adult sexual services

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Why did Pinterest feel ethically responsible to elaborate on each one of the rules in such a way that people understand the message more easily? Why did they want to ensure that this message in particular, regarding the rules is clear? I would say their intention is to obtain consensus from users regarding what surrounds each matter (in this case nudity) in order to maintain the sense of community that we clearly see on Pinterest communications. This document is different that the Terms of Service, which has a language and serious/legal tone. Terms of Service was probably written by a lawyer. The Acceptable Use Policy was written by a member of the Pinterest community. Your neighbor is talking to you, not a lawyer.

When you see the title of this section (Stuff you can’t post), you immediately get that Pinterest is talking to a friend. You’re still going to get the don’t do this format of the rules, but in a more informal tone. The short version is for just like me who don’t like to read and the long version is more poetic, honest, and clear. Pinterest’s concern with these types of pins is the well-being of the community. They say they don’t mean to define art (after they mention that artistic nude photographs are ok). The company wants to make it clear where the boundaries are and clarifies that what the want to do what’s good for its community. “We focus on what might make images too explicit for our community.” The implication of this is based on utilitarianism. Lets do things that keep the most people happy. By taking a look at the language, you see they want to protect their relationships (care ethics) with their followers by carefully explaining what they need to avoid. They are using pins, which is the essence of this social networks. In what other possible way could they have explained this better? I’m not sure there is another way! On the other side, going into this amount of detail to explain something may represent more material people have to question the company; more space for interpretation.

Here is another example regarding pins that contain any information or content that’s illegal:

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