On being in the moment

There’s this idea that technology takes us away from the present. Our phones and the internet make it easy to avoid really experiencing what’s around you.

There was a story in the news recently about a man who almost walked right into a bear. When you look at the video, you see the man was staring at his phone and walking down the street without looking up for a long period of time. This is one of those instances where staring at your phone too much can have really dire consequences.

Other news stories and studies on the topic of how our phones and social media affect us tend to point out that we’re interacting less, talking less, and experiencing less of what’s actually around us.

There’s another idea that gruesome images can have a negative effect on people’s moods. For example, if you see a photo of a decapitated puppy every time you browse your phone, you’re probably going to have a bad time. For many of us, simply reading the words describing dead puppies is enough to put a damper on our day.

Things that can have a negative effect on our moods don’t necessarily need to be gruesome. Facebook taught us that when they used us as human guinea pigs in order to see if people who were shown sadder things on their feeds would in fact be sadder. It turns out, Facebook has more of an effect on your mood than you would probably like.

I’m not advocating against phones or the internet or even time-sucking apps like Facebook. Sometimes you’re in a situation you need to take your mind off of. Maybe you’re on public transportation and everyone is coughing or sneezing around you and instead of having a panic attack about all the germs you’re breathing in you scroll through Buzzfeed’s 17 Dogs Hanging Out The Passenger Side Of Their Best Friend’s Ride And Trying To Holler At You article to feel better. Our phones, social media, and the internet in general get a bad rap for being distracting and taking us away from what we should be experiencing. But it’s not social media’s fault.

What we forget about the internet is we can create our own experience. And we can turn it off. If looking at Facebook makes you feel like everyone has their shit together and you don’t and you go home and cry while eating a tub of cookie dough, stop looking at it. Switch that out for something that doesn’t make you feel that way. Google pictures of cute mini pigs instead.

We all need to take a minute after we’re done staring at our screens to evaluate how we feel. We need to actively assess our emotions. I realize this sounds suspiciously like work and doing some thinking which is totally counter to what we’re looking for when we just want to waste time on social media.

But if we’re not stopping to look at the negative and positive effects of our actions and letting those facts change our behaviors, we’re basically addicts.

I want to be clear. I’m not saying you need to be in the moment all the time and trade your phone in for a carrier pigeon. Sometimes the moment can be stressful and unpleasant which can make you feel bad too. I’m suggesting we all take some time to just check up on ourselves. Like a friend would.

A little introspection can go a long way.


Have you checked your “Other” Facebook messages?

I feel like Facebook is turning into that awkward cousin that never outgrew the awkward and now has more body hair, so it isn’t even cute awkward anymore.

That being said, I haven’t jumped on the “I’m too cool for Facebook” bandwagon and I don’t plan on it.

But some days I’m just surprised by little things I find to dislike about it.

Like when you send people you may not actually know or who you haven’t friended yet a message. I’m a journalist so let’s pretend I’m not just stalking random people and sending them messages.

This past week I was actually trying to contact sources through Facebook messages because that’s all I had to go on.

Sometimes people are quick to get back to you because they are so connected. But you don’t always hear back and you’re left wondering why.

  • Are they just really busy and haven’t gotten to it?
  • Do they not care to respond to me?
  • Did they take too long to respond and now they feel it would be weird to?
  • Did I creep them out? (psh, of course not.)
  • Did Facebook not send my message?

Or maybe…it was sent to their “other” Facebook messages so they haven’t seen it.

Yes, if you haven’t seen it yet, there is a section under messages for messages from people who aren’t your friends.

I had missed a lot of things. Messages from readers thanking us on coverage. Messages from old friends. A lot of spam, yes. But some messages were really touching and I’m sorry I missed them.

I debated answering people. Some messages were from 2008.

I’m idealistic about the internet. I feel that social media gives us the opportunity to connect more with more people. I don’t think these connections are lessened. This may be because I’m a sharer and writer by nature. It’s probably best that I write you a really long email than stand , fidgeting in front of you for 30 minutes and never manage to spit out what I’m trying to say.

But finding this made wonder what other things were being lost in the abyss of the Internet.

Some people will be quick to call for Facebook’s end because this is another thing we’re not pleased about. But it’s a learning experience for developers just as using Facebook is a learning experience for users. In my opinion, it would be unrealistic to expect a platform to give me something so great without it costing me anything at all.

Facebook is free, and according to Mark it will always be free. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to think about how it works and play around with it a bit to really reap all of it’s benefits.

Time and time again, I hear people say they don’t use a certain website or social media platform or app because it isn’t easy and they don’t have the time to sit and figure it out. Well then don’t expect any of the benefits.

I’m not saying Facebook is this social media king, because it isn’t. We don’t know what will happen to it next year or in five years or 10. But right now it is the best way for me to talk to my family members living in other countries. It’s a search engine when Google is giving me way too much information. It’s a tool for finding entertainment and sharing content.

It’s not perfect. But neither are the developers that built it and neither am I and neither are you.

So I hope this bit helps if you’re still on The Facebook.


Stuff I tried to make from Pinterest out of floppy disks and beer bottles

This is a graphic detailing the stages of my relationship with Pinterest.

Don’t act like you’re such a good person because you don’t waste time virtually pinning stuff. Everybody has been seduced by the curiosity that oozes out of Pinterest. It’s because it’s easy and fun and quick. If we all took a few seconds and considered what we’re actually doing, it would most likely cease immediately. We’re all just a bunch of “adults” playing imaginary dress up on our imaginary boards.

And I’m perfectly okay with that.

Anyway, I don’t get how the rest of the platform works but the DIY boards are awesome. Sallie Mae still sucks the life out of me every month, so those board are like my hack for having cool stuff I can’t afford. Since I’m still in my 20s, I can get away with pretending it’s a hipster thing and I’m not actually poor–this is just how I choose to express my creative self.

Denial aside, there are some really cool things that you can do. And I just like putting stuff together and taking things apart.

It’s really fun when you drag someone else into it, because then they get excited and you can make fun of them for secretly liking Pinterest. (You know who you are.)

Beer bottle glasses

Basically you dip some yarn in nail polish remover and then tie it around the base of the neck of the bottle and set it on fire. In the instructions the chick says, NOTE: The bottle will be cut wherever you place the yarn, so make sure it is as straight as possible.

But did I listen? No.

Whatever, it still worked out. It helps to have someone with more patience than a 7-year-old, Mountain Dew addict around. You can lure them over with beer. When they’re halfway through theirs, pull out the yarn.

My next idea came from finding this box in the newsroom.

I considered going over to the nearest resale shop and try selling them to hipsters as vintage coasters. This probably would have worked too but who has time for that.

Normally I would have laughed at the box, tried to find someone younger to see if they knew what it was, realize I am the youngest one in the newsroom and then go sulk at my desk with my new retro floppy disk coaster. But thanks to Pinterest, I spent some more time entertaining frivolities.

Floppy Disk Notebooks

If you need instructions for this one, you were probably that kid during arts and crafts time that would either eat all the glue or wasn’t allowed to use plastic scissors.

There’s just one last thing I want to say about Pinterest. I am a social media junkie. You know, the Internet, yeah that’s kinda my thing. It is much more important to me, however, to understand how these platforms work. On Facebook you’re there to stalk people from your past life and occasionally keep up with people you can’t bring yourself to call. Twitter is for news and funny people with ADD. Tumblr is for cats and Reddit is for people who need to talk constantly. But Pinterest, although a very social thing, doesn’t pressure me to follow people or care if people follow me. I just recently figured out you could comment on pins. But really, who cares? It’s not about that. The pinning and repinning isn’t a reward. It’s about sharing and playing in an imaginary world with other people.

Kinda creepy, but I like it so far.

You can creep on my boards here.


What happened to the Twitter widget and what’s going to happen to your Twitter apps?

On June 29th, Michael Sippey, the director of consumer products at Twitter posted a blog on the Twitter developer blog titled, “Delivering a consistent Twitter experience.”

The first paragraph is your typical, “Yes, we’re still awesome and we know it.”  The second paragraph is vague but you should note the stress Twitter puts on developers building/creating  into Twitter.

It’s okay. Twitter still wants to make it easy for you to work their tools into your own site, “Some examples of these tools include the Tweet Button, Follow Button, embeddable Tweets and the search widget.”

Oh thank god. That was close.  Everybody needs their Twitter apps, #amiright?

Then the blog brings up an article from March 2011 where Platform Lead Ryan Sarver said that developers should not “build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience.” This was right after everyone freaked out because Twitter suspended UberMedia for privacy violations. In case you didn’t know, UberMedia acquired Tweetdeck in February 2011. By May of that year, Twitter owned Tweetdeck.

So at least we know some Twitter owned apps are safe as well as those that abide by Twitter’s “Developer Rules of the Road.”

In the coming weeks, we will be introducing stricter guidelines around how the Twitter API is used.

This was the last post to date.

And so we all moved on with our lives. But later that day LinkedIn had some things to say. It was like when you explain a break up to your friend and try to convince them it was a “mutual” thing but they can tell you’re actually really sad about it.

Ryan Roslansky, head of content products, laments, “Since this relationship began, some of you chose to sync your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts…Consistent with Twitter’s evolving platform efforts, Tweets will no longer be displayed on LinkedIn starting later today.”

You can still send your updates to Twitter from LinkedIn. You just won’t see them in your LinkedIn feed because that’s probably too much like trying to “reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience.”

So what is too much and what isn’t? And what does that mean for apps like Tweetbot? Who just release its mac desktop app by the way.

As far as I can tell, Twitter widget embeds are still working. Twitter just doesn’t let you see the code for it anymore. If you go to or Google search Twitter widgets you’ll be shown this url but immediately redirected to their trademark and content display policy.

I did some digging on the Twitter developers site and a developer named Arne Roomann-Kurrik (I’m not kidding) posted this yesterday, “It looks like there’s currently a bug with the API server which breaks widgets. We don’t have an ETA on a fix, but you shouldn’t have to do anything in the meantime — we’ll fix this on our end as soon as we can.”

I have that widget on one of my web pages and it’s working fine. That still doesn’t answer why the code is gone and if LinkedIn is just the first in line of Twitter dumpees.

I guess time and tweets will tell.


Are Facebook and Twitter making you smarter?

If you logged in to Facebook or Twitter at all yesterday, you know the health care law was upheld.

Maybe you don’t follow any news organizations and maybe you care more about peanut butter than you do politics but someone you know does care and probably posted about it so now you know.

After work yesterday I was taking a walk and discussing the news with a friend. (I know, it was very bold to take a walk in this heat.) We were laughing about all the people who posted they were moving to Canada because of the decision. Oh irony.

But this had me thinking, has any other supreme court decision in the last ten years received this much public attention?

Think about it.

The Pew Research Center did a poll in July 2010 where they asked citizens to name the Chief Justice of the United States. Only 28% got it right. 53% didn’t know and 4% thought it was Harry Reid.

Just two years ago the majority of Americans didn’t even know who John Roberts was and yesterday, millions not only knew who he was but could quote him in a recent supreme court decision.

So this leads me to think, ” Is social media making us smarter?” Based on the massive amount of people posting about moving to Canada I would lean toward no. But at the very least we are more informed, which is progress.

“Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights,” Thomas Jefferson quote that sums it up for me.


Did you notice Facebook changed your email address?


If you go look at your info on Facebook, you’ll notice your email address has been changed to the one Facebook provides for you. Everyone can see it even if your other email address were hidden.

The New York Times reports, “Jaime Schopflin, a Facebook spokeswoman, said these were not changes to the site’s privacy settings. Instead, she said, this was a ‘visual setting change.’”

Déjà vu anyone? Last year Facebook was accused of unfair and deceptive practices. The Federal Trade Commission settlement required Facebook to, “take several steps to make sure it lives up to its promises in the future, including giving consumers clear and prominent notice and obtaining consumers’ express consent before their information is shared beyond the privacy settings they have established.”  You can read the full settlement here.

So does your belong to Facebook meaning they can share it with the world? Kinda looks that way.

Is it as big of a deal as when they made Friends List public or when the “friends only” privacy option turned out to not really be “friends only” and you broadcasted that ninja turtle/power rangers gif to everyone?

Time and everyone’s Facebook status today will tell. How do you feel about the change?

[Side note: Where does email for even go?]

Technology, Travel

Kony 2012: Invisible Children video. Some say cause others conspiracy.

If you have so much as signed in to Twitter today, you recognize the name Kony.

This movement has gone viral on so many platforms, you’re overwhelmed with it before you even know what it is.

Kony 2012 is a documentary film running rapid online in hopes of raising support and awareness for the arrest of Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony.

The video explains how Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has reportedly kidnapped up to 30,000 children and forced them to act as an army in order to maintain his power. The film was made by a campaign group known as Invisible Children, started by filmmaker Jason Russell.

The video tells the abysmal story of children in Uganda fearing for their lives. It explains how young girls are being forced into becoming sex slaves. Out of fear of being killed, young boys deform the faces of their victims to send a message that Kony is still in power.

So why is it all over your news feed?

To quote the organization behind this campaign, “KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.”

This group is harnessing the power of sharing to demand the world’s attention focus on these tragic and ongoing events.

They have planned an event in April called “Cover the Night” where people will, quite literally, paint the town in Kony 2012 propaganda. Much like your social media feeds are being dominated by this new trend, so will your streets.

The power of social media is truly astonishing. I never thought Twitter could make me feel this humble or leave me with such a great sense of community worldwide. I truly hope that by next week we are all sick of hearing about this and the news has turned to focus on his capture.

WordPress is being ridiculous: Here is the link to the video.

On the other side of the spectrum we have The Daily What. A popular tumblr blog that writes, “The organization behind Kony 2012 — Invisible Children Inc. — is an extremely shady nonprofit that has been called ‘misleading,’ ‘naive,’ and ‘dangerous’ by a Yale political science professor, and has been accused by Foreign Affairs of ‘manipulat[ing] facts for strategic purposes.'”

I did some research and found that is published by the Council on Foreign Affairs which is a nonprofit think tank founded in 1921 with it’s headquarters in D.C. While they appear to be influential and blog regularly for CNN, they have also been accused of conspiracy theorizing.


Why won’t Facebook let you follow your friends on Twitter easily?

Let’s face it, Twitter is the walkie-talkie of the 21st century.

When you follow someone, you are adding them to your frequency. But you wouldn’t go around handing out walkie-talkies to random strangers and expect them to go along with it.

Naturally you want to follow friends, and if you’re like me some political pundits and funny people too. But how do you go about following your friends when they have handles like @Chicarita and aren’t easily searchable by his or her real name? Some people are just too hard to find on Twitter and then you’re stuck tweeting to @CNN and @TXGirlProblems.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just follow all your friends on Facebook who have Twitter accounts?

You’re not the only one that thinks so. According to Twitter, “The Facebook app cannot currently access your Facebook friend list. We believe this is an issue on Facebook’s end.”

Surprise, surprise.

Facebook’s official statement: “We are working with Twitter to resolve the issue.”

That was in 2010.

More and more people are getting on Twitter these days. When I first started to use Twitter, I didn’t understand how it was anything more or better than a status update. Then people started following me and I started following them back. The compulsion set in and suddenly it’s like standing around the watering hole all day. You can’t go more than an hour without checking your feed. It nags at you because you can always expect to open Twitter and find something new.

I mean, quite frankly my life wouldn’t be complete without having discovered the honey badger video. I think we all fell into a tweet coma when that first came out. Twitter did not rest until every joke relating to honey badgers was tweeted and retweeted and favorited.

This is why it helps to add your real friends to Twitter. They’ll end up serving as an escape to the Twitter trend madness. If you figure out a way to do this easily, let me know –@jesspuente.


Will Google let Beyonce’s baby create a Google+ profile?

I’m online a lot.

Forget tattoos. The day they figure out how to hook people up to computers I will be the first in line.

That being said, there are some things about the “online” that really grind my gears.

Like most, I am a Google groupie. Those random moments when I don’t have wifi or battery life I live in fear that someone will ask me something really intriguing that I don’t know and I won’t be able to Google it!

Awkward attachments aside, Google can be weird sometimes.

In my endeavor to create a Google+ page for the Victoria Advocate, I was reprimanded and banished for violating the Google Name Policy.

Indications of membership in professional, educational, societal or religious entities, such as “Dr.”, “Rev.” or “Professor” are not allowed in the first or last name fields.

Google doesn’t care about your decade of schooling. Your real friends will know you are a doctor and if they don’t, they’re not your real friends.

Avoid unusual or unnecessary characters in your name. Violation examplex: John246 , XxxXShelleyXxxX, J@SON W@T$ON, ‘Rachel Smith/.

This rule I whole-heartedly encourage. It is a little discouraging that Google has to play mom though. You know when you have that shirt on that you know you grew out of three years ago and your mother divisively asks you what sort of image you are trying to create with that outfit? This rule is that mom question forcing you to reconsider your potentially terribly embarrassing life decisions.

Your profile and name must represent you as an individual. Violation examples: Jones Family, Jeremy & Mel Mason, Vegas the Dog, Brooklyn Bagels.

Okay, okay, maybe I spoke too soon. It looks like Google is just trying to avoid the ever persistent fetus books or pet pages that appear on Facebook. As much as I love my dog, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t need a Facebook page. I can barely keep him off Twitter.

Needless to say, Google gave me the boot because they didn’t believe I was really Ms. Victoria Advocate. Which makes me wonder if Blue Ivy has to put up with these sort of regulations?