America Has an Anger Problem – Can Better “Mental Nutrition” Fix It?

America is a pretty angry place these days. Formerly respectful spaces like school board meetings have become bitter battlegrounds. Some people are harassing healthcare workers and threatening restaurant staff for enforcing COVID protocols. Others are openly furious with the vaccine-hesitant. Everyone, wherever they stand on the (deeply divided) political playing field, is outraged about something.

Sure, anger is part of the human condition, but have things always been this bad? Elaine Parke thinks not—and she has a plan to get America the anger management tools it needs.

“We’ve stopped listening to one another because we’ve become addicted to our own narrow and sometimes selfish points of view,” says Parke, author of “The Habits of Unity: 12 Months to a Stronger America…one citizen at a time” (Outskirts Press, 2021, ISBN: 978-1-9772-4276-1, $21.95, www.12habits4allofus.org). “And we seem to have lost sight of the notion that we’re personally responsible for our own behavior.

“It’s way past time for us to take a collective deep breath and treat others with dignity, respect, and civility—and listen to them—whether we agree or not,” she adds. “It’s urgent that we make this shift now.”

Dialing down our ire is easier said than done. We are living in extraordinarily stressful times. But there’s more at play. Parke says we are shaped by the messages we consistently consume—and in today’s connected world, a lot of those messages come from our digital diet.

“Social media isn’t solely to blame for stoking our emotional flames—in fact, it was designed to be a source of information and to bring people together,” Parke clarifies. “But if your newsfeed is making you an angrier person, it’s on you to either log off for a few days or reassess the kind of content you’re engaging with. When we choose to focus on stories that are positive and nourishing, we go a long way toward resetting our emotional equilibrium.”

Parke’s “The Habits of Unity” is her attempt to help people take charge of what she calls their “Mental Nutrition.” Much in the same way that we (hopefully) approach the food we eat, we need to develop the discipline to make more nutritious mental choices every day. Her book’s 365 “one-magic-minute-a-day” motivationals make it easy to hardwire these choices into habit.

With her simple, doable framework for uplifting ourselves, boosting our mental health, and practicing unity, Parke hopes to get everyone focused on the same branded behavior each month. The idea is that the sheer force of all that concentrated positive energy sparks a unity revolution that rises from the ground up and sweeps the nation.

Yet, until that happens, we can leverage the power of  “The Habits of Unity” on a personal level by forming one good habit per month:

January: Help Others

February: You Count

March: Resolve Conflicts

April: Take Care of Our Environment

May: Be Grateful

June: Reach Higher

July: Become Involved

August: Know Who You Are

September: Do Your Best

October: Be Patient and Listen

November: Show a Positive Attitude

December: Celebrate Community, Family, and Friends

Those who’ve tried it say the plan is easy to put into practice. It feels good, so you’ll want to keep doing it. And there’s a ripple effect. As you become more positive, centered, and respectful, others will be drawn to you and your relationships will improve.

“As these ripples expand, they will improve the emotional climate in our country and make it easier to seek common ground, instead of lashing out,” says Parke. “But we can’t sit around waiting for others to take action. Each American must recommit to making our country a welcoming, affirming melting pot—instead of a stewing pot.”

Permanent Twitter Ban of Extremist Influencers Can Detoxify Social Media

Banning right-wing extremists from social media can reduce the spread of anti-social ideas and conspiracy theories, according to Rutgers-led research.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interactionexamined what happens after individual influencers with large followings are banned from social media and no longer have a platform to promote their extreme views.

“Removing someone from a platform is an extreme step that should not be taken lightly,” said lead author Shagun Jhaver, an assistant professor in the Department of Library and Information Science at Rutgers-New Brunswick. “However, platforms have rules for appropriate behavior, and when a site member breaks those rules repeatedly, the platform needs to take action. The toxicity created by influencers and their supporters who promote offensive speech can also silence and harm vulnerable user groups, making it crucial for platforms to attend to such influencers’ activities.”

The study examined three extremist influencers banned on Twitter: Alex Jones, an American radio host and political extremist who gained notoriety for promoting conspiracy theories; Milo Yiannopoulos, a British political commentator who became known for ridiculing Islam, feminism and social justice; and Owen Benjamin, an American “alt-right” actor, comedian and political commentator who promoted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and anti-LGBT views.

The researchers analyzed more than 49 million tweets referencing the banned influencers, tweets referencing their offensive ideas, and all tweets posted by their supporters six months before and after they were removed from the platform.

Once they were denied social media access, posts referencing each influencer declined by almost 92 percent. The number of existing users and new users specifically tweeting about each influencer also shrank significantly, by about 90 percent.

The bans also significantly reduced the overall posting activity and toxicity levels of supporters. On average, the number of tweets posted by supporters reduced by 12.59 percent and their toxicity declined by 5.84 percent. This suggests that de-platforming can improve the content quality on the platform.

Researchers say the study indicates that banning those with extremist views who are promoting conspiracy theories minimizes contentious conversations by their supporters. The data from the study will help social media platforms make more informed decisions about whether and when to implement bans, which has been on the rise as a moderation strategy.

“Many people continue to raise concerns about the financial benefits from advertising dollars tied to content that spreads misinformation or conducts harassment,” said Jhaver. “This is an opportunity for platforms to clarify their commitment to its users and de-platform when appropriate. Judiciously using this strategy will allow platforms to address the problem of online radicalization, a worthy goal to pursue even if it leads to short-term loss in advertising dollars.”

Future research is needed to examine the interactions between online speech, de-platforming and radicalization and to identify when it would be appropriate to ban users from social media sites.

How to Turn Your Social Media Followers into Active Donors

In marketing, we know that carefully curated and compelling content moves people.

We see this every day on social media, where viral campaigns compel people to take action every day.

There’s no doubt that well-crafted social media content can turn followers into active donors. Nonprofit fundraising campaigns have raised millions of dollars, such as Charity: Water with $1.8 million and the ALS ice bucket challenge with $115 million.

The good news is that powerful content can be harnessed to activate a nonprofit’s social media followers to take action and give.

The not-so-good news? Creating and curating compelling content isn’t always easy.

But it’s important—even critical—for nonprofits to maintain active and engaging social media accounts not only to raise awareness and build brand, but to also drive donations.

Social is Everywhere and Everything

Experts project that there will be three billion social media users by next year. That’s close to half the global population.

A good chunk of social media users are known to check in sometimes by the hour or even the minute on top sites like Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter.

While people of all ages use social media, there’s no doubt that younger generations are typically the first adopters.

This is important for nonprofits, because younger people use social media to support and donate to their favorite causes. According to this blog post, 43% of millennials made charitable contributions through social media compared to other channels.

Nonprofit Source also finds that 55% of people who engage with nonprofits on social media take some sort of action, such as donation.

Knowing this, how can a nonprofit fundraising team turn social media followers into active donors?

Tips on How to Activate Donors to Give to Your Nonprofit through Social Media

Build
You gain followers by posting content consistently daily or twice a day.

Your content should include a healthy mix of inspirational videos, photo features, donor spotlights, action alerts, motivating statistics, memes and more. Your content can include direct appeals for donations too. Just make sure to balance them with other content.

To build your following faster, consider devoting some budget to sponsoring content, including boosted posts on Facebook and Instagram. Boosting posts can cost as little as $25 for a campaign and can allow you to target specific users, ensuring that your posts wind up at the top of the right people’s feeds.

Activate
You accomplished the seemingly impossible: you built a following of engaged fans on your social media pages.

But they’re not giving.

How do you convert these loyal social media followers into active donors ready to give?

Awaken and engage your social media followers with calls to action. Create content that tells your story through video and animated gifs. Suggest they give even a small amount to your campaign to help solve the problems you’ve illustrated. Remind them that every little bit helps. Most importantly, make it as easy as possible for them to give.

Make Action Easy
If you’ve succeeded in moving your social media followers to take action, but then made it impossible for them to donate easily online, you’ve lost a big opportunity to raise funds.

Make the process of donating in a few clicks safe, secure and seamless. Add an easy-to-use, secure donation management plugin like DonorBox to your website and directly link to your donation appeal on your social pages so your followers can donate in a couple clicks.

Make It Shareable
Understand the psychology behind social sharing and tweak your content to see what your followers are most likely to share. You’ll not only increase your following, but also inspire your new fans to follow their friends’ lead and also make donations to your cause.

Coming up with a creative campaign with inspiring events, videos and strategic hashtags around a moving theme can also turn those lurkers among your followers into active donors ready to share and give.

Maintain
The shelf life of a social media post is only a few days or weeks at best.

This means that even if you’ve had a huge success, it’ll just be a matter of time before your viral campaign is a distant memory for most people.

Try to maintain your followers’ interest by creating different types of social media campaigns that can be run seasonally. Think strategically and make data-based decisions. Test different ideas to see what works best. Study the analytics made available by the different platforms to see who is engaging and sharing.

This Medium blog post offers some helpful tips for strategic ways to maximize fundraising through social media.

One not-so-small caveat: while it may seem like raising more than a million dollars via a viral social media campaign is the be all, end all of fundraising, you may be cannibalizing other fundraising efforts in your success. The best thing you can do is weave a social media component into an omni-channel campaign. Social media may be just one element of your fundraising strategy, and that’s okay.

Want more? These five successful nonprofits got it right using social media to drive donations.

About DonorBox
Used by more than 20,000 organizations from 25 countries, DonorBox is a donation platform centered around the fundraising needs of nonprofits by offering a state-of-the-art, recurring donation plugin that can be seamlessly embedded into a website or with a popup widget, allowing nonprofit organizations to accept monthly recurring donations managed by the donors themselves.

View a live example and sign up for free at donorbox.org.

How the Internet and Social Media Is Impacting Social Work

Social media and the Internet, in general, have had an immense effect on social work. It enables communication between people from different corners of the world and makes access to information fast and easy. On the flipside, social media has brought about evils like fake news and Cyber Bullying whose effects can be fatal. But how exactly has what is possibly the most significant invention of the 21st century affected the field of social work? Below is a look at both the positive and negative impacts of social media.

Positive impacts

Enhanced Communication

Social media has significantly improved the communication experience between social workers and their clients. Social networks such as Facebook and WhatsApp make it easier, cheaper and faster for social workers to get in touch with clients without necessarily spending money on transport. In addition to this, most social workers have social media pages where interested clients can contact them and book appointments without breaking a sweat.

Globalization of social work

Decades ago, social workers could only deal with issues affecting their neighboring communities. Now, with social sites like Skype and Facebook Messenger, it is possible for a counselor in the USA to offer their services to a client in Europe or Africa without either of them incurring massive expenditure.

Easier solicitation of clients

As mentioned earlier, social workers can attract more clients by opening social media pages and regularly updating content. As it were, there are numerous resources available to social workers who want to establish and grow their online presence such as using video to increase engagement on social media. On their part, clients can search for available social workers and be able to receive services such as spiritual, psychiatrist and anxiety counseling online even without revealing their identities.

Negative Impacts

Ethical dilemmas

Social workers who have direct contact with their clients on social media face a lot of moral issues in their work. For one, being friends on Facebook may result in both consensual and unwanted flirting which may lead to a sexual relationship. This often leads to conflicts of interest which might affect the social worker’s efficiency.

Privacy and confidentiality

In the past, social workers relied on the personal information provided by their clients when designing interventions. With social media, social workers like counselors and psychiatrists may be tempted to spy on their clients’ social media pages to fish for information. This amounts to an invasion of privacy, which is not only an ethical issue but a legal issue as well.

Social workers may also find themselves in awkward situations when, for instance, clients send them friend requests on Facebook and start chatting them up. There is also the risk of clients stalking social workers and using the information and pictures on their pages for unprofessional purposes.

Regulatory challenges

Social work remains mostly an unregulated field, and the increasing social media usage doesn’t make it any better. On one side, regulatory bodies may find it difficult to regulate online social workers who may not have a physical office or address for that matter.

This is made even worse by the fact that there is no existing regulatory framework for online social work. Clients, on the other hand, may also not be in a position to verify the registration and regulatory status of their social workers especially if they’re not from the same country.

Dealing with unregulated social workers exposes one to dangers such as sexual harassment and even fraud.

Way forward

Social work has a lot of challenges as it is and social media, despite being a significant opportunity, happens to be one of them. As government agencies find ways to regulate online social work, both the public and social workers must look out for themselves and find ways to protect their confidentiality.

To Stop Fake News, Social Media Firms Need Our Help

Misinformation is as old as communication itself. In television’s glory days, self-styled psychic Uri Geller fooled viewers for years before being outed as a fraud. Centuries earlier, in the adolescence of print media, British con artist William Chaloner circulated pamphlets attacking the national mint.

But never has misinformation spread so widely, readily, and willfully as it has in the age of social media. And never have so many different actors been culpable in creating that reality.

Take the dreadful Parkland, Florida, school shooting earlier this year. While Twitter and Facebook afforded students and their families access to potentially life-saving information sooner than other media, their algorithms also amplified right-wing conspiracy theories claiming student survivors were “crisis actors.” Although multiple print and digital media outlets quickly debunked the theory, the damage had already been done.

Often unwittingly, everyday Americans are caught in the crossfire of politically charged misinformation. Understandably, they’ve come to rely on social media to stay in touch. How else could a 50-something dad circle back with an elementary school friend who moved away decades prior? But they’ve also been shepherded into echo chambers by algorithms that prioritize clicks over truth — echo chambers that the majority of Americans, according to Pew Research, expect to get worse over the coming decade.

Certainly, it would be easy to point the finger at social media companies alone. But these platforms are neither the first nor the only perpetrators. Tribalism, a vacuum of government policy, and, yes, the very business model of social media firms have all played a part in this problem.

Inside the Social Media Machine

Compared to its media ancestors, social media is the perfect vector for spreading misinformation. The first of its three problematic attributes is its decentralized architecture, punctuated by highly influential nodes. Each nodular individual or company attracts like-minded media consumers, magnifying its influence on a given topic, regardless of the node’s expertise or truthfulness.

Although decentralization delivers media that’s maximally applicable to the user and prevents a single authority from controlling the narrative, it’s also dangerous. Misinformation spreads like wildfire in such a forum, where competence and truth matter less than the emotional payload of what’s being discussed.

Furthermore, social media makes it easy to link or break ties with connections, enabling users to self-select informational inputs. Over time, users can and do shut out information they dislike or don’t believe, distorting their own reality according to what’s “true” within their information bubbles. Because they’ve insulated themselves from uncomfortable ideas, the shock value of those ideas increases and drives users to respond with vitriol rather than reason.

The final systemic flaw of social media? Just follow the money — and, more specifically, the clicks. Clicks are literal currency for social media companies. Information that provides immediate gratification is good for business, and outrage-triggering content offers it like nothing else. Until that incentive structure shifts, social media’s echo chambers are likely here to stay.

Does that mean society is doomed to a truthless future? Not necessarily. But to rectify the situation, social media users, government entities, and social media platforms themselves must all be willing to alter their behaviors.

A 3-Pronged Defense Against Misinformation

For better or worse, social media users must be the first line of defense against the spread of half-truths and outright falsehoods. In short, they must be responsible informational bartenders. If a bartender serves an intoxicated person who later kills someone with her car on the way home, the bartender is at least morally culpable for fueling the tragedy.

Each time a social media user takes an action, such as retweeting a 280-character rant, he serves that information up to someone else. If he doesn’t critically consider content before sharing it, he’s putting someone else at risk — this time, with added social proof behind it, a cue to trust the information.

Fortunately, critical consumption of media is something everyone is capable of. Reading content entirely before sharing it, asking whether the content is coming from a reputable source, and searching for corroborating evidence from another source are easy and powerful guardrails against misinformation.

Couldn’t government entities also act as guardrails, playing the referee of truth? They certainly could try, but appointing a singular authority to separate fact from fiction invites an opportunity to propagandize. Facts are rarely black-and-white, and government officials are often all too happy to dole out “alternative facts” that advance their own narratives.

Instead, the role of governments (if any) must be to set policies that encourage all media companies, traditional and social, to build models that encourage deliberative engagement over clicks. About six in 10 American media consumers scan only the headline of news content before moving on. Something as simple as having share buttons placed in or at the bottom of content rather than directly on social platforms would at least force readers to open the source content before sharing it with others.

And what would social media companies think of such a policy? Obviously, they’re beholden to shareholders and market realities, just like other companies. Under their present model, they’re going to fight tooth and nail against any regulation that could cut into clicks and shares.

But there are certainly other business models that they could adopt. For example, switching to a subscription-based forum would weed out bots and give users more ownership over the media community they’re paying to be a part of. Such a system would also provide a revenue buffer to experiment with less emotionally charged, higher-quality content.

Incentivizing longer engagement with media through gamification, such as a system of points or social rewards, could be an effective compromise. Medium is exploring this path with a reader-assessed content quality metric called “claps.” Whether Medium’s approach becomes a viable long-term revenue model or not remains to be seen, however.

In today’s hyperpoliticized media environment, it can be difficult to remember social media’s original purpose: to inform and bring people together. Although social media has connected friends and families in some contexts, it’s driven wedges between others, sometimes to the point of job termination, social isolation, and even suicide.

If social media is ever to achieve its stated goal, we must start by fighting misinformation. And winning the war on misinformation will require all of us — people, companies, and governments and liberals, conservatives, and independents — to choose truth over comfort both on social media and off.

From Civil War Letters to Instagram: Social Media Trends Are Nothing New

It might seem new, and maybe narcissistic, that people feel the need to share their lives with the world – tweeting about what they had for breakfast and sharing videos on Instagram of their kid getting a haircut.

Think again.

In a new book, Lee Humphreys, associate professor of communication at Cornell University, argues that the act of documenting and sharing one’s everyday life is not new – nor is it particularly narcissistic. “The Qualified Self: Social Media and the Accounting of Everyday Life” puts our mobile and social media use in a historical context, and shows how pocket diaries, photo albums and baby books are the predigital precursors of today’s digital and mobile platforms for posting text and images.

“Like social media accounts, these are shared and circulated and commented on. They are not just about the self but they are about other people and their lives,” said Humphreys, who studies the social uses and perceived effects of communication technology. “What people are doing with social media – how they’re using it to communicate, to understand themselves – is quite an old practice.”

The book stemmed from Humphreys’ empirical study comparing a Civil War diarist to a U.S. military blogger in Afghanistan. During the Civil War, the letters and diaries soldiers sent to their families provided an important source of news for the larger community back home. They would routinely be circulated around town and printed in the local newspaper. “There was this sense that they were writing for a potentially broader audience than just the addressees of the letter,” Humphreys said. “And of course the blogger did a similar kind of thing.”

She also analyzed the content of tweets and so-called “accounting diaries” from the early 19th century – and found similarities there, too. Both have entries that consist of a few words or sentences that catalogue daily activities and events – such as a morning trip to Starbucks or who stopped by the house that day – and these accounting diaries would commonly be shared with friends and family.

“We see people sharing everyday, mundane moments as a way of reinforcing social ties,” Humphreys said. “That was certainly the case historically and it’s one of the main reasons why people share things like that on social media today.”

However, one thing dramatically sets apart how we account our daily lives now: the fact that social media companies commodify people’s activity. “They have a financial incentive to get you to post and share, because the more you do, the more they can learn about you and the better they can sell to you,” she said. “And there’s more content for other people to look at, as well.”

In contrast, Kodak, for example, printed the photos that a family would put in its scrapbook; the company had access to the photos but didn’t commodify them. “This is a very different role for corporate entities,” Humphreys said, “to have not only access to our media accounts but also the ability to use that information and couple it with other forms of data to sell us things.”

Want to Lose Weight? Snap That Selfie, Set That Goal, Share with Others Says New Study

About those before and after selfies and public declarations of hitting the gym? New research co-authored by Dr. Sonya A. Grier, professor of marketing in the American University Kogod School of Business, confirms these announcements and progress updates are useful for the achievement of weight and fitness goals.

“Weight Loss Through Virtual Support Communities: A Role for Identity-based Motivation in Public Commitment,” published in the Journal of Interactive Marketing, examines the role of virtual communities and public commitment to setting and weight loss goals.

The study tracks two communities of weight loss groups, surgical and non-surgical over a four-year period. They found that participation and sharing of successes and setbacks in virtual support communities (VSC) is a key part of achieving goals through the public commitment to lose weight.

“In our investigation of VSCs, we find social identity motivates public commitment in support of goal attainment,” the researchers write.

A post shared by Weight Loss Stories (@wlstories) on


Grier says, “The sharing of intimate information and photos about weight loss goals in virtual space is a key factor in motivating behaviors that fulfill that new thinner identity and thus helps people reach their goals.”

Bloggers like Audrey* shared old photos in search of a “pretty and slim” version of herself.

“Here is my picture of 28 years ago when I was young, pretty and slim,” Audrey* wrote in a post. “Makes me wanna cry… I can’t get any younger, but I sure can get closer to that weight! Stop crying, start losing weight, girl!”

Others, like Darlene* shared milestones.

“I have good news to report. My hard work of eating right and working out has paid off. I am now in ONDERLAND!!!! I weighed in this morning at 196lbs! YES, I did it. I reached my first goal to be under 200lbs and before my cruise on October 16th. I can’t believe I did it! I’m so proud of myself.”

Ultimately, Grier says, VSCs allow for relative anonymity, accessibility, availability, and flexibility in how users represent themselves on their journeys. The process of building community, even in relative anonymity helps with keeping participants motivated and accountable.

“Not everyone can get the support they need from the people they interact with in person on a daily basis. It is helpful that technology can support community building and goal achievement in virtual spaces.”

*Names have been changed.

Cyber Safety for Today’s Teens

It goes without saying that technology has fully inserted itself into most aspects of our day-to-day lives—and children and teens are no exception. Children are learning to swipe smartphones before they learn to turn the pages of a book, and many of them are swiping on their own devices. For parents, the endless exploration of technology raises many concerns for children and teens.

Parents need not only be aware of what their children are getting from the constant connectivity, but also what they may be putting out into the digital universe. Yes, the horror stories surrounding teens and technology are vast and worrisome, but these hard-learned lessons can provide other families with safe cyber practices that will make all the difference for security and peace of mind.

Limit screen time, especially for youngsters. We may have grown to rely on our devices in the adult world. I, myself, use my phone for everything from navigation, to paying bills, to making grocery lists—the list (no pun intended) goes on and on. However, for children, it is essential their screen time be limited and purposeful. Use screen time as an occasional reward, but make sure that everyone is clear about how long they can use the device and for what purposes.

If you feel that your child must have a phone for staying in touch, consider phones or plans that provide programmed options for usage. For instance, there are ways to program children’s phones so that they are only able to call or text a set list of phone numbers. You can also set restrictions on how data is used or what websites or apps your children can access. The key here is to keep your children’s circle small when introducing them to their first phone—the stricter the parameters, the more peace of mind parents will have about children using technology.

Be aware of your child or teen’s social media presence. Keep a very watchful eye on your child’s use of social media and limit access to devices when concerns arise. You should insist on access to or control over your teen’s social media accounts whenever necessary. If you suspect that your child is cyberbullying or being cyberbullied, take the phone.

Keep records of any evidence that your child is being bullied, including text messages, screenshots, profile posts or photos, etc. Schools today are cracking down on bullying; however, parents must present documented, repeated instances of harassment or bullying before school officials will intervene.

Along the same lines as cyberbullying concerns, parents should monitor social media accounts to ensure that children are protecting themselves and being digitally responsible. Teens today are so concerned with obtaining “likes” and gaining “followers” that they lose sight of how vulnerable they may be making themselves online. Explain to them that, even with privacy settings, nothing is 100% private when it comes to posts, comments, photos, etc.

Make sure that teens are not using personal information, like a full name, specific address, current location, or school. Social media sites make it extremely easy to tag one’s location, but too often teens fail to consider who might be keeping tabs on their location. Gently, but firmly, remind your children that not everyone on social media is who they claim to be.

Talk about the permanency of our digital footprints. This means once posted online ownership no longer belongs to you. Even deleted material is not ever fully erased if even one person has captured, saved, or screenshotted the post.

Not only can deleted posts resurface, people can edit or manipulate the photo or post in any way they choose. Teach children and teens to think carefully before making a post.

What Propaganda Looks Like in the Digital Age

Criticism of Facebook began last week after a news report revealed that the social network enabled advertisers to seek out self-described anti-Semites and other anti-Semitic topics. The company responded by saying that it would restrict how advertisers targeted their audiences on the social network. Google also came under fire at the same time after news that it allowed the sale of ads tied to racist and bigoted keywords. Google responded by claiming it would work harder to halt offensive ads.

Joel Garreau, a professor of culture, values and emerging technologies at Arizona State University and the founding co-director of the Weaponized Narrative Initiative, weighs in. Weaponized narrative is the new global battlespace, Garreau said.  “America and other Western democracies – and indeed the very Enlightenment – are under attack.”

Q: “Weaponized narrative” used to be called propaganda, but you could choose not to pick up the leaflet 50 years ago. Now we’re inviting it into our lives via social media. Does this give it more power?

A: This may come as a shock to some folk, but dropping leaflets out of airplanes is to weaponized narrative as hand grenades are to weapons of mass destruction. Weaponized narrative is warfare in the information environment.  It uses words and images instead of bombs and bullets – often to greater effect. Against the United States, for example, our opponents aim to weaken society by fragmenting our fundamental agreements on what it means to be an American. Or even what it means to be a patriot.

Sun Tzu, 2,500 years ago, talked about the use of information in warfare. What’s new and so powerful is that the volume, velocity and variety of information has exploded all around us. We can’t keep up. A fast-moving information deluge is the ideal battleground for this kind of warfare – for guerrillas and terrorists as well as adversary states.

Q: What role should Facebook and Google be taking in this environment?

A: Facebook is to be applauded for drilling down and finding out that their corporation had in fact been used as a weapon against the American election.  But look how long it took for this information to come out.  America’s goal must be to identify and respond to these attacks as they are going on – so we can actively defend ourselves. And unfortunately, the capacity to understand the attack – much less defend against it – is now in the hands of corporations that are famously secretive.

Q: Hate speech is protected. We can “avert our eyes” as the Supreme Court said. Should government be regulating this in some way or should it stay out of the issue?

A: Great question. Our Weaponized Narrative Initiative has two aims: First, to figure out what is coming at us. Second, to do something about it, rapidly. That’s why we’re bringing together an occupationally diverse group—not just academics, but Washington policy wonks and military folk and authors and others.

Q: What can you tell us about the human factor in this? Are people approving hate-based ads and other targeted content or is it regulated by algorithms?

A: We’re paddling as hard as we can to answer questions like that.   But both the authoritarian enemies that are attacking us and the Americans corporations that control the social media are fanatically devoted to secrecy. I heartily applaud Facebook’s revelations.  They didn’t have to do that.  They could have swept it under the rug.

But that’s part of the problem. It took almost a year for Facebook to reveal its research that merely confirmed what many of us had long suspected. And Facebook still hasn’t told us exactly how these attacks worked. What I would like to see happen is for American corporations see it as their patriotic and humanistic duty to tell their customers instantly about an attack, so we can do something about it.

Social For Social: 5 Professional Ways For Social Workers to Effectively Use Social Media

Whenever you hear the context of social work in social media, it primarily generates unlikely images of disciplinary hearings and confidentiality breaches. But on the contrary, incorporating social media in social work could be very beneficial and will serve as a productive outlet for many social workers who want to show to everyone a glimpse of their world and of what it truly means to become one.

It’s inevitable for some social workers to get hesitant about involving in social media and that’s perfectly understandable. Most of them just don’t want to break the law and boundaries between them and their clients. With almost 3 billion active social media users, it’s easy to see the picture. One wrong post and your career will be in jeopardy.

The good news though, is that there are professional ways to connect to your clients, gather support from your colleagues and improve your knowledge. Below are five ways social media can aid social workers.

Feed Yourself With Information


Social workers will learn about social work through reading books and case studies. However, one fact remains – social work is ever-changing and changes its mode as fast as people do. To keep updated with the changing practices, one needs to plug in online, in social media for starters.

For example, you can follow and keep tabs on different social work centers through their social channels to learn more about their practices as well as the practices in another country. You can also follow different companies with blog posting service and check their blogs for case studies and informative contents.

Or if you’re working with victims of recent calamities and natural disasters, you can check the sentiments of these people about their situation through browsing for different feeds online from the locals rather than depending on the hand-me-down information that local authorities provide.

Reach Out And Create A Positive Influence

The beauty of social media is that it allows you to connect with your clients and your colleagues. You can also reach out to people with disabilities and other types of limitations that hinder them from reaching out social workers due to their condition and struggles of getting around.

For instance, if you have a social media account, they can just look for you online and ask for assistance if they can’t obtain the help they need. Furthermore, social media also enables you to reach out more people since it only takes less energy and time compared to making phone calls to just to check in for people.

Build Professional Identity

Matt Hughes – Director of One Stop Social

Most often than not, social workers face challenges when it comes to creating a professional persona. Social media platforms furnish a solid ground for establishing that identity. It also allows you to share serviceable links to credible organizations.

You can show to everyone that a commonly overlooked profession should get more credibility and attention. What you can do is acquire clients who best match the skills that you have. You can also provide and share useful contents about your profession and industry that your followers can read. For this matter, you can collaborate with a company that offers guest blog posting service to produce the contents you want.

Breed A Discussion


The ability to create a group discussion is probably one of the most positive aspects of social media for social workers. When you create conversations in social media, you’re doing it with an audience. You’re performing a useful knowledge for your co-workers, your clients, and students as well.

You can start by addressing a particular issue or topic about social work and encourage your followers and friends on social media to participate by throwing in suggestions, opinions, and experiences. You can also employ for a guest blog service to create contents that will meet your goals.

Apart from the interaction, you also open the doors of opportunities for others who get cold shoulders or have a limited voice. You know very well that representing the side of unmerited people is a big interest among social workers.

Build And Reinforce

It’s inevitable sometimes for many social workers and the people they serve to feel alone and isolated. Social media is a great platform to get care and support that you need. You’ll be able to share your experiences and get a response from your comrades in social work who know the emotional struggles of helping people with a lot of incapabilities.

You can keep in touch with your former clients by leaving a positive comment or doing a quick check on them through social media channels. Social workers, just like social networking, is always at the center of everything which makes it crucial in supporting and connecting the people around them. Your job, your life and those people you help are better off if you participate and join.

Takeaway   

We’re now living in a digital era where digitization influence almost every facet of our lives, be it at home, school or work – we are under the influence of digital revolution. It’s no longer surprising that it also invade the social work industry. With too many changes and development taking place left and right, there’s no better way to us than to adapt them and go forward. And social work is no exception.

Are Your Tweets Feeling Well?

Twitter analytic data chart

In the future, public health workers could monitor trends on social media to quickly identify a rise of influenza, depression or other health issues in a specific area, thanks to research at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratorya (PNNL).

Public health trends on social media are more nuanced than looking for spikes of “I feel sick” or “flu.” To truly tap this source of public data, researchers at PNNL sought to understand patterns of how people behave differently on social media when they are sick. The researchers uncovered the expression of opinion and emotion as a potential signal on Twitter, as reported in the journal EPJ Data Sciencea.

“Opinions and emotions are present in every tweet, regardless of whether the user is talking about their health,” said Svitlana Volkova, a data scientist at PNNL and lead author of the study. “Like a digital heartbeat, we’re finding how changes in this behavior relate to health trends in a community.”

From millions of anonymous tweets, a digital heartbeat

At a time when corporations mine information from social media accounts for targeted advertising and financial gain, researchers at PNNL asked how they could use this data to benefit the public. One of those areas is public health. It takes health workers weeks to discover influenza trends the traditional way: by monitoring how many sick people visit clinics. By discovering trends in real time, social media could be the game-changing solution public health workers have been looking for.

But can tweets replace a health exam for detecting a rise in the flu or other health threats? Volkova’s research suggests so. The research team studied 171 million tweets from users associated with the U.S. military to determine if the opinions and emotions they express reflect visits to the doctor for influenza-like illnesses. They compared military and civilian users from 25 U.S. and 6 international locations to see if this pattern varies based on location or military affiliation.

For privacy, the tweets used in this study were anonymized. The goal of the research is to discover generalized public health trends, not diagnose the health status of individual users.
Overall, they found how people behave significantly varies by location and group. For example, tweets from military populations tend to contain more negative and less positive opinions, as well as increased emotions of sadness, fear, disgust and anger. This trend is true regardless of health.

The baseline is fuzzy, and that should be no surprise. People behave differently based on the world immediately around them. To that end, the researchers identified location-dependent patterns of opinion and emotion that correlate with medical visits for influenza-like illnesses. And a general trend did appear: Neutral opinions and sadness were expressed most during high influenza-like illness periods. During low illness periods, positive opinion, anger and surprise were expressed more.

Next, the research team will study whether these behaviors can be used to predict a change in health trends before they happen. If this method works in real time, public health workers could look into the future by asking “How are your tweets feeling?”

How Social Media Can Impact Your Self Esteem

Mood emojis

Since social media began with the launch of MySpace (and even the blogosphere and forums before it), people’s real world minds and moods have been affected by what they see online. We now have a constant flow of information and opportunities for attention from others, and the need is often dominant in our thoughts, preventing us from fully paying attention to either the situation or ourselves.

Have you felt a meta-commentary running through your mind of “how will people perceive this on Facebook?” or “How can I make an amazing photo about this?” Does viewing other people’s profiles make you feel a sense of pride in those around you or envy about a series of selected accomplishments? Perhaps the simplest question is, does looking at social media make you feel better or worse about yourself?

Let’s take a brief look at some of the ways social media might be affecting your self-esteem.

You Are Being Impacted Through Social Comparison

Social comparison existed before social media, but it was only limited to the people you met in person and your neighbors, and you could make a much more detailed judgment about these individuals.  One could see or hear flaws and struggles, as well as triumphs, making social comparison a more acceptable (albeit still unhealthy) practice.

Think about the pictures you see and your thoughts surrounding them. Everyone else seems to be doing something interesting, and most people don’t realize that for every person they see posting vacation photos, there are a hundred people who aren’t. This leads to unsafe comparisons.

Image Crafting Is an Unseen Art

When you look at a news feed or a social media page, people don’t realize they’re not seeing everything. Even the more negative matters are portrayed through a lens of sarcasm and usually fall into the category of life’s daily problems. Yet things such as self-doubt, emotional issues, and traumatic experiences are usually not talked about at anything more than a surface level. People will talk more extensively about a new relationship or an amazing vacation as opposed to a break-up or a period of personal uncertainty.

People, in their efforts to garner attention and a positive representation, will put their best online foot forward. They want to look impressive. They will spend time (or waste time, depending on how one looks at it) to receive a boost to their self-esteem. Much like how photos of models are airbrushed, profiles are similarly sculpted.

Constant Tracking Can Have Adverse Effects

Some of us might feel like we are never separated from our technology or our need to update others of our lives. Our actions are constantly being watched and tracked by our devices and friends, and that can impose an otherwise unwanted burden on us, making our failures all the more difficult and raising suspicions in others. Corporations might also use social media to market to us, trying to take advantage of weaknesses we might see in ourselves.

While you can prevent some of the more technical aspects of tracking your location by using a VPN or a proxy, you will also want to be careful about what you share online. People can’t judge you (nor should they) about what you do or don’t put up, and it’s your right to share as much or as little of your life as you wish.

Cyberbullying and Negative Commentary

While it often happens in younger circles and on some platforms more than others, the effects of cyberbullying are well-known and can have long-term, adverse effects on an individual’s self-esteem. The constant negative commentary that occurs on these sites can also affect one’s mind, even when the commentary isn’t directed at the reader. Given the current setup on the internet, most cyberbullying happens on social media platforms, and people need to be prepared for this.

If you know you are being cyberbullied or have someone under your care is, take immediate action to block them, and, if the severity of the situation calls for it, contact the authorities. People’s self-esteem is not worth second chances in these cases; the situation can be avoided.

An Emphasis on Connection Can Be Helpful

One of the things that can help our sense of self-esteem is the feeling we have a legitimate and emotional connection to the people in our lives that we care about. Social media, and the internet in general, has allowed us to maintain these connections more easily. While cyberbullying and a constant stream of abusive messages create problems, being able to contact a support network and understand that there are people to confide in is likely to be helpful. Exposure to empathetic individuals and other people who are otherwise hard to reach will also be useful.

It would be best if instead of focus on comparing yourself to people you barely know to try and make these more “real” connections even stronger. You can control who you follow on social media. While you shouldn’t place yourself in a bubble, you don’t need to consistently subject yourself to material that makes you feel poorly about yourself.

How do you use social media? Do you think there is a solid middle ground that lets people utilize social media without adverse effects? Do you see other people changing based on other people’s actions on social media? Please leave a comment below and tell us your thoughts.

How to Be Truly Connected to People in Our Technology Obsessed World

technology fast

It’s early morning and your alarm has just sounded its daily wake-up chime. Without thinking about it, you reach straight for your phone and scroll through social media seeing what all your friends and favourite celebrities have been up to since you last scrolled your feed 7 hours ago.

A notification pops up, it’s the little head and a plus sign, you’ve got a new follower! Filled with an immediate rush of endorphins, you head to their page to snoop some of their recent photos, leave a few likes, post some meaningful comments and follow them back. ‘Wow, we have a lot in common, and they don’t live too far away from me!’ you think. When your new follower reciprocates with interaction on your account it the coming days, you’re sure you’ve made a new virtual, perhaps soon to be in-person, friend.

A week passes and you remember that you should message that new follower to see if they’d like to catch up some time and then the realization hits — you’ve been unfollowed and you can’t help but feel disheartened by thinking your previous interactions on social media were more than a vain ploy for more likes, more comments, and more followers. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s making us forget how to truly connect with people in today’s technology obsessed world.

Sure, technology has completely changed our lives and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities that technology has brought me. Writing this article on my laptop from home, for instance, once wouldn’t have been possible without the internet and all the information available at our fingertips.

The question remains though, how do we properly connect with people beyond our laptop screens and the often-false nature of social media? Here are a few ways to authentically connect with like-minded people in-person, just like our parents and grandparents used to.

Smile

Smiling is powerful. It indicates to the world that you’re open to meeting new people and starting a conversation. Even if it’s a friendly nod as you run or bike past someone, it fosters what we all ultimately want — connection and belonging. As Paul Ekman, one of the world’s leading experts on facial expressions found, ‘smiles are cross-cultural and have the same meaning in different societies.’

Next time you’re thinking of ordering your food or coffee through an app on your phone, take the extra time to visit your favourite coffee shop or restaurant and order in-person. Walking into a space with a positive outlook and a smile on your face will bring other high vibe people into your world.

Find local meet-ups or activities that like-minded people attend

This might seem counter-intuitive, but hear me out! Use technology to find ways that will help you connect with like-minded people. Search for local meet-ups, a new gym class or in-person educational class or training and sign up. Don’t overthink it! Just sign up, show up and see who you meet along the way. Being in a room of like-minded people instantly gives you something to talk about and helps foster connections that you wouldn’t otherwise find scrolling through your newsfeed.

Turn off notifications

A 2016 study by dscout, found we touch our phones about 2,617 times a day! The constant ding and beep of our devices has made our attention spans short and interrupts us when we’re working, and more importantly when we’re spending time with loved ones or out making new friends.

Give yourself time each day, or each week if that’s where you need to start, with phone notifications turned off. Not having the constant buzz of phone notifications will allow you to actively listen to conversations and properly appreciate your surroundings when you’re out and about.

Just say yes

When someone invites you to a new place, new activity or on an adventure, just say yes. Don’t overthink things and see what new opportunities and people come into your life as a result of getting out and about in the world. This doesn’t mean you should be constantly running around with no down time, but when someone suggests that you grab that coffee ‘sometime’ or asks you to fill in on the social soccer team, just make a plan and stick to it.

Learn to be on your own without technology

This also relates to the point above. Saying yes to meeting new people and putting yourself out there by attending local events or classes doesn’t mean you must be constantly out and about. If you’re an introvert or know you need some downtime by yourself each week, schedule it into your calendar. Knowing you have that set time each week to unplug and read or book or get outside and exercise will help with recharging your energy. After all, once we can be by ourselves without constantly checking our phones, we’re going to be so much better at connecting with people in-person too.

While technology has helped us do things we never thought possible, taking the time to experience the world without being constantly tethered to your device, observing your surroundings and making the effort to meet like-minded people will help you truly connect with people.

Technology and Children: A Parent’s Survival Guide

Technology has changed the way children develop and interact with others, and while it seems to change every day, many parents are forced to keep up or get left behind.

Jessica Mirman, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Arts and Sciences, says that, even though much of technology can receive a bad representation, it is not inherently bad.

“Parents can be pretty sophisticated with technology when it comes to helping their children develop,” she said. “There are a variety of apps that can help with literacy skills. Especially for children with developmental disabilities, technology can be very helpful at home and in the classroom.”

Play it safe

Mirman says technology can be a distraction and a safety hazard across developmental periods.

“Parents need to be aware of what kinds of devices are in their homes and vehicles,” she said.

Whether it is about accidentally swallowing button batteries, the tiny batteries often found in musical greeting cards, games, Christmas ornaments and cameras, or the risks of texting and driving, Mirman suggested that parental vigilance can save lives.

“For example, button batteries are small, shiny, and very appealing to infants and toddlers who may try to ingest them,” she said. “Parents need to keep these and other batteries out of reach and keep devices secure with openings kept shut.”

The types of technology risks can change with age. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. During daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cellphones while driving. That creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on U.S. roads.

“We always worry about when teens, and parents too, are glued to their phones while driving,” Mirman said. “There is also teen driver safety research that says when parents are calling, teens feel that they are expected to answer, even while driving. Parents need to remember to practice what they preach and model healthy technology habits at home and in the vehicle.”

What’s trending?

Social media is another way technology changes how people develop, according to Mirman. She says social media is a good tool to keep people connected; but there are guidelines and boundaries parents need to set, starting again, with practicing what they preach.

“Parents should practice moderation and respect for others on social media,” Mirman said. “Kids are very observant, and they will pick up on what parents do and often mimic those behaviors.”

She says children and teenagers are quick to point out any hypocrisy in parents.

Widespread and improved mobile technology means teens can access social media more easily. According to a Pew survey conducted during 2014 and 2015, 94 percent of teens who go online using a mobile device do so daily.

Mirman says parents who monitor their children’s social media usage need to start early to develop a foundation of trust with their teens. Parents cannot be around all the time, and teenagers will need to understand why they need to follow the rules, even when Mom and Dad are not watching.

“If an older child or teen really wants to get their hands on something online, they will likely find a way to do it,” Mirman said. “That is why parents need to be clear about their reasoning for why the rules are in place and not just be an enforcer of the rules.”

Screen time

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children younger than 18 months should avoid the use of screen media. Between ages 18 months and 24 months, some screen-time can be introduced, with parental supervision. Between the ages of 2 and 5 years, a maximum of one hour a day is recommended. For children above the age of 6, consistent time limits should be established.

Marcela Frazier, O.D., an associate professor in the UAB Department of Ophthalmology, says the amount of screen time a child has can have a negative impact on their eyesight.

“The more time children spend on devices, the less time they spend outdoors, and spending time outdoors could slow down the progression of nearsightedness, which is becoming more and more prevalent in children,” Frazier said. “Prolonged exposure to the screens of devices can cause eye fatigue, eye irritation and headaches due to the increased demand on the visual system and the tendency to not blink while using them.”

Frazier says adults usually report symptoms like eyestrain, dryness, headaches and eye irritation after prolonged use of near devices; however, children may experience these issues and not be able to communicate them accurately. Parents may notice some signs of eye irritation and fatigue related to screen-time in children manifested as excessive blinking, squinting, watery eyes, red eyes and some eye-rubbing.

The flip side

Mirman says much research has been done involving children and technology, but what happens when the parents are addicted to tech?

“If parents are distracted, they can’t pay attention to their children,” Mirman said. “Kids notice this quickly.”

She says, by being distracted with technology, parents can make their children feel rejected or unimportant. A more fluid boundary between home and work can add to that distraction.

Finding a remedy

Mirman says technology can be good, if used in moderation. Many kids can use age-appropriate video games as positive stimulants, and can use them as a way of positive social interaction with online multiplayer games. This can be especially helpful for socially marginalized children and teens.

“A lot of kids can make positive connections with others through multiplayer games or social media that they may not necessarily make in person,” she said.

She says it is important for families to create a positive culture around the phones and devices, and practice what she calls “phone hygiene.”

“Developing healthy habits is important not just for you but for the well-being of the entire family,” she said.

Innovation, Strategic Networks, and Social Media: Why I’m Here

I suspect that most of my academic colleagues think I’m crazy. They don’t understand social networking, especially not Twitter. And they really don’t understand what I am doing here.

I could explain why I’m here in many different ways and there are certainly many things I get out of social media (including relationships with some wonderful people). But honestly, one of the main reasons I’m here simply comes down to this: ideas, ideas that drive innovation and allow me to forecast trends.

Innovation and Networks

One of the most valuable papers I wrote in graduate school was a paper on innovation for a course on social work administration. I discovered then that if you want to innovate, then read outside of your field. A Harvard Business Review blog post on the Three Networks You Need confirmed the importance of noting trends outside of your familiar domains.

The authors, Linda Hill and Kent Lineback, write that managers/leaders need three kinds of social networks: operational, the people you need in order to do your work; developmental, the people who have helped you grow as a manager and leader, and to whom you turn for advice; and strategic, the people who will help you prepare for tomorrow. In other words, strategic networks are key to anticipating changes: “You need a strategic network because the forces that drive change in your field will probably come from outside your current world.

Strategic Networks, Weak Ties, and Social Media

Hill and Lineback state that strategic networks can often come from “weak ties,” that is, people we don’t know well but connect with infrequently (e.g., 1-2 times a year). However, it’s important to note that the research on which the concept of “weak ties” was based was done in 1970 (see The Strength of Weak Ties by Marc S. Granovetter), which raises the question for me about how social media might influence this concept.

I think that social media can feed strategic networks, even when we don’t have a mutual relationship with the people we are learning from. For example, I follow some people on Twitter that I really don’t interact with, but who post awesome content that covers a wide range of topics. These people are important sources of information about key issues outside of my discipline (social work).

When people tell me they don’t know how I stay abreast of all the information that I know, I confess that I don’t spend a lot of time looking for it. Instead, I look for people “in the know” who I can learn from. I take advantage of the outstanding work that they do discover and curating key content and then just check in with them periodically.

I may develop mutual relationships with some of them. But in some cases, it might simply be that I am learning from what they are sharing. Either way, this content keeps me abreast of trends outside my profession, so I am usually able to anticipate trends well before they “arrive” in my world. I think of them as my virtual key informants.

My biggest struggle with social media is that I want to gravitate toward following the people who are similar to me. For example, over the past year, I have grown to connect with an awesome international network of social workers on Twitter. I have learned a great deal from these colleagues, and I appreciate each and every one of them. So naturally, I want to spend more time interacting with them.

At the same time, I am mindful of how important it is for me to stay connected to my virtual key informants, even though they may not be similar to me or even know that I exist. Because this is often where the inspiration for something totally new originates. I think of these virtual key informants as part of my network of “weak ties”–part of my strategic network– even though, strictly speaking, I don’t have a relationship with most of them.

I would love to hear how others relate (or not) to some of these concepts. Can you connect to the idea of a strategic network? How does social media relate to this idea for you?

Why 2017 Is the Year to Join Instagram

Did you know that by the end of 2017 around 70.7% of all brands are expected to have a profile on Instagram, or that businesses who have utilized their post boosting advertising options have been successful in 70% of cases?

A new report looks at these stats and a lot of other interesting data, which suggests 2017 is the year your business should join the popular social network.

A Large and Engaged User-Base

To have success in your marketing campaigns you must be able to get consumers invested in your products or services by creating an emotional response. Interacting with your target audience is the only way you can build their trust and accomplish this goal. This is where Instagram becomes such a powerful tool.

The platform is growing at a fast rate with over 300 million users logging on every single day. These users make an average of 95 million posts, which generate 4.2 billion likes!

The 18 to 30 demographic (the holy grail for a lot of businesses) accounts for 55% of Instagram’s users in the United States.

Furthermore, around 50% of all users follow at least one business’s account.

If you want access to consumers, Instagram offers a direct link which an audience broad enough to benefit any business large or small. Where the network really stands out, however, is its ability to engage users like no other.

Despite having far more active users every day, Facebook, for example, is not able to generate the same rate of likes, shares, and comments on posts. This is because Instagram focuses mainly on visual content, including photos, video clips, live streaming, and stories that expire after 24 hours.

Visual content is simply much more eye-catching and requires less mental attention than walls of text. The savvy marketer who can post professional shots of products, add value with informative videos, and craft a friendly and accessible brand image by showing the inner culture of the business – is almost certain to boost conversions and sales.

The Right Approach

Of course, accomplishing this is easier said than done. Fortunately, the infographic also gives us some insight to get you on the right track.

Building trust requires you to tread a fine line between over-selling and under-selling. Top brands post on average 4.9 times a week, so it’s wise to follow a similar pattern.

You must also remember to post at the most opportune times. Business accounts offer all sorts of analytics, so over time, you can narrow down what time is the best for your individual target audience. However, in general, the most users are active on Wednesdays at 5 pm. For newcomers, this would be a good time to post your most important content.

The data also explores the most popular emojis and hashtags, which can also be important when targeting your audience and getting them engaged.

Why Facebook Is So Hard to Resist

Why is social media such a hard habit to break? Because it makes us feel good, said Michigan State University’s Allison Eden, assistant professor in the Department of Communication.

She and researchers from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands, conducted two studies of frequent and less frequent Facebook users.

They found even brief exposure to a Facebook-related image (logo, screenshot) can cause a pleasurable response in frequent social media users, which in turn might trigger social media cravings. The combination of pleasant feelings and cravings makes social media too difficult to resist.

Most likely, that’s because Facebook exposure is a learned response – such as when children learn misbehavior earns them attention or when dogs learn going to the bathroom outside earns them a treat – and learned responses are hard to break, Eden said.

“People are learning this reward feeling when they get to Facebook,” she said. “What we show with this study is that even with something as simple as the Facebook logo, seeing the Facebook wall of a friend or seeing anything associated with Facebook, is enough to bring that positive association back.”

In the first study, participants were exposed to a Facebook-related cue or a control picture, followed by a Chinese symbol. They were then asked to judge whether the symbol was pleasant or unpleasant. After being exposed to a Facebook-inspired image, heavy Facebook users rated the Chinese image as pleasant with greater consistency than less frequent users.

Then, in the second study, participants were given a survey to measure their cravings to use Facebook.

Because of giving in to temptation, people often struggle with feelings of guilt, Eden said. If they try to regulate Facebook usage and fail, they feel badly, so they turn to Facebook and feel badly again. It’s a cycle of self-regulatory failure, she said.

But, Eden says, the guilt is more damaging to the psyche than failing to control the media.

The solution could be to remove some of the cues from people’s environment, like, for example, removing the Facebook logo from a cell phone home screen.

“Media, including social media, is one of the most commonly failed goals to regulate,” Eden said. “People try to regulate themselves and they really have difficulty with it.”

The study is published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. Co-researchers on the studies are Guido van Koningsbruggen and Tilo Hartmann, both from Vrije Universiteit, and Harm Veling from Radboud University Nijmegen.

How to Find a Job Using Social Media?

Finding a new job, or changing your existing job for career advancement comes with significant challenges. As the pool of aspirants is hugely competitive, recruiters analyze your resume along with your past professional experiences and social presence. So, you’ve to stand out from the crowd to make your dreams come true. Today, a majority of the recruitment agencies and employers are utilizing social media to find the right employee, which means social media plays a crucial role in your job search endeavor.

Social networking sites have become a significant platform to advertise your skills. They empower you to identify job opportunities, establish your social presence, network with people in your niche online and finally, turn those leads into actual job opportunities. Job searching has changed significantly over the last few years. These days, applicants don’t need to wait for the Sunday newspaper to search the job section for ideal opportunities.

It’s a commonly asked question that despite having various online recruitment platforms such as Monster, Recruiter, Ladders that demonstrate almost every kind of job listing and deliver your CV automatically to the recruiters, do you really need to utilize social media to get a new job? Well, according to a study conducted in September 2015 by the Society for Human Resource Management, 19 percent of recruiters hired from Facebook, 57 percent of them hired from LinkedIn while 65 percent of them utilized some mode of social media to recruit. Through this post, we’ll discuss how you can have a fruitful job search by using social media.

1. Build your online presence

When prospective employers Google your name, what would they find? This is something you have to meticulously look at because these days, most recruiters use Google to search the profile of their prospective job candidates to see what comes up. If the search results show some unprofessional posts or pictures, then it’s time to revamp your online image. In the same context, a significant number of job searchers believe that LinkedIn alone can help you find your dream job and lead you to an interview. While this platform is the most useful choice, you simply can’t undermine the significance of Facebook and Twitter.

It’s important to note that employers usually use LinkedIn for assessment of skills and Facebook for your personality evaluation. Thus, it makes sense to update both platforms regularly to attain the best results. However, regardless of the platform you use, make sure to create professional and compelling looking profiles that exhibit your varied skills, job history and the recognition you’ve got. Your profile have to be strong enough to make prospective employers interested at the first glance as then only will they invest further time to explore the rest of your details. If you don’t hold a LinkedIn account, make sure to fill the gap by using your Facebook account completely. Mention your job regularly on Facebook and share the things you’ve accomplished. Remember – if you can’t resist yourself from posting something negative about your job, ensure the privacy settings for those posts aren’t set to public.

2. Optimize your LinkedIn profile

With approximately 400 million global members, LinkedIn has become the largest professional social site across the world. With most of the hiring managers, head-hunters and leading recruiters actively searching for potential candidates on LinkedIn each day, it makes sense to have a solid presence on this site. Your LinkedIn profile is quite similar to writing your online resume. However, the advanced technology aspects of this platform provide you with some other highly useful features such as “Endorsements”. LinkedIn allows you to incorporate personal testimonials. So, ask your friends, manager, colleagues or customers to write a few positive lines about your capabilities on your profile page.

Your first step is to make sure that your profile is impressive, searchable and professional. Regularly update your profile with new skills, tweak the texts for easy reading and include industry buzzwords that employers will be looking for. Remember that the content of your profile shouldn’t just contain your skills but also demonstrate the impact you’ve created on your previous employers so that head-hunters can easily understand the advantage of bringing you on board.

Add a suitable picture to your profile to develop trust with others online. Use a picture that mirrors how you’d look at the workplace and stay away from uploading pictures from casual nights out. Now, start building a professional network by connecting with recruiters, hiring managers and colleagues in your industry. The more connection you have, the more your opportunities will be. So, connect with as many relevant people as you can.

3. Create a professional Facebook profile

Although Facebook is quite an informal medium and mainly used by people to connect with family and friends, it’s being used by various companies too for commercial purposes. Some of them use it to communicate with their customers, staff and the wider audience (to receive their views and comments as well as respond to their feedback etc), while some others use it to vet and recruit potential candidates. Remember that boundaries on Facebook between personal and professional matters are quite blurred, which makes it important to be always aware of what kind of information about yourself can be viewed and by whom.

From a job searcher’s viewpoint, Facebook can be quite useful as you can ask your personal contacts for advice and information about your job search or career and even find valuable information on both organizations and individuals. The informal and interactive nature of this site empowers you to obtain information as well as communicate with prospective employers in a manner that may not be possible elsewhere. Here are some things you can do to optimize your Facebook profile.

  • Professionalize your profile and set the privacy settings the right way
  • Develop your network by joining relevant groups
  • Apply for jobs through the “Facebook Marketplace”
  • Start discussions with organizations and people in your industry

Facebook can be significantly useful for learning about your future employer but you need to be cautious about posting unfiltered comments as that may cost you your career.

4. Connect with potential recruiters on Twitter

 

Although Twitter isn’t a professional networking social media site as such, still there are many ways you can reap the benefits of this platform to find job opportunities and connect with professionals. It’s a platform mainly used by people to exchange and post short messages. It’s used to interact with other organizations or people the users find useful or interesting, including attaching photos or links that users want to share with their respective Twitter community. Businesses utilize Twitter to advocate their expertise, services and attract people to visit their site. When using this platform for your job search, you’ve to be professional. Remember that when you’re trying to grab the attention of prospective recruiters, you must represent yourself in a professional and attractive way.

One major benefit of Twitter is its support for free flowing communication that empowers you to directly talk to potential hiring managers and recruiters without having to submit your resume first. In your job hunting endeavor, a significant percentage of your tweets, re-tweets as well as replies should concentrate on the topics which are relevant to the organizations you wish to work for. It’s also a great platform to listen to what people are talking about your future company.

5. Engage with different people in your domain

Only increasing your visibility and activity on various social media platforms won’t help you much when it comes to finding the right job. Gone are those days when you had to put in a lot of work to ask your friends about their connections and where they work to reach prospective employers. Now, you can simply tap your social media networks to find out all the information you need to find your dream job. This could mean anything from getting introduced to the hiring managers at the organizations you wish to work for, get an insiders’ view about the work culture prevalent in your dream company, or much more.

Today, social media has become your own research laboratory as long as you use it in the right way. There are various ways to leverage the benefits of social media platforms. For instance, on Facebook, “like” the pages of organizations you want to work for and join conversations about current industry trends. Follow the same organizations on Twitter and LinkedIn as well so that you become automatically updated about the new recruits as well as product developments.

Accept follow/connection request from all actual people as you never know how a new connection will help you in your job search. It’s rather difficult to obtain a cold contact’s email address when compared to the chances of finding him/her on social media platforms. So, don’t hesitate to send direct messages to cold contacts on Twitter or invite them to connect on LinkedIn to build your network and give momentum to your job search.

6. Demonstrate your expertise

Most people who use social media hold a “what’s in it for me?” sort of mentality and here’s how you can stand out from your competitors. Help people by providing links to important content, answering their queries etc. If you can regularly connect with people on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, you’ll be able to build your own brand image on these platforms. You can also find the groups where your industry members are present. Join those groups and introduce yourself to other members. And don’t forget the power of blogging.

Writing a post on your industry-relevant topic shows prospective employers that you’re knowledgeable, have a serious and focused outlook, and have strong communication skills. Remember that your tweets, posts and status updates are platforms to exhibit your knowledge on a certain topic and thus demonstrate your expertise.

Attend related events and conferences and post takeaways. In case you don’t have your personal blog or website, you can use LinkedIn Pulse to post your write-ups and receive a significant number of views, comments and likes from people belonging to different verticals. Your never know – your article could be re-posted and you might grab the attention of a prospective hiring manager or recruiter.

7. Follow industry news

There isn’t a single social media platform that alone works the best for all job searchers. The crucial thing is to identify which platforms are mostly utilized by your industry. Try to find out the latest occurrences by joining specialized groups on social media platforms, signing up for newsletters, participating in various discussion forums and following your industry related blogs. These will help you to stay updated about the latest industry trends and information, thus improving your chances to make connections that might result in job leads.

Following organizations on various social media platforms provides you with current news about them, in addition to disclosing the hot topics and trends prevalent in your industry. You need to be updated about these patterns and discuss them in your network so that you can exhibit yourself as an informed professional with an insider’s edge and come across as someone who is up-to-date about the important happenings taking place in your niche or the industry.
All these will help build trust among your network and let you emerge as a dependable name, who may get noted or recommended for vacant job positions. In addition, when you’re writing your resume, LinkedIn profile or cover letter, you should mention jargon from your industry. This becomes particularly advantageous if you’re waiting to be found by recruiters or hiring managers on LinkedIn.

Now that you know how to use social media to your advantage for landing the dream job, go ahead and put these tips to good use to turbo-charge your job search.

The Savvy Social Worker’s Guide to Social Media and the Internet

Social media is ever-present and will only continue to grow. As such, social workers need to know how to ethically and successfully navigate the many paths of the online world to protect themselves and more importantly, their clients. Social media in particular can be used in a myriad of ways from networking with other professionals to marketing your practice.

How Social Media Can Be Useful for Social Workers

  • Network with other providers. In addition to networking in person with local social workers, social media platforms give you connections ranging from your own neighborhood to all over the world. While there’s no shortage of social media platforms to choose from, Facebook is clearly the front-runner based on audience engagement according to Tech Times’ analysis of comScore’s data. Below is a chart comparing audience engagement across the top social media platforms.

Due to Facebook’s popularity, there’s a good chance you’ll find a group pertaining to an area of social work that interests you.

Do you want to connect with private practice therapists? There are groups for that.

Are you interested in networking with child welfare or geriatric workers? There are groups for that.

Are you interested social work pertaining to social justice or advocacy? You guessed it – there are groups for that, too!

Your best bet is to get into a secret or closed group. A closed group can be searched for and anyone can find it, but you have to be approved to join and your posts are only seen by members. A secret group is a group you are invited to join so it’s not searchable.

  • Build reputation and showcase expertise. People look up their providers on the web all the time and clients will search for you. If you have professional blogs, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, or Pinterest accounts that are public – you control the story you let others see. You choose content that allows clients to get to know you, the practitioner.
  • Use social media to enhance your motivation for your career. Create and develop Pinterest boards with your social work interests. And while you’re at it, blog about social justice issues that are important to you. Exploring your area of interests can remind you why you love what you do!
  • Use discussion boards to connect with other social workers. Engage in conversations about policy and procedures, or concerns with other professionals. You might join a listserv, a therapy site, or even LinkedIn – interact with other professionals, gain knowledge, and share your own thoughts.

How the Internet Can Be Useful for Social Workers

  • Take advantage of online educational opportunities. There are plenty of options online for Bachelors, Masters, and PhDs in social work and related fields. There are also certificates you can earn online to hone your skills and increase credibility. You are no longer confined to your community to find preferred training classes. Online courses are offered for virtually any aspect or specialty of social work.
  • Tele-social work is an option. Online platforms allow social workers to see and talk to their clients, and provide services like therapy, without ever having to step into an office! This can be ideal for clients who live in rural areas, lack the means for proper transportation, or are just having difficulty getting to a traditional office. Using telehealth to reach clients is becoming steadily more popular among doctors and other health providers.

Ethical Considerations

  • Get educated about on-line rules and regulations. Look into classes and certification courses you can take regarding online etiquette. Know that most email is not confidential, and that a telehealth platform has to be HIPAA compliant. With all of the rules governing social work and social media, it’s essential for you to be informed so you don’t make an inadvertent mistake. You can use the following infographic by Scrypt as a quick reference for using social media without violating any HIPAA regulations.
  • Don’t talk about clients online. If you must – keep it in the broadest sense possible. Don’t include any identifying information about your client, not even gender. Social workers often want to share cases and funny stories with their colleagues, or ask for advice from others in the field. Be aware that what you write could get out for anyone to see. Even in a private Facebook group, you’re not going to know all the people who can see the posts.

Before writing anything about a client, consider how they would feel if they knew what you were writing about them. If you are looking for feedback, ask broader questions instead of focusing on a specific client. Instead of saying “I have a client with PTSD and am wondering…?” Try asking “What interventions can people use to help alleviate someone’s symptoms of PTSD?”

  • Avoid looking up your clients online. It is human nature to want to find out more, but doing so can harm the therapeutic relationship. A client will tell you only what they are comfortable sharing. If they ask you to read a blog post they wrote or look up something they were featured in, then by all means do so. When tempted to look, ask yourself what you’ll do with the information you find, and what’s your purpose for searching it out? If it’s simply for the sake of curiosity – stop.
  • Whether you work for a private practice or in an agency, it is vital to have a social media policy in place. Let your clients know you won’t friend them on Facebook or LinkedIn. Set that boundary. You can like, respect, and have an excellent therapeutic relationship with a client, but you are NOT their friend.
  • Nothing truly disappears on the Internet. Even if you delete a tweet or blog post – it’s still findable. It is a good rule to not put anything on the Internet you wouldn’t be comfortable with anyone you know – including grandma and your boss – seeing. If you have a personal Facebook page, blog, or other social media account – keep the privacy settings high. Realize even when you post privately, your post isn’t always private. It comes down to not writing or posting anything that you are not willing to be a representation of you to the world.

Like many professions in the 21st century, the Internet has been an amazing asset to social workers. This technology allows us to connect with peers, colleagues, and clients from all over the world, but it can also land you in hot water if you’re not careful. Luckily there’s a vast supply of online resources and courses you can take to help you have a successful and secure virtual presence.

Tweeting the Way to Health: Penn Medicine Launches Center for Digital Health

PHILADELPHIA — Across the world, social media users leave a trail of clues about themselves each time they Tweet, post to Facebook, write a Yelp review, and apply a filter and hashtags to their latest Instagram photo. Under the leadership of Raina Merchant, MD, MSHP, researchers and physicians at Penn Medicine are mining those clues to find what ails them – and how to fix it.

Merchant has been named an Associate Vice President for the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Director of the newly created Penn Medicine Center for Digital Health.

“Connectivity and innovation are central elements of Penn Medicine’s strategic plan, and a large and increasing proportion of our patients engage with the world digitally,” said Ralph W. Muller, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “Dr. Merchant’s visionary research is harnessing the power of this engagement to transform the way we deliver health care.”

The Center for Digital Health evolved from Penn Medicine’s Social Media Laboratory, led by Merchant since 2013. Her cultivation of partnerships from across the university — with Wharton, Annenberg, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science — have mapped a strategy and process to systematically evaluate how social media platforms can affect health, and develop new ways for clinicians to improve care delivery through these channels.

Merchant, who is also an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and has secondary appointments in General Internal Medicine and Anesthesia and Critical Care, began her research career in emergency medicine focusing on cardiac arrest. In 2012, she led the MyHeartMap Challenge, a crowdsourcing contest that sent Philadelphians into the community to identify, photograph, and submit locations of lifesaving automated external defibrillators (AEDs). Using the data gleaned from contest participants, her team created a mobile app that maps AEDs throughout the city, putting them at the fingertips of bystanders who can act quickly to save a life when cardiac arrest strikes.

Merchant describes her team’s research as probing “the social mediome” — a way of collectively describing people or groups based on their digital data merged with their health record data. So far, her work has demonstrated the value of mining Yelp reviews for information about patients’ experiences in hospitals, mapped ways in which social media may be harnessed for emergency preparedness and response, and shown that information donated by patients from their Facebook accounts may be paired with their electronic medical records to yield new insights about their health. New areas of research for the Center for Digital Health include identification of factors linked to depression and obesity, and studying social media to trace language changes that may be associated with Alzheimer’s or other types of cognitive decline.

Merchant earned her undergraduate degree from Yale University. She completed medical school and residency in Emergency Medicine at the University of Chicago and came to Penn as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar, joining the faculty in the department of Emergency Medicine in 2010. She has also served as a policy scientist for the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR) in the Department of Health and Human Services. In 2012, she was named one of the top 10 national leaders in health care under the age of 40 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and she has been named by Philadelphia magazine as one of the city’s top doctors under 40.

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