FB and 3rd Party Apps

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve had my Facebook (FB) account since 2007. But I rarely log on and use it. It’s just one of those things I keep around, and it comes in handy about once every 2 years. Even in the beginning, when everyone was just figuring out how to use FB, I never engaged with any 3rd-party apps, with 2 exceptions.

A 3rd-party app is one that is created by an entity external to FB that then integrates with it, usually in the form of logins, games, purchases, quizzes, etc. The reason I never engaged with any 3rd-party apps on FB, even from the beginning, was because I always understood that FB could not be responsible for how my data was collected and used by an external party. I believe this is pretty standard, even today, with how social media works with 3rd-party apps and extensions. Once data leaves FB, either obtained legally or illegally, it is no longer under the control of FB and they can’t track or manage it on behalf of its users anymore. In the early days, FB also allowed 3rd-party apps to collect your information, and your friends’ information too.

Every time I get wound up about something like this, inevitably the person at the other end of my tirade shrugs. Then says something like, why should I care? I’ve got nothing to hide. I blogged about this some time ago. (Read here.) It’s not about having something to hide, it’s about having something to protect. Information is power. We freely give it up, performing thousands of hours of mundane data entry, for FREE, so other companies can swoop in and make a profit off of it. And what do we get in return? Addictive online services that distract us with high volume, low quality items? Manipulated?

Many apps and services also encourage, or require people to sign up through an FB account or Google, etc.. This is popular with people because it means there are fewer logins to remember, and it makes FB a one-stop shop with everything conveniently linked in one place. However, if you’re fond of using your FB login to access other services, deleting or deactivating your FB account will be difficult. You will lose all the other information and services integrated with your account. That doesn’t seem convenient.

Facebook & Privacy: You’re in Control, Really?

I have to admit that I was quite amused at the content on Facebook’s Privacy Basics page.  The phrase “You’re in Control” is even one of the menu headers. Really? I thought to myself. I never feel in control of my content on Facebook (FB) which is one of the primary reasons why I never use the account I’ve had for about 10 years. I only have content because my friends occasionally tag me in a photo or comment on something with my name.

It’s true that I can control who sees what I share on Facebook, but I can’t control what other people share or post about me. That becomes part of their feed and record. I know that I can be notified if someone tags me in a photo that s/he posted. If I elect not to be tagged, that photo is still there. That image of me can still be found with facial recognition software on someone else’s post even if it’s not tagged with my name and even after I’ve deleted my account. Where’s the control?

I’m irritated every time FB updates their privacy settings, that are inevitably defaulted to grant the highest level of access possible to my information. This means each time an update occurs, I have to go in and reset my permissions to whatever is the most restrictive.

I understand that Facebook now is quite different from the one I joined in 2007.  From its inception, it’s always been focused on sharing with others. The result is volumes of information freely available with open access. I’m not surprised to see FB in the headlines for months now about how data harvested from the site was used to influence voters and sway elections. I’m only surprised that it took so long to come out in the open.

Facebook’s business model is based on using profile information to send sponsored advertisements to their targeted audience. Does Zuckerberg have so little imagination that he couldn’t possibly imagine anybody using profile data to do anything else, like manipulate a government election? Hasn’t he read any sci-fi books about this? I’ve been reading about it in post-apocalyptic young adult novels for years. Surely some of these themes have hit the adult market.

So why do I keep my account? Like many people it’s because certain things I do are only on FB. Very annoying.

Digital “Note” Taking

Over the last several years, I’ve noticed a lot of people whipping out their phones during presentations or lectures to snap pictures of something on the projector. As the familiar adage goes “a picture is worth a 1000 words.” So whenever I see people taking pictures instead of writing, I can’t help but wonder do they also take notes? Is a picture enough to remember everything later? No caption? No explanation to go with the image or a title? How will these “notes” be found later in a collection of thousands of images?

I’m currently working on a college campus. Part of my job is to teach the students information literacy. The name of the class could also be “Using the library for research instead of Google.” Sometimes during the sessions it’s hard to gauge what, if anything, the students are absorbing. It’s tough to break through the ease and seduction of searching offered by Google. And the many misperceptions about the quality of results available on Google. Contrary to popular belief, the results on the first page are not always the most trustworthy, relevant, or best quality resources.

However, when I see students reach for their phones and start taking pictures of something I’m showing on the projector, I know something clicked for them. I’m always curious to see which things the students are interested in retaining since the phones appear at different moments in each class. Sometimes they take pictures of a link when I show them a nifty resource available to them through the library. Other times they capture the criteria we teach them for evaluating resources found on the internet.

In one class a student took a photo of the login screen that automatically appears if you try to access the college materials from an off-campus location. The login prompt, aptly named “Off-campus login” does seem self-explanatory, but I suppose having visual confirmation from the phone to the screen could help.


The only thing I recall taking pictures of are white boards after a particularly engaging brainstorm session when there isn’t adequate time to type up everything properly. And then it usually ends up sitting in my phone as a future task, something that “I’ll get to later.” I wonder how often other people end up referring to these pictures they take during lectures or presentations. And how much of the content gets retained.

Ramp Up for Spring Cleaning

This is my 250th post. Wow! To commemorate this special occasion, I’ve gone through my “archives” to highlight a couple posts geared specifically towards spring cleaning.

I’m not sure what it is about spring that makes us want to clean, but it’s obviously a “thing” or phrases like “spring cleaning” wouldn’t be so meaningful to us. I even have a category dedicated to posts about this very topic. (Click here.)

A couple weeks ago when the sun emerged for a glorious week of bright beams and above freezing temperatures, I asked a few people their thoughts on the connection between spring and cleaning. Answers varied, but all seemed centered around the idea of having more sunlight and more heat. More sunlight and daylight, in particular, could result in higher energy levels giving us that much needed boost at the end of winter to do a thorough cleaning. Other people felt the cleaning was part of a natural transition from cold temperatures to warmer ones. This marks the time when we can finally put away all those bulky clothes and warm layers in favor of lighter garments.

As for me, I find the angle and gleaming shafts of sunlight at this time of the year highlight the dust perfectly prompting me to engage in a deep cleaning frenzy. In the darker, colder months I’m not sure if I miss the dust because there’s not as much light, or if it’s a strategic kind of avoidance on my part. Either way, it’s all very apparent to me when I throw open the curtains to welcome those first triumphant, warm, rays of sunshine.

If you’re feeling inspired to get started on your spring cleaning, here are a few posts to move you along in that direction.

Getting Rid of Clutter – always the goal, but how do you accomplish it when you are confronted with personal items about which you feel sentimental?  Read about The Deletist’s kryptonite and how I overcame it to get through my childhood belongings.

Sprinting Through Clutter – for those of us that have the good intentions to get through that pile of “stuff” but somehow never seem to have enough time.

Coming soon, my new book, The Art of Making Space: Choosing Quality Over Quantity, guaranteed to help you overcome even the most pesky, annoying decluttering challenges you face with your physical and electronic belongings. Stay tuned for updates.

Sense of Self

The advent of personalized devices, such as smartphones and tablets, has resulted in some noticeable culture changes. It’s almost as if these devices have allowed for us to have too much customization resulting in selfish and self-absorbed behavior. We’re often too immersed in our own tech bubbles, oblivious to how we are impacting those around us. This has ultimately led to some strange changes to our behavior, especially in public settings.

On some level, it’s resulted in a real decline of manners and civilities. One time on the subway I observed a woman practicing her singing along to an audible beat coming from her phone. I watched her in fascination as she went through the same passage repeatedly without a hint of self-consciousness that others were listening in. She was acting uninhibited as though she were by herself in a practice room, or maybe in the shower. I’m not sure if she persisted because she really didn’t care if she was bothering other people, or if maybe she secretly wanted to be “discovered.”

I’ve been taking public transit for decades. And to be fair, subway etiquette has always been questionable. While listening to a radio program about this topic recently, I was surprised to hear so many stories of people witnessing other passengers clipping their finger and toe nails on public transit, along with all kinds of other horrible things. People get so absorbed and zombie-like with their devices that they become even less aware of their surroundings, resulting in even more unacceptable behavior in public.

For the last several months I’ve been working at a college campus. I’m constantly surprised at how many students I hear answering phone calls and continuing conversations while they’re in the bathroom stalls! Yuck. Even worse, the students emerge from the stalls, phone attached to one ear, without even a glance around, or a hint of self-consciousness that they’re in a shared area. It’s as if they don’t even notice their behavior. Maybe I’m old fashioned about this, but I don’t answer phone calls when I’m in the bathroom. And that applies even more strongly when I’m in a public, or shared, bathroom.

I remember when cell phones first started to become popular how self-conscious we all felt about answering phone calls in public. And now it’s become the new “norm.”




Trusting Tweets

Even before all the articles appeared about Twitter bots and fake news, I always felt slightly irritated when reading articles that featured a bunch of tweets from other people, most of whom were unfamiliar to me with their cryptic twitter handles and abbreviated messages. I used to wonder, why were the tweets part of the article? Were they there to support the author’s message?

I read the news to learn what’s going on in the world. Unless I’m reading an Op-Ed column, I don’t expect to be reading somebody’s opinion. If I want to see readers’ reactions to a piece, I check out the comments section, or maybe social media. So I feel annoyed when I see screencaps, or links, to tweets in news articles that seem to only be there for opinion or commentary purposes. The exception is when the tweet content is being reported on directly (e.g., the president’s tweets).

You will always find somebody on the internet who agrees with you. It’s not difficult to find, but that doesn’t mean it’s based on anything accurate or factual.

For example, in a recent article from CBC news titled, “‘They’re trolling the trolls back’: How Parkland survivors are responding to conspiracy theorists,”(read here) the first tweet displayed is from somebody named Mike (@mike_Zollo). I understand the article is about trolls and that the Zollo tweet is likely there to emphasize a point the author is trying to make, but at the same time, I’m wondering why would any reputable news source post or repeat something from someone whose credentials are so dubious. Who is this person? And what makes his Tweet a significant “troll” tweet?

According to his twitter profile, he is “America, politics, & TRUMP. Trumps [sic] biggest supporter. I destroy liberals. Trump is my President & hes [sic] yours to for the next 8yrs. WE’RE TAKING OUR COUNTRY BACK.” How can we even know there is a legitimate person behind this Tweet?  Maybe he’s a bot. And yet his message has become woven into the reporting of the article. Are tweets now being used instead of getting quotes from a person directly?

Later in the article, the author posts another tweet from a TV & Radio Host sharing an article from the Wall Street Journal. So why not just share a link to the WSJ article directly instead of sharing it through a tweet from somebody else’s twitter feed?