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Social Media is Destroying Our Lives

Nancy Jo Sales, Vanity Fair

This year, 81 percent of Internet-using teenagers in America reported that they are active on social-networking sites, more than ever before. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and new dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, and Blendr have increasingly become key players in social interactions, both online and IRL (in real life). Combined with unprecedented easy access to the unreal world of Internet porn, the result is a situation that has drastically affected gender roles for young people. Speaking to a variety of teenaged boys and girls across the country, Nancy Jo Sales uncovers a world where boys are taught they have the right to expect everything from social submission to outright sex from their female peers. What is this doing to America’s young women?

In a troubling, and slightly depressing must-read feature, Vanity Fair’s Nancy Jo Sales talks with groups of teenagers about social media and its affect on their lives.

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Frozen Pizza: How Instagram And Vine Are Fuelling The Frivolous


That is a frozen piece of pizza, on the ground, covered in snow. I found it in the parking lot this morning as I was leaving school. I posted an Instagram of it.

At the outset of the new year, I set some social media goals for myself. Things like learning to better leverage Twitter as a networking tool, expanding my presence and my brand online, and trying to take more Instagram photos. I hoped to achieve that last one by taking at least one Instagram photo each day for the entire year. For the first few weeks, I did quite well. I started taking photos of everything, some days posting more than one. On occasion, more than five.

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2012 in Review: Tech


2012 has been a monumental year in technology. This year we’ve watched Facebook truly realize the complete “American Dream,” as it went through with an IPO that valued the social network at $90 billion in May,  lost 47 percent of its value in 94 days, and subsequently began a slow ascent back to respectability. The Internet rallied its voice and defeated major legislation across the globe, including SOPA and PIPA that attempted to regulate the Internet. Major gadgets were released, including the Nexus 7, iPad mini, Microsoft Surface and iPhone 5. Copyright and patent laws around the world were put to the test as Apple and Android OEMs embarked on a game of ‘who can file lawsuits against each other in the most countries,’ with Samsung arising as the first victim of the lawsuits to the tune of $1 billion, which of course is being appealed.

All in all, it was a very eventful year in tech. Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights.

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Yesterday, Instagram announced changes to the existing privacy policy and terms of service. These changes will go into effect on January 16th 2013. You can read the brief announcement here.

The impending changes have serious implications that could impact users in an extremely negative way. The most significant change is that Instagram — much like its owner Facebook — has now granted itself the perpetual right to sell user-generated content (images) without payment or notification being sent to the user. This means that Facebook has the right to sell all public photos that are shared by users on Instagram to companies or any other organization for advertising purposes. Unless users of the social sharing network delete their accounts prior to the January deadline, they will not be able to opt out of how their images will be used.

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Facebook Camera launches for iPhone: Like Instagram Without The Other Guys

Somewhat curiously, Facebook has launched a new iPhone app today called Facebook Camera. Like the company’s stand-alone Facebook Messenger app, Facebook Camera provides users with an instant-access portal to photo-sharing on Facebook. And yes, it has filters.

Facebook Camera is a really simple app that has two main functions. The first is photo-sharing, which can be done by either taking a new photo, or uploading an existing photo from your camera roll. Users can crop and even apply Instagram-like filters to their photos before sharing them online for the world (well, your Facebook friends, at least) to see. One of the best features is that Camera allows for batch uploads, making it so much easier to create and populate an entire Facebook Photo Album from your phone. In addition, Facebook Camera acts as a photo viewer, giving users a much nicer mobile way to browse through their friends photos in a News Feed-like interface.

I’ve played around with the app for a few minutes, and it definitely is as simple as it sounds. Facebook Camera provides a much sleeker, smoother photo-viewing experience than the full Facebook app for iOS. While I still don’t quite understand the need for Facebook to release stand-alone apps instead of building these features into their full app (perhaps they are building a Facebook phone, one app at a time), there’s a larger question looming here: having just announced their intent to purchase Instagram for a hefty $1 billion, why release a competitor?

I’m sure investors are curious about this as well. Facebook is a public company now, and like it or not, Mark is going to have to start answering to the people who buy in to his company. Why does Facebook need two photo sharing applications? Now that they have their own Instagram competitor, what justification is there for spending a billion dollars on Instagram? By and large, Instagram and Facebook Camera are the same thing, save for the fact that Instagram also integrates with Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, and Foursquare, while Facebook Camera is deeply integrated with the social network that birthed it. But to users, many of whom are already deeply committed to Instagram, Facebook Camera doesn’t provide much of an incentive to switch.

If you want to try out Facebook Camera for yourself, it’s available for iPhone right now in the App Store.

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Facebook Q1: 901M Users, $1.06B in Revenue; Instagram Gets $300M in Cash

Due to its impending IPO filing, Facebook has released its first quarter earnings in an updated S-1 filing to the SEC. The social network pulled in $1.06 billion in revenue, up from $731 million year over year. Their income did slide to year over year to $205 million from $233 million.

Monthly users have increased by 32 percent year over year from 682M to 901M, with 526M daily users. 300M photos are uploaded daily.

Facebook also commented on the Instagram deal, revealing that the deal included $300M in cash, and 23 million shares. Facebook stated,

“Following the closing of this acquisition, we plan to maintain Instagram’s products as independent mobile applications to enhance our photos product offerings and to enable users to increase their levels of mobile engagement and photo sharing.”

The agreement also contains a $200M breakup fee if it fails.

Facebook spoke on the Yahoo patent lawsuit as well, stating that an unfavorable outcome could have a negative effect on business, a customary measure for an SEC filing.

“From time to time, we receive notice letters from patent holders alleging that certain of our products and services infringe their patent rights. Some of these have resulted in litigation against us. For example, on March 12, 2012, Yahoo filed a lawsuit against us in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California that alleges that a number of our products infringe the claims of ten of Yahoo’s patents that Yahoo claims relate to “advertising,” “social networking,” “privacy,” “customization,” and “messaging.” Yahoo is seeking unspecified damages, a damage multiplier for alleged willful infringement, and an injunction. We intend to vigorously defend this lawsuit, and on April 3, 2012, we filed our answer with respect to this complaint and asserted counterclaims that Yahoo’s products infringe ten of our patents. This litigation is still in its early stages and the final outcome, including our liability, if any, with respect to Yahoo’s claims, is uncertain. If an unfavorable outcome were to occur in this litigation, the impact could be material to our business, financial condition, or results of operations.”

Facebook is expected to go public on May 17th, according to Alexia Tsotsis of TechCrunch.

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What’s wrong with Facebook buying Instagram?

Apparently the entire online community is pissed to no end that Facebook is buying Instagram. This displeasure has turned into an utter shit storm of unhappiness on Twitter, which in my opinion seems a little unfounded. Maybe it’s just me, but what is wrong with Facebook buying Instagram?

There’s no denying the incredible success Instagram has enjoyed in its short existence. In 18 months, they’ve launched chart-topping apps for iOS and Android, and racked up an impressive 40 million users. For some, it’s a selling point for smartphones. It has birthed an artistic and photographic revolution. And they’ve done it all without earning a penny.

So you’re Instagram, enjoying your phenomenal success yet struggling to secure future investment in your product that currently makes no money. Then suddenly, like a bright white angel descending from heaven, Mark Zuckerberg comes knocking on your door waving a $1 billion cheque made out to you. How the hell do you say no?

I mean sure, we all hope that the little-start-up-that-could will persevere and succeed on their own, but the fact is that they need money to make that happen. Facebook is willing to provide that and a lot more to Instagram. Two social giants coming together. Seems like a perfect fit.

So I ask: what is the problem? Are people really denouncing Instagram for “selling out”? Because in my mind, if you’ve got a start-up that makes no money, a buyer willing to shell out a billion dollars for you and your product, and you agree, that’s not selling out – that’s damn good business.

No, I think the real issue people have with this deal is Facebook. Primarily it seems that people are worried Facebook will somehow “ruin” Instagram. Just like they continue to ruin their own website every time they move something one pixel to the left and suddenly your profile looks different and you can’t find your friends list anymore and OH THE HORROR IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT!

Breathe. Just as most Facebook users overreact with each design change or new feature, so too are we overreacting about this. In his post announcing the acquisition, Mark Zuckerberg stated, “we’re committed to building and growing Instagram independently”. In other words, they have no immediate plans to interfere with Instagram. So relax, and please have a little faith.

But this isn’t the only fear factor at play here. I think a lot of people are starting to view Facebook – and maybe Mark Zuckerberg himself – as Big Brother. Because yes, Facebook is not much more than a bunch of servers filled with the private information of a good portion of the world’s population. And I think a lot of the unhappiness being expressed over the Instagram deal can be traced back to the privacy concerns that have continually plagued Facebook.

What I don’t understand is that we all used to love Facebook. We loved writing on the walls of our friends, sharing pictures of crazy nights out, tending to our virtual livestock and poking those we are closest with. Now, suddenly, Facebook is evil. As with any large corporation or government, Facebook is becoming too large and too powerful, and that scares us. We hate Facebook because they know too much about us.

Umm… hello?!? Did I miss the portion of the sign-up process where Zuckerberg came to my house with a gun and forced me to enter all of my personal information onto his website? Oh that’s right… I DID THAT VOLUNTARILY, AND SO DID YOU! Don’t act like you were tricked into handing over all of your personal information, because you did so happily with the promise that you would gain a flourishing social life. After all, that is the reason we all loved Facebook so much: it’s extremely personal.

Our privacy is not being taken from us, we are relinquishing it voluntarily.

This is what irks me the most about the online privacy debate, which I believe is the true root of the unhappiness surrounding the Facetagram deal. We complain about online privacy and how too much of our personal information is now on the internet, but we are the ones that put it there! We agreed to the Facebook privacy policy, we entered all of our personal information, we uploaded all of our pictures, and we did it all of our own accord! Our privacy is not being taken from us, we are relinquishing it voluntarily.

Why is it that we are so willing to give up our personal information online? It’s the promise of a better online and social experience. So what if Facebook tells an ad agency what I like? I have to look at ads, at least I get to see ads that are relevant to me. So what if Apple shares my location on Find my Friends? It will help me and my friends better communicate and make plans. So what if Google tracks my browsing history? They’ll learn what I like, and help me find those things a lot easier and faster. So long as these services all remain optional, we really have no reason to complain, or worry that we will become the next chapter in 1984. These services all exist for the express purpose of bettering our lives, not harvesting our data. But if you don’t like it, you’re free to get off the ride at any time.

This is how some people see the Instagram acquisition, as just another attempt by Facebook to own even more of our personal data. On the contrary, I believe Facebook saw Instagram as a threat in the online photo sharing space, and instead of attempting to go head to head with them, they simply bought them out. Facebook managed to eliminate the competition while at the same time keeping them alive. And now, as Instagram grows independently, instead of looking on with envy, Facebook can say that they are a part of it.

Rather than assuming that Facebook is going to ruin Instagram, why don’t we hope for the best? So far it seems they have no intention of messing with the success that Instagram has achieved, and if they do eventually make changes to Instagram, maybe they will be good ones (though, as I mentioned, we all know how Facebook users react to change)?

I hope we can learn to have a little faith in big companies like Facebook. After all, we are the ones that made them big. And what if they’re not evil? What if they sincerely want to create for us a set of useful, revolutionary social tools? Wouldn’t that be cool?

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Screw Your Class Warfare, It’s All About Platform Love

Image Credit: Gizmodo

According to many journalists of the tech persuasion, Instagram users went through a spell of class warfare earlier this week, after the photo service released an Android app for the previously iOS exclusive product. Today, Instagram was acquired by Facebook for $1 Billion, and the hate was much, much worse, and from users of both platforms.

So what does this mean? Is there class warfare between mobile OS’s and Facebook?

No, it just means that a lot of Instagram users loved the exclusivity of the product. Some say that all Instagram users are hipsters (Definition: Hipster’s can’t be defined because then they’d fit in a category, and thus be too mainstream) but I don’t agree.

To me, the best thing about Instagram was the exclusivity it had on iOS. Not because Android users aren’t in the same class as iPhone users, or because they can’t take photos as well, but because it differentiates the platforms. There is a reason that the Forza series of racing games are only on the Xbox, and the Gran Turismo series is PlayStation-only. It gives you a reason to get and stay on that platform, other than the hardware. The hate wasn’t against Android, or its users, it was against anything that wasn’t iOS

We should have apps that are exclusive to their original OS, be it Android or iOS, but in this ever-growing market, that sentiment is becoming unfeasible. The opportunity for rapid growth on a second OS is something that many can not and would not pass up. Users take pride in their exclusive apps, but this era may be coming to an end.

Instagram will flourish with the opportunity to impact hundreds of millions of new users with its recent moves. And if you are one of the people who had hoped the hipsters would leave the service, the one-two combination Instagram just unleashed surely has granted your wish. But from what I’ve seen today with the Facebook deal, the hate isn’t class warfare. People don’t hate Facebook because of class — they hate Facebook because it’s Facebook.