social media

Is Privacy Worth Worrying About?

This morning I had to add my debit card number into Facebook Messenger in order to receive some money someone sent me.

And just for a minute I thought, “Do I really want to give my debit card number to Facebook? I mean they just had yet another data breach of nearly 267,000,000 American users personal data?”

No, I don’t want to do that. Facebook has proven over and over again that they can’t be trusted with personal information.

social media

Cyberbully Action Plan

Last week, a fellow volunteer in our high school ministry asked me for some advice about a student in her small group who is being bullied online. Specifically, the attacks are coming from anonymous accounts on Instagram, Facebook, and  My friend told me that the student had already talked to the school counselor about it, but the attacks hadn’t stopped and were now affecting her school work, sleep, etc.

I wanted to share the advice I gave as a starting point for other youth workers, educators, parents, and individuals faced with the same issue. (Obviously, I’ve edited this a little bit to make it general.)

youth ministry

Should I friend my youth group students on social media?

From a Pew Internet focus group:

Friending teachers and preachers

Female (age 14): “I think I wouldn’t [become Facebook friends with my teachers]. Just because I’m such a different person online. I’m more free. And obviously, I care about certain things, but I’m going to post what I want. I wouldn’t necessarily post anything bad that I wouldn’t want them to see, but it would just be different. And I feel like in the classroom, I’m more professional [at] school. I’m not going to scream across the room oh my God, I want to dance! Or stuff like that. So I feel if they saw my Facebook they would think differently of me. And that would probably be kind of uncomfortable. So I probably would not be friends with them.”

social media

Social Media is Linked to Depression

Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology have linked depressive symptoms in college students to their internet usage. It’s a small study, only 216 participants over 1 month, but the correlation quantifies what other researches have hypothesized. This is the first of its kind that overlaid subjects actual internet usage and diagnostic testing. Participants were college students on a closed network. So once they agreed to participate the researchers gained access to their real time usage via the schools network.

In short, the more time subjects spent checking social media sites like Facebook, chatting online, and shopping– especially late at night, the more depressive symptoms were measured.

In this paper, we report our findings on a month long experiment conducted at Missouri University of Science and Technology on associating depressive symptoms among college students with their Internet usage using real Internet data collected in an unobtrusive and privacy preserving manner over the campus network. In our study, 216 undergraduates were surveyed for depressive symptoms using the CES-D scale. We then collected their on-campus Internet usage characterized via Cisco NetFlow data. Subsequent analysis revealed that several Internet usage features like average packets per flow, peer-to-peer (octets, packets and duration), chat octets, mail (packets and duration), ftp duration, and remote file octets exhibit a statistically significant correlation with depressive symptoms. Additionally, Mann-Whitney U-tests revealed that average packets per flow, remote file octets, chat (octets, packets and duration) and flow duration entropy have a statistically significant difference in the mean values across groups with and without depressive symptoms. 


This fits into the advice I share in my seminar, (and forthcoming book co-authored with Marko) A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media, that parents need to focus less on WHAT their kids are looking at and more on WHERE and WHEN they are using the internet.

ht to Mashable and Huffington Post UK

Photo credit: Ars Electronica via Flickr (Creative Commons)
social media

How I Made Facebook Lovely Again

Oh Facebook.

You temptress. You instigator. You heartbreaker. You are so freaking addicting and maddening all at the same time. You define paradox for me. 

Here’s what we all know: You either control Facebook or Facebook will control you.

With more than 1600 virtual friends… let me be the first to admit that Facebook was starting to drive me nuts. Literally, I felt as if I teeter tottered on sanity. It was just too much.

But in the past 3-4 months I’ve been able to do a couple simple things that made Facebook much more enjoyable.

Here’s how I made Facebook lovely again

  1. Manage your subscriptions – I accept friend requests from just about anyone. But here’s a little secret. If I don’t actually know you I don’t want to see every one of your status updates. So I mark you as “Only Important” on my subscription settings. So when I see someone pop up on my timeline and I don’t really know them, they get marked as “Only Important.” Over time this makes a massive difference! Conversely, if someone is in my family I mark their updates as “All Updates.” But most of my actual, in-real-life friends are marked as “Most updates” and that works just fine.
  2. Manage requests – Oh baby, event notifications and game requests will drive you batty. So I kill them all. I’ve never played a single game on Facebook and I block ’em all. I also found that all the game requests were coming from a very small minority of my friends. So not only do I block that specific game, but if you request I play a game I also mark you as “block game requests from this person.” Oh, sweet sanity!
  3. Hide updates from Yahoo, USAToday, and any other site that shares my friends browsing activity – This is your next sanity finder. All you have to do is click the little dropdown on that block of links and mark the “hide” button. That makes it all go away and I never see it again. (I couldn’t take a screenshot to show you because it’s all gone!)
  4. Turn off all notifications – If I want Facebook I go to Facebook. Head over to Notification Settings and turn them all off. I never want to get an email from Facebook. No direct message notifications, no friend requests, no tag notifications, nothing. Also, scroll down to Other Applications and turn all of those off.
  5. Close the tab – I know it’s tempting to keep Facebook open all day. That way when a notification pops up you are able to get right there and see who liked your image or who commented on your status update. Close the tab. The coolest thing will happen! You’ll get your life back and enjoy Facebook even more when you want to. In other words, I don’t let other people’s use of Facebook interrupt my life.

Taking these measures of control and getting the settings just right has truly made my use of Facebook lovely again. And that’s a sweet sane victory!

social media

Facebook shrank the world, literally

Some recent research using Facebook’s social graph has shown that the world’s largest social network has actually made the world about 20% smaller, socially.

Some highlights from the study.

  • There are more than 800 million active Facebook users, 50% of which log on daily.
  • The median Facebook user has about 100 friends.
  • If that number feels low, check out this 1991 study “Why your friends have more friends than you
  • Stanley Milgram performed a study in the 1960s showing an average of 5.2 “hops” between any two people on the planet, hence “six degrees of separation.”
  • While the worldwide population in 1960 was just over 3 billion, today it now 7 billion. Logic would tell you that we would have more hops between more than 2x the amount of people on the planet.
  • Faecbook partnered with a university in Milan, Italy to develop an algorithm which measured the seperation between any two Facebook users. (800+ million worldwide)
  • The distance between hops on Facebook in 2008 was 5 degrees of separation. But now it is 4. And within people in the same country? 3 degrees of separation.
  • This research has revealed that your Facebook social circle is at once both global and local. (84% of people’s friends reside in the same country.)
  • Source

What does this mean for you?

  • Mostly, it’s just really cool and has no real impact on your day-to-day life.
  • You’ve got to be more careful than ever about talking smack about someone online. Because one of your friends now has a friend who knows that person.
  • Your Facebook status is 3-4 shares away from reaching every person in your country. And 5-6 Facebook shares from any one person in the world.
  • As these online networks continue to interconnect our world, it also reveals a greater and greater desire within each of us to form more localized offline connections. (Support groups, farmers markets, small networks of personal friends, etc.)
  • In general, the larger a persons social network the less likely they are to keep their thoughts/opinions out of the public arena. I think we will see an increase in “private spaces” in social media to foster the open discussion we all so greatly enjoy.
  • Thomas Friedman’s 2005 book, “The World is Flat” was spot on. Fewer degrees of seperation gives more and more power to people with less and less means. This is contributing to a rise in the entrepreneur and socially activated class.
Christian Living

If Your Phone Could Talk

We used to say you could tell a person’s priorities by looking at his checkbook. I’d submit to you that today you can tell a person’s priorities by how he uses his phone.

If your phone could talk… what would it say about you?

  • Who is he talking to?
  • Who is he texting?
  • How is he talking about people?
  • How does he talk about people via text?
  • What is he looking at when no one else is looking?
  • When is he using his phone?
  • Does his phone fill his hand more than the hand of the one he loves?

Here’s what I know about technology. One day your phone will tell on you. One day everything you’ve posted on Facebook may become public. One day everything you’ve ever Googled may be public. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

One day… it will all tell the whole story of you. Every key stroke on that device could one day be exposed. Every text message, direct message, email, and Facebook message could one day become public.

I believe your smart phone is amoral. It’s can be used for noble or ignoble purposes. My hope is that as I use my phone,  (and technology like it) I use them as instruments of Good News in how I conduct my personal, family, and business affairs.

The story your phone tells is up to you.

social media

Blame the Internet

There are a lot of jerks out there empowered by the internet.

Why is that?

Affinity grouping vs. Geographical grouping

Whereas, in the past, your social network was largely defined by geography, in the internet age your social network is self-selected. This is a double edged sword.

Let’s say there is a guy on my block who likes to listen to Southern Rock, drink Southern Comfort, and dance on his front porch to Dolly Parton classics while yelling at passing cars, “Jap Crap!” And on the other end of the block is a woman who puts a leash on her 2 cats and 1 iguana and takes them for a walk around the block around dinner time. Every community has people like this. The iguana lady, the red neck, and a whole bunch of people in the polite middle who kind of roll their eyes at them.

It used to be that the people on the fringes really had a quiet voice in the crowd. They’d espouse their views and everyone would politely nod. When family came to visit from out-of-town we’d point out the lady walking her iguana and cats to stare. And that social pressure kept the extremes just a little bit more palatable and innocent.

Today, each of those oddities on my block can find other odd ducks on the internet. And chances are that finding other people like them will embolden them. So, instead of that person knowing they are on the fringe and kind of keeping it socially acceptable, now that they know 1-2 other people out there who like to rock out to Dolly Parton and yell at Toyota’s… they feel like they can be a little more loud and proud about it. The same goes for the cat and iguana lady. She found another woman in Florida who has 2 iguanas and 6 cats that she walks, so she figures she can, too!

In their minds, all of a sudden, lots of people walk iguanas so that makes it OK. And those Dolly for President shirts are selling like hotcakes somewhere, just not here.

That’s why there are more jerks out there. They found each other and started a Facebook group.

I blame the internet. Who do you blame?

social media

5 things you don’t have to tell me in your bio

I look at every bio for each new follower on Twitter and friend request on Facebook. And let me tell you, there’s some pretty important stuff missing and some pretty unimportant stuff that is taking up space.

Hint: Clean up your bio. People look at it.

5 Things you don’t have to tell me in your bio

  1. That you love Jesus (Show me, don’t tell me.)
  2. That you are married to your best friend, that she is smoking hot, or whatever. (Is that how you talk about all women in your life?)
  3. Your age. (I don’t care.)
  4. Anything about your children. (I’m happy you are a parent, but not really relevant at this point in our relationship.)
  5. A quote. (I’m glad you like C.S. Lewis, but is that all you want me to know about you?)

5 Things that you should be in your bio on Twitter or Facebook

  1. Your name. (Doesn’t have to be first name, last name. But if you aren’t in the witness protection program, it might as well be.)
  2. Where you live. (Not the street address, just where in the world are you?)
  3. What you do. (Occupation, employer, etc.)
  4. What you are about. (Keep is simple)
  5. Something fun. (Why would I want to follow someone who is boring?)

Who do I follow on Twitter?

I don’t have a hard and fast rule. I used to follow everyone who followed me. But that got annoying real fast. Then I followed everyone who @replied me. But that got messy, too.  In general, if a bio looks interesting and might add something, I’ll add you. But I’m also pretty ruthless about unfollowing people who are annoying.

Who do I follow on Facebook?

If you look like a real person, I’ll accept your friend request. If I am suspicious that you might be a spammer from Africa or India, I’ll check the “limited profile” button.

One thing I do, and it’s mostly for my own sanity, is that I keep my entire friend list in two categories. “Friends” and “People I haven’t met.” I don’t want anyone to really think I know 1400 people.

Video Clip

Myspace is my ex-girlfriend

This cracked me up. I was never into Myspace the way I am into Facebook. But it goes to show you that one day Facebook will be the ex-girlfriend we lament about.