social media

Parents, Look Out for Curious Cat

Here we go again. Another app lying to users. 

There is yet another anonymous question asking/confession social media app floating around the internet claiming they’ve solved the bullying (and suicides) that plague older confessional apps like, this one borrows it’s name from the ever-popular cat movement online: Curious Cat.

Tech Tuesday

Tech Tuesday Questions about Snapchat, high school graduation, and big data

For the past month or so I’ve had a form in the sidebar of my blog. The intention is for readers to submit their questions about anything tech related. Here’s a few questions that have been submitted.


How do I get in contact with Snapchat? I’ll track these mfs down and then snapchat and my friends can be safe!!

Emma in Australia


Dear Emma, you can always contact Snapchat directly with your user questions and concerns. You could also follow their CEO, Evan Spiegel, on Twitter and connect with him that way.

And if something has gone wrong, let’s say a law has been broken, I’d encourage you to contact your nearest law enforcement agency so they can work with Snapchat to investigate. (Law enforcement can refer to this handy guide)


Can you recommend any books for teenagers entering adulthood, geared towards a 17 year old turning 18 who is making really life changing choices and not good ones?

LaRie in the United States


Sure, over at The Youth Cartel we released a book for exactly that age group called The Amazing Next. It was written for precisely that age.


How do internet companies know so many things and know so much information? Do they make all theses phone apps for kids just to see what there doing and to post there information?

Sasha in Michigan


Sasha, the first part of your question is actually pretty easy… you can find out lots of information about various things and people specifically because they openly and freely share it. Most people don’t read the terms of service to create accounts. But in most cases, you’re agreeing that the information you share on a website or app belongs to the service provider and they can do with it whatever they want within their policies.

The second part of your question is a bit more nuanced. Most developers would argue that their app is about it’s utility… they really want to help people connect with their friends or want their app to help people navigate to where they are going. And the data they collect is merely a byproduct. Most will claim that the sale of that information is merely a secondary market for them… but it’s a $50 billion secondary market annually!

Big data is big business for a lot of reasons, nearly all of them are commercial. Right now, predictive information is what’s hot. Companies want to know what people are talking about today so they know what they’ll buy tomorrow. They buy traffic information so they can know what kinds of people drive by their store. Even hospitals are tapping into big data to predict how many people will visit the emergency room.

I don’t think people really care about Big Data as it’s macro. We don’t care because it’s kind of about us but not about us specifically.

The reason I teach healthy social media habits to parents and teenagers is that it’s not Big Data that gets you in trouble. Instead, it’s bad habits that ruin relationships and it’s micro “Little Data” that can lead to personal problems like you losing your job or your teenager not getting a scholarship.

Got a Tech Tuesday question for me? Head over to my blog and submit your question using the sidebar form. 


social media Tech Tuesday

Why Ephemeral Matters

Ephemeral – lasting for a very short time. “fashions are ephemeral” synonyms: transitory, transient, fleeting, passing, short-lived, momentary, brief, short

In the social media world, most of what took off and gained traction among teenagers and young adults in 2014 fall into the category of Ephemeral Apps. Things like Snapchat, Tinder, Yik Yak, and others are built on the temporal nature of the messages.
  • A Snap lasts for just a few seconds. (Though Stories last a little longer, they also aren’t as popular as sending a Snap.)
  • On Tinder, you swipe to the right if you want to know more about a person, swipe to the left and they are gone.
  • Yik Yak is all about capturing the unfiltered thoughts of the moment. (I consider it to be the bathroom wall of the internet.) If you live somewhere where the app is active, your Yaks might only be on the site an hour before they go away.

For most adults, you roll your eyes at things like Yik Yak, Tinder, and Snapchat.

Understand this– That’s entirely the point!

RULE #1 – Teenagers and college students want to hang out where adults don’t. The less popular something is for adults, the better.

RULE #2 – Perceived anonymity and privacy is enough for what they want to do. We’re talking about a generation of app users who have grown up with their lives documented on mommy blogs, Facebook, and Instagram. They ultimately know that there is no such thing as privacy or anonymity online… that things get tracked back to them… but that’s not the point. The point is creating private space from the prying eyes of adults and/or people they don’t want to connect with. The perception of anonymity or privacy is just fine with them.

Why Ephemeral Matters

When I’m talking to parents or youth workers or school administrators they are dealing with very practical problems.

But I don’t think you can problem solve ephemeral apps without first taking the time to understand why it’s important for teenagers and what it’s in response to within our society.

  1. Ephemeral matters because it’s seems safer than other options. “Safer” can mean a lot of things. Safer from mom and dad, safer from creepers, safer from getting tracked back to you, on and on. Posting on Twitter or Facebook, where adults persist, is dangerous. Posting on Snapchat? Totally safer.
  2. Ephemeral matters because it’s just chatting. As Danah Boyd so aptly drove home in her book, It’s Complicated, American society has systematically eliminated the places teenagers used to hang out free from the prying eyes and ears of adults. (Malls, streets, casual sports, etc.) These apps matter because these become the places where they can hang out. They may have very little “free time” that you or I grew up with, these apps provide the space to just chat. (This is why taking them away is so traumatic.)
  3. Ephemeral matters because it’s outside of adult control. Beyond the prying eyes, beyond the deep signs, beyond the misunderstanding, beyond the control-freak-parenting-methodology… ephemeral apps are a response to all of this. It doesn’t matter because of them, it matters because of  us. 
  4. Ephemeral exists because of general isolation everyone is experiencing. Here’s a challenge. Go sit at Starbucks with a pad of paper. Sit in a corner by yourself so you can see the whole store. In a 15 minute period, make a tick for every person who is in the store, comes or goes. Next, make a tick for every time someone looks at a screen. (Phone, computer, tablet.) What you’ll likely observe is that people are generally isolated from the life in front of them because they are absorbed by the life on the small screen in their pocket. This isolation creates the need for places you can speak flippantly, without worry that what you say is going to get back to your parents or boss or whomever. We all need places where we aren’t making “official statements” or having an “official position” but just have a place to say whatever comes to mind or feels good in the moment.
  5. Ephemeral persists because of the neurological high. Lastly, and perhaps an area where the least is known, is this idea that apps trigger your brain to check notifications, likes, and send responses at the neurological level which can mean that you don’t know why you’re checking it or using it so much… you just are. (More on that here)

My advice? As an adult, it’s easy to just deal with the frustrations caused by things you haven’t taken the time to understand. Don’t waste your time trying to talk people out of using apps. (You’re actually increasing their desire to use them!)

Instead, take the time to understand why these apps matter to the young adults in your life. Just because you don’t get it doesn’t mean something is bad. It might mean that you need to be the learner and not the teacher.