Tag Archives: Instagram

Turn Off Political Ads in Your Facebook Feed

By Tracey Dowdy

Did you know there’s a presidential election coming up in just a few weeks? How could you not? Everywhere you look, there are ads, campaign signs, and reminders to register to vote. 

Most of us don’t need a reminder, and I, for one, am done with the relentlessly combative tone of this particular election season. Thankfully, there are ways to block some of the content coming at you on social media, particularly on Facebook and Instagram. 

Facebook, who also owns Instagram, now allows users to turn off all political ads on both sites and apps ahead of the November 3 election. 

It’s all part of Facebook’s efforts to encourage voting, including its goal of helping 4 million people register, the largest voting information effort in US history. Their new voter center gives individuals information about how and when to vote, voter registration, voting by mail and early voting, and information on their efforts to prevent election interference

Both apps allow users to block all electoral or political ads from candidates, anything regarding social issues, and Super PACs or other organizations with the “Paid for by” political disclaimer on them from showing up in your feed.  

You have two options if you want to turn off political ads on Facebook and Instagram. 

Here’s how.

Facebook:

  • Go to Settings & Privacy > Settings > Ads > Ad Preferences. 
  • Tap Ad Topics > Social issues, elections, or politics.
  • Tap See fewer ads about this topic. 

If you scroll past a political ad in your feed, there should be a tag that says Confirmed Organization in the top-right corner of the ad. When you click on that tag, a window will pop up at the bottom of the screen. From here, choose from three options: Who paid for this ad? Why am I seeing this? See fewer ads about this topic. 

A new window will open. Tap to confirm that you want to see fewer ads about social issues, elections, and politics in the future.

Instagram

Go to your account settings. Select Ad topics and then See fewer ads about social issues, elections, and politics. 

Alternatively, if you see a political ad in your feed, tap where it says Paid for by and then select See fewer ads like this. 

Currently, these options are available only in the US, but Facebook has plans to roll out the same features to countries where they can exercise enforcement on ads about social issues, elections, and politics.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Instagram Introduces TikTok Lookalike “Reels”

By Tracey Dowdy

With President Trump promising to ban TikTok unless it can find a U.S. buyer by September 15, Instagram’s timing on the release of its new feature Reels couldn’t be better. With Reels, Facebook’s – Instagram’s parent company – goal is not just to capture TikTok’s audience if the app does end up banned in the U.S. — it’s to snag them and keep them even if TikTok does find a U.S. buyer. 

Unsurprisingly, Reels is similar to TikTok as it lets you create short-form videos up to 15 seconds long, add popular music, and choose from a variety of filters and effects. The feature is contained entirely inside of Instagram; it’s not a new app. You can decide to make your profile public so you can be the next Addison Rae or Charli D’Amelio or keep your content private. Reels created under private accounts will only post to the user’s Feed and Stories.

As with other Instagram posts, users can save their Reels as Drafts while they’re a work in progress. When ready to go live, Reels can be users can be uploaded to Stories, Stories with Close Friends only, or as a D.M. 

To create a Reel, open Instagram, and tap on the camera icon. When the camera opens, slide right under the shutter to open Reels. You can record one video, a series of clips, or upload videos from your photo gallery, manipulate the speed, apply special effects, set a timer, and add audio. You can send Reels directly to your friends on Instagram because Reels lives within the Instagram app. 

Instagram’s product director Robby Stein said that while TikTok popularized the short video format, the two products are quite different. “I think TikTok deserves a ton of credit for popularizing formats in this space, and it’s just great work. But at the end of the day, no two products are exactly alike, and ours are not either. We’re going big with entertainment and [making Explore] the permanent place for you to go lean back, relax, and be inspired every day. It’s our hope that with this format we have a new chapter of entertainment on Instagram.”

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Create Your Facebook Avatar 

By Tracey Dowdy

Earlier this month, Facebook released its Bitmoji-like avatars. This new feature allows users to make a cartoon-style character with features similar to your own. You can customize your avatar with a variety of faces, hairstyles, and clothes. You can even use them as stickers 

You’ll then be able to use the avatar when you comment on a Facebook post, in your stories, as your profile picture, and when you use Facebook Messenger. As a bonus, you can use them as stickers on Snapchat, Twitter, Mail, and on Instagram. 

“So much of our interactions these days are taking place online, which is why it’s more important than ever to be able to express yourself personally on Facebook,” said Fidji Simo, head of the Facebook App. “We’re excited to bring this new form of self-expression to more people around the world…With so many emotions and expressions to choose from, avatars let you to react and engage more authentically with family and friends across the app. “

To create your avatar, follow these steps: 

  • Open the Facebook app on your phone and tap the menu (three stacked lines) On iPhone it’s in the lower right corner, the upper right corner for Android.
  • Scroll down to “See More.”
  • Select Avatars > Next  > Get Started.
  • Choose your skin tone, then tap Next. 
  • Choose a Short, Medium or Long hairstyle for your avatar, then tap the Color icon.
  • Next, choose your Face icon to select your face’s shape, complexion, and lines or wrinkles. 
  • When you’re done, tap the Eye icon. Select your eye shape, color, and lash length. Tap the Eyebrows icon and select your brow shape and color, and add glasses. 
  • Select your nose shape and then choose the shape and color of your lips and any facial hair. 
  • Finally, select your body shape, an outfit that’s similar to your style, and then add your accessories. 
  • Once you’re happy with your choices, tap the checkmark in the upper right corner. Tap Next > Done.

Any time you want to, access your avatar, tap the smiley face icon in the “Write a comment” section. 

Have fun! 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Parents, It’s Time to Talk About Our Social Media

By Tracey Dowdy

As a Gen Xer, my daughters’ childhoods are captured in framed photos, memories, and photo boxes in the closet off my home office. I didn’t start using Facebook until they were both tweens, and perhaps that’s why I understood the importance of not posting photos or posts about them without permission. Tweens are at an age when even having parents is mortifying, and though I sometimes overstepped, I have their consent for what’s in those old Facebook albums and posts.

Fast forward to today, where the oldest members of the millennial cohort are – gasp – turning 40. Lifestyle blogging was in its heyday during the late nineties and early 2000s, and for a while, it seemed like everyone had a blog, especially moms. It wasn’t uncommon to hear graphic stories of diaper blowouts, potty training mishaps, mispronounced words, and other content that exposed the most intimate details of their child’s milestones and behavior.

The issue is that many of those children are now old enough to Google themselves, and those blogs and Facebook posts are impacting them in ways parents didn’t, and arguably couldn’t have anticipated. The children who were the subjects of those posts are in some cases mortified by the content, while the majority simply resents having had no say over their online presence. There’s even a portmanteau for the phenomenon – sharenting.

Perhaps there’s no better example of the conflict between the two perspectives than that of Christie Tate and her daughter. Back in January, Tate, who has been blogging about her family for over a decade, wrote an essay for the Washington Post titled, “My daughter asked me to stop writing about motherhood. Here’s why I can’t.” Though she’s been writing about her children since they were in diapers, it’s only recently that her nine-year-old daughter became aware of what her mom has been writing, and asked her to stop. Tate refused, stating,

They’ve agreed to a compromise where Tate will use a pseudonym rather than her daughter’s real name, and Tate has “agreed to describe to her what I’m writing about, in advance of publication, and to keep the facts that involve her to a minimum.” Her daughter also has the right to veto any pictures of herself she doesn’t want to be posted.

Tate faced considerable backlash, with many calling her selfish and coldhearted. Many on social media sites like Reddit have roasted her, though she did receive some support.

Fourteen-year-old Sonia Bokhari wrote an honest, insightful piece for Fast Company about what it was like to finally be allowed her own social media accounts – long past the age many of her friends had become active – only to discover that her mother and older sister had been documentary her life for years. “I had just turned 13, and I thought I was just beginning my public online life, when in fact there were hundreds of pictures and stories of me that, would live on the internet forever, whether I wanted it to be or not, and I didn’t have control over it. I was furious; I felt betrayed and lied to.”

Bokhari’s mother and sister meant no harm; they posted photos and things she had said that they thought were cute and funny. She explained her feelings to her mother and sister, and they’ve agreed that going forward, they’ll not post anything about her without her consent.

It wasn’t just the embarrassment of having the letter she wrote to the tooth fairy when she was five or awkward family photos. Her digital footprint that concerned Bokhari as well. “Every October my school gave a series of presentations about our digital footprints and online safety. The presenters from an organization called OK2SAY, which educates and helps teenagers about being safe online, emphasized that we shouldn’t ever post anything negative about anyone or post unapproved inappropriate pictures, because it could very deeply affect our school lives and our future job opportunities.” Bokhari concluded that “While I hadn’t posted anything negative on my accounts, these conversations, along with what I had discovered posted about me online, motivated me to think more seriously about how my behavior online now could affect my future.”

Her response to what she learned? Bokhari eventually chose to get off social media altogether.

“I think in general my generation has to be more mature and more responsible than our parents, or even teens and young adults in high school and college… being anonymous is no longer an option. For many of us, the decisions about our online presence are made before we can even speak. I’m glad that I discovered early on what posting online really means. And even though I was mortified at what I found that my mom and sister had posted about me online, it opened up a conversation with them, one that I think all parents need to have with their kids. And probably most importantly, it made me more aware of how I want to use social media now and in the future.”

For many of us, trying to clean up our digital footprint or that of our children feels a lot like trying to get toothpaste back into the tube or trying to make toast be bread again. Still, it’s important to try. You’re not only curating your own reputation; you’re shaping your child’s before they’ve ever had a chance to weigh in.

Consider your audience and your motivation, then evaluate whether or not what your sharing is worth the potential ramifications. The internet is the wild wild west – maybe you need to start acting as the sheriff of your own town.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Is it Time to Disable or Delete Your Instagram Account?

By Tracey Dowdy

 Instagram influencers live their lives on a very public stage – that’s the whole point of being an influencer. They share everything from their favorite granola to their favorite brand of underwear, and everything in between. As it turns out, Instagram inadvertently gave many users a taste of what it’s like to give brands, marketers, and total strangers access to their private information and preferences. According to Tech Crunch Security Editor Zack Whittaker, “A massive database containing the contact information of millions of Instagram influencers, celebrities and brand accounts has been found online. The database, hosted by Amazon Web Services, was left exposed and without a password allowing anyone to look inside. At the time of writing, the database had over 49 million records, but was growing by the hour.”

The database was owned by Chtrbox, an Indian marketing company that connects influencers to brands looking to promote their product or service. Instagram (owned by Facebook) has since revoked Chtrbox’ access to its platform.

Since its inception, Instagram has morphed from a simple photo-sharing platform to an imitation of Snapchat or Facebook, with advertising cluttering your feed. For some Instagram users, the breach was the last straw. If you’re one of them, you can delete your account but it isn’t easy to do from within the app itself. Patrick Holland has a step by step tutorial on CNET’s How to Do It All YouTube channel that will walk you through beginning to end.

Keep in mind, once it’s deleted, it’s gone forever – you will not be able to recover it. If that seems harsh and you just want a break, consider disabling it for a while. By logging out, you have the option to resurrect your profile once you’re ready, but whatever option you choose, be sure to download your data. This is especially critical if you’re deleting your profile – there may be photos in your stream that you’ve forgotten exist but will be important to you down the road – because again, once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can request your download through your browser or through the app, but realize this isn’t an immediate download. It will take time for Instagram to collate all that data, and prepare it for downloading.

If you’re still unsure which option is best, check out Holland’s tutorial Instagram: How to delete or disable your account to determine which is best for youTech

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Reporting Cyber-Abuse on Social Media

By Tracey Dowdy

For as long as there has been life on the planet, there have been those who find pleasure in tormenting others or demonstrate their perceived authority by denigrating those they see as weak or vulnerable. With the advent of social media, those abusive behaviors moved from the real world to the digital world. It’s become nearly impossible for victims to escape. Through social media, the bullying follows you into the privacy of your home, making it seem like there are no safe places.

According to DoSomething.org, nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online, and 1 in 4 have experienced it more than once, yet only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse. A study by the Universities of Oxford, Swansea, and Birmingham found that youth who have been cyberbullied are twice as likely to commit self-harm or attempt suicide than their non-bullied peers. Unfortunately, when those bullies grow up, they often continue their behavior. Pew Research Center found that 73% of adults state they’ve witnessed online harassment and 40% reporting being the target themselves. It’s not just individuals being bullied. Hate groups often utilize platforms like Facebook and Twitter to disseminate their message, and as a result, online hate speech often incites real-world violence.

The message, “If you see something, say something,” is more than a catchy slogan. It’s your responsibility if you see abusive or hate-fueled messages and images online. Here’s how to report offensive content.

Twitter clearly maps out how to report abusive behavior. You can include multiple Tweets in your report which provide context and may aid in getting the content removed more quickly. If you receive a direct threat, Twitter recommends contacting local law enforcement. They can assess the validity of the threat and take the appropriate action. For tweet reports, you can get a copy of your report of a violent threat to share with law enforcement by clicking Email report on the We have received your report screen.

Facebook also have clear instructions on how to report abusive posts, photos, comments, or Messages, and how to report someone who has threatened you.  Reporting doesn’t mean the content will automatically be removed as it has to violate Facebook’s Community Standards. Offensive doesn’t necessarily equate to abusive.

You can report inappropriate  Instagram posts, comments or people that aren’t following Community Guidelines or Terms of Use.

Users can report abuse, spam or any other content that doesn’t follow TikTok’s Community Guidelines from within the app.

According to Snapchat support, they review every report, often within 24 hours.

If you or someone close to you is the victim of harassment, and bullying, you have options. If the abuse is online, submit your report as soon as you see the content. If it’s in the real world, take it to school administration, Human Resources, or the police, particularly if there is a direct threat to your safety.

Finally, if you’re having suicidal thoughts due to bullying or for any other reason, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online or call 1-800-273-8255 for help.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Tik Tok – A Guide for Parents

By Tracey Dowdy

 Social media trends move faster than your toddler sneaking the treat you forbid them to eat. Don’t feel bad if you can’t keep up – that’s the nature of social media and toddlers.

One of the newer and most popular (over 100 million users) is TikTok – Real Short Videos, an app that lets you watch, create, and share 15-second videos from your phone. Users love it because it’s free, and allows them to add a soundtrack – including current chart-topping music – to create music videos with themselves as the star. It was the most downloaded free iOS app over the first half of 2018, and in September 2018, TikTok became the most-downloaded free app on Apple’s U.S. App Store. In  October 2018, it ranked first on Google Play.

Originally marketed as musical.ly in the U.S., it became TikTok when it merged with Douyin, a Chinese app that offered many of the same features. It combines elements of other popular sites and apps like the lip-synch app Dubsmash, create short videos as they did on (no longer available) Vine, and is interactive like YouTube or Instagram, allowing users to connect with friends and build a fanbase through likes, comments or duets.

So how does it work? To create an account, users (ages 13+) sign up with a phone number, email address, or through Facebook, or Instagram. Once you’ve created the account and log in, users can search for popular creators, by category, or hashtags to find videos. Users can connect with friends already using the app through their phone contacts or social media. You can make the account private by going to your profile page and selecting the three-dot icon in the top-right corner. Tap Privacy and Safety. Then, toggle the switch for “Private Account.” You can edit who is allowed to send you comments and direct messages, or who can do a duet with you.

Because the app uses popular music across genres, not all content may be appropriate for kids. Though the app doesn’t allow you to use search terms like “sex” or “porn,” there is a sexual content with users wearing revealing clothing and dancing provocatively that may not be appropriate for younger users of the app.

TikTok has some safeguards in place through its Digital Wellbeing features. Once turned on, it limits the amount of time users can spend on the app as well as filtering some videos that may be inappropriate for tweens and early teens. To activate Digital Wellbeing, tap the three dots at the top right of your user profile. Then, tap “Digital Wellbeing” beside the umbrella icon. Kids can’t disable these settings without a four-digit passcode. Parents can also set Screen Time Management which caps use of the app at two-hours a day, or they can activate Restricted Mode, which blocks some content.

Like every social media app, there’s room for abuse and the risk of your child being exposed to content you’d prefer they not see. No matter how many safeguards these apps put in place, the best defense is a parent actively monitoring what the child is doing online. There’s no way to watch them every minute of the day, but it’s still a good idea to share that TikTok account with younger users. Ask them about their favorite creators and familiarize yourself with what they’re posting. If they are exposed to objectionable content, don’t panic. Have a conversation about what they saw, and talk about how the content doesn’t match your family values. These age-appropriate, honest conversations about respect for themselves and others is the surest way to ensure your children will develop a healthy worldview in the midst of all that’s available online.

 Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Facebook, Google and Twitter Doing Better at Removing Hate Speech 

By Tracey Dowdy

 The European Commission, the European Union‘s executive arm, recently released data from research done as part of its “code of conduct” for social media platforms. The EC’s launched an initiative back in 2016 aimed at removing hate speech including racist and xenophobic content from online platforms. Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft were among the tech companies that signed on, committing to searching out and eliminating offensive content.

“Today, after two and a half years, we can say that we found the right approach and established a standard throughout Europe on how to tackle this serious issue, while fully protecting freedom of speech,” said Vera Jourova, a European commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, in a press release.

The European Commission defines “hate speech” as “the public incitement to violence or hatred directed to groups or individuals on the basis of certain characteristics, including race, color, religion, descent and national or ethnic origin.”

According to the report, Facebook removed 82% of objectionable content in 2018 – up from a mere 28% back in 2016. That’s good news for the social media giant that’s been under scrutiny and attack for the volume of fake news disseminated on the platform, particularly during the last federal election.  Just last week Facebook announced it had removed nearly 800 fake pages and accounts with ties to Iran.

Instagram, YouTube, and Google+ also showed significant improvement, though Twitter removed a mere 43% of illegal hate speech posted to the platform. That’s down from 45% for the same time frame in December 2017. Twitter’s director of public policy for Europe, Karen White, told CNBC that they’re reviewing 88% of all notifications received within 24 hours. “We’ve also enhanced our safety policies, tightened our reporting systems, increased transparency with users, and introduced over 70 changes to improve conversational health,” she said. “We’re doing this with a sense of urgency and commitment, and look forward to continued collaboration with the European Commission, Governments, civil society and industry.”

“Let me be very clear, the good results of this monitoring exercise don’t mean the companies are off the hook,” Vera Jorouva, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality warned in a press conference. “We will continue to monitor this very closely, and we can always consider additional measures if efforts slow down. It is time to balance the power and the responsibility of the platforms and social media giants.” 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Helping Your Teens Manage Social Media Stress

By Tracey Dowdy

I grew up in a rural community back in the 80’s. For me, connecting with my friends outside school mainly consisted of hours on a harvest gold, rotary dial, attached-to-the-wall phone. The greatest day of my life was when my father bought an extra-long cord so I could sit on the stairs and get what little privacy is available to someone with six brothers and sisters.

Kids today – for better or worse – have 24/7 access to their friends and peers. Passing notes in class means shooting a text and social media means your kids are hyper-aware of who is hanging out with who…when they are stuck at home doing nothing.

For many teens, that translates into a lot of stress. A study by the University of Glasgow found that teens often felt a constant need to be online and connected. Furthermore, the strain of the emotional investment manifested itself in poorer sleep quality, lower self-esteem and increased levels of anxiety and depression.

If you feel your child is showing any of these signs or you are concerned about changes in behavior, these tips from professional family therapist Roy Dowdy can help you manage those stress levels and help them find a balance.

Start with a conversation. Don’t come in with an agenda, just listen and let the child direct the conversation. Ask open ended questions like, “You seem stressed. Is there anything you’d like to talk about?” or “What do you think will happen if you don’t respond to a text right away?”

Help them set boundaries. Part of parenting is teaching your children self-control, whether that’s choosing to have an apple instead of ice cream or stepping away from Snapchat at 11pm.

Be mindful not to judge. Being immersed in someone’s Instagram account or being obsessed with the latest Snapchat filter may seem absurd to us but did your parents ever really appreciate your obsession with Alan Longmuir from the Bay City Rollers? (Sorry, that got personal.) Social media is how your kids are connecting with their peers and just because we don’t value it doesn’t mean it’s not important to them.

Help them find real-world ways to connect. Social media isn’t going anywhere. The key is to help your child find ways to manage relationships in the real world. Challenge them to leave their phone in their locker, in their bag, or face down on the table and engage in face-to-face conversation. Make sure you’re modeling that behavior by having that kind of conversation with them.

Remember peer pressure is a big deal. Do you remember what it was like to be 14 and be torn between the agony of “I’m hideous, don’t look at me!” and “Ugh, why is everyone ignoring me?” Emotions and reactions are often oversized for teenagers, and helping them learn how to manage their reactions to what they see, don’t see, or feel hurt by on social media is a significant part of the maturity process.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.