Tag Archives: Facebook

Facebook Rolls Out Messenger 4

Facebook has given Messenger a Face-lift – terrible pun fully intended.

Even if you haven’t refreshed the app recently, you’re seeing the updated version, called Messenger 4. Facebook rolled the changes out server-side, meaning the move is “automatic,” and you can’t avoid it by avoiding or delaying the update.

It’s had mixed reviews, which isn’t surprising. Any time an app changes its interface, some die-hards hate it and early adopters who love it. The first thing you’ll note is the display – it’s very, well, white. They’ve removed Facebook’s signature blue bar from across the top, and they’ve de-cluttered the bar at the bottom. Now, users will see only three icons – a speech bubble for Chats; two figures for People, and a compass needle for Discover. The top of the screen displays your profile picture, the category you’re in, the camera and the conversation icons. Just below the top bar is the familiar app-wide search option, followed by Facebook’s “Stories” options and Stories from your contacts. Your most recent conversations list is in the middle, as it’s always been.

Chats hasn’t changed much – it’s still the place to carry on conversations and make audio or video calls to your contacts. What is new is the option to choose chat colors. Go to your settings to change the display colors making it easier to identify specific groups at a glance. More features are promised, though Facebook hasn’t said what exactly we can expect. The People category is where you can look for friends, view their stories, and see who’s currently active. Users can start the conversation with a “wave” by tapping the hand icon to send a hello. Discover is where you can chat with businesses, access customer support, play games, and search for news and current events.

So far the biggest complaint seems to be that the app is too bright – all that white background and negative space is hard on the eyes. In response, Facebook has announced a “Dark Mode,” but there’s no word on when users can expect it to roll out, nor do we know if it’s going to come in an update or rolled out server-side like the new design.

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 or Fakebook? The Problem with Fake News

By Tracey Dowdy

Let’s play a game. How about “Two Truths and a Lie”? I’ll share three headlines from the last three months before the election and you decide which two are true and which one is a lie. Remember, all three are published news stories, but one is from a fake news site. Ready? Here we go:

A. “I Ran the C.I.A. Now I’m Endorsing Hilary Clinton”
B. “It’s Over: Hillary’s ISIS Email Just Leaked and It’s Worse Than Anyone Could Have Imagined”
C. “Trump Sees Dead People: Promises Crowd He’ll Bring Joe Paterno Back from the Grave”

So which headline is from a fake news story? It’s B – the headline from an article published by Ending the Fed, a site notorious for its completely unreliable content. In fact, Ending the Fed is responsible for four of the top ten fake election stories shared by users on Facebook.

So much fake news has been shared on Facebook that Paul Horner, the man who created an entire fake news empire on Facebook has stated, “I think Trump is in the White House because of me.” Turns out he’s not the only one that feels fake news had an impact on the election or that the amount of fake news being generated has risen exponentially in the past few months.

Brendan Nyhan, Professor of Political Science at Dartmouth College who researches political misinformation and fact-checking says, “I’m troubled that Facebook is doing so little to combat fake news…Even if they did not swing the election, the evidence is clear that bogus stories have incredible reach on the network. Facebook should be fighting misinformation, not amplifying it.”

Considering that over 60 percent of U.S. adults get at least some of their news from social media, there’s a huge amount of false information being shared and accepted at face value. “During these critical months of the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyper-partisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. Within the same time period, the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites generated a total of 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.” (Buzzfeed, 2016).

Did you catch that? Fake news did better than real news among Facebook users.

When I was a kid, papers like the National Enquirer were the gold-standard of fake news. Bat Boy, Bigfoot and alien abductions were its stock in trade. The difference was we knew it was mostly fake with the occasional fact thrown in. Today, the fake news hides in plain sight, we just aren’t looking for it nor are we pushing back against it.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has stated he thinks fake news shared on Facebook had little effect on the election but nobody seems to be buying his position. In fact, it undermines his earlier claims that Facebook as a platform is an agent of change and has been influential on the world stage. Columbia University student Karen K. Ho tweeted, “Facebook and Twitter cannot take credit for changing the world during events like the Egyptian Uprising, then downplay their influence on elections.”

In response, five Facebook employees have launched their own investigation. “It’s not a crazy idea. What’s crazy is for him (Zuckerberg) to come out and dismiss it like that, when he knows,

and those of us at the company know, that fake news ran wild on our platform during the entire campaign season,” said one Facebook employee, who works in the social network’s engineering division.

Still, at the end of the day, Facebook is simply the vehicle. We are in the driver’s seat. If we want to stop the proliferation of fake news, it is our responsibility as news consumers to look to verifiable and legitimate sources and, for the love of all that’s good and right, don’t believe everything you read!

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.

How To Clean Up Your Facebook Photos

By Tracey Dowdy

Am I the only one with Facebook albums that need to get cleaned up? My Facebook page is cluttered with photos of things that were important to me years ago but now…not so much.

Of course deleting them is an option, but what if you want to save some? For example, that sandwich from your Vegas vacation. It was pretty epic. Alternatively, you could go through and select them one by one but who has that kind of time? Plus, Facebook compresses photos when you upload, so clicking and dragging to your desktop will leave you with an image of lesser quality than the one you uploaded.

Here’s the good news: there are options and most don’t take a whole lot of time.

Download it all, and I mean all

Facebook allows users to download a copy of their entire Facebook data, including photos. Go to Settings >Download a Copy and Facebook will download everything – every status, every chat log, every photo. Downloading doesn’t take long and once you have your copy, you can sort through what’s important to you and delete the rest. Keep in mind photos won’t revert to original quality – you’re getting the compressed version.

Use the Download FB Album mod on Google Chrome.

This extension allows you to download albums and photos and, while the photo quality is not great, it is decent. Install the extension through the Google Chrome store and you’ll see the Facebook icon appear in the top right corner of your screen. Simply open a Facebook album or page, click the icon, and select “Normal.” Press Command +S (iOS) or Control +S (Windows) to save your photos.

Use an app like Fotobounce.

Fotobounce is a photo management and sharing app that allows you to quickly download and organize your pictures online or offline. Once you create an account, login and access Facebook in the panel on the left side of your screen. Login to your account and once there you’ll be able to access all your albums.

To download, highlight the photo or album and select “Download” from the Edit pane. You’ll be prompted to choose where on Fotobounce you want to store the images – either a new album or add to an existing album. You can also upload to your Flickr account by choosing “Upload to Flickr” in the edit pane. Fotobook even has face recognition capabilities, works with Mac or Windows, and fully integrates with Twitter as well as Flickr.

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.

College Applications and Social Media

By Tracey Dowdy

Mercifully for my generation, most of our bad decisions in high school are lost to memory or stuffed in a shoe box of photos forgotten in a basement. Not so for our kids. Thanks to social media, bad decisions are more closely documented than the Korean War.

Many a social media account is littered with Red Solo cups, questionable comments or Tweets, and sketchy language. So what, they’re young. Not a big deal, right?

Not so fast. You might want to take a second look at your child’s social media presence if they’re applying for colleges or university, as more and more schools are looking at those profiles when they screen applicants. According to a study by Kaplan Test Prep, 40% of Admissions officers are scrolling through social media to see if what’s on the application matches what’s on the web.

Kids will be kids, right? Sure, but if your student is competing for placement or funding, those pictures of Spring Break 2015 could mean the difference between a scholarship and a student loan. Does that mean they have to take everything down? Not necessarily.

Help them see cleaning up social media as a transition from high school to adulthood. Part of the college experience is cultivating who you are, who you want to be, and how you want the world to perceive you. Some students shut it all down and come off social media entirely, while others choose anonymity and don’t use their real names to avoid negative attention. It’s entirely up to the individual what works best, and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Used as a self-marketing tool, social media can be an asset for your student. Creative students can use platforms like Instagram to showcase their art or photography, writers can utilize blogs, and Facebook can document humanitarian or volunteer efforts.

Encourage your student to comb through their social media accounts and use these guidelines from Kaplan as a litmus test of what stays and what goes.

  • Does this make me look like college material? It’s not just party photos or controversial statements; check your spelling and grammar. Little things weigh in the balance and can make a big difference.
  • Would I say this on television? Would you say it to someone’s face? Ask yourself: “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” Social media gives a false sense of bravado and anonymity. Be mindful of what you say. Your social media is a mirror of your character.
  • Does this post court excessive commenting? Are you trying to take a stand or are you just trying to stir the pot and be provocative? Taking a stand for what you think is right is important but realize your opinion may be polarizing. Be prepared to accept the consequences.
  • Is it offensive? Following on the heels of “Is what you’ve posted controversial?” ask “Is it at the expense of others?” Understand sincerity doesn’t translate to high moral ground or to truth. Many people hold sincere beliefs but can still be sincerely wrong.
  • Does everyone need to read this? Kaplan suggests that if the answer is “No,” don’t post it. Social media is littered with opinions, some good, some bad, some right, some wrong. If your goal is to present your best self to admissions and scholarship committees, cull your social media presence mercilessly. Use it as a platform to showcase your accomplishments and abilities to demonstrate why you are a superior candidate.

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.

 

Celebrating the Positive Side of Social Media

By Tracey Dowdy

It’s not uncommon to get sucked into the vortex of Twitter and Facebook feeds, Instagram snaps and Pinterest boards and find yourself unhappy with everything from your hairstyle and gym habits to your throw pillows and non-Bento boxed school lunches.

Social media gets a bad rap and we like to blame it for society’s ills. There are those who abuse the platform – examples of online bullying, trolling, and body shaming are frequently in the news – but there’s even more examples of social media being used for good.

Back in 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge was all over social media. Everyone from Oprah and Bill Gates to people like me took part and as a result over $100 million dollars was raised for research into ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. But the story doesn’t end there. Just this year the ALS association announced a breakthrough made possible by the money raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge: the discovery of a gene partly responsible for the disease.

That’s far from the only example. Photographer James Rudland created the Sleeping Bag Appeal and collected hundreds of sleeping bags for homeless people in a matter of days. Movember, created by two Australian friends and used as a vehicle to raise money for prostate cancer, has generated donations of over $556 million, with funding going to 832 men’s health programs internationally.

Social media is a powerful means of communication when tragedy or natural disasters occur. Facebook has added Safety Check to its platform so users can instantly let friends and family know they’re safe; and first responders, governments, Red Cross and other non-governmental organizations frequently utilize social media to keep us up-to-date and informed during disasters.

Social media is indispensable when news stories like the Paris bombings or Louisiana floods occur. Always, always, always be careful of charitable links set up through social media, as there are those that use tragedy as a means to personal gain, but organizations like the Red Cross and World Wildlife Fund use their Facebook pages to link families and those in need to critical resources.

Sites like Facebook and Instagram are invaluable to families and individuals going through difficult times. They provide the opportunity to share the burden and allow friends and family to show support and offer hope. With his wife Joey’s encouragement, Rory Feek blogged about their journey as Joey battled cancer. Their story was both heartbreaking and inspirational, giving hope and encouragement to others facing similar struggles.

The impact of social media is undeniable. The power is unquestionable. The key is to use that power for positive change on both a local and global level.

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 Leads the Way in Personalized Advertising

By Tracey Dowdy

Ever do a little online shopping then later notice the exact item you were looking at on Amazon has somehow appeared in the side bar on Facebook? Trust me, it’s happening whether you notice or not.

How do they know what ads to send you? Simple – cookies. Virtually every website you visit drops code – or “cookies” – onto your computer. So, as you browse the Internet and click on a member site, it recognizes the cookie, notifies the ad network what you’re up to, then sends you a personalized ad.

But that’s not all. Member sites collate all that information into a database so it intuitively knows your preferences. That’s why the ads are so specific. Facebook takes things one step further because it doesn’t really have to do much to figure out what you like and don’t like. You do that job for them. Every status you Like or makes you Sad is logged. Every photo you Love or news story that makes you Angry is noted. We tell advertisers exactly who we are and what interests us with every click.

You may have also seen notifications that “Dan likes Buzzfeed” or “Jill likes The Washington Post.” Facebook is using your information to target your friends and drive them to the same sites. You have become a Facebook advertiser.

Right now it is possible to opt out of the targeted ads you see but that’s about to change. To opt out, go to your Facebook Settings and select Ads from the column on the left side of your screen. A page will open that allows you to customize your settings for the following areas:

  • Ads based on my use of websites and apps
  • Ads on apps and websites off of the Facebook Companies
  • Ads with my social actions
  • Ads based on my preferences

Simply choose No in the drop down menu for each of the categories. This will turn it off on all devices as the setting is Facebook – not device – specific. Keep in mind you’ll still see the same number of ads, but they won’t be customized according to your browsing history. Sites you visit can still collect information from you but they won’t be able to share it. Also, tracking is cookie-based and so is opting out. Sites drop cookies in your browser telling the site you don’t want to be tracked, so if you’re in the habit of using more than one browser you’ll have to opt on on each.

Maybe you’re one of the 26 percent of U.S. Internet users using ad blocking software. But – and it’s a big “but” – Facebook just announced they will be making it much harder to browse ad-free. Changes to the way Facebook loads ads on to it’s desktop website will make it much more difficult for the software to detect ads.

Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, vice president of Facebook’s ads and business platform, is up front about their ad policies. “Facebook is ad-supported. Ads are a part of the Facebook experience; they’re not a tack on.” Not a “tack on” indeed. This year alone, Facebook reported advertising revenue jumped a whopping 57% in the first quarter to $5.2 billion up from $3.3 billion.

These changes won’t impact mobile devices as they are less vulnerable to ad blocking software and consequently provide a whopping 84% of Facebook’s advertising revenue.

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.

Taking Control of Social Media

By Tracey Dowdy

Ever feel like social media is more work than it is worth? Does FOMO push you to constantly update or check your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr…I’m exhausted just typing that!

Maybe it’s time to take control of your social media presence instead of having it control you.

Curate your accounts

Stop and consider which aspects of social media are valuable to you and then cull the herd. Trying to stay connected to professional opportunities and trends? Go with LinkedIn. Looking to stay connected to family and friends? Facebook has well over a billion active users every month. Looking for an unfiltered, real time micro-feed of what’s happening? Choose Twitter. The key is to choose unique platforms whose features don’t overlap.

Change your habits

Is checking your phone the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night? Studies have shown that the blue light from your screen tricks your brain into thinking it’s time to get up and though you may think you’re mindlessly browsing, your brain is engaged, constantly scanning information, making it more difficult to fall asleep. Maybe you’re constantly distracted during the day, constantly checking in to see how many “Likes” the picture of your lunch got.

It’s easy to get sucked into a black hole and realize what started as a search for “Best streaming devices” has left you watching videos of models falling on the runway for the past 45 minutes. Time to change things up. Consider leaving your phone in another room at night or setting boundaries like, “I can check my Facebook after I finish these three tasks.” Little changes can make a big difference in your productivity and overall satisfaction.

Curate your feed

Take the time to go through your contacts and decide who still matters. It may sound cold, but if you’re no longer working at Company A, do you still need to have their team building posts show up in your feed? Is there someone whose posts only serve to irritate or make you feel inadequate? Time to let it go. Eliminating the accounts that are irrelevant or annoying is liberating. Not only will you no longer see their feeds, the algorithms social networks use intuitively curate your feed in such a way that you’ll see more of what is meaningful to you. Plus, it’s not as time consuming as it sounds. Apps like Crowdfire will collate your accounts and let you unfollow in bulk, while others like SproutSocial will help you search for sites and individuals that are relevant to your interests.

Schedule posts

Sites like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and Buffer can help you organize and manage your accounts. Create and schedule your updates from one location, once a day or once a week. Obviously you can jump in to make changes or post updates at any time, but they’re a great way regain control and simplify your life.

Manage Notifications

Do you really need to know every time one of your friends posts on social media? For some, it’s a welcome distraction but for others it’s well, just a distraction, minus the welcome. Take five minutes to go to your settings and turn off notifications for any – or all – those feeds. You’ll be surprised at how little you miss them.

Take a break

Finally, consider stepping back and disconnecting. A constant stream of information can become overwhelming and the good starts to get muddied by the irrelevant and the irritating. A break even for a day or two can help you reset, leaving you refreshed instead of overloaded. Disengaging may seem like a frightening prospect, but that’s also a reflection of how deep that addiction runs.

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 Messenger Tips and Tricks

By Tracey Dowdy

Facebook Messenger has certainly grown up since it was introduced back in August of 2011. Originally designed as a way to send a private message to a friend rather than posting publicly on their wall, Messenger has morphed into a stand alone app that offers far more than the privacy of a direct message.

Check out these Messenger features that you may not know about.

Send money for free. Currently only available in the U.S., Facebook allows users to send money through Messenger via a debit card registered to your profile. There are no fees for the service and the card is easily added via the settings menu. Users must be 18 or older and a US resident with a US debit card registered to your account.

Pause notifications for Group messages. My friend Mike would rather eat broken glass than participate in a group chat, so I can’t help but think he was the inspiration for this feature. Click on Options in the group chat and choose a predetermined time to mute notifications (15 minutes to 24 hours) or select “Until I turn it back on.” You’re welcome Mike.

Play chess with a friend. Open a conversation with a friend and type “@fbchess play” to start a game. It’s a little bit of a challenge but if you’re playing chess you’re already pretty smart, right? Players move pieces by prefacing each move with “@fbchess”. To move your pawn, type “@fbchess Pe4” and the game will move your pawn (p) to space E4. Type “@fbchess help” for instructions.

Play basketball. Just as in real life, playing basketball is less complex than playing chess. Open a conversation with a friend, send the basketball emoji, then tap on the message to open a game. Swipe the ball up to the hoop and earn a point for every shot you make. If you miss, play switches to your opponent and sends your score for them to beat. It’s simple and fun, though I quickly learned I’m as bad at ‘phoneball’ as I am at basketball.

Customize Messenger. If you’re using iOS, tap on the name at the top of the conversation and on Android use the “Info” button. You can give your friends nicknames, change the color of the conversation, or add emojis and gifs to the conversation.

Make a call. Messenger allows users to make free voice or video calls to other users as long as you’re connected to the internet. If you’re not on Wi-Fi, data charges may apply. For voice calls, tap the phone icon at the top of the conversation; for video, tap the camera icon. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Make a group VoIP audio call from any group chat. Tap the phone icon, add the group members you want added to the call and everyone will receive a Messenger call simultaneously. If you miss the initial call, you can tap the icon to join in at any time the call is still live, see a list of others included and ping anyone who still hasn’t joined. Calls can include up to 50 participants. What a relief! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed to talk to 50 people at the same time.

Save to Dropbox from within Messenger. Tap the “More” button within the app and Dropbox will appear as one of the options. From here you can browse your Dropbox directory without exiting Messenger. Users can send videos and images including GIFs and these will be displayed in the chat but other types of files require opening Dropbox in order to preview and save.

Add captions or drawings to your photos. Tap the photo icon in the menu and select a photo from your library. Tap “Edit” to open the image. Choose “Aa” to add text or the squiggly line on the right to add drawings or free hand text. When done tap “Send” in the top right corner.

But wait, there’s more! By tapping the three dots in the menu bar below the conversation, you open a whole world of options. You can share music through Spotify, request a ride from Uber or Lyft, make music videos with Ditty, or create cards and other nonsense through JibJab, plus many, many other fun possibilities.

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 Facebook Biased?

By Tracey Dowdy

By now we’ve all heard the allegations that Facebook is manipulating what shows up in your newsfeed, particularly in the trending topics. Is the story a storm in a teacup – an almost welcome respite from the endless election coverage – or is there an actual bias in what we see?

The answer is yes and no.

Consider these statistics:

  • There are 7 billion people on earth
  • Of those 7 billion, 3 billion have access to the Internet
  • Of those 3 billion, 1.65 billion are active users of Facebook

If that doesn’t tell you the scope of Facebook’s influence, consider that a recent report by comScore reveals 20 percent of all mobile time is spent on the Facebook app; 63 percent of Americans see Facebook as their primary news source; and 31 percent rely on Facebook for breaking news. That, my friends, is a lot of influence. Manipulating content is a serious allegation.

We know Facebook uses algorithms to curate your newsfeed, so you see more of who and what you like. That makes sense – the more you see that appeals to you, the longer you stay on Facebook.

Where things get murky is that it’s not just algebraic formulas that determine the content you see. Those algorithms track what’s being talked about based on key words, phrases and how frequently they appear, then human editors take that information and use their own judgment to decide what gets pushed and how to frame the story. That naturally impacts the content we see.

As a publicly traded company Facebook is constantly looking for ways to generate income, meaning it frequently introduces new features in an attempt to keep you engaged. It recently added “Live Video” so you’ve likely started to see notifications like “Jim Gaffigan is live right now,” with the hope you’ll jump in and see what’s happening but ultimately keeping you on Facebook longer.

Facebook relies on ten news organizations for content: (BBC News, CNN, Fox News, The Guardian, NBC News, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Yahoo and Yahoo News. According to the allegations, some editors either blacklisted or highlighted stories based on their own bias, rather than Facebook guidelines. Facebook pays news organizations like Buzzfeed and The New York Times to generate content for them that opens in Facebook, so you don’t have to leave the site to get your news and information.

There are also allegations Facebook tended to downplay content that favored conservative news. According to Gizmodo, Facebook employees admitted “they were suppressing conservative news, mostly because the majority of the employees working to curate the news weren’t conservative.” Whether those allegations are true or not remains to be seen, as both Facebook and the Senate are investigating.

The one piece of good news is those leaked documents indicate Facebook is working hard to filter out those wretched clickbait articles that take you to a sketchy website.

So where does that leave us? Pretty much back where we started actually. It’s unwise to get your news from one source, whether it’s Facebook, Fox News or CNN. It’s human nature to have a bias, and no matter how ethical the journalist, it’s impossible for that bias not to have an impact on their perspective.

For us as Facebook users, continue to engage with content. Hide, unfollow or skip content that doesn’t appeal to you and like, share and comment on the content that does. Click on articles that interest you and share them on your own feed. Those algorithms are always at work in the background, and ultimately Facebook wants to please you so they can keep you engaged and coming back for more.

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.