Tag Archives: Twitter

Informational Websites for Busy Parents

By Tracey Dowdy

Keeping up with what’s happening in the world around you should be easy. Information has never been more accessible, yet somehow, we’re often ill-informed. Our 24-hour news cycle makes it a challenge to sift through the onslaught of information constantly coming at us, and with so much “fake news” out there, how do we know who to trust?

These sites are great resources to help you stay in the know with what you need to know when you need to know it.

Both Amazon Alexa and Google Nest offer streamlined, customizable skills for news and weather information. Google Nest allows you to choose your news sources and customize the order in which they play. Just say, “Ok, Google, listen to news.” Alexa’s Flash Briefing delivers news and content from popular broadcasters, local weather information, even comedy, interviews and more. Just say “Hey Alexa, what’s the news?”

Flipboard consolidates the information you’re interested in down to one easily scrollable page. Choose the topics that interest you from categories such as Technology, Parenting, Entertainment, Design, and Health, and Flipboard will curate relevant news and information. Simply ‘flip’ through each page and topic to see a headline or brief, then tap to go directly to the article.

Because Twitter is comprised of millions of users around the world, it’s a great resource for breaking news, often posting before broadcast networks or other major news sources. Check trending topics or search for specific sources like the Washington Post, NPR, or NBC.

Pocket allows users to save stories, articles, and videos from virtually any publication, page or app. Not only can you curate and customize the content you want to see, but you can also save the story in in your “pocket” to review at a more convenient time, even offline. When you’re ready, click on the content and ready or listen without distraction, on any Android or iOS device.

The Skimm presents world events with an informative and witty style. Users get a daily email recapping the latest news, breaking down the daily avalanche of news into bite-size pieces.

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 Block Spoilers in Your Newsfeed

By Tracey Dowdy

 It’s a first-world problem for sure, but there are few things more frustrating for fans of a long-running TV show or movie series than being hit with spoilers before you’ve been able to watch the show yourself.

With the series finale of Game of Thrones set to air this Sunday night, “the mood is dark, and the internet is full of spoilers” to poorly paraphrase Melisandre, may she rest in peace.

But there is hope, not just for avoiding GoT spoilers, but spoilers for any television or movie you’ve yet to see. Follow these steps to block spoilers on your phone, laptop, and tablet, though there’s not much we can do about that guy from the office who can’t keep his spoiler-spilling mouth shut – you know who you are dude.

One option is to download an app or extension that will screen and block spoiler content for you. For Chrome, choose an extension like Spoiler Prevention 2.0 that will prevent specific content from appearing on Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even on news sites like CNN. iPhone and Android users can download Spoiler Block, and Android users have the additional option of using Spoilers Blocker. Just type in the keywords you want to be blocked, and the app will filter any related content.

Twitter: The trick here is to mute keywords and accounts tied to the content.

  • Tap the notifications icon in the app. On a desktop, click Settings > privacy.
  • On an Android and desktop, select Muted Words. On an iPhone, choose Muted > Muted words.
  • Tap Add on iPhone and desktop, or the +icon on an Android. Select the words you know will lead to spoilers – e.g., Game of Thrones, Danaerys, Jon Snow, etc., and any accounts for the show or movie, e.g., HBO
  • Select to mute these words from your Timeline, Notifications and anyone posting content to you. You can choose how long you want the content muted to mute content from 24 hours up to indefinitely.
  • Tap Save

Facebook: You can temporarily snooze Friends or Groups on Facebook. Simply locate the person or Group you want to block. On your phone or computer, tap the three dots in the corner. Select Snooze (person’s name/group) for 30 days. You can always go back and un-snooze if you don’t need the full 30 days. If you’re really serious, you can temporarily deactivate your account. Go to Settings > Manage Account > Deactivate your Account. You’ll be asked to give a reason, and if this is just short-term, choose “This is temporary, I’ll be back.” 

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.

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.


Funny Twitter Accounts All Parents Should Follow

By Tracey Dowdy

It didn’t take long after my first daughter was born to learn the secret to surviving parenthood is a sense of humor. God makes babies adorable so we can forgive them for POW levels of sleep deprivation; toddlers are really just tiny frat boys stumbling around, shouting incoherently, peeing wherever they choose; and teenagers flip flop between making us oh so proud and making us wonder why we didn’t just get a dog when we longed for the pitter patter of tiny feet.

No matter how old your children are, whether you parent one or are mom to your own Little League team, these Twitter accounts can help you see the funny side of parenting – even on days when you feel like your kids should have come with some kind of FDA warning.


“My 3-year-old hugged me out of the blue and said, “I love you, Dad.” If you need me, I’ll be searching the house for whatever she broke.”

James Breakwell is dad to four daughters and his tweets about their conversations and day-to-day life as a husband and dad will leave you in stitches.


“I’ve never been held hostage, but I have listened to my daughter recount an episode of “My Little Pony: Equestria Girls.”

Clint Edwards is the author of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things (Parenting. Marriage. Madness.).” His “No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog” is filled with gems like “Lies I’ve Told My Children to Get Them to Try New Foods” and “Crimes Committed by My Toddler,” so both his Twitter and blog are worth following.


“I almost made eye contact with my kids when they were playing happily together like some sort of parenting amateur or something.”

With a tagline of “Let’s stop trying to be perfect, and just be the moms we were meant to be”, you can’t help but feel mother of three Meredith is a kindred spirit. She also has a great blog with recipes that kids will actually eat and posts like “There is No Such Thing as Mothering Without Regrets.” It too is worth checking out.


“Son: Are you eating pie for breakfast?
Me (eating pie): No. Fruit casserole. Want some?
Son: NO. I hate casserole.
Me (whispers): I know…”

Kathryn Leehane’s irreverent, sometimes inappropriate but totally relatable tweets will drive you to her blog where she shares her “twisted suburban mom stories” and love of “oversharing and Jason Bateman.”


I just showered AND shaved AND dried my hair AND put on makeup. I do not believe you that people actually do this every day.”

TED Talk speaker and author of “Everything’s Relative”, and “If It Was Easy, They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon”, Jenna (not Jenny) McCarthy is cheeky, witty, and honest. She’s also written several children’s books, so you and your kids will soon have the same favorite author.


“The park before naptime looks like a Trump rally.”

Honest Toddler started on Twitter, became a blog, is now a book and has remained100% laugh out loud funny each step of the way. Bunmi Latidan is the mama behind the tweets presented from the perspective of an entitled, sassy, clever toddler who likes “attention, cake, television, running & games.”

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 Social Media Is Shaping Our News

By Tracey Dowdy

We live in an era when an increasingly large part of the population gets their news via social media. According to a 2014 study by Pew Research, 30 percent of adults look to Facebook as their source for news, while another 10 percent each look to Twitter or YouTube. These numbers are constantly evolving and it’s safe to say they spike during events such as the presidential debates.

As a teen I remember being bored senseless when the news came on, and though my parents would encourage me to pay attention to make me aware of current events, I really couldn’t wait until we could change the channel and watch pretty much anything else.  Part of it was my age and lack of interest in anything that didn’t directly impact my life, and part of it was the delivery – a stern faced, stiff, older man with a clipped and formal delivery. There was a definite disconnect.

Today, as a result of the ubiquity of social media, that same information often comes to us from peers, celebrities, and other pop culture sources. Instead of a disconnect, there’s a feeling of immediacy that makes the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe or the bombing of a MSF hospital in Kunduz seem much closer to home.

Not only are younger people becoming greater consumers of news and current events through social media, they’re also becoming participants by posting their own photos or videos of those current events. Police used videos posted on Facebook to identify Stanley Cup rioters in Vancouver and when you consider the impact user generated content had on events like the Darren Wilson verdict or the Arab Spring, the influence of social media is more than obvious.

It’s no surprise that individuals who most closely follow news and current events are also the most engaged in political and social causes. Increased awareness is certainly a positive thing but there’s a danger that not all the information that goes viral is accurate. When Malaysian Airlines flight 370 went missing there were countless false reports and news updates shared via social media, including one stating the plane had landed safely in Nanning, China. I’ve lost track of the number of reports of Betty White’s passing away and I frequently see “R.I.P. Rue McClanahan,” who in reality died back in 2010. Even big name media outlets like CNN and Fox News sometimes get it wrong and, if nothing else, the Brian Williams debacle taught us to fact check and then fact check again.

It all comes down to critical thinking skills and reminding our kids to check their sources. In fact that’s good advice for all of us. I myself have been guilty of sharing inaccurate news, because I blindly trusted the source who initially shared it. It only takes a moment to fact check and make sure the information is correct but it can take a long time to un-do the damage from a false report. Sometimes the desire to be first overrides the need to be right and we as consumers are the ones who pay for that.

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.

Trends in Teens and Technology

By Tracy Dowdy

As a woman in my 40’s living in the suburbs, marketing aimed at me tends to fall in to the home/lawn/wrinkle and/or grey hair maintenance categories. In other words, things my kids couldn’t care less about.

The same principle applies to social media – if it’s trending or something that appeals to me, my kids aren’t interested. They’ve been there, done that, bought the t-shirt and likely got the tattoo.

Though it started as a way for Harvard University students to connect, and despite Mark Zuckerberg’s best efforts, the average Facebook user is now 40.5 years old. Once my generation caught on, Facebook’s “cool factor” dropped significantly.

But just because it’s not the most popular site anymore doesn’t mean teens aren’t using Facebook. According to Pew Research Center, 71% of teens still use Facebook, they’re just using other sites too.social-media-use

Interestingly, socioeconomic status seems to impact which site teens use. Those in households earning less than $50,000 tend to use Facebook more often than other social media, while those in households with an income over $70,000 prefer Snapchat.

When you consider that 73% of teens have smartphones and the fact the average teen sends 3,339 texts a month, suddenly the popularity of apps like Kik and WhatsApp become apparent. Both apps bypass the restraints and cost of traditional texting making their appeal even more understandable.  Video messaging apps like Keek allows users to upload 36 second videos directly to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google+ and HeyTell allows instant voice messaging by pressing a giant “hold and speak” button.

Anonymous sharing apps like Whisper, Yik Yak, and Ask.FM, that allow users to ask questions or post confessional texts or images, are utilized by a smaller number of teens with only 13% of girls and 8% boys reporting use.

All this can be very intimidating for parents, caregivers, school counselors or anyone else tasked with providing emotional or peer support for teens. Online bullying frequently rears its ugly head, as does kid-shaming or the lowest of them all, revenge porn.

Keeping up with what your kids are up to is like trying to outrun a zombie, only in this analogy, you’re the zombie. Unless your prey is as old as Facebook, you may have a hard time keeping up.

Don’t despair. You don’t need to have a Tumblr account, join Snapchat or start making Vines. As with every other good parenting strategy, start with a good ol’ conversation. Ask your kids what’s new, what they’re into and see where it leads. Plus, that’s what we’re here for at The Online Mom. We’re all about keeping up with trends in technology and supporting your family’s digital lifestyle. What trends do you want us to look at? Is there a social media platform you don’t understand? It’s right there in our name – The Online Mom. All you have to do is ask.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Social Networking for Professionals

By Tracey Dowdy

Navigating the waters of social networking can seem more fraught with peril than avoiding Somali pirates. Whether you’re an employee, a small business owner, or you run a multi-national corporation, cultivating and maintaining best practices in social networking is essential in today’s marketplace. Staying on top of what’s trending and how social media is constantly evolving is critical to your continued success.

These simple tips can help you get started or act as a check list for what you’re already doing.

Do separate the professional from the personal. This may seem obvious but photos of your kids, what you had for dinner last night, and your opinion of who should get voted off the island belong on your personal page. Your professional page is all about your brand. Have a clear vision of who you are and stick to that. Be that guy.

Do complete your profiles. If you don’t have time to complete your profile on LinkedIn how are you going to have time to take on a project for a client? First impressions are very important, so make it a priority to go through your social network accounts and ensure they’re complete.

Do keep your profiles up to date. Have you taken additional training? Moved beyond your original market? Changed your logo? Keep your profiles up to date and uniform. Again, it’s all about branding. You want to be consistent.

Do engage with your followers. Sites like HootSuite and PostPlanner are great for helping you consistently upload fresh content to sites like Facebook and Twitter but don’t rely on them exclusively. The key to social networking is in the name – social. There are lots of places on the web to gather news and information but your followers want to hear from you.

Don’t stay in your own bubble. Reach out to your followers. Endorse them on LinkedIn. Share content they’ve posted on Facebook. Retweet them. Endorsement demonstrates you value them as a client or peer and strengthens both your credibility and your network.

Do create a feeling. Social media is all about creating a feeling. Polar bears are actually quite deadly and the only animals that actively hunt humans. Geckos have nothing to do with insurance and garden gnomes don’t travel abroad. Yet those beautiful polar bears have made you choose Coke over Pepsi; that cheeky gecko has boosted sales for Geico; and that roaming gnome – who has his own Twitter account I might add – has achieved cult status for himself as well as significant market share for Travelocity. Never underestimate the power of feelings.

Don’t post without proofreading. Mistakes in spelling and grammar will make you look totally unprofessional. If spelling isn’t your strong suit, remember spell check is everyone’s friend, but even then be wary and check your work. As an example, my co-worker recently posted an endorsement of our colleague Elisabeth on our corporate Facebook page by describing her as having a “sweet and genital nature”. Suffice to say, proofreading is important.

#Don’tAbuseOrOveruseHashtags Tweets with hashtags perform twice as well as those without but don’t get carried away. Twitter itself recommends no more than two hashtags in a tweet but on Instagram, the rule seems to be the more the merrier. In fact, posts with eleven or more hashtags seem to do the best. But over on Facebook the rules change again as posts without hashtags rank the highest.

Do give credit where credit is due. Heard a clever quote? Found a brilliant marketing hack? Read a great article filled with valuable tips on social networking? Then by all means tell your followers but don’t forget to credit your source. Not only will it boost your credibility, you’ll have expanded your peer network by mentioning the author or creator of that content. On the other hand, presenting work as your own when it was created by someone else is plagiarism.

Don’t forget to have fun. Remember, social media is all about engagement and making connections. Stick to your brand and be professional but don’t be dry and boring. Be yourself and be conversational. Again, marketing and networking are all about relationships. Curate your online presence, be real, be relevant, and have fun.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.