Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

Organizing Our Social World

December 10, 2014

“Organizing Our Social World”is the title of another chapter in Daniel J. Levitin’s book The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, when I completed my Ph.D. in cognitive psychology one of the leading problems was information overload, and that was in the era before personal computers. Now we have the internet aided and abetted by mobile technology so technology is omnipresent. It is apparent from this chapter that longstanding problems in social psychology and human interaction have been exacerbated by technology. I find it amazing when I see a group of four people dining together each preoccupied with their smartphones. And when I attend professional meetings where the objective is for direct interactions between and among human beings most people appear to be interacting with their smartphones.

The intention for social media is that they are not a replacement for personal contact, but a supplement that provides an easy way to stay connected to people who are too distant or too busy. Levitin hints that there might be an illusion to this, writing “Social networking provides breadth but rarely depth, and in-person contact is what we crave, even if online contact seems to take away some of that craving. ..The cost of all our electronic connectedness appears to be that it limits our biological capacity to connect with other people.”

Lying and misrepresentations become a much larger problem in the online world. A hormone has been identified with trust. It has been called the love hormone in the popular press because it is especially pronounced in sexual interactions. In such mundane experiments as having research participants watching political speeches rate for whom they are likely to vote. The participants are under the influence of oxytocin for half the speeches. Of course they do not know when they are under the influence of the drug. They receive a placebo, inert drug, for the other half of the speeches. When asked for whom they would vote for or trust, the participants selected the candidates they viewed while oxytocin was in their systems. [to the best of my knowledge such techniques have yet to be used in an official election].

Interestingly, levels of oxytocin also increase during gaps in social support or poor social functioning. Recent theory holds tht oxytocin regulates the salience of social information and is capable of eliciting positive or negative social emotions, depending on the situation of the individual. In any case, these data support the importance of direct social contact by identifying biological components underlying this type of interaction.

I was surprised that little, if any, attention was spent on Facebook the premier social media. As I like to periodically rant regarding Facebook, and considerable time has passed since my last rate, I’ll try to fill in this lacuna. I detest Facebook, although I understand that many find I convenient for keeping in touch with many people with little effort. Apparently, businesses also find Facebook to be necessary and find it profitable. I use Facebook for a small number of contacts, but I am overwhelmed with notes of little interest. At the outset I did not want to refuse anyone friending me out of fear that this someone might be somebody I should but don’t remember. Similarly I find it uncomfortable unfriending people, although at times that seems to be a better course of action. Perhaps there is some way of setting controls so that the number of messages are few and few people are offended, but I have no way of knowing what they are.

I find Linkedin much more palatable and even useful. Still one must regard endorsements and statements of expertise with some caution. That is, they are useful provided one looks for corroborating information. I like email and email with Listservs. However, I’ve learned that younger folks have developed some complicated and, in my view, unnecessary protocols for using email, texting, and social media. I’ll quit before I start sounding like even more of a cranky old man.


Blogging Buddhists

October 2, 2013

Yes. Buddhists do use technology and they blog. This post is so titled because of the third principle of contemplative computing1, Be Mindful. We need to learn what being mindful feels like and to learn to see opportunities to exercise it while being online or using devices.

Buddhist monastics use the web to test their beliefs and objectives, that is their mindfulness, capacity for compassion, and right behavior. In the digital world it is easy to forget that we’re ultimately interacting with our fellow human beings rather than Web pages. Damchoe Wangmo recommends that you “investigate your motivation before each online action, to observe what is going on in your mind,” and stop if you’re driven by “afflictive emotions” like jealousy, anger, hatred, or fear.2 Choekyi Libby watches herself online to “make sure I’m doing what I’m doing motivated by beneficial intention.”3 Others argue that we need to bring empathy to technology, to have our interactions be informed by our own ethical guidelines and moral sensibility. If we can be a positive presence online, we can be an even better one in the real world. “Approaching your interactions with information technologies as opportunities to test and strengthen your ability to be mindful; treating failures to keep focused as normal, predictable events that you can learn from; observing what helps you to be mindful online and what doesn’t—in other words engaging in self-observation and self-experimentation—can improve your interactions with technologies and build your extended mind.4

The following Rules for Mindful Social Media are taken from Appendix Two of The Distraction Addiction:

Engage with care. Think of social media as an opportunity to practice what the Buddhists call right speech, not as an opportunity to get away with being a troll.

Be mindful about your intentions. Ask yourself why you’re going onto Facebook or Pinterest. Are you just bored? Angry? Is this a state of mind you want to share?

Remember the people on the other side of the screen. It’s easy to focus you attention on clicks and comments, but remember that you’re ultimately dealing with people, not media.

Quality, not quantity. Do you have something you really want to share, something that’s worth other people’s attention? Then go ahead and share. But remember the aphorism carved into the side of the Scottish Parliament: Say little but say it well.

Live first, tweet later. Make the following promise to yourself: I will never again write the words OMG, I’m doing doing x and tweeting at the same time LOL.

Be deliberate. Financial journalist and blogger Felix Salmon once lamented that most people believe that online content is not supposed to be read but reacted to. Just as you shouldn’t let machines determine where you place your attention, you shouldn’t let the words of others drive what you say in the public sphere. Being deliberate means that you won’t chatter mindlessly or feed trolls. You’ll say but little and say it well.

The remaining five principles of contemplative computing will be discussed in subsequent healthymemory blog posts. The first two principles were discussed in the immediately preceding posts.

1(2013) Pang, Alex Soojung-Kim. The Distraction Addiction

2Ibid. p. 219

3Ibid. p.219

4Ibid. Pp 221-222.

Can Social Networking Make It Easier to Solve Real-World Problems?

September 23, 2012

An article in The Economist1 raised this question. According to an article in 2011, Facebook analysed 72 million users of its social networking site and found that an average of 4.7 hops could link any two of them via mutual friends. This is even less that the Six Degrees of Separation popularized by John Guare in his play by the same name.

In the United States the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) staged the Red Balloon Challenge in 2009. It was trying to determine how quickly and efficiently information could be gathered using social media. Competitors were to race to find ten red weather balloons that had been tethered at random locations throughout the United States for a $40,000 prize. MIT had the winning team that found all ten balloons in nine hours using the following incentive-based system to encourage participation. The first person to send the correct coordinates of a balloon received $2,000. Whoever recruited that person received $1,000, and the recruiters recruiter received $500, and so forth and so forth.

DARPA staged a new challenge this year, the Tag Challenge. This time the goal was to locate and photograph five people each wearing unique T-shirts in five named cities across two continents. All five had to be identified within 12 hours from nothing more than a mugshot. The prize fund was $5,000. This time none of the teams managed to find all five targets. However, one team with members from MIT,the universities of Edinburgh and Southampton, and the University of California at San Diego did manage to fine three, one in each of the following cities, New York, Washington DC, and Bratislava. This team had a website and a mobile app to make it easier to report findings and to recruit people. Each finder was offered $500 and whoever recruited the finder $100. So anyone who did not know anyone in one of the target cities had no incentive to recruit someone who did. The team promoted itself on Facebook and Twitter. Nevertheless, most participants just used conventional email. It was conjectured that in the future smart phones might have an app that can query people all over the world, who can then steer the query towards people with the right information.

To return to the title of this post, Can Social Networking Make It Easier to Solve Real-World Problems, I would conclude, if the social problem involves finding someone or something, the answer would be yes. But I think that real-world problems typically involve collaboration of diverse people. In this respect one might argue that social media are actually a detriment to solving real world problems. Social media are good at bringing people of like minds together about something. If what is needed is collaboration among people of diverse opinions, this would not seem productive, and might very likely be counterproductive.

However, there still might be solutions using technology. Wikis provide a useful tool for collaboration. Another approach would having people of relevant, but diverse perspective could interact with each other anonymously using computers. Physical cues and identities would be absent. This would negate or minimize ego or group involvement and would be an exchange of information and ideas with the goal of arriving at a viable consensus. The number of people who can collaborate at a given time appears to be a constraint.

1Six Degrees of Mobilization, The Economist Technology Quarterly, September 2012, p.8.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


December 3, 2009

Wiki technology allows content to be created and edited easily. This enabling technology was incorporated into the title of a new type of website, This website is for an encyclopedia created and edited by its users. Its first editor was Larry Sanger. When you arrive at the home page you are confronted with a vast choice of languages that requires a drop down menu. The English version contains more than 3 million articles. You could spend the rest of your life perusing this encyclopedia and never finish it. Not only is it large, but it is also dynamic. New articles are continuously added and existing articles are updated and errors are corrected.

There is also a Wiktionary, a wiki generated dictionary, or should I say Wiktionaries, as it is multilingual.

There are Wikibooks, again multilingual. Browsing this books is like walking through a university bookstore.

Speaking of universities, there is also a Wikiversity, and it is, of course, multilingual. These are open learning communities.

One can read Wikinews, a free news source, or contribute your own articles.

Wikiquote is an online compendium of sourced quotations from notable people and creative works. Like the others, this is also multilingual and links back to the Wikipedia for more detailed information.

Wikisource is an online of free content publications, It currently holds 134,360 texts in its English language library.

Wikispecies is a free directory of species.

Wikimedia commons is a database of 5,521,091media files to which anyone can contribute.

All projects can be found in the Meta-Wiki.

There have been criticisms regarding quality control for these wikis. They are self policing and seem to do fairly well, although subject coverage can be somewhat uneven. To mitigate some of these shortcomings Larry Sanger has launched a new wiki site ,

All these provide great sources for personal development and the expansion of transactive memory.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.