2012 in review for BTWWTF?!?!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Social media-related reads

Every morning I go through the list of Mashable and Read Write Web articles that appear in my inbox. I read about one-fourth of the links, and here are a few of my favorite over the last few weeks:

Source: Catchfire Media

  • 10 Historical Events Affected by Social Media (Mashable): This is a slideshow showing photos and tweets from events, such as the Japanese earthquake in March and the Haiti earthquake in January. It poses the question, what would other major events have looked like, such as Katrina and Sept. 11, 2001, if social media had existed as it does today.
  • Facebook Timeline Designs (Mashable): Also a slideshow, this article is all about inspiration. While we experimented and discussed early on the implementation of Facebook’s Timeline on users’ profiles, these 10 images really take the timeline to the next level.
  • Here’s How People Look at Your Facebook Profile (Mashable): Do you ever wonder what people take away when they glance at your Facebook profile? Is it your cute profile picture, the number of friends you have, your latest status update? This article discusses a study that captured where participants’ eyes lingered and the order in which the page was scanned. Sounds like an old study done for advertising firms on what catches people’s eyes, but it is interesting and worth a look.
  • Drug Cartel Murders Another Blogger (Read Write Web): It’s a scary time to be a blogger or a journalist in Mexico and in areas of the Middle East. Following attacks on free speech is an important part in protecting democracy and our ideals. I’m glad these stories are being followed and written about by sites with large audiences.
  • High School Student Punished for Joking Tweet about Gov. Brownback (Forbes.com): Speaking of free speech, this 18-year-old high school senior was disciplined by her school after sending out a tweet critical of the governor during a visit to the Kansas state Capitol. What ensued was Twitter stardom for the teen and some really bad press for the governor and his staff.

Enjoy reading and please share any of your favorite social media stories!

Feeling depressed? Blame it in part on your modern life

As I sit here typing this, I am growing increasingly depressed. I long for physical activity and the feel of a fresh breeze on my cheek. Instead I am sedentarily positioned in a deserted corner of an office under artificial lights with my face shoved up to a computer monitor.

The downward spiral I experience each day as I sit all day at my desk tweeting, facebooking, surfing the net, (and of course doing my writing job), isn’t just in my imagination.

In a recent article in Newsweek, Dr. Andrew Weil, author of the book Spontaneous Happiness, explains that those who are living in industrialized nations in this Internet age are actually at higher risk for depression than those in poorer, less modern environments. He says we are experiencing a “nature-defecit,” and that as society immerses itself more and more in technology and other socially isolating activities, we are creating a fertile ground for depression.

When you think about it, even supposed “social” networking is many ways a form of social isolation. Sending tweets and commenting on Facebook posts is by no means as stimulating as actually going out and spending real time with a person.

The brains and bodies of humans — who evolved to thrive in nature and bond with others — are just not equipped for 21st Century life, says Weil.

More and more of us are sedentary, spending most of our time indoors. We eat industrial food much altered from its natural sources … We are deluged by an unprecedented overload of information and stimulation in this age of the Internet, email, mobile phones, and multimedia, all of which favor social isolation and certainly affect our emotional (and physical) health. Behaviors strongly associated with depression—reduced physical activity and human contact, overconsumption of processed food, seeking endless distraction—are the very behaviors that more and more people now can do, are even forced to do by the nature of their sedentary, indoor jobs.

To create a better balance, Dr. Weil recommends: “Increasing aerobic exercise, improving sleep, spending more time in the sun, eating more fish to boost intake of omega-3 fatty acids, socializing more, and not dwelling on negative thoughts.”

I for one am determined to try his suggestions (and here are a few of my own). But since I have no choice to be stuck in front of a computer for the next 8 hours, I think I’ll start small, by setting a photo of a sunny beach as my desktop wallpaper. If that doesn’t work, I’m totally taking a nap.

More on the topic:
Log Off. Reboot: A break from modern technology is good for your health

Our virtual life does not reflect real life

A Facebook friend of mine, also a former colleague, posted this comment today:

Ways in which FB is not like real life: You can like everything, you can’t dislike anything, and you can’t like anything (or anyone) more than once.

This status update didn’t get much of a response; some of her updates get dozens of comments and likes. But it inspired me to think deeper about this virtual life we have created on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, YouTube…and the list goes on and on and on.

I sometimes get so sucked into my computer, that is, my own virtual reality, that I  neglect what is happening beyond my screen and outside of my online networks. Certainly I know the weather in San Diego is beautiful because my Facebook friends who live there told me so. I also know a friend who just had a baby in San Francisco is looking for recommendations on how to get her baby on a good sleep schedule.

But what is going on with my neighbor? Is it actually sunny and warm outside of my house?

It’s not that I don’t participate in the outside world of real life, but sometimes the virtual world is just so much more accessible and interesting. But it is also limiting.

There is nothing more fulfilling than having a wonderful conversation with a friend who is actually sitting across from you, moving her lips and talking. Maybe it involves sipping on tea that I steeped in my own kitchen. There’s no way I could get the satisfaction of watching my kids play with each other in harmony while staring at my computer screen.

Some things in real life are invaluable. But still, I wouldn’t trade the informative network I’ve got on Twitter, or the ability to sort of keep in touch with my myriad friends and foes on Facebook. And sometimes, too, I get looped into a YouTube feed that is inspiring or funny.

What I’m saying is it’s great to have both, and the virtual world and the real world have their own rules and quirks. Maybe I can’t unlike something on Facebook, but I can unfollow someone on Twitter and never hear from them again. It’s not so easy to do that with a pesky neighbor.

Basket case: Blogger seeks streamlined social media

I tend to be very OCD when it comes to neatness and organization. I recently decided to forgo elegant stainless steel appliances for shiny black because I knew the high likelihood of fingerprints on the stainless steel would most certainly push me over the edge.

Courtesy theludlowgroupblog.com

My house decor also incorporates quite a few decorative baskets in every room. I use them for the inevitable extraneous objects that seem to crop up: keys, shoes, bills, Mr. Potato Head ears … Unfortunately, these baskets seem to fill up faster than I can file things away. So I end up adding more baskets (This unintentionally sends a signal to the family to create more clutter. It’s a tangled web).

Yet somehow it works. I think I just feel better knowing that the potential energy said clutter is contained within some sort of system.

So what does this have to do with social media? For the purposes of this blog, let’s think of each of these clutter containing baskets as social media/networking-related sites: Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc.

Back in the day, I had just one social media basket, Myspace. I was content and satisfied. My photos were posted there. My blogs were written there. My friends were added there. Heck, I announced the arrival of my first born son there. Life was good.

Then it seemed the world defected to Facebook and I was lured there as well. Suddenly I wasn’t able to put all my eggs in one basket anymore. Photos were posted in two places. My networks were growing like weeds. Commenting became a challenge … and my MySpace Top 10 Friends List long neglected. Eventually, like most people, I let go of my Myspace account. Life was balanced again.

Then came Twitter. And Tumblr. And for half a second, Google Buzz. G+. Linked In. CafeMom. Hub Pages. WordPress. Blogger. Loopt. Blogged. Networked Blogs. Technorati. The list goes on and on. Perhaps these aren’t all traditional social networking sites, but each requires a certain level of social interaction, content posting, and engagement from its user. Meanwhile, even those companies and websites which aren’t social media driven are finding ways to integrate social media into their interface.

For a time, I could just unplug. Put the computer away.

Enter smartphone. Now it’s easy to be engaged 24 hours a day, on the go, in bed, and dare I say, at work…

Too many baskets. Too many eggs. I’m pretty sure we’re all about to crack.

As for me, I think it’s time to do a major social media streamlining. Get rid of the extra clutter. Maybe take up a new hobby. Maybe basket weaving.

The tweets that could change the world: Removal from 9/11 anniversary flight has sparked ongoing dialogue, says half-Arab, half-Jewish housewife

News of BTWWTF?!?! Co-Blogger Shoshana Hebshi-Holt’s detainment goes viral with a little help from social media

By Aleza Freeman

“Silly me. I thought flying on 9/11 would be easy.” And so begins Shoshana Hebshi-Holt’s viral blog post from Sept. 12, 2011 — a blog post that has now been read around the world.

Shoshana Hebshi-Holt. Photo by the author.

A personable, peaceful 35-year-old with black kinky-curly hair and a dark complexion, Shoshana describes herself as the product of love between two warring peoples (a Saudi dad and a Jewish mom). She says she knew she could potentially be subject to additional searches or suspicion while flying, “because of the way that I look.”

She even recalls a conversation with her late father shortly after 9/11. He was nervous about being watched, because of his ethnicity.

But when fully armed law enforcement stormed Frontier Airlines Flight 623 on Sunday, September 11, 2011, “I never in a million years thought that I would be targeted.”

After the plane landed at Detroit Metro Airport — shadowed by F16s — gun-wielding officers boarded,  stopped at her row, forcefully handcuffed her and her two seat mates (whom she did not know), took them to a holding cell for questioning — and  “No one would tell me what was going on, when I asked.”

According to the Des Moines Register: “FBI officials said Hebshi and the two (Indian) men were removed from the plane as a precautionary measure based on reports of suspicious activity on the plane during the flight and heightened security measures during the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The three individuals were strangers to each other, but sat in the same row on the plane … and at no time were the three individuals uncooperative with the flight crew.”

All three were released later that night. Shoshana took to her blog the next day from her Ohio home. She eloquently wrote of her ordeal — how she was stripped of her clothes and her liberties — in prolific detail.

Within hours her formerly modest blog, Stories From the Heartland,  garnered thousands of comments and international media attention — all with a little help from social media.

“I posted the link straight to Facebook, and that’s how it got its momentum,” says Shoshana. “I didn’t even get around to tweeting it because people started tweeting before I could put it out there, so I just let it go.”

No one seems to know what their rights are these days because we have lost so many of them.

Shoshana’s Facebook friends were already on high alert before she posted her blog. A former journalist with a graduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communication, it was Shoshana’s instinct to report through social media what she saw on the airplane, particularly when she saw “gun-toting” law enforcement surrounding it.

As her tweets were simultaneously posted on Facebook, her friends grew a bit concerned. Then the posts stopped flat at “Majorly armed cops coming aboard.”

Several hours passed with no communication, and what started as a regular day for many of Shoshana’s Facebook friends turned a day of watching a national incident unravel.

“When Shoshana ‘left us hanging,’ I knew something was wrong,” says her former co-worker Cathleen Maclearie, adding that she thinks its ridiculous that someone would accuse Shoshana of suspicous activity.

“After reading her blog, and hearing all she want through, I was and am pissed off,” she says. “Pissed that my friend had to go through this and pissed that our country has given way to people’s unfounded fear.”

But Shoshana says she isn’t angry at the person who reported the “suspicious activity,” just frustrated by the country’s shifting priorities. As she’s discovered from the aftermath of posting her blog (and reading its more than 3,200 comments) a lot of people are “very OK” with what happened to her. They think that this kind of reaction to suspicious behavior is warranted because it ‘protects’ the masses.

“No one seems to know what their rights are these days because we have lost so many of them,” she says. “Are we living in a police state or approaching that status where everyone lives in fear?”

Since publishing her blog post,  the mother of twin 6-year-old boys says her days have been long; late nights corresponding with people over various formats, doing interviews, writing about her experience for various publications, and trying to fully grasp the situation. She has spoken with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) but does not yet know what, if any, action will be taken.

Her story has been covered in the form of news articles and commentaries by the Associated Press, MSNBC, USA Today, Forbes, Washington Post, and Huffington Post — just to name a few. She was named TruthDigger of the Week. And her Twitter followers have grown from 70 to more than 800.

Shoshana believes her dad would have appreciated the dialogue her blog has sparked. “Maybe we can all learn something in the process,” she says.

“I can’t believe that I have drawn so much attention,” adds Shoshana. “I’m in my own little bubble of going about things. I still have kids to take care of, dinner to make, laundry to fold.”

That’s the power of the pen (or blog, as the case may be).

Scam it! Writing/Editing Job Posting Scam

A message from Pink Unicorn Publishing: WARNING. Recently con artists offering to pay people to take a survey have used our company name illegally. This is in no way connected with us. It is a scam. We have reported it to law enforcement.

Listen up, scammers, mess with me again and I'll poop rainbow happiness all over your sorry ass.

This weekend I almost fell victim to an Internet scam. This scam was posted under writing/editing jobs on Craigslist: Opinionate Ideology of Financial Struggles For $525 + $75 Bonus (Schurz). It masquerades as a legitimate freelance writing opportunity, and seems to be an attempt to trick you into paying money to have survey results delivered via mobile device. It says it’s a writing job offered through Pink Unicorn Publishing. But as it turns out, Pink Unicorn Publishing is in no way involved.

I was lured in by the offer of up to $600 in payment and publication in high profile national magazines just by answering a few survey questions. That should have been my first clue. If only it were that easy! But I responded to the post, and then received this email:

from: Jessica Hays jhays@jessicahays.com
date: Thu, Aug 18, 2011 at 3:46 AM
subject Re: Opinionate Ideology of Financial Struggles For $525 + $75 Bonus (Schurz)

My name is Jessica and I’m the director for the 2011 August ASPT (Annual Summer Publishing Take) as part of Pink Unicorn Publishing. Our topic of interest this year surrounds the enduring struggles of immigrants against the declining & destabilizing US Economy. To clarify and maintain fair, the country’s economy has improved over the course of the last 4 years; its rise, however, is impeded by the emergence of greater labor restrictions–providing for fewer skilled occupational opportunities. Many actuarial analysts believe that the lack of proper financial opportunities given to deserving immigrants is indirect, yet expansively impactful in the way it affects the economy. And this is where our debate of interest lies.

We’d like to extend an invitation to you to join this brief program (for 9 people). You will receive $575 compensation for completing 14 questions and providing a 50 word response to the quoted questions listed at the bottom. Your responses will also be published in 4 magazines (U.S. Financial, Inquirer, Barron’s, The Economist); unless you specify otherwise.

In order to qualify for this study, we require an Intelligence Quotient test (IQ Test), via which we determine whether you are fit to participate in our publication (nearly 80 of first come, first serve participants get accepted). To complete the IQ test, please follow these steps:

1. Go to www.morganresearch.org/iq and read through the page for information about why IQ tests are used for job entrance (you may skim this page if you like)

2. Scroll to the bottom and click either of the two images, which takes you to the Official IQ test page.

3. Complete the 10 questions and obtain your score via mobile confirmation.

4. E-mail your name and score to Maria Cruz at mcruz@morganresearch.org

5. Maria will verify your score and if it is above 102 (average), she will e-mail you a confirmation page where you accept to join our study. Instructions will be dispatched then.

50 Word Question:
For Non-American Citizens
“What enduring financial struggles have gone through over the last 2 years? How can we fix it?”

For American-Citizens:
“What enduring financial struggles have you seen other immigrants face over the last 2 years? How can we fix it?”

Jessica Hays
**PUP’s main office based in NY, however, our services are targeted to several locations.**

4302, 96 East St.
3rd Floor Suite 3-201
New York, NY 12011


I thought this was a little convoluted, but I still clicked on the link to the IQ Test, which took me to the basically the exact opposite of an IQ Test: A survey about “Jersey Shore” with photographs of the leathery skinned cast members and a disclaimer that you have to pay a fee to get your results delivered via mobile device.

An IQ test on Jersey Shore? Give me a lobotomy and 20 shots of jager, then we'll talk.

I have never watched “Jersey Shore,” (a proud truth which I believe proves I automatically pass the IQ test). I thought there must be a mistake so I responded to Ms. Jessica Hays’ email, to which I soon received a “Mail Delivery Subsystem” response. Awesome!

That’s when I visited the Pink Unicorn Publishing website, and found their announcement that they were in no way involved.

I noticed today that the “Jersey Shore” survey is no longer accessible via the link provided. But writers beware: This or anything similar is not a real job posting. You will not get $600. And if you do take the survey, it may actually lower your IQ.