Tweeting a C-Section? Really?!?

I saw this headline today on Mashable:

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Of course I clicked.

Then I thought, have we taken social media too far? Have we lost all sense of privacy in this age of over-sharing, insta-liking and screen-time addiction?

As someone who has gone through a C-Section, there is no way I would have been comfortable having the operation live tweeted, blogged about, videotaped or in any other way made public. I’m sure the woman who has allowed the hospital in Houston that plans to publicize #MHBaby via its Twitter feed had a lot of waivers and releases to sign, and maybe the medical team—or more likely the hospital’s marketing team—told her she’d be helping other women understand the surgery.

But when I was in that operating room and the doctors told me they needed to get my twins out fast, there was no way I would have been OK with publicizing the event. I don’t even want to look at the pictures a resident took during the surgery.

There is something to say about passing along information. Actually, there’s lots to say. Everyone has an opinion. But to me, this goes a little too far. Why does the public need to know the bloody details of a surgeon’s perspective during a C-Section? Beats me. All I’d want to see is a healthy, crying baby coming into a loving mother’s arms.

What do you think?

Birthdays in the age of Facebook

Yesterday was my birthday. {Pause} Thank you. It was a nice day. All my Facebook friends knew about it.ecard-2

Ever since Facebook came into my life, or, rather, I came into Facebook, birthdays have become a cyber event of obligatory well wishes and thank yous to people you probably would not even know if not for the largest social networking site in history of humankind.

Almost every day at least one of my Facebook friends celebrates a birthday. An alert pops up on the side of my Facebook screen, and I can easily type a few words into a box, press enter, and wish a far-flung acquaintance a happy birthday. If I know something about that person that goes beyond our passive sharing of random information and photos on Facebook, I might add a personal flair to my post, like: “I hope you have a great day with the family” or “Make sure you get enough rest after your debaucherous extravaganza birthday celebration so you can function properly at work tomorrow” or “I wish we could celebrate together, I miss you!”

As I get older, I have grown more fond of strong connections than loose bonds with people. I can count the number of people I talk to on the phone regularly on one hand. Even with the continuously growing forms in which we can connect with others and our ever-expanding social networks, I am finding that those close friends and family members are the most valuable relationships. They are even more precious now that I’m reminded how man loose ties I have out there with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube…you know, social media. I am proud that I can remember a good friend’s birthday without being reminded by Facebook. {Aleza, yours is March 3.}

Don’t get me wrong. It feels good to get dozens of people wishing me a happy birthday, and I enjoy sending a good wish their way when it’s their turn. But what feels even better is a phone call or a text from a good friend, a card in the mail or even a great night out with those who matter most.

So, happy birthday to me, and to you, and don’t forget to like my post.

Israel-Gaza battles light up the Internet

In this age, even war has gone social. As Israel Defense Forces bombs detonated in Gaza during the past few days and the Palestinian faction Hamas launched missiles toward Israel, those of us far from the skirmish kept watch online.

On Twitter, the official account of the IDF, @IDFspokesperson detailed in English and Hebrew their targets, links to YouTube videos explaining aspects of the fight, and a live blog posting updates on “Operation Pillar of Defense.”

Hamas, also on Twitter, has been posting tweets to its account in Arabic. Palestine News, an aggregate of news concerning Palestine—@Palestine—has not kept up quite the social media presence as IDF, but provides a contrary view to Israel’s PR machine.

Yet, there is no mistaking that Israel’s reliance on social media to spread the word far and wide about the conflict as the IDF sees it, has been strategic and well executed. The blog, http://www.idfblog.com/, has received so much traffic it crashed.

Consider that a recent tweet by @IDFspokesperson received 187 retweets and was favorited 36 times in about half an hour, while a tweet from @Palestine sent at about the same time received just 11 tweets and had not been favorited by other Twitter users. The IDF is getting mileage from its Twitter 160,000 followers—more than three times more than @Palestine has.

Likewise, Hamas’ Twitter account, while in Arabic, has nearly 20,000 followers. Its most recent tweet was sent two days ago and garnered 13 retweets and five favorites.

The conflict is not just a ground game between opposing military forces, it is a propaganda game. And the IDF is clearly winning on that front. Chalk it up to infrastructure, education levels, funding and the digital divide, but there are many instances throughout history where slick propaganda has figured prominently in a war. Think about World War II. Think about the Chinese Revolution in 1949.

War is a delicate subject, not to mention vicious, horrifying and life-altering. While the mechanics of war have evolved over time from spears and arrows and swords to cannons and rifles and machine guns and nuclear bombs and unmanned drones and ballistic missiles, so has the technology in which civilians receive information.

Think back to the 1991 bombing of Baghdad. CNN was there, earning its stripes as the live news network on the ground—a reporter frantically depicting the onslaught of the city by American bombers from a hotel. Or look into the history books at how the Civil War was the first to be recorded by photographers at battle sites.

Now we have social media. We have Facebook campaigns and YouTube videos. We have blogs and 140-character tweets to keep us informed about the battlefield. And with social media we have a plethora of new voices entering the convseration and providing details. We can hear from civilians witnessing the attacks as clearly and urgently as we receive media reports or information from government and military sources.

Israel and Palestine will continue to bombard each other with rockets, gunfire, bombs and propaganda, while the rest of us will be left to sift through the gobs of information thrown at us in all forms of media. Many voices and perspectives are good when collecting information. What is difficult is separating the truth from the fiction.

We sincerely hope for peace in the region, and will have our Twitter feeds to keep us in the loop.

The secret to going viral

This is so funny. This video parodies the business of going viral. What does it take to make your video go viral? Just click. Enjoy!

Social Media 1.0

A few days ago, I had a profound experience in social media. My phone, dead from a swollen battery, sat in the hands of aVerizon Guy geeky Verizon Wireless tech guru who actually looked like the bespectacled dude from the company’s ads. I was cut off from my mobile versions of Twitter, Facebook, Words with Friends, RSS feeds, and even WordPress, not to mention the old-fashioned texting and phone functions of my smart phone. Needless to say, I was a little out of sorts.

The geek commented on my phone number, noting the area code and asking where it was from. San Francisco, I replied. And, like most Midwesterners do, he asked me why I was living in Ohio. Sometimes I dream about this conversation I have it so often, but after explaining to him my circumstances of being exiled from California for several years as my husband pursues his medical training, we started talking about how beautiful my home state is, how he has family living in Santa Cruz, and how much he’d like to move back there. We set up rapport. We laughed, joked about the cost of living differences between the two states, and then it was time for him to give me a diagnosis on my befallen battery.

I needed a new one, and there weren’t any in stock in the region. Not surprising, as this phone is notorious for having a poor battery. “I can order one for you,” he said. I agreed, and he offered me shipping options. This turned into even a more zig-zaggy conversation that meandered through the merits of choosing the USPS instead of UPS or FedEx.

Turns out, this guy loves to find old magazines and comic books that have ads in the back for the reader to cut out and mail in for a free offer. He gathers sometimes decades-old ads, mails them in and waits for a response.

He started telling me all about the many ads he’s cut out from the ’70s and ’80s and how most of them go unanswered. Some come back, Return to Sender, some come back with little notes saying the offer is no longer valid. He sends cash in these envelopes, and he usually gets the cash back, too.

What a fun, wild idea. I thought, and I was so happy to have had this conversation with a random person at the Verizon store that it made me think about all the chit-chat I do on social media—Twitter, Facebook and the like—that is so much less interesting and personal as what I encountered in a face-to-face handful of minutes with this guy.

While social media has its benefits of increasing someone’s network, finding other like-minded people, keeping friends and family members in one neat box where they can easily share photos and snippets from their lives and vice-versa, nothing beats real one-on-one face time with another person—social media 1.0.

Human contact will always be the number-one booster of social capital. It’s what sticks with you, what creates our humanity. And we will never be able to get that through any screen.

War and Peace and Social Media

This is a topic near and dear to our hearts: war and peace and Israel.

I just read a blog post positing that social media could have the power to interrupt aggressions between Iran and Israel. Read it here.

As has been in the news lately, the leaders of those two countries are ramping up their rhetoric as they point figurative warheads at each other. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, added some perhaps unintentional comic relief by drawing a rough sketch of a bomb during his talk at the United Nations last week. This, after Iran’s leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, delivered a fiery speech against the “Zionists.”

While leaders have political clout, we the people have social media clout.Israel Loves Iran

The Israel Loves Iran campaign, started by a group called the Peace Factory, is a Facebook page that has more than 87,000 likes as of this posting. Its message has appeared on buses, on flyers, on videos. It brands itself as “A bridge in the Middle East between the people.We are not enemies. We love each other.”

If the power is with the people and not with power-hungry, nuclear-warhead-toting heads of state, then all will be right with the world. People who have seen war do not want war. Iranians and Israelis have lived through their fair share of bloodshed, heartache and international criticism. Their collective voice rings loud and clear through this campaign. Now, the only catch will be if their plight can be loud enough for their leaders to heed.

The power of social media is tested again.

Sounding Facebook’s death knell

Speculation has been circulating for weeks now, ever since Facebook’s IPO fell short of amazing in May, that the largest and most popular social networking site has begun its decline into irrelevance á la MySpace and Friendster before it.

It’s only a matter of time, right?

What is the likelihood that in this rapidly changing world of social networking that a company like Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or Pinterest can outlast the constant march forward—ever reinventing and revamping itself to grow its appeal and broaden its user base and ultimately its profit margin.

So, we watch and wait to see what Facebook’s next move will be to quell these speculators that are watching its stock ticker like a heart-rate monitor. Critics point to Facebook’s tardiness at jumping into the mobile arena. Its Facebook apps have been slow and clunky. They point to its ongoing charade with privacy issues, saying people want to keep their information private and find Facebook’s past sly changes to privacy protection confusing and untrustworthy. Analysts also point to users wanting to keep their social circles more intimate, and Facebook’s philosophy promotes expanding one’s network, meeting as many new Facebookers as possible and maintaining an ever-expanding Friend’s list.

Other critics say Facebook’s consistent roll out of new features in its most basic of layouts and functions, such as the Timeline and the News Feed, make the site less desirable to use. And as the social web shifts into a money-making model, will Facebook be able to keep up?

Even while Facebook closes in on 1 billion active users worldwide, there’s a lot of history pointing to its eventual demise. Does anyone still have a MySpace account?