Book Review Draft: The Tao of Twitter

Book review of The Tao of Twitter by Mark Schaefer

Structure & Content of book:

  • Easy-read, in the style of a “how-to” manual
  •  The Tao: the ‘way’ or path/principle
  • 3 Taos:
    • Targeted Connections: who you reach out to, with whom you connect with
    • Meaningful Content: quality of tweet > quantity of tweet
    • Authentic Helpfulness: authenticity & generosity can help form better and more effective connections
      • achieving the 3 Taos will help you succeed in networking and more importantly, in business
  • P2P Connections: Person to Person connections; be human

Key Concepts as related from the course to the book:

  • Technological Determinism : the way technology is “using us” (Baym)
    •  greater expansion in business, new connections, and social benefits may not be achieved if one doesn’t use Twitter.
    • Without Twitter –> mundane tweets would not have been created (“Go Steelers!”) –> random follower would not have replied to Schaefer’s tweet –> no establishment of new friendship –> no establishment of positive business relationship.
  • Social Capital: resources accumulated from interactions and social relationships (Elllison, Steinfield, Lampe)
    • Bridging–> using Twitter and following strangers can result in helpful resources (tweeting links, blogs, or videos)
    • Bonding–> tweeting @ at follower or replying a tweet, Direct Messaging, answering questions can help establish new connections
  • Media Mutiplexity: using multiple forms of social media to maintain connections (Haythornthwaite)
    • Latent Ties–> you can activate possible new relationships with anyone you’re following or is following you by retweeting one’s tweet, mentioning them, DM. i.e., replying to the “Go Steelers!” tweet
    • Weak Ties–> sharing useful information to your followers or taking advantage of others’ shared resources; infrequent communication
    • Strong Ties–> Schaefer emphasizes maintaing connections through multiple forms of social media: following each other on blogs, commenting, calling by phone, emailing, meeting in person
      • turning latent ties to weak or strong ties
      • take online connections to offline = stronger relationships!
  • Taste Performances: (Liu)
    • Authenticity–> Schaefer emphasizes in being authentic and “real”, being human
      • don’t be all about business & marketing, include mundane and everyday tweets so others can relate to you
      • being human also means helping others out regularly, answering tweets and replying to mentions ASAP; sharing interesting and helpful links
      • don’t invest in accounts with pre-made followers; gain REAL followers even if it takes more time
      • make sure your account/profile reflects YOU
    • Prestige–> importance of keeping your followers and profile cleanly sculpted and neat
      • clean out your follower’s list: delete or block any spammers following you as they may  negatively affect your outlook
      • follow others who appear similar to you or have similar interests
      • follow those who fit the description of your ideal targeted consumer

Audience:

  • People new to Twitter
    • lists guidelines
    • in the style of  a”how-to” manual
    • breaks down “technological” terms (hashtag, RT, etc) in easy-to-understand language
    • uses personal anecdotes
  • People looking for networking purposes
    • how to establish new connections
    • how to gain followers
    • how to maintain connections

Ethical Implications:

  • Don’t be overly forceful when marketing
    • don’t constantly tweet about your product
    • include more mundane topics so people can see you’re authentic
  • Be generous to others
    • be helpful in answering questions and providing help/feedback to others

Personal Critiques:

  • book doesn’t mention the downsides of using Twitter
  • doesn’t talk about potential risks of how others may interpret user’s tweets
    • Nightmare Readers
    • Negatives of Context Collapse
  • places responsibility solely on the user and not on the social platforms
  • only mentions following, seeking out, and establishing connections with those  who are SIMILAR to users
  • only promotes the advantages of Twitter usage
  • briefly mentions how Twitter is not for everyone, but doesn’t provide strong reasoning behind it
    • more like a, “use Twitter at your own risk” kind of precaution

Draft Book Review

Theories

1. Social Shaping

  • With its real-time human-driven results, Twitter has become the networking, information, and search engine of choice for many business professionals. (2)
  • There is a Tao to Twitter. There is a majestic random synergy that holds the potential to impact your life daily…if you know what you’re doing. (5)
2. Taste Performance
3. Identity Through Connections
4. Real People/ authenticity
  • There is a high value for authenticity and being human on Twitter…(13)
  • The Tao of Twitter formula= targeted connections+meaningful content+authentic happiness
  • the priority is on human interaction that leads to connections….trust is the ultimate catalyst to business benefits (15)
  • People are sick of being sold to, marketed to, and tricked into clicking on links…(14)
  • Through my stream of info on Twitter, he felt he knew me too. We had formed a connection that lead to friendship and trust
  • Add some personality (27)
5. Social capital
  • Content is the currency of the social web…(12)
  • Through my stream of info on Twitter, he felt he knew me too. We had formed a connection that lead to friendship and trust (18)
  • Once somebody understands how the networking operates and the range of business benefits that exist beyond just money, it’s easy to make the decision to give it a chance.
6. Community
  • I was witnessing a real-time, global brain storming session! (4)
  • Twitter tribe (7)
  • questions to the world (21)
7. Strong, Weak and Latent Ties
  • Through my stream of info on Twitter, he felt he knew me too. We had formed a connection that lead to friendship and trust. (18)
  • The more followers the more potential interactions, the more opportunities to create business benefits.
8. Network vs. Networking
  • I made my first meaningful business connection. (4)
  • A torrent of links, humor, and insights came rushing to me every day as I learned to surround myself with thought leaders, teachers, and innovators. (5)
  • Like any smart networker, she had taken care to surround herself with people she could learn from. (6)
  • …the conditions were ripe for this connection because all three of us had systematically surrounded ourselves with people likely to want to know us, learn from us and help us. (12)
  • Through my stream of info on Twitter, he felt he knew me too. We had formed a connection that lead to friendship and trust. (18)
8. Friends vs friends
  • I had recently moved our online relationship into an offline relationship when I met him for lunch in his home state…(8)
  • the more atoms you have in the tube, the better your chances that a reaction will occur! (12)
    • The more followers the more potential interactions, the more opportunities to create business benefits.
    • add users who are interested in the same topic as you. (29)
9. Performing identity
  • I wanted to “reach” my “target audience” with well-defined “messaging”. (13)

Audience

Keywords

Sources

Formula

Outline/Draft: Tao of Twitter

Mark Schaefer’s The Tao of Twitter

 

Tries to get rid of thought that twitter is a waste of time and can’t be used for business

Personal AND business benefits to using twitter

3 Taos:

  • Targeted connections

-Ensure you follow a group of people that are providing good content,

  • Meaningful content

-Share good content to your followers

            – Authentic helpfulness

Commit to being genuinely helpful to the community

 

 

 

Through real-life examples and easy-to-follow steps Mark teaches you:

  • Secrets to building influence on Twitter
  • The formula behind every Twitter business success
  • 14 ways to build an audience that wants to connect to you
  • Content strategies
  • Time-savers
  • Dozens of practical, actionable tips to make Twitter work

16 ways to use Twitter as a competitive advantage

 

In an always-on, real-time, global world of business communications, the priority is on human interaction that leads to connections. Connections lead to awareness. Awareness leads to trust. Trust is the ultimate catalyst to business benefits.

^SOCIAL CAPITAL (bridging social capital)

 

Audience:

àexplains twitter in first 10 pages; targeting small business owners, older students who want to network. NOT for “our generation” we understand technology better.  Showing older generations that when used properly twitter is not a waste of time; not global; more anecdotal/less statistics, shows he’s trying to learn himself and utilize what twitter has to offer.

 

 

favors outgoing people AND introverts because introverts can connect on their own terms (pseudo…)

 

some see 140 characters as too little

 

“as much of an art as a science”

 

Marwick: Presentation of self based on audience: who is in our audience actually doesn’t matter but rather who we have constructed in our head as our audience.  Self-presentation is a response to who we think is following us

Like many SNS’s, twitter flattens multiple audiences into one (context collapse)

Responses to context collapse:

Tweet what would be the most acceptable for even the “nightmare reader” or “lowest common denominator”

Keep audiences separate as much as possible

People will present information and have people sort it out themselves

 

Baym:

Interactivity: enabled by the affordances of the technology (whatever the technology encourages you to do/allows you to do), but is also a product of how the users decide to use it.  Bounded both by technological capabilities and user habits

 (Synchronous- happens in real time, smaller group: Niche markets, local businesses etc.)

Reach, mobility,

Social Shaping: The way you interact with twitter determines how it is used

 

 

Ethics: is stealing another company’s “list” actually stealing?  No, because it’s public?  Twitter does have the best online customers, like stealing leads

Ethics behind being authentic… spam? 

***Authenticity**** Twitter is about content for humans, not search engines.

Performance: Weber & Mitchell- Drawing on Giddens:  Power in society motivates us to create these narratives, to engage in this project; we all have the freedom to make ourselves.  Don’t have the freedom to NOT answer the question of who we are; Goffman: , thinks we are always on display; metaphor of theater/stage to think of how we live in everyday life.  Certain situations we’re on the stage, others we’re backstage.  Very careful about the impressions we give to people; Weber & Mitchell: .  These are where we are trying to figure out who we are and tell other people who we are.  “Identities-in-action” Constantly open to changing/to constructing our identities in a different way, so our identities never stay fixed.  Because we leave a digital trail, our identities are never completely current. 

^^Connect to business identities/ “personalities”

My thoughts:  agree that if used in the right ways, twitter can definitely benefit business/marketing; most people that don’t use/refuse to use twitter/think twitter is a waste of time probably don’t understand it very well & the benefits it can have.  Definitely one of the more useful platforms for bridging social capital

on the way it was written: Schaefer makes it very easy to follow/ relatable using a lot of anecdotal evidence instead of just stats.  Also, as we have seen most statistics gathered based on SNS’s can be unreliable due to the way they were gathered (surveys etc.) 

Tao of Twitter Rough Draft

                As the technological boom continues to blow the minds of generation X, the development of various social networking sites has caused a stir of adaptation amongst online users.  From the masses of students on Facebook to the droves of corporate workers on LinkedIn, social networks have officially made communication quicker, amusing, and more efficient.  Nonetheless, even with millions of users, SNSs have created a phenomenon where public connections seem to be more of an art, instead of just a scientific advancement.  In only about 100 pages, Mark Schaefer successfully outlines the platform of Twitter in his short book The Tao of Twitter.   
                Schaefer primarily targets a broad audience of Twitter users, in spite of age, race or gender (which are the usual independent variables in recent social networking discourse and studies).  In this way, we automatically see that his intention is to educate both current and future users of the advantages of Twitter with basic daily usage.  In just the first 10 pages, the reader is able to understand the purpose of Twitter without a full-fledged glossary of “Twit-terms” and their definitions.   Schaefer also provides us with anecdotes of his past and current usage of the site, where he describes that Twitter actually isn’t for everyone.  He eventually narrows down to describe the advantages to businesses and small business owners.   Nevertheless, though the book initially seems geared toward an overarching audience of all users, we see here that Schaefer targets businesses and their respective professionals.  Looking at the book as an overall discourse of social media, we can see the recent spectrum of media scholarship regarding SNSs.  danah boyd and Nicole Ellison discuss this briefly in their elaborative definition of SNSs, “Scholars from disparate fields have examined SNSs in order to understand the practices, implications, culture, and meaning of the sites, as well as users’ engagement with them.  He breaks down the characteristics of an individual who would be an ideal user for business purposes.  In general, this person would be a small business-owner who is knowledgeable of the global market, and looking to sell differentiated services using a small marketing budget on a web-based communication tool.  This was the first thing that struck me as surprising.  Now, indeed Schaefer is
                There has often been negative discourse regarding Twitter and its purpose as an SNS, but I think it’s important to consider the difference between a social network and social networking.  Schaefer shows readers the personal and business benefits of Twitter by doing three simple things, or Tao’s as he calls them, to ensure that you’re developing a strong community.  Notice here that this community isn’t defined by users with whom you’ve already developed strong ties, although using Twitter can make them stronger.  Rather, Twitter allows you to interact with complete strangers and people who are already a part of your extended social network where latent ties were established in the past.  boyd and Ellison define an SNS as a web based service where individuals can create a profile in a bounded system, interact with other users with whom they share a connection, and view these connections within the system.  Even so, they specifically state, ‘‘Networking’’ emphasizes relationship initiation, often between strangers. While networking is possible on these sites, it is not the primary practice on many of them” (boyd 211).  Schaefer exploits this idea by highlighting the valuable connections that can be made from Twitter, which is indeed a networking site.   

 

 

Draft for Tao of Twitter by Mark Schaefer

Tao of Twitter by Mark Schaefer

I. Concepts:

  • Technological Determinism: Schaefer writes positively of the effects of Twitter and emphasizes the potential connections possible. He does not fully address the negatives of the site. He writes that every tweet is important no matter what the content is about, it is an opportunity.
  • Social capital: Schaefer would absolutely agree that users have potential ties waiting to happen. He writes that users need to take the initiative to follow or tweet at someone. Usually, they will receive a response. Throughout the book he gives examples of weak ties, strong ties, and latent ties; all of this leads to media multiplexity.

II. Audience, structure, content: Schaefer’s book is suitable for Twitter beginners because he breaks down and details the structure of Twitter. He firmly believes that it is beneficial to businesses and that they should try it for new opportunities. He categorizes and gives strategies for how to use it effectively.

III. Ethics: Schaefer does not specifically address any issues with how Twiiter functions. He focuses on the individual making the decisions not how the site itself affects the user. It can be inferred from his book that the power is in the user’s hands and not Twitter, because the user determines what he or she will do. The user determines how much effort to give and the outcomes.

Who Doesn’t Love Neopets?!

Neopets is a very popular gaming/networking site amongst the youth, however it’s not limited to that age-range. As surprising as it may sound, many adults actually actively engage on this site. As someone who was a former Neopets-addict, I can honestly say that Neopets was definitely an appealing site, where I spent hours each day, which was possibly even more addicting at the time than Facebook and Twitter are nowadays..? From my past Neopets gaming experience, I can recall a number of things that made the site so appealing to youngsters (as I was about 13 at the time) besides the fact that usage of the site is free of charge (though you can pay for upgrades and perks). The site allows you to “create” a Neopet of your own, that is, choosing a pet from their limited selection and customizing their color, personalities and abilities. You earn points that are called “Neopoints” from games, contests, opening shops, trading post, auctions, stock market, you get the point. It’s like a whole reality in the virtual world. These neopoints act as a form of currency that can buy your pets food, battle equipments, paintbrushes to change their looks, etc. Most certainly, teens and kids who actively use the site can give endless reasons on why they love Neopets from all the varieties of things they can do on it. But just like any social media sites, having positives along with negatives,  concerned guardians raised awareness to possible dangers of the site.

The article, “It’s a Whole Neo World; Neopets.com is a Raging Success. But Some Find It Inappropriate and Even Scary” brought up several issues that have parents concerned about what their kids or teens are exposed to in such virtual online gaming sites. One of the alarming topics was the appropriateness of the gambling games on the site. Players of all ages on the site have the ability to purchase lottery tickets and scratchcards that can win them more Neopoints. Another concerning issue was the “Neofriend” function where users of the site can “Friend” each other, kind of like the same reciprocating function of friend requests on Facebook. Guardians fear the anonymity of these “Neofriend” requests that can be from possible predators who may be preying on their children. Lastly, the issue of advertisements appearing all over the site has caused a stir amongst adults who have children and teens on the site. They disliked the fact that a gaming site that is supposedly appropriate for the youth, are even targeting these young children and teens as consumers.

I personally found some of the issues in the article to be far from dangerous and concerning. It is very understandable that parents and guardians have the desire to protect their children and teens from anything even remotely harmful, but many of these concerns as I see them, arise from the lack of knowledge of these sites. The issue of these ‘gambling’ games on Neopets is nothing but a friendly game in a virtual world that uses Neopoints instead of real world money. And again, they are just games and can even teach a lesson or two to users that earning money (Neopoints) is hard work, which in this case is by playing games. I don’t think many parents see that it may actually be safer for their kids to stay inside their homes and play such games as a way of escape than allowing their kids to go outside and possibly experience the real dangers of gambling in the physical world. In the reading, “Why Youth ♥ Social Media: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life”, boyd pointed out the issue that teens don’t actually have a space in the physical society, hence their love for these social network sites (134). What she meant by the teens as not having a place in physical society is the limitation of activities and privileges teens can do in the real world: they’re too young to go to parties or clubs, can’t hang out late at night, or do things that adults would consider “fun”. So the web and social networking sites act as a form of “escape”, where they can “hang out” with their friends and such. The same idea goes to these teens and kids who are on Neopets. They use Neopets as an escape. The controversy of ads on the site may be blown a bit out of proportion the way I see it. Kids, teens, adults of all ages are being exposed to countless advertisements each day, whether they know it or not. Think of it this way, isn’t letting your child play on a gaming site that contains some ads, where the games and content of the site allows your child to use their minds strategically much better than having them sit in a front of a television, drowning blankly into even more ads than they would be exposed to on sites like Neopets? I also find Neopets to be similar in ways to a popular youth SNS in the UK called, Bebo as discussed in the article, “As Soon As You Get on Bebo You Just Go Mad: Young Consumers and the Discursive Construction of Teenagers Online”. Willett found that the youth express themselves and perform their identities through updating their profiles, and customizing their pages (285). Players on Neopets do the same, they can customize their “Use-Lookups” (equivalent to a profile), the way their Neopets look, and shops, etc. Willett also found that most teens in the UK who used Bebo recognized their age-appropriateness for the site as opposed to other SNS’s (288). Neopets in a way sets their games and contents of their site to attract more of the younger audience, which in turn allows their young players to recognize that the site as appropriate for them and peers their age. Overall, parents should get a full understanding of such sites and understand the needs of their teens and children before criticizing and banning them from the internet.

A minor over-reaction?

In her article, “Few Teens Sexting Racy Photos,” Lindsay Tanner discusses why sexting shouldn’t be viewed as a negative form of communication and how youth should not be prosecuted or vilified for sexting. Through research Tanner discovers that teen sexting is far less common than people think, which brings up the issue that perhaps adults (parents, faculty, dominant media) are over-reacting to the issue of sexting. Interestingly, Tanner also finds that different age groups use sexting differently. For example, there was a case in which a 10-year old boy had sent an 11-year old girl a photo of his genitals to “gross her out.” Another case involved a 16-year old girl accidentally posted a nude photo of herself on a social network and a 16-year old boy found the photo and redistributed it when the girl refused to send him more nude photos. Tanner also claims that exploring sexuality is normal teens and that sexting is, in a sense, over analyzed because it takes place in an environment that adults are not familiar with. Tanner concludes her article with Dr. Victor Strasburger, who claims that the brains of teenagers are not “mature enough to fully realize the consequences of their actions” and thus should not be prosecuted for they mistakes (Tanner).

I thought that Tanner really brought up some interesting issues with sexting that we discussed in class. I thought Tanner’s use of the two different case studies correlated with Hasinoff’s article, “Sexting as media production: Re-thinking dominant ideas about teen girls and sexuality online” which brings up the issue of age and how it determines whether sexting is good or bad. Hasinoff argues that while sexting underage is considered dangerous, wrong, and bad, sexting of age becomes a form of self-expression. In the case of the 10-year olds, the boy wasn’t prosecuted because he wasn’t old enough to “understand the magnitude of his actions” whereas in the case of the 16 year olds the boy was clearly exploiting the girl and thus sexting between youth is portrayed in a negative light.

By reassuring that exploring sexuality is normal, Tanner reverts the blame to technology and not on the teenagers who take racy photos. This brings up the issue of privacy and how social media may be causing adults to over-react to youth sexting. Mitchell’s article, “Prevalence and Characteristics of Youth sexting: A National Study,” claims that as a rapidly evolving society we have the tendency to be “easily alarmed about changing youth mores” (Mitchell). Perhaps sexting is greeted as a “sign of hypersexualization and extreme risk-taking” (Mitchell) because it’s different and it takes place in a technological environment, which makes compromising photos easier to replicate and distribute. I feel like Tanner victimizes sexters by displacing the blame on technology itself, which I believe is not the case because the technology does not replicate and redistribute sexts by itself. In their article, “Social Steganography: Privacy in Netowrked Publics” boyd and Marwick discuss the different definitions of privacy and how social norms play into this issue of privacy. Perhaps underage sexting is blown out of porportion because youth have not quite grasped the notion that there are varying degrees of privacy.

I also feel that Tanner takes a very casual approach to sexting. She claims that sexters should not be prosecuted because they don’t quite understand the consequences of their actions and that they should simply be taught that anything posted on the internet is “potentially there forever” (Tanner). She also believes that sexting has been “blown out of proportion” and how “our society has gotten hysterical” (Tanner) over under age sexting, which reminded me of our discussion of moral panic. Unlike the dominant narratives that portray sexting as dangerous behavior, Tanner portrays sexting as something teenagers are curious to experiment with.

Some questions to consider:

-If sexting is so disturbing, then why aren’t people reacting the same way to porn? I feel like there really isn’t a difference to sexting and porn. It’s basically an issue of whether you know the person in the racy photo or not. And that people in porn are paid.

-If a sext is redistributed, does it become a form of cyber-bullying? Especially if one is “forced” to take racy photos?

-Dr. Strasburger claims that “teenagers are neurologically programmed to do dumb things” (Tanner). Does this quote and the idea that exploring sexuality mean that sexting is okay for teens or is it just displacing the issue somewhere else?

-How privacy is defined through sexting: at what point does sexting cross the line of privacy? Is redistributing compromising photos without consent invasion of privacy?

 

Personally, I believe that reactions to sexting are overrated. In my high school, there were two sexting scandals and I thought that it was pointless for other people to be involved. I feel that getting more people involved in a sexting scandal just expands the scandal into a crisis and blows it out of proportion. It just becomes another issue of privacy and how people respect that privacy.

Check in.. so everybody knows exactly where you are.

I happen to be one of those kids who always had a computer readily available for use in my house whenever I needed it. With very strict parents, of course, there were restrictions as to what I could and could not do. For example : Facebook? No No, MySpace? No No No, even AIM was considered bad to my dad…. But, did my parents “rules” ever really make me listen? Absolutely not. Lets be real… I learned how to delete my web browser history permanently at the age of 12 to assure my parents were getting no access to the sites I was not allowed to be on but was still  frequently using. My top 8 was my business, and nobody else’s! My parents hatred for social media was very similar to the show Friends… “so VULGAR… you are too young.. it will give you bad ideas” … but of course, it was too easy sneaking upstairs into their bedroom to watch and have Nickelodeon set as the “last channel” .. one click to last and I went from watching Rachel and Ross ignore the fact that they were meant to be to watching Kenan and Kell basically shoot up orange soda(so much more appropriate… ). I just wonder when parents will realize prohibiting something makes it only that much more enjoyable. Especially when you get away with it!

As I got older my parents “catching me” on social media became more of a tool for them to catch me doing something wrong verses the fact that I was disobeying their rule of not using social media. The wrong thing was not the fact I was using social media, but the content I was posting. I will never forget the time I came home from school what had been the current profile picture on my Facebook at the time, I had just gotten the facebook and I wanted to put up a really cool picture… I was holding a red solo cup with my tongue out clearly pregaming at the very popular PNC concert center – far before I was even remotely close to being 21 (theatrical taste preference according to Liu much???). I found the picture taped to the fridge in the kitchen with  “ ? ? ? ? ” written in my dad’s handwriting. I immediately tore the picture down and opted for never bringing it up, praying my mother wouldn’t find out about it. The next day however, the same picture with an additional picture of me clearly intoxicated at another concert in a different outfit was taped right next to it “Seriously… ??” I remember how violated I felt but at the same time, I knew deep down I had been in the wrong. I look back today and I think- THANK GOD I GOT INTO COLLEGE! Those  pictures are 100 % incriminating seeing as my 21st birthday is STILL not until July. My facebook or MySpace or twitter however was and is my public but private sphere. It was my area to be free and do what I wanted without having anybody tell me I was wrong. In fact, most of my peers and friends online encouraged the online behavior parents despise so much. Lord knows, in high-school, the pictures with the most likes or comments were ones where somebody was most obviously doing something they should not have been doing.

I do feel that the internet is a public sphere for teens. But I also feel that it’s affordances in today’s day and age do not openly display the consequences they can absolutely have. Do I think social media networks should be banned? No. But I do think that children, teens and even young adults should be taught and informed about the small minute dangers available on these sites that we use without thinking about the large effects they can have.

For example: checking in at places (do you really want everyone knowing exactly where you are all the time…); posting certain pictures (should the police or mom/dad or possible employer be seeing a picture of you hugging a toilet?), sarcasm(maybe it’s funny to you but maybe it is extremely offensive to your future employer or a dear friend or somebody you don’t even know but are friends with)… to name a few examples. We do not think twice about what we post or what we say because we really think we have control of who is seeing it. However, with the linking tools available on most sites, we literally gain access to a number of things we were never supposed to see in the first place.

Similarly, we see an extreme point of view of how predators gain access to children’s whereabouts almost immediately with the check-in features. Byron Acohido of The Last WatchDog, a website dedicated to internet security, explains the new issues with child predators and how social media now makes it too easy to reach children. In his article, How Predators Use Mobile Devices, Social Media to Victimize Children we learn about the past and present ways predators are capable of reaching children through the internet. No longer do they have to engage the child they have friended or speak with them in order to arrange a meet-up of some sorts. Instead, today, when somebody uploads a new picture or posts a status update, on most social media sites, there is a check-in or location feature that links your picture or post to a town, city or specific place. This alone allows the predators (or as I explained earlier.. your parents, the police or a future employer) to know exactly where you are at a particular time. “Hey so where do you live… what is your address..” is no longer necessary. Instead “play-date with Sarah tomorrow at our favorite park!” is all the predator needs to check for a m-upload or another status with a check-in / location update and they know exactly where to go at exactly the right time. Kind of freaky to think about….

These affordances are not abused by children so that they put themselves in harms way. Most of the time, people are unaware of the damage that can be done. In fact, I feel that most people criticize the use of social media without teaching proper use. Saying social media is bad and dangerous can be true however, the future of most of the children in today’s day and age rely on it. More and more jobs are tailored around your ability to use social media… I mean take a look at this class, we MUST use twitter at least twice a week to pass. Are we expected to suppress children’s appetite for a field that is not only scholarly but may potentially become their future. Of course their are dangers, but we do not take into account the way these sites tailor themselves to be more dangerous for youths and also problematic for adults.

Anyways… that is my tangent on social media. Most of them come from my experiences that have led me to be really careful and hesitant about what I post. Specifically…. an interview where my future employer followed me on twitter and asked me during the interview why I had posted a picture of “dollar beer night” on Tuesday followed with a tweet about  how I can never get to work on time on Wednesdays. People are capable of following and tracking you through social media, not that they will do so most of the time. But, when somebody really wants to check up on your whereabouts they really are able to. It’s our responsibility as young adults who grew up in the haywire that was the rise of social media to know better. The only way to know is to either learn your lesson or to enforce the use in a protective but free way.

Sexting has become part of the adolescence list. Besides drugs, alcohol, sex, and many others, sexting is now a concern for youths. Due to cell phone technologies growing exponentially, the device enables teens, and even younger, an easy way to share images. In class we have discussed the negative effects of sexting and the proper legal actions that should be used.

According to a poll, conducted by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, many adults believe that the solution should be noncriminal. 81 percent of the people polled thought that an educational program would be most beneficial. Our class also came to a consensus that the parents should play a major role, but the schools should as well in educating kids and teens. 75 percent believe in community service, 44 percent believe in fines, and less than 20 percent believe that it should be treated as a sex crime.

In class we have discussed about youth’s violation of self-expression; that sexting is another way of showing who you are.  In “Sexting as Media Production: re-thinking social media,” Amy Hasinoff discusses the necessity for lawmakers and parents to understand that sexting can also be seen as a media production. She write s that sexting is being misrepresented by the media. I don’t believe there is any appropriate young age for any teen to share images of themselves that are naked or even scantily clad. Like drinking it should be a law that you cannot do so unless you are over 21 years. Although, it may provoke students to do otherwise, many recent news articles have come to an agreement that sexting only happens among a small number of kids anyways.

Someone in class also brought up the point that sexting is usually girls instead of boys and that there is an unfair disadvantage to girls. I strongly agree with this point because sexting reinforces gender stereotypes. Sexting can be academically studied and approached as: why do young girls need to subject themselves to provocative images in order to prove to others that they are beautiful or popular, etc? It almost makes girls think that sexting is what they have to do, not that it is their choice. Young girls interpret sexting as a role, that this is what older women (like celebrities) do to be defined as beautiful. The boys that instigate sexting also play into gender stereotypes because it is the number of images that you can get from a variety of girls to show how manly you are. The guy is then in control and he has the power, because he has the ownership of images that could be leaked to the public. Hasinoff’s addresses these issues in a positive way by saying that young girls are making these choices in “complex social and media contexts they do not control.” She goes on by saying that it is ok for girls’ sexual media practices to be leverage against mass media. I cannot agree with Hasinoff that using sexually charged images of young girls will help mediate the representations of youth and femininity in the media, as well as society.  Publicizing and objectifying a young woman’s body is not a solution to sexting or feminine stereotypes.

The technologies we discussed in class, like EyeGuardian, do help parents curb their kids’ behavior but ruins the trust relationship. Although the law seems to be too cruel for young children, I think it is important to categorize it as a sex crime. Although they should not be treated as sexual criminals, they should be aware that their actions basically make them one. Another issue to address is defining what constitutes as sexting and what does not. There needs to be an analysis and categorization of the types of images, so children and teens know what is deemed inappropriate. It may be seen as a violation of privacy but cellphone and internet usage is not contained to just their social sphere and can be easily accessed by anyone.

Boys will be Boys and Girls Will Be 20 Year Old Men, or a Prime Example of What Society Fears About Sexting

In her discussion of the sexting phenomenon, Amy Hasinoff, makes excellent points in regards to how the media views sexting, such as there seeming to be a zero tolerance policy with sexting; it’s wrong even if its between consenting teens.   Some of the laws Hasinoff points out are plain ridiculous, like the one about how consensual sex between 17 year olds is perfectly legal, yet any filming or photographing of said sex immediately becomes illegal and child porn.

Watching news pieces on sexting shows how disconnected so much of society is in regards to sexting; the laws especially highlight this.  In one story:

“Under a Nevada law passed by the last Legislature, if a child sends a text of a sexual nature, such as graphic photos or explicit language, he or she can be charged with a juvenile status offense”

The articles and stories always treat the sexting as if it’s a huge deal and a negative.  Hasinoff makes an excellent point where she points out:

“Rather than viewing adolescents’ creative use of digital media to express their sexuality as a potentially positive development, the dominant media, legal, and educational response to sexting has viewed it as a technological, sexual, and moral crisis. Struggling to understand sexting, many cultural commentators assume that it is the result of an overly sexualized culture combined with access to technology.”

Hasinoff points out that there are two “dominant anxieties” of the mainstream when it comes to sexting; one is who the girls are talking to, and the other is how the girls are communicating.  One thing I kept noticing while reading Hasinoff’s discussion on sexting is that she generally makes the victims female; the girls are the victims and boys are the shadowy, mysterious, and horny youth.  I kept thinking while reading, “well couldn’t a male be the victim, too?”.  I thought back to the anti-sexting PSA we watched in class, and how the males were laughing as they stared at naked pictures of the female victim; I personally have witnessed the same situation with the gender roles reversed, albeit minus the fist bumps and raucous laughter.  On more than one occasion, a girl friend of mine has been hanging out in a group and on her own volition, shared pictures she has received from various men with us.

But obviously, men could be the victims, too.  And they have.  In Seattle recently, a twenty year old man, Pedro Navarro, pretended to be a young girl in order to solicit naked photos from boys around the ages of thirteen and fourteen.  Navarro was friended on Facebook by a young boy looking to increase his friend numbers (something like this is probably why EyeGuardian exists; you can hear the mothers across the country taking their sons’ computers away).  Navarro then claimed that he had a younger sister who might be interested in talking to the young boy.  Cue the dummy profile, “Samantha”.  The situation quickly turned:

“Samantha became mean and threatened that her dad was in the FBI and that ‘she’ was going to tell him that (the boy) had threatened her. Police say when the boy agreed to finally send a sexually explicit photo, “Samantha” allegedly said it was no longer good enough and suggested the boy allow her brother, referring to Navarro, to perform a sexual act on him.”

Hasinoff discusses incidents like this; anonymity of the internet allows people to present a self that is simply not true.  Navarro was not a young girl like his profile claimed. He was trying to garner photos, and eventually, sexual encounters from young boys.  It is incidents like these that spur panic from parents and lawmakers everywhere and it is incidents like these that make programs like EyeGuardian viable in today’s tech heavy world.

Hasinoff goes on to write that safety seminars were given to girls about online behavior and how to avoid an online predator in the early 00’s.  But perhaps said seminars should have been given to boys, too.  Someone in aforementioned young boy’s life obviously failed to mention to him that friending older strangers might yield not-so-great results.  You can argue that Navarro shouldn’t have been soliciting content from a young boy to begin with, obviously, but you cannot discount the fact that boy sought Navarro out first because no one probably taught him that internet strangers could be dangerous.

It is obvious from the various stories about sexting in schools that a serious re-evaluation of laws and practices is necessary.  Teens who want to consensually “sext” with another teen should be able to and should not be treated as criminals.  It is, like Hasinoff says, an expression of sexuality in the digital age.  But of course, vigilance is key.  Teens need to be taught not to seek out strangers on the internet and be informed of stories like the Navarro situation.  By blanketing sexting, regardless of who is doing it, as unlawful, you add yet another illegal thing that teens may want to do solely for the fact that it’s taboo. In reality, they need to be aware that pressing that send button is sometimes okay, and sometimes not.

-Simon Higgins