Impact of Social Media on Society

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“Do you have Facebook?”

“Yes, of course. But I don’t think you can find me, as there are too many people who have the same name as me. Try searching with my surname as well.”

“Hey, you celebrated your birthday in K-Box, right? I saw the photos in your Facebook.”

“Bro, I saw your comments about the YouTube video that I’ve posted in my blog. I’m happy that you are also deeply moved by the ‘Dancing Peacock Man’ as well.”

Social media or “social networking” has almost become part of our daily lives and being tossed around over the past few years. It is like any other media such as newspaper, radio and television but it is far more than just about sharing information and ideas. Social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Blogs have facilitated creation and exchange of ideas so quickly and widely than the conventional media. The power of define and control a brand is shifting from corporations and institutions to individuals and communities. It is no longer on the 5Cs (e.g. condominium, credit cards and car) that Singaporeans once talked about. Today, it is about the brand new Cs: creativity, communication, connection, creation (of new ideas and products), community (of shared interests), collaboration and (changing the game of) competition.

In January 2010, InSites Consulting has conducted an online survey with 2,884 consumers from over 14 countries between the ages of 18 to 55 years old on social networking. More than 90% of participants know at least 1 social networking site and 72% of participants are members of at least 1 social networking site. On the average, people have about 195 friends and they log in twice a day to social networking sites. However, 55% of the users cannot access their social network websites at work. In the past, not many adults were able to make more than 500 friends, but with social media, even a child or teenager can get to know more than 500 people in a few days by just clicking the mouse. Social media has devalued the traditional definition of “friend” where it means trust, support, compatible values, etc. Although we get to know more people, we are not able to build strong bond with all the people whom we met as our available time is limited. Hence, there is an upcoming social trend of people with wider social circles, but weaker ties (people we don’t know very well but who provide us with useful information and ideas).

Social media also influences people’s buying behaviours. Digital Influence Group reported that 91% of the people say consumer reviews are the #1 aid to buying decisions and 87% trust a friend’s recommendation over critic’s review. It is thrice more likely to trust peer opinions over advertising for purchasing decisions. 1 word-of-mouth conversation has an impact of 200 TV ads. With the prevalence use of social media, there is numerous news related to it from the most viewed YouTube video on “Armless pianist wins ‘China’s Got Talent'” to Web-assisted suicide cases (e.g. New Jersey college student who killed himself after video of him in a sexual encounter with another man was posted online). Thus, does social networking make us better or worse off as a society?

Positive Effects of Social Media

Besides having opportunity to know a lot of people in a fast and easy way, social media also helped teenagers who have social or physical mobility restrictions to build and maintain relationships with their friends and families. Children who go overseas to study can still stay in meaningful contact with their parents. To a greater extend, there is anecdotal evidence of positive outcomes from these technologies.

In 2008, President-elected Obama won the election through the effective use of social media to reach millions of audience or voters. The Obama campaign had generated and distributed huge amount of contents and messages across email, SMS, social media platforms and their websites. Obama and his campaign team fully understood the fundamental social need that everyone shares – the need of being “who we are”. Therefore, the campaign sent the message as “Because It’s about YOU” and chose the right form of media to connect with individuals, call for actions and create community for a social movement. They encouraged citizens to share their voices, hold discussion parties in houses and run their own campaign meetings. It truly changed the delivery of political message.

Obama campaign had made 5 million “friends” on more than 15 social networking sites (3 million friends on Facebook itself) and posted nearly 2,000 YouTube videos which were watched over 80 million times. At its peak, their website, MyBarackObama.com, had 8.5 million monthly visitors and produced 400,000 blog posts. In order to ensure that their contents were found by people, the Obama campaign spent $3.5 million on Google search in October alone, $600,000 on Advertising.com, $467,000 on Facebook in 2008, etc. Currently, Obama’s Twitter account has close to 6 million followers.

In 2010, after the earthquake happened in Haiti, many of the official communication lines were down. The rest of the world was not able to grasp the full picture of the situation there. To facilitate the sharing of information and make up for the lack of information, social media came in very handy to report the news about the affected area on what happened and what help was needed. Tweets from many people provided an impressive overview of the ongoing events from the earthquake. BBC covered the event by combining tweets from the work of its reporter Matthew Price in Port-au-Prince at the ground. Guardian’s live blog also used social media together with the information from other news organisations to report about the rescue mission.

It has been two years since CNN officially launched iReport as a section of its website where people can upload video material, with contact information. During the Haiti crisis, CNN had published a range of social media material but not all the materials were verified. The editorial staff would vet the reports from the citizen journalists and labeled them differently compared to unverified contents. On Facebook, a group, named “Earthquake Haiti”, was formed to show support and share updates and news. It had more than 14,000 members and some users even pleaded for assistance to the injured Haitians in the group. Using email, Twitter and social networking sites like Facebook, thousands of volunteers as part of Project Ushahidi were able to map reports sent by people from Haiti.

The most impressive part of the social media’s impact on Haiti is the charity text-message donations that soared to over $10 million for the victims in Haiti. People interested in helping the victims are encouraged to text, tweet and publicize their support using various social networking sites. The Global Philanthropy Group had also started a campaign to ask wealthy people and celebrities, like Ben Stiller and John Legend to use Twitter and Facebook to encourage others to give to UNICEF. An aid worker, Saundra Schimmelpfennig, allowed the advice from other aid workers and donors to post on her blog regarding to choosing which charitable organisations to support. In the meantime, donors were asking questions in Twitter, Facebook and blogs about their donations and endorsements of their favourite charities. After every crisis, the social media for social cause becomes a more effective medium to spread the word.

Negative Effects of Social Media

There are always two sides of every coin. Social media is just a tool or mean for people to use. It is still up to the users on how to use this tool (just like a knife, can help you to cut food or hurt others). Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted a study on “The Future of Online Socializing” from the highly engaged, diverse set of respondents to an online, opt-in survey consisted of 895 technology stakeholders and critics. The negative effects presented by the respondents included time spent online robs time from important face-to-face relationships; the internet fosters mostly shallow relationships; the act of leveraging the internet to engage in social connection exposes private information; the internet allows people to silo themselves, limiting their exposure to new ideas; and the internet is being used to engender intolerance.

Some respondents also highlighted that there will be development of some new psychological and medical syndromes that will be “variations of depression caused by the lack of meaningful quality relationships”, and a “new world society”. The term, “Social Networking”, has begun to deceive the users to believe they are social creatures. For instance, spending a couple of hours using Farmville and chatting with friends concurrently does not convert into social skills. People become dependent on the technology and forget how to socialise in face-to-face context. The online personality of a person might be totally different from his/her offline character, causing chaos when the two personalities meet. It is apparent in online dating when the couple gets together in face-to-face for the first time. Their written profiles do not clearly represent their real-life characters. It is more enticing for people to type something that others want to hear than saying the truth.

Besides the “friendship”, creators of social networking sites and users redefine the term, “privacy” in the Internet as well. The challenge in data privacy is to share data while protecting personally identifiable information. Almost any information posted on social networking sites is permanent. Whenever someone posts pictures or videos on the web, it becomes viral. When the user deletes a video from his/her social network, someone might have kept it and then posted it onto other sites like YouTube already. People post photographs and video files on social networking sites without thinking and the files can reappear at the worst possible time. In 2008, a video of a group of ACJC students hazing a female student in school on her birthday was circulated and another video of a SCDF recruit being “welcomed” (was hosed with water and tarred with shoe polish) to a local fire station made its way online.

Much news has been reported about online privacy breach in Facebook and Facebook is constantly revising their privacy policy and changing their privacy controls for the users. Interestingly, even when users delete their personal information and deactivate their Facebook account, Facebook will still keep that information and will continue to use it for data mining. A reporter asked whether the data will at least be anonymized. The Facebook representative declined to comment.

In the corporate world, human resource managers can access Facebook or MySpace to get to know about a candidate’s true colours, especially when job seekers do not set their profiles to private. Research has found that almost half of employers have rejected a potential worker after finding incriminating material on their Facebook pages. Some employers have also checked the candidates’ online details in Facebook pages to see if they are lying about their qualifications. Nowadays, younger generations have a complete disregard for their own privacy, opening doors to unwelcome predators or stalkers.

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Microsoft – Drinks Chivas, Drives Volvo

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Microsoft Corp. is facing an increasing competition in the online video realm. To boot, MSN video is currently the sixth place video destination in the United States and that spot is far behind Google’s YouTube, AOL’s Time Warner, and News Corp.’s MySpace. This is why the software giant is expanding affiliations to cover the wine maker Chivas Brothers Ltd. and the Swedish automaker Volvo Cars.

Microsoft has signed deals with Chivas and Volvo to support two new web series from Reveille, the company behind “The Office” and the “Ugly Betty” television shows. The two new shows include the “Driving School” which would be coming as a comedy about a driving instructor who shares life lessons to his students. The show will be hosted by actor Craig Robinson, who plays Darryl on NBC’s The Office.

The other show titled “This is the Life,” is about travel and adventure linked to a Chivas Regal advertising campaign. The shows will arrive on MSN Web site in the next six months, Microsoft announced Tuesday at an advertising industry conference. Microsoft did not disclose the financial or product-placement arrangements of the deals.

Last month, 11.5 million people visited MSN video, and spent an average of five and a half minutes on the site as compared with the 45 million people who each spent about 41 minutes on YouTube, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

It could be recalled that after the acquisition of Google Inc. of YouTube, an online video Web site, the same has become a white-hot topic. Advertisers and ad brokers rushed to turn the trend of web equivalent TV ads into dollars. Since then, short spots before or after a video clip online became an instant success.

According to Gayle Troberman, the general manager of branded entertainment at Microsoft, those will remain a staple of Microsoft’s video advertising inventory. But advertisers are also experimenting with original series and user-generated videos as they venture to capture even deeper connections with online purchasers.

In 2006, Microsoft and Reveille produced a handful of MSN shows that fall somewhere between advertising and programming. Troberman touted “Chef to the Rescue,” which is sponsored by Kraft Foods Inc., as one remarkable success story from the Reveille partnership. The software giant said that after the cooking show’s launch in December, over 250,000 viewers printed out related recipes featuring Kraft products.

While it is tempting to label the shows advertorials and leave it at that, Ben Silverman, Reveille’s chief executive, said that he has tried to find more elegant ways to incorporate products and entertainment. “I don’t want to be in something where you’re ruining that content by stupid, clunky choices,” said Silverman.

Microsoft said it planned to expand its commitment to developing original content built around branded entertainment opportunities, announcing during an afternoon session at the company’s Strategic Accounts Summit (SAS) in Seattle, Wash., that it will extend its current relationship with the production firm Reveille while also launching several other new Web content projects.

“We are the leader of original content creation online,” said Joanne Bradford, the corporate vice president and the chief media officer for MSN, citing the 20 plus Web series the portal has launched in the past year. Among those original series is Chef to the Rescue, a result of a partnership between it and Reveille announced at the summit last year.

While others have speculated that MSN’s partnership with Reveille has been slow to yield success, Bradford said the two companies had agreed to extend their relationship, though she forgot to say the duration. During Tuesday’s presentation, Bradford ardently greeted Reveille CEO Ben Silverman – the brains behind the TV hits The Office and The Biggest Losers – with a pair of kisses before handing him the stage.

Volvo has signed on as that show’s charter sponsor. Through the shows, the Swedish automaker could flaunt Volvo master cylinder, safety features, and other milestone innovations. As such, it is expected for this trend to plague the entire Web. Silverman said that while he still believed that TV was a great brand builder, his company’s Web creations offer advertisers much deeper access that is unheard of in the TV business. “I’m always really annoyed that I’m kept out of those conversations [with TV advertisers],” he said. “[The networks] don’t get it yet.”

Silverman was not the only partner to share the moment at SAS. Allen Shapiro, the CEO of Dick Clark Productions and president of the Mosaic   Media  Group, discussed the success of a Golden Globes content program launched earlier this year with MSN – one that  TV  partner NBC was wary of. This year, his company – which owns the rights to many early TV performances of music stars like Prince and Madonna, is exploring launching a classic rock channel with MSN, along with a potential comedy network. “We’re now determined to step this up,” said Shapiro.

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4 Different Noises Your Chinchilla Makes and What They Mean

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If you have a little chinchilla then you probably know that they aren’t silent creatures. Some chins are quieter than others, but they all make a little noise at the very least. Chinchillas make a wide variety of sounds, and each chinchilla has a unique ‘voice’ just like people do. Aside from all the noise he might make in his cage at night while you’re trying to sleep, here are four common vocal noises that most chinchillas tend to make.

Barking

If you hear your chinchilla barking, it usually means he is stressed out about something and scared. If you just got your chin, he may bark at you when you try to pick him up, warning you that he doesn’t want to be touched yet. When you hear this noise, it’s usually a good idea to check on him to make sure he’s not caught in his cage somehow, or if you have other pets that they aren’t bothering him. However, if they bark every night and wake you up, your chin may be doing that just to get attention. As long as he’s safe and comfortable, you should probably ignore it so he will stop waking you up at night.

The Chinchilla Cry

When your chinchilla cries, it is usually not a pleasant sound and you’ll automatically know something is wrong. If you take good care of your chin and make sure he’s well protected, you may not ever hear this sound. But things do happen, and if he hurts himself or you step on his tail he may yelp in pain.

Cooing

This is the most enjoyable sound that your chinchilla will make. He may make this sound when he sees you come in the door or if he is greeting or communicating with another chin. As you spend time and get to know your chinchilla you will begin to recognize that this sound means he is happy. Another common occurrence of this noise is when you walk up to his cage and he knows it’s time to get out of his cage and play.

Chattering their teeth

They do this for a variety of reasons, after you get to know your chin you’ll probably be able to tell what the occasion is. They may chatter their teeth if they are in pain or anxious about something. Then on the other hand, they have also been observed doing this when they are happy, so this one will be up to you to figure out for your chin.

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Your California Cable TV Company Missed an Appointment? The Law Protects Cable TV Subscribers

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You know the drill.

You call the cable company because you need an installation or service call. The Customer Service Representative tell you it will be a week before they can get to you, and that you have to be home all day to wait for the technician.

But as fate or bad luck would have it, the tech never shows up, and you have blown a day off of work without pay for no good reason…and you still need that service call.

You are mad. You are REALLY mad.

You call back in and a different Customer Service Representative apologies profusely, then offers to knock off $20 from your bill. Then the CSR reschedules the appointment for a few days later, and you get to plan to stay home yet another full day hoping against hope that the tech will show up this time.

There must be a better way to ensure that you don’t lose out when the cable operator misses an appointment! Well, there is.

A relatively few number of savvy California cable TV subscribers know about a little-publicized law. A law that requires the cable TV operator who misses an appointment to compensate you for your lost wages and expenses up to a cap of $600. It is California Civil Code Section 1722(b).

That very powerful law says, in essence, that if you call in for a service call and the cable company requires that you be home to meet the technician (for example, to let the tech into your home or back yard), the cable company must honor your request that the appointment occur within a fixed 4-hour period, and to work with you to determine the day and time when that 4-hour period will start.

According to the law, “If the service connection or repair is not commenced within the specified four-hour period, except for delays caused by unforeseen or unavoidable occurrences beyond the control of the company, the subscriber may bring an action in small claims court against the company for lost wages, expenses actually incurred or other actual damages not exceeding a total of six hundred dollars ($600).”

But realize that this is a two-way street. As a cable subscriber, you have a duty, too. The cable operator has to start the repairs within the specified 4-hour window, but you have the duty to be home during that entire 4-hour period.

The cable operator has an ‘out’ if it can show that unforeseen or unavoidable occurrences did happen, and they made a legitimate effort to let you know. If so, then they don’t owe you any money. However, the larger the cable operator’s technical staff, the less likely they will have convincing a judge that whatever happened was truly unforeseeable or unavoidable.

Also, if you file a complaint with your cable TV franchisor (either the local City or County, or the California PUC, depending on whether your cable operator has a local or state franchise), and the government pursues the cable operator on your behalf, the doors to the courthouse are slammed in your face. Most times, you’ll get a much greater recovery by going to small claims court.

By the way, if the contract you entered into with the cable operator says that you do not have the right to file a court action for missed appointments, do not worry. The same law makes that type of contract provision unenforceable, even if you signed the agreement.

So, how do you get the benefits of Civil Code Section 1722(b)?

First, when you call in to ask for the appointment, ask for a 4-hour window appointment. Be sure to get and write down the name of the CSR who set up the appointment. Also log the date and time you called in to request the appointment.

Second, make sure that you are home for the entire time during that 4-hour window. That is your job under the law if you want to have a chance of collecting for a missed appointment!

Third, if the 4 hours runs and no one has shown up and you have not received a phone call from the cable operator, call in to the cable company and notify them of the missed appointment. Again, get the name of the CSR, and log the date and time you called in. Under the law, the cable operator has to offer you a new 2-hour window appointment (yes, 2 hours the second time around).

Fourth, call the cable operator and ask to speak with a manager. You know the drill: Get the name and log the date and time. Request that the cable operator compensate you under the terms of Civil Code Section 1722(b) for 4-hours of your missed work, plus any expenses you incurred. Know what the dollar numbers are before you call. Expect to be told, thanks, but no thanks by the cable operator. As for a that manager’s fax number so you can fax in a letter.

Fifth, write a letter to the cable operator explaining what happened (they missed the call without an excuse), and ask to be compensated for your lost wages and expenses as required in Civil Code Section 1722(b). Give the exact dollar amount in your letter, and explain how you arrived at that figure. Tell the cable operator that if you don’t hear from them within a reasonable time (say, 10 or 14 days), that you will file a small claims action to recover under the law. Fax the letter, and mail a copy via snail-mail.

Sixth, if the cable operator doesn’t contact you, or if you they do not agree to compensate you as you have requested, then go ahead and file your small claims action. Each county in California has a small claims adviser that can help you through the process. By the way, the filing and service fees you will pay becomes part of your damages, and you will request the judge order the cable company to reimburse you for those fees, too.

Now you know most everything you will need to protect yourself against missed cable TV company appointments. You can read a deeper analysis of the law at the TelecomLawFirm.com website.

And to prove that I practice what I preach, know that I’ve used the law three times over the years to secure full compensation for missed appointments. I was even interviewed once by consumer reporter Alan Mendelson on KCAL-9 TV in Los Angeles explaining how an average person can use the powerful tools given by Civil Code Section 1722(b).

Note: This article, written by a telecommunications attorney licensed in California, is not meant to offer specific legal guidance in any particular matter, or to form an attorney-client relationship. Rather, it is intended to provide general guidance. Check with an attorney for specific guidance in your legal matter. Copyright 2008 Jonathan Kramer, Esq.

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Comcast Offers More Than You’d Expect

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Comcast is the nation’s leading provider of cable television service. Recently it has extended its high quality service to the fields of telephone service and Broadband Internet access. With innovations in technology that have blurred the boundaries between television and other telecommunications, this expansion is a very forward-thinking move. Comcast ‘s bundling of many types of telecommunications into the services of one provider offers convenient access to a whole array of entertainment and information needs for customers as well as opportunities for customers to save money.

Telephone service is the most recent addition to Comcast’s offerings and perhaps the most surprising to its customers. While Internet access and cable television have been associated with each other for quite some time, phone service has normally been though of as something separate. However, Comcast in offers higher quality service than most companies whose primary focus is telephone service, and often is much less expensive than traditional plans. For one thing, the telephone service is fully digital, which provides a high level of sound clarity. It also has the advantage of including many features in with the base price such as caller ID, call waiting, and call forwarding. A complimentary voice mail box is also included. This can be accessed over the phone or even over the Internet, for the utmost level of convenience when away from home. What is especially convenient and cost-effective is that the calling plans all include unlimited local and long distance calls in the price. That means every call to the United States or Canada will not cost any extra. For International calls, there is an extra fee, but it is competitive with that of any other phone service provider in .

Signing up for Comcast’s broadband Internet enables you to take advantage of whole new telecommunications possibilities. Especially if you have been using dial-up for your Internet connection, you will find that whole new worlds are opened up to you online. While dial up might provide you with a little over 50 Kbps in connection speed, broadband Internet can offer up to 8 Mbps. In lay terms, that means broadband is almost eighty times faster than dial up. Using broadband will eliminate the annoying waits for pictures to download and will allow you to take advantage of on-line music stores, video clips, and other media.

Because accessing the Internet can be dangerous these days, Comcast Cable also provides options for keeping both your family and your computer safe from malicious threats. When you subscribe to the broadband Internet service, you can opt to also receive a firewall that will protect your computer from spyware, malware, and a whole host of other possible threats. You can also get protection from McAfee Anti-Virus software to keep your computer virus and problem free. Plus, Comcast offers special child-friendly sites that offer safe content for children to access such as games and music.

Even with the newer services from Comcast , no discussion of the company’s services would be complete without mentioning its cable television options. Comcast offers a huge array of programming packages and channels to meet every viewer’s needs. In fact, it is now possible to receive almost 280 channels including special sports programming, high definition television, and on demand movies. For even better viewing experiences, all the channels have now been upgraded from analog to digital format, providing only the clearest pictures and highest quality sound.

The same great service that has kept Comcast as the nation’s leading cable television provider is now available for every telecommunications need. This provides customers with an unprecedented level of convenience and quality. The current Comcast offers are terrific. It is time to switch to the best cable company with the best cable offers.

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