Friday December 14, 2018

Social media – a Connect or a Disconnect?

Social Media; Pixabay

Feb 21, 2017: From the era of post offices to instant messenger and e-mails, we have come a long way. The technology has truly and completely transformed our communication media.

Information is spread in a fraction of second and peoples’ involvement in using these platforms is tremendous. They likeably share every little detail of their lives. It is nevertheless an exaggeration to say the world is now available at a click.

Our forefathers must have told us about how they use to wait for letters or telegraphs to reach their relatives or friends. Maybe the generation today can’t relate to thousand wonderful emotions embraced in a letter to their loved ones!

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With the gargantuan outburst of social media applications and technologies, it has increased the ease of connectivity to a great extent. We are spoilt for choices when it comes to social media apps like Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Viber, Hike and many more.

Social media has successfully manifested a thought in us that we are socially active. But the question today is this notion of being a social media freak really encourages a genuine social behavior or is it just an illusion? Well making a thousand friends on Facebook and followers on Instagram or increasing your Whatsapp contacts may sounds like an alluring idea of being popular and socially active but it is far from reality.

Likes, comments, notifications have become an important part of our appreciation and identity but it won’t be wrong to say that how oblivious we are about the truth. Social media apps may have undoubtedly made our conversations feasible with friends and extended family but it is sometimes time consuming, privacy stealing and meaningless to search for friends online and judge people from their profiles.

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Social media is highly misused to stalk people, to defame them publically, to provoke people and community by posting offensive comments, private pictures etc. The cases of cyber bullying, online harassment, trolling, internet fraud, unethical hacking etc. is increasing with increasing number of such platforms. The psychiatrists say that there is direct relation between excessive social media usage and depression. It is eventually turning us into loners.

Well it is totally up to us to choose between a real life and a chat room life. It is no harm using such platforms to connect ourselves with world and express ourselves but we should always be aware of whom we should open up with. It is in our hands to decide what should be given more priority so that we can balance our lives to enjoy real life experiences and moments which are never available online!

Centre for Social Action (CSA) is the development wing of Christ University. Set up in 1999, it believes in strengthening student community with a view to enabling positive changes in the society. Athina Ann Thomas is a volunteer at the organisation.


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Facebook Expands Its Feature Showing Local Information

Facebook uses software filters to weed out objectionable content, just as it does on people's regular news feed.

Facebook, data
A smartphone user displays a Facebook newsfeed .VOA

Facebook is cautiously expanding a feature that shows people local news and information, including missing-person alerts, road closures, crime reports and school announcements.

Called “Today In,” the service shows people information from their towns and cities from such sources as news outlets, government entities and community groups. Facebook launched the service in January with six cities and expanded that to 25, then more. On Wednesday, “Today In” is expanding to 400 cities in the U.S. — and a few others in Australia.

The move comes as Facebook tries to shake off its reputation as a hotbed for misinformation and elections-meddling and rather a place for communities and people to come together and stay informed.

Here are some things to know about this effort, and why it matters:

A Facebook logo is displayed at a start-up companies’ gathering in Paris, France. VOA

The big picture

It’s something users have asked for, the company says. Think of it as an evolution of a “trending” feature the company dropped earlier this year. That feature, which showed news articles that were popular among users, but was rife with such problems as fake news and accusations of bias.

Anthea Watson Strong, product manager for local news and community information, said her team learned from the problems with that feature.

“We feel deeply the mistakes of our foremothers and forefathers,” she said.

This time around, Facebook employees went to some of the cities they were launching in and met with users. They tried to predict problems by doing “pre-mortem” assessments, she said. That is, instead of a “post-mortem” where engineers dissect what went wrong after the fact, they tried to anticipate how people might misuse a feature — for financial gain, for example


Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech, Russia, Sheryl Sandberg, digital
This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

.Facebook isn’t saying how long it has been taking this “pre-mortem” approach, though the practice isn’t unique to the company. Nonetheless, it’s a significant step given that many of Facebook’s current problems stem from its failure to foresee how bad actors might co-opt the service.


Facebook also hopes the feature’s slow rollout will prevent problems.

How it works

To find out if “Today In” is available in your city or town, tap the “menu” icon with the three horizontal lines. Then scroll down until you see it. If you want, you can choose to see the local updates directly in your news feed.

For now, the company is offering this only in small and mid-sized cities such as Conroe, Texas, Morgantown, West Virginia, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Large cities such as New York or Los Angeles have added challenges, such as an abundance of news and information, and may need to be broken up into smaller neighborhoods.


Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech, Russia, digital
A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France. VOA


The posts in “Today In” are curated by artificial intelligence; there is no human involvement. The service aggregates posts from the Facebook pages for news organizations, government agencies and community groups like dog shelters. For this reason, a kid couldn’t declare a snow day, because “Today In” relies on the school’s official page. Discussion posts from local Facebook groups may also be included.

For now, the information is tailored only by geography, but this might change. A person with no kids, for example, might not want to see updates from schools.

Also Read: Social Media laws Should Be Tightened: Germany


Facebook uses software filters to weed out objectionable content, just as it does on people’s regular news feed. But the filters are turned up for “Today In.” If a good friend posts something a bit objectionable, you are still likely to see it because Facebook takes your friendship into account. But “Today In” posts aren’t coming from your friends, so Facebook is more likely to keep it out. (VOA)