Category: facebook

Mormons Asked to Flood Social Media? Ruh-Roh . . .

I love my church. I really do, and I think that’s pretty well documented as I’ve blogged over the years. But there are times when I do a mental cringe about some of the things Mormons do or say or are asked to do or say.

Today’s cringe-inducing bit? This article in the Deseret News, where Elder Bednar challenged Mormons to flood the earth with gospel messages. Here’s a relevant quote:

Beginning at this place on this day, I exhort you to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth — messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy — and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood.

And I’m not here to nitpick with one of the twelve apostles. I think a whole bunch of authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy messages are a great goal. I’d like to think many of my blog posts could qualify for some of the adjectives.

No, my cringe isn’t from the request. It’s from what I tend to believe this request will result in: a sea of Mormon Memes flooding my Facebook page.

It’s already something that happens twice a year when General Conference rolls around. Lately, it’s like every card carrying Latter-day Saint starts machine gunning me with quotes from the conference, plastering them all over their FB walls in a nonstop glut of edification. And I have to wonder how that looks to a non-LDS person.

Perhaps I’m overly sensitive to this. I police my Facebook feed like a dictator. I have a limited amount of time, and if a friend starts posting too often or too much or consistently on a topic I don’t want to spend my time on? That friend gets unfollowed. (NOT unfriended, mind you. I still care about these people, and I want to maintain the friendship. Unfriending is the nuclear bomb approach to social media. It’s far too back stabby. Unfollowing lets you still check in on your friend whenever you’d like. Much nicer.)

I realize my inner fears might not be something many other Mormons think about or are worried about. That’s okay. I don’t see eye to eye with many a member. But to me, this all risks coming across as one big Care Bear Stare, and we all know how that ends, right?

Seriously. Am I the only one who feels for Dark Heart in that scene? Poor guy just wanted to evil it up a bit, and instead he got all care-ified.

But it wouldn’t be fair of me to just lob a general “Get off my virtual lawn” post in the direction of all these potential Mormon Memes. No–I’d rather give something back. Do something to try and avoid the hopefully evitable deluge of doctrine unleashed on an unsuspecting populace. So here you go, folks: Bryce’s guide to creating authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy posts.

  1. Less is more. Seriously. You don’t have to turn your social network feed into a firehose of faith to get the point across. You do that, and the only people who are going to be reading all those posts are other firehoses.
  2. If you’ve got something to say, make it count. Cutting and pasting a quote or sharing a meme just ain’t gonna cut it most times. At the very least, explain *why* you’re sharing it. What made that quote so important to you right then that made you feel like you had to shout it from the roof tops? A heartfelt post is easy to spot, and folks will give you a lot of leeway if they understand why you’re saying what you’re saying.
  3. Be yourself. There are a whole lot of suits in the LDS faith, but there’s a lot of original thoughts too. I don’t hide the fact that I’m Mormon at all, but I also try not to make it my defining characteristic online.
  4. Just because the church posts something, doesn’t mean you’re a bad member if you don’t “Like” it, share it, or otherwise promote it. I’m no fan of schmalz, and my religion’s movie department seems to like their schmalz a side order of schmalz and another couple of schmalz to go. So guess what? I rarely share those videos. That’s me, being authentic. If you love your schmalz, schmalz away.
  5. Support other praiseworthy things–not just LDS ones. We haven’t cornered the market on Good, last I checked. Spread the love some.

Maybe my fears are misplaced. Maybe this is all just going to go over smooth as chocolate milk. I’d love to be wrong. But if this is somehow manhandled into a church “doctrine” that everyone’s supposed to follow, then I don’t see it ending well.

Let me end this with a request to my non-Mormon friends out there (if you’re still reading). What do you think about all this? Do Mormons online have any sort of a rep yet for particular behaviors? What experiences have you had with this? How does it come across to a non-believer?

Inquiring minds want to know . . .

Saxophone Duets: The Importance of Social Media

Yesterday, my friend Dan posted a YouTube video on Facebook–a clip of Ronald Reagan, a saxophone duet from Boston who play 80s songs. (They list themselves as “Boston’s Premiere 80’s Pop Saxophone Duo.”) I listened to them, and I was an instant fan. Their arrangements were fun and upbeat, it’s on the saxophone (almost the bassoon–my original instrument of choice–but good enough (I played tenor and bari throughout high school), they were funny, the songs were popular favorites. Well–let me just show you so you can see for yourself.

See what I mean? (You better!) I wanted to own some of their songs right away.

That’s when the troubles began.

These days, when I want to get music, I typically just go to iTunes and download it. So I opened up iTunes on my computer and did a search for . . . Ronald Reagan. Um. Yeah. Turns out that also happens to be the name of some president or something, so all I got back was a bunch of speeches about Communism and stuff? No 80s pop saxophone duets at all? Whatever. Even using my top secret ninja-level librarian search skills, I couldn’t come up with any of their songs in 5 minutes or less.

So I turned to Google.

I found their web page without too much trouble. But that page? Not much there. Pretty darn sparse, other than a list of performances. But it linked to their Facebook page. Again, not too much there. YouTube page? Some two year old recordings of them. Twitter? Very sporadic Tweets. But it also had a link to their record label (though you had to click the icon to find that out–not self-explanatory at all). Aha! At last we were getting somewhere. They had an album available for purchase!

But no info on what songs were on it, how many songs were on it, samples to the songs that were on it . . .

See some problems here?

Thankfully, I could talk to my friend Dan directly, who had bought the album from them in person, and he told me it had Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, We Built This City, Beat It, Total Eclipse of the Heart, and Take On Me. 5 songs. Studio recordings. Decent quality.

I bought the album. Or at least, I think I did. Once I paid the $5 (yay for inexpensive, but it’s also only 5 songs), the site informed me it was a digital purchase, and that I’d be emailed the download links. At least, I think that’s what it meant. I still haven’t gotten the download links. Or any more info other than a receipt. And it asked for my shipping address . . .

I’m quite optimistic I’ll get my music. In one way or another. But the fact of the matter is that this was a really hard path to follow (comparatively speaking) for me to support this band, and there’s no reason for it to be this way these days. If I hadn’t loved-loved-loved what I’d seen from them–and had a personal friend who was there to vouch for the end product–I would have given up long before I got anywhere. These days, I expect public people to have an online presence. I expect to be able to sample what they’ve got available for purchase. I want to know what I’m getting exactly before I shell out money to get it. And it’s not that hard to do.

My wife set up a Facebook page for a bakery business she runs from the comfort of her kitchen, and it took all of an afternoon. Is it the best page ever? No. It’s just a Facebook page with a list of her breads, her prices, and her contact information. (Kind of hard to zap bread through the interwebs.) But the basics are there. My friend Dan has his music available all over the place to listen to. He’s got a website. An active blog.

To me, having things like this are as basic as having an entry in the phonebook used to be.

Having an awesome “something” is important. But you need to offer ways for new fans to jump on board. Ideally, it’s supposed to work like this: a guy in Philly hears your song. He posts a YouTube video online. A guy in Maine becomes a huge fan. He clicks a button, hears your album, clicks another button, and buys it. Anything less easy than that is just gumming up the works.


(And Ronald Reagan, if you happen to read this, know that I think you’re absolutely awesome and am really looking forward to listening to your album when I get it–however I get it. Also, good job  on that whole “bringing down Communism” thing that I read about online. Seems like it was pretty important, so maybe I should cut you some slack on not having your stuff on iTunes. But as an FYI, I don’t know what you did to piss off Democrats, but maybe you shouldn’t be quite so political, ya know?)

A Review of Facebook Timeline

I just enabled Timeline on my Facebook profile. (How did I get the invite? My web-fu paid off once again, and because I care about my readers, I’ll share my trick with you: click here. NOTE: It took longer for the invite to come on my profile than described in the linked article. Days longer. Just be patient. Also note that this just gets you in on the developer release. The general public won’t be able to view your timeline until it’s available to everyone. For now, just other developers can see it. But if you become a developer by following that link, then you can view other people’s timelines. Get it?)

So what is Timeline? It’s Facebook’s new approach to personal profiles, aiming to present the whole of a person, from birth on. It presents all your activity in an easily accessed chronological format, ranging from events to status updates to pictures to . . . everything else. It lets you retroactively put in events–I tried entering where I moved when, and it all worked flawlessly. You can associate pictures with events, too.

Some people have said this is all too creepy and invasive, and I suppose I can see that–although it doesn’t bother me. Only you have access to all the information on your timeline, and you can hide anything you want hidden. Actually, it’s a good reminder that what you put on Facebook stops really being yours the moment you put it there. Facebook keeps a copy, and it’s got a long memory. The moral of the story (in my opinion) isn’t to start getting torches and pitchforks and coming after Facebook–it’s to be careful about what you post there in the first place.

So what do I think of Timeline?

I love it. I could easily see myself spending a lot of time putting up pictures and labeling them with the approximate date and place. It takes the concept of a family photo album and brings it to the modern day. When I think about how kids born post-Facebook will basically have all this information already available to them–how they can create it as they live their lives . . . that’s sort of mind blowing.

Also mind blowing? The fact that I just joined Facebook on July 30, 2007. In just a little over 4 years, Facebook has ingrained itself into popular culture and consciousness to the point that it feels like it’s always been here.

I really like the ability to see all my status updates and postings and friend adds that I’ve ever done. It’s easy as all get out to see what I was doing three years ago today. Very interesting (and this feature is private–it’s only available to each user on an individual basis–people can’t go to my Facebook page and use it. Only I can. Supposedly.)

In the end, it’s a great way to organize what was up to now just a running list of events in a person’s life. I think it’s exciting, and I hope it gets more widely adopted. I’d love to be able to browse through my friends’ lives more easily–or at least through the events they don’t mind me browsing.

What say you?

My Vision of the Future and Facebook: A Ramble, not a Rant


Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock (or you’re not on Facebook, which some people think is tantamount to the same thing), you’ve noticed that Facebook has changed in the past week. It’s made some fairly radical changes (and even more are in store), moving from a fairly static page that updated when you told it to into a free flowing page that seems to update at will (and randomly).

I personally love the new direction, but abhor the lack of organization. (Maybe that’s the librarian in me coming out.) To me, it would be fairly straightforward to fix: let the users determine who they want to have the most updates from and how. And bring some method to the madness. Before, I could know with a fair amount of certainty that I was seeing all the updates from my friends that I wanted to see, since I could view all the updates in chronological order. But Facebook has now taken that chronological order and removed the “logical” part of it. Updates are scattered over the page in four different areas: recent stories, top stories, other recent stories, and the latest updates. To make things even more confusing, it’s now showing me practically all the activities of all of my friends.

Now, I’m not one of the people heading for the pitchforks and torches. I’m willing to give Facebook some time to iron this out, and in their defense, it’s gotten a bit better over the past few days. It’s hard to get such a big change right all at once. (And since I don’t pay anything for Facebook, I can’t very well demand better service. What’s the alternative? Google+? Please. That place is still snoresville every time I remember that I really ought to poke my nose in to see if anyone’s actually using it yet.)

One of the reasons Twitter’s interface works so well is that as a user I have control and knowledge over what exactly I’m looking at. I get a chronological feed of Tweets from the people I follow, and Twitter lets me know when I have new Tweets waiting. I click a button, and it’s clear what’s new and what’s not. Easy. Simple. Nice. If I want to have smaller groups of friends I follow, I can easily set up lists to corral similar friends into categories of my choosing, and then the updates of those lists work the same way as the rest of the site. So it’s really customizable, but also simple.

So why isn’t Facebook like that?

Well, some of it might be due to the vision that Facebook has of the future. I think they’ve been doing a crappy job of explaining it, so allow me to give it a whirl. Picture a world where you can hang out with your friends regardless of where you live. If I want to sit in my living room in Maine and play board games with my buddies in Utah while listening to the same music or watching a TV show together, I can. I can go online and see someone’s there waiting for me, and I can be chatting with them, and channel surfing at the same time, each of us making snarky remarks on what we’re watching–together. At the same time.

I want that future.

Facebook wants it, too. Of course, I want it because it’s cool, and Facebook wants it because it would  make a lot of money off the process. That’s a key difference, and it has to be noted. But still, if I can get that future, and it comes via Facebook, I’m okay with that.

But how do we get from here to there?

Facebook’s approach right now is to jam it down our throats, whether we want it or not. It’s the brute force method. It has almost a billion members, and Zuckerberg’s decided to go all in on that vision, with Facebook leading the way on a road paved with the gold earned from data mining its user base. Listen to a song on Spotify? Your friends will know. Watch a movie on Netflix? Your friends will know. Check out a story on CNN? Your friends will know.

Um . . . can we say “creepy”? Maybe I don’t want you all knowing that I watched 15 episodes of Strawberry Shortcake yesterday. Or that I have a penchant for listening to Eminem when I think no one’s watching. Or that I habitually read ever news article about goat cheese. (Only one of those statements is true, by the way.) Why doesn’t Facebook just let me post updates when I . . . you know . . . actually want people to read those updates? (You can stop Facebook from tracking your every internet step, BTW. Here’s how.)

I think it’s because Facebook’s worried it’ll be sort of like Google+  It’s an excellent idea, but until people start actually using it, then what’s the point? In my vision of the future, it all falls apart if every time I go to hang out with my friends, no one’s there. Not because none of us are there, but because none of us are actively sharing and saying “I’m here!”

Catch-22. Chicken and the egg. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a problem, but it’s only a problem getting there. If we’re in a spot where we all know that everyone can share whatever he or she wants whenever he or she wants, then we get to a point where enough people are using that service (online, ready to hang) that when YOU are ready to hang, you can go and find some of your friends who want to hang, too.

Make sense?

And this is ignoring other nasty little roadblocks between me and my vision of the future. Roadblocks like copyright law that’s dated and a legal system that can’t keep up with how it pays itself, let alone how to handle the ever shifting realm of technology.

And have you heard about Facebook’s next step in its plan: the timeline? Picture a profile page that represents all your actions, from birth to death. Needless to say, there are some concerns about this change, too. I’ve already signed up for the beta. Hopefully my profile page gets it soon, and I can evaluate it.

Because like it or not, the future is here. The rate of change is increasing all the time. Gone are the days when you can lean back and feel comfortable that you’re On Top of Things for the next decade or so. Life as we know it will be different a year from now, and drastically different in five years, and unimaginable in a decade. I really believe this, and I think history backs me up.

This makes me excited, even though I also understand why it scares some people (or even terrifies them). What do you think? Chime in!

To Everyone Freaking Out about the New Facebook

It’s true, folks. Facebook updated their site. Big time. And that means that the old comfy feel of Facebook that you’ve known and loved for the past . . . few months, isn’t old and comfy anymore. There are (gasp!) new features.

If you haven’t gotten used to Facebook constantly changing by now, then you’re probably never going to. And the “old” Facebook that you know and love and are now bemoaning the loss of? That’s the same “new” Facebook you were hating and despising six months ago. Or whenever Facebook overhauled its site last.

Take a minute and check out this post that was written a few years ago. It shows the design changes of Facebook from 2005-2009. Or go here to see an interactive timeline of the way Facebook has changed.

I don’t mean to dismiss your knee-jerk panic that things are different on the site you use every day to connect to all of your friends (who also use it) for free, but in the end, wailing about how awful the new Facebook newsfeed is is like wailing how terrible George Lucas is for dinking around with Star Wars. Again. Lucas is gonna dink, Facebook’s gonna tweak, and haters gonna hate.

The problem is that Facebook has changed its mind in the past and restored some features from older flavors of its site. Having set that precedent, people feel like if they just moan and complain enough, then everything will go back to the way it was.

Having looked at some of the old layouts, I can honestly say that there isn’t one out there that I light a candle to every evening in its memory. (Some of that is due no doubt to the fact that Facebook changes things so frequently.)

What do I think of the design change? Mixed emotions. Things are in different places, and it took me a bit to find where everything is. But I use Facebook quite a bit, and as I’m using it today, I’m liking some things. I like the latest updates feature in the upper right. I like how easy it is to now tweak how frequently I’m updated on certain people. I think the changes have some merit, and I want to use them some more to see how much I can get out of them.

I’m hopeful, even if there’s a new learning curve. Because if this update lets me customize my news feed more, then that’s a good thing. Not that I ever hide any of my friends. Particularly not you. I check your FB status multiple times an hour, just to make sure I haven’t missed anything. But those posts from everybody else? They distract me too much from your updates, and it would be nice to be able to trim them down some.

So to sum up: everybody calm down. It’s not like Facebook is suddenly charging us to use it, or splitting up its services onto two wholly separate sites or anything. Unlike, you know, *some websites.*

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