Month: September 2014

What value social media?

Future of personal social media

Is personal (or perhaps personable) social media on the way out?

I’ve been on… in… using… making… I’m not even sure which verb to use but that’s by the by… let me start again.

I’ve been ‘involved’ with social media for a long time now, certainly longer than the term itself existed (round ’ere, t’were all fields.. etc) and recently, with yet another option starting to make some noise in my own circles I’ve been wondering about where my future with social media lies.

What value social media?

I am not a follower whore, but then my livelihood doesn’t depend on my internet presence, so as a hobbyist internet user I have a different view of the value I get from social media. For those who worry about stats, how to improve their coverage and saturation is important, but as I use social media on a personal level my value judgements are very different.

For me it boils down to a simple equation, what is my return for the energy I spend on social media?

Recently I closed down my Google+ profile because I wasn’t expending any energy or time using it so, obviously, it wasn’t giving me anything back. My lack of desire to invest made it an easy decision to close that account down. Zero investment. Zero loss.

But could I do that with Facebook? Possibly, although it has some uses for keeping up to date with friends and family (as opposed to, you know, phoning or visiting them). I don’t use it all that often, and it’s definitely not where I focus my energy. Equally I rarely get ‘news’ via Facebook. Low investment. Medium loss.

Could I close my Twitter account? Again possibly, but of them all it’s the most ‘fun’. It’s also the easiest way for me to get a view of the world that is different from mine and due to the nature of the medium I’m much more relaxed about ‘missing’ any updates. But the world of Twitter is changing, adverts are becoming more and more prominent, and some people are starting to look elsewhere. That said, Twitter is where I’m most active and where I find out what’s going on in the lives of my ‘internet friends’. High investment. High loss.

Another channel

It’s not the first time this has happened – anyone remember App.net? – and the current noisy startup is Ello which is promising to be ‘ad-free’. And yet, after only a few days of noise, there has been a tempering of enthusiasm. This cycle has happened before but it seems to have quickened around the launch of Ello. The realisation that there is a business, money and investment behind something being offered to us for free is an obvious one that many still don’t always consider, and why should they when places like Facebook offer no ‘harm’ (on the surface at least, which is where most people focus).

And there is the key. The many millions of people who use these free services, monetising them, who don’t mind how Facebook makes money, just that they can use it for free. It’s a simple enough equation.

My social media

What of my usage? There is no doubt it’s changing. I find myself looking for where the value lies and where I want to ‘exist’. Facebook, despite a recent slimming down of my friends list, remains a chore. It feels like I have to use it because so many of my friends and family do, whereas most of my internet friends are more active on Twitter.

Even then I find myself dipping in and out of Twitter much less often than I used to, perhaps my interesting is waning there too? It’s hard to tell.

I know the value I’ll get out of these things is largely a result of what I put in and, as I continue to streamline and minimising the things in my life that aren’t all that important (or don’t bring much value) then I’m not expecting any of the above to change.

I voted

As ever there are many things I don’t blog about, politics is one of the main ones and given the fervour around the recent Scottish referendum I’ve been even more reticent to offer my views and thoughts.

That said, despite some negativity (the idiots in George Square) there is a lot of good that should be taken from recent events. Number one would have to be the voter turnout, 85%! By any measure that’s impressive and shows that Scots are passionate and value their country (be it in, or out of, the Union).

Lessons learned are important too, the massive sway that social media held and how it seemed to suggest that the Yes vote was gaining ground and, on voting day, the mood in my social ‘view’ was certainly that Yes would prevail. Of course I should’ve known better, my social media circle is one of my choosing and doesn’t include many people with opposing views to mine (although I had a reasonably fair split of Yes/No voters across Twitter and Facebook as it turned out), so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when result after result came back No.

I was appalled by the trouble in George Square, appalled by the media bias (more was made of the trouble than the impromptu foodbank, or the massive number of people signing up to the Green Party in Scotland), appalled that my home city had gone from a vibrant, positive place during Glasgow2014 to a snarling, violent square of land.

I remain proud to be Scottish. The repercussions of the referendum will ripple on for months to come, and in the long run maybe it will be for the best for everyone in the UK. Within Scotland it looks like we will soon have all three ‘major’ parties headed by women, and that can’t be a bad thing.

I voted so that I would be able to say that I did, it was a historic moment in Scotland’s history. I voted to make sure that, one way or another, the UK Government would have to act. I voted to make sure that this particular conversation would not be silenced.

I voted because, regardless of the outcome, Scotland will continue to change and I’m proud to be a part of that.

Bye Bye MyFitnessPal

I recently tweeted that I was going to stop using MyFitnessPal, @pixeldiva asked me why.

I am overweight. Regular readers, hell even occasional readers, of this blog will know this and know that it’s something I’ve been battling on and off since… well since this blog started (gosh, that’s a bit depressing).

I’ve joined gyms, adoped diets, and being a little bit of a geek (oh shut up) I’ve turned to gadgets and tech to help me. I’ve had a Fitbit for a couple of years, a set of Withings scales and a blood pressure cuff (as I have high B.P.) which both hook up to the Withings app on my phone, and I use Runkeeper to log any runs (few and far between recently).

Since signing up with a local gym I’ve also been using Fitocracy as a way to track my time and effort there, and I had using MyFitnessPal to track what I eat and for a while everything was ticking along just fine, gym visits were logged (personal bests gained most weeks), and I faithfully logged everything I ate in MyFitnessPal.

And then it all stopped.

A slow realisation

I’d tried hacking my behaviours and it took me a while to figure out it didn’t work.

Why? Well I could offer up various reasons (excuses), my time at the Commonwealth Games knocked me out of my schedule, for example. But eventually I realised that it was because I just didn’t wanna keep logging what I ate every single day, it felt like an obligation, a “hafta”:

Unfortunately, too many well-intentioned products fail because they feel like “haftas,” things people are obligated to do, as opposed to things they “wanna” do. Schell points to neuroscience research showing “there are different channels in the brain for seeking positive consequences and avoiding negative consequences.”

When faced with “haftas,” our brains register them as punishments so we take shortcuts, cheat, skip-out, or in the case of many apps or websites, uninstall them or click away in order to escape the discomfort of feeling controlled. [source]

I know how to eat sensibly and healthily, I’ve read up on leptins as suggested by my Doctor, I know what to avoid and what to moderate, so the extra step of plugging it all into an app became a chore and, without realising it at the time, triggered exactly what the above quote describes.

Whilst I’d open MyFitnessPal I started to miss things out, or not bother measuring portions and guessing; nights out became an open entry of calories with a note of “meal and several beers”. I clearly wasn’t invested in using the app, my hack had failed.

Props to Fitocracy

If you click through and read the rest of the article you’ll also see why I’m sticking with Fitocracy, whilst I’m not big into the community side of it, having taken a step back I can see that getting Props (likes in Fitocracy speak) from people when I complete a work out or get a PR (personal record) does influence what I do the next time I go, pushing myself a little more each time.

Of course I’ve not been to the gym in a couple of weeks so I still need to crack that particular challenge but, for now, I’m choosing to make things easy for myself and focus on the things I wanna do, not the ones I feel I havta do.

Polywobbles

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at www.polymeansmany.com.

It was an odd time for the best of reasons.
 
I was happy with my life, embracing changes to my lifestyle and enjoying the exploration of new ideals, new friendships, a whole new scene. Kirsty and I had been together for a over a year and, having both come out of long term relationships we had started, tentatively, talking about polyamory, open relationships and the variations that are available. It helped that we know some people who are poly and had a basic understanding of how things could work.
 
We did some research and we talked a lot about what it might mean for us both, what direction it might take our relationship and more. It’s important to emphasis just how much we talked, it wasn’t always easy, but we tried to talk through the ‘what ifs’ as best we could. A short while after that, Kirsty started seeing a guy we both knew. 
 
I can still remember the first night when I knew they were together. It was not fun. At all.
 
I was ok for the first couple of hours, I distracted myself by doing some tidying up, pottering around my flat aimlessly. Normally Kirsty and I txt each other every couple of hours if we aren’t together so not hearing from her also added to my anxiety. How were things going? Were they sitting chatting? Were they listening to music? Were they kissing? Were they in the bedroom?
 
I remember going to bed, trying to sleep but struggling to think of anything else other than them, together. It was horrible. I couldn’t process it much beyond repeating that this was ‘allowed’, this was ok, and that it was just because it was the first time. 
 
Society beats us over the head with the world view of monogamy, of finding the ‘one’, of exclusive partnerships. I knew that I didn’t hold with that view, I knew that Kirsty and I had discussed it and both of us agreed that we were choosing polyamory for the right reasons, we both believe that one person can’t be everything to another. People may try but there will always be a part of them that falters at something, they may then try and fake it but ultimately there will be things that just don’t quite work. Why not admit that and accept it as a reality?
 
In my past I’ve pushed aside the things I was failing at, accepting them as compromises, as things that ‘just were’. During our chats about being poly, Kirsty and I both realised we’d done the same thing, put part of ourselves aside for the good of our relationships, or so we thought. Chatting through the possibilities of polyamory made us both realise that it could work for us and that we owed it to ourselves to try.
 
As I lay in bed I comforted myself with those thoughts, with the fact that this was part of the journey and that it’d change over time, we’d talk about things and figure out how to make them work and, if they weren’t working, we’d talk about changing them, one way or another.
 
But that first night, alone in the dark with only my thoughts and fears for company, wasn’t fun. Comparisons popped into my head, is she having more fun with him than she does with me? Is she more relaxed? Is he better for her than I am? What if they have sex? Will he be better at that than me?
 
The next day we talked. And we talked a lot more in the coming weeks as Kirsty explored her new relationship, we discovered limits, communications issues and it became easier for me each time she was with him. 
 
A couple of years later and Kirsty and I both have partners and the wobbles come back from time to time, thankfully not as strongly as they have in the past. These days I know they are temporary and likely caused by my own insecurities or fears, just as I know that talking them through with my partners will help all of us be stronger. 
 
Part of me wonders if the polywobbles ever stop, and then I realised; if they did that’s when we should be worrying because it signals a time when we no longer care as much as we should for the people we love. So bring on the polywobbles I say, they remind us we are alive.