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Post-Mortem Posting: Death and Social Media

Picture 2-19-2015As everyone knows, death is an inevitable part of life. However, life has been changing quite a bit thanks to social media and because of that, death is changing too. Facebook recently announced a ‘legacy contact’ feature, which allows you to choose someone to manage your Facebook account after you die. Your legacy contact will have the ability to add a memorial post to the top of your Facebook page, as well as respond to friend requests and change your profile picture.

Who you choose as your legacy contact does not get a sudden window into all of your private messages and discussions, of course. Your legacy contact cannot check your personal messages and they cannot post as you, nor can they delete anything that you have posted on your Facebook page. While many people may be interested in having their Facebook page essentially memorialized, you can also opt in to have Facebook delete your page entirely when you die, if you would rather have your social media profile removed after you’re gone.

The legacy contact feature may be Facebook’s first foray into the realm of the social media afterlife, but they’re not the first to consider this sort of thing. There are a number of services that cater to those who wish to have post-mortem posts on their social media profiles. DeadSocial can send out public Facebook posts, tweets, and other social media posts after you have died, as well as sending out scheduled messages for anniversaries or birthdays of loved ones. Another service called If I Die can send out private messages over Facebook or email to your loved ones after you pass on. In any case, there are many ways for your social media memory to live on once you’ve left this world.

Additional Video Support for Social Networks

Picture 2-12-2015Videos have been a major part of many social networks for quite some time now. At this point, Facebook is reaching over 3 billion video views a day. Over 50% of people in the United States that visit Facebook on a daily basis watch at least one video per day. Social networks that are focused purely on video, such as Vine, have continued to expand. Vine has recently launched Vine Kids, which is a kid-friendly version of the social network, which will allow children to share amusing videos with one another without running into potentially inappropriate content.

However, not every social network has excelled when it comes to videos. Surprisingly enough, Twitter has never had any direct video support, despite (or perhaps, because of) the fact that Vine is a Twitter acquisition. Recently though, Twitter finally got around to adding video support in the app itself. Not surprisingly, the interface looks quite similar to Vine, but videos that are shared can be up to 30 seconds long, instead of limited to 7 seconds, which is the case on Vine. It is likely that part of Twitter’s decision to add video support is to allow video ads to be shared on Twitter, to help generate income for the social network.

Not every social network is adding videos for the sake of advertisements though. The social network Ello was notoriously founded in response to Facebook, as a social network that vowed to never have any ads, instead generating money through paid-for features. Ello had a small surge in popularity when Facebook was under fire for cracking down on users that went by alternative names in their Facebook profiles. However, Ello’s time in the sun may have passed. Regardless, they recently added video support to the social network, in an effort to continue finding ways to make it better.

Twitter Finds New Ways to Interact with Search Engines

Picture 2-5-2015One of the best ways for social networks to move up in the world is to pair themselves with the major search engines. Many of the larger social networks have some kind of history working with Google or Bing in different capacities. This is something that Twitter has recently been doing, as new features have been announced that directly implement aspects of these search engines. When it comes to Bing, Twitter has paired up with the search engine for translation reasons.

On the Twitter website, as well as in the mobile apps, users can now easily translate any tweet in a foreign language to the user’s default language. Though the translation tool is not perfect, it’s still a step up from not being able to read foreign tweets at all. Bing is not the only search engine that Twitter has found themselves recently pairing with, however. There has also been a deal made between Twitter and Google, which will ultimately allow tweets to appear in Google searches.

Yahoo and Bing already offer the ability to show tweets in their searches, but this will allow Google to have the same benefits. Twitter and Google had an agreement that was similar to this in 2009, but it was discontinued in 2011, around the same time that Google Plus launched. Google pairing themselves up with Twitter again may be yet another sign that they’re gradually removing support from Google Plus, which has been circling the drain for a while now.

Updated Photo Filters for Twitter and Instagram

Picture 1-8-2015One of the things that many people seem to love about certain social networks is their ability not only to share images, but to make those images look like they were taken by a semi-professional photographer, despite these images generally being captured via phone. For a long time, Instagram has offered a plethora of photo filters that users can choose from before uploading a photo. Though other social networks have offered similar features, Instagram has long been the best choice for adding photo filters. However, as of last month, they may finally have some genuine competition in the form of Twitter.

Twitter initially launched their own photo filters in 2012, likely in response to the popularity of Instagram’s own filters, but the implementation of these filters left something to be desired. Initially, potential filters were shown on small thumbnails and the interface was not especially intuitive. In December, Twitter updated their photo filters to appear in the form of a row so that you can easily tap through them on your phone to choose which photo filter you wish to use. On top of this, Twitter’s photo filters are now adjustable, another feature that appears to have been adopted from Instagram.

Not wanting to be left behind, Instagram quickly responded with five new filters of their own: Slumber, Crema, Ludwig, Aden, and Perpetua. This is a big deal to Instagram users, because new filters have not been added to Instagram in more than two years and this update brings Instagram to a total of twenty-four filters. In addition to launching new filters on their platform, they have also given users the ability to rearrange their list of filters to move the ones they use to the top of the list or even to hide the ones that they never use. These updates give users more customization options when it comes to the photos that they wish to share.

Facebook Now Lets You Search for Specific Posts

Picture 12-11-2014Last month, Twitter released an update to their search function that allowed users to search for any tweet that had ever been posted, from Twitter’s launch to tweets being posted right now. Twitter’s search had worked similarly to this beforehand, though it didn’t quite extend all the way back to the beginning of Twitter. Not wanting to be left behind, Facebook has updated their own search function in response and finally is now allowing users to find older posts.

Facebook has been working on this feature for more than a year. Searching is customized for each user, so that users can search only through posts that have been shared with them, rather than all posts on Facebook. Users simply have to type in any word and can find all posts that use that word or phrase. These can be specified to certain users, so that you could type in a friend’s name and find any posts that they might have written that used the word “Florida” or “restaurant.”

There are plenty of applications for this new feature that could benefit Facebook and even build it up as a competitor to Yelp or Google. For instance, now any user can type in “happy hour” or “great burger” and find every time that one of their friends referenced this sort of thing. It allows Facebook to operate as a service for friend-based recommendations. The search function can also be used to find friends’ opinions regarding major news events by typing in keywords like “ebola” or “Ferguson.” With Facebook making everyone’s posts that much more public, your privacy settings may be more important than ever, so it may be worth taking a look at those again now that Facebook has rolled this feature out.

Filtering Out the Garbage on Facebook and Twitter

Picture 12-4-2014Part of the social networking world often involves seeing a lot of information that we have no interest in or that flat out offends us. This is the kind of thing that happens when we add acquaintances, co-workers, or other people you may have randomly met on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Yet it’s become quite commonplace to add these people as ‘friends’ despite you not being friends with them outside of the virtual world. It’s even considered a faux pas in some instances to deny a person’s friend request. Luckily, Facebook and Twitter understand this and are adding features to help you see only what you want to see, regardless of who you might follow or be friends with.

Facebook launched a new tool last month in their News Feed Settings, which shows friends and Pages that take up the most space in a user’s News Feed. Through this setting, you can easily unfollow these people without having to delete them as friends and potentially run into the social awkwardness that can be associated with this. Other settings have also been included that make it easier to determine what it is that you want to see less of, so that your News Feed is more customized to show you the kinds of things you might actually be interested in.

While Facebook is giving users options to reduce annoying posts, Twitter is currently seeking to reduce harassment and other more specific troubles. Twitter released new tools of their own yesterday that allow uses to report harassment, offensive, threatening, or suicidal tweets, so that the company is able to more quickly handle the situation. Considering how there have been many instances of people using Twitter for malicious or abusive purposes, it seems that Twitter is trying to find ways to cut down on this sort of behavior amongst its user base.

The Aim to Consolidate Your Social Media

Picture 11-13-2014These days, many people find themselves with profiles on many different social networks: one person alone might have separate Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Instagram accounts, on top of plenty of others. As these social networks continue to grow, some app developers have been trying to find ways to make it easier to combine all the functions of these social networks into one consolidated application. This is something that has been handled in different ways, depending on the app.

Many of these apps work directly with existing social networks. For example, Snowball is an application that allows Android users to have a universal inbox for different messaging clients. This way, users are able to view all of their messages on one simple home screen. The app includes messages from Facebook Messenger, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Google Hangouts, and more, as well as including basic text messages in the mix. Comparatively, on iOS, an application called Accounts has been launched, which is more of an attempt to create a universal address book. It pulls from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, and more and attempts to aggregate these accounts to make things easier for its user base.

Other new applications seek to enhance the features of your existing social media apps. For instance, Xpire is an app for iOS that’s focused on the ephemerality of all of your social networks. It aims to allow your Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr posts to effectively self-destruct in the same way that Snapchat automatically allows you to. This app also has other features, such as allowing users to determine how much inappropriate content appears on their Twitter account (which may lead users to want their tweets to be a bit more ephemeral).

Still others are trying to launch mobile apps that will work as replacements for other social media apps, by offering multiple features all in one. One notable instance of this would be Selphee, an app that has been billed as Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine combined. Even Selphee, which features all of these functions, still allows users to share photos and videos through existing social networks, however. Each new app appears to be one step closer to our social networks being nearly interchangeable and smoothly working together as cogs in a social media machine.

The Newest Tweaks to Twitter

Picture 11-6-2014The nature of social networks, likely due to their easily-bored user base, is to constantly be changing and evolving, in an attempt to provide users with the most intuitive design and the most useful features. Over the past few months, Twitter has made a number of relevant, interesting tweaks to their interface for these reasons. Back in June, they announced a small but well-received change that allowed the social network to support the sharing and viewing of animated GIFs on Twitter’s website, as well as on Android and iOS platforms.

Then in September, Twitter announced that they would be adding a “Buy” button, which would allow users to make direct purchases from tweets. Users can easily hit the button, enter their billing and shipping information, and complete a transaction in only a few taps on their phone. They have partnered with a number of artists, brands, and charities that will be able to sell products with this button; the list will be expanding as time goes on. This is Twitter’s first dive into a commerce-related situation, something that Facebook has had available for quite some time.

Most recently, Twitter managed to find another way to do something similar to Facebook. In an effort to make it a little bit easier to tweet on Twitter.com, Twitter moved their “what’s happening?” box, where you can enter a tweet, to the top of users’ home timelines. It was previously available on the left-hand side, but Twitter determined it would be easier for their users to tweet in this new location. A number of social media bloggers have noticed that this movement makes Twitter look a whole lot more like Facebook, which also features its status bar in the same place.

Secrecy, Privacy, and Ephemerality in Social Media

Picture 9-11-2014In a world where millions of people post every thought, photograph, or video to our social media profiles, we have effectively given up our privacy. And yet we still cling to the idea of privacy, even if that just means setting some sort of limit to the people who see all the things we’re posting for everyone else to see. Social media security has been a hot-button issue for this reason and over the course of the past couple of years, there have been a large number of breaches and hacks where social media users’ information has been compromised. I’ve talked before about hacks that affected Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, but these are not the only social media networks and apps that have had breaches in their security.

Back in June, the simplistic social media app Yo was hacked by three college students, who were able to get the phone numbers and contacts of every Yo user as well as being able to send them false messages that appeared to be from other users. Considering Yo was developed in merely eight hours, it wasn’t a huge surprise that there were security issues, but what’s disturbing is how quickly users latched on to the new hot social media app without considering that their personal information might be at stake. The social network Secret was marketed as the ‘anonymous social network’ but hackers last month were able to find an easy way to make it a lot less anonymous.

Though Yo and Secret have issued fixes to these security breaches, as have the larger, more popular social networks, it would not be crazy to say that our faith in social network security is waning. Facebook is making efforts to change things; they acquired a cybersecurity start-up company called PrivateCore last month in an effort to help protect the data of Facebook users. However, with the state of social media privacy and security still unsure, there are other things people and social networks are turning to (including Facebook).

Ephemerality is the nature of apps like Snapchat, Bolt, Slingshot, and plenty of similar social media applications. The idea here is to ensure some manner of privacy by making messages, photos, and videos only appear temporarily before being deleted forever. Recently, Facebook began testing their own new ephemeral feature, which will allow users to use a ‘Choose Expiration’ function. This feature will give posts a life expectancy from anywhere between an hour and a week. Thus far, this feature has only been available to a small set of users operating Facebook for iOS and it is unclear what the future of the feature may be.

Twitter Analytics Now Available to Everyone

Picture 8-28-2014Ever wanted to be able to accurately measure your social media presence via hard numbers and data? Twitter understands that many people use Twitter to make a name for themselves, whether that means promoting a product or a website or trying to get attention as a comedian or blogger. There are an enormous number of uses for Twitter and the release of Twitter’s Twitter Analytics program allows Twitter users to better understand how frequently their tweets are being viewed and reacted to (referred to as ‘impressions’ and ‘engagements’ respectively).

Twitter Analytics was quietly being tested roughly a month ago and finally received a widespread release yesterday. Twitter Analytics is available to anyone who has had a Twitter account for at least two weeks, due to the fact that the Analytics provided are only available for the past two weeks. Prior tweets are not counted. Though this aspect may be a bit disappointing, it still allows for an eye-opening change in Twitter’s future, allowing everyone from business executives to cruise ship comedians to see their precise Twitter presence.

Though the ‘average’ Twitter user may just consider this to be a useless function, this addition can mean the world to people who advertise using Twitter (which is an ever-growing number of people and businesses). Twitter users will be able to monitor trends of what makes their tweets popular and what helps to encourage others to interact with their tweets. Currently, Twitter Analytics is only available via the computer; there is no word yet on whether its features will be extended to mobile usage.