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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.

Facebook Launches New App for Celebrities Only

Picture 7-17-2014Twitter has long been a venue for celebrities to interact with their fans for a number of reasons. Celebrity Twitter accounts can be followed without having to follow back and Twitter has a useful ‘verified account’ feature that’s able to ensure that a Twitter account is the real deal rather than an impersonator or anything else of the sort. Last year, Twitter made its interface even more accessible for celebrities by offering verified accounts special filters that would allow them to interact with other verified profiles.

Not wanting to be left in the dark, there were also rumblings around this time last year that Facebook was working on their own private tool for celebrities, which would make it easier for them to communicate with fans through the popular social network. After this was leaked, there wasn’t much additional information regarding this potential service until just recently.

Today, Facebook announced that they are finally releasing their application for celebrities, known as Mentions. Mentions is a Facebook app specifically geared towards celebrities to help them post messages, photos, and videos to their fans, as well as make it easier to see what people are saying about them on the social network. These features seem to emulate existing features that Twitter has, which have helped to make it so popular for celebrities to use. Mentions can be used by anyone with a verified Facebook page, though its overall usability may be extended in the future.

Twitter Unleashes the Mute Button

Picture 5-15-2014Twitter announced on Monday that they’re rolling out a new feature that will be available on the Twitter website as well as the iPhone and Android applications. For quite some time, Facebook has featured the ability to ‘hide’ a friend, which allows them to be completely taken off of your timeline without defriending them completely. This allows a Facebook user to not have to see obnoxious or annoying or boring posts without the potential social awkwardness of having to delete someone from your friend list (which is often seen as a personal denouncement).

Twitter’s announcement is the release of a similar feature, known as the mute button. The mute button will allow a Twitter user to stop seeing posts by users that they do not want to hear from; they will no longer receive notifications on their phone from that user and that user’s Tweets and Retweets will not show up in the timeline. A user who has been muted will not be notified that they have been muted, again allowing users to restrict potentially annoying or otherwise unwanted messages to prevent any awkwardness.

This isn’t exactly a brand new feature, however. As the ‘hide’ function has long been popular with Facebook users, certain third-party Twitter clients such as Tweetbot, have allowed mute functions for quite some time, even including the ability to mute specific hashtags and keywords, which is an option that Twitter has not yet made available. Hopefully, in the future, Twitter will continue to expand on this new feature to maximize its usefulness for what Twitter users do and don’t want to see in their timeline.

Deleting the Past: Teenagers and Social Networks

Picture 4-24-2014Social networks have long been associated with youths, as the younger generations tend to be the ones who pick up on new Internet trends and phenomena before adults fully grasp the concepts. Even though Facebook has recently seen its first decrease in teenage users, as they drift towards newer social networks and applications like Snapchat, there is still a very heavy presence of youths and teenagers using social networks. Even LinkedIn recently opened its user base up by allowing students over the age of thirteen to create their own pages.

Because of their heavy usage of social networks and their teenage mindsets, it’s unsurprising that it has become quite common for teenagers to post information that they might later regret online. Sometimes these might be pictures of themselves wearing not enough clothing or statuses referring to their partying and underage alcohol consumption. Many people believe that these mistakes and indiscretions shouldn’t follow them throughout the rest of their lives and make it more difficult for them to get a job or get into college.

For this reason, California enacted a law last year that will give children under the age of 18 the legal right to delete anything they post online. Though most mainstream social networks such as Facebook and Twitter already allow their users to delete posts, this law will require any social media websites to provide the option for minors to delete anything that they have posted. Because most major social networks already provide this, some news sources see this law as unnecessary and unrealistic considering users cannot delete posts that other people have made about them, and believe that it will need to further evolve before it can become worthwhile.