Social media revolution: A positive impact for teens?


Source: Geek and Poke

Today, “one in every four individual worldwide is using social networking websites” (eMarketer report). The numbers are rapidly expanding for social network audiences and new markets are emerging in the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific. Looking at the trend in the past, statistics tell us that the numbers of social network users will rise from 1.73 billion to 2.55 billion by 2017 (eMarketer report). We all know that numbers don’t lie. They give us a clear picture of what’s trending and popular in the society and what’s not. But did anyone imagine social media is this popular?


What is social media?

Social media, according to social media defined, “is a means of communication and a platform for sharing of information, comprising an array of internet based tools that increase and enhance these purposes.” Social media basically lets you socially interact among other people in which you can create, share or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. Social networking sites have shot to popularity making social media, the number one activity on the web. Yes, apparently it’s the most common thing we do online. So the next time, while procrastinating from studying for an exam and watching  Standing dog plays piano and sings on YouTube, you can at least console yourself, that a majority of people online will be doing something somewhat similar.  


Why is it so popular?

Social networking sites provide many kinds of benefits and services to its users. We all know you can chat with your friends and share information, but what makes these numbers keep growing so rapidly? Social media gives people an opportunity to find their old friends and colleagues and reconnect with them. “This is the exact reason why the 45-54 year age demographic is the fastest growing since 2012, both on Google+ and Facebook. The numbers of these age bracket has grown 46% for Facebook and 56% on Google+” (FastCompany). These figures tell us otherwise to the notion that social media is only for teenagers. Social networking websites are designed in such a way that they are very user friendly and people who have very little knowledge of the internet, can navigate through them easily. It is even easier to use the mobile version of these websites. One of the arguments is that since it is a lot easier to access Facebook and Twitter through a cellphone and their applications are more user friendly and get regular updates, millions of users don’t access these social media sites from a desktop or a laptop, and the numbers keep dropping every year. Social media sites give you an opportunity to join and create groups, allowing likeminded people to share their hobbies and interests. Membership to a group is open to anyone who shares similar interests. Social networking sites also give you a prospect to meet millions from around the world. Users can access the profiles they like, available on the respective website and these profiles allow them to know more about the person, who there are and what are their interests and them can connect with the ones they like. Social networking sites like LinkedIn, allows users to post their previous experience, accomplishments and skills online and make them recognized by potential employers, colleagues and other peer groups. Social media has a huge share in job market and many companies have started recruiting people through social media. With so many benefits, why does this revolution come under so much criticism?                                          


Source: Geek and Poke


Unnecessary Criticism?

For all of its advantages, social media is something of a double-edged sword. Social media is an obsession for teens today. It is becoming more than just a part of their life, it is becoming their life. Teens today are always connected, be it with their desktop at home or on their smartphones throughout the day and they do not know how to disconnect. They are either tweeting or texting or posting pictures on Instagram or Snapchat. This hyper-connected life impacts teens very negatively. Alarming trend of cyber-bullying is one reason this “always connected” lifestyle is harmful. Maybe less than a decade ago, bullying only happened on the bus or at school and once you got back home you were safe with your family. However, bullying has now also moved online and this means teens can’t get away from it. When they get home from school, people bullying them simply continue it online. Another impact social networking has had on teens is that they are more comfortable to embrace stuff that they should be more sensitive to doing because now, they can do it “safely” behind a screen. Perfect example is Sexting. Not comfortable to engage in a physical sexual activity in person, teens today are more than confortable to engage in a sexual conversation on Facebook messaging and feel safe to send nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves on Snapchat. Teens highly engaged in social media also face identity crisis. This happens when their online profiles totally contradict how they are with their parents and people who personally know them. They create a false sense of connection with their online life, and start focusing much of their time on their relationships on social networking sites. Consequently, their loved ones suffer as they don’t get to spend enough time with them and their relationship weakens. Social media can be very addicting and teenagers can spend lengths of time on it. This is directly linked to decreased productivity and inattention to their health responsibilities. The addictive nature of social media leads to obesity, eating disorders and constant internet exposure prevents them from engaging in physical activities and socializing.  


The Bottom Line

A coin has two sides so does social media and the good and the bad go hand in hand. But at the end of the day it always depends on the user. Social media has helped to improve the interactive involvement for teens that was once only limited to joining clubs, school and community groups. They have improved world awareness and teens nowadays, know more about the issues that concern the world like social problems, health and politics. For all I know it can help do someone’s self-confidence a world of good. My little sister is very delighted when she receives comments like ‘beautiful”, “so pretty”, “sexy” on her new profile picture. For the hyper-connected addicts, I think you should give this video a shot. Maybe it can serve as an eye-opener.





Privacy- is it still there?

Source: International Herald Tribune

What is privacy?

These days, when it feels like there is an ongoing assault on privacy, understanding what it means and how it can be saved becomes very crucial. Internet privacy generally involves “the right or mandate of personal privacy concerning the storing, repurposing, provision to third parties, and displaying of information pertaining to oneself via the Internet” (Wikipedia). With most of your personal details and private information available on the social media like Facebook, Twitter it becomes important that these don’t get sold to wrong agencies or organizations. Yes, with every click or swipe, growing amounts of information you share about yourself is being documented and collected by the U.S. intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA) or is handed to a corporation to make money. The NSA carries its operations in such a way that it goes unnoticed by the general public. By decoding and bugging electronic systems, with hidden sensors, microphones and subversive software (hacking software), agencies like NSA are able to collect large amounts of information unsuspected and undetected with continuous regular global monitoring. Facebook recently, has been alleged of selling advertisers details of private message of its users, without their consent. With users believing they are communicating on a surveillance free service, they are likely to talk more freely and reveal facts about themselves that they rather won’t. This puts Facebook in a powerful position, which has already “paid over $US30 million to settle previous law suits relating to privacy” (ABC News). They can systematically intercept its users messages and sell it to the companies that can make use of this data and make profit. “According to the lawsuit, Facebook made $US2.7 billion in targeted ad sales in 2011” (ABC News).



What happens if we give up privacy?

With practically everything about you secretly read and documented, like the NSA can collect your calls logs, listen to them, read your emails or available online, your status updates can give details about your personal interests and your current location can be tracked by your phone, and there is virtually nothing you can do about it, you may get the notion that why should you even want to hold onto privacy then? What will we lose? Why is it necessary and precious? Privacy is connected to your intimate things, the hidden feelings of your head and heart that you would like to share with very few people. It could your personal belonging that is intended for a particular person and you would like to keep it confidential and disclosed from others. Privacy is directly related to International Human Rights, freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Continuous monitoring and surveillance will only lead to self-censorship. We will become careful of what we say, will try to express ourselves differently so that we are not misunderstood or misinterpreted. This will only inhibit our growth as an individual because people are known by their thoughts, by what they say. Ultimately, it is as if people who govern us are controlling our thoughts, our actions and our lives. Those who believe that “they have nothing to fear as they don’t do anything wrong” are living under a sense of false security. This is a direct invasion of their privacy and who knows what is misunderstood after interpreting their data. The government is answerable to us; we are not answerable to them. Those who say, “they don’t care as long as the government keeps them safe” don’t understand that if agencies like the NSA can get our minute-to-minute updates so can terrorist organizations. Their networks are continuously growing and if they can get hold of a similar hacking software or a decoder or NSA database that comprises of all the stored information, who knows what can happen.

Can privacy be saved?

Regular advancement in technology will only give the agencies more control and power and if we cannot stop them, we can at least use some simple privacy tools to mask our digital footsteps. Simple ad-blocking extensions in the browser, which keep ads away, also prevent ad companies getting data about you. Privowny is an excellent software in a way that it keeps a track of your personal data on other websites. A free privacy toolbar found on Chrome and Firefox, keeps a track of your personal details like your credit card number, email, phone number and notifies you as soon as any website shares this data about you. Cookies are tiny files on the websites and browsers, so that the marketing companies can track users interests and habits. Evidon’s Ghostery, a free software, detects these cookies and lets you delete them or block them permanently. “Anonymous browsers such as DuckDuckGo have seen a traffic soar since allegations on the NSA, with 4.5 million visits a day” (Wall Street Journal). Anonymous browsers don’t collect any information on its users and block ad trackers from its search page. With consumers spending enormous amounts of their time on their smartphones, keeping users data safe on it becomes very crucial. The FreedomPop privacy phone does exactly that by encrypting a person’s instant messages, emails and blocks companies from tracking their location.


Source: The Wall Street Journal

The Bottom Line

According to me, its not about what people are hiding, its about what they want to share. I know it is unlikely that most people will make the shift to a privacy phone or will customize their browsers to keep their personal data safe, but when they understand the dangers of having their minute to minute updates online, hidden, documented against their will, they will probably slowly make the switch. I will have a peace of mind if I know that, the companies out there are not selling my information and are not inquiring about my browsing habits. The things I want to share with my closest buddies, little secrets, are kept that way.

Google’s Driverless Car: A Giant Step Forward

Innovation isn’t often high on the list of priorities for big corporations. They focus on profits and pleasing their shareholders over their customers. They have tried and tested ways, which have worked greatly for them and brought them rewards. Google yet, is seen on the other end of the spectrum. When Google announced Larry Page, one of its co-founders, as its new CEO replacing Eric Schmidt in 2011, he was quoted by New York Times as saying “One of the primary goals I have is to get Google to be a big company that has the nimbleness and soul and passion and speed of a start-up.” Fearless youngsters and small entrepreneurs throw themselves in the market with ideas of changing up the industry. They have nothing to lose. But maybe, the idea of a start-up, starting fresh, drives Google’s innovation. Google’s list of innovation is endless and many have been successful. Google instant has revolutionized our web searches by making them lightening quick. Playing with creativity too brings its own risks and rewards and failures here and there are bound to happen. Does anyone remember Google Video? But this is what is innovation isn’t it? Bringing the future closer to us. And in doing so you are bound to have failures but what you do with these failures is what really counts. When Google Video came out, Google tried endlessly to make that new technology succeed and that is the crucial thing. Google is currently working on various other projects and one of them is Google Driverless Car.


Yes, Google Driverless car. The co-founder of Google Street View, Sebastian Thrun leads the project with a team of 15 engineers. The Driverless car has already logged over 700,000 miles on public roads. Four of U.S. states, Nevada, Michigan, California, Florida have passed a law permitting the operation of autonomous cars in their states that will further allow the development of the car and help it make more city-ready. The car as of yet has been involved in only two accidents and as reported by Google both were due to an error by a human controlled vehicle.


The cars Google uses for its test trials include, six Toyota Prius, an Audi TT and three Lexus RX450h. These cars have been modified to operate as a Google Driverless car by mounting a range finder on top of it. This range finder is a Velodyne LIDAR, a laser radar system. The LIDAR uses the properties of sonar. It continuously scans 360 degrees around the car using its 64-beam lasers and draws up a detailed map of the surrounding. These lasers help determine things like, how far is the rear end of the car in front, is there anyone in the blind spot while making any lane changes. This map is then combined with the high-resolution maps of the world (road maps), producing data models that can be analyzed by the car. These lasers are capable of rotating at 600 RPM and taking more than a million measurements per second.


While Google has no immediate plans to commercially develop the system, for it to be a commercial success the prices have to be reasonable. TheLIDAR system itself costs approximately $75,000. The car in total would easily top off any Mercedes-Benz S-Class Sedan. Another challenge it faces is that the technology is so far ahead of the laws,

in so many ways. While Google has the numbers on its side, with the concept car in beta testing having lodged 1,000,000,000 miles without an accident as opposed to 500,000 miles for a mishap to occur for a human driven car, transportation and safety laws still have to be amended in many countries.

Will it be a success?

Only time will tell. I don’t know, neither does Google. But one thing is for certain; it is going to influence our lives massively. This concept will not only lessen the calamities that occur on the road but will also be beneficial in providing transport to individuals with disability and individuals who are too young to drive.

How do Google get such innovative ideas?

Ever wondered how Google gets such revolutionary and innovative ideas? Google knows how to tap into the talents of its employees. Google uses a management tool designed by its own engineers, Google Moderator. During tech talks or company wide meetings, Google Moderator allows you to create a series about anything you are interested in. You can ask a question and open it up for people to submit their ideas and suggestions. A session of

voting takes place, and the most voted questions are carried on for further discussions. Moderator allows you to not only discover new ideas but also improve existing ones. With this approach Google gets the inputs of all of its employees and gives them a chance to express themselves. Google also encourages its employees to work towards the project that interests them, by allotting them 20% of their weekly working hours.