No Longer in Your Face(book)!

Ray Myers

Hands on the Wheel, Eyes on the Road

If you’re driving right now, it’s far more likely you are reading this on your phone than you would have been a year ago. Despite a harrowing surge in traffic fatalities, American drivers appear to be getting worse at avoiding Instagram, e-mail and other mobile-phone distractions while driving. More people are using their phones at the wheel, and for longer periods of time, according to a study published Tuesday from Zendrive, a San Francisco-based startup that tracks phone use for auto insurers and ride-hailing fleets.

“As you have more young drivers on the road, and as people increasingly become addicted to their smartphones, it will continue being a major health issue—almost an epidemic—in this country,” said Zendrive founder Jonathan Matus. From December through February, Zendrive technology monitored 4.5 million drivers who traveled 7.1 billion miles, comparing the results with the year-earlier period. Roughly two out of three of those people used a mobile phone at least once.”

One of the few bright spots of the study is that drivers tend to use their phone as they first start out on a trip, perhaps ending a message thread before settling in for the journey. While that window of time isn’t any safer than any other moment behind the wheel, Matus believes it may present an opportunity for changing behavior. A publicity campaign urging drivers to finish screen work, or just catch up on Instagram, before setting out could produce results. “Legislation, by itself, is clearly not enough,” he explained.

Ray Myers

Visual Artists Shift from Galleries to Social Media

Now female artists see a marketplace online that is more profitable than the traditional bricks-and- mortar art gallery. “An online presence using an art e-commerce platform is therefore likely to be a more attractive option for sales for females, who have more to gain by circumventing the traditional channels of the dealer and gallery, and hence my intuition that female artists are more prone to move online (Powell, Maastricht University, 2018).”

Given the growth in online art sales globally, making such a shift would be a smart move for the artists. A report last year by the insurer Hiscox showed sales on the online art market in 2016 were up 15 percent over the previous year, reaching $3.75 billion. In 2015, sales were at $3.27 billion, a 24 percent increase from 2014. For now, the two business models, off and online, coexist.

What a change the virtual world has made. Online art, anyone?

Ray Myers

Corralling the Social Media Market

Do you ever think of social media as a business that has to be regulated in order to ensure fair competition in this marketing space.  In the period of ten years we have gone from a time when the American marketplace was dominated by  companies such as Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Microsoft, Citigroup and Bank of America to a new era of technology companies replacing them in the size of their market caps.  Microsoft remains in the middle of this group at #3, but is now joined by its largest tech competitors: Apple (1), Alphabet (2, Google parent company), Amazon (4), and Facebook (5).    We may eventually have to regulate these tech giants if they are determined to truly be monopolies that limit competition by smaller tech businesses in this space.

“We are going to have to decide fairly soon whether Google, Facebook and Amazon are the kinds of natural monopolies that need to be regulated, or whether we allow the status quo to continue, pretending that unfettered monoliths don’t inflict damage on our privacy and democracy.  It is impossible to deny that Facebook, Google and Amazon have stymied innovation on a broad scale. To begin with, the platforms of Google and Facebook are the point of access to all media for the majority of Americans.  While profits at Google, Facebook and Amazon have soared, revenues in media businesses like newspaper publishing or the music business have, since 2001, fallen by 70 percent.”   So most Americans can now “proudly” say that they only know what they see on their computer screens (of varying sizes).  Maybe this is really how all those fake news stories began?

Fewer newspaper readers, but more “screen” readers.  Let’s face it, our social media markets are like the Wild West of the Digital Age.  Maybe we do need a few Marshall Dillons to protect all of us law-abiding citizens (anyone remember Gunsmoke?).

Ray Myers

Calling All Cars – Social Media Alert!

I guess we all know that police use scanners to receive alerts and messages concerning possible criminal activity or traffic violations in their vicinity.  Well now some ingenious entrepreneurs in Chicago have created a social media scanner that will alert authorities to potential “social protests.”  I am not talking about Vladimir Putin here (sorry Donald).   I am actually referring to a company called Geofeedia that can use data collected from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to help law enforcement monitor and respond to potentially disruptive activity in certain parts of its community.  Geofeedia was in Baltimore in April 2015 after Freddie Gray died in police custody.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have now said that they have cut off Geofeedia’s access to their information.  Too little too late?  Civil liberties advocates still criticize the companies for lax oversight and challenge them to create better mechanisms to monitor how their data is being used.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Northern California still seems wary of these assurances.  “When they open their feeds to companies that market surveillance products, they risk putting their users in harm’s way.”  I guess we are still in living in the days of “buyer beware!

At the same time, there also seems to be a more serious concern.  “Users of social media websites do not expect or want the government to be monitoring this information.  And users should not be at risk of being branded a risk to public safety simply for speaking their mind  on social media.”

Ray Myers 

Wedding Memories by Smartphone

Well, it’s not exactly like talking a “selfie” at you own wedding, but it sounds pretty close.   Just ask you grinds and invited guests to snap away at you wedding and see what you get.  Not a bad idea to hire a photographer just in case but  you may be able to save a few dollars by not having to hire the most expensive one, trusting that your friends will be capturing hundreds of other moments that can be shared with any interested parties.  The digital age is upon us, and the traditional photographic experiences of posed matrimonial moments may be casualties of technological advances. Of course, if you still want to spend a lot more money (or that of the bride’s parents), please be my guest, but there are so many more ways to share the events of this day than ther have been in the past.

There are a number of apps that can easily make the uploading of ceremony and reception memories a very effortless process.   Similarly, the iPhone enables us to connect readily with numerous social media sites that are literally in the palm of our hands: Instagram, Facebook, Google photos, etc.  Images can obviously be displayed on more traditional digital devices that we may prefer.  Remember the iPad, MacBook, and desktop computer.  Y0u really don’t want an old-fashioned photographic album do you?  

Maybe the best part is that you don’t have to wait very long to see how are the pictures turned out.  Those wedding day memories will be captured and ready for viewing in seconds.  So the “photographic honeymoon” will be over sooner than ever.  May your marriage be muck longer.

Ray Myers


Earlier this month a new book was published on Amazon as well as other online book publishing formats.  I authored one of the essays in this book: “Changed During the Sixties.” The book’s title is “Turning Points: Discovering Meaning and Passion in Turbulent Times.” I hope you will enjoy reading these essays about personal and professional transitions made during this time.


I will send out a Labor Day greeting next Monday, September 5, and will resume my weekly postings on a regular M-W-F basis on September 12.

Too Many Things for Men to Wear – Fashion or Image?

Believe me, I am no fashion critic, and I doubt that I am even “fashionable,” but enough about me.  It seems like the world of fashion is in turmoil these days thanks to the power and pervasiveness of social media in tracking the latest in fashion attire.  It apparently has the greatest impact on what men might choose to wear.  In the words of one esteemed fashion critic: “The present, at the moment, is in certain ways a pretty ugly place.”  Many of these “ways” we’re on full display in Milan at the recent 2017 Men’ Wear Spring-Summer Fashion Show.  

Many are pointing fingers at social media as being the culprit in this confusion about appropriate male attire.  I think you can simply go to sites like Google Images, Instagram or Pinterest to get an idea of the current cacophony of what men should wear.  Perhaps this commentary on the show by one reviewer will help describe it best: “he (one designer) has capitalized creatively on how people consume culture in the Internet era, rummaging for imagery and information, either ignorant or agnostic about the sources of signs and symbols, references and ideas.”  To be honest, I never really worried that much about my image over the years, other than that of being a bureaucrat which simply meant that I wore a tie with a suit or sportcoat every work day.  Such an “dress code” no longer seems to apply.

Maybe it’s all a good thing.  We are no longer slaves to convention or fashion.  Or are we still?

Ray Myers

In Your Face, Book – Internet Addiction Disorder?

The average American social media user spends about 50 minutes a day using popular communication platforms.  These include not only Facebook, but two other sites in their media family, Instagram and Messenger.  Most of these users are in the 18 – 34 age range prized by most media advertisers.  The measurement of time spent on any particular site has become the holy grail of digital media.  And finding ways to keep people on the site has become the most prized strategy or asset that potential advertiser can develop and employ. 

At the same time, some behavioral scientists are concerned that many people are developing Internet Addiction Disorder.  Although this “syndrome” is not an official medical designation of a behavioral disorder, it does seem to interfere with many other social interactions, and it does impact upon other media activities such as watching TV programs while sitting at home with family and friends.  Now you can do that by yourself with your handy mobile device wherever you maybe.  Those other people can be very distracting at times anyway.

FaceTime is great, and you really have control of when and where you use it.  It is a convenience that we would really find hard to live without, but it does depend on our technologically connectivity.  There are still also many other ways to keep up our human social connectivity.

Ray Myers

Tweet Like It’s 2007 or Not?

Unfortunately for all you Twitter fans, I don’t think you will be able to go back to the good old days (monthly growth is stalling).  I know we all had fun learning how to tweet with all our hashtags, acronyms, retweets, etc., but somehow we may be astonished to learn that people seem to prefer more explicit expressions of their own or other’s thoughts, comments, and ideas.  Blogging seems to be on the rise as one of the more expansive methods of online expression.   And of course there is always Instagram, FaceTime, YouTube and other apps that enable us to hear and see whatever the “message” may be.  Anybody remember Marshall McLuhan?  (You may want to look him up).

Twitter will never die, and I am confident that Jack Dorsey and company will figure out a way to stay competitive in the   crowded world of online messaging.  I think that the good news for all of us is that traditional language structure and expression has carved out a niche in our electronic age.  At least, let’s hope so.  Many friends and acquaintances, however, who are still teaching in both traditional and online settings, are concerned with students’ deteriorating writing skills.  And who will be the future English (or any language) teachers/writers of tomorrow?

I think they are out there, and we will all know them when we see (read) them.  So maybe Twitter’s waning popularity is not bad news.  It was certainly something that I learned to do at an advanced age (?).  It was fun and still is, but let’s remember that communication with one another is more than just sending out 140 character electronic messages.

Ray Myers

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?  Why Not Facebook or Instagram?

What a dilemma!  To be honest, I started tweeting before I tried Facebook or Instagram.  Now I am primarily using the latter two to “stay in touch.”  I use WordPress (TechtoExpress) to write this blog, and then have it posted to Twitter and Facebook.  Instagram is something that I like for more personal reasons of sharing photos with family and friends.  As newly developed social media platforms become available it seems that the trusty Twitter network does not have the same appeal that it used to.  Even Twitter’s Jack Dorsey has admitted that they “had lots of work to do to make the service easier for regular people.”

Now I consider myself a regular (albeit older) person interested in social media, and I largely spent the last three and a half years of my government service using Twitter to highlight the impact of technology in educational systems throughout the U.S., and in other countries.  In many ways, it was like learning a code that quickly developed its own abbreviations, acronyms, hashtags, etc., that could all be crafted into a 140 character tweet.  It was a new language, and before I retired from the Department of Education, we had a following of over 70,ooo worldwide.  I think the visual imagery that can be more easily shared on Facebook and Instagram do make them a media service “easier for regular people to use.”   Maybe social media’s use of visual imagery has more of a permanent appeal than the often confusing and changing code terms used by Twitter users?   These images also have a more universal appeal that transcends language differences.

I guess we will have to see what happens with Twitter.  The company has launched a campaign to work with developers in designing a new platform(s) that, I hope, would go beyond “0ne size fits all.”

Ray Myers

Social Media Wants to Make Your Connectivity More Commercial

Remember the days when you could go to a social media site like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and not have to worry about scrolling through online sales pitches.  Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your perspective and financial resources, you will now be seeing more “buy buttons” as you try to keep current in your social media world.  Pinterest calls them “buyable pins,” while Instagram prefers “shop now.”  What’s in a name anyway?

Social media experts estimate that one out of every five minutes spent on a mobile phone in the United States is devoted to Facebook or Instagram.  What a marketing opportunity!  But data collected so far does not support the commercial effectiveness of this social media strategy.  For this past holiday season, social channels accounted for 1.8 percent of overall online sales.  Over the same period in 2014, social media led to 1.9 percent of online sales.  One of the explanations offered by retailers is that there is a “conversion gap” on mobile devices, meaning that there has been a surge in the number of people browsing sites from mobile devices, but only a small share of them making purchases.  The biggest impediment appears to be the small screen size of the mobile device itself.  The checkout process has often been described as an inconvenient hassle.

So I guess that size really does matter when trying to make a purchasing decision digitally.  Who knows, you might even want to walk into a retail store and see the “real thing,” and have an unmediated social shopping experience?

Ray Myers

Instagram in the Art Gallery

“Every artwork is an Instagrammer’s dream come true.”  Now you can have your picture taken with you favorite work of art.  Well, at least at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.  Please have a look at #renwickgallery on your Instagram account.  Sorry, selfies are discouraged since the museum curator has declared them to be “kind of obnoxious.”  He wants you to be immersed in the work rather promoting this exhibit as a personal photo op.  

Renwick is now encouraging photography and believes that this policy is here to stay with possibly a few exceptions.  There are still museumgoers who like to see art the old-fashioned way, wanting to absorb the experience itself in real time rather than living through the camera.  They are concerned that the photographers are just cataloging the experience like “checking a box.”

So now you can choose whatever kind of museum experience you would like.  The only anecdotal data available to date suggests that when you take more detailed photos of the artwork, you actually remember more about it than if you take a more expansive zoomed-out shot.  Or you can still just look at the art and put your phone away?

Ray Myers

Obama Got Digital Identity!

Not only is he the country’s first black president, but now he is the first digital one!  Let’s just say he has created a digital presidential presence that wasn’t there before.  Obviously he and his team at the White House realize the value of using social media to connect with the American public.  Now there is an Office of Digital Strategy at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Roughly twenty aides spend their days managing his Twitter account and the White House Facebook page, Instagram account and YouTube channel. 

So many ways to “reach out” to everyday Americans if you have all the necessary tech tools, and the time?  Social media is becoming a very crowded place, and I am sure that Mr. Obama’s followers are voluminous.  But can social media really be persuasive?  My own view is that we use this media primarily for our own personal entertainment and edification, “following” only those messengers who reinforce our own personal, social, and political views.  Most people will search out where they will find those media sources that express only those opinions that coincide with their own, and tune out the others.

How many Republican followers do you think President Obama really has?  From what I have read, most disagreements with his social media postings have largely taken the form of personal attacks rather than substantive replies.  Maybe we will all learn to become more civil in the political social media world, and learn more about what we really need to know, regardless of whom the messenger may be.  Let’s hope so.

Ray Myers

Social Media Photos and Privacy

Or maybe “user engagement” is a better way to describe how companies use photos you may have posted on Instagram or Twitter in online advertisements for their products.  For many companies using these photos on their websites or Instagram accounts is simply seen as a simpler and faster way to create a marketing campaign.  But this practice is now being scrutinized under the lens of the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) in the U.S.

For use of photos of children under 13 years of age, verifiable parental consent must be obtained.  Advertisers, however, may not be aware of these requirements or simply choose to ignore them?   Parents may be contacted by some companies and paid for the use of the photos, but this practice does nor appear to be the general rule.   Some experts argue that this ambiguity is being driven by a growing thirst to document our daily lives on social media.

I am not so sure that I would like my daily life documented on social media.  If I did, would anyone really want to follow it, photos included.  I don’t really know, but as President Bush once said, maybe I am “misunderestimating” it?

Ray Myers

Vacation Envy?  Put Down Your Instagram!

IRI (In Real Life) is the cure.   Don’t get me wrong.  I am an Instagram fan.  How else would I get instant pictorial updates on my grandkids, and how my daughter and son-in-law are faring in the their family adventures in coastal New England.  It seems like the trick to all of this is not to become so envious of the lives of others as depicted on their Instagram accounts that you don’t enjoy your own..  The obvious appeal of vicariously sharing in the good times of the jet set as they party around the world is undeniable.   The downside, however, is that it also seems to make most people feel worse over all.

As in most things, there in a happy medium if you really want to live in the Instagram moments of others and still have terrific moments of your own.  Looking for a sense of well being over passively using Instagram to see what “real” fun everyone is having?  Then try this: experts advise that making time to interact face-to-face with other people, or talking to someone on the phone, will lead to a more enhanced sense of well being.

So have a real vacation of your own.  It’s still summer and Labor Day is still over two weeks away.  Have some real fun with real people.  “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby!”  IRI.

Ray Myers

Social Media Laureates?

So I was just reading about the awarding of the U.S. Poet laureate award to Juan Felipe Herrara, a very well-deserved honor to the first Latino to attain this prestigious position. Certainly well-deserved recognition for a man who has also worked as an actor, playwright and musician, in addition to receiving awards for fiction and nonfiction for young children and adults.

Now this makes me wonder if there will someday be awards given to social media commentators? Maybe the real question is whether this type of media is really literature after all. Probably not in the sense of traditional publications in print form, but the media of expression in the virtual world is much more an open platform.

Who will eventually decide what is worthy of national or international distribution when we all can become publishers of what we express through digital media?

Ray Myers