Oh! Oh God, I spent the last 8 hours on Facebook!!
When you text thousands of people seven times a day for a week, and ask them whether they have felt temptation recently, what do you get? A giant database of thousands of tiny vices and people’s own admissions—some true, some likely edited for the sake of vanity—of whether they caved.
According to researchers who recently performed just such a study, people’s biggest willpower failures related to checking things like Twitter or email. People were more able to control sexual urges or the desire to spend money than they were the desire to check social media (though we note that it may take two people contemporaneously caving for certain sexual urges to be considered indulged). Though the paper isn’t available online yet for us to check on this, the researchers told The Guardian that the number of times people were tempted by cigarettes, coffee, and alcohol was surprisingly low, and that the desire to check social media was much more frequently reported. The fact that media temptation came up so frequently, and was so often indulged, may be because unlike smoking, drinking, or spending gobs of money, checking Twitter or Facebook costs nothing and has no long-term downsides, like lung cancer, or insolvency.
Ah, that’s what scientists think. But we can tell you: Twitter is time cancer, devouring minutes and hours, indiscriminate in its hunger. Be wary of its cheerful glow and seeming innocence. If you spend your best years bathed in a flow of bite-sized information nuggets, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Though asking people to tell you whether they snuck a cigarette or checked Twitter isn’t a totally foolproof way to get an honest look at the temptation landscape, it sure generates an interesting salad of factoids. But we do wonder about the effects the study method had on the study results. The researchers collected this information through BlackBerrys they distributed to subjects. The devices could do nothing other than receive and send texts to the lab, but what if just having an extra gadget around makes you think more about checking your smartphone?
Image courtesy of Aleksandr Kurganov / shutterstock
It sounds like the deranged words of a conspiracy theorist: The U.S. military is (not so) secretly creating software that’ll generate phony online personae in order to subtly influence social media conversations and spread propaganda. But what may sound like wacky theory is actually wacky reality, or at least will soon be, depending on whether it’s already in the works.
Dubbed the “online persona management service,” this technology would enable a single soldier to assume upwards of 10 different identities. As United States Central Command Commander Bill Speaks told The Guardian, “The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US.”
Once developed, the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated messages, blogposts, chatroom posts and other interventions. Details of the contract suggest this location would be MacDill air force base near Tampa, Florida, home of US Special Operations Command. [The Guardian]
Said to be part of the Operation Earnest Voice (OEV) program, a psychological warfare weapon first used in Iraq to counter al-Qaida’s online followers, the goal of this latest project is twofold: To argue against extremist propaganda and to make sure “the world according to the U.S.” is heard. As General James Mattis told a Senate committee: “OEV seeks to disrupt recruitment and training of suicide bombers; deny safe havens for our adversaries; and counter extremist ideology and propaganda.” He added that Centcom was working with “our coalition partners” to develop new techniques and tactics the US could use “to counter the adversary in the cyber domain”. Read More
This 100-year-old tree wants to tell you about its day.
The tree, an English-speaking Belgian, shares pictures, videos, audio, and comments about it’s day to day life with the world via its website, twitter feed, and Facebook page. But don’t try to Facebook friend it right now—the tree is already over its friend limit.
The tree’s also outfitted with special sensors that detect the CO2, soot and ozone levels and also acts as a weather station, detecting local rainfall and temperature fluctuations. All of this information is transmitted to software which translates it into status updates like these examples on io9:
They analyze what the tree sees and senses, then translate that into updates like “Won’t be doing too much photosynthesis in this cloudy weather,” and “This ozone concentration makes it difficult to do my job.” It also advises people to ride their bikes on days with air pollution.
The information gathered by the tree’s sensors can also be used by researchers. Check out the making of the social-media tree video for more information on what went into the creation of this arboreal social media master.
Though the tree has to deal with the ups and downs of climate change, it is still pretty chipper as based on his social media slogan:
Hello! I’m a tree, and this is my feed. I’ll be online all day to keep you posted on how I feel.
Go where the flock goes: That seems to be the new message from the Vatican last Saturday, when Pope Benedict XVI sent a message instructing his priests to adopt a “new media mindset.” The pope encouraged his priests to use all the digital tools at their disposal to preach the Gospel, version 2.0. Expect to see more priests online engaging in dialogue with the faithful, and maybe even a priestly Facebook page or two.
The Washington Post reports:
The Vatican has tried hard to keep up to speed with the rapidly changing field. Last year it opened a YouTube channel as well as a portal dedicated to the pope. The Pope2You site gives news on the pontiff’s trips and speeches and features a Facebook application that allows users to send postcards with photos of Benedict and excerpts from his messages to their friends.
Whoever said money can’t buy friends is dead wrong…at least when it comes to the social networking site Facebook.
A new service called uSocial, which became available this week, offers the chance to purchase Facebook “friends” for the bargain price of $200 for 1,000 friends. If more is better (and more usually is), you can get 5,000 buds for the promotional rate of $654.30, lasting until mid-September.
Here’s how it works, according to the AP:
USocial logs in to a client’s Facebook profile or creates a new one. It seeks out people who would be a good fit—like car buffs if uSocial is trying to promote a specialty auto-parts company—and sends them friends requests tailored to that business. The requests don’t mention that uSocial is working on behalf of the business.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Facebook representatives say uSocial violates Facebook’s terms of service. They say that volunteering your account information makes the site less secure, and that doling out friend requests for someone else—as the uSocial service does—makes the social networking site less authentic. Plus, some critics warn that random”friend” requests could potentially really irritate Facebook users.
Sure, receiving “friend” requests from someone you’ve never met can get pretty annoying. But is Facebook really that authentic in the first place? Ask the person who has 2,000 so-called “friends”—no matter how they acquired them.
Discoblog: Stole a Piece of the Internets? Prepare to Be Arrested.
Discoblog: Worst Science Article of The Week: Twitter Will Make You Eeevil
Discoblog: Twitter to Replace World History in England Schools
Image: flickr / 4_eveR_younG
Have you seen Wired writer Evan Ratliff in the past few weeks? We’re guessing the answer is no—otherwise, we assume you would’ve claimed your $5,000 prize.
That’s because Ratliff is doing his best to keep his whereabouts unknown (even to friends and family) until Sept. 15. The goal of the stunt is to demonstrate how easy it can be to disappear under the radar, even in the digital age. ABC News reports:
[Ratliff] must stay hidden for one month with a bounty over his head.
But to keep things interesting, Ratliff can’t go entirely off the grid. Like any digital denizen, he has to keep up with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and make at least the occasional cell phone call or credit card transaction.
By posting those digital breadcrumbs to the contest’s online page, Wired hopes sleuths both high-tech and low will be enticed to join the hunt. Already, hundreds — maybe thousands — have taken the bait, populating Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and comment threads with tips and teasers about his whereabouts.
Ratliff apparently got the idea while writing about Matthew Alan Sheppard, who disappeared in an attempt to escape financial ruin. Wired‘s plot seems a little gimmicky, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t curious about where he is—and who (if anyone) will be able to track him down before time runs out.
Discoblog: My Water Broke! Time to Twitter!
Discoblog: Want a Job at Best Buy? Better Have 250 Twitter Followers
Discoblog: Twitter Used to Test Our “Psychic Abilities”
Image: flickr / Si1Very