Facebook: A Tool Not Evil

Facebook is just a thing.  A tool.  Something on the internet that someone though up to try to serve a function.  You may or may not like that function, but that is just what it is.   Right now a lot of people use Facebook because it works to fill their needs.  In fact, social media is constantly changing and updating and the way that you use it may be completely different than the way someone else does.

One day there may be something else that we decide to use.  But the thing is Facebook itself is not evil.  It may be a time suck for some, allowing them to drift into a world entirely (dis) connected to the one apart from the screen, but the thing itself is not a time suck.

People get distracted because they don’t practice not getting distracted.  I mean yes, there are links to the way something works and patterns of behavior, I mean why do you think that grocery stores are all laid out similarly or the same musak is playing when you call the doctor or the IRS? But it is still an individuals responsibility to face their choices and make decisions as to how they behave if they wish to live the life they want to live.

We are not taught this in school though.  No one sat me down and explained that behavior was based on pattern and that I was responsible for making sure I developed that habits that I wanted.  Sometimes it is a struggle to remember this self-empowerment when faced with hours cycling through statuses, likes, and comments.  If I am owned by the social media itself it is my choice.  AND I have the ability to make a different choice.  For if truly we are out of control when it comes to decisions that persuasive advertising and things that make us behave certain ways should not allowed to exist, no?

As a tool, Facebook makes decisions that it wishes because people continue to use it and amazing things are happening because of this access.  Live stream meditation or injustice as it unfolds.  Use it to promote your event.  Share news with family and friends worldwide.  None of these actions are inherently wrong.  People who choose not to go on are making their choice.  People who choose to take breaks are making their choice.  Neither is wrong.

Addictive behaviors and why we seek them have nothing to do with the tools available to us.  They have to do with how we are hard wired in this world.  The internet is born of how we interact with it, not to manipulate it but because we understand ourselves so well.  

So use Facebook and perhaps instead of railing on, think of the ways in which you can cultivate a healthy relationship with this tool instead of blaming it for the choices that you make.  And in the end maybe take a look at yourself and what you are avoiding looking at in the first place that drive overuse?

Gamifying Create Better Impact Games

Create Better Impact LogoSo as you may know Create Better Impact Games is my company.  I design games around making the world a better place which I know will one day be worthy of winning awards from Games for Change. Right now, this is a little tiny company with a little tiny budget.  Not that one day it won’t be able to hold its own with the big boys, but for now marketing is not the top priority.

As I got ready to bring Waste Not to market using an Indiegogo Campaign I had to think seriously about how to approach marketing. While I have a lot of people in my contacts I couldn’t be sure who would actually have natural interest and who might need some convincing.

Being a game designer I tried to think of ways to make liking or signing up on social media fun and engaging to the community.  This process is called gamification and everyone and their mother is currently trying to apply it to their web presence.  I am lucky that it is part of my natural reaction to communications.

Waste Not Logo
What are you going to do with it?

Back to the point.  There I was at the start of a campaign trying to raise money to print Waste Not.  My Facebook page for both CBI Games and Waste Not were relatively new with little to now following, I had just begun a Twitter presence for Waste Not, and I had nothing on Google+.  So in response I decided to give away a version of my game for free via social media.  You heard me, for free.

I figured that if people got a chance to play the game, even if slightly different interactions than with having a deck of cards, that they’d be more likely to ‘like’ and engage with the marketing of the brand.  In this case, I was seeking to let the game speak for itself.

Now I’ve been going forward with the understanding that this deck of cards will be able to be used in many ways.  That will always happen when you give someone a flexible tool, is that they will begin to bend it and play with it.  In fact many of the stories that we know from childhood have changed over the centuries.  The basic story is still there to communicate the archetypal hero/ine’s journey but the details change.

Well that’s exactly what I’m seeing happening with Waste Not on Social Media.  While the instructions were to share the status so that others could see what you were liking and playing people tended to comment on the Waste Not status.  While this did not garner the amazing viral experience I was hoping for, I did get the benefit of seeing how people began to play the game.  And let me tell you it was fun!  Yes, my games are fun for me too.  Especially when I get to watch others play.

While I’ve let go of the control over the rules and will continue to allow for this project to flow and grow, I’m glad that I undertook this experiment in the gamification of my own marketing.  I think overall those that played did have fun and many of them played several times.  What I’m seeing now is a small but committed group of people who are totally engaged.  I’d prefer this any day to a large, unengaged group.  My hypothesis is that as long as I follow the same theory of engagement that as the following grows it may be smaller initially but they will be more valuable relationships.

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

I went out to the mailbox yesterday and tucked in with the immediately to be recycled junk mail was a hand addressed letter.  I opened it wondering what I might find and it was a real letter.  This full page missive from my uncle in Florida was a wonderful treat and had me smiling the rest of the day.

I like to write letters, but don’t do so very often now.  I did more when I was younger; my grandparents and other family would send letters periodically and then there were also friends who lived far away with whom I could correspond.  Also, as I remember it, Pen Pals were all the rage in the 80’s.  I know I had at least one Pen Pal in school and I think one that I found on my own.  My connection with them was short lived, however, and I doubt if a single letter remains in my memory box as a reminder.   Continue reading “The Lost Art of Letter Writing”

Cultivating Gratitude

Have you ever noticed how when you are happy everything seems to go better?  Maintaining a mentality of love and gratitude can help keep you in this space.  To use a gardening metaphor: learning to cultivate a landscape of gratitude in your life will allow you to reap happiness far more often than focusing on what isn’t working.

So in honor of Thanksgiving here are some tips and ideas which will help plant the seeds for your garden of gratitude to grow strong. Continue reading “Cultivating Gratitude”


My Facebook status reads: Taxes
Steve responds: Spends

As I tried to think of a funny way to continue this conversation the words that came to mind were ‘Drains’ or ‘Exhausts.’  While debating, my internal semantics critic began to shout.  “Do you realize,” the critic asked “that all of those words are about draining and taking away?!” Continue reading “Taxes”

Leveraging Technology to Change the World

Randy Paynter of Care 2 brings up a good point when he says that businesses no longer controls their brand or marketing. This is because of the increasing interactions and communications in the digital world which are not controllable by an organization. He points out that today’s purchasing habits allow consumers to access reviews and alternative products with just a few clicks. In the past glossy advertising guided the public perception of a product, but today consumers are no longer limited to canned marketing campaigns medium to inform their opinions.

Leveraging Technology

Randy maintains that this massive shift in power from the seller to the buyer comes in part from the plethora of choices, thereby creating a commodity of any product. In order to achieve brand success he touts the importance of differentiating a product as well as influencing the conversations surrounding it. He suggests that we need to create and engage ‘fanatical evangelists’ to build and communicate brands online.
Listen to the full session here

Steve Newcomb has high aspirations. His company, “Virgance, is a startup incubator that finds great ideas and turns them into companies that change the world. Steve wondered if he could “break the rules and build companies that do good.” His commitment to 100% transparency puts him in front of the public so that they can ask any question about how business is conducted.

Steve has approached the idea of sustainability as he would any market sector and he sees the market opportunity as enormous. The change needed will require not a single Apollo-sized project by hundreds. Seeking to change the very nature of capitalism, Virgance companies adhere to five tenets:

  1. “Cause as much direct and measurable change as possible.”
  2. “Always use the carrot and never use the stick.”
  3. “Use technology and the powers of social networks to get the job done.”
  4. “Have business models that allow these businesses to be self-sustaining.”
  5. “Try to involve and empower people to make the change.”

But the plenary wouldn’t have been complete without Malika Chopra, who began the session by guiding the SVN community in a beautiful mediation of gratitude, showing her heritage as the daughter of internationally renowned, Deepak Chopra. While her childhood exposure to the self-help arena and her presence around people who were on a journey of self-exploration, Malika’s early interests steered her to work for MTV initially. But it was while in Bombay that she had a change of heart after seeing a group of barefoot children huddled around a TV watching MTV. “Oh my God, what am I doing?” was all she could think and she decided to quit MTV the next day.

Today, Malika spends her time building a community on Intent, a sanctuary on the web for users to share their intentions and dreams with each other. Malika, a self-proclaimed “social media maven,” has a unique perspective on things because she is coming at it from the perspective of a mother and a woman.

Both Malika and Steve remind us that powerful movements and changes have been created through the use of blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Activities like ‘flash mobs,’ ‘tweet storms,’ and ‘carrot mobs’ can or have been used to create positive social change. The energy generated by this group’s discussion seemed to electrify the air, and that crackling interest will likely lead many of the participants to delve further into their own use of social media in order to create change.

(Facebook) breaking up is hard to do…

My ‘friends’ on Facebook include colleagues, former students, family, friends, people I met once and though were cool, et cetera.  They are the people I know some very well and other not.  Consequentially, I tend to keep my page and information to what I wouldn’t mind the public knowing even though my information is only visible to ‘friends.’

When I decided to change my status to ‘In a relationship with…’ I was thrilled to be in the beginning of a new relationship.  Happy and in love, I had no problem sharing this information with my Facebook friends via social media.

I had never felt upset changing something I had publicly posted, until it the breakup.  The relationship crashed with little warning and one of the first things I had to confront was the change my public status.  It was so early on that the last time anything had been said, I was happy.  UGH!  I don’t want to have to publicly dump myself!  But I certainly wanted to be the one in control of the process and get to it before he could.

My first line of attack, I decided to go from ‘In a relationship’ to ‘Single’ and immediately erased the update so that I could keep my hurt as private as possible.  Then I realized that I could just make the relationship section go away and not have to say single by setting the status to (blank) so I went in to make that change.

Instead of the desired quiet and solitude I started getting comments like  “Congrats! Who’s the new person in your life?” or “Ooh do tell!”  It was then that I realized that when I changed my status from Single to nothing at all, Facebook sent out something to my friends saying that I was no longer single, which they interpreted to mean that I was in a relationship.  In a panic that my private breakup was getting very public I erased the update as soon as I could.  Fortunately, this quickly made additional well wishers go away.

I was ready to get over it on my own, which is what I wanted in the first place, and then every time I logged in the feed from my ex’s page would pop up.  His friends kept saying how sorry they were to hear.  They assumed he had been dumped and were comforting him.  It made me want to scream “He dumped me!  He shouldn’t get condolences for being an idiot!!”  but I held back.  Post after post.  They wondered if I had worn crocs (a major fashion faux pas to him.)  Everything I had tried to avoid in erasing my status update was still in my face.  If we were no longer friends I could have turned away by unfriending him, but I didn’t.

In the end I coped by hiding his updates and erasing the update that said I was no longer single.

If you too want to have an extremely private, public break-up here’s what you have to do:

How to hide the jerk’s updates (don’t worry this can be undone in the case you make the mistake of getting back together)

1) To the right of an update from the the person who you are trying to block there is a box that appears that when you scroll over it.

2) Click on the word ‘Hide’ and then again on ‘Hide (person’s name)’

How to change your relationship status so that none but a Facebook stalker might know.

1) Go to the box on your profile on the left that says ‘Information and click on the pencil in the right corner.

2) Go down to and click on ‘Edit Information’

3) Under Relationship status change the line to be blank.  This will hid your relationsip status in the Information portion of your profile.

4) Finish editing/ save changes

5) Go to your profile and next to the update that touts your new realtionship status a ‘remove’ button will appear to the right when scrolled over  (just like the ‘Hide’ feature). Click on it.

Now go buy some fair trade chocolate, read a good book or go for a hike and move on.  He/she wasn’t worth your time in the first place!