A booming WhatsApp posts mixed message as strong rivals emerge in Asia; War of the Apps heats up in China



What’s inside WhatsApp?

WhatsApp: A booming smartphone message service

SAN FRANCISCO – WhatsApp was launched five years ago as a shot at doing to text messaging what Skype did to telephone calls.

If Facebook’s move to buy the startup in a cash-and-stock deal valued as high as US$19 billion (S$24 billion) is any indication, the California-based WhatsApp may have hit the mark.

The firm founded by former Yahoo employees Brian Acton and Jan Koum in 2009 took its name from a play on the phrase “What’s Up,” according to its website.

They also devoted themselves to a credo of “No Ads. No Games. No Gimmicks.”

A note stating just that and signed by Acton remains taped to Koum’s desk, according to venture capital firm Sequoia, which invested in the startup early and stands to cash in big time on the Facebook take-over.

The “contrarian approach” of gathering no information about users for targeting ads was shaped by Ukraine-born Koum’s aversion to tactics of secret police in communist countries, Sequoia partner Jim Goetz said in an online note.

“Jan’s childhood made him appreciate communication that was not bugged or taped,” Goetz said.
“When he arrived in the US as a 16-year-old immigrant living on food stamps, he had the extra incentive of wanting to stay in touch with his family in Russia and the Ukraine.”

Koum remained true to those ideas when, after working at Yahoo with his “mentor” Acton, he turned to building WhatsApp, according to Goetz.

The stated mission was to build a better alternative to traditional SMS messaging in a world where smartphones were clearly becoming ubiquitous.

The founders jokingly described themselves at the website as “two guys who spent combined 20 years doing geeky stuff at Yahoo! Inc.”

WhatsApp is a platform for sending images, video, audio, or text messages for free over the Internet using data connections of smartphones.

The application is free, but after using it for a year, there is an annual subscription fee of 99 US cents.

“We feel that this model will allow us to become the communications service of the 21st century, and provide you the best way to stay in touch with your friends and family with no ads getting in the way,” the startup said in a blog post discussing pricing.

WhatsApp is reported to have grown stunningly fast to more than 450 million users and said to handle 50 billion messages daily.

As of the start of this year, WhatsApp had 50 employees, more than 30 of them engineers. While the company has its headquarters in the California city of Mountain View, where Google has its main campus, most of the engineering work is reportedly done in Russia. – AFP

In Asia, WhatsApp posts mixed message for Facebook

Singapore: WhatsApp may be hugely popular but its forays into Asia, the world’s biggest mobile market, have had mixed success, raising questions about whether it can sustain the explosive growth Facebook Inc cited to justify its $19 billion price tag.
Data from app metric company App Annie, for example, shows that WhatsApp ranks as the top communications app in only three of 13 Asian countries tracked – Hong Kong, India and Singapore.
“WhatsApp has been a strong player in Asia, but in the past year has faced strong competition from LINE and WeChat,” said Neha Dharia, India-based analyst for Ovum, a technology consultancy. “WhatsApp has not been displaced by these players, but has seen stiff competition in growing its market share.”

Facebook said on Wednesday it would buy WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock, in a deal worth more than Facebook raised in its own IPO. [ID:nL3N0LO52J]

For sure, WhatsApp has been phenomenally successful. For many users it has replaced sending costly texts, or SMS messages. Since its launch in 2009 it has built an active monthly user base of 450 million users.
A survey by marketing and research company Jana found WhatsApp to be the most used messaging app in all the countries it surveyed – India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico – beating competitors by a huge margin.
The reason: users most prize the basic functions it offers – ad-free chat and photo sharing.
WhatsApp subscribers sent 18 billion messages a day in January. The overall market is growing rapidly: According to Ovum, 27.4 trillion such messages were sent last year; this year that figure will be close to 69 trillion.
CHINA CALLING
By hooking up, Facebook and WhatsApp may be able to take on those markets that have been elusive to Facebook so far. With Facebook blocked in China, and lagging Twitter Inc and Naver Corp’s LINE in Japan, WhatsApp “is a potential avenue for Facebook” into those markets, said Vincent Stevens, a senior manager for telecoms consultancy Delta Partners.

Forrester, a consultancy, forecasts that China will have more than 500 million smartphones this year.

And in the fast growing smartphone market of India, says Neil Shah, research director of devices and ecosystems at Counterpoint Research, local users now account for almost 9 percent of total active WhatsApp users around the world – some 40 million of them.

But Facebook and WhatsApp face formidable foes. Where once messaging apps were simply about messaging, now Tencent Holdings Ltd’s WeChat, LINE and KakaoTalk offer a slew of additional services, from icons and games to buying goods and services.

“LINE and the others are very different to WhatsApp. They’re much more innovative in the business models they engage in,” says Michael Vakulenko of VisionMobile, a UK-based consultancy. “They are innovating much faster than WhatsApp and going in a different direction.”

This could prove decisive in Asia – the biggest battleground for social messaging apps – where no single player dominates.
Data from market research company Nielsen, for example, showed BlackBerry Messenger as the most downloaded messaging app in Indonesia last October, the latest data available, while Viber, bought by Japanese online retailer Rakuten Inc for $900 million last week, was the most popular in the Philippines, and LINE in Thailand.
WhatsApp was third in Indonesia, second in Malaysia and not in the top-10 in the Philippines or Thailand. And while locals say WhatsApp remains the default messaging app in Indonesia, some notice a shift.

FICKLE FORTUNES

Jerry Justianto, who runs a radio station network in Jakarta, says he’s noticing fewer of his friends using WhatsApp than before. “I think it’s reached a plateau in Indonesia,” he said. “I see a lot of WhatsApp accounts in my list are inactive.”

A survey by market research firm On Device Research late last year found that while nearly two thirds of Indonesians surveyed had installed WhatsApp, less than half used it at least once a week, compared to three quarters of Brazilians who had installed it.

Part of the problem, Justianto says, is that WhatsApp’s approach of linking accounts to a phone number doesn’t suit Indonesians who change their SIM card frequently. “Some of my early adopter friends are moving to Telegram messenger, where you can activate multiple devices with one number.”

Telegram, which offers much the same features as WhatsApp, is evidence of the fickleness of users. The app is free and heavily encrypted, and is popular in some countries. In Spain, for example, it has risen from its launch last year to be the No.1 communications app in Google’s Play store, at the expense of WhatsApp, according to App Annie data.

This, said one executive at a handset company in Spain, was partly because of a viral campaign among users to switch, and partly because many users dumped WhatsApp before they were charged at the end of their first, free year.
GETTING USERS TO USE MORE
Across Asia, the fragmentation is evident to users such as Martin Tomlinson, Asia Pacific director for On Device Research, who says he has installed at least six messaging apps for work: “I need to have at least three of these on my phone because that’s how my clients communicate.”
LINE, for example, considers its top markets as not only Japan but also Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. Now, says Simeon Cho, general manager at LINE Plus, which handles LINE’s ex-Japan business, the goal is less about winning new users than getting existing ones to use the app more frequently.
Kakao, which started the KakaoTalk messenger service in 2010 and has since grown rapidly to 130 million users, said it was also focusing heavily on Southeast Asia, where there is relatively low smartphone penetration and no dominant messenger service.
And for China’s Tencent, KakaoTalk and LINE are more of a threat overseas than WhatsApp, as the company’s WeChat expansion is focused on Southeast Asia.
WhatsApp would only pose a serious threat if the likes of Tencent were to expand farther west. “This means it’s now going to be more difficult for LINE to win in North America and Europe,” said Serkan Toto, a Tokyo-based technology consultant.

 - By Jeremy Wagstaff Reuters

Facebook deal sends message to WhatsApp’s Asia rivals

HONG KONG – Facebook’s stunning US$19 billion (S$24 billion) deal for messaging service WhatsApp places the social network in an arena where competition is fierce, particularly in Asia, where fast-growing chat rivals dominate their home markets.

The multi-billion dollar valuation of WhatsApp is based on expectations that its 450 million monthly users will eventually pass one billion, powering the social network’s drive into the fast- growing mobile space – particularly in emerging markets, where the simplicity of the messaging app can thrive on less expensive phones.

But it is not the only service gaining traction around the world, particularly in parts of Asia, where players such as WeChat in China, Kakao Talk in South Korea and Line in Japan dominate – and, according to analysts, show greater potential for making money given their different products and strategies.

While WhatsApp, which is free to download but charges users US$1 per year, is popular in some Asian markets such as Hong Kong and Singapore, services such as Line, WeChat and Kakao have also expanded around the region and beyond.

“Mobile-messaging apps are growing fast in Asia,” noted Elinor Leung and Seung-Joo Ro in a report for regional brokerage CLSA.

“While Facebook dominates the US, mobile-messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Line and WeChat have rapidly taken over Asian SNS (social networking service) markets, especially in the emerging markets.”

WhatsApp currently has a larger base than each of the three Asian services but they are growing fast, particularly when it comes to emerging markets, where smartphones or less expensive “feature” phones are seeing explosive growth.

CLSA noted that “Asian mobile-messaging apps like Tencent’s WeChat and Naver Corp.’s Line should be valued at a premium to WhatsApp with their wider service offerings and higher revenue potential from games to e-commerce and payment.”

WeChat is currently valued by CLSA at US$35 billion and Line at US$14 billion.

Global social messaging volumes are expected to reach 69 trillion and subscribers to such services 1.8 billion by the end of 2014, according to data from market research firm Ovum.

“In SouthEast Asia there is a huge tussle for market share,” Neha Dharia of Ovum told AFP.

“WhatsApp will be able to claim the Facebook share of those markets as well, making it hard for these other guys to grow.”

WeChat

WeChat, or “Weixin” in Chinese, is a free instant messaging and social media mobile application developed by Chinese Internet giant Tencent and officially launched in January 2011.

It has not only become a popular mobile communications tool in China – where Facebook is mostly blocked and WhatsApp usage is comparatively low – but has also attracted tens of millions of users in overseas markets.

The Facebook deal values active WhatsApp users at US$42 a piece. According to analysts with Japan’s Mizuho bank, WeChat is worth twice that amount “on the back of its gaming, [commerce] and mobile payment potential”.

WeChat’s number of monthly active users worldwide reached 272 million by the end of September last year, more than doubling from a year earlier amid a drive to attract more users in countries such as India, Spain and South Africa.

WeChat provides text, photo, video and voice messaging services on major mobile platforms. It also offers games, online payments and taxi booking.

Line

Launched in 2011 as an instant message and free voice call app, Line – whose parent company is South Korea’s Naver Corp. – has grown to 350 million users worldwide and aims to hit 500 million this year.

Its user-friendly interface and voice communication capacity have helped it become one of most successful apps in Japan, while also seeing popularity in Thailand, Taiwan, Spain and Latin America.

The app is best known for “stickers” – cartoon-like images purchased by users, sales of which are core to Line’s revenues.

Kakao Talk

Launched in 2010, Kakao Talk is used by 95 per cent of South Korea’s smartphone users and boasts 130 million users worldwide. It is reported to be preparing for an initial public offering next year that could value it at US$2 billion.

The free app allows users to send messages, pictures, soundbites and video via the Internet, either on WiFi or through cellphone networks.

Gifts can be bought using Kakao’s online shopping facilities, a feature that helped push revenue last year to 230 billion won (US$215 million) from 46 billion won a year ago.

It is eyeing Southeast Asian markets including Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia where it is fighting for market share against Line and WeChat.

Viber

Developed by Cyprus-based Viber Media, which was founded in 2010, the service boasts 280 million users and was recently purchased by Japanese IT firm Rakuten for US$900 million – or roughly US$3 per user. It allows free text messages and phone calls as well as video messaging. It recently launched a service allowing desktop users to call non-Viber users’ mobile phones, in a challenge to Skype, owned by Microsoft.

Analysts have questioned whether it can make more money from customers in the same way that the likes of Line and WeChat have, leading to Rakuten’s share price plunging as much as 13 per cent on the first trading day after it announced the deal.

- AFP

War of the apps heats up in China
In the Battle between the two Chinese Internet giants Alibaba and Tencent, the consumers are the real winners.
AlibabaTencentRAISING a hand to flag down a taxi by the streets could be passé in China, or at least in the eyes of the taxi booking app developers.

Two popular mobile apps, Kuaidi Dache and Didi Dache (“dache” means taking the taxi), make it possible for passengers to hail a cab without flailing an arm, but just tapping on their smart phones.

The war between the two apps, which are backed by Chinese Internet giants Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings Ltd respectively, has gotten more intense this week.

On Monday, Didi Dache announced that it was going to revive its 10-yuan (RM5.42) rebate programme for users who book a cab and pay via Tencent’s instant messaging app Wechat.

Every passenger is entitled to receive a subsidy of 10 yuan each trip, for up to three trips a day.

For taxi drivers in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hangzhou, a reward of 10 yuan awaits for up to 10 bookings they successfully respond to through Didi Dache.

Cabbies in other cities will receive 5 yuan (RM2.71) for the first five trips and 10 yuan for the next five trips.

To prevent users from cheating, Didi Dache said it would block passengers and drivers who reach mutual agreements to use the app only after the passengers get into the cabs, with the motive of earning the rebates.

Didi Dache reportedly poured in 1bil yuan (RM542.18mil) for this round of subsidy.

Kuaidi Dache was quick to follow up with an “always-one-yuan-more” reward.

Users who hail a cab through its app and pay via Alibaba’s mobile payment service Alipay Wallet were promised that they would always enjoy one yuan more than users of its competitor.

It is not the first time these two apps are using these tactics to entice users.

In January, Didi Dache rolled out the 10-yuan rebate promotion, prompting Kuaidi Dache to offer the same rebate in response.

When Didi Dache reduced the 10-yuan incentive by half on Feb 10, Kuaidi Dache seized the chance to announce that it would retain the 10-yuan offer.

Now that Didi Dache has readjusted the rebate back to 10 yuan, Kuaidi Dache has decided to have the upper hand by pledging “always-one-yuan-more”.

However, just a day after these announcements were made, Didi Dache upped the rebate once again. Passengers would now receive between 12 yuan and 20 yuan (RM6.51 and RM10.84) per trip.

Kuaidi Dache followed suit to offer a subsidy of at least 13 yuan (RM7.05) per trip.

While Didi Dache offered 10,000 free trips a day to lucky passengers, Kuaidi Dache pledged 15,000 free trips a day.

It appeared that there was no end to this intense price war.

This “war” between the two apps is only one segment of the fierce rivalry between the two Internet companies, Tencent and Alibaba.

Tencent owns Wechat while Alibaba has developed a similar app known as “Laiwang”.

Alibaba bought 18% stake of the popular Twitter-like service Sina Weibo last year, which is the contender of Tencent’s Wechat.

Last week, Alibaba offered to purchase mobile mapping app AutoNavi. Tencent, meanwhile, already has a mapping service that boasts a similar function to Google’s Street View.

This latest contest in the taxi-booking app was seen as a tactic to encourage smart phone users to adopt the habit of using mobile payments.

During the just-concluded Chinese New Year holiday, Wechat users went gaga over the electronic angpao.

They had to first link their bank accounts to Wechat before they could give or receive money among their circle of friends.

According to Beijing Times, from the eve until the eighth day of Chinese New Year, more than 40 million angpao were handed out in the activity participated by more than eight million people.

Even Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma described the phenomenon as a “Pearl Harbour attack”.

In a poll on finance.ifeng.com, 70.42% of some 5,600 respondents felt that the war of taxi booking apps between Tencent and Alibaba was not a vicious competition.

Almost half of them believed that what mattered most at the end of the day was the product experience.

They were of the opinion that the company with the better service would prevail, in contrast to only 23.38% of the respondents who predicted that the one with bigger financial capability would eventually be declared the winner.

With the two giants locking horns and trying to outdo each other, many believed that the consumers are the biggest beneficiaries.

The rebates did not have a reported deadline. Until the cash rewards are withdrawn, users can continue to enjoy the subsidies to save some pennies.

Contributed  by Tho Xin Yi The Star/Asia News Network

Related posts:
1. WhatsApp deal dwarfs other high-profile Tech acquisitions 
2. Tech players race to widen reach !

Tech players race to widen reach !


WhatsApp_fb2
WhatsApp_growth
Facebook goes the distance to widen reach 

IN the age of connectivity, what sells a technology company is not its system nor its employees, but the reach it has throughout the world.

Making news over the past few days has been the Facebook-WhatsApp deal, sealed at a whopping offer of US$19bil.

It is the biggest deal year-to-date and has set yet another stratospheric benchmark in the arena of tech deals. The deal pushed 2014’s total tech deals to US$50bil, the highest since 2000.

Google, which contended for WhatsApp as well, lost the acquisition battle with an offer about half the amount Facebook was willing to fork out – US$10bil.

Facebook is hungry for reach, and it has proven in the tech arena that it is willing to go the distance to get it.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was reported to have told a conference call that it was Facebook’s explicit strategy to focus on growing and connecting everyone in the world over the next several years.

“And then we believe that once we get to being a service that has one billion, two billion, maybe even three billion people one day, there are many clear ways that we can monetise.

“But the right strategy we believe, is to continue focusing on growth and the product and succeeding in building the best communication tools in the world.”

Yes, pay for your customers first, then ease them into paying you.

To depict how valuable a company’s reach or user base is, take a look at Viber’s valuations when it was sold to global Internet services company Rakuten just a week ago.

With 105 million monthly active users, the messaging app company got acquired at US$900mil or US$8.57 per user.

In comparison, WhatsApp was bought at the price of US$42 per user for its big pool of 450 million monthly active users. And this number is expected to grow over the next few years.

As tech website CNet puts it: Facebook (has) demonstrated (that) valuations can rise or fall dramatically based on how large a base of users you command.

In the meantime, game company King Digital Entertainment is also looking to list on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company behind addictive mobile game, Candy Crush, said on Tuesday it planned to raise US$500mil from an initial public offering. In the last quarter of 2013, the game had 12.2 million monthly unique players.

Going public is said to be gainful for the company’s founders, as they only raised US$9mil of funding since it was founded in 2002.

Some tech deals have been bungled too, such as in social game company Zynga’s case.

Zynga, which is also listed, rose with meteoric success in its first years of business buying as many as 11 companies when it turned a profit in 2010. However, its success fizzled out as it failed to move into the mobile gaming space, even with its acquisition of the once-popular Draw Something game app.

While Zynga focused on developing games for Facebook (names like Farmville and Mafia Wars come to mind) and the desktop, games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush outran them on mobile devices.

There are also older examples of missed and misused opportunities like Yahoo! overlooking the competition from Google or MySpace losing its appeal under the wings of NewsCorp.

An extensive reach or user base creates the pulse in the economy of the virtual world, and the pulse is sustained by being in touch with user experience and trends.

As the entrepreneur spirit demands a courage to take on risks, technoprenuers like Zuckerberg have to surely keep an eye out for competitors worth bagging to expand their social network empires.

The race for reach continues.

Contributed by Liz Lee The Star/Asia News Network

Related post:
WhatsApp deal dwarfs other high-profile Tech acquisitions

Don’t be ‘that’ person on social media: tips and best practices


Social media get noticed not blocked_Twitter
BE MORE COURTEOUS: Following someone on social media is a lot like dating, therefore one should follow certain rules of etiquette. — AFP

For me, following someone on social media is a lot like dating. I like to learn a little about them first before going all the way.

When I follow someone, it’s because I liked what they were sharing or appreciated what they had to say.

But not everyone is follow material. Some people are boring, annoying and predictable. And some make mistakes that leave us scratching our heads in sheer bewilderment.

So here are a few tips and best practices to not only get you more followers, but to get you noticed instead of blocked.

• May I have your attention? Please!   

Instead of telling me what you’re doing, tell me what has your attention. Way back when Twitter had that new car smell, it got a bad rap because everyone was posting that they were eating. Or thinking about eating. I don’t care about that, but I might care if you have photos of an amazing gourmet meal. In other words, what has your attention vs. the obvious.

As Doc Brown said in the Back to the Future movies, “Marty! You’re not thinking fourth-dimensionally!” Thinking fourth-dimensionally makes social media fun.

• Not everyone cares about your schedule: Scheduling tweets or Facebook posts isn’t the worst thing you can do, but scheduling something at an inopportune time is.

There are countless examples of brands and people that had tweets set up during tragedies such as the Sandy Hook school shooting and the Boston Marathon bombings. I had an e-mail exchange with someone after Boston who defended it with, “Oh, I had that set up loooooooong before it happened.” Well, you know what? That’s not a valid excuse. You are responsible for every message you send, whether it’s automated or not. Also, scheduling tweets that far in advance can be a recipe for trouble. Be aware of what’s going on around you at all times, and make sure the message you are sending is the right one.

• Let me be direct — or not: One of the things that annoys me most on Twitter is the automatic direct message.

You know, when you follow an account and you get a tweet immediately that goes something like this: “You are awesome. Let’s be awesome together. Tell me the things that make you happy.” Besides the fact that no one talks like this and I have little interest in talking about what makes me happy with someone I just met, the automatic direct message is lazy and it’s not social.

The real-life equivalent is screening a call and letting it go to voicemail. One is more convenient, but the other is appreciated. This is social media, folks. Show me the real you, not some watered-down version. Be social.

Keeping these three things in mind when you share on social media can be the difference between being just another follow and a superstar

By SCOTT KLEINBERG . — McClatchy-Tribune Information Services 

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Deactivate your Facebook account!


Facebook_MalaysianMalaysians have firmly entrenched Facebook in their lives

Did you know that Malaysians have the most number of Facebook friends in the world? A British research agency, TNS, revealed that on average Malaysians have 233 Facebook friends and spend roughly nine hours a week on Facebook. What a lot of time indeed!

Before proudly shouting Malaysia Boleh!, think about what this actually means. Facebook has become an integral part of our lives like nasi lemak, hence we need to fully understand its consequences before it becomes an enemy. Only a fraction of your Facebook friends are your actual friends.

It has become to easy to be Facebook friends with anyone. The list includes your neighbour’s best friend’s sister whom you once met at a Christmas party. The time spent on Facebook per week is disturbing. If today’s youth spend hours communicating online, what is the impact on their real life communication and social skills?

THE PERILS OF FACEBOOK

As we all know, online communication is a distant, disfigured cousin of face-to-face communication. Communication is a delicate tool with many layers to it.

To start off, there is verbal and non-verbal communication. This consists of spoken words, pauses, hand gestures, facial expressions, body language, vocal variety and intonation.

Facebook, like many other platforms of online communication, is a different ball game altogether. An entire conversation can take place without even a single properly constructed sentence. For that matter, an entire conversation can take place with just emoticons!

This has resulted in a generation who lack basic communication skills.There are so many people who can have hours of online conversations but can barely have a decent five minute face-to-face chat. In the real world, conversations cannot entirely consist of LOLs and smileys.

IMPAIRED COMMUNICATION

In reality, making new friends and meeting new people does not happen with a literal click. It takes time to build relationships and get to know people. Now, it is possible to be someone’s friend on Facebook without even having a single conversation or interaction with that person.

This destroys the natural flow of human interaction. Communication has been watered down thoroughly indeed. This evolution indicates the ebb of human communication skills.

Besides that, on Facebook, we are unable to observe the other party’s body language. This leaves a gaping hole in the communication flow, as body language makes up for nearly half of non-verbal communication.

Consequently, youngsters whom are major Facebook users are insensitive to body language responses of the other party. This will ultimately result in poor communication skills as youths are unable to decipher the non-verbal response of the other person.

It is also a common trend amongst the youth to respond to text/chat messages first rather than to the person speaking in front of them.

With electronic communication gaining preference over actual conversations, it is a common sight at gatherings to see people busy texting or tweeting instead of talking to the people at the party.

Our minds are tuned to prefer online communication, alienating traditional chit chat. It is a rather rude compulsion to respond to your beeping phone first as opposed to a person talking to you.

Facebook_communication  Have we lost our offline communication skills? 

“SO WHAT?”

The inevitable “So what?” will echo from Gen-Y. Arguably, this is progression thanks to technology. Again, the age-old debate of whether technology is a bane or a boon. Using Facebook as an example, technology has created one-dimensional communicators.

There are a few scenarios to consider, the first being a job interview. Employers are invariably complaining about how job applicants are unable to hold a proper discussion despite scores of degrees and higher qualifications.

While they may have the knowledge, they are unable to communicate their ideas effectively. This is a career crutch, so to speak, because being able to shine in the workplace requries solid communication abilities. In this era, communication skills are a golden ticket to securing that job.

Another scenario would be networking events as traditional networking still plays a role in our personal and professional lives. Be it birthday parties, industry launches or university events, human interaction is much needed!

It is wrong to assume that being able to communicate and network skilfully online automatically translates to good face-to-face communication. Learning the art of networking can lead to obtaining valuable contacts and forging important relationships that will go a long way. Savvy communication skills will snag you a potential client or that really hot date.

As always, practice makes perfect. Thus, actively participating in such events instead of being physically there but virtually not (pun intended) will lead to better communication skills. We need to be able to sit down and enjoy a good old fashioned chat.

Another challenge young people face is to communicate with people of different generations, something you would not usually encounter on Facebook. While online, you tend to mingle with people of your age, with similar interests but in reality it is a useful skill being able to talk to anyone and everyone.

A sad scenario nowadays would be a family out for dinner but everyone is glued to his or her smartphone and tablets. Again, there is minimal interaction, defeating the very purpose of having dinner together.

THE PHONE STACKING GAME

There is a popular game to combat this issue; the stacking game. Commonly played with friends, it requires everyone to stack their phone in the middle of the table and the first person who reaches for the phone has to foot the bill. This ensures there is proper conversation and interaction between everyone present, with less virtual distractions.

So, be proactive about the situation. Consciously monitor your online and offline communication. Ensure you have sufficient skills to hold a conversation with just about anyone for a reasonable duration.

Realise that while online communication is good, offline communication will take you a long way especially in terms of career and relationship building. Take the initiative to practise and sharpen your communication skills before it is too late.

There are many organisations out there dedicated to improving communication skills such as Toastmasters International. Find out how you can be part of it.

Should we deactivate Facebook? Admittedly it is a little too harsh, but striking the right balance between our online and offline communication is the key.

Undeniably, Facebook has become part of our lives. Just like McDonald’s, the key is moderation. A good practice is to engage with people when with company instead of communicating with someone else online. Learn to be more articulate and expressive when speaking as there are no emoticons! Let us work together to ensure technology does not cause the annihilation of proper communication skills amongst us.



Malaysian students are disclosing their dirty secrets on Facebook ‘confessions pages’


Confessions1PETALING JAYA: High school and tertiary students have been flocking to certain online pages where they confess their dirtiest secrets and read those of their peers.

The pages contain postings that range from lewd sex fetishes and illegal activities to struggles with depression and suicide.

Students submit confessions anonymously to a mystery page administrator (whose identity is always kept secret), who then publishes it on the Facebook-based confession pages, mostly without any verification of the stories.

Many of the confessions are sex-related. Some goes: “I’m not sure if I have a sex addiction. Possibly.

“I masturbate a LOT and I’m bisexual. I think it’s really unhealthy but I don’t really know how to stop.”

Others use the pages to confess their personal struggles, including one that read: “I had an abortion before about six years ago and it still breaks my heart every single day.”

Another student confessed plans to commit suicide within 60 days, while another told of how he or she turned to marijuana to ease his/her depression.

The trend has grown globally, with news reports from countries like the United States, Australia, India, South Africa, Singapore and Saudi Arabia mentioning the confession pages over the past few months.

The pages (many of which have thousands of followers) are usually linked – without approval – to a school or university, which makes it easier for students to identify who the people confessing are.

One page administrator said the students were sometimes even tagged by friends in their confessions, thus revealing their identities.

The administrator for HUCP, a confession page for HELP University students, said the university’s authorities were aware of the page.

“I don’t think it’s unhealthy. It’s just a tool. It can be used for good or bad,” said the administrator, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He added that he filtered all the confessions he received to avoid any offensive content.

Malaysian Communications and Mul­timedia Commission chairman Datuk Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi urged caution when it comes to such pages.

According to Section 114A of the Evidence Act 2010, administrators can be held liable for any offensive or defamatory content published on their pages.

“In the case where anything posted from anywhere online that breaks the law of the land, the authorities have the right to intervene and call the people involved for investigation,” said Sharil.

> For the full story on school and university confession pages, turn to today’s R.AGE cover story.

By IAN YEE and DENIELLE LEONG
alltherage@thestar.com.my

Baring it online   

THE 19-year-old founder and administrator of the unofficial Catholic High School (CHS) confession page on Facebook received a shocking “confession” a couple weeks back – a student said he had “contaminated” the school canteen’s chee cheong fun sauce. You don’t wanna know the details.

Confessions page

As outlandish as the claim was, the admin – who takes his anonymity quite seriously – thought nothing about it and posted the confession on the page, just like the other 100 to 200 he receives daily about secret crushes, school gossip and, of course, sex.

“Since then, the chee cheong fun stall has been almost completely empty,” said the admin with an embarrassed laugh. “We’re trying to use the page to get people to eat there again, to help the uncle out.”

Welcome to the world of school, college and university Facebook “confession pages”, where students can submit anonymous “confessions” to a secret administrator, who will then post it on the page (not sanctioned by the schools or universities, of course). It’s all very Gossip Girl- y.

The confessions can be quite innocent, like: “To the girl who wearing pink t-shirt and carrying a LV bag, you’re pretty, hope to see you again [sic].”

Or they could be very raunchy, like: “I am a girl and I have a serious pornography addiction. Every night, I cannot go to sleep unless I spend at least an hour looking at porn.” And that’s just one of the posts we were allowed to publish.

Occasionally, they can be heart-wrenching: “Going to commit suicide in less than 60 days. Pressure mounts from every area in my life and I have just given up today. The reason I give myself 60 days is because my results will be out then and I am certain I will fail almost everything.”

According to American Degree Programme student Joanne Raena Raj, the university pages are usually more explicit.

“At my uni, it’s mostly about sex, drugs and how students don’t attend class,” she said. “There was even a confession about someone who saw a couple having sex in a lecture hall, filmed it, and uploaded the video to the Internet.”

With scandalous confessions like that, it’s no wonder these pages have become wildly popular. The UTAR Confessions gained 1,000 followers in just a week, and is now closing in on the 14,000 mark.

The Catholic High School page has over 3,700 “Likes” (and counting), and it has only been around for about a month! According to the admin, the school only has around 3,000 students.

“Our page statistics show we have followers who are 30-40 years old, and they’re from everywhere – the United States, Britain, Taiwan, Egypt… A lot of them are former students, who write about how they miss the school,” said the CHS admin.

The page masters 

It’s important to remember that none of these confession pages are officially associated with their respective schools or universities. Anyone can start a page, as long as they’re willing to act as a page admin. The pages that gain the largest followings simply end up as the school’s “official” unofficial page.

But being an admin isn’t easy (more on that on page four). Some of them have to go through hundreds of confessions a day, trying their best to approve as many as possible while making sure they don’t post anything that could get them in trouble.

Most pages use the same system – a Google Docs form for users to submit confessions (instead of the Facebook messaging system, which does not provide anonymity), and a Facebook page where the admin can publish them.

The admin for the HUCP page, which serves students from HELP University, said he started the page “just for fun”.

“The way I see it, it’s an outlet to express feelings,” he said. “It’s not just about love and relationships. Some discuss education, and critique their lecturers. We always say students should speak up in college, but when the lecturers ask, they don’t know how to do it.

“So this confession page is like a stepping stone to give people the courage to speak up instead of always bottling it up.”

The response to the posts have been very positive, even from the lecturers, who often get tagged.

“You see a lot of encouragement in the comments. One of the lecturers gives really good advice too, especially on a few posts about teenage pregnancy.”

Like all the other page admins we spoke to, the HUCP admin is very careful about keeping his identity a secret. His witty comments on the page have attracted a fair amount of interest from other students, but he doesn’t intend to reveal himself.

“I’m not doing this to get famous. Plus, some of them can get unhappy with me (over certain confessions). It’s also a good way for me to remain unbiased,” he added.

Official word 

Many universities and higher education institutions are aware of this trend, according to Monash University Sunway Campus senior marketing manager Ooi Lay Tin, who was quick to add that they are “not endorsed or controlled by the institutions in any way”.

The HUCP admin said the university has so far taken a fairly liberal approach towards his page. He said they’ve tried to find out who he is with no success, but they still managed to get in touch with him online.

“The university’s head of social media said it was fine for us to post our opinions – just don’t use the university’s name. And I respect that, I understand that, so we closed the group and started a new one – HUCP,” he said.

A university media relations officer, who had no idea her university had a popular confession page, was more wary.

“It’s good that the students have a place to rant and vent their frustrations, but confession pages are not the right platform as they could jeapordise the institution’s reputation,” she said.

For the HUCP admin, the key is moderation. Some admins are quite daring in approving confessions, but he makes sure everything that goes public on his page is not offensive or defamatory.

“The students have to learn to self-censor. The admins will moderate, but you should think for yourself and know what you should or shouldn’t post.”

CONFESSION pages have been sweeping the world, with news reports from the United States, Australia, India, South Africa, Singapore and Saudi Arabia all bringing the trend to light.

There’s no telling how, where or when the trend started; but the pages, which are unofficially linked to schools and universities, allow students to submit anonymous confessions to be published on a Facebook page – and they have caused quite a stir with the often raunchy nature of the “confessions”.

According to a story by Reuters, police in Montana, US moved to shut down two high school confession pages due to the constant offensive content, but the students simply started a third, prompting the police to threaten defamation charges. Pages in Idaho and Arizona have also been shut down by schools.

A more worrying case surfaced just three months ago when a student at Aragon High School in the US posted a threat against the school in a confession page, which has lead to police patrols around the school.

In Australia, ANU Confessions, a page for students of the Australian National University, was removed from Facebook due to explicit descriptions of sexual violence against women.

But that hasn’t stopped confession pages from popping up all over the world. Princeton, Harvard and Yale all have pages now (though they are very inactive, leading one user to comment “there’s a reason why they bring home Nobels”), while the National University of Singapore even has its own website (confesslah.com) with over 89,000 confessions and counting.

There’s even a website called http://www.college-confessions.com, where users (mostly from American universities) can publish confessions directly to the site, and not through a Google Doc form like most other Facebook-based pages. All confessions are tagged along with others from the same university, with the University of North Texas currently leading the way with almost 8,000 posts.

Most active confession pages
stuff

By DENIELLE LEONG, IAN YEE and KEVIN TAN

Laws of attraction


Are men attracted to women who look like them?

THE Laws of attraction_men-womemnext time you happen to be with your spouse or your partner, take a good look at their features. Do they look a bit familiar?

And no, I don’t mean familiar just because you’ve been with that person for a while. I mean familiar in the sense that you’ve seen those same features, or at least some of them, somewhere else. Like, in the mirror every morning.

If the results of a French study are anything to go by, men are most attracted to women who look like them. That being the case, my partner must have left his glasses at home the day we met. I mean to say, his eyes are blue, while mine are brown, his eyebrows are thick, while mine are thin (too much plucking back in the 70s), his nose is slender, while mine is more rounded, and he has full lips, while mine are lacking plumpness.

I can only conclude that he is more attracted to my wit, charm and personality than some narcissistic ideal. Either that or the female versions of him were a bit thin on the ground when he was looking for a partner.

According to another study, physically attractive people generally date other physically attractive people. Leaving the not-so-attractive people to date other not-so-attractive people. It’s almost like a caste system that’s difficult to break out of.

Right about now you might be asking, “How do these researchers account for those not-so-attractive, rich men who opt for a “trophy wife”? Shouldn’t Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and Woody Allen be seen around town with women who are more homely than the much younger, more attractive women who currently appear by their sides?”

It seems that attractive women who date someone below their level of attractiveness tend to justify their choices by saying something like, “He sure is ugly, and it’s kinda embarrassing to have to appear in public with gorilla man, but as long as I have access to his money, my life will be beautiful.”

However, such cases are the exceptions.
In a nutshell then, the so-called experts will have you believe that attractive people generally date other attractive people who look a bit like themselves; while ugly people generally date other ugly people who look a bit like themselves.

When the experts talk about people dating others who look like themselves, this concurs with yet another study that indicates that a woman often looks for a man who looks like her father, while a man often looks for a woman who looks like his mother.

Like, how creepy is all that? Fancy waking up in the morning to find someone resembling your mother or father snoring on the pillow next to you!

Researchers are quick to point out that there is nothing narcissistic about these attractions. We are attracted to people who look like ourselves (and possibly our parents as well) simply because of the comfort we get from familiarity.

I’m not disputing the results of the research, but they certainly don’t apply in my case. My father was an Irishman with light brown hair and green eyes, whereas my ex is a Chinese Malaysian. One of my sisters married a man of Italian origin, another married a Hispanic guy, and yet another married a blond-haired, blue-eyed Scottish man. None of our partners, past or present, look remotely like my father.

Of course, other researchers might tell me that my father was not a good role model and so we were all looking subconsciously for completely different men.

But who gives a toss, anyway?

All of this research into the laws of physical attraction really tells me just one thing: we are wasting a lot of money on studies that can’t be put to any practical use. Unless of course, you’re a fortune teller.

I can just imagine the scene in the fortune teller’s tent as she gazes into her crystal ball, with a young woman sitting opposite her: “Ah, I can see a man with blond hair and blue eyes in your life. He even looks a bit like you. Cross my palm with silver and I will reveal more.”

Most research costs money and is time consuming. As such, I think we ought to be more discerning about how we apply our research funds. Instead of focusing on who we might be attracted to and why, it might be better if the funding could be used to finance research on things like climate change, green energy, and how best to persuade newspaper editors that you really deserve a raise.

Perhaps I can get someone to fund a study on how much money has been wasted on useless studies.

But Then Again

By MARY SCHNEIDER

Check out Mary on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mary.schneider.writer.

Reader response can be directed to star2@thestar.com.my

Facebook profit plunges 79%, revenues gain 40%


Fb-logoSan Francisco — Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) reported a plunge in fourth-quarter profit on higher spending Wednesday, even while it made long-awaited progress luring advertisers eager to reach mobile- device users.

Net income fell 79 percent to $64 million last quarter as operating expenses jumped 82 percent, Facebook said. That outpaced a 40 percent revenue gain to $1.59 billion and raised concerns that margins will come under pressure.

The stock fell 2.8 percent in German trading, paring a drop of as much as 11 percent in late U.S. trading as investors weighed near-term lower profit against the prospect of future growth.

Still, the company delivered fourth-quarter results above Wall Street’s expectations and sought to show that it has finally transformed into a “mobile company” after rising to dominance as a Web-based social network.

Facebook-q412

“Everything was slightly better than expected,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. “I don’t see anything here that would make me want to sell the stock.”

The world’s largest social media company earned $64 million, or 3 cents per share, in the October-December period. That’s down 79 percent from $302 million, or 14 cents per share, a year earlier when it was still a privately held company.

Revenue rose 40 percent to $1.59 billion from $1.13 billion, surpassing analysts’ expectations of $1.51 billion.

Advertising revenue grew 41 percent to $1.33 billion, increasing at a faster clip than in the third quarter, when it climbed 36 percent to $1.09 billion.

Excluding special items, mainly related to stock compensation expenses, Menlo Park, Calif.-based Facebook earned 17 cents per share in the latest quarter. Analysts polled by FactSet expected lower adjusted earnings of 15 cents per share.

Nonetheless, Facebook’s stock fell $1.11, or 3.6 percent, to $30.13 in after-hours trading following the earnings report.

Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg plans to increase expenses, excluding certain costs, 50 percent this year to hire staff and roll out new tools for advertisers. That’s more than the 33 percent increase projected by Pacific Crest Securities LLC, and it underscores the urgency of capturing a bigger slice of the $6.97 billion U.S. mobile-ad market. Done right, the added investment will translate to profit growth, said Adam Schneiberg, a portfolio manager at BTR Capital Management.

“Wall Street tends to be forgiving of higher spending during high-growth periods when new products are being built,” Schneiberg said. “As long as eyeballs tune in and revenue keeps growing, the Street will believe that at some point the company can flip the switch on profitability.”

Facebook shares had advanced 1.5 percent to $31.24 at the close in New York just ahead of the earnings announcement, leaving them up 76 percent from a record low close on Sept. 4.

Mobile-Ad Push

Facebook’s increased investment is designed to help the company grapple with rising competition from larger rivals in the U.S. market for mobile advertising, predicted by EMarketer Inc. to surge 82 percent this year. Google Inc. is projected to grab 57 percent of that market, and Facebook will remain a distant No. 2 with 12 percent, EMarketer estimates.

“More mobile revenue means way more spending on the operations of selling ads,” said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research Group LLC, who has a hold rating on the stock. “This is an expensive company to run.”

Mobile contributed 23 percent of total advertising revenue, or about $306 million, according to Facebook. That compares with 14 percent in the third quarter. Analysts at JPMorgan Chase & Co. predicted mobile would contribute $384.2 million, or 27 percent of ad revenue, in the latest quarter.

Facebook’s engineers are making improvements to mobile applications, including those for Google’s Android software, Zuckerberg said on a conference call. Better mobile services can boost user engagement, he said.

‘Big Transition’

“We made this big transition, where now there are more people using Facebook on mobile every day than on desktop,” Zuckerberg said. “More people are starting to understand that mobile is a great opportunity for us.”

Facebook is investing in new products to attract users and keep them on the site longer. Earlier this month, the company announced a revamp of its search service that lets members find information on people, places, photos and interests. The company also has upgraded its mobile applications with new versions for phones running Google’s Android software and Apple Inc.’s iPhone.

“We’re investing heavily because we see big opportunities ahead for the company,” David Ebersman, Facebook’s chief financial officer, said in an interview. “So, we’re trying to invest to build the most valuable company we can for the long term and to really invest in areas that can drive engagement.”

Narrower Margin

Zuckerberg also said that he expects to hire aggressively, causing expenses to grow at a faster rate than sales in 2013. The company had 4,619 employees at the end of last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Facebook’s fourth-quarter operating margin declined to 33 percent from 48 percent a year earlier, while costs rose to $1.06 billion from $583 million.

Facebook reached 1.06 billion users during the fourth quarter, up from 1.01 billion in the third quarter. The number of mobile users was 680 million, up from 604 million in the third quarter.

Analysts had been pushing up ratings amid growing optimism for accelerated revenue growth. The proportion of analysts covering Facebook with a buy rating has risen to 65 percent from 52 percent on Oct. 23, when Facebook posted third-quarter sales that beat estimates, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“A lot of these products are pretty new,” said Scott Kessler, an analyst at S&P Capital IQ, who rates the stock a hold. “It’s just going to take some time.”

- The AP and Bloomberg

Related posts:
Facebook Tries to Monetize By Annoying; LinkedIn Adds 
Downside of Facebook

Pretty woman picture all it takes for Netizens to reveal all; ‘Lovers’ make Net profit


 

PETALING JAYA: A profile with a picture of an attractive woman is all it takes to get some Netizens to reveal personal details.

The Star, in wanting to see how easy it is to be “friends” on Facebook, showed that some Netizens were more than willing to give information like their handphone number, car registration number and house address when messaging someone that they think is single and an attractive stranger.

It was also to create awareness, as advised by the police, that people should be cautious about speaking to strangers online and should refrain from giving any personal information.

A dummy profile was set up, with a blank profile page but with a photo of a young woman.Netizens

Within the first two hours, 11 users sent a friend request.

“I’ve to say girl, you look beautiful!” a 20-year-old user wrote in to the dummy profile’s inbox.

The person, who claimed to be a student, said he was looking for friendship and spoke at length about his ambitions, likes and dislikes during the one-hour conversation.

He willingly gave information, such as his handphone number and his address, without much hesitation.
“I’m going but maybe we can chat again tonight?” he said before ending the conversation.

Another Netizen, who identified himself as Asrul, told the dummy profile that he was a 27-year-old married man from Bandar Baru Salak Tinggi.

“Would you like to meet at a club later tonight? I can pick you up,” said the man, who also offered to pay for dinner and drinks.

When asked about his spouse, the man said his wife wouldn’t find out and made a date.

He gave his handphone number and his car’s registration number.

It was reported that over three people fall victim to online scams daily and that as many as 613 victims have collectively lost RM25.89mil to syndicates between January and September this year.

Federal Cyber Security and Multimedia Investigation Division director Asst Comm Mohd Kamaruddin said syndicates posing as singles online were able to persuade some Malaysians into giving compromising photos, details and even large sums of money with the promise of companionship.

He said syndicates would target and flirt with lonely individuals over several months before conning them.

“We are not saying that it is wrong to find your lover online, but people should be wary of who they fall in love with on the Net,” said Mohd Kamaruddin.

The police recently uploaded a Universiti Malaya study on the persuasive languages used by scam-mers to cheat victims online, on their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PolisDirajaMalaysia.

 

‘Lovers’ make Net profit

KUALA LUMPUR: Every day, three Malaysians fall prey to Internet love scams syndicates and the police fear the number of cases that go unreported could be three times higher.

Federal Cyber Security and Multimedia Investigation Division director Asst Comm Mohd Kamaruddin Din said 613 victims 375 women and 238 men lost RM25.89mil to the syndicates between January and September this year.

“Last year, we recorded 876 cases amounting to losses of RM34.17mil,” he said.

He said the syndicates used several modus operandi to con their victims into falling in love and parting with huge sums of cash.

Full story in your copy of The Star  Nov 4, 2012

By AUSTIN CAMOENS and EILEEN NG

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Undergrad wants to stop those who exploit the gullible

Facebook Tries to Monetize By Annoying; LinkedIn Adds to Value of its Site


In the span of 24 hours this week, the two most important (for now) publicly traded social networking companies in the world, Facebook (FB) and LinkedIn (LNKD), each made fairly minor strategic moves that did a magnificent job of highlighting the major differences not only in their corporate identities but why investors have thus far embraced one and abjectly shunned the other.

First, LinkedIn on Tuesday unveiled a new feature that will let its 175 million-plus users easily follow a panel of 150 or so “influencers” including the likes of President Obama, Richard Branson, a slew of other business leaders, entrepreneurs, bloggers and even LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner himself.

The idea is that because LinkedIn users generally skew older and more “professional” than the 950 million-plus Facebook devotees, giving them convenient access to these prominent thought leaders’ will encourage longer and more frequent visits to the site which, in turn, will generate more advertising revenue and that elusive “stickiness” that all online operations crave.

LinkedIn is still working out the “Who” and “How” and “Why” of this evolving reservoir of deep thinkers but the overall idea would seem a logical fit for its audience of professionals who mainly use the site for job-seeking purposes or to inundate their networks with links to their various professional endeavors. Users can pick and choose which influencers they do and don’t want to hear from. Bottom line: it’s free and potentially adds to the value of the site for users.

And while LinkedIn has been trading for almost exactly one year longer than Facebook, it’s still very, very early. That said, the stock’s performance (on the stodgy, old NYSE) has been nothing less than spectacular as you can see here:

LNKD Chart

LNKD data by YCharts

Meanwhile, Facebook on Wednesday countered (indirectly) with news of its own, announcing a new feature that will let U.S. members pay to promote their posts to friends in the same way that advertisers do now. Having a blowout Halloween party or garage sale or conniption fit that you want everyone in your network to know about? Pay the piper.

The company didn’t detail the exact price it would charge users to bump up their posts in all their friends’ news feeds but this potential new revenue stream has been in dress rehearsal in 20-some other countries and, apparently, is something that Facebook thinks its younger, more socially obsessed users would be willing to punch in their credit card numbers to leverage. It costs users money and, quite certainly, will be an annoyance to users who receive the “favored” posts. The move further cements the view here that Facebook is a great service, if sharing is your thing, but not such a great business. If you have to pay to get your ramblings noticed on Facebook, isn’t that a little sad? Perhaps Aunt Sally has already hidden your posts.

As you can see from this chart, Facebook’s post-IPO run has actually been worse than advertised when juxtaposed against the sharp performance of the “younger, hipper” NASDAQ as a whole:

^IXIC Chart

^IXIC data by YCharts

Time will tell if either of these new initiatives will make much, if any, impact on the short- and long-term financial performances of both of these social networking giants. But at least they’re trying.

LNKD Revenue Growth Chart

On the surface, LinkedIn’s new feature smacks of a snoozefest waiting to happen and probably not particularly engrossing to the majority of its users who are either too busy working or looking for work to nestle in for Richard Branson’s musings on whatever.

Likewise, Facebook’s pay-to-display scheme probably will find some takers — depending on the price — among the child-photo-sharing and Spring-Break-updating crowd. But then again, chances are most of the people who would actually consider paying to barnstorm their “friends’” news feeds probably are long on time but short on the expendable cash required to sustain an extended self-promotion campaign.

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Downside of Facebook

Downside of Facebook


Grouses are mounting on the use of Facebook.

According to a recent report, less and less young people in the UK are turning to drugs, partly because they are too busy on Facebook or sending text messages.

“It could be, if they are on Blackberry all the time, that that’s the way they socialise and communicate; you don’t want to be doing that and having a spliff at the same time.” Or so an expert said recently.

Like, why not? Why would having a spliff (joint) stop you from getting on Facebook or sending your friends a text message, or vice versa?

“Just wanted to say high, everybody!” you could write on your Facebook timeline, thereby satisfying two addictions at the same time: the need to get high on drugs, and the need to say “hi” on the Internet.

It also seems that a large number of people go on Facebook when they are drunk, so much so that a browser extension has been developed to prevent them from making embarrassing drunken comments like, “Jenny, you hag. I’m so glad I dumped you.”

Or “My boss sucks big time”. After overlooking the fact that their boss is actually one of their Facebook friends.

Apparently, the software will ask you to do something that only a sober person can do – like recite the alphabet backwards or trace a moving object across a computer screen with your index finger. I’m not sure if I can recite the alphabet backwards with any sort of speed while completely sober, never mind after a couple of glasses of merlot.

If I really wanted to get my message online, I would probably cheat by writing out the alphabet from beginning to end, making it easier to recite it backwards. If you’re really drunk, and you really want to do something, you will find a way.

Of course, after all that faffing around you might get online only to forget what it was that you wanted to say on Facebook. Then your bladder might take charge, so all you get to write is, “Going for a pee, be back in a sec.”

In some Western countries, Facebook’s popularity is waning, with more and more people pulling the plug on their social media accounts.

For example, an increasing number of Australians claim that Facebook promotes a culture of “narcissism and self-absorption.” They are fed up with the constant flow of inane comments like: “Going for a pee, be back in a sec.” Some want to delete their online presence but are afraid of losing contact with their friends.

I’m not sure how that works. If your family and friends make inane, narcissistic comments online, to the extent that you’re irritated by them, why would you want to keep in touch with them anyway?

All you have to do is “unfriend” the irritating narcissistic people in your network and you will be left with people who don’t irritate you – possibly people you have never met before or hardly know.

Another grouse with Facebook comes from former couples who have just split up. It seems that it is easier to extricate yourself from someone in the real world than it is online.

If your ex is one of your Facebook friends, all you have to do is delete him/her, but what about all your mutual friends? If you make an inane comment on Facebook about your current depressed mood, something like, “Bleh, bleh, bleh, bleh, bleh …”, what’s to stop a mutual friend from writing a response to your comment, thereby enabling your ex to witness your friend’s comment and your depressive state?

Indeed, what’s to stop the person who unceremoniously dumped you from writing a comment on a mutual friend’s timeline to the effect that they have met someone new: the soul mate that they have been waiting for their entire life? And what’s to stop all your mutual friends from “liking” that comment? And you get to watch it all as it unfolds.

Feeling crushed and humiliated, you might want to go out and get drunk. There’s a good chance that you get so inebriated that you want to express yourself online. And there’s also a good chance that your determination ensures you can recite the alphabet backwards and you successfully log onto Facebook.

With a bit of luck, before you have the chance to write anything incriminating about your ex, you might need to go for a pee.

BUT THEN AGAIN BY MARY SCHNEIDER
> Check out Mary on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mary.schneider.writer. Reader response can be directed to star2@thestar.com.my

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