Selfie success: How to post selfies without looking like a total narcisist

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Selfies are all the rage.  Really, you can’t look at Facebook, Twitter or Instagram without hitting one.  At last estimate, at least one million selfies are taken each day. However, all of those pictures have come with a price: selfies have been linked with higher levels of narcissism, addiction and mental illness.  I’d go as far as saying that people who take and post too many selfies are looked down upon – indeed, if you see someone overdo it with selfies, don’t you look at them and think, “Hey, calm down?”  Perhaps no greater and more current example of the controversy over selfies exists than the case of case of Breanna Mitchell, who took a smiling selfie at the Auschwitz death camps.

I’ve frequently said that elected officials need to make sure that their social media use is other-centered – information posted needs to focus on the constituent and on providing value-added information to their lives.  Yet, in the past, I’ve also said that selfies can and should be a part of any social media users life – including elected officials.  So, what gives?  How can you marry the two?

My key point is this: At their best, the selfie shouldn’t be about the person taking the picture.  It should be about everything else.  Two specific points:

The selfie that focuses on everyone else

Selfie with Tom Wolfe

This selfie was snapped by my friend and colleague, State Representative Marty Flynn.  He’s all the way on the right.  All the way on the left is Representative Ryan Bizzarro, in the middle is Mary Isenhour, a political consultant who worked for the Wolf campaign.  Front and center is Tom Wolf, the Democratic nominee for Governor of Pennsylvania.  I’m the poor sap trying to cram my way into the photo over Tom’s shoulder.

Anyway, Marty had this selfie taken (I think Ryan’s the one actually taking the picture) and uploaded it originally to his Facebook. Is it a selfie?  Sure.  But no one is focusing on Marty – he’s practically in the background (well, he’s more visible than me, but that’s completely besides the point).  What people are focusing on in this particularly picture is everyone else – the other Reps, the political consultant, and most importantly, Tom Wolf.  This isn’t a selfie about the person taking the picture, but it’s one about everyone else.  To that extent, it’s a great success.

I’ve seen a lot of my colleagues take these “other-centered” selfies too – selfies with constituents in particular.  Those are great – they show that you are active and engaged in the community, and that you love being photographed by your friends and neighbors.

The selfie that focuses on what’s happening in the background

Perhaps the most famous example of this type of selfie is the one shot by Hannah Urden, an 18 year old who survived a plane crash outside of Philadelphia.  The plane blew a tire on take-off and no one was seriously injured, but it was certainly a striking image.

DemolitionSelfieI recently took a selfie to show myself at a cool location.  That selfie, seen here, is me at the demolition of an old building in Allentown to make way for new development.  I took it following a press conference at which the demolition and revitalization plans were announced.  Again, it’s a selfie, but I don’t really care if anyone notices me – the point is to focus on the background and for me to be able to say that I was at this very cool event, and that I am totally supportive of the ongoing Allentown revitalization efforts.

What else do you think makes a selfie better?  Or at least less narcissistic?  Let us know in the comments!

Police in Finland in trouble after controversial Facebook comments about rape

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Helsinki PoliceThis isn’t the first time that government officials have gotten into trouble for making a controversial comment about rape while using social media, but it is the first time I can recall the police being the maker of offensive comments.  Police in Helsinki, Finland have found themselves in hot water for a recent Facebook post.

Here’s what happened: The Helsinki Police used their Facebook page to discuss the increase in reports of sexual assault.  However, they then discussed “the other side of the coin,” which was what the author of the post perceived to be the increase in frivolous complaints.  The post noted that 309 rape complaints were reported, 225 were investigated, and 2/3 of those had not gone any further.  According to the original Facebook post:

“’I feel as though I’ve been drugged and raped’ is one common complaint. Drugs are not often discovered during blood tests and the story is littered with words like ‘maybe’ and ‘I suppose’. The complainant often also admits that they’d been drinking a lot, but ‘I would never have gone to bed with them if I’d been sober’.”

Naturally, this set off a social media firestorm, with commenters saying that they believed the police department was being far too dismissive of rape victims complaints and was discouraging future reports.  In a second post, police reiterated that raping a drunk person is, in fact, a crime (it’s never good if you need to clarify this) and apologized for causing offense with the post.

I’m honestly not quite sure what the Helsinki Police Department was going for here…what were they thinking, and what, exactly, were they trying to accomplish by making a post like this?  Cultural differences aside, if any police department in America made a post like this, they would instantly become national news and find themselves at the center of a much louder and longer controversy than it appears that the Helsinki Police Department faced (I could only find one article on this incident).

For those of you in government who use social media, I would suggest a different approach (clearly): helping victims file better reports.  Instead of discussing the wide degree of reports and rape investigations that don’t progress because of a lack of evidence, write a post that gives men and women (some of whom, tragically, will may become rape victims themselves) a better idea of how to report a rape.  There is a multitude of resources on the subject, and surely the police department has better training in this matter then me doing a quick Google search.

Again, I’m not quite sure I understand what the police department was getting at here.  What I do know is that, whatever it is, they failed.  Writing a helpful post that could assist potential future victims would have been a fantastic use of social media by law enforcement, and in general, I believe this is a much safer way to proceed.

What do you think?  Any better tips?  Let us know in the comments!

For want of a comma: AP sends out confusing tweet that seems to double tragedy

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Last week, the AP attempted to tweet about the landing of a plane which was carrying the remains of those who had perished in the MH17 disaster. In the tweet, the AP attempted to note that the plane carrying crash victims had landed safely.  That, however, is not what came across:

AP Tweet on MH17 remains

AP Tweet on MH17 remains

A quick glance at the tweet makes it appear as if the plane itself actually crash landed.

The reactions to this tweet, as you can imagine, were of shock, disbelief and anger (at the AP):

AP, Associated Press, MH17

The original tweet has not been deleted and was retweeted more than 4,300 times.  In nine minutes, the AP issued a clarifying tweet:

AP--MH17 Clarifies

There are three lessons here, for elected officials and anyone who uses Twitter:

  1. Double check what you tweet.  It’s very easy to get into the thinking of “Well, it’s only 140 characters, I couldn’t have possibly screwed up too much,” but this is how you get yourself into trouble.  Always make sure you review a tweet for grammar and clarity.  If you have links in a tweet, make sure that the links actually go where you are trying to; otherwise, you could end up like British Member of Parliament Rob Wilson, who attempted to tweet a link to a news story but instead sent out a link that took users to a porn site.
  2. Sometimes, deleting a tweet is okay. Normally, deleting tweets is something that people involved in social media advice against. After all, it seems to go against the ideal that social media is there for transparency.  However, there are instances in which I think it is acceptable: this is one of them, because the original tweet helped to promulgate an inaccurate news story.  I think it would have been appropriate if the AP had deleted the tweet, and then noted that the previous tweet was deleted due to inaccuracy (there was clearly space to do so in the clarification tweet).
  3. Speed kills.  Here’s one that I think the AP got right.  They clarified the tweet in under nine minutes and were able to quickly correct the story.  I still think it would have been more appropriate for the AP to delete the original tweet, but this was a very speedy response.

Any other great examples like these to share?  Let us know in the comments!

Not how you win swing voters: Democrats in Iowa county refer to former President Reagan as “white supremacist”

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I’ve written in the past about county parties who stray far, far off message and post blatantly racist content, and here’s another entry in that field.

In Iowa, the Democratic Party of Black Hawk County made a pretty offensive Facebook post:

Black Hawk County Democrats Facebook posts that calls former President Reagan a white supremacist

Not good.  Not good!

The post has since been removed but made national headlines, with stories appearing on liberal websites like Talking Points Memo.

Iowa Republicans, naturally, found the post offensive and called for an apology.  In a statement, Scott Adkins, the Chair of the Black Hawk County GOP, called the post:

offensive and extremely disrespectful to the Reagan family…It’s unfortunate that our counterparts at the Democrat Party are now taking this type of derogatory attack to the grave of one of the greatest presidents in American history.

Shortly after the story went public, Black Hawk County Democrats did apologize, with Chairwoman Pat Sass saying:

On behalf of the Black Hawk County Democratic Party, I apologize for this unfortunate post. The Black Hawk County Democrats have long believed in equality and acceptance of all Iowans, and this unacceptable post by our volunteer social media coordinator does not live up to the values we have long held dear. We will be reviewing our social media process to ensure this does not happen again.

There is a lesson here for county parties and all elected officials who use others to make their posts: you have to have very clear guidelines about what type of content is and is not acceptable.  Clearly, this falls in the unacceptable range, and appropriate guidelines and training would have intercepted such a bad post.  At a minimum, such guidelines should prohibit derogatory and personal attacks against national leaders and describe what types of content are – and are not – acceptable.  

The EPA loves Kim Kardashian!

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The Environmental Protection Agency is the agency in charge of, you guessed it, environmental protection in the United States.  Like just about every U.S. government agency, it has multiple Twitter accounts, and that’s where this story begins.

Earlier this week, one of the EPA’s Twitter accounts, EPAwater, sent out this tweet:EPA_KimK

The tweet itself is is an auto-tweet from a Kim Kardashian iPhone game, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.  In the game, players “Join KIM KARDASHIAN on a red carpet adventure” – so, pretty much, it’s Farmville, Kardashian-style.

The tweet itself was up for nearly three hours and had been retweeted more than 3,000 times.

In a statement to Buzzfeed, the EPA said that the auto-tweet was triggered by an EPA fellow.  An AP article said that the tweet was sent by an intern.

To their credit, the EPA poked fun at themselves:

Perhaps the best tweets on this issue came from Congressman John Dingell, the 88 year old Congressman who wrote the Clean Water Act:

Funny though this is, this is obviously still an embarrassing blunder for the government.  A few points:

  • Access: The EPA wasn’t clear on whether or not it was an intern or fellow who was controlling the account when this error was made, though that could have been due to a discrepancy from Buzzfeed or the AP.  Regardless, clearly, someone had access to the account who was ill equipped to do so.  There’s another lesson here: If anyone has access to an “official” account, make sure that they know to NOT set up any auto tweets like the one that was sent.
  • Timeliness:  This EPA account has over 52,000 followers, so we aren’t talking some baby account that is checked once a day.  As such, three hours is way, way too long for such an erroneous tweet to be left up.  More to the point, the errand tweet was retweetd more than 3,000 times before being deleted.  A quick review of the @EPAWater account shows that the average tweet was never retweeted or favorited more than a handful of times, meaning that someone should have noticed that something strange was going on.  I’m not sure who is minding the store at the EPA’s social media, but they need a better handle on their account.  Someone should have picked up on this error and deleted the tweet much quicker.
  • Response: For the two problems noted above, the EPA deserves credit for at least handling the issue with humor.  In all probability, the social media flub probably gained them more followers, though at the price of some credibility.

Anything to add about my analysis?  Let me know in the comments!

Preventing your social media account from falling victim to phishing

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When it comes to social media, one of the more famous examples of an account getting hacked was what happened to the Associated Press’ Twitter account in April 2013.  At that time, hackers from the Syrian Electronic Army used a phishing scam to obtain the password to the AP’s Twitter account, then sent out this tweet:

AP Hacked

The tweet was false, of course, and the AP was quick to refute the information and announce that they had been hacked.  However, in a two minute period, the stock market crashed and $136 billion in equity was erased – fortunately, most of that money came back just as quickly as it became apparent that the tweet was false.

This is one of the more famous examples of a successful phishing scam.  In order to obtain the AP’s password, hackers sent out “an impressively designed phishing Email.”  The Email, which appeared to come from legitimate, official sources, asked for the password to the AP’s Twitter account.  Staffers complied, and the account was hacked.

These scams are relatively easy for hackers to run, and those who aren’t aware of them can easily fall prey to this type of incident.  So, how can you prevent you and your staff from falling victim?  Here are a few tips:

1) Train your staff:  More important than anything else – make sure that your staff knows to never give out the password to your social media accounts, particularly if asked via Email.  This type of sensitive information should never be put in an Email, no matter how official the source appears, and even if it comes from an official domain name or trusted contact.

2) Watch for telltale signs of a hacking: My experience with phishing attempts is that the scams frequently use poor grammar, spelling or syntax.  If you see something like this, its usually a dead giveaway.

3) Don’t click the links: Never visit a link from a possible phishing Email – doing so may expose your computer to viruses or spyware.  Many links in these types of Emails may appear to point to one website, but when you hover your mouse over the link, you discover that the link will actually take you to a different website.

4) Change your password frequently: Once a month, at a minimum.

5) Never download an attachment from an unknown Email: Just don’t.  It’s an easy way to accidentally download malware.

6) Don’t automatically trust an Email if it comes from a known and trusted contact: Let’s say a coworker sends you an Email, asking you for a password to Twitter or Facebook.  Before you send the information, contact the person first.  Their account may have been compromised, which would explain the Email.  Again, a clue that the account has been hacked is that it doesn’t sound like it came from the sender, has bad grammar or lacks the usual personal touch that the sender displays.

Any others to add?  Give us your expertise in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to the Email newsletter!

Planned Parenthood didn’t open an Abortionplex: How to stop yourself from posting inaccurate information

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One of the more mind-boggling bad posting decisions I have ever seen came from Congressman John Fleming (R-LA), who actually thought that an Onion story, titled, “Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex,” was real:

Abortionplex

This is a high profile example, but there are plenty more. Elected officials are no different than anyone else – we frequently see a post that looks interesting and share the information, only to discover that it was inaccurate.  The original poster winds up looking foolish and uninformed.

It’s easy to make an error like this, but there are a few ways that you can combat accidentally posting a story that just sounds too goofy to be true.  Here are some ways to prevent yourself from making this error:

1) Train yourself – Does it sound too good or too outrageous to be true?  Someone in Congressman Flemming’s office should have realized that there is no way that a Planned Parenthood clinic that contained “900,000-square-foot facility has more than 2,000 rooms dedicated to the abortion procedure” was real.  Indeed, if something sounds too goofy to be true, think before posting.  Even the most outrageous of commenters usually have some things that they don’t say, and it’s always best to double check a story, from multiple sources, before you post it to your own social media outlets.

2) Copy and paste into Google:  See something that looks goofy?  Just copy and paste the exact text into Google.  My experience in doing this has been that doing such a copy and paste will frequently lead you directly to a site that will debunk whatever goofy story is being promulgated.

3) Check the source:  Click on the link that contains the story; don’t just blindly post.  Doing so will frequently point you to obvious signs of parody or crazy people on the other end of the website.  One caution with this: If a link looks like a virus (“You wouldn’t believe what this girl’s Dad caught her doing on her webcam!”), do NOT click, as that could expose you to a virus.

4) Check the comments: One of the positive trends I have noticed on crazy, patently untrue stories is an increase of people who say, “This is a hoax – check out this link for more info.”  A quick skim through the comments section may reveal the truth about a story.

5) Snopes.com:  If all else fails, check out Snopes, one of the Internet’s leading sources of cutting through lies.  It keeps track of stories that circulate around the web and posts the truth behind them.  It also has a “Hot 25″ section that details the heaviest trending lies, as well as a search function.

Any other tips to add?  Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to the Email newsletter.

Careful what you YouTube: Governor Christie hears from The Rock’s lawyers

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In a parody YouTube video, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made his case for pension reform:

All well and good.  However, this is the second version of the video.  The first one featured clips of Dwayne Johnson, aka “The Rock.”  However, that version didn’t sit well with The Rock’s lawyers:

The video was yanked after only a few hours because Johnson’s attorneys called to complain, the governor’s office acknowledged.

The Governor’s office mocked the error on their own Twitter account:

As noted by the Star-Ledger, the entire video is related to a massive pension crisis that the state of New Jersey is facing:

In 2010, Christie signed a deal with Democrats to revise the system, making public workers pay more and promising the state would continue to increase payments.

But faced with a $1.7 billion state budget shortfall, Christie chose to reduce pension payments to cover the gap, rejecting an alternative plan by Democrats to raise taxes on millionaires and businesses.

Governor Christie is not, by any stretch, the first elected official to run afoul of using a celebrities’ property or image in the course of their campaigning and advocacy. Among other objectors:

  • Jackson Browne, who sued Senator John McCain and the Ohio Republican Party in 2008 for the use of the song Running on Empty.
  • David Byrne of The Talking Heads, who sued Florida Governor Charlie Crist for using Road to Nowhere in an attack ad against Marco Rubio.
  • Tom Petty, who wrote a letter to Congresswonan Michelle Bachmann, asking her to stop using American Girl.
  • Heart, who sent a formal complaint to former Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin about her use of Barracuda.

With such a rich history of artist objections, Christie’s team should have seen this coming and should have sought permission from The Rock before using his image in one of their issue ads, something they clearly did not do.  Perhaps they thought that The Rock wouldn’t mind, as he is a registered Republican.

Nonetheless, there are two lessons here for any elected official.  First, never assume that someone’s image or creative work can be co-opted without permission.  I suspect that’s the error that Governor Christie’s team made here.  Second, never assume a default level of support.  In this age, it is easy to accidentally broadcast someone else’s support of an issue, implied or explicit, when no such evidence exists.  That also certainly played a part in this situation.

And, before you go, don’t forget to signup for the Email newsletter.

Congressional candidate confuses YMCA campers with immigrants and deletes incriminating tweets

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The disastrous situation unfolding at the Mexican-American border has captured a great deal of public attention lately, particularly given that so many of those fleeing into America are children.  Naturally, the story has inflamed passions on all sides of the immigration debate.  And, naturally, idiotic mistakes have been made in the course of this discussion.

One of those errors came from Adam Kwasman, an Arizona State Representative (R-Oro Valley) who is running for Congress in Arizona’s 1st District.  Kwasman was joining a group of tea party protesters at the border when they saw a bus filled with children.  Kwasman and others assumed the bus was filled with illegal immigrants.

It wasn’t.

The bus was actually filled with YMCA kids on a trip, but that didn’t stop Kwasman and others from protesting.  Kwasman sent out this tweet from the scene:

KwansmanTweet

 

As noted by King5 news:

The children on the bus were not migrants, and there was no fear on their faces. The children from the Marana school district heading to the YMCA’s Triangle Y Camp, not far from the Rite of Passage shelter for the migrants, at the base of Mt. Lemmon.

Kwasman also had said this to a reporter:

I was able to actually see some of the children on the buses, and the fear on their faces. This is not compassion.

Upon learning the truth, Kwansman deleted the tweet two hours later and sent out this tweet instead:

This is a great warning story for anyone who tweets in the heat of the moment: you absolutely have to fact check anything that you say before you say it.  Indeed, one of the biggest problems with using Twitter just this – if you fail to take a breath, think about what you are saying and confirm it’s veracity, you can get yourself into trouble.

I would argue that Twitter itself isn’t responsible for an error like this.  That responsibility, I believe, falls directly on the shoulders of Representative Kwasman.  This is already a heated, inflamed issue, and all parties involved have an obligation to ensure that they are speaking the truth.  Kwasman failed that here.

 

Attention government officials: Citizens are watching you – and they should

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WikipediaLogoI caught this Mashable article the other day and it’s both funny and sad.  In short, using an IP address, a Twitter bot tracked every time someone working on Capitol Hill edited a Wikipedia article.  In the round of changes covered by the Mashable article, editors were making changes to articles on a variety of subjects, including Crimea and right-wing journalist Alex Jones.

These edits may not violate Wikipedia policy, though you can certainly make the argument that this isn’t the best use of a government employees time (I know, they may have been on lunch, but now we’re getting really deep into HR issues, so let’s just move on).  However, sometimes, the edits aren’t quite as harmless.  I have previously written about very similar issues, like when staffers for eleven different Texas Congressman were busted for making changes to their bosses’ Wikipedia pages – something which violates Wikipedia policy, since you aren’t supposed to edit a Wikipedia page that is your own or related to someone you work for.  Indeed, this is such a common problem that Wikipedia has an article dedicated to U.S. Congressional Staff edits to Wikipedia.

There is a broader conversation to be had here, in terms of how technology can dramatically reduce inappropriate use of government resources by public employees, or elected officials themselves. One of the greatest criticisms I’ve heard about elected officials, or public sector employees in general, is that we are arrogant or don’t care about the laws that we are supposed to enforce.  By and large, I think this is totally inaccurate–the vast majority of public employees and elected officials that I have come into contact with care deeply about their jobs and the people they are elected to represent.  However, it goes without saying that this attitude is certainly present in some.

Bots like the one that track Congressional edits to Wikipedia articles – and, of course, the people who set them up in the first place and then monitor their activity – have serious implications for tracking potentially inappropriate actions of government officials.  Government officials would do well to remember that IP addresses can be easily viewed. That makes it harder for us to be anonymous commenters or deceptive in other ways.  When it comes to using public resources, this is a good thing; monitoring IP addresses makes sure that we aren’t using government resources for inappropriate or illegal purposes, and I do believe that the public has every right to expect that.

Now, please keep in mind, I’m only speaking in relation to what public officials or employees do with publicly funded equipment.  I am NOT talking about the average citizen.  That being said, this entire episode is a lesson in transparency – IP addresses are easy to track – and that means the public can, to some extent, keep a better eye on the use of public resources.

What do you think?  Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to the weekly Email newsletter!

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