Make Public what’s Private: “Must Read After my Death”

12 04 2010

Must Read after my Death” is a detailed family memoir of Allis, a women with a clear progressive way of thinking, who had to go through painful moments, challenging times, and an unsettling marriage. So far it sounds like any documentary that explores someone’s life yet this film goes beyond any story I have seen so far.

From: Filmakermagazine.com

In 2001, after Allis death, her family found an entire archive of eight millimeters films, tape recordings and hundreds of pages of writings describing her difficult moments.  The archive clearly instructed family members that this was to be “read after her death.” However, her grand son, Morgan Dews, took her grandmother’s wishes one step further. He carefully compiled, edited and added some of his own work to create a 70-minute thought-provoking and dramatic film.

In my previous post, I talked about the experiment of people “living in public” and getting together in the “bunker” while being under surveillance 24/7. These people willingly accepted the terms of the experiment and consciously knew that other would watch them while they were drunk, happy, sad and sleeping.

Allis left this archive for her family to read and not to be shown to a whole bunch of strangers. As far as I am concerned, she didn’t’ asked anyone to write a biography or otherwise, she could have done it herself while alive.

It is clear that the gap between public and private live is eroding, and we enjoy watching people’s “real” life, sharing their thoughts and miseries. I have also written about privacy and where we draw the limits; but this is a phenomenon that our generation is experiencing, and does not have to be part of someone who was born in the beginning of the century, who probably thought that telephones were already intrusive.

From: beginwithsoftware.com

Of course, I didn’t meet this lady, and as I said, she seemed to be very independent-minded and modern for her time; so, I am not sure what she would think if she knew that her tragedies and dramas became a share of some viewers entertainment. Nevertheless, if my grandma, who was also a very progressive lady, had left the same legacy, I am certain that she would’ve had liked it to keep it among the family.

Even if I were the one who left my private memoirs for my family, and in 2060 my grandson decides to make it public, I would be upset. OK not that it matters once you die, but respecting someone’s privacy after death should be something that we also need to consider nowadays.

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Do you live in public?

5 04 2010

I recently watched the documentary “We Live in Public” by Ondi Timoner, a winner of the Grand Jury Prize for a US Documentary at Sundance. The film is shocking, prophetic, and thought-provoking.

The documentary takes you through the bizarre journey of Josh Harris, a successful and visionary entrepreneur who experienced the rise and fall of the dot.com era. The film shows how, eccentric Harris starts experimenting with people and how they behave under extreme circumstances.

In 1999, he created “Quiet”, a bunker equipped with guns, food, alcohol, and many more things, where he asked 100 people to spend 30 consecutive days without going out. This sounds like something many would like to do yet the group was constantly under surveillance and filmed permanently, even while going to the bathroom.

This showed that people were eager to sacrifice their anonymity and privacy for recognition, entertainment and fame. Under these extreme circumstances, people’s behaviors and emotions began to go out of whack. Harris thought that this wasn’t enough to prove the point that people love to live in public and to share all they can; so he for six months, he turned his camera on himself, making him the first and only not-produced reality show. He and his partner lived in an apartment surrounded by cameras in every single corner of their loft. Their lives, intimacies, fights and loves were shared with viewers on Weliveinpublic.com. Of course, this did not have a happy ending, soon the relationship failed, and Harris broke down.

From: Randomville

At the time Harris was conducting his experiments, they seem only like that, like experiments. People were not aware of the consequences: and in 2000, they never imagined that in 2010, we were close to Harris’ predictions.

My take from this film, and from this visionary, is that even before social media and all the different way of sharing our lives were happening, the need for people publicize their private life was already happening. Today People love to live in public, but so they did ten years ago.

The difference is that when the tools were not available, it was harder to share all we have and all we want even though there was that intrinsic need. So are we living in public?

Well, let me ask you: how many times have you tweet today about what you did, think or eat? How many times have you checked your Facebook, asmallworld, Myspace or Foursquare account? Did you comment on someone’s blog today? Did you check people’s statuses more than once? Do you feel bad when you don’t check and update your social networks accounts?

I will not exaggerate and say that if you answer yes some of these questions, it is as if you were living in a bunker surrounded by cameras. But the fact is that we are sharing more and more personal information, and life, as time goes on, is becoming more public. As you watch other’s people lives by reading their updates, checking their b-day pictures and reading their blogs, there are others who are reading, checking and commenting on your life as well.

From: Ralphloseyfiles

So do we all like to live in public then? Personally, I like to use Face book, I do not like Twitter so much, and I rarely comment on other people’s blogs or lives but I’m deeply afraid that the trend of living in public will be more prevalent as the social media and technology evolve; and as with many more other things, we are still unaware where things can go wrong. Harris never thought that things could go as bad when he “locked” 100 people in the “bunker”, it took him some time to realize that living in public was extremely dangerous. I hope that we learn from Harris’ experience and take the necessary steps before things go out of control.

And by the way, if you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend it, it will live you thinking for a while.





Did you turn your lights off last Saturday?

29 03 2010

If you did, you were part of the millions of people across the world who joined the Earth Hour. The campaign, a World Wildlife Fund initiative, started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million homes and businesses turned their lights off for one hour to make their stand against climate change. Sine then the Earth Hour has become an environmental landmark across the world.

Keetsa Blog

My first encounter with this initiative was in 2008 when I was working for the Ministry of Environment in Colombia, and the WWF reached out to me and asked the support of our institution. At that point, it seemed that it was one of those hundreds of initiatives that NGO’s organize that do not have a big impact.

However, my prediction was wrong. In 2008 more than 50 million people across 35 countries participated. In 2009, the numbers rose to 4000 cities in 88 countries. Although the results for the 2010 Earth Hour have not been published, the WWF estimated that over 1 billion people over 120 countries would participate this year.

The WWF and its partners around the world have joined their efforts to make this a successful campaign. Nevertheless, the incredible public engagement has been a result of people spreading the word in every possible way. The initiative web page even has a section where they tell people how they can participate in social media to support the Earth Hour http://www.myearthhour.org/social-media.

As the press release of the activity stated, “more than ever before, social media was a powerful force in spreading the message of Earth Hour.”

Celebrity tweets included:

  • Twitter’s most popular tweeter, Ashton Kutcher – “Earth Hour is at 8.30. Let’s shut the lights off.”
  • Demi Moore – “Are your lights off for Earth Hour?”
  • Coldplay – “Get out your flashlights for Earth Hour.”
  • Kylie Minogue tweeted a picture of the candle she lit.

Impressions online included:

  • 74.6 million of Earth Hour mentions on Google within 24 hours
  • Number 1 worldwide trending topic on Twitter for most of the 24 hours, which never fell below position 7 (at it’s peak 2.2 % of all tweets were Earth Hour related)
  • Over 1,000 official Earth Hour photos were submitted from around the world.

We know that turning off the lights for an hour is not going to solve all the environmental challenges that we are facing. However, this type of global engagement proves that there are many of us who are striving to make a change and who are conscious about the importance of taking actions to preserve our only home, the earth. These actions are vital for the process of raising awareness, which is much-needed for critical issues such as climate change.

So, if you were part of the other millions of people who didn’t turn their lights off, don’t worry 2011 will be your year, and hopefully soon we would all take an hour to show that we want to save the earth.





Paris, Tiger, Lost, Diets, Sex, Debt, Avatar… Obsessed?

24 03 2010

It’s not a secret that most people in the western world find media as a way to escape and forget about their daily lives. Throughout history, society has found different escapism techniques to let them break away from everyday routines. And this is normal.

From: Biggerboat.com

However, I have always wondered what are the motives behind people becoming so entrenched and fascinated with realities shows, online games or even celebrities? These behaviors, most of the times, surpass the mere entertainment and escapism that we all look for, and become almost obsessive.

So I started my search:  are people obsessed with TV shows?

Not only I found thousands of WebPages on people’s obsession with TV shows, but also results about all kind of people’s obsessions came out. Our obsession with celebrities, America a sports-obsessed culture, we are obsessed with our body, the list went on and on.

The main issue is not that people are just obsessed with TV shows and movies, but that in general, we could be living in a society where we are obsessed with all sorts of things

So, my second search was: are we an obsessed society? And the results were not that different from the former. Now, the list went as follows:

From: Logodesign.com

Are we obsessed with sex?

Are we obsessed with brands?

Are we obsessed with genetic mutations?

Are we obsessed with guns?

Are we obsessed with breast?

And with the end, virginity, weight, the lives of others, personality tests, Tiger Woods, privacy, weather and even Online Farming.

We are using the term obsession loosely because in psychological terms obsession is defined as an unwelcome, uncontrollable, and persistent idea, thought, image, or emotion that a person cannot help thinking even though it creates significant distress or anxiety.

I am not sure that people get a feeling of distress or anxiety when they want to know everything about Tiger Woods or personality tests. But people do turn out to be so involved with these seemingly trivial issues that they become a significant part of their lives. Is the issue then about addiction instead?

So, my new search: are we an addicted society?

The results did change a little but not completely: are we addicted to rioting, computer, drugs, the pill, debt, love, coffee, sex, fame, celebrities gossip, social media and sports.

Again, addiction is a strong term to describe these types of behaviors since by definition it is the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

N.C Industrial Commission

Would people then be traumatized if their favorite TV show goes off the air? Would people suffer from withdrawal symptoms if their favorite celebrity passes away? Well to this, we have to think about some of the reactions that people have had with the death of Michael Jackson or Lady Diana. Or more recently people claimed to have experienced great depression and suicidal thoughts after watching Avatar.

I am neither a psychologist nor a sociologist who has been examining this issue for a while and I don’t have the answer for why this happen or to what extent people are “obsessed” or  “ addicted” to these things. Yet I question if these types of behaviors whether you call them obsession, addiction or fascination are natural or societal imposed.

Is there something wrong or lacking in the world we are living in that we need to satisfy ourselves by following other people’s lives?

Is it a consequence of the mass media and the mass  consumption society that we have created? Is it something natural that we shouldn’t worry about?

My concern as a PR professional is to think that potentially the power of persuasion that this and other related fields have created a society in which it’s seems that it’s more important if Paris Hilton lost her dog than if a friend lost her family member. If the people who are fascinated by all these superfluous things devoted some of their energy to create a better world, there will be a lot of helping hands.

So, maybe our job as PR professional is to start persuading people to stop spending their time following irrelevant “people” or things, and start uniting to rescue some core societal values.





Accepting a Friend Request could be Dangerous

13 03 2010

ABC News/Getty

This morning I was shocked when I learned that six months ago, a 19-year-old girl from Bogota was killed by two men who she had met through Facebook. The story made headlines in all the Colombian newspapers at the time the crime happened on September 17, 2009. However, I had not heard about this horrible story until today that the main newspaper from Colombia, El Tiempo, ran an article about the assassins being sentenced to 25 years in jail.

After investigating the crime, Colombian authorities found that the victim, Ana María Chávez Niño, had accepted Anderson Sierra, one of the two men who committed the crime, as her friend on Facebook. Seemingly, he gained the victim’s trust and they started a friendly relationship through this social networking site.

Anderson Sierra resided in Medellin while the victim lived in Bogota. Nevertheless, the girl and Anderson Sierra made arrangements to meet in Bogota. The police report explains that Mr Sierra came to the lobby of the girl’s building, where security cameras were in place, and greeted the girl with a kiss on her cheek. The murderer was with his friend, Juan Sebastian Obando. The two male and the young women went up to her apartment where later that afternoon she was killed.

This is a horrible incident, and made me, once again, wonder about who we are letting get into our lives through these social networking sites. I am very carful when I accept friends and for the most part I only accept request from people who I know. Nevertheless, there are young and naïve people, like Ana Maria Chavez who open their lives  to strangers.

highposition.net

Many would think that this type of case could only happen in Colombia because, in the eyes of many, is a dangerous country. Yet, only a few days ago a man was jailed in England after being found guilty of kidnapping, raping and killing Ashleigh Hall, a 17-year-old childcare student from Darlington.

I am not suggesting that Facebook was directly responsible for the death of these girls. Of course if these men wanted to commit crimes, they would have found ways to do it. Nonetheless, it helped as a platform to gain the girls’ friendship and create different identities that they could trust. I don’t believe that all the people who are part of the social networks are bad or have bad intentions, but it only takes one bad person to ruin the lives of many.

Incidents like this only make me think that even though social media and networking sites are creating conversations, making the world smaller and joining people together, they can also be dangerous if the users do not take the necessary steps to protect their privacy. As the digital divide becomes narrower worldwide, more and more cases of this type might arise if the necessary actions are not set in place from the beginning.

We need to realize that even though social media is putting forward an unimaginable range of opportunities, it has also a dark side. I am not a pessimist, and I think it is a matter of increasing awareness of issues like this. Public knowledge, outreach, and action can be the most important deterrent. Thus, we have to be activists and learn how to use these tools for the greatest good and when something wrong along the way happens, we must voice it.





The Changing Role of Women

3 03 2010

From: jyesmith.com/page/2/

March is women’s month since the 8th of March is International Women’s Day. There are thousands of celebrations to commemorate this special date. Many events are still focused on gender equity, women’s rights and freedom. As I searched the list of events that the United Nations Headquarters in New York is holding for this date, I thought  that including a panel on how social media is shifting the role of women and creating more opportunities for involvement would be interesting. However, this was not part of the agenda and I guess we are still at a premature stage of the social media development to include such a topic in an event like this.

So, I took some time to research how women are interacting with social media and how it’s changing their role. Not surprisingly my initial thoughts of how social media presents an opportunity for women were confirmed.

According to the article “Revealing the People Defining Social Networks” by Brian Solis, women tend to be heavier users of social networks than men. This is not as surprise since social networks are all about building and maintaining relationships, and naturally women tend to be more “sociable” than men. This statement might sound stereotypical but studies have demonstrated that with regards to social interests, social values, needs for inclusion, and need for affiliation, women nearly always scored higher. Also in studies comparing the friendships of women and men suggested that women are more involved than men with other people.

So, social media presents the ideal platform for women to develop what we are “genetically bound to do”, and that’s to be social. Aside from building informal relationships or keeping established ones, social media presents several opportunities for women at every level.

From: Collective Thoughts

Influence

Many of us have heard about Mommy Bloggers. This is a perfect example of how a big group of women are influencing others. Here are some numbers from “Mom Bloggers Prove Powerful Resource to Marketing and Branding Success” that prove how these bloggers are modifying the decision-making sphere and how important their role is:

  • 96% of Moms value recommendations they find on Mom Blogs
  • Over 78% of Mom Bloggers now review products and services
  • More than 60% of Mom Bloggers consider making money important and want more connectivity with companies
  • 37% of Mom Bloggers have been contacted as resources for the press

Really, what these numbers mean is that women, especially mothers, are affecting others’ purchasing decisions, their way of thinking and their behavioral patterns. Today, a bad review about a product in a popular Mommy Blog could negatively affect sales, image and perception about the product. So, today ever than before women’s voices and concerns are heard. Years ago due to lack of accessibility and high costs of information transferability this trend seemed unimaginable.

Access

In traditional media women have not the same access to jobs and creation of content than men. According to The National Organization for Women only one in four communications/media jobs created between 1990 and 2005 were filled by women. The only area where the share of women increased was in the newspaper industry — the lowest-paid industry in the sector, where many of the women are employed in part-time telephone sales positions. For full-time workers in the communications/media sector, a gender and race wage gap persists: White men are paid 29 percent more than white women and 46 percent more than women of color. Among communications companies in the Fortune 500, women comprise just 15 percent of top executives and only 12 percent of board members. Nevertheless, social media presents a cost-effective and accessible way to disseminate information and content. Women only need a computer, creativity and some basic skills to persuade thousands of people if that’s what they are looking for. Now, women who are interested in journalism or simply who want to make a change, don’t have to wait for a high-paid executive to give them journalists jobs in a magazines or a newspapers.

Leadership

Aside from having a greater possibility to influence people and having more access to the creation of content, social media also gives women an opportunity to lead. A friend of mine created a blog, and later a not-for-profit organization to support women who work as exotic dancers and have been physically or physiologically abused. She  did not have the financial resources either the human capital to raise enough awareness about this issue using traditional media. However, her blog, and all the other social networks have helped assume an important leadership role to protect this group of women. Her organization has become so successful that she has been interviewed in several shows and has organized many events to fund raise money to support exotic dancers. This is one small example, but as my friend, there are thousands of women who are creating blogs and using networks to strengthen their leadership role in society. I am not suggesting here that before social media women were unable to lead yet these tools are enhancing their roles and increasing their opportunity to reach even more people.

It’s clear that women still face some barriers and the glass-ceiling has not yet become something of the past. However, I believe, and studies are proving it, that social media is giving women more possibilities to interact, persuade and grow.





How would you like to handle your cyber identity when you die?

24 02 2010

“The Venn of Identity” by xmlgrrl

It might sound strange but in the past I have thought about what will happen to my cyber identity when I die. This first came to my mind about a year ago when one of my colleagues, who I had on Facebook, passed away. I found that it was very awkward to see that his friends and family were writing on his wall after he died. To this date, his family members post comments and photos, change his status and add friends to his account. This to me is a little bit disturbing and I would prefer not to see his profile anymore yet I feel bad removing him from my contact list.

I had not thought about my identity immortality for a while but this morning I bumped into an article that caught my attention  “death and the Internet: How your online identity can live on after death.” The article is about a new business venture from Sweden called My WebWill that allows you to control your digital life and online accounts once you passed away. The service will be launched next month; however, the same article mentions other companies that offer similar services.

Deathswitch bridges mortality. It is an automated system that prompts you for your password on a regular schedule to ensure that you are alive. If the password is not entered, it will prompt you again several times. After a while, the computer will “assume” that you are dead, and will forward your messages to the people you chose when subscribed to the service.

There is also Legacy Locker, which acts as a digital safety deposit box where you can store all your digital information and when you die this information will be transferred to the people you have previously chosen. It also serves as a storage site to keep all your important digital information in case you forget passwords or want to keep it in a completely safe place.

After reading the article, I took the time to explore some of their websites, and I was completely shocked; I had never thought about the availability of these kinds of services.

Then, I thought if I would choose to subscribe to one of them. Deathswitch would be a NO NO. What would happen if a go on a field trip for six months to a remote place and don’t get access to Internet? Would it assume that I died, and all my personal messages would be sent to one of my family members or to a friend?

Legacy Locker seems like a more viable option. It has different payment methods and it even offers a free service where you can have three assets, one beneficiary and one legacy letter. There is also the $299 one-time-fee where you get unlimited assets, beneficiaries and legacy letters.

I am not sure if I am ready to try any of these services yet since I should not be too worried about death. However, as the cyber identities increase and our “digital assets” multiply these types of services will be more popular.  If, like me, people want to erase their online presence after death, they should consider taking the necessary steps to make this happen – at least we now know that there are ways in which this can be done.