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The Social Media Disconnect

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You wake up each morning but before getting out of bed you’re already caught up with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. By the time you’ve reached the office, you know exactly what’s trending, which celeb made a faux pas, and what your virtual friends are wearing to work. Sound familiar?

According to the SA Social Media Landscape 2017 report issued by World Wide Worx and Ornico, there are 14 million South Africans on Facebook, 7.7 million on Twitter, 5.5 million on LinkedIn and 3.5 million on Instagram. It’s unclear how many are on Snapchat as users themselves don’t know what their follower count is; however, the last global estimate stood at 2% being South African.

Being on multiple social media platforms is the norm, but how has it changed our behavior? Gregory Eccles, a counselling psychologist practicing in Greenstone Hills, Johannesburg, says social media allows us to share far more of our lives with a large audience than we typically would have, creating opportunities for both greater inclusion of others in our lives, as well as for overshare or compromised privacy.

“Like any other communication tool, it gives us the power to affect change in our lives in good and bad ways, but it is our choice of how we use it that ultimately decides its impact,” says Eccles.

“It also allows us to indulge our inherent narcissism more fully than we otherwise may have been able, but those are desires that were there prior to social media.”

Saaleha Bamjee, a 33-year-old writer and photographer based in Johannesburg, who has since deleted her Snapchat account, says she used to catch up on the network in the mornings and evenings, and when not busy, in the afternoons.

“I joined out of a sense of FOMO [fear of missing out], and at first, followed the popular accounts,” she says. “It soon got tiresome, none of what people were sharing was of any value to me personally.”

There have been reports over the years of people going into debt to maintain an online presence and image, while a fair amount of ‘influencers’ overseas have quit Instagram altogether because they couldn’t keep up with the pressure of leading “fake” lives. Eccles says there is certainly pressure to maintain a certain type of social image, and the same applies to our social media presence.

“While some people may experience that pressure as quite overwhelming, it is ultimately still an action of choice for the most part as to how we present ourselves through social media.”

Bamjee says she made purchases on cosmetics and haircare appliances based on the recommendation of a local beauty blogger, while other purchases were tied to being a photographer.

“On Instagram, if I want to be hired or promote my services effectively, I have to upload quality images; this often involves shopping for food ingredients and props.”

Eccles thinks that social media doesn’t actively force us to make purchases. He says that the one aspect of social media when compared to other communication methods is that it allows us greater control over what we present, but we do not always take that into account when viewing posts from other people – an oversight which potentially mars our perspective of our status relative to others.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen an increase in new hardware such as better technology in smartphones like higher megapixels on the front-facing cameras, and 360-degree cameras, which Facebook has been supporting for quite some time now. These technologies enable us to share more than ever because it’s no longer just a photo; it’s now full-on livestreams through Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, and 360-degree photos and videos of every aspect of our lives.

While the availability of these sorts of tools can make it easier to indulge in our vices, Eccles maintains it is not the tools that are to blame.

“We need to look at our own motivations for why we use all of these tools the way we do, and think carefully about what other options we may have to achieve similar results (sense of social connection) and what the consequences of each method are.”

Eccles believes the problem is deeper than what it appears, and thinks that while consumer culture has an influence on our need to be connected all the time, the bigger influence are our own feelings of social connectedness or isolation.

“The truth is we all have a strong desire to connect socially with others, and social media is often the easiest way to do so. Unfortunately, our interactions through social media are quite superficial, forcing those who choose to fulfil their need for social interaction through social media to require more of it.”

Bamjee subsequently stopped following Snapchat accounts that had a “sameness” about it – a preoccupation with affluence and image.

“I soon realized that I didn’t want to see even more than what was already being shared on Facebook or Instagram. I missed having a conversation where I could ask ‘hey, what’s new’ and actually hear something I hadn’t known about previously.”

Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate our reasons for being on social media and the behavior it dictates. “We have a common urge to place blame outside ourselves – Facebook does this to us or smartphones do this to us, but while they often make it easier to behave in ways that may not be particularly healthy, such as ignoring the outside world in favour of spending all your time on your phone, we cannot ignore our own agency in all of this,” concludes Eccles.

While her time is still being monopolised by other social media platforms, Bamjee says she is happier in the sense that she no longer feels she has to know what’s going on with everyone all the time.

Technology

Where The Medium’s The Topic And The Topic is Topical

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UJ, 4IR, and the CloudebateTM concept

UJ is the University of Johannesburg. 4IR is the Fourth Industrial Revolution. CloudebateTM? Well – it’s a place where really interesting questions are asked, such as: is the academic thesis a thing of the past? Have books outlived their physical form? Are we witnessing the demise of childhood? Will eye-tracking, sip and puff, or exoskeletons lead to true equality of opportunity? Will society change Africa? Will Africa help change society? Will education teach our children what they really need to know? And if so, how?

As 4IR sweeps the world, sending many preconceptions, predilections, and presuppositions tumbling as it goes, UJ sees the asking of questions like these as a fundamental response. And it’s responding because, since 2013, when it first embarked on its strategy of global excellence and stature, the university saw a clear need to take the lead in exploring the applications, implications and potential of 4IR. What’s more, it saw a need to do this not just as part of its positioning as a thought-leader on the continent, but as part of making a proactive and positive contribution towards African society, education and enablement.

A vision of width, a platform of depth

It’s a significant vision, and as part realising it, UJ has been investigating new and challenging ways, not just of identifying the issues at stake, but of presenting them in depth. It sought a way that would bring medium and content, idea and action, debate and initiative, together on one unique platform.

And that unique platform, one that UJ has not only created, but given a unique name to as well, is the CloudebateTM

The CloudebateTM

The CloudebateTM has essentially taken the traditional debate/panel discussion and reimagined it, placing it firmly within the realm of its own 4IR scope, and using the latest live-streaming technology. It is the place where 4IR ideas that have been identified as relevant, meaningful, challenging and thought-provoking are placed before an expert panel as well as an online audience who are invited to participate in real time, online, in a very 4IR way, in the discussion, analysis and dissection.  

There have been seven Cloudebates held so far, and their names provide an insight into their capacity to provoke thought: The Way Tomorrow Works; Digitally Equal; Is 4IR the Demise of Childhood? Questioning the Answers; Obsolete or Absolute? Should Books be Shelved? Adding Muscle to Open Doors.

When thought is action

It’s all about the kind of world we are creating for our children to inhabit. What will the elimination of jobs do to society? Are children growing directly into the immediacy of adulthood? Are academic theses outdated? Are libraries passé? Can technology enable opportunity equally for all?

The digital reach has been immense, not just in South Africa but globally, where it has found a worldwide audience. Moreover, UJ’s CloudebateTM initiative is set to continue into 2020 with further challenges to our received wisdom, our perceived way of doing things. So, if you have any stimulating 4IR topics that you would like to see discussed, send them to [email protected] – UJ would love to hear from you. And if you’d like to see the discussions that have already taken place, then just go to uj.ac.za/4IR, where you can watch, and take a view of your own.

Creating tomorrow

With its innovative CloudebateTM concept, UJ’s pursuit of global excellence has been a most rewarding journey that will continue to develop and expand along with 4IR, and along with UJ’s ongoing commitment to creating tomorrow.

Content provided by the University of Johannesburg

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30 under 30

Applications Open for FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 class of 2020

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FORBES AFRICA is on the hunt for Africans under the age of 30, who are building brands, creating jobs and transforming the continent, to join our Under 30 community for 2020.


JOHANNESBURG, 07 January 2020: Attention entrepreneurs, creatives, sport stars and technology geeks — the 2020 FORBES AFRICA Under 30 nominations are now officially open.

The FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 list is the most-anticipated list of game-changers on the continent and this year, we are on the hunt for 30 of Africa’s brightest achievers under the age of 30 spanning these categories: Business, Technology, Creatives and Sport.

Each year, FORBES AFRICA looks for resilient self-starters, innovators, entrepreneurs and disruptors who have the acumen to stay the course in their chosen field, come what may.

Past honorees include Sho Madjozi, Bruce Diale, Karabo Poppy, Kwesta, Nomzamo Mbatha, Burna Boy, Nthabiseng Mosia, Busi Mkhumbuzi Pooe, Henrich Akomolafe, Davido, Yemi Alade, Vere Shaba, Nasty C and WizKid.

What’s different this year is that we have whittled down the list to just 30 finalists, making the competition stiff and the vetting process even more rigorous. 

Says FORBES AFRICA’s Managing Editor, Renuka Methil: “The start of a new decade means the unraveling of fresh talent on the African continent. I can’t wait to see the potential billionaires who will land up on our desks. Our coveted sixth annual Under 30 list will herald some of the decade’s biggest names in business and life.”

If you think you have what it takes to be on this year’s list or know an entrepreneur, creative, technology entrepreneur or sports star under 30 with a proven track-record on the continent – introduce them to FORBES AFRICA by applying or submitting your nomination.

NOMINATIONS AND APPLICATIONS CRITERIA:

Business and Technology categories

  1. Must be an entrepreneur/founder aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
  2. Should have a legitimate REGISTERED business on the continent
  3. Business/businesses should be two years or older
  4. Nominees must have risked own money and have a social impact
  5. Must be profit generating
  6. Must employ people in Africa
  7. All applications must be in English
  8. Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up

Sports category

  1. Must be a sports person aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
  2. Must be representing an African team
  3. Should have a proven track record of no less than two years
  4. Should be making significant earnings
  5. Should have some endorsement deals
  6. Entrepreneurship and social impact is a plus
  7. All applications must be in English
  8. Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up

Creatives category

  1. Must be a creative aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
  2. Must be from or based in Africa
  3. Should be making significant earnings
  4. Should have a proven creative record of no less than two years
  5. Must have social influence
  6. Entrepreneurship and social impact is a plus
  7. All applications must be in English
  8. Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up

Your entry should include:

  • Country
  • Full Names
  • Company name/Team you are applying with
  • A short motivation on why you should be on the list
  • A short profile on self and company
  • Links to published material / news clippings about nominee
  • All social media handles
  • Contact information
  • High-res images of yourself

Applications and nominations must be sent via email to FORBES AFRICA journalist and curator of the list, Karen Mwendera, on [email protected]

Nominations close on 3 February 2020.

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Technology

Facebook Is Still Leaking Data More Than One Year After Cambridge Analytica

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Facebook said late Tuesday that roughly 100 developers may have improperly accessed user data, which includes the names and profile pictures of individuals in certain Facebook Groups.

The company explained in a blog post that developers primarily of social media management and video-streaming apps retained the ability to access Facebook Group member information longer than the company intended.

The company did not detail the type of data that was improperly accessed beyond names and photos, and it did not disclose the number of users affected by the leak.

Facebook restricted its developer APIs—which provide a way for apps to interface with Facebook data—in April 2018, after the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke the month before. The goal was to reduce the way in which developers could gather large swaths of data from Facebook users.

But the company’s sweeping changes have been relatively ineffective. More than a year after the company restricted API access, the company continues to announce newly discovered data leaks.

“Although we’ve seen no evidence of abuse, we will ask them to delete any member data they may have retained and we will conduct audits to confirm that it has been deleted,” Facebook said in a statement.

The social media giant says in its announcement that it reached out to 100 developer partners who may have improperly accessed user data and says that at least 11 developer partners accessed the user data within the last 60 days.

Facebook has been reviewing the ways that companies are able to collect information and personal data about its users since the New York Times reported that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica harvested data of millions of users. Facebook later said the firm connected to the Trump campaign may have improperly accessed data on 87 million users.

The Federal Trade Commission slapped Facebook with a $5 billion fine as a result of the breach. As part of the 20-year agreement both parties reached, Facebook now faces new guidelines for how it handles privacy leaks.

“The new framework under our agreement with the FTC means more accountability and transparency into how we build and maintain products,” Facebook’s director of platform partnerships, Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, wrote in a Facebook post.

“As we work through this process we expect to find examples like the Groups API of where we can improve; rest assured we are committed to this work and supporting the people on our platform.”

Michael Nuñez

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