Revenge Bedtime Procrastination is the New Doomscrolling

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It was Groundhog Day earlier this week, so I wrote a thread about back when I was the voice of Punxsutawney Phil on Twitter. Who knew in early February we could still expect 6 more weeks of winter? A prognosticating marmot, that’s who. Human traditions can be so beguiling.

Beyond forecasting animals, a handful of significant turning point moments happened in social media this week that are worth noting:

  1. AOC used IGTV to share her powerful story of the attack on the Capitol directly with followers (TW // sexual violence).
  2. Elon Musk used Clubhouse to interview the CEO of Robinhood.
  3. The CEO of Parler was fired by the board.
  4. And the Myanmar military blocked Facebook and other social media platforms in a bid to quell dissent after detaining the country’s elected leaders and seizing power in a coup.

Social media has always offered an opportunity to disrupt traditional information gatekeepers and to offer direct access from 1:1 and 1:Many. But we’re seeing these tools be used in new ways that are an exponential leap beyond where they’ve been for a decade – when the Arab Spring was the best example of social media’s power, risk, and potential for abuse.

The Year 2021 was always going to be a fascinating one to live through, but I continually find myself surprised at how unexpected and history-making these times can be.

Here’s what I’m tracking this week…

@creators

Black History Month Social: February is Black History Month, and this week all of the major social platforms announced new programs and initiatives to celebrate Black stories and highlight the contributions of people of color.

CES 2021 Cheat Sheet: Remember January? It seems like a year ago, but it was just last month. And there was a huge consumer technology event that happened you may have missed. So I put together a little cheat sheet for you: 10 Takeaways from CES 2021. Check it out, and if you want to go deeper, let me know.

Advertising’s Big Game: This weekend is Super Bowl Sunday (aka The Big Game, aka Superb Owl), and the USA Today Ad Meter is live and *the* place to watch and rate your favorite spots.

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination: If you thought your doomscrolling habit would end after the election but still can’t sleep, there’s a Chinese term translated as “sleepless night revenge” that is spreading to the U.S. via social media. The idea of bedtime revenge procrastination is a “phenomenon in which people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early in order to regain some sense of freedom during late night hours.” How to solve it? Go outside, exercise, meditate, and just put that phone down. Sounds easy enough, right?

When Robots Write Candy Hearts: Technologist Janelle Shane is continuing her tradition of having neural networks write the messages on those little candy hearts for Valentine’s Day. This year’s most romantic A.I. picks: “Can I stay?” “I am the best.” “Our tentacles are more alike than you might think.”

The Best Line in Bezos’ Email to Employees: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos stepped down this week, and there’s a line in this employee email worth reading: “Invention is the root of our success. We’ve done crazy things together, and then made them normal. We pioneered customer reviews, 1-Click, personalized recommendations, Prime’s insanely-fast shipping, Just Walk Out shopping, the Climate Pledge, Kindle, Alexa, marketplace, infrastructure cloud computing, Career Choice, and much more. If you get it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. And that yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive.”

Patent Watch: Tracking where big companies are putting their efforts is a great way to see where things *may* be headed, even if some of these never come to fruition.This week Apple has a patent that brings your car’s seat customizations into a friend’s car. Facebook is creating directional audio blocking. And Microsoft is bringing their computer technology into shirt design, including “microcontrollers, integrated circuits, solar cells, [LEDs], batteries, conductors, actuators, switches, buttons.” Read more here.

Verified Influencer Home Décor: Finally, you can let your neighbors know you’re an influencer with a giant Blue Check mounted to your house. Only $2999, if you qualify. And if you lose enough followers, they remove it. And charge you. Yes, it’s a parody. But wow, can you imagine?

Business Reads of the Week:How to Stay Creative When Every Day Is Groundhog Day; Clubhouse isn’t perfect, but for PRs there’s a lot to get excited about; How to build the city of the future, according to Ikea’s innovation lab

Quick Hits:

🎶 So here’s an obligatory music reco — my “Get to Work” playlist I use when zoning out and just need to write, make a deck, or do focused thinking. It’s only 17 hours long.

See you on the internet!
Greg

PS: I’m hiring full time social positions at Fallon and Brainjolt + Blue Kazoo. And also summer interns. Read these carefully, and hit me up if you’re a fit.


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Meme stocks are not Bernie mittens

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A big hello to all the new subscribers this week. I can’t promise you won’t be disappointed, but the price is right…. (ahem.. free!).

It was quite the PR week. I was quoted in Forbes about virtual CES and the necessity of prioritizing your brand’s digital footprint in a post-pandemic world: “At CES And Beyond, CMOs See Potential With New Kinds Of Virtual Events.”

Then I was in the Axios newsletter and Cities97 radio about that dumb “$5 Mystery Safe” I sold via Facebook Marketplace and posted a Twitter thread about.

And our Arby’s team had a huge win jumping on the sea shanty TikTok trend with a bespoke sea shanty about Arby’s fish sandwiches that really took off and got some attention.

And all that was just Monday.

The rest of the week I continued to take Erik Davis’ advice we discussed last week – to try to keep my bubble popped when it comes to understanding people who aren’t like me –  and watched Chris Rock’s Good Hair, which was almost as good as We Are the Champions episode 3, btw).

And I’ve been streaming a lot of Porya Hatami (h/t Flow State), an Iranian composer and sound designer who creates these amazing ambient textures featuring atmospheric synths, soft piano, and field recordings. It’s great music to work to. Stream “Arrivals and Departures” here.

Here’s what I’m tracking this week…

Update your iPhone and iPad: This isn’t a ploy to get access to new emojis. Instead, you should update the iOS on your Apple devices immediately to close a security vulnerability. Do it right now. And iOS 14.4 also gives your phone the ability to recognize smaller QR codes – BONUS!

What makes an old song go viral on TikTok? From Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams to Jack Johnson’s Upside Down, we’ve seen TikTok viral videos help countless old songs regain mainstream popularity. NME interviewed psychologists, musicians and viral stars to find out the appeal of an old favorite. Key quote: “Good songs with a good sentiment don’t age, and the feeling of finding a song you love and playing it on repeat doesn’t have any time constraint.”

Social Trends from Q4: In its Q4 2020 Social Media Trends Report, Socialbakers reports an overall 56% YoY increase in digital ad spend, with 73.7% of total ad spend going to the main feeds on Facebook and Instagram in Q4 2020, plus 10.9% of spend on Instagram Stories. Compared to Q3 2020, all formats on Instagram decreased organic interactions, and on Facebook only live video increased; all the other formats remained basically the same or decreased slightly. In Q4 2020, the number of Instagram influencers who used #ad in their posts decreased by 17.6% compared to Q4 2019. While there was still an overall increase for the holidays, it didn’t reach last year’s levels. Download the full report here.

How Machine Learning Powers Facebook’s News Feed Ranking Algorithm: This week Facebook engineering team shared how the multi-layer algorithm code is built. Warning: it’s nerdy and deep. Key quote: For simplicity and tractability, we score our predictions together in a linear way, so that Vijt = wijt1Yijt1 + wijt2Yijt2 + … + wijtkYijtk. Did you get that? If not, here’s a quick video overview for those wanting a 101-level explainer.

Podcast of the Week: Before social media, there were only so many ways to unburden yourself and share your darkest secrets with strangers. That’s where The Apology Line came in – a real life phone number and answering machine in 1980s NYC that grew to infamous notoriety for its secrets, scandals, and worse. It’s now being remembered and chronicled via podcast, and the first episodes are live here.

Business Reads of the Week: Publishing is Back to the Future; Bill & Melinda Gates on The Year Health Went Global; The Pandemic Has Erased Entire Categories of Friendship; Apple Pay Offers Germ-Free Shopping—If Only We Could Figure Out How it Works

Quick Hits:


Meme Stocks” Changing Fortunes

A massive increase in day-trading that appeared to be driven by Reddit, WeBull, and Robinhood caught the attention of Wall Street by driving shares of GameStop, Nokia and AMC by huge leaps this week. Here’s a quick explainer. It’s not the first time online communities have pushed a stock, but Reddit-fueled rallies typically last days, not weeks.

Key quote: “Reddit’s structure and the democratic nature of users picking the most popular content differs wildly from Wall Street’s research reports and market analysis. Yet both generate trade ideas that proliferate across market participants. And [Reddit’s] ability to turn free, user-produced research into hugely viral media has seemingly been underestimated.”

This is no Bernie Sanders’ mittens meme trend that’s going to disappear after a week. And many are pointing out there’s likely professional money on both sides. But the democratization and social disruption of the stock market could have massive implications in the coming weeks and months.

Disclosure: I own .007% of one stock of Facebook, and it isn’t doing so hot. And I bought some Dogecoin last night. Very money. Wow. Such success.

See you on the internet!
Greg

PS: if you dig this, forward it to someone! Or give it a like. Or share it on social! TY!

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Decentralized social is coming

Every week I keep tabs on what’s trending, new technology, and consumer habits that impact the social web and our culture. Sign up to get this in your inbox every Friday.

The last two mornings I have started the day by doom scrolling all my news apps and feeds while holding my breath. Because that’s what I’ve done every single day for years. And I need to unlearn some habits. Starting with doom scroll apnea.

“it feels like having a sound system blaring at you on full blast for years and then suddenly cutting out. there’s phantom music in our heads. we can’t process things at normal volume yet. our ears are ringing with the last four years in all this relative silence.” –Hayes Brown

Although I remain personally hopefully and professionally pessimistic about pandemic recovery and the cultural conflicts yet to come, I have to say this week greatly increased the margin of hope in my heart. Just need my anxious strategy brain to catch up.

Source: @webcomic_name

So… if you’re like me and discovering you suddenly have some free time away from the feeds, consider reading and watching some non-fiction that offers a window into the human condition.

Specifically, I’m taking Erik Davis’ advice about consuming media concerning the “slipstream nonfictions that map the logic of the strange liminal zones that now greet us at every turn” to understand the magical thinking phenomena that shaped 2020 and continuing to try to keep my bubble popped when it comes to understanding people who aren’t like me.

I’m not super into drug or smoking-frog movies like he recommends, but there are plenty of documentaries about the edges of white culture that may be increasingly moving to the center. Here are three I recommend:

  1. We rented the Darren Aronofsky-produced documentary Some Kind of Heaven, about the massive The Villages retirement community in central Florida. It’s a damn spectacle, and although the characters they follow aren’t necessarily representative of the community at-large, it had gorgeous cinematography, a subtle plot, and prompted a lot of deep post-movie conversation about retirement, homeless elders, and the need for community no matter your age or life stage.
  2. Then we watched the documentary Voyeur on Netflix, a true story by journalism icon Gay Talese about the owner of a Colorado motel who secretly watched his guests through vents via an observation platform he built the motel’s attic for decades while keeping thorough journals. Conclusion? People are 😳. And it somehow didn’t address recompense for victims whatsoever.
  3. I’ve mentioned this one before, but if you’re looking for a third documentary to stream this weekend, check out The Rock-afire Explosion, a 2008 documentary about super fans of ShowBiz Pizza Place (and Chuck E. Cheese) who purchase and restore the animatronic bands to share performances out of their garages. You can stream the entire doc on YouTube for free.

Here’s what else I’m tracking this week…

Inauguration Social Highlights: As could be expected, there were viral moments for Bernie Sanders, Lady Gaga and ‘How it Started/How it’s Going’ coming out of festivities this week. Here are some of the best memes. Here’s a website where you can put Bernie anywhere in Google Maps Street View. If you have an iPhone, here’s an AR object for you to magically project him into your home. Amanda Gorman gained 2+ million Insta followers in one day. And here are people sharing photos of the Black women and girls in their lives watching Kamala Harris become VP.

Updated Twitter Accounts:

Wikipedia Turns 20: Happy birthday to the internet’s crowd-sourced encyclopedia! Beyond the free and most easily dissemination of human intellectual capital, the fact anyone can edit Wikipedia has also brought us “edit wars,” where Wiki editors get into huge fights about things like capitalization, Andre the Giant’s height, and lots more. More recently, there’s a TikTok trend emerging that features timed Wikipedia challenges where you try to get from one topic to another via connected Wiki pages (e.g., Try to Get from Barack Obama to Among Us).

The Kids are Alright: It’s a rite of passage for each generation of school children to use music or media to push back on the authority of teachers (Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, Alice Cooper’s School’s Out, etc.). Today’s kids are finding validation through TikTok, including @zachariahdemylo2 acting out classic teacher tropes, and @thatveganteacher being, well, that vegan teacher.  

Apple’s First Headset to Be Niche Precursor to Eventual AR Glasses: The latest leak in the lead up to Apple’s launch of smart glasses shows the initial product will be a mostly VR device with some AR functionality, in a move to trial headset functionality toward an eventual glasses offering. The rumor mill indicates Apple has planned to launch the product as soon as 2022, going up against Facebook Inc.’s Oculus, Sony Corp.’s PlayStation VR and HTC Corp.

Business Reads of the Week:The Moderation War Is Coming to Spotify, Substack, and Clubhouse; Slack and Zoom Were Distracting Our Teams. Here’s How We Regained Focus; Contenting is Hard

Quick Hits:


Decentralized Social is Coming

Dark social media isn’t new. Your most popular social network today is likely a group text message chat. Portals like Mastodon and Discord have offered communities places to gather beyond the major social platforms for years, while privacy-focused chat apps like Telegram and Signal have had a slow by steady adoption rate. But the former President’s ban from Twitter may have marked the turning point toward the next generation of decentralized and dark social networks where people gather beyond massive, public platforms we tend to think of as “social media.”

Get to know the word Fediverse, which describes social networks running on free, open software and multiple servers (e.g., diaspora, Mastodon and Funkwhale). If you have the technical knowledge, you can even administrate your own server for your friends and family.

Pay attention to how major platforms adjust to the trend toward fediverses – specifically a new Twitter-sponsored initiative called bluesky, which is aiming to build up an “open decentralized standard for social media” that would work similarly to a fediverse (although operated by the one of the world’s largest algorithmic moderators). And pay attention to how the big social networks moderate and limit their platforms, which will accelerate this adoption (although if you’ve been paying attention, this isn’t a new problem).

One of the biggest marketing implications of the move to dark social is the inability for brands to conduct “social listening” to get a pulse of what their target audiences are talking about, and the lack of advertising products with deep audience targeting capabilities. But those implications are often specifically the point of a consumer’s move to a dark social platform, and are something to continue to watch. 

Even Tim Berners-Lee, who was knighted for inventing the foundation of the World Wide Web, is helping move users and companies toward decentralized “pods” versus the current mega-hubs we know today.

One thing is certain: the term “social media” will continue to evolve and decentralize, especially as the rapid technology education and adoption effects of the 2020 pandemic ripple through user habits in 2021.

See you on the internet!
Greg

PS: if you dig this, forward it to someone! Or give it a like. Or share it on social! TY!