Social Pulse, Week of May 4

Every week I keep tabs on what’s trending, new technology and consumer habits that impact the social web. These are summed up in a round-up called Social Pulse.

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SocNet Updates: Instagram is testing and soon rolling out new fonts for Stories. Facebook is bringing back it’s “Live With” feature that lets you go live with another person. Twitter published its latest calendar planning guidance for the month of May and is testing messaging pop-ups to alert you that your tweet may be offensive plus new comment thread designs. Pinterest published a guide on current and future content considerations on the platform. YouTube is hosting a 10-day digital film festival at the end of May partnering with 20 major film festivals.

Fornite Party Royale Mode: As shared two weeks ago, Fortnite is continuing to position itself as the metaverse, or “third place,” where people hang out for more than killing each other. This week they introduced a new, violence-free mode for the game, dubbed “party royale,” which removes two of the biggest elements from the experience: weapons and buildings. If you haven’t registered a Fortnite account and poked around, now is the time!

Black Mirror-Goosebumps of the Week: Watch these unmanned farming drones follow a truck through a field. Each drone operates autonomously using their own on-board computers while working in the fields, and they will even drive themselves to the next field without a lead vehicle. In the post-COVID-era, we’ll continue to see more automation coming to the “farm gate to table plate” industries.

I’ve Never Heard of That Song: 9% of Gen Z recognizes “With Arms Wide Open” by Creed, while only a third of Millennials can identify “Return to Sender” by Elvis. Inspired by the YouTube trend of Gen Z’ers filming themselves listening to Queen, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin for the first time, The Pudding has created a generation-based music challenge to track the speed at which an entire generation forgets Top 40 hits from the previous decade. Try it here.

Space Debris: With all the buzz about SpaceX’s StarLink satellites that you can visibly see on a clear night (here’s where and when to look), it’s worth noting our near-atmosphere is cluttered with space garbage. Stuff in Space is a realtime 3D map of objects in Earth orbit, visualized using WebGL. It’s pretty shocking, actually.

Instagram of the Week: @Morphy_Me is an extremely professional celebrity face mashup, but @mystergiraffe is the insane deepfake journey we deserve.  

Listening Together: Every second on Spotify, more than 30,000 people around the world are pressing play on the same song. Check out this interactive globe experience showing two people listening to the same track, at the same time, and how many miles away from each other they are. And you can listen in, too!

Podcast of the Week: WSJ baseball writer Jared Diamond joins futurist Douglas Rushkoff to discuss how technological advancements have changed the fun and quirky ways that baseball organizations construct their teams and play the game. Why are baseball players changing their swings in order to hit more home runs? What is behind baseball’s desire to compete for the same college graduates who want to work for Amazon, Google, and major tech companies? Is there room for humans in modern baseball? Listen here.

Remember when MTV used to play music videos? Well now you can watch them again, including commercials. The Internet Archive has uploaded hours and hours of MTV recordings spanning 1981 to 1991. You just need to register a free Internet Archive account to watch.


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Social Pulse, Week of 4-15

Would you swipe right… on Facebook? Facebook is testing a ‘swipeable’ news feed enabling users to side-scroll through content like Instagram and Facebook Stories. It would also merge Facebook Stories and Newsfeed content into one stream. It’s still in testing, but this could certainly be a way for Facebook to increase adoption, use and consumption of Stories (that aren’t just auto-shared from Instagram).

Texting is out. Spontaneous Facetime is in. In our culture that avoids using our smartphones for actual phone calls, teens apparently love randomly Facetiming each other. Key quote: “The uptick [in Facetime calls out of the blue] could be linked to a growing desire for human connection among young people. ‘It just feels more personal,’ Arya Jha, a student at the University of Chicago, says of FaceTime. ‘It satisfies the human need to both see and hear someone’s voice when speaking to them.’”

This week MTV announced RealityCon, the first-ever reality show convention that will feature panels, interviews and performances to celebrate the reality show genre and its impact on culture and society. The event will bring together stars, producers and writers of some of the biggest reality TV franchises – including The Real World, The Hills, Jersey Shore, The Bachelor, Real Housewives, Survivor, Duck Dynasty, and others. You’ll have to wait until the summer of 2020, but word is MTV will host a soft-launch for it this fall.

Instagram meme creators are unionizing, and this isn’t a joke. These “memers” say the platform doesn’t pay them for their work or give them any control, and they hope to negotiate better working conditions. Key quote: “People are doing a lot of work, doing it for free or little compensation, or not recognized for the work they’re doing… All these people are bringing revenue to Instagram, producing this major profit margin for this company, and they’re subject to really little job security.” It may sound a little far-fetched on the surface, but it’s not the first time content creators have organized to demand respect, compensation and control. RIP Vine.

YouTube has been in the news a lot recently for its poor moderation and inability to police hate groups taking over livestream comments. And this week YouTube’s anti-conspiracy algorithm unfortunately linked the Notre Dame fire to the terror attacks of September 11th. The “information panel” feature, which is supposed to defend against fake news spreading, instead made a connection that could spread more conspiracy theories. A YouTube spokesperson didn’t directly explain the cause to CNBC, but said that the company sometimes “make[s] the wrong call” with its algorithms.

Hedgehogs are taking over Instagram. The Instagram influencer economy — wherein brands pay individuals with significant followings to post about their product — is expected to grow to $1.7 billion in 2019 (up from an estimated $800 million in 2017). And the newest focus of all that influencer love is on hedgehogs – hedgehogs dressed as babies, hedgehogs inside of cups and hedgehogs doing all kinds of adorable things. Yes, there are animal talent companies now getting rich on supplying hedgehogs for social shoots. But it turns out the prickly animals don’t make great pets, and some are worried that the way hedgehogs are portrayed on social media could encourage lax care, leading to pet abandonment and salmonella cases. So feel free to “like” hedgehogs on your feeds — just don’t run out and get one. There will be another Insta pet craze soon enough.

Pinterest ($PINS) had its IPO this week, and shares hit 29 percent more than the initial $19 price. E*TRADE’s Chris Larkin told Reuters that investor interest in Pinterest shares is clearly “strong out of the gate,” and that may have to do with the company’s strong user growth numbers. Pinterest had a net loss of $63 million on revenues of $756 million last year, but now they’re public and it’s time to use this financing to deliver for investors. Look for lots of monetization products and strategies to come from $PINS in the coming months and years. In other public socnet news, Snap was down 2.7% on Thursday morning after receiving a downgrade over valuation concerns before recovering later in the day.

Photo: Bloomberg

In hilarious social share-bait this week, check out this NASA video of mice in space trying to run in zero gravity.