Too Many Facebook Friends May Cause Stress, Anxiety

Too Many Facebook Friends May Cause Stress, Anxiety | 40Tech

Having many friends is classically considered a desirable thing, leading to things like wealth of spirit, a good self-image, and a generally happy life. Not so in the modern days of the internet, where terms like “friend” are used as a label for the barest acquaintance, and sometimes even for enemies. In fact, in a recent study by psychologists from Edinburgh Napier University, it was discovered that the amount of “friends” you keep on Facebook may be linked to heightened feelings of anxiety and stress.

Scream image by Robbert van der Steeg

200 students were surveyed, and it was discovered that at least 12% of them felt that Facebook made them anxious. Each of those 12% maintained an average of 117 “friends,” while the remaining 88% kept an average of 75. Some other interesting findings were as follows:

  • Many felt a great pressure to be on Facebook, but there was “considerable ambivalence” as to its benefits.
  • Stress from Facebook use was caused by many different stimuli, including “feelings of exclusion, pressure to be entertaining, paranoia, or envy of others’ lifestyles.”
  • 63% would delay replying to friend requests.
  • 32% felt guilty rejecting friend requests.
  • 10% didn’t like receiving friend requests at all.

The word “friend” could be the main cause of Facebook-related stresses. Perhaps the social media giant should come up with a proprietary name they can trademark, or use something closer to the word “acquaintance” as opposed to a word that is meant to engender feelings of warmth, familiarity, and long term trust. Keeping things as they are, however helps to foster an environment where users, who are still emotionally tied to the meaning of the word friend (no matter how watered down it has become), feel compelled to log on, invite others, and be a part of the service — and maybe more due to its negative aspects instead of the purported positives.

Perhaps we should all just bite the bullet and prune our lists down to our actual friends?

What do you think?

Does Facebook Stress You Out? [WebProNews]

Meet Rockmelt, Your New Social Browser

RockMelt | Social Browser for Google Chrome

Okay, so hands up if you’ve heard of RockMelt.

If you are one of the people who put up your hand — stop that. This is text and I can’t see you. Know, however, that you are quite possibly more connected and in tune with the techieverse than your now shame-faced tech-writer. Somehow, for reasons unknown to all but the almighty Goog itself, my keenly developed tech senses missed this wonder entirely! But, that’s all behind me, now. I’ve seen the light, got an invite, and have been playing with the world’s latest, greatest — and Google Chrome based — social browser for several days now.

Here’s what I’ve discovered:

RockMelt does for Chrome what Flock did for Firefox, but where I found Flock a bit overwhelming in its attempt to integrate social elements into the browser, RockMelt has what feels like it might be just the right mix. One almost has to wonder why Google didn’t think to do this in the first place. If they had integrated Sidewiki and Google Buzz in with the configurable social elements that RockMelt has brought into play, making them a part of the Chrome browser (and by extension, the OS) itself, both of those tools might have seen a much stronger and longer term user base.

In any case, RockMelt, which is still in beta, has a lot of good going for it. There are still a few hiccups, as is to be expected, but even so, the social Chrome is pretty appealing. This is a good thing — it means that Netscape founder Marc Andreesen’s money has been well spent.


Key Features of RockMelt

Collapsible Sidebars

Rockmelt Chrome-Based Social Browser | 40Tech

The primary difference between RockMelt and Chrome, aside from the fact that you have to log into Facebook to use the browser, is the left and right sidebars. Both are collapsible, about a centimetre in width and contain pretty buttons, often full of people’s faces. On the left, is the Facebook chat column, which shows you which of your Facebook friends are online, allows you to view their latest activity with a hover or a click, chat with them, send them a message, or post on their wall. You can also set up a favourites list in this column, and switch between it and the general tab with a single click.

All of this Facebooking takes place just below a miniature of your own profile picture (top left), which, when clicked, allows you to toggle your Facebook Chat availability, as well as update your social network status — including multiple Twitter accounts, if you decide to add them.

On the right edge of the page, you really get to dig in and configure RockMelt to suit both your browsing and social networking needs. Facebook and Twitter buttons give you access to both of those services, showing your feeds in real time. You can interact with items in the feeds as you would expect to be able to, liking, commenting, retweeting, etc. In Twitter, you can access all of your lists and your @messages, but I didn’t see anything for saved searches or DM’s. Also, if you have a lot of lists, you currently are not able to scroll to the ones that get cut off at the bottom of the page. The Facebook button gives access to people in both your main and custom profile lists, and your profile button right below it gives access to your notifications, photos and wall. I found the limited nature of the Facebook access — no pages, message centre, groups, or places — a bit surprising, but it will likely improve as the browser gets closer to official launch.

RockMelt Facebook Integration in Google Chrome | 40Tech

The right sidebar also serves two other important functions, it has a few other already integrated networks, like YouTube, and it allows you to add custom feeds so you can keep track of your favourite websites — it even makes suggestions based on the sites you visit most — and it is the home of your Chrome extensions. I like the way RockMelt handles extensions much better than the way Google does it. For one, I can decide on optimal placement of my extensions — and they will stay that way. Google’s insistence in making things rearrange themselves based on their perceptions of my usage has always driven me crazy. I also like the fact that the sidebar is collapsible, and it doesn’t shrink the size of the URL bar. Finally, If I am not using an extension that often, but don’t want to uninstall or disable it, it is simple to just remove it from the column/dock.

The main problem with RockMelt at the moment, especially if you have a lot of Facebook friends in your favourites, or a lot of extensions, is that the sidebars don’t scroll. Any more than 15 items, total, in either sidebar, and the ones furthest down can not be accessed. Also, the floating window that appears when most extension buttons are clicked is a fixed width element. This causes a problem with some extensions that are too wide for RockMelt. Hopefully these are things that will be rectified in a near-future update.

RockMelt also shares most other major features of Google Chrome, such as the new web apps area and browser synchronization. The apps are not as thoroughly integrated as they are with Chrome, being little more than just shortcuts, and browser sync is only available between other RockMelt implementations. It was a little bit annoying having to search out and re-add all of my apps and extensions, but wasn’t that difficult.

Social Sharing

Sharing what you find while surfing in RockMelt is an extremely easy process. There is a giant button to the immediate right of the URL bar, and it allows for Facebook and Twitter sharing with ridiculous ease. I wish there were a send by email button, though, then I could drop the Shareaholic extension; free up some space. Speaking of email, there is what looks like an email button on the top right of the browser. Don’t be fooled. It is not for your email at all. It is really just a suggestion list of who to send your invites to. I find this choice on RockMelt’s part to be kind of confusing.

Conclusions

RockMelt is a fantastic spin on the Google Chrome browser, packing in most of Chrome’s features and all of its speed. The collapsible social features are a fantastic addition, considering you spend most of your internet time in the browser, and most people spend most browser time on a social network or two. It just makes sense, you know? There are still a few odd issues like the lack of sidebar scrolling, and the fact that, at least for me, embedded flash videos show up as blank spaces, but these issues are the sort of thing you expect in a beta test. RockMelt still has time to make things perfect, and I think it very likely that I will keep using it as it matures.

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Tell us what you think of RockMelt.

Fend Off Tracking Cookies, Keep Functionality With Disconnect [Google Chrome]

Cookies. We have a love hate relationship with them. They track what we do and report all kinds of information back to the site that generated them — and to third parties as well, in many cases. But they also often provide a better user experience, keeping track of our preferences and removing small annoyances like having to sign in to a website every single time we open it up. Unfortunately, as is the case with most things on the internet regarding your privacy and security, the only completely effective way to protect yourself is to simply turn the potential problem off. The only problem with this course of action is that turning off cookies also has the effect of making a huge part of the web practically unusable.

So what to do about it? Well, if you use Google Chrome, try out Disconnect.

Disconnect, which was created by a former Google employee, is a Google Chrome Extension that helps you to keep your personal data safe while still maintaining the ability to work effectively with sites like Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and others. You may run into a few issues now and again, but overall, the experience is fairly seamless. All you need to do is install the Disconnect extension in your Google Chrome browser, make sure the extension is turned on, then watch as the tally of daily attempted intrusions upon your privacy climbs. The basic functionality, and much of the more advanced uses, of the webapps should work without problems, helping you to do what you like, and search for what you like, without passing along any personally identifiable data. If you have need to unblock a service, say to do something like play Facebook games, it’s a simple matter of a click on the extension’s dropdown menu (which includes Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Yahoo, and Google).

Disconnect Extension for Google Chrome in Action

Disconnect is open source software. Download it for Google Chrome here.

Disconnect for Chrome Disables Third-Party Tracking While Keeping Webapps Operational [Lifehacker]

Create a Cool New Custom Facebook Layout in Less than 5 Minutes

Create a Cool New Custom Facebook Layout in Less than 5 Minutes | 40Tech

You might have seen posts floating about the web about creative uses of the new Facebook profile page’s photo layout. If it seems like a bit of work, there is a way you, too, can be ultra cool and trendy — but with little to no effort on your part. This is the best sort of trendiness, in my opinion, and all you have to do is fall for a rather clever marketing scheme by Schweppes.

Bobby Travis Facebook Page Custom Layout

Schweppes — yes, the ginger-ale company — has put together a very simple to use app that will walk you through the process of creating your custom six part image with only a few clicks. I created mine in about three minutes, and most of that time was taken up in finding the picture I wanted. The only catch is that you have to Like the Schweppes fan page to get access to the app, which not only makes them look good, but also opens your Facebook stream up to Schweppes-related information. As a marketer, myself, I appreciate the cleverness of this approach — but if you don’t want to be subjected to beverage propaganda, there are several Facebook options you can employ to rid yourself of it.

Schweppes Facebook Cutsom Profile App | Schweppes Fan Page

The Schweppes Profile App allows you to upload a picture, drag it about to get the ideal visible area, resize and rotate the image via sliders, and adjust the height of the line of five images that appear below your info at the top of your Facebook profile page. Once you’re ready to go, you save and upload the now-sliced images to Facebook, then click a button to be taken to the automatically created album, so that you can tag the small images and add the large one as your profile picture. The images are even named in such a way as to give you instructions about which one to tag first (they have to be done in the proper order).

Schweppes Facebook Cutsom Profile App Album

I had fun with this app, and can see myself playing with all sorts of pictures to see what interesting special me-ness I can add to my Facebook page. Click here to try it out. You can always get rid of Schweppes when you’re done.

Post links to your screenshots if you dare!

How Much Did Facebook Pay to Snag FB.com From the Farm Bureau, Anyway?

facebook domain price

Last week, Facebook announced its new mail service.  In the process, it was also confirmed that Facebook had acquired the FB.com domain name, and was using it internally.  Your first reaction might be that the Farm Bureau was paid handsomely for the domain name.  That is probably the case, just by virtue of the fact that two letter domain names are prime real estate.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Farm Bureau got more money, simply because Facebook was the buyer.

According to reports, the Farm Bureau did not know that they were dealing with Facebook, as they sold it to an intermediary that worked on behalf of a number of corporate clients.  (And if you’re really into unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, a poster on YCombinator complained that he sold the socialgraph.com domain for $1500 to a woman who claimed that she wanted it for her home page, and only later did he learn that the domain actually was transferred to Facebook).

I’m not sure that I buy that the Farm Bureau had no clue as to the true buyer’s identity.  Would the Farm Bureau really agree on a price for FB.com, without first doing some research?  That research would certainly entail finding out the clients, if at all possible, of the intermediary that was buying the domain.

Or is all of that moot, and the price of a domain is what it is, regardless of buyer?

Why the New Facebook Mail Will Be Dead On Arrival (For Many of Us)

facebook mail blocked

TechCrunch is reporting that Facebook will be unveiling a full-fledged webmail client tomorrow, to take on the likes of Gmail.  Before you dismiss it as yet another unsubstantiated TechCrunch rumor, the New York Times also reported similar facts.  If the story turns out to be true, Facebook could have a formidable email service, given the size of Facebook’s user base.  Technology publications seem to be overlooking an Achilles’ heel that could make Facebook mail a no-go for many users.

What is that Achilles’ heel?  Rightly or wrongly, Facebook is blocked by many corporations in mainstream America.  Would you use an email service that you couldn’t access if you really needed to, except for on your smartphone?  Yes, if the service has a POP3 or IMAP component, you could use another email client, but then what’s the point?  That makes it no different than any other email service that you could port to an external service.

CNN, in an article by Mashable founder Pete Cashmore, is the only site that I’ve seen mention this problem.  Understandably, the tech press sometimes is out of touch with the average user.  While Facebook and Twitter may be an essential part of business to those in the tech sector, and even to many other businesses, much of America hasn’t caught on to that yet.  Whether those businesses should be more social media savvy is another debate, but the fact remains that many users wouldn’t be able to benefit from Facebook mail for much of their day.

To be fair, we don’t know exactly what Facebook will announce tomorrow.  Perhaps Facebook will announce a service so revolutionary or compelling that mainstream corporate America will allow Facebook onto its networks.  How likely is that?  If it happens, do you have any interest in a Facebook email service?

3 Pseudo-Monopolies That are Killing Tech

monopolies killing tech

Does your blood boil when you see a company gouge its consumers?  In a world with competition, that wouldn’t be such a big deal.  The free market would rule, and consumers could just move on to a competitor.

That isn’t always possible, though, in a world where, for a variety of reasons, monopolies or pseudo-monopolies exist.  In some situations, you have to suck it up and accept a company’s onerous terms, or not play ball at all.  Here are three markets desperately in need of more competition.


1.  Wired Broadband

When it comes to wired Internet access in the home, many people have only one choice.  If you’re lucky, you have two choices (typically, cable and DSL).  You’re blessed if you have three or more.

The biggest player in the market is Comcast.  That’s a problem, since Comcast already has 25% of the U.S. television market as well (and sure to be more now that a federal appeals court has thrown out a rule preventing a cable company from controlling more than 30 percent of the U.S. market).

Why is that a problem?  It is a problem because Comcast can use your lack of real choice in the broadband market to prop up what otherwise might become an outdated television business model.  Do you want to get all of your video consumption over the Internet, instead of via cable television?  Be careful that you don’t run into Comcast’s 250 GB bandwidth cap.  That might not be a huge problem now, but it will be in the future, as we consume more and more online video and use other bandwidth-intensive apps.

And what is to stop your cable provider from throttling services that compete with its video offerings? Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission lacked the authority to prevent Internet service providers from discriminating based on the type of content.

So, hold your breath and hope that services like Hulu continue to thrive.  We won’t depress you further by pointing out that Comcast’s purchase of NBC should be approved soon, leading to speculation about the availability of that network’s programming on other platforms.

The U.S. also lags behind many other countries in Internet speed.  South Korea is top dog, with speeds average 20 mbps, while the U.S average is 5.1 mbps.

U.S Internet speed vs the rest of the world

Image from Communications Workers of America.

Now that Verizon’s FIOS rollout has petered out, what incentive does a cable giant like Comcast have to invest in its infrastructure?  Can we hope that DOCSIS 3.0, and the humiliation of seeing Google roll out gigabit internet, are the impetus that we need?  Or is our future one of caps and metered usage?



2. Wireless Carriers

In a report earlier this year, the FCC, for the first time in years, did not find the wireless market to have “effective competition.”  You already know that from personal experience, though.  Can you think of another market where a handful of providers can differ so little in what they offer?

In the report, the FCC took note of the fact that carriers seemed to follow one another in jacking up early termination fees.  In addition, last year the U.S. government looked into whether wireless providers were making it impossible for competitors to enter the market, by locking up exclusivity deals with handset manufacturers.

That lack of competition has allowed wireless carriers some leeway in what they allow you to do with your phone.  If you have a snazzy new Samsung Android phone, for example, forget about using Skype over WiFi.  Verizon and Skype have a deal in place that prevents you from using Skype over anything but 3G.  The app uses your Verizon minutes, defeating part of the reason you’d use Skype in the first place.  We also previously wrote about the unavailability, since changed, of certain video streaming apps over AT&T’s 3G network.

Apps that you can’t get rid of of are a big problem, too.  Earlier this month, we discussed the problems facing Android users, who are faced with bloatware that they can’t remove. If you want a “pure” smartphone that can do everything that the manufacturer intended, your choices are limited.

Are you happy with your wireless provider?  Or do you see a world of increased restrictions, crippled hardware, and tiered pricing plans?



3. Social Networking

When it comes to social networking, Facebook is the only game in town.  Yes, there is Twitter, but Twitter really serves a different purpose than Facebook.  How many of you use Twitter just for keeping up with friends?  If Facebook went away, could Twitter fill the same niche?

Facebook is almost a social networking necessity, even among the tech crowd.  Leo Laporte quit Facebook amid some fanfare a few months ago, only to return recently.  On his radio show, he has cited his need to serve his audience (by being familiar with a service that his listeners might use), but also has pointed out that quitting Facebook really isn’t an option when all of your friends are there.

We’ve previously written about our concern over Facebook’s ever-changing, hard to understand privacy settings, and pondered what it would take to get people to leave Facebook.  Many people have branded Facebook as evil, and The Social Network movie isn’t going to help this perception.  Right now, though, there is nothing comparable.  You either use Facebook, or leave your friends behind.

Is a monopoly a necessity when it comes to a social network like Facebook?  A compelling argument can be made that the social experience would be worse, if all of your friends were spread out among different networks.  Should we just grin and accept Facebook’s position of power, in the interest of a more unified social experience?

Of the three pseudo-monopolies discussed here, FB is in the most precarious position.  A social network is, by its nature, a fickle place.  And Facebook itself could provide the mechanism to spread the “buzz” surrounding a shinier and better social tool, if one ever emerges.


In almost all situations, monopolies and near-monopolies are bad.  They stifle innovation, and customer choice.  We’re seeing this in wired and wireless broadband, and with Facebook’s cavalier attitude towards consumer privacy once it gained a dominant share of the market.

I’m not a fan of government regulation, but are there other options out there, to return competiveness to these markets?  Or am I getting all worked up for no reason?

Social Media’s Darker Side Has Reared its Head Outside My Door

The Dark Side of Social Media | 40Tech

Normally, I like to stick to light and fluffy things like how-to’s and reviews. I don’t get up on my soapbox often and I don’t like to mess up people’s days by spreading things that I wasn’t happy to learn. Today is a bit different. The fundamental shift in the way we gather, process, and spread information, while having a hugely positive affect on social efforts like fund and awareness raising, has an equally destructive affect when in the hands of those whose moral centre lays somewhere a billion or so feet below ground. What happened on Facebook over the past week — and is still happening now — is every bit as horrible and disgusting to me as the act that preceded it. I am, quite frankly, unable to fully process it, which is why I am writing about it, trying to put it into some sort of sense. READ MORE

Has Facebook Gone Too Far to Protect Its Brand?

Has Facebook Gone Too Far to Protect Its Brand?

As a marketing professional, I understand the importance of protecting brand identity. I get that it means dollars, and that any infringement upon or blanding of a company’s identity can, in the long run, have a negative effect on that company’s bottom line. I understand that a company as culturally dominating as Facebook has to worry about their brand becoming so “household” that their trademark can become non-enforceable (“google” anything lately?) — but does that give them the right to demand that an upcoming social network for teachers remove the word “book” from its name?

READ MORE