Tag, You’re It or It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt

It started out as a simple notification. I’d been tagged on Twitter. Tagged for what, I didn’t know, but tagged all the same.

I opened the app. A lovely photograph filled my screen taken by another blogger who has frequently entertained me with her travel stories and photographs of parts known, as well as less discovered. But what was it doing on my Twitter feed?

The only information I could find was the hashtag, #7dayphotochallenge. No pictures. No explanations.

Being the sucker for friendly hashtag games, I clicked to learn more.

Following the tag, I saw a number of other posts featuring images of nature or various things around the house. The game seemed easy enough. I found a decent enough picture to share and tagged a couple other nice people I follow.

The following day, another photograph appeared in my feed posted by the same person who’d tagged me in the first place. However, this time other twitter handles were mentioned. It began to dawn on me then that this was one of the more run-of-the-mill twitter games.

I suppose the whole “#7day” part of the hashtag thing should have probably clued me in, but in my defense, I was somewhat distracted at the time by the pretty landscape. So I looked around the room, snapped a photo, and tagged another nice person.

It dawned on me then, that I may have made a tactical mistake. Before, I might have been able to pass off the first photo as a fluke or humoring a friend. But now, now I was invested.

I posted a third then started preparing my whole strategy for pictures 4,5,6, and 7.

Suddenly, this whole game thing was beginning to seem like work. Fun work, mind you. But work.

And I still didn’t have a clue what in the world purpose of the game was or the rules were – other than no people, no explanations.

I found myself thinking of a special I’d seen on Netflix a while ago called The Push. The film documented a social experiment designed to answer the following: could a regular person be manipulated into pushing another person off the top of a building based on nothing more than the power of suggestion and the perception of authority. It was a modern take on the Milgram experiment.

The experiment started by first identifying people who are more susceptible to suggestion than others. Potential subjects were sent into a room where a pair of people in on the experiment stood or sat whenever a bell rang. Those who joined in the exercise without ever once asking why the first few people were standing one moment and sitting the next were invited to the next round.

Once the subject was selected, he or she would be gradually conditioned to accept increasingly risky commands leading up to one final choice – would they continue to allow social pressures to influence their behavior, or would they stand up to something that they, being good people, knew to be morally repugnant?

Watching the experiment play out on the screen, I’d like to think I wouldn’t – that I’d draw a line in the sand before the situation progressed that far – but now, given how readily I jumped into a game that everyone else seemed to be playing no questions asked, it makes me start to wonder.

I like to think that people are good and well-intentioned overall. However, we can get carried away by an idea. Then, suddenly we find ourselves backed into a corner, blocked by the rigidness of our beliefs as much as by those who oppose them. At this point, it is only natural to forget about the larger implications and instead try to seek the protection of the closest group at hand. We then do or say whatever we can that either requires the least amount of thought or provides the most immediate relief. And this is when the bad stuff tends to happen.

People, for the most part, aren’t naturally bad in my opinion, but people sure can be lazy.

I’ve included a clip from a recent episode of Last Week Tonight on the topic of astroturfing, which was not a term I was familiar with, but now makes complete sense. The clip is NSFW, so wait until sensitive ears are not around before you watch it, but its worth the watch all the same. It’s a great reminder of the risk of getting so caught up in the group-think, emotional side of things, we forget to ask if what we are doing or saying is truly best, or based on any fact from the start.

If you aren’t able to view the clip, let me repeat with his key point: “It is now even more incumbent on us to use our judgment diligently.” So never forget to use yours. I’ll do the same.

Because while it’s easier than ever to get swept up in a trend, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

How Twitter is helping to teach geography in my home

Zen (Photo credit: Josefe aka Hipnosapo)

My husband subscribes to a minimalist blog that provides tips for how the author has been able to eschew the material and achieve a Zen like state in the internet age.  For the full list of how he conducts his business (successfully I might add), feel free to visit Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog. I can get behind most of the other tips such as not cluttering my blog with affiliate advertising, however I am not able to completely ignore my blog stats.

And why should I? In the same article, Leo writes about providing content that his readers want, but unless he pays attention to what they are reading, how can he determine what exactly it is that they searching for. Perhaps he is just one of those lucky intuitive types. Steve Jobs of Apple supposedly never listened to focus groups preferring just to follow his gut.

During my most recent performance review, my boss and I debated whether or not the word intuitive applied to me. I told him that no, I didn’t necessarily consider myself that way. Opinionated – YES, but not necessarily intuitive. I like to see facts backing up my gut read on a situation. So yes, I do watch those stats. I find them fascinating. But the stat I enjoy seeing the most is the origin of my reader’s nationality.

Up until recently I had resisted signing up with Twitter. To me, the entire concept seemed to be counter to writing. When writing a novel, you are supposed to write tens of thousands of words, and yet to market it, you have to somehow rein yourself in to only 140 characters. It made my head hurt.

After I read the fiftieth article telling me I had to create a Twitter account, I finally succumbed to peer pressure. I’d rather you follow my blog than my Twitter handle, as I still haven’t exactly embraced the Tweet, however since then I have noticed that I’ve gotten a significant increase in the number of international visitors to my site. As a result I am forced to admit that Twitter is more than just another time waster for me.

United Nations
United Nations (Photo credit: Ashitakka)

If you are visiting today from somewhere other than the United States – Hello! I am still amazed you found me. I promise to do my best to avoid the sports themed metaphors whenever possible.

Up until now, my attempts at introducing my son to geography had consistent of bringing home cookies from another country whenever international visitors came to my office. We would enjoy our cookies and then we would locate the country on our big wall map, but thanks to you I now have another option! Even better (at least for me) the option is sugar-free!

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