Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It.

Quit social media. Your career may depend on it.

Interesting opinion piece from the New York Times shared with me via email by a friend. The email share to a group fostered some discussion, here were a few words I contributed.

I fluctuate back and forth with regard to the ‘ability to concentrate’ issue. I’ve read articles in the past (that I’m not going to bother to track down now) that argue the opposite, that social media use throughout the day actually provided a ‘break’ for your mind, and allowed you to more fully devote your concentration and focus to your work when you were actually working. I guess the distinction here lies in how often you are actually checking your SM feeds.

A few other quips:

We’ve been told that it’s important to tend to your so-called social media brand, as this provides you access to opportunities you might otherwise miss and supports the diverse contact network you need to get ahead. Many people in my generation fear that without a social media presence, they would be invisible to the job market.

I have 100% felt this pressure, whether real or imagined. And at various times I’ve felt stress about not doing enough with my SM accounts to ‘further my brand’, especially with regard to trying to attract new freelance work or possibly influence those with whom I’ve applied for jobs. Conversely, some days, I come close to closing every account I have because it’s all bullshit. As the author says, any kid can make a shiny, pro-looking website and attract a legion of followers from his basement, doesn’t necessarily make him employable or qualified to do anything.

The more you use social media in the way it’s designed to be used — persistently throughout your waking hours — the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of boredom.

TOTALLY guilty here. Often times when I’m bored or between tasks and should probably do something else, I find myself stagnant, looking for something to do (both at work and at home). This would be predominately when I would hit up social media – as if something I found there was going to provide some sort of ‘spark’ that would get me headed in the right direction. Indeed perhaps the way a junkie needs a fix, I was looking for a nugget of inspiration that I, for whatever reason, couldn’t find elsewhere that would motivate me to do something. More often than not, I would just get lost down some rabbit hole for 15-20 minutes, finally snap out of it and feel even worse for having wasted the time unproductively. Without getting off on a tangent or proselytizing, Zen practice has made huge strides in this regard. When bored or without something to do for a moment, I now no longer struggle with what to do, and have stayed away from SM during these moments more and more consistently. That, combined with things like removing SM apps from my phone, have me checking in less and less and wondering if I could pull out of some or all of my accounts all together, perhaps to my betterment.

I’m coming to see it more as a challenge, and one the author touches on. The fact of the matter is, that SM and indeed ‘online brands/personas’ aren’t going anywhere, and arguably will only increase in presence in scope. How does one opt to not get caught up in that – something a generation like my kids will invariably be completely immersed in – yet still remain relevant and viable?

The Rise of the Freelancer

By 2030, will we all be our own boss?

An interesting article. I’ve often pondered going the freelance route as in my field (design) it’s already pretty common. The challenge is for people like me who have come to rely on the stability of a regular paycheck and a company responsible for benefits and sales generation, to make the transition to a freelance working model that can mean variable income/security, especially keeping a family budget in mind.

This is compounded by the fact that leaving an existing company can (especially in my/similar fields) make it at the very least sticky if not in some cases illegal for a person to work with clients after the fact that you had relationships with via your old job/position. In smaller marketplaces this can sometimes be the biggest inhibitor if you’re looking to transition from the conventional workplace to freelance as opposed to starting out freelance from the beginning.

In education, lifelong learning is more important than it ever used to be. The idea that you study in your youth and then have a career in one company is gone. Skills are changing all the time. There is a constant need to be reskilled. If you look at jobs in the marketplace today, you need some kind of renewal every five years or so.

I couldn’t agree with the above quote from the article more here. As someone who has worked in the design/marketing field in the advent of the web era, I have been pretty much forced to adapt from being only a print designer, to incorporating web and social/new media tools and knowledge into my skillset – primarily on my own.

Why Facebook Algorithms Are Like Gambling

I used to hate the random postiness Facebook algorithms used to fill my feed and the fact that it changed every time I viewed it. Now I enjoy it.

It’s the social media equivalent of pulling the arm on a slot machine. It’s your online VLT. You can come up short or hit the jackpot each and every  time you refresh/reload the page. Damn, that adrenaline rush. Can you feel the winning? Definitely sounds like something that would fit perfectly in Vegas.

CAN YOU FEEL THE WINNING?

If you don’t like what you see in your feed you can change it up. You get to adjust the amount of crazy you see in your feed to suit your needs or even mood at that particular moment.

Too many political crazies? Reload. Cat post brain explosion? Reload. One too many Jack Handey-esque inspirational sunrise memes? Reload.

You never know what you’ll get. Just keep reloading that page until you’re happy with the results.

It can get a little frustrating when you’re actually trying to find a specific post that you’d seen earlier and want to share or comment on. Chances are if you reload enough times – like maybe try a good half-hour or so of reloading, it will pop up again. I mean, you’ve got the time, right? You could go to the persons’ profile that made the post originally, or search for it, but that’s a lot of heavy lifting.

Just reload. Reload and get a new batch of stuff uniquely curated for you. Don’t like who Facebook thinks you are at that moment? Reload.

Facebook understands. Facebook gets me. Their slogan should be, Facebook: we put the ME in social media.

Soon, Instagram will be the same too. Time thinks it’s a good thing, so it must be ok. Life is a gamble. Shouldn’t your online experience be too? THE THRILLS!

Tired of guys posting about the strange and annoying quirks of Facebook and Instagram when you’d rather see a cute puppy video? Reload.

Secure your WordPress websites, kids.

I’ve spent the last two weeks putting out fires and restoring/rebuilding WordPress websites for clients due to a recent rash of new WordPress hacks and attacks. Securing and maintaining client WP sites has suddenly jumped to the top of my To-Do list.

WordPress is arguably one of the most popular online blogging and content management platforms and continues to grow. As of February 2015, it is powering more than 60 Million online websites and 23.3% of the top 10 Million blogs are powered by WordPress including sites run by Tech Crunch, Variety, ESPN, The New Yorker, Time and Reuters. While this is great news for most of us, it does mean that hackers now specifically target WordPress and are honing their skills and tools for hacking WordPress sites more and more each day. It is now more important than ever to keep your WordPress site up-to-date to keep it secure, as well as create backups in the instance that something undesirable does happen.

Many of our clients already have hosting when they come to us, but for those that don’t I’ve been referring them to IBS Ltd. for hosting. I’ve developed a good relationship with Gary Nightingale there and he stays on top of security issues pertaining to WordPress and is very proactive with regards to securing WordPress installs and hack prevention. He has taught me a few things as well. An added bonus is that he’s local to me and most of my clients and it’s nice to keep the business in the community.

I’ve only been developing WordPress sites for a few years now and I’m even less familiar with the security side of things, but here’s a few things I’ve learned and/or am doing now to try to stay one step ahead of the game.

  • Core and plugins have to be kept up to date. They don’t issue these updates and security fixes for no reason folks. These developers know a lot better than me what needs fixing and whats vulnerable and if they say I need to update, I update.
  • Back, the hell, up. Make sure your hosting provider is running regular backups and is willing to or has an apparatus whereby you can restore your site easily from a backup. If they want to charge you for this service (some do, some offer it free), pay for it. It’s worth it. If they don’t – take advantage of one of the dedicated WordPress backup plugins out there to do it for you. I’ve taken to using Backup Buddy. It’s easy to set up, and offers live, continuous backups to either your existing server, your local machine or services such as Google Drive, DropBox, etc.
  • Take out the trash. Delete anything you’re not using on your server. Plugins, Themes, data, images, whatever. If you don’t need it, nuke it. Anything extemporaneous is a possible doorway in for someone looking to do no-good. Plugins and themes especially. You can always install/download it again if you think you might want to re-use it.
  • Password is not a password. Shouldn’t need to be said, but for real’s, use a decent password yo. C’mon. There’s a ton of sites on the web that will even generate ’em for ya.
  • Get some help. Take advantage of some reputable plugins to help you secure your site against hackers. There are all kinds out there. The three main ones I’m using are WordFence, Stealth-Login and Limit Login Attempts. They’re all great for their various uses. I discovered WordFence through online research and in addition to providing a great suite of tools for site protection and monitoring (even with only the free version), they have a great blog that is constantly on top of new threats and issues facing WP users. Stealth-Login and Limit Login Attempts are two plugins that were suggested to me by Gary as must-haves and go into every one of my WP installs now. In addition, if you have a WordPress.com account, the Jetpack plugin offers some nice tools for site protection and monitoring as well.
  • Pay attention. You can’t expect to become a security expert, but you can stay informed. Pay attention to WordPress security trends online and take a few minutes once in a while to read up on current issues and best practices. Be informed. Do what you can. Don’t assume that your hosting provider is going to take care of it for you. That said, it doesn’t hurt to develop a good relationship with your provider either so that when you have questions or issues, you know you can count on them to be responsive.

I’m no security expert, but I’m learning. And one thing I’ve learned is that the playing field is ever-evolving so you have to be alert, stay focused and adapt with the changes and challenges. What I’m doing is working for me so far (knock wood), but if you’ve got thoughts, suggestions, or tools you’re using you dig, feel free to leave ’em in the comments. Always good to hear new ideas.

Why you should consider Google+. Again.

I’ve been having lots of conversations with people lately regarding their trust – or lack thereof – of Facebook/Instagram and their use/intentions with regards to your content and data. I’ve always maintained that posting info on ANY service on the internet is never going to be 100% guaranteed, but how a company conducts itself ethically, to me speaks volumes as to what level of confidence you should have in said service.

I dumped my Instagram account when Facebook bought them, because I was pretty sure no good would come of that.

I myself, don’t really trust Facebook anymore and pretty much only maintain an account there to connect with people that I don’t have a means to anywhere else, and also to administer my company’s page.

Though it may seem like a hassle to learn something new and you might have heard reports to the contrary, Google+ is a real alternative with a thriving community, better development and applications, and considerably less bullshit.

The level and quality of engagement I’ve found on Google+ with both people I knew already and new people I’ve connected with vastly surpasses most experiences I’ve had on Facebook.

It may seem silly to speak in such earnest and sincere terms about something that to many is ‘just an app’ or merely a ‘distraction’, but the fact of the matter is, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, the way we connect with people, build relationships both at work and home, find services and products, learn new things, and gather information has changed and will continue to change, sometimes in the very moments as we type.

With the continuing proliferation of wireless connectivity and mobile devices, these ‘tools’ will continue to become more ingrained and integrated into our lives. Like any other issue of our days – politics, human rights, etc. – change will only come about if people choose to ‘vote’ for it, by demonstration with their actions.

How do you want to move forward?

The Status Quo will always be just that, unless people change. If you believe there’s no viable options to Facebook – or whatever service you’re unhappy with – then you are making the choice yourself to stay in the situation you’re in.