Are Facebook Friends Real Friends? A Photographer Finds Out

Gretchen Arnold, Rochester, New York.150.5

Maine-based photographer Tanja Hollander has set out to meet up with and photograph all 626 of her Facebook friends in or near their homes. So far, she’s shot 256 of them along the Eastern seaboard, New Orleans, Austin, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. With friends all over the world, Hollander’s The Facebook Portrait Project will be taking on a more international flavor as it goes on.

Like most of our Facebook connections, Hollander’s 626 friends were a smattering of those she actually knew in “real life” and those friends of friends, professional relations and random associations that fill out our Facebook friend lists. It’s tracking down these “virtual friends” and getting them to agree not only to meet in person, but to allow Hollander into their homes to take their picture, that is turning The Facebook Portrait Project into a true social media experiment.

According to an interview Hollander has given to Mashable, “I thought people I hadn’t met before in real life would be the hardest [to approach] and they ended up being some great new friends.”

Hollander’s project is one to watch as it continues to unfold and begs the question, might it be worth getting to know some our Facebook friends we have never met?

Photo by Tanja Hollander.

Source: Mashable.

Sally Ride, America’s First Lesbian in Space: What People Are Talking About Online This Week, July 23-27

Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, passed away this week at the age of 61. The cause was pancreatic cancer, a sad footnote to a trail-blazing career. Something else in her obituary that eagle-eyed gay and lesbian journalists, activists and bloggers shot to to the top of the social media feeds may have also been destined for footnote heaven, but quickly became a headline.

Ride is survived by Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years.

Tam, of course, is a woman. And, that adds another “first” to Sally’s glowing legend, America’s first woman in space, America’s youngest astronaut, the first astronaut to be photographed with a Muppet, and now, our first lesbian to lift off the launch pad.

In a week where LGBT online activity was already on heightened alert, thanks again to anti-gay sentiments being expressed by the owner of the Chick-Fil-A fast food chain, the confirmation that an American hero was part of the rainbow family, who officially came out of the closet in the obituary she co-wrote with her partner, was big news. Feelings were mixed, however. Sally Ride did not make this significant announcement while she was alive. All signs point to the private nature of Dr. Ride’s post-NASA life and the confirmation by her sister (also a lesbian, btw) that Sally and Tam were indeed “out” to family, friends and co-workers. For most of us mere mortals, that’s typically enough.

The debate will rage for some time over how much attention should be paid to Ride’s lesbian life in lieu of other accomplishments. Discussions will range from should Ride actually be “labeled” bisexual, since prior to Tam, she was married to a man, to how much of one’s personal life belongs in the headlines. Sally Ride might indeed be the most well-known astronaut after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Neither of them are known as being “the first heterosexual astronauts to walk on the moon.”

As long as prominent CEOs like Dan Cathy are around, though, tagging important people who make a difference in the world as “lesbian” or “gay” is a necessary action. When a national fast food chain like Chick-Fil-A can come out with bigoted public statements like “guilty as charged”, confirming, that yes, indeed, the company is opposed to “same-sex marriage” it creates the debate that, if you’re in a same-sex marriage, or support those who are, should you eat at Chick-Fil-A?

For some of us, the health-conscious, vegetarians and those who don’t live anywhere near a Chick-Fil-A, this has always been an easy decision. But in making the case that LGBT Americans indulge in fast food, too, we begin to go down that slippery slope. Do we follow our heads and hearts on this matter, or our stomachs? It gets better. Thanks to a clever video, you can now make a Chick-Fil-Gay sandwich at home. Without the bigotry, and without the MSG. It’s a win-win.

What else are people talking about online this week?

Catch up on these stories and more at the Online Media Roundup. Click here to join the conversation, and see Muppets, too! 

Photo courtesy of

Yahoo! You People: What People Are Talking About Online This Week, July 16-20


Thank you Ann Romney!

Or, you can thank the Mrs. Mitt yourself at @AnnDRomney (be sure to add the #youpeople hashtag to your tweet to show you’re clued in). Just when we were about to post a another glowing tribute to Yahoo! for making a bold choice to turn its fledgling web presence upside down by naming a 37-year-old female engineer from Google, Marissa Mayer, as its new CEO, our new modern-day Marie Antoinette, Ann Romney, lit up the online community and dimmed Ms. Mayer’s aura – temporarily, we think.

We the people, the 99%, now referred to for eternity (or at least next week) by Ann Romney as “you people” have been maintaining a steady drumbeat this month demanding that we learn more about presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s finances. Us you people want to see a few more years of Romney’s tax returns other than the one year’s worth he has thus far provided. The drumbeat naturally started from the left, but some on the right have joined in, asking the Mittster to come clean about Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island P.O. box addresses.

Thank you Ann Romney for taking “Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts to task for daring to ask the hard question about will the American people be able to see a couple of more years of the Romney tax returns. It may help some undecided voters decide for themselves if a guy like Mitt is better qualified to be in charge than Barack Obama.

Ann Romney responded unequivocally that “We’ve given all you people need to know.” Don’t worry your pretty little hopey-changey heads with our big complicated tax returns. Those of you making less than $1 million a year couldn’t possibly understand the loopholes one must jump through to keep up the dressage hobby, the five homes and – lest we forget – the mandatory 10% tithe to the Mormon Church.

The Twitterverse exploded first with jokes and outrage tagged #youpeople. YouTube video snippets of the interview came next. Followed by the memes on Facebook. Such is life in the online media fast lane.

Not meaning to take anything away from Yahoo! and the Mayer appointment. It was a good week for Silicon Valley, the Internet and Yahoo! Appointing a 37-year old woman engineer who is credited with the sleek look of the Google homepage and the Gmail revolution is a savvy move indeed.

Still in the wake of the death of Apple genius Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook IPO flop, the Valley and tech needed a pick-me-up. Mayer’s youth, experience and vision are all something to get excited about. Her announcement that she is also pregnant, and plans to work during an October maternity leave, was a slam-dunk for women execs across the board. And, thanks to Ann Romney, the fact that Mayer “is obsessed with fashion,” has a “fly penthouse” and once stopped traffic in downtown San Francisco to have a Chihuly glass sculpture installed in said “fly penthouse” are small potatoes. Having The Killers perform live at her wedding? Well, that’s just cool.

What else are people talking about this week?

And how was your week? Catch up on these stories and more over at the Online Media Roundup. Join the conversation, you people. Ann Romney can’t thank you enough.

Street Photographers Using an iPhone: Be Aware

Many street photographers (including me) have upped their games since smartphones came on the scene. Particularly the iPhone 4S, with its superior camera and multitude of cool apps and add-ons.

But iPhoneographers and others who troll the streets texting, talking and accessing apps like Yelp and FourSquare to find the best local coffee or a freebie need to be aware. You’re at high-risk of being mugged for what thieves deem far more valuable than the contents of your wallet. They want your iPhone. And using it openly on the street, distracted by potential meetups, deals or an awesome shot of that wino crouched in front of the corner store at twilight could cost you your phone.

At a community meeting in San Francisco’s Lower Haight district last night, smartphone thefts were brought to the forefront. In a neighborhood recently plagued by a series of home burglaries, car break-ins and armed robberies, Captain Ann Mannix of SFPD’s Northern Station, held up an iPhone.

“Who owns one of these?” she asked.

Dozens of people raised their hands.

“This is the number one stolen thing in America. Don’t walk around texting and staring at your phone; keep it in your pocket.”

Obviously, that’s not one of the top 10 rules for street photography. If we kept our phones in our pockets all the time, we’d be out of business. At the risk of stating the obvious, then, be aware. Especially since some of our best street shots are taken early in the morning, at twilight or, thanks to the built-in flashes on our iPhones, late at night in neighborhoods with higher than average crime rates.  

Source: Haighteration.

Mobile Matter: What People Are Talking About Online This Week, July 9-13

We don’t mean to be crass, but yet another study has come out this week informing us of our cellphone “over usage” issues, including the somewhat disturbing stat that some 20% of us have dropped a cell phone in the toilet. What are those cell phones doing in such close proximity to commodes? Well, just ask the 75% of Americans who admit to texting while on the toilet. Overall, it’s a pretty good ratio of successful texting to cell phone dumps, we suppose.Not to mention “sexting.” If you thought disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner sending images of his House “member” around the country last year was the last word in tacky online sexual behavior, think again. The Online College infographic documenting rude mobile matter also finds that 25% of cell phone users have sent a text during sex! Some more adventurous types (15%) will even answer their phone.

There are 330 million cell phones in America for slightly more than 300 million people. Not counting the pre-K crowd, that data implies that there are more than a few Americans walking around with two or more cell phones. In spite of these distasteful findings, among other well known bad habits, like texting while driving and talking three times louder than normal when on a cell phone call, 90% of Americans believe they have excellent mobile manners. Uh-huh.
In other mobile matter this week, a baseball fan had his head down at a San Diego Padres game, busily checking in on Facebook, when he was struck in the chest by a foul ball. Ouch! The incident made a much-watched YouTube clip, and after a beer and an ice pack the good-natured fan shrugged off the embarrassment. In a game where hits and misses sometimes come down to a matter of inches, we estimate the distance from this guy’s chest to his head was close enough to make us pay better attention next time we’re at the ballpark.
Wonder what’s going to happen to the payphone, that once ubiquitous communication device on street corners around the world? New York City, with more than 12,000 payphone kiosks still standing, is trialling turning them into wi-fi hotspots. Brilliant!
What else are people talking about online this week?
We don’t make this stuff up. Find out what else people are talking about online this week at the Online Media Roundup, and join the conversation.
Image courtesy of Hair + Culture.

Mixed Messages: What People Are Talking About Online This Week, July 2-6

Since I spent the better part of my recent downtime reveling in how life could go on without an Internet connection and making promises to myself to not let email, social media and online culture prevent me from having a life offline, it seems only fitting that I have come back to the chatter of mixed messages along these very same lines. Apparently, I’m not the only one grappling with the so-called “crazy busy” phenomenon. The New York Times Opinionater column explored the “busy trap” so many of us are ensnared in and reveals (drum roll, please)…that it is mostly self-imposed.

That’s right. This worldwide web of messages, memes and multi-tasking we have weaved is a product of our own “busy making”.

I know exactly when I first fell into the “busy trap”. Mid-1990s, easy dial-up Internet made it possible for me to do twice as much work from home than I could ever do in an office. And, while I waited a minute (or more!) for a page to download, I’d check my email. Email was still such a new communication tool I needed to check it constantly to see if an editor had received a piece I’d written or a client had feedback on chapters I’d just edited. Even better, there might be a new assignment waiting. Having lost one potential job because I was at the gym and another freelancer answered her email before I did, I vowed to stay tethered to my PC. I logged on before 6 am to be there for my East Coast clients and stayed online until after 5 pm for the West Coasters.

For years I thought I was the only one with such an obsession, but now I learn I was just ahead of my time. Today, 68% of Americans check their email before 8 am; 69% are still checking it before they go to bed at night. The majority of these early risers and night owls are tapping into the “busy trap” via their mobile devices, often from bed. Why?

One theory is that our so-called frantic lives are really just a “hedge against emptiness.” If we’re so busy all the time, checking email, updating statuses and sharing information, filling the idle time between assignments, appointments and other things to do with constant connectivity, then our existence “cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless”.

Much has been written about the mess multi-tasking makes of our lives, too. And so, I returned from my two weeks away not only refreshed and ready to not fall back into the “busy trap”, but also determined to stop the needless online surfing that other, more disciplined types might refer to as “distractions.”

But then I read a second piece in the same edition of the New York Times that contained the busy trap story. This piece was titled “When Internet Distractions Make Us More Efficient” and makes the case for Tweeting and Tumblr’ing when you’re unable to break through on a project, rather than unplugging and taking a walk.

Somehow the mixed messages make me feel I’m right back where I was before that vacation, only with a better tan.

What else are people being distracted with online this week?

  • CNN anchorman Anderson Cooper came out. Most viewers had long suspected Cooper might be gay. Few cared. The Texts from Hillary meme resurfaced and pretty much summed up the whole affair. 
  • Are you a Twitter lurker? It’s okay. Nearly half of the 100 million people with a Twitter account never post a tweet. 
  • When is the last time you went to a concert and didn’t bring home a “souvenir” photo or video on your cell phone? 
  • Think we have tech problems today? Think “crazy busy” is hard to maintain in the 21st century? Here’s a reminder of how tough it used to be. Check out 1990s Tech Problems

Visit the KazzaDrask Online Media Roundup for more distractions and maintain your “busy trap” cred.  Click here. You know you want to. 

Photo credit: Simon Owens, creator of the meme 1990s Problems, via Mashable