Digi Domi

Sharing my passion for technology and learning.

Education, not exclusion.

I was going to write a reply as a comment to the BBC article I’m about to talk about, however, I found myself rapidly heading towards the character limit without having actually made my point. That was partially because I’m not a very direct communicator, but also because I had too much to say, hence this blog post.

So, this article shows that in a recent survey Instagram came up as the most dangerous social network for young people’s mental health. Cut to the comments with lots of people posting along the lines of, “Aha! I told you social media was bad. Back in my day….” and of course, “You should just see people in ‘real life’….”. Both of these sentiments make me so annoyed it’s all I can do not to start waving my arms around (which is fine at home, but in a public space might cause some alarm). Let me now take the time to address my problems with these sentiments.

Social media is bad – and this is evidence

This first one annoys me because it is wrong, but also because I feel it is the wrong conclusion to draw. I don’t think this shows that social media (Instagram in particular) is bad. The article talks about how Instagram has a negative impact on young people’s mental health for the reasons you might expect, anxiety, loneliness, bullying and body image.  It is easy to conclude that this means they should get off social media, but that isn’t necessarily the ideal solution in my mind. The article also talks about some of the positive impacts of social media, on self-express for example. I truly believe that it would be better if we could educate young people (and let’s be honest ourselves as well) to understand how to interact with social media better. To understand that it is not healthy to compare yourself to others, that just because someone is different does not make them better or worse. You can appreciate someone else’s beauty (say an Instagram post of a model or makeup artists work) without comparing it to yourself – just learn to accept that you are different and have your own strengths. It is also important to learn the amount of work that goes into making people look amazing. This is something I myself have had to learn when I would often feel sad looking in the mirror because my hair just looked boring and rubbish. I then started to learn that it takes a long time to create the amazing hair I was comparing myself to, rather than the quick wash and brush I had as my routine. After that I was able to stop comparing myself, and also decided to make a little more effort on my own hair.

In terms of addressing loneliness, social media is a double-edged sword. It can help people feel less lonely in some cases, by connecting them with like-minded people who may not be located in their geographical area. I find this useful as a vegan without many vegan friends. I can join groups and follow certain people who talk about veganism, share tips, and just generally make me feel like I’m not the only person who feels like I do, I’m not a freak. On the flip side, it can also make people feel very lonely by always showing others out enjoying life. It is easy to conclude by looking at your social media feed that everyone else you know is constantly out, partying, going to gigs and other events, and just generally enjoying life. Whereas here you are, sat on the sofa/ in bed, looking a mess in sweatpants and just being a loser. This naturally raises two questions in your mind, firstly why is everyone having more fun than me, and secondly, why didn’t they invite me? It is important to note (and again, I say this as someone who has had this as part of their own personal journey) that most people are not constantly out partying and having the best lives ever. Social media tends to show the best of people’s lives because this is how we chose to present ourselves. It is understandable, people are often looked down upon for showing weakness and so we show the happy times. We also want to be able to look back on our own timelines and see how great our lives have been. It doesn’t show the in-between times (which might be long or short) and it doesn’t show what is going on in people’s minds – those people themselves may be suffering from mental health issues and just not showing it. This again is why it’s important to have education about how we interact with social media and try not to be comparative.

Real life

I might just be being pedantic here, but when people refer to real life they should actually be talking about physical life or the physical world. What happens online is very much part of our real lives, to suggest otherwise is not only incorrect it is also dismissive and demeaning to anyone who has mental health issues impacted by social media. If what happened online was part of some non-real life then it wouldn’t have such a profound effect on our lives. Our online and offline lives are becoming increasingly blended, and are both very much real. The relationships I have formed and/or maintain online are just as meaningful to me as those that I have physical contact with. In a global society, it is not always possible to have physical contact with those we love – my own parents are separated from me by the seas and so emailing, texted and Facebook helps us keep in touch and stay connected. The same is true for many of my friends and family who are on the same land-mass but the geographical distance and the financial implication of travel mean we don’t get to maintain as much physical contact as we’d like and have to rely on social media. None of these relationships are diminished by this. In fact, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to argue social media allows people to have better relationships, by allowing them to communicate with people they want to, when they want to, rather than forcing them to interact only with those in physical range.

I get it. Technology is always seen as scary and threatening. Everyone wants to go back to the good old days, but only to when they were a kid. I’m not sure there are many boomers who are arguing cars or telephones corrupt our experiences of the world and we should go back to travel by horse, or even to drawings on cave walls to communicate. Change means change, it forces us to adapt and to come up with new ways of understanding and interacting with the world around us – but that is often the way with progress.

So I don’t think shutting the door, or logging off, are the solution. I think understanding and education are a much better way to keep moving forward.

Final thought

All of the above also comes with one last caveat, which is that as a society we need to get better at understanding mental health. We need to be more sensitive to it and understand that it is not always visible. We need to understand this and we need to recognise it not as a weakness but as an illness. Better awareness and facilities can make it easier for people to get professional help and that can save lives.

Link to the article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-39955295

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How ‘social’ does media need to be?

Just a thought really, my husband I were just having a ‘discussion’ on Skype about how he always finds cool stuff on social media channels (Reddit, Youtube etc) but then doesn’t share them with me. I then stumble across them maybe a week or month later and share them with him only to be told ‘yeah, I’ve already seen that’. My husband is a chronic lurker when it comes to social media where as I tend to almost spam my feeds with a range of content I find interesting.

In our ‘discussion’ I suggest to my other half that outlets such as YouTube et al are called ‘social’ media because they are platforms for content, ie ‘media’ which is ‘social’ eg. interactions with other people. Therefore the whole purpose of social media is to share it, comment on it and generally interact with the content and other people. As a counter position my husband was arguing, I mean discussing, that the social element isn’t the important part, it is simply media. He proposed that it is ‘his’ media, and he can consume and share or not share that as he feels appropriate/ motivated to do so.

While my martial Skype discussions may not be a fascinating subject for a post it did make me wonder, how ‘social’ does social media need to be? Should we encourage people that it is okay to passively consume content without offering anything back, colloquially referred to as ‘lurking’. Of course it would be unreasonable to expect individuals to constantly contribute/ share content, and sometimes we do wish to simply consume it for our own purposes, in a slightly more private manner, but should some return be expected? Perhaps social media accounts could have a minimum post threshold per month or per year and if it is not met the account is presumed inactive and deleted? Or perhaps this is a bit harsh. After all many suggest the internet is about freedom, and therefore this must extend to ones freedom to consume without offering anything in exchange.

This purpose of this post was not to reach a conclusion, but rather to put the thought out there, if any one has any opinions then please feel free to comment, or not…it’s your choice.

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Your face is mine, sweetheart.

This is an issue I have been contemplating for a while, as I often wonder how I will tackle it. Posting images of your children.

I am not going into a rant about how annoying it is, because lets be honest, if someone is going to post lots of pictures of their kids that is their right. I also happen to personally think it is adorable and not annoying.  As an audience for their posts you can easily remove them from your timeline or de-friend them entirely. There is also the very real possibility that they will also talk about their kids a lot in person as well as online. If you also find this annoying it is possible you and they have simply reached a cross roads in your relationship and are heading in different directions, it might be time to shut up and move on, or shut up and accept that it is only because they love their kid(s) so much, that is not a social faux pas but is in fact just called being a parent.

As usual, I digress. What I have been thinking about is actually from a wanna-be parents perspective whether I should post pictures of my future children at all. Do I own the right to their face, their body, their image? Would I otherwise run around their entire nursery, primary, secondary, college, university or office with pictures of them from their past? Do I wan to be the reason some kid they don’t get on with has a photo of them in nappies? On the other hand, as this is not an issue I alone face their is the possibility everyone in their class will face a similar problem and so perhaps baby photos will no longer be viewed as embarrassing but as cute. Parents of the future may well need to find new ways to embarrass their kids in front of potential love interests.

With this issue it is not just future children and the potential change in how baby photos are viewed that come into play with this subject. Even if I were to decide not to post images of my future children, at least until they were old enough to consent (whenever that might be), I am not the only person with a camera. Much like many idealistic goal parents set out with family and friends can often stomp all over them. My father had the ambition of not allowing me sweets, as he thought if I was never allowed them I would never crave them and that would be better for my overall health. If only that plan had worked, but unsurprisingly it lasted until I was about 2 years old when a little old lady in the boulangerie near the campsite we were staying at in France decided that as we had become regulars over the trip, and I was rather adorable as a baby she would give me some sweets. My Father could hardly tell the kindly old boulangerie owner off, and once they were in my hand it couldn’t take them away from his little princess either. And that is why an old french lady is to blame for me not being a model. Long story short, other people are likely to post photos of my kids as well. I am not suggesting they would do this out of malice, but rather because they too will think my kids are super awesome and want to share that with the world. I can of course firmly, but kindly tell everyone not send photos to me via text or private message and to not post them online, but that can’t guarantee they will listen or adhere. If they do post stuff I would then be faced with the difficult decision of either abandoning yet another ideal (I’m sure my family and friends will foil other perfect plans as well) or asking them to remove the image. The latter shouldn’t be an issue but there is the very real risk of alienating or insulting one of the people I hold closest and want most to be involved with the future kids.

Say instead I decided that I do want to post images of my future children. After all I just have to show how cute they are, or visualise the impressive feats they have accomplished. Social media was designed to share important things like this with those closest to you, and I’m sure my family and friends would welcome the break between news, PETA and Greenpeace posts. Lets also assume that I am no longer worried about the future as I realise that social media will alter how future generations view themselves, others and photographs in general. Then I still have the rest of the world to contend with, and the potential that what I see  as an innocent beach snap or potty training moment could be seen as sinister. Before you suggest I am being far-fetched let me share this article from the Huffington Post about two examples of mother’s having images they had taken of their children removed because they were considered pornographic.

If those images were posted privately perhaps there wouldn’t have been an issue, but there is still the potential and I have read many other stories of breastfeeding pictures, shared privately, that have been removed due to complaints. Perhaps this highlights another issue we face with social media, and learning how to narrow down our target audiences better. After all, we would carefully filter who we share such information with in person, but online immediate family, distant family,  close friends, old friends, new friends, co-workers and friends of friends are all mixed in for what we share with ‘friends’. Some social tools do allow this type of filtering, but as a general population we are not great at using it yet, I predict this is something that will change as time moves on. After all not everything is for general public consumption.

So I have yet to decide how I will deal with these issue. A lot of it depends on what has happened between now and when I do eventually have children, and of course I wouldn’t make any decision until I was at least pregnant (which I am not). I further predict that I wouldn’t even make a call on this issue until [push came to shove.  It is also possible I will change my mind on the subject, which could prove problematic once images have been posted. I think this perhaps further supports the need to be forget, as who of us would be happy if our parents all took to social media tomorrow to post pictures of us before were kids.

We all want to be in control of our own image, whether that is present, future or past – the question is will our future children share this concern, or will ones image mean something different by the time they are old enough to consent?

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Social media has no deadline

As part of my job as a Learning Technologist I often have to deal with online assessments, whether they be submission via the VLE (using either in innate tools or Turnitin) or on our Mahara e-portfolio platform. Every now and then I am faced with the challenge of a member of staff wishing to use a social media platform (external blog for example) to run and assessment and how can we lock this down at the deadline? There is normally some uncomfortable work-around I can come up with such as taking screenshots, or downloading a version of the content to submit an non-live version. I call these workaround uncomfortable because for me they do not address the core issue.

The real discussion for me is about the conflict of using ‘slicker’ external tools and being able to lock the student’s work for assessment. We should consider whether ‘locking’ and ‘deadlines’ are compatible with creating an online multimedia site, especially using social media. Although professionals using social tools may have deadlines (e.g. a deadline by which to set up the campaigns Facebook account or by when to have developed the blog/ website) they do not expect the sites to be locked down at this stage. Quite the opposite in fact, they expect the pages/ sites to be live at the deadline. To have been launched into the public sphere and to be received external engagement. It is this conflict of external social tools being designed to be open, and traditional assessments being designed to be closed and lock that means we often tend to try and persuade staff members to base their assessment son internal tools, which may offer features similar to social media, such as those found in Mahara. Using these internal tools means, everything is backed up on institutional servers, we can (better) control down-time for the system and we can ensure assessment are locked at the deadline.

It is no secret I am a fan of Mahara, despite its flaws, but I do think there is room for the exploration of other tools as well. The problem, as I previously mentioned, is that many external tools are more advanced than the policy and practices involved in Higher Education. Is it time we considered moving past the concept of deadlines? I realise that their purpose is to ensure fairness by making sure no-one person gets more time because their work was marked last. A possible solution for this could be to have presentation day, where all of the students must come together in a hall or computer cluster and load up their sites. An assessor or assessors can then mingle around the room, looking at the sites and talking to the students about what they did and didn’t manage in the time frame, why they choose to do x or y etc. If you do not wish for students to be their to explain themselves then perhaps the sites must be loaded and then the students leave the room and enter a holding room where they cannot make any changes and have their technology removed from them. Maybe they could be made to do an exam during this time.

Whatever the solution may be I certainly think that social media is challenging our traditional assessment structures, it is very difficult to use a tool designed for openness in a closed environments. The easy answer is to ban them, but we are disadvantaging our students if we do not at least consider all of the possible tools available to assist their learning and development.

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Capturing tweets

I received a question at work about how to capture tweets for review at a later date. I thought I would share the advise I gave on here for two reasons:

1) It might be useful to someone who reads this blog (unlikely but you never know).

2) It might make it easier for me to find if I ever need to give the same advise again (more likely)

So here it is – how to capture tweets:

It is easiest to capture tweets if there is a common thread connecting them, like a hashtag.

For collecting tweets from a conference, I would normally use something like Storify: https://storify.com/ which will let you collect and arrange tweets.

Alternatively if you set up a hashtag you can always register it with a service like Twubs: http://twubs.com/ which will allow you to collect all of your tweets for use later (and goes back longer than Twitter’s interface).

I hope this is helpful.

If anyone has any other tips they’d like to add please leave them as a comment 🙂

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Social Media addiction, from Newsnight

A colleague shared this segment from Monday’s Newsnight, about potential social media addiction. I watching it and was pleasantly surprised to find a fairly well rounded, reasonable and well balanced piece about addiction. It was not the usual millennial bashing or scaremongering nonsense you get from many media outlets.

I would recommend giving it a viewing for yourselves:

Newsnight: Social Media Addiction

http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/b04004mw/?t=29m46s

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Pseudonym or anon?

Anonymity and the social web are almost synonyms. The question of whether this is right or wrong often comes up in relation to bullying, protesting, whistle-blowing and even education. Reflecting on this topic one morning I asked myself a question; are people more likely to interact (nice or mean) using a pseudonym than anonymity? A study by Disqus suggests that while 35% of commentors in it’s study remained anonymous, 61% chose instead to use a pseudonym. Based on the finding of Disqus we can consider that this might suggest people are not hiding behind a lack of identity (anonymity) but rather creating a new identity. It is possible they are doing this express valuable but controversial opinions they may not other wise feel comfortable doing so, or to attack people.

Already studies show people setting up fake accounts to abuse themselves, so why not do the same to abuse someone you know? Even a loved one? People might enjoy letting out their anger on others under a new identity? Perhaps this would then allow you to act the hero, standing up for the other person under your real identity. There can be many very complex reasons for people wanting to use a new identity for bad reasons – but as I’m not a psychologist I am just speculating here.

Of course pseudonyms don’t always have to be used for dark reasons. It can be used by those in censored areas of the world to express positive ideas, or even just by people who might feel they can’t express idea because of their gender, culture or background. Just like Mary Ann Evans used the pen-named (pseudonym) George Elliot to get her works published, others might still they are taken more seriously under a separate identity. So far I haven’t even touched on the much more simple concept of escapism. Sometimes people just don;t want to be themselves any more, they may not be in an extreme situation, but just need a break for 30 minutes to be another person.

This idea of anonymous and pseudonymous use of technology is also a thought I’ve had recently in regards to assessment. We have all sorts of policies and issues around anonymous assessments, but perhaps part of the problem is that we need assessment to be pseudonymous – so we know who to give the marks to- rather than totally anonymous. Therefore all endeavours to hide the students entity from ourselves entirely are in vain. It is also important to consider that prolonged anonymity can be detrimental to the ability to give feedback as part of an ongoing discussion, which better reflects the learners journey. 

Identity has always been a complex issue, and the advances of technology only serve to put it under a microscope. The line between online and offline is both distinct and blurred, with people able to leave comments that are untraceable or carry their alternate identity into real life. Personally I think most people prefer to be someone when communicating with others, even if that someone is not their usual self.

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Mean Tweets – Jimmy Kimmel

Recently, whilst enjoying some casual internet browsing I stumbled upon the Jimmy Kimmel – Mean Tweets series on YouTube. This series is taken from a segment on the American talk show hosts show and features celebrities reading out mean tweets that have been posted about them. I think this is interesting as it highlights that you are talking to actual people when you at-tag a celebrity or public figure. Many of the tweets are things people would not say if they were face-to-face with either the celebrity or in fact anyone, if did then they’d probably face legal action resulting in either a fine or jail time.

The celebs reactions are interesting, even the ones who laugh it off, sometimes looks like they are trying to use humour to make it okay. Of course some of the tweets are things many of us have thought about those individuals, saying celeb x is a useless dick for example. Seeing that person reading it about, somehow reminds you that they are still a person and it is still wrong to say hurtful things about them. I guess what I am trying to articulate is that, getting to watch a celebrity, someone we often think of as a commodity, reading out the tweets re-humanises them. It makes you realise that they are not simply a brand name, but an organic and sentient being who we should treat as we would anyone else.

I do wonder though, is this series harmful by glorifying the mean tweets? By using them for entertainment does it send a message that, these tweets can be amusing? If you send one you might even get a mention on Jimmy Kimmel, that is a pretty good incentive to send more abuse (some of the guests do appear in multiple episodes).

It is now time for you to judge for yourself, watch the clips and make up your own mind.

YouTube clips of the various editions of Mean Tweets:

Celebrity Mean Tweets #1

Celebrity Mean Tweets #2

Celebrity Mean Tweets #3

Celebrity Mean Tweets #4

Celebrity Mean Tweets #5

Celebrity Mean Tweets #6

Celebrity Mean Tweets – Music edition

Celebrity Mean Tweets – NBA edition

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Selfies: Sharing is Caring

Recently it seems at least once a week there will be a selfie related story I will read on one news site or another. As selfies are highly connected, not only to criticism about my generation, but also representation of identity they are an area that fascinates me.

After reading another article about selfies and how self-centered young people are now days, blah blah blah, I began to reflect on the matter from a slightly different perspective. I started thinking about what purpose selfies serve. In my experience selfies are not as self serving as they might seem. Although it is easy to conclude that sharing them on social media sites is all for the greater glory of the self, there is often other purposes as well. Many times a selfie will be shared to show the photographer during a particular moment or event, they may also serve as a way of sharing a particular aesthetic element (good hair/ well done make-up) that the photographer wants to share with friends/ family. Is this self centered? To imagine that your friends and family care about you? Or is it simply embracing reality. After all I love seeing images of my friends and family on social media sites, whether it is because they had their hair done up nicely for a wedding, because they were at a party or on holiday. It gives me joy to see the ones I love so why should I not assume they get joy from seeing what I’m doing?

This train of thought then lead me to ask myself; are selfies egocentric/ selfish or are young people creating records for future generations?

I wish I could look at up-close and detailed images of my parents/ grandparents/ great-grandparents, especially ones taken from their youth. Unfortunately due to photographic technology not being so developed back then and the constant photography of ones self not being a big thing there are very few images I can look at. For my children/ grand child and hopefully great-great-great-great-grandchildren they will be able to have their selection of images of me at every stage of my life, especially since puberty. Is it selfish of me to hope my future relatives will be interested to know about me? I don’t think so. I’m currently trying to explore my maternal family tree, and I would love it if it could be made easier by more digital records, such as Facebook profiles, images, blogs etc.

Finally I think there are also practical elements to the prevalence of selfies. It is far more common for people to end up going to special events/ holiday etc in small groups (possible ones or twos) and so it is not always possible to ask someone else to take a picture of you. Therefore if you want a picture taken you must do so yourself. Even if there are other people with you, unless you know them very well it is unlikely you would want to give them your photographic device, most likely a mobile phone, as these portable device can be very easily stolen. The ease of use of these portable devices also makes them much easier and faster to take a photograph yourself rather than having to ask another person to do it.

In conclusion I do not think that all selfies are a reflection of the increasingly self-centered nature of younger generations. I think it is a reflection of both the advancement of photographic technologies, and the social nature of younger generations. This materialises as a desire to share every possible moment with those we love, as we would hope they share their lives with us.

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Smile granma, it’s your funeral!

I was reading an article on the BBC News website earlier this month that asks, ‘is a selfie at a funeral a step too far?’ Although at first glance it is easy to think, ‘well of course. How inappropriate. Darn youth of today! No respect!’ However, after actually looking through the Selfies at Serious Places and Selfies at Funerals Tumblr pages the article is talking about I felt very conflicted. Although some of the people in the photos clearly do not get why they would be inappropriate, there are also plenty that I don’t think are bad.

It is unclear to me whether the sites were created as a shaming exercise or just as a social experiment, I think and hope that latter. Certainly it is interesting to look at all of these images collected together in ways they were never intended and without their original contexts. To me there are a number of factors that need to be considered before passing judgment.

Context

This is probably the most important one, and is an interesting lesson to us all, as anything we post online could easily be taken out of context and seem completely inappropriate, hurtful or possibly even illegal. Off the bat you might think that there is no way talking a ‘selfie’ at a funeral could be appropriate. This is partly because of the slang nature of the term ‘selfie’ and the images it conjures. However, after looking at the images it is clear there are cases when it has potential to be entirely appropriate, and even beautiful. For example one of the images, taken from Twitter, came from a tweet that read,

‘Took a selfie with my gran at her funeral trying to image the face she’d pull if she was there! Love you!’.

Without knowing that person I can’t be sure, but it is easy to imagine that they loved taking pictures with their gran whilst she was alive, and so this was a beautiful part of their grieving process. Indeed even if it isn’t a beautiful part of the grieving process it could still be that individual’s way of dealing with their feelings. Which brings me on to my next point, emotional processing.

Emotional processing

I recently wrote a blog post about teenagers working out who they are online, and how it is slightly unfair that this process we all go through is captured and used against them. After reading the post, a friend of mine recommended some brilliant philosophy from Loius C.K., which you can watch on YouTube. Louis talks about how we don’t like to deal with our sadness and so we will grab a cell phone and start texting/ posting to distract ourselves and get some instant gratification from communications/ interactions. This of course plays no small role when people, possibly to deal with a difficult situation (such as a funeral) grab their phone and do what comes naturally to them, take a picture of themselves.

Broadcasting our thoughts

There is also the difference in the ways people experience and engage with the world around them. Due to a near constant use of and engagement with social media, a lot of people, and in particular young people (who may not know any other way) tend to post their thoughts, almost without filter. This could be seen as positive as it means people are a lot more open and honest about what they are thinking. The reality is that most of our thought as humans are not exactly winners. Sometimes they might even be inappropriate, for example when we look at our selves in the mirror before a funeral and think, ‘this day sucks, I’m so sad…but my hair looks AMAZING today! I wish I was going somewhere fancy and not a funeral’. This is barely acceptable as an internal thought, and for me at least is normally instantly followed by guilt for thinking how great I look rather than appreciating the seriousness of the situation. It is self absorbed and most of us keep it to ourselves, so if you remove that filter and post those thoughts online, it’s not going to get a great response. However, I find myself conflicted as to whether one can categorically state this is wrong, or whether we need to accept that this is the new way society functions. With its citizens posting their every thought and learning how to cautiously take the posting of others with a pinch of salt.

Holiday snaps

I am sure there are holiday snaps of people at war memorials, sites of historic atrocities and the like in photo albums across the world. Some of these pictures will be respectfully capturing the moment, and some will be inappropriately smiley holiday snaps. Unfortunately for those who are used to sharing their lives with the world, posting these images online can make you look insensitive. Again this is not necessarily a demonstration of how insensitive and ignorant the youth of today are, it is simply a case of them doing the same thing everyone has always done, just under the spotlight and scrutiny of the world wide web.

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