Content Warning for descriptions of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse

On July 17th, a friend from my hometown, Lima, Peru, added me to a private Facebook group called Ni una menos: movilización nacional ya (Not one less: national mobilization now). Launched by a small group of young Peruvian women, the group described itself as a platform for strategic mobilization against violence, harassment, and discrimination against women in the South American country.

I am a Peruvian female human being, so this group directly struck a nerve. Like many of the women in the group, verbal street harassment scares me, unwanted physical contact angers me, and gender-based violence makes me feel powerless. In the past, I have normalized some sexist behaviors and comments by men and women in my life. Is this habit? Ignorance? Shame? Perhaps a combination of the three.

Posts calling for a protest in the streets of Lima soon evolved into the organization of a massive nationwide protest that will take place on August 13th . The turning point happened when hundreds of the over 56 000 women who are now on this platform started sharing their testimonies.

Strangers, acquaintances, and some close friends of mine all began sharing their stories in this open forum.

“…[the doctor] covered my mouth and while he touched me and put his fingers inside of me, he told me to be a good girl if I wanted to stay alive…”
– N, at six years old

Painful stories of abuse bled over the group.

“…I was repeatedly raped by more than one person during my childhood. My brother “rented me” to strangers for sex…”
– J

For many, it was the first time speaking about these issues at all.

“…He [her cousin] lifted me and placed me on his penis. He was erect…I stepped down and ran out. I said nothing I felt guilty because I had gone to speak to him, I felt that I had brought this on me…”
– F

At the same time, an indescribable sense of companionship and newfound strength grew. Initiatives such as spontaneous committees for psychological and legal clinics by practitioners within the group began taking shape. What started as a group for strategizing has grown into a space for questioning, sharing, healing, and denouncing.

Let’s put this movement into context.

As in many of its Latin American neighbors, institutional response against gender-based violence in Peru is mediocre at best. At worst, it dehumanizes the victim, and justifies the assault by questioning what she possibly could have done to provoke the incident. Machismo is rampant across all socioeconomic strata.

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Additionally, judicial bullshit processes, mass media, and the Catholic Church are often accomplices in the violation of women’s rights and liberties. One needs to look no further than Juan Luis Cipriani, Archbishop of Lima.

He recently stated that “there are young girls getting abortions, but it is not because the girls are abused, but often because women put themselves on display, provoking [attacks].” This individual gets a monthly salary that is twice the national minimum wage, courtesy of all the taxpayers of this “secular” republic.

His latest declarations have outraged thousands and prompted a petition to remove him from his charge. Members of the cabinet of newly elected president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, such as Ana Maria Romero, Minister of Women and Vulnerable Populations, have also voiced their rejection.

Young girls and grown women keep quiet because abuse is not something you talk about in public. Contrary to what many think, abuse mostly happens at home and the majority of victims know their aggressor. Assaults by strangers hiding in a dark alley are only a small fraction of the overall numbers. This is true in Peru, in Quebec, and in most places around the world.

Reporting an aggressor can take a huge psychological toll on the victim and in many cases put her in further danger. The financial burden of filing a case also falls on the on the victim, unless the case leads to a conviction. The latter is highly unlikely as accusations are regularly minimized, and rarely lead to consequences for the aggressor.

“They have to see you dead to make justice happen.”

These are the words of Lady Guillen, a young Peruvian woman. After years of pursuing a trial against her former partner who savagely beat her in 2012, he walked away with four years of probation instead of the seven years of prison that, by law, correspond to his offense.

Lady Guillen’s excruciating fight is one of a few cases of violence against women that have received attention from the Peruvian media. Another case is the one of Arlette Contreras, a woman whose aggressor walked away with a year of probation for “minor injury,” despite there being videotaped evidence of him beating her and dragging her on the floor.

The impunity and judicial indifference in the Lady Guillen and Arlette Contreras’ cases were catalysts for the #NiUnaMenosPerú movement.

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They survived, but too many do not. So far this year, according to the Peruvian Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, 54 Peruvian women have been murdered by their partners. These tragic ends are the logical consequence of the micro and macro aggressions that are the underlying norm.

Furthermore, sexual violence is rampant. In a country that ranked first in a Latin American study for prevalence of sexual assault in 2013, DEMUS (The Center of Study for the Defense of Women) estimates that 75% of rape victims in Peru are under 18.

As the #NiUnaMenosPerú’s D-day, August 13th, comes closer, more women and men are joining in. T-shirts, billboards and signs are being created with sentences such as “You touch one of us, you touch all of us,” “They’ve taken so much from us, that they even took our fear,” and my personal favorite: “Cipriani, take your rosaries out of my ovaries.”

This movement is a vital first step in bringing women’s rights to the forefront of the public agenda. Storytelling played a crucial part in sparking this dialogue, allowing for women’s voices to be heard and protected. Personal testimonies have translated cases of gender-based violence from statistics into raw, human experiences that are too brutal to overlook.

The energy that has built over the past weeks needs to translate into policy that is held accountable by civil society and by the State. There is promise in the newly approved 2016-2021 National Plan Against Gender-Based Violence which, for the first time, recognizes LGBT women as a vulnerable group.

The skeptic in me cringes when I read the words “official, government, plan, and action” all in the same sentence. However, the skeptic in me would have never have predicted the exponential growth of #NiUnaMenosPerú. I have been truly moved by the empathic responses of astounded men and most of all by the incredible courage of women who have spoken up.

It is now in the Peruvian public’s hands for the momentum to continue after August 13th. I am done feeling powerless, and so are thousands of other women in Peru and around the world.

On the 13th, I will scream for the girls who haven’t had the chance to speak up yet. After that, I will keep questioning and confronting misogynistic norms and behaviors around me, even if it makes me and you uncomfortable.

#NiUnaMenosPerú #NiUnaMenos #13A

Note: The testimonies in this article were shared with consent from their authors

Edit: An initial version of this article referred to Juan Luis Cipriani as the head of the Peruvian Catholic Church. As Archbishop he heads only one fifth of Lima’s Catholic Church, sharing the leadership with four bishops. The title of Archbishop does not necessarily entail a higher degree in the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, which has often caused misportrayals in the media.

Buffalo Police Officer and veteran Richard Hy has been suspended without pay for posting videos on the internet while in uniform (even if it was not his official uniform). He can be suspended unpaid for up to 30 days.

It’s silly that this man is even on our radar. There is a Buffalo Police Officer who recently overdosed on heroin, a little more news worthy than a social media blow out.

Hy posts comedic videos on the social app Vine under the alias Angry Cops. He shows himself taking cocaine from the evidence locker with powder on his face (the image that I recreated for this article), pretends to shoot someone, jokes about prison rape or people overdosing on drugs while showing needles outside of the courthouse, sings songs about being on duty, and more. I was instantly inspired to parody this yo yo on stage.

buffalo cop Richard Hy

He was warned, kept on creating videos, and is now facing the consequences. Even if you think his videos are funny you have to put your palm to face in honor of his blatant ignorance.

“Bad cop, no donut” is a bumper sticker that seems appropriate right now. Officer Richard Hy responded online with “I guess cops can’t be funny or have a life outside of being emotionless robots.”

Many of the more incriminating Vines, including the one about cocaine, have been removed from his account, you can see them in this video from WIBV News. There is an outcry in the comments from both supporters (someone even started a go fund me for him while he is suspended) and people who are calling him a criminal for this.

Badges don’t (donut) grant extra rights, right? To serve and protect, bro, that’s whats up. Police officers have a responsibility to respect and help everyday people who are “abiding by the laws”. These people in uniform are just that, people, flesh and blood, they have feelings, families, stories, and souls (I would hope). Yes, their lives matter too.

We are not yet run by machines, just humans with guns and egos. These humans make mistakes just like anyone else, excessive use of force and abuse of “power” are too common in our society.

Everyone has watched the re-runs of COPS: power hungry officers tazing drunk people and small time crooks, getting snakes out of attics, breaking up domestic train wrecks, rounding up hookers in cube vans, lots of drug possession, people hiding in the strangest places, dogs biting, guns drawn, reading the rights, a few car chases, sweaty running scenes, and maybe some comedic effect, even if its unintentional. Manly mustached men with beer bellies and very serious lesbian cops swinging their billy clubs in the name of what’s right.

Some police officers want to humanize the force and make people realize that cops are just people too, break down stereotypes. There is even a website called where cops want to connect more to the public. I want officers to speak their minds and connect to people in other more meaningful ways.

Why don’t they get into the community when things are good and not only when crime is happening? We should love our “protectors” and not fear them. There doesn’t need to be a stern, mean imagine. Police officers need to learn how to be a little bit more lovable. Plant some trees, feed people, get involved in the communities they serve.

Know who your audience is, social media doesn’t go away. Posting goofy videos on the internet is not going to make me feel more connected to the police force. I am not offended or amused, mostly annoyed because there are bigger issues to talk about.

It makes sense to me, everyone is so obsessed with social media and fame that they don’t realize what an impact it has on the real world. It is a way for people to connect. But acting like you shot someone for being out of vacation days is disconcerting or dehumanizing someone with a drug addiction by mocking them. That is not positive.

Of course I believe in freedom of speech and do not agree with censorship. However certain positions require a little bit more tact and adulting. Being a police officer is serious business, lives are in your hands. I want you to have fun and laugh, but you need to respect your job and the people you serve.

There has to be a better way for officers to release negative energy. Suicide and drug use are common among police officers, they see and deal with some crazy and horrible stuff on a daily basis. Dark humor happens in all serious professions, just most people don’t post for the world to see.

Nobody follows every rule at work, we all have the right to joke around sometimes, but not all of us are cops. The fantasy sexy cop is way further from impersonating an officer than actually impersonating Richard Hy.

cocaine is one hell of a drug

I literally copied a screen shot of this man and did makeup to look like him. The sexy cop is a costume just as the stern professional cop is not real, Richard Hy is a real cop putting on costumes and being a dork. I obviously approve of Vines, but don’t ever mock someone for overdosing on drugs or joke about real world things while on my dime, be a role model or be a fucking comedian.

The publicity is causing a spike in views on his videos. Hell I even watched them. Richard Hy should just retire and become a internet sensation, welcome to virility officer, bask in your remaining 13 minutes of fame. He makes fun of himself and comments on society in general.

There are officers who commit much bigger offenses, like um, well how about shooting innocent children, using excessive force with the homeless or disabled, bashing down a protester, breaking down a door with no warrant and terrorizing a family, or just plain being an asshole while giving you a speeding ticket.

Wednesday morning, like most mornings, I went on Facebook to see what was going on in my community and the world and to get a good idea of what people would be talking about that day. It’s a useful start of the day ritual for someone in media and something to do while the coffee brews.

The first thing that caught my eye was a story from Global News announcing that two journalists had been murdered live on air. I clicked and was greeted by a video player. In my not-yet-caffinated state, I clicked play.
I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe a news report on the incident. I missed the graphic content warning and saw the raw footage of a murder as it aired live on WDBJ Roanoke, Virginia.

Fortunately I didn’t see the carnage, but still a helluva way to start the day. At least I was only a witness after the fact. The day started off much, much worse for reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Brad Ward.

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Shooting victims Alison Parker and Brad Ward

As the coffee kicked in and my mind shifted to what I actually needed to do, I wondered why it was necessary for me and the thousands of others clicking on that post to see the actual crime. It wasn’t, and I could have done without. Just knowing that it happened would have been enough.

Later in the day, as more details started to emerge, a more graphic video shot by the killer started showing up and even did in my feed. By this point, I was awake enough to know not to watch it, but I seriously wondered why anyone would share it at all.

Sometimes We Need to Watch, But Not This Time

Now I will admit that sometimes it is important to share graphic videos. However unpleasant to watch, videos of police murdering and abusing unarmed citizens need to be shared. Videos and images of wartime atrocities committed by supposedly democratic governments are also important to circulate.

This is because public outcry over abuses of the state is essential for any changes to happen. Otherwise, crimes, even murder, can very easily be swept under the rug.

What happened Wednesday morning in Virginia was not one of those times. The killer freely admitted his crime and posted the proof himself. This is one of those rare cases where we should trust law enforcement to be the only ones to view the evidence and respond accordingly.

Murder For Shares

Whatever the killer’s stated motives were, fame was clearly what he was looking for above all. He made sure he killed live on air to get the story out there and filmed his own version and posted it himself, hoping for an exclusive.

He was denied that pretty quickly. Facebook, where he posted the video and Twitter which he used to link to it deleted his accounts almost immediately. LinkedIn also removed his profile, though that was kind of pointless. Murdering former colleagues effectively makes a business networking page useless.

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Unfortunately this didn’t stop other people who had captured the video from sharing it themselves. They can try and justify it all they want, but sharing in this case is helping the killer get what he wants at the expense of the victims and the peace of mind of anyone who had the misfortune of watching (I hear some of these vids were on autoplay).

Basic Decency Isn’t That Hard

While the gun the killer used to commit the murder is something that should be restricted, the tools he used to record and upload it aren’t. Before we start talking about a mandatory waiting period and background check for data roaming plans, we should realize that we can stop killers from posting murder online by denying them an audience for it.

It’s not that hard, really, we just need to apply a bit of basic decency. For example, Vince McMahon isn’t known for being decent, but yet, our modern-day PT Barnum decided against using the death of a wrestler during one of his company’s Pay-Per-View events as a moneymaker. The WWE cut to stock crowd footage right after it happened and destroyed all footage (except those they sent to authorities) and even removed the Pay-Per-View from its history (yes, he didn’t cancel the rest of the event when it was running, that would have cost millions, but he did do the right thing after the fact).

So what does it say when a man who never met something he couldn’t gleefully exploit decided to take the high road when someone actually died, but legit news outlets have no problem sharing the footage of a murder? Also, what about the New York Daily News and a slew of other papers who took a screengrab from the killer’s video of the shot being fired and splashed it across their front page?

Well, they’re just Murdoch tabaloids, I guess. That’s their excuse. But for the people sharing the video, what’s yours? Don’t you realize that by sharing the killer’s angle on the shooting you are helping him get the fame he so craved? Why would you do this?

Slamming mainstream media is easy, but they respond to a perceived demand. If there is no demand, they won’t show it. We’ve got to stop clicking on videos like this. We shouldn’t share videos like this.

This is probably the first time a murder was designed for social media. Together we can make it the last. If we don’t build it, they won’t come.

Have “foodies” lost the plot? It would seem at face value the answer is yes.

That is, if we judge based on public response to an innocuous New York Times guacamole recipe posted earlier this week.

This reposted recipe (it was posted on the site in 2013), was not only utterly unshocking, it was merely one of over 17,000 such NYT recipes innocently living in their Cooking section.

Yet here’s what happened.

And this.

And, hilariously (personal favourite) this.

And frighteningly, even crap like this:

And then this.

Good lord, even this.

I’d stand to wager that there are probably more guacamole recipe variations than almost anything other on the Internet. No, I didn’t bother to check that claim, because, frankly, those would be precious moments of my life lost. And that’s kind of the point: the vicious backlash and endless media attention means that someone has clearly lost the plot.

The question (if you’ve actually read this far) is: who?

To me the biggest is question is why, with access to the finest food writers and chefs in the country (and arguably world), NYT would even bother to (re)-promote such a page. If humous is the go-to lazy person potluck snack, guacamole is easily the second most overmade, over-fusioned, generally, over-dinner-partied dish in the US & Canada.

Now, perhaps that‘s a statement about foodies (run out of ideas much?).

Though to me, the real fallout of #GuacGate is threefold. Each point is depressing enough to make me want to drown my sorrows in a gallon of habanero-laced peadip.

1. Social media is a scourge upon humanity. “Foodies” really never existed anyway.

While most news articles seemed to label this a “foodie” fight, closer analysis reveals that most commentators are the type who comment on everything. Quickly. Without looking. On Twitter.

Even closer analysis reveals that most who lept into the (nonexistant) fracas felt compelled to call themselves “foodies” in their Twitter bios. Yet closer closer analysis reveals that, wait, 99.9 % of people on Twitter are “foodies'” according to their Twitter bios. Odd exceptions include the bios of those who, you know, actually cook, serve, grow, or research food for a living.

So if social media has made us immune to the impact of profanity, foodie is officially the new f-word.

2. #GuacamoleGate is snapshot of our modern “news” landscape.

A quick perusal of the #GG headlines shows: a) it was a slow news day, b) lots of pun-obsessed editors still have (ostensibly) paying jobs, c) news outlets have become a caricature of ideologies. Witness:

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3. Two decades of creative brilliance is worth less than a sloppy repost

It’s struck me that the one person least discussed in all of this #GG madness is its very auteur, the one and only Jean-Georges Vongerichten. If and when he’s mentioned, it’s in the last graph of these stories, though often not at all. Tweets? Forget it! Which, you know, wouldn’t be a big deal if he wasn’t the single most significant, if not revolutionary, chef in the world’s restaurant capital for nearly two decades.

So, I suppose, we love to scream at each other more than even look at recipe, much less try it, much less learn about its very source. Via a quick media monitoring search, I discovered that two days of guacamole shattered decades worth of Vongerichten media mentions.

Personally, I’m happy for him: he’s long escaped overseas, where it must be said, most Twitterers and newspapers seemed to resist the hashtag allure of GuacGate. I’m just sad for the generation who will now forever grow up knowing this legendary human as Guy Who Tried To Make Pea Guacomole And Failed.


At this point, I’m tempted to go revert back to my turn of the century ways, and an old proclivity to over-make an equally great party dip, then new to Westerners: hummous. Unlike guac, it’s always been open to change.

Ever send a text message you regret? It has been crafted, a well written expression of love and lust that will be sure to win their heart or at least grant you some quality time with their naughty bits. All typed. Ok here it goes, press send. DELIVERED. No taking it back now. Oh hell, what will he think, why hasn’t he looked at it yet, it’s been two whole seconds! READ Ahhh! It’s the moment I’ve been waiting for. Then I wait and wait some more, no response. Life is over. 🙁

First there were newspaper personals, then on to chat rooms (ASL?). fast forward to Hot or Not, Friendster, Plenty of Fish, and the infamous Myspace. Now Tinder, Grinder, OKCupid, Facecrack, Craigslist, text messaging and social media in general have changed the way people look for sex and romance in this modern (technology obsessed) world.

Imagine having to walk into a bar and actually being forced to strike up a conversation with an attractive human?! Holy shit! You mean I don’t get to know what his quirky hobbies, food allergies, and favorite ironic tv shows are beforehand? Can you really ever “know” someone without seeing their “profile” first? Sketchy.

It’s so easy to browse for a mate with the swipe of a finger and a tracking system that lets you know how close they are to you! Only 20 feet away, now 10, only 6, and fast approaching. He is much shorter than it says, I wonder what else he lied about? Oh well, YOLO. Wow, stalking, I mean dating, has never been so convenient. Do you like scary movies?

There is a glow: illuminated face, eyes glazed and dilated, mouth slightly ajar, a small puddle of drool forms, and a muscular thumb ferociously taps away. Everywhere you look, from the darkened movie theatre to the family dinner table, there are people of all ages with their faces in their beloved phones.

Photo credit: Phil Campbell, Flickr CC

Just think, most of these people are typing the filthiest things, sexting, and trying to get some action. These things are too dirty to even mention here. At any given moment there are probably millions of #selfie boob shots and even double that in dick pics being sent through the digital waves all around us.

What happened to “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours?” I actually have a back log of all the unsolicited dick pics sent my way. Some big, some not as big, curved to the left or right, hard as a rock, slightly chubby, cut, uncut, veiny, lots of pubes, or diligently manscaped.

My usual response is to send a big bulging ween right back to them. I recycle the ridiculous cock shots sent by others and claim them as my own flopping member. I hope these bros have learned a lesson. What did you expect me to send a lovey shot of my snatch instead? Not saying my bearded clam isn’t absolutely gorgeous, she’s just modest and looks kind of fat in pics.

It’s not ok to whip your dick out in public, what makes you think its cool to send it to my inbox? People hide behind technology. They feel a sense of confidence and sassiness that is unmatched. When you send a message, you can edit it and say just the right thing. There is no chance of being instantly rejected, slapped, or arrested for indecent exposure like in “real” life.

Call me old fashioned but there is no substitute for falling in love in person. That moment when you meet someone for the first time and just stop breathing. Your heartbeat changes. You lock eyes and melt into a puddle of dreams, hopes, and lust. All you can say is jibberish or nothing at all.

Love transforms us into babbling idiots, and that’s how it is supposed to be! The journey then begins, you get to ask him about the things he does, the places he has been, and explore the things that make him, well, him. It’s beautiful. It takes time.

Sometimes we get shot down, and it hurts, but you have to keep getting up and living life. Love comes around when you aren’t looking for it. You never know, the man reading Nietzsche at the coffee shop, the person baring their soul on stage, or the woman pumping gas next to you might be the one you have been looking for all along.

Life is too short to hide behind technology. Don’t get me wrong, I use and abuse it too, I have sent texts that I am not proud of and gone on dates that are even more unmentionable. I have even written a misconnection or two.

I’m sure there will be those who argue with me on this, that small percentage of folks who have met their soulmate on Christian Mingle and have lived happily ever after. But in general things that are fast are not good. Instead of emerging yourself in the digital sex trade please set down your phone, power down the tablet, close the laptop, brush your hair, put on a clean shirt, and get out there! You look great today btw.

Say hi to the next attractive person you see. (Hint: the hottest ones are generally the most insecure because they are so hot that nobody actually speaks to them). Keep your head up and always remember that you are a unique, totally interesting, confident, and incredible human. You are not afraid to have real face to face interaction and live life to the fullest. Go get ’em, tiger! I believe in you.

Phil Campbell, Flicker CC

Facebook is ubiquitous, and it ain’t going away any time soon. That’s a good thing, because it’s a valuable social tool. But it can be pretty overwhelming when you log on and you’re confronted with an all-out assault from friends, family, co-workers, people from high school that you didn’t even care about then, and that creepy weirdo you met at a party one time and had a fifteen minute conversation with about Joss Whedon that was mostly just you agreeing that yeah, you guess Firefly was pretty good and pretending you didn’t sleep through most of The Avengers.

You have the people you want to stay updated on, the ones who are important to you, but how do you go about weeding through the rest? Who deserves to get the axe? Often it takes careful consideration, a weighing of pros and cons that doesn’t just take into account the present, but the future of relationships too. That being said, there are a few people on our friends lists we’ve all got that have no business being there, and whom you should drop right now like a cat into a crock pot.

People with children

It’s a pretty hard and fast rule that anyone with kids should be avoided online at all costs. Nothing good can come of being friends with parents. It’s just one never-ending cavalcade of pictures and braggy status updates about the “amazing” thing their child did that day. Oh, my kid took his first steps today. Look, my kid can use the potty now. Wow, now he’s graduated top of his class. Whoopee, my kid got appointed to the Supreme Court. Big deal, I can walk and poop and get a job. Well, I can walk and poop, anyway. And I’ve appeared in court.

Online activists

You know the type. They post all day about all these causes, acting like they’re making a difference, but they never actually do anything real. There’s a difference between really making an impact and just sharing a bunch of links and photos. So you got a bunch of people to sign a petition about some oil pipeline, it’s not like that took a lot of effort. And is it really that much work to organize a protest that stops the destruction of the only local habitat of an endangered species of bird? I doubt it. You know what? I looked it up, and a lot of those birds are just going to get eaten by cats and bigger birds anyway, so smooth move on that one, John James Audubon.

Also, raising money for breast cancer research by riding your bike across three provinces? That’s not even half of the country. Better luck next time. And $8400 isn’t even that much money, either. I make that in like three years.

Your exes

This one should be a no-brainer, but a lot of people hold off on hitting that unfriend button because they want to keep tabs on their ex. It’s a lot easier that way to find out where someone’s going and sit in your parked car outside, smoking cigarette after cigarette listening to radio static for four hours stewing about who they could be seeing inside that condo.

And, let’s not kid ourselves, social media allows us to rub their face in our current successes, too. But really, as soon as the relationship is done you should cut those ties. Otherwise, what may start as a civil, respectful post-romantic friendship will almost certainly turn ugly. Spiteful messages will be sent, embarassingly photoshopped photos will be posted, and rumours will start to spread about who’s a big cheating whore and who’s not. And eventually this will all be used in her case to take out a restraining order on me.

Well, guess what, Charlene? If you didn’t want your dad and your 67-year-old aunt and your fiancé to know that you once told me I’m better at oral than any guy you’ve ever been with, then maybe you shouldn’t have created a situation in which I can tag you in even one  post about it, let alone four.

There’s no foreseeable time when Facebook isn’t a regular part of everyday life. So we might as well get used to it. We’re well past the early, Wild West days when your stature in life was told by how many friends you had. Thankfully we’ve now settled into a much more calm and reasonable system based on the quality of those friendships. And, obviously, the much more vital count of how many Twitter followers you have.

Photo by Gerard Girbes via Flickr

Discussions of news through social media often consider it a threat toward traditional media in informing, mobilizing, and empowering the public. While this medium may grant more accessibility, it also comes with its own set of drawbacks and as such, social media movements -such as the recent #BringBackOurGirls campaign- often have mixed effects.



On April 14th, over 300 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped from a school in the Northern town of Chibok, Nigeria by the insurgent group Boko Haram. 53 of the kidnapped girls managed to escape but 276 remain in captivity a month later.

On May 12th, Boko Haram released a video of the remaining girls, stating that they would be released in exchange for the Nigerian government’s release of Boko Haram prisoners.

These kidnappings are only the most recent strategy used by Boko Haram who claims that it will not stop until it overthrows the current government.

The insurgent group’s political objective is to remove all forms of Western influence in Nigeria -including Western attire, elections and secularism- and replacing it with a form of Islamic governance that is based on traditional systems and Sharia law.

The group has previously used violent means in attempts to achieve these objectives. It has claimed responsibility for attacks on Nigerian journalists and media organizations, government employees, farmers, schools, military barracks and international organizations.

More than a month later, over 260 schoolgirls still remain in custody of Boko Haram.  These kidnappings are only the most recent strategy used by the insurgent group, which had previously launched attacks on Nigerian journalists and media organizations, government employees, farmers, military barracks, international organizations and even schools.

Indeed, the scale of these kidnappings sets it apart from previous attacks and shows the continuing ability of Boko Haram to operate even in light of the region being under emergency law.

Social media: Western uptake


Despite the scale of the Chibok kidnappings, international media did not immediately pick up the story.  Protests in response to the Nigerian government’s initially false statements on the girls’ and the advent of the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls belatedly catapulted the issue onto the front pages of international newspapers and newsfeeds.

Thanks to the traces left by online content this can be well documented: The Chibok kidnappings took place April 14th, #BringBackOurGirls was first created April 23rd, and in-depth coverage by the Western media began in late April and early May.  Political and social figures have also participated in the campaign and have thus increased its visibility.

First Lady Michelle Obama posted a picture of herself with the hashtag on Instagram and broke convention to deliver the weekly Presidential address alone, stating “In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams – and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.”

Activist Malala Yousafzai also tweeted her support and penned an article titled “Save my Nigerian Sisters,” connecting the Chibok kidnappings to the global problem of difficulties faced by women in pursuing education.

The high degree of coverage of the kidnappings has also spurred political action by the international community. China, Britian, France, Israel and the US have offered their own specialized investigative teams to aid the Nigerian government in locating the girls.

The United States in particular, is reported to have also shared intelligence with the Nigerian government, and has deployed manned surveillance missions in attempts to locate the girls.

ann coulter bring back our countryIn this, the positives of the social media movement cannot be denied. It has brought the story of these schoolgirls into everyday conversation and has helped mobilize international resources and support.

However, there is a limit in the ability of social media campaigns to inform and to effect change. The high volume and short word limits of social media posts do not convey the complex political context in Nigeria. Instead, social media can further promote sensational narratives that exclusively focus on the threat of violent extremist ‘Islamists’ and/or an underdeveloped Africa.

Such generalized conversations can then divorce the link between the Chibok kidnappings and the broader social and political context specific to Nigeria.

Indeed, the fact that Boko Haram was able to orchestrate the Chibok raid in a region under emergency law and counterinsurgency measures demonstrates how vital structural factors –such as government corruption, sectarian tensions, socioeconomic inequality and military incapacity- are to the making sense of the crisis.

Social media also provides a platform for critics to voice their opinions and to engage in debates with those promoting the movements. Michelle Obama’s tweet was met with criticisms of hypocrisy as users employed the hashtags#BringBackYourDrones  and #AllInnocentLivesAreEqual to counter that the Obama administration’s foreign policy decisions in the Middle East and South Asia has also jeopardized the lives of children.

The virality of hashtag #BringBackOurGirls also means that it has been hijacked to raise donations and promote external causes and parodied insensitively.

None of this is to say that the kidnappings do not warrant international attention. Indeed, social media was instrumental in challenging the initially lackluster responses. However, the virality of a social media campaign does not necessarily guarantee resolution of the issue it champions.

#KONY2012 is a powerful reminder of social media’s selective attention and of its ability to distort, exploit, sensationalize and #BringBackOurGirls has similarly experienced much of the positives and the negatives of a social media campaign.

It feels like we spend most of our time promoting what we do on the media networks.

What we do, what we wear, what we eat, where we eat, where we travel.

In the meantime, who’s living? Who’s working? Who’s running?

You can’t jog and type. You can’t eat and look in your lover’s eyes and type.

Working in a field called public relations that calls for being on top of the action and being well connected to people and what they do, I still find it difficult to fully embrace social media.

I feel that social media offers a limited benefit relative to the time involved in signing up to multiple social media networks and to the accessory web and mobile apps that will help you manage those networks. And social media, like blogs, are now themselves advocating that nothing—nothing—beats in-person communication and eye contact.

Despite all the technology in the world, even with sellable iProducts offering what they call “face time,” it is still the physical presence of a human being without the barrier of a screen that makes things happen, that makes the heart beat, that makes someone listen to you or come to your spa or purchase your dress or donate to your puppy shelter.

Since its emergence, I doubt the power or effectiveness of social media to really achieve anything.

I was in the first class of my graduate diploma in public relations when the instructor brought up social media. “Is it useful?” he asks. “No. It is limited and will die,” I answer and received looks from classmates.

At the time, 2009, I couldn’t see how social media networks like Facebook could possibly benefit large and reputable organisations like the United Nations, for example, or why a company like BMW would want to promote on Facebook. Does it need to? Who is on Facebook? Can they afford a BMW? Or is it just blind promotion to everyone out there in the hopes they will tell their friend or their dad who can afford a BMW?

Today, 2012, I am signed up and a frequent user of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. I find it draining. Fun at times, as well as informative because I follow organisations, enterprises, publications and people who talk about what I care about: human rights advocacy, environmental safeguard initiatives, culture and art, and social behaviour.

I also use social media to stay abreast of what can help my clients’ cause or business, and to connect with people.

After producing content, following, attracting and trying to maintain 5,000 ‘likes’ and 5,000 ‘followers’, then what? Does this translate to people using your product? Reading your blog? Adopting your advice to turn off your vehicle engine while parked?

Furthermore, social media means others also use social media to get your attention. Meaning, you will forget what you were reading and what you were supposed to do with that information. I truly believe that.

At no other time have we had so many devices in our hands and pockets, and so much information—most of it really of no consequence—thrown at us. How can we comprehend it all? Process it all? Keep track of it and use it?

A comment I heard yesterday from a hard-working founder and CEO of a great startup with a great product made the issue of social media clear to me. “Facebook is not bringing us revenue, Twitter is not bringing us revenue,” he said. This, from a man whose hands seem hooked to his iPhone or iPad or laptop, responding and engaging on social networks.

So why do we spend so much time?

“What I need is visibility. For blogs and journalists to talk about us,” this feisty businessman declares.

Yes. Is there someone who doesn’t say that?

Again, I come back to dealing with my skepticism of the effectiveness of social media, and of recommending to clients that they embark or not on the social media train.

Is investing yourself in social media overwhelming or just futile?

As public relations professionals, do we have the choice to not use social media at all in our profession and stick to what has worked and does work? I.e. warm handshakes, conversations, smiles, written correspondence, events, and representation in television, radio and print.

Introducing The Comment Tree, a weekly collection of posts and commentary from social and mainstream media sources compiled by Tariq Jeeroburkhan – keeping up to date with the topics of interest in the current news cycle, international and domestic.

Random Thoughts

Gary Lee – Platforms in the real sense are transitory or nonexistent. It’s all predicated by ‘expedience’ or the flavour of the month…all elected members gotta toe the party line and are told NOT to think and do stuff on their own otherwise they get no portfolios and remain backbenchers.

Michael Hureaux – A good many who don’t know also are those who really don’t give a damn, or those who are convinced that all of this mayhem is being conducted with a higher purpose in mind. The interesting and terrifying thing about the new totalitarianism is its blithe acceptance of state terror on the part of the “democratic” societies.

Jennifer Hureaux – class separation and slavery mentality is as much psychological as it is financial, so it takes equal stability from the individual in BOTH areas to free themselves of this society’s chains.

Raul Burbano – You can talk all you want, but the moment you start to organize, the authorities regard you as a threat.

Steven Katz – The capitalists have a problem. In order to legitimize their rule, they must win elections. However, their policies are against the interests of the masses of voting citizens. The main method they use is psychological control via dividing the working class with social and religious issues, including appeals to racism. Another method, effective in close elections, is to prevent poor and working people from voting. The US political system already rests on two big business parties and is designed to keep third-party candidates off the ballot in order to prevent the emergence of a mass political party of the working class.

NDP Leadership

Isabelle Morin – Premier caucus avec @ThomasMulcair! Looking forward to defeat cons. In 2015!!! Une equipe unie!!!

Brian Topp – When it’s over, it’s over. And like all New Democrats all across Canada, there must be only one thing on all of our minds from now on — unity behind our new leader, Tom Mulcair; strength; and an absolute focus on the task at hand, which is to offer Canadians a better government.

Donna Kildaw – Congratulations on your win and for taking the high road, an important quality to have in a Leader. I believe leadership contests are very tiring and emotional and a lot of misinformation gets put out there in the process. We need to get the correct information out there, such as – you never said you were taking the party to the center. I think you will be a great leader starting with uniting the party.

Joanne Bond – Congratulations Mr. Mulcair. You have restored our faith in democracy. Finally, a leader, not just for the NDP, but for Canada. I am looking forward to calling you Prime Minister someday.
Dan Veniez – Mulcair is no threat to Harper. (The Conservatives) are licking their chops at the prospect of taking him on. An angry, bearded former Liberal who no one likes, including most of his party, as Opposition Leader? The NDP have handed the Conservatives another lucky stick!

Ken Reyklin – This lifetime NDPer will not be able to support you for three reasons; Pot, Israel and your unwillingness to work with other parties in the next election.

Canada’s New Budget

Digvir Jayas – The federal government should be commended and congratulated for its long-term vision to increase productivity and prosperity for Canadians through investments in all aspects of research, development and commercialization.

Huy Lang – I just saw a tweet on Twitter about the CBC cuts. One person suggested “The National with Dean Del Mastro.” I would start watching the CBC if Dean Del Mastro were the host. Deal Del Mastro is way more entertaining than that bald dude Peter Mansbridge.

Sandy Alexander Thornton – I think Mr. Harper’s cuts to Federal sectors should start with his own Government, seeing as you are over paid to start with, and put people in there that can do the job with honest to the point objectives, and stop all the b.s.

Joe Cilantro – If you think that these cuts to health care are telling, just wait until the Canada Health Act has to be renewed and rewritten in 2014 – with a conservative majority in gov’t. A penny for your thoughts? Speak now or forever hold your piece.

Maggie Niemi Purchase – made my blood run cold. Harper seems to think he can turn Canada into some kind of “player”. Meanwhile, thousands lose their jobs from unnecessary cuts. He and his ideology have no room for compassion. It scares me.

F-35 Fighter Jets

Kid Peppermint – The Royal Canadian Navy isn’t getting anything better from the gov’t either – check the status of the 4 obsolete submarines we picked up from Great Britain.

Julian Fantino – all members present should know that this is the only fifth generation aircraft available to the Royal Canadian Air Force. This is the plane that Canada needs now and into the future…Canada and the associate minister are showing leadership on this issue.

Thea Kurdi – I like the line, “There is no moving on from a lie this big.” Like election fraud isn’t an even bigger issue? I guess the F-35 one is where maybe even conservatives might finally want to hold their party accountable. One can only hope!

Paul Darlaston – Could the increasing split of small-c conservatives in Alberta ripple up to the ranks in Ottawa? What if Harper has no choice but to throw former PC party leader MacKay under the bus? Will Splitsville result?

If you have a comment or suggestion for what will be top in the news cycle next week –

For much of the past thirty years conservative leaders have been driving the nation uncompromisingly and unapologetically rightward. In the 21st century, that right curve has revolved so much that it is now going completely backwards.

Woman’s rights, union rights, the poor and even the middle class have been under constant attack for years, but as of late conservatives have been going to extremes with their policies. Today, even Ronald Reagan would be considered too liberal by Republican standards.

In the past, conservatives have led without having to give an inch; it was their way or no way, whereas liberals were always willing to give an inch to get an inch (Obama and Clinton did this repetitively). Not much has changed in regards to the White House, the Senate or House of Representatives. The progressive common folk on the other hand are tired of lying down.

Thanks in part to social media such as Facebook and Twitter, the public is waking up and refusing to take it. In a way, it has led to a mini revolution in the progressive movement, a movement that still has little political power, but is now putting their foot down.

Last Week, Virginia’s Republican Governor Bob McDonnell signed a law that requires women to have an ultrasound before an abortion, but was forced to give up on a requirement for a more invasive vaginal probe. This might not be seen as a victory to some as the law should not have passed at all. The real victory here lies with the protest itself. Twenty other states have passed similar abortion laws in the past and they were able to pass them in virtual silence.

Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh has gotten away with spreading his sexist, racist, hate filled message for over twenty years. All of a sudden a tasteless and baseless attack on a law student results in 98% of his advertisers leaving him, why? A progressive movement tired of his bullshit; they reposted his words on every website and news media outlet they could find in order to open the eyes of the public… and it worked. The same thing happened to Glenn Beck a year earlier.

Progressives have also been flexing their muscle when it comes to union workers with the best example being in Wisconsin. This past weekend, 35,000 protesters marked the one year anniversary of Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union bill that deprives unionized public sector workers of the right to collectively bargain. Since the law was passed, over a million people have signed a petition to begin the recall election process for Walker and other GOP state senators.

For decades, Fox News, talk radio and countless newspapers have been a force for conservative propaganda, but in the last couple of years the tide has been changing. Progressives embraced the advent of social media and in a lot of ways now control it. It helped to elect Obama, it helped to build the Occupy Wall Street movement and it’s now keeping conservatives in closer check.

Of course social media only helped the cause, it didn’t start it. I can’t be certain of when or how this progressive movement began to take shape. Whether it was with the election of a liberal black president, the 99% or possibly the people in general are just fed up with going in reverse. Perhaps it’s all of the above combined.

Nevertheless, I suspect if these progressive voices continue to grow louder and louder, Fox News and politically motivated business owners like the Koch Brothers will not have the political influence they desire leading into the election in November. Making a progressive victory that much easier.

Speaking of progressive social media, you can follow Quiet Mike on Twitter and Facebook!

Wednesday’s blackout of over ten thousand sites small and large has got everyone chatting about SOPA. But what is SOPA? And will it lead to the total destruction of the internet we know and love?

SOPA is The Stop Online Piracy Act, a law going up the “series of tubes” also known as Congress. It was introduced by Senator Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) and co-sponsored by both Democrat and Republican members alike.

What does SOPA do?

SOPA gives the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders the right to get court orders against websites, foreign and domestic. Many Senators, large companies and associations like Visa, Random House, Pfizer and the Church Music Publishers’ Association (click here to see the list) were behind the bill, pushing it through with their regular powerhouse combination of lobbying and campaign funding.

What does this mean for big businesses like Warner Brothers?

Well, if someone were to upload a torrent onto a website any studio can demand that Google to remove it from search results. They can also demand that payment processing sites like PayPal be prohibited from transferring funds to that site, effectively crippling the site. ISPs must also prevent access to these banned sites. Websites will evaporate from search results and from viewers’ eyes.

This might not sound like a big deal, especially for those against freely exchanging property rights, but the bills implications go much further:

SOPA supersedes laws that every sovereign country has regarding property rights. It basically cuts them off at the search engine or monetary source, especially if the money  passes through the U.S. network.  Any company within the U.S. can be penalized for working with a website-non-grata.

Secondly, the only thing that a company needs to do is simply type a letter. Their is no judicial oversight required. All IP owners need is a letter in “good faith,” a piece of paper that could effectively shout down any website, small or large. But in most cases the “Vigilante Provision” can be used by search engines and payment processing companies, cutting them off after five days, even without a letter.

SOPA (and its sister bill PIPA) could effectively give any search engine the right to proactively shut down a site.

How will SOPA effect the average internet user?

The average internet user will be effected in many different ways. This law could quite literally end everything that we love about the net, from sharing links on Facebook to YouTube videos of people singing copyrighted music in the shower. We should be weary when senators say this is only for major copyright infringement. SOPA and its sister bill PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) could effect any link you wish to share.

Why should you care about SOPA?

SOPA could end the spirit of the internet, the entrepreneurship, the reason why you love surfing the net so much. The innovation that gave birth to the internet could now be killed before its conception. It is a dangerous bill that gives the big players too much power to shut down smaller sites. It takes away freedom of choice that makes the internet so remarkably vast and amazing.

And that video you been thinking about making of you dancing the zombie to Micheal Jackson’s Thriller could be taken down immediately.  SOPA is a imagination and fun killer. Giving the internet so many rules YouTube might become a graveyard of empty censored videos.

Was the blackout effective?

While SOPA is a dangerous bill,  anti-sopa websites like Wikipedia, Mozilla, Google and others defended their position without campaign funds or a strong lobbying group like the motion picture industry. They did it by applying the power of mass online protest (i.e. 2 million tweets against SOPA). It was only a matter of hours before senators started backing down, fearing an imminent backlash.

They should have seen this coming. The internet, after all, is fueled by people who like freedom of choice and freedom of movement. The fight is not over, but for the time being SOPA is shelved.


screen capture of forum schiste website

screen capture of forum schiste website

Canada’s shale gas industry is turning to social media for a cure to its tattered public image in Quebec, according to the Canadian Press. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has contracted the services of social media company Parta Dialogue to create, a website billed as a place to discuss issues and share information about shale gas.

With the official launch of the website set for Tuesday, one of the industry’s most vocal critics, the Association Québecoise de Lutte Contre la Pollution Atmosphérique (AQLPA) is already calling into question the motives of the effort. “Is this looking at environmental questions or is this damage control?” said Kim Cornelissen of the AQLPA in a phone interview.

Two rounds of vocal public hearings, a march through Quebec culminating in a large rally in Montreal and reports of gas leaks in wells have left the shale gas industry reeling in the province over the last year.

Still, Stéphane Gosselin, head of the Association Pétrolière et Gazière du Québec (APGQ) told the Canadian Press that the new site is not intended to restore the image of the shale gas industry in Quebec, but was built as “way to dialogue.”

Questions have also been raised about the neutrality of the site, given that it is funded by the CAPP. Cornelissen added that environmental and community organizations were not consulted in the development of the social media space. Parta Dialogue, the site’s creator, has stated that the site is intended to allow open and respectful dialogue between all stakeholders.

The website is already active online and features several videos from Gosselin, as well as two from the head of Greenpeace Quebec, Éric Darier.

Cornelissen, however, isn’t convinced the site will do much to change public opinion. “This is not a question of public opinion; this is a question of public health and the environment,” she said.   “It’s like talking about the problem of a single cigarette instead of questioning the practice of smoking in general.”

Gosselin also said the site is targeting “moderates” with “good information” and seeks to “demystify” shale gas. But Cornelissen said she has been impressed with how informed citizens have been, especially those most affected by shale gas exploration.

As for the government’s role, Cornelissen and Quebecers will keep waiting for the results the of the strategic environmental evaluation on shale gas, whose committee came under scrutiny in June due to conflicts of interest.   Jean-Yves Lavoie, president of the oil and gas company Junex, stepped down from the committee under pressure from several groups, though others in similar circumstances remained.

While the industry is hoping for a fresh start with the public, it may already be too late in many parts of Quebec. Cornelissen and the AQLPA are already looking forward to the growth of and continued government investment in the biogas sector and point to companies like Gaz Métro that are getting involved. Biogas is natural gas captured from decaying organic matter, including food and farm waste.

A few weeks ago I visited a cemetery to dance and spit on MySpace’s grave. I don’t know whose space it was, but I know it wasn’t my space. I never had a MySpace. It was probably Tom’s space. Who Tom is, I’ll never know. All I know is Zuckerberg looks down on him just like Shaq looks down on short Japanese men. If Shaq ever went to Tokyo, you know Godzilla would be nearby to fight him. Sounds cool, right? Godzilla vs. Shaq Fu? Badass.

Anyway, I never liked the name ‘MySpace’. I always found it so stupid. And Facebook sounds stupid, so you can only imagine how stupid MySpace sounds. But anyway, remember how boring MySpace used to be? How it never really mattered? How Facebook always was the superior social networking site? I mean, it’s not like it had any competition. But now, Google Plus? Facebook, maybe you’re about to get subtracted.

A buddy of mine sent me an invite for this new, revolutionary movement known as Google Plus about a week ago, and I have to say, I like it. It keeps Facebook’s charm, but makes things look neater in a sense. GIFs actually animate. Photos are all there, in their actual size. Videos look better. It seems like Google is the only one who can do everything right…

Gmail. Love it.
Google Video. Again, love it.
Google Chrome. Don’t use it, but hey, I have no problems with it.
Google Earth. Come on, who hasn’t decided to view their house on here?
Google Maps. Point A to point B. To point C. To point D. To point blank range… to… oh, I’m there already. Thanks, Google.

In my mind, I see Google Plus as being very similar to Facebook. If anything, it’s taken everything Facebook has and upped the ante. Only thing is Facebook has most of the chips in play, so it’s an easy call. But with Google Plus, things just run smoother. And circles, rather than friends, work very well; if anything, it takes what works in Twitter and merges it here, creating an interesting sensation. Following people. I like it. I like it a lot.

Which of course now brings us to my coining of the term, “circle me.” In fact, “circle us,” I shall proclaim ever-so flawlessly as people read this and nod their heads in agreement. Because circling people just sounds better than saying “hey, add me on Facebook.” Or, “hey, I’ll accept your friend request.” No. Circling people just seems to be fine. “Hey girl, how about I circle you when I get home.” “No, Mike, I want you to circle me right here and now.” “Clockwise or counter-clockwise?” “Surprise me.”

The only problem I have with talking about Google Plus, is the fact that it’s so similar to Facebook. The ability to re-share posts, pictures and videos is very good, and being able to actually re-share someone’s status is, well, a Plus. A Google Plus. The “Sparks” feature actually reminds me a bit of StumbleUpon in some ways, so it’ll be interesting to see how this works out, but for now, let’s just say it’s similar to the ‘likeable’ pages on Facebook.

In fact, it’s so similar to Facebook, even the suggested friends section is almost exactly where the suggested friends section is on Facebook. It’s obvious that Google hasn’t gone out of its way to be completely original; rather, it takes everything that works  on Facebook and brings it all forward. The result… well, it’s good.

Now, if only there was a way to import friends from Facebook, then we’d be talking. As it stands, things are good, but without having a direct comparison, it makes things difficult to compare on a personal level.

Do I see Google Plus taking out Facebook? No. No, I don’t. Do I see a movie being based  on Google Plus? No. No, I don’t. But do I see Google Plus being a legit competitor to Facebook? Yes. Yes, I do. Only time will tell. Let’s just see what happens.

Is Google Plus a moment that will last a lifetime? Or is it My Moment by Rebecca Black? That’s the million dollar question. And guess what, we’re all out of lifelines. The audience is dead. You don’t have any friends to call. And this question has already been 50/50’d. Speaking of Rebecca Black, I fail to see how her new song is superior to Friday. I mean, come on Friday was the best song ever. An instant classic. It was sheer greatness, personified, epitomized, and laid to rest on a bed of flowers, gold and crisp hundred dollar bills. It was a song perfect for everything that ever had to do with being so bad it’s good in fact, nothing was as bad as Friday, which made it oh so, so good. But is Google Plus ‘Friday’ or is it ‘My Moment’? I say, you circle it.

If you want an invite, just reply to this post and I’ll shoot you one. Then you can circle me. And check me off, or something. However you classify people.

May the force be with you.

George Orwell was right when he said Big Brother was watching us, but it doesn’t seem to be the government as much as ourselves. This past week, social media has proven that we must be careful in what we do and say. We can become the laughing stock of the world or capture its imagination.

With a camera being built in almost every gadget known to man these days, it is almost impossible to hide. Chances are whether you know it or not, your mug shot is in the background of dozens of photos taken by strangers using regular cameras, camera phones, traffic cameras, etc. The only sure way to avoid becoming part of a file on some guy’s computer is to be invisible.

Last week we all witnessed what happened in Vancouver following the Canucks loss to the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Riots quickly broke out downtown leaving more than 150 people injured, more than 50 businesses damaged, 15 cars destroyed and at least 14 officers with minor injuries.

Most people present during the unrest were not causing damage, but almost no one could resist the opportunity to pose proudly for a picture in front of a burning car. Whether or not they were responsible for torching the car, they might as well have been telling everyone (including police) “Hey guys, look what I did!”

For the miscreants that did take part in the destruction and looting, it won’t be long until the police come knocking on your door thanks to images and video clips uploaded to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, not to mentioned some idiotic ramblings on Facebook bragging about the crimes their authors have committed.

How stupid can you get

Vancouver Police requested that the public send or post pictures so that they can be used to prosecute the offenders, naturally they have received plenty. Vancouver 2011 Riot Criminal List alone has gathered tons of videos and photos depicting those who started fights, flipped cars, set fires and looted stores. In the future if you decide to loot, you might not want to be seen smiling with your face exposed and your arms full as you exit London Drugs.

Not only is social media working in favor of the police, but it also is helping to clean up the downtown core. The riot wasn’t even under control yet when Facebook events started to appear calling for everyone to go downtown Thursday morning to help clean up the mess.  “Post-Riot Clean-up: Let’s Help Vancouver” quickly drew over twelve thousand people and sure enough the masses have been pouring in to volunteer the last few days. All it takes is one man opening a page on Facebook for the rest of us to get inspired and do something.

Speaking of inspired, without all the little brothers out there with cameras last Wednesday night we might not have gotten to see the kiss. Alex Thomas and Scott Jones are now world famous for their viral photograph of them lying on the ground kissing while surrounded by riot police. The Australian Jones was apparently trying to calm down his Canadian girlfriend when the picture was taken. It is one of the best authentic images I’ve ever seen.

Heaven in Hell

Social Media outlets clearly played a key role in the Vancouver riots, much like the Iranian protests that followed the re-election  President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009; social media played a key factor in its organization and its crackdown. At least in Vancouver’s case the only losers are actual losers.

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Google, Bing, Yahoo…what do they all have in common? They are all trying to finish the race in enriching their search results to include a user’s Social Circle.  Well, guess what? Wajam beat them to the race! Wajam is a cool start up out of the Montreal Tech Scene. I’ve been a Wajam user for some time now [yes, I got ubercool early access].

We all use the internet to search for information, but when we’re looking we have to rely on some authority that dictates to us what we want to see. Since we’re human and social, we want to know what our friends think of things, or see if they have posted information on a topic we are looking for. I’m sure that you just like me would rather see search results from your friends since we put more faith in them than some anonymous server.

Let’s take a look at a search for the Android Homecoming, an event coming up in September for Android enthusiasts, evangelists and app builders (I will be there with start up Band Tracker), this one is done on Bing:

Now here is another search done with Yahoo for one of my classes, ECO310 a computational methods in economics class:

And here is one from my AMS 210 Applied Linear Algebra class on Google:


So, as we can see from all the results posted from the Generic Search Engines, I get what I want.

Now, let’s take a look at what I get when I go straight to Wajam and do a Social Information Search – something I’ll most likely start defaulting to in the future. This is what shows up for a search query for Scilab, a program I use for my AMS class:

Even though Wajam is in its infancy, as you can see it has already proved its usefulness. The more you use your Twitter and Facebook and the more your friends share information on those sites it becomes increasingly easy to find what you’re looking for without having Google, Bing or Yahoo decide for you.

In short, I’m giving Wajam major thumbs up for a solid beginning to a great product. As the world continues to evolve and become more and more social digitally, products like Wajam are going to succeed and replace those that cannot keep up with the rapid changes in the tech realm.

Wajam from Wajam on Vimeo.

About Steven P Sanderson…

Steven is a student at State University of New York at Stony Brook, currently completing a major in Economics and also studying Applied Math and Statistics. He loves computers and new technology. You can check out his own start-up and follow its progress on twitter @bandtrackr or on

If you like what Steven has to say, encourage him by leaving a comment below or even  by following him on twitter @stevepsanderson or on FB or drop him a line!