Friday, October 22, 2010

College student completes $300 Facebook challenge

Last week I told you about Alyssa Rushing, the 20-year-old college student from Rock Hill whose mom had offered her $300 if she could go a month without Facebook and use the time toward her studies. The challenge ended on Wednesday, and her mom, Melynda Rushing, tells me Alyssa successfully completed it. "She made it to the end but was VERY anxious" to get back on Facebook, Melynda wrote in an e-mail. The story hit a chord nationally. Fox News and MSNBC asked me for the Rushings' contact information. Good Morning America and the Today show also tried to reach them, as did a number of local TV stations and radio shows. (GMA sent them friend requests and messages on Facebook). Melynda said the story was also mentioned on The View as well.

But they didn't respond to any of the requests. Critical online comments responding to the Observer story upset Alyssa. (Many commenters suggested students shouldn't need money to study harder; Alyssa pointed out that she was doing well in school, even without the challenge). "We ran for cover after the initial response," Melynda wrote. "Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined!!! When Good Morning America contacted us, I realized then all the hype had little to do with us and more to do with (Facebook) in general."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lowe's offering 90 percent off deals on Facebook

Lowe's Home Improvement's come up with a novel way to get an early jump on the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday shopping craze. The chain's launching a Facebook promotion with some seriously steep discounts. Lowe's officials are calling it their "Black Friday Sneak Peek Party," and it starts on Nov. 5. That's when they'll list some of their Black Friday deals on their Facebook fan page. The deals will be valid online beginning on Thanksgiving and in stories on Black Friday.

But as an extra attraction for fans who come to check things out early, Lowe's is putting up videos that will include coupon codes for 90 percent off "a few select items," according to spokeswoman Colleen Carbott. One of the videos was done by NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson. Those who find the codes can redeem them online immediately. Tried to get my man Jeff Elder, former Observerite turned Lowe's social media guru, to tell me what some of the hot items are, but he's been sworn to corporate secrecy.

I sure could use a new barbecue grill...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Should colleges ban athletes from Twitter?

N.C. State's decision to stop its basketball players from tweeting is drawing a thumbs-down from the Charlotte sports marketing firm that advises Penn State, the Big Ten Network, ESPN Plus and other big names in the sports world on handling social media. When I asked Liz Barrett, a consultant with Sports Media Challenge, what she thought, she said N.C. State went too far. She said student-athletes, properly supervised, should be able to handle social media.

Not sure I agree that they'll always follow marching orders and avoid embarrassing their schools, but I do think universities, normally such bastions of free speech, risk looking like free speech censors when they tell student-athletes they can't express themselves in a public forum. Barrett's firm's currently surveying student-athletes, university officials and the general public on the subject. Click here if you'd like to vote.

What do you think? Is it right for colleges to tell students on athletic scholarships that they can't use Twitter?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Charlotte school wins $500,000 in Facebook contest

The Charlotte Jewish Day School has hit a social media home run, winning $500,000 in Kohl's department store's national Facebook school-improvement contest. Kohl's made the announcement today, confirming that the tiny 111-student school had beaten out more than 100,000 others from around the country in winning its share of a $10 million pot.

Each school had to tell how it would use its winnings, and then get supporters to visit Kohl's Facebook page and vote for their project. The top 20 vote-getters would each get $500,000. Some 11 million votes were cast nationwide, and the Jewish Day School came in No. 11. It plans to use the money to upgrade its technology, buy new computers, upfit a science lab and even buy its first school bus.

The school went all out with its campaign, staging a "Vote-a-Thon" for alumni and friends, making up T-shirts, and getting help from prominent Charlotte social networkers who spread the message to thousands of their contacts on Facebook and Twitter. Principal Mariashi Groner thanked volunteers, saying they worked non-stop during the seven-week campaign. "Sometimes in a smaller school, there's more determination," she said. "We're absolutely thrilled. Euphoric ... It's going to make a big difference to our school."

According to Kohl's Facebook page, the next highest-ranking N.C. school in the contest was Liberty Preparatory Christian Academy in Mooresville, which finished 39th. Here in Charlotte, New Life Christian Academy School of the Arts finished 274th, and Mallard Creek High finished 494th.

Are you a cellphone addict?

Earlier this week, I wrote about Alyssa Rushing, a 20-year-old college student whose mom is offering to pay her $300 if she can stay off Facebook for a month and devote that time to study. Lots of people wrote to say they didn't think anyone should have to be paid to temper their passion for social networking. That story also prompted an e-mail from Dr. Nicole Radziwill, a Charlotte native who teaches about computer technology at James Madison University.

She recently wrote a book about her own "social media addiction." She wrote that she'd been checking Twitter about 130 times a day, and checking her Droid for text or Google chat messages at least 400 times a day. By her count, that was roughly 44 minutes of every day. She even dreamed about checking Twitter in her sleep! To snap out of her compulsive checking, she imposed a 42-day social media blackout on herself earlier this year. She came to realize that, in overusing Twitter, she was subjecting herself to an "interruption-driven existence." Instead of using Twitter and Facebook to keep in touch with friends, the networks themselves -- with their constant stream of random, attention-grabbing information -- became attractions unto themselves.

The experiment led her to cut back. She checks her Droid about 50 to 75 times a day now, an amount she admits some might still see as excessive. Her experience made me wonder if the problem is less about the addictiveness of Facebook or Twitter than it is about the addictiveness of smartphones. You put your entire life into the things -- bank accounts, passwords, contacts, photos, e-mails -- and you carry it all around with you in your pocket. Having all that information and communicating power at your fingertips is ... well, irresistible. I didn't think anything of Facebook myself until I got a Blackberry and saw how easy it was to keep in touch with my friends through it.

I've never kept track of how many times I check my Blackberry. But I do know when the little notification light blinks, signaling incoming e-mail, texts, or social network data, I feel compelled to check it. (I actually put the thing in my pocket when I'm busy and need to focus, just so I can't see the blinking light). If I had to guess, I'd say I check the phone about 40-50 times a day. If I didn't use the thing for work, I'd have to wonder if maybe I had a problem...

How about you? How many times a day do you check your phone? And how much is too much?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Duke student's sex list goes viral

An e-mail a Duke student intended to share with a few of her friends has become the talk of the Internet in recent days. Karen Owen (on the left in photo) sent a seriously explicit kiss-and-tell message to a few of her friends, detailing how she had sex with 13 men on campus, many of them Duke lacrosse players. She included a Powerpoint presentation complete with their photos and with graphic references to their body parts and their performance in bed. It wound up circulating among the whole Duke student body and on to Internet blogs and even the Today Show.

(Watch the Today Show report.)

Needless to say, the players are angry (some of them, anyway), and there's talk of lawsuits. It's yet another example of what I'm tempted to call the IDD syndrome -- Inadvertent Digital Disclosure. As great as all these electronic communication channels are about spreading the word, it sure seems people would be smarter now about how and what they share on them. But these things just seem to keep happening. Maybe the technology is outpacing our common sense.

UPDATE: Comments have been disabled due to multiple abusive posts.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Facebooker likes it "in the hall, by the front door"

My eyebrows shot up the other day when one of my Facebook friends, a mom and an official at a local university, posted a status update informing the world that she: "Likes it in the hall, by the front door." And that was all. I started to ask what that meant, but frankly, I was chicken. Hey, Facebook is a public forum, after all! Turns out the explanation was totally G-rated, and the latest attention-grabbing meme making the Facebook rounds. As I understand it, in this case, women are posting status updates about where they like to put their purses. (A female colleague guessed it immediately when I told her what I'd read. Guys are slow, I guess).

It was designed, apparently, by some anonymous Facebooker to draw attention to Breast Cancer Awareness month, which rolls around every October. It's similar to an earlier meme where women simply posted their bra colors so men would ask what was going on, and thus draw their attention from breasts to breast cancer awareness. As one woman points out, however, clever though the latest one is, you wonder how it draws attention to the cause. All it does it make guys think their female friends have suddenly turned X-rated on them for no apparent reason, then they get a chuckle when they discover the real purpose. A tad odd. Seems it would make more sense if all these suggestive status updates were accompanied by a link to a reputable site or organization where you could learn more or make a donation. Just sayin'...