Tag Archives: News

Get ready for the 2012 campaign season — on your Facebook

18 Jun

Political Candidate with Social Media ButtonsMashable (via Social Times) is reporting that social media has a big impact on how we get our news and information.   (I’m thinking I might need to start a “well, duh” tag.)   We’re more likely to get information, to actually watch/read the information, and to share the information online than IRL.   Because of all this, “social media users are more likely to be influenced by Facebook “friends” than the evening news.” And in all of this, they’re using the term “social media voters”, a term that I’m going to wholeheartedly embrace. Continue reading

I spend 4 minutes every day working for the Department of Agriculture. And you probably do, too.

2 May

As today was my first day at my new job, I spent a lot of time filling out forms.  How many exemptions am I claiming on my taxes?  What percent of my income do I want to put into my 401(k)?  Do I want to participate in a flexible spending plan?  So, really, I spent a lot of time thinking about my income and how best to maximize it and, depressingly, how a larger part of it is going to taxes than ever before.  Apparently, since I got a raise Uncle Sam did, too.

My thinking about this today gives me the perfect intro to introduce you to some cool interactive infographics that I came across this weekend.  (Seriously, interactive inforgraphics are like the highlight of the Internet!) Continue reading

Rock, I mean Like, the Vote

1 May

Today SocialTimes introduced me to Likester, a new site which keeps track of real time trends on social media sites, particularly Facebook.  (Think of it as following hash tags to the nth degree.)  Although Likester also allows users to see trends within their group of friends, it’s bigger (and cooler) impact is in allowing people to understand what’s going on globally (and instantaneously).  As they say in About Likester:

What people are liking right now is really interesting, and worth calling out and celebrating. It’s usually very different from what they’ve liked since the beginning of time. Whatever trends are happening, anywhere in the world, you’ll likely be able to find evidence of them here. While we won’t attempt to explain them, some research likely would. You can filter trends by time period, such as “today”, and you can further filter by category (“People”, or “Websites”), as well as by any combination of city, state, or country. So you can see what restaurants are hot in Paris, France today. Or what websites people like this month in Seattle, Washington, United States. The possibilities are endless.

You all know how enthusiastic I am about the archival of the Internet.  But, this is even better, because it’s happening in real time and can have real time implications.  According to Social Times:

Do you want to be on top of the latest American Idol predictions? Then head over to Likester because the web site has successfully predicted the bottom three contestants on American Idol, as well as successfully predicting that Stefano Langone would be eliminated. 

Admittedly, that’s a silly example of Likester’s power.  But, swap picking the losing candidates of American Idol for picking the losing candidates of a national election and you’ll see the impact that Likester can have.  It allows for real time data about what people actually think and like (or at least what they want their friends to think that they think and like…), which has got to be better than the lies that they tell to pollsters.

Likester (and the million other services like it that are soon to be with us) will allow us to see what amounts to polling data instantaneously and probably to get predictions of returns way before the news networks are able to announce them.  (I always get my results online anyway – way faster, especially for local things, to go directly to the county Board of Elections sites and do a little bit of math.) Continue reading

Obesity as an Epidemic of Social Networks

21 Apr

Today I attended Slate’s conversation on the fight to end childhood obesity.  (I know, I know, not really a normal thing to do with your vacation…)  The event featured a number of doctors, policy makers, and other experts concerned with the obesity epidemic, each of whom presented their own thoughts on the subject and then joined a panel discussion.  The first session focused on the causes of childhood obesity, the second on the solutions.

Although all of the panelists presented different ideas and statistics, they all came back to the same thing: it’s about culture.  It’s about what we value and what we consider socially acceptable.  Dr. Ezekial J. Emanuel (brother of Rohm and Ari — seriously, were they genetically engineered or something), Chair of Bioethics at the National Institute of Health, spoke about obesity as an infectious disease, saying that research on social networks shows that once someone becomes obese, their friends and relatives are more likely to become obese.

All of the speakers seemed to be good liberal soldiers fighting the good fight, so I was surprised to hear the idea that social stigma could be a useful tool in the fight against obesity.  One of the panelists, David L. Katz, Director of Yale’s Prevention Research Center, talked specifically about stigmatizing behavior instead of stigmatizing outcomes.  The panelists also made sure to say that stigmatization should only be applied to adults, not children.  But, still it seemed wrong…

They talked about the cultural shift to end smoking and how curbing the way that it was viewed as “cool” was a big part in getting people to quit.  But, obesity has never been viewed as cool…  Okay, I guess it has been viewed as a sign of success, though.    Mr. Katz discussed phrases that link food to the ideas of success and money:  “bread winner”, “bringing home the bacon”, “making dough”.  In our culture, the ability to provide food signifies success, protection, and love.  He also said that for most of human history, physical activity was unavoidable and calories were scarce and hard to get and that recently this has been reversed.  In light of this reversal, until we stop associating food with success, we’re going to have a problem.

Back to the idea of stopping the spread of a disease across a social network through stigma…  This reminds me of quarantine and isolation, how we’ve dealt with leprosy (which was I guess effective, but terrible).  And, it’s the exact opposite of how we’re dealing with AIDS (many groups are working to end the stigma against being HIV positive).  This difference in approach to dealing with the threats of obesity and AIDS strikes me as strange, especially as I would argue that AIDS is a much more dangerous disease.

So, is social stigma an okay tool?  I guess it’s effective.  But is it acceptable?  Can we harness the power of our social networks to stop obesity before it starts and prevent it from spreading along those very networks?


MaggieCakes is a blog about culture, social media, and what’s new in the world of Internet culture. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. MaggieCakes is hosted by WordPress and often draws upon Slate, Jezebel, The Hair Pin, and SocialTimes for links and inspiration. My post Social Media and the Art of Storytelling was featured on Freshly Pressed, bringing a while new readership to my blog. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

Economic survival or economic security — what’s acceptable?

17 Apr

Recently, Sociological Images has had some coverage on what it takes to make ends meet in a household budget.  (Here’s an admission – up until I read the book Making Ends Meet in college, I thought the expression was “making ends meat” and was very confused about what people were doing with the ends of meat in order to get by.  This is almost as good as my thinking that the Elton John song was “Hold Me Closer Tony Danza”.)

As comes up every so often, people are challenging the notion that the federal poverty level is actually workable in reality.  (Here’s the thing, I’m going to disagree with this particular challenge, but recognize that I get that living at 100% of the poverty level is almost unworkable and generally miserable.)  This time, the challenge is coming from Wider Opportunities for Women.  Before getting into the current issue, here’s the background info that you need to know on the federal poverty guidelines:

Federal poverty guidelines were developed in the 1960s based on the thrifty food basket.  The idea was that the average family spends 1/3 of their income on food, so if you could figure out what food a family needed to consume to get by and multiply its cost by 3, you could find a basic level of income needed to get by.  (All of you social science people are probably already seeing flaws in this plan, but remember I didn’t make it up.)    I remember reading the actual list for the original food basket in a Soc class and it was gross (granted, tastes change over time).  (Unfortunately, my search skills seem to be failing me once again and I’m unable to find it.)

Although we may not recognize it in our daily lives, the cost of food has dropped drastically since the federal poverty guidelines were instituted.  (But, it seems like food prices may be on the rise again.)  So, under current economic conditions, none of us spent 1/3 of our income on food.  It seems to make sense that the less money you make, the higher percentage of it that you spend on basic necessities (like food), but there are so many necessities (housing, utilities, transportation, etc.) that there’s no way that 2x what you spend on food is enough to cover all the rest of them.

I guess that was a lot of background…

So, Wider Opportunities for Women is arguing that there’s a big difference between the federal poverty level and what it really takes to get by.  They’re calling this the difference between “economic survival” and “economic security”.  And, generally, I think that they’re right, but what bothers me is how high their “economic security” numbers are.  They say that a single person needs $30,012 to be secure.  And, I can tell you that I’ve spent the last few years making a lot less than that.  It hasn’t always been fun, but I’ve managed to set a budget and make it work.  I’ve managed to save, to put money in my 401(k), and to buy a car (not new, but new to me).  I don’t think I’m a particular thrifty person, either.  For a family of four, they’re calling for a minimum income of $67,920.  What?!  That’s all well and good, but it’s definitely middle class, not just a minimum.

You can think that this is just one crazy study that won’t go anywhere.  (Although it’s already been picked up in the NY Times, too.)  But, it concerns me because of how the numbers might be used in the future.  As Wider Opportunities for Women says in their study (The BEST Index), “The BEST Index is a starting point for workers who want to achieve financial stability, and for the policy­makers, advocates, researchers and service providers who help workers build security.”  I guess I’m concerned that they’re going to push for us to start offering additional government programs and benefits to people making up to these levels instead of the current standard (people normally qualify for benefits  at income levels up to 200% or so of federal poverty level, depending on specific benefits and programs.)  This is a problem because the median household income in the US is only $44,389 (Take that stat with a grain of salt as it comes from Wikipedia, but the Census website is entirely too time consuming and difficult to navigate).  So, where are we going to get money to supplement the income of way more than half of the population?

I realize that this post is trending a little more into political territory than I normally go, but I’m kind of stuck on thinking about it.  Coming from Legal Aid, a lot of my friends got by on a lot less than Wider Opportunities for Women’s suggested income levels.  I get that a lot of us have great, helpful families and support systems.  But, I’m kind of thinking that if we can do it, other people can, too.


MaggieCakes is a blog about culture, social media, and what’s new in the world of Internet culture. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. MaggieCakes is hosted by WordPress and often draws upon Slate, Jezebel, The Hair Pin, and SocialTimes for links and inspiration. My post Social Media and the Art of Storytelling was featured on freshly pressed, bringing a while new readership to my blog. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

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