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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Facebook: does the good outweigh the bad?

Everyone has their beef with Facebook. Since the recent rising of much ado over Facebook and their newly revised terms of service, many of those beefs have been voiced. I, for one, happen to have a few more beefs with Facebook; I, for one, happen to think it helps people become more self-involved and impatient & inconsiderate with others, rather than bring people together. Not too long ago, we would visit someone's website to see what they were up to or how they have been. Maybe now and then we would fill out and forward one of those surveys everyone posts on Facebook, partially due to narcissism, but mostly due to the desire that others would fill them out so we could learn about them.

Now, on the other hand, we visit Facebook to see if anyone has commented on our page, a photo, or a posted item... or if anyone has tagged us in a photo or video. We spend hours filling our profiles with information about ourselves, but little time viewing the entire profiles of our friends or family, as illustrated by the number of people who whine about how much "junk" everyone else has on there. We check notes to see if anyone has filled out one of those surveys... but not really to see what they're up to, rather to show everyone what we're all about. Many of us spend more time scrolling through our "friends'" list of friends than we spend on their actual profile page, seeing whom we may add to our own list (or if you want to identify this with the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, treating people merely as a means to an end rather than an end in their selves).

Not only has Facebook (as well as similar social networking sites, such as Myspace and Friendster) helped us to become more self-involved and narcissistic, it has completely reshaped how we interact and how much personal information we share now compared to how much personal information we shared in the past. Ten years ago, for instance, you wouldn't dream of discussing the drunken bash you went to on the weekend with the dorky co-worker who sits 5 rows down from you at the office, let alone show them pictures (or your boss, grandmother, or the cute, but "proper", girl who sits behind you in class); nor would you openly discuss your religious, political, or otherwise personal views with every person you vaguely knew. Today, however, no information is sacred. Besides, if you don't post the photo, your best friend or the snot from your gym class will post it for you... and everyone is doing it anyway.

Not all of us, admittedly, are there for self-centred purposes. But, however, be warned:

(would you really want this to be you?)

it's probably something that will soon be used (and most likely already is) in hiring and college admittance practices... so reckless behaviour probably isn't advised. Even if you sober up and remove the picture/drunken text/overload of information the next morning, it stays in the system forever. That's probably not a great idea if it ever happens (and this isn't highly unlikely) that government gains control over (or during this recession, companies offer to purchase) information stored in social networking sites.

Although it has its flaws, Facebook still offers a great opportunity for friends and family to stay in contact and positive business connections to be made. I'm not saying people should avoid the site; I am saying people should use the site carefully. It may help to note that Facebook has many privacy features that are fairly easily accessed through the privacy settings link that shows up when you hover over Settings in the upper right-hand corner of most Facebook accounts. You may customise your account so that no matter how much information you give, only certain friends put on certain lists can see only the information you allow them to see (although I shall neglect to go into full detail). Even still, you may recall I mentioned Facebook's recent change in their terms of service: Facebook reserves the right to use your information for virtually any reason it sees fit and will keep your information in is system even if you clear and remove your account... regardless of your privacy settings.

What about you? What's your beef with Facebook? Or, is it all wonderful in your eyes? I'd love to hear your side!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

So I'm in the Hot-Seat!

Hello, Blogosphere! It's been awhile since I've blogged, and even though I made a recent promise to continue blogging, I haven't really fulfilled the promise. So, Da Old Man from Crotchety Old Man Yells at Cars has given me an interview to help get this little corner of the web back into full swing.

1. Where did you get your name?
Shadow Crystal, unfortunately, does not have a very interesting or romantic origin. I was stuck for a name, not wanting to use my own name in case any future employer decided to run a Google search and came across some of my more controversial opinions.

'Shadow' was chosen as the result of comparing my desire for a semi-secret identity (after all, I still uploaded my real picture and I don't go to great lengths to hide my name [Katie]) to 'hiding in the shadows', whereas 'Crystal' was chosen partly because I was simply told it is my aura colour and partly because I thought of a crystal reflecting light and wanted my name to hint at the representation of reflecting a little bit of light amidst the shadows we live in.

2. You've been missing from the blogosphere lately. Anything exciting
going on?

I'm a full-time student whose goal is to make straight A's (not for the 'snob-appeal', but for the scholarship appeal so I don't graduate up to my arse in student loans). When you mix that with a tendency towards poor time-management, blogging kind of takes a backseat. Last semester I decided to write for our campus newspaper, which is why I never brought myself around to making some time for blogging (sadly, I was beginning to grow sick of writing). But this semester, I have decided against writing for our campus paper (partly because of time and partly because of a vicious, un-professional front-page article that was just published about one of our students, which is actually the topic of the next rant I'll be posting), so I really have no excuse to not allow some time for blogging.

But yes, you could say there has also been something exciting going on...

Brewing, if you will...

I have started making some natural skin-care products and have been spending time researching the health and legal mumbo-jumbo. My list of products, so far, includes lotions, massage oils, lip balms, shaving creams, sugar scrubs, salt scrubs, bath salts, bath melts, bath bombs, perfumes, solid colognes, deodorants, hair gels, and even incense (but I don't make soap). ;-)
Within the next few months, you can expect to see some posts about these products - if there is interest, I'll post some basic recipes. I plan on having products for sale within the next few months, although it would be through a separate site (and most likely, just local to start). This blog will never become a sort or advertisement.

3. How do you find all those great videos?
Well, the fun 'n' freaky flash videos are generally the result of a twisted mind, warped friends, and hazy nights in smoky rooms (hey, I did say I was a university student, didn't I?)... just don't ask us what search terms we came up with and why. ;-)

4. You seem to have a lot of posts about music. What is your

That's a tough one! I don't have a particular favourite artist or band, so I'll just list off all the musicians I think of when 'favourite' comes to mind:

Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco, Loreena McKennitt, Dar Williams, Kate Bush, The Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Sarah Brightman, Isobel Campell (especially with Mark Lanegan), Tracy Chapman, Melissa Ehteridge, The Rankin Family, Bob Dylan, Barenaked Ladies, Norah Jones, Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, Nightwish, Type O Negative, James Blunt, Joan Osborne, Joni Mitchell, Indigo Girls, Radiohead, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, Reba McIntyre, Pam Tillis (and outside of the artists listed, I despise country music)... and I'm sure there are more. ;-)

5. You also inject a lot of humour into your posts. So, what's the deal
with all the extra u's that Canadians use?

We're slowly making the transition to speaking American, as we've already bastardised the letter "s" and turned it into a "z" in words like 'realise', 'globalise', and any other '-ise' word. In fact, some papers here have begun eliminating our u's. But up until recently, we prefered to speak and write in English. ;-)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

2009 Has Arrived

It's been more than awhile since I've posted and I think that's rather unacceptable. In my defence, my computer has been running slowly and my browser has been hardly running at all. Today I decided to blow a little steam and play around with "StumbleUpon". I was quite disappointed to discover my "Stumble" button was no longer working, although the rest of the toolbar worked fine (if you are unfamiliar with StumbleUpon, I recommend checking it out - it's channel surfing for the web!). That was the last straw - I caved and installed the latest version of Firefox and updated to the latest version of StumbleUpon... and was left to wonder why I had not done this sooner! Not only did my "Stumble" button work once more, I was once again able to access messages in my Hotmail inbox and function normally within Facebook... I don't use many other sites daily (what an exciting lifestyle I lead), so after spending a great deal of time fighting with those sites each day, I didn't much feel like blogging... or even logging into Blogger and opening the editor.

Today, however, things change. During the past few weeks I decided I want to, and should, continue to blog; after some of the discoveries I made today, I decided I have no excuse to not blog.

What discoveries have I made, you ask?

Epic discoveries... and by epic discoveries, I mean the mothers of all discoveries... the discoveries that make our browsing lives just a little easier (okay... a LOT easier)...

I discovered Firefox Add-Ons. If you use Firefox, these plugins can truly enrich your browsing experience. If you do not use Firefox, you should click here to see what you're missing and download yourself a new browser... one that, unlike Internet Explorer, doesn't leave you as open to viruses and irritatingly intrusive
ads... and, I swear, runs faster. Up until the last year, I was never much of a computer person... aside from looking stuff up on Google, checking my e-mail and playing with photoshop, I couldn't be bothered. Sure, I went through a few years in juniour high and high school where my life was spent in a chat room, but I never cared to 'optimize' my performance. Even after I discovered Firefox, I couldn't be bothered to glance at the add-ons. Now I'm kicking myself in the ass for spending so much time fighting with my computer when my browsing life could have been made much easier.

Over time I'll highlight some of these fantastic add-ons (as many are actually services available outside of Firefox). But, not today... today you're probably still wondering about the discovery I made that makes it harder for me to avoid blogging. You've probably guessed that it's one of the add-ons I've just been gushing about... and you're right. The add-on is called "ScribeFire". ScribeFire is an add-on for Firefox that allows you to update your blog, from your browser, no matter what site you're on at the moment. In fact, you can even surf the web while you're blogging (and if you're anything like me, you'll find that that a very useful feature as it can be a bit of a pain to bring up multiple windows so you can try to find information you need for a post you're typing at that moment). There is, apparently, an option to use ads to gain revenue (I would assume it is much like Google Adsense)... I am not trying the feature, but if you have a lot of traffic, it might be worth checking out. What I appreciate is that I am able to use the service without inserting their ads. I also appreciate the ease of use. Although I've finally developed a stronger interest in new technology than ever before, I have not developed an aptitude for such. When it comes to computer, I live by the K.I.S.S. philosophy.

So, I leave you with wishes for all the best in 2009 and a promise that I will continue to (try to) provide you with entertainment. :-)