SIY: The mainstreaming of mindfulness

Stressed-out Americans from war veterans to Google workers are embracing meditation. Does it really work? My answer is YES. Thank goodness mindfulness is going mainstream. Here's a fabulous update from The Week.

Why is mindfulness so popular?

It appeals to people seeking an antidote to life in work-obsessed, tech-saturated, frantically busy Western culture. There is growing scientific evidence that mindfulness meditation has genuine health benefits—and can even alter the structure of the brain, so the technique is drawing some unlikely devotees. Pentagon leaders are experimenting with mindfulness to make soldiers more resilient, while General Mills has installed a meditation room in every building of its Minneapolis campus. Even tech-obsessed Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are using it as a way to unplug from their hyperconnected lives. “Meditation always had bad branding for this culture,” says Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter. “But to me, it’s a way to think more clearly and to not feel so swept up.”

What is mindfulness, exactly?
It’s a meditation practice central to the Buddha’s teachings, which has now been adapted by Western teachers into a secular self-help technique. One of the pioneers in the field is Jon Kabat-Zinn, an MIT-educated molecular biologist who began teaching mindfulness in the 1970s to people suffering from chronic pain and disease. The core of mindfulness is quieting the mind’s constant chattering—thoughts, anxieties, and regrets. Practitioners are taught to keep their attention focused on whatever they’re doing at the present moment, whether it’s eating, exercising, or even working. The most basic mindfulness practice is sitting meditation: You sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and focus your awareness on your breath and other bodily sensations. When thoughts come, you gently let them go without judgment and return to the focus on the breath. Over time, this practice helps people connect with a deeper, calmer part of themselves, and retrain their brains not to get stuck in pointless, neurotic ruminations about the past and future that leave them constantly stressed, anxious, or depressed.

Does it work?
Scientific research has shown that mindfulness appears to make people both happier and healthier. Regular meditation can lower a person’s blood pressure and their levels of cortisol, a stress hormone produced by the adrenal gland and closely associated with anxiety. Meditation can also increase the body’s immune response, improve a person’s emotional stability and sleep quality, and even enhance creativity. When combining mindfulness with traditional forms of cognitive behavioral therapy, patients in one study saw a 10 to 20 percent improvement in the mild symptoms of their depression—the same progress produced by antidepressants. Other studies have found that up to 80 percent of trauma survivors and veterans with PTSD see a significant reduction in troubling symptoms. Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is also teaching mindfulness as a form of treatment for patients with substance abuse problems.

Why does it work?
MRI scans have shown that mindfulness can alter meditators’ brain waves—and even cause lasting changes to the physical structure of their brains (see below). Meditation reduces electrical activity and blood flow in the amygdala, a brain structure involved in strong, primal emotions such as fear and anxiety, while boosting activity regions responsible for planning, decision-making, and empathy. These findings have helped attract the more skeptical-minded. “There is a swath of our culture who is not going to listen to someone in monk’s robes,” says Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, “but they are paying attention to scientific evidence.”

Who are these converted skeptics?
Ironically enough, Silicon Valley’s tech geeks are leading the way. “It seems counterintuitive, since technology is perhaps the biggest driver of mindlessness and distraction,” says Ann Mack, a director at marketing communications brand JWT Worldwide. Google now has an in-house mindfulness program called SIY “Search Inside Yourself,” and the company has even installed a labyrinth at its Mountain View complex so employees can practice walking meditation. Tech leaders flock annually to the Wisdom 2.0 conference, and there are now countless smartphone apps devoted to the subject. But these developments have led to a growing concern that mindfulness is being co-opted and corrupted.

Why is that?
Long-term adherents of mindfulness worry that what is fundamentally a spiritual practice is being appropriated by new age entrepreneurs seeking to profit off it. Others are concerned that Fortune 500 executives are pushing meditation so that overworked employees can be even more productive without melting down. But Westerners clearly need some sort of strategy to cope with a world now filled with the inescapable distractions of technology. The average American now consumes 63 gigabytes of content, or more than 150,000 words, over 13.6 hours of media use every single day—and all indications are that those numbers will keep climbing. For Janice Marturano, founder of the Institute for Mindful Leadership, mindfulness is not just a way of coping with the deluge of input; it’s a way of confronting the modern world head-on. “There is no life-work balance,” says Marturano. “We have one life. What’s most important is that you be awake for it.”

Rewiring the brain
Until recently, neurologists believed that a person’s brain stopped physically developing when they were 25 to 35 years old. From that point onward, the hardware was set. But a growing body of research points to the possibility of lifelong “neuroplasticity”—the ability of the brain to adapt to new input—and a 2011 Massachusetts General Hospital study found that those who meditate regularly for as little as eight weeks changed the very structure of their brains. MRI scans showed that by meditating daily for an average of 27 minutes, participants increased the density of the gray matter (which holds most of our brain cells) in an area that is essential for focus, memory, and compassion. Previous research had already shown that monks who had spent more than 10,000 hours in meditation had extraordinary growth and activity in this part of the brain. But it’s now clear that even relative beginners at mindfulness can quickly rewire their brains in a positive way.

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Amazon vs. Netflix: The Fight of the Century

Amazon vs Netflix

Don't Be Fooled: 2014's Top April Fools' Day Tech Jokes

As reported by Stephanie Mlot of PC Magazine, from Google and Hulu to HTC and Uber, check out the roundup of some of the day's best practical jokes.

The tech industry often produces what seem like farcical products, but turn out to be the next big thing. But on April 1, even the most enlightened must take the news with a grain of salt.

Don't be fooled this year. Google kicked things off early with a search for a Pokémon Master to officially join the company. That wasn't the only joke from the search giant. Check out a few more below, as well as PCMag's favorite April Fools' pranks from the past.

Selfiebot: Stop digging in your purse for your phone when the perfect selfie opportunity arises. Instead, reserve a Selfiebot—a photo-taking drone that follows you around, "always watching … for life's most precious moment."

Gmail Shelfies: Celebrate Gmail's 10th anniversary with custom selfie themes. Ditch the typical landscapes, starry skies, and close-up flower shots for a selfie of you and your pet hedgehog. Even better: Your family, friends, and that guy you've been stalking can also set your Shelfie (SHareable sELFIE) as their Gmail theme, reading and writing emails while staring at your face in the background.

Google's "The Magic Hand": Google Japan has developed a mechanical hand that makes operating touch-screen devices more accurate and convenient—via an arcade-game joystick.

YouTube viral video trends: YouTube unveils its plans for 2014's viral video trends, including Clocking, Butter Fails, the Glub Glub water dance, and baby shaming. Later this year, the video sharing site will roll out cake bumping, wolf-mask tee-ball, and the Harlem Shake—again. If you think you've got a great YouTube meme idea, tweet it now with the hashtag #newtrends.

Google+ Auto Awesome: Visiting the Grand Canyon on a nice family vacation when, what's that? David Hasselhoff photobombs you! Perk up any photo with Google+'s new celebrity photobomb feature, rolling out initially with support from The Hoff.

Emojify the Web: Can a word smile? Can it roll its eyes? That's the aim of Google Translate support for emoji. Using algorithms, the app can interpret the content and tone of words, and boils them down to a single, meaningful symbol.

Total Temperature Control by Nest: Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Nest CEO Tony Fadell team up to allow airline passengers to control their own climate. Want the warmth of a tropical paradise on your flight to Boston? Select "Cancun Afternoon," and don't forget the sunscreen. Or try "Chicago Polar Vortex" for that freezing-wind-in-your-face feeling.

SwiftKey Flow Hard: SwiftKey is expanding its easy-flow typing techniques from your touch-screen phone to your traditional PC keyboard. Flow Hard brings SwiftKey's predictive technology to your physical keyboard.

Hulu Spin-Off Season: TV streaming site Hulu is launching Spin-Off Season, which brings some of your favorite goofy sidekicks and ensemble characters to the forefront. Original content includes Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Sergeant Terry Jeffords back on the streets, a cooking show with Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and childrens' Spanish lessons with Community's Señor Chang.

WazeDates: Having no luck with online dating sites? Try traffic crowdsourcing app Waze's new feature, WazeDates. Just turn on the mobile setting, fill out your preferences, and wait for mobile alerts when single Wazers are driving nearby.

HouzzPrintz 3D Printer: Forget the hassle of shipping costs and wait times. HouzzPrintz 3D printer allows you to reproduce anything you see on the site with your own printer—about the size of a small airstream trailer.

HTC Gluuv: Accessorize your new HTC One (M8) with the all-in-one HTC Gluuv, a silver-and-black mitt that works seamlessly with the smartphone to "unleash your imagination and communicate in ways you've always wanted." Give a physical thumbs-up to "like" a Facebook post or pound your fist to capture a beautiful sunset with the Gluuv's 87.2-megapixel camera.

Toshiba DiGit: The first all-in-one wearable, Toshiba's DiGit gloves offer the functionality of a smartphone, DSLR camera, media streaming box, gaming console, home theater system, MP3 player, and ultrasound machine. The pair also comes fully loaded with 64GB of storage and 1TB cloud storage, plus 4G wireless, and 12 hours of battery life.

Uber Second Avenue Subway: New York City commuters can hop on the "U line" today, riding the length of Second Avenue for only $2.50. (The April Fools' Day promotion actually allows riders to catch a cab up and down Second Avenue, between 128th and Houston streets, for a discounted price.)

Apple Acquires iFixit: The industry leader in repair guides, iFixit, has been acquired by Apple for an undisclosed amount that iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens said "we couldn't refuse." As part of the deal, Cupertino will produce the most replaceable electronic devices on the market.

FreshDirect Eagle-Caught Salmon: It's biked in daily from the banks of the Salmon River in Pulaski, NY. And 41 percent off!

For videos and more, check out this article on PC Magazine!

NetLingo was voted as a "Top 100 Web Site" two years in a row by PC Magazine. They said NetLingo is "One of the 100 Best Web Sites, it is a living dictionary devoted to the often cryptic and comedic vocabulary of the Internet, which is evolving at record speed." -

And BTW they missed this one at ONTRAPORT: The fusion of software and wine ;-)

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Welcome to the weird, wonderful world of online jargon ;-)

Hi Everyone!
Welcome to the weird, wonderful world of online jargon ;-)  Not only has the Internet and texting changed the way we communicate, it has spawned an entirely new language that is growing every day.

In an age where everything from job searching to dating is interactive, knowing how to communicate in your online life is a must.  There are new technologies, new online services, and new lingo created every day. If you think it's tough to keep up with it all, you’re not alone.

That’s why there is NetLingo, to keep track of new terms and organize it in a way that is useful to you. Whether you're a professional who feels like you're on information overload, or a power user who wants more, or a parent who wants to keep up with your kids, NetLingo can help. is the leading Internet Dictionary that explains the online world of business, technology and communication. We offer products and services to help you stay up-to-date in your online world. Written by me, a woman using layman's language, my purpose is to educate, entertain, and empower you!

I'm excited to announce the updated release of our new book "NetLingo: The List - The Largest List of Text & Chat Acronyms!" Buy a few copies for your friends, it makes a great gift for guys, just sayin'. Buy "NetLingo: The List" on here!
This revised edition of NetLingo: The List defines the crazy array of letters, numbers and symbols that comprise our new conversations. Known as acronyms, abbreviations, SMS talk and leetspeak, these terms are used by millions of people in a variety of online settings.
Erin Jansen
Editor and Publisher, NetLingo

Product You: With free online services, you’re the product!

This is a special guest post by!
Product You

Product You:

With free online services, you’re the product.

How Google Sells You:

Adwords provides a link between you and products
Top Cost-Per-Click’s for adwords:
1.) Insurance: top CPC of $54.91
24% of keywords
2.) Loans: top CPC of $44.28
12.8% of keywords
3.) Mortgage:top CPC of $47.12
9% of keywords
4.) Attorney: top CPC of $47.07
3.6% of keywords
5.) Credit: top CPC of $36.06
3.2% of keywords
6.) Lawyer: top CPC of $42.51
3% of keywords
7.) Donate: top CPC of $42.02
2.5% of keywords
8.) Degree: top CPC of $40.61
2.2% of keywords
9.) Hosting: top CPC of $31.91
2.2% of keywords
10.) Claim: top CPC of $45.51
1.4% of keywords
11.) Conference Call: top CPC of $42.05
.9% of keywords
12.) Trading: top CPC of $33.19
.8% of keywords
13.) Software: top CPC of $35.29
.8% of keywords
14.) Recovery: top CPC of $42.03
.7% of keywords
15.) Transfer: top CPC of $29.86
.6% of keywords
16.) Gas/Electricty: top CPC of $54.62
.6% of keywords
17.) Classes: top CPC of $35.04
.5% of keywords
18.) Rehab: top CPC of $33.59
.5% of keywords
19.) Treatment: top CPC of $37.18
.4% of keywords
20.) Cord Blood: top CPC of $27.8
.4% of keywords
Turns out you’re worth a lot:
96% of Google’s revenue comes from online ads
$38.6 billion[3]
More than Panama’s GDP, and the 31 poorest countries in the world combined.
Or a third of all advertising revenue online.[3]

How Twitter Sells You:

The average Twitter user follows 5 or more brands.[4]
With Twitter mobile users likely to follow 11 or more brands.
With $316.9 million in revenue
($269 million in ad revenue, 85% of total)
Mobile users are 53% likelier to recall seeing an ad on Twitter than the average Twitter user.
How do you use Twitter?
You use Twitter for entertainment: $.63 per user
You use Twitter in search of deals, clicking on ads:$3.16
(based on revenue/active users)
With Chinese ads leading the way:
[twitter users by location][5]
China: 35.5 million
India: 33 million
U.S.: 22.9 million
Brazil: 19.6 million
Mexico: 11.7 million
With 77% of monthly active users coming from outside the U.S.
(Even though the Chinese government has blocked Twitter!)
With Twitter earning $200,000 per promoted trend:
Such as :
[from March 2013][6]
(3/8) #TheNextBigThing (Samsung)
(3/9) #TheBible (History Channel)
(3/11) #FeedTheBeat(Taco Bell)
(3/13) #BurtWonderstone (Warner Brothers)
(3/14) #501s (Levi’s)
(3/15) #TheCallMovie(Sony Pictures)
(3/16) #3dollarsub(Subway)
(3/18) #BatesMotel(A&E)
(3/19) #TheHobbit(The Hobbit Movie)
(3/20) #HotNSpicy(McDonald’s)
(3/21) #BracketBusters(University of Pheonix)
(3/20) #NickyFlash(AT&T)
(3/23) #RallyCry(Capital One)
(3/25) #Blackberry10 (Blackberry)
(3/26) #ItsNotComplicated (AT&T)
(3/27) #NYIAS (Toyota)
(3/28) #TheHost(Twilight Movie)
(3/29) #GiJoeRealiation(movie)
(3/30) #OrphanBlack(BBC America)
(3/31) #TheWalkingDead(AMC)
Adding up to $5.2 million that month in the U.S. alone.[8]

How Facebook Sells You:

Facebook has the largest database of personal information ever compiled.
With 1 billion Facebook profiles, a vast number of engaged users in a social graph becomes a real asset.[11]
If Facebook users were citizens of Facebook nation.
Facebook would be the 3rd most populous country in the world
After China, and India.[9]
88% of Facebook’s revenue is from ads
But Facebook is losing out on the ad’s game:
With marketing referrals from Facebook dropping 20% in 2013.[10]
While Pinterest and Twitter jumped substantially.
But Facebook makes money as a payment provider.
Facebook Credits, used to purchase virtual goods (like Farmville) [10]
Were 18% of Q1 profit in 2012: or $200 million[10]
With marketing targeted by free services, and data mining companies.
Building profiles of internet and spending behavior, as well as interests.
Acxiom Corp. is a “database marketing” corporation
- 23,000 servers in Conway, Arkansas
- Holds 1,500 data points on 500 million online consumers worldwide
- Reviews 50 trillion data “transactions” yearly
- Consumer rankings
- Categorizes consumers into
- 70 clusters, and
- 21 life stages
- You aren’t a number, you’re a pithy phrase, such as:
- Early Parents
- First Digs
- Collegiate Crowd
- Young Workboots
- Rolling Stones
- Married Sophisticates
- Children First
- Career Building
- Spouses & Houses
- Outward Bound
- Truckin’ & Stylin’
- Home Cooking
- First Mortgage
- Resolute Renters
- Mobile Mixers
- Cartoons & Carpools
- Cluster 62 Kids & Rent
- Urban Scramble
- Pennywise Mortgagees
- Resilient Renters
- Shooting Stars
- Hard Chargers
- Dynamic Duos
- Savvy Singles
- Kids & Clout
- Tots & Toys
- Country Comfort
- Soccer & SUVs
- City Mixers
- Solo and Stable
- Modest Wages
- Rural Parents
- Metro Parents
- Rural Rovers
- Summit Estates
- Skyboxes & Suburbans
- Lavish Lifestyles
- Solid Single Parents
- Apple Pie Families
- Midtown Minivanners
- Farmland Families
- Country Single
- Fun & Games
- Mid Americana
- Metro Mix
- Urban Tenants
- Established Elite
- Corporate Clout
- Career-Centered Singles
- Country Ways
- Acred Couples
- Work & Causes
- Community Singles
- Humble Homes
- Downtown Dwellers
- Pennywise Proprietors
- The Great Outdoors
- Rural Retirement
- Still Truckin’
- Sitting Pretty
- Full Steaming
- Platinum Oldies
- Clubs & Causes
- Suburban Seniors
- Raisin’ Grandkids
- Devoted Duos
- Family Matters
- Rural Everlasting
- Thrifty Elders
- Timeless Elders
And Rubicon, a competitor:
Crafting ads that 97% of internet users deal with in a month.
The Internet offers an unparalleled opportunity to monitor and mold user experience, pulling you towards purchases. If a product is free, you’re probably the product.

As seen on!
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The Largest List of Text & Chat Acronyms is now available as a book

Ever seen an acronym you didn’t know? Are you a parent or teacher with kids online? Are you a business professional trying to stay savvy? Or just someone who loves to get online…

In an age where everything from job searching to dating is interactive, knowing how to communicate in your online life is a must.  There are new technologies, new online services, and new lingo created every day. If you think it's tough to keep up with it all, you’re not alone.

Welcome to the weird, wonderful world of online jargon ;-) Not only has the Internet and texting changed the way we communicate, it has spawned an entirely new language that is growing every day.

That’s why there is NetLingo, to keep track of new terms and organize it in a way that is useful to you. Whether you're a professional who feels like you're on information overload, or a power user who wants more, or a parent who wants to keep up with your kids, can help.

NetLingo published a new book “NetLingo: The List - The Largest List of Text & Chat Acronyms” and it contains all of acronyms and abbreviations you’ll see in text messages, email, IM, social networks, websites, dating sites, job sites, auction sites, discussion forums, gaming sites, chat rooms, blogs… oh, and in the real world too.

This updated 2014 version of “NetLingo: The List” (136 pages) defines the crazy array of letters, numbers and symbols that comprise our new conversations. Known as acronyms, abbreviations, SMS talk and leetspeak, these terms are used by millions of people in a variety of online settings. This edition contains French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Finnish, Swedish, Welch, Czech and Chinese text terms too!

See if you know any of these popular acronyms and text codes
What are acronyms and why are they so popular?

With millions of people texting and instant messaging every day, it's no wonder you've seen this cryptic looking code. Acronyms are an integral part of computer culture and grew rapidly on the Internet. Now, along with an alphabet soup of abbreviations and symbolic messages, this online jargon has become a language of its own.

So what are acronyms? Shorthand? How do you begin to understand a new language?

Let’s start with the basics: An acronym is derived from the first letters of a phrase and is pronounced as a new word, for example POTATO stands for “People Over Thirty Acting Twenty One” and is pronounced "potato."

Shorthand refers to an abbreviation, or initialism, that is pronounced by saying the letters one-by-one, for example FYI is pronounced "F-Y-I" and BRB is pronounced "B-R-B".  There are, of course, exceptions. Some acronyms go both ways, such as FAQ, which can be pronounced "fak" or "F-A-Q".

It should also be noted that acronyms are generally typed IN ALL CAPS (not to be confused with SHOUTING) whereas shorthand is often typed in all lowercase.

Now let’s start to mix things up. Sometimes the shorthand isn't shorter than the original phrase, for example "dewd" means "dude" and "kewl" means "cool" and :::poof::: means "I'm gone".

Now let’s add some symbols and numbers! Leetspeak is the name for a type of symbolic jargon in which you replace regular letters with other keyboard characters to form words, for example:

·      backward and forward slashes create this shape "/\/\" to stand for the letter M;
·      numbers and symbols often replace the letters they resemble (for example the term "leetspeak" is written as "!337$p34k");
·      letters can be substituted for other letters that might sound alike (such as "ph" is transposed with "f" so "phear" is used instead of "fear"); and
·      common typing errors such as "teh" instead of "the" and “pwn” instead of “own” are left uncorrected.

The result is a dynamic written language that eludes conformity or consistency. In fact, the culture of online jargon encourages new forms of expression and users will often award each other's individual creativity.

So what makes texting and instant messaging so popular?

In short, it’s fast, cheap, and cool. itz hw 2 tlk w/o bng hrd ;-)

Texting lets you finalize last-minute plans, track down friends, send pictures, correspond while traveling, and pass on information with just a few clicks of the cell phone keypad. IM lets you have real-time conversations with friends or colleagues or several people at once on your computer screen. Texing and IM are popular because they are private: no one can hear you “talking.” Acronyms and smileys are popular because they’re short and they bring emotional expression into a written world. 

Face it, communication is changing. It’s becoming quicker and less formal, and while it’s impossible to capture every instance of every text message out there, this is the definitive list. Many people at some point will use or see a variation of a term in this book, often without the vowels so as to keep the text or IM short. Such as:
omw, meet me n frnt pls -or- got ur vm, thx 4 info, ttyl

Think it’s tough to understand? It’s not, take this test:

Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.
i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghi t pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh?

Like most new things, communicating in abbreviations may seem strange at first but then fun after awhile. Get copies of “NetLingo: The List” for anyone you know who loves to get online! Not recommended for children under 14 due to serious adult humor, it will entertain you as you look up and translate the chat acronyms and text symbols you come across in your life online. The one place to learn all of the online terms you’ll ever need to know is

Erin Jansen is founder of and author of “NetLingo: The Internet Dictionary” and “NetLingo: The List - The Largest List of Text & Chat Acronyms.” Sign up for the free Acronym of the Day!

Get the new NetLingo book - updated 2014!

The List - The Largest List of Text & Chat Acronyms     

NetLingo: The Largest List of Chat Acronyms & Text Shorthand
Get the new NetLingo book - updated 2014!
This handy book to every Internet acronym and text abbreviation you'll ever need to know is a great "gag" gift to have lying around. Not recommended for children under 14 due to serious adult content, it's a "coffee table meets toilet humor" book containing thousands of hilarious sayings used by millions of people around the world. Only $19.95, it's great for anyone you know who loves to get online!

Buy "The List" on CreateSpace
Buy NetLingo books on CreateSpace and Amazon.comBuy NetLingo books on CreateSpace, an Company

Buy "The List" on

Buy NetLingo books on

Or get "The List" on Kindle
NetLingo: The Largest List of Chat Acronyms & Text Shorthand
   Originally featured on "The Martha Stewart Show"
  • It's a great gift for adults ;-)
  • Contains crude humor, sexual content, alcohol and drug references, and profanity
  • Not appropriate for children under 14 due to mature themes!
  • It's funny, it's real, it's timely, it entertains
  • Acronyms, abbreviations, shorthand, initialisms, and leetspeak
  • The 2014 edition has International Text Terms too
  • French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and more!
  • Inside look at the dynamic language that eludes conformity or consistency!
  • Buy "The List" on CreateSpace
  • Buy "The List" on
  • Or get "The List" on Kindle

Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here!

Privacy: Going anonymous on the Internet

I personally like the fact that “ephemerality and anonymity" are now the rage on the Internet. I've been preaching for years to monitor your digital footprint, let's hope that awareness goes mainstream. In the meantime, there's a new trend going on and a backlash against images of perfect lives...
According to Kim-Mai Cutler in, social networks like Facebook have been all about parading your individuality, but that’s beginning to feel a bit passé. A new app called Secret, which launched last week, allows you to “share thoughts with friends without revealing who you are.” The app’s founder compares its appeal to that of “a masquerade ball”—“you know who’s on the guest list, but you don’t know who is saying what.” 

The anonymity encourages users to share things that “are a little bit more vulnerable, insecure, emotional, sad, goofy, or angry than what you might see on Facebook or Instagram, where people are trying to groom images of picture-perfect lives.” 

We seem to have somehow come full circle: “It is kind of absurd that people would need a mobile app to be more vulnerable or self-aware with their friends.”
The “theme of illicitness” that runs through Secret is part of its current allure, said John Herrman in The app’s promotion of anonymity is a direct response to today’s dominant Internet culture. Since Facebook became the big player, “real identity” has been the Internet’s default setting; now people are getting tired of that, and “anonymity is the deviation.” 

The rise of apps like Secret, Whisper, and Snapchat is clearly an outgrowth of the growing resentment over the way Facebook owns and exploits our online identities. They’re meant to challenge “the notion that the Internet should record and host everything that’s posted to it into perpetuity.”

Just don’t believe these apps will make you truly anonymous, said Selena Larson in “It’s more difficult than you’d think to completely erase yourself from the Internet.” There are steps you can take, however, to “remove yourself” from the incessant scrutiny of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. 

First, download all the data associated with your social networking accounts, including archives of your status updates or contacts, then track down the “Deactivate” or “Close” options. Facebook makes this trickier than other networks; the company “doesn’t want to lose your data,” so actually deleting your account requires you to fill out a form and tell Facebook why you’re leaving. 

If you have long-forgotten accounts, a browser extension called “Just Delete Me” can help jog your memory, providing a directory of account deletion links for more than 300 sites. But you should be aware that “parts of your digital life will be chiseled into eternity—and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

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Social media: Now, even babies tweet

Many parents feel it’s essential to snap up Twitter handles and Gmail accounts for their kids before someone grabs those names.

“Harper Estelle Wolfeld-Gosk has 6,282 Twitter followers,” said Joe Coscarelli in “She’s 2 weeks old.” The infant daughter of Today show correspondent Jenna Wolfe is just one of thousands of kids who have Twitter accounts that are written in their voices but are “set up, maintained, and authored by parents.” Here’s a sample of little Harper’s tweets: “Pooped AND pee’d on Dr’s changing table. Everyone laughed.”

Why bother with such twaddle? Blame both “everyday parental pride” and “tech-savvy paranoia.” Many parents feel it’s essential to snap up Twitter handles and Gmail accounts for their kids before someone grabs those names. Once those accounts are established, parents can’t resist the temptation to put wisecracks in their kids’ mouths. Some critics are calling this “oversharenting’’—sharing too much information about kids online, said Eliana Dockterman in One study found that 94 percent of parents post pictures of their kids on the Internet, with newborns uploaded to Facebook an average of 57.9 minutes after their birth.

You won’t find my daughter there, said Amy Webb in My husband and I have decided we will keep all photos of and references to her off the Internet until she’s mature enough to decide what to post. Exposing your child on social media poses huge issues for his or her “future self.” Do you really want photos of your 5-year-old in a bathing suit circulating permanently on the Internet? Do you want Google and Facebook to start compiling data about your kids before they can even crawl, to be shared with advertisers or intrusive government agencies or unknown searchers? “It’s inevitable that our daughter will become a public figure, because we’re all public figures in this new digital age.” But it should be her, not us, who decides what’s in that public identity.

So, parents, please spare us, said Mary Elizabeth Williams in All these babies tweeting and posting supposedly amusing observations on Facebook really is a bit much. “It’s like we all woke up one day in a mass version of Look Who’s Talking.” Children are not meant to be a “witty accessory” to your own online life. Besides, said Caity Weaver in, making sure your kid has the right handle on a Facebook and Instagram account 20 years from now is laughably shortsighted. It’s likely to be as useful as 1990s parents stockpiling “CompuServe screen names and laser disc players.”

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It's Time for Emojis to be More Diverse

"If these emoji are going to be the texting and Twitter standard, we think it'd be cool if they better reflected the diversity of the people using them" says Chris Gayomali. There are nine cat-face emotions, but not one black person.

Emojis have now fully embedded themselves into our digital vocabulary, showing up in everything from forgettable Katy Perry videos to comedians tapping rap lyrics into their iPhones. The sentiment behind emojis is nothing new, of course. It's why we started pairing colons with closed parentheses and cocking our heads to the side in the first place.

Now, should you find yourself in a situation in which words do not suffice, the iOS keyboard offers hundreds of emoji options for you to pick from. There are several pixelated yellow faces representing the full spectrum of boredom, for instance. There are at least 10 variations for hearts. There are emojis of gay couples holding hands, a smiling turd, demon masks, and a beaming cherub. There are white faces — both young and old — as well as tokenistic caricatures of what appear to be an Asian boy, an Indian man, and a family of Latinos.

What there aren't, however, are any emojis for black people. Not a single one.

It's an egregious omission, and one that's drawing the ire of a petition circulating on, as Fast Company initially reported. The petition is calling for Apple to update its iOS keyboard to more accurately reflect the multitude of people who use it. It states:

Of the more than 800 emojis, the only two resembling people of color are a guy who looks vaguely Asian and another in a turban. There's a white boy, girl, man, woman, elderly man, elderly woman, blonde boy, blonde girl and, we're pretty sure, Princess Peach. But when it comes to faces outside of yellow smileys, there's a staggering lack of minority representation.

The conspicuous absence of black faces on the emoji keyboard is both "deeply troubling and probably racist," says Andy Holdeman at PolicyMic. The "easy answer" is that emojis were developed in Japan, where there aren't very many black people. But that's a cop out, argues Holdeman, considering there are also two different icons for camels. Yep. Camels.

Emoji was originally developed by Shigetaka Kurita, who engineered the expressive reaction faces many years ago, around the time Windows 95 first began taking off in Japan. In 2010, they were added to the Unicode Standard in other countries, including the United States.

Calls for a more diverse emoji palette have been building in volume for a few months now. Even Miley Cyrus — whose recent indiscretions appropriating ratchet culture haven't exactly endeared her to the black community — rallied behind the cause back in December.

Support for better icon representation has been building steadily. Back in February during Black History month, users took to Twitter, Instagram, and other digital formats to call for more emoji diversity.

A lack of representation in something as inconsequential as dumb faces we text to each other is a firm reminder that racism isn't always explicit; more often, racism rears its head by marginalizing cultural influence in small, stubbornly ugly ways. "If these Emoji are going to be the texting and Twitter standard," write the petition's authors, "we think it'd be cool if they better reflected the diversity of the people using them." You can sign it over at

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