Updates: Social media impact on emotions, Instagram's growth and Vietnamese bloggers' plight

Is social media that bad for mental health?

There have been many studies in the last few years on the impact of social media on users' emotional well being. We have carried a number of such reports earlier on ITB. These have generally linked social media use with depression, envy, eating disorders, even a tendency to contribute less to charity.

This latest review of research literature (pdf link here, prone to break in future) on social media's relation with depression is non-committal. It says, the impact of online social networking on well being may be both positive and negative and that the relationship of social media and emotions may be very complex and influenced by many factors.

There comes another study (pdf link: might be lost in future) that finds that quitting Facebook for a week results in emotional well being: ...our life satisfaction increases and our emotions become more positive. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that these effects were significantly greater for heavy Facebook users, passive Facebook users, and users who tend to envy others on Facebook.

Modi most popular world leader?

Though Donald Trump was declared the Man of the Year for 2016 by Time magazine, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi beat all other popular figures by a huge margin in Time readers' poll.  

Time editors' perception mattered more than readers, and a person shaking American politics looked much bigger than one shaking a remote nation and being voted so overwhelmingly by Time readers. For record, of all the votes cast by Time readers, over 18% were bagged by Modi while Obama, Trump and Julian Assange got 7% votes each.

Instagram has 600 million monthly active users and is growing faster!  

After an algorithmic feed change earlier, Instagram had been drawing flak but it seems that the trick has finally been liked by the social media community. 

Just to recall, Instagram, in June, replaced its feed that used to be reverse chronological (latest on top) as in the case of other social platforms, with a feed based on one's preferences.

Of course, Instagram has made a number of other experiments and offered new features in 2016. All these have resulted in a fast growth; the latest 100 million have been added in just six months! 

Bloggers are having a tough time in Vietnam

This week, the Vietnamese government has detained a blogger for posting a large number of videos on Facebook and YouTube.

The videos posted by Nguyen Danh Dung have been  found 'hostile' by the authorities, and 'abusing democratic freedoms'.  

Quynh's this post on her FB page greatly offended govt
Two months back, a prominent blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh had been arrested on a similar charge. This lady blogger, Mother Mushroom, criticizes the government over human rights violations and corruption.

Interestingly, Quynh started as a mom blogger (MeNam - her pen name is adopted from her daughter's pet name, Nam, meaning mushroom) but soon started writing on social topics and became a force to recon with in the Vietnamese social media.

10 practical and proven blogging tips that will succeed in 2017

If you are a new blogger who has started blogging in later part of 2016 or will open a blog in 2017, you might have looked on the web for tips for new bloggers. Of all tips that you see, many would have become ineffective, if not totally irrelevant, if the tip-giver has not updated his advice.

We bring you a list of top tips that are effective as of 2017.

Take the right steps and succeed as a blogger!
1. Free blogs on Blogger and Wordpress (not blogs created using wordpress.org CMS) rule the blogosphere. 

You might have found some [successful] bloggers advising that you must buy a hosting plan to succeed as a blogger. They are saying this mostly because they have affiliation with some web hosting company/ domain registrar. The fact is that almost all hobby/ personal blogs and many well-monetized blogs are on these free platforms. All blogs using Blogger or Wordpress do not have .wordpress.com or .blogspot.com as the suffix of their URLs. (ITB is one of them!)

So, if you want to start a blog for a company or an organization, or if you wish to have payment tools and such advance features on the blog, do go for a fully paid-for blog. Otherwise, assess your requirements and decide. On these free platforms, you have the option to migrate to a paid format and to upgrade the blog later on.

2. Write on the subject you are passionate about. If passion is essential for personal/ hobby blogs, it is equally desirable for professional blogs. So, this age-old advice still holds good and will continue to be good till blogs are created in any format.

In practical terms, what we are telling is that if you open a blog on a subject in which you are neither an expert nor are deeply interested, you will get frustrated sooner or later. Your ideas will exhaust, you will feel bored, you will not know whether to quit blogging or mindlessly maintain the blog. If you are passionate about the subject, you will get these in plenty: interest, inspiration, ideas, authority, ... and success.

3. Quality matters. Google says so, pundits of web-writing say so.

Let's quickly summarize the properties of quality content:
  • The content is well-researched. That often lends it good length too.
  • It is written in correct and modern English (or whatever language you write in).
  • The prose is presented well, with short paras, sub-headings in case of long prose, perhaps an accompanying image that supports the written word.
  • The content is relevant and appropriate.

4. Design that works elsewhere on the web need not work that well for your blog, so don't copy others' style

Choose a design that makes navigation and reading easy, and is appropriate for the type of blog.

Don't clutter or unduly color the blog. A simple and sober design is often the best.

5. Don't ignore promotion and social media integration of blog. As we wrote elsewhere on ITB, a great writing is lost for ever if people do not get the opportunity to read it. So, link and display blog and individual posts on your other web spaces, network well, inform people about what and where you write, participate in offline and online events...

Not all forms of social media work equally well for all bloggers. Assess and then use the one-two platforms that suit you the best. Too many would waste time. 

Think of automatic postings on social networking sites from the blog, but don't overdo it.

When it comes to online connections, be more sophisticated than just commenting, having a blogroll and  badges and being part of communities.
Say no to link farms and cross-promoting communities that don't add value.

6. SEO still matters.  Google penalizes excessive SEO, but it continues to reward commonsense, ethical SEO to support good content.

Link your old content, link with good sites, be focused on the topic, give the blog a good title and each post a catchy heading, write detailed and authoritative articles. Google loves such actions. 

7. Avoid unethical conduct at all cost. No copy-pasting of others' content. No black-hat (i.e. unethical) SEO tricks. No fooling or tricking readers to commercial pages. No guest blogging unless on a reputed site.

8. Old blog that has been neglected can prove a treasure. If you have a blog that you opened in 2009, run well till 2015 and then abandoned because you wanted to give all your time to your baby or you had been on a scientific mission to a remote place or you just got bored of your routine that included maintaining the blog, 2017 can be the year when you start the old blog once again. Give the blog a new look, edit and update old posts and spruce them up, add new content, cross-link... and you have a fantastic new blog!

9. Blogging needs a professional approach; you need to treat the blog as your enterprise, even if it is a hobby blog. 

Remember, blogging needs discipline and time management more than anything else (passion comes on top, of course).

Set a goal. Prioritize your works including blogging and social media. Be clear about how much time you will give to the blog, social media etc, on a regular basis. Break down the available time to segments: writing, design/ SEO aspects, social promotion and so on.

10. Pay if you are deficient. It is not always good to depend on your own skills. When you make a house, you need others' help even if you are an architect and civil engineer rolled into one. If you start a business, you don't run it alone, do you?

Sometimes you need to pay because you are not sure of your skills or understanding, e.g. technology, SEO or design aspects. Sometimes you are expert in some area but lack supplementary skills, e.g. proof-reading or grammar (especially for English bloggers whose mother-tongue is not English). Sometimes you pay when you need exclusive stuff, e.g. logo, images or videos. Sometimes you pay for a service, e.g. customized emailing or a payment gateway.

You need not pay regularly for such enhancements; sometimes it is one-time payment, e.g. web-design. Take a decision after assessing whether (i) you have the required time and expertise, (ii) you will acquire these, or (iii) it is desirable to buy the needed service/ product. 

All the best! 

Related resources:
Main free blogging platforms
Free or paid? Web-hosting explained
Blogging myths you should guard against
How to make your writing shine
SEO: what search engines like and hate
Google's advice on content quality

Technology and blogging predictions for 2017: main trends

Let's begin with the blogging and technology trends forecast by us this time last year. They all proved right except one: no 'mobile first' blogging app has emerged. But, everything having become mobile-centric and social-centric, that is indeed not needed.

You can visit here the ITB predictions for 2016.

The reason we proved right was, we didn't predict big just by seeing some nascent trends emerge. We have always been conservative on that. For 2017 too, we do not foresee any major trend or tech upheaval.

What's in store in tech in 2017?

We have seen a number of experiments and offers from tech and social media companies. We feel, the following areas would keep generating interest in 2017:

Virtual and augmented reality. We have seen Pokemon Go, VR sets, 360 degree photography, circular video, and so on. 

Entertainment and sports are OK, but VR does not seem to move fast into mainstream. The lack of massive content and the need to wear hardware will keep it in check, it appears. Augmented reality would be more in play but only so much.

Among tech biggies, after Google's Cardboard and then Cardboard Plastic, Snapchat introduced fun Spectacles. Of course, a number of VR gear has come in the market, not bound to platforms. Yet, their usage is likely to be limited.

They are talking about 'mixed commerce' in which virtual, 3D models replace real models or samples. We don't see much traction in this direction.

Virtual assistants. Aren't you already using one or more of these: Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana?

We are not talking here of VAs for business, but personal VAs that assist you in finding a restaurant or fuel outlet nearby, searching something, recalling some expression that you commonly use but have suddenly forgotten, suggesting an edit, dialing a number, and so on. 

It appears that the new ones such as Google Assistant, which go beyond the desktop functions, might catch on, especially if IOT becomes more common.

Well, if you are not sure what IOT is, it is Internet of Things. Simply speaking, things such as TV, fridge, mobile phone, laptop being connected in a smart way. You being able to control them from your mobile phone or laptop.

Live video, video calls. Big messaging platforms have been introducing them: Facebook, Whatsapp, Periscope, Instagram, ...

Our take is that 'selfie' will graduate into instant video sharing in areas with good bandwidth. More video will be available live on companies'/ people's YouTube channels and on other platforms. A fraction of voice calls will convert into video calls. 

It has been predicted that over four-fifths of internet traffic by 2020 would be in the form of video.

One thing about videos that we forget when getting swayed by their visual superiority over audio and images is that video is obtrusive and it demands that you watch it. On the other hand, audio does not demand your full attention, and images can be consumed within a fraction of time that video watching demands. So, we feel that the current visual and audio formats would remain dominant for communication for quite some time   

Blogging and social media in 2017

The trends we have been seeing for over 2-3 years  will continue. It means:

The growth of traditional blogging would be flat but overall the number of blogs would remain as many.

New forms will call themselves 'blog'. In fact, messages on social platforms, which are bigger than Twitter size would start qualifying for "I wrote a blog/ post on ..." This is more likely in non-English social space in developing countries because most newcomers would adopt social media without first practicing long-form blogging.

More and more postings on social blogs and messaging apps will be visual and instant

There will be even fewer comments on blogs but blog posts will be shared more, mostly using social buttons.

Blogs will be browsed more on mobiles than on desktops or laptops.Going with it, all affiliate marketing companies and advertisers will think 'mobile first' as many already have started doing.

No disruptive tech emerging?

We do not see a technological development that is likely to disrupt the present platforms or the way we use tech. We would perhaps have to live with incremental advancements.  

Most popular apps, games in 2016 and Russia bans LinkedIn: social media updates

What played the most in 2016?

Google Play has released its list of most popular games, TV shows, apps, songs, movies and books at global and local levels that sold in 2016 from its store. You can visit the list(s) here: GooglePlay

The following are the five most popular in each category:
1. Face Changer 2
2. Lumyer - Photo & Selfie Editor
3. Castbox - Podcast Radio Music
4. Emoji Keyboard Pro

1. Pokémon GO
2. Clash Royale
3. Traffic Rider
4. slither.io
5. Dream League Soccer

1. Stressed Out, Twenty One Pilots
2. Sorry, Justin Bieber
3. One Dance (feat. WizKid & Kyla), Drake
4. Don't Let Me Down (feat. Daya), The Chainsmokers
5. Me, Myself & I, G-Eazy

1. Deadpool
2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
3. Zootopia
4. Captain America: Civil War
5. Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice

TV shows 
1. Game of Thrones
2. The Walking Dead
3. The Big Bang Theory
4. Mr. Robot
5. The Flash

1. Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe by Cullen Bunn
2. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne
3. The Girl on the Train: A Novel by Paula Hawkins
4. The Art of War by Tzu Sun
5. Me Before You: A Novel by Jojo Moyes

Americans visit Facebook daily, not Twitter?

A recent Pew survey of social media use by US adults shows that Facebook is the most important platform, followed distantly by Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter. The survey, done in the first quarter of 2016 and published now, does not find any Google platform (YouTube, Google Plus) or a free blogging platform (Blogger, Wordpress) coming anywhere near.

Interestingly, while majority of Facebook and Instagram users visited the social media account daily, only 42% Twitter users visited it on daily basis. 

The sample was very small (1520) and thus only indicative.

Will Facebook follow LinkedIn in being blocked in Russia?

Recall Russia's telecom regulator banning LinkedIn last month? 

The US government has criticized the move, a routine it does after a country bans a social platform, with hardly any impact. Again routinely, Putin says he does not have to say anything as this is a legal matter. 

LinkedIn paid the price by not following the country's regulation that social media platforms must keep Russian citizens' personal data on servers based in Russia. The ruling impacts over 6 million LinkedIn users. 

As Facebook and Twitter also do not follow this condition, they may be the next to be blocked, say IT observers. Or Russia is targeting a smaller platform LinkedIn to warn others to behave?

Is FB developing a filtering software to please the Chinese authorities?

Facebook was banned in China after riots in July 2009 and has not been allowed since then, despite Zuckerberg trying all soft diplomacy with the Chinese premier Xi. It is now learnt that FB is developing a software that would censor content for Chinese users and satisfy the conditions of the Chinese government. 

FB is in a real catch-22 situation: it cannot grow fast any longer without a slice from the huge Chinese market, which has been grabbed by WeChat and local messaging platforms. On the other hand, playing into the hands of Chinese authorities would mean a backlash from other users and free-speech protagonists.

Social media watchers are not even sure a software based filter would satisfy Chinese authorities who might want a censorship as restrictive as their own, without any critical news seeping in through cleverly crafted keywords etc.