Social network

The Half-Life: How Social Media Changes the New Immigrant Experience

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I’ve heard the stories at least a hundred times: My Great Grandma Tsiryl dry-heaving over the side of a steamer ship as they rolled up into Baltimore Harbor in 1904. A pregnant Great Grandma Esther stoically clutching the belly that held the baby that would one day be my grandfather while ocean waves battered the hull of the last ship out of Europe before World War I.

Two different women from two different places, and yet they shared such a similar experience with each other and with the thousands upon thousands of other Jewish immigrants who left Eastern Europe for American shores. They crammed their lives into small suitcases – sometimes with incredible forethought, other times in great haste, they kissed their families goodbye, and on trains or buggies or by foot they traveled over hostile terrain toward distant harbors, and ultimately onto ships that would take them excruciatingly slowly, slowly, slowly away from the achingly familiar.

And like so many others who left the cities and shtetls of Eastern Europe during those fragile years at the turn of the 20th century, my Great Grandmothers made it work.  They gave birth to American babies. They raised their children in broken English. They played Mah Jong and drank coffee with other landsman in cramped apartments in big cities far away from their childhood friends. They waited for letters from their families. They dreaded the inevitable telegram. They celebrated mitzvahs and simchas at the synagogue. They sat shiva. They buried their own on foreign soil.

You have to be an optimist to pack up and move for a life unknown like that and survive.

And not only did they survive, they thrived as they grew roots in a new world.

For me, it’s different. I wasn’t escaping pogroms and persecution.  I took a freaking stretch limo to the airport because I have delusions of grandeur.

My worldly goods amounted to three suitcases, two carry-ons, one purse, a laptop player with a battery life of 12 ½ hours and a Smartphone.

My voyage was 14 hours, not 14 days, and I spent most of it spent Tweeting from the airplane like a rockstar.

Can't a girl get some #peanuts around here?

Unlike my Great Grandmothers who started from scratch, with Facebook and Twitter I am connected 24/7 to my life back home – clinging to moments and milestones in real time, ten time zones away.  In some ways, it’s a good thing:  When Krystal posts “10 centimeters, people! It’s show time!” I know her baby is about to be born (and by inference, that she got that epidural she swore she would never in a million years get, because seriously, no woman in hard labor without an epidural can post on Facebook, believe you me). When Aaron’s grunge band plays their first gig, I get to see pictures of the show right away thanks to Instagram. I even know what Michelle had for lunch.  (Girl sure loves her #Sushi!)

In a culture of openness and (over)sharing, Facebook is a great way to keep the intimacy going even when you live on the other side of the world.  And yet, it’s really a false intimacy, because friendships are really built on a series of moments large and small cobbled together in shared  real space and not online.

Who needs a cafe when you can hang out with your homies on Facebook?

So I guess this begs the question:  How does Social Media change the New Immigrant Experience?

Unlike my Great Grandmothers who tumbled headfirst into their new lives and were forced to learn a new language and make new friends, With my Android phone and my iPad (I carry both because Heaven Forfend one should run out of battery or stop working or fall in the toilet and I should be disconnected from Facebook and Twitter) I carry my old life with me  like two virtual security blankets.   When I ride the train, I update my Facebook status, and send tweets instead of interacting with the passengers around me.  Headphones complete my self-imposed isolation while I listen to (English) music and watch (American) videos on Youtube.

Hey, who needs to integrate, when I can be in two places at once?

But over the last year, I’ve learned  you can’t really be in two places at once, and as much as I try to keep up with my friends in the virtual world, they’re moving on.

And so am I.

Fortunately, there are ways that Social Media can actually make it easier for the New Immigrant to integrate.   Meetup groups either on Facebook or through other online channels like or Yahoo Groups are a great way to connect with people going through similar struggles.   And since the goal of these communities is to get you to meet in person, joining these groups is a baby step towards getting off the freaking laptop and into the cafe (or bar!) in the real world.

I’ve also found that when sharing your own struggles online in a public way, others going through similar things can find you. (And so can internet stalkers, for that matter, but that’s another post for another time.) But seriously, over the last year,  I’ve made several “IRL”  friends here in Israel through Facebook, Twitter and other online arenas, and I am grateful to these Social Media channels for helping me get off the internet already and start living in real life.

A Facebook Friendship IRL.





Before You 'Friend' Your Parents on Facebook, Make Sure They Understand These Six Rules

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Dear Parental Unit –

Uh, welcome to Facebook.  I guess.

I accepted your Facebook friend request on good faith but we’ve reached a point where I think we need to lay out a few ground rules because I am seriously thisclose to defriending you.


  1. First of all, the poking has got to stopSeriously.  It’s just weird.   Please don’t make me explain why.  (Not since we talked about where babies come from have I been this uncomfortable.)
  2. Why are you commenting on every status update? And do you even know what LMFAO means?
  3. Please take down any and all family pictures where I am wearing headgear, have a mullet, and/or am in the buff. If you ever want me to get married and give you grandchildren, you will comply with this request immediately.
  4. And on that note, please stop playing matchmaker. Just because it says “doctor” or “lawyer” in someone’s profile does not mean you need to send me a friend suggestion.  It’s especially weird when you don’t even know the person you’re suggesting I friend in the first place.
  5. Um, hey guys? Everyone can read what you write on my wall.  Everyone. So please stop publicly reminding me to “get that rash checked.”  Again, if you ever want me to get married and give you grandchildren, you will stop doing this right now.
  6. And finally, if I delete a wall post (see above) do not repost it just in case I didn’t see it. Believe me:  I saw it.

Look.  I think it’s great that you’ve gotten all cyber-savvy and whatnot.  No, really, I do.  Especially the online banking thing – Please keep those cash infusions coming twice a month.

That way, I can beat you in Mafia Wars and Farmville.



With one simple metaphor, Google+ beats Facebook

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I love Google+. I started using it this morning, and it is, for a lack of a better word, awesome. Though it takes many concepts from Facebook‘s playbook, they’ve definitely solved one of the biggest issues of Facebook – friends lists and filtering.
Google+ integrated a simple mechanism called Circles: each contact can be assigned to one or more groups such as friends, family, and Acquaintances. It is also possible to create new circles (such as work buddies etc).
By assigning friends to circles, stream filtering and selective sharing becomes an extremely simple task. Now I can share pictures of my newborn daughter only with my family or see posts only from my real and close friends. Pretty cool. Let’s hope they won’t over complicate things here. They will face a major challenge when they will grow – the more friends one have, the more complex it would be to manage these circles. But it is definitely the right way to go.

My friend Jon Burg also wrote an insightful post about the invitation mechanism Google used for Google+

Email Marketing + Social Web = Bliss

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Take a look at this diagram:

North American marketers see major improvements when integrating email marketing and social media efforts. This is another proof that the power of digital marketing lies in channel integration, and not in short term campaigns. As social web marketing requires an ongoing nurturing of branded online assets (brand’s Facebook page, Twitter account, on so on), the biggest advantages are for those who combine different channels to utilize these assets.
This information also sheds light on the expected announcement of Facebook Mail today. My friend Yaniv Golan have some interesting thoughts about this move.

In a world were marketing ROI becomes critical for brands success, the combination of strong branding tools with direct marketing tools provide major advantages to the ones who use them well.

In a search for the NEW big idea

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The Room for Big Ideas is closed for installation.
Image by John Kannenberg via Flickr

In a time and age where I can chose whether to listen to a brand or to read my friend’s status update – how can a brand get my attention?
In my opinion it is all about big ideas

Isn’t the big idea dead already?

Mark Earls believes that big ideas are dead, over used, and that we should focus on small tests and campaigns. However I am talking about differnt kind of big ideas. I am not talking about a short lived one time gig. I am talking about deeply rooted concept at the heart of the brand, that affects its dealing wiht customers, the product they build, and  the way they treat their customers.

What is a big idea?

Big ideas are concepts that beyond a product or one’s daily life, that are more important than price or features. Big ideas are ones who change the way we look at life and society. Big ideas are ones that are powerful enough to make the man on the street listen to your message. A big idea is that one story that brings value to people – not only consumers.

In some cases brands are not openly stating their big idea. In some cases they don’t even realize their big idea until the community, their users, tell them it exists.

Let’s take Twitter for example. Twitter’s big idea is communication without boundaries. This idea fueled the Iranian uprise, which in turn personified this idea. As stated before, it was a false hope in my opinion. Still it was amazing to see the energy that this idea brought to the community.

Canon and HDSLR are  another example. Canon released their 5D Mark II DSLR camera with the ability to shoot HD videos. This quickly materialized to another big idea – everybody can be a filmaker – now in an affordable way.

What isn’t a big idea?

Well, the product itself. Features, without a wider context, are merely technical parameters. They don’t improve ones life. Price is not a big idea – again, unless it is in a wider context, such as in the case of HDSLR cameras.

Also, Fun is not a big idea. Fresh is not a big idea. these are just awesome keywords for a brief. “Like” competitions are definitely not a big idea. Hiring “buzzers” is many things, big idea is not one of them.

The Time is Now

Modern western society is in a unique situation. World War II ended with the good guys wining. Communism lost the battle. Most of the western world is democratic, and relatively liberal from an economic point of view. Governments are losing their position as setters of big ideas. Yes, Obama most used word was change. But at the end of the day, nations are creating less and less big ideas that affect lives.

But people are still looking for bigger than life concepts and experiences. They want to feel that they are a part of something, something bigger than day to day life. They want to be excited!

Someone will fill the void. Brands and companies are the best candidates for that. They have the incentive and money to do it.

So what’s your big idea?

A year later, Iran Proves that the Gun is Mightier Than the Tweet

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TEHRAN, IRAN - JUNE 17:  Iranian supporters of...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Last year, brave citizens of Iran decided they had enough. After a suspected rigged election, thousands of young Iranians started protesting against the elected government. The movement, called the Green Movement, arranged mass demonstrations, and clashed with security forces.
And while the government controlled the media, it couldn’t control Twitter.
Protesters, Green Movement activists, and ordinary citizens, used Twitter to coordinate protest efforts, and tell the world what the government was trying to hide.
Blogs, magazines, and newspapers, were full of articles about the power of Twitter, and how important it is in such events.

Year later, the green movement is crushed. Iran’s Basig, the ever faithful Republican Guard, crushed the resistance. Demonstrators were shot and killed. Some were jailed and tortured. The first anniversary of the biggest uprise against Ahmadinejad regime ended quietly.

Twitter is an amazing network. I use it every day.
But we should remember that it is just a website, a social network, a communication medium. At the end of the day, Twitter won’t bring democracy to countries under dictatorship. It might prove a film distributor that it is worthwhile to bring the latest horror flick to the theater near you. It could help raise funds for nobel cause.
But at the end, as Iran case proves, the gun is mightier than the Tweet.

Guest Post: Creating a Conversation

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Imagine a world in which it makes no difference how tall you are; what you look like. Imagine a world that doesn’t judge you according to who your parents are; what your education is; what your achievements have been. Imagine a social universe that rates you purely according to one criterion: do you have anything interesting to say?

Well, do you?

Stripped of our looks, of TV’s makeup artists, of screenwriters’ sharp verbal edge, are you still someone worth my time listening to? Am I?

While admittedly still hosting to old fashioned fan attributes of following landmark figures (such as Britney Spears and Barack Obama,) Twitter has become a very unforgiving platform. In a way, it is a harsh, brutally honest space. In this space, the reciprocal attachment that you have come to accept and expect in every other communication platform- no longer exists: In IMS services approving a contact will result in both sides appearing on each other’s contact lists (unless later blocked.) On Facebook, accepting a friend request joins both parties in a mutual connection of sharing. This is not the case on Twitter. More

Buzz, Blogsphere and Serial Killers

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not your everyday serial killer - dexter
Image by missresincup via Flickr

The blogsphere has more killers than American Maximux Secutiry prison.

Twitter would kill Facebook. Facebook would kill Google. Friendfeed would kill Twitter. And now, the latest addition to the new-product-that-only-geeks-use-and-bloggers-shout-that-it-would-kill-the-frigging-internet – Google Buzz. Last week the blogsphere was plastered with those statements, as if Facebook’s millions of users, Twitter’s proven power to create addiction with hyper connected individuals, and the need for many just to write emails, without sharing their photos all over the place, doesn’t exist.

It seems that there is a routine in our world:

1. A new hyper-connected-social-network-that-sends- your-pictures-and-status-all-over-the-place-but-is-not-exactly-Twitter-or-Facebook is launched

2. The echo chamber rejoices, and writing zillion posts, all quoting the same Techcrunch/GigaOm/Financial Times/Fox News article – competing with hysterical headlines.

2. Tons of users logging in. Scoble‘s among them.

3. The homepage is filled with Scoble’s remarks about how great the tool is, and changing the way we think about communication.

4. All the cool kids logging in and saying – hey it is like Twitter. Err Facebook. Err something. But with pictures. Myself included.

5. Slowly people see that it is another network they need to maintain, another profile, and another level of noise.

6. Porn starts, Viagra merchants, and so called “power networkers” that are spending most of their days in friending total strangers, are taking control of the platform and start spamming everyone. And Kevin Smith.

7. Privacy/usability/stability are not what they seem, and users are starting to realize that it might not be the best thing since sliced bread

8. Scoble leaves the platform, saying it is useless.

9. A new hyper-connected-social-network-that-sends- your-pictures-and-status-all-over-the-place-but-is-not-exactly-Twitter-or-Facebook is launched

Yes, Buzz is awesome, but I left it after couple of days. I am still on Twitter and Facebook, cause they provide me enough value – and my friends are there.

Let’s stop diminishing user base, and actual usability of platforms, and wait a second before we hail a new online platform as the new king. Life is way more complicated than a headline in a  blog post.

Facebook Does It Again

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Sun Photo Leads to Lost Insurance
Image by topgold via Flickr

Here we go again. Last week the echo chamber was rattled with a story of a woman who lost her insurance due to pictures she shared on Facebook. Apperantly she was supposed to be depressed but had pictures of her and friends in a bar. I personally know some pretty depressing bars, but the insurance company thought otherwise.
Which, as usual, caused a lot of commotion  in the blogosphere. Again we saw those funny posts about how Facebook changes everything.
This is another case in a string of stories about people losing their jobs due Facebook. Do you remember that banker who told his boss he is going to a family event  and shared pics of himself dressed as a woman in a party?

Guys, it is not Facebook.

It is something far more complex.

Something genrations are trying to solve without success.

Something goverments, indepepndent research centers, companies, and individuals are trying to understand.

Something far more sinister.

Far more dangerous.

Human stupidity.

Yes. That’s it. Some people just don’t think. So they do stupid things. Like calling in sick and going to a party, and uploading their pictures to a web site.

Blaming Facebook in these cases is like blaming the invention of video for the Rob Lowe sex tape. Like blaming tanks for world war II. Like blaming the invention of film for the release of the movie Gamer.

Guys, some people are just stupid. Social networks just help them to reach more people.

5 Ways To Buy For Less Using Twitter

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w:Biz Stone, co-founder of w:Twitter, at w:Sou...
Image via Wikipedia

Biz Stone, Twitter‘s founder, will visit Israel in the end of the month. As a member of his visit planning committee, I’ve decided to write how Twitter could be used in every day life. This is the first post in the series.

If you are using Twitter regularly you already know how powerful it is. Here are some tips on how to buy for less using Twitter:

1. Before you decide what to buy – ask your followers. I do it on a daily basis. For example, I was debating whether to buy Canon 5D Mark II or Canon 7D. Twitter to the rescue! I asked a question and received answers with detailed points of consideration before choosing my next camera.

2. Find out what’s the best price – after you decided what to buy it’s time to ask followers how much they paid for it. You will be surprised how much prices vary.

3. Get better deals when buying products – a friend of mine twitted from his bank, while negotiating a loan, asking his followers how much intrest they are paying. Needless to say, he got pretty good rates….

4. Show your dissatisfaction – I was unhappy with my ISP. I twitted about it, and was immediately contacted by their customer service. Quicker then waiting for someone to pick the phone, that’s for sure.

5. Recommend products to your followers – every time I am happy with a service or product, I let my followers know about it. I think it is a kind of good twitter karma to do so.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, and follow #bizil for more information about Biz Stone’s Israel Tour.