The History and Current State of Google Plus

Jasmine C Dobbins

Google Plus, which was introduced to the world in June of 2011, was a concept that was difficult for users to understand when first released. Google+ is the company’s fourth attempt into social networking following, Google  Buzz, Google Friend Connect, and Orkut. All of which were quickly retired after a few short years due to the plummeting numbers in users.

However, this new concept was intended to be more personable for users, allowing them to pick and choose their interest, relationships, and conversations.

Some features include, the ability to post photos and status updates to the stream or interest based communities, create different types of relationships into “Circles,” text and video chatting with friends through “Hangout,” the ability to edit and upload photos to a private cloud-based albums, etc.

And by the end of its first year, Google Plus had reached more than 90 million users throughout the entire world, and by October of 2013, approximately 540 million users interacted with it through an abundance of different online outlets. However, these numbers still did not compare to its competitors.

And it’s been mentioned that though Google Plus seemed to have an extravagant amount of users, a majority of those users didn’t actually visit the site, They instead used Google+ through Gmail or YouTube.

And throughout all of the changes in management over the years, in November of 2015, Google+ revealed a completely new redesign with the help of former Google Executive Bradley Horowitz, and is now solely focused on interest-based networking.

But despite the multiple attempts made by the team at Google, Google+ continues to decrease in popularity, and is rarely used as a social networking outlet anymore. Many even claim the phenomenon to be “dead” in a sense.

Instead of Google owning up to the fact that the idea was a flop, they have decided to play to their strengths and create an outlet for people that are looking for a more community based site. However, Google+ has the odds stacked up against it as it works to compete with both Reddit and Pinterest, both consisting of similar a concept.

However it still continues to get a a lot of criticism from experts. And many state that it was never intended to be a social networking site in the first place, and criticize it for not being the “community” it claims to be.

The future of Google Plus is still unknown, but experts continue work at making it something that is beneficial for users to have access to. However, only time will tell what the outcome of this inconsistent site will be.

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Is There A Racial Divide Between Americans on Social Media? (Breakout #2)

Is There A Racial Divide Between Americans on Social Media? (Breakout #2)

Jasmine C. Dobbins

Social division is something America has been dealing with for as long as people are probably able to remember. First there was slavery, and then segregation, but the country worked its way to becoming more progressive once the law was passed that everything was to become integrated.

But segregation is something America still continues to struggle with to this day, and it seems that one aspect that has continued to fuel this issue is social media.

Constant debates that always resort back to race no matter the topic have caused this country to fall back to similar times in America that many iconic leaders in American history worked to rid of for centuries.

I definitely think that social media apps cause a racial divide. When there is a debate online—it could be anything…. politics, sports, fashion etc. and race is always the default excuse behind each issue. For some reason that’s what people resort to,” Gay Pinder, Media Relations Director at Towson said.

It may be known by many that there has somewhat always been an unintentional racial divide in schools because of the types of classes each student is enrolled and the peers that surround them, or maybe because of the financial background of their parents, or maybe it’s because of the group of friends they decide to hangout with after school hours.

And like the divide that was formed between young students in schools, the racial divide through social media is something that was unintentionally formed, and could have possibly come about because of the lack of “real-life” interactions between races on a day-to-day basis.

People would rather debate online because it’s not face-to-face. They have more courage and are bold enough to speak their minds behind a computer screen. Because we are growing up in the digital age, people don’t feel the need to communicate in person anymore. Every heated conversation is done through some sort of technology,” Pinder said.

And Pinder may have a point, racism seems to be something that occurs so often on social media because of the fact that they are not physically standing in front of the group of people they are insulting. And this is something that is prevalent on apps such as Twitter, Yik Yak, Facebook, etc.

Politics seems to be one of the main controversial topics that always involves race. Because a majority of African-Americans in the U.S. are Democrats and most Republicans tend to be Caucasian, it makes for a multitude of heated debates online that sometimes include “below the belt” comments.

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Towson Student Erin Frias scrolling through Yik Yik

And though America continues to be progressive pertaining to race, this is a issue Pinder thinks will not include an easy resolution.

I’m not sure if it could ever be completely resolved, but if people focused more on their face-to-face communication, that would be a good start,” Pinder said.

 

The Affect Yik Yak Has on College Students and Campuses (Breakout #1)

The Affect Yik Yak Has on College Students and Campuses (Breakout #1)

Jasmine C. Dobbins

Most of the conversation circling around Yik Yak tends to be negative, due to numerous reports of racism, sexism, death threats and bullying being spread throughout the anonymous app. But the question is, how does this affect millennials as a whole, and more importantly, the students at Towson?

Yik Yak, which was introduced in 2013 by college students Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, quickly become known as the “Anonymous Twitter”, having many similarities, but also allowing people who live within a two-mile radius of each other to say whatever is on their mind.

But as expected, this quickly became a problem.

So this immediately caused new features to be put into effect such as, students being able to report if they are offended by a post, and the app being able to identify explicit content being posted and sending a warning message asking the user if they are sure they want their yak to be shared.

But despite the multiple attempts made by the team to prevent inappropriate content from being shared, the abuse continues to be posted daily.

“I see something offensive over the app everyday, but there isn’t much anyone can do about it because it’s a person’s right to say whatever they want to no matter how hateful unfortunately”, Towson sophomore Emily Pyne said.

And according to statistics found in June 2015, Yik Yak consists of the highest amount of millennial users (18-34) out of twenty other social media apps.

yik yak stats

But the controversy circling around the app has led to many protests among college students asking to have the app banned from their campuses, and petitions from others to have the app taken down completely.

“People at Towson have been wanting this app to be banned for years I’ve heard, but for some reason it still continues to thrive and cause a lot of problems between students,” Pyne said.

African-American students at Towson recently exposed the racists content shared on the app through Twitter after they protested the protection of black students and workers on campus.

 

 

And the negative discussion surrounding the app has also come to the attention of the faculty and staff at Towson.

“I’m not a big fan of social media sites that provide an opportunity to anonymously post whatever an individual feels like posting. This is particularly true when the site is set-up to only include members of a specific community,” Dr. Deb Moriarty, Vice President of Student Affairs said.

Because Dr. Moriarty focuses on the development of students outside of the classroom, she was concerned with the development of  Towson as a whole.

“Because this generation has relied on social media as a communication tool, the ability to confront each other, be assertive in stating one’s needs, and working through difficult and uncomfortable issues has been lost,” Dr. Moriarty said.

And she went on to speak of the reason why she doesn’t think Yik Yak belongs on college campuses.

“When I think about the nature and purpose of college I really don’t think this should be a tool used on the campus. I strongly believe that students need to learn how to negotiate difference,” Dr. Moriarty stated.

The only way for this app to take a step in the right direction in regards to preventing bad content from being shared is for people to reevaluate the content they share first.

Why Media Companies Are Beginning to Pay Close Attention to Snapchat

Jasmine C. Dobbins

Up until recently, people working for media companies looked at the app Snapchat as a irrelevant app to their sort of work where adolescents could send inappropriate or goofy pictures of themselves to their friends that would only last on their story for approximately 24 hours before completely disappearing.

However, opinions about the app have recently changed after people came to the realization that Snapchat was bringing in billions of dollars. $19 billion to be exact, according to an article published by Fortune in 2015. Not to mention the fact that a study done in 2015 showed that over 100 million people use this app on a daily basis meaning that media companies would be able to get breaking news out to a mass group of people within minutes.

Also, media companies may find this to be a rising epidemic because it distributes news to a younger audience in a quick, easy way that will not have to keep their attention for long, but will cover all of the essential details for each breaking news story.

Now that many media companies, such as CNN, have committed to using this app as a resource for millennials to go to when wanting to get their news in an accessible way through the Discovery feature, many have doubts that this will be a long-lasting thing based off of past experiences with other social media outlets who attempted and ultimately failed at hiring media companies to report hard news.

However, Snapchat is on the right track with the Discovery feature, and they even announced that they were hiring a team to cover this year’s election. And because of the fact that Snapchat is a newer concept, there is no permanent business model for them to follow when making these sort of decisions. They are solely focused on what the users want.

This is a good way for younger generations to be in the loop about what is going on around them, and it helps breaking news spread faster in a more efficient, accurate way because it is being reported first-hand by these news company officials.

There was also a feature added that allows everyday users to record anything they may find to be newsworthy, and share it with others under the “Our Story” function, which has shown to be extremely effective.

Because of the fact that journalism is becoming less and less traditional, and is continuing to develop as technology develops at a steady pace, more media companies should start considering coming to terms with the concept and getting on board with it because this could one day be the primary way that everyone gets their news rather than just millennials.

Millennials Discuss the Topic of Politics on Yik Yak

Statistics show that millennials have been more involved with the election this year than they have been since the baby boomer generation, and it may stem from the fact that that they are avid Bernie Sanders supporters, or because of the entertainment that comes along with Donald Trump. But whoever they may be voting for in this election, they are making their opinions known through Yik Yak.

One of the hottest topics among Yik Yak users at Towson has been the election and who is running. Whether it’s people coming together to support a candidate, bash a candidate, or simply just observe conversations surrounding the candidates, every user on Yik Yak is exposed to some form of politics on a daily basis through the app.

 

“I think it plays a pretty significant role. Ever since this election started, it seems to be one of the main topics discussed pretty much everyday,” Towson sophomore Aaron Dodson said.

And because of the fact that the app consists of the anonymous feature, students do not hold back as they discuss this controversial topic. And many debates are known to breakout because of the unfiltered content over the app.

“Most of the comments are negative because the app is anonymous and students say whatever they actually feel about the candidates running. Most of the time it’s people making fun of them,” Dodson said.

However some students feel that most of the content shared over the app pertaining to politics is inaccurate and based off of false information or biased opinions.

“I don’t think the information is accurate because, it’s typically based off of something they’ve seen through social media or heard through their friends rather than them researching it for themselves,” Pennsylvania State University sophomore Roshni Iyer said.

But that doesn’t stop students from feeling the need to share their opinions for others to see. And it seems as though this new epidemic is somewhat of a blessing and a curse for the millennials.

On one hand, students seeing these sort of topics discussed through social media by their peers may motivate them to get involved and vote, but on the other hand, it could easily sway the opinions of other students who already have a specific stance.

“I think that it does somewhat influence their decision. If a student is pulling for one candidate but they see all of their peers are pulling for someone else, and they are seeing all the reasons why their peers don’t like the candidate they like, they may fall under the pressure, and go with the majority,” Dodson said.

But whatever their reason voting or who they are voting for may be, numbers show that this election is bringing in the largest amount of millennial voters in years, and that may be a step in the right direction.

And who are currently the most talked about candidates on Yik Yak right now?

“Definitely Trump and Bernie. But I think overall our generation likes what Bernie and Hillary stand for the most. Trump is a joke to them,” Iyer said.

Well that’s one thing that adults and millennials can finally agree on.

Black Students at Towson Give Their Stance on Why Yik Yak Contines to be Racist

By Jasmine C. Dobbins

It is evident that race is an extremely prominent issue on the infamous app Yik Yak. Many races and cultures are attacked on a daily basis by anonymous users, and black student users on Towson’s campus are just some beyond the millions of people that are unfortunately victims of this epidemic.

Towson may be known for being one of the most diverse college campuses in Maryland, but despite the combination of different races and people of different backgrounds, racism is something that has been an ongoing issue among its students.

Efforts have been made by Towson’s administration to make black students feel as though they have the same opportunities and privileges as white students. One includes the “Black Lives Matter” event where a panel of three black activists came together to talk in front of a group of Towson students of different races about the true meaning behind the phrase.

However, there was controversy around the fact that Towson’s Greek life, which includes a majority of Caucasian students who were there to gain more points for their sororities/fraternities, walked out before the event was even over.

And this goes to show that there is still plenty of work to be done when it comes to racial lines and the respect we have for each other and our cultures. There are bigger issues that administration may not necessarily be aware of, and one of the most relevant is racism through Yik Yak.

“I have never been personally attacked on the app, but I have been offended by things other people have said. There was one yak I saw that said blacks should just conform to America’s society or stop complaining about it and if they didn’t then they should go back to Africa. I thought that was ridiculous,” sophomore Kamry Bennet, 19, said.

Bennet also had her own her ideas of why racism is still something Towson continues to struggle with despite the progression of our country on the topic.

“People continue to be so close minded despite the fact that we live on such a diverse campus. It’s like they fail to learn about other cultures different from their own. They’re still living in a box that includes only their world  and people like them,” Bennet said.

Despite the fact that Towson works to encourage equality among races and students of other cultures, and they interact with each other throughout the day, every race is guilty of socializing in circles where everyone looks more like them.

“I don’t wanna say that it represents Towson as whole and our stance on race. I feel like you’re going to encounter racist, ignorant people wherever you go. I do feel like it does show that we have a long way to go as a generation in regards to race though.” Bennet stated.

 “People are still so caught up in things they hear their parents say, and it’s like they’re afraid to take their own stance and break the mold. It’s now our responsibility to make a difference,”  Bennet went on to say.

There are features that have been put into effect to ensure that racial slurs are not as often affiliated with the app, but this does not change the mindset of the people that continue to create these offensive posts.

“We should make others more aware of the issue, and we should stand up as a race and bring awareness to those outside of the black community on campus. People should be made aware of  the harm this is causing others and maybe that sense of guilt will force them to look outside of themselves and change their way of thinking,” Bennet said.