Warning: Graphic Content

This is going to make me sound like a huge weirdo, but back in college, me and my roommates would have contests to see who could find the most graphic videos on the Internet. So, I am accustomed to seeing images that make the Boston Bombing look elementary. But, do you know the difference between what I was looking up and what people are posting on social media? The difference is I had to dig to the deepest parts of the Internet to find this content, and didn’t stumble across it when I was checking my newsfeed. But, should it be ethical to show pictures like the one from Boston? If it is, then who should be the gatekeepers to these images?

Should media outlets show restraint when it comes to posting graphic images? To be perfectly honest, I am torn on this question. I wrote in my reading reaction that this should be a definite yes. But, now I am second-guessing myself on it. Couldn’t media outlets crop the image so his leg isn’t in the frame? Absolutely. Would this image still be as powerful as it is even without the severed leg? Maybe. I believe people showed this image because how powerful it was and how it personified the city of Boston. I am going go out on a limb here, but if you ask someone if they know who “The Man in the Cowboy Hat” is; I believe there is a very good chance they say the man from this picture.

But should media outlets show extremely graphic images that don’t have such a powerful message? I remember talking about this exact photo to my friend, and we talked about how news outlets will show any image anymore. I’m pretty sure I was talking about the Huffington Post during this conversation, but I said that a news article simply puts “Warning: Graphic Images” before the jump, and they’ll pretty much show anything. Does this disclaimer make it okay to broadcast these images? Apparently it does.

But what about ordinary people sharing extremely graphic images and videos of events that aren’t a tragedy. For example, there is an extremely disturbing trend amongst young people where it’s cool to videotape violence and upload it to the Internet. So, instead of acting like a human being and calling the police, they will videotape something like a fistfight, yell “WorldStar” (worldstarhiphop.com extremely NSFW) and post it to Facebook for the whole world to see. An incident like this just occurred recently when Mississippi State quarterback, Dak Prescot, and a few other players were jumped at a concert. The assailants – and presumably defendants now – jumped the players, posted the video online, and then bragged about it on Twitter.

Videos like these are extremely viral when it comes to social media because it’s cool to watch violence towards strangers online. Because we don’t know the “SMALLER KID DESTROYS BULLY (NSFW)” or anyone else in the video, people won’t think twice about sharing it on Facebook.

So to wrap these questions up: I believe that sharing a powerful picture like the one from the Boston Bombings is ethically all right because of its message. But, graphic and violent content that breeds ignorance has no place on social media. And that is coming from a guy who once showed the Budd Dwyer* video at Christmas Eve dinner.

*Budd Dwyer link is a New York Times article and not the video.

This article kind of touches on the World Star problem. 

Do you think powerful images like “The Man in the Cowboy Hat” are okay to post?

Do you have a problem with young people posting violence online?

Is a disclaimer all you need to post graphic images? 






Ello is kind of like that episode of Seinfeld where George uses a picture Jerry’s girlfriend to get into model parties in the Meatpacking District. You can’t just sign up to be on the site, you have to be invited. And in George’s case, his beautiful fiancé had to die for him to get in. But, what makes Ello so exclusive? It might be the fact that they believe other sites only exist to mine your data and sell you to the highest bidder. I know this because I requested an invitation to join Ello and they messaged me this:

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Now, I presumably will be on their wait list for sometime and I can’t give you a first-hand-experience, which I normally do. But, I do think this model of an ad-free site raises a few dire questions. For example, the week before the Super Bowl a friend of mine asked me what the next big social media is going to be? I explained to him that I thought Ello was going to be the next cool social media because you had to be invited and it was completely add-free. He then asked me, “Then how does it make money?” So, I responded with the only answer I could think of: “I have no idea.”

Now after reading the Digital Trends article, it is clear to me that Ello has private funding and can/made a lot of money by selling widgets and add-ons. But, will this be enough for Ello to stand on its two legs? Probably. But, my biggest concern with the site is the exclusivity. The main reason people join social networks and participate in social media is, well, to be social. Let’s say Ello allows me to join their site tomorrow. How can I be social on the site if none of my friends are on there? I guess I could use it to meet new people and make connections. But, I probably won’t be that active because its exclusivity. I can be totally wrong about this, but I believe people will view Ello negatively because their friends aren’t there.

How do I think Ello will be in the future? I think eventually it can be cool if they maintain a level of exclusively, but at the same time, allow enough people in so it can flourish as a network. Also, I think one key component to their success is their widgets and add-ons. They can be the make or break for the network, especially if backers ever fall out. Just take a look at MySpace. In the early and mid-2000s, MySpace was the premier social media site. But, then it got too personalize with custom skins for the pages and it faded into irrelevancy. It also didn’t help that Facebook became a juggernaut in the tech world. So overall, Ello should avoid turning into the new MySpace, so to speak.

Are you or anyone you know on Ello?  How do you or he/she like it? 

If you’re not on Ello, do you think you would like it? 

Why do you use social media?  Is it because your friends are on it, or do you use it as an information hub?  

UPDATE: I got this in my inbox this morning. 

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Moderation is one of the most vital practices when it comes to social media. But, it is also one of the hardest actions to perform. This is because you want to delete any comments that would be deemed as obscene or indecent material. You need to be swift in taking this material down as it could result in a negative image of your brand. But, you also don’t want to censor comments that are fair criticism of your brand or service. You want to engage this type of material to show your fans that you are listening, and at the same time, perform damage control on the situation.

So I was asked to moderate two hypothetical situations where fair criticism has been stated about a brand or service. Here is how I would handle these situations:

Situation 1: “I am disgusted about the state of your restaurant on 1467 Justin Kings Way. Empty tables weren’t cleared and full of remains of meals. It makes me wonder what the state of your kitchen is?!!! Gross.”

Dear Jane/John Smith:

I would like to apologize that our restaurant was not up to your standards in regards to cleanliness. I want to ensure you that this is not they way we conduct business, and we pride ourselves on providing a clean and comfortable atmosphere for all of our customers. I can assure you that our restaurant is up to code with all local, state, and federal laws. If you would like, we would be happy to have you come in for a tour of our kitchen. At that time, you can se first-hand that our priority to keep our kitchen clean and our customers safe from illness.

If you have any more concerns or questions, you can reach me at 555-555-5555 or mikeshields@kingsrestaurant.com

Situation 2: “Your reporting on the Middle East is biased in the extreme. You gave almost all your air time to spokespeople for the Israelis last night and there was no right to reply for the Palestinians. The conflict upsets me so much and your reporting of it, saddens me even more and makes me f**king furious.”

Dear Jane/John Smith:

We at XYZ MEDIA GROUP strive to give our viewers a fair and unbiased look at extremely sensitive subjects. We are sorry to hear that you feel like you were disproportionately represented in our Middle East segment. We are looking into the specifics of this particular broadcast to see if we can do a better job at an unbiased program. We value your opinion and hope that you continue viewing to our programs.

Do not hesitate in contacting us again if you have a concern or question about XYZ MEDIA GROUP or our programs.

In the restaurant situation,  I tried to be transparent and admit that we were in the wrong.  But, in the media situation, I tried to give an objective response to a subjective comment.  Both comments were subjective, but responding with an objective response will help in your moderation.

 What would you have done differently in responding to these comments?  

Always Make Sure That Your Online Girlfriend Is Real.


Note: This is a very detailed and bizarre story, so I am going to try and give my best overview of it.

For how long it takes a company or individual to build a reputation, it only takes one tweet or Facebook post to bring it all down. But, can you still hurt your reputation by other social media activities that do not involve content that you post? Well, you should probably ask former Notre Dame and current San Diego Charger, Manti Te’o.   Te’o’s online and social media activity turned one of the most uplifting and inspirational stories of my lifetime into a bizarre and head-scratching scandal.

Manti and Lennay: a love story.

On September 13, 2012, Notre Dame football head coach Brian Kelly addressed the media as his No. 19 Fighting Irish prepared to travel to No. 10 Michigan State. The big question on everyone’s mind was if senior linebacker Manti Te’o was going to make the trip to East Lansing. Te’o received a phone call the day before from his parents notifying him that his grandmother, Annette Santiago, had passed away. Hours after he received the news about his grandmother, he received call from his girlfriend’s brother informing him that his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, has lost her battle with leukemia.

Te’o went on to play his senior season at Notre Dame all while the media praise him for his heart and determination to play through such a tragedy. Stories fueled by the media and Te’o described how He and Kekua met, how he would talk to her on the phone for hours while she was in the hospital, and how all she wanted was “white roses” at her funeral. . He parlayed this into being a Heisman Trophy finalist and leading Notre Dame to the BCS National Championship Game all while playing with a heavy heart.

There was only one problem: Lennay Kekua never existed.

On January 16, 2013, the website deadpsin.com, reported that Te’o’s story about playing the 2012 college football season while grieving the death of his girlfriend, was a hoax. The reported detailed how there is no physical evidence of that Lennay Kekua ever was a real person.

But how could have this happened? How could a football star from a prestigious university get tricked into a relationship with a fake person? Who and why would a person create a fake online persona? How didn’t every major media outlet fact check this woman and story was true? And why did we believe it? These questions stem from a phenomenon that Te’o had brought the nation’s vocabulary: “Catfishing.” The nation soon came to realize that Te’o had been the victim of a catfish profile. A catfish is someone creates a fake social media profile and pretends to be someone that they weren’t.

How Te’o and Notre Dame responded to the scandal.

The same night the Deadspin article broke, Notre Dame’s Vice President and Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick made an official statement claiming Te’o to be a victim of a cruel hoax. Notre Dame said they would be looking into the hoax and find out who was responsible. But on the other hand, Te’o was virtually a recluse and didn’t speak to the media for another few days. This brought up the debate of what Te’o and Notre Dame knew of the hoax and if they were in on it. Many believed that Te’o did it to fuel his Heisman campaign be needed a backstory to go with it.  As a result of the scandal, Te’o’s NFL draft stock when from being a lock to being picked in the top ten to falling out o the first round. This resulted in him losing millions of dollars on his rookie contract.

How I would have handled it.

It is hard for me to to try and speculate how I would have handled the scandal if I were Te’o, but I certainly would have spoke out sooner to debunk the idea of me being in on the hoax.  Once the Deadspin story broke, I would have sent out a tweet acknowledging the fact something wrong had taken place.  Maybe something along the lines of “I am just as shocked as you.  Wait for the facts” or something similar.  Also, I believe that the university had handled it very well seeing that they had a press conference the night of the story breaking.  University officials clearly understood the risks of leaving an issue like this unaddressed.

Who Don’t I Trust On Social Media Is A Better Question.

Who do I trust on social media? This is a hard question for me to answer because I rarely use Twitter, and I only use it to tweet questions to a sports radio. So, I don’t follow anyone on Twitter and rarely use it to get my news. But let’s imagine for a second that I do go to social media for news or thoughts on a certain subject. I certainly follow brands and big companies because they already have my trust, and I hope they content they are distributing will be beneficial to me. But, what about when it comes to individuals in a digital space? Whose opinion or journalistic integrity would I trust and what makes them a thought leader?

Maybe I am cynical, but every time I hear a rumor or breaking news on social media, I instantly brush it off because I don’t trust most of the information I read. But, I am not alone in this glass half empty thought process. According to Kate Taylor of Business Insider, my generation (Gen Y/Millennials) value authenticity more than content when consuming news. I have to agree because the amount of clickbait, misinformation that is spread on social media has had a major impact on the way I consume information. And I am not talking about clearly satire article such as ones produced by The Onion, but rather articles that are written to mislead the reader into whatever agenda they have. For example, the rumor that Obama Care, or the Affordable Healthcare Act, would implant a microchip into American citizens has been circulating around the Internet for years. Social media has allowed viral ignorance like this to breed by allowing people to share with one click. Hopefully, Facebook makes good on their vow to eliminate clickbait from people’s newsfeeds.

As you can see, viral ignorance has made me skeptical on a lot of social and digital media reporting. So, what does this mean for the people I trust? I know a lot of people will agree with me that people who share these types of articles, are the same people you ask yourself, “Why am I friends with this person again?” Meaning that I don’t trust most of the people I am friends with on Facebook when it comes to information.

So enough about who I don’t trust, here are a few people I do trust on social media:

A lot of these people deal with sports because I work in sports (kinda).

Brad Edwards: Regarded as the smartest guy at ESPN when it comes to college football. I will listen and respect to any of his takes and opinions when it comes to the college game.

Matt Fortuna: Beat writer for Notre Dame Football for ESPN. I don’t really care for his input on the team, but I trust his authenticity when it comes to information. I don’t really believe anything until he tweets it out.

Ryen Russillo: My favorite radio personality. I think he has a good take on sports and I consider him a thought leader.

Dana Brunetti: My former boss, and I think he is a pioneer in both the entertainment and technology industry.

So overall, I mostly trust brands on social media because of their authenticity.  I will know that the information I am getting will be legit (I hope) and I won’t have to go and perform my own fact checking.

Have you ever seen an article that was so fake that you couldn’t believe someone would believe it?  What was the nature or content of the article and how did it make you feel? 




Tinder Is A Weird And Beautiful Place.


I downloaded Tinder back in 2012 right when the app exploded on to digital the scene. And, like most every other app I download, I just blindly agreed to the terms and agreements. I was more concerned with the idea of meeting young women rather than checking if the app was legit. But now after I looked at the Ts & Cs, I noticed a few things that were odd in context of using the app. Plus a few more instances where they could have added some specifics to cover themselves in a legal manner.

The first bullet point that stood out to me was you only had to be 13-years-old to use the app.

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Until now, I was under the impression that you had to be at least 17-years-old to use Tinder. For people who never used the app, you log in using your Facebook information. Seeing that you only have to be 13 to sign up for a Facebook account makes sense that you only have to be that age for Tinder. But, when selecting your age preferences, the lowest age you can search is 18.



As you can see from this screenshot of my own account, I will only receive profiles of women ages 18-50 within a 20 mile radius of my current location. But I have come across a few profiles where the user had an age of 17. I am not a lawyer, but where I live in Pennsylvania, the age of consent is 16-years-old. So, depending on which state a Tinder user is in, are they abiding by the law if they are under a certain age? Dominique Mosbergen of the Huffington Post, warns parents of teenagers of the potential dangers of the app. I believe that an app designed for people to “hook up” in real life should have a minimum age of 18.

Another safety precaution Tinder has in its Ts &Cs is that you cannot be a registered sex offender or a convicted felon.

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Well that’s a load of my chest knowing I won’t come in contact with these types of people. Wait, Tinder doesn’t conduct background checks on its users?

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So does this actually stop sex offenders and felons from using the app? Probably not. Another prohibited activity is using a fake Facebook profile to access the app.

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I couldn’t tell you how many fake profiles I used to come across when using the app. For example, here is a screenshot of someone using Alexis Bledel’s character from “Gilmore Girls” as their profile.


When this profile came up in my app, I instantly knew it was fake. I took a screenshot because I thought it would be funny to post on Instagram that Rory Gilmore liked me on Tinder. I am not really sure what this person’s end game was because I instantly blocked the profile, but there is an more obvious flaw in the app: prostitution.



I can’t even tell you how many times I would get matched with a profile that turned out to be some type of escort service. At first, it was really easy to detect if the profile was soliciting. But then it turned into profiles that look more like actual users.  Which is something that could be potentially extremely dangerous to users.

But when it comes to specifically prohibiting the solicitation of prostitution in the Ts & Cs, there is no mention of any of it. There is a long list of prohibited activities that are frankly absurd when it comes to the context of the app.

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But it does not specially say anything about prostitution. And seeing that the app was design for users to find casual sex, they had to know that the sex-tracking industry would try to exploit it.

So in conclusion, the main points of the terms and agreements I would change are:

  • Must be 18-years-old to use the app.
  • More background checks on users.
  • Clearly state that solicitation of prostitution is a breach of terms.

Do you think Tinder should have a minimum age of 18 to use the app?

Excluding registered sex offenders, do you believe someone convicted of a felony should be prohibited from using the app?

Is there anything I didn’t mention that Tinder should include in their Terms and Agreements? 

Ethics intro

What’s up everybody? I’ll make this nice and short.

My name is Mike Shields and I am in my fourth semester in the program. I am a graduate of Temple University, which is located in scenic north Philadelphia, PA. I made it out of there alive, so I think can handle two more semesters of grad school.

I am looking forward to this semester because tried to be a hero last semester and I took four classes. Which was not planned but I obtained an internship and I was forced to enroll in the internship class. Fun fact: I’m the first social media student ever to take the internship class. I guess that’s cool. But my internship was with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League.wbspenguins

The Pens are the AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and I served as their digital media editor. The internship has ended, so sadly I am back to be unemployed. But, I recently had a job interview with a minor league baseball team (Lehigh Valley IronPigs) and I think I am going to get hired there (fingers crossed). This would be awesome because their team recently went viral by having bacon-themed uniforms:


One more thing about me is that I have a very, very unhealthy relationship with Notre Dame Football. I say this because I often reference to the Irish in my responses.  Go Irish.

This class is important to me because I want to get a better understanding of appropriate content to create and share on social media. Let me clear things up, personally, not many things offend me. So, I could potentially post something that I believe it cool, but actually is really offensive to someone else. This is kind of a broad generalization, but I hope you get the idea.

Also, I tend to be very informal when it comes to my work. I feel like if we are dealing with social media, we should use the conversation tone of social media.