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Social Media Briefs: Self-Censored Posts, Customized Vine URLs


In the last week before Christmas, social media proved there's no rest for the weary. Vine users can customize their URLs, while Facebook tests out video ads in your news feeds. 

Facebook Wants to Understand You

You knew that Facebook was watching you, but did you know it seriously wants to understand why you didn't finish your status update? This happens to me a lot. I start to post an update and then I get distracted by something else — email, a text, my dog — and five hours later I return to my Facebook page left scratching my head, wondering what brilliant post I was crafting. 

Facebook calls these unposted thoughts "self-censorship," and they collect insights about these non-posts. A recently published paper (pdf) written by a Facebook software engineer and data scientist found  71 percent of users "exhibited some level of last minute self-censorship" due to what the researchers called "perceived audience" — as in users become anxious or overwhelmed thinking about what the people who will see the post will think.

They measure this by not just looking at how many people start an update without finishing it, but by looking at the demographics and behaviors of the users that didn't complete the update. They made inferences based on political affiliations (of both the user and their friends) and gender. In the end, it was determined that if your circle of Facebook friends is largely undefined — that is, you don't necessarily know where they stand politically or on specific topics — you'll censor more. 

The study found that posts are censored more than comments; men censor more than women (especially if they have more male friends than female); and users with more politically and age diverse friends will censor less. While we don't know what Facebook will do with this information, we know, thanks to the report, that they will be working to "unpack the nature of this effect [self-censorship] and strategies to improve the tools available to users." 

Take Back that Instagram Direct 

Last week we reported Instagram launched Instagram Direct so users could send photos privately to others. While direct messaging is nothing new, sending photos directly, bypassing the public, is. Sexting scandals of the past have caused many of us to approach direct photo message with some trepidation. For those of us who want to prepared for the worst, take heed — there is a way to take back an Instagram Direct photo message you didn't mean to send.

It turns out that users can delete a photo they have sent without having the (un)intended recipient see it — but only if you're quick or your know they aren't sitting with their phone nearby. They'll still receive a message that you sent them a photo, but unless they look at it immediately before you delete it, they'll never know what you sent. Consider this a public service announcement — share this information with your friends, family and public officials. 

Facebook Video Ads

You've finally learned how to ignore side-bar advertisements on your Facebook page in time to ignore the sponsored posts in your news feed, so it's only natural that Facebook is upping the ante. On its news page this week, Facebook announced that they're testing a new way for marketers to tell stories in news feeds and that some people will see these video ads come to life as they scroll through News Feed on mobile and desktop. 

For marketers, this is actually pretty cool. Video ads will give them an opportunity to put video messaging directly in front of users, regardless of whether or not they've liked your page. For users, however, it's unclear how welcome these ads will be. For starters, videos will begin to play as they appear on screen — without sound — without having to click or tap on the content. 


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