Looking Back on My New Challenge: Writing Blogs in English

"Earthrise" taken from the moon by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

As I wrote in my About page, this is my first personal blog for NYU professor Laurel Hart‘s class on social media. Writing in English is tough for international students like me (I’m from Tokyo). And unlike ordinary writing assignments, blogs are supposed to be open to the public. However, the openness has taught me many lessons, broadening my horizons.

Fraser Seitel says in his book, The Practice of Public Relations:

・1.5 million blog posts are created every day–in other words, 17 posts per second.
・Nearly 1.5 new blog sites are launched every second.
・The No.1 blogging language is Japanese (37% of all blogs), followed by English

Moreover, as Charlene Li and Josh Bernhoff write in their book, Groundswell, blog reading is more popular in Japan than the U.S.–57% of Japanese adult Internet users read blogs at least monthly, compared to 31% of their American counterparts. According to the authors, “Blog reading is one of the most popular activities in the groundswell.”

Though I am from the most blog-loving country, I hadn’t created a blog before I came to NYU. Nevertheless, through blog assignments and feedback from Professor Hart, I was exposed to the blog world in all its democratic verbosity. Furthermore, comments and advice from my classmates and readers outside the class have been encouraging for me. Their words of wisdom–insightful and thought-provoking–have given me energy to write.

Blogs promote dialogue, not only between writers and the public but also among the public. The interaction creates relationships and forms the blogosphere, enabling us to speak in our own voices and to share issues and concerns. As Alicia Eler writes in her blog post, people can speak more freely on social networks. She says, “When we do not look at each other in the eye, we are more honest with each other.”

The Internet and social media are important tools in the public relations business. But, as Seitel warns, “It is important to remember, they are ‘tools’ nonetheless.” Even if technologies change, the basic conversational nature of those technologies will, as expressed in Groundswell, remain central. As Dominique Ellis points out in her blog, P2P–People to People relations–is the core of communication.

I’ll keep posting new entries to my blog, engaging with people, and exploring the social media world in the future.

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Bright Light and Dark Shadow: Current Topics about Social Media in Japan

Takeo city--a role model for the introduction of social media into Japanese government offices ((C)The Sankei Shimbun & Sankei Digital)

As I wrote previously, the number of social media users in Japan has been dramatically expanding since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. However, anywhere there is a bright light, there has to be a dark shadow. This blog post is about current topics about social media in my country, Japan, to show the brightness and darkness of the new communication tools.

Social Media Enhances the Visibility and Transparency of a Local Government

Takeo city—a small town in western Japan famous for its hot springs—is a role model for the proactive and successful introduction of social media into government offices. Under the mayor’s initiative, the city migrated its official website to Facebook (Japanese language only) last August. Since then, the number of monthly hits to the city‘s  home page has steeply risen from 50,000 to 3.3 million. The city has received positive reactions from citizens. After the city posted a picture of a swollen river taken with a mobile phone, a citizen commented that the timely post was helpful to understand the situation. In addition, the mayor required all 390 city workers to create their own Facebook accounts and to use them for their work starting from April this year. The mayor, Keisuke Watanabe, says in an interview (Japanese only) that the use of Facebook has made the interaction with citizens more visible, and cuts red tape.

Social Media and Criminal Investigation

Social media is rivaling 911 services in crisis response and reporting. As the Rutger University student’s case shows, social media’s role in police investigations is growing. Like the U.S., the new communication platform has become a mainstay in police work in Japan.

The Yomiuri Shimbun–the largest Japanese newspaper and among the world’s most dominant (it sells 14 million copies daily1)–reported (Japanese only) that, using a YouTube video posted by a suspect, the local police in Hyogo prefecture were investigating a crime. The video shows a driver–the suspect–chasing a school boy on a bicycle along a river and shouting to the boy in a threatening tone, “I’m hitting and pushing you into the river!” Reports to the police from viewers of the video helped reveal the identity of the suspect , according to the news.

ISP Steals Users’ Information

On April 4, connectFree k.k. (Japanese only), a Japanese Internet service provider (ISP) led by an American CEO, was reported (Japanese only) to have collected users’ information without their approval, and to have invaded privacy of communication stipulated in the Telecommunications Business Act. The ISP provides users with wireless access to the Internet at convenience stores. The company admits to secretly gathering users’ data, including their Facebook and Twitter user IDs. According to the company, it collected the information to identify suspects in case its network was used for crimes

According to a report on TED 2012, a new browser enables us to know who is tracking us online. The report says, “We are being watched. It’s now time for us to watch the watchers.” Social media’s role is growing in many areas. We must monitor the use of the new communication tools by both public and private sectors, so that they do not go beyond public safety limits or invade individual privacy.

Privacy invasion is not an acceptable price to pay for access to the Internet.

1. Seitel, F. (2011). The Practice of Public Relations. NJ: Prentice Hall

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The Dark Side of Social Media: Facebook Addiction

Zuckerberg and Japan's Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, on March 29, 2012, Tokyo ((C) The Mainichi Newspapers)

Zuckerberg and Japan's Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, on March 29, 2012, Tokyo ((C) The Mainichi Newspapers)

As I wrote in my ealier blog post, Facebook saved many people in Japan during the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. While the phone networks were down, the Internet was relatively unaffected. We were able to use data services and text. Facebook helped us connect with our families and friends unsure of our whereabouts. Japan’s Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, said a big thank you to Facebook at a meeting with the CEO of the company, Mark Zuckerberg, in Tokyo last week.

Facebook has more than 800 million users across the globe. Three weeks ago, the company announced that the number of its monthly active users in Japan doubled to 10 million in six months. However, as my NYU classmate, Jacqueline Zygadlo, wrote in her blog post, “Over-excessive social media usage is a growing problem worthy of being categorized as an addiction.”

This blog post is about examples of adverse effects caused by Facebook.

Friends’ Happy Pictures Make You Feel Down

ABC News reports that people sometimes feel sad when they see happy pictures of their friends on Facebook, making them think their friends are much happier than themselves. According to the report, the more time people spend on the website, the more they think others have better lives.

Having Too Many Friends Is Unhealthy

Alicia Eler writes in her blog post, “Sometimes having more than 250 Facebook friends isn’t very healthy.” In addition, Jackie Cohen says that people really do not know one-fifth of their friends on the website. This means that as the number of friends increases, people have more friends they do not actually know. As ABC’s report shows, people with more friends they do not personally know tend to feel more strongly that they are less happy than their friends. On average, having 354 friends is the turning point at which people become increasingly unhappy with their lives, according to Denny Watkins.

Teachers Know You Are Using Facebook in Class

USA Today says in an article that students using Facebook during a lecture tend to do worse academically. In a study, 53% of professors said Facebook (and 46% said Twitter) erodes the value of their classes. Furthermore, 58% responded they found students using the website when they were not supposed to.

“Unfriending” Led to Shooting Deaths

According to AP, a father shot and killed a couple in Tennessee who unfriended his daughter. Fortunately, the couple’s baby was found uninjured in its mother’s arms.

These reports reveal that Internet addiction is one of the big issues facing modern society. As a study by the University of Chicago shows, communication tools are fueling Net intoxication, and in some cases it “may be harder to resist than cigarettes and alcohol.”

According to Peter Diamandis, by 2020 three billion more people will get connected to the Internet. Net technologies, including Facebook, have been and will be dramatically increasing the possibilities of collaborative innovation among people. On the other hand, as Alicia Eler points out, “Social networks are both a space of freedom and a place of imprisonment.” It is time to stand back from the social media boom and look at it calmly.

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