2014. A Year of Inspiring and Controversial Convo For Sure!

Now that I have hung my hook at jbromcom.com, the folks at WordPress.com have prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. This needs to be shared by you as the main reason why I toil and type – most days. You are my community and I was able to share my thoughts around how we communicate during crisis, at school, to others and for others. I questioned the world’s largest micro-blogging channel ‘Is there too much spam?’ and whether social media has been remiss on including the facts. These and other stories helped form 2014 as it was a year like non other. Communications is a wonderful thing and thank you all for allowing me to share my social space.

Have a great 2015 everyone!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 30 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Are we ‘Lost in (Social) Space?’


Do We All Have a Social Destination?

French sociologist Henri Lefebvre, believed human interaction could be coined much the same as a simple Sunday walk. Wherever you went, your journey would be wholly dependant on the many ‘social realities’ that intercede your path. Mr. Lefebvre was convinced ‘social realities’ were everywhere. This included the idea of urban planning, the form of architecture, the conversation of language and even the appreciation of art. His research supported how either consciously, or unconsciously, we allow these ‘social realities’ to influence and guide our course of being.

Short of it, when building community we are influenced by various social circumstances whether natural, man-made or intellectual.

Our simple Sunday walk is anything but.

‘Social Realities’ Help Define Our ‘Social Space.’

Lefebvre’s thinking takes on a new reality within today’s ‘social space’ – the internet. As Lefebvre states, “‘social space’ is a… part of an interaction between subjects and their surroundings.”

Granted, these traditional ‘surroundings’ have shifted from parks and buildings, to today’s digital ‘social realities’ as Facebook and Google+; as this primal need to belong has no qualms making the jump to cyber space.

University of Colorado’s Associate Professor, Harsha Gangadharbatla, supports this belief as published in the Journal of Interactive Advertising’s, Facebook Me: Collective Self-Esteem, Need to Belong, and Internet Self-Efficacy as Predictors of the iGeneration’s Attitudes towards Social Networking Sites. Under the subhead of Belonging, Mr. Gangadharbatla mirrors Baumeister & Leary’s assessment that the need to belong is based on, ‘Fundamental human motivation that is something all human being possess… To form and maintain the least minimum quantity of lasting, positive and significant interpersonal relationships.’ He goes on to say, “Social networking sites offer a space in which people can address this need to belong by using services provided by the sites that enable conversations and information gathering, along with the possibility of gaining social approval, expressing opinions, and influencing others.”

This does make perfect sense. As social networking sites as Facebook, Google+ are more representative of today’s ‘social realities,’ the ability to arrive at our ‘social space’ is more accessible and immediate. It’s a heck of a lot easier to click and scroll than walk and run.

Is There a ‘Social Space’ For All?

Has mankind achieved its true ‘social space?’ Has this shift to a cyber landscape affected how we continue our need to belong? Does the immensity of our ‘social space’ impede the ability to share, or does it simply speed it up? Is it true that just as we achieve this magnificent ability to connect, others are still unable to complete this basic human need?

Research says, connecting online provides inclusion (circle of friends), affection (loved by these friends – hopefully), and control (over these friends) or the relinquishing there of. These are basic human behaviours for most of us, but what about other human beings that lie outside or reject these basic needs.

Let’s look at diversities. Do they embrace social media to enrich their community and feelings of belonging?

Rebecca Sawyer from the University of Rhode Island offers some thinking in her paper, ‘The Impact of New Social Media on Intercultural Adaption.’ Here she extols the thinking of Devan Rosen of Ithica College and University of Buffalo’s Derek Lackaff where these new media thinkers say, ‘people from individualistic cultures focus on meeting new people rather than maintaining their already existing cultures.’

Sounds about right; being new to a country, you will search for a way to connect that supersedes language and culture. You desperately want to belong in your new country or rejection is soon to come. At the same time, you are able to keep contact with your traditional or existing community.

Digging deeper into social anthropology, Rosen & Lackaff’s findings say, ‘Research shows that people from different cultural backgrounds and gender roles behave and communicate in systematically different ways. Findings suggest that participants who identify with more individualistic backgrounds, tend to self-promote and are better connected and more satisfied with their social lives.’

This is pleasing to hear knowing that social media has allowed new citizens to breakaway from more traditional methods of forming community, so they can be more readily accepted and trusted to belong in their new country.

As social media philosopher Brian Solis mentions, ‘…in short, belonging to a group feels good. It provides support and reinforcement, a strong identity, and a sense that we are part of something…’

Social media marketer Sarah Lee, builds on similar theories in her TedxKalamazoo lecture.

Do All Humans Have the Ability to Belong?

Unfortunately, no.

The result of connecting and sharing within a public, social, personal or intimate space provides only envy and jealousy and ultimately loneliness for some who seek inclusion and cognition. New Yorker Magazine piece by Maria Konnikova, cites various academic studies underscoring how most of us want to belong in a ‘social space’ but provides a directly opposite result. For some, gravitating to this new ‘social space’ has caused only alienation and despair; absolutely no sense of belonging and community.

Allow Social Media To Guide You There.

Now that humans have a better understanding of what to look for when charting our ‘social space,’ we can truly embrace and enjoy our journey. We have the ability to navigate the internet’s many ‘social realities’ towards building and experiencing our need to belong, and the community it brings.

There is no reason to be ‘Lost in Space’ when finding your online place. In the words of Dr. Zackary Smith speaking to his robot, “Now come along with me, you ludicrous lump, there’s much to be done.”

Yes there certainly is.

John K. Bromley

Social’s Time to Shine with Ebola Surveillance.

Photo Courtesy of Tommy Trenchard

Photo Courtesy of Tommy Trenchard

Why Social Media Will Be Critical for Ebola Surveillance.

The Ebola virus disease is real. As of October 14, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have lost over 4,500 citizens to the virus and the mortality rate continues to multiply. Outside west Africa, America and Spain strengthen their preparedness in light of serious errors in standard operating procedures. The European Union heightens their preparations with possible new cases arising in France and Spain respectively.

There is no doubt; Ebola is a very serious medical event needing responsible story telling. Media have (a degree of) accountability to ethically inform the public with balanced and culpable reporting.

In which universe?

As before and always, broadcast and print deafen our senses hourly within a framework of fear and apprehension. For many, this seems like déjà vu. Media professed countless stories of doom and gloom in 2001 and 2003 (H5N1), 2002 (SARS) and 2009 (H1N1) viral outbreaks. Each of these influenza pandemics were wrapped with the same predictable means of anxiety and fear.

Let’s face it, news-gathering is driven by advertising revenues and ‘if it bleed it leads.’ We get that.

But what about the new (media) kid on the block?

Is social media merely a ‘media vector’ glad-handing news reports on Twitter et al? Is it not the time for social to stand apart from traditional media and provide a new purpose when telling the pandemic story? The public deserve more stories detailing how the world is managing the issue. Not countless minutes of video loops and talking heads proclaiming why no one is doing anything and how much money is being spent.

The time is now for social to take centre stage by telling the story everyone really wants to hear – surveillance.

After all, social media is the public’s media!

Top reasons why social will help control Ebola

Events Based Surveillance

Bioterrorism remains the number one issue for event-based surveillance (EBS) within the American and European governments. Recently billions has been poured into biodefense in something called a Biosurveillance Ecosystem.  An American early warning detection system wired to analyze and track bioterrorism in the U.S.. Something newly minted Ebola czar @RonaldKlain will tap into, right?

In the 2012 Olympic Games the U.K. implemented an EBS to great success and is now a standard in EBS technology and benchmark code for future algorithms. Considering public participation is imperative with good EBS data, let’s hear some these stories!

As with past pandemics, online giants as Google provided search tools as Google’s flu trends which mapped out influenza hot spots for early warning. Yes, Google was leery on giving away flu search terms as to ward off hackers, but clearly Rihanna or other celebrities have learned and will not claim flu-like indices on their Twitter handles regarding Ebola, right?


The world’s largest ‘micro-blogging’ platform now rings in half a billion tweets a day. Plus, as of March of this year, mobile apps have overtaken PC internet usage. This gives Twitter a huge capacity to broadcast from literally, anywhere. Equally, at 140 characters, the communication is more succinct and offers phraseology conducive to behaviour tracking. Past influenzas has underscored the importance of developing algorithms to parse off the Twitter slang and offer accurate data outside of Google search terms.

Twitter also offers Geo-tagging (GPS tagged tweets) relaying real-time metadata. Gone are the days of helicopters following white Broncos, now we can accurately plot a virus’ virulent path by tracking photos from mobile devices.

Crowd Sourcing

Invaluable towards the tracking and eventual capture of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects; crowd sourcing is growing as a premier surveillance tool. Groups as crowdbreaks.com rely on public data to help track STDs, influenza, tuberculosis amongst other maladies. This beta site is funded by Salathé Group, CIDD, Penn State University and Health Map and is actively positioned for social integration.

People Have the Power

Social will help the world react to Ebola in a positive and proactive manner. Not by proliferating fear through misinformed tweets, but by uniting together with their devices as one true mechanism to track, analyze and ultimately beat this horrible and devastating disease.

Patty Smith sang it best, “People have the power!”

Footnote: This blog entry supports all the dedicated and selfless work rendered by the hundreds of medical workers in west Africa and around the world. In death there will be triumph and on behalf of all patients suffering from Ebola, thank you.

John K. Bromley