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It's hard to imagine the digital world pre-Facebook and Google, but as I remember it that time was filled with usernames and passwords. When I was in high school I remember having a piece of notebook paper that listed all of my secret codes; it told me what I needed to log into my Netscape email and my Disney account, among a list of other websites. If that piece of paper was lost, access to my little online world went with it. Times have changed though. Now when visiting new websites, more often than not, you can simply sign in with your Google or Facebook username and password. No more guessing games to see if a username is already taken or tying every combination of 'johnny4799,'? 'Johnny040799,'? and 'joHnNy4799'? to remember the right password. Now it's one and done. Logging into a website with Facebook (aptly called Facebook Connect) makes life so much simpler. Not only is it one fewer password to remember, but it makes sharing content with friends all that much easier too. Love an article? Hit the 'like'? button and it goes right to your friends' newsfeeds. Are you on Google+ too? Give an article a +1 and it goes right to your account! The idea of connecting to websites through Facebook began in 2008, and by 2009 over 60 million people a month were doing it and over 80,000 websites and devices had this option available. Google+ has joined that ranking too with an estimated 10 million users in July alone, giving them the ability to hit the +1 button (similar to a Facebook 'like'?). I've lost my little piece of notebook paper but the simplicity of signing into multiple accounts with one username has made it unnecessary. Still though, the ease at which people can compromise my identity because of this is alarming. With so many users connecting to websites with their Google and Facebook passwords it's easy for things to get compromised. Sure it's easier for you to remember your password if it's your name and birthday, but it's just as easy for someone else to guess your login too. If you've connected to several websites with your Facebook or Google account and that password gets compromised, it's not just that account that's in trouble, but the rest of them too! To address this issue, several new guidelines have been put in place to protect your many identities online. Some of the tips include: Do not use any words, numbers or phrases associated with you as your password. That means the name of your dog and the year you were married are not the smartest options. Include a combination of upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers and basic punctuation. That means a password such as 'Car0L!n3s'? will make a better choice. Make your password at least nine characters long. Tougher passwords to crack may make your accounts safer but Mark Burnett, author of the book Perfect Password, says as long as a password is longer than 15 characters it no longer matters how random it is. Extremely long passwords have so many additional characters, the time it takes to hack increases compared to that of a smaller and more complex password. So next time you check out a new website should you feel comfortable signing in with your Facebook or Google account? Probably. Unless of course your password is 'johnny0781.'?
If you look at my college degree it says that I am a print and multimedia journalist, but unlike a traditional reporter I don't subscribe to the Boston Globe, the New York Times or even the Washington Post. You may ask what type of journalist I am if I don't pick up a paper each morning but I'll tell you: I'm a journalist in the digital age. I turn to the web for my news as I watch things break on Twitter, go viral on Facebook and update on all of the major newspapers' websites. Television was normally the fastest way to broadcast news until the world's obsession with connectivity and the web took over. This is evidenced in the events that unfolded on the evening of Sunday, May 1, 2011. When the newscaster mentioned that the president would be speaking at 10:30 for an unknown reason, all it took was a refresh of my Twitter feed to know that Osama Bin Laden was dead. I was then able to confirm it on CNN.com and read an ever growing list of articles, reports and links to video on Twitter...all before the TV station finished its commercial break. As it turns out, the news of Bin Laden's death actually broke on Twitter, the first tweet reportedly coming from Keith Urbahn, Chief of Staff for the office of the former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He tweeted, 'So I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot Buy cialis online damn.'? This was all it took to create and online media firestorm which resulted in a record-breaking tweets per hour. In a Mashable online poll, 31% of respondents heard the news first on Twitter with Facebook following close behind at 20%. These numbers show that social media is changing the way we get our news and it's easy to understand why since news spreads faster online. With television, in order to 'interrupt this program and take you live to the White House,'? they must organize the equipment and the team of people to use it, and hope that people are sitting near their TV's prepared to watch the broadcast. In contrast, it is estimated that by Christmas 2011 more phone users will have smartphones than any other type of phone, meaning nearly 142.8 million people will have access to the web at any given time. That's a lot of people who can get breaking news while at the bar, in a bowling alley or at their son's soccer game. They can see a single tweet that says 'Osama Bin Laden has been reported dead'? and retweet it faster than a newscaster can say 'good evening.'? Because of this shift in how people receive their information I've learned of all the major news that's broken in the past few years, from the internet. While there's something 'official'? about having a newscaster interrupt your program to bring you news, if you ask me, it's not official until it's a trending topic on Twitter.
My generation is absorbed in social media. We were old enough to watch and understand the birth of Facebook, the dawn of Twitter, and the fast emergence of Foursquare check-ins. We've become accustomed to frequent status updates and 'mayorships'? of our favorite eateries. We tweet about what we're wearing or when the train is late. In a way we're almost like celebrities, voluntarily exposing ourselves to the people around us and living our lives in a self-proclaimed 'spotlight.'? There's nothing wrong with letting our friends know we're running late or sharing pictures from last night's party but sometimes we just share a little too much. We announce that we had Frosted Flakes for breakfast or the pains of shaving our legs. We post pictures of friends slumped over chairs after one too many cocktails. We check-in at the dentist, the doctor and the Starbucks on the corner (three times...three Starbucks, three different corners). We over-share some of the most intimate details of our lives leaving little to the imagination. Maybe as individuals we should tweet a little less and untag a few photos from last night. We don't need the whole world to know our most personal details. As much as we may wish we were celebrities, we aren't and frankly nobody cares about those details we're sure everyone wants to hear. Certainly in our personal lives this may seem like too much, but what many people (including many of those in my parents' generation) don't know is that this idea of 'over-sharing'? is what keeps many businesses afloat. The younger generation is so overly connected through the use of social media that sometimes this is simply the best and fastest avenue to reach them. I once tweeted to Whole Foods corporate asking why my favorite beverage was removed from store shelves. Rather than write an email or make a phone call, in less than 140 characters I asked my question. Less two hours and 140 characters later I had my answer. The beverage had an ingredient in it that didn't meet their standards. It's this communication through social media that keeps companies engaged with their customers. They see our problem, 'Ugggg I hate my razor! It irritates my skin!'? and can immediately offer a solution, 'Have you tried our brand? It has a moisture strip for less irritation!'? These channels provide instantaneous conversation between brands and customers 24/7 that are faster than drafting an email and cheaper than buying a print ad. Businesses can see what means the most to their demographic and reach out in unexpected ways. As a member of Generation Y, I can say that I've enjoyed watching the evolution of marketing and brand management. I've grown up reading print ads and watching TV commercials and now I scan QR codes for 'insider information.'? The way brands reach their customers is changing - I get most of my news from the web and now most of my purchases are influenced by the online presence of a company. While I still think that my generation has to make an adjustment to its tendency to over-share, it is this behavior that has completely revolutionized the way brands do business today.