Entries in Social Media (17)


Flu Outbreak: Fighting the Virus with Social Media

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The flu season has arrived — and it’s weeks early.

In one week, 16 states and New York City reported high levels of the flu. By the following week, that number was up to 29.

Each day for the past week, more than 500 New Yorkers have descended on emergency rooms with flu symptoms, according to a city website.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in high-flu states 70 percent to 80 percent of the coughs you hear around you right now stem from the flu.

Each cough, sneeze or even conversation puts the virus into the air — and potentially into your lungs.

The virus goes everywhere — onto railings and the salt shakers in the diner; on the keys of the ATM; and on every door anyone touches.

The flu virus can survive two to eight hours on hard surfaces such as metal and plastic — touch it and you can spread it to your nose and mouth from your hand.

The average person touches his or her face about 18 times an hour — giving the virus a path to the lungs.

In one meeting, ABC News recorded the number of times people unconsciously touched their faces in more than 25 minutes. The highest number of times: 44.

There are now new tools to track the flu.

The CDC is watching social media flu sites such as Google Flu Tracker, and a Facebook app tries to identify the “friend” that gave you the flu from its searches and comments. has 20,000 volunteers who are tracking their symptoms, narrowing the spread of flu down to your ZIP code.

An office hot spot?  The elevator. One sneeze can spray the flu — in droplets — up to 20 feet, coating the doors and buttons.  And what do you touch in an elevator?  The buttons.

The CDC suggests washing your hands and getting a flu shot — still available and effective within two weeks.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Facebook, Email More Irresistible Than Sex

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- You may want to ask your date to turn off his or her phone. A new study suggests Facebook and email trump sex in terms of sheer irresistibility.

The German study used smartphone-based surveys to probe the daily desires of 205 men and women, most of whom were college age. For one week the phones, provided by the researchers, buzzed seven times daily, alerting study subjects to take a quick survey on the type, strength and timing of their desires, as well as their ability to resist them.

While the desire for sex was stronger, the study subjects were more likely to cave into the desire to use media, including email and social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter, according to the study.

“Media desires, such as social networking, checking emails, surfing the Web or watching television might be hard to resist in light of the constant availability, huge appeal, and apparent low costs of these activities,” said study author Wilhelm Hofmann, an assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

The subjects were paid $28 at the start of the study and were eligible for extra incentives if they filled out more than 80 percent of the surveys. It’s no small wonder that more than 10,000 surveys were completed.

The urge to check social media was so strong that subjects gave in up to 42 percent of the time, according to the study published in the journal Psychological Science. One explanation is that it’s much more convenient to check email or Facebook than it is to have sex.

“The sex drive is much stronger but it’s also much more situational,” said Karen North, director of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who was not involved with the study. “We’re training ourselves to check our messages every couple minutes.”

“People are constantly looking down to check their phones,” North added. “They can’t stop.”

One drawback of this study is that it failed to address whether the subjects had sexual partners.  So while some subjects might have been single, all of them had smartphones, North said. It’s also unclear whether the findings can be generalized to the general population.

While social media can help people stay connected, Hofmann said overuse can be damaging.

“Media desires distract us from getting work done,” he said. “People underestimate how much time they consume and the distractions they produce and that can be harmful.”

The study surprised media expert Bob Larose, a professor in the department of telecommunications, information studies, and media at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.

“It’s surprising that self-regulation fails so much more often for media use than for sex, alcohol or food,” said Larose, who was not involved with the study.” That speaks to the power of the instantly available, 24/7 media environment to disrupt our lives… Our failure to control media use can deplete our ability to control other aspects of our lives.”

For those who fear social media is taking over their personal or professional lives, there is hope.  North offers some tips.

“If it is interfering with social/business relationships, work, or school performance, then people should try to scale back and control or limit the behavior,” she said, describing how self-imposed “rules,” like no social media at the dinner table, can help curb the constant urge to check Facebook.

“People can use a self monitoring technique, such as charting when they use social media as a means of reducing it,” North added. “Some people find it helpful to set rewards for staying within use standards that they set for themselves.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


How Social Media Is Spurring Plastic Surgery

Courtesy Dr. Richard Ellenbogen(LOS ANGELES) -- Triana Lavey was about to undergo a radical transformation. And she was doing it for a radical reason. She wanted to look better online.

With the help of Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, she was changing her chin, her nose and the shape of her face.

Lavey is a 37-year-old television producer in Los Angeles. For work and socially, she spends a lot of time on Skype, Facebook and other sites. She said she didn't like the face staring back at her from her computer screen.

"I have been self-conscious about my chin, and it's all stemming from these Facebook photos," she told ABC News correspondent Cecilia Vega.

The more she saw herself online, the more she said she wanted to change.

"I think that social media has really changed so much about how we look at ourselves and judge ourselves," Lavey said. "Ten years ago, I don't think I even noticed that I had a weak chin."

Lavey tried to change the camera angle. She even untagged herself in photos she didn't like. But none of it was enough.

"Here is a weak-chin photo that I didn't untag myself in ... because I was working out really hard that summer, and I am pleased with everything else in the photo," Lavey said. "But it's my darn chin that bugs the living daylights out of me in this photo. ... You keep looking and looking, and now it's the first thing I look for in a photo. It all started with Facebook."

Surgery was the only way to fix it. Simply cutting down her social media use wasn't an option.

"That can't happen. ... Where my career is headed and the industry is headed, I have to be on social media," Lavey said.

Lavey is not alone. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, chin augmentations have increased 71 percent in the last year. Doctors confirm that more and more patients are asking for the Facebook facelift -- plastic surgery for the iPhone generation.

At Lavey's consultation, Ellenbogen showed her what her new online-ready face would look like.

Ellenbogen explained that augmenting the chin should be balanced by adjustments to the rest of the face with procedures like fat grafting -- adding a bit of fat to the face -- and rhinoplasty (a nose job).

Given that social media are supposed to make life easier, did Lavey feel she was doing something extreme?

"Plastic surgery should be a last-ditch effort," she said. "It should be after you work out, after you diet."

"I am blessed; I can afford it," she said. "I feel really lucky. I have worked my butt off, and I feel like if I can afford it, if it's something I can do to feel good and feel confident, why not? It's 2012."

The surgery Lavey got costs between $12,000 and $15,000, Ellenbogen said. Lavey is a friend, so she got a discount.

Is our eager embrace of social media creating a culture of Internet narcissism? And can't we just move the webcam to improve the angle from which it shoots us?

"It definitely is, and most people should do that," Ellenbogen said, "but there are people who have tried to do that, to make themselves more attractive, and they just need a little bit of a boost."

More than a month after her surgery, Lavey was ready to show her 692 Facebook friends her new face.

She said she felt more confident.

"It extends all the way from Skyping with people [to] having people tag me in a Facebook photo," she said. "If the camera comes out at a party ... I am fine with it. I am excited to see them. Before, I used to want to hold my chin, but now I want to show my face."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hospital to Live Tweet Brain Surgery

Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- In February, surgeons at Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston live tweeted during heart surgery. And Wednesday, the hospital is moving on up — to the brain.

Starting at 8:30 a.m. ET, Dr. Dong Kim, a neurosurgeon at the hospital, will remove a brain tumor from a 21-year-old patient and broadcast it via Twitter and YouTube.

“What I do tomorrow can be seen anywhere. We’re using a lot of technology, but I think the thing that helps with this is that we are using an operating microscope and there’s a natural recording mechanism that can be tweeted,” Dr. Dong Kim told ABC News.

While there will be a lot of medical technology in the operating room, including the video feed from the microscope, Memorial Hermann has also outfitted the OR for instant social media sharing.

A colleague of Kim’s will tweet live from the OR on a laptop, a video camera will capture overview shots of the surgery, and a still photographer will be taking digital photos. All the material, including pictures, video, and text updates will be broadcast to Twitter, YouTube, TwitPic, CoverItLive, and Pinterest.

But the purpose isn’t just to show off what technology can do these days, it’s to teach students and help patients, Dr. Kim said.

“The main reason I wanted to do this was for the educational possibilities. I spend a lot of my time with patients on what to expect and what the steps are,” Kim said. “A lot of anxious patients want to know exactly what happens. With this they will be able to see what happens.”

The patient being operated on Wednesday has a benign avernous angioma tumor on the right side of her brain; Dr. Kim hopes that the removal will prevent seizures.

You can follow @houstonhospital and #mhbrain on Twitter tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Company Approves Drug for Dying Mother

Photodisc/​Thinkstock(TAMPA BAY, Florida) -- Social media proved to be one powerful tool for a mother dying of breast cancer and desperate to get a drug that has yet to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In a self-made video, Darlene Gant lies in her bed, too weak to sit up. She holds up a letter to her son. Beside her are several other letters: one for her son's 12th birthday, two more for his high school and college graduations, another for his wedding day. Gant is writing these letters now, because she doesn't believe she'll be around for the milestones.

Gant, 46. from Tampa Bay, posted the video on YouTube as an attempt to plead with the FDA to allow her to use a trial drug known as pertuzumab under compassionate use. The FDA is expected to approve the drug, developed by Genentech, on June 8. But Gant doesn't expect to live that long.

"In the meantime, no one is eligible for compassionate use, including me, so, although I don't put everything into pertuzumab, it could stabilize me and help save my life and extend my time here on the earth with my 11-year-old son and my family," Gant said in the video.

Gant initially took aim at the FDA for prohibiting the medication, but she soon realized that FDA had given the green light. It was Genentech Inc. that initially refused her the drug.

Gant said she and family members sent in several requests to obtain the drug before the expected approval date, but the company refused. She implored viewers to write to Genentech to request the drug for compassionate use.

Days after posting the YouTube video, South San Francisco-based Genentech agreed to provide the unapproved drug to Darlene for compassionate use. A spokeswoman for the biotechnology corporation said it is now working with Gant's doctors to provide the drug to her.

"Genentech is committed to a fair and impartial evaluation of each request for access to our investigational medicines, and takes these requests very seriously," company spokeswoman Krysta Pellegrino said. "Appropriate decisions regarding potential access to investigational or unapproved medicines can only be made after in-depth discussions between Genentech clinical teams and the person's qualified treating doctor."

While treatments and medications, particularly for compassionate use, are highly individualized and decided on a case-by-case basis, Lisa Gualtieri, assistant professor of online consumer health and social media and health at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, said that social media is becoming a new way to communicate about health and medicine.

"Darlene Gant made a very emotional plea for herself 'and all the other mothers … passing on our final words,'" Gualtieri said. "There may have been other ways she could have gone about her appeal, but it worked. The drug company responded. Drug companies are themselves increasingly using social media, and I hope they use it as a mechanism for more open communication with patients and their families in much the same way many businesses have done: to listen, to respond, and to monitor sentiment."

Dr. Richard Pazdur, director of the FDA's Office of Oncology Drug Products, explained in a blog Friday that the FDA must work directly with the companies and patients' physicians to decide whether a person is an appropriate candidate for a drug under compassionate use. Costs, interference with drug development and company policy tend to be the reasons pharmaceutical companies deny a patient a drug for compassionate use.

"Drug companies ... don't want a death attributed to their new drug," said Art Caplan, professor of ethics at University of Pennsylvania. "They may not have any idea how much drug to use and they often have a very limited supply on hand, which they hope to use in testing the drug not for one person's last desperate gasp at a bit more life."

Patients must have an immediate need and a life-threatening disease or condition to gain access to unapproved trial drugs. If eligible, the manufacturer and the patient's doctor must make special arrangements to get the drug for the patient.

While Gant's way of obtaining the drug was unique, Caplan said it is unlikely that this will set a precedent in getting trial drugs.

"Every case is a huge maelstrom of hope, begging, corporate self-interest, slow bureaucratic due process, media spotlighting and public frustration," Caplan said. "It is simply very hard to solve access issues with a single policy given the many interests besides the patients that are in play in these cases. Each winds up being unique."

Gant said she is "excited" to obtain the drug for compassionate use, which she will begin taking in one to two weeks. But she also feels guilty that so many other women do not have the same opportunity.

"I really hope this opens up a dialogue about compassionate use for people with cancer," Gant said. "I'm not afraid to die, but I couldn't do it without one last fight. I'm a fighter and an advocate."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Can Social Media Get More Pot Users to Admit They’re Lighting Up?

LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images(SAN FRANCSICO) -- The number of young adults who smoke both tobacco and marijuana may actually be higher than some recent surveys have suggested, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco recruited 18- to 25-year olds through advertisements on Facebook, Craigslist and a survey sampling company. They determined how many of them smoked at least one cigarette during the past 30 days.  Approximately 3,500 respondents said they did, and they were surveyed again about their use of both tobacco and marijuana.

More than half of tobacco smokers also admitted to smoking marijuana, a higher percentage than what’s been reported in other national surveys that utilized interviews to gather data.  Those classified as daily smokers were less likely to use marijuana overall, but when they did use it, they used it more often.

In 2009, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 34.6 percent of past-month smokers aged 18 to 25 used marijuana.  The new study found that 53.1 percent of past-month smokers in the same age group acknowledged using marijuana.

“That really suggests that social media is a useful mechanism to find young adult smokers and survey them about co-use of marijuana,” said Danielle Ramo, a study co-author and post-doctoral scholar at the University of California, San Francisco.  “They might be more comfortable reporting their use anonymously online.”

Ramo said researchers were careful to ensure that people did not respond multiple times, but acknowledged that using social media sites like Facebook makes it extremely difficult to get a nationally representative sample of respondents.

“This was not random sampling,” she said.  “These data, even though they showed a large prevalence of use, can’t be directly compared to nationally representative surveys.”

Despite that limitation, Ramo said the study results suggest that efforts to get young adults to stop smoking should target both tobacco and marijuana, since the use of both substances at the same time is common.

The authors added that the popularity of the Internet could make it an effective tool for reaching out to young adults to learn more about their health behaviors and “will likely be instrumental in helping to understand and treat multiple substance use in young adults.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Facebook Taking Proactive Stance Against Suicides

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In the wake of the suicide of a 31-year-old Taiwanese woman who told friends on Facebook she was planning to kill herself, Facebook's managers tell ABC News they have plans to work with other leading websites to provide more robust suicide prevention resources to Web users.

"We're working with other Internet companies at formulating a list of best practices, so that there's an understanding and a consensus, along with experts in the suicide prevention community, for online properties dealing with this issue," Frederic Wolens, a spokesman for Facebook, told ABC News.

Wolens said the suicide of Claire Lin, who killed herself on her 31st birthday on March 18, highlighted a problem that social networks have been trying to grapple with for years: how individuals who are suicidal often let their despair reflect on their social networking profiles, by chatting to friends about it or leaving other signs.

"More and more, as Facebook becomes more widespread and pervasive, it's becoming a better and better mirror for what's going on in the real world," Wolens said. "With suicides going on in the real world, the suicide touches some part of Facebook, whether it's the signs leading up to it, or people who wrote things on their Facebook."

The parents of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers student who killed himself after his roommate allegedly used a webcam to spy on his intimate encounter with another man, are speaking out.

In the case of Lin, the connection to Facebook was particularly gruesome. Lin chatted with nine Facebook friends on the website while she slowly killed herself by asphyxiation, inhaling the fumes from a charcoal barbecue in a closed room and typing messages about her slow death.

The friends begged her to open a window and put the fire out, but did not call police.

In other instances, individuals have written Facebook "status updates" confessing they wanted to kill themselves, or written messages to friends expressing suicidal thoughts. Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi brought widespread media and public attention to the issue after he killed himself in 2010. Moments before, he had posted a Facebook message saying, "Jumping off the george washington bridge. Sorry."

Currently, Facebook offers resources to users in the U.S. who ask for them. If a person planning suicide mentions it on Facebook, and friends report it to administrators, they will send messages to the person and his or her friends, offering help.

A private, one-on-one Facebook chat with a suicide prevention counselor would pop open on the person's Facebook page, offering counseling free of charge. The person would also be offered local resources that could be found offline, Wolens said.

For a user who reports suicidal postings by a friend, Facebook offers resources on how to help a friend through that crisis or whom they could recommend the friend contact for help.

"So in the U.S. specifically, we already have a system where when we receive a report of a user that's in distress, that goes into our safety team, which reviews the report to make sure it's an authentic report, and after we've verified it, we reach out to person who has reported it and the distressed user," Wolens said. Facebook then offers the specific chat and local resources, a model the company plans to duplicate abroad.

Facebook also already houses helpline phone numbers and other resources in its Help Center.

What the company won't do is scan users' online activity for warning signs or mentions of suicidal thoughts, Wolens said. The ability to crunch data from billions of users' messages each day -- coupled with the nuance and context of messages that might contain words like "kill myself" -- would make sorting through the data impractical.

For Facebook and other social websites, including Twitter, the opportunity potentially to help suicidal users is great, while the challenge of implementing a practical system has been enormous, Wolens said.

Wolens declined to name the other companies Facebook is working with on the issue, though he said they are leading Internet and tech companies. The group first met in January 2011 to begin talking about the problem and possible solutions, and met again in January 2012, he said.

The group's goals are to standardize the best ways a website or Internet company can deal with suicidal users, primarily by offering resources and one-on-one help to those who ask for it. They have consulted with suicide prevention specialists and organizations whose members are at greater risk for suicide, such as the LGBT community and veterans, Wolens said.

"Eventually we'll be able to have best practices that we can go out and distribute to other Internet companies and work with the online community on adoption," he said.

While the loose coalition works to formalize its plans, Wolens said Facebook will continue to work with suicide prevention groups to implement resources and raise awareness through its own site.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study Links Narcissism and Facebook Activity

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(MACOMB, Ill.) -- For the average narcissist, Facebook is a tool that may promote anti-social behavior.

Facebook “offers a gateway for hundreds of shallow relationships and emotionally detached communication,” according to study by Western Illinois University professor Christopher Carpenter.

The study was published this month in Personality and Individual Differences, the official journal of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences.

In the study, Carpenter defined narcissism as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration and an exaggerated sense of self-importance,” according to a press release from the university.

Using a Narcissistic Personality Inventory, Carpenter and his students surveyed 292 people -- most of whom were college students -- to measure “self-promoting” Facebook behavior, such as people posting status updates, their photos, updating profile information; as well as “anti-social behaviors,” including seeking social support more than providing it, getting angry when others do not comment on status updates and retaliating against negative comments.

People who score higher on the inventory promoted themselves more on Facebook -- by tagging themselves and updating their newsfeeds more frequently, and by having more friends on Facebook, according to a report in the Guardian newspaper.

The study concluded that grandiose exhibitionism correlated with anti-social behavior on Facebook. Self-esteem was negatively related to self-promotion and anti-social behaviors on the site.

“In general, the ‘dark side’ of Facebook requires more research in order to better understand Facebook’s socially beneficial and harmful aspects in order to enhance the former and curtail the latter,” Carpenter said.

Social media sites, particularly Facebook and Twitter, have long been criticized for being vehicles for meaningless relationships, and have recently been mentioned in connection with making bullying easier and more pervasive.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Facebook Shuts Down ‘Most Beautiful Teen’ Page

Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A Facebook page that solicited sexy pictures from teenagers hoping to be named the “The Most Beautiful Teen in the World” has been taken down after it sparked outrage from concerned parents and security experts.

The page violated Facebook’s statement of rights and responsibilities, Facebook said in a statement Wednesday. “We do not tolerate bullying and take action on content reported to us which we categorize as such,” the statement read.

Teens began uploading pictures on the “Competition for the Most Beautiful Teenager” page as soon as it was created. The often-provocative photos, many showing boys with their shirts off and girls in bikinis, posing in their bedrooms and bathrooms were then judged by other Facebook users in comments for all to see.

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“I would not touch with a ten-foot pole,” one comment read.

“Her nose is too big,” another read.

The harsh language and the concept of such a competition were too much for Marcy Kemp-Rank, whose 15-year-old daughter, Amy, introduced her to the site after submitting her own photos to be judged.

“She read them [the comments] to me, several of them, and I couldn’t handle hearing them because it just made me very upset and angry,” Kemp-Rank told ABC News.  “I think that was a good thing they took it down.  I think it was a way of bullying.”

The “Competition for the Most Beautiful Teenager” page, and the many like it still available to teens on other websites, also raised red flags, security experts say, about online predators.

The page shut down by Facebook was open to anyone, meaning it did not require users to “friend” the publisher, or “like” the page in order to log on and see the thousands of pictures of young boys and girls.

“It is an absolute pool for people that like this sort of thing for the absolute wrong reason,” John Abell, New York bureau chief for, told ABC News.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Facebook Posts Can Signal Risky Behavior, Researchers Say

Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty(MADISON, Wis.) -- Up to 98 percent of U.S. college students use social networks such as Facebook -- a fact some health experts hope to use. "I think Facebook is a new window on an old problem," said Dr. Megan Moreno, a pediatrician at UW Health in Madison, Wis.

Moreno has been studying whether online posts can predict offline problems, from drug and alcohol abuse to depression.

"I don't think we can use Facebook to make a judgment, but we can use it as a trigger to ask more questions face-to-face," he added.

The thought of using Facebook to flag risky, potentially illegal behavior raises ethical and legal questions: What should people do if they suspect a friend is in danger? And if they do nothing or their actions cause more trouble, are they liable?

Moreno said society is "still learning" what to do with the scores of information made public on Facebook. "And yes, we should be thinking about the ethical and legal side of this," she said. "But we can't let that get in the way of us just asking, 'Are you OK?'"

For those with many online “friends,” people might be less likely to speak up because of a phenomenon psychologists call the "bystander effect."

"You can get a situation where 800 friends look around and say, 'I'm sure his three closest friends are looking into this,'" said Moreno. "It actually mirrors what happens in the offline world."

Aida Ingram, a youth counselor in Clayton, N.J., said it's better to speak up than to assume the person is fine.

"It's a shame for a whole community to watch a child spiral out of control, whether on Facebook or in the real world," said Ingram, whose daughter will soon head to college. "The last thing you want is to go to someone's funeral knowing you saw a worrying Facebook post and did nothing. I'd rather embarrass myself."

Facebook, too, is figuring out its role in keeping users out of harm's way. In December, the site launched a program that allows users to instantly connect with a crisis counselor through the "chat" messaging system. And on Feb. 2, two Colorado teens were credited with saving a suicidal teen's life through Facebook.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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