Social Life

Screenshot of Facebook Timeline Intro page.

How can Facebook get any more personal? Facebook already utilizes targeted advertising, so the site seems to know everything about you. It suggests Pages you might “like,” and surprisingly, most of the time, yes, those pages are indeed the brands I like. It even tags your photos automatically and accurately when you upload a new album.

If you thought Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg couldn’t revamp this social networking site any more, you were wrong. Last week the new Facebook Timeline went live worldwide.

Instead of your current profile “wall,” the timeline acts as a virtual scrapbook. Your photos, status updates, and even wall posts from friends come up in chronological order. You can then click on a certain year or a month, for example November 2006, and revisit the time when you first created your Facebook.

Timeline also pinpoints milestones in your life. Graduation, birthday, anniversary… You can add items to your past. No, you cannot fix your past. You can, however, add photos of your child’s first birthday or your 12th birthday. So you can remember better.

At least within my circle of Facebook friends, many people have embraced this change happily. In the past, every time Zuckerberg tried something different, people cried, threw a tantrum, and resisted. Some vowed to never use Facebook again, but two hours later, they came back.

This time, everyone seems to like the change, which begs a question: what’s so special about the Timeline?

One of my favorite features of the Timeline thus far is what we see at the top, the cover photo. Similar to an album cover but different from your profile picture, the spot — I believe — serves as an overall first impression.

Of course, for now, my indecisive mind hasn’t settled on one cover photo, yet. If you look at the profiles of your friends or public figures, you’ll discover, rather than using pictures of themselves, they’ve placed photos that represent their personality and interests.

Earlier this week, Mashable wrote about a study that found that most people pay more attention to your profile picture than anything else, but I assume this study will soon change. By the way, the profile picture still exists, just a little smaller next to the cover photo.

The downside in my opinion is how easily anyone can access all of your contents. Obviously we all knew whatever ends up on the web lives there forever. Timeline organizes status updates, photos and comments in one place, so people can find them incredibly easily.

This means, beware: hide any embarrassing status updates from when you were a teen. Hide embarrassing photos. Do you really want your co-workers to discover your partying-until-5 am photos?

Luckily, Zuckerberg thoughtfully gave us a 7-day grace period. If you activate the Timeline now, you get a week to review everything on your profile and hide or add anything before the profile goes public.

On the flip side, here’s a friendly warning: this also may be a tear-jerker since you’ll discover old pictures that will bring back some fond memories.

All in all, I like my Timeline so far. I did review absolutely everything on there, and it truly is a unique way to illustrate your life.

You can visit the introduction page and activate the Timeline now, or you could wait until Zuckerberg forces it in your face.

But not all positives

In the midst of these updates, recently I also heard something shocking — at least for me — about Facebook.

During a conversation with a friend, the topic of Facebook came up. She told me that some of her friends don’t let their significant others get Facebook accounts because they are afraid the significant others would reconnect with crushes and ex-girlfriends or ex-boyfriends.

My reaction? First, the significant others simply obey that ultimatum? No ifs and buts? Second, seriously? People actually worry about that?

When I got home later that evening, I Google searched, “Facebook divorce,” and there they were, articles about how one in five divorces in the United States results because of Facebook.

In one Guardian article, Dr. Steven Kimmons, a clinical psychologist and marriage counselor Loyola University Medical Center, said, “We’re coming across it more and more. One spouse connects online with someone they knew from school. The person is emotionally available and they start communicating through Facebook.”

The Bay Area NBC also offers similar statistics. Twenty percent of all marriage disputes occur because of Facebook, and about 80 percent of those in the process of divorce use Facebook to communicate with their lovers.

“There are times when my paralegal and I sit in this office and laugh because people are stupid,” attorney Carin Constantine said in the NBC story. “They put things out there on the Internet that can last forever.”

Social media played a crucial role in taking down notorious dictators, but could it possibly be destroying personal relationships as well?

Apparently this phenomenon doesn’t stop in the U.S. The Telegraph in the United Kingdom has a similar article on Facebook and divorces, citing various lawyers who say their clients want separation because they claim their significant others engaged in inappropriate sexual chats with others on Facebook.

This is the first time I’ve heard how big of a role Facebook plays in divorces, and I’m not sure exactly what to think of it.

Of course I’d be horrified if I found my boyfriend writing love notes to a random chick on Facebook. But do people really think they can get away with cyber affairs?

The Internet saves everything. Google uncovers everything.

Some people think couples should share Facebook passwords, with which I strongly disagree. After all, couples don’t share cell phones or iPods.

In fact, I don’t know if there’s any other good solution to this problem besides being able to completely trust each other. What do you think? How do you use Facebook? Do you trust others with their usage of social media?

Yoojin Cho is web coordinator at The Martha’s Vineyard Times. Follow her and The Times on Twitter, @theMVTimes and @Yooj812, and “Like” us on Facebook.

— Photo courtesy of CNN Money

If you follow me on Twitter (@yooj812), you may remember all my complaints back in October about my phone. Instead of taking you on that painful journey again, here’s the short version:

My Blackberry Curve 8530 had suffered from short battery life since last year, and by short, I mean extremely short, three-hour short. Beginning in October, my Curve began shutting off even at full battery, and it wouldn’t turn back on because “battery has been drained.”

Eventually, it reached a point where I would unplug my phone from the charger, and it would die immediately, thus making my mobile phone immobile.

Verizon told me the phone itself had issues, so I had my family ship me one of the old Blackberries, and that Blackberry chose Halloween weekend — when I needed a communication device the most — to die as well. To be more precise, during my drive up to Boston, while I was waiting for my friend to let me know when and where to meet her for dinner, the phone took its last breath. (Dramatic, I know.)

For those wondering why I didn’t file an insurance claim, I would have been out $100 had I chosen to replace the phone, and the “new” phone would have been yet another Blackberry with same issues surfacing sooner or later.

Needless to say, I am done with Blackberries as soon as my contract expires. For me, I think Apple iPhone will do the trick as my next smartphone, but regardless, I did some research on other options out there.

I found a nice chart by PC World with the numbers and the tech-speak information, so if you’re interested in that type of data, refer to the attached picture. Here, however, I’ll break down each phone in non-tech people terms.

So, out of all those fancy phones, which phone is right for you?

Apple iPhone

Since Apple released the new iPhone 4S, the company has sold more than four million of them. Despite its price tag ($199 with a 2-year contract for most carriers), people love the new iPhone, and for good reason.

First, the camera quality. For many, 8 megapixels and 1080p high-definition may not mean anything. From a simpler perspective, the camera I use to produce video stories for the Times website captures the exact same quality footage, except my device doesn’t let me text, tweet, or schedule meetings.

Then there is the app store. Instagram is a free, popular photo-sharing app available only for iPhones. Combine the highly praised iPhone camera with this easy-to-use app that lets you edit and crop with one finger swipes, and anyone can boast an terrific collection of memorable photographs.

As far as Siri — the voice-controlled personal assistant — is concerned, controlling your phone by talking to it isn’t a new concept. You can download a similar app to Droids too, so why is Siri so special?

Apple has created Siri so you can talk to her as if she’s a real person. For example, as most of us probably saw on television commercials, if you say “Will I need my rainboots in London this weekend?” Siri will respond, “No, you won’t. Looks like a sunny weekend.” And, she will bring up the weather app, supporting what she just said.

Siri apparently also provides quite a bit of entertainment. Simply visit the blog S**t That Siri Says to see what I mean.

Android

Last Spring, before the release of the “most amazing iPhone yet,” according to a Nielson study, Android phones sales grew the fastest. Nielson found 29 percent of all smartphone sales went to Android devices, with iPhone and Blackberry closely following with 27 percent each and Windows phones claiming only 10 percent of the market.

Though it seems like the entire world has converted to iPhone, many people still buy Android phones. Mashable reports at least 30 percent of new smartphone buyers choose Droids.

Jolie O’Dell, the author of the article, said, “Android-powered hardware is as diverse as it is impressive. Android phones range from affordable models suitable for families with kids (Motorola’s Charm) to high-powered 4-inch, 8-megapixel superphones fit to satiate the geekiest of gadget friends (Droid X or Galaxy S).”

When I talked to a Verizon customer service agent, he told me that while iPhone is easier to use, Apple doesn’t let you customize it to cater to your needs. With Droids, you can change the home screen and bring out the features you use frequently and hide other items you don’t want.

Although you may need more time to learn how to use the phone, in the end Droid might cater to your needs better.

And, Verizon captures phone geeks’ attention by offering a 4G “lightning speed” connection with certain Droids. Basically, you can download movies, music and photos faster and load web pages faster.

Even my brother, who always wants the newest and the coolest, has stuck with HTC Thunderbolt for quite some time now. The ad campaign, “Amazing is already here,” I guess might be true?

Windows Phone

Microsoft, in its latest attempt to squeeze into the Droid/Apple-dominant market, offers multiple Windows 7 phones. Similar to Android, these phones have big screens and real keyboards.

They can do everything other smartphones do, like GPS maps, front-facing camera and Internet browsing, and the price is generally friendlier to your wallets. One downside, however, is its small presence in the mobile scene, since Windows 7 doesn’t have as many apps or the multitasking capability that Apple and Android do.

Blackberry

Although my Blackberry saga ended with me downgrading to a very old Blackberry, on the upside, I have a working phone. Despite the battery problem that many people face, Blackberry can have redeeming qualities.

Blackberry Messenger (BBM) allows you to chat with your friends without relying on 3G phone reception. As long as you can connect to wifi, BBM acts as a computer messaging program, and as a cherry on top, BBM offers a fun collection of smiley faces.

Many businessmen and women use Blackberries for a reason not too clear to me. However, the keyboard, the size and the easy navigation could be good enough reasons for busy professionals to rely on Blackberries.

What do you use? What will be your next phone? Let us know on our Facebook page and our website.

Screenshot of Firefox home page. Many websites like Firefox and Tumblr blocked out contents with black strike-out squares to protest SOPA.

I love trying new restaurants. Sure, sometimes I may be a creature of habit and go to the same diner and get the same sandwich every time, but sometimes I’m more adventurous. Plus, I love food, so what’s not to like about trying something new?

Yelp, a user-driven website, plays a huge role when I want to look for a new place to try or if I’m traveling and want to know what locals favor.

During my last visit to Portland, Maine, I found Fishermen’s Grill by simply entering “best seafood” into the search box, and there it was, on the top with five star rating.

Some reviews I read said:

“Don’t judge a book by its cover. We drove past this divey looking place and when we found it, we debated whether to go in for Friday night dinner — THANK goodness we did!!! We all loved it and Tom (the owner) made it even more fabulous. We read the Yelp comments and they are all true.”

“Thanks yelpers for helping me find my first delicious lobster roll! Driving here like many, I drove right by it because it truly is a hole in the wall. However when we got here this place didn’t disappoint.”

After devouring my giant basket of fried haddock and shrimp, now I feel a little bit obligated to jump on the bandwagon and write a glorious review since all these people found the restaurant the same way I did, by reading what others wrote.

Under the motto “Real people, Real reviews,” Yelp invites people to comment and share their opinions, and this seems to help small businesses thrive.

In fact, when I talked to Tom, the owner, the cook, and the cashier of Fishermen’s Grill, he said when he first took over about a year ago, the place didn’t attract that many people. He lost thousands of dollars in a month. Then something changed.

Through word of mouth and discussions on restaurant review sites — not only Yelp, but also Urbanspoon, Food Network, Travel channel, etc., people slowly started flowing in. Now, he works a 12-hour day every day, but hey, he has a solid group of fans who go out of their way to eat at his tiny restaurant.

As simple as that, small businesses rely on user-generated contents to develop a fan base and attract new visitors.

In fact, I know many Vineyard restaurants utilize Twitter and Facebook as well. To mention a few, I follow @BakehouseMV, @KatamaGeneral, @Beetlebung, @Tisberry and @50slice and often see them tweeting about specials and discounts.

Since Martha’s Vineyard boasts local businesses that focus on local ingredients and local people, unlike big chains like Dunkin’ Donuts or Subway, they need those unique PR approaches to increase the revenue.

Now, government wants to put a stop to all this. No matter how much effort we put in through “Small Business Saturday” or commitments to buy local, the new bill the Congress is debating right now, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) may ultimately kill small businesses, and I don’t understand why some Congressmen don’t see the devastating implication of the bill.

I personally am still trying to understand this bill fully, but thus far what I got out of reading about it is if anyone suspects anyone of copying someone else’s content, the government has the right to shut down that whole website until that one particular accusation is cleared.

For example, last week I asked our readers on the Times Facebook page, what’s your turkey recipe? A couple people responded, and shared with us simple, easy ways to prepare a turkey.

One comment said, “I like to brine my turkey… There are many brine recipes, but basically water, maple syrup, salt, and various spices.” Another reader said, “I use the simple method: salt, pepper, rosemary baste with a mixture of white wine and chicken broth, stuffed with onions and garlic for extra flavor…”

Hypothetically, if someone accuses these contributors of plagiarism or posting infringing links, under SOPA, the government can tell us to shut down our page until the comments are removed.

According to anarticle in Mashable, the list of sites that could suffer the most from SOPA includes WordPress and Tumblr. And what do we do on those sites? We blog. We post user-generated content. We talk. So taking this concept to what I was talking about earlier, how small businesses need user-generated content to survive, follow my thought process here:

Many people like to blog and often they like to talk about restaurants they’ve tried. So if one person posts on his or her Tumblr blog how much they loved the soup from Restaurant X because of its usage of paprika and a secret ingredient, a random reader could respond that this same post had been circulated somewhere else. Then the government can shut down the blog host — in this case, Tumblr — under SOPA, subsequently preventing everyone else from talking about Restaurant X.

As a result, Restaurant X loses an opportunity to stand out, and in the end its chance for connecting with fans disappears.

Even Small Business Saturday relies on using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to spread the word and offers an app that allows you to see what others are saying about your business. This only proves how valuable user voices are, but the new bill, if passed, weakens these fan-based websites by making them more vulnerable to scrutiny and unfair punishment.

The Mashable infographics said that even LinkedIn and Facebook might see the negative impacts as well. Because of an extremely tiny number of people who don’t respect the Internet law, must we all suffer?

Yoojin Cho is web coordinator at The Martha’s Vineyard Times. Follow her and The Times on Twitter, @theMVTimes and @Yooj812, and “Like” us on Facebook.

Screenshot of Facebook page created by the Tallahassee Democrat during their investigation of the Rachel Hoffman case. — Photo courtesy of Nieman Reports

The people won, thanks to the power of social media.

On November 1, Bank of America tweeted, “In response to customer feedback, we will no longer implement a debit usage fee,” and provided a link to the official statement, which more or less said something like, “Fine, we lose; you win.”

Of course, I was one of many unhappy B of A customers who were outraged at the idea of paying monthly fees to use my debit card. After all, the bank pushed people to rely on their plastic only a few years ago, and the convenience of carrying one card, as opposed to singles and fives, quickly grew on many people.

While my Twitter timeline burst with complaints, I didn’t think whatever people said on social media would actually make a difference. But here we are, laughing at B of A for even trying to impose such a ridiculous fee.

So what does this say about social media?

If millions of people use Twitter and Facebook to vent, then even giant corporations will have to reconsider and reevaluate their decisions.

No one can plausibly say we can ignore what people are saying on the web. People care, and people love to voice their opinions. Especially when they can hide behind anonymity, true feelings surface very quickly.

Just to give an example, I am honestly surprised at how many people referred to and even attempted to skew the results of the Roundabout straw poll posted on The Times website last week.

As soon as the poll went live and the links were sent out via Facebook and Twitter, the Facebook post attracted more than 10 comments within minutes, and at the beginning, people cast their votes according to how they felt about the issue. Then some passionate minds discovered ways to vote multiple times and affected the results quite drastically.

Interactions like this illustrate how many people spend time on social media and care about important issues, and for journalists, who value man-on-street reactions, social media serves as a helpful tool.

So, as social media becomes more powerful each day, the role it plays in the world of journalism also transforms over time.

Nieman Reports of Harvard University wrote about a Tallahassee newspaper that relied on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to get an extra push for its investigative reporting.

When a recent college graduate — who agreed to aid a police investigation by going undercover — died in a drug deal gone bad, the Tallahassee police didn’t disclose all parts of the investigation.

Subsequently, the newspaper turned to popular social networking sites to get details on the victim’s whereabouts the night before the drug deal blew up and to learn something about her personality and character. This attracted quite a bit of attention on the web.

So, social networking sites certainly help to get the word out. They also help reporters gather information. After all, whatever users post on Facebook and Twitter belongs in the public domain. Anyone can see it, and anyone can use the content.

Browsing the social networking sites can help reporters get a good feel of where the majority views lie and what opposition factions believe.

Amy Gahran of Knight Digital Media Center discussed this relationship between social media and journalism in “Social media is not an enemy of journalism, Pew report indicates.”

The Pew report she refers to found that nearly 80 percent of American adults use the Internet, and 60 percent of those users use at least one social networking service, including Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace.

“The average age of adult social networking users is 38,” the study reported. “So clearly, social media is now a mainstream communication and media channel for a substantial part of the core audience for most U.S. news organizations.”

But, the difficulty arises when journalists must weed out embellishments, exaggerations, and flat-out false statements.

Reuters Social Media Editor Anthony De Rosa does just that every day. He follows popular topics on TweetDeck, to pinpoint a story angle, to verify information, and to find sources.

His position didn’t exist a couple years ago. Titles like “social media editor” came along only when tweets and Facebook updates began to matter.

On the one hand, thanks to social networking sites, information gathering became much easier. On the other, mistakes can quickly disseminate, too.

When Arizona Sen. Gabby Giffords was shot, NPR accidentally killed her off via Twitter, and subsequent re-tweets spread the wrong information — that she had died on the scene — to users worldwide.

But in the end, I have to side with those who say social media has helped journalism and made reporters’ lives easier. It’s easier to find interesting local stories and events. It even reminds me to look at certain story ideas that I may have forgotten about.

A bit more on e-readers

Here’s a quick addition to last week’s column on e-readers. Amazon has announced that Disney and ABC will now allow Kindle downloads of their shows to the brand-new Kindle Fire, a touchscreen all-color e-reader.

The arrival of television shows on mobile devices gives us something to do on airplanes or buses, and most importantly, freedom from our cable boxes. Thus, the expansion of TV content on e-readers could mean the end of rushing home to catch primetime TV or relying on your TiVo to catch your favorite shows.

Yoojin Cho is web coordinator at The Martha’s Vineyard Times. Follow her and The Times on Twitter, @theMVTimes and @Yooj812, and “Like” us on Facebook.

This YouTube video attracted almost three million hits and shows a one-year-old girl trying to play with a magazine like it's an iPad. Find a link to the video with Social Life at mvtimes.com. — Photo courtesy of UserExperiencesWorks

Social media may be a mystery to you, but it’s a mystery that fascinates and engages millions. And, it’s not so mysterious. It’s really just what we share with friends over a cup of coffee, but relocated to the World Wide Web. Social Life is a bi-monthly column about Martha’s Vineyard’s virtual social life and other digital topics.

When a YouTube video goes viral, it really goes viral. It starts popping up on Twitter feed over and over again, and it even becomes a conversation starter, “Hey, did you see that cute video of this baby animal sleeping?”

Last week, one video caught my attention, “A magazine is an iPad that does not work.”

Just as the title suggests, a magazine is an iPad that doesn’t quite work. Who knew?

The video shows a confused little girl who navigates the iPad screen flawlessly, but when she sits down in front of a magazine, she doesn’t understand why her finger swipe won’t make the perfume in the ad move.

I thought, “Is this what we are up against now?”

First, newspapers faced the threat. Now magazines and books, and next up most likely movies and television shows.

E-readers have attracted a large following since handheld reading devices debuted. From iPads to Kindles, both authors and readers seem to gravitate toward downloadable books that can be stored in (on?) iCloud.

I’m a huge fan of my Kindle. I bought mine in college. I decided to make the big purchase because I didn’t want to spend more than $300 on textbooks.

I always conducted a thorough research before ordering textbooks. My international relations classes always required expensive fiction and nonfiction, and as a poor college student, every penny mattered.

When I saw that one book I needed, “All the Shah’s Men” by Stephen Kinzer, went for $9.99 for the Kindle edition and $11.99 + shipping for the print edition, the decision was made for me.

Since, I’ve fallen in love. No more carrying 20 heavy books to the library. No more realizing I’ve forgotten a book when I got to class. No more hardcovers weighing down my purse.

Still, I have memories of thumbing through old encyclopedia for my research papers. I still have a large collection of my favorite books, in paper, neatly on my bookshelf. Heck, I still own a library card. Is that still a “thing” these days?

But what will happen five, 10, 15 years from now?

The baby in that video had no clue why she couldn’t drag the graphic from the top of the page to the bottom. She may have figured out that turning the page brings her new content, but she’s still unhappy about the static photo.

I asked on the MV Times’ Facebook page, what readers think about this. Do they give their kids reading apps? Or do they stick with traditional paperbacks?

One reader said, “We have iPhones, computers and an iPad, but our two-year old has very limited use of any of them. He enjoys them a little too much and gets very upset when they are taken away, so we find it best to avoid altogether. Besides, he is crazy about books, and that is a much more interactive activity.”

While I am happy to hear this child is crazy about books, I have to ask, how many kids out there truly appreciate traditional books?

Boston Globe reported in an article, “Trying to Gauge the Impact of Growing Digital,” according to a 2010 survey from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sasame Workshop, at least two-thirds of 4- to 7-year-olds have used an iPhone or iPod.

Smartphones and reading devices do offer educational apps, and I am hoping these are what the kids do when they hold their parents’ iPhones, not playing Angry Birds or downloading pop music.

The American Museum of Natural History takes you on a virtual tour of the galaxy. Google Earth pinpoints the location, the history and the photographs of the Seven Wonders of the World. WorldCat tells you how to find the book you need in a nearby library.

Sound like pretty helpful and fun learning experiences to me. How about the idea of “interactivity” then?

Reading books with mom or dad lets the child interact with his or her parents. They can read out loud. They can follow along with their index finger. They can ask questions.

On the other hand, when the screen zooms into a star and gives you a 360˚ view of the moon, that’s interactivity as well. Perhaps a cooler, more fun interaction.

Clearly both paper and cloth books and e-books have positives. Then what’s the negative?

According to Research Unit Media Convergence of Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, nothing.

Mashable recently wrote an article, “E-books or Printed Books: Which are Better For You?

The answer, neither. Both let you take in the same amount of information, and there is “no reading culture clash.”

It depends on your preference, because you still retain the same amount of information, and your brain reacts the same way.

When it simply comes down to individual, I must say, kids will choose e-books. Colorful photos, animations, video clips – what’s not to like?

Especially for five-year-olds. Between a static page with one photo and a paragraph and a screen that they can control with finger swipes, kids will go for the latter.

This is a scary change for education. Libraries now lend Kindles. Classroom materials come on iPads. What’s next?

Will books retire and will every single child in a classroom sit with an iPad and videochat with their peers and teachers?

It might be an inevitable transformation. We might have to just accept it. I don’t know how you can fight this when research tells you how much you learn remains the same, while e-books offer the convenience of carrying one device capable of storing thousands of books.

At least all the classics are preserved in the e-book format, and they will undoubtedly stay on those dreaded mandatory summer reading lists.

Yoojin Cho is web coordinator at The Martha’s Vineyard Times. Follow her and The Times on Twitter, @theMVTimes and @Yooj812, and “Like” us on Facebook. Social Life began on October 12. Find its first appearance here.

Social media may be a mystery to you, but it’s a mystery that fascinates and engages millions. And, it’s not so mysterious. It’s really just what we share with friends over a cup of coffee, but relocated to the World Wide Web. Social Life is a bi-monthly column about Martha’s Vineyard’s virtual social life and other digital topics.

First, Terry Francona and now Theo Epstein. As if Red Sox fans didn’t have enough to worry about, Wednesday afternoon, ESPN reported that Theo, the Sox general manager, has agreed to a five-year deal with the Cubs.

This news follows the transformation only a couple of weeks ago of Terry Francona, for eight years and two championships the Sox skipper, to substitute color man.

While many Red Sox fans continued to recover from – or at least tried to – September catastrophy and the wild card race loss, Francona met with the team management on Friday, September 30, and that evening, it became clear Francona wouldn’t return next season.

Even as a die-hard Rangers fan – yes, I rooted for Texas even before they won the ALCS title last year, even before Alex Rodriguez and Chan Ho Park took their turns in Arlington – I could feel the pain of Fenway Faithful around me and knew this would inevitably cause some stir. After all, four years in Boston, where I went to college, can quickly make you pay attention to and adore Boston teams.

So, that Friday, beginning around 7 pm, Twitter feeds and Facebook updates inevitably bloomed with #TerryFrancona #RedSox buzz. So, at 8:18, I posted on Facebook, “Terry Francona’s done as Red Sox manager… What are your thoughts? Good move? Bad move?”

Within minutes – no seconds – responses came flooding in.

8:19 pm “He should have gotten one more year.”

8:20 pm “Thoroughly disappointed.”

8:21 pm “It is time for new faces and new management.”

8:22 pm “Great manager, great guy, but he lost the team.”

8:27 pm “Time for a change.”

You get the idea. More than a dozen comments and “likes” registered for the next few hours.

Millions do it. Millions sit in front of computer screens with an iPhone, a Blackberry or a Droid in hand and closely follow sports, gossip, celebrity scandals and whatever else interests us.

But – leaving aside for the moment the trauma understandably experienced by Red Sox Nation, the question is why?

On one hand, it’s extremely easy. With many different kinds of apps and platforms, accessing social media is something you can do with your eyes closed. (Speaking virtually, of course.)

On the other hand, it’s become a habit. Be honest. How many of us check our e-mails, text messages, tweets and Facebook notifications within the first hour of each day? I’d say 90 percent.

How many check every hour? Sometimes every 30 minutes? Once again, I’m thinking 90 percent. I am guilty of leaving my Tweetdeck running nonstop and checking into places at least twice a day on Foursquare.

Various studies of the social media usage patterns from Mashable and AdAge make clear that while we don’t necessarily update our statuses or post pictures every time we log on, we don’t fail to find new content posted by others. And because of the sheer number of people on Facebook and Twitter, fresh entertainment and information are constant.

In the last six months or so, I found everything I need to know about local, national and global news on social media.

I found out about the death of Osama Bin Laden via Twitter (just like many Americans did that night around midnight). I followed the Arab Spring via Twitter, Flickr and Facebook. And I found out about many Island restaurants to try via Twitter and Foursquare, when I first moved here.

Social media isn’t to be ignored, not now, certainly not forever, especially for the media and local businesses.

For The Times, Facebook and Twitter are ways for us to communicate with readers, to draw attention to important stories and to let the community know what’s happening on the Island.

Of course, there are questions. “How many posts are enough posts per day?” “What kind of stories do we post?” “How do we engage without being annoying?” Answers to these questions and others are elusive.

But for sure, social media is a well traveled two-way street. We express our opinions. We show off our pets. We share innovative recipes. We learn “Do-It-Yourself” decorating tips. We even reconnect with old friends. We all do all that and more.

Follow @theMVTimes and @Yooj812 and “Like” us on Facebook.

Yoojin Cho is web coordinator at The Martha’s Vineyard Times.