Monday, May 25, 2015

We are not Instagram

Here's a funny story (although the more it happens, the less funny it gets). For the last few weeks I've been getting phone calls from people complaining about their Instagram accounts. Somebody tagged them in a picture they didn't like, they couldn't remember their password, they wanted to report some form of abuse and they were very surprised to hear that the person on the other end was in no way affiliated with the service. Who is this?- I would hear instead of "hello", and rather than state their business they'd go claiming that they found my number on the "Internet" and go on trying to convince me that I must be the one who's mistaken. I've been getting these calls at least once a day now, so with the numbers I don't know I'm just letting my voicemail get it. Now what's really interesting is how these people hearing the recorded greeting of an attorney admitted to practice in two jurisdictions still think they got the right number and leave a message about their Instagram related problem. No alarm goes off that it might not even be an institution, but someone's cell phone. "Instagram"- centric messages started to come through my foundation's contact form as well. That's the part I understand even less. You see the FDAAF logo on the top and the word "disability" and yet you assume you're in the right place. Obviously you don't even care to check what you click on. Not to mention that with some of those stories - I don't know if Instagram itself could and would help them. "I don't remember my login or password or account name but someone stole it, please help' followed by long accounts of what a cousin, a boyfriend or his dog dig. And I don't think Instagram has a phone number- if they did they would never see the end of it. I know for sure that I don't have Instagram, and neither for the time being has my nonprofit, Florida Disability Access and Awareness Foundation. Yesterday I got a voicemail from a girl who wanted to buy ten million followers. And she spells the screen name... x o xo dot. She  calls back in a minute because she got some of the x's and dots wrong. Here's what I think happens. Our nonprofit is developing a social media photo app that is intended to get the general public educated and involved if not excited about disability issues. You take and upload a picture, of places that are not wheelchair friendly. You help the disability community, but more importantly you start paying attention. It becomes our common interest, the fight that we take on together. And maybe next time you see a place that has stairs and narrow doors or bathrooms hard to get into by someone with mobility issues- it will trigger something in you. We call it "AccessApp". We wanted to develop something intuitive, that would be easy to use and riding out the social media crave wave. At the same time we wanted it to be aimed not at people with disabilities directly, but the community around them. They benefit in the end of course, by living in the environment that is hopefully a bit more transformed and responsive to their needs. Our goal was to try something different than wheelchair accessibility mapping services that often suffer from the lack  of support and interest and sink into oblivion. We have conversely described it as  an app like Instagram for the disability community within our team. It is a photo social media phone application and it that sense it's a point of reference. We are currently at the fundraising stages for it- and we're about two weeks away from going public with it to the media. We like the idea  of our first project being software- as that sets the tone for our 501(c)(3) charity mission. While the media buzz has yet to happen you can read about it here  We hope to see you there. Our explanation? Our Google Adwords campaign sees disproportionate volume of traffic from the Instagram related keywords. People click on the first thing they see. Mystery solved.

But here's what really worries me: Over the last few weeks I've discovered time and time again that people don't read what you send them. As we work on a number of projects and events simultaneously, we send out a good volume of material - invitations, proposals and summaries. I'm a big fan of plain English, and hate legalese-  as that's the way I was taught. Still- written materials need to have a certain structure and content otherwise you don't communicate effectively. Yet- we had to comprise and  ended up having to edit and simplify our copy - often replacing text with bullet points and redundant explanation. I think this is what the internet age turned us into. People don't have the patience and focus to read anymore. If it's not described in four lines your point will be lost. The urge of getting to the point right away comes at the price of course. And looking for things on the internet works in a similar way. Some of us Google something and click on the first thing they see, wanted  to get there right away, without question. Getting Instagram related questions was funny for a week or two, but I can't be the only one who thinks how dangerous this could be.

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