Don’t be annoying – 15 things that I wish people would stop doing on social media

Some of these things are just annoying. Some are more to do with accessibility. But I thought I’d share this list here, partly to have a little rant about the state of the internet, but partly to point out why some of these things don’t work, or how they make life harder for anyone with a visual impairment.

I also asked in my Facebook group for English learners what things people there wished people would stop doing on social media, and I’ll share those answers too.

If you’ve got anything to add to the list – anything people do on any social media platform that really winds you up or that you think is completely pointless or unhelpful, please add it in the comments!

1. #Every #single #word #is #a #hashtag

#This #is #ineffective! When was the last time you did a search on the word “is”? I get the idea of adding some relevant hashtags to the end of a post on sites where hashtags are used, but you can have too much of a good thing and it definitely shouldn’t be every word in a sentence because it really doesn’t add value.

2. Statuses that don’t tell you anything, but are clearly looking for attention

Like the Facebook equivalent of clickbait. “Now I know who my real friends are”, or “Some people do my head in” or “all men are the same” (I want to be gender neutral, but on the whole I haven’t seen this kind of stuff posted about women!)

things that make people ask what’s wrong, either because they genuinely care, or for fear of not knowing the latest Facebook gossip. I do have a heart. I can understand if people really need help with something that’s a big deal to them, or a shoulder to cry on at a difficult time, but if you leave it a few minutes until someone’s curiosity gets the better of them, (“you ok hun?” or “oh no we still love you, what’s wrong?”), you find out that it was really just another first world problem, Or the latest friendship drama that most people don’t care about. It gets old when the same people do it all the time. Scroll on by!

3. Answering with pictures

This isn’t bad practice as such, but it’s a pain when you’re blind and can’t see what the pictures are. It seems to be more of a thing on Twitter, but I see it coming into Facebook groups too. I’m not asking the world to stop doing it, but please don’t do it if you’re answering me! You’re replying in a language that I don’t speak. My software can interpret emojis, but not pictures.

4. Retweeting about 20 tweets from another account

We get the idea after the first couple. If we really care, we can follow that other account. We don’t need you to retweet its entire feed!

5. Aggressively scheduled tweets

Like your latest blog post … every single hour. I for one am glad that Twitter is clamping down on this. I know some people have been affected who weren’t abusing it, but seriously the same old stuff being automated and churned out repetitively is too much. If your last 10 tweets are exactly the same, I’m probably talking to you!

6. People thinking all Facebook group admins are their new best friend, or girlfriend material

It doesn’t happen much now, but in another group that I co-moderated, I’d barely approved a request to join when the friend request appeared and someone started trying to chat me up. Really not cool. In fact randomly hitting on people using social media is generally not cool! Ever!

7. People tagging everyone they know so that more people will see the post

I’m not talking about my real friends tagging me, either in posts or when they see something I might like. This makes me happy, because it showed that that person was thinking of me.

I’m talking about the people who tag 50 of their contacts, just so more people see their newest blog post, event, or what they did today. I don’t need that on my feed and it feels like you’re using me so that you can benefit from my network.

8. Hijacking of hashtags just because they’re trending

I think the worst example of this that I saw was a Turkish hashtag about some people who had died, and some insensitive person decided it would be a good idea to use it in their post selling some random thing. If you don’t know what a hashtag means, just don’t use it.

Then there are the more intentional misuses of hashtags, such as people using the #bloggerswanted hashtags to promote their latest post. These tags were set up for brands or journalists to post requests to speak to bloggers, not to be hijacked by bloggers who can’t be bothered to publicise their posts more creatively.

9. Automatic direct messages on Twitter

Do you know anyone who actually likes receiving them? Especially when they follow the format of “thanks for following me. Now please buy my book, like my Instagram, follow me on Twitter, sign up to my newsletter, and send me chocolate!” Ok nobody has ever asked me to send them chocolate, but getting an automatic list of demands just because I followed someone doesn’t make me want to interact with them!

10. Follow for follow

The message still hasn’t got through that it’s a bad idea. If I get 1000 new followers to my Facebook page through this practice, and they never interact with my page, my engagement rate actually goes down, because a lower percentage of my followers cares what I’m posting. Facebook sees this as my content becoming less relevant, so it will be shown to less people. Follow for follow is bad news!

11. People sharing before they check the facts

Often this is done with the best intentions, but people sharing warnings that are at best hoaxes, and at worst helping out the criminals by redirecting people to malicious sites. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. If you see a terrible story that isn’t being reported on any credible sites, it’s probably just a terrible story. There are whole sites dedicated to debunking myths and hoaxes, so take the time to google before whipping up your friends into a Facebook frenzy!

12. Pictures of text inviting interaction in groups

Again this is a problem for me as a visually impaired person. If people want to post memes or other pictures of text on their own wall, it’s their choice. I’ll scroll past because I have no idea what it says, but I don’t expect people’s private walls to be made accessible on my account. Having said that, I am always happy when people do take the time to comment on their images, because then I know what they are sharing. The Facebook AI is getting better at identifying dogs, cats, people and food, but there’s still some way to go. It thought our skip of building waste was food.

But the problem I have is in public groups, where people post a picture of text on a thread that is inviting people to post something. I can maybe work out the rules from the other responses, but this takes time – time that other members of the group don’t need to invest. Groups for bloggers and small business owners tend to be the worst offenders.

13. People not listening

People will have different opinions. That’s life. But if you’re going to get into a discussion, at least have the courtesy to listen to the other person as well as expecting them to listen to you. I went into this in more depth in my 20 things that you shouldn’t do to win an argument post.

14. Blog giveaways with conditions on other platforms

All people can’t be on all platforms. Some people don’t want to be on some platforms. If you’re doing a blog giveaway, can you not at least make the main entry something to do with your actual blog? Hard as it is to believe, there are some people who don’t like Instagram, but they might still be loyal readers of your blog or followers of your YouTube channel!

15. People from groups trying to sell stuff via private messages

I run my own business. I am in some Facebook groups for business owners. That doesn’t mean I welcome spam from anyone else in that group who wants to try the Facebook equivalent of cold-calling. You will be blocked!

Points from my learners of English group

Some other things came up when I asked about this – things that I hadn’t thought of. My group members wanted people to:

Stop unfriending people with whom you’ve been friends for a long time, and not explaining why you unfriended them;
Stop posting hate speech and false news;
Stop unfriending people because they have different opinions;
Stop trying to shout everyone down when you have no idea what you’re talking about. The person who shouts the loudest isn’t necessarily right.

So what about you? What would you add to this list? How can we make the internet a better place for everyone?

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I was interviewed for an international intercultural blog

Çiğdem Gül, one of my friends from Germany, recently interviewed me on her intercultural German blog. The article, “England – Kirsty Major speaks about blindness, giftedness and Brexit”, was published in two parts, as I had so much to say. They weren’t the kind of questions that you can answer in a couple of sentences.

The interview has been published in English and German, but as most of my readers here speak English, I have linked to the English versions. So, if you would like to read the interview, part one is here and and part two is here.

Thank you Çiğdem for your kind words and interesting questions, and also for the opportunity to share with your readers!

Would you read your own blog?

Taking a fresh look at your blog from an outsider’s point of view.

If you were a visitor to your blog, would you want to read it?

It sounds like an odd question, but think about it for a moment. Is your blog something that you would like to read if you hadn’t seen all the content before?

Hopefully the answer is “yes!”

The reason I’m asking is because it’s really hard to write things that you don’t find interesting. You might have to do it for a job – I wrote plenty of documents in past jobs that didn’t get me excited – (strategy delivery action plan anyone?) but when it comes to your own blog, people will be able to tell whether you’re passionate and feel excited about the content.

I’m sure there have been articles that you clicked on because of an interesting headline, but then you clicked away after a couple of seconds. Why is that? I’d say there are two groups of reasons.

Mistakes or a bad user experience

The first reasons are that there is something wrong with it. Different things will bug different people. Maybe there are lots of mistakes in the writing and that puts you off. I’m not talking about grammar so much, but if it looks as though someone hasn’t given it a once-over before publishing, and dashed it out, leaving lots of typing errors in, I find it really distracting.

Maybe there is too much clutter to make it an easy reading experience.

Maybe the in-your-face pop-up drove you crazy!

Maybe there was an exciting title, but the content didn’t live up to it. Nobody loves clickbait.

Maybe the article is exactly the same as a bunch of other articles on the topic, and the blogger didn’t do anything unique to make it their own.

The list goes on, but they are generally things that can be fixed, and probably should be fixed so that readers don’t click away.

Personal preferences

Then there are the other, more personal things. These aren’t mistakes, but they’re about personal choice. They’re what makes you stand out from the crowd, and because of this, some people will be drawn to your blog because of them, whereas others will click on by. They aren’t bad things – but it’s good if you can be consistent with them so you give a clear message about what kind of vibe you are going for. How will you do this using your language/layout/images/choice of topics?

I like something to read, so a couple of lines of text with a bunch of photos doesn’t do it for me, whereas other people might fall asleep halfway through some of the articles that I enjoy because there’s too much detail for them.

I can’t stand football, but some of my friends hunt out articles about sport.

I love dogs, but most of the time I don’t want to read about cats (sorry cat lovers – one or two articles won’t make me run for it, but a whole blog on them wouldn’t be my first choice of reading material!.

As someone who is blind, content will always be king over images for me, but I know people who will stop reading if they don’t like the blog design or lack of photos.

If every product is amaaazing and every post feels like an ad or promotion, it somehow doesn’t feel real, and that’s a turn-off for me. I’d much rather someone say why they didn’t like something once in a while or that something just wasn’t their thing.

Whilst everyone can work to improve their writing style and presentation, these are more personal things. You can’t please everyone, and trying to please everyone will just give you a headache and make your blog blend into the noise of the hundreds of other blogs out there because there’s nothing that makes it stand out!

Take a look at your blog through the eyes of a visitor

So, if you want to get a better understanding of what’s important to you as a reader, why not make a list of things that make you really want to read a blog, and things that make you click away after a few seconds and never return? Some of them will be just basic good practice for running a blog, but some of them will be more specific and based on your personal likes and dislikes.

Once you’ve got your list, think of how it applies to your blog.

Do you unintentionally do any of the things that would make you click away as a reader?

Let’s take my ideas. I try not to do any of the generic things that I think are bad practice because if they wind me up, I don’t want to do the same to my readers. So no annoying pop-ups or ads scattered throughout the text. I can’t say I’ll never make a mistake, but I do read through the posts and check them before hitting publish.

It gets a bit less clear-cut when it comes to the personal stuff. I do write the kind of longer posts that I like to read. Partly because I have a lot to say, and partly because I’m looking for like-minded people.

I don’t write about cats or football, partly because they don’t interest me, but also because I would have nothing to say and it would be a bit of a rubbish article!

I try to come up with ideas that other people haven’t covered before, but I could do more to write posts with more of my own feelings or personal experiences in them, otherwise it can sound a bit generic. When you’ve previously worked in a job that encourages you to not put yourself in the centre of your writing, you have to develop new skills for blogging.

I like reading empties and favourites posts, but if I get 10 posts in my reading queue called “January favourites”, I might get a bit bored – so I’ve been experimenting with the titles. Such as November favourites – bloggers, body lotion and bunny ears! or 15 November empties – lots of handcream and a disappointing panda. Just something a bit different.

I like book posts, but never write them. That’s going to change!

People seem to like my disability posts, but I don’t find them the most exciting to write, because writing about my every-day life is kind of old news for me, whereas to the reader they’re often something new. So I combine it with things that I love –blindness + make-up tips or the accessibility of online shopping for someone who can’t use a mouse.

Sometimes it can help to do a year top 10 post to see which ones people are interacting with more. It’s tough if the posts people most enjoy reading aren’t the type that you most enjoy writing – and it’s definitely not good to just write for others without thinking about what you want to talk about. It’s your blog after all! But if you want to take the blog in a certain direction, give some thought to where people who like that type of content or share that interest may be hanging out. It might be that there’s nothing wrong with the content, it’s just not getting in front of the right people!

It’s good to try out new ideas to see whether they work – then you can carry on with them if you enjoy them and readers are engaging, or keep it to a short series if you run out of steam or the idea doesn’t work for some reason.

If you try to look at your blog and think about the things that you don’t enjoy on other blogs, it might help you to identify things you could do to make your own posts better, and improve the experience for long-time or new readers.

You could also think about some words or phrases that describe how you want your blog to be seen or remembered, and then see how some of your trusted readers describe it. Do the two sets of words match up? If not, what can you do about it?

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Blogmas day 24 – happy Christmas in 23 languages

So, I’m not going t to write a lot today because I know people will be busy getting ready for Christmas and probably not have a lot of time for reading blogs. However, as a language lover and language teacher, I wanted to end with a link showing you Christmas wishes in the 23 languages of the EU. You can find it here.

The calendars

In L’Occitane there was a little box that contained one of the L’Occitane perfumes. A lovely way to end the calendar.

In M&S there was a primer. Really, a primer for Christmas Eve? It’s not the last day of the calendar, but still I think the nice sparkly nail varnish would have been better behind this door! Ah well, it was ok, but not as nice as the primer from a couple of days ago.

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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My language learner journey – finding accessible materials for language learning

You don’t have to do the same activities as other people to get the same results. Here I talk about how I found accessible resources to help me to learn German and Turkish.

My language learner journey – finding accessible materials as a blind learner

I’ve loved languages since I was a child. First I wanted to write stories and poems in English, then I developed an interest in other languages too. French and German were two of my best subjects at school, though unfortunately I’ve forgotten all of my French now.

As a learner who can’t see, my goals are the same as any other language learner’s goals, but the way I get there is often a bit different. It’s the same with many things – whether I’m cooking dinner, training a dog or running my business, I look at what other people are doing or what advice they are being given, then I consider how much of it would work for me, and what things I would need to do differently in order to get the same results.

I hope that this post will help blind adults, or parents and teachers of visually impaired children by giving them ideas about useful resources for people who can’t use some of the options available to sighted learners. Schools should be providing information in an accessible format anyway – this is more about learning as a hobby or adults finding their own resources for learning a language.

German

At school, I followed the same curriculum as everyone else. Texts were made available to me in Braille or on my laptop. When we watched videos, I usually sat with a friend who whispered what was going on and I whispered back what I could translate from the dialogue. We worked it out together.

After leaving school, I decided to continue with my German. Learning on my own was a slightly different story because I couldn’t assume that all of the materials that I would need would be readily accessible. Having studied German at school, it was easier for me, because I could understand materials that weren’t just intended for language learners.

Two libraries for blind people in Germany kindly allowed me to borrow their Braille and audio books, which meant that I could pursue my love of books in another language.

It’s important to realise, however, that each language has its own system for Braille. Braille takes up a lot of room, and often symbols are used for groups of letters. However, the same symbol does not denote the same group of letters in each language. The English “CH” sign means “AU” in German, and the German “CH sign” means “TH” in English. So, if a blind person wants to learn Braille in another language, they will be learning a new writing system as well as a new language.

I also looked for interesting articles online, joined forums (the first one was a forum where people chatted about their dogs), and looked for language exchange partners online.

Sometimes my visual impairment came up, such as when someone sent me a picture and I couldn’t see it, but I never make it part of my introduction because I don’t think it’s the most interesting thing about me. In the dog forum, I was there to improve my German and talk about my golden retriever.

I became active on a German networking site called Xing, which is similar to Linkedin. I joined a group in which people can look for language exchange partners and after a while joined the moderation team. I often wrote to new members to welcome them, and as a result, I started chatting to someone called Sarah. Sarah and I became friends and when I heard that she was coming to London with her partner, we decided to meet and go for dinner.

Much of my tandem exchange experience has been online. It’s much easier to chat by email or on Skype than to go and meet a stranger somewhere! However, I did meet a couple of my exchange partners after I’d had a chance to speak with them and get to know them a bit. I took precautions, went somewhere that I knew and told someone where I was going.

Anyway, back to the meeting with Sarah…We had a good evening and we also decided to have a language exchange trip – I would spend a few days with Sarah in Berlin and then she would come back to London to stay with me. We had a lot of fun – chatting, going horse-riding, visiting a museum where I was allowed to touch the exhibits, cooking, going to the cinema and of course shopping!

Whether or not websites are accessible, if you find the right tandem partners, one-to-one communication with other people is something that anyone can do.

Some websites for learning German were accessible, others are designed so that you have to click correct answers with a mouse and you can’t just select them with the enter key. This rules sites like this out for people who don’t use a mouse. However, some website designers get it right and label their graphics, don’t use elements on the page that you need to activate with the mouse, and label any fields correctly. It’s really just something you have to try and find out which websites work for you, which can be used with a bit of effort and which are a complete waste of your time.

The same applies to further education. I had a really good experience with the Goethe Institute, who emailed me the materials for the course that I did with them and worked together with me to find the best way to comment on my work. I had a terrible experience with another training provider for long-distance learning. I’ve found it doesn’t depend on whether or not the organisation has had experience working with blind people before, but how willing individuals are to try new things and to find solutions to accessibility problems.

Turkish

Later I decided that I also wanted to learn Turkish. This was slightly more difficult – partly because I would be starting right from the beginning, and partly because it’s a bit harder to find resources for learning Turkish than it is for learning German. I knew that I didn’t want to join an evening class because most of them referred to working through books. Therefore I went off in search of a private teacher. This is more expensive than a group course, but I knew from my brief experience with learning Hindi that it’s worth the extra cost if you can find a teacher who will make the lessons accessible.
Nurcan, the teacher whom I found online, had never taught a blind learner before, but she was willing to give it a go! We did use a book, but Nurcan read the exercises to me, or sent them to me by email. I took copious notes on my netbook, and when I needed help with pronunciation, we recorded words and phrases on my Dictaphone. I emailed my homework to Nurcan and she emailed back the corrections. If there were activities involving naming the picture, Nurcan would give me the English word instead of showing me the picture. When I could read short texts, we found texts that were publically available online.

If we did exercises with multiple options, I wrote them down, so that I didn’t have to try to keep all of the options in my head. When we worked on grammar exercises, I wrote down all the completed sentences, so that I had a record of examples, which I could then use to help me with my homework.

I found a number of tandem partners online, with whom I practised my Turkish. Some of the apps that are designed for this purpose can’t be used by people who use speech software because the labels and app controls are not labelled correctly, or they don’t work with VoiceOver, the speech software on the iPhone. Therefore I looked for tandem partners on more traditional sites, or social networking sites such as Facebook, where there are many groups and pages about language learning. I even found a lady called Ayse, who lived virtually round the corner from me, with whom I learned to make some Turkish dishes!

I also found a Facebook group for people who were learning Turkish. Sometimes I couldn’t understand the posts, because people posted pictures of text, which my software just recognised as a graphic. However most of the time people posted questions or links, so I could learn from the things that they wanted to know or share. Sometimes people knew that I was there and described the pictures or typed out the text.

I couldn’t find accessible copies of the textbooks that some of my friends used, but I did find websites with grammar explanations and a really good podcast that had a different language topic each week. In fact, as my language skills improved, I looked for podcasts for Turkish people on subjects that interested me. Podcasts for or about children usually use simple language, as do podcasts in which people tell a story, such as travel shows or short documentaries about places or things. These activities really helped me to develop my listening skills. I didn’t understand every word, but I felt a real sense of achievement when I could understand the main points.

Many of my friends recommended Turkish soap operas, but this was too much work for me. I use the dialogues in films to try and work out what’s happening on the screen. If I have to struggle with the dialogue as well as to try and remember who’s who and figure out what they’re doing, the whole thing becomes a chore! It’s easier when you’re more familiar with the language – I could do it in German, but if you are likely to miss key information because you didn’t see what happened, the whole experience can become quite frustrating. The same applies to films. I can’t use subtitles, but then I think some people rely on them too much! I did watch some videos, but they were usually factual ones, because people generally speak more clearly and the visual element is not so important.

There are loads of apps for language learning, but I tend to use apps that I already use, such as Facebook, Twitter, Skype, the podcast app and the online radio app. I know that these are accessible. Many of the language apps are not, and anyway if I’m going to be chatting to people, it’s much faster when I type on my laptop than on my phone.

I tend to use more low-tech solutions for tasks such as vocabulary learning. Well, they’re more high-tech than pieces of card, I suppose, but rather than having word lists on an app or piece of software, I have a big spreadsheet for testing vocabulary and recording definitions.

Everyone is different

I think it’s really important for people to know themselves and how they learn best. Listening is important to me, but if I’m going to remember a new word, I need to write it down. One of the biggest mistakes is to think that all blind people just need the same material as everyone else, but in audio form.

In conclusion, I would say that it’s definitely possible for a blind person learning on their own to find a lot of accessible materials. The internet has opened up so many possibilities now and we don’t just have to rely on materials that have been especially designed for us as blind learners.

Most of my customers who want to learn English are sighted, but I do have some blind and partially sighted customers and followers on social media. I’m happy that I can offer accessible learning materials – after all, the materials have to be accessible for me, too, but each person is an individual, and just because something was the best solution for me, it doesn’t mean that the same way of doing things will work for everyone.

This post was first published on my English with Kirsty site but I thought it may be of interest to some people here as well..

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