TIME Social Media

Your Facebook Gender Can Now Be Anything You Want

Facebook Gender
Bloomberg via Getty Images The Facebook Inc. logo is displayed on an Apple Inc. iPad Air in Washington, D.C., on Mon, Jan. 27, 2014.

From 58 genders to an infinite selection

Facebook added a fill-in-the-blank option for gender on Thursday that lets users describe their gender identity freely.

“Now, if you do not identify with the pre-populated list of gender identities, you are able to add your own,” Facebook said in a statement.

The update is a step forward in Facebook’s efforts to expand gender identity, which previously included creating 58 options for gender from “cis woman” to “two-spirit” in Feb. 2014.

Google+ similarly unveiled an “infinite” gender category in Dec. 2014, allowing users to describe their gender identity using words of their choice.

TIME Social Media

Facebook Paid Researchers $1.3 Million in 2014 to Find Bugs

Facebook-logo
Robert Galbraith—Reuters

Facebook has paid researchers in the "bug bounty program" more than $3 million since 2011

Facebook paid security researchers $1.3 million in 2014 to find and and report security flaws.

According to a post by the company entitled “Bounties get better than ever,” Facebook has paid researchers in the “bug bounty program” more than $3 million since 2011 and now has 123 countries reporting security issues. India reported the largest number of valid bugs in 2014: 196.

“We’re excited to see what 2015 holds for the bug bounty program,” the Facebook post says. “Report volume is at its highest levels, and researchers are finding better bugs than ever before. We’ve already received more than 100 valid reports since the start of the new year.”

TIME Social Media

The 7 Best Facebook Alternatives You Didn’t Know About

TIME.com stock photos Computer Keyboard Typing
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

People are connecting on more than just Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter

Your Facebook friends are boring. Your Twitter followers sound like a bunch of parrots. And your LinkedIn contacts, well, who wants to talk about work all day, anyway? Amazingly, in 2015, it’s still possible to feel like you’ve reached the end of the Internet, especially if you rely on your social networks for news and amusement.

But there are more ways to connect with people online than the three most popular social networks. In fact, smaller networks are some of the best places to dig into topics you care more deeply about. So sign up and check out at one of these great alternative social networks:

App.net: Two of the largest complaints about Facebook are how the company gives your data to third party applications, and the way the company manipulates its News Feed to show things that aren’t necessarily updates from your friends. App.net is a great alternative to signing into third party sites (where it’s supported) with your Facebook account. But it also has a news stream where many media outlets post their stories. So, if you like to keep your friends’ updates and news stories separate, un-follow the media accounts on Facebook and add them to your App.net account, instead.

BeMyEyes: Technically speaking, BeMyEyes is not a social network. That said, it provides one of the most intimate interactions you’ll ever have with another person via technology. Designed to help blind people to solve everyday problems, the iPhone app connects the vision-impaired with fully-sighted users via video chat. Users can then point their iPhone’s camera to show their remote helpers the situation at hand — a door sign, an expiration date, a piece of mail. The sighted person lends their eyes to help the blind user solve their problem. It’s that simple, but it’s also that amazing.

DeviantArt: While image-oriented social networks like Pinterest and Instagram have rocketed in popularity, DeviantArt has held steady as the world’s largest online art community for 15 years. With more than 300 million original works of art submitted by at least 34 million members, this forum is home to artists from more than 190 countries posting everything from anime to 3-D landscapes for their peers to comment on. Whether you’re interested in traditional techniques like oil-painted landscapes, or off-the-wall topical themes like #cosplayfriday, you’ll find artists who appreciate your efforts and whose expertise will push your craft forward.

Doximity: Whether it’s for finding a new opportunity or making contacts to grow your business, LinkedIn is great for networking. But what happens when you’re already locked into your job and just looking to navigate your field? Doximity is a social network specifically for doctors, allowing them to network with other medical professionals in this secure, closed network. By using the National Provider Information Registry to authenticate doctors signing up, it assures all users are legitimate M.D.s. And with HIPPA-secure and encrypted interactions, safety is built into the network. Simply by reading their personalized news feed, doctors can even get continuing medical education credits using the iOS or Android app.

NextDoor: One of the curiosities of the social media age is how we can be so well-connected with people on the other side of the world, yet still not know our next door neighbors. A network designed for building and strengthening communities, NextDoor connects people within geographic neighborhoods, helping them talk about things that are important to the places where they live. Part Craigslist (with a classified section), part Yelp (where users can recommend local businesses), and part Facebook (with neighbors able to post updates and comments on other people’s posts), NextDoor pulls the seemingly invisible layer of social interaction out of the web and lays it onto the real world. Also, there’s some really catty online neighbor spats on this forum that you’re totally missing out on.

RallyPoint: Service members often equate being in the military with being in a family. If that’s so, RallyPoint is the largest family gathering online. A site that mixes the professional side of serving in the Armed Forces with the personal, RallyPoint lets users weigh in on discussions on everything from military policy to post-military life. It also connects to a variety of other networks to help you find your friends and contacts on its own Android and iOS app. And you don’t need to be an active-duty member to use the service — even military family members can sign up to connect.

Untappd: Of all the things we post for friends on social networks — pictures of our kids, recipes, news stories — beer might be the only one we’d actually share in real life. A social network for people who enjoy great tasting suds, Untappd lets users check in at bars, write a review of their pint, check in to see what their friends at other establishments are sipping, and of course, take that highly-filtered half-drunken beer picture for all to enjoy. If this sounds boring to you, you might want to try ordering something a little more expensive other than Miller Lite once in a while.

Read next: How Facebook Is Helping Suicidal People

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TIME Mental Health/Psychology

How Facebook Is Helping Suicidal People

Facebook will offer suicide prevention resources to users posting troubling messages

Facebook is going to give timelier help to users who post updates suggesting thoughts of suicide, the company announced on Wednesday.

According to a Facebook post written by Product Manager Rob Boyle and Safety Specialist Nicole Staubli, a trained team will review reports of posts that appear to be suicidal and if necessary send the poster notifications with suicide prevention resources, such as a connection to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline hotline.

The Facebook support posts are expected to look something like this:

Facebook-Suicide-Prevention-hotline-posts
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They also will contact the person reporting the posts, providing them with options to call or message the potentially suicidal friend, or to also seek the advice of a trained professional.

The new approach is an update on a clunkier system, implemented in 2011, that required users to upload links and screenshots to the official Facebook suicide prevention page.

For the project, Facebook worked with suicide prevention organizations Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention, Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Save.org.

The company was clear that the update was not a replacement for local emergency services.

TIME Social Media

The Definitive Guide to Weird Facebook

Yes, Weird Facebook is definitely a thing

Weird Facebook shouldn’t exist.

Wait, let me back up a minute, if you have no idea what I’m talking about. You know when something like this pops up in your Facebook feed?

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The Kernel

That’s what we’d call Weird Facebook: a loose conglomeration of pages that post bizarre image macros. Fodder for the dumb guys you hung out with in high school.

The groups vary widely in the number of followers they attract. The biggest group I could find was Freddy Yolo, which has around 70,000 followers. S*** Memes has about 40,000, and Creme de la meme clocks in at 35,000. Below that tier, there are a handful of pages with 10,000 to 15,000 followers, and further down still, a vast array of groups with several thousand followers. Not a throng, but nothing to shake a stick at.

Those numbers are all the more impressive considering that Facebook doesn’t do anything to encourage the existence of these groups.

I’ll give you an example: Say someone recommends that you check out @fart on Twitter. Within 10 minutes, the similar accounts feature will take you to the top 20 or 30 pages that constitute Weird Twitter.

Read the rest of the story at the Daily Dot.

MONEY job search

How to Catch the Eye of a Recruiter in Just 7 Minutes

LinkedIn on a mobile phone
Felix Choo—Alamy

An optimized LinkedIn profile can help you stand out from the crowd.

As part of our 10-day series on Total Financial Fitness, we’ve developed six quick workouts, inspired by the popular exercise plan that takes just seven minutes a day. Each will help kick your finances into shape in no time at all. Today: The 7-Minute LinkedIn Makeover

Nine out of ten recruiters use social media to find or check out candidates, especially LinkedIn. Your profile is 14 times as likely to be viewed if it has a picture. So find a professional-looking photo and upload it to your computer before you start the clock.

0:00 Log in to your LinkedIn account and select “Edit Profile.” Click on “Add Photo” to upload the pic you’ve selected. You’ll see a yellow square that you can drag to change the position and size of the picture. Make sure you’re centered and hit save.

1:05 By default, LinkedIn uses your job title as your profile headline. Instead, write your own bold wording. Stumped? When you highlight the field to change it, LinkedIn lets you peek at what others in your industry are using.

2:34 Check out your profile summary. Are you hitting all the keywords you’ll need to show up in recruiter searches? Take a minute to scan some job descriptions in your profession to make sure you’re using the right language.

5:00 Nothing says LinkedIn novice like an alphabetsoup URL.

Create a custom version by clicking the LinkedIn URL listed right beneath your photo on the Edit Profile page. You’ll be transported to the Public Profile page, where you can create your own. Stick with something simple, like your name.

5:35 Bulk up your recommendations politely. Write a sincere post for one of your contacts, and then email asking if she’d mind doing the same.

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TIME Advertising

Sheryl Sandberg: Simplifying Facebook Ads Led to Enormous Growth

FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Summit - Day 2
Paul Morigi—Getty Images Chief operating officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg speaks onstage at the FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Summit on Oct. 16, 2013 in Washington D.C.

The company hit the milestone Tuesday

Facebook has come a long way from the banner ads that populated the site back in 2004. The world’s largest social network announced Tuesday that it now has 2 million “active advertisers,” defined as an advertiser that’s placed an ad in the last 28 days.

The company crossed the milestone less than two years after it reached 1 million advertisers in June 2013.

Facebook has recently been taking pains to court small businesses in particular, cutting the number of ad products in half to make its offerings easier to understand. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company has also been hosting free marketing training sessions around the country. A new Ads Manager app launching for iOS Tuesday that lets Facebook advertisers create and edit ads on the go could help lure still more smaller marketers.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg attributes the company’s fast advertiser growth to the streamlined ad products in particular. “A couple years ago, our offering was, ‘Do you want to become a Facebook advertiser?’ That sounds complicated,” Sandberg says. “Now you do a post, and we ask, ‘Do you want to promote this post?’ That’s a pretty easy on-ramp to being an advertiser.”

Though Facebook likes to say its ads are effective because of the amount of data it has about its users, Forrester researcher Nate Elliot says advertisers are actually attracted to the platform mostly because of the sheer number of people using it: 1.3 billion. Citing surveys of marketers, Elliot says Facebook ads have not been found to be particularly more effective than other online ads.

“Facebook knows more about its users than likely any other company in history,” he says. “For its ads to work only about as well as the ads on Yahoo or the ads on a random online network is a bit damning.” Facebook says that in an internal study of 20 retailers, it found a 2% average increase in offline sales for shoppers who were shown a Facebook ad compared to those who were not.

One thing is certain: marketers are continuing to buy them, pumping money into Facebook’s coffers. The company generated $3.8 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2014, a new high. That came almost entirely from advertising. And there are plenty of potential advertisers that remain untapped—Facebook says it hosts a total of 30 million active small business Pages, up from 25 million in November 2013.

Owners of these Pages are increasingly coming to terms with the fact that they’ll have to pay to have their posts seen by many users. Facebook has been ratcheting down the reach of non-paid posts, while it tweaked its News Feed algorithm in January to cut down on promotional posts.

The company is pivoting to promote Pages as a free, simple alternative to a hosted website rather than a free way to get into users’ News Feeds. Nearly a billion people visited Facebook pages directly in October, the company says. “While organic distribution has gone down, as more people have come on the platform, it’s still really the only organic distribution or free distribution that small businesses can get that I’m aware of,” Sandberg says.

However, Elliott warns that Facebook could change the design or utility of Pages at any moment. That means a company could spend time and energy building a Page, only for its efforts to become less valuable down the road.

As for Facebook’s future, the company is continuing to push its video product, noting that 800,000 small businesses posted videos in September 2014. The company is also experimenting with new presentation formats for Pages, such as showing dinner menus or items for purchase on restaurant and retailer’s Pages. As long as users’ eyeballs are glued to Facebook, advertisers large and small will be there too.

“They’ve improved the creative formats and they’ve improved the forms of targeting that are available to marketers as well,” Elliott says. “They still have a lot of room to grow on both counts.”

TIME Social Media

Virginia Police Take to Facebook to Find Rightful Owner of Lost Cocaine

Facebook ThreatExchange Hackers
Bloomberg via Getty Images

No one has come forward to stake their claim to the narcotics yet

While there have been plenty of reports of police brutality and racial profiling in last few months, not every cop is out to abuse his or her power. Some officers are kind, caring individuals who seek to serve the community by reuniting lost property with its rightful owner.

Take the police department of Crewe, Va., for example. After these hardworking public servants were called to a Super Dollar about a large bag of cocaine that had been found on the premises, the officers pursued ever possible channel in an attempt to find the drug’s owner. The officers stopped at nothing, even taking to Facebook in hopes of finding someone who might be missing their big ol’ bag of cocaine.

Read the rest of the story at the Daily Dot.

TIME celebrities

Iggy Azalea Quits Twitter: ‘The Internet Is the Ugliest Reflection of Mankind There Is’

Iggy Azalea arrives at the 57th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles
Mario Anzuoni—Reuters Rapper Iggy Azalea arrives at the 57th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California Feb. 8, 2015

In an effort to avoid online negativity, rapper Iggy Azalea has decided to quit Twitter.

She arrived at her decision following unflattering comments she received about paparazzi photos taken of her in a bikini while on vacation in Hawaii.

“Just got back from a great vacation, came online and saw apparently it’s shocking and unheard of to be a woman and have cellulite,” she tweeted late on Wednesday. “I just want to have peace and relaxation time without a [perv] with a long-distance lens hiding out taking pictures,” she continued. “Everyone deserves peace.”

The “Fancy” rapper went on to say that the “hatred and pettiness” she has faced is making her an “angry person” in turn. “I cannot be that.”

Azalea, 24, is no stranger to Twitter beef; she has feuded with everyone from Snoop Dogg to Azealia Banks to fast food delivery chain Papa John’s.

The rapper felt it would be a “disservice” to her fans if she “[became] nasty because of the way I feel I am treated,” and so her management will continue to Tweet and run her accounts from now on “unless any message is signed -IA.”

“Love you all, peace out,” she wrote, before adding one last parting shot at her haters:

“The Internet is the ugliest reflection of [mankind] there is.”

This article originally appeared in People.com

TIME faith

The Problem With #AshTag on Ash Wednesday

The Church is in danger of stripping its rituals of their solemnity and meaning for the fleeting, ephemeral popularity of a social media event

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Let’s just go all the way this Ash Wednesday and stop imposing ashen crosses on foreheads all together.

Instead, let’s simply impose hashtags made of ash.

Because, if we are honest, that’s largely what this day has become about.

The #AshTag, not the ashes.

The virtual, not the real.

The immortal digital, not the mortal flesh.

Ash Wednesday is no longer about repentance and self-examination but about retweets and selfies.

Welcome to #Ashtag Wednesday. Last year, we saw the rise of Ash Wednesday as a trending social media event instead of a solemn service. Clergy mugged for cameras in sacristies with ash on their foreheads. Parishioners shared selfies with the world.

The whole world saw Christians standing on the virtual street corner praying and making their fasts public spectacles. We did the exact thing the Gospel for the day asked us not to.

It is a frustrating trend. A dear friend once said she loved Ash Wednesday because, unlike Easter or Christmas, it was the one day on the Christian calendar that couldn’t be commodified by popular culture.

But what is impossible for man is certainly possible with the church.

Get your #AshTag in church. Where will you get your #AshTag? Post your Ash Wednesday selfie and you might be one of 50 lucky people to win a book!

These are actual pitches this year — by religious organizations — for Ash Wednesday services.

These churches, leaders or organizations aren’t encouraging people to receive ashes as part of the liturgy, as a way to enter into Lent, or as a way to ponder our mortality or the sobering reminder that we are dust and will return to dust.

Rather, they are implicitly encouraging people to come to church in order to post of selfie. It fetishizes ashes. It centers the purpose of ashes in the public consumption of photos and social media rather than in reminding us of our mortality. The systemic push within the church for Ash Wedneday selfies is an exercise in whistling past graveyards. That’s the unfortunate context of the call to “get your #Ashtag.”

So, while I truly hope people don’t post their Ash Wednesday selfies this year, I really can’t blame them. This isn’t about the individuals posting selfies. It’s about the church itself, which is promoting it, driving it, and attempting to create cool trends rather than to call people into deeper meaning for the season of Lent.

In doing so, the Church is in danger of stripping its rituals of their solemnity and meaning for the fleeting, ephemeral popularity of a social media event.

Ash Wednesday is, if nothing else, a reminder of our mortality. How ironic that now there is a rush to immortalize our piety on this day through the eternal digital life where neither rust destroys nor moth consumes.

We store up these treasures on Twitter.

We have hollowed out the holy call for self-examination with narcissism.

We’ve exchanged the sacred for the selfie.

This article originally appeared on Patheos.

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Read next: 3 Things to Know About Ash Wednesday

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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