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Mónica Guzmán

Stories at the intersection of tech and life from a boldly connected city.

Category: Social
April 5, 2014 at 8:28 PM

How Facebook found Hailey: Why this Seattle parent shared her search for her teen

One Sunday last month, Marie Montemayor cut back and forth through happy crowds at French Fest at Seattle Center. Not finding any place to charge her phone’s dead battery, she cried. Two days earlier, at 4:30 p.m., she had told her 13-year-old daughter on that phone that she was making spaghetti for dinner. She hadn’t…


0 Comments | More in Column, Crime, Family, People, Seattle, Social

September 28, 2013 at 8:00 PM

4,000 and counting: The handwritten letters of Shoreline’s Charles Morrison

Teacher Charles Morrison pens letters from the back yard of his Shoreline home every day of the year. (GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES)

Teacher Charles Morrison pens letters from the back yard of his Shoreline home every day of the year. (GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES)

When was the last time you wrote a letter?

Charles Morrison will write four today. He wrote four yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that. All told he’s penned 4,000 letters to about 110 people in the past 11 years, hardly ever missing a day. They’re nothing grand. Just “letters by a guy of modest intelligence who likes to write,” as the 71-year-old put it. He mailed 150 of them at his Shoreline post office two weeks ago. Each was written with one of 36 calligraphy pens, and each is about something completely different.

I have no idea when I wrote my last letter. I told Morrison as much at Caffe Umbria in Pioneer Square last week. Most of the people walking by on Occidental Avenue South, I guessed out loud, probably wouldn’t know either.

Morrison laughed.

“It’s so easy to get information, give information, dash off an email. The very ease of it makes it so convenient,” he said.

“Convenient,” he added, is not one of his favorite words.

“When everything needs to be convenient, you lose sight of the process, how important the process is,” he said. “It’s just: Get it done.”


0 Comments | More in Art, Column, Education, Nostalgia, Seattle, Social

July 20, 2013 at 10:06 PM

Aren’t you in labor yet? Birth in the age of Facebook

(Photo: Mónica Guzmán)

(Photo: Mónica Guzmán)

The British royal family has been in full PR mode for the birth of the royal baby. For new mothers on social media, that’s a familiar experience.

(The Duchess of Cambridge is in labor, according to a royal family spokesman.)

I had my media strategy pretty well figured out when I went into labor with my son a year ago Friday. I wouldn’t tweet I was in the hospital. I’d asked family not to post details of the labor. And I’d made sure that my mom, who spends more time on Facebook than I do, understood that under no circumstances could she scoop me and my husband on that all-important post announcing the baby’s birth.

Whether you’re the Duchess of Cambridge or a mere commoner in Seattle, becoming a parent is one of the biggest stories of your life, and there will always be loyal subjects who can’t wait to hear it.


0 Comments | More in Column, Family, Social

June 18, 2013 at 1:01 PM

The quickest way to tell your friends they’re boring you

We know to put away our phones at the front of the line and keep public phone calls short and quiet.

But when it comes to checking our phone while we’re with family and friends, it’s complicated.

My Sunday column proposed nine points of tech etiquette that might have enough consensus to hold. From the completely unscientific polls I attached to each, many appear to. Eighty-five percent of you said you “always” keep public phone calls polite and 82 percent said you follow the Golden Rule of Facebook: Never post pictures of others you wouldn’t want posted of yourself.

But when it comes to using your phone while “engaged in an activity with friends or family” (notice it doesn’t say just hanging out with friends or family) only 55 percent of you said you “always” put it away or excuse yourself when you need to use it. Forty-one percent said you “sometimes” do that.



0 Comments | More in Mobile, Reactions & Resources, Social

June 15, 2013 at 6:58 PM

No smartphones on the table? Test your tech etiquette


Do you practice good phone manners? (Image:

Nobody likes the word “etiquette.”

It feels inflexible and draining, like a teacher whose only joy is pointing out mistakes. This is a time for breaking rules, not making them. Viral videos, Facebook revolutions, CEOs in hoodies. Anything goes.

Etiquette? We don’t need etiquette.

Except we really, really do.

Etiquette is about interacting with people. And with the rise of always-with-us devices and always-connected media we’re interacting with more people more often than ever. We had centuries to figure out if elbows go on the table. Do smartphones go there, too?

Welcome to the evolving, tough-love world of tech etiquette.

“Tech is miraculous. It’s wonderful. But we shouldn’t be using it to make excuses for ourselves,” said Mary Mitchell, Seattle-based consultant and author of the new book “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Modern Manners.”

What guidelines have enough consensus to last? With the help of Mitchell and the many of you who shared your thoughts last week, I submit the following:


0 Comments | More in Column, Habits, Mobile, Reactions & Resources, Social, Tech Oops

May 18, 2013 at 11:41 PM

You’re not a slacktivist, are you? GiveBig and a new social media debate

Jenn Dean of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest makes her pitch in a video posted on the organization's Facebook page Thursday.

Jenn Dean of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest makes her pitch in a video posted on the organization’s Facebook page Thursday.

Some people will do anything for your support. Even sit in a pool of condoms.

“Did you know that condoms are great at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections?” said Jenn Dean, development officer at Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest. “But they make lousy water balloons,” she added as she sat in an inflatable pool of the (mostly packaged) things in a video posted Thursday on the organization’s Facebook page.

The organization did something right. Thursday was GiveBig day in Seattle, when the Seattle Foundation stretches the day’s donations to 1,300 participating nonprofits. Planned Parenthood came out on top — raising $220,120 in 24 hours.

The GiveBig campaign raised a record $11 million in total contributions Thursday, 50 percent more than last year. Now in its third year, it’s become a true Seattle social-media event. If you didn’t get a trickle or flood of emails about it from nonprofits you support, you probably saw the pleas on Facebook and Twitter.

A day when so many try so hard to raise so much was inevitably a day to wonder if all the mechanisms are in working order. Social media, the latest and greatest set of tools in the toolbox, have introduced new concerns, and even a catchy word to describe them: slacktivism.


0 Comments | More in Column, Seattle, Social

April 20, 2013 at 8:00 PM

Lesson from the manhunt: We’re all journalists now

"View from my house...crazy." Watertown resident Shawna England's photo of the manhunt got 13,000+ retweets on Twitter.

“View from my house…crazy.” Watertown resident Shawna England’s tweeted photo of the Boston manhunt was one of the most shared images early Friday.

Thursday night, after dark, monsters moved in Boston.

Friday morning, we woke to a terrifying thing. A policeman killed, another wounded and others threatened. A proud city on lockdown. A dangerous young man on the loose.

And something — the ground upon which we build our knowledge — had made another shift.

Not everyone felt it. But if you were one of the hundreds of thousands across the country caught mind and heart in the moment, maybe you did.

News is not just something we check every now and then. It’s not just a job, for some people, or an interest, for others. What goes on in our world and how we come to understand it tells us more than we know about who we are and how we’re connected. There are facts and reports and updates. Those are the bones. But there is also feeling, reaction, emotion. That’s the blood.

And it’s pumping.

News became a little less of an industry and a little more of a living, breathing organism Thursday night. It’s not a new direction. For more than a decade now, ever since anyone with a thought and an Internet connection could so easily provoke his species, news has become less controlled. More vulnerable. More, well, human.

It has not, though, become easy. In fact, news demands more from us now than ever.


0 Comments | More in Conversation, Disruption, Social

December 10, 2012 at 1:40 PM

Is a Facebook ‘like’ a strong endorsement?

I got an emailed response to my column about local businesses offering freebies for social media love that made me think:

“I was surprised by your endorsement of the practice of buying votes (or “likes”) by businesses.  You readily sold your vote for a cup of coffee, which you had not even tasted.  To me this is corruption.  I will not pay any attention to the ratings of any businesses that buy votes whether on Twitter, Facebook, eBay, Yelp, Service Magic, or Angie’s List.  Buying votes undermines the whole purpose of user-to-user reviews, which will become irrelevant if this trend continues.  Please rethink your position.”

My response:

“I hear you on this, and I wholeheartedly agree when it comes to, say, buying positive reviews on Yelp. But a Facebook like is as much a subscription as an endorsement. Plus, I actually really like the place. If I didn’t, I would not have felt comfortable liking it, even for the drink. I just barely implied that in my conclusion, but should have been more explicit. The column was less a judgment of the practice than a musing on why it’s around.”


0 Comments | More in Reactions & Resources, Social

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