Lost Sheeple’s Response to Facebook and Social Media – TFHT 18

The Article

“Find me on Facebook!” is one of the most common phrases currently uttered at meetups and parties.  It is so assumed that everyone is on Facebook that both iPhone and Android have account setup items in the settings control panel so you can allow the company to sync to everything on the phone.  Of course Facebook is not alone, on iOS 9, Twitter, Flickr, and Vimeo also have logins outside of downloading apps.  Android (on a Galaxy S5) has logins for LinkedIn, Google+ (duh), Twitter, and a few others.  We have truly become Sheeple in the hands of social media giants.  And the sad reality, most successful people do not spend a lot of time on social media.

Defining Social Media

I will define social media as a website or service that contains connections or interactions with other users on that, or other platforms.  So Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Pintrest, Instagram…on and on and on and on are social media.  Of course I am not totally anti-social media, or I would not be on YouTube.  I am against what many users of social media encounter: Believing and spreading garbage, killing productivity, narrowing your thinking, and even addiction.  Our task here is to evaluate what social media we use, why, and taking stock of our habits where social media is concerned.

Facebook Misadventures

If we talk about the dangers of fast food, McDonalds is usually the name thrown around, but when talking about social media, we generally talk about Facebook.  Though not the first social media site, Facebook is arguably the most impactful social media website in the world, but some recent antics have some users wondering if a Facebook account is worth it.  Of course we all know someone who quit Facebook about as many times as smokers have quit smoking.  While many social media sites merely allow the sharing of information, some, like Facebook take the information too far.  Of course, the information is not the only reason to consider quitting social media in general, but I want to look at Facebook shenanigans as a separate entity because of both the sheer amount of data they collect and the prominent position the social giant holds in the industry.

Boosting Likes

As early as 2012 Facebook seemed to be doing weird things with Like buttons, but at the time they claimed there was an error that was fixed.  In recent weeks they announced they are no longer snooping on the private messages that was at the center of this debate, but it still seems, or at least seemed that sharing a page in a private message added a like button to the page being shared.  I was unsure of this until recently when I went into the account settings to find a whole lot of ‘likes’ in the system where I know full well I never pushed that button.  How do I know that?  Well, because I have only ever pushed a like button about three times.  Interesting.  Worth leaving over?  Probably not.

Mass Data Collection

Facebook does not just collect your status updates and photos that you share.  The site deploys cookies to track to your every move.  If you stay logged into Facebook, all of the sites that you visit in your web browser will be directly tied to your Facebook profile, but even if you log out, the loosely made connections will still catch up.  If you have never signed up for Facebook, they have created a ‘shadow’ profile for you and once you create your account, it will be shocking what they already know.  If that is not bad enough, Facebook also buys offline data to link with their online profiles.  You can see the list of groups they purchase data from on their website.

Sharing Your Data

Data sharing goes in a few directions on Facebook.  First, it is not like they ship out dossiers of you to groups, but they allow their ad networks to use your data to push targeted advertising to you.  Targeting advertising, to me, means that it is less informative and more coercive to sell each of us things that we probably would not have wanted without the coercion.  But the data sharing does not end there.  Facebook has subtly been sharing more and more information on public searches and there are also connections with police and government agencies that can gather more information.  There many reports exist of backdoor deals between government agencies and Facebook, I cannot find any credible sources to that end, but officially, the requests for user Facebook data has been steadily rising for the last few years.  On the local level, many times police have infiltrated groups and used the information on Facebook shared in the context of those groups to spy on specific targets and even to make arrests.

Facebook Aside

Facebook is largest, and possibly least behaved social media site, but there are other reasons we should all consider whether or not social media ‘in general’ is good for us.  After viewing several videos on the topic from popular and not-so-popular people.  These are among the reasons people leave social media websites.

  • Time Wasted – Many people admit to compulsively checking social media websites at any hint of boredom, waiting, or just too many times throughout the day.  They wanted their life back to live in the real world, not in the digital world.
  • Addiction – Many people believe that social media is highly addictive, and the overwhelming compulsion to use social media has been cited by many as reasons to quit.  Most of those people reported withdraw symptoms on their respective posts and videos.
  • False Affirmation – Many former social media users admitted to using social media as a means to feel like they were getting affirmation, but it was empty and fake affirmation, mostly based on a narrow scope of life.
  • One-sided Life – Many people will only post the highs (or lows) of their life and so it breeds either false sympathy for those users or else dismay over your life because it does not seem so interesting to others.
  • Shallow Relationships – Many former social media-ites reported that their social networks were full of shallow or non-existent relationships, and the time it took out of their life prevented real living.
  • Sharing Personal Life with Strangers – In real life we are a little more reserved with inviting new people into our lives, and we even test the waters a little bit, but social media does not have levels of friends.  People are either on or off your list, and if they are on your list, they will see everything you do on social media.
  • Boredom – Some people just got bored of what is on social media anymore.  While Facebook used to actually have nice content from friends, it now is a bathroom wall of multi-level marketing pitches, click-bait crap, and targeted advertisements.  Very little content, and what is there is often too shallow.
  • Narrows Your Worldview – Due to the algorithms that determine what you like, you are generally fed information based on your history, so over time, you will be segregated into your own opinions and opposing viewpoints will be filtered out.
  • Being Sold – It is true that if you do not pay for the service, you are the product being sold.  Many times social media is just there to collect data for sale to other organizations.

These reasons are all good reasons to not use social media websites, and it is even true what one group noted: the famous people you follow on social media have hired managers to post all that stuff.

Reasons to Keep Social Media

There are some good reasons we may want to keep some social media websites.  I think back to why I decided to first get a Facebook account, and it was for good reason at the time, so I am still considering these things.

  • Keeping in Contact with Real People – I first signed up on Facebook because I traveled and moved a lot and I had friends in several cities.  Facebook allowed me to upload my travel photos, connect with friends, and maintain some relationships that may have been a little harder without it (though I will note one of best and oldest friends does not have social media and we have great phone conversations).
  • Business Purposes – If you are a blogger, author, etc, it can make sense to have some type of social media account, but the type is up for grabs.  I have an account on GoodReads, a social media site for authors and readers, and I still have a Twitter and Facebook account linked to my other blog.  As for personal stuff, I do not use these accounts for anything personal.
  • Hobby Interests – You may have a hobby in a field that has a social media website or a Facebook group.  Such a group can help up with a hobby where other lines of communication may not be available.

If You Create or Keep Social Media

You should stop today and consider your social media input and use.  Take account today of your actions, intentions, and ambitions.  Remember that most people who are successful do not spend any significant time on social media websites.  But you you have good reason, keep these things in mind for safety:

  • Avoid using social media on mobile devices – It is very difficult to control the networking and history on a mobile device, so anything you do on a social media website could spill out its data or collect up other data.  Keeping a lid on your social activity is one of the best things you can do for privacy.
  • Block Social Networks on the Hosts File – Use your computer hosts file to block social networks you will not use.  This does damage to building those ghost profiles.  How-to Geek has an article on this.
  • Use a Separate Computer at Best – Using a dedicated operating system for social media is the best policy.  Separate your private habits from your social media.
  • At Least Use a Different Browser – Can’t spin up a separate Linux Distro for your accounts?  At least install and dedicate one browser just to social media.  This will not overcome the super cookies, but it will help a little.
  • Clear Cookies After Using Social Media – Or use a Private Tab – This will block the cookies that get added to your browser that will track subsequent browsing history.
  • Always Sign Out of Social Media Websites – This may help, but it is really questionable…
  • Minimize Your Connections – This would apply to keeping social media if you are doing so for keeping in touch with real friends and family.  If this is your case, do not let anyone on your account that is not a real friend.

There you have it.  Hopefully a little balance in the world of social media websites.  We need to become more lost sheeple and stop using all these free services.  Keep careful tabs on what you need, and act accordingly.

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