“Call me crazy, but I am not on Facebook. That’s strange for somebody my age and stranger still for somebody who belongs to a group of writers here at UVenus who are masters at using social media.”
I have two issues with the article:
- You’re not a master of using social media if you’re not on Facebook.
- It’s impossible to stay off Facebook.
Permit me to explain…
1. Mastery of Social Media
You’ll have to forgive me if I’m touchy about the subject of social media mastery. A primary means I make my living is through my understanding of social media, and my ability to ply my trade is substantially hampered by people who falsely claim to be experts like me. Regrettably the learning curve with SM is so great that the average person often isn’t able to distinguish good practice from bad practice. I’m hardly alone – virtually every profession or area of technical expertise faces this problem.
The 800-lb Blue Gorilla in the Room
Facebook is easily the most massive social networking site world-wide – particularly in the West. Right now they’re coming up on one BILLION users – or one 1/6 of the planet. Mastering social media inherently requires a thorough understanding of Facebook given its dominance. To be a social media expert and have no ongoing hands-on experience with its most key player is the equivalent of attaining a Master of Film Theory degree without learning anything about Sergei Eisenstein.
Social Media’s Shifting Sands
Online the only constant is change. As such, remaining a master of social media means constantly learning, growing and evolving with platforms.
To wit: every single social media presentation I do is different. I often stay up late into the night before a presentation revising it with the developments that happened that day. I even modified a recent preso I did for Crime Stoppers International from one day to the next because the social media world had changed significantly overnight.
Professor Jafar qualifies my first assertion by arguing in her article that Facebook nurtures two characteristics of McDonaldization (efficiency and calculability) that are harmful. Hopefully Professor Jafar is heartened by the fact that we as a society have evolved away from those measures precisely because of the effect of McDonaldization.
Social media experts AND Facebook know that impersonal shotgun blasts of information are far less effective than one-on-one engagement and discourage it (in the case of Facebook, its algorithms will de-prioritize that content so it shows up in the newsfeeds of fewer users). Even casual users of Facebook are opening their eyes to this reality, and todays’ students are getting better at communicating differently to different audiences.
With respect to calculability, virtually everyone from tweens to multinational corporations know that sheer numbers don’t matter online. Actual interactions and action are what matters – and those qualities are rarely present in inflated numbers of fans or friends.
2. You ARE on Facebook
Whether or not you want to be, you likely are on Facebook already.
If you know anyone who is on FB (or possibly even people who don’t know you), doubtless they’ve uploaded photos of you, updates about you, and if you’re a publisher of content like Jafar – that is being shared, liked, and commented on in Facebook. Institutions or events also publish content about us – like TEDx Conferences:
At the very least every web-accessible digital snippet about you is searchable through Facebook:
The ubiquity of recording equipment in society means that there is constantly digital documentation of our behavior. We’re able to ignore this reality on a daily basis because it’s usually never interesting. That changes the minute we do something sensational or outstanding in either a positive or negative sense.
In Professor Jafar’s case – this likely takes the form of her students discussing what an excellent teacher she is. Right now these wall posts, photos and posts are mostly unsearchable in Facebook – but that will invariably change as our notions of privacy evolve and become more permissive (a massive shift in public opinion that Pew has documented). The pressure Facebook is under to monetize its users will only accelerate this trend.
Don’t get me wrong – Facebook should give everyone pause with respect to their privacy. They’ve made a number of moves over the years that remove control from their users over what is shared about them. A decade ago, staying off a social networking site was a viable pursuit, but we’ve reached a saturation point where that is no longer the case.
The solution is not to abstain – it is to engage.
When you refuse to engage digitally (be it on Facebook or the web in general) you accomplish two things:
- you lose the opportunity to monitor what is said about you and…
- you give up the ability to contribute to the conversation about you.
As you’re likely aware, recently Facebook changed the email settings of all users so that the email they signed up with is no longer visible – replaced by their @facebook.com email address. The company rolled out an email service back in 2010. My guess is that adoption was lagging so given the new pressure they’re under as a result of their IPO to monetize the service, they made the switch.
They’re perfectly entitled to do this; after all they’re a private company providing a free service to users.
HOWEVER, what you’re ENTITLED to do and what you SHOULD do are two completely different things.
MOREOVER, WE do not control the language – THE PEOPLE DO (in this case, the users). Read more…
By now everyone with access to the Internet (and even a lot of people who don’t) are aware that Facebook filed for an Initial Public Offering.
If every other social networking platform in the history of the web is a guide, this signals the beginning of the end for Facebook. Private corporations are freer from the pressure to drum up wads of cash in the short term than publicly-traded companies. They are also more resilient in the face of economic challenges than private companies because they can absorb a period of shrinking profits instead of scrambling to implement drastic measure (like mass layoffs) to quickly cook the books for a pennywise short term jump in profits.
Here’s why Facebook will suffer from the rush to monetize the gigantic community of users it has amassed: Read more…
A sad note that marred an otherwise unseasonably-warm and dry week in Grand Rapids was the death of a blogger’s dog after a careless right turn by a man driving a truck who then left the scene (even though he later admitted to being aware that the distraught owner was trying to flag him down; I also refuse to believe he didn’t know he’d hit something).
The dog’s owner wrote a moving essay about the experience that has touched all of us. He also provided an example of forgiveness and compassion that I’ll think long and hard about for the rest of my life.
There were witnesses to the tragic accident and the reaction of the driver of the truck. As is increasingly the case, those witnesses had access to smartphones and tweeted what they had witnessed. One witness, who I’m proud to call a friend, took action and captured information about the truck and its driver. The truck was a work vehicle, so it was emblazoned with the name of the business – and the witness also managed to get (and tweet) the license plate. Read more…
Hey kid – would you put down those Foot Locker boxes and have a bit of a chin waggle for a minute?
Martin Luther King once said “a riot is the language of the unheard.” What’s burning up London right now is an unheard population, and while I can sympathize with the sentiment, the violence isn’t something that can be condoned and it’s utterly and completely daft. Here’s why:
- London is one of the most surveilled cities in the world (just behind Chicago). There are over 500,000 cameras throughout the city quietly recording with unblinking eyes.
- Facial recognition technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, and it’s so commonplace we all have access to it in Facebook. The pool of photos is growing all the time, both on social networking sites and off in private databases. Even if you’re wearing a mask or covering your face, it doesn’t matter because police will be able to match your clothing from other video footage when your face was uncovered.
- You can’t count on your friends because all it takes is an errant tweet or Facebook post to incriminate you. Police are already watching for incriminating evidence of activities in process and arresting tweeting looters.
- Your technology can narc on you. Given how prevalent mobile phones are in the UK and how flimsy the security is, it should be relatively easy for police to use scanners to identify all mobile devices within range of a certain area where the riots are taking place. That would help kick-start any investigations or facial recognition searches. Not only that, but if the companies that produce all the electronics that have been nicked in the past few days have added any sort of security to them, connecting to the Internet could identify a looter (or someone who received stolen property).
- London Police can crowdsource the investigation with ease. [Update: ...and they already are] Back in 1997, a bunch of people in a neighborhood near Michigan State University rioted after MSU lost to Duke in the NCAA finals, burning couches, stealing and destroying property. Even back then, there were plenty of people shooting video and taking pictures which the local police took and looped on a cable-access TV channel with a message inviting the community to tip them off if they recognized anyone in the photos. That was 15 years ago – just think of how much easier it will be to crowdsource identification with Facebook ads or mobile apps.
- The evidence will stay around “forever.” That means Law Enforcement can take its time with the investigation – as it does so, the technologies and pattern-recognition algorithms will continue to improve. I’m also pretty sure England doesn’t have a statute of limitations – so prosecutions could happen even years after these fires have been extinguished.
In the meantime, mind the gap! (Sorry, couldn’t resist).
[Update: This just appeared on Mashable and is obviously highly-relevant recommended reading - "NYPD Creates Unit To Track Criminals Via Social Media"]
The more information accumulates about us online (with or without our consent), the walls between the compartments of our lives become more porous (eventually they’ll likely disappear altogether).
Whether or not you know it, your social network is visible to others online. This is important because it means people can view you how your social network understands you.
Even if you lock down your Facebook profile, odds are you allow viewers to see your friends (which can be a great source of information about you; one can easily use the public information your friends display to gain insight about you – what organizations they’re affiliated with).
Even the organizations and people you’re NOT affiliated with can say volumes about you; I anticipate this will become a huge source of inferential data in the future as data analysis tools continue to become more sophisticated and more data accumulates online. Imagine: an aggregation tool could run an algorithm to find out who you dislike based on an analysis of common connections, interests, and groups and looking for gaps in your circle of connections.
Nothing about this is anything new to police or intelligence agencies – they’ve been gathering this data for years (building cases by interviewing individuals peripheral to a target). The difference is that now it’s a communication channel available to anyone.
This is why I believe privacy will be virtually impossible in the future. This has important ramifications for public policy; take medical records.
- One of the main reasons medical records aren’t largely digitized is privacy concerns – people worry that individuals and organizations outside of the doctor-patient relationship will be able to use that data to the disadvantage of the patient (think insurance companies, banks and prospective employers).
- Even if you are able to keep your medical records from being posted online – the records of your relatives will be posted. Conclusions about your predisposition to health issues can be gleaned from the health of your relatives (and organizations whose profitability depends on calculating risks will actively seek out this information).
- Conclusions about your health can also be drawn based on aggregated data from the region you reside in (the percentage of fast food restaurants, the rates of STD/STI infection, etc.).
Another reality (explained in greater detail in the book “Born Digital” by Urs Gasser and John Palfrey) is that children born today typically don’t have a choice about what information about them ends up online; their parents begin creating digital presences for them while they’re still in utero (by posting sonogram photos/videos, and information on how they intend to rear their children in discussions with friends). A recent study concluded that 92 percent of toddlers have an online presence.
Update: Apropos of this post – a hilarious Venn Diagram from Dave Makes:
I posted an article on my Facebook feed about the discovery that US Marshalls have secretly kept tens of thousands of body scanner images.
A colleague, Paul Jendrasiak (@pauljendrasiak), jokingly commented “I think they will be used for an ArtPrize entry hahaha.”
It’s a brilliant idea.
An artist could set up a full-body scanner and have ArtPrize participants walk through it – then project a display of their scans up on the side of a large interior wall/projector screen – or better yet; the side of a building. It would also be easy to automatically upload the content to a Flickr gallery and create a living, breathing exhibit online (where discussion could take place).
The work would be a great commentary on a variety of things 1) our Victorian notions of privacy (particularly if the images were depicted outdoors where everyone could see them which would likely cause those uncomfortable with nudity to object – fitting given that a large proportion of those same people are also supporters of unrestricted government surveillance), 2) obesity in the US, 3) government surveillance and individual rights…
I love collaborating with social media. The accidental stuff is sometimes the best.
[Thanks to Cornell University College of Human Ecology for the body scanner image incorporated into the mock-up.]
UPDATE: Facebook’s privacy woes have become such a problem that MySpace is seizing upon them as a way of wooing users (via @mashable), AND Facebook is set to launch “Simple” privacy options (via @wired).
Facebook has long had problems with how it handles the privacy of its users; there was the Beacon debacle, the News Feed flap, the difficulties users have had when they try to delete their account, the problem with privacy regarding Facebook Apps, and more recently the opening up of Facebook profiles to search engines.
A recent New York Times article pointed out that Facebook now has 50 settings with over 170 options. I’ve been online since SixDegrees.com became the first social networking platform and even I have trouble managing my Facebook profile – imagine if you’re a less-than-savvy grandmother who just wants to look at pictures of the grandkids?
All the way along, Facebook has done what benefits Facebook – not necessarily what benefits its users. That isn’t necessarily unsurprising – however, they’ve not been transparent when they’ve made their decisions and implemented their policies. Jeff Jarvis encapsulated this perfectly in a recent criticism of Facebook:
“Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg seem to assume that once something is public, it’s public. They confused sharing with publishing. They conflate the public sphere with the making of a public. That is, when I blog something, I am publishing it to the world for anyone and everyone to see: the more the better, is the assumption. But when I put something on Facebook my assumption had been that I was sharing it just with the public I created and control there. That public is private. Therein lies the confusion. Making that public public is what disturbs people.” - (Jeff Jarvis, “Confusing *a* public with *the* public”)
Facebook should be wary; there are no shortage of other social networking platforms and as profile information becomes more accessible and portable – it’s easier and easier for users to migrate to other sites. The Information Superhighway is littered with the bloated corpses of social networking sites that didn’t take that reality to heart and failed as a result.
Mashable just published an article surveying some of the recent stories of people rejecting social media (Anti-Social Media: A Rising Rebellion Against Web 2.0?). They cite examples like the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine, workplace bans (citing productivity concerns), and the phenomena of teens rejecting Facebook.
An abstinence-only approach to social media will likely be as ineffective as the abstinence-only approach to sex education: both rely on ignorance and are based on the assumption that one can control the behavior of others. It’s far more effective to be pragmatic and arm people with information so that they’re empowered to make decisions about their future.
Problem is, it doesn’t matter if a handful of teens are rejecting Facebook; that’s not going to stop information about them (or any of us) from ending up online.
The details of your life are online whether or not you choose to publish them: friends and neighbors are posting photos of you, corporations are digitizing records, and government documents are going online. The process has been slower for digital immigrants, but for digital natives – it can begin even before they’re born as parents and relatives post sonogram photos or blog the intimate details of the pregnancy.
Don’t believe me? Search for yourself with Pipl (a seach engine focused on gathering information about individuals) and see what you find.
I sympathize with the privacy concerns (I, like most, used to do everything online under pseudonyms), but here are two realities you can count on:
- More information will be published about you online.
- The tools we use to aggregate, sort, index, and categorize information online will continue to improve.
In that context – abstaining from social media seems a bit foolish. By trying to stay off the grid, you’re voiding your say in how you’re portrayed online. People (university admissions offices, romantic prospects, and employers) will invariably use the web to learn about you, and it’s prudent to participate in the identity that is created for you online. At the very least, it pays off to have a Facebook account so that you can keep track of what your friends are saying and posting about you (and ask them to hide or untag photos/videos or other content that you’d rather not have go public).
Employers attempting to force employees to abstain from social media to maintain productivity might want to more closely evaluate that approach. First, it’s expensive and time-consuming to try to block access to everything online (and most efforts can easily be defeated anyway). Second, it hasn’t been established whether or not social networking adversely affects productivity (the research thus far is pretty skimpy – and it’s mostly based on surveys as opposed to measuring/observing employees at work). You’ll likely want to evaluate the type of work each employee is doing and consider factors like these before making a decision:
- Do they need to incorporate creativity in their work?
- Do they need to collaborate with others (including customers/clients) on their work?
- Do they need to be aware of current events or social trends?
- Do they need to stay in contact with co-workers/customers/clients who aren’t within yelling distance?
- Do they need to frequently reference resources to do their job?
"...and you shall have no pie."As my parents tell it, when I was an infant my first word wasn't a word - it was an entire sentence. Very little has changed.
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