Pretend you are the Director of Marketing for a business or organization. A tech company approaches you and they ask if they can put their logo on all of your promotional materials. All they want is a little space in the corner of each brochure, billboard, business card, television spot and newspaper ad you pay to produce. Preferably in color. But they can’t pay you for it. They need you to do this for them as a favor, for free.
What would you say?
If you wouldn’t take that deal, why in the world would you give Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media company free advertising space on your real-world promotional efforts?
If you get a few precious seconds of someone’s attention as they skim through your thing, why do you want them to spend part of that time thinking about someone else’s thing?
It's been about a year since I left Facebook, and I'm still glad I did. (I guess there were those thirty years before Facebook existed that I somehow managed without it, too.)
People in my circles generally continue to assume that I've seen their event invitations and life updates on Facebook, and so it's still a regular occurrence that I find out about something well after everyone else, or not at all. This is most annoying when it's something really time sensitive that I would have liked to have been a part of.
Some of my published writings have been shared extensively on Facebook, generating hundreds or even thousands of views on my various websites, but I don't have a way of knowing where that activity is coming from or what kind of conversation it might be generating there. I've had people tell me in person that they saw and liked something via Facebook, which is nice, but of course I wish they'd leave their likes and comments on my site where it's closer to the original writing, visible to the world, and not subject to later deletion by some corporate entity. (This comes up for any social network, not just Facebook, but it tends to be the one generating the most traffic for me.)
I won't make a claim that the hours I've saved by not looking at Facebook have freed me up to accomplish some amazing other thing. I will say that I felt a nice release from the self-created pressure to keep up with my interactions and profile there, and that in turn has contributed to an increase in my overall creative energy for other things.
I had one time where I needed to use the Facebook sharing debugger for a work project. I signed up for a new account to do this, but Facebook clearly found my lack of interest in populating a real-looking profile to be suspicious, and closed down the account soon after. In the end it was faster to ask a colleague with an active account to do the debugging for me and share the results. As I've said before, I think it's ridiculous and irresponsible that Facebook doesn't make that tool available to logged-out users.
I'm still surprised at how many organizations and businesses use Facebook as their one and only place for posting content; some even do it in a way that I just can't see it as a logged-out user, and others don't seem to realize that they're giving Facebook 80% of any screen real estate on the links I can see. I am now much more likely to avoid doing business with or offering my support to these entities if they don't bother offering non-Facebook ways for me to engage.
I've accepted that people will not necessarily seek out the open version of the web on their own. Being off Facebook has reinforced that there are big gaps to close in the user experiences that other tools and services offer (the WordPress/blogging ecosystem not least among them). My own efforts to migrate my content that still exists on other services like Flickr into a digital home that I fully control are slow-going, so I don't expect other people to even bother. Facebook is still the path of least resistance for now.
When the actions of Cambridge Analytica were in the news, it was tempting to feel smug about not being an active Facebook user. But I know they still have tons of information about me that is of value to advertisers and others, and that even as I use browser plugins to try to prevent Facebook from accumulating an even larger profile of my online activity, it is a losing battle until there are larger shifts in the culture and business models of technology companies.
A month ago I deactivated my Facebook account and I haven't used it since.
In the larger scheme of things this is a relatively inconsequential decision, and one that I may even eventually reverse. But for the benefit of my future self, and for anyone else who's interested, I thought I'd inventory my thinking behind this change:
1. My time spent on Facebook was minimal, especially since I deleted the app from my phone a few years ago. But it was almost entirely time I was not spending on things that actually matter to me. Any effort I put in to keeping up with my feed felt like it was actively distorting my understanding of how the real world works, how people are actually doing and what they're actually thinking and feeling. Even as distractions from the real world go, it was often more unsatisfactory and harmful than helpful.
2. I continue to be uncomfortable with Facebook's "walled garden" model of connecting people, content and conversations. I've nothing against the company or the people who work there, and actually admire their technical innovation, scale and impact on the world. But as someone who genuinely wants to see people truly own and control their online presence, I can't in good faith spend time contributing to something that undermines the open web. When I tried being just a casual observer without engaging, it didn't work. Which brings me to:
“I did this to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media, and that we create an online world which reality can no longer meet."
Most people don't work this hard to present a patently false version of reality to their online connections, but social media culture often encourages us to present the best, shiniest version of our reality. (Even reading my post from yesterday about how I spent the last week, I'm realizing that I presented a pretty idyllic narrative when of course there were things that were less than ideal along the way.)
In the midst of sharing silly, fun, whimsical things, it feels important to find ways to make sure our online connections trend toward authenticity and sincerity. And in the cases when online tools don't facilitate genuine connection (whatever that looks like for a given person), maybe we shouldn't invest as much of our time in them at all.
I'll think about that while I ride my unicorn around the rainbow today. Photos coming soon.
Mostly for my own reference, but also to invite comments about what others are doing, I'm taking stock of how I use (and don't use) various social media tools today in my personal life.
Twitter is probably the social media tool I post to most frequently. With close to 700 followers and 700 people I follow, I enjoy the quick and easy perusing of other people's tweets, the sharing of interesting / useful / important links, and the witty repartee that can result. Since joining in 2008 and initially making fun of it, I've come to embrace the challenge of saying something meaningful or interesting in such a small number of words.
I've found a good mix of Twitter accounts to follow that both give me access to articles, ideas and resources I know I'll find interesting, and accounts that challenge me to think differently about the world. I try to follow at least one link every day to a resource/site/article that I know I'll profoundly disagree with.
Daniel Ray Carter Jr., a sheriff's deputy in Virginia, claims he was fired because he "Liked" a Facebook post belonging to the political rival of his own boss. When he fought the firing in court, the judge ruled against him saying that clicking the "Like" button isn't protected speech: "It is not the kind of substantive statement that has previously warranted constitutional protection."
The case presents an interesting dilema.
On one hand, I hope we're reaching the point where most people understand that clicking the Facebook "Like" on a statement, article or page is not the equivalent of an endorsement of all the things that article/page/group stands for.
I've had a few days to play around with Google's new social network offering, Google+, and I thought I'd share some initial thoughts.
First of all, kudos to Google for "going for it" in the Facebook era. They're one of few players who actually has the resources and skill to make a serious go at a viable alternative to Facebook, and you've got to admire the effort. If the success of the movie The Social Network tells us anything, it's that Facebook has become mainstream and popular, and as generations of younger people look for ways to establish their identity in the digital age, they'll be looking for alternatives to the place where their parents and now grandparents also hang out online. By the same token, people of all ages and professions are trying to figure out just how to effectively and safely use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media tools in a world where we're being encouraged to blend our personal and professional lives together more publicly.
Is Google+ just the right thing at just the right time?
People are already writing about the high bar that Google+ will have to jump in order to see any significant migration of Facebook users, not the least of which is all the time people have invested in curating their lists of "friends" there. Facebook is going to make it as difficult as possible for its users to do any kind of exporting of account information from their system, and I don't think Google is devious enough to launch an unauthorized workaround. So people will be left to recreate their online identity on Google+, where the number of people you are connected to still largely drives your user experience.
If you're new to Facebook, Twitter or some of the other social networking spaces out there, you're probably asking yourself, "what should I expect to see when it comes to the status updates that people post in these places?" Or if you're a social networking veteran, you might still be thinking, "what's my niche online? How do I decide what to post?"
Well, you're in luck! I really enjoy cataloging and categorizing these kinds of things, and so I've put together this list of 12 kinds of social networking status updates.
Most every status update will fall into one of these categories:
The dynamic duo have teamed up to do it again for Blog Indiana 2009, which starts later this week. It looks to be an expanded and amplified version of the inaugural event - the conference will span three days with multiple tracks - blogging and social media, higher education, non-profit, etc. - and it sounds like there will be a lot more people there too (with great representation from Richmond). Summersault has returned as an event sponsor, and I'm also presenting again, this time with a session on "Using Social Media for Real-World Community Improvement" and as a panelist in a session about "technology."
I've apparently also been nominated for the award of "Best Hoosier Blogger" in the "2009 Blindy Awards," and while I'm not saying that I will give you significant amounts of cash just because you click on this link and vote for me, I'm not saying I won't do that either.
I'm looking forward to gathering with fellow bloggers and fans of technology, and sharing about how these tools can help us make life a little better for everyone. I hope to see some of you there!