What I have been doing lately may be subtle or even inconsequential, but I have been taking small steps to fight the power of social media. Earlier this week, news was released about a company called Cambridge Analytica that compromised the personal data of close to 50 million facebook users in order to influence the 2016 presidential election. This is only one egregious abuse of access that large corporations and private entities are granted by social media companies, but it is a significant one–one of possibly countless others that are occurring without our knowledge or consent.
These kinds of invasions are compounded by the use of algorithms and powerful data analysis tools that comb through millions of our posts, hashtags, and photos in order to hone in on our sensibilities, personal tastes, and behavioral patterns. This information essentially becomes valuable fodder for businesses and corporations to use to target prospective customers. These entities can design marketing campaigns based upon vast amounts of social media information that we are freely handing over to them through our daily engagement.
This feels like a subtle form of surveillance and, ultimately, mind control that influences our decisions and inclinations.
Ok then, what can be done about this? Since social media and its encroaching power are relatively new phenomena, there does not appear to be a fail-safe way to guard oneself against it without completely disengaging. This does not mean that we should not try.
Here are some simple safeguards that I have implemented that guide my social media usage:
- NEVER post personal information such as your street address, the name of the company you work for, phone number, or any other identifying information that could be used against you.
- LIMIT your use of social media as much as you can. I have removed facebook and facebook messenger from my cell phone. I only check facebook on my internet browser when I am on my laptop. Otherwise, just use social media less. Maybe only allow yourself one-half hour of engagement per day? The less engaged you are, the less free information about your life that you are giving to the world.
- CHOOSE one social media site to focus your output. These days, I primarily use Instagram because I love that its engagement is centered on photos and captions. As a creative person, this interface is simple and ideal. I have my instagram account set up so that it also posts on facebook and twitter simultaneously without having to visit those other sites. If facebook or twitter suits your needs better, than go with either of those. The smaller your window to the world, the less accessible you and your information can be.
- UNDERSTAND how addictive social media is. These sites are designed to translate your usage into a formula that engages your attention for as long and as often as possible. Be aware of this and let this knowledge inform your behavior.
- DESIGN posts that convey your vision of the world and your values instead of giving too personal a glimpse into your life. For example, do not post a photo of the front your house. Instead, post a photo of a flower that you grew in your garden. Do not post about the gifts you received for Christmas. Instead, write about the quality time you had with family and how it made you feel. Think about the message and the energy you want to put out into the world. You should dictate your own conversation, not the other way around.
- DO NOT USE HASHTAGS, but if you have to, use them sparingly and know that they are like little lighthouses that attract companies who want to sell you products that relate to the ideas you espouse. Again, this relates to how you want to portray your personal life on social media. Take control of the information and proceed with caution.
- BUILD YOUR OWN PLATFORM. What I am doing with my website roqueinbloom.com and this blog is using my own platform to share ideas about my life, my ideals, and my activities. This personal space on the internet exists without some multi-national corporation or foreign government mining my data. Sure, hundreds of my friends and colleagues from facebook may probably never visit my website, but the friends who will are the only ones that truly matter. (Of course, I also have the ability to post links on social media back to my blog and website every week, thereby using social media to my own personal advantage.)
This is just a small handful of steps I have been thinking about and taking toward my ongoing social media usage. These will not be the only steps I take, and I will be posting more of my ideas surrounding social media and internet usage.
At the very least, I want to invite you to think about how you engage with social media. Understand how addictive it is and how it can use all that you post and disclose for or against you without your consent.
Either way, it’s up to you how much of your own power and privacy you want to surrender.