Only Myself to Blame

When I saw the Cambridge Analytica story break on Saturday night, ahead of the expose in the Guardian on Sunday, I made the point to my husband that by this time in the week ahead, it would be all anyone was talking about. Last night, he came and congratulated me for my foresight. I’ve not had a serious Facebook presence for many years, and the only reason name is not deleted completely from the platform is that it is a requirement when one advertises using a Facebook page. There are no illusions when it comes to my presence on the platform. I’m there to build a brand.

The platform, however, isn’t interested in my needs, only its own.

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I only have two ‘friends’ linked to my main Facebook page, and sometimes five or six times a day the algorithm attempts to get me to follow somebody they know. I’ve spent an hour some days clicking ‘remove’ until the list is clear, to come back the next day and find everybody is back. This ‘social network’ does not take no for an answer. Saying you are not interested is insufficient. It continues to hassle you until you either give in or stop listening. Those people now wanting to blame the people behind the application for the damage it has caused fail to grasp that it is not just drug dealers who are culpable for addiction issues. Facebook is our fault too.

What continues to strike me with amazement, is the willingness some people accept the virtual world as being fact. It isn’t just fake news either: yesterday, someone popped up in my Twitter mentions, assuming I was an artist because a news article about said individual was linked in relevance to an item I was promoting. The leap in logic that took place was, frankly, staggering, but it also demonstrated an arrogance of perception that should be giving many people cause for considerable concern. Social media makes us believe that major World events are ours to influence, whilst sitting in front of a screen or holding a mobile device.

The truth, of course, is anything but.

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The arrogance of many people is now even more apparent than ever before: watching key players in the row trying to blame each other is almost comical when the truth remains that if we as users hadn’t have insisted we all needed this platform, none of it would have happened. If individuals organised themselves better, didn’t think success equated to huge follower numbers and stopped believing the future exists in a cloud and not in front of them… The Internet is a brilliant place when it’s just a library, or a repository for knowledge. It’s totally fine with small groups of people who organise their own rulesets. The problem comes when someone turns up and wants to make money from your ignorance and fear.

This has always been the way the World has worked, people who seem to think this manipulation is somehow new. Religion has used these tactics to subjugate populations and keep the rabble in check for thousands of years. Don’t worry, people of faith, I’m not about to diss your omnipotent overseers. I’m looking at a Catholic Church that would tell people there was no way they’d get into heaven without a payment plan. I’m remembering the Snake Oil sellers and the guy who convinced you he could make it rain simply by doing a dance. Playing on basic individuals needs to be loved, popular and not alone… happened since the Human race came out of the caves. Sure, there needs to be better regulation of such things, but honestly?

Only ourselves to blame here.

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Today, I’ll be removing my Facebook presence for good using this Guide. On considered reflection, if it matters that much, then someone can start a fan page for me. Other people can post my links to their pages. If they want me, I’m here, in a place that I regulate under my own terms and conditions. This way there is no need to then get frustrated at the daily efforts to make me be ‘social’ which are nothing more than beating me up and hoping finally I give in to make it stop. That’s not how you make people care, and it is certainly not a future that is either desired or preferable.

Sometimes, the only way you make things better isn’t to hope somebody else solves the issue, but to attack it for yourself.

[EDIT:

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There. That’s sorted now.]

#GSME18 :: Forget You

I did wonder at the end of last year whether Twitter would have a relevance for me in 2018. As it transpires, there’s more than ever to discuss in the world of Social media. 

It’s rather satisfying to see that the Real World [TM] is finally catching up with a truth many hardcore Twitter users have known for years. It’s the Social media equivalent of Gold Farming in online games: you wanna look cool and clever? Just buy the followers you need. This expose also explains why I’ve seen a significant drop off in followers from accounts a) clearly only looking for reach and b) randomly following me out of the blue. Sure, it still happens, but the practice is now finally being weeded out and shut down. Of course, you won’t stop the thing completely, but there is now at least an acknowledgement the practice takes place.

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The Tweetdeck platform now likes to tell me who other people on my Friends List are following presumably in the hope I’ll consider doing the same. However, I’ve started to consciously buck the trend of courting followers. At this point I have little or no interest in actively promoting myself using any of the platform’s tools: I’ve even ignored various invites to join the Beta of their ‘all in’ promotion tool. Right now I’m happy to sit on the sidelines, slowly removing followers I’m confident either aren’t real or who are detrimental to my mental health. Sometimes they fall in both camps, but the number of robots or automated accounts is beginning to level out. I’m now looking for clearly-curated streams, with a real person behind them, and this policy is beginning to pay dividends.

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Half a million impressions in January, considering my current output, is a decent baseline to improve on going forward. It gives a guide to what I’m capable of, and now I’ve stopped caring about ‘growth’ in terms of audience, there’s more space to simply work on the content. I’m interacting far more regularly with the people who are around, which is a more satisfying situation that becoming frustrated with negativity. Accentuating positives, amazingly, does work.

You can, therefore, expect more on the Great Social Media Experiment going into 2018.

I Think We’re Alone Now

Last week I got a couple of shocks via Social media. All of them involved people having conversations where it was abundantly apparent they’d forgotten the Internet is public.

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We’ve all experienced a moment in our lives when something’s been posted on the Internet we wish hadn’t. Once upon a time, there were no delete buttons. You did not get the chance to reverse your decision. However, crucially in current conditions, even deleting an offending post will not mean you’re off the hook. All those people I watch remind themselves ‘I must delete all that stuff I said in the morning’ are already far too late to fix the damage done. If someone else can see it, they can screencap it. Sure, there are ways to spoof Twitter to make it look as if someone said summat they didn’t, but this is largely beside the point.

You should not be saying in public anything you will regret, ever.

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Yet I watch people who accuse others of being troublemakers when that’s exactly their own modus operandi: casual racism, sexism and all points in between. Pronouncing righteousness, reinforcing stereotypes, and the by now almost metronomically predictable subtweeting. Yeah, I get those other people piss you off. If it is that much of a problem, then remove them from your feed. Use a mute button, block them but do not sit and complain. If someone professes an opinion that you do not ascribe to, this is not a reason to hate them. It is a reason to keep them in your feed and learn from them.

The Internet is not just here for your benefit.

Tolerance is in short supply right now and is sorely needed in every walk of life. It is possible for us all to learn from each other, in so many different and surprising ways. Telling other people how to think and act has taken place for thousands of years, the only difference now is that the stage on which it happens is far larger than ever before. The sensitive and susceptible are in danger of believing everything they read as truth. It is already happening.

I wish more people would start thinking and stop posting.

Is That All There Is?

You may not know this, but I have a Facebook page.

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Let’s be honest here, it’s just a place where I retweet blog posts and my two Instagram feeds. I’ve tried interactions but honestly my heart is not in it. I also have a personal page but it is never used and I frankly refuse to acknowledge the procession of ‘friends suggestions’ I’m given. I can tell you exactly when my love affair with the platform ended. In the same 48 hour period, my dad and a woman I’d taken steps to distance myself from in the past both asked to follow me in quick succession. There’s a reason you put life in your own hands and don’t hand it to algorithms. After that, Facebook was always going to be an afterthought.

Honestly, I have no regrets at all.

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From The Guardian’s article

Now I’m told that all that Fake News in the US has wrought some mindful change in the platform… except people I trust are saying this is hollow. You can now make adverts for lost pets or to poll your community on what is the best picture from your family photo-shoot… but you’ll be asked to pay for them. There’s no way this platform can sustain itself as free without advertising somewhere, and it has to happen as a result, because there’s only so many ways your finite data resources can be sold. Mostly, any notion of change is irrelevant when it lies to its own users in order to get attention. I am consistently told I have far more notifications than is actually the case. An algorithm offering a new friend ‘suggestion’ is not a notification I asked for or wanted.

If I didn’t think there might be some redeemable part of this company, I would have deleted my presence a long time ago. As it happens, we may well be about to reach that point.

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As I approach the point where social interaction matters less and less if accompanied by any kind of deception, it is easier to simply uncouple from the drama. Not everybody has to be your friend. Just because other people follow you does not mean it is a requirement to either reciprocate or feel an urge to become overtly social. I have decided that if there is no real meaning in my relationships, it won’t matter how many followers appear after my name. Most people only turn up for two things anyway: offering free shit is always a great guarantee of grasping that passing interest, or having a notion of genuine skill. If I get good enough via writing to garner a large following, they will get my sense of humour and how I react to shit like this, OR ELSE THEY’D NOT HAVE FOLLOWED ME TO BEGIN WITH.

Social media is never truly yours to dictate until a certain level of ‘fame’ is reached.

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If I believe what I’m told, every time I use the f-word in a Tweet half the platform’s automatically censored from seeing I exist anyway. It doesn’t matter what I say, it is all being sanitised before the World can get indignant about it. The fact my follower count is in the negative this month for the first time in a while is nothing to do with people leaving in droves. I’m setting my own rules, and once they’re organised, we’ll see about turning those numbers around.

I’m not afraid of being alone. The bigger concern remains being genuine and true to what I believe. Once that’s consistent, we’ll work on everything else.

GSME #26 :: End Game

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The Great Social Media Experiment is taking a rest until December. There are a number of reasons: the most significant one remains the most important.selling-yourself

I fully understand the significance of the online sell: so much more than that was the case when all this began, and with honesty in tow. There does have to be a measure of sacrifice to the online gods if you ever want success, and right now that’s in direct conflict with the means at my disposal for creating such content. Every single picture taken and uploaded, each Tweet composed… all have the potential to transform your fortunes.

This outlook also fundamentally alters the perception of people around you. Having people scream you’re a sellout, you only care about yourself whilst totally believing that’s my plan? This year I’ve learnt a lot about where I want to be, as well as those people I’d like to have around me. No longer is there the feeling I need to be nice to those who think they’re owed something. This has stopped being about knowing the right people and, as each day passes, becomes more about understanding myself as a priority.

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When I come to look back on 2017 it will, I’m sure, be with the eyes of someone who finally grasped the truth about the Internet. If all you want to see is stress, anger and idiocy… then that is all there is to be seen. Only when you take the time to dig deep, and truly accept that you are part of the problem, does it become possible to move past so much of the negativity that currently exists. That onus is on you, and you alone. For me, organisation and purpose have become their own rewards.

When I re-start this project in December, Social media will work for me. I don’t need your skanky pretend followers or promises that if I do X then Y will instantly follow. I’m about to create my own means of controlling the ebb and flow of data and interest. Then, if I fail, I can at least say I tried to be an innovator, which matters infinitely more than being part of a flock of foolish, ignorant users. The future, at least for me, is innovating with my rules.

GSME #24 :: Stupid Girl

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On Friday, I did something stupid, and paid the price by being soundly roasted to a crisp on Social media. What did I learn from this? Thing number one is that if you decide to start a fight, the benefits can initially appear more sensational than the personal trauma that results:

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At its peak, my self-destruction was garnering over 25% engagement. That’s the stuff of legends and ultimately, completely unsustainable. The only way you’ll keep that amount of interaction going is to reply to every thread until your eyes bleed and you’re down to zero followers. In fact, there were so many responses and retweets the entirety of my analytics went tits up for the whole of Friday. It was only when I checked this morning that the real numbers were revealed:

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The truth, in retrospect, is that engagement for the day was a modest 1.9% overall. 65k impressions means absolutely nothing, in the larger scheme of things, and tells me (if I needed to know already) that most people love to sit and watch other people having a fight. It is the same mentality that makes drivers slow down when there’s a road accident. That’s not what I started my journey for.

It is certainly never going to happen again.

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I know when I’m in trouble, and gut has always served me well in instances of drama. However, what I severely underestimated in this case was the responses of those with whom I interact. This is probably the most important lesson of all when ‘doing’ Social media: not everybody is your friend, and ‘business’ is something that some people don’t like to think you’re mixing with their pleasure. Someone asked me a while ago how you know who to trust and the reply has not changed since this entire journey began.

Everybody has the potential to destroy you whether you fuck up or not.

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What matters more in situations such as this is how you conduct yourself after the event. In my case, I issued a public apology on Sunday and wrote a blog post where I withdraw myself from making any contentious comments on the subject in public. This used to be my job, until I stopped writing about that particular game in order to concentrate on the Patreon. If there is a contentious opinion to express from now on, it will be posted on my Blog, where there’s a better chance of presenting my opinions with some depth. My job now, especially this week, is what should be taking priority.

Friday didn’t happen to get either views or attention, I just wanted to discuss an idea. This post however is capitalising on this spectacular failure as a basis for constructive criticism. If I wanted to use anyone as an example of how not to do Twitter, it would be me. I can’t say this won’t happen again, of course, because nobody is perfect.

I can say some very important lessons have been learnt and acted upon.