A decade ago, the term social media didn’t even exist and it’s hard to believe today there are guidebooks and workshops on social media marketing and is big business. There are people who shudder at the mere mention and shun any social media, and you can’t blame them. While it can be used as a marketing tool, replacing traditional advertising it also opens the door to fraud, copyright infringement, identity theft, and a loss of privacy among other things. Most platforms have privacy controls, but they have developed only in response to the needs of the public. In addition hacking (gray and black hat) has become a worldwide threat. Any system given time can be hacked, so those who are wary of having any social media accounts have every right to have cause for concern.
While cold calling, and junk mail continue, the quicker method is now spamming email addresses, websites, and social media accounts. It is a pain, and while there are some spam measures (captcha) some will slip through. Social media platforms were originally created as a means for friends to communicate and share photos, and now it is so much more. Some don’t allow multiple accounts, but the fact is many people do have them. All you need is a separate email address to register. Facebook has recently clamped down, insisting people give their real name and date of birth. This can be very sensitive information you are entrusting to a website, and that you can’t change either unless you delete your account. Even in the workplace most employees are expected to have social media accounts to communicate with others, and the wise have a personal and a public account.
How private are accounts when you enact all the privacy controls possible? It depends on your interactions. On Twitter you can delete tweets you have made, but not those that people have tagged you in. Facebook posts depend on the settings of both parties; one may have made it private, but if the other person has made their profile public, then if you interact then it will show up. Imagine clicking like on a public post, your profile will then have created a footprint with the corresponding Facebook page or member. I found that out the hard way when a friend has said her posts were all private, only to find my remark on a public page with my location. I deleted it as soon as I could, but you have to trust you fellow friends are as cautious as you.
I also see the pressure society has created in terms of social media, with apps that update in real time and also allow users to interact on multiple devices. People maybe addicted to their cellphones, but how many are because of social media? Is social media controlling the behavior of society and humanity? Perhaps in urban areas this has become the norm, and rural areas (probably due to a lack of wi-fi) have been spared. Can you control your social media or does it control you? Each time you hear a ping update do you check it, or do you check it as often as possible?
Today I deactivated my main Facebook account. I will have to keep it but I am taking control. Why? People have forgotten their manners, because social media is like entering someone’s private space. Recently I have been bombarded with people sending me multiple messages (8-12 in one go) having a rant, leaving voice messages (why?), numerous over sharing of memes of various causes from animals in distress, people asking for donations for crowdfunding projects, or the US election. It’s no longer fun or enjoyable when someone is bored and crams your feed full of all their frustrations, and woes. Yes, you can unfollow and block them, but when so many are doing it, it’s easier to just cut it off. The nice thing is that I can see photos of friends who live abroad, and that I can share some fun posts with friends. That was the main premise, and somehow it’s now out of hand. I have taken control, but how many people can? Some people get withdrawal symptoms if they don’t check their social media, or have panic attacks.
Having a social media account does not mean that you must respond to each message (or even read them), or to add as a friend or follow people you don’t like. It’s like being in your living room; if you wouldn’t do or say those things in public, why would you think it’s acceptable to post it online on social media? It’s not as far as I am concerned, but somehow the boundaries of social media are getting blurred and expanded, as privacy controls are lax, and hard to configure at times. I choose which messages to read, and whether to respond. People are deluded in the belief that having social media accounts assumes a person must check it daily and respond immediately. Newsflash, there is no obligation, and each of us can choose when and if to interact, or to press that deactivate or delete button. There was a wave of calm when I pressed deactivate again. I felt free.