From the beginning I embraced social media with love in my heart. It gave me the opportunity to connect with all of the amazing people I’ve met around the world, having lived in five countries and travelled to many more. Before social media, I would have lost touch and they would have become distant memories.
Social media has also given me amazing access to knowledge, easily accessible, and just that is enough to keep me hooked.
So yes, it’s a genuine love for social coming directly from: connection; staying in touch; and knowledge.
As time went on, I matured in my approach, realizing I needed to be appropriate in how I participated based on the channels I was on. I love having great political discussions or sharing dirty jokes on Facebook, but LinkedIn is not a place where all of me is relevant.
Another lesson is to be as interesting as possible. If the advertising arms of these platforms want to chase me for my buying attention, well they need to work hard to nail down what I am interested in.
Although, I have to admit, this never bothered me. I have no issue with anyone making money, especially when there are such massive benefits to me in return.
I suppose I’ve always seen it as a game and a natural evolution of the Web.
Social media is young
As we look at the breaking news this week, I think we also forget that social media is still in its infancy at a decade old, and it has a long way to go. It’s been in a constant, rapid state of evolution since the beginning, and, as we often see, that evolution is not always pretty.
There are many growing pains, as well as negative impacts, the most obvious and painful include negative societal impact, influence on world politics, and the general spread of ignorance and hate around the world today. No, not pleasant at all.
But there is much that is so great, I can’t imagine life without it.
We’ve got to wake up to our value
But I believe the main issue sits with us and our lack of awareness, that the most valuable product in the world today is us, and our data.
It has been spoken of for some time that the product expected to dominate world politics and business for the next century is no longer oil, it’s data.
Wars will no longer be fought over the remains of dinosaurs, but over star dust. Poetic right?
But that data is us - what we knowingly and unknowingly give away, usually without thought.
So here we all are, facing the latest (and biggest) Facebook scandal with Cambridge Analytica. As a starting point, I recommend we all take a look at this and understand it, versus getting caught up in the hysteria.
Here’s my top coverage picks so far
- Washington Post - I worked at Facebook. I know how Cambridge Analytica could have happened
- Rollingstone - Cambridge Analytica: What We Know About the Facebook Data Scandal
- Wired - Cambridge Analytica Took 50M Facebook Users' Data—And Both Companies Owe Answers
- And an intro to where it all came from – watch the video - Revealed: Trump’s election consultants filmed saying they use bribes and sex workers to entrap politician
Here’s what makes me angry about the Cambridge Analytica story
While sensationalism isn’t new to political campaigns, the scale of potential impact today is mindboggling, thanks to social media.
When I understand the impact of this news, the horrible part is knowing that the disenfranchised “rust-belt” communities around the world - those in the most pain and who will suffer the most as the world-of-work as we know it unravels – are being cleverly manipulated by these companies. They are tapping into their hopes and fears, feeding the flames… and we’re all seeing the impact of that!
The challenge is, what they are being fed is not serving them at all. It is not making their lives better, it is making everything worse, because it’s also helping them believe it’s worth clinging onto times that are gone.
Companies, like Cambridge Analytica, push these people deeper into despair and anger, and while they’re believing the hype, they’re not focusing on what they need to do now to get ready for the future. Just that shits me!! They keep losing and can’t see it.
It’s pure, pathetic manipulation at the extreme edge, but haven’t we always been manipulated? Politics, advertising, PR, sleazy sales tactics….
The world of business has always been run on manipulation for the last century (well, with organized religion and politics, it goes back thousands of years), and while potentially another topic in its own right, the reason I got into content marketing was because, at last, here was a way for business and professionals to communicate that was not centred on manipulation, but on delivering true value to customers. That’s its essence.
Big lessons but we’re going to continue in this direction
The reality that we live and work out loud is here to stay, and there are massive benefits to it for everyone. Technology and social media will continue to evolve and become more sophisticated. New platforms will launch. Private platforms will become a part of life. And it will keep changing.
The role of Facebook (and all of its brands) is anyone’s guess, but check out WeChat for a sense of what it could look like when citizens are trusting of those who collect data….
Not convinced the Chinese trust? Look at Edelman’s Trust Barometer for the answer.
So should I leave Facebook?
Moving forward, what do we do? Join the #DeleteFacebook movement? Which would also mean Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger? But is that the only social media company we’d have to step away from, and if so, do we think we’d be protected?
Because let’s face it, data is being collected on us EVERYWHERE! All of your service providers, the government, travel, your phone, your device in your home (if you’re mad enough to have one), your outings around town, and on I could go. Soon your fridge will be collecting data and speaking to you!
We are in the world of data my friends. Social is a big part of it, but not the only part.
So instead of panicking, I’m looking at this news as a wake-up call we all must heed. First is, what can we do to protect ourselves?
An example. Every time friends posted Facebook quizzes (which famous actress do you look like, which stud is your ideal partner) I wanted to reach out and say – be careful. That’s your data you’re giving away for free there.
But I didn’t, because then I’d be annoying… maybe I will in future…
I’ve done some of the quizzes, but only when they requested nothing from me in return. There are many like that, but requesting your timeline, friends list, likes, email address, etc… No. You need to work much harder for that information from me.
Creating a poxy quiz that will entertain me for a few seconds is not good enough! My data is valuable. Value your data!
Never forget social media companies are enormous databases of us, nothing more. They let us do cool things and stay connected with our communities, but we must never forget that data is being collected on us so that something can be served to us.
That’s why it’s ‘free’. We are the product.
And you know what, mostly I don’t mind. I do a Web search for a holiday in Bali, which I can never be bothered looking through, and because of the cookies on my computer, I head over to Facebook and a whole host of ads appear for villas in Bali. I see that as a win win.
Protect your mind
Fake news is another enormous part of the problem, and again, we need to be more discerning about what we believe and what we share. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
If it feeds into a fear or a hope, perhaps it’s worth researching further? Fear or hope should be the first sign of caution about the information you’re ingesting!
Take a look at this piece, which I’ve shared before: He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He's Worried About An Information Apocalypse.
Is Facebook responsible?
While Cambridge Analytica, it’s partners and others like it, have taken manipulative business practises to a new level of filth at the extreme edge of what’s possible today, is Facebook ultimately responsible?
And I’ve got to say, from what I’ve seen and read, I think they’ve been naïve and too trusting. A huge lesson there, but a valuable one for all of us, as they will be forced to learn it now and ACT big time.
There is no doubt in my mind that the social media giants we’ve all come to rely on, will clean up their act and earn our trust again. I certainly don’t put Mark Zuckerberg in the category of sleazebag, because I genuinely believe he is on a mission to do good in the world!
No one gets to hide anymore, no one
Another piece of this puzzle for me is the dramatic change the world is going through, but more than that, how dramatically, we, the people, are changing. We are starting to claim our power, and part of that is expecting more from businesses that serve us. Same for the politicians, the media, religious leaders, and more. This whole story backs that up.
Secrecy is over. Hidden, backroom deals are over. The shady practises of the past are over.
Well maybe not yet, but anything being done today that shouldn’t be in the limelight has never been at greater risk of exposure – an undercover reporter, a whistle-blower…
Which is why I personally see this as a very inspiring time in human history. Perhaps that’s the message corrupt politicians and business leaders haven’t quite grasped yet. What this time of change means on a deeper level for all of us?
We will get to the truth, today, tomorrow, in years to come. We expect it. No one gets to hide anymore. I think that’s awesome news.
We have some way to go, of course, and I am definitely looking forward to a more transparent world, because it is where we are heading. Believe it. We are demanding it.
So please think
In the meantime, don’t be stupid in sharing sensitive data, be interesting so they find it hard to nail you down, make it work for you, and most importantly, stop getting sucked in by the manipulative messages that tap into your hopes and fears. We have to think for ourselves my friends.
Read opposing ideas and opinions, even if it makes you feel sick to do so.
Let’s step up and make this world a better place, but it starts with all of us individually, so we can benefit from the power of us collectively.
Help me/us learn
There you go, my take on the scandal of the week so far. I certainly don’t have all the knowledge or the answers, so I’d love to know your opinions/thoughts? Help me/us learn and understand.
This is a super tricky situation we’ve all found ourselves in. It’s also much bigger than just the scandal – the scale of impact is phenomenal.
So do you think individual responsibility can make a difference? Do you think scandals like this can change things for the better because action is taken? Is it, ultimately, positive?
And no, I’m not deleting Facebook, but I’ll always keep a close eye on things.
Looking forward to your thoughts.
Want to be a super star online?
I am always seeking to share a message of being a social leader with integrity at the core. If you’re not being real, if you’re not delivering value, if you’re not being of service to your audience, then why do anything, right? Because social leadership is unbelievably powerful.
I believe it’s time for all of us to embrace our voice and embrace the future. We do this by working and living out loud with meaning, intention and by being true to ourselves.
If you don’t know where to start, check out my e-learning course How to build a rock star personal brand today.
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