A Dutch TV show has sparked discussions in the Netherlands this week with a call for Dutch people to say “bye bye” to Facebook and leave the platform. Ironically, this has been extensively shared on Facebook, with a Facebook event encouraging people to cut off their accounts at 8pm local time, today 11 April 2018. This video has English subtitles, but if you can’t deal with 16 minutes of what I have dubbed his “shouty sensationalist” style, I will summarise below.
The key message as I understand it, is that Facebook has crossed the line with privacy and security by selling data to advertising companies** (see below for an update). Also that it has too much “control” over our daily lives. Though this discussion is almost as old as Facebook itself, much of the reason it’s now in the media is due to the “Cambridge Analytica data scandal” which happened back in 2015 but is now in the courts. An interesting article with Mark Zuckerberg’s (apparently) “private” notes here: https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/10/17222546/facebook-mark-zuckerberg-senate-hearing-notes-cambridge-analytica-privacy
I’m a social media consultant and trainer and realise this may make me a little biased. I have no intention of leaving Facebook. I am completely aware that they, and almost any other major company, is far from perfect. In this case, I do think Facebook has crossed “the line” though legal systems are currently seem to be making him accountable for this.** I feel as a society we tend to want to crucify people for making mistakes. We demand our free services and seem naive to how these huge infrastructures can actually remain free. We refuse to read terms and conditions yet shout loudly if we feel we have been wrong done by….usually using those platforms to voice our opinions.
Social media is a whole new world and frontier. I feel fortunate to have been on the forefront of this revolution over the last decade. As a university lecturer, I thoroughly encourage critical reflection and debate on this or any topic. Social media actually makes that possible. I’ve read a lot of very interesting arguments from both sides on Facebook today. Here’s a few things to think about from my perception and experience.
“Traditional” media verses social media
The video above is produced by a Dutch television show. In marketing terms, this is considered traditional media. One of the things I love most about the rise of social media is that it has shifted power from those backed with big budgets to broadcast – one way – and instead gives individuals the chance to also have their say in more balanced two way conversations in a public forum. I’ve watched as mainstream or traditional media has become more desperate in recent years to gain attention – to grab it from those who we actually care about, being friends and family. This has led to what I call “shouty sensationalism” and Lubach is an example of this. What I believe is the worst thing is how they instead present it as “real news”. Lubach backs his argument with “facts”. However don’t be fooled. Facts though they may be, traditional media are experienced in PR stunts like this to gain reach. They are always biased. By shutting down their Facebook account, sure, they may be “protesting privacy concerns” however they are also removing a channel and chance for YOU to have a conversation WITH them.
What is privacy and security anyway?
I keep hearing/reading concerns about “privacy and security” but both myself and others seem to have a hard time being explicit about exactly what we are afraid of. I don’t want my bank account hacked, though family have had money stolen online from their account – and the bank refunded it. I don’t want my children seen in minimal clothing as the thought of “sick” people seeing this is a fear – though realistically, I take them to the beach in their swimwear and have no clue if someone is nearby with a zoom lens. So what can we do? We can live in fear. Or we can read terms and conditions. Check your security and privacy settings. Most importantly – do not share anything or do anything online you don’t want the world to know about! Or in your private life for that matter either, who knows what secrets you tell someone may be shared with the world – as happened before social media anyway…..and then, usually the people involved didn’t have a voice to respond but instead relied on the filters of traditional media with money. Maybe I’m missing something or will have an experience in the near future that will completely change my mind. However I still haven’t been convinced yet I should be completely afraid of this privacy and security “dragon”. Many people seem to be shouting that this “dragon” is out there. Yet when I ask them directly if they have seen the “dragon” or been harmed by it – the argument blurs. Sure, be aware and alert, but trade my ability to have my say and communicate easily with friends and family for an unknown and undefined fear? Not yet.
Connection and conversation
People are looking for connection and conversations. Facebook has been a pioneer in offering a platform for that to take place. They created a previously unheard of business model where it was offered for “free”. As someone with friends and family scattered across the globe, I have thoroughly embraced the opportunity that Facebook offers to make them a part of my daily life, no matter where I am. Yes, I have to filter ads and apps, but I have never felt that this has overshadowed the fact that Facebook has offered connection and conversation in ways we didn’t previously imagine.
Leave if you like
This serves as a good reminder that anyone can leave a social media channel at any time. This video from 3 years ago comes to mind as I this morning saw a number of Facebook friends announcing their decision to leave.
So that’s just a start of my thoughts on this discussion. I’ve had some really interesting face to face and online chats about this over the last few days. Genuinely interested in hearing further honest opinions – on whichever channel you choose!
** update – I’ve since learned that Facebook has apparently never sold data. Instead, it’s apps that it has allowed to connect to Facebook – and which users have allowed access to their data are the ones who have sold it. I’ve just been watching a live broadcast on Facebook of NOS news where Mark Zuckerberg – voluntarily – is answering congress questions. Again, I misunderstood, I thought he was required to be there for a court case, but this is not the case. I have instead been impressed by his poise and patience and quite stunned at the lack of understanding and knowledge of how social media actually works during the questioning from congress. But that’s another blog post!