Recently at the Edinburgh International TV Festival, NPR's Andy Carvin was able to squeeze in a question with Google former CEO Eric Schmidt about how Google could possibly justify its names policy, a policy requiring that one must use their real name to represent them on Google+, when it could put people at risk. He said "...people who are concerned about their safety, G+ is completely optional. No one is forcing you to use it. It's obvious for people at risk if they use their real names, they shouldn't use G+."
Thank you Eric Schmidt. I love this.
Why do I love this? I'm a 98% right-brain social creative marketing guy but when it comes to personal responsibility there's no room for squishy emotional grey area when people are online. If there was ever a moment in my line of work when I appreciated the staunch pragmatist, it's right now. Eric nailed it.
Now I know this means we need to now be more rational about why we are doing what we do online but think about this for a second.
The problem with social networks is that while it is definitely wrong for them to sell your data/content without telling you first or providing a way for you to opt-out of said data sale, the internet to me often feels like the "land of not taking responsibility for one's own actions." In all honesty, I'm more often than not appalled at the hypocrisy (and irony) of most users of social networks. The freedom of being online and getting access to something for free also appears to perpetuate an irrational sense of entitlement out of users that I find amusing for the most part, but it's generally annoying.
1. Social networks owe you nothing. If a company creates a free website for you to sign up and be a part of, they reserve the right to create and implement whatever policies they want. If it's all documented and made available to the public, the users have no real rights other than being informed about what is being done with their data.
2. Life is about choices folks. If you choose to create an account on a social network on your own accord, and then also decide to publish what you'd consider personal photos, videos, content, etc. - That was your choice to do so. No one held you at gunpoint (er...hopefully not), forcing you to create a Facebook account followed by populating it with your own content. You chose to. There's a reason why some people never get on social networks or if they do, they hardly post anything. They're making the choice of what to share because they know it's their own responsibility.
3. You are being logged. Make no mistake: the moment you create an account anywhere, not just on social networks, you are signing up to be part of a human data collection experiment. Data collected will be used to figure out how to make money. End of story. If you can embrace that fact and be cool with it, then welcome to the current state of the internet party.
4. It is called a SOCIAL network for a reason. I always find it funny when people create an account on a social network and then feverishly lock everything down as tight as possible and hardly share anything. It's like going to a business mixer or a family function or a get together with your friends where, immediately after you arrive, you go find a dark corner to hang out in by yourself until everyone leaves. In short, why bother?
Newflash: You are being digitally cloned
We are witnessing the early stages of the ultimate convergence of sociology, human behavior, and billions of data packets sailing over millions of miles of network cables intended to construct a virtual version of you.
I've observed that the same people who complain about or are fearful of this are the same ones that are also contributing to it the most by providing the most content, whether they realize it, like it, hate it, or not. Every time you update your status about what you had for dinner, your struggles as a parent, how much you like your job, when you last went to Disneyland and how fun it was, etc. – algorithms collect, organize and attempt to construct a ‘virtual you’ over a time period that can be stored (and manipulated) in a multitude of ways, deconstructed by ad agencies and reconstructed as needed to serve you content that they hope will be as close to your heart strings as possible so that you buy stuff. Because you have provided the data about yourself from your own brain and fingertips, associated content statistically has a higher and higher percent chance of resonating with you as time goes on after they measure your continued responses. As we continue to voluntarily provide more insight into our likes, dislikes and fears, the more data is collected about us and our individual behavior patterns.
In the bigger picture, websites are constructing a virtual version or copy of humanity in the form of patterns that fill up a multitude of databases. Unless you are in high-tech, this happens without the majority of us even realizing it because we are distracted by our own emotions, the day to day stresses of life and the onslaught of news feeds that now pour in from every direction.
If I sound crazy, a simpler way to describe it is this (I’m sure most of you have seen this before): When you see a new animated movie come out like Avatar, their goal is to as accurately as possible, recreate realistic human physical motion and movement so that the characters look as authentic as possible and are believable. In a production studio, they do so by making the actors wear a body suit covered in sensors that connect up to a computer program. They then have the actor do certain movements for the movie to support various scenes, etc. While they are moving around, the sensors are recording these movements and it creates a 3D image of those movements on the screen, completing a virtual version of that person and their physical/movement characteristics.
The social monopolization of the web is doing the exact same thing except that it’s with human behavior instead and on a global scale. By creating an account on a social network or site so that we can willingly populate it with content from our daily lives and true selves, we have officially authorized the creation of digital clones of us as a species so companies can utilize it for innovation and business.
Embrace it or bust
If none of the above sounds ok with you, don't sign up for Facebook, Google+, or any other social network or community. Plain and simple. However, if you like the internet, you like Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds, and being able to consume news and opinions from around the world, then sign up, be happy about it and make it a positive experience for yourself and those that are connected to you.