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Posts Tagged ‘facebook

It is easy for me to ignore messages on Facebook, WhatsApp, and even email.

I have not posted on Facebook for years. I refuse to feed it data for its questionable algorithms. I use Facebook like a passport — for the rare occasion I need to prove my identity.

My byline in WhatsApp is “I’m not deaf, I’m ignoring you” and I share a link to what I think is WhatsApp-tiquette. I leave groups or mute individuals that are noisy or pointless.

My WhatsApp byline.

Both Facebook and WhatsApp are full of navel gazing and misinformation even if I know the people there. These platforms become too porous when those same people share information without filters or critical thought.

Then there is email which is essential for work. On that I set strict filtering rules. One particularly effective strategy is filtering out email with too many recipients in the TO or CC header.

If this means I miss a few messages, then so be it. If there are that many people on a single email, it was probably not important or directed at me. It is also the best way to avoid spam.

It is not just easy to ignore messages on Facebook, WhatsApp, and email. I find it to be essential. Just as we self-quarantine to keep our bodies safe from the current pandemic, I ignore noise, misinformation, and disinformation during the concurrent “infodemic”.

I need to be on WhatsApp, I do not want to be on it. This is the message that greets anyone who is interested in visiting my profile there.

My WhatsApp profile.

Likewise, I need to be on Facebook, but I do not want to be. My last post there was actually an automated one from my blog in 2015.

My last FB post was in 2015.

I use WhatsApp and Facebook only because so many people are already on it. I rely on WhatsApp for the occasional chat and I use Facebook like a passport to access a few linked services.

Both platforms are too noisy for my liking. But I have tamed WhatsApp to the point that it no longer harasses me and have starved Facebook of information. I do this because I am information literate — I don’t just know things, I do something about it.

If there is a leak of my information or a break in my sanity, I cannot just blame the tools. I would not blame an open window or entry; I shut the blinds and lock the door.

This CNET article is one of many that tries to provide help to those who want to control the data that Facebook has on you.

Its advice is restricted to changing settings on 1) who can tag you, and 2) how you should review posts before they appear in your timeline.
 

 
But there is much more you can do. For example, you should also check app permissions and audit privacy settings.

Facebook app permissions.

Facebook privacy settings.

The most important thing you can do is not a Facebook setting. It is a mindset and practice — you should reduce postings or refrain from posting.

For me reading some Facebook (FB) group posts is like feeding a morbid habit of watching train wrecks.

I can see them coming because they are guaranteed. The conversations (if they can be called that) are unpleasant, but I plow through anyway. Why? All for the single pearl in the mud trampled by swine.
 

 
By comparing what I do and read in FB and Twitter, I realise that the issue is granular control. I can choose who I follow on Twitter. I can only choose which groups I join in FB.

I can even block people in Twitter so that I curate the right kind of followers. This is not the same as muting people on FB as the control is finer and deeper in Twitter.

It is strange that the more verbose FB provides less granularity of control while the shorter form Twitter provides more. This starts to make sense if you buy in to this description: FB is where you hang out with family or friends. Twitter is where you learn from strangers. It makes sense to have locks on your front door, but not on the ones inside.

But this is where the description falls apart. FB groups are full of strangers who have a lot to say with very little sense. You need only examine any FB interest group with the lens of granularity to realise how this leads to breadth instead of depth.

By breadth I mean the reach that large FB groups have in transmitting information. By lack of depth I mean unsubstantiated rumour, baseless information, or knowledge built on weak foundations.


Twitter is not immune from these, of course. But you can choose who to follow and you can even choose who follows you. You can go for quality, not just quantity, and by doing so choose depth over breadth. As you reputation grows over time, you might develop reach and breadth.

Developing depth over breadth is a more responsible approach. I wonder if this is modelled and taught in digital and media literacy modules. If this is not, then learners just go with the flow of popularity contests that favour breadth over depth.

 
As much as I dislike Facebook (FB) for how it operates and what it stands for, I laugh at the call to #deletefacebook.

Not everyone can afford to. Not everyone should. For example, your FB profile might be the simplest way to stay connected with others socially and/or professionally. You may also need to verify your identify with sites like AirBnB using FB.

When we use FB, we trade some privacy and personal data for connection and convenience. The problems lie in how FB uses (or abuses) our data and how much we choose to share.

We cannot control the former because FB’s processes are not transparent and it is not tightly regulated. For example, it took more digging only after the Cambridge Analytica scandal for us to learn that FB monitors our Messenger conversations and archived user videos after they deleted them.

Instead the onus is on us to manage what and how much we share. That is a bigger problem than FB policies and practices. Why? First consider the “rule of threes”.

The “rule of threes” is that a person can survive for about three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Many find their voice and shape their identities on FB. Depending on how much they rely on it, FB might be their air, water, or food.

This is also why I think most programmes that claim to “detox” you from FB or any other social media platform are nonsense. Unless you are addicted, there is no need for a detox.

The more we realise that social media is a modern necessity and not a luxurious option, the clearer our thinking, and the better our approaches to managing it. Each of us needs to find a healthy balance.

As for me, I only use FB like a passport. FB was cool and cute in its younger days, like a tiger cub. Now older, larger, and more powerful, it has grown into its natural instincts — it is no longer your pet or friend or under your control. FB no longer appreciates what you feed it; it sees you as a complete meal.

So I place a barrier between FB and me. I still am associated with FB, but I can say that I mostly own my FB identity. It does not own me.

The aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandals are online movements like #deletefacebook.

As much as I dislike that platform, this is not something that most people will do. For them, Facebook is a necessity for remaining in touch with people socially and professionally. They are not going to #deletefacebook.

However, it they do not do not take reasonable action, they risk their data being misused or abused. Facebook has long evolved. We are not users of the product; we are the product.

Under pressure, Facebook will tighten privacy controls. But it will still use our data. The issue is not IF it uses our data — it has to — but HOW it uses our data.

We have some control on how Facebook uses are data. Every time we read and write in Facebook, we provide data. The permissions we give Facebook guarantee its use.

I suggest we do not give away so much so that we open ourselves to abuse. By way of analogy, it is one thing to let people know your home address and it is another to let them know the code to your gate and door.

Periodically I do personal data security and privacy check-ups. At the moment this is a manual plow-through process in Facebook.

I also do not post anything in Facebook or allow too many mentioned postings. My last Facebook posting was in May 2015 where I said that I “avoid Facebook like it is the plague”. My last allowed mention was in April 2016.

I might start using Firefox for reading community postings in Facebook to prevent data leaks.

I choose to use Facebook like a passport. Like international travel, it is a form of identity, but I only use it when necessary. It is not my default or go-to, so I do not use Facebook credentials to log in to other online services.
 

You need to read and watch these exposés on how Facebook enabled Cambridge Analytics to access and capitalise on user data.


Video source
 

Video source

If your time is precious, just watch the video immediately above of the whistleblower revealing his role and the impact of his actions.

TLDR?

  • Cambridge Analytica tapped a professor’s idea to get users’ Facebook data with a personality survey app.
  • According to the whistleblower, it took a few hundred thousand initial users to generate the corpus of data that came from millions of users who were associated with the initial few.
  • The tool mined the initial users’ families, friends, and acquaintances so that the company then had access to tens of millions of users’ data.
  • According to the New York Times, only the 270,000 survey participants gave their permission for their data to be used; the rest from the resulting raw corpus of 50 million profiles did not.
  • The company then fed users with targetted resources to sway opinion.
  • Cambridge Analytica would not have been able to do this if not for Facebook’s fast and loose data use policies. This was not Facebook’s first strike (see my curated resources).

This incident is unlikely to be Facebook’s last because most people seem to close their eyes and mouths to such misuse of data. If Facebook does not lose face, it will brazenly continue along this path.

You can choose to block its path or get off this well-beaten track. Unless you are powerful, influential or heavy-handed, you are unlikely impede the Facebook juggernaut.

If you are like me, you can choose to stay off Facebook or try not to provide it data that it and its partners can turn against you.

Today I highlight two videos that provide insights into current issues.


Video source

The first is about what some workers are worried about — robots taking over their jobs. This is an issue made real by what people can already see happening around them.

It seems to be a relatively immediate threat, so policymakers and workers alike spread and share the worry.


Video source

The second is about the harm that Facebook has brought. Facebook ostensibly wanted to do good, but in reaching almost everyone on this planet, did not regulate its own ambition.

This issue is less obvious to most people than the previous one. However, I think that it is as big a threat, if not bigger, than robots taking over jobs. Robotisation is a result of many agencies and stakeholders that are subject to rules and standards; Facebook is one mega corporation that makes its own rules and standards.

The irony is that laypeople has little say in robotisation. But we make Facebook what it is and we empower — and possibly embolden — it by using it indiscriminately or not objecting to its poor practices.

How more myopic can we get?

 
Most people I know do not question Facebook. They should, as an issue of:

I use Facebook as little as possible. I once described it like a passport that I use for identification.

I am part of a few Facebook groups, but I do not post to them. I refrain from posting in my timeline (my last one was in 2015). I do not wish to pour fuel into the fire.

I squirm each time I have to mention Facebook as one possible social media-based professional development option for teachers. For me that is like recommending a seedy bar for it salads simply because lots of people go there.

Just say no. It gets easier with practice.

Tags:

In February, I shared this resource on Twitter:

Even though there were good ideas there about educators leveraging on Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest, the tweet not a complete endorsement.

Here are some considerations to prevent a blind plunge into those social media depths.

Why not Facebook?
Some people like to say that Facebook is a place to hang out with friends while Twitter is where you learn from relative strangers. Based on anecdotes, I also suspect that some people prefer to separate their personal social media platform from the professional learning one (if they even have the latter).

Facebook and Twitter seem to have different socially-mediated uses. If you receive an invite from someone on Facebook, you are obliged to take it. If you are followed on Twitter, you are not obliged to follow back (not nowadays anyway).

With Facebook, you cannot choose your family; with Twitter you can curate your “friends”. This might be why Twitter seems more closely associated with educator personal learning networks (PLNs) than Facebook.

There are many more reasons not to use Facebook. I will not go into how Facebook has abused user trust and helped spread fake news, but I share links to resources I have curated.

Why not LinkedIn?
It is not the go-to for youth. In a few past keynotes, I emphasised how LinkedIn was one of the least mobile of the big social platforms.

For example, a 2014 article in the Wall Street Journal illustrated comScore data:

LinkedIn is desktop-bound.

LinkedIn was very much a desktop-dominant tool. After being bought by Microsoft in 2016, the platform might be more mobile. However, it has not escaped the stigma of being an older worker’s tool.

This mobile vs desktop distinction is important. Mobile is already dominant and its mindset of use is different. Think about the obvious: On-the-go, small but contextual consumption, and interstitial learning.

Consider the less obvious too, i.e, learning from non-traditional experts like people younger than you and outside your professional interests. It is LinkedIn and not necessarily linked out. Having a mobile mindset enables the latter.

Why not Pinterest?
Ah, Pinterest, the platform that, according to this Pew study, rivals both LinkedIn and Twitter among adults, but has a heavy gender bias.

Pinterest might have had respectable numbers among adults, but interest has waned among teens. These are the same teens that will take their unpinned preferences and behaviours to adulthood.

The platform’s strength is photos, but while these might paint a thousand words, they are not necessarily accompanied by a thousand distilled, reflective, critical, or otherwise necessary actual words. The written word may be subjective, but pictures are even more open to interpretation.

So what then?
My reflection might seem like a put down of the three platforms. I did not write it with that intent.

I see it this way: If you are going to invest in a home or vehicle, you will want to know what is good and bad about it. While being encouraging and positive puts smiles on faces, I do not want you to be a grinning idiot (I mean that in the kindest way).

Be informed, stay informed. Then make up your own mind.

My own mind is continually using and evaluating tweeting and blogging for sharing and reflecting. Twitter is my short-form tool of choice while WordPress fills in the blanks with long-form space. I have been in Twitter since 2007 and this blog since 2008. I attribute my staying power to the affordances — technical, social, and pedagogical — of these social media platforms.


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