So, you deleted your Facebook account and you feel good about yourself. If your entire life was on Facebook, then it’s great news and I commend you for your courage. You’ve released yourself from an addictive habit. Bad news? It’s quite possible that your personal data has already been harvested. It’s out there in the world for the likes of Cambridge Analytica to use. Data about our interests, or our internet activity is not as private as it used to be. After the Facebook scandal, it’s naïve to assume that our personal data is safe. There’s just so much information on the internet. Finger prints, retina scans, emails, telephone numbers, addresses, pictures, voices, friends, facial scans and God knows what else. Any small piece of this information can create a profile of any target. So, if everything is already exposed, why would anybody delete Facebook? It’s quite pointless. Of the 2 billion active users that Facebook has, it’s possible only Elon Musk deleted his account. To prove this point, let’s look at the different kinds of internet users.
The four types of internet users
According to the book Researching Everyday Childhoods, there are 4 types of internet users. This study says that internet users can be put into any one of these four categories:
The Lurker– Lurkers have the tendency to hide themselves on social media platforms, they avoid contact with other users but still enjoy all the fun activities. Just like the rest of us, Lurkers silently stalk rivals, friends or their favorite celebrities.
The Geek– These people tend to share posts about the things they are passionate about, things like favorite bands, movies, art or games. They often spend a lot of time on this and have been known to project obsessive or addictive behavior.
The Victim– Victims are kind of the opposite of Lurkers. They are very visible online. They are visible by their own doing or due to other people’s doing. They may be tagged in an unflattering picture or could even have their intimate photos shared online.
The Internet Celebrity– We are all familiar with people who spend hours perfecting pictures for Instagram or enjoy talking to the world through a vlog. These Internet users absolutely value the “visibility of the self”. They promote themselves via Instagram, Snapchat, selfies, or YouTube.
Can you guess which one of these internet users are most likely to delete their Facebook accounts? I wouldn’t bet my money on any of them. The Victims sound like they would do it and never turn back. From my personal experience, the Victim always comes back as a Lurker. The Geeks are usually attached to a strong online community or they follow an internet celebrity. So, a Geek leaving Facebook is totally unthinkable. The Internet Celebrity feeds on the internet, on some rare occasions they may move their fans to another platform (without deleting the previous). Which leaves us with the Lurkers. Now these internet users already feel invisible, for this reason they don’t see any need to leave Facebook. If these facts are accurate, why would anybody delete Facebook? My point is that data harvesting is here to stay, social media is engraved in our culture, most people don’t believe their behavior can be manipulated and they really don’t care who has their personal data.
There only sheep or the wolves
There are only sheep and wolves on the internet. Or should we call them the influenced and the influencers. Please forget about the Lurker, Geek, victim or Celebrity. It’s too complicated. From now on when you log onto your favorite website, there should only be one question on your mind. Am I the sheep or the wolf? Let’s face it, some way or another we are all influenced. The sheep are the ones who are easily influenced, and they make up most of the internet. They are open to all information within their bubble. An example of this is the rivalry between Android users and iOS users. Android users like Samsung and the iOS users can’t stand Samsung. The tech influencers who control these bubbles are the wolves. On both sides, these influencers are well informed, educated and they know the absolute truth, whether they are lying to their followers or not. The wolves bend the internet to their will, and they must study user behavior to achieve that.
What about the people who care about personal data?
For them, the fun, feel-good honeymoon stage of social media has officially ended. We have reached a new threshold in the information age. It’s ripe and it’s glaring at us with a big fat middle finger. Knowledge is power, it’s a fact of life that has been repeatedly proven throughout history. Countries or individuals with the most knowledge will always come out on top. We all need to realize that we have all become international digital assets. The same as books, schools, newspapers, you name it. And when things are digital, they are more accessible to the world. In fact, ‘Personal data’ is no longer a realistic term because nothing on social media is personal. The two words (personal and data) should not even be used together.
‘Nosedive’- an episode of Black Mirror, realistically predicts how social media completely consumes our lives. The show gives us a glimpse into a society where people constantly rate each other on social media. With this rating system, they get a better job, social status and a comfortable lifestyle. What’s really striking about Nosedive is that people can freely access each other’s personal data in real time. It’s easy to envision a world where our so-called privacy, will become nonexistent.
Is it only Facebook spying on us?
Currently, any online platform or business which is not collecting customer data is destined to fail. Data is more valuable than gold. It’s the GPS of digital marketing. It’s the stuff that makes Jeff Bezos the richest man on earth. Doing business online without data is like trying to sew a dress with a pencil. It’s impossible, so why would anybody delete Facebook? Facebook, Google, and many other platforms have been able to provide us with essential targeting tools . But Facebook has taken it to another level. They can influence user behavior. Facebook can change your mood (or opinion) by just adjusting the news-feed. In the last decade they have achieved this without anybody really noticing. We were too busy standing in awe of how Facebook spread like wildfire, while it collected oceans of personal data. And there’s no proof that only Facebook has mind changing capabilities. There isn’t a country on earth that would not like to have the power that Facebook has. That’s why some nations possess or work closely with social media platforms. There should not be any surprise if many other social media platforms have been following Facebook’s lead.
Deleting Facebook does not solve the problem. Why would anybody delete Facebook when almost every other platform collects data? Soon enough, governments will intervene and regulate all social media platforms. But governments don’t always have the right motives, so regulation is not enough. I suspect artificial intelligence will be a major player in protecting internet users. Until then, the best protection is to give the next generation a good education and to keep ourselves well informed. There’s no need to be afraid of the devil we know. We should be more afraid of the devil we do not know.Let discuss this!