Monday, September 24, 2018

Keep it Tight

Or Tainnkyauthcwar hcaung (google) to my Burmese friends

Facebook is an easy target, as is social media in general, but is it really the platform's fault that so many persons abuse it?  That seems to be what Congress is implying as it goes through another round of hearings to determine the role social media networks had in the 2016 elections and if they are just as vulnerable in 2018.

The Senate panel was apparently better at questioning social media executives than had been the House earlier in April, but it strikes me Congress is trying to pin all the ills of the past election on social media rather than owning up to its lack of any meaningful legislature to limit electoral abuse.  This is why Google didn't even bother to show up.

John Oliver tore facebook a new asshole on another front, its reach into countries like Myanmar, where facebook is readily available as a phone app.  It is apparently used so much in this newly opened country that it has become the go-to platform for news and opinions.  But, is facebook worse than a toilet as he implies in his lengthy segment?

Everyone has strong opinions and with social media now reaching well over a billion persons worldwide, it is pretty hard to police.  Zuckerberg said they were ramping up the number of Burmese-speaking monitors to screen out hateful language, but the problem is so broad, and continues at full throttle here in the US, that curbing it seems like a quaint idea.

Basically, people like to vent, often regretting it afterward and having to patch up friendships.  I've gone through this myself.  If you keep your circle of friends to people you know, it pretty much becomes self-monitoring, but when that circle expands because of a person's lust for followers then anything goes, as is the case on twitter, quite possibly the most abused social media platform where your 280-character missive can literally be seen by anyone and in turn anyone can respond.  This is why Trump loves it, as twitter allows him to claim a massive following, although it falls far short of Katy Perry.  In fact, he's not even in the Top Ten.

We all hate to see those political commentaries, memes and hashtags, but in the end this is what most persons respond to.  And pet pictures too.  At facebook, persons form support groups for their political views, sometimes going as far as blocking unwanted intruders.  It's kind of like the AA in this sense.  If you do crash someone's support group, tempers flare, and pretty soon it becomes a nasty free-for-all.  Do it enough times and you become de-friended.

This is why I generally tend to lay off because as much as I might dislike what some of my old high school and college friends have to say politically, I still remember what they were like growing up, and they are not bad people.  They have plenty of family and vacation pictures to share as well, which allows us to keep on friendly terms.

I've found humor works better when it comes to politics.  It tends to diffuse a tense moment or simply makes your view known without dwelling on it.

There might be a lot of things wrong with facebook, as John Oliver has unmercifully pointed out, but it is a valuable means of keeping in touch with people you lost track of years and even decades ago.  True, in some cases it was better to let sleeping dogs lie, but these surly beasts are the rare exceptions, and easily de-friended.

Where I think facebook could do a better job is in screening out all those unsolicited requests that appear on your timeline, particularly in the form of trivia games.  They are nothing more than a means to tag your page and collect information, presumably for marketing purposes, but god knows what other nefarious reasons as we found out with Cambridge Analytica.  Data mining, they call it.

Basically, you have to be careful.  I can see how it can be a major problem in Myanmar, where the Burmese had no exposure to social media before 2013.  But, in the US and other Western countries it is about  keeping your circle of friends tight and your personal information as private as you can.  Avoid the temptation to play those trivia games, and be careful what product advertisements you open.  Sometimes you can get a free pair of Nooz pince nez, but more often you get scammed.  It's just like the junk mail you used to find in the mail box.

Anyway, it is not the platform but the user who is the real problem here.  We wouldn't be so gullible if we were more careful about what we follow on social media.  It helps to fact check and read consumer reports.  It's all available at a touch.  Nobody likes to be made a fool.

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