Sunday, January 01, 2012

On social media

I rarely write these days. This is the age of "re-sharing". We consume and we share what we like or what we would like people to think we like. We are constantly at work trying to project an online personality, sometimes more than one. Because, after all, we are different things to different people. Or we would like to be. Opinions on an issue need to be formed fast, lest we are considered ignorant, or worst, insensitive. And hence, opinions are borrowed. They are hashed together from various sources of ready-made opinions, checked for consistency with our accepted online personality and - shared, promptly. And then in battles online we sometimes begin to understand the opinion we so vehemently defend. Sometimes. But there is not always time, for we have not just one battle to fight, not just one issue to be seen possessing an opinion on. In this fast-paced system of factory like opinion construction there is no time for looking inside. The conveyor belt keeps carrying opinions to us. No time to think quietly. Always shifting, always full of sensitivity. This is the age of conforming non-conformists fed on the homogeneous goo of constructed opinions.

So, people create less and less. And consume more and more. We have a group of people who produce content at lightning speed and voracious consumers. And social media is the connect. What does that mean? That means the death of the blogs as we knew it. When was the last time you published a post and did not "share" the link on your social network? There was a time when we posted the link on Facebook in the hope of widening our readership beyond the regulars. But now the dependence has grown to an extent where unless you post a link to your post on every social network you are on you are not sure anyone will know. The truth is no one checks blogs for new posts any more. The quality of discussion on blog posts has suffered with most comments being reduced to mere roll call responses at best, that too not on the blog, but on Facebook. So, even though the number of "visitors" may have increased, the good old readers are gone.

Unable to stand the tyranny of Facebook and the enthusiasm of its users, I have stopped using it. But they will not let me delete my profile. All I can do is "disable" it. Apparently it is done because Facebook is worried that I may in a fit of childishness delete my profile only to want it back when I realise the magnitude of the mistake I have made. So, it helpfully gives me the option to join back whenever I want and they are sure I will. They store all my data, connections, and all I have to do to  join back is sign in. You heard me right. That is all I need to do. The same Facebook that makes me go through at least 3 stages of detailed questionnaire trying to dissuade me when I am trying to "disable" my account does not so much as wink when I join back. So disabling my account is essentially like logging out of Facebook. Facebook does not even allow me to export my contact details saying that the contacts are owned by the respective owners. That does not sound quite right, now, does it? The contact, by way of access/privacy control (such as adding/accepting me as a friend, or putting me in a group where her/his email, phone number, etc is visible to me) has given me the implicit permission to use the detail for contacting her/him. Even if we were to assume that Facebook genuinely believes this protects the privacy of its users, it has no qualms importing contact lists from our email service providers (Gmail, Yahoo,etc) to add to its database. Remember when you had allowed Facebook to see which of your Gmail contacts are already using Facebook? (You probably don't but that is because it was so long ago. Three internet years!) Now, when you were doing that Facebook did solemnly swear that it does not save your Gmail password, which it doesn't. What it does however is save that contact list imported from Gmail on its servers forever. It uses that to "suggest" you "people you may know". Double standards? Kind of reminds me of that line in Hotel California that goes:

"You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave (legendary guitar solo...)"