Do you remember the cyber thriller film The Net starring Sandra Bullock? It is about a woman who spent hours on the Internet and woke up one day with her identity stolen. That film was shown back in 1995. It’s 2018 now and what have we done to protect ourselves?
Recently, Christopher Wylie, a former contractor from Cambridge Analytica revealed that the company had gathered and used information from more than 50 million Facebook users. With this expose, Facebook stocks went down immediately and the company has lost $73B in its market value. It took a few more days before Mark Zuckerberg made a formal statement about the issue. This was after a hashtag movement called #DeleteFacebook went viral.
What really happened
It all started a few years ago, when Cambridge Analytica got hold of information about Facebook users’ activities. The data were used to shape campaign ads, mostly political ads that might influence voting during the 2016 US elections and the Brexit referendum.
But how come Cambridge Analytica got those information? There was this app developer who created a quiz which could be played on Facebook. And since the quiz/app was posted on Facebook, anyone who took the quiz unwittingly shared his/her Facebook information including his/her friends’ information. That’s the reason why it bloated to as high as 50 million users.
This prompted almost all Facebook users to check their own settings and started campaigning for the #DeleteFacebook movement. Elon Musk took down his Tesla and SpaceX Facebook pages right after this controversy sparked.
My Social Media History
Ever since the late ’90s, I only have one email address. I didn’t have a chat account on ICQ and AOL, or whatever chat sites there were during those days. And when Friendster and MySpace became popular, I didn’t have a Friendster account but I signed up for a MySpace account hoping that I could have my own website.
Then came our high school reunion to celebrate our Silver Jubilee. In order to get connected with former friends, teachers, and classmates, I had to sign up on Facebook. That was 2009, and there was no turning back.
When I started working for a social media management agency, I had to sign up on Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, and Pinterest to learn the ropes and I got hooked. And when I had a smartphone, I signed up on Instagram. Now, I don’t have a smartphone so I’m inactive on Instagram. I only maintain and limit my activities on the other social media accounts.
The Benefits of Social Media
Social media achieved it’s initial purpose — to connect people.
Businesses saw this as an opportunity. Social media became a marketing tool — to make their content viral, to increase their web traffic, to increase their sales, and grow their email lists.
Users also use social media as a source of information. Because it connects more people in real time, news became much instant than the news organization. I remember when I relied on an authority’s Twitter account for announcements rather than wait for the news.
And one thing that social media provided us is the ease of access. No need for us to memorize all user names and passwords because we could log in using our own email or social media accounts.
But there’s the downside of social media.
Social media had connected us with the rest of the world but it also became a platform for cyber bullying, word wars, and other shameful acts.
The marketing strategies some businesses employed to lure customers became annoying and intrusive.
Recent findings say that fake news spread much faster than real news. Once misinformation is out there, it’s out there. It is far easier to spread lies than to correct them. Just look at how many hoaxes and fake news on your news feed and how many trolls and bots comment on some posts. Going viral became nasty.
The ease of access also became the key for the hackers to unlock your private information. Unknowingly, we allowed others to view our data through the apps we use.
But looking at what happened to Facebook recently, it seems that it’s now time to reflect on how we utilize our social media accounts.
Check our Accounts
This is Holy Week for the Catholics — a time to reflect, abstain, make sacrifices, and pray. Why not reflect on how we utilize our social media? Let’s check our settings, the apps associated with the platform, the online activities we do, and the information we share on those apps. This may take our time but think of the long-term benefits.
Be careful on your online activities. Think before you click.