Social Media

November 18, 2018
logs social media

XKCD Social Media

Source: XKCD

TL:DR

If you want to follow me, check out this page: /about or subscribe to my RSS feed for this site. The below describes how I approach social media, how I think about issues like security, social network, and mental health. I’ll update this over time if my opinions change.

Soapbox

I like social media, but it can be a doozy. Spoken with a pinky out and finely brewed coffee in hand - I’d posit that social media is a powerful artifice for amplifying natural animalistic social aspects to an unnatural degree. So with all that said I thought I’d write down my approach to handle this unavoidable part of life and what my thoughts are for how I engage with it.

This is a big change, I used to host my entire primary site on Google+ and used a complex set of circles to control who could see what perspectives of me based on my relationship to them. It was appealing at the time, but as I’ve gotten older, I find myself rarely trying to impress others, and more focused on engaging, and interacting with others.

For starters, there are many places I don’t engage with Social Media, and I’d like to start there. I avoid when possible freely giving my content I create such as my photos, thoughts, etc freely to ‘platforms’ or companies which are primarily incentivized with profit from my work. There is a lot of discussion on this topic alone, but really it’s a personal choice I’ve made, that I want to control my voice wherever I can even if it means I may not reach a wide audience. I am easily found if anyone is willing to make a small effort, which is my goal.

Practically speaking, this has led me to leave platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Google+ etc.

Compromises

So I am still on Twitter, and that’s a compromise for me. Until Twitter is truly replaced or overhauled, even with it’s ad problems, heavy bot inclusion, and serious community health concerns - it’s the one platform I’ve decided to participate in, and only when I feel like engaging outwardly with others. I think of it like a curated RSS platform, a list of lists others can choose to subscribe to, and get notifications from, which is a dated view of how Twitter used to be, rather than the battleground it is today for interactive conversation. I welcome some lightweight interactions, but I also prefer to keep my digital social interactions public if they aren’t with family. More intimate conversations out of the spotlight I regularly have IRL, like in real life with coffee, or tea, and fresh air. Humans get a lot of the experience of engaging with others physically, and I try to do that whenever I can.

For the most part, I will put content that requires more than a few hundred characters right here on my site. Small updates, photos, and promotion of my content on twitter is the simple strategy I am currently using.

Mental and Social Health

It’s really important to make sure that we talk about health as more than just a black and white ‘you are sick, or you are healthy’ kind of conversation. It’s also not a static thing, we are living beings, and things change minute to minute, or one interaction to another. That said, we are still learning what the effects technology have on human psychology and society. The experiment is still playing out, and despite the huge investments to make social media easy to use we need to be mindful, and intentional about how social media will play a part in our lives, and how we interact with those we care about.

The tool, or the platform is not the important thing to me - it’s the people I care about, and how I make sure I can keep in touch with them, and support and get help from them. Each person needs some form of social interaction, it’s linked in many ways studies have shown to mental health. For me I find that I enjoy conversations with peers, friends, and family, and sharing ideas and information. In part that’s why I maintain this website, to share ideas of conversations I’ve had that seemed worth sharing.

Facebook for me represents the worst offender, it’s a tool that amplifies the ability to create insular social bubbles, an idea like group-think or homogeneous tribes, which really can hurt mental health, and self worth by limiting perspectives and robbing away I think from the human experience. It’s possible to get a lot out of Facebook, but it takes a lot of discipline to avoid the pitfalls of getting stuck inside an unhealthy invisible social bubble. These same issues happen in the real world too, but online these platforms accelerate and truly amplify the problem to new levels.

In practical terms, I model my online interactions after my real life social interactions. I keep my social interactions public, unless it’s with someone I know very well, or if they request a private forum for their sake. I try very hard to be aware of the social bubbling around me, not to fight it, but mindful of it. I try to make sure I regularly travel between them when possible to open my horizons, and attempt to be more well rounded, and healthy.

Social Bubbles and Group-Think At It’s Worst

If someone is looking for validation, and is suffering from mental health issues, and a platform built to help like minded people come together ignores their ethical responsibilities to help foster a healthy human interaction, then we are creating isolated incubation labs for hate, suffering, abuse, and minimization of the human experience that will often hurt that person more than they ever would have if they were exposed to a more diverse community with ethical care for community health as a priority.

My Online Identity

Social Media has taken on many roles in modern life, and it’s not optional anymore for many jobs, careers, and situations in life to avoid the internet entirely. Employers, banks, and even China is currently giving citizens social ranking and other situations are increasingly looking for evidence of an online identity, or content online that helps corroborate who you are and what you’ve done. Further it’s risky to not participate, since someone else might misuse your identity un-contested. Traveling around the world can now require some corroboration with an online identity that supports who you are, such as a social media account. I’ve taken an extreme approach to this, and made some of my private identifiable information, and made it public on my /about page. I did this to create an authoritative page that outlines who I am, where I am, and inversely, all the things I am not!

There are a lot of very serious reasons why you should not do this, at least be extremely careful and intentional about it as I think I am. This is the information that many entities will want to ask assuming only you would know it. Growing up with the internet these past decades, I’ve decided that some things make for bad secrets for identification. Social Security in the USA suffers from a similar general problem.

Secrecy Isn’t Great Security

Security Through Obscurity Is Just Hoping No One Finds Out

History is littered with examples of complex breaches and failures happening simply because a secret was exposed. Rather, I’d prefer to simply be intentional, and use a more Secure by design mindset from the start. I’ve worked in digital security space professionally, and often companies, governments, and groups of people go through the exercise of ‘Classifying Data’ - and simply put the point is to create some plans for how some categories of information are handled. Put very simply, I have information broken up in the following categories:

What works for me, may not work for you specifically, but being intentional is the point, ask yourself what information you have, and who should be allowed to see it, and what risks it presents, and how you plan to keep it secure (not just keeping it secret!). Anything I’ve considered acceptable risk to make available for public consumption, I’ve done exactly that. I’ve been careful to make sure that access to things that would be serious risks for me are handled correctly, and often aren’t digital at all. I mention all this, because this factors into how and what I put on social media, and what I put on the internet at all.