I Still Don’t Like This

A year and a half ago, my friend Crystal and I wrote guest posts for our respective blogs about an experiment we conducted on social media. You can read her original post on my blog here, and my post can be found on her blog here.

Both Crystal and I stopped using the “like” button on Facebook to see if we noticed a change in our news feed, or perhaps a change in how we interacted with social media. I have not gone back to using the “like” button since we began our experiment in August 2015. For a year and a half, if I have enjoyed, or disliked, or had a reaction to something in my news feed, I have taken the time to write a comment. Or, I have simply scrolled on by if I felt no real need to comment at all.

This change caused me to be more intentional with social media. Instead of my use of Facebook serving as a giant time suck, I now go to the site with the intent to catch up on what my friends and family are doing. I can’t stop using the site since my employment responsibilities include managing two Facebook pages, and I also help administer my Rotary Club’s Facebook page. Last year, I agreed to help serve as a volunteer moderator for the Disability Visibility Project Facebook page. Do I spend more time on Facebook than I probably should? Yes, but I view the site as a tool which can help me maintain connections to friends and family when I might not have time for a phone call and I am too much of an extrovert to give it up.

Then last week my friend Tonia shared an article about Big Data which I read with interest. The article, which was originally published in Das Magazin, described how political campaigns use psychometrics (sometimes called psychographics) for “innovative political marketing.” Now more than ever, it is easier for companies to use a person’s digital footprint to predict how that person will act in a given situation. I don’t claim to understand all the research, but it makes sense that data gleaned from a person’s social media feed or digital activity can be used to make predictions about that person.

For example, if you were to look at my “saved” files on Facebook (which I use to bookmark articles I want to read when I have time), you would find articles from the Washington Post, New York Times, The Guardian, and several websites for media outlets such as PBS, NBC News, and ABC (Australia, not America). You would also see blog posts related to writing and crochet, and many disability blogs. A scan of my saved articles indicate about fifty percent of them relate to disability, twenty-five percent relate to writing, and the rest are a mix of articles about crochet, baking, musical theater and dealing with grief.

Based on just this information (remember, I have not provided any “likes” to analyze), one can fairly accurately predict I pursue writing, and that either I have a disability myself or am very active in disability circles. My hobbies (baking, crochet, and musical theater) are apparent. It’s no wonder that ads for Broadway HD show up with regularity in my news feed!

But, how are all those data points used by others? What else do I see because of assumptions made by analysis of my digital footprint? Which articles are placed in my view based on my social media activity? Would it change if my online behavior changed? I will admit, I never noticed a significant change in what I saw on Facebook once I stopped using the “like,” yet it’s possible there was a difference I just didn’t observe.

Do I think I have some semblance of privacy because I choose not to use the “like” button? Of course not. My smartphone acts as a transmitter, giving apps various information such as my location, how often I travel certain routes, what I search for on Google, and how often I win or lose at Words with Friends. Sure, I could opt out of using my phone as often or restrict certain apps to gain more privacy. But I use my phone to help me manage my personal assistant staff which limits my ability to disconnect.

For now, I will continue to steer free of the “like” button. I will also probably stop taking online quizzes – because how many times do I really need to prove I am an extroverted word geek who has a vast knowledge of show tunes? I think I’ve provided enough evidence of this to Big Data, especially since I just aced the “name the musical movie from one screen shot” quiz.

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16 thoughts on “I Still Don’t Like This

  1. Yes, it’s true. I don’t miss the like, and I haven’t used it since–but even reading this post, I’m noticing a very particular advertisement for something I looked up. I looked it up just once. And that’s beginning to make me angry. One should have nothing to do with the other, don’t you think?

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    • Well, I’m still seeing advertisements for Qantas and still being tempted by ads for visiting Australia. It’s not helping with my “homesickness” for Tasmania, let me tell you!

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  2. When you and Crystal gave up the “like” button, it made me think it not a bad idea to follow suit and I did. I have gone back to using it a bit now and then, but didn’t notice any difference in my feed, just a change in my ability to write a note that didn’t sound like every other note out there, including my own. In other words, my comments made me think it was more personal for my friends than a “like” button. I have noticed things popping up to buy when I look them up on Google just once. This was a good post. Thank you.

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    • I think the change in how we interact with social media is huge. When we lose the “social” in social media, I think we become less engaged. I appreciate you reading and commenting!

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  3. Your example has encouraged me to be more intentional in my FB interactions. While I still use the like button, I am more apt to follow up with a comment about what prompted the “like.” Thank you for leading the way on this.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this! While I do still hit the like button, you’ve given me room for reflection about this. Like many of the previous comments I have also seen ads pop up after searching for something only once. I’ll keep this one for further reflection as I contemplate social media in the future.

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    • I think too often, we forget to think about what we’re doing on social media. I try to take the time to act with integrity and intention do I am authentic. I think you’ll do just fine!

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  5. After I read your article about the “like” button, I, too, decided to push it less often. I will comment on family posts, but pushing the “like” has been reduced in my feed. Sometimes I hear did you see..? Yes, I saw but chose not to comment. Good blog.

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    • Isn’t it funny how many people assume we didn’t see something unless we hit a button? Perhaps we saw it but didn’t feel the need to comment on it. Not using the “like” button means I am more reflective on what I see and how I respond on social media. Thanks for sharing your experience here.

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  6. Lots of food for thought here. I certainly have that syndrome where if I don’t get likes I feel invisible, although comments are even better! I do tend to ‘like’ a lot of posts as a way of saying ‘I’m here – I see / hear you.’. Will definitely become more mindful. I’m quite careful of what posts I click on though – try to avoid quizzes! Interesting and thoughtful post.

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  7. Thank you. This really got me thinking about social media, and how to use it intentionally. I was so surprised a few weeks again when a metronome app mysteriously appeared on my phone. How did they know I was a piano teacher? That freaked me out a bit. I’ve noticed people not using the “like” button, and wondered why. Now I know. An interesting topic!

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    • I am still getting ads for Qantas and other Australian vacation posts in my feed and in my searches. And it’s been almost 2 years since I last went to Australia. I’m hoping more and more people will take time to be intentional on social media. Businesses often have a social media plan – why not us as individuals? Don’t we care about our “brand” as well?

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