A Hermit in Social Media Land, By M. Scott Douglass

I have friends. I go to breakfast or lunch with them sometimes. Visit with them—at our home or theirs. I talk with them on the phone and exchange cards and emails. So, I’ve always found the concept of Friending on Facebook or other social media a little amusing. Social media is about networking and making contacts. You can call your contacts friends if you like, but let’s face it, most of the folks we meet and exchange messages with through social media are acquaintances at best. In most cases they are marks: business cards we pick up at a conference to solicit later to sell them something.

Sorry if that tidbit of truth is off-putting or crass to some, but it is what it is. If you are out there in cyberspace posting the things you like, pictures of your family, places you’ve gone, in short, throwing your life online for all to see, what you are really doing is filling out a survey for solicitors and telling what items you may be a potential buyer of.

Google, Yahoo, Bing—all search engines—make money by selling where you’ve been to someone so they, too, can solicit their services or products to you. Go to an online store to buy something specialized like car parts and see how the flavor of the pop-ups you see when you go to that search engine changes.

I’m not trying to denigrate the internet or social media. I think the internet is the greatest invention in the history of civilization and social media is the best and least expensive way to network with like-minded people, but I also think that we must be mindful of how they work. Everyone from marketers to psychologists have been consulted along the way to figure out how to tap this resource of information they have about me and all of us to generate commerce. That’s what makes the internet work and the world go ‘round.

Being a private kind of guy, there are certain things about me I’d like to keep to myself. Given the transparency of how the internet works, I’ve always limited my exposure to social media, but as a business person, I recognize the importance of it. So, I pay someone to be my company rep on Facebook and Twitter. Sorry, but there are only so many hours in a day and frankly, I’d rather be windsurfing on two wheels than sitting for hours in front of a computer or handheld device. I do enough of that already as a graphic designer.

Anyway, as is my habit (ask Google), I’ve taken the long way around what I really want to say. Last week a story broke about our government monitoring phone calls and emails. There are so many things to say about this story, I doubt there’s enough space to cover it all, but let me try.

First, I thought everyone knew that phone calls and emails were subject to monitoring in the post-9/11 era. If you’re using these mediums to share things that might embarrass you (or get you arrested), perhaps these things are not meant to be shared this way (Mr. Weiner).

Second, between the crap some people are willing to put on social media and data mining by search engines, our whole concept of privacy is a perverse joke.

Third, am I the only one who feels inundated with other peoples’ lives at the grocery store, restaurants, even the Post Office? Rarely am I not privy to a personal conversation in an outdoor voice by someone I don’t know. And I suppose these folks are among those outraged by the fact that the government might be listening in. Given where they talk and how loud they talk, how could anyone NOT listen in. This is where I say, Thank God for texting.

And then there are the members of Congress who are offended by this story. Please!!! As if they didn’t know. As if they don’t read those bills they vote on. I’m offended that these yoyos live off the public dole in one of the most expensive and inefficient cities in the world with the express goal of doing nothing.

The bottom line is: If you’re really concerned about privacy and the government listening to your calls or reading your emails, you need to become a techno-hermit. That is: you need to throw away your cell phone and get off the internet altogether. Which is what I intend to do as soon as I’m done posting this blog.

Until the next time I post this blog.

Or read my emails.

Or text my son.

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