Get Real: The reality of our life online

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Get Real: The reality of our life online

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I remember watching a film called War Games when I was a kid.

Matthew Broderick – my childhood hero after his inspiring defiance of authority as Ferris Bueller – plays a computer hacker who almost starts World War Three after starting a video game with the mainframe computer at NORAD.

The reason I dredge up this 1980s classic teen movie and it’s pixelated, obsolete technology is that, for all our touch screens, micro processors and artificial intelligence, we still haven’t learned the valuable lesson that War Games tried to subliminally instill: keep reality real and technology separate.

It might seem like such an elementary statement, but we are rapidly furnishing our world with falsity. In Orwellian splendour, we are being told what to do, what to think, what to buy, what to eat – we are becoming brainwashed by the very source that holds such potential to do the absolute opposite: social media.

It isn’t a new story, the influential voice of media, the subliminal advertising of the corporate masses, but this time it feels even more manipulative. Social media, or Facebook in particular in this example, is voluntary. We sign up keen to join the masses in sharing our lives with the great, wide world. It is a soapbox in the palm of our hand and whatever message we choose to share, legal restrictions notwithstanding, we can scream it at the top of our lungs.

This holds grandiose potential: finally, the uncensored voice of the people can be heard, silenced no more by the powers that be, an open forum for uniting like-minds and sharing causes, ideas and positivity.

But unfortunately, with such a free-flowing river of information, this is a double-edged sword. Take the latest phenomenon that swept across Facebook like an outbreak of chicken pox in an unvaccinated community – the Pride Rainbow.

There is absolutely no denying the positivity in the wonderful show of solidarity displayed in rainbow hued profile pictures across the Internet in celebration of gay marriage. Whether you agree with it or not, much must be admired of the unified support and response.

From chemtrails to politics, animal rights to famine, social media allows for this paradigm connection, bringing attention and information to a far greater audience than ever before possible. Crowdfunding campaigns are some of the ultimate goodwill stories of this Brave New World, sourcing funds for humanitarian and environmental causes that could never have been reached pre-Facebook. One innovative young man in the UK has even raised over two million dollars on a crowdfunded bailout package for the financially crippled island of Greece. We can now all be living room philanthropists, radiating with back-patting pride at the click of a button. Dubbed ‘clicktivism’, this concept has the power to change the world as we know it, drawing aid and attention from across the planet to where it is needed most.

But in this liberated cyber-world, there is also the potential for misuse, disinformation and corruption. The Pride Rainbow, in all its technicolour glory and positivity was, allegedly, nothing more than an undisclosed social experiment by Facebook – a corporation not unfamiliar with audience manipulation.

Rumours spread like wildfire, repeated and shared verbatim, disseminating any number of falsities and hidden agendas. Numerous celebrities have erroneously died or committed questionable activities, aliens, dinosaurs and the Loch Ness Monster have been categorically substantiated and myriad other fibs and fabrications have been dispatched across cyberspace and accepted by the unquestioning, naïve and gullible.

We seem to have lost the ability to tell fact from fiction, to question for ourselves or find reason to disbelieve. We swallow the latest fad or headline hook, line and suffocating sinker, validating myths by universal misconception and worse, proliferating extremist perspectives and buying what Big Brother is selling.

How many contemporary conversations start with, ‘I saw this on Facebook’? As we did the press and television before it, we have come to take the words below that mighty blue banner as gospel, bandwagon-jumping faster than a cowboy being chased by a pack of scalp-hungry Siouxs. I profess to adorning my profile picture with all the colours of the spectral range the second I witnessed the celebratory trend, albeit for only half a day. As much as I took pride in Pride, I also felt prescribed to. I know this isn’t the first time I’ve bought a Facebook gimmick and I’m sure it won’t be the last but, for all my cynicisms, I have begun to search for the ulterior motives and fictions in all I scroll past.

Since the earliest days of daguerreotype, it has been stated that the camera never lies. In reality, the camera lies all the time. In fact it rarely tells the truth, and in today’s age of smart phones, apps and no experience being more than a click away from universal publicity, we are being lied to again and again and again.

Perhaps we should only be viewing Facebook with a bowl of salt by our sides, ready to pinch from with every new story that flashes before our eyes. We need to recognise – and, more importantly, educate our children to recognise – that Facebook is not the gospel. Whether it is the pages we Like, the friends we have or the posts we share, we must realise that, just because a story is published online, this does not make it true, real or ethical.

A simple rule of thumb and concept that should be permanently tattooed upon your online psyche is to constantly remember that YOU could be the one spreading the rumours. Anything you can dream up, you can Google up a few appropriate pictures and throw out there with a few convincing words for all the world to believe. And if you can do it, then so can everyone else.

“If this post gets 1 million Likes, I’ll give away my fortune”, “Share this post to win free flights worldwide forever”, “Tag a friend and in seven days, you’ll both receive money” – there is no end to the elaborate fallacies. Thankfully though, there is also no end to the good that can be done, the sharing of profound knowledge, ethical mobilisation and righteous causes.

There is power to be utilised in social media, for better or for worse, for truth or lie, activism or manipulation. We stare in wonder at this flood of information, basking in its light, too dazzled to question, too in awe to doubt.

Social media is a wonderful tool and vehicle for positivity, righteousness and good old-fashioned funny cat videos… but never forget: even Santa Claus has a Facebook account.

Note from Safe on Social:

An example from Facebook of the information that they collect and analyse:

  1. Things you do and information you provide.

We collect the content and other information you provide when you use our Services, including when you sign up for an account, create or share, and message or communicate with others. This can include information in or about the content you provide, such as the location of a photo or the date a file was created. We also collect information about how you use our Services, such as the types of content you view or engage with or the frequency and duration of your activities.

  1. Things others do and information they provide.

We also collect content and information that other people provide when they use our Services, including information about you, such as when they share a photo of you, send a message to you, or upload, sync or import your contact information.

  1. Your networks and connections.

We collect information about the people and groups you are connected to and how you interact with them, such as the people you communicate with the most or the groups you like to share with. We also collect contact information you provide if you upload, sync or import this information (such as an address book) from a device.

  1. Information about payments.

If you use our Services for purchases or financial transactions (like when you buy something on Facebook, make a purchase in a game, or make a donation), we collect information about the purchase or transaction. This includes your payment information, such as your credit or debit card number and other card information, and other account and authentication information, as well as billing, shipping and contact details.

  1. Device information.

We collect information from or about the computers, phones, or other devices where you install or access our Services, depending on the permissions you’ve granted. We may associate the information we collect from your different devices, which helps us provide consistent Services across your devices. Here are some examples of the device information we collect:

  • Attributes such as the operating system, hardware version, device settings, file and software names and types, battery and signal strength, and device identifiers.
  • Device locations, including specific geographic locations, such as through GPS, Bluetooth, or WiFi signals.
  • Connection information such as the name of your mobile operator or ISP, browser type, language and time zone, mobile phone number and IP address.
  1. Information from websites and apps that use our Services.

We collect information when you visit or use third-party websites and apps that use our Services (like when they offer our Like button or Facebook Log In or use our measurement and advertising services). This includes information about the websites and apps you visit, your use of our Services on those websites and apps, as well as information the developer or publisher of the app or website provides to you or us.

  1. Information from third-party partners. 

We receive information about you and your activities on and off Facebook from third-party partners, such as information from a partner when we jointly offer services or from an advertiser about your experiences or interactions with them.

Facebook companies.

We receive information about you from companies that are owned or operated by Facebook, in accordance with their terms and policies. Learn more about these companies and their privacy policies.

Also here is a snippet of the information in Facebook’s terms and conditions.

Sharing Your Content and Information

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:

  1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy andapplication settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
  2. When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).
  3. When you use an application, the application may ask for your permission to access your content and information as well as content and information that others have shared with you.  We require applications to respect your privacy, and your agreement with that application will control how the application can use, store, and transfer that content and information.  (To learn more about Platform, including how you can control what information other people may share with applications, read our Data Policy and Platform Page.)
  4. When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).
  5. We always appreciate your feedback or other suggestions about Facebook, but you understand that we may use your feedback or suggestions without any obligation to compensate you for them (just as you have no obligation to offer them).

 

For more information or to read Facebooks Terms and conditions of use click these links:

https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms

 

Story by Tommy Leitch and Kirra Pendergast  

 

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