Your Friends Tell the World about You

Professor Jennifer Golbeck has a Talk on TED.com you should listen to if you are a user of social media or not. The subject of Professor Goldbrick’s talk is the act of a ‘like’ for a picture of curly fries. How that innocent like categorizes you into a special group. Generally liking curly fries, and other innocent ‘likes’ tells those who are interested, a lot more about you than your taste in food.

Social media is social, no surprise there. You generally are careful about what you say or write about in your own life, or what you comment on in other peoples live’s. It all appears harmless enough on the surface, but the amount of seriously personal information you are giving away is scary, both its width and breadth.

Pre-computer age, if a company wanted to learn if you were a good fit for the company, they would ask you if you would mind a taking a test, or four in my case. The company was upfront about it. These were personality tests designed to unravel who I was, what I thought, and where I drew my boundaries.

If you were asked to take tests such as these as a condition of employment what would you do? In my case I said, sure I would take the tests. How bad could it be? After all, if there were questions about subject I chose not to share, I would answer differently than I really thought.

After the eight or ninth question it hit me. If I am choosing to not answer honestly about a question, and answer differently, how does that reflect on me? Is everyone like me, and are they answering in the exact different way? Or am I answering the way a pathological criminal would answer?

This series of tests was quite a little mind game for me. After the fourth test, the company for whatever reason gave up on me. Somewhere in my answers, it became apparent that I was not the right person for the job. It may have differences to my answers of the same type of questions, or it may have been my answers led them to believe something else about me. It may have been there was no company hiring, and I was being lied too. I never heard from the company after the fourth test.

So what has that srtory to do with social media? A lot more than you think. You are I am sure very careful about what you say, and pictures you post in social media sites. Seems like a safe approach in itself. After all what information are you really giving away?

You are giving a lot more persoanl and private information away than you think when using social media. Starting with your on-line friends. Do you really know all your friends in person, or do you only know the persona they pretend to be? Do you know their friends, or just the friends they mention?

What are your friends generally posting about? If you are in college, and you never mention drinking, drugs, cheating, when writing about college, it does not matter. If your friends are doing something, odds are you are too. That’s the way life works.

From Tribal or villiage life of old to facebook of present, we haven’t changed. We are who we hang around with. There is an old saying I was told as a Teen that applies more now than ever. “You are your friends.” It may be a good idea to commit that line to memory. What your friends are so are you.

What this means, is if you socialize, or are linked up with certain groups of people who like or enjoy certain things, chances are you do those things too, even though you may not mention them yourself. What your friends, online or off talk about, is what you are probably doing too.

After all what is the point of having friends if you do not share interests? If your friends are talking about spending the fourth of July in a drunken stupor at some beach, it does not matter if you post about it or not. If you have no comments during the time they will be partying, it is pretty likely you were right there with them.

If some of your friends mention being in favor of one or more frowned upon behaviors, and you do not mention it anywhere in your posts or messages, guess what? You are connected to those behaviors by association, because of your friends. Even if your friends have little in common in your real life, inferences are being made about your life, every bit of it.

Social media is fun, Social media helps you feel connected, Social media is also stealing your life and selling it for profit. Social media is forming your world. Think about the amount of freely given information available to someone if you are a long time user of social media. Chances are good that you have already been categorized, binned, and classified in a hundred different ways, waiting for the buyer of your personal information.