Recently, I participated in a seminar about children’s usage of social media, led by Harry A. Valetk and hosted by the Oxford Internet Institute. The discussion was excellent and included many soul-searching topics such as the end of anonymity in today’s connected society, or the conflict of interests between users of social networks and the commercial organisations running them. At some point, of the discussants said ‘… that’s why many marketers I know refuse to be on Facebook – that’s where they draw the line’.
I am a marketer. I choose not to join leading loyalty card schemes like Tesco’s ClubCard because of the type and range of data collected and the company’s analytical ability. Yet, I am on Facebook, and on LinkedIn, and on Twitter, and have a personal website, and I blog, and… you get the picture. Why would I do that?
I choose to have an online presence because, in my view, not ‘being’ on Facebook does not mean that I am not on Facebook. In other words, even if I do not have an account with this (or other) commercial service, there will still be information about me in that platform. Friends may tag me on images that they upload, geo-tag their location when they visit me and so on. Indeed, you just need to refer back to the opening lines of this blog post, where I disclosed that Harry had recently been in Oxford. That may be irrelevant for most, but an important insight for some person or organisation.
Am I upset that information about me is being collected and stored by some commercial organisation whose main goal is to profit from it?
Yes, definitely – that is why I do not hold certain loyalty cards. The difference between store loyalty cards and social media platforms is that in the former the relationship is between the organisation and me only, whereas in the latter it is between the organisation, me and others (friends, business contacts, students, etc.)
As David James puts it: ‘Your personal reputation… (is) priceless. It’s a bit like your personal credit rating and needs to be cherished. So, you need to take extra special care that they are intact and the truth is being told’.
Being online, you can influence the information available because you decide what and when to post. Moreover, you have increased awareness about what information is released about you because you receive notifications that your friends tagged your image, mentioned your username, shared your blog’s content, etc.
And that, in turn, helps you shape your online presence to make sure that the truth is being told. At least the truth that matters.
Where do you draw the line in terms of what to disclose, how and to whom?