Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Only 5 Actions That You can Take on Social Media Platforms

Up until relatively recently I've never put a mirror upon myself to see how I behave on the internet and why. Like any other person I would emerge into the web and jump from one platform to another, from one piece of content to the other, never actually stopping and analyzing what I was doing and why. After giving it a bit more thought, I came up with a few possible patterns of behavior in the cyberspace.

Firstly, I realized that there are two main types of content you can find on the web, and specifically on the social media today: the professional content and the authentic content. While there are various circumstances in which content is created and put out there, this distinction focuses on the authenticity aspect. Authenticity is here to be understood as a  distinction between the natural and profoundly personal drive of producing and sharing a piece of content, as opposed to the material interest that acts as the drive and purpose of the professional content we find in the cyberspace.

I will let aside the professional content (for now) and speak about actions linked to the authentic content in the social media:

  1. Observing - passive behavior in which we engage most of our time spent on social media through reading, watching, deciphering, reading between the lines, analyzing information. This type of activity doesn't have inherent educational value, it merely informs you about social rules and norms, builds consensus over current topics, builds social stereotypes, influences opinion when dealing with neutral topics (topics that don't appeal to one's core values), shifts normality (social norm) boundaries and ultimately influences people's expectations about reality. It is not a way of becoming more literate or informed, but better integrated into the "normacore" (what is perceived as normal, cool, expected of us).
  2. Passing on - we generally like to share information or content that strikes an emotional cord and thus we become advocates of the ideas propelled through that content. This is the safest way of producing content because you adhere to a noble cause while your stakes in the game are very low. This action doesn't need you to put any effort into producing content, but you benefit from the association with a cause/idea/content that speaks well about your perceived self.
  3. Sharing private content - we all share some private content as a price to get in the social media. Nevertheless, social media is all about sharing content and, thus, we sometimes update our profiles, share a nice family picture or an interesting happening in our lives. We do that to acknowledge our presence (hey, I am here!), to test our audience (let's see how popular I am ) or to build up our cyber persona (this is who I truly am!). People feel differently about privacy and thus sharing private content differs substantially across cultures, age groups, nationality, interests, so on. Nevertheless, one thing is ubiquitous. Our social media profiles are important to us, and are highly impregnated with our values, nevertheless are not reflecting our true selves but a mere representation of what we expect others would like us to be.
  4. Social interaction - most meaningful and useful. Social media brings together long forgotten friends or school mates, helps you keep ties with family and friends across the globe, literally opens any door to anybody that is connected to the web (a very powerful tool), and can literally change lives. An important element to keep in mind, though, is that, as any human interaction, there are positive and negative encounters.
  5. Acquiring information or performing social duties online - the web is also an important, almost indispensable tool to have. You can go online to translate information, find legislation, contacts, book a flight or a hotel, pay your taxes and even get a medical check up through telemedicine. While these can still be done offline, the convenience saves us a lot of time and effort and could help us become more productive. Nevertheless, there are several downsides to this trend, I will discuss in a future post.

In conclusion, these are the types of actions in the social media space I could think of. Bare in mind that I am referring strictly to the personal, authentic activities, leaving aside the professional content in which we could be engaging as costumers. I will try to address this in the near future.

Let me know what you think and please add your thoughts in the comments below.  I am looking forward to your feedback.

10 habits that will save you from drowning while surfing the cyberspace

I have literally spent my last year on the internet. One year ago I decided to support my husband's career, so I left my job, my house and my country and moved to another country where I had no friends, no job, didn't know the language and had no prospects of getting a job because the country was literally bankrupt and nothing was working. So what did I do? I drowned myself into the web. 

There were days when I wouldn't literally eat anything because I didn't want to get out of my bed and stop the never ending streaming on YouTube, the Facebook updates, Netflix shows, and so on. And without exception, at the end of each day, I would not have anything meaningful to say about my day, about what I've learned, about whom I've watched and what it's made me realize. It was a solitary, rather sad, and addictive behavior I repeated every day I had a choice. And most of the days I did. 

What have I learned in this last year and why is it important to share this with you?

I have recently come to the point of realizing what I was missing. I was missing emotions and feelings and I was looking for content that moved me, even a bit, so as to make me feel alive. I was missing myself. I wanted to get in touch with myself by stirring false emotions via the web. I would watch or read content that was strangest to me, so as to have the biggest appeal and biggest emotional impact. I was a prisoner in my own little cyber world, and that made me feel numb when I was outside. I grew apart from my family, I became lazy and needy, depressive and lost my self confidence. I gained weight and lost a lot of hair even though I was vegan and tried exercising. 

Although I could have had everything, I ended up not wanting anything else but to stay on my sofa and watch endless pointless content that offered nothing in return but made me lose precious time. I went from being an attractive, self confident, versed professional with a lot of achievements, into being a couch potato under hypnosis. Nobody would have seen this coming, not even me. 

So here are my learning points, take them with you because you don't need to make the same mistakes I made:

  1. Never go on YouTube unless you follow a link in an article you have read and really interested you. It's full of pointless information. You-Tubers have managers or businesses of their own and earn or aim to earn money out of you. Views are money, likes are money, comments are money, subscribes are money. While you don't pay with money, you pay with time, which is a lot more valuable.
  2. Only friend people you know on social media and don't be afraid to un-follow sources of content that you don't want to be exposed to. I find it really helpful to have only Facebook messenger installed on my mobile devices while I can go on my laptop and check the feeds in all my social networks every once in a while, if I feel like it.
  3. Set a plan for yourself when you go online, don't let yourself surf without an objective. Before opening that browser think what you want to find out, clarify, do, learn, plan, buy, and do just that. Always have pen and paper aside and note ideas, follow-up notes, details, check your tasks while you surf. This way, you stay grounded and do not have to go back online in case you forgot something. It's there, on paper.
  4. Print your best photos (or quotes) and put them on display so that you can enjoy them more, share them with family and friends, carry them around.
  5. Log out of your social media, email services and everything else when you are browsing. All these websites use cookies that are basically spies that read your activity online and send it to the business owner who then sells you as a commodity. The better profiled you are, the better you sell. If you are in your thirties, have family and kids, travel a lot and use your credit card online you are the best priced profile online because you literally buy anything. Think about it!
  6. Clean up your devices every week, delete the apps that you don't use, delete your history, scan for viruses, log out of your accounts every time you have finished, change your passwords as often as possible, Internet security is becoming a big thing nowadays and you need to search into that. Find resources online that will help you understand what you need to do to protect yourself in the cyberspace.
  7. Be polite and personal in your emails. Rather than sending an instant message for a birthday or liking a photo on Instagram, drop a few wholehearted lines via email, it will make a world of difference. For some reason people feel they have to answer an email more than an IM, and feel good you took the time to put in their email address and say something nice.
  8. Remember that what you put out there ca never be taken back entirely. Be it a revealing picture, a hate message, a terrible confusion, an embarrassing video, your content, once shared, doesn't belong to you anymore. Your utterances can be shared and shared and snowball immediately, or stay dormant until you become relevant for some reason, and than they may pop up. What today seems fashionable tomorrow may be degrading or at least embarrassing.
  9. Respect other people's privacy and attach yourselves to them only if expressly  permitted. While you think this goes without saying, it is not true. We may offend or forcefully associate our names with other people by becoming friends and than sharing their information, commenting too much or in a too friendly manner or posting a picture from an event without prior approval. 
  10. Don't be lazy. If you want to put content out there, try to go the extra mile, work on it, make it as good as you can, and don't throw garbage information out there. It is already so hard to discern good content from junk. Respect this environment as you respect your physical environment, or even more if you can. If you are honest and hardworking your audience will find you and uplift you.

Let me know what you think of these 10 points and please feel free to add more such advice from your own experiences. Also, I apologize for my inherent language errors, feel free to point them out. They are not done out of carelessness, but because this is my current level of proficiency, just yet.