Owning Your Online Self – A 30 Day Reflection

Although it’s technically been over 30 days since my original post on this topic, I thought I’d follow up with some observations I’ve made since making this choice about my online persona.

First and foremost, it’s been interesting to me (and somewhat comical) to watch how Facebook’s Algorithm blatantly generates ads based directly on searches and content I view outside of Facebook. Years ago, I got out of the habit of clicking on ads within Facebook, or links shared by my friends and family there (sorry guys!). It’s not that I’m trying to be some sort of uninterested snob, or trying to prove that I’m “Facebook Woke” (Ha! That just came to me! Better get a copyright on it!). Rather, I learned quickly early on that I don’t care for the content rabbit hole the Facebook Algorithm quickly leads you down when doing so. In the words of the great Austin Powers, “That’s not my bag, baby!”

When I was searching for microphones and microphone boom arms for my podcast Voluntary Input, Facebook immediately started generating ads on my feed for microphones, boom arms, recording equipment, etc. Even just yesterday, after reading the Android Police article regarding Samsung’s folding screen disaster, Facebook began to show me ads for new Samsung phones.

But nowadays, this all doesn’t (rather shouldn’t) come as any surprise to anyone. Nowadays, I think everyone pretty much “get’s it”. Most importantly, and to the dismay of many in the tech community (especially those focused on the privacy and security sectors), this behavior is now accepted in passing and pretty much expected. The vast majority of people accept this as simply just the way it is. But on the comical side of things, I was recently selling a few items on ebay. What does the algorithm do? It shows me my own items under the “continue where you left off” guise!!

Advertising aside, I have also noted some refreshing personal changes. Perhaps the best of these has been self control – I have gotten out of my often ill-fated compulsion to react and reply to antagonizing posts. Especially those of political nature. I had made it a long-standing rule of mine to not engage in political discourse on social media, but in today’s climate I began to find myself slipping into a horrible habit. However I’ve noticed that after making this decision to take more ownership of my Online Self, I’ve been more conscious of what I will and will not reply to. Especially posts of antagonizing political content. In regards to social media, I have always tried to keep it just that – social. Thus I would often ask myself, “Would I engage in this conversation in this manner at a party?” If the answer was “no”, I wouldn’t comment and move on. Now I tend to ask myself, “Would I want this conversation plastered on my website?” Again, if the answer is “no”, I have been simply moving on. And to be honest with you, I have literally been feeling better as a person by this choice! My mental peace has been higher than ever, which to many probably comes as no surprise. Quite frankly, I’ve been able to take a huge step back and notice flaws in my own online behavior – flaws that I don’t like and don’t want to get back into.

Finally, in the words of TLC – “What About Your Friends”? Some time ago, there was a post being shared repeatedly regarding Facebook’s Algorithm showing you only 26 friends and what you could do to fix it. This was proven to be false, primarily because no one knows with 100% certainty how this actually works. But it is worth noting that you in fact tend to see more of the friends that you engage with the most. And I have noticed personally since making changes to my social media engagement behavior that in my main feed I have been seeing more and more of the friends that I haven’t seen on Facebook in some time. It’s not that they haven’t been actively posting, but I hadn’t necessarily been interacting with them. Now that my interaction patterns have changed, it’s almost as if the Facebook Algorithm is somewhat confused and is simply desperately reaching to find people for me to interact with. Because let’s not forget, the success of these platforms is driven by engagement: you enjoy engaging with your friends = you stay on the platform = you view ads = you potentially make purchases. So it is in Facebook’s best interest to encourage you to engage with people more often. Again, this all actually makes sense, should be expected, and probably comes as no surprise to most.

There are other aspects that I have noticed as well, but these are the most significant to me. Also, I was asked to share about more technical aspects/details of this approach, which I will touch on in another follow-up to come.

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