Saturday, 1 June 2013

Facebook and the like-whores

Oh, no - not Facebook again. I'm sorry that so many posts on here seem to relate to this topic... but this blog seems the best place to put it.

I read an excellent article this morning, and shared it. It relates to the tedious problem of 'like-whores': folks who create pages specifically with a view to building up vast numbers of likes and shares, purely with a view to selling those pages. The sensible and well-informed Gary Moyers, inspired by an article by the equally intelligent Becky Worley, has explained this clearly and simply. You'll find Gary's article here and Becky's original posting here.

Briefly, you know those seemingly pointless but sometimes mildly amusing posts that you see appearing, asking you to like and/or comment on the post to see something happening? (If you've ever responded to one of these, you know that nothing happens - in which case, you've probably metaphorically shrugged your shoulders and moved on.) However, as Gary points out, something has happened: "Your activity has now spread this image and the page into the news feed of all your friends."

The  one doing the rounds at the moment is a jazzy prism image (the triangle & rainbow bit comes from the album cover of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, if you're one of those far too young to remember such things).

You are exhorted: “OMG it really works! Step 1: Click on the Picture. Step 2: Hit Like. Step 3: Comment “MOVE” Then see the Magic!!” There is, of course, no magic. Nowt. Nada.

It all seems harmless enough: but, as Becky and Gary both explain, you have essentially bumped up the price of that page when it later is advertised for sale. It's pure commercial gold.

Well, if you don't mind folks making big bucks by these rather sneaky means, and it's done no harm to you or anyone else, why not? Because frequently these 'like and share' exhortations are distressing and are harmful. They often make use of genuine photos of, say, suffering children (have you seen the one about the 'mermaid baby'?) - and then say that if you share this photo, or like it, Facebook will pay x dollars, or pounds, or euros to relieve the suffering of this poor little person. It shouldn't surprise you to know that no such payment will ever be made, not by Microsoft, Facebook, CNN, Richard Branson or any other super-rich individual or corporation. What will happen is that the child's genuinely tragic situation has been exploited and abused. Can you imagine what the child's parents will feel if they see their son or daughter's photograph going viral over the internet in this way?


I know: I'm re-writing what's already been done perfectly by Gary and Becky as explained above, and doubtless by many other intelligent folks. However, I just wanted to add one other thing.

You might read this, and feel so upset and horrified, so unable to trust anything you read online, that you immediately decide to cancel your Facebook account. You can't take part in anything where such unpleasant things happen. You don't know what to believe any more.

Please don't. The internet as a whole, and social media in particular, have (like most things in life) huge potential for both good and evil. It's up to us to keep our wits about us and understand the difference.

A friend of mine has (as have I) a father afflicted with serious dementia. In her case, her father has become so paranoid that he locks himself into his house; barricades himself into his bedroom at night; sits all day with the curtains closed and a large stick within reach. This desperate over-reaction means that he can't enjoy his life, and is missing out on so much. However, it's also true to say that not many of us would leave our doors unlocked while we slept. It's the difference between taking sensible precautions and becoming paranoid.

So with house locks, so with the internet. Shut out everybody, miss out on life; invite everybody in without caution, risk life and limb. It's all a matter of commonsense.

Check this stuff out: don't panic about it. You wouldn't drive a car without passing a test first; why should your computer be any different? Search. Ask. Question. Learn. And - before you click - THINK.

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