Are Businesses the Bane of Social Networks?

The support of big corporations means big money for any site, especially social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but does business involvement ruin the social experience for everyone? I think so. If you introduce money and profit into social networking, then the entire package becomes a business. The social network needs revenue to pay for ever-expanding server and maintenance costs, and businesses want to advertise to as many people as possible; what better way to do so that with social media? It’s where people focus their attention, not only during downtime, but also during work, on lunch breaks, and any time a free moment presents itself. We are a connected generation, and for that reason alone we are being sold to the highest bidder, often from right under our noses. Most people don’t even realize it?

So what about you is being sold? Information, of course. Every time you visit a site, click a link, click into and out of a social network, or read an article, data about you is being collected using tracking cookies. Your behavior, your likes and dislikes, the activities and interactions between you and your family – all of this is being monitored, quantified, and studied in order for corporations to advertise to you more effectively. Why are clickbait articles so rampant? Because people on social networks are clicking on them. Each site featuring these clickbait articles and lists knows exactly where you came from, who shared the referral link, how long you spent on their site, and how often you click on similar articles. They then pay Facebook advertising money to shove more of the same articles into your newsfeed. Don’t you ever wonder why ads seem to only feature things you’ve looked at or are interested in? It’s because you’re being watched.

When a social network cares more about the money it makes and less about the communities it fosters and the connections its users make with each other, it starts to show over time. Facebook’s Pages now longer have the organic (unpaid) reach it used to, because, according the Facebook admins, they want reduce SPAM. The people most affected by this: small companies, start-ups, and people who want to get a leg up in a vast community that used to be a treasure trove of potential followers. You can access the people you want to follow your Page…you just have to pay to make it happen. So no, Facebook, it’s not about reducing SPAM. You’re a multi-billion dollar company. You can find a way to fix this problem without hamstringing everyone who can’t afford to pay.

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Facebook’s Real Name Policy

What name did you choose for your Facebook account? Apparently if it’s not your real name, as it is listed on your credit card, driver’s license, or student ID, you’re at risk of having your account deleted due to Facebook’s Real Name Policy. That’s right, if you have a nickname or any name the admins deem “fake” or “not real”, your account can be deleted without warning! The controversy began several days ago when some self-described drag queens and stage performers had their accounts deleted because they used their stage names and chosen names instead of their legal name. Seems unfair, doesn’t it? Not only does this alienate people who do not wish to be found on this ever-popular social network, it alienates the LGBT community. Furthermore, it seriously affects activists in other countries who go by pseudonyms to protect their livelihood, and even their lives! Your legal name may not be the one to which you identify yourself, and to force users to use their real/given names seems entirely arbitrary as a rule. Facebook has since responded to these complaints, stating that the policy will not be changed because it discourages “bad behavior” from potential troll users.

One possible solution given to stage performers who had their accounts deleted is to create a fan page. However, that completely kills the reach and connections they have with friends and family; if you’ve been reading my blog and following Facebook’s organic reach policy, you will see that a Page’s reach has dwindled to numbers as low as 2%. This “solution” farther alienates the people forced to make a Page because they’re refused a user account, because with the current reach algorithms, they’d be a member of Facebook but almost completely disconnected from their friends. Unless they pay money. That’s how Page reach works nowadays.

I don’t know what Facebook’s thinking, but they seem to be pushing their users to move on to other, newer social networks like Ello (I’m a member now!). What is your take on the Real Name Policy?

An Ad-Free Social Network? What’s Your Deal, Ello?

ello2Have you heard of Ello? I recently found out about this brand new social network that’s currently in a beta phase. If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time, you will know that I am a staunch advocate for online privacy, especially against advertisers and sites that will sell your personal information to the highest bidder for the purpose of flashing banner ads in your face. Some of the largest offenders of this philosophy: social networks. Ello, however, seems to be a proponent of the user’s right to privacy, claiming in their manifesto that they do not and will not ever have advertising on their site. For this reason, they and the people who back this social network have dubbed it the “Anti-Facebook”. At first I was suspicious. If they become as popular as Facebook, how will they pay for all their server costs? Every company needs to generate some sort of revenue in order to keep their operations running, right? Their About page explains it all.

It appears Ello will be running on a Freemium platform, which many people have seen in the gaming industry. For those unfamiliar with the term, freemium platforms offer a base service free of charge, but with special features in the form of microtransactions. In other words, you have the initial account for free, but if you want small special features, you need to pay a small sum of money to have it. I am a gamer myself, so the freemium motto is no news to me, nor is it a practice that I support; most freemium games include tons of advertising to generate their revenue. In Ello’s case, it appears it may be a necessary practice for the purpose of generating revenue, since they won’t include any advertising.

My verdict: I will request an invitation. Hopefully I will be able to join and see what features they offer and compare them to Facebook’s functions. I will also be keeping an eye on what the base service offers and what paid special services will be available in the future. Hopefully they will be very separate functions that don’t look like they should be a part of the base service. You know, stuff like paying $3 to streamline your menus so that anyone who paid for this special service will have a much more convenient time navigating the site, whereas the base service members have a nearly unusable platform. Keep this in mind, Ello: don’t make the paid services a necessary feature for your users to have a satisfactory experience. The network itself should stand on its own!