February 6, 2018
Social Media, Its Risks, and Fake Followers
Bots, and spam, and trolls, oh my.
The wonderful world of social media continues to have its ugly side exposed. Advertising designed to sway opinions. Involvement from shady characters allegedly part of foreign governments. Revenge porn, suicide pacts, misleading or outright fake information, cyberbullying. If you focus on the problems, social media is a cesspool that screams out to be ignored, banned, or severely restricted.
Recently, the New York Times reported a massive problem with Twitter: "followers" who are not real. Though technically illegal, for a few hundred dollars it is possible to buy thousands of followers, artificially improving one's supposed status. Most of those purchased names are automated bots, fake humans, or real Twitter users who have had their identities copied. A few days after that story ran, the company began deleting millions of those fraudulent followers from some of its more high profile users.
Even so, 330 million people use Twitter every month. Over one billion are on Facebook every day. 100 million use the photo app, Snapchat, every 30 days. LinkedIn claims 467 million users. Let's not forget Instagram with 800 million monthly users and 40 million photos posted every single day.
So, what's driving this amazing disconnect between the potential for harm and the massive use patterns? Are the reasons for using Twitter or Facebook or Snapchat, Instagram,or LinkedIn so positive that any harm is accepted as the price of doing business? Or, are the damages that can occur from hacked accounts, ruined lives, wasted time, or political mayhem too abstract to be real to the average user? Is it the "Until it happens to me it isn't real" mindset?
I have no idea. The continued use of such dangerous outlets for social interaction baffles me, even as I continue to take part. Yes, driving a car can result in an injury or even death. Something can happen in the blink of an eye that changes my life. But, the positives of driving so far outweigh the risks that I continue to get behind the wheel.
I may have a bad reaction to a flu shot, but I believe the scientific studies that prove my odds of getting the flu decrease if I have the protection, I gladly take that slight risk.
I have been blogging for nearly 8 years. Close to three million times someone has clicked Satisfying Retirement to read what I have written and others have had to say in response. Yet, I am one massive cyber attack from finding this corner of my world stolen, distorted, or turned into a weapon against others. So far, I have considered that risk and decided to proceed with my writing here. What will I do if a bad actor wants to harm this site? I don't know. though my odds are increasing that I will find out!
I have had my Facebook account hacked twice, yet I am still there, albeit in a very limited way, restricted to just a few dozen friends and family. I work at increasing my Twitter profile as a way to promote this blog. All privacy settings are turned on and I restrict what can and cannot be done with my data. Even so, a determined bad actor could make mincemeat of my account and work in seconds.
I continue on Facebook and Twitter even though I am running a verifiable risk. I am committing the same mistake that I am cautioning you against. Why am I doing that? Are the handful of people who discover Satisfying Retirement through my social media efforts worth the hassle?
If you use social media in any form, why: connecting with family and friends, learning about something new, entertainment?
Are you worried about having your account hacked or your identity stolen? If so, are you keeping your accounts open anyway?
I guess this is an interesting social experiment. Hundreds of millions of us continue with behavior that has the potential to be harmful. What motivates us? What is the line that we will not cross?
I expect to be fascinated by your responses.