Is Twitter safe?

TwitterI blogged earlier about checking Facebook settings and my instinct was right. Since the compulsory live feed about who is liking what and who is commenting on what, the likes and comments have dropped off significantly and it’s interesting what people have since decided to comment on and react to. A reminder to check bottom right on the cog and you can turn off the right sidebar as I have. You still get birthday notifications! Twitter is a different kettle of fish entirely and it is harder to manage as such for you keep a stable, balanced feed. Every so often there is a spawning of grossness and undesirable which puts good people off and makes it hard then to enjoy the benefits of Twitter. Again, as social media users , we perhaps need to make some requests of the social media companies because we are contributing to their success and the research that goes on around them. Twitter is by far the most efficient means of communicating and getting out information in an emergency. Our farmers use it to get stock and feed to each other during bushfires and floods and to organise the help they need to save their farms. It has been a huge bonus in those times that Twitter is there, the hashtag can be created and people can get the help and/or reassurance they need in times of trouble. Companies can engage with customers in a real way and I won’t forget the day I solved my problem on Twitter while I was waiting on the phone to be put through to resolve a phone company issue. I hadn’t planned it that way. I just was trying to fill in the wait time. I have also used Twitter to help others who are stuck or want immediate help with something. Twitter can be great and providing you follow the hashtags you want it is more than a helpful venue. There are some interesting statistics on brandwatch:

Twitter user statistics

There are 310M monthly active users

A total of 1.3 billion accounts have been created

Of those, 44% made an account and left before ever sending a Tweet

Only 550 million people have ever sent a Tweet

500 million people visit the site each month without logging in

29.2% of US social media users are Twitter users

80% of active users access the site via mobile

208 is the average number of followers

391 million accounts have no followers at all

Katy Perry has the most followers, with over 87m

Journalists make up 24.6% of verified accounts

83% of the world’s leaders are on Twitter

79% of accounts are held outside of the U.S.

Twitter estimates 23m of its active users are actually bots

 

It’s the bots and fake accounts which tend to create the problems. A bot can spam Twitter feeds with anything. Fake accounts can spread whatever they like and are not held accountable. Real people are surprisingly good at finding out who owns these fake accounts. From that point of view Twitter becomes self regulating but there are times when you know that things just should not be there. We have laws and they don’t seem to be able to be applied or they are being ignored. I would think most users do not want to be in a swamp or cesspool and that intermittent aspect of Twitter is doing it harm. The fakeness aspect has to go. There is no kudos in having 40, 000 fake followers and building your name on fake just doesn’t work.

Theoretically children younger than 13 should not be on Twitter without parental consent. Given the nature of some of the material at times then 13 is still too young according to our laws and media ratings. Social media ratings matter and Huffington Post explains why. Trying to pin down the age restrictions is hard and it is explained here in the post and comments on Lisa Nielsan’s blog. Age screening is explained on the Twitter support site. There are other Twitter-like sites which might be more suitable for children. Learning how to use social media effectively is a desirable part of current educational needs in the digital age. education.com has some solid advice about children and Twitter.

Check your Facebook settings

Facebook likes and comments

Image:  Customised from Clipart Kid

Great functionality for stalkers, noseyparkers and eavesdroppers. Facebook is now running a live feed in the sidebar on the activity of your Facebook friends so you know when they like something and when they are commenting on something. I’ve just shut my sidebar down because it is none of my business. As such that sidebar is also broadcasting when you are online which may or may not be a problem. Facebook asks a lot of us and I think it’s time we need to ask Facebook to adapt to our needs too. We know Facebook. We know it’s a blabbermouth but the amount of concern caused by the broadcasting of likes and comments on the main Facebook feed was enough to drive people to try and find a way to shut it down. That was invasive. Now the live sidebar is escalating that. Facebook has always pushed the social boundaries and operated on the notion that people will squawk for a while and then settle down. Good old chook shed slapping. This comments and likes broadcasting is causing real concern fro two main reasons:

  1. Your friends and friends of friends can see what you like and comment on
  2. Friends of friends can comment and like  things from your friends even though they don’t know each other

It comes back to the settings. You cannot turn off the broadcasting of what you have liked and commented on. You cannot control it either. Your Facebook friends have to limit this for you. They have to go to their settings and change the permissions so that your privacy is respected a bit more. It would be better and easier for Facebook to change its algorithm but it’s called co option and, at this point, it is unclear as to what we are being co opted into. Asking others to change their setting?  Leaving Facebook because they have gone too far and thereby being the ones who bring down Facebook? Not liking and commenting so that Facebook gets no more interaction and therefore fewer discussions which breaks our connections?

Everyone needs to look at their settings. You can start with the 5 cnet recommended in 2011. You can try and scroll down to the bottom of your own Facebook wall to adjust further settings there. Quickest way is to click and hold anywhere on the Facebook page and press the spacebar. I am never going to get to the bottom of my wall. It just keeps loading. Check the settings top right of your Facebook page, especially notifications and limit who sees what you publish and do. Set it to friends and not public or friends of friends. Check the bottom right of your Facebook page and click on the cog. Change those settings to suit your needs. Check your privacy settings. Basically, you have to go around Facebook and take  control of the settings as much as you can. You can help change this by contacting Facebook about your concerns and also by asking your friends to change their settings…which is rude, but we seem to be living in a socially incompetent world by default.

Manage the social media onslaught

social media likes

Social Media

Image: DMN

Social media has been channelling my mother lately:

Why don’t you talk to Brandon? He’s a nice boy.

Go and see your Grandma and tell her about how well you are doing at school.

Why don’t you play with Connie? You’ll have fun together. 

Mr. Smith is a nice man. Go and talk to him. You can tell him you won the relay. 

Why don’t you want to go out? You can’t sit and read all day. It’s no good for you. 

 

There was always this compulsion to be sociable, to play with your friends and to get outside. Then the pressure to announce your recent achievements. From my mother’s point of view  all she wanted was for me to be happy, to be sociable and to do well. She wanted me to have manners, knowledge and social connections.

Social media is different in that it also wants to tell you what to read, what to believe and what to value. There is the pressure to follow and connect with people and there is a pressure to like things and be friends. It’s becoming annoying because there is a level of manipulation there we don’t quite understand or we don’t want to understand because there is a feeling we are no longer driving our choices and thoughts. It’s not my mum. There is something more to it and that is largely driven by branding and  research. Social media is used a lot to support other media and research papers. It is also used to drive an economy.

So what do you do? You take control. Bloomberg had an article Try breaking  your  media filter bubble which gives you three ways of setting your social media feeds straight. Barry Ritzholz picked that up and developed the idea so you can manage your feed but also challenge yourself and your thinking with regard to social media in his article Re-engineer your media diet. This article looks more about how you can constructively balance the bias and your own bias. The image on this post comes from DMN and their article  explains how important it is to branding that companies engage with social media and create real connections with people. It’s not new. It is what the corner store and the haberdasher were about. Small, family owned businesses used to engage with their communities and build their customer loyalty from who they were and how they conducted their businesses. It’s just done in a different way now.

The article which prompted me to write this post , though, was about the Facebook friend recommendations. Social media sites do come up with recommendations supposedly based on your activity and people you follow. Happens on Twitter , Instagram and LinkedIn and I have found some good people worth following and people have found me.  They are not Facebook , though. Facebook is seen as your home on the net and is generally more personal. People are finding Facebook a bit more disruptive these days because it throws up random memories which can open old wounds as well as create joy. There is no option to opt out. The friend recommendations have never bothered me on Facebook but I can see why they would bother others. In the end you want to add people who support you and who have a positive impact on your feed. Knowing people is not a reason to have them on Facebook. Amelia Tait’s article :

People you may know: is Facebook’s friend-finding algorithm putting you at risk?

is worth reading because it explains the security aspects of Facebook and then how the algorithm is working. I don’t have my phone number on Facebook and I don’t use a significant email address. I don’t add people I don’t know and I don’t feel obliged to keep people or sites on Facebook if they disrupt my feed. With social media you have to learn to block, unfriend, mute, unfollow, hide and do whatever you need to do so that your feed has a positive input into your life and adds to you. Breaking your media filter bubble is a must do these days.

Protect Yourself Online

This is very dramatic. The graphics are superb and the messages are clear. The video is created by the Victorian Department of Justice in Australia. Our police and justice departments are not known for their over reactions. They deal with things very calmly. There is probably a reason for this to be so dramatic. They are dealing with things like this every day. It is their job. They want us to sit up and take notice. We can never let online protection and cyber – bullying fade from our thoughts and we do need to remind ourselves on a regular basis to keep the conversations going so that we look after ourselves and each other. It is awful a young girl would attempt suicide because of cyber-bullying but not tell any adults incase she lost internet access and her phone. That says it all. We need to look at good ways of looking after young people and we need to ensure they will report undesirable online activity to someone who can do something about it. Maybe losing their phone or online activity for a while would be a good way to help them re-establish their priorities and happy life. I would find it very difficult to be a parent these days but we do live in a community which picks up social wellbeing messages strongly and will share them publicly on the radio, on Facebook posts, in papers, on TV. We do get community messages out there effectively and that would help support parents. Schools play a role in this too and can be reminded to stay on message. Blocking, muting, unfriending , checking settings and changing passwords are all easy ways of keeping safe. No one is your friend if they are making you feel threatened and really unhappy. It’s all part of the personal and social capability of the Australian national curriculum. I have recently heard some good stories of how two parents dealt with their children who were online bullies and it more or less followed  restorative justice lines. That is if parents find out and if they have the tools to deal with these things. Some parents might feel ashamed and then not act. Some would not know. Protecting ourselves online needs to be a recurrent conversation. We can all play a part.

Keep children safe online

Most of the internet safety videos on YouTube are 2, 3, 4 or more years old. This one was made in 2014. By now parents and teachers would have some good tips and tricks for keeping students and children safe online. We need to keep those practices current and public. We always need to be having online safety  conversations because the internet, devices and apps are always changing. New apps and devices can bring new safety issues. It’s important to remind children to check settings, not just fill in personal details, not broadcast where they are and then question whether they actually need to be plugged in with earphones or headsets. Talking to each other might help them to keep each other safe but they need to be encouraged to have adults to have safety conversations with too. It’s annoying some sites demand addresses, locations and phone numbers as though they were oblivious to common sense and online safety.  The UK child safety site Internet Matters had a high profile launch at the time it appeared and it’s a site which offers good advice. Pew Research Centre has current information about how parents monitor children’s online activity. There has been som rational and well thought out discussion about this on radio this week and that is a great way to keep those reminders in front of us as adults.

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