What I learnt from ‘resetting’ my social media approach
In light of all the recent media stories about Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, apps, shared data, and the extent that information given to social media companies gets used, I decided to hold an audit as to how I use social media. What do I want it for? What am I comfortable with? What should I change, or what would I be more at ease with if I did something differently?
I am very much of the view that we need to hold reviews every now and again and see how we got to where we are, what we are wanting from our involvement, and what changes or actions are needed to be taken if we want to achieve our requirements or wishes. Looking back is a good way of building the forward view you want to build. Few of us could have predicted the reliance and dependency that many of us have for social media.
My data file
I downloaded my Facebook data file and it surprised me in many ways. It wasn’t just a one-off snapshot of what my profile looked like there are then. It was a historical artefact with my past documented in detail. People I had forgotten let alone unfriended, messages from time gone by from all and sundry, which adverts I had clicked and not clicked, friend requests that I had sent but not been responded to, groups I had been part of, lists of former relationships and family members, event invites that I had been to, not been to and not responded to, and much more.
Useful security information
We are very careful not to give away information about certain areas, but not others. We are quite happy to say which years we were at which schools, what employers we worked for between which dates, who our family members are (including possibly our mother’s maiden name), photo albums of our pets or our favourite places and so on. How many of us have ever at some point had passwords or memorable places or dates requested from organisations that may be or linked to at least these parts of our lives? I can guess that there may be quite a few. It may not be passwords, but banks often ask for memorable places or dates or place of birth and mother’s maiden names at some stage.
I didn’t want to get rid of my account completely as I do genuinely think there can be great value in the connectivity that social media brings, if it is used within your tolerance zones. I liked the way that I could see what friends were doing, they could see things I shared with them, and it does increase the likelihood of improving friendships when you know more about each other. What I wanted was a fresh start. This wasn’t going to be easy though.
A new me, or a new electronic version of me?
I set up a new Facebook profile. Facebook wanted to see evidence that I was who I was. They say this is to stop fake accounts being set up in names that aren’t of the person setting up the account. Would Facebook retain this photo evidence of who I am? They say they don’t. How would I know if they did?
I then had to set up a minimal amount of data about me so that when I invite people they knew it was me. I had to be convincing enough so that it didn’t look like a fraudulent hacker who had cloned my account. One new challenge I was facing was how was I going to be authentic enough that people know it is me, without me giving away so much information about myself? How am I going to be me a data-light version of me? I decided that I had to be what people knew me for, but to not overshare other areas that others didn’t or shouldn’t know about.
Once I had built the new profile and populated it with suitable photographs, bare information and a couple of posts that people knew was ‘my style’, I started my communication with friends. On my old profile and on my blog, I posted an article about why I was deleting my old profile and starting up a new one. I then started inviting friends to be friends on the new profile. Within minutes I was getting messages coming through saying that I had been hacked, or did I know that there was this other account claiming to be me. I clarified that it was genuine and that there were posts on my old profile and blog to confirm this. A hacker would say it was genuine, but I had to go the extra mile to be even more genuine than a hacker would be. Again, there was a challenge on my authenticity. What were my friends expecting as a response from me? How to be authentic in my responses when a hacker would say the same kind of thing? My blog post and old profile post should be that second and third layer authentication I had hoped. If people had seen them!
Tech holding back reconnecting
My new friend numbers were starting to trickle up bit by bit each day over the coming fortnight. I noticed that some people hadn’t responded though which I found was strange. I looked at my friend requests and they had been deleted and Facebook doesn’t let you resend if they have been declined by the recipient. They had deleted the request as they had seen the posts on my old wall from people saying that I had been hacked! A lesson in 2018 communication here was that many people will look at the message from others rather than from the horse’s mouth. Now they would need to send me a friend request from my profile page instead. The expectation of a hacker cloning my account was reducing the effectiveness of my communications. I would now need to send messages to people explaining that it was legitimately above board and include a link to my new profile if they had already deleted, hopefully in error, my initial friend request.
Over the following couple of weeks, all except a small handful re-connected and everything was fine once more. There were still some that hadn’t reconnected, but hopefully they will over time.
What I have learnt
One thing I learnt about this is that no matter how much you want to look after your own data, your own timeline, and being careful about what data points you volunteer to large tech companies, there is an amount of human interaction you need to prove authenticity and establishing your own identity. I don’t think we could move fully into the totally immersed tech world as we do need that personal touch at times, no matter how much we accept the technological advances.
If you want to get a closer grip on your use of social media, I can very much recommend getting hold of your data files from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google and whoever else. It is an eye-opener and it may lead you to act slightly differently in future. I won’t go into the detail of what I am doing differently in this article, I shall save that for a later post, but if taking back control enables you to feel more comfortably about living life online, I would certainly recommend this approach to anyone, though proving you are you afterwards may take a little while for some people!