Facebook, Cambridge Analitica and the Case of our Disappearing Privacy

Social media or propaganda tools?

I’ve dabbled with a range of social media and quite frankly been obsessed with Instagram. I deleted my account only recently after my nearest and dearest mentioned how much time I was spending on it and how much of my private life, and that of my children, I was sharing. I had Facebook years ago but was obviously much wiser as a younger women as it didn’t last very long, I could see then the unacceptable intrusion into my private life that my family had to point out to me now! I use Twitter, but more as a source of news rather than sharing information about my life. I don’t think social media is the root of all evil but increasingly I’m becoming wary of how much we share, especially about our children, and how this will impact them in the future.

The recent scandal around Facebook and Cambridge Analitica reminds me that nothing in life is free. Sure social media platforms are available for “free” but there is a cost, your privacy! When I first started using Facebook I used a completely made up name, Lilly Khan, and fabricated a personality. I did the same with my initial Instagram account, I didn’t use my real name and I rarely posted pictures of myself. After having children I wanted to connect with other mums and decided to use my name and post pictures and used the hashtag #instamum. It’s a great platform for connecting with others in a similar situation, sharing (and often times caring) the struggles of your shared experience. I made some really lovely Insta friends who supported me through some difficult and testing #mumlife moments! I didn’t share pictures of my children’s faces, just their profiles but I was saying quite a bit about them in the caption. Strangers could form opinions on my children’s personalities based on how much I had shared about them. Comments like “that sounds like Aasiya” or “Aasiya would love this book” made me think about how appropriate it was for me to share so much about her. Most, if not all these comments were made innocently or flippantly, but they still made me pause and think, am I divulging too much information about my family? and how could that affect them, especially my small babies in the future?

Everything we do leaves a footprint. Our activities can be traced and used to create a ridiculously accurate picture or profile of our lifestyle, our choices and who we are. You just have to go through a few of my tweets to see I’m a social liberal, left wing, pro choice, feminist. Just with these snippets you can no doubt accurately guess most of my political and world views. You’d also see I’m a British Pakistani, Muslim mum and much of my life is dictated by my children. You could see which city I lived in and if you really wanted to find the borough if not the street I live in! As an adult I made the choice about how much I want to share, my children on the other-hand haven’t. I don’t let my babies watch TV, but on the occasions they do I always make them turn it off during the ads. I don’t want them to be subject to advertising telling them they *need* certain things in their life to feel complete. All children’s programmes are littered with adverts which send overt and subliminal messages about what they need to buy to feel happy. With Online TV the adverts are catered specifically to you and with adverts on social media they are even more refined, based not only on your search history but also your own pictures and what you have “liked” or commented upon. In this new ever more commercialised world, we really have very little power or control. Influence over our shopping basket is one thing, but when this power can be further manipulated to influence how we feel and act (vote) that’s a whole other level of scary.

I think there are many benifits to social media. I have family and friends all over the world and to stay connected with them whether in the mountains of Kashmir or the beaches of Australia is a real treat. No more crazy expensive phone calls or crappy connections, now I can speak, send pictures and video call simply with WiFi connection. Whatsapp, part of the Facebook family, is truly my connection to the world! As mentioned previously I also adore Twitter, I love accessing news and information from non traditional sources. I’m weary of the Murdoch press and its agenda, although I appreciate everyone has one. I think it’s great that we can use social media to hold big companies and corporations to account. If you’ve had a bad experience or been sold a dodgy product, you can contact them publicly and generally they will respond, as reputation management is usually very important. Social media platforms also allow us to share ideas, tips and tricks with people from all over the world. For the business minded amongst us, it opens doors of possibilities, connecting people, ideas and products. Local and small businesses can promote themselves alongside larger companies.

My objection to a lot of what people post on social media is how revealing it is. Without realising we give away our opinions our feelings and share our intimate moments. However, as we grow and as time passes all those can change, Our feelings towards something, our opinions on social matters and our partners. Recently social media accounts of celebrities and other people in the public eye have been scrutinised, their opinions from decades ago, if they liked a controversial tweet, or if they supported or commented on a post of someone no longer in general favour, and they’ve been demonised and tried by the court of public opinion. People have been fired from jobs, lost business contracts, and jeopardised personal relationship because of their inability to be discreet on their social media accounts.

So while I support and endorse the use of social media I would just urge everyone, especially younger people, to proceed with caution, your privacy is an extremely high cost to pay for a few hundred (or more) likes!


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