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The Struggle to Share Mindfully on Social Media

Social media’s profitability relies on the personal information we share, but what happens when we become more mindful of what we publish on our profiles and feeds?

It may surprise you to learn that when we’re not shy about our privacy, social media giants have to turn to new strategies to try and encourage us to engage more often with their platforms. Could we be witnessing the twilight years of the age of oversharing?

It depends. As platforms evolve so will the tactics used to get us posting, liking, and retweeting. Now more than ever we need to double-down on our commitment to be mindful about our use of social media and refresh our understanding of why privacy is essential to our well-being.

Facebook Worried People are Posting Less

Though CEO Mark Zuckerberg would like to see Facebook triple in size over the next ten years, there’s one troubling trend which has Facebook employees searching for solutions: users are sharing less personal information.

According to this article in The Guardian, sharing overall hasn’t decreased so much as the content users are sharing isn’t the sort of personal data most useful to Facebook’s partners. The problem? “Context collapse,” according to Facebook’s brightest. Context collapse is a phenomenon “where people, information or expectations from one context invade or encroach upon another.” When contexts collapse, users are more wary about who may see their tagged photos of their last night out, or where they’re going to be tomorrow for business.

Facebook’s business model depends on users sharing original, personal data. A recent report by The Information “claims to have seen confidential documents showing a 21 percent drop in original sharing over the last year,” according to this article by Daniel Cooper for Engadget. The article goes on to provide an example where a Facebook user specifically requested her friends and family not post updates from her wedding. When people respect privacy, so called “original sharing” goes down. Original sharing is Facebook’s gold. Without it, user attention tends to wander and engagement wanes.

Increased privacy awareness could also be a significant factor in the decline. TechCrunch’s coverage of a recent comprehensive study by British telecom regulators Ofcom indicates growing concern from users about the privacy of their personal data.

From the report:

“Six in ten Facebook users say they have changed their privacy settings to make them more private, while seven in ten (72%) say they only share their photos with friends. ‘Friends only’ was also cited by two-thirds of users in the case of sharing opinions about people, places or the latest news stores (66%), their real name (64%), and their current location (64%).”

In response to the problem, it has been reported that teams at Facebook hope to find new ways to lure users back into cycles of regular personal engagement. This includes the possibility of financial incentives to share.

Could You be Paid to Share?

The UK’s Daily Mail reports Facebook is exploring “long-term monetization models,” and some of those ideas include paying users to participate. A user survey circulated online suggests Facebook is interested in learning more about the viability of a number of options, including:

·Tip jar: A place where fans can tip you money

·Branded content: Earn money when posting with a brand you have a sponsorship arrangement with

·Sponsor Marketplace: A place where you can match up with advertisers for sponsorship

·Donation option: Allows fans to donate to a charity of your choice

·Call to action button: Eg. button saying ‘Buy Tickets’ or ‘Sign up for more’ on your posts

·Revenue sharing:Receive a share of revenue generated by ads in your post

Though none of these options are a reality (yet) on the social media platform, the idea of paying users for sharing content is not new. Both YouTube and Instagram provide revenue opportunities for users.

The incentive trend will place a premium on the “pause before you post” mindset. As we face an increased pressure to share, we will have to be more mindful of our privacy and discerning about what information we choose to share on social media.

Reminder – Why Privacy Matters

When we are inundated with encouragement to share our lives online, it can seem benign to go with the flow. But even if periodic oversharing doesn’t result in harm, the fact that we undervalue our privacy may have profound philosophical implications.

University of Connecticut Professor Michael Lynch argues in his new book, “The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data” that privacy is essential to allowing us to make our own decisions and exercise our individual power. In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Lynch makes the case that the deprivation of autonomy results in the erosion of our humanity.

These concerns come full circle in terms of public policy. As Lynch says:

“…our policies – legal or otherwise – need to be crafted to recognize that in both cases, we are also protecting a citizen’s basic right to autonomy. That means that governments and companies have a pretty high bar if they are going to argue that it is justified in certain cases to violate our privacy.”

If neglecting your right to privacy robs you of your autonomy, might you by more mindful about how you share your information with companies who may profit from your personal data?

Tips on How to Share Mindfully on Social Media

With so much stake in the sharing game, we could all use some tips to help us share with greater awareness.

1. Use the “Because Privacy” mantra While a mantra is generally spiritual in nature  – a word or sound that helps you keep your focus during meditation – you can use the mantra “because privacy” as a spark for privacy awareness. It can become your personal motto as you engage with technology.

2. Ask yourself whose life you are sharing online. Consider the interesting social borders when it comes to sharing and remember to balance the right to privacy against the impulse to share.

3. Don’t be shy about being private. Be aware of social pressure from friends and family to share more than you are comfortable sharing. Be proud of protecting your privacy, and you’ll serve as a model for others to follow.

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