Gotcha: The Trouble with the Internet

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This morning I received my regular newsletter from DezinsInteractive, a local advertising agency who specializes in Social Media Management among other things. I clicked on a link on how to expand my organic reach on Facebook. Facebook has changed so much since 2007 when I joined. It’s settings now are designed as such that your organic reach is significantly reduced over the way it used to be. Ever notice that you don’t get as many likes and comments as you used to? Or, that you are not seeing your friend’s feeds as much as when you first joined? Paid ads get the top spots in your News Feed. You – on Facebook – are merely a marketing target.

I had conversations with three people this week who all said they hated Facebook and wish they could get off. But, if you have a page for anything – like a business or my blog – you have to keep your personal page to keep it going. I tried to keep my page up but unfriend all of my friends so I could essentially get off FB earlier this year. Too many people thought that I’d gotten mad at them and unfriended them. I felt like it was kind of screwing me up socially. That’s the problem with Facebook. We have become socially wired to be on it. I don’t really get on there much anymore, so I miss a lot. My friends expect me to check FB to see what they are doing. So I am half-in and half-out of FB.

credibility

Last week’s political controversies, of course, brought out the worst and the best in people. At any rate, I tried to stay off as much as I could because I just didn’t want to read all the crap posted on there. It’s not really people’s opinions that have been flaming this time around. It’s the articles that they post. The internet is full of garbage. When something happens, paid writers – or writers who want to be paid – think of all kinds of ways to inflame people’s anger or justify their opinions and write about it. I know this because I am a writer, and I’m exploring ways to make money with it. Do you know that many of the freelance jobs out there for writers are for content – not for reading – but for placement of key words? I look at job after job where they are advertising for content writers to write 50 blogs for $300. Or, some where they will pay $3 per blog. Who is going to work for that? Believe me, there are plenty. To people overseas, $3 can be a week’s wage. So, non-native English-speaking people write ‘content’ designed to hit ‘keywords’ which are designed to grab your attention so that they can advertise to you. Do you think they care if the information is true? Balanced? Even good writing?

Right now, in higher education where I work, we need to use digital resources to teach. We need up-to-date information – particularly in those fields that change frequently. So, the most important skill we have to teach is how to tell if information is credible. Ever try to research a medical problem? How about try to get to the bottom of any kind of controversial topic? It’s hard to know what to believe. And, don’t trust your searches, either. You do know that people pay to get their content listed higher in the searches? Statistics show that you will click on whatever is on the front page. In some cases, the information is the most credible out there because Google has an amazing system to tell that your stuff is credible. But, sometimes, it’s because they paid for that keyword to be higher in the search. The experts say Google is the most trustworthy, so I use Google more than any other search engine, but I use my brain to decide if a site is trying to sell me something or if the content is actually worth reading. And, it’s not always that obvious.

I remember when the internet first came out. I was an early adopter. I was living in Seattle. All of my friends thought it was evil and said nothing good could come from it, but I wanted to see what this superhighway was all about. The early websites were awful, the load-time was painful, but there were some pretty good services out there. I shopped for my groceries online because I traveled 90% of the time. I could order them on Sunday night, and they would be delivered to my door when I got home. Everybody warned me about putting my credit card on the internet. “Don’t put any personal information out there,” I was warned. I did it anyway. I never really had any problems, knock on wood. It’s potential seemed limitless, and, indeed, it has become limitless.

I’m starting to hate the internet as much as Facebook. I won’t quit using it because it’s a way of life. But, I hate the proliferation of bullsh*t that’s out there, hooking people who don’t have enough sense to know they are being manipulated. I’m sick of it being a place to market everything to everybody. I’ve bought a few Facebook ads just to see how they work. I can target what demographic I want to hit. I ran one last week on my blog about loneliness. Every time I logged on to Facebook, guess what flashed first on my news feed? Guess what was running more frequently through yours (if you have liked my blog page)? Guess what was running frequently through your friend’s feeds? I didn’t get huge results, but there was a definite uptick on clicks – which is what I pay for with an ad. They want you to see it so you might click on it, and Facebook will get 7 cents. And, guess what, I can write any flipping thing I want – true or not – and publish it as if it’s fact. There are no fact-checkers. Nobody cares. I don’t make money on my blog, but if I wrote for somebody else, I might get paid ‘per click’. All I want to do is to entice you to click that mouse. Cha-ching. Gotcha.

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