Coherent Criticism of Big-Name Social Media

I’m not really prepared to add any remarks of my own right now, but would like you all to read this column by Bruce Dixon and comment on it.  I’m especially interested in hearing from people who HAVE used the big-name social media to promote good causes.  As always, no need to use your real name when leaving comments.


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10 Responses to Coherent Criticism of Big-Name Social Media

  1. BillW says:

    As community activists, we make and have made extensive use of both big-name social media (BNMS) and dark social media (DSM). Some thoughts in no particular order:

    – Our main uses of BNSM and DSM as activists are to 1) alert people to upcoming events, meetings, lectures, elections, demonstrations, vigils etc., and 2) provide an online venue for discussions and debates, since we serve a physically scattered community that makes it difficult or impossible to have regular meetings in “meatspace.”

    – Like most community activists, we’re on a shoestring budget, so we try to take maximum advantage of free resources. To the extent that free BNMS resources come with strings attached, it behooves one to be aware of what those strings are. Countermeasures exist for some of them. Use BNSM on your terms, not on their terms. Fling a virtual sabot into the virtual gears.

    – Use TOR ( when accessing BNMS sites, to inhibit gathering of your IP address data

    – Use a browser-based ad blocker on BNMS sites. The billions they spend trying to get targeted advertisements in front of our eyeballs are easily subverted by our refusing to display them.

    – Learn about cookies and their management. A good example is here:
    but it is a bit out of date.

    – Don’t be too sure that DSM is actually “dark.” If email and listserv traffic is traveling across the network as unencrypted text, there are numerous possible interception points – starting with your ISP – where traffic can be captured and/or scanned for keywords, for advertising or other more nefarious purposes. And if your email and listserv traffic is traveling across the network as encrypted text, the strength of the NSA’s desire to have a talk with you is directly proportional to the cryptographic strength of your encryption algorithm 😉

    – Some people think that the “private browsing mode” in their browser provides Internet anonymity. It does not. It merely keeps those midget porn site visits out of the browser history of your local computer.

    – While not feasible or ethical in all situations, one can use a nom de guerre on BNSM. It is trivially easy, for example, to create a false identity on Facebook.

    – If you can do everything that you need to do with text email plus attachments, then the DSM path may provide all of the functionality you need. However, if you need to do things like share photos or videos, or collaborate online, the advantage of the BNSM sites is that they provide a common user experience across all types of computers and operating systems.

    – While not exactly BNMS (although certainly being mined for targeted ad keywords) both Yahoo and Google have a “groups” feature that lets you setup groups of arbitrary size for communication and collaboration. Group members have the option of receiving every message via email, receiving a periodic digest of messages via email, or reading the messages online via browser. Image and document attachments to messages are supported.

    I may think of more later.

  2. kitchenmudge says:

    Bill brings up some interesting considerations. I’ve used Yahoo and Google groups for many years, and they basically work, mostly. I’m still trying to get my head around what F-book and Twitter do that email and any old web site don’t do.

    I’m less concerned about surveillance, since I just assume everything I do on the web is monitored by some creep or another. (I DO clear my browser cache at least once a day on general principles, and encourage everyone to do so.) I’m more concerned with things Dixon mentions to the effect that F-book will actually interfere with your ability to communicate.

    For instance, it’s easy to save a backup of all the addresses subscribed to a Yahoo group, so if Yahoo goes blooey or deletes your account for no reason at all, you can still contact all those people with a bcc. No reason to go through Yahoo to contact them, unless it’s more convenient. Is there a comparable backup capability for your F-book friends, for instance? Will you have an easy way to contact them completely outside the F-book universe? Never used it myself, so I don’t know these things.

  3. kitchenmudge says:

    Posted by someone who might prefer anonymity, I don’t know:

    > On Thu, 19 Jun 2014 17:39:12 -0700 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx writes:
    >> FB is okay for church groups and such. orgs that aren’t very
    >> controversial.
    >> i use:
    >> riseup has many safe ways to communicate with activists.

    • kitchenmudge says:

      I have a riseup email account as a backup, and might someday try to use a riseup list rather than Yahoo, but just never saw the need for it yet.

      There are different considerations here. I was mainly considering the BNSM as a promotional tool, not something for established networks that might have sensitive communication. The question is whether it’s even useful as a promotional tool, without vast amounts of work “liking” and commenting (In the blogging world, we call this “blog-whoring”.), and getting into newsfeeds, that might be better applied elsewhere.

  4. kitchenmudge says:

    Another comment from someone who preferred email initially, so I’ll keep his name out of it:

    On Thu, 19 Jun 2014 21:24:24 -0700 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx writes:

    Hi Mudge,

    These big networks are privately owned and privately controlled. They
    clearly have their own agenda. We should not depend on them, but there’s
    no reason not to utilize them for outreach. Ultimately one has their own
    network in place. In our case, that is you, which causes a lot of work
    for you. I think they demand too much time, always wanting more
    information, your friends, your cell phone number, etc.

    I don’t have the time for using them. I decided the best use of my
    time, energy and money would be to start using youTube more. Videos can
    carry a lot more information than a still photo or text.

    Anyway, there’s my two cents worth. Please let me know if you “like”
    this post…………..

    • kitchenmudge says:

      We’re on the same page in thinking BNSM is only for promotion to the public, and that people need to be brought into one’s own network once their interest is established.

      A LOT can be done with YouTube. The problem (only the first one) is making a video that will hold people’s attention. The second problem is getting anyone to view it. I’ve seen some excellent videos that have been up there for years with less than 100 views. Getting something to go viral is that Holy Grail a lot of good causes need.

  5. I had a face book account and deleted it. Never did anything with Twitter, Pintrest or the scads of other social media sites out there. I don’t understand them and that makes me uncomfortable. Plus I don’t have time to follow them.

    I’m not a big conspiracy theorist, but it wouldn’t surprise me that anything that started off with a wholesome intention got co-opted by corporate America. Heck, that’s the American way. I stick with blogs and emails to get my messages out there. I may reach fewer people, but I feel more comfortable about who I’m reaching and how things work. If this makes me a techno-dinosaur, so be it.

  6. Tian says:

    I use facebook a lot. It’s great for organizing events and inviting people to them. I do learn something from the activist posts I see. It was way better before so many people that were posting good stuff quit. I understand how they would feel they weren’t getting as much out of it as they wanted, but that’s what pushing information at the public feels like.

  7. Adam says:

    Notice that I’m using my WordPress account to post this comment so that only my first name is displayed. If I used any social media account, my last name would also be displayed. I understand Bill’s points, but I don’t really see any harm in using social media to promote causes such as the Green Party. I’m very pleased that medical science is reminding us more and more to limit our screen time. I NEVER WANT THE INTERNET IMPLANTED IN MY BRAIN! But flat-out refusing to use the internet through existing technologies, right now in 2014, just doesn’t feel practical for me or anyone younger than me. I’m very pleased that the OC Register recently reminded parents to limit their children’s screen time, especially when they are supposed to be paying attention to something OFFline.

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