My year of not sharing

I’m assuming many of you missed the marvelous piece of bumf crafted by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook – it was published by the Economist Group late last year, in The World In 2012.

Well, Sandberg’s effusions about how “profiles will no longer be outlines, but detailed self-portraits of who we really are, including the books we read, the music we listen to… just didn’t ring true to me, after my recent experiences on Facebook, or Facebutt as Jon called it. I was creating a personal profile in order to then be able to make a page for our Dad’s Westcoast Awesome Sauces, our truly awesome hot sauces.

I’m certainly old enough to know what I like and how I like it and I found it very trying to express the little that I was willing to share while Facebook attempted to pigeon-hole my entries into it’s preset modules, which then enable it to conveniently resell you information.

I would be perfectly happy to list my musical tastes in words only, but if I must have little pictures to represent one or another of my musical choices, I would like to be able to pick the kind of picture I WANT. And, I really dislike the fact my more obscure tastes bring up a default icon, whether it’s a white musical note for Cold Djun, a very good group of musicians from Florida, or a white faceless head in a sea of Facebook blue. Moreover, Facebook is unable to distinguish the gender of a name you might enter and at times will give you a male faceless head instead of a female.

By the way, I might actually prefer to embed a link to the music of the person or group I admire and, dammit, I will probably want my own selection, not Facebook’s. And maybe I would like a wallpaper of Hungarian embroidery.

That would be a more accurate representation of me than what Facebook’s parameters currently allow for.

Moreover, what Facebook allows one to say about languages in no way represents the 5, or more accurately 3.75, languages which I speak, write or read at my stage in life. It doesn’t convey my regret at having lost fluency in my awkward mother tongue.

And, please: I’ve stopped watching TV a couple of decades ago because I was tired of all of the advertising so could we please be given the ability to blast that right-hand column of advertising into the abyss.

So, thanks Facebook, but to me there is “no shift to authenticity” and, as you try to widen your grasp over peoples’ lives, I doubt there’ll ever be one. As long as you control – for your own financial interests – how people input their data, genuine authenticity on Facebook will not exists.

Here, for your education, is the full text of Ms. Sandberg’s nauseating advertorial:

Sharing to the power of 2012

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, expects a deepening impact of social media on everything from private lives to presidential politics

Nov 17th 2011 | from The World In 2012 print edition

Mark Zuckerberg’s “law of sharing” is to social media what Moore’s law is to computing power. Coined a few years back, the Facebook founder’s law asserts that the amount of information shared digitally will double every year. This will never be more evident than in 2012. Around the globe, people will share more and more of their lives online, transforming relationships on every level — personal, commercial and institutional.

As we share more of ourselves online, we’ll discover that whether we’re in three — dimensions or two, increasingly one voice will ring out. The use of social media is heading towards the convergence of our virtual and real selves. A famous cartoon once joked, “On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” Now dogs have their own profiles, although I suspect someone is helping them with the typing.

Expressing our authentic identity will become even more pervasive in the coming year. Profiles will no longer be outlines, but detailed self-portraits of who we really are, including the books we read, the music we listen to, the distances we run, the places we travel, the causes we support, the videos of cats we laugh at, our likes and our links. And, yes, this shift to authenticity will take getting used to and will elicit cries about lost privacy. But people will increasingly recognise the benefits of such expression. Because the strength of social media is that it empowers individuals to amplify and broadcast their voices. The truer that voice, the louder it will sound and the farther it will reach.

Social media will continue to defy conventional wisdom by using technology to unite rather than separate. The science-fiction writers of the last century envisioned a world where modernity led to alienation. In fact, the opposite has occurred. Technology is bringing the world closer together in both obvious and surprising ways.
In the 2012 American presidential-election year, social media will make us more engaged and involved than ever

Here’s an obvious one: like many others, I post photos of my children so that my parents, who live 3,000 miles away, can watch them grow up. I share because they care. Less obvious, but even more compelling, is an emerging new paradigm where a story, a photo, a plea is posted by a stranger and, through connections, seen by many. In turn, this information provokes strong feelings from viewers — of sympathy, outrage, solidarity. Suddenly, ‘I share because they care’ flips and becomes ‘ì care because they share’.

The reversal of this cause-and-effect will have a profound impact in 2012 and beyond. A wife posts about her husband’s failing kidneys and the need for a type-O donor. A comedian responds and discovers he’s a match. The transplant is successful. On a sadder note, a nine-year-old girl is fatally injured in a car accident. She had earlier made a large-hearted appeal for people to donate to a charity that builds wells in Africa, hoping to raise $300. People from all over the globe respond and raise over $1.2m in her memory. Connections that start as emotional will become more and more tangible. What starts online does not stay online. In the coming year as our sharing increases, the caring will too, leading to incredible acts of generosity and bravery on both small and large scales.

The corollary of caring

In the 2012 American presidential-election year, social media will make us more engaged and involved than ever. And not just from our chairs, typing online comments as fast as we can. A recent Pew study revealed that Facebook users are more than twice as likely to participate in political meetings or rallies. Online sharing is leading directly to offline engagement and activism. This phenomenon will be repeated around the world in local and national political debates and elections.

When Iceland drafted a new constitution in June 2011, it used social media to put the ‘revision pen’ in the hands of its citizens. After the New Zealand earthquakes destroyed homes and businesses in Christchurch, with damage estimated at more than $10 billion, social media enabled the government to connect people to the resources they needed to begin rebuilding their lives. And in the Middle East the Egyptian people confronted a government that wasn’t listening to them, and used social technologies to amplify their voices. Technology gives a name and a face — a true identity — to those who were previously invisible, and it turns up the volume on voices that may have otherwise been too soft to hear.

There’s no doubt that we’ll see the continued validation of Zuckerberg’s law of sharing as we dive into 2012. We’ll also see the emergence of something new — a ‘corollary of caring’ — which asserts that as we increase the amount of social information online we will also increase our response to that information in both words and actions. Greater sharing around the world is inevitable. Deeper and richer caring will be profound.

cheers, and all the best …

Liz Newton

(Liz is the Vancouver Island  hot sauce Queen.  Her unique blends  grace dinner tables throughout British Columbia.)