Sandcastles in the Sand
So many people today are building sandcastles that will be swept away the minute that another person decides that they aren't beautiful.
What I mean by this is perfectly demonstrated by building a following on social media platforms (or platforms) that you do not own, control, or have a say in the direction of the ship.
How many people have been banned on Facebook for saying something that the company didn't like?
Or taken down off Twitter.
Or deplatformed from their Youtube channel.
We live in a technologically advanced time, but the control of much of the infrastructure isn't to your benefit. It's to the benefit of data hungry companies that sell your attention to the highest bidder. And that's at best.
At worst, these companies act as censorship vehicles that push a certain narrative, and if you get too out of line, well, there's the delete button.
It's why I've never really bought into building a following on a platform that I don't own.
That means your Instagram page isn't yours.
That means your Facebook page, the groups you run, and the companies you promote aren't yours.
That means your Twitter account isn't yours.
That means the data that you are storing on your Google Drive or Dropbox isn't yours.
Frankly, if you are using an "app" today, that's not yours. The data that you share on those platforms isn't yours either - you're simply making content for others.
So, what is the solution?
Well, aside from getting to the point of a Computer Science graduate in understanding how networking, web development, and server upkeep function, there are things that you can do today to better secure your own data and if you're like me, sanity.
1. Use social media simply as a way to direct people to platforms that you actually control.
So many people would be better served if they simply used social media as a way to drive traffic to their own platform (a website, blog, company page, etc.) If you use social media this way, you are a) using it with intention, which is always a good thing, b) controlling the narrative around your product and creativity, and c) you have a fallback.
It's great to have 100k followers, but what happens if all of a sudden they are taken away from you? This happens all the time.
If you direct people to a secondary offering, you can put them on an email list, or have their contact information outside of the app. Remember how you don't actually know the person's phone number on the app? Well, you should get it now and use that as a primary communication channel.
2. Store your data locally, with backups. Only use cloud services to share select things with others.
Data storage is extremely cheap in 2020. You can buy a terabyte of storage for around $50.
I recommend going with 4tb solutions as they're super cost effective, and that's a shit ton of data.
Stop using cloud services. They are prone to attacks because there's a wealth of data on them - remember the Fappening?
If you do use these services, use them only to transfer data to people sparingly and with intention. Don't upload your diary on Google Drive, and don't be one of those people that don't know how to use a filesystem locally and have to store everything in the cloud. Take the 10 minutes it requires to learn how to properly organize files and learn how to back them up to a local storage device outside of your device.
Best practice is to do a backup once every week, and have 3 copies for sensitive data - One on device under encryption, a second on a non-network connected drive, and a third off site in case the first two are compromised. You can use one of a dozen different programs for this, I preferrsync, but do your own research.
On top of this, make sure that the things you are posting to social media are backed up locally. If you post a video to youtube, use your storage and keep a copy at home. Not only does this help you make clips in the future and keep the quality, but if that video disappears tomorrow from the web, you can repost it without much trouble.
Isn't it overkill to have 3 copies?
Maybe, but if there is a fire and you lose the two copies you have on site, you'll wish you had that offsite backup.
3. Build your own list of contacts, Build your own Platform.
After you have control of your own data, why not share it with the world on your own terms? Build your own blog, or create a portfolio of work you have done. This is now your platform, your own all of the assets, you control the narrative, and you can't be banned or taken down for what you say (unless you are a target of the state or something).
Build an email list from the people that visit your site, and contact them regularly, again, on your own terms. As more and more people move away from email lists and towards buying ads, this is still an exceptional method of contacting your customers and following.
As an aside - this is the failing of Amazon for sellers - you don't own your list of previous purchasers - Amazon does. This is absolute gold information that you don't have because you decided to sell on Amazon instead of your own platform.
4. Use alternate and selfhosted methods of social media
There are some very interesting projects that have been in development over the last few years that allow you to create your own platform and avoid censorship, data theft, and incessant marketing. I will mention a few below briefly:
Federated content is a conceptualization in which people host "nodes" or instances of content, and serve them to people all over the world. There is no centralized source of where the data is being hosted, it is "federated" across hosts that want to promote the content and keep it live on the internet. You can't censor this.
Built on the back of blockchain technology, this service creates a ledger of data that is immutable and served by people all over the world too. The adoption is picking up, and using it is almost like a secondary internet. It's got chatrooms, video sharing platforms, blogging capabilities, and a ton more. This is a very interesting project to say the least.
Created by the creator of the modern internet - Tim Berners Lee, this is a project that allows you to control your own data and 'plug in' and remove it at will from various platforms. Think about your owning your own profile on Facebook for example, and being able to plug it in and out at will. This has implications from the benign social media platforms of today, to your healthcare, banking, and digital life of tomorrow.
These are all solid suggestions to get you started in decrentralizing your personal brand from the platforms that rule the world. I'm not saying don't use Facebook - what I'm saying is that you should use it as a funnel to the things that you own and actually control.
This is just good practice for the future. In later articles, I will talk about security, how to create your own blog, and much more, but let's start with the fundamentals.
Until next time.