When The Social Media Bullies Fall

Social distancing took on a new meaning after yesterday’s curious but disastrous disruption of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. I don’t think there is a single person, entrepreneur or otherwise, who would want to exchange places with Mark Zuckerberg at the moment, who must be squirming and cringing in his own shoes after having to eat a massive slice of humble pie and apologise to all and sundry on Twitter.

I distanced myself from these three apps over the course of the past 12 months and have absolutely no regrets. Sure, it makes communication with some people a bit more challenging, but not impossible. If they are worth the effort, there are plenty of alternatives out there to FB Messenger that are more reliable and offer higher protection. I was skeptical about joining Telegram and Signal at first, but I really can’t complain, especially since more and more people I was connected to via WhatsApp steadily popping up in the alternative platforms.

What have we learned from yesterday’s outage? In a nutshell: life goes on without Facebook. If you haven’t already figured that out by now, I think it is time to take a stand and re-evaluate where you want to go with your social media. Here’s my take from yesterday:

  1. The days of “influencers” are numbered. I stand by my opinion that this is an artificial concept that has taken on perverse dimensions and created an entire culture of misguided people who think they are entitled to ridiculous and unfair advantages. I salute all businesses who do not succumb to the demands of the social media influencers.
  2. If the CEO of Facebook himself has to turn to Twitter to issue a public apology, what does that tell you about the reliability and future of the Facebook and Co? Those days are numbered as well, and if you haven’t began to protect or back up your data, you should. If your business is relying entirely on FB and Instagram, time to build a proper website and choose more sustainable paths. Let’s face it, FB ads are expensive in the long run and the number of followers do not translate into sales. Speaking from experience here…
  3. Social Distancing during the pandemic completely restructured the workplace and employment dynamic. Now comes part two of our social restructuring – communication over and beyond the boundaries of FB and Co. Maybe this will put a stop – or pull the much needed emergency breaks – to the waves of fake news and misinformation. Time to pull up your britches and socks people, do your due diligence and turn to the proper sources for information rather than the rumour mills.
  4. You would have to have been completely blind and oblivious to the world the past 15 years not to notice the detrimental effects social media has had on children and their socialisation. Cyberbullying is no joke and has led to mind-boggling self-destruction, two generations of socially incompetent youth, and the inability to carry on proper conversations in complete sentences. Bring back face-to-face conversations at the dinner tables, share news personally, and for heavens sake, walk the few meters to the other room to say something rather than send a damn text (applies to offices as well).
  5. Don’t put all your (communication) eggs in one basket. Explore the alternatives, figure out what exactly you need and act accordingly. If your career is one that involves sensitive information, then the paid platforms are worth it for your closed circle. Double check the encryption levels and security of your intranets. There are enough articles out there written this year that compare the various platforms and their security levels. It’s a grave mistake to conduct both business and personal communication only on one platform, and many fell into this trap with WhatsApp.

Truth is, there is no guarantee as far as the internet is concerned. Nothing is absolute and like it or not, unless you live in the mountains off the grid, some form of sensitive information is floating out there in one way or another. You just have to remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions. It gets tricky when you have a business and need to comply with certain regulations, but otherwise, if you are surfing the net, always remember that you are leaving some form of digital footprint.

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