Are We Products or Users?

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It’s actually important that we understand the distinction seeing as the times are changing.  Little do people realize that social media has not only changed the way we interact with people, but it has also changed the way that our information is used, behind the scenes.

It doesn’t matter what social network you use: Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, or Google+ – no matter what type of interaction you make within the interface, there is a database recording the interaction.  When that interaction occurs, another algorithm is taking that information and trying to figure out what kind of content to deliver to you, despite any objections you may have.

Much of the information that is collected, is information that the user has given the database:  Name, Address, Phone Number, Date of Birth, Age, Current Employer, even down to what religion you are.

It’s a vicious circle:  You give most of that information so that people know who you are if they try to connect with you, will be able to find you. Yet, as myself and another user connect to each other, we might have “Dogs” as a common interest, so the ‘sales algorithm’ is going to do its best to show you advertisements and other products that relate to dogs.

When you realize that a product is something acquired by a user for use or consumption, you have to wonder what role you now play.

Earlier in the day, I was doing some research on Lambeau Field, to find out what time tours would be occurring during my vacation in Wisconsin.  Five minutes later, I decided to see what the rumors mills had to say about iOS 6.  My Google search came up with two sponsored ads:  “Visit The Green Bay Packers today!” and some fan forum involving The Green Bay Packers.

When you also realize behind-the-scenes, that marketing companies and social media are swapping big bucks to learn more about you in an attempts to sell you something.  It makes you wonder if you really are just an internet user, or if you are now a product that a marketing company is paying billions of dollars for.

It’s equivalent to walking through the mall and having a representative from each store standing outside it.  As you approach each store that representative reaches out with a 2-second pitch to attempt to entice you to enter the store and check out their product, hoping to make a sale.

Now, as you walk away from one store and into another – it’s like the first store communicated with the second store; as you’re browsing products in the second store, one of its associates comes by and tries to advertise a product to you from the first store.

Annoying as hell, isn’t it?

I still remember the early days of the internet where you had to sign into your user account, it would dial you a connection, and that was what you used to stay afloat.  When you were done, you signed out of your account and walked away from the computer; having nobody attempted to sell you anything.

I was chatting on the phone with someone who works in the sales industry and she was telling me how friends of hers are reconsidering their social media accounts if all they are is a product to a bunch of marketing companies.  They want to remain in contact with friends and family, but they don’t want anyone trying to sell them tickets to their local sports team’s games in the process.

The good news is that membership to any social network is completely volunteer and you can leave whenever you’d like.  I just know that I’m not going to let marketing companies be the reason I end up deleting a social media account.  I’d rather just spend less time on one form of media than another, so that those marketing companies don’t have as much to work with.  Variety is the spice of life!

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About the author

Mike Rana

Mike Rana is one of those people who is hard to define, though he's not immune to being labeled for something. He likes to talk about many topics including technology, business, politics, education, psychology, and human behavior. In his spare time, Mike enjoys traveling, people watching, analyzing the world around him, writing about his life experiences, absorbing information from various social media channels, and trying to be the voice of reason in the political arena.

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