How much time do you spend updating your social media accounts, curating content, grooming your online persona, choosing the perfect filter? How much time do you spend reading other people’s feeds, ogling their pics, lusting over their lives?
Every once in a while I try to convince myself to get back online, to be a part of the conversation and make some digital footprints, but I always end up moving my Facebook app off the first page of my phone, trying to hide it away so that I don’t mindlessly click into the bright blue “F”. Because generally I will end up wallowing in misery when I see a post about the suffering in Syria, or some other latest tragedy.
Or, more uselessly, I will fall into the rabbit hole of catching up with what’s been happening with people I don’t see or make an effort to contact in real life.
I’m not sure what the point is.
And then, I keep coming back to this idea that I heard and that always pops into my head when I see competitions, or adverts or any other spammy type of thing on social media: if it’s free, then you are the product.
Why would someone try to give you something online? Often it seems to be straightforward advertising but it’s interesting how email addresses are now so highly prized.
People are not allowed, legally, to spam you without your consent. If you decide to unsubscribe from some newsletter, they cannot keep sending you their stuff. People can’t sell their email lists, their client databases. So now, to legitimately create a user list, websites often offer you something in exchange for your email address. They won’t just give you the secret to eternal youth, or the recipe for that perfect brownie. No, they make you type in your email address and then they mail it to you.
If it’s free, then I am the product.
Then I realise. I am not just consuming stuff online. The web is also consuming me.