Social Media is Not Free

I was on a road trip once with my husband and as we were scanning the radio stations in some remote town in northern Ohio we kept landing on the same two stations: a talk radio program that I believe was Christian based and a country station. I was reluctant to listen to either but we ultimately chose to stay on the talk radio station (after conceding to the fact that there really wasn’t any other option) and I was glad that we did because the guest on the show said something that I considered very profound about social media “if you are not the consumer you are the product”. Basically, if you are not paying for a service, someone else is and they want their money’s worth. This statement had brilliantly summed up what I had been trying (and failing) to articulate for quite some time, your online life is not private despite all the privacy settings and user agreements you agree to; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like are all businesses interested in making money and they will sell your information to the highest bidder and not think twice about it.  Once a business finds itself with millions of users it is impossible to consider the effects of its practices on each individual basis. It is this idea that caused me to be less than surprised when I learned that Facebook had conducted a psychology experiment by manipulating the users news feed.

A few years ago Facebook conducted a study about how the emotions of its users could be affected by what they are exposed to on their news feed.  A detailed write up of the findings can  be found here but the general idea was that Facebook would hide either positive or negative posts from user’s friends depending on which control group they were a part of, and based on the increased positive or negative material in their feed Facebook would measure how much, if any, change towards positive and negative postings would take place. I clearly remember several close friends of mine becoming enraged at the idea of being part of an experiment that manipulated their emotions when they had not given consent. I kept hearing in my head, every time I heard someone begin to rant about the breach of privacy, the quote I had heard from the random radio program about being the product; real privacy comes at a cost and not an abstract cost but actual money. The more secure you want your house to be the more money it will cost you and the same is true in the realm of your online homespace. Except, with social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter you cannot pay for more security you simply have to accept that the information you provide is public and remain cognizant of this fact whenever you share something online. I think we, as a society, have been online long enough to understand this concept now and there shouldn’t be as much of an uproar about the realities of social media. These convenient means of communication are entirely optional and we have not lost the ability to communicate the old fashion way such as writing a letter or making a phone call or stopping by for a visit. Until we’ve been depleted of any other form of communication we cannot reasonably expect big internet businesses to spend too much time catering to the privacy concerns of the little guys. Sure, most big businesses will hear the cry of their people and take action to try and make them happy but I believe it is imperative for every person who may ever use social media to know that their privacy in an online setting is not a right it’s a privilege and every move they make should be made with in mind.



Yarkoni, T. (2014, June 28). In defense of Facebook. Retrieved October 26, 2015, from


  1. I did like your blog post. You brought up some very good items to think about when we are using social media. I do not use any of the most popular social media sites all that much. Each of them has very detailed information on how we should keep our privacy safe. Mush of the time that privacy is breached it is something we have done. We either did not read all of the instructions, skimmed over that particular part or just outright ignored it. I am under the impression that the companies who design these privacy filters create such detailed and lengthy instruction for using it as a means to cause frustration in us so that we skip over some filters in order for hooks and tracking cookies to invade our computers. Something else we as consumers should do is each time after one of the Facebook, Twitter or whatever social media “updates” have been installed is to check your privacy setting. You just want to make sure there were no changes there, and if there have been adjust as you see fit. Advertising and tracking cookies are forever trying to sneak into our computer and cellular phones. We just have t stay vigilante and keep on top of everything.

  2. Erika Richelle Sly

    I really like the point you make about making sure that what you do online is intentional as well as that privacy is a privilege not a right. I don’t necessarily agree that that’s how it should be, nor do I think many others would agree with it, but it is true. Unfortunately what people fail to realize is that Facebook and other institutions, not only social media, aren’t doing anything illegal. Every time you check that box that says that you understand the terms and conditions, it stipulated these things and outlined in vivid details ever little step that business can take and is entitled to, along with what you as a user are entitled to and what recourse you can take. Yet no one ever takes the time to read these, and i get it; they are long and tedious and look like, “blah blah blah,” after the first three lines, plus they all look the exact same. Unfortunately this is where they can get you, and where I agree even more with your statement of making sure everything you do or what to be a part of is deliberate. This includes apps, games, banks, cell phone companies, cell phones, sites, social media, and the list goes on and on. As another example, under Apples new terms and conditions for the new iOS update, there was a stipulation that stated that if your wi-fi was weak, it could disable it and use your cellular data. What people failed to realize was that it was costing them a lot of money on their cell phone bills because they were unaware that they were using their data; they just thought they were automatically connected to their usual wi-fi locations. But since you checked the I agree to the terms and conditions box, you can’t argue it or fight it and as mad as we want to be, it was on us to begin with to read over our contract we had with this institution. On the other hand, I think that if enough people rally together and cry out for change, big business will eventually take action. You’re right, a few outraged people, not such a big deal; if those people started a petition or got enough people rallying against that business (usually in the 1000’s), it’s in the business’s best interest to cater to the greater amount of people and change. To drive your point home, I think that everything you do in life should be done intentionally and deliberate and shouldn’t just pertain to how you act with social media.

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