We are not fully aware of the "real" goal behind the "free" things we use on a day-to-day basis, which most of the times -if not always- is to sell to users via integrated advertising, or to sell our buy patterns to companies through click profiling.
Being a teacher is always a challenge, but when it comes to high school, that’s when things get really delicate. You must always be on the constant look out for new strategies on how to get -and maintain- the students’ attention, making concepts look cool and interesting but without blurring the line of the formality of the teacher-student relationship, and above all…trying to keep up with the youth your speaking to and their technological language.
I started teaching English as a second language to adults about 4 years ago, but it was until I got to stand in front of a room full of teenagers when all of a sudden, all my teaching tools, learning techniques and public-speaking confidence flew out the window for at least the first month of the semester.
I had to reassess each and every single thing I knew about being a teacher and come up with a whole new plan on how to get through to my crowd. Even though there is a common ground on teaching adults and teenagers once you get the hang of it, it sure wasn’t easy to lay down the foundations of an adequate teaching method on a constantly changing world of new minds, new trends and new gadgets.
On the verge of turning 30, most of us feel as if we were still up to date with every single new thing that comes out. We don’t feel old until we realize that none of our friends are on Facebook anymore and that there’s a new social network we don’t know anything about. On my case, the generational shock hit me like a ton of bricks during a lecture, in front of 30 mocking teenagers.
As I was knee-deep on a pre-test review session on the importance of Karl Marx for modern world and Social Sciences, I realized some of my students were absolutely absorbed by something far more interesting going on in their smartphone’s screens. I started building up the stoic speech to politely scold them before retrieving their phones, but as I walked up to one of my students while babbling on about “disrespectful behavior in the classroom” and the all-mighty “back in my day…” line, the whole class started giggling as they looked at me in the same way I used to look at my parents when they didn’t know how to send an email. I couldn’t quite grasp the concept of them actually using their phones for something that didn’t involve selfies and texting, but they sure had a surprise in store for me.
Apparently there is this new app that allows them to set up a game (“build” it, if you will) with the information seen in class, so that they can learn, review or practice the concepts by doing what they do 70% of their time: play on their phones. I was beyond myself, and I have to confess that for a while there, I thought they were trying to fool me so that I wouldn’t be mad at the fact that they weren’t paying attention to my class. But with a rich combination of patience and laughter they taught the teacher how to properly reinforce what he teaches…ouch.
The thing is that this experience wasn’t just eye-opening thanks to the fact that I realized that technology is outrunning most of our current teaching methods, but also, because of the fact that, just like I was oblivious about the power and resourcefulness of today’s gadgets, most of us (young and old) are not fully aware of the “real” goal behind the “free” things we use on a day-to-day basis, which most of the times -if not always- is to sell to users via integrated advertising, or to sell our buy patterns to companies through click profiling. We take for granted the utterly convenient social media that we have free access to and keep on using it under the premise that “it’s a free service and we are the customers”, when in reality, it’s free because we are the product for some other customer.
It may sound all gloomy and suspicious in a John Snowden kind of way, but that is precisely the point. Someone else is using those platforms to obtain valuable profiling information for marketing purposes (horrifying conspiracy-related privacy issues apart) and actually putting them to use, and we still believe that it’s just “the easiest way to keep in touch or stalk a little bit”. Whether it’s the teenager snap chatting 10 out of 24 hours a day, the activist tweeting some sense of awareness onto the world, or even the self-titled food critics that burn every burger joint they grace with their visit through ridiculously long hashtags…they’re all using social media wrong, or at least not at its full and intended potential.
LinkedIn: Referred to by many as the “executive facebook” or “facebook for business“, this platform completely beats its purpose when used by professionals to post inspirational quotes or by not-so-professional global companies to try and advertise products, courses, conference tickets, etc. It also isn’t just an easy way to have an online resume and to check new job openings of your interest (although it’s an effective headhunting tool for many companies worldwide).
LinkedIn‘s true goal is to be able to build a significant networking game through friends, referrals and acquaintances, in a way that eventually you’d have a firsthand contact with people that’ll make you (and/or your enterprise) grow and be successful through the oldest and most effective business strategy: key contacts.
Twitter: The world doesn’t really need to know the deepest and most introspective quotes that pop into your head while stuck in traffic or when you’re doing the old “wash and rinse”, nor would it ever be of any use for your contacts to know how poetic you can be in 140 characters. Even when it started as a “punk” way to text someone from your personal computer, the highly competitive mobile network services made its main purpose irrelevant in a way that ultimately pushed this platform into becoming something else: a simple micro blogging network of highly philosophical pseudo intellectuals…apparently.
The Twitsphere is still filled with feelings and political opinions of super wise minds from all around the world, however, besides marketing and advertising in a viral way, and keeping up with international news on a real-time basis, the really valuable lesson that this platform gives to every single one of its users (personal or business related) is quite simple: To learn how to send out a message that is both concise and precise, but also synthesized. We must completely master the technique of sharing only the important content at the same time that we manage to make it clear and attractive.
Instagram: Back in an era on which cell phones competed furiously to offer the best camera possible in the market…Why would anyone pay to make great photos look old again? They wouldn’t. That is exactly why you first create a trend (demand), and THEN provide the means to support and expand its reach (supply): Now everyone feels like a professional photographer or at least a quite inspired and artistic landscape hunter. Although there are sociological accidents attributed to this app such as the toxic and shameful selfie trend, there is much more to do with this tool besides seeking for attention in a desperate attempt to validate a long lost sense of self-esteem.
No matter how many followers you have, or how many hearts-per-post you can get in a “getting ready” pic; if you’re using hashtags for something other than to sell, I have news for you: you might as well not use them at all. The octothorpe (formerly referred to as pound, number or dial sign) supposedly got introduced into Instagram so that you were able to summon other users interested in the topic by using key words that describe the masterpiece you’ve launched into the world. But then again, why would the creators of this app care if you get more people to watch your artistry through a free product in your phone? To make you super popular and happy about yourself thus making the world a better place? Not exactly.
Once again, if the product you get is free, it’s because you are the source of profit for someone else, meaning not only that you are serving as an unpaid sales rep for many companies, but also, that each interest you manifest or “like” is used to create a profile of your preferences in a way that makes it easier to sell you some “suggestions” on what you may like based on your browsing history. So, if somebody else is making a profit through your inspirational photos, why not take advantage of it to lure some viewers into your business or to turn some heads over to your professional career? Your grandma already thinks you’re the most beautiful creature on the face of the earth, you don’t need anyone else telling you through a couple of taps on a screen.
Facebook: The mothership, the homeland, the dictator, the all-mighty birth-giver, the one that started it all (or eventually bought them all). There isn’t much left unsaid about this monstrous divinity that both enslaves and provides for the web community. Whether young or old, personal or business-based, almost everyone with internet access has -or sometime had- a Facebook account to “keep in touch” or find people they don’t normally see anymore. The premise sounds creepy from the get-go, but still, apparently we all are, seeing that it now rules the internet with an iron fist. Its popularity and conqueror-like expansion made it so far that it now owns other social networks and provides services (again, your information, mostly) to other “clients”.
The personal use of Facebook isn’t exactly “the invention of the wheel” as far as social media goes, since other now extinct (or absolutely deserted) social networks used to offer somewhat of the same advantages way before this made it out of a well renowned American university. Nevertheless, the integration of other networks’ features into a very user-friendly platform is what brought the public’s interest into Mr. Zuckerberg‘s miracle. It’s the use for business relations the one that we should focus on: a landing page for landing pages.
No matter what you’re selling, no matter where you are selling it, since EVERYONE is there, you have to be there as well. A few years back, to look for something our parents used to go to the yellow pages and dial to a land line; the oldest of us, used to type a company’s name on a search engine (or even directly into the url space, wishing we were lucky enough to guess the address); but now…if you’re already on Facebook, you might as well look and see if you can find a Facebook account for whatever it is you’re looking for. Easy enough.
There are quite a lot of other social networks to mention, but since they are either not relevant for commercial purposes, already going bankrupt or actually integrated to one of the main players in the social media game, their “real” or purpose is immediately surpassed by its owners’ own hidden agenda, making them just another sales profiling tool…or as you might also know them: free apps.