Emotions and Social Networks / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 10 April 2019 — With the ability to access the internet from a mobile phone, the vast majority of the Cuban people have opened a door to an almost unknown world. A world with many years of experience where ingenuity mixed with a voracity for the so long denied, produces unhealthy behavior, visible especially in social networks.

It’s enough to be in emotional disagreement with an idea/photo/video/text, for a normal person to become a troll. And if the attacks or endorsements multiply in one corner or another of this virtual quadrilateral, new users will mutate into trolls on both sides. They reinforce the idea of what others expect from that interaction. Not being face to face and the use of pseudonyms reinforces behavior that in real life tends to be of lesser intensity, or that at least, does not reach a peak with such immediacy.

It is not a phenomenon  exclusive to Cuba. It is known that when the subject is emotional, people act on the basis of moral indignation, which makes them feel good about themselves, and that feeling of being right reinforces intervening again in the same tone.

Facebook and Twitter are ideal spaces to transmit emotions, and this emotion feeds of “likes,” sharing and retweeting as a moral reward of approval.

From another angle, this behavior has not gone unnoticed for those people who have seen an economic mother-lode.

Have you ever — or often — shared tender photos of animals, beautiful sunsets, idyllic landscapes, wise, motivating, witty phrases; or those more emotional images of undernourished people, babies with Down Syndrome or children with cancer?

Do you share religious messages, hugs, friendship, in short, the varied combinations that always end up generating a ton of retweets.

Almost everyone has shared once, others have lost count of the times they have clicked or endorsed these contents.

Victims of ignorance, we have also circulated the messages of “the Messenger administrator” or “the CEO of Facebook”, alerting us that there are who knows how many accounts and we should forward information to our contacts. Another variant with a corporate disguise.

Almost all those arrivals on our wall have a different purpose than they appear to have. Appealing to the underlying feeling that if you do not get involved you are not a good person, or do not support a friendship, or that a catastrophe may occur in our beloved social network; in different parts of the planet, people we will never know, earn money with our clicks.

Only in passing, mention the news or false images out of context with apocalyptic headlines. So important / ingenious / impacting states arrive at our wall that we share immediately. We are not obliged to fact check, but at least we must be aware that there is a problem and it is increasing.

These are, shall we say, tricks but rather innocuous ways of winning a chat at our expense. But there are others whose scope we can not handle.

A while ago it was learned that a pastime that is still on Facebook and became very popular, was designed specifically to capture data: How famous are you? From your photo you observe the transformation to the famous one in question. To run, the app requests permissions and receives data such as name, photo, age, sex, language, country, friend list, mail, photos, likes …

The South Korean company VonVon, and I no longer speak of individuals if not of companies, developer of this and a variety of games for Facebook, trades with this information. In its privacy policy it announces that the data it collects may be sold to third parties, which means that our data may be sent without our knowledge to a site with which we have never interacted, of which we have no knowledge and that we do not know for what purpose they are collected.

Nor is the solution to “turn off” Facebook, which a year ago already allowed the filtering of data from millions of users to Cambridge Analytica and a security breach has just become known that exposed the data of at least one million usersIt is common sense not to get carried away by empathic first impressions.

If a friendship shares important content with us, we can and should support it. Or simply because we like it. But it is much healthier to create our own content with the topics that interest us rather that resend those that come from who knows where.

With chains of all kinds, the word should be NO, but we talk about social networks, and we should not exaggerate either. What we publish and what we share will always be an individual responsibility.