I’ve had this website since I think 2011, maybe late 2010. It started out a simple premise to unplug from social media more by giving family a friends a place to find me and as a space to highlight some of the music I was creating at that time. WordPress 3.1 was the platform of choice at that time.
In 2011, Google wasn’t evil.
Microsoft wasn’t making computers.
Cambridge Analytical wasn’t even a company.
… Trump was just a business guy who was either successful or a joke depending on the hat you wore (full disclosure: I thought Trump was a rather shrewd business person in his day. I shall leave it at that).
Well Google is probably evil, but I love the bulk of what they do.
Microsoft has become a viable hardware competitor to Apple (and is arguably not evil anymore).
The Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data scandal has left me (and hopefully all other rational people) rethinking this approach to providing these free services with all my data and content.
Trump runs a country.
And WordPress continues to be the platform of choice for this site and still honours jazz musicians with their releases – was this a coincidence?
But I digress, it’s that point about Cambridge Analytica, and the numerous examples from the same or completely different players, that made me rethink the idea of where and how I share my content. So, I decided to take it back, my data that is, and this post loosely touches on why (and for those that want to know, I’ll write a post about how to do it later).
Why stop publishing on Facebook?
First, I’m not being a holier than thou preacher here on reclaiming your content. I’ve just felt increasingly disappointed in these services and decided, since I pay for a website anyway, why not just host it all (mostly) myself (or at least in a way that I own). I simply came to the opinion that it’s wrong of me to expect a service like Facebook to be a stewart of my privacy. In the end I agreed to a user agreement whether I read it or not, so if Cambridge was operating legitimately with Facebook (which I think it was, even if the word “loophole” was being used), then it’s not Facebook or Cambridge Analytica’s fault that my data was “breeched”, it’s mine. And if I don’t like that, I have two options: hang in and advocate for a better service, or just make a change. There’s the third option of being outraged but ultimately not doing anything because it ultimately really didn’t matter to you, and that’s okay too.
For me, I found myself complaining about it and it ultimately still matter to me so here we are, actually publishing to the site I’ve owned for the better part of 10 years.
But there was another reason for me: my son.
For years I said I’d use Facebook to mainly just automate that sharing of photos with family and friends. But, what if my son doesn’t want that when he’s of age to make an informed decision? My parents didn’t publish our family’s photo albums for the whole world to see, they kept them in a cupboard at home, or on a coffee table for people stopping by to see. Now, if they had a service like Facebook would they have used it? I don’t know. All I know is they didn’t have the choice, so they didn’t have to make it. I do have the choice, and until now I’ve always chose to publish my son online (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) without really asking him. In the wake of the Cambridge scandal, and my little man’s new found preference of getting changed in his room by himself with the door closed, maybe I should rethink how publicly I share information about him.
Sure, we can make the argument for the privacy settings on platform like Facebook and I do make use of that. And you can opt out of advertising in some of these places… really there’s all sorts of arguments for how I can protect all of this. Or… I can just own it myself and present myself. And if my son grows to an age where he’d like it removed, I can EASILY do that.
I’m probably not making a great argument here, and that’s because I have no real dog in the race as to whether you change your habit or not. This is a race between you and your values – values which change and evolve with time, which is why I’ve made this decision.
But Liam, you work in communications… You’re really leaving something like Facebook?
So let me clear, I’m not going to stop publishing to Facebook. I’m just going to stop uploading that family-album type content and instead share links on places like Facebook to where I choose to host that content. So enter LiamMather.com/Family, where I’ll (and hopefully the family) will post that family and friend-oriented content I create for those I love and support.
You’ll need a user account and password to access the space. Each person that signs up will be reviewed by me first, so getting access will take a bit of time. Anyhew, browsing to the new section will take you to the log in/sign up page.
You’ll still find me on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. You’ll still find me uploading the odd family photo there, but for the bulk of my content online, I’m choosing to own it – as I’d advocate for any organization I support: if you own the content, you can package it for whatever platform or network you choose. Reuse it, re-package it, recycle it, whatever. The bottom line is owning it and in turn owning your narrative.
So here’s to owning mine.