I love this blog post prompt! Social media is so relevant to our lives today, and I think it’s really interesting that we’re exploring the data that these social media companies have on record for us. I chose to look at my data sets from Facebook and Twitter.
I found my Facebook data set to be particularly intriguing. While I was not surprised to find most of the information I found there, I was struct by the huge list of names of people I am friends with. It seems so innocent to see a long list of friends on someone’s Facebook page, but this list was different. It was a black and white list, with no pictures next to names. It struct me as creepy, and it almost seemed like someone was keeping tabs on me. Obviously I know this is exactly what Facebook is doing with this data set, but it really became concrete to me when I saw this blunt list of names. There wasn’t anything that I expected to see on this data set that I didn’t see. I think Facebook is extremely thorough with the records they keep on their users!
Twitter was a much different experience for me. While I was not very surprised about the personal information I found on this data set, I finally realized what people have been telling me for a long time: what you put on the internet and/or social media will stay there forever. Once you put it “out there,” it can’t really be deleted. I came to this conclusion because I found a Tweet conversation from 2012 that I had with a friend who passed away about five months after. It’s crazy to think that Twitter has access to all of my conversations with her and will still have them on record even if her account is deleted on day. It was wonderful to see conversations I had with this friend and spend time thinking about her, but also sad to know that Twitter will always have access to some of the last interactions we had together.
This data set came from my Twitter account. Just as the black and white list from my Facebook data made me very uncomfortable, this does as well. It is easy to forget that virtually the whole world can see what you put on Twitter (if your account is public)… but this excel spreadsheet definitely puts that into perspective. Seeing the intricate coding and systematic approach to recording everything I favorite, tweet, and retweet is very eye-opening. Social media companies have much more information on me than I ever could have imagined.
This assignment can easily tie into the readings we focused on for Tuesday’s class. Alice Marwick’s article “How Your Data Are Being Deeply Mined” addresses the topic of social media and the data that is saved from our usage. She writes, “Second, we may be more concerned with government surveillance than with marketers or data brokers collecting personal information, but this ignores the fact that the government regularly purchases data from these companies” (Marwick 6). Even though this data seems to be very safely guarded, it is actually being sold to companies who are focused on marketing. It is almost scary to think that the government can easily have access to this information as well.