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Every morning I wake up to such messages in numbness, every afternoon I get angry, every evening I crib about such messages, and every night I feel helpless. I have been keenly observing the social spam issue and I find it very frustrating that things have gone from bad to worst in the last six months.
We live in a world with all sorts of people with different value systems. Social platforms are a mere extension of what happens on-ground as well. There are millions and millions of people around the globe spitting, littering, creating noise, killing innocent people, robbing weak people, and in general misbehaving in society. The only difference is that most of what they do remains local – in their neighbourhoods, cities, states, and countries, with some exceptions of cross-continent nuisance. Unfortunately, social platforms enable global connectivity at a lightning speed and gives amplification to spam, thereby making the world at large suffer.
So who is to be blamed? Where do we go from here? Can we really stop this menace? Who should stop it? How can we stop it?
I don’t think we can completely stop this menace, but we can certainly attempt to reduce it to make our own social experience better. Most people blame spammers, but in my humble opinion, ‘We the People’ and social platforms are equally responsible for causing social spamming.
I’m surrounded with super intelligent people across all my social networks but many of them are unable to control their temptations. It is human nature that we love things that are ‘Free’, ‘Sensational’, ‘Scandalous’, ‘Sexy’, etc., and spammers play exactly on these temptations. Otherwise why would a super-rich, super-successful investor banker friend (who often preaches buying things on premium) click on ‘Free iPad 2? spam or a peace loving social activist click on ‘Video of Osama’s Killing’ or a happily married couple clicking (independently) on ‘See what your EX is doing’ messages. Most people don’t realise the problem, but one simple click causes a significant amount of nuisance for their friends through spam on Facebook walls. It is very similar to a friend visiting your home with a bag full of garbage and dumping it in your living or dining room. I bet you will never invite this friend again and criticise him in front of common friends.
One can argue that these people are unaware of the social spam issue and they’re simply making a genuine mistake. I’m willing to accept such mistakes once, twice, or even five times, but I certainly can’t tolerate it day after day and week after week. It is not that hard to realise and fix. It is quite irritating that many of these people do not even have the courtesy to say sorry for the spam they spread. Personally speaking, I plan to write to all my friends spreading spam actively and request them to ‘think before clicking on tempting messages’. I also plan to create a two-pager that would educate them on the menace of spam and how to avoid it. Post that if they continue to fall in the same trap then I would simply block them from my social networks online (I would still maintain our on-ground friendship). I have arrived at this decision after suffering from many months of spam mutilating my Facebook profile page as well as the home page.
It brings me to the responsibility of social platforms to fix spam. For example, Facebook has a feature to report spam, yet the quantity of spam is increasing constantly. I’m quite keen to know what action Facebook is taking against all these spam application developers as well as people who spread spam. As an ordinary user, I have seen no improvement whatsoever in the last six months. In fact, things are going from bad to worst. I totally understand that we use Facebook (or Twitter or YouTube or any such social platform) for free and do not have ‘rights’ that a paying customer enjoys. But we certainly have the power to create a movement and hold people/platforms responsible. Every time you’re spammed, raise the flag by informing personally, announcing publicly, and blocking people unless they change. Most importantly, send a message to the concerned social network to fix it and announce it on your status messages/tweets/updates.
I’m desperately hoping that things will become better. Otherwise, social platforms in general and Facebook in particular run the risk of creating a new category of web – ASN: anti-social networks. And that would be a sad moment for the connected world.
So I hereby declare my personal WAR on SPAM.
((Originally published on 27 May, 2011 on ClickZ.Asia)