Why I’m On Twitter Now (Corporations Are Not Your Friends)

I’m a slow – or at least highly selective – adopter at the best of times. No cable or satellite TV, no Blu-Ray, no smart phone. It’s taken me a looong time to come round to the idea of Twitterising myself, but I’ve done it now. What made me take the plunge?

Facebook changed, that’s what. The Winterbirth page on Facebook has proved a really quite effective, efficient and enjoyable way of staying in touch with those who had opted in by proactively clicking the ‘Like’ button. The content of this blog shows up there; I run an occasional signed book giveaway; leak early items of news etc. etc.

Right around the start of October, the proportion of those signed up to the Winterbirth page who were actually seeing each individual post that showed up there fell off a cliff. As in, it went from something like 25-40% to currently less than 10%. Hmmm. A blip? A random variation? Apparently not. Changes are afoot inside the black box that is Facebook, and although it’s difficult to tell quite what’s going on (rumour and allegation and denials abound, largely centred on the whole issue of ‘Promoted Posts’ and Facebook’s increasingly desperate search for profits appropriate to a company of its size), I frankly don’t much care; all that matters to me is the effect. A handy communications channel between me and those who have self-identified as being interested in my books or (much less likely) me has become rather less handy.

So, given that one communications channel has been rather suddenly narrowed, choking off the flow of my boundless wit and wisdom on its journey out into an appreciative world, I unsurprisingly starting thinking about opening up a new one. Hence me on Twitter.

I’ll continue to use Facebook as I’ve always done (so it’s still worth you joining the Winterbirth crowd over there if that’s your main window on the social media world). I’ll still blog here. I’ll just tweet too. Some stuff will show up in all those media; some stuff will only show up in one or two of them. You can pick and choose what you get and in what form. Maybe I’ll do a post here sometime soon about what my attitude to Twitter is, and what can and can’t be expected of me in that arena (clue: as mentioned, I don’t have a smart phone, so there’ll be no ‘I’m getting into the dentist’s chair, and she’s looking mean’ tweets).

This whole thing did put me in my mind of something I try to keep in mind, but don’t always give the attention it deserves a as concept: Corporations Are Not My Friends.

I don’t particularly mind Facebook doing whatever it is they’ve done. It’s their technology, their system; they need to make money. They make their choices, I make mine.

But corporations exist to serve their interests and objectives, not mine. Those two sets of interests may well coincide much of the time – indeed that’s what the corporations fervently desire, and always try to give the impression is happening. They bend over backwards to present everything they do as being in the interests of the customer, the user. They wear the fixed smile of a friend, a companion, a benign presence in your life striving at all times to make that life better. Easier.

Cobblers. In their interactions with you, a friend has the objective of making your life better or easier or more fun. Because they’re your friend. In their interactions with you, a corporation has the objective of making – or appearing to make – your life better or easier or more fun. Because they want your money. The two interactions may, at times, appear similar; but they’re absolutely 100% not, because the underlying motivation is profoundly, pervasively different.

When a corporation gives you something – a great mechanism for staying in touch with your ‘fans’, immensely competitive book prices, attractive discounts to reward you for joining a loyalty scheme, whatever – it sometimes looks like, or is presented as, an event that’s happening in the context of a warm, mutual relationship. It’s not. It’s an event that’s happening in the context of an extractive relationship. Extractive of your, or somebody else’s, money sooner or later, somewhere, somehow.

I know it’s an obvious point, but I think now and again some folk (including me) lose sight of it.

Much of the interaction that goes on between corporations and individuals is indeed bengin, sometimes actively beneficial. I like discounts, bargains, opportunities, stuff as much as the next person. I don’t want the system to collapse. I just want to remain mindful of the fact that corporations are not – and should not be – my friends and cannot be expected to actually have my interests at heart. The apparently benign stuff they offer to me is nice but it can, on occasion, have not-so-benign consequences, intentional or otherwise. Rules and systems can change without consultation, devaluing my past investment of time or mental effort. Systemically discounted prices can ultimately endanger or transform industries in unforeseen (and, for me, undesirable) ways through the creation of quasi-monopolies. I can be suckered into buying stuff I neither need nor really want.

These are not things real friends would intentionally do to you. They are things corporations intentionally do to you all the time. Because they’re not your friends; they just want your money. It’s not their fault. It’s what they’re for.

Coming Sometime (whenever I get around to writing it): Why Authors Aren’t Your Friends Either. Or Are They?

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