Does Social Media know what I'm writing about?

Jo
Jolanth Szatmary
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Location: Berlin, Germany

Tue Feb 04, 2020 11:11 am Post

Dear Scriverati,

following my publisher's polite, yet insistent hints to become more »visible« as an author and participate in the relentless self-marketing that apparently makes up 70% of our job nowadays, I have recently joined the obscure platforms »Facebook« and »Instagram« in order to take pretty photos of my books' covers next to cute animals and put them on the world wide web.
Now, I've discovered the »discover« tab in Instagram and it shows me lots of pictures of a certain brand of car that I mention quite frequently in my current manuscript. I am pretty sure, however, that I haven't googled that car, let alone looked for it in social media. There was simply no need.
What I've done:

Write the manuscript in Scrivener.
Edit changes in Pages.
Save backups to Dropbox.
Mail chapters to my editor
Read the chapters aloud to myself (yes, I know ...)

All of this on a Mac, in a password-protected WiFi network.

All of this possibly while being logged into the platforms mentioned above.
I've read a lot about social media spying on your every step, but this is still a bit scary. Have any of you experienced anything similar?
Best, JS.

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auxbuss
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Tue Feb 04, 2020 3:11 pm Post

He shook with hate for things he’d never seen,
Pined for a love abstracted from its object,
And was oppressed as he had never been.
–W. H. Auden

Sounds like the system is working as designed <the crowd cheers>

Yes, it's creepy. It's actually a lot worse than that, but very hard to persuade folk to change their habits.

I suspect your emails have been passing through Google's gmail one way or another – but other services may do similar things – and that's where your file of activities and interests – I mean cuddly "social graph – was updated.

I've been researching surveillance capitalism for my next project, and despite what I thought was a good understanding of the field, things are quite terrifying, which should make for a terrific book \o/

If you're up for a bit of non-fiction horror, then I highly recommend The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff, or for the full Chinese vampire experience, We Have Been Harmonised by Kai Strittmatter.
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Jaysen
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Tue Feb 04, 2020 5:09 pm Post

Short answer: Yes
Long answer: Absolutely
Jaysen

I have a wife and 2 kids that I can only attribute to a wiggle, a giggle, and the realization that she was out of my league so I might as well be happy with her as a friend. 26 years marriage later, I can't imagine life without her. -Me 10/7/09

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sc
scshrugged
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Tue Feb 04, 2020 10:39 pm Post

Staying logged into the services makes you more vulnerable to leakage.

At Instagram’s (a Facebook Product) signup they have links to their ToU, Data Policy and Cookie Policy. There’s lack of clarity throughout. An excerpt from their Cookie Policy:
[…]What are cookies used for?

Cookies and other technologies allow a site or services to know if your computer or device has visited it before. These technologies can then be used to deliver products, services, and ads, help us understand how the site or service is being used, help you navigate between pages efficiently, help remember your preferences, and generally improve your experience in using our services. Cookies can also help ensure marketing you see online is more relevant to you and your interests.

Why does Instagram use cookies and similar technologies?

We use cookies, pixels, local storage, and similar technologies to show you relevant content, improve your experience, and help protect Instagram and our users. We may use these technologies to deliver the service, provide you with a service that is easy to use, enables you to move around the Service and use its features, such as accessing secure areas, and store information so that Instagram responds faster. We may use these technologies to collect information about how you use the Service, for example which pages you go to most often and if you get error messages from certain pages. We may use these technologies to allow us to remember choices you make (such as your user name, language or the region you're in) and tailor the Service to provide enhanced features and content for you. These cookies can also be used to remember changes you've made to text size, font and other parts of pages that you can customize. Instagram or our advertising partners may use these technologies to deliver advertising that is relevant to your interests. These technologies can remember that your device has visited a site or service, and may also be able to track your device's browsing activity on other sites or services other than Instagram. This information may be shared with organizations outside Instagram, such as advertisers and/or advertising networks to deliver the advertising, and to help measure the effectiveness of an advertising campaign. *We may use these technologies to understand, improve, and research products and services.[…]


https://help.instagram.com/1896641480634370?ref=ig

If you think you must use Facebook Products ( or other such services) and if you’ve not yet, it’d be worthwhile to slog through all documentation available so you can mitigate some of the leakage. It is what it is.
I'm a Scrivener user, not an L&L employee.

Jo
Jolanth Szatmary
Posts: 199
Joined: Sat Oct 06, 2007 9:58 am
Platform: Mac + iOS
Location: Berlin, Germany

Wed Feb 05, 2020 8:38 am Post

Thanks all, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism has been on my reading list for a long time, We Have Been Harmonised sounds intriguing. My first YA novel is released next week and apparently, you have to keep in touch with your readers, book bloggers, »bookstagrammers« and the like via social media, or you're non existent. But I think that being enigmatic and not appearing on any platform could possibly be even more interesting, marketing-wise. Well, probably too late for that, I already have 80 »followers«, I'm a nano-influencer, advertising deals coming up soon (How about it, L&L?).

Will now change »Land Rover« in the manuscript to »sneezing puppy« and see if the Instagram feed changes accordingly ...

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auxbuss
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Wed Feb 05, 2020 9:54 am Post

Jolanth Szatmary wrote:The Age of Surveillance Capitalism has been on my reading list for a long time,
As an intro, this interview with John Naughton (starting a little way down the page) is good:
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/ ... e-facebook
It is no longer enough to automate information flows about us; the goal now is to automate us. These processes are meticulously designed to produce ignorance by circumventing individual awareness and thus eliminate any possibility of self-determination. As one data scientist explained to me, “We can engineer the context around a particular behaviour and force change that way… We are learning how to write the music, and then we let the music make them dance.”
But hey, it's just an ad', right?
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Ki
Kinsey
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Wed Feb 05, 2020 10:04 am Post

I recently read about an experiment conducted by school kids (teenagers). They had two scripted conversations among themselves, one with their phones present in the middle of the group, and one with no phones present. The phones were idle for the entirety of the first conversation, just lying face down on the table. In the week after the second conversation (no phones), they noticed nothing unusual when browsing the internet. But after the first conversation each of them saw browser ads that were related to specific phrases used or items they had mentioned in the conversation.

Jo
Jolanth Szatmary
Posts: 199
Joined: Sat Oct 06, 2007 9:58 am
Platform: Mac + iOS
Location: Berlin, Germany

Wed Feb 05, 2020 11:25 am Post

Can't carry on writing, out now to buy a Land Rover and / or puppy. Have to talk to publisher about advance for the next book, can't afford this lifestyle on a shoestring. Will read »Crime and Punishment« out aloud next to my smartphone, let's see what I need to buy next ...