How essential is online privacy?

Online privacy is not just about your internet service provider (ISP) or search engines tracking which sites you visit and which keywords you search for, cyber security, or the risk of having your financial or personal information hacked or leaked. It’s also about your data and content being heavily tracked and surveilled, captured and sold. And the manipulation and commodification of this data/content, the security or lack thereof for where your personal information is disclosed and dispersed, and who is granted access — with and without your knowledge, consent, or approval.

Managing and controlling what you share and determining who sees your info should be up to you, the user, the content creator, and disseminator of the information — not up to or guarded by corporations, lobbyists, or governments.

Does privacy matter to you? How discerning are you with what you share? Are you in control of and carefully monitor to whom you share?

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.” Edward Snowden

Are you concerned about your data, photos, and content being harvested, aggregated, mined, sold, and stored without your permission? Have you read the privacy policies of the social media platforms, apps, and sites you frequently visit? Are you willingly providing permission to FaceBook and other social media outlets to listen to your conversations and then advertise and market related products to you?

Female Blue Eye Looking Through The Keyhole. Concept Of VoyeurisTechnology companies and financial institutions are infamous for breaching privacy and revealing data. The FaceBook/Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018 demonstrates how vulnerable we are just by participating in mainstream social media outlets. You are unable to fully control how these tech companies use or abuse your information in-house or with third-party sources. FaceBook is not the only platform that has been found guilty of the misuse and abuse of information; Twitter has also come under scrutiny for similar actions. (Twitter accounts by default are set to “public”, but you can change the setting and select “private”.) As technology evolves, user protection and tightened privacy features should be a cornerstone and a fundamental element to Internet navigation and social media.

Press Enter Button On The Keyboard Computer Shield Cyber Key LocThe current social media reality illustrates that online privacy is an oxymoron. Entering social media Internet platforms resembles wearing your underwear outside your clothes or stitching the red letter “A” across your sleeve. You’re on display in blinking neon lights, exposed, dancing in a fishbowl.

Neon Color Line Icon Set of bubble emoticons for web and mobile.Once posted, your information is chiseled within the Internet tombstone. A time-stamped digital trail of everything you write, say, photograph, comment on, share, save, and do. Surveillance cameras are everywhere, tracking your every move, every blink, every click, like, love, and angry emoticon. Big brother, and all of his third-removed cousins, sisters, and nosy-ass mother-in-laws, peeping Toms, Dicks, and Harriets. Reverse transparency where the users’ every move is on neon display – while the platforms discreetly and purposefully hide their motives in fine print. Their cookie policies, their data sharing, mining, and selling strategies to third-parties, and their absurd censorship based on their “community standards” and discriminatory policies against content that’s in conflict with their funders. If we choose to participate, we must “accept their terms and agreements.” If not, then we must voluntarily extricate and eject ourselves from their advertising based platforms. And that’s ok!

Don’t resign your rights and be so eager to give away your personal info to drooling data miners. You can also turn off third-party sharing with changing the “platform apps on/off” setting on FaceBook to disable the auto logging in from external app, websites, and plugins. Of course these features aren’t widely promoted or known by most users.

Should you be fearful of internet privacy issues? This analyst believes so – but instead of falling into the trap of data breaching and allowing your personal info and data to be prostituted and captured by tech companies, or settling and sticking with disingenuous platforms, consider alternatives for search engines, like DuckDuckGo and decentralized/ independent platforms. Pursue a new platform utility that will never sell your data or sell you out. One that stores and protects your identity, data, content, privacy, intellectual property, and dignity. Built using blockchain technology where the users’ data are protected in a complex encrypted “transparent and incorruptible” block system. The users’ content are locked, safe, and protected by the encrypted system.

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Security. Privacy. Trust. Transparency. Integrity. 

You are the only one who should determine what you reveal about your self, your business, what content you share, how you share or monetize it, and decide who you want to share it with.

Join Sphir to engage in a free uncensored platform utility that puts the user in the driver’s seat — where you determine how your content and personal info is shared, with who, and its reach. Let’s stretch into a new paradigm of what’s possible and not cave into the anti-privacy abyss. Privacy has vanished across the social media stratosphere along with integrity, class, respect, and decency. Shall we shift it for the better together?

Be discerning and protective of your content, data, information, and your self. Be part of the change to elevate social Internet platform standards. Be apart of the privacy, data protection solution, and digital transformation!

Launching in January 2019 – sign up for pre-roll out updates at Sphir!

~ Melissa A. Curtin

An Opportunity in the Misinformation Age

The speed at which social media content is shared and spread, breeds inaccuracy, misinformation, half-truths, and disinformation. This coupled with our hectic, time-compressed lives, and the desire to stay informed, up-to-date on news, information, the latest environmental or emergency crises, and issues du jour, becomes the perfect superficial social media smorgasbord riddled with skimmed headlines, shoddy journalism, a swirl of opinions, questionable facts, eye-catching memes, and misleading images and infographics.

It’s typical for articles, photos, and videos to be posted, re-shared, and circulated without much consideration for content accuracy, context, or truth. Inaccurate content, dishonest headlines, deceptive visuals, and articles distributed from untrustworthy news sources are pervasive.

Misinformation and the Spread of Fake News

It’s effortless to click, share, and re-post a story or an article found online – many do this without actually reading the article, research, or study first-hand. It’s commonplace – but not necessarily out of bad intentions or the deliberate desire to perpetuate the “fake news” trend, but out of ease, habit, and the lack of time, energy, and effort it takes to verify. It is time consuming to double-check and verify sources and yet another step to determine if it’s newsworthy, trustworthy, evidence-based, and worthy of attention.

Is there even a pause to research, investigate further, verify sources, fact-check, or dig deeper? Why wouldn’t you want to disseminate information that is correct, accurate, and truthful? Wouldn’t that be the ethical path to take?

Magnfiying glass on the word investigate to illustrate detective

Is there any journalistic integrity or quality standards left? Or is it all about the likes, follows, and the shares content receives – whether it is validated and vetted or not? Does anyone care about the truth and quality of what is delivered across the media inter-webs?

vector smart phone social media iconsOn an individual level, holding each other accountable to higher standards when sharing news, articles, and content on social media is a prudent move in the right direction. For mainstream news outlets and independent press agencies to be sloppy about fact-checking, inept at digging deeper, and their absence of journalistic integrity, is counterintuitive to the purpose of reporting, investigating, and disseminating news for a wider audience.

Often news agencies that generate content swiftly are time-crunched and bound to harsh deadlines. Media outlets and their content producers are unable to thoroughly vet stories or properly fact-check and validate. The erosion of trust in the media and news organizations has been negatively cascading for decades. Trust in the mainstream corporate-owned media is at an all time low. Discerning viewers and critical thinkers have little trust in the information offered and are becoming more media savvy and media literate.

When sharing a news story, a random post, an article or research study online, it’s essential to first understand where the content originated. Follow up with some foundational media literacy questions to determine its accuracy, context, and relevance. Learn to decipher, decode, and deconstruct the media and information you consume. Share from trusted sources and be apart of elevating the quality of the content we all access and appreciate.

Verify Magnifying Glass Check Facts Research 3d Render IllustratResearch, understand, and verify your sources.

  • Who owns the website or media outlet where the story, article, research, etc., is published and featured?
  • Who wrote the content? Why did the writer, author, reporter, or news correspondent report the story that way?
  • What bias did the writer, producer, or owner bring to the story based on who they are and how their experiences have shaped their perspective?
  • Who sponsored, funded, or paid for the article, story, research, or message?
  • Was it independent of financial pressure to express a certain viewpoint, message, or idea?
  • Is the information accurate, trustworthy, and reliable?

Compare the information to other reliable sources.

  • Are you able to locate variations of the story or article you presented? Was it reported or re-published elsewhere? By a reliable source?
  • Check facts from the original sources, studies, and discover the evidence for yourself.
  • Does it have references, resources, or a bibliography with linked sources? If resource links are embedded within the story, are they verifiable? Can they be validated?

Examine the source, the message, and the media used.

  • Is the writer or content producer using primary or secondary research, interviews, content, data, findings, etc.? If not, where does the information originate?
  • Confirm citations from the author, writer, and content creator. Are they a respected authority or known in their field as an expert? If not, are they supporting their findings with those that are knowledgeable and respected in their given areas of expertise?
  • What’s missing from the story, coverage, article, etc.? (Viewpoints, perspective, relevant and pertinent info, context, background, history, implications, consequences, etc.)
  • What is the purpose of the content/message/story?
  • How is the information scripted and used to propagate a narrative, agenda, or ideology?
  • What additional information do you need to seek to clarify and understand more deeply?
  • Have the images or videos been doctored, adjusted, photoshopped, or digitally manipulated or enhanced?
  • Are the sound bytes and video clips real and authentic or have they been altered and edited to change the context and meaning?
  • Has the video footage been photoshopped, doctored, or manipulated to corrupt the meaning and disrupt the message?

Who is fact-checking the fact-checkers?

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When using fact-checking services, research their validity, and trustworthiness. Are they reliable? Are they biased in how they fact-check, report, and present their information? And if so, how? Who are they funded and sponsored by? Who are their owners and advertisers? Questions that examine the money trail are critical. Ownership influences content and it certainly affects what facts are included or omitted.

Are the fact-checking companies or organizations just an extension from the very agencies, governmental, or organizations they are hired to fact-check info and news about? Or are they truly equipped to provide a neutral fact-checking service? Do they have the capability to verify information independent from conflicts of interest?

An opportunity exists in the mis- and disinformation age.

We are at a prime opportunity to upgrade the defunct social and mass media content sharing landscape. Let’s raise the bar of quality on what is shared through re-posting and spreading content online. Be discerning in what you choose to distribute and what sources you trust. Choose wisely. Take the time and extra effort to circulate original and authentic news and quality information. It’s better to save the article or post to read later, than to rush to share it without vetting its veracity. Question its content, truth, and facts. Be proactive when you recognize false or inaccurate content. If something doesn’t adhere to the truth, kindly correct the mis- and disinformation by offering verified resources.

There is no excuse for us not to research further and dig deeper when we have instant open access to the intelligence and knowledge base of humankind right at our fingertips.

Join us at Sphir in contributing to an innovative user-driven platform through content creation, collaboration, and connection with those you trust and respect.

~ Melissa A. Curtin

Be an outlier in a world of conformists.

“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” ― John F. Kennedy

Members of society that have been successfully conditioned, conform. They resign themselves, lose themselves, and succumb to sameness, uniformity – homogeneity. Groomed to follow. Conditioned to conform. Programmed to please, consume, and accept the status quo. Taught to be submissive, follow orders, and obey authority. Operating on autopilot as cogs in the rat race wheel greased by the desire to fit in, while begging to be accepted. Miserable, empty, stagnant, and stuck. As a result, they become reliant on the very system that oppresses, controls, and abuses them and the masses.

“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.” ― Aldous Huxley
Conformity is the contrary to uniqueness, individuality, expressing your authentic self, and being empowered. Is it much easier and convenient to conform than to identify with who you really are than eject yourself from a system built on manipulation and illusion?
“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it’s conformity.” ― Rollo May
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More “conformity” definitions:
  • Similarity in form or character; agreement.
  • Action or behavior in correspondence with socially accepted standards, conventions, rules, or laws: conformity to university regulations.
  • State of things being similar, or identical.
  • A point of resemblance; a similarity.
  • The ideology of adhering to one standard or social uniformity.
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More “conditioned” definitions:
  • Subject to or dependent on a condition or conditions.
  • Prepared for a specific action or process.
  • Psychology – Exhibiting or trained to exhibit a conditioned response.
  • Prepared for a specific use.
  • Exhibiting a conditioned reflex.
“A fair and just society offers equality of opportunity to all. But it cannot promise, and should not try to enforce, sameness.” ― Christina Hoff Sommers
Who benefits from a society of homogenous thinkers? Those in power, the ruling class, including bureaucratic, religious, military, and big business leaders. The power elite – “powerful people who hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, political power, or skill in society.” These power-players influence policy decisions with their actions, opinions, and actions.
Why would those in power want the populace to be conditioned and uniform?
How do they benefit from a society of conformists and followers?
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Conditioned clones are far easier to control. Literal crowd control mentality. Through this regulation of control, there is a false sense of security and perceived independence by those who conform and follow. It’s much easier to control a group with collectively similar beliefs, patterns, and behaviors, than it is to allow dissenters and resisters.

But what really happens when dissenters break out and challenge authority? Question the official narratives? Speak against those in power and the ideologies they push? They are often silenced, outcast, censored, called conspiracy theorists or crazy, denied being accepted, marginalized, and certainly not given corporate-owned media coverage and airtime.

How do the ruling class and the power elite condition?

Through the mass media’s repetition on television, radio, print and social media. Through the illusion of “choice” of media outlets and channels — when in fact they are owned by a select few, — only five to six media conglomerates in the United States. The grooming, brainwashing of what’s accepted is also embedded within society, culture, institutions, schools, and government. Expectations are carefully scripted within narratives and deliberately woven. Roles and desired behaviors, deliberately constructed. The conditioning becomes seamless, stealth, and unnoticeable, like the fish in water, “what water?”

Fish School Arrow Shaped Against The Grain Perspective
Through the power of language, conditioning is implemented. Language and connotations influence minds, behaviors, perceptions, beliefs, and actions. Both the choice of language and connotations play a significant role in scripting what’s acceptable. To deviate from the “norm” and the noun, “social deviate, are often given negative connotations. A “rebel”, “rebellion”, and “to rebel”, also hold a negative charge in the context of what’s acceptable and preferred within society. The same holds true for “activists”, those who are “anti-establishment”, “radical”, and “counter-culture”. Many of these condescending and shaming terms are often synonymous with traitor, instead of being aligned with catalysts for change.

An outlier, a rebel, and a renegade do not exist within the limits; they break the boundaries and the norm. It’s the only way to survive from being swallowed up and engulfed by mediocrity. A rebel goes against the grain and prefers not to be corralled. Does what’s not popular and lives beyond the dominant culture ideals.

Rebel

  • To refuse allegiance to and oppose by force an established government or ruling authority.
  • To resist or defy an authority or a generally accepted convention.
  • To feel or express strong unwillingness or repugnance.

Renegade

  • One who rejects a religion, cause, allegiance, or group for another; a deserter.
  • An outlaw; a rebel.
  • Of, relating to, or resembling a renegade; traitorous.
  • To become a deserter or an outlaw.
  • A disloyal person who betrays or deserts his cause, religion, political party, friend, etc.
  • A common vagabond; a worthless or wicked fellow.
  • Break with established customs
  • One whose domicile lies at an appreciable distance from his or her place of business.
  • A value far from most others in a set of data: “Outliers make statistical analyses difficult” (Harvey Motulsky).
  • Geology: A portion of stratified rock separated from a main formation by erosion.

outlier or outsider concept on a digital tablet with a cup of te

Be an outlier in a world of conformists.

Snap out of the endless brainwashing machine spin-cycle. Stop rinsing your brain with their water boarded indoctrination. Deviate from the clones and drones, the conditioned sameness, uniformity, and conformity. Outliers spawn originality. Innovative ideas emerge on the edges. These ideas live outside the box and beyond the lines of control and societal boundaries.

Thinking Outside The Box

Revel in your independence and uniqueness. Discover who you are and not who you “should be” according to their “conditions” and “program”. Take personal inventory of where you conform and where you rest on the ledge as an outlier. Time to break out of the conditioning and the programs you’ve been trained to believe. Break up with this dysfunctional conditioned fantasy. The act of rebellion challenges the system, disrupts conventional thinking, and is a catalyst for growth and change.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Will you be the aberration? Are you willing to take a risk and step out of the crowd, the herd, and the herd mentality? It’s time for each of us to be the outlier in a world of conformists. It’s time to detach from the status quo, the puppet strings, and be bold enough to walk on our own towards an improved reality that we co-create.

white crow among black crowsWhat possibilities exist outside the bounds of conformity?

Let’s pioneer this together and build something different ― outside the boundaries.

bigstock--122942447Join us by visiting Sphir to sign up for pre-launch updates.

~ Melissa A. Curtin

Using social media or is it using you?

How do you use social media?

People use social and mass media differently, for a variety of reasons, and in a multitude of ways. Some users access media for community connection, to keep in touch with family/friends, share recipes, for entertainment, microblogging, creativity, to post animal videos, use their voice and be an advocate for issues, receive news, be informed, seek information, learn about events, be plugged in or “in the know”, to disrupt or challenge mainstream beliefs and dominant culture, to educate, broaden one’s friend circle, global interests, group participation, promote a business, communication, as a distraction, curiosity, a time-filler, an escape, a retreat, a safe space to interact, and much more. For many across the social media landscape, it’s a place to express yourself without inhibitions, be tapped in to what’s important to you, and be connected.

Social Media Wheel With Spokes  And IconsHowever you choose to use social media, understanding how and why you use it can help you prevent it from using you. Decide how best to use social media to benefit you. Be proactive and in control of your media usage and consumption. Draw boundaries around how you interact, with whom, and for how long. Be mindful of why you’re accessing media and what role the technology plays and offers in your life. How does it improve or enhance your life? How does it make it easier? How does it add value? Or does it?

Consider your time management. Hours upon hours are often wasted on social media. For some, three hours passed in a time warp, you haven’t showered, you can’t remember why you got online in the first place, and dinner burned on the stove. For others, simply passing time is their desired goal. It has become part of the norm, the daily rhythm, and auto-pilot routine to constantly be connected to social media, for business, personal, and casual friendship purposes.

Being clear on why you choose the connectivity to social media and other media outlets may inspire where attention can be redirected or focused in your relationships. Become aware and honest about your role of engagement and the choices you make about your activities online, and within social media forums. Consider the ways you are using social media and how it may be using you.

the silhouette of his head with the words on the topic of social

Make social media networks work for you. If you choose to participate, learn how to direct your usage and leverage your settings. Adjust your privacy settings. Learn how your information and data are used and shared, or sold by the platform provider. Circumvent as many of the content control mechanisms, despite the growing suppression of truth, and the rampant censorship across platforms. Be in control of how you use media. Be mindful of how it may be controlling your mood, brainwashing you, deterring, distracting, or detouring you from your innate truth, dreams, desires, and aspirations.

Don’t succumb to media networks or social media outlets’ desires to monetize your online and offline activities, and every action you take and movement you make. Periodically unplug. Shut the phone off, unplug devices, and turn the computer off. Step away from the screen. Step away from the matrix. Go off the digital grid.

Step away from the matrix...go off the digital grid.Break the social media constant engagement and tracking cycle. Value and honor your privacy and autonomy. Use discretion when you log your locations. Turn the location services off. Remove your demographic profile from FaceBook’s advertising settings. Disable app and automatic website sign-ins from FaceBook and Google. Lock down your profile and only share your photos, personal info, and content with the friend’s lists and groups you choose.

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 2.36.48 PMRegularly back up your files, your photos, and your content. Export and save your social media data before it is deleted for you. The social media networks are actively combing their platforms and deleting accounts, purging pages, groups, boards, and scrubbing away counter culture and dissenting views. Decide if the current controlled direction of traditional social media resonates with you, adds value, or depletes your energy and siphons your time.

How about something better, with integrity, with you, the user in mind? You decide how you want to use a social media technology platform. You’re in control of your content, and how you organize your data, wisdom, resources, and time. You get to leverage its interface and tools to serve you and further your cause, your purpose, and goals. A user-driven platform from an empowered approach. An innovative way to use social media, manage data effectively, and in a way that honors your privacy, content, connections, and life. A platform for you to be more efficient, productive, and purposeful online and off.

Sphir is rolling out soon! Sign up for for pre-launch updates. Join us to discover a new way to use a media platform that benefits you!

~ Melissa A. Curtin

Are you programmed to fall in line and obey?

From an early age, as a culture, we are heavily programmed to fall in line and surrender to the hegemonic systems that gain from our obedience. From commercial advertising to television and radio programs, films, music, entertainment, video games, podcasts, social media platforms, and any other consumable media including newspapers, magazine, and books. We are conditioned and taught early on not only what to think, but what to think about.

The owners and controllers of such media call it a TV “program” for a reason. This extends across digital and analog program content across a variety of forms. It’s the literal programming of your brain, the wiring and re-wiring of your neurosynapses and your thought patterns.

This “program” is intended to inform the decisions about who you are and what to believe, who to admire, who to fear, who to love, who to blame, what to buy, who to vote for, who to shun — shaping and guiding you along the way. The repetitive, perpetual programming of beliefs, ideas, behaviors, preferred actions, choices, wants, needs, desires, dreams, self-identity, lifestyle, sexuality, what is feminine or masculine, what is culturally and socially acceptable, and the endless list of “programs” and orders to follow, obey, and adopt.

obeykidtvWe are rarely encouraged to question authority, challenge the status quo, or dare we be empowered enough to question the system itself and the foundation it stands. Critical thinking is an essential skill that desperately needs to be exercised often to counterbalance the fear-mongering, the propaganda, and the corporate-owned script and “prescription” of the pre-constructed ideas they want to instill, ingrain, and frame in your brain. Their psychological tactics of brainwashing and the cleaning out of your own identity and self, through their deliberately pushed and highly crafted messaging — is not an accident or from a place of naivety. Obedience, and directing the narrative to shape their agenda that greedily lines their pockets and audience/society/crowd control — is their goal.

Propaganda Word Cloud on a black background.What you tune in to and allow is your choice if you can maintain your individuality amongst the sea of conformity, brainwashing, and scripted narratives. Critically thinking, reflecting, and taking personal inventory of what to prioritize takes being proactive and awake. This means taking ownership of your media consumption and being astute to mass media motives. It also takes initiative to be an active discerning information seeker and independent thinker, instead of a repeater and parroter of the popular or mainstream corporate-influenced scripted narrative to comply, buy, consume, obey, conform, and repeat.

Individuality SymbolRecognize where the media content is originating from and where you are paying with your attention and precious time. Notice where you are being pitched and sold to the highest bidder in this slick game of clicks, likes, follows, and eyeballs.

Not all media consumed is destructive, full of coercion, or perpetuates a broader agenda to comply, fall in line, or obey. Yet, it is all constructed and carefully designed for a targeted demographic, viewer/reader, and user. Know the sources of your information, follow the money, and discover who owns the media to which you subscribe. Dissect, deconstruct, and decode the offered messages, and become media literate and savvy.

How you consciously navigate through the landfill of Machiavellian media is up to you. Will you be a freethinker capable of critical thought and independent of the programmed commands? Or have you already succumbed and surrendered to the “obey” modus operandi and isn’t it time to course correct and deprogram?

Fall in line or align to your independence and soar.

Independent Thinker

It’s your choice.

To sign up for pre-launch platform updates, visit Medel.la.

~ Melissa A. Curtin