If you have recently subscribed to Mindful Stew, you might be the site’s 1,500th follower!
Except that you’re probably not, as I know a large percentage of this blog’s followers aren’t real–I’m not sure how many flesh-and-blood folks follow the ‘Stew. Freakin’ spambots. fagner1222ds, dhexd, aeryn65, catalinatutu, and eugeniotony: I’d love to hear from you.
According to this official WordPress forum, there doesn’t seem to be anything we can do to prevent fake users and bizarre international business blogs from subscribing to our public sites. Do any of y’all have the same issue?
What concerns me is the industry of online “influence” based on number of hits, subscribers, page views, and other measures, much of it driven by spambots. And people are profitting from it. This image below is from tweetangels.com, clearly advertising to a certain demographic. It’s pretty creep stuff.
The greater issue at play here is how perceived online popularity and activity may influence our decisions and behaviors. I’ll admit I’ve been more likely to click on YouTube videos or check out certain Twitter feeds because of a number. How many of you are likely to check out a link that doesn’t have any views or followers?
Luckily, having a huge number of Twitter followers often has nothing to do with influence (although that big number might be feeding a big ego). After all, it’s all about retweets and clicks if you’re trying to spread an idea or product–I don’t think the fake accounts will be rushing to help disseminate information or engage in dialogue.
The presence of SPAM, false influence and popularity, and the veil of the screen should remind us–I hope–to continue having a robust presence in the real-world, in balancing out our online lives and identities with what we do face-to-face and in the flesh.
I’m afraid it will become trickier and trickier to discern what digital material is authentically created by people and what is produced by computers or robots. In 1950, British computing pioneer Alan Turing was already pondering whether or not machines can think. The eponymous test, the Turing Test, has essentially been an Artificial Intelligence measuring stick for years now.
A human must figure out if a a computer program or another person is chatting with them on a screen. Computers are getting mighty close to “thinking,” much closer than your sidekick Siri on your iPhone.
On a parting note, I appreciate all of you real readers and commenters–without you, I wouldn’t blog.