Most of you who read my articles are good friends, supportive of my creative efforts, and actual real human beings. I’m grateful for the opportunity you give me to brainstorm with you, even when we don’t agree. That’s called a dialogue.
The digital age has torn down the boundaries of space and time. This means that we can communicate with anyone around the world in real-time or asynchronously. It also means that you have no idea who is stealing your content, where they are, or what they are doing with it.
I’ve been a victim of this, and guess what? Those people who are stealing from me aren’t even clever enough to cover up their tracks.
Let’s start by admitting that social media feeds are a source of headaches and confusion. One of the main reasons why consumers of digital content have found ways to filter what companies serve to them, is that there is very little original content out there. In an effort to seem interesting, most social media accounts publish text, images and videos that someone else packaged.
As an author, it is flattering when readers like your content enough to share it, especially if they do so in a post where they explain why the piece is impactful. Let’s be honest, though: there is a rapidly increasing trend where individuals are so trigger happy to share pre-packaged content, that they are letting their digital personas turn into bots.
You may think: “Surely, digital professionals are intelligent enough to know better.” Sadly, this is not the case. Last night, I was having a Twitter conversation with two friends, both of whom alerted me five minutes later that someone was cloning my tweets word by word, and mentioning them, without giving me credit (not even a “RT”). We checked out this Twitter account, and it turned out to be a “real”person, someone with a fancy management title, working for one of the most recognizable technology companies in history.
I took screenshots that I won’t share here, because I don’t believe in embarrassing people. We all make mistakes. But, come on, that is definitely automation gone wrong! And yes it’s also theft. If you copy conversations I’m having with my friends, remove the context, and don’t cite me or give me credit in any way, you are a thief.
When I say that most content on the Internet is garbage, I’m not referring to the moral value of the text, images, or video. I am speaking of its lack of originality. The number one skill in the digital age is the ability to search, because getting to the source of an idea, event, or piece of news is what makes you and what you’re sharing credible. People who retweet without clicking through and reading the article, or automatically share content from a hub without checking if the URLs even work, are piling on to the mountain of data we all have to search through. The less guarded and more automatic your share, the worse you’re making the Internet for all of us.
“Thank you Sexy Teen Skanks for following me, I appreciate it.” This is the actual text from a tweet sent publicly a few days ago by a “Tech industry analyst”. While this person is real, and shares content that is for the most part valuable, clearly he is having a case of automation gone bad. The time has come to turn off automation in anything that should be a real human relationship. Automate your lights, automate your air-conditioning, but don’t automate your conversations.
What can you take away from this and what can you learn from the things I have experienced? The next time someone asks you to share something, put some thought into how you are redistributing that content. If you’re lazy, automatic, and unoriginal in what you push out, you have already become a bot, and contributing to the ever-growing digital landfill. Don’t do it, even if your digital neighbors, co-workers and managers are doing it. The fact that you read this, already means you have the intention to improve and that’s great. Dare to be original!