Many of us spend a lot of time using social media, with no real purpose or outcome. That is not to say it is a bad thing or stop using them. Benefits include being better informed; knowledge at our fingertips. That is grossly exploited.

My point is about what we consider social media groups, networks, forums and other organisation to be. Before assuming that means platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, WhatsApp or YouTube, we should think out of the box to consider the Internet itself. It is a network of connected computers the World Wide Web (WWW) works on, on which data travel. The WWW is pages online rather than using downloaded software and programmes without online server support. The Internet is the network of electronic roads connecting many things. Taking that step out of the box, many others exist; like video conferencing media; Skype and Zoom are probably best known, then there is Dialpad Meetings, Facebook Live, etc, some free, many others by subscription. Then there is the ‘Dark Web’; a fascinating place, mostly beyond eccentric to outright insane. It is easy to understand to what degree that all changed how we communicate.

All media are used for business and personal communications; sometimes we slip into false security believing something arriving by email that is not spam is OK. Not so. Ironically its name, Spam, derives from canned cooked pork made by Hormel Foods in the USA in 1937; popular worldwide since extensive use during WW2. It is considered ‘cult food’, which apparently few people really like but eat if nothing else is available. Nonetheless, it has aficionados, ‘immortalised’ in a 1970 Monty Python sketch, which repeated Spam many times with Vikings singing its praises. That sketch led to it being ‘borrowed’ for unsolicited electronic messages. ‘Spamming’ now describes multiple unsolicited communications to many recipients for sometimes prohibited purposes, commercial advertising, proselytising, propaganda, evangelising or indoctrination by sending a message repeatedly. Some spam and emails not looking like spam, especially as unsolicited promotions, open the gateway to scams, phishing and data harvesting or combinations making internet use potentially untenable.

They use providers like Firefox, Google or Yahoo for classy looking new services, sometimes unexpectedly and difficult to avoid. Getting rid of them can be tricky. Recently, something I had never joined, told me I was a member, asking me to participate in a conference. It appeared ‘magically’ in email; once opened difficult, almost impossible, getting off their mailings. There was no deregistration; since people opening email may not have registered, trapped is trapped. No contact address for direct communication, no telephone numbers, email or terrestrial address. They were there. I spam binned them which normally blocks them, but no. I used a contact channel I thought might hit the spot. After three attempts, I gave up politeness to bluntly say ‘eff off’. They did not react.

Why didn’t people I discussed this with and I examine what they offered? We did before exchanging views. It was an organisation (we had never heard of) setting up a ‘major’ online conference with eminent speakers. Various cities were named, implying bases in each, never precisely purpose and objective. I have attended many conferences, so lack of an agenda seemed bizarre; people probably joined to find out more, if there was anything.

Afterwards I received another email thanking me for participation and contribution! I used a proxy identity to look at their conference. Speakers were unknown to me; web searching I found people who are European federalism ‘preachers’. I sent the ‘thanks’ email to my proxy, filled the comments box explaining not participating, not wanting to be on mailings, asked why speakers described as well known were not and other questions, including how they could thank me for participation? I deleted my proxy identity after leaving time for a response. Nothing came back.

That is personal experience; many people are not reactive or insistent as I am when my space is invaded; they fall in line. Like other online setups, once hooks are in, membership fees, donation requests and ‘privileges’ follow. They sit on people’s data, spamming until ‘disappearing’.

Not all are like that. Others, such as pro-federalism groups are almost amusing. There are numerous emerging: ironic if federalisation is the true objective they should only need one group. However, not so, they are highly and amusingly competitive. Closely scrutinised, we see a disturbing lack of substance and not unrealistic to say many participants would find it difficult to define federalism. There appear to be core members in several groups; some for squabbles, others have occasional opinions that are usually ignored. That is just an example; other topic groups are similar. So far, I have never found cookery groups without differences on boiling eggs. Others discuss questions leading to internet equivalents of public brawls.

So, is it totally illogical conspiracy theorists and paranoid internet users start stories like Bill Gates implanting microchips in everybody’s Covid-19 vaccinations? The world population is approaching eight billion. If everybody was vaccinated, thus micro-chipped, how would everybody be tracked and monitored and what’s the point knowing X sings the eighty second psalm in the toilet? Conspiracy theory lovers are ‘weird’, but social media, looked at closer is stranger, perhaps utterly outrageous.

The European Network may be similar in some people’s mind, that’s their right. We do not lead people to believe X, Y or Z, do not indoctrinate or propagandise, do not data harvest, scam, phish or spam people. We watch it happening, we comment, try to understand not proselytise. Moreover, perhaps best of all, we can sit back and laugh. Some things should never be treated lightly, we take those seriously, finding humour in what we see, then laughter shared becomes gratifying. Whenever unsolicited mails reach us, not only spam, it may take time and effort to shake them off. I usually think, ‘Oh look, another one!’

Featured image by Cypher789 under GFDL.

Bernhardt Müller
International based and Interested in European education, current affairs and political science.

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