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by Phil Stott | August 17, 2016


"The biggest mistake people make in social media is that they let their posts live forever."

So says Mark Cuban, celebrity billionaire, investor and sports team owner, in the very first line of a video that presents something of a dystopian outlook on social media and, indeed, digital communication as a whole.

The crux of Cuban's argument: that every move we make on social media is tracked, and that, when collated, can be used against you.

As he puts it, we've arrived at a point where many people don't realize that "on social media […] every person you follow on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook […] every person you retweet, repin, repost, renote, regram on social media defines who you are."

And, once defined, there are applications now that collect it all and use the information to anticipate what you're going to do next—or, worse, prevent you from doing it.

"By what you do on social media, you are creating a profile about yourself, and that is going to be used not just by online companies, but […] in every walk of life. You're gonna go look for a job and they're gonna run an online social media analysis of you and use that as a psychological profile. You're gonna get sued if you're a business person, and they're gonna look to see where and how you posted." [Emphasis added]

At this stage, I was kind of with him. I mean, we all know that companies will use whatever method they can to root out less-than-ideal employees, right? And, sure, there are lawyers and sections of the media that will use a "celebrity x follows terrible person on Twitter" story to their advantage.

But Cuban didn't stop there. Check out what he said right after the end of the previous expert:

"Then they're gonna bring in an expert and they're gonna say 'Mark Cuban, based off of who you tweeted, who you retweeted, who you pinned, who you repinned, who you posted, who you regrammed, what you put on Instagram, what you wrote in this form, we've aggregated all that together and run it through some algorithms and we decided that you are most closely like this person who we convicted of that crime, so you must be alike. That is definitely going to happen." [Emphasis added]


Let's put aside any concerns about Cuban's seemingly paranoid state of mind and suppose, just for a moment, that he is correct. What does he recommend? Surely, given such a dire future state, it will be that we get off of social media altogether?

"You need to be going back and deleting all your tweets after a certain period of time. Deleting all your retweets after a certain period of time. Unfollowing people that you think could send the wrong message, even though you don't know what that message could be construed as in the future."

Well, that's another approach, I guess—although it's hard to know where the concept of unfollowing people or deleting tweets based on their ability to "send the wrong message" to someone, at some point in time starts or finishes. After all, if we're talking about establishing patterns of behavior that will look suspicious to the pre-cog detective bureau of Cuban's nightmares, surely covering your tracks and/or opting out of the system would be somewhere near the top of the tree?

As it turns out, Cuban has good reason to ramp up the fear: as he reveals in the video, he's got a couple of apps on the way that are designed to let people communicate without leaving any digital trace behind.

Until such time as those arrive and take over the world, I'd say that approximately half of his advice in this video is worth paying attention to. Specifically: you should police your social media presence and privacy settings, to ensure that nothing you're posting or retweeting casts you directly in a bad light. (i.e. If your Twitter thread can't survive a 5-minute scroll without something embarrassing or incriminating popping up, you should clean it). But all that stuff about personality profiles based on your usage? Feel free to take that with an enormous grain of salt.