Category Archives: Social Media

Objectivity vs. neutrality on Gaza

 

Note: This post was originally written for openDemocracy.

The Palestine-Israel conflict poses a moral dilemma for journalists. But being objective does not necessarily mean being neutral, and being fair does not mean refraining from making a judgement.

Choosing sides

As reporters swarm the besieged streets of the shrinking Gaza strip, there has been an inundation of harrowing images and reports throwing Israel and its motives into utter disrepute. Palestinian mothers crying in anguish over the death of their children, families searching through rubble for survivors, hospitals littered with blood drenched casualties of the Israeli war machine – these images swell up inside us contempt for the perpetuators of such crimes.

Yet despite the international condemnation, the motives for these actions have been a hotly debated. I have even found it to be a polarising topic within my own circle of friends, despite most of them being strongly against the killing of innocent civilians. Was it the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers? Are they looking for tunnels or for revenge? Is Hamas rocket fire to blame?

Disregarding the constantly changing narrative (and the fact most of these reasons have been largely discredited), social media has been rife with accusations of propaganda from both sides. I myself have been accused of spamming pro-Palestinian articles on /r/worldnews – an internet community that has been targeted by pro-Israel groups such as the JIDF.

So the question remains – is it morally acceptable for reporters to pick a side? Certainly as journalists we have a duty to be impartial when reporting the facts, even though this can be argued to be a futile task. Any effort to disseminate news on a contentious issue will inherently cause accusations of media bias, “because journalists are human beings and journalism is not an exact science,” said Hilary Aked, writing for OpenDemocracy in 2012. “There is a great deal of truth in the assertion that to some extent one’s critique will depend on how the conflict is viewed,” she added.

We are emotional beings at our very core, and view all issues through the lens or prism of our own emotional sensibilities. And so it is of no surprise then that many of us turn to social media to express our outrage when we feel an injusticehas occurred. Quite simply, a significant majority of those who stand by the Palestinians do so because it is difficult to watch an injustice and not speak out. This is in itself a biological response, and is universal to humanity. For over a century now academics have studied this very issue, using anthropological and historical evidence to conclude that this sense of injustice is found everywhere, spanning across all cultures and periods of human history.

The process of evolution itself has carved this sense into humans. Those who witness others being subjected to injustice often respond as though it was an act of aggression towards themselves. This can be a powerful motivational condition. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote it in 1963: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Cognitive dissonance

Despite damning evidence of disproportionate aggression and international war crimes, many Israelis argue that they are the ones who have been demonised, and claim it is they who are in fact the victims of injustice. In turn many such persons choose to discredit opposing views as unduly partisan. But can it really be the case that those all over the world who all condemn the violence – international bodies, humanitarian organisations, world leaders, and so on – are simply liars, paid shills, or anti-Semitic?

In 1956, Leon Festinger and two colleagues released a classic work of social psychology that studied this very kind of unwarranted belief. When prophecy fails follows the story of a small cult that wholly committed themselves to an apocalyptic prophesy told by a woman named Dorothy Martin. She claimed to have received a message from a fictional planet, which revealed the world would end in a great flood before dawn on December 21, 1954. What they found was that some of the group became increasingly dogmatic in their beliefs when the supposed prophesy was unfulfilled. The authors described this as a coping mechanism, and was one of the first published cases of cognitive dissonance – the discomfort one feels when confronted by information that conflicts with or significantly alters their worldview.

Fast forward half a century – in 2013, Dan Kahan, a professor at Yale Law, gave compelling evidence to the source of this diminished ability to reason. His paper, entitled Motivated numeracy and enlightened self-government”, demonstrated hard evidence of motivated reasoning, a symptom of cognitive dissonance and part of this coping mechanism. His conclusion, as described by journalist Chris Mooney, is that partisanship “can even undermine our very basic reasoning skills…. [those] who are otherwise very good at math may totally flunk a problem that they would otherwise probably be able to solve, simply because giving the right answer goes against their political beliefs.”

Essentially, Kahan found that even when presented with the facts, motivated reasoning leads people to confirm what they already believe by ignoring contrary data. As summarised by Marty Kaplan, writing for AlterNet:

“It turns out that in the public realm, a lack of information isn’t the real problem. The hurdle is how our minds work, no matter how smart we think we are. We want to believe we’re rational, but reason turns out to be the ex post facto way we rationalise what our emotions already want to believe.”

This finding is very problematic, for if we are to come to any kind of truth on this matter, or any issue in fact, we must open our hearts and minds to honest and open discourse. As objective observers we must accept that there is propaganda from both sides, but quite often this fact is used to validate unreasonable beliefs.

For instance, to assume Hamas have the same capability as Israel and its allies when it comes to disseminating propaganda seems wholly illogical. From government backed Hasbara to organisations such as CAMERA, this battle of hearts and minds has not been fought on a level playing field. It is only due to the concerted efforts of activists and the public at large that world opinion is now firmly on the side of the Palestinians. This change is largely attributed to the advent of the digital age and the feeling of injustice we have touched upon.

Impartial judgements

Some argue that as reporters we have a duty to remain neutral in such conflicts, and certainly, this is reflected in the ethics of journalism, particularly when it comes to broadcast in the UK. In his paper, Delivering trust: impartiality and objectivity in a digital age, Richard Sambrook, a professor of journalism at Cardiff University and BBC journalist for three decades, outlines some of the key issues surrounding objectivity after the advent of the internet and social media. In the papers abstract he states:

“The ideas of impartiality and objectivity – at the heart of serious news journalism for most of the last century – are now under pressure and even attack in the digital a…Today, in the digital age of plenty, notions of special responsibilities being placed on those with a public voice, and different approaches for print and broadcasting, are rapidly breaking down. As the disciplines of impartiality and objectivity disintegrate, there are increased signs of propaganda, entertainment and fiction seeping into journalism. Broadcasters, regulators, politicians, and journalists are struggling to make the solutions of the last century fit the changed media characteristics and conditions in the new century.”

Through the course of the paper Sambrook proposes a number of principles to help journalism adapt to a world that increasingly demands partisan reporting. He calls for “a growing need to encourage critical awareness of the media” within the public that equips them “with the knowledge and tools to understand what they are consuming”:

“There are currently serious concerns about the quality and practices of news media and their impact on public debate. These principles, supported by greater media literacy, can help us navigate in the new digital world of information abundance and deliver journalism that is trustworthy and fulfils its public purpose.”

Yet despite our need to place an emphasis on trust and objective reporting, we as human beings have a moral obligation to, and often feel a strong impulse to, put an end to perceived injustices perpetuated on innocent victims. Martin Bell, a BBC Foreign Correspondent during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, said: “You can be fair to everybody, but you can’t stand neutrally between good and evil.”

Sambrook writes that Martin embraced “bystander reporting” while avoiding moral equivalence between the opposing sides. He says:

“Impartiality does not have to strip reporting of moral judgement (as distinct from personal opinion) as long as there is strong evidence to support it…Independence of mind, clear sourcing and evidence, accuracy, openness, and honesty are all characteristics of impartiality as well – and none of these qualities are necessarily require a report to be morally agnostic…In the circumstances of genocide, or a climate of hate speech, it might be argued that the discipline of objectivity (if not impartiality) becomes even more important … [as these] encourage free debate.”

Being objective does not necessarily mean being neutral, and being fair does not mean refraining from making a judgement. While the two may be interlinked, when the facts are laid out in front of us, free of political spin and misleading narratives, the truth does not and should not allow us to remain impassive. Ultimately if we truly believe in a practicable solution to this war of attrition, we must be objective when looking at the facts, but also brave enough to speak out against the injustices these facts reveal.

As so eloquently put by Peter Benenson in 1961, the founder of human rights charity Amnesty International:

“Open your newspaper any day of the week and you will find a report from somewhere in the world of someone being imprisoned, tortured or executed because his opinions or religion are unacceptable to his government … The newspaper reader feels a sickening sense of impotence. Yet if these feelings of disgust could be united into common action, something effective could be done.”

 

Turkey: PM threatens to block Facebook and Youtube

Turkey’s Prime Minister has threatened to ban social networking sites where recent corruption leaks have gone viral.

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Source: Wikipedia

PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Source: Wikipedia

Late last Thursday, in a private interview with ATV television, Erdogan said: “We won’t allow the people to be devoured by YouTube, Facebook or others. Whatever steps need to be taken we will take them without wavering.”

“There are new steps we will take in that sphere after March 30 … including a ban [on YouTube, Facebook],” adding to the restrictions that have already been put in place.

Over a million people listened to the recordings within 12 hours, having first been posted to Soundcloud and shared primarily via social networks, where users also voiced their discontent about the Erodgan government.

In one of the leaked conversations, it appears as if Erdogan is instructing his son to dispose of hidden funds amid a corruption investigation.  While in another recording, Erdogan discusses easing zoning laws for a construction tycoon in exchange for two villas for his family.

President Abdullah Gul, a frequent social media user, said that despite the Prime Ministers threat, social media sites would not be blocked in Turkey.

“YouTube and Facebook are recognized platforms all over the world. A ban is out of the question.”

Controversial internet censorship

After the 2013 protests, where social media played a key part due to a media blackout, Erdogan has been attempting to tighten his government’s grip on the internet, drawing international criticism.

As early as June last year, Erdoğan accused “internal traitors and external collaborators” of orchestrating the protests using social media.

He said: “Social media was prepared for this, made equipped. The strongest advertising companies of our country, certain capital groups, the interest rate lobby, organisations on the inside and outside, hubs, they were ready, equipped for this.”

On 24 January 2014, access to SoundCloud, a popular audio sharing site, was blocked indefinitely by the Turkish government, partly due to the release of secretly recorded phone calls between the PM and his family, local politicians and businessmen.

Following the leaks, on 5 February 2014, the Turkish Parliament adopted a controversial new Internet law that sparked protests across Istanbul.

Thousands marched against the new “draconian” law which allows the government to block any website within 24 hours, without needing a court ruling, and requires Internet providers to store all data on web users’ activities for two years.

However, the law must be signed by the Turkish president Gül to come into effect. Erogan is under both domestic and foreign pressure not to ratify the legislation, which he claims are to make the internet “more safe and free”.

According to Engelliweb.com, 10,000 more websites have been blocked this year in Turkey compared to last year, bringing the total to over 40,000.

Speaking to The Guardian, Özgür Uçkan, member of the Alternative Informatics Association and professor at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, said: “The new internet law is catastrophic for Turkey.

“It makes censorship and surveillance legal in Turkey, which is contrary to our constitution and to all international conventions that Turkey is party to.”

Corruption in Turkey

Allegations of corruption first took place late last year, when on 17 December 2013, Istanbul’s Security Directory detained 47 people, including officials from Turkeys Housing Development Administration of Turkey, the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning, and the District Municipality of Fatih.

The police confiscated $17.5 million as money used in bribery during the investigation.

During the initial phase of the investigation, prosecutors accused 14 people of bribery, corruption, fraud, money laundering and smuggling gold. In total, 91 people were detained in the investigation, with 26 of them being arrested by the court.

A second wave of arrests soon followed, with several newspapers reporting that a new investigation was expected on 26 December, involving Prime Minister Erdoğan’s sons, Bilal and Burak, as well as certain Al-Qaeda affiliates from Saudi Arabia.

However, since the beginning of the investigation, the Turkish government has attempted to purge the police force, removing hundreds of police officers from their positions, including chiefs of the units dealing with financial crimes, smuggling and organised crime.

Prime Minister Erdoğan has described the corruption investigation as a “judicial coup” backed by foreigners and those jealous of his success.

One of those accused of orchestrating this scandal is US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, leader of the Gulen movement, a “pacifist, modern-minded” transnational religious and social movement.

In emailed comments to the Wall Street Journal in January 2014, Gülen said that “Turkish people … are upset that in the last two years democratic progress is now being reversed”, but denied being part of a plot to unseat the government.

Are viral videos the new propaganda?

Originally written for and published on www.planetivy.com

I Am a Ukrainian

A video of a blue-eyed woman asking westerners to petition their governments gained seven million views. But are these videos as innocent as they seem?

In a clip posted to YouTube last week, above, a pretty Ukrainian woman asked the world to react to the increasing violence in the Ukraine. Soon after the video went viral, amassing over seven million views at the time of writing. But all is not as it seems my friends, for while efforts on social media have sparked an international uproar, a counter video soon emerged, debunking the I Am a Ukrainian clip as a western-sponsored exercise in propaganda and linking the distributors of the video to the infamous Kony 2013 viral video.

'I am a Ukrainian' Video Exposed As Kony-Style Scam

So do these allegations hold any merit? While at first the term propaganda conjures up images of an inept North Korean government, western states also use propaganda to try and engineer public opinion, but in a much more subtle manner than Kim Jong-Un and his cronies. From the Egyptian Pharaohs to Nazi Germany, information has been used to great effect to the further the causes of the ruling classes. But what has changed is the means this propaganda is disseminated. While the internet is an unregulated platform for the sharing of information, it is precisely this difficultly in controlling what is said and shared that has involuntarily made us all propagandists.

The very strength of social media, to quickly spread information and organise vast swathes of people, is being used to proliferate staged videos, fake images and unsubstantiated rumours. Disinformation is an emerging problem on the web, thanks in part due to the sheer quantity of information being generated on social media sites. Reactions tend to be instantaneous and lacking in any deep analysis, or often even basic verification.

For example, the rising tensions in Venezuela were first predominantly reported through social media, due to a partial media blackout in the country. But what was shared was at times incredibly misleading. In the following picture, an injured government supporter from a year earlier is purported to be an anti-government protester from recent clashes.

Fake-Venezuela-Protest-Photo-3

This picture was shared nearly 240 times, without a single person realising that the post was a sham. In another tweet, a picture of a religious procession is re-captioned as a large group of anti-Muduro protesters, perpetuating the image of a nation in crisis to the outside world.

Fake-Venezuela-Protest-Photo-11

Every retweet has helped ingrain these misleading photos into the official narrative. We’re much more likely to believe something if it has been shared by people we know and trust, than if the video was endorsed and released by a politician or government as traditional propaganda was, which is what makes disinformation spread this way so insidious.

In one widely publicised instance in August last year, as part of a campaign to improve its image abroad, Israeli students were in effect paid to tweet pro-Israeli propaganda. The Netanyahu government offered to provide scholarships to hundreds of students in exchange for them making pro-Israel Facebook posts and tweets to foreign audiences. The students would not have to reveal they had been paid to do so.

According to historian and researcher Dr Peter Johnson, writing on propaganda in social media: “Such accounts operate very much in the black propaganda mould that was seen throughout the First and Second World Wars, deceptive propaganda that was issued under one guise but emanated from another source. This direct parallel demonstrates just how important social media is in the ongoing information war.”

While during the riots in Egypt last year, there were so many faked images circulating the internet that Facebook pages were set up with the goal of separating fact from fiction. In the video below, members of the Muslim Brotherhood are accused performing “street theatre”, faking death and injury during staged demonstrations while taking photos to be disseminated through the media.

Muslim Brotherhood pretend death and injury to deceive the world

Some governments have long realised the power of social media. China created its own Twitter-esque social media platform, Weibo, which is heavily censored and monitored for political dissidents. Meanwhile, the Snowden leaks have revealed that US has been developing sophisticated “sockpuppetting systems”, contracting a Californian company called Ntrepid to develop an “online persona management” system. On Monday, Glenn Greenwald published an entire GCHQ presentation detailing how the GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), a “dirty tricks” group, are attempting to infiltrate online communities, spreading propaganda and influencing online discussions.

IreV9dg

But it’s not just politically motivated hoaxes that are quickly spread through social media. One rumour that spread like wildfire back in 2012, debunked in this Guardian article, claimed that Samsung paid Apple a $1bn fine by sending over 30 trucks to Apple’s headquarters loaded with nickels. And viral marketers are seemingly infiltrating every corner of the web, with whole communities dedicated to weeding out posters, otherwise known as “paid shills”. Recently, a group of universities, led by the University of Sheffield, began developing a system that could automatically identify where a rumour originates and whether it is a reliable source that can be verified.

For a democracy to flourish we must have access to free and impartial information. Bandwagoning without all the facts can help spread dangerous lies which are then ultimately acted upon, often with disastrous consequences such as the Iraq War. It is imperative that we are cautious with what we choose to share online, keeping an air of scepticism regarding what we are told or hear on social media, until we can be certain where that information has come from. As Noam Chomsky wrote: “For those who stubbornly seek freedom around the world, there can be no more urgent task than to come to understand the mechanisms and practices of indoctrination.”

Will Follow Back

Becoming a ‘tweeter’

From world leaders to the local chippy, it seems everyone’s whose anyone is on twitter these days. According to The Telegraph, there are approximately 500 million people orbiting the celestial Twitterverse, outputting an average of a tweet per day. That’s an incredible 14% of the entire worlds population, a staggering 1/5 of people who use the internet. The numbers are simply too astounding to contemplate.

Now let’s be honest, most of this is utter bullshit. Partly why I’ve been a late adopter, but predominantly because I was being lazy. Multiple social profiles seemed like hard work. But I was told, that to be a journalist in the digital era, you need to be on twitter. And so I eventually took the plunge.

Its been a while since those first tentative steps, and so far I have found twitter to be a strange place indeed. Because of the sheer volume of voices, the world of twitter is a rather fickle one. So you start off by setting up your account and you then you choose who to follow. After a while you’ll find that your news feed is inundated with tweets on all manner of topics. From Politics, science, kittens to twerking – twitter has it all, mashed together in 140 character snippets of opinion, debate and humour.

So how does anyone find any meaningful information in this ocean of voices? If you’re like me, you’re following hundreds of people. In which case,third party applications like Hootsuite can really help make sense of all that noise, I kind of wish that such a sophisticated system was already built into the website to begin with.

Regardless, with the right tools then and the appropriate keywords, there is still a lot of interesting content to be found. And like all forms of social media – whether that be Facebook, Twitter, reddit and even just your regular old forum – its what you make of it that counts. For instance, I have found Twitter is particularly good for finding and researching stories, but I’m sure there are many other alternate uses.

However, there’s a darker side to Twitter and social media in general. And it is something that has become ever more prevalent as time progresses.

Social media narcissists

“Gaming” for follows

A while back I met some fellow aspiring journalists for an afternoon of networking. Fun times, I know. Regardless of how much fun I may or may not of had, I did meet some interesting people.

One example is a woman who spoke fervently and without pause. She was the kind who dominated conversation. She simply couldn’t stop talking about herself, about what she’d done, her past, interests and ambitions. I quietly listened, nodding slowly, leaning back and smiling. She gave me a fancy business card and asked me to follow her on twitter.  So I went home and did just that.

And while at first she followed back, after a few days she unfollowed me. I naturally assumed it was something I tweeted, which was nothing particularly controversial. But after having a more thorough look at her page – the number of tweets she had, followers, who she followed, and the like – it became readily apparent that something was amiss.

For a person with upwards of 2000 followers, she was somewhat lacking in tweets. This baffled me at first. Then I thought, what if other users had also done this? I was curious to see how many people had stopped following me. I found a handy app which tells you exactly who unfollows you and when. And to my surprise, there had been quite a few. Had I really offended all these people?

After a bit of searching, I found out about the “follow and dump”. This is when a fellow user will coax others into following, then simply unfollow a few days later. Not an uncommon practice, and there are even apps that help you find those susceptible to this kind of manipulation 

While it’s not exactly news that twitter has its fair share of self absorbed, egocentric maniacs, it got me thinking – what’s really more useful to a journalist, having a superficially high number of followers, or having a smaller but more engaging number of followers? Having access to more information, or having the highest twitter “ratio”?

Now I know you’re thinking, “No shit Sherlock, the internet is rife with assholes!” And I suppose you could apply that same generalisation to life outside the virtual realm. But this is a problem that is becoming increasingly frustrating. I find myself having to frequently check to see who is trying to “game” me in order to inflate their social media standing. But why?

Buying followers: booming market

Paying for likes…what’s the bloody point?

If your a regular twitter user you may often find yourself beset by messages from anonymous marketers, who promise you “10,000 followers” for 50p and a packet of skittles.  The black market for Twitter followers and similar sites is by no means a new phenomenon. For instance, I remember reading a few years back, about a Youtube channel getting two billion views removed for “artificial inflation”.

It seems then, that the market for robot follows is increasing. In fact, recent research explored accounts that had either gained or lost a large number of followers in a single day.  They found some of the biggest names in business, such as Pepsi and Louis Vuitton.  In fact, Mercedes was caught adding 28,283 followers one day in October 2012 randomly, and gained a follower increase of 20,992% from its average daily follower gain.

Overall they estimated that the industry had mushroomed to be worth up to $360 million a year.

“There is now software to create fake accounts,” one of the researchers said in an interview. “It fills in every detail. Some fake accounts look even better than real accounts do.”

So you can now quite readily buy virtual services then, for fake likes and views, costing as little as $75 for a 1000 of each. The businesses that provide them are dubbed Click Farms, and their numbers are growing at an alarming rate. Not only that, there are serious concerns about the welfare of people employed in such places.

…It is miserable work, sitting at screens in dingy rooms facing a blank wall, with windows covered by bars, and sometimes working through the night. For that, they could have to generate 1,000 likes or follow 1,000 people on Twitter to earn a single US dollar.”

It concerns me that these low skilled workers are being exploited like this. Not only is the welfare of these workers a major issue, but the clicks they generate make a companies online profile misleading. But the benefit to business is clear – prestige services create buzz, they give a sense of notoriety that the sheep-like masses flock to, much like viral marketing or paid shills. So for some big brands, paying for prestige is a sound investment, despite the questionable ethics of the practice.

Fortunately there are many efforts underway to try and combat this form of vote rigging. But it’s proving difficult to weed out these fake profiles when their behaviour is so similar to that of genuine users. But what worries me more than shady business practices, which we expect from unscrupulous marketers,  is that ordinary users might be doing the exact same thing. I mean, its not entirely unreasonable my unnamed friend the self-absorbed journalist, also invested a paltry £50 for a 1000 fake followers. It would certainly make her a lot more attractive to prospective employers.

You’ve got to listen to be heard

It’s a two way street

A lot of us use social media for so many different reasons. And sadly it seems, a lot of that is just to earn this internet prestige. Gaming the system to do this however, is just downright despicable and a simply waste of time. Even if they aren’t caught, offending persons or firms will lose out in the end.

If you’re genuine and passionate about what it is that interests you, or what your business is selling, then you won’t need to go to such extremes to influence perceptions. People value honesty more than anything. When you start manipulating and even buying likes, shares and follows, you completely miss the really useful tools sites like these have to offer. Like I said before, Twitter, reddit and the like, are ultimately what you make of it.

So I guess, my presiding message is, Facebook is not about getting the most likes, and Twitter is not about getting the most followers. It’s about reaching and engaging with the right audience. You can’t do that if you waste your time and money accumulating artificial likes and follows.

These platforms were meant to help us learn about the world and about others, and it’s a real shame that such a powerful tool is being misused by a handful of people and companies. Social media gives us the ability to listen to what other people have to say and connect with them in a way that is direct and instantaneous. With the click of a button, you can engage a million users. Something that was unfathomable just a few decades ago.  We now have the capacity to have a meaningful conversations with and even form friendships with complete strangers from across the globe with almost no hindrance. When you focus on the superficial details such as likes, followers or karma, you completely miss out on the true power of social media to gain you real influence, and not just superficially. That real prestige will come with time, all you have to do is be patient.

The prevalence of the internet has the power to impart power unto and liberate people. But that’ll only happen if we listen and engage with each other on a level playing field.

One day I was sitting outside cafe waiting for an interview. I was nervous, sweaty and usure of where I was supposed to be going. Much to my dismay was clad in a serious looking, uncomfortable business suit. There was an older man sitting next to me, who I asked for directions, and he kindly complied. A conversation soon ensued, which ebbed and flowed like any good conversation ought to. After discussing from Plato to Politics, he asked me a question, one that has stuck with me since: What is the best way to reach people?

And after some lively debate, we both wholly agreed, that you have got to be honest in your opinion, but more importantly, you have got to listen to be heard. Because it’s a two way street. You can’t expect others to follow you, and hear what you have to say, and not extend that same privilege back.

But despite my gripes with some twitter users and seedy marketing practices, there is a silver lining to all this. One thing that you can do on twitter, is unfollow someone who you think is a faker. Because no matter how much influence these users may try and buy, or game, it’ll never have the same meaning or capacity to influence as someone who has genuinely earn’t that standing. Being followed, liked, or friended, is an opportunity to learn for both parties. And if you’re willing to follow and listen to what I have to say, then regardless of how much my twitter ratio will suffer, or my apparent influence decline, I will always follow back.