The Thinker: Rich Galen

  
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Mullings by Rich Galen ®
An American Cyber-Column By Rich Galen
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Followers & Friends

Rich Galen

Monday January 29, 2017

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  • I have 4,768 "friends" on Facebook. I know about 28 of them.

  • I have 1,249 Linked In "connections." I know, probably 100 of them.

  • I have 7,181 Twitter "followers." I have no idea how many I may know.

  • This is an issue because over the weekend, the New York Times published a pretty big piece on a small company known as Devumi which, according to the article:
    "Sells Twitter followers and retweets to celebrities, businesses and anyone who wants to appear more popular or exert influence online. Drawing on an estimated stock of at least 3.5 million automated accounts, each sold many times over, the company has provided customers with more than 200 million Twitter followers."

  • This matters because of the enormous amount of influence "social media" now exerts on our daily discussions.

  • Donald Trump (47.2 million Twitter followers), as we know, has made communication through his Twitter accounts a major industry. I don't doubt that the vast majority of Trump's followers are legit today (I am one of them); but, it would not surprise me if Trump had used a service like Devumi to pump up his follower numbers in the early days of his campaign.

  • This is not the first time the issue of phony followers has come up. In 2011, for instance, Time Magazine published a story that up to 92 percent of Newt Gingrich's 1.3 million followers were purchased.

  • It is true that 106,000 real followers is nothing to sneeze at, it is also true that major celebrities - politicians, show biz folks, and the like - are using these inflated numbers to blow up their influence either within their circle of friends and colleagues, or to exhibit magnified stature to the Twitter-verse at large.

  • Newt's spokesman at the time, R. C. Hammond denied the claim saying, ""Any accusation of the kind is a lie, a smear and unsubstantiated."

  • I only singled out Gingrich because I remember the incident, but these fake Follower agencies are in business because they have a lot of other people who want to inflate their numbers.

  • How did I get over 4,700 Facebook Friends? When I first joined Facebook in 2008 or 2009 I noticed that I had 12 friends but a guy who I didn't like very much had 17 friends.

  • This is a true story.

  • I knew I had more friends than that guy, and decided that having Friends was a contest, so I started promoting my Facebook presence and accepting anyone - EVERYone - who requested Friendship.

  • Back in those days, there was a cap of 5,000 friends on a personal account and a real friend said she wanted to be my 5,000th so I watched, literally, from the Iowa State Fairgrounds as my Friends number climbed through the 4,500s, the 4,800s and finally to 4,999. I called her and she "Friended" me to become my 5,000th Friend.

  • I never look at my Facebook page. In fact, I had to go into my double-super-secret password file to find out to get into my Facebook account to write this.

  • My Tweets also feed my Facebook timeline, so people think if they respond horribly to something I've written on Twitter (or in Mullings) they will cause me dyspepsia.

  • In fact, occasionally someone will poke their head into my office and say, "You're getting blown up on Facebook!"

  • I don't care. I don't see it.

  • But, if I were at a different stage in my career I might care. A good deal. I might care enough to buy hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers and respond to Facebook trolls, if only to keep my name in front of bookers at CNN, Fox or MSNBC.

  • That, in turn, would likely get me more facetime on the cable panels, which would allow me to push my point-of-view to a couple of million people at a time, which might alter - if only by a couple of degrees - the course of conversation about a major topic.

  • This business of fake Followers may not be illegal, but it is not without consequence.

  • My Twitter handle, by the way, is @richgalen.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the NY Times story, to the Gingrich story and to the definition of an "Internet Troll." The Mullfoto is of my dog tag issued by the New Jersey Army National Guard 50 years ago.

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