How Sharing On Social Media Can Affect Your Reputation

TIME WAITS FOR NO ARTIST

how to spot fake news 

How long did it take you to create that piece of art? The answer is always the same, it took me my entire life to date. You might be tempted to say a couple of hours or however long it actually took you to set the paint on the canvas. When you attend an exhibition and someone comes up to you to ask about the process think carefully about the question. Your latest piece is the output of everything you have learned, witnessed, experienced, and dreamed of, over a lifetime. Your next piece will have taken you even longer than the last. 

2016 has been a rather odd year in terms of my artistic output. Never in more than 30-years of creating, have I produced less art in a twelve-month period. My busiest year ever was 2014-2015 when I produced nearly a hundred new works, this year, I have produced around twenty or so.

Why the sudden slow down? Something struck me at the beginning of this year and it was that I was starting to become tired of meeting my own self-driven deadlines to create something and it was wearing me out. I even thought that there was no way I could continue creating art at all, well at least not at this pace. I had also started to experiment with new techniques and they were taking me longer, the result was worth the extra time. 

The reason I set myself ridiculous deadlines to have the final piece for sale was one that I had never experienced in all of my years before 2014. I’m not too sure exactly what happened but I felt that I just wasn’t producing enough output. I felt I had to constantly create, and when I wasn’t creating I was writing. There was no me time at all. In 2015 it was nearly the same as in 2014, but things started to happen to me in 2016 that meant I had no choice other than to slow down.

I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease after 20-years of being misdiagnosed, and I had sustained a shoulder injury which required some painful surgery and even more painful exercise. In between, I had as usual been doing silly hours in my day job, and there were moments again when I almost gave up my art and even this blog. 

I would have really great days, work would sell, commissions would come in, and I would feel fine with the Crohn’s. Then there were days when nothing sold and my Crohn’s would flare and life became ever more challenging. Despite thinking of giving up I knew I couldn’t.

It takes around five years and sometimes more for a blog to start paying its way, and it can take anywhere between a moment and a lifetime to be discovered as an artist. What if that moment happened earlier, what if suddenly my blog started to earn its keep? It could be in five minutes, it could be in five years, but I realised it would be never if I gave up.

So I decided to get back to what I knew and loved as an artist before 2014, and that was to just create what I want to create, and more importantly when I wanted to create it. I took away my own self-driven deadlines and I fell in love with art all over again. 

Art should be fun and for a time I wasn’t having as much fun as I had been having say ten years ago. Sure there were moments, but they were quickly outweighed by everything else that was going on.

The art world is a tough industry, I have artist friends who have yet to sell anything at all and some of those friends have been creating art longer than I have been alive. Yet they continue to create art and they try to market it themselves, but they seem to have reached the same conclusion as me, art should be fun and it should be a way to relax, not something else that feels like a chore, because that is a sure fire way to omit something that all art needs, passion.

So when I pondered the question recently about how long it took to create a piece of art, my answer from this day forward will be a lifetime. And if it takes a few months longer, it really doesn’t matter because I would much rather feel passion for a few more days or weeks or months, than to showcase something lifeless and without soul.

The amazing thing is that since I have started focussing more on me, I have been invited by galleries to exhibit, I have been asked to join a curated print on demand site, and I have been selling more work than I ever did in 2014. By focussing a little more on me, I am starting to see awesome.

So here is a New Year’s resolution that I hope at least some of you will join me in, let’s make 2017 super awesome by focussing more on ourselves a little more!

I will be publishing a post very soon specifically around Crohn’s Disease. There have been so many people coming forward over the past twelve-months telling of their plight of living with various hidden disabilities, so I thought I would help support the education of Crohn’s Disease and hopefully raise awareness of hidden disabilities in general. So please do come back and take a look at the most difficult blog I have ever written!

SOCIAL MEDIA

social media or social engineering 

Fake news has been at the forefront of social media stories over the last few months and I must say that some of the stories have been made clearly not from a satirical humour, but with purpose. That purpose is of course to make you believe that what you are reading is true, and its big business, I mean really big business.

Many of the fake news websites that were set up during the U.S election have been traced to a small city in Macedonia. The main driver for these sites is advertising revenue, and some of the teenagers involved in these sites were making more from advertising in a single day, than this site generates in a single year. Source: BBC

Many of the stories then appeared on Facebook and other social-media platforms and people were taken in. Disinformation as it is known has been used by governments around the world for years as a mechanism to provide incorrect but believable information to unsuspecting enemies, but this time it is being used purely to target individuals and often luring the reader to sites that look amazingly similar to the large news websites.

Whilst some would say that the main news agencies often make stuff up, some of the news that has been written by these sites has been literally beyond belief. Yet we still get sucked in to sharing their posts and importantly, hurting ourselves in the process.

During the Presidential election, many stories originated from these sites that weren’t in any way true. Allegedly the Pope had endorsed Donald Trump for president, (he didn’t), and these stories spread across platforms like Facebook because so many people were stunned at what they were reading and in some cases appeared to be from legitimate sources.

It isn’t a new thing though, many of the fake sites have been running for a number of years and there are now comprehensive lists of those sites available online so that you can avoid visiting them. One such resource is here   and I have literally over the past couple of months unliked them and banished them from my feeds to the point that there are very few sites and pages that I now click like, love, or wow, on.

The stories on these sites are sometimes carefully crafted, and sometimes not so well crafted for the sole purpose of generating viewers which in turn generates revenue from adverts appearing on the site. In fact, in most cases the adverts are the most truthful part of the site.

Their deceptions play to consumers worst fears and rather than provide an alternative view on the real news, they simply destroy any truth altogether.

The sheer number of these sites that have sprung up over the last couple of years is as surprising as it is not. As I said earlier, and as the BBC reported, there is big money in play. History teachers have been battling with historic revisionism for a long time, attempting to distinguish fact from fiction for many years, but for the general public who engage with social-media, it is a relatively new thing.

Accessing these sites has never been easier, and people are able to contribute to the recording of history, and just as easily distort it. So I continue to be surprised even now more people are aware of the issue around this online scourge, that news still gets shared. What’s more, if it gets shared on your business pages or even on your personal social media profiles, it could actually end up hurting not only your reputation, but also your sales.

HOW TO SPOT A FAKE

If you rely on social media to market your art the last thing you want to do is to endorse fake news as it could seriously harm your reputation much quicker than you built it. So here are a few things that you can do to spot a fake.

1. Many of the photographs and videos used within the stories are old or have been heavily Photoshopped. Make sure that the images, videos, and sound bites match the actual story. Use Google reverse image search to verify the photograph.

2. Check major news outlets on their official sites, Facebook pages, and social media networks. Chances are if none of them are reporting the same thing as little Billy’s site does, it probably isn’t true.

3. Check out sites like Snopes.com  It is like a who’s who of previously reported fake news which is often regurgitated over time to convince yet more people. Every six months we hear that Facebook will change its user settings tomorrow and everything you post will be theirs. It won’t. This one has been doing the rounds for many years. You can only review or sign up to the terms of service through the registration of your account, and no matter what you post on your own timeline that you disagree will not change the terms of service that you originally signed up to.

4. Check the about us page on the website. There are some parody sites which do not attempt to cover up the fact that the news they report isn’t real. The genuine parody sites will display a disclaimer usually in the about us page.

5. Check the website address. It might look like it has come from a valid source and indeed the site may even replicate one of a major broadcaster but the website address will usually give it away. If you see sites with .com.co or something that looks a little out of the ordinary, then it is a fair bet to say that the site is probably fake.

6. Check the website domain through services such as whois. These will ask you to type or paste in the address and will generate a report about the sites owners. Very often the sites will have been created only a few days or weeks ago, and as soon as one site vanishes, many more will spring up.
7. Use search engines such as Google and Bing. If the news is real, the chances are extremely high that many others sites will be reporting it too. If no one else is reporting it, ask yourself why.

8. If the story is so blatantly outrageous that can also be a red flag, but then life is often so blatantly outrageous that Stanford University researchers found that students cannot determine what is real and what is fake. If that sounds like fake news you might want to visit Stanford's site here  which is a real Stanford University site with a real piece of research.

9. Decide whether your own opinion is influencing what you read. Are you happier to believe a story because you like the content, but removing your own bias is the key, as is following your gut instinct.

10. There are also two other things that are characteristic of fake news sites. Firstly the article is usually written in a way that ensures lots of low value trending keywords are used. This actually takes some doing. I use relevant keywords only on this site, but there are many who trawl through keyword tools online and utilise the highest ranking ones to generate traffic.
 
And finally beware of the headlines which make you want to click on the link to find out more. I have noticed a lot more of these over the last twelve-months, with headlines such as twelve ways to earn a million in the next month. You get the idea. It is so important to look at the story behind the headline and then decide if the article is worth sharing.

Whilst all of this seems a little onerous just to share a piece of news, it will preserve your online reputation. Sharing stuff because you want to believe the content or because it makes you roll on the floor laughing without a little research is just helping these fake sites to earn substantial amounts of revenue.

A quick search in Google or Bing is really quick, and if you only take this action to check out fake news stories, the amount of fake news will decrease. Imagine you have 100-friends on Facebook and they each have 100-friends on Facebook, and 10% of everyone’s friends re-share the post, that is 1,000 people who will be spreading the post and making it go viral, earning yet more money for the people who churn this stuff out.

For the sake of a few minutes you can not only keep your reputation intact, you can help to reduce the spread of this latest harmful trend.

VOUCHERS

There are other types of websites that try to suck you in to sharing too.  These are the sites who offer vouchers to use in your local store. Very often they will say that you will receive a massive discount from your grocery bill, except you will feel foolish when it comes to redeeming them.

Look for spelling mistakes, or logos with additional pixels protruding. In some cases they will also ask you to click on a link to receive the voucher, usually this is a way that hackers use to steal your Facebook and other social media account login credentials.

It always amazes me when I see posts that say “OMG! My account has been hacked” as if it were a complete surprise. In this modern day and age and still one of the best ways to harvest login information is to use social engineering. Essentially you are giving them the keys to your digital life.

Some of the online quizzes which spring up and ask you to validate Facebook passwords to link the account can also be used to harvest login information, replicating Facebook login pages which don't come from Facebook at all. Very often these scammers will wait for a while before accessing your account because they know that a large majority of people will not change their password frequently. In other words, they have time enough to distance themselves from the scam that could have been set up months ago. 

Some go so far as to post reminders periodically in an almost subliminal attempt to get you to buy in to a scam down the line without you knowing it's a scam. It is a technique that has been used as a face to face tactic by con artists for years, now it's time to move operations online because actually it's easier. Social engineering isn't even that difficult because no one expects it or indeed knows too much about it. 

When accessing a website which looks like it belongs to a company or organisation, check it out first. Many scammers will recreate a website almost to the very last detail. Once the victim is on the website they will enter their information in good faith, giving the hackers everything that they need. 

In some cases entering your phone number in to these sites can cost you big time. The phone numbers are called but the caller hangs up so out of curiosity you will call back. Except that the call back gets rerouted through to a premium rate number and you will have a hefty bill next time you pay your phone company. 

Be wary of giving out you address too, these scammers will claim that they need it in order to send you out a prize, but this is just another ruse that they use to get you to handover you online identity so that they can get to work on stealing your identity in full.

As long as you take precautions and are aware of some of these scams you will reduce the likelihood of becoming another target. Generally if it sounds to good to be true, well you know the rest. 

NEARLY CHRISTMAS

It is nearly the Christmas holidays and I hope that everyone takes some time to relax, but most of all I want to say a big thank you to everyone who reads this blog week after week, and to each and every one of you who have supported me by purchasing my art.

Without each of you supporting me in some way I am not too sure I would have been writing this blog today, you really are all very special.

My publishing schedule over the holidays might be a little scattered, I am planning to get some flight time in with the drones ready to take my drone operators exam hopefully in 2017, and I will be working on a new artwork, as well as enjoying some much needed family time.

In the meantime you can view my art at Pixels and follow my Facebook page here and you can follow me on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Instagram @beechhousemedia

Have a great week!

merry Christmas  


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