Let me start by saying I actually do love the technology behind Facebook. At it’s best, it lets families and friends connect and stay in touch or it brings people together to support community events. It’s the misuse of FB and other social media platforms—beyond the 2016 election--that sparked this rant because all those “faketoids” on FB can have such a negative impact on Latinas.
A year before the furry over Cambridge Analytica’s hijacking of information to sway the 2016 election, the Harvard Business Review published an article reporting that the more a person uses FB, the more likely they are to report reduced physical and mental health and poor overall life satisfaction. At the core of this research is how much users basically compare their lives to the lives of those they see in their media feed and make negative conclusions—my life isn’t that interesting, my friends don’t care as much about me, or my career/family/house/significant other/children/parents/car/ aren’t good enough.
So let’s get real on the big three “faketoids” on social media: fake news, fake friendships, and even fake entrepreneurs. Given the high use of social media by Latinas—This is a call to action to own our experience, manage our participation, and most importantly: minimize the damage. Technology should work for us not against our well-being so let’s be smart about it!
The first “faketoid” to address: Fake news. While there is lots of coverage on the fake news about politics in the US, social media spreads fake stories on every topic. One of the fake stories with a huge impact on Latinas is about who received DACA and the fate of Dreamers. Those stories not only create even more anxiety for those with uncertain status, they also undermine our legitimacy in the eyes of employers, lending institutions, or other voters. These stories fuel the fear and the bias. If you need to know the latest on DACA, turn to a reputable site like United We Dream and trust only the links to reputable news sources.
If the fake news isn’t demoralizing enough, what about fake friends? Social media often creates a frenzy around connecting with others for the sake of connecting—even with people you don’t know all that well. Soon enough those connections can reveal any number of issues. This past year I’ve seen several Latinas take on publicly what otherwise in the past would have been a private conversation between friends in conflict. Ultimately, it’s an ugly display of a lack of respect for differences.
Latinas are some of the most diverse women on the planet---we are single, married, gay, gender neutral, introverts, extroverts, multi-ethnic, low income, top earners, physicians, cooks, lawyers, nurses, teachers, mechanics, engineers, trainers, soldiers, peace officers, business owners, clerical workers, Democrats, Republicans and then some. This diversity is our fundamental strength until someone makes less of another person because they don’t fit the ideal image of a Latina or they see the world through a different lens. Just because someone friended you doesn’t mean they get who you are or what you do. Real friendships take time, real friends accept differences, and yes real friendships are built on some elements of common ground. Regardless of how long you’ve known someone, social media is not the place to resolve a disagreement.
The last set of “Faketoids” swirling in social media are all those enticing programs about becoming a successful entrepreneur. This is a huge risk for Latinas who are now setting up small businesses at a record pace throughout the nation. Roughly 227 Latinas open a new business in the US every day! As of 2017 there are 1.9 Million Latina owned business generating $103 Billion in revenues. But that journey can be exceptionally hard if the business model isn’t tested, if the financing is your own savings account, or if your great idea isn’t getting traction. The average earnings for Latina owned business is $52,000 per year compared to $210,000 earned by white women owned businesses. What’s the reason for this disparity?
One is the nature of businesses that Latinas establish. Many are in the service sector with smaller profit margins. The other may well be the result of the misinformation put out there on what it takes to start and run a profitable business.
Given the low cost of advertising---anyone can take a few hundred dollars and create an amazing website, use FB marketing ads, self-publish a book on their laptop, or create snazzy video that serves as click bait. Before buying that quick fix start up kit—try reputable sources that feature the ups and downs of being an business owner, give away free services, or connect you with entrepreneurs where you can learn what it means to build a business from scratch. At the very least, do your homework and ask for references from entrepreneurs that have truly built a successful business.
What “faketoids” have you spotted lately? Let’s get real and call them out!