We all hate spam. Spam is useless, it fills up too much of our email space and it takes a lot of time to get rid of. That’s why email providers invented filters. They wanted everyone to be rid of everything associated to spam.
In today’s age, we’re not restricted to email. Most of our conversations happen on social networks and email is reserved for sending documents or larger conversations (or maybe the occasional person who’s still not on any social network). There’s some protection from spam in social networks because it’s in the benefit of the network providers to prevent non-sense from entering a user’s feed (this is, of course, not true for Facebook). Thus there are enough ways to block spam (ban the spamming friend or application, set filters or use hardware to detect spam) or to avoid it (by overlooking certain posts) that we’re no longer too worried about spam. But what about ham?
Huh? Now what the heck is ham? I am a 90s generation kid, so most of my Internet love story began with Yahoo and GMail. In GMail, some years ago, I noticed a new filter they had introduced to help reduce ham in our inbox (I’m certain that the origin of this term goes beyond GMail). They defined ham to be legitimate emails that friends and family send our way that may not actually be very useful to us. Examples being – forwarded chain mails and corporate newsletters. They claimed, rightfully, that such emails take too much of the user’s time and don’t provide as much value as should be gained from them. Thus, GMail has been protecting us from both ham and spam, rather effectively all these years.
What about social networks? Those of you on twitter, ever noticed those few accounts who only post articles from their ‘read later’ list without any context or commentary? On Facebook, ever received a flood of posts about this cool new game or app you should join? That’s social network ham. You can avoid it, but it’s part of our lives. Most of us don’t even think about it because the occasional app invite or the occasional posted article link is actually useful. We believe that following such and such famous person on twitter is actually useful to us. Or we think that our techie friends on Facebook are actually helping us by inviting us to cool new apps. Well, that’s all nonsense. That article poster probably doesn’t read all of them, just reposts things he likes. If he did, he’d have some opinion about it or would know why he’s sharing it with his innumerable twitter friends. As for that Facebook inviter, she just wants some extra points in the app. She doesn’t care if you derive any kind of benefit from it as long as you sign up and give her the points. That’s the problem with social media right now. It’s so much about ourselves that we don’t realize that we’re wasting others’ time by posting stuff only marginally useful to anyone but us.
What’s the solution to this? Unsubscribe from that twitter friend. He’s not giving you enough benefit. Block that Facebook app and if your friend persists in sending you Farmville invites, block her too. But isn’t that cardinal offense? No it’s not. Social media are supposed to be useful, even when you’re passing time. So if your friends aren’t posting stuff that’s useful to you, it’s ham. block it, filter it, hide it. Get rid of the ham in your life.