You would think I would have learnt by now not to make or accept bets. I always lose. I’m rash, over-confident and, frankly, stupid, when it comes to wagers. Recently, I lost a hundred bucks to The Wykehamist over a debate about a bottle of shampoo. Fortunately for me, he has generously not felt it necessary to come knocking on my door for the cash, preferring the smug satisfied feeling of simply knowing that he was right, and the sight of the look of horror on my face when I realized I shouldn’t have been quite so cocky being plentiful reward.
My latest act of idiocy has been to accept a bet with him, whereby the loser has to foot the bill for dinner at Nobu. I haven’t started saving yet – the challenge runs to the end of this year, so my misguided sense of optimism about my ability is still fresh. The deal on which this bet hangs? Well, it’s complicated.
Klout, a San Francisco based operation, cite themselves as “a killer team of scientists and engineers”, who use data from social networks to measure “influence based on your ability to drive action”. From my non-killer scientist viewpoint, I think that basically means they trawl your Facebook. Instagram, Twitter, G+, YouTube, and other accounts to see how much and with whom you interact. It’s all a little cloudy in my mind, I’m afraid. Anyway, you end up with a Klout Score – a number between 1 and 100 – and the higher the number, the more influence you are supposed to have. For example, if they were registered to Klout, Ellen DeGeneres would have a score of 89; Barack Obama, 94; David Cameron, 53; Victoria Beckham, 74. And yes, that is alarming. It’s not as straightforward as it seems, however, There is a confusing system of being able to award people Klout Points as a reward for being “influential” in certain topics. I, for example, have been awarded points (either automatically by Klout, or by people nominating topics for me) for Blogging; Parenting; and English Language. Fair enough. The amusing glitches in the system are highlighted, however, that by the same measure, I am also an apparent expert on NASA. Me? I still have doubts that there has really been a moon landing. There is clearly something peculiar going on with Klout’s search engines.
The bet I have accepted is that if my Klout score is higher than that of The Wykehamist by the end of December 2012, he will buy me dinner. And vice versa.
My score currently stands at 46. The Wykehamist has steadily crept up from 38 to 42. He has gone very quiet on Twitter of late, which leads me to believe he has something up his sleeve and is biding his time for a major onslaught. I am not resting easy on my laurels right now. The trouble is, I am very choosy about how I use social media and I am not willing to compromise my attitude towards it just to win a bet.
I have been a Facebook user for a few years now. I have an account for a distinct purpose – to keep in touch with around 100 of my friends. If the number of people I am friends with on Facebook gets much above that, I automatically ‘Unfriend’ people with whom I have little interaction, to make space for others. To me, Facebook is a place where I can share photographs, banter and communicate with people whom I wouldn’t otherwise necessarily get to see or talk to, but who – I would like to think – would come to my funeral. Or at least send some decent flowers. I can’t fathom how other Facebook users can maintain interaction with hundreds of ‘Friends’. I guess they’re not friends, they are there for some other reason – business promotion, event organizing, or simply an ego-boosting exercise.
I am a security obsessive when it comes to Facebook. My account has been hacked, twice, in the past year, which I found very unnerving, so I change my password regularly, hide my list of friends from view, I don’t tag photos, I demand requests from others to post anything about me, I get an email notification if someone has tried to access my account from any computer other than ones I have identified and I get very frustrated with people who haven’t bothered to check their privacy settings. You’d be amazed at how few clicks it takes to find your way into a friend’s friend’s friend’s photo album. Try it – it’ll make you rethink your openness.
Twitter, on the other hand, is much newer to me and serves a totally different purpose. Initially I considered Twitter to be like Facebook, but for young people people with some kind of attention deficit disorder. The feed moves so quickly, at first it really is hard to keep up. I follow an eclectic bunch of people: Stephen Fry, whom I consider one of the most intelligent men on earth; Ron Garan, an astronaut on the ISS, who sends amazing pictures of our fabulous planet seen from Space; British Vogue; BBC Breaking News; BMW; Character Cottages, a company who let and manage luxury holiday properties in the Cotswolds; and various comedians, writers, novelists, columnists and publishers. Before setting up my account, I found Nicola Morgan’s Tweet Right – The Sensible Person’s Guide to Getting Started on Twitter (Crabbit Publishing, 2011) immensely useful. She gives hints on how to get started, guidelines on Twitter etiquette and offers reassuring advice about how to find your ‘nice’ corner of the Twitter world, where you can pursue your interests, learn about whatever you want to learn about and be entertained. Courtesy of Twitter, I have information to hand - in one place – about many topics which I wouldn’t have the time or inclination to find otherwise. I have read novels I hadn’t heard of, bought tickets to events I didn’t previously know about, have been made to laugh out loud or forced to form an opinion, I have been kept up to date and generally had my eyes opened. My scorn has turned to dependency.
Following Tweeters is one thing, being followed is quite another. I don’t have many followers (I tend not to comment much on Twitter – it still feels odd to consider responding to something tweeted by the Dalai Lama) and the followers I do have are, more often than not, computer generated robots. Normally trying to sell me porn. Though I guess that must be helping my Klout score, so I’ll take the interest. That’s the great thing about Twitter, though – seeing as you don’t personally know the people with whom you’re interacting, it is very easy to press the blue “Unfollow” button if you no longer find them entertaining or interesting. If only you could do that in ‘real’ life.