Benefiting in someone else’s backyard

I spend a lot of my free time on YouTube. Lately, I’ve been using it as a resource to learn about self-producing videos – one of my primary objectives for this year.

It’s pretty incredible to see the sheer abundance of really well-produced videos.

And I’m always envious of those who can travel around the world, eating everywhere and vlogging their tales to share with everyone.

And many make a very good living doing this. Wouldn’t we all love to ditch our occupations for a 24/7 hobby of globetrotting and making movies about our adventures?

This all sounds wonderful indeed, and the same sort of envy applies to the influencers across other social media platforms… but there’s something always concerning at the same time.

Content creators benefit handsomely but only through a private, closed platform such as YouTube.

It’s an unfortunate reality that we often reflexively think of Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc. as open platforms, in the sense that anyone can freely join in for the fun. This is only reinforced by the fact that we rely on one or more of these as an integral part of our daily lives.

Because of this, it’s very easy to forget that each platform is singularly owned by one entity that exerts absolute control. They’re free to access, but they’re not open source by any means. They’re not the open web, nor are these properties in the public domain.

I’ve discussed something along these lines with Medium. But it’s the same with other social media companies. They set the rules – and they can, and often do change policies with no advance notice.

Even just the simple accessibility of your account can suddenly be blocked at their own discretion. When it does happen, it usually has to do with some variant of violating their terms of service.

You may be a YouTuber focusing on the most innocent of topics for your content. Then one day, something extremely controversial in the news makes you compelled to speak out aggressively, in a manner that YouTube deems offensive and in violation of your terms of service. They could respond by locking you out of our account.

It’s not an exaggeration. It’s a reality. There have been some publicized horror stories along these lines.

And depending on the circumstances, you may have few options for recourse.

When it comes to social media, everyone should realize that content ownership can be, at best, a gray area.

Yes, it’s true that you own whatever you create offline and save for your records, whether it be photos, videos, or written content.

But followers, likes, timelines, posts, comments, and chats – the essential currencies of social media influencing prowess? That’s a whole different story. Correct me if I’m wrong, but they’re not your property.

Enjoy the advantages of social media as a publishing and promotional platform. But always be aware of the limitations when it comes to content ownership, as well as the policies relevant to conduct and objectionable content.