Best Friday Reads: Social Media Rules Us All, and Mints Billionaires

Humans have had a drastic physical evolution recently—one that has notably taken only a few years. While the evolution from hunched primates to homo sapiens took tens of millions of years, we needed only about a decade to develop an arched neck that is perennially looking down at a smartphone—presumably one with a social media app open.

Whether or not social media is healthy for or bodies—or minds—it now influences every aspect of our life, in particular the economy, with companies from Facebook to Snap now worth billions. It’s important to take some time to review a selection of the most interesting reads from the past week about the world of social media and the technology underpinning it. And what better day than Friday?

How 20-Year-Old Kylie Jenner Built A $900 Million Fortune In Less Than 3 Years
Sure, maybe Kylie Jenner’s fortune is less of a mystery than Forbes pretends it is: She’s a Kardashian and her cosmetic line does hundreds of millions of dollars in sales each year. But there’s another reason for her sustained (and early) success: social media.

Sex, Beer, and Coding: Inside Facebook’s Wild Early Days
Want to know what the wild and crazy early days of Facebook were like? No? Oh, well… OK. I guess you could read it for the insight into how the most influential media platform in (modern?) history was built—or if you want to read some occasionally funny, self-congratulatory quotes from men who appear to believe they are the smartest people to have ever lived.

“Google Was Not a Normal Place”: Brin, Page, and Mayer on the Accidental Birth of the Company That Changed Everything
Vanity Fair
Adam Fisher is doing the rounds to promote his new book, an oral history of breakout Web 2.0 companies titled “Valley of Genius.” If you didn’t get enough talk about disruption from the bits about Facebook in Wired, here’s another excerpt, this one spotlighting Google.

Oprah, Is That You? On Social Media, the Answer Is Often No.
The New York Times
Ah, life as a celebrity: Private jets. Fancy hotels. Presumably all the goat yoga you want. But what about social media identity theft? The New York Times investigates the prevalence of fake accounts that pretend to be the rich and famous. (The blue checkmarks that appear on “verified” accounts are apparently not a strong enough differentiator.) No, there’s no mention of President Trump. On a related note, Twitter is currently working on a way to cut out banned or dead accounts from a user’s follower count.

As Inflation Soars, Facebook Drives Trading in Argentina’s Barter Clubs
Argentinean barter clubs, organized on Facebook, have become an economic indicator for South America’s second-largest economy, Reuters reports.

Violent Protests Force Uganda Government to Review Social Media Tax
Government imposes social media tax in Uganda. People protest.

Venture Funding Keeps Momentum Amid IPO Wave; Plus Q2’s Top 10 Deals
Have a startup? There’s plenty of venture capital money out there for grabs? VC investments in 2018 are well on their way to break last year’s record-setting pace. The same is true for Texas.

Get Ready for Rolling Background Checks at Work
Given the numerous incidents at Uber and other ridesharing apps, and greater awareness of sexual harassment, the background screening industry is thriving. One of the latest trends is companies requiring their workers to pass a background check not only to get hired, but to keep the job they already have.

Russian Company Had Access to Facebook User Data Through Apps and Facebook to Give Scholars Petabyte of Data on Misinformation
Surprise! A Russian tech conglomerate tied to the Kremlin had access to Facebook user’s data after they weren’t intended to. Meanwhile, Facebook just gave a bunch of scholars loads of data to sift through to see what influence Cambridge Analytica had on the 2016 election.

Facebook is Slapped with First Fine for Cambridge Analytica Scandal
The Washington Post
So what was the consequence for the Cambridge Analytica scandal? Facebook has received a $664,000 fine (so far) from U.K. watchdogs. Yes, not even $1 million. I got a $14 fine in Portland, OR, in June for driving 53 MPH in a 45 zone. That’s a higher percentage of my annual income than Facebook’s fine is a percentage of its annual net operating cash flow ($24.2 billion). If I just get a raise to $510,000 a year, it’s about equal!

Cyber Trend: Hackers Love to Steal Data; Next, They Might Weaponize It
Because it didn’t make it into the last Friday Reads column, which was on cybersecurity, here is a fascinating story about the potential weaponization of data.

In Celebration of Bruce Bigelow: Our Memories, His Playlist
This is the best (and saddest) read you’ll have all month. Our colleague, Bruce Victor Bigelow, passed away on June 29. Read about his life and accomplishments.

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at [email protected] Follow @xconholley

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