In one of my other subects at QUT this week we had to respond to stimlus for an exam. The article I chose to respond to was one by The Age called Status Update: we don’t like Facebook. The creation of the Web 2.0 culture has meant that we’re programmed to live and breathe with technology, especially social media, but a focus group study on the article actually says respondents are sick of our naracism on social media.
You only have to type the word Facebook and the words addiction or disorder into a Google search to bring up an in-depth list of articles and information on our culture and our obsession with Facebook. One study in Germany even goes as far to say that we’re more allured to checking our social media updates than we are to sex. The Age also wrote another article focused on studies and statistics about social media usage.
11.26 million Australians visited Facebook in August this year.
In April the average time an Australian spent on Facebook was eight hours, 29 minutes and 43 seconds.
About 2.3 million Australians used Twitter in August
About 1 million checked out Pinterest.
So in my exam I did some of my own research and conducted my own interviews to get a broader view on whether or not we’re obsessed with social media and if so, why? I also explored the idea that we’re very narcissistic online. Here’s what I had to say:
“What is it about social media that has made us so obsessed? University of Queensland lecturer in strategic communication Dr Sean Rintel believes it is because people can keep connected with friends no matter what, day or night, and technology is simply amplifying trends and communication that already existed before social media. “Some people just want to keep on getting that little high from every time they see a like or a comment,” he says.
We are now a society plagued with technological dependency that we can hardly exist without a phone, tablet or computer within 100 meters of us. To top it all off Facebook has just hit one billion active users.
Dr Rintel argues that society’s self-absorbance on Facebook is like a cycle and we are just hamsters on a wheel with a piece of cheese dangled in front of us. “If people are getting positive feedback from things like ‘I just ate a sandwich’ or whatever, it’s not surprising that they continue to do more things like that because they know they get positive reinforcements,” he says. “Who doesn’t love positive reinforcement and because Facebook only has a “like” button not a “dislike” button, so people can only receive positive encouragement.” Dr Rintel argues technology cannot make us do anything. It cannot make us become narcissistic because there is no casual relationship to support that but it has given us a tool to exaggerate such attributes.
Anna Davison a teacher at Gympie State High School looks out from her desk at the front of the classroom to a sea of about 20 students, many of them looking down at their crutch. “I know what they’re doing when they have their eyes down there,” she says. Like a fungus has slowly eaten away at their brains, students now sit zombified in classrooms across the world. When Ms Davison asks for a reason behind such a lack of class involvement, a common reply is “miss I am just really tired, I don’t really want to do what we are doing because I was on Facebook until 2 am this morning,” she explains.
But when it comes to narcissism in the young people she teaches Ms Davison admits she doesn’t think it has increased because of social media. “I remember 10 years ago when my daughter and her friends were growing up, they would get out our old digital camera and take pictures of themselves around the house or out and about,” she says.
“It’s not so much about being obsessed with what they look like, I find we’re more addicted about letting everyone know where we are and what we’re doing,” she says when reflecting on Facebook. “I find it interesting when people post pictures of something fun and different but I really don’t want to know what my friends and daughter are eating for breakfast, I think that is so boring and mind numbing.”
Although we are somewhat addicted to Facebook and social networking, a report by Ipsos Mackay obtained by The Age newspaper illustrates a trend in people turning away from the site. The article stated that the newest trend was people being critical about the narcissistic culture and self-absorption on Facebook.
Once upon a time in a pre-Web 2.0 world if someone was talking to us about themselves or self-indulgent topics we could just walk away. We could take immediate action and no-longer be subjected to such behaviour. But now even if we wanted to walk away we can’t, we have become a technologically programmed society and our interactivity and sense of connectedness no longer just stems through the people we see face-to-face but the virtual relationships we share.
In a New York Times article Larry D. Rosen, a California psychologist who studies the impact of technology use on society says our relationship with Facebook is not so much about addiction but rather connected to anxiety. “Addictions are about finding pleasure,” he says. “Compulsions are born from anxiety, and Facebook is psychologically important. It allows us to project on the world, in a way that we’ve never been able to before, who we are and what we want to say about ourselves.”
He adds, “We are always checking to see if anyone posted on our wall, if they liked a photo, responded to an update. For those who use it, they are feeling more of a need to look at it and check in and reduce the anxiety of feeling like they are missing out on something.”
As Martin Hurst highlights in his 2011 book New 2.0, “social networking is the face – or perhaps the screen – on which convergence culture plays to a global audience that is both consumer and ‘producer’. Hurst also agrees with Dr Sean Rintel in saying that a YouTube study conducted by Hewlett-Packard social media laboratories found that the more attention a person’s content receives, the more likely they are to upload more content.
Traditionally when you mention that you’re studying journalism or are a journalist people would never automatically connect the profession with the internet or social media. For me, especially thanks to the subject Online Journalism, I now associate journalism the internet, social media, Twitter and smart phones. So for me studying journalism, I guess I am destined to become a social media addict – that’s if I want to succeed in my job now and into the future. But maybe hold off on the narcassim.