Tag Archives: Facebook

Social media society: are we addicted?

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.

Quick stats:

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.

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News: how to use social media updates

Today whilst looking through my Facebook page I noticed two news organisations had posted a status update about finding the crashed plane that went missing on the Sunshine Coast on Monday.The posts both said the plane had been found but their information was different. View map of the area where the plan crashed. (Brisbane Times reported it was 4km northwest of Borumba Dam). 


(Click picture to see bigger size)

These comments were posted at the same time. Just like Susan Herthington’s example on the QUT Online Journalism blackboard site, people just want the raw facts. Susan says

“When composing tweets remember the aim is to entice your audience and inform them not annoy them. Tell them what’s happened, not just that something had happened. Not that the government has released a report. What did the report say? Not that a basketball match has been played. Who won?”

The radio station HOT 91 told us the people who were onboard the plane had died. Channel 9 News failed to tell us whether they were alive or not, which is the main question people want answered. Instead Channel 9 added a link to another story wanting to coerce viewers to open up their other stories.

If news organisations are going to utilise social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter they need to give the audience the details they want or they’ll go elsewhere to source the information. It is ineffective to say they found the plane’s crash site without adding more information.

Journalists need to realise this when they’re covering live events. People don’t want to know that the Premier is speaking outside Parliament today, they want to know what he is saying. People want dot point facts that tell us not just what but how, why, when and where.

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Trial by social media

You would’ve had to have been living under a rock not to have heard about the case of Jill Meagher in the past two weeks.


RIP Jill Meagher. Source: Mamamia.com.au

Jill Meagher, a 29-year-old ABC employee from Brunswick, Melbourne, was out drinking with work colleagues on a Friday night and into early Saturday morning.  On her way home CCTV footage shows that she was approached by a man in a blue hoodie. She failed to arrive home and a police homicide investigation was later set up.

A Facebook page was set up to help find the missing woman and accumulated more than 120, 000 likes. Ms Meagher’s body was found early Friday morning and a 41-year-old man has been arrested.

Facebook page set up to find Jill Meagher. Source: Facebook.

Related coverage on Facebook involvement in case: ABCSky NewsThe Australian.

Related articles on Jill Meagher: Herald Sun, Sydney Morning Herald

Police are now concerned that comments posted on the Facebook page could jeopardise the trial.

A name and shame Facebook page was also set up.

It’s not the first time this issue has arisen. In America jurors have been thrown out of courts for accessing information on social media sites and news sites through phones, tablets and computers.

We saw a very similar case, involving the issue of social media usage during a trial last year with the Daniel Morcombe case.

According to a Perth Now article:

“New media, including Twitter, Facebook and blogs, which broadcast to the entire world, means individuals now have a power once only held by major media organisations.”

“Because the man has been charged, any comments relating to his circumstances published prior to the conclusion of the case could lead the court to deem it impossible for him to receive a fair trial.

“The worst case scenario, according to legal expert at the Queensland University of Technology Peter Black, is that the judge grants a permanent stay of indictment because pre-trial publicity about the man was too prejudicial.”

In many cases the intent of the Facebook page is originally created to do good but many people don’t realise whilst they are venting their outrage or anger over particular actions they are also doing the case a lot of harm.

The Victorian Police asked Facebook to take down the page due to the fact that it could very well jeopardise the case involving Ms Meagher’s alleged killer, but Facebook refused.

Listen to the 3AW radio interview with the Victorian Chief Commissioner about social media usage during the trial.

In an article by the Age Kristen Boschma, the head of social media at communications firm Haystac said the level of social media engagement with the Meagher case was “unprecedented other than natural disasters in Australia”.

Although concerns are now growing over the harm social media could be doing to this trial it did play a huge part in the case.

The CCTV footage of Ms Meagher was viewed more than a million times on social media and assisted in people coming forward with further information that helped the police.

One of the reason’s it played such a major role in this case is because people like to feel a sense of connection and community, and want to feel connected to others who feel the same as them.

“Where things start to become incredible, I guess, is that Jill’s name had appeared in more than 35 million Twitter feeds in the early stages of this case and a lot of the sharing came from Australia and Ireland,” University of Canberra journalism academic Julie Posetti said.

As journalists we are taught to be very selective with what we write, whether it’s on traditional formats or online formats, to ensure we don’t publish material  that is defamatory, in contempt of court or sub judice.

Now that everyone on the internet could almost be called a journalist the same rules should apply and do apply. If members of the public want to embrace the role of a journalist when sharing breaking news or contributing in such cases as Jill Meagher’s, then they should be prepared to also take on the responsibilities that come with the territory. If they want to practice journalism they should follow the code:

MEAA Code of Ethics for journalists. Click photo for the full code.

Ms Posetti said education programs needed to be rolled out to assist with this issue.

While ‘professionally qualified journalists’ know (or should know, or know and don’t abide by the laws as we see with some shock jocks) it is the ‘citizen journalists’ who need to realise how greatly their actions can impact.

Maybe a new Twitter trend should be started now to remind or warn people not to talk about the case in a way that could cause a mis-trial.

Find here tips on what you can and can’t publish during a trial.

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