love-hate social media meaningfully digital

My love-hate relationship with Social Media (feat. an interview with Dua Lipa)

This is a post related to “Web 2.0 and Social Media Marketing”, the topic for week 2 of the “Digital Marketing” course that I’m currently undertaking at RMIT.

I created this Spotify Playlist while writing this article, feel free to give it a go while you read the following lines:)

I consider myself an avid social media user and I bet that chances are that you are too. Actually, according to this report by Statista, 7 out of 10 Internet users are active in social media. We probably feel that platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter become useful tools to stay connected to the rest of the world –keep in touch with friends, stay up-to-date with news and events, etc.– as well as to find sources of entertainment (see the Top 10 Motivations Behind Using Social Media according to Global Web Index).

I do enjoy being a social media user and I’m convinced that, without it, I wouldn’t have had the chance to experience some pretty cool situations, such as the day I had dinner with the backing singer of Jungle, one of my favourite bands, after I commented one of his pictures on Instagram, when I had the chance to interview Dua Lipa thanks to a Spanish music blog I used to collaborate with, or more recently, when I was able to attend Pause Fest in Melbourne after winning a contest that two speakers organised on Instagram.

However, I have to admit that I also hate social media. At least a little bit. And I’m gonna tell you why:

“The average person will spend 5 years and 4 months of their lives on social media, more than the amount of time they will spend eating and drinking”

Social Media Today

3h 44m, that’s the daily average of time I’ve spent using my phone during the last week –according to iPhone’s Screen Time feature–, which equals to 26h 9m per week. THAT’S A LOT. And you might think that perhaps I have been using my phone to fulfil productive tasks, but the truth is that more than 50% of the time has been dedicated to “Social Networking” apps. I do have enjoyed connecting with friends, talking to my family, checking the latest news, but I also recognise that I’ve spent a lot of time scrolling down the evil infinite scroll of Facebook and Instagram. I hate that, and I hate myself for letting it happen.

This is the amount of time I’ve spent using my phone in the last 7 days.

I’ve found pretty alarming to discover this Social Media Today’s infographic that states that “the average person will spend nearly two hours (approximately 116 minutes) on social media everyday, which translates to a total of 5 years and 4 months spent over a lifetime”, which is more than the amount of time they will spend eating and drinking (3 years and 5 months) or socializing (1 year and 3 months). That sounds scary to me.

The Yellow Social Media Report 2018 –document that is part of this week’s learning materials– also refers to this situation. For instance, it discloses that in Australia “a typical Facebook user spends 10 hours a week on the site”, to later unveil that about a third of the surveyed users feel that they spend too much time on social media, and the same percentage feel that it has a negative impact on their productivity, their concentration and their sleeping habits.

“The most valuable data about us is inferred beyond our control and without our consent.”

Katarzyna Szymielewicz @ Quartz

In the latter report it is also mentioned that the aspect that people believe to have the most negative impact on their lives is their privacy. That’s a field that worries me a lot as well, and in fact it’s the second main reason –along with its addictive nature– why I sort of hate social media.

I think that most of us are aware that from the very precise moment we upload something on the web, it stops belonging exclusively to us: our information, comments, media, etc. is made public and it might be used by third-parties that aim to obtain a benefit from it.

Despite knowing this, I was pretty surprised when I discovered through this TED Talk by Jennifer Golbeck that, we should not only be concerned about the data we share online –such as liking a specific FB page, or retweeting a video on Twitter–, but also about what can be predicted from it. She shares an anecdote posted on Forbes magazine about a 15-year-old girl who was sent coupons for baby products two weeks before she told her parents that she was pregnant. Apparently Target had been able to predict that by analysing the pattern of behaviour of thousands and thousands of customers and creating a sort of “pregnancy likelihood” score. That’s astonishingly scary.

Doing some research I came across this article on Quartz that exposes that our online profiles consist of three data layers: the data we upload –which is in fact the only layer we can control–, the behavioural observations from the previous layer –metadata extracted from what you share, such as your location but also your clicks, your typing speed– and finally interpretations of the two previous layers –comparing many different users and performing correlations–. These predictions might be on topics such as addictions, illnesses, obsessions, etc. and despite they might not be accurate for all users, companies appear to be using them anyway. Which is equally scary. As it is mentioned in the article: “the most valuable data about us is inferred beyond our control and without our consent”.

Three Layers Online Profiles Digital Marketing
The three levels of our digital profiles. By Panoptykon Foundation.

Having analysed the two aspects that concert me the most about social media, I admit that I want to continue using these tools, as I truly think that they can still have a positive and meaningful impact in my life. However, it’s important to find ways to decrease the potential negative effects that it can have.

Regarding the amount of time spent in these platforms, I believe that, as users, we should learn to disconnect when social media stops being purposeful –easier said that done, I know, but I’m convinced it’s feasible to achieve that–.

On the other side, it’s our responsibility to call out on the companies behind these tools every time there’s something we think that might have an undesired impact in our lives: as users we can have a huge influence on their decisions, and we should use this power to ask them for more transparency.

Which are the factors that worry you the most about social media? I’d really like to discuss with you all on these topics and perhaps try to find possible ways to overcome these drawbacks. Please, do not hesitate to comment below, it’s free!

~ by Elies Delgado Tamarit

Have you ever considered stopping using social media?

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8 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Elies! I am so on board with your love-hate relationship!
    There are honestly so many points where I completely agree with you!

    1. How insane yet clever is the iPhone activity app that monitors your usage?! After learning about social media last year, it was such an eye-opener as to how much we as users are consumed in it. Unaware more than aware- which I think is so scary… I had a social media detox for a few months. Deactivated Facebook, no Instagram- and I can honestly say without sounding corny that I probably regained an appreciation for the tiniest things in life again. Reading a book at the park, striking conversations with people and just taking time out for yourself!

    2. In regards to the marketing industry, if that’s what users are doing and if the future is heading down that way- is it wrong for marketers to target and communicate with their audience through devices that are constantly being used by consumers?

    If you haven’t done so already, I’d highly recommend watching “Minimalism”! I was very torn after watching it! Haha

    Lastly, in terms of what aspects I’m worried about, I think we’ve gone beyond caring about our data being abused haha. After all the controversy, have people really done much to protect their information? We’ve always been told to be careful with what we upload onto the Internet yet why are we so surprised?

    I am so sorry for the enormous rant! But thank you for sharing your insights!
    Linna

    1. elies says: Author

      Wow, thank you so much for such an exhaustive comment, Linna! I’m glad we share a similar point of view regarding this topic:)

      I really admire you managed to do a social media detox for some months. I’ve actually considered doing the same but I feel that it would be too challenging for me, not only because it’s a great tool to stay in touch with friends but also because if we, as marketers, want to stay up-to-date with trends regarding social media, I believe it might be necessary to use these platforms. It’s a tricky situation.

      Regarding your question about whether it’s wrong for marketers to target and communicate with their audience through devices that are constantly being used by consumers, I’m not a 100% sure about my answer: I think it shouldn’t be wrong to use these devices as marketing channels, but I think that users deserve a minimum of space (free of ads) as well as a minimum of privacy. So I guess it’s a matter of finding a balance –although that’s easier said than done–. You also mention the privacy topic at the end of your comment, and I agree it seems that most people might have not done much to protect their information, but perhaps it’s because sometimes you consider that the benefit you can obtain from it is worth the risk. I think people are starting to –slowly– care more about their data though (see what happened with Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal).

      Finally, thank you for the documentary recommendation, I just watched the trailer and it seems to be a very interesting audiovisual work on a really relevant topic. Now that a new season of Black Mirror is about to be released –which is also related to social media usage and trends–, I will probably subscribe to Netflix again and try to watch “Minimalism” as well.

      Thank you very much once again, Linna, for your comment, and I’m sorry for the delay in my reply…

      Have a nice weekend!

      Elies

  2. Vittoria Triulcio says:

    Interesting blog post! It’s crazy to think that everyone is concerned that everything we do on social media is being used to get more insight into our lives, but this is how these social media platforms work; to make their profit off of us. These social media platforms are free because they’re ultimately using this data to market to us better as consumers.

    1. elies says: Author

      Thank you very much Vittoria for your comment! I totally agree with you. There are actually alternative social media platforms that do take privacy more seriously, though. For instance, a social media app called Vero (vero.co) became quite viral a year ago, as they claimed to not show ads nor use/sell their customers’ data: in order to generate revenue their idea was to eventually convert it to a paid platform. However, I guess that the social media giants have too much influence on us and it’s difficult to leave them.

  3. Jasmine Beli says:

    Hey Elies, I feel the exact same way that you do about spending too much time on social media – the infinite scrolling on social media apps drags me into hours spent on a website as well. The amount of time spent on social media from everyone concerns me also, espeically when social media gets in the way of productivity, but it is extremely difficult to stop using the apps because they are so visually stimulating!
    Your comment “disconnect when social media stops being purposeful” really resonates with me as i can relate strongly.

  4. Erin says:

    Brilliant blog! I agree with you like many others about this love hate relationship! I totally get it! I’m the exact same! I like Instagram and am proud of my feed and I enjoy posting on my instagram stories to share what I’m doing and I enjoy posting pictures. However I can get too caught up on it! Especially when I start thinking why one photo didn’t get that many likes or why another one got more likes than another. And that’s completely ridiculous! But I think that’s how Instagram has made us! So many of us obsess over who views our stories or how many likes we get. It can often ruin the enjoyment of posting content just to share it. Posting pictures can become an anxious affair, waiting for the likes to flood in and being upset when this doesn’t happen. It’s something I myself need to stop obsessing over and need to remember that I don’t care who likes my photos, I like it and that’s the main thing! As long as people remind themselves that social media is there to enhance their lives and a platform for SHARING not STRESSING and COMPARING. It’s definitely something I’ve had to learn to get over and I’m proud of my instagram page whether a post has 100 likes or 50!

  5. John says:

    Hi Elies, very interesting blog post. I find myself in a similar situation, I think social media nowadays is invading our lives too much: there are many benefits we can obtain from it but we should also be careful with the negative consequences. Probably one of the factors that worries me the most about social media is that we are becoming more and more dependant on it, it feels that if you are no there you are missing on many things, and it’s becoming even more difficult to disconnect.

    PS: Btw, it’s so cool you got to interview Dua Lipa!

  6. Vicki says:

    Hey Elies, I very much agree with your love-hate relationship with social media and on a broader sense my phone! It is concerning how I can easily spend a whole train ride scrolling Facebook or Instagram and not even notice that 45 minutes have passed! I certainly tried to give up Facebook and have deleted the app off my phone to discourage use, but it’s definitely hard to quit! Do you think there is a remedy to our addiction or is it just going to be a part of our lives forever now?

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