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.
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”.
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