White Paper: Using the Internet for a Better State of Mind

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Introduction and Background: 
A previous research paper I worked on titled Consumption of Social Media and Anxiety Among Teens and Young Adults reviewed literature that studied young adults’ usage of social media, instant messaging apps and other online networks, and discussed the effects of the internet and social media on anxious and lonely people. The paper revealed that the Internet can sometimes help users feel less worried and more connected, but it also revealed some of the downsides of being always connected and constantly in the know.

Such negative outcomes were observed by studying teenagers’ and young adults’ internet time spend and how they felt afterwards compared to how they generally feel. Participants of a number of studies revealed that constantly browsing the internet makes them more anxious as they often waste time and it affects school or work time. They experience a fear of missing out (FOMO) on what their friends were doing at any time of day. Some participants expressed how hard it is to take a break and log off social media for even a week. That, among other reasons, counters the idea of having the internet as a social connection tool.

However, the internet can actually alleviate some of the stress everyday life causes. In a recent Pew Research study, women especially were found to feel less anxious or stressed after using Twitter, even if they are not heavy users of the micro blogging site themselves. It provides the tools that, if used right, have a great potential in helping people mentally prepare for the day and be motivated.

This white paper aims to fill in some gaps I found while researching the topic from a positive and negative stand points, as well as introduce some of the solutions that can use the skills I’m learning in the iMedia program to tackle some of those issues and make the internet a better space for users who might feel something is missing to make their browsing process more useful.

 

Target Audience: 

Possible interactive media solution for these problems will mainly target teenagers and young adults (15-25 years old). As they are the main age range that were studied in my literature review, so information on how they think and feel about social media have backup scientific data.

This age range also represents the heaviest users of social media and who are more likely to be affected by that heavy use.

 

Approaches and Possible Solutions: 

A More Productive Space

Social media directly affects productivity. Brooks (2015) argues that no matter how participants could demonstrate their multitasking skills, social media affected task performance and contributed to the decrease of the level of happiness. Brooks also uses the term “technostress” to refer to the stress caused by the use of technology throughout the day. The heavier the usage of social media, the more technostress the sample suffered.

Consequently, the Internet is sometimes viewed as a time waster, usually because of the limitless things you can find there which can encourage procrastination if the user is not careful.

Social media also fall into the category of huge time-wasters. Even though it provides a great tool for networking and connecting, spending many hours posting updates on Facebook or tweeting is not a good sign of using it to its utmost potential.

With the great tools the internet provides, the users need to feel they are being assisted. That’s what technology were created for to begin with.

 

Possible solution:

A daily online assistant hub for tasks, inspirational ideas and timelines. This website would provide a workspace with settings to help the user focus as much as possible by eliminating any online distractions. It would provide ways to block social media, calculates actual time spent working and remind the user to take breaks to rest eyes and exercise.

The website would target college students, writers and users who want to focus on a certain task and not risk stumbling on the many distractions of the internet.

 

The Culture of Complaining Vs. Searching for Inspiration

The idea of sharing anything with a large group of people is linked with how users can sometimes feel pressure to say something on social media, which in turn results in complaints or trivial oversharing, which leads to more stress in young users.

There’s too much negativity the average social media user is greeted with when they first open Facebook or Twitter. Complaints about products, behaviors, other people, and a different spectrum of things that don’t go right. And post by post, it can get friends on social media contagiously stressed just by reading the posts. The motivation behind such posts is often boredom, the need to share something but not knowing what.

Users find themselves usually straying in their search for ideas, which causes more time to pass by without a good amount of work accomplished. Instead of using the vast amount of information and content available on the internet, users become bored of the search and the click baits, and sometimes not inspired as often as needed, yet always busy.

 

Possible solution:

A website that allows you to select a number of websites to search from upon logging in. The site remembers choices and shows the user related search results from their sites.

Once the user searches on a specific topic, they’ll see results following the specific type of content they set. It could be courses from Lynda.com and Lifehack articles, Wikipedia entries and YouTube videos, or any other collection of resources. That way, the user can select their resources and get less unrelated or distracting results.

 

Relaxing Online

Being distracted multiple times a day by social media and internet browsing is a common problem. However, the internet can have a relaxing and calming effects if used smartly.

A study found out that employers who take internet browsing breaks between tasks perform better than employers who don’t take these breaks. Moreover, with high-end technology and virtual reality becoming more popular and affordable, there’s more reason and potential for the internet to help people become more mentally prepared for a busy day.

 

Possible solution:

An online relaxing hub that offers tools to help a user relax and disconnect.

This hub will be a go-to website for anyone seeking a break whether they are in the office or home after a long day.

Some of the feature may include and not limited to:

  • Relaxing exercises: Yoga, breathing exercises and meditations with categories varying from weekend mornings to short work breaks.
  • Virtually visiting the world’s most relaxing beaches via Google Street View and having a 360 experience within the site.
  • Relaxing music and calming talks.
  • Guided breaks between study or work.

 

What is social media anxiety?

Another problem is how the target age range users might not be aware of the problems the overuse of social media causes, which usually leads to missed opportunities and multiplying the negative effects of the problem while it can actually have positive effects on teenagers and young adults.

 

Possible solution:

An informative website that lists information on the different kinds of anxiety, the social media roles in highlighting/helping teenagers and young adults with social anxiety and loneliness, as well as suggested ways to help users cultivate a healthier online routine. All in an interactive way.

 

Conclusion: 

The right internet tools can be used to bring users to a better state of mind. Taking a break doesn’t need to mean shutting off the internet, on the contrary, it inspires to work more on getting the positive potential more popular among its heaviest users who are, according to studies, experiencing its strongest effects as a negative and positive medium.

This capstone project will involve a website that would be of assistance to a young adult in achieving a goal, whether it is to do more work, smartly and in less time, or help them relax and take a break. Both approaches acting as motivation for the user to create more and become more productive.

 

Sources: 

  1. http://abcnews.go.com/US/web-browsing-makes-workers-happier-productive-study/story?id=14362815
  2. Brooks, S. (2015) Does personal social media usage affect efficiency and well-being? Computers in Human Behavior, 46, Pages 26–37. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.12.053
  3. http://www.businessinsider.com/productive-ways-to-spend-time-online-2014-8
  4. http://www.cmdconf.net/2014/pdf/36.pdf
  5. http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20140228-how-can-we-change-the-culture-of-complaint.ece
  6. http://www.healthline.com/health-news/venting-emotions-facebook-contagious-031414
  7. http://www.incomediary.com/how-to-be-more-productive-online-5-proven-tips
  8. http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/take-a-break-10-websites-to-help-you-relax-for-two-minutes/
  9. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/15/social-media-and-stress/
  10. Repetto, C., Gaggioli, A., Pallavicini, F., Cipresso, P., Raspelli, S. & Riva, G. (2013). Virtual reality and mobile phones in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorders: a phase-2 clinical trial. Pers Ubiquit Comput 17, 253–260. doi: 10.1007/s00779-011-0467-0
  11. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305048398000280
  12. Wang, Y., Niiya, M., Mark, G., Reich, S. & Warschauer, M. (2015) Coming of Age (Digitally): An Ecological View of Social Media Use among College Students. Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing, (CSCW ’15). 571-582. doi:10.1145/2675133.2675271.

Ireland Fly-In: Project Reflections

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During winter term at the iMedia MA program at Elon University, students fly to different locations around the world to work with non-profit organizations and groups on a project for the public good.
This year, our team went to Ireland to work with our client Mícheál Ó Foighil to help develop Abair Leat, the first Irish language messaging app.
Together our team created a website, a social media plan, wireframes, screen designs and promotional videos for Abair Leat, creating something that Micheal can pitch for funding to make the app a reality.

 

Abair Leat – Commercial from Salma Tantawi on Vimeo.

 

The most motivating part of this project is the role the app will play in solving a wider cultural problem; Irish teens have no convenient way of using Irish on social media. Their words always get autocorrected to English thus discouraging them and their peers from communicating in their original language, which use in the community has been drastically declining.
My role in the project was the video/photography lead. Together with Micheal, we made the best of our visit to Ireland by getting footage that represented the culture in the towns and cities we visited, as well as talk to experts in the communication field about the language use. During our visit to a school in Tullamore, we also heard from high school students, Abair Leat main target age range audience, about how they use social media, and what are their thoughts about Abair Leat after testing the app.

 

Abair Leat – Promotional Video from Salma Tantawi on Vimeo.

 

What we heard while being on site was different from what we were expecting preparing for our project. Irish is not only an old language used in official settings, teenagers actually yearn for a way to use it more, they love their language and they wish there was a way to always use it, and more people to speak it with.
As one girl we interviewed said “I always say my hellos and goodbye in Irish, even when I’m in the city and when no one understands me. It’s the way I connect with my culture.”
Hopefully many will be able to text and chat in Irish soon not only learn Irish in school.
In addition to the videos above, we created a video that shows part of our experience as a team which was a great and a rewarding opportunity for us to work on a real project in a challenging setting.

 

Ireland Fly-In 2016 Team video from Salma Tantawi on Vimeo.

Inverin, Galway & Tullamore

Manuscript: Is Extended Consumption of Social Media Linked to Anxiety Among Teens and Young Adults?

Research proposal 

ABSTRACT

Interacting on social media has changed how people communicate and form relationships, consequently altering the social structure of the new generation. This literature review seeks to clarify the possibility of a relationship, whether a correlation or a causation, between social media usage and anxiety. What motivates young users to interact online, as well as the effects researchers observed on their samples showed that the main reason people use this method of communication is to connect and feel included, even though they are often exposed to more worry and anxiety. However, almost all studies found that the increase of either anxiety or happiness level was tied to personal attributes. Thus, social media as a platform has no tangible effect on individuals by itself but can help predict certain psychological patterns.

General Terms

Human Factors, theory.

Keywords

Social media, anxiety, loneliness, Facebook, Twitter, FOMO.

1.       INTRODUCTION

It is difficult to know whether social media is behind the increase of anxiety and worry the new generation is fighting or if it is the outlet needed for expression. This is because there are other factors that determine how the user is affected by this method of networking. Yet, as the studies reviewed show, it is concerning how the communication process can have a prominent negative outcome when the main reason young Internet users gravitate towards it is to avoid the stress of real life communication.

In this paper, social media interaction motives are discussed, such as anxiety as a motivation before being a possible effect, and the missed opportunities on the web. The review discusses the effects of the social interaction, and how it relates to real life, probing the question of a relationship between social media and anxiety.

2.       MOTIVES

The lack of an online presence can become very worrying in today’s age because the majority of young adults’ peers are there. Other motives also exist for why young adults might feel compelled to interact on social media.

2.1 Anxiety as a Motivation

The association between anxiety and social media is a question that is highlighted by seeking an online channel of communication instead of physical interaction. There is a strong link between the level of anxiety and loneliness and the preference for online Social Interaction POSI (Caplen, 2007). Analyzing 343 undergraduate responses to social interaction motives, Caplen found that users who are normally more anxious will prefer to interact online and more are exposed to negative outcomes compared to people who rated lower on the USLA loneliness and the Social Avoidance and distress scales.

However, Bardi and Brady (2010) found the opposite. The strongest motivation behind college students’ digital communication habits, especially instant messaging IM, was the simple need to connect. Being shy or lonely didn’t relate to neither possibility nor frequency of usage.

This conflict in results is an indication of no certain predicted outcome of being lonely and consequently interacting on social media, but points that lonely people feel the need to connect more.

2.2 Missed Opportunities

Even though studies suggest that people with low self-esteem feel safer interacting online than people with high self-esteem (Forest & Wood, 2012), the same study found that the low-esteem sample didn’t actually use social media more. In that sense, Chang (2015) classifies how university students use social media in two ways: passive and active. Passive users only want to belong in a network and only respond to what others post, while active users want to be popular, they responded and participated by posting or sharing content of their own. This can redefine what “to belong” means to passive users. If they are not participating in the process but only act as an audience, it could make them feel less included in their network.

Frequency of how social media users interact online can reflect how much thought they put into self-representation. Out of an average of 7.3 networks the average social media user belongs to, a sample of 546 participants with an average age of 21 years old reported viewing the profiles of their connections in 3.3 of these networks (Marder, Joinson & Shankar, 2012). The same sample believed that their own profiles were being viewed by connections in 3.68 networks. Moreover, 9 out of 11 participants admitted passing judgments based on what others post on Facebook while still being aware that they are being judged too (Lapides, Chokshi, Carpendale & Greenberg, 2015). Originally striving to avoid social strain, these worries can cause social media to be a more stressful way of communication.

2.3 Content Red Flags

Feedback sought by posting online can sometimes cause more worry, depending on where or by whom they are received (Bazarova, Choi, Sosik, Cosley & Whitlock, 2015).

Using an app that analyzed Facebook posts expressing emotions, researchers asked participants to rate the reactions they got on such posts. Findings confirmed that “likes” are usually taken as approvals have a positive effect, even when it contributes to a level of narcissism (Rosen, Whaling, Rab, Carrier & Cheever, 2013). However, the sample felt worried when they received a comment from someone that wasn’t a close friend on a post they shared personal emotions in.

Increasingly posting updates on social media can also be a sign of extraversion (Marshall, Lefringhausen & Ferenczi, 2015), as extraverts use outward, exhibiting communication to feel more connected. When low self-esteem users post repeatedly about their romantic relationships it can be a sign of insecurity. These findings are a result of analysis of what 555 Facebook users reported after reflecting on posting on social networks and personality.

2.4 Privacy Concerns and Risky Content

More users are using less privacy options to protect their information and posts. In the study conducted by Marder and Shankar (2012), they revealed that only a third of the participants used Facebook’s privacy settings to control who sees their posts. When they didn’t want to interact with someone they simply “unfriended” them. This was the same sample that reported that they believe their profiles are being watched more than they watch their friends’ profiles.

A recent paper on lurking on social media as an anxiety-masking strategy (Osatuyi, 2015) supports this argument. He suggested that those who don’t feel confident in their computer skills tend to become passive users which results in computer anxiety. The same strong relationship was found between computer anxiety and privacy concerns. Again the sample revealed that they weren’t taking advantage of the available privacy settings.

Adding to the dangers of not capitalizing on offered security options is the risk of self-representation by young users. The age group between 12-15 years old are the most likely to broadcast risky posts that could harm their privacy (Koutamanis, Vossen & Valkenburg, 2015). Such posts are met with negative feedback, the study found, though this negative feedback is not related to a specific age.

In such ways, anxiety, loneliness and other social problems may affect why users interact on social media.

3.       EFFECTS

With the increase of social media use, discussing effects can vastly turn generic and inconsistent. Research can only measure social media effect to an extent, but relating the result to personal attributes is key in most social studies.

3.1 Constant Connection

Social media directly affects productivity. Brooks (2015) argues that no matter how participants could demonstrate their multitasking skills, social media affected task performance and contributed to the decrease of the level of happiness. Brooks (2015) also uses the term “technostress” to refer to the stress caused by the use of technology throughout the day. The heavier the usage of social media, the more technostress the sample suffered.

Seeking social support on social media directly affected adolescent students’ mood in a negative way (Frison & Eggermont, 2015). This creates a cycle where users are feeling stressed, going to social media for relief and getting more stressed.

3.2 Cyberbullying and Cyber-Support

In extreme cases, bullying on social media has led to suicide. An example is the number of teen suicide cases associated with the social network ask.fm in 2013 after several bullying instances (Pappas, 2015). Not to assume that bullying is introduced by social media, but it has evolved into cyberbullying which has much more dangerous outcomes even though it is treated more lightly. Ask.com acquired the site later and announced the launch of new features to make the site safer. This shows that interacting online has serious outcomes and what could be dangerous results.

Rainie and Wellman (2012), however, suggest that social media can be so comforting to the extent of being an emotional “bandage” during difficult time. It helps people feel more connected and more reachable with less effort. A study by Dolev-Cohen and Barak (2013), which analyzed 2643 adolescents’ personalities and messaging habits found that stressed participants who expressed their emotional state through messaging received relief from that stress. The same setting and process didn’t affect participants who weren’t stressed to begin with.

As users’ probability to be affected can differ by age, it can also vary by gender. A Pew Center Research conducted by Hampton, Rainie, Lu, Shin and Purcell (2015) found that women who used Twitter often experienced less anxiety and stress. Constant Twitter use made them more aware of stressful situations. However, they decreased their anxiety with the help of Twitter.

3.3 FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out

Feeling anxious or worried about missing a Facebook post, or constantly checking Facebook predicts narcissistic, antisocial, and compulsive behavior which researchers referred to as “iDisorder” (Rosen et al., 2013).

Another type of FOMO, is the fear of missing out on opportunities for good content. Information overload on social media can lead to an increase in anxiety and stress levels after interacting with such vibrant environment. Young social media users choose to endure this stress instead of unfollowing or unfriending over-sharers (Rosen et al., 2013).

Lapides, Chokshi, Carpendale and Greenberg (2015) found that while their sample encountered a negative experience getting their Facebook feed overwhelmed by stories from the same people, they didn’t unfollow or unfriend them even though they contemplated it. The reason behind this is the fear of missing an important update or a potentially interesting story shared by this person in the future. Most of the sample were also aware of “liking” and commenting habits of their peers on the posts, and felt an obligation to return these favors on posts they are associated with whether by being posted on their walls or tagged in. The obligation of interacting out of respect to social code adds to the social strain online social media is supposed to take off the user’s shoulders. FOMO was found to be a cause of distraction during everyday activities and is thus connected to a lower level of well-being and a higher level of participation and anxiety (Przybylski, Murayama, DeHaan & Gladwell, 2013).

3.4 Taking a Break

Taking some time off social media has become a popular detoxing method, or at least an attempt to regain control over social habits online.

Every year during the Christian Lent season, many users choose to give up on social media as a part of personal sacrifice, which in itself a sign of how important the Internet is. The results of one study (Schoenebeck, 2014) that followed three Lent season breaks on Twitter, analyzed tweets via Twitter’s API through three years found that 64 percent of users who announced their intentions to take a Twitter break succeeded in doing so. They kept off twitter for the target period and announced their comeback with a celebratory tweet. 13.3 percent of those who intended to keep off twitter tweeted once or twice during that period, usually to express an emotion or announce personal news. Schoenebeck also found that when users talked or posted about their break from social media, they used “real life” to describe what they thought they were missing on by being online all the time. This sample admitted that giving up social media for the duration of one week is a hard resolution to follow.

Social media has been exercising more control over users’ social habits. A study analyzed the behavior of users who checked their social accounts more than six times a day (Wang, Niiya, Mark, Reich & Warschauer, 2015) and found that continual checkers had no control over their social media use and that they were “addicted to the Internet”. The more participants checked their channels daily, the less positive mood they were in.

3.5 Social Effects Vs. Social Media Effects

Mirroring these concerns, Frison and Eggermont (2015) emphasize on the importance of distinguishing between social media interaction, reactions, and seeking support and doing these activities through other means of communication. Both in research and personal outlook, they point that previous studies didn’t take such distinctions between how users seek support from their family or friends in real life and on Facebook into consideration.

Lundy and Drouin (2016) found that communicating via instant messaging lowered the stress level for their sample of 165 undergraduate students. The sample was suffering from high social anxiety levels. For this sample, communicating via face to face and phone resulted in the same degree of stress relief.

In addition to that, sample members who had low anxiety levels actually felt more stressed interacting with their friends through social media in comparison with face to face and phone communication. Xiaoqian, Chen and Popiel (2015) argued that social media isn’t related to social support to begin with. Even if social media users reap positive and supportive responses from their friends, it isn’t similar to offline support.

Applying the same approach on anxiety, a study also investigated whether Facebook anxiety share similarities with real world social anxiety (McCord, Rodebaugh & Levinson, 2014). By overviewing these types of studies, a clearer picture of what type of anxiety the user might be experiencing due to excessive online networking.

A clear correlation between Facebook anxiety and social anxiety was found. Users with higher social anxiety experienced higher level of stress when interacting on Facebook.

4.       CONCLUSION AND FUTURE RESEARCH

Social media by itself doesn’t create anxiety that didn’t exist before. It can raise existing anxiety levels at times and help at others, depending on how, when and by whom it is used.

Because there is evidence supporting both sides of the argument, a relevant result is reached by incorporating personal attributes. This review concludes that social media as a platform is not necessarily a cause or a relief for anxiety issues. It mainly relates to personality differences in interacting individuals. The hypothesis that there is a link between social media and anxiety is true, but it isn’t a causation relationship. Anxious people don’t always use social media more, which is a limitation on determining social media effects on users with anxiety compared to those who don’t have social anxiety. The literature showed that social media is more framed as an amplifier of an existing problem for some users while providing immediate relief of social problems.

These results might help in employing certain channels of social media to target users with anxiety issues to help them, since it can nurture the feeling of being connected and part of a group. Missed opportunities of capitalizing on social media benefits as a safe medium for anxious people to interact could lead to future research on the effect would the increased use of social media could have on young users with self-esteem problems over a longer period of time.

Further research can be helpful in predicting personality problems by analyzing how individuals interact and share online.

Knowing the helpful aspects of social networking for worrying people can contribute in creating a safer environment online through websites and apps designed to help these users overcome anxiety. And more importantly encourage them to use interact online more.

5.       REFERENCES

Bardi, C. A., & Brady, M. F. (2010). Why shy people use instant messaging: Loneliness and other motives. Computers in Human Behavior, 26, 1722–1726. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2010.06.021

Bazarova, N. N., Choi, Y. H., Sosik, V. S., Cosley, D., & Whitlock, J. (2015). Social sharing of emotions on Facebook: Channel differences, satisfaction, and replies. Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (CSCW ’15), 154-164. doi: 10.1145/2675133.2675297

Becker, M. W., Alzahabi, R., & Hopwood. C. J. (2013). Media multitasking is associated with symptoms of depression and social anxiety. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16(2), 132-135. doi:10.1089/cyber.2012.0291.

Brooks, S. (2015). Does personal social media usage affect efficiency and well-being? Computers in Human Behavior, 46, Pages 26–37. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.12.053

Caplan, S. E. (2007). Relations among loneliness, social anxiety, and problematic internet use. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(2), 234-242. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2006.9963.

Chang, C. (2015). Self-construal and Facebook activities: Exploring differences in social interaction orientation. Computers in Human Behavior, 53, 91–101. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2015.06.049

Dolev-Cohen, M., & Barak, A. (2013). Adolescents’ use of instant messaging as a means of emotional relief. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(1), 58–63. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2012.07.016

Forest, A. L., & Wood, J. V. (2012). When social networking is not working: Individuals with low self-esteem recognize but do not reap the benefits of self-disclosure on Facebook. Psychological Science, 23(3), 295 –302. doi: 10.1177/0956797611429709

Frison, E., & Eggermont, S. (2015). The impact of daily stress on adolescents’ depressed mood: The role of social support seeking through Facebook, Computers in Human Behavior. 44, 315–325. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.11.070

Hampton, K., Rainie, L., Lu, W., Shin, I., & Purcell, K. (2015). Social media and the cost of caring. Pew Research Center, Washington, DC. Retrieved from: http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/15/social-media-and-stress/

Koutamanis, M., Vossen, H. G. M., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2015). Adolescents’ comments in social media: Why do adolescents receive negative feedback and who is most at risk? Computers in Human Behavior, 53, 486–494. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.07.016

Lapides, P., Chokshi, A., Carpendale, S., & Greenberg, S. (2015). News feed: What’s in it for me? Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’15), 163-172. doi:10.1145/2702123.2702554

Lundy B. L., & Drouin, M. (2016). From social anxiety to interpersonal connectedness: Relationship building within face-to-face, phone and instant messaging mediums. Computers in Human Behavior, 54, 271–277. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.08.004

Marder, B., Joinson, A., & Shankar, A. (2012). Every post you make, every pic you take, I’ll be watching you: behind social spheres on Facebook. Proceedings of the 45th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS ’12). 859-868 doi:10.1109/HICSS.2012.12

Marshall, T. C., Lefringhausen, K., & Ferenczi, N. (2015). The big five, self-esteem, and narcissism as predictors of the topics people write about in Facebook status updates. Personality and Individual Differences, 85, 35–40. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2015.04.039

McCord, B., Rodebaugh, T. L., & Levinson, C. A. (2014). Facebook: Social uses and anxiety. Computers in Human Behavior, 34, 23–27. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.01.020

Osatuyi, B. (2015). Is lurking an anxiety-masking strategy on social media sites? The effects of lurking and computer anxiety on explaining information privacy concern on social media platforms. Computers in Human Behavior, 49, 324–332. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.02.062

Pappas, S. (2015, June 22). Cyberbullying on social media linked to teen depression. Livescience. Retrieved from: http://www.livescience.com/51294-cyberbullying-social-media-teen-depression.html

Przybylski, A. K., Murayama, K., DeHaan, C. R., & Gladwell, V. (2013). Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(4), 1841–1848. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2013.02.014

Rainie, W., & Wellman, B. (2012). Networked: The new social operating system. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Rosen, L. D., Whaling, K., Rab, S., Carrier, L. M., & Cheever, N. A. (2013). Is Facebook creating “iDisorders”? The link between clinical symptoms of psychiatric disorders and technology use, attitudes and anxiety. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(3), 1243–1254. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2012.11.012

Schoenebeck, S. Y. (2014). Giving up Twitter for Lent: How and why we take breaks from social media. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, (CHI ’14). 773-782. doi:10.1145/2556288.2556983

Wang, Y., Niiya, M., Mark, G., Reich, S., & Warschauer, M. (2015). Coming of Age (Digitally): An Ecological View of Social Media Use among College Students. Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing, (CSCW ’15). 571-582. doi:10.1145/2675133.2675271

Xiaoqian Li, X., Chen, W., & Popiel, P. (2015). What happens on Facebook stays on Facebook? The implications of Facebook interaction for perceived, receiving, and giving social support. Computers in Human Behavior, 51, 106–113. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.04.066a

Can We Guess Your Content Consumption Habits Based on Your BuzzFeed Quizzes?

The more “open” and “connected” our online worlds become, the less emphasis on quality there seems to be. Think about what an article needed to go through to be published decades ago. Hours of editing and desk editing and layout and styling. And when it was finally out to see the light, it was there forever.

The focus then was on quality, the privilege of being published and read by the public.

Is being published now a privilege?

In her book The People’s Platform, Astra Taylor argues that websites like Buzzfeed’s primary job is to “game social networks”. She calls viral posts content-posers, only pretending to be the content readers are used to in the traditional sense. Published interactions, if you will.

These website are so full of content. Full of content is a strange sentence to say, because “content” itself is an abstract term. But they mainly depends on user and staff-generated listicles, the more and sillier the better, because that’s what people share. If it works, it’s successful.

Taylor puts it in a way that compares journalism as an industry to something that almost lost its ground and is starting to follow were the users want to go instead of lead the cultural discussion:

“We are entering a new age where every aspect of a creative artifact’s life can be quantified, measured, and analyzed. The filter bubble and journalism have collided: a generation of newmedia moguls targets its products to respond directly to readers’ whims, scouring search engine trends, poring over most-e-mailed lists, and crafting content.”

Though it might seem harmless to have these kinds of light websites, the effect can turn around and hurt the quality of web content with every bar the user (even unintentionally) lowers. The effects are already starting to show in how mainstream media is changing their game.

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 2.38.59 PM

Several mainstream media are being called out for not covering important happenings now, and not until the criticism goes viral that these media outlets pay attention, because they are becoming more and more viral-oriented, rather than quality-oriented.

Big publications want a part of the cake too, if following viral content is directing consumers to Buzzfeed, get on it! Everyone wants to eventually make money, so Kim Kardashians hair shade becomes breaking news.

I agree with Taylor that vitality encourages creativity and that Buzzfeed truly managed to crack the “viral code”. After all they have a huge presence on the web that is mostly dependent on social sharing. Her arguments, however, make me more worried about the future of content as a journalist, and having to follow what Justin Beiber is having for breakfast, because that is all the content the audience wants to know.

Jay Rosen says it better in his book What Are Journalists For?

“The question mattered because certain ideas about the press follow from the view of the public they contain. If the public is assumed to be “out there,” more or less intact, then the job of the press is easy to state: to inform people about what goes on in their name and their midst. But suppose the public leads a more broken existence. At times it may be alert and engaged, but just as often it struggles against other pressures—including itself—that can win out in the end. Inattention to public matters is perhaps the simplest of these, atomization of society one of the more intricate. Money speaks louder than the public, problems overwhelm it, fatigue sets in, attention falters, cynicism swells. A public that leads this more fragile kind of existence suggests a different task for the press: not just to inform a public that may or may not emerge, but to improve the chances that it will emerge.”

“I Put Words in People’s Mouths”: The Remix Culture and Copyright Claims

If your 2012 revolved around trying to get Call Me Maybe out of your head, you’re about to be reminded of how catchy this song was. Being good or bad isn’t even relevant at this point, the song was everywhere and so were an endless stream of parodies.

What allowed these parodies to survive is the “fair use” argument against the artist/label’s copyrights, they were commentaries on the song and in my opinion did more promotion than the label could have ever done on its own.

Parodies aside, one YouTube channel did a remix of the song with Obama’s real speeches. Real as in his voice is actually his voice, even though he may have not said “ripped jeans skin was showing”. Let’s watch:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hX1YVzdnpEc]

Baracksdubs is a YouTube channel that is dedicated to creating remixes of presidential speeches to voice and mouth lyrics of pop songs, sometimes you’d find Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton featured in a couple of videos but they’re primarily Obama. The creator of this channel, Fadi Saleh, goes through what must be hundreds of these speeches looking for words, parts of words and sometimes potential parts of words to create his collages. What he creates is this whole new production that doesn’t really relate to neither the song nor to Obama.

Wouldn’t there be at least 4 big-picture copyright, at least brow-furrowing cases here?

The answer is: No.

Baracksdubs started around three years ago, and giving that it still exists and creates new content gives more weight to what Lessig is calling for in the book Remix; a breathing room in copyright regulations sets our culture for more creativity.

For the example above, Carly Rae Jepsen herself faced copyright infringement claims herself so it might even be difficult to pinpoint what an “original content” is here. As for the Obama side, Baracksdubs actually celebrated with a Facebook post sharing an article in which Obama was asked about the Call Me Maybe clip, to which he replied:

“I have to admit, I’ve never actually heard the original version of the song. I saw this version where they spliced up me from a whole bunch of different speeches that I made. They kind of mashed together an Obama version of it.”

“An Obama version”!

it went on to create a brand for itself, media kept up with new releases like original music. In a way, he created a stand-alone brand from mashing two things up in a creative and intriguingly accurate way that will probably open doors to even more versions of content.

Here’s a couple more for fun:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6PEboTpcfI]

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mw0v-7CfLvc]

“Inspired”…Sure

There comes a time in every creative person’s life when they start making professional work, and usually right before that is when they get an important sentence repeatedly knocked into them by their bosses, contracts or lawyers: Don’t Steal Other People’s Work.

Don’t copy and paste, don’t rephrase or reshape, don’t even think about any other type of similar work while you’re working. It doesn’t matter if you mean to or not, your life as a creator will be over if you even come close to it.

But the question is: is this possible?

Scenario A: A designer is quickly approaching a deadline to hand in a banner and inspiration just doesn’t want to make an appearance. Our designer goes online, searched for similar banners to what he’s doing and tweak somethings and goes to sleep happy.

Someone finds out or recognize the original work and bam; our designer is in deep trouble.

Scenario B: A designer is working on a banner design. He has an idea, tries it and is instantly happy with his work, he knows it’s going to be a hit. It just feels right.

Someone recognizes that his work is a copy of a 1980 ad and bam; our designer is in deep trouble.

Are they both plagiarists?

The argument is a tough one, designer B is being a human being with a memory that works, that’s all he did wrong. Isn’t that what brains supposed to do? absorb information and recall them when needed? He stored something he glanced at years ago and recalled it when he was looking for idea, same goes for music, books, stories,,,etc

But then again, a work that isn’t originally the artist’s is a work stolen. You wouldn’t want to see another version of something you created attributed to someone else. And there’s no way of knowing if the person actually intended to copy or not.

In that way Michael Bierut makes sense of calling himself a plagiarist, and consequently we all are. We are plagiarists for dressing the way we dress and for writing the things we write and for saying “this sick beat” (It’s copyrighted by Taylor Swift. True story).

As someone who writes for a living, this thought scares me. And now I’m looking for software to validate that any words I type (or ideas?) is a brand new invention that no one in the entire world, since the beginning of time has reached before me. Because I can’t afford being sued!

Networking For Good

How we network as individuals and within groups has changed with time and technologies, and with such change appear advantages and disadvantages that are being studied to determine how the future of networking would look like.

In the book Networked:The New Social Operating System, authors Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman discuss the three major revolutions that have transformed how we form social circles and interact within them: the networks revolution, the internet revolution, and the mobile revolution. The book also focuses on how this change has affected our networks as individuals, how we now approach our relationships with our families, friends, and work mates.

In this post, we take a look at two examples of how the new concept of networking can help us understand where bigger networks link together, where interactions doesn’t only take place within a network or from individuals to the surrounding few networks they belong in, but across networks to make it more possible to serve a bigger, mutual goal. One is a feature social networks have developed enough to offer, the other is a result of public collaboration across different networks.

1- Safety Check-in

After the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal in April 2015, Facebook offered the Safety Check feature to alert the noch! network of an individual who has his location set to an affected area that they are Bye fine.

Mobile phones would show a simple alert from Facebook that reads “You appear to be in an area affected by X disaster, are you safe?” and there would be two options “I’m safe” or “I’m not in the area”.

As rescuing efforts tried to free people from under the rubble among the rising deaths, it was an effective way to check on someone in the midst of chaos, and a quick way for users who were near all the distress to assure their loved ones, friends, families, and every other network they were part of that they were alright.

Google has also been working on a People Finder feature to locate an individual’s network in the aftermath of a disaster.

This addition to the functions of social networks show how the technological revolutions happening so far (the networking revolution, internet revolution, and mobile revolution) can be integrated to serve our interpersonal communication. They are here one step ahead of how our social intuition works, as they usually are. It relieves us from the worry of an additional task in a difficult time of emergency.

2- Crowdsourcing help on a large scale

Seven days ago, a picture tweeted by Icelandic journalist Gissur Simonarson went viral. The picture was of a Syrian refugee father selling pens on the streets of Beirut with his sleeping daughter on his arm.

After the great amount of support under the hashtag #BuyPens, and questions of how to locate this man and help him support himself and his children, a crowdsourcing campaign was launched to raise money for him with a goal of $5,000.

In 6 days, the campaign has raised over $178,000 so far and there’s still 8 days left. more than 6,700 people from all over the world donated through the website. The story has been picked up by news websites and blogs all over the world.

A common expression between commentaries and entries on this type of crowdsourcing is “gives me hope”. Social media has gathered people everywhere with all their differences under one giant umbrella of accessible information, and whenever something happens on that big of a scale that changes someone’s life or helps a cause, we are reminded that it isn’t social media itself that does damage when it happens, but how people interact within their networks on social media. Connections aren’t formed by the medium, but by the people.

In these ways, the three revolutions have transformed how we perceive information and interact with each other, whether it is within our small circle or with the more generic networks we are sharing with millions of other people.

Research Proposal: Is Extended Consumption of Social Media Linked to Anxiety Among Teens and Young Adults?

Instant connections. That’s what new age social media promises us; we will always be connected to each other, to strangers, to our networks, and to our ideas. But with Integrais the incredible rise of the use of digital social networks that took place in the last few years, people have come to rely more on their portable devices for social interactions, and both users and researchers are asking: have we reached the feeling of being more connected, or have we become more isolated?

Is the focused attention on self-promotion related to the rise of anxiety among teenagers and young adults? Or is it the motivation this generation needed to keep up with fast-rising competition? This is what this research strives to answer.

The number of American adults who own a smartphone has doubled in the 4 years between 2011 and 2015 according to a Pew Research report. Smartphones have become essential in how we do most of our daily activities, including chatting and texting with our friends and family, and posting on social media.

By taking a look at usage patterns and behaviors of internet users between adolescence and adulthood (13-25 years old), a better understanding about the ties between the two issues will develop. Whether a causation or correlation occurs between rise of social anxiety and depression among teens and adults, and the digitalization of social connection.

The subject of interactive behavior on social media sites has been discussed heavily during the past decade due to many factors:

  1. Type of information: What is being shared and discussed on social media and how it affects participants.
  2. Privacy concerns: When we post online, we contribute into a global record that is not easy to delete, our actions online have consequences that are as fast as our ability to send something out to the world.
  3. Psychological aspects: How users feel while interacting with no one and everyone at the same time. On twitter for example, is the value of what you write calculated by how it makes you feel, or by the response it gets. Does social media make us happier by giving us a window to vent out and share, or limit us by confining our opinions in boxes of what’s popular? Through posting and reading what others post, have we created an ideal experience that can turn devastating if not “post-perfect”?

Researchers have even developed the term iDisorder to describe the stress-related disorders caused by overwhelming the brain with information from social media.

On the topic of social media and anxiety, there are studies supporting different notions. There are many aspects that causes social media users to worry and can cause alienation from the networks that are supposed to connect, few of them can be highlighted in the term FOMO (fear of missing out), the constant feeling of something amazing happening within or outside our circles without having a mean to instantly connect to it, because we live in a time when a lot of amazing things happen very fast, we need to constantly feel on top of things.

Another aspect of anxiety in the new age is the “am i good enough?” questions. Am I good enough to compete in this ever-growing community of great talents? Do I know the right people to help me get where I want? Am I taking the right steps to belong in the right circles for me? All these questions are going through minds of young people, these questions didn’t go through younger minds with this intensity and urgency decades ago, add to it the social pressure built within an overly growing network and you might be able to link anxiety to the stressful effects of this type of interactions.

This being the argument accusing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other networks of spreading what became a voluntarily heavy responsibility, some researchers argue that social media is not to blame for anxiety, and that as much as it can spread negativity it can also spread happy thoughts and inspire its users to a better mental state.  

These and other angles of anxiety-related disorders and how they might be linked to social networking will be the focus of my research paper. By going in-depth into anxiety issues among social media users, the results reached will hopefully give a clearer perspective of how involved certain patterns of social media consumption is with these issues of anxiety.