The democratising potential of social media have long been heralded. Successive government ministers, starting with Helen Coonan, Stephen Conroy and now Malcolm Turnbull, have all talked up the marvels of “user-generated” media where everyone can have a say and produce their own content.
But the next time you hear some version of “we are relaxing the laws around media ownership in this country because we are living in a world of citizen journalists and so many sources of information and entertainment that makes the old laws redundant”, think again.
Can’t stop clicking
A new study conducted at Monash University entitled “Facebook, disenchantment and deactivation: The views of young Australian university students”, the findings of which are yet to be published, has found that the opposite is true. The Honours research has found that the main way people interact with Facebook – which has the largest user base of any social media in Australia – is for “validation”.
Very little new content is produced, and less information gained, other than a kind of online small talk. Where information is received it is through media sharing of content produced by the mainstream media that governments seem so keen on deregulating.
The study included a two week survey of 560 respondents conducted in July this year, of which 83% were studying at a university. Three-quarters of those studying said they checked Facebook more than five times a day.
Of the students at the high end of Facebook checking, many felt it to be an unhealthy addiction. One student reported checking their Facebook account ten times an hour, 18 hours a day.
The more addictive behaviour was attributed to the Facebook mobile app, which enabled continual short bursts of updates all day.
And participants reported that when they did check Facebook, they were just passively skimming through content at a very superficial level. This is particularly interesting in terms of the claim that Web 2.0 is a form of “produserly” media, where everyone is producing their own content.
The term “produsage” was popularised by Axel Bruns and Jan-Hinrik Schmidt, when they described the way new web environments let people switch between using existing content and producing alterations and extensions.
A key element of Bruns and Schmidt’s argument, as well as that of Claudia Grinnell, is that it assumes a high level of active engagement from the user. However, participants in this study described the opposite phenomena.
Despite compulsive account checking, in some cases up to almost two hundred times per day, participants described an increasing lack of active participation.
In some cases participants were even judgemental of those who were highly active or seen as contributing too much content. This suggest a shift in usage practices where users have lost the inclination to actively contribute and produce their own content.
Steve Rubel, an executive at one of the world’s largest public relations firms Edelman, argues that we are entering the third age of the internet, which is one of “validation”.
When social networking began to escalate there was a ‘friend-ing’ arms race, where everyone tried to accumulate as many friends as possible. This devalued the idea of online friendship.
Now, Rubel says, that we are living in an age where there is “too much content and not enough time”.
The “internet generation” is spread wide and thin, as access to vast networks is reduced to a few clicks.
The rapid uptake of social media has brought on an overload of access to both information and people, forcing users to make more critical judgements when operating online.
People are no longer actively engaged with mundane content produced by their “friends” online. Instead, Rubel explains that in the age of “validation”, the “academic or expert is highly trusted” as “people want to know people who know their stuff”.
Perhaps the need for validation is an attempt to cut through the overwhelming feed of clutter which permeates our increasingly mediated daily lives, if not just our news feed.
This article first appeared in The Conversation
Predestination a gripping crime-thriller at MIFF
By Andréa Jean Baker And so, the 63rd Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is here….
Scanlan wins shooting gold at Glasgow Games
Monash journalism graduate Laetisha Scanlan has successfully defended her Commonwealth Games trap shooting title, winning gold at Glasgow.
India In Flux: Living Resistance presented at MIFF
India In Flux: Living Resistance at Melbourne International Film Festival 2014 is the first public…
Troops in Terror Zone ‘cutting edge’ in journalism
Monash University’s journalism and multimedia students have joined forces with The Australian editorial team to produce a digital interactive, Troops in Terror Zone.
Moore on urban bohemia at Seminar on the City
Dr Tony Moore, a senior lecturer in Communications and Media Studies at Monash Unviersity, will…
‘Fringe to Famous’ project presented in China
Dr Tony Moore, Senior Lecturer in Communications and Media Studies in the School of Media,…
The Journey from AIDS to HIV
The School of Media, Film and Journalism hosted a fascinating preview of Transmission: The Journey from AIDS to…
The Dual Crisis: HIV and Human Rights
Strides made in the last decade have inspired a new vision of “ending the AIDS…
Premiere of Trees Falling in the Forest
Monash University Masters journalism graduate, Kim Nguyen, celebrates the premiere of his film, Trees Falling in the Forest, on Wednesday, July 30.
‘Cultural imperialism is dead’: Castells
By Dr Andrea Baker More than 800 scholars from over 95 countries, including Dr Johan…
Getting to know … Nasya Bahfen
Welcome to Journalism senior lecturer Nasya Bahfen, who has joined our team this semester.
Face of AIDS and HIV: an international film archive
The School of Media, Film and Journalism is proud to host a special preview of Transmission: The Journey from AIDS to HIV. The screening will be introduced by Staffan Hildebrand and followed by a Q&A mediated by Associate Professor Mia Lindgren.