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
Monash journalism students report on federal election for UniPollWatch and The Guardian
Monash University’s journalism students are part of Australia’s largest newsroom, reporting on the 2016 federal election campaign through the UniPollWatch project, a groundbreaking national student project.
The Other Paris: Public seminar with Luc Sante
Acclaimed author Luc Sante talks about the why and how of his recent book, The Other Paris (2016), including a reading from a chapter titled “Zone.” Sante will present in Building B at Monash’s Caulfield campus in Room B5.37 on Thursday, May 26 from 6.30pm to 8pm.
The Monash Media Lab: a great place to learn
Monash Media, Film and Journalism’s Head of School Associate Professor Mia Lindgren and TV presenter and academic, Waleed Aly, talk about what makes the Monash Media Lab so important for students.
Gap in local and international aid workers’ salaries
By Stuart C. Carr and Ishbel McWha-Hermann An audio documentary by co-author Anna Strempel explores the … Continue reading Gap in local and international aid workers’ salaries
Verevis invited to present at Berlin conference
Monash’s School of Media, Film and Journalism academic Associate Professor Constantine Verevis has been invited as a speaker for the Seriality, Seriality, Seriality conference in June.
Monash journalism researchers win JERAA grants
Monash University’s journalism researchers have been awarded all research grants and scholarly prizes offered by the Journalism Education and Research Association Australia (JERAA).
Sophie lands production job at Channel Nine
Monash University journalism student Sophie Thomas has been appointed an associate producer at Channel Nine’s … Continue reading Sophie lands production job at Channel Nine
Ruddock launches Youth and Media book in Serbia
Monash University’s senior lecturer in communications & media Studies, Dr Andy Ruddock, recently launched the Serbian version of his book, Youth and Media.
Waleed Aly launches the Monash Media Lab
Monash academic and media presenter Waleed Aly officially launched the Monash Media Lab on Thursday, April 7, before the Monash community and special guests.
Monash University launches innovative media lab
A state-of-the-art media lab will be officially launched at Monash University’s Caulfield campus on April 7. Waleed Aly, well-known journalist and Monash University academic, will launch the lab, which is part of the Faculty of Arts’ School of Media, Film and Journalism.
Monash students recognised in trust awards
Three Monash journalism students have been named successful recipients of the 2016 Herb Thomas Memorial Trust Award.
Annika wins two Quills for Choppergate scandal
Monash journalism alumna Annika Smethurst has won two 2015 Victorian Quill Awards for her outstanding work on the “Choppergate” scandal.