social media

social media marketer: “you need a level of superficiality for social media”

This post is part of a series that looks at social media from different perspectives. My second interview was with a social media marketer.

We first start to talk about social media itself. I am curious to hear about her personal opinion on online platforms. She explains to me that she has a love-hate relationship with them. She is concerned about the privacy breaches and bad algorithms, content that she liked once, will repeatedly show up. However, she likes the fact that it is easy to get updates on the people she knows.

If you post it, it has to be perfect

People refuse to participate
My interviewee has worked with companies to improve their social media. For this she required participation from the company. Though this was hard to achieve. People are excited about social media but refuse to participate. They’ll tell her “if you post [something], it has to be perfect” or “people do not want to see my content”. Thus, the people within companies do not believe their content is exciting enough to be shared or that they will not be able to live up to a certain level of perceived perfection that they feel is required. Furthermore, they experience difficulties posting content due to the strict rules the management has laid on them. And on top of that, people experience self-censorship when engaging with social media. Which is fueled by social pressures from other coworkers or their own strive for perfection. A sentiment the social marketer also shares with the people within a company is that there is an anxiety that comes from ‘playing’ around with company’s brands. You don’t want ruin a company’s image.

#hashtag#hashtag#hashtag#hashtag#hashtag

To post is to exist
But the social media marketer doesn’t just look at social media from her work perspective, but also as a consumer. If she’s looking for a specific company, and they haven’t posted for a month, she’ll start to question if they’re still around. Another social media pet peeve of hers is social media managers who do not know how to use social media. As an example she mentions people who do not put spaces between their hashtags. On some platforms this will result in one long hashtag that won’t function properly. On the other hand, she also wonders about self-proclaimed social media experts who claim to be able to help you expand your clientele. If these experts spend a lot of time on social media explaining their expertise… how will they have time left to actually help their clients? This way they are signaling that they might now have work. She compares it to ‘clean desk policies’. If people have a clean desk at work, are they spending time working or cleaning their desks? A clean desk then signals that they might not be working after all. A messy desk suggests the opposite.

Don’t think about all the things that can go wrong

You need a level of superficiality
Over the years she has learned that with social media you can’t go too ‘deep’, you need a level of superficiality to practice social media marketing. And you definitely shouldn’t “think about all the things that can go wrong”. A problem she faced while working on social media related content is that she would overthink it. You just need to think about your target audience and consider your statistics. People should look at the ratio between website visits and the call to action. If people merely visit your website, but don’t buy your products, then something is clearly wrong. If you are not getting that many visits, but most visitors buy your products, you’re on the right path. She explains to me that people have been making this mistake for decades. The same principle holds for flyers people would receive in the mail. If not done correctly, they would also not lead to more sales. She feels that there is a discrepancy between sales and marketing, which she calls ‘waste’. Both departments will end up blaming each other for the lack of sales. There is no group looking at why this waste is happening.

Who am I communicating with?

Doing business is still personal
She recommends businesses to retain a personal touch in their online communication and on their platforms in general. This could be in the form of pictures of employees or by being able to see names of the people you communicated with. When she interacts with businesses online she asks herself “who am I communicating with?”. Knowing who the person is and if they have talked before would beg understanding. For instance, in customer service, does the person know her case or does she have to explain it again? “Doing business is still personal”. We end the interview on the note that companies cannot survive without an online presence, as it happens facilitate the ability to easily find information about the company. She adds: “when I hear about a company [offline], I will look them up online first”.

social media

Linguistics student: “discourse is directer and harsher on social media”

This post is part of a series that looks at social media from different perspectives. My first interview was with a student in linguistics and American studies.

Language
My interviewee explains to me that the language on each social media platform is different. He names a couple of platforms such as Twitter and 4Chan that have distinct ways of interaction and incorporate memes into their communication. However, groups on these platforms also have different ways that they utilize language, ‘Black Twitter’ is an example of this. Online users learn ways of setting up jokes that is only recognizable to them and their online peers, which is facilitated through the language they use. Furthermore, younger generations will develop parts of their identity through online interactions. He names interests and political affiliations as examples.

Some people think that language deteriorates because of social media. But my interviewee disagrees. He argues that language becomes more standardized and globalized as a result of its role on social media. Consequently, people will be able to communicate with one another with much more ease. However, I then wondered if it would be harder to discuss more complex topics online using this standardized form of language. He disagreed. He lists simple topics that will be easier to discuss with this type of language and further explains to me that abstract topics such as politics and philosophy will still be discussed, but just using different language.

Discourse: 4Chan vs Twitter
He believes that discourse could depend on the topic that is discussed on social media and explains to me that there isn’t necessarily one type of discourse that is inherent to social media. However, he does see a distinction between the discourse in older forms of media and social media. The anonymity influences the discourse on social media platforms, it is much directer and harsher now. Yet, the degree of anonymity varies between platforms, which causes some discourse to be even harsher in some online settings. He uses 4Chan and Twitter as examples again, explaining that users on Twitter have more identifiable characteristics than 4Chan users. Therefore, the harshness on 4Chan is expected to be more severe.

The World and Social Media
The bigger platforms that are used in the ‘west’ tend to originate from the United States. However, while these websites are American, countries filter the content on the platforms. He comes up with a personal example. In order to see more American content on YouTube, he had to change his settings. However, it appears that the U.S. is a forerunner when it comes to online trends and challenges. But ‘nonwestern’ countries are also starting to become influential online. Tiktok and anime are two prime examples of this.

Social Media is a double-edged sword

Advantages vs. Disadvantages
He definitely thinks there are advantages to social media. First, he believes that he has learned a lot about different cultures and people through the use of social media. Though, there is still a possibility that you end up in a filter bubble, which is a disadvantage. Furthermore, teenagers might spend less time outside and adults might spend less time talking face-to-face. Yet, he does believe that it could be easier to find like-minded individuals to form a connection with. It all depends on how you look at it.

Social media has the potential to have a positive effect. But in its current form it does not. Especially since bigger corporations own the platforms, which they run for profit. Their objective is not to create a human experience online. Each recommendations seems to serve to pull you to click or buy with the goal to profit. Furthermore, there are inequalities online, since the majority have a strong presence, they influence the recommendations you see online. Minorities are underrepresented in online settings. Social media is socially segregated.

social media

what do we think about social media?

Social media has both been criticized and hailed by different groups and individuals. People have varying perspectives on the advantages and risks of using social media. To understand these contrasting views, I will be interviewing several people with different backgrounds to get an overview of the diverse views regarding social media. The perspectives that will be discussed include: linguistic, cybersecurity, social media marketing, and self-advertisement. These interviews will take place over the next two months and will be posted on this blog.

social media

Internet use and access in North Korea

North Korea has both an intranet network (Kwangmyong) and an active internet connection, the latter is routed through China and Russia. There are a little over a thousand IP  addresses as of 2014. While there are around 28 websites on the North Korean internet, there over 5000 sites on the internet. The country also has their own Linux-based operating system, called Red Star. The interface looks quite similar to earlier versions of macOS.

Of course, to guarantee information control, only a few have access to the internet. The average person is not even aware of the existence of the internet, as can be read in a book written by Suki Kim. In her book, she recounts her experiences with the elite youth.

Interestingly, embassies have access to WiFi, and sometimes their networks don’t have passwords and the signal is strong enough to be picked up by people outside the building as well. Unfortunately, browsing programs are removed from smartphones before they are given to average citizens. The regime has a 3G mobile network (Koyrolink) which foreigners can use through a local SIM card.

Most social media platforms are blocked in the country (such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube). Adult websites are also inaccessible as pornography is illegal in the country. The content on their own websites ranges from North Korean news to their national airline company.

As aforementioned, the North Korean internet is routed through China and Russia. Previously, it was only routed through China, however now 60% is routed through Russia as well. This was first observed a month ago, October 2017. This makes sense given the latest political developments.

This article will provide more details on the latest developments on internet connection in North Korea.

social media

The benefits of using Facebook

There seems to be an ongoing trend of people looking for the downsides of Facebook. Researchers seem to want to uncover the negative effects social media sites could have on our mental health. Which, of course, makes sense in a postmodern reflexive society where people engage in risk aversion. Any new type of technology is scrutinized to make sure it won’t cause any ‘avoidable’ harm. However, there have been researchers that looked at the benefits of Facebook use in different settings.

Networking
Facebook is a social environment in which its users can interact with one another. In such a setting, social capital can be accumulated, which is important in everyday life. Social capital is the resources that one can attain through relationships and interactions with others. Researchers sent out a survey to college students to find out whether Facebook can aid in acquiring social capital. They found that students maintained and formed new social capital through Facebook. Interestingly, these college students were able to stay in contact with old high school students using this social media website. These friendships, in turn, are of importance when it comes to attaining social capital, as these friends can provide more (social) information.¹

The more friends the better?
Other researchers looked at the amount of Facebook friends and the perceived social support of users. This hypothesis turned out to be supported by their data. This relationship between these two constructs was also associated with reduced stress and psychological well-being. The researchers speculate that a higher number of Facebook friends is a cue for people to assume that they are more connected with people, regardless of how strong these connections actually are. However, they also note that the number of Facebook friends can also be related to personality traits such as extraversion. This trait is also related to well-being. Therefore, the underlying mechanism for perceived social support could also be linked to personality traits or other factors.²

Being yourself
Staying closer to your authentic self on Facebook is associated with feeling more connected with other users. While straying away from your true self is linked to more stress. This is similar to findings from ‘real life’ settings where those who acted according to their true self in person also reported a better well-being.³
Different researchers found that Facebook can help users acquire online social support. This social support does not directly correlate with well-being, but the online support people get can help people take the step of looking for real-life support.4

1. Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook “friends:” Social capital and college students’ use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication12(4), 1143-1168.

2. Nabi, R. L., Prestin, A., & So, J. (2013). Facebook friends with (health) benefits? Exploring social network site use and perceptions of social support, stress, and well-being. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking16(10), 721-727.

3.  Grieve, R., & Watkinson, J. (2016). The psychological benefits of being authentic on Facebook. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking19(7), 420-425.

4.Liu, C. Y., & Yu, C. P. (2013). Can Facebook use induce well-being?. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking16(9), 674-678.

social media

Social Media: fear of missing out


With the emergence of social media, new problems have surfaced. However, the question is whether these problems are substantial enough to consider. For instance, internet addiction can be considered a new issue, but addiction existed in other forms before the internet came to be. And since addiction has been tied to biological processes, these underlying mechanisms could make individuals more susceptible to (internet) addiction (Vink et al. 2015; Kühn and Gallinat, 2015; Zhang et al. 2015). But let’s focus on the social spaces in this virtual world, which created a new fear: the fear of missing out.

However since the fear of missing (FoMO) out is still a new concept in regards to online communication, I still find it quite broadly defined. It seems to be used mainly in regards to social networking sites, but you can imagine that this could also be used in terms of other online services, such as messaging applications. People share social information on sites such as Facebook and people might feel like missing out on such information when not regularly checking this site. Since all of these different services can be accessed through a smartphone, it has become difficult for people to not regularly check for new notifications. Different people have voiced their criticism on device use and often refer to a time when the internet wasn’t a ‘big thing’. But not having access to the internet is almost unthinkable in many parts of the world today. It is not just used to keep in touch with our family or friends, but government departments, schools, employers, etc. expect us to be able to use the internet. Lacking skills or access could ultimately result in digital exclusion.

Though the fear of missing out is also applicable in the offline world. People not being able to attend a ‘get together’ or not being invited to one could also elicit this fear. Przybylski et al (2013) created a FoMO scale to measure this construct for their study. Items included in the scale were:
“Sometimes, I wonder if I spend too much time keeping up with what is going on”.
“When I go on vacation, I continue to keep tabs on what my friends are doing”.
These same researchers found that especially young males are susceptible to FoMO. Those who score high on this construct are more likely to check their social media when waking up, during eating, and before going to sleep. Students high on FoMO were also more likely to engage in social media use during lectures. And lastly, high scoring FoMO individuals tend to use their smartphone while driving.

Dossey (2014) wrote an interesting article about the practicalities of FoMO. For instance, he discusses a new term coined by South Korean doctors, digital dementia. In this new “dementia” people’s right side of the brain become underdeveloped, while the left side is overdeveloped. Symptoms tied to this phenomenon affect memory and attention span, and impulse control.

Here I want to postulate that there could be underlying biological mechanisms at work in regards to online behaviors. There have been studies in such settings, for instance, Sherman et al. (2016) found increased activity in neural pathways (using fMRI) when adolescents were exposed to pictures with many ‘likes’. This activity is related to reward systems.
The feel-good hormones in those reward systems stimulate us to carry out certain behaviors. If we have been enforced to do something that releases such hormones, we are very likely to keep repeating them. That is why we engage in certain behaviors, such as eating delicious food, having sex, and check our phone. And if seeing a notification pop up on our smartphone screens can elicit such strong feelings, it is only natural for us to feel so attached to our phones.

Dossey, L. (2014). FOMO, Digital Dementia, and Our Dangerous Experiment

Kühn, S., & Gallinat, J. (2015). Brains online: structural and functional correlates of habitual Internet use. Addiction biology, 20(2), 415-422.

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.

Sherman, L. E., Payton, A. A., Hernandez, L. M., Greenfield, P. M., & Dapretto, M. (2016). The power of the like in adolescence: Effects of peer influence on neural and behavioral responses to social media. Psychological science, 27(7), 1027-1035.

Vink, J. M., Beijsterveldt, T. C., Huppertz, C., Bartels, M., & Boomsma, D. I. (2015). Heritability of compulsive Internet use in adolescents. Addiction biology.

Zhang, J. T., Yao, Y. W., Li, C. S. R., Zang, Y. F., Shen, Z. J., Liu, L., … & Fang, X. Y. (2015). Altered resting‐state functional connectivity of the insula in young adults with Internet gaming disorder. Addiction biology.

social media

Facebook and mental health

Facebook has been available to the general public since 2006. Since this time there have been many studies on the effects of Facebook on individual’s mental states. There have also been studies on how personality traits can influence internet use. Facebook is a new environment where people can socialize, this space, which is considerably different from face-to-face communication, can have disparate implications.

One of the major arguments people use when criticizing social media is the idea that it might replace real life interactions. However, this concern seems to be ungrounded, as the opposite is more likely to be true. People still engage in face-to-face interactions, and on top of that communicate through the use of an internet connection. Thus the amount spent socializing has actually increased.
Another issue which is often discussed is that Facebook does not mimic a setting close to real life interaction. Which, at face value, is very likely to be true. First of all, the average amount of Facebook friends is 150. This is not just an arbitrary number, this is referred to as the Dunbar number. Based on our cognitive capacities humans are limited to maintaining this number of relationships.
Third, the content that is shared and posted doesn’t always match the discussed content in real life. For instance, people seem to be more likely to share their positive milestones and experiences. Entering such a space, from a hypothetical standpoint, could affect your mental state. People might start to feel like negative emotions or occurrences are unusual, and from this they will infer that something is wrong with them.

Depression
Moreno et al. (2011) looked at depressive symptoms displayed on Facebook profiles of college students. In order to identify these symptoms, they used the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM is a book used by many different professionals, including psychologists, to recognize mental disorders. For this study, they used the criteria of a major depressive episodeThey found that 25% of the profiles they studied disclosed symptoms of depression. And 2.5% displayed symptoms of an actual major depressive episode. The authors of this article refer to suicide in relation to Facebook being a much talked about topic in the media nowadays. Recently a teen took her own life while broadcasting this using the Facebook Live tool. Because of such events and the fact that Facebook users do sometimes display symptoms online, the researchers opt for identifying those at risk and making sure they receive further clinical evaluation.

Envy
Krasnova et al. looked at envy on Facebook. They asked respondents what kind of reasons others might have for experiencing negative emotions using this social media site. And one of the most picked reasons was envy, or upward social comparison. Afterward the participants had to indicate what exactly could elicit such feelings, with travel and leisure being the top reason. They also find that 20% of the times people felt envious, it was elicited by Facebook use.

Well-being
Kim and Lee (2011) looked at self-reported well-being and Facebook. They posited that the amount of Facebook friends could be associated with people’s well-being. And that is exactly what they found in their sample of college students, more friends mean higher well-being. This wasn’t because they perceive more social support but according to the researchers it is more likely to be an enhancement of self-worth.
In terms of social support, they find a  negative curvilinear association with the amount of friends. Most likely due to the fact that maintaining a few close relationships is important for social support, and that the number of friends is not important in this regard.
Positive self-presentation on Facebook also positively influences people’s well-being. The authors point out that people like having positive feelings about themselves, and that presenting yourself in such a way can increase your subjective well-being.

Dunbar, R. I. (1992). Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates. Journal of human evolution, 22(6), 469-493.

Kim, J., & Lee, J. E. R. (2011). The Facebook paths to happiness: Effects of the number of Facebook friends and self-presentation on subjective well-being. CyberPsychology, behavior, and social networking, 14(6), 359-364.

Krasnova, H., Wenninger, H., Widjaja, T., & Buxmann, P. (2013). Envy on Facebook: A hidden threat to users’ life satisfaction?.

Moreno, M. A., Jelenchick, L. A., Egan, K. G., Cox, E., Young, H., Gannon, K. E., & Becker, T. (2011). Feeling bad on Facebook: depression disclosures by college students on a social networking site. Depression and anxiety, 28(6), 447-455.