Social Media Use at the University of Maryland

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What Will Be the Future of Social Media?

Social media is growing up

For the last blog post, I decided to look at the social media in a different perspective. Ten years ago no one would believe that you will be obsessed with your phone. How about ten years from now? What would social media be like then?

Looking back, it’s clearer to see the early 2000s as social media’s infancy. Sure, the conception and development of the idea can be traced to early-internet connectors like BBSes or AOL’s emphasis on member profiles and chatting, but it wasn’t until Facebook rolled out during the middle of the last decade that we had entered what could be said to be a new era of human communication. Between February 2005 and August 2006, the use of social networking sites by young people jumped from 9 percent to 49 percent; today, Facebook says it has more than 1.35 billion active users. To say social media has grown into being the backbone of the internet is an understatement; at this point, it feels like the backbone of society. But is anyone still impressed that they can keep up with Aunt Judy through the computer? What’s the next step?

As a social media user, would you be curious about what will social media look like in ten years? It’s fun to anticipate how these platforms will evolve in the future. Here are some popular predictions that you may be interested to see:

  • A Less Diversified Community

Amy Miller, a comedian and marketing director, sees the shift toward the impersonal and the anonymous continuing. “Seven to ten years ago, we were like, ‘Oh my God, so I can just, like, be friends with my fourth-grade sweetheart?’ Connecting to people from your past actually felt like meeting a celebrity,” she said. “In the near future, we will use social in order to completely avoid or delete our past.”

In other words, we used to be impressed with how many people we could share our lives with, and now we’re more interested in limiting what we share with who.

Jen Goldberg, a digital strategist for ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, agrees. “We’ll continue to see a trend towards micro-communities and one-to-one or one-to-a select few sharing over the one-to-an-anonymous many,” she said. “We’ve cycled away from blogging and broadcasting, towards anonymous sharing and small group messaging.”

  • We won’t be reading long texts any more

People have also clearly shown that they like looking at pictures and short bursts of texts, not reading Twitter novels or your self-involved Facebook notes. While Facebook remains the world’s largest social network, the fastest growth is happening on Tumblr, Snapchat, and Instagram. Tumblr’s active user base grew by over 120 percent this year, Instagram is incredibly popular among teens, and Snapchat has gotten so big it rejected an offer to sell to Facebook for $3 billion. A new era of photo-reading is approaching.

  • Apple Watch is just a start

“When our eyes are a video camera, our ears a microphone, and we are wearing clothes with code in the fibers, we’ll likely share our lives on a biorhythmic scale.”

–Jen Goldberg.

Here’s something to terrify you: Social media is going to become more and more invasive and more and more a part of our bodies. Last year, Facebook paid billions for Oculus VR, a company gearing up to mass-produce virtual-reality headsets . In May, Google Glass became widelyavailable, if not affordable for most. This means that soon, you’ll never have to not be looking at a computer.

“It’ll be like Minority Report without jetpack policemen,” said McNayr and Beard. “Everything pushes to targeted video content, localized/personalized/contextualized on truly ubiquitous content screens. Ads, awareness, content, relationships, communication, meetups IRL. Devices fall away—everything you touch is an interface for your communication and content workflows/apps.”

Dominguez is less optimistic: “In ten or 15 years social media will probably just be a 3D hologram of a Coca-Cola bottle angrily shouting at us to buy Coca-Cola, then rewarding us with a meme .GIF if we buy Coca-Cola, or shocking us with a high-voltage electrical current if we don’t.”

Solutions to the Conflict between Social Media and Higher Education

After discussing the use of social media in higher education both inside and outside of the classroom on my last post, you may agree that there are indeed certain social problems created by excessive use of social media, especially for students who are vulnerable to stimulates and desires that are basically everywhere online. Since most of us don’t have the willpower or tendency to entirely disconnect from social media, and we sometimes do need these tools to network and finish school works, learning how to use social sites in smarter ways that make them learning assets instead of obstacles is one of the best things you can do for your academic career and beyond.

These following guidelines are proposed specifically for college students like you — so if you are struggling with your attention span, try to implement these principles into your daily life, and let me know whether these are able to help you or not:

1. Unplug from Social Media and Similar Distractions

Leelawatte Popali-Lehane, a clinical psychologist at Diversity in Aging, says that a critical part of success for online students (or any students) in balancing their studies and their social media usage is set aside time just for working on class materials. Unless social media is explicitly required to complete an assignment, during these hours you should instruct friends and family not to contact you and turn off cell phones, block access to social sites, and reduce the number of things that can potentially distract you. Facebook can wait.

2. Set Time Limits for Computer-Related Activities

Popali-Lehane also recommends setting strict limits on checking emails, texts, and social sites. Checking them frequently can become a rather distracting habit that makes it hard for you to concentrate on more important and academically focused tasks. If you find yourself repeatedly checking them when you shouldn’t be, set up programs like a Pomodoro timer on your computer that will encourage you to focus in a given period of time.

If you find that you simply can’t seem to kick the habit of checking social sites, Popali-Lehane advises getting out of the house and leaving the technology behind. “If you have a project to do, you can start your research at a brick-and-mortar library and get help from the librarian in finding hard copies of materials like books, magazines, and newspapers,” she says. “This way, you limit the temptation to surf and consequently waste precious time.”

3. Leave your Laptop at Home, Take Notes with Pen and Paper

And if you’re not an online student? Popali-Lehane says that no matter how cool it may seem to bring your laptop to class, it’s actually more of a distraction than an easy way to take notes. She finds that most of her students lose focus when they get an email or start browsing social sites instead of paying attention, so good old fashioned pen and paper may be the best choice.

4. Identify Productive Ways to Use Social Media

If you do have to use social media for class, make it productive. Get to know your professor, share resources, talk to experts, and keep up with the news of the world instead of getting lost in online games or mindlessly checking for updates from friends. There are many positive and productive ways to use social media, and applying them to your courses can help you get more out of what you’re learning and overcome feelings of isolation that can plague many new students both online and off.

At the end of the day, anything can be a distraction if you let it, even things that can have a largely positive influence on your life. Social media is no more a success killer than any of these, provided you use it wisely and don’t allow it to become a distraction that keeps you from achieving the things you really want to do. In some cases, it can even be an asset for learning, keeping you connected and engaged with your courses, your field, and your colleagues. The trick is figuring out how to navigate the fine line between productivity and obsession and come out ahead on the other side.

Examining Social Media Use in Higher Education

Have you ever forgot your phone at home and realized that you were lost without all your social apps? You’re not alone. A lot of college students like you suffer from the addiction for connectivity for all time, and since social media has been believed to be playing an increasingly important role in higher education, we need to recognize the issues and utilize these platforms wisely.

While social media has been lauded for its ability to connect people from all over the world, it has also been blamed for social problems it created. Some of this blame, according to one of my previous posts, may have been placed unfairly, but that doesn’t mean that social media doesn’t pose some real problems for its users.

As it turns out, being so connected all the time comes with serious drawbacks. It can shorten attention spans, become addictive, lead to less diverse social groups, and even, among some student users, cause a marked drop in academic performance. If you use social media in class or take online courses that require social media interaction, these potential effects can be a bit scary and may cause you to wonder what role social media should play in higher education.

Your Brain on Social Media

With an estimated 800 million people worldwide using Facebook and countless others connecting through other sites, the effects of these types of media could be quite significant, especially among groups who are heavy users like you. However, it turns out that the daily activity of checking your phone may prevent you from achieving academic success.

A study by researchers at the University of Winchester found that when heavy social media users were asked to stop using the services for a month, some (though not all) experienced negative feelings related to the ban, including feeling cut off from the world and social isolation. The result from a study at the Miriam Hospital’s Center for Behavioral and Preventative Medicine turns out to be more specific about the dangerous outcome of the addiction. The study found that student engagement with digital media of any kind, whether it be posting to Facebook or sending a text to a friend, could have a big impact on grades, lowering GPAs and negatively impacting other areas of academic performance. Because these students spend so much time engaging with media, they spend less time doing homework, attending class, and even taking care of themselves by getting enough sleep.

The Pros and Cons of Social Media in Education

While it’s true that social media can have a negative impact on your brain, it’s not the tool itself that’s the problem but how it’s used. In fact, social media plays a productive and incredibly useful role in the classroom at colleges all over the country, and many feel it has a strong role to play in enriching the educational experience for students for years to come.

A closer examination below of the pros and cons of social media reveal that it’s probably not as dangerous as some have made it out to be, while some drawbacks are also significant if you did not utilize social media properly:

The Good

  • It makes it easy to collaborate. 
  • It offers a chance to learn essential technological skills. 
  • Students can get instant feedback. 
  • It fosters creativity. 
  • It gets some students more engaged. 

The Bad

  • There is potential for distraction. 
  • It may reduce more personal forms of communication.
  • Some believe it encourages poor writing. 
    •  In fact, research does suggest that those who use incorrect forms of grammar and spelling on social media are more likely to do so in other venues, too.
  • It may compromise privacy.

With so much to gain and so many potential pitfalls, it can be confusing to you whether to embrace social media or not. The reality is that it isn’t going away anytime soon, so the best move is to learn how to make social media a valuable tool for learning, not just a way to procrastinate and kill time. I will discuss more on how to use social media efficiently as college students, so stay tuned!

Improving your Attention Span in the Social Media Era

According to my previous post, we had a 12 second attention span compared with an 8 second attention in 2013, which means that the amount of concentrated time that we are able to spend on a task without becoming distracted is less than a goldfish. It’s no surprise attention spans have been decreasing over the past decade with the increase in external stimulation – social media, mobile phones, and the flood of online information.

For young adults like us, to achieve the goal of improving the decreased attention span, we need to first understand how our brain works.

According to a Daniel J. Levitin, professor and researcher at McGill University and author of “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload“, human brains alternate between two modes of consciousness: (1) the task-positive network, which helps you get things done, and (2) the task-negative network, which functions when you daydream or let your mind wander.

Balancing between the two is essential to completing tasks and coming up with creative solutions to problems. When you’re constantly jumping between Facebook, email and texts, your brain has to divide its limited resources. This can destruct your attention span and your ability to make distinctions between what is important and what isn’t.  In short, you don’t spend enough time in either mode for your brain to be effective.

We all rely on the Internet to get a lot of our work done, but we are working on the best ever invention for procrastination because it can quickly shift our brains into task negative territory. Sometimes you thought checking your email when working on a project that requires longer and more concentrated attention is just taking a break, you are actually taking this break from productivity.

Our mobile phones make it worse. According to this recent Harris Poll,  63% of women and 73% of men ages 18-34 say they don’t go an hour without checking their phones. More than half said they check their phone frequently from the moment they wake up to the moment they sleep, even during the middle of the night and on the toilet.

Therefore, training yourself to concentrate during a specific time period without being distracted by social media platforms becomes one of the most important tasks for us, the modern day young adults who constantly get addicted to our phone and laptop.

According to Levitin’s book,”The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload“, brain science dictates that you should chunk your day into project periods. Your social networking should be done during a designated time, not as constant short dips in and out throughout your day. He also recommends that email should be time boxed or done a designated intervals.

Levitin also says that if you give up multitasking and immerse yourself in a single task for sustained periods of a half hour or hour, you’ll get more creative.

Levitin suggested several ways to get rid of the social media when working, but sometimes they can be unrealistic — what if we need to check our social media and emails for work? What if the technologies are necessary and have to be squeezed in our daily life?

keep-calm-and-social-media

According to Beth Kanter, the author of Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media, she proposed several ways to make social media part of your work routine without dividing too much of your attention:

  • Take social media breaks after completing higher concentration tasks
  • Keep an eye out for photos, especially useful for Twitter
  • Do your “engagement” activities on your phone while taking a walk after lunch
  • Set reminders on your phone or calendar to check social channels and make it a habit
  • Block out some time to schedule your tweets or updates over the week, using scheduling tools
  • Don’t succumb to fear of missing out or myth of in-box zero or being caught up
  • Curate information on social that helps you build expertise or knowledge for a presentation or work related tasks
  • Check social channels while you wait in lines or in between meetings
  • Learn how to scan and then go deep

Does this post help you improve your attention span? Is there any other way you may propose to spend quality time on social media and achieve productivity? Please leave a comment!

Another Perspective on Decreased Attention Span: This can be figured out

If you are a digital content consumer like me, and you read the previous post on the blog, you may believe that our attention span is decreasing because of social media. However, some researchers believe that solutions can be provided and the decreased attention span may be just a myth.

According to Joyce Fetteroll, a psychologist at Carnage Mellon University, people are pathologizing a normal human response.

It’s like calling light dangerous because even after a brief exposure our dark vision needs 30 whole minutes to return to normal. She said.

We’re in an age of a massive amount of interesting stuff. Abandoning an article or show after a few minutes is called filtering. It’s useful because a dozen other options also clamor for our attention but with time for only one or two. If people’s attention spans were measured while browsing for books, it would be about 30 seconds per book. Which just highlights the problem with using a microscope to focus on a big picture: The conclusions are likely to be false.

A counter example of decreasing attention span — besides the fact that people actually end up reading books after browsing — is the rise of series bingewatching. Someone with a damaged attention span couldn’t watch an entire season of House of Cards in one go.

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Netflix released the third season of House of Cards on February 27, 2015, and a number of audience finished it in less than one day.

Older adults struggle in a rich sea of choices because it’s a big change for them. Young people like us growing up in a sea of interesting choices find it normal. We will naturally develop strategies. Our strategies won’t look like our parents’ strategies because adult strategies were developed for a less rich time. When they were in childhood, they sometimes flipped through a dozen channels to find something to watch. To our parents that was irritating because they grew up in an age when radio offered few choices. You tuned in when your program was on. To us, flipping through several hundred channels isn’t a useful strategy.

Humans are natural problem solvers. If society grows a new behavior, it’s because it meets a need that was going unmet, not because a change damaged people. The question to ask is, What was the need? not How can we fix people?

There will be solutions on how to work productively in a constant flow of communication. It may take some new clever filtering technologies. It may take us who grew up with continuous connection moving into the workforce. It may take technology developed by our generation, and we probably just need to wait patiently, and stop panicking.

The Shortened Attention Span: Good or Bad

With the advent of social media and the advance of technology, we are much more likely to be overwhelmed with noises and ignore one specific message. Therefore in the new era of social marketing, “short” becomes one of the most important principles for content creators.

Not only texts are limited to 140 characters, which can seldom tell a complete story without accompanying other media, videos are also appealing to a broader audience when they are short enough. Instagram and Facebook introduced the 15 seconds video in the news feed, and Vine pushed the number down to 6 seconds. Why so short? According to a recent poll, 15 seconds is the max acceptable time limit on ads.

With such a short time and small screen, the common belief would be that there won’t be any valuable or complete story on these social media sites. However, it turns out that the six seconds limits only encourages the creativity and enhances the quality.

“The limitations of six seconds can actually lift the storytelling,” explained Gabrielle Kessler, account manager for Something Massive.

Our short attention spans force content providers to create precise, entertaining and eye-catching content. The video has to present the condensed point with creativity to catch the trend. A news provider called “NowThis News” is a perfect example.blog-itwAccording to Jeff Petriello, producer at NowThis News, this news provider is the social web’s first digital video news network. NowThis News is the news in our pocket. They create short-form, digital video news segments for the mobile and social web. They put a lot of resources into producing great content for Instagram, Vine, and their app – stuff that’s native to the platforms and not promoting a website or TV program.

With the 6 seconds of limits on Instagram, NowThis News did a great job telling a complete and beautiful story.

 https://vine.co/v/O9IHWggWZFV/embed/simple

For content providers, the shortened attention span of audience definitely means more challenges; however for content consumers like us, this probably means more efficiency and a faster understanding. The shortened attention span itself isn’t a good thing for sure, but to evaluate the result of what it produced can be a controversial topic. What do you think?