Social Networking Comfort Zone

I’m taking part in scroll free September which is being run by the Royal Society for Public Health. The campaign is designed to help us all reflect on our use of social media and to take a break to improve our mental health and wellbeing.

I’ve decided to go cold turkey (and start a week early). On Sunday evening I started my withdrawal from Facebook and Twitter. During the first twenty four hours I was surprised by the level of anxiety that I experienced. I will qualify this by saying that I took the quiz to work out my Social Media Index (bottom section of the RSPH website) and according to that I am at low risk however I do find using social media like a distraction activity that I do regularly during quiet periods in the day. Not having that caused me some anxiety to begin with and during the first day I also found myself with more time that I expected. All the very tiny slices of time actually turn out to be a large amount of time when taken together so I was able to ‘get more done’. During the first day I did more jobs around the house including helping my daughter Hannah redecorate her room. This was beneficial in two ways, firstly it gave me time with my daughter that I was not aware I was missing until that day, and secondly the physical work actually leads to a sense of achievement, things are getting done.

Over the last few days the levels of anxiety have steadily decreased and been replaced by a feeling of calmness and serenity. I realise now that there is an addictive element to even the most casual use of social media which builds anxiety. The need to post updates becomes an imperative. The need to check what’s going on. Social networks definitely play on this. Since leaving Twitter and Facebook they have used email to reach out to draw me back, here are just a selection of the notifications I’ve received..








I’ve also received a growing number of push notifications on my phone, some of these have been specifically triggered by my absence since this is the first time in a decade that I’ve spent more than a day away from social media. This in itself is quite shocking. I am still learning how to make the best use of the time I’ve freed up however I would encourage everyone to take part in this, if only to reflect on the habits that build up which are unconscious until we put them under the microscope. This has been a revelation for me. I am well aware of the benefits of social media however I’m sure that this has positively disrupted my habits around social media use and made me critically reflect on how my time is being spent.

Social Introduction software?

Niall has asked me and colleagues to look at IntroNetworks , presumably as a potential tool for use at work to network with colleagues. It’s built on Flash meeting and other technologies and looks like more Macromedia product tools are being added in. It seems to me to be a visualisation tool for social and business networking. I’ve seen the like before, attendr (?) is an example of one I’ve seen in the past and Tony Hirst mentioned KMi’s expert search in his recent blog which is one being created by buddies at work. I’ve got my reservations about buying in to InterNetworks as a solution for work because:-

a. I think people don’t know what they’re good at, some people say they’re experts at everything, others are shy to admit to anything. This has been proven by other ‘search for expert’ systems created at the OU in the past.

b. I’m not sure that it’s going to work if you open it to the whole organisation, it might work in smaller communities of practise or in areas where people want to extend knowledge through sharing with a peer group.

c. I think it may work very well for something like attending conferences but last time I went to the FOWA conference I  accidentily got put down as an academic and without any interests (my secretary filled out my application form!) and strangely I got paired up with four other people who I did know and did share an interest with (who persumable got their secretaries to fill out their forms for them too!), so despite it being completely NOT what I’d have put in for myself it found me some good buddies who I wanted ot talk to before, during and after conference (and did so). So maybe there’s a case for “chaos theory” ;^)

d. It’s seems very much based on propriety technology and whislt I like Flash meeting etc. It would be nice to have this as some very open and extensible web2.0 product that I could make fit my environment far better than someone who’s giving me a black box solution. I feel that all we need is the algorithms not the ‘gloss’.

I’m not dismissing this one yet as I’ve only played with the free demo but I’d like to see what can be done with string and glue and couple of google tools and then come back to this again to see how it compares.


Should Social Networks have a social conscience?

I’ve been having a discussion with several people following the Bebo incident. Theres an article about it here where the coroner says..

“I shall be looking at these networking sites myself to see if there is a link between them and the growing number of youngsters committing suicide.”

“But in the meantime I want to warn youngsters about the possible dangers these websites can pose.”

“I would also like to warn parents to be actively on the alert for signs of their children being influenced by others on these sites. ”

It’s a gnarly subject and my thoughts are still forming on the influence of the internet on these people. Things I have been thinking about are:-

(a) These sites allow people who share interests to come together. Teens are particularly valunerable and suseptable to influence from others, this can tak place online or in a community or at school or anywhere. Is the internet itself (and are these sites) responsible for what occurs or are they just a means of communication?

(b) Can people who wouldn’t otherwise meet be influenced in ways not possible in the past? – i.e. the potential for the sites to allow groups to form where people are of the same tendancy to self reproach or lack of self esteem, whereas in ‘real’ life you tend to meet an eclectic group of individuals with different tastes and personalities and therefore some may influence you positively rather than affirming negative thinking?

(c) Is it impossible to control how any of these things are used? – Where should the policing or control take place? – I think the parents have a strong influence here and I don’t think it’s necessarily the government or ISP’s or site providers who should come up with all the answers.

(d) Would these events have occured anyhow? – Is this actually nothing to do with the internet but a lot more to do with creating a society where we engender respect and self worth. In which case do we as a society have some collective responsibility for ensuring that people on sites like this don’t spiral into suicidal depression. Can we do anything about it?

I don’t have any answers I just have questions.