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Feeling Overwhelmed and Depressed? Could be Too Much Social Media – Net Newsledger

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – LIVING – Can’t stop checking social media for the latest COVID-19 health information? You might want to take a break, according to researchers at Penn State and Jinan University who discovered that excessive use of social media for COVID-19 health information is related to both depression and secondary trauma.

“We found that social media use was rewarding up to a point, as it provided informational, emotional and peer support related to COVID-19 health topics,” said Bu Zhong, associate professor of journalism, Penn State. “However, excessive use of social media led to mental health issues. The results imply that taking a social media break may promote well-being during the pandemic, which is crucial to mitigating mental health harm inflicted by the pandemic.”

The study, which published online on August 15, 2020 in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, included 320 participants living in urban districts of Wuhan, China. In February 2020, the team gave the participants an online survey that investigated how they accessed and shared health information with family members, friends and colleagues on social media, specifically WeChat, China’s most popular social media mobile app.

The team used an instrument created to measure Facebook addiction to assess participants’ use of WeChat. Using a 5-point Likert-type scale, ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree, the survey assessed participants’ views of WeChat in providing them with informational, emotional and peer support. The survey also assessed participants’ health behavior changes as a result of using social media.

Statements related to informational support included, “I use WeChat to gain information about how to manage the coronavirus epidemic,” and “If I have a question or need help related to the coronavirus epidemic, I can usually find the answers on WeChat.” Statements related to emotional support included, “My stress levels go down while I’m engaging with others on WeChat,” and “The health information on WeChat helps me alleviate feelings of loneliness.” Statements related to peer support included, “I use WeChat to share practical advice and suggestions about managing the coronavirus epidemic,” and “I have used some of the information I learned from WeChat friends as part of my management strategies for coping with the coronavirus epidemic.”

The survey also investigated participants’ health behavior changes related to the use of WeChat, asking them to rate statements such as, “The health information on WeChat has changed many of my health behaviors, such as but not limited to wearing face masks, using sanitizer, or washing hands.”

To assess depression, the researchers used a 21-item Depression Anxiety Stress Scale in which participants rated statements such as, “I couldn’t seem to experience any positive feeling at all,” and “I felt that life was meaningless.”

According to Zhong, secondary trauma refers to the behaviors and emotions resulting from knowledge about a traumatizing event experienced by a significant other. Using the Secondary Trauma Stress Scale, the researchers asked respondents to rate statements such as, “My heart started pounding when I thought about the coronavirus epidemic,” and “I had disturbing dreams about the coronavirus epidemic.”

“We found that the Wuhan residents obtained tremendous informational and peer support but slightly less emotional support when they accessed and shared health information about COVID-on WeChat,” said Zhong. “The participants also reported a series of health behavior changes, such as increased hand washing and use of face masks.

More than half of the respondents reported some level of depression, with nearly 20% of them suffering moderate or severe depression. Among the respondents who reported secondary trauma, the majority reported a low (80%) level of trauma, while fewer reported moderate (13%) and high (7%) levels of trauma. None of the participants reported having any depressive or traumatic disorders before the survey was conducted.

“Our results show that social media usage was related to both depression and secondary trauma during the early part of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan,” said Zhong. “The findings suggest that taking a social media break from time to time may help to improve people’s mental well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook – Clearwater Times

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Black Press Media has joined Canada’s news media publishers in calling for all political parties in Parliament to support the adoption of Australia’s approach to combat the monopolistic practices of Google and Facebook.

The two American web giants control the lion’s share of online advertising dollars and distribute newspaper content without compensation in Canada, as in democracies around the world. The model being implemented in Australia counters these monopolistic practices and levels the digital playing field – at no cost to taxpayers and without user fees or other charges.

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues. They use their monopoly control not just to divert advertising from news media publishers, but also to divert millions in advertising revenue that they place on news media sites. Even when advertisers pay specifically to advertise on news media sites, Google and Facebook keep most of that revenue, while gathering and using data on news media site readers and advertisers for their own purposes.

Black Press Media CEO Rick O’Connor stated, “It is vital that we establish the principle that the content we produce and that is subsequently picked up and carried on the platforms such as Google and Facebook should be compensated by the platforms so that we can continue to provide the journalism that our local communities want.

“This is a principle that is only recently being accepted by the platforms, thus the need to work in concert with the rest of the industry to fight for local journalism.”

The recommendation that Canada adopt the Australian model is contained in Levelling the Digital Playing Field, a report commissioned by News Media Canada and prepared by global advisory firm FTI Consulting, which conducted an in-depth analysis of actions taken in democracies around the world to address the same challenge.

News Media Canada represents more than 90 per cent of news media readership in Canada including daily, regional, community, and ethnocultural news publications.

“A strong, diverse and independent news media is valued by Canadians and crucial to our democracy,” said Jamie Irving, vice-president of New Brunswick news publishing company BNI and Chair of News Media Canada’s working group.

“Publishing real news costs money, and Google and Facebook – two of the biggest companies in the world – cannot continue to be allowed to free-ride on the backs of Canadian news media publishers who produce news content, without fair compensation. The time to tackle the global web giants, as the federal government indicated in September, is now.”

Key elements of the Australian model include:

  • An effective approach that requires no new government funding, consumer taxes, or user fees.
  • Publishers, with the approval of government, form a collective bargaining unit to negotiate compensation for the use of their content and intellectual property. It is only through this government approved collective approach that the immense monopoly power of the web giants can be countered, and the digital playing field levelled.
  • A code of conduct to ensure that the web monopolies do not use new algorithms and other proprietary technology to expand their market domination and entrench unfair competitive practices.
  • Enforcement. Under the Australia model, the web giants are subject to fines in the hundreds of millions of dollars for a single infraction. Penalties of this scale are the only effective ways to rein in companies of this unprecedented size and power.
  • Comparable context. Both Canada and Australia publishers are facing significant challenges from the web giants. Canada and Australia share strong regional identities, and similar parliamentary and legal systems.

The government of Canada announced in its speech from the throne on Sept. 23, “The government will act to ensure their revenue is shared more fairly with our creators and media, and will also require them to contribute to the creation, production and distribution of our stories, on screen, in lyrics, in music and in writing.”

News Media Canada is calling on the government to tackle the web giants and adopt the Australian model in Canada.

The CEO members of the following companies are leading the discussions with the government of Canada including Glacier Media, Black Press, Torstar, Postmedia, Globe and Mail, La Presse, Quebecor and Brunswick News.

Canadian-owned Black Press operates more than 80 print and website publications in B.C., Alberta and the Yukon.

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National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook – Aldergrove Star

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Black Press Media has joined Canada’s news media publishers in calling for all political parties in Parliament to support the adoption of Australia’s approach to combat the monopolistic practices of Google and Facebook.

The two American web giants control the lion’s share of online advertising dollars and distribute newspaper content without compensation in Canada, as in democracies around the world. The model being implemented in Australia counters these monopolistic practices and levels the digital playing field – at no cost to taxpayers and without user fees or other charges.

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues. They use their monopoly control not just to divert advertising from news media publishers, but also to divert millions in advertising revenue that they place on news media sites. Even when advertisers pay specifically to advertise on news media sites, Google and Facebook keep most of that revenue, while gathering and using data on news media site readers and advertisers for their own purposes.

Black Press Media CEO Rick O’Connor stated, “It is vital that we establish the principle that the content we produce and that is subsequently picked up and carried on the platforms such as Google and Facebook should be compensated by the platforms so that we can continue to provide the journalism that our local communities want.

“This is a principle that is only recently being accepted by the platforms, thus the need to work in concert with the rest of the industry to fight for local journalism.”

The recommendation that Canada adopt the Australian model is contained in Levelling the Digital Playing Field, a report commissioned by News Media Canada and prepared by global advisory firm FTI Consulting, which conducted an in-depth analysis of actions taken in democracies around the world to address the same challenge.

News Media Canada represents more than 90 per cent of news media readership in Canada including daily, regional, community, and ethnocultural news publications.

“A strong, diverse and independent news media is valued by Canadians and crucial to our democracy,” said Jamie Irving, vice-president of New Brunswick news publishing company BNI and Chair of News Media Canada’s working group.

“Publishing real news costs money, and Google and Facebook – two of the biggest companies in the world – cannot continue to be allowed to free-ride on the backs of Canadian news media publishers who produce news content, without fair compensation. The time to tackle the global web giants, as the federal government indicated in September, is now.”

Key elements of the Australian model include:

  • An effective approach that requires no new government funding, consumer taxes, or user fees.
  • Publishers, with the approval of government, form a collective bargaining unit to negotiate compensation for the use of their content and intellectual property. It is only through this government approved collective approach that the immense monopoly power of the web giants can be countered, and the digital playing field levelled.
  • A code of conduct to ensure that the web monopolies do not use new algorithms and other proprietary technology to expand their market domination and entrench unfair competitive practices.
  • Enforcement. Under the Australia model, the web giants are subject to fines in the hundreds of millions of dollars for a single infraction. Penalties of this scale are the only effective ways to rein in companies of this unprecedented size and power.
  • Comparable context. Both Canada and Australia publishers are facing significant challenges from the web giants. Canada and Australia share strong regional identities, and similar parliamentary and legal systems.

The government of Canada announced in its speech from the throne on Sept. 23, “The government will act to ensure their revenue is shared more fairly with our creators and media, and will also require them to contribute to the creation, production and distribution of our stories, on screen, in lyrics, in music and in writing.”

News Media Canada is calling on the government to tackle the web giants and adopt the Australian model in Canada.

The CEO members of the following companies are leading the discussions with the government of Canada including Glacier Media, Black Press, Torstar, Postmedia, Globe and Mail, La Presse, Quebecor and Brunswick News.

Canadian-owned Black Press operates more than 80 print and website publications in B.C., Alberta and the Yukon.

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3 reforms social media platforms should make in light of ‘The Social Dilemma’ – TechCrunch

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“The Social Dilemma” is opening eyes and changing digital lives for Netflix bingers across the globe. The filmmakers explore social media and its effects on society, raising some crucial points about impacts on mental health, politics and the myriad ways firms leverage user data. It interweaves interviews from industry executives and developers who discuss how social sites can manipulate human psychology to drive deeper engagement and time spent within the platforms.

Despite the glaring issues present with social media platforms, people still crave digital attention, especially during a pandemic, where in-person connections are strained if not impossible.

So, how can the industry change for the better? Here are three ways social media should adapt to create happier and healthier interpersonal connections and news consumption.

Stop censoring

On most platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, the company determines some of the information presented to users. This opens the platform to manipulation by bad actors and raises questions about who exactly is dictating what information is seen and what is not. What are the motivations behind those decisions? And some of the platforms dispute their role in this process, with Mark Zuckerberg saying in 2019, “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.”

Censorship can be absolved with a restructured type of social platform. For example, consider a platform that does not rely on advertiser dollars. If a social platform is free for basic users but monetized by a subscription model, there is no need to use an information-gathering algorithm to determine which news and content are served to users.

This type of platform is not a ripe target for manipulation because users only see information from people they know and trust, not advertisers or random third parties. Manipulation on major social channels happens frequently when people create zombie accounts to flood content with fake “likes” and “views” to affect the viewed content. It’s commonly exposed as a tactic for election meddling, where agents use social media to promote false statements. This type of action is a fundamental flaw of social algorithms that use AI to make decisions about when and what to censor as well as what it should promote.

Don’t treat users like products

The issues raised by “The Social Dilemma” should reinforce the need for social platforms to self-regulate their content and user dynamics and operate ethically. They should review their most manipulative technologies that cause isolation, depression and other issues and instead find ways to promote community, progressive action and other positive attributes.

A major change required to bring this about is to eliminate or reduce in-platform advertising. An ad-free model means the platform does not need to aggressively push unsolicited content from unsolicited sources. When ads are the main driver for a platform, then the social company has a vested interest in using every psychological and algorithm-based trick to keep the user on the platform. It’s a numbers game that puts profit over users.

More people multiplied by more time on the site equals ad exposure and ad engagement and that means revenue. An ad-free model frees a platform from trying to elicit emotional responses based on a user’s past actions, all to keep them trapped on the site, perhaps to an addictive degree.

Encourage connections without clickbait

A common form of clickbait is found on the typical social search page. A user clicks on an image or preview video that suggests a certain type of content, but upon clicking they are brought to unrelated content. It’s a technique that can be used to spread misinformation, which is especially dangerous for viewers who rely on social platforms for their news consumption, instead of traditional outlets. According to the Pew Research Center, 55% of adults get their news from social media “often” or “sometimes.” This causes a significant problem when clickbait articles make it easier to offer distorted “fake news” stories.

Unfortunately, when users engage with clickbait content, they are effectively “voting” for that information. That seemingly innocuous action creates a financial reason for others to create and disseminate further clickbait. Social media platforms should aggressively ban or limit clickbait. Management at Facebook and other firms often counter with a “free speech” argument when it comes to stopping clickbait. However, they should consider the intent is not to act as censors that are stopping controversial topics but protecting users from false content. It’s about cultivating trust and information sharing, which is much easier to accomplish when post content is backed by facts.

“The Social Dilemma” is rightfully an important film that encourages a vital dialogue about the role social media and social platforms play in everyday life. The industry needs to change to create more engaged and genuine spaces for people to connect without preying on human psychology.

A tall order, but one that should benefit both users and platforms in the long term. Social media still creates important digital connections and functions as a catalyst for positive change and discussion. It’s time for platforms to take note and take responsibility for these needed changes, and opportunities will arise for smaller, emerging platforms taking a different, less-manipulative approach.

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