Part one – a decade of the smartphone
A myriad of networks
Our preferred social media networks whatever they might be – Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest (and legions of others un-named here) – have become such an enormous part of our lives that they have fundamentally changed the ways in which we communicate.
We’re all familiar with the horror stories: of sulky teens who never look up from a screen; of families who eat over their devices rather than together; of couples dining out who browse rather than talk to each other; of the ‘ipad baby’ who tries to swipe the pages of a magazine rather than turn them; of people who have lost – or never gained – any social skills because their go-to communication method is via a screen.
The rise and rise of social media
It’s not only horror stories though. It may be sad, funny, tragic, sinister or compelling – but whatever you feel about the role social media plays in your life, or in our collective lives, there’s no getting away from it. And it’s not going away – rather the exponential growth behind the use of social media is staggering.
A decade of the smartphone is the reason behind this. Some stats that might shock you:
- the average person picks up their phone 55 times a day
- we now spend an entire day every week on our phones
- one in five of all adults are on their phone for forty hours out of every week
- we click, tap or swipe over 2000 times a day.
Together they’re unstoppable
Coupled with the smartphone, social media is an unstoppable force. Consider the impact it has had on global news. We’re more likely to see the truth when we see what’s happening across the world through other people’s eyes, rather than through filtered news channels. Twitter and Facebook were huge parts of the Arab Spring, and amongst other social media platforms they’re critical for contact and status updates when our world is rocked by Acts of God or terrorist activity. The opportunity they afford us to connect and keep connected with people we love or love to follow has undoubtedly enhanced our lives.
Some more stats
- In the UK there are 45 million social media users.
- This is 67% of the entire population. And if you disregard the very old and the very young, the percentage will be much higher.
- 39 million are mobile social media users.
The evolution of social media
Social media and the value that we put on it is evolving. It may or may not be true to say that there is a backlash against social media but… horrified at the number of minutes we spend daily on our respective social media poison, our favourite platforms are now producing apps which monitor and even limit – with our buy-in! – our time on social media during the day.
Google and Apple – we’re creatures of their culture
Google’s Digital Wellbeing is one such app – it allows you at a glance to see how much time you’ve spent on your phone, how many times you’ve unlocked your phone, how many notifications you’ve had. It gives you an insight into your smartphone dependency. Using the app, you can now set an app timer to limit your time on various social media platforms. For example if you decide that an hour on Facebook is your limit and set the timer accordingly, after that hour Facebook is no longer available for you that day.
Clearly you can immobilise the timer but it’s useful functionality for those of us who can’t believe the amount of time we are spending – and wasting – mindlessly scrolling pictures of cats in dresses, or celebrities on holiday, or Trump’s tweets, or worse, stalking our friends, our families or our exes.
Apple also has its own version of this type of app – Screen Time. If you opt in, it displays the hours you’ve spent daily, whether or not these are above or below your daily average, and it also summarises your hours online every week.
It’s our responsibility
Tech companies like Google and Apple are aware they’ve created a culture where people have trouble looking someone in the eye. But they’re not the only ones. Behemoths like these are key to the potential change in our social media habits. But they’re not responsible for our behaviour.
Part two of our blog series about social media will be posted soon. We’re keen to know what you think about social media today and where it’s going. What do you think about the apps we can use to limit our screen time? What would you like to see? Google and Apple are listening…
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