“As a post in the popular Reddit, Shower Thoughts put it: ‘How many miles have I scrolled on my phone?'”
Recently I attended a lecture, simply entitled “Doing business in China” which offered interesting insights into the differing business practises in Europe and China. The guest speaker who has had many years of experience in China spoke eloquently on the topic while referring to different aspects of the Chinese business mentality. She added that in China, it is quite common for citizens to spend a lot of time online, more than their counterparts in other nations. She paused then, almost for dramatic effect and said “They can spend up to four hours a day online.”
There was a brief moment of perhaps stunned silence and then a number of quiet chuckles were emitted from varying corners of the lecture theatre. She continued unabated. “In train stations in Shanghai or Beijing, people are only looking down at their phones.”
Was four hours a day online really that many? Wasn’t the scene she described the same scene that can be found in countless train stations across the world?
“Daily media consumption via the medium of internet has increased by 105% since 2010, according to Zenith Optimedia reports”
It is difficult to pinpoint how much time the average soul spends hopping between apps on their smartphone. Consider how much of the day that your smartphone lies within your grasp. One friend grappled with this conundrum for a moment before explaining, “Technically I am always online because the internet on my phone is always on.” Another friend queried whether this daily estimate included accessing Blackboard before declaring their usage to be seven hours per day. Many months of research have been accumulated in various studies, all differing in their approach and conclusions, but all offering the same realistically maudlin conclusion: whatever figure it is, it’s probably too much.
An Ofcom’s Media Use and Attitudes 2015 report revealed that young people (16-24) spend more than 27 hours a week on the internet. This figure has tripled in the last 10 years as the allure of snapping, filtering and posting pictures of their unbelievably exciting life grows ever stronger. Daily media consumption via the medium of internet has increased by 105% since 2010, according to Zenith Optimedia reports. Social media dominates a huge chunk of this consumption, particularly on smartphones as opposed to laptops which will come as no surprise to anyone who aspires to maintain their Snapchat streaks.
Being an avid internet user is often not something to be frowned upon. It is an asset to be able to stay in touch with family and friends with such ease in this modern era. However, there is a side of internet and smart phone usage that we often choose to downplay: the aimless scrolling. When discussing this with friends, one admitted that he spends 2 hours scrolling through nonsense usually, adding “I hate to say it.”
During the Mass event phenomenon at the end of October, it was a perfect example of Irish humour and nostalgia emitted out over the newsfeed. The amount of screenshots shared and discussed among friends symbolised the sheer effort people put in and delight they received from continued frenzied social media use. However, as a post in the popular Reddit, Shower Thoughts put it “How many miles have I scrolled on my phone?”
The influence of memes
“Whether the hypothesis that political satire has had such an effect on millions of voters is true remains to be seen, but it cannot be denied that social media has forever altered the face of political discourse.”
This can be seen in the constant appearance of witty memes in the newsfeed. Almost impossible to explain, a meme can be described as a concept that spreads rapidly from person to person via the internet through social media websites. Now the often strangely pronounced word is most commonly used to refer to the pictures that achieve the impossible by simply summing up a universal experience with the aid of picture and little text.
More often than not, they are worthy of a chuckle or a tag for the friend who will most relate. However, Brad Kim of “Know Your Meme” reveals that memes had a strong effect on the past two US Elections while a Guardian article on “meme warfare” corroborated his claim. Whether the hypothesis that political satire has had such an effect on millions of voters is true remains to be seen, but it cannot be denied that social media has forever altered the face of political discourse.
Think of Trump’s abrasive tweeting or closer to home, memes of Michael D. Higgins on a BMX bike. Kerry Harvey, author of the Encyclopaedia of Social Media and Politics described Twitter quite bluntly as nothing more than a “set of Post-it notes that are scattered.”
With the ability to post anonymously and at will, it almost appears impossible to stop the tide of a viral meme or a fury of an unedited tweet that lives through screenshots even after deletion especially as the number of social media users continues to rise.
Rapid rise of technology and its impact
“Many of the pupils were unable to fathom or use the mouse as it was a foreign object to their young brains. They were so accustomed to tablets and other devices that only availed of touch screen.”
Meanwhile, the attentive gaze of research studies galore now rests upon the younger generation. Long gone are the days where the members of my primary school class cackled when our teacher explained what Google was, mainly because the word Google seemed to be so humorous. Now it is a frequently used verb in our vocabulary or a snide remark when someone is asking questions that could be easily answered with a simple search. It was revealed last week that children in UK were spending more time pottering around the World Wide Web instead of watching good old fashioned TV. This is the first time this has occurred since the research began. When speaking to my friend who is currently on teaching practise in a rural primary school, she revealed some scary insights into the internet usage of her senior infant class.
She had organised a lesson that involved the use of a mouse and laptop as they did not have access to interactive white board. However, many of the pupils were unable to fathom or use the mouse as it was a foreign object to their young brains. They were so accustomed to tablets and other devices that only availed of touch screen. This was confirmed in study in the UK as 55% of pre-schoolers had access to a tablet in their homes which is a raise of 3% from last year.
Sometimes it grows impossible to avoid the allure of the notifications popping up on the screen even during a gripping lecture. What if this message is vitally important? You try to convince yourself even as you read the little preview and know it is only about where you are going for lunch. Dr. Larry Rosen of California State University describes the use of smartphones as “more of an obsession than an addiction.” However, this is an ever-growing problem as attention spans grow shorter than a particularly obnoxious Snapchat story after a night out.
An irritated high school teacher in Florida tried to take matters into his own hands in this regard but this ultimately backfired. He was suspended for five days without pay when he brought a cell phone signal jammer into his science laboratory to disrupt the service on his student’ smart phones. He claimed that he did not intentionally choose to violate Federal Law as prosecutors claimed that his drastic measures would prevent the ability of students to contact emergency services if necessary. The teacher’s frustration was clear in his disparaging comment: “My intent for using the device was to keep students academically focused on schoolwork.”
Maybe we shouldn’t all purchase such a device, to encourage others to pay attention or to simply chat instead of searching for free wifi. Perhaps we should empathise with his efforts- sometimes, as we are often told, we all just need to put the phone down and focus on what is happening around us – rather than what the group chat is in a state of furore about.