Thursday, May 31, 2012

The impact of Social Networks on humanity

When social networks change what it means to be human you would think we would turn our backs on that perceived threat and look inwards for who we are, our identify, family and friends. Instead, Facebook boasts almost a Billion members. But, of course this isn't just a Facebook thing.

Professor Sherry Turkle from the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says there is a "shift" from an analog world in which our identities are generated from within, to a digital world in which our sense of self is intimately tied to our social media presence.

The always-on social media world, our solitude has been replaced by incessant online updates, which both weaken our sense of self and our ability to create genuine friendships.

The shift from the private to the public self has been said to be a possible contributor in the rise of narcissism particularly in younger people. A vicious cycle is setup - because the more we self-broadcast, the emptier we become; and the emptier we become, the more we need to self-broadcast.

Social networks compromise our privacy as individuals. And it's not just our kids who are revealing everything about themselves to their many "friends" on Facebook. Sultan and Miller note in a piece (St Louis Post-Dispatch), "Facebook parenting" our obsession with posting data about our kids - is "destroying our children's privacy."

Based on interviews with 4,000 children, Sultan and Miller argue that we've created what they call a sense of "normality" about a world where "what's private is public."

Kids are growing up, they explain, assuming that it's perfectly normal to reveal everything about ourselves online. "And our children will never have known a world without this sort of exposure. What does a worldview lacking an expectation of privacy mean for the rest of society?" 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Social media on the toilet

After reading a report earlier today where a recent survey (the Yellow Social Media Report, published by Sensis in Australia) reveals, amongst other things that
  • 33% surveyed said they check social media first thing in the morning and 40% said they checked it as the last thing before bed, and
  • 5% of users said they had accessed social media in the bathroom, and another 5% said they had used it on the toilet.

I become curious as to the relative take-up of social media in various countries particularly after the large amount of noise created of the back of Facebook’s recent IPO (see illustration by O'Rilly Research). Interestingly it seems Turkey is now, according to ComScore the 3rd largest country using Facebook and likely to become the second biggest behind the US fairly soon. Here in Oz-land there are almost 8 Million of us using Facebook.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

When pedestrians are wearing headphones

It seems hardly a day goes by if we don’t hear about another vehicle accident involving pedestrians. It’s often been thought that the increase in these types of accidents might partly be explained by the fact that more and more pedestrians are wearing headphones while on the roads. So pedestrians can’t hear the traffic around them,

Research from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore (the research was recently published online in the journal Injury Prevention) suggests that serious injuries to pedestrians listening to headphones have more than tripled in six years. In many cases, the cars or trains are sounding horns that the pedestrians cannot hear, leading to fatalities in nearly three-quarters of cases.

Researchers reviewed 116 accident cases from 2004 to 2011 in which injured pedestrians were documented to be using headphones. 70% of the 116 accidents resulted in death to the pedestrian. More than two-thirds of victims were male (68%) and under the age of 30 (67%).

More than half of the moving vehicles involved in the accidents were trains (55%), and nearly a third (29%) of the vehicles reported sounding some type of warning horn prior to the crash. The increased incidence of accidents over the years closely corresponds to documented rising popularity of auditory technologies with headphones.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Boomerang Generation

We tend to hear a lot about the Boomerang Generation – those young adults who move back home with their families during difficult situations such as financial hardship. According to the Pew Research Center more than three-quarters of young adults ages 25 to 34 who have moved back home say they're satisfied with their living arrangements and upbeat about their future finances.

One reason young adults who are living with their parents may be relatively upbeat about their situation is that this has become such a widespread phenomenon.

Among adults ages 25 to 34, 61% say they have friends or family members who have moved back in with their parents over the past few years because of economic conditions. Furthermore, three-in-ten parents of adult children (29%) report that a child of theirs has moved back in with them in the past few years because of the economy.

Having said that I was interested in how marriage, separation and divorce rates have changed over the last 20 years and as well, if there is any linkage to the boomerang affect.

Age at first marriage

Over the last twenty years, the average age at which Australians first marry has increased. In 2010, the median age at first marriage for men was 29.6 years and 27.9 years for women, an increase of more than three years since 1990 (26.5 years and 24.3 years respectively). Since 2002, the median age at first marriage for both men and women has remained relatively unchanged.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics suggest a number of factors that may affect the age at which Australians first marry. These include the pursuit of higher education, the associated delay in labour force participation, the increasing social acceptance of cohabitation before marriage, and children moving out of the family home later in adulthood due to these factors. In 2006-07, 49% of men and 45% of women aged 18-24 years had never left the parental home, mainly for financial reasons (41%) or the convenience and/or enjoyment of living at home (36%).

Age at separation and divorce

As couples are choosing to marry later in life, and marriages are lasting longer, couples also tend to divorce at older ages. In the last two decades, the median age at separation has increased by approximately six years for both men and women.

In 2010, the median age for males at separation was 40.8 years, and 44.4 years at divorce, up from 35.3 years and 38.2 years respectively in 1990. Reflecting the age gap between men and women at marriage, the female median age at separation was 38.1 years, and 41.5 years at divorce, up from 32.4 years and 35.3 years in 1990.

Stats curtsey The Australian Bureau of Statistics

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Facebook raises awareness of organ donation

Facebook and Zuckerberg's call to have people add their donor status to their Facebook Timeline is inspired, truly using technology and the social media as an enabler for societal change.

In the United States alone there are currently over 90,000 people waiting for a donor kidney. A cursory look at the U.S Department of health & Human Services provides a breakdown of organ waiting lists by organ type (see graphic).  The waiting list is not getting shorter.

Surveys show that as many as 90% of Americans support organ donation, but only about a third of the 200 million licensed drivers in the United States actually tick the box indicating consent to being an organ donor.

And just as an aside we recently heard, according to Xinhua News Agency, that a 17-year old teenager sold his kidney in order to purchase an Apple iPhone and iPad.

Zuckerberg put out the call earlier this week to encourage the social network's users -- more than 900 million -- to speak up if they are organ donors and display it on their personal pages. He said, "We think that people can really help spread awareness of organ donation and that they want to participate in this to their friends, and we think that can be a big part in helping to solve the crisis,"

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Is depression is an illness of affluence

A recent research study published in the July 2011 edition of BMC Medicine the researchers explain that major depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, yet epidemiologic data are not available for many countries. This is particularly true in low to middle-income countries. The study presents data on the prevalence, as well as impairment and demographic correlates of depression from 18 high and low to middle-income countries.

The research outcome seems to be that people living in wealthier nations are more likely to have experienced a depressive episode than those in low and middle-income countries.

Nearly 15% of those living in the 10 rich nations reported having at least one depressive episode in their lifetime. For poorer countries, the prevalence of a depressive episode was only 11% The two most depressed countries are France, with a 21% prevalence, and the U.S., with a 19% prevalence.

According to the researchers the cross-national divide in depression levels might be due to the sharp income inequality in wealthy nations. Another possible reason is the low level of awareness about mental illness in poorer countries. Or, say the researchers, it could be perhaps just be that depression is an illness of affluence.

The graphics is an attempt to contrast Google search volume by region against those countries with the highest prevalence of a depressive episode.