Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Young people addicted to smartphones

An experiment to separate young people from their smartphones discovered that they suffer from anxiety, unhealthy eating and loneliness when they are not online.

Not only are they becoming part of Generation Mute (people who are obsessed with their phones but hardly ever use them to actually speak to people) they are becoming addicted to their mobile devices and appear to be suffereing from FOBO (fear of being off-line).

In the experiment the young people had to live with a basic phone and no internet access for a week.

They missed out on the news and celebrity gossip and were less punctual because they couldn’t access timetables on line. But they did spend more time reading (surprised they knew how to).

Some of the participants slept better. One was appalled at having to use a paper map to find a venue.

The Chief Executive at Innovationbubble which provided the psychologists to run the experiment said “We are psychologically overloaded with so many jobs … which means that mindlessly using our mobile can contribute to our fatigue levels and overall mental health

Ask yourself why are we overloaded. How did we manage before social media took over the world? Young people can’t think for themselves relying on their mobile devices and spending hours every day on them.

As I’ve posted before this affects their brains .

And as for being lonelier without their phones, the evidence is that using social media like Facebook can actually make you lonelier and depressed.

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Facebook’s “like” button is harming users

Who says so? Well the guy who created it ten years ago.

Justin Rosenstein has removed the app from his phone over fears of the psychological effects of social media.

He says “It is very common for humans to develop things with the best intentions and for them to have unintended negative consequences“. The thumbs-up symbol only brings “bright dings of pseudo pleasure“.

The like button was designed to increase your engagement with Facebook while analysing your preferences. Basically companies want your attention and your preferences so they can harvest more data about you to sell to advertisers.

You are making them mega-rich.

Other former employees of high-tech companies have warned about the dangerous effects of the “attention economy”.  Being distracted by technology seriously affects people’s ability to focus and also damages relationships.

See my earlier post on this here.


Netiquette for the digital generation (and parents)

It seems schools are now teaching children “netiquette”. A company called Digital Awareness UK is working with schools to raise awareness of what is considered rude behaviour around digital platform use.

Schools have a role to play to model good behaviour and teach children what is not socially appropriate“.

Sorry but isn’t that the parents’ job?

Anyway here are some of the rules:

  • Don’t text at mealtimes
  • Don’t check your phone during a meal
  • Don’t announce deaths on Facebook (only jihadists or murderers are “allowed” to do that)
  • Don’t dump your partner via WhatsApp
  • Don’t interrupt a face-to-face conversation because you’ve just had a message (how many children understand what a face-to-face conversation actually is?)

And back to parents; a third of children surveyed recently (by Digital Awareness UK) said that their parents were terrible role models – always checking their devices. Even when the children asked them to stop it made no difference.

These were kids from top private schools whose parents obviously had terribly important jobs. But I think it’s the same everywhere among parents of young children. You see them out for a family meals with the kids given tablets to play on while the parents have grown up talk.

And the survey revealed that parents have no idea what the kids get up to on online putting themselves at risk of sexting, grooming, addiction and sleep deprivation. Given that almost 10% of kids spend 10-15 hours a day online when not at school is it any wonder. And 10% of 11-18 year olds admit to checking their mobile phones at least 10 times a night.

Many children have said they would like firmer rules and for their parents to be better role models and half said they wouldn’t mind if their devices were taken off them for a weekend. Really?

I’ve posted before about how addictive social media can be and its detrimental effect on children.


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Social media really is bad for kids (as if you didn’t already know this)

It only takes one hour a day on social media to make children unhappy, whether it’s Facebook or Snapchat or any other platform.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield asked 4,000 10-15 year-olds to rate how happy they were with different aspects of their lives.

They found that the more time children spent chatting online the less happy they were about their school and work, their appearance, their family and their life in general.

Spending only 1 hour a day on social networks reduced the probability of a child being completely happy with his or her life by 14%.

This is three times higher than the impact of being in a single-parent household and greater than the effect of playing truant.

However they did feel happier about their friendships. They just haven’t realised that social media friends are not real friends as previous research has shown. Spending time on social networks can actually make you feel more lonely.

Some experts argue that spending time on social networks diverse children from risky behaviours such as smoking and under-age drinking (but what about sexting?) while other studies show that it contributes to poor mental health, especially among girls. And in this study it was also the girls who felt worse about their appearance and their school.

90% of 16-24 year-olds use online social networks and younger users routinely get round the 13 year threshold for users. More than three-quarters of 10-12 year-olds have social media accounts. According to Ofcom children aged 8-11 send 11 hours a week on social media and 12-15 year-olds almost 19 hours, both figures double what they were 10 years ago.

But do the social network providers care? Of course not, it’s all about advertising revenue for them and the earlier they catch people the better as far as they’re concerned. You only have to look at the resistance of Google/YouTube to doing anything about the hate videos and pornography to realise what drives them. $$$$…

And it’s interesting that the likes of the late Steve Jobs and other Silicon Valley techno-billionaires didn’t allow their own kids to access social networks.


Social media is NOT always a good thing

What do HSBC, Lloyds Bank, and the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Marks & Spencer have in common? Well they’re the latest businesses to pull their advertising from Googlea global tech giant which controls 35% of the digital advertising market.

Why? Because terrorists, jihadists, hate preachers, holocaust deniers, rape apologists, and all manner of bad guys, are making money out of adverts appearing next to their videos. And the tech giants are doing little about it. They are more interested in making money.

As a result, and probably because of embarrassment and concerns about reputational damage, companies are starting to react. Havas, one of the world’s biggest advertising agencies, which spends about £175 million in the UK on digital advertising of which Google receives £35 million, has pulled all its 240 UK clients from Google, including O2, EDF, and the Royal Mail.

Its UK CEO said “Our position will remain until we are confident in the YouTube platforms and Google Display Network’s ability to deliver the standards we and our clients expect“.

Vodafone, Sky and Barclays Bank are also said to be considering withdrawing their advertising unless Google sorts itself out. Sky is said to be concerned about the lax controls and wants assurances that their ads will not appear on hate sites. YouTube posters typical get just under £7 for every thousand views. Some of these videos have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

Google’s websites, which includes YouTube, have been paying out  hundreds of thousands of pounds to hate preachers and jihadists for displaying ads next to their videos which have included Argos, Sandals, Visit Scotland, The RAF, Nissan,  and other companies, some of which have now withdrawn their ads.

Companies which have pulled ads from YouTube include the Cabinet Office, Sainsburys, The Gurdian, Audi, the BBC, Transport for London, the Financial Services Authority, Channel 4, L’Oreal, and McDonalds.

Audi said “YouTube safeguards have not proven as robust as they need to be” and McDonalds said it was disappointed that safeguards to protect its advertising had fallen through. Channel 4 said it was not satisfied that the platform was a ‘safe environment’.

We should have seen it coming when Google dropped its famous mantradon’t be evil“. Its UK MD Roman Harris, said that the company had “begun a thorough review of our ads policies an brand controls’. Not before time.

They claim to receive 200,000 flags a day about inappropriate content and review 98% within 24 hours, although some offensive videos have remained on the platform for several years.

They also claim to have removed nearly two billion “bad ads” last year and prevented ads on more than 300 million YouTube videos. Doesn’t the scale of it suggest there is a systemic problem with these platforms?

They admit that they rely on the public to report offensive YouTube content because it cannot police the site proactively because of the quantity of material it hosts. This is ludicrous, get more staff! You can afford it. But that is not under consideration by Google. They say that user notification and technology is a better way of dealing with it. In other words let users do their job for them, at no cost to the company. So in addition to avoiding tax they avoid payroll costs as well!

It’s clear that it doesn’t take its responsibilities seriously and critics says its ‘notification and takedown’ system isn’t ‘fit for purpose’. I suggest the whole platform is not fit for purpose if it can’t be policed effectively.

If the Sunday Times and Times hadn’t publicised the fact that online adverts were funding terrorists, holocaust deniers, racists, rape apologists and hate preachers would this have been even considered in the boardrooms?

Surely advertising agencies knew what was happening and they must be complicit in this, raking in their generous fees.

Last week Google had to apologise to Whitehall officials when a government advert appeared next to hate content. “It is totally unacceptable that taxpayer-funded advertising has appeared next to inappropriate internet content. That message was conveyed very clearly to Google” a government spokesman said.

How about charging Google with assisting or conspiring with the bad guys to incite or promote hatred? After all Google is facilitating them.

The Commons home affairs committee has warned Google it must take ‘proactive steps’ to remove extremist material or face regulation and large fines. As other commentators have said, they can’t go on pretending just to be tech companies given the amount of media content they promulgate and they should be covered by the same tight regulations as other forms of media.

Perhaps if more companies stopped advertising on digital media and used print media instead we might have more newspapers and less fake news as well.

In Germany a draft law is proposing fines of up to £47 million if hate content is not quickly removed. If they can do it why can’t we? Let’s get to grips with this insidious problem.


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Social media makes you more lonely

I’ve been saying it for years (see my first post about it in 2010), social media is bad for you.

It lowers your self-esteem, makes you depressed, more narcissistic, makes you more stupid, and I could go on, especially about Facebook (See here).

Do the social media giants care? of course not. All they care about is large numbers, your personal data, and advertising.

The truth is that social media apps designed to help you communicate with other people actually make you feel more lonely.

The more time young adults spend on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and similar sites the more likely they are to feel cutoff. More than two hours a day of social media use doubles the chance of a person experiencing social isolation.

Both higher numbers of visits and the total time spent online have negative effects according to the American research, carried out in 2014 on almost 1800 people aged 19-32 years of age, by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The researchers said “we are inherently social creatures but modern life tends to compartmentalise us instead of bringing us together”.

They believe that social media use displaces more authentic experiences because the more time a person spends online, the less time is left for real-life contacts. Obvious really.