Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Attitudes Towards Social Media Non-Users And Some Interesting Privacy Watchdog Sites

I have a team of students (very bright students, of course) who have been taking a hard look at social media and the risks of both being involved and the risks of not being involved.

They have come across lots of data (Key Finding:  It is highly likely that social media people LOVE to talk about social media (High confidence)), but we have not been able to find out one thing:  Do people who use social media sites (like Facebook and Twitter) think that people who don't use them are weird? I don't necessarily mean weird in a pejorative way (though I am certainly interested in that interpretation).  It could be just sort of a reaction, like when someone says, "Oh, I don't have a Facebook account" and someone else would automatically think, "That's weird."

So, before I talk more about it more, answer the Swayable below:

Here's what I think we'll see:  A small but significant percentage of those that answer the question will say, "Yeah, it's weird."  If I could gather details, I would guess that there would be a fairly strong correlation between those that think it is weird and age (with younger people thinking it is weirder, obviously).

What is really weird, though is that we can't seem to find anyone who has asked this question before.

Changing the subject a little (but not much), I also wanted to highlight two sites, one old and one new, that provide an interesting insight into the subject of privacy in the age of social media.

The first is the wonderful What They Know courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.  This site lets you explore the privacy settings of some of the most popular apps for IOS and Android phones.  You can see a screen shot of part of the site at the right but you owe it to yourself to visit the interactive and a bit disquieting site.

The other site, Privacyscore (See screenshot below), is new but seems like it would be particularly valuable to anyone who searches the web (i.e. everyone).  The site can tell you, based on its own rating system, on a scale 1-100 (where 1 is very bad and 100 is very good), how private your activities on that site really are.  So, for example, Google.com scores an 85 whereas Bing scores only a 74.   Of particular interest to heavy web users or researchers are the Firefox and Chrome add-ons that will display a site's privacy score in real time as you search.



Brian M said...

Facebook gets a privacy score of 95/100? That seems... unusually high, given what we've seen about the permanence of information and permeability of their site structure.

Keith L said...

This is an interesting set of questions your group is asking. I would offer there are dimensions to social networking, beyond the “weird” factor, that need to be addressed.

1. There is a feeling all social networking sites can be lumped into one category. This may not be true any longer. Some have said there is etiquette to follow on a site like Facebook. To some those who post more that once a day are ‘weird’. On Twitter it is acceptable to post by the minute.

Facebook has other abilities like messaging and instant chat. Facebook allows the user to exist in three time frames: immediate now (chat), near future (wall post), and longer future based on when the recipient ‘gets around to answering’. Other social media sites, like Twitter, exist mostly in the immediate. It may be ‘weird’ to answer a tweet that may be X hours old. In fact, I would like to see research that shows if the only commonality is whether all social media sites exist solely to advertise to the users.

In short, when your working group looks at a social network site and asks “is it weird that some people do not use social networking” they should more specific to the type of social media.

2. Using Facebook as an example, research should be completed on a generational effect of users. Facebook’s original users were college students and then teens to young adults. Many of the youth (ages about 20-25) I have discussed Facebook usage with think it is ‘weird’ so many people still use Facebook because ‘it isn’t what it once was’. There is a sense of snobbery toward those just now jumping on the bandwagon and those that have moved on the next thing (or quit social networking completely citing zero privacy). So by generation I am referring to those that have ‘matured’ or ‘outgrown’ a site like Facebook.

3. The last thought I had was how social networking changes in emotional value in different nations. The use and attachment to Facebook in the U.S. may be different around the world. So the ‘weird’ factor might change globally.

Kristan J. Wheaton said...


Thanks for your comments. My group of students is actually looking a social media usage in its broadest sense and are, in fact, asking many of the questions you are asking.

One of the questions we asked, though, and were not able to find any research on was, "How do users of social media feel about non-users?"

Anecdotally, we think that most people think it is a personal choice and don't have strong feelings about it one way or the other. On the other hand, we also found it odd that no one (or, at least we couldn't find any) was looking at how social media user's attitudes were changing with respect to non users (particularly since social media users are now in the majority).

I decided to ask the question in the poll because I was curious to see if there was any effect at all. It is interesting to me that of the 130 or so votes, almost 30% say, yeah, its weird if someone does not have a social media presence.