Tag Archives: media

US media still giving anti-climate opinions more visibility

Almost 99% of scientists agree climate change is real and caused by human action. Nevertheless, media in the United States is giving more press coverage to organizations that take a stand against climate action than to those who want to tackle the issue, a new study showed.

Image in public domain (via Unsplash).

Brown University researcher Rachel Wetts looked at almost three decades of national news articles and press released related to climate change. She found that 14% of the press releases that opposed climate action or rejected climate science got major national news coverage, compared to 7% of those that had a pro-climate stand. This produces a distorted image for the population, as people are artificially fed more information about climate denial.

This phenomenon is not without consequences. The findings help explain why Americans are generally less worried about the climate emergency than citizens from other Western countries, according to Wetts, and why policymaking in the US related to climate change has stalled. Even President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement has not stirred as much vitriol as expected.

“When you ask Americans what issues they care about most, climate change and the environment are always far down on the list,” Wetts said in a press release. “The way climate change has been covered in the media could help us understand why there’s so much public disengagement on this issue.”

Wetts wanted to find out to what extent the coverage of mainstream media can influence national views on climate change. She assessed and categorized press releases from diverse organizations such as businesses and advocacy groups published between 1985 and 2013 in order to see whether they supported climate action or not. To do so, she worked with a plagiarism-detection software to scan the content of climate change articles published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, the three largest newspapers in circulation in the US, so to establish how many of the press released had received coverage.

Even as only 10% of the press releases featured anti-climate action messages, they were twice as likely to get coverage compared to pro-climate action ones, according to Wetts. The researcher also found that the press releases from big businesses had more chances to get news coverage, as well as statements from groups representing business interests, adding another bias into the mix.

The study showed that about 16% of releases issued by business coalitions and trade associations got coverage, compared to about 9% from other types of organizations.

Meanwhile, science and technology organizations were among the least likely to get their views published in media outlets, with less than 3% of their releases getting coverage.

“The views of large businesses and opponents of climate action are being given an outsize opportunity to sway this debate,” Wetts said. “You’d think, if anything, businesses with greater scientific expertise would receive more newspaper coverage,” she said. “But I found the opposite to be true.”

The results support the popular opinion that mainstream news organizations mislead readers by giving the same importance to two sides of an argument, despite one side lacks scientific evidence. By doing so, they are altering public perception and influence the actions of political leaders on climate change, Wetts argued. This phenomenon is called “false balance”, because it creates the impression of a balance between two opposing sides (ie a climate scientists and a climate denier), when in fact there is a virtual consensus on the science.

“Journalists seem to feel that they always have to include opposing voices when they report on climate change,” Wetts said. “But sometimes they give those opposing voices so much weight, they lead readers to believe that climate denial is more than a fringe stance.”

A survey last year showed there are still big misperceptions about climate change and the ecological crisis among United States citizens. Nevertheless, more Americans than ever are worried about the climate crisis. Up to 60% of the US public rejected the claim by President Donald Trump of climate change being an “expensive hoax” — which, while encouraging, still leaves a big chunk of the US population that believes in this conspiracy theory.

Anti-vaccine groups are actively targeting ‘undecideds’ on social media

Facebook communities that promote distrust in ‘the establishment’ and official health guidelines are more effective than reliable health groups at reaching and engaging with undecided individuals, a new study reports.

Image credits Gordon Johnson.

The study was carried out at George Washington University and used a special tool built to track vaccine discussions on Facebook during the 2019 measles outbreak. This “battleground” map reveals the broad dynamics of how distrust in established guidelines is fomented on social media. The authors caution that this distrust can come to dominate public discourse in the future, which would pose a major block against immunization efforts for COVID-19 and future outbreaks.

In strangers on the Internet we trust

“There is a new world war online surrounding trust in health expertise and science, particularly with misinformation about COVID-19, but also distrust in big pharmaceuticals and governments,” says Professor Neil Johnson, lead author of the paper.

“Nobody knew what the field of battle looked like, though, so we set to find out.”

The team examined several Facebook communities totaling almost 100 million individual users. These groups, they explain, formed a dynamic and highly-interconnected network that spanned across national borders and cultures.

Among these groups, three ‘camps’ were identified: pro-vaccination, anti-vaccination, and those of “undecided” individuals (for example, parenting groups which discussed vaccines but didn’t lean either way). The team started with a certain community and would then find another one that had strong links to it, repeating the process until they reached a better understanding of the overall relationships forming among the communities.

Fig. 1
 Snapshot from 15 October 2019 of the connections forming in the ecology of undecided (green), anti-vaccination (red), and pro-vaccination (blue) views.
Image credits Neil F. Johnson et al., (2020), Nature.

They report that overall, there are fewer individuals who agree with anti-vaccination sentiments than with pro-vaccination on Facebook, but there are almost three times as many anti-vaccination communities on this platform than pro-vaccination ones.

The anti-vaccination users utilize these groups to engage with undecided communities, while the pro-vaccination ones keep largely to themselves. They focused their efforts on countering the larger anti-vaccination groups, which left the smaller splinter-groups pretty much free to operate with impunity.

Furthermore, while the pro-vaccination camp understandably sticks to one creed (“vaccines work and they’re safe”) their opponents can have their pick of narratives and use this to engage with the undecided. These range from promoting safety concerns or individual choice to conspiracy theories, which they tailor to the particular community they’re addressing at the time.

The team notes that individuals in the undecided communities tended not to sit idly, but were actively engaging with the vaccine content. “The undecided clusters have the highest growth of new out-links [i.e they’re actively engaging with the other two groups] followed by anti-vaccination clusters,” the paper reads.

“We thought we would see major public health entities and state-run health departments at the center of this online battle, but we found the opposite. They were fighting off to one side, in the wrong place,” Dr. Johnson said.

Social media often works to amplify and equalize information, the team explains, meaning it makes it readily accessible but also gives different opinions the appearance of being equally worth considering (they’re not).

The team proposes several strategies to better combat the spread of misinformation on social media such as influencing the heterogeneity of individual communities (making them more diverse) to delay radicalization and decrease their growth, as well as manipulating the links between communities in order to prevent the spread of negative views.

“Instead of playing whack-a-mole with a global network of communities that consume and produce (mis)information, public health agencies, social media platforms and governments can use a map like ours and an entirely new set of strategies to identify where the largest theaters of online activity are and engage and neutralize those communities peddling in misinformation so harmful to the public,” Dr. Johnson said.

The paper “The online competition between pro- and anti-vaccination views” has been published in the journal Nature.

Experiencing nature seems to make us happier, at least on social media

A new study from the National University of Singapore (NUS) used artificial intelligence to trawl through social media posts in order to gauge the social and cultural value nature brings to humans. Overall, they report that the findings show a positive association between the presence of nature and fond memories described in photographs or events such as vacations and honeymoons.

Image via Pixabay.

Naturally happy

“Integrating social media data and AI opens up a unique opportunity for us to carry out unprecedented large-scale global studies such as this to better understand our interactions with nature in our daily lives,” said Dr Chang, Research Fellow at the Department of Biological Sciences at NUS Faculty of Science and first author of the study.

The team began their research in an effort to better map the value that nature brings to our lives. They explain that the economic and ecological impacts of issues such as climate change have been documented, but not so much the social or cultural effects. We know that certain areas attract people — The Great Barrier Reef and the Swiss Alps remain some of the top holiday destinations in the world — but exactly what benefits people draw from visiting them remains poorly understood.

The team, led by Dr Chang and Associate Professor Roman Carrasco from the Department of Biological Sciences at NUS Faculty of Science, used automated image recognition technology to analyze over 31,500 photographs across 185 countries from social media platforms.

This step revealed that photographs tagged as #fun, #vacations and #honeymoons are more likely to contain elements of nature such as plants, water, and natural landscape as compared to photographs tagged #daily or #routines — no massive surprises there. The trend, however, was consistent across the globe, which the team says is evidence in favor of the biophilia hypothesis (that humans have an innate desire to experience and connect with nature). The trend, they add, implies a positive association between nature and fond memories in memorable events like honeymoons.

Furthermore, they found that the amount of nature experiences per individual in a country is linked to the overall life satisfaction of its residents. Countries such as Costa Rica or Finland — which have more elements of nature in photographs tagged as #fun — also rank highly on national satisfaction levels as reported on in the World Happiness Report 2019, the team explains.

All in all, the findings do seem to suggest that people derive emotional happiness, relaxation, and life satisfaction from experiencing nature. I would point out that the posts this study looked at involved nature, yes, but they also related to events such as holidays or personal events which involved leisure, which obviously would make people #happy and #relaxed. On the other hand, it seems to me that the #daily # routine posts would obviously involve less exposure to nature (since most people live in urban environments) and less excitement or relaxation, two states which we don’t readily associate with the daily grind.

Still, the study is valuable in highlighting the positive effect nature and exposure to nature can have on our own subjective well-being and emotional states.

“[The findings] further emphasises the importance of preserving our natural environment for the loss of nature may mean more than losing quantifiable economic and ecological benefits; it could also mean losing the background to our fondest memories,” says Assoc Prof Carrasco.

“Our next step is therefore to establish how nature experiences may benefit human well-being such as how it improves our satisfaction in life, hence enabling the development of constructive solutions to better environmental conservation,” he added.

The paper “Social media, nature, and life satisfaction: global evidence of the biophilia hypothesis” has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Day of the Dead.

Facebook might have more dead users than alive by 2100

A new study from the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), part of the University of Oxford, estimates that Facebook will have more deceased users accounts than living ones in roughly fifty years’ time.

Day of the Dead.

Image via Pixabay.

How should a social media platform handle the accounts of those departed? It doesn’t sound like a very pressing issue but, based on the results of the new analysis, it’s one that we will have to face sooner rather than later. The team writes that, based on 2018 user levels, at least 1.4 billion Facebook members will die before 2100.

The Night King’s digital army

“These statistics give rise to new and difficult questions around who has the right to all this data, how should it be managed in the best interests of the families and friends of the deceased and its use by future historians to understand the past,” said lead author Carl Öhman, a doctoral candidate at the OII.

If the prediction is accurate, this would mean that the number of accounts created by the deceased will outnumber those of living people by 2070. If the current rate at which the platform expands continues unabated, the authors go on to explain, the number of deceased users could reach as many as 4.9 billion before the end of the century.

This is a trend that we, as a society, have never had to contend with until now — one that’s bound to have grave implications for how we treat our digital heritage in the future.

“On a societal level, we have just begun asking these questions and we have a long way to go,” Öhman adds. “The management of our digital remains will eventually affect everyone who uses social media, since all of us will one day pass away and leave our data behind.”

“But the totality of the deceased user profiles also amounts to something larger than the sum of its parts. It is, or will at least become, part of our global digital heritage.”

Co-author David Watson, also a DPhil student at the OII, says that the social platform, in essence, amounts to an immense archive of human behavior and culture. So, in a way, those who control what happens to it will “control our history”. Watson cautions that it’s therefore very important to ensure we don’t limit access to this historical data to a single for-profit firm. “It is also important to make sure that future generations can use our digital heritage to understand their history,” he adds.

The predictions are based on data from the United Nations, which provide the expected number of mortalities and total populations for every country in the world distributed by age. Facebook-specific data was scraped from the company’s Audience Insights feature. While the study notes that this self-reported dataset has several limitations, this provides the most comprehensive publicly available estimate of the network’s size and distribution.

The study sets up two potential extreme scenarios, arguing that the platform’s future evolution will likely fall somewhere in between them:

  • The first scenario assumes that no new users join the platform after 2018. In this case, Asia’s share of deceased users will increase rapidly, and will eventually account for some 44% of the total number of such accounts by 2100. Roughly half of those accounts will be owned by individuals from India and Indonesia, which together account for just under 279 million Facebook mortalities by 2100.
  • For the second scenario, the team assumed that Facebook will continue to expand by its current rate of 13% per year until reaching market saturation (i.e. there are no new users to join). In this case, Africa will also take up an important slice of the total number of dead users. Nigeria, in particular, takes the lead, accounting for over 6% of the total figure. Western users will account for only a minority of users, with only the US making the top 10.

“The results should be interpreted not as a prediction of the future, but as a commentary on the current development, and an opportunity to shape what future we are headed towards,” explains Öhman.

“But this has no bearing on our larger point that critical discussion of online death and its macroscopic implications is urgently needed. Facebook is merely an example of what awaits any platform with similar connectivity and global reach.”

Watson says that Facebook should consult with historians, archivists, archaeologists, and ethicists to curate the vast amount of data left behind when someone passes away.

“This is not just about finding solutions that will be sustainable for the next couple of years, but possibly for many decades ahead.”

The paper “Are the dead taking over Facebook? A Big Data approach to the future of death online” has been published in the journal Big Data & Society.


First reliable evidence for ‘social acceleration’ comes from our shorter collective attention spans

Our collective attention span is narrowing across domains such as social media, books, movies, and more.


Measuring the speed of hashtag dynamics: Average trajectories in top 50 Twitter hashtags from 2013 to 2016. In the background a 1% random sample of trajectories is shown in grey.
Image credits Philipp Lorenz-Spreen et al., (2019), N.Comms.

If public discussion strikes you as more fragmented and accelerated than ever before, new research says you’re not wrong. Sociologists, psychologists, and teachers have warned of an emerging crisis stemming from a ‘fear of missing out’, keeping up to date on social media, and breaking news coming at us 24/7 for years now — but very few reliable data has been recorded on the subject of ‘social acceleration’.

However, a new study from the Technische Universität Berlin, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, University College Cork, and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) has found evidence in support of one dimension of social acceleration: increasing rates of change within collective attention spans.

Give me new, please

“It seems that the allocated attention in our collective minds has a certain size, but that the cultural items competing for that attention have become more densely packed. This would support the claim that it has indeed become more difficult to keep up to date on the news cycle, for example.” says corresponding author Professor Sune Lehmann from DTU Compute.

The team used Twitter data from 2013 to 2016, books going back 100 years on Google Books, movie ticket sales over the last 40 years, and citations of scientific publications from the last 25 years. This dataset was further fleshed-out using data from Google Trends (2010-2018), Reddit (2010-2015), and Wikipedia (2012-2017).

Analysis of this data provided the first empirical body of evidence showing steeper gradients and shorter bursts of collective attention given to each cultural item over time. This is fueled by the ever-increasing production and consumption of content, the team explains, which more rapidly depletes collective attention resources.

The team says this dynamic isn’t only seen in social media. The researchers looked at the top 50 global hashtags on Twitter, finding that peaks become increasingly steep and frequent. In 2013, for example, a hashtag could enjoy its place in the top 50 for an average of 17.5 hours; it gradually declined to just 11.9 hours in 2016. Other domains, both online and offline, saw similar trends over different periods. For instance, the team reports that occurence of certain n-grams —  sequences of words, where word number (n) is between 1 and 5 — and weekly box-office sales of Hollywood movies in the US follow the same pattern as hashtags.

“We assume that whenever a topic is discussed (hashtags on Twitter, comments on Reddit, n-grams in books, citations of papers) or consumed (tickets for movies, queries on Google), it receives a small fraction of the available attention,” the paper reads.

One area seems to be exempt from this dwindling of attention spans, however: scientific content, such as journals or Wikipedia. The team isn’t exactly sure why this is, however, they believe it comes down to these being primarily knowledge communication systems.

“We wanted to understand which mechanisms could drive this behavior. Picturing topics as species that feed on human attention, we designed a mathematical model with three basic ingredients: ‘hotness’, aging and the thirst for something new.” says Dr. Philipp Hövel, lecturer for applied mathematics, University College Cork.

All in all, the team found that “the one parameter in the model that was key in replicating the empirical findings was the input rate” or abundance of information. When more content is produced in less time, it drains collective attention resources faster. This shortened peak of public interest for one topic is then directly followed by the next topic, because of the fierce competition for novelty.

To sum it up, our individual attention span wasn’t the subject of this study. The collective amount of attention isn’t any smaller than it used to be. However, there’s simply much more to pay attention to, and the result is that people are more rapidly made aware of something new happening and lose interest more quickly.

“The world has become increasingly well connected in the past decades. This means that content is increasing in volume, which exhausts our attention and our urge for ‘newness’ causes us to collectively switch between topics more rapidly.” says postdoc Philipp Lorenz-Spreen, Max Planck Institute for Human Development.

“Our data only supports the claim that our collective attention span is narrowing. Therefore, as a next step, it would be interesting to look into how this affects individuals, since the observed developments may have negative implications for an individual’s ability to evaluate the information they consume. Acceleration increases, for example, the pressure on journalists’ ability to keep up with an ever-changing news landscape

That it does, study, that it does.

The team hopes that their findings will help communities design better communication systems, to ensure that information quality doesn’t erode under its own sheer bulk.

The paper “Accelerating dynamics of collective attention” has been published in the journal Nature Communications.


Movies and shows may help people with attachment issues better navigate their own relationships

People who struggle with romantic relationships may find solace in their favorite movies and TV shows as they offer a ‘safe space’ to explore their own problems, wants, and needs, a new paper suggests.


Image via Pixabay.

New research from Ohio State University suggests that watching relationships unfold in movies or shows can help people with attachment or anxiety issues better navigate their own social and romantic ties. The study looked at how individuals relate to the characters in these stories, and how that, in turn, helped them come to grips with their own feelings.

The faults in our stars are sometimes the same as ours

“For people with attachment issues, movies and TV shows can be a way to try to understand their problems or to vicariously meet their needs for intimacy in a way that they may find difficult in real life,” says Nathan Silver, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in communication at The Ohio State University.

“We can do a lot more with stories than just escape into them.”

The authors report that people with attachment issues are more likely to become engaged in the stories playing out in front of them compared to others. For example, they feel more connected to the fictional characters and their pursuits, and are more likely to try to imagine what they would do in the same situations. It’s possible, then, that people who are having trouble with their own romantic relationships watch movies or TV shows for more than simple entertainment or as an escape — they may represent a safe space to explore and learn about our own wants and needs without risking making any faux pas in our current relationships.

For the study, the team worked with 1,039 adult Americans, who they questioned online. The participants self-reported on a series of measurements probing into their media use behaviors, their attachment dimensions, and how interested and engaged they were by the narratives seen in media. The goal was to see whether interactions with movies and shows helped people cope with attachment insecurities in two areas: avoidance and anxiety.

People high in avoidance basically don’t want to get ‘too’ emotionally-close with their partners. They can be described as ‘cold’ or ’emotionally unavailable’. On the other end of the spectrum, high-anxiety individuals are commonly referred to as ‘needy’ — they want a lot of emotional intimacy and closeness with their partners, often bubbling up in the form of seeking constant reassurance that one’s partner cares about them.

The team reports that people who were high in attachment avoidance but low in anxiety were less engaged with the stories they watched and didn’t feel as strong a connection to the characters on screen. In other words, the same avoidance tendencies they (presumably) display in their real-life relationships carried over into how they relate to the movies and TV shows they watch, according to the team. People high in attachment anxiety were more engaged with the stories.

Hot and cold

However, what really interested the team was how people who are high in both anxiety and avoidance relate to media, Silver says — the study suggests that they engaged in the stories they watched much more, and in more ways, that the other groups.

“These are the classic self-sabotagers. They really want supportive intimacy, but tend to screw it up because they also have these avoidance behaviors,” he said. “What the story world provides these people is a safe place to deal with this ambivalence. That’s why I believe they are engaging more in the story world.”

Anxious-avoidants were more likely to say they were absorbed by or transported into the story world, the team reports. They were also more likely to say that the stories helped them understand people they didn’t know, that they imagined what would happen if characters made different choices, and that they liked to imagine they knew their favorite TV and movie characters personally.

Silver says these results point to anxious-avoidants using media as a means to imagine a relationship “without the real-life problems, like the storybook romance of Jim and Pam on The Office.” By taking the perspective of a character they’re watching, these people can essentially bypass their own attachment issues and “have this very functional relationship,” just like the one being portrayed on-screen.

“What our results suggest is that people with these issues can use the story world to think about how they would react if they had the chance,” says Slater. “They expand their social experiences, at least vicariously.”

Slater adds that the team can’t currently say if this ‘vicarious’ living of the stories they watch actually helps them or not. However, they say they “speculate this is certainly one of the attractions of stories,” as people with attachment issues often miss the opportunity to experience some of the aspects of romantic relationships in their own lives.

“Our findings suggest that the story world offers people, in addition to escape, a safe environment to cope with some of the problems they have with relationships,” he said.

The paper “A safe space for self-expansion: Attachment and motivation to engage and interact with the story world” has been published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Brands and ads displaying wild animals could make us oblivious to the fact that they’re dying off

New research suggests that many people aren’t even aware that “charismatic” species are under threat with extinction in the wild — and the way we portray them in society is largely to blame.

Lions, elephants, tigers; they’re among certain species that, for one reason or another, we just love plastering all over branding or advertising campaigns. It’s all well and good for the brands, but new research suggests the species themselves don’t benefit from all the exposure — quite the contrary.

‘No such thing as bad publicity’

The team suspected that the animals’ frequent media appearances may make people perceive them as prospering in the wild. Which they are decidedly not.

To test their theory, the researchers, led by Dr. Franck Courchamp, the study’s lead author, looked to the public. The team created a questionnaire in four different languages asking surveyees to name the species that they considered most “charismatic”. They disseminated online and in French, Spanish, and French primary school classrooms.

“There is a regular claim that the most charismatic species are diverting most of the time and resources [in conservation]. I started wondering whether this was true and followed by better results in conservation,” he told BBC News.

Beyond this, they also analyzed how frequently animals are represented on zoo websites and on the covers of Disney and Pixar animations. After pooling the data, they report that the ten most charismatic animals are the:

  • Tiger
  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Giraffe
  • Leopard
  • Panda
  • Cheetah
  • Polar bear
  • Wolf
  • Gorilla

For the next step, they asked volunteers in France to catalog their encounters with ‘virtual’ populations of these 10 species over the period of a week. They report, for example, encountering an average of 4.4 lions in media such as logos, cartoons, magazines or others each day. It may sound benign at first glance, but the team notes that statistically, this means the average Joe sees two or three times as many virtual lions in a year as there are real lions remaining in the whole of West Africa.

Despite their abundant media representation, nine of the animals on the list are classed as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Courchamp thinks this may have a subconscious impact, though there is no direct evidence as of yet.

“Mostly I think because people see giraffes and lions every day of their life, they unconsciously think they are in abundance,” he said.

The researchers also asked the survey participants if they thought these species were endangered (not in the strict IUCN terminology). Almost half of the respondents thought that species such as the (critically endangered) gorillas weren’t under threat.

While the theory might be right, it’s far too early to establish a causal relationship between our exposure level to certain species and our perception of their state in the wild. Other factors may play a role in influencing our perceptions about a species’ status and of conservation efforts.

One solution Courchamp proposes is to fund conservation efforts by “copyrighting” the image of vulnerable or endangered species. Under such a scheme, companies would donate to conservation-focused NGOs in return for using the animals in branding or advertising.

“I think it’s not so unrealistic,” he says. “There are already some companies that do that. Jaguar are in partnership with Panthera. Lacoste […] made a campaign recently where they replaced their logo with silhouettes of endangered species.”

Whatever solution we decide on we’ll need to implement fast. The outlook isn’t rosy for most of those 10 species. It’s estimated that without sustained conservation efforts, elephants will become extinct in the wild within a century. Cheetas are also struggling, being confined to under one tenth of their historical territory in Africa.

“At the moment we are doing first aid on species that are on the verge of dying,” says Dr. Courchamp. “We are just pushing the day they go extinct in the wild, we are not saving them.”

The paper “The paradoxical extinction of the most charismatic animals” has been published in the journal PLOS Biology.

Media usually paints a negative image of refugees, study shows

A study found that media from the US, UK, and Lithuania paints refugees in an unflattering light, often using expressions with negative connotations.

Image credits: Haeferl / Wikipedia.

“Southern Europe is experiencing the surge of refugees…”, “The flow of refugees in Lithuania would influence…”, “Tsunami of hundred thousands of refugees is a fact…” — there’s surprisingly little variation in how refugees are usually presented in the media. They’re often characterized as a headache, a fever or even a cancer of society, while positive expressions are virtually never used.

Ieva Senkute, a graduate from the Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) in Lithuania, analyzed more than 200 articles published in Lithuanian, American and British online media. She found that while British media tends to be the most neutral of the three, no one really uses positive associations.

This is significant because the way in which the media presents such topics, even through seemingly harmless phrasing and metaphors, can do a lot to shape public opinion.

“Through conceptual metaphors journalists express their attitude towards refugees and in such a way shape public’s understanding of the phenomenon. It is strange and somewhat disappointing that no metaphors having positive connotations were detected”, says Ieva.

She believes that these media portrayals are in direct connection to social settings — America is riding high on the isolationism train, whereas the British are more reserved. She was also expecting to find more negative comments in her native Lithuanian media, but this was not the case.

“These findings were not very surprising – British are famous for their manners, therefore the metaphors used in the UK’s media are the least aggressive. On the other hand, Americans are constantly fearing terrorism and refugees are considered a threat to their country’s security”.

Negative imagery

Associating refugees with water was quite common. They were presented as a “surge” or a “flood,” coming down and adding pressure. Words like “headache” and even “cancer” tended to pop up. These were metaphors, meant to convey a message and add a bit of perspective, but these metaphors do a great deal to reveal the thought pattern of a particular country, Ieva says.

The US proved to be a good example. The media took a relatively aggressive stance on refugees, worrying that they are threats to national security. This stance was representative of the attitude of the country’s government. This is also where the most aggressive images were invoked. A politician’s speech was quoted likening the refugee situation with a rattlesnake, and on the same pages, refugees were being described as “an urgent and seemingly metastasizing threat.”

Of course, this analysis was only conducted on 200 articles. While substantial, this is a sample size that can be worked on. Also, there is a discussion to be made about what articles are selected. There is a great variation between the quality and the bias of news outlets; one could hardly compare The Guardian to Daily Mail, or Washington Post with Breitbart. Overall, it’s an intriguing study which can definitely be built upon.

The study was not published in a peer-reviewed journal. Source: KTU.

Facebook smartphone.

Facebook: where relationship builders, town criers, window shoppers, and selfies come to chat

There are four categories of Facebook personalities, Brigham Young University research reveals.

Facebook smartphone.

Image credits Krzysztof Kamil.

Quick, try to recall the last day you’ve spent without logging into Facebook. Most of you probably can’t. And it’s not that we use the platform daily, but we also spend a lot of time once we’re there. Which begs the question: why do we like it so much?

“What is it about this social-media platform that has taken over the world?” asked lead author Tom Robinson. “Why are people so willing to put their lives on display? Nobody has ever really asked the question, ‘Why do you like this?'”

“Social media is so ingrained in everything we do right now,” Boyle said. “And most people don’t think about why they do it, but if people can recognize their habits, that at least creates awareness.”

To find out, the team compiled a list of 48 statements designed to gauge potential reasons why people visit the platform. Participants were asked to sort these statements in a way that they felt reflected their personal connection to the ideas and then rate them on a scale from “least like me” to “most like me”. After this step, the researchers sat down for an interview with each participant to get a better understanding of why they ranked and rated the way that they did.

Based on the responses, the team says there are four main reasons — translated into four categories — why people hang out on the book: they’re either relationship builders, town criers, window shoppers, or the ever-present selfies. So let’s see what each of them does.

The book of (four) faces

Relationship builders are those who use the platform closest to its indented role: as an extension of their real-life social activity. They post, respond to others’ posts and use additional features primarily to strengthen existing relationships, to interact virtually with real-life friends and family. This group identified strongly with statements such as “Facebook helps me to express love to my family and lets my family express love to me.”

Town criers show a much larger decoupling of their real and virtual life. They’re less concerned with sharing content (photos, stories, other information) about themselves, but will put a lot of effort into informing others of the current events — much like the town criers of yore. You’ll likely spot this group reposting ZME Science, event announcements, or wording their opinion on something they feel strongly about. Beyond that, they’re likely to neglect their profiles and will keep tabs on family and friends through other means.

Window shoppers also use Facebook but rarely post personal information. But in contrast to town criers, co-author Clark Callahan says, these users “want to see what other people are doing. It’s the social-media equivalent of people watching.” They identify with statements such as “I can freely look at the Facebook profile of someone I have a crush on and know their interests and relationship status.”

Stalking funny.

Lastly, the selfies. This group mostly uses Facebook (can you guess?) for self-promotion. Like relationship builders, they’re very energetic posters of content — but unlike them, they do so in an effort to garner likes, comments, and for attention in general. Their end goal, the team says, is to craft and present a social image of themselves “whether it’s accurate or not.” This category identified with the statements such as “The more ‘like’ notification alarms I receive, the more I feel approved by my peers.”

Previous research into social media has explored users falling in the relationship-builder and selfie groups, but the town criers and window shoppers were a novel (and unexpected) find.

“Nobody had really talked about these users before, but when we thought about it, they both made a lot of sense,” Robinson adds.

If you’ve been trying to decide which group you fall into, the authors point out that it’s rarely an exact fit, and you likely identify with more than one category to some degree.

“Everybody we’ve talked to will say, ‘I’m part of this and part of this, but I’m mostly this,'” said Robinson, who calls himself a relationship builder.

The paper “I ♥ FB: A Q-Methodology Analysis of Why People ‘Like’ Facebook” has been published in the International Journal of Virtual Communities and Social Networking.



American media consumption to soar in 2015


(c) James E. Short.

The U.S. is not only the biggest energy consumer per capita in the lord, but also the leading media consumer. An estimated 6.9 zettabytes of media flows to individuals and households in a year or 6.9 million million gigabytes. That’s almost twice as much than in 2008 and according to the latest “How Much Media? 2013 Report on American Consumers,” produced by the Institute for Communications Technology Management (CTM America’s hunger for media is from becoming saturated. By 2015, 8.75 zettabytes worth of information will flow annually, or 74 gigabytes — 9 DVDs worth — of data sent to the average consumer on an average day.

To put things into perspective if were to print the information gobbled up as media by US consumers as books, keeping in mind that 1 byte is equivalent to one character of text, stacked those books as tightly as possible across the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, the pile would be almost 14 feet high. That’s quite a lot and it’s only set to increase.


(c) James E. Short.

The report breaks down media into as many as 30 categories, like gaming, TV, social media etc. Interestingly enough, although some might say it’s safe to say computers are ubiquitous, traditional media still dominates how people consume information as two-third of viewing time is reserved to TV, radio and voice calls while digital platforms account for only one-third. Digital is worth half of total amount of information, however, and this will only grow in coming years. In time, the system will be shifted from measuring hours of media consumption to measuring bytes.

In 2008, Americans talked, viewed and listened to media for 1.3 trillion hours, an average of 11 hours per person per day. By 2012, total consumption had increased to 1.46 trillion hours, an average of 13.6 hours per person per day, representing a year over year growth rate of 5%. By 2015, the data indicate that Americans will consume media for more than 1.7 trillion hours, an average of approximately 15.5 hours per person per day.


Here are some more media consumption stats for 2015:

  • Mobile messaging hours, which in 2012 accounted for approximately 9% of voice call hours, will double to over 18% of voice hours, a year over year growth rate of more than 27%.
  • Viewing video on the Internet averaged less than 3 hours a month in 2008; by 2012, viewing time increased to almost 6 hours a month, a year over year growth rate of 21%. By 2015, the report projects that Americans will be watching video for almost 11 hours a month, a compound annual growth rate of 24% a year.
  • From 2008 to 2015, total annual hours for users of Facebook and YouTube will grow from 6.3 billion hours to 35.2 billion hours, a year over year growth rate of 28%.

Men hold majority of top jobs in media, study shows

I don’t know about you, but when I think about reporters, newscasters, I always get the feeling there are more women than men. But that’s just not right, at least according to a recent study conducted by the International Women’s Media Foundation. The research in case found that 73 percent of the jobs in top media are held by men, compared to the only 27 women have, while in the ranks of reporters, men still hold the majority, but by a lower distance, with 64 percent.

“While there have been some gains since the mid-’90s, women still have a long way to go to gain parity as workers in the news industry globally,” said Liza Gross, executive director of the International Women’s Media Foundation. “In many regions of the world, just representation of women in the newsroom as journalists is an issue.”

Some countries fared different than others, with the results varying greatly. In Asia and Australia, women held only 13 percent of top management jobs in media, but in South Africa, they held no less than 80 percent. All in all, I wouldn’t say there’s a negative trend for women in media, regarding reporters or senior positions. Some countries tend to view female reporters better, while other credit men. In some countries journalism is more attractive for girls, in others it seems to be a boy club

Furthermore, if I’m allowed to give my 2 cents, I’d say that from what I’ve seen, this kind of study tends to be a little biased and make things seem worse for women than they really are.

Does media make the young start drinking?

That advertising can make people buy more alcohol is mostly understandable as this is the main role of a commercial. However, what if simply seeing your favorite hero drinking a glass of fine whiskey could determine you to use your pocket money for the same purpose? And what if the very young are so influenced by seeing alcohol consumption on TV that they start doing the same very thing?

In order to see how manipulative both commercials and entertainment programmes concerning alcohol could be, Lesley Smith and David Foxcroft from Oxford Brookes University analysed information from 7 most important and well-documented studies, which involved 13.255 people, this being the first attempt at seeing just how much sporting events, games, movies and advertisements, in a nutshell the entire media, can determine viewers to increase their alcohol consumption.

According to these studies, the more you watch commercials or read magazine advertisements concerning this habit, the more you want to do it too. For each additional hour of watching TV every day the risk of starting to drink increases by 9% in the following 18 months. And when it comes to popular movies in which alcohol is presented as a highly pleasant activity the risk  especially for the young to try it too increases by 15% in the next 13 to 26 months. These percentages should definitely be taken into consideration especially because of the ones mostly affected by this phenomenon, people between 10 and 26 years old.

Now, as the results are quite worrying, the authors made some recommendations in order to counterfight the effects such as:

-parenting programmes

-price increasing

-limiting the availability to the young even more

Counter-advertising is believed to be the one of the most useful as exposure is one of the lead factors that could influence people into doing something or giving it up.

source: BMC Public Health