Asst. to Editor
It’s hard to believe that years ago we weren’t texting, emailing, tweeting, or playing online games. Our time was taken up in other past times. In an effort to measure just how much social media has changed some of our lives here in Southwestern Oklahoma, I created a survey and distributed it to those who might be inclined to send it back. In addition, the Altus Times web site ran a poll regarding the time people spend using social media (see graphics).
For the purposes of the survey and this article, I’m defining social media as including: texting, emailing, music sharing, blogging, Tweeting, Instant Messaging, podcasting, participating in internet forums and playing virtual world games.
Surprisingly, or not, people either devote quite a bit of time to social media, or less than one hour a week. Anyone who’s accidentally wiled away an hour without looking up from Facebook knows an hour a week is practically nothing.
In the Altus Times web site survey, 31 percent of the people said they spend one hour or less a week on social media of all types, or at least they think they do. The next two categories are equal, at 14 percent, getting us up to seven hours a week. The next two categories are also equal, at six percent, with these people spending about two hours a day in social media. Only one percent of the respondents put themselves in the 15 to 19 hours a week category, but it was quite surprising that 28 percent said they spend the equivalent to a part-time job, or twenty hours a week, using social media.
Our survey didn’t delineate between social media use at work and home. Many of us have to (or get to, depending on our views) use various social media in our jobs for contacts and business related information. Some of us are more “social” on our off hours.
In the survey I sent out to several in the community, I asked what the respondents have given up to have more time for social media. Most replied that they multi-task to fit social media into their lives. Some also said that time for hobbies was decreased for these newer past times. One commonality is that they feel they haven’t given up anything, but their lives are made richer by the ties they’ve developed through social media.
What types of social media are the most common? Emailing, texting and Facebook were the clear winners there. Techno experts recently predicted that Facebook will be “dead” five years from now. When asked if they believed that prediction, most respondents said that something else like it will come along. All respondents expressed, in some form, that now that social media exists, it won’t just go away.
Most people associate social media with the younger set. When canvassed about some of the oldest people they knew that use social media, the eldest were in their eighties. On the other extreme, when asked about the possibility of children under 12 having their own Facebook pages without parental guidance, the reaction was split. Some felt that it would allow children and youth to participate in this social event. Others said that this would take more time away from carefree physical play and just being a child. Others said the Internet is too scary a place for children who are vulnerable and innocent. Facebook recently proposed sites for children, but the public’s reaction, like the survey respondents’ was mixed to say the least. One of our respondents pointed out that social media can pull people inward, allowing people in the same room to text to each other instead of talking. She wished children had more time to learn about face-to-face communication before they became involved in Facebook.
So why do we participate in social media? Many see this as a way to communicate with family members and friends who are at a distance. They said social media appeals to human curiosity, to our yearning to learn more, and to share more information. Others said that social media has changed the way we do business, making our world smaller, and ultimately enhancing business tactics.
Asked for one example of the best things coming out of social media, weather warnings made the top of the list. The Blackboard System is used by the City of Altus to bring citizens various news, including emergency notifications. Those notifications can be received through emails, texts and phone calls. Another common response to the best things about social media is the ability to maintain or reestablish relationships with friends and family.
Since the City of Altus and the Jackson County Commissioners have both removed public participation sections from their public meetings, I wondered if respondents felt that participating in social forums might take up that slack. Most people saw the connection between those actions and the development of the Altus Oklahoma Opinions and Discussions Group. There are about 800 people that pop in to participate in that group. Some of them are out of the area, having been transferred, but they still care about their home town and wish to be tied to the events and issues here.
Like many cities, the City of Altus has created a Facebook page where they post information. Mayor Webb used to participate in the Altus Oklahoma Opinions and Discussions Group, but recently posted this statement there: “I would like to formally announce that I will be leaving the Altus Opinion and Discussion group and offer my reasoning. The City of Altus has recently created an official Facebook page which is www.facebook.com/CityofAltus. My desire is to have many of the important questions addressed on this page. I hope that over time we will find lots of useful information, alerts and communication from staff and myself. Fuelled by a strong desire to see our community progress in a worthwhile manner and a time schedule that will not allow for both, I have made the decision to leave the Opinions page and concentrate my Facebook efforts to this new page. I would encourage folks that would like to communicate with me, regarding any city related issue, to contact me personally by phone or email. I hope to see many of you on the positive side.”
Some respondents regularly check out the City of Altus (www.cityofaltus.org) and the Jackson County (www.jacksoncountyok.com) web sites.
When asked what other sites they use, the following were commonly indicated: Google, Reddit (Lady Gaga’s site), Yahoo.com/neighbors and Yelp.