The Psychology of Social Media – pre-order now!

The Psychology of Social Media

I am delighted to say that my book is now available to pre-order! You can find The Psychology of Social Media on Routledge and Amazon!

I am really proud to be part of Routledge’s Psychology of Everything series, and published alongside so many great authors writing on an extraordinary range of topics.

From the blurb

Are we really being ourselves on social media? Can we benefit from connecting with people we barely know online? Why do some people overshare on social networking sites?

The Psychology of Social Media explores how so much of our everyday lives is played out online, and how this can impact our identity, wellbeing, and relationships. It looks at how our online profiles, connections, status updates, and sharing of photographs can be a way to express ourselves and form connections, but also highlights the pitfalls of social media including privacy issues.

From FOMO to fraping, and from subtweeting to selfies, The Psychology of Social Media shows how social media has developed a whole new world of communication, and for better or worse is likely to continue to be an essential part of how we understand our selves.

I am really pleased with how this has turned out, and I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’ve deliberately written it to be accessible to anyone with an interest in social media. While it does rely on scientific research, it is meant to be readable by anyone who has ever used Facebook, Twitter or any other social media service. I wrote this book for you – to scratch below the surface of social media, not just to help us understand the but also our selves.

If you would like to know more about the book, or have any other questions, please do contact me!

‘The association between adolescent well-being and digital technology use’ #mustread

Noteworthy paper using large-scale dataset just released by researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute. From the abstract below, it looks like it will pour cold water on recent tabloid hyperbole regarding the effects of technology usage on mental well-being. I’ll be reading it with much interest.

The widespread use of digital technologies by young people has spurred speculation that their regular use negatively impacts psychological well-being. Current empirical evidence supporting this idea is largely based on secondary analyses of large-scale social datasets. Though these datasets provide a valuable resource for highly powered investigations, their many variables and observations are often explored with an analytical flexibility that marks small effects as statistically significant, thereby leading to potential false positives and conflicting results. Here we address these methodological challenges by applying specification curve analysis (SCA) across three large-scale social datasets (total n?=?355,358) to rigorously examine correlational evidence for the effects of digital technology on adolescents. The association we find between digital technology use and adolescent well-being is negative but small, explaining at most 0.4% of the variation in well-being. Taking the broader context of the data into account suggests that these effects are too small to warrant policy change.

via Nature (Human Behaviour)

The Times (IE) – “New minister must get to grips with cybersecurity”

I am writing in this morning’s The Times (Ireland edition) on the state of the Ireland’s national cybersecurity strategy: “New minister must get to grips with cybersecurity” [behind a paywall, but you can contact me for a copy].

Final paragraph:

Mr Bruton needs to get to grips with the cybersecurity sector quickly as businesses throughout Ireland are vulnerable, as is our national reputation. At the next reshuffle, the taoiseach would do well to consider a junior minister overseeing not only cybersecurity, but online safety, data protection and digital innovation.

Open Letter on the Digital Age of Consent

I was delighted to help put this letter together, calling on the Government to stick with 13 as the ‘Digital Age of Consent’. Great to get support from so many eminent experts and leaders in this field, many thanks to all who put their name below.

Published here on Medium:  Open Letter on the Digital Age of Consent and reproduced in full here:

In relation to the Data Protection Bill, we note that the report of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality, having studied this issue carefully, recommended setting the digital age of consent at 13. It is therefore of great disappointment to us that parties to that report have now tabled amendments contrary to that recommendation. As such, we call on the Minister and the Government to remain steadfast in their commitment to 13.

With regard to the current situation, Ireland already has a de facto digital age of consent set at 13. As research such as the EU Kids Online Project has shown, we already have many issues with under 13s using online services in spite of this restriction. Setting the digital age of consent at 16 will not solve these issues, in fact, it will only multiply them.

It is worth stressing that the ‘digital age of consent’ is a data protection issue, not a child safety one. Protecting children from targeted advertising is quite different from protecting them from cyberbullying or online predation. Using data protection law to achieve an online safety effect is, in our view, extremely misguided.

In that light, far too much energy has been wasted on this debate when we could have been talking about how to actually protect and educate children about their digital rights. Our children need a proper digital education and we are failing to deliver this.

What this debate has painfully highlighted is how disconnected many parents feel with regard to their children’s online activity. Rather than delivering a knee-jerk response to those fears, the Government should commit to a properly resourced campaign of parental digital education.

Setting the age of consent at 13 would ensure that social media companies continue their efforts to try to make their online spaces safe and appropriate for under 18’s. If the digital age of consent is set to 16, online platforms would be able to argue that their spaces are for adults only, and reduce protections accordingly. Put simply, the higher age gives parents an illusion of control while at the same time letting industry off the hook.

Finally, given how few viable technical solutions to age verification have been proposed during this debate, setting the digital age of consent to 16 will inevitably lead to more young people simply lying about their ages. Whether with or without their parents’ help, this probably the worst first lesson in digital education a child should ever receive. More to the point, this is unlikely to encourage a child to tell their parents if something bad happens to them when online.

As such, we, therefore, urge the Government and the Oireachtas to implement the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality in setting the digital age of consent at 13.

Yours, etc.

Dr Ciarán Mc Mahon, Director, Institute of Cyber Security

Ronan Lupton BL, Internet Content Governance Advisory Group

Ian Power, Executive Director, SpunOut.ie

Harry McCann, Founder, Digital Youth Council

Prof Brian O’Neill, Director of Research, Enterprise and Innovation, Dublin Institute of Technology

Mark Smyth, Senior Clinical Psychologist

Alex Cooney, CEO, CyberSafeIreland

Tanya Ward, CEO, Children’s Rights Alliance

Grainia Long, CEO, ISPCC Childline

Prof Joe Carthy, College Principal and Dean of Science, University College Dublin

Dr James O’Higgins Norman, Director, National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre, Dublin City University

Dr Vincent Mc Darby, Senior Clinical Psychologist

Ian O’Grady, Senior Counselling Psychologist, President-Elect Psychological Society of Ireland.

 

 

Submission on Transparency in Social Media

I am delighted to have been invited to give evidence at a Meeting of Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment. Transparency in political social media is of deep importance to democracy.

I was due to appear today, but due to time constraints, that will take place at a later date. This meeting is in relation to Deputy James Lawless’ Social Media Transparency Bill, as well as recent revelations regarding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.

You can read my full submission here, and the main points of the executive summary are below:

  • Problematic issues in regulation social media have been known for some time, the era of self-regulation must come to an end
  • However, overly simplistic to ‘blame’ the online platforms for this, must be collaborative
  • Problem of fake or automated accounts is vast within social media
  • ‘Viral’ propagation of messages is quite rare, information generally cascades via a traditional ‘broadcast’ model
  • Misinformation not easily corrected, continues to be shared after being debunked
  • Hence easy for adversaries to push disinformation, sowing confusion
  • An environment has developed where it is difficult for citizens to know what is true and trustworthy
  • Politicians must improve own cybersecurity practices as a matter of urgency
  • Much of the content of the Bill has been pre-empted by policy changes by the online platforms in the last six months in political ad transparency
  • However, changes have yet to take effect – urge immediate roll-out here of political advertisement changes
  • While transparency in online political advertising is probably achievable, not clear that making bots illegal is feasible, suggest mandatory labelling by online platforms
  • Urge Government to invest in interdisciplinary research on these topics in local context
  • Urge progress of permanent Electoral Commission to oversee all political advertising
  • Urge Government to consider national factual information/education campaigns on online platforms

 

I will update this page later, once I’ve spoken at the Committee.