page top
Home / Blog / CEO Blog / Social media

Social media

Attention: open in a new window. Print

It seems that the world is hooked on social media. Billions of people use social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitter and Pinterest to seek out information and interact with others. This has revolutionised the way we communicate and connect in a globalised world.

Every click, every view and every sign-up on the Internet is recorded and this has produced some mind-boggling statistics. Every day, 500,000 new users are added to Facebook, 80 million photos are uploaded on Instagram and 500 million messages are sent via Twitter. However, like all technology, social media is a double-edged sword.

Advocates of social media wax lyrical about its ability to bring people together. Networking sites help people find old friends and make new ones. Users can connect with family and friends by posting pictures and status updates. They can also access support groups, “meet” people with common interests and raise awareness for causes.

Opponents of social media argue that it makes us less sociable due to an absence of face-to-face communication. Also, it puts our lives on public display, opens the door to stalking and cyber-bullying and perpetuates false and unreliable information. Further, it turns some people into crushing bores as they publicly detail every insignificant aspect of their lives.

Researchers at Harvard University learned through a series of experiments that the act of disclosing information about oneself activates the same part of the brain that is associated with the sensation of pleasure. This, apparently, is the same pleasure that we get from eating food, obtaining money or even having sex.

This discovery goes some way to explaining why social media is highly addictive and can be as habit-forming as illicit drugs. Many people find it compelling to share everything about themselves and can’t resist constantly going online throughout the day to check and interact on social sites.

According to the 2016 Social Media Report by Sensis, just under 70 per cent of Australians are on social media. The Report, How Australian people and businesses are using social media, reveals that Australians own an average of three Internet-connected devices. These devices are used by 57 per cent of Aussies to access social media every day or most days.

The break-up of device ownership among Australians is as follows:

  • 76% own a Smartphone;
  • 70% own a laptop computer;
  • 54% own a desktop computer;
  • 53% own a tablet PC; and
  • 29% own Internet-enabled TVs.

Where Australians check their social media is also revealed in the Sensis Report:

  • 96% at home;
  • 35% at work;
  • 25% on public transport; and
  • 8% at the gym.

Ninety-three per cent of Australians who use Facebook spend 8.5 hours a week on the site - the equivalent to a whole working day. Personally, I find it hard to believe that this amount of time online does not impact the quality of personal relationships. Having said that, 17% of respondents to the Sensis survey said that they use social media to connect with new people - with 10% of those connections for dating.

In February 2013, I published a blog post titled, Lonely Planet. In that post, I acknowledged that the seven billion humans on this Earth have never been more connected. Moreover, I stated that technology had collapsed the physical boundaries between people and that we are conducting more and more of our relationships online. I went on to say that:

Technology is bringing us together but, paradoxically, it’s literally keeping us apart. As we become more connected, we become more disconnected. Meeting face-to-face is being replaced by communicating keyboard-to-keyboard. It’s quicker and less hassle to send a quick text message than to eyeball someone.

The line between real life and screen life has become blurred. An increasing number of people spend their days walking around with their noses buried in their BlackBerrys and iPhones. Others shut out the world with iPods. We seldom speak with our next-door neighbours but “chat” incessantly with cyber friends we rarely see.

Given the continuing rise of social media over the past four years, I believe that our planet is lonelier today than it was in February 2013. According to a survey by the Australian Psychological Society, Aussies who spend more time on social media report higher levels of loneliness and negative emotions. In contrast, Australians with strong relationships and community involvement are happier individuals.

We humans are herd animals and a lack of attachment is not normal. Yet our contact with each other is becoming more and more superficial. We have broader but shallower friendships. Real flesh-and-bone friends who stick with you through thick and thin are hard to find while transient, online virtual friends seem to pop out of the cyber-world.

In our technologically driven world, genuine human connection remains central to the wellbeing of Australians.


Paul J. Thomas, CEO


Name *
Submit Comment

Subscribe to our CEO Blog

* indicates required

CEO Paul Thomas