Sexual Abuse Survivors Find Support in Anonymity of Social Media

More than half of sexual abuse survivors do not report their experience to authorities or seek help. Candidly talking about one’s abuse and asking for help often means taking a social risk because the response can be stigmatizing. Researchers suggest survivors — particularly men — may be more comfortable using social media to discuss their experience and ask for help in an anonymous forum.

The research team, led by Drexel University doctoral student Nazanin Andalibi, wanted to understand how survivors interact online where they are able to mask their identities. They studied public posts on three abuse-related Reddit forums (subreddits) for most of 2014, pulling a random sample of 200 posts from the more than 2,000. They compared what users disclosed and how they sought support between those using pseudonyms and those who using one-time-use accounts known as throw-aways.

The researchers found that men were significantly more likely to use throw-away accounts when posting about sexual abuse, and those using throw-away accounts were significantly more likely to ask for help.

The authors write that the added layer of anonymity offered by throw-away accounts provides an important level of security for victims to disclose their abuse for the first time in their lives.

“A significant finding here is that Reddit is used as a platform for first-time disclosures of sexual assault and rape, and that these first time disclosures are significantly linked to support seeking,” the authors write. “This is important because of the highly stigmatized context of sexual abuse and rape. Many abuse and rape events remain unreported to authorities or undisclosed to friends, family and mental health professionals. These online forums have created alternative spaces where disclosures that might have otherwise remained silent have a voice, and people can seek support.”

The researchers suggest subreddit moderators and members who want to provide emotional support pay particular attention to throw-away accounts.

“Talking about one’s experiences, feelings and thoughts, and asking for support, are fundamental needs that often remain unmet for abuse survivors,” Andalibi said in a media release. “In our analysis we found that people sometimes referred to unmet disclosure-related needs when posting online. In other words, sometimes people have never shared these experiences with anyone before online or off and they feel they need to.”

Coauthor and Andalibi’s PhD adviser, Andrea Forte, noted that many of the users they studied are weighing a difficult decision between choosing a higher level of perceived anonymity and potentially not being believed by using a throw-away account against using an identifiable account to gain more credibility and potentially divulging their identity. This decision factors into what they are comfortable saying and what kind of help they will ask for. However, the important thing is that they have found a place where they feel comfortable enough to disclose this sensitive information.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

COM0011 Blog 3 —Social Media and Poor Sleep: Cause or Effect?

Two recently completed research projects looked at the relation between social media use and sleep. While they came to two different conclusions, they seem to point to a potential spiral effect.

High social media use causes sleep problems

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh studied 1,788 Americans ages 19 to 32 from across the country in 2014. Participants filled out questionnaires about the time they spent each day on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, SnapChat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn and the frequency each week. Researchers also assess sleep disturbances with an established scientific system.

On average, participants used social media about an hour per day and 30 times per week. Nearly 30 per cent had high levels of sleep disturbance.

Adjusting for socio-demographic differences, researchers found that participants in the highest 25 per cent of use per day were nearly twice as likely to have sleep disturbances as those in the lowest quartile. Participants in the highest 25 per cent of frequency per week were nearly three times as likely to have sleep problems as those in the lowest quartile. According to lead researcher Jessica C. Levenson:

“This may indicate that frequency of social media visits is a better predictor of sleep difficulty than overall time spent on social media…. If this is the case, then interventions that counter obsessive checking behavior may be most effective.”

The researcher team suggests physicians consider asking patients about social media habits when assessing sleep issues. Interestingly, though, they acknowledge the possibility that participants used social media to pass the time when they could not fall asleep or return to sleep.

Sleep problems cause high Facebook use

While a significant amount of research has looked at how technology affects sleep, researchers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) turned the idea around and looked at how sleep affected technology usage.

The researchers collected data from 24 male and 42 female UCI undergraduate students for seven days during the spring of 2014. Taking into consideration the students’ gender, age, course load and deadlines, the team of researchers measured students’ behaviour, activities and stress levels. The team did this by using sensors and installing software on the participants’ computers and smart phones that logged and time stamped when they switched from one application window to another or used their phones. Students also completed a sleep survey each morning and an end-of-day survey each night.

The UCI team found that a lack of sleep — which causes tiredness, irritability (bad mood) and distractibility — leads to more frequent online activities, such as browsing Facebook. According to lead researcher Gloria Mark:

“When you get less sleep, you’re more prone to distraction…. If you’re being distracted, what do you do? You go to Facebook. It’s lightweight, it’s easy, and you’re tired.”

Mark and her team found that the less sleep students had, the more frequently their attention shifted among different computer screens, suggesting heightened distractibility.

The UCI researchers say their results reveal a direct link among chronic lack of sleep, worsening mood and greater reliance on Facebook browsing. The Pittsburgh researchers say high social media use is linked to sleep disturbances. So lack of sleep can cause higher social media use, which, in turn, can cause sleep problems, which, in turn, can cause… a spiralling problem. The question now becomes how best to break the spiral.

COM0011 – Reddit: The Evolution of the Peer-to-Peer Conversation?

I was at a restaurant having breakfast with my family the other day. We were having a discussion of no importance other than a question came up that nobody at the table knew the answer to. At this point my teenage son piped up and said, “let me ask Reddit”. I had never heard about this before, so I had to ask, “what is Reddit? And why wouldn’t you just do a Google search or go to Wikipedia?” As teenagers love the opportunity to show they know more than their parents do, I received a crash course on Reddit. Once he was done the lecture, I was won over.

For those of you who don’t know about Reddit, ironically, here is the Wikipedia definition (old ways are hard to break):

 Reddit /ˈrɛdɪt/,[3] stylized as reddit,[4] is an entertainment, social networking service and news website where registered community members can submit content, such as text posts or direct links. Only registered users can then vote submissions “up” or “down” to organize the posts and determine their position on the site’s pages. Content entries are organized by areas of interest called “subreddits”.

 Why is Reddit the next best thing?

As an adult who mainly uses the internet for information, e-commerce, and direct one-to-one communication (email), I was more interested in the quality of the information posted. I know a large part of the material one finds on the internet is open-sourced, but what intrigued me about Reddit was the part about the posts being peer rated. I love the concept that if you write something that is completely false, the users are going to speak out and tell everyone. Knowing this gives a level of credibility to the posts (or noncredibility, depending on what side of the BS scale the contributor is on). To further this idea, the more posts you make that people agree with, the more credibility you have as a contributor.

The notion of credible information isn’t what really drives the popularity of Reddit. Jason Fagone said this about a typical user of Reddit on Wired in his blog, “How One Reponse to a Reddit Query Became a Big-Budget Flick”

Prufrock451 was pretty clearly a quirky character—he was entirely typical of a habitual Reddit user, and like many other redditors, as they are called, he found the site addictive. More than just a creative outlet or time-killer, Reddit was a game. The object was to amass points—”Reddit karma.” Every time Erwin saw his karma level increase, he felt a little squirt of adrenaline. “People are sweating to make you laugh or make you think or make you hate them,” Erwin says. “It’s the human condition, plus points.”

This addictiveness to users drives its popularity, making it a very valuable network for marketers and researchers trying to take the pulse of social media. Fagone goes on to say:

More reliably than Twitter, more scientifically than Facebook, Reddit answers this question: What do people on the Internet think is important, funny, cute, gross, uplifting—right now?

 I think I’m going to have to become a Reddit member… I hope I don’t get addicted.

To get a more indepth look at Reddit take a look at this post put out by CrunchBase:

COM0011 – 521 Blog Post #4: Unique Ways to Advertise Online for Free

As a company that was once a small business on a tight budget, and now on an even tighter budget once it was bought by a huge corporation (I’m looking at you Shoppers) we had to find ways to advertise our products and store without spending money on pay-per-click ads like Google Adword and Facebook Ads.

One of my favourite sites that I have talked about before is I was a user long before I started working for Feelbest and knew how the site worked and more importantly how the users worked. They don’t like being blatantly advertised to. It can really hurt your business to create an account solely to try and throw your links inside of the comments. What I have done in the past that worked quite well is browse the health and beauty subreddits and if I see someone mention they are looking for a certain product we carry, I will tell them where I work and that we can ship it to them. I will also offer a coupon code within the comment. There has been a few times I have done this that resulted in multiple sales, and the links are all archived so I still see the occasional sale from them. I have attempted this is other online discussion forums but none have been as successful as Reddit. This also helps us get our name out there, and since our links are on the pages it helps our Google Search Ranking.

Since we are resellers of lots of different brands, I will go to a particular  brands website and see if they have a “where to buy” section. If they do they will often have a “where to buy online” section with various companies logos or site addresses where the products can be purchased. All you have to do is find their contact email and email them requesting that your link and logo be added to the list. A huge portion of are sales are generated from these links which is easy to measure since Shopify tells you where each order came from.

These are just two of the ways we advertise online that you don’t often hear or learn about. Since our social media is no where near as strong as it should be these two methods create way more sales than any of our social media sites have.

-Alison Collins

COM0011-521 Blog Post #5: Studying Case Studies

The two case studies I have decided to analyze are the successful and hilarious Chipotle Twitter Incident, and the hilarious failure that was Amy’s Baking Company.

Lets start off with the good. Back in July Chipotle, the popular Mexican fast-food chain, sent out multiple tweets that made people think the page was either hacked, or accessed by a computer illiterate employee/grandparent. They sent out multiple tweets just saying “twitter” and “twitter Find avocado store in Arv” as if they were using Twitter like Google. People were confused and there was lots of buzz around the tweets that day. They ended up going from the regular 250 followers a day to 4,000 followers on the day the tweets went out, and were retweeted around 12,000 times within the day of the “hack”.  Chipotle ended up releasing a statement a few days later saying that the hack was fake and a planned marketing campaign for their 20th anniversary promotion.  It was a good campaign because the numbers show that it worked and got people talking which is what their goal was.

Dad this is not Google.

Now for the bad, which started off bad, but may make its way into good. Amy’s Baking Company, a locally owned restaurant based out of Scottsdale Arizona, was featured on an episode of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmare. The episode went viral when Gordon Ramsey actually left the restaurant and refused to try and help them anymore because the owners were do difficult to work with. It was a great episode.  After it aired the company’s Facebook page exploded with negative comments. The clip made its way to the top post on the front page of Reddit and  was upvoted by around 15,000 users. The owners Amy and her husband Sammy started responding very aggressive and angrily to the negative Facebook posts, and started posting that all the “haters” are idiots and other forms of name calling. While you’d think this behaviour would ruin a restaurant forever, they ended up gaining thousands of Facebook likes, and their Google ranking is very high. Aside from all the likes and SEO the attention provided, they still do not have any real positive reviews. All of their reviews are negative and they will most likely not be anything aside from a joke company. They will never be taken seriously, and will most likely be forgotten in a few years, so I would still count them as a failed social media case.

Amy's Baking Company

Alison Collins