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Call for Instagram to drop Likes

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The Facebook-owned social media giant Instagram recently announced a short-term experiment in which Canadian users would no longer be able to view the number of “Likes” another person receives on their Instagram post. While the experiment is intended for users to focus on content rather than the number of likes, research indicates that social comparison on social media platforms can be harmful for some young users who can become distressed when comparing their lives to others. Research suggests that time spent on these platforms can affect self-esteem and mood among young people.

The international interdisciplinary research organization Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development is calling on Instagram to block U.S. users from seeing the number of likes on their own posts, as well as on others’, since either function feeds social competition and contributes to a fantasy of social connection.

Children and Screens founder Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra, D.O. said, “The business of Instagram operates on a numbers game. Children and adolescents are being co-opted into participating by psychological persuasion techniques that are used in gambling. This experiment means that the leadership of Instagram is aware of the problem and it is a first step that I hope will spur further change.”

According to Children and Screens, this experiment may not be going far enough. Randi Priluck, Ph.D., professor and associate dean at Pace University, explained, “they’re still going to see their own likes. People are very driven by rewards so they’re still going to be competing for those likes. It’s not going to fully solve the problem.” It also wouldn’t address other issues created by social media like addiction, social exclusion, fear of missing out, cyberbullying and exposure to inappropriate content. “This is such a complex issue,” said JAMA Pediatrics editor-in-chief Dimitri A. Christakis, M.D., M.P.H. “Instagram should follow through with the issue that they identified when they announced this initiative and say: ‘We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get.’”

“Removing ‘Likes’ from the Instagram social media platform has the potential to benefit the mental health of its most vulnerable users,” explained Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Paul Weigle, M.D. “Studies indicate that adolescents who engage in social comparison on social media often develop depression, which is currently an epidemic in adolescents. A proportion of these teens check their Instagram posts obsessively for validation, up to hundreds of times per day, which can become an unhealthy habit when it displaces healthier activities such as socializing in person, getting adequate sleep, doing homework, and getting exercise.”

Social media is uniquely poised to impact, in both positive and negative ways, adolescent development,” explained Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Tracy Asamoah, M.D. “Social media platforms allow for endless opportunities for identity development and social interactions in a space where immediate feedback is expected and promoted. This can enrich adolescents’ experience of who they are becoming as they can engage with individuals who support and understand them. However, the receipt of negative responses or the lack of any feedback at all may contribute to feelings of anxiety and distress. Furthermore, anticipatory anxiety might arise when the immediacy of feedback doesn’t reach adolescents’ expectations. Immediate positive feedback from peers can foster a sense of community in young people but no response or negative feedback can shatter that sense of community. Receiving support through ‘likes’ is not a sustainable source of stability, safety, or happiness.”

“Likes” are a key component of the Instagram platform and removing the function could have a major impact on how users engage with the site – and on Instagram’s bottom line. But with the research clearly indicating the negative impact “likes” are having on users’ health, Children and Screens believes the decision is clear – Instagram must permanently remove the “like” function from its platform.

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Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?

It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.

Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.

When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.

That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.

In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.

The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.

Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.

“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.

“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”

Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.

In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Robots coming to IFA

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Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.

The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.

The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:

Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.

Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.

Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.

Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.

Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.

And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.

IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit www.ifa-berlin.com

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