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ToiletTexting-infographic2People take selfies at funerals and text during sex. Others text while in the shower or while using the toilet (which apparently is not just for newspapers and books any longer). And wherever there are social faux pas’ you can bet academic researchers are not far behind. In fact, today we have research on just when young adults think texting is unacceptable behavior (but do it anyway).

The research question may strike you as odd: “Is texting while in the shower, or during sex, or while going to the bathroom the new normal?” but on such odd questions, professorial tenure is granted. Participants were 152 students (88 women, 64 men; average age 19.7; 55.1% White, 21.1% Asian, 8.8% African-American, 6.8% Hispanic, 2.7% Middle Eastern, and 5.5% other) at a “mid-sized university in the northeastern US”. Students completed the survey online and responded to questions about their texting behavior and what they saw as an appropriate situation/environment for texting. Their responses provide an amusing, sometimes surprising and disconcerting, view into their texting behaviors.

More than 1/3 (34.3%) reported sending or receiving 100 or more text messages a day. They reported checking for text messages an average of every 3.78 minutes (with one checking 200 times an hour!).

Students rated a number of situations as socially acceptable for texting. They thought for example, it was socially acceptable to send texts for flirting and romance, to stay connected to friends, to escape boredom, and while going to the bathroom.

Of note is that 83.3% had sent texts while going to the bathroom.

There were many texting situations not deemed socially acceptable but often done regardless of acceptability. For example, texting during class was not acceptable, but 84.7% had done this. Texting in the shower is unacceptable and 34% have done this. Texting during the Pledge of Allegiance is unacceptable and 11.3% have done it. Texting while having sex is unacceptable and 7.4% have done it. Talking to a friend and texting another at the same time is unacceptable and between 79% and 84% have done it. Texting one person in whom you are romantically interested while on a date with someone else is unacceptable and 21.5% have done it. Breaking up by text is unacceptable and 26% have done it. Sending text messages while at a funeral is unacceptable and 10.1% have done it. Texting during a job interview is unacceptable and 2.7% have done it. Fighting with some via text is unacceptable and 66% have done it. Sexting is unacceptable and 42% have done it.

Overall say the authors, texting is obviously an important means of communicating. They conclude by saying:

“Text messaging is not necessarily creating a new culture—a new normal—but it is conducive to allowing someone to believe they transcend social boundaries or that those social boundaries do not apply to them in the texting moment”.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this study tells us how ubiquitous texting is for young adults across many different types of situations. Whether having sex, using the toilet, taking a shower, talking to a friend, or interviewing for a job—texting may happen whether it is seen as socially acceptable or not. This should likely be, as we say in Texas, “cause for pause” as to the effectiveness of the courtroom directives to not communicate about a case during trial.

Harrison, M., Bealing, C., & Salley, J. (2015). 2 TXT or not 2 TXT: College students’ reports of when text messaging is social breach The Social Science Journal DOI: 10.1016/j.soscij.2015.02.005

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beeper vs iPhoneBack in the early ‘90s, I had a job that required me to carry a beeper. The constant awareness that I was “on call” was a source of strain and led me to complain I was never really “off duty”. Flash forward to this century and I cannot imagine being without my smart phone. In fact, I often double-check to be sure I have my iPhone when I am on the go so I never leave it behind. It’s a whole different sort of anxiety about being separated from my iPhone than I felt toward that beeper.

And I am not alone. Today’s researchers examine how many of us are anxious when separated from our instant access to email, texting, the internet, and the ability to make phone calls. They go so far as to say “cell phone separation can have serious psychological and physiological effects on iPhone users, including poor performance on cognitive tests”. Further, they say, “iPhone are capable of becoming an extension of our selves such that when separated, we experience a lessening of ‘self’ and a negative physiological state”. Seriously?

Researchers conducted what they call a “multistaged experiment”. They used a survey phase to recruit 208 participants from three separate journalism courses. Of those 208, 136 completed the online questionnaire to allegedly “understand media usage among a sample of college students”. (In truth, the researchers were looking for iPhone users and found 117 iPhone users in the 136 who completed the survey.)

Those 117 iPhone users were contacted again and told they could participate in a second study for additional course credit and a $50 gift card. Of the 117, 41 (73% female, average age 21.2 years, 88% White, 5% Black, 5% Asian and 2% Hispanic) agreed to participate in a 20 minute experiment.

The purpose of the 20 minute experiment was to see what happened to “perceived level of self, cognition, emotion and physiology” when the participant was separated from their iPhone and the iPhone was ringing. However, the participants were told they were testing the accuracy of a new blood pressure cuff while completing word search puzzles. The researchers had the participants complete word search puzzles while hooked up to the blood pressure cuff and either having their iPhone or not having their iPhone (since it was allegedly interfering with the blood pressure cuff operation and so the participant was asked to set their iPhone on a table four feet away from them).

The researchers found that participants separated from their iPhones had increases in heart rate, increases in self-reports of feeling unpleasant, found fewer words in their word search puzzles, increases in blood pressure levels, and higher self-reported anxiety.

The researchers conclude that being separated from your iPhone results in poorer cognitive performance and thus you may not want to be separated from your iPhone during tasks requiring significant mental performance (think test-taking, meetings, classes, and even perhaps, jury duty). The distraction and loss of your sense of self when separated from your iPhone may make you perform more poorly on those tasks. (Somewhere, Steve Jobs is smiling.)

While we wonder if this level of intrusive anxiety and poor performance is unique to college students (as measured by the FOMO scale) who have grown up with the constant presence of various cell phones and smart phones, it does raise the question of whether jurors are distracted from their deliberations by the court instructions to not use the internet, or post status updates about their experiences, or communicate with anyone, or quickly look up the definition of a word or phrase. And in Federal courts, you are usually banned from bringing the phone into the courthouse.

Being told to not use your phone is along the same lines as placing your iPhone out of your reach and not being able to answer it. Does it have the same effect? Are jurors struggling with distraction over not being able to use their phones? If yes, all the more reason to tell them why we don’t want them to use their smartphones. It probably won’t make the distraction go away, but it may help them understand why it is important.

Clayton, R., Leshner, G., & Almond, A. (2015). The Extended iSelf: The Impact of iPhone Separation on Cognition, Emotion, and Physiology Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication DOI: 10.1111/jcc4.12109

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spiral of silenceWe’ve blogged a fair amount on the impact of the internet and social networking on jurors but here is something unexpected. People that engage in social media are less likely to discuss heated topics in the news, not more likely. This is according to a recent Pew Research report.

Back in 1974, Noelle-Neumann described the “spiral of silence” which basically describes a tendency to not speak up when we perceive our own beliefs and opinions to be in the minority. With the advent of intense social media involvement, researchers had hoped there would be more willingness to engage in discussion that truly reflected a variety of beliefs and values. Alas, it is not so.

The new report on the Pew website essentially says the relative anonymity afforded by the internet doesn’t make us (or at least most of us) brave enough to stand up for what we believe. It’s a sad commentary and what it seems to say is the “new transparency” of social media is just another public facade people who hold minority opinions feel they must maintain. Perhaps it is due to FoMO–another recent blog post of ours.

Regardless, here is some of what the Pew report finds in data collected from 1,801 adults between August 7th and September 16th, 2013–using the example of the Edward Snowden-NSA story. As background, the Snowden story was chosen since previous Pew surveys found the public was split on this story: 44% said the release of classified information harms the public interest and 49% said it serves the public interest. Of the 1,801 adults surveyed, 80% of the adults in this survey were internet users. 71% were Facebook users and (only) 18% of them were Twitter users.

While 86% were willing to have an in-person conversation about the Snowden-NSA story, only 42% of Facebook and Twitter users said they were willing to post about it online. The researchers believe social media users are particularly attuned to the opinions of those around them and are thus less willing to disagree with them.

Even when holding other factors (like age, gender, education, race, and marital status) constant, social media users are less likely to say they would join in (even in person) than non-social media users of the internet. Facebook users are only half as willing to discuss the Snowden-NSA story at a physical public meeting as a non-Facebook user. Twitter users are less likely to be willing to share their opinions in the workplace than internet users who do not use Twitter.

Social media users who think their social media friends and followers disagree with them on the Snowden-NSA issue were “more likely to self-censor their views on the story in both social media and in face-to-face encounters”.

In both face-to-face and online environments, people were more willing to openly express their views if they thought others agreed with them. 86% said they were “very” or “somewhat” willing to have a conversation about the story in at least one face-to-face setting, but only 42% of Facebook and Twitter users would discuss the story on social media.

The Pew Foundation graphic illustrates this clearly:

Pew spiral blog insert

 

From a litigation advocacy perspective, the chilling effect of social media involvement on one’s willingness to state a differing opinion is of great concern. We have always taken the lone naysayer in pretrial research seriously and expressed appreciation for their courage in speaking up in disagreement. This survey highlights the need to establish a friendly and receptive juror-centric tone (rather than one of client advocacy and confrontation) in voir dire. And it is yet another reason to teach jurors in actual trials how to deliberate and to make clear for them the importance of allowing disagreement and the expression of differing opinions.

One day perhaps we will all feel able to express what we believe to others. Social media, contrary to the expectations of many, has not changed the desire to not make waves and to self-censor opinions we believe will be unpopular.

We have all seen the evidence of what are commonly known as “trolls” on comment pages for various news sites and high-traffic. These people are not those identified by this Pew Report and we’ve covered a research study that helped us to understand those who actually comment on major news sites are probably not people we want as jurors!

KEITH HAMPTON, LEE RAINIE, WEIXU LU, MARIA DWYER, INYOUNG SHIN, AND KRISTEN PURCELL (2014). Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence’. Pew Research Internet Project.

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The Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) Scale

Friday, September 12, 2014
posted by Rita Handrich

Fomo-Meme 2Social media applications have made it much easier for us to know what our friends are doing. While this knowledge can have positive benefit, it can also result in a paralyzing fear of missing out (popularly known as FoMO). FoMO has even made the Oxford Dictionary and is defined there as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website”. Researchers in 2011 and 2012 defined FoMO as “the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out — that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you”. The researchers from today’s article define FoMO as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent” and say that “FoMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected  with what others are doing”.

FoMO is apparently one reason people are so drawn to multiple social media sites. Someone who actively uses Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, Instagram and Pinterest (for example) could be experiencing FoMO (along with not having time to perform an actual job). FoMO could also be a reason behind the obsessive checking of smartphones during actual face-to-face conversations. There are multiple articles devoted to overcoming FoMO. Obviously FoMO is a serious problem for some people, so it is good academics have come to our rescue and developed a scale (the first) to measure the Fear of Missing Out (FoMO).

The researchers developed a 10-item Fear of Missing Out Scale and their results indicated something shocking: “the young, and young males in particular, tended towards higher levels of FoMO”. Further, they mention those high in FoMO tend to use Facebook during university lectures and compose and read emails and texts while driving. You may wonder what sorts of questions are used to measure something as clearly destructive as FoMO. We are here to serve. This is a 10 item measure and we will share 4 of those questions with you so you have a sense of the kinds of questions that will measure FoMO. These questions are rated on a 5-point Likert scale of “not at all true about me” to “extremely true of me”.

I fear others have more rewarding experiences than me.

I get anxious when I don’t know what my friends are up to.

Sometimes I wonder if I spend too much time keeping up with what is going on.

When I go on vacation, I continue to keep tabs on what my friends are doing.

From our perspective, it makes sense that this is a phenomena largely experienced by the young. Social media activities can take a tremendous amount of time if you really engage in it. The preoccupation with all things social media is a constant concern for trial lawyers and court personnel who worry about what we used to call the Google mistrial. The one benefit of the FoMO Scale we can see for litigation advocacy is the way the scale designers asked about social media involvement.

Rather than asking if participants used social media platforms, they asked very specific questions. They asked participants if they used social media “within 15 minutes of waking up”, “while eating breakfast”, “when eating lunch”, “when eating dinner”, or “within 15 minutes of going to sleep”. They asked how often in the past week (from “not once” to “every day”) they had used social media during all those times. Those with more extreme usage responses were (not surprisingly) higher in FoMO. The lesson?

Heavy social media users are likely to be more distracted, have a shorter attention span, more likely to reflexively use social media during trial, and want to get jury duty over ASAP so they can get back to tracking what really matters. You probably already knew that but with this new information you can impress everyone you know by saying, “This juror is going to be trouble for us since s/he has a high FoMO”. Thank goodness for academic research on scale development.

Przybylski, AK, Murayama, K, DeHaan, CR, & Gladwell, V (2013). Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 1841-1848

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jury_room_525The options for online searches of potential jurors seem to be a fast-moving target. Our experience is that often there is simply no time for more than the most cursory efforts that often happen during a very short voir dire session itself. In other cases, if there is time to conduct such research, sometimes the information required to do accurate online research (i.e., full name, address, date of birth) are not provided. Yet presentations talk about the importance of a thorough search and some go so far as to say it is not ethical to forego such background internet research into potential jurors [citing the 2010 Missouri Supreme Court standard]. So it was good to see this (hard to obtain) article from last year on what is actually being done in the trenches.

Researchers did their own background search of an actual jury venire using the following sites as search tools: Google, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and GoogleBlogSearch. They actually found information on more than a third (36%) of the jurors (in our experience, this is a fairly high proportion, and suggests that this was probably an urban venire).

They performed four separate searches on each of the five sites: full name, full name + state, full name + city, and full name + date of birth.

However, 94% of the information they found was procured via simple Google searches. Only 6% of the information they found was unique to other internet sites. On the other hand, their strategies for ensuring they had the correct “Joe Johnson” were not as intensive as we actually do in our internet searches where accuracy is critical.

The researchers’ [common sense] interpretation of finding the vast majority of information in one spot was that it really was not particularly efficient nor effective to search multiple sites– it is more efficient to stick with Google.

They then turned to lawyers, trial consultants, law students and undergraduates to see the level of information known on social media, attitudes toward use of that information in jury selection, and what was actually being done (and taught) in the trenches of litigation advocacy and law school classrooms about juror’s right to privacy as well as the possible ethical issues in using online search tools for jury selection.

Study participants identified four areas wherein they saw ethical issues:

  1. juror rights [either a right to privacy or the idea that they should not post information online if they wanted privacy],
  2. defendant/accuser rights [a fair and impartial jury is a constitutional right but some thought these online searches ethical and indicative of competent lawyering while others did not],
  3. court processes [some felt the jury selection process should be uniform across individual jurors and those with online presence would be subject to unfair scrutiny] and,
  4. the sites themselves [using the sites for purposes other than social networking is inappropriate and the information is of questionable validity].

It’s an interesting article although the sample sizes are quite small (175 undergraduates, 27 law students, and 11 trial consultants and trial lawyers). The authors see this as an initial foray with follow-up work to be done in the future. The takeaway for us is this: when time pressure is intense–the most bang for your buck comes from a Google search. When you have ample time and budget (perhaps for the high-profile trial) using other searches may be worthwhile if the extra 6% is critical information to have. If, for instance, the value of their home, the model of car they drive, the level of their education, or the number of people who live with them is crucial, there are better ways to find it unless you do a lot of drilling-down through Google links. The authors also recommend the use of paid search sites and perhaps, even a private investigator.

We think we’ve seen the gamut of investigations, ranging from none to those using both paid search sites (in the event you don’t know this, “privacy” is largely a pleasant fiction) and private investigators. Even in the latter cases, though, our work in slogging through site after site after site (in search of that elusive 6%) did yield information previously unknown. Whether it was essential information or not is highly variable. The overall cost benefit analysis of social media research during voir dire remains, for us, an open question. It just depends.

Neal, TMS, Cramer, RJ, Ziemke, MH, & Brodsky, SL (2013). Online searches for jury selection. Criminal Law Bulletin, 49 (2)

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