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facebook creeperYou’ve likely run across the statistics on Facebook being the cause of many divorces or relationship failures as unhappy individuals reunite with past loves lost. There is also of course, often heartbreak as online loves turn out to be not quite who you thought. Now Facebook is also implicated in prolonging the unhappiness after a relationship breakup with 88% (!) of Facebook users “creeping” ex-partners. Imagine a darkened room, a pint of ice cream, a laptop with a high-speed connection, and you are never far away from seeing what your ex is up to now that you are no longer part of his or her everyday life.

Researchers in Canada asked 107 participants (ranging in age from 18 to 35 years with an average age of 23 years) who reported relationship breakups in the past 12 months to complete questionnaires and participate in a structured face-to-face interview on the relationship between Facebook ‘creeping’ and their ongoing distress following relationship breakup. On average, these participants reported their (now defunct) relationship had lasted 2.29 years (with about half having broken up in the past six months and the other half having broken up 7-12 months prior to the study).

In brief, here is what the researchers found:

The more “creeping” (also referred to as “internet electronic surveillance”) one does, the more emotional upset is reported related to the breakup.

The most commonly distressing factor was the ex-partner’s Facebook profile and 88% of the participants reported “creeping” their ex following a breakup. When the participant had remained Facebook friends with their ex, 100% monitored the behavior of the ex after the breakup.

“A breakup without Facebook, you can’t really see what your ex is doing, but with Facebook you just have to click and you know exactly what they’ve been up to. That’s a little frustrating.”

The second distressing factor was the Facebook “relationship status” feature. Changing the relationship status to “single” after “in a relationship” involved multiple questions from “friends” (for 62% of the participants) which raised distress level.

“In some weird way, it kind of feels like you’re breaking up all over again when the status comes down. It angered me at the time that something as trivial as a Facebook status could make me feel so shitty.”

The third distressing area was content posted on Facebook by the participant’s ex-partner which was then seen in the participant’s newsfeed. Participants seeing new content found themselves ruminating over happy memories and wondering why the relationship had ended. Unexpectedly, those who “unfriended” their ex on Facebook had more emotional distress than those who kept the ex as a Facebook friend. For some, like the participant quoted below, “unfriending” helped manage the emotional distress but that was untrue for the majority of participants.

“I would say pull off the Band-Aid as quickly as possible and block the person if you’re finding it as painful as I did to see their continuing existence in your sphere. You’ll immediately feel better, or at least I did.”

It’s an intriguing study that highlights the differences in breaking up in public as opposed to having a private (non-Facebook) breakup. While it is easier to keep up with family and friends on Facebook—it is also more painful post-breakup since your “relationship status” trumpets your pain to all your Facebook friends. The more “creeping” done, the more emotional distress experienced.

The authors also developed a new scale to measure Facebook distress related to creeping an ex after a breakup. The scale does not appear to be named yet but here are a few items from it:

I over-analyze old messages, wall posts or photographs of me and my ex together.

I can’t help feeling angry about content my ex posts on Facebook.

I feel paranoid that people posting on my ex’s wall are potential romantic interests.

Looking at my ex’s Facebook page is self-destructive.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, it seems important to recognize the power of a relationship breakup disclosed through social media, and the identification young people in particular could have with a party publicly shamed, belittled, discarded, or otherwise rejected. In this case, social media (i.e., Facebook involvement) makes the emotional pain last longer and be more intense and it is likely that shame feeds the flame of that sense of public rejection or perceived failure. Every time a Facebook post is re-mentioned (like, for months on end following a breakup when yet another person comments about it after not checking their timeline in a while) it can be traumatizing. If someone feels that they were wrongfully terminated (or are just embarrassed about it) and they get questions about the change in their LinkedIn status from “District Manager at Acme Industries” to something less clear, it can be very difficult for them to explain. That which was once self-promotion can quickly blow up. It’s a potentially powerful theme for case narrative. And it raises questions about how a company might want to guide the use employees make of social media when it involves references to employment status.

Lukacs, V., & Quan-Haase, A. (2015). Romantic breakups on Facebook: new scales for studying post-breakup behaviors, digital distress, and surveillance Information, Communication & Society, 18 (5), 492-508 DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2015.1008540

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random little tidbits 0610Every once in a while we find tidbits that we don’t wish to devote an entire post to but that we think worth sharing. Think of these as party trivia or sound bytes to help you seem intriguing and perhaps more well-read.

The importance of moving:

You’ve seen that infographic on how sitting is killing us all? New research says there are simple ways to counteract that deadly habit. To make it even better—it’s free and something everyone can do. Move. The research itself focuses on walking and you may prefer running, rowing, biking, yoga, or some other activity that suits your fitness and ability level. The formula is simple: Two minutes of walking offsets health harms of an hour sitting. Just standing alone doesn’t do it. You have to move.

You are unique. Your parents are the ones who are so predictable:

Privacy on the internet is really not a thing. But a couple of websites purporting to be able to guess your age (here and here) could make you think you are embarrassingly predictable. They ask for your given name and then tell you how old you are—it’s mortifying. But. We are here to support you. You, yourself are a truly unique and spontaneous creature. Your parents, though? Totally predictable. There are other websites that will (given your responses to a few questions) guess your educational level, your gender (this one pegged me incorrectly), and pretty much anything else you plug into an internet search (e.g., guess my __________). It’s all based on statistical algorithms but still often a bit unnerving.

Online harassment in the form of menacing behavior:

There is an online debate as to whether online harassment truly exists. Of course it exists. According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, up to 40% of adult internet users have experienced some form of harassment online (mostly involving name-calling or attempts to embarrass someone). Pew offers a nicely designed graphic looking at how men and women experience differing varieties of online harassment. Women are more distressed than men by online harassment. This is a good data-based evidence of the existence of online harassment. Although, one might consider that the person who says online harassment does not exist is likely not worthy of the effort expended to educate.

online harassment

Is it worth your time to publish in academic journals?

It may seem an odd question given the imperative of publication in peer-reviewed journals if you want to achieve tenure at nearly all universities. The answer to the question appears to be “it depends on whether your goal is sharing the knowledge”. Recently, an opinion column on this issue saying only about 10 people ever actually read papers in academic journals. And just last year, a more comprehensive paper argued that sometimes only the editor(s) and the actual author(s) of the paper actually read articles published in academic journals. That’s a pretty sad (and lonely) number of people who are not racing to the library to read your hard work. We know a place (The Jury Expert) that does a whole lot better than that at seeing your hard work to print and getting it read. You might want to think about doing two versions of your work: one for tenure and one for people to actually read and learn from your efforts.

Banish the ear worm!

Finally! In January of 2013 we wrote about some ways to get rid of an ear worm (that thing that happens when a song gets stuck in your head). The recommendations for removing the pesky ear worm just didn’t seem that credible but it was the findings from the research study so we went ahead with it. Now, science marches on and finally, two years and some months later, we have a new study saying you don’t have to not play Sudoku or take on mentally challenging tasks. Instead of depriving yourself, buy some gum and chew it. As the abstract explains so very clearly: “The data support a link between articulatory motor programming and the appearance in consciousness of both voluntary and unwanted musical recollections.”. (All that means is you now have a research-backed reason for chewing gum: It helps remove ear worms.)

Beaman, C., Powell, K., & Rapley, E. (2015). Want to block earworms from conscious awareness? B(u)y gum! The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 68 (6), 1049-1057 DOI: 10.1080/17470218.2015.1034142

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NomophobiaThe smartphone has changed our lives. Just last fall, we wrote about the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) Scale. As a reminder, that post was about how smartphones allow us to obsessively check our email and social media sites to see what our friends and followers and family members are doing— out of a fear of the grave danger that we are missing out on something somehow. Now, the smartphone has inspired yet another concept and another yardstick to measure it, as academicians struggle to find novel paths to tenure. This scale isn’t about obsessively checking your phone—it’s about how you feel when the phone is not available to you. Nomophobia is considered “a 21st century disorder resulting from new technologies” and even has an entry in the Urban Dictionary which is suitably brief so as to more succinctly illustrate the horror that is nomophobia:

Fear of being away from a mobile phone.

“That guy has serious nomophobia.”

Technically, nomophobia refers a fear of being unable to communicate via a mobile phone or via the internet. It is seen as a “situational phobia” and obviously, a phobia this severe demands a scale to measure our level of nomophobia (which stands for No Mobile Phone Phobia). Researchers in Iowa wanted to measure reactions to being without use of a smartphone and so, set out to create a scale to measure our fear of being without our smartphones. Does not having your phone create anxiety? Are you in a full-blown panic at being off the grid, even for a little while? Researchers interviewed 300 undergraduates who “heavily depended on their smart phones” and ultimately devised a 20-item scale to measure nomophobia. [As an admittedly cynical aside, we would like them to find a sample of 300 undergrads who are not “heavily dependent on their smart phones”. A far more challenging research project.] They validated the questionnaire on a small group of students to ensure the scale produced reliable scores and then they administered the scale to the sample of 300 undergraduates to perform exploratory factor analysis.

Here are a few of the 20 items on the NMP-Q scale:

If I could not check my smartphone for a while, I would feel a desire to check it.

If I could not use my smartphone, I would be afraid of getting stranded somewhere.

If I did not have my smartphone with me, I would be worried because my family and/or friends could not reach me.

If I did not have my smartphone with me, I would feel weird because I would not know what to do.

If I did not have my smartphone with me, I would be anxious because I would be disconnected from my online identity.

The authors identify four separate factors that emerged in their analysis. When participants were without their cell phones, these concerns arose: not being able to communicate instantly with others, losing connectedness with others, not being able to access information, and giving up convenience of having a smartphone to use if one chose to do so. While many of us would undoubtedly worry about being stranded someplace without a smartphone—many of the items on the scale refer to losing a sense of connection to your social media identity/persona. Like the fear of missing out, nomophobia is likely more pronounced among the young.

From an outside perspective, there is nothing terribly surprising about the research. If you are accustomed to wearing a wristwatch every day and it is the only timepiece you have available, you will be uncomfortable if you are without it. You will worry about being late. You will wonder whether there will be problems associated with your not knowing what time it is frequently. We get accustomed to tools we use frequently, and we don’t like them to be suddenly unavailable to us.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this study (again) speaks to the power of court admonitions to not use smartphones or social media during jury service. The smartphone is ubiquitous these days and increasingly, current studies are showing us that being unable to use one’s smartphone is a bitter pill for some to swallow. Last fall, we summed up the Fear of Missing Out Scale (FOMO) post this way:

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.

Now you can say, “this juror is very nomophobic” and consider if you want that level of angst in the jury room.

Yildirim, C., & Correia, A. (2015). Exploring the dimensions of nomophobia: Development and validation of a self-reported questionnaire Computers in Human Behavior, 49, 130-137 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2015.02.059

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smartphones-thumbJust when you thought you could relax a little about jurors accessing the internet during a jury trial, we learn this factoid from the smart folks at Pew Research Center:

“64% of American adults now own a smart phone of some kind, up from 35% in the spring of 2011. Smartphone ownership is especially high among younger Americans, as well as those with relatively high income and education levels.”

Yes. Smartphone ownership has almost doubled in the past four years. While a smart phone is now more likely than not, for some Americans, the smart phone is almost the only way they can access the internet and that particular group is different from those with multiple access points in some important ways.

Here are some of the findings from the Pew survey of 2,002 adults in the United States completed between December 4th and 21st, 2014 by telephone:

10% of Americans who own a smart phone do not have any other form of high-speed internet access.

15% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 are heavily dependent on a smart phone for online access.

13% of Americans who earn less than $30K a year are smart phone dependent for internet access. (As a comparison, only 1% of American households earning more than $75K per year rely on their smartphones for internet access.)

While 12% of African-Americans and 13% of Latinos are smart phone dependent for internet access, the same is true for only 4% of Whites.

Those who are smart phone dependent for internet access are also less likely to own another type of computing device, less likely to have a bank account, less likely to have health insurance, and more likely to rent or live with a friend or family member as opposed to owning their own home. Further, nearly half of those who are smart phone dependent have had to shut off their cell phone service for a period of time since the cost was prohibitive.

Among younger smart phone users, the smart phone is popular for avoiding boredom and to avoid interacting with others. They also use their phones more often than older users to watch videos, listen to podcasts, and get turn-by-turn directions to a desired location.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this is one more reminder to remain vigilant about educating jurors on why smart phone research is a problem when deciding justice. On the other hand, this may also be a good question for determining financial stability and socio-economic status if you are unable to assess it otherwise.

“Do you have other means of internet access in your home besides your smart phone?”

The answer to that question could potentially give you insight into your potential juror’s life and their access to information that other questions cannot.

Pew Internet Research. 2015. US Smartphone use in 2015.

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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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