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Archive for the ‘Internet & jurors’ Category

Narcissism and Social Media Use

Friday, January 17, 2014
posted by Rita Handrich

Twitter narcissistsWe’ve seen a lot of commentary about narcissistic Millennials and how that self- involvement shows up in their use of social media. Well, yes–and not so much– according to new research. The researchers focus on whether one is an active user or a passive user of social media. (Active users create content while passive users read content by others.) 

The researchers compare Twitter use and Facebook use and believe that Facebook is reciprocal and interactive (i.e., you have ‘friends’) while Twitter is not necessarily either reciprocal or interactive (i.e., you have ‘followers’). What they really wished to explore, however, was the motivation behind updating status (on Facebook) and tweeting (on Twitter). They completed two separate studies, one with college students and the second with adults:

Study 1 (the college sample): 515 participants, average age 20.8 years with a range from 18 years to 29 years. The participants were 60% female and 90.7% Caucasian.

Study 2 (the adult sample recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk): 669 participants, average age 32.5 years with a range from 18 years to 75 years. The participants were 55% female and 78.6% Caucasian. Slightly less than half (46.7%) had a bachelor’s degree or above.

In each study, the participants completed a measure of narcissism and were asked how many times each day they updated their Facebook status, or how many different times they tweeted each day. They were also asked about their motivations for participating in either or both social media platforms (e.g., to keep people updated on my life, to gain additional friends or followers, or to be admired by others).

The researchers found the narcissism score was a stronger predictor of the number of Facebook friends than of Twitter followers for both the college group and the adult group. (The researchers say this might be related to the platforms themselves. On Facebook, you can make direct friend requests but on Twitter you need to post interesting tweets to gain followers.) What is most interesting to us, however, is that the researchers found generational differences in their data.

Narcissistic college students preferred to post their content on Twitter.

Narcissistic adults preferred to post their content on Facebook.

The researchers say it may be because college kids grew up with Facebook and it is standard for them to update their Facebook status. Twitter, on the other hand, is newer and (perhaps) more linked to prestige (and therefore a boon to the young narcissist). Adults, on the other hand, see both networks as new technology and so, say the researchers, it is a more “intentional choice” to update their status and the results show active participation in Facebook is more reflective of narcissism among adults.

The Weekly Standard also has an interesting article on Twitter–which they refer to as the “Twidiocracy”. The point they make is that people used to write more intelligently than they spoke, “but now a scary majority tend to speak more intelligently than they tweet”. It’s a very negative article (as you can likely intuit from the word Twidiocracy) and offers random factoids like these:

28% of iPhone users check or update Twitter before they get out of bed (48% do it after they’ve gone to bed).

31% of 16-25 year olds update their social media accounts while “on the toilet” and 11% of those under age 25 allow interruptions “by an electronic message during sex”.

1 in 3 people who visited the Facebook site felt more dissatisfied with their lives after that visit and that dissatisfaction was related to feelings of envy or insecurity.

That list goes on and on. For us, the most interesting tidbit in the Twidiocracy article was this: “A yearlong Pew study…found that Twitter users tend to be considerably younger and more liberal than the general public. But whether tweets tended to skew liberal or conservative was almost immaterial. Twitter reactions to current events was often at odds with overall public opinion, and it was ‘the overall negativity that stands out’.”

Or, as Pew actually puts it, “Twitter is not a reliable proxy for public opinion”.

While not a big shocker, it’s a terrific reminder. Only 16% of US adults use Twitter. That means 84% of US adults do not. While it is easy to become convinced from tweets that an issue is critically important or an opinion is almost universally held–it just isn’t true. You have to read research and sample more broadly based opinions than the fairly small social media samples. We are thankful there is a Pew Research Center and that none of us are forced to accept either the Twitter search function or the Weekly Standard’s versions of the truth at face value.

Davenport, SW, Bergman, SM, Bergman, JZ, & Fearrington, ME (2014). Twitter versus Facebook: Exploring the role of narcissism in the motives and usage of different social media platforms. Computers in Human Behavior, 32, 212-220



online researchOur friend Charli Morris pointed us to an article published by the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association focused on the online research of potential jurors. In the article, Matt Wetherington discusses ethical boundaries and looks at what constitutes a ‘communication’ with a juror. Given the nature of social media and the internet in general, he gives specific suggestions for gathering information from search engines (e.g., Google, Yahoo, Bing, et cetera), social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest), and resources for searching backgrounds (e.g., Lexis and Westlaw, state Department of Corrections, Spokeo and TLO).

He covers a huge quantity of information in four pretty pithy pages. He concludes with this:

“Admittedly, the vast majority of information gleaned from these websites will be unhelpful. However any helpful information can be invaluable and the success rate of these searches will only increase as social media usage continues to grow.”

About the same time, John Browning wrote an article for The Jury Expert that offers an update on the issues you must consider as you prepare for online research. John talks about the affirmative duty to research the jury pool and the ethical issues one must consider in such research. John concludes his piece this way:

“Lawyers are increasingly being held to a higher standard of technological proficiency and, as the use of social media platforms becomes more widespread, clients—and not just courts and ethics committees—expect lawyers to avail themselves of every technological weapon in their arsenal. Doing so in an ethical manner is imperative.”

We’ve written before about the painstaking and often tedious work of researching potential jurors. Shortcuts in doing that research have been found over the years since 2010 (when we wrote our post), but it’s still pretty tedious work with rare victories such as that unearthed and brought to light during the recent voir dire for the George Zimmerman trial. Instead of relevant information, you are more likely to find innocuous or potentially embarrassing information or the ever-present photos in random situations, but it is rare to find information powerful enough to strike a juror for cause.

We hope you’ll take a look at both of these articles. The two pieces, in combination, offer a terrific overview and initial strategy for your online research.

Browning, J. 2013 As Voir Dire Becomes Voir Google, Where Are the Ethical Lines Drawn. The Jury Expert, May.

Wetherington, M. (2013). Online research of potential jurors: A survey of resources and ethical boundaries. Verdict: The Journal of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association (Summer)


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Love your iPad? You’ll love it a lot more when you’ve read through these strategies for improving your work and personal lives. There’s an app for that!


lucy and hamMy dog was bathed and groomed on Wednesday. On Thursday, I cooked a ham and left it to cool on the stovetop. There were workers in the house all day long and the dog was irritable and behaving badly. I went upstairs to check on work progress and heard a crash and a yelp and came downstairs to see my freshly bathed basset hound covered head to toe to belly in dripping ham juice with the broken glass roaster all around her (not to mention my ham). She was so shocked she didn’t know whether to lick the floor or herself. The groomer got a good laugh out of the story and at the miserable and greasy dog.

Then later on Thursday, I saw a story over at LexisNexis titled “In A Lurid Story Of E-Discovery And Ham, Magistrate Judge Tells Parties To Pay For A Forensic Expert To Sort Through The Data”. Coincidence? I think not. On the other hand, we do need to comment that while this is a light-hearted post, the potential traumatic impact of workplace sexual harassment and wrongful termination is very real, and not funny at all.

In this “lurid” tale of the HoneyBaked Ham company and allegations of both sexual harassment and retaliation–there are multiple elements to consider in the EEOC-filed class action suit against HoneyBaked Ham: social media, workplace climate, the emotional impact of victimization, pejorative labels, sexual harassment, retaliation, and what is private and what is not. HoneyBaked Ham wanted to assess the Facebook account activity of female members of the class action suit and told the judge they thought there would be relevant Defense information to be found via an e-discovery process on those Facebook pages. The judge agreed to the Defense request for e-discovery:

Judge Hegarty determined that “there is no question [HoneyBaked] has established that the documents it seeks contain discoverable information.” For example, he pointed to a photo one of the women posted of herself wearing a t-shirt imprinted with a foul adjective-easily the most offensive term used to describe a woman-a term she says a HoneyBaked employee used to describe her. Also on her Facebook page, according to the judge’s order, this class member shared her financial expectations from the suit, her feelings about the loss of a pet and a broken relationship. She also described her positive outlook on life post-termination, her sexual aggressiveness, her post-termination employment, her sexual liaisons, her income opportunities, and sexually amorous communications with other members of the class. The list goes on. (Are you ready to close your Facebook account yet?)” 

In brief, the judge appointed a special master to go through Facebook, social media accounts, emails, text messages, and so on to find any and all communications that might be relevant to the class action suit. A questionnaire was designed to focus the e-discovery so that not everything was reported simply because it was salacious. Whew. Does this mean there is privacy online after all?

Probably not. This is a cautionary tale. A veritable object lesson. And here is the lesson. Do not leave your freshly baked ham cooling within reach of an inquisitive and food-driven basset hound. And whether you work for the HoneyBaked Ham Company or elsewhere, do not post things on Facebook (or email them, or text them, et cetera, et cetera) unless you are comfortable with them being the subject of e-discovery at some point in the future.


catfishA few weeks ago, I was eating a late lunch and turned on the TV and watched the Katie Couric talk show for the first time. She was talking to two 20-something guests about the perils of online dating. They talked about ways to protect yourself from deceptive “catfishing” by using Google image search or examining social network profiles for inconsistencies and at one point Katie said “My gosh, you have to be like Columbo these days!”. Both of her young guests smiled politely but their blank faces made it clear they had no idea who Columbo was.

One of the guests was Nev Schulman from the movie Catfish. If you don’t know this story, Nev met a woman named Megan online who was gorgeous and a dancer and a singer and he fell in love. When he showed up on her doorstep to meet her in person, Megan turned out to be a 40-something housewife named Angela who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and caring for two disabled stepsons. Part of the reason Nev was on the Katie show was to advertise his new TV show (Catfish the TV show). In this show, Nev travels the country visiting people who are involved in online relationships with people who always seem to turn out to be imposters hiding behind fake profiles. He teaches them how to investigate their online loves and dispenses a blend of empathy and sincerity that is very likable while their fantasies crumble about their feet.

Shortly after I watched this show, I saw a story at Courthouse News about a woman suing for $10M because someone she met on their website “hid in her garage, stabbed her 10 times and kicked her in the head until she ‘stopped making the gurgling noise’”. She says didn’t warn her about the possibility of meeting “an individual whose intention was not to find a mate, but to find victims to kill or rape”. She did not sue her attacker. She couldn’t. He died in prison while “serving 28 to 70 years for killing an ex-girlfriend”. begs to differ:

“What happened to Mary Kay Beckman is horrible, but this lawsuit is absurd,” said. “The many millions of people who have found love on and other online dating sites know how fulfilling it is. And while that doesn’t make what happened in this case any less awful, this is about a sick, twisted individual with no prior criminal record, not an entire community of men and women looking to meet each other.”

It isn’t as though these are isolated cases or very, very fringe behavior. These are sad, sad stories involving a pretty universal desire to be loved and cherished. It’s been hard to miss the publicity surrounding Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o and his own catfishing experience with a very unlucky (and then dead and then alive again) girlfriend. The “girlfriend” turned out to be a disturbed young man who once auditioned for the television show The Voice.

It’s a difficult issue. We’ve worked a couple of cases where people were assaulted by others they had met online. One case involved a minor girl and the other involved a grown woman. In both cases, the assailant lied about who they were, how old they were, and what their intentions were, while all the while enticing the victim to meet them. Both stories were horribly sad and life-changing for the victim. Yet, in both situations, our mock jurors said the fault lay with the victim for “lying to her mother and meeting this guy” or “telling him where she lived”. Jurors thought these women had learned a very hard and cruel lesson but they should not be compensated by the online service for using bad judgment.

There are discussions occurring as to how to respond from a legal standpoint to the perpetrators of these hoaxes. In our experience, jurors think these are examples of poor personal responsibility by the victim of the hoax. The online service was scrutinized, but overall the mock jurors felt that users of these services know that there is no vetting of community members, and anyone who assumes authenticity in online disclosures is, at best, naïve. This is an area we will keep up with as new definitions and practices emerge to keep up with our changing definitions of what constitutes a “relationship” in a social media world.