Constantly Connected: Communication Media

Would you survive a day without your phone or laptop? I know I couldn’t. Today we have a need to be constantly connected to people. We are constantly either texting or utilising some form of social media to remain connected. We send our parents a text to say we’ve arrived at uni; we tag our friends in Facebook posts and we exchange “asks” with people on Tumblr. It seems that we can’t survive without some form of communication media!

When are we not connected?

When are we not connected?

When are we not connected?

When are we not connected?

For my digital storytelling project, I decided to delve into the topic of online communication media. I wanted to explore the role of social media and texting in creating and maintaining relationships and the differences in talking online and in person.

I was lucky that 3 friends of mine were willing to share their experiences and thus allow me to explore this topic.


In her interview, Katie stated that she had met “too many people to count” online. Katie used to establish friendships through social media/blogging sites such as Tumblr. “I specifically made several friends through Tumblr by bonding over mutual interests.” As her friendships progressed, Katie began using other social media sites and chat rooms daily to maintain these friendships. Although she no longer uses Tumblr and social media to build friendships, Katie did consider a few of the people she met to be close friends. I asked Katie whether she has met any of these friends in person, but she has not.

A key part of our discussion revolved around the difference between meeting and communicating with someone online and in person. When asked about this, Katie replied “I think it can be very different…I find that it is easier for me to hold a conversation online with certain friends…[but] I find it just as easy to talk to other friends in person.” Katie noted that she feels confident in both situations, but prefers face to face conversations “simply because the pressure of sending the perfect message or interpreting the other person’s message correctly does not apply.” I asked her to explain in more detail why she prefers face to face conversations, to which she replied that speaking to someone in person allows her to “respond to their body language and facial expressions…and interpret their reactions.” Furthermore, Katie made the extremely valid point that

online interactions can often lead to misunderstandings when someone’s true intentions aren’t conveyed properly through their words.”

It is essential to strategically word text and online messages, as poor word selection may lead the receiver to misinterpret the message.

Finally, Katie and I discussed the role of social media and texting in maintaining relationships. Jess has become more reliant on social media and texting to communicate with friends and family “simply because of [her] busy lifestyle and theirs.” Social media and texting allow Katie to stay in contact and maintain relationships with those in her life despite her busy schedule with university, work and other social activities.


Diane also agreed to share her experiences in online communication. Over the years, Diane has met several people on Tumblr that she considered friends. She used to communicate with these “friends” after school everyday.

We used to watch TV shows together…well sort of. We would talk to each other online while watching TV shows, as if we were actually watching them together.”

However, Diane has now “gone off Tumblr and Twitter” and consequently only messages these friends “every now and then”. I was interested to know whether she had met any of these friends in person. Issy “only met one… it was coincidental… only a quick hello.”

We also explored the difference between communicating online and in person. Diane shared similar views to Katie in this regard, as she believes “its easier in person as you can show your tone of voice and personality. Otherwise online you are just typing general greetings.” Additionally, Diane feels more confident communicating in person, as conversation flows more easily. She finds that “you put more thought into talking to people online and you can get caught up in wondering what to say.” Our last topic of conversation was the role of texting and social media in maintaining relationships. Diane “hardly communicate[s] with family and friends on social media.” She has a group text message chat with a few close friends,

we share things that make us laugh or interesting topics. But it doesn’t take over our face to face conversation.”

She argues that the ability to communicate online and via texting is essential in maintaining relationships, as “if you don’t talk to them constantly, you would feel disconnected from them.”


My final participant Chad has met “too many people to count” online, but would only consider 5 of them to be friends, “even the term ‘friends’ might be pushing it.” Chad made these “friends” by chance on chat sites. These “friendships” “are very different relationships to those I have with my close friends.” Unlike the other participants, Chad has met 2 of these “friends” in person. He actually travelled to another country to meet someone he met online. He noted that it was “not super different meeting them, but much more real obviously and you can bond more easily.” Next, we discussed the difference between communicating online and in person. In contrast to the other participants, Chad finds it “somewhat easier” to communicate online as “you can stop talking to them whenever.” However, he asserts that if you really want to be friends,

you have to meet them to see what they are really like” as “there are some things about people that you can only learn about them from meeting them.”



From these interviews, some conclusions can be drawn. Firstly, communicating online is challenging, as it is difficult to deliver your message in the intended way. Secondly, due to our busy lifestyles, we rely on texting and social media to communicate with the people in our lives. However, is this healthy? According to Shelley Galasso Bonanno, nothing can match the emotional and physical closeness of real life relationships. Online friendships are valuable in many ways, but do not provide us with opportunities for deep, lasting emotional closeness. Perhaps this is why my participants rarely contact their online “friends”. Hence, we must maintain the balance between online communication and real life interaction in order to sustain real and healthy relationships.

However, Amanda Lenhart notes some positive consequences of using social media to maintain relationships. She asserts that social media helps people (especially teenagers) feel more connected to their friends’ feelings and daily lives.

Furthermore, she notes that texting plays a crucial role in helping close friends stay in touch. 55% of teenagers surveyed by Lenhart text their friends daily, but only 25% spend time with their friends outside of school in person each day.

2015-08-06_teens-and-friendships_0-02 2015-08-06_teens-and-friendships_0-09

My participants relied heavily on texting to communicate with friends during their busy schedules, as texting is quick, convenient and easy to use when making plans (Huffington Post).

Perhaps it isn’t a bad thing that we’ve become so reliant on communication media. Although we are constantly texting or using social media, we do so to maintain relationships with those we care about. Hence, communication media positively impacts our lives and relationships. However we must remember to achieve a balance of online and face to face communication in order to sustain the true closeness in our relationships.

NOTE: all names have been changed (with permission) for privacy reasons.


Dakin, P 2014, ‘Social Media Affecting Teens’ Concepts of Friendship, Intimacy’, CBS News Health, 24th February 2014, viewed 24th October 2015. 

Galasso Bonanno, S 2015, ‘Social Media’s Impact on Relationships’, Psych Central, 7th April 2015, viewed 26th October 2015. 

Klein, A 2012, ‘Text Messaging: Effects on Romantic Relationships and Social behaviour’, Huffington Post, 23rd August 2012, viewed 26th October 2015.

Lenhart, A 2015, ‘Teens, Technology and Friendships”, Pew Research Center, 6th August 2015, viewed 26th October 2015.

Relationships Australia 2015, ‘February 2015: The Internet and Relationships’, Relationships Australia, February 2015, viewed 24th October 2015. 


Can you make it through this post without opening another tab?

Do you accept my challenge?

I’m writing this post with 6 different tabs open on my browser. 2 of these are for my PR assignment, and the other 4 are blogs by other BCM240 students that I have been flicking through- I only managed to read 1 full post without flicking tabs! Why is this? Sadly, the human attention span has decreased over the past decade to a mere 8 seconds. Even a goldfish has a longer attention span! When using my laptop, sometimes I struggle to finish a task without at least 1 interruption. Medical Daily reports that it takes an average time of 25 minutes to return to the original task after interruption. Consequently, it takes much longer to complete a given task.

Microsoft Corporation used quantitative research methods to conduct a study among Canadians, revealing that young people presented “addiction-like behaviours” regarding their devices, and tend to check their phones every 30 minutes or less. This seems quite accurate. Personally, if I don’t have my phone in my pocket or bag, I feel lost- as do 59% of the Canadian population according to Microsoft’s infographic below. If I can’t check my messages, I get finicky. I notice similar behaviours in others when we dine out.

Microsoft compiled their findings into a simple infographic for the benefit of the general Canadian  population.

Microsoft compiled their findings into a simple infographic for the benefit of the general Canadian population.

However, last week during dinner with some friends, we decided to play a game. I can’t remember who suggested the idea, but someone asked us all to put our phones face down in the middle of the table on top of each other. We agreed that the first person to touch their phone would pay for everyone’s dessert (since Grill’d is split payments anyway!). It was tough to refrain from touching my phone in the hour we were seated- especially when I wanted to show my friends a hilarious selfie of my sister! But we all managed. Conversation flowed brilliantly, and I found myself able to really listen to what was being said.

Is having a short attention span such a bad thing? Microsoft’s data suggests that our ability to multitask has improved remarkably. We are able to divide our attention between different devices and different people simultaneously. Some are also training themselves to process information more efficiently using multiple short bursts of high attention- a method that could potentially be the learning process of the future. Microsoft’s findings also indicate that multi-tasking- specifically multi-screening can improve our emotional connection, encoding to memory and ability to switch tasks effectively. As technology continues to evolve, will our attention span decrease further or improve?

If you are disappointed by Microsoft’s findings and desire to prove their data wrong, here are 3 simple activities that Medical Daily believe will assist you in doing so:

  1. Drink more water
  2. Exercise
  3. Avoid electronic devices

Tweet me and let me know how you go!

Did you complete my challenge? I sure failed. I should probably give those tips a go, as I ended up opening Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Buzzfeed while writing this post!


Borreli, L 2015, ‘ Human Attention Span Shortens to 8 Seconds Due To Digital Technology: 3 Ways To Stay Focused’, Medical Daily, 14th May 2015, viewed 27th September 2015,

Indo Asian News Service 2015, ‘Microsoft Study Finds Human Attention Span Has Dropped to Just 8 Seconds’, Gadgets 360, 18th May 2015, viewed 27th September 2015,

Microsoft Canada 2015, ‘Attention Spans: Consumer Insights’, Microsoft, 2015, viewed 27th September 2015,

Microsoft Canada 2015, ‘Attention Spans’ [infographic], Microsoft, 2015, viewed 27th September 2015,

Smile real wide for the pa-pa-pa-pa-paparazzi!

I tend to go photo crazy if I bring my camera on an outing, so I found this week’s topic quite interesting. In the past, like most people, I have taken photos featuring complete strangers and not thought twice about doing so. After researching this topic, I realised that I have taken so many photos without consent!

According to Colberg, photographers assert that legally, they can take any photo they like in a public space. Although this is legal, is it ethical? The issue of consent in photography (particularly street photography) has been present since the 1890’s. However, due to the significant development of technology and ease of online publication, the issue has become more prevalent.

Today, it is not difficult to violate an individual’s privacy by taking or dispersing a photograph without their consent. This is partially the result of the creation of smart phone applications such as Snapchat. Users have the ability to screenshot their friend’s “snaps” and “snap” a photo of a stranger to their contacts without consent. Admittedly, I have taken screenshots of my friends’ terrible “snaps”. I have witnessed many ridiculous screenshots appear on my friends’ timelines, especially on birthdays. Recently, there was a moment where all I wanted to do was take a snap of a guy dancing very strangely on the beach and send it to my friends. But a thought crossed my mind- that’s creepy! I had no idea who this stranger was. All I knew was that he was doing a strange yet funny looking dance on the beach, so I decided to do what was morally right and refrained from taking a photo.

The Australian Law Reform Commission contend that the use and disclosure of an image is covered by the Privacy Act if an individual is clearly identifiable from the photograph. Hence, if I had taken a photo of this and sent it to my friends via Snapchat, I would have violated this man’s privacy, as I did not receive his content to take the photo- let alone disseminate the image.

A few days ago, I practiced the art of ethical photography at work. A lovely little girl named Molly came in with her dad and donated her balloon octopus to us. I asked Molly if she wouldn’t mind if I took a photo of her with the balloon octopus (or “Olly” as we named him). She was more than happy to have a photo! After taking the photo, I also asked her if it was okay if I sent the photo to my “big manager”. Molly nodded and told me how much she wants to be in a Smiggle ad one day. I felt much more comfortable taking this photo knowing that I had Molly’s consent to do so. However, I will not post it on this blog as I did not receive her permission to post the image online. In fact, I will not be posting any images in this post for this reason.

In order for public ethnography to be effective, photographers must educate the public about their actions. They must justify their practice and emphasise its contribution to society (Colberg). Hopefully this post inspires you to think again before taking a photo- especially before publishing it online!

NOTE: yes that is a Cobra Starship lyric I used as my title- it was just so relevant!


Australian Law Reform Commission, For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice (ALRC Report 108), viewed 26th September 2015,

Colberg, J 2013, ‘The Ethics of Street Photography’, Conscientious Extended, web log post, 3rd April 2013, viewed 26th September 2015,

A (non) adventurous trip to the movies

I didn’t go to the movies for this task. Why? Simple: uni, work and uni work. Between working 40 something hour weeks, being at uni for 2 full days a week, assignments, exams and class tasks, I’ve barely had time to sleep! Although I didn’t have time to go to the movies, I am in fact a fan of the movie experience. I love the excitement of seeing a great film with friends and having a cute meal before or after. However I do have a few pet peeves, including seat kicking, talking and worst of all, 12 year olds sitting in the front row cuddling each other and taking photos with a visible flash.

I had an interesting experience a few months ago when a plan to see a movie became an epic fail. While on a walk at Cronulla, a few of my friends agreed that we should see “Inside Out” the next evening. Only 4/6 of us could make it, and another pulled out last minute. I finished work at 6:15, so the remaining 3 of us planned to have a quick dinner and see the 7pm session. We spent a while deciding on where we were going to go for dinner that had good food and quick service. By the time we decided and our food arrived, it was 6:45. As we started scoffing our food down, one friend said “why don’t we take a rain check on the movie? There’s no point in rushing our food to see it, we may as well just enjoy dinner and see the movie another time.” So we enjoyed our meal and dessert, but never ended up seeing the movie. Why didn’t we see it you ask?

Swedish geographer Torsten Hagerstrand identified 3 constraints that changed the way social planning works: capability, coupling and authority. Capability refers to one’s availability ability to travel to the social event. In this instance, the 3 of us were all available and capable of travelling to the cinema- especially me since I was already working in the same shopping center. Coupling is simply having company when attending a social event. I was lucky to have great company. Finally, authority regarding the cinema refers to the cinema stuff and other cinema goers- do I have the right to be there? Back to the point- why didn’t we ever see “Inside Out”? After this gathering, capability and coupling prohibited us from ever seeing the film together. We simply could not find the time to see the film as a group- everyone worked different hours so there was no one time where the majority of us could make it.

It is possible that factors such as these will continue to prevent many from attending cinemas in the next 10 years. Additionally, the increasing popularity of Netflix and the ability to download movies online will likely result in a decrease of cinema goers. Streaming and downloading services allow viewers to enjoy a movie in the comfort of their own home, with no additional costs for parking, tickets and food. When watching a movie at home, there are less constraints, and thus this is far more appealing than visiting the cinema. Perhaps if film makers make an amazing film that is associated with a positive experience, the industry will remain steady. If movie theatres were more like this, I’d go everyday!

NBN: The Low Down

My mum Kris was thrilled when I told her I needed to grill her about the NBN in order to write this blog post. She was quite knowledgable on the topic and had a lot to say! But first, what is the NBN? Incase you weren’t sure, the National Broadband Network (NBN) is a fast-speed broadband network currently in development. The idea was dreamt up by PM Kevin Rudd in 2010, and was to be gradually implemented throughout the country. Many households have gained access to the network.

What did Kris have to say about the topic? Firstly, despite the cost, she is satisfied with her current broadband plan, “its pretty fast and we haven’t had any problems.” When I asked her how many devices and data plans were in the house, she had to stop and think. We do have quite a few devices in our home! She concluded that we had 5 data plans in place for 10 devices, including iPhones, iPods, computers and iPads. She confirmed that our household has not yet had the opportunity to connect to the NBN. I asked Kris if she would connect to the NBN when the opportunity arises: “no, there’s no need to. I’m happy with what we have, and the NBN will be more expensive.” My dad Ray agreed, “what we have is sufficient for our needs right now and there is no real value proposition available.”

My next question got Kris heated. I asked her what she knew about the NBN.

“It was dreamt up on a plane trip and set it on motion without a cost benefit analysis, but they continued on with it for political reasons. It is a colossal white elephant that should never have been built. It was a spontaneous idea done on a whim with little thought, planning and no cost benefit analysis. They did it to get votes.”

Kris also alerted me to the revised cost of the NBN. Labour originally anticipated that it would cost $40.9 billion to implement. In August 2015, the government revised the costs, calculating that implementing the NBN would cost an extra $15 billion than originally anticipated. Even though the Liberal Party have tried to reduce costs by making it fibre to the node rather than fibre to the home, it is still costing a fortune. Is it really worth it? Kris believes it is not, “the take up rate is really low. The Government will not recoup its money.” Raymond was equally as informed about the topic, but had less to say. “The NBN is a politicized exercise. I understand what its purpose and aims are and the technical setup. They can do it in a more cost effective manner and get more leverage off existing infrastructure.”

Skyrocketing costs of the NBN

Skyrocketing costs of the NBN

This discussion made me think. Is the NBN really worth all this money? Is it really going to provide such revolutionary and high internet speed? The NBN may be useful to those who currently do not have access to internet. However, many who already have internet access seem satisfied with their current connection. Additionally, very few areas are connected to the NBN in 2015. The Sutherland Shire region in southern Sydney has been excluded from the 3 year roll out list, and will have to wait until the project’s expected completion in 2021 to attempt to connect to the NBN.

In the final stages of our interview, Kris asserted that technology is already being superseded by superfast wireless around the world, as other nations concentrate their spending on wireless technology rather than a national broadband network. “Australia is the only country in the world where the government is building this sort of infrastructure. Everywhere else in the world this is being done by private enterprise. This is probably why it is so expensive and the cost has blown out. When governments build things, it costs more because of bureaucracy overheads and contractors who up their prices because they know the government will pay. Private enterprise wouldn’t do that. Their biggest aim is to finish the project as cheaply as possible to maximize profits.”

Clearly, cost and accessibility are issues with the NBN. If it were well planned, there would not be so many issues surrounding the project. Due to our reliance on the internet, fast speed broadband is a priority. Surely there is another way to provide a high speed internet service! I’m sure we’ll find a way.

Ramli, D 2015, ‘NBN will have to raise $26.5b to fund costs of national broadband network’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24th August, viewed 26th August 2015, available from

Hanlon, J 2015, ‘NBN Guide: What You Need To Know’, WhistleOut, 6th July 2015, viewed 26th August 2015, available from


How do they know I spend 4 hours on my laptop a day? How do they know that I spend 2 hours in front of the TV each day between 8 and 10pm? Ethnographic research, that’s how.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, ethnography is the scientific description of people and cultures with their customs, habits and mutual differences. So what is ethnographic research? Simple. Ethnographic research is the collection of ethnographic data- how people live their lives. It may be characterised by the use of participant constructs to structure the research, emphasis on natural setting, and purposely avoiding anything that may manipulate the results (LeCompte and Goetz 1982, p.32). Collecting such data assists broadcasters and advertising agencies in determining what programs should be played in particular time slots and to what audience.

Although ethnographic research is useful in this way, its results have been known to be unreliable and lack validity (LeCompte and Goetz 1982, p.32). Let’s examine TV ratings as an example. The season 5 premiere of Game of Thrones was apparently watched by 18.1 million people. But was it really? How many of these people actually watched the episode? There’s a good chance that many of these 18.1 million viewers had it playing in the background while they sat in front of the TV immersed in their laptops- a common practice! Additionally, this data excludes a significant portion of viewers- those who watched the episode online via streaming sites or illegal downloading sites. Game of Thrones was only aired on Foxtel in Australia. Consequently, those without cable TV resorted to watching the series online instead of waiting 6 months for the DVD to be released.

Due to the changing media scape, ethnographic research must be developed to accurately examine how people live their lives. The emergence of Netflix has seen changing demographic trends in the ways people watch television. Many younger people have turned to watch their favourite television shows not on the TV, but on their laptops or phones. Consequently, in order to achieve precise results, ethnographic research must include some sort of data collection of the habits of online viewers/users. Collaborative research will assist in doing this. Broadcasting companies may collaborate with data collectors such as OzTam, using quantitative and qualitative methods to gain a comprehensive understanding of the ways in which people use media in the home. It will be interesting to see how more accurate statistics are produced in the future.


LeCompte, M and Goetz, J, ‘Problems of Reliability and Validity in Ethnographic Research’, Review of Educational Research, vol. 52, no. 1, pp. 31-60.

O’Connell, M, “TV Ratings: Game of Thrones Premiere Seen by 18.1 Million Viewers So Far”, The Hollywood Reporter, 27th April 2015. 

Oxford Dictionary

What’s on the box?

I remember getting up before 6:30 every morning before school to watch Cheez TV for my daily dose of animation. I remember getting up every Saturday morning for my Disney fix. I remember playing on the floor in the living room while Mum watched Days of Our Lives. My mum Kris recalls this clearly, “you didn’t watch it with me- you played with your toys on the floor while I watched it. You used to say things like “I don’t like that bad lady”!”

My mum Kris- a self proclaimed “TV junkie”, lived in St Ives with her parents and two younger brothers. She was lucky enough to have two televisions in the house- one in her parent’s room and one in the living room. As Kris and her brothers got older, the living room television shifted downstairs so the Garcia kids could enjoy watching television with their friends. “We had comfy lounges and a small fridge down there. Our friends used to come over and watch TV with us”.

Kris remembers her TV as a “large black and white TV with its own cabinet”. Since the kids dominated the television, Kris’ parents placed a small television in their bedroom. Like everyone else, the Garcias were extremely excited when colour TV arrived in the 1970’s!

I asked Kris to dig a little deeper into her memory box. I wanted to know every detail of her TV experience!

Well, I usually sat on the three-seater lounge on the right hand side of the room. If the cricket was on or the Roosters or Eels were playing, my dad would join us.

Mum enjoyed some quality time with her younger brother John every Saturday morning while Hey Hey Its Saturday was on the box. As teenagers, their friends joined them on Saturday nights to watch the show before going out for the night. Saturday seemed like a great night for TV! Mum enjoyed going over to friends’ houses to watch Bill Collins’ Golden Years of Hollywood, “always with wine and nibblies of course!” Occasionally, the whole family would sit together and watch a movie.


Summer seemed terribly boring for Kris. “It always meant falling asleep on the lounge after lunch while Dad and the boys watched the test cricket.” Kris’ Dad and brothers were “sports mad”. If she didn’t join in, she would not have had the chance to watch anything. She had no choice.

I came to love watching the football, staying up for FA Cup and World Cup finals, the Olympic Games and World Series Cricket. I preferred the one day matches to the tests though.”

“Mum, what did you watch when you were my age?” She managed to list all her favourite shows, including Young Doctors, The Restless Years and Sons and Daughters. “We’d rush to school the next day to discuss each episode!” As children or teenagers, there were several shows we were absolutely dying to watch, but Mum and Dad would say “no that’s not suitable for someone your age.” Kris experienced this as a pre-teen. “There were shows I remember because I wasn’t allowed to watch them, like Number 96. My parents watched it but it was deemed unsuitable for us!” Well that explains why she wouldn’t let me watch Friends as a kid!

I bet your mum wasn’t a TV star like mine! Well, that’s a bit of an overstatement. Kris did make it on TV on two kids quiz shows: It’s Academic and Jeopardy. I asked her whether she watched herself on TV afterwards. “I did, I was cringing the whole time!

After grilling her with questions for a while, there was only one more thing I needed to know. How did Kris feel watching television?

I loved watching TV. It was my way of relaxing. It was also a time that I got to share with the people closest to me. I have such fond memories, especially of watching all those famous sporting moments with my dad, who had been a TV sports commentator in the Philippines. Its still the same today. We share lots of family time around the television.


Many themes arose during this conversation. For Kris, the television was a string that pulled the family together; a unique bonding experience. It gave purpose to social gatherings. This is still partially relevant today, as my family and I spend most of our time together infront of the TV. However, now at least one of us will sit infront of the TV with a laptop- something that didn’t exist during Kris’ childhood and teenage years. Funnily enough, Kris’ TV “habits” have rubbed off on my family today. Although nobody in my family watches sport, there are shows that three out of the four of us will watch together, and the outlier has the choice to either join in or hibernate in the study. If there’s one thing that stood out during this conversation, watching TV is still a bonding experience for my family.