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SPOTLIGHT
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High use of social media sites play role in violence culture

Published on -3/18/2013, 10:17 AM

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This is the fourth in a series of articles about violence in contemporary culture.

Q. What are the facts and statistics about violence in social media and video games?

A. According to Jeff Bullas, social media expert, there are two significant trends in contemporary social media that are changing the content of this media. First, there is the increased visualization of social media content, namely, Pinterest and Instagram. This trend parallels the television and movie development of presenting more graphic, sadistic and sexual violence.

A second trend in social media is the sharing and use of mobile technology. Such a development enables users to have more frequent access to Internet websites.

Social media specialist Brian Honigan summarized the statistics about media use through the end of 2012. Social media does not share the enormity of the violence in television programming and movies, but it does affect the cultural perceptions and morality of the users by putting them in touch with millions of other users.

The estimated users suffering from Facebook addiction syndrome are 350 million users worldwide. Approximately 25 percent of Facebook users have no privacy control. With Facebook addicts, the average number of friends is 130, and 85 percent of women on Facebook are annoyed with their friends.

On YouTube, the average viewer spends 15 minutes daily. Sixty percent of bloggers are 25 to 44 years of age. With Pinterest, 97 percent of users are women. The most popular age group is 25 to 34 years. Users spend close to 16 minutes a day on Pinterest. On Google+, the No. 1 occupation of users is student.

Returning to Honigan's statistics, Facebook users check their accounts five or more times daily. The site has experienced a 41 percent increase in users from South Korea, Japan, India, Russia and Brazil during 2012. Links about sex are communicated 90 percent more than any other link. Of the total Facebook users, 43 percent are male and 57 percent are female.

Regarding Twitter, 175 million tweets were sent daily in 2012. United States is the top user with 107 million, Brazil is second and Japan is a close third. The average user follows or is followed by 51 persons. Thirty-two percent of Internet users are on Twitter. There were 1 million accounts added daily to Twitter in 2012. Half of Twitter users use mobile technology.

In 2012, Instagram reached 80 million users and averaged 7.3 million active users daily. More than 5 million photographs are uploaded daily to Instagram. Instagram exceeded Twitter in daily users in August 2012. Facebook owns Instagram and, in less than two years, Instagram has exceeded the monetary value of the New York Times Co.

Pinterest statistics reveal 80 percent of users are women. The average user spends one hour and 17 minutes daily and users average 98 minutes monthly. The most common age group is 25 to 34 years. Pinterest reached 10 million users monthly. Users interact with retailers and 51 percent interact with food-related sites. The Google +1 link is used 5 billion times daily. Worldwide, 42 percent of users are single. On Google+, 68 percent are male and 32 percent are female. At least 60 percent of users log in daily and 80 percent weekly.

Grand Theft Auto was banned in Australia when first marketed because of its graphic sexual and violent content. In the United States, however, the video game grossed $300 million by 2002. It rewards players who are the most violent, including raping women.

Children and teenagers spend approximately two hours daily on computer social media sites or video games. Children younger than 6 average two hours daily of watching television, playing video games or watching DVDs.

Since 90 percent of violence is by men and boys, why does this fact exist? Violence is portrayed as normal masculine behavior in all aspects of contemporary culture: television, video games, movies and cultural socialization. All these influences reinforce each other. When both reality and virtual reality converge on defining morality and acceptable behavior, there is nothing to counteract these forces.

Adjectives such as aggressive, forceful, physical, dominant, and powerful are descriptive of masculine behavior. Boys who play violent and graphic video games most likely will not turn out to be rapists and murderers. But they could, when they become men, develop prejudices toward men who don't fit the social role stereotypes of men and indulge in behaviors such as bullying and gay bashing.

When one reviews the content of video games, there do not seem to be any that promote cooperation, peace and harmony. As children grow older, they spend more time playing video games. Violent video game exposure might not be a significant factor in producing violence in children and youth. But it is another pastime that, along with time spent watching violent movies and television, can add up to strong negative influences on youth, especially when considered along with the current cultural messages that condone violence.

* Next week's article will discuss the impact of media violence on children.

Judy Caprez is an associate professor of social work at Fort Hays State University. Send your questions in care of the department of sociology and social work, Rarick Hall, FHSU.

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