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Seeking help for a deep dive into social media

David Colburn
Posted 12/1/21

One of the things I love about small town journalism is the fact that when there’s an idea I want to tackle where I need some assistance, there’s always one of our faithful readers who …

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Seeking help for a deep dive into social media

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One of the things I love about small town journalism is the fact that when there’s an idea I want to tackle where I need some assistance, there’s always one of our faithful readers who seems ready and willing to help.
I’ve been wanting to do a serious, in-depth review into social media and YouTube for ages, so folks can really get a handle on what the landscape is like today. The latest Facebook scandal or the newest high-profile Twitter user that’s been banned make major media headlines but leave us lacking for a good feel for just what these environments are all about. What’s it like for the average Joes and Janes of the world, day in, day out?
Since it’s the start of high school basketball season, I’m not going to have the time to do it up right unless I get a little help, so I’d like to see if I could get a few of you to help with the research I need. Let me say right up front that these are all volunteer activities – while I’ve made my case since day one at the Timberjay for an unlimited official company expense account, I’ve not yet been successful. The reward for your volunteerism will simply be the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve contributed in some small way to the intellectual enrichment of thousands of others like you, as well as a footnote credit of gratitude at the end of the article as a helpful research assistant. You’ll also be given a free 8x10 autographed glossy photo of me receiving the Timberjay’s first Pulitzer Prize ever, as I’m confident this article will be that monumental.
To simplify this task, and to respect your time and thoughtfulness, together we’re just going to take a look at what happens on a single day in a select few online venues. I know many of you probably had hoped that we’d look at a full year’s worth of data, and if I had that unlimited expense account we would, but it’s never a good idea to overwork volunteers, just in case you’d like to call on them again in the future.
So, here’s the help I’m looking for to analyze a day in the life of social media and YouTube.
Volunteer #1: You’ll handle the YouTube research. What I need is for you to watch all the YouTube videos uploaded in a single day, categorizing them according to type – stupid human tricks, fake news, cooking tutorials, reactions to other YouTube videos, wedding flash mobs, inspirational stories, etc. For each, note the number of likes/dislikes and the number of positive vs. rude and spiteful comments.
You’ll need to be a multitasker for this one to get it done in a timely fashion. For that one day you’ll have the equivalent of 82 years of video to view, not allowing for sleep, meals, or bathroom breaks. It also will be extremely helpful if you’re familiar with the variable playback speed option – set it to two times normal to cut your time on task in half.
Volunteer #2: Your job will be to analyze all of the photos uploaded to Facebook in a day. Unfortunately, there’s no variable speed setting available with this one, but on the flip side you only have to look at still pictures of that fraternity toga party, while Volunteer #1 will have to slog through 12 minutes of poorly-lit, out-of-focus video with screams, loud music, and slurred speech audio to go along with it. Again, categorize them and note the various reactions. To simplify the task, animal pictures can be grouped into cats, dogs, and others. You’ll also need a keen eye, as I need to know how many of these photos have been faked, stolen, or present inaccurate information. If you take about five seconds for each, then for the 350 million photos uploaded to Facebook on that day, I estimate the task will take about 55 years.
Volunteer #3: You’ll need to enjoy reading for this one, as your job will be to read all the posts to Facebook on a single day. This one may seem a bit overwhelming at first, given that 1.91 billion people or so use Facebook every day, but remember, a lot of them are just posting pictures, and Volunteer #2 has them covered. It’s hard to give you an idea of how much time this will take, as every source I check seems to be relying on statistics from 2017, but if you’re handy with a calculator you can do estimates yourself from the following figures -- every minute there are about 317,000 status updates and 510,000 comments posted. Ok, I’ll go ahead and do the math for you. That’s 827,000 status updates and comments per minute, times 1,440 minutes in a day, meaning the most you’ll have to scan is about 1.2 billion items for that day. It’s really not so bad when you consider how many comments are limited to one-word entries like “prayers” or “cool” and so many more are GIFs of Steve Carell from “The Office” saying something profound. If you’ve taken the Evelyn Wood speed-reading course, you should be able to rip through this one in no time. If you average five seconds an item, it should only take about 190 years to read a day’s worth. That’s why a speed-reading course could come in handy.
Volunteer #4: Scanning a day’s worth of tweets on Twitter is the job of this volunteer. Frankly, I’m getting tired of math. There are about 500 million tweets posted every day. Suffice it to say, it’s probably another significant commitment of time to review them all, but remember, you’ll get that 8x10 glossy of me winning the Pulitzer.
I’d really like to include WhatsApp, Instagram, WeChat, TikTok, Douyin (China’s version of TikTok), Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit, and a whole lot more, but I do work for the Timberjay, not the New York Times. There’s only so much one man and a few volunteers can do.
If you’re interested in volunteering for one of these jobs, let me know, though please avoid using social media to contact me – my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds are already too jammed with stuff, and I might miss it. Once I have all four volunteers, I’ll pick the day you’ll review, and then I’ll be cryogenically frozen until your research is complete. Once I’m unthawed and back in writing form, I’ll take your research and write the article, and with any luck I’ll be able to hand that 8x10 Pulitzer glossy to one of your grandchildren.
And if all that goes as planned, then I’ll be looking for more folks to help me with a “year in the life of social media” review. By then, I do hope to finally have that expense account so that you don’t have to volunteer. Hope springs eternal.

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