Politics

Inside the online life of WebCam, the digital dissection of an online boy

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I’ve spent a lot of this year looking outwards: from deep dives into the swamps of online conspiracy communities to trying to grok just how new, ham-fisted tech law will actually affect how we use the internet. But as we approach the year’s end, I think it’s time to turn this interrogating gaze inward to me and my online habits during 2021. Although I have to say I feel a bit uneasy at the prospect!

Here’s what my online life looks like. I use an Apple iPhone and iMac for both my professional and personal online activity. Both devices tell me my screen crimes (aka my screen time) each week. My running average for the past three weeks is 9.2 hours each day spent watching either the big screen or the little screen. The stats also tell me that I “pick up” (i.e. unlock) my screen about 250 times each day on average. Eep. That’s a lot.

My Apple Screen Time, comprising my iPhone and iMac usage (Image: Supplied)

My two favourite apps during this period have been Twitter and TikTok, which makes sense because they’re the ones I use professionally and enjoy the most. I’ve spent nine and seven hours on them each week, respectively.

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Both these apps offer more granular breakdowns of my behaviour that we can drill into. Looking at the past three full calendar months on Twitter, I’ve tweeted a shocking 35 or so times a day on average. Over that time, my posts have been viewed 36 million times.

During my last 60 days on TikTok I’ve posted 10 videos and racked up 1.02 million views. My other popular apps are chat platform Discord, podcast app Pocket Casts (I’ve listened to 56 days of audio since August 2020) and the iMessage app.

A screenshot of my TikTok analytics (Image: Supplied)

So how do I feel about it? My first response is that feeling you get when you look at yourself in the mirror lit by the unforgiving lights of your bathroom at the end of a night out. It’s uncomfortable to take stock and be like, yup, I literally am more online than I am offline.

But beyond that — and maybe this is a sign of how warped I am! — I’m mostly fine with it? The pandemic settled once and for all whether there’s any separation between “online” and “offline”. Many of my friends that I made in the meatspace are now just avatars who I spend hours DMing with every week, and that doesn’t make them or our relationship any less real.

The thing that I was concerned about was whether I’d spent too long sucked into the abyss of ever-updating algorithms rather than consciously choosing what I’m consuming and creating. I’ve found that it’s harder to spend a lot of time focusing on a single task as the allure of dopamine hits from certain social media apps is just one click or swipe away.

Honestly, at times I’ve worried that my mood is too dependent on the feedback I get from social media apps. I found that my recent suspension from Twitter was a bit of a blessing in disguise. Focusing on intentionality is more subtle than a raw measure of time spent online — but I think it might be more important.

In 2021, we were all forced to live online. In 2022, I hope we get to choose.

Hyperlinks

I’m suspended from Twitter for tweeting public business records. Is this privacy taken too far?

I had a run in with a well-intentioned-but-not-always-well-executed Twitter policy. It did feel like losing a limb. But don’t worry, I’m back. (Crikey)

Her Instagram handle was ‘Metaverse.’ Last month, it vanished.

Online usernames are like digital real estate. Sure seems like Faceboo- err, Meta was trying to bulldoze this Australian user. (New York Times)

The price of ‘freedom’: How anti-lockdown protest leaders make money from the movement

What I liked about this story was hearing from a victim of someone who interacted with these anti-lockdown grifters. A lot of coverage covers the personalities — not as much shows what happens to those who are hurt by them. (The Age)

Inside Australia’s booming luxury watch market, where buyers will pay thousands above retail price — and a steel Rolex is as good as gold

Of course the Australian website for aftermarket watch sale data is called “Wristies”. (Business Insider Australia)

Mysterious firm Compass Polling may be leading the public in the wrong direction

A little dive into an online polling company that always seems to tell right-wing advocacy groups that the public thinks exactly what they want to hear. (Crikey)

Content Corner

Government bodies and savvy social media presence rarely go hand-in-hand. Social media success requires a performance of emotion and authenticity. Government organisations are painfully averse to that.

The one recent exception to this is our sassy Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). They’ve been cutting sick on Twitter, correcting misinformation and having a bit of fun doing it.

The AEC giving a bit of sass while correcting some misinformation on Twitter

Even I have been on the receiving end of their social media shenanigans.

The AEC publicly owning me on Twitter

My take is: this is both good use of social media and of government resources.

If your purpose on social media is to build an audience to communicate with, you need to adhere to the platform’s conventions. No one wants to follow a robot. Adding a bit of sauce to your posts to get people to pay attention? Why not.

A screenshot of an AEC tweet of a popular meme

I also subscribe to the theory that it’s better to meet people where they are. The AEC should ratio someone who is spreading bullshit about voting. ASIC should join crypto group chats more often. The ACCC should reply to influencers asking whether the selfie they’ve posted is an #ad.

Thanks for sticking with us in 2021.

Without our readers’ support, we couldn’t have filed important series on government corruption, state sanctioned kidnapping, or Scott Morrison’s lies.

Join us in 2022. Get 50% off an annual Crikey membership now. You’ll help truly independent journalism and always have something cool to read this summer. Ends Thursday.

Peter Fray

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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