Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Trends: Hooks on social ties

Young Malaysians love their social networking tools but a survey of online habits reveals that they are not dependent on them, write SUZIEANA UDA NAGU and SHARIFAH ARFAH

MALAYSIANS may be the world’s heaviest users of social networking tools but they are not addicted to them.

Digital Life, the largest study of online activities and behaviour released last October, reported that Malaysians spend nine hours a week on social networking sites.

It appears that Malaysians also have the most number of friends on their profiles as they have added an average of 233 friends per person.

Trailing behind Malaysians in terms of use are Russians (eight hours a week) and Turks (7.7 hours a week).

However, a survey jointly conducted by Learning Curve and recently discovered that Malaysian youth have their social networking habits under control.

Only 46 per cent of the 1,432 Malaysian respondents between 15 and 30 years consider themselves social networking addicts.

University of Malaya undergraduate Nazatul Nabila Abdullah admits that she used to fall into this group.

“I started using social networking tools during my Mara Junior College days.

After SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia), I did a pre-university course and my grades dipped below average. It could be due to spending too much time on the Internet, especially on social networking sites. Having said that, my subjects were tough and I only had one year to complete my pre-U programme,” she says.

More than half of the respondents do not find sites such as Facebook and YouTube distracting at all.

These are the top two social tools picked by respondents last year.

The online study aims to gain an insight into the social networking habits of Malaysian youth. is a platform which actively engages with more than 200,000 young people from Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore in surveys and opinion polls, among other activities.

More than half of the social networking survey respondents are males and pursuing their Bachelor’s degrees.

Despite spending more than five hours a day on the Internet, 60 per cent say they have managed to maintain their grades.

They devote only three hours a day to doing their homework or assignments.

This is consistent with a study carried out by Whittemore School of Business and Economics, whose findings showed that there was no direct correlation between students’ grades and the amount of time they spend on sites like YouTube or Facebook.

Nazatul Nabila, 20, agrees.

She spends at least five hours a day on the Internet accessing Facebook and YouTube, among other websites, but is happy with her grades so far.

“It is important for students to divide their time well,” she says.

As young Malaysians do not find social networking addictive, 52 per cent believe that they can abstain from it for three days.

On the other hand, the majority of students who took part in a study by University of Maryland, the United States found it tough to truly give up social media.

Some 200 students from University of Maryland’s College Park campus took part in 24 Hours: Unplugged, in which they had to go without all media for a day.
They were then asked to blog on private class websites about their experiences and to report their successes and admit to any failures.

The respondents had plenty to say — they collectively wrote 110,000 words, roughly the word count of a 400-page novel.

The real surprise is not the number of students who admitted to being “incredibly addicted” to all forms of media but what feeds their addiction.

What students miss during the 24-hour media fast were not the tools themselves but “the social connections they afford young people”.

Project director Professor Susan D. Moeller says: “They wrote at length about how they hated losing their personal connections. In their world, going without media meant going without their friends and family.”

This may also explain Malaysians heavy use of social networking tools, if findings from the Learning Curve and study are any indication.

More than 80 per cent of respondents rate “keeping in touch with friends, family and loved ones” and “chatting” as their top uses of social networking tools.

“Social networking tools have enabled me to contact my friends who are now studying in places as far as Russia and England. We also exchange notes and tips on the best ways to prepare for exams,” says Nazatul Nabila.

Source: News Strait Times

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