Diary of an online socialite

Last updated 07:17 16/02/2014

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A new survey has found half of young people born in the 1980s and ‘90s spend more time socialising online than in real life. Marika Hill asks whether that's healthy while Jess Etheridge reaches for her smartphone.

7.30 AM OK I'M awake! My iPhone's alarm clock app goes off. I roll over, eyes still closed, and slap my hand around, trying to grab my phone.

Emails, texts, tweets, Instagram likes, snapchats, Vine notifications have come through in the night. Twitter is always the first social network I check. Seeing what people around the world are talking about gives me an idea of how the day is going to go. If people are complaining a lot, it has an impact on how I feel. If someone tweets about kittens, I know it will be a good day.

Twitter is the place I find out about things first, including news and what my mates are up to. I spend at least half an hour each morning scrolling through my social networks. I don't feel prepared for the day unless I go through this ritual but it makes me happy to be part of such a large network of people.

Shamefully, I check texts from friends after all this.

10.15 AM I start my late shift at work. What happens as soon as my computer is booted up? Check Twitter. I don't know if it's because I'm a journalist or it's just a habit after five years of tweeting. After a few minutes skim-reading, I log onto Facebook. I'm not big on Facebook but I notice people are starting to post their 10-year Facebook videos. I don't watch any of them. I hardly post on my personal page, and when I do it's work-related or photos from a trip away.

10.36 AM I jump into a conversation with comedian Rose Matafeo and Stuff television blogger Mike Kilpatrick about how women are interviewed by journalists. I don't know either of these people but this is probably what I enjoy most about tweeting: Talking to people I would never have talked to otherwise. Later I tweet singer Anika Moa about electronic duo Daft Punk. She must like what I've said - she shares my tweet with her 11,000 followers and she "favourites" it. Chuffed.

1 PM A bucket of fish has been thrown at Prime Minister John Key at Waitangi. How do I know? I was on Twitter as it happened. Cue screeds and screeds of fish puns. My personal favourite came from @covlin, who said Key would "mullet over".

6.30 PM I'm home! Usually I arrive early enough to live-tweet - commentate on a show or event on Twitter as it happens - Big Brother. But alas, I've missed it :(

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I turn on 3News and my timeline turns into an arena where people debate the day's top stories. It's cool because people from around New Zealand wade in and share their views.

6.50 PM Writing this diary makes me realise the best way to talk to me is online. I don't text much but different platforms work for different people. I share more of my thoughts with a couple of hundred complete strangers. But a lot of my friends have Twitter and often we organise to hang out or get dinner together that way.

I find myself reading list after list on BuzzFeed. It's addictive and I often share what I'm reading online or with friends. I'm also Facebook chatting a friend in Australia - we're talking about the film American Hustle. He asks me for some help on his cover letter as he's on the job hunt. He sends it to me through Facebook.

7 PM I Instagram a photo of a charm I was given during the day. It's a blue-beaded fish with bells sewn on. "I don't understand," one of my colleagues comments underneath. "It's a fish!"

Time to live-tweet Shortland St, watch some YouTube and message a couple of friends.

11.50 PM I find myself in the same position I started my day. In bed, on my phone. I've read it's bad to sleep in the same room as your phone as it can have a huge impact on sleeping patterns. I'm grateful I don't wake up during the night to check my phone or social networks at all. I tweet "goodnight!" Put it in flight mode. Set the alarm. Sleep.


Before you shoo your kids outside to play with their friends, it turns out all this online chatting they do might actually be healthy.

Dr Erika Pearson, senior lecturer in media, film and communication at Otago University, said online hangouts have become an extension of the real world.

"A young person might seem to be always online, like Tumblr and Snapchat. To you it might be wasting time but for them it's an important emotional lifeline. People should remember that before cutting off access."

Older generations once hung out in cars, cafes and behind the bikesheds, but the cyber world is now the place to be.

"These days cafes are too expensive. Or [teenagers] have too much homework or three jobs. Young people are trying to carve out their own space away from the gaze of parents."

A quarter of Kiwis spent more time socialising online than real life, according to the Canstar Blue broadband satisfaction survey of 2500 people. Generation Y were the biggest online socialites, with 47 per cent spending more time socialising online than in real life. Of baby boomers, 87 per cent still did most of their socialising face-to-face.

The survey was commissioned by Canstar as part of its recent customer satisfaction survey awards. General manager Derek Bonnar said he worries the younger generation is missing out on human interaction, though blocking online access "does more harm than good".

Pearson argued the younger generation are also using social media to remain connected in real life. "A great thing about social media is those people who don't meet up as often as they like can maintain a social bond [online]." Marika Hill

- Stuff


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