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Online Presence Indicators Influence Our Behavior - Research
Online Presence Indicators Influence Our Behavior - Research

Video: Online Presence Indicators Influence Our Behavior - Research

Video: Online Presence Indicators Influence Our Behavior - Research
Video: INVISIBLE INFLUENCE: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior by Jonah Berger 2023, March

Some apps show when a person is online and share this information with those who follow them. Other users see our online presence indicators. How does this affect our behavior?

To find the answer to this question, researchers at the University of Washington (UV) set out to find out if people are aware that they are sharing this information and how these indicators affect people's online behavior.

In a survey of smartphone users, the team found that many people misunderstand online presence indicators, yet monitor their behavior closely to control how they appear to others.

More than half of the participants reported that they suspected that someone might notice their status. At the same time, more than half reported that they only logged into the application to check the status of a person. And 43% of the participants said they changed their settings or behavior because they tried to avoid the attention of one particular person

“Online presence indicators are an unusual mechanism for broadcasting information about yourself to other people,” says lead author Alexis Hinikker, associate professor at UV's School of Information. - When people share information that they posted something or liked something, the user retains control over what is broadcast. But online presence indicators share information without requiring explicit user consent. The results of our study seem especially intriguing in light of the coronavirus pandemic: What is the role of online presence indicators at a time when people's social life is completely online?"

People need to be fully aware of the amount of information they are sharing online, the researchers say

"Online safety and hygiene practices go beyond protecting against tech-savvy intruders," said study co-author Dr. Camilla Cobb, a Carnegie Mellon University researcher who participated in the study as a graduate student at the Paul J. Allen UV. She also talks about the need to think about how your online presence allows you to shape the identities you want and to channel your interpersonal relationships in the direction you want: “There are anti-malware tools, but there is no way to download anything that will protect you from your loved ones. ".

For this study, researchers recruited 200 participants aged 19 to 64 to complete an online survey using Amazon Mechanical Turk. More than 90% of the participants were from the United States, and almost half of them held a bachelor's degree or higher.

The researchers asked participants to indicate which of the 44 apps they use have online presence indicators. Then they asked the participants if these apps were broadcasting online status to their social circle.

Nearly 90% of participants correctly identified at least one of the apps they use that has online presence indicators. But for at least one application, 62.5% answered “not sure” and 35.5% said no.

For example, out of 60 people who regularly use Google Docs, 40% said it had no status indicators, and 28% were unsure.

The researchers then asked the participants to try and discover settings that could turn off the online presence feature for every application they regularly use. The researchers found that for those apps that had preferences, participants gave up 28% of the time without finding those preferences. For those apps that don't have settings like WhatsApp, participants mistakenly thought they turned them off 23% of the time, researchers say.

“If you compare this data, you can see that more than a third of their time spent online, people broadcast information about themselves without knowing it,” says Cobb. “And then, even if we ask them," Please try to disable this feature, "they are still unable to do so more than a quarter of the time. Roughly speaking, we see that people do not have much control over how much they share information with their communication network."

Finally, the team asked participants a series of questions about their own online experience. These questions related to the following:

  • whether participants notice when others are online;
  • whether others (in the opinion of the participants) notice when they are online;
  • whether they changed their behavior because they wanted or did not want to appear online.

“We see this repetitive pattern of people changing their behavior to fit technology, rather than technology adapting to fit our needs,” says co-author Lucy Simcoe, a graduate student at the Allen UV School. "This means that people decide to go online not because they want to do something there, but because it is important for them that their online presence indicator projects the right things at the right time."

Now that most states have established self-isolation in an attempt to fight the coronavirus pandemic, many work from home and only communicate online. This could change the way people use online presence indicators, according to researchers.

For example, employees can use online status to confirm that they are working and available for meetings. Or people can use the “available” status of a family member as an opportunity to check if everything is fine with him

“Right now, with a lot of people working remotely, there is an opportunity to think about how the further evolution of this technology can help create a sense of community,” says Cobb. - For example, in the real world, you can keep your door ajar, which can mean “you can distract me if you need to”, keep the door wide open to say “come in!”, Or closed - and then in theory no one should hinder you. Online presence indicators actually do not allow for such nuances. But we need a certain sense of balance - to create a community that does not violate a person's personal space, does not broadcast his status without his consent and does not allow these statuses to be abused.

  • The research is published in Proceedings of the 2020 ACM CHI conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
  • By Janice Wood
  • Translator: Kiril Melamud

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