More than anything, the current clash between Facebook and the Australian Government represents an ideal opportunity for agriculturalists and rural communities to stop, think and rediscover how we all individually interact with social media, both personally and professionally.
Firstly, being blocked from sharing news articles with your friends and contacts via Facebook isn’t the end of the world.
In fact, it may well be the start of a new one which prompts a better quality of life with increased productivity and vitality.
Stepping back and stepping outside of the ‘social’ media universe we’ve all become just a little bit too familiar with, can open the door to a meaningful reality-check for many of us.
Secondly, the Morrison Government deserves some kudos for taking on the global, digital behemoth and sticking up for Australians by seeking justified reforms aimed at strengthening our local media landscape and protecting democratic rights.
In contrast, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s response has come across as nothing but petulant for ‘unfriending’ Australia and banning our news content from appearing on his mighty social network.
Thirdly, a renewing of minds and attitudes has followed Facebook’s rebuke of proposed media laws which are currently before the Australian Parliament.
A television news story today on Sunday talked about the benefits of digital detoxing, and the impact of over-exposure to social media on our mental health.
It claimed people spend an average of about 40 hours per week on their phones, which said another way is equal to having another full-time job.
The day before, another television news article provided advice on how to cancel Facebook without losing all of your precious memories.
Some simple tips on how to break the digital fixation include; limiting the number of times you check your phone; not having a device in your room when you sleep at night; deleting apps that send you constant, trivial notifications; setting time limits; and talking to your friends or family about your social media habits.
A digital marketing article claims 3.96 billion people use social media today, about 50 per cent of the global population, and internet users spend an average of 144 minutes on social media sites per day, which equates to about 17 hours per week.
For those in the world of digital marketing, in particular rural, farming and agribusinesses enterprises, remember there’s plenty of life beyond Facebook.
Now can be a good time to revisit your strategy and ask what you intend to achieve from social media use, and/or consider reinvigorating your market brand and presence in other networks such as Twitter or Linkedin.
If your concern about the Facebook ban’s impact is only about accessing opinion and feature articles or breaking news, remember there are many more ways to satisfy your appetite and curiosity.
Try connecting directly with the source such as signing-up for your favourite media outlet’s app, or their daily news-letter, or click and follow your favourite journalists on Twitter – especially those who work so hard at The Land.
Remember that time not so long ago when we learned about what’s happening in the outside world via the morning newspapers, hourly radio news updates and evening television news bulletins?
How often do you hear people say, ‘I’m so glad we never had social media when I was young’?
That’s why the Facebook ban represents an opportune time to return to basics and re-consider your business strategy and its intent and ask whether you’ve become over-reliant on the one digital source, to access your audience/customers.
In closing, it’s also worth remembering you can always empower yourself with factual information and views, direct from the source.
For example, check out the Country Press Australia (CPA) submission to the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee inquiry into the state of media diversity, independence and reliability in Australia, and the impact this has on public interest journalism and democracy.
The submission says CPA member newspapers publish local news content in both printed and online formats utilising a variety of platforms to inform and engage audiences – but the printed newspaper remains “the primary source of revenue for our members to support the production of public interest journalism”.
“The sheer volume of content appearing on the Digital Platforms does not of itself enhance Media Diversity,” the CPA said.
“In practical terms, the ubiquitous use of algorithms to only serve users content that accords with their prejudices, opinions, interests and view of the world, has been shown to create an echo chamber which creates an antithesis to the intent of Media Diversity to support, inform and maintain our democracy and democratic principles.”
It’s worth noting this inquiry is also looking at the state of local, regional and rural media outlets in Australia and will make some interesting observations worth following, and recommendations, in its final report.
By Robbie Sefton
Robbie Sefton has a dual investment in rural Australia as a farmer, producing wool, meat and grains, and as managing director of national marketing communications company Seftons.