Many people have love-hate relationships with their computers and mobile phone devices.  Users also question whether social media solve or cause more problems.

A “Pew Research Internet Project” survey of 2,252 adults age 18 and older, released on February 11, 2014, indicated that 72 percent of the persons surveyed said the internet had no impact on their significant relationships like marriage or partnerships.  The remainder of the sample said the internet had a major impact (10%) or minor impact (17%).

Of those who said the internet had an impact on their important relationships, 74 percent said it was positive; 20 percent said the impact was mostly negative and four percent said it was both good and bad.  Not surprisingly, younger people were more likely than older social media users to say internet-based communications helped them feel closer and they used various social media devices to resolve disagreements. 

What are considered social media varies.  People generally agree the social media include internet and cellular phone-based applications of interactive communications such as email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, and other electronic networks to conduct business and social relationship activities.  These activities are commonly referred to as social networking.

A January 5, 2014 Business Insider report on social media trends says the average American spends 37 minutes daily on social networking activities; 60 percent of the social media time is not spent on desktop computers, but on smartphones and tablets.

Facebook is by far the leader in social engagement, with 114 billion minutes per month in the U.S. alone.  In comparison, Twitter commands 5.3 billion minutes per month.

The total time spent each day on computers and telephone devices is much greater.  The average American devotes just over three hours daily to using these electronic devices, according to www.MarketingCharts.  Indonesians and Saudi Arabians spend an average of 5.1 hours daily, followed by the Turkish (4.9 hours), Argentinians (4.7 hours) and Russians (4.6 hours). 

Of the 24 surveyed countries, French and Japanese people spend the least amount of time each day on social media devices (2.6 hours).  Of course, persons who have no–or limited–access to telephones and computers spend little time using these modern devices, but they are becoming the exceptions because most “third world” countries are erecting communication towers or accessing satellite systems for conducting social networking.

Do farmers use the social media? Many popular farm magazines and websites indicate farmers regularly use computers and mobile phones to conduct business and to carry on other activities that save time, maintain relationships with important people and sometimes save lives that are in jeopardy, but no precise usage data are available.

A recent article about Amish and Mennonite farm people indicated that many neither own a computer nor undertake telephone communications except for emergencies and are successful in business and community endeavors.  Some of these communities rely on others to conduct certain communications on their behalf.

The National Security Agency (NSA) conducts surveillance of telephone contacts, email and other social media exchanges and has generated much controversy.  NSA activities and those of other government agencies were stepped up after the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. but began earlier as ever more people around the world acquired access to social media to carry on their communications.

These are necessary activities–although they involve government monitoring–that help protect people from enemy attacks.  Since nearly every opposition group these days has sufficient sophistication to harm Americans or others considered as enemies, it makes sense to screen the social media for cues of potential danger.

Most Americans and others in the free world appreciate NSA surveillance-type methods. But should we have to tolerate unwanted computer cookies that monitor every website and email address we contact or methods which use Global Positioning System (GPS) information from our mobile telephones and motorized vehicles with GPS to track our whereabouts?

Both the computer tracking and GPS tracking devices follow our every move and inform others than the NSA who use the information, such as merchandisers.  Merchandisers can then send unnecessary advertisements and make telephone calls to anyone whose personal information they acquire.

These marketers invade email accounts and search out unlisted cellular telephone numbers at any hour of the day or night from our desktop and laptop computers and our mobile telephones and tablets to make unwanted sales pitches.

Most consumers know how to seek information about what they might want to purchase or have interest in. Computer and telephone advertisements are among the most detrimental intrusions into people’s daily lives because they waste time and energy, jam up computers and mobile telephonic devices and cost everyone money. 

What’s in control—the electronic media or its users?  “Do Not Call” lists aren’t working sufficiently.  Regulations are needed that protect national security as well as our personal freedoms and which place primary control into the hands of consumers rather than marketers.

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by Mike Rosmann, Ph.D.

Dr. Rosmann resides on his farm near Harlan, Iowa.  He can be contacted at