Digitally Naive to Digital Natives: Changes in the Social Media Landscape from the Perspective of Women in New Zealand

Shriyan, Riddhi Jayant
Tupou, Janet
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Master of Communication Studies
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Auckland University of Technology

With social media usage creeping into the everyday lives of a global majority, it has become increasingly important to understand a user’s engagement with these new-age digital channels and recognise the level and type of impact these platforms can have on a user’s behaviour across personal and professional areas of life.

Since the birth of social media, it has continually been in the limelight for controversial reasonings, ranging from topics like the ill effects of its usage on a user’s mental health to misinformation and fake news. Studies such as Hajli, 2014; O’Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011 explored how social media impacts the minds of its young users. After a decade of living with social media, the virtual world has undergone gradual evolution with users utilising digital platforms to showcase assorted elements of their lives such as personal lifestyles, careers, interests, luxuries and social circles rather than using it as a tool merely intended for cross-communication.

The area of content sharing has also seen change, with a decrease in interest levels for heavily doctored posts and an increase for purposeful authentic ones. The pattern of evolution is not particularly confined to the platform alone and its changing functionalities and features, but also transcends into the change in user behaviours of the people behind the numerous social media profiles. In New Zealand, the impact of staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic is visible in terms of an increase in internet consumption (Kalkandis, 2020). As New Zealanders spend more time on their mobile devices, social media activity is likely to grow with it. With millennials indicated to use Instagram more than any other social platform in recent years (Benson, 2018), it will be the focal point of the usage and engagement data gathered from interviews, followed by Facebook.

This study aims to analyse how young female New Zealanders use social media platforms, more specifically Instagram, the motives for their usage and the perceived impact on their personal, professional and social lives. Structured in-depth interviews were identified as the best approach for the collection of insightful and relevant data on this topic.

The participant responses provide an insight into the different perspectives of social media use with particular attention paid to the Instagram platform. The findings of this study suggest that New Zealand females have not significantly changed their behaviour patterns on social media but have made refinements to their usage in a manner that now benefits their personal and professional life. It also brings to light the gradual changes in the user’s approach to user-generated content, information consumption and the plethora of business or commercial avenues that have risen from social networking sites.

Social Media , Digital Landscape , Women Empowerment , Digital Transformation , Instagram , User Behaviours
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