Back on February 19th of this year, I posted on Minds a link to a survey I had created as part of a term paper in a research methods course, dedicated to the quantitative methods of surveying and statistical analysis of subsequent results. Whilst the paper was primarily about learning to input data into a programme for analysis and run regression models, the survey results themselves alone are interesting to see. Many commented on my post that they would like to see and to know the results, so I have written this blog to share them, and to share my thoughts on what they indicate, and on Minds in general.
After first presenting the research question and results to the central questions, and discussing the sample size, there is a general discussion around the issues, followed by the full survey results accompanied by little discussions on specific questions and answer options.
Here’s Media More Attractive
Minds does not exist to act only as a platform for free expression: from my understanding, it was conceived around experimenting with superior algorithms and increased privacy and security regarding personal data, relative to Facebook and Twitter. Yet one of the stated aims of Minds is to preserve, online, the freedom of the press and the individual’s right to freedom of speech and expression (check here for a good, short interview with Bill Ottman, co-creator of Minds). And so:
Given the self-professed goal of Minds, do users of the social network highlight freedom of speech and expression as a significant factor in their migration to the network from Facebook & Twitter?
Out of the 331 responses garnered (thank you, by the way), the survey found that:
- 95.5% claimed to support the notion of the freedom of the press and an individual’s freedom of speech and expression, short of nothing but direct calls to violence.
- 85.8% claimed to have seen or experienced what they perceived to be recent threats or challenges to this notion on Facebook &/or Twitter, whether experienced by themselves or observed as affecting others.
- 90.1% of that claimed to consider those perceived threats or challenges a significant factor in their increased/increasing usage of Minds.
- 72.3% of that claimed to consider those perceived threats or challenges as the MOST significant factor in their increased/increasing usage of Minds.
Whilst 331 does not even begin to encompass all users, the sample sweep on age, education, politics, work, and social media usage was broad. Without ever assuming that results gleaned are truly the same as full population data, when thinking about sampling the aim is to reach a level of precision and confidence at which one can generalise to population. The population of units here was all users of Minds, but, in terms of a sample frame, it was really those who logged into their Minds account on and between the 19th and 26th of February of this year. Boosting enabled me to go well beyond my own followers, and the 24-hour availability nature of the survey hopefully reduced error and bias with regards to users in particular time zones, or with particular daily and weekly routines. Any who did not use Minds in that week, or who do not use social media weekly but rather monthly, will have been on the wrong side of bias and sampling error, but the time constraints on me with running the survey, retrieving the data, and then analysis and write-up just meant that this was going to be the case.
The number of respondents is small relative to Minds user count, and the questions and answer options had limitations (usefully highlighted by respondents via comments, and discussed later), but the sample I ended up with gives me confidence that the percentages listed above, and the percentages shown as results for other questions, would persist close to what they are now, whatever increase in sample size and respondent number was achieved.
Many will be relieved to see (or perhaps this does nothing to convince) that I am not, as it turns out, an undercover data-miner working for Facebook to sabotage, when controlling fails, Minds and the lives of every user on it. In a short notes section at the end of this, I have included the preamble I wrote to the link to my survey when I posted, including the edit where I added much more information, having failed to provide enough initially. I am making fun of the more conspiratorial comments, but I do appreciate the concern over that particular issue. Conspiracies can be wholly true too, you know.
I think we need this thing, and I think we need this thing to work.
The recent fiasco with advertisers on YouTube is but one more threat of too much order that brings everybody closer to chaos. Twitter never stops having its moments. Facebook flirts, even now, with blasphemy demands from the usual suspects. And these social media platforms are influenced by and influence an online media world behaving almost as if out of fear and jealousy. Could it be? I could empathise and sympathise with the death of the old new media at the hands of something younger, better, more relevant, as one would the death of a great print publication at the hands of its online replacement, if only it weren’t dying off in the ugliest manner manageable.
That old disclaimer: of course, not all of it, not all of them. But they, at large, are drowning, and they are grabbing pathetically at everything good before their hands fall fully beneath the surface.
The wild west that is this arena, here, can function considerably wilder than a lot of people seem to think. The urge to civilise and sanitise rises first, and powerfully; an understanding of what is better doesn’t necessarily ever manifest. The reactionary spasms of initial censorship fail and yet they double-down, and they bring it back with greater force and less concern. That which can be attributed to good intentions is second-waved by deliberate malice, tacit or overt, and denial of what is being targeted. The response by so many, both content creators and content consumers in equal measure, whether the term ‘community’ is to be used or not, is beyond promising. But people must not be beaten into self-censorship, misrepresented into bankruptcy, and that is such a possibility.
I have written blogs on topics with stances that, were we living and being in a context where a blog-post out-competed a vlog-post, where screen time attention-spans stretched out clear beyond the borders of the first two paragraphs, where to log on, for the majority, to social media was to begin one’s search to satiate one’s ever present appetite for a string of long and convoluted compound and complex sentences that would rather go beyond the point, circle back, turn right on a tangent, and take the scenic route slowly home than simply make their point concisely, upfront, in the first place, and thus where my readership were enough to warrant censorship (or misrepresentation so as to be censored by the back door), could forseeably be censored: on the fears of facing Islam; on Islamophobia; on the label ‘feminism’; on the faint spectre of the normalisation of paedophilia.
(I cannot decide whether that paragraph and its ending stand as an expertly subtle plugging of my other blog posts in an arguably acceptable moment, or a glaringly shameless manifestation of self-promoting every-single-opportunism.)
This new option needs to be viable, so that the old options, continuing on in this way as they are, have to either drown or scramble out, dry themselves off, and join back in, humbled.
Yet the point of Minds – as I see it, at least – is not to sit as passive haven to be found only by those already looking. It must be, not an echo chamber, but the no-man’s land that lies between them. And not a quiet one, not hidden. Not one easily looked beyond, through, and ignored. There should be no doors to even consider closing, no forming of a group to oppose the group-think, and the space between the fighting camps should become the only space worth inhabiting, ever more pleasing to the eye of anyone close enough to the chamber’s edge to see it all for what it truly is.
Boosting may break a chamber’s walls, but only those walls that threaten to grow and hold fast within the space of Minds itself.
I remember reading a post on the site that said something close to this: “The biggest lie on Minds is that this isn’t an echo chamber.” Not entirely fair, perhaps merely a piece of easy, cynical contrarianism blurted out in habitual discontent. Or, a post eminently sincere and sighed out in exasperation. Either way it is important, and fair warning. We can’t just leave everywhere else for our own sake, otherwise we may, for all intents and purposes beyond our own sanity, just as well have stayed and simply gone silent. Cross the bridge, but tighten the ropes and fix up the boards as you go, and leave it standing strong behind you. If others cannot be brought along, at least leave behind, as you turn away, a note, a light, and a road map.
The pie charts in this section are trimmed-down screen shots from Google Forms. I tried to make them as clear as possible, hopefully the numbers and letters aren’t too fuzzy. If they are at times, then at least seeing the charts and their share and spread of colouration will get the result of each question across well enough.
From as old as 13 to as young as 80, and into the realms of both implausibility and impossibility, with a few ages given as 4, 1099, and a number that, if really true, indicates that the respondent in question is older than the known universe. God may not be interested in alleviating suffering or clarifying His message, but He evidently took the time to answer my survey, and I sincerely appreciate that. For what it’s worth, He said that yes, He supports the notion of the freedom of the press and an individual’s freedom of speech and expression, short of nothing but direct calls to violence – I guess the serpent must have gotten to Him after all these years.
The median age of respondents was 31 years old, while the mean was 33.6, and, until reaching the 50s, each decadal space was fully fleshed out, with the 20s and 30s showing near even representation for each age within them: close to as many for 21 as for 22, and for 23… and on to 38, and to 39. There were many more above the 60s than I expected, as well as more than I expected in the lower teens. This is a full and broad representation on age, not a case of a couple of anomalies, one at 13, another at 80, and then a cluster of majority around something like 26.
Education & Work
Evidence of an impressive breadth of demographic by certain other measures. More are non-students than are students, but more than half have college or a university bachelor’s degree under their belt, and many of those who selected high school or none completed may have done so due to their age, as suggested by the the age range.
Of course, whether one has completed any of these things or not, and whether one is working or not, is of no critical relevance, but it fleshes out the demographic, and both of these were run as variables against the question on movement to Minds being influenced by a perception of threats to free speech on other social media. In the regression models, there was no indication that being concerned over free speech, and claiming that as a significant factor in usage of Minds, was restricted to those of a certain education, or work situation, nor age, for that matter.
A most beloved question, crowd-pleasing to the last and founded upon an all-satisfying array of nuanced and ranging options. This one went down like the perfectly composed query it truly is.
I may have been acting under the naive assumption that my inclusion of New Centre would be enough to assuage the dissatisfaction with the traditional left/right labels. I knew they were insufficient – they are to me, too – but I didn’t want to have to sift and sort and code through a wide range of political labels, many of which I would then have to look up. What I definitely should have done was to provide one more option: none of the above. At least then it would have gleaned more insight into the utility and popularity of the traditional labels, particularly where Minds users are concerned. Yet, if and when forced, I hope people found it possible to pick a best fit that didn’t really fit so well, or to go with New Centre, undefined, new, and amorphous as it is.
My bad, is what I’m saying.
Despite the limitations of it, I think it still stands as a useful indicator of people’s leanings within the traditional spectrum. Of my 331 respondents, the Far Left is about half that of the Far Right, and Centre Left is only just over half of New Centre. The entirety of the Left is just a little less than New Centre alone, with Centre Right by far the most selected response. To all those selecting Centre Right and New Centre, a good follow-up question would be: a year, perhaps two, ago, would you have selected Left?
I won’t talk much about the analysis of the results in this piece, primarily because it was pretty damn basic, and many of you may be far better at it than I was/still am/ever will be. But one of the regression models run split the political question into a set of dummy variables, which are then set against a dependent variable in order to tease out if there is a negative or positive relationship between the one and the other, based on the coefficient value produced. The dependent variable here was from question 10, on whether perceived threats or challenges to free speech and expression on Facebook and Twitter was a significant factor in ones increased or increasing usage of Minds. The value produced in this kind of regression will be either side of zero, or zero itself: a positive number indicates a positive relationship, a negative a negative, and the proximity to one or minus one indicates the strength of any potential relationship.
Having run this model (New Centre acted as a baseline, meaning that it did not produce a number here), the coefficient values were all closer to zero than to one or minus one – i.e. no relationship. The coefficient value for Centre Left and for Centre Right were close to zero on the positive side, and Far Right was closest to zero overall, again on the positive side.
The Far Left option produced a number on the negative side of zero, and was, conspicuously, the furthest coefficient value from zero, either negatively or positively, of all variables across all regression models, which includes the variables other than politics: age, education level, etc. Seemingly, then, pointing to a noticeable and negative relationship between professing to be on the Far Left (at least when given the options I provided) and a concern over free speech and expression on Facebook and Twitter.
Now, we are all quite primed, I am sure, to leap on that particular finding, but I must point stridently out: this study and the analysis is not of the standard required, nor does it have the validity throughout nor significance of results necessary, to be making any real conclusions. Our subjective and anecdotal experience knows what’s up with the freedom of speech and that realm of thought and stance traditional referred to as the left: if that knowledge is going to be corroborated by quantitative evidence, then it’s going to need something a little more valid than my most basic attempt at data analysis, and a few stumbled-through regression models.
Facebook, Twitter, and Minds
Most respondents claimed to use social media at least five days a week, most of those every day of the seven, and a little over half had been users of Facebook and Twitter for somewhere between four and 10 years. Minds has only been around for two years, and you can see that the vast majority of users surveyed have been active on Minds for less than six months.
The way I had worded the survey kept Facebook and Twitter together: again, this was for simplicity’s sake. My inclusion of “If the answer is a longer duration for Facebook than for Twitter, or vice versa, please pick that which corresponds to the longer of the two” was intended to make the question answerable. I think it may have been best, in retrospect, to just compare Minds to Facebook, as they are much more similar, at least to my mind, than either are to Twitter. However, given Twitter’s arguably central role (so far) relative to Facebook, YouTube, or anything else, in recent free speech and censorship conversations, I wanted it to be included. Unfortunately, it does mean that nothing can be said from this regarding people’s perceptions of whether Facebook and Twitter are comparable on this issue, or whether one or the other is commonly considered to be worse.
The Central Questions
These have mostly been highlighted at the very start of this piece, but I thought the graphical representation worth including.
The support for the freedom of the press and an individual’s freedom of speech and expression, short of nothing but direct calls to violence, stayed at 100% for a good while, as I was returning, periodically, to Google Forms to check responses. Despite the slight fall from that, 95.5% is an impressive final figure. Easy to say and not easy to stand behind when tested, however I will certainly take it as given and trust that it is a committed-to claim by almost all of those surveyed.
Of those who did perceive threats to freedom of speech and expression on Facebook and Twitter (85.8% of my 331 respondents), an equally impressive figure of 90.1% claimed that perception to be a significant factor in their increased or increasing usage of Minds. When asked whether it was the most significant, that number fell, but only as far as just under three quarters. For those to whom it was not the most significant factor, it appears a combination of fatigue with older media, referral and recommendation, and novelty of a new media, was the primary reason. Of those elements of the combination, fatigue and referral had near equal response rates.
I hope the results, and my ponderings on Minds et al. that preceded them, have been of interest, whether you responded, refused, applauded, or booed to the survey, its questions, and its answer options. Forgive the blog post plugs. Or better yet, click on them. Keep using Minds. Keep buying points. Keep supporting those who cannot rely on YouTube any longer. Keep showing Facebook and Twitter the light whenever you have the energy and the hope and the inclination.
Keep thinking whatever you like and saying whatever you think.
Preamble to Survey in Minds Post
“A short survey on users of Minds
If you have the time and inclination, I would greatly appreciate anyone seeing this post on Minds following the link and responding to my survey (12 questions). Hopefully the answer options cover enough bases, that’s always annoying when doing surveys. The only criterion, besides being a user of Minds – but that’s guaranteed if you’re seeing this – is that you are somebody who either still has Facebook & Twitter, or who used to. So you may be using Minds as well as them, or only Minds but you used Facebook & Twitter in the past.
Edit addition (23/02/17, 16.01):
I should have also explained what this was for, to provide greater clarity, and assuage potential suspicions, for anyone considering submitting a survey response – apologies that it is only here now.
It is a survey created by me for the purposes of a term paper in a research methods course. Though I am interested in the actual results of the survey, hence picking this topic, it’s primary purpose is to gather data to be quantitatively analysed using different methods, as well as then critiquing my own methods and survey questions etc. regarding reliability of the data, limitations, bias etc. The term paper is going to be submitted to the lecturer for marking, and, due to some comments below expressing interest in the results of this, I was planning to strip down the term paper (most of it will be discussing methods of collecting and analysing quantitative data, rather than discussing the results) and then publish as a blog post the rest that would be of interest to anyone here, respondent or non-respondent.
I will close it on Sunday 26th, though this post will remain, so that it will have been accepting responses for one week. If you suspect the survey for whatever reason, I suggest that you not answer it, and you are free to attempt to dissuade others from answering it.”