Category Archives: mindful journalism

Using cognitive reflections in teaching and learning media law

By MARK PEARSON

Cognitive reflection can be a useful technique for introducing and revising media law topics.

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Our research on the use of mindfulness based meditation techniques pointed to the possibility of short focussed reflections upon media law and ethics topics as a device to encourage a “pause and reflect” approach in the workplace and to deepen learning.

Please  see:

Pearson, M., McMahon, C., O’Donovan, A. and O’Shannessy, D. (2019), ‘Building journalists’ resilience through mindfulness strategies’. Journalism. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1464884919833253

Pearson, M., McMahon, C., and O’Donovan, A. (2018) ‘Potential benefits of teaching mindfulness to journalism students’. Asia Pacific Media Educator (December). 28:2: https://doi.org/10.1177/1326365X18800080

This year I have recorded nine such media law cognitive reflections for the use of media law students – all of 7-11 minutes’ duration.

Anecdotal feedback from students to date has been that some love them as another means of accessing the topic at hand, while others found them to be of little value.

I recommend a basic introduction to meditation/reflection prior to the subject-based reflections, such as this “Invitation to Focus” from the Griffith University Counselling and Well Being team.

So, here are the nine cognitive reflections on media law topics. I’d appreciate any feedback.

Reflection 1 – Open Justice

Reflection 2 – Contempt

Reflection 3 – Defamation introduction

Reflection 4 – Defending defamation

Reflection 5 – Secrets and confidentiality

Reflection 6 – Hate speech

Reflection 7 – Intellectual property

Reflection 8 – Privacy

Reflection 9 – Media law in practice / revision

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2020 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

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Ten steps to wisdom and compassion in times of crisis

By MARK PEARSON

The world’s great religions and philosophies offer us solace and strategies during crises and chaos. In recent years I have worked with colleagues to apply some of the foundational principles of Buddhism at a secular level to journalism, ethics, communication and teaching.

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That research might have benefits for others as we face threats to our health and finances.

This 10-step approach can offer a blueprint for leadership in life, work and education for those who might not already possess a guiding religious, moral or ethical compass.

  1. The getting of wisdom: There’s much more to wisdom than just being smart. It is much closer to ‘emotional intelligence’ with a key factor being compassion for the welfare and feelings of other beings. A key to wisdom is routine reflection on each of the elements here.
  2. Perspective: The starting point is to acknowledge that suffering and stress are inevitable in our lives, and that it pays to reflect on their source – attachment to the people and things we love (including our own egos), ignorance of the information we need, and aversion to situations we fear. Things cause us pain each day, and life is punctuated by major moments of suffering interspersed with periods of joy. Knowing and accepting this might help ease suffering when it arises.
  3. Key understandings: The psychological literature supports this perspective on life’s ups and downs, and further demonstrates even small acts of kindness can improve the mental health of both the giver and receiver.
  4. Considering intent: Our big decisions – and even many of the smaller ones – can benefit from us exploring our real motivations. Why am I thinking of doing this? What’s really driving it? Is it self-advancement or self-gratification or am I trying to enhance the welfare of others?
  5. Wise livelihood: Many of us are reconsidering our jobs, careers and routines. How does this recalibration sit with our moral compass and our work ethics? Can our practices be better tailored to ease the suffering of others, or at least not add to it?
  6. Thoughtful communication: Our speech, social media use and even our body language are crucial to our relationships to others and the wider world. A short reflection before any communication shows wisdom and can contribute to the well-being of others, especially when we know so many others are anxious and troubled right now. If some leaders had paused to reflect, they might not have spoken certain words in recent weeks.
  7. Acting carefully: Speech is just one of our actions. What we do also has impacts on others, as we have learned in recent times as hoarding and distancing have suddenly appeared on our social radars. If we think before we act we can ease suffering and contribute to the happiness of others. For example, we might act to turn off the news if it is causing anxiety in our household.
  8. Maintaining effort: As we already know, all of this can take considerable effort on a range of fronts. We are being called upon to pause to reflect before we do many things we would have done without a thought just weeks ago – a handshake, a hug, touching our faces and going to the shops.
  9. Being mindful: If we can build into our daily routine just a few moments of reflection – perhaps a formal period of meditation or note-taking or a thoughtful walk, we can train ourselves to be mindful of our own thoughts and actions and their ripple effect on those close by and far away. The spread of this pandemic has involved the ripple effect of the acts of others globally, and our acts of kindness can have a similar ripple effect.
  10. Finding your ‘flow’: Just like the classical pianist or the Olympic champion, we can get ‘in the zone’ or ‘in the flow’ by combining the above strategies in our work and our lives. Practised repeatedly and effectively, we can all become maestros of wisdom and compassion even in the midst of crises – by doing what we do best to the limit of our abilities, by assessing our core talents and perhaps applying them in new ways, and by becoming kindness ambassadors by easing the burden of others.

For some of my related research, please see:

Pearson, M., McMahon, C., O’Donovan, A. and O’Shannessy, D. (2019), ‘Building journalists’ resilience through mindfulness strategies’. Journalism. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1464884919833253

Pearson, M., McMahon, C., and O’Donovan, A. (2018) ‘Potential benefits of teaching mindfulness to journalism students’. Asia Pacific Media Educator (December). 28:2: https://doi.org/10.1177/1326365X18800080

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2020 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

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See The Conversation for my piece: ‘Coronavirus: 5 ways to manage your news consumption in times of crisis’ #MLGriff

By MARK PEARSON

Thousands of employees internationally are already working from home in COVID-19 self-isolation because of their recent travel, related symptoms or immune system vulnerability.

But to do so while habitually checking the news on devices – and allowing 24/7 news channels to play non-stop in the background – might erode your productivity and increase stress and anxiety.

A foundational element of media literacy in the digital era is striking an appropriate balance between news consumption and other activities. Even before the current crises, Australian research demonstrated news avoidance had risen among news consumers from 57% in 2017 to 62% in 2019, driven by a sense of news fatigue.

Self-help expert Rolf Dobelli implores us to stop reading the news. While he advocates going cold turkey and abandoning all packaged news consumption, Dobelli makes exceptions for long-form journalism and documentaries.

So too does philosopher Alain de Botton in The News – A User’s Manual, while proposing more positive news and journalism’s examination of life’s deeper issues, emotions and aesthetics.

In journalism education there has been a move towards “peace journalism”, “mindful journalism”, “constructive journalism” and “solutions journalism”, where the news should not merely report what is wrong but suggest ways to fix it.

Please read the full article – including my five tips on how you can stay in the loop at home while you get your work done (and help maintain your mental health)  here.

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2020 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

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Five media law essentials for journalists, publishers and students #MLGriff #auspol #medialaw #auslaw

By MARK PEARSON

Much has happened in the field of media and social media law, even since the sixth edition of our Journalist’s Guide to Media Law (Pearson & Polden) was published in 2019.

As media law students start their academic year at Australian institutions, this calls for a quick update of the five most important risks facing journalists in the digital era.

  1. Defamation: Reforms to Australian defamation laws appear imminent, but the basic principles will remain the same. Pause before publishing anything criticising or ridiculing anyone and consider your language, evidence base, intended meaning, motivation and working knowledge of the defences available to you. If in doubt, seek legal advice. If you can’t afford that advice, then modify the material or leave it out – unless you have considerable defamation insurance. Society needs robust journalism, but remember it can also need deep pockets to defend it. The 2019 case of Voller v. Nationwide News underscores the decision in Allergy Pathway almost a decade ago: publishers may be responsible for the comments of others on their social media sites, particularly when posting articles on inflammatory topics or people. Ashurst law firm has produced a useful flow-chart to explain the steps a publisher should take to minimise the risks of liability for comments by third parties on their social media sites.
  2. High profile trials: Regardless of the fate of the 30 journalists and news organisations still facing contempt action over their reporting of last year’s trial of Cardinal George Pell, the episode reinforces the dangers facing those reporting and commenting upon major court matters. As we show in our crime reporting time zones flowchart in our text, a criminal case involves an interplay of risks including defamation, contempt and other restrictions. Courts and prosecutors take suppression orders seriously, so it is wise to pause to reflect and to take legal advice when navigating this territory.
  3. National security risks: Many of the 70-plus anti-terror laws passed in Australia since 2001 impact on journalists, with jail terms a real risk for those reporting on special intelligence operations, ASIO, suppressed trials, and any matter using insider government sources, along with a host of other risks as identified by Australia’s Right To Know’s submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security in 2019. The laws present a minefield for journalists covering national security, defence, immigration and related topics. It is a specialist field requiring a close familiarity with the numerous laws.
  4. Breach of confidence: Journalists are reluctant to reveal their own confidential sources, but they are keen to tell the secrets of others – particularly if matters of public interest are being covered up. Actions for breach of confidence allow individuals and corporations to seek injunctions to prevent their dirty linen being aired. Further, the Australian Law Reform Commission has recommended a new action of serious invasion of privacy and the future development of the action for breach of confidence with compensation for emotional distress. The Parliament has not yet embraced the proposal but judge-made law on privacy and confidentiality remains a possibility.
  5. Compromising sources: The journalist-source relationship is one where the journalist’s ethical obligation to preserve confidentiality is threatened by a number of laws. Most Australian jurisdictions now have shield laws giving judges a discretion to excuse a journalist from revealing a source after weighing up various public interest factors. This is far from a watertight protection and journalists face potential jail terms for ‘disobedience contempt’ for refusing a court order to reveal a source or hand over materials. Further, as two ABC journalists and News Corporation’s Annika Smethurst discovered last year, journalists can also face criminal charges for just handling or publishing confidential or classified materials given to them by whistleblowers, even if the matter relates to an important matter of public interest. The validity of the warrants to raid them over ‘dishonestly receiving stolen property’ (Commonwealth documents) was upheld by a Federal Court earlier this year, despite a range of arguments including shield laws and the constitutional implied freedom to communicate on political matters. Such action, combined with the far-reaching powers of authorities to access communications metadata and the proliferation of public CCTV footage presents huge challenges to journalists trying to keep their whistleblower sources secret. It is one thing to promise confidentiality to a source, but quite another to be able to honour that promise given modern surveillance technologies and the legal reach of agencies.

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2020 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

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A mindful approach to introducing defamation to students #MLGriff

By MARK PEARSON

Colleagues from Griffith University gathered for a celebration of teaching and learning this week and I had the honour of presenting an open class session.

The forum was called ‘Teaching Using Engaging and Empowering Pedagogies’ and my class was titled ‘Practising mindfulness in the tertiary classroom’.

It was an attempt at putting into practice some of the research we have been undertaking in this space in recent years.

For the research underpinning it, please see:

Pearson, M., McMahon, C., O’Donovan, A. and O’Shannessy, D. (2019), ‘Building journalists’ resilience through mindfulness strategies’. Journalism. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1464884919833253

Pearson, M., McMahon, C., and O’Donovan, A. (2018) ‘Potential benefits of teaching mindfulness to journalism students’. Asia Pacific Media Educator (December). 28:2: https://doi.org/10.1177/1326365X18800080

You should get the gist of the mindfulness-based activities involved from the slide show captured below.

Enjoy.

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

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RIP Mike Grenby 1941-2019 – the parable of the kind professor

By MARK PEARSON

Australian journalism education lost one of its most dynamic and internationally regarded teachers this month – Bond University’s Emeritus Professor Mike Grenby.

The late Emeritus Professor Mike Grenby (left) and the author in March 2019

After employing him as a visiting journalist in 1998, Mike soon became a valued colleague and a treasured personal friend – a bond that continued to strengthen over the ensuing 21 years. He dined with us often as a regular guest at our family table and we had many adventures together in Australia and internationally. We already miss him greatly.

Bond University has published a worthy tribute to Mike, and his former employer, the Vancouver Sun, has run this obituary that focussed more on his earlier career as a reporter and personal finance columnist. Hundreds of former students, colleagues and acquaintances have commented on social media on the positive influences he had upon their lives.

I penned this piece of prose which his son Matthew read to Mike at a gathering of friends and family just a few days before he died on July 3.

Parable of the kind professor

It is said that many years ago a storytelling professor – a master of the written and oral arts – arrived with his wife from a foreign land where he was acclaimed nationally for his communication prowess. They soon forged many friendships and wide respect for their polite and caring inquiries into the lives and problems of those they met in their new community. Some colleagues even thought he was a Buddhist because of his outlook and demeanour, the Tibetan prayer flags he hung from his office door, and the chime of bells in the corridor each morning. But they soon learned the flags were souvenirs and the bells were simply the signal that the morning tea trolley had arrived.

In just a short time he lost his life partner and missed her greatly. After a period of deep mourning he began his search for a new love.  He travelled the world for almost half of every year, but he was never able to find a single love as deep and lasting as the first. Yet he offered his wisdom and his kindness in morsels to all those he encountered on his life’s journey.

Eventually, when this kind professor lay in a hospital bed – facing the inevitable end of all mortal beings – he realised that he had actually found the new love he had been seeking over all those miles and years. It lay not in a single individual (who could never be replaced) but it flowed from the thousands of kind and generous words and actions he had bestowed upon all he had met on his journey … students, colleagues, high officials, servants, fellow travellers and complete strangers. Their encounters with this kind professor – some fleeting, and many of a long duration – were life-changing. The sum of all these instances of the love and kindness he had given – and had in turn received – amounted to a greater love than any individual human could provide, and he realised that this had been the key to his life-long vitality, positive outlook and good fortune.

Some cultures believe the paths to enlightenment lie in acts of loving kindness and in the offering of wise counsel to others. This generous storytelling professor reached enlightenment in his final weeks and days as he was showered in the golden rays of all the love and kindness he had offered others throughout his almost four score years. The world was improved forever by the ripples of love he had bestowed upon it.

Thus, fellow travellers, pay heed to the lessons of this kind storytelling professor. Lend an ear to those in sorrow or distress, offer words of comfort and compassion, practice selfless generosity, and be a friend to all as you pass them in the corridor, on the beach or at the market. Our small gestures and courtesies ease suffering and cast light and warmth into the lives of those around us, and the life of this kind professor bears testimony to that universal truth.      

Rest in peace my good friend.

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

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Mindfulness strategies explained at Asian Media conference

By MARK PEARSON

Our work on mindfulness-based meditation in the journalism education pedagogy was presented to the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) conference in Bangkok last month to an enthusiastic audience.

Here is the abstract of our presentation for interested blog readers.

“Mindful journalism in action: applications for resilience, learning and ethics”, presented at AMIC Bangkok, June 17, 2019

Mark Pearson, Griffith University

Cait McMahon, Dart Centre Asia Pacific

Analise O’Donovan, Griffith University

The term ‘mindful journalism’ – coined in 2013 (Pearson, 2013) and theorised in 2014 and 2015 (Pearson, 2014; Gunaratne et. al, 2015) – shares some features with other modern ‘journalisms’ (‘solutions’ (Solutions Journalism Network, 2016), ‘peace’ (Lynch, 2010) and ‘inclusive’ (Rupar & Pesic, 2012)). However, it is distinguished by the fact that it includes elements of secular Buddhist approaches to mindfulness-based meditation and ethics (Pearson, 2014; Gunaratne et. al, 2015).

This paper uses a recently released conceptual map (Pearson et. al., 2019) to explain the potentialities of mindful journalism to strengthen journalism students’ resilience, deepen their learning, and shore up their moral compasses as they enter occupations where their work can expose them to trauma (Drevo, 2016) and industry disruption can subject them to stress, burnout and other mental health challenges (O’Donnell, 2017). It details some key ways mindful journalism (and mindfulness-based meditation) have been introduced to the curriculum and pedagogy in a media law course, with a strong emphasis upon emotional and situational analysis of media law dilemmas, as an alternative to a black-letter style of teaching media law cases, legislation and topics (Pearson et. al, 2018). The approach offers a useful extension to problem-based learning and provides the tools by which educators can encourage their students to engage in ‘reflective practice’ or ‘reflection in action’ by which they can purposively reflect upon their learning when confronted with new ethical or technological dilemmas  (Schön, 1987).

Students and journalists are equipped with a toolkit of techniques for inward reflection which they can use to assess their thought processes, emotional state, situation, ethics and learning. The approach is in accord with the research on metacognition in psychology and education (Flavell, 1976; Tarricone, 2011) which has found that reflection upon one’s thinking, knowledge and experiences can deepen learning and – we argue – in a mindful journalism context can help engage in professional conduct with both wisdom and compassion. It also builds on the research in a range of occupations showing the potential for mindfulness-based meditation in improving resilience which can help minimise the risks of post-traumatic stress disorder, stress and burnout (Chaukos et al., 2017; Hölzel et al., 2011; Keng et al., 2011; Trammel (2015)).

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

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Building mindfulness into the online media law curriculum

By MARK PEARSON

Our Arts Education and Law group at Griffith University held a learning and teaching symposium on the Gold Coast this week.

I was invited to speak on my incorporation of mindfulness into the curriculum and pedagogy, and to explain how I have been using a single course site to service on-campus and online students in a single cohort.

Here is a PDF file of my presentation for educators and students who might be interested in the approach.

 

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

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Vale Shelton Gunaratne

By MARK PEARSON

Esteemed journalism education colleague Emeritus Professor Dhavalasri Shelton Abeywickreme Gunaratne died in Minnesota on March 8.

Emeritus Professor Shelton Gunaratne

Many journalism educators knew Shelton through his active membership of the (then) Journalism Education Association during and after his term at Central Queensland University from 1976-1985, where he had been the founding lecturer in journalism at what was then known as the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education (CIAE). He was later appointed professor of mass communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Shelton was an active member of numerous international journalism and communication organisations, including the AEJMC, ICA, IAMCR and AMIC – which in 2016 awarded him the AMIC Asia Communication Award for 2016 in recognition of his “ground-breaking scholarship and intellectual contribution to Asian media and communication research.”

I am particularly indebted to Shelton for his mentorship on the relationship between journalism and Buddhist ethics and phenomenology, which he introduced to the literature with The Dao of the Press : A Humanocentric Theory (Hampton Press, 2005) – a deeply theoretical and cerebral exploration of the inter-connectedness of all things, modelling the media’s role in that process.

He kindly invited me to co-edit (with his former PhD student Sugath Senarath) our book Mindful Journalism and News Ethics in the Digital Era: A Buddhist Approach (Routledge, 2015). That project continues, and I acknowledge his input into my work as my mentor and friend.

The author (right) with his mentor, Emeritus Professor Shelton Gunaratne, at the AEJMC convention in Minneapolis in 2016

I spoke on the phone with his widow Yoke-Sim who had loyally nursed him through the final stages of Parkinson’s Disease. She reported that Shelton was sharp to the very end.

Shelton believed strongly in the ripple effect of one’s actions upon others, and I know his intellectual outputs will have a lasting impact upon journalism and mass communication scholarship, educators and students.

For the information of US colleagues, a memorial service has been organized for March 15 (Friday) at Minnesota State University Moorhead, Comstock Memorial Union 205 between 6-8 p.m. An almsgiving (dania) will be held at the Gunaratne residence (3215 Village Green Drive, Moorhead, MN 56560) on March 16.

RIP Shelton, and thanks for your legacy.

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

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Building journalists’ resilience through mindfulness strategies: article published in ‘Journalism’

By MARK PEARSON

Our article on the potential applications for mindfulness-based meditation in journalism has now been published in the top-ranked international academic journal Journalism.

The publication is the fruit of more than two years of project collaboration with my colleagues from Griffith University (Professor Analise O’Donovan) and the Dart Centre Asia Pacific (Dr Cait McMahon OAM). Co-author Dustin O’Shannessy provided valuable research assistance and co-authorship.

Here is the abstract for the article, with the full text available via the Sage site (best accessed via your library if you are a student or academic):

Pearson, M., McMahon, C., O’Donovan, A., & O’Shannessy, D. (2019). Building journalists’ resilience through mindfulness strategies. Journalismhttps://doi.org/10.1177/1464884919833253

Mindfulness-based meditation has earned its place in a variety of settings after studies reporting the benefits of mindfulness-based interventions for the treatment of a range of psychological and health disorders and for building resilience and well-being in a variety of occupational groups. In the field of journalism, the realities of journalists’ exposure to trauma while reporting have been well documented. This article is the first to link those areas of research – suggesting that mindfulness-based meditation offers promise to help journalists build resilience to post-traumatic stress. It also presents a conceptual map to theorise the broader potential benefits of journalists using mindfulness-based meditation, including help with industry-related stresses such as job insecurity, coping with emotions and battling potential ‘moral injury’ in reporting. It explains that pedagogical approaches for equipping journalists with mechanisms for working with their emotions, thoughts and professional values have been lacking. Some media organisations and universities have experimented with meditation practice for a range of reported reasons, but evidence-based research into the efficacy of such programmes for journalists is overdue. This article bridges the knowledge gap that brings together mindfulness-based meditation practice, journalists’ resilience and well-being, and the potential for enhanced work practice.

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

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