Australian communities going digital

Australians are using social media to engage with their communities and track local events.
Australians are using social media to engage with their communities and track local events.

They use their thousands of members to help solve crime and organise local dinners.

Local Sydney group Potts Pointers is typical of a booming Australian trend where social media is being used for everything from establishing neighbourhood watches and organising sports teams through to gatherings to protect local heritage.

Research commissioned by Facebook Australia has looked into how residents connect with their local communities, showing that 44 per cent of Australians interviewed use the social media app to engage with their communities.

The last report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics on internet access showed that 87 per cent of people were internet users in 2017.

The three most popular online activities were entertainment, social networking and banking.

With 16 million active users monthly in Australia, Facebook has become one of the main social media tools to form friendships or be informed about nearby events.

The social media app claims that 125,000 Facebook events were created around the holiday season in Australia last year, while more than 310,000 people were shopping, preparing and discussing the holidays in Facebook groups.

"You don't have to be friends with someone on Facebook to be on a group with them, so it enables you to connect around shared interests outside of your friendship circle," Facebook policy director for Australia and New Zealand Mia Garlick said.

"Groups are one of the trends we've seen in terms of how people have become much more sophisticated in the way they share in the platform, so that's part of the reason we are trying to invest more on it, giving admins more control so the community comes together."

Almost six in 10 users of Facebook said they are members of a group, whether it is expatriates organising a Christmas meeting or inner-city suburb residents organising their local decorations for the holidays..

Carrington Brigham, founder of Potts Pointers, said their goal was bringing the community together.

"In nearly five years we've solved crime through crowd sourcing or created events such as long table dinners that gives locals the opportunity to make new friends," he said.

Groups such as Potts Pointers have thousands of members, making group administration nearly a full-time job.

Facebook launched a group fund that provided grants of up to $5,000 to administrators for support.

Meanwhile, the University of Melbourne's Dr Peggy Kern said social media is also helping identify personality traits and match people with their ideal occupations.

She said a study of more than 128,000 Twitter users representing around 3500 occupations established different occupations tended to have very different personality profiles.

"We leave behind digital fingerprints online as we use different platforms. This creates the possibility to matching one's personality and occupation with an excellent accuracy rate," Dr Kern said.

Australian Associated Press