"What's a normal average screen time?" Glenn McConnell asked when compiling answers for this column.
Research put out this year by Data Reportal says users globally spend an average of 3 hrs 46 mins per day on their phones (that equates to just over 26 hours a week). Depending on your approach, that number may seem worryingly high or unachievable low. The Ensemble team is extremely online, but we'd argue that working for a digital brand means that it's our job to be.
It's Glenn's job, too. His role as a Stuff political reporter sees him out following the campaign trail a lot, so his phone's been getting a thrashing ahead of the election as he uses it to scout, file and analyse stories on the fly.
We were curious about his internet habits outside of work too, and keen to get his expert opinion on which of our political parties are using social media the best - so we asked him to share everything that makes up his digital diet with us. Dig in!
What was your screen time last week?
Insanely high, 45 hours.
How much time do you spend online during an election vs 'normal time'?
The only way to make myself feel better about 45 hours online is that I have been spending a lot of work time on my phone. During the campaign, the hours and locations of work are weird.
I’ve spent a lot of time on the road and waiting for politicians on street corners, in GP clinics, at schools, factories, in offices, and in hotel lobbies. So I’ve got pretty good at typing out stories on my phone, and spend a lot of time reading through policies and news while travelling between events.
I do most of my work, from emails to filing photos and words for our Stuff live coverage, on my phone.
Do you use Twitter (X)?
I’m gradually using Twitter less and less, since it became X and evolved into a new level of horrendous. But I haven’t been able to wean myself off it yet.
Elon Musk’s behaviour at the helm of Twitter has been gross. It’s hard to find someone with 100% bad takes, but he manages it. It’s actually terrifying that this guy who controls smart cars, satellites and a major social media company can’t comprehend information unless it’s communicated via meme.
Twitter (X) is, or was, very engaged with NZ politics. How much do you engage with discourse related to your work on there?
Too much. But the reason I stay on Twitter is that normal people, who know there are a lot of politicians and political reporters on that site, sometimes use it to get in touch.
It used to be a good place for people to meet, before it was taken over by fools who think their paid-for blue tick makes them cool.
Do you have any musings on how the political parties have used social media this election vs. in the past?
Social media used to be seen as something where trendy young people shined, but this campaign I think the real winner has been NZ First. The Greens come in a close second.
Two TikTok accounts, for Shane Jones’ Northland campaign and an account called BeehiveBadBoy (the Winston Peters fan page), have brought the two veteran politicians into the age of algorithmic campaigning. On Facebook, Peters has a very loyal following and will sometimes gloat about having more followers than both Chris Hipkins and Christopher Luxon.
The Greens are the most professional, thanks to their slick Instagram aesthetic. Labour, National and Te Pāti Māori are all pretty hit and miss.
You're on the phone a lot in the office. What medium do you generally interact with politicians through?
They can be quite particular. Some politicians are good at replying to texts, some like to DM, some will only talk to you if you cold call them. Many just leave my messages on read.
Your most used emojis?
What’s your earliest internet memory?
I first got a computer, it was a bulky desktop that took up a good chunk of the living room, in primary school. It was early-internet days, where games were 2D and multiplayer games were barely a thing. Everyone had a NeoPet, and would show them off on one of the school’s five computers. Then we moved onto Club Penguin, MiniClip games, and eventually MSN Messenger.
What was the last TikTok video you liked or shared?
I’ve been thinking of doing a story about the out-there TikTok videos of the election campaign, so I’ve been saving a lot of their posts. Before I sunk into this campaign, my FYP was mostly cat videos, a guy with a pet cow, and New Zealand comedians.
Anyway, from a Labour supporter: the caption “when you ask Luxon to release the modelling of his tax cuts”, above a video of Dr Evil replying: “How ‘bout no.”
From the Greens: James Shaw saying he thinks about the Roman empire everyday.
From National: Christopher Luxon trying to flip a water bottle.
From NZ First: Shane Jones, rapping… (Side note for those who watched the golden age of NZ television, he’s making these videos with Jermaine Leef, who used to be on C4, and was in the NZ’s Got Talent group J Geeks.)
Are you on any other platforms, new or old?
I really like the idea of BeReal, as an app that just takes a photo at a certain point each day. And that photo you post can be shit, it doesn’t really matter. Unlike Instagram, where people might wonder why you’re posting an ugly photo.
I don’t use Tumblr, as I am no longer an angsty teenager. And I’m not quite at the Pinterest stage yet, even though I do enjoy a bit of Grand Designs. But I do like the unfiltered apps like BeReal, and like what Twitter was for a brief time.
What was the last screenshot you took? please share.
The other day I tuned into a livestream from Parliament. It was meant to be Chris Bishop, from National, talking on the “black and white tiles”. But when I tuned in, it was just this tour group looking absolutely bemused in front of a wall of cameras and microphones.
Your favourite or most-played playlist?
My moody workday playlists consists of The National, Bon Iver, Lorde, Aldous Harding, Reb Fountain, and Jamie XX. But I start the morning with pop bangers from Taylor Swift.
Podcasts! There are so many. Tell me your thoughts, and favourites… where and how you listen to them?
Politics: Tova, from Stuff. Detailed, can be funny, always very interesting interviews and analysis.
World News: The Headlines from the New York Times. It’s a brief look at the world. Stay connected!
Music: The Mixtape, from RNZ. It’s just so zen and so good to hear other people’s music, and hear them talk about why they love it.
Do you game? What do you play, and how often?
I started gaming again when I caught Covid. I like to build little worlds, all going back to my absolute love of Zoo Tycoon 2. A CD game I had as a kid, which I managed to find a version of that doesn’t need the CD. That is the best game ever made.
I’ve played pretty much all of the building games, they’re kind of peaceful puzzles with moving parts; building theme parks, or building cities, or anything I can find. I tried branching out into other games, like Fortnite, but they’re too hectic.
Where and how do you typically get your news?
I try to read, watch and listen to as much as I can, Monday to Friday. On Saturday, I take a break (unless I’m working). And then I ease back into it on Sunday, with the Sunday Star-Times and I’ll have a look at what was in Saturday’s Weekend Herald and The Post.
During the week, I keep an eye on Al Jazeera, Semafor, and New York Times for international happenings. And of course, I read Stuff everyday.
How many emails do you typically receive in a day?
I currently have 5000 unread emails in my primary inbox.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Please vote on/before Saturday, October 14.