Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We're Doers, Not Watchers: Defending the Social Media Generation

The other day I came across an article by Dean Obeidalla on CNN.com that posed the question of whether or not social media is creating the laziest generation. An interesting question - one that I strongly answer with a heck no! I can see why the question was posed, and there is validity to both sides of the argument. There's even a Toyota commercial about a girl who judges how "social" she is by how many Facebook friends she has. Still, I argue that social media is certainly not creating the laziest generation.

First of all, while I respect Dean's viewpoint and enjoyed his article, I have to offer a bit of criticism for providing reality TV as a valid argument that social media is making us lazy. The two simply aren't related. Sure, people share opinions and engage with each other around these shows on social media platforms - but that's just because people are talking about nearly everything on social media, TV included. To partake in social media does not mean that you watch reality TV. I love social media, in fact, my friends and family call me mildly obsessed. But I don't watch reality TV, ever. There are plenty of people who do both, but to engage in one does not mean that you engage in both.

Some will argue that we've become lazy in our writing. Everything needs to be shorter - 140 characters on Twitter even. Well I say we've just mastered the elevator pitch. What used to be communicated in lengthy presentations and long conversations, we accomplish in 140 characters. Yes, we watch. We watch to see what comes next and how we can take that idea to the next level. Or implement it into our start-up, or our campaigns.

Dean was right, one Tweet will not change the world. But one Tweet can spark another, and then a trending topic and then start a revolution. Social media has incredible influence, and we're all in the midst of a game-changer for politics and business.

People are using social media to make their lives better. We're using it to do things, not just watch things. We're obtaining new information and using it to make a mark on the world, look for job opportunities or connect with like-minded people who share interests. That way, we can connect on and off line. We're exercising our minds endlessly online, sinking in all the information we can from the many channels we're tuned into. We Tweet, we update, we connect. We find roommates on Craig's List or Roommates.com. We meet boyfriends and girlfriends through online dating. We support our favorite political candidate with Tweets and statuses of support, which is actively shared with all of our friends and family. We blog about places we've been, or activities we've participated in. We are doers, not watchers.

So, social media isn't creating the laziest generation, it may even be doing the opposite. We engage with more people and wider circles than ever before and are able to meet people that we never would have without the emergence of new media. That's my PR thought for the day.

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