Posts Tagged ‘ twitter ’

Stop Using Social Media as the Scapegoat for Society’s Demise

During the early morning hours of May 7, Nicki Minaj took to Twitter to help fans in need. Over the course of this dialogue, Minaj agreed to pay out an estimated $30,000 of her own money to help the fans in question afford their college tuition and school supplies. While many critics might be skeptical about the motive behind her random acts of philanthropy, it’s hard to ignore that Minaj’s generous soul would never have connected with these struggling individuals had it not been for social media.

Of course, it’s easy for people to focus on social media’s failings. It promotes narcissism. It’s an unyielding distraction. It hinders everyone’s attention span. However, along with the bad, we’ve been exposed to a world of good that outweighs any negative sentiment. We now have an outlet for connecting with people outside our immediate circle, allowing us to learn and grow in ways we never could have before its creation.

Thanks to Twitter (and the Web, in general), we have the opportunity to remain abreast of international news in real time. Yes, there’s an enormous amount of content to sift through at any given moment, but by adopting healthy social media habits, it’s simple to filter through what’s important and what’s frivolous fluff. You see, those who claim that social networks drain people’s time and ruin kids’ attention spans are those who’ve failed to master healthy social habits themselves. All good things must be consumed in moderation—even media. We may live in the era of the Netflix binge, but that doesn’t mean such behaviors are smart. When used properly, social media arms us with the tools necessary to dismantle widespread ignorance and hold public figures accountable. Social media acts as the weapon we need to effectively fight for what’s right.

Following the U.S. presidential election, for instance, voters quickly took to social media—in some cases to celebrate, in some cases to express their disbelief and anguish while establishing the foundation for what’s now known as The Resistance. Women came together via social to plan and execute the Women’s March on Washington, as well as its sister marches across the world. And organizations, such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, have turned to social media to mobilize supporters and bolster donations. Without such outlets, these groups never would’ve come together so quickly and effectively. Without social media, it would’ve been much more difficult for these like-minded activists to find one another and turn their mutual disgust into productive outreach.

Even in less extreme cases, social media has the potential to make people feel less alone. Prior to social networks, outcasts likely felt that there was no one else in the world who understood their struggle. But, by being able to express their emotions online, many have found support they might’ve otherwise gone without. Those with minor grievances can also take solace in social media, for the memes and comics that rule the space demonstrate we’re not as alone as we once thought. (No, you’re NOT the only one who feels that way!) Critics will argue that social media has the opposite effect, as Facebook and Instagram posts often make said outcasts feel even more out of the loop than before, but when you stop to evaluate the new connections at their fingertips, it’s easy to see that social empowers them to change their situation for the better.

Face it—bullies will never cease to exist. There’ll always be people who tear others down in order to make themselves feel superior, no matter their platform of choice. But it’s our responsibility to teach today’s children how to navigate these new networks. Our parents taught us how to handle the challenges that came along with growing up, and we’ll have to do the same. Kids still have to face the same battles, even if they’re fighting on uncharted battlefields. Remember! We’re the ones who created this supposed mess, so we’re the ones who will have to right the course. We will have to teach them how to limit their screen time. We will have to teach them how to be mindful of others online. We will have to teach them not to idolize the manipulated images and personas they see across platforms.

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No Speed Limit on the Information Superhighway

“Information and knowledge: two currencies that have never gone out of style.” –Mr. Wednesday, ‘American Gods’ p. 24

As a young child, reports were a nuisance. Writing something factual either required a trek to the library or an expedition into the dusty world of mygrandfather’s bookcase. There, he had an enormous collection of alphabetized encyclopedias that dated back to sometime in the1970s. Concise and convenient, these reference books supplied the content for the majority of my writing assignments up until high school, when even Encarta – a program that came free with my first Windows 95 Sony VAIO – would no longer suffice.

Now, if a child were to take one of my grandfather’s beautiful encyclopedias and cite it as a source in any level academic paper, the copyright date would immediately sound an alarm and result in said information being replaced with a more up-to-date source (because we all know how much history can change in 40 years, sure).

In a time when the “Works Cited” page was referred to as a bibliography, information wasn’t as readily available. You had to dig. It was great practice for a child like myself who always aspired to be Sherlock Holmes, Harriet the Spy, or even a less gifted Emily Eyefinger. With a constant desire for information and knowledge, much like Mr. Wednesday expresses, I would peruse my grandfather’s collection for fun, though an odd source for reading enjoyment, I’m sure. Instead, I now surf the Internet. What once took a few minutes to find as a sifted through indexes and pages now takes mere seconds to discover.

Today, our need and consumption of said information and knowledge increases at lightning speeds. Our brains have turned into the Blob – the more we consume, the greater our need to continuously consume becomes. Yet, while our brains keep growing and growing, reading and absorbing facts from anywhere possible, our heads become emptier and more hollow. Our advances in technology have made accessing information as easy as the click of a button. We have social networking sites that not only allow us to stay current with our friends’ lives, but with celebrities and the media, too. (This newfangled thing called a blog, the very format you’re reading, is just another piece of this massively expanding puzzle.) We are constantly inundated with so much information that we become overly saturated sponges laying in a puddle of information we’d love to soak up, if only we could.

The speed at which this information comes flying at us is enough to make one’s head spin. One cannot take their eyes off their computer for a moment without missing another 20 tweets posted or Suzie’s weekend plans courtesy of her Facebook status. We have gone from detectives curiously seeking knowledge, to drones that know only how to point and click their browser’s refresh button.

President Barack Obama made a similar remark during his commencement speech at Hampton University this past weekend:

“And meanwhile, you’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.”

Listen to his entire speech below:

Mr. Gaiman’s writing is beyond correct – information and knowledge will always remain a desire. But, written in 2001, this readily accessible information was merely playing a supporting character that would ultimately lead to a starring role in our daily lives. Now, we gorge ourselves to the point of being obese with information. Like pie-eating contestants, we shovel in what’s put in front of our faces, but much becomes mutilated, soiling everything and creating a mess. To make life less hectic and distracting, perhaps we should simply refer back to our good table manners. Pick up your knife and fork and cut away only those chunks of information you deem desirable. The rest is simply a garnish – nice to look at but never meant to be ingested.

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