Social Media and Social Responsibility


While tracking those I follow on Twitter recently, I noticed a number of posts by a colleague lamenting the quality of material made available on the wires, ostensibly disguised as news. To paraphrase, my friend groaned (as much as one can groan on Twitter these days) her disbelief that, in a time where more troops are to be sent to Afghanistan, the buzz in this nation is more focused toward A) a former sitcom star coming out of the closet; B) a golf champion cheating on his wife; and C) speculation about the death of an heiress. The conspiracy theorist might contend that the buzz generated is intentional, to “wag the dog,” as it were.

The realist, however, will use these examples to affirm one more thing that isn’t really news: people like to gossip. People have gossiped for centuries. Hey, did you hear what happened to Eve in the garden? That we have access to something as unifying as social media serves to amplify our vested interest in such non-news.

That said, should one consider to be more responsible while using social networks like Twitter and Facebook? When we post status updates and share news, we essentially share with the world a taste of who we are in real life. Why do we post the words we choose to share? Some of us use Twitter to promote our projects and businesses, and inform clients and customers of new products and services. Some people use Twitter to vent or offer play-by-play commentary of favorite shows or sporting events. I couldn’t tell you how many people I follow watched the MTV Music Awards…actually, yes I can. Nearly everybody had a remark about at least one of Lady GaGa’s dresses.

Still, there are others who see Twitter, I think, as a means of obtaining some level of celebrity. The likes of a helium-voiced pre-teen named Fred and a comedian with a shoe fetish have proven it is possible to cross into the mainstream, and the Internet provides more avenues toward fame than reality TV. Already we’ve learned that plans are in the works to adapt a Twitter account into a sitcom (???), and if you ask me, I highly suspect that people are purposely dressing bizarrely so somebody will snap them for the People of Wal-Mart site.

Is there a fear that we might come off as vacuous or indifferent people, or does social media challenge us to be more interesting and entertaining – always “on”? Perhaps deep down we are all entertainers at heart – deciding if we can’t be in the spotlight, we should at least tweet about it.

That said, perhaps we should also take some time out of the day to post on news and items of social responsibility. Remind friends to do a self-exam for breast cancer once a month, or retweet Amber alerts in your area. With the growth in smart phone use, one is likely to see news on a feed and do something about it. After work, when we’re ready to unwind, we can catch up on the gossip.

Believe me, there’s plenty to be read.

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