Is Social Media Rotting Our Brains?
I had the distinct pleasure a couple of weeks ago to share a Media Bullseye Radio Roundtable with Jen Zingsheim and Kami Huyse. We covered a lot of topics, including Dan York’s thinking on social media overload.
I was feeling a bit cantankerous that day, but I postulated and still believe that social media overload does not exist any more than getting hit by a car does – you have to put yourself in the position to be overloaded or run into ongoing traffic (with the caveat that many of us do this ofr a living and have to do it anyway).
But social media is a certain sense, rotting the brains of some of the Millenials. Here’s why:
As someone in his mid 40’s with about ten years in the employment industry (a LONG time ago), I have a pretty keen eye for spotting communications talent (or lack of it) that comes out of undergraduate programs. I also teach in addition to about 15 years in public affairs, and am seeing some disturbing trends. There are some terrific exceptions to this rule, but what I am increasingly seeing is:
- An appalling inability of communications students to write something in the form of a story. Something compelling with a beginning, a middle, and a conclusion. Something that makes you think or re-think a position.
- A lack of attention to detail. The last five percent of any project is the hardest, and when you are writing this is usually making sure that the “prose flows” as well as it is written without typographical errors. MS Word spell check is NOT proofreading.
- Traditional sources for news are forgotten (even with an abundance of .rss feeds) and what counts for “news” is Jon Stewart, TMZ and Rihanna and Chris Brown. Please. We are facing the worst economic outlook since the Great Depression and yet many people think that a “crisis” is when one recording artist slaps around another.
- Finally, the ability to think critically. Look at a problem from different angles, different points of view of interested parties, form an opinion and be ready to defend it.
So what does social media have to do with this? I have no data to back this up, so this is likely just me ranting, but I am becoming increasingly pessimistic about the next generation of communicators who:
- Think a cell phone text is a whole message;
- Communicate with 140 characters or less;
- Can present only in bulleted messages with very little underlying substance; and
- Think that Facebook is also a news source.
Enough crankiness. Check out the video below above from Dacher Keltner called “Is Technology Changing Our Brains?”