Amusing Ourselves to Death
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Can you remember when television was called the root of all evil? How it was blamed for desensitizing kids and breaking up the family fibre? American author and cultural critic Neil Postman wrote a book about it in 1985, called Amusing Ourselves to Death.

Postman’s argument was that television lessened the educational growth of people, as well as dumbed down arguments, by going for entertainment and images over political discourse and more serious issues.

While there’s no denying that television can be one distraction too many at times, there’s also no doubting its educational uses as well – National Geographic and The History Channel being just two examples.

Jump forward a little more than twenty years, and there’s a new target – the Internet.

It’s being blamed for everything from turning kids into zombies to the disappearance of social skills in the “real world”. But is it really that bad?

Hey Teacher, Leave These Kids Alone.

Far from turning kids into online-addicted mindless zombies, a new study shows that the Internet-savvy youth of today are far more creative than we were. The Digital Youth Research report, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, uses social network giant MySpace as an example. Just creating a MySpace page and customizing it shows a level of creativity and basic programming skills beyond most offline equivalents.

Of course, this report isn’t on the front pages of traditional media for one simple reason – it offers a positive view of the very medium that sells newspapers when the headlines are screaming negatives. If the report had said the Internet and social networking was hurting our kids’ education, you can be sure it would have been a lead story with quotes from “experts” all too willing to lend their view.

But you know something? We’re just as bad at times.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

One of the foremost sayings about social media is how it’s bringing people together. Opening up doors that had previously been locked, and offering help and encouragement to anyone that needs it. Simply put, the caring medium. But it’s not always like that, is it?

How can it be when bloggers are vociferously attacked for writing a sponsored post? Or when people take being “unfriended” by someone so seriously that they decide to investigate to almost stalker-like proportions? Add in the antagonistic comments that bloggers receive for their points of view, and you have to wonder if we really are that social.

So here’s what we need to do.

Accentuate the Positives.

It’s all too easy to be negative about something. By our very nature, human beings are happiest when we’re complaining. We love it when someone jumps the queue so we can open up on them, or our heroes make a mistake so we can bring them down.

Let’s stop this. Now.

Instead, let’s celebrate the good that social media can offer and concentrate on making that the norm, as opposed to the excuse. Let’s tell everyone about the positive thing that happened to us today because of social media.

Here’s an example. Yesterday, I met with a potential new client that found me through Twitter. His company is in the same city as me, so we met up for coffee and discussed a potential project. And even if I don’t win that project, the product he wants me to promote is so good I’ll be using it myself anyway. Without Twitter, he wouldn’t have been aware of me, and I would have been missing out on a great application.

That’s just one example from one person. I’m sure you have tons of examples of your own.

The question is – are you sharing them?

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Danny Brown
Co-author Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing. #1 marketing blog in world as per HubSpot. Husband. Father. Optimist. Pragmatist. Never says no to a good single malt. You can find me on Twitter - Google+ - LinkedIn.
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