Getting a Little Perspective on Social Networking

Article excerpt

My late mother (rest her soul) blamed it all on Richard Milhous Nixon. The divisiveness in society, that is.

"All those campaign buttons," she would grumble. "Jews for Nixon." "Irish for Nixon." "Poles for Nixon." "I thought we were all Americans."

And then there's "class warfare," a term we've certainly all heard. It was bandied about during the 2008 presidential election, and we continue to hear about it amid the current recession/ depression/financial crisis: "Tax cuts for the rich"; "Handouts for the poor."

Never mind that in America, the vast majority of people identify themselves as "middle class." Now we're hearing more and more about generational warfare.

That is making me increasingly uncomfortable. The latest twist seems related to the ugly employment situation. "Young and Old Are Facing Off for Jobs," trumpeted The New York Times in a March business story (www.nytimes.com/2009/03/21/ business/21age.html). The gist of this article is that older people can't or won't retire because of the shaky economic situation, which means a reduction in job opportunities for younger people. Of course, the flip side is that older people who feel they can't get hired are among the first to be laid off because of age discrimination.

And it all revolves around stereotyping, assuming that older people cannot or will not keep up with "the new technologies" and that young people have little to offer beyond their familiarity with the inter- net, the iPhone, and the iPod. It's the "digital natives" versus "digital immigrants."

The blame for these particular generational clichés apparently lies at the feet of an educational consultant named Marc Prensky. Young people, he wrote, "are no longer little versions of us,' as they may have been in the past." They are, he said, "native speakers of technology, fluent in the digital language of computers, video games, and the Internet. I refer to those of us who were not born into the digital world as digital immigrants. We have adopted many aspects of the technology, but just like those who learn another language later in life, we retain an 'accent' because we still have one foot in the past" (www.ascd.org/authors/ed_ lead/el200512_prensky.html). And about that "one foot in the past," I'm not so sure that is a bad thing.

The Importance of Networking

Jeremiah Owyang is a senior analyst at Forrester Research, a firm billed as "a technology and market research company that provides pragmatic advice to global leaders in business and technology."

What does Owyang analyze? "Social media," according to his profile and biography (www.web-strategist.com/blog/about).

Social media - you know, that includes Fa cebo ok, My Space, Twitter, and a raft of other sites and applications. Some of these sites find a fan base, and some quickly fade into oblivion. Initially, social media were the provenance of the young in the aggregate. Nowadays, not so much.

Owyang (bless his digitally focused heart) maintains an incredibly useful webpage titled A Collection of Social Network Stats for 2009 (www.web-strategist.com/ blog/2009/Ol/ll/a-collection-of-soicalnetwork-stats-for-2009). …