For almost fifteen years, I have worked in print and online. I love that I haven’t placed all my eggs in one basket, not just because freelance writing and Hollywood and life is unpredictable, but because, more importantly, it means that I don’t think one sort of egg is superior to another.
Having voiced my frustration more than once at the elitist ideas of “real writers” vs. “just bloggers,” I couldn’t stop thinking about Cathryn Sloane’s NextGen Journal article “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25”. (Yes, I call it an article because I have a print media brain and think of narrative blog posts as essays and posts on social media sites as articles. And I probably always will. Just as I will probably always call movies films, even if celluloid is out of the equation. Call me sentimental or a lost cause. Tomato, tomahto.)
I’m not a social media manager, but this article and the follow up written after the post went viral puzzled me.
Age doesn’t determine ability. Experience does. That isn’t a question of ageism, which is a tag used in the follow-up article. (Fuel meet fire.) A 25 year old could possess more social media savvy than a 52 year old, but it ain’t necessarily so. In fact, research shows (from anecdotal to scientific to my own Heathers Lunchtime Polls) that digital natives aren’t quite living up to the hype. They use tech gadgets, they can barely live without them, and consider the instant gratification machine into which they were born the norm. But they aren’t inherently social media savvy. Or computer smart. Or technologically savvy.
As I write If Emily Posted and begin to shape the concept of a curriculum that teaches social media ethics to digital natives, I have learned firsthand how much there is to teach. They have the toys but lack the tools.
“A new study coming out of Northwestern University, discovered that college students have a decided lack of Web savvy, especially when it comes to search engines and the ability to determine the credibility of search results… The only thing that matters is that something is the top search result, not that it’s legit.” (So-Called “Digital Natives” Not Media Savvy, New Study Shows – ReadWriteWeb)
“In many cases, kids are media multitasking, packing an average of 8.5 hours’ worth of media into 6.5 hours a day… Legions of physicians and academics will be studying the implications of all this technology on children’s brains and thinking skills for years to come…” (How Mobile Technologies Are Shaping a New Generation – Harvard Business Review)
“Michael Wesch, who pioneered the use of new media in his cultural anthropology classes at Kansas State University, is also sceptical, saying that many of his incoming students have only a superficial familiarity with the digital tools that they use regularly… Only a small fraction of students may count as true digital natives, in other words. The rest are no better or worse at using technology than the rest of the population.” (The Net Generation Unplugged – The Economist)
We marvel at kids ease with an iPad and teens creating fabulous mashups on YouTube, but the same kids with the talent to make those YouTube videos are foolishly oversharing on Instagram and saying things they’ll later regret on Facebook.
Just because your social media footprint arrived alongside the one on your birth certificate doesn’t mean you’re more equipped to be a social media manager than someone in their forties or fifties, although it does mean you have more years to learn.
So use them. Use them well.
Understand the fundamentals and put them to work. Take from the past into the present to make the future better.
Try to be patient. Great ideas are born in quiet moments spent trying to remember the name of a book or an actor or that restaurant. Don’t google it. Think about it.
Build a mental filing cabinet of ideas, experiences and memories. Instead of documenting it all via Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, connect by disconnecting sometimes. Have a social life that enhances your social media existence.
If digital natives are to be truly great, they’ll go to school and study the Classics and Philosophy and dead languages and they will reinvent the wheel in beautiful ways. It’s never a good idea to think the present is more important than the past.
Equally important, especially in this social media wonderland, is to stop putting so-called experts up on a pedestal. The web has made it possible for everyone to be a be a maven or a guru on their own bio page and have it become “fact.” For every digital native with something to learn, there is an expert in need of education as well.
Let’s make actions speak louder than words or birth dates or Twitter followers. Let’s quit with the us versus them business and work together. The web is vast, and ever-evolving. Let’s grow with it together.