October 13, 2016

FTV: Social Media

      E-Mail?  Sure.  It is pretty much a necessity in my main job and my side gig as the manager of WOAS-FM.  Twitter?  Nope.  I don’t Twitter.  As for (feel free to insert any social media outlet of your choice here), I don’t do that (or them) either.  I do get sucked into watching music videos on YouTube and I do look at a lot of music based websites. I signed up for Facebook and lasted less than a half a day.  I thought that with so many bands posting new music online that it would be a good way to keep up on new music trends.  Not understanding the whole ‘liking’ business,  my new found friends suddenly inundated with earth shaking announcements like “I have planted twenty acres of beets in my virtual farm” and “I made a toasted cheese sandwich for lunch”.  What?  It was not worth the hours I would have needed to keep up with all of this gossipy stuff just to mine the music information I could find elsewhere without being bombarded with these kinds of messages.  I won’t even go into my thoughts on the whole Pokemon Go thing.  I will confess to even liking to take walks without earbuds shoved in my ears.  I happen to LIKE listening to the real world in real time.

     I am not allergic to new technology, but being an old goat, when I send my students to do research via computer lab or Chromebook,  I  insist that they also in corporate some form of old fashioned, written resources.  Among the other torture devices used in my classes for current events is that dinosaur of the information age, the NEWSPAPER.   After the whining is over (“Why do we have to use an encyclopedia?” “Nobody reads newspapers any more,”)  I give them a few reasons why they must be fluent gathering information using sources that are not just sound bites (bytes?) or video clips.  The attention span of the user is a topic that comes up in my discussion points often.  I recently found this item in the Marquette Mining Journal.  It parallels my thoughts on the matter and  I could not agree with it more:

Marquette’s new UFO landing strip is a good idea

(A Marquette Mining Journal editorial)

    Just checking.  There is, of course, no UFO landing strip , and possibly no UFOs –  but that is fodder for another editorial.

    What we really wanted to see is if anyone intended on reading past the headline.

    In 2014, a study by the Media Insight Project found that 41 percent of Americans had watched, read, or heard any in-depth news stories – beyond the headlines – in the past week.

    So, in other words, the majority of Americans don’t read past the headline.  We get it.  You’re busy.  Spending 10 or more minutes with an article is asking a lot.

    But, how much information can you get from a headline?  A candidate’s name?  That city council has decided to do something?

    And, oh boy, let’s not get into the really complicated issues, like the U.P.’s complex energy challenges.  I mean, as long as we know the U.P. has elaborate power issues, is it important also to know what they are?  Perhaps only if we want to find a workable solution.  Knowing – and understanding – what’s happening in our community and the world around us is important because it impacts our way of life.  How can we go about solving problems if we don’t know what they are?  How can we affect change if we don’t understand the issue?

    How can we responsibly elect officials we know nothing about?

    The alarming aspect of headline-only readers is this appears to carry over to social media as well, where people continue to share stories that are not factual.  Users might see something interesting in their newsfeed and simply click share without ever reading the story they’ve just played a part in disseminating to others.

    Suddenly, otherwise false information is factual and hundreds, thousands or even millions now believe it to be true.

    Just like you can’t judge a book by its cover, you also can not make a snap conclusion from a headline.

    But of course, you know this – you finished reading this editorial.

    Please, spread the word – and share that on social media.  MMJ

    Another concept I like to reinforce is the sheer volume of material that we can now access at the click of the mouse or the tap of the track pad.  A couple of minutes ago, I did a quick Google search under “Green Bay Packers”.  How quick was it?  In a mere .42 seconds (not 42 seconds, mind you, .42 seconds).   Google returned 33,400,000 hits relating to the Green Bay Packers.  Over thirty three MILLION.  If one were to try and open just one of these sites every second it would take 386.5 days to open them all.  Now imagine taking five minutes to scan each site for content.  All of this information is totally useless if we don’t develop the mental filter needed to sort through what is useful and what is not.  The annoying “also see” pop ups add to the “attention span of the user” discussion thereby putting the time management thing even further off track.

    Will social media go away?  Other harbingers of doom (ie:  the telegraph.  telephone, cable TV and the Sony Walkman for example) did not go away nor did they kill off the human race as the most dire projections predicted.  Will our thumbs evolve to the point that the human arm will resemble stubby little T-Rex limbs with only one large and 4 smaller digits?  Will we ignore addiction to social media with the same blandness we take toward those afflicted with gambling addiction?  Some scoff when I refer to people having a social media addiction, but the symptoms are there.

    “Hi.  My name is Ken.  I am a newspaperholic.  I love reading the newspaper.  I get two daily papers and a weekly.  I am addicted to newspapers.”   How is this different than social media addiction?  While I am addicted to reading a paper every day, there are times when I don’t get to them until the next day.  When the paper arrives in my mailbox, I don’t drop everything I am doing to start reading it.  The next time you hear a cell phone ring (another annoyance that we will ignore for now), watch the person scramble to check out the message they just received.  My seatmate on a flight from Eugene, OR to San Francisco, CA nearly had a stroke because my phone buzzed just as I was shutting it down before our flight left Mallon Sweet Field in Eugene: “Aren’t you going to look at that?” she inquired.  “Nope, it will wait until we land in San Fran.”   She persisted:  “It might be important!”  “Probably not,” I replied as she got more and more agitated at the thought of an orphan message sitting in cyberspace unread.  She is a social media addicted person.  As we landed in San Francisco, she was firing up her own phone before they actually announced it was okay to do so.  I teased her by taking my phone out of my pocket.  I turned it on, then put it back in my pocket but by then her thumbs were flying and she was getting her social media fix and oblivious to what I was doing.

    People were concerned when computers were first introduced for general school use.  Sure, there were some abuses encountered as the system was upgraded and use patterns evolved.  Like the ballpoint pen, typewriter, and calculator before it, the computer was slowly accepted as an educational tool.  Will personal social media devices share a similar evolution?  It is hard to say. Give me another twenty years to study the problem and then we can compare notes. I am not traveling right now, so if you text me and don’t get an answer, e-mail or call me instead.  I won’t be turning on my phone again until my next trip out of town.

Top Piece Video – Old goats like me like old school communications – thus the Tornado’s TELSTAR!