Social Media and the Long View

After waxing poetic on all the virtuous characteristics of our wired generation – our tendencies for openness, collaboration, horizontal power structures, interactiveness, and collectivism – the Herrera article briefly mentions a parallel body of work, which points to some of the downsides of having access to the Internet 24/7. Members of our generation tend to exhibit a short attention span, a unwillingness to read or think deeply, and a preference for instant gratification. Of course, these developments are only natural: with more and more entertainment and information options competing for our eyeballs, it would make sense that our attention would flit between these channels quickly, in an attempt to absorb as much as possible.

However, the dangerous side of our new inattentiveness seems to rear its ugly head in the aftermath of Mubarak’s dethronement. While social media was no doubt instrumental in the toppling of his thirty-year regime, the limitations of the medium became abundantly clear when the time for long-term strategizing came around. Social-media based activism lends itself to short-term single-issue campaigns, but seems to flounder when the time comes for sustained deliberation, organization, and leadership. As a result, Egypt’s wired generation have yet to develop a long-term plan for saving their country from economic and social instability. As of now, Egypt is in its worst economic crisis in history. In just the last month, the value of the Egyptian pound has plummeted to record lows. While it is not clear who or what is to blame for this, the need for an educational system that can teach Egypt’s youth how power and counterpower operate is critical to the success of the country: the Internet itself has failed in this educational capacity. In the absence of this endeavor, the future of the country will remain extremely uncertain. Has social media rewired our brains so much that we are incapable of this long term planning? Or has it simply uncovered a deficiency that was always there, only to be remedied by proper education?

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3 thoughts on “Social Media and the Long View

  1. I enjoyed reading this blog post because I think you make an interesting argument as to why the Egyptian “Wired Generation” wasn’t able to achieve the proper organization in order to accomplish their goals. I can agree with the fact that the internet has affected our attention spans and unwillingness to read or think deeply, though I believe it comes down to how one chooses to use the internet.

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  2. I cannot agree with you more about our generation. Although technology can be used to benefit many individuals, it has also proven to be one of reasons why we have short attention spans and laziness. I found your post very interesting in regards to why Egyptians cannot sustain a strong society. I agree that online activism is only helpful in the short-term, and internet itself cannot save these people.

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  3. This reply is a really interesting focus on the issue of how social media has changed our thought processes, an issue which is definitely pertinent to Egypt but wasn’t fully unpacked in the Herrera article. Being an optimist, I’d like to believe that the positive ways social media has influenced our cognition (interactivity and peer review being the most helpful in my opinion) have outweighed the drawbacks such as short attention spans. I’d like to believe that, but the attention spans of Millenials like us are rather trying at times, and it’s not uncommon for Facebook or forums to erupt in troll wars. An alternate theory, which I’m beginning to subscribe to, is that our relation to the internet and social media is still undergoing rapid change and hasn’t stabilized. Once it stabilizes and we have a constant stream of generations inundated with internet policy, culture, and etiquette, that seems to me like a better platform to truly evaluate the net change this social culture has brought us. Of course that’s a hypothetical, and we might be changing so fast, we don’t have time to realize whether it’s good or bad.

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