Social media is here to stay

July 22, 2011

I have had a number of conversations with my friends about social media and technology in general. I have also had a number of discussions with colleagues in the educational field about the role digital technology plays in the classroom. The conversations seem to follow a typical thread.

Many of those over the age of 40 have a lot of criticism towards social media and digital technology. My friends agonize over whether the skills their children develop while using technology, such as video games, will benefit them in the future. Most of my friends in this age bracket have Facebook accounts, as do their teen children. But their use of social media is limited to simply keeping in touch with others.

My colleagues in the educational field talk about “problematizing” the issue. For many that I have talked to, technology in the educational setting raises many more issues than benefits. I have heard a few express concerns that educational technology is progressing education backwards, not forward.

The greatest criticism is the lack of interaction, lack of community, and the isolation that many believe digital technology leads society towards. It is understandable that this opinion surfaces. After all, with the advent of technology, individuals have become disconnected from each other. More community members within a city feel a lack of connection with their neighbours.

When online learning first was introduced to the education field, students were isolated from each other and from their teacher. And the technology did not allow for much interaction between the participants. So the student who chose online learning did become more isolated from her peers than the student who chose the traditional classroom setting.

We will never know if technology caused the disconnection within society. Or if the simple fact that society has grown so much in such a short time resulted in this disconnection that many of us feel.

I do know that many people that I talk to who are under the age of 40 feel quite connected through the use of social media. And much of the research that I have found on technology and social media shows the value of using these tools to create communities of learning online. Even the online gamers are able to create a vibrant, connected community around the playing of video games.

Technology has progressed beyond the single, lonely individual sitting in his basement playing a video game. Beyond a few students interacting only with their instructor about a topic. Now digital technology and social media allow us to do so much more. The possibilities appear endless and are very exciting.

A friend introduced me to a You Tube video titled, “Welcome to the Revolution.” It shared facts and statistics about social media, challenging us all to consider how social media is transforming our very lives. In his article published in August, 2009, Erik Qualman claims that social media is the biggest shift in the way we communicate since the Industrial Revolution. And the facts he presented seem to support his theory. One of the many interesting statistics identifies how long it took a piece of technology to reach 50 million users:

–       Radio, 38 years

–       TV, 13 years

–       Internet, 4 years

–       iPod, only 3 years

–       and Facebook reached 100 million users in only nine months

That growth is staggering and I don’t think it can be ignored. Educators and businesses will need to accept social media and digital technology if they want to participate in the future economy and influence the minds of the future.

There are many more interesting facts on the You Tube and it is very well done. Unfortunately, I am no longer able to access this You Tube video because of copyright laws in Canada. A portion of the You Tube is included in the marketing material about Erik Qualman’s book, Socialnomics, on the Amazon website:

You can find the article that Erik Qualman wrote listing the statistics he used in his You Tube at:

It is definitely thought provoking to consider the effect that social media and digital technology has had on how we live our lives. It will be interesting to see how social media will affect us in the future.

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