Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Social media and isolation

I remember well the first time I rode a New York City subway train. 

The scene looked about like this photo. 

No cell phones. 

No iPads. 

No electronic notebooks of any kind.

Just a sea of newspapers attended to by intent, silent, isolated readers apparently lost in worlds of their own as they tried to make sense of the news of the day. 

Lots of people criticize the new forms of media available to us today.  Often we hear that community suffers thanks to the constant availability of information and our connection to it.  We're told that Facebook, Twitter, email and the rest compromise our connections to one another. 

I expect there is some truth in such observations. 

But, then again, the real challenge remains as to how we use media.  We can connect or disconnect.  We can decide to engage our fellows via new and amazingly fast forms of media that actually advance the interests of community, or we can turn away into our own worlds defined by isolation of our own making. We've witnessed the youth of the world unite, organize and bring radical change to society and culture very, very quickly. 

"Poor people" find themselves cut off from many of the advantages of new media, but that is changing, thankfully.  Maybe one of the best investments we could make would be to bring everyone into the new and rapidly changing world of digital connection. 

Before making that first trip to New York City, I recall being coached by veterans to the experience to avoid direct eye contact with people on the streets and in the subway system.  I was sort of set up for not connecting. 

You know what I did, don't you? 

I bought The New York Times and blended in!

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