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Is this your idea of social networking?

9 August, 2010

For some people, the graph on the right is a fairly effective way of describing social media:

MySpace if you want Narcissism and ADHD;
Facebook if you want Narcissism and Stalking;
LinkedIn if you want ADHD and Stalking;
Twitter if you want all three (Narcissism, ADHD and Stalking).

Of course, this graph was designed to get laughs by stereotypes.  Is it really true?  And if so, does that mean anything?

Where the graph says ‘ADHD’, they refer to the ability of a person to go from one thing, which is interesting, to another, with no real desire to have any focus.  Twitter is probably the best example of this – restricted to 140 characters for any given post! – but MySpace does this through other means (photos and the like), as does LinkedIn.  This means that in order to be listened to, you have to say what you’re going to say very well – you might have to think about how you say what you say, if you want people to take notice.  Rather than complain about how students lack focus, one could simply accept this as a fact (or a useful idea) and work with this through other means.

Where the graph says ‘stalking’, it refers to the ability of a site to track other people.  Facebook is renowned for this, particularly in regards to its privacy settings (which Brett Lee, former police officer, has done a great job of telling schools, students and parents about); but LinkedIn can suffer from this as well (albeit intentionally), as does Twitter.  Why would sites like this be popular?  In short, people want to be connected to other people, and to know who they are – the difference is that now, we can’t delete it.  We have to be authentic, all the time.

Finally, where the graph says ‘narcissism’, it refers to the ability of the medium to let users talk about themselves – such as Facebook’s profile page (which it has been very successful in monetizing) and status updates.  MySpace did this before Facebook, of course, and Twitter is much like blogging in that people can indulge themselves to their hearts content.

All four media platforms are extremely popular, at least half are growing (Facebook, exponentially so), and most people on the internet have a profile on at least one of these (or an equivalent program).  Teenagers are often the first people to have one of these sites; and, as teachers, we need to be aware of the worldview that our students have through use of these programs.  Not necessarily so that we can use it ourselves – simply so that we can communicate to our students in ways that will help them succeed.

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