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Is Social Media Making Us Dumber?

16/10/2010

As a journalist student at City it is constantly drummed into me that the future of the media is online. My twitter profile, hitherto lifeless was quickly resurrected upon learning that I would have to ‘tweet’ any questions I wanted to ask the lecturer during the class. It’s a peculiar concept but the result is that the class is both engaging and very humorous and for those early mornings sessions that makes all the difference – thank you Paul Bradshaw

Up until very recently, my foray into the world of social media was limited to facebook, but thanks to City I have been turned into an avid social media consumer. I am now blogging, delicious-ing, tweeting, tumblr-ing, flicker-ing and everything else that end with ‘ing’. Like a bad virus I am expected to be all over the net and ‘engage’ with the public and since this is how I hope to make my living I thought it would be a good idea to look at how big media uses social media to connect with people. My observations lead me to ask, is social media making us dumber? My brief analysis reveals that the New York Times and to a lesser extent the Economist are regularly posting a serious of pointless questions on Facebook; such inane questions garner hundreds of comments from fans. Does engaging mean dumbing down?

Posts such as the one above are not going to scoop any journalistic awards but they are not trying to do that. They are there to ‘engage’ and the sheer number of comments the posts elicit means they have done that very well. I noticed the other favourite tool to use is a ‘Top Ten’ list- I have seen top ten lists of everything and more often than not it’s these types of lists -as opposed to thoughtful editorials – that get shared and passed around between friends. From a publisher’s point of view sharing equals’ mission accomplished, which leads me to ask, has our attention spanned dwindled to the point of which we can only read short texts in brief bullet points or sentences that are no longer than a hundred and forty characters? If so, what does this mean for journalism?

I would love to hear what the rest of you have to say about social media (assuming you have bothered to read to the end of this post with little multi-media gadgets or bullet points to grab and keep your attention )

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