Social Media as Portal or Pitfall?
Is social media ruining our kids?
In a NY Times article called Seeing Social Media More as Portal Than as Pitfall this week, the advent of social media and its culture-shifting implications is compared by some to the introduction of the telephone over a century past. The article (written by a pediatrician) notes that much of the early research and cultural commentary has been based on the “danger paradigm” that social media is the new root of all evil. Yet some wonder:
Though there are certainly real dangers, and though some adolescents appear to be particularly vulnerable, scientists are now turning to a more nuanced understanding of this new world. Many have started to approach social media as an integral, if risky, part of adolescence, perhaps not unlike driving.
In the 1970s Marshall McLuhan warned us that media forms are never neutral; they always shape us as we use them. In other words, it’s both the medium and the message that matter, and we’re naïve to think otherwise (read an interview I did with Shane Hipps nearly five years ago for a fascinating take on this). Clay Shirky of New York University is quoted in the article as saying, “Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all harm model, one of the questions parents need to ask is, ‘How is this going to interact with my child’s personality?’ ”
If social media constitute the cultural waters our adolescents now swim in as they work out the big questions of identity, autonomy, and belonging, there’s probably a whole slew of questions parents and youth workers alike should be asking. It’s not all bad, but it’s not all neutral either.
What are the big questions you think we should be asking ourselves and the adolescents around us when it comes to social media as a “portal” for the adolescent journey?
Posted January 12 2012 by