Does using social networking websites make us stupid? We have all heard the term “the dumbest generation” and no one wants to be a part of that. The truth is that websites like Facebook and Twitter have many positive and negative consequences in terms of communication and social debate. Users can be very productive when utilizing these resources properly; however, too often social networking sites cheapen public discourse.
This week South Park lampoons users of Facebook. Stan gets sucked into using the website after his friends create a profile for him. Cartman also got a new show, “Mad Friends,” where he discussed friends as if they are stocks. As it turned out, Kyle became “bad friend stock” as soon as he requested to be friends with Kip Drordy, a third grader with no friends.
Stan’s frustrations with social networking sites are justified throughout the episode as we see everyone obsess over Farmville, photo comments and pokes. The effect of useless applications and abilities takes its toll on intelligent discussion as well. Status updates are the one shot kill to useful discourse in our country. For example, take a look at how film critic Roger Ebert used Twitter to discuss Rush Limbaugh.
Twitter has a 140 character limit, which forces people to oversimplify what they are talking about. Therefore, when they start commenting on politics and social issues many people find comfort in using unintelligent talking points. This disease has bled its way onto Facebook where there isn’t a character limit (at least I don’t think so) but people treat status updates with the same limited IQ. It has become the standard for many to provoke useless discussion through short, thoughtless blurbs.
One good thing is that these websites are a great way to share articles and blogs with others. This is probably the most beneficial aspect about social networking in terms of public discussion. Unfortunately, too many people also use the platform to “advance” their ideas with simple statements that brings the weight of useful communication down to zero.
So who is the “dumbest generation?” It is the people who try to have a discussion on important issues one status update at a time. A 140 character limit is not nearly long enough to comment on the war on terror. It’s not even worth trying, so don’t do it. The best thing to do is find an article (or write one), then share it with you friends.
If we can improve the level of intelligent discussion on the internet maybe we can turn the tide and become the “smartest generation.”