Digital, innovation, engagement, diversity, global, and thought leadership (even Obama’s recent Forward). Catchy words, aren’t they? And they are with good reason – these are ideals that our society should push towards. These buzzwords are everywhere in social media right now, but how many times will these words have to flash before our eyes until they become hackneyed and meaningless to us?
I’ve been having ups and downs with social media lately, such as in the recent presidential elections. When utilized effectively, it’s a terrific medium for some serious campaigning, and it both targets and empowers younger Americans to participate in the civic process. Simultaneously, however, the information many people come across via social media could be too superficial to make an educated vote. There is often not enough depth in social media content – i.e. Twitter has a maximum of 140 characters, Facebook tends to be spotted with personal political rants, and blogs aren’t bound to be factually accurate (yes, everything you’re reading here could be 100% false, but I hope you wouldn’t think I’d do that).
Do I sometimes think that we are doomed and becoming passive, non-information-seeking participants of society? Yes. Is the ability to think critically becoming increasingly rare? Very possibly. Does social media contribute to this? I’m sure. But, wait…
If social media is meant to engage people and to facilitate interactive dialogue (sounds a lot like a Socratic seminar), then there has got to be a way in which it can probe people’s brains as well. And yes, there is! Huffington Post has recently partnered up with TED (think TEDTalks) to present to us the TED Weekends experiment. Every weekend for the next year, TED Weekends will use a TEDTalk to present to us a theme that is left open for discussion. We can write our own post and/or leave comments. Why? “Because that’s the thing about ideas. They’re not set in stone. When exposed to thoughtful people, each of whom may bring an additional insight, they’re capable of adaptation until they find their most potent form. A form that can truly go viral and perhaps impact millions of minds.”
TED Weekends has the potential to impact millions of minds? That sounds perfect to me – I like critical thinking. So, social media can be used productively. That being said, Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you social media at its finest (yet): TED Weekends. This weekend’s idea is “How Our Minds Shape Perception“: