In the past few weeks, The Kony controversy has spread like wildfire across facebook, twitter, and other social media. You would have to live under a technology-free rock to have not heard about it. Or maybe, it took you a while to hear about it because you aren’t on facebook! While there remains controversy about the Invisible Children group and what effect the Kony video should have upon its viewers, and what action it should spark among its viewers, there is no question about the effectiveness that social media has had in proliferating the spread of the video and its message.
More importantly than the rapid spread of the video, is the overwhelming demographic of those who are spreading it: young adults. In this article, the difference in news sources used to watch and share the video is emphasized. Most teens and young adults watched the Kony video on facebook, while adults would be more likely to watch the video on youtube after learning about it on television from traditional news sources. Also, “the Internet was three times more important as a news-learning platform for young adults than traditional media such as television, newspapers, and radio”. Very few young adults learned about the video from these traditional news platforms (like TV news and newspapers) – showing a widened generational gap between how we get our news compared to how our parents do.
But what does this say about how our demographic uses social media? Like in boyd’s article, “Why Youth ❤ Social Media”, she established that social media had become the place for us to “hang out” instead of going to the mall. But, as we have domesticated the use of social media in everyday life, its use has gradually evolved for us, and it is now much more complex than being just another place where our social life exists. We now use social media as a platform for not only sharing news, but participating in activism as well.
By using social media as a place to enact change in the world, we are making a statement about the ability of youth to have an effect on issues that, pre social media, would have been out of our reach. We can know be educated about issues halfway across the word, for example in Africa, and find a way to connect ourselves and get involved in some way. It’s almost as if, instead of making a statement about using a certain SNS (like the youth in Willet’s Bebo example) because we are old enough, we are making a statement about how we connect with each other and now how we get our news. We consciously choose which social media sites to use, and what information we want to share on them. We are sharing news in particular on facebook because we are mature enough to talk about important issues and know that we can make a difference. Perhaps we so quickly (and naturally) gravitate toward not using more traditional news outlets like television and news papers because we never became as comfortable with navigating them like we are with social network sites. We know facebook like the back of our hand, so where else would go to spread a message as quickly and effectively?
As social media and our generation have grown up simultaneously, social media’s ever (and rapidly) changing norms have hardly ever been noticed by us. We have grown together, growing pains and all, and the changes often seem seamless to us. It’s pretty much impossible to remember life without the internet as it is now, and we are one of the first generations to not ever know life without internet. Internet use has become such a natural part of our life, as we use it for socializing, getting news, school work, playing games, and so much more. So now as we near adulthood, we use our social media to show that we are growing up, by using it in more adult ways. For example, we use social media as a platform to show our maturity in being able to fight for certain causes, like Invisible Children and the fight against Kony. Generations past may have held protests in person, but we now have the ability to protest from anywhere in the world, and we are using it to the fullest. We are making a statement, whether we are aware of it or not, about what social media has become to us: both a place for a social life and for our transition into adulthood.