This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Has social media made us lazy or more importantly ineffectual?

This is a another pre-post to the actual creation of the Pathways to New Community Paradigms. Because of a mishap all the posts were lost so I am republishing again.

Patrick Fiorenza posted back on July 19, a blog post on the GovLoop - Social Network, "Has social media made us lazy? " This is a particularly relevant question since I am about to get back into blogging. This time I will be focusing on local government policies and how they can be impacted by communities in which they operate. My previous blogging endeavors included a more personal version of this blog and Milestones for a New Millennium which focused on the Millennium Development Goals. This time, I am going for a GovLoop meets Coffee Party approach.

The question was first raised by Dean Obeidallah, who posted the original article on CNN, Are Social Media Creating the Laziest Generation?, This question has been around for a while with Evgeny Morozov being the most vocal regarding what has been called Slactivist argument. I personally have a fondness for Slacktivists and count myself among them.

On the other side of the question has been Clay Shirky, who has been featured at TED Talks looking at how the end of top-down control of news is changing the nature of politics via Iranian protesters streaming news to the world, showing how Facebook, Twitter and TXTs help citizens in repressive regimes to report on real news by bypassing censors (if all too briefly).

The question raised by both Dean Obeidallah and Patrick Fiorenza is however more personal in nature, challenging how we use social media as Change-agents, both on a community level and on a personal level. There are important differences between how we approach each level.

I will submit that there are different levels of slacktivists or on the community level different levels of engagement.
  • “creators”, who blog on their own web pages,
  • “critics” who post comments,
  • “joiners” who sign up for online communities,
  • “spectators” who read and watch, and finally
  • the unengaged “inactives”
I took this idea directly from GROUNDSWELL by Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff. It is not practical though to expect that everyone is going to be a creator nor does everyone need to be to bring about social change. Organizations can move their agenda by communicating to the group they are endeavoring to influence without necessarily moving the majority of members past the Joiners level.

The question becomes harder on a more personal level. We can ask is even being a creator enough? We need to move people to action not merely comments. Truthfully it may never be enough, we could always do more. We can only use this to judge ourselves, we cannot know what others do beyond their online presence. Some may work with their churches or donate through the United Way.

Social media can still be an effective tool for individuals addressing issues such as that raised recently by Transportation For America » Prosecuting the victim, absolving the perpetrators which can in turn be shared across the web by organizations such as or Care2. It is not an issue for which I will likely have a chance to vote on or become significantly more involved with, but I can still share my voice with others. Do I decide not to sign the petitions simply because I can't get to Georgia?

GovLoop recently provided an online training on training "How Stunning Storytelling Can Advance Your Government Career" featuring OPM Human Resources Specialist and University of Louisville professor Dr. Bill Brantley. It can also help to make important issues more human, hopefully moving the inactives further up the levels of engagement to reach a groundswell needed to bring about policy changes such as a national transportation systems and planning which has been ignored for too long. This is something that a few individuals in each state will decide is important enough to advocate and from the base there may be a change in public policy.

From my perspective, social media will remain an essential tool for Change-agents at all levels, whether or not it makes us or other lazy will depend upon how inspiring we can be in advocating change.

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