Last month I attended Social Media Week New York. As most of my career has been spent in non-profits, I registered for panels on non-profits, international development, and using social media for social good. There was a good deal of discussion about events happening in the Middle East, and opinions were divided on how much (or how little) social media like Facebook and Twitter were influencing the democracy movements.
Friday around noon I returned from an early lunch break for a panel discussion. Every venue (that I know of) had wi-fi, so after finding a good seat I cracked open my laptop to check e-mail and Twitter. Twitter was alive! Reports that Hosni Mubarak had resigned were lighting up my timeline, so I switched briefly to my News list, which was also crazy. But this is a new medium, and the contradictory reports of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting in January had shown me that misinformation can propagate just as easily as reliable information. So I quickly looked at the websites of the New York Times, the BBC, and Al Jazeera English. All of them reported Mubarak’s resignation, so I accepted it as true.
On Thursday and Friday I attended some Social Media Week events in New York. It was an amazing experience—not just because of the great topics and smart speakers, but because we practiced what was being preached. A fair number of audience members used laptops, iPads or smart phones during the presentations, live tweeting what was being said on stage and their own responses. Some speakers addressed questions posed via Twitter while on stage, while others took more conventional routes such as hand-raising and comments written on index cards.
As you probably know if you’ve read my blog before, I love Twitter and I especially love chats on Twitter. In December I was participating in a #TweetDiner and happened to mention I’d recently read an article that said Generation Y doesn’t use Twitter much.
I should have known better.
It irks me when people turn generalizations about Baby Boomers (now known as Boomers, as we are way past being babies) into absolutes. I’ve nothing against generalizations as a guideline or a statistical observation; but even if 99% of a demographic group does something, there’s always that 1% who don’t. So I should have known better than to tweet a generalization about Gen Y into a mixed group of people. (It’s not like speaking in an auditorium. You can’t see who is in the audience.)
While Google and China were wrestling over issues of free speech, censorship, intellectual property, global communications technology, and e-commerce, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere suffered a terrible blow: a magnitude 7.0 earthquake rocked Haiti near its capital, Port-au-Prince. The city, planned to house about 400,000 to 500,000 people, held approximately 3.5 million prior to the earthquake. Many lived and worked in substandard, often unsafe, buildings. Unreinforced concrete structures crumbled, other buildings collapsed, and over 200,000 people died. (More have died since due to a hurricane and cholera outbreak later in the year.)
With an adult illiteracy rate of close to 40% and inadequate infrastructure, censorship of Google searches is not an issue in Haiti. Text messages are about as much as most people have access to or have a need for. Following the earthquake, those who had a mobile phone had great need for text messaging and voice communication.