Notes from the Communications Revolution

It may be a long time ago, in dog years, that I was a teenager, but sometimes I worry my mental make-up hasn't matured much beyond that.

Your personal online content is your commodity — your personal brand.

Your personal online content is your commodity — your personal brand.

Barry Coulter

Last week, Jesse Miller, renowned authority on social media awareness and internet safety, came to Cranbrook and Kimberley to offer presentations on these topics.

One such presentation was held for parents in the evening, but I chose to go to one for students, at Laurie Middle School, figuring I would learn more about the teenage mind, and thus myself.

It may be a long time ago, in dog years, that I was a teenager, but sometimes I worry my mental make-up hasn’t matured much beyond that. Maybe no one’s has.

Ten minutes into his presentation at Laurie, Miller asked his audience who’s device had done something during that time — beeped or buzzed, or whatever. Perhaps two dozen students put up their hands. I started to chortle to myself, and right at that instant, the phone in my pocket buzzed. I had received a text. It took every fibre of my being not to to pull it out and see who it was. I would have done so, too, except I was standing between two other adults who were intent on the discussion at hand. For the next 45 minutes, that phone was restless in my pocket. I knew there was a text waiting for me, and it was hard to get that thought out of my mind.

All the while, Miller was telling the students: “If you can’t put your feet on the floor getting out of bed in the morning without checking your device, you should start to think about the amount of time you’re spending on your device.”

Miller’s Laurie presentation wasn’t about necessarily about the misuse of social media or the dangers of the internet, although he did touch on some important points:

• If you have thousands of followers, that is not an audience of friends.

• The information you post on the internet is always there — and it’s available to anyone who wants to get at it, including Law Enforcement.

• There are definitely people out there collecting information, to see what they can do with it, when they can.

• If you posted something once that you thought was funny, but it doesn’t seem funny anymore, yet it still keeps popping up, imaging what it’s going to be like five or 10 years from now.

But Miller’s point was to get the students to think about the media world they live in — who is making money off all this generally free technology and who it’s benefitting. He urged to the students to be aware of who is following them on social media, and why (the reasons could be legitimate). He said that if you’re doing something amazing online, then share it.

This last point was significant. Miller told his audience that the new communications technology is a powerful tool, with great potential, and the positives outweigh the negatives. It allows everyone tell their story, to develop a personal brand and further one’s personal success. He advised the students to think of the information they were sharing online as a personal commodity, to begin to question if their content was that commodity, and that sometimes less is more — some things many adults could take under advisement.

Twenty years ago, some of us who were born in the 1960s were pondering the so-called Millennials, born a generation after us, in the ’80s. “This will be the first generation,” we mused, who will be bombarded with images — TV, advertising, music videos, etc — for practically every moment of their entire waking lives. We are still waiting to see what effect this will have.”

Twenty years later, as that generation moves into prominent positions in society, I would have to say the verdict is in, and all those 20-30 somethings seem to have adopted quite well to their enviroment and to have suffered no ill effects — or no more that any of us have.

By the same token, the generation born in the 2000s is the same age as this powerful and marvellous communications technology, and thus social media is an inherent part of their lives in a way that it will never be in mine. After Miller’s presentation, and after seeing the way the students responded, I am confident they will generally use these tools with wisdom and capability, more so than previous generations ever can.

“I’ve met kids who are using Instagram in amazing ways,” Miller said. “And I’ve met a lot of adults who should get off Facebook, who should just stop posting.”

I went to Laurie School to learn some secrets of the teenaged mind, ended up learning more about myself.

I also found out this — Facebook is for old people!

Barry Coulter is the Editor

of the Cranbrook Townsman