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David Helfenbein

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The Facebook News Feed and Twitter Generation

Posted: 09/20/10 01:53 PM ET

Who are we? What have we become? How do we speak now? In what ways do we learn news and find out information?

"John just got engaged to Sarah," read my Facebook News Feed. "Jessica married Sam." I didn't even know they were still dating, I thought to myself.

Snippets I tell you, snippets of stories of substance of full rhythmic beats all around us each and every day.

A masterful politician once told an audience that we should live our lives on a journey destined for the words on our tombstones. I thought this was sound advice: to live in search of those one or two words that we can have engraved in memory of us: "loving," "brave," "beloved."

But in the present, we are spinning so fast in a world of constant news aggregation; we are living in a world where 140 characters or less on Twitter actually means something to some people and where others actually stop for ten or twenty seconds to type into their blackberries or iPhones short phrases on Facebook applications about where they are or what they are doing. These are the rhythms of the present, not what might be sketched in stone in our future.

We are each our own egomaniacs. And at the same time, we are each consumed with everyone else - thus creating a diametrically opposed structure of total delusion based upon absolute nothingness, or absolutely everything, depending on who we are and how much importance we place on what we type and what we read.

Yet, in a way, each of us is making our own history and the Internet is the legacy that we leave behind: it is our present but also composes the memory stones for our future. Eventually, it will become the study for future anthropologists when we are all gone. And what will these anthropologists think?

Old engravings were about necessity: for example, about protecting family and interpersonal relationships. Ours? They are about us and Justin Bieber and Lindsay Lohan. And John and Sarah getting engaged. And Jessica marrying Sam. And, of course, other online friends and family. I guess some of the basics are still there.

So we are a generation of technologically savvy, obsessively status updating, Facebook and/or Twitter using members of the online community and we are glued to our phones and PDAs to different degrees along the spectrum. Yet, does that mean we cannot have normal conversations and interpersonal interactions? No.

The largest misconception about Generation Y is that technology is a replacement for interpersonal dialogue. Sure, for some, maybe it is. However, for these select few, and I hate to say it, they likely aren't the ones who are out interacting in the world in great numbers anyway. Instead, I firmly believe that all of the aforementioned technological tools have only added to what Gen Y knows; what we learn; how we interact; how we find out information; and who we are. Cynics are not going anywhere at this point, but this technology is also here to stay, is clearly progressing and becoming more ever-present, and Gen Y is still managing to talk to one another. Texting, Twitter, and Facebook have not become substitutes for interpersonal dialogue but instead are only adding to existing routines.

In fact, if it weren't for the Internet, phones, PDAs, and all of these updates, I can't imagine what half of us would be talking about today.

So, who reading this is going to Jessica and Sam's wedding? Never mind; I really have to check my Facebook News Feed anyway. And then I will post the news up on Twitter.

David Helfenbein has also posted this blog posting on his site, http://www.TheBeanPredicts.com, under his blog, The Bean Blog.

 

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