Community and Leadership in the Social Media Age

Social media and mobile technology are changing the face of community more rapidly than at any time in history. While I’m an unabashed believer that the net result of these changes will be positive, the changes do bring challenges as well. This presentation discusses a number of these challenges and opportunities from the perspective of community leaders.

Some of the issues to consider are:

  • Not all people have access to broadband. This is an especially large problem in rural areas of Wisconsin. Can people participate fully in the new economy and in civic discourse if they don’t have good online access?
  • Because communication is so much easier online, many nonprofit organizations are doing more of their communicating through online tools. Are we leaving behind people that don’t have this access? Do organizations begin to move away from potential leaders if they choose not to be online?
  • What about online segregation? It’s very easy to surround ourselves online with only viewpoints and opinions that we share and that are comfortable for us. It’s similarly easy to mute voices of dissent in our online world. Some of the segregation is subtle and happening without our awareness. For example, Google tailors search results based on your behavior in previous searches, which can lead to Google presenting you only with information fitting your preconceived notions.
  • When we do encounter opposing views online, are we able to conduct intelligent, thoughtful and civil debate? Does the insertion of a keyboard and screen between participants encourage us to be less civil? And if the discussion goes poorly, do we walk away or mute the conversation?
  • What is the opportunity cost of the average user spending 30+ minutes per day on Facebook? Do people have less time to volunteer in the community or interact in their physical world because of the time they spend in the virtual world?
  • What about that Facebook “Like” button? Do we tailor our online posts to get that dopamine hit that comes with a Like? For Facebook pages, do Likes equal support even if some people are just trying to follow the issue?
  • And finally, what about serendipity and introspection? We no longer have small snippets of downtime in waiting rooms, at restaurants, etc. Do we still find time to be alone and quiet inside our own heads?

The links below offer some additional perspectives and information on these issues.

Louis C.K. on cell phones - some rough language, but worth a watch

Data on broadband adoption in Wisconsin

Godwin’s Law

Pew Internet & American Life Project - Social networking sites and politics

Center for Investigating Healthy Minds

Social Media Stats

Facebook is bad for you - Economist report on Facebook study

Book - The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser

Book - The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun