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DeBlog: Why Shelby Is Wrong About Social Media

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(credit: CBS) Jason DeRusha
Jason DeRusha filed his first report for WCCO-TV on April Fool's D...
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By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We all know how I feel about Don Shelby. I love the guy. But I think he should leave the social media commentary to me.

Last night in his “Good to Know” segment, Don talked about Twitter and Facebook. When I heard about this (on Twitter, incidentally) my reaction was: “this sounds like a poor idea.”

Indeed, it was.

Don talked about a new Nielsen study (which you can read about on Nielsen.com). Don said we’re spending 40% of our online time social networking. The study actually says we’re spending 22.7% of our time social networking, a 43% increase from June 2009.

The crux of his complaint is: “Where once the hope was the most informed population since time began, we are being drawn to messages like, “I’m eating a ham sandwich right now,” and “Going to a movie tonight. You?”

For kicks, I went to the Twitter search engine to see how many tweets were about ham sandwiches, and in fairness, there’s a fair amount of discussion about the classic lunch treat. But there’s also a news theme about a kid who got accused of a hate crime for putting a ham sandwich by another Muslim student. That’s interesting, right?

Look, the common anti-social networking rant is that all people talk about is what they’re having for lunch. Heck, I have an account (@DeRushaEats) where all I do is talk about where and what I’m eating. 750 people seem to find it useful.

In life, when we gather with friends and coworkers in person, often we talk about things that are mundane. That’s what life is about. The tiny little meaningless things, that knitted together form a complete picture. To imply that the conversation in online social spheres is more vacuous and more stupid than the conversation in offline social spheres is just plain wrong.

Is society more informed because of Twitter and Facebook? What about the protests in Iran that happened largely over Twitter? The U of M has been researching whether kids on Facebook are more inclined to click on news stories, becoming more informed than non-social networkers. I asked people on Twitter and Facebook to help write this rebuttal. Bob told me on Twitter: “I got lots of nice, comforting messages when my niece died last week. Got very few from people I actually SEE every day.”

Erica mentioned a fundraising campaign she ran online: “Probably 75% of my donations came from SM peeps-most i hadn’t met.”

Katie pointed me to some data on social media – including this: “There are more than 3.5 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, etc.) shared each week on Facebook.”

I suppose I’d refer Don to a very famous speech about a “vast wasteland” in the media.

Newton Minnow talked about television in 1961: “Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.”

Today, you could easily argue that a lot of what’s on TV is garbage. But a lot of it is fantastic! Isn’t the same true on Twitter and Facebook? 

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