Wasting Time or Making Change?

About a week ago, I was sitting at a table with seven other university students for a scholarship dinner. As an ice-breaker, one of the questions we asked each other was “what do you waste the most time doing?”

Unanimously, every single millennial sitting with me answered, “social media.”

It might not seem surprising to some – there’s a consensus that millennials spend all their time during the day on social media. While this is not strictly true as stereotypes often lie, they do spend more time on more modern media than their older counterparts, understandably, as they are a generation that grew up on this type of connectivity.

But is it wasting time?

While social media is often hounded for being a procrastination tool and too much useless information, millennials are also using these platforms to learn. 88 percent of millennials get their news from Facebook, something that would have been unheard of 10 years ago.

While there is a push to get rid of heavy reliance and interaction with social media (with some millennials abandoning it entirely), I think it is often discounted and demonized without taking into account the powerhouse of connectivity and activism it allows.

In the New York Times article “Movement Began With Outrage and a Facebook Page That Gave It an Outlet,” journalist Jennifer Preston explores how social media (namely Facebook and YouTube) became a catalyst for true change in Egypt after the brutal death of Khaled Said by local police officers. Without social media, there would have been no way to gather 473,000 users to share updates and hear the most recent news about the happenings in Egypt.

Without social media, this type of change could have taken much longer – maybe even years. But this new media has allowed people to be more quickly connected and enlightened about what is happening in the world. While, of course, the internet allows for “armchair activists” to be able to simply share a video or click a link and pat themselves on the back for doing good work without actually doing anything (remember Kony 2012, anyone?), it also acts as a platform for the truly engaged to find people fighting for the causes they also believe in.

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube allow users to tap into real-time happenings around the globe. People from anywhere can upload videos, statuses, updates about anything that is occurring around them, which is invaluable when it comes to crises and protests where the people affected can gain support and help from those who may be across the world from them, but can see what’s happening on social media. You can gain perspectives from all sides – you can easily get hundreds of different people writing on what they’re seeing and experiencing, immediately, from a first-hand perspective. It creates and interactivity for important global conversations. It cultivates a voice that you often cannot ignore if you are very tapped into those sites.

So yes, millennials may spend up to 18 hours a day engaging with media, but they may be making the world a better place in the process.

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