Has social media made us lazy?

Here is an interesting article from Dean Obeidallah posted on CNN, Are Social Media Creating the Laziest Generation?

Obeidallah comments, “Observing events and then commenting about them on social media has become our national religion. We anxiously wait for the next celebrity to screw up, another politician to be caught in a sex scandal, the verdict in an even higher profile murder trial or simply a friend to do something stupid so that we can quickly begin worshipping at the altar of the social media platform of our choice to offer our (or read others’) opinions, jokes, jibes and the occasional insightful thought. In the past, people would recount where they were when an historic event occurred such as the Kennedy assassination, the space shuttle exploding or the 9/11 attacks.”

Obeidallah states, “In the future, we will instead recall what we tweeted, posted or read on social media platforms about such [historic] events.” Not in the future, that is happening now. I remember finding out that Osama Bin Laden had been killed via Twitter nearly an hour before news networks broke the story, many of us have had similar experiences.

Obeidallah concludes the article by stating, “I’m not in any way advocating that we stopping using social media — in fact, please follow me on Twitter or add me on Facebook andGoogle+ — but if there is an issue you really want to make a difference on, it will take more than a tweet of 140 characters or updating your Facebook status to do it.”

He is correct, a Tweet of Facebook post alone cannot resolve anything. The real value of social media is that it allows us to more efficiently collaborate, reach a broader audience and move ideas forward. Certainly social media has revolutionized how we communicate – but I think for the better.

What do you think – Is Obeidallah correct? Has social media made us lazy, or, have the tools allowed to us to be more efficient in how we communicate?

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Carol Davison

Religion is normally something that preserve the fabric of society such as don’t lie, steal, adulterate, etc. I believe that the ability to anonymously make negative comments publicly undermines the fabric of our society. For example just yesterday I read that a “passenger” twisted the breast of a TSA worker. Most every comment made regarding the incident was a nasty one about the worker, as though it were appropriate to behave violently when one doesn’t like the pre flight pat down. Some comments were lecherous. My facebook.com friends posted about the upside down flag outside the Turkish American club! before determining that the club had been vandalized. However my post and seven letters to the editor about American Rights being greater than their symbol and investingating before protesting, calling the press, and the police were ignored. In contrast Egypt used social media to remove a dictator. I fear that we are becoming egotistical, irresponsible, and superficial.

Alicia Mazzara

I don’t think it’s a clear-cut yes or no here. Yes, it has undoubtedly improved the efficiency of our communications. But to Carol’s point, is this actually making us better off? In the case of nasty comments, I don’t know that it really is. I went to this Brookings talk on social media and civic engagement, and someone from the audience raised a point that sometimes social media makes us feel more connected but we’re still not actually getting out of our chairs and doing anything to create real changes.

Pat Fiorenza

There are countless negative examples of social media use – and we tend to gravitate to those incidents. I still think it has made us better off. The Brookings talk sounds interesting – I wouldn’t disagree with the comments from the audience member. I would just add that the tools are still relatively new and agencies are struggling to identify how to define the value/ROI of social media tools. Down the road I think the tools will evolve and we start seeing real changes as a result of the interaction on social media platforms. Government alone does not have all the answers, the promise of Gov 2.0/social media is that government can reach people who can offer up new solutions for government.

Stephen Peteritas

I mean we are a lazy generation but I don’t think that social media is the outlet to blame. Laziness had set in as part of every day culture well before social media was a buzzword.

James E. Evans, MISM, CSM


I don’t see the laziness. In my opinion, it’s more of a continium in a different form.

Before electronic social media, we had more brick-n-mortar social media. This would consist of television, radio & newspaper. Information was pushed to the receptive masses by reporters, broadcasters, etc. Viewers-n-Listeners would wait for this information from their chosen method of delivery. Those with an interest would respond.

Now we have electronic social media.

Information is still pushed to the prospective audiences via Twitter, blogs, podcasts, etc. Viewers-n-Listeners would, again, wait for this information from their chosen method of delivery. Those with an interest would respond.

The method of delivery has changed But, in either arena, if the viewer/listener has the interest, they will seek it out and react.

Just my thoughts on a hot Tuesday afternoon.

Marco Morales

Social media has given each citizen a stronger voice in cyberspace. I’ve see cases where even professional journalists have used certain blogs as attributable news sources and, which are no more than what the average citizen posts on any given day. All of these tools would suffer a major blow if one of our enemies launched a weapon of mass destruction at us armed with an EMP device. Something to think about. Lazy? most likely not. It has certainly opened up lines of communication in real time.

Phyllis Mockler-Caissie

I need to think about this….I don’t Tweet or Blog but I do have a Facebook account…mostly to see pictures of friends and relatives that don’t live near by that I want to keep in touch with. Ummmmm…I am not sure social media has made us lazy but I do think it has made us ‘less’ social in our ability to actually have social skills. By that I mean…there is nothing like having a face-to-face conversation with a person …not using Skype or another webcam…but for real….where you are sitting close enoght to reach out and touch the person with whom you are having a conversation…or give a real hug if they need it…not a virtual one. I think that many people would not really have any social ettiquette skills if they had to talk to a person in the flesh. It is easy for people to say things using social media that are inappropriate or rude because they are at a distance…it would be less acceptable to say some of things people say on a tweet or FB if they were looking that person in the eye. What I think is that we have a generation of people who are a bit cowardly because they say things they wouldn’t normally say. I know there are rules and monitors for things like foul language and abusive comments on these social media sites but I still think that it is easier for people to be emotionless in their comments when they are using communication tools that don’t require physical human contact. Maybe because of my age (53) I am just old fashion. I still believe in keeping personal ties…I work in an office and could probably sit here and do all my business without ever having to see another person all day. I can email, telephone, fax, Facebook or text them. Somehow this just doesn’t work for me. I am not a total extrovert either by the way…I just believe it is important to talk to peple face-to-face and have that ability to see facial expression and touch a hand when needed. Maybe you are right, maybe some people are lazy because of the ability to use social media to connect with others. It means they don’t have to get their bum out of the chair to communicate. Which brings us to another issue….a society that lacks exercise and is becoming obese and unhealthy. Well, enough ranting from me….I didn’t really get up on the wrong side of the bed today…it is just that I like to observe the human race in other ways than through social media.

Zara Brunner

If social media is all people are using professionally or personally then yes, I would say it’s perpetuating/enabling laziness. Most of us, however, don’t just rely on social media to connect with people, share messages of significant importance, or try and produce change. It should be one of many communication methods.

Phyllis Mockler-Caissie

I agree with you Zara. When we engage with people we need to consider a variety of methods.As the Director of Citizen Engagement at the government of New Brunswick – I advised departments to use a variety of ways to engage with their public/stakeholders. Being inclusive in an engagement process means offering different ways for people to participate in the dialogue. We should never rely on only one method.

Linda Kiltz

I agree that some social media has made us intellectually lazy. It is impossible to understand the complexities of most issues of today in a mere 200 words yet these sound bites are how many get their news and information for the day. Americans have lost their ability to think reflectively and critically as a result of this over consumption of junk communication they get via social media. I wonder how much work time is lost each day to people on social media keeping in touch with friends and relatives.

Phyllis Mockler-Caissie

Good points Linda. At work it is forbidden to use Facebook. However, some employees have found it a good way to notify large numbers of people of particular events or news articles that relate to something government is doing. For example, when a citizen engagement initiative is being launched it is a great tool to spread the word. I personally have a FB account that I only access at home but did establish a FB account that is work related and I only use it on rare occasions to announce something related to my work. We have a strick policy within the government of New Brunswick around the use of social media.

Michael Steele

Every generation says that the current “young” generation is the laziest generation yet. When I was in college, everyone said we generation-Xers were all a bunch of TV watching, video-game playing slackers. My parents’ generation was stereotyped as lazy in their youth because they were all supposedly a bunch of hippies sitting around getting high and listening to rock-and-roll music all the time. I’m sure my grandparents’ generation was called lazy because they all were always listening to that newfangled “radio” instead of working 16 hour days in the coal mines like decent, hard-working Americans. And their parents were probably criticized for reading about what Teddy Roosevelt said in a newspaper instead of traveling hundreds of miles on foot to see William Jennings Bryan speak in person. If you keep going back, I’m sure you could come up with evidence that it’s just been one long, slow decline into laziness for civilization ever since we figured out how to chisel hieroglyphics onto stone tablets.

Brett Husbands

Yes. We shape our tools, and then our tools shape us. Being lazy just may be an optimal state – why would we want to make it harder for ourselves to do a thing?

Scott Horvath

Obeidallah said, “but if there is an issue you really want to make a difference on, it will take more than a tweet of 140 characters or updating your Facebook status to do it.” I agree and disagree with this statement. Yes, one can make a bigger deal of something, or provide much more context into their thoughts by blogging, writing an op-ed (do people still do that?), or some other long-form writing. They can get in contact with their Congressional representatives, local politicians, school board…whatever. But while one tweet might not make a difference, it’s the totality of all of the tweets that are saying the same thing which CAN make a difference.

The problem with social media and the ability to share, RT, and like is that it’s so easy to do. You might think that’s a good thing…and the fact that you can share something easily is helpful for people to quickly agree/disagree with something. However, the fact that it’s so easy makes it less likely that there’s some sort of thought behind hitting that “like” button. I guarantee that every person reading this has, many times before, quickly scanned a status update or saw a link to something and just clicked “like”, or retweeted it…without actually having read was shared or given thought as to why they liked it or want to RT it. There might be 500 RTs of one of your tweets, but do we honestly believe that all 500 of those people really thought about it and read what was posted?

In that sense, social media has made us lazy from the perspective of trying to understand what was actually shared…instead it’s just easier to like something and be on with our lives because we feel we’ve made some sort of contribution by liking it. In the case of Facebook, you also know that it’s easier to “like” rather than take the time to comment because if you comment then you’ll get notifications every single time someone else comments on the same post…no matter who they are. If you “like” it instead, you’re not bothered. In a sense, you could say that making something easy to “like” has made it easy to forget that something. If people aren’t commenting–aren’t conversing in some fashion–then they’re not encouraged to have a more fruitful conversation.

I’m not saying I’m completely against the ease of sharing…however it does have it’s disadvantages.

Overall, with web-based tool in general, I definitely know it’s making us think less and having to remember less than what we had to in past. For example, 15 years, if someone told me to be in a meeting at 10am on Tuesday of next week…I remembered. If I made plans to do things with someone, I would remember…I didn’t forget a date, event, or even a phone number. Back in the day when I had a physical appointment book and actually had to write down, in cursive, notes and dates…I remembered them. The very act of writing something down actual triggers your brain into remembering better.

Nowadays, everything is in SharePoint, or Google Calendar, synced up between multiple devices–stored in the cloud. I don’t remember jack! I’ve got push notifications, email reminders, and popup alerts that go off 15 minutes before a meeting…or maybe even an hour before some event. But do I always remember those events…no. I can’t. I didn’t actually write them down. Either I quickly saved an email to an appointment date with one click, or someone sent me a meeting email that I just clicked “Attend.” It’s quick, and I can move on with my life…but I don’t remember those things. Heaven forbid I have to actually pick up a *gulp*….pen…and write it down on paper…my hand cramps up after 5 or 6 words.

Yes, technology, web, social media…they’ve all made our lives a little easier, but also a little more stressful. All that “time” we’ve been sold on has simply allowed us to fill the void with more technology and more stuff. We then get overwhelmed and wonder where all this stuff came from..f