Are We a Nation of Google and Facebook?

A nation of Google and Facebook - The Anti-Social MediaYesterday, in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, he said, “We are a nation of Google and Facebook.”

I don’t know whether that should be cause for pride, or cause for alarm.

Facebook and Google both provide technologies that touch hundreds of millions of lives daily across the globe. We use them to answer questions, keep in touch with friends, and access information that would have been much less accessible a decade ago. These are the technologies that power our collective knowledge and connection to one another. They are the seedlings of what the internet will mature into int he coming century.

Still, I see them as making us a nation of lazy, hyper-connected slobs.

You don’t need to learn any facts because Google will remember them for you. Want to know what happened to your best friend from first grade? Facebook her. Need the answer to a question? Google it. See something funny? ‘Like’ it.

Whatever happened to becoming an expert? To mastering the knowledge of a subject? To caring about something enough to do more than click ‘like?’ To knowing your friends beyond their status update? To not measuring someone’s worth based on the number of “friends” they boast online, but rather the quality of that friendship and what those friends accomplished together? Are these questions how Americans now define themselves?

I know there are still people who are experts. Many of them share their genius on their blog, while others throw their potential away blathering aimlessly at a camera. All of us, from the social media mavens to the people starting their Facebook accounts today, have an obligation to use the technologies not as a supplement, but rather a compliment to the lives we lead.

Every time we log on, we choose how to use these tools. We can use them as fluff, or we can use them to find solutions and solve problems beyond their superficial uses.

Are we Americans nothing more than a nation of Google and Facebook, or are we more than the technologies that keep us plugged in?

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13 Responses to “Are We a Nation of Google and Facebook?”

  1. Rachel Wilkerson January 26, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    I think we are more than just the technologies keep us plugged in. Human beings are hardwired to want to connect — that’s one of our defining characteristics as a species. To me, the excitement over social media is really just excitement over a faster and easier way to connect. Like you said, the technologies are there to complement the lives we already lead, but the fact is, some lives are just more exciting than others. If people didn’t write it in a boring blog, they’d just be those people who tell way-too-long stories to their friends face-to-face. I don’t blame the technology for this. When marketers talk about how “social media is changing marketing,” a lot of people respond, “No, social media is just changing the channel — at it’s heart, it’s still marketing.”

    Do certain aspects of all this make us lazy? Absolutely. But in terms of social networking, I think that people just have a desire to connect. Some people have a desire to teach and to share information. But not everyone has that desire. So saying that some people don’t use the potential of YouTube or WordPress or Facebook to the fullest is sort of like complaining that not everyone has written a book or run for office. While part of what I do is encouraging people to use social media to do those things, I’ve realized that not everyone is cut out for it. Not everyone can lead or teach; I think social media just makes this more apparent, but I don’t think it’s to blame.

    • Jay January 27, 2011 at 12:15 am #

      Great points Rachel. I still think social media can be used for deeper connections, rather than quicker connections.

  2. Rob January 26, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    Well, well said sir! More and more I see an increasing number of people who are nearly incapable of maintaining face to face human interaction. Many have become so used to the anonymity of the keyboard and the avatar, that when faced with a real, live person, they become completely ineffectual in conversing.
    Being a nation of Google and Facebook is not what I would call a compliment. I would call it a warning, and possibly a call to action to think about our daily lives.
    I agree that it should be a complement to a way of life, not a standard. I would, under normal circumstances, probably never have had any discourse with you in the non-technological world. For that, I thank the digital world for allowing me that opportunity. As awesome as you are Jay, I still thoroughly enjoy having a cup of coffee with friends or other professionals and having real conversation with real people. That’s something we really shouldn’t lose.

    • Jay January 27, 2011 at 12:17 am #

      Fact: I can get terribly shy in person. Is it because of my computer. I dunno?

      Also, I’m ok if you prefer real people to me for now.

  3. Jerome Pineau January 26, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    Jay, I think you totally missed the point on the Haul videos…the chick is hot! :)

    Seriously though - I see no difference between this background noise babble and the typical commercial on US TV - The only difference is with the video, I can click away really.

    Great post as usual.

    • Jay January 27, 2011 at 12:05 am #

      Hmm, good point. About clicking away, but still, it worries me that her videos have been viewed over 100,000,000 times.

      • Jerome Pineau January 27, 2011 at 1:34 am #

        If you compare to other gals doing the same thing, she has a certain “talent” and flows well - I could actually see this thing being played in a waiting room or somewhere where people have to wait a long time - like DMV :) It makes for great background media.
        Honestly though, it’s not easy to ramble on like that for 10 mins straight - She’d probably make a great newscaster :)

  4. Morgan January 27, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    Personally, I only use social media for deep connections. I don’t come and post on blogs or like something or tweet about something or someone unless I’m truly interested. It’s just not something I believe in.

    Social media needs to be about the connections, instead of just the amount of friends and followers you have,

    Though I must admit, it is kinda nice being able to go to Google and get the answer to just about anything. :)

    However, I DEFINITELY agree with your paragraph about how we’ve lost the will to become an expert in anything because Google is so easy. I like Google because you can find things easily. But I won’t take that little knowledge that I acquired from Google and claim to be an expert by any means.

    Back to what Obama said, that saying is only frightening to the narcissistic people who only care about quantity and not quality.

    • Jay January 27, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

      My real name is Narcissus. No wonder that statement frightens me.

  5. Joe Clay January 28, 2011 at 1:37 am #

    I’ve had this conversation many times before. I’ve been saying that we’re quickly turning into a world where it is no longer important to know something. It is only important to know how to find something. That’s kind of scary.

    I learn as much as I possibly can, because I find it useful to actually know things. Maybe it makes me half a second quicker to know the answer, but maybe that half a second will be important enough to spend the extra five minutes to really learn it. For instance, in the time it takes someone to find out how to treat a jellyfish sting, you could have already peed on the person and given them relief.

    But I also get stuck on wikipedia for hours, so perhaps I’m not the best judge of this.

  6. sam January 29, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    It’s an interesting point. Can you imagine 10 years ago being described as a nation of Facebook and Google. There is something quite impersonal about that phrase and I’m not so sure it is something to be said with pride. When you start thinking how much time you spend interacting with a machine rather than human contact and even where you have these interactions (even toilets apparently, nice thought that you could be having a conversation with someone on a toilet), think about what is being lost. Yes, technology is great for research and answers but it is easy to grow ignorant with it to, checking emails, tweeting, status updates whilst in the company of others or at a dinner table. 10 years ago people were wondering how to deal with an expanding population of couch potatoes, we’re becoming more of a nation of techno-spuds


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