The New York Times released a column on Saturday informing millennials to quit social media in order to succeed in their careers. According to the author, Cal Newport, being active on social media is creating a dwindling attention span and resulting in a poor work ethic.
Newport, an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University, praises those who chose to go ghost online and live as hermits with zero social media presence. He naively believes simply doing a good job in your career will be enough to ensure you are never without work, an idea that in this day and age is antiquated.
“Any 16-year-old with a smartphone can invent a hashtag or repost a viral article,” Newport said. “The idea that if you engage in enough of this low-value activity, it will somehow add up to something of high value in your career is the same dubious alchemy that forms the core of most snake oil and flimflam in business.”
It’s true that anyone with the ability to access the internet has the potential to take part in creating a national discussion by shedding light on an issue they caught on camera or retweeting someone else’s thoughts on a topic. To label that activity as “low-value” simply because anyone can partake in it, however, is narrow-minded.
The beauty of social media is that it connects people from all walks of life, from all backgrounds and views and gives them an outlet to communicate. No, simply having a Twitter or Facebook is not going to benefit your career. However, being about to lead or shape the conversation due to having built up a large following and possessing the intellect to analyze the situation in a new and meaningful way will.
Many careers require employees to have an active and professional social media presence. It not only allows the employer to get a feel for who they are actually hiring, it also can help promote their company by having the employee post about their work and increasing brand potential online.
Newport argued social media causes users to become mindless droids with a limited attention span.
On one hand, Newport is right. Studies are finding that American’s attention span has decreased greatly over the past several decades. Though they have yet to cast blame entirely on one component of our changing society, evidence does point toward media’s increasing use of 30 second sound bites and the widespread use of social media as playing a key role in the decline.
But being active on social media is not the same as being dependent.
In 2015, a study by Georgetown University found that 70 percent of college students were working at least part-time while attending school. Of those, 25 percent were juggling being a full-time student and working full-time.
Nearly every student in America is working and miraculously they have been able to adequately do their jobs while still using Facebook in their free time.
Do we get bored easily? Sure. But that doesn’t necessarily equate to the inability to focus for extended periods of time. A study by the Pew Research Center found in 2014 that millennials are out reading previous generations and buy far more books than their elders, obliterating the stereotype that we are unable to read anything longer than 140 characters.
The same study also found, “62 percent of Americans under age 30 agree there is ‘a lot of useful, important information that is not available on the internet,’ compared with 53 percent of older Americans who believe that.”
Ironically enough, the generation with the largest presence on social media, who is the largest percentage of the U.S. workforce, who has constantly been criticized for being uncultured and shallow is apparently the generation that is making the most effort to stay informed.
Social media presence is necessary for becoming a well-rounded individual. Yes, many of us are constantly using social sites, but since when is being surrounded by a variety different views and beliefs a bad thing?