Monday, April 7, 2014

Navigating Life's Journey of Learning in a World of Social Media

The Opposite of Loneliness - this op-ed from the NYT is a moving tribute to the both the enthusiasm and the wisdom of youth. Bob Dylan once sang: 'I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now'. What Dylan was probably referencing was the way youth thinks it knows everything, but I feel one could also apply this line to the clarity of thought in the young that gets overwhelmed by the propaganda and confusion in a long life as lived.

From 'Ageing to Sageing' is a book written years ago that is still in print. In it a rabbi argues that it is the task of us old'uns to feed back into society whatever is of value that we have learned about living well throughout the long tenure that has been our good fortune. Clearly the young lady so tragically killed so early in life's journey had learned a lot in her own short tenure.  How much more important then that those of us who are much luckier pay attention to and document our special insights.

Marina Keegan had connections that resulted in her take on life being published as a book. Most of us who comment on life's journey do not get that opportunity. Where we have to make our mark is on the multitude of online chat sites and social media vehicles that exist today. How reliable a guide to  learning can these vehicles be?  Sadly, there is a plethora of misinformation to be had from the Web. It takes a skilled online traveller to find the nuggets, and it is hard for those of us who think occasionally we have something useful to say to make it find-able by those who might appreciate it.

I was trained professionally as an information scientist yet for me navigating through the world of online data and comment is at best a serendipitous exercise. Finding the nuggets takes both skill and time as there is plenty of distracting ignorance on display out there in the ever-vastening webland.

The old, like the young, are impatient. Patience is only a virtue in mid-life. We oldsters know our time left is likely short. Mostly we have little enthusiasm for the constant change in know-how we must develop to take on the Web as a place in which we can be heard. When we do venture out there, we often do wrong. Some of the most confusing or juvenile thinking on the web is put up by seniors. Facebook is not better for the shift of users into mature adults. In fact it is worse because the newly converted are like kids in a candy store - they cannot keep their hands from the sweet jar called a keyboard. I have learned that 'friending' the young will produce less dross for me to sift through than my senior 'Friends', who have time but are not savvy about what gets remembered and what does not.

The 'learned intermediary' that operated to keep published letters-to-the-editor, magazine articles and published books making sense, is a frail ghost of his former self in the world of Creative Commons where every Tom, Dick and Jane can put their unedited and often incoherent ramblings online without much hindrance.

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