June. The month in which
Bikini-clad youth frolic
In June alone, Facebook users spent over 1 billion hours online. That is 4.5 hours per user. Granted, that is only ~ 9 minutes per day, but I would venture to guess that the majority are on either tail of the distribution, spending closer to 0 minutes per day or 60. By Facebook’s statistics, the average is actually 25 minutes per day.
Although I am not one to judge procrastination, wasting time or connecting with long lost friends (read: stalking exes, exes’ exes, and potential exes), it does call attention to the fact that we are essentially living in a virtual world. I work and live and breathe digital media, so by no means would I argue against augmenting your physical reality with efficient connective capabilities, but what happens when the technology is not additive but actually a replacement?
Aside from examples which highlight our attempts at feigning social interaction, such as viewing a friend’s new pictures religiously but not calling them for 6 months, other usage behaviors hint at a revamped post-1960’s apathy.
Take Facebook Causes. In theory, this application has the organizational capability to activate populations of socially-minded individuals around local and global issues. Moreover, the network effects are exponential, with friends telling friends telling friends about “this great organization, planning this awesome event, fundraising for this great cause, etc. etc.”
According to data from April, 50 million users had joined at least one cause (thats 1 in 4). But of the 235,000 nonprofit organizations using the application, 3 had raised more than $100,000 and 88 raised $10,000. Although fundraising data is by no means the ultimate metric for measuring impact, it does elucidate the extent to which supporters express their committment beyond the initial click to join. By that measure, we are a bunch of click-happy users with big hearts and small wallets.
Growing up, teachers would lament that my generation (Z?) was ripe with apathy — “You guys don’t care about anything” being the mantra of choice. The Obama campaign, Teach for America, a general rise in global awareness (thank you Jon Stewart) and a pleathora of other movements have successfully nunchucked the generalization that we just don’t care. But at a certain point, we do have to parcel out talk from action. While there is nothing wrong with wearing the Save the Whales free t-shirt, be weary of that “Ooh, I’m helping the world and I feel great!” feeling because it eventually makes you believe your shirt has super magical powers that wards off evil poachers.
Trust me. I once thought that my rollover minutes were actually being transferred to users who go over and can’t afford it (didn’t really think that, but AT&T, poach that!).
This rant probably falls into the The Lies We Tell Ourselves category, in which case, blogging is essentially an inactive action, and this post, which seeks to arouse action, is then pretty hypocritical. So stop reading before we both jump deeper into the rabbit hole.
To prevent any further derision, I’m going to go plant a tree. And by that I mean eat heavily processed “organic” foods from a can, microwave it in a plastic container, gorge it in a styrofoam bowl, wrap myself in paper towels and call it a night — leaving the lights on, of course.