Tom Brokaw’s Lawn: Get Off

10 Nov

Yesterday I was listening to the radio (MPR, natch) and on came Tom Brokaw, taped the night before at a townhall-ish type thing. Mostly he was doing publicity for his new book, but he did something that I’ve noticed more and more lately among politicians and professionals of Brokaw’s generation: The slam.

Specifically, they slam social media, modern technology and young people for engaging in the horrors of social media and technology.

I was a little surprised by Brokaw’s position, as it seemed a little out of the blue, and also because he’s not a politician trolling for old people votes. In fact, he’s a journalist who has greatly benefited from changing modern technology. He worked during the transition from typewriter to early word processor to computer, and thus presumably experienced how much easier and more efficient it is to do your job using advanced technology.

As for the social media bashing…maybe he just doesn’t understand it, or thinks it’s frivolous. A lot of people in journalism feel this way (though less now than a few years ago). I can’t tell you how many times during my time in school as a journalism major my professors and TA’s and guest lecturers badmouthed Twitter and Facebook as a waste of their time. Many of my classmates even agreed, though to be fair, it may have been a bit of brown nosing. I’m not sure.

I have a problem with journalists in particular (but also politicians, come to think of it) openly hating Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr etc. These channels, if not the exact sites themselves, are how we communicate today, and they will continue to serve that function in the near future. For example, I rarely talk on the phone to my friends, not because I don’t want to, but because we’re constantly having conversations and debates and sharing things we find interesting and thought-provoking on various social media. There’s skype and youtube and so many applications that make it easy to connect, that it’s foolish to insist they don’t serve a purpose, or that not using them makes you superior.

And yet, constantly we are bombarded with the whine that traditional newspapers are shrinking and dying. Guess what! They are everything our world of connectivity and interactivity isn’t. It’s folly to think they’ll survive.

Ok, back to Tom Brokaw. I kind of ranted on Twitter about this, but I wanted to expand a bit here. First though, here are my tweets:

Just listened to Tom Brokaw on @MPRnews. Interesting, but not sure why he constantly bashes social media, and most modern technology…

…my favorite instance being him saying MLK didn’t need text messaging and the internet. You’re right, Tom Brokaw, he didn’t need it…

…But you can’t make the argument that something is a waste of time bc someone with no chance of access didn’t need it in their era. #ranty

Also this: “You will not eliminate global poverty by hitting delete, and no text message will ever replace the first kiss.”-Tom Brokaw

It’s a slick line, but no one disagrees, IMO. Also, he’s ignoring multitudes of aid organizations that would never existed w/o Internet/SM.
One of his main points about social media was that other movements didn’t need it, so we really shouldn’t be too enamored. What was his example? Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement. Ummmmm…what?
This is like saying, Shakespeare didn’t have a newfangled compooter machine, but he wrote Hamlet and did alright for himself!

Abraham Lincoln didn’t have radar but he won the civil war!

Nellie Bly didn’t have helicopters or smart carz or even Nepalese sherpas, but she circled the globe in 72 days!

Benjamin Franklin didn’t have Weather.com but he got electrocuted in a lightning storm! (Ok, maybe that one doesn’t work…)

We study history so we can apply the lessons we learned from those that came before us to our own situations, not so we can replicate their movements and ideas exactly. A civil rights era movement would look totally different in our country today rather than 50 years ago for the simple fact that we have completely changed many things about how we interact with one another during that time. They utilized the resources available to them during the 60’s, and we would use the same process now but our resources have changed. Further, Brokaw completely ignores the key role social media and technology has played during more recent movements like the Arab Spring or the uprising in Iran. These movements could have still been significant without social media, but because of the platform social media and the internet provided, they became huge international stories.

Brokaw is an Old Media Type who was in Berlin when the wall came down. He’s interviewed multitudes of important and interesting people and I really do respect his credentials. But there’s a reason he’s called an Old Media Type. This is someone who longs for the old days, freely admits that he prefers America ‘back in the day’ compared to now.

I, on the other hand, would not want to live in any other era than right now. I don’t think I’d enjoy not having indoor plumbing, for example. Nor would I like wearing garters, bustles, stockings or, heaven forbid, corsets. *shudder*

Reducing my generation and people like me to mindless texters that walk into traffic and sit in basements playing video games or *gasp* BLOGGING, is not only expected and passe, it’s insulting to both my intelligence and complexity. I believe you can appreciate the inescapable goosebumps of an amazing sunset in the same evening as laughing your ass off over a perfect web comic. I think you can find an amazing community of friends both online and in your neighborhood, and those experiences both expand your world.

Tom Brokaw won’t see this. Nor will he see my ranty tweets. And that’s fine. I don’t write or participate in online communities of awesome in order to become part of The Greatest Generation. I do it because I love it. Because it makes me furiously happy.

And really, what other reason is there?

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One Response to “Tom Brokaw’s Lawn: Get Off”

  1. PSBlueskies June 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    Honey, Your rant on Tom Brokaws delete button quote…. The quote is a metaphor. Google the word metaphor. then get up and go outside and do something.

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