Transgenerational and Class Challenges in the twitterverse and blogosphere

In Deanna Zandt’s  Share This, she  speaks about “ social media authenticity” and it provided me with some insight about my own experiences with social media. Lately I have become a bit jaded because when I post YouTube clips and news links on my Facebook site, only one or two people comment. Perhaps the lack of interaction is due to the fact that my posts are pedantic and don’t relate well to my circle of friends.  My posts tend to include the link and a quote or snippet from the tagged item, or a call like “Wow, read this!”  If I analyze the experience from Zandt’s view it seems that I need to personalize the post, invoke some humor, draw people in, and help them see why the post relates to their everyday lives.

Similarly my employers at the labor union have launched twitter feeds and Facebook sites and despite the fact that the organization has 120,000 members, no one is following these social media threads. I agree with Zandt’s commentary that the reason for this may very well be that 70% of the members are African American and/or Hispanic and use Facebook with little understanding of its political power, and rather use these sites to post trivial daily phenomena, and sometimes even cross over to posting inappropriate matter. Perhaps the few that log on and see these kinds posts by the members lose interest in socializing in this forum and therefore also lose the opportunity to engage in social media driven activism.  But having said that, I still believe that there is a class chasm in social media. Why is DC37 creating Facebook and Twitter feeds when most of their members according to  Danah Boyd are probably on Myspace, not Facebook (ComScore data)?  In this situation there is media illiteracy on both sides of the social media interface; DC37 is in the wrong place and not recognizing where their members are on the web and the DC37 members are not seeing how social media can be used for more than posting their latest date, family outing, or drama.

More recently labor unions decided  to endorse the OccupyWallstreet effort, and NY Times labor journalist Steven Greenhouse made some really interesting points about how different the two groups are:

“Still, it may not be easy for organized labor to mesh with this new movement. Labor unions generally represent older workers, while the Occupy Wall Street protesters are younger. Unions are hierarchical, while the Occupy Wall Street protesters are more loosely knit and like to see themselves as highly democratic…. Unions invariably have a long and specific list of demands, while Occupy Wall Street has not articulated formal ones. Union leaders often like the limelight, while Occupy Wall Street is largely leaderless… ‘The idea that the unions will take over the crowd, that’s not going to happen,’ said Jeff Smith, 41, a freelancer in advertising who has been on the welcome committee since the protests began. ‘We are not a group looking for a leader.’”Greenhouse, NYTimes Oct 5, 2011

What I am wondering is how will the movement find unity in this transgenerational and classist space; young people are on Facebook and Twitter while the older union members, not accustomed to using social media to promote activism, are handing out flyers at subway stations to promote their causes. Greenhouse does not bring this aspect in but I think it is really important and something that deserves some attention.

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