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Friday, March 11, 2011

Are Youth Socially Aware??

Has social media caused youth to be more inwardly directed and less socially aware? Reading Facebook posts of my younger Facebook friends it seems that they share a great deal of minutia of their lives online. My older friends tend to be "Facebook voyeurs" but rarely post anything about themselves. This has had me thinking about how youth develop social awareness beyond their own narrow worlds. Many of us who grew up in the 60's watching civil rights and anti-war demonstrations on TV were forced to question the basis tenets of our Country's social systems. I realize that I have over generalized about both generations and not everyone became social activists in the 60's and there are many socially aware youth today. I see many examples of second generation youth active in our community organizations.

How do we best instill a sense of social responsibility in our youth in a manner that doesn't turn them off? Of course by being socially aware and being involved in community organizations we teach by example. Parents having dinner discussions about current events or books read can certainly create a broader awareness of the world. Teachers making lessons relevant to today's events can accomplish this. Having a community service requirement for graduation is a possible way of doing this too.

We have some good examples of this happening in Howard County. The Women's Giving Circle has created a Young Women's Giving Circle and a Journey Camp for 8th and 9th grade girls. I wonder why we may not be trying to instill social awareness in boys as much?

The Horizon Foundation's Youth Connections program is another example of youth engagement. To insure a socially aware community into the future I would recommend that all community organizations explore developing a youth components to their organization.


Jason Reddish said...

A key challenge with social media is to continue to spread the message that being well-informed and expressing concern is important, but not so important as action. I think your suggestion is an excellent one. Having younger people involved in organizing efforts can make other younger people feel comfortable with taking the next step and getting out from behind the Web.

duanestclair said...

I couldn't agree with you more Jason. How to use social media to move people to action is something I hope to explore. I don't know if Meetups are the next step to use.

Summer R said...

I think this is a really interesting topic. I don't think the inaction is limited to youth. I think @JessieX could comment more intelligently on it, but I believe there is a generation in between the 60's generation and today's youth that is not engaged.

Social media could be a really powerful tool to call to action, but I think the key is making sure people feel they are actually going to make a difference with their actions. Social media's ability to so quickly get the word out has such potential.

I'm curious what you define as Social Awareness though. Is it activism? If so, on what types of issues? I'm not saying this to challenge your assumption, but just to understand.

duanestclair said...

I would define "social awareness" as being able to look beyond your own individual needs to see the needs of others. This is a very important part of the process of maturing. In fact I would define immaturity as the inability to see beyond your own needs. Hopefully social action comes with the maturing of a person's social awareness.

Summer R said...

Ok. Fair enough. I wonder how much is not seeing beyond your own needs vs. seeing beyond them but feeling powerless to make a difference. Sometimes inaction does not equal indifference. Certainly there is a lot of both going on.

duanestclair said...

I would hope that we could always see even small steps in making a difference. As much as I hate mentioning it but the Starfish tale does have a message that is important.