Social media doesn’t create new generation leaders

This post was originally published at Conversation Agent. Thank you to Valeria Maltoni for the opportunity.

We have a deep desire to feel that rise in our chests, the quickening of our breath, the spread of a smile.

Generation Y wants to change the world.

Not the environment. Not healthcare. Not education. Not poverty. Not racism. Not sexism. Not war. Not cancer. Not anything, really.

Just the world.

We want to change the world.

And in wanting so much, we get so little.

Restlessness courses through our veins, for we are never doing enough or being enough. Volunteering, leadership, and entrepreneurship, nor the eventual acceptance of the mundane satisfies our edge.

And there’s a majority of us who just sit back. We sit back, content to lead mediocre lives. To never step out. To work, to love, to lead good lives. To lead good lives, but not extraordinary.

Who among us will lead an extraordinary life? Who will be the leader who steps out on an issue? Who is strong enough in their beliefs and convictions to not only sell their Volvo for a hybrid, but to tell the world about it and get others to do the same? Who will stand up for the horror and revulsion that plagues our world today?

Because the warmth from our laptop screens does little but light our idle faces.

Who will be loud enough? Who will scream?

There’s an acceptance that it will all get done. And social media will help us do it. This idea that we can bring groups together over the internet through blogging and Facebooking, and that it will create significant change is ridiculous. It’s hiring a gardener for the privilege of missing the sensation of earth between your fingers.

It is powerful, this online community.

But it is not enough.

In finding so many ways to communicate, we are communicating less and less in a way that is valuable and meaningful.

Like the placement of a candle in a window was once long ago, social media is merely an instrument. You still have to show up.

You still have to get dirty.

Sam Davidson tells a good fisherman story about a man that finds another man fishing, and explains to him that if he catches many fish, well he could eventually buy a boat. He could then catch many more fish, and could buy another boat, and another and another until he had a whole fleet of boats. And he would sure catch a lot of fish then, and with all of that he could do whatever he wanted.

And the man replies, “You mean, fish?”

So it goes with social media. There is a man talking to another woman in a coffee shop. He says to her, “you know if we stalked each other on Facebook and cuffed ourselves to our crackberries and twittered it up, we could communicate, and reach out to each other, and have great conversations, and you know, change things!”

And the woman replies, “You mean, like right now?”

We’ve created social media for the privilege of missing the look from someone across the table, face to face, secret to secret, ambition to ambition.

We create online communities that secure our quasi-anonymous lives, and moan about not being able to connect with someone.

When all we really have to do is simply say, “Hello.”

Don’t get me wrong. Facebook is great for all the reasons people say it’s great. But when you focus on how a tool can change the world, instead of the cause itself, you mitigate the importance of taking action.

The amount of effort we put into our relationships is what will create change, not the amount of effort we put into building and maintaining the printing press, the telephone, the television, or the better, more collaborative, more inclusive web.

We have to show up, face to face. Our actions, not the means – technological or not – propel change. Our effort makes the difference.

It will be quite easy, really. If only we paid attention to the rise in our chests, the quickening of our breath, the smile spreading on our face.

Eye to eye leadership.

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