Millenials, Social Networking and Social Responsibility

Millenials, Social Networking and Social Responsibility

Sharmila Pixy Ferris (William Paterson University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-926-7.ch011
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Abstract

In this chapter the author explores Millenials’ participation in the public good, investigating whether they use social networking for social responsibility. Millenials, the wired, connected generation for whom social networking is an essential aspect of life, are often criticized for their lack of social responsibility. Social networking, as new media uniquely a part of Millenials’ wired and connected lifestyles, has the potential to “transform citizenship.” To investigate Millenials’ social networking and social responsibility, a Webnography was conducted. Findings go against conventional wisdom as the author found that Millenials use social networking to take social and political action, engage in social entrepreneurship, and conduct charitable solicitation and donation.
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Background

The term “Millenial” (also spelled Millennial) denotes that generation of young people born after the advent of the Internet. Although variously called the Net Generation, Echo Boomers and the Digital Generation, among other names, this generation is self-styled “Millenials” after several thousand of them sent suggestions about what they want to be called to Peter Jennings at abcnews.com (Sweeney 2008). Millenials are unique in that their exposure to the Internet and digital technologies is lifelong, but also in the extent of their connectivity through the internet and digital technologies.

The Internet features prominently in Millenials’ everyday lives (McMillan and Morrison 2006). For example, a recent Pew study found that 64% of adolescent (12 to 17 years old) were actively engaged in creating and sharing material on the Internet. Teenagers not only blogged, posted photos and posted videos but equally importantly “participated in conversations fueled by that content” (Lenhart, Madden, Rankin Macgill & Smith, 2007).

The phenomenal growth of social networking Web sites has promoted and stimulated adolescents’ online lives. Social networking sites are screened sites where users build personal networks that connect them to other users. The most popular of these sites are FaceBook and MySpace. A Pew study found that 75% of young adults (18-24 years old) use social networking sites (Lenhart, 2009), up from 55% of all adolescents (12 to 17 years old) (Lenhart, 2007). This makes it clear that Millenials’ social lives revolve around the integration of the Internet.

Social networking has been intimately linked with social responsibility. Micromobilization research (Sherrod, 2006) finds that people’s social ties can promote activism. Individuals with ties to social structures (that is, their social connections) will participate in the public good if their social ties engage them to do so. “Social network ties are critical determinants of social movement participation” (Sherrod, 2006, p. 597). Therefore the active social networking of adolescents offers them excellent opportunities to participate in socially responsible activities. Yet although social networking sites provide an effortless and convenient means for Millenials’ communication and participation in social activities, they do not appear to have taken advantage of this opportune technology to participate in the public good. America’s youth are charged with a lack of social responsibility.

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