Is Facebook a Fad? Will Our Grandchildren Tweet?


In today's New York Times Room for Debate forum, Morra was asked to respond to the following question. You can read her full response here

Social media have changed the way people interact: young women in India protect their marriageability by being discreet on Facebook, while in the U.S. family members often feel the sting of learning about estranged loved ones through a screen. These networks are not just personal, of course; they are also political. Thomas Friedman recently wrote that although Facebook and Twitter may have been able to ignite a revolt in Egypt, they have failed to supply the “brick and mortar” needed to sustain real change.

Are social media part of a long-term shift in how people interact, like the telephone? Or, especially after Facebook’s worrisome I.P.O., do these networks look like a fad that will become less attractive the longer it lasts?

Most women may not think of social media as the next wave of women’s liberation. I do.

There’s no denying that the influence (and paycheck) I wield from my home office is impressive. I earn my living working anywhere there’s a wireless connection. Digital connectivity and online communities have empowered a new class of professionals like me.

For parents of young children, who often wish to stay close to home, nothing’s better. The downside is that you’re tethered to your smartphone. The upside is you can opt out of the commuting life and structure your days in ways that work for you, your clients and your family.

The great promise of second wave feminism was that women could escape the home and realize professional ambitions. Doing this necessitated that women accept a patriarchal definition of leadership and success. In the immortal words of Woody Allen, 90 percent of this success was showing up. Years later women turned around and realized that this “success” came at the price of time at home and with their children.

The choice between the “Feminine Mystique” or the hard-driving career is not stark anymore, and we have social media to thank for that. It’s about much more than staying connected via e-mail. For my sisters in the digital work force, social media mean we can simultaneously be at home yet connected to a boundless online community of ideas, innovation and ambition.

Social media have not just changed how we communicate, but how we work, and for that, I can never fault them, even when I desperately need a break from all the connection.