LaDean Birkhead

SONGSOPTOK : The internet revolution has deeply impacted our modern society that can be compared to the discovery of electricity. Today we can’t think of the internet without the social media. When and how did you first discover the social media?

LaDean Birkhead:  I just gradually learned about the computer first at my  job and through my daughters influence. I learned that I could research information, talk to friends, find old friends and meet new people all in the privacy of my home. I am even doing research on my ancestry to pass on to future generations.

SONGSOPTOK : As far as interpersonal relationships are concerned, the power of the social media today is undeniable, allowing us to communicate in real time across the globe. What is your opinion about this? What are its advantages & disadvantages?

LaDean Birkhead:  I think it is wonderful that I can meet nice people all over the world day or night from my living room.  We can learn about other cultures, religions, the opinions of others and the struggles that good people are facing in all corners of the globe!  The problem is there are unsavory people so you have to take care so as not to allow someone to take advantage of you. I also have to be careful and budget my time so I am making room in my life for other things as social media can consume a great deal of time

SONGSOPTOK : We have noticed that social media has become a powerful vector for personal expression and creativity, because we no longer need the approval or approbation to publish. Our creativity has found a new channel for addressing a global audience. What is your opinion about this?

LaDean Birkhead:  I believe that each of us has talents that we are not are not aware of. The social media gives each of us an opportunity to step out and express our thoughts where before we may not have had the opportunity or courage to speak what is on our mind or in our heart.

SONGSOPTOK : In this context, it is also true that any and everybody today can claim to be a writer, a poet, or an artist on any number of social media. We no longer have a standard for appreciating true talent – a role that was played by editors or different types of experts. What is you point of view? Do you think that the power of social media have served to create more charlatans than proper artists?

LaDean Birkhead:  Just because you think you can sing does not make you a great talent and the listeners will let you know! I believe that it is the same for all artists and you will soon find out where your talent lies unless you do not want to accept the lack of applause as your judge. Maybe the standards are down but I see that in our modern world in many forms. Look what is passed off as music and art. In grade school we were given an assignment to write a poem and it was a great struggle for me with a few tears mixed in with the words.  My biggest problem in many attempts in life was that I thought I had to be perfect. Now at this age I find that premise holds you back from trying new things.  I say go for the gusto and listen for the applause.  If you do not get applause but your song makes you happy then sing in the shower! I say sing on!

SONGSOPTOK : Would you say that the social media has contributed to bringing societies and cultures across the globe closer? If not, what can be done to make it a more powerful tool?

LaDean Birkhead:  It all depends on the individual.  I like to talk and get acquainted with people and I have been accused of talking to everyone. If you are a curious person and enjoy meeting people then the social media is wonderful. I have friends around the world that most likely I will never meet in person but they are still important in my life. Those who don’t have the same inclinations will not find this way of interacting appealing. It has opened a new exciting world of communication for me.  

SONGSOPTOK : Would you say that in general the users of social media are actually aware of its potential, both in the positive and negative sense? In other words, do you think that the average user is aware of the possible reach of social media and the consequences it may have? What is your own experience?

LaDean Birkhead:  I am not sure. I am a senior citizen and I tell people that I am 80 going on 30! I did not grow up with this and I have much to learn, I am sure. My experience so far has been mostly good and I am the type who will take risks because I abhor the idea of sitting around with nothing to look forward to, so social media was made for adventurous people like me! I wish we could heal some of the problems of the world with this and maybe we can! I think many of the young people are aware of the reach and then there are those who are not deep thinkers and have no clue.   

SONGSOPTOK : Social media is often considered to be a true reflection of human society. What is your opinion? How would you evaluate the image you see today in the context of the society you live in? How true or false is the reflection?

LaDean Birkhead:  I see many good people on social media but I have also noticed some scary things about human nature. I have observed that some people will jump on an issue without knowing all the facts and proclaim to do violence and use the most vile language. I believe in common sense but see a lack of that in many situations. There are good and evil in every society and hopefully the good will overcome the bad. We in, our country, are seeing some troubled times and I always go to back to stressing common sense as the answer to all problems.  Believe me common sense is not common!!

SONGSOPTOK : The advent and the trivialization of social media is today’s society seem to be have erased the difference between virtual and real. Would you agree? What is you own experience?

LaDean Birkhead:  I see many who are living as if there is no tomorrow.  I see a lack of respect for women and women who do not respect themselves. When I was growing up we were taught to be modest but that standard is long gone for many. I believe the entertainment industry has made it acceptable to be crude and low class. The rap, so called music, and materialism is also destroying our society. Many young people do not have proper role models. The role models are the reality shows which I find disturbing. How do young people know what is real and substantial? Hopefully they have parents and other adults in their lives that bring them back to what is real and valuable.        

SONGSOPTOK : In your opinion, has social media contributed to breaking down of traditional rules of social relationships? In what way? How would you analyze the impact of social media in this context?

LaDean Birkhead:  I have seen a couple in a restaurant texting on their phones so they are not really with that person.  I believe when you are with a person you should be with them.  I would say that   social skills are becoming a lost art. There is texting and now I hear there is sexing which includes sending pictures to others. The human brain does not fully develop until the mid twenties so the young people can be pulled into behavior on social media that is harmful. I am sure there is much going on that I am not aware of and maybe it’s better that way. Because social media is a new way of communication maybe we are going through a phase and it will eventually adjust.

SONGSOPTOK : Do you believe that social media can play a constructive role for world peace and unity? Or on the contrary play a totally negative role by fuelling existing conflicts between nations and communities?

LaDean Birkhead:  I believe it has a way of exposing evil actions. When I was young World War 11 was going on but we did not see the graphic pictures of conflict that we see on TV today. Now we actually see the horrors of war. In the local news we see thugs give themselves away by being caught on a video or a bad cop shooting someone in the back. It is difficult to defend yourself when caught on tape. Some people are just openly evil and some are not.  I believe social media is putting people on notice that they can be discovered in a second when they least expect it.  Conflict between nations is another story.  The power hungry people who only care about themselves are also being found out and exposed. People must become informed and then demand by voting that they want honest politicians. We know more because of what we hear on the news but I am not sure we fuel the conflicts.  Knowledge is always good as long as it is reliable.

SONGSOPTOK : How effective can be the role of social media as a tool of protest and action against all sorts of social ills and injustices?

LaDean Birkhead:  It can be very effective because a message can go around the world in minutes. It has helped free people, helped save animals and exposed food companies that are using chemicals and treatments that have not been proven to be safe.  So yes it can change things. Once the information is out, the power can switch into the hands of the people very quickly. On the other hand I don’t trust power in the hands of a mob. I always have to go back to the common sense idea, which mobs, companies and some politicians don’t always have. 

SONGSOPTOK : Lastly, we would like to know the impact of social media, if any, in your own life. What kind of journey has it been? What are your own expectations about the evolution of social media?

LaDean Birkhead:  I must say I very much enjoy social media. I sometimes worry that people will think I express my beliefs on facebook in a too forceful way.  I worry about what is happening to our country and world.  so I say what I feel and let matters fall where they may. I don’t like to have people angry with me but sometime you must speak out in a respectful way.  My journey has been fun and exciting. I have found old friends, distant cousins, people from other countries and they have all enriched my life. I can still be active when I am ninety or one hundred if I still have my wits about me and I think that is a blessing!  I have no idea what to expect in the future but I am ready to learn. It is still important to interact with local in the flesh people too and I do that too.

LaDean Birkhead:

We sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.
Aparajita Sen

(Editor: Songsoptok)


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