Social media is a broad term that there's no way to talk about every aspect of it in just an hour. But last week, a panel of professionals met with the public at the Norman Rockwell Museum to attempt just that.

I, along with a few other colleagues from the field, was invited to discuss whether social media was a flash in the pan or here to stay. As part of the Four Freedoms Forum at the museum, we each discussed social media in journalism, social media and parenting, and global social media.

Not being a parent, I learned a lot on this subject. One woman constantly monitors what her daughter does online to make sure she's viewing only what will instill some good knowledge in her. I couldn't imagine monitoring online behavior like that. That's a full-time job in and of itself.

We talked about privacy and commenters online. There's an obvious issue regarding "trolls" and what to do about them. A woman asked about users having to verify themselves as actual people before commenting on stories. Some newspapers have enlisted this type of discussion board. But for now, The Eagle's commenters are allowed to use usernames and not their own name, unless they want to do so.

Social media is huge globally. One woman brought out statistics, citing that there are more than 700 social media sites available to us right now. And I'm sure that number is growing. Talk about overwhelming for both parents and those in a field where having a social presence online is mandatory.


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What was interesting to hear was that there are still some companies out there who refuse to brand themselves online. We determined that social media is never going away and it's best to embrace it. If you have a business and aren't on Facebook or Twitter, you're only hurting yourself. Having that presence is a reinforcement of your business. It allows potential customers see what you do quickly and easily. It's not enough to have only a website anymore, folks.

I love social media for crowdsourcing. Sometimes, we work on stories where the sources aren't always the most obvious. These stories are mostly features of people and/or their lifestyle. By using Facebook and Twitter, The Eagle has gotten a few great sources for upcoming articles. Aside from knowing someone who knows someone or walking down the street and asking people randomly if they know anything about the topic of your story, online crowdsourcing is a gem.

Anyone who refuses to hop on the social media train is going to get left behind in the way we communicate with each other. It's not some crock that is going to go away. It's just like other platforms coming into popularity around the world. Think radio, the telephone, the television. Many people thought those wouldn't last, I'm sure. But now they're what people want to go back to.

Technological advances have given us the opportunities to grow and expand our cultures, thus allowing others to understand us. Without word of mouth combined with email, I would have never gotten to be part of the forum at Norman Rockwell.

Social media can be dangerous if not handled in a respectful manner. Just because you're behind a screen doesn't mean etiquette goes out the window. I guess this is my biggest issue with Internet use. People say what they want without any harsh repercussions on them. If they are speaking ill of someone else, though, the results from cyberbullying are tragic. The best way to resolve this is to act like adults and teach children to do the same. Just because you're behind a screen doesn't mean hurt is avoidable.