A State Department blog post has been making the Twitter rounds recently describing how U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray used social media to engage Zimbabwean youth and counter anti-American propaganda.
The first three paragraphs of Ray's blog post are in the never too old to start Tweeting vein, describing how Ray, a 66-year-old career Foreign Service officer bucked "conventional wisdom" that "new media and fancy tech toys are reserved for the young" and shed his "silent generation" habits to belt out a deep Twitter howl.
Most of the Tweets touting the post have followed suit.
The State Department's Senior Adviser for Innovation Alec Ross, for instance, Tweeted: "USA's Ambassador to #Zimbabwe smacks down idea that social media is only for younger people and elites."
What those Tweets miss, though, is the real nugget of Ray's post, which comes in the middle of the fourth paragraph:
"In Zimbabwe, where 65 percent or more of the population is under 35, these tools are increasingly effective channels for communicating with educated, young Zimbabweans," Ray wrote. "With Zimbabwe's dramatic rise in the use of 3G service to access the Internet, our use of these methods gives us rapidly growing access to young people on their cell phones. Using Facebook and SMS, we regularly put together youth-oriented discussions and programs at a moment's notice."
There's an unfortunate tendency among proponents of social media as a democratizing tool to forget or ignore that new technology, social media included, largely is</> the province of the young and educated -- especially in developing nations. This may not be ideal from an inclusivity perspective, but it's not terrible either.