Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

My Tiny Head Made the Cover of Self Made Magazine

Very flattering to be featured on the cover of Self Made magazine along with other women entrepreneurs — many of them actual household names, like Arianna Huffington, Suze Orman, Sara Blakely, Rachel Ray and Paula Deen. See? There’s my head down there to the lower left of the headline.

Thanks to Matthew Toren and Adam Toren, publishers of Self Made. They also happen to be brothers who look just alike and are the founders of YoungEntrepreneur.com

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Elizabeth Edwards: Saying Goodbye on Facebook

Elizabeth Edwards, 61, posted a final update on FaceBook Monday, just a day before she died. What does that say about Boomers and social media?

More personal than a press release or official statement, her Facebook message was eloquent yet intimate. It was a way for her to connect with many people at once — unhindered by geography or the limitations of the sickbed.

This may not be the first time a public figure has used social media as a way to say goodbye, but it’s the first that’s caught my attention. Maybe that’s because my colleague Jennifer Bull was talking just yesterday about Lesley Stahl’s interview of Mark Zuckerberg on 60 Minutes and how Stahl clearly disdained the whole idea of FaceBook. (See Jen’s blog post about it here.) Jennifer and I speculated that Stahl, like many others in her cohort, remains uncomfortable with the whole idea of social media.

Yet Edwards and Stahl, at 61 and 68, are only seven years apart. What makes them different? Perhaps it’s the willingness to be seen, to reveal one’s vulnerabilities and share emotional information.

Edwards, in two books and many television and print interviews, has shown that willingness in spades. It’s one of the reasons she’s been embraced by so many, from cancer patients to mothers empathizing with the pain of leaving young children behind.

Stahl, on the other hand, has spent a long a career in television journalism, where her role is to be the one asking the questions, not answering them. For her to succeed on such a high level in that field and in her particular time, revealing vulnerabilities and sharing emotional information would not have been career boosters.

Television news represents old media: the one-way dissemination of content. Social media is a two-way street of human connections. I think of it as making the whole world feel like you’re walking down Main Street, bumping into people you know.

When I picture a hypothetical Main Street, I always see Franklin Street, the main thoroughfare of Chapel Hill, my hometown. Elizabeth Edwards no doubt walked down Franklin Street many, many times, from her college days at UNC to the more recent years when she opened Red Window, her furniture store in downtown Chapel Hill.

Most Boomers grew up in a time when those small town connections were an everyday staple. Now FaceBook is our way to replicate those easy, familiar connections. We check in to see what our friends are up to, and we share our thoughts on what’s going on in our own lives. For Elizabeth Edwards, it apparently seemed just as natural to use Facebook to share her thoughts on leaving this life behind.

Is Your Whole Life on Facebook?

Last Sunday, I watched Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes interview Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. I was struck by how much (it seemed to me anyway) that she genuinely disliked him as a person. I’d like to say upfront that Lesley is one of my heroes, so my question is not about her style of reporting, but rather: What was bugging her?

It’s occurred to me that she’s a seasoned businessperson, and he can come off as a young punk. He’s known to be awkward, evasive and not blink. (Yes, not blink. People mention that all the time.) Lesley is a respected and experienced reporter in a tough business, and it might seem premature for Mark to have so much success so early in his career. And, yet, I don’t think this is “jealousy;” I’m guessing that Lesley has interviewed young rich people throughout her career, and some of them probably didn’t work as hard as Mark. Right?

I was talking about this with one of my colleagues, and she told me that nobody likes Mark. Really? Apparently, she’s right. I knew about the movie “The Social Network” and had seen some rather disparaging news reports, but I’ve asked many people if they like him and they’ve all said no. At the same time, they all use Facebook at home or at work, so they must like him a little, I’m thinking. I mean, when you’re talking about technology and younger people, who you are online and in person are one and the same. And that holds true for Mark. His product is who he is. If you use it, therefore, you like him a little. At least, that’s my belief.

And, people like his product – a lot. People spent more time on Facebook last year than Google. That’s impressive. And, there are other impressive stats about Mark. Like he runs a business that’s valued between $35 billion and $50 billion. That’s impressive. His personal worth is $6.9 billion, and he still punches the clock every day. That’s really impressive. I have to ask myself at what point do you say, “I’ve made my money. Take this job and shove it?” Even if you like your job. Come on – be real and honest with yourself. So he’s committed to Facebook, and he’s not finished with it either. To him, it’s a work in progress. (Yesterday Facebook launched a new layout for profile pages. You have to sign up to be an early adopter.)

What I’m thinking is that Lesley instinctively dislikes technology and its pervasive/invasive nature in our lives. The thought that people willingly give up so much personal information online is pretty mind-blowing. Just think of online banking, medical records and school records. Then add to that institutions like Facebook, to whom half a billion people have given their private information. When Mark was grilled on the topic of privacy by Kara Swisher, All Things Digital Editor, he literally sweated bullets in what turned out to be a rather embarrassing interview for him that people still like to replay. Kara is also the one who nicknamed him the Toddler CEO, but has since said that he’s doing a great job and that the toddler turned out to be a prodigy.

In the next few months, it will be interesting to see how it shakes out. For Mark, for Facebook, for Google, for users and for people who still are resisting the pull of technology. I predict that protecting people’s privacy will remain an important issue and topic, but people will jump over this hurdle in order to connect with other people. They’re going to make a leap of faith. If you look objectively at the rate of adoption for technology, then that’s what the past and the present tells us. As for Mark, he needs our information in order to do what he wants to do – make the web social. “Search” will be social. And our life will be online.

For more on Lesley’s interview with Mark, click here.

The i-Generation: Kids and Technology

8.8 iPads were sold per hour per store on Black Friday (http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2010/11/29/apple-store-count-8-8-ipads-sold-per-hour-per-store-on-black-friday/). That’s an amazing stat, and I bet an equally amazing stat would be how many of those iPads were bought for kids under 10. I’m also thinking that, if they’re anything like me, parents who purchase iPads for their children as holiday gifts are also giving themselves the gift of winning back control over their own iPads, which their children have been monopolizing.

I’m one of those parents who is guilty of the “pass-back” effect (I heard it was called this from an article in USA TodayThis is when an adult hands over an electronic device to a child. At first I was just happy to find some peace for a few minutes (or hours, I admit), largely due to the plethora of apps geared to kids – double those targeting adults (also found in USA Today article).

Eventually, of course, I want my iPad back, and so the quandary begins. Blissful quiet or the satisfaction of doing whatever I need to do on the iPad? And, then I think, I don’t have to choose: I can just buy an iPad for each of us. I know I’m not the first one to hit upon this. Mike Elgan, Computerworld magazine columnist, dubbed the iPad as the children’s toy of the year. Apple’s computer tablet was introduced in April and sold more than 3 million units in the first 80 days.

“If the iPhone was natural for children, the iPad will be even more natural, simply because it’s larger,” Elgan wrote. “I think the iPad will spark a revolution in children’s culture. I’m convinced that starting this year, and especially next year, iPads will be the No. 1 most requested holiday and birthday gift by everyone under the age of 18, and especially under the age of 12.”

Now add this layer to the conversation: When people are talking about young children, we mean YOUNG children – as young as two or three years old. I know my 18 month little boy loves to swipe his fingers across the iPad screen to make the cheerful yellow school bus doors open and close or the wheels on the bus move round and round. And I found out about that app (Wheels on the Bus) from other enthusiastic parents who also were looking for a few minutes of non-pandemonium, and who thought it was cute to watch their little ones interact with iPads.

So, as a parent, of course, I ask myself: What is the price of distracting my kids with technology long term? According to some of the research, the price could be that my kids are, well, distracted with technology long term. The November 21 cover story for the New York Times, “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction,” says that students often juggle homework and entertainment (and that that’s not good). The Kaiser Family Foundation found earlier this year that half of students from 8 to 18 are using the Internet, watching TV or using some other form of media either “most” (31 percent) or “some” (25 percent) of the time that they are doing homework.

Research like this doesn’t alarm or discourage me, but it does remind me that I play an important role regarding technology in the lives of my children. And, truly, I’m all for it. “It” being iPads, iPhones, apps, wii, etc. and kids’ use of them. To me, it’s just how life is done these days. Kids today will never know a world without computers. Technology is part of the fabric of life. It’s not some extra. It’s as essential as driving a car (because computers are now being manufactured as part of cars) or cooking dinner (because there are refrigerators and stoves and microwaves that talk to you). You know what I mean.

And, yes, it’s true: I know tons of kids who are not interested in sitting in class or doing homework – and they should be. But, was any kid really ever excited about doing this? I know plenty of kids who are distracted by editing home-made movies and making music or talking with friends. They’re pretty cool kids. I have a feeling they’re going to be pretty darn successful in life.