Why does social media make people smart

Whether TikTok, Snapchat or Whatsapp - while social networks are part of everyday life for many teenagers, this fascination is often difficult to understand for older people. A common prejudice: These are disinterested and internet addicted rebels who stare senselessly at technical devices for a large part of their time. Reason enough for pop superstar Billie Eilish to break a lance out of the home quarantine in Los Angeles for their peers. In the Zoom interview, the 18-year-old, who with more than 70 million followers is one of the best networked artists worldwide and sings the theme song for the new James Bond film "No Time To Die", speaks after months with Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter movement about the power of the internet and their own smartphone behavior.

In a current Telekom campaign you are promoting “digital optimism” and emphasizing that young people are not just social media junkies. Is your generation often exposed to this criticism?

Yes, there are tons of prejudices like our alleged obsession with social media and “likes,” which to some extent is true. But we young people are pretty smart, and I have the feeling that my own way of seeing the Internet and thus other people's learning processes has given me a lot of hope.

That fits into the mood: According to a representative survey by the opinion research institute Kantar, young Europeans are convinced of the benefits of digitization, especially in the area of ​​knowledge transfer. How do you experience that?

There's just so much you can learn from digital technology. There are so many topics, like social injustice or climate, that I just had no idea about before the internet came - and if I hadn't had this fast-paced learning opportunity, I wouldn't know so much about these things. That's why I think it's important not to just push social media away because it can be really useful. As long as you can verify information for accuracy and know that the sources are credible, they can be so powerful.

In recent months, mainly young people have drawn attention to social misconduct on the Internet with protest campaigns such as “Black Lives Matter” or “Fridays for Future”. Is this one of the strengths of social media?

Definitely! I mean, a single click allows you to learn about the world and maybe get the feeling that you can make a difference and support people you love and fight for other people and for yourself. It was great to see these opportunities become a reality lately, and I loved seeing how people just show their support, even if it's not about themselves.

Do you think that this social commitment and the mobilization of the masses would not have been possible without the use of digital technologies?

It's not that people wouldn't try to make a difference if the internet didn't exist. But I think it at least makes it faster and easier to inquire about things, to sign petitions or to be informed about rallies. The internet opens up a new world.

Can you think of spontaneous examples of creative digital projects that you have come across and that have impressed you?

Yes, there are so many. An example would be the “Support and Feed” project that my mother started at the beginning of the Corona quarantine. The aim is to provide people in need with a vegetarian meal. This is good for the environment, helps those in need and supports restaurants and pubs that are currently having a hard time because of Covid-19. It was really nice to see that my mother put so much effort into making deliveries herself. That was great.

How about you What role do the internet and social media play for you privately? What would life be like without this technology?

I really couldn't tell you. I grew up with the internet. As much as I wish there weren't any videos of me from when I was annoying and twelve years old. It's part of life. The internet is also the only way to interact with my fans when I'm not on tour. So I can communicate with them, be with them and have the feeling that we are one. The amazing thing is that I can feel connected to people thousands of miles away from me.

Does this benefit compensate for the large number of concert-goers who only watch your live shows on smartphone screens?

During my shows there are usually a few songs on my setlist that I encourage my fans to put away their phones, just look at me and enjoy the moment. Because as much as we all want to make videos - and I love to record videos myself - at least sometimes we should also remember that there should be a balance. But that doesn't mean leaving out one or the other. It's all about having a balance and knowing what's good for you.

As a world star, you are also familiar with the downsides of social media. Cyber ​​bullying and virtual discrimination of all kinds are very topical issues even with normal teenagers. Doesn't that speak for a more careful use of the technology?

That's a tough topic, isn't it? I mean the internet is great, but it also has downsides like bullying that I can't stand. It's about figuring out what's good for you. The internet is just a part of everything today. You have to know how to deal with it. You should never let awful people make you feel like you don't matter. The internet should never make you feel that way. So I really think there should be something like internet classes so that you can learn how to cope with the internet and bullying and not get obsessed with it or let yourself be ruined by it.

The interview was conducted by Fabian Wegener (dpa).