NY Daily News
The U.S. Army wants you – to be its friend on Facebook.
You can also follow the Army on Twitter. Or post a comment on its new blog. They're all part of the Army's new mission: social networking.
"If Ashton Kutcher can do it, the U.S. Army can do it," said Lindy Kyzer, who posts the Army's "status updates" on Facebook and "tweets" on Twitter.
Kyzer issued a public challenge – to get more followers on Twitter than Kutcher, an actor and social networking fiend who recently won a bet with CNN that he could reach 1 million followers first.
"We know that our ability to share the Army story is shaped by how we tell it and where we tell it," said Lt. Col. Kevin Arata, who heads the Army's new Online and Social Media Division. "Using social media platforms allows us to tell our story where we know people are at and are listening."
Even Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is on Facebook. With nearly 5,000 "friends," the four-star general is updating his status straight from the battlefield – something unheard of in past conflicts.
AC360° Senior Producer
Which is bigger news: Kutcher beats CNN on Twitter, or President Obama goes to Mexico?
Ok, that sounds like a reductive and absurd question. But it's not, or not completely anyway, and here's why:
When a movie star and a news network persuade hundreds of thousands of people in less than a week to "follow" them on a hot, newish social networking site, as part of a charity competition – at the same time that the number of eyeballs on cable, network and print news outlets struggle even to hold steady despite millions of dollars in marketing – it says something.
Like what? Like a couple things:
Like a high-powered flashlight, it shows us very clearly where our society is – and is headed. It shows that young, mobile, digital people are THE driving force in business, technology, media and – as the election of President Obama and the size of the anti-tax tea parties on Wednesday showed – politics. No surprise, I know, but what a fast and glaring confirmation. We'd better pay attention.
Another thing: Kutcher's entertaining and bravado-fueled victory over @CNNbrk last night in signing up more than million Twitter "followers" – complete with low-grade, Youtube-distributed camera phone video of Kutcher ranting and goading Larry King while driving (so much for anti-cellphone driving laws) – also gets 11,000 mosquito nets to April 25th's 2nd annual World Malaria Day. Kutcher promised to send 10k mosquito nets if he won, and 1k if he lost. CNN promised the same.
That means thousands of real people will actually be better protected against a disease that infects and weakens more than 500 million people a year, and kills more than a million people. Despite all our advances in medicine, malaria still threatens 40% of the world's population, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Those are stunning numbers, aren't they?
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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