I Share, Therefore I Am

We live in a world that is the most connected we’ve ever been. In less than seconds, you can see the faces of loved ones who live thousands of miles away. You can learn about crises minutes after events occur and even watch them in live time. You can be talking to you best friend every second of the day using only emojis or snapchats if you wanted to. Interpersonal communication through digital technology is quick, efficient, reliable, and always available. However, in those moments when a person has no service or his/her phone is dead, a sense of panic and a loss of self arises. I think this is somewhat because now we feel as if our presence online, either passively receiving information or actively posting, gives us a sense of being. Our ability to connect with people online instantly makes us feel as if we are apart of something. This need to constantly be connected is diminishing how we feel in real life. It is frightening to say that what is happening is that more we are connected online, the less we are connected in “real” life.

texting

What does this mean for Millennials?

This generation has been apart of many digital breakthroughs. From Google to Apple, to everything else, this group has adopted the digital world to an extent that many if not most are addicted to it.Though there is the general consensus that technology has improved our lives in ways we cannot conceptualize, I think this view is often looked at too positively. Because this generation is so comfortable with digital technology and the normalization of connecting through technology, they (we) are not aware of how it is impacting our interpersonal relationships and ability to connect with people in real life. Our digital capabilities have become so much a part of our life that we cannot function without them. We are online/texting in class, in meeting, while with friends, at the dinner table– literally anywhere. I always thought it was funny when friends would meet up and eventually everyone ends up on their phone– what was the point of going back and forth for 2 hours in the group chat trying to figure out a time that works for everyone?  

cafe_1449373692147_589842_ver1-0

Our constant need to connect is not only affecting how we communicate, this need is hypothesized to actually change the way we think. In an eye-opening TED talk, Sherry Turkle explains how “we are letting technology take us places that we don’t want to go…Our devices are so psychologically powerful that they don’t only change what we do, they change who we are.” So, who are we? Well, for me at least, there is snapchat story Gabby who is always having a grand ole time and then there’s real life Gabby who likes to go to bed before 10 pm; there is Instagram Gabby who tries to post artsy pictures and then there is real life Gabby who is not very creative at all. What does this mean? We can be whatever we want to be on the internet because we have control of what goes on there. We can edit and think about how we want to frame a post. Communicating on the internet allows us to have a control that is not possible in real life. If a crush texts you “what’s up” you have time to think about your response. If a crush talks to you in real life you could end up saying “Grool” instead of great or cool.

3c2b140cd9d874facdfa870348ddd5e4

Turkle highlights how we use digital technology in times of sadness. She studied how people are texting funerals to remove ourselves from grief– if I can throw myself into another world, I do not have to feel this pain. We reach for technology in times of vulnerability and seek companionship and distraction on the web. When we are lonely we can put our attention towards something on the internet so we never truly have to be alone. What this is doing is removing ourselves from the present. We are numbing our physical selves through diving into a gratifying virtual worth.

What does this mean for Generation Z?

211598882461965594_kwl21dbt_cAdolescents are in trouble, according to Sherry Turkle. Their ability to develop face-to-face communication skills is far inferior to the generations that grew up without the ever-present technology we have today. And even so, it has been seen in studies that even adults ability to have conversations in person has diminished. If children are learning to live, love, hurt, and so on through technology, the ability to feel compassion is never fully developed. In an interview an 18-year-old saif to Turkle “someday, but certainly not now, I want to learn to have a conversation.” When you think deeply about that it is truly alarming that this person could realize that their communication abilities are not developed but they are simply not willing to change their ways.

Furthermore, Turkle said, “having a conversation with another person teaches kids to, in effect, have a conversation with themselves — to think and reason and self-reflect.” I would assume that not only children’s ability to self-reflect is being challenged by technology. Just because part of the adult population grew up without such comprehensive technology, everyone has adapted to constant connection, and therefore a lack of time to just be doing nothing.

My challenge to you:

*As someone who loves social media, someone who will be entering into the digital technology industry in May, and someone who is writing this blog for a social media and digital technology class, what I am about to say may be considered sinful*

Try disconnecting more. Be more present in your day-to-day by doing a task with 100% focus. Andy Puddicombe urges people to take 10 minutes a day to simply do nothing. In disconnecting with the distractions of our busy lives, we may be able to reconnect with ourselves in a way we did not realize we needed to.

In all, I think that there is a time for technology and there is a time to connect with people in real life. These lines cannot be blurred or we are in big trouble. I am still a believer in all of the wonderful things the internet is capable of, but I think it is extremely important to take a more critical look at how it impacts our lives.

9 comments

  1. I don’t want to comment too much at this point, as we’ll be watching and discussing Turkle’s TED talk in class later in the semester. I have a love-hate relationship with the talk, but it usually leads to a great discussion.

  2. Great post — I actually referred to Turke’s TED Talk in my post as well. I would be interested to see how many people would actually be able to take 10 minutes out of their day to do nothing. In a world that has led to instant gratification and constant distractions, it is harder for us to focus. We now have an attention span that is less than a goldfish and it is quickly decreasing. I wonder what he would have to say on digital detoxes!

  3. Great Blog! I think the section about the next generation is extremely pertinent. In my opinion, the biggest trend I see is the polarizing implications of growing up in the digital age. For example, many teenagers today are much better at navigating than their parents because they know how to use google maps or waze. However, if their phone dies, younger people tend to then be completely helpless without the help of their parents.

  4. While I wouldn’t say everyone gets a sense of panic when they’re disconnected, I understand what you’re saying. I enjoyed how you brought in Turkle’s research behind it and it tied nicely with the points you were making. In relation to your challenge, I actually attempted to conduct research in a separate class to see how many participants could go a week without social media apps (they could still use media on a laptop, just through an app on a phone) and about half couldn’t do it. It was really eye opening as to how many people need the easy access on their phones.

  5. Really thoughtful post! I agree that times are changing, and it seems that more conversations today occur over technology rather than in-person. This is not to say that people talk less, but to me it seems that when we do have face-to-face conversations, they tend to bring up topics about what’s buzzing on social media, who posted what, and interesting videos or posts we see online. I for one, also agree that people should disconnect more. I feel guilty if I don’t check my phone in an hour and miss 20 texts that I did not respond to. I’m that person that people say are “bad with their phone,” but should that really be a bad thing? Is it really that bad that I’m not on my phone constantly because I’m busy with other activities and can’t respond right away? Maybe, but I still feel overwhelmed and behind when I stay away from my phone for a few hours. Hopefully society will learn to be more accepting of disconnecting in the future.

  6. Totally agree with your post! How many times we have been at a dinner table where everyone is staring at their phones and no one is talking to one another because everyone is busy talking to people who are not even present. Even if they were right next to the person that they were texting, they would text someone else. It’s like we are always concerned with sharing with the people who are not there, so we do not fully live and appreciate the offline interactions. As you well describe it, sometimes it is better to disconnect a little and share more with the people who are around you.

  7. Sometimes to discourage texting at dinner, my friends and I play a game where we stack all the phones in the middle, and if someone takes theres during dinner they have to pay. Its a nice way to get people to focus on the people they are with. Although I’m okay with being disconnected, I definitely know people who cant leave the house without their phone or they’ll panic.

  8. There is actually a really cool start-up that surfaced out of this constant technologic anxiety to be constantly connected. A couple guys realized that the average person was feeling over-burdened by technology in some capacity and that they wanted to find a way for people to escape. The market was jumping at them and they eventually co-founded Getaway. Getaway builds small cabins in the woods (mostly NH) and offers them to city-dwellers. The catch? The people are completely cut off from technology when they are there and are forced to put their IOT devices locked away.

  9. I really connect to a lot of points on your post. The snapchat Erin is definitely different from Instagram Erin etc. etc. and sometimes it’s frustrating when someone who only sees my snapchats will make comments about my life as if they think they know what I’m doing all the time – but I’m the one setting that up. Also, I do find myself trying to replace certain interpersonal actions like making a reservation over the phone with doing it online, or pretending to text in an elevator to avoid small talk, and while I hate that I fall into the trap of this, I am trying to disconnect more, but it’s not easy.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: