Recently I have been reading a few chapters in Alone together, by Sherry Turkle. In the chapters that I have read, Turkle seems to be on this quest to interview the youth of our nation in attempt to study the effects technology and social media on them. They, being grown up in a world full of technology, are the best test subjects. Only 23, I believe I had my fare share growing up with technology but definitely not in the social media world that our youth live in today. In the chapters of “Always On”, “Growing Up Tethered”, and “No Need to Call,” Turkle uncovers some reoccurring themes amongst our youths. A few of these themes include cell phones, Facebook/Myspace, and avatars and what they mean to the students she interviewed.
While interviewing her students, Turkle gathered this idea that cell phones are causing them to be less independent. For example, she states that back before cell phones, if someone was lost on the road, they could not rely on a cell phone for directions. They would have to have find some means of direction to get home on their own. A student she interviewed stated that he calls and his mother 20 times a day to stay away from home sickness. However this may be leading to less independent people, is not largely the youths fault, it’s the parent’s fault. The parents have allowed their children to have cell phones as a means of constant communication and tracking of their children. This causes the growing child to never reach that adulthood. Now I don’t believe that we should all just stop from talking to our mothers, but I do believe we owe it to ourselves to take on some responsibility in our lives. We should strive to be independent, after all, it is one of Americas leading characteristic.
Along with the texting and emailing we do today, youths are taking this form of communication to the next level. Turkle has discovered that some of the students she interviewed are not only “editing” their messages to fit their needs, but they creating full avatars of themselves or their “want-to-be” selves on social medias. Students have expressed to Turkle that they hate talking on the cell phone. They believe that if it is not urgent then there is no need for calling. They believe that texts allow for the chance to control the conversation. Being able to breathe and think before you respond to someone message rather than talking to someone and risk messing it all up.
With their avatars on Facebook or Myspace, they can be the exact person they want to be and what they want other people to believe. I, for one, can relate to this very much. I grew up in a time where “texts” born in my high school days. So I had to grow up with answering the phone for the most part of my life. Now, I cannot stand to talk to someone on the phone unless it cannot be easily summed up in a text or email. I prefer to think about how I want to respond to something instead of blindly calling someone. Now this doesn't mean I don’t like talking to my girlfriend or my parents, I simply mean that I’d rather “small talk” via text. As far as avatars go, I try to be as open as possible without the drama or my political beliefs in tow. I don’t want to post the negative things on Facebook because nobody wants to see that and I don’t want to relive it. I also have friends who have opposing beliefs and hence I keep my beliefs to myself and do not openly post them unless it was something completely unethical.
In conclusion, Turkle has uncovered several things that we, as humans, should be aware and take caution. We don’t want become completely submerged in our social media lives. There are two sides to technology, a dark side and light side. The moment you start becoming so submerged into your technology that barely acknowledged your own children, then you are witnessing the negative effects. Technology should be seen as a way to further mankind’s evolution, not hinder it. Take a step back from the technology you are using and ask yourself if this benefiting you in any way in the real world or does it only serve value in the alternate reality.
I personally believe this recent commercial from Microsoft shows a great representation to the light side of technology and the kinds we should all be thankful for.