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Social Media: How would we live without it?

I decided to take this class, You are what you tweet: Identity and social media, because I am fascinated by how social media has changed the way humans interact with one another, and therefore, inherently, how social media has changed who people are. Just twenty years ago, people simply spoke on the phone or wrote letters to each other in order to communicate. The greatest shift is that our ability to communicate has moved away from being in our control to being in the control of those trying to communicate with us. Why does one feel the need to look at his or her phone when buzzes at the dinner table? Because that buzz has already taken priority over the conversation being had between the people present, simply by making noise and interrupting the conversation. Yes, we have had phones for a long time, but it used to be that when we left the house, we left the people trying to reach us there also. But now we bring every form of communication—phone, email, Facebook, Twitter—with us everywhere we go.

When Collette, our professor, asked us on the first day of class, to go 72 hours without Internet, I thought it would be a huge challenge, and it was. That being said, when I went without it I felt like a weight had been lifted. I was exponentially more productive, I slept better, I found myself in a better mood. When I came out of our class experiment I wondered what the Internet was doing that inhibited me? Why did I feel so much better being off the Internet?

In this blog, I have decided to explore social media from the opposite perspective of my classmates. My aim is to explore different environments where technology is rejected and try to understand why these people don’t use it and how it affects their overall wellbeing in the modern world. Is it difficult for these people to communicate, with such shifts in technology going on around them? Do they find that their lack of technology or social media isolates them from people outside their own communities? Do they go without media by choice? If so why do they choose to do so?

These are just a few of the questions to be asked. Here some examples and brief overviews of communities I have thought about investigating:

My own, and my classmates, experience going without internet for 72 hours.

Camp Onaway: A summer camp I grew up going to, and where I am now a counselor. Ninety girls, ages nine to sixteen, and twenty counselors, go for seven weeks without using the phone, email, or any technology.

Jewish observance of Shabbat: Every Friday night at sundown, Jews who observe Shabbat cease technology use, including flipping light switches and driving cars.

The Amish: A religious group who live primarily in the Midwest and try to live life close to God by living it as simply and authentically as possible.

After my investigation of these communities, I am hoping to really evaluate them as a group of groups and perform an analysis of the reasons these communities have in common for not becoming involved with technology. What are the upsides to going without technology and what are the downsides? Where does the happy balance lie—where we can live our lives in reality and not virtually, but still remain connected with those we love?

The Internet is an exceptional tool, but can also be overwhelming and can easily consume us. We are quickly shifting from a human-controls-technology world, to a technology-controls-human world, and to me that is a very frightening prospect. The appropriate balance of technology and real life is one of the most necessary puzzles to solve. If we don’t—the Internet will quickly become our real life.

Here is an interesting blog post about getting rid of the internet at home.

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#1 POSTED BY Wade Wallerstein, 02/17 4:27 PM

I love the idea of exploring abstaining from using technology in Jewish communities. It would be interesting to see how going without media affects their work, personal lives, etc. and how that plays a role in their religious experience. I was especially attracted to this idea because this practice is something that goes on all around us every weekend—Jews aren't like some tribe living in a remote area where they are completely removed from technology, it is their choice to go without. I think that the concept of choosing to abstain from using technology is going to be a really interesting angle of your project.

#2 POSTED BY Rachel Michelle Glicksberg, 02/17 5:48 PM

I am fascinated by your project, as I think we have similar views on technology. I also think the idea of "balance" is really interesting because I think that lack of balance is an issue now, and you have picked up on a trend--"balance" that I think is imminent. 

Shabbat is an interesting choice but I think it comes more from a place of rest--not abstaining. 

I think the camp idea is great. I too, was a camper and counselor and it was some of the most fun I've had--and without any form of technology for two months. 

Great ideas!

#3 POSTED BY Ryan Blaire Kahn, 02/19 12:55 PM

I think this is really fantastic and I love that you are exploring something that will provide an antithetical perspective on some of the course material. I think you have chosen three interesting case studies to work with, my only question would be do you think you might want to add one more involving just one individual?

I think it would be fascinating to also follow one man or woman who lives and works in the modern world we are accustomed to who was made the conscious choice to create stark social media restrictions for him or herself.

Maybe you could even try it again, for a slightly longer period of time, and you could track your own specific feelings and experiences via a physical diary which could then be copied onto a blog post once you rejoin the world of social media? 

I can't wait to see what happens! 

#4 POSTED BY Kyle Braden Nicholas, 02/25 3:49 PM

This sounds like a really awesome topic.  I really enjoyed our black out, having a similar opinion of the 'weight lifting off.'  I did cave in and use texting though, which goes along with your idea of needing to check the phone because it disrupts your thought with a noise or vibration.  The choice in groups sounds really cool, and I like Ryan's idea of possibly including an individual as well.  

Two articles I've read in the past came to mind when I was reading about your topic.  I'll see if I can find them again for you.  One was about an individual that decided to abstain for the internet for 4 years.  He finally returned last year to see what he missed.  It was a really interesting read about what he experienced.  The other article was these two men who designed a keyboard rest that would give a slight shock if the guys would be on social media too long.  It was designed to keep them focused on more productive things online.

I look forward to seeing what you find out about the balance of technology and human communication.

#5 POSTED BY Rachel Michelle Glicksberg, 03/01 4:50 PM

Also, I forgot to mention to you in class that I can get you in contact with my Rabbi/ members of my congregation if you are interested! Let me know!

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