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.