Living online has consequences
In an age of instant messaging, ‘smart’ classrooms, digital literacy and a seemingly infinite technological universe, being connected has become the norm.
At any given moment, most of us are reachable by cell phone (increasingly ‘smartphones’) and/or by email. In fact, we rely so heavily on e-communication that the concept of sending off a letter by snail-mail or phoning home to check our voicemail on a landline now seems archaic.
Despite this hyper-connectedness, it is my opinion that interpersonal communication is, in fact, suffering as we substitute our ‘live’ relationships for those that exist only online.
Technological advancements are regularly described with a combination of awe and reverence. The Internet, for example, has been hailed as a means to unite the world — bridging gaps once considered insurmountable due to distance and time zones.
Despite the obvious advantages and benefits afforded to us as a result of technological innovations and developments, I think a more measured look at the implications of ‘living online’ is warranted.
In some ways, our online lives pull us away from our real lives. In his article, The Facebook Eye, Nathan Jurgenson notes that “the tail of Facebook documentation has come to wag the dog of lived experience”.
By this he means the ways we document and share our real lives online have begun to serve as the yardstick by which we measure the inherent value of activities we are considering engaging in. Essentially, our focus has shifted away from the intrinsic enjoyment of an experience and instead to what capacity our participation in this experience will have to bolster our online identities.
This constant state of connectedness means that, although we are the most reachable we’ve ever been, we are also the most thinly stretched. Either we must learn to reconcile our real and online selves or we run the risk of having one foot out the door – never truly present, even when we’ve ‘checked-in.’
• "The Facebook Eye" – The Atlantic, January 13, 2012
• "Social media in the classroom" – NOW, January 19, 2012