Week 3: Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?

Danah Boyd explains in her novel, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, that there is an inherent difference between technology addiction and overuse. In today’s society, the term addiction is thrown out without second thought by concerned parents whose teens are seemingly consumed by technology and emerging digital cultures. Although I want to believe that I maintain a balance between my online and offline lives, I am aware that my online activity is taking up an overwhelming amount of my day, and creating excuses to put off face-to-face interaction. I’ve noticed that I shy away from confrontation and rather submit to a technological interaction to solve problems. This isn’t a healthy way to live life. Where is the personal growth and development? This is what concerned parents should be worried about: how technology is a limiting agent to offline interactions and is beginning to replace traditional forms of communication, instead of monitoring their children’s actions are online.

In the YouTube video, “Digital Insanity: Can We Auto-Correct Humanity? Why I Refuse to Let Technology Control Me,” user ‘Prince Ea’ communicates the importance of social interaction in our world today, amidst our obsessions with our virtual lives and personas. “The average person spends four years of his life looking down at his cellphone,” he poetically declares.

However, as a member of this ‘new youth culture’, I’ve recently noticed that this decade is developing a proactive culture. The beginning of the new millennium saw the development of Facebook and other emerging social networking platforms. As the progression of these technologies have slowly incorporated themselves into our everyday lives, people have begun to realize and react to the technological “addiction” and have created movements, like ‘Prince Ea’s,’ to facilitate more real-world experiences, in place of virtual ones.

I have witnessed, first-hand, that this new decade is more aware of this idea and is speaking out to prevent others from ‘missing out on life.’ Peers are now seeing the importance of putting down their mobile devices and are becoming more PROACTIVE instead of REACTIVE about their technology use. By no means has this proactivity stopped or solved the problem with technology overuse, however, it is an important step in slowing down the apparent dependence adolescents have on technology today.

Week Three: Me, You, and Everyone We Know

Danah Boyd’s It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, discusses the various reasons as to why adults view teenagers’ online interactions as addictions in “Chapter 3: What Makes Teens Obsessed with Social Media?” What stuck me most about this chapter in particular was the section on “Growing Up with Limited Freedom.” Boyd discusses how “today’s teenagers have less freedom to wander than any previous generations” and how “even in suburban enclaves where crimes are rare, teens are warned of the riskiness of wandering outside” (86). This restriction on movement, both imposed on parents and self-imposed by some teens themselves, coupled with the reduced amount of free time some teenagers are forced to deal with, leaves many teens longing for some type of social connection. As a result many teens “turn to…asynchronous social media, texting, and other mediated interactions” to reclaim sociality (90).

Not only are teens less free as they had been in previous decades, but many are also coming to age without agency. Boyd discusses G. Stanley Hall and his mission to “define adolescence in order to give youth space to come of age without having to take on the full responsibilities of adulthood” (94). While beneficial in many respects, this has also “lead to…contemporary youth also facing state-imposed curfews, experiencing limitations on where they can gather, and getting parental approval before they engage in a host of activities.”

When still in high school, I recall vividly the feeling of being trapped, both by my well-intentioned mother at home and outside of the home with the enforcement of curfews; reading Boyd reminded me of that time. Because of the restrictions placed both on my friends and me, I ended up watching a lot of movies and going online to chat vs. going outside and hanging out. One of the films I watched was Miranda July’s 2005 film Me, You, and Everyone We Know. July’s film, made when the Internet and was still fairly new in the lives of teens, focuses on several sets of characters: a single father with two confused children; a struggling artist and the depressive art gallery curator who she’s courting for a showing; and two randy teenage girls who befriend an older male neighbor with a perverted streak. While all the characters are very different, the main theme binding them together is that all want human connection and communication. However, in this film July shows how far some will go for this connection and the darker side of this need, reminding me of the parental fears Boyd discussed in her book. At the same time, July’s film shows the fractured nature of modern life, for both adults and teens, and how these characters attempt (in somewhat absurd ways) to mend those fractures. This can be seen most profoundly in a chat scene in the film, where two brothers who’s mother just left their family, are chatting online with an older woman. At the end of the day, as Boyd discusses and July shows, teens (and adults) just want human connection.

Tumblr Teens

http://rawringpopcorn.tumblr.com/post/104442163915/if-my-parents-ever-found-out-what-i-did-on-tumblr

If my parents ever found out what I did on tumblr I think I’d be forced to go to therapy. It’s a relatively quick-witted comment with some significantly dark undertones, especially coming from an adolescent. I remember recently coming across this particular quote on my Tumblr dashboard while endlessly scrolling down the posts contributed by those I followed. Through a few clicks I managed to track down the original source blog for this post and found its owner to be none other than “Rawring Popcorn.” What really interested me more about this post after reading the first few chapters of Danah Boyd’s It’s Complicated was the 1,356 notes this post procured in just a matter of days. The very last reblogger for this post, user name jul221b also added a comment, “I think this applies to all of us” which signals back at Boyd’s argument that adult surveillance “shapes teens’ understanding of––and experience with––privacy.” (74) A majority of teens on Tumblr seem to find refuge and sanctuary on this microblogging platform and create together a social networking community that includes sub-communities within it. These Tumblr teens have found their way to assert agency in achieving privacy.

However, it is undeniable that a popularized quote like this suggests that these teen users still feel undermined and almost threatened by the ominous presence of the adult parental figure on Tumblr. They choose to post with the acknowledgement that they are risking to be exposed. Some users agree with this post half laughing while others, who utilize Tumblr as their safe haven for advice and emotional expression take the notion much more seriously. Along with this post is attached some tags that include, fanfiction tumblr phanfiction phan shevine ianthony superhusbands shoey smut gay im going to hell destiel johnlock. Not being an avid follower of this particular blog, I’m really not sure what half these tags are referring to. However, when Googling this post, the results I find include a majority of Tumblr blogs dedicated towards troubled teens whether it related to dealing with sexuality, body image, or even abortion. It is disheartening to hear that there are teen users out there who would rather trust a fellow Tumblr user who they’ve never met about such personal issues than their own parents, but its definitely something I empathize with.

Although I am not as “addicted” to Tumblr as I had used to be, I still understand the ever shifting communities that exist on this platform. Personally if my parents found out about my Tumblr, I wouldn’t be too concerned about it besides a few questionable re-posts. Unlike some teenage users, I utilize my Tumblr more as a mood board for my design work rather than a very personal diary. However, I think this particular quote is definitely a loaded statement that speaks for a number of teen users, specifically, 1,356 and perhaps even more.

The Repost Diary

repost

As I began to read, It’s Complicated, by Danah Boyd, I couldn’t help but reflect my online identity as a teenager. Freshman year of high school marked the prime years of Myspace; the first platform where HTML became an everyday accessory, with the ability to morph a simple background into a personal profile ready for the best friends, class hotties, and fellow classmates, to discover, learn, and explorer users individual style. It was required to have your best friends on your top friends list, which was a grading scale of friendships, aka a major entity of everyday friendships. Although, most of the my personal happenings on this site stayed between friends, there were still instances where my mother believed it crossed the age appropriate boundary. There was one situation that still radiates with me. I was a very naïve user; one evening, I had read a post on my grandmother’s computer located in the back room of her house. The post described a story of a young women who was abused and raped, and if it was not reposted then that same man would come find me and do the same, as if being in closed in wood paneled dark room wasn’t frightening enough, now sitting in my conscious I am sensing a huge man searching to steal me, so naturally I repost. My mother, friends with me on Myspace, found the post to be extremely inappropriate and disgusting, she could not understand why I would share that under my name. Within 24 hours of the repost, Myspace account was deactivated. My mother wanted me to be able to express myself on the Internet, but she believed the site to be having a negative effect on me. At the time, I believed she was just being unfair, she did not understand my fear in the moment, and I had no problem with deleting the post, but it had crossed the line for her as a parent and my superior authority figure.

Thinking back on this now I can see why she responded the way I did, however in my thirteen year old mind, I felt completely misunderstood, like how could she not understand why I was scared? It felt as though I had no option and was almost forced in a way to repost this story placed out there only to scare users just like myself. Boyd discusses some of the social cost of posting, and often times during adolescence these cost can be thrown of balance. It is difficult enough time, but not this platform a platform has been added to further show fellow classmates and friends just how “cool” you are. Although, that repost was not out of coolness, I was afraid, actually afraid of what could happen, what if somehow they could find me over the Internet, I felt extremely vulnerable all because I stumbled upon a wildly terrifying story. It was a very complicated situation, and relates to some of the experiences Boyd uses to show how technology is in some ways redefining, and further muddling the already confusing years of adolescence. Have any of you had a similar experience with a parent or authority figure when you first were given the ropes to social media?

Representing Networked Publics | On Noah by Patrick Cederberg and Walter Woodman

Screenshot from Noah.

Has anyone noticed this annoying trend in films and TV: if a plot’s conflict could be solved by a quick phone call to the police, for example, the character’s cell will either be conveniently “out of service” or (even more stupidly) the character will not even consider whipping out their phone at the crucial moment. In the heavily networked world of the modern age, these features of storytelling are jarring, to say the least.

However, in the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that screenwriters have become a lot more open to incorporating digital media and telecommunication into the show’s narrative. For example, the above screen shot is from the indie short film Noah, which takes place entirely on a teenager’s computer.  (I’ve embedded the film below, mildly NSFW.)

Without spoiling the events of the film, I can say that all of the communication is digital, with the main action taking place on Facebook. Conventional wisdom would argue that this emphasis on textual interaction would underwrite the emotionality of the film—after all, there are very few “typical” markers of emotionality (body language, prosody, etc.) that critics of new media argue are necessary aspects of communication.

However, Noah does a good job of illustrating that digital communication isn’t emotionless. We’ve adopted a method of textual interaction that does not (and, arguably, cannot) mimic IRL interaction, and have adapted to adjust to the constraints of digital media in order to express ourselves in meaningful ways.

Screenshot from Jane the Virgin.

My point, I guess, is that digital media has become a part of everyday life, with our participation in networked publics forming the backbone of modern human interaction. As Danah Boyd points out, these new networked technologies has altered the way we communicate and has impacted the social dynamics of our relationships. It would, therefore, be nice for traditional media to do a better job of accurately illustrating the role digital media plays in modern communication without also demonizing it.

In recent years, traditional media seems to have realized this. Award-winning TV shows like Jane the Virgin (pictured above) and cult favorites like Faking It (pictured below) have used clever stylistic choices to demonstrate how new media is actually used in everyday interaction.

I think we still have a bit of a way to go before the representation of new media usage in film and TV accurately reflects the way new media is used IRL, but the way networked publics are represented in the media these days has definitely improved over time.

Screenshot from Faking It.

Week 3: Struggles of Social Media Addiction

            are you addicted to social media

In It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, Danah Boyd tackles issues of identity, privacy, and addiction within the realm youth online activity. Using numerous accounts, encounters, and examples of teens and their use across multiple online networking platforms, she draws conclusions of internet use amongst one of the most pivotal generations. While reading about Boyd’s studies on addiction, I was reminded of one of the many lists that I have seen on the popular site, Buzzfeed, which houses various social, online content relevant to today’s world. The list, entitled 26 Struggles of Being a Social Media Addict, seems to be a suitable and pertinent, albeit humorous, take on the issue of internet addiction that Boyd discusses in her writing.

The Buzzfeed list includes various situations that can arise for those people who are “addicted” to different social media outlets, the likes of which include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or even just texting. It uses different pictures and GIFs of references to popular culture that illustrate these struggles. The list has a light-hearted and sarcastic tone/feel to it, exaggerating and poking fun at these ridiculous “first-world” problems of people who are obsessed with online social media. Yet, it is one of the more popular lists because many of these situations are completely relevant to today’s time. I, myself, am definitely guilty of experiencing some of these social media struggles, like having an ideal following-to-followers ration, tweeting about my anger, and using an unnecessary amount of #hashtags.

In terms of relating to Boyd’s discussion of addiction, this list can be seen as exemplifying the oddities Boyd mentions about the use and abuse of the Internet. As she explains, the definition of addiction includes an “overuse” or “misuse” of a behavior, which in this case, is social media. The dangers of such an addiction are illustrated in this list, which conveys the shallowness that can arise from the overuse of these outlets. It might be seen as silly to be referred to by your Twitter/Instagram handle in real life, or to rather have a conversation online rather than face-to-face or on the phone. Yet, these are the realities for much of the teen generation that is so enveloped this type of online activity.

However, I really can’t be one to criticize. I’m one of those people who can’t put a self-timer or blocker on my computer/phone, preventing me from using social media during finals or other busy times. While I know that isn’t super healthy or ideal, I feel like I do so because I agree with Boyd’s point that humans are social beings and desire to be constantly connected with other people and their surroundings. However, because “addiction” has a negative connotation, there are some thin boundaries and dangers we must be aware of as the teen generation continues to move along and advance in this technological society.

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