World of (Dis)Connections

Before all else, it is important to note the breach between the extraordinary promise of an online social world and the current landscape of our online social world. The online social world is endowed with remarkable potential. As Jenna Wortham notes in her article, social media can be used as a platform to better understand one another, thereby, expanding our worldviews and empathy for one another. Using the online social world, ideas and information are reached and shared more often than at any other point in history. Over and above that, the online social world has the capacity to forge a world of connections.

However, the online social world that we are familiar with bears little resemblance to this ideal. Rather than growing in understanding, we are affirmed in our narrow-mindedness by likeminded people, and the beliefs of those that we don’t agree with remain unseen. Such happenings occur with the aid of an algorithm that considers your browser history and online contacts to display what it thinks will be pleasing to you. In our pursuit of knowledge, remarkable and well-founded ideas are buried and obscured in ideas with no basis in thought and information lacking in credibility. Another hindrance in our quest for knowledge online is featured in the documentary “Citizenfour.” In brief, “Citizenfour” tells the story of Edward Snowden, a brilliant man who forgoes his successful career and comfortable lifestyle by becoming a whistleblower on the NSA in order to make the American public aware of its blatant lies and invasive operations that compromise the privacy of the American public. One justifies his (what some people believe to be) treasonous acts with the hope that one day Americans can freely search and pursue knowledge without the fear of being monitored online: the unrestricted exploration of curiosities and interests. Moreover, contrary to constructing a world of connections, we are building a world of disconnections and misconceptions perpetuated by online profiles that give way to unrealistic perceptions and expectations.

Due to my lack of social media, I do not have much personal experience to draw from to assess the benefits and drawbacks of a life and relationships lived online. However, I read a collection of short essays written by Meghan Daum compiled in “My Misspent Youth” that I will use as my source into this unfamiliar world. In her essay “On the Fringes of the Physical World,” Daum speaks of her encounter with a particular relationship fashioned online. Daum was contacted through email by a man with the username PFSlider who was a big fan of her writing. Although Daum didn’t usually respond to emails of this nature, this one seemed different. A correspondence began and quickly blossomed into flirtation and eventual relationship. She explained their online setting as “a neat little space in which [they] were both safe to express the panic and intrigue of [their] mutual affection” (17). However, she was lulled into “the false comforts of the cyberspace persona” as an “avenue for remoteness” (19), and, therefore, when PFSlider flew to New York to see Daum, “the physical world invaded [their] space” (20). It was clear that they were utterly incompatible. She eloquently explains the role that the medium of email had on their relationship in the following quotation:

My Misspent Youth by Meghan Daum (Photo credit: Elizabeth Rudigier)

“E-mail had become an electronic epistle, a yearned-for rule book. The black and white of the type, the welcome respite from the distractions of smells and weather and other people, had in effect allowed us to be vulnerable and passionate enough to actually care about something. It allowed us to do what was necessary to experience love. It was not the Internet that contributed to our remote, fragmented lives. The problem was life itself” (27-28).

This is just one of many opinions on relationships lived online; this particular relationship did not sustain in the physical world, but that is not to say that all online relationships will have the same fate.

World of (Dis)Connections

Navigating this Digital World

In this post, I am merely responding to remarks and questions I found noteworthy from this week’s readings and prompt

“They [digital technologies] are so much a part of our everyday lives that we often don’t think about them.”

I do not completely agree with this statement. Digital technologies are undoubtedly a part of our everyday lives. We have unprecedented access and exposure to these technologies. Our lifestyles have become seemingly dependent on their proper functioning. However, I question the merit of the second part of the statement: We often don’t think about them. Because most of us still have a space to distance and disentangle ourselves from technology’s reach, we still think about them. We maintain a basis for comparison in their presence and absence. It may be that digital technologies’ absence frightens us. Such an absence would disrupt our patterns of living and force major changes. Somewhere deep within our brains we consider this hypothetical situation a possible reality, so we remain grateful for its continued proper functioning and in fear and awareness of its possible removal. Personally, I continue to marvel at the fact that I carry around a super computer in my pocket. And even (especially in a daydreaming-conducive environment such as lounged on a sofa in front window on a sunny day thereby allowing you to assume the position of a sunbathing cat) I wonder what the pioneers of computers would think about it. It is interesting to consider how future generations will think (or not think) about digital technologies as they are becoming increasingly used and introduced at a young age

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of messages and email?

Being an introvert and someone who has an aversion to being tied to schedules and obligations, I am easily overwhelmed by all of this social stimulation. Introversion is commonly substituted with shyness, yet they mean two different things. When I write “introvert,” I draw from a definition given by Susan Cain in her TedTalk: “introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.” I am “most switched-on” when my technology is switched off. The constant bombardment of messages and email disrupts the low-key environment that I love and in which I operate best. Typically partnered with these messages and emails are commitments to be at a certain place at a certain time to do a certain task for a certain purpose. Swiftly, your schedule (over)fills with these activities/events that rise to paramount importance in order to meet an obligation you feel as though you must uphold. Before you know it, your schedule is fueling a dangerous cycle that places your identity in how much you can accomplish rather than in the content of your character. Your life becomes increasingly busier and complex trying to affirm your identity in the number of events that you do. When you finally have to a second to catch your breath, all you want is to return to a place of simplicity.

Do you sometimes feel as if you aren’t in the moment but busy figuring out what everyone else is doing or busy trying to capture a photo?

I intentionally do not own any social media accounts in part because I know that I would waste my time figuring out what everyone else is doing

My sisters and I doing one “cool, meaningful” thing among an infinite number of possibilities. (Photo credit: Elizabeth Rudigier)

(and subsequently comparing by own circumstances to theirs). Doing so would lower engagement in whatever it was that I was doing, taking away
from a potentially awesome, genuine experience. However, adopting a posture of “JOMO” (Joy of missing out) would extinguish the need to figure out what everyone else is doing. JOMO grasps the reality that there is a “limitless number of cool or meaningful things we’re not doing” and releases us from the suffocating impulse to compare. May we revel in how extraordinarily lucky are we to live in a place where this is the case.



Navigating this Digital World