This week there is a fascinating collection of new thoughts running through my social-media-minded brain. I have listened to Sherry Turkle’s TED talk (Turkle 2013) and found huge chunks that resonate, not only with how my own social media experiences are absolutely “bound up” in the platforms I use, but also in how I teach self-awareness in my art groups. We do carry the fantasies Turkle talks about throughout our lives, that we will be always heard and never alone. This is the core of all our online and offline relationships. However to insist these human cravings are fantasies goes against how I define myself. I do expect these things from my friends, and I’d say they expect it from me. The core of the issue is that humanity needs to be seen, heard, known and loved. Until someone feels you have seen them, heard them and know them, they cannot feel that you love them. If these are fantasies, then humanity is in trouble. These ‘ideals’ may be unfulfilled expectations in most of our relationships, but to label them as fantasies leaves humanity without hope.
Friendship is demanding. The problem isn’t with technology; if there is a problem, it is with us. If we are substituting superficial digital connections for real relationships, the problem is with how we are using technology. Turkle says it is early days and we still get to decide how to use social media. We can choose to make room for the self-reflective solitude that balances the devices’ demand for connections and the fake empathy – and from that space of self-awareness, go forth into this brave new world. The world is in the midst of another paradigm culture shift, just as it was in the Victorian era, and we are smmmmack in the middle of learning how to operate in it.
Living through connections via devices is not necessarily a negative thing. The negativity lies in being unaware of what you are doing. Self-awareness is the most important quality we could possibly teach our children who will grow up in a digital world.
This week I have also read danah boyd’s thoughts on how we are now “always on”. She means how we live with the assumption that we are always networked with people online. Not that we are actively engaging constantly online, but that we are ABLE to if we choose to. We are not really online and not really offline. There is a new ‘normal’. We are living across all the platforms accessible to us and bringing ourselves into the experience of the merging of online/offline life. We connect people and information constantly in context and as we choose to. We live in an era where developing our own strategies for navigating our online connections is an essential skill.
I suspect the driving forces behind social media were introverts. Or extroverted introverts. People who want to be with other people but only in small doses. People who understood their limited capacity for interaction. As Turkle says, people who like to be ‘alone together’.
MDA2009 Assignment 1A How are our social experiences in each of these contexts bound up with social media platforms and their affordances, and how we make use of them?
boyd, d 2012, ‘Participating in the always-on lifestyle’, in M Mandiberg (ed) The Social Media Reader, NYU Press, pp. 71-76.
Corbet, Manu, Twitter post, https://mobile.twitter.com/lmanul
SGAR_art, Instagram post, “Expectations” https://www.instagram.com/p/BxwfOtCnAV9/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet
Turkle, S 2013, Connected, but alone?- Sherry Turkle, TED 2013, viewed 20 July 2019, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv0g8TsnA6c>.