Figuring out where to begin talking about my relationship with communication technology is a difficult task, so lets start from the beginning. My first real social encounter with communication technology starts all the way back in elementary school with American Online Instant Messaging or A.I.M. as we know it. This was the first technological connection I had ever made. A.I.M. allowed me to communicate with friends without actually being in the same room as them, it was great. This was the beginning of the social media craze, and as van Dijk said in Characteristics of New Media, “the speed of bridging large distances in communication is one of the strongest capacities of the new media,” (pg. 16). It was the speed of this communication bridge that was so appealing to me, and was the key to my communication technology addiction. During this project my experience was eye opening. To say technology and new media plays a role in my life is an understatement it controls my life, making me a victim of technological addiction, I hate it, but I need it.
Partaking in this media diet project has really opened my eyes to the world around me. As cliché as that sounds it is true. My life pretty much revolves around technology. After reading Fred Turner’s How Digital Technology Found Utopian Ideology: Lessons From the First Hackers’ Conference one could argue that communication technology could be the end to all of our problems. However my reaction to the article was different, it was almost like a light bulb went off in my head. Sure this technology is great in terms of speed and effectiveness, but with that almost comes a technological chokehold. It suddenly hit me, technology runs my life, whether it is communicating with classmates about assignments or being on call for work, my cell phone runs my life. Once the realization of being at my cell phones every beck and call came to me it was hard to look at my phone the same way. It made me enlightened, and a little uneasy at the same time.
My relationship with digital media is that of a bumpy ride. My original goal for my media diet project was to go a whole week without using social media and only using my phone when absolutely necessary (I am on call at work I was unable to go off the grid completely for obvious reasons). Unfortunately even that proved itself to be too much when I realized Facebook was my only means of communication with my marketing project partners, so seventy-two hours had to suffice. As it turns out seventy- two hours would be all I needed to change my opinion on communication technology. Thompson suggested that self-formation and identity is acquired through experience of life outside of technology. As a firm believer in this statement my experience “off the grid,” was awesome. My opinion changed drastically from pretty much being glued to my cell phone around the clock to a new and improved me. My identity is no longer defined by a digital being, but me as an actual person now and it is great. The seventy-two hour hiatus from social media drastically changed my opinion of social media, and it sucks it took this long to see that, but social media is virtually pointless in my opinion. It can definitely be used for great things, but it is filled with so much clutter and useless garbage that we forget the good that can come from it. Vannevar Bush talked about the advance of technology and research in As We May Think, “There is a growing mountain of research. But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends,” in my opinion and from what I have seen and experienced on social media is that technology as great as it is, is mostly being used for the wrong reasons. Meaning technology is often taken for granted and used for mindless activity to pass the time. Like on Facebook for example, are people posting scholarly articles and articulate thoughts, or are people posting junk that requires zero intellectual thought? What I mean by all of this is I came to the realization that social media and a lot of communication technology is simply not being used how it should. As a social media addict I will admit I posted a ton of useless stuff, but have since shied away from using social media as a source of entertainment to pass the time in between classes.
In my experience with less technology the outside world seemed more real. I was no longer in my little bubble starring at my phone, but rather taking in the people and things going on around me. Starting conversations, which would have otherwise never happened because my face would be buried in my phone. Thompson was right, experience outside of the social media and technological realm is a must to find oneself. My sense of identity became much more real. My sense of instant gratification no longer came from likes on a picture or likes on a status update. To me real life gratification was so much better, so much more pure and felt a lot better because it wasn’t superficial. In a way it was almost therapeutic to put my phone away, without constantly checking it or worrying about it came a piece of mind, one that did not exist until now.
One thing that is for sure is the way I interacted with people changed immensely. Instead of avoiding people with the classic “sorry I was looking at my phone,” line I made sure to at least greet the people I know and even met some new people from small talk alone. Another way in which things changed was my daily communication with friends. My immediate buddies here at Loyola and I have a group chat which means a constant bombardment of non-sense and what not. After not partaking in the group chat for three days, I found it increasingly hard to keep up with their conversations in real life, which constantly referred back to the group chat. Without access to new media, my life through social networking was completely vacant. Although this void felt like a new lease on freedom, it was also an empty feeling. To go from knowing everything about everyone’s day and what they wore or what they ate that day to being completely shut out of that aspect was odd. From this experiment my new perspective is that you are simply out of the loop if you are not constantly up to date on social media. As much as I am now opposed to it, I realized I cannot get off of social media or communication technology because it is a part of us now, it is the societal norm.
Unfortunately today communication technology shapes our identity. Our physical being is shaped around the person we are digitally. Meaning things we say or do digitally often can have as much weight or more weight than stuff we say or do in person. From my experience off of social media and communication technology I experienced how much my life really did revolve around it. My experience of life without being glued to communication technology was great. Thompson’s suggestion to experience life outside of media is key. What I am taking from this project is life does not only revolve around communication technology, as it seems.
From this point on I will never look at communication technology the same way. Although I may not be the most tech savvy individual I understand the power it holds and the necessity behind it. What I take away from this project is how much my life actually revolves around technology. I guess until you have to actually record and focus on how much you use technology and what you use it for you don’t realize how much of an impact it has on your daily life. My fear is that communication technology will continue to grow and take over everyday verbal communication. We already see it in our youth, they are becoming worse at verbal communication and seem to be more concerned with their technology. With that in mind I am trying to separate myself from communication technology. I know in this day in age I am stuck with it and I accept that, but I feel like I matured from this assignment. I feel like I now see communication technology from the perspective of my parents, “ you spend too much time on this, or that.” When I looked around on the Redline almost every person was staring off into the abyss. I no longer want to be like that. I don’t want to be a zombie for lack of a better word. So I guess now my relationship with communication technology is at a breaking point. I cannot take much more of this dependency. From this point on I will fill up my free time with more meaningful activities, and will continue to experience life outside of technology.