We are members of a class at University of Maryland, called Networked Intelligence. This semester we are wrestling with ideas about how networked technologies and our information-rich worlds change the way we learn, live, and collaborate. In response to a wonderful letter that Dr. Davidson sent us, we will post a weekly blog that summarizes the big thoughts from our own peers’ writings and class discussion. Please feel free to connect with us and add to our networked learning.
Authors: Ana Matos, Chris Watts, John King
A huge part of the teenage years is discovering who you really are. Turkle believes that this can only be accomplished once we are comfortable being truly alone, only then can we know ourselves. The problem with the internet is that continual connection leaves us no alone time, and the internet allows people to put forth a “better” version of themselves through profiles. This is hurting teenagers in their self discovery.
One of Turkle’s concerns was that with so many social networking sites, people can create profiles for all the different personalities they want to portray. With all those different profiles, how can you know what about the person is authentic? What the class argued in discussion was that we have always portrayed different personalities depending on the situation. People represent themselves differently depending on if they are at work, at home, or at school. Taking on different personalities is nothing new, it is just more visible now with internet profiles. The use of computers allows us to hide behind our screens and encourages competition with peers (Ciera).
Another concern with the Facebook era is that people now have hundreds of “friends” on Facebook, but how many true friends do they really have. To be friends there is a certain amount of investment necessary to keep the relationship alive. Would people be happier having a small group of close friends rather than the hundreds of acquaintances on Facebook? Having all these people connected to you does give you many options for people to talk to depending on the problem at hand. There is always someone you can talk to. (Danielle)
The personal connections we once had with other people are also becoming more and more impersonal. Alysia points out that the conversations we have with those that are close to us are no longer as meaningful. We no longer write letters to loved ones, replacing them with digital messages that are deleted and don’t mean as much. The time we used to put into letters allowed us to give more details and exchange more meaningful thoughts, whereas now, we tend to convey a much smaller amount of information through digital communication. When we spoke to someone in person or wrote them long letters, all of our attention was focused on them. Now with texting we are always doing something else at the same time, the time is no longer personal.
We also tend to treat those on the Internet more like objects than actual people. When we anonymously post online, it tends to bring out the worst of us. We tend not to care as much because there are no repercussions for what we say, as no one can trace the comments back to us nor can we see the hurt caused by our comments. Also, because of the sheer number of people, we cannot create personal relationships with all of them. We tend to view the people we meet as objects instead of humans in order to deal with this. (Lenore) This dehumanizing on the internet is why there is such a big problem with cyber bullying, people who would never say things like that in person feel more comfortable to be mean when they are hiding behind a screen.
The ability to connect with people who are physically far away is an amazing feat of technology, but it is worrisome that these virtual connections are hurting real face to face relationships. Traci complained that friends with smartphones get so drawn into connecting with people virtually that they forget to connect with her when she is physically there with them. People need to learn to appreciate the intimacy of face to face conversations and put the phone away when they are with friends.