The Affects of New Media
If asked how I feel about new media, the simple answer is that I cannot do without it. But while I have come to accept and embrace it, I wonder whether I have lost something more important along the way. So, what exactly is new media? There are so many definitions that it can become quite confusing. In Chapter 1, “Mediated Me” refers to new media as the digital technologies and explain how they affect our lives.
Enhancements in technology has brought about so many fascinating and surprising inventions from the television and the internet to social media, the Cloud, Facebook, Twitter, and many others. However, growing up in the pre-computer age, my ability to use technology is limited and I often rely on others, including my children, to guide me through the matrix of networking. For me, this is a totally new way of communicating and interacting and I believe that these channels of communication not only affect what we do but how we think.
The New Media Institute posed the question: “Where is new media really going, and are we, as users, constructing the destination or are we blindingly falling into its clutches through necessities and paradigms?” Simply looking at Facebook launched by Mark Zuckerberg and his college roommates is a perfect example of Facebook has taken on a world on its own. From its initial limitation to Harvard students to now being available all over the world, and has become the the premiere site for social networking. It has more than 800 million users and has joined together the world of work and play. While it is true that technology is valuable and has improved our lives, it has also imposed on our lives. With too many contacts, and the rate at which Facebook is growing, it seems that the quality of our relationships has diminished. Instead of face to face, we talk through our screens.
I believe that we have to be careful not to lose the essential human element; our personality. But I have to admit that my number one complaint about social media is what it is doing to our very sense of common courtesy and common sense. Just go out side and in no time at all you will see people crossing busy streets while looking down at the phones or children who don’t know how to shake hands with adults and make eye contact. It feels that our heads are permanently gazing down so much that the basic oral skills we once had are gone. So we walk along bumping into each other or not even seeing each other.
Then there is the recent killings of the two journalist in Virginia, as reported in the New York Times article, “Virginia Shooting Gone Viral, in a Well-Planned Rollout on Social Media”, by Farhad Manjoo. The killer’s use of social media was quite disturbing but even more troubling was how we have become so desensitized. It should not be okay to watch it but so many people rushed to get a look. Although I myself did not watch the video nor wish to, I have jumped on the bandwagon and have become much more immersed in social media and all that it entails. But that makes me fear whether screen culture is detrimental to my social skills and ability to think on my own. Am I relying too much on spell check and not really learning how to spell? It seems that technology has taken over my thoughts and I have allowed it to do so. I see it when I begin to construct a text and my phone tells me what I am attempting to say before I say it. Yes, I gladly accept the suggestion and stop thinking immediately how to spell the word but I wonder if I am giving up a part of me and what might be the cost.
Similarly, it has become our culture to interact over the phone and text as the normal way of communicating. It could be said that our real life is fading and we are losing the ability to look each other in the eye. Social media has made us think that a “friend” is the hundreds of people we don’t “know” on social media but who we “like” or who “like us” or even who we “follow.” If we really want to communicate with our friends, we would put down our phones and really converse.
Yes, I have lost something in exchange for all the technology I have gained. But the truth is that I would not give up the technology with all its drawbacks because the positive certainly outweighs the negatives. It is a brilliant tool for networking and sharing and provides entertainment and insight. We really don’t know the long-term effects and can only imagine what the new innovations will be, but more than anything, our development of technology is what makes us human. Ultimately, it is what sets us apart from all other forms of life and we are forever striving to optimize it.