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Refuge From the Internet: Does it Exist?

// Posted by on 04/02/2014 (2:03 PM)

This week in class we discussed Rushkoff’s book Present Shock, in which he tells us that our preoccupation with technology is causing is to miss out on the “now.” Rushkoff’s book shows us that we need to reexamine our relationship… Read more

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This week in class we discussed Rushkoff’s book Present Shock, in which he tells us that our preoccupation with technology is causing is to miss out on the “now.” Rushkoff’s book shows us that we need to reexamine our relationship with time before we a experience a future we didn’t expect. The constant use of technology and internet is stifling the creativity of our culture by making too much information readily available and holding our generation back from creating anything original. I agree with Rushkoff in a lot of ways; I think that we are extremely distracted from the present and that this could be hurtful to our generation.

I read a few articles from Wired that I think connect well with Rushkoff’s book and our class discussions about the constant use of internet all over the world. While it used to be hard to find a place to get internet connection and surf the wed, it’s now harder to find an escape from it. If we open up our computers to find that we don’t have wifi, we’re more shocked than we are if we find that we do have it. A long car ride used to be an excuse to sit back, relax, and listen to a few CDs. Now people have “hotspots” on their phones that allow them to get internet access on their computers and phones while in motion. It has even gotten to the point where certain people have anxiety if they don’t have access to their e-mails, texts, and tweets, even while they’re, say, in a plane thousands of feet above ground. This shows us that the places that used to be sanctuaries from the technological world and our always-on lives are now being invaded.

“[To get away] we go where it’s impossible to connect, no matter what. But quite soon those gaps will all be filled. Before much longer, the entire planet will be smothered in signal, and we won’t be able to find places that are off the grid” (Honan, 2013).

The quote above is from a 2013 article in Wired called “Can’t Get Away From It All? The Problem Isn’t Technology- It’s You.” The author talks about broadening internet access throughout the country, and how the places that we used to escape to are now places you can be completely plugged-in. Mat Honan, the author of the article thinks that if we can learn to resist the urge to go online, we can create these places of refuge for ourselves. But can these places even be considered sanctuaries from our internet lives if we can get in touch with anyone and search anything? Will we compromise our sanity in we continue down this road? Where can we get away from our online lives if we have internet access everywhere we go?

The image above shows the places that we have internet access in orange, and the places we don’t in dark red (as of September 2013). The places that aren’t orange are mostly uninhabited areas. Another aspect of this is the idea that we can “mentally unplug.” Even in a place where we have internet access, is it possible to shut everything off even when you know you can use it?

The second article, by the same author, was about wifi on airplanes. Even if it’s possible, says the author, airlines might want to reconsider the degree to which we can access this. The article talks about how much we will probably disturb one another making phone calls, streaming movies, hogging the outlet plugs, or even skyping and facetiming with the people below. Is it really necessary to have access to these things while we’re flying? I know this might be convenient, but I still don’t think its healthy for us to have access to all of these in-flight gadgets.

“If you’re really looking to unplug, the connection you have to sever isn’t electronic anymore—it’s mental” (Honan, 2013)

I think that the novelty of the idea of having internet wherever you go has worn off, and just as soon as Americans realize the state of present shock we are in, we might all long to be in a place where we can’t have access to everything at our fingertips. Another aspect of this is the idea that we can “mentally unplug.” Even in a place where we have internet access, is it possible to shut everything off even when you know you can use it?

 

Articles:

http://www.wired.com/2014/03/honan-flight-risks/

http://www.wired.com/2013/10/honan/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2012/07/10/were-all-internet-addicts-and-were-all-screwed-says-newsweek/

 


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Do We Need To Unplug?

// Posted by on 01/30/2012 (11:18 PM)

Look familiar?

These days, we use social media to connect with our friends. But even when we’re around our friends we are still locked into technology. It’s not unusual to see a group of… Read more

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Look familiar?

These days, we use social media to connect with our friends. But even when we’re around our friends we are still locked into technology. It’s not unusual to see a group of friends sitting around the dinner table, all on their phones texting, tweeting, or checking facebook.

So the question is does technology interfere with our personal relationships?

Last fall, Jack Reilly, a college student living in Chicago, decided to explore the answer to this question. Fed up with the amount of time he felt he wasted using technology rather than having face to face connections with friends, Reilly decided to unplug from all forms of social media for 90 days. He gave up the internet, email, phone calls, texting, and even TV. What he found was that some of his more casual relationships fizzled but he could make more meaningful connections with the people around him. He was able to get back together with his girlfriend because when they were together they were able to fully focus on each other and their relationship and he got much more creative with what he did in his free time because he had lots more of it now. For more details, check the article out here.

In response to Reilly, New Media theorist would argue that humans have co-evolved with technology, and that the importance of technology in our lives is not just about the technology and its capabilities, but rather, it is about how the technology is embodied in our lives. Technology does just serve a functional purpose but it can also satisfy our emotional, perceptual, and social needs.

In my opinion, Reilly actually proves that this is true by demonstrating how our social patterns have evolved with technology. Reilly talked with members of older generations who told him that when they were younger and wanted to make plans they would drive over to each others’ houses to try to find them or there would be a diner in town that people where people would always meet up and where you could always find friends who were looking to hangout. But today technology has given us new means and we’ve evolved. Instead of driving to a friend’s house to see if they’re available ,we text or facebook them. Even when Reilly thinks he’s getting away from technology, he finds that he is using means of communication which resemble the technology he has grown accustomed to, like the public notes on the elevator door which resemble a facebook wall.

I think Reilly’s overall point is valid. Our generation does spend way too much time using social media rather than connecting face to face. And there have been studies done which show how our generation has poor phone skills because we constantly rely on texting. But I think that abandoning all social media is an extreme that does not have to be taking. I think it’s more important to be a member of a physical community, whether that be friends, family, or a neighborhood, than an international community of angry bird players. But those physical communities can also be proliferated online. Social media provides useful ways to connect, learn, and spread information. But there needs to be some balance between the time we spend plugged in and the time we spend “unplugged” enjoying life outside of technology. In short, its fine that we check our e-mails, that we connect via facebook, and occasionally get sucked into youtube black holes, but we also need to make a commitment to ourselves to put the phone away when we’re sitting a dinner table with family and friends. When we’re in a social situation, it’s more important to really be in that setting and make a connection, than to pull out our phones and tweet about what we’re doing or make sure we get that one last angry bird.

Don’t be this person. . . .


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