Separating Yourself from Technology: Is Complete Isolation Possible?

My generation has grown up during an extremely fascinating time period in regards to technological advances. As a young child, I did not have the slightest desire to play on the computer, play video games, or use any other forms of electronic devices. My free-time was consumed with playing outside, playing with my Barbies, or playing sports. However, image 1as my friends and I grew older, the introduction of new technologies at affordable prices meant that every house was beginning to have computers, cell phones, and video game systems. Personally, I did not get a laptop or a cell phone until my first year of university. It was always so interesting for me to hear my friends rant about how their mom took their laptop away from them for the night, or how they accidentally forgot their phone at home that day, which apparently seemed like the end of the world to them. Now that I have had a cell phone for a few years and use my laptop on a daily basis for school work and in my free-time, I can relate to the need to be with my technological devices at all times.

The Bright Side of Technology
Technology has progressed our society to levels unimaginable a few decades ago. Advancements in computers, gaming, and cell phones have allowed us to communicate almost instantaneously, regardless of the distance between two people. Technology has allowed us to be more efficient on the job as well, benefiting us in our search for knowledge and sharing of information. However, there are many drawbacks related to humans’ excessive use of technology that have the potential to turn into obsessions and dependencies with technology.

Technology Dependence
We have now hit an even more alarming time period in our lives, as we are more dependent on technology than ever before. According to a study conducted by the Pew Internet Project, the overall average of text messages sent and/or received per day is 42. 13439695-group-of-friends-text-messaging-on-their-phonesHowever, if you look at the 18-24 age group specifically, these people average 110 text messages per day. This averages out to one text message every 13 minutes! This is an extremely alarming number if you think of all the other tasks an individual must fit into their day. Our cell phones have become like an additional appendage for some people. At the same time, a study covered by the New York Times reported that adults are exposed to 8.5 hours of screen time on any given day. This is extremely alarming if you think about the fact that we are probably getting more screen time than sleep on any given day. Even if we wanted to find solitude away from our computers, it would be next to impossible to do so. Many jobs and education programs require individuals to be in front of a computer for hours on end in order to complete assignments, check emails, etc.

Technology Rehab
Humans’ use of and dependence on technology can spiral so far out of control that individuals seek expert help to separate themselves from their technological devices. An example of a rehabilitation centre that focuses on helping people who are addicted to technology is reSTART. ReSTART claims that their mission is to assist participants using an abstinence-based recovery program to break the cycle of dependency that people have courtesy-of-bakwaspoint.blogspot.com-computer_addictionwith the internet and computers. ReSTART’s website even has an internet addiction test that you can take on their website to see if you qualify as someone who suffers from a technology addiction. The fact that our society has come to the point where people need rehab to get rid of their technology dependencies speaks for itself, as the internet and other forms of technology have become a form of drug in the minds of some people. However, the medical community has not reached an agreement on whether or not humans can become addicted to technology. Some doctors are against the idea that our bodies can grow to be dependent on computers or technology in the same way they can become dependent on drugs.

Health Implications
The health implications of our inability to separate outselves from technology are worrisome and alarming. The most obvious health impact is the lack of physical activity that comes withimages computer use. Similar to the health impacts that result from watching too much television, living a sedentary lifestyle in front of your computer can lead to weight gain and future health problems. But with further analysis, there are other health impairments that can result from sitting in front of the computer for hours on end. Some of these impacts include eye disease, posture issues relating to the spine, and hand/wrist strain. Beyond physical health impairments, studies are beginning to show that the over-use of technology is having detrimental impacts on our social skills as well. All age groups are experiencing less face-to-face conversations, which can hinder the development of social skills in people whose skills have yet to fully develop. While technology has allowed us to communicate with people with ease through cellphones, instant messaging, or emails, it is also reinforces the fact that we no longer have to communicate with others in person.

Conclusion
To answer my original question, is complete isolation from technology possible, I honestly do not think it is. Our society has grown to be so dependent on technology that I do not think we will ever be able to reverse the effects. The topic of human dependence on technology has led me to create a test of my own: I challenged myself to not use my laptop or cell phone for one whole day, and I must say it was extremely hard to accomplish this. I can confidently say I succeeded… not to say that I would ever want to voluntarily do that again. It is a sad reality that it took an enormous amount of self-control to successfully complete this challenge. Our generation needs some sort of reality check to understand that our dependence on technology is increasing at an alarming rate, and it can have dangerous effects on our lives. It will be interesting to observe future generations and monitor their technology use habits compared to our generation’s current use. Sadly, I fear that future generations will be even worse off.

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The Lost Art of Privacy: The Facebook Generation

It seems that every time I log onto Facebook I am bombarded with images and status updates that are extremely personal. It appears that people are almost too eager to share the personal aspects of their lives through social media. Whether it is the fact that they believe people are generally interested in what they ate for dinner, or if they are just using social media to express what is on their mind, our generation has lost touch with the distinction between the ‘private’ and ‘public’ self. Not only are people extremely open on Facebook, but the social media site is designed to make people divulge information about themselves. The fact that Facebook has the option of sharing every little thought that crosses one’s mind, or the fact that photo albums can be created in just minutes to document any life event, shows that Facebook was designed to allow people to share their lives with the world.

Facebook Profiles
Even if we look at the basic features of a Facebook profile, the website prompts you to fill in information about yourself that can be seen by anyone who visits your Facebook page, even if they are a stranger.  Information that is commonly shared includes:

  • Your name
  • Your birthday and age
  • Your hometown
  • The town you currently live in
  • Your sexual orientation
  • Where you went to/go to school
  • Where you work

It is a little bit odd that we are willing to let any stranger know where we work or what town we currently live in, but hey that’s the power of Facebook.

Facebook Statuses
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This screen shot, taken directly from my personal account, is an example of the cues created by Facebook to make users share their thoughts or photos.

The feature of status updates grants users an all-access pass into the minds of their Facebook friends. Many thoughts that would not normally be voiced out loud are instead shared virtually. How about this gem, taken from one of my own Facebook friends after she had given birth to her daughter: “It’s so awkward when I’m being told to sell my breast milk because I’m producing so much. Two weeks and already my freezer is full!” My congratulations go out to her for being able to compete in the Lactation Olympics, but this is the kind of information that the Facebook world does not need to know about. It seems our generation has forgotten that there is such thing as “too much information”. 

Photo Albums
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Another basic Facebook feature of creating photo albums also facilitates the easy viewing of users’ private lives. Normally, I would have no way of seeing the firsthand view of events in most people’s lives. However, thanks to Facebook photo albums we are granted access into people’s personal experiences via photos. Reading week has just ended, and seeing as I did not travel I am very jealous of all the people who did go somewhere tropical for Spring Break. My Facebook homepage is now full of photo album uploads, with hundreds of photos depicting friends’ vacations. These images, which really should only be seen by the people who were involved in the vacation and perhaps family members, are instead able to be viewed by the hundreds of friends these people have on Facebook.

Facebook Check-Ins
It appears that the relationship between Facebook and privacy is a vicious cycle. Not only are users more willing to share aspects of their personal lives, but Facebook is constantly updated with features that prompt the sharing of personal events. This in turn makes users share more of their private lives with the Facebook world. A recent update, called check in 2Facebook Check-Ins, allows users to update their location using GPS technology. For example, when dining out at a restaurant, users have the ability to “check in” and add the location of the restaurant they are at. While this may seem like an innocent feature of this social media website, allowing other Facebook users to know your exact whereabouts sounds a bit dangerous. It is every stalker’s dream to be given a list of the exact location of their victims, and Facebook essentially does just that. Users need to be aware that there are dangers associated with updating Facebook on every little detail of their lives.

check in hp 2

Facebook’s Misuse of Users’ Information
Probably the most alarming aspect of Facebook is the recent agreement that the company settled with online advertisers. According to the Toronto Star, Facebook is now able to sell users’ data to advertisers in order to enhance the efficiency of advertisers’ online marketing ploys. These advertisers are willing to pay big bucks in order to gain access into the personal status updates, check-ins, and product mentions on Facebook. But what would they want this information for? Online advertisers are hopeful that with this insight they can direct their products at the right people, who have shown interest in their product or similar products based on information they have provided via Facebook. This means that the online ads that pop up along the sidebar of your Facebook page have been strategically placed there to correspond to your Facebook history. To me that sounds like an extreme breach of users’ privacy, now that our status updates can be seen by people who are not our Facebook friends. Also, just because I make a status update about a certain product does not mean I want to be targeted by the company’s online ads.

Concluding Thoughts
Ultimately, the level of privacy that one’s Facebook account has is in the hands of the user. There are privacy features of Facebook that allow status updates and photos to be seen only by friends, while being blocked for the rest of the Facebook world.  If the uncertainty of Facebook’s privacy settings is truly troubling for some individuals, they could always delete their Facebook accounts altogether (*GASP*).  However, the aspects of the website that are not under our control, such as the selling of individuals’ Facebook status history, is definitely a cause for concern for all users.

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One of life’s biggest questions is “what should I change my profile picture to?”  Okay, so obviously I’m being facetious, but it seems that in today’s day and age people are constantly worrying about how they are perceived by the Facebook world.  Facebook, and social media in general, allows us to create and portray whatever version of ourselves we want with just the click of a few buttons. Some people put a lot of importance on their Facebook profiles because they want to be perceived in the best way possible by their peers.

Posting Photos
The great thing about Facebook is that it provides us with the options of adding and tagging photos.  This can be an asset when it comes to sharing photos and firsthand experiences with friends.  An even better Facebook option is the ability for users to delete photos of themselves that they are not particularly fond of or do not find flattering enough.  With these photo-screening options, Facebook users are able to create a profile of themselves that they want the world to see.  This may be a huge generalization, but I have found these trends to be more common in females.  Girls will post hundreds of photos of themselves because they like the way their makeup looks, or they were having a good hair day, or some other superficial reasoning.  The photos that they allow the world to see are only the ones that they believe were taken when they were looking their best. According to The New York Times, studies show a strong correlation between Facebook and narcissism. Not only are these people’s Facebook profiles a “filtered” version of themselves, but they lead people to be more self-involved and narcissistic.

Building Self-Esteem
What is it about Facebook that has brainwashed us into posting private aspects of our lives for the public to see?  We delete the hundreds of photos of ourselves that we hate, and then we add the select few photos of ourselves to Facebook that have made the cut.  Our generation has grown to rely on social media to build self-esteem, and every “Like” that we receive on a photo builds up our confidence just a little bit more.  What would be the rationale behind one person posting hundreds of photos of themselves where they basically look the same in every picture?  My theory is that they post the photos for the comments and “Likes” that they will receive from their friends to gain a sense of self-worth. According to a Canadian study covered by The Globe and Mail, individuals with extremely high self-esteem and low self-esteem spent more time on Facebook than people with a healthy or average amount of self-esteem. My guess would be that the narcissists use Facebook to add fuel to their love of themselves, and that those with low-self esteem resort to Facebook because they seek the acceptance and approval of their peers.

“Selfies”
Society’s obsession with social media has led to a more conceited, narcissistic generation.  People are constantly updating their profiles with new photos of themselves.  There is also a trend of people spending more time worrying about taking photos than actually experiencing events and living in the moment.  The infamous “selfie” photo has led people to putting a large amount pressure on their looks, spending more time in front of the mirror, and posing for the camera.  If I were to go to a number of people’s profiles on my own Facebook account, I would find more than enough examples of individuals taking hundreds of self-shots to share with the Facebook world.  “Selfies” are just one more example of how social media has led us to become more obsessed with ourselves and how we may appear to others.

Photoshop
People often post photos of themselves with their skin looking flawless, their eyes glistening, their hair falling perfectly, and the lighting just right.  While these photos might make other viewers feel unattractive, it is important to remember many people’s secret weapon: Photoshop.  These computer-savvy people have learned how to use this program to manipulate photographs of themselves to perfection.  In the same way magazine editors airbrush and alter photos of celebrities, many Facebook users know how to use the Photoshop program to enhance or “beautify” photos of themselves. In the same article by The New York Times, the study found that people with high levels of narcissism were more likely to post digitally enhanced (Photoshopped) personal photos.  As you can see in the comparisons below, it is very easy to manipulate a photograph into a depiction of perfection. While both of these women look beautiful in their ‘before’ photos as well as their ‘after’ photos, it is easy to notice where the photos have been altered.

Penelope-Cruz-Pre-and-Post-Photoshop
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Fake Accounts and Photos
While some people deceive the Facebook world through manipulated imagery of themselves, other people may go as far as creating a completely different online persona of themselves. If you have ever seen the television show “Catfish”, you will know that fake Facebook accounts are more common in our society than we once thought.  This MTV documentary goes behind the scenes into the lives and relationships that have been built online through Facebook profile deception.

Using fake photos, individuals create an online personality of the ultimate person that they wish they could be.  Thanks to the anonymity that online social media provides, users have the potential to hide behind their profiles and lead people to believe they are someone else.  People often post fake or stolen pictures that they attempt to pass off as their own, while expressing themselves through this double-life.

Concluding Thoughts
With all of that being said, photography is a huge part of computers and the internet.  Humans are visual learners and the internet is a highly stimulating “world” full of imagery and illusion.  There are many benefits to the ease of sharing photos through online social media such as Facebook.  However, we must keep in mind that what we read and see on the internet is not always what it seems.  Photography can be used to benefit and enhance our computer experiences, but it can also be used in deceitful or narcissistic ways. Facebook has given us the power to pick and choose exactly how we want to be perceived through social media, leading to filtered and unauthentic online versions of our real-life selves.