Connecting in a Digital World | Part 1: The Rise of Technology & Social Media

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Today, the predominant obsession is technology. It’s all pervading, it seems. It’s really weird that we’re now a species that will applaud a rectangle.
— Charlie Brooker

This is part one, of a three-part series titled “Connecting in a Digital World”. In this series, I will analyze the yin & yang of the rise of technology and social media, the rise of influencer and crowd cultures, the ambiance and influx of information, and the ubiquitous nature of screens along with the noise that comes with them. The internet of things – the age of information – the digital age – the age of social media; whatever preference you have on the given terminology, is filled with a myriad of intrinsic advantages and ‘disadvantages’ – per se.

Technologies may one day offer us the opportunity to live healthily well beyond 100 years, enhance our intellectual and physical abilities and control our emotions.” There is someone living on earth today that will live to be over a hundred and fifty years. I hope that prediction stops you in your tracks. What would’ve been unimaginable even twenty years ago, is almost a possible reality today. Although, yes, our ability to digitize the world has its benefits, such as the possibility of extending our lifetimes, the drawbacks can have a lasting impact on society. 

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The public concerns regarding distraction when the television was first introduced into American households in the 1960’s doesn’t have sh*t on the introduction of the internet of things. The internet of things is basically like Terminator come true – f*ck you Skynet! Obviously a fictional and highly improbable scenario, screens large and small appear just about everywhere; physical locations are increasingly tagged and digitally augmented; sensor, processors, and memory are not just carried about in pockets and bags, but also built into objects in everyday life. Physical objects and spaces are now connected, in which functions can be actively controlled and monitored and even linked to each other. 

Today, there exist some of the most distracted human beings ever. Before there was high speed internet and streaming, you had designated physical locations to watch tv; or you had some type of tangible cassette or cd in order to listen to Eminem’s Slim Shady LP (Thanks Mom!). If you look around today, television feeds and music show up where they are not welcome and mobile phones lead to unconcerned use. However, through the noise and beyond the LCD screens, communities have been able to gather and connect on various social media platforms. Beyond the narcissistic implications of social media, humans are now more connected than ever before. Even the human body, thanks to wearable technology, is now connected to the internet.

Communities that were once isolated are now able to find each other based on their similar values, ideologies, or some type of fanaticism. This increases the possibility for collaboration – impacting cultural influence. The once underground subcultures are now mainstream and accessible to the common joe, thanks to the connectivity of social media. Thanks to social networks, people can now unite on a platform to achieve some specific objective – with hopes to bring a positive change in society.  

“The disrupted and disruptive nature of digital actors makes them tremendously difficult for hierarchical organizations such as states to counteract”. The uprising of the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall St., and Black Lives Matters are all perfect examples that prove this hypothesis valid. Before the age of social media, government institutional organizations not only concentrated their power to not only restrict information but also acted as gatekeepers for the context of media and propaganda. Social media has shifted the power structure back to the people, those whose voices were once muted can now be heard all around the world. A range of individuals are utilizing social media platforms to self-organize and broadcast their message without the need or structure of traditional media. 

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In turbulent political and social times, social media also allows for people to advocate for fundamental issues and initiate revolutionary causes. “With Facebook and Twitter, the traditional relationship between political authority and popular will has been upended, making it easier for the powerless to collaborate, coordinate, and give voice to their concerns.” – Malcolm Gladwell. We can now easily find and communicate with like-minded people, aiding to the momentum of the awareness of certain causes. The revolution was never televised, it’s liked and shared. 

Pt. 2 - Coming Soon!