Communication Technologies and Me (Week 2)

I was born into the technology generation. So am I a product of these developments? Of course, and unavoidably. Although there are communities that choose to live simply and without any (electrical) modern-day technology, one would be hard-pressed to find an individual in a Western civilization that has not directly been influenced and molded by the ever-changing technological storm that surrounds them. Luckily for me, I was born into a time where the television was the glue to our family and video killed the radio star so I never had to adapt.

NB:// I’ve written this blog post following a question-answer format to organize my ideas.

 

* How do you use new communication technologies to communicate with your friends and family.

I use new communication technologies such as social networking websites and smartphones to communicate with my friends and family on a daily basis. Our communication is instant no matter what the distance. Software such as Skype and Viber, that operate on many platforms, make this process simpler.

However, these programs would be nothing without my laptop and phone that operate them. I use my Macbook Pro for surfing the internet and using sites such as Facebook to talk to my friends. I then use my mobile phone in conjunction, to text and call with more urgency.

* How long have you been using these communication technologies?

I started using my first computer in 1998 when my family bought one for the business. I was only five years old. It was a huge desktop box with a giant modem to accompany it. What I remember most was how exciting it was to see the colors and pictures move in front of me and things happen with the touch of a button. Following this, I was obsessed with every form of GameBoy, PlayStation 2 and then the Nintendo DS, most of which were handheld gaming devices. They were more advanced than those that were available during my parents’ childhood, but were significant nonetheless. At age 11 I received my first mobile phone; a hand-me-down from my grandpa. It was one of those “Nokia bricks.” But it was all mine, and the fact that I could independently communicate with my friends was the best part about it. It is appropriate to say, being brought up in a “wealthy” family and environment, I was spoiled with new technologies whenever they came out.

* What influenced you to start using these particular technologies?  How did you find out about them?

My entire family has always been key believers in technological advancement. They always showed interest in new communication technologies and the science of technology. Upon reflection, my family were as curious about these revolutions as I was as a child. However, they had to adapt to the integration of these technologies in everyday life. Whereas I was conditioned to believe we are now dependant on such technologies and find them commonplace. When I was a child and growing up, finding out about new technologies was only through what was most popular, what all my friends had and what was being promoted in the media. This could be considered as a result of the media-effects theory, which maintains that the media control what we think about the content in the media. I was and continue to be influenced by the ever-advancing age of technology and my social networks that peer pressure me to conform.

Now, with my compounded knowledge of current and past technologies as well as the internet, I seek out my own technologies that will best suit me and my needs. I’ve learnt to research the pros and cons of products/software and compare products in the market. My main motivation for conducting this research is to find the best communication devices for me.

* Is privacy an issue for you when using new technologies?

To some extent privacy concerns me when using new technologies but due to a lack of understanding about “privacy” in relation to technology, I tend to dismiss it as an issue. What is more concerning is my latent trust in companies that develop new technologies and their commitments to the consumer to be ethical and private with our details. Each website or new product prompts an agreement to the “Terms & Conditions” (which most people never properly scrutinize) which should include clear rules about the privacy of information. Due to me trusting that my details are safe, the most concerning privacy issues is that of my Facebook profile. Although completely “private,” there are always ways to see someone’s photos or posts whether they intend to show them or not. Essentially, no matter how hard you try to hide information on the internet, there is always a record of it or a way to find it. It is particularly concerning especially in an era where employers examine profiles of their employees on a regular basis. This blurs the distinction between a private life and a work (public) life as both are amalgamated.

*  What do you think of companies like Facebook and Google who collect information about their users?   (How do you deal with issues around privacy?)

I previously stated that privacy does not concern me too often. I like to think of the saying “those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing.” But this does not prevent others from misinterpreting your information. As for sites like Facebook and Google who collect information about their uses, it depends on the context and need for doing so. In Facebook’s case, their information collection is required to keep track of users, identify them and maintain integrity. But Google’s motivation seems less innocent. Google uses search results to construct a profile of what you like, how you search and the type of information you commonly look for. It allows marketing professionals to segment you and essentially limit the information you receive. An article by Sue Halpern addresses some of these issues and can be read here

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/jun/23/mind-control-and-internet/

* Do you have friends whom you know only from the internet and have never met in person?   Is this different to people that you know in person?  Describe the difference.

This is a touchy topic among users of the internet as there are strong negative connotations attached to meeting people online. I believe this stigma stems from a caution and fear that not seeing something means it does not exist in its entirety. Essentially, people fear the unknown and this is why the dangers are spelt out. I do have friends whom I know only from the internet but have led to real friendships. I suppose it is the context in which you know them that matters. Most of the people I know only from the internet are now friends and were friends of friends whom I had not met. The internet simply gave me a head start in gauging their character by allowing me to interact with them before meeting them. There is no one that I know on the internet who was not in my social network and who I have not met or heard about in person.

The clear distinction between these “internet friends” and “real friends” is that internet friends whom you have never met are constructed by you and based on what they say. You subconsciously create a profile for this person and what you think they’re like. Whereas, you judge and make impressions of real people based on how they act around you. I’d hope that people who have never met me are not shocked when they meet me in person; that my real presence is consistent with my online presence. Personally, I endeavor to be as real and close to my actual self on the internet and choose not to act or react differently than I would in real life. But this is not always the case. Some people use the internet as a disguise so they can be someone else; an escape. I’ve italicized the word real to distinguish between who you are online and who you are in person, but these two may be exactly the same. And who’s to say that an online presence is any less real than physically? I like to think that having “internet friends” is the modern version of a pen-pal. Pen-pals were rarely met, and yet they would endlessly share personal information, stories and their lives. The key message is to understand what you want to get out of meeting people purely on the internet and not mislead others with your intentions.

Catch you later cats and kittens,

Anneleise xx

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