Nightmarish Tinder experiences: millions of millennials have had their fair share. A prime example is that of my best friend, Corrin. She was deeply and utterly catfished. Charming, funny, and cute as can be, Adam seemed like the full package on Tinder; he said all the right things, and Corrin was thrilled when he finally asked her out on a date to go kayaking and get lunch. However, upon meeting him, my poor friend immediately realized that he’d been using extremely outdated pictures of himself and he had lied that he was younger than he really was: the unhygienic, unfriendly man climbing inside of her car was at least twenty five years old. Not wanting to be rude, Corrin decided she would follow through with the date. Adam immediately took off his shoes in the passenger seat and began scuffing up the dashboard with his feet. Beyond his “joking” about stealing Corrin’s car and strange remarks about her driving, Adam was utterly nothing like he was on Tinder. He had seemed so friendly, caring, and easygoing, but my friend had trouble even getting full sentences out of Adam and his stinky feet. After her date from hell, Corrin decided that she would be much more careful about the guys she talked to on Tinder and do her research before going to a remote body of water alone with someone.
While it’s true that Corrin’s story is funny when told after the fact, it’s a warning of how wrong Tinder dates can go; I get a shiver down my spine when I think of how much worse the date could have gone if Corrin was a little less smart and Adam was a little more creepy. This is just one concerning aspect of Tinder, but it goes to show how different someone can actually be than how they present themselves online. Ultimately, communicating through a screen can give someone a sense of invincibility in terms of treating someone poorly or acting like a different person on their phone than they would in real life, and this is a concerning aspect of online dating for young adults today.
Not only do my dear friends use Instagram as a platform to critique and compare their style and looks to other lifestyles, but I have also learned that such network has become a mode of comparison between for their romantic relationships: where this couple went on their date, what her new boyfriend looks like, and so on. Most notable was the fact that some of my friends “most searched” on this popular social network were public relationship pages where they could view other couples pictures and what they were up to. To go even further I was shocked to find that some of them had saved images of other individuals or couple pictures that desired to have or recreate within relationships they had or would prefer to have. What was not surprising though was the fact that most of those desirable pictures were rather provocative and sexually appealing to viewers around the world, including my friends.
While at first I didn’t see the issue with using social media as a way to learn about others and the life they live, I began to realize that these networks had more of an affect on the development of intimate relationship than what naturally meets the eye. Instead of forming a relationship through forms of normal communication and what feels right for those two as a couple, we are plagued by the better opportunities and experiences available through social media. Considering this constant reminder of others, it seems as if the values that make up modern relationships have taken a significant turn. Compared to older relationships built over time with few other outside influences, one is forced to ask how such digital developments have changed the foundational aspects of the modern relationships that develop today. Furthermore, how such new foundation might predict the future of these relationships.
Imagine entering a car dealership, looking to buy a car with no specific qualities in mind. When you walk in, suddenly you are confronted by rows and rows of cars for sale, all different with unique qualities. Some have air conditioning, others have sunroofs, a few of them have neither but are cheaper. Many of us would consider this wide array of choice to be a good thing, reasoning that if we have more choices, we are more likely to find something that fits our ideal car. However, as you begin to look around, you realize that it is very difficult to decide for certain on any car, because as soon as you think you like one, another more glamorous car catches your eye. Finally, after browsing for hours, you realize a decision has to be made and you reluctantly put a down payment on a car you’ve liked since you walked in. As you drive off in your new car, you notice that the seats don’t recline as far as you would’ve liked, and suddenly your drive home becomes consumed with thoughts of the cars you passed over. What could’ve been a quick, and fun purchase, has now taken up the majority of your day, and left you feeling disappointed in your final selection.
While the example above was entirely fictitious, it represents a problem that is becoming more and more real. That problem being the negative aspects of choice and how they are beginning to spread into settings far beyond the car dealership. Among these new settings are dating sites, whose use is beginning to decline due to its users inability to commit, which can be attributed to anxiety caused by choice. The presence of so many options creates unrealistic expectations for what we should choose. and although we may pick something which completely satisfies our needs, we still feel unhappy thinking about what could’ve been available. While it may seem counterintuitive, by limiting our choices, in many scenarios, we may wind up much happier with our choice.
Remember the luxury of sitting down at your bulky, cubic desktop computer, the weird cackling of dial-up internet, the interruption of your phone line with the internet, surfing the world wide web but needing to type “www.” before typing in a URL otherwise it wouldn’t work, “You’ve got mail!”, chatting on your instant messenger, or just the ugly aesthetic of the internet as a whole? It was a much simpler time until November of 1988. What started out as a newly developed digital public forum between a few dozen researchers has now become available to over 3 billion users. But in the midst of its evolution, all internet users were plagued with the Morris Worm, causing thousands of machines to malfunction and damages summing up to millions of dollars, creators failed to see that the threat of the internet was not something larger than man but was man itself using it against others (Timberg). Though the Morris Worm was merely an experiment with no malicious intent, its result demonstrated otherwise. Setting a dangerous precedent, it opened eyes that it only takes one man to make such an impact on the world on this new, blank stage, proving that like people, the internet, too, is vulnerable.
While its usages are evolving, new ones being created, and its inconveniences out of the way it has become flooded with the rapid flow of information, connecting and communicating with others, online shopping, paying bills, entertainment, a place of work, etc. However, under these friendly shallows, a dark side has sprouted from these digital commodities. From one posted picture, downloaded file, recorded credit card number, summing into a search history, internet companies harbor and store this innocent information. Using it to lure you in, chip away at your privacy, and gaining your fragile trust, leaving you never to question in the process whether that is safe, we should ask ourselves, are we safe?
The scene is all too familiar: millennials eyes glued to their phones in an endless cycle of scrolling and typing. My trek to classes every morning is telling of this pattern; as I step into the elevator in my dorm, four freshmen slyly avoid eye contact by staring at their social media news feeds. Even waiting at the bus stop parallels this experience. The same familiar faces stand in silence, all collectively entranced by their screens. Curious as to what others are looking at, I peek over the boy sitting in front of me to examine the frivolous finger movement of the other passengers around me. The recognizable platforms of Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram enveloped almost everyone’s screens. In fact, most of the students went back and forth between these different apps. On Instagram and Facebook, people were closely examining their followers’ posts with extreme diligence. They analyzed both new and old posts by inspecting likes and comments and zooming in on small details. Conversely, on Snapchat, people sent and received short lived selfies with less examination. While the different platforms offered different means of communicating, they all hypnotized their users by offering information about friends and family.
As new generations of young adults grow up with powerful technology in the palms of their hands, they have become evermore dependent on social media as a means of connecting with friends and acquaintances. Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube have become major outlets for information about people, news and trends. Those students on the bus illustrated our generations obsession with our online presence and image; most of them had a powerful myriad of different media sources on their phones. From this, it seems like we rely on different forms of social media for different forms of information. The different features offered by each social media outlet open doors for different interactions, influencing our later behaviors and actions.
I vividly remember sitting across from my “twin” in the dingy cafeteria. It was the spring of my sophomore year of high school, and we were both waiting to get picked up by my mom. It was a Friday afternoon, and our typical school day was shortened to just a few hours because prom was that night for the upperclassmen. Valerie, someone coined as being my doppelgänger since just about the first day of school, was scrolling through her phone on Instagram as usual. Valerie, or Val for short, was recognized as being “Insta famous” at my high school. She had somehow managed to rack up nearly ten thousand followers by that year, and her posts were pretty regularly talked about amongst the student body of Carmel Catholic High School. Val had blonde hair like mine and blue eyes like mine. Although it appeared to most that she exuded confidence with the thousands of likes she received, she was not. She caked on tons of makeup every day to go to school and always complained about being “fat” or “ugly.”
Val was filling me in on all of the prom drama with the upperclassmen when she flipped her phone around and started commenting on another girl’s photo from another school’s prom from the weekend prior. “Her dress is literally the best I have seen so far this year!” “Isn’t her skin perfect?” “Look at how skinny she is!” “Aren’t her boyfriend and her so cute together?” These were all comments made by Val. I glanced up at the photo and just shrugged my shoulders. She seemed to be a nondescript plain Jane, and, looking at Val and I, I thought we were both far better looking than her.
Both Valerie and I in the above circumstance engaged in social comparison. Although social comparison is present everywhere, as we frequently make rash judgments on people primarily based on their sole appearance, there is the question of how social media impacts social comparison in today’s society. There is a clear amplification of social comparison on social media, as we get a glimpse into other people’s lives, ranging from those that we may be close with to those we have never even met. The digital age is filled with more complex problems and brings rise to new challenges that make us question social media’s true purpose.
There’s plenty of fish in the sea – a cliche we throw around when a relationship ends. It may take time and work to find a good fish since the sea is vast place, but eventually another fish will be found. Now imagine the fish in the sea are gathered in an aquarium. The fish are in one place, so it’s easy and efficient to find one. It’s exciting and fun to look at the fish at first; there’s so many interesting fish to choose from. But after the initial excitement looking at the fish might become tiring. You could decide to stop visiting the aquarium, but if you leave you might never find the perfect fish.
Internet dating created this scenario. While humans still crave intimacy the method of how we obtain it has changed. Instead of going out to find someone we can easily locate potential partners on our phones through dating apps. While it can be easy and exciting to find someone, dating apps can lose the initial spark. All these effects of dating apps are being studied to see if they have altered our view of relationships. We must ask: how has internet dating affected how we view obtaining intimacy?
When I type into the google search bar the phrase “what to do”, the first recommendation that pops up says, “what to do in Boston this weekend.” My sister did the same thing and her first result read, “what to do in Pittsburgh this weekend.” Each time I asked someone new to enter this exact phrase into google through their own device, the first result was always different. The differences in our results has to do with search personalization that has been implemented by Google’s algorithm. My sister and I attend school in different cities, causing google to automatically give recommendations based on our locations and previous online activity. This is commonly known as the “filter bubble.” To test this algorithm out again, I searched women’s dresses in Google. My first few hits were from websites I frequently visit when shopping online. Major internet sites store our data and use it to personalize our search results, advertisement pop-ups, and social media feeds based on our interests.
This phenomenon is helpful and convenient at times, but it also has brought up concerns about the influence of the Internet on us as well as what these major sites are capable of doing with our information and online activity. On the positive end, scenarios like these make it easier to find places or items within a person’s proximity based on their location. For example, it is useful if someone was running low on gas and needed to find a nearby gas station quickly. Furthermore, these algorithms and filter bubbles are beneficial to the users as well as companies. Filtering ads based what the user likes makes it more probable that he or she will click on the ad, ultimately bringing revenue to that company. On the other hand, some fear that there is a lack of information available to people because their searches are tailored to the user, leaving out important websites and information. Likewise, others worry about the power that the internet could have over us without knowing. These algorithms storing our information have the ability to unknowingly sway our opinions and alter our identities. With these scenarios a question has arisen: How do search personalization algorithms affect individual identity?
Imagine a world where you were forced to interact the same way in every situation – hanging out with friends, speaking with your boss, spending time with your family, or conversing with a stranger at the grocery store. Your identity is unchangeable, and your actions and words must be chosen in a way that can fit any context. Many difficulties would arise in navigating such an environment without being able to use contextual clues in navigating social situations.
The aforementioned world of a single form of interaction is upon us in the form of digital communication, and it raises many implications regarding authenticity. Prior to the rise of digital technology, individuals were always able to communicate contextually, choosing their words and actions depending on the situation. With the rise of internet use, however, “context collapse” has occurred, with posts needing to appeal to a broad range of audience members. How does the “context collapse” associated with digital communication influence the level of authenticity when people express themselves online and in real life?
A group of girls go to a concert and take seemingly hundreds of pictures, posed in minutely different fashions. They scroll through these pictures trying to find their favorite ones out of this long, grocery list of photos. The girls pay little attention to the actual concert and more attention to their phones. They paid large sums of money to have floor seats at this expensive venue, yet they are so enthralled in their phones that they do not break eye contact with their iPhones. What were these girls doing during the entirety of the concert? Editing pictures to post on their various social media sites, hoping that this will impress their thousands of followers whom they do not even know by name.
Apps such as Facetune, VSCO, and Photo Editor allow social media users to greatly edit and alter the way their pictures originally look. By smoothing out acne scars or blurring the background to make ourselves look skinnier, these apps, and many more, contribute to an overarching notion of our digital anxiety. Many teens nowadays obsess over what they are going to post on their social media sites and how others are going to perceive these posts. The scenario above is not uncommon, for at events ranging from concerts, to sports games, to parades, teens vehemently preoccupy themselves with upping their social media presence. Do we hold this “digital anxiety” because of the permanence associated with the Internet or do we hope that our posts will radically change the way people will think of us? Social media comes with a lot of anxieties, but have we reached an even greater level in recent times?
A teenage girl aged 19 posts two pictures on the same night. One shows her with all her friends outside a concert venue. They take several photos before going inside, and she later determines which one she wants to post. It receives close to 500 likes, and almost 90% of her 1000 followers see it. However, this same girl posts a video of her throwing up, and it is only viewed 32 times. This is made possible by the widespread use of fake Instagrams, affectionately entitled “finstargams.” Finstagrams, which essentially are a second Instagram account in which users let limited friends follow them so they can post “authentic content,” such as drunken photos, pictures of themselves crying, and essentially whatever they please, are becomingly increasingly widespread. The idea fueling the growth of the fake Instagram movement is that people can share truthfully without the traditional repercussions of sharing with the entire world.
The 19 year-old girl above feels she needs a space where she can share with her true self with her true friends. She finds this space in her finstagram, as she feels comfortable sharing with her smaller crowd. Instagram and other forms of social media were created with the intention of having people become more connect. However, this girl and many of her peers create separate Instagram accounts that prevent the very connection social media is meant to encourage. This all begs the question: why do people feel the need to do this?
Imagine having your boss present every time you spent time with your family, your grandparents hanging out with you and your friends, or your coworkers around while you went on vacation. The casual jokes and relaxed nature of the time spent with your family would turn into a formal event filled with small talk and attempts to flatter your boss in order to impress them. The energetic and goofy time with your friends would be much quieter, possibly spent sipping tea and filled with calm chit chat about the weather or news. The time spent sitting poolside in Mexico would be filled with questions about when you would finish that next big presentation, or if you had submitted that important data on your top client. Having these different groups crossover would certainly cause some stress and changes in your behavior.
It is a commonly understood reality that you do not act the same in every social situation that you find yourself in. The feeling of having someone look over your shoulder when you believe that you are alone with a specific group of people is not one that is easy to become comfortable with. This idea of different audiences crossing over is becoming a more common occurrence in our society with the ever increasing prevalence of social media and internet use. What you post on social media is able to be seen by almost anyone, from any aspect of your life. Even complete strangers can see what you are up to on the internet. Your boss is able to see pictures of you out to dinner with you family, your grandparents can see twitter posts describing the times spent with your friends, and your coworkers can see the poolside status updates on Facebook, posted as you enjoy a fruity drink. This phenomenon of the loss of a definitive audience or context to which you can cater a specific element of your identity to present is commonly known as “context collapse”, and is an issue with many effects on the identity formation and socialization process, raising the questions: How does the “context collapse” associated with digital communication influence the way people see and present themselves? What are the effects on authenticity of self-expression?
With the age of technology among us, the modes of communication, especially within the dating scene have changed drastically compared to just a couple of decades ago. The ever-present role of technology such as smartphones, smartwatches and the numerous apps that accompany them allows for communication with almost anyone, anywhere. The constant stream of communication and online posts gives us the ability to make an online identity, that is in some cases different than that of our identity offline.
By communicating from behind a screen, we are able to plan and articulate what we are going to say and take as much time as we would like in doing so. In essence, we are able to filter our thoughts and truly think before we post. This contradicts the nature of candid conversations that take place in a face to face setting. With technology such as texting, Instagram messaging, and Snapchat, even a traditional phone call has become a rarity. The situations in which we have to think on our feet and carry out a conversation in real time, without the option of consulting friends on how to respond, has become less common in today’s society with the popularity of such apps.
We have all been online, whether it be online shopping, browsing for goofy videos on YouTube, or scrolling through social media. The internet has made the modern world easy, everything is said to be just a click away. The only thing that makes the online experience somewhat inconvenient is those pesky pop up adds that appear expectantly. It’s a common occurrence. But, have you ever taken a close look at just what those adds are trying to sell you?
More times than not they are advertisements for products that you very recently have searched for.
Personally, I find these pop up advertisements to possess an eerie element to them. They make it feel as though the George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 is not so far-fetched. These pop up ads mirror what the omnipresent government known as Big Brother would do; the internet seems to know what you like and suggests other items of similar variety. However, few people seem to mind that their information is taken by the internet and used to promote your interests. This is peculiar, but maybe it is because no one really cares if the internet knows what shoes you’re interested in buying. But how does big data collection and online trafficking effect people’s decisions in politics?
I will never forget during sophomore year of high school, when a guest speaker giving a talk on chastity asked “Why do you think they made Snapchat?”. My entire grade was there in the auditorium, all 200 of us 15 year old teenage boys, and we all knew the answer. There were hushed laughs amongst us all, but no one responded to his question. The speaker continued, “You all know the answer, don’t be afraid to say it because there are adults here.” After a few seconds of silence, someone screamed, “Nudes!” and my entire grade burst into laughter. That was the reality of being a teenager going through puberty at an all male high school. A large majority of us had Snapchat, and with a format that allowed people to send pictures that disapear many of the guys I know had used snapchat to try and “get nudes”. With adults having very little to no clue as to what teenagers could use their phones for, many young men grew into a culture where sexting became a competition, and watching pornography was what passed the time during snow days. In a time when we needed adult supervision, the internet took that away from us and we took advantage of that. The trend of technology affecting our lives continued into college.
It was about 12:30 in the morning when I asked my roommate “How do I ask this girl on a date?”. I didn’t know what to do, I met this really nice girl in my lab, and after some time of getting to know her I knew I wanted to ask her out, but how? Similar to many teenage guys, most of the people I asked out were people I had met online, followed on Instagram, or added on snapchat. It was so simple when I could just “DM” a girl I had never met and say “Hey, do you know how much a polar bear weighs? Enough to break the ice, hi I am Chris.” How often that line worked is not important, that is my own issue, but what is important is that I had no experience asking a girl out that I had met in person. I, like many of the guys I know, grew up in an enviornment in which trying to find something real in a relationship became a struggle. In high school, there was struggle in finding people who wanted to have a real relationship and I felt the same in college, also I found that looking for something other than hooking up was hard to do as a male because of fear in the way you’d be viewed by other guys. This toxic masculinity has played a role in society since well before the internet, but has technology laid the groundwork for a shift in value of relationships and a rise in toxic masculinity?
Just a few weeks ago, I saw my first so-called “flashback memory” on snapchat. A year to the day after posting what is usually thought of as a temporary story, the app reminds you of what you were up to that day automatically. Obviously from the fact that this is the first time this has happened to me, I am pretty new to the whole social media thing, so I wasn’t really expecting this and at first thought ‘Neat!’ snd moved on with my day. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that this was a little off putting. This ‘flashback’ is an optional event, as you can choose not to save any snapchat stories whatsoever, but things you take with the app itself are kept on your phone by default even if they disappear from others’ phones. Snapchat is supposed to be the temporary social media platform, so seeing this pop up was jarring to say the least after I thought about it for a while.
This is an incredibly minor example in the grand scheme of things; after all, I was the only one to see this supposedly lost information. It did echo, though, a much more serious topic in today’s interconnected world, namely the idea of ‘being forgotten’. Nothing we put on the internet today, or that other people post of us, is ever really gone, but many consider ‘the right to be forgotten’ as necessary to the well-being of individuals and the proper formation of identity. This is an entirely new phenomena to the digital age; so, what role does the permanence of online record play in the formation of our identity and is it critical enough that we should all have a “right to be forgotten”?
Sometime within the last few months, I have become aware of Ralph Lauren’s deliverance of a new “tech polo,” a technology-infused shirt that delivers biometric data from the user to their respective iCloud account. These shirts are made to store every bit of information our bodies send out, such as heartbeat or the amount of energy one would exert during a workout. Furthermore, a shirt like such adds yet another way for technology to cover our bodies, as if the Apple watches, Fitbits, and the eye-candied nature of smartphones were never enough? This means that information is constantly streaming from the shirt as well as any other bodily-worn technological add-ons the consumer may feel like applying. Now take into perspective all of the ways in which information is being gathered about us on a daily level. Every Google search, every click on a web browser, every step we take during the day is now tracked by the technology we buy. Some may perceive this nature as the beginnings of the eradication of privacy, while others would say that it has already begun.
The realm of targeted advertising is a dicey territory due to its complexion as a double-edged sword. It has been created and implemented to apply to the likes of a consumer based on their previous searches or a culmination of their personal information. However, one of the thicker consequences erupting from personal advertising is that the browser of our choice is able to share our e-mail address and preceding search history with any Website we visit. Such action is done without our consent and can be done almost automatically (Hellwege). So what does this mean for the future of this technology? Targeted advertising aids us with quicker searches and better technological efficiency, but the nonconsensual tracking of individuals through the seizing of their personal information, especially in the likes of the wrong hands, may lead to malicious behavior or create a new, informationally-led profit motive for uber-aggressive tech companies. How should we address this matter to ensure that our personal information stays private while we click around the depths of the Internet and explore society’s newest technologies?
Before coming to college, I had a conversation with a friend about what her first impressions on her roommates were. At this point, her only interactions with them were through social media, with conversations revolving around the logistics of the room, and not necessarily anything personal. My friend told me that when she found her roommates, she immediately went to Instagram to see what they would be like. She noticed that one of the girls had a limited social media showing, receiving less than a hundred likes on her pictures and not having many followers. Based on this, she immediately thought to herself that this girl was boring and they wouldn’t click. On the other hand, her second roommate received a couple of hundred likes on each of her pictures and seemed to be living a life of pure bliss. After seeing this, my friend thought she could see the two of them becoming close. However, when moving in came along and she started to get to know her roommates, she found that the girl with the limited social media profile was much more likable than the girl with all of the followers and that she had completely misjudged the entire situation.
In society today, stories like this are commonly shared and people quickly learn that the way one presents themselves online isn’t always synonymous with their true identity. It is concerning that we live in a world where we judge others based on the amount of “likes” they get on social media or how many followers they have. The influence of social media in our lives has its pros and cons, leading us to the question of how its presence helps shape our identity. This is not saying that all people who get a lot of likes are bad people, but oftentimes someone’s online profile does not fully reflect who they really are. We live in a world dominated by the internet and our phones are always buzzing about where someone is on vacation, their relationship status, or other exciting events in their lives. When my friend was telling me about her first impressions of her roommates, I was horrified by her method of judging their character because the pictures someone posts can give insight into their lives, but they are ultimately a small part of the plethora of components that make up someone’s identity. With this in mind, we are left wondering how social media affects one’s ability to authentically express themselves and how digital communication influences our perception of others.
Katie, an average high schooler, scrolls through her forever-updating Instagram feed filled with photos of the friends, family, acquaintances, and celebrities she follows. She has been scrolling on her feed for hours looking for the trendiest, most attractive couples on the internet. Katie longs for a boyfriend but can’t seem to find the right one and hopes to get a better idea of the “perfect” guy through some of the “best” couples on the Internet. Katie stumbles upon one of the most popular Instagram couple’s pages on the whole app: Alexis Ren and Jay Alvarrez. This trendy, very attractive couple travel the world together, surf the biggest waves, eat the tastiest food, wear the most expensive clothes, own almost anything they want, and have the appearance that they love each other with captions such as “Traveling the world with the love of my life.” Katie idolizes this couple. They look perfect together and she aspires to have a relationship just like the two where traveling, posting about each other, and having the appearance of love can become a frequent habit. She longs for a boyfriend that she can post about, has the appearance of a model, and has the money to do all the things Jay and Alexis do.
After a year of Katie idolizing this couple, news breaks out that Jay Alvarrez and Alexis Ren were only together because it was beneficial for both of their brands. These two models “dated” eachother because their looks and perception of love attracted millions of likes and followers. While posting about their “love,” they were able to travel the world, wear the most expensive clothes, and have a great experience all while making millions of dollars and gaining massive popularity. Did Jay and Alexis love eachother? Absolutely not. Alexis even tweeted that Jay dated her for the money. Their relationship and “love” after it all, seemed like fraud to many people including Katie who thought that their relationship was something that she wanted to achieve with her “lover” some day. Katie is not alone; millions of Millennials and people of Gen Z around the world idolized this couple and strived to have a relationship that looked “picture perfect.” Were they deceived or was it wrong for the millions to look at the quality of a relationship based on “picture perfect” photos from Instagram couples? Does technology play a significant role in how much value modern-day relationships have? For Katie, she valued the appearance of a “perfect relationship” on Instagram and looked down upon couples that weren’t as beautiful or adventurous.
Every summer my family and I go camping in northern Michigan for about three weeks. Where there’s more mosquitos than you can count, a beautiful river to go swimming in and one more thing, no internet connection at all. That’s right, no service, no internet and no way to check your phone unless you want to use the landline in the cabin. When I was younger this never seemed to bother me, but as I grew up it increasingly did. As I got social media and emails, my whole life was on my phone. Which is utterly sad, but true. At the beginning, transitioning from using my phone every day to not at all was tough. But I could never figure out why I hated it so. I didn’t need to check social media, or my email. Nothing was gonna happen that was life changing and somehow life would go on without me liking my friends recent tweet. Then I came to the realization that my generation especially, uses social media to help alter our self perception.
We do it all the time, we judge ourselves based on what everyone else is doing. Social media only makes this judging easier. We stalk famous peoples instagrams and want to look like them and be like them. We find the perfect picture to post with the best edit. So when we are removed from this social media void, we have this fear of missing out on what everyone else is doing. We think we are out of the loop and this gives people anxiety. Leading to the question, how does social media impact our self perception? It must have an important part to our identity considering we can’t go more than 24 hours, let alone three weeks, without thinking something from our life is missing.
As we find ourselves amidst a world of online dating, the acceptability and frequency of online relationships has gone through the roof: “46% of college graduates know someone who has entered into a marriage or long-term relationship with someone they met via online” (Aaron Smith). Furthermore, 61% of people believe online dating to be a more effective and manageable way to meet people (Smith). Although it may seem like online dating has become a widely acceptable means for finding a life-long partner, there are hidden dangers in the world of these relationships. Let’s face it, people are on these online dating platforms for a reason. Maybe it’s because they are socially awkward or it is more convenient for them to swipe right or left, but each person has there own prerogative. When creating an online profile on most of these websites, the user is tasked with creating a profile about themselves with some sort of bio and pics that they’d like to upload. With no way to regulate the truth of these pictures and bios, users may do whatever would like with the information; obvious problems arise.
With the drastic rise in dating app usage, a 6% increase since 2013, people are beginning to overlook the certain dangers of partaking in the activity. Because there has been a shift towards talking through text and direct messaging, people are allowed to do and say what they’d like. If a user were to become one of these online liars/predators, they can assume the actions and words of a liar. Not only can someone slightly change their identity to appeal to a certain audience and seem more attractive, there are other, horrible ways for these people to exploit the online platform. A common practice is known as catfishing: “a single lie, enabled by the cloak of technology, that stretches, morphs and multiplies until whole personas are fabricated, emotions are manipulated and hearts are broken” (Washington Post, Ellen McCarthy). With increasingly sinister tactics, online dating techniques are more susceptible than ever to misuse and it makes users ask how can they feel truly safe in such an environment.
On February 24th, 2019, Hollywood’s elite gathered for the 91st annual Academy Awards, where nominees had the chance to win the coveted Oscar award, the holy grail of film recognition. However, unlike each Academy Awards in recent memory, this year’s did not have a host: one charismatic person to tell jokes and lead the ceremonies. Such a role was not neglected; while the position had originally been filled by comedian Kevin Hart, he faced significant public pressure to step down over jokes he had tweeted nearly a decade prior, largely considered homophobic. No amount of deleting, clarifying, or apologizing could quell the public outcry, and the comedian abdicated the role, leaving the 2019 Oscars without a host.
This instance is not uncommon, and is, in fact, indicative of a much larger, more pervasive trend. In the years since social media has come to dominate popular culture, the threat of real-world repercussions for online posts has become a serious concern for people in all walks of life. Whether it be a famous professional, like “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn being “cancelled” over edgy tweets from the late 2000s, or a job applicant being rejected over questionable content posted to a Facebook page, the rise of social media has shifted the nature of online interactions and led to a breakdown between the separation of the online world and “real life”. But what are the implications of one’s permanent online presence being readily accessible to anyone with a search engine? How have people’s behavior changed now that they exist in a digital realm that never forgets? And finally, what solutions are there to protect an online individual’s personal boundaries, if any?
Imagine this: you recently moved to a new city and are looking to get a new job in sales. You find a company that you think is a great fit for you and land an interview. The interview goes extremely well, and you are invited back for a second interview, where they offer you the job. You are absolutely thrilled. The last step, they say, is a background check. You can’t think of any reason that they would turn you down and accept their request to perform this test. A week later, you get an email saying that the job offer is no longer open. Devastated, you email them to ask why. The interviewer replies, saying that an anonymous account, which was created roughly 10 years ago and posted inappropriate information, was tied back to you. Although you created this account when you were 15 years old, the facial recognition technology used to log into the account was able to link it to you, despite the slight change in facial features. There is no way that you will. be able to get a job with this information on file.
Believe it or not, this is a very common occurrence in today’s world. Facial recognition technology has taken over, storing every bit of information about an individual. What makes this so terrifying, you ask? That would be the fact that all this information is no longer stored under a name (which can be changed), but is tied to a face, something that cannot easily be changed. What is even more terrifying is that this technology has become so advanced that even physical changes, such as plastic surgery, cannot fool the cameras. If there is no ability to hide from technology such as this, what effect does this have on the formation of our identity, which is ever changing? Will this digital shadow remind us of our mistakes, therefore making it impossible to truly grow into our own identity?
This past summer I indulged in buying myself an Apple Watch. There was no specific reason I needed this $400 piece of technology. I wanted it solely because everyone else seemed to be jumping onto the fad bandwagon. Therefore, I found it fitting I do the same. The first couple of weeks I used the watch as a piece of “ice on my wrist”. I surrounded it with a few of my favorite bracelets to really try and show off my new purchase. The only features I utilized were text messaging, the main reason being it supplied as a means to sneakily text while I was at work. Once the novelty wore off, I found myself beginning to learn more about the vast features of the Apple Watch. Little did I know, the Apple Watch could track all of my movements so long as it was on my wrist. I could know how many steps I took in a day or the behavior of my night’s sleep. One day after a 10-hour shift at my waitressing job I looked down at my watch to find I had walked 21,447 steps totaling to 10.04 miles and had burned 1,020 calories. From this moment on, I was immediately hooked. I found myself obsessed with trying to take more steps or burn more calories than the day before. Was this healthy? Sometimes yes, other times no.
Self-knowledge and the rise of self-tracking and self-improvement has become increasingly more popular as technology has advanced over the years. Sometimes it appears there is a way to quantify most everything. Physical activity, job performance, or even happiness are only few of many ways society has created to quantify different behaviors and aspects of people’s lives. Is this good or bad? There is not a concrete answer. Different research, studies, and opinions have argued both ways. Some say it provides a means towards a healthier lifestyle while others dispute it only lessens the value of the activity or thing being quantified. Though in one way or the other, people who involve themselves with these applications seem to be impacted in some way. The nature of these products can affect individuals personally, the way they view each other, or an entire community’s outlook.
A few minutes spent on the computer searching for a new pair of shoes, and now every webpage seems to be filled with ads just about shoes. This occurrence is by no means a coincidence, but rather the ads were personalized according to what seems relevant to the particular user. Corporations like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram have advanced AI with algorithms to specialize advertisements for each person that uses the software. The AI works by studying what each individual finds interesting based on his/her search results. As bizarre as this may seem, the AI being used is constantly studying the individual users especially in today’s society where internet use is pertinent.
To show how advanced corporate AI’s actually are, I will quickly check a widely used social media app: Snapchat. Using the app I see sudden pop-ups pertaining to pre-med programs and dating apps. In terms of relevance, the personalized ads seem to be spot on and work in catching my eye because not only am I in the pre-med program but I am also very single. This seems to be great at first because the ads are not random and are pertinent to my life; however, I begin to realize an eerie truth. The fact of the matter is that Snapchat took note of what I would send my friends and based on that it makes ads for me. Conversations that some may believe to be private are actually being analyzed 24/7, so where is the line? Ultimately, is the tradeoff of privacy for relevant advertisements worth it?
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